Don’t Be Naïve About Native Advertising

Don’t Be Naïve About Native Advertising

by David Hagenbuch – professor of Marketing at Messiah University –
​author of Honorable Influence – founder of Mindful Marketing


Christmas Story fans remember Ralphie’s excitement in receiving a long-awaited Little Orphan Annie decoder ring, only to be disappointed by the unexpected product plug: “Be sure to drink your Ovaltine.”  Slipping commercial messages into media content is nothing new, but digital media have exploded that potential with more and more companies trying to make their ads look like they’re something else.
Native advertising is the term used to describe “paid advertising where the ad matches the form, feel and function of the content of the media on which it appears.”  Think of the approach as camouflage for commercials.  Just as hunters wear green and brown to blend into a forest, native ads mimic the look and feel of their media surroundings so people don’t perceive that they’re promotion.

Native advertising has likely existed for more than a century, one of the earliest examples being John Deere’s agricultural magazineThe Furrow, which contained “articles on agriculture and farming tips” alongside ads for the firm’s agricultural products.  The entire magazine was, in essence, subtle promotion for John Deere; still, readers could probably easily distinguish the publication’s articles from its advertisements.

Today’s native advertising is much more stealthy.

Scrolling through a Yahoo.com news feed recently, I saw sandwiched between a Telegraph article about Prince Harry and a MarketWatch piece on COVID-19, an interesting black and white photo of a woman playing pool along with the intriguing caption, “Pics Show A Gross Past To How We Used To Live.”  I barely noticed in small type “Ad Autooverload” before hitting the hyperlink.

The link opened a new browser tab for autooverlaod.com with header menu items that included “Racing” and “Supercars.” The page also featured the start of a slideshow titled “Amazing Wild West Photos.”  What Lamborghini’s have to do with Wyatt Earp wasn’t clear, but one could imagine that the prolonged progression of “wild west” photos enhances Auto Overload’s web metrics (e.g., time spent on the site, page views) for purpose of appeal to advertisers.

The use of such native ads has been increasing steadily with no signs of stopping.  Media from BuzzFeed to The New York Times have incorporated the promotional approach, with some suggesting that native advertising “will soon become as mainstream as the TV ad.”

BigCommerce reports that in the U.S. in 2020, over $47 billion was spent on native advertising and that 62% of all digital advertising, or “six out of every 10 digital ads were native ads.”  Furthermore, native ad spending is forecast to increase by 21% in 2021 to a staggering $57.27 billion.

Of course, an increase in native advertising is not a problem unless native advertising is a problem.  So, why are 51% of consumers who know what native advertising is skeptical about native advertising?

The example above from AutoOverload serves as a good case for analysis.  People are rightly wary of the ethics of native ads like this one because they have a propensity to deceive in two closely-related ways, which also violate Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines.

1)  Clickbait photo and caption: A sultry photo alongside the enticing text “gross past,” “wild west,” and “rarely seen,” represent a hard reach to reel people into something that’s likely different than what they expect, in more ways than one.

The use of these visual and verbal elements fits the FTC’s description of bait advertising: “an insincere offer to sell a product or service the advertiser does not want to sell, in order to sell something else . . . .”  Again, there’s no reasonable connection between old west photos and automobiles.  AutoOverload seems to be taking the somewhat deceptive approach just to increase its site traffic.

The approach can be called “somewhat” deceptive because, the website does deliver a series of old west photos; although, from what I saw, they don’t live up to the promise of “wild.”  The greatest deception actually might be of AutoOverload’s advertisers.  These sponsors, which include Volkswagen, probably believe they’re paying for pageviews from people interested in purchasing cars—a conclusion that likely is often not the case.

2)  Subtle sponsorship: Most of us have regretfully clicked on a sponsored article or post thinking it was an objective news piece or something a private person shared.  The frequency of this common experience is largely attributable to what native advertising so often tries to do: Make people believe what they see is not an ad.

One of the easiest ways to do so is to downplay the ad’s sponsorship.  The AutoOverload ad sought such subtlety by using the shortest commercial identifier possible, “Ad,” instead of “Advertisement” or “Sponsored Post.”  The ad’s commercial nature also might have been overlooked because “Ad” and “Autooverload” appeared in a smaller and lighter color font than that of the headline text.

Such understated endorsements may seem normal, but that’s likely because native advertising has made them so commonplace.  This subtle sponsorship stands in stark contrast to most traditional ads on TV, radio, and billboards where sponsors want to be clearly identified.

Why don’t sponsors of native ads seek the same recognition?  They do want to be known, but they first want to make sure that people click on their ads, which individuals often are not inclined to do if they know they’re ads.  The following two quotes from LinkedIn’s B2B University expose the sneaky strategy:

  • “Native ads mimic the look, feel, and function of a medium’s content, making it more likely that your audience will trust them.”
  • “Native advertising is designed specifically not to look like an ad, making it harder to ignore. Instead, it’s designed to look like the rest of the content on the page. As a result, consumers interact with native ads 20-60% more than traditional banner ads.”

So, native ads pretend to be something they’re not in order to increase the probability that people will mistakenly choose them.  In other words, the goal of most native advertising is to deceive.

The irony of native advertising’s casual acceptance of deception hit me squarely as I was scanning a daily newsletter from the American Marketing Association (AMA) and noticed the headline “Transparency Is the Clear Choice for Salespeople.”  The article summarized the findings of a study published in the Journal of Marketing Research (2) titled “Open Negotiation: The Back-End Benefits of Salespeople’s Transparency in the Front End.”

Contrary to conventional wisdom, the researchers found that “customers to whom the salesperson revealed the cost of a car at the beginning of the negotiation spent significantly more in the back end than others.”  In other words truthfulness and transparency from the beginning of the buying process paid off not just morally but monetarily.

These results reminded me that the AMA has identified five core “Ethical Values,” which include honesty and transparency.  More specifically, one of AMA’s three “Ethical Norms” explains the aim of fostering trust in the marketing system:

“This means striving for good faith and fair dealing so as to contribute toward the efficacy of the exchange process as well as avoiding deception in product design, pricing, communication, and delivery of distribution” [boldface added for emphasis].

Besides flying in the face the AMA’s clearly articulated professional standards, the deception-driven strategy of some native advertising also violates several specific FTC guidelines:

  • “When the first contact between a seller and a buyer occurs through a deceptive practice, the law may be violated even if the consumer later finds out the truth.”
  • “An ad is deceptive if it promotes the benefits and attributes of goods and services, but is not readily identifiable to consumers as an ad.”
  • “Disclosure must be clear and prominent.”
  • “Advertisers cannot use ‘deceptive door openers’ to induce consumers to view advertising content.”
  • “Advertisers are responsible for ensuring that native ads are identifiable as advertising before consumers arrive at the main advertising page.”
  • “Advertisements or promotional messages are deceptive if they convey to consumers expressly or by implication that they’re independent, impartial, or from a source other than the sponsoring advertiser – in other words, that they’re something other than ads.”

The last bullet suggests what is likely the main ethical issue with native advertising—feigned objectivity.  In fact, the FTC understands well the moral rationale as it explains:  

“Why would it be material to consumers to know the source of the information?  Because knowing that something is an ad likely will affect whether consumers choose to interact with it and the weight or credibility consumers give the information it conveys.”

It’s like a new acquaintance inviting you for coffee “to get to know you better” and soon into your conversation, they start to ask your thoughts about cars while sharing their opinions of a particular make and several specific models.  You’re surprised by the topic but support the discussion.  Finally, near the end of your meeting the acquaintance reveals that they’re a car salesperson, and they ask if you’d like to schedule a test drive.

Unfortunately, some of us have experienced situations similar to this one, which felt uncomfortable because we want to know:

  • When the context we’re in is a commercial one, i.e., we’re being sold to.
  • When the person with whom we’re speaking is an agent of an organization or has some other financial stake in the product or company they’re describing.

There’s nothing wrong with a salesperson doing their job when we know who they are and what they’re doing.  We expect them to tell us the good things about their products with little treatment of their weaknesses.  Since, complete objectivity is not expected, we take what they say with a grain of salt.

In contrast, when talking with friends, family, or coworkers about products, we let down our perceptual guards and take what they say at face value because we believe they’re objective and unbiased.

To be fair, not all native advertising deceives to the same extent.  Some ads very clearly identify themselves as sponsored content, and they provide the exact content they promise, offering real value through useful information or worthwhile entertainment.

However, any ad that tries to trick people into taking steps they wouldn’t otherwise choose is on legally and ethically shaky ground.  Relationships that start with a lie usually don’t last, which is why ads that deceive represent “Mindless Marketing.”

How Email Automation Can Save You Time While Improving Your Sales

How Email Automation Can Save You Time While Improving Your Sales

How Email Automation Can Save You Time While Improving Your Sales

What is Email Automation?

In marketing, email automation helps to make personalized email campaigns for individuals as they take a specific action on your company’s site. Some examples would be when someone initially signs up for your company’s email alerts or an email follow-up after an order has been placed.

Let’s use the scenario of an order being placed. After you place an order, an email is almost always instantly sent to you saying, “Thank You for Your Order”, along with an Order Number. Once the order has shipped, another automated email is instantly sent saying, “Your Order is On Its Way” along with a Tracking Number. Whether you realize it or not, this is all done through email automation. The individual, or company, you are purchasing from only had to create the email campaign once, however, the automation continues whether you are the first person to make a purchase, or the 15,000th. Once the appropriate sequence of emails has been created and established, the emails will continue to send automatically dependent on what action the individual took.

What Benefits Does It Offer?

Saves Time/Money

As mentioned previously, email automation helps to save a large amount of time. With an email automation system, basic information can be entered for each individual client and automated emails will be sent from the information that was input. This ultimately saves a large amount of time, as the work only needs to be done once, rather than continually. The amount of time saved also saves your company money, as you do not need to hire an individual to send out these personalized emails daily. Email automation can even address emails personally to each of the email subscriber’s names, providing the perfect personal touch to your email campaigns.

Same Experience Offered to Every Email Subscriber

Email automation also offers the same experience to every user who interacts with or joins your company’s email list. For example, maybe you are a restaurant, and you are attempting to get people to sign up for your email alerts. For Upon sign up,  each customer will receive an automated welcome email and a coupon code for a free appetizer or dessert. This same experience is offered to everyone who takes the time to sign up for your company’s email updates.

Personalized Emails

While we are still using the restaurant example, email automation can also send out a coupon code on birthdays and other special occasions. However, each of these will be specified to each of the email subscribers. This is extremely beneficial for companies because the work only needs to be done once and the automation will continue once the basic information of the email subscriber has been gathered. It helps to build a valuable connection with the email subscriber and makes them feel important to your company.

Information for your Sales Team When Tied to a CRM

Many email automation platforms have integrations with commonly used Customer Relationship Management Systems so that data can be collected on the user and their interests. Many give your sales team a deep dive into information like what products the user clicked on or what emails they opened. This allows your sales team to be armed with information about each user and speak to them based upon the purchasing behavior they have shown.

Types of Email Automation

When it comes to different types of email automation messages, the opportunities are endless. Here are a few basic email automations many companies today send out.

Welcome/Thank You for Subscribing

Once a person has signed up for your company’s newsletter, you can set up an automated email to be sent out to these individuals. The automated email would welcome them to your email list and thank them for taking the time to subscribe. It may even include a coupon code or special offer for subscribing, as mentioned previously.

Birthdays/Anniversaries

Automated emails can also be sent out to people who entered their birthday or anniversary information in when signing up. It could be as simple as wishing them a Happy Birthday or Happy Anniversary, or it could even include a special gift/coupon code that can be used with your company to celebrate it. This helps to develop a relationship with your customers, as they feel important and recognized by your company on special days to them.

Items in Cart Reminder

If you are an online retailer, then an automated email may be used to remind people of items that they left in their shopping cart. This can be set on a time schedule, such as 24-48 hours after they abandoned their cart. This automated email could be the difference between them making a purchase or forgetting entirely about their shopping experience on your company’s website. Email automations can also be scheduled to be sent at various time periods when the customer is likely to need to reorder or for partnered products based upon their previous buying history.

Newsletters

Many companies send out external newsletters to keep their customers up to date on what is new and exciting. Automated emails can help to personalize these newsletters, such as by addressing each of them to the email subscriber it is being sent out to.

Events/Webinars

If your company is putting on an event or webinar in the near future, email automation can also be extremely beneficial. As mentioned previously, the emails can be personally addressed to each of the email subscribers. However, emails can also be resent to those who did not open the email the first time around. This can also be done on a time schedule and sent anywhere from 24 hours to 7 days after the initial email was sent out. This will help to increase the email’s open rate, as well as the number of individuals who may attend the event.

Email automation is extremely beneficial to companies today and is more prevalent now than ever before. Email automation can help to send personalized campaigns and emails to individuals, and ultimately helps to build a better connection between customers and your brand. Email automation is the easiest, and most impactful way to continually grow your business, so what are you waiting for?

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Meet the Author: Jaclyn King

Jaclyn King is a Marketing Communications Specialist at Butler Technologies. Butler Technologies is a printed electronics solution provider that develops User Interface and Printed Electronics.

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Connect with Jaclyn on LinkedIn!

A Promotion Unlike Any Other

A Promotion Unlike Any Other

by David Hagenbuch – professor of Marketing at Messiah University –
​author of Honorable Influence – founder of Mindful Marketing

Fans of The Office know that whenever Michael Scott attended another person’s party, wedding, or baby’s baptism, he would inevitably steal the spotlight, making the event about him.  That kind of social sabotage makes for great TV comedy, but does a recent impromptu endorsement on golf’s greatest green signal that real life self-promotion is off the fairway?

The recent Masters Tournament seemed like a success, including that it crowned its first Asian-born champion, Hideki Matsuyama of Japan.  However, “a tradition unlike any other” also showcased some cringe-worthy commercialism that led to the son of an all-time golf great losing permanent access to Augusta.

Perpetuating the Tournament’s prestige, Masters’ organizers invited three of golf’s living legends to serve as honorary starters: nine-time major champion Gary Player, 18-time major champion Jack Nicklaus, and Lee Elder, the first African American to play in the Masters.  It was at that ceremonial tee shot when the uninvited endorsement occurred:

“While Elder was receiving the accolades of Augusta National and surrounding patrons, Wayne Player, serving as his father’s caddie, stood behind Elder clearly holding a sleeve of OnCore golf balls in such a way as to give the logo maximum visibility.”

Wayne Player has a relationship with OnCore Golf that includes serving as Tour Commissioner of the Player Amateur Tour, for which the golf ball brand is the title sponsor.

Social media quickly condemned Wayne Player’s “guerilla marketing,” calling the tactic “an embarrassment” and “undignified,” and suggesting he hijacked a special moment to “sneak in a free ad for golf balls.”  Masters organizers apparently didn’t like the ambush advertising either:  They’ve reportedly banned Wayne Player from the Tournament for life.

Those are harsh criticisms and consequences, especially given that considerable commercialism already surrounds the Professional Golfers’ Association of America (PGA) and the Masters.

The PGA’s Partners’ webpage reads like a Who’s Who List of corporate sponsors.  “Official Partners” include the likes of AIG, Charles Schwab, Cadillac, John Deere, KitchenAid, KPMG, and Rolex.  Then, there’s a whole other list of  “Golf Retirement Plus Partners.”  In total, 54 companies can claim they support the PGA.

For its part, the Masters Tournament’s website contains logos and links for its three marquee sponsors, AT&T, IBM, and Mercedes, who reportedly treat invited guests to an incredibly indulgent tournament experience, all charged to their corporate accounts.

What may be even more noteworthy is that the golf balls Wayne Player held were far from the only promotion present at the ceremonial tee shot.  Gary Player wore a PXG hat, whose golf clubs he endorses, and a Black Knight shirt—his own signature brand.  Similarly, Nicklaus came outfitted in a bright yellow sweater and matching hat, both bearing his Golden Bear brand.  Elder also wore branded apparel: a PNG hat and a TravisMathew shirt—the latter is part of a formal partnership with Elder that the company announced just days before the Masters.

Given all of the corporate/self-promotion already present at the starting tee, what was wrong with Player strategically displaying one small sleeve of golf balls?

There are two main reasons Player’s product placement was ill-advised:

  1. It was unnatural:  It’s typical for golfers and others to will wear branded apparel on golf courses and elsewhere.  It’s strange, however, to see someone hold steadily a sleeve of golf balls precisely so its logo appears prominently in camera shots.  That’s why when product placement is done well in movies and TV shows, the products don’t draw attention to themselves; rather, viewers simply see them as part of the scene, if they notice them at all.
  2. It was uninvited:  The very unique Masters moment belonged to Gary Player, to Nicklaus, and especially to Elder.  No person or thing should have stolen the spotlight from them, at least not without the Masters’ express permission.  Ultimately, Wayne Player pulled a Michael Scott, showing little social awareness and, instead, surmising that the situation should be about him, not just the others.

So, the next time you’re a caddie at the Masters . . . of course, that’s a situation most of us will never experience, which makes it even more tempting to point a finger at Wayne Player, shake our heads, and wonder how he could act so insensitively.  The problem, though, is that the proliferation of social media has made it exceedingly easy for any individual or organization to do the same sort of thing and steal others’ spotlights.

On a corporate level, such commandeering might take the form of a company donating $10,000 to a worthy social cause, then spending $100K to brag about its kind-hearted contribution in TV commercials, print ads, and other media.

Individuals also are not immune.  We should be especially careful not to steal the spotlight with one upmanship.  For instance, when a friend or colleague shares a special accomplishment on social media, we shouldn’t ‘congratulate’ them with a reply like, “I’m so happy for you. I remember when I completed my first 5K three years ago.  Now I’m getting ready to run my fourth marathon.”

A few years ago, the American Marketing Association published a piece I wrote about the “Three C’s of personal branding.”  In the article I argued that communication, which is what many people solely associate with branding, should only be the “icing on the cake.”  A strong personal brand, or corporate brand, must first include a foundation of “cake”: character and competencies.

When we steal another’s spotlight and try to make their moment ours, we not only misplace our personal marketing communication, we reveal the serious character flaw of callous self-absorption, which is very destructive to any brand.

No self-promotion should come at others’ expense.  In fact, the best self-promotion actually benefits others

It’s easy to argue that Wayne Player’s golf ball product placement at the Masters was a bad idea.  It’s also easy for any of us to succumb to similar temptations in everyday situations and make another’s moment our own.  Pulling a Wayne Player, or a Michael Scott, makes any of us guilty of “Mindless Marketing.”

Is it Right to Sell Others Short?

Is it Right to Sell Others Short?

Written by David Hagenbuch – professor of Marketing at Messiah University – author of Honorable Influence – founder of Mindful Marketing

You’re a basketball player whose team just won the NCAA Division I national championship!  You run courtside to celebrate with family but your mother is visibly upset.  “Mom, what’s the matter?  “I’m sorry,” she stammers.  “It’s just that . . . I bet against you.”

No athlete, or anyone, likes to be picked to lose.  However, life is full of potential successes and failures that people need to predict.  For some, those predictions offer significant money-making opportunities.  But, is it right to earn a living betting against others? 

As for many, the practice of short selling stocks burst onto my radar screen when GameStop’s shares took their rollercoaster ride several weeks ago.  With more than a casual interest, I followed the ensuing events, including Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev’s testimony before Congress.  Along the way, I gained a better grasp of what short selling is, but ever since, I’ve been wondering whether anyone should be doing it.

In case you’ve forgotten how short selling works:  Investor A borrows from a broker 100 shares of XYZ at $100 per share and sells the stock to Investor B at the same prevailing market price, or $10,000 total.  Over the next week, XYZ’s stock price drops to $75.  Investor A then buys 100 shares of XYZ for $7,500 and returns them to the broker, pocketing $2,500 in the process, less any interest and commissions the broker has charged.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has made short selling legal.  However, even with this regulatory approval, the practice should raise at least two red flags, or moral concerns, that lead one to ask:  Is short selling ethical?

Before addressing the two concerns, I imagine some may be wondering what short selling has to do with marketing—the other half of this blog’s two-pronged focus.  Short selling is marketing in that many stockbrokers, including very well-known ones like Interactive Brokers, TD Ameritrade, and Charles Schwab, market short-selling among their investment services, or ‘products.’

For instance, Interactive Brokers’ website contains a Shortable Instruments (SLB) Search tool:  “a fully electronic, self-service utility that lets clients search for availability of shortable securities from within [the firm’s] Client Portal account management platform.”  The relative ease with which an investor can sell short makes its moral implications all the more important.

First Red Flag

‘Selling something that one doesn’t own’ was the short selling issue that initially gave me pause.  Peddling another’s property certainly appears problematic, until one begins to consider the many ways in which such leveraged transactions regularly occur: from apartment subleases, to bank loans, to consignment clothing.  Individuals and organizations often sell others’ property on consignment.

Of course, just because consignment occurs doesn’t mean it should.  Still, the fact that all parties involved 1) willingly participate and 2) typically benefit are good signs that most of these activities are above-board.

Second Red Flag

The prior examples differ from short selling, however, in the second of the two ways:  While the participants in apartment subleasing, etc., generally rise and fall together financially, a short seller’s success comes courtesy of two others’ failures, namely 1) those of the company whose stock the short seller has borrowed and 2) the person who buys the stock from the short seller.  The short seller makes money when the other two parties lose theirs.

In contrast, consider again the clothing consignment example:  If I take an unwanted suit to a consignment shop, both the consignor and I will want a high price when the suit is sold.  Conceivably, the suit’s maker also would like its aftermarket products purchased for higher prices because such resale value reflects favorably on the brand, not unlike the way higher vehicle resale prices benefit automobile manufacturers’ brands.

On the other hand, the suit’s buyer would like to pay a lower price, but even he really doesn’t want the price to be too low, since perceptions of the brand are tied, at least in part, to the price that he and others are willing to pay for the suit.  Most importantly, each time he wears the suit, he extracts value from it.
 
The suit is this example is analogous to the stock.  Whereas everyone ‘invested’ in the suit seems to want it to retain its value, investors who short stocks clearly want the value of those securities to decline.  Short sellers are betting against the very companies whose financial instruments they have borrowed and sold, as well as the individuals on the receiving end of those stocks.
 
The zero-sum game, or winner-loser outcome, that underlies short selling is certainly atypical of most economic exchanges, but it’s not without precedent.  Casinos win when their customers lose, as do many “rent-to-owe” retailers like Rent-A-Center and Aaron’s.  Any kind of predatory lender falls under the same unseemly umbrella, including certain credit card companies that don’t make money unless people fail to pay off their account balances and become locked into an endless cycle of exorbitant monthly interest payments.
 
However, many argue that short selling does not do anything nearly so destructive.  In fact, some contend that the practice produces several important economic benefits, the primary one being liquidity, “the efficiency or ease with which an asset or security can be converted into ready cash . . . . ”
 
In my research, I found market liquidity to be the factor cited first and most often in the defense of short selling.  However, at least one financial markets expert suggests that advantage is exaggerated.
 
Dwayne Safer is a chartered financial analyst (CFA) whose career has included significant roles in investment banking, corporate finance, and strategy.  For the last five years, he’s been a professor of finance and my colleague at Messiah University.  When asked about short selling and market liquidity, he offers a contrarian analysis: “the liquidity offered by short selling for most stocks is negligible.”
 
Safer supports his suggestion by sharing a Bloomberg Terminal screenshot (below) that shows that shares sold short represent only about 3.5% of trading volume on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).  He also cites an example from the financial crisis in late 2008, when the SEC temporarily banned the short selling of financial stocks “without any noticeable degradation of liquidity in those stocks.”

Safer recognizes that there may be some “modest liquidity benefit” for certain heavily shorted stocks; for instance, at the time we spoke, 21% of Dick’s Sporting Goods’ shares available for trading were short.  Still, he affirms: “If shorting wasn’t permissible, liquidity would be brought into the market by the broker-dealers and market makers who would stand ready to buy and sell shares of a given company to generate trading revenue.”

So, does the elimination of liquidity as a main benefit of short selling leave no morally tenable ground on which short sellers can stand?  Not necessarily.

Safer continues by saying that although he doesn’t agree with conventional wisdom that short selling adds significant market liquidity, he does believe short selling offers other meaningful market benefits:

  • It provides the ability to hedge/protect a portfolio from downward movement in stock prices, mitigating portfolio volatility.
  • The in-depth research short sellers often conduct can expose fraudulent companies.  For example, short selling hedge funds warned about the frauds at Enron, Tyco, Fannie Mae and more recently Luckin Coffee and Nikola.
  • Shorting helps prevent overinflated securities prices that waste valuable capital and harm investors, as occurred in the dot-com bust in 2001.  Former SEC chairman Christopher Cox once stated, “We need the shorts in the market for balance so we don’t have bubbles.”

Before beginning to write this piece, I was unaware of these important benefits of short selling.  Still, how do we reconcile such consequences with the moral principle of respect, or as my second red flag/concern described: not betting against another person.

That moral principle certainly has merit, but my earlier discussion probably represented too narrow a view of short selling.  Safer’s observations have helped me see that there are other factors to consider and parties to take into account, e.g., other investors, firms’ customers and employees, and the economy as a whole.

I’m also helped by remembering a story I heard just a few days ago:  A guest speaker in our capstone marketing course mentioned that a former client of his used to tell him, “I pray for my competitors.”  This very successful business owner was not being sarcastic—he truly wanted his competitors to succeed both because he genuinely cared about them and because he understood that “a rising tide lifts all boats.”

Returning to the basketball metaphor that began this piece, no serious athlete wants to be on the winning side of a forfeit.  Basketball players need competitors, who also happen to have fans rooting for them.

However, choosing loyalties isn’t unique to picking stocks or selecting sports teams.  Each day we make dozens of similar decisions when choosing what clothes to buy and where to order takeout.  Each selection of a company is essentially a vote against another; however, other people are voting for the competitors.  In fact, the next time one of those ‘other’ votes may be ours.

Meanwhile, a ‘no vote’ conveys valuable information to all who are willing to listen and learn from it.  When companies assimilate such negative feedback, they make themselves better, their industries stronger, and stock markets more stable.

It’s very unlikely that a mother bets against her own daughter or son for anything, but other ‘no votes’ are not necessarily bad.  Short selling a company’s stock can be a good or bad bet for the investor.  It also can be “Mindful Marketing.”

The Power of Social Media in Marketing

The Power of Social Media in Marketing

The Power of Social Media in Marketing

Social media channels are oftentimes downplayed when it comes to their contribution to marketing within an organization.  Social media is vital for many reasons which will be discussed in this blog. Communication is a key component of any good marketing strategy and by utilizing social media, you can increase your communication drastically, both internally and externally. Find out how social media can benefit your marketing efforts below!

The Benefits of Social Media:

1. Brand Awareness:

If social media is used correctly, it will drastically increase your overall brand awareness and brand image. Without social media, word of mouth, as well as media advertising are the two main ways that customers and potential customers will be able to discover your brand. However, social media opens an entirely new way to reach your demographic.

You can establish your brand through the content you post, your profile image, header image, About Us section, and so much more. It provides you the opportunity for people to see your company through your own light, branded the way you want them to perceive you and your organization.  It may even draw in new customers who were never previously aware of your company or what you had to offer.

2. Customer Engagement:

Being able to interact and engage with your customers is vital to a successful marketing strategy. Social media provides companies the opportunity to engage with their audience like never before. Customers can comment and provide feedback on your company’s posts, and you’re able to respond directly from the company’s account. They can provide insightful feedback into what they feel works or does not work, and your company can react accordingly. This provides organizations an open forum to talk freely with their customers, which can’t be done as freely in other communication platforms such as via email or blog articles.

3. Builds Industry Expertise:

Establishing your company as a thought leader is a difficult task to do, but social media makes it entirely possible. Rather than promoting your company solely through external media outlets, blog articles, or emails, you can promote your company through your social channels. The more relevant information you post with regards to your industry, the more people may look to your organization as an industry expert. They will be able to see all the new trends and information your company keeps up to date with and shares, and they will begin to have a subconscious correlation that your company is a thought leader within the industry. This could even potentially lead to a conversion, or sale if the right person comes across your profile.

4. Site Conversions:

The larger your following on your social channels, the more widespread and well-known your company will become. As discussed previously, if you post relevant information on a frequent basis, people will begin to view you as an industry expert. Your social channel could be the difference between you or your potential competitor getting a sale. If people view you as a thought leader, they may decide to view your company’s website for more information on what you have to offer. This could potentially lead to a form submission where they inquire about your business or they may even place an order for your product or services.

5. Content Distribution:

Finding beneficial ways the distribute your organization’s content is a difficult task for many marketing professionals today. Of course, external media outlets such as newspapers or guest posts are extremely beneficial ways to distribute your content. However, social media allows you the ability to distribute your content directly from your organization to the following that you have worked to build. If people are interested in your industry and what you have to offer, they will follow your account to receive updates on new trends within the industry and your thoughts on the matter. You can distribute your blog content or company updates on your social channel, and it provides customers and followers the chance to interact with your company on a more personal level.

6. Site Traffic Increase:

Lastly, social media may even drive up your company’s website traffic. Site traffic is extremely difficult to increase and the right tactics have must be used in order to draw in the right site traffic. However, if people are interested in what you post on your social media channels, they will likely visit your website for more information on your products or services. Although social media efforts alone won’t cause your site traffic to skyrocket, it will still be a contributing factor to increasing your site’s traffic overall. 

Social media is so powerful in today’s day and age. It’s a great tactic to use as marketing professionals, not only to increase your overall traffic and conversion rate but to establish your organization as industry experts. It can help to increase your brand awareness and provides customers and followers the opportunity to interact with your company on a more personal level.

Professional Headshot of Jaclyn King, a Marketing Communications Specialist

Meet the Author: Jaclyn King

Jaclyn King is a Marketing Communications Specialist at Butler Technologies. Butler Technologies is a printed electronics solution provider that develops User Interface and Printed Electronics.

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Connect with Jaclyn on LinkedIn.

What is SEO and How It Works.

What is SEO and How It Works.

It is a common practice today for companies both large and small to have websites and e-commerce platforms. Many wonder why their sites aren’t doing as well as they had assumed they would and wonder how to get more traffic. Building a functional website is not enough to entice online sales. Instead, there must be a robust digital marketing strategy with a strong emphasis on SEO or search engine optimization. Many people ask exactly what is SEO and how it works?

SEO or Search Engine Optimization are the steps that you take to ensure that your web content is visible and high ranking in search engines like Google or Bing which will then increase traffic to your website. There are several steps that are taken to do SEO correctly that can range from extremely simple to quite complicated but there are a few rules of thumb that are simple and should always be kept in mind.

Initial Rules of SEO:

Writing for search engines. While your site should always be as user friendly for real users as possible, it’s always important to keep in mind that search engines will crawl your site as well and need to be able to clearly understand the content your site offers. This means writing clearly, using keywords consistently across meta titles, alt text, and other features, and using internal links to show the crawlers where you want them to go.

  1. Keyword research. There is very little point in writing content that no one is looking for. Ensure your content and website serve users by answering a question or speaking to a pain point that they may have that is causing them to go to a search engine and try to find an answer. Give users a reason to come to your site. The more users come, the more search engines will agree that your information is important, and the higher you rank. As you rank more highly, you will get more traffic. The perfect combination for SEO.
  2. Consistently good content. The more engaging and well-written content that you create, the more relevant search engines will assume you are. When optimizing for SEO, it’s important to remember that it is not a “set it and forget it” scenario but instead a constant need to review, add, and optimize to get the most out of your efforts.

If you can start with a mastery of these simple items, your site will begin to see an increase in traffic, users, and leads. You will see that your rankings will grow and with it, the relevancy of your website to customers. I love SEO because it truly gives smaller players in the market the ability to compete if they can create relevant content and accomplish optimization better than their competitors. It evens the playing field and makes it easier to increase web traffic. Search engine optimization done properly is an art form and once mastered, it can provide big returns.

Originally written by Mackenzie Farone of MF Digital Marketing. What is SEO and How It Works? – Digital Marketing Blog