The holiday shopping season is upon us, but this year’s gift-giving and deal-seeking might feel a bit lackluster. Several signs point towards a flatter than a normal boost in overall sales during the Black Friday to Christmas stretch: Inflation, supply issues, employees missing from duty, and the ongoing threat from the pandemic are fostering fear in consumers — perhaps diminishing a bit of the usual holiday cheer.
Time will tell.
Meanwhile, digital marketers are scrambling to stay in touch with consumer desire and help their brands get a share of the action.
In this issue of News You Can Use, we highlight stories like these:
- Does Metaverse really matter?
- Why Amazon will spend billions this winter
- How you can qualify for Twitter’s new Professional accounts
- What the NEA is demanding from social media giants
- Are old-style SEO fundamentals still effective?
You’ll get the scoop on those stories, and more, in this issue of News You Can Use.
FACEBOOK REBRANDS AS META — DOES IT REALLY MATTER?
Topic: Social Media Marketing
Much of the recent digital marketing buzz concerns Facebook’s rebrand as “Meta.” That doesn’t mean Facebook is going away, of course. It’s a move similar to Google’s decision to become “Alphabet.” Only the name of the parent company is affected.
Some say it’s Facebook’s way of diverting attention from the hubbub over documents released by a former employee — hundreds of documents now known as “The Facebook Papers”. Others applaud the company’s desire to lead us into the “Metaverse,” a place where augmented reality, virtual reality, and social media merge into one exciting stream.
But Jon Loomer says chances are high none of it really matters. Will users flock to the Metaverse in droves, or will all the hype end up being just another flash in the pan that social media employs to fascinate users?
Loomer’s perspective is well worth the read. It points us back to the fundamentals of marketing: “Get attention. Build trust. Stand out. Brand loyalty. Honesty and integrity. Build an audience. Maintain communication with your core people.”
What is “The Metaverse”? Will it disrupt marketing as we know it? Will the idea catch on? Why is Facebook pushing the concept so strongly?
NEA TELLS SOCIAL MEDIA TO “PRIORITIZE SAFETY OVER PROFITS”
Topic: Education | Social Media Marketing
Key Point: The president of the National Education Association, the nation’s largest and most influential teacher’s union, addressed leaders of Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter in a letter demanding the companies to “make a public pledge to students, educators, and their families to regulate lies and fix [their] algorithms to put public safety over profits.”
NEA President, Rebecca S. Pringle, didn’t mince many words in her strongly-worded commentary.
Here’s an excerpt:
Our schools are the center of communities in every corner of our nation. They should be a safe place for every single student, educator, and staff member to thrive and learn. And yet, online “trends” and false information that have spread like wildfire throughout social media platforms — from stealing school property and hitting school staff, to conspiracy theories on curriculum and coronavirus protocols — have helped create a culture of fear and violence with educators as targets.
Pringle goes on to reference an October 4, 2021, memorandum by the U.S. Attorney General that also addressed the uptick of violence in schools.
In that memo, the AG gave marching orders to the FBI:
I am directing the Federal Bureau of Investigation, working with each United States Attorney, to convene meetings with federal, state, local, Tribal, and territorial leaders in each federal judicial district within 30 days of the issuance of this memorandum. These meetings will facilitate the discussion of strategies for addressing threats against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff, and will open dedicated lines of communication for threat reporting, assessment, and response.
What does all of this have to do with digital marketing? The Facebook Papers issue isn’t the only story getting traction right now. Concerns over social media’s alleged “profit over people” stance are just part of widespread concerns about the environment, social justice, and other topics already hotly debated by Congress.
Given the popular idea that “Corporations have neither bodies to be punished nor souls to be condemned,” there’s never been a better time for companies to inspect their brand image for blemishes. A growing segment of the public demands attention to environmental issues, social justice, and other humanitarian-centered causes. They favor brands that share their concerns.
Outrage generated by revelations and accusations like The Facebook Papers will likely gain strength over the coming year, and companies other than Facebook could find themselves weathering a major storm.
DISCUSSION IDEAS: Do you agree that social media channels should ban discussions that urge users to take radical actions? Is censorship ever a good idea? If so, how would you determine guidelines for the gatekeeper?
TWITTER SPACES NOW ALLOWS RECORDING
Topic: Social Media Marketing
Key Point: Twitter Spaces is officially open to both iOS and Android users, but that’s not the end of the story: Twitter is rolling out a feature that will enable hosts to record discussions, then share the recording in a tweet. That capability is currently open to iOS hosts only, but is expected to be available to Android users soon.
Participants will be notified (via a new icon) when they join a Space where the conversation is being captured. Users will now be able to listen to the recording if they are late to or unable to attend a session, and hosts can opt to turn the chat into a podcast or use clips for promotions.
Gain perspective on the potential ramifications of the new option by checking this article on Social Media Today.
GOOGLE REMOVES 12 STRUCTURED DATA FIELDS
Topic: SEO | Search Engine Marketing
Key Point: Google Search Central reported the removal of 12 structured data fields from documentation, saying “they are unused by Google Search and Rich Result Test doesn’t flag warnings for them.” Rich results types affected include HowTo, QAPage, and Special Announcement.
Why should digital marketers care about “unused” structured data fields? Google isn’t acknowledging their presence, but many companies still have the code on their web pages.
So, now what?
According to Search Engine Land, there’s no need to remove the fields, but you should be aware they no longer work to help your company rank in Google Search and Rich Result Test won’t flag them as errors.
SEO work requires vigilance., and the major updates page in Google Search Central is a spot tech-savvy marketers monitor regularly. It can be painful and embarrassing get caught by surprise when new features appear and old ones go away.
TWITTER LAUNCHES “PROFESSIONAL” ACCOUNTS
Topic: Social Media Advertising | Brand Management
Key Point: Twitter is giving users the option of switching to a “professional account.” Benefits include optimized tools for the user’s profile, a quicker pathway to launching promotions, and a spot in Twitters’ ongoing upgrades to serve ecommerce-connected users.
The roll-out is underway. Twitter users will find the “Switch to Professional” tab under their profile settings.
Qualification criteria includes a history of heeding Twitter guidelines, an authentic presence, and using Twitter for work.
Get more information here: Twitter for Professionals.
ACTIVITY IDEA: Check your Twitter profile. Do you see the option to switch account types? What are the pros and cons of taking that action?
WILL THE HOLIDAYS RETURN TO NORMAL THIS YEAR?
Key Point: A Bazaarvoice survey of nearly 9,000 Americans in their Influenster community sought to discover how holiday cheer is panning out in 2021. Given that 2020 spirits were severely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, hopes are running high that this year will see life getting closer to “normal.”
The data the survey collected, though, painted a bit of a different picture: Fewer than half of respondents are more excited about the holidays this year than last. 42 percent feel about the same, and 10 percent aren’t quite so excited.
On the shopping end of the queries, 82 percent indicated they would research their purchases online, and 72 percent said they will shop online during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. “This year,” said Bazaarvoice, “given the hesitation to return to in-store shopping, Black Friday looks like it will be more digital than ever before.”
Another survey by the same company — this one targeting international shoppers — says just 15 percent of consumers plan to spend more this year than in 2020. Other findings include a trend towards shopping earlier (38 percent), a drop of eight percent in brick and mortar shopping, and an additional nine percent increase in online shopping this year.
DISCUSSION IDEAS: What tactics can marketers use to dampen consumer concerns? How can the early shopping trend be leveraged to boost sales?
AMAZON WILL SPEND SEVERAL BILLION DOLLARS THIS WINTER
Key Point: November is normally the month when buzz about holiday shopping is ablaze and ad spending kicks into high gear. This year’s shopping enthusiasm seems a bit dampened, though. Concerns over supply chain shortages, the pandemic, and inflation have many consumers (and retailers) wondering whether Santa will show up at all in 2022.
Amazon’s third quarter financial results are out, and even though year-over-year sales were up by 15 percent, the company’s $110.8 billion sales missed estimates. Earnings per share dropped, and the fourth quarter forecast fell short of expectations. In response, Amazon stock sank four percent.
To combat those problems, newly-appointed Amazon CEO, Andy Jassy, reported the company has “nearly doubled the size of our fulfillment network since the pandemic began.”
Jassy went on to comment on plans for the expected surge in holiday orders:
In the fourth quarter, we expect to incur several billion dollars of additional costs in our Consumer business as we manage through labor supply shortages, increased wage costs, global supply chain issues, and increased freight and shipping costs—all while doing whatever it takes to minimize the impact on customers and selling partners this holiday season. It’ll be expensive for us in the short term, but it’s the right prioritization for our customers and partners.
There’s plenty more to glean from Amazon’s news release. It’s an excellent model of how ecommerce companies can take proactive measures to deal with a situation some see as quite ugly.
SEO UPDATES DIGITAL MARKETERS SHOULD KNOW FOR 2022
Key Point: Technology and marketing make an awesome couple. Today’s digital marketers have access to tools their 20th century counterparts could only dream about. The quicker things change, though, the more important it becomes to not lose touch with the fundamentals.
Writing for Forbes online, Sarah Bird — the CRO for Moz Group — provided a list of takeaways from this year’s MozCon:
- Google keeps changing the game . . . think “Core Web Vitals.”
- E-A-T is more important than ever (expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness)
- Always understand your “true competitors” (they may not be who you think they are)
Thankfully, Bird didn’t just list the lessons — she also provided suggestions to help digital marketers wade through them. It’s a hard-hitting article by someone who knows the ropes. Read it here.
DISCUSSION IDEAS: Read the article. Do you agree with Bird’s takeaways? Do you see other insights a digital marketer might leverage from the author’s notes?
We Will Get Through These Struggles Stronger Than Ever
We know you’re tired of COVID-focused news, classroom shutdowns, and limited accessibility to the activities you love. Everyone is tired of it. You can’t control the future, and you have limited control over how the virus affects you and your loved ones. But you can control your reactions to the situation.
Some students are downcast, not trying their best, and hoping for relief. Others are upbeat, taking the heat head-on, and putting more extra effort into their studies and getting ready for an exciting, well-paying career.
Which describes you? You’re the only one who can call that shot for yourself, but we can tell you one thing for sure: Stukent and your professors are on your side all the way. We want you to succeed, and the companies making the headlines happen need you badly.