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Don’t Buy Anyone a Ring Camera

There’s a chance you had never heard of Ring cameras before Amazon bought the company for as much as $1.8 billion last year. It’s possible that Ring still wasn’t on your radar earlier this year, when reports emerged that the home security giant had partnered with scores of police departments, funneling videos and user data…

There’s a chance you had never heard of Ring cameras before Amazon bought the company for as much as $1.8 billion last year. It’s possible that Ring still wasn’t on your radar earlier this year, when reports emerged that the home security giant had partnered with scores of police departments, funneling videos and user data in some dystopian effort to make a profit by fighting crime and eradicating privacy. But there’s a good chance that you’re going to see a Ring video doorbell on sale—possibly bundled with an Amazon Echo—this Black Friday.

Do not buy it. And definitely don’t buy one for somebody else.

Ring is a troubled company. Last week a panel of five United States senators sent a letter to Amazon chief Jeff Bezos that expressed concern with Ring’s struggles with information security and habit of sharing its users’ videos not only with law enforcement but also with its Ukraine-based research team. The senators wanted to know how Ring encrypts user data (if at all) and how its internal security audits work. This is all happening after unsettling reports that Ring doorbells exposed users’ home wi-fi passwords to hackers and that Ring employees spy on unwitting users.

These are troubles that any home security company could face. Information security is hard, and privacy can be tricky when your product is designed to make live video easily accessible to users on multiple devices. But the Ring story is somehow more sinister than that.

The story begins in 2011 when Jamie Siminoff invented a connected doorbell that could stream video to a phone. Siminoff called it Doorbot, and in 2013, mounted a successful crowdfunding campaign before appearing on Shark Tank to seek an additional $700,000 investment. The Shark Tank investors turned Siminoff down, but the inventor says the publicity sent sales through the roof. He renamed the company as Ring and later called the Shark Tank flop “extraordinary… worth millions.”

It’s not entirely clear when Siminoff decided to fight crime, but “to reduce crime in communities” has been the company’s mission since at least 2014. That mission has evolved in curious ways. Following the early success of the Ring video doorbell, the company launched a whole suite of home security products, including motion sensors, indoor/outdoor cameras, an alarm system, and even smart lighting. In 2018, Ring also released an app called Neighbors “to provide every neighbor with real-time, local crime and safety information.” This neighborhood watch app has since been compared to Nextdoor and Citizen, two companies that have been mired in controversies of their own for years following accusations that they enable racial profiling and instill undue fear into communities. The problems with Neighbors are much worse.

The first problem is a technical one. Using the Ring app automatically enrolls you in Neighbors, and there’s no way to opt-out. You don’t have to post any frightening crime reports to the Neighbors feed, but if you want to use any Ring hardware, you have to be involved in the service. You can also sign up for Neighbors if you don’t own any Ring products but are interested in policing your community.

That leads right into problem number two. Once you’re enrolled in Neighbors—and remember, you have to be if you’re using any Ring hardware—your videos or data could be shared with law enforcement agencies when requested. This sort of thing wouldn’t be terribly different than any other tech company’s practice of giving cops user data if presented with a warrant, but as Motherboard reported earlier this year, Ring has hundreds of once-secret partnerships with police forces around the country, partnerships that gave cops access to a “portal” where they could access video from Ring cameras in exchange for providing Ring with free advertising. The device’s owners must give permission to share these videos with police, but it’s also unclear how users might be compelled to share it.

These police partnerships were not only under wraps but also awfully deep. The Motherboard report reads, “In order to partner with Ring, police departments must also assign officers to Ring-specific roles that include a press coordinator, a social media manager, and a community relations coordinator.” Gizmodo later reported that these press-facing roles were so involved that Ring actually edited press releases about Ring deals for police departments with whom it had contracts. As recently as April, one police memo showed, “over 225 law enforcement agencies” were engaged in these sorts of partnerships with Ring. In fact, everything that partner police organizations said about Ring was either written or approved by Ring.

The Ring surveillance saga is still unfolding. Just this week, The Intercept reported that Ring has been working on neighborhood “watch lists” based on artificial intelligence and facial recognition. We can only assume that Ring’s law enforcement partners might gain access to these lists and possibly even funnel the data back into the fear machine that is the Neighbors app. Again, these cops can easily request access to videos from millions of Ring cameras, and according to Ring’s privacy policy, Ring could compel users to share the footage based on “requests from government agencies.” It’s up to the users to trust that Ring will abide by its own privacy policy.

Does this sound like a company you should trust? It’s under Congressional scrutiny for poor data security and problematic privacy practices. It’s been engaged in dubious secret partnerships with police departments who can gain access to private home security camera feeds. Meanwhile, its corporate culture sounds weirdly militant. According to this revealing feature Los Angeles Times feature from 2017, Ring’s founder Jamie Siminoff entertains some weird sort of militaristic fantasy at the office:

He treats employees as confidants in war, bestowing them with dog-tag-style security badges inscribed with name, start date and title. He’s honest about fear, retelling his nightmares to employees the morning after. World War II posters in the hallways emphasize the battle: “Loose Lips Sink Ring” and “Protect Our Neighborhoods.”

Do you want to buy the cameras this company is selling? More importantly, do you want to gift one of these surveillance machines to a loved one?

Don’t do it. Buy a Nest Hello doorbell. The hardware isn’t perfect, but that company isn’t feeding footage to the cops—that we know of. Better yet, buy a Logitech Circle 2 camera. You can review a whole day’s worth of footage for free, and the company also probably isn’t giving your personal data to cops.

Just stee

How to Become a Leadership Influencer

Executive brands are evolving through the power of expertise, authority and trust. Image credit: Klaus Vedfelt | Getty Images Tom Popomaronis Guest Writer Vice President, Innovation at Massive Alliance November 29, 2019 4 min read Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own. You’re probably sick of hearing about influencers these days and how all it…

Executive brands are evolving through the power of expertise, authority and trust.

20191126161411 GettyImages 912015618 - How to Become a Leadership Influencer

Image credit:

Klaus Vedfelt | Getty Images

Guest Writer

Vice President, Innovation at Massive Alliance


4 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You’re probably sick of hearing about influencers these days and how all it takes to become one is amassing a relevant social following, whether that’s at a micro-level of a few thousand social followers or fans in the millions. However, marketing yourself to simply gather a large number of followers actually isn’t (or, at least, doesn’t have to be) the misguided quest for superficial Internet stardom it may seem like. Frankly, it’s those questionable connotations that make business executives and leaders more attracted to another, seemingly more professional status; rather than “social influencers,” executives now strive to be “thought leaders.”

On the one hand, there can be a massive chasm between the two. The agenda for most “influencers” might just be to tempt you into shopping at a particular boutique, for which they’ll receive compensation or free products themselves (#ad). The job of a “thought leader,” meanwhile, is to create a paradigm shift that earns them respect and  positive reputation. But viewed another way, the line is becoming increasingly blurred. Influencers are more educated and skilled than ever before, while thought leaders have become, in some cases, blatant promoters of their own companies and brands. 

Somewhere in between, we’re witnessing the evolution of a new leadership breed and its ability to drive meaningful dialogue at a macro level. Enter the leadership influencer.

Related: Are Influencers Worth Our Money?

What Is a Leadership Influencer?

A leadership influencer is an executive who has, through a proven track record, triumphed in business and now motivates and inspires others to create similar success through the sharing of knowledge, attitude, philosophy and strategy. The leadership influencer uses channels such as news or topical publications and social media strategies to accomplish this. While nearly anyone can purchase Instagram followers or pose as an industry thought leader, being a true leadership influencer requires a special skill that isn’t easy to come by. Namely….

The Power and Commitment to Inspire

Even if you consider yourself a passionate communicator and are confident in your writing and speaking capabilities, you likely face the obstacles of time constraints; unfamiliarity with platforms (e.g. you might publish inspiring material on your blog or LinkedIn profile, but do you know how to get your thoughts in front of a national publication’s audience?); impatience (leadership influence takes more effort than a stab in the dark; uncertainty about what to say (you know your thoughts, but how do you explain them efficiently?); or lack of confidence.

Here’s the truth that everyone needs to hear: We all have something to say and share. It doesn’t matter if you’re starting out as an intern or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Your experiences define you and the perspective you gain from it is perspective that you, and only you, have the ability to share. These narratives are not only powerful, but begin to authentically position you as a leader who can motivate and inspire.

A Critical First Step

If you don’t yet publish anywhere, pick a platform today (LinkedIn or Medium is a great place to start) and just start writing about something. Stuck? Try one of these three topics:

  • What’s your favorite quote and why?
  • What has been one of the biggest challenges of your career, and how did you overcome it?
  • Who has been your favorite client to work with and why? 

If that first question resonated, you might devise an angle like: “Why This [Insert Author’s] Quote Has Helped Me [Insert Lessons or Takeaways].” So, if you picked Abraham Lincoln, it could read: “My Favorite Abraham Lincoln Quote Is a Daily Reminder About Integrity.” Or: “This Abraham Lincoln Quote Has Reminded Me About the Importance of Honesty for 19 Years.”  

Related: Here’s How You Can Do Influence Marketing

To Influence, or Not to Influence

Ultimately, you’ll be able to streamline this process of fleshing out ideas and then start using the same approach with your niche and industry expertise. As a leadership influencer, you’re the expert and the authority. All the knowledge is already there, but it requires you to completely eviscerate your comfort zone. After all, do you want to leave a content footprint, or do you want to leave a legacy? You decide.

Twitter ceases all political advertising – CNET

Twitter is ditching political ads.  Angela Lang/CNET Twitter will stop selling ads concerning candidates for office, elections or political issues such as climate change and immigration, the company’s CEO said Wednesday, staking out a position that sets the social network apart from industry giant Facebook. In a series of 11 tweets, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey…

twitter logo 2 - Twitter ceases all political advertising - CNET

Twitter is ditching political ads. 


Angela Lang/CNET

Twitter will stop selling ads concerning candidates for office, elections or political issues such as climate change and immigration, the company’s CEO said Wednesday, staking out a position that sets the social network apart from industry giant Facebook. In a series of 11 tweets, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey unveiled the changes, which will take effect next month. He argued that the reach of political messages “should be earned” by getting people to follow an account or share a tweet instead of “bought” through advertising.

Internet advertising, Dorsey added, presents new challenges that require Twitter to change its practices. Those challenges include micro-targeting of audiences, manipulated videos known as deepfakes and messages optimized by machine learning.

Internet political ads present entirely new challenges to civic discourse: machine learning-based optimization of messaging and micro-targeting, unchecked misleading information, and deep fakes. All at increasing velocity, sophistication, and overwhelming scale.

— jack 🌍🌏🌎 (@jack) October 30, 2019

“This isn’t about free expression. This is about paying for reach,” Dorsey tweeted. “And paying to increase the reach of political speech has significant ramifications that today’s democratic infrastructure may not be prepared to handle.” 

The change in Twitter’s policy comes as the debate over political messages on social media intensifies ahead of the 2020 US elections. Facebook, which allows politicians to lie in ads, has been criticized for allowing the spread of misinformation. Facebook executives defended the policy, saying it safeguards free speech.

Misinformation played a role in the 2016 presidential election, with Russians trolls purchasing Facebook ads in an effort to sow discord among Americans. Other social media companies, such as short-form video app TikTok, have barred political ads in order to protect its light-hearted culture.

Twitter’s policy change drew mixed reactions from Facebook, politicians, analysts and civil rights advocates. Some Democrats praised Twitter, stating that banning political ads will help protect democracy, while President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign saw the decision as a move to censor conservative speech. Civil rights groups and analysts pointed out that politicians don’t need to buy ads in order to reach a large audience and barring ads might do little to curb the spread of misinformation. 

Trump, who uses Twitter regularly, has more than 66.4 million followers on the platform. He’s been accused of violating the company’s rules against threats and hate speech, but Twitter hasn’t booted him from the platform. In June, Twitter said it would put a warning notice over tweets from certain politicians that violate its rules but are left up in public interest. 

“Paid ads are just a small piece of an insidious issue: Hate speech, racism, white supremacy, and content that incites violence remain widespread online, and especially on Twitter,” Jessica González, co-founder of Change the Terms, a coalition of more than 50 civil rights groups, nonprofits and other organizations, said in a statement. “Banning political ads alone is not nearly enough to make Twitter a place for healthy conversations.”

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Opposing views

Twitter’s move puts more pressure on Facebook to follow suit. Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate in 2016, challenged the massive social network to also ban political ads. “This is the right thing to do for democracy in America and all over the world,” Clinton tweeted.

Facebook signaled on Wednesday that it doesn’t plan to change its mind. During a call with analysts after releasing better-than-expected earnings, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said barring ads would hurt advocacy groups and political candidates the media chooses not to cover. “Ads can be an important part of voice,” he said.

Zuckerberg also pointed out that Google, YouTube, most cable networks and national broadcasters run the same political ads as Facebook does. 

“In a democracy, I don’t think it’s right for private companies to censor politicians or the news,” Zuckerberg said. “And it’s hard to define where to draw the line. Would we really block ads for important political issues like climate change or women’s empowerment?”

Like Twitter, political ads on Facebook only makes up a small part of the company’s revenue. Zuckerberg said political ads will likely only account for less than 0.5% of Facebook’s revenue next year. Facebook’s stance on the issue isn’t based on “inflammatory content to fuel our business” or on appeasing conservatives, he said.

Dorsey added that the power of internet advertising for politics “brings significant risks,” because it can influence voting and affect millions of lives. Twitter can focus on addressing the root problem with internet advertising only if it doesn’t accept money for it in the meantime.

Regulators must also consider long-term policies for dealing with political ads, Dorsey said.

Twitter’s final policy will be unveiled Nov. 15 and enforced from Nov. 22. There will be exceptions such as voter registration ads.

Mixed reactions

Political ads have become a headache for social media companies.

Earlier this month, Facebook rejected a request from former Vice President Joe Biden‘s presidential campaign to pull Trump ads that contained false information. The ads implied that Biden had threatened to withhold money from Ukraine unless the country interrupted an investigation involving Biden’s son. The scenario has been widely debunked. Fellow Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren later ran an ad with a deliberate falsehood to protest Facebook’s policy.

Biden’s campaign praised Twitter’s policy change.

“We appreciate that Twitter recognizes that they should not permit disproven smears, like those from the Trump campaign, to appear in advertisements on their platform,” Bill Russo, deputy communications director of Biden for President, said in an email. 

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat, said social media companies shouldn’t run political ads if they weren’t prepared to conduct basic fact checking. “Technology — and social media especially — has a powerful responsibility in preserving the integrity of our elections,” she tweeted. “Not allowing for paid disinformation is one of the most basic, ethical decisions a company can make.”

Trump’s campaign criticized Twitter for the move. Brad Parscale, manager of the Trump 2020 campaign, tweeted that it was a “very dumb decision” for Twitter to walk away from “hundreds of millions of dollars of potential revenue.”

“This is yet another attempt to silence conservatives, since Twitter knows President Trump has the most sophisticated online program ever known,” Parscale tweeted.

Other politicians argued that Twitter’s decision to bar political ads might have unintended consequences.

Conservative British MP Damian Collins tweeted the problem on Twitter has been “big networks of fake bot accounts rather than legitimate advertisers.”

“This move could make life easier for the peddlers of fake news,” he said.

First published at 1:12 p.m. PT on Oct. 30.

Updated at 1:36 p.m.: Adds more information, background; Updated at 1:57 p.m.: Adds more information, statement from Twitter spokesperson; Updated at 2:02 p.m.: Adds statement from analyst; Updated at 2:09 p.m.: Adds statement from Biden campaign; Updated at 3:17 p.m.: Adds comments from Zuckerberg, AOC, Hillary Clinton and the Trump campaign; Updated at 3:27 p.m.: Adds comments from Change the Terms and MP Damian Collin; Updated at 4:19 p.m.: Adds comments from Muslim Advocates and Wyden. Updated at 5:49 p.m.: Reorganizes story. 

Twitter makes its political ad ban official

The ban on political ads announced by Twitter two weeks ago has come into effect, and the rules are surprisingly simple — perhaps too simple. No political content as they define it may be promoted; candidates, parties, governments or officials, PACs and certain political nonprofit groups are banned from promoting content altogether. The idea intended…

The ban on political ads announced by Twitter two weeks ago has come into effect, and the rules are surprisingly simple — perhaps too simple. No political content as they define it may be promoted; candidates, parties, governments or officials, PACs and certain political nonprofit groups are banned from promoting content altogether.

The idea intended to be made manifest in these policies is that “political message reach should be earned, not bought,” as the company puts it. It’s hard to argue with that (but Facebook will anyway). The new rules apply globally and to all ad types.

It’s important to make clear at the outset that Twitter is not banning political content, it is banning the paid promotion of that content. Every topic is fair game and every person or organization on Twitter can pursue their cause as before — they just can’t pay to get their message in front of more eyeballs.

In its briefly stated rules, the company explains what it means by “political content”:

We define political content as content that references a candidate, political party, elected or appointed government official, election, referendum, ballot measure, legislation, regulation, directive, or judicial outcome.

Also banned are:

Ads that contain references to political content, including appeals for votes, solicitations of financial support, and advocacy for or against any of the above-listed types of political content.

That seems pretty straightforward. Banning political ads is controversial to begin with, but unclear or complicated definitions would really make things difficult.

A blanket ban on many politically motivated organizations will also help clear the decks. Political action committees, or PACs, and their deep-pocketed cousins the SuperPACs, are banned from advertising at all. That makes sense, since what content would they be promoting other than attempts to influence the political process? 501(c)4 nonprofit organizations, not as publicly notorious as PACs but huge spenders on political causes, are also banned.

There are, of course, exemptions, both for news organizations that want to promote coverage of political issues, and “cause-based” content deemed non-political.

The first exemption is pretty natural — although many news organizations do have a political outlook or ideological bent, it’s a far cry from the practice of donating millions directly to candidates or parties. But not just any site can take advantage — you’ll have to have 200,000 monthly unique visitors, make your own content with your own people and not be primarily focused on a single issue.

The “cause-based” exemption may be where Twitter takes the most heat. As Twitter’s policy states, it will allow “ads that educate, raise awareness, and/or call for people to take action in connection with civic engagement, economic growth, environmental stewardship, or social equity causes.”

These come with some restrictions: They can only be targeted to the state, province or region level — no ZIP codes, so hyper-local influence is out. And politically charged interests may not be targeted, so you can’t send your cause-based ads just to “socialists,” for example. And they can’t reference or be run on behalf of any of the banned entities above.

But it’s the play in the definition that may come back to bite Twitter. What exactly constitutes “civic engagement” and “social equity causes”? Perhaps these concepts were only vaguely defined by design to be accommodating rather than prescriptive, but if you leave an inch for interpretation, you’d better believe bad actors are going to take a mile.

Clearly this is meant to allow promotion of content like voter registration drives, disaster relief work, and so on. But it’s more than possible someone will try to qualify, say, an anti-immigrant rally as “public conversation around important topics.”

I asked Twitter whether additional guidance on the cause-based content rules would be forthcoming, but a representative simply pointed me to the very language I quoted.

That said, policy lead at Twitter Vijaya Gadde said the company will attempt to be transparent with its decisions on individual issues and clear about changes to the rules going forward.

“This is new territory,” she tweeted. “As with every policy we put into practice, it will evolve and we’ll be listening to your feedback.”

And no doubt they shall receive it — in abundance.

Educating Investors, Consumers Alike: NorCal’s CMO Talks Cannabis Marketing

NorCal, a vertically integrated cannabis company focused on the California market, announced the release of a new corporate brand campaign Oct.16 that spans print, digital and outdoor media. The campaign has  multiple angles, jumping from educational content to hard branding, and aims to position NorCal as a leader in the California market to both consumers and potential…

NorCal, a vertically integrated cannabis company focused on the California market, announced the release of a new corporate brand campaign Oct.16 that spans print, digital and outdoor media.

The campaign has  multiple angles, jumping from educational content to hard branding, and aims to position NorCal as a leader in the California market to both consumers and potential investors.

Benzinga joined in conversation with Joel Lunenfeld, who joined the company as chief marketing officer in Feburary after a long run as global brand strategy vice president at Twitter Inc (NYSE: TWTR). 

The brand campaign was motivated by a recent waves of doubt and disappointment from investors who are not seeing cannabis companies perform as they expected when the “Green Rush” began, the CMO told Benzinga. 

What Should Cannabis Marketing Look Like Today?

Marketing is about educating consumers about the benefits of cannabis as much as it is about educating investors and partners about the market, Lunenfeld said. 

Considering the limitations cannabis companies face today when trying to reach mainstream audiences, we asked the CMO what objectives a brand should aspire to when developing a marketing campaign. 

On one hand, NorCal’s new campaign is a B2B effort that targets capital markets, partners and new investors, he said. 

“It’s a message around NorCal’s B2B presence. That’s why the call to action is to download our white paper, learn more about the consumer and more about our company.”

In a recent report, “Five Myths of Today’s California Cannabis Consumer,” NorCal shares the company’s insights on the cannabis consumer market in the Golden State.

The company has been able to reach media outlets in the cannabis space as well as broader publications like The New York Times and San Francisco Chronicle, he said. 

“On the B2C side I think the value of advertising is very different,” Lunenfeld said.

“B2C is more about building community and building awareness of the brand through adjacent categories like music and skateboarding. It’s more about getting into the cultural conversation and of course educating consumers, mainly at point of sale.”

NorCal Cannabis - Educating Investors, Consumers Alike: NorCal's CMO Talks Cannabis Marketing

Photo courtesy of NorCal Cannabis.

Measuring ROI 

On the B2B side, NorCal is expecting a clear measurement of their return of investment though traffic to their site, downloads of their white paper and the arrival of new partners and M&A opportunities, Lunenfeld said. 

On the B2C side, measurement is harder, since the digital outlets that often provide analytics, such as social media platforms, aren’t an option for cannabis companies. 

To overcome these difficulties, NorCal had to get creative and find alternative ways to reach mainstream audiences such as working with artists, musicians and influencers, the CMO said.

This makes the consumer ROI harder to measure at the point of sale, he said. 

No Cannabis Advertising On Social Just Yet

Lunenfeld comes from the world of social media — and he doesn’t expect the big tech giants to allow paid cannabis advertising until the substance is federally legal. 

“Ironically, they have [ad] targeting available in paid format, to allow to target by age and by location, which is what cannabis advertisers need,” he said. 

Screenshot courtesy of NorCal.

© 2019 Benzinga.com. Benzinga does not provide investment advice. All rights reserved.

5 Smart B2C Tactics To Boost Your B2B Brand

B2B marketing is swiftly embracing techniques that were once only for B2C, and we’ve got five smart B2C tactics to add to your B2B plans for 2020 and well beyond. Influencer marketing, engaging interactive content, awards events, chatbots, and podcasting are just some of the ways that today’s savvy B2B marketers can add a healthy…

B2CTacticsForB2BImageB600w - 5 Smart B2C Tactics To Boost Your B2B Brand

B2B marketing is swiftly embracing techniques that were once only for B2C, and we’ve got five smart B2C tactics to add to your B2B plans for 2020 and well beyond.

Influencer marketing, engaging interactive content, awards events, chatbots, and podcasting are just some of the ways that today’s savvy B2B marketers can add a healthy dose of the B2C experience to your business marketing efforts.

#1 – Influencer Marketing

JumpingBusinessmanImage600w - 5 Smart B2C Tactics To Boost Your B2B Brand

Even though influencer marketing is still largely associated with the B2C world, you’ve likely noticed that it’s being increasingly used by smart marketers as a highly successful go-to B2B tactic.

Influencer marketing has already accounted for over $2 billion in annual marketing spending in the U.S. alone, and annual growth rates are predicted to from 41 percent all the way to 95 percent. (AdAge)

InfluencerMarketingHubChart600w - 5 Smart B2C Tactics To Boost Your B2B Brand

B2C influencer marketing has relied heavily on celebrity influencers, a combination that has faced a growing backlash and played a part in diminishing trust in marketing.

B2B influencer marketing, on the other hand, incorporates industry experts who have a genuine two-way relationship with a brand, a partnership that respectfully serves both parties equally well, and boosts trust.

While influencer marketing may have had its ups and downs in the B2C landscape, influencers in the B2B world may just be a perfect match.

“Invite people to be in your program first and then do some brainstorming with them and see what they like, how they like to interact or what they like to do for companies.” @AmishaGandhi Click To Tweet

Amisha Gandhi is vice president of influencer marketing and communications at SAP*, and she recently shared her B2B influencer marketing insights in one of our new Break Free B2B video interviews, including creative and fun ways that add sizzle and build brand credibility.

Watch and learn from Amisha in “Break Free B2B Series: Amisha Gandhi on Global B2B Influencer Marketing.”

If you don’t tie your influencer marketing to business objectives, you can quickly lose track of what you’re trying to accomplish. @Konstanze Click To Tweet

Konstanze Alex of Dell* is another leader in B2B influencer marketing, and along with Amisha and Dell’s Janine Wegner at the most recent MarketingProfs B2B Forum conference, she explored some of the latest trends shaping influencer marketing, in “Tales from the B2B Influencer Marketing Trenches with Leaders from Dell & SAP #MPB2B.

“Influencer marketing presents an opportunity to tap into the established credibility and connections that people in your industry or niche already have with their own audiences.” @NickNelsonMN Click To Tweet

Our own senior content strategist Nick Nelson and senior director of digital strategy Ashley Zeckman have also explored the subtle nuances of B2B influencer marketing, taking “A Journey Through Always-On Influencer Marketing with Ashley Zeckman #MPB2B.”

We pride ourselves on cultivating and nurturing long-term relationships with our influencers … which means we are always looking to establish a ‘give to get’ exchange where all parties come out ahead. @ranimani0707 @adobe Click To Tweet

Rani Mani, head of social influencer enablement at Adobe* is another leading B2B influencer marketing expert, and she has shared a number of her unique insights in “B2B Influencer Marketing Interview: Rani Mani, Adobe.”

Trust in marketing has been a growing concern among marketers — one that B2B influencer marketing is squarely seeking to improve —  and here are five of our most recent articles that explore how marketers can build greater trust:

#2 – Engaging Interactive Content

InteractiveContentImage600w - 5 Smart B2C Tactics To Boost Your B2B Brand

B2C brands have spent heavily on bringing consumers engaging interactive online content as a major part of many marketing campaigns.

As the B2B landscape continues to speedily depart from its dusty Boring-To-Boring roots, business customers are expecting content and experiences that are increasingly similar to what B2C efforts have long provided, and engaging interactive experiences exemplify the type of content B2B firms need to offer if they wish to successfully compete.

What could be less interactive or engaging than a hundred-plus page purely text industry white paper?

Today’s B2B customers expect to have access to all of the relevant information that white paper contained, but brought to life through an online interface that’s not only easy to search and navigate, but also chock full of user experience features that make interacting an entertaining experience.

“You may need to take baby steps with your audience to get them warmed up to the idea of interactivity.” — Caitlin Burgess @CaitlinMBurgess Click To Tweet

Engaging and interactive content marketing is a subject near and dear to our hearts at TopRank Marketing, and here are five of the most recent pieces we’ve published to help you learn more about building your own:

#3 – Awards & Best-Of Pages

SunnyLakeImage600w - 5 Smart B2C Tactics To Boost Your B2B Brand

As B2B efforts become more like those in B2C, business marketers are increasingly looking for places to showcase their best work, and industry awards events can be a powerful way to share and celebrate cutting-edge work.

Whether it’s physical red carpet award programs where industry professionals gather to honor the top B2B marketing work, or purely digital events that show off lists of winning campaigns, the benefits of highlighting great B2B marketing efforts can be far-reaching.

LinkedIn* recently announced the winners of its “Best of LinkedIn Pages 2019,” taken from submissions to its annual contest — a list that shows how building great content can lead to widespread industry  recognition.

We’ve examined the power of award-winning content in the following articles, including several examples from the Cannes Lions event:

#4 – Chatbots & AI-Infused Customer Interaction

ChatbotImage600w - 5 Smart B2C Tactics To Boost Your B2B Brand

B2C companies were some of the first to actively offer chatbots to consumers, however there’s been swift adoption in the B2B world, and with studies showing that people like interacting with powerful chatbots when they can quickly get the answers they seek, more B2B organizations are likely to begin using chatbot technology in 2020 and beyond.

2019February22StatisticImage - 5 Smart B2C Tactics To Boost Your B2B Brand

For a deeper look at how chatbots, artificial intelligence, plus augmented and virtual reality can work to your B2B marketing advantage, here are five recent articles we’ve published:

#5 – Podcasting

PodcastingWomenImage600w - 5 Smart B2C Tactics To Boost Your B2B Brand

Just a few years ago the idea of podcasting in a B2B context would likely have been seen as preposterous by most business consumers.

Now however, as podcasting’s popularity has skyrocketed in general — over 62 percent of podcast listeners say they listen to more now than a year ago — more B2B firms than ever are either starting their own or studying how to do so in the near future.

B2B podcasting is ripe for business marketers, with some 13 million households already including avid fans of business podcasts, and 52 million households including casual fans of business podcasts, according to Nielsen podcasting data.

Our senior content marketing manager Joshua Nite recently made the case for B2B marketers to take a serious look at podcasting, and presented “B2B Podcasting: 20 Stats that Make the Marketing Case.”

“B2B marketers who are creating any kind of audio content should consider podcasting as a channel to earn attention, deeply engage an audience, and ultimately drive measurable business results.” — Joshua Nite @NiteWrites Click To Tweet

When it comes to B2B podcasting, making the leap from consideration to implementation can be a hurdle, however Josh has written an insightful guide to help marketers with the process, in “10 Crucial Steps for Launching Your B2B Podcast Into the Wild.”

More B2B podcasting help and examples of top marketing podcasts can be found here:

A Brighter B2B Future For 2020 and Beyond

As we’ve explored, by using influencer marketing, engaging interactive content, awards events, chatbots, and podcasting, B2B marketers can add new life to once-stale campaigns, and we hope that 2020 brings you an abundance of B2B marketing advancements to be thankful for.

* Dell, SAP, Adobe, and LinkedIn are TopRank Marketing client.

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Instagram’s decision to remove likes could help mend some of the mental health damage caused by the competitive social media influencer industry

Instagram is going to start removing likes for users worldwide.The company has already trialled hidden likes in seven countries: Australia, Canada, Brazil, Ireland, Italy, Japan, and New Zealand.Marie Mostad, the cofounder of influencer-brand matching company inzpire.me, told Insider this is a good move from a mental health point of view.She said it would bring Instagram…

  • Instagram is going to start removing likes for users worldwide.
  • The company has already trialled hidden likes in seven countries: Australia, Canada, Brazil, Ireland, Italy, Japan, and New Zealand.
  • Marie Mostad, the cofounder of influencer-brand matching company inzpire.me, told Insider this is a good move from a mental health point of view.
  • She said it would bring Instagram back to what it once was — a social media app for sharing professional looking photos — and make users rethink why they double tap certain photos.
  • Influencer Alyssa Kulani, who lives in Canada where the trial has already begun, told Insider she thinks it will help with younger people’s mental health, but instead of just changing a setting, she thinks the company should go even further and remove likes entirely.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Instagram has been experimenting with removing likes in seven countries around the world, including Canada, Australia, Brazil, and Japan, since July, in an attempt to improve the mental health of users. Business Insider reported the company would start a worldwide rollout in November.

Marie Mostad, the cofounder of influencer-brand matching company inzpire.me, told Insider that if Instagram is actually removing likes in a bid to tackle some of the mental health issues rife on social media, then it could be a very good thing.

One reason, she said, is hidden likes will make users think more about why they double tap certain photos, which would probably lead to more authentic content.

“If you think of an art gallery, you will stop and take a closer look at paintings or photographs you really like, and it doesn’t have anything to do with what other people like — it’s just your personal taste,” she said. “A gallery would never have a counter showing which pictures people spend the most time on. It’s just the subjective taste that matters.”

Why do you like a photo?

According to a preliminary study by influencer marketing platform HypeAuditor, in Japan and the UK, likes actually increased for influencers with 100,000 to 1 million followers after they were hidden, although they dropped significantly in Brazil and Australia, and fell slightly in Ireland and Italy.

“That leads me to think that there is some sort of culture aspect as well when it comes to the likes,” Mostad said, which got her thinking: “Why do I like a photo?”

“I don’t like a photo to show everyone else, or the world that this is content that I approve of,” she said. “I like a photo to tell the person who took the photo ‘it’s so cool that you’ve been to Australia,’ or ‘congrats on winning this award,’ or ‘Hi, I see you.'”

svg%3E - Instagram's decision to remove likes could help mend some of the mental health damage caused by the competitive social media influencer industry


HypeAuditor


Mostad believes this is more what Instagram started out as — a simple photo sharing network to keep friends and family updated, with an emphasis on filters and the ability for people to create and edit professional-looking posts. Removing likes could restore some of that.

“I think this is moving back to what Instagram was initially — the joy of creating good content and taking good photos and sharing it with the world, which I think is a really good thing,” Mostad said.

The biggest influencers will have to up their game

In recent years, Instagram has become more competitive. With high profile celebrities competing for millions of likes and followers, some of that was bound to trickle down to the regular user with a tiny fraction of their audience, increasing feelings of inferiority.

Hiding likes puts the actual photos and influencer’s personality more in focus than their fame, Mostad said. This could be a challenge for the platform’s biggest creators — some of whom have already threatened to leave the platform — whose accounts are built so high from a sort of popularity contest.

“They get a lot of likes for other reasons than their content,” said Mostad. “That sort of triggers this machinery where they reach some sort of fame for the volume of people following them and liking their photos.”

Micro- and nano- influencers, one the other hand, have a much smaller audience who they have built up more of a trust with than huge celebrities with millions of followers.

“It’s usually also very, very high quality content,” Mostad said. “So [removing likes] is going to put more focus on the content, and I think that’s gonna sort of push some categories of influencers to up their game.”

She added Instagram might see some of the smaller, niche creators building up bigger followings, while the larger celebrities struggle, “if it’s more about the content and less about who likes what.”

svg%3E - Instagram's decision to remove likes could help mend some of the mental health damage caused by the competitive social media influencer industry

Marie Mostad.

Marie Mostad / inzpire.me


Influencer and YouTuber Alyssa Kulani, who has 677,000 subscribers on her channel, lives in Canada where Instagram has already trialled hidden likes. She told Insider she initially didn’t like it when they were removed because she was concerned about brands being able to immediately see the engagement her posts get.

“But honestly I do think that it’s going to help a lot with mental health, especially with people in school,” she said. “I remember when I was in high school and girls would always compare, like, ‘oh my gosh, that girl got this many likes on her photos,’ and stuff.”

‘It gets inside people’s heads’

Kulani started her YouTube channel when she was 13 years old because of her social anxiety and feeling isolated at school. She said having less of an emphasis on likes could go some way to helping tackle some of the struggles she felt while she was growing up, which were exemplified by social media.

But if Instagram is going to hide likes from the public, they should take them away altogether, she said.

“You can still see how many likes you’re getting,” she said. “You’re not really worried about what other people think, but maybe you’re worried about if people actually like the photo. I think that’s what gets inside people’s heads.”

On the standard setting, an Instagram profile that has likes removed shows “one account and others” liked a photo. But there’s another setting influencers may choose that shows up as “one account and thousands of others” if they reach over 1,000 likes.

“I just think you should keep the likes or you shouldn’t keep them at all,” Kulani said. “I think there’s a fine line between that and what’s actually going to help with people, because I think seeing someone’s photo saying ‘this person and thousands of others’ is just as harmful as seeing the like amount.”

svg%3E - Instagram's decision to remove likes could help mend some of the mental health damage caused by the competitive social media influencer industry




Alyssa Kulani / YouTube



Kulani said she quickly got over her apprehension over her likes no longer showing up simply because it was that way all summer.

“At first it was like ‘Oh my gosh, why did they take it away? That’s the point of Instagram,'” she said. “But now that it’s been here, you just don’t really care anymore. You just get normalized to things, right?”

Keeping the content you’re proud of

Social media gratification affects nearly everyone. We all enjoy the feeling of being digitally noticed by our peers.

“When someone likes an Instagram post, or any content that you share, it’s a little bit like taking a drug,” New York University professor Adam Alter told Business Insider in 2017. “As far as your brain is concerned, it’s a very similar experience.”

This is because likes are not guaranteed, and it’s the unpredictability that makes it so addictive, he said, and “if you knew that every time you posted something you’d get 100 likes, it would become boring really fast.”

Younger people on social media may be more at risk of relying on this endorphin rush because apps like Instagram have been such an integral part of their upbringing.

Also, while older Instagram users may have shed their apprehensions over their like count, it’s common among younger people to delete photos that don’t get “enough,” Mostad said, because they see it as embarrassing.

If likes are hidden, they won’t feel the need to do that anymore, she said.

“Now they don’t have to do that if they take a photo that they’re really proud of,” she said. “I think this is a cool thing. They can just keep it up because no one’s going to see how many people liked it or not.”

Read more:

Instagram is now experimenting with removing ‘likes’ worldwide

Here’s what your Instagram posts will look like without ‘likes’

Celebrities and influencers are furious at Instagram’s experiment with hiding likes, and some are threatening to stop posting on the app

From taking the pressure off ‘glamorous’ photos of their trips to a new focus on comments, here’s how travel influencers feel about Instagram hiding likes

Instagram is still the most lucrative platform for branded content deals, even without ‘likes.’ Here’s why, according to influencer-marketing experts.

5bd375adcd6f3842155a1a29 - Instagram's decision to remove likes could help mend some of the mental health damage caused by the competitive social media influencer industry

5bd375adcd6f3842155a1a29 - Instagram's decision to remove likes could help mend some of the mental health damage caused by the competitive social media influencer industry

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How the PayPal Honey deal could reshape ecommerce

PayPal has struck gold. In a mostly cash move announced last week, the company will spend about $4 billion to buy Honey Science Corporation, the deal-finding browser extension and app, which currently has 17 million monthly users and more than 30,000 merchant websites. Analytically speaking, it’s a magical move. In fact, it’s probably one of…

PayPal has struck gold. In a mostly cash move announced last week, the company will spend about $4 billion to buy Honey Science Corporation, the deal-finding browser extension and app, which currently has 17 million monthly users and more than 30,000 merchant websites.

Analytically speaking, it’s a magical move. In fact, it’s probably one of the best deals either could have made, and there was no better buyer or acquirer for Honey than PayPal, which brings its own 24 million merchants and 275 million users to the deal.

For those who didn’t know Honey, which was hardly a household name, here is why its $4B dollar price tag is warranted: Honey started as a browser extension that tracked promo codes, but has since grown into a tool that also tracks pricing history, alerts users about price drops on items in their wish lists, and offers rebates or rewards through its “Honey Gold” program. Its growth in the past year has been remarkable. It’s grown from 10 million members (who saved $800 million through the service) in 2018 to 17 million members today and $1 billion in savings to date, according to company estimates. Honey takes the principles of what Kayak did for travel and does the same for shoppers.

It’s all about the customer journey

The holy trinity in the customer journey are identity, behavior, and intent.

It starts with the data. Until now, PayPal has one of the best data sets of customer identity, but it only had data at the end of a customer’s journey online. It had no lead funnel; no intent or rich behavior data, meaning it didn’t have access to a customer’s intent to purchase or to what customers were searching or researching online.

Essentially, PayPal had the identity (it knows who you are), and it had the behavior (it knows your behavior when you make a purchase). Now, with intent data, it can also predict what’s likely to come next.

PayPal now has a powerful two-sided platform for customer engagement, like Amazon or Facebook, that takes the company beyond the transactional relationship to get the best deals for its customers and engage with them. And it can do this in a personalized way. From a customer experience (CX) perspective, there’s now a single gateway approach. If the customer is logged into PayPal and has the Honey browsing extension activated, PayPal has complete visibility.

How PayPal and Honey can benefit each other

There are numerous ways PayPal can integrate Honey into its business. It could charge its 24 million merchants for the additional service of having Honey as a coupon aggregator, though I don’t think that’s the best option. It would be more successful offering this as a “freemium” option for quicker merchant adoption. Consumers who have historically relied on Amazon can now buy directly from their favorite brands and merchants by seeking deals directly and can add to a master cart maintained by PayPal vs. Amazon, Apple Pay or another e-commerce aggregator.

Another way PayPal could integrate Honey is by doing something similar to what Walmart did with its now-discontinued Savings Catcher feature — offer the customer a full refund if they find a better price on the same product from a different merchant.

Finally, PayPal could offer location-based merchant recommendations or advertising coupons on deals based on customer relevancy, which could lead to ad revenue from merchants

PayPal can also now connect intent data to abandoned shopping cart situations, effectively creating the mother of all cart-abandonment tools. Shopping cart abandonment is a problem every vendor tries to fix, and it’s taking off as a critical part of customer engagement. The PayPal Honey acquisition creates the most powerful solution yet.

Meanwhile, Honey gets access to PayPal’s 275 million users.

And, the industry at large? It gets an important lesson: Amazon can be challenged.

Amazon isn’t invincible

We live in the era of customer relevance, and PayPal’s acquisition of Honey shows that Amazon isn’t always the most cost-effective choice for purchasing online. With couponing apps, consumers can research and compare deals, giving other retailers a better chance to win out over Amazon, especially if the buyer already has an affinity for their brand. PayPal will now own the entire customer journey — engaging the customer depending on the particular deal and coupon — and can significantly disrupt that journey by enabling a two-sided platform of merchants and deals for existing PayPal customers.

In short, the move has far-reaching ramifications across the e-commerce industry, chiefly by capturing and harnessing customers’ intent data. It positions PayPal as a power player and demonstrates that there’s room for more players than just Amazon, after all.

Abhi Yadav, co-founder and CEO of Zylotech, a self-learning customer data platform (CDP), is an AI technologist and customer analytics expert. 

Tray.io brings in $50M more at a $600M+ valuation for its workflow automation tools

Organizations are always looking for new ways to work more efficiently, but too often the problem is that, in a digital-first environment, they have to get in line to ask their in-house IT experts (or even more expensively, external consultants) to build those solutions for them. To underscore the demand for a better approach, today…

Organizations are always looking for new ways to work more efficiently, but too often the problem is that, in a digital-first environment, they have to get in line to ask their in-house IT experts (or even more expensively, external consultants) to build those solutions for them. To underscore the demand for a better approach, today a startup that has constructed a way around that, specifically in the world of app integrations, is announcing a sizeable round of funding.

Tray.io, which has built a “general” workflow automation platform that uses a graphical interface to let anyone integrate APIs between two or more apps to create new ways of working with data across them, has raised $50 million in funding, at a valuation that a source close to the company tells me is over $600 million post-money.

Screen Shot 2019 11 26 at 15.15.51 - Tray.io brings in $50M more at a $600M+ valuation for its workflow automation tools

The funding, a Series C, is being led by Meritech Capital, with previous investors Spark Capital, GGV Capital, and True Ventures also participating. It brings the total raised by Tray.io to just under $110 million and is notable for coming just five months after its previous round, a Series B of $37 million.

“Since we started the company we’ve been very fortunate with what’s happened in the tech world,” CEO and co-founder Rich Waldron said in an interview last week while visiting London when asked about the funding.

He said that in addition to acquisition approaches (from a number of household names) there were offers of more money coming in almost immediately after the last round closed, and the startup decided that making hay while the sun shines — that is, taking the money when it’s offered, since you don’t know what will happen tomorrow — was the right approach.

rich - Tray.io brings in $50M more at a $600M+ valuation for its workflow automation tools“It took us five years to build the company, and we seeded it slowly, but in the last 18 months things have exploded.” As for the sparks for that explosion, he credits the trajectories of companies like Twilio and Stripe, two other tech companies that have built large businesses on, and raised public awareness of, APIs creating new worlds of functionality; and signing on IBM as a partner: the company created a number of new integrations on the platform, some of which became standards that now other companies are using daily.

It’s been a big journey for the startup. Tray.io started out years ago with just a handful of integrations, mostly “email-centric” features, as Waldron describes them, allowing people, for example, to import data from Mailchimp into Slack to track email marketing campaigns. Now, the company provides integrations for some 400 apps, with customers ranging from small startups through to the likes of IBM, and it’s continuing to grow.

The company — which has no “free” tier, with integration packages starting at $595 per month — says that ARR is up by more than 500% this year (it does not disclose actual revenue numbers) — and its customer base is up by 37% with VMWare, Pearson, Bain & Company, Zendesk, and Udemy, SAP, Arrow Electronics, Lexmark, and New Relic among those using its services.

Typical integrations might involve apps like SAP S/4HANA, Qualtrics, Ellucian, Magento, Microsoft PowerBI and Azure, Okta, OneLogin, DropBox, Drift, Segment, Zendesk, Salesloft, Copper, Qualtrics, Intercom, and Marketo
 and alongside that Tray.io provides automation features, error handling, version management and more.

The company is now also providing a white-label version of its platform, Tray Embedded, which third parties can offer to their customers to manage integrations in their own environments.

Altogether the company today processes about 10 billion tasks each month.

Tray.io’s rise comes on the heels of a wider trend. When it comes to some of the prime ways that enterprises are leveraging the advances of technology to improve how they work, integration and automation are the name of the game: bringing data out of silos, and doing so in an instant way, speeds up operations, reduces human error and can also help with costs.

It’s not the only company working in this area, or to take the approach that technology should be accessible and used by more than just engineers another tech employees.

Others working in the automation and integration space include Snaplogic (which raised $72 million in October), Dell’s Boomi, and Workato (which itself raised $70 million earlier this month and now has a valuation of $500 million, according to PitchBook data).

Rich Waldron, Tray.io’s CEO and co-founder, said that the company likes to think of itself as something in between Mulesoft (now a part of Salesforce) and Zapier, which somewhat also puts those two companies also into the wider category of competitors.

Other non-consumer startups that are also tackling the idea of providing tech tools to non-technical employees include Airtable, Parabola, DashDash, the AI-based data parser for unstructured contracts and other legal documents Eigen, and many more.

But around all of these, Tray.io’s investors believe they have backed one of the winning horses.

“General automation is showing nonstop momentum in a software-heavy marketplace that’s hungry for integration support and efficiency lift,” explained Alex Kurland of Meritech Capital, in a statement. “The increasingly urgent need to provide a personalized and cohesive customer experience across the entire buying journey demands ongoing digital transformation. To have any hope of scaling with the exponential increase in new software and new customer data in play, companies need to take full ownership of every piece of that data with general automation. Not just in IT, but for line-of-business roles in marketing, sales, support, HR, finance, and many others across the entire organization. There’s no limit to the upside for general automation in today’s marketplace, and Tray.io is the undisputed leader in the category.”

The origin story of the startup is a notable one for those wondering how and if ecosystems can evolve.

I first met Tray.io when it was still a small startup working at a few desks donated to it by UsTwo in Shoreditch, London. The company had just raised a seed round and was on its way to relocating to San Francisco to take its growth up a gear.

That in itself was a significant stage of progress for the company: Waldron said that when he and co-founders Alistair Russell and Dominic Lewis had trouble raising its earliest funding prior to that, they financed the startup for several months by selling Wellington boots (Hunters mostly, purchased wholesale) on sites like eBay to people “during the festival season.”

Tray.io was — in the literal and figurative sense — a bootstrapped startup.

Eventually the company went through a couple of accelerators, Angelpad and Techstars, and started to catch the eye of angel investors — Passion Capital, Ballpark Ventures, Firestartr, Andy McLoughlin, Tom Hulme, Ustwo founders Mills and Sinx, FIG and Richard Fearn — who collectively put $600,000 into the startup. The seed round that I wrote about, interestingly, had come with a rider: move to San Francisco if you want the money.

“The terms that we were getting in the UK for the seed round were not good,” Waldron said. “It would have hindered our growth. But it’s not the same now. There is an amazing set of companies in the UK, building deep tech and more. This feels like the new model: you can really think big and make it.”

The startup has kept its R&D here in the UK and will continue to build out its office too, even as its HQ remains in SF.

Someone is putting VR headsets on cows, and we want to know why

Let’s just be up front here: yes, these pictures seem to show a cow wearing a virtual reality headset, and no, we don’t really know what’s going on here. You may have seen these images floating around social media followed by a trail of comments like “this is the dystopian future we were warned about”…

Let’s just be up front here: yes, these pictures seem to show a cow wearing a virtual reality headset, and no, we don’t really know what’s going on here.

You may have seen these images floating around social media followed by a trail of comments like “this is the dystopian future we were warned about” and “enter the mootrix.” They purportedly show an experiment being conducted in Russia to see if giving dairy cows VR headsets can reduce anxiety and increase milk yield, but — as you might have guessed — it’s not at all clear whether this is a genuine trial or an elaborate marketing stunt.

The story can be traced back to this (apparently serious) press release from the Ministry of Agriculture and Food of the Moscow Region, which was picked up by Russian outlets like Interfax and The Moscow Times.

The reports say tests of the VR headsets are being carried out at a farm near Moscow, with the (Google-translated) release noting that the goggles have been specially adapted for a cow’s head shape and vision. VR designers were also reportedly hired to create a “unique summer field simulation program” for the animals to enjoy.


M26sNDyYEHY52kwoYQjPWQpyTbhdqjetfSHWmcKqVfLeTHyOZ5VRvvM71jMinH3pWwidu5OQJ9REcpfhNGVHmtutD95ag6KY - Someone is putting VR headsets on cows, and we want to know why

Early testers for Google Grass?
Image: Ministry of Agriculture and Food of the Moscow Region

The release notes that there’s a growing trend in agriculture to focus on animals’ emotional well-being, with quality-of-life improvements like scrubbing brushes and relaxing music improving yields. So why not try VR as well? A first test of the headset showed “a decrease in anxiety and an increase in the overall emotional mood of the herd,” the release says, and a “further comprehensive study” is forthcoming. But, uh, is it? It’s not clear.

It’s certainly not impossible that this is a real experiment. The agricultural industry is as keen as any other to apply new technology — just look at the farmers using facial recognition on pigs! — and it wouldn’t be the first time that someone suggested VR could improve animals’ well-being. Plus, although cows don’t see like humans do, they do apparently have limited binocular vision, suggesting modified VR goggles could work on them.

On the other hand, the press release says the experiment wasn’t conducted by a university but by “Milknews.ru,” a news site for the Russian dairy industry. It also encourages readers to sign up for the upcoming “VI International Agro-Industrial Dairy Forum” where they can learn more about technology in agriculture. This suggests the VR cows might just be a good way to get attention for an otherwise run-of-the-mill conference. If so: job done.

We don’t know how deep this rabbit hole goes, but we’ve reached out to Milknews, the Moscow Ministry of Agriculture and Food, and Rusmoloko (the company running the farm where the trials reportedly took place) to see if we can get any more info.

At the end of the day, what we can say is that someone took the time to make at least one mock-up virtual reality headset for a cow and took these pictures. We don’t need to milk the story any more than that.

7 Ways to Monitor a Competitor’s Content Marketing Strategy

A few creative ways to keep an eye on the competition’s content marketing strategy. Image credit: Robert Daly | Getty Images November 26, 2019 5 min read Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own. Monitoring the competition’s content marketing efforts is an essential step for brands developing their own content marketing strategy. Finding out…

A few creative ways to keep an eye on the competition’s content marketing strategy.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Monitoring the competition’s content marketing efforts is an essential step for brands developing their own content marketing strategy. Finding out what works for a competitor allows brands to gain insights about the type of content their audience might also respond to and their needs.

There are plenty of tools marketing teams can use to dig deeper into content analytics and monitor a competitor’s content marketing strategy. Here are a few creative ways to keep an eye on the competition.

1. Sign up to receive email updates

According to a survey by BtoB Magazine, 59% of marketers reported that email is the most effective channel in generating revenue. This proves that marketing teams should be monitoring the emails that competitors are sending to their prospects and customers. Brands should subscribe to a competitor’s website using a personal email address, or one that doesn’t include their company name if they wish to be more discrete.

By signing up to a competitor’s email list, marketing teams can learn more about the company’s culture, business news, seasonal campaigns, types of content and frequency of publishing content, and how their competitor addresses their target audience.

2. Analyze video content

A Cisco study shows that by 2019, 81% of consumer Internet traffic will be video. Many brands include video as an integral part of their content marketing strategy. Marketing teams should check whether or not competitors are using video and look for interactions, such as comments, views, and shares.

Engagement is a good indicator of content performance. Check to see which videos have the most views, evaluate target keywords in the video title and description, and document anything noteworthy. Brands should also subscribe to a competitor’s YouTube channels to get alerts for new videos.

Related: How Content Marketing Can Help Your Company Do More For Less

3. Track social media presence

Many companies are active on numerous social media channels. Therefore, brands should be tracking competitors on all of the networks where they have a presence. Monitor a competitor’s activities by following or turning on notifications for any updates. Brands can observe the tone of their posts, the images they use, and the effectiveness of their overall social media strategy. If a particular type of content a competitor shares receives high levels of engagement, then brands may want to consider using a similar approach.

A useful tool to monitor a competitor’s social activity is Rival IQ. The tool helps companies see how quickly competitors are gaining followers, how often they post, their average engagement rate, and their most successful posts.

4. Review top-performing content

Brands can learn about their competitor’s content strategy by looking at their best-performing content. Social shares are the best metric to evaluate this content when no other metrics are available.

For instance, companies can use Buzzsumo or Social Animal to find and analyze a top-performing blog post for any competitor or topic. These tools dig deep into each article, showing total social shares, main keywords, article length, and more. Brands should consider what differentiates the popular content and what makes it so compelling. For example, what questions does the content answer and which keywords does it target? Reviewing a competitor’s top-performing content and gathering insights about what attracts an audience to the content can help marketers develop new content topics and ideas.

Related: 7 Steps to Start Your First Content-Marketing Campaign

5. Identify the best keywords to target

Selecting the right keywords for content dramatically increases the chances of a company’s website appearing in an online search. Ahrefs helps marketing teams monitor their competitors by revealing associated keywords, data on search volume, and the keyword proficiency for top-performing posts. The tool also shows users the competition for each keyword.

Knowing which keywords are driving traffic and have less competition, brands can find related keywords to target with each piece of content they create.

6. Attend a competitor’s webinars

Content Marketing Institutes says 61 percent of content marketers use webinars as part of their content marketing strategy. Webinars often delve deeper into a particular topic and brands can find out what interests their competitor’s audience by attending one of their webinars.

Webinars typically have a question-and-answer session at the end, so it’s important to stick around to hear questions from the audience. Brands can then address those questions through their own content or generate topic ideas based on the information shared during the webinar.

7. Monitor changes to a competitor’s site

Lastly, brands should monitor a competitor’s website or blog for any significant changes in design or messaging. For instance, marketers will need to know if a competitor launches a new product or service, and how their own site’s copy and messaging strategy. It’s important to evaluate the competitor’s overall content experience. What colors and fonts do they use on their site? How do they organize content on the site? Is it easy to find information? Brands should be aware of how competitors are delivering content and make sure they can give their audience a better experience.

Related: 4 Simple Steps to Creating an Effective Content Marketing Strategy

There are numerous ways for marketing teams to monitor their competition. Keeping track of a competitor’s content is essential to develop a content strategy that continues to grow and evolve with the business. As new competitors enter the industry, brands must be willing to make changes to their content strategies to adapt to the marketplace. Those that do will find themselves ahead of their competition.

Cloud video collaboration platform Frame.io raises $50 million, heads to Hollywood

New York-based Frame.io, a video review and collaboration platform now used by over a million customers, has raised $50 million in Series C funding to further expand its investment in cloud-based video workflows. The round was led by Insight Partners, and included participation from existing investors Accel, FirstMark, SignalFire, and Shasta Ventures. Itai Tsiddon, co-founder…

New York-based Frame.io, a video review and collaboration platform now used by over a million customers, has raised $50 million in Series C funding to further expand its investment in cloud-based video workflows. The round was led by Insight Partners, and included participation from existing investors Accel, FirstMark, SignalFire, and Shasta Ventures.

Itai Tsiddon, co-founder of Lightricks — another company looking to modernize media creation, most recently with the launch of content creation apps for small businesses — is joining Frame.io’s board to represent Insight Partners. To date, Frame.io has raised $82.2 million.

Founded in 2014 by the owner of a post-production company Emery Wells and technologist John Traver, Frame.io was created to solve the workflows challenges filmmakers faced in their daily lives.

Today, the Frame.io platform helps creative professionals streamline the video creation process by centralizing media assets, including dailies, scripts, storyboards, work-in-progress, and more, while also allowing for frame-accurate feedback and comments, annotations, and real-time approvals. The company additionally touts faster upload speeds than other cloud hosting services, like Vimeo, Box, Dropbox, and others.

The Frame.io web platform was designed to be a part of its customer’s existing processes, by integrating with non-linear editing systems (NLE’s), like Adobe Premiere Pro, Avid, Apple Final Cut Pro, and DaVinci Resolve Studio. These integrations allow editors to upload directly to Frame.io, then organize and share their products both internally and with external clients.

Apple Design Winning Frame.io iOS App - Cloud video collaboration platform Frame.io raises $50 million, heads to Hollywood

The service today is priced starting at $19 per month for an individual creator, $49 for a small team of three people, with the option to add on seats at $25/per seat per month, for up to 25 total seats. Beyond that, custom enterprise pricing is available. The feature set, active and archival storage, and customer support also improves as you move further up the pricing tiers.

Since launch, Frame.io has been adopted by a number of larger customers, including Turner Broadcasting, Disney, NASA, Snapchat, BBC, BuzzFeed, TED, Adobe, Udemy, Google, Fox Sports, Media Monks, Ogilvy, and VICE Media. Of its 1 million active customers, Wells tells TechCrunch around 17,000 are from paying accounts. He declined to speak to Frame.io’s profitability or current valuation, however.

Frame.io claims its customer base is 60% more efficient after adopting its solution, 41% more likely to hit their project deadlines, and are able to produce 39% more videos per month, on average.

With the added capital, the startup plans to double its product, design, and engineering teams from 40 people to 80, growing its total team from 110 to 240. It will also open an L.A.-based office and showroom next year, invest further in security, develop a set of (still to be announced) new products, and deliver on its so-called “camera to cloud” initiative.

This initiative was announced in October alongside the appointment of Michael Cioni, previously of Panavision, to Frame.io Global SVP of Innovation. Cioni is known in the industry for creating creative services company Light Iron in 2009 and spearheading the Millennium DXL 8K large-format camera system at Panavision. He’s also known for his work on films like Total Recall, The Green Hornet, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Gone Girl, Muppets Most Wanted, and The Social Network.

NYC Team at NYC HQ - Cloud video collaboration platform Frame.io raises $50 million, heads to Hollywood

Cioni will be heading up the new L.A. operation which will more specifically focus on bringing the Frame.io platform to the areas of motion picture and television production. In order to gain more traction in this market, the company plans to address industry concerns around image quality, archiving, security and future proofing, the company recently explained.

In addition, Cioni sees the potential for Frame.io to benefit from the growth of the streaming video market.

“As the ‘streaming wars’ motivate a historic level of content across the global media landscape, the need to optimize the relationship creatives have with their content must also dramatically evolve,” he says. “Frame.io’s cloud-enabled workflows will serve the community by building a centralized, parallel, zero-latency collaborative experience access all departments and across all regions,” he says. “Our platform is not native to one department, rather Frame.io will become Hollywood’s operating system that uniquely connects the cloud, 5G network connections, production technologies, and a centralized database with each individual department,” Cioni stated.

Meanwhile, on the security front, Frame.io has been ramping up on its focus since February 2018 To date, it has added TPN complianceSoc 2 Type 2 compliance, plus published a peer-reviewed security research paper, and received a CSO security award, it says.

Frame.io Web Player Page - Cloud video collaboration platform Frame.io raises $50 million, heads to Hollywood

Frame.io is not without competition in the video management business. Vimeo has been pivoting away from being a consumer-focused service to become a hub for video creation tools for individuals, teams, businesses, agencies and others, with particular focus on live video for social media, cross-platform streaming, OTT, and more.

Meanwhile, Wipster’s rival video collaboration platform is used by Meredith, AMC, NPR, Time Inc., REI Studios, Sephora Studios, Shopify Studios, Deloitte Studios, and others, according to its website. However, its corporate video platform isn’t designed for Hollywood, but rather for use cases like HR review of internal video comms, legal reviews of external sales and marketing videos, subject matter expert reviews of training videos, creative reviews and signoffs on videos from external agencies and freelancers.

“We’re thrilled to be partnering with Insight on this next round of financing. Insight deeply understands the creative space and the changing tides the film and video market will see over the next several years,” said Emery Wells, co-founder and CEO of Frame.io, in a statement. “2019 has been a year of massive growth and of major milestones for us: we celebrated reaching 100 employees, moved into brand new headquarters in lower Manhattan and, most recently, welcomed industry veteran Michael Cioni to the team. We are driving to create the most innovative approach to video workflows since the emergence of digital 20 years ago.”

Presentation Management: Key Component to the Enterprise Sales Funnel

Sales 101 says that more transactions lead to more revenue, and more revenue comes from more clients. But how do you get more clients? Enter: The Sales Funnel. A strong sales funnel is an essential component for any enterprise that wants to build relationships and drive more leads. With a strong funnel, you can transform…

Sales 101 says that more transactions lead to more revenue, and more revenue comes from more clients. But how do you get more clients? Enter: The Sales Funnel. A strong sales funnel is an essential component for any enterprise that wants to build relationships and drive more leads. With a strong funnel, you can transform your visitors into buyers.

The funnel is the visual representation of the route your visitors, leads, and customers take before making the purchase. The trick is getting enough leads into your pipeline to hit your revenue goals while ensuring you have the right processes in place to close the lead.

The Sales Funnel and What’s Wrong With It

At the top of your sales funnel lies your advertising strategy – social, traditional, direct mail. The goal is to attract as many people into the funnel as possible. You have to have the attention of potential customers. With the customers’ attention in place, they’ll seek out third party verifications like your social media presence.

Then the clients and customers move to your website to familiarize themselves with your brand. They review recent product launches and news announcements. If the funnel works as it’s supposed to, your customers reach out to your company and ask to learn more.

Asking to learn more is the presentation phase of the sales funnel. It’s the final step in convincing potential clients to open up their wallets. The question is: why is this most crucial step often the most overlooked stage in the entire process?

Why Companies are Overlooking Presentations

Marketing and sales executives spend considerable amounts of time and resources on digital tools in order to engage with customers. Yet, marketing and sales give little, if any, consideration to presentations.

The presentation is actually at the bottom of the funnel. Your finest strategic communications asset — the presentation — is the final step in the sales process.  Few organizations actually treat them as such.

The significant investment you make through advertising, social media campaigns and public relations efforts can all go to waste if you don’t close the sale at the end. And, what is the most resourceful tool to have when you get to the end of your sales funnel? A presentation.

Adopting an efficient presentation management strategy fortifies the last stage in the sales funnel, completing your overall sales and marketing strategy. More importantly, adopting this strategy provides your team with the processes they need to win more business.

Presentations are critical to those final meetings. A strong presentation management strategy makes your employees more productive. Your sales and marketing team can find and repurpose quality presentation content in a fraction of the time. Wasting time creating a new deck for a meeting need not be done.

Without presentation management, employees waste time:

  • Searching through the network, worksites, and old email attachments looking for the “right” slides for their meeting.
  • Using the “wrong” version of a slide in their presentation.
  • Recreating slides that already exist somewhere, but they can’t find them.
  • Collecting and consolidating everyone’s feedback.
  • Trying to track content usage so they can understand what is resonating in the field and what is not.

Presentations are unique in that they straddle two departments – Marketing and Sales. It’s Marketing’s job to create master decks with proper brand elements and messaging. Your sales team that actually uses the decks, usually with the pressure of a sales target looming.

If your marketing team is implementing presentation management strategy, then sales won’t suffer from any of the problems noted above. Your sales team will be able to quickly find the appropriate slides and files. Customizing the correct deck for a meeting becomes a snap — and closing a sale comes within reach more quickly.

Sales are then freed up to focus on their client’s business and their own strategy — not searching for that one perfect slide. Presentation management’s role in accelerating efficiency in the workplace is critical. Companies adopting enterprise content management and presentation management strategies stand to realize a 400% ROI within five years of adoption.

Presentation Management Elevates Your Brand and Message

Presentations are the last stage in the sales funnel and have a direct effect on your company’s bottom line. The presentation is where you’re creating trust and establishing a personal relationship with the client. More than the impersonal experience of browsing through a website, the power of the presentation takes the clients away from getting served up a series of tedious ads.

Using presentation management is how marketing executives responsible for branding and messaging sleep at night. The execs know all sales collateral is on the brand, on the message, and seek to make the message easily accessible and auditable. Marketing gets its branding and Sales gets its material. It’s a win-win for both sides.

With presentation management, your company will have the ability to refine its presentation process to improve these crucial business assets. It puts actionable workflows around the lifecycle of a presentation – the continual evolution of presentation content.

Using better presentation management ensures that content does not get lost and that everyone can find and re-use the most up-to-date versions. Slides, files, video, an infographic, a brochure, or any other type of content is searchable and easily found.

Presentation management enables your business to leverage all the content you’re already creating for presentations.

The management of presentation assets is more than PowerPoint slides. Solid presentation management strategy optimizes all stages of the presentation workflow and offers team members:

  • Interactive Slide Library. The library is accessible anywhere, anytime, and allows users to search and preview content. Your team can prepare a deck before a meeting, or directly while in a conference room presenting to their client.

    Based on the client’s direct feedback, they can quickly pull up any slide because the slide library is visual and full of ready-to-present assets. Sales can address client concerns and dive deeper into the product or service they are selling.

    Having the information and assets at their fingertips, your sales can also use the enhanced opportunity for cross-selling. Your sales can introduce new products on the spot. The presentation follows the conversation in a natural flow.

  • Controlled Permissions. Employees must have access to the proper information and communication assets (i.e., who gets which files).  Permissions need to be clearly understood upfront — including what they can do with the files (edit, download, share, present, etc.).
  • Forced Messaging. Forced messaging is used to link essential disclosure statements to the appropriate content. You will want to ensure that the entire message is always presented. Forced messaging is particularly important for regulated industries such as financial services, pharmaceuticals, and healthcare.
  • Organization Wide-Updates. Your presentation content should be continuously refined and updated as your business and message evolve. These updates are an on-going process. By pushing out updates, you prevent employees from using outdated content.
  • Reporting. Analytics. Reporting and analytics are your business intelligence. The critical intelligence information is connected to presentations, so Sales and Marketing can track slide engagement, usage, feedback, and time.

    Business intelligence information offers insight into who is presenting what content, to whom, for how long, and the performance of certain slides. These data points guide decisions on what content needs updating, what needs to be retired and what can be re-created.

The result is that employees spend more of their time building the business – talking to customers and developing better strategies to sell more products. No more wasted hours or days fumbling around with outdated, off-message PowerPoint slides.

Presentation management reduces the time spent creating presentations from hours to minutes resulting in an instant return on investment. Your sales team will be closing the funnel, while the entire workforce benefits from:

  • Increased productivity. Visualized file preview with advanced search makes it easy to find the right slides for your deck. The action is combined with drag & drop or other features to seamlessly and quickly assemble a new deck.
  • Ensured compliance. It guarantees that the right message is always communicated. The correct information is significant for branding, and the proper disclosures. Proper disclosures are always critical for regulated industries
  • Better balance between Marketing and Sales. The presentation loop keeps content and feedback flowing continually. Your sales team in the field is ensured direct access to current assets that are proven to convert. Your marketing team back at HQ is getting feedback, so they can continually improve and then distribute updated content.

You Have Your Resources, Stop Neglecting Them

A company’s greatest sales employees are regularly out on the road meeting and learning from prospects — the last stage of the sales funnel. A solid presentation management strategy will support them in that task.

With the interactive library of slides, they can perform better during meetings and speak intelligently about the product or service that your company offers. Your sales team is armed with all of the content right there, at their fingertips.

Presentation management allows the sales team to interact on a more personal level to provide the prospect with the exact messaging they’re looking to hear. Furthermore, the feedback loop allows HQ to make changes to the content and distribute it in real-time. Your sales team can act on and display the best resources to close the deal at the end of the funnel.

Each stage of the sales funnel is unique and critical.

The top of the funnel, with its reliance on traditional advertising and content marketing, naturally gets all of the attention of Marketing. Salespeople often feel they are left to fend for themselves — one meeting at a time, wasting time, and wasting assets.

With the prevalence of mobile phones and tablets, we have become comfortable with on-demand media, and we expect it. Those habits are working their way into our business habits and business conversations. Your sales meeting is your most important business conversation.

Presentation management fosters better business presentations, better habits and ultimately, better conversations. The presentation follows the conversation.

AlexAnndra Ontra

AlexAnndra Ontra is the Co-Founder and President of Shufflrr and author of Presentation Management: The New Strategy for Enterprise Content, where she collaborates with clients to help establish an efficient presentation management strategy within their organization. AlexAnndra has empowered hundreds of Fortune-level companies, to transform basic PowerPoint slides into vital business assets. Before founding Shufflrr, AlexAnndra developed high profile presentations for clients such as Epcot Center, The NBA, and Mercedes-Benz where she developed her creative, hands-on approach to helping clients drive their business.

Digital Marketing News: Instagram Tests Hiding Likes, Brand Trust Priorities Report, & Facebook’s New Brand Tools

Instagram Will Begin Hiding Total Like Counts for US Users from Next Week Instagram is slated to start hiding the number of likes that posts have acquired in a forthcoming test. In areas where it’s already been tested, total Instagram like counts have dropped, study data has shown. Social Media Today Female marketer leadership at…

2019November15MarketingChartsChart600w - Digital Marketing News: Instagram Tests Hiding Likes, Brand Trust Priorities Report, & Facebook’s New Brand Tools

Instagram Will Begin Hiding Total Like Counts for US Users from Next Week

Instagram is slated to start hiding the number of likes that posts have acquired in a forthcoming test. In areas where it’s already been tested, total Instagram like counts have dropped, study data has shown. Social Media Today

Female marketer leadership at ‘all time high,’ says ANA study

The number of women holding leadership marketing jobs may be at an all-time high, according to recently-released study data from the Association of National Advertisers. Women accounted for 52 percent of senior-level marketers and 47 percent of CMOs among ANA member firms, the study showed. Campaign US

Brands are linking influencers and Instagram Checkout to drive sales

Instagram Checkout has proven popular among some brands using influencers to drive more seamless ecommerce experiences, and the availability of Amazon Pay is also playing an increased role in recent stronger Instagram Checkout results. Glossy

Facebook Expands Access to Brand Collabs Manager, Adds New Insights to Creator Studio

Facebook recently broadened mainstream access to its Brand Collabs Manager influencer discovery and connection database, and has rolled out new tools that will show if a brand’s page meets qualification minimums to use the expanded set of features. Social Media Today

Nielsen Will Split Into Two Companies Following Strategic Review

In 2020 leading data and measurement firm Nielsen will split into two new companies, the 96-year-old business recently announced. One company will house analytics and market research while another will focus primarily on media measurement, the firm announced. Adweek

Mixed-Reality App Installs Forecast To Hit 10 Billion By 2024

The mixed-reality market that includes immersive augmented reality has shown swift growth, with consumer app installations expected to jump from 3 billion in 2019 to 10 billion by 2024, and associated ad spending forecast to climb from $2 billion in 2019 to $11 billion in five years, according to newly-released data from Juniper Research. MediaPost

2019November15StatisticImage - Digital Marketing News: Instagram Tests Hiding Likes, Brand Trust Priorities Report, & Facebook’s New Brand Tools

Amazon Drives 115% Rise in Ecommerce Ad Spend During Q3

Amazon’s eCommerce success helped power a strong 115 percent increase in third-quarter ad spending compared to last year, up 51 percent over last quarter, with search click volume also up some 14 percent, newly-released report data showed. MultichannelMerchant

Local mobile, social ad sales to near $45B by 2024, forecast says

Social media and local mobile account for rapid digital advertising revenue growth that has outpaced that of traditional channels, with digital ad revenue set to increase by 13 percent next year to $66.9 billion — some of the results of interest to digital marketers in newly-released forecast data. Marketing Dive

Google plans to give slow websites a new badge of shame in Chrome

Google is testing plans that will brand certain websites viewed in its Chrome browser with a visual indication denoting slow-loading content, a part of other forthcoming features the search giant recently announced at its Chrome developer event. The Verge

Brands Recognize That Respect for Data is Critical in Securing Customer Trust

Respecting customer data topped the list of brand priorities to build trust, new report data showed. Personalized communication, transparent and secure data practices, and following through on promises were the other top trust-building brand priorities in the report, which tapped a variety of senior decision-makers. MarketingCharts

ON THE LIGHTER SIDE:

2019November15MarketoonistComic600w - Digital Marketing News: Instagram Tests Hiding Likes, Brand Trust Priorities Report, & Facebook’s New Brand Tools

A lighthearted look at KPI overload by Marketoonist Tom Fishburne — Marketoonist

Vinyl record has secret hidden Commodore 64 program — Geeky Gadgets

TOPRANK MARKETING & CLIENTS IN THE NEWS:

  • Susan Misukanis — What’s Trending: Find Your Center & Regain Balance — LinkedIn (client)
  • Lee Odden — SMXL Milano 2019: un concentrato di formazione dal respiro internazionale — Web In Fermento (In Italian)
  • Lee Odden — A Training Plan For Your Content Marketing — Kristin Jones
  • TopRank Marketing — 44 Content Marketing Agencies Defined by 65 Marketers — Miles Anthony Smith
  • Lane R. Ellis — 10 Changes that will Transform your Small Business – If Done Correctly — Small Business Trends
  • Lee Odden — Content Marketing Fitness – 10 Exercises to Build Your Marketing Beach Body [Global Marketing Day Video] — SEMrush
  • Lee Odden — Blogging Media: How To Make Your Marketing Succeed [Research] — Heidi Cohen
  • Lee Odden — Getting Started with B2B Influencer Marketing? 5 Things You Should Know — Lee Odden

If you have your own favorite B2B content marketing or digital advertising stories from the past week, please let us know in the comments below.

Thanks for taking the time to join us, and we hope you’ll come back again next week for more of the latest top digital marketing industry news. In the meantime, you can follow us at @toprank on Twitter for even more timely daily news. Also, don’t miss the full video summary on our TopRank Marketing TV YouTube Channel.

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Digital Marketing News: Twitter’s New Publisher Dashboard, Why We Follow Influencers, Snapchat’s Unskippable Ads, & TikTok’s Social Commerce

Instagram Removing Likes Could Boost Social Commerce and Retail Measurement Instagram’s hiding of like counts could lead some businesses to increase their use of so-called shoppable links that focus more on direct social sales journeys, and eMarketer takes a look at recent survey data trends in the area. eMarketer Ad buyers hopeful Twitter Topics will…

2019November22MarketingChartsChart600w - Digital Marketing News: Twitter’s New Publisher Dashboard, Why We Follow Influencers, Snapchat’s Unskippable Ads, & TikTok’s Social Commerce

Instagram Removing Likes Could Boost Social Commerce and Retail Measurement

Instagram’s hiding of like counts could lead some businesses to increase their use of so-called shoppable links that focus more on direct social sales journeys, and eMarketer takes a look at recent survey data trends in the area. eMarketer

Ad buyers hopeful Twitter Topics will improve the platform’s ad targeting

After a period of testing, Twitter has launched the ability to follow up to 300 new curated topic lists, the social media firm announced, and some marketers see the change bringing with it new ad targeting possibilities. DigiDay

Wikipedia co-founder wants to give you an alternative to Facebook and Twitter

Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales has rolled out WT:Social, a new advertising-free social platform aimed at reporters, citizen journalists, and users seeking an alternative to mainstream sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Engadget

TikTok Tests Social Commerce Links in Videos

TikTok has begun testing features aimed at growing the social video app maker’s e-commerce business, including the ability to add links within videos and user biography pages, monetization options that TikTok could eventually roll out to its full user base that now tops one billion. Social Media Today

Mobile video ad inventory jumps 31% as viewership grows, study says

Mobile video ads remained the fastest-growing digital ad format, with inventory during the third quarter of 2019 rising 31 percent, as mobile ad spending in general also increased, climbing 28 percent from Q2 according to newly-released report data from PubMatic. Mobile Marketer

Snapchat Introduces Extended Play Commercials

Snapchat has rolled out new video advertising options, offering digital marketers and brands expanded un-skippable six-second ads, with the option to expend up to 3 minutes, the firm recently announced. Adweek

2019November22StatisticImage600w - Digital Marketing News: Twitter’s New Publisher Dashboard, Why We Follow Influencers, Snapchat’s Unskippable Ads, & TikTok’s Social Commerce

Nearly half of businesses aren’t investing in personalization technologies despite citing customer experience as a top priority

79 percent of digital customer experience (DCX) executives say DCX is a high priority for their business, yet some 46 percent don’t have budget for the technology and tools in place, and just 27 percent are testing personalization tools, according to new report data of interest to online marketers. Marketing Land

Twitter Adds Conversation Insights Tool to Media Studio

Twitter has rolled out new conversation insight features to its Media Studio tool, offering publishers a new interactive tweet mention graph and timeline, along with several other new dashboard features aimed at helping brands and publishers see relevant tweets that may have been missed, the firm recently announced. Adweek

Spotify thinks its algorithm can find your next favorite podcast

Spotify has launched its first foray into personalized podcast recommendations, rolling out the firm’s “Your Daily Podcast” playlist to users in nine countries, bringing with it new opportunities for digital marketers on the platform. The Verge

What Do Millennials and Gen Z Look for in An Influencer?

Generation Z and millennials embrace social media influencers in different ways, yet both seek out those who are authentic and who they see as genuinely caring about their interests, and will unfollow those who have misrepresented themselves — two of the influencer trust statistics in recently-released survey data. MarketingCharts

Instagram Goes After TikTok with New ‘Reels’ Mode

With the launch of its newest feature for Instagram Stories, Facebook-owned Instagram offers brands and marketers a variety of video remix tools similar to those made popular by TikTok. Social Media Today

ON THE LIGHTER SIDE:

2019November22MarketoonistComic600w - Digital Marketing News: Twitter’s New Publisher Dashboard, Why We Follow Influencers, Snapchat’s Unskippable Ads, & TikTok’s Social Commerce

A lighthearted look at omnichannel customer engagement by Marketoonist Tom Fishburne — Marketoonist

Branded Airbnb Homes Are Becoming a Lucrative Way to Get Exposure — Adweek

TOPRANK MARKETING & CLIENTS IN THE NEWS:

  • TopRank Marketing — 5 Skills That The Top 1% of Marketers Nail — Onalytica

If you’ve got your own top B2B content marketing or digital advertising stories from the past week, please let us know in the comments below.

Thank you for joining us, and we hope to see you again next week for more of the latest top digital marketing industry news. In the meantime, you can follow us at @toprank on Twitter for even more timely daily news. Also, don’t miss the full video summary on our TopRank Marketing TV YouTube Channel.

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Are ‘influencers’ scam artists or gatekeepers?

For the general public, the term “influencers” usually brings up one of two images: A YouTube star who promotes products on Instagram they get for freeThe [expletive] who helped promote the Fyre Festival For those of us in e-commerce, influencers have just as dubious a reputation, either as gatekeepers to a coveted audience or liars…

For the general public, the term “influencers” usually brings up one of two images:

  • A YouTube star who promotes products on Instagram they get for free
  • The [expletive] who helped promote the Fyre Festival

For those of us in e-commerce, influencers have just as dubious a reputation, either as gatekeepers to a coveted audience or liars who pad their followers and steal your money. 

Whenever a brand uses the influencer marketing strategy, the marketing team is looking to improve brand affinity, increase revenue growth, develop content creation or some combination. However, influencers are steroids, sometimes they inject a quick burst of needed energy and sometimes they do nothing but cause cancer.

Online marketing professionals, media buyers, executives and the like have to realize that there are some hard truths about going the influencer route. Rarely does the marketing team ask where targeted consumers are spending their time; and, really, shouldn’t that be the first question they ask?

Having someone impressive or popular to promote your product might feed your ego, but does it get measurable results?

Another hard question is – will any of the created content drive the conversation? Whether the product is makeup, a new holiday toy, tax software or whatever, the conversation has to be substantive and of value. Marketing dollars spent must have a measurable and reliable ROI otherwise what is the point?

So, what to do about influencers?

Look, influencers can be effective. A recent study showed that 35% of adults online use Instagram which is tens of millions of people. In 2017, the influencer market hit over $1 billion globally, it will hit $8.5 billion this year and hit $10 billion in 2020; so obviously there is something to it. But, if a marketing campaign is targeted for true value (which it always should be) then the issue is macro versus micro. A recent audit by The Social Chain of 10,000 influencers found that 25% of their followers were involved in fraud, either through buying followers, faking engagement or some other sleight-of-hand behavior.

If some rando housewife in Minnesota claims three million followers, you should probably do some homework before giving her a six-figure deal to promote your product.

This fraud and abuse wisely gave rise to the use of “micro-influencers.” These are Instagram users with over 10,000 followers on any one social media outlet, but less than 500,000. The numbers aren’t staggering, but they are measurable. With one micro-influencer, you could spend $1,000 to reach 50,000 people. With a macro, you could spend $50,000 to reach 1 million followers. The spend is way more impactful if you’re willing to be more targeted.

The key to any good micro-influencer though isn’t the size of the audience, but the engagement. Even celebrities with ten million Twitter or Instagram followings are not helpful to a marketing campaign if their audience is flat, detached and uninterested. But a micro-influencer, say a 21-year-old college junior with 100,000 die-hard followers who love her posts about the best workout towels and worst toenail polish, is way more valuable because you can trust her audience and measure the ROI when you invest money into a campaign involving her.

The other key to using influencers is finding those that work best on mobile devices. The desktop advertising dollars have plateaued and with good reason. People stuck in corporate jobs use desktops and seniors stuck in their homes use desktops. The dynamic audience has followers using their phones or tablets as often as possible. 

Why does this obvious fact matter? Because even a micro-influencer has to be measured by their audience quality and participation, not the numbers. One influencer with 100,000 followers who are mainly at their desk watching YouTube instead of doing paralegal work is less valuable to a shoe company than someone with 25,000 users who are 25 years old and work in non-office jobs. 

Use influencers if it makes sense for your campaign and your product, but only you’re willing to do research and background on the potential followers. An easy exercise is to go to your preferred micro-influencer Instagram account, choose five followers at random and see if those accounts belong to real people. Measuring if they’re legit can be that easy. 

In the old days, having a big handsome quarterback promote your car was great, but that didn’t mean results. Such timeless taglines as “where’s the beef” and “time to make the donuts” happened without stars, without big names and with simple, measurable, creative marketing.

At the end of the day, use a campaign that works for your brand, not what’s flashy or what makes you feel good. Profits should drive decisions, brand recognition and month-to-month, year-over-year profit increases. This is basic business sense, but something all of us in e-commerce need to go back to every day. 


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

NickShackelford lg - Are ‘influencers’ scam artists or gatekeepers?

For the past 7 years, Nick has been lead to large teams and small in the paid media landscape, working with brands from PepsiCo and Apple to fresh and young brands like Ministry of Supply and Diff Eyewear. All things paid media and performance-related within the ecommerce landscape are what Nick focuses on these days.

Google changes its political ad policies

Washington, DC (CNN Business)In announcing new limits on political advertising Wednesday, Google took aim at an issue that a growing cross-section of business leaders, government officials and researchers say is a threat to democracy. The problem they’ve id…

Washington, DC (CNN Business)In announcing new limits on political advertising Wednesday, Google took aim at an issue that a growing cross-section of business leaders, government officials and researchers say is a threat to democracy.
The problem they’ve id…