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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

starbucks

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
ModCloth2
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

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Interlux-on-Instag

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

 

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

Social Media Builds Hype for #MayPac

Mayweather vs Pacquiao

I’ll admit I’m Flightpath’s biggest boxing fan. I attend weigh-ins and fights. I’ve had the opportunity to interview famous boxing personalities. I even have a collection of autographed boxing gloves. Heck, I’ve got boxing gloves on my business card (It’s quite a conversation starter).

Continue reading “Social Media Builds Hype for #MayPac”

Calling All Foodies! @TwitterFood is here!

Exciting news on the social media and food fronts! Today Twitter launched @TwitterFood, a dedicated account that sifts through the thousands of food-related content shared on the social network and shares a curated selection of posts from the general public and food personalities including Mario Batali and Alton Brown.

TwitterFood
While I follow thousands of folks on Twitter, I do see a lot of junk food tweets. It’s great to see the best of the best come through in one handle, and probably it could drive people to tweet more enticing tweets than a random self-promo posts, which I’m guilty of doing. Here we go, I’ll step up my food tweet game. I’m hoping one of my foodie tweets from my foodie account, @deeCuisine, will get picked up so I can have a Twitter moment of fame.

In addition to @TwitterFood, Twitter also has other curated feeds – @TwitterMusic and @TwitterSports.

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.

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.)

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.

 

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.

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?

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!)

The Flightpath Roundtable: Google+

Google+

Welcome to the first installment of The Flightpath Roundtable, a new feature where we’ll gather various Flightpath employees for a discussion on the hottest topics in digital.

Today, we’re talking about Google+, Google’s fledgling social network. Google+ was launched with much fanfare and expectation, and is perhaps the greatest threat to Facebook’s dominance. But how has it fared so far? We talk Google+’s Circles innovation, how Facebook has responded, and what the future may hold in the social network wars.

The participants in this discussion:

Dan Brooks, Digital Marketing Associate
John Lee, Director of Digital Marketing and Analytics
Cliff Medney, Chief Creative Strategist
John Whitcomb, Social Media Strategist

Dan: So we’re talking about Google+. What’s everyone’s take on where it stands now, whether or not you think it’s been a success up to this point, and will it be a success in the future?

John L: It’s really their second attempt at social media. Their first attempt with Wave just kind of fell flat, which could’ve been caused by the bad publicity they got initially, because of the privacy issues. Honestly, I don’t have a Google+ account. But it’s basically not too different from Facebook. Whether or not they’re going to be able to surpass Facebook, it’s highly unlikely. Google, although they do things very well, I don’t really know where they stand in terms of social media. They’ve been trying to penetrate that market for a long time now, and they’ve kind of fallen short in comparison to Facebook.

Dan: You mention how they failed with Wave. Do you think they’re big enough that they can kind of will this to be a success on some level, and just have it around so that they’re in the space?

John L: I don’t think you can really be in that kind of position where you can just sort of have a piece of it. The way it seems with these social networking platforms, you’re either it, and everyone uses, or you’re gonna die out, like MySpace or Friendster. People need that sort of common platform to share everything, and whether or not people want to use two platforms, I don’t really see that happening either.

Dan: Like VHS versus Beta.

John L: Exactly.

John W: Well, there’s already two platforms that exist too, that people are competing against, and that’s Facebook and Twitter. Google is actually the third major platform that’s coming into play. Twitter is still considered a social network that you use for sharing items throughout your social graph.

Dan: Twitter’s a little different. It’s not as robust.

John W: No, it doesn’t have the same features.

Dan: Well, you’re our social media expert. What’s your take on Google+ so far?

John W: I think it depends on what your definition of success is. From when it started, it quickly grew because of all the press that it got, and one of the main reasons is the Circles feature on Google+. That’s an advantage it has over Facebook. Typically, right now with Facebook, your status update goes out to everyone, and you have no control over who sees what. But with Circles, you really get to pick and choose.

John L: But in Facebook you still have a feature where you can sort of have different groups, right? Where in those different groups, you have your posts and pictures, and select who has access to those. It’s not as well defined as Circles, but…

John W: You can set it up, but it’s very clunky. It’s not very easy for the user to grasp how to use it, it’s kind of hidden behind the actual settings of Facebook. Whereas with Google+, it’s a main component.

Cliff: Isn’t Facebook doing Circles or a Circles-esque kind of thing?

John L: I think they’re trying to refine it.

Dan: I know that there’s a drop-down now. When you make a status update, you can pick who you’re sharing it with.

John L: My wife’s biggest complaint about Facebook when she started using it was the lack of a Circles feature. But I’m sure it’s definitely high on their list in terms of refining it, especially since Google came out with it.

Cliff: And it’s the kind of handle that everyone defines it by. You know, while there may be many other reasons to think that it’s very good or maybe not not so good, Circles is, if not an obvious thing, it seems like a very human thing in a kind of environment or venue that’s sometimes viewed as not-so-human. Things that Zuckerberg did that were just either stupid or viewed as ruthless, insensitive; so to have something as emotionally rich as Circles, which just as a pure play metaphor for your circle of friends – where there was such a cavalier sense of friend-dom to begin with – turns it all on its head to a degree, and re-institutes a little bit of humanity, in the kind of oxymoronic sense, of what social media should always have been.

Dan: I actually made a post about this on Google+. I think the Circles are a great idea, but if I had somebody who I considered a friend, and then I found out they put me in their Acquaintances circle, I’d be kind of offended. [Laughs] You know? And a lot of people kind of agreed with me on that. It’s giving you more control over things, but at the same time…

John W: It’s making you define.

Dan: It’s making you define your relationships.

John W: Right, which can both be good and bad, depending on who the individual you’re defining is.

Cliff: Do we have any cases or situations where friendships have been broken? Where you thought you might have ranked pretty high –

Dan: And then you find out you don’t.

Cliff: [Laughs] Oops!

Google+

Dan: The other thing about Google+ so far, is that I find whenever I login to check, there are like, no updates from anyone. Granted, my network on there is not as big my Facebook network. I think I have like 25 friends on Google+ compared to maybe a few hundred on Facebook, but it’s the same two people posting updates on Google+.

John L: It’s because everyone’s still using Facebook. That goes back to what I was saying about having two competing platforms. Nobody wants to deal with two platforms to get status updates, or check in on what their friends were doing. It’s kind of lame to post things twice on both of them, you know?

Dan: Someone called me on that, in fact.

John L: [Laughs] Yeah. “I just saw this on your Facebook. Why are you posting it on here, too?”

John W: I would agree with that. I even find trouble logging into Google+ on a regular basis. The Circles thing is the big difference, but if Facebook can master the Circles, then people are still using Facebook so often that Google+ will most likely just go off the radar. It already has, in my opinion.

John L: Yeah. There was a lot of hype about it – a lot surrounding the controversy with privacy, but then it just kind of died out.

Dan: Hitwise was saying that usage peaked in July, and then took a dip in August, and it hasn’t hit those numbers since.

John L: Yeah. People were curious and then it’s like, “How is this better than Facebook?” The Circles thing, if they think that’s the winning component, I don’t think it’s enough. Because Facebook is probably going to develop something very similar, if not better.

Facebook

Dan: Social plays more of a role in search now – they incorporate what gets shared in social into search results.

John L: They definitely are. I mean, they’ve been doing it for quite awhile with real-time search results. Having Twitter feeds within their search results, you don’t really see that as often, because they’ve found that not many people actually click on that. But even pages that incorporate the Facebook Like button…is it part of the algorithm? I think somebody from Google actually did admit that it’s part of the algorithm. It doesn’t hold as much weight as a backlink, but social components on a page I think are going to get more and more heavily weighted in terms of how pages show up in search results.

Dan: They have a lot at stake in Google+. Can Google give more weight to Google+ in the search algorithm, as a way of forcing it on the world?

John L: If they want to include that into their algorithm, I wouldn’t be surprised if they did.

John W: But couldn’t they go as far as not only including it, but making it such a major factor that it diminishes Facebook, and they drive users to Google+? I mean, no one regulates them, so couldn’t they basically just change their algorithm, and all of a sudden only Google+ results are only showing up in search?

John L: I think that would be a little too obvious. Google, their whole business is around ads. All they’re trying to do is serve relevant search results to their users, and if they start serving up pages that are heavily influenced by Google+ users, that would sort of contradict everything that they’re trying to do. To be that biased for their own benefit that way, I don’t think it would be good for the user, and again, contradict what their overall mission is, which is to serve up quality information.

John W: So in other words, even though they could, you don’t think they would, because it would hurt their overall search business.

John L: I think so. I don’t think it’s in their long term best interests, just to push a social media platform. They would kind of turn into that ugly, big, evil corporation that they’ve always claimed they don’t want to be.

Dan: What about brand pages? They’ve deleted Mashable’s and everyone’s brand pages.

John W: Well, they’ve made announcements that it’s officially coming at some point. And that’s why they deleted the other ones, because they didn’t want people putting up false brand pages that weren’t officially recognized by Google. Once they get this process in place and they go through, to me, that’ll be the most interesting aspect of what Google+ is – especially from a marketing perspective, is how the brands could use it. If there is still usage at that point, the ability for a brand to be able to target users based on certain criteria by putting their own fans in Circles, and then only sending messages out to just those particular fans – that’s a pretty powerful tool for any kind of brand that’s looking to market, because you have that relevance in the message already. Whereas before you’re blasting out to somebody who likes you, because they pressed the Like button, but they may not be interested in that particular update that you have that day. And so you can better target and make your messaging even more relevant, if that feature comes into play.

Cliff: At the end of the day, how does a company overtake Facebook? These guys seem like they’re not going to be giving up a lot of their lead. What would it take? More than Circles, what could it be?

Dan: If you go back to Friendster, when I used it, I thought it was great. It’s like, “What could be better than this?” And then MySpace came, and that was great, and I thought, “What could be better than this?” And you’re kind of introduced to things, and ways of using it, that you didn’t know you wanted.

John L: That’s very true.

Dan: I don’t know that Circles is that for me yet, but I think it’s going to come along at some point. Either Google+ introduces that new thing, or something else comes along that will take Facebook’s audience away.

John W: I think it will depend on how Facebook fights back to each of them. For this one, it’s very easy, as we mentioned earlier, for them to kind of take this new feature that Google came out with – Circles – and import it into their own system and continue their dominance. If somebody can come up with something that’s truly unique to their experience that Facebook can’t copy, then I think that’s when Facebook fails.

140 Characters Conference Highlights

140 Character Conference

Held at New York’s 92nd Street Y from June 15-16, the 140 Characters Conference featured speakers from all over the digital landscape giving bite-size 10-minute talks (in the spirit of Twitter’s 140 character short info-blasts) on social media, or “The State of Now.” From world-famous icons like Deepak Chopra to little-known Nebraska farmers, all presenters managed to fit into the theme of the conference and offer unique takes on Twitter, Facebook, mobile apps and what they all mean to the world.

Here are some highlights and our picks for the best speakers:

The Lupus Ladies of Twitter. Far and away, this segment encapsulated everything the conference tries to convey as well as exemplifying the potential of Twitter. Three young women, all with Lupus, took the stage to discuss their condition, how Twitter and social media brought them together, and how they’re using these tools to make a difference. Brenda Blackmon, co-anchor of My9 WWOR-TV’s 10 p.m. newscast, whose daughter Kelly suffers from Lupus and was on the panel, told emotional stories about Kelly’s fight, and the difference the Internet has made in spreading the word. This was real life stuff, and it resonated.

Sesame Street. Sesame Street has always done a great job in creating smart content for both adults and their children, and the same is true for their forays into social media. Hearing Dan Lewis, Director of New Media Communications at Sesame Workshop, discuss how they achieve this balance was fascinating. A prime example: this haiku from Cookie Monster, released as a Tweet and as a viral video. Ironic and smart enough for any English major, as well as educational and just plain funny enough for the 5-year-old in all of us.

Cody Heitschmidt, VP Biz Dev, LogicMaze. In discussing the impact of Twitter and social media on small towns, Cody brought a very honest and down-to-earth feeling to the conference. There was no speak of using Twitter to reach customers, grow a brand or whatever. Instead, Cody talked about how being from a small town, he just was not exposed to different kinds of people or modes of thought, and Twitter has helped remedy this by expanding his world. It spoke to an inherent truth about the good side of social media, which is that it can bring open-minded people together, who would otherwise never meet.

Deepak Chopra. Appearing live via Skype, Chopra gave an impassioned speech on how social media is building “new neural networks for a planetary mind.” It’s connecting us and creating a new consciousness. What we do with that consciousness and with that power — whether to create good or to waste it on nothing but entertainment — is up to us.

Middle School MicroInterns and NY Startups. A group of 7th graders took the stage and performed a play about the role social media has in our lives, and it killed, garnering laughs and offering real insight. But the best part was the Q&A with the students that followed, where they revealed just how deep a grasp young people have of the technology and what it means to properly use it. When asked about how to use Facebook without getting in trouble, one student simply replied, “Be appropriate.” If only certain Congressmen were this smart…

BlogHer Food 2011: Takeaways

This weekend I attended the BlogHer Food conference in Atlanta. I came to the conference to learn more from about food blogging from the agency-side and from a blogger’s perspective, as I write my own food blog. It was a breath of fresh air to step away from the agency side of things and meet with other bloggers to discuss food, recipes and techniques, as well as building a network of friends. I told a couple of colleagues that this conference felt more like a community than a place to network and find leads.

BlogHer Food had various sessions covering topics including recipe writing, social media, branding and search engine optimization. Here are my takeaways from the two-day event:

General Food Writing

  1. Write from the heart. Readers like authenticity. Think of your readers and you will always make the right decision.
  2. According to Amelia Pane Schaffner (@ZTastyLife), when writing a restaurant review,”It’s good to have a balance; excessive ranting is bad. There must be something positive about a restaurant.”
  3. Donna Pierce of @BlackAmerCooks advises food bloggers to be honest and write negative reviews about restaurants.

Recipe Writing

  1. Food blogging is not repurposing someone else’s work.
  2. When adapting recipes, ask for permission from the author/creator of the original recipe.
  3. Useful sites to read for info on ethics and copyrighting : www.blogwithintegrity.com and foodethics.wordpress.com

Social Media

  1. Use social media to promote your brand.
  2. Use the different social media channels effectively.
    • Mrs. Q (@fedupwithlunch): “The power of #socialmedia: you can reach so many, [and more] when you use a hashtag.”
    • Facebook is for conversations.
    • Twitter is for nuggets of information.
    • Be careful when using social media. According to cookbook author David Leite (@davidleite), “It can take years to build a reputation, but it can take two tweets to lose it.”

Search Engine Optimization
This SEO session offered great tips on how to optimize recipes without sounding like a robot.

  1. Have keyword phrases and voice – these are the two most important things about blogging. Write like you are going to write normally and keep your keyword phrase(s) in mind. It will come to you organically.
  2. Want to be seen in Google ? Use Google Rich Snippets, or hrecipe.
  3. Content is king, but structure is queen. All recipes should follow the same structure.
    • Recipe Title
    • Ingredients
    • Directions or Instructions or Method
  4. Name your photos. An example they used is ‘Braised-Lamb-Shank.jpg’.
  5. Optimize your website for mobile using HTML5.
  6. If your blog runs on WordPress, utilize the following plugins:
    • HRecipe
    • EasyRecipe
    • RecipeSEO
  7. If you use Blogger (like me – deecuisine.com), you can optimize your content manually with the HTML editor by effectively using:
    • unordered lists <ul> to list Ingredients
    • ordered lists <ol> to list Instructions
  8. Again, structure is important. It may seem daunting the first time, but after a few blog posts, you’ll get the hang of it.

The closing keynote was inspirational, motivating, and the perfect way to end a conference with these key takeaways, which can be applied to anything beyond a food blog:

  1. Quality is everything and can sell itself. Having quality content will allow you to make a name for yourself.
  2. Stop giving away your value so cheaply.
  3. Think outside the laptop! If you want to be a brand, consider modifying your website to be readable beyond the laptop; use HTML5 so your website is readable on mobile devices.

My favorite quote from the BlogHer Food conference comes from David Leite. “You [food bloggers] are some of the most powerful people in media right now. The first time a blogger posted a recipe from my site I flew into a fury. I wanted to bring out the lawyers I was told very quietly by my publisher — don’t annoy the bloggers. They are too important. But don’t abuse your power. You can use it for good or you can use for evil. You can be seen as great, or you can be seen as skanks.”

Twitter and Social Media Create Community Around Death of Osama bin Laden

osama bin laden facebook twitter

Much has already been written about the death of Osama bin Laden and how the news and discussion of it spread quickly over the Internet. “Twitter traffic spiked to more than 4,000 tweets per second at the beginning and end of President Obama’s speech…announcing the death of Osama Bin Laden,” said Twitter’s Matt Graves. While this is not as high a rate as the Tweets surrounding the Japanese New Year, it is still mind-boggling, considering the time slot (late Sunday evening is not high trafficked real estate for any form of media). But what does all this really mean? Why was the first thought for so many people – myself included – to head to Twitter and Facebook?

At their core, Twitter and Facebook meet a need that most successful brands and products have mastered the art of selling: they give people a place to belong. While everyone is different, we are social creatures by nature. For sports fans, a favorite team is more than just something to read about or watch on television; it becomes something you identify with, and by extension, makes you feel apart of something. People become brand loyalists to things as varied as PlayStation, Original Penguin or Android not just because they like the quality of the product, but also because they gain entrance into a community. With Twitter and Facebook, the experience is pure community in the form of digital socializing. This is not a groundbreaking notion, of course, but understanding what makes them resonate with people offers clues as to why they were destinations when the news broke.

Many sites are saying that the “news” of bin Laden’s death spread on Facebook and Twitter, but that’s misleading. People went to Twitter and Facebook to feel involved and connected to those around them when it mattered most; to see others’ comments, jokes, and opinions, and to share their own. Maybe it’s semantic, but to say that Facebook and Twitter were just places where “news spread” undervalues what Facebook and Twitter bring to the social landscape.

The Intersection of Sports and Social Media

This is one of the best times of the year for a lot of sports fans. It is the time when the sweet smell of freshly cut grass fills our nose and the unmistakable sound of the crack of the bat fills our ears. Sports bars will soon be filled with ball fans and millions across the country will join together at their respective club’s ballparks to cheer on their favorite team.

The magic of sports is not one that is best enjoyed alone, although it can be done. The true enjoyment of the game comes from the social aspect of coming together and “sharing” your love and enthusiasm for your game. Yes, we all know Yankees fans don’t always agree with Red Sox fans but the sport of baseball is what brings us together. In fact, one of my colleagues mentioned the fact that sports can take the place of regular social interaction. “It gives you something to talk about with someone who you don’t know and may otherwise have nothing to talk about.”

It is this sharing of your passion and love for the game that makes sports a natural fit for social media. To me, and I think most would agree the main purpose of social media is to facilitate connections by sharing content that others will find valuable. So when I saw a recent article highlighting the MLB Fan Cave and how they proposed to use social it was intriguing.

The MLB Fan Cave is the second part of a campaign that originated last year. Last Year Major League Baseball encouraged fans to compete for the dream job of the ultimate fan. Fans were encouraged to use social channels to explain why they should be chosen.

Mike O’Hara, who was picked from the 10k+ applicants will be manning the fan cave along with his sidekick Ryan Wagner. According to the article the main job of this fan is going to be to hang out in a Manhattan location that is equipped with 15 flat screens to watch all 2,430 regular season games. The two will also be expected to be tweeting from an official MLB Fan account (@mlbfancave ) and not only offer their own observations but also respond to comments and connect to other fans.

The duo will also be authoring a blog and producing videos . In short, they are expected to use all of the major social channels to broadcast their experience and share their opinions and observations of the game. Now of course there are also some additional features such as well-known players stopping by (Joba Chamberlain and others) as well as prizes and contests for everyday fans who visit the physical location.

What makes this interesting to me is that it capitalizes on the very essence of what makes sports social. It allows these two otherwise unknown individuals to share and connect with other fans using all of the tools and from an official capacity of the Major League Baseball Name. It is too early to tell whether or not this campaign will be a home run, but by bringing the traditional offline activity of sharing and connecting around your love for the game to the online social channels that help facilitate connections it is clearly a smart play.

Digital Debate: Media Convergence on One Screen

twitter on television

We here at Flightpath usually get along pretty well. We’re all interested in digital media, technology and how the two continue to change and evolve. We go out to lunch, get drinks, and generally enjoy each other’s company (except for that one person here…). Occasionally, however, we disagree on things (Jets vs. Dolphins, Birch vs. Stumptown (both awesome local coffee houses), Brgr vs. New York Burger, etc.). You know how it is.

Today, we’re having a “Digital Debate,” where we’ll offer two opposing views on an issue in the digital world. You decide who – if anyone – is right. In this sparring match, it will be “Smokin’” Social Media Strategist John Whitcomb vs. “Dashing” Digital Marketing Associate Dan Brooks.

The topic: Will there be a one-screen future featuring the convergence of television and Internet interactivity?

John:

As I watched the Oscars and followed my Twitter stream, it got me thinking about how far technology has come. It was amazing that I could connect to other viewers from all over the globe just by searching for a certain topic or hashtag, such as #Oscars or #TheOscars.

My vision of the future, meaning three to five years from now, involves one of convergence. Instead of having to watch one screen and have another to connect to my friends’ opinions on Twitter with my laptop, I will be doing both at the same time on one screen, plus a whole lot more.

Let me indulge you for a minute and so that you can visualize exactly what I am talking about (and make it easier for you to agree with me). It is the year 2014 and you are just settling down for your interactive Oscar experience. You turn on the TV and tune it to your desired channel. Next you bring up your Twitter and Facebook streams and start following the conversations. Since you are a huge behind-the-scenes fan, you have also just downloaded to your TV the behind-the-scenes app, which lets you watch exclusive video that is not available to the general public.

You continue watching the show, participating in the live Facebook chats with the winners and voting in all of the audience participation questions. You change the camera view so you can get a glimpse of the audience, and by clicking on one of the audience members you are instantly greeted with their bio (in case you forgot who they were).

Some of this is already possible, and this year at the Consumer Electronics Show, “Connected Televisions” were one of the largest draws behind, of course, the Tablet craze. But I really do think that this isn’t that far off and we no longer will have to choose between devices, but will have all the options that we currently have on multiple devices on one screen. Oh yeah, and did I mention that this viewing of the Oscars takes place after you have eaten the dinner prepared by your robot butler?

Nice vision, right? Top that, Danny Boy!

Dan:

John is wrong. THE END.

Just kidding. John brings up a good point in that many forms of media have been mixing and converging over the years. Our cell phones are no longer really phones; they’re music players, texting machines and mini-computers. Laptops are recording studios, DVD and movie players, and stereos. But I’m hesitant to lump TVs into this category, especially when it comes to Internet/Twitter/interactive functionality. The reason? The technology to incorporate interactivity and/or the Internet into the television viewing experience has been around for years; it’s been tried, and it’s never worked.

The biggest hindrance to web surfing on television has always been that the web just doesn’t look that good on TV. It’s the same as retrofitting a web site onto on iPad – it doesn’t work. The resolution is terrible and no one likes zooming in and out. Also, with web content on television, it’s really just no fun reading from your couch, which is usually pretty far away from the screen. In addition, no one seems to want a keyboard lying on their coffee table. (And who wants to use a remote to type on the TV? As a gamer, I hate typing messages on the PlayStation Network with my controller, and rarely do I or any of my friends write anything to each other short of highly intellectual quips like, “You suck.”)

But aside from that, even when media companies have tried to introduce web interactivity to TV, it’s been rejected. Remember the great WebTV craze of ’96? You don’t because there was no craze – no one wanted it. Yes, G4’s Attack of the Show does feature some onscreen Twitter messages from viewers, but this is a niche show geared towards tech fans. They’re low-hanging fruit.

And forget Internet or Twitter functionality; this is really all about interactive television, and there’s a vast graveyard filled with failed attempts at interactive television. There was Qube, Videoway, and Time Teletext, among countless others (see Fordham University Professor John Carey’s excellent paper on Interactive TV for more info). They all offered early versions of things that are now routine on the computer – banking, games, brief text news updates – and all were ultimately rejected or failed to make it out of their test markets.

My feeling is that the big change to how we watch TV in relation to the Internet was the adoption of laptops into the living room. Watching the Giants blow a three TD lead in the 4th quarter against the Eagles and want to see if any team has ever choked this badly? Turn right to the laptop and try to find out. (I’m a Jets fan, by the way.) Want to see what people think about Anne Hathaway’s supremely annoying “Woo!” yelp after every introduction during the Oscars? Check the laptop. Just watched a weird Korean horror movie sickly recommended by your boss that you can’t unsee and want to seek professional help? Open the laptop.

I will, of course, acknowledge that there already has been tremendous convergence between television and the Internet. There’s TV content on the Internet, and the TV experience has become more web-like, with Video On Demand, interactive menus and time-shifting via DVR. But I think this might be as far as it goes for TV meets the Internet because ultimately, TV is a passive experience. It’s a one-way street, where you turn it on, sit back and watch. It’s designed to work that way and nothing has ever been able to completely change that.

Checkmate, Whitcomb!

P.S. I have no idea who added that link to John’s “Nice vision” line. No idea AT ALL.