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What to Look For in
eCommerce Analytics

What to Look For in eCommerce Analytics
Akbar Jaffer

Analytics and eCommerce go together naturally. Before the advent of convenient eCommerce tools for analytics, simple site analytics could be informative for eCommerce site owners. But analytics have come a long way just over the past few years, and the more advanced analytics can help enterprise level businesses make the most of their online stores regardless of size.


Standard eCommerce analytics include information on where your traffic comes from, page interaction and navigation, conversion rate measurements, and “fall-offs,” which detail how and why people leave your website. But you need more, like information on shopping behavior during sales, checkout analysis, how site content affects sales, and which activities lead to more conversions.

Differences Between Site Analytics and eCommerce Analytics

Where site analytics tell you, for example, the sources of page traffic, eCommerce analytics tell you the origins of sales traffic. Furthermore, they can not only tell you about page interactions, but about shopping cart interactions. In other words, you can ask: “Where do my visitors convert, and where do they not convert?”

Three important items you can track through eCommerce analytics include:

• Multi-channel funnel reports showing which traffic sources convert best
• Shopping behavior analysis to determine why shoppers abandon carts
• Product performance reports to show where revenues are generated

As an example, multichannel funnel reports help you identify first and last channels before conversions and your best channel combinations. This allows you to focus more on productive channels in terms of page optimization, content creation, or advertising.

Identifying and Addressing Problems Using eCommerce Analytics

eCommerce analytics also helps you uncover and address problems before they can negatively affect sales numbers. Shopping behavior reports can identify phenomena like:

• Visits with no shopping activity
• Products that are viewed, but not added to carts
• Products added to carts but not purchased
• Ratio of sessions that check out to abandoned sessions

These indicators often point to simple problems that can be fixed easily such as by content-to-product linking, better shopping cart visibility, or increased clarity of pricing or shipping information. Other actions taken may include increasing stock of best sellers, investing more in promoting highly profitable products, analyzing pricing to ensure it’s on target, and creation/timing of promotions.

User Behavior and eCommerce Success

Advanced eCommerce analytics help you understand user behavior better so you can tailor your site more to customer needs. User behavior analytics can lead you to take actions like:

• Using targeted display ads for specific products
• Focusing social commerce efforts on visitors coming to your site from top converting traffic sources
• Re-targeting people who showed interest in specific products by offering special promotions on those products
• Identifying poorly performing products and adjusting marketing and social commerce efforts toward improving their sales performance

Segmenting Users for Better eCommerce Success

One size fits all marketing and social commerce strategies are not ideal. Your visitors are probably quite diverse, and your site analytics can let you know for certain. Advanced analytics can help you customize pages to maximize conversions based on traffic characteristics. Additionally, you can use segmentation as a framework for creating intentional, well-planned A/B experiments on your site to help you provide a more engaging shopping experience.

One example of segmentation that could be valuable to your eCommerce strategy is differentiating mobile from non-mobile users. You can even get tools that let you segment by device type so you can run experiments and be confident that a single device type isn’t skewing results. You can also segment based on things like repeat shoppers versus first time site visitors, users who have purchased recently versus users who made purchases a long time ago, and high “cart value” purchasers versus casual buyers.

Predictive Analytics and eCommerce

Predictive analytics combines techniques including statistical analyses, data mining, and operations research to help you understand data in the proper context. Combined with forecasting models, you can use predictive analytics to make more accurate predictions about future buying trends. Predictive analytics used to be reserved for bigger enterprises, but today tools are available to enterprise level eCommerce organizations of all types and sizes, along with the great insights they can reveal through processing and analysis of big data. Predictive analytics solutions customized for eCommerce allow eCommerce managers to make smarter strategic and operational decisions. Predictive analytics combined with customer engagement is expected to ultimately lead to a world of “hyper individualized experiences,” according to research firm Forrester.


Analytics are critical for your eCommerce and social commerce strategy. eCommerce analytics go beyond traditional site analytics, and today include exciting techniques like predictive analytics that can help your organization maximize sales numbers while wasting less time on techniques that are less beneficial.

Akbar Jaffer is the Vice President of Marketing and Products at Social Annex, Inc.


Cutting The Mustard With The Grey Poupon Facebook Society Of Good Taste

I should have seen it coming. The buzz of ‘Downton Abbey.’ The 76-page Ralph Lauren catalog that arrived last week – Ralph looking most un-cowboy-ish behind the wheel of an Aston Martin, British flag on the door, RL girls posed, now on raked gravel courtyards in impeccable tweeds, now on horseback in black velvet evening dress, the fine saddle leather a dreamy contrast and rhinestone collar providing a certain edge. Restoration Hardware’s tome also arrived, reeking of Manor–upstairs and down, plus adjacent stables.

Then Elizabeth Olson of The New York Times reported that Grey Poupon’s Facebook-based “Society of Good Taste” was about to go exclusive.

“Starting Wednesday, in a new advertising campaign on Facebook, would-be fans can have their profiles checked to see whether their proper use of grammar, taste in art, restaurant check-ins, books read and movies selected combine for a score high enough to merit membership in the Grey Poupon ‘Society of Good Taste.’”

Can Grey Poupon make marketing history by rejecting Facebook fans?From Rolls to DijonGate ’08 to Miracle Whip.

Who of a certain age does not remember the “Pardon me, would you have any Grey Poupon?” of the original early 1980s television commercial? Or appreciated the later version:  in one Rolls, Ian Richardson, evil Tory politician Francis Urquhart in “House of Cards,” in another “Yes, Prime Minister” actor Paul Eddington in need of mustard. Convincing Americans that a plastic squeeze bottle of Grey Poupon is A-OK was oh so easy: Is that Grey Poupon on your weiner?

A 2004 New Yorker piece (“The Ketchup Conundrum”) tells the great story of how these commercials and print ads created by Lowe Marschalk convinced Americans to switch from bright yellow French’s to the real French Grey Poupon.  Actually, it was by then made in Connecticut with New York State wine, and there was no proof that anyone in the U.K. actually used it to spice up anything whatsoever, but who cared? “By the end of the nineteen-eighties Grey Poupon was the most powerful brand in mustard,” ends the mustard section of the piece, which goes on to tell a sad tale in which one poor bloke seeks and fails to find the Holy Grail – the Grey Poupon of ketchup.

And who can forget DijonGate of 2008, in which then-candidate Barack Obama ordered a burger, politely requesting mustard, and very specifically for “a spicy mustard or something like that, or a Dijon mustard, something like that.” A Grey Poupon fan, I purchased an extra jar as the hay was made with that!

Miracle Whip and Grey Poupon are both Kraft brandsSo the news that this particular mustard brand was emerging from its low profile in the marketing world to defend its market share (a second-place 12.6 percent in a saturated market of mostly oldsters) by rejecting wannabe Facebook fans was intriguing. Adding spice to the news, sister brand Kraft Miracle Whip recently engaged in risky behavior on Twitter and has current TV commercials featuring a dark and tortured village square scene remixing Hawthorn’s The Scarlet Letter (the new red MW replacing the “A”) with a generic Salem witch hunt.

Others were intrigued and jumped on the story. In all the coverage, only the Whopper Sacrifice campaign, also created by Crispin Porter + Bogusky, the creators of the new Grey Poupon Facebook campaign, is called out as something remotely similar. That campaign challenged fans to dump their Facebook friends for the Whopper.  They did, although Facebook put a swift end to the fun.

The Baroness of Banality. Are You Talk’n to Me?

Confident in both my grammar and my good taste in condiments, I decided to sample the  experience that Grey Poupon was serving up. One week after the campaign began (with an existing fanbase of about 22,000 according to reports), I “Liked” The Society of Good Taste and the application process began.

A charming app, in which I was seated behind a group of judges viewing a screen, scoured my Facebook page. Everything whizzes by – photos were commented on too quickly to take notes, but the judges did seem to like one photo of our chocolate Lab on his surfboard. Fiery political links and comments from like-minded friends appeared as well. A sour observation that I should get “out and about” more often gave me pause, but then it was over.

The Grey Poupon Society of Good Taste Rejects Facebook Fans“The Baron of Banality” (to which I snapped, Baroness to you!) headed the statement: “You’re in the 33rd PERCENTILE” (no period, a word in all caps) above a paragraph, written in faux-Euro/Brit, inviting reapplication after a finishing school course or visit to a museum or “online literary hub.”  (I take my Trotsky solo, thanks).

Stunned. What was it? Why had I failed this test?

“LOL” is reportedly frowned on, and I’ve used that twice. OK, two of three restaurant check-ins were to an establishment known as Liar’s Saloon, but surely… No, it was true.

The Baron of Banality notice and all the gory details had been auto-posted to my Facebook page – and had already been “liked” by one of my exclusive group of 53 friends.

Retaliation (Engagement?) and The Return for More Abuse

I swear it was only to grab a screenshot of the judges oohing at the chocolate Lab on the surfboard that made me decide to reapply the very next day.

Long story short, as soon as the app started, my new computer froze.  I let out a few choice words and waited. Ten seconds later, an acceptance letter — my PERCENTILE had jumped to 68!  How had this happened?

I’ll admit to two things that may have convinced the judges. Immediately after being rejected, I – for the first time mind you – engaged on Facebook with a brand. No way was The Mustard getting away scot free. Not when a large jar of Grey Poupon had been laid in just last week. So, as can be seen above, I had responded to the notice posted by The Society with a comment: I’m All Shook Up! and threw in a video of Elvis singing the same to a crowd of screaming girls for good measure.

And, to demonstrate my good taste, I had also shared a lovely photo of a mountain with my Facebook friends, adding the elegant comment “Oh to be there.” This was heart felt — it is my favorite Colorado mountain — so I felt no shame. A friend’s unsolicited “It’s beautiful” reply doubled the impact.

Other than that, my post-rejection Facebook activity quickly returned to normal as I forgot myself and used “dag rat it” once, and “wing nut” appeared in a reply comment. Another friend’s “Pray that this lead holds until the election” may have been what really clinched membership in The Society on second try.

Critique, Questions and Predictions

(1)   The app itself is fun and well done. My only gripe is that now I’m a member and can’t go back for that screen shot of the judges critiquing my Labrador on his surfboard.

(2)   Will rejected fans return that unopened jar of Dijon?  Or take their rejections in good humour as they reach for the gold?

(3)   The whole point of this campaign is to get young people engaged with America’s faux-French mustard via a centuries-old, secret love affair with all things British. The original wildly successful appeal made advertising history. This Facebook campaign will not live up to the same standards of class. The Rolls are gone. The Prime Minister is gone. Some of the judges (we see only their silhouetted backs) could be the butler and the chambermaid from the shape of the hats. Further, the very first “perk” — already on its way — is a tote bag.

(4)   Something’s up with that algorithm. From the gutter of 33rd percentile to 68 with just a couple of new posts? Hmmm.

A would-be member of the The Grey Poupon "Society of Good Taste" on Facebook(5)   It’s all in good fun. According to reports, The Society of Good Taste started out last Wednesday with an existing fanbase of 22,000 (where they came from we do not know). Today, my fellow Society members number 35,057 (up from 34,810 yesterday). And I’m truly interested to find out whether a certain Peter Holländer will ever be admitted. Yesterday, he politely posted: I LOVE your mustard on a well done McRib, so would you please let me in?

Your turn – and let us know: Do you cut the mustard?

USA Today’s Super Bowl Ad-Meter Gets Social With Facebook

USA Today Teams With Facebook To Create Super Bowl Ad Rating AppThe Super Bowl is the biggest advertising event of the year, and Facebook and USA Today have partnered to create an application that allows fans to rate commercials during the event. Called the “USA Today-Facebook Super Bowl Ad Meter,” the app will be online through Facebook and USA Today, and available via mobile, for users to watch, rate, and share ads during the Super Bowl.

According to Mashable, USA Today has had an ‘Ad Meter’ running for years, but this is the first time that online consumers will help decide the winner.  Previously, USA Today organized volunteers and followed their immediate reactions to Super Bowl ads to determine the overall rankings. This year, the rankings on the Facebook app will be the main measure of ad performance, with the live volunteer group ‘supplementing’ the Facebook results.

Mike Hoefflinger, director of global business marketing at Facebook, told Mashable that “Making the Ad Meter social brings it to an entirely new level and we’re proud to be a part of it.”

Both companies expect the app to bring in some major sponsorship dollars, and joint packages will be available for advertisers who would like to purchase space on both platforms.

Mashable speculates that after a failure to secure rights to all of the Super Bowl advertisements last year, Facebook is eager to become “the definitive social network” for both ranking and sharing Super Bowl ads (against competitors including Hulu and YouTube).

How to Use Realtime Marketing To Deliver Value to the Right Customer at the Right Time.

It's Time to Go Realtime: our article from the Social Media Monthly September issue

===== This article originally appeared in the September issue of The Social Media Monthly, the first print magazine focused on social media.  We are sharing it here with permission from Bob Fine. Look for more articles and extended case studies from The Realtime Report in future editions! =====

It’s Time to Go Realtime.

If you think social media is about being friends with your customers or winning more followers, you’re missing the point.  The social graph is the conduit that allows brands to create real business value, rather than the value itself.

With the rise of social, mobile, geolocation and realtime services, brands have a massive opportunity to solve the two age-old problems of advertising:

  1. How do you get a customer’s attention when they don’t really want to be interrupted?
  2. How do you get the right message in front of the right customer at the right time?

Traditional advertising strategies involve bullhorns, 30-second spots, pop-ups and pre-rolls—all designed to interrupt consumers and force them to pay attention to your message.  Demographic profiles are ineffective when consumer needs, behaviors and interests change. Context and timing are even trickier: I may be a gadget geek, but that doesn’t mean I will pay attention to your ad for a new cell phone while waiting for my movie to start if I’m distracted or just not interested at that particular time.

Realtime marketing solves these problems.

Social consumers can be targeted based on an expression of interest in realtime.

Today’s social consumers publicly and willingly share information about themselves.  Through status updates, comments, video uploads, check-ins and “Likes,” social consumers provide actionable information about their location, preferences, mood and specific interests.

These fleeting, time-and context-specific expressions of interest provide the opportunity for brands to get attention by creating value.  Social consumers are engaging in behavior that is unstructured and not necessarily directed to a specific outcome.  Brands can interject themselves into that conversation and become a part of it, influencing and redirecting the consumer’s interest or behavior.

Do this inappropriately, and it’s spam.  But if you do this correctly, the customer will welcome the interruption, thank you and possibly even share their enthusiasm with their friends.

The Realtime Marketing Formula: 

Value = Time + Location + Shared Interest

Realtime marketers are not interrupting when they reply to a Twitter message with a solution or an offer for help, reward a Foursquare check-in with a special offer, or add a customer-produced video to a branded Facebook page. They are offering something of value, in a way that consumers are likely to find interesting, relevant and worth paying attention to.

That’s saying, “Thank you for telling us something about yourself. Because we know what your problem is, we can help solve it.  Because you’ve shared your location, we can serve you better. Because you’ve shared something that we think our other customers will like, we’re going to promote you and make you feel good about being part of our brand.”

In each case, the marketer has identified a shared interest—a need, desire, customer service issue, geographical proximity, useful or entertaining content—and found a way to create value for that specific customer, in realtime.  And because the marketer’s message is personal, immediate and relevant, it is going to earn the customer’s attention.

Realtime marketing solves the traditional advertiser’s dilemma because you are targeting a customer based on an expression of interest, and you are reaching out to them in a way that’s time- and context-appropriate.

Realtime marketing lets you target customers based on an expression of interest.

Let’s look at some concrete examples of how realtime marketing can create value, from the customer’s perspective:

  1. I arrive at my hotel on the first day of a trip and check in via Foursquare. I see a message saying that there’s a special nearby, and learn that the Mexican Grill on the corner is offering half-priced beer with a meal. Done!
  2. I’m on my way to the airport, and share this information in a tweet. I receive a reply message from an airline account Twitter account—not even the airline that I’ll be using—giving me a heads up that there are weather-related delays and a link to check flight status information. That’s a level of helpfulness and service that I’ll remember the next time I’m choosing my airline.
  3. I’m a sports fan, and have “liked” my team’s Facebook page in order to receive early notice on ticket sales.  I see a special on tickets for tomorrow night, but already have plans for a big date, so I share the ticket information with my Facebook friends, and one of them ends up buying two tickets.  Now he owes me!

In each case, the social expression of interest—sharing information about what I’m doing, about where I am, or about my interests—has allowed a business to create value for the customer, and to win new business in exchange.

Realtime Marketing is simple and scalable. The time to start is now.

Note that none of these examples require the marketer to deliver a personalized, individual message.  Today’s platforms and tools allow brands to create and manage realtime marketing campaigns that touch millions of potential customers.

It all boils down to three simple activities:

  • Define a potential expression of interest for your product, service or brand.
  • Listen—actively, by monitoring content, or passively, via a location-based service or mobile network—for customers to share information that will let you recognize and identify that interest.
  • Deliver an offer or a service, in a format that is easy for customers to respond to, and make it easy for them to share your offer with their social graph.

How you do each of these things for your brand is going to vary dramatically based on the type of business you’re in.  But the time for you to start becoming a Realtime Marketer is now.

Because somewhere out there, a customer is expressing interest.

Social Media ROI: Ads Provide a Big Return for KFC

KFC Social Media Presence Sees Real ROI KFC, the fried chicken restaurant franchise founded by Colonel Sanders, has fully embraced social media activity. And it’s paying big dividends. A study by Ogilvy found that consumers who were exposed exclusively to social media ads for KFC were seven times more likely to spend more than the average consumer.

However, this impressive statistic doesn’t come from a strict corporate focus on social media ROI.  Instead, Rick Maynard, manager of public relations at KFC, says the social media team isn’t required to prove a return on investment. Maynard said the company doesn’t spend much time trying to calculate the value of its 3.4 million fans on Facebook or nearly 44,000 followers on Twitter, but he believes the use of social media to cultivate relationships with customers “has a real business output.”

Rather than focusing on social media ROI, the goals of the corporate social media team – which is managed internally – are:

  • to connect and engage with KFC followers
  • cultivate relationships
  • respond to any inquiries
  • have some fun – ex. asking questions on the KFC Facebook page, like “There’s one piece of chicken left in the bucket. What do you do?”

KFC fans are more than willing to respond, and sometimes even initiate brand interaction. Maynard said the Colonel – who passed away quite some time ago – receives marriage proposals and has been invited to weddings. While he could not make those celebrations, of course, the company sent buckets of chicken for the reception. Fans also tweet photos to the company showing off their Colonel Sanders tattoos.

Product introductions from KFC always incorporate an element of social media, according to a recent post from SmartBlog on Restaurants.  That ranges from a $20,000 college scholarship contest on Twitter to the launch of KFC’s Double Down sandwich. Thousands of people commented about the sandwich launch on Facebook, others used Twitter to arrange group visits to restaurants to sample it, and dozens created YouTube videos of people trying the new sandwich.

KFC is clearly engaging fans through social media; is there any need for a deeper focus on ROI, or a way to measure that engagement?  Maynard said “It’s a very important customer-service element, and that’s enough for us.”  Do you agree?

Twitter Advertising Tryouts: How Four Brands Fared

Magnum Ice Cream in Twitter Promoted TweetRadio Shack, Unilever, Country Music Television and Zuji Australia are some of the more than 600 companies that Twitter says it has partnered with in its rapidly growing advertising business. In a recent report for eMarketer, social media analyst Kimberly Maul examined how those four brands fared with some of their test marketing efforts.

The bottom line: All four companies reported increases in followers, mentions and retweets. Maul says these results demonstrate that buying a promoted tweet can increase social media engagement by connecting with fans, spreading brand awareness and tying a brand to a specific topic of conversation. But these campaigns have not yet proven that the efforts will result in sales increases or higher TV ratings, for instance.

In her report, which she summarized in a post on AdAge Digital, Maul says “there is still a big gap” when it comes to connecting business goals with increased social media engagement. Here is a quick look at the four case studies.

As part of a years-long effort to connect the brand with its Team RadioShack cycling team, the electronics retailer incorporated Twitter Promoted Products in its marketing campaign around last May’s Amgen Tour of California. It purchased the trend #BackTheShack and several other promoted tweets throughout the week of the race to keep the conversation front and center. According to @adrianparker (the company’s social media director who spoke at Realtime NY11 this year), RadioShack gained 1,200 followers during the week of the campaign and there were more than 16,700 mentions of the #BackTheShack hashtag.

The company launched its Magnum ice cream brand in the United States this past March and part of the kickoff was a Twitter marketing campaign using its @MagnumIceCream handle. It wanted to tie the brand with fashion, technology and pop culture that appeal to its target audience, so it purchased a promoted trend ad using the hashtag #RoyalWedding. According to the company, Magnum received 89 million impressions on April 29 that were related to that hashtag with 83,000 clicks on the links it posted, more than 1,000 retweets and 270 replies, mentions or direct messages. 

Country Music Television
A week before its 2011 CMT Music Awards on June 8, the cable TV network began using promoted tweets and a promoted account. The ads announced new performers, led people to online voting, included videos and encouraged tune-in to the show. That helped its @FollowCMT Twitter account gain 4,000 new followers in the week it advertised the CMT Music Awards on Twitter. In addition, the hashtag #CMTawards was mentioned more than 30,000 times during the night of the show. 

Zuji Australia
The online travel agent, part of Travelocity, started using promoted tweets and accounts at the end of May 2011. It purchases promoted tweets for search terms and non-promoted hashtags that relate to travel, Australia and other issues where Zuji could contribute. The company says it already has more than doubled its follower base in the two months since it started using Twitter ads.

Marketers from these brands mentioned benefits from their Twitter advertising campaigns:

  • gaining a ‘tech-savvy reputation’
  • integrating ads ‘seamlessly’ into social media content
  • providing real-time interaction
  • giving added value to ‘already buzz-worthy events’

As for bottom-line results?  The jury is still out….but more companies are testing the waters with advertising on Twitter.  Just 150 companies did so at the end of 2010, but as of June 2011, 600 companies have now been involved in some type of Twitter advertising campaign.





Promoted Tweets in Your Timeline: Win, Fail or Boring?

Regular readers will know that I’ve been working on the Best of the Backchannel posts, where I get to read through all of the tweets that attendees sent during our most recent Realtime Conference, and create posts summarizing the key take-aways via your tweets.  (By the way, I love doing these!)

Ironically, on the day that Twitter announces that they will begin streaming promoted tweets in the timeline itself, I reached the point in the conference agenda at which I moderated a really interesting panel discussion that included Steve Klabnik, the founder of rstat.us  Rstat.us is an open-source service that clones the basic functionality of Twitter with a non-commercial distributed system.  The panel discussion also included Ajit Jaokar, the founder of futuretext and a respected authority on networked systems, and Joe Sarmiento from UberMedia, which had recently found itself on the wrong side of Twitter’s developer policies.

photo of the #RLTM NY panel with Ajit Jaokar, Steve Klabnik, Joe Sarmiento and Tonia Ries

The #RLTM NY panel with Ajit Jaokar, Steve Klabnik, Joe Sarmiento and Tonia Ries.

Steve Klabnik believes that “Twitter is too important to be owned by Twitter.” He started rstat.us not to compete with Twitter commercially, but to give people an alternative and to provoke debate about these issues in the realtime community.   How should the ecosystem of developers be managed?  What rights should the users of micro-blogging services retain to the content they’re creating?  What business models best serve the interests of the founders and the community?

He got the attention of Realtime NY 11 attendees pretty quickly:

@nwjerseyliz: #RLTM Fascinating to hear @SteveKlabnik talk about “software sharecropping” in the @Twitter ecosystem. Alternative? Open Source

@cdn: Is rstat.us the new Twitter? #RLTM

And then he said this:

Image of a tweet sent by @rachellevi on June 6. The text of the tweet: "ads are boring" - @steveklabnik #rltm





Marissa McNaughton was live-tweeting from the @RealtimeReport account, and added more detail, which Steve later replied to:

@RealtimeReport: .@steveklabnik: Ads are boring, and the last resort for startups. If that’s the base of your monetization strategy, you’re a lil’ late #RLTM

@steveklabnik: Thanks #rltm! And it’s true: every VC I’ve ever talked to says that selling ads is a business model of last resort.

@TheRealCherylM: It does feel fairly uncreative. Is there no other way to monetize? RT @steveklabnik: Thanks #rltm! And it’s true: every VC I’ve ever…

Over the last 3 or so years, plenty of pundits have offered suggestions on what Twitter’s business model should be.  Many of these ideas were some variation on the advertising model.  Others thought that perhaps Twitter should be more of a utility, rather than a platform, providing a service on which third-parties (developers, users) can create value.

Either way, here we are, and Promoted Tweets are now part of the stream.  It’s not as scary as it sounds:  you’ll only see them if you’re following a brand already, you can easily eliminate them, and so far the Twitter team has done a great job of helping advertisers to find ways to make their Promoted Products feel intriguing and not too spammy.  There are some very smart people working on this issue at Twitter, and so far they are finding ways to make the product work for both users and advertisers.

For some, however, there will always be an inherent disconnect between the idea of injecting a sponsored message into a stream and the free-wheeling, open nature of the conversation on Twitter. Whether Twitter can overcome that with smart messaging, targeting and timing will be interesting to watch.

@nwjerseyliz: #RLTM This panel, critical of @Twitter’s policies, is refreshing after all of the gung-ho social media presentations.

Let us know whether you think that Twitter’s ad-supported business model is a major win, a massive fail, or just “boring.”  We’ll keep hosting all sides of the debate.

Online Americans Viewed Over 5 Billion Video Ads in June

New data from comScore’s Video Metrix service reveals that 178 million U.S. Internet users watched online video content in June 2011, with an average of 16.8 hours per viewer. An impressive 85.6% of the U.S. Internet audience viewed online video during the course of the month. U.S. internet users engaged in an all-time high of over 6 billion viewing sessions in June, and viewed over 5 billion online video ads.

The comScore data ranked the top 10 Video Content Properties by Unique Viewers:

  • Google Sites ranked as the top online video content property in June with 149.3 million unique viewers (driven by YouTube.com), and also had the highest number of viewing sessions – over 2 billion – and most time spent per viewer – 5.4 hours
  • VEVO had 63 million viewers
  • Yahoo! Sites had 52.7 million viewers
  • Microsoft Sites had 50.7 million viewers
  • Viacom Digital ranked fifth with 49.5 million viewers

Video ads reached nearly half (49%) of the total U.S. population an average of 35.6 times during the month. Online video ads account for 13.6% of all videos viewed and 1.3% of all minutes spent viewing video online. The duration of the average online video ad was 0.4 minutes (compare to online content videos, with an average duration of 5.4 minutes).

Online video ad properties were also ranked, with Hulu receiving the highest number of video ad impressions, at over 1 billion, and also delivering the highest frequency of video ads to viewers, an average of 38.8.

More than 2 billion minutes were spent watching videos ads in June, with Tremor Media Video Network generating the highest duration of video ads – 429 million minutes.

TechCrunch notes that while YouTube previously stated the site handles 3 billion views per day, they were presumably counting individual video views. comScore’s measurement of viewing sessions is different, defined as “a period of time with continuous video viewing followed by a 30-minute period of video inactivity.”

72% of Brand Marketers ‘Currently Using Mobile’ Plan To Increase Mobile Ad Spending

A new survey by the Interactive Advertising Bureau confirms that mobile advertising platforms are being adopted rapidly by marketers.  The most striking data: 72% (nearly three-quarters) of survey respondents are looking to increase their mobile advertising budget over the next two years, and 35% expect to increase mobile ad spending by over 50 percent in that same timeframe.

The study – entitled “Marketer Perspectives on Mobile Advertising” – surveyed over 300 top brand marketing executives “currently using mobile in their media mix.” Of those:

  • just over half (51%) currently ‘treat mobile platforms as an integral element of their overall advertising strategy’
  • 35% are ‘experimenting’ with mobile
  • 14% are tapping into mobile on an ad-hoc basis

Respondents felt the following were key benefits of mobile advertising:

  • Immediacy (considered of high importance by 57% of respondents)
  • Cost-effectiveness (54%)
  • Increased engagement (52%)

When asked which mobile devices are most important in current campaigns, respondents chose:

  • Smartphones (a high priority for 60% of respondents – twice as important as any other device)
  • Tablets (31%)
  • Feature phones (22%)
  • Ebooks (10%)
  • Connected games consoles (3%)

Respondents were also asked what challenges they faced attempting to incorporate mobile into their campaigns.  The main issues:

  • Device fragmentation (cited by 72% of respondents as a challenge of medium or high importance)
  • Privacy issues (70%)
  • Lack of standardized metrics (69%)
  • Limited opportunity for creative (60%)**

**The study revealed that 62% of respondents do not use creative agencies for mobile advertising, but of those few that do use creative agencies for mobile, 85% felt the partnership produced ‘good results.’

The survey was conducted by Ovum Consulting in April-June 2011 on behalf of IAB. Interviews were conducted with key marketer decision makers and budget holders.

Colgate Launches ‘Smile’ Campaign via Facebook

On June 28th, Colgate launched a new campaign in Britain encouraging fans to take pictures of themselves smiling, post them to Facebook, and potentially have their photo displayed on digital billboards in the UK.  The toothpaste brand aims to collect 1 million ‘smile’ pictures by summer’s end, and will donate £100,000 to Barnardo’s (a UK children’s charity) if that goal is reached.

UK fans of the toothpaste brand can upload their ‘smile’ photos onto Colgate’s UK Facebook page, and the photos will randomly appear on billboards in London, Liverpool and Birmingham.  The campaign was created by VML London, and ClickZ quotes VML account manager Gemma Brown, “Integrating the photos of Facebook users is a good fun incentive for anyone who’s dreamed of starring in their own billboard campaign.”

Will Colgate reach its goal of 1 million smiles? Is ‘randomly’ being on a billboard – and/or the opportunity to support a popular charity – enough incentive to engage with a brand on Facebook?