Training Apple’s Siri for Facebook & Twitter

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

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

Here are examples of what Siri can do for you

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

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

You can ask about where the closest Starbucks is located…

You can check the weather in Hawaii

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

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

Configuring FACEBOOK

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

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

Step 1 Select Country & Mobile Carrier

Step 2 is confirmation

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

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

Configuring TWITTER

For Twitter, text START to 40404 in the US.

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

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

Then you will see your tweet.

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

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Top 10 Features of Apple iOS 5

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

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

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

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

Lock screen notifications


In App notifications


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Example of a Reader Button Activated Article

Example of the Reading List Display

Example of Reader List activation for Safari on my Mac.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Power of Instagram for Brands

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8. NBC = 55,012 – See #4, #5 and #7

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

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

Other brands of Note include:

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

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

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

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

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The VolksAd and the Power of FaceTube

Recently we, Red Urban Dallas, completed an amazing collaboration with our sister agency Red Urban Toronto. They work very closely with the Volkswagen brand in Canada and are responsible for very innovative and compelling campaigns.

The initiative started as they always do… with an idea. The idea of a crowdsourced VolksAd came from the very highly regarded Creative Director of Red Urban Toronto, Christina Yu.

Red Urban Toronto had completed serialized ads for the Volkswagen Golf GTI and wanted to extend the campaign from the two current TV spots to incorporate Facebook & YouTube.

Ad 1 – Drive Until: Courage (Chapter 1)

Ad 2 – Drive Until: Time (Chapter 2)

This is where I joined the project. Working closely with the Red Urban Toronto team, I was the strategic advisor for the execution across social channels.

When it came time to execute the VolksAd, the goal was to crowdsource all aspects of the upcoming commercial. From users commenting & voting on storylines, the script, model of the car, the cast, the music & the edit. The Red Urban Toronto team did a great job of executing the campaign.

By spacing the voting activities over multiple weeks, the team was able to maintain engagement and kept fans interested even to the point of livestreaming all 14 hours of the making of the making of!

By incorporating the names of the individuals who contributed during the campaign into the credits of the final edit, there was a sense of ownership for each individual for the finished product.

The results of the campaign were impressive. Active users jumped 140%, Fans of the Volkswagen Canada brand page jumped to 364,097,  there were 119,647,537 total media impressions and over 2,070,936 Facebook impressions.

Here is the full case study video

Here is the finished edit including everyone who contributed to the final product

Here is the official press release

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SnapTags vs. QR Codes Round 2

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

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

Snaptags vs. QR Codes per Spyderlynk

Let the commenting begin!!!

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Starbucks Offers Branded Entertainment as Pick of the Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Facebook Text to Like

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

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

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

Here is an example of a Text to Like sticker

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

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

Step 1 Select Country & Mobile Carrier

Step 2 is confirmation

Step 3 Like the Page

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

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

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Facebook Location Services How the Game Has Changed

Today Facebook made a significant announcement regarding the future of their location services. Below is pulled directly from today’s post.

Tag Locations in Posts

Before: You could only “check in” to locations using the Places feature on a smart phone.

Going Forward: Now you can add location to anything. Lots of people use Facebook to talk about where they are, have been or want to go. Now you can add location from anywhere, regardless of what device you are using, or whether it is a status update, photo or Wall post. Of course, you can always choose not to add location at all.

As a part of this, we are phasing out the mobile-only Places feature. Settings associated with it are also being phased out or removed. (You can read more about how location works and settings affected here: http://www.facebook.com/about/location)

This is a significant move on the part of Facebook as it takes them out of emphasizing the check-in game and extends the amount of potential data available ge0-targeted ad placement. Checking in will still be available as part of the platform but the onus is now about appending content with location.

To be direct, Facebook views itself as an advertising platform. With the ability to drive significant impressions and higher than average click-through and engagement, the ability to target advertising is the key revenue driver for Facebook.

By tying location to the past (Share where you have been), present (Share where you are) & future (Share where you are going) model and integrating location with content, the context of the post + location can provide additional relevance to marketers looking to connect and drive behaviors with Facebook’s plethora of users.

How this will potentially integrate with Facebook deals is still unknown. This is a logical shift on Facebook’s part and gets them out of direct competition with the gamified geo-location services while driving additional data to further strengthen their advertising position.

Smart move by Facebook.

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5 Facebook Growth Success Metrics

Recently I answered a question on Quora that I wanted to share as a post as well.

“What is the best way to measure ROI for increasing the number of fans for a Facebook Page?”

Since this question is focused primarily on success metrics tied to acquisition, I will forego discussions around engagement metrics and jump into 5 KPI’s that I reference as part of an acquisition plan. 

1 – % growth over a period of time | As I have mentioned before, on average the top 50 (US) Facebook pages growth rate is 5% per month. Using this as a baseline you can track & project your growth % and track the % increase as a core KPI.

E.g. AllFacebook.com has a good resource to track against the last 30 days of growth.

2 – Like acquisition rate | When executing a promotional program or simply tracking ROI against the % increase, I look at the total cost of the program to acquire the Like. Based on my research over multiple campaigns (including media) a good baseline average Like acquisition rate is ~$5.00 per like. We have experienced below $1 acquisition rate on highly successful campaigns but you should be tracking the Like acquisition rate in order to set realistic expectations with projected Likes vs. budget allocated.

E.g. Brand A recently increased Likes by 125,000 and spent 200K to execute the program/media, etc… the Like acquisition rate for this initiative would have been $1.60 per Like well below average thus a great value for the brand.

3 – Earned Media Value | Vitrue had an interesting study determining the value of a Like at 3.60 using the $3.60 as a potential baseline number it is a quick calculation to determine the current earned media value of a brand page.

E.g. Nerf With 420,093 Facebook fans has an earned media value of $1,512,334.80

4 – Facebook Like = 20 | In a recent discussion with Carolyn Everson of Facebook, she referenced that based on their data a Facebook “like” is equivalent to 20 unique visits to a brands web site.

5 – Facebook Media Reach | One additional KPI to review is media performance in terms of both Impressions & # of Likes generated with & without media support. Using the Facebook self-service platform, or a platform such as Adapt.ly are essential to support your growth initiatives.

There are many other metrics that you can track and platforms such as PageLever & Edgerank Checker to go further than Facebook insights but these are a few that I like to use when tracking success metrics on Facebook growth initiatives.

What are some additional metrics that you deploy to track against ROI for growth strategies?

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Heello

Twitpic founder Noah Everett has just launched a new microblogging social network called Heello. Heello down to it’s core is a Twitter clone. Outside of the Tweet being replaced by Ping (Which might draw the ire of Apple) what you will notice is that the 140 character limits and many of the microformats are in tact.

Because Twitter has essentially rendered Twitpic obsolete with some of the latest advancements to the service, Heello seems to be a direct response to this move by Twitter as a means to try and compete for marketshare.

Heello is currently an approved Twitter app so cross-posting between the services is possible and with Twitter’s developer ecosystem anxious due to inconsistent interactions with Twitter, there may be a place for Heello in the ever growing list of social networks.

In order for this to happen though Heello will need users and at this point there is no mobile support nor API’s which are critical to drive adoption. Also, from a brand perspective there is not yet support beyond simple content engagement.

Will Heello be the next big thing or will the advancements of Facebook & Google+ make services such as Twitter & Heello obsolete? The likelihood is high as both Google+ & Facebook offer destinations whereas Twitter & Heello are more of a sharing utility vs. destination.

Regardless, if for no other reason be sure to claim your namesake/brand/persona on Heello just in case.

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15 Examples of Gamification & Brands

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

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

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

E.g. Gamertag

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

Examples of Foursquare Badges

Example of Foursquare/NFL Super Bowl Rewards

Example of Foursquare/Pepsi Reward from SXSW 2011

Foursquare leaderboard sponsored by Pepsi

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

Example of Gowalla badges/pins

Example of Virtual Goods/Physical Goods

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

Example of GetGlue Sticker tied to TRON

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

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

Example of Profile completeness

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

Example of SalesForce’s New Gamification Dashboard

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

Example of Mint Gamification

Example of Mint Point Acquisition

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

Example of CheckPoints Scan for Tyson Chicken

Example of CheckPoints Rewards

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

Example Geo-Targeted Gamification associated with Target

Example of ShopKick Rewards

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

Example Hallmark Social Calendar and Facebook Credits

Example of Hallmark Social Calendar Gifting

Example of Incenting engagement via Points

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

Example of MyStarbucks Rewards

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

Example of Nike Plus Goals & Challenges

Example of Nike Plus Progress bar & Leveling

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

Example of a Buffalo Wild Wings program that incorporates Scvngr

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

Example Ribbon Hero

Image via Geek.com

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

Example of American Airlines mobile app

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

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Facebook for Business

With Google+ yet to launch pages to support business, Facebook proactively launched the Facebook for Business resource center.

The center provides everything from guides for Pages, various ad products, sponsored stories and platform applications. These resources were not always available in one location and can serve as either a great refresher or provide new insight into the depth of Facebook’s platform and are written in a very straightforward manner.

As I stated in my last post, Facebook is still priority #1 for brands.

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Facebook Is Still Priority #1 for Brands

While a lot of buzz and attention has been placed on Google+ over the past few weeks it is too soon for brands to divert attention & dollars away from Facebook. While there is a lot of speculation on how Google+ will enable brands, one thing is still very clear. The #1 option for brands focused on B2C interaction & engagement is still Facebook.

Facebook is the number one seller of display advertising in the US now according to eMarketer and has surpassed both Google & Yahoo. While Google+ has gained momentum quickly, analysis still shows there is a lot of duplication across networks with a majority of new Google+ users maintaining accounts and engaging across both Facebook & Google+.

From a brand perspective no other social platform is as well equipped to support brands both domestically and internationally than Facebook. With the breadth of reach available and the lack of brand support on Google+ (For the time being) it’s important to note that Facebook is where the remainder of your 2011/2012 $$$ should be allocated.

To support this statement look at the recent rollout of Facebook’s sponsored stories and how their usage of social context drives interaction. If you have yet to use this type of ad unit you should consider it as a part of your next Facebook media buy. This ad unit presents interactions with pages into dynamic ads that are shared throughout users newsfeeds and due to the personal & social nature of the unit they grab user’s attention quickly.

The results have been impressive with 1.6x lift in brand recall, 2x lift in message awareness and 4x lift in purchase intent according to Facebook. This is a key differentiator between Facebook & Google+ at the present time. The social context that Facebook provides to brands and support with a variety of programs still makes it the primary choice to execute a Paid, Owned & Earned strategy.

I have found the following graphical representation of Facebook’s Sponsored Story types to be extremely useful.

Time will tell who eventually wins the highly coveted ad dollars. But as it stands today it is still no contest when it comes to where to spend your brands social advertising dollars.

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10 Potential Brand Benefits of Google+

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

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

Potential Brand Benefits of Google+ Brand Pages/Entities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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Google+ & Facebook

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

googleplus

Comic via xkcd

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

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

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

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

Circles

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

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

Instant Upload

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

Sparks

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

Huddle

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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Facebook Photo Tagging & Brand Pages

Today Facebook rolled out a feature that could have big implications for brand pages. Facebook users will now be able to tag brand pages in their photos.

This can represent a new avenue for brand pages as users can now associate your brand with their images thus further driving discoverability of your page and generating additional impressions.

From a brand perspective it will be interesting to see what strategic changes are made to encourage brand tagging in user photos.

It will also be interesting to watch how users respond to more images showing up in their newsfeeds.

This is however big news for brands looking to acquire new users as this is a key feature that can now be leveraged on behalf of the brand page.

NOTE: Users can tag your brand whether they have LIked it or not.

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5% of a Facebook Like

Pop Quiz… What is the one word that recently became ubiquitous throughout our online lives? Is it “Refudiate“, the word that Sarah Palin coined and won 2010 word of the year? Is it Slizzard? Thanks for that Far East Movement. No it is one simple four letter word…no not that word… this one… “Like”.

Now it seems that every brand wants your like. You as a consumer are willing to give it to them but why? And as a marketer how can I set realistic expectations around potential growth projections?

I was recently interviewed by Bob Garfield. Yes that Bob Garfield to discuss this exact topic. NOTE: When the video is posted in a few weeks I will post the full interview.

We discussed why is the “Like” relevant? Beyond relevance, I also want to address campaign expectations around benchmarks & growth thresholds.

When you have 663,951,400 million people commonly tied together sharing every aspect of their lives and allowing brands to directly interact with them it creates a marketing equivalent to a perfect storm.

To this point hopefully we all can agree that acquiring a “like” has become a rallying cry for everyone from brands to agencies to your favorite social strategist.

We all hear about the importance of the right mix of Paid, Owned & Earned. We scramble for the latest case studies striving to set the gold standard and create compelling programs that drive “Likes”.

We have heard from the likes (no pun intended) of Vitrue claiming that a “Like” is worth $3.60 of earned media. We talk about EdgeRank. We talk about true reach of social activity proliferating newsfeeds.

We execute programs that are designed to grow “Likes” in addition to simple engagement. Tactics such as exclusive content fan gating, Forced “Like” sweeps opt-in requirements, dual like campaigns, etc…

But when it comes to setting realistic expectations for “Like” growth and campaign KPI’s it becomes very nebulous in terms of how to actually benchmark growth and set realistic expectations both on the brand side and the agency side.

Many brands have very aggressive goals when it comes to growing “Likes”. Many hours are spent, strategic alliances are forged and millions of dollars are spent in the pursuit of growing the base while hopefully bringing relevant brand advocates along for the ride.

Looking at the raw numbers for a moment. I took the top 50 US Facebook pages and tracked and averaged their growth over a period of time and the resulting percentage of growth averaged across them was 5% “Like” growth per month.

Obviously when setting expectations around thresholds it is important to take into account many factors such as the brands objectives around acquisition including “Like” growth, competitive growth, programs executed, etc. but if you are just starting a program and have no basis for growth the 5% number is important as it does provide a baseline of top performing brand pages that you can then craft a realistic expectation of roughly 3-5% at the onset of your strategy.

There is so much more that we can talk about when it comes to “Likes” and it’s real value to campaigns and the Pros & Cons. But the reality is that brands want more and agencies are working hard to make it happen. And with the “Like” moving outside of Facebook over the past year it is going to become even more of a factor.

But one final point to consider is that the “Like” is not the be all/end all of social KPI’s. It is an important and high profile element but it is always important to look at your strategy and objectives holistically.

One final thought is to consider another four letter word that is just now beginning it’s climb towards relevance… “Send” with the recent roll out of the “Send” button now you can easily drive users from 3rd party and proprietary sites directly to engage and hopefully “Like” thus further perpetuating the cycle.

Orbitz Example:

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Social Turf War

During a recent iMedia Summit a simple question was asked to Bryan McCleary, Director of Public Relations, Procter & Gamble, Baby Care. “Who should own social strategy?” Brian’s response was interesting and made a lot of sense. His response was “The Brand and Agency should own the social strategy or the “building of the house” and the PR agency should own the “storytelling” and brand reputation management.” 



This is a very telling statement as times have changed and the evolution of social has gone from Social Networking to social media and now to the world of Social Activity. This creates a conundrum for many brands as internal & external turf wars are being waged both in terms of who owns social internally as well as the blurring line between the agency side and PR. 



Going back to Bryan’s statement for a moment, the reason it makes sense is that the agencies both traditional and especially the digital/social are very closely aligned with the marketing objectives of the brand. This extends to acquisition and engagement strategies as well as driving advocacy towards the objectives of the business. Also, agencies bring an element of social creativity in terms of campaign support that is unique and essential to creating a compelling experience beyond the “story telling”. 


collaborate-communicate-con


Where PR really enables a brand is with the ability to drive the conversations and reputation management while “telling the story” of the brand through compelling content or by activating influencers.



It is very clear though that the objectives for PR & Agencies differ as different expectations, goals and even KPI’s are in place. Ultimately brands that understand the need to define roles & responsibilities and realign with changing consumer behaviors and channels are the ones who will thrive and exceed expectations.


I personally live this model everyday as we have great relationships with the PR companies that we work with on the Hasbro account and many others. There is a clear delineation between our role of “building the house” and the “story telling” and reputation management delivered by PR. By working together instead of competing for turf, this has allowed us to drive progressive programs jointly. 


digitalhouse2


What we find is that by clearly articulating the roles of the groups both internally and externally and allowing each group to maximize their expertise the end result is a comprehensive social strategy that can truly move the presence of a brand forward.

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Your Brand vs. Product on Facebook

Brands vs. Products on Facebook. This is a question I have been asked about many times. Is it better to have 1 brand location on Facebook or should I have multiple pages some dedicated to product.

While there is not a one size fits all answer I am a strong believer in having a central brand hub and manage product via that location.

The reason being is that if one of my business goals is to acquire likes I want to maximize my earned media potential by consolidating my Likes for my core brand.

A great example of a brand execution that maximizes product likes is the Nike Football Boot Finder.

Nike Boot

Notice in the middle of the page that individual boots are rated on the sub-brand level. and each also has it’s own product specific page to drive further engagement with the product.

boot sub brand

If you click on the sub category you are presented with a product specific page to drive further engagement with the product, additional share options as well as a direct retail call to action.

Nike Boot Detail2

This allows Nike to drive, track and consolidate sub-brand likes while not diluting the core brand.

Also with the upcoming Facebook changes from FBML to iFrames brands will have increased flexibility in how to execute sub-branded experiences by allowing even tighter integration with existing brand sites.

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Influencer Identification, Brand Marketers & the Growing Divide

Advocacy, acceleration of content creation and generating buzz around products and services are always at the top of the list for most brand Go-To-Market strategies.

One consistent goal is to identify and engage key influencers in a specific brand category and work to activate them by peeking their interest into becoming a brand ambassador for your offering. Sounds easy enough right?

The problem is the divide between influencers and brands is very real and more fragmented than you may think. Obviously there are the A-list influencers in each category. Getting a single mention from Guy Kawasaki (@guykawasaki) or a featured article via a TechCrunch or Mashable author are worthy of praise.

guy

But how do you identify RELEVANT influencers? A large number of Influencers have moved past only residing in blogs and are leveraging other social channels. While blogs are still a key component of influencer outreach it is incredibly important to review an influencers comprehensive social footprint in comparison to your target consumer to ensure that you are maximizing your true social reach.

Many tools exist today to identify influencers across categories such as Technorati’s top 100 (Blogs) , Klout (Twitter), Radian6 (Multiple Channels) etc… but additional analysis needs to be conducted prior to executing your outreach program. Generating tool created influencer target lists is only half the battle.

Technorati

When I work with brands I use a combination of tools to craft the ideal influencer target list for my brand category. But before I proceed with any type of outreach there are 2 additional steps that need to be taken.

#1 – It is extremely important to take into consideration the target consumer segments and behavioral characteristics. This is critical as your influencers are only relevant to your consumer target if they are actually relevant to your consumer target!

Sample Personas2 crp

#2 – Not all influencers are created equally. Just because you have a list of 100 potential influencers to target it does not mean that you will get the most reach per channel.

When I review influencers for potential brand impact I take into consideration the following variables:

1 – Ensure my Consumer Segmentation is as detailed as possible including characteristics and perceived personas.

2 – Consolidate sets of traffic & engagement patterns via publicly available sources.

Scoble

2 – Map Target Demographics & Age indexing against my consumer segments
3 – Categorize and review social channel penetration and impact per channel as well as review how integrated their individual channels are.
4 – If available brand partner history

Once all data has been collected I score each set of variables based on a proprietary influencer index that I created. I will review as much data as possible around each influencer… Monthly uniques, demographic indexing tied to my consumer segments then I run numerous calculations on factors such as Dan Zarrella’s Retweetability Metric (# Tweets per day /# of RT’s per day)/Followers as well as analysis of Facebook reach, YouTube subscribers, video views and more.

dan-zarellas-retweetability-metric

Each data element receives a 1-3 weighted ranking based on Primary, Secondary & Ancillary influencer target status and all scores are then averaged to gauge an influencers potential brand impact rating.

What I find is that there are many tools that will get you 80% of the way there in terms of identifying relevant influencers. There are many tools that are channel specific and provide valuable data. In order to find the individuals that are truly relevant to your potential target audience it is important to venture that last 20% in order to truly maximize your program for success.

Regarding the outreach portion it is extremely important to be respectful in your approach. Take the time and show an interest in the topics they are passionate about and incent them in a way that will definitely encourage them to engage and be reciprocal in your praise. Facebook’s upcoming change that will allow brands to take more control of responding as a brand can further increase the bond between influencers and the brand. Aggregate relevant posts, provide links back and respond to their requests in a timely manner. Treat influencers as you would like to be treated and it will go a long way.

I have found these steps to be an extremely valuable framework to executing a successful influencer identification and outreach program.

 

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Augmented Reality a Reality for Brands

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

Minority Report

Iron Man 2

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

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

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

Digital Line

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

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

marker

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

AR BK

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

Layar AR

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

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

Yelp

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

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

pringles

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

virtual-box-simulator-1

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

Olympus

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

Lego

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

Kinect

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

Digital World

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5 Steps to Branded Social Relevance

The 60’s were known as the creative age in terms of advertising. Since the mid 90’s we are now in the digital age and it shows no signs of slowing down. Working in digital over the past decade means the one constant has been change. Technologies advance, new tactics are defined, the next shiny object that transforms how we communicate is introduced.  Yet during this explosion into a digital society certain behavioral elements remain the same. People have an inherent desire to share, look to others for recommendations on products & services and have a desire to consume products and services that are relevant to them.

robot

Fast forward to today and the latest iteration of digital is social media. It’s on the minds of senior level executives to the most jr. brand manager. All looking for the right combination to amplify the reach of the brand, drive acquisition, strengthen brand relevance, activate influencers both domestically and internationally, integrating with CRM & e-commerce solutions, encouraging engagement and ultimately hoping to influence purchase.

socialmedialandscape

Creating a truly engaging experience is not a given. For the sake of this conversation assume a solid awareness campaign is planned to drive acquisition. As I have discussed in previous posts the “build it” and they will come only works if you are Apple nowadays. For most brands it is imperative to leverage multiple vehicles to drive awareness as well as rock solid consumer insights.

iphonegens

5 Steps to social relevance

The Big IdeaOne of the THE most talented creative director I have ever worked with recently boiled the big idea down to being able to explain it with one sentence. Then the supporting tactics immediately begin to surface. This is also one of the key points to consider when evaluating the fragmented landscape of where the ideas come from?

social stuff

Should the idea come from our PR firm? Social agency? Traditional Agency? Digital Agency? In my experience the idea should support the overarching brand objectives & the medium.

It is one thing to develop an elegant strategy that maximizes appropriate vehicles based on insight but until you are able to overlay a compelling idea that meets brand objectives while providing both utility and relevance for your audience you are rolling out tactics that may not ever reach their full potential.

the big idea

It is important to spend the time developing creative concepts that are supported by a digital framework that maximizes each strategic brand pillar. With social now residing in multiple parts of an organization, having an underlying theme tying all of the tactics together into a cohesive package that drives relevance and engagement is the most difficult element of social relevance.

Utility – To put it simply the big idea needs to support enabling a basic need. We as consumers all have needs. A need to connect, a need to uncover information, a need to help me accomplish a goal. In order for us to interact with your brand an inherent benefit needs to be provided to the user.

An ideal example is the simple utility associated with the Hallmark Social Calendar Facebook application. For those of you not familiar with the application it recently gained 4 million users over the course of a week by meeting and enhancing individuals desires to stay connected with their friends.
hallmark1

With a combination of basic utility and offline reminders, users are constantly driven to engage with the application. Sometimes the simplest tasks like aggregating your friends birthdays and events can lead to quick adoption.

Relevance – Take just a moment and think about your own behavior. What are the apps you use the most? Of everything installed on your iPhone, Android, BlackBerry…. What do you actually use? Most of you would say some combination of the following: Facebook, Twitter, Google, Banking App, News, etc…

The common thread to each of these is personal relevance. “I” want to connect with my networks, “I” want to be able to find the latest headlines or search for directions to the restaurant I will be at later in the day. The point is apps that provide relevant content or opportunities to engage are ultimately rewarded with adoption.

relevance

Looking at Hallmark once again the basis of the application is tied directly to users desire to stay current with events and it provides relevance to the user and that translates into engagement.

Incentive – Attention all brand marketers… Attention… People Like Free Stuff. Yes I know it is hard to believe but in order to entice users to engage it is always helpful to offer a tangible reward for engagement.

fb creds

My preference is to incent users with rewards that are digital yet have application beyond my branded experience. One of the best examples is Hallmark’s recent usage of Facebook credits. This was one of the first applications that was a non-gaming app that adopted the soon to be default Facebook currency (Zynga fully on board) to entice users to engage with branded properties

Integration – Integration is key to driving relevance. Consider how to incorporate cross-platform vehicles to provide further points of integration that impact the user while offline. Whether it is tied to offline SMS messaging, mobile application, e-mail campaign, etc… the key is to think beyond the application and how other channels can further enhance engagement.

Social networking and internet concept crossword

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The Need for Social Audience Segmentation

When evaluating & auditing companies usage of social channels I notice certain recurring themes in terms of the combination of branded social media vs. consumer social (Facebook, Twitter, etc). Namely there is rarely a clearly defined approach based on audience segmentation and how the brand positions social media.

Segmentation + Social? Doesn’t that go against the nature of social? Don’t we just want to have a list of social chicklets and assume everyone knows where they need to go?

My immediate response would be “NO”. When defining a social strategy I spend a lot of time looking at the brand objectives, essence, brand pyramid, etc… then it’s on to the consumer insights and audience segmentation and behavioral assessments. Why is this important? Yes there are 500 million people on Facebook but that does not mean that certain audience segments will be open to your message.

The key is structuring a users interaction with a brands social ecosystem by leveraging audience insights for primary and secondary audiences. What you will most likely uncover is that the audiences engage and behave differently. The primary audience may gravitate towards Facebook & Twitter while the other group primarily interacts with blogs & YouTube.

In certain instances, especially those executing acquisition strategies, a social hub may be in order. Isn’t Facebook a Social Hub? Possibly if you are truly integrating all channels and leveraging custom tabs to segment and drive user interaction towards a key objective.

Wait… What did you just say? To state it simply a social hub is basically a portal thats primary purpose is to drive your audience through the appropriate path to engage with content that is relevant to them while closely mapping to the brands objectives (acquisition, engagement, etc…).

The ideal brand experience that reflects this approach based on segmentation is Turbo Tax. Turbo Tax has structured a social hub that enables users to clearly choose the path that best meets their ideal criteria to interact with Turbo Tax’s social media channels. Social Media Examiner has a good case study taking a deeper look at Turbo Tax’s usage of social media.

When I was the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of INgage networks and we were rebranding & revamping the companies digital presence we created a solution that clearly segmented the audience to provide a relevant consumer experience as quickly as possible. The results associated with targeted lead generation surpassed anything that had been done over the course of the 10 year history of the company.

So when considering just adding social chicklets to your branded home page or investigating how to further segment your audience, take a moment to consider whether creating a social hub based on how your audience interacts with the appropriate channels may be the ideal addition to your current strategy.

If you are interested in engaging with me feel free to contact me. We can audit your brands current position in the marketplace that is then scored against our Digital Value Index. Or we can work with your brand team to define an integrated strategic digital framework that supports your brand initiatives.

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Largest Social Network on TV

I write a lot about social media, digital strategy & emerging technology. One of my favorite past times is console gaming via my Xbox 360.

With the recent release of Halo Reach and personally surpassing 100,000 gamerscore on Xbox Live, I wanted to write about how digital marketers can leverage the largest social network on TV to further enhance digital engagement.

TheBlackFin

With over 23 million users and an average of 4 million engaged daily Xbox Live is an incredible platform to execute digital strategies and tactics.

From branded avatar collections, product tie-in’s, promotions and sponsorships there are many opportunities for brands to leverage the sticky experience that Xbox Live provides.

This also goes beyond typical in-game advertising.  Having a truly engaged, socially connected fanbase that also associates closely with brands is a key factor when evaluating the platform.

This is one of the only times I apply my personal insight into a platform. When I am on Xbox Live I pay attention to brand promotions here moreso than any other medium. The reason being is that upon start up of the console I am presented with compelling content blocks that I choose how I interact.

I have found that I enter most if not all of the branded sweepstakes and I pay attention to when new branded avatar items are presented. And with more traffic than ESPN.com this is an ideal way to drive brand engagement.

Being a fan of the platform and a daily user, You don’t get to 100,000 gamerscore by not engaging almost daily, I have experienced the benefits and opportunities first hand.

So the next time you are looking for an ideal channel beyond traditional media and digital outlets don’t forget about the largest social network on TV.

If you are a brand manager interested in leveraging Xbox Live please contact me as I have a long standing relationship with various Xbox Live teams.
From branded avatar collections, promotions, advertising etc…

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The Pass Back Effect

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

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

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

childiphone

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

app-targets

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

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

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

iphonegens

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

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

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Social Foundation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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Mobilizing Your Social Strategy

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

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

In today’s chat we discussed the following topics:

1) How would you integrate mobile with your social strategy

2) How do you maximize the mobile web?

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

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

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

hashtag1

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First Your Profile Then the World

Big changes are brewing with Facebook as today many subtle changes were rolled out across the popular social network. Becoming a fan has given way to simply “Like”. This is an interesting trend and one that has longer reach than initial appearance.

Fans converted to “Like” so if a user was a fan of a brand or product that did not change. The addition of “Like” is an attempt by Facebook to expand beyond it’s platform and influence more of our behavior beyond the Facebook domain. Instead of becoming a fan of a page it is less of a commitment to simply like a page or brand and show a higher level affinity.

History has shown first with Friendster then MySpace that viability as a destination is short lived and users can be a very fickle bunch. Facebook is now focused on becoming the platform that business relies upon as well as expanding the Facebook experience first by incorporating your web history with ads it serves you but also to drive push the “Like” concept across the web via a toolbar.

Facebook Connect was a first step in the plan that furthered the reach by allowing 3rd party integration and additional dependency on Facebook. With 400 million users as a marketer why wouldn’t I want to drive interaction through this channel. The next step in the process was to launch a toolbar that focuses on distributing “Like” so that any interaction that you have outside of Facebook can connect back to your profile and further drive the value of the network. This then allows interaction wherever I may browse and the ability to share with my network.

This ties into another big rollout… Facebook Community Pages. These are not pages that map to a specific profile and don’t impact status updates. Instead they are public content from users status messages. Now updates can be friend specific or you can have access to the general Facebook population. This is an interesting play from a privacy perspective as initial research shows you can opt into sharing with the community feeds.

Another issue that shows Facebook is serious about dominating expansion was the announcement today around XAuth. xAuth is a proposed authentication standard that will limit the number of share this buttons and will automatically remember what networks you are a part of and only display those options. In theory that sounds great but two of the larger players are not on board. Facebook and Twitter are notably absent from the group that already has the support of Google, Yahoo, MySpace, and Disqus.

Facebooks noticeable absence from Google Buzz is yet another reminder that when it comes to expansion they want to be the primary. This and of course Facebook’s relationship with Microsoft. It will also be very interesting to see how Facebooks geo-location services will impact the Foursquares & Gowallas of the world. With a 400 million user base it could crush the 600,000 Foursquare users.

It will be interesting to watch how the changes in the platform, the desire to follow you wherever you may browse and add in the ability to serve contextual ads based on browsing history will impact user behavior. I see potential tied to some of the changes from a marketing perspective but time will tell if Facebook can go where few have gone before.

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6 Benefits of Foursquare

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

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

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

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

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

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

Example of Text check in

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

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

Example of Special Offer notification as well as sample offer


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

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

Example of Starbucks Foursquare Badge

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

6 reasons to care about Foursquare as a business

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

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

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

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

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

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

Example of foursquare business analytics screen

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

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

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5 React

One interesting campaign that I have come across recently is the 5 React experience. 5 React is a new Wrigley’s flavor of it’s 5 Gum line. 5 took an interesting approach to engaging trial of its product (sampling) and the result is a fun experience that provides a complete loop… viral –> digital –> direct mail –> back to digital –> Viral. (All of this to sample a pack of gum) Imagine what your brand/product could do to create an immersive experience such as this.

I first heard about “getting your black envelope” through status updates (viral) and it definitely got my attention. Upon initial entry to the 5 React site you are presented with a visually appealing home page that has a “Matrix” style option of selecting two doors. Once you decide to begin the initial experience you connect via Facebook Connect.

This is key in that Facebook Connect allows for micro-sites outside of Facebook to pull in relevant profile information that ultimately links back into your Facebook profile to enable further spread of the message through your Facebook network. E.g. login, Facebook profile information be it photos, text from your information, etc… can be pulled into an external experience that is then shared back via Facebook Status updates to drive an engaging experience.

One of the other benefits from a brand perspective is to eliminate yet another login from a user experience perspective. Facebook connect,  OPEN ID, etc… are a great way to lower the barrier of entry for an external micro-site and to give a feel of integration with consumer networks vs. proprietary authentication methods. Another great example of Facebook Connect is with the Prototype Experience.

Once connected via Facebook the engagement begins as images from your Facebook Profile are then displayed on multiple screens to provide a feeling of connection and the wow factor of your images being incorporated in this manner. The next step is the actual fulfillment form to request your black envelope to get your code to open the second door and to get your free pack of gum.

My black envelope (more like a small black box) arrived a week later and it contained the 5 React gum sample as well as my unique access code & a pair of 3D glasses.

Now it was time to input my code and experience the 3D elements of the campaign.

Upon entering your code you are greeted by 3D enabled geometric shapes, then you are prompted to interact with your keyboard. Your keyboard interaction then drives the experience of taking photos from your facebook profile and morphing them based on your keystroke interaction that can then be submitted into a larger gallery and shared to your networks. Once submitted you can then experience what other random 5 react users experienced as well.

My immediate takeaway was a very positive and engaging experience all tied to a gum sample. This is great example of how to create an engaging experience that lives outside of Facebook but provides the benefits of the network, drives sampling in an innovative way, leverages viral channels RE: the black envelope and creates a 2D/3D experience that is engaging, fun and memorable.

By the way if you are interested in creating an engaging digital experience similar to this please reach out to me and allow us to create a compelling digital campaign.

5React was a collaboration of Firstborn (3D Modeling & Left Door Experience) and Evolution Bureau. EVB designed the package and built the 3D glasses experience & gallery.

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iAd

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

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

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

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

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

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iPad Launch Day – Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

iPad Kids

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

grantipad

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Red Urban

RedUrbanIt seems that for the past 10+ years all roads have pointed in this direction. I have been involved with agencies since the onset of my interactive career.

From my initial entry during the original dot com boom with Fullmoon Interactive (full service interactive agency) to then moving on to become a co-founder of Smooth Fusion. SF provided the technical heavy lifting to enable campaigns for agencies in the Omnicom, WPP & Interpublic networks. The main constants were always digital + agencies.

For the last five years I have been on the forefront of the enterprise social media explosion thanks in part to my involvement initially with Telligent Systems (Community & Social Analytics driven platforms) then as the Chief Marketing Officer of INgage networks (Cloud computing based enterprise & gov 2.0 integrated social solutions).

During this time I had the privilege to partner and be a part of cutting edge usage of social media by a number of Fortune 1000 companies (Dell, Microsoft, Electronic Arts, Starbucks, P&G, American Express to name a few) and now I look forward to enabling brands via my experience with social strategy definition (KPI’s, ROI) implementation (Community, Crowdsourcing, Mobile, Consumer Networks, Social CRM) and measurement & analysis (Online buzz monitoring, Social Analytics) officially from the agency side!

I recently joined an extremely talented team at Red Urban (Dallas, TX). Red Urban is an OMNICOM group agency that provides comprehensive digital solutions for our end-clients and agencies throughout the Omnicom network. Our primary focus is world class creative & digital (Rich Media, Web, Social) strategy with an emphasis and expertise in integrating social channels and best practices into a brands digital strategy.

My role as the SVP, Digital Strategy will enable me to call upon every element of my experience in defining digital/social solutions while also keeping an eye to the future via emerging technology.

I definitely look forward to collaborating with our team and partners to deliver compelling digital campaigns that truly leverage the power of social as part of an overall digital strategy.

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

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

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

7 things I liked about the experience:

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

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

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

Babiesrus3-Blog1

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

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

Babiesrus3-Blog2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusions & Measurement:

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

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

10 Benefits of Social Crowdsourcing

As your social strategy evolves from driving awareness via consumer/liquid networks (Facebook, Twitter, etc…) and basic community elements you may be asking what’s next? How can I continue to drive engagement and provide enough utility to keep the attention on your brand. What can I do to influence advocacy. What about ideation? How can I continue to formalize feedback channels and how do I continue to provide a structured form of support that ultimately leads to cost deflection savings and other benefits beyond simple engagement?

My recommendation would be a branded crowdsourcing solution. Okay… so what does that mean and how is it different? Social Crowdsourcing solutions provide a structured approach to accomplishing multiple goals by leveraging individuals engaged with your brand where ultimately the best ideas and content prevail. In essence it enables a structured 360 degree feedback loop. When executed as part of a cohesive social strategy crowdsourcing solutions can provide value beyond simple engagement.

10 Benefits of Social CrowdSourcing:

1 ) Advocacy & Brand Loyalty – How better to influence behavior than by empowering an individual to directly impact a product, improve the overall customer experience, or deliver feedback within an organization on how to improve an internal process. When an individual truly feels as though they are making a difference there is a stronger connection with the brand or organization. An example is with Starbucks MyStarBucksIdea implementation. Users have the ability to directly influence product as well as the customer experience. Ask for a splash stick the next time you are in Starbucks. That nifty green stick with the decorative end is a direct result of crowdsourcing.

2 ) Structured Feedback (Recommendations/Reviews) – Going beyond a Forum… Social Crowdsourcing is a structured feedback channel. You have the ability to quickly identify feedback that is relevant to your audience and also has a direct influence on your products and services. A good example is with Dell’s Idea Storm. Dell leverages Idea Storm for the purpose of collecting feedback as well as point #5 below which is support.

3 ) Ideation – The old adage 2 heads are better than 1 comes to mind on this point. How about 2,000 vs. 20. By leveraging the power of the social crowd you gain an economy of scale in terms of your brainstorming output. This is applicable in almost every business setting from an agency that is looking to find the best idea for a campaign pitch to a Fortune 500 company looking for new ideas to innovate and maintain relevance. Social Crowdsourcing solutions enable the collaboration to occur. An example is Best Buy’s IdeaX.

4 ) UGC (Content/Contests) – User Generated Contests have been a staple of social strategy. With Social Crowdsourcing solutions you have the ability to facilitate this type of interaction. If you select the right platform (Not all Social Crowdsourcing platforms are created equally. I will be following up with a post on criteria to consider when selecting a Social Crowdsourcing solution) you should select a platform that is flexible enough to support multiple types of initiatives and campaigns while providing centralized access to the data. Both Men’s Health with their Belly Off promotion and HGTV with Rate my Space leveraged Social Crowdsourcing solutions

5 ) Support – When it comes to support we outlined the Dell example above. Other points to consider are decreased e-mail & phone support costs, faster response rates and resolution of issues, decreased escalation, increased satisfaction and decreased customer complaints. This is where tangible value can be gained for an organization beyond simple engagement. In a similar manner to how call deflection is a goal to gain efficiency social crowdsourcing can enable a similar benefit.

6 ) Reducing Product Quality Defects – What company does not want to decrease quality defects. You can leverage social crowdsourcing solutions to quickly identify issues and have a direct channel to address product corrections.

7 ) Decreasing R&D Expense – Leverage the power of social production to decrease your own R&D expense. Again leverage the combined knowledge and loyalty of your customers to help shorten the product development lifecycle.

8 ) Decreasing Time to Market – You can decrease time to market by launching targeted social crowdsourcing campaigns that serve as focus groups and ultimately drive product improvement and expand your reach in terms of testers.

9 ) Customer Service – In a similar manner of leveraging Twitter for brand monitoring it is important to understand the potential of using the structure of social crowdsourcing to directly engage with end users to drive resolution of issues and ultimately increase customer satisfaction.

10 ) Social + CRM – With structured interaction comes the ability to align user interaction and product feedback to your CRM strategy. The ability to create social profiles, create campaigns specific to feedback or rounds of ideation and ultimately gauge social interaction with actual customers is critical to driving value back to the business. A great example comes to us via Microsoft & Neighborhood America. Microsoft Public Sector On Demand this implementation leverages the power of a robust Social Crowdsourcing platform while showcasing integration with Microsoft Dynamics.

In my next post we will discuss points to consider when selecting a Social Crowdsourcing Solution.

Social Commitment

In order to truly capitalize on B2C social strategy it is important to understand that social is a channel to facilitate collaboration and is a part of the overall organizational marketing strategy. However it is not the only element of your overall marketing strategy. But this channel probably moreso than any other marketing exercise requires a longer term investment to truly recognize the value of the approach.

Obviously social solutions can be leveraged for short term spikes, take-overs and quick blips on the brand awareness radar. But to truly maximize the value of social organizations need to advance on the social continuum towards cohesive social strategies and have a solid understanding of the goals associated with the interaction. Brand Awareness, monitoring, customer support, transactions, etc…

This sounds simple enough but there are many factors and behavioral elements that will need to be put to the test to properly execute. Depending on the level of social commitment from the organization a number of factors need to be considered and questions asked. What is the purpose of our usage of consumer networks (Twitter, Facebook). If you think about it for a moment is it to drive awareness? Drive some type of direct response? or some other objective. You should not have a Facebook fan page for the sake of having one. You need to be where your prospective targets are and I am a strong advocate of the usage of consumer networks but not as the primary hub of the strategy.

So you say not to make consumer networks your primary but “I have tried my own community but we did not get the traffic lift we thought we would get”. My first response to this is to review the marketing strategy tied to growing membership. A common mistake I see is the “If we build it they will come”. The expectation that members will magically appear and participate in your branded communities is reserved for a very small group of brands. For everyone else it takes a committed effort to drive fresh, relevant content, dedicated resources, reaching into existing target users and ultimately traditional marketing to drive interaction. You can have the best technology in the world but if you do not have a true plan for driving interaction the branded effort is destined to fail.

Once the plan has been defined, resources assigned and marketing underway it is important that the brand ultimately own some semblance of a branded experience. Be it a portal aggregating relevant content, community or crowdsourcing. The reason for this is that consumer networks rise and fall in popularity and there will always be the next big thing but your brand will remain.

A natural opposition to the longer term value is how marketing is portrayed and executed on a daily basis. When you think about the nature of traditional marketing it is very campaign based driving one buzz push to the next with constant reinvention along the way. With Social it is almost the opposite. The goal is to build momentum and attain critical mass to drive towards creating a sustainable interaction. This in turn enables a solid foundation of social data that maps back to organzational goals to drive the next steps of gaining value.

Regardless of how you leverage social it is important to fully recognize the importance of defining goals and creating a comprehensive strategy. As I stated in my last post the true value from social comes from the information that is created and how you are then able to capitalize on it. But in order to reach this point of organizational enlightenment you must have a commitment to social. It is not a campaign it is a long term channel of direct interaction.

How to Drive Brand Value from Social Media

One of the more common questions that I receive is how do I truly drive value from social interaction? While there is no “magic bullet” to drive hard ROI consistently across all organization types each organization can show solid social value and results if they consider the following when planning their B2C social GTM strategy.

1 ) Goals, Goals & Did I mention Goals – Before the first Twitter alias is created or Facebook fan page is posted the first step is to define the goals of the strategy and how it will be measured. But it does not stop here. Where I see gaps in strategy across the board is then taking the next step which is consolidating and truly integrating consumer network interaction with branded solutions. The reason is the data. With consumer networks they may come and go and the availability of data to analyze is hit & miss but with the right mix of branded solutions it is possible to capture social data that can then map back to organizational KPI’s.

2 ) Resources & Champions – One of the consistent issues I see is that there is an expectation that the technology will deliver results. Moreso in social than any other type of marketing initiative it takes dedicated resources to truly drive success. This can be for a period of time until the community can self manage itself but the key to interaction is not the technology but the content that is created. Either leveraging 3rd parties or internal resources to drive fresh and relevant “sticky” content is a key success factor in building the audience that will generate the data needed to map to your KPI’s.

3 ) Consumer Networks – What I consistently see and hear is that a number of organizations are leveraging popular consumer networks such as Twitter and Facebook. An organization can have multiple “campaigns” going at any given point in time. This is a natural response as this is where consumer activity is taking place. It is absolutely essential to position your brand where interaction is happening, but there has to be a plan around the purpose of the interaction. Is it tied to Brand Awareness? Leveraging Twitter to monitor your brand for a more personal customer service touch? Either way I view Consumer Networks as a starting point to branded social interaction as again the value is in the data.

4 ) OPEN Authentication – The key to bridging the gap between Consumer Network & Branded Solutions is to leverage a platform that enables OPEN Authentication. OPEN authentication allows for consumers to leverage existing credentials they may already have via Facebook, Windows LIVE, Google, etc… And as Jim Haughwout, CIO of Neighborhood America stated in a recent blog post “Don’t ask your members to join “Y-A-N” Yet another network“. This is critical for branded interaction as you want to eliminate the barriers of entry to your branded solutions.

5 ) Head in the Clouds – Another important factor to consider is the type of delivery method for your branded solutions that integrate with consumer networks. What I have found over the past few years is that the TCO associated with Software as a Service or (SaaS) solutions are ideal when it comes to provisioning multiple instances of social solutions for community, crowdsourcing and even mobile interaction. The speed to market, flexibility and scalability are all positives when selecting your social platform.

6 ) Branded Platform – I do reference platform vs. mashing up multiple instances of social, blogging here, wiki there. What I recommend to my clients is a consolidated approach to social so you have the ability to capitalize on the data across multiple sources as again the value in social resides in the data created by social production. When selecting a platform I look for the following criteria:

Flexibility, Scalability, API’s, Ability to integrate with legacy systems, All solutions and data can reside in a dimensional data warehouse so that I have the ability to create data marts with other 3rd party data sets. Also there are platforms that exist that can provide Community, Crowd Sourcing, Feedback & Mobile solutions in a single platform.

But if you are already down the path with your social strategy it is possible to enhance your social strategy and incrementally migrate elements to a platform approach.

7 ) Data is Everything – So the common message throughout thus far has been tied to the data. Why do I care about the data? Data created from social interaction is real and tangible when it comes to understanding consumer behavior and especially directly tying their thoughts or inputs directly back to your brand. The ability to create social profiles and then leverage that data for targeted marketing or to identify key influencers is critical to truly maximize your reach and marketing spend to drive through to results be it transactions or increased subscribers.

8 ) If Data is Everything what do I do with it? – The next step is to analyze data that is collected. I have talked in the past about social analytics and the benefits of understanding performance, health, member interaction, etc… This is where we map back to step one of defining the goals. The data that is collected can be sliced in many ways and the more data collected the more accurately you can drive to conclusion. My recommendation is to leverage a platform that ties all aspects of data into a single dimensional data warehouse. Why? with a dimensional data warehouse you can compare multiple campaign initiatives either testing performance of campaigns directly or by having the ability to conduct cohort analysis.

9 ) Don’t Guess – There is a lot of talk around sentiment tied to social analytics. Be wary of this approach as it is simply an inference based on an algorithm that may or may not account for certain factors. I prefer and recommend analytics packages that mirror the Rasmussen Report which is based on opinion analysis and actual user interaction vs. an inference.

10 ) Social + CRM really? – There has been a lot of buzz around Social CRM and how it can drive value for organizations. The key here is not to dump all social data into CRM. The key is to leverage a publish subscribe type of model to only create social profiles that map back to organizational goals. Leveraging a social front-end such as a crowdsourcing solution that ties directly into your existing CRM system is a key driver and the second pillar of how you can drive value out of social. The first being social analysis the second is identification down to the user level of how individuals interact with your campaign. This step is critical in ultimately forming the full picture and this combined with social analytics leads to driving value back to social.

11 ) Consolidation is King – The consistent theme throughout is consolidation. I recommend that you craft a comprehensive social GTM strategy that allows you to leverage the power of the consumer networks. Then leverage the flexibility of a SaaS platform to service multiple segments or campaign initiatives within an organization all while driving through to value via the data created. This is the framework that can lead brands with large brand inventories to truly maximize their social media strategy and drive real and immediate value.

12 ) Now What? –  If you are running multiple campaigns for an organization today then I recommend reviewing your current goals and strategy against the consolidated model and see where incremental improvements can be made. Question your vendors about data consolidation and ability to provide a central repository of all social data. Ensure that your consumer networks can interact with your branded solutions. Showing a feed is not true integration I recommend the ability to push and pull content from consumer networks so that you can leverage them as a platform.

Ultimately the goal is to drive value from social. Again the steps outlined above can create a model that will enable value definition for your clients or your key decision makers.

What’s Next for Social Computing & Business

The past month and a half has been a whirlwind of change and excitement. As most of you know by now I decided after 3 years it was time to explore options away from Telligent. I have nothing but respect for the remaining team and I truly wish them all well.

I was presented with an opportunity to join the Neighborhood America now INgage Networks team out of sunny Naples, Florida. Neighborhood America (INgage Networks) is a social media SaaS provider and I was very intrigued by their offerings. They address enterprise level challenges by offering SaaS based business services that are designed to meet needs across various scenarios B2B, B2C, B2E all while integrating and deploying off of a world-class SaaS architecture.  Just as social networking was compelling to me 3 years ago the move to the “cloud” was a natural progression.

Over the past decade I have been an active part of the Interactive space. I was a part of the bubble, the scramble to monetize online via advertising & e-commerce, the rise of the digital powers (eBay, Google, Amazon.com). Then on to portals then the SEO craze and now the rise of social computing. As technology comes and goes certain truths around business remain constant. Increasing efficiency, growing revenue, Managing assets, etc…. technology truly is an enabler to meet these needs hence the billions of dollars spent each year with more dollars than ever being allocated to Social Computing initiatives.

A number of traditional organizations have made investments in social media applications and platforms. Many decisions were made… behind the firewall vs. SaaS, build vs. buy. As the dollars begin to proliferate more “experts” also came to the fore-front with the latest strategy, Interactive agencies redefined methodologies and measures for success and an entire ecosystem was created. Throughout all of this the needs of business remained constant.  It is important to ensure that however a strategy is executed there are clearly defined business objectives that map back to success criteria that are ultimately measurable.

As the community toolkit market becomes commoditized over the coming year the ability to differentiate will go to those who embrace the following:  Lowering total cost of ownership (TCO) while showing business value (ROI) leveraging social analytics & comparative analysis based on true data warehousing for cohort comparison as well as embracing the evolution of Social CRM led by companies like Neighborhood America. These factors will determine the next round of market leaders in the social space.

I look forward to the coming evolution of the social market for business. You are seeing signs towards the shift already underway. Social CRM is real and those that understand how to leverage social data while not overloading CRM systems will be key for marketers and businesses alike. I am very happy to continue to ride the wave of innovation. I look forward to the next 10 years… It will be a fun ride!!!!

Blogging vs. Twitter

Over the past month I have found that my online behavior has shifted ever so slightly. Normally when I would review an article or something of interest I would think about it in terms of a blog post. Diving deeper into the issues and applying them towards some value proposition. Now I find myself thinking about condensing what I have to say into a 140 character nugget of information thanks to Twitter.

I have been a Twitter user since April 2007. Working for a social computing company it is par for the course. But I had not fully embraced Twitter as I have over the past few months. For Industry specific news I have found that it is a great source of on-demand information from a variety of sources that I may miss with my feed reader. With the Search Functionality I can follow different topics of discussion through the Twitterverse for real-time updates.

There seems to have been a tipping point recently where Twitter is now officially main stream. Twitter has grown to over 8 million U.S. Users in a fairly short amount of time. But it is the 33% growth over the past month that is the real key to Twitter adoption. Maybe it was the initial tweets of the US Airways crash into the Hudson or the mentions on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show, or the Twitter 101 piece on Nightline. Or maybe it is the fact that media organizations like Fox News and CNN added a tweet stream to their tickers and “Live” responses to a piece that just ran. Whatever the reason Twitter is now the “it” tool of the moment.

Now the mad scramble has begun. How do I monetize Twitter? What is the business value of Twitter for my brand? How do I leverage Twitter as a channel?

There are groups popping up on LinkedIn that discuss Twitter Innovation and a number of companies, led by Dell, that are leveraging Twitter to monitor their brands and focus on the discussions that may impact a transaction or turn a detractor into an influencer.

I actually experienced the power of social media & Twitter specifically first hand. A prospective partner of my company was having difficulty connecting with his rep. He tweeted about the lack of response time. Within minutes his comment came across one of the tags that I follow and I saw it and responded via Twitter DM (Direct Message), LinkedIn InMail and based on his Twitter profile I was able to get his name and company and called the Main Line to leave a VM. Within an hour he re-tweeted about his appreciation of my efforts and the power of social media.

However you leverage Twitter either as a way to pass the time or adding value to your business/campaign/Brand it has definitely changed the way that I approach sharing and consuming information. Mainly into 140 chunks of informational goodness.

Follow me for updates RE: Social Computing, Marketing, Gaming and other random updates throughout the day @BlackFin360

Tag Marketing

While recently attending the 2009 Microsoft High Tech Summit I was introduced to the Microsoft Tag system. It works very much like a barcode system with your mobile serving as the scanning mechanism.  The interesting play here is the interactivity and opportunity that it provides to extend a traditional campaign.

I am beginning to see the Microsoft tag showing up in more places. While waiting to take-off on a flight to Seattle I was catching up with the latest Official Xbox Magazine and on the first 2 pages was an ad for the upcoming Halo Wars title. I have a moderate interest in the upcoming title but I have seen the ad with a number of Spartans looking to blow things up before. I was about to turn the page when I noticed something interesting.

At the bottom right of the page was the Microsoft Tag with the ability to immediately view a trailer of the game and redirect me to the Halo Wars marketing site on Xbox.com via my iPhone. For the novelty of it and the fact that I can’t resist a good interactive campaign I pulled up the Microsoft Tag Reader app that I had recently installed on my iPhone and took a quick shot of the tag and I was off viewing a great cinematic trailer for the upcoming game and of course the marketing collateral tied to it. If I was on the fence for the title this form of immediate gratification may have pushed me over the edge to purchase.

Where this gets really interesting is the ability to extend print in a more direct manner. Traditional ads reference a URL that leads to a product page or micro-site that is dependent on a number of factors to be executed by the end-user. With the tag system I get the immediate satisfaction of accessing information of interest in real-time from my mobile which makes the likelihood of me taking action on the ad much more likely as the barrier of sitting down, trying to remember the URL, etc… is eliminated.

From an ROI perspective I assume that the tag tracking to the destination URL is easy to reconcile and the ability to show ROI based on the “Tag Through” (I think I just coined that) then on to potential transaction should be an easy model to follow.

From a social computing perspective the ability to quickly introduce an interested party to key influencers with minimal barriers is also a possibility. The user-flow could be scan the tag, 20 second trailer and direct the user to key Community Server blog, forum or wiki topics that enhance the core message and leads to validation by peers and additional WOM.

The Microsoft tag system may not become the standard…Although if I were Microsoft I would OEM this on net-new Windows phones and allow for recognition of a tag that automatically initiates the app… but I like the direction from a consumer marketing perspective. I am a firm believer in reducing barriers for end-users. Minimize the steps necesssary to the desired result and the likelihood of action significantly increases.

Sample Tag:

microsoft-tag-792594