Posts Tagged ‘Search’

How Facebook is changing the world

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

I realize that the title of this post might sound a little dramatic. But I entirely, whole-heartedly believe that it’s true. Facebook is changing the world.

First of all, the number of people who are joining is skyrocketing. According to CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook now has 150 million active users. This means that if Facebook was a country, it would be the 8th most populated in the world. And this isn’t just a group of passive users; almost half of Facebook’s members use the service every day. On Christmas day, Facebook accounted for 1 in every 22 online visits. This participation is staggering. Tons of new people are signing up to use the site daily – and Facebook is a service that gets more fun to use as more people join, so it’s doubtful that this participation will slow.

Facebook logo

But large numbers alone won’t change the world – it’s what Facebook is doing with those numbers that’s so exciting. Here are just a few things that I’ve observed:

Facebook is helping non-technical Web users begin to understand other Web services. I first noticed this because of Facebook’s “Status updates.” I have been promoting Twitter for about a year, but it wasn’t until Facebook’s Status Updates started getting popular that I was able to find a good way to describe Twitter to non-users. Now I just say “Twitter is like Facebook’s status updates, but that’s all it is, so you can update more frequently.” In another example, my cousin is organizing his 15th high school reunion using Facebook, and he wanted his event to be picked up by Google. This allowed me to give him a quick rundown on SEO and how search engines work. There are also reports that Facebook is gearing up to launch a “like” feature that will replicate a popular FriendFeed functionality. This not only will be incredibly popular with Facebook’s members, but will allow them a better understanding of FriendFeed. Facebook’s popularity and excellent user interface is helping to make Web use more mainstream and less frightening to Internet novices. This alone is a major game-changer.

Facebook is changing professional networks. I am currently looking to hire a part-time, contract Web developer to help out with my business. I am actively looking through my Facebook contacts to see if anyone in my network is a developer and might be interested in the job. I can recruit through Craigslist and Boston.com (and will likely pursue those routes, too); but if I can find someone I know – even if it’s someone who I haven’t worked with, seen or talked to in years – I am pre-disposed to hiring that person. Of course the decision will ultimately come down to experience and qualifications, but a network is very important in finding a job, and Facebook is suddenly adding people to my network who I haven’t spoken to in a decade.

Facebook is bringing friends closer. In the spectrum of being able to keep up with friends and staying in touch with people, I am pretty good. I would say slightly above average. Even so, I only have about 3 people who I talk to every day (my husband, my bf/co-worker, my business partner). Then there are about 6 other people who I talk to multiple times a week (my brother & sister-in-law, my neighbors who live downstairs and a few local friends). As my circle gets wider, the frequency of communication drops. Facebook is changing this, by facilitating daily communication with a much wider circle of friends. These are friends who I love dearly, but who just don’t live close to me and neither of us have the time to call and check in every day. But we can read each other’s status updates, look at the photos that we’ve posted and have at least an idea of what is going on in each other’s lives on a daily basis.

Facebook is connecting & creating communities. It would be pretty interesting to see the connections between friends in Facebook charted out, but it seems that most of the connections would be concentrated locally or with specific groups – work friends, high school and college friends, church buddies, soccer teammates, etc. But the really powerful thing is that each person’s connections make up a community of people who share at least one thing (or person) in common. If you expanded out even just one level of separation and looked at all of the connections of my connections, there would be a substantial community of people who likely share at least some commonalities. And when communities of people hook up and unite, it’s amazing what they accomplish.

- Facebook is starting to take a chunk out of my email inbox – in a way. I am getting a ton of messages from friends via Facebook now – both through Facebook’s inbox and the Wall-to-wall features. It seems that as people are spending time using Facebook, they just use the service to drop me a quick note to say hi, ask me a question, or just to connect. (This is only taking a chunk out of my email inbox in a way because a notification is sent to my email anytime someone comments on something that I’ve done or writes me a note.)

It’s becoming a verb. Chris’ new favorite expression is “I’m Facebooking.” The last major service that went from noun to verb was Google. Perhaps that is enough said.

Banners get a boost

Monday, December 15th, 2008

I give a lot of attention to performance-based advertising formats such as search and lead generation. While I’m bullish on both at all times, I especially think that they are easier to buy and defend in a bad economy. Today Fred Wilson over at A VC wrote this post about a comScore white paper that described the lift that is generated by display advertising (banners). This article is definitely worth a read.

Banners definitely provide a positive benefit for advertisers. (And this research certainly proves it.) Like television, billboards and radio advertising, they defintely promote brand awareness, and, based on this study, a lift in sales. But the issue still remains that without a research study like this one running to measure the effectiveness of a specific banner, it is impossible to measure its ROI. And in this economy, it doesn’t matter how many studies like these are released, marketers are going to be looking for 1-to-1, measurable ROI.

Boost

Photo by Travis Isaacs

Using Google Suggest as a research tool

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

I am not a huge fan of Digg, but I occasionally watch the online show Diggnation, and I got this idea from a story that they profiled a couple of weeks back. The background to the story is this – when you start typing a term into the search box on Google, a feature called Google Suggest displays suggestions about what you might be trying to type. According to Google, this functionality uses an algorithm to predict the queries that users are most likely to want to see, and does not base the suggestions on a user’s personal search history.

The story that was profiled on Diggnation was about someone who typed in a bunch of terms and took screenshots of the results. What he found was very interesting. To just pick one example – for the expression “Is it safe to…” the results were: look at a lunar eclipse, travel to kenya, reuse the same water bottle over and over, fly when pregnant, paint while pregnant, travel to Israel, travel to Cuba, tan while pregnant, and eat snow. Check out the full list here.

It occurred to me that I could use this tool for research, to help me determine general consumer interest in a topic as well as search term popularity. (The screenshot below is from a search I did to help me gauge interest in various terms for the Orthopedic Product Guide.)

There are other ways to use this tool, as well. The guys on Diggnation did a competition to see how many letters it took for each of their names to be suggested. (They tied.) I played along – but am sad to admit that my name was never even suggested.

Google suggest orthopedic

Text search head-to-head: Google vs. Cha Cha

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

The first time that I heard about Google text search I was at my sister-in-law’s parent’s house in Rochester, NY, and we were discussing how you can send a question to Google via text and get a quick response. Just sent a text to 466453 (‘GOOGLE’ on most devices) with a question, and Google will text you back with the answer.

My brother was there for that conversation, and was equally impressed, so when I got the following Twitter message from Matt a couple of weeks back, I was very interested:

Cha Cha Twitter

Cha Cha bills itself as a mobile search service. To get answers from Cha Cha, text your question to 242242 (spells ‘ChaCha’), and wait.

This sounded a lot like Google, but Matt claimed that it was better than Google, and I had some time on my hands (I was actually sitting at Good Harbor Beach in Gloucester, MA, at the time), so I thought I would do a totally unscientific head-to-head comparison sending random questions to both Google and Cha Cha and seeing what I got back. Here’s what I found:

QUESTION: Who sings It’s a heartache?

REPLIES:
Google:
Sorry. Did not return any results.
Cha Cha: Janis Joplin’s version of “It’s a Heartache.”

QUESTION: What’s the water temperature in Gloucester, MA?

REPLIES:
Google:
Sorry. Did not return any results.
Cha Cha: These are the only 2 I found for water temperatures in MA. Boston, MA 66.9 degrees F/19.4 degrees C Woods Hole, MA 72.0 degrees F

QUESTION: Who sings I need a hero?

REPLIES:
Google:
Sorry. Did not return any results.
Cha Cha: I Need A Hero is sung by Bonnie Tyler.

QUESTION: Weather, Gloucester, MA

REPLIES:
Google: Weather: Gloucester, MA 72F, Clear Wind: W 0 mph Hum: 90%  Sat: 56F-79F, Clear Sun: 65F-79F, Mostly Sunny  Mon: 56F-81F, Chance of storm
Cha Cha: Gloucester, MA 76F, Fair Sat: 57F-77F, Sunny Sun: 66F-80F, Slight Chance Rain Showers

QUESTION: Circumference of the earth

REPLIES:
Google:
Sorry. Did not return any results.
Cha Cha: The circumference of the earth at the equator is 24,901.55 mi, but, if you measure through the poles it measures 24,859.82 mi.

QUESTION: Distance to Mars

REPLIES:
Google: Sorry. Did not return any results.
Cha Cha: The average distance to Mars is 48 million miles.

QUESTION: Movie theaters in 01915

REPLIES:
Google:
Movies: MA 01915  1. Tropic Thunder 2. Star Wars: The Clone Wars  3. Death Race  4. Mamma mia!  5. Pineapple Express  6. The Longshots  7. The Dark Knight  8. The House Bunny  9. The Rocker Send 1 to 9 for showtimes or NEXT for more movies. <I sent 5> Movies: Pineapple Express 1hr 45min, Rated R Drama 3.5/5 CinemaSalem 2:35  5:00  7:30  9:45 1 East India Square Salem, 01970  978-744-1400  AMC Loews Liberty Tree Mall 20  1:50  4:30  7:40  8:40  10:20  11:25  100 Independence Drive Danvers, MA  01923  978-750-9019
Cha Cha: Cabot Street Cinema on Cabot Street and Larcom Theater on Wallis Street.

QUESTION: How many calories in a donut?

REPLIES:
Google: Sorry. Did not return any results.
Cha Cha: Calories range from 200-300 calories, is there one in specific you want the calories for?

QUESTION: Score Patriots

REPLIES:
Google: NFL *Philadelphia*: 27 New England: 17 Final, Aug 22  Recent game: Aug 17  New England: 10  *Tampa Bay*: 27  Next Game: Aug 28 7:00pm EDT New England at NY Giants
Cha Cha: Aug 22, 2008 Philadelphia VS Patriots lose 17-27. That is not good. They need to pick up their game before the season starts.

QUESTION: Who is the quarterback for the Patriots

REPLIES:
Google:
Sorry. Did not return any results.
Cha Cha: Tom Brady is the QB for the Patriots.

In my experiment, the overall winner was definitely Cha Cha. This is how I would break it down:

Cha Cha

Cha Cha logoPros: Cha Cha dominated the random facts categories. I was able to get more answers to more types of questions from Cha Cha than from Google.

Cons: Speed – Cha Cha sometimes takes quite awhile to reply – the longest reply actually took 57 minutes. Most answers came in about 5 minutes. Also, the reply to movie theaters in 01915 was not exactly right – the Larcom Theater is no longer a movie theater although it was at one time.

Neither pro nor con: One thing about Cha Cha is that it is real people looking up the answers to your questions. This felt kind of weird to me as I was sitting in my beach chair sending people on information missions, but you might like having people at your disposal to do your bidding. It was also a little odd to get occasional editorial comments with my answers (see the Patriots question, above), but I kind of liked that and thought it was fun. Again, some people might find this annoying.

Google:

Google Mobile logoPros: Speed – answers came to me lightning quick. No waiting, or maybe a couple of seconds wait. Google also has the lead in pretty much any question that it answers – if Google has the answer, it’s thorough and complete, and I trust the information. Google also definitely takes the lead in local search.

Cons: Limited types of questions can be answered by Google. There is also a way to send questions to Google that ensures a better answer, this convention can take some getting used to.

Online advertising moving to interactive & measurable formats

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

MeasureJust saw a story this morning about Carat’s advertising outlook for 2009. Even though they are revising their forecast down to reflect the weak economy, they are raising their forecast for online advertising from 23.3% to 23.7% in 2008. For 2009, they are predicting that online advertising will grow 18.6%, vs. earlier estimates of 17.8% growth.

The most interesting bit in the article, however, is this:

[Jerry Buhlmann, CEO of Aegis Media] said the growth in online’s ad spending share has less to do with the growth of consumer use of online media, and more to do with a secular shift within the advertising industry that is driving marketers and agencies toward media that deliver measurable returns on advertising investments.

“With search now central to the planning and execution of any campaign, online media brings a greater level of accountability not just to itself but to TV, print and other forms of advertising,” he said. “This is why we are predicting further strong growth for internet, even when advertisers are cautious in many of the other sectors.” (bold and italics mine)

This shift to performance-based media, sometimes called ROI advertising, is going to continue until most (if not all) advertising is based on performance metrics. Not only is search advertising going to continue its phenomenal growth in leading this sector, but lead generation is going to continue to grow quickly. Joining them will be other media that traditionally have not been measured but will move in that direction, including video and even print.

Marketers have always headed in the direction of measurable media programs. Just think of the 1-800 numbers that can be traced back to specific ads. With money tight, even more dollars will be adjusted to go to these programs that can prove they are worth the money they cost to run.

Photo by aussiegall

Americas about to fall behind in information industry

Tuesday, November 13th, 2007

Outsell LogoIf you haven’t caught the hint yet, there is more news today that the global market is gaining in importance. According to a press release from Outsell, the information industry revenue that is generated in Asia, Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) is ready to overtake North, South and Central American revenues within one to two years. And things are already heading that way. Currently, American information industry revenues are 53% of the worldwide total, with EMEA and Asia at 47%.

The other bit of information, which was buried in the middle of the release, is that during a presentation today on “The Global Industry Outlook” at Outsell’s Signature Event, Chief Analyst Leigh Watson Healy offered up Outsell’s 10 predictions for the information industry in 2008. One of note: the firm expects the next evolution of the Internet experience to be Web 3D.

Whenever a company makes a prediction, I like to see how they did with their past prophesies. If you’re interested, Outsell’s 2007 predictions are available in a free report. Some of what they suggested would happen this year has happened, but one item in particular seems to be a false reading on the market: “Google, Yahoo, MSN, publishers, advertisers and auditors will establish standardized third-party audit and certification processes to validate clicks and battle click fraud.”

So far, this hasn’t happened – but there is still a little more than a month to go before we ring in 2008.

Vertical search with humans behind it

Thursday, November 1st, 2007

Ask Jim logoI occassionally blog for SelfEmployed.com, and in writing a post for that site today I came across a search engine for the Small Business market – AskJim.biz. It’s a vertical search engine that has a database of articles about small business issues behind it. The site was conceived of by Jim Blasingame, and the articles are written by a group of experts (Jim’s “Brain Trust”). I didn’t use the site indepth, but I ran a couple of sample queries and compared the results from AskJim vs. Google. AskJim was better.

 This is an interesting business model for vertical search – a niche search engine that really isn’t a search engine at all, but has a giant database of trusted articles behind it, powering it and providing relevant results. This could be a helpful solution to folks in the small business market who are suffering from search engine fatigue. It will be interesting to see if this model will work in other markets.

Trust and Internet advertising

Sunday, October 28th, 2007

I just read an article called “The Trust Issue” by David Morgan in the Online Spin blog. In the post, Morgan is referencing a report from Nielsen that shows that consumers don’t trust Internet advertising. Here’s an excerpt:

A global study from Nielsen … found consumers don’t trust Internet advertising nearly as much as they trust traditional forms of advertising. The Nielsen study, based on an online survey of more than 26,000 consumers, asked respondents their perceptions of different forms of advertising. The results? Consumers rated Internet advertising at the bottom when it comes to trust as compared to offline media. Specifically, 63% said they trust newspaper ads, 56% trusted TV spots and magazine placements — while search ads got a trust thumbs-up from just 34%, and banner ads were trusted by just 26% of the respondents.

He goes on to talk about some ways to help change consumer perception about online advertising. It’s a good article, go read it. But as much as I am an advocate for the Internet and Internet advertising, and as much as I would like us to work at changing negative perceptions about the Internet, I actually agree with the consumers – they are right to not trust Internet advertising as much as they trust TV or print.

TV and print advertising is obvious. You can tell – with close to 100% accuracy – when something is an advertisement and when something isn’t. And I think that this is the main reason why Internet advertising got such low marks – not necessarily because the ads themselves weren’t trustworthy (although that is probably part of it), but because consumers are unsure when they are being shown an ad, and when it’s “real content.”

There are so many ways that Internet advertising is fuzzy. Just think of Google, the second most popular Web site in the U.S., according to Alexa. On the Google search results page, ads run at the top and along the sides – and they are clearly labeled – but many consumers still don’t realize that they are looking at ads because the results look very similar to the organic search results. And what is listed in those ads is sometimes misleading. And that is just one example – there are many others. Bloggers are paid by companies to write reviews of their products with services such as ReviewMe. Parked domains gather advertising revenue from direct navigation (when keywords are typed directly into the search bar), the sites seem like they are providing information, but they are really just collecting PPC dollars. Pop-up ads arise from nowhere and refuse to disappear.

I love the Internet and I am a fan of these new and exciting business models, but there just aren’t the same standards online when it comes to the separation of “editorial” and “marketing” – it is sometimes hard to know what is an ad and what isn’t. In my opinion, at this point, the consumers are right to mistrust.

A summary of Internet advertising statistics

Friday, October 12th, 2007


statisticsThis week while writing about Internet advertising I came across quite a few statistics – it seems like many of the market research firms may have been timing the release of their data to coincide with the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) Annual Conference being held in Arizona. Here’s a roundup and links to the highlights:

IAB Internet Advertising Revenue Report: Internet advertising revenues in the U.S. totaled nearly $10 billion for the first six months of 2007, with Q1 accounting for approximately $4.9 billion and Q2 totaling approximately $5.1 billion; Internet advertising revenues for the first six months of 2007 increased 26.4% from the same period in 2006; Search revenue accounted for 40% of 2007 second-quarter revenues; 2007 revenues for Internet advertising estimated to hit $20-21 billion.

Marketing & Media Ecosystem 2010 study by ANA & Booz Allen Hamilton: 90% percent of marketers plan to increase their digital marketing spending by 2010; only 24% of the 250 survey respondents think their organizations are digitally savvy; barriers to making bigger digital investments are insufficient metrics (62%), lack of organization support (51%) and lack of experience in new media (59%).

Forrester Research’s U.S. Interactive Marketing Forecast 2007-2012: marketing spend will grow to $61 billion by 2012, an increase driven by marketers who will leverage a distribution of channels rather than pour new spends into a single place; Interactive marketing will top $61 billion By 2012; Search marketing will triple in five years; Social media will drive emerging channels to $10.6 billion by 2012.

eMarketer: Online advertising will hit $21.7 billion in 2007, surpassing radio for the first time ever; $44 billion for Internet advertising by 2011.

Data Centre of China Internet: China’s internet advertising sector is expected to increase by 53.07% in 2007.

And this isn’t a statistic, but Steve Ballmer, president of Microsoft had this to say at the ANA Conference, as reported by CNET: “In world search and advertising, Google is the leader; we’re an aspirant. We have a lot of work to do in search and advertising.”

~ Stairs & Railing ~