The Power of Instagram for Brands

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8. NBC = 55,012 – See #4, #5 and #7

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

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

Other brands of Note include:

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

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

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

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

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SnapTags vs. QR Codes Round 2

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

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

Snaptags vs. QR Codes per Spyderlynk

Let the commenting begin!!!

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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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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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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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SnapTags vs. QR Codes the ideal 2D Experience

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

qr_tattoo

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

Red Urban QR Code

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

QRCodePolo

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

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

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

inception

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

inception-snaptag-640

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

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

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

branded-snaptags

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

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

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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.
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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.

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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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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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