Sports Social TV Summit

I had a great time speaking on a panel this morning at the Sports Social TV Summit. I was a part of a panel discussion with members from the NFL, Turner Sports, Time Warner Cable, the Pac 12 and the Los Angeles Dodgers discussing various topics associated with Social TV.

Tom Speaking 1

Below are three clips tied to various questions that I was asked as well as an overview of our recently executed Way2Saturday program.

Way2Saturday & Social TV

Brand Question… Are brands asking for Social TV & second screen solutions?

The final response was from the Q&A session tied to Facebook Targeting

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Pinterest Partner Event Recap

I recently attended the first ever Pinterest Partner Marketing Summit in NYC. This invite only event unveiled their emphasis on developing a strong partner program and also served as an opportunity to introduce new staff to the Pinterest partner team, new resources for brands and agencies and best practices to maximize the platform.

Pinterest Event

There were five primary areas of focus for the event.

1) Why Pinterest
2) Pinterest Interest Graph
3) New product enhancements (Rich Pin & Mobile Pin It)
4) Analytics & Partner Tools
5) Partner case studies & Best Practices

WHY PINTEREST

Ben Silbermann, Pinterest Co-Founder & CEO started the day by telling the story of Pinterest. He discussed his love of collections when he was young… stamps, butterflies, baseball cards, etc… he saw an opportunity as there was not an elegant solution to organize collections online.

He had roots with Google and was enamored by how the search giant was able to so seamlessly focus on enabling search & retrieval across the web. If you know what you are looking for Google provides an ideal platform for search & retrieval.

He actually related Pinterest more to Google & search than to other social channels such as Facebook. With Pinterest people vs. bots are indexing the webs content and organizing them by interests, something that is a bit more subjective but aligns with human behavior.

One of his key points was in defining Pinterests role in discovery of content.

Discovery on the web is an unsolved problem & massive opportunity” – Ben Silbermann

Ben

With Pinterest, people are making discovery possible by organizing the web’s content around interests. This is their key point of differentiation as the platform is about discovery and action.

It was interesting to hear Ben’s story about the roots of Pinterest and it also provided insight into where the platform is going which leads to the Interest Graph.

INTEREST GRAPH

The Pinterest team spent a good bit of time discussing what they coined the Pinterest Interest Graph. An interest graph is an online representation of the specific things in which an individual is interested. And because the focus of Pinterest is based on what people are indexing on the web and then categorizing by interests, the Pinterest Interest Graph is the foundation for their business moving forward.

A key point of differentiation between Facebook’s Social Graph & Pinterest & even Twitters interest graphs are the fact that Interest Graphs are used to create people’s interest networks whereas Facebook and other social networks are organized around an individual’s friends and connections that follow them across the web.

The key to the interest graph for Pinterest is the ability to create personalized experiences that change based on an individuals life stage and interests. The association is less with people and more with things. This may include life events such as marriage, children, etc… and Pinterest hopes that by focusing on interests they are building a sustainable platform that can grow with users over time and continue to provide both utility and relevance based on discovery.

The key to the interest graph from a brand perspective is that a single product can be repined into other areas. As the single object passes across the interest graph across categories you are able to leverage the network of interests and passions vs. pushing a message and see how your product resonates in real time. This leads to driving discoverability by interest as well as distribution and lengthens the shelf life of content as it continually gets repined.

Interest Graph in action for me… I like Robots

Robots

PRODUCT ENHANCEMENTS

Pin it Button – the theme that was repeated the most over the course of the event was the focus on the Pin It button. Pinterest reiterated that a strong Pinterest strategy starts with enabling your domain. By enabling and focusing on driving & optimizing pins down to the individual product level are the key to driving more engagement and driving higher referral traffic.

Pin-It-Button-30-Designs

Mobile Pinning – Earlier this week Pinterest launched the ability to integrate the Pin It button into a brands mobile application to further drive discoverability via mobile for both iOS & Android via SDKs. The SDK allows a brands users to create Pinterest content inside the branded app. Currently, this only supports pinning from the web, but the ability to pin local images is on the roadmap as well.

Here is an example of Mobile Pinning in action from the Brit + Co (launch partner) mobile app

mobile pinning

Rich Pins – Also tied to this weeks launch was the release of Rich Pins. Pinterest hopes that Rich Pins lead to action and by adding more brand data to a pin tied to products, recipes & movies that more direct attribution and value for brands and users will be apparent. Product pins from a brand can showcase active inventory as well as price & references the source directly from the pin. Recipe Rich Pins allow more data to be added directly to the pin and movie pins offer insight into reviews as well as cast directly from the pin.

Product Pins

Product Pins

Recipe Pins

Recipe Pins

Movie Pins

Movie Pins

Implementation – In order to implement Rich Pins meta tags need to applied to your domain and decide on the type of rich pin you want to apply for. Then once the meta tags have been validated you can apply to get them from Pinterest.

From a brand perspective, this is the first step to further enabling brand content and attribution. Especially the product pins can be of value to further drive action when discovered.

ANALYTICS & PARTNER TOOLS

On March 11th, Pinterest launched their data analytics tool. This was another key discussion point during the course of the event. The analytics tool supports Pinterest’s position to enable a brands .com as the suite focuses on content pinned directly from the .com and focus on how many people are pinning from the website, impressions & reach over time and which pins receive the most repins and who pins them as well as what other content people are pinning alongside them.

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This data can be extremely useful when incorporating top pins into tailoring content for the website as well as other social channels. Nordstrom was a presenting brand and the key takeaway from their presentation was their focus on curating pins and using analytics as a driver for surfacing content on their website, e-mail as well as in store. By leveraging Pinterest in this way, Nordstrom claimed increased sell through in stores and online.

Nordstrom Top Pins via .com

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Nordstrom in store

Nordstrom

Pinterest also rolled out new partner tools starting with a revamped business.pinterest.com as well as a new business blog that will focused on enabling partners and will serve as the location for new product feature announcements. The team also announced that they will soon be providing webinars on best practices to further enable partners.

Unlike Facebook & Twitter, Pinterest is less about working directly with their partner teams and more about enabling the platform to allow brands to maximize their presence.

CASE STUDIES

During the course of the event four brands were represented including Target, Sephora, Nordstroms & Sony Electronics. I have already referenced how Nordstroms is leveraging Pinterest data to drive their content & in-store strategy. Below are a few key points from the Sephora & Sony Electronics presentations.

Sephora

The most compelling elements from the Sephora case study was their laser focus on identifying trends via pins. Their goals were tied to making it easier to pin from Sephora.com, use e-mail to encourage Pinterest engagement and encourage clients to pin their beauty shopping lists.

Sephora

  • Focus on top pins to inform content strategy across channels
  • Content goes beyond simple product to incorporate DIY type content
  • Testing various types of Pin to Win initiatives that are cross promoted

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  • Embedded Pinterest across social channels such as Facebook
  • Created pinnable e-mails drove significant results including a 60% increase in referral traffic from Pinterest that has not subsided
  • Focus on creating a shoppable experience on Pinterest
  • Claimed that shoppers are closer to purchase in the path to purchase and stated a statistic of 15x the sales impact vs. Facebook

Sony Electronics

I was most impressed by the work of Sony electronics of the four brands that presented. What I liked about their story is they are not the first brand you think of when you think about the Pinterest platform. They are a manufacturer vs. retailer and their audience is a younger, high tech male group who is not the primary audience of the platform. They had very clearly defined strategy objectives of driving sales, acquisition and brand affinity on the platform and they have leveraged the social power of their internal organization as well as consumers to power their experience.

Sony Electronics

  • Audience (Sony electronics appeal to more than women)
  • They curated content that existed, retro products, artist style, influencers who shoot with their cameras etc…
  • Launched presence with an employee contest to educate and curate relevant content across the organization
  • Drove awareness via the Sony Electronics blog & e-mail
  • E-mail is a critical component to their Pinterest strategy, pin, collect, share –> Pinterest focused messages get double the open rate
  • Inform their content strategy based on Pins
  • Leverage 3rd parties such as Curalate to identify influencers
  • Executed innovative programs such as Pin Deals – unlock via 20 pins – flash sale & Pin it to give it – repins = $1 to charity and received 13,000 pins

pin2givePindeals

  • Partnered with relevant brands to enter new categories such as Pinterest partnership with American Airlines to enter travel

Travel and Tech

BEST PRACTICES

The following is a list of best practices that were discussed during the course of the event. This is not a comprehensive best practices list, but does highlight the key points that the Pinterest team & brands represented did speak to repeatedly.

Strategy

  • The Pinterest team reiterated that the best Pinterest strategy starts with your domain.
  • Remember boards are not destinations, most of the interaction will happen at the Pin level
  • Pinnable E-mail is a critical component to a successful Pinterest strategy, enable content to be pinned on the individual content level

Platform

  • Add Pin-It Button to domain
  • Verify the business with Pinterest
  • Enable Domain Analytics
  • Activate & Incorporate Rich Pins to create a cleaner connection to inventory and enabling action
  • Leverage the Mobile SDK’s to further enable sharing directly from a brands app

Content

  • Learn from top pins, timely relevant pins that map to domain are key
  • Optimize pins, Sony’s audience preferred product shots while Target’s audience resonates with Lifestyle images
  • Short Captions are key, the goal is to tease to promote click through
  • Focus on content that will drive repins
  • Pin your product along with other inspirational content to boards
  • Focus on creating ripples with content vs. “feed stuffing”

Contests

  • When it comes to Pin It to Win it type of initiatives, it is important to ensure that there is a variety of content to pin
  • A pin from a Pin it to Win it is good, but the focus should be on repins. Repins are the key to successful promotion on the platform

SUMMARY

The first Pinterest partner event was definitely insightful and the event closed with the following points:

1) Discovery on the web is an unsolved problem & massive opportunity
2) People are making discovery possible by organizing the web’s content around interests
3) You can make your business more discoverable by inspiring people to pin

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

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Google Glass The Future Is Now

Wearable technology, specifically head mounted displays have been a part of science fiction canon for a very long time. Fans of the 80’s anime series Dragon Ball were accustomed to seeing characters with their own version of “Google Glass” interfaces. This preexisting association can be both a positive and a negative when it comes to the potential mass adoption of Google Glass.

DragonballZ-Episode001ws_89-640x360

The explosion of fitness related wearable technology with the Fit Bit, Nike Fuel Band & the recently launched Jawbone fitness band have led to a rise in mass appeal for wearable technology. The trend has been if the wearable technology provides relevance & utility as a natural extension of our daily lives we are willing to put our time & dollars towards supporting this type of product. For Google Glass, the goal is to further integrate the real world into the Google ecosystem thus creating a natural extension into your daily life, even if you look a bit like Geordi La Forge from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

GeordiLaForge

Google Glass has been the subject of a lot of hype over the past few months. From influencers wearing them at SXSW to recent sightings throughout NYC. What started as a project from Google X Labs is now on the verge of becoming a mainstream device. Whether this will go from Uber nerd category to mainstream essential is yet to be seen, but this will fundamentally impact the intersection of physical & digital moving forward.

Here I am testing Google Glass

Tom Edwards Google Glass

Google Glass, What are the specs and what should I expect from the UX?

The recent release of the Google Glass tech specs outline Google’s commitment to bring the product to market and attempt to redefine how we interact with the physical world. The specs include:

  • a high resolution display which is equivalent to a 25 inch HD TV from 8 feet away
  • 5 MP camera and 720P video
  • Bone condution audio transducer
  • Wi-fi & Bluetooth enabled
  • 12 GB of useable memory synced with Google cloud storage (16 GB total)
  • 1 full day of typical use

original

Outside of the tech specs, I was really interested in diving into the Google Mirror developer API’s. This is where you can really begin to see how Google plans on allowing the developer ecosystem to support the product & experiences moving forward.

One of the core elements of the user experience is tied to the concept of Timeline Cards.  These cards display the top level content that users will see. There are essentially two levels of navigation, with a top level primary and a sub-timeline for easy organization. Timeline cards support text, rich HTML, images or video content. From a brand perspective, understanding the relationship between relevant content & how information is presented & consumed via Timeline cards will be a key area to focus on as launch approaches.

Screen Shot 2013-04-16 at 12.44.56 PM

Similar to how Facebook allows the usage of “action objects” to further drive content acceleration and discoverability through the social graph, the Google Mirror API allows the addition of action based interactivity into the app experience. For now commands such as “read aloud”, “reply by voice” and “navigate to” are inherent to the navigation, but this can extend “discover” or other action verbs. More importantly, it will be interesting to track how user actions are then reported back, or ultimately mapped to contextual or location based search. It is easy to see how actions could then be turned into opportunities to share both within the construct of Google & possibly overlays to the physical world via augmented reality tagging or proximity based recommendations.

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Subscriptions seem to be a key element to the Google Glass experience. Both from an engagement & tracking standpoint. Subscriptions tell you when users choose specific menu items or when they share to a contact. Once an action is taken, it will be possible to take a specific action, such as share a photo. This will allow branded experiences to see what is truly engaging to the end user.

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Location is going to be a key element of Google Glass. If the user opt’s-in and grants access it is possible to use the Google Mirror API to observe the user’s location in timeline items, request their last known location directly, and subscribe to periodic location updates. You can also deliver pre-rendered map images in timeline cards by giving the Mirror API the coordinates to draw. Basically, location is the key attribute to connect the user to their environment that can then be overlaid map data or even with augmented reality interfaces.

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The biggest brand opportunities will be tied to mapping users locations with digital overlays to take real-world actions. This is already coming to life through Google’s augmented reality massively multiplayer online game for Android Ingress. Ingress seems to be designed with Google Glass in mind. I will be going into deeper detail around the impact of Ingress and the potential for brands in a future post but brands such as Zipcar & Jamba Juice are already testing the impact that this type of engagement can provide.

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What is the potential for Google Glass over the next 3-5 years?

Interconnectivity – The intersection of technology and utility is going to be a key area of focus over the next 5 years. Interconnection between smart grid technology in our homes that intersect with mobile devices such as Google Glass will continue to gain traction. When it comes to wearable technology, the overlay of digital into our everyday lives via products such as Google Glass are just the tip of the iceberg on a new landscape of interaction both physically and socially. Changing the view of real world with digital overlays will continue to develop into a new form of communication and interaction.

Contextual Data – The trend digitally is a movement from mass social interaction towards contextual networks. This same concept will push through wearable technology. You look at the rise of the Nike Fuel band and the gamification and sharability of personal information. This trend will continue to expand beyond fitness into other facets of our lives. Data tied to fitness, work habits, leisure etc… will all begin to create different sets of data that can then be visualized, gamified and used to help us lead more efficient, effective lives.

This also maps to Google’s larger strategy tied to contextual & personalized search. If you watch what is happening from a search standpoint, one of the bigger trends is the move towards personalized & socially enabled search where results will differ by individual, and social weighting of content will be a key driver to determine what search results you see. This coincides with Google Glass, as the intersection of location, search & social are evident based on how the UX is being defined.

Google Search Plus Your World

Content anywhere – How we consume content has changed significantly over the last decade. Content ubiquity will become accelerated with Google Glass and similar products that provide HD display’s and voice activated controls allowing for access to streaming content on demand. This is just the beginning as paper thin displays and wearable technology continues to evolve. What was once thought to be science fiction is quickly becoming reality.

lost_in_space_robot_body_1_2_2004

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Creating Effective Mobile Landing Pages

Recently, I was asked by DM Confidential to provide insights on best practices for creating mobile landing pages that work well on smartphones. Some of my commentary was included in the article that recently posted. Below is a recap of my thoughts on the topic beyond what was published.

Having a streamlined user experience across both desktop and mobile are absolutely critical with today’s users. Just as visual storytelling has taken over how brands leverage social platforms, having a clean, clear and concise mobile entry point into a branded experience is key to driving engagement & action by the user.

Cross

Whether it’s driving brand awareness, showcasing products or benefits, or simply trying to drive leads, having a mobile landing experience that focuses on a very clear call to action, with clear and concise copy along with imagery or video that is core to driving the user through a pre-determined path is the key to maximizing the initial mobile experience.

Another core element to consider is the impact that responsive design can have for a brand vs. having a separate desktop and mobile experience, by leveraging responsive design during the build out of both desktop and mobile, you can maximize the user experience across platforms.

Here is a breakdown of simple Do’s & Dont’s to consider.

Do’s:

  • Incorporate visual elements while maximizing opportunities for engagement
  • Keep copy clear and concise
  • Be very specific as to the call to action and make sure that the it is incorporated into the design and kept above the fold
  • Do consider optimizing the content for load time
  • Do consider responsive design for both web & mobile to keep the experience consistent yet relevant across both desktop and mobile

Dont’s:

  • Do not just have your website as the default without mobile consideration (bad ux, too much content, difficult to navigate)
  • Avoid too much content
  • Avoid too many fields
  • Don’t just have a list of categories as the primary experience
  • Don’t overload the mobile experience to weigh down load times

Examples:

Good: Crowdsworth | Responsive Design

Here is the Responsive Design Desktop Version of the Crowdsworth site

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Here is the mobile version highlighting the sites responsive design

Photo Apr 03, 10 47 13 AM

Good: Nike | Clean UX & Clear Call to Action

Nike Mobile

Good: Red Bull | Strong use of visual and call to action that leads to deeper engagement as you scroll

RedBull Mobile

Bad: Chivas Whiskey | There is no mobile optimization present, essentially the site is the mobile landing page. At a minimum create a unique entry experience for the mobile user

Chivas Mobile

Some of my commentary was included in the article that recently posted.

How to Create Effective Mobile Landing Pages

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12 Examples of Vine in Action

By now you have most likely heard through the grapevine (last “vine” pun I promise) about Twitter’s new Vine app and it’s many pros & cons. Many call Vine the Instagram of video as it goes beyond static images by allowing for 6 seconds of context tied to pictures, motion & sound in the form of looping videos optimized to be shared.

vine-twitter

Twitter launched Vine on January 24th, 2013 and it has not left the top 20 in the app store since launch. Vine’s six second video loops are quick, lightweight pieces of content that are ideal for social sharing. Initially launched via a mobile app for iOS  (Android app in development) this high-level version of an animated gif is quick & easy to capture. Just point your device, touch the screen and the app records up to 6 seconds allowing for starts & stops.

According to Tech Crunch, Vine (2.8% penetration) has taken an early lead over the likes of Viddy (0.5) & Socialcam (0.2).  There is significant opportunity tied to short form video assets & social sharing as the same article referenced that 98% of overly active users shared photos whereas only 4% shared video.

With the recent changes announced by Facebook and the importance of visual content that drives engagement, having the opportunity to create short-form content may be a powerful tool for brands to consider.

Cross

Vines can be a powerful addition to a solid content strategy. Whether it’s showcasing supplementary branded content or simply finding a relevant extension of your brand to highlight, Vine can provide yet another option to keep users attention.

Here are 12 examples of Vine in Action:

1) Drive awareness to an experiential event
BeatsByDre teased the opening of it’s SXSW Pill Clinic with this Vine.

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2) Share Unique Branded Experiences
Urban Outfitter’s SXSW alien teased via Vine

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3) Highlight Brand Advocates
Kid Robot highlighted a user’s Vine

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4) Pop-Culture Co-Creation in Action
Houston Texans merge their fans & brand with pop culture relevance

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5) Preview Products
Intel is leveraging Vine to preview technology

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6) Highlight a Cause
OKC Thunder highlighting a social cause via Vine

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7) Extend the Brand Persona
Trident is using Vine to extend the core attributes of their brand

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8) Preview with visual context
Warner Bros. promoting a movie with relevant context

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9) Share Important News
Kickstarter announces a record

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10) Drive promotional awareness
Sacramento Kings showcasing promotional items

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11) Leverage Vine for promotion
Regal Cinemas leveraged Vine as part of a promotional announcement

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12) Fan Appreciation
Chick-Fil-A show fans appreciation via Vine

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Be aware when leveraging Vine that there are issues with quality control, as the current version does not allow moderation. The focus should be less on community building & aggregation and more focused on creating content that is then distributed through owned channels.

Also note that it is important to determine the message that is to be conveyed and ensure that it ladders back to the core attributes and persona of the brand prior to just filming.

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iPhone 5 Launch Coverage

For those of us who follow all things Apple, today’s event in San Francisco is the focus of the day. With the upcoming release of the iPhone5, millions of iPhone users will be upgrading to the new device.

Apple just announced that the iPhone5 will be available for pre-order on 9-14 and will ship/be available on 9-21.

Here is a quick rundown of what’s available with the upcoming release:

  • The form factor is thinner (18%) and lighter (20%) with a panoramic screen with higher resolution
  • Aluminum body with a glass screen, supposedly the thinnest smartphone on the market and once again will be available in Black & White
  • Speed increases immensely based on the new A6 processor, which Apple claims is 2x faster than the 4S
  • iPhone5 will support LTE connectivity, which will add speed increases to the 4S
  • iPhone5 will have a dual channel 5GHz Wi-Fi
  • The screen is 16:9 with a 4 inch panoramic screen with it’s touchscreen sensor built into the display
  • Increased battery life – 8 hours 3G, 8 hours LTE browsing
  • Camera updates – 5 element lens, 8 megapixel with panorama mode
  • Video face detection – improved image stabilization with the ability to tag people automatically in videos
  • 3 Microphones – Front, Back & Bottom which should improve voice calls
  • One of the more controversial elements is the new Lightning connector, which replaces the current 30 pin connector that we all have across generations and are moving towards an 8 pin connector
  • iOS 6 launches on the 19th of September

Will you be upgrading to the iPhone5?

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Mobile Gamings Potential For Brand Engagement via P4RC

Reaching mobile consumers is on the thoughts and minds of brand managers heading into 2012 and beyond. The challenge is to drive meaningful engagement across a highly fragmented landscape while providing a positive & relevant experience to the consumer.

Mobile gaming appears to be an ideal target for brand engagement as 70-80% of all mobile downloads are games with the average iPhone user spending 14.7 hours a month playing those games. Currently, 64.5 million people in the US played mobile casual games at least once a month. This will rise to 94.9 million in the US by 2014. Translation people are gaming via mobile.

Has anyone not played Angry Birds?

The issue at this point in time is that the current landscape is highly scattered with over 72,000 games in the Apple App store from thousands of developers and in-app advertising leaving many brands frustrated with their mobile engagement rates.

One newly launched service is looking to change the game by promising higher user engagement rates combined with positive brand associations. P4RC, Inc. is a new service that connects consumer brands to mobile users with a platform that converts user engagement in their favorite gaming apps into P4RC points, which can be redeemed for real-world rewards.

The basic premise is that players play games they are already playing and earn gift cards from top retailers just for playing.

The key for P4RC brand programs is the ability for brands to reach across multiple games and reward behaviors that users are already engaged in.

P4RC’s brand programs include sponsoring their “Race to Win” segments, which call for users to play and earn P4RC points within a period of time to redeem brand rewards as well as offers directly from brands.

Example of Race to Win

Example of Brand Offer

By sponsoring our Race 2 Win competitions, brands can be inserted into the mobile gaming experience in a manner that is actually relevant to that experience.  This makes the brand part of the fun rather than an unwanted intrusion, which is often the case with other forms of mobile advertising” said Jason Seldon, Founder & CEO of P4RC.

By integrating the achievement network completely within the game, the barrier of leaving the app for a mobile web experience is removed. The user is free to review current Race’s 2 win, redeem rewards and view their account all within the current app they are playing.

In the first week of launch, players have already redeemed their P4RC points for over $1,000 in rewards from brands such as Starbucks & Best Buy.

At launch, P4RC’s achievement network is currently tied to “Stop Those Fish“, which is currently featured by Apple as a New & Noteworthy app in the Apple App Store and announced a partnership with Eye Interactive to include the new P4RC rewards network in all Eye Interactive games.

P4RC is also forming key partnerships with mobile developers. “By adding the P4RC rewards network to their games, game developers benefit from a powerful marketing & customer retention engine that drives user engagement, resulting in an increase in game downloads and longer duration of game play.”

Services such as P4RC provide compelling incentives for brands and users alike by rewarding existing behaviors, socially enabling the experience and lowering the barrier of entry to participate across apps.

An Android friendly version of P4RC will be launching this Summer.

Thanks to Jason Seldon, Founder & CEO of P4RC for data included in this post.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

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Training Apple’s Siri for Facebook & Twitter

One of the outstanding features of the iPhone 4S is definitely Siri. Siri is Apple’s version of a virtual assistant. But setting up Siri out of the box can be interesting when you try to associate your commands with Facebook & Twitter.

Siri allows you to use your voice to send messages, make calls, schedule meetings etc…

Here are examples of what Siri can do for you

When you first activate your 4S you may need to activate Siri. You can do so via Settings –> General –> Siri

You can then activate Siri by holding down the Home Button for a few seconds and the fun begins.

You can ask about where the closest Starbucks is located…

You can check the weather in Hawaii

And Siri will remember your last request, if you ask “Where to find a drink” it will assume you are in Hawaii

But you may run into an issue trying to get Siri to play nicely with Facebook & Twitter. As she may tell you, I am sorry I cannot update Facebook or Twitter at first go.

Configuring FACEBOOK

Configuring Facebook with Siri will require your mobile device to be connected to Facebook. Below is an outline of what is required to confirm your mobile device with Facebook.

Open the Facebook mobile app then to settings at the top left. Or you can go to the mobile tab of your Account Settings page to activate Mobile Texts. Click “Register for Facebook Text Messages” and complete the steps that follow.

Step 1 Select Country & Mobile Carrier

Step 2 is confirmation

Next, you will need to create a Contact called Facebook with the contact number 32665

Then, you ask Siri to send a message to Facebook saying “message Facebook” then “Your status Update”

Configuring TWITTER

For Twitter, text START to 40404 in the US.

Next, create a contact as you did for Facebook, the only difference is to add “Twitter” as a nickname to the contact.

This will allow you to say Send Message to Twitter, without having to say everything at once. This is an important step.

Then you will see your tweet.

There is much more to explore with Siri as well as Apple’s iOS 5. Would love to hear about some of the interesting things you have asked Siri and what the response was.

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Top 10 Features of Apple iOS 5

With the upcoming release of the iPhone 4S, I decided to upgrade both my iPad 2 and iPhone 4 to the new iOS 5 operating system prior to picking up the 4S.

Apple boasts over 200 new features tied to the OS, with some specific to the iPhone & iPad. After a few tries, I was able to upgrade both and have spent the last 24 hours identifying what I find useful in the new OS and have narrowed the list from 200 down to my top 10.

Here is my top 10 list of what I found the most useful:

1) NOTIFICATIONS – I really like the new approach to notifications. With an integrated approach that feels much better from a UI perspective, notifications feel like an extension vs. intrusive. This extends to apps such as Facebook as well.

Lock screen notifications


In App notifications


Swipe Down notifications – Swipe down from the top of the screen and you will drop down your notification center. This area can be configured to show weather as well as the latest notifications, updates and even track your stock portfolio.

(2) iCLOUD – I am a fan of the new iCloud service. In order to use the free service* you must be on the iOS 5 operating system. Once you upgrade you have the ability to use:

  • iTunes in the cloud
  • Photo Stream
  • Documents in the cloud
  • Apps and Books automatically downloaded
  • Backup multiple iDevices
  • Activate the Find my iPhone/iPad feature


*You start with 5GB of free storage and can purchase more

3) PHOTO ENHANCEMENTS – Simply Double Tap the home button on the lock screen to pull up a shortcut to activate your camera. This is extremely helpful, especially at events.

  • Double click the home button when the device is asleep to bring up a camera shortcut
  • Volume up to take a picture
  • Optional grid lines to line up shots
  • Pinch to zoom in the preview screen
  • Swipe to camera roll from preview screen
  • Tap and hold to lock focus & exposure (iPad 2 & 4th gen iPod touch)


4) PHOTO EDITING – In addition to the upcoming 8 megapixel camera in the 4S, the iOS 5 update added much needed Editing support for photos.

  • Crop & Rotate
  • Red Eye Removal
  • One Tap Enhance
  • Organize photos into albums

5) TWITTER INTEGRATION – With Apple’s decision to align with Twitter, iOS 5 highlights their commitment to further integrate the micro-blogging service into the experience.

  • Sign-in once in Settings & tweet directly from Camera, Photos, Maps, Safari & YouTube
  • Add location to any tweet
  • Here is how to configure Siri to work with Twitter if you now have the 4S.

6) SAFARI – With most changes on the back-end, the features that impact usage are the Reader List and Reader Button.

  • Reader Button – allows users to strip away the stylized elements of an article to focus on the content
  • Reader Lists – allow users to add articles to running lists that can be shared across devices.

Example of a Reader Button Activated Article

Example of the Reading List Display

Example of Reader List activation for Safari on my Mac.

(7) MAPS – Not major changes here, but I do like the fact that you can now share map locations via multiple options.

If you have Siri via the 4S, then you also have the ability to ask for directions via voice commands and Siri will remember your previous request. Here is my analysis of Siri.

8) iMESSAGE – allows you to interact with other iOS 5 users with unlimited text, photo & video messages.

  • iMessage uses a Blue send button whereas SMS uses Green
  • Delivery & Read Receipts
  • Group messaging
  • Works over cellular network & wi-fi

(9) NEW APPS – With each new update to the iOS new apps normally follow and this launch was no exception.

  • Reminders (Auto installed) – Syncs with iCloud, iCal and Outlook including location based reminders which is a great feature
  • Newstand (Auto installed) – Automatically organizes magazine & newspaper subscriptions on home screen
  • Cards – Create greeting cards directly from your iPhone
  • Trailers – Watch the latest movie trailers, also integrated with iTunes, of course what isn’t from Apple?
  • Find my Friends – Share your location with people. Good for parents to track their kids. Note must be using iCloud & iOS5
  • Airport Utility – Manage Wifi & airport base stations

(10) Wireless sync to iTunes – Enough Said!!!

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The Power of Instagram for Brands

Photos can tell many stories and they are powerful representations of the world around us. It is no wonder that users have taken the simple task of taking photos with their iPhones to new levels with apps such as Instagram, Hipstamatic, PicPiz and Pose.

Instagram, a photo-sharing app for iPhone users, is quickly becoming a force for individuals & brands alike. With over 10 million users and an average of 1.3 million photos uploaded per day, it ties the ability to adjust your photo via multiple built in filters with socially enabled features such as sharing, liking, and commenting.

Why is Instagram attracting users and brands vs. say simply using Twitpic or another utility to take and share a photo? One reason may be the ability to easily customize photos where users feel in control and further expressing their personality & style with a simple user interface. The other thought is how Instagram enables social sharing across multiple channels with ease.

From the app, you have the ability to tag your photos with relevant hashtags, (#Starbucks) subscribe to feeds of individuals & brands as well as view the most popular submissions. In terms of social sharing, Instagram allows you to share your works of art across Twitter, Facebook, Email, Flickr, Tumblr, Foursquare and Posterous.

Brands have found innovative ways to incorporate Instagram into their social strategies to drive awareness & engagement. Those that use the medium well understand the opportunity to humanize the brand, incent users to create content on their behalf via unique hashtags & photo contests and it offers a quick and easy way to share visual content and of course engage users.

Below is a list of the Top 10 most followed brands & organizations on Instagram (As of September 15, 2011)

1. MTV = 103,036 Tweens, Teens, Young 20’s + Music + Visual Self Expression = MTV #1.

2. Starbucks = 91,157 – Starbucks understands the power of crowdsourcing. From their groundbreaking work with the My Starbucks Idea program to activating amateur photographers across the globe to tag #Starbucks with their Instagram enabled iDevices. You can go to starbucks.com/coffeehouse to see the latest images.

3. Burberry = 86,544 – Fashion & photography go hand in hand. It is no surprise that Burberry uses the service to showcase their professionally created visual imagery associated with their brand.

4. ABC News = 67,874 – ringing in at #4, ABC News uses it stream to visualize the news and users engage via comments

5. NPR = 65,972 – One of many news sources using Instagram to visualize the news.

6. Red Bull = 59,298 – Red Bull rings in at #6 with a healthy following. The brand executes hashtag photo contests and rewards users with likes as they show their affinity for the brand visually around the world.

7. CNN = 58,256 – Yet another news service visualizing the news

8. NBC = 55,012 – See #4, #5 and #7

9. Kate Spade = 45,597 – Another Fashion entry in the top 10. Kate Spade focuses on uniquely photographing merchandise & sharing the images via multiple social channels such as Tumblr & Twitter.

10. Celtics = 35,433 – Events are a natural extension for Instagram. Sporting events in particular can generate a significant amount of visual content. By understanding and capitalizing on this the Boston Celtics round out the top 10 with over 35,000 followers.

Other brands of Note include:

1. Volkswagen
2. Gucci
3. Levi’s
4. National Geographic
5. Coca Cola
6. Pepsi
7. McDonalds

The brands that are closer to the innovation end of the social marketing spectrum understand that it is not enough to simply rely on Twitter & Facebook but to ultimately be present, monitor & potentially engage in the channels where their brands are being discussed.

Many organizations view additional channels as spreading the brand too thin and fall into the trap of only leveraging Facebook & Twitter. I view each social channel as serving a specific purpose based on how consumers use the channel and the ultimate goals of the brand.

If you have the ability to define a strategy that incorporates various mediums while maximizing how they were intended to be used you can truly drive value for both the brand and the consumer. And yes there are branded conversations that happen outside of Facebook & Twitter.

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SnapTags vs. QR Codes Round 2

One of the more controversial posts over the past year was tied to my POV on 2D barcodes, specifically SnapTags vs. QR codes. This sparked an interesting conversation.

To follow up on that conversation, instead of getting into a philosophical discussion I will let this infographic sent to me by the SpyderLynk team kick-off the discussion. Would love to hear your thoughts after reviewing the infographic.

Snaptags vs. QR Codes per Spyderlynk

Let the commenting begin!!!

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Starbucks Offers Branded Entertainment as Pick of the Week

As an incredibly frequent customer of Starbucks, I do pay close attention to the itunes Pick of the Week cards that are available close to the register. Apple & Starbucks have partnered together since 2007 and the Pick of the Week program has kept my interest since its inception. The core focus has been on music but I had held out hope for branded entertainment either in the form of video or ultimately apps.

For those of us that work with entertainment brands, driving awareness is incredibly valuable and leveraging strategic partnerships is just as important to amplify your brand. With such a significant global footprint on the local level and the market penetration of Apple’s iTunes services the likelihood for success is high, especially if you are one of the first brands to leverage the new direction of the partnership.

I was excited to see a TV show as the Pick of the Week over the holiday’s with the Charlie Brown pick of the week and that appeared to be a test leading up to the expansion beyond music.

Starting on August 23rd, Starbucks and Apple are now partnering together to deliver free Pick of the Week apps. This is significant as a song can cost $1.29 whereas the first app out of the gate, Shazam Encore was a $5.99 value.

This week features the latest Firemint release titled Spy Mouse (.99). It will be very interesting to watch the correlation of the release of the app, featured status via Starbucks and how that impacts the downloads and sales of the app. By providing a conveniently located download option at a physical location it offers the app developer a distinct awareness advantage over the competition.

According to the Starbucks blog it looks like this will expand to samples of books, TV shows & apps. Now the lobbying begins in terms of positioning various branded entertainment for the coveted spots. As an entertainment marketer or even app developer it is important not to discount the potential of this program.

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Facebook Text to Like

Although it has been available for a while now, one of the under utilized options to drive a Like for a Facebook Brand page is as simple as texting like_____ to 32265 (FBOOK if you are in the US). In the case of our facebook page, you would text “Like BlackFin360” to 32265 without the quotes. All that is required is that your mobile device is confirmed to your Facebook account.*

This method is a great alternative to 2D barcodes to Like or printing Like Us on packaging as it is directly actionable and once the user has confirmed their mobile device it is as simple as texting Like and the brand page name. The user will then not only receive updates via their newsfeed but any brand that they like via text will also receive the latest updates from your brand page directly as text messages.

Recently, Facebook was driving activation around local markets and provided Text to Like stickers for window fronts of local retailers.

Here is an example of a Text to Like sticker

As I mentioned above, in order to capitalize on this feature a users phone needs to be confirmed with Facebook. Below is an outline of what is required to confirm your mobile device with Facebook.

Open the Facebook mobile app then to settings at the top left. Or you can go to the mobile tab of your Account Settings page to activate Mobile Texts. Click “Register for Facebook Text Messages” and complete the steps that follow.

Step 1 Select Country & Mobile Carrier

Step 2 is confirmation

Step 3 Like the Page

As I stated previously, instead of simply stating find us or Like us on Facebook, capitalize on an opportunity to drive a Like on a direct mail piece, speaking at a conference or possibly on packaging. Most people have the ability to text and this is an untapped acquisition play that is more directive & enabled by quick response vs. passively asking for a like and putting the onus on the user to find the brand page, then Like it.

*If you are in a different country, here is the list of activation codes.

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15 Examples of Gamification & Brands

Outside of the recent flurry associated with Google+, the one term that has been top of mind throughout the digital space recently is gamification. Gamification is a term used to describe organizations using game mechanics to drive engagement in traditionally non-gaming products. There are examples of gamification everywhere in our daily lives and many brands are integrating game mechanics in unique and compelling ways all with the purpose of driving user engagement.

Below are 15 examples of Gamification and how brands are capitalizing on the trend.

Xbox Live | Achievements, Leaderboards | Microsoft struck a chord with traditional gamers when they first rolled out achievement points. Users can earn a certain amount of gamerscore by completing specific tasks or actions in game.  This simple addition had a profound impact on the space as nothing to date had motivated behavior to play titles beyond ones taste for specific genres while also creating an aggregate & visible record of your gaming prowess. Brands took note of the trend and the loyalty that users developed in their pursuit of gamerscore & bragging rights. I attribute the current craze of achievement based gamification to the success of Xbox Live & achievement points.

E.g. Gamertag

Foursquare | Rewards, Badges | Location based services such as Foursquare, Gowalla & Facebook Places have redefined game mechanics in non-gaming products. Users and brands alike have taken notice and Foursquare stands out with 10 million users on a platform that was built around solid game mechanics. Users can claim mayorships, unlock badges, receive special offers & rewards such as discounts to specific retailers while also tracking against friends via a leaderboard.

Examples of Foursquare Badges

Example of Foursquare/NFL Super Bowl Rewards

Example of Foursquare/Pepsi Reward from SXSW 2011

Foursquare leaderboard sponsored by Pepsi

Gowalla | Virtual Goods, Badges, Rewards | Like Foursquare, Gowalla has had an impact on brands by incenting location based check-ins while incorporating virtual item reward programs that then translate into physical goods.

Example of Gowalla badges/pins

Example of Virtual Goods/Physical Goods

GetGlue | Badging, Rewards | The gamification of entertainment has been growing significantly over the past year. Similar to how individuals check into physical locations with services such as Foursquare & Gowalla, now it is possible to check into entertainment destinations such as your favorite TV Show, Movie, Music, Video Games, etc… With players such as GetGlue, Miso, Philo and Tunerfish all vying for your entertainment check-in, each platform offers different mechanics but each is built on the foundation of game mechanics such as badging & rewards through various brand partners.

Example of GetGlue Sticker tied to TRON

Example of a GetGlue Reward that offered 40% off of Mad Men on Blu-Ray or DVD

Linkedin |Progress Bar | Linkedin offers a small example of gamification by incenting users towards 100% profile completeness with a progress bar that is visible while on the edit profile page. By providing a visual representation of your profile completeness Linkedin hopes to trigger behavior that drives us towards completeness.

Example of Profile completeness

SalesForce | Leaderboard, Achievements, Leveling | Salesforce has taken gamification to another level with this addition to the popular CRM platform. With Engage, Salesforce users activities within the system are tied to various game mechanics and offers direct competition with other users within their organization. By incorporating this level of competitive visibility organizations can capitalize on surfacing different behaviors and hopefully drive additional engagement with their systems.

Example of SalesForce’s New Gamification Dashboard

Mint | Achievements, Progress Bar | As discussed on Mashable, Mint is offering a Financial Fitness Score that is based on core game mechanics associated with task completion, progression & achievements. By taking an ordinary exercise and creating a casual gaming experience, mint is creating an opportunity to drive new user acquisition in a creative way.

Example of Mint Gamification

Example of Mint Point Acquisition

CheckPoints | Virtual Currency, Rewards | CheckPoints incents users to engage in retail settings via compelling game mechanics. Users are incented to scan specific products in exchange for CheckPoints which can then be exchanged as a virtual currency for rewards such as gift cards. Brands can create compelling programs with CheckPoints to drive retail activation and product engagement all based on gamification of the shopping experience.

Example of CheckPoints Scan for Tyson Chicken

Example of CheckPoints Rewards

Shopkick | Virtual Currency, Rewards, Contests | Similar to CheckPoints, ShopKick also offers incentives and game mechanics for users to engage with specific products. By incenting users with specific offers prior to entering a retail location, ShopKick users can then interact with those products in store and earn points which translate to virtual currency. ShopKick also incorporates a hyper geo-targeted approach to driving engagement as shown below. By rewarding behavior by simply entering a participating retailer, ShopKick can influence behavior via a game mechanic.

Example Geo-Targeted Gamification associated with Target

Example of ShopKick Rewards

Hallmark | Facebook Credits, Virtual Goods, Gifting, Sharing | Facebook credits have become the default currency tied to Facebook’s ever popular social games. Beyond the social game mechanics brands are leveraging Facebook credits to incent users to interact with specific content. Hallmark incorporates many game mechanics into it’s Facebook application the Hallmark Social Calendar.

Example Hallmark Social Calendar and Facebook Credits

Example of Hallmark Social Calendar Gifting

Example of Incenting engagement via Points

Starbucks | Leveling, Rewards | Starbucks has incorporated game mechanics into it’s popular loyalty program. By incorporating multiple levels and associated rewards & perks per level with a progression tracker, users are incented to continually engage with the brand.

Example of MyStarbucks Rewards

Nike | Achievements, Badges, Challenges, Rewards | Nike has redefined running with Nike Plus. The ability to track, share, challenge and interact with like minded friends & runners across the world has been wildly successful. By incorporating game mechanics throughout the program Nike is able to create an engaging experience that transcends the real world activity.

Example of Nike Plus Goals & Challenges

Example of Nike Plus Progress bar & Leveling

Buffalo Wild Wings | Trivia, Challenges | Buffalo Wild Wings has been adept at carving out their place in the social ecosystem. By leveraging powerful platforms like Vitrue and partnering with Scvngr, they have created an engaging social persona that has served them well with over 5 million fans on Facebook. In terms of gamification they incorporate trivia regularly into their wall posts as well as incorporating online challenges tied to rewards.

Example of a Buffalo Wild Wings program that incorporates Scvngr

Microsoft | Achievements, Contests | Ribbon Hero is a creative game mechanic driven tutorial now in Microsoft Office. By completing specfic tasks and challenges you can then integrate Ribbon Hero with your Facebook account to compare how adept you are vs. your friends.

Example Ribbon Hero

Image via Geek.com

American Airlines | Progression Bar | A simple game mechanic is used by American Airlines to visually represent your current elite status qualification.

Example of American Airlines mobile app

As you can see many brands are capitalizing on the trend of integrating game mechanics into their non-gaming product offerings to drive engagement. What are some other examples of gamification by other brands?

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10 Potential Brand Benefits of Google+

For those of us that work closely with brands, the initial beta for Google+ was exciting but not quite fulfilling for brands. Granted it is a Beta and is not intended for brand or non-human entities at this time. The recent announcement of Pages or Entities for brands on the 2011 platform roadmap means it is never too early to begin thinking about Google+ brand strategy with what is known today.

Below are 10 potential points to consider for your 2012 digital strategy planning as it relates to Google+.

Potential Brand Benefits of Google+ Brand Pages/Entities

1 ) Integration with Google Search – Google currently owns 68% of search market share. The fact that the Google +1 icon is now a part of every Google search result shows a glimpse of the level of integration Google has in store for users & brands alike. A user can directly recommend a link from their search results and that recommendation is simultaneously shared on the users  Google+ +1 profile section. By combining paid search, and incenting +1 behaviors you can begin to see the potential of this level of integration as the user may not be actively engaged on Google+ but the abilty to drive a user to engage by recommending content with the click of a single button is appealing.

Here is an example of a search for Hasbro’s NERF product. I like NERF so I +1 the Page

The +1 is then aggregated into my Google+ profile under +1’s

2 ) Google +1 – Similar to the Facebook Like button the Google +1  button has the opportunity to truly transcend the platform by driving significant 3rd party integration. In fact the Google +1 button overtook the Twitter tweet button on most major websites with a 33% spike in integration recently. Granted it is still far behind the Like button in terms of saturation but the fact that both Facebook & Google+ drive engagement to a central destination vs. simply being a conduit to various destinations such as Twitter shows the potential of 3rd party integrations to drive engagement.

3 ) Circles – By allowing brands to potentially segment fans is a big win. One of the issues with brand management on Facebook is tied to messaging across audience segments. By allowing brands to potentially seamlessly categorize fans it allows the style of engagement to change dramatically. Imagine if you are driving engagement with 13-17 year old segments as well as 18-24 year olds. The brand & social persona’s associated with content could shift to further driving engagement based on audience segment vs. a one size fits all approach.

Here is a mock-up of how a brand could further segment consumers via demographic circles

4 ) Google+ & Social GamingGoogle invested 100 million dollars into Zynga in 2010 and look for Google+ to create it’s own Google Games flavor of social gaming in 2011/2012. With over 50% of Facebooks 700 million engaged daily with Facebook social games, it is a key motivator for brands to monitor the Google Games offering and how Zynga and others align with Google+. The success of recent brand integrations with Farmville, including Frito-Lays recent world record for driving “Likes”, has given notice to brand managers of the power of Social Games & strategic partnerships with the game providers.

5 ) Google Tools/Apps/Gadgets Integration – If your organization uses Google Apps for business it looks as though Google will be holding trials with a handful of users to test integration between Google Apps for Business & Google+. Additional integration could come in the form of Google Gadgets where it may be possible to re-purpose rich media elements as a Google Gadget that could then be shared with a user via Google+. This would further drive efficiency with marketing dollars while providing additional tools to drive acquisition & engagement.

6 ) YouTube & Google TV Integration – With YouTube in it’s stable, Google+ integration with YouTube is not far behind. The inherent social nature of YouTube translates well in terms of integration of +1, embedding video and further integrating the YouTube & Google+ experience to make sharing and recommending content even easier. From a brand perspective being able to distribute unique & consumer generated content that is relevant to the brand while driving +1’s back to a brand page is very appealing from an earned media perspective.

One area that really intrigues me is how Google TV may integrate with Google+ to create a truly social entertainment experience. I envision further integration between Google TV, YouTube, Hulu & Andriod to drive truly integrated entertainment experiences across screens. From a media perspective you could truly bridge the gap between traditional & digital placement by incorporating a relevant ad placement via information collected from Sparks & Google Search. This to me is the future of enhanced television.


7 ) Google Map Integration – Many brands have physical locations and creating a distributed module that integrates Google Maps or even more importantly Google Latitude integration. It will be interesting to see if there is additional focus on integrating Google Latitude with Google+ to rival Facebook places and the other key players such as Foursquare & Gowalla. Brands could claim locations and proactively be pinged with relevant offers based on check-in history and Google+ spark interests.

8 ) Android Integration – With the Android’s market share currently at 49.5%, integration with Google+ is a key for both Google+ & Android. With both an App & Web version of Google+ and an Android exclusive with the Google+ Huddle functionality, the level of integration between Android & Google+ is apparent. Even though the Hangout feature was left out, there are still signs towards further integration for Google+ beyond the app. The latest version of Google+ enabled phones are rumored to provide  additional functionality such as a potential one touch +1 feature in the next generation phone. This may have brands rethinking their approach to Android applications.


9 ) Google Offers – With the launch of Google Offers, it is a natural extension for brands to incorporate group buying where applicable. By integrating this with Google+ as well as search results there could be a very compelling acquisition program tied to Google+ extensions that is amplified via Google+ users.

10 ) Sparks & Recommendation Engine – One of the most impactful elements of Google+ for brands is potentially Sparks. Brands could focus advertising dollars on Sparks programs that are relevant to their brand & product offerings. Taking it a step further, creation of a recommended or +1 relevance based on a users & circles sparks/interests that is then socially shared could be very compelling. This would be very similar to Facebook’s sponsored stories.

Other areas of focus & interest will be how international/localized regions are supported in terms of aggregating brand +1’s  and how the Google+ commerce & currency platform strategies will unfold.

One additional point will be to evaluate the true reach and amplification of the +1 from an earned media perspective. While Circles & segmentation are key how this information is shared and disseminated via the stream is incredibly important. Be sure to note the differences in what shows up individually in your streams vs. what is tied to content. With Facebook, one of the secrets outside of edgerank is the level of detail that is shown by interaction. You “Like” NERF and it is represented in your newsfeed. This is key for true adoption & ultimately big advertising dollars to be spent on Google+.

As far as what the potential brand pages would look like Sean Percival created an interesting mock up of what a potential Starbucks brand page could look like.

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Google+ & Facebook

This week saw the launch of Google+ which is Googles answer to Facebook. Google has definitely had setbacks when it comes to Social solutions. Google Wave anyone? So what do they decide to do this time around? Basically mirror Facebook.

googleplus

Comic via xkcd

There is even a CSS overlay that now converts your Google+ experience to look like Facebook.

When you break down Google+ the initial functionality looks very familiar with a few subtle differences tied to the Profile & stream of news. The Stream is similar to the newsfeed and users can “+1” specific updates. The functionality is so similar to Facebook’s newsfeed that it makes me think if you can’t beat them copy them.

Beyond the profile & stream there are 5 core areas of Google+ upon launch.

Circles – The basis of circles is to allow users to segment their friends and drive updates to specific groups vs. your entire friends list. Users can follow updates from specific circles with the ability to further filter streams of information.

Circles

Hangouts – Brings live group video chat to the table. An individual can allow multiple users in various circles to initiate group video live chats. It’s sort of a mashup of Meetup & Skype’s group video chat.

Instant Upload – Instant Upload is a service that ]removes the barrier between uploading images from your mobile device to a social service. Instead of selecting which image to upload, all images are uploaded and you select which to share with your circles.

Instant Upload

Sparks – Sparks is the Google+ version of a relevancy engine. My assumption is that this serves a dual purpose of identifying and sharing interests as well as the engine to tie users interests to Google’s ad platform. It will be interesting to watch the progression and to see if Google+ takes from Facebook’s sponsored stories and other socially integrated advertising options to attract potential ad revenue.

Sparks

Huddle – Huddle brings group texting to the social network. Similar to GroupMe & Beluga recently Acquired by Facebook users circles can now carry on the conversation outside of the standard web interface. It looks like Google+ beat Facebook in getting this feature to market.

Huddle

+1 – Google’s version of the Like button, +1 is designed with the same intention as a Like and will be appearing on 3rd party sites near you. I assume Google will integrate the +1 into search results similar to Buzz. I am also assume that brands will now want to drive both Likes & +1’s in the never ending quest for earned media.

How-to-Get-Google-Like-+1-Button-for-Blogs

I am sure that the future of Google+ will be tied to deep hooks with the Android operating system, an extensive ad network based on information provided via Sparks as well as a push to drive 3rd party adoption of the +1. Also with Chrome gaining market-share and closing the gap on Firefox there will most likely be considerable integration there as well.

 

One of the core advantages of Facebook for advertisers beyond reach is that Facebook is a platform first and foremost and with a laser focus on driving social for users & brands alike. It will be interesting to see how Google+ will attract & support brands. As they have just announced “Pages” for brands is on the roadmap.

This is clearly the biggest threat to Facebook to date as it takes the best elements of Facebook and adds new functionality. But it has a long way to go to match Facebook as an advertising platform.

The things to keep in mind moving forward is that Google currently owns Search, YouTube, about to purchase Hulu, Chrome with 20% market share as well as the Android operating system and driving usage of their online office productivity suites and apps. If anyone is positioned to challenge Facebook it’s Google. But time will tell.

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SnapTags vs. QR Codes the ideal 2D Experience

By now most of you have seen or interacted with QR codes in one form or another. Whether it was online, direct mail, etc… QR Codes are becoming a common tool in marketing toolkits.

qr_tattoo

While it is possible to leverage a small portion of a QR code to incorporate brand elements it is not the most aesthetically appealing execution for a brand. Also, QR codes currently require an application or software to read. While Near Field Communication or NFC is evolving it is still not widespread.

Red Urban QR Code

One additional issue is that QR codes are hardcoded upon generation. In order to manage the response destination changes would need to be made on the response side of the campaign such as changing content at the point of delivery or redirects to the desired response destination or use a premium QR management service.

QRCodePolo

As I look to execute campaigns that require enhancing product packaging, point of purchase, etc… I want a solution that is going to drive the maximum engagement potential with a low barrier of activation.

Initially I was an advocate of QR codes. I Provided POV’s on how to leverage the codes to drive engagement with mobile apps, sizzle videos, social destinations, etc…

Now I am looking to SnapTags more and more to drive that level of engagement for brands that I work with. A SnapTag is an aesthetically pleasing execution that provides multiple engagement options with the brand at the center of the experience.

inception

What I like about SnapTags is that the user has multiple options to activate and engage. They can simply text an image or e-mail an image of the SnapTag to drive the text or multimedia response.

inception-snaptag-640

The beauty of the SnapTag is that you are not locked into a single response destination. SnapTags support the ability to change the response as they are served via a database vs. hardcoded into the tag. This means that you can change the destination of the response without messy redirects off of the original response.

This is an ideal benefit if you want to drive different levels of engagement throughout the lifecycle of the tag.

Also, by driving activation via text or e-mail the SnapTag adds a CRM element to the campaign that can then drive a mobile opt-in vs. simply sending a user to a pre-determined location via a QR code.

branded-snaptags

From an analytics perspective instead of just simply tracking # of scans SnapTags offer media performance and consumer behavior tracking as an added benefit. Which is key when mapping back to the original brand objectives.

So when it comes to driving 2D digital activation I am leaning towards the SnapTag execution more and more as it provides a more robust model that is scalable with the campaign.

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Augmented Reality a Reality for Brands

What do you think of when you hear the term Augmented Reality? Do you flash back to Tom Cruise in Minority Report? Or more recently Tony Stark in Iron Man 2 manipulating 3D objects? The prevailing thought until recently has been more style over substance. Some brand teams consider it is a nice gimmick to garner press but not a core element of an integrated strategy. But as you will see, A/R is becoming a key driver for brands that are looking to drive acquisition & engagement.

Minority Report

Iron Man 2

Augmented Reality can be a great addition to an integrated strategy as either an acquisition tool or engagement vehicle that enhances a consumers experience with the brand. With the rapid acceleration of smartphone capabilities the ability to provide relevance to a consumer and enhance their interaction with your brand across multiple channels is now reality. A/R will also be how we will interact digital information in the future.

Now the how…. Augmented Reality is simply when the real world is “augmented” by computer data.

A simple example happens on Sundays in the NFL. The Yellow line that we have now come to depend on when looking at yards to go for a first down is a great execution of AR. Simply applying a digital overaly with the real action.

Digital Line

What do I need? How and where does it work? Who is using it?

Depending on the type of execution there are a variety of ways to execute a program. The executions that most are familiar with were tied to A/R markers called glyphs.

marker

But A/R does not depend as much on the cryptic markers as it once did. The trend is moving towards markerless executions where everyday objects such as a dollar bill can initiate an immersive experience that further enhances a users experience with the brand.

AR BK

The other trend as I referenced above is tied to digital overlays that essentially enhance the environment around you. More and more executions are leveraging mobile devices as the viewer of digitized content.

Layar AR

There are multiple executions on the how. From mobile, online, point of purchase, print, TV and out of home.  Here are a few examples by medium.

Mobile: The biggest leap in recent years has been around mobile executions of A/R. With 50 million smart phone users in the US and the number quickly rising, the hardware can now support robust A/R executions. Your phone essentially becomes the lens by which you digitally enhance the world around you. With the recent executions by Yelp with Monocle & Wimbeltons use of Layar brands are looking to digitally tag the world around them and offer a new perspective on the world around them.

Yelp

Online: The initial executions were highly driven by markers. Now with markerless executions everyday objects such as a can of pringles can create a compelling reason to engage with a brand beyond the clutter.

A compelling acquisition execution was created by Pringles via an A/R advergame that was tied to the recent World Cup. Users used the Pringles can as a controller to interact with the game.

pringles

The next example by the United States Postal Service shows an execution that provides actual utility for users. The Virtual Box execution allows the USPS to create an engaging experience that provides value by digitally representing “will it fit?”

virtual-box-simulator-1

Olympus provides a great example of incorporating A/R via multiple channels that tie to an online experience. Markers in the shape of a new product were placed in targeted print locations. The user then had the option to get a virtual hands on tour of the new product. Again another example of an engaging experience that ties back to tangible value for the brand.

Olympus

Point of Purchase: One of the most innovative usages of A/R in store is the LEGO digital box. If you happen to live near a LEGO store you can use the kiosk to digitally see what your LEGO will look like when fully assembled. This is driven by markers on the package and combined with heavily branded kiosk to create a satisfying retail experience.

Lego

Television: XBOX – One example of A/R providing relevance in the home is with Microsofts upcoming release of the KINECT. The ability to interact directly with gestures to control digital data such as navigation, initiation of content as well as digitizing yourself will prove to be a gateway to mainstream application of digital interaction on a recurring basis.

Kinect

As we continue the trend of advancing hardware and further incorporating digital elements into our lives for everyday activities it will be interesting to see how campaigns are redefined to take advantage of the next great frontier in advertising.

Digital World

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The Pass Back Effect

For marketers working with child centric brands or simply have children of your own, it is important to understand certain trends that are quickly developing in how both parents and children’s behaviors are changing based on the rapid evolution of mobile devices. One of the side benefits is that technology is being passed down at an accelerated rate.

If you are one of the 50+ million Americans with a smartphone and you happen to have small children then you have most likely passed it to them to appease their little hands and minds in certain situations.

This phenomenon is now known as the pass-back effect. By passing your mobile device to your child you are actually participating in a new trend of further enhancing the learning and development of your child… or in real parenting terms you are providing an electronic play grenade that will entertain them for 15 minutes while you are waiting to be seated at a very busy restaurant.

childiphone

Whether it is giving your two year old your iPhone during big brother’s basketball practice (try the Cars inspired matching game). Or your daughter is playing the latest dress-up or Cookie/Cake decorating game between appointments, the pass-back effect is very real. As many of you are keenly aware as nearly half (47%) of the top 100 apps sold are targeting Pre-school & elementary aged children.

app-targets

There are many apps that are ideal for passing time when you need it. In 2010 alone app sales are estimated to clear 1.2 billion (insert Dr. Evil pinky reference here) dollars. There are matching, dress up, puzzle games, and A, B, Cs. Big $$ are being spent and made to ensure that our kids have a multitude of options to keep them entertained .

From a brand marketers perspective it is important to consider defining an application strategy that maps to a larger integrated digital strategy while also recognizing the opportunity to drive awareness and brand relevance through targeted mobile applications that provide benefit to parents while engaging and entertaining children.

Quick question, how many iPods do you currently have in your home? For that matter how many iPhones do you currently own? What are you going to do with your iPhone 3G, 3GS and iPhone 4 or Android by next fall when you inevitably upgrade to the next version?

iphonegens

Instead of trying your luck on eBay consider keeping the device for your kids. You may or may not know this but a non-activated iPhone functions as an iPod touch when not directly configured as a phone. Meaning your apps, web browsing via wi-fi, etc… are all possible.

As digital marketers we cannot ignore opportunities due to the accelerated adoption of technology.

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Social Foundation

A good portion of my day job is defining social/digital strategies and programs to assist major retail brands maximize their WOM opportunities to drive multiple business objectives. Be it acquisition, engagement, advocacy, etc… Before I begin a new client engagement I like to establish a framework of which there are critical building blocks that I refer to as the Social Foundation. Like a foundation to a house there are key elements that are essential to understand prior to launching straight into strategic discussions.

1) Define Social Strategy: It is absolutely critical to define the GTM social strategy to ensure that all elements are aligning with goals & objectives and are measurable with the appropriate KPIís.

2) Content Creation: The key to driving WOM is to ensure that enough content is created (UGC/Brand) to form a foundation that helps to funnel users through our ideal brand centric social experience. While also maximizing our SEO positioning. Social & SEO are very closely aligned.

3) Discoverability of Content: It is highly important for content to be created in a way that maximizes portability of the content. RSS, tagging and leveraging the latest in terms of highly optimized publishing systems as well as sharing widgets are critical to ensuring that your branded content is being maximized to its fullest reach potential.

4) Highly Engaged Community Management: Social more-so than any other channel requires that the brand fully engages in discussions across multiple channels. This includes going beyond simple content publishing to actually following and commenting on trending topics and reaching out beyond the brand conversation. This is where I see a significant gap in terms of brands that are truly benefiting from social programs to those that are simply executing against a publishing calender.

5) Incent creation of UGC content: 30-60% of product centric search results are actually from UGC, primarily blogs and reviews. It is absolutely critical to get new products that integrate with mobile reviewed as this is a key driver for awareness. Do not focus on a single vehicle for content creation, it is critical to leverage multiple types of media to maximize opportunity. Text, Video, Photos, etc…

6) Unique content sources as a KPI: One form of social measurement that I commonly incorporate is to compare unique content sources to competitors. This is a key metric as the more content that is created from unique sources the higher the likelihood of being shared and viewed by more individuals.


7) Integration of Social Channels: It is critical to ensure that each social channel that is represented is integrated to the fullest with the goal of driving traffic/awareness through to the ideal social destination, be it an engaging application or promotion there has to be a specific intent for the user and the brand. Raise awareness through multiple channels but ultimately drive through to your ideal destination

8) Extend Digital into Retail: Maximizing the reach of both online Rich Media, Social, Augmented Reality and offline communication vehicles such as location based services, QR codes that direct to app downloads or videos, SMS campaigns & mobile loyalty all tie into a brands ability to fully maximize digital vehicles towards retail/offline engagement.

9) Leverage Partners: Corporate partnerships are key to reaching targeted users and to maximize cross-promotion. When selecting the ideal brand partners it is key to review their social strategy and how they are maximizing their channels to ensure there is a cultural fit. You do not want to execute a highly socially driven strategy with a partner who is at the beginning of the social continuum.


10) Incent in-store purchase: Finally incent users via proximity solutions that tie back to providing immediate value while also potentially driving engagement back to online or mobile properties.

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Mobilizing Your Social Strategy

Today I was the host of the weekly Hashtagsocialmedia tweet chat. Our topic was integrating mobile with your social strategy with a focus on strategy, best practices and tactics.

Mobile is a hot topic and according to comscore with 234 million americans aged 13 & older using mobile devices in the US that trend is not changing anytime soon. Of that 234 million 49.1 million in the US now own smart phones. With the continued adoption of smart phones we are on the cusp of changing how mobile can impact a brand.

In today’s chat we discussed the following topics:

1) How would you integrate mobile with your social strategy

2) How do you maximize the mobile web?

3) What tactics & why? (Proximity, Geo-location, Augmented Reality, QR Codes, SMS)

All with the mindset of integrating and extending digital & social via mobile.

Here is the archive/transcript of today’s tweet chat

hashtag1

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6 Benefits of Foursquare

One of the areas that I monitor closely is the progression/adoption of geo-location services such as foursquare, gowalla, yelp, loopt, buzz and dream walk mobile. Geo-location services have been around for the past 4 years but are now gaining critical mass fueled by smart phone adoption and media attention around events such as SXSW 2010.

For this post I will focus primarily on the service based game foursquare and will follow up soon with a Gowalla post. For those of you who are not addicted to checking in to every location you frequent here is the 101 version of the foursquare service and why marketers & businesses alike should pay attention.

The opportunity tied to geo-location based services such as foursquare from both an agency/marketing perspective as well as a local business perspective are enormous. Local business can gain access to customer insights tied to geotagging, local search & location based analytics which can drive adoption on the local level well beyond that of the standard digital campaign.

The service can become an extension of activities that you are already engaged with as part of your everyday routine. This presents a new opportunity to interact with consumers wherever they may roam.

Foursquare as a service is available anywhere in the world. Meaning both domestic and international campaigns can be supported. To get the full experience (Friend interaction, leaderboards, etc…) foursquare requires an iPhone, Blackberry, Android, or Palm Pre.

For those whose immediate response is to point to smart phone adoption rates note that other options to engage exist including a mobile web option as well as an SMS check in option if you text to 50500 (e.g. @Red Urban ! typing a blog post). SMS checkins are only available in the US.

Example of Text check in

Geo-location services are driven by the concept of geotagging and takes advantage of the GPS technology that resides in your device. This in turn provides a means to digitally “tag” and interact with a physical location you just visited.

E.g. Pull into your local Starbucks, pull out your iPhone/android phone, initiate the app, select/create the location and click “check in”. Once checked in you can then interact with the location by writing a review (tips in foursquare) or you may be presented with a special offer.

Example of Special Offer notification as well as sample offer


With foursquare the primary premise is around rewarding users with three different merit systems. Mayors, Badges and Points.

1) Mayor – A mayor is a user who is in 1st place on the location leader board first place defined as most check-ins
2) Badges – Badges are awarded for achieving various milestones tied to either the number of check in’s at a given location or the amount of check in’s throughout the day or other criteria. As with Xbox Live achievement points recognition can be a key driver in influencing behavior
3) Points – Points are awarded at varying increments based on multiple factors such as a new venue may yield a higher point allocation

Example of Starbucks Foursquare Badge

From a brick & mortar business perspective this is a great service to be mindful of as you can begin to gain insight and influence behavior as well as monitor customer service. Instead of a local ad buy or in addition to it why not promote offers within a radius of your location or serve them directly to your customers as they enter your location.

6 reasons to care about Foursquare as a business

1) Customer insight and word of mouth – You can gain invaluable insight into the behavior patterns of your customers. You can analyze visit trends as well as gain insight into their views of your brand

2) Customer service – With the ability to get near real time feedback as users interact you can gauge the sentiment of your users

3) Customer retention/ Loyalty Program – Forget about punch cards, track loyalty via check-in’s and reward those who frequent establishments with special offers and recognition

4) Viral Effect – With the auto post of updates to Twitter & Facebook with badge unlocks and options to post your check-in’s the viral impact of check-in’s is amplified with this service moreso than other geo-services to date

5) Big Brands are taking note – Starbucks (See image above) & Dominos have already started campaigns with Foursquare and with various media partnerships this trend will quickly continue to rise

6) Measurement – One of the powerful elements of the service is the analytics option that is currently being rolled out. As a business owner it is possible to track: Total checkins, unique visitors, when and if users shared their updates (twitter, facebook) as well as analysis of demographic breakdown and ability to track usage over time

Example of foursquare business analytics screen

One additional service of benefit to businesses and users of foursquare is snacksquare. Snacksquare which is powered by foursquare and is a location-based advertising provider that facilitates local businesses automatically delivering SMS text messages to potential customers that check in near a venue (proximity service). The site also allows end consumers to find the best deals ahead of time vs. just being notified via check in. This framework + the business analytics begins to form a more complete package for marketers & businesses alike. For more information on Snacksquare here is a recent Mashable article.

With additional focus being paid to geo-location by the big players such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, etc… It is natural evolution that foursquare is focused on extending APIs and integration as their valuation (recently 100 million) continues to sky-rocket.

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iAd

With the iPhone OS 4.0 Keynote today the announcement of iAd caught our attention in the office. Moreso than multi-tasking & the thousands of API’s iAd offers the chance for a true revolution in mobile advertising.

The ability to provide Rich Media advertising within the application is key for marketers, brands & developers alike. There were some great quotes from Steve Jobs today:

“On a desktop, its about search. On mobile, search hasn’t happened. People aren’t searching on their phones. People are spending their time in apps. The average user spends over 30 minutes using apps on their phone. If we said we wanted to put an ad up every 3 minutes, that’d be 10 ads per device per day – about the same as a TV show. We’re going to soon have 100m devices. That’s a billion ad opportunities per day!”

For now Apple will sell and host the ads with a revenue split (60/40 with devs getting the 60) and ads are done in HTML5 (Sorry Adobe). The apps will be fully interactive like their rich media web counterparts and the fact that ads have access to location to tie into geo-location is another win.

If I were a dev/marketer/agency I would get the SDK yesterday!!!

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iPad Launch Day – Review

Part of my job is tied to staying on top of emerging technology and the latest entry launched today in the form of the Apple iPad. After being in and out of my local Apple store in 10 min it was on to the setup. I found updating to iTunes 9 to be an issue as I continued to run into service issues. Once those were resolved I decided to go with a fresh install vs. importing settings from my iPhone. The iPhone app experience on the iPad is not ideal. The apps work but are optimized for a certain size. I actually removed any iPhone apps that made it through the setup and was on the iPad app store to see what was available.

So far I have been impressed with the device. I have enjoyed the smooth web browsing and e-mail interface. I was really surprised by how seamless the Netflix integration was upon execution of the app. After logging in I was able to instantly stream within seconds. I was also surprised by the number of apps that were available at launch. With 400+ games (I stopped counting after page 34) there is plenty to review.

Also, being a current Kindle owner I was very curious to see how iBooks compares. And at this point there really is no comparison. With the additional functionality mentioned above as well as a color/touch interface the iPad will officially become my default e-reader. With that said the Kindle App for iPad/iPhone is usable and the experience is adequate. I still have access to all of my Kindle purchases and the app has been updated from the iPhone version to be optimized for the iPad. So for now it will be a combination of Kindle App/iBooks but either way from a hardware perspective I will be quickly auctioning off my Kindle.

Is the iPad an essential device? Not yet. It is an amazing casual browsing and entertainment device and I see the value in it even beyond a netbook which surprised me. The real appeal for me is being able to pick it up like my phone, check my e-mail, status updates and browse relevant articles quickly and with optimal portability.

I see the potential moving forward as the iPad evolves and hope to see Flash enabled as well as the ability to manage multiple apps at the same time and a solution for an integrated webcam but for now I am happy with the device for what it is. Also, the battery life has been holding up as well.

Today I also did a guest blog post for Playground Dad. If you are not familiar Playground Dad is targeted to the thirty something dads that are interested in staying connected with their kids and ideas to maintain work life balance. The post provides recommendations on how the iPad can bring you and your kiddos together in a variety of ways.

iPad Kids

Here is Grant watching Veggietales via Netflix instant stream. The iPad Case serves as a great way to position the iPad for optimal viewing.

grantipad

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What’s the price of a Facebook Fan? It’s 5 dollars

Recently Babies R Us ran a Facebook campaign that caught my attention. There were a number of campaign elements that were executed well and the result was a positive network effect. There were also areas that could have been capitalized upon to drive further value.

The premise of the campaign was driven by the promise of a $5 digital e-card for becoming a Facebook fan. The catch was it was a 1 day campaign.

7 things I liked about the experience:

1) A one day promotion provides a sense of urgency to take action with a truly valuable and tangible benefit.

2) Simple, audience specific image with a very clear call to action. Sometimes simple is better.

3) Ability to immediately blast all friends increases potential viral distribution. This increases by additional adoption as visibility into friends recent activity amplify the impact and potential drive to action.

Babiesrus3-Blog1

4) Low barrier to initiate the action as all that was required was to click “Become a fan” which leads directly to a very brief profiling exercise with clear rules & terms and does not present form or information overload.

5) I really liked the SMS opt-in being handled within the profile experience as mobile is a natural extension beyond a Facebook driven channel interaction.

Babiesrus3-Blog2

6) Delivery of the e-card occurred within 2 days with the added benefit of use online & in-store highly increasing my probability of actually using it.

7) Network proliferation (at least through my wifes/target network) was immediate and visible as a significantly high percentage of her network participated in the campaign.

7 Areas of focus that could have further enhanced results beyond the standard campaign:

1) Further amplify & drive awareness prior to and after the event. Drive 5-10 day interaction strategy through multiple social channels to further hype the event. This includes targeting key niche (e.g. Ovusoft, Playground Dad) communities and driving influencer build-up to the event to further amplify the promotion.

2) This also accounts for influencial “mommy” bloggers and “super” dads. One key point is that Blog actually stands for B. Better L. Listing. O. On G. Google. As within product category segments 30-60% of top search results are blog driven. Outreach to same group to write about the campaign and the positive impact and build anticipation for a possible future event.

3) Capitalize immediately on the opportunity to cross promote to the target market segment. Specifically on the “Thank You” page would have been a great opportunity to drive through to a branded interaction or to a select group of targeted products.

4) Immediate recognition of SMS opt-in by sending a confirmation message offering additional incentive for accepting the opt-in.

5) Take this as an opportunity to leverage a proximity based service with devices in store locations to continue to amplify cost savings by leveraging the existing opt-in.

6) As with any strategy where profiling occurs the ability to now directly tie these individuals into an actionable marketing queue is invaluable. Capitalizing on more than just capturing the data is one of the keys to truly driving the value from social channels.

7) The follow-up e-mail was very thorough with categories, calls to action to both Babies R Us and Toys R Us. The format was pure HTML. There needs to be a plain text option as well to cover all bases.

Conclusions & Measurement:

Overall I liked the premise and execution of the campaign. I will be interested in measuring the Key performance indicators (KPI’s) if they become available such as the delta between number of friends prior and after the promotion, retention of new “fans”, number of profile opt-ins, number of mobile opt-ins, etc.

*Credit for discovery of the promotion goes to my wife. Thanks Cherlyn!!!