Blame It On Twitter

Each month I try to structure these articles around a key theme or argument, positing a hypothesis, offering some proof points, and drawing a (hopefully) useful conclusion. But today it isn't happening. I'm going to blame it on Twitter. I've been using the service often for the last month and the 140 character mindset is clearly not compatible with the steady thought required to produce a coherent 750-word essay. There is certainly no lack of worthwhile topics to discuss this month, but I can't hone in on one. So this month's column is a bit of a Smorgasbord. Here's what's up:
  • Budgets. They are up, that is. What a pleasant surprise I had the other week when one of our search managers came to inform me their client had come to them with a budget increase. It's been a year or more since I have seen a bona fide budget increase. Honestly, from August of 2008 through just last month I have only seen budgets slashed. The increase I saw last month was soon followed by several others across our practice. The increases are modest, but I think we are seeing the beginning of a turnaround that could heat up in the fourth quarter.
  • Targeting. The industry's ad targeting practices are coming under scrutiny to the extent not seen in a decade. Thus far, however, Search as a whole has stayed out of the fray, the attention of the press and regulators focused on cookie-based behavioral targeting for banner ads. AOL already demonstrated the extent to which search query data can tie back to personally identifiable information. And the employment of behavioral targeting techniques by Google and Yahoo is in full swing. Given this, it seems odd that Search has not been singled out in the debate about data-driven marketing strategies online. Maybe the BT practices of Google and Yahoo are so subtle they have stayed under the radar. Or perhaps the implicit value exchange between service and advertising is so well established that Search gets a free pass while ad networks, and other members of the BT ecosystem with value propositions less clear to consumers, get hammered.
  • The Bing/Yahoo deal. I'm very excited to see this come to fruition. More than anything, this collaboration creates a stronger second player in the market that can spur on innovation and reignite competition for advertisers' business. I think anyone who has been in the space for a while will agree that advertisers were better served (better service, better support, and more advertiser-centric product innovations) when Google felt the threat of real competition. Bing and Yahoo together can reignite that threat and add the dynamism that's been missing from the market for the last few years.
  • SES San Jose. The conference was in full swing this week, but for the first time in four years I did not attend. This time last year I wrote a piece on SES, and the conference organizers repaid my thoughtful, heartfelt critique by not inviting me back. Hey, I'm not sweating it. The Search Insider Summit is the only conference I need!



6 comments about "Blame It On Twitter ".
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  1. Paul Pellman from Adometry, August 14, 2009 at 10:40 a.m.

    Interesting insight around budget increases. Real key seems to be Q4 -- will traditionally heavy media spend quarter (for SEM and display) rally over last year's dismal results.

  2. Gerard Mclean from Rivershark, Inc., August 14, 2009 at 10:46 a.m.

    HA! I have long suspected Twitter as the primary reason why we can't hold an attention span for longer than it takes to read 140 characters! I have four blog posts in draft mode this week that are now obsolete because the "conversation" has moved. "Thinking quickly" has replaced "thinking deeply."

  3. Howie Goldfarb from Blue Star Strategic Marketing, August 14, 2009 at 10:57 a.m.

    Targeted Digital Ad Serving technically could be a very useful platform if presented to people properly. The industry does a poor job of this. Kind of like Obama with healthcare. We need it. It will be good for us. But someone against it started spouting crazy story's and bam...PR nightmare.

    Fact is people will have advertising while online. In fact it is everywhere (sadly) Some people like myself use Ad blocking Software and No Scripts which keeps 99% of Ads off my screen. But there is still product placements and news stories. Everytime Media Post discusses a new Ad Campaign or Brand Development I am being advertised to (at least made aware).

    So to have better ads with more valuable content and relevancy, I bet most people would be happy for. But the Privacy Boogeyman has been unleashed and people are nervous. Technically you have no privacy aside from your own name, address, phone, etc being anonymous.
    In fact I bet most people would gladly fill out survey of product types, activities etc that they like or are interested in knowing it will be used to improve advertising's relevancy to them.

    As for Twitter. I still don't get it aside from a more limited version of Facebook's front page running friends update in a more mobile format. Anyone remember Yahoo Instant Messenger causing corporate havoc for people IMing at work and was the next big 3 years I will come back and say the same thing about Facebook and Twitter. Just more stepping stones to something newer than new in the future.

  4. Susan Kuchinskas from freelance, August 14, 2009 at 12:03 p.m.

    Interestingly, SES this year seemed to be much more about social media than search -- although the basics sessions were the best-attended. I think you were right last year that it's time for search to be considered more as part of the entire marketing spectrum, rather than its own thing.

  5. Lara Colton from Nielsen, August 14, 2009 at 1:49 p.m.

    SEM perhaps has been sheltered from the privacy mongers because claiming that delivering ads based on terms a consumer specifically requests information about would be like complaining about pizza display ads in the yellow pages being in the pizza section. It is also a testament that advertising is still lagely considered content online.

    I also cannot help but wonder if there is not a perception mirage in the minds of consumers regarding search as well. Because search terms and their related advertising are delivered only by request, consumers may not feel they are being "tracked" as BT monitoring suggests, not realizing that Google, Yahoo! etc saved their searches to be used in BT. In search, they may have the perception that I want information about X, I search for it, I get advertised and unadvertised information about X, end of story. The perception mirage is that there is no tracking or storing of search behavior, it is a one time only, instance by instance occurence. Paid seach ads do not feel intrusive because we have just requested information about what ever topic the advertising relates to and we don't feel like our behavior is being tracked or monitored over time, just this one time for this one term. The ironic reality is that search behavior is one of the largest components of BT tracking.

  6. Steve Baldwin from Didit, August 14, 2009 at 2:34 p.m.

    You make an interesting point when you observe that, so far at least, search has been "under the radar" of the regulators.

    My own take is that the regulators are more comfortable with one big company such as Google tracking users than a bunch of small (possibly fly-by-night ones). After all, Google is a public company that doesn't share data with outside third parties, takes data security seriously, and knows its every action is monitored, not just by the press, but by the FTC and FCC. MS and Yahoo are in much the same position.

    I'm not comfortable with anybody tracking my actions (even though I never go anywhere interesting on the Web :), but I'd rather have one big, presumably accountable company doing it than a lot of guys who don't have any compunction about abusing it.

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