Instagram’s Hyperlapse & The App-Manic Frontier

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How many apps does it take to post one picture to Instagram?

Actually, with the recent launch of Hyperlapse, the question should probably be:

“How many apps does it take to post one video to Instagram?”

The answer: more than one.

Hyperlapse, the newest social media one-hit-wonder, is an app that helps shaky cam holders stabilize their videos and allows average users to create time lapse videos. Hold applause.

It’s an amazing app. Believe me, I’ve played around with it already:

But, do we really need another app?

Don’t forget that to post images on Instagram, people are already going to some “extreme” lengths. For example, want to combine multiple images? There’s an app for that (well lots of apps for that). Want to “re-gram” an image posted by another user? There’s an app for that. Want to create a time lapse video? There’s another app for that, too.

And now, instead of incorporating these already-existent technologies and this amazing new video technology into its native platform, Instagram has added to the app-mania with yet another step for users to take pre-post.

Maybe Instagram has taken a little advice from its parent, Facebook, which just launched a new messenger app, separate from the normal mobile Facebook experience. And we can’t forget about Paper, the Facebook stories app that launched and then…wait, what happened to it?

And then there’s Vine, which just made some major updates to its video capabilities – namely adding the ability to import multiple videos to one Vine. A capability Instagram doesn’t currently have.

So, with the mega-millions of apps, how do we, as advertising and PR pros, decide which ones will stick? And more, how do brands decide which new apps to leverage – considering that the quicker you are to the game, the greater your potential following usually becomes.

Experience and intuition.

We’ve experienced the hype associated with google plus (which still exists, but for very different reasons other than traditional user engagement) and we know not to trust everything that’s shiny and new in the digital space.

We trust our intuitions and consider the app-implications (excuse the play on words). Will the masses use it? Maybe not. Will professional bloggers, videographers, agencies, big brands, foodies, fashionistas, who care first and foremost about quality, use Hyperlapse? You bet.

As for brands, trust your gut. Think about whether you have the resources (internally or via an agency) to experiment and to add another step to your posting process. Or at base line, determine if you have enough storage available (GB) for yet another app! If the answer to all is yes, then go for it. Just make sure to download the correct app…you wouldn’t want to pay $0.99 to download the Hyperlapse app by Google.

Have/Will you download Hyperlapse? Tell us why…

Early Adopter Effect & It’s Implications for Non Mega-Brands

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A few weeks ago I read an interesting study by Business Insider about brands that “get there first” (so to speak) when it comes to new social networks.

They found that there’s a positive relationship between being an early adopter and a brand’s audience size. Basically, the brands who created their profiles on a new social network the fastest also tend to have the most followers.

It makes sense – the longer you’re on a social network, the more time you have to accrue more followers. But, there’s much more to the story for bigger brands.

  1. Longer Lead Time - The big brands who are first the game likely already knew the network was about to launch. Their agency partners or higher ups probably have met the owners, or have been told about the network by a rep in anticipation of future ad dollars. Because of these relationships, bigger brands have more lead time to think about the network and a strategy that aligns with their goals and other efforts. This way when a mega-brand creates one of the first branded profiles, it looks good and it makes sense, which translates into better engagement with users and…..more followers!
  2. Press – Once a company creates one of the first brand profiles on a new network, the digital presses go crazy. Is it good? How are they using it? Is it used correctly? The commotion is endless. I like to call this the “early adopter” early adopter effect. All of us social, techy, digital, UX people flock to see it. We gaggle over it. Then we write articles about it, sharing our opinions about whether it’s the right fit for the brand or the network or both. The more articles we create, the more traffic is  driven to look at that brand’s profile. And, thus, the more attention and followers the brand builds.

So how can you compete with these massive brands?

  1. Read, Read, Read. Keep up to date on new startups & tech news, so you can try to predict the next new thing.
  2. Dive in, personally. Get the app, make your own profile, and be a part of the community as an individual. This experience will really give you the insights you need to figure out how this network may be used to connect your brand and its consumers.
  3. Create Cross-Medium Social Strategies. When you create social strategies, don’t think about how it lives on one social network, think about how it lives as words, images only, videos, etc. This way when a new medium is created, you’ve already got some way to imagine how to use it.
  4. Be agile With Existing Content. No one ever said you must reinvent the wheel when a new network launches. Instead of thinking about sourcing new content, think about how this technology serves to make your existing story or strategy come to life? Then think about what content you already have that can be altered in some way to work for this network. #makeitwork
  5. Get Buy-In Early On. If you want to take advantage of this “Early Adopter Effect” you need buy in on this type of approach from your higher ups (or from yourself, as the case may be). This will give you the excuse you need to prioritize reading about the network, being a part of the network individually and figuring out how it fits within your strategy. You need to be able to drop everything in order to play catch up with the bigger brands who have a leg up. And in order to drop everything, you need a quick approval process…or none at all.
  6. Agency Partner. No matter how big your brand is, it’s always good to have a relationship with, or an ally at, an ad agency. The good ones make it a part of their job to know everything there is to know about new & emerging social networks. When you combine that knowledge with creativity and an intimacy with your brand and your brand’s social strategy, the turn around on an amazing new social presence can happen with just one call.


Are you an early adopter when it comes to social media?

So What? 3 Reasons Why You Need a Social Media Strategy

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Social Media bandwagon - Image courtesy of Prepare1.comBecause of the ease and low-cost associated with space on social networks, most businesses opt for a “shot-in-the-dark” strategy rather than approaching their social media presence, strategically.

In fact, a significant amount of marketers (80%) incorrectly begin with tactics instead of goals when it comes to social media strategy. They consider the creation of a Facebook page or twitter handle to be “free” and place them in the “as time permits” category.

This passive approach has led to one of the largest challenges in social media marketing as of late: How to measure and determine the ROI of your social media marketing efforts. The creation of a social media strategy is the only way to adequately answer this question, as it provides a critical context for evaluation of these efforts.

Your brand is too important to be treated so casually!
If you jump on the social media bandwagon by thinking about tactics first (e.g. creating a Facebook page or Twitter handle), you risk spending time on something that might not actually make strategic sense for your brand. Here’s why:

1. Time is Money - First of all, all of these “free” social media networks should take real time to manage properly, especially if you want to be successful. The time you or your co-workers spend updating each of your social media profiles, creating content, and (hopefully) optimizing it, all equals money.

2. Opportunity Cost – Think back to intro level economics. When you spend time updating your status, tweeting, pinning, creating videos etc. you’re not spending time doing another activity. Our time is not infinite, so we must make choices on how we spend it. As such, it makes sense that we should spend our time on activities that are proven to drive revenue or generate leads. But how can we determine if our time is well-spent with no measurement tools in place? That brings me to my next point…

3. Measurement & ROI –  The key to determining the worth of your efforts is creating metrics to follow and measure throughout the course of the campaign. Here’s the problem: without actual goals in mind, you are unable to delineate key performance indicators (KPIs) that will help you measure your activity. Sure, you can do daily maintenance and discover, for instance, that funny quotes get more retweets and that shorter YouTube videos get the most shares. You might even track how many hits to your website you get from each of these channels. But…so what? All of this means nothing if you have no plan in place or goals to work against. Without measurement tools, you’ll have no idea whether it is actually worth your time to maintain these social media profiles. You’ll have an even smaller idea about whether your target audience or customers are even receptive to these efforts – or if they even know about them?

Essentially, without goals and a strategy your efforts are seemingly purposeless. You’re posting updates, tweeting, blogging, and creating content all in hopes that something is going to move the needle. The problem is that you have no clue how you’d know if it did move or how.

The bottom line is, in order to determine the ROI of your efforts or to justify the budgets and time allocated to social media marketing, you must create a strategy that starts with clear business goals.

Why else might a social strategy be useful?

This is the second in our series of “So What?” blog posts, introducing social media to brands. As we move throughout this series, we will cover topics such as ROI, the social consumer, analytics, and more. Click here to read the first in the series: Why Embrace Social Media & The Groundswell.

So What? Why Embrace Social Media & The Groundswell

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This is the first in a series of “So What?” blog posts, introducing social media to brands. As we move throughout this series, I’ll cover more sophisticated topics such as ROI, the social consumer, analytics, social strategy and more.

so what? social media

So what?

In an age of limitless social networks, of Mustafa the Old Spice Guy, of Liberty Mutual’s Responsibility Project, there are still a sea of executives wondering:

“So what? – what’s the point of all this ‘social media’?”

The pervasiveness of social media is undeniable. As of August 2012, 69% of online adults use social networking sites. But why should brands and marketers alike spend their time and money developing a social media strategy? The simple answer is that they cannot afford NOT to. Here’s why:

Why should brands embrace the social media “trend?”

Since the first real social network in 1996, consumers have been privy to more information and more connections to brands and each other than ever before. We have more knowledge at our fingertips and we have the ability to share that knowledge using just 140 characters (if we like).

Along with the incipience of social networking sites, came a fundamental change in our online behavior. Forrester calls it the “groundswell” – by their definition it’s “a social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions…” It started with networks like Craigslist and Napster – allowing people to share music or apartment vacancies. And now, people turn to one another for advice about almost every aspect of their lives – including which products to buy and brands to give their loyalty.

Customers have always formed opinions about what a brand signifies and shared that with their friends over a few drinks. Now, as a part of the groundswell, they’re spreading that opinion online, in seconds, to an exponential number of people. They’re posting reviews on Yelp, tweeting about your brand, etc.,  and by doing so, they’re redefining your brand one post, tweet, review at a time. In fact, a recent study by Massrelevance found that 75% of consumers use social to find & share info about brands.

The balance of power has changed and is now in the hands of your consumer.

As a consequence of these connections, this knowledge, and the ease of sharing amongst our network, brands are now forced to be more open, more transparent, more consumer-centric, and more connected themselves. It’s no longer okay to sit back and watch others participate, now brands must listen to and engage with the groundswell in order to get its attention and help influence the conversation.

Connected consumers simply will not accept brands that aren’t participating, aren’t listening, or aren’t responding to them in real time. Convinced yet?

Stay tuned for more in our “So What?” series about social media, ROI, strategy and more. And – feel free to leave suggestions for “So What?” posts in the comments below.

To learn more about the groundswell, check out Groundswell (the revised edition) by Charlene Li & Josh Bernoff.

Get Pinterested: 5 Reasons to Use Pinterest Business Accounts

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Image courtesy of http://www.marriedtothesea.com/

If you’re as into social media as I am, you too may have been excited about the latest news from Pinterest – verified business accounts have arrived! Pinterest has also announced that new tools will soon be available to businesses to set their accounts apart from personal pages. We still aren’t sure what these tools might be, but they’re likely to include some back-end analytics, and maybe even a means to conduct a Pinterest contest without relying on a third party.

If you’ve been skeptical about using Pinterest for your business, now is the time to take it into consideration – especially if your target audience is women who enjoy curating information. As with any new platform, it’s important to make sure that Pinterest fits into your social strategy before diving in head first. However, if you need an incentive to start your decision-making process, here are 5 reasons we think you should ‘get Pinterested':

5 Reasons to use Pinterest for business

  1. Drive traffic to your website or blog – In multiple studies, Pinterest has been shown to direct more traffic than Yahoo organic search, Bing, Twitter, and Google+ combined. And, according to Real Simple, Pinterest refers more visitors to its site than Facebook!
  2. Another avenue to engage with your audience – One of the best ways to measure engagement with your content (no matter the channel) is to look at the amount of time users spend with it. According to ComScore, Pinterest users spend an average of 15.8 minutes on the site per visit, which is more than the average time spent on Facebook and Twitter combined.
  3. Expand your reach – With each new pin to one of your boards, you gain another opportunity to reach someone new. Especially so if a user “repins” your post. It’s very similar to the Twitter model, because the potential reach of each piece of content is exponential.
  4. Drive purchases – Are you a retailer? Pinterest is a great way to drive actual sales. A study by Shopify shows that Pinterest users not only buy the products they pin, but they also spend more on average than Facebook users. In fact, shoppers referred by Pinterest are 10% more likely to make a purchase than visitors who arrive from other social networks!
  5. Use it for market research – Search a topic of interest to your brand or consumers of your brand. What are people pinning related to that topic? Use the Popular Pinterest Board to find out what new and unique things are trending each day.
How do you use Pinterest for business?
Allie db&r social media specialist

I’m Six Stories Up at db&r

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Allie db&r social media specialistIt has been such a long time since I’ve posted on socialallie.com. Shame on me! Here’s the deal – Most of my blogging efforts are now through db&r. As their Social Media Specialist, I curate and write for our blog (sixstoriesup.com). I’m still writing!

So, while I think about my next post exclusively for socialallie.com, I thought I’d share some of the most recent blogs I’ve posted for db&r.

It’s All Relative – Social Media Engagement To Stand The Test Of Time | Nov. 6, 2012
Today, I turn 26 years old. Maybe you think I’m pretty young… or just maybe you’re thinking that’s the perfect age (and I’m hoping this is the case!). As I prepared for a simultaneous election and birth-day, I began reflecting on what it means to be 26 in a “social” world: how has my social media use changed over time; how do I use use social media differently from my parents, my older sister, and my co-workers; and most importantly for us at db&r, what does all this mean for social media marketers? Continue Reading…

Must-Read Posts: Presidential Debate, Social TV, Social Style, Pinterest & More | Oct. 18, 2012
It’s been a busy week (well, couple of months really) here at db&r. Even still, we always make time to stay in touch with the latest online conversations. Here are some of our favorite blog posts, articles, or videos from the week so far: Continue Reading…

Five for Friday: 5 Mac Memories in Remembrance of Steve Jobs | Oct. 5, 2012
It’s exactly one year after one of the greatest innovators of our time passed away – Steve Jobs. When we realized it had already been a year since he passed, we had nothing but memories of our first interactions with Apple. So, for this week’s Five for Friday we pulled together our first Macintosh memories. Continue Reading…

Myspace Redesigns & Repositions: New Myspace Features [Slideshow] | Sept. 27, 2012
A few days ago Justin Timberlake tweeted a link to what I call “the little video that could,” which recaps the new Myspace design as well as some of its functionality. This video has the whole social media world tweeting up a storm. And why? Not just because of its “sexy” design. It’s how the brand seems to be repositioning itself as more of a partner to Facebook and Twitter than a replacement. This move could potentially allow the network to penetrate the mass market…quickly. Continue Reading…

Google Reader & Marketing Your Brand: Why & How to Use RSS Feeds & Google Reader | Sept. 10, 2012
Google Reader has been around since a beta was launched in Google Labs in 2005 – I first started using the service about three years ago. But I’ve discovered that not everyone understands or is even aware of what Google Reader is, let alone how to use it for marketing purposes. So here’s your guide to using Google Reader as a marketing tool. Continue Reading…

Demystifying Facebook Advertising: 9 steps to optimize your Facebook ad campaigns for success | Aug. 14, 2012
Ever since GM pulled its ad dollars from Facebook back in May, there’s been a ton of conversation around the worth and effectiveness of Facebook ads. When Facebook became an IPO, the controversy continued. Now the question is not only whether Facebook advertising justifies a major ad spend, but are also whether Facebook will even be around in a few years. Continue Reading…

Social Media Analytics: Effective Tools for Building, Interpreting, and Using Metrics

How to Measure Social Media ROI – by yourself

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ROI (Return on Investment) has been THE buzz word for the past six months or so (well before Facebook became an IPO and stole its thunder). Why? Because now that social networking sites are here to stay, marketers are being forced to carve out a place for it in their overall marketing budgets, instead of using discretionary funds for “emerging technologies.” But it’s no easy task to get the buy-in on a whole budget dedicated to social media marketing (SMM) – especially if you work for a small business.

First of all, many people perceive that social media marketing is virtually free.

Networking sites themselves are “free” to be a part of, but managing them correctly and devoting the time necessary to developing a strategy and creating unique content is in no way FREE. Large corporations have huge sectors and agencies and freelance writers devoted to keeping their blogs and social networks alive. That’s a lot of actual dollars and cents.

To boot, if you ever took an intro level economics class, you know about “opportunity costs.” These are the costs you incur by not doing something else. For instance, if you spend 2 hours writing a blog post, you’re losing 2 hours where you could have been creating an email. If your emails on average garner about $800 each, then to make spending your time creating a blog post worth it, you’ve got to at least generate $800 in revenue from it, right?

If only it were that simple. Social media marketing is a little different from traditional marketing- it takes time to build a base, a reputation, and to increase your site’s SEO. If your ultimate goal by participating in SMM is to increase revenue, then you’ve really got to think about three things:

  1. The resources you have involved in it – How much money do you have, how many people do you have to draw on for the effort, how much time is your team spending on social media?
  2. Your more immediate goals – be they awareness, engagement, purchase intent, etc.
  3. How much value you associate with each social networking touch point (a twitter follower, or a facebook fan etc.).

TechCrunch reported that the value of a Twitter follower is less than one cent. Others think Twitter followers are worth closer to $3/month. There’s really no conclusive evidence because it’s always a case-by-case basis.

Social Media Analytics: Effective Tools for Building, Interpreting, and Using MetricsSo how do you figure out what the ROI of your social media marketing strategy is?

1. Instead of associating value directly to dollars, associate value to your key performance indicators (KPIs).

Ex. How many of our twitter followers shared our content or purchased our product? 

2. To delineate your KPIs you have to think long and hard about what your end goal is.

Is it awareness about your brand? Is it to influence purchase decisions? In what part of the marketing    funnel are you trying to reach your target?  

3. Determine how active your followers are on average. Some indicators of their engagement level on various social networking sites are how personalized their Facebook or blog comments are and by how much time they spend on your landing page or site.

Do they visit your page, whether it be your Facebook page, blog, etc., once and then never interact with it again? 

Some advocate for creating a social media scorecard. This method incorporates manually grading or balancing different interactions (a video view versus a tweet).  These “grades” are dependent upon your SMM goal(s). You basically create a weighted scale to help you determine your ROI.

After you figure out the value of each KPI, you can put them in order and then multiply the number of interactions with the grade. Add them all up for a total campaign score. More about this method to come.

What factors do you include when calculating your social media ROI?

Analytics & Social Strategy – Do they exist?

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I’ve been working on this post for a while. Why? Because to be completely honest, there’s a ton of debate around social media ROI and analysis. As I’ve researched, though, I’ve found a few tips that can help you in the right direction when it comes to measuring the success of your social media efforts.

I want to start by stating that it’s not all about the money. Let me qualify that – I mean, every marketing initiative doesn’t directly translate to actual dollars. A lot of marketing is about maintaining current relationships (CRM – Customer Relationship Management). Here’s a great quote I found in a recent STORES article:

“It may be hard to accept that the sweet spot for social is more about deeper engagement and brand building than a lift to the bottom line.”

Marketers are pointing to the ever expansiveness of social networking and claiming that even if you can’t evaluate the numbers properly, you still have to be involved with social media marketing. Nielsen’s Social Media Report noted that nearly 80% of Internet users visit social networks and 53% of active social networkers follow brand. No matter what, social networking is important for brands.

But, if you can’t measure the success of your latest social media campaign, then it’s almost impossible to determine areas for improvement and growth for your next social endeavor. So there’s no way that we can completely ignore the numbers!

Here are some low barrier to entry ways to start measuring the success of your social media efforts:

At the beginning of a campaign, be it a new facebook contest or an integrated social media and online event, the most important thing to do is to delineate what factors you’ll be looking at to indicate either an achievement or a failure. This could be increased engagement, awareness, preference change etc. There are many options in the marketing funnel.

Then, you must determine what Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s), will help you figure out if you’ve achieved this goal. What do you want your new followers or community to do – how do you define conversion? This could be FB likes, email opt-ins, ad impressions, site traffic, twitter followers.

Once your campaign launches, you then have to monitor them – looking at social “analytics!” What are people saying, are they retweeting you, how much? Are they sharing the content via FB, or forwarding an email, how often? Are they recommending your product or brand via Yelp or other networks? Are theyblogging about you?

You can find most of this information on your own, using Facebook insights, Hootsuite analytics or bit.ly for twitter (and Twitter also has its own website analytics), YouTube analytics, google analytics for web traffic levels and sources and you can even use technorati.com to search the blogs that include your brand name or topic.

Still wondering what the value of these followers and shares is? Check out my next post about low-level social media ROI!

How are you currently analyzing your social media efforts?

Is your brand a good Valentine? How to evaluate your brand sentiment via social networks

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Valentine’s Day always makes me think about my family, friends, and if I have one, my significant other. I usually smile thinking about my parents and my sister – remembering our special Valentine’s Day dinners. I feel so lucky to have so many valentines in my life.

But more importantly, in the days leading up to the 14th, I’m forced to reflect on my relationships and to evaluate if I’m a good Valentine myself. Do I want to spend Valentine’s Day with myself? How do my mom, my sister, my father, my boyfriend and my friends think of me?

Brands should be doing the same thing, regularly. It’s important to monitor what your followers and your customers think of you – and how they think of you so that you. In other words, what’s the general brand sentiment? 

Why is this an important thing to monitor? Sentiment is a good indicator of how well you’re doing as a company and it can help discover more & better ways to engage with your followers. So if you haven’t started yet, you should start monitoring brand sentiment this Valentine’s Day, but how?

I can tell how I’m doing based on the heart-shaped notes, chocolates, and maybe even flowers I receive, but how can brands tell how they’re doing? Thank goodness for social networks! Now there’s a whole new avenue for people to express themselves. To find out how we’re doing and what our customers are thinking about us, all we have to do is leverage this information.

First, the easiest thing to do is to set up search streams in either Hootsuite or Tweetdeck, so that any time your brand or company name is mentioned via twitter, it will show up. You can do the same with Google alerts, so that when there’s a mention in a news article or blog you’ll receive an email straight to your inbox.

In the same search stream you can search popular keywords in your industry or community as well – if there are popular owners or employees you can search their name as well. If you’re not using a twitter aggregator, then you can just do a normal search on twitter.

The next part is determining the “sentiment” of each of these mentions. Clearly, a recommendation is positive while a complaint is negative. For all of the negative comments, you should try to respond – try to find out more details about the problem and figure out a way to make it better. As you go on, this can become a means of customer service and market research.

There are some free services out there to help you evaluate your brand sentiment and I list some below. But it’s best to track sentiment on your own – that way you can respond in real time!

1. Socialmention.com: This website allows you to search by keyword (brand name for instance) in multiple categories (blogs, twitter, images, news, etc.). The sentiment they use is basically the “ratio of mentions that are generally positive to those that are generally negative.” It will also show you the people who are mentioning your brand the most and how often.

2. Twitrratr: To analyze your sentiment based only on twitter, Twitratr is okay. You can enter in your search term and it pops up with all of the twitter mentions in three different colums: positive, neutral, and negative. I’ve found that it’s not so useful all the time because words like “blue” make mentions appear in the negative column, but blue isn’t always negative!

3. Twitter Sentiment: Allows you to enter in a keyword and then it pops up with all of the mentions, red if it’s a negative comment and green if it’s positive. There’s no color if it’s neutral. Again – you can do this constantly on your own, by just setting up a search stream. But they do summarize the general sentiment at the top with a nice little pie chart and bar graph.

There are definitely other services out there, like Twendz etc. which require a little extra funding for pro accounts.

How do you monitor brand sentiment?

What social media marketers can learn from Raven’s kicker, Billy Cundiff

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On Sunday night everyone was abuzz after Ravens’ kicker, Billy Cundiff, missed what could have been a game-tying field goal. I went to twitter after the fail, to see what people were saying, and guess what – twitter was down. Cundiff not only broke his fan’s hearts, but he also broke twitter! In fact this past weekend’s NFL social chatter surpassed the chatter of last year’s Super Bowl!

This incident brought to light a few thoughts –  Is all press good press? Do social media campaigns that flop, but get tons of press actually end up doing some good?

The jury’s out on how this press will affect Mr. Cundiff’s career. One thing is for sure, though, the fans are pretty pissed. All Cundiff can hope to do is grow as a player and hope he doesn’t make the same mistake twice. No one, who actually knows Cundiff’s record, would consider him a failure.

When it comes to social media, though, we’re quick to label certain campaigns as “failures.” It seems so final. As social marketing evolves we’re learning that these failures at least give brands a chance to be in front of their consumer. Some brands even get a mulligan (but, remember, you only get one). Consider the Dominos faux paux over a disgusting employee video. Dominos struck back by revamping not only their social infrastructure, but also their pizza!

Just last week McDonald’s twitter campaign backfired. They encouraged their followers to tell their own McDonalds’ stories using the hashtag #McDstories. Instead of heartwarming stories, the hashtag took on a life of its own with tweets that included animal cruelty, weed, and super negative thoughts about McDonald’s.

This just goes to show that when you put things out there, you never know where the groundswell will take it. A part of being a great social strategist is realizing that a lot of what happens is out of your control. The best way to quell a social media storm, is to be ready for it in the first place.

McDonald’s is a huge company and their Social Media Director knew when the tweets starting getting too negative that they should try to regain control and steer their followers in another direction by promoting their own tweet: “When u make something w/ pride, people can taste it #McDstories.”

Regardless, instead of the nasty tweets appearing at the top of search, now all that’s attached to the hashtag are tweets about their social media flop – #McFail.

The bottom line is that you’ve got to try. If you have a sound objective and strategy, even the bumps in the road won’t keep you from achieving your ultimate goal. We can all follow Billy Cundiff’s words:

“I’ve had setbacks before but I’ll move on from this. It’s one of those things that will strengthen me in the end.”

How do you prevent social media disasters?

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

MLK & Content Strategy

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I’m not sure when MLK day became more than just a monday away from school for me. I think it must have been in the 6th or 7th grade when I read Why We Can’t Wait written by Martin Luther King, Jr. himself. When I read his words and realized just how intelligent, powerful, and forward-thinking this man was, I understood why the nation took a day off of school and work to celebrate his achievements.

It might seem like a stretch or even a “downgrade” to relate his efforts in the Civil Rights Movement to anything related to social media. But, when I think about MLK and his road to success – there are a few things that I truly feel relate back to our efforts in social media marketing.

1. Amazing writing – Everyone knows that MLK’s speeches were some of the best speeches the world has ever witnessed. Almost every line in his “I Have A Dream” speech or in his last speech “I’ve Been to the Mountain Top” are quote-worthy. Writing that compels someone to action is the only way to create a following. No matter your limitations – be it 420 characters or 140, always strive to write beautifully.

2. Great Timing – Use timing to your advantage. King paid attention to timing, not only when he was delivering speeches, but also when organizing movements, sit-ins, and boycotts. I remember reading MLK’s advice: “except for Christmas, Easter is the main shopping period of the year…the best time to bring pressure to bear on the merchants for the needed change.” When creating content for social media, consider what’s going on in the world and be relevant. This leads to the most memorable and “viral” content.

3. Strategy – It’s true that MLK recognized the importance of spontaneous actions, like those of Rosa Parks. But he also realized that, without organization and long-range strategy, people will exhaust their energies. Though I don’t remember everything from Why We Can’t Wait, I do remember that every effort King organized in Birmingham was thoroughly thought-out such that it would make the Civil Rights Movement  a “top-of-mind” subject for Americans. Extending beyond Alabama, planned well-organized boycotts played a major role throughout all phases of the movement.

Thinking through a social strategy is what makes a campaign successful. Even with the most eloquently written and relevant blogs, without a real plan or strategy, they may very well be over-looked.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr., “I Have A Dream”

NCAA Basketball

Social Media Madness: 5 ways to be a real NCAA bball fan & a great social media strategist

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As some of you may know, I am a huge UNC Basketball fan. To some we’re “North Carolina,” to others we’re “the tarheels” and to me, we’re “#1.” Okay, I had to throw in that last one.

You can’t be a great NCAA basketball fan without a few key characteristics – including being crazy. And the same is true for being a great social media strategist, or marketing professional in general. So, I thought I’d sum up some of the most essential aspects to being great at one, or the other, or, for me, both.

  1. Understanding the strategy: If you want to be a really great fan, you have to understand your team’s underlying structure. Does Roy usually bulk up on great defensive players, power forwards, or 3 point shooters? When we look at great SMM campaigns, the best ones have strict objectives and creative strategies to accomplish them. This way, not only does everyone know what the plan is, but everyone also knows what the measurement for success is and how often to evaluate it. To be a great college basketball fan, you have to know what the coach is up to when he puts certain players in, otherwise you wont know if the team is actually doing what they set out to do (or win to cheer)!
  2. Knowing the rules: There are rules to every sport and while I haven’t mastered the differences between college football and the NFL, but I am well-versed on NCAA bball rules. Why? Because of the high level of competition, oftentimes the games come down to free throws or which star player is benched due to foul trouble, if you don’t know the rules, then you can’t understand what’s going on. To be a great fan, you have to know why these things are happening and what ways your team might be able to use these rules to their advantage. Each social platform has its own rules – some of the most namely are Facebook’s contest rules. To be a great social strategist you need to know how to embrace these rules and creatively use them to your advantage, otherwise your great idea might get shut down! If you know the rules, you can play on the line in just the right way. Remember Burger King’s “Whopper Sacrifice? ” Though it was eventually shut down by Facebook, its creators knew the risks associated with it and were able to promptly put up new images when it was dismantled.
  3. Keeping track of your competitors: This is one to remember. Because the social world is always discovering new technologies, it’s always changing. That means your brand’s competitors probably know something you don’t. It’s inevitable. So, it’s to your advantage to keep abreast of the new happenings in your category. Constantly evaluating your competitors efforts will help you to stay in front of their efforts and to use their failures as advice for your brand’s future campaigns. You better believe that I know which teams are the teams to beat. Everyone knows that UNC’s #1 rival is Duke, and I know every year they’ll have great 3-point shooters. Because I know about their competition, I also know that the Tarheels have to be tight on perimeter defense when they’re playing the Blue Devils.
  4. Having a schedule: Always, always, always have a schedule. Be flexible, but have a schedule. Creating a calendar helps you to remember your goals for a particular month (or week even) and what your ideas are for achieving these goals. That way you’ll always stay on track for a campaign. Without a schedule, your strategy can become muddled and unclear – and then you can’t track its success! Obviously, to be a good fan you have to watch every game. To do that, you need a schedule with which channel the game will be on, what time the game is, and who they’re playing.
  5. Being a little crazy (super passionate): The best social strategies are the ones no one else could have thought up. They use a platform in a different way or have an underlying idea that’s kind of, well kukoo. Think about the Old Spice campaign. Mustafa? Really? It’s brilliant. When you’re starting to create your strategies, give yourself 10 minutes to come up with as many ideas as possible. Don’t rule any out. Then spend the next hour scheming what would need to happen for each idea to come to life. Then you can evaluate the elements it takes to make the idea work to find out if it will work for you and your brand (considering time constraints, available resources, & metrics for success).

What makes you a great fan & strategist?

2012: A year for resolutions not predictions

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Though I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what 2012 will bring for the the state of social marketing, I’m not sure how productive all of the predictions we’ve been reading and spreading around in the past week have actually been.

Aside from the theoretical ones, most of the predictions I’ve read thus far are not so helpful when it comes to considering a whole year’s worth of marketing (If you are going to read some predications, check out the 2012 Social Marketing & New Media Predictions put together by some  of the industry’s most progressive thinkers – courtesy of Brian Solis). Some predict the rise of social media, the demise of Facebook, the rise of google+, the list is endless.

Instead, what I’d like to focus on is how we can start using what we already know about social media marketing in the coming year. So many marketers have, up to this point, merely translated their traditional marketing and advertising efforts into social media lingo. For instance, remember when CVS launched their CVS_cares twitter feed? Probably not. That’s because they made their profile private, so that only confirmed followers could read their tweets. Again – it’s not an advertisement, it’s a conversation. How can someone retweet CVS if they can’t even see their tweets to begin with?

This sort of thinking completely undermines the the nature of social marketing – there’s not one set reach. Instead of relying on one commercial to reach one person, social relies on one tweet to reach one individual and then reach another individual and so on and so on exponentially.

So, in 2012 I resolve to think of social media differently.

Instead of spending my time thinking about what might change in the social media landscape, I’d rather spend my time coming up with strategies and opportunities that take advantage of the true nature of social networking. Most importantly, I resolve to develop strategies that leave room for brands to be flexible as well as responsive to consumers. I resolve to do my due diligence and research consumer opinion before diving into any strategy. In effect, leveraging the consumer’s ideas and willingness to share to create campaigns that stretch across platforms and beyond the traditional marketing mindset.

What is your 2012 social marketing resolution?

Tangerine_Tango

2012 Pantone color of the year: Tangerine Tango

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I can’t even remember a time when I didn’t like the color orange. It’s bright. It’s cheerful. As my favorite color since  2000, it’s actually been the pantone of my century. And so, I can’t adequately express how thrilled I am that Pantone has chosen “Tangerine Tango” to be their color of choice to represent 2012.

My orange crush is unusually related to my passion for social media. Both have changed my life in such significant ways. For instance, once I realized that my love for orange was something that people recognized me by, almost like my “color mantra,” I made it a part of my identity. It’s a symbol of the positivity we should bring to every situation. And if ever, and these times do happen, I’m feeling frustrated or upset, it’s the honest truth that surrounding myself with orange (and now Pantone 17-1463) somehow gets me out of my funk. Orange has changed the way I approach my work, my friends, and my life.

Social media has done the same. It’s not just something I do or even something that I like. It’s a part of how I communicate. It’s a part of how I live. I can’t just read an article anymore and think quietly to myself about it. No, now I read an article and share it to my followers, or my friends automatically see that I’ve read it via Facebook. I don’t just cook food for those who are actually eating it anymore. I cook and share pictures of my delicious dishes with my family and my friends. I don’t save my thoughts about marketing for conversations over cups of coffee (or tea). Instead, I share my ideas with people like you via a blog, twitter, facebook etc.

But this isn’t where the similarities end. It’s the energy that our new pantone of the year emits, that makes it so special. A great social media strategy has this same type of energy. It’s a bright light, a great idea, a spot on, amped-with-caffeine approach that makes a social strategy successful. There’s research and thought and PASSION behind every strategic element and that gives a campaign staying power. It gives it that certain “mustafa-genius” that we all, as marketers, strive for.

With it’s rich color, the 2012 pantone has a little more depth than other colors. Something that is also especially helpful when implementing a social strategy is a great idea that has “legs.” If a concept has depth to it, a strategy goes beyond assumptions about people’s behaviors and is driven by real human insights, then there’s no limit its virality.

Happy Pantone 2012! How has your favorite color shaded your social media interactions? 

My chucks

5 Similarities between chucks and social

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While wearing my chucks this weekend I started to wonder why so many people own them – from tweens to moms to big whig art directors. It dawned on me that my love for chucks is very similar to my love for social media.

When converses were first introduced, some out there probably thought they were just a fad – shoes that had no real value for the masses. The same was true of social media. Marketers were hesitant to jump on board, fearful of what consumers might post on their walls or tweet about their brands. But as time went on, chucks became a sign of rebellion – a sign of creativity – and social networking became a way for brands to harness this creativity into engaging conversations and interactions with their consumers.

Clearly the similarities between chucks and social didn’t end there. Here are some of my top comparisons:

  1. They’re both kind of geeky. Don’t get me wrong, chucks are definitely cool, but who started wearing them (well aside from the basketball players in Flubber)? Nerds. The same is true for social media. It started with a bunch of nerds (no offense Harvard).
  2. Rise to stardom.  When celebrities start wearing or using something, somehow the whole world catches on. I’m not exactly sure what made rock stars like Kurt Cobain and actors like Michael J. Fox start wearing all-stars, but when they did, they started a chuck-olution. Now, the most popular celebs out there wear them from Miley Cyrus to Elton John.  When celebs like Ashton Kutcher started using Twitter, we started taking notice. Now that almost all stars (like Lady Gaga, Oprah, and Obama) are using this as a powerful way to project their brand, it’s obvious that twitter and social is going to be around for a while.
  3. Something for everyone. Alert: this might sound corny. But one of the reasons I love social media as a marketer, is because of the niche groups of people I’m able to reach in a short time period. There are social networking sites like Foodspotting, Instagram, Washington Post’s social reader, there are short form and long form blog sites, there are check-in services, sharing sites, even sites that allow you to swap homes…you get my point. No matter what your interests are, there’s a social network out there that suits you perfectly. The same is true with chucks. There are not only thousands of different colors, but chucks are also customizable. Celebrities and even charities have designed their own chucks. Not to mention, the new world converses that are made of leather etc. Basically there’s a network and a pair of chucks to fit everyone.
  4. Make a Statement. If you’re looking to make a statement about yourself, in either a subtle or, well, not-so-subtle way both chucks and social media are the ticket. Wearing chucks allows you to make a statement about your personality, just like using a social networking site allows you to check-in, update, send pics, or tweet to communicate more about who you are to the world.
  5. Simplicity. The aesthetic of your typical chuck is simple, yet authentic. People wear chucks, not the other way around. When you think about social media, the core of it is simple – people want to communicate…easily. In order to be successful, a social networking site needs to be simple to understand and easily usable. People use social media, social media does not use people.

Have an opinion about your chucks? Tell me in this super quick survey!

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Thanksgiving, minus connection.

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Yesterday I spent an amazing day with family, lounging around, watching football, and eating. I made calls to the people closest to me and took around three “cat naps.” What I didn’t do, was log on to a computer.

Believe me, it wasn’t easy, but when your 3G iPad isn’t connecting to the internet, there’s not much you can do – I couldn’t even play Words With Friends. I went to my phone to tweet “Happy Thanksgiving,” but other than that I was pretty much in real world mode.

Looking back, it was genuinely nice to not do anything with people I care about. To smell the flavors of delicious foods, watch the Macy’s Day Parade (McDonald’s, that is), and simply sit. But at the time, it was uniquely frustrating. Even the book I turned to for solace started to annoy me (I’m finishing up Brian Solis’ The End of Business As Usual). 

I felt disconnected. I felt like things weren’t in their right places – like I wasn’t in the right place. There’s something about being on Facebook and on Twitter, checking-in on Foursquare, Stumbling articles etc. that gives me a sense of belonging – even if it is virtual.

In this biz, we know that social networking allows us to form virtual “communities.” But, these virtual communities are becoming more real than ever for those in my generation. The reason I was frustrated yesterday, was not because I couldn’t play Angry Birds, it was because I wanted to spend Thanksgiving with the people I not only interact with, but I also identify with and go to for advice. Some of those people are part of my social community.

Am I crazy? Are these communities so real that they can be missed just like any other relative or close friend on Thanksgiving? Or, is it more about the gratification of instant communication that our social communities can usually provide?

The more I think about it, the more I know that our social communities are becoming a part of our every day realities. Holding on to this insight will be and is the key for marketers when coming up with a social strategy or even just a singular post.

Our social community – who we choose to follow, Like, share with, RT and mention – are dear to us. We trust our community with our attention (which is hard to come by for marketers these days) and that means that every single thing we read or view needs to have a purpose. The closer these online communities become to an individual’s heart, the more important it is for marketers to be careful with the content they provide and context in which they provide it.

What are you doing to make content that’s important to your communities?

How to incorporate geo-social into your marketing strategy

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So what’s the deal with this geo-social stuff anyway? How are brands using it, how should brands be using it?

The possibilities are really endless. If you’re a marketer, hopefully, you’re looking at all of these check-ins with wide eyes and are overwhelmed by all the avenues you can drive down (and then check-in). Why? Consider the traditional marketing funnel – Geo-social has the ability to help brands interact with customers on each level.

1. Awareness

The utilization of geo-social can also help create buzz for a brand.  When you check-in you’re prompted to share where you are via Facebook and Twitter. Now, not only has your presence on one of these social apps motivated one person to come into your store, but it’s also been shared with their entire network.

Creating challenging adventures using services like SCVNGR and partnering with other companies is a creative way to truly engage fans and implore them to share their experiences with their friends. Hangover 2 did a great job of creating an adventure by partnering with seven-eleven stores to host fun challenges in which fans could win tickets, t-shirts and more after checking-in via SCVNGR and completing certain challenges.

2. Consideration

Offering deals via Foursquare, SCVNGR, even Groupon Instant can help during a customer’s consideration. When you open up one of these apps, it shows you all of the places in the area offering deals or challenges. If you’re considering two different burger places, for instance, you’d most likely pick the burger place with a deal, or the one with the best deal, right? Sometimes, just knowing that a restaurant or a boutique is on Foursquare makes me want to check them out.

3. Conversion

What’s going to make someone actually come in and shop with you or eat at your restaurant? Ultimately, it’s a combination of price, service and reputation right? With geo-location services, your customer now knows you’re in their area and is considering you because of your deal. Brands can also expand their reach by offering special deals with users.

These deals make a brand more attractive and could increase the frequency of visits per customer. Now it’s up to you to make a promotion that’s appealing. Or in the case of SCVNGR a challenge that’s engaging.

4. Loyalty

This is one of my favorite parts about geo-social apps. They can provide FREE loyalty and rewards programs for marketers. Set up Foursquare so that once someone checks in x amount of times they receive a free dessert or even a gift card to use the next time they come in. You don’t need any expensive technology to make that work – all you need is a business profile on an app. Not to mention, that built into each app is a sort of competition (I referred to this in my last past), that draws on our innate desire to win.

On Foursquare if you check-in the most times in a certain period of time – you become the mayor of that location. Why not offer your mayor a special seat at the bar, table in the window, or parking spot? Going one step further, marketers can then leverage these loyalty programs via geo-social apps in their advertising and messaging.

5. Advocacy

All of these things combined will contribute to a customer’s desire to become an advocate for your brand. Remember, though, that to make someone an advocate you have to truly follow through with all of your promotions and engage those who are willing to engage with you!

Any other ideas? Check back next week for more on the future of geo-social apps!

5 holiday social media tactics

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Though my carved pumpkin still sits on my window seal, Halloween is over. Now it’s time to start sinking into our chairs and preparing ourselves for the winter. Unlike bears who slumber, we start getting busier (or at least I do). Holiday parties, shopping, flights, longer hours at the office or the store. Our pace starts to accelerate and we, inevitably, overcommit. In general, at least for me, the holidays can become a disruption.

For marketers, this means people are constantly multi-tasking and “zipping” around. So, how do you break through?

By delivering a break. No…I don’t mean adding hours to someone’s clock or making the speed limits higher. I mean providing your customers with things to make their lives easier.

Target and Wal-Mart are all about the layaway this season. Helping people purchase and store elsewhere. Retail stores offer free gift wrapping or free shipping. But how do we apply this concept to our social media strategy?

Here are 5 ways to give your customers/followers a break this holiday season:

  1. Content, content, content. It’s the holidays, what do people want? They want travel tips, recipes, craft ideas, design ideas, present ideas, ideas on how to deal with the in-laws. Use twitter, facebook, your blog, YouTube etc. to provide your followers with relevant information. Or just take them out of their busy lives with some great stories, that are well-written. If it’s a topic that a ton of people are already writing about, be sure to put your spin on it. Check out this collaboration between YouTube and Lowe’s – The YouTube Holiday Solutions Center. Great ideas like help people and helping people, gives them a break!!!
  2. Listening. If there’s anything you should know about social media marketing, it’s that you have to listen to the “groundswell.” Your customers know what kind of deals they’re looking for over the holidays. So why not ask them what they want? Then respond with some sales (even if for a short time) that they asked for. This way you’ll not only generate great word-of-mouth about your brand, but you’ll be known as a brand who cares and actually listens.
  3. Engaging. Along the same lines as listening, you should also be actively engaging your customers this holiday season. Suck them in with great questions, polls, and puzzles. Constantly update and tweet during optimal times of engagement. Be sure to stay active during the holidays even when you yourself are busy. Remember that Facebook became the most visited site in the US, exceeding traffic to Google, on Christmas in 2009. Why is this? Because people are looking for a break from their emails, they’re sharing more photos, they’re looking for deals, and spreading the cheer. So brands must be there and be active to stay engaging.
  4. Fun – Capitalize on the spirit that people have around the holidays. Come up with great contests and giveaways that spread cheer and give people a chance to connect. Start a cool hashtag, tweet fun facts about the holidays that are relevant to your brand. Give people five minutes away from their lives with elaborate social contests and funny games. Remember those dancing elves that people couldn’t stop emailing back and forth, or the snowball fight games? Associate yourself with a games like these and give busy people some fun. If you can’t create your own game, align yourself with a social game that’s already out there by being creative with in-game ads and virtual currency.
  5. Give Back – Around this time of year, people are concerned about the children and people of the world who aren’t as well off as themselves. Give those people a way to help out those in need via your brand. It’s a win/win, because it increases good sentiment around your brand and helps people help people. You’ll learn quickly that partnering with charities is one of the easiest ways to drum up “buzz” around an event or a brand because they already have a huge following and some even have a great social presence of their own. Marketing alongside one of them by creating an event in your store, a tweetup, or special shopping night can help accomplish two goals: Increasing your reach, and helping them raise money. Click here for Four Charities That Rocked Social Media last year.
What are some other ways brands can use social media this holiday season?
world series 2011 and social media

3 reasons to tune into the MLB World Series & tune up your Social Strategy

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world series 2011 and social mediaTruth be told, I’m not the biggest baseball fan in the world. What I am a fan of is this time of year. The post season, the playoffs, and the MLB World Series.

Tonight, in the heart of St. Louis, the Rangers and the Cardinals go head to head in Game 2. A tight matchup between two great franchises. But, all I can think about is the similarity between the effort it takes for the champion to triumph in 7 games and the effort it takes for a brand to have a successful social media plan. Here are the top three reasons to tune into the MLB series and to tune UP your social strategy in the coming months.

  1. Everyone is tuned in. Though ratings have dropped this year, the World Series is still one of the top-rated broadcasts of the year, pulling in around 14% televisions in use at that time.  Can you imagine the pressure? That same pressure bears down on brands and businesses in terms of social. Almost 800 million people are active on Facebook. Around 145 million people are on Twitter. And over 6 billion people are online worldwide. Think of the expectations. What does this mean for professional baseball players? It means they better not mess up. What does this mean for brands? It means they better not mess up. It’s important to think through a strategy, work as a team, and inject meaning into every swing, plan out every run, and be ready for every pitch.
  2. Stamina. I’ve heard a number of different conjectures about who will win the series. Most think there’s no question that the game will go to the last inning of game 7. This means that our favorite players are charged with being in top physical and mental shape. Why shouldn’t our social strategies be in top shape too? Think long distance with your social strategies. Be ready with a broad enough objective that no matter what the new technology is, you’re prepared to incorporate it in a holistic strategy that accomplishes a single goal.
  3. All or nothing. At this point, either you win the title, or you don’t. There’s no in between. The same is true in the social world; either you get out there, be transparent and be social, or you don’t. To be successful, a brand needs to truly embrace social media and the groundswell. The old advice for companies was to just get in there and start “posting,” but that mentality wont jive today. To gain a following, you must have goals and clear cut strategies to achieve them. Otherwise, the other team wins.
Steve Jobs and social media

How we can channel Steve Jobs in the social media world

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With my nose in the books last night, I was late to find out that Mr. Steve Jobs passed away. I remember walking home in the cool, fall air thinking how sad it is to lose…well…a genius.

Though Apple is not necessarily associated with social media, I think that the brilliance of Steve Jobs gave impetus to a more connected and intelligent universe. I know that the technology that he gave us and the words he inspired us with coalesce to help us refine not only our “social” lives, but our hard-knock lives as well.

So, I’ve interrupted my series about the new Facebook changes to bring you a few of Steve Jobs’ most famous quotes and how they can help you innovate within the social media realm.

“That’s been one of my mantras — focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end, because once you get there, you can move mountains.”
-BusinessWeek, 1998

Social strategy doesn’t have to be a Whitman classic. It doesn’t need to be the next Rembrandt. But, what it does need to be is relevant. People (or more specifically your audience), need to be able to not only understand, but to also easily engage with your brand via social media. Each element you add to your strategy adds to the snowball, so it’s important to remember what your original objective actually was. Then make sure that you’re achieving this objective with the simplest strategy and technology possible. Caution: this does not mean to avoid creativity. As Jobs states, “simple can be harder than complex.” Sometimes the simplest ideas are the most creative.

Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. … Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”
-Stanford University commencement speech, 2005

Always, always be transparent. Be a naked brand. Wake up each morning and really think about how you can engage and connect with your audience that day. Always be your brand and that means to give up control.

“Follow your heart.” What’s the heart of your brand? What do you represent to the general public? Be this. “Stay hungry ” – Don’t ever give up or feel satisfied with the status quo. Always search for ways to trump yourself. This is where the really great social strategy originates.

Steve Jobs & Think Different

Finally, “stay foolish.” Pure genius is not afraid to be different. Though you or your clients might be hesitant to try an “out there” idea, remember that no one ever changed the world without the ability to “think different.”

Thanks to Steve Jobs for inspiring and enabling a generation of us to think differently.

My Recipe for Content Strategy

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Last night, I made my favorite side dish: carolina slaw. It’s a red slaw made with apple cider vinegar, NO MAYONNAISE, hot sauce, cabbage, and a few other things. But the deliciousness of this slaw is not the point of this post. The point is that I don’t have an exact recipe.

I like it that way. There’s something about the fluidity of the process that makes it evolve and get better each time. In my experience content strategy should be somewhat the same. Businesses should have a handle on the right ingredients to use, but they shouldn’t be so precise that it impedes them from actually talking in real time.

Create a loose approach to content strategy by understanding yourself and your followers (ingredients). Here’s how:

First, you have to know who you are. Figure out your brands voices and then stick to them. With every story you tell, every URL you retweet and every video you post, you should also think about how it reflects your brand. Along with this authenticity comes credibility and right down the street is authority. Just like I know the five or six ingredients in my slaw, you should know your the adjectives that make up your brand’s identity and let those inform your approach to conversation and content.

On par with learning your brand’s voice is learning the voice of your followers. While my slaw always has the same components, I mix it a little differently depending on who I’m making it for (most kids can’t handle red pepper flake and hot sauce). To steal a quote from Rosenbaum, the king of content curation, “the web will get exponentially nosier.” This means that in order to stand out, you have to not only listen to your audience, but you also need to respond and collaborate with them (immediately). When I find out my slaw is a little to spicy, I make it differently the very next time. You have to make your content valuable, just like I need to make my slaw tasty.

To do this you have to know who your audience is. Follow those who follow you. Be personable. The whole point of these social networking sites is to continue conversations. No one wants to be talked at, they want to be talked with.

Use google trends to keep content currentBe relevant, today. Monitor all your social networks to see who’s there and what they’re talking about. Pay attention to google trends to help you stay current.

Finally, be helpful. Be there as an outlet for your audience. Get them to complain to you instead of their friends. No business wants a page full of negative comments, but if you have them you’ll learn a lot about what you need to improve. You also get the chance to respond to them and, hopefully, solve their problem. I’d rather someone critique my spicy side dish to me, than blabber to all their friends about it. That way I have the chance to show them that I can make it better.

There are other elements to content strategy, but these are its core. The point is that it’s all about giving yourself the chance to be immediate and fluid, so that you’re constantly hitting the right chord with your audience.

For the rest of my slaw ingredients, comment below!

September 1st & 5 Keys to Successful Social Strategy

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September. It’s September. The summer is almost over and, here in Boston, the weather is slowly transitioning. As the sun came up this morning, I shyly peeked out of my bedroom window to enjoy one of the few summer mornings left. But, instead of a beautiful landscape of trees, I saw U-HAULs, old pick-up trucks, and tons of furniture lined up around the block. Stay off the roads everyone, it’s moving day.

It got me thinking about what makes moving days hard. The simple answer: lack of planning. There will always be those who pack everything in tight boxes with labels, stacked neatly at the front door ready to go. And then there are those who put things in piles, loosely thrown into bags and remade boxes. Those who have no idea where things will go – throwing kitchenware in with cosmetics. I’ve been there and it makes moving a pain in the you-know-what.

How do you avoid this? With strategy. Coming up with a plan with how things should be loaded and unloaded, being prepared for the “first”, and not being afraid to re-evaluate when you’re unable to get everything packed into the truck. The same applies to social.

5 elements of strategy you should employ to be successful in the social realm:

  1. Figure out who’s helping. How many people will you have moving boxes and unpacking content? Resources make a huge difference. If it’s just you – the timeline might be longer. Great ideas need the proper follow-through, just like a lot of boxes need a lot of people or a lot of time.
  2. Game plan. What’s the easiest way to move, what are the optimal truck routes, how can you avoid being stuck in traffic? Make a broad strategy statement and goal for your social program. Then brainstorm tons of ideas that will help accomplish that goal. Research what others in your category have done and where you have the space to be different. This will be your social game plan.
  3.  Schedule. What time will you start, when are you picking up the truck, who’s unpacking what? Knowing all of these things increases efficiency. Once you have a game plan, you can build a calendar that incorporates your great ideas with the resources at hand so you’ll know when blog posts can be published, when your contests will get the most traction and what content makes sense now verses a few months from now.
  4. Move! Start packing, employ your plan, use your movers. The next step is to follow your schedule day by day. Start engaging your followers.
  5. Finally, re-evaluate. If it starts to rain on moving day, you might need to change your plan. In the social realm, it’s important to pour over every bit of analytics you’re afforded. If you’re not steadily moving towards your goal, you’ll need to try to find out what’s happening. Are you posting at a bad time of day? Is your tone off for your followers? Is your content just not that engaging? Is the barrier to entry for your contest to high? Check your interaction levels constantly and change your game plan accordingly.

Happy moving!

5 lessons from my social-illiterate dad about social marketing

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It’s no secret that sometimes my dad wasn’t my favorite when I was littler. He always had something to say or a reaction I was less than thrilled with. But as I’ve grown older, I find myself leaning on my dad’s advice. It’s advice that is applicable to various aspects of my life, but especially so in the social world.

1. Don’t just listen. Actively Listen.
Just like it wasn’t enough for me to sit on the couch and listen to my dad’s feedback, It’s also not enough to monitor Facebook fans or twitter followers. What’s more valuable for brands is listening and responding. I needed to prove to my dad that I actually heard him.  Whether that means tweeting back a nice comment or question or posting another comment in a Facebook stream, brands must interact in order to engage.

2. It’s all about value.
Value yourself. Value family. Value property. It was never the wrapper left on the floor that upset my father. It was the fact that I didn’t value the house or the people in it enough to put it in the trash. The same is true for brands. It’s not enough to engage your community, a brand needs to value its community and fans, giving them content and opportunities to enhance their lives. Perceptions of a brand directly stem from what that brand openly values. In Naked Pizza’s case, all of its followers know it values good health. We know that Coke values happiness. This shapes the way we interact with them.

3. Own up to your mistakes.
And never lie. We all do things we regret. My dad always emphasized the process of cleaning up the aftermath. Fix it. When you take some paint off the wall, don’t just cover it up with some genius 7-year-old artwork, tell somebody. Then work together to patch it up. Sometimes there’s only one person in a company managing its whole social identity. If you’re that person, don’t get bogged down when you misfire. Define what it is you did incorrectly, then find a way to patch it up in real time. This usually includes getting some ideas from your colleagues. They may not be “social aficionados” but they know the brand and what it stands for.

4. Hustle.
My dad is the hardest worker I know. He literally never stops and he never stops pushing me either. He is one of those dads who yells on the sidelines and won’t stop until he knows I’m truly sweating. Supremely annoying at the time. In the social cloud, you have to hustle to give your brand a presence. You have to constantly review your analytics and refine your posting times and content. If it’s not working, you need to go back to the drawing board with your strategy, do it with vigor. Don’t stop until your customers are engaged.

5. Have Fun.
Take your time and be passionate about what you do. Every summer my dad plants a new garden, there’ssomething to plant or pick or till every night. Then he harvests everything and makes amazing canned goods. You see nothing but excitement in his eyes when he says he’s “going down to the garden”. Social Media Marketing is somewhat new. It’s exciting. Keep up with the trends and have fun. It’s not weird that you love hashtags or bit.ly’s or Hootsuite. It’s that passion that helps you make a brand relevant and fun to follow.

Not old, but unique

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Moving makes us consolidate. Makes us dream of functionality and design. It makes us envision color palettes and perfect accents. In short, it makes us reconsider our current lot. While traversing the neverending terrain at Ikea today, I noticed what seemed to be the perfect bedroom set. I was awed by its sleek design and in five minutes was very close to saying “Towanda” and replacing all of my old, shabby furniture with crisp corners and perfect organization.

But, something felt wrong. I couldn’t stop thinking about the bedroom I’ve already built for myself. Completely confused I decided to leave sans yellow bag. Though I left without a purchase, I didn’t leave without a concept. Social media has companies and brands “reconsidering their lot.” Instead of thinking of how to incorporate the best aspects of their brands into a more integrated offline and online shop, some consider changing their core. They’re too busy oohing and awing at beautiful Facebook pages to think about their page strategically.

Brands that have been around for a while, have spent real time, energy, and paint creating and maintaining their voice. They, like me, have some handcrafted furniture that’s been well-kept for years making it unique, not old. And now, all of a sudden, the move to social means it’s time to toss all of this hard work on the side of the road.

Like there’s no real equation to work off of when designing a room, there isn’t exactly a set of commandments to help brands go social. What’s important is to remember what’s at the center of your brand’s voice(s). Remembering what your customers or your fans come to you for. Take your “old furniture” and translate it to social. This may mean reforming some parts of the brand that already exist. For instance, blending your age-old product knowledge, with a more modern way of communicating it.

What are some of your favorite old meets new combinations?