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How to Effectively Utilize Influencer Marketing

Influencer with their web camera set up.

Is your company 100% into smart marketing ideas, or completely on board with using up an advertising budget, but cringes at “giving” money to individuals on social media just so they can talk about you to their followers? 

If so, you are not the only one. Although Instagram alone boasts nearly one billion active users, and Facebook calculates the average account holder spends almost 2.5 hours a day on their platform, many companies are still shy about spending marketing dollars for influencers. And that’s not all, according to eMarketer, spending this year is about to grow by over one-third—the highest growth in the industry. Those who aren’t on board are losing out to their competition who is. 

The hesitation for influencer marketing can often be boiled down to a couple of things. First, many marketing executives still see it as a riskier option; something they can’t see direct ROI success from. The second is understanding of influencers and platforms. Creating ads, buying placements, watching how they increase customers…these things have been done for decades. But finding the right influencer can seem a much more daunting task. Trends rise and fall, and influencers can do the same. Hitting on the right mix of product, influencer and audience can feel so risky it seems many people decide to opt out altogether. 

We’re here to simplify influencer marketing. While ROI cannot always be measured the same as traditional marketing, it can have great effects on long-term brand awareness, loyalty and purchase decisions—three things no brand would detest. 

How Influencer Marketing Elevates Brands

Advertising in all aspects is good for a brand. Be it out of home, digital, print…they can all do the three things we listed above. But they can’t always do it with the same trustworthiness that influencers can. 

This is not a shocking revelation. Think about how you feel when you see a random actor on TV trying to tell you about a product. How strongly do you believe what they say versus when your friend tells you about that same product? 

We have become a people that need user reviews. How many stars does the restaurant have on Google? What are people saying about that product on Amazon? What does the product look like when it’s tried out by someone on YouTube? 

Influencer marketing is just another one of the tools consumers use to filter brands and products. It may not be your trusted friend, but if an influencer you follow gives a brand shoutout they must believe it, right? They’re sharing it, they’re attaching their name to it, they must at some level be doing it to help their followers…even if we understand they’re being paid to share, it still feels more personal than seeing the same type of thing in a photoshop-perfect magazine ad. 

Influencer marketing is word-of-mouth. It gives social proof to what you’re learning about. But, just like an ad for ice cream may not be successful in a vegan magazine, finding the wrong influencer can completely miss the mark. 

How to Find the Right Social Media Influencers 

  • Make it authentic: One of the biggest pros of influencer marketing is that it feels more personal. It’s not all about the largest follower base, it’s about finding the accounts that really do believe in your brand, and can share that feeling with others. 
  • Keep it casual: Just like authenticity, if it feels too produced it’s going to come across like an ad you’re forcing an influencer to share for money.
  • Collaborate: In the same vein, some influencers can bring a lot to the table in terms of how to speak to their audience. Listen and let them help figure out the best way to share your product together. 
  • Realistic goals: As with any type of marketing, keeping your end goal in sight is important. Is it to raise sales, get brand recognition or something else? One ad cannot effectively do everything for your brand, and it should not be expected that any influencer can do everything with one post (or even a handful of them).

Overall, keeping long-term plans and goals is also helpful no matter how you start with influencer marketing. Especially if you’re looking for brand loyalty or new followers. Yes, things can go viral and numbers can go up exponentially. But for the majority, influencer marketing can feel subtle. Our advice for you: trust the process. Have confidence that trial and error is part of finding the right fit. 

Updating Facebook Ad Performance for Apple’s New iOS

Apple’s upcoming advertising changes are rolling out soon, and along with that is Apple’s Private Click Measurement (PCM), giving users more options to opt out of the data-tracking methods that Facebook has been using to target audiences. 

While some parts of this rollout are seen as a step in the right direction for privacy, it can mean different things for advertisers like us, and the companies that are aiming to reach the right audience with their ads. Because of these shifts, it’s important to strategize updates and changes that ensure ad dollars are still being used wisely. 

Upcoming Roadblocks 

Two of the biggest problems Facebook has pointed out are app-to-web conversion measurements and cross-domain measurements. For app-to-web, the problem we’ll start to see with conversions is that tracking within the app can no longer be recorded. For example, if your user clicks on a link within an app, like Instagram, it typically opens a browser window still within the app. This type of user experience can no longer be recorded on an iPhone because it is within another app. 

The other experience that will no longer be tracked is for companies that have a URL redirect. If a user clicks on a link, but that link redirects to a different webpage, that will be the end of tracking. 

While this may seem like only two small situations, ultimately it can become a huge issue if not addressed properly. Performance will be harder to achieve due to lack of data, current Facebook algorithms may not be as strong, leading precise targeting to become a concern. 

Solutions for a Smooth Transition

Because Facebook feels these types of experiences are important to ensure users are given ads they care about, they are building their own Aggregated Event Measurement (AEM) to work within Apple’s new protocols.

Although this will allow advertisers to access user data for better targeted ads, there are limitations and updates that need to be made. Members of Flightpath’s marketing team recently participated in a Facebook webinar that outlined these new protocols:

  • Eight-event limitations for pixel setup
  • Conversion window updates
  • Reduction in custom audience sizes
  • Value optimization within Events Manager

While Facebook did not give point-by-point instructions for how to adapt to all of these changes, we are developing strategies to compensate. One thing we will be doing is making required updates in a timely manner to mitigate any foreseeable bumps in user data. As with all advertising, it’s very imperative to us that these changes are watched closely as they roll out, and that we are making swift adjustments as necessary to ensure the best ROI for all ad dollars spent. 

For anyone working within Facebook’s platform, here is a quick to-do list to make sure you are on top of any pending changes with the new Apple iOS program. 

  • Verify your domain in Facebook Business Manager
  • Prepare to only have 8 events per domain, prioritizing events as needed
  • Anticipate changes to attribution windows, and update automated rules if necessary
  • Identify campaign optimization strategies that may require testing (alternative audience options or bidding strategies) as needed

As we said at the start, many of these changes aren’t ideal for the ad targeting we have been able to do to this point. But with proper strategies in place, and the ability to adapt to new updates as needed, we can all continue with useful ads targeted to the right audiences.

Consumers vs. Marketers & Native Mobile Advertising

Not shockingly, the average person looks at their phone 200 times a day. But only 10% of that time is spent browsing the web; The rest of the time is spent using native apps. Unlike like traditional cookie-based tracking typical in PPC advertising, the insights gathered on users via native apps has virtually no bounds. On an aggregate level, marketers can collect data on age, gender and behavior such as where you ordered dinner or where you went to happy hour etc. All this data, but what are they doing with it? The more marketers know about their users, the more they can tailor advertisements and that’s exactly what they want. Creep factor aside, some would say this works in the user’s interest because marketers are more likely to present ads you’re actually interested in seeing. However, most users only see ads as an annoyance they instinctively “skip” or ignore. And with ad blocking software becoming more ubiquitous in web browsers (80% of Americans will be using some kind of ad blocker by 2017), that makes tracking in native apps the most logical path. Not to mention, some estimate that up to 1/3 of PPC traffic is fraudulent (that translates to $7.2B in 2016). That doesn’t make it easy to place the right ad in front of the right person at the right time. Brands and marketers still need to be smart and careful about how they position themselves in a market where consumers are becoming increasingly concerned with privacy and jaded with the typical banner ad or “pre-roll” video.

I attended a meet-up during Internet week hosted by Jun Group, presented by their CEO Mitchell Reichgut titled “Don’t Call it a Phone – How to Advertise on Smartphones and Tablets in the Age of Applications.” Here are key insights on how to stay ahead of the herd and adjust your digital marketing strategy to meet this ever changing market:

  • No interruptions: That means absolutely no auto-play ads (that you can’t skip) and no pop-ups – ever.
  • Consider context: How and where users see your content is just as important as the content itself. Opt for custom placement (visible, relevant but not in the way) and tailor content specifically to the website or app’s audience. Yes, this will require development of more versions of ads but it’s worth it in the long run.
  • Know where your ads are: Many advertisers buy placement but don’t really know exactly what websites or apps will display them and what placement they’ll receive.
  • Look at media differently: it doesn’t always have to be banner ads or pre-roll videos. Many marketers have had success with value exchange programs within games. For example, a user might be asked to watch a 30 second video (between levels) in exchange for bonus points or a gameplay advantage. However, be careful that the games demographics align with your intended audience, which can be tricky to figure out.

Above all, measurement is the most important component of a successful ad campaign. Some of the above tactics may actually result in seemingly less impressive metrics but If you’re still measuring the success of your campaigns on impressions and clicks alone, don’t forget there’s a good chance much of that data is fraudulent.

Cultivating and Utilizing UGC

In this day and age, people are constantly taking and sharing photos. Thanks to their 8-megapixel smartphone cameras and built in filters, it’s easy to take a glorious picture. But the real moneymaker moment happens when someone shares a photo involving a brand. This is what we call: User Generated Content. UGC is any form of content such as a, video, image or blog post created by a consumer or end-user and is publicly available. Social media mediums have proven to be continuously reliable sources for UGC. This is due to the simple fact that platforms such as Instagram and Twitter are hashtag based and easily searchable; vice versa, users are able to tag brands on posts, sometimes eliminating the need to search at all. Not to mention, everyone’s on social!

UGC posts become a kind of endorsement for brands; with the proper permission brands can repurpose these posts and show them off on their own social media page. “User-generated content as a media channel comprises an increasingly significant share of time that consumers are spending with content overall- indicating that consumers are ever more receptive to it. (Crowdtap)”Here’s how top brands go about acquiring and utilizing UGC.


The first step is always getting permission


A big name like Starbucks has so much UGC at their fingertips (literally), but they still need to take the appropriate steps in order to share a consumer’s photo.
Often times brands will create campaigns encouraging users to create content
In August 2015 Modcloth launched a contest on Pinterest “Be Our Pinspiration,” asking users to create a Pinterest board filled with inspirational images and named after the Modcloth campaign. The winner received a gift card and clothing pieces named after them.


For brands, hosting contests on Facebook is a simple and easy way to get UGC

Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 11.32.58 AM

Dove’s “Share Your Beautiful Self” promotion asked users to upload a photo of themselves and a friend. Dove turned each entry into an e-card that could be shared with Facebook friends.
But even a simple hashtag search can reveal a plethora of UGC

Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 11.47.28 AM


Our client, Interlux Paint, receives a lot of UGC from Instagram


You can cross promote UGC on other social platforms, like Facebook


The biggest content drivers are people between the ages 25 and 54 and contribute to 70% of all UGC (SparkReel). UGC continues to dominate the majority of web content, with Pinterest creations up by 75% (Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers). Everyone with a smartphone is a potential content creator and this gives marketers and companies alike a huge pool of content to choose from. Content curation is a vital part in telling the story of your brand, so it’s important to see to what your consumers are saying/posting and being receptive to them. Sharing their posts is a great way of doing just that! Not to mention it’s easy and cost-efficient!

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 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


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


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


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 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:\

A Look at the New Facebook “Reactions”

On Thursday, Facebook gave us a look at their new “Reactions.” Unfortunately, the Reactions are just being tested in Spain and Ireland for the time being, but will add to the limited “like” button, introduced back in 2009.

Hitting “like” on Facebook is a way for users to give positive feedback, and to ensure that they are updated with regard to a topic or post, without all the commitment and effort of actually writing a comment. Although we don’t yet have an official release date, Facebook has responded to the overwhelming desire for a “dislike” button with their new spectrum of one-click responses, called Reactions.


Meet the new Reactions:

Facebook’s Reactions include the classic “Like,” along with Love, Haha, Yay, Wow, Sad and Angry. While this promises a much more articulate way of presenting input on posts for the average user, it will also serve as a diverse and emotional set of data for marketers and businesses using Facebook ads. As of now, Facebook’s newsfeed ranking algorithm will be calculating the reactions as likes, but they hope to learn more over time about the different ways marketers can use ‘loves’ versus ‘angries,’ and so on. For instance, a company might target people who’d marked “angry” on a competitor’s post, or double down on users who ‘loved’ a post, rather than ‘liked’ it.

With the recent change from billing marketers per ‘like’ and interaction, to focusing on product sales and app downloads, Facebook’s new feature will be able to provide a broader array of diverse data to advertisers, allowing them to mold their ads even more specifically.

These new emojis will do more than just allow you to “love” your friend’s new apartment; it will allow users to receive more ads targeted to their desires, and help advertisers to create content that makes you say “Yay!”

Fundamentals of Responsive Website Design

As you probably know, Responsive Web Design (RWD) delivers one website, with one code base, to a multitude of devices from laptops to tablets to mobile phones. At Flightpath, we get so many questions from clients and potential clients about responsive website design these days that we thought it would be a good idea to briefly summarize some fundamentals and best practices.


Responsive Web Design Benefits


  • Better user experience by supporting a wide range of devices, particularly mobile
  • Better Google search engine ranking – With Google’s recent mobile-friendly algorithm update, websites that are responsive have a higher likelihood of ranking higher than desktop-only
  • Easier and cheaper site management compared to maintaining separate desktop and mobile websites


Responsive Web Design Conventions


  • RWD utilizes flexible images and media atop fluid grids that ebb and flow with a devices’ screen size
  • Major “breakpoints” are established to allow a design to adapt and optimize better to certain screen widths. Typical breakpoints are as follows:

 Screen Shot 2015-09-24 at 11.02.23 AM


Responsive Web Design Creative and Production Considerations


  • A non-responsive site cannot be simply “converted” to a responsive site.
  • The code framework is entirely different
  • Non-responsive website design elements will likely not work well on small screens
  • To start, website content and design should be developed with smaller mobile screens in mind – where the focus is only on core content and functionality.
  • While one of the hallmarks of RWD is to provide the same content to all devices, it is not only permissible but recommended to optimize some site attributes for different device sizes. (Example: Use show/hide button to limit the amount of content that shows at one time on small mobile screen.)


Responsive Web Design and Google Rankings


Google has updated its algorithm to prioritize search results per a variety of criteria associated with mobile usability and responsive design. These include:


  • Font sizes
  • Touch/tap element size & relative proximity
  • Pop-up/interstitial usage
  • Viewport configuration
  • Flash usage

These factors should be borne in mind to ensure optimal search engine visibility for your responsive site. You can learn more about this via this blog from Google.

Ten Millennial Marketing Tips from AdWeek

Millennials are adults ages 18 to 34. There are roughly 80 million Millennials in the United States alone, and each year they spend approximately $600 billion. In marketing, the group has been described as high influencers with a heightened awareness of marketing schemes.

According to AdWeek, marketers are constantly working multiple social media platforms and tweaking digital ads to target elusive millennials who don’t respond to traditional advertising. While it is a challenge to market to this ‘elusive’ segment, here are some key tips on engaging Millennials.

  1. Break through the noise by utilizing the tools that are available.
  2. Get the consumer excited with engaging content.
  3. Millennials look for instant gratification. Allow them to personalize/customize their experience.
  4. Be authentic. Fans can detect BS.
  5. Consumers base their purchases based off their perception of the brand.
  6. Mobile first. Two-thirds of Millennials view content on mobile. 70% tweet while watching television or other shows.
  7. Create something people want to watch, and they will share that content.
  8. Be culturally relevant. For brands, find something that is interesting and fits into the cultural space.
  9. Content is designed to engage the consumer regardless of platform.
  10. Listen to your audience. If your content isn’t working, pivot.

The Significance of Emojis in Brand Marketing 😃

When cell phones first came out over thirty years ago, no one could have ever predicted how vital they would be in marketing, let alone our daily lives! The same can be said about major social platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter. With this in mind, we’re taking a look through our marketing microscope; is it possible that Emoji’s share the same fate of marketing success as the aforementioned? From cell phones, to social platforms, is there a future for this “social expressionism” in brand marketing? Here we examine how brands utilize Emojis across different social platforms to engage with their target audience.

Brands are successfully coming out with their own campaigns using emojis and impacting social media in new creative ways, keeping brands ahead of the pack (credit shirley)! According to The Guardian Magazine, “This allows brands to “communicate with their target audience, to infiltrate their mobile phones, to demonstrate that they are on top of the latest communications trends, and also to convey messages in elegantly simple ways.


Bud Light: Twitter & YouTube



GE: Tumblr


PETA: YouTube



Admit it- you use emojis on a day-to-day basis. Whether it’s on your phone via text, Snapchat, Twitter or Instagram; it’s undeniable how universal the emoji language has become. Now that brands have jumped on this bandwagon, what does this mean for the future of emojis?

For starters, expect to see more branded emoji keyboards available for download on your phone. Emoji’s will also appear in your search engine and vice versa, your search engine will be able to read emojis:



Actual Website URL’S will have emoji’s in them:

Coca cola


And if we peer into our marketing telescopes, perhaps there is a future for emojis on a lexical scale? Or maybe they will finally come out with the taco emoji!

How to Utilize User Generated Content

It’s the age of the Millennials, the first digital natives, the social media enthusiasts and the content creators. According to Crowdtap, Millennials, “report spending 5.4 hours a day with content created by their peers.” That said, not only is there more user generated content being produced at this point but it is also the preferred content for users to consume.

But, what is user generated content (UGC) really? User generated content (UGC) is defined as “any form of content such as blogs, wikis, discussion forums, posts, chats, tweets, podcasting, pins, digital images, video, audio files, and other forms of media that were created by users of an online system or service, often made available via social media websites.” As marketers we often use UGC to our benefit. However, are you sure you’re getting the most out of user generated content? Keep reading for three ways to use UGC to better your marketing game:



The first use of user generated content may seem obvious, since it’s part of the phrase itself: content.  Repurposing user generated content for a client’s digital content, including social media posts, blogs and videos, can be a big win that can make a brand appear more approachable. The right usage, attribution and timing can result in shares, engagement and additional user generated content that a brand can use.

According to Socialnomics, “90% of consumers trust peer recommendations.” With that in mind, it makes complete sense to leverage content produced by average consumers who have naturally become brand advocates, instead of a traditional celebrity endorsement or spokesperson. The authenticity that is created when a “real” everyday person advocates for a product is what using UGC as brand content is all about.


Focus Group

A focus group is a demographically diverse group of people assembled to participate in a guided discussion about a particular topic. When it comes to sampling a demographically diverse group of people, there is no better place than the world wide web. Once of the greatest accomplishments of the digital age, is the ability to connect with people all over the world.

We recently learned about a new third party program called Chute Insights, “which monitors photos and videos shared about your brand, industry and competitors in real-time and organizes then by popularity, trends, content creators or time.” When Chute’s co-founder, Gregarious Narain, introduced Chute Insights, he referred to it as an “always-on focus group.” This analogy immediately made sense in a broader way.

As marketers we have the access and knowledge to utilize user generated content as a focus group anytime we need. By viewing UGC in this way you’re able to glean insights about demographics, sentiment, etc. and use that information to inform future strategy, campaigns and product development.

Campaigns & Promotions

We’ve all been there before, it’s been a long week and now you need a brilliant idea for a new promotion/campaign but your creativity well has run dry. This is the optimum time to turn to user generated content for inspiration. Taking a look at what consumers are celebrating about a brand, as well as, the negative chatter surrounding a brand is a great jumping off point when dreaming up the next big idea.

UGC may just be at the center of that next big idea. Everyone from Red Bull to Target have launched campaigns that revolve around eliciting user generated content from consumers, which in turn creates more content for these brands to use.

User generated content has become a vital tactic in content marketing to increase brand legitimacy, visibility and sentiment. As marketers we think we know brands better than anyone else, but as the saying goes, “The customer is always right.”

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?”

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!

SXSW Crazy Energy One Week, “End of Social Media” the Next…What Gives?

We all know the truth can hurt. We also know it can help. But the truth, whether you can handle it or not, has a lot of shades to it.

Last week’s AdAge CMO column framed a POV on social media that got some of us at Flightpath – and from the post’s comments,  many other digital shops, too – really talking about the state of social media.  Given the recent evangelism at SXSW Interactive, attended by the rock stars of the industry (including our own #AustinSix), we figured why not share!

Below is the beginning of the column by brand strategist Jonathan Salem Baskin. He heralds the end of “a fad. No, not the end of social media, but rather the beginning of the end of social media’s infancy.” (Guess they went for the extra shock value of a misleading title.)

Do Campaign Failures, High-Profile Firings Signal the End of Social Media?

The latest news involving social-media pioneers isn’t good. Pepsi has fallen to third place behind Diet Coke in spite of its widely heralded switch from Super Bowl ads to a huge social charity program called Refresh Project. Burger King has grilled through a couple of CMOs and fired agency Crispin Porter & Bogusky after producing Facebook campaigns and viral videos that got lots of attention while the business witnessed six consecutive quarters of declining sales…

Every CMO should use this occasion to pause and reflect on the assumptions that were behind these efforts, especially if you’re about to roll out a social-media campaign or start giving away content for free. Unfortunately, there are many reasons why you shouldn’t, and may not.

For one of our troops, Michael Liss, it all goes back to Gary Vaynerchuk‘s presentation at SXSW about his new book, The Thank You Economy. Some highlights from Mike’s notes:

This is the beginning of the humanization of business. It’s about hitting an emotional center, not pushing coupons. Social media marketing shouldn’t be about push. You shouldn’t be trying to close in one minute – everyone in social media marketing acts like a 19-year-old boy, trying to close too fast. You need patience – this is a cocktail party, start the conversation, break through the noise. There’s no such thing as a social media campaign – a social media campaign is a one-night stand; this is about relationship-building. Social is about talking to human beings. We’re living in the first time when the consumer can interact with you. It’s accepted for us to go into the conversation.

And then, interestingly enough, Gary predicted this entire debate:

Social media is going to start getting beaten up: Does this really have value? People will start looking at the money they’re pouring into this. The next couple of years might be a bad time for social, like the internet from 2000-03, when people thought the internet was a fad.

(You can read much more about the seven things Mike brought back from SXSW – five extra lbs. not included.)

Flightpather John Whitcomb agrees completely with the notion of “smart social,” as referred to in some of the AdAge post comments. He finds some of those comments  dead on, especially when it comes to ROI:

It’s amazing we still haven’t been able to come up with a system that utilizes social media metrics and quantifies them with actual results tied into business objectives. If this was the case, perhaps Pepsi and Burger King would have abandoned the strategy mid-way or at least tried to tweak it to make their campaign work.

I think the real issue, though, is that we cannot force people to buy anything using any sort of advertising medium. All we can do is create brand awareness, and hopefully drive affinity through the connections we forge on these various platforms with our consumers. But that’s still just leading the horse to water.

The Beginning is Ending, Yeah, Long Live the Ending!

So what to make of this debate? The coolest part of being involved in social media is the constant state of change. Change isn’t just in the air, it is in the DNA. The importance of social marketing (fine, media!) is how it connects people to people, people to brands, and people to opportunity in the most seamless, organic way.

If you believe the reality of “if you build it, they will come,” then you know what the build-out of any new and imaginative field is about: not infrastructure, but possibility.  Brands will take advantage of an ever-growing range of social options because community engagement is as rich a philosophy in marketing as it is in life. Social media will clearly lead brands to people and meaningful revenue to brands in the years to come.

Or, to slip in one more movie quote: “Evolution finds a way!”

SXSW 2011: Photo Report – Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of our collection of SXSW photos. (If you missed Part 1, you can find it here.) In this final installment of our Photo Report, you’ll see more people, panels, food and fun stuff. Enjoy!

Star Wars Uncut was a scene-by-scene recreation of the original Star Wars film made by fans around the world, using everything from animation to live-action to stop-motion. And it’s a great example of crowdsourcing. The first 15 minutes of the movie was played, and it was truly a blast.

The folks behind Star Wars Uncut, left-to-right: Jamie Wilkinson, Casey Pugh, and Annelise Pruitt.

At the “Has Facebook Jumped the Shark” panel, everyone pretty much agreed that it hadn’t. More interesting was the debate that emerged on whether or not young people should or should not censor themselves on Facebook.

At the great “Social Media and Comedy: F**k Yeah!” panel, featuring Marc Maron and Michael Ian Black (far left and far right).

Marc Maron discussed (in hilarious detail) an infamous tweet he made next to former GOP Chairman Ken Mehlman.

Marc Maron gets emphatic!
The view from the trade show floor. Tons of companies, ranging from small to large, all showing off interesting software and gadgetry...

But this was my favorite thing there.

My view from the floor of the Google/Bing Q&A. The message, as always, was that content is king.

Harry Knowles, founder of Ain’t It Cool News and altogether Nerd God, along with fellow AICN writers at the “Ain’t It Cool News 15th Anniversary” panel. What I learned here: their early review, which was not too positive, of “There’s Something About Mary,” earned them major respect from both the studio and the Farrelly brothers. Also, Jar Jar Binks was originally going to die in Episode III!

Josh Shabtai (hands), Creative Director/CEO of Vertigore, shows off his company’s awesome iPhone/Droid game, “Star Wars Arcade: Falcon Gunner.”

Finally, I leave you with this. Bask in the glory of Lucky J’s

...and their amazing chicken-in-waffles taco.

And that does it for our SXSW photos! If you want to share your own SXSW memories (especially if they’re chicken-in-waffles-taco-related), please leave us a comment!

SXSW 2011: Photo Report – Part 1

We know that many of you couldn’t make it to SXSW this year to experience all the panels, sights, free stuff, parties, people and BBQ. But fear not! Flightpath gives you a glimpse into what SXSW was like with Part 1 of our SXSW Photo Report. Enjoy!

Outside the Austin Convention Center, the main hub of SXSW, in the morning. Lots of people, but nothing compared to inside the building...
Badge pickup. Not the most exciting part of SXSW, but essential nonetheless. The wait wasn't too bad, and all the convention volunteers were really friendly.
The view from the escalator at one of the many hotels in the area hosting panels. For as many people as there were, it never felt suffocating like some other (::cough::New York Comic-Con::cough) conventions I've been to.
The crowd awaits Anjuan Simmons' discussion about what lessons app designers can take from comic books.
As would become my habit, I was covering all the panels I went to with both my personal and Flightpath Twitter handles. And praying I didn't make a Chrysler-like mistake.
Anjuan Simmons, right, discusses comics and comic book fans. He ended the panel with a comic book trivia contest. Not to brag or nothin', but...
...I won.
The PepsiMAX lot. Free wi-fi, free food, and the PepsiMAX flowed like water.
What would SXSW be without clowns on stilts...
...and free ice cream sandwiches.
The view from the escalator at the Austin Convention Center. Pretty amazing.

And that’s it for Part 1 of our SXSW Photo Report! Come back soon for Part 2, as well as more coverage of SXSW 2011!

SXSW 2011: Finding Twitter Secrets Through Comedy

SXSW 2011

Before I jump into the topic of this post, I just want to report that SXSW 2011 is indeed living up to its hype. Tons of interesting panels, people, and an amazingly good spirit throughout. It is definitely the best convention/trade show/conference I’ve ever been to.

Now, to the topic at hand. Two of my favorite panels thus far have been, “Being Funny On Twitter (Without Getting Fired),” with talk from Chapin Clark of R/GA and Ross Morrison of Huge Inc. on bringing humor and personality to brands through Twitter, as well as “Social Media and Comedy: F**k Yeah!”, which featured comedy-Twitter giants Marc Maron and Michael Ian Black, among others. These were especially timely panels after the Chrysler Twitter debacle last week.

While the two panels attacked a similar topic from different angles – “Being Funny” was about knowing when to use humor on Twitter and for which type of clients, and “Social Media and Comedy” was more about how Twitter has become a new tool for actual comedians – they both ended up presenting similar messages. As Maron said during the “Social Media and Comedy” panel, “You’re not rewarding your fans [if you’re always promoting something].” In other words, people go to Twitter for honesty. If you’re a comedian or a corporation, people aren’t interested in following you to be bombarded with advertisements for your next stand-up special DVD or product release. They want to get a sense of who you are and what your personality is. That’s why being funny on Twitter is valuable to companies where it doesn’t stretch the brand image too far, and why Twitter has become such a great source for comedy from comedians: it’s all about cutting through the facade and learning something real about a person or company.

During “Being Funny,” R/GA’s Clark talked not just about being funny on Twitter, but general conduct as well for when you’re managing a corporate Twitter stream. First-person Tweets from a corporate account tend to raise eyebrows, whether they’re humorous or not — people want to know who is actually writing this stuff. Remember that you’re not just playing to the room, you’re playing to the world. If not everyone is going to get your joke, especially if it’s a corporate Twitter account, it’s best not to Tweet it. Also, however, don’t be afraid to experiment a little bit. If you’re going to try and create a Twitter account for a company with some humor and personality injected, try different styles of humor and see what the audience likes. But what happens when you achieve Twitter success through comedy? Do you hold back once you have a mass audience?

At “Social Media and Comedy,” we asked Marc Maron and Michael Ian Black during the panel whether or not they feel pressure to self-censor as their Twitter followings grow. Both said no — they’re only emboldened to share more of themselves, though Ian Black admitted that when he does feel like he’s self-censoring, he says something more outrageous. This might not be the best strategy for a company using humor, but it does speak to the need to be consistent and not let your followers down. As long as you’re being true to them and yourself, you’re doing your job on Twitter.

We have lots more coming in the days ahead from SXSW 2011, including a photo report, more blog posts, and as always, more Twitter updates! Keep an eye on this space, as well as our Twitter account, @FlightpathNY, or the hashtag #austinsix for all updates from the Flightpathians at SXSW 2011.

SXSW Always Gets The Human Side of Digital


Man, did I love SXSW 2010!  It was an incredible experience for a creative marketing digital-newbie-guy, even when gagging on people talking in code…like CSS and HTML5.  Honestly, it was the most profoundly immersive trade show or festival experience I had ever attended.

This year I am SOL (meaning so out of luck...I need this job, okay!) with personal commitments and tons of client stuff; there’s no way I can attend. But six lucky Flightpathians are going – I have affectionately dubbed them the “Austin Six” (hashtag #austinsix on Twitter) – and here’s their rap sheet. They are great, interesting people. If you see them, their Twitter stream, or their meme badge, just say hi for me.  This year there is so much human-ness in the presentations, sponsors and all the before/during and after parties; I know because I have been jealously digging anything SXSW 2011, and wish I could be there with the Austin Six.

I want to end this quick post before having to run to a Vet appointment – my digitally native Airedale Abby had major ear surgery a few days ago and is now deaf, but doing great – with three things you must do in addition to hooking up with the “A6”:

1.       Go to Wholefoods. Their global headquarters store is an easy one mile walk from the show – it is the coolest foodie store – and their breakfast tacos are clearly illegal in NYC!

2.       Think/act like somebody else, for at least one day. If you’re a geek, act like a designer or story teller or desperado for a breakfast taco…but leave your comfort zone for a bit!

3.       Forget about the parties as networking opps. Think about the networking opps as parties. You walk into opportunities everywhere, every minute. Make it all a party – it is the best freakin show on earth, and what better way is there to capture the human side of digital than by truly enjoying your time with the people behind it all?

Make sure to follow us on Twitter @FlightpathNY for continuous SXSWi coverage, as well as hashtag #austinsix to keep up with all the Flightpathians in attendance. We’ll see you there!

The “Austin Six” Are Psyched for SXSW

SXSW The Austin Six

Six members of the Flightpath team (dubbed the “Austin Six” by Flightpath’s own Cliff Medney) are eagerly anticipating their trip to the South By Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Festival in Austin, TX. The festival promises to be a whirlwind of networking opportunities, learning at every corner and of course the chance to experience all the sights and sounds that Austin has to offer.

SXSW has a huge following and just keeps getting bigger every year. Taking place this year from March 11th to March 15th, topics covered range from social media to design to programming. Most of the members will be experiencing SXSW for the first time, but we do have one repeat visitor as well. So starting with the experienced, here is what our team members are looking forward to the most.

Denise de Castro – This is my second SXSW trip. I’m looking forward to great eats, great panels, and catching up with other social media mavens that I tweet with but have never met. I learned my lessons from last year: I’m bringing a battery charging case for my iPhone and planning out what panels/sessions I’m going to attend. Okay okay, what I’m really looking forward to is The Food: barbecue, tacos, and bbq tacos =)

Dan Brooks – Definitely “Social Media & Comedy: F**k Yeah,” on which Marc Maron (who I talked about in my podcast blog post) will be a panelist. (This is a subject we’ll be tackling soon on the Flightpath blog via an interview, though I won’t spoil with whom!) Also, “Ain’t It Cool News’ 15th Anniversary” panel – I don’t think they create the most well-written (or well-thought out) movie/comics reviews around, but they were just normal dudes who created something huge out of nothing, and I’m interested to hear their story. Last (but not least), I’m looking forward to “Second Screen: TV Meets the Web Backchannel,” which is about laptop/mobile usage during TV viewing, a subject recently debated on the Flightpath blog.

Ryan Kitson – Sunshine, tacos, and nerds will definitely make for a great environment to absorb information. Though not surprising, it’s nice to see there is quite the assortment of mobile and tablet sessions, and “Your Mom Has an iPad: Designing for Boomers” has already got me thinking.

I recently had a conversation with my girlfriend about the fact that her mother (who has never had any interest in technology or SXSW, for that matter) is a proud iPad user. Since bringing home her iPad, she heads to bed early each night, curls up with her new Apple wonder, and watches past episodes of “The Bachelor.”

She may not be making full use of the device there, but it’s nice to know us technophiles are not the only ones enjoying the portability of this technology. I look forward to hearing the shtick.

Michael Liss – BBQ. Okay, other than eating some real BBQ, I’m most excited about being awash in people who eat, drink and breathe all things digital – that contagious passion I pick up at industry events that should be rocking to the nth degree at SXSWi. The people, companies, products and ideas that are changing the landscape faster than we can map it. SXSWi doesn’t just gather to examine where the digital world is going, but to forge it, to make it happen, right there.

New products and companies roll out in front of your eyes. Ideas and new ways of thinking come flying from all directions. I’m excited to be in the middle of it, to soak everything up, discuss and debate it, be inspired and invigorated, meet new people who live for this, and come back ready to reengage with a fresh perspective, fresh approach, fresh ideas and a pure excitement for putting what comes next into action.

And I also can’t wait for the BBQ.

John Whitcomb – Everything is bigger in Texas. While this may or may not be true, it does reflect what I am looking forward to the most. A chance to experience a new area of the country that I have not been to that has its own culture and way of doing things. From what I hear, Austin is not your typical Texas vision but it is a different city and will give me a chance to get out of the New York area and discover something new. I am sure the sessions will be full of new discoveries as well and that excitement of seeing and learning something for the first time is what I anticipate the most.

Alex Lindgren – Right now, nothing too specific. But I’m excited to see what new things companies are doing and announcing, and learning about new trends in tech – particularly mobile. I’m also really hoping not to be shot, since it’s my first time in Texas, and I hear it’s a place you don’t mess with.

There you have it! That is what each member of the “Austin Six,” as we are known, is looking forward to during SXSW. Make sure to follow us on Twitter @FlightpathNY as well as hashtag #austinsix to keep up on how the festival is living up to our expectations. We’ll see you there!

Pod People: How Podcasts Are Changing Niche Marketing


I’m a guy with admittedly niche tastes, and I really love the stuff I love. I’m at the comic book store every Wednesday (usually Manhattan Comics, located just a few blocks away from the Flightpath offices) to check out new releases, and there’s always a graphic novel in my bag or on my nightstand. (Currently, I’m reading the Star Wars: Legacy trades and the Deadpool ongoing series collections. I highly recommend both. Yes, I’m a huge nerd. Please don’t judge me.) I also love comedy, having been raised on a diet of SCTV reruns and Turkey Day marathons of Mystery Science Theater 3000. I’m a hockey addict, going to as many New York Rangers games as I can, and wearing my schnazzy new Heritage Jersey at every opportunity, while at the same time hating the New Jersey Devils with every fiber of my being. It’s a good life.

I like to talk about the stuff I like, or even better, listen to other people talk about the stuff I like. The biggest problem for a guy like me, however, is that there are no mainstream outlets for that to happen with my niche hobbies. There’s nothing close to comic book talk on the radio or television and probably never will be. Comedians are all over the media, but rarely do I get to hear them improvise without a filter, or speak, long-form, about who they are and what they do. Even with hockey, the coverage on local talk radio stations like WFAN is minimal. In the local papers, articles are banished to the back pages of the Sports section. So, if I want to hear actual human beings dissecting and exploring the things I love, where am I to turn?

Enter podcasts. Podcasts, for those who don’t know, are downloadable MP3 audio files (occasionally video), almost always free, that can be played on your computer, iPod, or essentially any device that plays MP3s. And what they’ve evolved, and seemingly settled into being, is niche radio made at home. If you want to hear someone talk about it, chances are, there is a podcast covering it. And unlike public access television, which for the most part, has brought us nothing but junk (and in the best case scenarios, weird junk), podcasts can actually be pretty excellent.

I first discovered podcasts through a fellow comic book fan, who suggested I check out a show called Around Comics. Hosted by a few friends and recorded in their local comic shop in Chicago, these guys were smart, witty, and spoke the language I knew. They weren’t afraid to say what they didn’t like, what they loved, or to disagree with each other. Moreover, they featured tons of in-depth interviews with comic book professionals, including controversial writer/artist John Byrne, legendary Silver-Age creator Carmine Infantino, and future all-time great, Goon creator Eric Powell. These names may mean nothing to you, but they mean a lot to me and others, and the result is a true emotional connection between audience and product that is essentially impossible on modern radio.

I won’t bore you with all the details, but the same holds true for comedy and hockey podcasts I later found. Marc Maron’s WTF podcast delves into the comic’s own personal life with brutal honesty, and he gets his interview subjects (comedians, comedy writers and directors) to open up about almost anything. There’s also the Pop My Culture podcast, more light-hearted than WTF but still very smart, in which hosts Cole Stratton and Vanessa Ragland deftly mix serious discussions about craft with very funny riffs on just about anything with their guests (see the Bob Odenkirk and RiffTrax episodes for proof). For hockey, I turn to the NYRangerscast, hosted by a couple of knowledgeable young fans who adeptly express all the joy and pain every Rangers fan feels through the course of a season, as well as the insightful Puck Podcast, which features highlights and clips from around the NHL.

Now, why should this matter to those of us in digital marketing? Most successful podcasts end up being sponsored, and anecdotally at least, I submit that podcast sponsorships are a great opportunity to reach target demographics. Through Around Comics, I discovered, which offers incredible discounts and packs each book—even the dumb Thundercats trade I ordered—like it’s the most valuable thing on earth, not to be damaged under any circumstances. (This shows that they know and care about the needs of neurotic comic book fans like myself. I will be a customer for life.) But larger businesses can find value in sponsoring podcasts, too; companies like Audible and Netflix have sponsored Around Comics and WTF. When I hear their promos (read live by the hosts), and see that they are supporting something kind of underground and kind of off-the-grid, like a comic book or comedy podcast, it makes me think, “They get it. And they’re helping something exist that could not exist anywhere else.” It changes my perception of them as a nameless, faceless corporation. Suffice to say, I’m a Netflix subscriber and consider Audible one of the good guys.

The New York Times recently took notice as well, highlighting the mega-popular This Week In Tech (or TWIT) podcast hosted by Leo Laporte, which receives a quarter million downloads each week. According to the article:

“Advertisers, especially technology companies, appreciate Mr. Laporte’s reach. Mark McCrery, chief executive of Podtrac, which is based in Washington, and measures podcast audiences and sells advertising, said TWIT’s advertising revenue doubled in each of the last two years and was expected to total $4 million to $5 million for 2010.

Starting at $40 per thousand listeners, TWIT’s ad rates are among the highest in American podcasting and are considerably higher than commercial broadcasting rates, which are typically $5 to $15 per thousand listeners.”

This is great news for successful podcasts, but even better for advertisers.  Ad rates may be higher, but advertisers, some of which are huge corporations, know that they’re getting an audience that’s interested in their specific product. Indeed, TWIT counts Ford as one of its many sponsors.

Podcasts, ultimately, fill much-needed gaps: they give us the chance to be our own talk radio program managers, letting us choose what we would want our own station to be. They tell you that there are other people out there who love the same stuff you do, which, to put it simply, means a lot. Because of this, the bonds between show, hosts and audience are that much stronger, no matter if the podcast is recorded in someone’s kitchen or in a studio; thus, sponsorships seem more honest as a result. And there’s also the fact that, in most cases, podcast listeners find the shows they love on their own. They’re not being advertised and they’re not being sold to you. You find them on your own terms, you give them a shot, and you choose to subscribe or check back in. And the emotional connection created, because you found something that isn’t cynical and speaks to who you are, is real.

So, try a podcast—whichever it is, I promise not to judge. (Unless it’s about something I don’t like. Then, woo-boy, are you a weirdo.)

Plan to Succeed Using Social Media

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

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

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

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

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

My First WOMMA Summit: Not Everything that Happens in Vegas Should Stay There

Last week, I attended my first Word of Mouth Marketing Association Summit (WOMMA).  It was a great experience full of amazing insights that truly gathered some of the best and brightest in the business…and it was in Las Vegas.

It’s ironic when you think that a word-of-mouth marketing conference would take place in a city that has long used secrecy as a campaign slogan. “What happens in Vegas…”you know the rest.  And I’m sure that some should probably live by that rule.  But key concepts and ideas discussed at this year’s WOMMA should definitely not stay secret. So here are a few of my takeaways:

  • Measurement is still a hard thing to quantify. Ask anyone who works in social media what one of their largest challenges is, and inevitably, you will have them list measurement, ROI, or proving the value of their efforts. This is a problem that has not disappeared, but one that, according to many in the field, we are getting closer to figuring out. Josh Bernoff of Forrester, and author of the new book Empowered, addressed this issue in his keynote speech by introducing the “ROI of Word of Mouth Pyramid.”  Bernoff identifies three levels to this pyramid:
  1. First, is the measurement of activity or items, such as interactions, fans, twitter followers, etc.
  2. Second, is comparisons, slightly more advanced than straight reporting, as this involves taking those numbers and comparing them to other efforts.
  3. Third, is the pinnacle, and the point where all efforts converge is the final measurement of value. This includes emphasis on comparing one activity to the other and a deeper look at what value these interactions have to the overall marketing objectives.

In addition to Bernoff’s keynote, a number of sessions featuring some high profile brands (ESPN, Coca Cola, etc.) also addressed the topic of ROI and measurement.

  • One-on-one conversations are hard to scale. One of the last panel discussions, moderated by Jeremiah Owyang, a leading researcher and analyst with The Altimeter Group, discussed the importance of brand ambassador and advocate programs. Owyang explained that it is impossible for any company to scale individual conversations with customers, but programs that are designed to utilize brand advocates and ambassadors can prove to be very valuable.
  • Engage in dialogue with your fans. This last piece of advice seems like a no-brainer but was still a very popular discussion.  Complete panels were devoted to delivering the best customer service via social media and the resulting wins for the brand.  A panel from Ben and Jerry mentioned they saw a huge uptick when, instead of telling their followers where they were going to be, they asked them where they wanted them to go.

So what is the number one thing that I took away from the summit?  I think it’s this: As much as technology can change and move from platform to platform, there are still going to be some golden rules to live by in social and word-of-mouth platforms.  Keep in mind the three items listed above, and make sure that everything you do provides some sort of value to your community.  Do this and you will have a huge leg up on your competition.