Tell us about YOUR story!

Part of me thinks that emerging media and social media marketers are reading the same blogs to get ideas for content. Somewhere along the way, a company asked customers to tell their story in social media. Now, almost every major brand is used the “tell us your story!” line.

The call-to-action has become so routine that there’s now a Tumblr blog dedicated to the concept. Tell Us Your Story collects campaigns shared by readers who can submit images, in addition to the ones ad copywriter Brian Eden finds on his own.

Clorox Bleachable Moments

Share Your Flonase Story

UPS Story

According to Shel Holtz on Regan’s PR Daily, “You have to wonder how many people visiting Home Depot’s Facebook page will actually share their metal roofing story, as requested, or what kinds of stories Clorox might get from its request to share your “bleachable” moment. FinnAir wants your tale of travel on the airline, Flonase wants your allergy relief story, and UPS wants to know about your most memorable package ever. Glock is seeking stories about customers’ Glock handguns, Dunkin Donuts is seeking doughnut tales, and Pond’s is seeking skin care sagas. This barely scratches the surface. Olay, Levi’s, GNC, Nutella, Purina, Uber, Avis, Husqvarna, Dell, White Castle, Coors Light, Air France, Snapple, Secret deodorant, Wheat Thins, the NFL, the list goes on. And on. And on.”

Joe Lazauskas writes on Contently “that this strategy never seems to work. It’s a bizarrely self-centered request that doesn’t naturally occur in any social context. If anyone did this in real life, they’d never be invited out to dinner again. I’m not sure if some brand advertisers are that delusional about their importance in the universe or if it’s just an easy way for brands to fake a heartfelt social strategy and side-step the challenge of telling people stories about things they’re actually interested in.”

So…what are some alternatives to the “tell us your story” campaign?

  1. Read the messages people send to customer service. Customer service departments are the recipients of a ton of customer input both good and bad. Some people just have to share their great experience.
  2. Use your social listening/monitoring service. Track your brand/company and product names in social media. Use their stories as a testimonial.
  3. Ask your employees. In many situations, your employees are interacting directly with your customers. Thus, they become a great source of potential stories to share.
  4. Reach out to your brand ambassadors. More than likely, you know who your most vocal supporters are. Reach out to them individually and interview them. You’re bound to get more authentic stories from these engaged individuals.
  5. Survey your customers. Duct Tape Marketing’s John Jantsch recommends a one-question survey that asks how likely it is the customer would recommend the company, product, or service. You can ask those most likely to recommend for permission to interview them or for a written testimonial.
  6. Get your biggest fans in the same room. Companies including Disney Parks, Dell and Ford have invested time and money bringing their brand ambassadors together in the same place. It’s a great opportunity to collect stories as they talk among themselves about their shared passion for your product.

What is the most awkward “Tell us your story!” story you’ve seen? How else do you think you can tell a customer’s story?

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Is Google+ dead?

When is the last time you posted to Google+? The answer for me is June 10, 2013. Sad.

Unfortunately for Google, I’m not alone. You would think that the power of Google would be able to sustain the social network. In fact, it has but no one is really using it even though Google basically forced people to use the social network.

Google has tried numerous times to revive the social network including Google Authorship, which made it seem as though getting involved with the platform would hold substantial SEO benefits. Most recently, the sharing of photos and live streaming video chats, are now being separated into their own areas known as “Photos” and “Streams.” Google+ was originally supposed to be a one-stop shop for all the ways we interact with each other. Clearly the vision has changed.

Wired, on the other hand, still thinks that Google+ is alive and well. However, Eric Enge from Stone Temple Consulting, might disagree with them. According to Forbes, “Enge analyzed more than 500,000 randomly selected Google+ profiles. Since a Google profile is created automatically when people sign up with Google, it was no surprise to find that 90% of the people with profiles on Google+ had never posted publicly there at all. Enge extrapolated this analysis across the 2.2 billion users on Google and concluded that while the “active profiles” on Google+ amount to 111 million users, only 6.7 million users have 50 or more posts ever, and only 3.5 million have 50 or more posts in the last 30 days.”

Regions Bank Search ResultTo me, there’s only one key benefit: Google search. Google+ can be a powerful way to manage a company reputation, especially when a company merges its Google Page with Google Local. For example, when you search for Regions Bank (employer) on Google, the competing ads on the right hand side go away. What you’re left with is company information, huge logo, stock prices, other social network links and recent Google+ content.

Other than Google search, do you see a huge benefit to Google+? Let me know in the comments.

Sperry’s Rebranding and #OdysseysAwait Campaign

A brand that I’ve always admired is Sperry Top-Siders. They are an all-American and adventurous brand that thrives in the outdoors. The shoes were originally made for Navy sailors in 1935, but have made a comeback since the 1980s. The preppy culture is back in style and just about everyone is wearing Sperry shoes, not just people who are into boating and yachting. Sperry’s brand is all about mixes fashion with function.

In the past few years, Sperry has gone through a complete in-store rebranding. All of their stores now look like a Cape Cod cabin with nautical-inspired pieces.

Perry Store Redesign

The same can be said for all of their digital properties. For the 80th anniversary, Sperry is reenergizing its brand around a younger and passionate individual while staying authentic to the iconic and adventurous brand. (Sperry dropped the “Top-Siders” as part of its rebranding.) MediaPost stated that Sperry is catering to “those who are not just in search of living for the moment, but with those who want to move out of their comfort zones, visit unexpected places, try unfamiliar things and discover more about themselves and the world around them.” Sperry has even created a name for its target audience, Intrepids, which they describe as “modern day explorers who have a passion for discovery.”

Try Living for a LivingThe Best Stories Are Written with Your Feet

Part of the rebranding, Sperry launched the #OdysseyProject and #OdysseysAwait campaign in March 2015 where they put the storytelling into the hands of brand ambassadors. According to AdWeek, Sperry “will send about 80 people—consumers, friends of the brand, adventurers and more—on various journeys. In return, those people will create content for Sperry, detailing their escapades.” For example, one of the first is Kari White, an entrepreneur and sister of Olympian Shaun White, who sets off to Ireland to discover more about her Irish roots. Another odyssey follows Bebban Stenbor and Ted Malmros, members of Swedish band Shout Out Louds, who experience the unique, 3,500-year-old culture of the nomadic Moken people of Thailand.

In a press release, “[e]ach person will receive a custom shoebox, containing a new pair of Sperry’s and an itinerary which will send them on different odysseys around the world to discover new people, places and experiences and, ultimately, bring back unforgettable stories. The user-generated content will be shared globally on Sperry social channels, at Sperry specialty retail stores and on Sperry.com.”

What I love about this digital storytelling campaign is it’s not the brand that’s telling the story. Much like last year’s #Topsiding campaign, the #OdysseyProject puts the storytelling into the hands of brand ambassadors instantly making the campaign much more engaging since real people are telling the brand story.

This is a completely integrated campaign across many different mediums and channels including social media, digital, outdoor and print. Sperry’s social media channels include Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest.

I personally think this campaign is genius especially since they coined their own name for their target audience. What do you think they could do differently in the campaign?

Unofficial Bloggers: Friends or Foes?

blogThere has been a lot of debate in class this week around unofficial bloggers and whether they are beneficial to brands or are they a detriment/liability to the brands they are writing about. What about brands that have official blogs that they work very hard to create quality content?

Although they may seem annoying, unofficial blogs are critical to understanding the perception of a brand to customers, which aspects are resonating for your customers and where a brand may be falling short. Today, the customer has the ability to speak on behalf of the brand, sharing experiences and opinions whether viable or not. It is critical to monitor and listen to the conversations around your brand because it provides honest feedback provided by actual customers.

From the Bloggers Perspective:

Positives of Unofficial Bloggers

  • Get to write about something that you’re passionate about
  • Lots of news coming from the corporation you’re writing about to weigh in on
  • Potential to sell advertising on your blog if the audience gets large enough
  • Very engaged audience. – audience interactions can help drive new content
  • Opportunity to be even timelier than the official blog since most blogs go through legal and internal review and approval.

Negatives of Unofficial Bloggers

  • Corporation may never acknowledge or talk to you
  • Helping to build their brand rather than your own – your effort will be used to further their brand, not your own
  • Don’t expect to get rich – you may be able to sell advertising and a brand may compensate you for posts, but don’t expect it.
  • Could get in hot water with the company – could overstep boundaries with the company including using any visuals or logos
  • People may want you to solve problems with the company – StarbucksMelody gets asked frequently

From the Company’s Perspective:

Positives of Unofficial Bloggers

  • Very engaged audience with loyal fans that genuinely care about your brand
  • Instant sounding board. The brand can even use the unofficial blog as a piece of the marketing puzzle.
  • The brand can also use the unofficial blog as a qualitative focus group for new products.
  • Instant focus group – Great fan base to partner with to test new products

Negatives of Unofficial Bloggers

  • Messages may not always be ‘on brand’
  • Blog may say something that doesn’t paint the company in a positive light
  • Company can’t control the message

Notable Unofficial Bloggers

Do you think that brands should court the unofficial bloggers or do you think they should stay independent? If you were the brand, how could you use this engaged audience to your advantage?

Are Cinemagraphs a Fad or the Real Deal?

There’s a lot of chatter around Facebook’s Cinemagraph ad format. Cinemagraphs are the digital world’s equivalent of the glossy magazine. The news ads are a cross between photos and videos.

Cinemagraphs are still images that contain within themselves living elements allowing a glimpse of time to be experienced and preserved. Cinemagraphs have been around for a few years, which were made popular by Kevin Burg and Jamie Beck. The format is a type of GIF, a photo in which only a piece of the image subtly moves. Cinemagraphs have mostly been used a digital alternative to high fashion photography.

Consumers are more likely to show interest in a product after seeing a video ad and then receiving a follow-up message, according to Justin Kistner, VP of Marketing at social media ad firm Mixpo.

Here are a few examples:

Armani Coffee 615

He Loves Me Not Lincoln

Stuart Weitzman Boho

Additionally, here are a few sites that have great examples of cinemagraphs:

Do you think that cinemagraphs will take off or do you think that it will continue to be used for high fashion artistic expression? How else can these cinemagraphs be used?

Creative Optimization: Art or Science?

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about paid media in the digital space. We always hear that content is king, but what’s often left out is how important creative (image or animation) is in the content. Also, what impact does the creative elements have on an advertisement’s performance? I came across a study the other day from Rocket Fuel that I find absolutely fascinating. Rocket Fuel “delivers a leading programmatic media-buying platform at Big Data scale that harnesses the power of artificial intelligence to improve marketing ROI in digital media across web, mobile, video, and social channels.” Rocket Fuel evaluated over 30,000 ads over six months. Over the course of the study, they found that controllable factors can have a major impact on performance in some categories, but there was no clear “silver bullet” for creative success. They found many aspects affect the advertisement’s performance including: background color, animation, length of animation, inclusion of people’s faces, showing the product advertised, company logo inclusion, logo placement, etc. etc. However, two factors of creative optimization really jump out at me.

  1. Background Color

Background Color Performance Background color has a significant impact on ad performance across every vertical examined. For the study, the background color of an ad was defined as the color representing more than 50% of the ad’s viewable area when the ad first loads into the browser (as opposed to when it completes its animated cycle). Overall, ads with red backgrounds had 31% higher conversion rates when compared to ads with other background colors. This was the highest lift among background colors, followed by similar hues, such as orange (+28%) and yellow (+24%). Interestingly, white (+14%) and black (-22%) backgrounds were by far the most common, despite comparatively lower performance in most verticals.

  1. Inclusion of Human Faces in Ads

Average Conversion Rates for Human Faces Conventional creative wisdom suggests that ads with a human face perform better than ads without one. Overall, this appeared to be true for most verticals, with human-featured ads averaging 4% higher conversion rate lifts. Digging deeper, we find that the type of person shown can have a significant impact on performance as well. When breaking down “type of human” (for example, man, woman, child, and combinations of these) Rocket Fuel found that ads featuring men—the most common person type featured—averaged 102% higher conversion rates on average than those featuring women (+25%), while ads featuring both a man and a woman tended to underperform (-15%). Since I work in financial services, I was very excited to see that Rocket Fuel also studied this vertical. I was very fascinated by these results:

  • Financial Services ads with special offers (comprising 12% of ads in our sample) averaged lower conversion rates than ads without special offers. In our credit card subset, discounted percentage-point offers tended to average conversion rates -14% lower than the category average, and cash back offers did even worse (-40%).
  • Ads with humans present averaged higher conversion rates than ads without humans. One or more people appeared in 30% of Financial Services creatives.
  • The “Learn More” call to action averaged 32% higher conversion rates.
  • Ads not featuring pricing information were associated with an average conversion rate +110% higher than the vertical average. Ads featuring pricing information averaged a conversion rate -34% less than the vertical average.

You can download Rocket Fuel’s study, here: http://rocketfuel.com/blog/creative-guide

What other aspects of digital advertising do you think can change an advertisement’s performance?

Responsive Web Design or Bust!

Not too long ago, websites were designed for the desktop only. Those days are over. Websites also used to have a stripped down mobile versions of the desktop website. Those days are also over. The newest web design philosophy is to have one website that provides an optimal viewing experience no matter what size screen you are viewing it on.

Smashing Magazine says that “Responsive Web design is the approach that suggests that design and development should respond to the user’s behavior and environment based on screen size, platform and orientation. The practice consists of a mix of flexible grids and layouts, images and an intelligent use of CSS media queries. As the user switches from their laptop to iPad, the website should automatically switch to accommodate for resolution, image size and scripting abilities. In other words, the website should have the technology to automatically respond to the user’s preferences. This would eliminate the need for a different design and development phase for each new gadget on the market.”

That’s all fine and dandy in theory, but how does Responsive Web design actually look?

Responsive Web Design(Image used from: http://poweredwebdev.com/)

Here’s another example:

Responsive Web Design(Images used from: http://www.thrivewebdesigns.com/)

In responsive web design, the main focus is on optimizing the website to match the device it is being viewed on. Search engines like Google prefer responsive websites because content that is available on one website and URL is much easier for users to view and share as compared to the content on a different mobile site.

According to Search Engine Land, Google will be changing its algorithm on April 21, 2015 to use mobile-friendly factors to rank webpages. Google’s mobile ranking factors will not only label your site as mobile-friendly, but will also use that to determine if your site should rank higher in the search results. Google said this algorithmic change will have a “significant impact” in the mobile search results, impacting all languages worldwide.

If your website doesn’t have a responsive web design, now is the time to make the change. Do not wait until April 21 to start the process. Your Google search results may suffer until you update your website design.

Is Privacy Dead in Emerging Media?

facebook-privacy

The Internet is becoming more and more engrained into what we do on a daily basis. In my job, I spend just about 85-90% of my time online. The only time I’m not online is when I’m sitting in meetings. In our class discussions this week, there has been a lot of conversation around privacy and the expectation of privacy online.

This expectation really got me thinking…do we really know the extent of the reach of what we do online? With so many companies researching and mining data, many of our Tweets, Facebook posts and blog posts are being mined without our knowledge or consent.

According to Sharon Jayson in USA Today, “every online move leaves cyber footprints that are rapidly becoming fodder for research without you ever realizing it. Using social media for academic research is accelerating and raising ethical concerns along the way, as vast amounts of information collected by private companies — including Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter — are giving new insight into all aspects of everyday life.”

Facebook is transformed from a public space to a behavioral laboratory especially as Facebook wants to provide return and value to its shareholders. Every action users take on Facebook is an aspect that marketers can buy against. This includes age, demographic location, marital status, interests, education and workplace.

Have you ever posted something on social media that you would like to take back? Do you actively use the privacy settings afforded to you on social networks or do you share all content to your friends or to the public?

Meerkat vs. Periscope

meerkat-vs-periscope-live-stream-video-apps

There has been a lot of talk in social media about Meerkat in the last couple of weeks. I’ve refrained from writing about it to see how it will pan out.

For those that don’t know, Meerkat is an app that turns Twitter into a live streaming platform. The application taps into Twitter’s APIs to stream videos from their smartphones to their followers in real time.  Those who want to watch the live streaming video can watch from the Meerkat desktop or from the iOS app as well as interact with the hose and other viewers.

Ben Rubin, CEO and cofounder of Air, called it “spontaneous togetherness.”

What I really think is cool about the app is that is has the potential to share newsworthy events across the world. I can really see journalists jumping on board to easily live stream what they see. Others have noted that they will live stream sporting events, concerts and other large gatherings.

However, since Meerkat uses Twitter’s APIs to function, Meerkat is at the mercy of Twitter limiting access to the app.

I’m really glad I waited to write about Meerkat because Twitter launched its own version of a live streaming app last week called Periscope. According to BGR, “Twitter’s Periscope app had become a smash hit, breaking into the U.S. iPhone top-30 chart by Friday night. This is a rare feat for a social media app, and it demonstrated that Periscope had immediate and broad consumer appeal.”

In contrast, Meerkat failed to get anywhere close to the top 100 chart in the U.S. In fact, its highest daily ranking was 140th on the U.S. chart.

The huge advantage that Periscope has over Twitter is that it’s a native app vs a “parasite app.” Twitter is clearly throwing its weight around.

Which app do you think will be here for the long haul? Do you think the Big 3, Facebook, Twitter and Google, will curtail innovation from smaller apps? What impact do you think live streaming app will have for brands?

The Rise of Facebook as a Paid Media Platform

There used to be a clearly defined paid, earned and owned strategy in emerging media. As social networks have matured, these lines have definitely crossed and even intertwined. No longer can we, as marketers, produce posts and content on Facebook and not in some form of fashion use paid media to promote that content.

For example, Facebook used to allow brands more organic access to a Facebook user’s Newsfeed. In October 2013, the average post from a brand reached 12.05%. By the end of 2014, that number was hovering close to just a few percentage points. Facebook claims that they are curtailing only “overly promotional” posts, but from my personal experience it goes beyond just promotional posts.

Average Organic Reach of Content Published on Brand Facebook Pages

Twitter is even threatening to jump on the algorithm bandwagon.

What’s interesting to me is not that Facebook is charging for ads, it’s that they are not making more ads available to advertisers. In the third quarter of 2014, Facebook’s average price per ad jumped by 274% year-over-year while the social network served up 56% fewer ad impressions than a year ago.

This makes me wonder how long Facebook will continue to raise prices for advertisers and how long brands will rely on Facebook to communicate with its customers (and potential customers.)

How do you think this will impact your marketing efforts? Do you still look to Facebook as a primary social media site? What other social networks in 2015 are you exploring as algorithms change?