Monthly Archives December 2010

My 2011 Social Media Resolutions

As 2010 winds down and we all gear up for the start of a new year, there will be many posts about the topic of resolutions. The New Year gives us an excuse to start over and have another shot at making this year the best yet. There will be resolutions for weight loss, quitting smoking, spending more time with family, and all of the other classics. Since I am immersed in social media on a daily basis, I am also sure I will see many resolutions in regards to social media.

Most of these resolutions will come in one-size-fits-all dimensions and will not be tailored to the individual. So instead of doing a broad post about what you should do, I am going to share my personal social media resolutions, so you can take away from it what you will and maybe apply it to your work, life, or whatever. Without further adieu:

Continue to expand my knowledge base: One of the most important aspects of my job is to stay up to date on the latest and greatest trends that are happening in the social media world. So in 2011, I will make a dedicated effort to spend some time each day to read the blogs that will help me do that.

Document more: I don’t know about you, but my head is always filled with various trends and ideas, tools and more, that I usually learn about from following my first resolution. The next step in making all that knowledge applicable and usable is to do a better job of documenting what I read.

Improve my writing: Even though social media is a different kind of communication than formal writing, improving this skill is a great asset that can help me in many ways. Professionalism is still a very important skill, and nothing looks less professional than updates or e-mails with spelling and grammatical errors. In my case, it also will help streamline the process and make it less burdensome on the rest of the team.

Process is important: One of the things I learned over the last year is that you can have the best idea ever, but without the proper process to make sure it comes to fruition, it can quickly die a tragic death. This ties into resolution #2, because having a properly documented process can mean the difference between a ship-shape team and total chaos.

Prove value: Another important takeaway from 2010 is realizing that not everyone perceives value the same way. It is important to not only show the value in our actions and plans, but also to make sure we are cognizant of how others perceive value. With that insight, it’s much easier to understand how to prove our actions are adding value.

So there you have it. These are my personal resolutions for Social Media in 2011. As I mentioned, I hope you can look at these and utilize the concepts in your own resolutions. I hope you accomplish all of the goals that you set for yourself this year. Happy New Year to everyone.

Rules for Having Only Fun with Technology during the Holidays

Some of us need a little nudging—more like a good shaking—to remind us we’re actually not at work. The pull to check your email, send a file, tweak a deliverable, or post to a work-related social media account is constant and tempting. Even chocolate and good company is no match because separating yourself from something you’re deeply committed to and engaged by is a challenge.

But in the end, the people that really suffer are the people you care most about—your friends and family. Your kids can’t get through to “Blackberry Dad” and your friends don’t want to hang out with “Social Media Sarah.” It’s a conundrum you have to find a graceful way out of, and there are definitely some things worth trying to make it work. No judgments here, just helpful rules, from equally tech-work absorbed people, for making the most of your time off for the holidays.

Rule #1 – Turn off all work-related devices and streams. Go cold turkey for a few days. Not every email needs a right-now response, and you’ll be surprised to find that some things work themselves out when given a little bit of time.

Rule #2 – Make every computer/mobile interaction just for fun. It’s impossible in this day and age to unplug completely, and why should you when technology is this much fun? So when you find that shiny new iPad under the tree, boot it up for no other reason than entertainment.

Rule #3 – Set up emergency contact protocol and stick to it. Not everyone can abide by rule #1. Some gigs are just too demanding, but you can filter what’s important. Give your contact info to someone you trust, and tell them to reach out only for emergencies. Then, relax and enjoy yourself.

Rule #4 – Spend some quality online time with the kids. Hang out with your kids online over the holidays, and get ready to learn a few things. You may not make it on their Facebook profiles, at least the one their friends see, but you’ll get to see what sites they like and what digital haunts they frequent.

Rule #5 – Let yourself be engaged by the present moment. Living a digital life, one gets pretty used to navigating a constant stream of information. This is a good thing when you’re trying to manage a project with several moveable parts. It’s not a good thing, though, when grandma is telling you a story. Just listen. Don’t think about your next tweet or worry about shaving more time from a task to stay on track.

All right, enough with the instruction manual. It’s the time of year when sharing time and making memories with the important people in your life is the hippest and most connected thing in the world. Everyone does this in their own way, and the time has officially arrived. I’m signing out now to spread the joy.

Digital Storytelling and the Meta-Internet Video

Skim, scan, click, post, watch, check-in, comment, chat, and like. Chances are you live this every day for hours at a time. And sure, sometimes the content is interesting, but did you ever think that the mechanics of what you’re doing is interesting? Or that what you do online could be visually appealing? Me neither. And right now, I’m eating my words. The creative mind has triumphed yet again, taking something abstract and maybe mundane and rearranging it into something dynamic, vibrant, and artful. The next chapter in digital storytelling is writing itself with the meta-internet video. The visual experience of experiencing the internet is coming out hot, hip, and viral.

Like most things internet-savvy, Google was one of the first to put a mainstream mark on this trend. Remember their Super Bowl commercial? Who’d have really thought that looking at a search bar and returns for nearly sixty seconds could ever be appealing. But it was, and it was highly emotive, too. Romance is powerful, and a wholesome foreign daydream made that sparse white screen move oh-so much closer to the heart.

But the meta-internet video, isn’t just about voyeuristic searches. No, we’re actually using them to re-write a little bit of history and religion, fluffing it up around the edges, so it feels more comfortable and familiar. A colleague of mine forwarded The Digital Story of the Nativity video that’s swirling around out there on the internet. It uses digital technologies to tell the Christmas story, complete with emails from Mary, tweets by Joseph, and King Melchior picking up a sweet deal on gold at Amazon.com. It starts with some unknown person (possibly you or me) typing in their search query at Google.com.

Japanese indie rock band, Sour, just set a new standard for amazing with their latest music video “Mirror.” The video, although it’s more of an immersive, interactive experience, begins with, you guessed it, the Google.com search bar. The twist is that if you take the plunge and allow the video to connect with your Facebook, Twitter, or webcam, you become an integral part of the composition. Alarming and captivating, you watch your own cyber identity fragment and stream into the rest of the digital collective. It’s quite remarkable to be suspended in that space where vulnerability and connectivity have an equally terrifying and fascinating hold.

I think we’re at the beginning of the meta-internet video era. This evolution of digital storytelling is a game changer because it’s primed for big, personal wows. As a communication vehicle, it can get closer to the subject than ever before—beyond the familiar landscape of the everyday digital highway and into the back roads of individuals. It’s versatile, too, enough that if your target is a larger social tribe, with the right research and creative execution, you can reach a group and simultaneously make intimate, personal connections.

Happy Hug-a-Days! HomeAgain Brings the Holiday Cuddle to Facebook

We are a little over halfway into a holiday-themed Facebook photo contest that we created for our pet microchipping client, HomeAgain. The results to date are very encouraging—impressions, entries, likes, etc., are all way over-performing. But this blog is not about numbers adding up, though it is about sharing a story of success, even before the end of it. Now before you hang up, out of a pending feeling of self-promotion disgust, let me fill you in quickly why we are sharing this story now and hopefully convince you to hang long enough to feel the hugs.

It’s a true story of the holidays. Not a commercial story, not a BOGO story, not even a 60% savings story, but a brand essence story that is all about this time of year. You see, if we waited to tell this story after the New Year, the season to tell you about love, devotion, and great hugs would seem so yesterday. So now is the time, before all the data has been collected, parsed, and analyzed—and clearly, even before our client would ever allow us to share anything.

HomeAgain is a special brand, as it really does special stuff, like helping about 10,000 lost pets a month return home. They aren’t called HomeAgain for nothing.  So how do they get 10,000 families every month to thank their lucky stars and willingly shout out about that feeling of thankfulness?  Through two very important things they do: 1. permanently identifying a pet and linking it to its pet parents through a small piece of technology called a microchip, and 2. providing and enrolling pet parents in an annual service filled with pet protection and recovery benefits.

This year, for the holidays, HomeAgain decided to do something different to spread the cheer. And with our help, they created a sweepstakes campaign on Facebook that celebrates pet/pet parent love and devotion.  Happy Hug-a-Days asks people to enter a holiday “hugshot” of themselves and their pet engaged in a heartwarming, day-lifting, and life-affirming hug. The results have been far greater then we initially hoped for, as we work a transparent social media platform to achieve its most natural end—to create and share joy. Having a client that’s ready and eager to take these new media “risks” is the great catalyst for innovation. We aspire to inspire and, quite literally, live for these opportunities. So thank you, HomeAgain, for being so damn huggable!

My desire to do this blog has nothing to do with sucking up to our client, though I do run the risk, but I have been guilty of worse.  It has all to do with what we, at Flightpath (and many other digital shops), love most: getting deep into the human reality of today’s social and digital landscape. Consider HomeAgain, who may have started in the technology business, but that business clearly became way more and about the human-animal relationship, than simply the product they sold. Same with us programming, production, and digital marketing “creative types.” We all started somewhere else in the business, but have mostly all come back to the human-most side of why we do what we do.

So here we are, at the one time of year when hugging co-workers and pals is not only allowed, but expected, maybe even celebrated with a chest bump or low five.  It’s the holidays, and if you’re in the pet protection business or the digital agency “human protection” business, then this is our time of year! And psst, if you have a furbaby, be sure to enter the Happy Hug-a-Days contest on Facebook today. The world always has room for another good hug.

12 Days of Social Media Gifting

Ahhh, digital socialites, you know the type: popular, nice, chatty, and communal. By the time you get home from an IRL event, they’ve already uploaded photos, tagged everyone, and graciously tweeted kudos to the host. Their digital reputation shines like polished silver, and you constantly wonder how they maintain so many flawless and updated online profiles. These influencers deserve a little more than envy, so how about giving them what they really want? A little more, and well deserved, social currency.

Here’s a play off the old holiday jingle, devoted to gifting the social media mavens in your life.

  • 1 Super Cool Groupon Deal – Forward that find. You never know whose spam filters were acting up, and you gotta keep up the good share karma for all those awesome deals you’ve received.
  • 2 Blog Pingbacks – See something interesting? Link it. Mutual interests are the best way to start a conversation.
  • 3 Twitter Retweets – Make it a habit to RT the good stuff, at least three times a day. Share what’s cool and hot, and leave the spam alone.
  • 4 Foursquare Check-ins – Don’t let a sick day put your friend’s mayor status in jeopardy. Get over to their apartment, grab their smartphone, and defend their territory—or login with their username and password.
  • 5 Gowalla Badges – Plan a day-long tour around your friends’ coveted Gowalla badges. You’ll get to hang out and make their day in one shot.
  • 6 Noms on Foodspotting – Life’s too short to hold back the noms. Nom big. Nom bold. Nom often.
  • 7 #FFs – Shout out about seven magnificent tweeps you think the world should follow.
  • 8 LinkedIn Invites – Expand your network. Link up with people in groups. It’s good for everybody.
  • 9 YouTube Subscribers – Stay in the know by subscribing to all your favorite vloggers. Then, you can be the first to comment.
  • 10 Facebook Credits – Keep your friends in the game. You wouldn’t want to see their crops fail or their luck to run out at the big table.
  • 11 Delicious Bookmarks – Content is a dish best enjoyed together. Share those tasty sites with your friends and fam.
  • 12 Shopkick Kickbucks – Be the best kind of social and donate your hard-earned kickbucks to those in need.

The best part about this list? It contains the most economical gifts out there. All you need is your computer or smartphone and a little bit of time to make some social someone’s world that much brighter. Doesn’t it just make you want to smile? XD

Plan to Succeed Using Social Media

Some of you might be familiar with the saying, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” This is true in many of our everyday tasks, from making sure you have a shopping list to creating an emergency plan in case a crisis ever strikes. Planning is especially important when talking about any kind of communications plan or strategy development. However, the speed of execution sometimes makes that task difficult to complete.

I still hear, from time to time, the dreaded phrase “we need a Facebook Page,” or “we need to be on Twitter.” This is fine, and for the most part true, but creating a profile on Facebook or handle on Twitter doesn’t lead to immediate success. And instead, you may be disappointed in the results if you rush in headlong. It’s best to take a step back, breathe deeply and think about why you think Facebook or Twitter will benefit your company. Do some initial research about each platform to learn about the strengths, weaknesses, and tools available. Brainstorm to develop an effective plan on how not only to create a presence, but also to capitalize on these platforms and tools to help achieve your business goals.

Solid planning also allows you to gauge where you are, in terms of overall effectiveness. Evaluate your entire industry and take a really close look at your competitors to learn some best practices. You’ll discover what’s working and what isn’t and gain deeper insights into social media platforms. With a little bit of luck, you’ll start picking up the language, too.

Once you feel confident that you understand this new space, it’s time to look at measurement. Once you launch this Facebook page or start tweeting on Twitter, how will you know how it’s going? By taking the extra time to plan, you give yourself the opportunity to develop a system for tracking and measuring. Even more importantly, you can record from the onset how your social media efforts on these new tools can tie back into your overall business goals.

I am personally a very goal-oriented person. The main reason I think goals are important is because they give you something to measure yourself against. After all, how do you know where you want to go if you don’t even know where you are? Once you have goals set, the next step is to utilize what you learned from the research phrase. Analyze the best practices insights and target audience research you gathered to develop a road map to help you get to your destination. And just like planning a road trip requires accounting for some unexpected stops, as well as some necessary pre-planned detours, so too, should your communications plan, or your plan for pretty much anything.

‘Tis the Season for Disruptive Marketing

“Gobble Up Savings” changed to “Shop Holiday Sales” in the space of one small and magical second this year—sometime around midnight November 25, 2010. Marketing and advertising elves worked hard to deliver a double-whammy of creative collateral and even harder to seamlessly switch them out. But that might not be what really matters. In this deluge of holiday shopping campaigns, gracefully fitting into each shift and swap of the season isn’t what’s getting noticed. And that’s why this year, I’m making every effort to be truly and deeply disruptive.

People are not only creatures of habit; they are also creatures of expectation. And right now, everyone is expecting the usual seasonal suspects—snowflakes, reindeer, giving, joy, etc. So why not add a little bit of creative disruption to the secret holiday sauce? Spicing up seasonal themes with disruptive word changes, plays, and puns stands out and grabs consumers’ attentions across many different mediums. It’s working, too, especially for these leading brands who have long been wise to this trend:

  • The Gap – They might have totally tanked on that whole logo thing, but they’re back and on point with, “what do you want this holiday?
  • Crate & Barrel – Late gifts spoil the mood, and with a clever little, “in the St. Nick of time,” you trust yours will get there promptly and possibly with reindeer in tow.
  • The North Face – This high-performance outdoor sports’ label is hard at work to “Spread the Holiday Gear” to all your family, friends, and neighbors.
  • Banana Republic – With all life’s modern distractions, make sure you take time to “LOVE the PRESENT” this year.
  • Kenneth Cole – The reigning king of disruptive messaging serves up a provocative warning to “Be Careful What You Wish For.

Messing with words has a unique way of changing the context and expectation of what is being communicated. It’s in that tiny flicker of disruption where the chance of real, sticky communication exists. In the past few years, this disruptive style of marketing has broken new ground by using texting language as a form of commercial speak. Chase led the pack on this with their “TXT MSGS MAKE BNKG EZ” campaign, which launched in the distant past of 2007. This TXT SPK naturally resonated with the younger and young-at-heart demographics, because it was attitudinally way cooler, and it’s been going strong ever since. Some of my other non-holiday and non-txt favorites include, Koolaid’s “Delivering more smiles per gallon” and Lifetime’s “The Fairy JobMother.” Both have a knack at driving straight through to real-life emotional value, which clearly speaks to everyone. The hippest, most disruptive part of all is that this kind of breakthrough doesn’t involve million dollar commercial shoots, just some old-fashioned wordsmithing.

Disruptive marketing is key in our 140-character worldview, and word play is the quickest and most effective way to disrupt. Consumers are on marcom overload, sifting through a flotsam of creative messaging, monotonously and robotically, until…something breaks through. Changing common idiomatic phrases and expressions into something playful and unexpected gives consumers a reason to stop and ponder. This really registers in the mind, as one mulls over the disruption, tinkering with it until it feels smooth and familiar or interjecting other words for greater effect. Disruptive messaging promotes a share of voice while commanding attention. It naturally stands out and means you, as a brand, can do a whole lot less yelling.

The Three E’s of Word of Mouth Marketing

Word of Mouth Marketing is the one of the oldest forms of marketing that there is. It refers to the process of recommendations about a product or service from one consumer to another. This basic premise is still one of the strongest influences on purchasing behavior. New online tools have increased the importance of word of mouth marketing because they allow for greater and faster sharing of information among consumers. The bad part is that keeping up with new technologies is a 24/7 endeavor by itself. So instead of focusing on merely keeping up with technology, it’s much more important on using the right technologies in the optimal way. That’s where the three E’s come in:

  1. Engage – Engagment is the first step, assuming that you have already been listening to your consumers and know their digital hangouts. It involves reaching out and starting a conversation. There are many way to engage your consumers, such as blogger outreach, Facebook posts, Twitter tweets, discussion boards, and the list goes on and on. Just remember if you are not engaging in conversation with your consumers, then you are missing valuable opportunities to make real connections—and you’ll wind up playing catch up when a crisis arises.
  2. Encourage – This next step has two main components: making all of your content shareable and making it really easy for your consumers to share your content. When you make content shareable, you encourage your consumers to talk about your products and services all over the web. But first, you’ll have to create content that people will want to share. All content a company produces should be from this frame of reference. Then, close the Encourage loop by putting all necessary share icons in place—Facebook, Twitter, Digg, del.icio.us, Stumble Upon, etc. A little research will tell you which ones matter most to your consumers.
  3. Empower – The is the last step in the three E’s process. It goes beyond encouragement, as it involves freely giving consumers the information or resources they need to become a brand advocate. A great example of this is the new Ford Fiesta campaign. Ford realized that, in order to encourage buzz around their new car, they needed to harness and empower individuals to do so. Ford gave away a number of the new cars and allowed select people to test drive them and share their experiences. By utilizing these ambassadors, Ford went from just encouraging organic sharing to actually empowering their consumers by recognizing them as brand advocates.

Despite the tactics you use, and which of these three steps your tactic focuses on, there is one more overarching E that also needs to be considered: the Emotional connection between a consumer and a brand. Because let’s face it, without this connection, it is very unlikely that a consumer will share their experience.