Friday, July 27, 2012

The pros and cons of embedding external links in YouTube videos

The average punter cannot embed a link in an actual YouTube video so that it points to an external site. They can add a link to the video's description or use YouTube's Annotations to add certain types of actions - but not offsite links.

The LinkedTube site lets you take a YouTube video and place your own overlay on it. That's a start but it means the link layer doesn't appear on embeds elsewhere. The video affiliate platform Coull lets you build a similar video, with their overlay, for shared affiliate links. I'm going to come back to affiliate marketing in just a second.

However, it is possible for brands with certain spends to create YouTube videos with external link overlays. For example, check out this brand new video from Bethesda Softworks that shows off the (gory) pre-order bonuses for gamers who buy via Amazon (different shops have different pre-order bonuses).



I watched this video with an affiliate's hat on. I wanted to blog about the pre-orders and link to the sites taking part. The catch? The video links are affiliate marketing no-go zones. I can't get my tracking links into place on them. Rather than being a strong affiliate marketing asset, these videos are something of an leak.

That said; unless you watch the video on full screen mode it is quite hard to click on the link! YouTube's progress bar pops up to block your mouse.

The advantages of embedding links into these videos are clear - traffic.

In this particular example, a number of different retailers are involved and Bethesda might actually benefit from their attempts to promote their version of the video (helping it match [Dishonored pre-order] and related searches on YouTube).

I suspect the affiliate leak risk wasn't considered - wrong teams - but I also suspect only a few fan site affiliates will shy away from running the videos because of the leaky link. That'll be good news to everyone involved. It'll only be the hardcore affiliate model retailers that now consider the vids off limit.

The oppertunity for Google to do something very impressive with the Google Affiliate Network and YouTube is clearly there.

However, as we're yet even to see Google Affiliate Network action for Google Play my suspicion is that we're in no danger of Google integrating affiliate marketing into a far more liberial external link overlay policy any time in the near future.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

When will I get my Nexus 7? Pre-order, shipped or delayed?

I pre-ordered my Nexus 7 on the 28th. That wasn’t first out of the blocks by any means but still fairly early. I used Google Play for this – which was a new experience for me and for Google.

I’ve found tracking the order difficult. Until recently I was using a “hack” to see whether my Nexus 7 had leapt to the top of my Play order history as a sign of activity.

At almost exactly 10:00pm (GMT) I get an email from Google to say that my Nexus 7 has shipped. I’m giving a TNT tracking link that I can’t get to work.

At just before 3:00am I get an second email from Google to say there have been delays in shipping due to demand.

All Nexus 7 8GB orders will ship by July 20, and Nexus 7 16GB orders will ship by next week. We’ve upgraded your shipping to overnight so your your order will arrive sooner.

There’s a brand new support page on Google to explain the delay.

I’m still hoping that my personal “has shipped” email overrides the broadcast “are delays” email.

That said, while skimming through blogs this morning I’m still encountering adverts for the Nexus 7. These big graphics invite me to pre-order the device.

Surely we’re safely beyond the pre-order stage now, Google? You’ll have to watch that ads are updated in a timely manner or risk getting an official “aah-hem” from the ASA.

Monday, July 16, 2012

After Earth uses Facebook timeline for movie trailer

We'll see plenty of this sort of style promotion in the future. It's the modern alternative for having picture book or other storytelling method in the ad.

In this instance, Sony are using the Facebook time to reveal the background to M. Night Shyamalan's upcoming sci-fi film called After Earth. It stars Will Smith and his son Jaden. The story picks up as the two crash into the now unfamiliar and dangerous Earth.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Art of Logo Design

This is a good little video for Sunday. It's a brief look at the art and history of logo design.

I sometimes bash creative agencies for charging a large fortune for logo design - perhaps I shouldn't. It's certainly very hard work to create a corporate logo that will survive the test of time. We've had logos that have changed hugely - think of Apple's evolution from the Newton sketch through to the simple bite. We've also had logos that feel like they'll last forever - Coca-Cola being a strong example here.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Will Ouya be Google TV by the backdoor?

The buzz today is about million dollar Kickstarter pitches from the world of gaming. There's the Penny Arcade plan to do without ads. This may or may not be successful. What will be successful, at least within Kickstarter, is a bold attempt to raise $1,000,000 to produce a new type of gaming console.

In fact, Ouya has raised nearly $3,000,000, is selling out - and has three weeks left to raise funds.



I'm a backer. I want that Founders Badge. I want that extra controller - after all, the Kickstarter might be the only time ever to get a Ouya and the controllers. It could succeed with crowd funding but then flop commercially.

Mind you - Ouya could be a huge commerical success. Free games? Cheap games? That's bound to be attractive to many people.

If Ouya does succeed and succeeds on a scale then, for the first time ever, Google has an Android device hooked up to the TV sets of many households.

Google very much wants Android devices hooked into TV sets. Android 4.0 was the first generation of the keyboard-free OS to be designed for all sorts of devices; smartphones, tablets and even connected TVs.

Google TV has yet to be a success. It might still be successful but it needs to find content. Google has done deals with content producers like Sony and this is a start but Google TV needs TV content. TV content is controlled.

The same problems will not haunt Ouya. Ouya will enter a market where developers create many games and often offer them for free.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The incoming new affiliate reputation battle

I'm due a post on the rise of incentivized shopping. It's going to be big. My blogging is backwards, though, as I'm writing about the incoming reputation battle that will come with it.

Why?

I'm inspired by TechCrunch's Josh Constine's post titled Ecommerce Sites Pay You To Peddle Their Affiliate Spam, But This Pin Is Not For Sale.

Josh doesn't like The Fancya for adding an affiliate link for sharing content. Josh thinks it is selling out and that users who do it are selling out. He think it'll create spam. In fact, the URL for his post is http://techcrunch.com/2012/07/09/affiliate-spam/.

Here's his opener;

It takes a lifetime to build up social capital, but now it’s easier than ever to burn it all to earn some discounts via new ecommerce discovery site affiliate programs. But why should Fab, or The Fancy, or other Pinter-esque services care? They’re not the ones getting spammed. It’s Facebook and Twitter’s problem.

But that’s bullshit.

He could have had this rant at Faba if he was this closely attuned to the dangers of spam because Fab rewards shoppers for recruiting friends to the platform. That link to Fab UKa? That's my reward link.

At least he acknowledges that affiliate marketing is not new. He notes;

Yes, sites like Amazon have long had affiliate programs, but they were pretty clearly designed for career or at least hobbyist marketers.

He argues that Fab, The Fancy and others are different because the affiliate program is baked into the system whereas a platform like Amazon puts a secondary registration system in place.

I don't think that's entirely right. It's commonplace to see member-get-member deals advertised on TV. Sky, for example, makes it easy to claim £75 in vouchers for bringing a friend to the empire. Many social and casual games on the web offer member-get-member bonuses.

Besides, does it make a difference? Even if Amazon or eBay have an affiliate program, slightly to the left of mainstream, that tends to be used by "career or at least hobbyist" affiliate marketers - so what?

I don't think it makes any sense to try and argue that casual users are more likely to suddenly become black hat spammers and bombard their social networks with affiliate spam on behalf of The Fancy than "career or hobbyists" are.

Affiliates have had their PR battles over the years, this is true, but it's never been caused by the masses and always by one or two individuals who are trying to make a career out of it.

That said - the big difference in the digital world of today from the early era of affiliate marketing are the social networks.

Incentivized shopping and sharing will grow. Everyday users of social networks are now empowered to easily share stuff they like on ecommerce platforms - so they will.

At the launch of Unruly Media's Social Video Labs the expert Frank Rose presented the scientific evidence that sharing results in a squirt of dopamine being released by the body whenever we successfully share with the community. We have a chemical impulse to share - and that will combine powerfully with incentivisation.

The challenge is with the platforms and users. Constine said it's not Twitter and Facebook's problem - but it is.

Facebook and Twitter have already been taking action. One of the reasons we have the t.co URL shortener is so that Twitter can try and filter outbound clients. Twitter tries to block any dodgy outbound clicks in order to protect the user experience.

The affiliate network Buy.at is no longer with us, now part of Digital Windows, but there was a time when Facebook would block outbound clicks via some of its tracking links because of spam concerns. That proves affiliate action on the social networks is not new and that it has been an issue for Facebook.

It's also an issue for the ecommerce sites. Social CRM has grown necessity. It pays to look after your customers. In the near future we'll see brands and ecommerce platforms stepping up their Curator Relationship Management too - the new 'CRM'.

Curators will play a significant role in ecommerce in the future. If you don't believe me then I'll cite another TechCrunch article, this one by Sarah Perez, that notes Pinterest Traffic Passes Google Referrals, Bing, Twitter & StumbleUpon. I suspect we'll see similar headlines over the next few months - just as the tech press tracked the rise of the social networks in detail.

All this means that there is a reputation battle coming up.

The social networks will have to protect their reputations by finding the magic middle between blocking spammers but allowing social incentivized shopping.

Brands and ecommerce platforms will want to tap into the powerful rise of incentivized shopping and sharing while making sure they don't become synonymous with a bombardment of annoying messages.

Users, everyday users all the way through to digital natives, will have to establish new etiquette around incentivized sharing.

Note: All the links in this post marked with a superscript Aa are platform affiliate links. If I was running Skimlinks or the Google VC backed VigLink then that would be happening automatically for certain links and I would be relying on their disclaimer technology.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

The Anatomy of a Google+ "viral"

On Monday I shared a video on Google+. For want of a better word; it went viral. This was my first such widespread exposure on Google+ even though Google+ is probably now my preferred connected platform.

The video went viral for two reasons. Firstly; it's a good video that comes with a significant twist. It shocks some people so watch at your own risk.



Secondly, I encouraged the first dozen or so shares myself - persuading people to pass the video on to their circles. The strength of the creative was that it didn't take much more than a dozen or so of these encouraged shares before the momentum picked up.

Google+ Ripples feature provides a great way to see how the spreading occurred. You can see the live spread here.


The size of the circle indicates extra resharing from the audience that user addresses.

The latest version of Google+ does not have a "hot" section people can access directly (nor does the mobile) but it does have Google+ Explore. My post featured there. I know this because I was checking. I don't know whether the post ever earned a little flame corner tag and started to appear in people's mobile streams.

On sites like Delicious.com or Buzzfeed.com you tend to get notification when your content has been "promoted" from the main stream to a greater awareness. I didn't get any such notification from Google for this "success".

Facebook only shares Page content with a percentage of users (and its testing methods to let brands increase that value). Twitter has a busy stream with tweets rushing past and which are easy to miss. Right now, I feel, Google+ is a far easier place to push content so that it becomes widely shared.

Google+ shows all posts to everyone, like Twitter, but will also re-position content so that users can see more popular shares more often. This means that the combination of strong creative combined with a basic media understanding will take you long way on Google+ today. There are accounts, plenty of them, earning a significant chunk of followers by just curating strong visual content.

Observations


The Google+ Android app is quite good at finding that balance between alerting you that your post is getting comments and not nagging your for each and every comment.

Many people did not seem to understand the creative idea. A common comment was;
But she's not driving a car!

One commentator wondered if a car had crashed through a wall, one pointed out that she had been hit from behind so was not at fault and another suggested doctors and 'abortionists' kill far more people.

Some of the comments came from people who clearly hadn't watched to the end - thanking me for the tutorial. Other comments came from people who wanted to find out how the tutorial would have ended.

Are there lessons from that? Just the that the more people who see your content the wider the range of type of person you have to deal with becomes.

The connection between Google+ and YouTube is quite strong. I know many people who can only see the improvements that are needed but Google+, to me, feels like the early stage of a social TV network.