There’s a theory that’s been around for as long as the Internet – there are two groups who innovate the fastest with new technology: pornographers and criminals.
That theory recently proved true again, and that’s the genie Facebook is trying to get back into the bottle and the reason Mark Zuckerberg is testifying in front of Congress this week. Facebook’s decision in 2010 to allow developers to use the Open Graph platform to launch apps to access the data of users — and their friends’ — is at the heart of the issue that has caused this crisis.
During the window between when this development platform was open and when it was shut down in 2014, a lot of bad guys flooded Facebook with a lot of skeezy apps. Why shouldn’t they – Facebook was and still is the greatest collection of consumer information on the planet. Among the dicey apps was one which promised to give users a psychological profile of themselves. It was created by Alexander Kogan, who then sold the data he compiled to Cambridge Analytica.
In all, 300,000 people downloaded the app and shared their data with the app, and Facebook being how it was in 2013, that meant Kogan had access to millions of users’ profile information.
If you were a Facebook user in those days and you used an app to tell your horoscope, to find out what your Myers-Briggs profile was, if you were an introvert, an extrovert or a Trekkie, you gave permission to that app to take as much data about you as you had opted to make public.
That’s a lot of information – and information about your friends. Millions of data points which can be used to great audience profiles and benefit brands looking to connect with certain people and make them take certain actions, like supporting a candidate.
While your friends’ data is no longer available because of Facebook’s changes, the specter of the platform sitting on this reservoir of personal profile information is still freaking everyone out. But for Facebook, all of those demographics, Page likes and group memberships create the cash which makes the company go.
Yesterday, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) asked Zuckerberg how it was that Facebook made money. The answer from Zuckerberg, “We sell ads.”
Actually what they do is sell the audience. Cambridge Analytica just exploited and innovated off a huge hole in the system which happened nearly ten years ago.
There’s no doubt that there were other bad apps gathering mounds of data during the Wild West days of Open Graph. Their names will bloom up now and then over the coming months. Now that there’s awareness watch out.
Mike Koehler is the founder and chief strategist of Smirk New Media.
Editor’s Note: This is the second blog in a content series by Smirk New Media about the Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal. Next in Smirk New Media’s We Need to Talk About Facebook series, a thorough recap of how Facebook got here from Strategist Annie Strom.
Read the next blog in the series here.
When news broke that Cambridge Analytica, a data firm hired by several political campaigns, gained access to private information of more than 80 million Facebook users in March, I realized quickly this scandal had the fuel to impact every online platform. After all, online platforms had free rein to make their own rules and went mostly unregulated in the Digital Age.
Today, Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress giving his account of where the company failed to prevent their platform from being used to harm the public interest. Full disclosure, this post was written before Zuckerberg testified, but there’s no doubt his appearance will be significant. Facebook representatives have appeared before Congress many times to testify on various subjects, but this is different. Zuckerberg appeared for damage control.
As I’ve spoken with clients, prospects, and members of our community in the past few weeks, it’s clear there are a lot of questions about what actually happened in this situation, how Facebook will change because of it, and how those changes will impact both users and brands on the platforms. Through this blog series, we hope to provide you with more clarity on the headlines and our perspective on what this means for social media marketing and digital advertising.
Allie Carrick is president and managing partner of Smirk New Media.
Editor’s Note: This is the first blog in a content series by Smirk New Media about the Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal. Next in Smirk New Media’s We Need to Talk About Facebook series, a thorough recap of how Facebook got here from Smirk’s Founder & Chief Strategist Mike Koehler.
Read the next blog in the series here.
Reddit will let advertisers target users by interest, browsing history, community, geography, and type of device. Brands will also be able to choose which subreddits they want their ads to appear next to and which to avoid. Advertisers will have the ability to turn off comments, just like with desktop-based ads. These tools offer a safety net for brands who want to be included in the conversation but are rightfully cautious.
In one month, Reddit boasted an incredible 274 million unique visitors, each spending over 14 minutes on the site. Advertising on Reddit is ideal for brands targeting a younger demographic. 87% of Reddit users are under 35. Reddit says 80% of their mobile users aren’t on the desktop version of the site. This move opens a vast new demographic to advertisers.
Reddit allows users to comment and interact with people across the globe. If you can think of a topic, there is a subreddit on it. It’s considered the front page of the internet and for good reason. It is the central hub for pop culture and offers a space for everyone to share ideas, reactions, and breaking news.
The only visual difference between user-generated organic posts and promoted content will be a “Promoted” label on the top of the post. Users will be able to upvote, downvote and comment on the native advertisements just like any other post in their feed.
Native advertising changed the game for marketers. It allows brands to connect and engage with consumers in a non-disruptive way. Brands can more easily build trust and integrate into consumer’s social media and everyday life.
Online presence is increasingly significant for brands. In the digital age, storytelling, as well as the art of crafting engaging and relevant content, has to be the foundation of a brand’s online presence. The Smirk team takes pride in staying ahead of the curve on social strategy. If refining your online presence is something you are interested in, reach out and we can schedule a free consultation.
As a digital firm, our team was thrilled to partner with Google for the Grow with Google event in OKC last Wednesday. The day full of workshops, coaching, and swag-acquisition took place at The Devon Boathouse and featured local food trucks throughout the day. Our entire team was in attendance and took full advantage of the resources offered, each member participated in several workshops and decorated virtual reality (VR) goggles.
Apart from the free merchandise, this event provided an accessible, educational, and fun experience for anyone looking to refine their tech knowledge. Attendees ranged from digital professionals to local restaurant owners, even children, and illustrated the reach of the Google platforms. Following the event, our team shared their experiences amongst each other and realized everyone had a unique takeaway. So, instead of trying to summarize our different perspectives, everyone has put Grow with Google into their own words below.
I enjoyed the way Google utilized the uniqueness of the Devon Boathouse space: they had plenty of interactive stations with Google employees, technology to try out, and goodies like Google Cardboard to take home. I attended a talk on how data drives growth and was extremely impressed with both the turnout and the speaker’s presentation. Attending Grow with Google was a great use of my time, and I’m excited that the whole team was able to participate.
One of the coolest parts of the Grow with Google event was how it brought people from all walks of life and skill sets together to learn something they have never done before. The part I enjoyed most was the coding breakout session, Get Started with Code. As a creative person, I would have never guessed that I would have liked coding. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to branch out and try something new.
I was super impressed with the quality of the event and the team that Google brought to Oklahoma City. Here are just a few things that impressed me at the event. I was able to learn how to improve the SEO & Map Listing for Smirk via the Google My Business team. I learned that you can use the power of the Google search bar to take your job search to the next level. And lastly, I was impressed with the partnership with local organizations like Oklahoma Women in Tech & Techlahoma. Through these partnerships, Google is supporting more diversity and inclusion for STEM jobs in Oklahoma.
The Grow With Google event was unlike anything we’ve ever seen in Oklahoma City. With billions of active users, it’s a rare opportunity for digital pros and business owners to receive one-on-one training and attend workshops taught by Googlers. While this was only the second event of its kind, it was a dynamic, seamless and fun experience. Every Google pro was friendly and excited to discuss how he or she could help us. I had a chance to join the event organizers from Google and other local partners for a tasty breakfast. We learned that through local partners, like Smirk, businesses will have access to more in-person trainings and resources than ever in 2018. This event left me with such a positive impression of the Google team and optimism about how expanding digital tools will ignite business growth in our community.
It was refreshing as a partner agency to talk to real people from Google about how we can take the baton from them as a platform and really help businesses in OKC. Google wants to help customers find companies online, but there is only so much they can stuff into a one-day event. Hearing from Google about how they value our partnership and what we can work on together regarding training and boosting business brands was incredible. They launched a new platform for us, and now we have real-life human beings we can talk to if there’s ever an issue for our clients or our strategists. Three cheers for human beings!
After using the various Google platforms for as long as I can remember, it was fascinating to be able to speak to Googlers face-to-face. Everyone on the Google team was friendly and helpful which made the experience even better. It was also interesting to learn about the different Google initiatives and outreach programs, such as Google’s Impact Challenge and Google Cardboard, that demonstrate their dedication to society. However, I think my favorite part of the event was the coding class. I took several different courses throughout the day that taught you how to optimize the Google platforms, but I was skeptical about the coding class. Now, I am not a programmer at all, and the entire course was intuitive, easy to understand, and very rewarding. It is so awesome how Google has made the tech world accessible to everyone.
Overall, our team was thrilled with the event and everything they learned throughout the day. As a Google Partner, Smirk New Media advanced its capabilities and wants to help fellow Okies do the same.
Smirk New Media is thrilled to announce its partnership with Google for the Grow with Google Oklahoma City event on December 6.
This day-long event will be held at the Devon Boathouse and consists of workshops, coaching, demos, networking, and panel discussion featuring some of OKC’s Digital Heroes. Googlers will be directly interacting with attendees in various training sessions throughout the day and hosting hands-on demos of the resources they provide. Smirk team members will be onsite to answer questions and discuss how to continue your company’s growth through digital platforms.
As an exclusively digital firm, we are honored to partner with Google as a certified professional agency, as innovation and creativity are not only cornerstones for our business strategy, but are also key elements in the Google platforms highlighted at this event. Google is a pioneer in digital marketing and has influenced many industries worldwide with their intuitive and accessible platforms. Our team utilizes many of the Google tools on a daily basis, so the opportunity to optimize our personal skill sets while helping educate Oklahomans on digital practices made this partnership particularly appealing.
Tools used in digital marketing are constantly changing and upgrading, and Google AdWords is one of the platforms that rolled a new look recently. The marketing world is a digital playground, and AdWords is one of the most important tools available today. Each client strategist on the Smirk team is a certified AdWords professional and many of us utilize its various functionalities on a daily basis. However, in the digital marketing world, staying up-to-date is crucial to your success, and Google’s newest version of AdWords makes continual learning accessible to all professionals.
We are extending an open invitation to anyone in the OKC area with an interest in learning digital marketing to be our guest at the Grow with Google Oklahoma City event on December 6th at The Devon Boathouse from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Anyone interested in attending is eligible to participate. Register for the event here.
Storytelling is the best marketing. Have you ever heard that before? In the current age of media, it couldn’t be more true.
People don’t care for or pay attention to statistics or facts as much as they used to, mostly because they don’t translate well online. These days, the average internet or social media user responds more to things that they can personally connect with. Businesses with a strong and adaptive social media and online presence have utilized this knowledge and brought storytelling to the forefront.
Scroll down your Facebook feed. You will assuredly come across a video about a person or thing that tells a short story. Some videos don’t even have footage or unique content, but rather just tell a story through pictures and text. Yet these spread like wildfire across social media, much more so than if it were just a post full of text. Companies like Vox or Buzzfeed were social media pioneers in how they harnessed sensationalism to spread their works and draw people back to the site. Now, there are plenty of big companies who have delved into the world of digital storytelling in an effort to better connect with potential consumers.
The smartest companies know how to draw people in with stories, even when their company might not inherently contain a large number of interesting ones. General Electric Health recently created a 30-minute documentary, Heroines of Health, which tells the story of women bringing healthcare to their communities in India, Africa and Southeast Asia. GE has created its own social media campaign, releasing a one-minute clip of the story on a Heroines of Health Instagram page each day. In its first week, the clips have received a combined 250,000 views and 400 personal bookmarks.
Stories and clips like these allow companies to connect with the consumer on a personal level. This Rappler article just wrote about a recent marketing convention in the Philippines entitled #ThinkPH 2017, which put a large focus on connecting to the consumer through storytelling. Writer Marj Casal, who covered the event, pointed out how many of the summit’s speakers, including CEO of Dentsu Aegis Network Philippines Donald Lim, emphasized the importance of using digital marketing to connect with people.
“Lim reminds us that websites and apps are just platforms and that we should look beyond them,” Casal said. “We should focus on capturing the human experience so brands become more relatable and approachable.”
Stories are no longer strictly told via longform newspaper articles. Now, they’re prevalent both online and across most social media platforms. The ability to tell stories is quickly becoming more and more imperative for companies looking to better connect with the consumer.
Many businesses are stuck deciding whether to use digital or traditional marketing. Although traditional has ruled in previous decades, digital is becoming more and more popular. In fact, 2017 will be the first year where digital spending will outweigh traditional spending, and it’s no coincidence. Digital marketing has surpassed traditional marketing because it’s the smarter and more effective option. Here are the four biggest reasons why digital marketing is the best route for any company.
1. Traditional Marketing Lacks Targeting
Traditional marketing, like print or radio advertisements, can’t be aimed toward a specific audience like digital marketing can. These ways of advertising are like guessing games, being thrown into the public with the hope that someone will be interested. Digital marketing, on the other hand, can be meticulously tailored to a certain demographic, which both increases its effectiveness and allows for a more individualized message.
2. Digital Marketing Delivers Data
Old-fashioned advertising can’t offer any specific information about audiences viewing your advertisements. A company could run a print ad, for example, but they have no way of knowing how many people paid attention or what kind of people they were. In digital marketing, companies can target from the beginning. Modern analytics allow for companies to observe their campaigns in real time. Not only that, but they can follow through potential transactions, which allows retargeting to the ones who become costumers.
3. Traditional Media Influence is Diminishing
With the surging popularity of digital consumption, people are reading newspapers and listening to the radio less and less. Even television has seen a recent drop in consumption. According to the Pew Research Center, 38 percent of Americans currently get news from digital media platforms, surpassing radio and print at 25 and 20 percent, respectively. The most successful marketing campaigns are those that reach the most eyeballs. These days, current trends indicate that those eyeballs are online, and those trends only continue to increase.
4. Digital Dollars Go Farther
Traditional advertising can be costly. Companies can pay thousands of dollars for a commercial, for example, just for the opportunity of a positive result. Additionally, commercial costs can fluctuate based on the length and the airtime, so many commercials will get placed in unfavorable time slots if companies aren’t willing to pay big money. With digital marketing, the buy is more affordable. It can reach hundreds of thousands of people using online strategies, with the cost as low as mere cents per each result.
In today’s day and age, the world is constantly becoming more online, and digital marketing is the clear path for success. Not only is it more cost-efficient, but its metrics and analytical capabilities allow for constant improvement and tweaking, as opposed to its more traditional, static, counterpart. If you want your company message to be heard, and you want to fully optimize your marketing success, then digital marketing is far and away your smartest and best option.
AI and bots may be what’s next online
Automated response technology has often received a bad reputation for how frustrating it can be in over-the-phone and online situations, but recent artificial intelligence developments have brought a huge improvement to the art of the AI-human relations.
The chatbot has quickly become the new thing in business and sales customer service, and it does so with a customizable personality and style. The Cosmopolitan Hotel, for example, has a chatbot named Rose who helps customers with questions about the hotel and surrounding areas via text. But the chatbot often includes quippy remarks or comebacks, and has even been described as a “sultry siren.” Another example, Taco Bell’s TacoBot, helps customers place orders on an application. The bot allows anyone to fully customize their order and enter delivery details.
The biggest potential with artificial intelligence usage lies in costumer service for large-scale businesses. Bots can provide customers with a 24-hour availability, and with advancements in AI and natural language processing (NLP), bots are capable of understanding formal and informal dialogue, punctuation and even emojis. These bots can also act as an online consultant while a costumer is shopping, which is a great way to keep shoppers on the site and eventually buy product. “Businesses are gaining a greater understanding that the customer service aspect of social media and digital platforms will be critical going forward,” said Smirk New Media president Mike Koehler. “Using bots will enable businesses to make sure customers are delivered basic information and receive some interaction from brands.”
But while they chatbots can be helpful, they still need some tweaking. Some complicated costumer service situations can perplex basic AI, and they should still be supervised by a human. “There is still a critical piece missing in how a brand discovers the right voice for its content and shows humanity in its interactions,” Koehler said. “Fortunately, you still need humans for that.”
AI is quickly becoming a valuable tool for large companies, as it has provided a way to better connect with customers while simultaneously saving millions every year. Although there is room for improvement, chatbots are adequately programmed to serve an important purpose in the business world, and their usage will only increase in the future.
Social media has quickly become an integral part in almost every company’s marketing strategy. The two biggest social media platforms for companies are Twitter and Facebook, but Instagram can also be a valuable social media tool. When used correctly, Instagram can help a business showcase its product and increase its following. But there are plenty of businesses out there who aren’t using it to its full potential, or they’re making simple errors in social media marketing. Here are four easy do’s and don’ts for companies new to Instagram.
• Do utilize Instagram’s analytics. Instagram does an excellent job tracking your audience engagement; it’s one of the app’s best apps for businesses. Make sure to see what posts get the most engagement, as well as keep an eye on other factors like what time is most efficient for posting and which demographics you’re attracting most.
• Do create one consistent voice for posting. Ideally, there’s only one person who posts on your company’s account. But if not, make sure that each post feels the same.
• Do make your posts original and creative. Put some thought into what you’re posting, and avoid using stock photos. Some companies, depending on what they do, will come up with fun graphics or short videos to use on their social media accounts. Many other companies will take original photos and edit or filter their pictures to make them stand out. You can edit your photos as well, but don’t go overboard.
• Do find ways to engage with your followers. Ask for photos of consumers with your product and repost the best one. Use promotional strategies like awarding discounts or having followers like a post for a chance at a reward. Don’t be afraid to reply to commenters, but again, use one consistent voice and keep it professional.
• Don’t overpost. Nobody wants to have their feed cluttered with posts from one account. As a company, it’s good to stay active on social media, but you should limit your posts to one or two posts a day, if not just a handful a week. Anything consistently over that is way too much. It’s always a great idea to schedule your posts so that you make sure that they’re adequately spaced out.
• Don’t repost the same content over all your social media accounts. Each account should be unique and have its own voice and purpose. The worst mistake is to repurpose Instagram posts on Facebook or Twitter, where your post only features the link and doesn’t show the picture. Use Instagram for Instagram only and avoid crossing over.
• Don’t go overboard with hashtags. Hashtags are a great way to expose your account to new eyes, but there’s no need to fill the post with more than three or four. Put a focus on only using the most relevant hashtags or the ones that might lead to an increased engagement or following.
• Don’t expect to have a massive following right away. It’s okay to have a small, dedicated following as your end goal. Additionally, never buy followers or pay for automated comments. Not only is it a cheap way to get quick results, but it won’t help you in the long run. Fake accounts don’t like your posts or engage on your profile and they won’t buy your product, so don’t waste your time with them.
Smirk New Media celebrated its seventh anniversary this summer. That milestone compelled us to step back and be grateful. We survived every variable a startup grapples with and adapted to those challenges. Watching our team grow was the best part. Each new face is defining our culture for the better and contributes to every win. We are thrilled to welcome a new strategist to the Smirk family, Emily Martinez.
Emily will bring her passion for digital marketing strategy, search engine optimization and social media marketing to account management and content development. I will give her the floor to introduce herself in her own words.
Meet Emily Martinez
I am from Austin, Texas, but the Keep Austin Weird vibes weren’t enough to stop me from crossing the Red River for college. I attended The University of Oklahoma and graduated with a degree in Public Relations and a minor in Political Science.
When I came to Norman for school, I thought I would always end up back in Texas, but four years later I found myself in love with OKC, the Thunder, and the Keep It Local atmosphere. Part of me will always be deep in the heart of Texas, but Oklahoma City is such a unique and lively place to live that I could not be happier starting my career here!
Apart from the social reasons, Oklahoma City was the best choice for me because I was interested in refining and enhancing my digital marketing skills. From my research, I knew that Smirk was a pioneer in the field I was after, so I set my sights on their firm. I have acquired a diverse set of skills and I intend to utilize and build upon each of them at Smirk.
I am a very passionate worker and have been performing in a professional setting since 2011. My first true passion was writing, and I was able to build upon that during a two-year stint as an Intern/Contributing Writer at the Austin American Statesman. Through my coursework at OU, I discovered Social Media Marketing and fell in love with the idea that these platforms transformed an industry previously reliant on billboards and newspaper ads to a conversational, accessible, and personalized market.
I threw myself into my studies and found internships and extracurricular activities that allowed my knowledge to grow. My most recent experience allowed me to explore a facet of digital marketing I did not have as much experience with search engine optimization. I have always been fascinated by technology and how things work, so SEO meshed very well with my “techie” side.
Considering my background in journalism, passion for social media marketing, and love all things tech, setting my sights on a career in digital marketing was a no-brainer. I counted down the hours to my first day at Smirk and I am loving every minute of it!
However, I haven’t given you the full scoop on “Who is Emily Martinez?” just yet. I mentioned my first passion was writing, which has now evolved into digital marketing, but now I want to touch on my other passions in life…
First, dogs. I love all of them, but I especially love my two bloodhounds that we rescued last year named Brick and Daisy. If an opportunity presents itself, I will show you their Instagram page that is run by my parents (@brickanddaisy). Second, Star Wars. I have R2D2 and Chewbacca on my keys and a Millennium Falcon figurine on my nightstand, and if you haven’t seen the original three movies, I would be glad to give you a verbal play-by-play. Finally, Italy. I spent a semester abroad in Arezzo, Italy, and the food was phenomenal, the people were friendly, and I hope to live in a Tuscan villa when I retire.