While chatbots—computer programs that conduct conversations via audio or text—have captured the imaginations of businesses hungry to automate conversations on the web, it will still be a while before any “digital friend” inside your computer can truly mimic human conversation. Even so, businesses which ignore chatbots do so at their peril, given that there is a great deal of money betting chatbots will emerge, sooner or later, as conversational charmers.
While many businesses are guilty of chasing the latest digital marketing craze, good old email marketing is still the killer app to beat when it comes to return on investment (ROI) for businesses. Indeed, a 2016 study released by marketing consulting firm Clutch found that email marketing still has the highest ROI of any marketing channel (https://clutch.co/marketing/email#survey).
Fans of Facebook—and there are more than a billion of them—now have a near mirror image of the social network that they can use for their businesses. Dubbed Workplace by Facebook, the new app offers all of the familiar features that have made Facebook the world’s most popular digital meeting place. The primary difference is that Workplace by Facebook enables businesses to use the familiar Facebook environment to create an entirely private social network for their employees and trusted trading partners.
Google is cracking down on mobile websites that intentionally degrade the web-browsing experience for the rest of us. Beginning in January 2017, the search-engine giant announced plans to push mobile websites down in its search-engine returns if they deliberately harass visitors with bothersome pop-up ads.
The scourge of ransomware has become so ingrained in the very fabric of computing that some of the criminals behind it have actually begun offering live chat support for victims who agree to pay their ransoms. The new “service” was discovered this past summer by Trend Micro, an IT security firm that posed as a victim of ransomware and was cheerfully offered live chat support in exchange for its ransom payment.
While hackers regularly make digital corpses of computer systems run by global giants and mom-and-pops alike, the hard fact is that few businesses have a plan in place to handle a cyber break-in.
While increasing numbers of companies are moving to “native advertising” (advertising that is woven into the very fabric of content produced by publishers), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has warned, “Watch your step.” Disturbed by the growing number of ads that are indistinguishable from news, radio commentary, entertainment video and other content, the agency released new rules this past December designed to reign in firms and ad agencies that are taking too free a hand in drawing the line between advertising and content.
While video marketing is already on the radar of most web-savvy businesses, recent indications are that the medium will continue to explosively transform the internet for years to come. For example, video-based social-media startup Instagram—a mere blip on the web’s radar a few years ago—now boasts nearly 500 million users. Snapchat, another video-centered social-media network is growing nearly as ferociously. And online video king YouTube cruises along these days at more than a billion users. YouTube reaches more 18- to 49-year-olds than any cable TV network in the United States, according to the company’s stats page (www.youtube.com/yt/press/statistics.html).
With most leading businesses devoting more time to content marketing these days—the publishing of articles, videos, images and more to reinforce brand image—it’s more important than ever to ensure that content is optimized for search engines.
Any business that is advertising on the web needs to ensure that the publishers it works with are actively engaged in combating a growing threat: web browsers that are tricked-up with ad-blocking software. Installed in seconds on popular web browsers such as Firefox and Chrome, ad blockers essentially strip out all of the advertising programmed to appear on a webpage, neutralizing any impressions a company is looking to make with its precious ad dollars.