Is COVID-19 Changing Outdoor Advertising?

In recent blogs, we’ve looked at how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted online behavior, audience perception, and marketing trends. But what about how COVID-19 is changing particular segments of the advertising industry? For example, as people have turned increasingly to social media and streaming services to stay connected and entertained during quarantine, advertising in these spaces has shot up.

Other types of advertising, on the other hand, have taken a hit. With staying indoors becoming the norm, once-common activities like taking the bus or subway or spending Sunday afternoon at the mall have dropped drastically. That means fewer people are coming in contact with one of the oldest forms of advertising: outdoor ads.

There’s plenty of data showing that outdoor advertising – also known as out-of-home, or OOH – has been impacted by COVID-19, but what’s less clear is what advertisers can do about it. Below, we’ll take a look at the numbers and what they mean for the OOH industry.

A Quick Overview of Outdoor Advertising

Many people automatically think of billboards when they think of OOH. While billboards make up a large portion of OOH, they’re just one of many forms of outdoor advertising. The most common categories include:

  • Billboards
  • Mobile billboards
  • Shelters (e.g., the awning over a bus stop)
  • Transit displays (e.g., bus wraps)
  • Street furniture (e.g., benches)
  • Mall kiosks
  • City flags

It’s also important to note the difference between physical outdoor advertising, including many of the examples above, and digital outdoor advertising, such as digital billboards or screens displaying informational videos (a common sight at many walk-up and drive-thru COVID testing sites).

The Stats on COVID-19 and Outdoor Ads

An infographic from The Visual Capitalist gives a useful (if sobering) overview of the impact of COVID-19 on several categories of ad spend, including OOH advertising. We’ve rounded up the highlights below.

  • Overall global advertising spend is expected to shrink by nearly $50 billion in 2020. Pre-COVID, global advertising spend was expected to grow 7.1% in 2020. Now, it is estimated to shrink by 8.1%.
  • The hardest hit service/product categories will be Leisure & Entertainment and Travel & Transport. This makes sense since COVID-19 has heavily impacted our ability to safely recreate and travel. Telecom & Utilities ad spend, on the other hand, is the only category expected to grow this year as the new normal of working and studying from home highlights the importance of high-speed internet connections.
  • Out-of-home (OOH) ad spend is expected to contract by 21.7% in 2020. This is the second-strongest contraction of all forms of advertising included in the forecast, beaten only by Cinema at -31.6%.

Noting that it took eight years for global ad spending growth to fully recover after the last recession, The Visual Capitalist predicts that the above data means the advertising industry is in for an entirely new normal – including a possible total shift to digital.

Outdoor Advertising: Nail in the Coffin or New Opportunities?

With such grim forecasts for advertising post-COVID, some are predicting the death of traditional media, including outdoor ads. But others see this as a moment of opportunity. An opinion piece in OOH Today frames the bleak predictions of OOH shrinkage as a signal to OOH advertisers to start thinking outside the box (or should we say billboard?) and adapting, rather than abandoning, outdoor advertising.

The Shift to Digital

Echoing this sentiment, other industry insiders call for an embrace of the shift to digital. In this framework, digital doesn’t replace outdoor advertising, but simply represents an improvement of the form.

As noted in the Entrepreneur piece linked above, digitization was already a driving force in OOH even before the pandemic, and advertisers can embrace the trend by focusing on audiences and using data-driven audience insights to find and retarget consumers in more cost-effective and efficient ways. In other words – according to some – the post-COVID future of OOH is DOOH.

DOOH with Bloom Ads

At Bloom Ads, we take pride in staying ahead of the curve. That’s why we offer digital displays right along with our other outdoor advertising services. Learn more about our outdoor advertising services today.

14 Social Media Stats for 2020 and Beyond

As social distancing and working and studying from home have become the new normal, 2020 has brought lots of changes to how people use social media. In recent blogs, we’ve talked about how COVID-19 has changed marketing and online behavior. But now that we’re well into the second half of the year, we thought it was about time to bring all the most interesting stats on social media in 2020 together for your perusal.

Below, learn what’s changed and what hasn’t about how people are using social media in 2020.

Social Media in 2020: Facebook Statistics

1. Facebook had over 2.7 billion monthly active users as of the second quarter of 2020.

According to this figure from Statista, Facebook is the biggest social network worldwide. What does this mean? Even as talk in the public sphere turns toward new, trending platforms like TikTok, Facebook is still massively popular on a global scale and shouldn’t be ignored by marketers.

2. Facebook use among teens down.

Since 2015, Facebook use among teens has been in decline. First, platforms like Instagram and Snapchat began to eclipse Facebook for younger users, but now the big winner is TikTok. (More on that later.)

3. 88% of Facebook users are on the platform to stay in contact with friends and family.

This figure from Statista aligns with broader social media trends in 2020. At the end of the day, all demographics have stuck with Facebook as a way to stay connected during the time of social distancing.

4. 85% of videos on Facebook are watched with the sound turned off.

This statistic from Digiday will probably come as no surprise for most Facebook users. What does it mean for marketers? If your videos can’t be understood without the sound, make sure to incorporate closed captions so that people can understand what’s going on. You can also take advantage of the medium by making videos that don’t require sound to convey meaning.

5. 53% of users are more likely to make a purchase if they can contact the business directly via platforms like Facebook Messenger.

In our blog on customer service chatbots, we discussed the value of social media messenger chatbots for businesses that want to automate customer service to provide faster, more precise support to customers. This statistic released by Facebook confirms that for more than half of users, the ability to communicate with a business in a direct, digital way has a positive effect on conversion.

Social Media in 2020: Instagram Statistics

6. 54% of people admitted to making a purchase either in the moment or after seeing a product or service on Instagram.

Some marketers maintain that Instagram isn’t the best platform for purchases. However, this statistic from Facebook Business shows that over half of Instagram users are, in fact, using the platform to find and purchase products. Marketers should take this into consideration when planning their Instagram ad strategies.

7. 500 million people use Instagram Stories every day.

One of the signature features of Instagram – Instagram Stories – is also one of its most popular. According to Hootsuite, a whopping 500 million watch these every day. For marketers, Instagram Stories provide a valuable opportunity to show off your brand with entertaining video content that has a wide reach.

8. One-third of the most-viewed Instagram Stories are from businesses.

If the above statistic wasn’t enough to convince you of the value of Instagram Stories for your social media marketing strategy, this one should be!

Social Media in 2020: Twitter Statistics

9. Twitter has 145 million monetizable users daily.

According to shareholder data, in 2019, Twitter had 145 million daily users who were seeing ads (i.e., monetizable users). That doesn’t even include all the users who don’t see ads, who can still present opportunities for organic reach for savvy brands. As users continue to rely on Twitter for news in a fast-paced media cycle, brands can probably count on Twitter use being high for the time being.

10. 92% of the U.S. population is familiar with Twitter.

As mentioned above, Twitter is vital in the media and journalism world. Data from Statista estimates that almost everyone has been exposed to Twitter at some point, even if they don’t have an account. This makes Twitter a powerful reach tool for certain types of brands.

11. 80% of tweets in the U.S. come from 10% of users.

This statistic reveals a lot about what kind of platform Twitter is. Unlike Facebook or Instagram, where there’s a large variety of types of brands and content that thrives, Twitter is more specialized. Prolific users tend to be in media, journalism, politics, and related fields, and there’s a wide gap between the most and least prolific users. Brands that rely on visual and video content might need to look elsewhere for organic reach.

Social Media in 2020: TikTok Statistics

12. Users spend an average of 45 minutes per day on TikTok.

You can fit a lot of TikTok videos into 45 minutes. That’s about 33% more than the 29 average minutes spent on Instagram – meaning 33% more time for your video content to get in front of your target audience. Speaking of the TikTok audience…

13. TikTok boasts 500 million daily active users.

This statistic from South China Morning is eye-opening. While the number isn’t as high as the number of Facebook or Instagram users, it’s a big achievement for such a young platform.

14. In 2019, 49% of teenagers surveyed had used TikTok in the previous month.

This statistic from Business of Apps is in line with the conventional wisdom that TikTok is most popular among younger users. Brands with teen and young adult users should keep their eyes on TikTok trends.

Stay up-to-date with Bloom Ads

At Bloom Ads, we pride ourselves on staying up-to-date on the latest marketing and social media trends so we can help our clients stay ahead of the curve. In 2020, that has been more important than ever. Learn more about our digital marketing services today, and keep in touch with us as we keep an eye on social media in 2020.

How to Select the Best Digital Marketing Agency

The best digital marketing agency can provide a big boost to your business. Statistics show that 78% of internet users research products and services online before buying. With help from an agency, you can ensure that your business gets seen online.

Digital marketing agencies can help grow your business by:

  • Identifying the best online platforms to utilize for your digital marketing
  • Creating a strong social media presence for your brand
  • Developing a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy
  • Creating powerful content, including blogs and videos, to help sell your product or service

So how do you select the best digital marketing agency for your company? How can you tell if an agency does good work? Is it better to hire an agency or create an in-house digital marketing team? 

Whether you’re interested in expanding a traditional marketing campaign to new digital spaces or starting from scratch, there are many important factors to consider. 

What Makes Digital Marketing Unique?

First, you need to understand what you’re up against. Although anyone can create a blog or pay to promote a post on Facebook, digital marketing isn’t easy. Compared to traditional marketing like print, radio, and television, marketing online has many unique features — and unique challenges.

Customers Are (Almost) Always Plugged In

Since the advent of smartphones and cellular data plans, we’re always online. According to ZDNet, the average American spends 5.4 hours a day on their phone. 

Most of this time is spent on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok. In general, online screen time is expected to keep rising, especially with more people working from home and students remote-learning. 

This means digital marketing reaches more people than ever before. Unfortunately, it also means more competition. However, the right digital marketing agency can set your business apart. 

Digital Marketing Tactics are Constantly Changing

Although all marketing tactics evolve over time, digital marketing tactics change much more rapidly than traditional media. Whenever technology changes, your digital marketing campaign needs to adapt. 

For example, SEO tactics rely on search engine algorithms, terms of service, and other factors. Whenever Google releases an update, your digital marketing plan will need to take these changes into consideration. 

Digital marketing also needs to keep up with new apps and updates to existing platforms. When the TikTok craze exploded, it changed how many brands utilize video content. A digital marketing strategy can be perfect for a few months, then lose relevance once the online landscape changes. Your tactics need to be nimble.

Brands Need to Keep Up with Trends

Because digital marketing can move so fast, it also needs to keep up with pop culture and social trends as well as current events. The COVID-19 pandemic is a prime example of this.

When the pandemic began, many “business as usual” marketing campaigns no longer felt relevant to consumers. In fact, some content marketing may have felt insensitive or even offensive. As a result, most companies quickly changed their messaging to reflect the current state of affairs.

Many consumers also expect brands to actively comment on trends via social media. This alone can be a full-time job! However, when your business’ digital marketing can successfully overcome these challenges, you’ll rise above the competition.

Services Provided by a Digital Marketing Agency

No two digital marketing agencies are exactly alike. As with other types of businesses, you’ll find digital marketing agencies in a wide range of sizes and specialties. 

Some agencies employ hundreds of people and work with large corporate accounts. Others are small teams with boutique marketing services aimed at specific industries. You can work with digital marketing agencies for shorter campaigns or contract their services for ongoing, long-term work.

While some agencies focus on certain specialties, such as SEO or social media, a good agency will take a holistic approach to digital marketing. Almost all digital marketing agencies offer the services below:

Branding Audits

In a branding audit, a digital agency will review your company’s current marketing strategy. They will also review your website, social media profiles, and search engine ranking. Agencies then compare these assets with your competitors. 

After a branding audit, your agency can develop a well-rounded digital marketing strategy that considers your business’ strengths and weaknesses, as well as the online habits of your customer base. If needed, many digital marketing agencies can also create a new look and feel for your brand. 

SEO

Marketing and SEO are like peanut butter and jelly. SEO is so vital that many agencies focus on this service almost exclusively. Depending on your company’s needs, an SEO agency may be the best firm for you. 

For some businesses, SEO is the most powerful digital marketing tactic for reaching new customers. When a customer Googles a product or service, the first five search results receive almost 70% of all clicks. SEO tactics help your company become one of those top results.

Social Media

Social media includes platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, and TikTok. Depending on your business and your customer demographics, you may need to focus specifically on two or three of these platforms. However, it helps to have at least some social media presence on all of them.

Digital marketing agencies can set up your business’ social media accounts, then create and publish content that’s unique to your brand. Many agencies also offer community management services. This means they will moderate comments, direct messages, and other activity on your social media accounts. 

Content Marketing

Have you ever heard the phrase “content is king”? Content marketing is a broad term that refers to any creative material developed for a brand. This can include blog posts, custom graphics, video production, and more. 

With content marketing, you can connect with consumers on a deeper level. It tells the story of your brand. Content marketing also ties into SEO, social media, and other facets of your digital marketing campaign. For example, blog content is one of the most important tools for SEO.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is useful for converting new customers and engaging more with existing ones. It’s an effective way to offer promotions and announce new products or services. Even with the rise in social media, email marketing is still one of the greatest ROIs (returns on investment) for digital marketing. 

Digital marketing agencies can help you create and manage email lists. They can also analyze the data from your email campaigns and create segmented lists targeting specific customers. 

Paid Media and Digital Ads

While many digital marketing agencies emphasize organic strategies, paid media is still a valuable tactic. Some of the most effective digital ads include Google AdWords, promoted content on social media, and video ads on platforms like YouTube.

Some marketing agencies specialize in paid media and digital ads. They can help your business grow by creating an ad campaign that reaches specific audiences and gets results.

Agencies Vs. In-House Marketing

When you’re looking for marketing services, you may wonder if it’s better to hire an agency or create an in-house marketing department. 

An in-house team will be dedicated to your company instead of multiple clients. They’ll get to know your brand inside and out. However, creating an effective, comprehensive marketing department can be costly. Hiring even one employee to do in-house marketing is often far more expensive than a full-service agency.

When you contract with an agency, you’ll have multiple experts at your immediate disposal. You won’t need to train or manage anyone directly. Marketing agencies are also able to provide a wide range of specialty services. They understand the digital marketing space and know what it takes for your business to succeed. 

Questions To Ask Yourself

When selecting the best agency, start by assessing your company’s needs. Ask yourself:

  • What are my marketing goals?
  • How do I want to measure success? 
  • What new audiences do I want to reach?
  • What are my competitors doing?
  • Do I need a new website?
  • How do I want to utilize social media?
  • Do I want to hire a company for ongoing services or a shorter, one-time marketing campaign?
  • What’s my budget?

Additionally, if your business already has a marketing department, consider their performance. Where are the “gaps”? 

Often, in-house teams are great at certain marketing services but may lack experience in specific niche areas like SEO or social media. You can still benefit by hiring an agency to provide services your team doesn’t cover.

Questions To Ask An Agency

Before you approach an agency for digital marketing, do some homework. Most agencies have a client list on their website. This will allow you to review the work they have done for other companies. You can also look at the agency’s own social media channels.

Then, ask questions. Get as specific as possible, but start with the basics, such as:

  • What are the agency’s specialties?
  • Do they have experience working in your industry?
  • What are their KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)?
  • How do they handle problems?
  • Do their brand values align with yours?
  • Who will be your main point of contact in the agency, and how often will you communicate with this person?

When you’re selecting an agency for digital marketing, it’s important to feel like you have a great relationship. In many ways, hiring an agency is like hiring a new partner. If possible, you may wish to consider a trial period before signing a longer contract.

To learn more about digital marketing services and for help choosing the best agency for your needs, contact us today.

Mid-roll vs. Pre-roll: What’s the Best Place for a Podcast Ad?

a woman recording a podcast ad

We talked in a previous blog about why you should think about investing in podcast advertising and what to consider when getting started. To recap, podcasting is an exciting new space offering a wealth of opportunities for advertisers to raise brand awareness and grow their networks.

Once you’ve decided to move forward with podcast advertising, one of your most important considerations should be your ad placement options. In this blog, we’ll break down  the most important factors of pre-roll ads vs. mid-roll (and even post-roll) ads, including cost, reach, ad style, and more.

Mid-roll vs. Pre-roll: Catching Your Audience’s Attention

Mid-roll ads and pre-roll ads are pretty much what they sound like. A pre-roll advertisement is usually about 15 seconds long and gets played before the actual content of the podcast begins. A mid-roll advertisement, on the other hand, is about a minute long and usually plays near or at the halfway mark of the podcast – generally 40-70% of the way through the show.

Each podcast advertising option has its pros and cons, and there is no right answer to which is definitively “better.”

Many advertisers prefer pre-roll ads because they believe that an ad appearing in the first 25% of a podcast is most likely to be heard by audiences. Others prefer mid-roll ads because audiences are likely to be engaged in other tasks and won’t take the time to skip through them.

There is data to back up both of these positions, and ultimately your decision will come down to a combination of financial and brand factors.

1. Cost & Reach

Many view the 25% of a podcast as prime real estate for advertising because conventional wisdom says the first few moments of a piece of content will reach the most people. Despite this reasoning, mid-roll ads tend to cost more than pre-roll ads.

This is because, as noted by BluBrry, people are more likely to skip over ads that play at the beginning of a podcast than those that play in the middle. In other words, a mid-roll ad typically reaches the most engaged or receptive members of a given podcast audience.

So, when considering mid-roll ads vs. pre-roll ads, you’ll need to find a balance between your budget and the podcast audience you want to reach.

2. Pre-recorded vs. Live Read

There are two main styles of podcast advertisements. In the typical style, a pre-recorded advertisement is simply played before or between segments of the show. In the “live read” style, the podcast host reads the advertisement themselves. Though mid-roll ads are more often done in the live read style than the pre-recorded style, both types can appear as either pre-roll or mid-roll ads – it just depends on the podcast.

There are conflicting opinions on which type of ad is better. While many argue that live read ads make for a more seamless listening experience, some listeners report reduced feelings of trust in a podcast when advertisements feel too much like endorsements.

3. Your Podcast Network Options

When it comes to both ad style and ad placement, you will be somewhat limited by the types of shows you’re looking to advertise on. These will be determined by your industry, product/service, and target audience.

Usually, a podcast sticks with one style of advertisements over the other. So, a podcast that uses live read ads will typically only use live read ads and vice-versa. You may have more flexibility with the timing of ads – for example, a single podcast may offer pre-roll, mid-roll, and post-roll placement options at different prices.

That said, podcasting has become so popular that no matter your industry or audience, with a little hard work, you’re sure to have enough options to suit your budget and needs.

Final Thoughts: “Downloads are king.”

Whether you end up going for mid-roll or pre-roll (or even post-roll) ads, know that an important factor in whether your ads get heard is simply whether the podcast was initiated. According to more data from BluBrry, “85% of the time when someone initiates listening to a podcast episode, it is ultimately 75% – 100% downloaded.” In other words, if lots of people push “play” on a particular podcast, most data reflects that those people are listening to most, if not all, of it.

So, if your budget isn’t quite midroll-friendly just yet, don’t worry! You can make up for it by advertising on a fairly popular show within your target niche.

An Agency Can Help

Podcasting may be new, but advertising isn’t – at least not to us. Just like radio and TV, podcast advertising is a business, and we’re excited to help you navigate that business. Get in touch with the Bloom Ads team today to get started with podcast advertising.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Advertising During COVID

There’s no doubt that the coronavirus pandemic took its toll on the world of advertising almost immediately. Companies across industries had to make tough marketing and advertising calls in the second quarter of 2020, from reducing ad spend to pausing or postponing campaigns. Data from Statista show the following highlights from April 2020:

  • 50% of companies surveyed stopped or pulled an on-going campaign
  • 64% postponed a planned campaign
  • 44% completely cancelled a campaign

But as many professionals have realized, you shouldn’t cancel all your advertising efforts because of the pandemic. Instead, you should re-evaluate and adjust. This means taking a look at your budget, media mix, and messaging, and making sure your efforts are tailored to fit new customer needs and behavior. While it takes a lot of flexibility, it will benefit your brand in the long-run, well past the end of this challenging time.

Below are four tips for advertising during COVID-19, plus a few mistakes to avoid.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Advertising During COVID-19

DO:

…strive for authenticity.

For most, the COVID-19 pandemic has created a heightened sense of concern over health, relationships, and finances. This means that people aren’t spending their time or money in traditional ways.

More importantly, it means that people’s relationships to brands have changed. People don’t want to be sold something that doesn’t help them feel safe or hopeful during this challenging time.

Make sure your messaging reflects an authentic concern for customers and their communities. This might mean a simple change in tone, or a shift in focus toward a particular area of your service that can be especially helpful during the pandemic.

…get creative.

Unusual times call for unusual solutions. Instead of simply halting all advertising efforts, re-evaluate and re-focus. It’s time to start making lemonade out of lemons. 

First, understand that you might need to advertise on different channels than before. For example, if you previously relied on TV ads during live sporting events, you’ll need to pivot those efforts until such events are safe again.

Second, be prepared to adjust your messaging in response to customers’ concerns over the pandemic. Forbes notes that leadership at Purdue Farms decided to pause a campaign centered on how the company processes chicken, in favor of a more personal campaign geared at showing appreciation for its workers. Walmart and rideshare companies like Uber have introduced similar ad campaigns.

…meet your customers where they are.

As we explored in a previous blog, COVID-19 has changed the way people behave online. That means you might have to look for your customers in new places.

For example, with more people staying at home (rather than searching on-the-go), mobile website activity has declined while traditional website activity has gone up. Similarly, people are watching content on streaming services rather than at cinemas. Finally, social media usage continues to skyrocket, especially on newer platforms like Tik Tok. Stay up-to-date on the latest trends in audience behavior and adjust your media mix accordingly.

…go above and beyond.

Though all companies have to worry about the bottom line in order to survive, people are extra sensitive right now to any suggestion that companies are focusing on profits over the wellbeing of the community – and with good reason. These days, people need a break more than ever.

Many companies are taking this opportunity to offer or extend free trials. For example, HBO unlocked hundreds of hours of TV and movies to watch for free early in the pandemic. Many car insurance companies offered discounts on premiums because of reduced car usage, and plenty of companies are donating money to good causes.

Do what you can to contribute to the greater good, and communicate your efforts to your audience.

DON’T:

…exploit the situation.

Recent polls suggest a somewhat common perception that brands are “taking advantage” of the pandemic. While brands strive to address their customers’ concerns, it’s easy to go overboard. It’s important that you strike a balance between using the crisis as an opportunity to better serve customers, and using it as an opportunity to increase profits.

This means being extra careful not to stoke your audience’s fears in order to influence their behavior.

…get out-of-touch.

On the flipside, you don’t want to ignore the pandemic, either. This is especially important for more personal advertising channels like social media, where people are looking for genuine connection and stress relief.

Sharing content that doesn’t match your customers’ situations – for example, an ad for a Labor Day sale that shows people having fun at a packed beach party even though everyone is being encouraged to practice social distancing – can make you appear insensitive and out-of-touch, hurting your brand loyalty.

 

Advertising during COVID-19 presents both new challenges and new opportunities. Though we’re not out of the woods yet, companies have already proved that it is possible to make the most of the circumstances of 2020 while providing authentically helpful services to customers. To learn more about how Bloom Ads can support you with advertising during COVID, check out our advertising services today.

How to Use Chatbots for Customer Service

yellow and orange robot toy

Look at pretty much any business website today, and you’ll see that we have entered the era of the chatbot. From messenger bots on Twitter and Facebook to chatbots on a company’s website, these AI-powered “agents” help customers book appointments, change account details, track down packages, make purchases, and more.

Data shows that businesses continue to design and implement these conversational programs, while customers are increasingly relying on them for both quick answers and shopping needs.

According to Small Biz Genius:

  • 85% of customer interaction will be handled without human agents by 2021. (Chatbots Life)
  • $5 billion will be invested in chatbots by 2021. (Chatbots Magazine)
  • Interest in chatbots increased by 160% in 2018. (Gartner)

Why chatbots?

The customer service chatbot is one of the biggest trends in automation across a huge range of industries. But why? Wouldn’t it be better for customers to talk to a real, live person?

While that may have been the case in the past, artificial intelligence and machine learning technology have advanced so much in recent years that many customer service chatbots can actually resolve customer inquiries better, faster, and more cheaply than human agents.

According to IBM, customer service chatbots can answer 80% of standard questions. According to Tidio, 46% of users (less than half) would prefer to communicate with a live agent instead of a chatbot.

Clearly, businesses and customers alike have become convinced that customer service chatbots can improve both business operations and the customer experience.

How chatbots create a win-win for businesses and customers

To understand why so many businesses are automating customer service using chatbots, it helps to understand how AI-powered chatbots work.

A chatbot is a type of AI that provides pre-programmed answers to a set of customer inquiries, to achieve specific ends: e.g., helping a customer make a purchase, issuing a customer’s refund, or updating a customer’s account details. Programmers design chatbots by mapping out all possible responses to a range of specific inquiries, then refine them as the chatbots get experience “talking” to more and more customers – a process referred to as machine learning.

Sounds simple, right? But these conversations can be complex, requiring chatbots to be able to interpret customer intent by integrating customer and company information from a range of sources.

The chatbot design process thus requires an immense amount of work and resources to ensure that the chatbot works as well as or better than a human agent. But the investment is worth it – especially for businesses with high volumes of customer service calls. When done well, a customer service chatbot can take on menial or repetitive tasks, resolving issues faster while freeing up live agents for other types of work.

The benefits of customer service chatbots

1. Automation saves time and money.

Customer service chatbots do require high upfront investment in the design process. However, once the bot has been designed and implemented, it can lead to major savings in time and money. Chatbots are cheaper in the long run, and since good chatbots resolve many issues faster than humans can, you get more for what you paid for. Plus, chatbots improve themselves through machine learning.

2. Be there for customers 24/7.

One of the biggest benefits of chatbots is that they can provide customer service at all hours of the day, unlike live agents. This allows you to serve anyone, in any time zone.

3. Provide a better, more memorable customer experience.

As much as consumer behavior changes with the tides, one thing remains certain: customers want good service as quickly as possible. If a customer is able to get their issues resolved right away with the help of a well-functioning chatbot, they’ll remember the positive experience and keep coming back for more. 

Tips for your customer service chatbot

The most important marker of success for a customer service chatbot is good design. A bad chatbot can be worse than a bad live agent, wasting company resources while providing a negative customer experience. Here are some tips for making sure your chatbot takes good care of your customers:

1. Carefully consider your use case and platforms.

What will your chatbot be primarily used for – capturing leads? Purchasing and shipping? Booking appointments? Make sure the use case is a good fit for automation, and that your chatbot will be able to integrate with your existing infrastructure for that use case.

Similarly, make sure you’re using a platform that fits the use case, your customers’ habits, and your privacy and security needs. You may choose to implement your chatbot through SMS text, a messaging app like Facebook Messenger, your own website, or a combination of chat interfaces.

2. Give your chatbot a personality.

Remember, you want your chatbot to take care of customers as well as or better than a live agent would. That means the conversations need to feel friendly and natural. The best way to achieve this is to give your chatbot a personality, including a name and voice that match your brand.

3. Test your chatbot thoroughly.

Again, don’t skimp on the design process. Whether you’re designing your bot in-house or outsourcing the task, make sure that the design process takes your brand and customers into careful consideration, and that every possible conversation is carefully mapped out and tested.

After the design process has finished and the bot is implemented, you don’t have to stop focusing on improvement. Ask customers to rate their experience with your chatbot so that you can continue to improve the technology.

Explore more resources on how to reach your customers in a digital world with Bloom Ads.

Radio Advertising: Why More “Digital” Companies Should Consider the Channel

woman listening to a vintage radio

Nowadays, it’s not uncommon for a company to focus on digital marketing exclusively. Popular platforms like Google, Facebook, and Amazon have constructed an advertising ecosystem that allows marketers to target specific, highly valuable audiences relatively inexpensively. To these marketers, investing in traditional marketing might seem like a waste. 

Traditional marketing, or any type of marketing that isn’t online such as print, broadcast, billboards, and radio, can be expensive. Plus, you can’t target your audience as effectively as you can with digital marketing. While some of this is certainly true, there are still many ways that traditional marketing can contribute to a company’s long-term success. 

Business owners looking to maximize conversions naturally gravitate to the channels that give them the most control and visibility. However, traditional marketing channels can enable even digital-first businesses to raise their profile, improve the performance of their marketing campaigns, and attract new customers. These benefits can actually expand a marketer’s understanding of their target audience and boost performance across all channels

How Can Radio Advertising Help?

There’s no shortage of companies competing online for attention. Thanks to new products from online marketing platforms and the innovation of marketers, the online advertising space is always changing. For many digital-first companies, it can be hard to keep up, especially as larger, more established companies continue to increase their investment in online advertising. 

Radio advertising can provide a digital company with a unique opportunity to introduce themselves to new customers. In a study conducted by iHeartMedia, the majority of web traffic that’s attributed to radio are new customers who have never visited the brand’s site before. By raising awareness of the brand and its products or services, radio advertising can also increase the size of existing audiences. In some cases, it can even create entirely new audiences that might not have been captured by digital marketing analytics. 

Among other types of traditional marketing, radio advertising has actually proven to be one of the most cost-effective. Plus, the results are almost immediate – the same study saw that within 10 minutes of a commercial airing, websites saw an average 17% lift in traffic. 

How to Use Radio Advertising to Your Advantage

Radio advertising, by design, targets huge numbers of people. There are more than 200 million listeners each month in America. Although there is no ability to micro-target customers, radio advertising can still be tailored to desired audiences, albeit more broadly. The first way that radio can be tailored to a specific audience is by location. You can maximize your radio ad’s relevance by limiting it to geographic areas where your target audience lives (and drives). 

The other way this is accomplished is through the creative. There are many ways to tailor your creative to your desired audience, even on a mass scale. Radio ads also tend to be more personable than digital ones. Almost everyone can think of a catchy radio ad for a local car dealership, sporting goods store, or mattress store that has stuck in their heads for years, even decades. The same cannot be said for most digital marketing ads (outside of video). If done well, radio ads can establish a brand in the minds of potential customers. Ultimately, this can lead to higher click-thru and conversion rates.

When it comes to radio advertising, many brands wonder what the sweet spot is. Per the iHeartMedia study referenced above, 10 radio spots a day is the inflection point and auto brands who advertised seven days a week saw 90% better results than those who advertised three to four days per week. Although we caution brands against taking a “one size fits all approach” to advertising, less is not more in the world of radio advertising. 

Radio Advertising and Digital Marketing: How to Measure Success

Without the ability to drill down to specific audiences the same way you can with digital marketing, some marketers wonder how a digital-first company can measure success in radio advertising. Though they may see an overall lift in conversions, the doubt may remain that radio ads are the best investment given a limited budget. After all, there’s almost no limit to what you can spend online, so why invest significantly in an ad format that doesn’t provide the typical analytics data that guides your decision making? The answer to this is called media mix modeling, or MMM. 

Media mix modeling is an analysis technique that allows marketers to measure their marketing and advertising efforts to determine how all of the various elements contribute to their goals. In other words, by looking at all available data, a media mix model can determine how all efforts work together to achieve an end result. This can be extremely helpful in determining how to allocate spend based on overall performance. 

Additionally, there are options available for collecting radio attribution data that does fit cohesively with digital channels. The ability to collect data on offline customer behavior is developing rapidly, and companies that develop processes for creating omnichannel campaigns can expect to outpace their competition. When used in tandem with omnichannel attribution modeling, MMM can identify the specific benefits of investment in radio advertising.  

Let Us Handle Your Media Mix

The marketing landscape is a dynamic one, and it’s always changing. Whether you opt for traditional advertising, digital marketing, or a mix of the two, the media-obsessed experts at Bloom Ads are happy to help you find the perfect media mix for your brand and budget. 

Learn more about our services by contacting us today.

The Perks of Working with a Franchise Marketing Agency

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In today’s complex landscape, there are countless opportunities for failure. Businesses can have great products, services, and awesome customer service and still fail to differentiate themselves from their competition. Consumer behaviors have changed significantly over the past several decades, and it’s getting harder and harder for franchise owners to manage their businesses successfully. One of the best ways of guaranteeing success is to work with a franchise marketing agency.

What is a Franchise Marketing Agency?

Franchise marketing agencies specialize in servicing the specific needs of franchises. Usually offering a mix of traditional and digital marketing services, franchise marketing agencies can ensure that a franchise isn’t missing any opportunities to differentiate themselves from the competition by highlighting locations, services, and products, and connecting with customers wherever they are. 

Whether customers are online on Facebook or Instagram, watching their favorite streaming service, or even checking their emails, a franchise marketing agency can develop a sophisticated marketing plan to reach new customers and retain existing ones. By implementing a marketing campaign that’s tailored to the specific needs of a franchise, franchise marketing companies can help a franchise owner achieve their short- and long-term goals. 

How Can a Franchise Marketing Agency Help?

Marketing in today’s environment is challenging for businesses of every size and structure. For franchise businesses, it’s especially complicated. Crafting a brand identity and ensuring that it’s represented among all of the franchisees is no small task. Coordinating and implementing brand messaging so that customers’ expectations are met regardless of the location can be incredibly time-consuming. For franchise owners, time is a precious resource.

One important way that franchise marketing agencies help is by developing marketing plans that suit the needs of the franchise. These plans typically include a mix of marketing channels, including social media, paid and organic search, email marketing, content marketing, and influencer marketing. Each of these channels, if leveraged correctly, can greatly contribute to the overall success of a franchise by raising awareness and increasing overall conversions.

What are the Main Benefits of Working with a Franchise Marketing Agency?

Of the many benefits of working with an experienced franchise marketing agency, the main ones can be sorted into a few main categories: digital marketing strategy and implementation, brand uniformity, and customer relationship management.

Benefit #1 – Digital Marketing Strategy and Implementation

Digital marketing continues to grow in terms of importance for the success of a franchise. In a time where customers are increasingly turning online to discover and learn about businesses and services, no business or franchise can afford to ignore the digital space. 

A lot goes into digital marketing, more than any franchise owner has the time to fully learn and execute on. That’s where a franchise marketing agency comes in. An agency can develop digital marketing campaigns to meet any goal a franchise owner may have, from raising awareness and creating a unified brand message to increasing and measuring conversions. Using a combination of established and emerging social media channels like Facebook, Snapchat, and TikTok as well as email and search marketing, an agency can significantly expand the number of customers a franchise is able to reach. 

Benefit #2 – Brand Uniformity

Operating a franchise can be more complicated than operating a restaurant or retail store with a single location. Because franchises have many owners in many locations as opposed to one business with many locations, it can be challenging to offer a unified presence that benefits the overall franchise and each individual franchisee. 

A franchise marketing company can create or overhaul an existing franchise marketing campaign to ensure the kind of uniformity that customers expect. This includes making sure that every location is fully present on search engine results pages to managing services like Yelp and Facebook Local. Franchise marketing agencies can take the burden of creating and implementing a unified message and presence online off of franchise owners and franchisees. This saves them valuable time and helps to avoid customer confusion and dissatisfaction. 

Benefit #3 – Customer Relationship Management

One of the most important functions of a franchise marketing agency is customer relationship management or CRM. Ensuring that customers are happy and engaged takes a great amount of effort and the consequences of doing it incorrectly can be catastrophic for a franchise. 

Making sure there are eyes (and helpful responses) on reviews for individual locations, addressing customer questions and complaints, and maintaining a beneficial level of engagement are all aspects of a good CRM strategy. Franchises that attempt to do CRM without an experienced agency have historically delegated much of this work to individual franchisees with mixed results. In this online age, if one franchise location mishandles a customer issue, it can lead to disastrous consequences for the brand itself. By relieving franchisees of this responsibility, a franchise owner who works with an agency can free up their time and avoid these kinds of issues.

See the Benefits for Yourself

Working with a franchise marketing agency has many benefits. From developing and implementing a unified brand voice and marketing strategy to carefully managing customer relationships, working with an agency can save franchise owners time and avoid common pitfalls. Curious about how Bloom Ads can help support you with franchise marketing? Reach out to us today. 

How COVID-19 Changed Online Behavior & What It Means for Brands

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There’s no doubt that the COVID-19 crisis has changed the world. Some of these changes are temporary, while others may prove to be permanent – and still, others may not even be clear just yet.

But one thing that is clear? About four months after the first stay-at-home orders were declared in the U.S., we’re all still spending much more time online than ever before. Many people are working and socializing almost exclusively on video chat platforms like Zoom, while nights out to the movies or concerts have been replaced by nights in with Netflix or live-streamed performances.

COVID-19 has changed or accelerated pretty much everything about our online behavior, meaning:

  • Which apps and platforms are being used
  • Who is using them
  • What we’re using them for
  • How much time we’re spending on them

When it comes to digital and social media trends for 2020, COVID-19 has thrown many marketing experts for a loop, ushering in developments that no one could have predicted. We’ll get into the numbers on some of these trends, plus what they mean for brands, below.

Digital and Social Media Marketing Trends in the Era of COVID-19

As mentioned above, the latest research on digital app use and consumer behaviors shows the impacts of COVID-19 across virtually every aspect of online behavior, from which apps are popular to how people are actually using them.

The New York Times provides some of the most interesting data on these behaviors, highlighted below:

  • Website traffic beats mobile traffic: NYT data showed that since February, website traffic increased for Facebook by 27%, Netflix by 16%, and YouTube by 15.3%. That’s compared to app traffic increases of just 1.1% for Facebook and .03% for Netflix, while traffic for the YouTube app went down by 4.5%. 
  • Video chat platforms hit the jackpot: While Zoom has quite literally zoomed from obscure workplace reference to a household name, lesser-known video chatting platforms like Houseparty and Google Duo have both increased in use (by 79.4% and 12.4% respectively). 
  • Local and established newspapers beat partisan journalism: As people look for trustworthy information and updates about the COVID-19 crisis, readership of more established news outlets has soared, including an increase of over 50% for both the New York Times and Washington Post. 
  • Sports viewership declines while gaming streams rise: Now that professional sports are almost universally canceled, people are watching video game streams instead. The game streaming site Twitch has seen an average daily traffic increase of 19.7% since February, while ESPN.com’s traffic went down by a whopping 40.2%. 

Additional research corroborates these findings:

  • Facebook-owned messaging app What’s App makes a comeback: What’s App use initially grew by 27% at the start of the pandemic, then jumped to a 41% increase in the mid-phase. 
  • Facebook and Instagram are still going strong: While new platforms like TikTok are making waves (more on that below), Facebook and Instagram still saw their usage “double” within the first week of the pandemic. 
  • Visual content reigns supreme: With theaters closed, studios are releasing films online, driving people to streaming platforms to watch things they normally would be packing theaters to see. Disney released Frozen 2 early to Disney+, while Universal Pictures released “The Hunt,” “The Invisible Man,” and “Emma” to streaming sites alongside their global theatrical releases. Meanwhile, people are logging an average of 52 minutes per day on TikTok, a relatively new streaming platform that has eclipsed the popularity of Snapchat and Instagram among young users. 

These stats show that people are using the internet for entertainment, genuine connection, and trustworthy information more than ever before.

TikTok is a Clear Winner

TikTok, a social media platform for sharing short videos similar to the now-defunct Vine, was dismissed by many as a Gen Z obsession not too long ago. Now, the platform has emerged as a real winner of the digital space in the age of COVID-19. TikTok has seen not only a huge increase in users in the first quarter of 2020, but also shifts in the demographics of those users, reaching older audiences.

How many people are using TikTok?

  • In the first quarter of 2020, TikTok became the most downloaded app in the world, with 315 million new downloads. That put the app at 2 billion cumulative downloads for the current quarter.
  • TikTok had 12 million unique visitors in March of this year, a nearly 50% boost from January.
  • In the U.S., TikTok has about 26.5 million monthly active users (MAU). Worldwide, there are 500 million. 

Who is using TikTok?

TikTok started out being most popular with kids and teens, and that’s still partly true. In 2020, one report found that TikTok was responsible for a 200% increase in kids’ social app use. 41% of TikTok users are between the ages of 16 and 24, while about 50% of global users are under the age of 34.

While it’s clear that TikTok users skew below middle age, it’s also clear from the stats above that TikTok is becoming much more popular with millennials and Gen X audiences. Whether it’s because families are now cooped up at home together, or because of the features of the app itself, remains to be seen.

What are people using TikTok for?

TikTok is a surprisingly simple platform. Users upload and share short, 15-second videos set to music clips, which has allowed trends like TikTok dances to explode in popularity. Sure enough, one of the earliest social media trends of the COVID-19 quarantine era has been families learning TikTok dances together. In other words, people largely use TikTok for entertainment – something positive and interesting to distract from the uncertain and often stressful impacts of COVID-19.

However, TikTok is also a space for advertising, social media influencing, and online shopping. Like other platforms, such as Instagram, TikTok makes revenue from ads and in-app purchases. This means that at least some users do use TikTok as a marketplace.

What is TikTok’s secret?

So, how has TikTok managed to win the COVID-19 digital gauntlet? There are a few not-so-secret ingredients to TikTok’s success:

  • Simple, appealing product – Again, amid the COVID-19 crisis, people want fun content. TikTok provides just that with short, easily digestible, usually funny videos. Plus, many of TikTok’s trends – such as dance challenges – are physically active, providing an extra mood boost.
  • Cross-platform shareability – TikTok makes it easy to distribute content to other platforms, namely Instagram and Twitter.
  • Business agility – TikTok has demonstrated that its business is flexible and in-tune with its audience, refining a product that precisely fits its users’ needs in an uncertain time. Its “original series,” #HappyAtHome: LIVE!, takes advantage of quarantine by live-streaming inspiring content five days a week, including some recent prom-inspired content aimed at high schoolers missing this traditional milestone because of COVID.
  • Ad revenue – As mentioned, TikTok earns revenue from advertisements and in-app purchases, making the platform a great space for brands that have value to offer to users stuck at home.

Making the Most of COVID-19 Social Media Marketing Trends: Takeaways for Brands

1. Go where your audience is.

The statistics above paint a clear picture of where audiences are spending most of their time right now:

  • On apps like TikTok and Instagram
  • On streaming sites like Netflix and Disney+
  • Reading established newspapers online to keep up with public health news

Brands should be advertising on TikTok, streaming sites, and digital newspapers to the extent possible. Brands with smaller budgets can still carve out space for themselves on content platforms – keep reading to learn how.

2. Shift toward authentic, entertaining, positive content.

Don’t have the budget necessary to place an ad on Hulu or the New York Times? Don’t worry – spaces like TikTok are perfect for smaller budgets, as long as you have a strong brand and some creativity to go around. People are hungrier than ever for fun, authentic content, and brands have a real opportunity to step up and provide.

One great example of this kind of creativity is Russell Stover’s virtual “bunny hunt,” in which Instagram users were challenged to find chocolate bunnies hidden in photos. The confectioner also partnered with Giphy to create and distribute GIFs of people hugging so that people could share virtual hugs with the hashtag #MakeHappy.

Brands can follow Russell Stover’s example with the following types of content:

  • Social media challenges – Russell Stover’s Easter campaign shows that Instagram challenges are still a strong social media marketing trend. As evidenced by its dance challenge trends, TikTok also provides a good space for viral video marketing campaigns.
  • Memes – Darkly comic memes about our uncertain times have skyrocketed in popularity. The good news for brands is that memes are relatively low-cost creative assets that can entertain audiences while increasing brand awareness.
  • Influencer marketing – Like on Instagram, influencers have a presence on TikTok. Just make sure that if you’re considering influencer marketing, you carefully consider your budget, vet potential influencers to make sure they’re a good fit for your brand, and make sure you’re reaching the right audience, since TikTok users do tend to skew younger.

3. Shift away from mobile.

One of the biggest curveballs COVID-19 has thrown at the digital marketing world is the trend away from mobile. Before 2020, it seemed like all anyone was talking about was mobile SEO and making your site mobile-friendly. Now that searching and online shopping have moved from on-the-go to on-the-couch, it’s imperative that brands invest just as much – if not more – into their website usability as their mobile usability.

Make Informed Decisions

COVID-19 has already irrevocably shaped the digital and social media marketing trends of 2020. At Bloom Ads, we make it our mission to stay on top of these trends so that our clients can make the most informed decisions about their marketing campaigns. Learn more about our services today.

What is Brand Response & How Is It Different From Brand Awareness?

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When you’re just getting started with advertising, there’s a lot of terminology to wrap your head around. Since we know exactly how confusing it all can be, we’ve created our blog as a space to keep you informed. From “media buy” to “brand advertiser,” and everything in between, we’ve got the toughest advertising lingo covered right here. For today’s article, we want to focus on two terms in particular: what is brand response and what is brand awareness. While they may sound pretty similar, they have some very important differences, and delineating between the two is critical for success in both. 

Today, we seek to define what is brand response, what is brand awareness, why they are both so important to the amplification of your brand, and why it’s so important to differentiate between the two. Let’s get started.

What is brand response?

Brand response combines the lower rates of TV and radio to deliver broad-reaching awareness at a more efficient cost. It drives results (sales) while still generating mass reach for your brand.

If you are wondering “what is brand response,” think of it as a combination of brand marketing and direct-response advertising. The brand marketing aspect draws in customers by creating a story; then the direct response advertising locks them in with a direct call-to-action.

Brand response merges storytelling with metrics and a human component with powerful click through rates. This is how it works:

  1. First, you create compelling content that’s free and organic. You create content that feels important to a lot of different people and is highly engaging and shareable. This can be blog posts, videos, podcasts, an Instagram Live event, a Reddit AMA, or anything else. In doing so, you establish yourself as a voice or authority on the subject at hand. 
  2. Then, you have to deliver on a specified value. This means boosting your content with paid ads and paid traffic platforms to create a direct response. You hook the customers with the content; then you bring them in with the more traditional forms of advertising. 
  3. You get big results at a lower cost and enjoy a powerful return on investment

What is brand awareness marketing?

Brand awareness marketing is the first part of brand response. This is the original content you create. As we mentioned before, it should be free and organic.

When you create content that is interesting, funny, original, educational, powerful, and shareable, you earn the trust of an audience. Brand awareness should be carried out by creatives––your very best writers, directors, editors, designers, etc. or an advertising agency (like us!). They plant the seed for building an audience.

Brand awareness marketing is very effective for doing exactly what it promises to do: raising brand awareness. But when you rely on brand awareness alone, you miss the powerful opportunity to turn your new brand loyalists into sales.

Why is it so important to differentiate between the two?

You can’t build successful brand response campaigns without understanding the major differences between what is brand response and what is brand awareness. If you muddy the lines between the two, you’ll muddy your overall response marketing strategy.

Know that brand awareness marketing is creativity-driven. Let your team of creative talents takeover here. Do not task your analytics team with any of this work (unless it’s providing relevant keywords). If you let your technical team drive this project, you won’t have the kind of brand awareness needed to create a powerful brand response.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, create a designated team for the direct response function of the equation. Have your PPC team take the reins on turning incredible content into a profit driver. 

Why is this so important for the amplification of your brand?

The truth of the matter is brand awareness on its own can only go so far. Sure, it’ll get some eyes on your brand, but will those eyes turn into purchases? Conversely, if your ads are merely ads or just blatant calls to action, your messaging will feel dated and salesy. This will turn customers away in a heartbeat.

Combining brand response with brand awareness marketing is a powerful way to lead your marketing campaigns. Think of it as the best of both worlds! Ground it in your creativity, and build it out with your technical know-how. 

What we do at Bloom Ads

We are a full-service advertising agency based in Los Angeles. Our team is composed of savvy creatives who can take over the brand awareness side of things, and experienced technicians who will drive the direct response.

Our hybrid approach to media creates attention for your brand while delivering profitable results. We have a fresh take on advertising, using advanced technology and real-time reporting. To hook a highly targeted range of customers on your brand, and then convert them into sales, get in touch. 

Bloom Ads Global Media Group | 818.703.0218 | info@bloomads.com
20720 Ventura Blvd. Suite 140 Woodland Hills, CA 91364