Google Instant Changing The Way You Search, Discover and Buy

The real time web has already made a significant impact on how many of us sift through Google’s search results, with recent additions like Google Discussions and Google Updates. The release of Google Instant, a new and speedier way to search, Google has taken the obsession of “real-time” up to a whole new level. Think of it as crystal ball for your search results.

Funny enough, here’s my prediction on the release before Google made the official announcement.


What’s Google Instant?

Google Instant allows you to visualize dynamic search results as you type in your search keywords, providing instantaneous feedback by predicting what you may “really” be looking for. Google claims this will shave a whole 2-5 seconds per search, now multiply that, times the amount of searches being done every second and your result should be a grand total of 11 hours saved with each passing second! I can honestly see how this will impact the far-too-mainstream users who still haven’t mastered the art of search.

Behavioral change

One of the immediate impacts of Google Instant is a fundamental user behavioral change, as your eyes are instantly drawn to the constantly updating search results. For non-touch-typists, this may actually increase search time as constantly shifting search results may be somewhat distracting. On the plus side, Google Instant lets you discover more in a far shorter timeframe than previously required by quickly browsing through search predictions. This in turn, will lead people to explore their topics of interest in greater detail than before. Personalization means no two users have the same results or an infinite amount of possibilities. The beauty that binds all together is how users will discover or more importantly share the content they discover through the social web.

Instant Adwords

Love them or hate them Google Adwords Ads / sponsored links are a major factor of the Google search experience. For Adwords advertisers this will undoubtedly change the game or at the very least, keep them on their toes by creating a bigger basket of keywords to bid on. Sorry guys, no one ever promised it would be easy. Because of the interactivity factor, people will actually be exposed to a far greater amount of search results resulting in greater ad spend and increased revenue for the Big G.

One of two things will happen.

  1. Sites that have previously ranked well for long term phrases may see a decrease in traffic due to users finding results before completing their search..
  2. Website that ranked well for generic keywords will see an even greater increase in traffic.

Seeing the long term effect Google Instant has on site visitors will be extremely interesting to watch.

Far too many are quick to whip out the “SEO is DEAD” card, which I completely disagree with. Google gave the best answer to this question when asked about the impact of Google Instant on SEO; “Basically it stays the same. It’s still the same results, it’s just adapting to behavior.” That’s something that’s been true with the rising tide of the social web.

Coming to a Browser Near You

If you’re in the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain or Russia, Google Instant may already be enabled for your searches.  Mobile users, Google is coming to devices this fall! It’s already being demo’ed on Droid devices. As you start typing, Google will provide search results instantly. I’d love to know what you think of Google Instant. Post your comments below or share your thoughts in the FB Poll I published.


11 Ridiculous Excuses Organizations “Still” Use to Avoid Social Media

11 Ridiculous Excuses Organizations “Still” Use to Avoid Social Media

In all Honesty, I’ve heard way more than 11 unconvincing objections from organizations on why they’ve avoided setting a social media strategy in place. For the sake of your precious time, I’ll focus on the most overly used, silliest, most ridiculous excuses I’m faced with on a regular basis.

On a side note, to all the CEO’s, CFO’s, or any other C level management who put up a good fight, I thank you for giving me this opportunity to prove you wrong on such a large scale, once and for all. Here we go.

Our customers aren’t on social networks.

Let’s go to the scoreboard. Lucky for us, Facebook keeps its stats page updated and have recently announced that they’ve surpassed the 400 million members mark. Combine that with the fact that the average Facebook user has 130 friends in their network and it’s clear that focusing on Facebook alone would offer a potentially significant and diverse customer base. LinkedIn’s 60 million members are nothing to sneeze at either, especially if your target audience is the professional type. Twitter’s co-owner Biz Stone reveled the site has reached 105 million registered members at the Chirp Twitter Developer Conference, resulting in over 50 million tweets a day. Granted, there’s a fairly high churn rate of Twitter users.

We don’t have anything to say.

If you’re a business owner or in a managerial position and “not having anything to say” is your excuse, PLEASE leave your office right now and find another job. Go for something you’re at least passionate enough about that you’ll to want to share with others. Your perspective on what’s happening within your industry is a perfect start towards establishing yourself an influencer within your industry. As with almost every business, you probably also have a few whitepapers, presentations, videos or case studies lying around. Put them to work for you on sites like Scribd, Slideshare and Viddler which offer prime opportunity for you to increase visibility to your brand and offering. A good example of this is the – 5 Tips Towards Successful Multi-Channel Branded Campaigns presentation I posted for one of my clients, Clip in Touch. In one day alone it generated 122 views on Slideshare.

We’ve tried it, it didn’t work.

What exactly did you try? More importantly what were you trying to achieve? Your expectations may have been misguided. The main concept behind social media is building a connection and relationship with others. It’s not about looking at ROI but at ROV (Return on Value). Begin by asking yourself these key questions:

  • What values can our brand offer others by participating in social media?
  • What’s the biggest challenge our customers face?

Your social efforts should focus on offering solutions to these questions on a daily basis.
Once you’ve kicked off your social marketing tactics, immediately start tracking the effects of your outreach.

You’re probably going  to (or at least your boss will) ask: “Well, how do I know it’s working?
What you need to start keeping track of is:

  • Are more people following you’re brands social profiles?
  • Have you answered any questions potential clients or customers may have had?
  • Have there been more conversations “sparked” due to your active participation online?
  • Have you engaged with others via their blog or pages, increasing visibility for your brand?

A great way to track conversations you may have ignited is by using a URL shortner such as to find out how many people have clicked on a link you’ve posted. Highly recommended.

Our staff doesn’t have time.

Create a strategy. Put people in charge of specific tasks, from tracking conversations about your brand and business (Yes, there is now such a thing as chief listening officers) to posting and replying. Invest half an hour a day at first. Write 1 solid blog post a week and promote it with service like HelloTxt that broadcast out to tons of social networks. The tools are out there, whether it’s broadcasting content with HelloTxt or Tubemogul to tracking conversations with services like SocialMention or Google Alerts. Failing to invest at least half an hour to an hour a day participating in social media puts your business in a significant disadvantage from your competitors.

We need sales, dammit.

Customer retention, trust, engagement, service… Aren’t these all core values from companies we want to do business with? People invest in people they trust. Give your potential customers a reason to listen and engage with you and you’ll connect with them on more personal level than ever before. That being said, remember its “social” media. Pay attention to your past customers and reach out to those who haven’t decided yet. Helping them make a better purchasing decision offers the ultimate opportunity to let your brand shine!

We don’t want to divulge any “TOP SECRET” information

I’d give you the answer to this one but I’m afraid that’s classified.

It’s too overwhelming

There are literally hundreds of social networks out there. I hear you, it can seem overwhelming. Just like with traditional media you wouldn’t invest in every print or TV ad, there’s really no need to invest your efforts in every social media channel that pops up daily. That’s not to say you shouldn’t own all your social profiles before a competitor does. Research the top social networks before you invest your time and energy in them. Facebook’s fan pages are great way to establish a presence for the masses. LinkedIn’s groups let you keep it tight professional and focused. Understand where your audience is participating and get involved.

Our staff will waste time on Facebook

Chances are that your staff is already visiting Facebook daily, there’s no questioning that. Now it’s up to you to decide if you’ll create a page for your brand and invite them to post about the business, inviting more fans, or let your competitors

We’ll be flooded with negative comments.

Opening your brand to reviews and feedback offers you a wealth of knowledge you otherwise wouldn’t have received. Listening to your customers (good or bad) gives you the chance to better your service, quality, product, price, what have you. Want to really make a splash? Reach out and “hug” those who don’t see eye-to-eye with your offering. Thank them for taking the time to sharing their thoughts and helping shape the future of how you do business.

I get it, but management doesn’t.

Has there ever been a better opportunity for you to bring something so serious to your management’s attention?  The way we do business is changing. The days of broadcasting our message out over and over again until it sticks are gone. Marketing departments are looking for ways to drop costs and increase results. Businesses that don’t understand the impact social media can have on their bottom line are literally leaving money on the table.

Social media? We run a “professional” operation here. This won’t look serious.

Dell, Microsoft, Ford, SAP, GE and the list goes on and on. The biggest brands we know are increasingly spending more and more each year in their social marketing efforts. Annual growth in US B2B online marketing spend is forecast at 8% in 2010 and is set to reach 14% by 2012. The shift from understanding the social impact to benefiting from it is happening at this very moment.

There’s really no excuse. Today’s the day you need to leverage social media. The risks of not creating an engagement strategy for your brand, greatly outweighs the risks of jumping in with both feet.

I’m turning this post back to you.
What objections have you been faced with prior to setting a social strategy in motion?

Mobility, Personalization and Trust – How They Impact Your Business

It’s been said that the biggest shift in online marketing today, isn’t social media, its mobility. As a business owner, you should be ecstatic that the promise of mobile convergence has finally arrived. The numbers are impossible to neglect, there are currently between 3.8 – 4.6 Billion mobile connections. By 2011, over 85 percent of new handsets will be able to access the mobile Web.

The simple yet powerful premise that people are more aware, connected and responsive (not to mention dependant) than ever before, offers businesses a golden opportunity to interact with their customers. Although many global businesses have already developed a mobile strategy, for most, there’s still a clear lack of why and how to go about delivering a quality mobile experience that mimics their existing web offering.

Offering your customers the ability to access their information, content, updates or any of their crucial data on the move, creates a prime opportunity for a competitive advantage. This rings true regardless of the industry you’re in. For example, wireless health monitoring a patient’s data is essential within the healthcare industry. Real-time traffic updates improve road management. Retailers are tapping into mobile payment channels to increase sales and revenue streams. Entertainment agencies increase viewer anticipation with direct-to-mobile promos for hit TV shows. Airlines offer mobile check-in and flight reports. Mobility, it’s about digging deep into your business’s core value and bringing it to the forefront with an on-the-go solution.

The question should no longer be; why consider creating a mobile strategy, but how to implement a successful one.

Key factors business owners need to focus on when creating a mobile strategy include:

  • User Experience – Increasingly diverse range of wireless form factors leads to increasingly diverse behavioral patterns and usage.
  • Customer Support – Understand the implications and reality of supporting a new distribution channel. This also means applying feedback straight from devices.
  • Imagination in Small Packages – Outliving customer expectations by including core features within your mobile app creates a service that truly shines. However, Simplicity is will always be king.
  • Leveraging Device Capabilities – You’re customers are equipped with a camera, GPS, and accelerometer (amongst other things) in their pockets. Take advantage of these features.
  • Don’t Assume – You’re users will A. Find your app or B. Care you’ve launched a mobile app, unless you deliver TRUE value to your loyal customers.

A clearly defined and executed mobile strategy raises the issue of personalization. After all, mobile devices are usually the 1st and last thing we reach for every day.

The Starhome® Sparx™ solution is a roaming marketing and relations management solution that continually gathers valuable information about roamers’ habits; it then forms a profile for each roamer that includes local and roaming behavior.

Personalization and Mobility

You’re audience might be stuck at this very moment; in the airport, at work, in a meeting or countless other situations with a little too much free time, which is why personalization and the mobile web are a perfect marriage.

How well defined is your business and marketing strategy at offering a one-to-one solution? From knowing your customers on a personal basis, to understanding their daily habits, personalization and customization (much like a mobile strategy) plays a significant role in every industry. It’s about the delivery of personal choice.

Personalization by Industry

Manufacturing: Big brands (Nike, Reebok, Adidas, etc…) are starting to understand the impact of offering personal choice. The switch from mass production to mass customization is leading the way towards customer loyalty.

Service Providers: By leveraging real-time, subscriber information such as location, demographics and usage behaviors, service providers can generate new revenues streams from personalized third-party applications.

Privacy – The Underlying Theme

If personalization is the ability to satisfy targeted needs for of individual consumers then privacy and trust is the biggest concern in the tradeoff. The debate has recently been put under the spotlight due to “instant-personalization” services such as Facebook. Although in all fairness, Facebook is hardly to blame. The wealth of context-aware customer data that can be manipulated into lucrative business models has advertisers beaming. On a positive note, Facebook and other personalized services have made the mistakes that your business won’t have to. Your customers need not worry of privacy concerns, as long as you’ve educated them of your policies.

In conclusion

The reality today is that it’s not just what you offer; be it mobile or personalized solutions, but how you offer it. You’ve invested valuable time and assets to build trust in your customers; don’t lose it sight of its impact on your success.