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Reporting from WordCamp

WordCamp 2016

WordCamp is a conference that focuses on anything and everything WordPress. They’re wonderfully informal, community-organized events that are put together by WordPress volunteers. Everyone from casual users to core WP developers and contributors participate, share ideas, and get to know one another. WordCamps have been held all over the world going back as far as 2006, and this year Belgium had its first Wordcamp in Antwerp!

Recently, l attended WordCamp USA in Philadelphia along with 1,800 other WordPress users ranging from casual bloggers, marketing professionals, experienced designers, tech enthusiasts, and leading technologists. Here’s a break down of a few of my favorite talks I attended while at WordCamp:

Design For Humans Not Robots

 

Tammie Lister was a delightfully brilliant speaker who illustrated the importance of designing for humans and not for robots. Too often, according to Lister, design lacks humanity. Take, for example, the very popular CAPTCHA: I’m not a robot.

“If you’re put into a position that you need to prove that you are human and not a robot … that’s probably not a very good way to have an interface,” Lister said.

via GIPHY

She speaks at great length to use cases and testing cases where we construct these very particular environments where we focus 100% of our attention on the thing we are doing without taking into account that the person using it likely won’t be giving your application 100% of their attention. They’ll be stirring soup, listening to music, having a conversation, and you know, doing other human things.

My takeaway here was that the default in design should not be that I need to prove I am NOT a robot. I am a human until proven robot, not the other way around, and that what I’m creating isn’t about me and what I want and what makes sense to me. Developers need to think about the end user and what makes sense for them.

How To Talk Content

 

Lisa Melegari took a deep dive into how to talk ‘content’ from a developer standpoint. As a developer who knows little about content, I knew this talk would benefit me. I’ve been meaning to get into blogging myself for a while, but I’m always held back by the same self-defeating thought: I don’t know where to begin.

“The blank slate paralyzes clients,” Melegari said. And this couldn’t be more true.

Melegari says to not use the word ‘content’ and to break it down into actual concrete things I need. Having the client fill out an onboarding questionnaire asking for age ranges, audience targets, existing assets, or the person in charge of creating those assets is invaluable as it gets the client to think in specific terms. And when designing or developing a site for someone, specifics are vital.

This was a wildly helpful new way to look at generating content for my own hypothetical blog I swear I’ll create someday. I can absolutely identify with the quote about content paralyzing the client. It ought to be a best practice to break down what I want from the client into bite-sized chunks of real identifiable assets instead of vague jargon like ‘content’ or ‘filler text’. While I understand what those words mean, of course, they do nothing to elicit a creative response.

Teaching the FBI to Photoblog with WordPress

 

When you say “WordPress” I admit I did not think “FBI,” but for Karl Kevilus that is exactly what happened. After a friend reached out to him asking if he’d like to help the FBI set up a website, Kevilus found himself teaching the FBI how to use WordPress to catch bank robbers using bank surveillance photos and footage.

The talk was a brilliant, hilarious, and humble look at the starting of Bandit Tracker, it’s offshoots, its successes, and it’s failures. Some successes include the hundreds of robbers brought to justice thanks to Bandit Tracker and some failures include actually inspiring robberies because Bandit Tracker gave a very succinct overview of a bank’s surveillance technology and layout. Woops. Failures and embarrassments aside, Bandit Tracker has been an invaluable resource for the FBI in catching bank robbers. So much so, that various regional duplicates have cropped up across the country.

Philadelphia is a gorgeous city I had never been to before but will certainly be back. While the talks were engaging, I did manage to find a little spare time to try some of Philly’s world famous delicacies such as the Philly Cheesesteak. I’d had generic cheesesteaks before, of course, and had never really thought them to be anything all that special but this completely changed the game and altered my view on the sandwich. For those curious, I got it with wiz and it was delicious.

All in all, WordCamp was an amazing experience that I will absolutely be repeating in years to come.

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Insta Stories Have Arrived!

On August 2nd, Instagram took a huge bite out of Snapchat by adding the new “Stories” feature. This major development is clearly a carbon copy of Snapchat’s evolutionary platform.

 

Instagram’s Stories allows users to post short videos and photos that exist for a span of 24 hours. It is a comparable application to Snapchat, which is a famous ephemeral app that is mainly popular for its 24-hour video and chat tales, facial recognitions and image filters. The features that Instagram released are almost identical to Snapchat from its very theme and vernacular.

 

Back in 2015, advertisers began to anticipate potential opportunity for marketing on Snapchat with image and branding. The idea of Snapchat gave way to more interactive experiences than Facebook and YouTube (which advertisers believed users commonly watched inertly). Snapchat does not contain traditional ad-targeting tools and is continuously searching for ways to attract bigger brands. While they’re still developing their bouncy infrastructure and competing against major rivals—Now This! Instagram has nearly replicated their services!

 

What does this mean for marketers? The CEO of Instagram, Kevin Systrom, discussed the latest development with TechCrunch and said that, “this is about a format, and how you take it to a network and put your own spin on it. Facebook invented feed, LinkedIn took on feed, Twitter took on feed, Instagram took on feed, and they all feel very different now and they serve very different purposes.” Instagram’s owner, Facebook, took note of how other social networks adapted their feed and decided to flip the script by incorporating Snapchat’s strengths into one mobile first platform: Instagram.

 

Where Snapchat advertising had astronomical cost and exclusivity, Instagram is self-servicing, leaving marketers wondering how advertising will look via Instagram stories. Instagram’s new interface allows for both stories to be displayed at the top of your screen, while in-feed photos and videos appear in your timeline below, without ever having to switch off to another platform, creating a more dynamic means for distributing content. It fulfills the concept of organic experience building between users and brands in a more interpersonal relationship and is even easier for users to follow a brand, watch their stories and like their post. In addition, there are more opportunities for exclusive behind the scenes video clips, contests, giveaways and other incentives rather than the usual photo upload.

 

While we are in favor of this astonishing feature that Instagram impenitently “borrowed,” there’s still speculation about its forthcoming progressions. What will happen with Snapchat? Will new Instagram stories be as affective as anticipated? How will this influence other social media platforms? What will sponsored Instagram stories look like? Will Instagram add those fun filters that Snapchat is synonymous with? Instagram has yet again proven that it is a force to be reckoned with and only time will tell what’s next for this photo-sharing tycoon.

Top 5 Super Bowl Moments in Digital Marketing

In the world of marketing, the Super Bowl is the ultimate platform for brands to get their audiences engaged. It has turned into more than ‘just commercials’; brands are flooding their audiences with campaigns from TV ad spots, tweets, Instagrams, and Facebook posts. Some campaigns get all the attention, and others fall flat.

Here are some top moments from past years, as well as our favorite from this year’s Super Bowl 50:

#5. Audi Uses the First Hashtag in a Super Bowl Ad

2011 – Super Bowl XLV

audi

Audi created the first 60-second TV spot that used a hashtag for Super Bowl marketing – #ProgressIs. Viewers who used the hashtag and the URL in their tweets were entered into a contest, the grand prize of which was a trip to Sonoma, California and a test drive with Audi – among other things. Although this hashtag didn’t make the “trending” list on Twitter, Audi saw a huge spike in their followers – about a 47% increase. The increase was at the same time as their YouTube teaser campaigns, and this showed that audiences were engaged in the campaign.

#4. JC Penney Super Bowl Mittens

 2014 – Super Bowl XLVIII

jcpenney-tweets

During the game, J C Penney tweeted numerous times with egregious typos. There was a lot of buzz around these miss-spelled tweets. Were they drunk? Did they get hacked?

This never occurred to the company when they were planning their campaign. In reality, the tweets were a part of the ongoing JCPenney campaign for the Olympics – they had “Go Team USA” mittens. The original plan was to tweet a few of these erroneous quips, following up with the hashtag #tweetingwithmittens. Although not interpreted how they were intended, the two jumbled tweets along with the hashtag generated 46,951 retweets and 21,357 favorites. Their brand got a lot of attention and this was a widely talked about digital marketing moment for Super Bowl XLVII.

#3.   Bud Light’s “Up for Whatever” campaign

 2014 – Super Bowl XLVIII

budlight-upforwhatever

The cast of the “Up for Whatever” campaign attracted huge attention from the public, as it featured 5 rock stars, 4 celebrities, and 412 actors. #upforwhatever was a top trending hashtag, also used on three highly shareable videos which received more than 1 million views and 55k Facebook likes within 72 hours.

These videos posed the question to viewers, as well as their star studded cast, “Are you #UpforWhatever ?

#2. Oreo Dunk Tweet

 2013 – Super Bowl XLVII

oreo-image

The Super Bowl, in 2013, had a temporary electrical blackout, and the Oreo marketing team quickly jumped on this opportunity with their ad, which must have been made as a snap decision and put together literally during the Super Bowl.

“You Can Still Dunk In The Dark” got nearly 15k retweets, more than 20k likes on Facebook, and is a great example of real-time marketing.

 

#1. New Super Bowl Moment

2016  – Super Bowl 50

esurance-image

Esurance promoted a contest this year where viewers could tweet and retweet for a chance to win up to $1 million.

Their hashtag, #EsuranceSweepstakes, trended nationally for 15 minutes, and generated 9k tweets per minute last night. In fact, Esurance ranked #1 on Spreadfast’s first quarter Super Bowl data, with 375k tweets.

The Super Bowl has been, and continues to be one of the largest marketing and advertising opportunities for companies advertising in the US. Being different and coming up with new and engaging ideas is the challenge facing these brands year after year, and with all that competition, this list was only able to mention a few of the best, most buzz-worthy campaigns. Check out other Super Bowl ads on YouTube, and remember to tune in every year for these great ads – and also the game.

 

For more on these digital marketing moments:

https://upennsocialbook.wordpress.com/2011/02/09/-study-audi-progressis-super/

http://digiday.com/brands/jc-penny-super-bowl-twitter-mittens/

http://sites.psu.edu/dylanfreieriampr/2015/11/18/38/\

http://www.wired.com/2013/02/oreo-twitter-super-bowl/

http://www.adweek.com/news/technology/esurances-1st-quarter-super-bowl-ad-helped-generate-9000-tweets-minute-169495

Three Things to Consider Before You Begin Influencer Marketing

As marketing shifts from the Age of Mass Media to the Age of Advocacy, influencers have landed at the center. But what is an influencer? Jess Estrada, a digital strategist and blogger explains that, “Influencers are people with significant networks (followers, readers, etc.) who can speak to a broad range of products and services with the ability to sway opinions in their favor.”

At the SXSW panel, “Changing Face of Fame: Social Media Celebrities,” Cubby Graham, Community Builder at Charity Water, Paula Veale, EVP of Corporate Communications and Rob Fishman, Co-Founder of Niche, took a deep dive into the new world of celebrity that is made up of influencers and detailed how to get the most out of a partnership with influencers. Here are three things to consider before you begin influencer marketing:

 

Distribution

Even as brands begin experimenting with the hot new trend that is Influencer Marketing, they often still attempt to push messages out via “traditional media” (TV, print, radio, etc.). However, limiting distribution to the old school way is a big mistake. When partnering with influencers, who are more likely than not, innovators in the digital/social space, it’s important to examine which distribution channels are most successful for each individual influencer and then follow suit.

 

Freedom

As marketers, we’re used to drafting the specifics of any campaign, promotion or initiative months in advance, followed by umpteen rounds of revisions and by the end there is a clear vision and plan laid out. You know exactly what you’re getting (usually); however, often times this necessary process limits creativity and spontaneity. When it comes to partnering with influencers, creativity and spontaneity are two key aspects to a successful partnership. How do you achieve those? Freedom.

Of course, there will always be guidelines (language, usage and timeline) that brands want partners to act within. Make these guidelines as broad and non-limiting as possible for the best results.

 

The Right Audience v.s. The Biggest Audience

Sometimes the biggest audience isn’t the best audience. As Jeremy Welt from Maker Studios put it, “Reaching 10K of the right people is more important that 100K people who don’t care.” When looking for influencers to partner with, marketers must take a deep dive to determine if both audiences (influencer and brand) align. It’s not about who has the most followers, it’s about who’s followers are the most engaged and what demographic do these followers fall into.

 

Social media marketing has become a no brainer for businesses. That said, modern day influencers live and thrive on social media and make for a natural partnership to leverage brands’ social media presence. Influencers don’t begin as advertisers; they begin by making a human connection with people across the web. This connection resonates on a personal level and influencers are seen more as a trusted friend, making their opinions and recommendations extremely influential, hence the title influencer.

Why does this matter? Well, according to Simply Measured, 74% of consumers rely on social media to inform their purchasing decisions, while 90% of consumers trust peer recommendations. Think about it; if someone you admired and followed on social media recommended a brand or product, wouldn’t you be more inclined to at least try it?

Comparing Social Content Curation Platforms: A Review of RebelMouse, Tint and Chute

Keeping up with the overwhelming demand for content was a major obstacle for brands in 2014.  How can you produce massive amounts of engaging, authentic content while under seriously limited time constraints?  One solution is to leverage existing social content from your brand and your customers.

Many brands are turning to social media aggregation platforms to collect, organize and display social, user-generated content.  The end result is a well-curated social hub that looks similar to a digital magazine full of engaging content and conversations around a particular topic or brand.

Now comes the tough part…deciding which social feed curation platform to use.  The number of companies that offer this type of tool or service is extensive and continues to grow.  Each platform has its own strengths and weaknesses so I always recommend evaluating tools based on an individual basis based on the brand’s specific needs.

In this blog post, I compare three of the leading platforms for creating social hubs: RebelMouse, Tint and Chute.  Additional platforms on the market include: Postano, Twine, Offerpop, Votigo and more.

Below is a chart I created for a client to compare the three social feed platforms based on general service needs and product offerings.  In addition, I’ve included my own reviews and takeaways of each platform.

 

socialhubchart1-1024x683

Platform Conclusions & Takeaways

RebelMouse: Launched in 2012, RebelMouse has always referred to itself as a ‘social front page’.  It allows brands and publishers to create very well curated sites, similar to a Tumblr, centered on a topic or news vertical.  Recently, RebelMouse has expanded its focus from solely being a social aggregator to being a full-fledged publishing platform with custom editorial tools, detailed analytics tools and community/contributor profiles.

Tint:  This relatively new platform is self-service and does a little bit of everything when it comes to displaying social feeds.  Its strength lies in curating content from a specific social feed or hashtag versus a general topic.  It is also a very useful tool for event marketing or retail–just think of how interactive the content becomes when shown on a huge projector, in-store screen, or jumbotron.

Chute: Chute’s major function is gathering user-generated visual content and obtaining rights to ‘publish fan photos and videos at every customer touch point — as a mobile app, photo gallery, banner ad or even a billboard in Times Square.’  In addition to using Chute to repurpose UGC content, brands often employ this platform for specific campaigns or contests (both short-term and ongoing) because of how easy it makes it for consumers to submit photos via hashtag or just click a button directly on the microsite to upload.  

***It’s important to note that my review of these platforms is not comprehensive.  To get full information about each platform, it is always best to reach out to a company representative for more information about product details, new updates and pricing models.  I also highly recommend signing up for a free trial or demo of the platform to get the full experience and gain perspective into usability and performance.  

 

 

Influencer Marketing Spotlight: Top Vine Stars Share Video Creation Tips

Video content marketing is on the rise and marketers are increasingly seeking out platform influencers to reach their video-oriented consumers.  Vine, a six-second video sharing service with a primarily teen demographic, is just one of the major sources of video influencers and content creators.  According to a recent study, branded content on Vine accounts for 4% of the top 100 tracked Vines.

At the December iMedia Agency Summit, Reed Berglund, CEO of Fullbottle, moderated a perspective-changing discussion about influencer marketing with three top Vine talents, Andres (@EhBeeFamily), Tony Serafini (@Bottlerocket), and Ginger Wesson Lavender (@GingerWesson). 

All 3 panelists explained that they sort of stumbled into their Vine fame.  Andres had been working as a market researcher, Tony was and is a teacher and Ginger was a bored housewife.  Today, they’re doing content creation and distribution deals with A-list brands including Pepsi, Disney, P&G and Toyota.

What are some general content tips from these Vine experts? Keep it simple.  Always think about a beginning, middle and end – with some some kind of interesting or unexpected twist in the middle.   According to them, the best times to post for maximum impact are around 4pm on weekdays (avoid Mondays and Tuesdays; Aim for Wednesdays) and around noontime on weekends.

Once you find consistent success creating videos on Vine, the panelists recommended extending your brand onto other platforms.  Keep in mind you will need to make slight content modifications or variations based on the platform-specific audience and consumption behaviors.  Suggestions include sharing behind the scenes filming pictures on Instagram or vlogging on Snapchat.  And most importantly, always respond to your fans in a timely fashion across all platforms.

Another important topic one of the panelists mentioned was brand integrity.  If you get to the point where you’re creating branded content for an advertiser, remember “money talks but it only talks so much.”  Make sure your branded Vines stay true to your own personal brand so as not to turn off your followers.  Continue to produce original, entertaining work and share new branded content from your own profile first to keep fans feeling like they are your top priority.

What does 2015 hold for these Vine talents?  The sky is the limit.  For now, enjoy a roundup of some of our favorite panelist branded videos from 2014:

[CASE STUDY] Digital Marketing Strategies To Drive Educational Enrollment

I recently had the privilege of speaking at the Social Media Marketing Forum for Educational Institutions about an enrollment marketing campaign Flightpath executed for Fairleigh Dickinson University.

At the event, presenters from Harvard Business School, Babson College, Cornell University, Elizabethtown College and Brandwatch imparted insights on how they’re using social media and digital channels to tranform educational institutions into brands, impact development and enhance student life.  Some of the more interesting educational marketing topics covered were social messaging apps like YikYak, social listening tools and crowd-funding.  

With the help of Jon Wexler, VP of Enrollment Management for Fairleigh Dickinson University, I presented specific details on how we leveraged a multi-channel digital approach to drive overall student enrollments, build a prospect pool for future remarketing, increase enrollments of acceptees (credit walker), and enhance student life & connections. 

Another component of our presentation outlined our gamification initiative, an iOS gamed called Mascot Rush that we developed to help engage prospective FDU students and increase applicant activation.

Check out the full case study presentation below to learn more about the campaign!

 

Your Ultimate Guide to Fall Email Marketing Trends

Once the ugly stepsister of the marketing world, email marketing has made huge strides in 2014.  Don’t take our word for it; recent email statistics prove email marketing is here to stay.  As of 2013, there are nearly 3.9 billion email accounts worldwide, with that number expected to increase to 4.9 billion by the end of 2017.

It’s important to note that while email users are increasing, they are becoming more sophisticated in regards to consumption habits.  In a recent study, 54% of people reported using automatic sorting filters for their inbox and 58% claimed they will unsubscribe if they receive an unwanted commercial email.  To keep saavy email users happy, marketers have to continually improve the strategy and creative innovation of their email campaigns.

Here are three email marketing trends you’re likely to see in your inbox this fall–plus a list of helpful tools and analytics to implement them.

Image-off Styling

Email users tend to prefer emails that are primarily image-based versus text-based, but unfortunately 85% of email clients block images by default.  To reconcile this, marketers are finding ways to improve the look of images-off emails with styled ALT text, HTML mosaics and bulletproof backgrounds/buttons.  And if you’re really up for a challenge, try SONY Playstation’s technique of using smart Photoshop design and slicing to make images and logo outlines appear in the images-off version (as shown below).

Must-try tool: Mozify is an innovative tool that allows you to convert any image to an HTML mosaic or to formatted HTML text.  The result is a coloured mosaic of table cells that render an approximation of an image even before the image is loaded in emails.

 

playstation

(Source: Sony Playstation)

Advanced Personalization

Basic email personalization, such as name and account information, no longer satisfy the consumers who expect detailed, up-to-date messages that match their unique buying needs.  To truly make enhance the customer experience, emails should take into account detailed interaction data (including how, when and with what customers are engaging) as well as factors like holidays, weather and location.  According to a recent study, about 64% of marketing executives say they want to increase the amount of money they spend on personalization in the next year.

Software essentials:  CRM & Marketing Automation platforms allow marketers to effectively track and engage with customers based on consumer behavior.  Popular solutions include Salesforce, Marketo and HubSpot.

 

opentable

(Source: OpenTable)

Videos & Animated GIFs

Approximately half of the marketers who used video in email campaigns saw increased click-through rates, increased time spent reading the email, and increased sharing and forwarding, according to a survey by eMarketer.  Both videos and animated GIFs are smart alternatives to lengthy copy when trying to encourage click-throughs, give instructions or illustrate complex concepts.

Pro-tip: Animated GIFs can have large file sizes which can be slow to download and play. When it comes to saving your GIFs, one of the best ways to minimize file size is to reduce the number of colors actually saved in the file.

 

jspade

(Source: Jack Spade)

 

 

 

The Dos and Don’ts for Creating Hyperlapse Videos

If you were unsure of the power of social video before, Instagram’s latest brainchild, Hyperlapse, will make you a believer.  Launched earlier this week, Hyperlapse is a stand-alone app for iOS that condenses and stabilizes phone videos into trendy timelapses.

Unlike other video editing tools, Hyperlapse allows for users to easily adjust the video from 1x to 12x speed without any delay for scrubbing or processing.  And don’t be fooled by the brilliantly simple user experience, the technology behind this app is pretty serious.

While Hyperlapse certainly helps gives phone videos a more professional look, there are still some guidelines and best practices users should follow before hitting the share button.

Here are some essential do’s and don’ts for making Hyperlapse videos:

DO make sure it’s long enough: We learned the hard way that at 12x speed, a 10 second video does not meet the 3-second minimum requirement to upload a video to Instagram.  To be safe, try to always shoot between 30-45 seconds worth of video to hit the minimum requirement.  (Note: 3 minutes of original footage=15 seconds of timelapse at 12x speed)

DON’T speed up the video if you’re moving the camera.  Videos played back at high speeds look great if you’re keeping the camera still and staying in one place.  However, if you’re following someone or moving, they can be nauseating to watch when sped up.  Keep the speed low and let the smooth video do the storytelling.

DO frame your subject in the center of the shot.  When the app stabilizes your video, it will steady the center portiton of the video and crop out the edges of the frame.  The cropping is minimal but to be safe, keep the important elements of the video towards the center.

DON’T do too much.  Less is often more when it comes to timelapse videos.  You can overdo it with too much movement and action.  Instead, focus on planning out the subject, the length of the event and a clever (but stable) perspective to film from.

DO exercise some posting restraint.  Timelapses are great, but no one wants to see their Instagram newsfeed crammed with timelapse videos.  Think quality over quantity. Your followers will take note.

Now get out there and start filming….because life is extra fun at 12x speed!  And for more best practices and tips, download our 2014 Social Media Marketing guide.

6 Ways Brands Can Win in the ‘Nice Age’

It’s not clear exactly when the marketing world entered the ‘Nice Age’ but if recently your heart has been melting more and more as you’re exposed to commercials, ads and branded content then you’re experiencing this industry shift firsthand.   It’s hard to believe how far marketers and brands have detoured from a very product and sales driven belief system to a socially and emotionally connected one.

The bottom line, as a recent NY Times article points out, is that this ‘warm and fuzzy’ content phenomena has major profit potential.

Here’s a look at how brands can make opportunity happen in today’s competitive, often (heart)warming climate:

1. Get sentimental on social media

Use social media in the most personal ways by asking questions and sharing compelling human insights (beyond just a nice video/photo).  Take on the role of your consumers’ best friend by giving followers a good laugh, great advice and genuine conversation.

2. Give your brand stories a fairytale ending

With all the negative news in the media today, people are eager to hear heartwarming stories with happy endings.  Mix up your content/advertising plan by injecting stories about real people and real emotional currency versus being completely brand-focused.  Whether it’s a video of someone’s first kiss, newborn puppies or a random act of kindness, everyone loves to share and support good news.

3. Stop selling and serve up a smile

Pet brands do a great job of using smile-inducing images and stories in their marketing efforts across all platforms.  They know the value of making someone smile; we’re talking about supercharged brand loyalty and trust.  If you think your category doesn’t lend itself to puppies and other emotional content, think again.  Even classic B2B companies are finding that the pathway to richer engagement is through both the service AND the smile!

4. Embrace the haters

With the rise of social media, customer complaints and negative reviews are more public than ever.  Rather than ignore it, saavy brands are acknowledging the issue and addressing it directly to show the brand’s commitment to building an authentic relationship with their consumers.

5. Create “aha” moments by over-delivering on industry expectations

Thanks to technology and digital innovation, brands are now more than ever offering products and services (or even just great content) that extend beyond their traditional verticals.  Whether your brand independently takes on a completely new category like Google is doing with their driverless car, or you enter into an unlikely partnership like ProFlowers and Uber did, the real value lies in showcasing your innovation and passion to consumers.

6. Get into Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in a real world way

The intentions behind your CSR strategy should go beyond just “increasing share holder value”.  Your goal should be to show and share the sincere value you have for anyone who interacts with your brand. Winning brands (Think: Ben and Jerry’s and TOMS Shoes) create “forever smiles” by doing good year-round in thoughtful, creative ways.

5 Tips For Creating Sequenced Ad Campaigns on Facebook [INFOGRAPHIC]

new study by Adaptly, in partnership with Facebook and Refinery29, shows that sequential Facebook ads that incorporate brand storytelling and awareness outperform sustained campaigns with ads solely focused on getting conversions.

The survey results were eye-opening: Sequenced ad campaigns that slowly led viewers down the sales funnel received 87 percent more view-throughs and 56 percent more email subscriptions compared to sustained call-to-action campaigns.

While producing a successful Facebook drip campaign requires notable time, creative input and strategic planning, the payoff can be worth it.  New to the concept? Our cheat sheet covers 5 essential rules for creating a successful sequenced ad campaign!

sequencedads_v261

 

What the NFL Can Learn About Emotional Currency From the World Cup

Team USA may not have won the World Cup but soccer in America sure didn’t lose either.  The 2014 World Cup made it very clear that Americans have officially joined the rest of humankind in the worldwide obsession with soccer.

I imagine the extraordinary global outpouring of emotion (and by emotion, I mean all-out insanity, joy, passion and craziness) surrounding the games has not gone unnoticed by NFL execs. But what may be less clear is the fuel, if not the spark, of all this euphoria.

National pride and a new generation of youngsters who have grown up with a deep, committed love for the sport may be what sparked Americans into soccer’s intergalactic orbit. But the fuel, is what the NFL could truly learn a great deal from.

I’m sure the NFL is very busy getting ready for the upcoming season so let me cut to the chase. The fuel (yes, the element which ignites and keeps the spark ablaze) is the scoring celebration.  Goal celebrations fuel excitement and we’ve seen this in all the World Cup venues and live remotes. If these players simply high-fived or chest bumped, so would the fans. But they don’t; they celebrate by running 20 yards and then sliding another 10. All the while beaming with the most passionate human emotion!

collage

Scoring celebrations create an undeniable bond between player and viewer that is founded on emotional currency.  Spurred by an intense connection based on shared experience and passion, emotional currency fosters loyalty and engagement.  It is what creates not just fans, but super-fans.

Need proof?  The 2014 World Cup statistics say it all: Tournament attendance is projected to hit 3.4 million, over 300 million World Cup-related tweets have been posted and in just the first week of the World CupFacebook received more interactions about the tournament than it did for Sochi OlympicsSuper Bowl and Academy Awards combined.   

So I raise the question: Why not embrace goal celebrations after an NFL touchdown?  Why instead, a 15 yard penalty for the littlest of real emotion?

As someone who has studied emotional currency for decades, I urge the NFL to see the positive effect that scoring and celebrating has on fan involvement and overall enjoyment. Not only that, but this type of emotional connection can translate to higher viewership, better ticket sales, increased media and sponsorship opportunities…the list of marketing benefits goes on and on.

Simply put, allowing, let alone fostering, real emotional scoring celebrations could be game changing for the NFL.

This post was written by Cliff Medney (@cliffmedney) Chief Creative Strategist at Flightpath.

The Top Brands Using Twitter Cards

Marketing on Twitter?  You may want to consider using Twitter cards.  Twitter cards allow users to showcase media-rich tweets that expand to reveal more information and visuals.  Technically, Twitter cards have been around since 2012 but in the last several months the feature has improved dramatically, now offering marketers 8 different cards with varying functionality.  The cards seem to be especially useful for e-commerce companies and brands that regularly produce a lot of content.

What brands are doing the best job of using Twitter Cards?  We rounded up, in no particular order, 4 brands rocking Twitter Cards to increase clicks, RTs, leads and more.

rands rocking Twitter Cards to increase clicks, RTs, leads and more.

  1. Bonobos: The brand does a great job using player cards to embed videos about product launches, events and thought leadership.

bonobos

  1. ModCloth: Product cards are this online retailer’s best friend. And for good reason; they are doubling many brands’ click-through-rates.

modcloth

  1. Monster: Earlier this month, Monster announced they would be using Twitter Cards as branded recruitment ads to boost clients’ visibility with potential employees.

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  1. Burberry: In addition to using Twitter Cards for video, photos and product launches, the luxury brand recently added an innovative calendar sync feature that allows users to subscribe to their brand’s calendar and stay engaged.

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Want even more information about social media marketing?  Download our 2014 guide to social media best practices. 

How TV Apps Are Changing The Marketing Landscape

Back in 2009, Flightpath designed one of the first TV Everywhere apps, by incorporating a live streaming feed into Cablevision’s MSG Varsity app.  We’ve just finished the third iteration of the app and in the ensuing years, television viewing habits have changed dramatically.

TV Everywhere, a term for authenticated viewing of broadcast shows from channels you subscribe to on your cable or satellite network, grew in popularity by 246% over last year, according to a study by Adobe.  Today, 1 out of 5 households use TV Everywhere apps to watch television content.

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While the future of TV in general is still up in the air, marketers would be crazy to ignore the soaring number of TV Everywhere apps when thinking about their upcoming marketing strategies.

Below are four TV app trends marketers should watch out for:

Cross-platform marketing of TV apps

On tablets, over the top (OTT) service apps such as Netflix currently have more users than those offered by both TV networks and operators.  Why is this?  Lack of marketing efforts for existing TV Everywhere apps.  Expect network marketers to increase promotion of their TV app in traditional and digital ads.

Greater selection of advertisements

Consumption habits have shifted and viewers are now watching multiple episodes at a time.  To avoid bombarding the viewer with repetitive ads, marketers need to provide a wider variety of advertising content for these engaged users.

TV as an e-commerce platform

With the recent release of Amazon Fire TV, it’s hard not to think about the synchronization of e-commerce and television.  Imagine a consumer watching content and being able to seamlessly save and purchase their favorite items from the show.  Now is the time for marketers to start thinking about TV as the next screen for commerce.

Integrated social components

Consumers are demanding more and more from the TV watching experience and social media is no exception.  Social media is a natural platform for discussing TV content but consumers want the interaction to be as seamless as possible without taking them away from what they’re watching.  If TV apps begin incorporating social media functionality, marketers will want to take advantage of additional real-time marketing opportunities with TV viewers.

This post was written by Stephanie Bousquet (@sbousquet), Marketing Manager at Flightpath.

The Future of Facebook: Is Paid Reach Declining?

Since Facebook’s recent statements regarding their algorithm change, the topic of conversation for many marketers and business owners has been organic reach (or lack thereof). The issue of declining organic reach is something we have been aware of and dealing with for clients since August 2013. However, lately we have been noticing an even more alarming trend: the decline of paid reach.

Starting mid-April 2014, we noticed a significant decrease in paid reach on promoted posts across all of our clients’ brand pages. Overall, we’re seeing the cost per reach nearly doubling.  

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There is always the possibility this decline in paid reach was caused by minor changes in content and scheduling but for the most part we have followed a consistent campaign strategy since implementing promoted posts. It seems highly unlikely that we would see this trend across multiple clients all within the same time frame.

One thing to note is that although paid reach decreased, engagement levels appeared to remain the same.

So what does this mean? It’s hard to say for certain but it could force companies to dish out even more money to reach the same number of fans. In other words, expect the cost of effective promoted posts to rise (especially as more and more brands start to utilize this advertising option).

In the future, marketers may want to focus on narrowing the targeted audiences on promoted ads, increasing engagement rates and ramping up influencer marketing strategies to see continued success on Facebook.

This post was written by John Lee (@johnlee27), Senior Director of Digital Marketing at Flightpath.

Build a Better Hamburger Menu; Because It’s Not Going Anywhere

Over the past several weeks, the hamburger menu has received some seriously bad internet PR for being a poor navigation tool that destroys engagement.  One article even referred to the three-lined menu item as “the devil”.

Whether you love or loathe the hamburger icon, it is hard to deny that is has become somewhat of a design standard over the past 5 years, thanks to growing mobile apps and users.  Also, now that responsive design is the norm, the hamburger icon is even more prevalent across all screens.

In a recent article, one UX designer raised a very valid question: “Why kill a ubiquitous icon, which our users know and understand, and replace it with a new iteration for them to learn all over again?”

We would have to agree with this logic. We have bigger design problems than the hamburger menu for which we could be finding solutions. Why not simply improve on this design foundation that we worked so hard to build?

In hopes of saving the hamburger menu, we’d like to offer 5 ways to enhance it:

  • Streamline your IA no matter what.  Menu bar items should serve a necessary purpose and be prioritized based on the users needs.  Hamburger menus should not be a dumping ground for worthless content.
  • Add a ‘menu’ label to the icon if you are worried about users not identifying the navigation action.  It’s all about knowing your audience; most mobile users recognize that this icon signifies action so it may not be necessary.
  • Leave user utility items such as ‘sign-in’ or ‘donate’ on the main screen in addition to having them in the sidebar menu.  Without overloaded navigation tabs, this can actually emphasize these important conversion points.
  • On desktop, increase efficiency and changes in navigation patterns by allowing the menu to remain static once it has been opened.  At least for large desktop screens, the existing content should be able to scale accordingly without overwhelming the user with too much information.
  • Have some fun with it. A major reason the design community is so up in arms about the hamburger icon may in part be due to our own laziness and reliance on it.  If nothing else, standardizing the icon should give us more opportunities to present this menu in surprising, exploratory ways.

That being said, there are times when designers should not utilize the hamburger menu: e-commerce and transactional sites (for the most part) and sites with very few navigation tabs.  In these cases, there are plenty of alternative navigation menu options designers can use instead of the hamburger menu.

As designers, we need to make smart, strategic decisions when determining a design format.  It doesn’t make sense to completely write off a design element that serves an important purpose, like the hamburger icon, but it’s important we don’t throw all caution to the wind and abuse it.  There are rules and there are no rules; just guidelines.

 

 

 

 

Flightpath’s Social Session: Facebook App Cutbacks, Instagram’s Most Liked Photo & More

A roundup of the latest and greatest social media stories and news:

Twitter got a font update late last week and users had plenty to say about it.  Days after pushing the font update live, Twitter confirmed they did indeed make the switch from Helvetica Neue to Gotham.

Facebook keeps us on our toes once again by changing their News Feed algorithm to deemphasize stories automatically shared by third party apps without actions by the users.

Yahoo takes on YouTube with plans to launch their own video platform this summer.  Reportedly, Yahoo plans to lure users from Google with higher revenue percentages.

Twitter growth predicted to skyrocket in Asia-Pacific and reach 400 million users by 2018, according to an eMarketer report.  A long wait for Twitter execs, who previously hoped to reach that mark by 2013.

Instagram face-off: A study using 1.1 million Instagram photos analyzed with face-detection software showed that pictures with faces are 38% more likely to get ‘likes’.

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Twitter users cash in thanks to anonymous donor @HiddenCash who recently began posting clues to the whereabouts’ of envelopes of money in LA.  His social good experiment has gained widespread attention and new pay-it-forward twitter handles have popped up across the country.

Best brand tweet of 2014 goes to Denny’s Diner for their real-time response to Apple finalizing a $3 billion deal to buy music-streaming company Beats Electronics.

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And The Most Liked Instagram Ever goes to….Kanye West and Kim Kardashian.  The reality star posted their wedding photo to her account last week and it has since gotten 1.98 million likes (and counting).

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Responsive Web Design vs. Standalone Mobile Site: Which is Better for SEO?

It’s no secret that mobile visitors are taking up an ever-increasing amount of visits and pageviews across the web. According to StatCounter, 23.56% of worldwide Internet traffic was on a mobile device in April 2014. Another 5.83% came from tablets. That leaves the traditional desktop with a 70.61% share.

One of the more common questions we get at Flightpath is how best to address these two distinctive segments. Should a separate mobile site be created on its own domain, such as ‘m.website.com’ ? Or should a single website be developed responsively so that the regardless of what kind of device is used to access the page, it is delivered in a way that provides a user-friendly experience?

The answer to that can be complicated, and that’s not really the point of this article. The point of this article is to address the question from a search engine optimization perspective. What are the advantages and disadvantages to each, and more importantly, what does Google want? If there’s one thing any seasoned SEO strategist knows, it’s that you’ve got to keep Google happy.

Well, first things first. Google absolutely gives preference to mobile-friendly sites for mobile searches, regardless of the technique used to achieve a positive mobile experience. This goes back to one of Google’s most basic tenants used to guide ranking factors: provide a good user experience. Sending mobile visitors to a completely un-optimized desktop oriented site is definitely NOT providing a good user experience.

Now, on to the question at hand.  As it turns out, Google has more or less directly answered this question: they prefer responsive websites.

Google supports smartphone-optimized sites in three configurations:

  1. Sites that use responsive web design, i.e. sites that serve all devices on the same set of URLs, with each URL serving the same HTML to all devices and using just CSS to change how the page is rendered on the device. This is Google’s recommended configuration.
  2. Sites that dynamically serve all devices on the same set of URLs, but each URL serves different HTML (and CSS) depending on whether the user agent is a desktop or a mobile device.
  3. Sites that have separate mobile and desktop URLs. 

For once, we have a seemingly candid response from Google. Hurrah! And oh, hey, the folks at Bing agree.

Why is this Google’s preference, though? Think about it this way, responsive sites serve the same set of URLs with the same HTML to all devices. A straightforward crawl as far as Google is concerned. Now when you introduce multiple domains, URLs, directives and redirects – the elements necessary to run a proper mobile site, it makes Google’s job a lot harder. Google is certainly up to the task, but it’s going to take more time and computational power to perform the same task of indexing the site accurately.

Keeping Google happy isn’t the only SEO-advantage of responsive web design. Responsive sites are actually much easier to optimize around.  You’ll notice that I said “easy” and not “better”. The fact is, you can circumvent most of these issues with proper planning, implementation and maintenance. However, it would be a folly to ignore the element of human error. Furthermore, if you can achieve the same result without adding layers of complication, always go with the more straightforward route. Finally, something SEO’s and Google can agree on.

One of the complications avoided by going to responsive route is duplicate content. Serving the same content on separate URLs is always a bit of a dangerous game. Proper use of canonical tags can alleviate this, but again, this introduces complexity and the opportunity for human error (and let me tell you, I have audited a lot of websites, there is an abundance of human error when it comes to things like canonicalization and proper redirects).

Link-building is also a much more manageable process when there is only a single domain or URL to worry about. All of your link authority is concentrated on a single set of URLs. This applies to social sharing as well – there’s no need to worry that someone will share a mobile URL and send a bunch of desktop users to a mobile site.

One last point that I’ll mention is that setting up a new mobile site usually involves the creation of a new sub-domain, most typically ‘m.website.com’. This means starting from scratch as far as domain authority is concerned.

Are there reasons to consider a separate mobile site over the responsive route? Yes, absolutely. When mobile users follow significantly different usage patterns (restaurant searches, for example), it’s probably a good idea to serve them unique content based on device. There are also sites that have enormous amounts of content that simply can’t be made easily navigable with reasonable load times on today’s mobile technology (imagine trying to make nytimes.com responsive – it would take ages to load and likely be even more difficult to navigate).

While there are situations in which a separate mobile site is the correct answer, responsive sites are still more SEO-friendly. It really comes down to the fact that operating off on one URL is much easier for Google to crawl, simpler for Google’s algorithms to process and easier for visitors to interact with.

What To Consider Before Changing Your Brand’s Facebook Page Name

Change and evolution are inevitable in the marketing world. Luckily, if your brand outgrows its Facebook fan page name and the name no longer reflects your brand’s intent, Facebook offers the option for a “Significant Page Name Change” once per calendar year.  Flightpath recently helped a client with the rebranding of their Facebook page and after experiencing the intricate process firsthand, we compiled the essential information you need to know before moving forward with a page name change.

What Classifies As A “Significant Name Change”?

A “Significant Page Name Change” is any change that falls outside of the general Facebook page name guidelines, which Facebook cites as, “name changes and migrations that do not result in a misleading or unintended connection.  For example, we will allow local to global migrations, such as “Facebook France” to “Facebook”, but will not allow global to local migrations, or location to location migrations, such as “Facebook France” to “Facebook Russia”. Additionally, you may not request a name change or migration that would result in re-categorizing a product Page to a brand Page, a generic or opinion Page to a brand Page, or a Group to a Page. All migrations are at our discretion and are final.”

What Is Different About This Process?

The major difference that occurs when making a “Significant Page Name Change” versus a standard page name change is that your brand’s Facebook audience will be notified of the change via email 14 days prior to the name change taking effect. Users then have the option to visit your brand’s Facebook and unlike the page.  For those worried about a large amount of their fans dropping off, Facebook says they have “seen a very low percentage of users choosing to unlike a Page based on a Significant Page Name Change. There may be an initial spike in unlikes when the email is delivered, but that spike in the unlike rate typically settles within 2-3 days.”

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What Should You Consider Before Making the Change?

Before making the leap to significantly change your brand’s name on Facebook be sure to take into consideration how your Facebook community will feel about the “new you”.   When launching your new brand to existing customers, you do not want to risk losing followers or alienating your audience.  Make sure you have a content marketing strategy in place that allows you to clearly communicate the changes to your audience. Knowing why a company is changing its name, and more specifics about what is and is not changing, may make the transition easier for customers.

Learn More

For more information on Significant Page Name Changes, refer to Facebook’s official documentation.

 

The Finishing Touch: Minwax Launches New DIY Inspired Site

For over 100 years, Minwax has provided professional contractors and craftsmen with high-quality wood finishing products.  However, the wood care brand also services another loyal group of users: DIY-ers.  With the rise of Pinterest and novice home improvement, this group of enthusiasts, many of whom are new to wood finishing, turn to Minwax to help beautify the wood throughout their home and beyond.

As part of an integrated digital marketing campaign, Minwax has teamed up with Flightpath to launch an innovative website that better delivers their products to their diverse customer base.  Serving as a vehicle to inspire and educate their consumers, the new site seamlessly showcases DIY photos, tutorial videos and project plans while also providing detailed product information for all wood finishing needs.

“Our goal for the site was to convey that the completed wood finishing project is the true hero, and the [Minwax] product is the best means to achieve that result,” said Everett Hutton, Senior Account Executive at Flightpath.

Starting from the elegant homepage, Minwax encourages visitors to “Get Inspired”—showcasing beautiful user-generated images of DIY projects they’ve created.  There is even a section proudly dedicated to the ‘Minwax Fan of the Month’–a Facebook contest where Minwax fans upload their own wood finishing projects and vote on a winner.  By displaying real projects made by real people, the site captures an undeniable sense of personal achievement and individuality that goes hand-in-hand with the DIY experience.

“We are all very excited with the result of our intensive collaboration. The site is clean, contemporary, easier to navigate, and is sure to meet the needs of our diverse end users,” said Jacquelyn Ferrara, Director of Marketing for Minwax.

Visit the new Minwax site to explore and get inspired for yourself.

Update: In July 2014, Minwax Australia also partnered with Flightpath to launch a new version of their site based on this same design.

Why Emotion-Driven Marketing Can Increase B2B Sales

Traditionally, B2B marketing focused on product attributes and business value.  While great product features are key for selling, we cannot ignore the influence emotions play on buying decisions even in the B2B marketplace.

A recent study showed that personal value has 2x the impact business value does when it comes to making a B2B buying decision, with 71% of buyers claiming they will make a purchase if it has personal value.

howemotioninfluencesb2bbuying_businessservices (Source: Kapost)

Here at Flightpath, we firmly believe in the power of emotions and storytelling.  We have a rich history of helping organizations create, connect or use emotional currency via digital channels to maximize potential and opportunities.  Whether it’s on your website, in a marketing video or even throughout your social media strategy, highlighting the personal value of a product can increase your chances of making a sale and strengthen brand loyalty.

Download our case study to learn more about how emotional currency is the key to staying relevant with your consumers in a highly competitive digital landscape.

Flightpath Teams Up With Umbraco Developers For Internet Week New York 2014

New York’s annual technology festival– Internet Week New York–is slated to have it’s biggest year yet and Flightpath is excited to announce we will be hosting our own IWNY event for the growing Umbraco developer community.

What’s Umbraco? Built by a Denmark developer, Umbraco is an open source CMS platform known for it’s user-friendly interface and hassle-free customization.

In collaboration with the NY Umbraco Meetup group, Flightpath will open our offices on Tuesday, May 20 for a casual meet-and-greet for fellow Umbraco developers to get to know one another and chat about general Umbraco discussion topics. There will also be a special presentation on Merchello, the newest ecommerce package for Umbraco 7 led by Flightpath’s very own Director of Technology, Alex Lindgren.

Register for the event here and add it to your schedule on the IWNY website.  Space is limited so make sure to RSVP before it fills up!  Spread the word about the event using the hashtag #UmbracoIWNY.

 

Calling All Superstar Interns! Apply For A Social Media Internship At Flightpath

Flightpath is searching for a intern extraordinaire to join the social media team for summer 2014. We’re looking for someone with an unrequited love for all things social whose communication skills are sharp (if your wit is too, that’s even better!).

Our ideal candidate:
• Hates going a day without checking Buzzfeed, Upworthy and all the other pop-culture sites he/she loves

• Can name a favorite internet meme (or five!) in a heartbeat

• Makes his/her friends jealous with the number of likes they get on Instagram pics

• Sees an awesome Facebook picture with a lame caption and immediately gets sad.

Think you might be a good fit? We would love to hear from you. To learn more about this internship and apply, please visit our careers page!!

Producing A Creative Stop Motion Video When You’re Short on Time

Working on a project that has creative breathing room but lack of time and resources may initially put you in a tough position, as your concepts have to be grounded in the reality of execution.  However, it’s not an artistic death sentence.

For a recent Easter video campaign for our client, Fonseca Bin 27, I was tasked with producing a 10-second stop motion video, from concept to creation, in less than 3 hours.

Here’s are some tips I learned along the way—helpful for anyone creating stop motion video in a time crunch:

1. Create A Compelling Narrative 

A narrative doesn’t always require a tremendous amount of time to develop but to be effective it should be flexible enough to carry a headline and elevate the brand.

Tip: I always like to extend the story a little further and if the client doesn’t want it, it’s easy to chop off the ending.  For Bin 27, the narrative was originally supposed to end once the foil was wrapped back up but I made the bunny slip back behind the bottle while leaving a trail of chocolate crumbs (and the scene made it into the final video).

2. If Nothing Else, Get A Tripod

Before you shoot any stop motion videos, the one item (besides a camera) that you absolutely need is a tripod. There’s no way humanly possible to hold a camera in an even relatively similar position while moving the subject an 1/8 of an inch after every frame. The result wouldn’t just be a jumpy video; it would look like a random collection of photos.  So grab a tripod and make sure its in a locked off position before filming.

3. Leverage Natural Lighting As Much As Possible

When you don’t have the resources of a professional studio or lighting equipment, the best thing to do is find a space with exceptional natural light that you can shape with reflectors. It’s typically better to go with available light and use longer exposures with a smaller aperture for sharper images rather than using other tungsten continuous light sources like a desk lamp. This ensures that the images are between 2900-3200˚K, which is a warmer color known as tungsten. Normal daylight is around 5600˚K and is whiter or cooler.

Tip: You can always set the cameras color balance. For the Bin 27 video, I set the color balance at 5800˚K. If you leave the color balance on auto the camera will adjust each picture individually and you will most likely end up with a range of cooler and warmer pictures. Not good.

4. Use After Effects For Automatic Sequencing

To save time in post-production, I render out the selected images (after color correcting) into JPEGS and import them into After Effects as a JPEG sequence. This can save you considerable time when making a stop motion piece because After Effects automatically places the images in a sequence so you don’t have to individually place each image in a timeline in the correct order.

5. Invest In a Remote Camera Shutter Release

Every time you physically press the button to fire the camera, you move the camera ever so slightly. The end result is a very jumpy sequence of images. Remote shutter releases are an inexpensive solution to not having to press the shutter button and risk camera shake. An average remote release usually costs under $20 and gives you around 16 feet of leeway from your camera.

Tip: Because I did not have a remote camera release for this stop motion video, there were numerous frames that weren’t properly aligned.  To fix this, you can apply an effect called image stabilizer that analyzes the background and lines up all the images, effectively smoothing out the bumpy frames. 

6. Think Outside the Box 

The biggest take-away from this project was that even when working on the fly, you can do more for your clients than you may think with just a little bit of creativity. The more and more you surprise your clients with something new and creative, the more they appreciate your willingness to take the initiative to push and elevate their brand. And the more they trust your creative authority in guiding their brand. It’s just one more way to build a better atmosphere for client engagement and their trust in the agency.

The Shocking Amount of Data The Internet Creates Every Minute

A minute might feel like an insignificant amount of time in our lives but when it comes to big data 60 seconds is enough time to leave a massive digital trail.  The people at DOMO created this infographic that breaks down the mammoth amount of data all 2.4 billion Internet users produce every minute.

(Source: DOMO)

Hard to believe that in just one minute we email over 204 million messages, share 2.4 million pieces of Facebook content and upload over 72 hours of video to YouTube.  How are you or your business contributing to this endless stream of data?  Don’t take too long to ponder that question…a lot can happen in just a minute!

5 Reasons You Should Consider Umbraco For Your Next CMS

With so many options available, deciding on a CMS platform can be a daunting and frustrating task—think wedding planning or car buying.  While there are certainly reasons people go with big players like WordPress or Joomla, we think CMS upstart Umbraco is worthy of your consideration if your website wishlist includes hassle-free customization, a user-friendly interface and great customer support.

Umbraco logo

Flightpath recently attended uWestFest 2014, North America’s first Umbraco festival, to learn about their latest software, Umbraco 7, and gain some insight on the benefits of this CMS platform.

1. Easy-to-use interface

The platform prides itself on being extremely intuitive and fast, which makes it an appealing platform for non-developer, non-designer users.  Translation: Less time learning the technology equals more time focusing on your business.

Alex Lindgren at uWestFest

 2. Great search and indexing service

Flightpath’s very own Senior Director of Technology, Alex Lindgren, spoke at uWestFest 2014 about the reasons to love Umbraco’s search capabilities.

“Umbraco provides a powerful API for building custom search because let’s face it, site visitors want to find relevant content quickly,” said Lindgren.

3. Passionate developer community 

While the cult-like community of Umbraco developers is rapidly growing, they remain a tight-knit group eager to answer questions and get involved in forum discussion.

4.  Highly customizable for content managers

Umbraco allows designers to build websites that are equal parts beautiful and customizable.

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Flightpath recently created an Umbraco site for WageWorks that centers around interactive tiles that can be easily updated by the content manager and provide flexibility for page layout.

5.     Extensive support system

Getting things fixed on your website is a lot easier thanks to Umbraco’s support tools.  Users have access to a library of over 100 video tutorials as well as an umbraco wiki filled with step-by-step tutorials.  (If you’re willing to dish out some cash, Umbraco also offers a premium support service for around $4000)

If this seems like a perfect match for your website needs, Umbraco has a helpful list of developer recommendations on their site—including Flightpath who is now an official Umbraco Certified Partner.

5 Things We Learned at SXSW Interactive

Hard to imagine it’s been 30 days since the Flightpath team set our sights on SWSW 2014. While the SXSW glow slowly fades, what remains is the energy and excitement about the work we do, the clients we serve and the enduring lessons we learned:
1.    If we’re too focused on the technology, we lose sight of the psychology
In this evolving digital world, nearly every IPO heralds a new tool that promises increased engagement (ooh!), better functionality (ahh!) and less ads (ohh!). But when we get so excited about the medium, do we lose sight of what we’re trying to share with consumers? That’s when campaigns fall flat.

During Jonah Berger’s session, What Drives Word of Mouth, he highlighted a need for marketers to gain understanding on why people talk and share. True understanding of human psychology will help us create the right message to reach our brand advocates and get them talking. We were so jazzed after the session. We grabbed a copy of the book at the SXSW bookstore and have plans to reinstate our Flightpath book club with Berger’s Contagious as our first selection.
2.    Never underestimate the importance of strategery*
We’ll admit, we first went to this session based on its title: Go Home Marketing, You’re Drunk. And we weren’t disappointed. Kristina Halvorson broke down the importance of a clearly defined strategy in the content marketing space. If our goal is to create and distribute valuable, useful content to our audience, we need know what we’re saying and why we’re saying it. Without a smart strategy? We don’t have focus and will find ourselves working hard but not smart. Smart strategy provides us with the guardrails to know where we’re headed. If we do it right, we end up doing great work with both substance and integrity.
3.    We’ve seen the future, and it’s the debate over wearable technology
Walking around SXSW, we saw our fair share of Glassholes. But as these “explorers” lead us toward a new frontier of wearables, society is asking more questions than the experts are providing answers to at this stage.

During Glassholes: The Cultural Dissonance of Technology, panelists debated wearables as ushering in the next phase of human augmentation (or how we expand our own capabilities with technology). The biggest concern levied by the panelists and the audience was how wearables separate us from the physical world. The Google Glass enthusiasts argued (persuasively) that Glass allowed them to be connected without interference. Those on the other side of the issue felt that the very nature of the wearer using them was interference since unsuspecting bystanders would be drawn into the digital world without their consent. While nothing was solved by the end of the session, it made us think about the digital personas we spend so much time cultivating versus how to live an authentic life where we benefit from technology but aren’t ruled by it.
4.    Use social media for social good
What is a conference without free swag? The notorious stuff we all get was abundant in the exhibit hall. Hordes of people clustered around booths in hopes of securing a shirt, a tote or other tchotchke. But thanks to Twitter and the #SXSW hashtag, we discovered that all those random goodies that we didn’t really need (but couldn’t say no to) could go to a good cause. It made the exhibit hall experience a grab-bag game — how many tees (that you would never wear) could you snag for Austin’s Foundation for the Homeless? Finding the volunteers outside the Convention Center and dropping the goodies into their outstretched arms just felt right.
5.    The true lessons are revealed when you return
Sure, waiting in line for a chocolate chip cookie shot can be a fun way to spend an hour or two, but the real fun? Spending time with colleagues and learning from thought leaders and experts who are pushing the envelope and bringing new technologies forward, left us looking for connections on how we can harness the latest digital trends on behalf of our clients — to help them reach and engage with consumers in a meaningful way.
Until 2015…

 

*Kristina Halvorson even gave a shout out to Will Ferrell’s hilarious George Dubya character from Saturday Night Live.

 

 

Happiness is in the Marketing Air!

Spring is finally in the process of springing, Baseball and Budweiser are trying to get the national past time’s Opening Day to be a national holiday Budweiser Opening Day and even Pharrell William’s “Happy ” shows no pull back or wear out. Oscars or not, it just fills your head with happy.

It’s an amazing time to be alive and happy.  Marketers, can’t you just smell it?  I think people are more likely to part with their hard earned money when they’re happy. There’s tons of data regarding “sadness spending”, but volumes of emerging research in the role of happiness and positivity’s role in work and play.Gallop recently asked 350,000 people about happiness. December is the happiest month (and 12/25 is the happiest day!) The food, giving, gifting, spending spirit is hard to compete with.

Holidays aside,  April is a great opening act to all the warm weather, longer days and six months of airy lightness for much of the country. Why is this important?  Glad you asked! The exceptional work within the positive psychology movement validates for marketers that leading with emotionally compelling and meaningful “happy” messaging causes people to act and be more positively disposed.  Which translates to things like greater engagement, richer connection/stickyness and transactional conversion.  In other words, marketers acting happy may very well lead to more action.

Positive psychologist, author and TED extraordinaire Shawn Achor lays out a framework regarding flipping the “work to be happy” (i.e. finding the job of our dreams will lead to a happier life) to the idea of front loading happiness in inspiring productivity and many other positive outcomes in the job we’re already in.

So, the message to my fellow marketers on this sunny day as we start the beginning of April, is raise your happiness game. Could be in simplifying the message, more intuitive navigation or maybe just adding a wink or whimsy to a brand/category not known for it.  Just remember what the Joker said ”Why so serious?”

SXSW Sessions: The UX of Realtime Site Personalization

The static website is dying. We are at an age where having a website just isn’t good enough any more. With our attention spans constantly shortening, and typical web users multitasking, no one wants to dig through content to find what they’re looking for. Your site needs to know your user, and deliver them the content that they need, with as little effort as possible.

Currently the only major player that has come close to mastering their users needs is Google. I type in a search for “brunch”, and I am immediately presented with restaurants in my area, their user ratings, a map of their locations, and sites listing the top 10 best brunch spots in New York City. The utility navigation underneath the search bar, even rearranges itself making “maps” my second option right after search. I didn’t have to tell it I was in New York, or that I would be looking for the best brunch spots. Google simply knew what content I was looking for, and delivered it right to me.Screen Shot 2014-03-18 at 10.12.37 PM

While all companies may not have the engineering geniuses at Google, let alone their budget, there are still accessible technologies available that can make your site more personalized for your individual users. Geolocating, media queries, and cookies are all technologies that we have at our disposal now, but I feel that the simplest method that can be implemented almost immediately is utilizing hard user data. Most sites are built now with some kind of analytics, tracking page views and click throughs of different users on different devices. That information can, and should be utilized in the design of your product.

There are certain assumptions can already be made about mobile, tablet and desktop users, and understanding their different needs and limitations is the first step in creating a more efficient experience for each device. Desktop users are typical stationary, they are in one place, and will be connected to a stronger internet connection, thus have the time to click through more pages, and the signal strenght to load them. A mobile user on the other hand, may not be stationary, or even connected to wifi, so they will not want to explore your site, or have the capacity to load additional pages. If we take that basic information into consideration, it is easier to create an experience catered to their specialized needs.

Hard numbers are also a great way to understand how your user is interacting with your site, and how to cater to them accordingly. For example, if you see your mobile users frequenting the “our location” section of your site, it may be a smart move to have the information at the ready when they visit your mobile homepage, rather than making them look for it. Your desktop user may have the time to sit and click through two pages to find your address, but your mobile user is possibly on the go, and may not be connected to a wi-fi hotspot. Making a change as simple as that gives your users a better experience, without using seemingly advanced technologies.

As long as we can learn from our users, and iterate accordingly, serving up a personalized web experience may be entirely within our reach.

Impressions from attending a SXSW session by Jesse Friedman

Restaurant Week is Here, for a few weeks…literally

So Eat Your Heart Out NYC…more literally!

French, Italian, Vietnamese, Greek, Olympian… now is the time, if you love finer dining, to get your fill.  If you live far from the city, you can live vicariously like I do, through the Flightpath Foodies.

Clearly, I’m no foodie, but I DO work with some incredible foodies, the kind of people who know all about food and drink and who drool over the culinary arts like I do 70lb+ dogs. People who shock and amaze clients and co-workers with what they know about sources of origin, pairings, and yes – even the best places to go.

So, with our new Mayor calling on all of us to “eat out” (as once only the beloved Mayor Koch could do) I thought “Why not reach out to these remarkable sources of foodiness and get them to share with you their favorite thing or two about Restaurant Week (the app ain’t bad!) or the “epic” food scene of our fair metropolis?” Without further ado, their thoughts:

Denise de Castro, Vice President Client Services: “I have a few tips! I usually make my reservations on the first day they open – this year it was on Feb 10th. The places I usually hit up during #nycrw are SD26 and A Voce – simply because they’re near our office. I’d also recommend ilili – they’ve got a fantastic lamb burger. Another tidbit (noted on my blog):
Be sure to register your American Express credit card to get a $5 statement credit each time you spend a total of at least $25 at a participating restaurant during the NYC Restaurant Week campaign. And don’t forget: it’s also Japanese Restaurant Week in NYC. Enjoy!”

Leslie Poston, Senior Social Media Strategist: “New York is a town of discovery, and I love finding those little quirky places that have a unique feature or fun element (like PDT’s “secret” phone booth entrance), as well as places that have as much atmosphere as quality food. I use Foursquare lists and tips to help me find out what my friends love about the city, find out when a place has become too crowded and “scene” to enjoy – allowing me to choose somewhere else. I also use Foursquare and Twitter to connect with friends when they are out. It’s how I’ve discovered a few local speakeasies and other hidden gems. It’s Restaurant Week – treat yourself!”

Michelle Kelarakos, Social Media Strategist: “Take advantage of Restaurant Week to go to restaurants that are on your food bucket list. The best advice I can give anyone going with a loved one or friend is to order different items from the tasting menu so that you both get to try different dishes. Sometimes, the menu is so good you can’t just pick one so why not make a tasting out of it!”

The Super Bowl, There’s No Icky in Sticky!

Walking down the Super Bowl boulevard of not broken dreams this morning on Broadway in New York City, it became obvious why commercial America loves The Big Game.  People can’t get enough of pre-game hype, pre-game previewing of the spots, pre-game everything Super Bowl, preparing Super Bowl foods, planning parties, etc.

No, it’s not just the massive eyeballs that come with Super Bowl ads and posts each year.  Spending $4 million bucks can quickly aggregate a lot of eyeballs by any number of “road-block” media strategies on and off-line.  But that’s not it.  Watching adult people running to get their photos taken with Denver and Seattle player “standees” in Herald Sq. and seeing teens running after a living football player for “selfies” brought all the optical clarity one needs to understand the Super Bowl’s gravitational pull.

Best Buds 2014 Budweiser

The Super Bowl is the “stickiest” thing in America. The stickiest thing ever created in our country.  And, it creates a stickiness for any and all things attached, associated or aligned with The Big Game.  Just ask Bruno Mars or his agent.  Plus, the Super Bowl is made and still played in America- even as it expands its global reality. Love French food, Italian fashion, German cars… but the Super Bowl in NYC (no less and way more!) is so us, so USA, USA, USA! Excitement personified.

Year after year where ever it goes, the Super Bowl dominates the media for practically two weeks. The President is even part of the stickiness, joining forces with the Super Bowl pulpit/telecast – even on Fox – to bring the country (car and truck buyers, beer and soda drinkers, website “URL” hunters) together.  And, at the end of the Super Bowl Sunday, its broad stickiness is deeply rooted in the emotional connection it fosters and creates among so many of us.  That’s worth watching and paying for!

So, even though I have viewed the Best Buds dog and horse spot personally 1.5 million times, I still can’t wait to down it with some wings and friends on Super Bowl Sunday!!

Enjoy, America!

 

Editor’s note: We had some internal debate about using “Super Bowl” since this is a blog post and not an event for money or an ad. I bet we are not the only ones debating the finer points of trademark and copyright law this week!

The PDF Must Die & Other Tips for Success on Mobile

With ever-increasing traffic coming from mobile devices, potential clients often ask what they can do to create a more mobile-friendly website. Here at Flightpath, we create a lot of mobile content including apps, and sites with responsive design that scale to whatever device a user is viewing the content on.

At BDI’s recent Mobile Leadership Forum there were some great points made by Michael Pranikoff, the Global Director of Emerging Media at PR Newswire that we wanted to highlight.

Here are the top tips from his presentation, Mobile First. Mobile Now – A look at Mobile Media Consumption:

The PDF Has Got to Die!

As content providers, we need to make content accessible to anyone who wants to read it. Thinking about the format in which content is delivered is essential. No one wants to wait around for a PDF to download to their phone.

Pictures Stop the Swipe!

People love images, gone are the days of creating sites with dense text. In order to engage consumers and stop them from bouncing, sites need to be visually engaging and image-rich.

Make Infographics Bite Size, Not Long & Scrolly

Infographics are a great way to deliver information visually, and people like them. What people don’t like is having a carpal tunnel flare up from all the pinching and scrolling they have to do to read one a mile long. Consider what your infographic will look like on a mobile device before your create it.

Use Less Words!

Big Bird cover your ears. People just don’t like words as much as pictures. Worry less about what your site says, and more about what your site shows.

Responsive Design

Save people the hassle of having to click off into “View Full Desktop Version” land. Creating one site that scales to fit the device it is being viewed upon will make your users happy. It is also more cost effective in the long run than creating separate mobile sites and adding bandaids to an old desktop site.

Content Must Be Appealing …but Not to Everyone

Create valuable content for your target user not for the general public. People will get more value out of content that is tailored to them.

Include Calls to Action

By letting people know what you want them to do next you are making it easier and faster  for those navigating your site. No one wants to hunt around for the content they need, especially on a mobile device.

Plan for the Future

Mobile is only going to grow. Device sizes are ever-changing. The time to choose responsive design is now.

And finally, speaking of calls to action, perhaps you should check out what we’ve got to offer in terms of Mobile Web & App Development.

How to Create B2B Marketing Videos for YouTube & Beyond

how to create b2b marketing videos

Historically business video has mostly been a stepchild (or worse) of brand and consumer agency culture. That has all changed. Today, given the accessibility of amazing content creation and editing tools and even more amazing and widespread talent, business video has emerged as top tier content.

The time to know how to create compelling B2B marketing videos is now! Historically business video has mostly been a stepchild (or worse) of brand and consumer agency culture.  Low on production and portfolio value, the world of great “how to” instructional or corporate storytelling showcases were never top tier emotional or financial investment priorities.

That has all changed.  Today, given the accessibility of amazing content creation and editing tools and even more amazing and widespread talent, business video has emerged as top tier content.  In a way, just like “IT” came from the backroom to superstar status, B2B video is as likely now to have pixel rich and infographic led animation as a gorgeous 30sec. Ford truck spot featuring Denis Leary.

But as we all know and hear virtually daily, great content be it websites,  video, whatever is about story.  Because we live in a content world, people know good content from drek- both are available on YouTube, Vimeo, Netflix, everywhere.

This is what makes B2B video content incredibly compelling to create today- our ability to tell a compelling story.  It is no longer about a “modest” production budget under minding a great idea. And, while the expectation for truly engaging and immersive content is higher because of its ubiquity, great visual language and tight writing always excites. Just like a truly emotional movie never fails to get to us.

In polling our design and production team about five keys for going beyond even a B+ video, they said in no particular order:

  1. Short is better than long. People are trained to watch 30sec. bits of content. 3:00 is to long, by maybe 100%. 1:30-1:45 is a great length for framing a brand or corporate vision or overview.
  2. Beginning, Middle and End. Not needing to be equally distributed lengthwise but with undeniable cues and segues.  And, I quote “don’t screw with William.”
  3. Funny is good. Compelling is better. Find something compelling to say and show and do it early in the video.
  4. Create movement within screen moves. Back drops for b-roll or  animation work. It is eye candy and engages the audience to never let go.
  5. Given the option to have voice over or good music, music totally wins. Not in all cases, but in many. Tell the story on the screen, let people feel the story through the music. Works for me!

Do Blogger Outreach? 6 FTC Guidelines You Must Understand

…if the FTC takes action it will be against a brand, most likely not a blogger. As a marketer this could not only cost you thousands in fines from the FTC, but would jeopardize your relationship with your client. Understanding FTC guidelines is essential to protecting your agency, your client and also the consumers who you are marketing to.

The FTC released an update to their Endorsement Guidelines in March and while there have been a lot of open discussions about the FTC guidelines in the blogging community, there are far fewer within the marketing space, if the FTC takes action it will be against a brand, most likely not a blogger. As a marketer this could not only cost you thousands in fines from the FTC, but would jeopardize your relationship with your client

This past weekend at BlogPaws (a social media conference for pet bloggers) an FTC rep was on hand to disseminate the information to publishers, but this information is extremely valuable to those of us in marketing who conduct blogger outreach.

Understanding FTC guidelines is essential to protecting your agency, your client and also the consumers who you are marketing to.

1. When does a blog post need to have a disclosure?

Whenever there is a material connection between the post’s author and the brand. If a blogger happens to purchase a product that they love and then write a post detailing the product’s virtues, there is no material connection between them and the brand.

A material connection is established when an agency or brand reaches out to a publisher and offers product, gift cards, payment or other items that could be considered a transaction (a free dinner, trip etc.)

So, if you work in-house or at an agency and are conducting blogger outreach you need to be familiar with FTC guidelines. If you chose to ignore them, you are running a risk that your agency and your brand will be the subject of an investigation and possible action by the FTC meaning fines.

Who has been subject to these investigations? The speaker mentioned Porter Novelli, HP, Ann Taylor Loft, and Hyundai.

What were they giving away? As little as a $50 gift card. So, whether you are offering cars or carnations to bloggers you need to know the FTC guidleines.

2. Direct bloggers to use the #ad in any tweets, pins or Instagram images they share to promote product review or sponsored posts. DO NOT use #Spon

The FTC would like to see bloggers on Twitter and other microblogging platforms discontinue the use of the hashtag #spon (which means sponsored post in blogger speak). The meaning of the #spon hashtag may not be apparent to consumers, and the mission of the FTC is to ensure consumers understand the material connection between the blogger and company. It is the responsibility of the brand who did the outreach to communicate this as a necessity.

#Ad is much more clear to everyday people that what they are seeing is an ad of some sort, whether the post is paid for which cash or stems from a product review of items sent free of charge to a blogger.

3. Disclosures should be placed as close as possible to the claim they qualify.

This means, that instead of a blogger writing 4 paragraphs about the nifty gizmo they received and then waiting to the end of a post to mention that the above post was paid or that they got said gizmo for free, bloggers should disclose their material relationship to the brand in the heart of the post, close to where they detail the product.

What language should be used? The important thing is that a normal person can understand the disclosure. Legalese need not apply. So, ask bloggers to disclose that the product was provided free of charge by your company right when they start discussing it. For instance: “Gizmody  Co. just sent me GizmoXY  free of charge for review and I think it is super nifty.”

Asterisks and other weird symbols that refer readers to the bottom of a post for disclosure just don’t cut it in the eyes of the FTC. With an increasing number of mobile users who are viewing content in small bits and bouncing fast, they realize the number of people who read posts in their entirety is small.

4. If you are a marketer, you are not allowed to leave positive reviews for your clients on Yelp, Amazon, iTunes or anywhere else.

Especially if you do not disclose that you are a representative of the company. The FTC rep was very clear that this would not be tolerated and highlighted a case in which the FTC investigated a PR company who left numerous positive reviews for a client’s video game app in the iTunes store. So, just don’t do it.

5. Don’t use hyperlinks for disclosures that are integral to a claim

Linking off to information that the consumer needs to make an informed decision about the value of the opinion stated in the post or for important information like safety or cost. The speaker did add that hyperlinks are permissible if a disclosure is expecially long or has to be repeated over and over on the same site.

6. Make sure your agency or brand has a social media policy that includes mandating disclosure from bloggers you work with.

The speaker said some investigations against agencies and brands ultimately were closed without action because the agency or brand had a social media policy in place and showed that the outreach for the campaign being investigated was done by a “rogue” employee. Having a policy documented and in place could help your agency or brand in the event that an FTC investigation is launched.

Blogger outreach is a great way to build word of mouth, backlinks and to seed a new product with consumers. Just do it responsibly.

Additional resources for brands, agencies and bloggers can be found at www.business.ftc.gov

Pinterest Best Practices for Brands 2013 – How to Get Consumers Pinterested!

We just released our best practices for brands on Pinterest! Here is a sneak peak at the whitepaper, and top tips to ensure your brand is getting the most out of Pinterest.

We just released our best practices for brands on Pinterest! Here is a sneak peak at the whitepaper, to view it in it’s entirety download it here.

If you have an interest in marketing online, then you have an interest in Pinterest. Pinterest provides an opportunity for brands to reach consumers in the golden moment when their intent to purchase is forming- as their boards of product images are growing.

Announce your arrival

Pinterest does not offer promoted content or advertising to brands yet. So how can a brand announce their arrival on Pinterest if not through ads? Here are 3 sure fire ways to jump start your Pinterest presence:

  • A magic formula that is 2 parts Facebook and 1 part Pinterest. Create a Pinterest app on your brand page and support it with Facebook ads aimed at Pinterest users within your brand’s target demo.
  • Email! What happens when you take an old fashioned email and insert ready to pin images? BOOM- pinning a plenty!
  • Add Pin It! buttons to images on your website to remind visitors to share their fav pics on their own

Use awesome images

Want to be repinned? A perfect Pinterest image is 600 pixels wide. There is no maximum length on Pinterest, so aim for pins that are long. Images, taller than 800 pixels will stand out in the crowd.

Fill your brand’s boards with images beyond everyday product shots. Funny, beautiful and touching images have better odds at being repinned. Whether you are creating images for your pinboards or scouring the Internet for cool, repinnable images, chose high contrast images. Break out of the photo mold and create pins that include text, just make sure it is brief and bold.

Read the rest of our tips for marketing on Pinterest by downloading our latest white paper: Pinterest Best Practices for Brands 2013.

Brand Mis-Deception

Today, even with all the big data abounding, brands know you behaviorally. Think about it, only by your actions, purchase patterns, click throughs and by the perks they throw your way. Few brands (or the people who manage them) know you emotionally or get you empathetically.

I love brands.  In fact, some of my best friends are brands.  It’s true, my Nike Pegasus(s) have taken me to more places than I could ever recall. And, I do love, unconditionally my Bic 4 color pen- it too has taken me to many places weird and far.

But, lets be real it is a one-way street.  My old school writing partner wouldn’t know me from Kurt Vonnegut.  And, Nike knows me mostly as the obedient discount reacting Pega$u$ guy.

Today, even with all the big data abounding, brands know you behaviorally.  Think about it, only by your actions, purchase patterns, click throughs and by the perks they throw your way.  Few brands (or the people who manage them) know you emotionally or get you empathetically.  They may be using Radian6 like tools on your Facebook comments or Tweets or what you blog.  There is a lot of heady ( or hoody?) extrapolating and projecting, but for all they know about you, not the persona you, but your emotional you, brands still have along way to go in getting real.

Brands of course want a deep and meaningful relationship, but it’s difficult, let alone really creepy for the “inanimates” to know too much, get too close.   Unless you’re a “people” who position themselves as a brand like Jillian “5 more reps, now!” Michaels or Justin “Be a Belieber” Bieber or anyone with the surname “Kardashian”, then it’s cool.  It’s like who needs another bud, when you just want another Bud?

All I am really saying is, all of us in brand land (all of us!) need to take it easy on the over the top ways of getting attention and penetrating our hopeful or loyalist lives. Just because we now know way more about the navigational and transactional pathways of our “friends” doesn’t mean we should use it against or for them. Most brand and digital brand people especially, live in the never-ending world of new and cooler “shiny objects.”

So  given this, what I’m REALLY saying is just maybe the only way to truly navigate the future of effective brand marketing and cultivate sustainable relationship value is say or sing “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” and practice RESTRAINT.

Still using stock photos on social? It’s really time to stop.

If your grandparents looked like they crawled off a Clairol box, then congrats on hitting the genetic lottery. For the rest of us, stock images showing perfect people in perfect families just aren’t relatable. They also just don’t work well on social and here is why…

What is one of the worst things brands can do on social media? Use stock photos! Stock photos and product shots on social make us cringe, but the practice is all too common. If your social media marketing strategy involves stock imagery and products shots we have rounded up the top reasons to convince you to change it up.

Here are the top reasons not to use stock photos in your social posts:

1. Who are these people anyway?

Screen Shot 2013-04-24 at 11.13.04 AM

If your grandparents looked like they crawled off a Clairol box, then congrats on hitting the genetic lottery. For the rest of us, stock images showing perfect people in perfect families just aren’t relatable.

Showing images of real people using your products, who are truly enthusiastic, are going to go much further with your target audience. Your brand’s likes,  share and overall engagement will go up.

2. Cans lack soul.

Screen Shot 2013-04-24 at 1.38.36 PM

It’s a can of cat food. Yes, if you are a cat owner you probably have a brand of cat food that you like. And, if you are the cat food company then you probably paid thousands for a photo shoot in which each piece of niblet of meat in this can was arranged.

But, chances are if you saw this can of cat food pop up in your newsfeed accompanied by copy like “Like this if your cat eats this”- you would not even pause for a second look. Even if it had the most gorgeous label in the world. It’s still just a can.

On the other hand….

If you are a cat food company and post a pic of a real cat a user shared on your wall or on another social platform, who is super cute, and put your branding on it, BOOM. Magic happens…

Screen Shot 2013-04-24 at 11.24.23 AM

People will share. Fancy Feast rocks this tactic all the time on Facebook, and their images get a lot of love. Always think about your brand’s content from the user’s perspective- not just the brand perspective.

If your brand is posting cans, bags and other product shots- not matter how lovingly poised that product may be, it will never have the soul of a user generated image.

3. Stock photos aren’t funny, smart or interesting

Couple brushing teeth in the bathroom

Think about it for a moment. You went to school for photography. You have to make extra cash. So, you create the most generic images possible like the above “couple brushing teeth” and add a million random tags to the photo in the hopes that your image will be downloaded enough times that you can buy groceries this week.

The result: Boring images.

Screen Shot 2013-04-24 at 11.39.15 AM

This image was posted on Colgate’s wall. A consumer is proving the whitening power of their toothpaste with a photo taken in black light.

That would be a very funny post from the brand as well, but instead Colgate responded “HAHAHA” and let the post wither on the “Recent Posts by Others” vine, instead of using the image in a post on their own wall with thanks to the user who submitted it.

Instead they use images like this…

Screen Shot 2013-04-24 at 1.27.46 PM

I don’t mean to pick on Colgate or their agency or in-house person tasked with picking stock photos of perfect people with perfecter teeth.

They are just typical of the way brands use images to little effect on social.

So, use real user generated image on your wall and consumers will see that you are paying attention to them, and even better that you are celebrating their relationship with your brand. They may also post a pic in the hopes that they will get a star turn in your brand’s posts.

Have you made the switch from product beauty shots and stock images to user generated on social? Leave a comment and share your thoughts!

Change is never easy or fast enough and that won’t change!

Ron Johnson the celebrated former Target, Apple, and now J.C. Penney executive clearly understood the above un-attributed law of change and went all in anyway.

So why didn’t Mr. Johnson’s strategy of getting rid of the hundreds of coupon and discount offers with everyday low price (EDLP) work, as well as, dramatic and fundamental changes to merchandise?

Some point to hubris, others to deep-rooted conviction born out of incredible experience.   Here’s my two pennies:  I say the issue was not about changing the discount culture of a store, but the broader reality of brand culture and habitual behavior/expectation that Johnson may have underestimated.

Changing people’s belief about a brand or changing its transactional soul is danger on steroids.  People are creatures of habit. Consumers even more so regarding the ritualistic behavior of imagining they’re winning with a coupon or discount. People like winning at retail and EDLP takes the game away; while, framing a new “believe me/trust me” mindset- without the dopamine.  Plus, for over 100 years J.C. Penney has meant something to its loyalists (dwindling as they may be) and that something was the feeling of special- discounts, days, savings.

Target let alone Apple never had that historical baggage to negotiate.  From day one Apple wrote its own way of defining its unique user experience.  Target with designers like Mr. Graves and Mr. Stark evolved and enhanced the product portfolio without alienating the consumer or their expectation.

Both defined their respective channels through innovation. From a brand POV innovation doesn’t have the negative reverb like change does.  The obvious proof point is Coke changing formulation into New Coke- the #1 “don’t mess with my brand” case study in history.  Coincidentally or ironically one of Mr. Johnson’s advisors, Sergio Zyman was the senior marketing exec. at Coke at the time of the re-launch.  So clearly, Mr. Johnson had first hand and learned experience with this kind of fire.

In the coming days much will be written about Ron Johnson’s tenure- was he given enough time, was he fighting an impossible product, merchant culture battle, did his senior staff leave because they sensed what was happening or not?

Regardless of what gets said or not, this much we know “if change was easy, everyone one would do it!”

In the Wake of Tragedy What Should Brands on Social Do? Be Quiet.

In the wake of tragedies, people turn to social media for instant information, to fulfill our human need to connect. This is when social media really shines, when it’s promise as an instant means of communications and information comes true.

Brands on social seem to struggle with tragedy. PR agencies, ad firms and digital shops are filled with people who are affected, even if indirectly when tragedy strikes. Everyone struggles with coming up with the right thing to say. There is a very human need to say something.

But brands are not humans.

Even though the people who staff accounts have the best intentions, creating a post in the vain of “We Remember…” or “Our thoughts are with…” is inappropriate. People are turning to each other for comfort, for news outlets for coverage. They are not turning to consumer package goods or B2B companies for solace.

In the aftermath of tragedy, brand posts do two things:

  • Clutter up newsfeeds when people are looking for instant information.
  • Give the perception that a brand is leveraging a tragedy for their own benefit.

So, if you manage social media for brands what should you do? Halt all posts, especially in the hours after the tragic event. By staying quiet, your brand will be doing something important- giving people space to find news, connect and find solace in their friends.

Facebook Quick Tips for Community Managers

Community Managers handling social media accounts for clients sometimes want to find the best and fastest way to zip across all channels. We figured, why not increase your Facebook fitness and share some of the tips and tricks we’ve learned along the way to ‘pump you up!’

Community Managers handling social media accounts for clients sometimes want to find the best and fastest way to zip across all channels.  We figured, why not increase your Facebook fitness and share some of the tips and tricks we’ve learned along the way to ‘pump you up!’

SNL Skit Hans and Franz with Arnold Swarchenegger

Image via Tumblr.com

 

1.  Spelling Fail – How to Edit Post after It’s Out There

Keep in mind; this only applies to posts that have images attached to them.  Nonetheless, good to know when you’re in a pinch and already established high engagement.

Let’s just say you found a tiny little mistake (oops!), well this is how you can fix it after it’s been put out there for the world to see.  The best part is… this also applies for the scheduled posts in your Activity Log.

 Here’s how:

a)  Click on the time stamp of the post you want to edit

Facebook Screen Shot How-To 1

 

b)  Click on “Edit”

Facebook How-To 2

 

c)  Then make the necessary edits in the text box and then hit “Done Editing”

Facebook How-To 3

Huzzah!  All fixed.

 

2. Keyboard Shortcuts for Facebook

Thanks to Mashable we can now do our daily Facebook routine sans mouse.  It’s sort of like playing a game on our keyboard.

Shortcuts are based on your browser so you need to memorize the sequence:

Facebook shortcuts

For the action shortcuts visit Mashable.

 

3. Organize Your Inbox

Want to move messages that you know you’re done with?  Then you can move them out of your inbox and into the “Other” folder. This way you can control how many messages are in your inbox.

Here’s how:

Facebook How To Move Message to "Other" via Facebook.com

Image via Facebook.com

 

Tag you’re it!  What other quick tips do you have to share with fellow social media ninjas? Sound off in our comments below.

Can’t get enough of Facebook tidbits and news from Flightpath?  Have no fear just click here.

The Mainstreaming of “PDA”

Forgive my Huff Po like baiting, but no, not that PDA, the emergence of “Public Display of Analytics” all over the media and business landscape- if you don’t believe me, check out History Channel’s united-stats-of-america where data and insights are dramatically brought to life.

No doubt we have all seen the pervasive rise of data creep in virtually every aspect of our life and business decision making- including creative.  If you buy into the assumption that “numbers speak louder than words” then you’re not alone, but there are also “contrarians at the gate.”  Ad Age covering a panel at Adverting Week Europe heard the unequivocal push back from John Hegarty founder of BBH advertising “You’d expect a creative person to pour slight scorn on data.” He explained, “It’s because I’ve spent my life dealing with people who’ve got all the data in the world and yet they can’t invent anything.” That said, RG/A founder and Chairman Bob Greenberg responded with his own evangelistic zeal “I think creative use of data is also a possibility. Data visualization has created ways in which you can take the data that’s available and tie it into a live event – like when I walk into Nike Town [wearing a Nike + band] and they’ll know who I am and they’ll be able to serve up really relevant content.”

The Ad Age link is really worth clicking not just because Mr. Hegarty wouldn’t have any of it, but because data is clearly here and becoming louder and more pronounced everyday in countless ways. And, as Mr. Greenberg made clear, data is about the end game of customer personalization and engagement. Which is why analytics, especially in reference to “big data” is so compelling.

To bring it back to today, if you haven’t, I urge you to read John Lee’s (head of our SEO/SEM practice) compelling/insightful post How to Rank Better in Google & Bing that he wrote right after attending a SXSW presentation on landscape issues of search effectiveness.   John and I laugh about how we “couldn’t come at it” any more different, but we both agree that the most compelling ideas and themes only matter if they engage a human being in a very human way. Enough said!

How to Rank Better in Google & Bing

flightpath does sxsw - analytics team

I’ve been to presentations in the past featuring Danny Sullivan (Search Engine Land), Matt Cutts (Google) and Duane Forrester (Bing). Collectively, these three will make for an entertaining and informative session, and their open Q&A on How To Rank Better on Google and Bing at SXSW was no exception. Nothing groundbreaking was covered, but still fun and interesting nonetheless, and did include some important reminders.  Continue reading “How to Rank Better in Google & Bing”

Brands Take Over SXSW

flightpath does sxsw - design team

Looking for a place to charge your phone? Thinking about relaxing with a mini massage Wanting a snack, or free stuff? Brands at SXSW have taken over the Austin Convention Center with their different offers to entice the crowds, but which are making the biggest impacts? Flightpath counts down the top 5 engaged brands at SXSW.

Continue reading “Brands Take Over SXSW”

SXSW Session – Connected for Reconstruction

flightpath does sxsw - design team

Major disasters have devastated parts of great cities in recent memory: a massive earthquake in Port au Prince, a tsunami in Northern Japan, and superstore Sandy. In addition to government aid and the help of volunteers, a non-profit organization, Architecture for Humanity, is changing how affected areas are rebuilt – simultaneously. Continue reading “SXSW Session – Connected for Reconstruction”

Facebook isn’t Real…Why This Matters for Marketers

The Facebook you is the best you possible….You are not writing social media content for people, you are writing content for the people your consumers want to be.

Chances are the person you are on Facebook and the person you are IRL are different animals.

The parent you on Facebook shared the most darling thing your daughter said this morning. The Facebook parent you never yells about putting shoes on to go to school or loses it in a homework battle with your 12 year old.

The Facebook you is the best you possible.

The friend that remembers every birthday. The buddy who always knows what to say to a friend in need. The life of the party, a great entertainer, providing an endless stream of amusing images, videos and random thoughts. The supportive spouse “in a relationship” with the most fantastic person in the world.

You are not alone. This is the life we all lead…on Facebook.

There are more than a billion Facebook Yous roaming around Earth right now and all of us “yous” have a lot in common. We try not to share content that is mundane or even worse, a downer. “On Facebook” is the new “in public” so we all mind our language, and post the best moments of our lives as though we live in some sort of never-ending Christmas card.

We all realize on some level that Facebook isn’t real life, like this blogger who refers to Facebook as Fakebook. But, none of us really want to share all the day-to-day difficulties of life when we can use Facebook and the rest of social media as our happy place, especially when everyone is a little paranoid about employers/bosses/recruiters and worst of all their moms reading their posts.

So what does this mean for the Social Media Marketer You?

You are not writing social media content for people, you are writing content for the people your consumers want to be.

Posts that celebrate the best in people will be liked. Images that depict the positive connections we have with others and our environments will be shared. Videos that were created to entertain friends of friends will be shared, embedded, commented on.

Facebook Yous will never share your ad copy, except for the rare cases when it truly entertains, connects or celebrates. When you are creating your next content calendar for a client, ask yourself if you would share it on your own wall. If the Facebook You is happy with it, the rest of us will be too.

Pinterest Asking Brands What Features They Want – Pinterest Analytics Anyone?

Buried deep within the Pinterest Help Center for Businesses is a page that may outline Pinterest’s roadmap for rolling out product features for brands.  Pinterest is asking brands to vote for features they are interested in seeing, but as of this writing each proposed feature has less than 90 votes.

Getting inside the heads of the minds behind the fastest growing social media platform has been an interest of marketers ever since Pinterest came out of seemingly nowhere a few years ago. While there has been a lot of speculation about the platform offering brands analytics, advertising opportunities and other tools to make creating and monitoring Pinterest content, Pinterest has remained silent.

Buried deep within the Pinterest Help Center for Businesses is a page that may outline Pinterest’s roadmap for rolling out product features for brands.  Pinterest is asking brands to vote for features they are interested in seeing, but as of this writing each proposed feature has less than 90 votes.

Features Pinterest wants to know if marketers are interested in:

  • Hashtag Searches
  • Business Analytics
  • Scheduled Pins
  • Moving/Editing/Upload Pins in Bulk
  • Nested Boards/Sub-Boards

Hashtag Searches

Pinterest: “Right now, our search does not support hashtags (ex: #hashtag). It’s a feature we know would be useful for pinners and businesses and that we may add in the future. If you’d also like to see hashtag searches on Pinterest, vote for it using the “Me too!” button below.” 

People are already using hashtag searches on Twitter and Instagram (and you even see people use on Facebook even though they don’t work there).

On Twitter, creating a hashtag generates a link so when a user clicks a hashtag they will see all content in which people are using that tag. On Pinterest, people have been using hashtags, though they do not work to create links to other content. Pinterest search is notoriously bad and much of the reason Pinterest search is so bad is because users do not add text to the images they are pinning.

For marketers, this is frustrating because we can’t track content intended for a sweepstakes entry or discussion around our brands very well. So hashtag searches would be a great improvement- make sure you click “Me Too!” here if you would also like to see this feature.

Business Analytics

Pinterest: “Right now, we don’t offer analytics tracking for business accounts.  It’s a feature we know would be useful for business accounts and that we may add in the future. If you’d also like to see this feature on Pinterest, vote for it using the “Me too!” button below.”

There are no Insights for brands on Pinterest. Clients are always dumbfounded by this. Brands are spending time on developing Pinterest followings that they know are effective, because they see the inbound traffic from Pinterest as a referring source Google Analytics. If you have ever had to compile Pinterest metrics for a client report you know what a headache it is. Save your intern from manually adding up likes, comments and repins by voting “Me Too!” for this one as well.

Scheduled Pins

Pinterest: “Right now, we don’t have a way to schedule the time at which a board or pin is published.  It’s a feature we’re thinking about carefully and may add in the future. If you’d also like to see this feature on Pinterest, vote for it using the “Me too!” button below.”

Scheduling content via Facebook’s relatively new tool is useful for brands. However, social media marketing 101 is to post content at the time of day when you get most traction and how do we know when our content is getting the most attention if we have no analytics. This one seems less urgent to me than rolling out analytics and hashtags, but it would be a nice feature to have.

Moving/Editing/Upload Pins in Bulk

Pinterest: There is no way to move, edit or upload pins in bulk right now. We know this would be a useful feature for pinners and businesses and it’s one we may add in the future. If you’d be interested in this feature, let us know!”

So here is my hesitation with this one. While the marketer in me says go for it upload content, content, content! The person inside me doesn’t want to see The Gap upload 700 pins on a Wednesday afternoon and flood my home feed, forcing me to unfollow them. So this seems as though it would only truly work for brands if it was released with a baked in scheduling feature so brands can control the flow of their output otherwise if content from brands gets too high, Pinterest could throttle brand posts out of necessity- Facebook style.

Nested Boards/SubBoards

Pinterest: “There is no way to nest one board within another. If you’d like to show content from one board on another, you can repin the pins from the first board to the second. If you’d be interested in this feature, let us know!”

This one seems like the least interesting idea of all. Creating a Pinterest rabbit hole of boards within boards within boards seems like it may make content more difficult to find- already a huge headache for brands.

What Pinterest should have on this list of proposed features:

  • API Development
  • Promoted Pins
  • Other Advertising Opps.

Leave a comment and let us know what you think about Pinterest’s ideas for the platform, better yet- go here and tell Pinterest which features you would like to see by clicking the “Me Too!”

Life Is In Your Hands: Truer Words (and Video!) Were Never Spoken!

Mobile subscriptions will pass the world population by 2012 and if that’s not enough to get your attention about the state of mobility, according to Google, 75% of customers prefer a mobile friendly site!

Mobile subscriptions will pass the world population by 2012 and if that’s not enough to get your attention about the state of mobility, according to Google, 75% of customers prefer a mobile friendly site!

So, while many people, even in these economic times are living large, many more are living small…even mini when it comes to living life on the web, on apps or just on their own terms.  Cause when it comes to playing with some Angry Birds or not playing around at retail, life couldn’t more in your hands!

We have enjoyed being party to this explosion through many clients, in several categories from animal health to packaged goods to cable television- all who bought in early to the new world order of “anytime, anywhere” engagement.

The Flightpath video crew distilled this incredibly vibrant and prolific world of mobile life today in a fast paced, visually cool 40 second video.

Some trends you have to hunt demographically or consumption wise to really validate, not with mobile. In fact, “ubiquity” is maybe the only word that truly defines its growth. According to ComScore, in 2011 smartphone adoption increased 99% among 6-person households, 98% among those making less than $25,000, and 92% among retirees and there were more than 400 smartphone devices on the market.

What is also very exciting about the mobile world of today, let alone tomorrow, is the evolution in user expectation.  Clearly, there is nothing second tier, nothing about “dialing back” the experience from the desktop when on a mobile device- 58% of mobile users expect mobile sites to load as quickly as or faster than desktop sites.  And, in the same Google study, they found 38% of mobile users are willing to wait 30 seconds or less for a transaction. Giddy yap!

Lastly, there is so much data, as you know, on platform adoption, usage patterns and other performance indicators that we could be here all day. So let me leave you with some Pew Internet Project stats and a handy user reference chart as a frame of reference of all that is migrating in your hands!

As of January 2013:

  • 26% of American adults own an e-reader
  • 31% of American adults own a tablet computer

As of December 2012:

  • 87% of American adults have a cell phone
  • 45% of American adults have a smartphone

how cells

Sources:

SnapHop 2012 Mobile Stats

Pew Internet Project

 

Yummly vs Pinterest: Social Media Marketing for Food Brands

Yummly is a new player poised to steal the foodies from Pinterest. There are some key differences between Pinterest and Yummly that may influence where brands spend their time and their money.

Yummly is a new player poised to steal the foodies from Pinterest. There are some key differences between Pinterest and Yummly that may influence where brands spend their time and their money.

Food continues to be one of the hottest topics for pins on Pinterest, and food brands and publishers like Kraft Recipes, Goya Foods and Food Network have all jumped aboard the Pinterest train looking to drive brand awareness and traffic back to recipes nested on their brand’s website.

Meanwhile other image sharing and aggregation sites have begun to emerge. Yummly was launched in 2010, but it had some strong players back the site last year. Unilever saw enough promise in the startup to become an investor in Yummly’s Series A funding round and is one of the site’s main advertisers.

Differences Between Pinterest and Yummly for Brands

Pinterest

Promoted Pins: A major frustration for brands is the lack of advertising opportunities available in the form of promoted pins on Pinterest.

Metrics: Brands accustomed to the analytics provided by Facebook Insights and YouTube Insights continue to struggle with the lack of metrics available from Pinterest.

Accounts: Both brands and people create similar accounts (though brand accounts can now be verified Twitter-style). Other than verification, there is no difference in available features between an individual user’s Pinterest account and a brand’s Pinterest account.

Driving traffic: While Pinterest has been a great source of traffic for brands, users have to click twice on a pin to be directed to an image’s source page. There is no prompt to drive users to the pin’s originating source.

Search: Brands have experimented with using hashtags, keywords and other ways to ensure their content ranks high in a Pinterest search. However, Pinterest search lacks the ability for user’s to narrow their search.

Recently unveiled verified brand accounts have helped users distinguish branded accounts from those created by fans. Do a Pinterest search for “Martha Stewart” and you will see why this was a necessary move.

pin1

Sharing: This is where Pinterest excels. One click repinning exposes content to the pinners follower. Users can also view the pins and profiles of other Pinterest users/brands to discover additional content to share. Pinterest is also designed to be a destination, rather than a tool.

Yummly

Promoted Recipes: Yummly allows brands to advertise in the form of Promoted Recipes. These recipes, such as the one shown below for a Skippy peanut butter chicken recipe (Skippy is a Unilever brand) found in a search for “chicken”, rank higher than other recipes to ensure maximum visibility in Yummly search.

yum1

Advertising- Suggested Products: When a user searches for a specific recipe, they will be shown a list of suggested products that match the ingredient list of the recipe they were searching for. For instance, a search of Kraft prompts an ad for I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, another Unilever brand. Clicking on the ad drives the user to the product website.

 yum2

Metrics: Flightpath contacted Yummly to inquire about brand analytics. According to a Yummly rep, they are starting to offer analytics for brand partners.

Accounts: Branded accounts house all recipes generated from a publisher or brand. Accounts also exist for food bloggers who supply content to the site.

Driving Traffic: Prompts for users to read full recipes and visit publisher’s website are prominent, a call to action that does not exist on Pinterest.

Search: Yummly offers users incredibly relevant results due to its semantic search engine. Users can also narrow their search using the prominent search tools on the left hand side of the site. Yummly’s focus on food is also a plus. A search for chicken on Pinterest pulled up chicken recipes alongside a chicken coop and Pedigree’s new chicken flavored dog food.

Sharing: When users click “Yum” this action is shared to their Facebook wall. Users can also see how many “Yums” different recipes have, which serves as an endorsement of the recipe. All images are sized to be pinnable via the Pinterest bookmarklet. However there is no social sharing within the platform itself. Unlike Pinterest which is designed to be a social destination, Yummly is a tool for finding recipes and sharing them on other social platforms.

Since the Pinterest craze hit over a year ago, frustration among brands at Pinterest’s lack of promotional opportunities has been building.  Why Pinterest didn’t see this void as a dangerous opportunity for a startup to charge in and steal brand dollars is a mystery, but that startup has arrived in the food and beverage category and it is Yummly.

Infographic – How 14 Top Brand’s Performed in a Social Media Customer Service Test

Myself and three of my colleagues used our personal Twitter accounts to send customer service tweets to 14 leading consumer brands in seven industries. Each company received one tweet per weekday for four consecutive weeks. The goal was to evaluate which messages were prioritized and how consistently they responded.

The following guest post comes from Rachel Ramsey, Editorial Coordinator at Software Advice, a research and advisory firm.

In today’s Yelp-obsessed world, consumers are interested in marketing but only if it matches what their family and friends say about your brand. Social media is a perfect avenue for impacting these conversations. That being said, providing effective social support is just as important to this mission as sharing promotions, blog posts and deals.

However, providing strong customer service on Twitter presents a formidable challenge for companies that receive thousands of tweets per day. It’s impossible to expect them to respond to everything. Instead, they need a strategy for finding and prioritizing the most important messages.

How the Race Worked

Myself and three of my colleagues used our personal Twitter accounts to send customer service tweets to 14 leading consumer brands in seven industries. Each company received one tweet per weekday for four consecutive weeks. Half of the time we used the @ symbol with the company’s Twitter handle, the other half we didn’t.  Using the @ triggers a notification to the account owner that they’ve been mentioned in a tweet

The questions fell into one of five categories:

  • Urgent
  • Positive
  • Negative
  • FAQ
  • Technical

The goal was to evaluate which messages were prioritized and how consistently they responded. This included messages with an @ symbol and brand name, as well as others where simply the brand was mentioned. We sent the tweets every day from four different personal Twitter handles, for four consecutive weeks. We tested 14 brands in seven industries.

Some lessons learned included:

Keep the customer informed. Coca-Cola and McDonald’s committed huge errors when two of their replies came several days after the questions were sent. For the instant-gratification customer, this is the same as not responding at all.

Don’t be a robot. Customer service expert, best-selling author and speaker Micah Solomon told me recently that being human in your engagements with customers on Twitter is one of the most important considerations. Twitter is a social platform, your responders need to talk and act like they would interact with their real friends and family. Say thank you. Be personal.

Important keyword triggers are your friend. When we designed questions for the race, we specifically included questions with important intent, sentiment or risk of switching brands. Social listening software can be programmed to send service messages to the front of the line if they contain keywords such as “help,” “mad,” “thank you.” These rules are imperative for brands that need to automate tweet prioritization.

Listen for your brand, @ or no @

The social customer service innovators watch and respond to non-@ mentions because they see the opportunity to really surprise and delight. Most social listening software can be programed to listen for mentions without the @, with the @, and #brandname.

Still Not the Norm

These brands responded to a mere 14 percent of the 280 tweets delivered during the race. Whether the issue is one of strategy or technology, brands are still far from meeting customers’ expectations on Twitter.

How to Get Lucky in 2013?

13 Big and little ways to make marketing next year even more epictorial!

  1. More Word Play:  Nothing works harder for brands than when words work hard at disrupting, connecting and being fun!  More than even, especially in digital or in windows on 5th Ave, fewer words communicate more.
  2. Even More Use of Pictures:  Clearly Instagram burped recently when it proclaimed all future rights to all your pictures.  This aside, just as GIF’s demand attention so does adorable and emotional AUTHENTIC images. It is worth remembering if it looks like stock, it feels like stock.
  3. Videoh my…: 1 billion “Gangnam Style” views don’t lie. The lesson to be learned is yeah production value matters but so does creative value with musical and visual hooks that are both addictive and contagious. There’s real take away value for marketers!
  4. Rock and Scroll:  Mobile has made all of us scrollers- regardless of the device we’re on. Take advantage of this new habitual behavior with rich, story centered “endless” content.
  5. Think/Be Relevant:  Capturing attention almost always is about finding what’s important and meaningful to people.  Deep rooted sensibility into the human condition elevates way beyond “brand positioning” and into the brand conscious. Think: Apple!
  6. Don’t Be Sub- Optimized:  Smart SEO is foundational to marketing and brand/media management. It’s not “black box” anymore but with great talent, it can be out of the box!
  7. Don’t Become a “Socialpedia” Page:  Brand info. is important of course; but, being a real emotional and meaningful part of your consumer’s life is the win.
  8. Post Less, Listen More: The harm brands do to themselves by being insensitive or unaware about “social media etiquette” is unfortunate.  But the real loss is the insightful connection (and learning) involving your current or would be customers.
  9. What Will You Do Different?:  Getting your head into this is big. What will you try that you didn’t in 2012?  What do you know that you didn’t 12 months ago?  Innovation is so sexy but it really starts with being “accountable” to what you/your team is thinking or doing differently.
  10. Be Provocative and Declarative:  Cool apps and other breakthrough tech will only get you so far. Brands that have a “P&D” sensibility, that capture people’s imagination are much more likely to grow- regardless of the economy- because they inherently deliver emotional value.
  11. Use “Fact Based Passion”:  The digital age is the age of KPI’s (key performance indicators) if not always ROI. Regardless, data is more available today than ever before to support big ideas and gutsy calls.  Creative people finally have real support to back them with their most imaginative, passionate thinking. We are in the Golden age of MTKG creative because of Fact Based Passion!
  12. Earn from Mistakes:  Nothing is more valuable than helping people understand what not to do, what to avoid and why! Give speeches, be on panels, write blogs, be a for hire consultant.  If you messed up and you “own it”, then sell it. You’ll be helping yourself and others.
  13. Have More Fun. Like really have fun in 2013. If that chicken chain can get people to eat more chicken using cows, us marketers should be able to up sell fun all the way to the bank!

Good luck and have FUN all year long!

Facebook’s EdgeRank Algorithm – What Brands Need to Know

Unless you’ve been living under a buzzword-free rock (and if that’s the case, please share your location so that others might seek refuge), you’ve undoubtedly heard about EdgeRank, the algorithm that Facebook uses to determine what users see in their News Feeds. While the method itself remains elusive, there is solid information that brands can use to navigate the News Feed and stay on top of fan engagement and in front of fan faces.

The Algorithm :: What is it?

Every piece of content or interaction on Facebook is known as an “edge,” from uploading a photo to joining an Event or Liking a status update.

EdgeRank accounts for three determining factors, known as “signals,” regarding posts themselves: affinity, weight, and time decay. Affinity reflects how friendly you are with your fans. Weight is a basic formula that is used to determine what types of content are more likely to be shared. Time Decay is a simple measurement of which content is the most fresh.

While there have been hints that Facebook may be introducing a new signal (or more) into the equation, this trifecta currently makes up the mix.

The Latest :: What’s the word?

In late September, Facebook announced an update to the EdgeRank algorithm, sending the digital marketing world into a tizzy as organic reach levels dropped suddenly and dramatically across the board. Phrases like “pay to play” flew across our screens rapid-fire, and brands began to panic over losses in revenue. The algorithm still remains elusive, but there are a few key changes that have become apparent.

Negative Feedback is now weighted more heavily.  Users are now equipped with simple controls at the forefront that allow them to hide, block, and report posts. Because the objective of the updates is to combat spam pages, there is far more attention paid to this type of feedback from users. In addition, if pages have received a substantial amount of negative feedback in the past, they may have been hit even harder by the update.

The Popular Post Paradox creates new opportunities for negative feedback. Yes, that’s right. We’ve coined a new paradox. (While no one at Flightpath fancies himself or herself a philosopher, we’d argue that critical thinking skills and a love for alliteration go a long way.) Thanks to EdgeRank, the most popular posts make their way into the News Feeds of many a Facebooker who isn’t necessarily a fan of your content. While this is a great opportunity to make new friends, it’s also an easy way to get your posts hidden in the case that we don’t like what we see.

Status Updates Are the New Black. Once the updates went into affect and widespread suffering was reported from the depths of editorial teams across the globe, there was a single glimmer of hope: Status Updates. The oft-forgotten content type actually showed improvement in performance as a result of the algorithm, and brands that have strategically revitalized the status update have seen positive EdgeRank results.

Optimal Post Frequency hovers around once per day. Talk about high stakes-statuses. Many an analyst agrees: the most engagement is garnered when a brand posts once per day – and interactions begin to decrease substantially as frequency increases. It’s up to you to determine the best time of day to hit “Post,” as well as the ideal type of content to share. The good news? There’s plenty of room for experimentation.

The Implications :: What’s it to you?

EdgeRank exists to further personalize the experience of logging in to your virtual world by weed out irrelevant content and promoting pieces of interest. The fact is, except for the rare occasion on which a rapper launches a video game, we aren’t generally clamoring to canoodle with brands.  EdgeRank recognizes what we are clamoring for, however, and rewards those pages who are posting killer content, at the right frequency, at the ideal time of day. If you’re not using EdgeRank Checker already, create your account and get moving – many of the optimizations that can be made are easily measure and reported within the tool, which also allows for real-time monitoring.

At the end of the day, I’m still subjected to far too many baby pictures (and when will we start punishing college buddies for gratuitous sorority poses?), but technology has only come so far.

Facebook Gifts – Presents New E-Commerce Opportunity for Brands

Remember Facebook’s Virtual Gifts of yore? When you could send your Facebook friends a “beer”, “rose” or “birthday cake?” Facebook closed its virtual gift shop in August 2011, and has replaced it with the ability to send Facebook friends real beer, roses and birthday cakes (or at least cupcakes). All from the status box on their friend’s timeline.
At this time, the gift selection is somewhat limited. For instance there are only 10 gifts available in the pets category. So, Facebook is going to have to expand their selection to appeal to more buyers. Which is great news for brands who are interested in coming aboard.

Facebook has rolled out another value add for brands. Facebook Gifts, which have been available through chain invites since September, are now available to all users and open for brands to submit products as consideration for Facebook Gifts.

Remember Facebook’s Virtual Gifts of yore? When you could send your Facebook friends a “beer”, “rose” or “birthday cake?” Facebook closed its virtual gift shop in August 2011, and has replaced it with the ability to send Facebook friends real beer, roses and birthday cakes (or at least cupcakes). All from the status box on their friend’s timeline.

So what is the benefit of this for brands? Your brand’s products can be offered via Facebook Gifts, which offers a seamless e-commerce experience and new platform for driving sales. Now, when a user sees a friend announce they are expecting a baby that user can quickly send an appropriate gift without having to leave the confines of Facebook for, say Amazon and perhaps get distracted along the way to purchasing your brand’s product.

Facebook has also done a great job of removing the shipping address barrier of sending gifts to people you are friends with on Facebook, but are not close friends with in real life. The sender doesn’t have to enter any shipping information. The gift recipient is notified via Facebook private message that they have a gift waiting and they are prompted to accept the gift, at which point they enter in their own shipping information. This lowers the barrier to purchase for the gift giver and also encourages surprise, and impulse gifting (it’s a little hard to surprise someone with a gift when you have to text them and request their shipping address).

The social media/word of mouth marketing aspect of Facebook Gifts is also alluring to brands. Every time a user sends a gift, a tantalizingly wrapped gift image appears on the recipient’s timeline by default, encouraging them to unwrap it and reveal what is inside. Senders can opt out of the share. Below is an example of the image a recipient sees on their timeline:

At this time, the gift selection is somewhat limited. Potential senders first land in the “Recommended Gifts” section, which is mostly gifts of food, but also include Starbucks and iTunes virtual gift cards. The user then has the option to navigate into the following gift categories:

  • Food & Drink
  • Wine
  • Fun
  • Home & Kitchen
  • Fashion & Body
  • Flowers
  • Baby & Kids
  • Gifts that Give Back
  • Pets

According to Facebook, there are multiple safeguards in place to ensure that alcoholic beverages are not purchased by or sent to underage users, including carding recipients at their physical door during delivery and barring users with a stated age below 21 from even seeing alcoholic beverages as Facebook Gift options. This could be a great sales platform for those brands in the wine and spirits category.

At this time, the gift selection is somewhat limited. For instance there are only 10 gifts available in the pets category. So, Facebook is going to have to expand their selection to appeal to more buyers. Which is great news for brands who are interested in coming aboard.

So, what brands are taking part in the initial roll out of Facebook Gifts?

  • Apple
  • Baby Gap
  • Harry & David
  • Fab
  • Brookstone
  • Gund
  • Sesame Street
  • Warby Parker
  • And more…

Want to get your brand’s products on board with Facebook Gifts? Just fill out this form to submit your products for consideration.

Facebook Ads CPC vs CPM vs Promoted Stories – What’s a Social Media Marketer to do?

It was common knowledge among social media folks that CPC ads were a much better value for marketers. You expected to pay a cost of .35 to nearly a dollar a click depending on your targeted audience (like Manhattan moms who are very pricey to target). An average Facebook ad CTR of .05% seemed to be the industry benchmark for judging the success of an ad. But, that has changed.

CPC, CPM, Promoted Stories, Promoted Posts – there are a lot of options facing social media marketers interested in advertising on Facebook. It used to be that there were only two choices for advertising on Facebook CPC (cost per click) or CPM (cost per impressions).

It was common knowledge among social media folks that CPC ads were a much better value for marketers. You expected to pay a cost of .35 to nearly a dollar a click depending on your targeted audience (like Manhattan moms who are very pricey to target). An average Facebook ad CTR of .05% seemed to be the industry benchmark for judging the success of an ad.

For years, if you chose CPM your ad would be relegated to a lowly position on the bottom right hand of the user’s newsfeed and gain very few clicks. CPC ads outperformed CPM ads in all tests that we ran here at the agency as well.

But, that has changed.

While Facebook has talked a lot about the value of their new Promoted Stories ads and Promoted Posts, they also quietly chose a new favorite child in the CPC vs CPM debate. We noticed this at Flightpath when CPC ads that have been performing for years suddenly stopped being even displayed and our testing of CPM ads started showing amazing results.

We switched clients over to CPM ads and saw our average Facebook ads CTR jump from an average range of .05% to .20% jump to a range of  .50% – .80%. Then we added in Sponsored Stories, to run simultaneously with the CPM ads, and the average CTR jumped even higher to a range of .80% to 1.2%.

At the same time, we are seeing the average CPC fall from that .35 – $1 range down to a bargain basement .06 – .15 CPC. So, for the same Facebook ad spend our clients are getting about 6 times the likes they were getting earlier this year. This is really helping to rapidly grow page likes without having to dramatically up Facebook ad spend.

Why are ads suddenly cheaper and performing better?

So, this is why we think this dramatic uptick in Facebook ad performance is happening: remember months ago when advertisers like GM pulled their Facebook ad spend because they didn’t feel they were getting much of a return and remember when Facebook’s stock came out of the gate to dismal results?

Facebook had to devise a plan to get advertisers excited about spending on the platform so investors would be consider buying Facebook stock. Lowering the cost of ads and rolling out Promoted Stories (which not all Facebook users like, but they seem to click on them anyway) is a great way to get advertisers excited and spending.

If you are still running Facebook CPC ads for your clients, set up a separate CPM campaign with Promoted Stories pronto for testing. The results will blow you away.

Interview: Chris Brogan on Podcasting & ROI of Social Media

What I am always trying to do is tie a mainstream, real world metric to these goofy online metrics because I just don’t care how many video views we got, or what our Klout is. What I say is “Did the cash register ring?” If the answer is yes, then we met our goal.

This is part 2 of our interview with author, blogger and social media expert Chris Brogan.

Over the last few years there has been a greater adoption of social media by companies looking to use social platforms to connect with consumers. Chris Brogan has been busy speaking, blogging and advising companies on how to do just that for the last 12 years as one of the biggest rock stars in the social media world.

Brogan is co-author of New York Times bestsellers The Impact Equation and Trust Agents, (both cowritten with Julien Smith) and author of Social Media 101 and Google Plus for Business. Both in his roles as CEO & President of Human Business Works, co-founder of the PodCamp new media conference series and as a blogger himself, Brogan has a long history of shaping the way that companies approach the social web. Flightpath took the opportunity to speak with Brogan about his take on how companies could better utilize social media, measure ROI and just do social better.

In your book, The Impact Equation you have an equation for success that includes platforms, ideas and so forth. What do you think companies are missing as part of the equation?

Brogan: The real hope of the book is letting people know how you get your idea to resonate with people in such a way that they take action. What Julien Smith and I who wrote the book together, found and believe is that everyone seems part of this figured out.

They might have a great idea, but not a big enough platform for anyone to see it. They might have an amazing idea and an amazing platform but they haven’t found a way to connect with people so that people can run with the idea.

I think that getting that whole set of chains to turn the same way and pull the same gear is what I am really working on the hardest.

Flightpath: How have you seen the social space change over the time you have been in it?

What has changed in 12 years is that we humans expect a much more custom, personalized humanized response in business. There was none of this in the 80’s and the 90’s. There was none of us going “Oh man, I didn’t hear back from someone specific at Delta, I got a form letter.” That is just how life was. I grew up with my family yelling at the TV, now everyone tweets at the TV. There are some vast differences, but I think it is all good stuff.

Flightpath: I’ve known you for a long time from podcasting, and think it’s interesting that you are launching a new podcast, The Human Business Way. Within all the forms of social media, podcasting is really the one that never blew up and went so mainstream. So, I think its interesting that you are investing in podcasting as a way to get your messaging out. Do you think that podcasting still has the promise it did in 2006?

Brogan: That is my favorite question so far. This is a really interesting time for this medium called podcasting. When we were at it, I didn’t get into it until like 2006 or 2005, but I know that you were in it before that even and that you have one of the longest running ones in the world.

When I got into this space, I was just like everyone else in that space thinking this is going to be great- we are going to topple TV stations and the radio and the world is gonna be ours and I am going to buy a bunch of stickers, because that seems to be what everyone did.

Then that collapsed because at the time no one had the technology you had to be like a PHD to figure out how to get the podcast onto whatever device. It was just so much work. Now we are in this world because I can record, edit and post from the my phone. The process is just much more streamlined now.

At the same time, podcasting suddenly picked up a lot of news from the strangest of ways. So first off, all the nerds came and made podcasts and life was good for all 3,000 listeners that we shared. Then, the mainstream discovered podcasting and all they used it for was archival distribution of their mainstream junk and that was boring, although it got more people to listen.

Now, these mainstream people who have said F you mainstream and they are becoming apart of this new thing like Kevin Smith and Adam Carolla and every other comic it seems has a podcast. They have brought new attention to podcasting people are seeing that they really can listen to whatever they want.

So, the reason I invested in it is because it is right out of the Impact Equation. It is Contrast, not everyone has this kind of a show. It’s Reach- putting me into a whole new place that I haven’t been, like iTunes. I got an email the other day from a listener saying “This is great do you have a website” and I thought “This is great, I have made it.”

Its one of these things where we think we shouldn’t be doing it, it’s not a great idea because is takes a lot of time.  That is why I am gonna do it. I know it is a way to get more engagement with people.

Flightpath: So the last question is a question that every social media marketer who deals with companies is posed. It is “What is the ROI of social media?” Just how do you answer that question, or do you not- or is it a terrible question?

Brogan: I do it all the time, and I tell you what I do. I say that there is no blanket answer because what you really need to do is always this: you have to say that you are going to tie this activity, this effort, this event to a direct and obvious revenue stream

So for example, if I am helping a beer company sell more beer, then I would do it through Facebook and through the bars. I would choose very specific bars and I would create very targeted promotions for the bars and do all kinds of work to pump that up via the social web. Then I would ask the beer company how many more cases of beer did the bar order this week versus last week and that is the measurement.

What I am always trying to do is tie a mainstream, real world metric to these goofy online metrics because I just don’t care how many video views we got, or what our Klout is. What I say is “Did the cash register ring?” If the answer is yes, then we met our goal.

In ROI, the first question should always be “What is the I?”  If you put no money in and you are wondering where the return is, then you are obviously not doing it right.

Second, if you are saying more what is the time involved to get a yield, then that is a harder question that is like asking how long does it take to grow a garden. To me, there are some different metrics to look at in that case. What I always look at specifically in ROI is a real world number that I can move with an online technology.

 

Read Part 1 of our interview with Chris Brogan here.

Interview: Chris Brogan on Humanizing Social Media – Part 1

To me this is the hardest and most difficult challenge, because I have to explain to a business that should you treat customers like real live humans. That you should give them incredible, concierge class service and that should you do this it is going to change so much more than you can measure in a spreadsheet.

Over the last few years there has been a greater adoption of social media by companies looking to use social platforms to connect with consumers. Chris Brogan has been busy speaking, blogging and advising companies on how to do just that for the last 12 years as one of the biggest rock stars in the social media world.

Brogan is co-author of New York Times bestsellers The Impact Equation and Trust Agents, (both cowritten with Julien Smith) and author of Social Media 101 and Google Plus for Business. Both in his roles as CEO & President of Human Business Works, co-founder of the PodCamp new media conference series and as a blogger himself, Brogan has a long history of shaping the way that companies approach the social web. Flightpath took the opportunity to speak with Brogan about his take on how companies could better utilize social media, measure ROI and just do social better.

Flightpath: One of your gifts, and probably a huge reason why you have become such a force in social media is your outgoing personality and ability to make everyone you talk to feel important. You are also very successful transcribing this emotional connection across social media platforms. So, how do you advise companies to connect emotionally with consumers?

Brogan: The answer to that is a little challenging because when I go in there and tell companies you really have to really connect with emotion, their eyes go up into the top of their heads. They say ‘Oh I thought there was some kind of software we could buy and a switch we could toggle and then we could go back to thinking about our golf game later.’ It’s really difficult because every time I’m telling people that this is a great way to get more value, what I am also saying is that this takes more work.

I had a conversation with a woman who she runs the Microsoft New England Research and Development Center here in New Boston and we were talking about those experiences you have when you write a company complaint, challenge or question and you get a very personal response back.

In her case, a specific kind of ice cream that was supposed to be showing up at Whole Foods that she loved from the West coast and it just wasn’t in the store. So, she wrote the ice cream company and got a letter back from the CMO (this is email not even the social web) but she could tell it wasn’t a form letter- it was a very personal letter right to her. It wasn’t like she wrote it as a woman who runs Microsoft, she wrote is as a woman who likes ice cream. The CMO responded very personally and said ‘Well, it’s a brand new deal and distribution might be a little slow. I’m really sorry but you might want to look for these 4 flavors.’

What came back from this, of course, is that she tells everyone this story. She told me this story. To me this is the hardest and most difficult challenge, because I have to explain to a business that should you treat customers like real live humans. That you should give them incredible, concierge class service and that should you do this it is going to change so much more than you can measure in a spreadsheet.

Flightpath: There is so much process that agencies go through to come up with those canned responses and they all seem to begin with ‘We appreciate your concern, thanks for your input’. So should agencies working on behalf of clients dealing with a disgruntled customer situation use canned responses or are you saying that all social customer service responses be custom?

Brogan: I think that it is so easy to do a hybrid of that. It is so easy to do. You can do 2 or 3 paragraphs of the absolutely canned stuff, and if you add one sentence at the beginning and one at the end it feels very custom. That is what I advise. Now believe me, there is times when there is a canned response required. Say Kindle Whispernet goes down and every Kindle owner cant get get a book or something like that. That is a great time for a canned response.

And that’s fine, but I don’t even believe that volume is an excuse. I think that if it is a huge outage kind of a thing, than that is an announcement not a correspondence. I think that the opportunity for custom is when anything comes outside of the typical workflow. If someone is really mad because they missed their plane that is a perfect time for a personal message. If this person spent the time to complain than they are worth the time to reply to, because what you do next decides where they spend their next dollars.

Flightpath: Marketers of course want to impact purchasing decisions and often the question they come to agencies with is which platform they need to maximize impact. How do you move the conversation away from tools and back to the importance of building human connections?

Brogan: It’s so funny because in working with a lot of people in this space, I always get tool questions. I will be in a roomful of people and I will be saying, “How did your grandparents sell? How did they buy 50 years ago?” and they will be like “What does this have to do with Pinterest?” and I will be like nothing. This has zero to do with Pinterest.

This is not the future, we do not have jet packs. We are not wearing foily costumes. What I need to tell agencies, marketers and business professionals of all kinds is that the tools are always in service of the work and the work is a lot simpler than the fear that goes into the tools.

The reason we ask so many tool questions is we are so afraid of using them wrong. We are afraid of this Brave New World feeling of being on a social platform. But, the more you use the tools to convey real legitimate human experience and the less you use the tools to emulate methodologies that agencies worked on from past experience, the better the opportunity.

The other thing I tell agencies all that time is that your job is no longer to be the voice of the company. Your job is to be the ears of the company and to help the company be their own voice.It is time for companies to reclaim their own voice. So, agencies have this opportunity to be listeners/teachers. Professional listening is a huge opportunity. That is a vast shift from the way that things are going.

Read part 2 of our interview with Chris Brogan here!

Countdown- Top 7 Reasons Why Brand Obama Won

How did Obama’s brand help him win the presidency? Here are 7 reasons why Brand Obama is a force to be reckoned with:

  1.  Incumbents have the undeniable advantage of Air Force One, the Presidential Motorcade, The White House and that really cool Presidential logo/ seal.  Most Americans, me included, love symbolism and nothing comes with more than Office of the Presidency aka Commander and Chief!

  2.  Mr. Obama acted extraordinarily presidential when it mattered most- be it during Hurricane Sandy, going after Bin Laden and saving the American Auto industry. People, especially those in Ohio, never forget defining moments.

  3.  The President, by hiring Hillary and relying on Bill, unequivocally showed Americans that he can bury the bad; while, embracing differences to his and the country’s advantage.  A rare ability, as Doris Kerns Goodwin pointed out in her book “Team of Rivals” that served to reinforce it was the republicans who didn’t want to compromise.

  4. Youth was never wasted on the young for the President and nor were never ending tweets, facebook posts, email shout outs and much much more of youthful social media. As has been widely reported more young people turned out this time for Obama than last.

  5. Like all great brands, Mr. Obama fixed what was broken before it became damning and defining.  After the first debate, he brought his desire and fight to the nation and his competitor. And, he stopped letting Mr. Romney look like he was the Presidential brand steward. Again, how Obama handled “Sandy” or calling out Romney on “exporting auto jobs” to China won undecided people and Ohio.

  6. Vice President Joe Biden while at times a “messaging liability” was still a way better brand asset than Congressman Ryan was to Romney. At the end of the day, when competing for very limited “market share” conversion opportunities where every point is huge- engaging VS alienating- almost always wins.

  7. American’s buy into dreamers- George Washington, Abe Lincoln, Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Steve Jobs, the 1980 Olympic Hockey Team and the list goes on and on.  While many expected Mr. Obama’s 2008 vision of HOPE and his dream of a united, thriving nation to have already happened, people cut dreamers slack just as they cut non dreamers at the knees!

Connections 2012 in Indy

Not sexy, but has good ROI. No, I’m not talking about the disadvantages and advantages of an Accounting degree. These are some of the popular perceptions of email marketing. It’s tried and true, but there’s nowhere new to go. Is that true? After going to ExactTarget’s Connections Expo last week, I’m tempted to respond with an emphatic “no.”

Not sexy, but has good ROI. No, I’m not talking about the disadvantages and advantages of an Accounting degree. These are some of the popular perceptions of email marketing. It’s tried and true, but there’s nowhere new to go. Is that true? After going to ExactTarget’s Connections conference last week, I’m tempted to respond with an emphatic “no.”
On October 16-18, over 4,000 email marketers from all over North American converged in Indianapolis for the conference. From the keynote to the panels and talks, three themes emerged that chart the course for the evolution of email. These three themes mark not just trends all email marketers should keep up with, but chances to push the envelope on their campaigns and make their medium a bit sexier.

 

Social ≠ Afterthought

 

We all know social media is huge. Businesses, agencies, and the like are trying not only to figure out the next big social network, but how to monetize it, turning “likes” into dollar signs. When it comes to email, the standard approach has been to place the icons of the usual suspects (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and maybe Instagram). If you find yourself doing that in your campaigns and you believe that’s all it takes to make your emails “more social,” then you’re missing out on great opportunities to do so much more with all of your channels.
Case in point, during the keynote address, speakers referred to ExactTarget tools designed to send Facebook data from a company’s FB page straight over to their subscriber database. With opt-in controls built right into Facebook’s interface, there can’t be a more efficient form of email capture and list building.
However, don’t expect users to agree to give you access to their Facebook data just because they “liked” your page. Remember to create a promotion first. As mentioned at Connections, an increasing number of businesses are opting for everything from random chance sweepstakes to video contests. As part of the rules and requirements for entering, users have to consent to sharing their email address and possibly some demographic info.
That’s just one of many examples mentioned at Connections of how marketers can leverage their social channels to improve the performance of email, especially in the email capture department. One could even see a bump in their list building efforts by incorporating an email capture form onto their Facebook page. If you’re going to do that however, you should put a good effort into…

 

Making Your Email Capture Sexier

 

Okay. So, you’re going to your favorite store’s website because the newest, greatest thing just came out. One component tucked away at the bottom of the homepage catches your attention. It reads “Sign up for our FREE newsletter!” What is your reaction? I can bet it’s not “Whoa! A FREE newsletter? Gimme!” And yet, this is what we see on so many websites.
A number of panels I attended at Connections emphasize the power of the value proposition. Put yourself in the user’s head for a second and think, “Is a FREE newsletter enough to risk getting bombarded by this guy’s email marketers?” Instead, speaker after speaker suggested to us the idea of putting forth an offer. “Be the first to get all the inside deals and sales.” “Only insiders get all the best beauty tips from the pros,” or even “Sign up for our deals and get a 20% off coupon for your next purchase”
Once your email capture efforts begin to take off, pat yourself on the back. However, don’t believe your job is done quite yet. At Connections, another emerging trend impacts the very look and feel of eblast content itself. It’s a factor a lot of us email marketers have taken for granted for years as we thought it would never change significantly: screen size.

 

Have You Met…mCommerce?

 

By far, one of the biggest themes that came up at Connections was mobile, and for good reason. Mobile Commerce, or mcommerce, is a rapidly growing sales channel. iPhones, Android phones, iPads. People are using these and other devices more and more not just to check their favorite sites, but to make purchases. Forrester’s Sucharita Mulpuru writes that mcommerce is expect to account for $31 billion, or 7% of overall ecommerce sales by 2016. And this behavior crosses over into email. Based on our case studies, one in every three subscribers will open an eblast or enewsletter with a mobile device. Even if the subscriber doesn’t make the final sale on their iPhone, it’s becoming more and more important each year for businesses to reach their customers in a way that adapts easily to that tiny, tiny screen.
Enter responsive design. According to Smashing Magazine, responsive design is “the approach that suggests that design and development should respond to the user’s behavior and environment based on screen size, platform and orientation.” For example, a two-column layout with 12 point fonts may be perfectly readable on the desktop. In the mobile environment, however, your readers will be squinting and going through the trouble of zooming in to read your well-crafted copy.
For years, this design approach was purely in the realm of websites and landing pages. At Connections, agencies have begun to stress the importance of bringing responsive design over to the inbox. Here at Flightpath, we’ve developed code that allows for responsive design principles to work in the email environment. Never worry again that your sales offer is falling on deaf ears because your customers can’t read it on their Droid.

 

On the Way Back to New York

 

As I stared out at the Midwestern sky through that tiny window on my plane back to LaGuardia, I thought about all the information I picked up that week. Until then, I believed campaigns were tweaked according to well-disciplined A/B testing paradigms that bring modest, but consistent results. While that’s part true, a “bigger picture” view of the trends helps a campaign not only stick out from the rest of the pack, but it pays off significant dividends later on in higher engagement, more conversions, and a “sexier” email channel.

Ad Week Wrap Up Report – The Digital Influence

Truth is conversations is a by-product of the digital/social age. The two way thing is of course key, but so is the long form nature of YouTube and the flow/frequency of blogging especially the likes of Twitter and Tumblr. What was also cool was the realization that every agency I heard or ran into talked digital.

Advertising Week just concluded and it was cool, if not “epic.”  My favorite panel featured the creative leadership from great agencies including Butler, Shine, Stern and Partners, Leo Burnett, Anomaly, Mekanism.  I believe reason the week (and panel) was great comes down to the idea of “conversations”… a term used by the CCO of Leo Burnett to describe meaningful consumer engagement VS doing ads of any particular kind in any medium.

Truth is conversations is a by-product of the digital/social age. The two way thing is of course key, but so is the long form nature of YouTube and the flow/frequency of blogging especially the likes of Twitter and Tumblr. What was also cool was the realization that every agency I heard or ran into talked digital. But then again, every agency is a digital shop or at the least, an “immerging hybrid”- by virtue that digital is the defining cultural gatekeeper- so if you don’t get digital, it’s hard to imagine (like impossible) that you are connecting with any teen let alone adult based on lifestyle or media consumption behavior.

This made me think of the several things we think about and practice that make digital agencies unique to now and the future:

  1. It’s Never Over- campaign content is a constantly evolving reality…a site, ad networks, 3rd party, social ads are “A/B” tested and tweaked throughout its life based on empirical reads, emotional wear out or because we can/should.
  2. Speed to Market- the ability to commercialize creativity/points of difference “ideas” in hyper time is now a competitive hammer that marketers swing freely and hard.
  3.  It’s ONE World- digital is totally integrated and linked (it is a web after all!) unlike TV, radio, print, retail where getting it synced up is tough for turf reasons and/or logistical ones.
  4. Technology Lives for Change- where as media like 30 sec TV units have been the standard for decades, digital platforms (and ad units change all the time) like “Parallax” reinvents how engagement plays out- vertical fluidity VS horizontal randomness.

As I said, I loved Advertising Week- it made last  week rock.  It got a lot of people thinking and rocking.

Why Awesome Facebook Posts are Your Brand’s Best Mobile Strategy

As brands watch more and more of their traffic come from mobile devices it may be a good time to evaluate what your brand is doing on the one part of your Facebook presence that mobile users can see: Timeline.

Facebook is facing a quandary when it comes to brand pages. While an increasing number of Facebook users are utilizing the platform on their smartphones or tablets, the Facebook tab content that brands spend so much time and money to develop are not visible to these users. We know more users prefer Facebook brand pages to brand websites and we also know that smartphone usage is on the increase.

So what is a brand to do?

Facebook app development remains an integral part of a brand’s presence on Facebook. The brand immersive experiences, like sweepstakes and other fun apps are designed to engage and inspire users to share and they do. But, as brands watch more and more of their traffic come from mobile devices it may be a good time to evaluate what your brand is doing on the one part of your Facebook presence that mobile users can see: Timeline.

The best Facebook brand posts have must-see, must-share content. So how do you take your branded posts from meh to marvelous?

1. Use user generated images in your posts

I know that everyone social media expert on the planet will tell you that social media posts with an image get more attention than those that don’t. But, this advice is a bit different.

Ask your community to share pictures, not highly posed shots of them holding your product at salesmanish angles, but real photos of the sort they probably already have. Pictures of their home, kids, pets and the like- whatever category is relevant to your brand. Use them in all of your posts and you will see interaction skyrocket.

People like to see themselves represented and I for one could go the rest of my life without seeing another stock photo used in a Facebook brand post. We implemented this with a client at the beginning of the year and have seen monthly unique interactions grow from a respectable 6% to a totally awesome 40%.

2. Make your posts relatable

 How many times have we seen a post with copy like this: “It’s back to school time! Like this post if your kids are ready for school.” Ugh, snore. Sounds like the opening line of a very boring PTA meeting.

Take that basic idea and add copy with an accompanying image that the mom you are speaking to can relate to: “Here is Barbara from Poughkeepsie enjoying her coffee in peace this morning. Like this if you are enjoying the silence of back to school time!” It’s better, more from a mom point of view and the consumer you are trying to engage will have a higher likelihood of interacting with the post.

3. Create inspirational branded images

 A lesson we can all learn from the popularity of Pinterest is that inspirational images get shared. That lesson applies to Facebook as well.

Take an inspirational quote about life, home, self-care whatever makes sense for your brand and put it meme style on an image (even better an image shared by a user). Ask your community to share and boom, your branding is out there being shared with a larger audience and is connected with a powerful, inspiring message which is all good. We have been using this tactic for a few months and have had some images shared 20,000+ times.

Creating better Facebook posts means higher engagement from all users, especially those viewing your brand page on a smartphone. Creating killer Facebook apps is still important, but until Facebook allows tab content to be viewed via mobile spending time creating content designed for interaction and sharing is a win.


Leave a comment if you have tips for making the most out of Facebook posts for the brands you represent.

 

Notes from the Intern – What I learned interning at Flightpath

Find out how it’s like to work with the Flightpath team from our very own Social Media Intern, Beck Delude.

As every college student and recent graduate knows, interning is how you get your foot in the door and learn how it’s like to work in the real world.  Essentially things they sometimes forget to mention in school.  With that being said, our very own Social Media Intern Beck Delude shares her experiences at Flightpath below.


I have been so lucky to be the Social Media Intern at Flightpath in NYC and learn from their brilliant employees. My time spent at the agency has allotted me a vast array of opportunities. Since being here I participated in building social media strategies for several brands, attended BlogHer12, researched relevant news about digital media and went to IFBCon!

Here are some key things I’ve learned here at Flightpath:

  • Think critically about who the brand’s audience is
  • Double and triple check everything you do and then have someone else look over it
  • It’s important to be aware of what others in the industry are doing but to always be original
  • Research is a very important aspect of being prepared

Aside from all the amazing opportunities and all the great things I learned the best part of interning at Flightpath was the people I worked with. Everyone is extremely talented and willing to take the time to teach you what they know.

Flightpath not only offers internships in Social Media but also in Design and Web Production! Check them out and apply here: http://www.flightpath.com/careers/

Photo Journal: LuckyFABB

This week it’s not just about New York Fashion Week, it’s about the bloggers. We here at Flightpath are taking you behind-the-scenes of the beauty and fashion conferences this week. Last but not least Lucky Magazine’s LuckyFABB Conference.

Lucky Magazine is one of the most popular magazines when it comes to shopping.  Using their know-how and expertise they have developed a conference for bloggers that offers insights not only from industry experts but from their editorial team.  They offered unique panels for all levels of blogging in their Lucky Fashion and Beauty Bloggers (LuckyFABB) Conference.

This conference is one we would recommend.  It was a great place to network and all the panels were informative and offered great resources for those trying to stand out in the blogging community.

Check out the all star panels that spoke at LuckyFABB:

Rachel Zoe stopped by to share how she makes it work being a  mom, designer and stylist to the celebrities.  Zoe shares that everyday is a challenge but you’ll always find a way to make it work if you love what you do.

Lauren Conrad may be known from MTV’s The Hills, but she has become a true entrepreneur.   She shared the struggles of starting two successful clothing lines and running websites that offers great resources in beauty, fashion and decor. 

This panel of experts included Steven Kolb, CEO of the CFDA, Mitch Grossbach, Head of Fashion and Beauty Division at Creative Artists Agency, Federico Marchetti, Founder and CEO of YOOX and Shana Fisher, Managing Partner of High Line Venture Partners.  They were discussing the emerging trends of designers and social media and how they can go hand-in-hand.

These women are a true inspiration in the fashion industry and have started some of the trends that brands are doing right now in social media. This panel included Susan Lyne, Chairman of Gilt Groupe, Lauren Bush Lauren, Chief FEEDer and Co-Founder of FEED Projects, Aliza Licht, Senior Vice President of Global Communications for DKNY International and Erica Domesek Founder of P.S. I made this… 

You couldn’t ask for a better pair to discuss fashion.  Simon Doonan, Brand Ambassador for Barney’s New York and Fashion Designer Anna Sui discuss design inspiration and how to stand apart from other brands.  The key, is to focus on your brand. Anna Sui confessed how she doesn’t follow any other designer and draws inspiration from her yearly exotic trips with her nephews and neices.

The gift bag with up to $1,500 worth of products that was given to all the guests.  This was a great way to get products in the hands of bloggers, you should see how many of them tweeted photos.  They even included a note that stated if bloggers decided to write about any of the products to follow the Federal trade Commission’s Endorsement Guides to disclose they have received them for free. 

If you’re looking to get re-inspired and how to grow not only as a blogger but as a brand to interact with bloggers this is the one to go to.

Photo Journal: Day 2 at #IFBCon

This week it’s not just about New York Fashion Week, it’s about the bloggers. We here at Flightpath are taking you behind-the-scenes of the beauty and fashion conferences this week. We sent our Social Media Intern to check out day two of the IFB conference.

As promised, our Social Media intern Beck will share her thoughts on the IFB conference.  Take it away Beck!


Each year IFB  holds a conference that brings together some of the most successful people in the fashion industry and the bloggers who write about fashion. It’s a two day event and as the lucky Flightpath intern I had the pleasure of attending the second day of the event!

This panel focused on turning your blog into a business. Some of the key points were:

  • Be ok with risk
  • Surround yourself with people who are passionate about the same thing you are
  • Challenge yourself daily

Conferences can be fun too with everyday tips.  Samantha Brown from Style to Hire showed us which pieces of clothing are essential to a complete closet!

Bloggers and writers tackled the topic of Bringing Bravery Back to Blogging. A few things they highlighted were:

  •  Blog like no one is watching
  • Be aware that once you put yourself out there, there will be negative feedback and that’s okay
  • Find fuel in the hate comments, don’t let them bring you down

I had the pleasure of meeting Iman! She is not only a gorgeous model
but a successful entrepreneur. Such an inspiration.

That concludes our adventures at the bigger, better and bolder IFB conferences.  Next up is Lucky Magazine‘s LuckyFABB.

Photo Journal: Day 1 at #IFBCon

This week it’s not just about New York Fashion Week, it’s about the bloggers. We here at Flightpath are taking you behind-the-scenes of the beauty and fashion conferences this week. First stop – Independent Fashion Bloggers.

Fashion week is in full swing and it can’t start without a couple fashion and beauty conferences.  We here at Flightpath decided to check them out and wanted to show you the experience from a blogger’s perspective with photos.

This year Independent Fashion Bloggers (IFB) has decided to extend their popular conference to two days! With more panels, breakout sessions and opportunities to network with fellow bloggers and brands.  Check out what we did on the first day.

Expert panels from magazines, agencies and bloggers took the stage to share their insight.  No matter the topic the theme of the day for both brands and bloggers is this: BE AUTHENTIC and just have fun! Readers or customers can relate to you when your genuine voice comes out.

Throughout the day there were break out sessions where you can pick and choose a topic you’re interested in such as Photoshop 101, How to Become Your Own PR Person and more.

The attendees were lining up to meet the brands!  Some of the sponsors included Bare Minerals, Julep Nails, Lockerz, and more that included interactive activities such as photo booths, makeovers and DIY stations.

Blogger Mollie in Seattle took advantage of getting a quick touch up with the Bare Minerals makeup artists.

We couldn’t resist to take a manicure break and get our nails done with the Julep team at The Find booth.

The first day of the conference ended with model Coco Rocha interviewing New York Times Bestseller Derek Blasberg.

Stay tuned for the full second day report from our intern Beck who will share her first-time experience at the IFB conference and what she’s learned.

Before we let you go, we want to hear from you.  One question that arose several times at the conference was working with bloggers that have agents. Do you find it controversial or beneficial?  Share your thoughts in our comments.

Interview: Jenny Finkel of Prismatic

prismatic logo

A major trend of the modern Web experience is targeting: Offering users content that directly reflects their interests. It’s what drives online advertising and what may also drive, to a greater and greater extent in the future, the way we receive our news and information. Prismatic, a new site and iPhone app, hopes to take targeting and customization to a new place by linking with users’ Facebook, Twitter or Google+ profiles to offer personalized news feeds. And it actually works really well.

To mark last month’s launch of the Prismatic iPhone app, Flightpath spoke with Jenny Finkel, Prismatic’s Chief Software Architect, about the launch of Prismatic, where it has succeeded and where it has faced hurdles, and why releasing a mobile version was so important.

Flightpath: Let’s start off with the genesis of Prismatic. Where did the idea come from?

Jenny Finkel: That all predates me. It was originally Brad [Cross, Prismatic CEO]’s, idea. And I honestly don’t know what his mindset going in or his motivation was, other than that he just thought that none of the news readers out there were very good at providing you content. A lot of the stuff out there currently is much more design-focused than it is tech-focused for actually getting you good stuff. So I think he just saw an opportunity for building a better product, especially since it’s a space that’s not really dominated by anyone yet.

Flightpath: And when did it launch?

Jenny Finkel: It depends on how you define “launch.” We’d been having beta users for probably a year. And then the website opened around April. But in our minds, the real launch [was actually last month] when the iPhone app came out. In our minds, I think the website was meant to be the training ground for the iPhone app, because there was a lot of algorithmic stuff we had to get right. The iPhone [version] is the real deal, I think. I’m very excited about it.

prismatic iphone app

Flightpath: When exactly did you come on board, and what’s your role there?

Jenny Finkel: We just hired a sixth person, but until a couple of weeks ago there were only five us, and only three engineers. So when you’re a startup with three engineers, you have to be a jack of all trades and you have to do everything. Everyone worked on the iPhone app, even though I never coded anything for the iPhone before; everyone works on the back end stuff for things like performance and reliability and scaling up.

So really, I do everything. But the things that I focus on, when we’re not in a mad dash to get an iPhone app out, is the language stuff.  Language and machine learning. I did the algorithm for doing topic classification. Another thing is the topic suggestions, for instance – looking at your Facebook account and scraping it and trying to guess the things you’re interested in. My main focus is anything that has to do with human language and extracting some meaning out of it.

Flightpath: How has the launch of the website and what you’ve learned from it informed what you’re doing with the app?

Jenny Finkel: It’s hard to give a concrete example because it’s really an iterative process. We’ll have some idea and we’ll put it out, and either people will use it or they won’t, or they’ll send us feedback. We read every piece of feedback we get and pay attention to them.

It’s more an issue that there’s a lot of things we know we still have to do, and the feedback tells us what’s important to people. And so that tells us how to prioritize.

Flightpath: And what is important to people?

Jenny Finkel: Well, the biggest thing that people complain about that we haven’t done yet, is banning topics and publishers. There’s a lot of demand from people who say, “Look, I don’t want to see an effing cat picture ever again.” Or, “I hate TechCrunch. I never want to see anything from TechCrunch.” That’s one that we’ve gotten a lot of noise for.

It’s much more [about] little things. We recently changed the way the share box worked, just how it pops up and stuff. And then you see what happens. You see, do the number of shares go up or down? We’ll do a version, and there’s something about it that’s weird that we didn’t think of, and then we get enough complaints that we can figure out what the problem is and then tweak it. A lot of the feedback is design things for how to do the interactions.

Flightpath: Is that helpful?

Jenny Finkel: Yeah. It’s immensely helpful. Because it really helps solidify what people care about and what they don’t.

It used to be the case that you could do multi-share. You opened up the share box, and it was defaulted to Twitter, and then you clicked on Facebook, you’d be sharing to both Facebook and Twitter. This is something that I had fought against from the beginning, because I thought it was confusing, and that most people who multi-shared were doing it by accident. They thought that they were just sharing to one and didn’t realize what happened. And we took it out to see if people would complain, and we got like, maybe three complaints total. That’s enough to indicate that no one really cares about multi-share, and it’s fine that we took it out.

prismatic iphone app

Flightpath: What do you think you’ve done right? What have been the real successes?

Jenny Finkel: I think the core algorithm is really good. It’s got room for improvement – it will always have room for improvement – but I think the core nature of how we decide what to show you is right, and is good, and is much better than anyone else out there. So in my mind, that’s the biggest success. There’s tons of things to tweak, but with the core algorithm, I believe we pick out the right stuff. We get tons of feedback from people who are like, “I find things that I love that I never would have found elsewhere, from you.” That’s the overwhelming feedback, so I think that’s the biggest success.

Flightpath: And do you want to keep to the core of what Prismatic does right now, or do you want to bring in more social elements? Not just sharing stories, but maybe you connect to other Prismatic users that share your interests?

Jenny Finkel: This is actually on our short-term roadmap. We have a whole lot of social stuff coming down the pipeline. So right now, the precursor, which isn’t all that useful on its own, is profiles. So if you want to, you can make your profile public and then other people can look at it. Maybe you’re like, “Oh, John’s interesting, maybe I can look at his profile and see what topics he’s added and maybe I want to add some [to mine].” Obviously, that’s pretty passive, so there’s no connections between them right now. One of the very next things that we’re doing is adding followings, so you can subscribe to your friends. We also want to do stuff with recommended users. You favorited these five articles, another person across the planet also favorited those five articles, you might want to check out their profile. You probably have stuff in common. That’s very much the future of where we’re going.

Flightpath: You mentioned that the iPhone app was the real launch, and the website was a training ground. I’m curious why you say that.

Jenny Finkel: I think it’s just the nature of how people read their news. Some people read it on their computer, and I’m actually in that boat. But for most people, it’s basically mobile-only. Mobile is the most important. People use their computers less and their phones more, and it’s only going to further shift that way. There’s just a lot of time when you’re not in front of your computer.

prismatic iphone app news stories

Flightpath: And what are your hopes for the future of Prismatic post-iPhone app launch?

Jenny Finkel: Shorter-term, there’s the stuff I was talking about with the profiles. Longer-term, I think we want to move out of news entirely to do other kinds of recommendations. Recommending music and movies and stuff to buy and I don’t know what else. If we have enough information on your friends and interests and what people click on, we should be able to do a reasonable job for some stuff.

Imagine you’re a photography buff, and your friend just got some awesome new camera and shared it out. There’s a reasonable chance you’re going to care about that, and maybe you’re also going to buy it. So yeah, I think broader recommendations are a big thing for the long-term goal.

Flightpath: Tell people why, if they haven’t heard of Prismatic or haven’t signed up for it, why they should.

Jenny Finkel: Basically, if you want to find interesting things to read, I think it’s your best bet. I know that’s a simple answer, but that’s the one. Literally, when I procrastinate at work, I procrastinate on our website. [Laughs]

5 Reasons to Try YouTube Ads & Setup Tips

YouTube Ads Tutorial

In online advertising, Google search, Facebook and Twitter get most of the press, but if you’re a brand with quality videos that you don’t think are getting the views they deserve, YouTube ads are a viable option.

While everyone who posts a video to YouTube holds out hope that their video will go viral, the truth is, the odds are slim of that ever happening. (Unless you specialize in Cute Cat Videos. Then, you’re basically guaranteed 18 bazillion views. That’s a scientific fact.)

The same is true for brands with video content (in a post earlier this summer, we documented the failed Men in Black III YouTube channel). Sometimes, you need to get out there and push. In online advertising, Google search, Facebook and Twitter get most of the press, but if you’re a brand with quality videos that you don’t think are getting the views they deserve, YouTube ads are a viable option. Here are five reasons why, along with some tips on how to optimize your ads.

Reason #1: Setup Is Easy
YouTube is owned by Google, and setting up a YouTube ad campaign is very similar to setting up an AdWords campaign. In fact, YouTube ads have been incorporated into AdWords, and that’s where you’ll create your campaign. The first thing you want to do, if possible, is link your YouTube account with your AdWords account. This gives you more robust analytics for your YouTube ads right in your AdWords dashboard. You can run ads without linking the accounts, but you’d be missing out on lots of data, and since you run the ads through AdWords, you might as well link them. Here’s how.

Click on the “New campaign” box in the Campaign section of AdWords, as seen below, and then select “Online Video”:

You’ll be taken to the “Create new video campaign” screen, but don’t fill it out yet. First, on the left hand “Shared library” menu, click on “Linked YouTube Accounts”:

Next, click on the blue “Link YouTube account” box in the window that pops up.

Even if your YouTube account has a different login and password from your AdWords account, they can be linked. Once this is done and the accounts are connected, you’re ready to set up a campaign.

Go back to the main setup for a Video Campaign:

Here you can name your campaign (we suggest going with something more descriptive than “Campaign #1,” because if you run more than one campaign over time, it’ll get confusing), set your daily budget and choose locations. You’ll also get to select a video from your just-linked YouTube account to use in your ads. Next, you can set your max CPV (cost per view), groups you want to target (say you have a comedy short you want to promote, you can target “Humor” and then the “Spoofs and Satire” categories in YouTube), and include any keywords you want your ad to show for.

And then you’re ready to make an actual ad. In the “Ads” tab on your dashboard, click on the “New Video Ad” box. You’ll first have to choose a video you want to advertise:

Once that’s done, it’s time to write your ad. This is done exactly as you would with an AdWords ad. Write a Headline, two Description lines, a Display URL and a Destination URL (you can have the ad take the viewer to the video’s YouTube page or to your YouTube channel). You’ll get to pick a still from your video to act as the ad’s image, and can preview it in real-time.

Reason #2: They’re Not Crazy Expensive
In the world of pay-per-click advertising, a campaign can get expensive as keywords become more competitive. It can obviously be worth it, and sometimes it’s a necessity – but average cost-per-clicks (or CPVs, in this case) are relatively low with YouTube ads, meaning you can drive visits to your videos for less money on a per-click basis. And if you have quality video content that can spread the word about your brand or services, YouTube ads can be one of the more cost-effective ways to spread your message.

Reason #3: Free Link To Your Website
You know those pop-up ads that overlay a video you’re watching? They’re actually free to the owner of the video and video advertiser. The call-to-action overlay, as Google calls it, takes you to an external site, and features a headline and short copy. So while someone is watching your video, you can get an ad pointing to your website at no charge. It’s a real, quantifiable bonus to running a YouTube ad campaign. (Note: Call-to-action overlays are only available if you’ve linked your YouTube and AdWords accounts.)

After you’ve created your ad, click on “Videos” in your dashboard:

You’ll see all your videos related to that campaign. In the first column, called “Video,” you’ll see this underneath the link and description of the video:

Click on the plus sign, and you can create (and later edit or delete) your free call-to-action overlay, which will appear when your video is played. You write it the same way you would an AdWords or YouTube ad, with a Headline, Description, Display URL and Destination URL:

Click-through-rates for these aren’t huge. But to get a free ad and link to your site in such a visible place is a real added value.

Reason #4: Have It Your Way
YouTube offers four different Ad Formats: In-search (your ad appears above YouTube search results), In-slate (users have the option of choosing your ad and watching some of your video, amongst others, before viewing their video), In-display (your ad appears as a suggestion to the right of a YouTube video) and In-stream (your ad shows as a preview before another video). When choosing a format, you’ll get to preview what each will look like in action:

You can choose one or all of the options, and experiment as you wish. It’s a great way to cast as wide or small a net as you want with your ads, and see which format works best for your content and target audience.

Reason #5: They Work
While there are no guarantees of success in online anything, there are enough options within YouTube’s advertising mechanism that you can really make them work for you and drive views of your videos. The real question is, is it worth it to your business to pay for video views? The answer will be different for everyone. But if you do have video content that you want people to see, that will make a difference for your business, then YouTube ads are a great tool to make it happen.

Progressive Vs. Matt Fisher & Social Media

Progressive Matt Fisher

We’ve talked about this phenomenon before, when it happened to Netflix and other companies, but a new social media revolt that has emerged in the last couple of days is particularly interesting: Progressive Vs. comedian Matt Fisher and Social Media.

We’ve talked about this phenomenon before, when it happened to Netflix and other companies, but a new social media revolt that has emerged in the last couple of days is particularly interesting: Progressive Vs. comedian Matt Fisher and Social Media. Fisher wrote a blog post called, “My Sister Paid Progressive Insurance To Defend Her Killer In Court,” detailing how his sister, Katie, died in a car accident and the ways Progressive has tried to avoid paying the balance of her policy – such as providing legal assistance to the other motorist during the resulting trial. (This is is something Progressive disputes.) As a result of the post, Progressive was bombarded with social hate mail. It’s hard to blame people for reacting the way they did; it’s an ugly story.

But this whole issue, from the brand side, raises real questions about social media. Should all types of businesses have a social presence? Is there a quantifiable value in having Facebook and Twitter pages? Are you only on Facebook because your competitors are, and is that reason enough? Social has created a new dynamic in customer service and relationships, as things can get very public very fast, and the more damning the experience, the bigger the story is likely to get. And most brands are still figuring out how to manage public relations issues in the digital landscape. It’s not easy, and it just goes to show what powerful tools these channels are, for both brands and customers.

Today, Progressive announced a settlement with the Fisher family. Would it have happened this quickly without the pressure brought about by social media? Probably not. Will the whole ordeal do lasting damage to the perception of the company? Hard to say, but these things do tend to fade away over time. But if ever there was a cautionary tale about how social media has changed the way we interact with each other and with the companies that play a role in our lives, it’s this. Ultimately, the one basic truth about social media is that it amplifies conversations and is empowering, for better or worse. For better, because it gives people like the Fishers a chance to get things done and speak their minds, and maybe enact real change; and it does give brands a chance to really engage with their customers, in good times and bad. For worse, because of the anonymous pile-on element that social seems to provoke in people. And you have to be prepared for both. Progressive learned this the hard way.

BlogHer 2012: Photo Journal

As you may remember from last week, we were counting down the days to BlogHer 2012 and it finally arrived! We here at Flightpath thought that we should share the highlights in a photo journal. Enjoy!

As you may remember from last week, we were counting down the days to BlogHer 2012 and it finally arrived!  We here at Flightpath thought that we should share the highlights through photos of our experience this past weekend. Enjoy!

A warm (digital) welcome by President Barack Obama to start off the conference.

Samsung was one of the many brands that participated as a sponsor with a showroom to display the new and soon-to-launch products for work and play.

There were floors filled with a variety of brands in technology, fashion, home, cooking and more that offered incentives such as sweepstakes, giveaways and contests. It was the platform for brands to share their elevator pitch and get products into the hands of bloggers, not only for media consideration but as potential new customers.

Me striking a pose as I’m making way through the the crowded floor, but I can’t beat Betsy’s modeling skills…

We think Betsy nailed it with her signature pose and should win America’s Top Social Media Model. Tyra would be so proud. Just an example of how brands had some fun with guests using props for impromptu photo shoots.

One of the many sessions we attended. This one discussed best practices for both bloggers and brands on how to work together for opportunities. As you can see, it was a packed house.

Oh yeah, did we mention how we met Martha Stewart? Brands like Staples and Avery upped the ante by bringing along celebrities to the conference to interact face-to-face with bloggers.

Don’t worry if you didn’t get a chance to attend this year in New York City. They’ve announced that BlogHer 2013 will be in Chicago and we can’t wait to see what’s in store then.

Apple to Buy The Fancy? Why Fancy Crushed Pinterest

Why would Apple be interested in buying The Fancy and not Pinterest? Simple. The Fancy has a monetization strategy. Brands are able to promote products on The Fancy homepage, and customers are encouraged to add items the Fancy to a shopping cart and buy directly through the site. The Fancy generates revenue for brands and itself. Pinterest does not.

Business Insider reported over the weekend that Apple is interested in buying The Fancy. If Apple does buy The Fancy, this will be a nail in the coffin for Pinterest. While Pinterest may have the dedication of middle America, an Apple owned The Fancy will have the hearts and wallets of the affluent.

Why would Apple be interested in buying The Fancy and not Pinterest? Simple: The Fancy has a monetization strategy. Brands are able to promote products on The Fancy homepage, and customers are encouraged to add items to a shopping cart and buy directly through the site. The Fancy generates revenue for brands and itself; Pinterest does not.

While Pinterest has proven a great traffic driver, brands are ultimately interested in driving sales. The Fancy was designed with a dual purpose: to drive brand awareness and sales.  Another Business Insider post reported that The Fancy is generating more than $10,000 daily in sales for the brands promoting their goods on the site.

Another great reason for Apple to purchase The Fancy is that both appeal to a higher income consumer willing to pay more for products with great design.

So, why should you as a marketer care about Apple’s acquisition of The Fancy? Months back, we contacted The Fancy and were advised that only a few brands per week receive email and homepage promotion.

At that time, there was a waiting period of a month to schedule a promotion. Once Apple purchases The Fancy, their already considerable traffic could potentially explode among the highly desirable wealthy, design conscious consumer and every brand will want to be promoted there.

If the brand you represent is interested in a promotion on The Fancy, we have a tip from The Fancy founder Joseph Einhorn: make sure you have “wicked” photos. According to Einhorn, photos on The Fancy are everything. Editorial style shots of your product will ensure good sales performance on the site.

Now is a great time to get the brand you represent in line for a promotion on The Fancy, and you will make your client look brilliant for being in early.

Mobile Game Review: Scramble With Friends

scramble with friends logo

In a new feature here on the blog, we’ll take a look at mobile games, both free and paid, and let you know if they’re worth checking out. Today’s game: a new twist on Boggle for the digital age.

Smartphones have turned out to be Trojan Horse videogame systems. In addition to everything else we use them for, most people – even those who have no interest in console gaming – have begun playing games on their mobile phones. It makes sense; the touch screen makes controlling a game more digestible for non-gamers, and the types of games produced cater to many types of audiences. If you like traditional board games, you’ll find a mobile game you’ll love. If you like puzzle games, you’ll also find something.

In a new feature here on the blog, we’ll take a look at mobile games, both free and paid, and let you know if they’re worth checking out. Today’s game: a new twist on Boggle for the digital age.

The Game: Scramble With Friends

The Platform: iPhone, iPad & Android

How Much: Free with ads; $2.99 for ad-free version

scramble with friends opponents

The Deal: Zynga has mastered the art of remaking classic board games for mobile devices. With the massive Words With Friends (a tweaked version of Scrabble), they found new ways of translating physical object games to the touch screen. Drag, tap and release – that’s pretty much all you need to do to play Words With Friends, and by linking the game with Facebook, you can easily find friends to play with.

The same model is used for Scramble With Friends, which is basically Boggle – you have to form words from a jumble of letters in a set amount of time – with a few new changes. While Scramble has been out for awhile, I still meet people who don’t know what it is – hence, this review.

scramle with friends power ups

Gameplay: First off, to play a game you have to pay a token, which is provided to you at the outset. The more you play, the more tokens you need. This is fine, as the tokens replenish every few minutes. But if you want to play a lot in one session, and you deplete your “bank,” you either have to pay actual money for more coins, or stop playing and wait for your them to restock. It’s a kind of odd setup.

Right before starting a game, you have the option of selecting some power-ups: Freeze (stops the clock), Inspiration (reveals words to you), Scramble (rearranges the letters on the board), and Vision (gives you three words to find). The first is free, the second costs you one coin, and the third costs you three coins. The power-ups are a really smart addition to the game; Vision may just give you three words to find, but that often opens up your eyes to other possibilities. Using Freeze to buy some extra time can make the difference between a win and a loss.

The game itself is a fun, frantic, addictive reinvention of Boggle. You play three rounds against your opponent, with the later rounds introducing double and triple word scores a la Scrabble, upping the ante and chances of a comeback. When you spot a word, you start with the first letter and drag your finger letter-to-letter. When you reach the end of the word, lift your finger up, and the word registers. It works pretty flawlessly.

scramble with friends game screen

What’s Wrong: The coin system complicates things in an unnecessary way. Even if you fork over the cash for the paid version, you’re still stuck with it. I understand the need to monetize the game, but why not just sell power-up packages? It makes you feel limited and restrained in how much you can play, and that’s not a good thing.

Overall: Scramble is a success on almost all fronts; it’s a great reinterpretation of a classic game, it controls very well, and it’s something you’ll play for more than just a few days. The additions, with the exception of the coin system, make it relevant for today’s mobile gamers. This is the type of game that has the big game makers – Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft – very scared. It appeals to casual gaming fans and portable gaming fans alike, making it a significant threat to their business. And it’s free.

If you’re a wordsmith, enjoy puzzles, or like beat-the-clock types of games, you will love this. But the addiction factor is high. Maybe that coin system isn’t such a bad thing after all…

Grade: A-

Apple Patents Videogame Controller: Why This Is Huge News

Earlier this week, news broke that Apple had patented a wireless videogame controller for use with its iPhone, iPod and Apple TV platforms. At this point, details about the controller and information on its release are scarce to non-existent. But make no mistake – this is huge news. An Apple game controller has the potential to change the videogame industry, from the games we play to the major players involved.

With casual games – a market Nintendo essentially invented with the Wii, only to see it stolen by mobile devices with titles like Angry Birds – touch screen controls were the gateway entrance for people who found classic game controllers to hard a hill to climb. At the same time, touch screen controls have also been a turn off to the still-large hardcore gamers audience; they just don’t offer the same precision that a controller with a joystick and buttons can. But now that an official Apple controller will be released, there is a chance that the hardcore will spend more time with mobile games, maybe taking a significant chunk of that audience away from console-makers. Not only that, but mobile games may evolve due to the option of the controller, offering a more console-like gaming experience that will appeal directly to the hardcore. It’s something that Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo should be worried about.

Perhaps most importantly, however, is the fact that the controller makes Apple more of a force in the videogame arena than ever before. Fans have wondered why Apple had yet to develop a game console and enter the market, or at least do something. This is that something. The truth is, with the proliferation of mobile gaming via the iPhone and iPad, Apple were surprise entrants into gaming, but this puts them in more direct competition with The Big 3. As videogames move towards a cloud-based future, the controller puts Apple in a position to play a role in the gaming landscape. And if Apple TV is home to console-quality, cloud-based gaming, they could truly change the industry.

That is, of course, if it’s actually released. Time will tell.

Countdown to BlogHer ’12

Countdown to BlogHer ’12. The Flightpath team will be joining bloggers and brands at this year’s BlogHer in New York City. Find out how you and your brand can leverage conferences such as this one to network and interact with bloggers.

In one week, the Flightpath team will attend one of the biggest conferences that will be taking place this year in New York City – BlogHer.  Thousands of bloggers from all over the country travel to be a part of this major event.

It’s amazing to think that over the years how the blogging community has grown and shown great support of each other.  Women supporting other women, not only in the business of blogging but as marketing professionals as well.  BlogHer sets the stage where brands can interact vis-à-vis with bloggers and receive real-time insight to their products and build a strong professional relationships.  Every year brands, celebrities and influencers offer their expertise during scheduled panels and this year it includes major players such as Martha Stewart, Katie Couric, Christy Turlington Burns and more.

Another growth factor for BlogHer to note is the amount of brands that partake in this conference.  With sponsors like Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Hillshire Farm, Dannon, Verizon Wireless and so much more.

If you’re a marketer or a brand that has not participated in BlogHer in the past, our best advice for you is to get your team a pass to attend as a guest and observe.  This will allow you to interact with guests and see what’s in store at the conference to better prepare not only for yourself but for the needs of your client.  It will give you an advantage to plan ahead and see what works and doesn’t work to create a successful strategic plan.  Be sure to check out BlogHer for additional information.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram where we’ll be reporting from BlogHer ’12 conference using hashtag #BlogHer12.

Image Source for Header: BlogHer.com

Pinterest Brand Pages: Our Favorites

Pinterest is all the rage these days, and for good reason: it’s a social platform that actually offers something new and unique. If you are a brand rep looking for Pinspiration, here are some of the best examples of brands on Pinterest.

Pinterest is all the rage these days, and for good reason: it’s a social platform that actually offers something new and unique. And unlike Facebook or Google+, it really allows brands to get creative with their pages, from layout to content to overall purpose. If you are a brand rep looking for Pinspiration, here are some of the best examples of brands on Pinterest.

 

Coolest Design: Uniqlo


A quickly growing fashion retailer, Uniqlo only sells through its brick-and-mortar shops, which makes its digital acumen all the more impressive. Their website is great, their Facebook updates are fun, and their Pinterest page is staggeringly creative. If you scroll down their page, it animates a la a cartoon flip book, making logos spin, shirts move, and giving off an overall wow factor:

 

 

Funniest Use of Pinterest Boards by Brands: Oreck

 

So… you are a vacuum company and you want to create a Pinterest board, what do you do? Pin pics of messes of course, but how to make a pinnable mess? If you are a pet owner you will appreciate Oreck’s Furry Friends board filled with adorable pics of dogs and cats who fill hearts with happiness and floors with fur:

 

 

Best Non-Profit Brand on Pinterest : ASPCA

 

Of course it helps to have an endless supply of adorable and highly pinnable pet photos at your disposal, but the ASPCA on Pinterest does more than just post cute pics of pets.

They are using Pinterest as a tool to promote pet adoption and further the cause of closing puppy mills. By creating Pinterest boards that balance cute pics with highly shareable text based images, pinning from the ASPCA page is like slapping an end animal cruelty bumper sticker on your Subaru- it let’s everyone who follows you know where you stand.

 


Most Interactive: Bauble Bar

 

Social media, as we all know by now is not supposed to be a soliloquy but rather a conversation. This is always tough for brands. One brand doing a great job is Bauble Bar. This online jewelry retailer scours Instagram and Twitter for fans of their collections who have posted photos. Bauble Bar then pins the fans photo to their Pinterest board, which is the highest form of compliment on Pinterest and goes a long way to building community and customer loyalty.

 

 

Best Celeb Brand: Martha Stewart
Martha Stewart’s Pinterest boards look like what Stewart’s refrigerator would look like, if she allowed magnets on it. As the most followed celeb on Pinterest, Stewart is one to watch.

 

Leave a comment and let us know what Pinterest brand pages you like.

(Dan Brooks contributed to this post.)

Facebook Tutorial: How to Change Facebook Page Username or Vanity URL

If you have been wanting to change your Facebook username, now is your golden opportunity. But before you rush to seize the moment and change that Vanity URL or username that you have always regretted, take a moment.

Wondering how to change your Facebook Vanity URL or username? You are not alone, until very recently the Vanity URL chosen when a Facebook page was created could never be changed. This created problems for a lot of businesses who have had a name change or just second thoughts about the custom URL they chose years ago.

Facebook has just changed this policy and now allows Facebook Page admins to change their Vanity URL. If you have been wanting to change your Facebook username, now is your golden opportunity.  But before you rush to seize the moment and change that Vanity URL or username that you have always regretted, take a moment.

Things to Consider

Be Really, Really Sure

Before you start the process of changing your Facebook Vanity URL be sure you are 100% sure of your new choice and the spelling. Facebook will only allow for a Facebook Page Vanity URL to be changed one time, so if you change your mind or screw up the spelling you cannot change it again. So give your new URL and it’s spelling some thought.

Vanity URL vs Facebook Page Name

Changing your Vanity URL or User Name will not change your Facebook Page name. The Facebook username is the unique portion of the custom Facebook URL which is referred to as a Vanity URL, so a Facebook username is the “name” portion of the Vanity URL. For instance in the case of our agency, “FlightpathNY” is our Facebook username, and “www.Facebook.com/FlightpathNY” is our Vanity URL.

Your Facebook Page name is the name of your page that appears in Facebook search and in bold type just below your cover photo. In our case, our Facebook name is “Flightpath”. Changing your Facebook Page name is a different process than changing your Vanity URL.

If your page has over 200 likes, you have to fill out a form and request a Facebook Page name change. You don’t get a shot at changing it yourself like the username/Vanity URL, unless you have less than 200 likes in which case you can change the name of your page from the Basic Information tab within the admin tools. If you have over 200 likes and want to request a new Facebook Page Name you can do so by following these instructions.

Keep in mind the rules.

Facebook has a lot of rules regarding what Vanity URL you can snag. This is not your great chance to be Facebook.com/Pizza, since generic Vanity URLs are not allowable. Stick with your business’s name.

Double check that your desired Facebook Vanity Url or Username isn’t taken. When Facebook first rolled out Vanity URL’s for personal Facebook profiles, some people decided to use nicknames, place names or surnames that are also business names. Do yourself a favor and check the URL before you try to change it.

Another common issue is a company’s CEO has the company name as his or her personal Vanity URL. If this is the case, ask them to change it (or offer to do it for them) thereby releasing the URL and making it available for the company page.

Change Your Links

Changing your Vanity URL means you need to change all links to your Facebook Page. Once you change your username your old Vanity URL will not work, so make sure to update the links from the buttons on your company’s website, blog and everywhere else your Facebook URL appears.

Making the Change Step By Step:

  1. Click the “Edit Page” button at the top of your Facebook Page and select “Update Info” from the drop down menu.

  2. This will bring you to the page where you enter your new username. (Remember to check the spelling!)

  3. Click to verify availability of your new username.

  4. Click to save your new username and voila! You are done!

 

Mobile App Review: eBay – iPhone, iPad & Android

ebay mobile app review

Welcome to the latest installment of Flightpath’s running series of mobile app reviews, where we explore all different kinds of apps, both paid and free. Today we’re looking at the app for the world’s biggest online auction site.

Welcome to the latest installment of Flightpath’s running series of mobile app reviews, where we explore all different kinds of apps, both paid and free. Today we’re looking at the app for the world’s biggest online auction site.

The App: eBay

The Platform: iPhone, iPad & Android

How Much: Free

The Deal: eBay has long been synonymous with online auctions. Looking for a vintage Optimus Prime right fist? Check eBay. Trying to find that issue of Fangoria missing from your collection? Check eBay. Have buyer’s remorse for that trumpet you bought, which has never been removed from its case? Sell it on eBay.

An eBay freed from the chains of desktops (I don’t have to be at the computer at 4:27am when the auction for that weird thing no one else on earth except two other dudes care about is ending? Sign me up!) is a no-brainer. But how is it in reality?

ebay mobile app

Features: As far as I can tell, everything from eBay desktop has been ported over to eBay mobile. There’s buying and selling, of course, as well as your complete My eBay profile and options. Additional functionality includes push notifications for messages, ending auctions, re-listings and more.

The success of this app lies not so much in its breadth of features, but in their ease-of-use in a mobile format. And it is very successful in that regard. With searches, everything displays properly, and with all relevant info and photos (see above screen shot, taken after a search for “Wayne Chrebet jersey”). On item pages, everything is condensed into smart menus (Description, Item Specifics, Bidding Activity, etc.), allowing the page to be presented cleanly and clearly. At the bottom of the screen are three large buttons, really representing the core of eBay: Place Bid, Sell one like this, and Share this item. It makes browsing and bidding a really pleasant experience.

ebay mobile app

What’s Missing: Truthfully, not much. Even re-listing items (I’m trying to get rid of an MST3K Crow statue, if anyone’s interested) is a breeze. If anything, the way messages are handled is a little clunky; it seems as if the desktop message is displayed on the mobile screen, and options for replying are limited. But that’s a nitpick.

ebay mobile

Overall: One of the best mainstream apps available, and one of the best desktop-to-mobile adaptations I’ve ever seen. I was continually amazed at just how much functionality is packed in here, and the second nature feel of navigating through it all. Browsing item photos is startlingly easy, as you just scroll through them as you would the photos in your gallery; changing alert settings is actually easier than the desktop version. The presentation is simplified as much as possible without sacrificing anything, and it’s a real accomplishment.

The only place the app falters slightly is in the typing interface; typing on a mobile phone is still a bit of a pain (at least, for me) and eBay didn’t find a way around that, so writing out a detailed description or message is a bit cumbersome. But I don’t really hold it against them. Ultimately, this doesn’t try and replicate the desktop experience; it re-imagines it and surpasses it.

Grade: A

3 Awesome July 4th/Summer Email Marketing Campaigns

July 4th and Summer Email Marketing

One of the most important marketing tools going today is email, where the stakes are perhaps biggest: brands have to strike the right balance between spammy/informative, fun/cloying, design smart/confusing. If people sign up for your email list, they’re more-or-less willing to at least hear you out, so a poorly constructed email is truly a missed opportunity. Here are some July 4th/summer email campaigns (all clothing related, just to narrow the playing field) that we think are doing it right.

Around almost every holiday, brands and stores launch marketing campaigns with the goal of promoting sales, generating buzz and reminding the world that, “Hey – we still exist.”

One of the most important marketing tools going today is email, where the stakes are perhaps biggest: brands have to strike the right balance between spammy/informative, fun/cloying, design smart/confusing. If people sign up for your email list, they’re more-or-less willing to at least hear you out, so a poorly constructed email is truly a missed opportunity. Here are some July 4th/summer email campaigns (all clothing related, just to narrow the playing field) that we think are doing it right.

Uniqlo summer sale email
Uniqlo
For a clothing retailer without an online store, Uniqlo’s mastery of all things digital (its Pinterest page is awesome, if you haven’t seen it) is all the more impressive. The “Summer Festival” email campaign matches the visual style of Uniqlo’s stores and logo with a clear red and white color scheme, elegant design, and sale items easily laid out. It contains a lot of info – a calendar, product images, even an in-store drum show schedule (!) – but is successful because no single element detracts from any other, and it’s all easy to understand and navigate. Not easy to do.

SuperHero Stuff Summer Sale Email
SuperHeroStuff
Starting with the intentionally-cheesy Photoshopped sunglasses on Wolverine, which conveys a welcomed sense of humor about comics and superheroes, SuperHeroStuff’s email grabs your attention. And the imagery flows nicely, from Wolverine to the “Save 13%” banner and back again. From there, it’s all messaging, as their summer sale is successfully driven home with nicely placed copy above the main image, inside it, and below it.

Original Penguin summer sale email
Original Penguin
Original Penguin’s campaign is among the best we’ve seen in email design aesthetics this summer. The smart incorporation of the Original Penguin logo into a vintage-looking American flag lets you know what this email is about even without copy (of which there is little), and it matches the brand’s tone effortlessly. These things can be easy to screw up – the font color is too close the background color, the logo looks tacky on the flag, etc. – but Original Penguin’s email hits every beat perfectly.

Pinterest Analytics Tools Comparison – PinReach vs Pinerly

We took a look at 2 of the most popular Pinterest analytics tools available, Pinerly and PinReach and put them head to head to find out which offered the best Pinterest account analytics tools for brands.

We took a look at 2 of the most popular Pinterest analytics tools available, Pinerly and PinReach and put them head to head to find out which offered the best Pinterest account analytics tools for brands. So you can know  if your content is reaching an audience and also gather the stats you need to report back about your Pinterest campaign to your client.

Pinerly

Pinerly is a complete Pinterest account management platform. In our opinion, this is the best Pinterest analytics tool for marketers. It offers lots of great stats (or Pinalytics) on your Pinterest account including number of repins and likes on individual pins.

On the downside, in order for pins to be tracked by Pinerly each pin must each be created through Pinerly. This means that pins show the URL of origin as Pinerly.com,  instead of your brand’s URL. The good news is that any clicks of your pins are still directed to the URL of your choice.

Perhaps once Pinerly is out of beta, there will be a white label option as part of a premium package for brands (not anything we saw on Pinerly just guessing they are going to have a monetization strategy unlike Pinterest). It would also be great if brands could promote pins by paying to be featured in Pinerly’s suggested pins. However, there are currently no opportunities for brands to pay to promote content to other Pinerly users.

What we like:

  • Scheduling coming soon- a huge bonus for marketers since Pinterest activity peeks during off hours.
  • Analytics good enough to report back to a client with
  • Looking for feedback from users

What we don’t like:

  • Pinerly.com shown as pin URL
  • No brand promotion opportunities
  • No comment tracker
  • Still in beta- though you can request an invite here

PinReach

Billed as a tool for understanding and measuring the impact of your Pinterest account, PinReach is a lot like Klout for Pinterest.  Users are assigned PinReach scores  based upon the amount of engagement (repins, likes and comments) their Pinterest content receives.

Scores range from 0-90+. According to PinReach, most accounts fall into the 30-39 score range, and there are no PinReach users who have scored above an 89 (Etsy must not have checked their score yet). Certain types of interactions have more influence on a  PinReach score. While you get points for filling your boards with pins, you get more when others repin, like or comment on your content.

One stat that PinReach provides that Pinerly does not is the amount of comments received. While the metrics available through PinReach are mostly identical to those available through Pinerly, that’s ok because PinReach has a different goal- it was designed to be less of a dashboard and more of a high level look at the influencers and top images on Pinterest.

What we like:

  • PinReach is very straight forward and user friendly.
  • Looking at trending pins can be great inspiration for creating your own.
  • Much like a Klout score, a PinReach score is a fun way to gamify Pinterest. If you are aiming to brag at BlogHer, having a high PinReach score is just the ticket.

What we don’t like:

  • No brand promotion opportunities
  • From a social media marketer’s point of view, the PinReach score, is not necessary. (You know what we mean if you have ever watched a client’s eyes glaze over while explaining a Klout score).
  • Not the in-depth analytics you need for reporting purposes.

What Pinterest analytics tools are you using? Leave a comment and let us know.

Google+ Hangouts: +1 For Google

Google+ Hangouts

I’d never partaken in a Google+ Hangout before. But, I accepted a friend’s invite.

Ready for the shocker? Google+ Hangouts is kinda awesome.

While checking my email one last time before bed a couple of weeks back – my respite from a disappointing night of New York sports starring the Rangers and Yankees – an invite to join a Google+ Hangout popped up from my friend Frank.

I’d never partaken in a Google+ Hangout before. Video chat has existed for a long time, and it has never really appealed to me. So I guess I just never considered checking Google+ Hangouts…out. That, plus I still haven’t really warmed up to Google+. But, I accepted the invite.

Ready for the shocker? Google+ Hangouts is kinda awesome.

Yes, it’s been around for awhile now. But with new ad campaigns, it seems like Google is really giving its video chat service a push. And I get it.

There were only a couple of other friends in my chat (though you can have more), and the audio was very clear and the video feeds were of good quality. There’s one big screen in the center that focuses on who’s talking, with smaller screens below showing everyone’s feed. It works surprisingly well. But it was the options within Hangouts that made it something special.

I noticed that everyone in the chat had these animated hats, mustaches and eye-wear on, and they followed their head movements perfectly. Frank went for a pirate look; Tyler put on a creepy dog face. I went for a classy, fancy Mr. Peanut-themed look. While this might sound ridiculous, it made the experience unique. And really fun.

Then there are the in-chat apps. Someone opened up Scoot & Doodle, the live doodling app. After figuring out how to open it myself, we all started drawing and writing. Here’s one of our masterpieces:

It may seem basic, but often times, real change or innovation comes from taking basic things and presenting them in new ways – showing you that you need something you didn’t know you needed before. Maybe, as more apps are developed for Hangouts and more animation and options are integrated, it will really change the way we think about video chat and social media.

Kudos to Google for getting out there and pushing Hangouts. It deserves it.

How to Deliver Customer Service via Social Media – Blog World Expo Session Recap

Rackspace gets over 4,000 mentions during a typical week, but Twitter isn’t the only place consumers are asking questions. The team also responds to questions frequently on Quora, Facebook, blog posts and of course, by phone.

Social media has been used as a customer service channel for the last several years. Companies such as Zappos, Rackspace, and Jet Blue have been lauded for using social as an effective customer service tool. Many companies remain wary of using social media to address customer service issues. We were fortunate to hear insights from the Rackspace customer service team including Jeremy Wasner, Robert Collazo and Matt Wilbanks during a panel discussion at Blog World Expo last week.

So, what makes Rackspace customer service special?

The customer service team reported that their department is empowered to point out lapses in service delivery to the rest of the company.

They have the support of leadership to be the thorn in the side of the company. Culturally, everyone in the company talks. Customer service is encouraged to talk to the team that needs to change, bringing consumer posts straight to internal departments. “Since we know the teams are knee deep in the work and isolated from customers,” Matt Wilbanks said during the panel, “we know it’s our responsibility to inform the teams of problems that need to be fixed.”

Also, they do not use an external call center. Instead, all customer service is handled in house by engineers who can understand and address customer issues.

Monitoring tools are used to find any mention of the company, and a customer service team member responds rapidly. Most of the company’s social media customer service interactions take place on Twitter; Rackspace gets over 4,000 mentions during a typical week, but Twitter isn’t the only place consumers are asking questions.

The team also responds to questions frequently on Quora, Facebook, blog posts and of course, by phone. Rackspace customer service staff post their cell phone numbers publicly so consumers can call them directly. People just seem to want to know that they are heard and that their issue is going to be acted upon, according to Rackspace.

While turn-around time is important when dealing with customer service via social media, the team sees a clear difference in dealing with customer complaints delivered in the form of a blog post. A blog post is often the result of a long-term unresolved customer service issue. So usually, the customer service team involves senior management to respond personally to the post. Subsequent comments are typically positive, with Rackspace getting kudos for responding to the issue.

So what mistakes do they see other companies make when using social media to interact with customers? Many companies use social media as a place to see how great they are instead of listening and responding to customers.  The job of a customer service employee is to relieve stress and pain. Being consistently helpful and genuine helps create a brand image that reinforces the company’s mission of support.

Supporting competitors instead of disparaging them is a better approach. Often, Rackspace sees other companies trolling for Rackspace customers who may have a service issue, then trying to pounce and convert the customers to their hosting service.

Rackspace takes a different approach, never chasing ambulances on Twitter. When a rival hosting company was struggling with a big issue, Rackspace sent $7,000 in pizzas to their corporate office as a show of empathy.

They advised to never pray on customers struggling with their providers or complaining about a rival product. That would be like a car salesperson approaching someone who just had an accident and saying creepily, “Looks like you are having an issue with your car…” By having a strong customer service practice, the number one source of new customers is referrals from existing ones. Rackspace doesn’t do a lot of marketing.

When rivals start talking to customers on social, attempting to disrupt the customer service process, a best practice is to reach out to them publicly and ask if they need anything. If a competitor continues to push, a call to the company and to the social customer service team’s supervisor usually resolves the issue.

In summary: Always be nice. Always be a step above expectations.

Facebook: Passion Speaks Louder Than Clicks

While Facebook has been dominating the news the past two weeks,one side of the social network story that has gone under-reported is the undeniable passion Facebook has created.

While Facebook has been dominating the news the past two weeks – GM saying no mas to $10 million in paid media, the market/investors saying IPNO (no!) to $38 a share and many interesting stories of the personal and financial lives of Facebook insiders past and present – the one side of the social network story that has gone under-reported is the undeniable passion Facebook has created.

Facebook, to the 13-year-old creating his or her account and getting a profile up, is huge: A rite of passage so dynamic, so intense, that if you have a son, daughter, niece or nephew, you wonder if they are even breathing the first few days. In fact, it makes getting the driving permit so yesterday. For jaded investors and longtime social media enthusiasts, Facebook may be easy to discount (crazy hype can do that!) or connect to the beginning of the end – like a replay of the ‘90s dotcom collapse – but given the scale of people who connect through, engage on, and live loud because of Facebook, that couldn’t be more ridiculous.

Simply, Facebook is the passion engine of our time. I am going to keep this simple and single-minded. Take Facebook’s photo uploading and sharing. Billions are uploaded monthly, so that alone emotionally and socially has had a tremendous ripple effect given the old idiom, “a picture says a 1000 words,” in terms of humans connecting. Family and friends smiling happiness or sharing sadness all is second nature because of and through Facebook. The bottom line is, whenever a new technology platform or even a re-defining idea (think: “The 99 Percent!”) enables human passion to flourish in any area of life, there is no looking back.

The way I see it is, scale doesn’t make passion – passion makes scale. Facebook has scaled up so big so fast because of its relentless pursuit of passion. The way they have screwed up – like in the privacy area – seems perfectly normal, given how fast they have moved. Their corrective steps reinforce an ability to listen and learn is why their dynamic growth continues.  Clearly, Facebook understands and practices, maybe better than any company in history, the idea of “Fact Based Passion.”  Introduced at Nabisco in 1994, CEO John Greeniaus espoused Fact Based Passion as connecting data and information to empower human energy and commitment to make remarkable things happen.

So, while I imagine people at Facebook are working hard day and night (especially at their Hackathons) to get people to click more on ads, I believe brands will figure a way to work with them to drive effectiveness and success. People are too passionate about Facebook and about Skittles or Coca-cola or GM to not find a new way to thrive symbiotically. Fan pages prove that today.

I’ll end by reminding us that the DVR didn’t kill television – it just made some brands re-imagine how to message. As Facebook continues to explore new pathways for commercial engagement, the opportunities for brands to leverage all the emotional currency they have garnered will be incredibly exciting and powerful.

Top 3 Things We Learned at Tech Munch

The Tech Munch conference hit the streets of New York and shared insights from both the bloggers and brands on how to work together and how to succeed in the social media space. Here are the top 3 things we’ve learned from Tech Munch.

Last week, we had the pleasure of attending the Tech Munch conference in New York, where food bloggers, writers, editors, foodies and brands unite to learn about the ins and outs of food in the social media space. (And get to enjoy good food and check out a cooking demo or two. Perks!)

The relationship between food and social media is getting stronger and bigger than ever before. We previously wrote about the growing trend of food trucks and how they utilize Twitter to build their voice and communicate directly with their consumers. With events such as Tech Munch show how the two are becoming more and more intertwined.

At Tech Munch, panelists including Food Network, Bake Space (founder and organizer of the conference), Martha Stewart Living, J.M. Hirsch of The Associated Press and more stopped by to talk directly with bloggers about best practices, trends and how to survive in the social media age.

Above: A cooking demo with Alejandra Ramos of Always Order Dessert…and the delicious results.

With a whole day of discussions, there are 3 key things we’ve learned:

PSA for Marketing Executives reaching out to Bloggers

This was a topic that was brought up multiple times: Get to know your bloggers. All you have to do is read their blog since they typically share their personal experiences and latest finds.  NEVER start an email with “Dear Blogger” or “Dear Miss or Sir,” because they will immediately hit the delete button or – even worse – the SPAM button. Make sure you have an understanding of what they are writing about, and approach them with your product accordingly. If you’re not sure, it doesn’t hurt to ask; they are human after all. The more personal you are in the approach, the easier it will be to form a relationship for potential partnerships.

Food Bloggers in the Making

Before you start your blog, make sure you have a clear and concise plan and a voice you want to portray to the public. The one piece of advice that holds true is to find your specialty and create a niche. When editors are looking for sources to cover a new trend, they are looking for those that specialize in that specific category. Make yourself stand out and become a brand so that they can come to you as an expert.

Pinterest, Yay or Nay

Pinterest is still on everyone’s lips and is growing rapidly. It allows the user to showcase his or her personality and ideas through imagery, and the perk is that the pins drive traffic back to the original source. Kate Gold, Social Media Director of Food Network, discussed how they share recipes, beautiful food images and even have curated boards from the community that dictate trends, such as comfort foods. Pinterest adds an element to your site and/or blog and allows the user to get a better picture of your personality and voice.  Do you have to be on all platforms to appeal to everyone? No, but get to know your audience and where they are and you can decide from there if it’s the right move for you or your brand.

 

Mobile App Review: Spotify – iPhone, iPad & Android

Welcome to the latest installment of Flightpath’s running series of mobile app reviews, where we explore all different kinds of apps, both paid and free. Today we’re looking at an app for one of the biggest names in online music.

The App: Spotify

The Platform: iPhone, iPad & Android

How Much: Free for trial download; $9.99 monthly subscription fee

The Deal: In the Summer of 2011, the Swedish-born/UK-raised music streaming service, Spotify, had finally made its grand entrance into the US. It served as the ultimate answer for music lovers who craved an “eat-whatever-you-want-whenever-you-want” music diet and alternative for those who wanted streaming music other than Pandora.

Compared to Spotify’s full-featured desktop application, the iPhone app is a stripped-down, bare bones version that still contains all of the essentials needed to stream music to your phone. Unfortunately, there’s one huge catch: You have to be a paid subscriber of Spotify’s premium service ($9.99/month) in order to access its entire streaming library. If you’re not a premium subscriber you can still use the app without access to the library, but it basically acts like the iPhone’s built-in music app, where it plays music stored locally within the device. This review will be based on the app that is using a premium subscription; that’s when most of the good features kick in.

Playing "936" by Peaking Lights

Features: For starters, most of the things you do on your own Spotify account, whether you’re on a PC/Mac or iPhone, gets automatically synced between all devices. This means if you’re adding or sorting your playlists on the desktop version, the changes get reflected when you start up the iPhone app. Or, if a friend at work is making attempts to get you hooked on his/her favorite band and bombarding you with Spotify playlists (“I am now flooding your Spotify inbox with Guided By Voices.”), they will all be sitting there on your iPhone waiting to be played (…or ignored).

What We Think/Like: The app also tracks your listening habits and sends them off to social media platforms like Facebook and Last.fm. Personally, I like this feature because it serves as an online “pulse” that lets my friends and family know that I’m still kicking around:

Hey, have you seen Tyler lately?
No, but it says on Facebook that he’s currently listening to early DJ Shadow.
Oh, that must mean he’s cleaning his apartment right now.

Another great feature is the “Offline” mode, where you can store Spotify playlists directly on the iPhone and listen to it without a wifi or cell phone connection. This is perfect for underground subway commutes, avoiding data overage charges from your phone company, and occasional shuttle trips to distant planets where over-the-air connections are non-existent.

What’s Missing: The “Premium Subscribers Only” restriction is a bit off-putting given that there’s still a lot of features available on the Spotify desktop application that could’ve been enabled on the app for basic/free subscribers.

Third-party apps that you can install on the desktop application (like The Guardian or Last.fm) aren’t available on this mobile app, which severely cuts down on a lot of music discovery on the iPhone (or Android). On top of that, even Spotify’s own “radio” app (not as smart as Pandora, but still okay) was never ported over to the mobile app.

Overall: It’s unfortunate that the mobile app cuts back on a few features, especially when you compare it against the desktop app. But the heart and soul of Spotify—the on-demand, unlimited access to a huge and constantly expanding online music library—is still there, and that’s what really matters. If you’re a Premium subscriber, take advantage of this free app right away, and take your library on the road.  If you have a basic/free subscription with Spotify, the app definitely loses it’s shine without all the streaming capability, so you’re probaly better off just sticking with the built-in music app you’ve always been using.

(If you’re not a Spotify subscriber at all, I suggest you give you it a try and overindulge yourself with the infinite choices of music it provides.  Oh, and they have Milli Vanilli on there, in case you’re wondering.)

Grade: B+

New YouTube Changes Present Opportunity for Marketers

Long known as the destination for time killing quick videos of waterskiing squirrels, biting babies and Bieber, YouTube now wants to be thought of as a true alternative to traditional cable. With the controversial changes to YouTube’s homepage firmly in place, users are now encouraged to not just watch the latest viral video, but to subscribe to entire channels. So how can marketers benefit from YouTube’s changes?

YouTube wants to change the way consumers think about YouTube. Long known as the destination for time killing quick videos of waterskiing squirrels, biting babies and Bieber, YouTube now wants to be thought of as a true alternative to traditional cable.

With the controversial changes to YouTube’s homepage firmly in place, users are now encouraged to not just watch the latest viral video, but to subscribe to entire channels. YouTube is also calling on content producers to switch gears and create regularly scheduled content, instead of sensational one-offs.

So how can marketers benefit from YouTube’s changes?

Approach your brand’s YouTube content strategy the same way as  Facebook or Twitter content. In social media marketing, it is well known that regularly scheduled Facebook and Twitter content drives engagement. No brand creates a Facebook page with the intention of creating one or two great posts a year, but many brands do exactly that on YouTube. Now that YouTube is promoting channels instead of single videos, your channel needs regularly scheduled programming.

Choose a schedule and stick to it. Commit to a schedule, whether it is monthly, biweekly or weekly and follow through. Imagine if MadMen was scheduled to air Sunday night and there you are all snuggled down to watch the drama unfold on AMC, only to be presented with an old western movie. How would you feel? When subscribers come to depend on your brand’s content, they will look forward to your next video. If you promise new videos every Wednesday at 6pm, if there is no content up at that time you could be in for negative comments.

Ask for your viewers help. Asking viewers to subscribe and share is an important part of getting your video seen by more people. Make YouTube’s new focus on channel subscriptions, your focus too and your brand will have the best chance of YouTube homepage glory.

Draw Something: The Flightpath Gallery

Draw Something Gallery

Draw Something is one of the most popular apps going, and for good reason. The premise is simple – you’re given something to draw, then your “opponent” has to guess what it is – but it’s a bit more complex beneath the surface. 

Draw Something hits several buttons, and it hits them well: creativity, comedy, and puzzle-solving. You often have to think of inventive ways to convey something – “keychain” is harder than one would think to draw straight away, as is “beiber” – and deciphering an illustration is also challenging if it’s not a commonly used term.

We here at Flightpath regularly partake in Draw Something, and thought we would display a gallery of our work. Some pieces are minimalist, others are more detailed. So take a stroll through this exhibit, critique our work and enjoy the experience.

But please – photography is not allowed.

The Works of Dan Brooks, Digital Marketing Manager

The Works of Denise de Castro, Vice President, Director of Client Services

The Works of Michael Feola, Developer

The Works of Wesley Martin, Interactive Designer

The Works of Michelle Kelarakos, Social Media Strategist

4 Google Analytics Updates You Should Know

As most of us in this industry know, Google is always changing and tinkering with its products, from Gmail to Google+, and, often times, the company doesn’t even bother to tell us when changes have been made. (The nerve of some mega-powerful corporations!)

As a digital marketing manager, a large chunk of my time is centered on navigating and understanding Google Analytics, discovering insights and unearthing important data. Lately, several major changes have popped up in Analytics, which may impact the way we use it, as well as the information within. Here are four changes you should know about.

To read the rest of this post, please head over to iMedia Connection.

Top Food Trucks on Twitter: Serving Up a Side of Tweets

Serving up mean meals on wheels is a big trend in the food industry. With the growing population of food trucks, some of them are taking advantage of Twitter to interact with their customers and we’re sharing our top five picks!

We think you’d agree that in the past 2 years there has been a growing population of gourmet food trucks, and it’s just by seeing them in your neighborhood.  We’re fans of getting gourmet bites on the go and really like the fact they take the stigma out of the term “street meat.”  Although, not gonna lie, they can also be tasty after a night out (just sayin’).

With that being said, there are food trucks that use social media marketing to their advantage. Sharing their whereabouts, promotions and just plain old engaging with foodies on Twitter.  Not only making it fun to eat when you visit them, but also fun to watch the personalities behind the truck come alive on Twitter.  Allowing them to build a relationship with consumers and even build a new following through word of tweet.

Here are our top picks for tweeting food trucks to follow as great examples of building a brand voice and serving up great food and customer service on Twitter.

Ben & Jerry’s (@BenJerrysTruck)


Known for their delightful treats, Ben & Jerry’s offers fun flavor mixtures and unique names (remember the headliner Schweddy Balls?).  Their food truck is currently on a US tour serving up free offerings of their new Greek Frozen Yogurt flavors based on your tweets, using “FREE Ben & Jerry’s Greek Frozen Yogurt! Please bring #omgfreebenjerrys to me!”  To explain the example given, this tweet was on Shakespeare’s birthday, and in his honor, Ben and Jerry’s decided to tweet Elizabethan ice cream quips for the day. To eat ice cream or not to eat ice cream, that is the question.

Red Hook Lobster Pound (@Redhooklobster)

Known for dishing out mouth watering fresh lobster from Maine onto buttery rolls, Redhook Lobster Pound has trucks in both DC and NY.  When you have great food, doesn’t it come along with great conversation?  That is exactly what’s going on with Redhook Lobster, only via Twitter.  They not only share the locales of their DC and NY trucks but apparently like to work to James Brown.  Not to name names, but some people in our office like to listen to 98 degrees (not it).

Wafels & Dinges (@waffletruck)

Wafels & Dinges takes Belgian waffles to the next level, offering a variety of toppings to select or by choosing one (or two) of their concoctions on the menu.  We love how they not only engage with their customers, but offer unique ways for customers to receive a free dinge.  Where am I?  Can we have a dinge now?

Korilla BBQ (@KorillaBBQ)


You may recognize the men behind Korilla BBQ from Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Race, and boy, do they serve up some mean Korean BBQ.  The grillmastas have recently made the 30 Under 30: NYC’s Hottest Up and Comers and have big personalities to go with it.  They share a behind-the-scenes look on Twitter along with news and updates on their whereabouts.  Note to self: Don’t get caught sleeping during meetings or it will just go viral.

Big Gay Ice Cream (@biggayicecream)

Due to the popularity of Big Gay Ice Cream truck for not only serving amazing ice cream cones with over-the-top toppings but also for their bold personality in person and on Twitter, they opened a shop in the East Village last summer.  Just by reading  their tweets, you can’t help but feel as though you’ve known them for ages.  If you’re lucky to catch them at the right time, you can even see the fun back-and-forth banter between them and Travel Channel‘s Anthony Bourdain, along with his wife Ottavia.

What food trucks do you follow on Twitter?

 

Header photo by Donny Tsang.

Pinterest – 5 Tips to Get Your Brand’s Pins Repinned

80% of pins on Pinterest are repinned, while only 5% of tweets on Twitter are retweeted. The challenge is to fill pinboards with content that will get repinned. Here are our top 5 tips to get your brand’s image repinned:

Pinterest continues to grow and grow. Many brands are jumping on Pinterest looking to build brand awareness and drive traffic back to their sites. Pinterest can be a easy platform to gain spread brand messaging and product images quickly, as opposed to other social media platforms. 80% of pins on Pinterest are repinned, while only 5% of tweets on Twitter are retweeted. The challenge is to fill pinboards with content that will get repinned. Here are our top 5 tips to get your brand’s image repinned:

Don’t Upload, Pin: When you upload content to a pinboard, you are missing out. If your goal is to get people from Pinterest to your site, they cannot do that without a link. Always pin images from your site instead of uploading. If you want to pin photos that are not on your site, start a blog to hold your photo content and pin from there. This way not only will your site’s URL be featured at the top of the pin which helps with awareness, but users can click through to your site.

Be Bold & Brief: Whether you are creating images for your pinboards or scouring the internet for cool, repinnable images, chose high contrast images. If your image includes text, make sure it is brief and bold.

Pin Faster: By highlighting the text and image you wish to pin and clicking the Pin It bookmarket, the text will automatically be incoporated into the comments of your pin. For pinners pressed for time, this is a valuable tool to use.

Use hashtags: A tip for social media marketing that seems to work everywhere. Hashtags work on Pinterest just like they do on Twitter, adding hashtags to the comments on your pin makes them easier to find in search. Contests are also being conducted on Pinterest using hashtags.

Price it: If you represent an online retailer, always be sure to put a dollar sign in front of your price. This way, your pin will be pulled into the Pinterest gift section, which has a button in the navigation bar on the Pinterest homepage. The price will also appear in a banner across the left hand corner of your image.

Google Subway Ads Show the Power of Print

Google Subway Ads

Google subway ads have been popping up in train cars (both in New York and other cities) for awhile now. They’re clever, featuring cartoons and smart copy, promoting or discussing everything from Google+ Circles to privacy tips. They’re traditional; they often appear where one would expect to see a Budweiser or local college ad; and they’re 100% disruptive and successful.

The first time I saw a Google ad (on the F train, coming from Brooklyn), I was surprised  and impressed. On the subway, one usually does one of the three things: reads a book (which takes place more and more on a Nook or Kindle), plays a video game, or zones out listening to music while fiddling with his or her iPhone. They’re mostly activities that take place in the digital landscape, which Google plays a large role in shaping.

Ironic, then, that they rely on one of the oldest forms of advertising to get our attention. And because of that – in addition to the fact that the ads are, well, good – it works. The print ad, in its stillness and marriage of text and image, is still powerful – maybe more powerful than ever. Google realized this.

But it’s that subtle irony of a web innovator using print that makes the ads a real success. You’re surprised to see a print ad from them in the first place and you’re surprised to see one from them on the subway. It’s an added factor that makes the campaign even more compelling.

Here are some snapshots of Google subway ads taken over the last few months.

Google subway ad hello my name is david
Photo by Melanie Phung.

Google subway ad spot the difference
Photo by Melanie Phung.

Google subway ad privacy
Photo by Brooklyn Or Bust.

google subway ad 2 step verification
Photo by Matt Pekar.

What do you think? Are they a success? Do they miss the mark? Let us know in the comments section below.

IFB & Intel’s Inside Generation Style Show

Unique brand and blogger collaboration between Intel and Independent Fashion Bloggers and how the major techology company was able to market to tech-savvy women through a fashion show.

I had the pleasure of attending the Ultra Book (#UltrabookStyle) Inside Generation Style Show hosted by IFB (Independent Fashion Bloggers) and Intel on Wednesday and was immediately intrigued by the creative approach on how a launch of a laptop was incorporated into a fashion show.


In case you’re not aware, IFB was founded in 2007 by Jennine Tam of The Coveted and is a community for fashion bloggers to share their experiences in the blogging scene, offering resources on how to take their blogs to the next level.  They provide helpful articles, host a community linking group, forums and offer a new platform where they can connect bloggers and PR in a safe and mutually beneficial way.

It was definitely a unique approach to showcase their new Ultrabook through a fashion show that not only had bloggers as guests, but were integrated in the actual show.  Well, we all know that bloggers work remotely and need a computer, so the lightweight laptop seemed to be the perfect marriage, even in the beauty and fashion space.  From a marketing perspective, this was a seamless way to not only reach the bloggers but to leverage their cult following readers.  The laptops were featured in the show on the arms of the bloggers (or in their purses) among other sponsors such as Bauble Bar, Arrojo, Kamali Kulture, Just Fabulous and Orla Kiely.

Source: IFB, Photo by Dustin Fenstermacher

You can watch the show here and see for yourself.  What do you think of this brand and blogger collaboration?

4 Awesome Hockey Websites

4 Awesome Hockey Websites

If you’re like me, early and mid-April is among the most exciting times of year to be a sports fan. But it’s not because of the return of baseball; it’s the fact that the NHL playoffs are about to begin, and playoff hockey is awesome.

Just in time for the run for Lord Stanley’s Cup (Ahem. Go Rangers.), we’ve put together a list of four excellent online destinations for hockey coverage. Whether you’re bananas for the sport or just want to dip your toe in the water (or on the ice, zing), these will all help bring you up to speed. Game on!

  1. The Puck Podcast

Puck Podcast

Hosted by Eddie Garcia and Doug Stolhand, The Puck Podcast is both professional-sounding and fun – not something easily accomplished. Eddie and Doug are extremely knowledgeable about everything going on with every team, so you’ll get a chance to learn about franchises in other markets and their third-line wingers you didn’t know existed. They’re opinionated (words are not minced regarding the controversial NHL shootout, or concussions and how the league deals with the questionable hits that cause them) and have great chemistry, with an easy banter. The show features audio highlights and clips and is updated regularly; on the technical side, the sound quality is excellent and the editing is seamless. It may go a little too deep for some, but The Puck Podcast is the most in-depth coverage of hockey you can find in podcast form.

  1. Puckin’ Idiots

Hartnell lk Hogan

Probably the funniest hockey website around, poking fun at the sport as only true fans could. Whether it’s the Phoenix Coyotes’ attendance woes or Scott Hartnell mocking a Hulk Hogan-lookalike Penguins fan, Puckin’ Idiots presents the absurdities of hockey in really clever ways. Easily worth a daily check-in.

  1. NHL.com

NHL.com

I originally considered leaving NHL.com off this list because it’s kind of obvious, but the truth is, this site is the best resource for league news, videos and updates. In the past, we’ve covered the NHL’s excellent use of social media, but NHL.com is really the main hub of the league’s online presence. And it doesn’t disappoint, featuring well-written articles, a stunning amount of highlights and layers upon layers of statistics. Essential for staying current with what’s happening in the sport.

  1. HFBoards

The best online community for hockey fans, HFBoards is a message board featuring individual forums for each team, the playoffs, prospects and more. You can visit and get into really interesting discussions with like-minded fans on anything, from should-they-trade-this-guy to help on where to purchase a certain player’s jersey. Most importantly, it’s a friendly place (at least within your favorite team’s board), making for good conversation and community feeling.

 

Pinterest for Brands: How to Get Followers Using Facebook

Pinterest continues to struggle with a monetization strategy. What Facebook figured out early on was that when social media sites offer brands space and a way to pay to promote their content through paid promotion, there is money to be made.


Pinterest continues to struggle with a monetization strategy. What Facebook figured out early on was that when social media sites offer brands space and a way to pay to promote their content through paid promotion, there is money to be made.

Meanwhile, brands are trying to devise ways to promote their content within Pinterest without the ability to drive users to their content through advertising or paid promotion.

What seems to be working? A magic formula 1 part Facebook and 1 part Pinterest.

Lowe’s has promoted their presence on Pinterest by driving followers from their Facebook page. This worked because Lowe’s (like almost all brand pages) uses Facebook ads to drive new visitors and likes. So Facebook users click on Lowe’s Facebook ads- which then drive them to the default landing tab. Lowe’ set their default landing tab as a Pinterest app within their Facebook page and boom- success.

According to MediaPost, Lowe’s saw some Pinterest boards followings jump 60% and enjoyed an overall boost in their Pinterest account following. So using Facebook ads and a well established Facebook brand page to ultimately drive Pinterest followers and repins works.

Lands’ End Canvas does not have a Pinterest app within their Facebook page. Instead, they are using Facebook to promote a Pinterest “Pin It to Win It” contest.  In order to enter, Pinterest users repin images from Lands’ End Canvas’ Pinterest boards onto a board of their own creation. The user then emails Lands’ End Canvas with a link to the board in the hopes of winning a gift card.

Facebook plays an integral role in the Lands’ End Canvas Pinterest contest. Instructions for entry and rules for the contest are hosted in their Facebook notes, rather than on the Lands’ End site or within a pin on Pinterest. The contest is also being promoted to the Facebook page’s 141,000 fans with repeated Facebook wall posts.

On the other hand, this leaves Facebook richer and Pinterest with no revenue.  It is also a pretty roundabout way to promote brand content. However, until Pinterest offers brands a way to promote content through paid promotion within the site- it is the best way to build a following on Pinterest.

Mobile App Review: comiXology – iPhone, iPad & Android

In the latest installment of Flightpath’s running series of mobile app reviews, we’re looking at an app that brings comics to mobile.

Welcome to the latest installment of Flightpath’s running series of mobile app reviews, where we explore all different kinds of apps, both paid and free. Today we’re looking at an app that brings comics to mobile.

The App: comiXology

The Platform: iPhone, iPad and Android

How Much: Free

The Deal: As we’ve previously documented on the Flightpath blog, digital and mobile have opened new doors for comic books. For an industry so steeped in the print tradition, it’s ironic, but at the same time, essential for the medium’s survival. While it took a long time to get here, essentially every major publisher is now on board with the idea of digital comics, publishing them day-and-date with the print editions. comiXology, launched in 2007, is the app that allows you to conveniently purchase and view digital comics from all the big boys (Marvel, DC, IDW, Dark Horse and more), whether in single or multi-issue form. It is the leading distributor of digital comics, bar none.

comixology

Features: comiXology opens to the main “Featured” menu, a.k.a. the store front, which highlights a sale as well as new comics released the same day as print (which is every Wednesday). There’s a horizontal nav on the top of the screen that features a “Just Added” button, which takes you to freshly digitized comics, either new or from years past. The bottom nav, in addition to the Featured button, also includes a “Popular” menu (divided by “Top Issues,” “Top Series,” and “Top Free”); “Browse,” which lets you look by series, publisher, genre and more; and “Purchases,” which contains your complete download history. You can access the comics you’ve downloaded at all times with the “My Comics” button in the upper right corner of the screen.

Prices for comics vary, but you can get some great deals. New releases are priced the same as the print editions (usually $2.99 or $3.99), and are then dropped $1 after the first month; graphic novels are in the $9.99 and higher range. Some comics are specially priced as low as $.99, and sales are routine.

What We Think/Like: First and foremost, reading comics via comiXology is awesome. You may be worried that the text in word balloons are too small to read on an iPhone or Android, but the comics use an auto-zoom feature to go from panel to panel, balloon to ballon, that makes for an easy, intuitive read. On an iPad, the backlit art looks pretty amazing.

As for the app itself, it’s an overall gem. Content is easy to find, the menu navigation is a breeze, and it all looks fantastic. I especially love the “Featured” page. As small as the screen of my iPhone is, the featured content (see screenshot above) is truly eye-catching. In addition, downloading is a breeze, some comics are later upgraded for an improved reading experience, and the omni-presence of the My Comics button ensures that your digital collection is always within reach. This is really smart design.

comixology my comics

What’s Missing: Maybe these features are coming, but I feel that there is some potential for editorial content here: interviews, video features, articles. You name it – something to make the experience a little more human and comic shop-like. Now, comiXology is just an online store, so I don’t hold the lack of this content against it, but this type of stuff would keep me coming back on a more regular basis. The “People Also Liked” feature is appreciated, but it doesn’t quite hit the mark as far as suggesting similar titles to the ones you enjoy. After downloading a free issue of Tiny Titans, an all-ages book, it suggested Flash: Rebirth and American Way, two very dissimilar series. And maybe I’m missing it, but it would be nice to be able to file the comics the way I want: by publisher, or by title, or by creator, etc.

comixology g.i.joe screenshotOverall: This is an essential download for comic book fans and those who may want to give comics a try, but either don’t want to venture into a brick-and-mortar comics shop or don’t know where to begin. Fast, simple and stylish – it hits all the right buttons of what makes for a great app.

Grade: A

Practicing “Switch Craft” in Modern Marketing

The fact is, most consumer categories today are share grabs: Consumer Packaged Goods categories are not growth engines; apparel remains tough at best; even tech – from mobile phones to tablets – is focused on constant innovation or feature bundling to defend position and even cannibalize its own (the New iPad was just introduced, even though the iPad2 is but a toddler).

In this prolonged economic downturn it makes sense that today’s winning marketers really understand how to keep loyal customers from switching and how to get potential switchers to switch to them. They know the buttons to push and the buttons not to. Below, we highlight five success factors in driving business value – it’s a combination of art and science – that we affectionately call “Switch Craft.”

Creating Irresistiblility
In creating a truly must-buy proposition, you need to instill a degree of emotional – even financial – tension. Create so much desire and need that if the buyer opts out, the person feels guilty about letting a “once in a life time” opportunity get away.

To this point, for our client Rothschild Kids, a 100-plus year-old coat company, we recently held a 75% off weekend blow out sale on winter coats. The price/value was so hot that the sales far exceeded any of our expectations. PLEASE NOTE: If you are thinking it doesn’t take a genius to give it away, we couldn’t agree more. But we did liquidate inventory, drive cash flow, and get buzz that primes us for the spring season.

Mobile’s Point of Disruption
Everyone has a built-in way they navigate buying things at retail or online. The “point of sale” is not only one of the constantly studied and analyzed parts of commercial marketing, it’s also one of the most dynamic. The use of mobile/shopping apps has been nothing short of game changing in how people operate when shopping. Smart phones have enabled marketers to “disrupt” behavioral patterns by informing customers and providing real time choice – when the customer is already “hot, if not bothered.”

Being Real Human
Making everything emotional isn’t the point, but relating to and engaging deep emotional sentiment has always been a big thread of great marketing. Empathy today has almost become a buzzword, but “persona-fying” the individuals you are trying to engage is very helpful in imagining walking in or out of their shoes. And, we love the “what if” exercise as part of creating a grounded behavioral understanding of the human experience/persona.

In the Iterative Analysis
The opportunity to use data, measurement and real-time feedback loops to change early and if needed, often, is the way marketing works today. From search to social, all digital messaging and reach media is aligned to a continuous improvement model like never before. Keyword, algorithmic (Facebook has truly figured out how to push “like minded” ads!) and overall search optimization is finally the rocket science marketers used to moan they needed in the Nielsen-as-only-game-in-town days. Remember the saying (and I paraphrase), “Fifty percent of my advertising is working, I just don’t know which fifty percent”? It’s gone for good!

Relevancy is Currency
Because of the rolled-up analytics of Google search ads or Facebook page ads there is nothing haphazard about the commercial engagement. Ultra targeted and thinly sliced around interest and behavior- not random or demography centered- is why both companies have created near historic valuations. In commercial match-making if you can be relevant, you can get people to love you… a lot!

Given my favorite childhood show was “Bewitched”- my daughter is named after Samantha Stevens and her husband, Darren was an Ad guy working for an apparent two man shop McMann and Tate (McMann was really never seen!) I believe we in marketing today are playing with the combination of dark arts and illuminating science in profoundly new and magical ways. Who would have thunk it!

 

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Interview: Richard Gottlieb of Global Toy Experts

Scratch an architect and you will find a former Lego fanatic. In fact it both impedes (think the lack of women in the hard sciences) and speeds (again think of Lego) children into what they will study in college and turn into careers.

If you are in the toy industry, then you probably know Richard Gottlieb. As CEO of Global Toy Experts, he is a well-known toy industry expert with years of toy industry experience in helping small, medium and large toy manufacturers increase their market share.

He frequently speaks at toy industry conferences, and was named Ambassador to the United States for the Spielwarenmesse International Toy Fair in Nuremberg, Germany. In recognition of his prominence in the toy industry, Richard is member of the National Toy Hall of Fame voting committee. We spoke to Richard about the growth of tech in the toy industry and his passion: challenging the gender bias in the toy industry.

Flightpath: How important is the tech toy category for the toy industry?

Richard Gottlieb: Moore’s Echo is a law that, when it was first pronounced, said that whatever is cutting edge technology will be a toy in 20 years.  It is now down to about 7 years and dropping rapidly (that is according to my contacts at the MIT Media Lab).  When you consider that the cost difference between domestic drones and toy drones is negligible you realize that there is a blurring between what is a toy and what is not.

Flightpath: Have tech toys changed the way children play?

Richard Gottlieb: It has allowed adults to play like children (think iPhones and iPads) and children to play like adults (think LeapPad explorer which is for all extents and purposes an iPad for three year olds).

Flightpath: Do the toys we play with as children play a role in the paths men and women take in careers?  

Richard Gottlieb: Absolutely.  Scratch an architect and you will find a former Lego fanatic.  In fact it both impedes (think the lack of women in the hard sciences) and speeds (again think of Lego) children into what they will study in college and turn into careers.

Flightpath: Tech toys for adults seem to be still marketed to men. How are tech toys created for children marketed?  

Richard Gottlieb:It is actually the most gender blind segment.   Unlike toy ads and merchandising, there is little in the way of gender identification via color and license.

Flightpath: This past holiday season we saw some backlash including the YouTube video of a little girl questioning the gender specific marketing strategy of the toy industry while standing in the pink toy aisle. Do you see evidence of a change coming when it comes to gender specific toy marketing?

Richard Gottlieb: Hamleys, the world’s most venerated toy store, recently announced it was doing away with gender based signage and merchandising.

Toys R Us told me that due to the seminar I did with them on gender and toys they increased the number of girls depicted in their Christmas toy catalog.

Email Marketing: Building Your Email List

All email campaigns start with a subscriber list. With email marketing so popular, most of us are on at least a few of theses lists. You may even be wondering how to build one of your own. Of course, there are plenty of ways, both bad and good, to do this.

This is part of a series of blog posts aimed at raising awareness of email marketing, its advantages, and its best practices — from designing your first eblast to deploying your newsletter to millions of customer inboxes, and beyond.

All email campaigns start with a subscriber list. With email marketing so popular, most of us are on at least a few of theses lists. You may even be wondering how to build one of your own. Of course, there are plenty of ways, both bad and good, to do this. As I mentioned in my last post (“Email Marketing: More Relevant Than Ever”), federal law requires the informed consent of all your email recipients.

So, if you can’t just buy a list from marketers, what are you supposed to do? You make one from scratch. With the right tools and tricks at your disposal, you won’t just have a simple subscriber list, you’ll have a fully engaged email legion of fans for your brand.

Mailing Lists Callouts

Got a popular website? Build a mailing list component. Make it highly visible. Going “above the fold” increases the chances people will happen upon it. Also, make it easy to use. Place as few fields in the component as possible. In the snapshot below, Groupon has a large, intuitive, and simple mailing list callout. The user has to only designate an email address and a city and they’re in. No difficult questions, no invasive requests, no intimidating forms that send their users running for the hills.

By contrast, the Steve Madden mailing list below feels like you’re filling out a tax form.

Social Media and Email

There’s been a lot of talk of social media competing with email as the dominant form of digital communication. In reality, the two are better complements than rivals. If you have a Facebook fan page or Twitter feed with a lot of followers, use it as a platform to encourage them to sign up for your eblasts and enewsletters.

You can even use emails to drive your mailing lists. Include “forward to a friend” links in your enewsletters. Give calls to action to sign up for your list in your company’s email signatures.

Offline Methods

Get in the habit of bringing up your mailing list in 1-on-1 conversations and phone calls with business contacts, but be tactful. In your pitch, make it clear what special offers or value they’re going to get out of your emails. It couldn’t hurt to incentivize them with a free gift upon signing up. For networking events, put a link on your business card to your company’s email signup page.

Welcome Emails

Once you win over email recipients, make them feel valued. Send them a welcome email, thanking them for signing up. Use it as an opportunity to better acquaint your clients and future customers with the goods and services you offer. And of course, let them know what’s in store for them in terms of email content.

And Once You Get Your List…

Email represents another channel to keep the conversation going with customers and/or clients, but once you have them, don’t take your recipients for granted. It only takes one click of the “Spam” button in their email client to end the conversation for good. If you want to keep your subscribers on your list, it is also important to have meaningful, engaging, relevant content for them. Catch my next blog post for best practices on email campaign content.

Interview: Meghan Cross of StyleCaster

StyleCaster recently had a makeover enhancing their news site and social hub for the fashion and beauty community. We interviewed Meghan Cross, Director of Communications, about the new layout, trends and the philosophy behind StyleCaster as told by their fearless leader Ari Goldberg “At one time, content was king; but today, conversation is king.”

Back in the day you couldn’t wait until the latest issue of Vogue to come to your door step, find out trends for the upcoming season and plan accordingly for your fashion and beauty acquisitions.  Nowadays, it just seems like you can get up to the minute news, trends and fads within seconds, catching yourself saying, “Ugh, that was so 20 seconds ago. I’m all about neon right now!”

Meet one of the morning reads in the Flightpath office: StyleCaster.  Their mission? Bring “Style to the People.”  The site has undergone a recent makeover allowing the style community to easily interact with each other, bloggers and editorial staff, taking the power of content and conversation to the next level with a visual layout inspired by Tumblr and Pinterest. Flightpath recently checked in with Meghan Cross, Director of Communications at StyleCaster, to discuss the new and improved Stylecaster and how the site has become a social hub for the fashion and beauty community.

Flightpath: How did StyleCaster come about? Was there a specific inspiration, or a void you recognized in the online space?

Meghan Cross: Since day one, StyleCaster’s mission has been to bring Style to the People. What this means is, we empower people who are enthusiastic about style by giving them a platform where they can not only read content about the latest trends, but they can also be active members of the conversation.

Flightpath: What makes StyleCaster stand out from other sites?

Meghan Cross: With the new site that we launched last week, StyleCaster has become the first place where you can share and discover style alongside premium editorial content. People worldwide now have the opportunity to engage with everyone from bloggers and thought-leaders to designers and retailers in one style-centric environment: StyleCaster.com.

Flightpath: How would you describe the StyleCaster community?

Meghan Cross: The StyleCaster community is a growing group of 2.5 million unique monthly visitors who are engaged, plugged-in, and ready to talk style. They Tweet, Like, Digg, Pin, Poke, Check-in, and – most importantly – check-out what [others are] sharing on StyleCaster. And depending on what they think of those StyleCaster submissions, they Love.

Flightpath: You’re not only the “one stop shop for fashionistas,” but for beauty junkies as well with Beauty High.  Was that in the works from the beginning or was there a demand for more coverage in beauty?

Meghan Cross: StyleCaster introduced Beauty High about a year ago when we realized the appetite for it within our community. Fortunately, StyleCaster’s extremely insightful beauty team was able to create so much compelling content and conversation within the past year that Beauty High has now taken a digitally viral life of its own.

Flightpath: How did social media help you take the site(s) to the next level?

Meghan Cross: From the get-go, our savvy social media guru made sure to leverage our alert Twitter following to build brand awareness and drive readers to Beauty High, through everyday tweets via @StyleCaster as well as our weekly #StyleChat. Every Wednesday at 3pm ET, @StyleCaster hosts a virtual office hours to help you answer all of your style questions, using the hashtag #StyleChat. Given the success of this weekly dialogue (we’ve had everyone from @Bergdorfs and @JBrandJeans to @WhiteGirlProblems co-host!), we have @BeautyHigh kick off their own #BeautyChat this past Friday. Definitely jump in this week for fun tips and tidbits.

Flightpath: You recently held the State of Style summit – can you tell us about it and what you’ve learned from it?  Will you be holding more summits in the future?

Meghan Cross: Sure! StyleCaster held the inaugural State of Style Summit at 92YTribeca on February 7th, just in time to kick off New York Fashion Week. We worked closely with 92Y and Ford Motor Company to provide the counterpoint narrative to Fashion Week. The Summit united the industry’s most inspiring tastemakers, including Lauren Bush, Rebecca Minkoff, one of my professional role models, Tom Florio, and even my former Cornell Professor Van Dyk Lewis, in order to advance the conversation around new media and style. What we learned was that the industry needs a platform to converse. Both consumers and thought-leaders have a true appetite for open dialogues over one-way content. Believe it or not, we planned the entire event in 60 days, so it was exciting to say the least. And given the positively humbling feedback, we will most certainly hold our second semi-annual State of Style Summit in time to kick off September’s Fashion Week.

Flightpath: What is important for both brands and sites to understand about using new media to their advantage?

Meghan Cross: StyleCaster’s fearless leader Ari Goldberg always says, “At one time, content was king; but today, conversation is king.” This gem of a one-liner is what StyleCaster sleeps and breathes when we work with brands, bloggers, fellow publishers, and – of course – the everyday style enthusiast. The goal of StyleCaster’s new platform is to be the homepage of style, where you can have a sophisticated dialogue, with a tone set by our expert editors.

Flightpath: Do you see style and beauty as a breakout social media leader? Like what the automotive category was to television?

Meghan Cross: Style and beauty are visual industries, and if there’s one thing we’ve learned from the success of Instagram, Pinterest, StyleCaster’s recent launch, and even Facebook tagging, [it’s that] we all love some imagery. Online tools become viral phenomena if they’re visually-inclined, especially if they help us share pictures of the springtime neons our friends are wearing.

Flightpath: Thoughts on Pinterest, the Fancy or other similar user curated photo communities?  Seems like everyone has a heightened style IQ and are only getting more intelligent all the time.

Meghan Cross: That’s definitely the point! Communities where you can share your flare are what empower people to become experts, especially when there’s editorial content to set the tone for the conversation. What I like most about the new StyleCaster.com is that all submissions are ranked by popularity, as decided upon by everyone, so you can really determine what sticks in the style community in a very tangible way.

Flightpath: Where do you fit in with this trend? What does it mean to the style industry as a whole?

Meghan Cross: The front seat at Fashion Week is no longer a coveted spot where one person can sit and set the trends. Susie Q in Idaho with a huge Twitter following can just as easily convince her friends that floral denim is the next best thing. That’s what StyleCaster and Style to the People is all about!

Flightpath: What do you love most about being in the style/beauty business?

Meghan Cross: There is so much budding creativity buzzing about the business – from visual gurus and stylists to designers and every editor in between – that I’m constantly stimulated and entertained. (Plus, at StyleCaster’s HQ, I’m always surrounded by experts who can give me some very helpful tips on a far-too-regular basis!)

Interview: Meghan Cross of StyleCaster

StyleCaster recently had a makeover enhancing their news site and social hub for the fashion and beauty community. We interviewed Meghan Cross, Director of Communications, about the new layout, trends and the philosophy behind StyleCaster as told by their fearless leader Ari Goldberg “At one time, content was king; but today, conversation is king.”

Back in the day you couldn’t wait until the latest issue of Vogue to come to your door step, find out trends for the upcoming season and plan accordingly for your fashion and beauty acquisitions.  Nowadays, it just seems like you can get up to the minute news, trends and fads within seconds, catching yourself saying, “Ugh, that was so 20 seconds ago. I’m all about neon right now!”

Meet one of the morning reads in the Flightpath office: StyleCaster.  Their mission? Bring “Style to the People.”  The site has undergone a recent makeover allowing the style community to easily interact with each other, bloggers and editorial staff, taking the power of content and conversation to the next level with a visual layout inspired by Tumblr and Pinterest. Flightpath recently checked in with Meghan Cross, Director of Communications at StyleCaster, to discuss the new and improved Stylecaster and how the site has become a social hub for the fashion and beauty community.

Flightpath: How did StyleCaster come about? Was there a specific inspiration, or a void you recognized in the online space?

Meghan Cross: Since day one, StyleCaster’s mission has been to bring Style to the People. What this means is, we empower people who are enthusiastic about style by giving them a platform where they can not only read content about the latest trends, but they can also be active members of the conversation.

Flightpath: What makes StyleCaster stand out from other sites?

Meghan Cross: With the new site that we launched last week, StyleCaster has become the first place where you can share and discover style alongside premium editorial content. People worldwide now have the opportunity to engage with everyone from bloggers and thought-leaders to designers and retailers in one style-centric environment: StyleCaster.com.

Flightpath: How would you describe the StyleCaster community?

Meghan Cross: The StyleCaster community is a growing group of 2.5 million unique monthly visitors who are engaged, plugged-in, and ready to talk style. They Tweet, Like, Digg, Pin, Poke, Check-in, and – most importantly – check-out what [others are] sharing on StyleCaster. And depending on what they think of those StyleCaster submissions, they Love.

Flightpath: You’re not only the “one stop shop for fashionistas,” but for beauty junkies as well with Beauty High.  Was that in the works from the beginning or was there a demand for more coverage in beauty?

Meghan Cross: StyleCaster introduced Beauty High about a year ago when we realized the appetite for it within our community. Fortunately, StyleCaster’s extremely insightful beauty team was able to create so much compelling content and conversation within the past year that Beauty High has now taken a digitally viral life of its own.

Flightpath: How did social media help you take the site(s) to the next level?

Meghan Cross: From the get-go, our savvy social media guru made sure to leverage our alert Twitter following to build brand awareness and drive readers to Beauty High, through everyday tweets via @StyleCaster as well as our weekly #StyleChat. Every Wednesday at 3pm ET, @StyleCaster hosts a virtual office hours to help you answer all of your style questions, using the hashtag #StyleChat. Given the success of this weekly dialogue (we’ve had everyone from @Bergdorfs and @JBrandJeans to @WhiteGirlProblems co-host!), we have @BeautyHigh kick off their own #BeautyChat this past Friday. Definitely jump in this week for fun tips and tidbits.

Flightpath: You recently held the State of Style summit – can you tell us about it and what you’ve learned from it?  Will you be holding more summits in the future?

Meghan Cross: Sure! StyleCaster held the inaugural State of Style Summit at 92YTribeca on February 7th, just in time to kick off New York Fashion Week. We worked closely with 92Y and Ford Motor Company to provide the counterpoint narrative to Fashion Week. The Summit united the industry’s most inspiring tastemakers, including Lauren Bush, Rebecca Minkoff, one of my professional role models, Tom Florio, and even my former Cornell Professor Van Dyk Lewis, in order to advance the conversation around new media and style. What we learned was that the industry needs a platform to converse. Both consumers and thought-leaders have a true appetite for open dialogues over one-way content. Believe it or not, we planned the entire event in 60 days, so it was exciting to say the least. And given the positively humbling feedback, we will most certainly hold our second semi-annual State of Style Summit in time to kick off September’s Fashion Week.

Flightpath: What is important for both brands and sites to understand about using new media to their advantage?

Meghan Cross: StyleCaster’s fearless leader Ari Goldberg always says, “At one time, content was king; but today, conversation is king.” This gem of a one-liner is what StyleCaster sleeps and breathes when we work with brands, bloggers, fellow publishers, and – of course – the everyday style enthusiast. The goal of StyleCaster’s new platform is to be the homepage of style, where you can have a sophisticated dialogue, with a tone set by our expert editors.

Flightpath: Do you see style and beauty as a breakout social media leader? Like what the automotive category was to television?

Meghan Cross: Style and beauty are visual industries, and if there’s one thing we’ve learned from the success of Instagram, Pinterest, StyleCaster’s recent launch, and even Facebook tagging, [it’s that] we all love some imagery. Online tools become viral phenomena if they’re visually-inclined, especially if they help us share pictures of the springtime neons our friends are wearing.

Flightpath: Thoughts on Pinterest, the Fancy or other similar user curated photo communities?  Seems like everyone has a heightened style IQ and are only getting more intelligent all the time.

Meghan Cross: That’s definitely the point! Communities where you can share your flare are what empower people to become experts, especially when there’s editorial content to set the tone for the conversation. What I like most about the new StyleCaster.com is that all submissions are ranked by popularity, as decided upon by everyone, so you can really determine what sticks in the style community in a very tangible way.

Flightpath: Where do you fit in with this trend? What does it mean to the style industry as a whole?

Meghan Cross: The front seat at Fashion Week is no longer a coveted spot where one person can sit and set the trends. Susie Q in Idaho with a huge Twitter following can just as easily convince her friends that floral denim is the next best thing. That’s what StyleCaster and Style to the People is all about!

Flightpath: What do you love most about being in the style/beauty business?

Meghan Cross: There is so much budding creativity buzzing about the business – from visual gurus and stylists to designers and every editor in between – that I’m constantly stimulated and entertained. (Plus, at StyleCaster’s HQ, I’m always surrounded by experts who can give me some very helpful tips on a far-too-regular basis!)

Top 7 Things to Do at SXSW (That You Would Never Do at Home)

While the Flightpath team was hard at work going to sessions and networking at the SXSW Interactive conference, we assigned one Flightpath correspondent to concentrate on the other opportunities at SXSW. The ones you probably will not see covered in Mashable, Engadget or the New York Times. The fun ones.

While the Flightpath team was hard at work going to sessions and networking at the SXSW Interactive conference, we assigned one Flightpath correspondent to concentrate on the other opportunities at SXSW. The ones you probably will not see covered in Mashable, Engadget or the New York Times. The fun ones.

Our Fearless Fun Correspondent, Cavol Forbes, was assigned to find 7 opportunities to break out of the role of “agency person at a conference” and go a little crazy.

Here is Cavol’s list of Top 7 Things to Do at SXSW Because There is No Way You Would Ever Do Them at Home:

Ride a Mechanical Bull: It’s Texas, after all. Tip: keep it classy and wear a blazer while riding. One on-looker commented, “You rode that bull elegantly.” Warning: your co-workers will document this and before you know it, your embarrassing moment has gone viral company-wide.


Crowd Surf: Not just for rock stars and athletes anymore. If you’re going to crowd surf, you’ll have to sign a waiver. Don’t read it, just sign; it’ll scare you away.

Go Stemware-Optional: In Austin, the barkeeps (they’re called barkeeps there) are nice and will often offer free booze. Accept at all times! Whenever possible, drink directly from the bottle. While this is not common practice in New York City, in Austin this is perfectly acceptable.


Be the Only One Dancing: People will point, laugh and take pictures. Note: Liquid courage strongly recommended.


Bum a Cigar from a Stranger: In Austin, it’s best to embrace every opportunity you have to be a cowboy for a minute. This extends to manly activities like smoking cigars. However, don’t inhale. You’ll regret it.


Go to a Roller Derby: When you see a sign for a roller derby, it’s best to walk in acting like a regular. Tip to acting like a regular: Don’t be shocked when the roller ref yells “Pillow Fight!” and two women try to smother each other with pillows. Just stomp and cheer for the woman who wins. Tip: You will know who wins because she is the one still breathing.


Eat Street Meat: Hot dog carts in New York are for tourists and construction workers. In Austin, you are a tourist, so eat up and let your co-workers take pictures of you doing it.

How to Design Web Sites and Products for Women – SXSW Session Recap

A tactical mistake that brands and agencies make when marketing products to women online is to take a regular website and “shrink it and pink it”. This means there is little product info, and stereotypes are resorted to which can insult women and alienate men.

Walking through the halls of SXSW its hard not to notice that most attendees are male, since men still outnumber women in tech. This extends to the experience women have on the web. SXSW we attended a really interesting panel by Brad Nunnally and Jessica Ivins titled “Designing Experiences for Women.” In which they discussed how to create web sites for women and how to create products for women.

Women make up 58% of e-commerce shoppers and 80% of online purchases. So it is important to consider how women use sites and products when marketing to them. However, when brands and agencies are tasked with designing a site or launching a product for women there are some classic mistakes that are made.

Case in point, the iPad. Though now it is a household name, we were reminded of all the feminine hygiene jokes that arose when women first heard the name iPad. The presenters questioned whether Apple considered female users or even talked to any woman when developing the name for their new tablet.

A tactical mistake that brands and agencies make when marketing products to women online is to take a regular website and “shrink it and pink it”. This means there is little product info, and stereotypes are resorted to which can insult women and alienate men.

Products that could be used by either gender are marketed to ladies by taking the same product and turning it and it’s accompanying website pink. For instance, Dell made a micro site to sell laptops to women. According to the copy on the site, women could use this laptop to calculate calories, count carbs and look up recipes. The site’s design scheme was also predominately pink. The panel pointed out that not only is this resorting to stereotypes about women, but would alienate men who may want to buy the product.

When designing a site to promote a product for a male audience, the pendulum swings the other way. Brands and agencies have a tendency to “overmanify” sites and marketing campaigns that promote products for men.

For instance, Dr. Pepper 10 is a low calorie soda. In order to market to men the commercial are “overmanified” with phrases like “10 manly calories” and boldly declarations that the soda is “not for women.”

The presenters pointed out that women make up the vast majority of diet soda drinkers and this approach will alienate them, as well as men who may feel the messaging is too stereotypical. They suggested a more gender-neutral approach, which would have wider appeal.

When designing for women avoid myths, stereotypes, and assumptions. One myth is that women do not play video games. The truth is that 75% of casual gamers are women. They tend to be less likely to play a game all day than men, seeking shorter gaming experiences especially on mobile devices.

To avoid stereotypes- check if your site passes the Buchannan test. Do the site images feature women outside of the home? Are images restricted to women in a mother role? Are women featured doing yoga?  Then that is a fail.

By focusing on other activities, brands and agencies can make a stronger connection with women. Stock images of women laughing while they eat salad are just not relatable. Brands and agencies also frequently feature women smiling while doing yoga when promoting an active lifestyle or healthy living brand, women are less likely to be featured playing golf, tennis or running.

Another common myth is that women only take care of children. Women take care of many people other than children. By making social sharing prominent on a site, this encourages sharing of site information. Women take on a care giving role with adult parents, siblings, co-workers and friends.  They are often researching products and services for others than themselves. Women do not just stay at home with children all day, even if a woman is a stay at home mom she has connections and activities outside of the home. Women will relate to sites that feature women in all the roles they assume, including but not limited to motherhood.

For instance, women often use social sharing to send potential purchases to spouses and friends for approval before they finalize a purchase. By making social sharing prominent on a site, sales increase.

Agencies and brands should put themselves in the shoes of their user. Even if the user is of the opposite gender.

The presenters also discussed visible vs. transparent design. Visible design is obviously geared towards one gender. Such a site can have a gender specific color scheme and copy without worrying about alienating the other gender, since the product is only used by one gender.

The panel used the Gillette Venus razor for women as an example. The product was specifically designed to be used by women in the shower and on legs. The razor was not designed to be used by men for facial shaving, therefore the site’s feminine color scheme and design works.

Transparent design should be used to promote a product that may be used by either gender, even if it is typically used by one gender. Transparent design doesn’t overtly tout one gender. The panel put forward the example of the Nintendo Wii. This product was marketed in a gender-neutral fashion. The imagery includes women, men and children and has been a hit among families.

When designing for women, web developers and even product developers focus on color. Instead of turning a site pink, concentrate on creating a great user experience. Women have a low tolerance for bad design and will abandon a site that they find frustrating.

The panel explained that while men will spend time trying to “conquer” sites or products that take time to figure out, women will not because they are busier and spend more time taking care of others in their life.

Women are also more interested in product descriptions that are direct and inform her of what task the product accomplishes or what benefit it will have to her life or the lives of people she cares about, rather than a list of product specs. Craft product narrative around product features and user benefits instead of specs.

Answering the question, How to design products for women, is a tough one, but a fair one. Final thought from the panel: rather than making beer pink, ask women why they don’t drink beer then design against your findings.

 

SXSW Round-Up: Do QR Codes Really Suck?

QR codes: Just another over-exposed trend, or a meaningful part of cross-platform marketing strategy? I went to a SXSW Interactive presentation called “11 Reason Why QR Codes Suck” to find out.

QR codes: Just another over-exposed trend, or a meaningful part of cross-platform marketing strategy? There’s been no shortage of backlash since QR codes first started popping up everywhere from magazine ads to in-store displays and even outdoor billboards. Is the criticism justified, are QR codes just in their infancy, or is there already value to be found in using them smartly?

To find out, I attended a seminar at the 2012 SXSW Interactive conference titled, “11 Reason Why QR Codes Suck.” It was conducted by David Wachs of Cellit.com, a mobile marketing company, as an extension of his widely-shared blog post of the same name. Here’s what I found out:

  • QR codes were invented 20 years ago by Toyota to keep track of inventory on car parts (see our previous post, “Shazam Ads Succeed Where QR Codes Fail”).
  • Americans still don’t know what QR codes are. Want proof? Check out Pictures of People Scanning QR Codes on Tumblr.  Wachs quoted an independent study of QR code awareness among college students with smart phones. Here are the top findings from that study:
    • Most didn’t know what a QR code was or have a QR reader installed
    • Many thought just taking a picture would do it
    • QR codes often don’t work
    • They take too long. By the way, “QR” stands for “Quick Response”
  • There wasn’t much opposition to the statement that “QR codes suck” from other attendees. Though one person noted it’s not QRs that suck, but frequently their execution. That segued into an open discussion referencing epic QR fails; there are tons out there, but my favorites are listed in “10 Funniest QR Code Fails” from Mashable.
  •  Here are some of the most typical blunders:
    •  QRs in silly places, like areas with no data coverage, on moving vehicles (accident waiting to happen) or on billboards on highways (another accident waiting to happen).
    • QRs for the sake of having a QR, because that’s what others are doing. If your QR code only takes the user to your home page, just write out the URL. That way at least there’s an extra opportunity to reference the brand name.
    • QRs that direct people to non-mobile optimized web pages. That’s just kind of rude.
    • QRs that take up too much real estate. Marketers know how difficult it is to communicate your message without enough space. QR codes have to be sized based on how far away you expect users to be. If you’re putting a QR on a billboard, the QR may end up being the largest thing on it. Is it worth it?
  • A new critique (at least to me) on Wachs’ list was,  “QR codes stop people from being mobile.” Let’s face it, people typically don’t stop in their tracks to read ads on the street. You have a few seconds to grab the user’s attention and drive home some messaging. To scan a QR, you’ve gotta first stop, get your phone out, launch the app and then scan before you’re mobile again.

Photo: A collage of QR codes from SXSW 2012

In my opinion, most problems with the application of QR codes will fall into one of two categories:

  1. Blunders because of not enough thought (like QR codes in underground subways).
  2. Blunders because of too much thought (QR codes overcomplicating simple functions, like calls to action for “go to brand.com”).

If you’re a marketer using QR codes, ask yourself these few key questions now:

  • Does my target audience fall into the ideal demographic for QR code users (i.e., young smart phone users).
  • Is there a valuable pay off? Why should a user scan this code?
  • Is the ad going to run where it is fully accessible?
  • Would I scan it if this weren’t my ad?

If your answer to any of these questions is no, then say no to the QR for now.

SXSW Round-Up: Do QR Codes Really Suck?

QR codes: Just another over-exposed trend, or a meaningful part of cross-platform marketing strategy? I went to a SXSW Interactive presentation called “11 Reason Why QR Codes Suck” to find out.

QR codes: Just another over-exposed trend, or a meaningful part of cross-platform marketing strategy? There’s been no shortage of backlash since QR codes first started popping up everywhere from magazine ads to in-store displays and even outdoor billboards. Is the criticism justified, are QR codes just in their infancy, or is there already value to be found in using them smartly?

To find out, I attended a seminar at the 2012 SXSW Interactive conference titled, “11 Reason Why QR Codes Suck.” It was conducted by David Wachs of Cellit.com, a mobile marketing company, as an extension of his widely-shared blog post of the same name. Here’s what I found out:

  • QR codes were invented 20 years ago by Toyota to keep track of inventory on car parts (see our previous post, “Shazam Ads Succeed Where QR Codes Fail”).
  • Americans still don’t know what QR codes are. Want proof? Check out Pictures of People Scanning QR Codes on Tumblr.  Wachs quoted an independent study of QR code awareness among college students with smart phones. Here are the top findings from that study:
    • Most didn’t know what a QR code was or have a QR reader installed
    • Many thought just taking a picture would do it
    • QR codes often don’t work
    • They take too long. By the way, “QR” stands for “Quick Response”
  • There wasn’t much opposition to the statement that “QR codes suck” from other attendees. Though one person noted it’s not QRs that suck, but frequently their execution. That segued into an open discussion referencing epic QR fails; there are tons out there, but my favorites are listed in “10 Funniest QR Code Fails” from Mashable.
  •  Here are some of the most typical blunders:
    •  QRs in silly places, like areas with no data coverage, on moving vehicles (accident waiting to happen) or on billboards on highways (another accident waiting to happen).
    • QRs for the sake of having a QR, because that’s what others are doing. If your QR code only takes the user to your home page, just write out the URL. That way at least there’s an extra opportunity to reference the brand name.
    • QRs that direct people to non-mobile optimized web pages. That’s just kind of rude.
    • QRs that take up too much real estate. Marketers know how difficult it is to communicate your message without enough space. QR codes have to be sized based on how far away you expect users to be. If you’re putting a QR on a billboard, the QR may end up being the largest thing on it. Is it worth it?
  • A new critique (at least to me) on Wachs’ list was,  “QR codes stop people from being mobile.” Let’s face it, people typically don’t stop in their tracks to read ads on the street. You have a few seconds to grab the user’s attention and drive home some messaging. To scan a QR, you’ve gotta first stop, get your phone out, launch the app and then scan before you’re mobile again.

Photo: A collage of QR codes from SXSW 2012

In my opinion, most problems with the application of QR codes will fall into one of two categories:

  1. Blunders because of not enough thought (like QR codes in underground subways).
  2. Blunders because of too much thought (QR codes overcomplicating simple functions, like calls to action for “go to brand.com”).

If you’re a marketer using QR codes, ask yourself these few key questions now:

  • Does my target audience fall into the ideal demographic for QR code users (i.e., young smart phone users).
  • Is there a valuable pay off? Why should a user scan this code?
  • Is the ad going to run where it is fully accessible?
  • Would I scan it if this weren’t my ad?

If your answer to any of these questions is no, then say no to the QR for now.

The Redesign of Google from the Mouths of Those Who Led it

Prior to the summer of 2011, no one would have accused Google web products of having the most pleasing visual interface. We attended a deeply insightful SXSW session on their historic redesign. This is what we learned.

Prior to the summer of 2011, no one would have accused Google web products of having the cleanest or most pleasing visual interface. Several of us from Flightpath listened to a deeply insightful SXSW session about the historic summer 2011 redesign that affected nearly all of Google’s web products. We heard insight directly from the design leads from Search, Mail, Maps, and so on.

Here are the insights and takeaways that we found the most fascinating:

  • For the very first time anywhere, Google presented comps to the public of an ill-fated, unknown major redesign from 2007
  • The 2011 redesign effort was jumpstarted by a simple IM early that year from Larry Page to the Creative Labs group in New York City, asking them to take stab at redesigning all of Google
  • That request netted a fast design effort, where the designers in New York were left on their own to develop a “concept car” of a unified visual language for all of Google’s web products
  • Interestingly enough, the ultimate finished redesign looked very similar to this very first “concept car”
  • In contrast to the 2007 redesign effort, where the deliverable was a long presentation with exposition and process explanation, the initial first creative in 2011 consisted solely of 10-12 “before and after comps” on 11×17 color printouts. The lesson here is not that every design presentation can solely be done through large printouts, but that you have to recognize and think through how best to present to a given stakeholder.  In this case, large printouts laid out on a table worked better when presenting to the top Google troika of Eric Schmitt, Larry Page and Sergey Brin
  • In April 2011, Larry Page gave the go-ahead for the redesign with a ridiculous goal of end-of-summer launch. So audacious was the goal that the project was likened internally to the “moonshot” in the sixties, and the project was given the code name “Kennedy”
  • The project was given #1 priority and trumped all new feature development across all affected products
  • Dropping support for older browsers was critical in successfully launching the redesign on time
  • While many design standards such as use of a consistent grid system were codified, elements like fonts have yet to be standardized for various reasons (latency of web fonts, unsupported foreign character sets, etc.)
  • An HTML/CSS Prototype was critical to collaborate with development. In fact, code would be culled from these prototypes to create an online, living style guide through which internal development teams could see interfaces and steal/grab CSS code. The individual product teams would in turn contribute additional elements back to this style guide
  • Through the help of this style guide, teams were able to give even internal tools the redesign treatment as well
  • It should come to no surprise to anyone that Google likes data.  But interestingly, they started much of the testing of the redesign with more qualitative tests. 80 trusted internal Google participants would be surveyed after seeing each comp for 10 seconds
  • Of course there was also plenty of quantitative research, much based around using, not shockingly, search data. The well-documented “test for the right blue link color” typified this
  • The redesigned Gmail was tested by way of “dog-fooding”: A forced launch for all company employees. The backlash was considerable, especially to the increased line spacing implemented, and was coined “Gmailageddon.”  The Google design team chose to be patient and acknowledge that much of initial resistance to the new design was due “change aversion”.  Over time, users eventually found more favor with the new design, though some design concessions were made regarding line spacing by way of introducing a line-spacing setting option
  • Given that the new design language made its mass introduction with the Google+ launch in June 2011, many mistakenly attribute the redesign as originating from the Google+ product. In fact, by April 2011, Google+ was nearly complete with an entirely different visual design and the Google+ team had to scramble to successfully integrate the new redesign language in time for their launch

It was not too long ago when the feeling about Google web products was that they work great, but look like sh!t. Both as a Google user (and who isn’t one?) and a designer, I am both appreciative and impressed by how the Google design team has elevated design to the forefront of Google web products.

How Google+ is Being Integrated With AdWords & Other Google Products

Google+ logo

With Google+, Google’s fledgling social network, one thing is clear: The search giant is determined to make it a success, incorporating Google+ into many of its other products and services that impact brands.

With Google+, Google’s fledgling social network, one thing is clear: The search giant is determined to make it a success, incorporating Google+ into many of its other products and services that impact brands. Whether this is a tactic to force Google+ adoption or a way to improve its other products is debatable, but ultimately, Google+ is becoming a part of several core Google services, and agencies must take note.

Google AdWords

When starting a campaign in AdWords, advertisers now have Google+ integration as an option.Google+ AdWords integrationIf you opt in to associating your ads with your Google+ page, any +1 click attributed to the ad will also count towards your Google+ brand page. As Google pushes Google+ to play more of a role in search, this could be a beneficial feature on both an SEM and SEO level. In the past, paid search and organic search were neatly separated; now, the line is blurring.

Google Organic Search

Google+ pages are slowly being included in organic search results in a special sidebar. Below is a screenshot of a Search Engine Results Page (SERP) I received after searching for “music.”

Google+ SEOThis is valuable space dedicated solely to Google+ pages – having your page show up in these results could be a huge driver of traffic. Moreover, note the link at the bottom, which tells you how to get your page to appear there. It takes you here:

How to make your Google+ profile show in searchAgain, just as Google is enticing AdWords advertisers to use Google+, they’re doing so with brands here, banking that the extra visibility in search results will encourage adoption and usage. If it sticks, it could be a huge change to how we approach search.

Google Latitude

I know what you’re thinking: What the hell is Google Latitude? (That was the question I most received after inviting friends to join the service.) For those who don’t know – of which I suspect there are many – Latitude is Google’s Foursquare-esque app: go somewhere, check in. Recently, it was linked exclusively to Google+. This popped up on my Google+ profile, after a check-in at a local restaurant:Google Latitude info in Google+For Android users, a recent update to Google Latitude has added leaderboards, awarding users points for check-ins, with promised Google+ integration in the near future. What implications might this new game element on Latitude have on search, or the Google+ pages of places users are checking into?

Integration doesn’t end here, of course. We’ve seen Google+ functionality pop-up in Gmail, Google Maps and more. The lesson: while most of the industry has watched Google+ from a distance, excited by the high early adoption numbers but dismayed by the lack of usage, it may turn out to be an essential marketing tool. As Google continues to integrate Google+ across its product line – especially organic and paid search – it would be unwise to ignore the social network.

Facebook Timeline: Brand Pages Launched

Brands have one month to monitor their competitors’ adoption of Facebook Timeline and figure out how to make Timeline work for them. Here’s an early look at the approach taken by brands who embraced the conversion to Timeline today.

Facebook Timeline for brand pages was announced this morning on the new platform for breaking tech news- The Today Show. Brands have the option of using Timeline starting today, and all brand pages will be converted to Timeline on March 30th. So brands have one month to monitor their competitors’ adoption of Facebook Timeline and figure out how to make Timeline work for them. We thought we would take an early look at the approach taken by brands who embraced the conversion to Timeline today.


Coca-Cola didn’t remove the post from their Timeline when they updated their cover photo to the new larger image required for the transition to Timeline. The Timeline cover photo was updated at 5:06 am EST, which could make Coca-Cola the first brand to make the switch. Coca-Cola has posts going back to the companies founding in 1886, using Timeline to show off the company’s lengthy history. Timeline makes perfect sense for brands who have been around for a long time, but how are brands who haven’t been around for 120+ years using Timeline?

 

Magnolia Bakery is the New York bakery made famous in Sex and the City. Their approach to Timeline is to make you hungry. By using the Timeline cover photo to show the breadth of the bakery’s line of goods and artistic presentation, they are a great demonstration of how a small business can use Timeline to visually engage consumers.

 

Apps used to reside in tabs along the left hand side of Facebook pages. With the unveiling of Timeline, tabs are a thing of the past. Apps have moved to the front and center of brand pages. Each app is displayed with an image underneath the cover photo, similar to the old pre-Timeline photo strip.

Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong foundation unveiled a cohesive approach to Timeline. Each app’s image coordinates with the Timeline cover photo. Livestrong also puts their message first. Unlike Coca-Cola and Magnolia Bakery, Livestrong opted out of using space within their app bar to promote the number of likes their page has. Instead they are using the space to promote apps where people can invite friends and become involved in the Livestrong cause.

Facebook Timeline for brand pages is just hours old, it will be interesting to see how brands roll out innovative uses of Timeline over the next 30 days.

Email Marketing: More Relevant Than Ever

Email Marketing: More Relevant Than Ever

With each new social network hitting the limelight, social media becomes a sexier force on the web. Email, by contrast, remains a largely unchanged technology since Ray Tomlinson sent the first email in 1971. Yet email still remains a highly profitable marketing channel. Here’s the reason why.

This is the first in a series of blog posts aimed at raising awareness of email marketing, its advantages, and its best practices — from designing your first eblast to deploying your newsletter to millions of customer inboxes, and beyond.

Why Email?

Facebook. Twitter. Pinterest. LinkedIn. With each new social network hitting the limelight, social media becomes a sexier force on the web. Email, by contrast, remains a largely unchanged technology since Ray Tomlinson sent the first email in 1971.

Over the decades we got carbon copy recipients, file attachments, and HTML-based emails, but that was it. No “like” buttons, status updates, or share functionality. Just some text, images, links, and a subject line.

That being said, email is a marketing channel your business can’t afford to do without.
Why? First, it’s profitable. As Felicity Evans of Smashing Magazine points out, email still has a very high ROI — an estimated $44 for each $1 spent in 2011.

Evans also reminds us that more Americans have been introduced to email than social networks. It’s simply been around a lot longer. Finally, the Smashing article makes the point that email is a unique identifier. In other words, most people have a couple addresses to their name, but are members of many different social networks.

Additionally, your email campaigns can help leverage a stronger social media presence and vice versa. “Share” buttons at the top of your enewsletter can raise visits to your company’s Twitter feed. Newsletter signup callouts on your Facebook page can bring in new subscribers for your eblasts and special offers.

Assuming you’re sold and you want your first email campaign out the door by the end of the week, where do you start? The best place to begin is logistics.

What system is the most efficient for communicating with your customers? What kind of system even sends out thousands, even millions of emails at once? The answer lies in something called an email service provider (ESP).

Finding the Right ESP

The Interactive Advertising Bureau defines an email service provider as, “a business or organization that provides the Email campaign delivery technology. ESPs may also provide services for marketing, advertising and general communication purposes.”

Deciding which ESP to use can be a daunting task. There are many ESPs out there. They vary in size, functionality, and features. Do you go with one of the big names, like ExactTarget, Constant Contact, Lyris, or Experian CheetahMail? Or maybe one of the numerous smaller ones?

It depends on what you need. If you’re a big company that already has a large email list, one of the larger ESPs might be right for you. The costs may be higher, but you’ll get additional perks. Some ESPs offer helpful features like image hosting, round-the-clock tech support, and marketing data on your customers’ viewing habits.

In terms of the larger ESPs, I would recommend ExactTarget. We use ExactTarget in campaign deployments for many of our clients. In addition to the analytics and great technical support offerings I mentioned above, they offer email automation (sending entire chains of emails with the click of a button), triggered sending (automatically sending an email when an end-user performs an action on your website), and more.

On the other hand, if you don’t need all these things, you’re operating on a smaller budget, and you only have a few hundred or thousand subscribers, a smaller ESP may work better for you.

Analytics

Detailed analytics isn’t just for your website and Facebook page. There are a variety of ways to get large amounts of data on how your subscribers will react to your email. As mentioned before, many of the larger ESPs will offer an email-tracking package right out of the box. These will usually give basic statistics. Things like how many subscribers opened your email, clicked a link, unsubscribed from your list, or hit the “Spam” button.

ESPs will also offer statistics on “bounces,” or emails that fail to reach a recipient’s email address because they were undeliverable for whatever reason. Bounce reporting is a very powerful tool as it can sometimes help you diagnose larger issues. If a lot of your subscribers use the same Internet service provider (ISP) and a lot of them suddenly bounce, it’s usually the canary in the coal mine indicating that ISP has blocked your campaigns. In a later blog article, I will detail what to do if this happens.

There are also a lot of free or low-cost analytics vendors out there that can help you get even more information on your subscribers’ habits. Google Analytics shows how visitors arriving at your homepage via your email’s links travel through your whole site. It even has conversion tracking, offering a great chance to see what percentage of sales are due to your email marketing channels.

Litmus, another helpful analytics vendor, tracks what programs and devices your users check their emails with. Do most of your customers view emails on an iPhone, or their office desktop? Do they use Microsoft Outlook, or Gmail? Litmus also gives information on how effective your campaign is in engaging your subscribers. It gives such helpful metrics as the average time your subscribers have your email open for. Are they scanning? Are they reading your every word?

CAN-SPAM Compliance

One pitfall to avoid if you’re just starting out in email marketing is CAN-SPAM. Signed into law in 2003, the CAN-SPAM Act makes it illegal to send unsolicited email, or spam. What this means is that you cannot market your services or products over email unless the recipient has opted in to receive your promotions or newsletters. This concept is also known as permission marketing.

But it’s not enough to let your users opt in. They also have to be able to opt out. Unless you are sending a transactional email (the email equivalent of a receipt), you must place a link somewhere in your communications to a page where your users can unsubscribe. It’s not just the law, but it’s also a great way to avoid customer service nightmares. Think about it. We’ve all been there. We signed up for a service on the Internet and absently left the checkbox clicked for “Please send me your free monthly newsletters and special offers!” Before you know it, you’re getting 10 emails a week that you really don’t care to read. The unsubscribe link at the bottom of that email gives subscribers who got on your list by mistake an easy way out.

Another thing that CAN-SPAM requires is an address. All your marketing emails, transactional or promotional, must contain your company’s physical mailing address. This also helps the consumer in that it shows you’re a real company in a real location somewhere in the world.

If that’s a lot to keep track of, don’t worry. Many larger ESPs have features built in that allow to automatically place your mailing address and unsubscribe link in all your emails. Some even have safeguards that prevent your email from going out unless it is fully CAN-SPAM compliant.

Next Time — Building Your List

It’s easy to see how difficult it is to send emails only to subscribers who opt in, especially if your email campaign list numbers 0 subscribers. The temptation might creep up to go out and buy a subscriber list. Don’t. None of these users have opted in. Not only would sending to them be illegal, but it will also earn you a bad reputation. Users who hit the “Spam” button on a given email address frequently enough will get blacklisted by ISPs. This means all emails you send will bounce.

Besides, there are more ethical, legal, and organic ways to build a subscriber list. In my next post, I will go over the basics of list building and list health. You will be surprised at how easy it is to generate opt ins with some of the resources you already have. Don’t miss it!

Mobile App Review: Fab.com – iPhone, iPad & Android

Fab.com logo

Welcome to the latest installment of Flightpath’s running series of mobile app reviews, where we explore all different kinds of apps, both paid and free. Today we’re looking at an app that offers flash sales of designer and high-end products, often from smaller, lesser-known companies.

Welcome to the latest installment of Flightpath’s running series of mobile app reviews, where we explore all different kinds of apps, both paid and free. Today we’re looking at an app that offers flash sales of designer and high-end products, often from smaller, lesser-known companies.

The App: Fab.com

The Platform: iPhone, iPad and Android

How Much: Free

The Deal: The Fab.com website launched in 2011 as an invite-only destination. Specializing in flash sales of designer products (think vintage-style maps, hand-crafted wood furniture, Japanese vinyl toys, etc.), the site has grown enormously, reaching 1 million members by November 2011.

Each day, Fab emails its members previews of items that will be for sale later on in that day’s featured deals, which usually run for one week or until items sell out. (I’ve actually bought a couple of maps from one designer. Trust me, they’re awesome.) Sometimes, however, I see items for sale but just forget, as often happens in this opened-an-email-then-got-distracted-by-something-else world we live in. Or I miss the sales altogether. So the idea of an app, where I could have quicker, constant access to Fab, is very appealing.

Fab.com mobile app

Features: The Fab.com app opens to the “Fab Home” menu tab, which hosts a New section (recently added items), Shops (Art, Bed & Bath, Books & Media, etc., which groups items by genre), and Ending (sales coming to a close). There’s also a Calendar tab, showcasing items and shops coming in the next week, an Invite tab, and a More tab, featuring your order history, shipping info, a contact form and more.

What We Think/Like: Fab is a essential app for those who are already fans of the website. The look and feel distinctly match the desktop version, which is very smart; it feels as if the app is in continuity with the Fab emails and site experience. The images look excellent, the design and layout are intuitive and visually striking, and it’s very easy to use. If you select an item on sale, the screen shifts to feature a large picture of the item with a corner tag saying how much it’s discounted, and the bottom of the screen features the price and a big “Buy Now!” button. What else do you need?

Fab mobile app

What’s Missing: As far as I can tell, there’s no way to select items – currently or soon-to-be available – and add them to some kind of reminder alert system. There is a shopping cart, but if I see something in the Calendar section that will be available in a week, I may (read: probably will) forget about it by then. If I could tag that item so that I’m alerted as to when it goes on sale, I’d be more likely to buy it. At the very least, I’d come back and use the app again. That said, you do get push notifications for when sales are about to begin and other alerts, so that functionality is kind of there.

Fab mobile app

Overall: Fab – both on its website and now successfully with its app – routinely highlights truly beautiful, unique, well-made products that you may never have heard of otherwise. The app does a great job at presenting everything in an easily navigable and browse-able package. If you aren’t a Fab member, become one; if you are, download this app.

Grade: A-

Pinterest vs TheFancy: Social Media Marketing for Brands

Pinterest has grabbed the attention (and free time) of women and a lot of interest from social media marketers, but there is another quietly emerging player in the social bookmarking space. TheFancy is a visually stunning collection of the coolest images and products from around the web.

Pinterest has grabbed the attention (and free time) of women and a lot of interest from social media marketers, but there is another quietly emerging player in the social bookmarking space.

TheFancy is a visually stunning collection of the coolest images and products from around the web. Instead of adding images to boards like on Pinterest, users “fancy” images and add them to categories for others to view and “fancy” as well.

Users share images the same way on both sites.  Retailers can add Pinterest and TheFancy buttons to images to encourage users to share, but since both sites are relatively new most images come through users clicking a “Pin It” or “Fancy It” button in their browser’s toolbar.

Pinterest and TheFancy differ in the flavor of what is shared. Pinterest has an undeniably feminine Etsy-esque feel. The majority of Pinterest users are women, and as a result there are a lot of home décor, recipes and children’s product shots shared on the site.

TheFancy has a more unisex, urban, minimalist, high-design feel. The differences between each site’s content are obvious when you look at the brands that have a presence on each. Brands currently on Pinterest: Cabot Cheese, Lands’ End and Paula Deen. Brands on TheFancy: Brooklyn Industries, Williams-Sonoma, and Yves St. Laurent.

If you represent a luxury fashion, home décor, or tech brand then adding products to TheFancy is a smart marketing move, because unlike Pinterest- TheFancy is openly working with brands to drive sales through the site.

On Pinterest, if a user (including the brands that have set up Pinterest accounts) posts a price within a pinned image’s description, the price will appear as a banner in the corner of the image. Pinterest will then automatically pull the pinned image into the gifts category on the site. This is great, however Pinterest wants to keep users within Pinterest and is not at this time making it easy for users to leave the site.

In order to reach the original site to make a purchase, Pinterest users have to click pinned images twice. Some users I have talked to were unaware that they could even do this, since when an image is clicked once users are taken to a page where they are encouraged to like, repin or comment on the image within the Pinterest site. There is no prompt or link for Pinterest users to leave Pinterest and visit the original site. Pinterest has been designed as a social media destination.

TheFancy on the other hand, has been designed to easily move users to original sites for product purchase. When an image is clicked in TheFancy, users are presented with a “Buy It” link on the right hand side. Clicking this link will take the user to the original site where that product may be purchased. This is a great feature since the whole focus of the site is discovering products that you may never come across in a retail store.

Users can also unlock special deals from retailers by clicking “Fancy It” on their product photos. These special deals are typically discount codes that can be used at checkout on the retailer’s site. Current deals offered to TheFancy users are featured within a Deals tab at the top of the page, which makes it easy for TheFancy users to find. There is also an easy to find list of retailers on TheFancy, something which is missing on Pinterest at least at the moment.

TheFancy also seems to be here to stay. With significant investment from the French fashion firm PPR, who owns brands such as Gucci, Alexander McQueen Gucci, Bottega Veneta, Yves Saint Laurent and Balenciaga, as well as Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey who is also on the start-up’s board. Yves Saint Laurent announced on Jan. 30th that Fancy buttons will be on every page of the brand’s website.

For social media marketers looking to ride the surge in social bookmarking site popularity, especially to promote luxury and boutique brands- TheFancy is one site to hop on.

Social Media, the Super Bowl and Planned Parenthood

planned parenthood social media

So, within more or less a week, we all got to see the full breadth of living in the viral, social media “activist” world of 2012. Three unmistakable cues to the times we occupy.

Madonna pulls off a stunning Super Bowl half time event complete with historically compelling “people as props” staging and her co-performer M.I.A. flips the bird and mouths off verbal no-nos. The drama didn’t end at halftime, as NBC totally blamed NFL Productions (and vice versa) in a kind of “Human Malfunction” and You Tube is getting page views like crazy – quickly approaching 2 million.

But as Dustin Hoffman’s character in Wag the Dog said, “That’s nothing.” That’s nothing compared to Gisele Bündchen, wife of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, calling out her husband’s teammates for dropping a few too many passes. Yes, she was egged on and yes, it was captured as content and also uploaded to YouTube, where it gained traction. I think the big winner of Giselegate (we know who the losers are) is the guy who got her to make those comments and video it all. He gets drinks for life at any New York bar by just saying “I’m the guy that…”

When Susan G. Komen for the Cure went public with its intention to stop grants of $700,000 to Planned Parenthood because of a “congressional investigation,” Planned Parenthood launched an articulated, highly mobilized and coordinated response that included traditional media tactics – like giving the lead to the Associated Press, ensuring blanket coverage – direct mail to supporters, and a rigorous social component.

According to Opposing Views, “More than 2,000 supporters shared the above email they received immediately on their Facebook wall and on Twitter. Planned Parenthood wrote, “ALERT: Susan G. Komen caves under anti-choice pressure, ends funding for breast cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood health centers.” More than 500 Twitter users retweeted that message.” The numbers and support over social media is astounding: On Facebook, Planned Parenthood has added more than 32,000 fans since last Tuesday; Twitter users sent more than 1.3 million Tweets referencing Planned Parenthood, the Susan G. Komen Foundation and related terms and hashtags, according to a Twitter spokeswoman. This pressure got Komen to change its funding position and gave the VP/strategist behind the move no way out but to resign.

I wrote this blog from the point of view that all three stories couldn’t be more different, yet are similar given the social media forces. People get emotionally into “issue driven” content that is provocative, unscripted, unintended or random – just ask M.I.A. or the now reclusive Gisele. But people really get into content that is agenda based or political (or seemingly so) when it is about people we love or emotional connect to.

Shazam Ads Succeed Where QR Codes Fail

It was around halftime Sunday when I saw the third straight Super Bowl ad with the Shazam logo in the bottom-right corner. I knew Shazam as the app that figured out a song’s title and artist based on a 20 second sample my smartphone recorded. Why is it here? Curious, I whipped out my phone, launched the app and started recording the ad. 20 seconds later, instead of the usual screen disclosing the song and artist info, I saw this.

Curious to see what others thought of this repurposing of the app, I searched out “Shazam” on Twitter. Some people liked it; others compared it to a marketing gimmick that was all too recent.

For the uninitiated, the QR code is a kind of barcode. Advertisers like to stick these complex network of squares on their ads in the hopes that users scan them with their smartphones. Once the phones scan these codes, they are taken to a page with more information about the advertised product. The problem is, most advertisers are lazy and unimaginative with their implementation of QR. They link the QR codes to URLs already mentioned on the ad, place the codes in locations where Internet signals are scarce (most infamously, the New York City Subway), and haven’t done a good job educating the public about the technology.

Like QR codes and other marketing gimmicks, the novelty could fade fast. The standard 30 second ad is a tad short for something that requires you to take out your phone, unlock it, open an app, and wait several seconds to capture a sample. And forget about trying to use this in a loud, crowded bar.

In spite of these drawbacks, I could still see a place for Shazam-enhanced ads when it comes to generating interest.

We’re Acquainted

Unlike QR codes, Shazam is already popular. QR codes began life as an invention by Toyota to track inventory. Shazam is a popular service people use to identify songs. It already has a head start in penetration because so many people enjoy it for its primary use. The image of that soft blue icon with a white “S” over a black circle needs no introduction. There’s a familiarity — a cue that we should be tagging whatever is on screen — something the alien-looking QR code just can’t attain.

We’re Curious

So, we see that icon we know so well, but there is no music playing. Just an ad. There is no readily available context, either. No announcers telling you to tag this commercial to win prices or music. Instead, all the viewer sees is what looks to be an out-of-place icon in ads for Pepsi, Toyota, Best Buy, etc. Naturally, I had to tag these ads when they came on. I was too curious.

The icon’s placement in these ads is the opposite of what we expect. None of the products advertised had anything to do with music or albums. So, why was the icon there? The ad wasn’t going to tell us. We had to go and hunt it down ourselves.

We Like Easter Eggs

What do video games and Easter egg hunts have in common? Both tap into that human desire to discover something. For decades, the video game industry has been sneaking hidden characters, stories and content into its products. They call them “Easter eggs” — hidden things designed to be just barely discoverable.

Advertisers like to use QR codes to link to the product’s URL, even if that URL is a few inches away from the code. There’s no imagination or creativity. And by now, the few of us who know what QR codes do are conditioned to believe they’re a waste of our time to scan for this very reason.

The Shazam interface doesn’t allow for this lack of originality. A successful tag never takes you to someone’s homepage. Instead, you go to a screen where Shazam gives you data on the sound sample you just tagged. In the case of the Super Bowl, advertisers seem to only have the option to place special content on this screen, like a video, a sweepstakes entry form, or an MP3 download. Unlike QR codes, they need to give you an Easter egg to reward your curiosity.

Many have heard of Shazam, but not enough people use it so that everyone knows what to do when the icon appears on TV. There’s something thrilling in it, as you feel like you’re one of the first to download this app which lets you see the pastel blue egg behind the couch before the rest of the family.

See You at the Grammys

As mentioned before, this kind of ad wouldn’t have much of a place during regular programming, but maybe that’s not the point. Perhaps a better use for these campaigns would be for special events where companies typically buy longer spots and users get enough time to tag the ads. With Shazam-enhanced ads planned for the Grammy Awards on February 12th, we won’t have long before we see if the spots find success in engaging consumers where the QR codes failed.

Ferris Bueller Super Bowl Commercial & Social Media: Honda Fumbles the Snap

Ferris Bueller Super Bowl Commercial

When the mystery teaser for a Matthew Broderick/Ferris Bueller Super Bowl commercial dropped last week, the Internet’s collective head almost exploded. Could it be? Finally, a sequel to Ferris Bueller, one of the most beloved movies of the ’80s? And we’d see the trailer at the Super Bowl? Not even a Clockwork Orange-style forced viewing of the abysmal Ferris Bueller TV show could dampen the excitement.

Then, the full ad was posted online before the Super Bowl. And the air was let out of the Internet’s balloon.

It was revealed to be an advertisement not for a Ferris Bueller sequel, but for the Honda CR-V. In the new advertising environment created by social media, Super Bowl ads are now being teased with previews, then released online before the game (see Volkswagen’s Star Wars themed commercials from this year and last, as well), making the actual airing during the Super Bowl a kind of non-event. The point is to drum up more interest, more hype, and make it last. But what about if it backfires?

I argue that it did backfire with the Ferris Bueller ad, because people were genuinely let down when they learned there was no sequel coming. This isn’t to say that the ad is not successful or people don’t like it – there are just as many positive comments as negative ones (thousands) on YouTube, and it is really well done (special props for the “I Am the Walrus” callback). But instead of being surprised or delighted by seeing this for the first time during the Super Bowl – as would have happened in years past – the general consensus after the online reveal was basically, “Oh…it’s a car commercial?” And then no one really cared about its airing during the actual game at all.

If there’s a lesson, it’s that presenting things in the right context and at the right time is more important than ever thanks to social media. Since the teaser did not even show a car, it could only disappoint people to find that there was no new Ferris Bueller movie coming. And would the ad’s shelf life have been longer if they didn’t tease it and didn’t release the entire thing online before the Super Bowl? For brands, knowing when to push things via social is essential to sticking the landing in modern advertising.

Mobile App Review: The Vinyl District – iPhone & Android

The Vinyl District logo

Welcome to the latest installment of Flightpath’s running series of mobile app reviews, where we explore all different kinds of apps, both paid and free. Today we’re looking at an app designed for those who still prefer to buy their music on wax and support local shops.

The App: The Vinyl District

The Platform: iPhone and Android

How Much: Free

The Deal: I’ve talked a lot here in the past about my love of music and vinyl. Even as I stopped listening to CDs the way I used to, I never completely jumped on the MP3 bandwagon because I always valued having a collection. When I realized how much I missed record shopping and just enjoying music at home, I started listening to vinyl. I quickly fell in love with everything about it – the art, the sound, and the shopping. But that’s all getting harder to do as record stores continue to disappear. Thus, I was thrilled when I came across The Vinyl District, a record store locator app.

The Vinyl District app screenshot

Features: The Vinyl District has a simple interface highlighting its main features: a blog, a list of nearby record stores based on your current location, and social interactivity. Click over to the second navigation screen, and there’s a record fair locator, contact form and profile options.

The Vinyl District app blog posts

What We Think/Like: Excellent. The Vinyl District is meant for one thing – to point you in the direction of nearby record stores – and it accomplishes that with aplomb. The design is clean, making for easy navigation and use. In seconds, you do indeed have a list of the closest record stores to your current location. Click on one from the list, and you can view its location on a map, get directions and read reviews on Yelp. All the other content – a smart blog designed specifically for mobile devices, the social component and the awesome record fair listings – is just gravy.

The Vinyl District app record stores list

What’s Missing: For what I wanted from this app, not much. I’d be hesitant to suggest additions, because the app has a straightforward mission and the fact that it doesn’t bother with any superfluous features is a positive. If anything, some customization would be nice – being able to favorite a store, receive updates if nearby shops are running sales or having an in-store appearance, etc. But otherwise, it’s not missing much.

Overall: If you love records and you don’t want to see record stores disappear, this app is a worthy download. It may introduce you to stores you didn’t know existed, and maybe you’ll (re)discover the fun of finding that Holy Grail of an album you’ve been hunting for years.

Grade: A

Pinterest for Brands and Marketers: Opportunity Awaits

If you have an interest in marketing to women online, then you have an interest in Pinterest.

Pinterest is a site that allows users to create and share “pinboards”. Pinboards are photo collages of images users find around the web or create themselves all focused around a certain theme. Users typically create multiple pinboards which are shared with their Pinterest followers. Users can comment on photos within pinboards and also “repin” photos to their own pinboards.

Visits to Pinterest surpassed Google+ and MySpace in the week ending 1/21/2012 making it the 7th most popular social networking site, though Pinterest is invite-only.

Source: Hitwise US

The site has grown organically as users are allowed to send invites to friends and family. There is also a months long waiting list on Pinterest for people who do not have a friend with an available invite.

One indicator of Pinterest’s popularity is their Facebook page. Pinterest created the Facebook page, but never posted any content. Instead the Facebook community has used the Pinterest Facebook wall as a place to post pleas for Pinterest invites which are fulfilled by other Facebook users. Without a single post from Pinterest, the Facebook page has garnered over 680,000 likes.

Pinterest has been embraced by women. According to Hitwise Pinterest users are 58% female and has a large representation of users who live in states that don’t usually lead the way in early adoption of social networking platforms like Utah, Idaho and Alabama.

Source: Experian Hitwise

Pinterest has gained a following among women ages 25-44 around topics of food, DIY, fashion and crafts. This is the elusive “household decision maker” demographic, the consumers who brands are working hard to connect with on Facebook, Twitter and through blogger outreach.

Marketers are always trying to reach consumers in the moment when their intent to purchase forms. This is what Pinterest does best, allowing people to create photo collage boards of their aspirations and intentions such as products they want to buy or recipes they would like to cook. However, there are very few brands using Pinterest to market their products.

One of the earliest brands on Pinterest was Nordstrom who has created seasonal wishlist boards and trends boards. Nordstrom has over 7,000 followers on Pinterest. Lands’ End Canvas has also jumped on Pinterest. During the holiday season, they created one of the first brand sponsored Pinterest contests called “Pin It to Win It”. Lands’ End posted rules and put out the call for entries on their Facebook page for fans to create boards of their products and then submit the link to their board via email.

Pinterest has a list of guidelines called “Pin Etiquette” that requests users not use Pinterest purely as a tool for self-promotion. However, there are no specific guidelines for the use of Pinterest by brands. This is a great opportunity for brands to experiment and find what resonates with this audience without the restrictions they find on more established social networking sites like Facebook.

In addition to creating a contest or Pinterest account on behalf of a brand, there is another way to encourage users to share brand messaging and products on Pinterest. The “Pin It” Pinterest button can be added to a brand’s website to encourage sharing of product images on Pinterest. Instructions for doing so can be found here on the Pinterest site.

Pinterest is the site to watch in 2012, it will be interesting to see if the site’s traffic continues to grow and how brands use the site for to promote products and messaging.

Apple TV Samsung Partnership?

Apple Inc.
Image by marcopako  via Flickr

Is Apple building a TV with iTunes built in? The big brother to the Apple TV sidecar?
I found some evidence recently that points to a match made in heaven. If Apple and Samsung can put down the legal briefs and realize there is more money to be made as partners than as enemies.

I’m talking about the Samsung 8000 series TVs, their apps and an amazing new browser.
So why do I say this?

You would think I am writing this from CES, but I’m not. Who needs CES when you can walk into any Manhattan Best Buy, talk nicely to the staff and they will start giving you the remote to every TV in the joint and gladly spend time nerding out with you. My husband built a system for capturing user agent strings. So when I recently tested on of the 8000 series TVs I loaded a few favorite test sites.

One of the pages I loaded saved the user agent string for me. I was able to open up a database tool and see this: Mozilla/5.0 (SmartHub; SMART-TV; U; Linux/SmartTV) AppleWebKit/531.2+ (KHTML, like Gecko) WebBrowser/1.0 SmartTV Safari/531.2+

Sure webkit is open source, and Smart TV appears in the user agent string three times. (wonder who wants to or is trademarking Smart TV…Samsung cough), but after more research on the string, the browser it is listed as Safari. Big deal? I think so.

Apple could have Foxconn or any other of their supplier/manufacturers in China build the Apple TV, there have been reports that  Apple is looking at bids from Foxconn and others to build the Apple TV, but Samsung has been building TVs since 1972. This experience coupled with Apple’s high expectations from its devices requires that they partner with someone. It’s just as easy for Apple to private label the Apple TV or iTV with just a little bit of tweaking.

Who better than your arch rival especially given Apple penchant for drama and buzz creating big reveals.

Apple is in a new realm with electronics manufacturers when it comes to consumer devices that are not in its purview. Panasonic, Sony, Toshiba- all of these companies have worked together for years to standardize and partner on technology sharing. In this area, Apple is the new kid on the block- but the coolest one in the room and as reported by Mashable this morning they have a stack of cash higher than the Empire State building.
Apple may be suing Samsung over the Galaxy tablet, but Apple needs a hardware manufacturer in place that can make iTV cheap.

Apple is making a big announcement at the Guggenheim next week, could it be a Samsung Apple partnership? Stranger things have happened. What do you think?

The Flightpath Roundtable: Facebook Timeline

Facebook Timeline Cover Photo

Welcome to the latest installment of The Flightpath Roundtable, where we gather various Flightpath employees for a discussion on the hottest topics in digital.

Today, we discuss Facebook’s latest change, Timeline. Unlike some of the minor cosmetic alterations Facebook has made over the years, Timeline significantly changes the look of one’s profile and the presentation of its information.

The participants in this discussion:
Dan Brooks, Digital Marketing Manager
John Lee, Director of Digital Marketing and Analytics
Wesley Martin, Interactive Designer
Cliff Medney, Chief Creative Strategist
Betsy Smith, Senior Social Media Strategist

Dan: Betsy, I thought we’d start with you. Maybe you can give an explanation of what Facebook Timeline is, for those who don’t know, and what you think about it.

Betsy: So, whereas Facebook used to have segregated content – your photos would be in one place, your status updates would be in another – now it’s all in one cohesive timeline that can go all the way back to your birth. Unless you’re a toddler or a preschooler, Facebook wasn’t around [early in your life]. And so, what Facebook would like everyone to do is to pull out their photos and upload them. Now the danger, I think, that people see, is that this is another way for Facebook to know absolutely everything there is to know about you. And I think that kinda freaks people out, but I think if you manage it correctly, it could be a really interesting tool.

Dan: Do you think it was a necessary change?

Betsy: Well, for one thing, Facebook has never been a particularly beautiful site. And Timeline is visually really interesting, and it is sort of like the voyeuristic fun part of Facebook. Like, going in and looking at somebody you haven’t talked to in 10 years. Now you can see who they married, and yeah, they divorced like you thought they would. [Laughs.] And all that fun stuff.

Dan: Wes, as a designer, what do you think of the look of it?

Wes: As a designer, I think it’s not very UI friendly. There’s a lot going on, and if you want to keep up with your friends’ stuff, it’s showing you too much at once. What I don’t like about it is there isn’t a filter for it. It would be cool if you could do a Timeline of just people’s images, but instead…

Dan: It’s everything.

Wes: Yeah, it’s everything. I’m not the biggest fan of the left-right-vertical view of Timeline. I would have preferred if they did horizontal and kept everything on one plain. [Demonstrates on computer.] So you see, they do this left-right thing. And I can’t tell what’s the order. Is the left the newest? Is the right the newest?

The photos is where Facebook grasped the older generation. And now I feel like it’s so hard to find [them] and find what’s important. I feel like they went so far, and then they pulled back. If you can narrow a Timeline just by photos, that’s the story itself.

Facebook Timeline Stories

John: I see what you’re getting at, Wes. You have to go through the Timeline to find stuff, as opposed to it filtering out.

I can’t really speak about the UI, but I think it’s a step in the right direction, visually. Just the way sites are, it seems that Facebook in the past forgot about the visual elements. Betsy, as you said, it was pretty boring before. But here, they’re trying to be a little more modular. They’re trying to break things up and organize the content, make it more easily scannable. Did they have to call it Timeline? I don’t think so, I think this is sort of like the new Facebook, or what’s it going to be.

The thing that I find interesting is the fact that they’re opening this up to the development community and allowing them to build apps. And I think it’s gonna be interesting to see what kind of cool apps are going to be available.

Betsy: And supposedly this is going to roll out for [brand] pages in September, so it’ll be interesting to see how they handle that.

John: Yeah, that was kind of the question I was thinking about. How do brands utilize this?

Betsy: Right. Do you want to go back a year and see when Red Bull changed its ingredients, or whatever they added to the Timeline?

John: Yeah, that could be really cool. I think there’s a lot of potential there.

Dan: One of the things that struck me was that when I converted my profile over to Timeline, is that there’s a demo/commercial that shows you what Timeline is. And it’s almost exactly the same as the Google’s “Sophie” commercial for Chrome. The tone is the same, and the content – taking you through someone’s life – is the same.

John: Well, they all kind of copy Apple’s emotional appeal. I mean, you never really think of Google as being an emotional company. I was surprised to see Google come out with a commercial like that.

Wes: What I do love about it is they’re staying true to their 2012 strategy campaign, which is, they’re bringing it back to the human. Because Facebook did get sort of taken over by corporations and businesses, and Timeline does bring it back to emotion. Facebook was originally made for people.

I just feel that it’s weird to continue to show everything. Because after a few months, no one’s going to care about people’s posts.

Dan: Unless you’re doing Facebook Stalking, which people tend to do. [Laughs.]

John: Like you, Dan. [Laughs.]

Wes: Posts become irrelevant after a day. After 10 minutes, posts can become irrelevant. From a user standpoint, I would love to see them filter it more by category as opposed to time. Everything’s in chronological order by the last month.

Dan: One of the reasons why I think Facebook became popular, I thought, was because it was so clean and streamlined compared to MySpace and Friendster. And now there’s a lot of stuff on there.

Betsy: I think people need to go in and clean up their Timelines. Because this can be an issue. People always say, “You have to be careful about what your employer might see!” You might have said something four years ago that – you went to a party and got trashed, or something – and because there were so many likes and comments, that’s gonna pop up on your Timeline. And so you have to go in and make sure that stuff isn’t there.

Facebook Timeline Apps

Dan: There was a Mashable article saying that Timeline is really like your resume now. Do you think there’s any truth to that?

Betsy: One of the political things about Facebook and Twitter is when you joined. Especially if you’re in [the digital] space, how long have you been on Facebook and Twitter, and do you want people to know that, is an issue. Also, you need to control whether or not people can tag you. That seems to me to be an issue for people who are not 23 years old. You’ve had a lot of past relationships, and when there’s a “dumped the loser” kind of post, and you’re tagged as the loser, do you want that in your Timeline for the whole world to see? But you can change in your privacy settings that you get the chance to preview any tags that are back in your Timeline.

Wes: It’s becoming a chore. Facebook is becoming a chore. It’s becoming too much to update.

John: With the privacy settings, they make changes and they don’t necessarily notify you. The defaults aren’t always in your favor. But that’s been the thing with Facebook since the get-go.

Betsy: But now I think it’s so mainstream and something people almost need, that I think they’ll put up with it. You know, my mother, who’s on Facebook, is never gonna go in and curate her Timeline. It’s just all gonna be out there, and that’s gonna be the case for most people. And they might go in and add life events that, as a marketer, I might find very interesting. You know, that you have three children, and these are their ages, and that you’re divorced, and that you’re converted to a different religion, and that you had a major illness. There are all things you can add to your Timeline, which as marketers, is really interesting.

Dan: Wes was saying something interesting in that they’re bringing Facebook back to “human,” and not so much a corporate identity. Cliff, do you think they’re successful on those grounds? Or is it too early to tell?

Cliff: I think this is as much a marketing ploy as it is a human ploy, because brands are followers of the human condition. And clearly this human condition of 2011, 2012, is that it’s easier than ever to have a pictorial account of life. And I think they’re just on the front end of what companies want. They want more story selling through pictures and words.

Betsy: Marketers always want to capture people in that moment where they’re making a decision. “If we could just know their intent, we could leverage that into a sale.” Timeline is like a reverse look – what may determine your future actions may be what you’ve done in the past, so that’s interesting for marketers.

Facebook Timeline: Add Life Events and Marketers Could Thank You

Facebook Timeline was released last month as an invitation for all of us to share our whole lives (including pre-Facebook lives) on Facebook. What Facebook wants you to include in your Timeline isn’t restricted to your newborn picture.

When you click on a point in the past on your Timeline, you have a number of options many of which are familiar.  You can add a comment in the form of a status update to a point in your past, photo from your 1st grade class picnic or check into the dorm you lived in freshman year of college. These are all variations of the options that users are used to seeing when they create a normal present-day status update. However, there is one new option- “Life Event” that is very different than the rest.

Clicking the Life Event button brings up a list of events that are common to a lot of people’s life stories. Marking the day you had a baby, broke a bone, lost a loved one or changed your religious beliefs are just some of the options Facebook presents.

Social media is supposed to be about transparency and honesty. Although it seems people would be reluctant to share major illnesses they have had in the past, divorces long settled and weight gained or lost in reality this is what Facebook does best. In Timeline Facebook has created an even better space where we can feed the human need to connect and learn more about people we care about, though maybe not enough to actually call.

From a social media marketing point of view, “Life Event” could be a game changer.

Currently advertisers can target Facebook users for ads based on the basic information user’s provide as well as their likes and interests. If Facebook allows advertisers to display ads to users who have had certain life events, or even better- users who have had certain life events within a select time frame, this could be very exciting for brands.

Car insurance ads could be displayed to parents of children they had 16 years back on their timeline and orthopedic surgeons could target those who have broken a bone in the last few months.  Ads could be even more highly targeted, which means higher click-through rates for advertisers and more revenue for Facebook.

Facebook has yet to allow advertisers to target users based on their life events, however if they do look for even more relevant Facebook ads coming to your Facebook profile.

Inside the NHL’s Innovative Use of Social Media

NHL logo

After the 2004-05 lockout, NHL popularity dropped significantly: TV ratings were low, attendance was down. While many rule changes and innovations post-lockout – most notably, the fantastic Winter Classic outdoor game – have helped the league recover, it’s the use of social media that has taken that recovery to another level. With the rise of social, the NHL has been able to reach fans directly, and that direct contact was integral in repairing the damage from the lockout. But more than just using social media, they’re using it well.

The Rangers and Flyers just completed this season’s hugely successful Winter Classic, and much of its success is owed to the excitement and hype drummed up by the NHL’s social channels. To mark the occasion, I’m delving into the NHL’s superb use of social media to see how they do it.

Constant Updates. The NHL itself and its 30 teams are on Facebook and Twitter, and they all provide a steady stream of content through every channel. It’s a multi-pronged approach, where they supply news, marketing, or mask marketing as news, but it’s highly effective and does not stop during holidays or weekends. Whether promoting the build-up to the Winter Classic, giving score and penalty updates or celebrating Sidney Crosby’s return to the Penguins, the tweets and Facebook updates come often.

Quality Video Content. In addition to news or fun stuff, there’s also some pretty great exclusive video content being provided on Facebook and Twitter. The NHL is something of a master in online video, and the sharing of highlights is a big part of its social media identity. Beyond in-game highlights, the league offers content that would appeal to even non-fans, such as a very cool time-lapse video of this year’s Winter Classic rink, going from construction to game in just over a minute. And that’s content you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere else.

Playful Tone. What’s most refreshing about both the league and team accounts is the positive and playful tone of its social media content. On January 3rd, with the New York Rangers holding the best record in the league, the team posted a screenshot of the standings to its Facebook profile, writing, “Who LIKES the look of this!!!” It’s fun, it’s celebratory, and it entices fans to engage.

Encouraging User Interaction, Physical and Digital. As a Rangers fan, I follow their social channels. During last year’s celebration of the team’s 85th anniversary, Twitter was a key component. Contests where users had to go to a surprise physical location to win autographed sticks or merchandise were all done with Twitter. It was handled so well that I even hopped on a subway to try and win something, and I never do this stuff.

In addition, the NHL created the LIKE/DISLIKE Facebook post, where users are challenged to Like something (a play, a game outcome, etc.) or explain why they don’t. It’s simple but effective, and can often spark some smart debate, and at the very least, gets people clicking.

They Respond and RT. Not all brands, even the smallest, take the time to answer tweets, and that’s a mistake. When a brand interacts with fans on Twitter, it’s a recognition that the customer exists and is valued. The brand hears them. So, when small companies don’t reply or acknowledge Twitter correspondence, it’s even more admirable for a major sport to do so. Imagine being a young fan and having your favorite team respond to your tweet? It would feel empowering and exciting. The NHL and its teams routinely retweet and answer questions, and their Twitter presences are more powerful as a result.

The NHL’s success with social shouldn’t be measured absolutely in number of Likes or in purely mathematical numbers, which are impressive anyway. But rather in the quality, human element it brings to social media. Marketers would be smart to watch and learn from them.

Playing the Grace Card in 2012

Given the overwhelming pressure so many in America and around the world are feeling this holiday season, it seems appropriate to think about a different kind of blog post to end this year. One that can help set a tone for the better in 2012.

I look at this post as a “card blog” – it is about our most common threads of who we are or aren’t through the pure grace of being human in the time we all are living. You may be asking, “Why create and share a ‘card’ to various people of the world?” The act of empathy, of stepping inside another person’s world is always graceful, and today, couldn’t be more important.

In the sections below, we address this card to various people and players in the world. In some cases, they’re just my observations and don’t relate to digital. In others, they relate to the positives and negatives of the all-the-time connected-ness of social media and the Internet – how it can sometimes make us more human, and other times, remove our humanity. But ultimately, I hope that all these resonate with you as ways to make 2012 better.

To: A Politician
The electoral clock is ticking, you need to find some grace, PDQ! We are particularly impressed with Newark, NJ mayor Cory Booker, whose smart use of Twitter and social media has connected him to his constituents in meaningful ways.

To: A Boss
Jobs are obviously in demand, which gives “bosses” even more power, more opportunity to affect people’s sense of self. Walk softly with your big stick as you’ll surely get more for it. Grace under pressure – and bosses are clearly under that – is transformative to all!

To: A Facebook, Twitter Enthusiast
Use your social networks to do more than aimlessly like and follow, or post and tweet. Use your imagination like never before to connect, create and immerse the collective spirit. To the social naysayers, this would prove to be a true grace of time.

To: An Unemployed Worker
Not enough jobs are available to enough people, this we all know. But by being your most imaginative, most relentless, by absolutely doing everything to elevate, to create opportunity, you are giving yourself and the ones you love the greatest gift.

To: A Subway Rider
Stop pushing, looking down at your iPod or iPad when you should be looking up when getting on, off, or giving your seat to someone who needs it more!

To: A Dog Parent
We are only as good as the company we keep which is why being a dog dad or mom is pretty damn good. We live in the age of dog awareness and dogs are fully aware of this. For this, they love us dearly. Dogs and cats relieve our stress and make us incredibly special.

To: Artists: Graphic, Literary, Whimsical, Musical, Performing, Conceptual, Digital
We live in the “Expression Age” and if you are an artist – in your soul, if not in your day job – the world of today is yours for the taking. If you have content originality to share, the future (and all kind of money trails) could not be more welcoming.

To: The Not So Humble or Gracious
Just take a moment as we turn the calendar to think about how good you have it- especially if you have your health (even if not all of it!) and some love in your life. I have always believed and tried to practice that all else (making money, creating a life or legacy) is possible with the grace of health and love.

Happy New Cheer!

Mobile App Review: Songkick – iPhone

songkick

Welcome to the latest installment of Flightpath’s running series of mobile app reviews, where we explore all different kinds of apps, both paid and free. Today we’re looking at an app designed for serious music fans and concertgoers.

The App: Songkick

The Platform: iPhone

How Much: Free

The Deal: I’m a music nerd, and I go to a lot of shows (Brooklyn speak for concerts) in and around New York. One of the worst feelings in the world to me, though, is checking one of my favorite artists’ websites to see when he or she may be coming to town, only to discover that I missed the show by a week. It happens more often than I’d like to admit, and I’d always wanted something that could stop this from happening ever again. Thankfully, the computer gods gave us apps, which led me to Songkick.

songkick app

Features: Songkick tracks your favorite artists’ touring schedule, and matches it with your location to alert you when an artist is coming to your area. You can enter artist names manually, or it can scan your music library to generate your list. The bottom nav is divided between “Concerts,” which shows artists you’re tracking that are visiting nearby venues in the coming months; “Locations,” which lists tons of local concert halls and clubs and the bands booked to play there (whether you’re tracking them or not); “Artists,” which is your master tracking list; and “Settings.”

songkick

What We Think/Like: This app is a success. My biggest fear going in was that it would be either too hard to configure or set up, or that it would be incomplete data-wise; I like a lot of different indie bands, and I doubted they would all be included. But I need not have worried. It appears as if a band exists, you can track them here, and you can track them immediately. The interface is really nice too, with photos of every act and a striking “On Tour” banner to clearly mark their status. I’ve already become aware of shows – Dr. Dog and Marshall Crenshaw, to name two – that I probably would have missed without Songkick.

songkick

What’s Missing: So far, the ticket purchase option is lacking. When you click on the “Tickets” button, it takes you to Songkick’s website, which is not a mobile site and does not actually sell tickets or link to the club or venue that is. Basically, you’re on your own to get tickets.

If you have the app scan your library, it scans and uploads everything – meaning it’s not smart enough to know that the Beatles no longer exist and thus are no longer touring, or that the Jerky Boys aren’t the type of artist you’d go see live. So, if you do opt to have Songkick scan your library, you’ll then need to spend time editing your list to bands that you actually want to track.

Overall: Shortcomings aside, which are really minor, Songkick is a brilliant idea executed almost perfectly. If you are a live music fan, download it. You’ll never miss your favorite artists again, and you may discover new ones.

Grade: B+

Interview: Indie Filmmakers on the Secrets of Crowdfunding with Kickstarter, IndieGoGo & Social Media

This past October, the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter reached its 1,000,000th individual backer since starting in 2009, with over $100,000,000 pledged to different projects in that time. Its peer IndieGoGo has helped raise money for over 50,000 campaigns since 2008. These crowdfunding platforms, combined with social media and other means of outreach, have become a powerful new model for funding a wide array of independent creative projects.

Flightpath caught up with two independent filmmakers who recently completed successful campaigns to glean their secrets. Jayce Bartok is an actor, screenwriter and director who’s appeared in projects from Spider-Man to The Station Agent and White Collar, and in January will show up in two features at Sundance. Jayce used IndieGoGo to raise over $20,000 to keep shooting Tiny Dancer, an indie drama he’s writing and directing. Award-winning documentary filmmaker Andrew Berends shot two films in Iraq that explore the conflict from the rarely-seen, ground-level view of Iraqis caught in the middle. He raised more than $16,000 on Kickstarter towards completing Delta Boys, about militants and oil in the Niger Delta.

Both were greatly empowered by their campaign experiences, but agreed there was no shortage of challenges.

Jayce Bartok: It was the hardest thing we’ve ever done. For those 60 days, it was just insane.

Andy Berends: Yeah. It’s awesome in a lot of respects, but I wouldn’t call it fun. For me, the first thing was you have to pretty much put aside your pride.

Jayce: Totally.

Andy: I had 184 backers but I probably directly contacted over 2,000 people, and indirectly maybe 3,000 – 4,000. For every backer, there’s probably 100 that ignored it and five that think I’m a jerk because I’ve been spamming them for a month straight.

Jayce: The first quarter of our campaign we were so far behind. Then we realized we have to email all of our contacts from A-Z. We had 15,000 contacts, and we emailed I would say at least 10,000 of them. That was what really drove it; once we started those personal emails, people started jumping on. But you’re right, you have to swallow your pride.

Andy: Which for me was a positive experience, because I err on the side of being too reserved and subtle. And that’s not how it works. That’s not how you sell your film, that’s not how you raise money. So it forced me out of my comfort zone.

Jayce: You need to be the total self-promoter and ask. It was an amazing experience for my wife and me. And for reconnecting with people. Maybe it’s been two or three years and you email someone, and all of a sudden they’re like, “Hey man, here’s $100.” But you can drive yourself crazy, because that guy down the block who’s like my best friend will not respond to my email.

Andy: As awesome as it is, it’s not free money at all. First of all, you have to have a project that people think is worthwhile. Second, you need to have a decent network of people who are willing to support you. And you have to do a lot of work. I worked hard to make my campaign and my video look good. I want people to say, he’s not just asking for free money. He’s put a lot of work into making this. You then have to be able to produce DVDs, t-shirts, all kinds of stuff.  You’re a full-on production/distribution company.

I raised $16,000. If it was $10,000, I would say it’s just barely worth it for what’s going to be a month-and-a-half of work. But it’s not just the money, it’s the publicity on top of that. And then there’s no question that it’s worth it. And the experience was worth it. But it’s not free money.

Flightpath: How did you reach the point of deciding to go on these campaigns?

Andy: If I were just starting the production, I wouldn’t feel comfortable asking all these people for money if I didn’t know I’d be able to finish the film. But now that I’m finishing it, I know I’m going to be able to deliver. That’s part of why I was ready. But it was also: Everybody’s doing it now. If I’m going to do it, now’s the time.

Jayce: We’re in the exact opposite place [with our project]. We decided to do it because I’m tired of having friends who are like, “You made The Cake Eaters a long time ago, and I’ve made five $30,000 films since then.” And we were just like, “Oh man, we gotta do this.”

We had this giant fundraiser event planned, and IndieGoGo was our safety net for people who couldn’t attend it. And ironically, that event netted us like $2,000 and we had all these wealthy people there and some celebrities. And then the IndieGoGo campaign that went to all our broke-ass friends got us 20-some thousand. It started as almost an after-thought.

Flightpath: One early model for indie film-backing online was getting micro-investments, as opposed to a straight donation. What are the differences there?

Andy: Investment 99% of the time is just a pipe dream. This does away with the pretense that you’re going to see a return. I never felt comfortable asking for investors, because it’s very hard for independent documentaries to break even, let alone make money. This is more straightforward. And also, you don’t get $50 investments. That’s when you’re going around looking for someone to give you $5,000 – $10,000.

Jayce: It’s part of the shift where people are giving locally. You’re helping this person make a project happen that they passionately believe in, as opposed to trying to say, “You’re going to get a 120% return.” If I give Andy $50, he’s going to create something that I feel really connected to and that I’m a part of.

Flightpath: Jayce, you did a 60-day campaign. Andy, yours was 30. How did you choose the length, and how much did you plan in advance for sustaining it?

Jayce: We had no clue what was going to happen. The first half of our 60 days, we didn’t raise that much. It was scary, like we’re not going to make our goal. And what I found is that everyone loves a winning team. When you get close to your goal, everybody comes out of the woodwork to give you money. They want to be the one who pushes you over the top. In retrospect, I’d probably focus on 30 days, knowing the last 15 would be super-intense.

Andy: And also because, it’s a full-time job. Kickstarter actually pushes you towards 30 days. They feel that’s the most efficient bang for your buck. On a 60-day campaign, maybe I would have raised another $1000. The people who come in at the last minute would have just waited another month. In twice as much time, I wouldn’t have raised twice as much money, but I would have had to work just as hard for two months.

Jayce: I do believe what you put into it, you get out of it. But at the same time, I don’t believe we could raise any more money than we did. You only have a certain amount of contacts.

We learned that for your project, this is a giant PR campaign with the added perk that you’re getting money. But you want to make your goal. You want to show that this is successful. With IndieGoGo we knew we could keep the money no matter what. But there was an incredible amount of pressure when we were so far under-performing, that we were like, “Oh my God, we’re spamming everybody and they’re going to know that we failed.” We were definitely sweating it.

Flightpath: What about the psychology of choosing the all-or-nothing model, as Andy did, versus the take-what-you-raise platform, like Jayce. I’d argue that all-or-nothing creates a bigger incentive to donate.

Andy: Absolutely. And it’s also a bigger incentive on me to make sure I hit the goal. Once you click “launch campaign,” the countdown is on, and your pride is on the line. The incentive is there to make sure I hit the goal. And some people looking at it would say, “He hasn’t reached his goal, I better kick in some money.”

Flightpath: Jayce, you were blogging for MovieMaker, and you made a lot of down-homey videos with your wife and your intern. What was the social media outreach strategy?

Jayce: We tried to listen to what IndieGoGo told us, that your video has to resonate with people personally. We sat on our stoop with our son and made a video and put the trailer at the end. We tried to keep in touch with videos.

We were very strategic about social networking. Besides personal emailing and posting every day on Facebook, we went on a limb and tried to get anyone who was vaguely famous to tweet or retweet. I had worked with Kevin Smith on Cop Out. I emailed him and didn’t hear anything, and then someone at MovieMaker said, “Hey, did Kevin’s tweet help you guys?” I was like, “What?” I looked and four days earlier, he’d tweeted, “Help Jayce Bartok’s movie.” And he’s got 1.5 million followers.

We were going to get MovieMaker subscriptions to give away to a certain donor level, and they said, “In return, will you blog about your crowdfunding experience for us?” And ironically, my blogging has been way more beneficial to our campaign.

Andy: You get analytics on your campaign. Unquestionably, Facebook is by far how I reached the most people. Through my personal page, plus I set up a page for the film. I also set up an event, so that I could invite all my friends on Facebook. And there’s a Facebook group that friends of mine set up while I was detained in Nigeria making the film, with almost 1,000 members. Of my 184 backers, 69 clicked through from Facebook. Almost half of the people, and 26% of the dollars.

I had this other awesome stuff. Sundance has a curated Kickstarter page, so I was on their page. Stranger than Fiction has a page. Rooftop Films has a page. Barely any donations came through that. But I was able to leverage that and say I was endorsed by all these organizations. The endorsement is huge. Sundance sent one tweet for me. And it helps. But for me, it was Facebook and personal messaging. Getting other people to post on their wall is how it really starts to build momentum.

Jayce: I am super-impressed, because my wife and I were partners in this, but you did it by yourself. I don’t really understand social media. She’ll be like, “Go email Kevin Smith.” And I was like, “Okay,” scared shitless. I couldn’t really coordinate all that on my own. I was really in charge of the personal emails. I did all those 15,000 contacts. I just wrote them one-by-one with a couple of personal sentences and then the cut-and-paste part, and my fingers were going to fall off. That was the most effective.

Flightpath: Beyond the money, how much awareness did this spread about your projects, and how does that create a foundation for the rest of the film’s life cycle? What starts now?

Jayce: Because we still need to go raise $75,000 more, we have all these statistics now and all these backers. Instead of floating out these bullshit business plans, where we’re going to take the movie to Sundance and sell it and get this rate of return, we can say we have 1,000 dedicated followers, and that equals this number right off the bat. We’re using this audience that we built and trying to leverage that to raise the rest of the money and apply for grants.

Andy: For me, I’ve actually sold more DVDs than I probably would have if I’d waited until I finished and sent an email to my friends. Nobody’s going to buy the DVD for $30. But with the campaign, I’ve sold 42 DVDs for $30. I’ve sold 45 digital downloads at $15. So essentially, distribution has already begun.

This experience has been realizing that if I’m not going to sell it, there’s nobody else out there trying to sell my work, and that’s what I need to work on. That’s why this campaign was such a good thing for me. Because it’s freaking hard. And you do see your friends unsubscribing from your emails, and it’s devastating. There are moments of panic where I feel awful, like I’m going to raise this money, but am I going to lose friends over it?

This is something that independent filmmakers have to learn. You can’t just be a filmmaker anymore. You have to be a filmmaker, a distributor, a fund raiser, a graphic designer. It’s hard, but it’s empowering.

Flightpath: How empowering is this for you guys and your projects, emotionally and creatively?

Jayce: Hugely empowering. And morally, you owe these people who are your backers and supporting you, so you have to finish this, you have to carry on and see the journey through. You can’t be like, “That famous person never wanted to be in it, so it’s just sitting on my desk now.”

Andy: From every single person, it’s a vote of confidence, and now I have to live up to it. The thing about independent filmmaking is it’s lonely sometimes. You take a lot on by yourself. And to have the personal support from individuals feels very good. It makes me realize that we’re all indie filmmakers, but we’re all working together to make our independent projects, which I love.

Flightpath: Finally, what advice would you give people starting their own campaigns?

Jayce: Plan, plan, plan. For every dollar you get, you have to earn that dollar. You have to go out there and earn that money. You really have to think about it, plan and persist. Swallow that pride and figure out how to ask people to support you.

Andy: Chris at the Sundance Institute said to me, “Don’t be shy.” That’s the piece of advice I personally needed the most. I agree, swallow your pride. But you have to have a good project. Otherwise, don’t do it. Have something you believe in that’s worthy. And then swallow your pride and don’t be shy.

The Flightpath Holiday Gift Guide for Digital Geeks

holiday gift guide

Having trouble finding a gift for that special tech-head in your life? Or maybe you want to treat yourself to something? Either way, we’ve compiled a list of nine slam dunk digital-themed gifts to help you out – perfect for the digital-minded. Selected by Dan Brooks, Tyler Abrams and Roxanne Oliver.

1. Digital Comics. Viewing comics on an iPad (or other mobile device) is a revelation. They look awesome, plain and simple – clear, vibrant and detailed. You can manually “flip” the pages like a regular comic, you can zoom in, or you can navigate panel-to-panel. A Comixology gift card – which will work for any publishers’ comics – would be perfect for the comics nerd in your life. (Read our interview with DC Comics’ SVP of Digital, Hank Kanalz, for more info.)

2. Arduino. If you whisper the words “open source” to almost any programmer out there, whether an amateur or professional, you will immediately see their eyes light up. Follow that up with the word “Arduino” and you’ve got them drooling now. Seriously, you can’t go wrong with giving your geeky programmer friend (you know, the one who helps you fix your computer all the time) the gift of open source software AND hardware.

3. Philips Fidelio. Chances are, if you purchased an iPhone in the last year, you’ve had the potential to stream music from the phone to an AirPlay capable device. Docking stations are a thing of the past now, so gone are the days of having to dismantle your bulky iPhone case to get it to connect. Check out the Philips Fidelio wireless speaker system and free your phone.

4. Elago Slim-Fit iPhone Case. We came across this case too late to include in our iPhone case post from last week, but it deserves a spot in that list. The Elago is sleek, feels great, and shows off the design of the iPhone while still providing protection. Available for the iPhone 4 and 4S.

5. Drivemocion EX Series LED Car Sign. This LED sign that shows an emoticon to whoever is behind you in the car satisfies that wish to let that individual who just cut you off know how you truly feel. Car nuts, or really, anyone with a car, would love this.

6. Belkin Headphone Splitter. If you are strapped for cash and need a gift or stocking stuffer for a significant other, there is hardly anything more romantic than a headphone splitter. Whether you’re in a metropolitan area or going to a park, nothing is sweeter than sharing a soundtrack with someone you care about.

7. Fisheye, Macro, Wide Angle and Telephoto Phone Lenses for the iPhone.. The new iPhone 4S was just released, and if you have a tech-head in your life, they will love these accessories from Photojojo to accompany it. The range of photographs that you can capture just improved tenfold!

8. TextMate. When it comes to cranking out code, programmers tend to have their own text editor of choice. Some prefer monster-sized text editors with tons of options and bell-and-whistles, while others need minimal and distraction-free programs (cue Notepad/TexPad). TextMate (only for Mac) is the perfect combination of feature-rich options and a slimmed-down interface.

9. Panasonic Retro Headphones. The iPod/iPhone was a great innovation in portable music; the earbuds that come packaged with them were not. They’re junk. But higher-end headphones can be prohibitively expensive. Panasonic’s retro-style line is a good half-way point: they look beautiful, with a vintage ’70s design, the sound is fantastic, and they’re not too pricey. They’re also noise-canceling, making them perfect for the subway or an airplane.

5 Awesome Holiday-Themed Digital Marketing Campaigns

frank-the-fruitcake

We’re in the thick of the holiday season, and with that comes holiday-themed digital marketing campaigns from brands big and small. Like Halloween, it’s a chance to get extra creative in a short window of time, take chances with brand identity and show consumers that you have a sense of humor. Here are five of our favorites.

Walmart’s Frank the Fruitcake – This is a pretty substantial effort on Walmart’s part to achieve numerous things – to change its brand image, to attempt something digital/viral, and to show that it has a sense of humor. The joke is that Frank, a piece of fruitcake, is the holiday “gift nobody wants.” He’s voiced by the great Bobcat Goldthwait, and complains about be passed over year after year. If you log in via Facebook, a customized video is posted on your wall, where Frank arrives via package, addressed to you. Open him up, he talks a little, and you can then send him on to a friend. It’s fun, it’s got Bobcat and it’s ultimately a nice entry into the viral space for Walmart.

Sears Cheer Tree – The Sears Cheer Tree is a simple idea that again calls on user interaction, but the result is pretty charming. Visitors upload a photo of themselves putting up or posing with their own holiday decorations, which is then added to an increasingly growing mosaic. You can then zoom in on every photo in the mosaic. There’s something nice about it, plain and simple, and by not offering awards or anything like that, there’s no ugly competition aspect to it. Great concept.

Santa Yourself – This owes an obvious debt to the immortal Elf Yourself, but it seems to be taking off. Upload a photo of yourself, and voila, you’re a dancing Santa. Good animation and sound, and it’ll make you laugh and probably drive you a little crazy, which I’m guessing is the point.

Toys R Us – This isn’t a viral or interactive campaign per se, but the branding on the website really works. It’s filled with cartoon elves and reindeer, and works for kids and adults. Even with all that, the site is still clean and easily navigable. The right way to decorate your website for the holidays.