I love memes. They’re simple. They get one point across. They tend to be amusing.
I also like being “in the know” and there’s typically some backstory to the meme that you need to understand for it to make sense. It’s kind of like an exclusive club for the Internet set of us out there.
What I really like about memes is how you can use them to express a really simple concept.
For those of you who don’t really know what a meme is, here’s the official definition (thanks to Google’s handy “define” feature):
An element of a culture or system of behavior that may be considered to be passed from one individual to another by nongenetic means, esp. imitation
So, the key feature of a meme is really it’s ability to be passed along from one person to another. Sometimes it’s a joke and sometimes it’s a movement and something far more serious. However, when I look at a meme, I do something different than most people. I try to look for a lesson. I look for the one thing that I can learn from it. I also look at memes and figure out how I can use them to explain something else and to try to better understand human nature.
I’m weird like that.
This is what I’m doing today. I’m going to use the top memes of 2011 to review everything I witnessed as far as digital marketing trends in 2011. There will be plenty of lessons mixed in along the way. Chances are that you haven’t seen or heard of all of these memes (maybe none of them). You might not get some of the jokes, but I’ll do my best to explain them and I’ll point you to the good folks at Know Your Meme to give you even more detail if you want it. Read More…
Somewhere along the way, I began to notice that I developed a really low tolerance for the abuse of legitimate research and statistics in an effort to garner a great headline. When I see these headlines, I’m usually among the first to dig into the “research” and figure out the real story. What’s missing? What methods were used? Do the actual conclusions match the headlines? A favorite of mine is the chart at the top of this post (courtesy of the P.A.P. Blog). Not every headline purported to be backed by statistics makes sense even if it appears to on the surface. This one appears to show that increasing the number of lemons imported to the US from Mexico reduces highway fatalities. Read More…
A while back, I wrote a post called “Why Your Facebook Page Doesn’t Exist,” which got a good response, but made a few people a bit nervous. I’m back to make more people even more nervous today. If you thought having a Facebook page that no one really ever saw was bad, how about if I tell you that no one sees your emails either? Ugh.
Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that day may be close courtesy of your friends at Google. With little fanfare, a couple of weeks ago, Google launched Priority Inbox for Gmail. Here’s a quick overview of what it is:
Two things…first, if you use Gmail, I guarantee you just went and activated this. Second, if you use email marketing for your brand or company, that video probably made you a bit uneasy. I activated this the second I heard about it and couldn’t wait to see how it worked. It didn’t disappoint. For those who didn’t watch the video, what Priority Inbox does (as its name suggests) is prioritize your email messages by highlighting the ones it deems most important. These most important emails move to the top of the list to a section called “Important and Unread” regardless of when they were received. It looks like this:
Handy, eh? How does it work? Simple really. Google took its really great spam filter and basically told it to do the exact opposite. Instead of finding the most useless messages (spam), find the most important. Its a brilliant little tweak that works really well. For now, this only works on the Web version of Gmail, but the concept is too powerful for it to remain exclusively there for long. Nearly every email platform and corporate email provider has spam filtering, so how long before they make the same tweak as Google and offer this same prioritization? For providers looking to grab some corporate market share, this is a nice feature that any client would probably like to add.
I can say that in my two weeks of using Priority Inbox I’ve noticed two things. First, it works almost perfectly, meaning it doesn’t categorize much incorrectly. You can correct it when it does so that it gets even smarter, so by now it’s running almost flawlessly for me. Second, all I could think about when I was using this was when I could get the same thing for my corporate email account on Outlook. It might be a little while, but know that it’s coming.
As a marketer, and one who works for a digital marketing agency that manages a lot of CRM programs for a lot of clients that includes a lot of email, Priority Inbox both excites me and scares the hell out of me. To be sure, for all the noise about social media, I’m still a big fan of email (see here: “Pharma Can Use Email Marketing to Improve…Everything“). Why am I a big fan with all the buzz about social media? Simple. Email sells cases. Period. It works. For now (and this might change in the very near future), there are very few tactics that can deliver as immediate, predictable, and measurable results as email marketing. Having said that, Google might just be out to change all that.
Remember, Google’s goal is to get you to use more of Google products. So, they continuously make them better and introduce new ones. As you use it more, guess what? You see more text ads that you eventually click on. When you do, cha-ching, money for Google. It’s a system that works really well for them and, frankly, for me as a consumer. It’s a fine tradeoff to be able to use Gmail for free seeing as it’s something I would gladly pay quite a bit for. Google’s goal is not to get your brand’s email opened or clicked. Their goal is to make Gmail better. Better means that it’s quicker and easier to use. One of the best ways to make it quicker is to help people sort out all the junk and get to the important stuff.
As you can see, there are a bunch of commercial emails that filled up my email inbox for just one day. One other thing…none of them are read. I don’t care about any of them. For most, I don’t remember when I even signed up for them and, frankly, I’m too lazy to unsubscribe from them (check out the cartoon at the end of this post for some additional perspective). Google knows this. So, with Priority Inbox, I never have to even address these anymore or worry about losing an important email amongst the clutter. In the two weeks of using Priority Inbox, only one commercial email has ended up in my “Important and Unread” section of Gmail. One out of probably 150. I’m not totally sure why that one ended up there, so I told Gmail not to make the same mistake in the future, which I’m certain won’t be a problem.
If you’re using email marketing for your brand or company, you should be a little nervous. The point you should notice by now is that I’m (and your other subscribers) likely not seeing your email. I’m not seeing it because Google doesn’t think it’s important to me. They’re right. While Google has marked some important messages with normal status, I can fix this by marking them as Important, so that the filter does a little better next time. I’ve done this for about 10 messages in the past two weeks. I can tell you that not once have I done this with a commercial email. I’ve also realized that I haven’t missed a single one. I haven’t been wondering where my email from company X is or when my regularly update from company Y is coming.
How does Google figure out which emails are important and which aren’t? Here’s how they explain it: “Gmail uses a variety of signals to predict which messages are important, including the people you email most (if you email Bob a lot, a message from Bob is probably important) and which messages you open and reply to (these are likely more important than the ones you skip over).” So, if you’re a marketer and want me to see your email, get me to do the following:
Open your email
Reply to your email
Send you an email
Nope. You probably notice the problem. There aren’t really any commercial email campaigns out there that invite people to respond back to the email (in fact, most explicitly tell you not to reply) and there isn’t any reason why I’d send an email your company’s email program. Let’s assume those are out of your control. There might be some other factors, too. Google doesn’t like to give away the full algorithm for any of its products so that no one can game the system. However, you can probably assume that clicking on a link in an email is probably important, but we don’t know for sure. So, the one factor that you know is important and you can affect is open rate.
Am I opening your emails? Probably not and no one else is either. According to Epsilon, email open rates are around 22% in their most recent data. Also, this data shows that the average click rate is 5.3% (down from last year) and yet the average volume of email sent per company is up 10.6% compared to last year. Bottom line, companies are sending more email and people are finding these emails less relevant. Combine this with the birth of Priority Inbox and it’s a potential perfect storm for companies relying on email marketing.
Putting Priority Inbox aside, one goal for your email program is obviously to get people to open the email and probably to click on it. Epsilon noted that “Consumers are much more likely to open messages that contain relevant content based on their past behavior and preferences.” Are you making content that is relevant to people? If you’re sending emails about the latest sales on dresses to your male customers, you’re probably not hitting this mark. That’s pretty easy to avoid. How about ensuring that you aren’t sending me emails for engagement rings since I’ve been married for almost (17 more days) 8 years? Those are just the basics. You need to invest a little to really understand your customers, record their preferences and past behavior, and create something that’s meaningful to them. It’s not impossible.
I’m not one to pat any airline’s marketing efforts on the back, but here’s a simple example of a highly individualized email from Delta in my post “Personalization and Individualization…What’s the Difference?“. This is all you need to do. If your current CRM database isn’t capable of collecting this type of information and automatically generating an email like Delta’s, then you need a new system. If it is capable and you’re not using it, start today (if you need help, feel free to contact me and find out how my company can help you).
For all you skeptics and cynics out there who are thinking that Priority Inbox isn’t worth getting nervous about, consider this. Gmail has more than 176 million users now (according to ComScore data). Go through your email database and see what percentage are Gmail users. I guarantee that it’s higher than what you’d expect. For my part, 16% of subscribers for the Dose of Digital White Paper and Presentation email list are Gmail users (PS: sign up here). Fortunately for me, these people must find the content of the emails relevant, as around 50% have opened one of the most recent emails I sent (which is around once every 4-6 weeks). This means that Google is more likely to put a future email I send in the Important and Unread section of these subscribers’ inboxes. If the emails aren’t relevant all of a sudden, I’d expect that to change pretty quickly.
And while, 176 millions users might not be enough to sway you (I’m not sure why though), rest assured that this type of feature will be coming to other email providers and platforms in the near future. Gmail today…everyone else tomorrow.
Besides creating better emails, what else can you do? I’ll give you one big tip that only those dedicated few who have made it all the way through this post are going to get. Thanks for sticking around. Okay, here it is. Right now, it seems like the thing to do now with email is to ask subscribers to Like you on Facebook or follow you Twitter. That’s fine. However, if you are like other marketers, you probably do more marketing via email than social media, so it’s critical to get the email stuff right before worrying about social media (this from me, who is “Director of Social Media”, so you know I think it’s important). So, how about asking your subscribers to do something different? Instead of asking them to Like you, how about asking them to increase the priority of your email?
Assuming that your email didn’t land in the Important and Unread section of their Gmail, then you need to help ensure it does next time. You can do this by having them flag the message with a higher priority. If they do it, then the next time you send an email to this person it’ll likely appear in the Important and Unread section. I know what you’re thinking…that’s just one person…we’ve got thousands (or millions) in our database. Showing up in the priority section of one person’s inbox isn’t helping us. Well, you see Gmail is smarter than that. When enough people mark the same email as spam in Gmail or the same company’s emails are keep getting marked as spam by a bunch of people, guess what? Gmail eventually categorizes it as spam for everyone and sends it directly to your Gmail spam folder. Since Priority Inbox uses the same algorithms as Gmail’s spam filter, you can be fairly sure that it uses the same general idea. That is, if enough people increase the priority of a company’s emails, then eventually Gmail will classify them as important for everyone. So, maybe your next email should have a little diagram like this as a call to action.
If you read this and said to yourself, “that great, but it would annoy all the people who aren’t Gmail subscribers if we included this in an email to all of subscribers,” then you need a new email database or a new way of looking at the one you have. Even the most basic systems (including nearly-free Mailchimp, which I use for Dose of Digital) allow you to filter out people based on email address. So, create one version of your monthly email that goes to people with Gmail addresses that includes whatever content you want plus this new call to action. For those who don’t have a Gmail address, send them the usual. [PS: the next step is to stop sending requests for people to Like you on Facebook who don't have Facebook accounts or who already Like you (or do you?), but that's a post for another day.]
So, there are a few ideas of what to do to get ready for Priority Inbox from Gmail and at the same time make your email campaigns more effective. As some parting inspiration, here’s a great cartoon I found that gives you an idea of how not to conduct your email program. If this reminds you of your program, Priority Inbox is the least of your problems.
If you’re looking for more about digital marketing in pharma, register for the 2010 E-patient Connections Conference. This year’s conference features three different tracks: mobile, gaming, and, yes, social. I’m co-chairing the Social Pharmer track, so expect a different approach compared to the regular conferences you’re used to.
I’m also teaching a tutorial the day before the conference called “Social Media Accelerator.” This will be an interactive workshop that will provide a quick way to catch up on social media in healthcare, including a review of the most and least effective social media marketing programs across industries. You’ll learn about the social media platforms used by patients and physicians and discuss opportunities and challenges of social media marketing, including within the context of DDMAC regulations. You’ll leave with a “best practice” process for creating and approving social media programs within your organization. Bring your questions, as there will be some good discussion time.
Register for the conference and use code “rx2010” (no quotes) and you’ll get $300 off. As a further incentive (as if you need one), everyone who registers gets a free Zeo Personal Sleep Coach system and some other great gifts too.
Over the past year or so, many pharma and healthcare companies have jumped into social media with many trying their hand at Facebook. You can see the full list on the Pharma and Healthcare Social Media Wiki. Just click down to the Facebook section. There you’ll see around 50 examples (and I’ll be adding about 5 more in the next update). [Note that this post is applicable to every industry and isn't pharma or healthcare specific.]
Nearly all of these pages have one thing in common. They do not allow comments on the page’s Wall. There are a number of different ways I can argue why this isn’t the best approach, but the rationale often given to me by these companies are related to three things. First, they don’t want people to post adverse events on the page or, second, they don’t want people to post off label information about the product, and, third, they don’t want to deal with negative comments of any sort. In today’s post, I’m not going to argue why these aren’t great excuses. I’ll save that for some other time.
There’s another side effect of not allowing commenting. If you turn off commenting, you also turn off the Like function. You can’t have one without the other. Of course, the Like is far less “dangerous” than a comment, as you can’t add commentary to a Like on the Facebook Wall. You just Like it. That’s it. So, I think most companies would, er, like to allow Fans to be able to Like individual Wall posts and updates, but they are not willing to allow commenting to make this happen.
The end result is that Wall posts and status updates receive no comments and no Likes. So, what’s the big deal?
First, let’s remember that most of your actions on Facebook will appear on your Wall.
Next, let’s say that you are the admin for a brand page (like Dose of Digital’s…sorry, couldn’t resist a promotion opportunity). When you do a Wall post or status update, what happens to it?
What you probably think happens (if you’re like most people) is that all of the “Fans” of your Page will see this post. But, it’s likely that the vast majority don’t and, in fact, it’s possible that not a single one of them sees it.
Once you Like (previously Fan) a Page, you essentially subscribe to updates from that Page. Of course, you’re not going to visit every Page that you Like each day, so Facebook makes it easy for you by having a feed of all these updates in one place. It’s your News Feed. This is what you see when you first log into Facebook. It looks a little like this:
Stay with me because I’m about to show you the problem you have by not allowing comments and Likes.
Many of you probably have never noticed the setting at the top of the Feed…
By default, everyone’s Feed is set to “Top News.” But what exactly is “Top News”? Before I explain that, I’ll explain the simpler option, “Most Recent.” If you click on “Most Recent,” your Feed will change to show, get this, the most recent updates, posts, Likes and comments (etc.) from your friends and the same from pages you have Liked. It’s strictly based on the time the update was made with the most recent at the top. Raise your hand if you thought that your Feed was showing content in this form by default. Those with your hands up, thanks for being honest. That’s what most people think.
“Top News” is a bit trickier and is also the default setting for the feed. In this setting, the Feed is trying to show you the content that it believes is most meaningful or interesting to you out of all the possible content from your friends and Pages you Like. That means that the newest item isn’t at the top, but rather the item with the highest EdgeRank. “The what?”, you say.
EdgeRank is the algorithm that Facebook uses to determine the order of items in your Feed. In the end, it’s really simple, as it has just three factors: affinity, edge, and decay. Fancy words, but here’s what they are. Affinity is basically the connection between you and the piece of content. The more times you’ve interacted with the source of the content (Facebook calls it an “object”) in the past, the higher the affinity. For example, if you comment on your sister’s Wall everyday, content from your sister will have a high affinity score because you interact a lot with her. Second is “edge.” It sounds cooler than it is. All that edge refers to the relative weight of objects. For example, a comment on a Wall Post probably carries more weight than a Like because it take more effort to post a comment. I say probably because this is the proprietary part of the algorithm. Last, and simplest, is decay. This is the time that has past since the object was created.
Multiply the individual scores for each possible object and then arrange the content accordingly. That’s how your News Feed is populated. Now you know. Sleep easy tonight.
Why should you care?
If you’re someone responsible for a brand Facebook Page, you should care quite a lot because EdgeRank is what is likely preventing anyone from ever seeing your content. The reality of the News Feed is that people browse the top entries and dive in when they see something interesting. Sometimes they’ll come right back to the News Feed and many other times, they’ll head somewhere totally unrelated based on something else they find. People certainly don’t read one News Feed item after another until they get to the end. If your content is showing up towards the top of people’s News Feed, you create a virtuous cycle. If more people see it, then more people comment and Like it. The more people that do this, the more their Likes and comments related to your content show up on their Walls, and therefore, their friends’ News Feeds. This exposes your content to more potential Fans who then Like your page and leave comments. This ensures that your content is even higher on more News Feeds and so on. For example, I’m a Fan of Mashable on Facebook. Everytime they put out something new it’s right around the top 2 or 3 stories in my News Feed. It’s because I interact with (read, comment, Like, etc.) many of these posts and so do hundreds of others.
So, the question is this: Does your content ever show up among the first few items on anyone’s News Feed?
To answer this, let’s bring back EdgeRank. First, affinity. If you’re like most pharma and healthcare brands, your affinity score is pretty low. Because you don’t allow commenting or Likes, people don’t interact with you very often. Maybe they read an Update (assuming they see it), but that’s it. Because you probably don’t do regular updates, they probably don’t even do this very often. Low affinity…check. Next is edge. Interactions that require a bit of effort rank higher than those that don’t. From my earlier example, leaving a comment takes more effort than simply Liking something. Similarly, posting a photo requires more work than a text update. You get the idea. Because the only thing you’re likely doing with your page is Wall posts (that are likely just text), there isn’t much edge. These are low engagement activities that score the lowest. People have to interact with your content to create more edge. Finally, we come to decay. If you aren’t updating regularly, then your Posts will always suffer from a low score here as well. The only way to improve decay is to make sure you have regularly updated content to increase the number of times that your EdgeRank is calculated for something new, which would have a higher decay score.
For those scoring at home, most pages will be zero for three. The consequence of this is that all the effort you put into building your Fans on Facebook might have been a complete waste. The point of having Fans is that you can communicate with them. The best way to do this is for them to see your new content. The place they see new content is in their News Feed. But your content probably isn’t in their News Feed. As far as your Fans are concerned, your page may as well have been deleted.
So, now that I’ve got your attention, how do you know if anyone is seeing your content? Facebook recently upgraded their analytics to let you see both the number and types of interactions with content (comments, Likes, etc.) and also the number of impressions. Facebook’s definition of an “impression” is anytime it serves (displays) a certain piece of content. It doesn’t mean that someone actually read it, but that it was there. The content could have been served in a number of places including user’s news feed, a visit to the Page, or through an Open Graph social plugin (which include many of the ones seen here). This is similar to how impressions for banner ads on websites are measured. That is, impressions are the number of visitors who could have seen the banner, not the number that actually saw it.
How do you find the number of impressions for your content? When you are logged into an account that is an admin for the Page you’re interested in, go to: http://www.facebook.com/insights. You’ll get to a page like this:
A word of caution here…many people have reported bugs with the data from these insights pages that cause inaccurate or missing data. It’s the best we have though, so stay with me. This is what the insights page looks like for a given Facebook Page:
I can tell you that for my Page, the interactions numbers are wrong, but let’s continue. If you click on the “See Details” link next to Interactions, you end up here:
What’s missing here and what we need to figure out the number of impressions is, well, the number of impressions. You see that for me, “n/a” is all that appears. There are two different explanations for this, which I’m working on figuring out which is true (or if both are). I’ll post an update to this post when I get an answer from Facebook. Explanation 1: Impressions are only available for Pages with more than 5,000 Fans. This was given by Facebook as the cutoff when they first announced that per post impression data would be available earlier this year. If this is the case, then most pharma and healthcare pages aren’t going to get impressions data. Explanation 2 (potentially related to explanation 1): Facebook answers an FAQ about this noting that “Per-post insights are only available on verified, authentic Pages. If your Page is not verified as authentic, then this feature is not available.” No mention of 5,000 Fans here. So, if you have less than this, then you might be golden. Unfortunately, Facebook doesn’t tell you how to verify your page in their answer. But, one of the reasons you read this blog is because you know I have to figure this stuff out. So, here’s a link to the form you need to fill out to get your Page verified (hat tip to Inside Facebook for this one). How long that takes or if it works is anyone’s guess.
If you can see insights information right now, then great. Is is what you expected? Higher or lower? On average, it’s a 1:1 ratio for impressions to Fans. That is, if you have 1,000 fans, your Wall Post, for example, will typically get 1,000 impressions. This isn’t because every Fan actually was served the content (much less saw it), but because some were served it multiple times. Remember, impressions don’t mean that people actually saw and read the content much less engaged with it. However, this ratio only holds true for brands that post quality content and that have some engagement from Fans. Remember, EdgeRank and how the News Feed works? You’ll get more impressions if your content is always at the top of people’s Feeds. You’ll get way less if it never shows up. The feed displays around 20 of the top pieces of content. If yours is the 21st based on EdgeRank then you won’t even get an impression. To get to the top, you need a high EdgeRank and we’ve already talked about that.
The big point here is simple. By not allowing comments and, therefore, Likes and by updating content rarely and making it mostly text, you’re all but ensuring that your Facebook efforts are reaching no one. Allow comments and with them, Likes. You may have to remove a comment here and there, but that’s okay. You can remove it as soon as it’s posted if you’d like. No harm done. To me, there isn’t a real regulatory risk if you act in good faith. If someone publishes something off-label, for example, to your Wall or as a comment to your post and you remove it at the first chance you get, do you really think that the FDA is going to penalize you for that? You can’t control what people put on the site, you don’t encourage or condone this type of information, and you act on it as soon as you know there’s an issue. I don’t get what the concern is. There are a handful of pharma and healthcare pages out there that have opened up commenting and the vast majority are handling it just fine. In fact, they’re getting people to actively engage with the brand for the first time. Rather than create a nightmare for the brand, it’s a dream come true. Imagine that.
This blog is all about the latest technology advances that are going to improve our health and lengthen our lives. It's not the blockbuster drug advances, but digital technology that will lead the health revolution. The content of this site is brought to you by the many talented visionaries from around the WPP network. We aim to help shape the vision, direction, and conversation of where health technology is headed.
This blog is all about the latest technology advances that are going to improve our health and lengthen our lives. It's not the blockbuster drug advances, but digital technology that will lead the health revolution. We aim to help shape the vision, direction, and conversation of where health technology is headed. The managing editor for Dose of Digital is Bill Evans.