Shiv Singh: September 2010 Archives

Twitter's a Fledgling or a lot more? WSJ Story

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The debate is on about how effective is advertising through Twitter. What makes this especially hard to grapple with is that we're talking about a new advertising format with new measurements for it. Arguably, with over 100 million tweets and 375,000 sign ups a day and with 160 million registered users worldwide, Twitter is steadily hitting the mainstream. But will you advertise on Twitter? 

Today's Wall Street Journal covers the question and quotes me mentioning the fact that we did a buy over the summer and are trying to figure out how best to use Twitter in the future. For the record, I'm bullish on Twitter and I'm excited about partnering with them in the future. However what I'm keen to understand is how can I better target through Twitter. For example, if one of my beverage brands is trying to reach millennials just in the northeast, can I today? If I cannot geo-target (I don't believe I can even limit to the US currently) or by age etc., it becomes harder to see the ROI.

Twitter is a phenomena there's no doubt about it. And without question, the executives at Twitter know the online marketing world well. I feel it is just a matter of time before they bring more sophistication to their ad products that allow for further targeting (they'll need to enter the world of cookies to do that though). What's interesting is that as Twitter brings more sophistication, they are also introducing us to totally new forms of advertising - advertising based on topics, advertising driven by the content of tweets and advertising  measured by the amount it was shared. 

Google Instant Search. Instant Annoyance?

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Disagreeing with Google is liking disagreeing with Apple. You're putting your reputation at risk. But I feel obliged to take the plunge as I'm feeling a little irritated with it.

In a nutshell, I think Google Instant Search is an instant annoyance. Yes, it'll save me a precious few milliseconds and the real time feedback will occasionally improve my search querying. I'll also enjoy the fact that I don't have to press the return button on my keyboard after entering a term. But those benefits come at a significant cost that may not be immediately apparent to everyone. Here are the critical reasons why I do not like Google Instant Search.

  1. Google Instant Flash. Too much like Times Square. It's frightening but when I first started playing around with Google Instant Search I was reminded of all those intro flash animations that we used to see on websites a decade ago. I begin typing and the page flashes to a results screen. I add another letter and it flashes to different search results. This "Times Square feel" is too much for me. That alone is reason enough to tun it off especially if you do a lot of searches and a lot of multitasking. It is a user experience irritant and arguably something against the very principles of simplicity that Google has taught us about. 

  2. Google Instant Distractions. Preventing task completion. I use the web for entertainment but also to do some serious business. And searching on Google is a critical piece of that. I don't go to the search box to browse. I go with keyword(s) or a few questions on my mind. And then I type in my query. With Google Instant Search as I begin typing in the query I am immediately distracted from the task at hand. 

    Here's how. Imagine I am looking to for information on "Wines of Southern France." As I start typing I see 3 search results screens flash by which have absolutely nothing to do with wines of southern France (unless you count the weather in Manhattan, Wikipedia and WinRar as being related to it). Then I get two general wine related results screens before I actually get the results screen I really want. It is hard to avoid looking at those interim results and they are useless for me. With the old Google search, I'd type in my query and the first set of results I'd see would be most applicable to me. Google Instant Search is searching for ways to distract me with this feature and it will distract me at times!

  3. Google Instant Long Tail Death. Hurting the long tail. I fundamentally believe that the heart and soul of the web lies in the long tail of websites. With Google Instant Search, I'm tacitly encouraged to focus on just the first page of a search results. There's so much else to distract me before I scroll down to the bottom of a page and click the next page link. In effect, Google Instant Search privileges the largest, most trafficked and most SEO friendly on the websites at the cost of the long tail. That's not good for the long tail and nor is it for the future of the Internet. 

    Another dimension to this issue is best expressed by Kevin Marks who said, "The normative influence of Google just got a lot stronger" implying that what we take for granted as an assumption regarding a particular topic will be driven more by Google. We won't click further than what Google tells is most important. Scary stuff.

So not surprisingly, I'm going to turn off the Google Instant Search feature. Do I think most people will also turn it off? Probably not. They'll get used to it and will accept it as a default search user experience. But I do believe it'll hurt overall searching with more distractions, less engagement with the long tail of the web and a weakening of the user experience. When Google innovates I expect a lot more from them and they've let me down especially by compromising the user experience.

Expanding Pepsi Refresh Everything into 2011

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I'm excited to share that Pepsi Refresh Everything is coming back in 2011 with the same funding ($1.3 million being given away) here in the States. It will also be expanding internationally to other regions around the world as well. The objective of Refresh Everything is simple - to help in our own way to make the world a better place by funding good ideas chosen by the community. And yes, it is a marketing initiative coming out of marketing budgets. It is designed to help the Pepsi brand and we're not hiding that fact. At the corporate level PepsiCo does other cause related marketing initiatives.

Every month in 2011 we'll be giving out $1.3 million to wonderful ideas that people nominate and vote on just as we are doing this year. The program has been extremely successful and was recently recognized by Forbes magazine as one of the five best social media programs ever.But we're also looking to strengthen the program further and learn from what has worked and what hasn't worked in 2010. With that in mind, we are going to be soliciting ideas on how best to strengthen the program on Facebook starting next week. Please share your recommendations then (though feel free to add them as comments to this blog post too). It is very much in the ethos of Refresh Everything to partner with you to learn how to make the program even better and useful. 

Some statistics from Pepsi Refresh Everything in 2010. We've had over 45 million votes to date with over 7,500 ideas voted on. The program gets more traffic than some of the web properties on which we'd normally consider advertising. And since the start of the program our fan base on Facebook has grown by approximately 700,000 fans. So thank you for your participation and please tell me how we can make it even better in 2011. It is worth pointing out that there's a fabulous (and large!) team that's behind this ongoing success and I'm excited to be a part of that group.

Blog Post Update
This Clickz piece quotes me discussing Refresh Everything. One point that I made in that article is that the website brings in so much traffic that we've realized that we need to think about it as a media property. That this is very much an example of a a brand becoming media as the site attracts more page views than some websites that solicit us for advertising. 

What's also interesting is that while paid media has played a significant role in building awareness for the program, the most valuable awareness building and engagement has come via the grant applicants who have asked their networks to vote for their ideas. With the community serving as the media too, the program has garned greater awareness and led to more applications, more votes and more interesting winners overall.