Marketing for the Self-Conscious

It’s Spring time, which means one thing: You’re too fat for Summer.

That seems to be the pitch each year, with ads designed to make people feel self-conscious about how they look to others around the pool or at the beach. Whether you’re online or watching TV, someone’s going to let you know about their Summer body plan or some drink that will get you all pumped up when you work out like this:

This is all very bulimic thinking. Maybe you aren’t sticking your fingers down your throat. Exercising or dieting so you can be attractive to others, instead of doing it for the personal goal of being healthy, really is the same thing. “I must maintain control over my body, so other people don’t think less of me.”

Frankly, I’m not here to judge – I’m just here to consider approaches to advertising to that level of self-hate. So here’s the challenge: You’re either targeting young people or old people.

Young people are a good target because they’re insecure and will more easily listen to the message, “You’re fat and out of shape – do something about it so other people will want to have sex with you.” The problem with the young, however, is they generally don’t have much money. By the time you’re in college, most of it is going towards that. Maybe you have some new-found debt to create buying this kind of stuff, but someone willing to create even more debt on top of their student loans probably isn’t a great long-term customer anyway.

On the other hand, there’s the older people – like me. At my age, I look at myself in the mirror and I realize, “you know, this is about as good as it’s going to get.”

What really are the chances that in the next 10 years I’m all of a sudden going to get into super shape? I went decades of my life without doing that, and all of those years I was younger than I am now. It would have been much easier to dedicate myself to being in shape then – so what, I’m going to do it now, when I have no time and even less energy?

Also, most middle-aged people are married – so they aren’t as consumed with getting laid. Getting laid is a fantastic motivator for buying things, but if you’re not planning a divorce or an affair any time soon, it’s pretty low on your to-do list.

Diet and weight loss companies really should recognize this in the older demographic, because it’s one they should be chasing. Because middle-aged people are EXACTLY the kinds of people they should be marketing to. These people may have a mortgage and some kids to pay for, but they also have jobs. If you can appeal to them, you can build a solid customer base.

The trick is not to appeal to them with fantasies of getting chicks poolside this Summer. Instead, they should try this approach:

“You’re in your 40s. It’s all downhill from here. But if you start our [product] plan now, you can at least slow down the inevitable decline. Wouldn’t it be nice to get a few more years in before everything finally falls apart?”

Okay, maybe you gloss it up a bit more than that, but the basic idea is the same: Things are not going to get a lot better for your from now on, but hey, it could get a whole lot worse, right?

Your Business Needs a Blog

One Blog to Rule Them AllBlogging – the buzzword of… what, 2007? That thing people used to say was the, “next big thing?” It’s been years since anyone made a big deal out of blogging, right?

The truth is if you’re a small business owner, you need a blog. It’s more than some online chore you do because Business Week Magazine told you to, like text message or Facebook ads. Blogging can become the core of your business online, and convince visitors to become customers.

Three great reasons to start a blog:

Search engines love blogs
When Google and Bing go looking for pages to display in searches, they don’t just want pages that happen to have those search phrases in them. To them, searchers are their customers. They want to give their customers the freshest, most engaging content they can find. A blog post you write today about your industry stands a much better chance of getting found in search than that single paragraph on your, “About Us” page, written four years ago.

Blogs become the hub for your social media marketing
It’s likely you’ve already aware of the business value of social media to attract new customers and retain current ones. It’s more than just fashionable, it’s where all the people you want to reach are. A link to your latest post, complete with snappy title and/or engaging photograph, gives you something to offer them.

Granted, you could go on Twitter shouting, “Hey everybody! I sell stuff! Come see!” You could, but of course, you shouldn’t. Social media is full of people using posts like shotguns, hoping to splatter enough users with messages that someone clicks a link and buys from them. The truth is very few people ever click on these people’s links. The majority of people these businesses “message” to write them off, and forever go out of their way to avoid them.

If on the other hand you take the approach of saying, “I have information you might find interesting, come take a look,” you get a lot more people through the door – more receptive people at that.

Blogs can make you an authority
Take a second right now to think about what your business does. Think about what that involves, the misconceptions people might have, the different kinds of products… You absolutely know more about this than the average person.

You could teach them.

If someone wants to know more about why cell phones scratch so easily in dry weather, people will come from all around for the witty, insightful, well thought out explanation you posted to your site. If that site is for your cell phone repair shop, you become the expert people can hire.

Blogs are easy to set up, and there are a number of great providers to choose from. With enough discipline, and persistence, you’ll become a valued fount information. And your business will love you for it.

Talkin’ bout SEO again!

I’m back to doing SEO for a living, I am happy to report. After a few years chasing the dream of “social media,” it’s nice to be able to get back to real work: Getting online businesses to appear in search, and make money because of it.

Here’s the thing with social media: When it started to take the world by storm, marketing types decided this would be the best way to sell stuff. After all, if all the people were gathering at Facebook, then Facebook is where you need to go to bother people into buying whatever it was they were selling.

The problem is people don’t go to social media to buy things – they go there to talk to their friends and families. That doesn’t stop most online marketing people, of course, because the majority of them don’t own the businesses they promote. They can make all these tweets and posts and then say, “See? We’ve done something to promote the business! We’ve earned our pay!”

Search marketing’s a whole different beast. You can prove pretty easily that what you do to optimize a website for search is working – through the improved rankings, yes, but also through the increased traffic to a site, conversions from that traffic, sign-ups to e-mail lists… all that great stuff businesses got websites for in the first place. Unfortunately for most marketers, this requires actual work, and skill, and accountability.

So now I get to go back to the work that made me love online in the first place: Making content people want to read and link to, so it gets a really good Google SERP listing. (And oh how I’ve missed writing that acronym!)

Last year I said I would stop writing about social media in this blog, mostly because everyone else already does, and it bores me. Now that I have search to worry about – and all the new and exciting changes going on with it – I expect I’ll have more to write about here.

If you haven’t read any of this stuff in a long time and forgot you subscribed, I won’t be insulted if you unsubscribe now. After all, you must have forgotten about this site by now. I haven’t posted anything in what, five months?

If you stick around, I promise to have more interesting and insightful stuff about something that really can help your business succeed online. Because that’s what I’m good at. :)

Social Media Marketing World – Keynote

I’m not going to lie to you: I’m a tough audience. I’ve bee doing search and social media marketing for about 7 years now, and when I see presenters talking about either, I want to hear things I’ve never heard before.

An hour into SMMW, I have had no such luck.

Listened to Michael Stelzner give the keynote this morning. I really need to not be as negative on some of these speakers as I am feeling right now, I know.

But some of the gems he shared were, “podcasting is the next big thing,” “a lot of people use Facebook,” “social media isn’t that old,” and he’s starting a new network for parents to find things to do with their kids. I get that speakers do these gigs in exchange for a per diem and a plug, but as someone with no tolerance for children, I could have done without that.

Actually, the one really good piece of information so far was that recordings of the sessions are available for $97. Definitely need to pick that up. Once I do, I’ll definitely be in a better place to comment on what was said.

After Mr. Steltzner, there was a presentation on networking that I only lasted 5 minutes in. I was willing to hear what Larry Benet had to say on the subject of getting more out of other people who have what you want and therefore need to be sucked dry like a vampire on a virgin. Once he did the, “turn to the person next to you, tell them your name, where you’re from, and why you’re here,” frankly, I ran for the door. I think I managed to tweet out, “Oh no” before hustled out of that room. :(

So I’ve been here for an hour on my first day – and I’ve learned to buy the recordings of the sessions.

I’m looking forward to Jay’s presentation today. Hopefully I can get in. If I can’t, though, it appears I’ll be able to see it later from the comfort of my office.

Social Media Marketing World – Day 0

It’s a weird thing, being at something like a social media conference, if you’ve never gone. You get a mix of two types of attendees: The needs who do this stuff for a living, and the non-needs who are their bosses. It’s a brilliant culture clash watching everyone trying to network in an environment like that. no one is sure in that situation who thecool kids are.

I’m insane Diego at the moment for Social Media Marketing World. While I’m looking forward to a number of panelists in the coming days, I do find it funny how often time has been set aside for “networking” in the schedule. In fact, there will be one panelist specifically telling the crowd how to network.

So a lot of this really is about meeting people, and not necessarily getting secret sauce on increasing engagement.

But so what? I’m not here to comment on the inner workings of your average social media trade show, I’m here to figure out what my team should be working on this year.

For tomorrow, I’m planning on hitting the following:

1) How to create customers for life by informing more and promoting less – Jay Baer

2) How to use YouTube to build an unstoppable brand – James Wedmore

(Though at the same time, “How to optimize your social channels for lead generation” will be going on as well. Hmm.)

3) Turn social advertising into leads and sales

(Something I’d think everyone would want to know.)

4) Social Media ROI: How to finally deliver measurable results.

(This one causes me concern, because I’m already pretty good at doing this. I want to hear things I’ve never thought of. I don’t want to realize I should be trying to get speaking gigs at conferences because it turns out I’m so much more The Man than I thought I was.)

After all of that,there’s a “networking cruise.” But I think I’ll take a pass.

Successful Ads Require Talent

It’s so silly, it almost doesn’t feel like it needs to be said – but to make an ad that works, one must have talent.

Over the last few years, marketers have gone insane trying to figure out how to make a video, “viral.” They look wistfully at the Old Spice ads, and say, “See? We need to do something like that!” Then they proceed to turn out commercials that look like commercials, which no one wanted to see in the first place.

Here’s a great example of the good and the bad: The first is the commercial for 5-Hour Energy that was in wide rotation last year:

This ad gets the product information across but in a stale way. It smacks of laziness. “We got the job done, now let us get back to figuring out our ad buy schedule so we can ruin people’s evenings by forcing them to watch it.” The only time I remember people talking about it was to express how bad those 5-Hour Energy ads were.

Here’s the commercial for 5-Hour Energy that is running now.

Can you spot the difference? Sure, the production value on the newer one is slightly better – if only because there were more edits, meaning more shooting days, and they took pictures of the actor jumping out of a plane.

That’s not it, of course. The difference is the new commercial is FUNNY. The one before that is NOT.

In fact, the first commercial looks exactly like how a commercial is supposed to look: Lame.

"Oh look! Another uninspired pitch man! I better sit right up and listen to what he's saying," said no one ever.

“Oh look! Another uninspired pitch man! I better sit up and listen to what he’s saying,” said no one in the history of ever.

Like I said, the first commercial does what it is supposed to do: Inform you of the product, tell you what it does, and tell you why you need it. It also makes you hit the mute on your remote or go get a snack while you wait for “Big Bang Theory” to come back on, because you didn’t DVR it and so cannot get around this ridiculous commercial.

The newer one gets the same job done – but makes you want to watch it because it is funny. It might even make you share the commercial with your friends, increasing its audience.

Making a campaign or commercial viral isn’t something you get by reading enough blog posts (like this one) about it, or books by people who have declared themselves industry experts.

It is done by being talented – by knowing how to write something that is funny, or shoot something that is engaging. Selling the product isn’t forgotten, but it isn’t the most important aspect of the piece. Since no one wants to believe they aren’t talented, they write what they’ve always written – shrieking, intrusive ad copy – and hope for the best.

This can’t be that difficult of a concept to understand, can it? If you want to have content that sings, that makes people remember you, that gets shared far and wide, you need to hire writers and production staff with talent. Talented people can create something fun that still has the key message development and call to action required in a successful ad. This is true of all forms of advertising, mind you. Paid search ads, landing pages, radio spots, print ads… the level of impact is always increased dramatically when someone decides to significantly up their game.

The key is thinking of your content as something that should be entertaining. Otherwise you’re getting the work done of creating content, but you aren’t getting the job done.

By the way, that image I used above? I found that on Google. It had the title, “I want to punch the 5-hour energy guy in the throat.”

Yeah – I’m sure THAT’S the reaction the company was hoping for.

Google Gets Into the Hotel Business

I had an idea: Now that Google is expanding into non-Internet related businesses like self-driving cars and mining asteroids, something they might want to consider are hotels.

Why? Because they already don’t care about your privacy, and this could be a big advantage for a hotelier. Hear me out.

Every room is wired with microphones and cameras – everything you do and say is recorded. This way, if you’re hungry and you say so, you get a call from room service asking what you’d like to order. Granted, maybe you want to go out to eat, but Google needs your money so you’ll just have to get through them first.

When you do brush off room service because you want to go out, you get another call from the concierge. They heard what you said, and so they called you a cab from the company the hotel has partnered with.

If you come back later that night with someone you met, maybe you’ll have sex. That’s when the bellman will show up at your door with a selection of condoms from the gift shop you may be interested in purchasing.

Don’t worry about who is going to see and hear all of this information they’re recording, though. It’s all anonymous. So if that person you took back to your room isn’t your wife or husband, no one will ever know.

Unless your wife or husband is a law enforcement official. Then it will magically be pretty unanonymous.

After all, if you’re doing something in a hotel room you don’t want other people to know about, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it, right? Hey, if you don’t like it, you can always go to another hotel.

Unfortunately, in this scenario, Google Hotels controls 66.8% of the market, and it’s nearest competitor Bing is doing the exact same nefarious shit.

If all that sounds crazy, why are Google’s online policies not considered just as crazy?

All of this is just about exactly what they did when they decided all information would be shared across all of the platforms they own. On the surface, it never sounded too terrible: If you’re searching for an Adam Sandler movie, maybe later on YouTube will show you some more Adam Sandler movies since you showed an interest in it. So what?

The problem is if you don’t want that kind of help from Google, it’s damn hard to get out of it. The privacy policy may be shared, but there are a number of different avenues you have to take to opt out of them.

And in some cases you can’t. I own an Android phone – the OS created by Google. In order for it to function, I have to use a Google login. Once I do, Google records my name, address, phone number, and the serial number for my device – and adds it to my Google account record. I cannot tell Google to leave that information out, I cannot delete it once it has been added. I am locked into their idea of “convenience,” which does more for them to learn about me than it does to make their products function better.

Also, like in the metaphorical hotel, Google says their data collection is anonymous, that no one could determine who you are based on what they get. However, Google can easily give law enforcement officials your search records at the drop of a court order.

Now, I actually have no problem with law enforcement officials getting this kind of information with a valid court order. What I cannot understand is how something supposedly “anonymous” can tell the police anything about an individual user. If this data really didn’t point directly at me, police wouldn’t have any use for it. That the police keep subpoenaing this information shows Google can tell whose records are whose, and is telling its users a bald-faced lie.

The one way I’ve found around giving Google too much of what I think is too much, I use separate logins for all of their properties. I have one Google login for work, another for socializing on Google Plus, another for YouTube, and yet another for my phone. The idea is they cannot share between accounts because they don’t know each of these profiles is me. I can’t be sure this works, though. For all I know, they collate all this data into one profile for me, with the notation that I’m a smart ass. If they did, I certainly wouldn’t expect they’d tell me.

It also means, oddly, that I cannot use my G+ account on my phone for fear of Google. If they’re tapping my phone conversations, (which they are capable of doing,) it doesn’t matter to me because all they have to connect these to are the fake name I gave them when I created the phone’s Google account. If they tied it into my original Google login, the one I created back when they were still dedicated to not being evil, they would know EVERYTHING about me. And I’d have no way of stopping them.

I’ll leave you with this story, which is apocryphal but I hope true, because it’s brilliant: When Google Maps debuted Street View, a number of people complained because their homes, their cars parked outside, and the license plate numbers on those cars were all visible. These people said their privacy had been invaded. In response, Google’s resident cold, vicious demon – heretofore known as Eric Schmidt – again said that there is no more privacy; You know, that old chestnut.

In response to this, some enterprising bloggers got on Google Maps, and hunted down the view of Eric Schmidt’s house. Then they blogged about it, including the Street View picture, to give him a taste of his own medicine.

Shortly thereafter, Google started to blur the license plate numbers on vehicles it captured.

Whether this is true or not, it does illustrate that privacy isn’t just a concern for criminals or philanderers or people who do things they “maybe shouldn’t be doing in the first place.”