Tuesday, December 31, 2013

How Focusing On Google+ For Your Social Media Marketing Pays Off (Infographic)

It never fails. Anytime I'm discussing marketing with a group of people I bring up my work on Google+. And, every time - every single time - I hear at least one fool person chuckle and give me the same old response they read on a blog somewhere a year or two ago - "Nobody's on Google Plus".

It wasn't true then, and it isn't true now. But, where these marketers really are failing is by thinking of social media in such a simplified and close-minded way. When a social network functions only as a social network, then that is all they have to offer. So, if people aren't there in droves, posting content publicly and engaging with each other regularly, the network isn't providing much value. However, when a company has much more to their offering (let's say a search engine the world uses for everything, for starters), that network begins to act as a layer, a brain that informs the other body parts of the business with the content shared and the data collected. Such is the case with Google's offering.

The infographic below by +Techmagnate is specific in explaining the advantages Google+ provides to businesses that simply cannot be matched by other social networks. Concentrating your social media efforts here will get you in front of the audience you aim to reach.

Why you must focus on Google Plus?
Explore more infographics like this one on the web's largest information design community - Visually.

By the way, the other comment I tend to get from non-users is "I need to be on there more. I have an account. But, I don't really use it. I need help figuring it out." Well, this should light a fire under you to get started. You can contact me on Google+ anytime for more.

top image credit: Omisem

Monday, December 30, 2013

How Baseball's ERA Concept Can Be Applied To Marketing

As 2013 comes to an end, I am reading quite a few year-end lists and best-of-the-best collections, as well as predictions for 2014. These are fun for me, and a great way to end one year and head into the next. I usually find a few gems from earlier in the year that I missed initially too.

One such gem is The Unofficial Goldman Sachs Guide To Being A Man from +Business Insider, which I came across in the following Google+ post by +Jesse Wojdylo last week:

The full list of man advice can be found here. The one that stuck out to me most I paraphrased in the Aroldis Chapman image above (using a font called "Play Ball". Ha!) The full piece of advice reads as follows: "You don't have to like baseball, but you should understand the concept of what a pitcher's ERA means. Approach life similarly."

I thought for a moment about what this meant. I am a baseball fan, so a pitcher's ERA is something I'm familiar with. For those of you that are not, here is the formula:

Earned Run Average (ERA) = (Earned Runs / Innings Pitched) x 9

Basically, the ERA gives people an idea of how many runs a pitcher will give up to the other team if he were to pitch a complete game. Aroldis Chapman's ERA for the 2013 season was 2.54, meaning if he were to pitch a complete game (it would never happen, by the way) he would give up 2.54 runs on average.

Since pitchers pretty much ceased pitching complete games, this formula is a much better way of assessing effectiveness rather than straight wins and losses. 

To me, approaching life in a similar way means to take responsibility for the things under my control. Whenever I'm "in the game", I need to do all I can to make a positive impact, and allow others to rely on me as a capable leader.

Approaching marketing this way can be an effective way of thinking about your role too. Here are three things I came up with that sort of flesh out the idea of "ERA marketing" from both an offensive and defensive perspective:

  1. Always be Aware of Your Competitor - Market share is like runs scored. Marketing isn't all about offense though. Know your competition, and what their capabilities are. Build up your competitive advantage in the minds of consumers and ensure it's sustainable, so you keep and grow your share and prevent the other team from doing the same. 
  2. Marketing is a Team Sport - A pitcher can only do so much to control the game. It's impossible to strike everyone out all of the time. So, when that ball gets hit, it's the job of the rest of the team to field it. No room for errors here. The rest of the marketing team has to make sure the brand messaging is consistent at each touch point, and the sales force has to back that message up. Confusion, a lack of team work, and uncommitted players will lose games.
  3. Be a Leader - It's often up to the pitcher to set the pace of the game. Lower ERA's mean less runs are being scored. And, without your back against the wall, a brand can be free to go out and be creative on offense. Can your teammates rely on you to create more opportunities, and make the team more successful?   

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Google Hummingbird Is The Word For Marketers Involved In SEO And SEM In 2014 (Infographic)

As I mentioned in a Twitter chat for charity last week giving predictions on digital trends in 2014, Google's Hummingbird update is making social media engagement an absolute requirement for brands wishing to rank highly in Search. This doesn't necessarily mean that social media accounts themselves must have tons of followers, or get a lot of engagement.

What it does mean is that the content produced by brands (on their website, blog, or wherever they want users to find them) must be valuable. One of the main ways Google is working to determine whether content is valuable are the social signals linking back to it. The more the content is engaged with through comments and shares on social media sites, as well as the authority of those people who are engaging, the more Google will place that content front-and-center in search results.

Opportunities to game the system decrease with every algorithm update. That's a good thing for those of us that are genuinely good at what we do, and not just clever at finding loopholes or fortunate enough to have deep pockets.      

I like this infographic below by +Prestige Marketing Inc. because it gives a very clear explanation of the major updates to Google's algorithm, allowing those interested to see how Google is sharpening their skills at providing the best search results for their users with each effort. It also offers a few general tips going forward to ensure you're not dinged by Google for not following the rules, and fall off the search cliff. As some can tell you, it's not always easy to climb back up.
A Trip to the Google Zoo
by killerinfographics.
Explore more infographics like this one on the web's largest information design community - Visually.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Great Ads From Years Past - Week 2

I kicked off my own Throwback Thursday series last week with a memorable television commercial from when I was a kid.

This week, I'm going further back in time (I'm guessing the 1950's), and looking at a print ad that I find interesting especially when applying today's marketing norms to it.

Fairy Liquid builds its brand around trust as you can see from two of the three taglines on the ad here. You can trust the cleaning power, and trust its value. That doesn't seem like a stretch. We all want our customers to trust us. But, take a look at the tagline right underneath the brand name. It reads "I Hardly Ever Buy It!"

Whoa - that's some concept for a packaged good, huh? Today, a major focus of brands is repeat purchases. Get the customer to buy, and buy often. Coupons offer slight discounts for buying more (maybe more than you need). Marketers of items that are infrequent purchases may spend time promoting the multiple uses of the good (e.g. baking soda), or the need to replace it at frequent intervals (e.g. toothbrushes).

With Fairy Liquid (at least in this ad), value is a big part of their offering. They back up their message, and not just with a low price point. They do it with a quality product that only requires a small amount with each dish washing job, thus a lesser need to purchase repeatedly. "I Hardly Ever Buy It" is probably not a claim you'd see on an ad today, even though Fairy Liquid is going after customer loyalty here, something immensely important to today's brands.  

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Ads I Like: "Hardys - Five Generations Of Devotion"

I came across the following advertising campaign for Hardys Wine via +Ads of the World the other day. It left an impression on me, and since I just recently did a Google+ Hangout On Air (HOA) with +TheUrbanTaste for my startups & entrepreneurs community, it seemed like the perfect time to share it.

This campaign was done by the McCann agency, and focuses on the family history behind Hardys Winery. The imagery is rustic and simple,and captures the entire experience of the wine's production. That, along with descriptive storytelling in the copy, hones in on the pride, knowledge, and work ethic passed down from generation. I appreciate the production, so I'm more inclined to appreciate the product now that I know the story behind it.

What do you think of these ads?

Note: The copy is a bit small. Use the hover zoom browser extension, or ask me if you can't read it. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

What Will Be The Digital Marketing Trends In 2014?

I received a notification from +CamMi Pham on Google+ today asking me to contribute my prediction for digital marketing trends in the new year through Twitter or Instagram. Her company, +Filemobile, has a cool holiday promotion where interaction results in donations to a good cause.

See her Google+ post about the campaign that I have embedded below, and my contributions via Twitter below that. Want to share your predictions for digital marketing in 2014? Use hashtag #FMTRENDS14, and I'll check them out.

Google+ Hangout On Air: Wine Forum & Tasting Co. The Urban Taste - Entrepreneur Profile

Among several other communities on Google+, I run one called Cincinnati Startups & Entrepreneurs which serves as a hub for business people in my area to connect, collaborate, and learn. Every so often I sit down with an entrepreneur or two to talk about their business in a Hangout On Air (or, HOA for those familiar with 'The Plus' lingo). This is the latest HOA. If you like wine and networking, this may appeal to you.   

The Urban Taste serves as an educational wine forum & tasting for minorities to be introduced to & learn about the culture of wine, while being inspired to participate in the opportunities that the wine industry offers for minorities. 

Here, I sit down with Felicia Prater and Alex Spencer to discuss The Urban Taste's mission, marketing as an entrepreneur, and educating young professionals on the joy of wine.
If you're in the Cincinnati area, and would like to discuss your business in a Google+ Hangout On Air (HOA) for the 'Cincinnati Startups & Entrepreneurs' Community page, please contact me (link on the left).

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Great Ads From Years Past - Week 1

This is the first post in a series I'm getting started today on this blog where I share some kind of a marketing piece - a magazine ad, TV commercial, billboard, etc. - that stands out among the rest as memorable and effective advertising.

To give a short background, on December 6th I shared the below post on Google+ about Amazon's little publicized 7-day refund policy.

As I mentioned in the post, this got me reminiscing about a very memorable commercial from my childhood. The following ad for Circuit City ran for a while, and features a kid who recently bought a Walk-Man making his way back to the store to show the clerk the newly advertised lower price on the item. The clerk issues a refund for the difference with no problem. The commercial puts customer service front and center as a value proposition, and stood out to me because it was a kid taking care of his purchase with no problem. I had a Walk-Man too, and I bought cassette tapes every week. So, I guess it kind of made me feel empowered to know that this is a store that wouldn't treat me like a little kid.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

How ESPN Is Using Twitter In Their SportsCenter Mobile App

+ESPN  recently updated their "ScoreCenter" mobile app, and I love what they've done with the place. For one, it's now called SportsCenter after their flagship news show. Some might wonder why they didn't start with that. But, the fact is the initial app offered nothing else. It was for scores, plain and simple. Calling it by the +SportsCenter name would be misleading. 

This new version though is very much a mobile version of the TV show. It offers scores, league standings, news alerts and more. It's a very useful branded application. But, what I find most interesting is the way social media is incorporated right into it. Click on the "Now" tab at the top of the screen, and you are treated to real-time updates from any chosen sport via Twitter.

What a brilliant way to offer real-time content to fans! Not only does this keep SportsCenter users up to date using social media content, it actually leverages the brand's trusted voices (their anchors, their analysts, etc.) by defaulting to these profiles. Users can then click through once to easily follow any of these handles on the Twitter social network for more content. 

This app feature is a way of being helpful and offering content without being closed off to the rest of the mobile world. It works because they market themselves without trying to do it all themselves. ESPN delivers what their users want. And, that's the best way to win on mobile, and on social.    

How To Quickly Learn Effective Social Media Marketing Tactics On Each Network

Keeping up with all of the social networks available today can be challenging. I've talked to a lot of marketers that are proficient in one or two, but are admittedly novices on most others. Granted, every social network doesn't warrant the same amount of attention. Maybe your brand, or the brands you work with, have no interest in Vine or Pinterest. Perhaps SnapChat and Tumblr don't boast the users that make up their target market.

However, knowing the strengths and weaknesses of each social network, as well as the demographic breakdown of their userbase will tell marketers which brands can use these networks to connect with existing customers and identify new ones leading to more sales over time.

A great way to hit the ground running with a network that's new to you, or to reinvigorate your creativity with those you're already on, is to seek out brands that are "doing it right". Fortunately, examples like this are curated by many different people and can be found in neat little collections on blogs, in white papers, and through slide presentations.

I've included a few slideshare presentations below that showcase various brands who are successful on LinkedIn, Google+, and Instagram, respectively. Seeing what other marketers are doing to leverage social media serves as inspiration to me. See if they inspire you too.  


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Digital Technology Breathes A Whole New Life Into Billboard Advertising

Image credit: Lomography

Billboards - the pop-up ads of the highway. Many people don't seem to enjoy what they add to the skyline. They're often not pretty, they're huge, and they're ubiquitous. People can't get away from them. They can ignore them. But, they still see them. That's what marketers like about billboards. Repetition results in familiarity. We know this. And, put the right ad on the right billboard for one-time passersby (a gas station or restaurant ad along with upcoming exit number), and it's easy for them to act.

But while they can (and often do) work for businesses, billboards offer low-engagement, one-way communication, and effectiveness is difficult to measure. Digital technology is really starting to turn this on it's head though, bringing in a whole new set of possibilities for marketers. Digital billboards in some form have been around for a long time (see the talking billboard from the 1991 movie L.A. Story above). They give you the time, the temperature, traffic updates, and even relationship advice in boring yellow on black projection.
Image credit: SCPR
But, marketers have been getting more creative with digital billboards little by little. Baseball teams, for instance, have used their ad space along the road to deliver daily game information (I don't have a photo of my Cincinnati Reds sign, so we'll stick with Los Angeles, I guess). Before the game starts this one has a countdown. The Reds (as I'm sure others have) offer up the name of the pitcher for that day. As soon as the game ends with a win from the home team, the projection changes to large text that exclaims "Reds Win!". It's simple, but engaging. It grabs the driver's attention and gets them to think about the game.

Judging by their patent filingsGoogle is also interested in the power of billboards. They want to create an AdWords type of system, where data (and bids) will cause the most relevant ad to display in real-time. The implications here are exciting to think about.

Still, other brands are coming up with ingenious ways to use digital technology in their mass marketing on billboards. I'll leave you with this one from British Airlines that won the Internet a week or so ago. It wows the viewer with technology unseen before, provides information about the product and service, and ends with a great marketing message that becomes clear and powerful if you watch a few planes go by above it (and how could you not?).


Now that you have this as inspiration, how might you go about improving your billboard advertising to create something truly eye-catching?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Why I Don't Feel "Scroogled" By My Chromebook Laptop

This year's "Scroogled" marketing campaign by Microsoft is getting a lot of (negative) attention recently as they have now decided to go after the Chromebook, claiming that it is not a "real" or "proper" laptop because it doesn't run Windows or Office. A little sad, I think. Especially since the brand spends so much time in the ad dissing Google, and so little time talking about their own products, and what they offer the consumer. Is this smart marketing? I don't think so. Even in an ad bashing the competition, it's just common sense that your product is featured front-and-center as the better solution.

I'm not saying don't buy a Windows laptop. Hell, buy whatever fits your needs. I decided to buy a Samsung Chromebook (a real laptop, as evidenced from +Chris Pirillo rant here breaking down the term) several months ago because it was the best fit for me. I thought I'd share just a few of the top reasons I feel good about my purchase.

  • The Keyboard - I can't say enough about the Chromebook keyboard. It's sleek and responsive, with keys just far enough apart and raised up just enough to make it an incredibly easy machine to type on. I like the touchscreen on my phone, of course. But, there's nothing like a good old fashioned keyboard when I want to get a bunch of thoughts down. The only thing missing on it for me is a "delete" key (I don't like to use 'backspace" - just a personal preference. I like to remove text from behind the word rather than in front of it).
  • Ability to work offline - Yeah, that's right. The Microsoft commercials would have you believe a Chromebook is useless without WiFi. That would be okay with me. I knew what I was buying, and I pretty much always have a WiFi connection these days. But, many of the apps work offline once you set it up that way, and everything syncs automatically when a connection is available. This brings me to my next reason...
  • Syncing, saving, and updating are automatic - I love love love not having to remember to click a save button or risk losing all of my work. When you stop typing in Google Drive, your work is saved for you. It's as easy as that. Everything you do offline automatically sync where it is supposed to. There are no extra steps to make this happen. Updates to your OS happen automatically, and take effect when you restart the laptop. No checking for them, or clicking through a bunch of windows to get them to download and install. No waiting. 
  • Collaboration in real-time is easy - Before working in Chrome and Drive, I'd have to open a document, read through and make my edits, save it, and then email it back to someone else to do the same thing. This became very tedious. With the tools that Google provides, I can collaborate with colleagues in real-time - we both/all have the same document open and can make edits as we go. Add another layer to this by chatting live in a Google Hangout with colleagues in other locations and you have an amazing and efficient way to get work done. 
  • Quick boot time - Maybe 6 seconds flat. The Windows laptop I used prior took several minutes - very frustrating if you're running late for a conference call. 
  • Battery life - I can be unplugged and working for 6 hours, no problem.
  • The price - $249 for this bad boy. The on-board memory is minimal, so I bought a 1 TB external hard drive for $60 too. A steal. 
  • Weight/Portability - You'd have to look up the spec for the exact weight. I don't remember exactly. But, wow is it light! I can toss this in my laptop bag, or carry it under my arm in a little padded sleeve a bought for $10, and barely notice it. It may not seem like much, but for me it's a huge convenience to have something so easy to maneuver. 
Those are some key advantages off the top of my head. There are more, I'm sure. But, hopefully this gives a clearer image of what Google is offering with the Chromebook line, and their product line as a whole. In my opinion, it's a long way from getting screwed scroogled.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Ads I Like: "Get A World View. Read The Economist."

These days a lot of attention goes toward the more innovative advertising campaigns that leverage the latest technology and marketing trends to motivate action. While digital marketing and innovations in technology are a focus of mine, I find that good old multi-purpose print advertising still moves me as much as it ever did, and really serves as inspiration to me as a marketer.

Below are a series of brilliant ads for one of my favorite publications, +The Economist, put together by +BBDO and shared by +Ads of the World - a great resource for regular inspiration in advertising. Each of these five ads speak to the tagline while challenging the audience to challenge themselves. Take a look and let me know what you think of the campaign.

"Get a world view. Read The Economist."  

Thursday, November 14, 2013

How To Use Google+ To Host Social Media Icons For Your Gmail Auto Signature (6 Simple Steps)

If you're like me, you prefer the look of having icons in your email auto signature that point to your various social media accounts over plain old text hyperlinks. The icons are much more visual, and visuals help motivate action.

A few weeks ago, I noticed that the icons I was using in my auto signature had quit working. They were instead replaced by the logo of the website that I got these free icons from. I went back to the site, found some replacements, and took several minutes adding them back to my auto signature in Gmail (and the right-hand side of my blog). The problem was fixed...for about a day. 

A day or two later, the same thing happened again. I repeated the process again...and again the next day...and again the next. I started to get really frustrated. Because Gmail requires the auto signature images point to a working URL rather than allowing users to simply upload images from their computer, I couldn't find a simple solution. I tried uploading to my blog here. But, it wouldn't work. 

Finally, it hit me. Unlike other social networks, each post made in Google+ is its own unique url that can be linked to. Of course!! So, the following are the steps I took to get my auto signature set up with all of my social media icons once, and for all (I have accounts with a few others. But, these are my main ones). Take a look and let me know what you think. 

Step 1: Find the icons you want to use online and download them to your computer. I don't want to endorse any specific site, especially the ones that move their URLs every damn day! So, just do a Google search for free social media icons available for commercial use (just to be sure). 

Step 2: Go to Google+ and click the "Share what's new..." box to start a new post. Click the "Photos" option to upload a photo from your computer, and upload the icon you want to use.  

Step 3:  Share the post with a private circle - preferably one that you set up with no one in it (before the 'favorites' option for G+ posts, I used an empty circle to share posts with myself that I wanted to read later). This way, you won't be annoying those that have you circled by sharing a little social media logo for some reason unknown to them.  

Step 4: Click on the individual post to grab the URL (sometimes a post will have an option in the drop down options that reads "link to this post". That's what you want.)

Step 5: Go to Gmail and click the gear icon on the upper right - choose "settings" from the drop down options. Scroll down until you reach your auto signature. Click the "Insert Image" icon, and paste in the URL from Google+. Once you have inserted your image, highlight the icon, click the "link" option, and type in the URL for the social media profile you are linking to. Scroll down and click "save changes"

Step 6: Test it out. Open a new mail message in Gmail and confirm that your icons are all there and working. It will look something like what you see in the image below.

That's all there is to it. Please give it a try, and let me know in the comments if you have problems, successes, or know of another great way to make these social media icons appear in your Gmail auto signature and bring more of your contacts into your social world.  

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The GoPro Camera Is Its Own Brilliant Marketing Machine

"It's a marketer's dream" - Nick Woodman on his product, the GoPro camera

That it is, Nick.

GoPro on Instagram
I hope you all had a chance to watch this great story on the founder of GoPro from 60 Minutes after football Sunday evening. Nick Woodman (one of America's newest billionaires, according to the piece) gave his account of how the idea for the camera came about, the hard work that went into building the business, and the extreme variation of applications the camera has seen over the time it has been on the market.

The footage included throughout the story is truly amazing, and would make you want to go out and purchase one of these to take everywhere with you if you haven't already.

What really interested me though was the way the +GoPro camera has been marketed to the public. Here are some of the highlights that jumped out at me as to why it works.

GoPro on Instagram

  • It's visual-based - The GoPro is inherently a viral-friendly product that produces great word-of-mouth advertising for the brand. It records high-quality video and captures vivid still images, both of which have high shareable value on popular social networks like Instagram and YouTube.
  • The customer creates the content - Because of the social nature of photos and videos as mentioned above, GoPro is able to use social media to source marketable material from their own users. Users apply their own creativity to capture a variety of moments using the camera, as they would with any other camera. Though the bar here is a bit higher because the GoPro itself drives people to try something new and different, to outdo each other in one way or another. For GoPro, the best part of tapping into their users is that the content is free, authentic, and continuous.
  • Relevant Sponsorhips - The target segment for the GoPro camera are still athletes of extreme sports and outdoor adventurers. The company even builds bundles of their products for customers on its website based on specific activities. To continue having success in this niche market, GoPro makes themselves visible to these customers. They sponsor extreme athletes as well as competitions, and use the opportunity to make their own branded videos that inspire their users.

+GoPro  is a great product that has grown into a highly successful brand. The marketing behind it succeeds because it is authentic, fun, and inviting. It also just so happens to be the kind of product that plays right into today's world of self-documentation and shareable moments online. A true marketer's dream.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

What Legacy Does NBA Commissioner David Stern Leave Behind?

In February 2014, David Stern will step down as commissioner of the NBA, leaving the business to his Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver. Stern's shoes will be hard to fill.

He's not without his faults, of course. But, looking at his history in the league since 1984 there is little doubt that David Stern was a visionary that did amazing things for the sport...and the business of sport. A great profile in MediaPost on Tuesday broke down many of his successes, as well as some more trying times. Here are a few highlights he presided over in his career: 

  • Basketball is now truly an international sport with games being broadcast in over 200 countries and territories across the world
  • NBA teams are now worth an average of $400 million, versus $11-19 million when he began his tenure
  • He brought about the "Dream Team" filling the USA Olympic basketball team with professional players
  • He oversaw the expansion of the league to include 7 new teams - two in Canada
  • He developed the WNBA
  • He established enormously profitable partnerships, allowing companies like Nike and Gatorade to align themselves with the NBA brand increasing their own equity tremendously.  

As a marketer, David Stern is someone to admire. He had a grand vision of bringing the game of basketball to every corner of the world. He did just that, and built one hell of a brand along the way. What are your thoughts on his legacy from a marketing/business perspective? What about from a sports fan's perspective? 

3 Great Ways To Right A Wrong With Customers

Mistakes happen. As much as we may work on our strategy, plan out our tactics, and execute with a goal of flawlessness, things do not always go smoothly. Like Paul Giamatti says, we're human. Oh, and technology isn't perfect. It breaks. A lot. So, something things happen. 

What matters more than the mistake though is the correction. Yesterday, I received a strange email from Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Football that was soon followed by an explanation that not only made me laugh, but left me with a better impression of the brand than if an error had never been made at all. Yeah, so I lost big in week 9. So, what? That's not the point. Yahoo! won me over because they followed a few simple principles which can be applied to many customer service situations. They are as follows: 

  1. Own up to mistakes - This advice was given to most of us as children. It absolutely applies when dealing with customers. A customer doesn't want you to pass blame or deny responsibility. And, ignoring a mistake is risky because that may be the last impression you leave on your customer. So, admit fault and apologize before taking action.  
  2. Laugh it off - Some situations call for a more serious approach, of course. But, if it's something small you can laugh at yourself for, go for it every time. Inject a little humor to the situation, and show your customer you're human. 
  3. Deliver the goods - When all is said and done, the customer must be satisfied. Give them what they were expecting to get at the beginning of this interaction, and all is usually forgiven. If expectations go unfulfilled, this could be the last time you get that customer's business, and they just might tell a few friends.
I'll be sticking with Yahoo! for my league next year, partially due to this little fumble. You can see a shot of their email below. What tactics do you employ to right a wrong for your customer?

Monday, November 4, 2013

10 Tips For Improving Social Media Content (Infographic)

Yesterday, I began following a Twitter handle called @urtweetsrbad for fun. It's simply a handle that retweets brand tweets that leave a lot to be desired, and do not represent the kind of engagement with followers that will ever lead to sales. Something similar has existed on Facebook for a while on a page called Condescending Corporate Brand Page. Both are worth checking out if you want some entertainment, and possible shame for taking the same approach with your brand's fan base.

To combat these mistakes of asking your followers to "Hit 'like' if you hate Mondays" or tweeting "Friday, where have you been? #TGIF" take a look at the quick, simple tips below. These are very easy to follow if you're not completely lazy, and creates better content that breaks through the clutter, delivers value, and hopefully inspires action. That's why we use social media after all, right?

BONUS TIP For Google+ Users: #9 on this list is to overlay text on an image that you share. It gives you a suggested resource to do this. But, don't worry if you're not great with those tools yet. Google+ is the only network I know of that allows users to upload an image, and add a text overlay right there with the click of a button. Easy. Also, each Google+ post has its own unique URL, so you can even use that link to share with your other networks.

How to improve social media updates?
Explore more infographics like this one on the web's largest information design community - Visually.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

When Did Marketers First See Opportunity In Halloween Costumes? (Infographic)

I came across this infographic today detailing the history of Halloween costumes over the years (hundreds of them, actually). It's interesting to see when Halloween become a marketable holiday, and costumes a money-maker for businesses.

It seems the 1930's were the starting point, where advertising campaigns bled into pop culture, and children dressed as the ubiquitous spokespeople and characters of the day. Funny that the first was a Phillip Morris creation. Somehow I doubt that a Joe Camel costume would be welcome in the school competition these days (though that reference is admittedly a dated one).

The 30's also saw the first mass-produced costumes of all kinds. These were mostly generic - a witch, a ghost, a princess, a skeleton. Licensed costumes referencing book and movie characters soon followed though, and in 2013, the Halloween costume is but one piece of the merchandise planning for any new Marvel or Disney movie hitting the big screen.

I like the idea of a kid being able to go trick-or-treating as their favorite movie hero or literary protagonist for a night. The same is true for us adults cutting loose at a costume party once a year. Though there's nothing like a clever homemade costume that does the same thing. How many Walter Whites do you think you'll see this year?

A History of Halloween Costumes
Explore more infographics like this one on the web's largest information design community - Visually.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Data Collection Helps Consumers Too. Do They Know It?

Image: Aaron Walker
It doesn't look like we as marketers are doing enough to show the value of consumer data...to the consumer, that is. Everyone knows what it does for businesses. Data collection and analysis delivers information that helps better decisions get made, whether that is a new product to develop, or how and when to market it and to whom. All of this is aimed at adding revenue through additional sales to new and existing customers.

What is often forgotten is that people actually want to buy things, and they want the marketing messages in front of them to be as relevant as possible. It's the confusion of what is gathered and how it is used that makes them nervous. A big part of this misunderstanding and fear can be blamed on media outlets. As soon as Google's live broadcast about updates to Google+ ended yesterday, websites like Wired.com were already talking about it as nothing more than a trick to get more user data for ads.

Does Google want user data? Of course they do! This should come as no surprise. But, what is ignored in articles like the one published to Wired is the value that this data adds to everyone, including the user that provides their photos and exact location for analysis. The need for data causes better features to be developed, such as Auto Awesome for photos and videos automatically uploaded to Google+ from a mobile device. The use of data (pretty much always analyzed in the aggregate, not at the individual level) allows the right branded content to be delivered to the right person at the right time. This makes it easier for brands to make a sale because relevant material makes it easier for consumers to find what they want to spend money on. And ads, while sometimes annoying or even intrusive, allow all of these great tools like social networks and mobile apps to be free to everyone.

And, let's not pretend that data doesn't help sites like Wired.com too. Better targeted ads mean higher CTR (Click Through Rates) which allows publishers to charge advertisers more to run them. It's a win for everyone. Maybe someone should explain this to the staff writers.

It is time that consumers stop being made to fear the use of their personal data by marketers, and realize that the improved experiences comes out of what is collected. The responsibility to communicate this lies chiefly with marketers themselves to be honest about what they collect, how it is analyzed, and what benefits come from it in the end for businesses and for customers.

For more on the data conversation between marketer and customer, you can read what Julie Bernard, Senior VP at Macy's, had to say at last month's conference in Cincinnati right here. Also, I sat down with Ryan Derrow of Empower MediaMarketing before his session at to touch on the same topic as it relates to digital advertising. Video of our Google Hangout is below.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Updates To Google Plus Hangouts And Photos Good For Users And Marketers

In case you missed it (or were thrown off by the late start time due to a power outage), Google Plus leader  +Vic Gundotra hosted "A Morning With Google+" today to unveil some of the latest updates to the network. Those of us that spend a lot of time on Google+ were pretty excited, and we weren't disappointed with what was revealed.

I live tweeted during the broadcast to share some of my thoughts as updates were mentioned, but here are my overall impressions from a user and a marketing perspective.

The updates centered around two tools of Google+ - Hangouts and photos with a total of 18 new features being delivered.

Starting with Google Hangouts, the two biggest changes were the addition of a location sharing button and integration with SMS messaging.

With a location sharing button, friends asking where the other is in a chat can easily share this information with the press of a button rather than typing out a text response. Cool. Assuming you have location sharing turned on like me (I want to see how this will be used over time), Google will pull your GPS coordinates and deliver the information to your friends through the Hangout chat. I can only assume the next step would be to provide walking/driving directions to your friends, so they can find you easily.

The SMS integration will bring more users into the Hangout app, giving them little reason to ever leave again. Hangouts offer text and video chat (HD quality now, by the way), many more emoticons (if that's your thing), new support for animated GIFs, synchronization across all devices, and now integration with texts coming in through your phone's SMS messenger. Really, what more could you want?

Now, the photo options on Google+ have long been superior to every other social network. You have a full suite of photo editing tools at your disposal including more filters than Instagram will probably ever offer. Photos are backed up automatically if you choose, so there's no manual uploading from your phone or camera to get them in there. Today, the photos section gets even better.

Profile Using Snapseed (No HDR)
Users can now run a text-based search for images from their own photo library, and that of their circles' shared images. No previous tagging of the photos have to occur. Google's algorithm knows what to deliver when you search "sunset on the beach with a boat on the water" for example and they will deliver those images as a result. Crazy.  

The acquisition of +Snapseed a while back has given Google even more to work with, and today they've added an HDR filter to bring out the best in landscape photos. I have been going back and forth with this app and Samsung Galaxy's photo editor. But, now I think I may stick with Snapseed exclusively.

Auto-enhancements seem to be what Google does best with photos. What they are now aiming to do is to use the Google+ platform and cloud feature to help users "better tell their story" through photos and video. 

While auto-enhancement has been a feature for a while, it is now expanding to offer several options to the user. Additionally, quick editing tools will allow you to do things like remove photo bombers and other undesirables using the Auto Awesome Eraser option. Auto Awesome itself is also seeing some updates that will allow action shots to, well, show more of the action.

If that wasn't enough, try uploading a video in the near future and you will see stabilization, filters, and even music added as optional features to make your videos all that they can be.

All of these updates are great for users, and continue keeping Google+ well ahead of the curve with what a social network can be. On the marketing side, more features that users love keeps them on Google+ longer and allows marketers more opportunity to interact with them. But, these new features themselves are of great use to marketers that want to create content on the network too. Think of all the cool images and videos that can be made to promote your brand. Or, how much better HD quality Hangouts with light adjustment will be for viewers on +YouTube.

As these tools improve, marketers gain a greater ability to produce high-quality content - for FREE. This is a huge advantage for small businesses with limited budgets, as well as bigger businesses that need good content in-between the highly produced and polished pieces. That's a plus for everyone.

I couldn't get to all of the updates introduced today. For the full scoop, watch the full video below.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Jay-Z & Samsung Usher In New App Promotional Strategies

"A CEOs mind, that marketing plan was me" - Jay-Z, 'What More Can I Say'

The Announcement

A few weeks ago on June 16th, I was watching the NBA finals between the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat when the game reached the midway point. During halftime, something came on the screen which I thought was a commercial. I clearly saw that Jay-Z was the focus of whatever this ad was for. It could have been anything - clothes, shoes, electronics, the NBA - Jay has his hands in a lot of different things. Nothing would surprise me at this point.

But, this did surprise me. The spot continued past the traditional 30-second ad mark at a slow pace, seemingly in no rush to reveal the notion behind what was being presented. What was being presented? As Jay-Z begins to talk, the shot changes to one of him with long-time collaborator Timbaland in the foreground. Another cut, and the unmistakable Rick Rubin stands in front, listening intently to the treatment being delivered.

As slivers of music start and stop, the revelation of a July 4th release date makes it apparent that we are all witnessing the creation of the next Jay-Z album as an ad for said album. Other well-known producers Pharrell Williams and Swizz Beatz are seen collaborating as Jay mans the director's chair, conducting the creation of each piece of music, his own voice over the instruments, and even the album artwork being laid out in front for his approval.

Anticipation builds for the 3 minutes this is on screen and finally the point is made. Jay tells Rubin, stretching out his arms for emphasis "[the idea is] giving it to the world at one time, and then letting them share it...". With that, the slogan for Samsung Galaxy products appears on screen, clearly echoing the branding for the album and the strategy as a whole: The Next Big Thing is Here. It's the perfect partnership.

The App

Last to appear on the screen is a web address: MagnaCartaHolyGrail.com followed by the Samsung Galaxy logo and hashtag #MagnaCarta to get the word spreading right away.

Immediately, I did what many others were doing - I went to my computer and typed in the address. I spent halftime looking into this dual marketing campaign to see how the idea of sharing would manifest itself. The website was simple and straightforward in delivering its message - on June 24th, be one of the first million Samsung Galaxy owners to download the exclusive app and receive the album for free on July 4th, 3 days before the rest of the world. In fact, you as the early bird get to be the one to share it with them.

I wanted to talk about what I had seen both as a Jay-Z fan, and as a marketer. I pulled the 3 minute announcement/album teaser up on YouTube and shared it on my Google+ page with a headline focused on the strategy being employed. The post was well received, collecting 53 +1's and 15 shares. The word was out, and people were clearly interested.

I downloaded the app at 4am EST on June 24th (hey, I needed to see how this thing worked), and got started. The social aspect begins right off the bat. You must sign-in with either Facebook or Twitter. Once signed-in, you are required to share a message with your network that you're using the app in order to view the content. The material that had been released publicly up to that point was available along with a ticker counting down the days, hours, minutes, and seconds until the July 4th early release.

Above the most recent content is a teaser for the following day with the title of what's to be revealed blacked out with a thick line. Each day's post has a 'share to unlock' requirement. The post populates with a link and hashtag #magnacarta, which will conceivably allow the term to continue trending on both social networks up until the release date. Little by little the album's makeup is being revealed to the most interested and engaged fans, allowing them to be spokespersons for this project.

Impressions of the Campaign  

Overall, I think this campaign is brilliant. It's a win for everyone. Samsung gets exclusivity for their brand on a major music project in 2013. Jay-Z gets early confirmed sales for his album (even if they are not officially counted, the extra $5 million in his bank account sure is official), and prime ad space from a major brand. Fans get access to exclusive content in a fun and shareable way plus a free album a few days early.

Having said that, the app is a little clunky and leaves a bit to be desired. It almost always requires a restart every time it's opened. Several updates have come through the Google Play store without any noticeable front-end changes, and everything exists, more or less, on one page with very little color. I also expected a little more in the way of exclusives. The daily post is great. But, it's mostly printed lyrics, whereas users would likely prefer an audio snippet, and some more behind-the-scenes video.

Samsung is not only promoting an album here. They are promoting their technology, and at best, even a lifestyle. An app specifically designed by them must be the best of the best. But, it's not. It's very basic, and even with all of its simplicity it still crashes consistently. I am a believer in Samsung's hardware. But, what does this say about their software capabilities?  Now is their time to shine, and they shouldn't allow Jay-Z to cast a shadow over them.

Final Thoughts

The Magna Carta Holy Grail campaign works because it embraces digital and social technology, and encourages sharing rather than railing (in vain) against it. The app brings fans into the fold, making them feel like a part of the process, and encouraging the most powerful marketing of all - word-of-mouth. It will be interesting to see what the reception is like for the album once it is released, and what kind of sales numbers Jay-Z will ultimately see.

But, regardless of album sales, he and Samsung have started a conversation and created an enormous amount of buzz around a music project, opening the door to many opportunities to sell other items regardless of how many people actually buy the album itself.