FB Strikes Back Against Apple’s Efforts to Curb Data Harvesting

Curb Data Harvesting

We’re just two months into the year and the nation’s biggest tech giants are already going head to head. Last month, iPhone maker Apple officially announced widespread efforts to curb data harvesting and provide more transparency and control over how companies track user data across websites and apps. Among the changes included revamped user permission settings and the introduction of the company’s new “Privacy Nutrition Label” — which will give users easy-to-read information based on the developer’s self-reported data practices. 

While some in the tech industry celebrated the move, Facebook was none too pleased. In a conference call, CEO Mark Zuckerberg told stockholders “we increasingly see Apple as one our biggest competitors,” and launched a PR campaign of its own to propose that increased user controls could harm small business users who rely on ad targeting to deliver personalized ads.   

So what does this mean for marketers? While retargeting strategies certainly won’t go anywhere soon, how websites, apps, and other platforms collect, randomize and share data is likely to change. To Zuckerburg’s point, this move towards data-protection will almost certainly curtail marketers ability to serve personalized ads to targeted audiences on a wide array of channels, including Paid Search, Paid Social, and Programmatic— which could cut into the profit margins of small businesses. It’s unclear the extent to which personalized advertising will be handicapped, but time will tell. What we do know is that Facebook and Apple have a symbiotic relationship, and aren’t likely to push each other too far. 

We are following this story and its impacts on digital marketing closely. We will share more as things unfold.

SoMe is a digital marketing agency headquartered in Chicago. SoMe partners with clients in the pursuit of reaching their marketing and business goals through digital platforms. We combine digital expertise with innovative creative to get the right message to the right customer at the right time. Get in touch to see how we can help you with results driven digital marketing.

 

Everyone is Creative (With a Little Practice)

By: Chuck Lewis, Senior Creative at SoMe

 

A few years back, I stopped by a local gym for an introductory consultation. The idea for this first meeting was that we’d have a short discussion, I’d fill out a worksheet with my fitness goals, and the trainer would walk me through a few basic movements. I’d be in and out in 15 minutes. But, before we got started, it was time to stretch.

The necessity of stretching and ‘warming up’ for any type of physical activity seems obvious. It improves range of motion, functional efficiency, and prepares the body for the stress it’s about to undergo. So why don’t we ‘stretch’ before jumping head-first into other activities?

We’ve all been in meetings where we’re prompted to start throwing out ideas. The prompt is usually met with varied lengths of silence before someone on the team kickstarts the discussion – usually with a fairly obvious response. As more team members start to chime in, we’re able to generate a decent list. As the exercise winds down, ideas start to get a little wackier and most team members bow out before saying something that makes them look crazy. Everyone takes a step back to look at the list and one of the first (read as ‘safe’) ideas is chosen. And, of course, your best idea comes to you 10 minutes after you’ve left the meeting and are back at your desk.

The biggest problem with this all-too-familiar meeting format is that the team started to ‘exercise’ before providing enough time to ‘stretch.’ When the meeting kicks off, no one has loosened up enough to participate in a meaningful way. In the same way that we wouldn’t expect peak physical performance from an athlete who hadn’t warmed up, we shouldn’t expect great ideas to start flowing right away. So, we start with the obvious answer.

After this first idea, our hypothetical team starts to throw out more thoughts. Initial ideas are usually followed by approving nods or “I-was-just-gonna-say-that”s and the team starts to confuse consensus for success. At this point in the meeting, our team is just about finished getting loose when someone finally throws out a new idea.

There are a few ways that this idea will be received. In one scenario, this new idea really gets the rest of the team thinking. The energy in the room shifts and everyone locks in on fully formulating this new, best idea. The more likely scenario is that it’s met with the verbal equivalent of a participation trophy (“Okay, sure. What else?”). Whatever the case, if a new idea doesn’t recognizably point the team toward a linear path to solving the problem, it’s usually set aside. A clear ‘winner’ begins to emerge and, as the team spends more and more time discussing how to make that idea work, the introduction of a different idea can only be seen as disruptive (sometimes the team even acknowledges that a new idea is better, but sets it aside to avoid any sunken cost in focus!).

The flaw in this format is that without giving the team space to warm up without any stakes, it becomes really difficult to avoid focusing on one of our first answers. We tend to treat the brainstorming process like a funnel in which we start with a lot of ideas and then narrow them down until we’re left with our winner. Because of this, you can only move forward by eliminating ideas – a process that isn’t compatible with creative thinking. Instead of this, we should look at the creative process like a wine glass. In this way, we start with a handful of ideas and, as we move deeper into the exercise, generate more and more ideas as the team loosens up. Only after we’ve run out of new thoughts and different ways to connect what’s in front of us does it make sense to start editing these thoughts down to our final direction.

We’ll explore a handful of approaches to generating new ideas at greater depth in the future, but will walk through a few of them here. The most important thing to keep in mind is that the first step is about filling the page (or whiteboard) with as many thoughts and directions as possible. Doing so in a visible format, regardless of whether you’re brainstorming with a team or working through ideas on your own, is also a critical component for building new connections that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. Try not to take a single idea too far and DON’T FILTER IDEAS! An idea might not be great and might even get a few laughs from the team, but it’s important to leave it in. As we’ll see in some of the following approaches, we can use these ‘bad ideas’ to spark trains of thought that get us into uncharted creative terrain and worry about tying everything back together later.

Mind Mapping

In the late 1960s, Edward de Bono introduced the concept of lateral thinking – a tool meant to circumvent step-by-step thinking in order to produce more creative, original thinking. In order to get there, mind mapping is our biggest ally. You’ve probably seen some version of a mind map before – it’s the token stock photo for just about every article on brainstorming, but I’ve rarely been in a meeting where the team decided to use one. That said, I use them all the time when I’m kicking off a new creative project.

We start off with our main prompt (usually a brand name or story-hook in the creative world) in the middle of the page. Then, we spend some time coming up with 6 to 8 related ideas. These will feel pretty obvious at first, but it’s fun to try and squeeze at least one concept that’s a little out of left field. From this step, we do the same thing (come up with around 4 to 6 related ideas) for each concept, creating a visual web.

So, let’s say our client sells granola bars. Our obvious visual might be that all of the ingredients are swirling around as we list them out before they slam together to create our final product. But, what if we use our mind map exercise? We could start by listing a couple ingredients – oats, honey, almonds. Then we’ll add some adjectives the brand wants to be associated with – healthy, active, clean. We can keep working through the exercise until we come up with something completely new – maybe a colony of worker bees expertly assembles the granola bar ingredients, using their honey to glue everything together. At the end, they present the final bar to the discerning queen bee for a final taste test. It would have been a bit of a leap to get to that idea right away, but mapping out related concepts before looking for new connections helps to spark these new ideas.

Tips: I like to take most ideas at least three layers deep, but that can lead to a pretty messy mind map. There are plenty of tools online to help you build and organize your ideas without being cumbersome (I like MindNode for Mac). I also rarely get through these exercises without struggling for ideas toward the end, but that’s what we want. Some of the best, most ‘out-there’ ideas come from that final push for answers.

Separation (Go for a Walk)

There are plenty of times where the ideas just aren’t there. You start jotting down notes for your mind map and that creative spark you were hoping for isn’t coming. Or, you’re a half-hour into a project and it feels like every step you take is in the wrong direction. When you hit a wall, sometimes the most productive thing to do is get up and go for a walk.

What’s important here isn’t the act of walking, though there are a few reasons it’s my go-to. Our goal is to literally bring our problem to a different environment to find new ways of looking at it. In the mind mapping process, we’re trying to come up with ideas that are further and further removed from the initial prompt in order to establish new connections. Bringing the problem to a new environment can often accomplish something very similar, in that our brain is fed a lot of seemingly unrelated information while it’s hard at work processing a problem. Though this is a subconscious process (we’re not literally spotting a pigeon and scrambling to find ways to work it into our project scope), the change of scenery tends to inspire some fresh ideas and direction. This is one of the reasons why new ideas always seem to pop up after everyone’s left the meeting to head back to their desks.

Tips:  Try to avoid asking a co-worker to tag along or the temptation to listen to music while you walk. The goal is to be present and continue thinking through the idea when inspiration strikes, so we want to avoid tuning it out. I like downtown areas with a variety of storefronts and people going about their day. 

Get Uncomfortable

A huge, but generally unappreciated part of creative problem solving is practice and experience. We know that the best athletes in the world started with some level of athletic aptitude, but spent years and years getting to where they are (and hours a day staying there). It’d be bizarre if I woefully told you I could never be half as good at basketball as Michael Jordan and you knew I hadn’t touched a basketball in 10 years. I shouldn’t expect to be good at something I haven’t spent any time getting good at. With that being said, a lot of people treat creative thinking like something that’s divinely gifted to a select few during childhood and inaccessible for everyone else. The practice and experience components are actually far more important, but how do we get there?

I’m a huge proponent of learning new skills in order to practice creative thinking. And, it’s important that you get a little uncomfortable. Whether it’s an online course or picking up a new hobby, there’s a lot of value in learning to accept the idea that you don’t know what you’re doing… yet.

While quarantining, I’ve been practicing a couple of new skills and have undoubtedly failed a few times along the way. My grandfather’s family is originally from Denmark, so I’ve had it in the back of my mind that I’d like to learn Danish for a while. Each language has its own quirks, but the reason Danish is one of the hardest to learn is that things aren’t necessarily pronounced how they’re spelled or with the same vocal muscles as in English (YouTube “rødgrød med fløde” for reference). So, when on day one of eagerly diving headfirst into language learning I was face-to-face with a word I was physically unable to recreate, I was disheartened to say the least. I spent a lot of time over the next couple of weeks searching for exercises to get better at pronouncing the elusive Danish ‘soft D’ (it’s like the English ‘th’ sound but a little further back on the roof of the mouth) and am slowly getting there.

While I hope to learn something that passes as Danish, what I’m actually getting better at is learning how to creatively solve a problem in an environment where I expect myself to fail. We start in uncharted territory and have to learn how to navigate something completely alien to us. It’s all about teaching ourselves to build connections until things start to make sense. Suddenly other problems start to look familiar and it’s not intimidating that we don’t know how the problem’s going to get solved – we’ve practiced taking creative steps to solve problems.

Tips: There’s a lot of value in reading and consuming interesting podcasts to save up creative fodder, but try to pick something actionable in order to make this work best. We’re aiming to make ourselves a little uncomfortable here, so it shouldn’t be a passive experience.

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Above all else, it’s important that we start looking at creativity as something that comes through practice and process instead of a trait someone has like brown hair or blue eyes. Everyone can contribute in a meaningful way to the creative problem solving process when enabled by their environment, but that means the time spent on creativity has to match the value we place in it. Encourage your team to generate ideas through additive means with a built-in ‘stretch’ like mind mapping before racing to come up with an answer. Get away from your desk for a bit to see how solutions develop with time and in new environments. And, practice solving problems by learning new skills and understanding that missteps are an unavoidable part of feeling your way through the dark. We are all as creative as the time we spend practicing creativity allows us to be. 

 

SoMe is a digital marketing agency headquartered in Chicago. SoMe partners with clients in the pursuit of reaching their marketing and business goals through digital platforms. We combine digital expertise with innovative creative to get the right message to the right customer at the right time. Get in touch to see how we can help you with results driven digital marketing.

Paid search tips to help cut wasted spend and improve campaign performance

By: Ben Lippert, Senior Paid Media at SoMe

Utilizing a less is more mindset when developing and managing your Paid Search campaigns will undoubtedly improve your campaign performance and help make your job easier. It comes down to being more selective with your keywords and identifying additional ways to target your ideal audience. You don’t have to bid on hundreds of keywords to have an effective campaign, you just have to bid on the right keywords.

Ben Lippert, Senior Paid Media team member at SoMe, is obsessed with reducing wasted click costs.

“I used to think you had to bid on every variation of a keyword with all sorts of match types to be the most effective. Well, Google Ads has evolved drastically over the years, and fortunately, you don’t need to do that anymore.”

In fact, one of the automated campaign recommendations that Ben frequently sees Google bots offer is eliminating redundant keywords – and he loves this.

One powerful tactic that helps eliminate redundancy when used thoughtfully, is the use of broad match modified keywords. That simple plus sign before the keyword is clutch in covering all possible query variables. You can then review the search terms report to add negative keywords as needed, but you should have fewer “bad” searches triggering your ads as long as your target keywords are not too broad e.g. +flowers. The artful part of this process is understanding where a keyword falls – not too wide, not too narrow. As with any approach, this is where continued observation of performance will help you refine and improve your approach. Another common myth that Ben wants to dispel is the need to bid on a wide range of keyword themes in order to run an effective paid search campaign.

“I couldn’t have imagined bidding on a single keyword. What kind of paid search specialist would I be if I had merely one keyword in a campaign? Well, maybe a pretty smart one.”

That leads to Ben’s second recommendation.

Narrow your keyword list.

Don’t just stop at pausing redundant keywords – rather, look for keywords that are consuming a lot of budget and not driving results. Once you have identified those budget hogging keywords, review the search terms report for each keyword and see if you can replace them with long-tail versions that have driven conversions in the last 30-90 days. Although it may seem counterintuitive, It’s perfectly fine to only bid on a couple keywords per campaign. If your daily budget for a campaign is, say, $50, and your average CPC for top of page position is $5, well, then you can only get 10 clicks per day. You might be better off in this situation to eliminate keywords that don’t convert so that your limited budget can be allocated to your converting keywords.

Google Ads is constantly evolving and introducing new tools. One exciting thing that has been incorporated into paid search in recent years is audience integration. No longer is your paid search campaign targeting limited to the exact keywords people type in the search box, you can now also optimize campaigns so that only the users who are ready to buy or have specific interests will see your ads—yet another fantastic way to cut potentially worthless ad clicks and maximize your precious daily budget.

Ben is consistently utilizing the Audiences tab to go beyond the keyword.

“Whether you are preparing to launch a brand new campaign or you have a historic campaign that is performing well, take a look at the Audiences tab, where you will find a ton of options to choose from. Find several audiences that match your ideal customer and overlay (observe) how those audiences perform.”

The nice thing about overlaying audiences is that you can gather data without any impact to your campaigns. Once you have enough information you can decide to increase or decrease your bid on them, or perhaps exclude them completely. And don’t forget about demographic targeting in your paid search campaigns. A simple example of this would be if you have a campaign for women’s dress shoes. If your ad copy is geared towards the direct consumer (not the boyfriend/husband looking for gift ideas) it would make sense to exclude men. In this situation, I would create two campaigns: Campaign A targeting women searching for dress shoes and Campaign B targeting men who are shopping for dress shoes for their significant others. Write the ad copy to speak to the audience.

Don’t forget about campaign structure.

This is an important though often overlooked part of Paid Search campaign setup and management.

“You want to organize campaign structures to make management of campaigns and analysis of performance as simple as possible. There are many ways you can simplify your account structure to not only make your life as a digital marketer easier, you can improve results, too!”

Pretend your business has three main products or product categories. You should absolutely have a separate campaign for each. The main reason is because it allows you to allocate budgets to each product individually. If you start to see that Product A is not performing so well, you can outright pause that campaign or you can reallocate budget from Product A to Product B.

SoMe is a digital marketing agency headquartered in Chicago. SoMe partners with clients in the pursuit of reaching their marketing and business goals through digital platforms. They combine digital expertise with innovative creative to get the right message to the right customer at the right time. Get in touch to see how we can help you improve campaign performance, maximize your spend, and reach your goals through a dynamic paid search campaign.

SoMe Highlighted on Agency List 2018

SoMe is honored to be included on the list of best Chicago digital marketing firms by Agency List. 

Agency List is a professional resource to help businesses, students and industry professionals find the top advertising agencies in over 60 markets in every state across the country.

 

SoMe Lands Among Top Digital Agencies of 2017 in Clutch’s First Annual Global Press Release

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Standing out among the crowded landscape of digital agencies in 2017 can be challenging. Companies are looking for a one-stop solution to all of their online needs, which has resulted in an influx of digital agency competition. At SoMe, we value your firm’s growth as if it were our own. We pride ourselves on our ability to transform your company’s digital presence in order to keep up with the times. Our hard work and depth of technical knowledge separates us from the rest of the pack – however, it can be hard to distinguish the contenders from the “pretenders”.

That is why we are extremely proud to announce our inclusion in Clutch.co’s Global Press Release list of top Digital Agencies in 2017. Clutch.co is a directory platform that evaluates thousands of digital agencies across the globe. Once a year, they compile a global leaders list, and we are delighted to be among the best of the best. Part of the assessment includes speaking to our past and current clients in order to get an honest look at the work we’ve provided. Below is just one example of a satisfied client’s review:

“Honestly, it’s the joy for the work. Their CEO is a wonderful person and loves what he does, and that shines through in all the people that work with SoMe. They love what they’re doing and genuinely enjoy working with each other. That creates a lot of lightness and enjoyable meetings and communication.” Jim Jacoby, ADMCi.

We could not be happier to be included in this global press release. We will continue to build on our accomplishments from the past year, and look forward to forming new partnerships in 2018. If you’d like to find out more information about our previous work, please take a look at our Clutch.co profile!