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Does Personalized Advertising Work as Well as Tech Companies Claim?

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Several major tech companies have recently built platforms that claim to educate companies about how best to market themselves and their products online. Examples include Meta for Business (formerly Facebook for Business; “Get step-by-step guidance, industry insights and tools to track your progress, all in one place”), Think with Google (“Take your marketing further with Google”), and Twitter for Business (“Grow your business with Twitter ads”).

These sites are very appealing. They provide small and medium-sized companies an abundance of genuinely helpful information about how to do business online, and, of course, they offer a variety of advertising tools and services designed to help those companies boost their performance.

All of these sites have the same basic goal. They want you to understand their tools and services as powerful and highly personalized — and they want you to invest your marketing dollars in them.

Not as Simple as It Looks

Facebook is perhaps the most insistent of the three companies cited above. In recent weeks, the company has been broadcasting ads that tell all sorts of inspiring stories about the small businesses that it has helped with its new services. Maybe you’ve seen some of these ads at airports, in magazines, or on websites. My Jolie Candle, a French candlemaker, “find[s] up to 80% of their European customers through Facebook platforms.” Chicatella, a Slovenian cosmetics company, “attributes up to 80% of their sales to Facebook’s apps and services.” Mami Poppins, a German baby-gear supplier, “uses Facebook ads to drive up to half of their revenue.”

That sounds impressive, but should businesses really expect such large effects from advertising? The fact is, when Facebook, Google, Twitter, and other Big Tech companies “educate” small businesses about their services, they often are actually encouraging incorrect conclusions about the causal effects of advertising.

Consider the case of a consulting client of ours, a European consumer goods company that for many years has positioned its brand around sustainability. The company wanted to explore if an online ad that makes a claim about convenience might actually be more effective than one that makes a claim about sustainability. With the help of Facebook for Business, it ran an A/B test of the two ads and then compared the return on advertising spend between the two conditions. The return, the test found, was much higher for the sustainability ad. Which means that’s what the company should invest in, right?

Actually, we don’t know.

There’s a fundamental problem with what Facebook is doing here: The tests it is offering under the title “A/B” tests are actually not A/B tests at all. This is poorly understood, even by experienced digital marketers.

So what’s really going on in these tests? Here’s one example:

1) Facebook splits a large audience into two groups — but not everybody in the groups will receive a treatment. That is, many people actually won’t ever see an ad.

2) Facebook starts selecting people from each group, and it provides a different treatment depending on the group a person was sampled from. For example, a person selected from Group 1 will receive a blue ad, and a person selected from Group 2 will receive a red ad.

3) Facebook then uses machine-learning algorithms to refine its selection strategy. The algorithm might learn, say, that younger people are more likely to click on the red ad, so it will then start serving that ad more to young people.

Do you see what’s happening here? The machine-learning algorithm that Facebook uses to optimize ad delivery actually invalidates the design of the A/B test.

Here’s what we mean. A/B tests are built on the idea of random assignment. But are the assignments made in Step 3 above random? No. And that has important implications. If you compare the treated people from Group 1 with the treated people from Group 2, you’ll no longer be able to draw conclusions about the causal effect of the treatment, because the treated people from Group 1 now differ from the treated people from Group 2 on more dimensions than just the treatment. The treated people from Group 2 who were served the red ad, for example, would end up being younger than the treated people from Group 1 who were served the blue ad. Whatever this test is, it’s not an A/B test.

It’s not just Facebook. The Think with Google site suggests that ROI-like metrics are causal, when in fact they are merely associative.

Imagine that a business wants to learn if an advertising campaign is effective at increasing sales. Answering this question, the site suggests, involves a straightforward combination of basic technology and simple math.

First, you set up conversion tracking for your website. This allows you to track whether customers who clicked on an ad went on to make a purchase. Second, you compute total revenues from these customers and divide by (or subtract from) your advertising expenditures. That’s your return on investment, and according to Google, it’s “the most important measurement for retailers because it shows the real effect that Google Ads has on your business.”

Actually, it’s not. Google’s analysis is flawed because it lacks a point of comparison. To really know whether advertising is making profits for your business, you’d need to know what revenues would have been in the absence of advertising.

Twitter for Business offers a somewhat more involved proposition.

First, Twitter works with a data broker to get access to cookies, emails, and other identifying information from a brand’s customers. And then Twitter adds information about how these customers relate to the brand on Twitter — whether they click on the brand’s promoted tweets, for example. This supposedly allows marketing analysts to compare the average revenue from customers who engaged with the brand to the average revenue from customers who did not. If the difference is large enough, the theory goes, then it justifies the advertising expenditure.

This analysis is comparative, but only in the sense of comparing apples and oranges. People who regularly buy cosmetics don’t buy them because they see promoted tweets. They see promoted tweets for cosmetics because they regularly buy cosmetics. Customers who see promoted tweets from a brand, in other words, are very different people from those who don’t.

Causal Confusion

Companies can answer two types of questions using data: They can answer prediction questions (as in, “Will this customer buy?”) and causal-inference questions (as in, “Will this ad make this customer buy?”). These questions are different but easily conflated. Answering causal inference questions requires making counterfactual comparisons (as in, “Would this customer have bought without this ad?”). The smart algorithms and digital tools created by Big Tech companies often present apples-to-oranges comparisons to support causal inferences.

Big Tech should be well aware of the distinction between prediction and causal inference and how important it is for effective resource allocation — after all, for years they’ve been hiring some of the smartest people on this planet. Targeting likely buyers with ads is a pure prediction problem. It does not require causal inference, and it’s easy to do with today’s data and algorithms. Persuading people to buy is much harder.

Big Tech firms should be commended for the helpful materials and tools they make available to the business community, but small and medium-sized businesses should be aware that advertising platforms are pursuing their own interests when they offer training and information, and that these interests may or may not be aligned with those of small businesses.

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Growing a Business

Shopping Video – New Marketing Trend

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One of the best ways for marketers and business owners to increase sales and engage customers is video shopping. This new marketing trend involves using video content to promote and sell your products.

Here is everything you need to know about shopping videos for business owners.

What is Video Shopping

Video shopping involves using video content to promote your products/services with the aim of increasing sales. With a shopping video, business owners can show off their brand and give relevant information about their products and services. Also, videos help influence the decision-making process of buyers and increase sales.

Types of Shopping Videos

There are two main categories of shopping videos, and they are:

Live Video Shopping

This type of video shopping involves creating a live presentation of your products. It is not pre-recorded, thus making it easy for customers to interact in real-time.

Non-Live Video Shopping

In this case, you record the video and then upload it on platforms where customers can find them. While you can’t get real-time responses from customers, non-live videos are easily accessible, unlike live videos.

Engaging social video ads

Benefits of Video Shopping

Video shopping can provide many benefits for business owners and their customers. Some of the advantages of video shopping are:

1. Engaging Visuals That Increase Sales

Consumers generally prefer video content over text because they are a more expressive form of content. With video shopping, business owners can create an interactive environment where customers can engage. This form of engaging content increases your chance of converting visitors to actual customers.

2. Increase Brand Awareness

Business owners can increase the chance of being seen by their target audience through impressive shopping videos. Shopping videos prove to be a convenient way to promote your business and increase brand awareness.

3. Convenient Customer Interaction

Video shopping helps engage with customers in real-time, thus making them feel seen. You can chat with customers one-on-one, which makes it easier to serve their needs. Whether it’s a car dealer chat or a skincare consultation, you can count on video shopping to improve rapport.

4. Bring Products to Live

With video shopping, shoppers can easily browse products in real-time. For example, fashion brands often bring clothes to life by making a video of how it looks on a real person. This will help customers have a feel of how the item will look on them, and this can increase sales.

5. Easy to Create

Creating shopping videos doesn’t have to be a long and complicated process. Shopping videos tend to be short and easy to make without requiring a professional. With a smartphone or camera, anyone can make a marketing video that converts. Also, there are many channels and platforms available to create videos that will persuade visitors into being actual customers.

6. Increased SEO Ranking

Videos tend to perform better than other forms of content, and having them on your website will increase your SEO rankings. This makes it easy for customers to find you and do business with you.

Video marketing

If you are running an online business, you need to keep up with new marketing trends to boost your brand. One of the latest marketing trends to implement is video shopping. When done correctly, video can help provide valuable information for customers, boost engagement, and increase sales.

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In Business, Image Matters. How to Improve Yours?

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Your business may boast of excellent products and/or services. However, nowadays, excellent products and services simply aren’t enough to help a business survive and thrive in the long run. What your business also needs is a strong image – one that can help it stand out from its competitors.

But how exactly do you go about improving the image of your business? To know the answer to this question, read on as we take you through all the steps you can and must take to take your business forward towards success.

photo credit: August de Richeliu / Pexels

1. Face-to-face interactions with people

We may be living in the digital age, but nothing can beat face-to-face interactions when it comes to telling people about your business. Here are some ways through which you can inform people about your business and what it’s all about:

Meet people and start conversations

It’s unrealistic to expect that people will know about your business if you don’t reach out to them. So, start going out and attending events.

Business-centric open meetings and conferences would be the best place to start. At these events, you’ll run into several businessmen like yourself. You should make the most of these opportunities to start conversations with others from the world of business. This will gradually let people know about your business and the products and/or services it has to offer.

Prepare a pitch

When you meet potential customers, you have to be prepared to speak spontaneously about your business. At this juncture, it’s important that you don’t fumble or sound unconfident. After all, what you tell people about your business will form impressions in their minds – and you’d want those impressions to be positive, wouldn’t you?

This is where preparing a pitch can come in incredibly handy. Write it down first and then keep practicing it out loud, and make changes where necessary.

Participate in community events

Your local community is the first pillar of support for your business. So, get out there and try playing a role in all community events. At these events, you should promote your business in a friendly and welcoming manner.

This should encourage members of your local community to take an interest in your business and what it has to offer. Sure, this may not result in immediate sales, but it will definitely improve your business’s public visibility.

Businessman in a fancy coffee shop

2. Make your business appear professional

A surprising fact is that the modern-day consumer values professionalism more than the quality of products and services. Of course, product and service quality is important, but if your business lacks professionalism, it will lose out on customers.

So, to make your business appear professional, you can put the following steps into practice:

Invest in a business website

The internet is arguably the biggest platform for businesses nowadays, which is why you should invest in a dedicated website for your business. We recommend hiring professional web developers and designers to curate your business website. This will ensure that your website looks and feels professional.

Apart from setting up a website, you should also pay attention to its content. Quite simply, it should have all the information that your target audience may want to know, i.e., contact information and information about the business. Your business website should also have a blog with consistent posts. This can go a long way towards ensuring your expertise within your niche.

Set up a dedicated email account for your business

Using your personal email account as your business’s email account is nothing short of a criminal offense. That’s why you should set up a dedicated business email account. It’ll help you achieve consistency with your branding, and it’ll also allow your business to look professional to the people who subscribe to your business newsletters.

To set up a business email account, you need to first create a domain name and then get in touch with an email provider. Two of the best email providers out there include Office 365 for Business and Google Apps for Business. Both options provide business-class email along with features such as online storage and document editing. The best thing about these options is that they’re quite inexpensive.

Provide 24/7 Customer Service

These days, consumers expect the companies they buy products and services from to be available for them 24/7. Fortunately, the widely availble virtual assistant and reception services such as those provided by www.virtualreception.com.au can do that for you – both on and off office hours – to any types and sizes of business, from freelancing digital nomads to multinational corporations.

Social media manager

3. Set up your social media for success

Social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook are excellent places to market your business and its products. Here are a few ways to make your business succeed on social media:

Create business profiles

On all major social media platforms, you have the option of setting up personal profiles and business profiles. It’s best to create the latter type of profile as it is designed specifically for business purposes.

During the setup process, make sure that you include relevant info in the bio sections. Don’t forget to add links to your official website and other social media handles as well.

Post relevant content regularly

All social media algorithms tend to favor accounts that post relevant content on a consistent basis. So, irrespective of the social media platforms you’re active on, make sure that you’re posting new content as much as possible.

Not posting regularly can limit your business account’s reach and stall its growth on social media.

Keep branding elements consistent across all platforms

If your Instagram page looks drastically different from your Facebook page, your target audience is bound to get confused. That’s why it’s vital to use similar branding elements across all social media platforms.

The branding elements you should focus on keeping consistent include your business’s logo, its imagery, and its voice, i.e., the tone of communicating with your audience.

Encourage users to engage with you on social media and interact with them: Through the use of call-to-action (CTA) messages, you can encourage your followers on social media to engage with your posts. You should also spare time to respond to your followers’ comments.

Business owner in the Portugal-based office
photo credit: Fauxels / Pexels

Takeaway

There are quite some things to consider in your endeavor to increase your buisness image. However, focusing on the three above is more than sufficient to get started: Meet people and tell the about your business; make an effort to be professional, especially in your online presence; and lastly, make use of social media platforms to your advantage.

Be sure to do a lot of trials-and-errors so that you can form the best practices for your company.

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14 community management tips for meaningful connections with customers

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Community building blocks

The idea for sharing community management tips came to me about a year ago. That’s when I synced up with the GoDaddy Community team to host a webinar for small business owners. As hundreds of attendees rolled into the Zoom, I had a realization: “GoDaddy has a strong community.”

Behind every good brand and business, there’s a solid community of supporters, stakeholders, and sometimes, even haters.

But building a community and maintaining connections is one of the most misunderstood and least talked about topics within the small business world. For a business with fewer than five employees and a handful of customers, community building might seem like just another marketing tactic that is just out of reach.

To help small businesses build and manage an online community, I asked other business owners and marketers what community management tips they had for creating meaningful connections with customers.

14 community management tips to create meaningful customer connections

Given that creating and maintaining a strong community can help retain and attract customers, consider following these 14 community management tips:

  1. Be quick to address negative experiences
  2. Filter out spam
  3. Showcase success
  4. Send a postcard
  5. Get your customers involved in important decisions
  6. Bring Up topics that encourage engagement
  7. Provide talking points and engage with your community
  8. Engage regularly
  9. Be the face of your brand
  10. Choose a channel that works
  11. Create content that addresses customers’ specific needs
  12. Consider a brand ambassador program
  13. Reward loyalty
  14. Recognize the importance of inclusivity

Read on to learn more.

1. Be quick to address negative experiences

A bad customer experience can quickly escalate to a brand reputation crisis, and the company’s response must be fast to revert the situation.

Monitoring social channel mentions is an easy way to keep an eye on conversations surrounding your brand and detect potential concerns.

Once a customer posts a comment that threatens your brand reputation, listen, honestly apologize and be willing to solve the issue in the best possible way. Your unsatisfied customer will feel appreciated and perhaps even become a brand advocate.

-Rebeca Sena, GetSpace.digital

2. Filter out spam

The most important thing you should be doing in regards to community management is interacting with your community, and you cannot do that properly if you have to work through a bunch of spam. There are many programs out there, even some within the different social media sites, that can filter out spam in your comments and messages so you can focus on addressing your community. Plus, getting rid of the spam and moderating harmful comments creates a better space for your community to contact you through.

-Jacob Dayan, Community Tax

3. Showcase success

Develop case studies from your successful community members. This is a practical way of propagating the core values of your online community and encouraging new users to join your community.

The more these members contribute to the community, the more impact these case studies have. You can start by creating basic reports to identify the members who are actively contributing high-quality content, assisting other members, and elevating the community.

-Hasan Farahani, Yocale

4. Send a postcard

postcard with other travel items

Many of my customers spend $15–$20K on medical care in Latin America. I send my customers handwritten postcards to remind them of their journey, thank them for their business, and to stay engaged while they recover from procedures like dental implants or plastic surgery.

The cost in time and money is very low, but a human touch in the healthcare space is increasingly rare.

-Wesley Jacobs, Apollo Medical Travel

5. Get your customers involved in important decisions

Taking the time to follow up with your most active customers and getting their insights on important decisions makes them feel like their opinions are truly valued and cared for.

In the long run, this forges a strong connection between you and your audience that relies on more than simply a transaction.

An added benefit of doing this is that you may even get some eye-opening suggestions and creative ideas that could end up benefiting your business.

-Harry Morton, Lower Street 

6. Bring up topics that encourage engagement

Meaningful connections need to originate from a common source that offers a moment of relatability, which can further build brand trust. Social platforms offer numerous opportunities for these types of exchanges. When managing your social community, bring up topics that encourage engagement so you can connect on a level that goes beyond the basic company/customer relationship. In doing so, the consumer will feel more at ease to comment, ask questions and even provide more detailed feedback.

-Lindsay McCormick, Bite 

7. Provide talking points and engage with your community

It’s important to recognize that community management is an ongoing responsibility. If you want to see your community thrive, you must create opportunities for customers to voice their opinion, communicate with other community members and provide you with feedback. Finding success is contingent on your ability to encourage participation from users, so you must provide talking points and give them plenty of avenues to stay involved.

If you leave your community dormant without your administrative oversight, engagement will start to dwindle as fewer users initiate conversations and take part.

Communities rarely function autonomously, so be sure to play an active role as you connect with and safeguard your community.

This gives you a chance to speak with your customers on a personal level, helping you learn about their likes, dislikes, objections and pain points directly—all of which are crucial in building meaningful connections with customers.

-Mike Grossman, GoodHire

8. Engage regularly

The best community management tip is to engage regularly and don’t neglect questions or threads you didn’t start—even better if they aren’t getting a lot of feedback. If you’re lucky enough to have the opportunity to regularly interact with your customers, make sure you’re commenting often and have a badge next to your name letting them know you’re a moderator or part of the company. That will really cement that feeling of connection and letting members feel heard. Plus, we’ve found that a community manager can really breathe life into a topic by offering input and pushing it to the front of that community for more engagement.

-Sylvia Kang, Mira

9. Be the face of your brand

Revealing the human side of your brand is without a shadow of a doubt an efficient strategy to boost your customers’ connection. It conveys transparency and accountability, building a stronger human bond. Consumers tend to trust people more than a company, and showcasing real people will make you and your brand easier to remember and trust.

-Chiara Sternardi, Passport-photo.online

10. Choose a channel that works

social media apps on iphone

The best way to build an authentic community is to have everyone communicate using the same social media platform. Make that a crucial part of your strategy.

If it’s a professional audience that you’re going after, choose LinkedIn. If it’s a broader audience, use Facebook or Instagram. If it’s a young audience, try Snapchat or WhatsApp. If it’s a politically charged audience, maybe try Twitter.

YouTube is a great way to encourage people to watch videos that provide clear instructions on how a product or service works.

Users flock to YouTube for instructions on everything from how to change batteries on a device to playing scales on a guitar. The comment section can be useful for feedback purposes, and it also can be a way for customers to communicate with one another.

-Joel Jackson, Lifeforce

11. Create content that addresses customers’ specific needs

By creating audience and buyer personas based on different client categories, content marketers can create social content that speaks to people rather than just industries. Learn where your customers hang out online using your social media demographics. Then, narrow those results using audience research to help you define a specific audience and channel. You can then customize communications by researching the LinkedIn profiles of potential customers. Doing so will allow you to identify different stakeholders within the organization and determine their pain points. You can then create better content that addresses their challenges. But it’s all about finding an interesting angle for each segment.

Content that is too broad won’t result in authentic engagement with your followers.

Social media posts that offer helpful information are guaranteed to stand out in your clients’ feeds, resulting in more likes, shares and leads.

-Daniel Tejada, Straight Up Growth

12. Consider a brand ambassador program

A great way to create authentic connections with customers is with an acquisition and advocacy program like a brand ambassador program. For example, if a user can get five people to sign up for a service or product, they become an ambassador.

These brand ambassadors can help your business acquire new users. You can reward them with swag and access to special products or services … maybe even a special event!

-Jennifer Pieniazek, Resume Now

13. Reward loyalty

You can create meaningful connections by rewarding loyal customers to show how much you appreciate them. Just like any relationship, whether it’s personal or professional, people appreciate rewards. Show your customers that they matter and are top of mind in your decision-making. That’s how you create a stronger, more loyal customer base—one that will continue to pay attention for new initiatives and future rewards.

-Alyssa Berman-Waugh, Level Home, Inc.

14. Recognize the importance of inclusivity

To create meaningful connections with customers, recognize and accept diversities within your community. Each of your customers will differ in terms of their culture, orientation, ability and life experience. It’s imperative that you celebrate these differences and welcome input from individuals of all walks of life as you advocate for equity and inclusivity. This will develop your community’s reputation and attract diverse groups in greater numbers.

Communities that cater to just one group of people almost always become echo chambers, creating a suboptimal environment for connections to form and important discussions to take place.

By listening, asking questions, and welcoming input from diverse groups of individuals, you’ll cement your community as a welcoming place for diversity and insight to flourish.

In doing so, your ability to build a rapport and create meaningful, lasting connections with your customers will blossom.

-Patrick Casey, Felix

The community management tips used in this article were gathered using Terkel.
Terkel creates community-driven content featuring expert insights. Sign up at terkel.io to answer questions and get published.



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