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

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

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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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Sports Social TV Summit

I will be speaking at the Sports Social TV Summit on May 29, 2013 at the Bel-Air Country Club in Los Angeles, CA.

Bel-Air-Country-Club

I will be a part of the 9:15 am- 10:15 am time slot discussing the power of live sports programming and how Social TV is engaging viewers and driving new revenues at home and in arenas & stadiums. Here is the full list of speakers.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

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Callaway Hit The Links

When you are part of the “idea” business you spend a lot of time thinking, curating and throwing things (figuratively & sometimes literally) against the wall. Sometimes things stick, sometimes there are dead ends, but you are always in search of the slightest germ of an idea to spark creativity.

idea plant

This stream of thought reminded me of a quote from the movie Inception that has stuck with me. It is when Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) makes the following statement:

An idea is like a virus, resilient, highly contagious.

Inception-Widescreen-Wallpaper-1920x1200-2

Applying context to marketing, a good idea can be highly contagious. You begin to immediately see the “legs” of the idea and how it can potentially extend out. Whether it is tied to a larger brand campaign, branded content or even an activation, a good idea change the game for a brand.

I had an “Inception” moment when members of my team Brandon Stuart, Creative Director & Mike Chiavetta, Director of Social Strategy @ Fanscape/TMA, began discussing the concept & strategy associated with the Callaway activation that is outlined below. There are moments when the consumer + idea + channel + message = compelling consumer engagement program.

The Callaway Hit The Links activation was the result of a close partnership between Callaway and Linkedin to leverage their API’s and create a relevant connection with the target consumer and overlay a fun concept that is built to be shared.

When it came to developing the creative concept I asked Brandon Stuart, Creative Director at Fanscape to share his thoughts on the program.

Hit the Links is an example of the potency a concept can have when it is derived at the intersection of creative and strategic thinking.  We set out to create a consumer engagement experience that is truly first of its kind, yet still effective and personable in nature.  Since golf is often an organic dialogue between professionals, Hit the Links positions Callaway as a catalyst that sparks conversations on the biggest professional network in the world.  We are fishing not only where the fish are, but also where no other golf brand has fished.

Here is an overview of the program:

It all starts with a simple invite that comes from the native Linkedin messages feature. By connecting the message from a direct Linkedin connection, we are creating contextual relevance for the recipient, increasing the probability of taking action.

1 - Intro

Next you are sent to a visually appealing landing page that outlines the value proposition & call to action. This is the “why” you should engage.

2 - landing

Next is the authentication to connect your network with the program. This is a key point of enablement for the experience. By leveraging the authentication directly and by connecting the user to their network across both mobile & desktop allows us to provide as seamless an experience as possible.

3 - auth

Once connected, you then have the option to begin selecting your golf foursome. The benefit to the consumer is the opportunity to create the “ultimate golf business trip” for you and three of your connections. You pick your ideal foursome and sign up for a chance to win an advanced fitting experience and get a custom built set of clubs, a round of golf & test the new HEX Chrome+ all at Callaway’s headquarters.

4 - intro

The system will auto-generate a golf foursome, or allow you to pick your group from your network. At this point there is also an opportunity to opt-in and view the rules of the promotion.

5 - pick

Once you finalize your group, you are ready to finalize your entry for the day. It is possible to gain additional entries daily with different foursome combinations.

6 - picker

Once your group is finalized, you have the opportunity to let the members you selected know they have been selected and they have the opportunity to create their own entry as well. All messaging is delivered via the Linkedin native message functionality.

7 - notify

Also, there is a sampling initiative tied to the program as well. The first 1,000 participants can claim a box of HEX CHROME+ golf balls courtesy of Callaway to further drive a direct connection of product to the consumer.

8 - sampling

I am incredibly proud of the team for this concept & strategy. Key members of the creative team were:

Special thanks to Brad Alesi, Director, Digital Engagement @ The Marketing Arm for contributions to the Fanscape Callaway Team.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

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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.

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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

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

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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.

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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.

Screen Shot 2013-03-11 at 4.52.18 PM

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

Screen Shot 2013-03-13 at 5.41.37 PM

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.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

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The Rise of Dark Posts

We have seen the Dark Knight Rise, we have seen Darth Vader give in to the dark side, we have seen a very dark rabbit in Donnie Darko. What do each of these film references have to do with Dark posting? Nothing unless they are deploying dark post ad units to promote themselves.

Darth-Vader
Always looking for any reason to post about Darth Vader

Dark posts sound more ominous than they actually are. No, these are not posts by some secret society or the underbelly of Facebook. Dark posts are a type of ad unit that does not get organic distribution via a brands owned presence.

Basically, the unit would look like a Facebook page post ad unit, only the post does not actually exist on the brands timeline. The post is created for the sole purpose of targeting a very specific and relevant message to it’s intended target. This opens up a number of possibilities to segment messaging to a specific audience (male vs. female, different age demo’s, etc..) with the benefit of the rich creative of page post ads vs. standard marketplace units without compromising the brands publishing cadence.

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Today, Facebook announced that dark posting is now supported directly in the News Feed. This is most likely tied to the upcoming changes to the newsfeed to further extend the targeting and segmentation for brands without overposting across feed types.

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According to Facebook… “This functionality will allow you to access our most engaging placement on the site while still preserving the tone of your Page. Therefore, you can optimize your ads by creating different versions of the same message to see which one performs best. All advertisers will see this change in the placements section when they create an ad or sponsored story using the dark post via the create flow, Power Editor or API.”

Twitter has also enabled Dark posting or as they call it “Narrow Casting” options as part of their paid suite of ad tools. If you are looking to further segment or target a specific activation or promotion, Dark Post types are an option that will provide additional context to the target without compromising the communication to the whole.

Twitter-icon-1

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

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Facebook News Feed Announcement

Today Facebook held an event to announce the first major change to the Facebook News Feed in six years. The theme reinforced by the Facebook team was reduction of clutter by providing more choice and control over the content and stories users will see in their feeds.

facebook-news-feed-invite_620x350

From the beginning, our goal with News Feed was different from any other social service was trying to provide… You should be able to share any content that you want. Status updates, links, photos, etc… You should be able to share with any audience that you want, publicly, with the world, with just friends, or privately” – Mark Zuckerberg

bitpix-facebook-zuckerberg3-hpMedium

Here are feature highlights from today’s announcement:

The newly designed newsfeed will start rolling out in limited rollouts today with a focus on a “mobile first” design.

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The new design is heavily reliant on the ability to segment content by feed type allowing for more control:

  • All Friends will showcase everything your friends are sharing. This feed will highlight friend content and add a “facepile” type of overlay to the side of the story to show who has shared the content. Social connectivity is highlighted as the intersection of timeline & the newsfeed becomes more pervasive with the inclusion of friends “add a friend” which allows you to see more about that person directly in the news feed.

All Friends

  • Photos will provide a feed with nothing but photos from your friends and Brand Pages you like.

Photos

  • Music a feed with posts about the music users listen to.

Music

  • Following, a feed with the latest news from the Pages you like and the people you follow, think of this as a Facebook “newspaper” feature.

Following

Within the News Feed design, photos are getting larger in the new design and attachments from links will also get more space. This will include a much larger image, a more prominent title, and a longer summary to accompany a linked story.

newsfeed

This is great, but what does this mean as a brand? 

Visual Enablement: Further enabling visual storytelling and cross platform consistency are at the heart of the change. One of the forgotten elements previously is the brands cover photo. Yes, it will pop in the newsfeed when the image changes, but with the refresh the cover photo will be pulled into page “Like” stories in the news feed for both organic & paid. This will provide more context about the page, but also provides another opportunity for the brand to be relevant and engaging with their cover photo & profile photo combination. More frequent updates may be required to ensure that brands are maximizing their opportunities.

Screen Shot 2013-03-07 at 9.12.43 PM

Also note that when people and pages post photos, Facebook will try to display the caption on top of the image if the caption is legible and the image does not contain text and when the image is of sufficient size (at least 425x157px). This puts additional emphasis on either minimal or extremely engaging copy.

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Engagement: The core motivation of this revamp is focused solely on keeping users engaged by allowing more freedom and control over the platform and the information that is relevant for them. Facebook is positioning this change as a more engaging place for brand messages. The goal is to get more people spending time reading and interacting with the news feeds and this should beget more opportunities for us a marketers to reach & engage with our audience.

In my opinion it is too early to tell whether this is good or bad news for brands. The fear from a brand perspective is to lose engagement opportunities by being relegated to a lower visibility feed such as the “following” feed, which currently will not support paid at the initial rollout, but Facebook left it open for opportunities later this year.

Also, one key point to consider, the affinity & engagement of content is key in this new structure, as the more individuals engage with content, the higher the position within the feeds. Obviously this is a key attribute of EdgeRank, but engagement on a post level is still as important as ever. Facebook did confirm that as of now the change is mainly aesthetic for desktop and there will not be a change to Edgerank as it stands today, however this is something that continues to evolve and I would not be surprised if there are changes when the change is fully rolled out to the public.

Paid: The initial rollout will focus on better utilizing paid assets via incremental value adds vs. new streams tied to feeds . but Facebook did leave the door open for injected paid units into subsequent feeds such as “following”. Let’s fast forward for a moment, the new feeds will offer more opportunities to append paid for both small & large advertisers as a whole. The new model also reinforces spend on the post level to further drive visibility of content across feeds. It will be interesting to test media against feed types as units become available as the new design looks to further enhance existing units and offer more opportunities for engagement.

Example of new Page Post Ads

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Example of new Sponsored Ads
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Brand Reach & Visibility:  More real-estate should theoretically increase the throughput of branded content if it is optimized for EdgeRank. This also reinforces the importance of having a relevant content strategy that can maximize content distribution across the various feeds. The thought is that this change will net more visibility for brands moving forward. The key to increasing reach and visibility is to combine organic engagement and then amplify the content via paid that is driving engagement naturally. This Pwned Media approach will optimize paid while leveraging the best of organic engagement to propel content and further drive impactful brand reach & visibility.

The assumption on increased engagement through segmentation/multiple feeds may have an initial lag. The native user behavior of the primary newsfeed as the consumer catch-all and primary point of engagement will remain for awhile until users are reconditioned to filter feeds. One of the inherent benefits of the news feed over the last six years has been tied to the simplicity and minimal effort on behalf of the user to engage with content. It remains to be seen how much usage the secondary feed options will see in terms of interaction type.

Analytics:  From an analytics perspective, my hope is to also append feed distribution as an option to track content performance. This would then inform content decisions in addition to social interactions to further optimize content for optimal impact. As it stands today, Facebook has stated there will be no immediate impact on performance, and they will continue to monitor various performance metrics, including performance of Page posts and paid media.

Here is a link to Join the waiting list for the new News Feed.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

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Evolution of the Newsfeed

Today I met with one of my local Facebook team members as we were partnering on a client initiative and our conversation sparked an interesting thought about the future of newsfeed publishing and how brands should be thinking about maximizing their publishing strategies as Facebook’s platform continues to evolve.

I have recently written a number of posts on the subject of Facebook publishing from the intersection of Paid & Owned, the importance of visual storytelling and best practices for optimizing content. All of these topics are relevant to this conversation and further frame the importance of the following statement:

Everything happens in the newsfeed vs brand pages

facebook-news-feed-icon

This was an incredibly simple statement that all of us who publish on behalf of brands sometimes take for granted. The numbers definitely back up the statement with 115 billion impressions served daily via desktop and 65 billion newsfeed impressions served daily via mobile.

Think about your own behavior when it comes to interacting with brand related content on Facebook. How often are you clicking through to a brands page to consume their content? This divide is even better visualized when it comes to users mobile interactions?

Where do you consume brand messages on the desktop?

Snickers Newsfeed

This becomes even more apparent via mobile!

Snickers mobile Newsfeed

The reality is most social interaction happens via the newsfeed. Interactions being likes, comments and shares. Most brands approach content publishing from the perspective that users come to the brands page and consume their content in a linear manner. The reality is brands need to create a publishing strategy that is optimized for Edgerank and based on deliberate content buckets that are relevant & engaging for the brands audience that can be consumed in a non-linear manner but still represent the core social persona of the brand. This requires a detailed strategy that is grounded in the core attributes of the brand that then leads to content pillars that are designed to maximize engagement.

The following graphic represents the % breakdown across interaction types.

Interactions

With so much consumption happening via the newsfeed, shouldn’t the in-stream experience/opportunities be as relevant and compelling as possible? This leads me to what I see as the next step in the evolution of brand publishing and that is going a step beyond visual storytelling and incorporating compelling interactive experiences to enhance the publishing strategy.

The recent announcement and coverage of Stipple’s Facebook support and subsequent usage by Justin Timberlake to provide interactive cover art is a glimpse into the future of newsfeed publishing.

stippled-photo

Interactive posting is not a new concept. I remember first seeing this executed by Vitrue’s platform back in 2011 via the Buffalo Wild Wings example below. Leveraging this type of interactive content publishing was one of the enabling factors that has driven Buffalo Wild Wings to acquire over 9 million fans. Their content strategy has led to an engagement rate of 4.8% over the last 30 days with over 477,000 interactions. Having a point of differentiation in-stream has led to positive results for the brand.

Buffalo Wild Wings

The number of vendors supporting interactive posting in-stream has grown since 2011 with shops such as Shop Igniter providing solutions that are optimized to support rich interactive in-stream campaigns to drive lead generation, giveaways, promotions, etc…

Fiat In-Stream

The real key point of differentiation now vs. then is the ability to create immersive newsfeed experiences for both desktop & mobile by leveraging responsive design. Now it becomes easier to publish across both desktop & mobile to drive in-stream & even in-app (Facebook’s app) interaction.

The example below shows an example from Shop Igniter’s platform that enables in-stream video that then drives to a mobile optimized experience based on responsive design that allows the flexibility of staying within the application, but also allows the addition of an action object in the experience that extends the reach of a users action beyond the newsfeed into the activity ticker. This is a key element to further drive distribution and discoverability of content as well as the fact that the newsfeed does not support action objects directly.

GoPro

The GoPro example is a great example of a light weight execution that does not rely on driving to an end destination to generate engagement & story creation. This in my mind is the next evolution of content publishing in-stream.

Similar to the evolution of static banners to rich media, creating compelling content that is optimized for EdgeRank, light weight in design and contains the experience within the existing stream and Facebook application across both desktop and mobile that also taps into the social graph to append actions is an ideal addition to an owned content strategy.

This also maximizes the principles of real-time paid amplification that I have discussed in the past because these are actual posts being created on Facebook’s platform that can fit seamlessly into a paid media strategy.

The other benefit to this type of publishing is the engagement data on the content level that can drive further optimization of content moving forward. By tracking impressions, engagement rate and social actions, we can directly map to our core KPI’s.

When it comes to Facebook, it is not enough to just have a content calendar. It is incredibly important to have a true strategic framework that outlines the brands publishing strategy and how the content will be optimized to drive targeted reach, but it is also important to leverage interactive assets to drive tangible results and activation where appropriate.

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Stipple and Facebook Publishing

I have been following Stipple for a while now and with today’s big announcement tied to Facebook support launched the platform to the forefront of my mind to support social content & publishing strategies. What is Stipple? If you have not heard about the service, Stipple allows you to embed interactive hotspots into an image to create additional connections directly within the image. Today’s announcement is key for those who manage owned properties as now Stipple supports direct publishing support via Facebook a feature that has been missing to date.

Now it is possible to add a data driven overlay to an image that can create connections directly from the newsfeed that allow users to take action. Whether it is to drive to a branded destination such as the brands Facebook brand page or .com, create a quick path to purchase opportunity by linking the image to an e-commerce based product, embed a link to videos that relate to the image, or create additional connections as outlined below.

Tag Types

Today’s announcement is a huge addition for those of us who manage Facebook brand properties. Combine this with my recent discussions associated with visual storytelling to drive engagement and you can create a rich experience that can immediately extend the reach of a static image.

With a majority of engagement happening directly from the newsfeed, adding a rich content overlay to images can optimize associations related to the content. The combinations and support possibilities are endless. Whether it’s supporting branded content, promotion, acquisition, etc… the flexibility to tag and append content to an image is a great way to maximize story creation and connection throughout an integrated approach across channels.

Stipple Facebook Overview

In November of 2012, Stipple rolled out the ability to support Twitter publishing. From a single Tweet you can surface videos, photos, etc.. in-stream vs pushing to another destination. Adding a rich content overlay through this media is a great way to extend static images, or link to terms & conditions for a Twitter driven promotion, etc…

Stipple Twitter

I first noticed a Stipple execution by IKEA and I immediately saw the potential. The ability to claim attribution, but also create a centralized experience with various access points is something that create additional value for online retailers. I immediately started to tout the benefits to this approach, but there were limitations to social sharing until today. Now with the additional support for Facebook & Twitter, the value of this platform increases exponentially for those who drive owned asset creation & publication.

Stipple Web

It’s one thing to publish and push content out, but having the ability to measure the engagement and reach of each individual image and the interactions that Stipple creates is another advantage to leveraging this platform. As you can see below, Stipple allows the tracking of engagement and reach so image interactions can be applied into the current KPI’s associated with your publishing strategy.

Measurement

I would definitely recommend evaluating Stipple and the potential impact to your publishing strategy.

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Hero 4 Final

The rise of PWNED Media

Recently, I had the privilege to speak at the Dallas Digital Summit discussing the convergence of owned & paid media. The talk covered the importance of visual storytelling and the intersection of real-time paid amplification.

Tom Edwards DDS speak

One of the outputs of the presentation is a new phrase that better defines the intersection of paid & owned media. Being a gamer of course I gravitated towards “PWNED media” as the new descriptor for this emerging trend.
TheBlackin PWNED MEDIA Final

There is a consistent theme coming from Facebook regarding owned content strategies. Whether it’s a Facebook conference, on-site at Menlo Park or other interactions with Facebook team members you will consistently hear the phrase “Storytelling”.

Facebook DDS

This definitely makes sense as Facebook’s platform is organized around the generation and amplification of stories.

Storybook DDS

With this in mind, one of the more powerful elements to incorporate into an owned content strategy is visual storytelling.

Snickers Snowman

Think about this for a moment… when we were first learning to read, our parents most likely used picture books to begin to create associations between visual images and the context of the story.

Curious George DDS

The same thing still happens now as adults.

Felix DDS

A picture paints a 1000 words, images are more powerful storytellers than words. Within Facebook, timeline now showcases and rewards brands that use visual imagery to help tell the brands story.

Oreo DDS

In the past I have written about the importance of Edgerank as well as recent changes to the algorithm. In order to optimize owned content, it is important to drive engagement around that content.

edgerank

Creating engaging visual content is definitely the first step to maximize the platform, but there is another step to further drive the reach and impact of visual content.

This is where the paid portion of “PWNED Media” comes into play. Instead of having a separation between owned content & paid campaigns, there should be an intersection to drive a more efficient media spend.

Green DDS

One of the ideal methods to drive engagement both within an existing fan base and beyond is to execute real-time amplification of engaged content.

Converged Media

In layman’s terms take owned content that people are already engaging with and add it to the targeted paid inventory to further maximize the reach of content that people already find interesting.

This is done by setting a pre-determined virality rate based on the size of the fan base and a carefully calculated threshold based on engagement.

This ensures that content that users find compelling can be maximized on behalf of the brand and also serve as an acquisition driver for like-minded fans that align with the persona of the brand.

To my knowledge only 2 brands are actively executing a “PWNED Media” strategy and I lead the social strategy for one of them. If you are interested in hearing more about real-time amplification in action please reach out to me.

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Hero 4 Final

Facebook Graph Search

Recently Facebook announced one of the biggest changes to their search feature to date with the limited beta release of Graph Search. Mark Zuckerberg stated Graph Search would become the third pillar of the Facebook experience in addition to the News Feed and Timeline. This post will review the features of Graph Search while also outlining what it all means.

Here is the official announcement from Facebook

Graph Search

The creation of Graph Search is reflective of the current direction of social which is the inevitable convergence of social and search. With so much information being created and limited alignment between traditional search and the social graph, Graph Search could be a key bridge to a new type of search behavior based on relevant and timely socially curated content.

Example of Bing Facebook integration which applied social as an additive to traditional search. Graph Search takes the inverse approach of searching inside of Facebook.

3_seattle_restaurants_with_snapshot_and_expert_flyout

When you begin to dig into the initial information about Graph Search, it is not intended to be a true web search engine like Google or Bing, but an engine that will search out information across all of Facebook and provide personalized answers to queries about people, photos, places & interests.

4

Here are various examples of the types of searches that can be conducted.

Here is an example of my friends in San Francisco, as well as recommendations of individuals with similar interests in the area.

San Francisco - personal

Here is an example that leverages Friends Check-In’s via social graph data to uncover Restaurants that may be of interest when in London

Restaurants in London

Here is an an example of the capability to search for specific types of photos either that you as a user have liked, or topical such as the recent Red Bull Stratos jump.

Photos

The Search Graph is a natural extension of the curation of social graph data. By creating deeper connections across interests and access to crowdsourced information, Facebook will now be enabling a cleaner connection to relevant content beyond simply searching for users, brands and apps.

This immediately jumps to questions of privacy from a users perspective. The current explanation is that the Graph Search will honor your privacy settings and only show information to your friends if your privacy is not set to public.

Graph Search & Privacy

WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN?

For starters this will eventually play into the Facebook revenue model. Initially this will be an ad free feature, but make no mistake, by further aligning interests with broader behaviors beyond a profile, it will help to further enable personalization as a search and interest overlay and will become an even more accurate tool to re-target relevant ads.

Also, by adding this as a third pillar, Facebook will eventually be able to monetize against Facebook centric search in a similar manner to how Twitter can place ads via search results with their various promoted products.

Here is an example of a Disney Twitter query that immediately ties into the upcoming Hansel & Gretel movie as a paid unit.

Screen Shot 2013-01-15 at 10.50.03 PM

From a brand perspective, this will mean more avenues to differentiate via search results. If the users behaviorally adopt the new way to engage with the rich and relevant content within the social graph, then placement upon search category & interest relevance will be at a premium.

Similar to Google Adwords & promotion of Google+ accounts, brand positioning associated with search may become the new premium Facebook units if users adopt the platform.

Screen Shot 2013-01-15 at 10.20.23 PM

It will be interesting to see if the existing Facebook recommendation engine will be put into service as the vehicle that enables placement associated with the results of the search. I did recently speak directly with Facebook and confirmed that the current recommendation engine is not a brand controlable asset, meaning it is not currently part of the paid options to insert a brand, it is strictly algorithm based. But with this new development, the recommendation engine may be a critical component to differentiate from the rest and that will most likely come with a cost.

Example of the Facebook Recommendation Engine for Apps

facebook_app_center-520x337

I am certain that this will have a significant impact on Facebook as a platform moving forward. The amount of objects being added to the social graph will continue to scale at an exponential rate as the introduction of action objects (verbs) into the social graph in addition to all of the various pieces of content that create via interactions with Facebook will now be applied to a system that will make connections beyond the individual more feasible and better align individuals and brands.

GraphActionObject

Building a system that can now quickly mine relevant information that is based on interests and likes vs. traffic is an interesting proposition, especially when applying the overlay of your social graph with real world use cases such as finding a restaurant recommendation in a new city through the platform you already check 20 times a day.

facebook

While there was no immediate mobile support announced, previous behavior suggests that this will also further drive the move towards mobile enablement. If you are able to extend your social graph beyond 1:1 interactions to actually leveraging the data while you are on the go, this is an incredibly important addition and one that will have a significant impact on the future of Facebook’s mobile ad platform.

an_argument_for_caution_facebook_readies_mobile_ads

It will also be interesting to see if a new algorithm, such as edgerank for the newsfeed, can be organically impacted by the amount of followers to a brand (similar to Google+ recommendations via search) or if other factors such as engagement or virality rates will impact which content types (brand content) will be served.

Example of the EdgeRank Algorithm

edgerank

Facebook initially has recommended the following:

1) The name, category, vanity URL, and information you share in the “About” section should be up to date.
2) If you have a location or a local place Page, update your address to make sure you can appear as a result when someone is searching for a specific location.

There was also an ominous tease towards other factors defining search results. Some early thoughts are possibly tied to engagement & virality rates. It will be interesting to monitor the progression of Graph Search with no immediate mobile version, no Instagram integration, API’s and English only at this stage of the beta, we will monitor the evolution of Graph Search and Facebook SEO.

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Hero 4 Final

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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Linkedin Revamps Company Pages

Linkedin has proven to be an incredible asset for B2B Social Media Strategy & execution. With Hubspot defining Linkedin (45%) as the most effective B2B source for lead generation followed by Facebook at 33%.

Linkedin rolled-out company status updates last October, and followed that release up with a revamp to company pages including the addition of the Company Follow button, Today’s announcement highlighting the new look for company pages demonstrates they are taking the next step in their follower ecosystem strategy.

A few brands have been hand selected to test drive the new look and feel. This list includes Philips, Citi, HP and Dell for company updates and American Express, Unilever & Expedia are testing the newly revamped Careers section.

Previously, this was the view of a Linkedin Company page. Simple CTA’s outlining an overview of the company, the ability to follow, updates and potential connections.

The older services tab provided an opportunity for 3rd party validation of a companies services.

The new look and feel features a streamlined user experience that structures content in a more natural manner. You will notice the company updates look more like a traditional social stream with added capabilities for companies tied to easier sharing & additional emphasis on visual imagery. And for the first time, company pages are now available via Linkedin’s mobile app.

The services tab also received slight adjustment to further align a consistent look & feel with the core brand hub.

The changes coincide with a network wide emphasis on streamlining the overall experience and enabling brands to connect with followers on a deeper more targeted basis.
Linkedin has traditionally been a network reserved for B2B targeting, but with more emphasis targeting individuals who leverage the powerful business network, the ability to drive 3rd party validation, targeted advertising that can support cross social channel promotion, and a streamlined interface to further drive engagement, Linkedin should be considered when developing a cross channel social strategy that includes targeting individuals that are key to Linkedin’s user base.

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Twitter Interest Graph

Today featured a rather large announcement from Twitter regarding the future of their advertising product. According to multiple sources the announcements hit the wire today. I was at Twitter HQ in San Francisco just a few days ago and the Twitter Interest Graph was a featured topic of discussion. I just received the green light to discuss publicly from Twitter today, so here we go.

Now that the news has been unveiled, let’s take a deeper look at the Twitter Interest Graph and it’s potential impact for our clients. With 140 million users and strong international growth, further developing their ad platform was an obvious next step to drive increased value and offer additional opportunities to monetize their brand relationships.

Currently, the promoted tweets product was focused primarily on amplifying messages to users who were either already following a particular brand or a similar association as deemed by Twitter. Now by introducing the ability to target promoted tweets via other factors such as location and now interests, this opens up the landscape for brands to capitalize on growth and awareness goals that were simply not feasible until now.

An example of this would be American Airlines. Currently, AA could use a promoted tweet to target it’s 415,000 followers or people deemed similar by Twitter. Now, AA could essentially target new users based on interests tied to travel or destinations.

Google has it’s Google Knowledge Graph, Facebook it’s Social Graph and now Twitter has it’s Twitter Interest Graph. This graph, based on 25 top level and 300+ second level “interest categories” in addition to custom interest segments, uses asymmetrical real-time signals by users to drive the correlation with a users interests. In layman’s terms, Facebook shows a direct relationship between an interest and a user via a Like. Twitter takes other signals such as who an individual follows as well as your retweets to make associations of interest. This is also an extension of the logic used by the “who to follow” suggestions on your Twitter homepage.

From an earned media perspective, this definitely changes the game when it comes to driving value from Twitter. I cannot go into the details of the models discussed, but know that based on actual Twitter data the value of a campaign over the course of multiple years is extremely positive.

From a data standpoint, it is still unclear how this data will extend beyond the ad platform. With Facebook’s social graph, we have access to 180 points of data if authorized by the user that includes interest level data. This is incredibly powerful information to create highly relevant experiences and spark action on behalf of a user. As it stands now, and this could change as the graph evolves but today, the data is primarily tied to insights associated with paid campaigns.

Example of Facebook’s Social Graph data points

This is a great next step for Twitter as it continues to evolve it’s platform from simple utility for brands to becoming a major factor in not only impacting real-time and topical events, but harnessing the true power of it’s 140 million users and more closely associate brand goals with better targeting options to truly maximize opportunities.

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Groups for Facebook Brand Pages in Beta

Groups on Facebook are nothing new. But if you represent a brand on Facebook, groups for the most part have not been an integral part of your engagement strategy. All of that may be changing as Facebook has begun beta testing groups functionality embedded within brand pages.

To date, groups have been reserved for individuals to create either open or private spaces to collaborate and share information. However, there has not been an option to apply this functionality for brand pages. This can be a significant enhancement if leveraged correctly and in conjunction with other elements of your integrated strategy.

To this point, brands have relied primarily on their timeline to drive a majority of quick hitting conversations that vary based on engagement levels. But deeper discussion and interaction by the brand and consumers has been limited to date to varied apps & tabs that can still lack the level of brand to consumer and peer-to-peer interaction that some brands desire.

If you are a very large brand, having the ability to segment conversations or even isolate campaigns has been difficult to facilitate natively within Facebook. Things are definitely changing with the recent roll out of additional precision targeting to segment content by various attributes beyond location and language, Facebook is making it easier to have multiple conversations with different audience segments.

This may also play a key role in the emergence of the groups for brand pages functionality. By leveraging precision targeting to segment content postings and then push conversations into a central location to further foster the conversation and enable peer-to-peer interaction beyond a single post is potentially a key integration point that brands need to consider.

Having the ability to create a specific group around various topics can further drive engagement and extend campaigns to those who are truly interested. This was prevalent from 2005-2008 during the hey-day of branded forums. The value in understanding who of your core fan base is willing to engage in topical conversation can be a very telling insight.

Brands that have capitalized on the concept of user segmentation to drive brand advocacy via task based interactions have been a key driver in building additional affinity and loyalty for brands such as Chili’s & their Chili-head nation via Facebook.

By taking the first step to natively support topical segmentation, beta brands now have the basis for creating both open and potentially private groups.

Here is a shot of the current group setup options

While open conversation is of key interest, one of the other elements of groups, the private, “invite only” option is also potentially appealing if it rolls out to brands as this may provide a deeper level of interaction with those individuals that the brand deems the most topically or socially influential. This could even be a subset of engaged open group users that are then invited into a private group for unique interaction opportunities.

CNN is one of a handful of beta partners experimenting with groups on their brand page. Groups make a lot of sense for brands that either have a high amount of topical content or campaigns that strive to drive deeper user interaction.

Here are the elements of the groups beta as it exists today on CNN.

Groups are consolidated via a visual tile similar to other tabbed elements. Initially the group tile shows fb icons vs. a branded tile. This may be due to the need to show the number of topical conversation groups that are currently active.

Once you click on the tile you are driven to the standard view for tabbed pages with the option to join a topical group. Groups can also support Facebook media campaigns at this level.

As stated below, anyone can see the group and who’s in it if it is an open group.

Below is the view of the default groups landing page. Content flows in a similar manner to newsfeed with a slight difference associated with the “seen by” call out showcasing how many group members have seen the content.

One nice feature is group centric search.

Meaning users can search for specific keywords based on interest within the group.

It is unknown when the full functionality will be rolled out, but it is possible to work with your Facebook representative to potentially secure a spot in the beta program. As a marketer, it is important to identify the potential value associated with this type of functionality and the impact it can have on a branded presence to drive deeper engagement.

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Agency Of The Year

Chief Marketer recently named my agency, The Marketing Arm, promo agency of the year for 2012. In this month’s issue of Chief Marketers Promo Magazine, they break down the top 100 promo agencies in the US as well as a two page article about TMA and why we were chosen as this years recipient. The article also includes a key reference to our upcoming Flockstar beta launch. Here is a link to the full article.

Flockstar is the first of our new crowdsourcing service offerings that I have worked intensely on over the past 6 months.  More news to come as we get closer to the public launch but if you are a creative, strategist, planner, etc… then there is still time to join the private beta at http://www.flockstar.co

Hmm.. the gentlemen to the far right looks oddly familiar…

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Benefits of Facebook Trending Video

The purpose of this post is to dive into the recently launched Facebook Trending Video option and how it can potentially amplify branded content.

Trending videos appear as a single newsfeed update and are based on video content created by a user or their friends by open graph enabled apps such as Viddy, SocialCam and Chill. The videos that create the most engagement, such as liked by a friend then may appear as a trending video.

For a campaign that calls for the creation of branded content that is more “reality” vs. fully produced, capturing the content via a socially enabled app can be the first step in pushing content beyond your owned/brand social presence within Facebook.

In a recent discussion with Facebook, it was brought to my attention that the Trending Videos are comprised of both user generated content that is based on relevance as discussed above as well as commercially placed content that is published from open graph enabled apps.

So if your campaign has elements of branded content that are captured by open graph enabled apps then this content has passed the first requirement for commercial placement within the trending video stream. The second step is for the agency or brand to have a relationship with a Facebook account rep to help facilitate the placement.

The benefit of this type of placement in conjunction with other awareness drivers can be a key addition to further amplifying the content via Facebook vs. simply having the content reside in the newsfeed or on a tab within Facebook. As we all know, the real advantage of Facebook is the sheer size of the networks users.

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Microsoft Launches So.cl

Microsoft quietly launched so.cl (Pronounced “Social”) yesterday. Developed by Microsoft’s FUSE labs, it is focused on exploring the possibilities of social search.

So.cl is a combination of social networking & search. At it’s heart is social connectivity with like minded people that is topically driven. It combines elements of Google+, Facebook & Pinterest with the underlying goal to further integrate social with search.

With So.cl you can share your searches & help others discover what they might be looking for by aggregating content into topical categories. Many social elements are taken from existing networks. Video Parties are similar to Google+ hangouts. The all too familiar activity stream drives relevant content directly to the user. So.cl also features visually driven topics similar to Pinterest, but the core differentiator is that the content is primarily driven off of a users search results.

So.cl claims that it is an experiment in open search, meaning your searches on So.cl are viewable by other So.cl users and also available to third parties, assuming for relevance & targeted topical advertising. There is the possibility though that this experiment becomes the basis of Microsoft & Facebook’s social search strategy.

Google+ took the first major step in driving connectivity via social search, with the search giant owning 83% of organic search traffic, launching a socially enabled network that also extends via search via the “+1” as well as Google+ direct connect shows how the future of social will become synonymous with search.

You cannot talk about social without referencing Facebook. Facebook’s platform is like a walled garden when it comes to relevant/topical searching outside of Facebook. The “Like” button has become ubiquitous throughout the web, but when it comes to amplifying and connecting via traditional search Facebook is lagging behind Google.

With their recent partnership with Microsoft’s Bing search engine, and so.cl built on Bing API’s, so.cl focuses heavily on discoverability associated with “open search”, this may be the next step in amplifying Facebook topical activity.

So.cl features social sign on with both Facebook & Windows Live ID, which sets the stage for deeper integration into the social graph. One interesting observation when you authenticate via Facebook is that of the 180 data points that can be mined, so.cl only wants your basic info, e-mail & group data. The groups option really peaked my interest as to how they are going to use this data.

One of the interesting options buried in the settings is the ability to set your primary search provider to So.cl to publicly share your posts. So.cl is powered by Bing’s API’s but is branded So.cl.

Similar to Pinterest’s Pin it option, So.cl also deploys a bookmarklet option, essentially providing a quick and easy option to share any web item directly into your so.cl stream.

One key difference from Pinterest is that So.cl allows users to create “Rich Posts” where users can combine interesting images and links on the web and assemble them automatically into a compelling visual montage.

What does So.cl mean for brands? At this point So.cl is still a “research project” and is not designed to take the place of full-featured search & social networking tools, but this project could lead to the future of social + search integration as it pertains to Bing & Facebook. This also provides insight into the coming convergence of search + social.

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5 Types of Socially Enabled E-mail

So much time is spent defining intricate social strategies across owned social channels. But there are certain branded elements that receive minimal attention that can significantly amplify these efforts.

One such item is how organizations incorporate social elements into their e-mail marketing campaigns. This is relevant as organizations that leverage both e-mail marketing & social channels tend to receive better results for their campaigns according to a report from Vertical Response. This strong correlation can be further amplified by fine tuning the social enablement of the actual messaging.

If you review branded e-mail marketing campaigns you will see inconsistency in how social sharing is enabled. The goal should not be to drive awareness that the channel exists, but to create frictionless sharability of the content and in some cases to also provide relevantly targeted messaging based on the users social graph data.

There are multiple buckets that brands across multiple verticals fall into when representing social connectivity via e-mail.

1) The Social Chicklet – Many brands follow the rule of just adding a socially enabled chicklets to the top or bottom navigation of communication. While paying homage to the brands owned channels, the actual engagement on this style of placement is lower than other methods.

Playstation as well as a majority of brands that reference social channels in this manner go with the approach of simply providing visibility into the fact that their channels exist. There is however a missed opportunity to share the message itself or specific content segments that are worthy of sharing.

2) The Social Call Out – The second level of integration takes the social chicklet & applies a direct call to action that is specific to the desired channel. This at the very least calls out to the user that a certain action needs to be taken that may drive additional value to the user.

In the example below, Fandango provides specific calls to action on what they would like for the user to do with the referenced social channels. FOLLOW us on Twitter, LIKE us on Facebook

Here are other examples from Eddie Bauer which leverages the facebook share call to action, Macys & Red Envelope.

 

3) Socially Enabled Content – Xbox deploys a strategy that not only calls attention to their specific channels but also the ability to directly share the content of the e-mail, they also take special care to socially enable each individual content block for maximum sharability.

4) Socially Centric Communication – Some brands have invested efforts to provide communication that directly highlights their social channels and how users can benefit from engaging directly with their channels. The benefit to this approach is that individuals consume different types of information across different channels. By highlighting the benefits that their social channels provide, they are potentially driving the user to action to associate with the brands owned social channels. It is also possible to track the organic growth associated with the call to action to test the impact of the campaign as some brands e-mail databases triple their current fans/followers, etc…

Below is an example from CORT that highlights an individual receiving value and drives a targeted message about a potential value exchange from engaging via their social channel.

Pizza Hut dedicated an e-mail message touting the value of becoming a member by leveraging their current network size, teasing with potential exclusives.

5) Socially Relevant – One of the bigger opportunities for brands is associated with the adoption of social sign on & leveraging open graph data to drive highly targeted recommendations and communication. In my recent post I wrote about the benefits of social sign on and open graph.

From an e-mail standpoint, the ability to pull in relevant open graph elements to further drive socially enabled gifting, such as birthday reminders and socially optimized wish lists come to forefront. These principles can then be applied to driving socially relevant and targeted messaging to drive a user to take action on behalf of either themselves or their closest friends.

Example of how Old Navy could further socially enable a post purchase e-mail

By taking the time to consider how to truly socially optimize e-mail marketing, a brand can truly capitalize on the permissive nature of their users to share their content vs. vaguely eluding to the fact that the brand has social channels.

On a final note, socially enabled sharing when it comes to retail shopping experiences are key across the prime millennial & gen x targets when it comes to point #3 below.

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Klout Launches Topical Brand Pages

Back in January I wrote about 3 brand benefits of Klout. Today, Klout launched brand squads, which is their version of brand pages into beta with Red bull as their primary launch partner with more to come in upcoming weeks. Red Bull was also a key innovator with the launch of Facebook timeline for brands as I recently covered as well.

In recent conversations with Klout’s Garth Holsinger, he provided insight into the release of brand pages for Klout. “Previously, a brand was treated like an individual user, which in some cases does not necessarily make the most sense as a Klout score for a brand should mean something different.”

With the new release, Garth’s words ring true in that the new squad pages uncover the top influencers associated with the brand (topic) as well as showcasing the latest Red Bull content and providing a platform for the brand to directly reward influencers with brand centric perks.

Below is an example of the initial beta for the new Red Bull squad page

This presents an interesting dynamic for brands, as they are able to reward those individuals that are already passionate about the brand vs. pushing content to individuals to consume. By aligning influencers directly with the brand, it provides an easy point of connection between brand & influencer.

The example below showcases the top 1000 influencers tied to the topic of Red Bull

The top influencers are determined by +K’s which are given to other users who are influential around specific topics. Note that +K’s are specific to the Klout platform meaning, users who are already engaged with Klout directly are influencing the allocation of +K’s vs. simply using a users Klout score. This is a key point to consider for brands looking to solely use Klout squads as a primary influencer identification & engagement channel.

Top influencers also have an opportunity to receive a news associated with the brand as well as access to brand perks that are centralized within the topical brand page vs. the normal perks location via the navigation.

Normally, perks are exclusive products or experiences that users can earn based on their overall influence tied to their Klout score that are distributed to select influencers based on their topics of authority, location & score. With the introduction of squads, a secondary level of perk associated with topic specific influencers are also available. I have a request in to Klout to confirm if the topical perks are also associated with a premium cost similar to the existing perks program.

This is a significant step forward for Klout as it creates a more relevant experience for brands vs. treating brands as an individual and applying the Klout algorithm solely based on the brands published content. This new model makes more sense from a brand perspective. It will be interesting to see how the topically driven influencers begin to align as the system is predicated on klout’s proprietary +K’s.

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The Relevant Web

By Tom Edwards

Recently, I attended the Facebook Studio Live event in LA. The keynote speaker was author & Facebook employee Paul Adams of the Global Brand Marketing team. Paul provided a very insightful presentation that proved to be the highlight of the event.

In February I wrote about the importance of Social Sign-On for brands. Paul’s presentation reinforced this message and also provided additional insight into 3 fundamental shifts that are key factors to what is quickly becoming the next iteration of the web.

1) The web is being rebuilt around people
2) Amount of information we can access is increasingly exponential
3) Information is everywhere but our physiological capacity to process information has remained the same

From a marketing standpoint, these shifts also represent a fundamental change in how we as marketers should approach campaign strategy as well as the design of brand sites moving forward.

Lets consider the initial statement “The web is fundamentally being rebuilt around people”.  Think about how Facebook has redefined how you as an individual represent your virtual persona. You show affinity towards brands via Likes,  your opinion and interaction with others are the keys to fueling the algorithm that shows you the most relevant content. You select the types of content that you interact with from the sources that you deem have value. In essence, you are now in control.

The side effect to this control is that you are also providing extensive amounts of data via your social graph that now allow for more personalized experiences across the web.

Web experiences have evolved from the early dot com days of simply repurposing marketing materials to becoming more interactive by nature. The web as it stands today, represents incremental innovation when it comes to true integration of social with branded web sites. Strategies today involve “bolting on” social features. This meets a basic need of interconnection, but the brands who will truly capitalize on the next iteration of the web will provide a social by design approach that drives frictionless and relevant engagement to its users.

Examples of this concept are beginning to appear across the web as more organizations begin to adopt open graph principles into their brand presence. One example is Etsy. When you initially look at a site such as Etsy, you see a standard web presence that could be any commerce driven site that you have seen before. The site puts the onus on the user to drill down via categories or assuming the user knows what they are searching for.

By leveraging Open Graph, Etsy is able to create an experience that is incredibly relevant to the end user and their friends by quickly analyzing their Likes & affinities and presenting items that may be of interest. This frictionless discovery increases purchase intent by quickly surfacing items that may be immediately relevant.

An even richer experience is being provided by Amazon’s new Facebook open graph driven beta.

Amazon has been at the forefront of surfacing relevant items based on purchase history. Their relevancy algorithm’s have been a foundational element of their success over the years. It is very telling that they have recently launched a beta that further integrates a users social graph data to provide additional levels of recommendation.

The Amazon Facebook beta experience quickly scans the LIkes of the user as well as the social graph data of their friends to surface targeted recommendations that are based on interaction by friends as well as actual amazon purchase.

By adding additional utility in terms of gift giving for friends and discoverability of wish-lists, a user quickly has access to items that their friends may be truly interested in receiving.

The process of leveraging social graph data to streamline the path to purchase exemplifies the potential of social graph enabled social commerce. Social commerce should be less about seeding products via social channels, and more about creating seamless experiences that are permissible to end users vs. trying to interrupt. More on the topic of interruptive vs. permissive marketing based on this model in a future post.

The relevant web is also incredibly important based on the statements associated with the amount of information that is available as well as our capacity to comprehend information. With the exponential growth of information and choices, our dependency on our closest bonds to help us process information becomes even more relevant.

By enabling relevant experiences that users can seamlessly engage with, the ability for brands to capitalize on these fundamental shifts become fully realized. Those that embrace the social graph and redesign their brand presence to seamlessly integrate with social channels vs. simply bolting on features will realize greater returns.

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4 Brand Benefits of Twitter Brand Pages v2.0

Last December, Twitter launched their version of brand pages which provided the first step towards leveraging Twitter as a destination for brands. While the validity of brand pages in their current form have been questioned based on how users consume feeds vs. actual page interaction, it is clear that this was the initial step in a broader strategy.

Today, it was announced that Twitter is now taking the next step with their brand pages offering and will soon allow brands to create specific experiences tied to the brand page, including e-commerce, contests and sweepstakes and according to early reports will be contained within the brand’s tweet timeline vs. a 140 character limit.

This is big news for brands for a number of reasons:

1 – Brand centric activation opportunities – By allowing brands the opportunity to directly tie contests & sweeps to a brand page vs. separate landing pages, their is an opportunity for longer dwell times on a branded presence and more of an opportunity for a user to directly connect with the brand. This also provides additional value to brands who have or will invest in Twitter’s advertising platform.

Here is an example of how brands have facilitated Twitter sweeps in the past. The new announcement will create associations directly with a brands page vs. separate landing pages as shown below.

McDonalds is already using a combination of pinned & promoted posts & a Hashtag centric campaign. In the future, this will drill into a Twitter based branded experience vs. micro-site that facilitates deeper brand engagement & also drives a more robust CRM strategy. 

2 – Social Commerce – The future connection between Twitter & e-commerce is officially on the product roadmap. Based on the dual role of co-founder Jack Dorsey, who is also the CEO of mobile-payments company Square, we definitely foresee an opportunity to further drive e-commerce interaction that is tied to existing Twitter behavior. This is further fueled by Twitters performance over the 2011 holiday season, where Twitter led the way in average order size over Facebook.

Recently, Twitter partnered with American Express allowing Amex card holders to sign up for a service that ties a users tweet via a Twitter hashtag, or search term, that’s unique to a specific offer. After the user makes a purchase, deal savings are automatically credited to that customers American Express card statement within one to three days.

3 – Destination vs. Portal – Since inception, Twitter has performed as an aggregation hub or portal vs. a true end destination for users. This is supported by the amount of overall referral traffic Twitter creates. By connecting branded destinations with branded acquisition enablement vs. simply aggregating content, advertisers can now create more robust programs via Twitter by providing an end destination within Twitter vs. driving to Facebook or other owned channels.

4 – Connect Organic & Paid Content – This move will also greatly lift the importance of Twitter’s ad programs as brands can leverage promoted tweets and other ad types to drive brand engagement directly with their branded presence. Those brands that incorporate promotion with natural extensions of Twitter’s most compelling engagement techniques will be the ones to truly capitalize on additional engagement & acquisition rates.

While Twitter has a ways to go in order to rival Facebook in terms of direct brand interaction, today’s announcements show Twitters dedication to continue to enable brands by providing more opportunities for users to interact directly with a brands presence vs. simply consuming their feeds.

NOTE: It should be noted that only brands that spend a minimum in advertising are eligible for brand pages.

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Facebook Timeline for Brands Visual Overview

Today marked a day that we have been anticipating for a few weeks now. No not leap day, but the launch of Facebook’s timeline for Brand Pages. Brands have an option to now preview or publish their brand pages with the comprehensive roll-out happening on March 30, 2012.

Instead of going into a lot of detail out of the gate, I am changing the normal format and going with a more visual representation of changes as well as guidelines for some of the changes based on my roll-out of the BlackFin360 Timeline Brand Page.

Below is an example of the Legacy posts / Brand Milestones. Note the ability to append location & date and to post current & back-dated updates without pushing into the newsfeed. Also note that milestones will appear as full-page width updates vs. the staggered approach used for regular updates.

Once the milestone is published, you have the option to “pin the post” to create a semi-static piece of content towards the top of your brand timeline. Pins can be stories, photos, videos, campaigns, tab cross promotion, contests, etc… this is handy for promotions and highlighting key events or even simply highlighting your fan of the week. Once you have pinned a piece of content it has a “bookmark” signifying that it has been pinned.

Example of a pinned post

In future posts we will explore the ins and outs of the changes as well as what happened to custom landing pages as well as Like gating. But for now enjoy the visuals.

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Linkedin Launches Company Follow Button

Linkedin has proven to be an incredible asset for B2B Social Media Strategy & execution. With Hubspot defining Linkedin (45%) as the most effective B2B source for lead generation followed by Facebook at 33%.

With the roll-out of company status updates last October, Linkedin took the first step towards positioning itself as a marketing channel for brands. Now with Monday’s announcement of the Company Follow button, they are taking the next step in their follower ecosystem strategy.

Linkedin is now expanding the ability to follow a company beyond it’s core domain and now enabling organizations to allow individuals to follow them directly from their branded homepages or other owned properties by adding a quick code snippet to their branded pages. Brands such as Starbucks, AT&T and American Express are initial launch partners.

Similar in its impact as a Facebook like, the individual will receive status updates via their Linkedin feed. By extending the reach of the follow beyond Linkedin, the over 2 million companies in it’s network will have even greater opportunities to execute B2B content strategies both within Linkedin & their branded & owned channels.

Because B2B social is generally more targeted than B2C social, the ability to drive targeted interaction in one location while also providing a comprehensive footprint throughout the channel is key. Now with the ability to more closely associate the follow externally, it enables a more dynamic experience for the brand. As Linkedin can serve as a hub of services & 3rd party validation of those services via recommendations.

For those interested, here is the location to add the new company follow button to your branded website.

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Facebook Timeline Brand Pages To Be Unveiled

For the past few weeks I have received numerous calls and e-mails on the topic of Facebook Brand Pages & the Timeline roll-out. There have been many discussions with Facebook, with those in the industry and internally looking past the roll out and how strategies will need to be adjusted based on the new direction.

All of the feedback pointed to the fMC or Facebook Marketing Conference on the 29th as the location to unveil Timeline centric brand pages. And with official outlets now reporting what we have known for a while now, such as Mashable’s post today, Timeline brand pages will be announced on leap year.

Since the roll-out of Timeline for general users, it was not an “if” but a “when” will brands have access to Timeline and what does this mean for a current brands strategy. What will happen to custom landing tabs? How will Timeline impact brand engagement and what about my custom apps?

There will be a phase of growing pains as brands transition and I will take a wait and see approach and follow up with a post shortly after the official roll-out as to not drive additional speculation, but there will be some potential changes that will definitely require a new approach in terms of user flow, especially if you deploy tactics that map paid elements to custom tabs to drive a specific user action.

You can see evidence of the shift toward Timeline support in some of the changes that are already rolling out on the self-service ad platform as well as the recent introduction of Timeline based apps and the desire to incorporate new verbs into users newsfeeds as well as expand the footprint of frictionless 3rd party services into Facebook.

Even before we had a date we had begun sharpening our pencils and reviewing current strategies to ensure that the new direction continues to support brand goals & objectives. I am definitely looking forward to the announcements on the 29th.

You can livestream the fMC event directly from their site.

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The Importance of Social Sign-On

We have all dealt with “YAN” in one form or another over the past few years. YAN stands for Yet Another Network login. This stems from brands using proprietary authentication methods vs. leveraging Open Authorization (OAuth) such as Facebook’s Graph API (OAuth 2.0). To put it simply, brands like to use their own username & passwords vs. allowing a user to login with their Facebook or Twitter ID’s.

YAN is an even bigger issue when combined with the fact that 88% of online buyers had at some point intentionally left registration information blank or used incorrect information when signing up for a new account, up 12% from 2010. Also, the expectation of consumers for brands to support Social Sign-On has increased significantly as eMarketer and Janrain recently reported that consumer desire for Social Sign-On has increased to 77% of US Online Buyers in 2011.

The importance of leveraging a single sign on authentication platform that is socially enabled becomes the key to unlocking a brands social CRM strategy. The reason for this is that Social Sign-On can lower the barrier of entry for a user, increase validity of data via the users social graph as well as increase stay rates.

According to recent research from Gigya, web users who log into 3rd party sites with Facebook’s Graph API spend 50% more time on those sites, and view twice as many pages. Think about the impact to a Fortune 500 retailer with 50% increase in stay rates and how that may impact purchase frequency.

When it comes to selecting which service is ideal for your brand, Gigya also released information that shows that Facebook accounts for 61% of those social logins.

Where social sign on really gets interesting is when a brand leverages an OAuth solution, such as Facebook’s Graph API. Instead of depending on a user to input a few sets of pre-determined data, you potentially have access to 180 data points to associate with the user. This includes the ability to access data tied to their feed, friends, activities, interests, music, books, movies, television, likes, checkins and more based on the users privacy settings.

This increases the probability of accurate subscriber data as well as the ability to append your proprietary questions on the back-end of the authorization of the user. Users in this scenario are more likely to share information as they are not repeating the information process. This also means that for a brand, the ability to build a robust profile around an individual beyond the standard data points such as basic demographic data and purchase history becomes a reality.

One of the more progressive brands when it comes to Social Sign-On is Nike.

Nike offers multiple options for authentication.

When you choose to login via Facebook, look at the data that Nike gains access to in one session…

A possible user scenario is as follows. Nike is about to become the uniform provider for the NFL in the upcoming 2012 season. Imagine if Nike had the ability to quickly scan the profile data of those who have authenticated via social sign-on and find team & athlete related Likes, game Checkin’s from the last season (Timeline makes this even easier), team related status updates, etc… tied to the users NFL team & players of choice. They would be able to proactively target those users with highly targeted and relevant offerings around the upcoming seasons jerseys and other merchandise that the user would then be compelled to engage.

This solution combined with other integrated tactics would most likely net better results than engaging in a mass e-mail/traditional campaign. Moving forward, the brands that understand how to leverage the immense amounts of data that individuals are providing via their social graph and then create relevant & highly targeted outreach campaigns will be the brands that will capitalize on socially enabled commerce.

As e-marketer shows below, in 2012 $3 billion in goods will be sold via social media this number jumps to $14 billion by 2015.

The key to this trend is not just positioning products via social channels, but lowering the barrier of entry, mapping CRM & social graph elements as well as highly targeted, relevant and timely offers via social & traditional channels.

The brands that understand how to better integrate their CRM programs with Social Graph data to create robust user profiles that are then the basis for executing their marketing strategy will be the winners.

It should be noted that integration of SSO is a cross departmental effort and this is one of the primary reasons more fortune 500 organizations have not adopted this method. It will take visionary executives who understand the value of data integration to push SSO forward.

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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.

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3 Brand Benefits of Klout

Identifying topical influencers has been a key to driving awareness and activation for many socially progressive brands over the past few years. One of the measurement variables many brands have come to rely on is Klout.

Much has been written about Klout since it’s founding in 2008. Some praise & swear by the service, others question the validity of the score and ability to “game” the system. Regardless, users work each day to increase their Klout score and brands are eager to reward those indiviuduals.

At it’s core, Klout provides social media analytics to measure a user’s influence across their social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Linkedin, Foursquare, and many more and assigns a score to the user. This daily score is meant to reflect the influence that individual has to drive action in social networks.

Currently, Klout boasts over 100 million profiles, 2.7 billion+ pieces of content & connections analyzed daily and 5,000+ partners & developers with over 45 billion+ API calls.

From a brand perspective, there are multiple ways to leverage this data and audience to drive action. From the Klout Perks program, to leveraging Klout’s API to the upcoming Klout brand pages.

Klout Perks – The most visible brand programs associated with Klout is tied to Klout perks. Perks are exclusive products or experiences that users can earn based on their influence. Perks are distributed to select influencers based on their topics of authority, location & score.

This summer, I was associated with a perk from Disney to attend a pre-screening of Winnie the Pooh. Being a dad of 3 young children it served as a great opportunity to provide a unique experience for our entire family.

Influencers who receive Perks can choose to talk about the perk/product or not but the thought here is that by enabling the product or experience, the influencer will feel compelled to share the perk with their network as I did with the Winnie the Pooh perk.

Examples of Klout perks offered previously include:

Chilis: Gift cards to try “Lighter Choices” menu items as well as a Chili’s 2 for $20 Steak dinner
Hyundai: Integrating their Social & Gaming activation with VIP tickets to their Veloster Gaming event.
PopChips: Samples of 6 different flavors mailed to recipients
Contraband Movie: Driving Sweeps activation via Influencers

Perk programs are categorized by Entertainment, Experiences, Food & Beverages, Retail, Sports & Technology. For a brand, Perk programs can enable new product launches, sampling programs, experiential entertainment and more. Affordably priced, brand perk programs are the most direct way to activate against the 100+ million Klout profiles.

Klout API – With over 5,000+ partners and developers, Klout’s API is leveraged by brands for multiple purposes. With Klout’s API, you can glean data such as Klout Score, which is the most used API, or specific sets of data tied to topics such as “Marketing” or “Facebook” and unveil up to 5 topics tied to users.

There are some requirements to fully maximize the API, such as in order to request a Klout score for someone through the API, you have to have their Twitter ID. This is key for brands developing their Social CRM programs. A brand may want to map existing data into Klout’s API and the brand should account for capturing Twitter handles as part of their social data mining strategy.

Some brands are using Klout’s API data in innovative ways, One example is CapitalOne. They leveraged the Klout API to accelerate users in their loyalty program. They offered bonus rewards to users based on their Klout scores. This means everyone who participates with a Klout score between 10-100 gets some form of bonus rewards based on their influence.

The API presents unique and compelling data that brands can leverage to drive engagement & target key topical influencers to drive action or reward and accelerate via loyalty programs.

Klout Brand Pages – In recent conversations with Klout’s Garth Holsinger, he provided insight into the upcoming February release of Brand Pages for Klout. “Currently, a brand is treated like an individual user, which in some cases does not necessarily make the most sense as a Klout score for a brand should mean something different.”

With Klout Brand Pages, brands will have an opportunity to build influencers groups that are related to their specific industry. An example for a brand such as American Airlines would be able to associate with specific topics such as travel and interact directly with those influencers.

Brands will be able to show their content & streams and also show the most influential content about American Airlines. Elements such as Facebook comment engagement, Retweets, etc.. will aggregate into Klout brand pages and the brand will have an aggregation point of influencers to drive direct communication. Premium levels will be available for brands to subscribe to for additional outreach capabilities.

I will follow up with a deeper dive into Klout brand pages once the service launches in February.

Thanks goes to Garth Holsinger of Klout as well as Brad Alesi of The Marketing Arm for data points included in this post.

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5 Brand Benefits of Twitter Brand Pages

At long last Twitter has decided to allow brands to create Facebook/Google+ style brand pages. This along with a major redesign focused on usability & discoverability of content was unveiled yesterday.

With a slew of launch partners such as Best Buy, American Express, Dell, GE, Nike, Heineken, Disney and more, Twitter is following in the footsteps of Google’s recent roll-out of Google+ brand pages.

One of the primary reasons for the rollout is to better support advertisers. According to eMarketer, Twitter’s global ad revenue is projected to reach $139.5 million in 2011 and approach $399 million in 2013.

By creating branded destinations vs. simply aggregating content, advertisers may engage in more robust programs via Twitter if the possibility to drive additional engagement with specific content over longer periods of time becomes a consistent option.

What is the value for a brand to embrace the change? Here are 5 feature benefits of the new Twitter Brand pages.

1) Customizable Headers | Brands have the ability to further express their essence with a larger profile image and a customizable header.

In the Pepsi example below, they take a creative approach to their header


2) Promoted Tweet | Brands have the opportunity to control the message visitors see when they first come to the profile page via a promoted tweet at the top of the timeline.


The “Top Tweet” becomes a showcase opportunity to drive additional engagement on relevant content, be it promotional, educational, etc.. without the risk of being lost in the timeline.

3) Auto Expand Embedded Content | Promoted content will also go beyond simple links and actually show the content, if it is a video, etc… top tweet will auto-expand to reveal photos or videos from various sources.


4) Optimized Moderation | – The update now allows brands to separate their @ replies & mentions. This will be extremely useful for those that manage the day-to-day engagement on behalf of brands. Users also have a nice option to speak directly to the brand with the new layout with the “Tweet to Brand” option directly under the header.

5) Advertising Performance | Twitters advertising offerings have grown considerably over the last year. With options tied to promoted tweets, accounts & profiles. By creating additional opportunities to drive dwell time on a branded destination, in theory the opportunity to drive additional impressions and clicks becomes greater.


The one issue I have initially is related to how Twitter content is consumed. With a large number of individuals consuming their tweets via platforms outside of Twitter directly & TweetDeck, it will be interesting to see if there is more of an emphasis to not only follow a particular brand, but to also drive directly to their branded presence when specific campaigns are in action.

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Google+ Brand Pages

At long last Google has finally launched Google+ brand pages. There has been a lot of speculation on what would be included and the potential benefits to brands. Now that they are finally here it will be interesting to see what is fact vs. fiction and more importantly how best to optimize the experience and drive meaningful engagement.

There is already a fast growing list brands positioning their pages from Fox News to the Dallas Cowboys and now you can add BlackFin360 to that fast growing list.

You can add BlackFin360 to your circles here

Here is the direct link to create a Google+ brand page

For now the functionality closely mirrors that of the consumer Google+ experience with the exception of the Google+ Direct Connect option. Google+ Direct Connect allows your Google+ brand page to show in a Google search by simply having the user search +Brandname e.g. +BlackFin360

The Hangouts option provides a new twist on transparency as you can support a F2F live chat with up to 9 people at one time. It will be interesting to see how creative brands can be with Hangouts and what potential policies will be put into place to manage that process.

More to come on the features and functions available for Google+ brand pages in future posts.

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