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Monthly Archives: August 2011

Facebook’s New Sharing Changes: What They Are, And Why They Are Awesome

Facebook has been going through a lot of changes recently because of the direct competition felt by Google+. We’ve entered a bidding war in which the prize is the social media crown. Google+ has flaws that will stunt its ability to grow, but some of the features have a lot of potential. Circles is one of those features. While primitive at the moment (you have to constantly update and maintain the circles manually, and drag and drop hundreds of people into the correct circles on your own), they give users the ability to share content to very specific groups of people. And this is where G+ really is attempting to one-up Facebook: sharing. Combining Circles with a real-time stream that is similar to Twitter, Google+ is attempting to make simple what Facebook could not. Until now.

Facebook has recently released their new sharing tools that allow users the sharing capabilities they have always wanted. Rather than explain it all to you, scroll down through the screenshots of the tutorial Facebook (very wisely) set up to explain the new changes:

1)

For the first time ever, Facebook prompts users about a change!

2)

You can now tag people you're with more easily.

3)

Tagging your location has never been easier, and you can even tag specific venues.

4)

Create groups and lists that make it easy to share with specific people.

 

The biggest change is #4, the inline audience selector, that allows you to choose who sees your post right from the status box. I see this as a direct response to Google+ Circles, albeit a less pleasing version (aesthetically speaking). However, the ability to create these lists that are so similar to circles has existed on Facebook for awhile, but hasn’t been visible. Facebook finally making this option easy to use, and find, is a huge step forward for the social network. This, along with a more streamlined, easier to use privacy page makes the privacy concerns of Facebook seem like a much smaller issue.

For more information on Facebook’s sharing changes feel free to click through here.

What do you think of Facebook’s changes? Are they trying to be too similar to Google+ or are they a step in the right direction?

An Experiment: Social Media Is All About Being Included

Earlier this week a devastating earthquake hit the East Coast. The damage was unimaginable for those who weren’t affected by the disaster. So, of course the first course of action for those who felt the quake was to get under their desks, in a doorway, or evacuate the building right? Wrong. The first thing people chose to do was update Twitter. And Facebook. In the modern day social media has become such an integral part of our lives we think first of notifying friends and family about what is going on in our lives. Which is great. But at the same time, it also seems to have affected our ‘flight or fight’ response. We’ve suddenly emerged in a world where a “wall” isn’t something that holds up the roof over your head, but rather a virtual way to represent ourselves. Most people get their news from a “news feed” rather than a newspaper. And a “friend” is now someone you barely remember meeting at that party but thought they were attractive.

And this brings me to my main point and observation: social media is not only about relationships and connections, but about feeling included. When an event like the East Coast earthquake occurs (yes, it was mild and almost hilariously so) people seem to think updating their social media profiles about being a part of the event, and checking in on Foursquare to the impromptu event, before doing anything else. It took Earthquakepocolypse just minutes to hit Epic Swarm on Foursquare. That’s 1,000 people checking in on a Foursquare event that didn’t even exist before the earthquake occurred in a matter of minutes. People feel the need to be included in an event, and to publish said inclusion to every channel possible to notify their friends and followers that they were, indeed, part of it.

…which led me to try an experiment. I noticed how quickly the ‘Earthquakepocolypse’ reached tens of thousands of check-ins and thought, “wow, people really want to be a part of something big. How can I take advantage of that when I’m in Atlanta, a city that wasn’t affected?” So I created the Foursquare venue “Missed Out On The Earthquake” and simply shared that I had checked in on it on Facebook and Twitter…once. The venue had no location tied to it, and had no description. A couple of my social media buddies checked in as well when they saw my tweet and I thought “hmm, that’s promising but still a small number.” I left it alone for awhile and within an hour or so the group had earned ‘Swarm’ status and reached triple-digit check-ins. The crazy thing to keep in mind is that this venue is about people who weren’t affected by the earthquake, and there was no advertising for it, and no reason for people to search for such a venue on Foursquare.

I was pleasantly surprised but certainly not shocked. My theory was being proven correct. A big event happens and people want to be in on what’s “in.” I was excited about the venue doing well, and was waiting to see how well it’d grow from there. After waiting another day the group has stalled at the final count of 268 total people checking in, with 277 check-ins total. That’s “Super Swarm” status on Foursquare for an event that was all about missing out on an event. I’m still not shocked, but it’s pretty crazy.

The ability to share content to such a degree, and so quickly, via social media has changed the way we think and act. It’s human nature to want to feel part of the group, but now we can fulfill that want with a few words and a click of a button. There is a dark side to social media that encourages elitism and exclusion, but it is not nearly as pronounced. Social media is changing the landscape of how people all over the world interact with each other, and THAT is something in which we should ALL be included.

The Real Impact Of Steve Jobs Stepping Down

Steve Jobs has successfully CEO’d the hell out of what is arguably the most remarkable company the world has seen over the course of the last three decades, let alone ever. I won’t spend the time going into everything Apple has accomplished in this millennium but I don’t think I need to. Ask ten people a question like “Name the first music player/tablet/phone that you can think of” and I would guess 8 times out of 10 those people will answer “ipod/ipad/iphone” almost immediately. In short, Apple’s market penetration and name recognition is off the charts and by far one of the hottest companies around right now.

With the news of Steve Jobs’ stepping down from the CEO position at Apple, people freaked out to say the least, and the East Coast earthquake became the second biggest thing this week that rocked the world (pun undeniably intended). Already there are countless reports on the magic of Steve Jobs and what his resignation means to Apple, as well as the tech industry. Will Apple change as a company? Will their incredible devices and innovation slow down or stop altogether? Should I update my iPod software now before the world ends?

People can, and will, worry about what will happen to an incredible company when the person who has always been the face of that company decides to step down as the leader. What people need to understand is that Steve Jobs is going nowhere. His title has changed from CEO to Chairman. If you believe he won’t make important decisions or provide input on what Apple does in the years ahead, well you’re kidding yourself.

I’m not worried at all about Apple. What I am intrigued by is what I believe to be the real impact of SJ’s resignation: the effect it has on competition and innovation. Steve Jobs is the man every entrepreneur wants to become: the man who co-founded and molded a juggernaut that became, briefly, the most valuable company on the planet. Steve Jobs is also the man who has caused a level of competition to emerge, in an already uber-competitive industry, that has resulted in some unbelievable innovations. Even with competitors releasing incredible products to compete with Apple, it’s still just barely a competition. The iPod has a virtual monopoly on the music player vertical, the iPad is the leader in the tablet market, and the iPhone is the hottest mobile device on the planet. When devices with incredible specs are released into the market the first question people ask themselves is “is this the iPod/iPhone/iPad killer?” And sometimes they don’t even have the guts to go that far, they simply say “this device can definitely compete with Apple’s device.” Thing is, the devices that may perform just as well as Apple’s version, and possible outperform it, don’t have Apple’s branding behind it. So they lose. And for the last decade or so, every single one has lost. Sure, the products still may sell well, but they don’t touch Apple.

As Steve Jobs removes himself from the driver’s seat of the Apple bandwagon, I can see the greatest impact being felt in the areas of innovation and competition. Steve Jobs has affected how we view our gadgets and gizmos whether we like it or not. I am sad to see him go.

East Coast Officials Implementing Drastic New Safety Procedures

As a result of today’s terrible quake on the East Coast, officials are becoming desperate and have implemented new safety procedures for individuals caught in a quake. Studies show that the new procedures are safer, and will result in fewer casualties and injuries during earthquakes registering up to 7.0 on the Richter Scale. A full explanation of the procedures can be found through the link below:

Visual Guide On What To Do In An Earthquake

You’ll Piss Everyone Off If You Try To Please Them All

Just a month ago a campaign was introduced for the California Milk Processor Board that focused on milk reducing out with the symptoms of PMS. Nothing wrong with that right? WRONG. In order to provide the necessary humor that’s needed (or at least helpful) in getting something to go viral, the agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners decided to make men the “target” of the campaign. One thing that I’ve learned in life is that you never, EVER joke about PMS and what causes it, etc….when there are women around. However, this campaign is funny. I find it a stretch in terms of how it will help boost milk sales since there is no man in the history of ever that would go to his wife, girlfriend, mistress, or friend-that-is-a-girl with a carton of milk saying “Hey babe, I know you’re PMS-ing so drink this…it will help you, and everyone around you, get through the next few days alive. Naturally, women flipped and the reaction was strong enough that the campaign had to be pulled.

While I understand the reasons for pulling the campaign, this blog post by my father illustrates a great point that got me thinking: “You have to be evocative to be viral.” This is true in many cases. But what it got me thinking about is that it is next to impossible to be evocative in today’s world without having to pull down whatever it is you’re being evocative with. And herein lies my biggest issue. Well, two biggest issues.

1) Social media is great for creating conversation, but is easily exploited by people wanting to make an issue bigger than it is. Case in point: Nivea recently was forced to pull their “Re-civilized” advertisement because people viewed them as racist and offensive. This became a big deal. I can obviously see where people might get offended by this advertisement, but only because it’s easy to know how those people think. They will see a black man, then the word ‘re-civilize’, and see the unshaven head with the afro and immediately start an uproar. What they have to understand is that when they are crying racism because it’s a black man (they wouldn’t have made a sound if the exact same ad feature a white man) they are the ones distinguishing race here and making it a racial situation. I will go out on a limb here and say that there are African Americans working at Nivea, and that, if they had a problem with this they would have mentioned something. These advertisements go through an approval process that is pretty intense and the legal issues are examined…racism is definitely considered. I try to understand people who think that it’s racist, but I personally don’t think it is at all. When I look at it I see a man throwing out the unclean version of himself and choosing to be well groomed. That may be offensive to the un-groomed types, but I don’t see this as a black man throwing that version of himself out. That is my opinion. I see no racial issues here until people bring them up themselves.

This shouldn’t be a big deal. Nivea responded very well to the issue and pulled the ad and placed a prompt response thanking their customers for being concerned and giving them feedback. Great move on their part. But it was a move they wouldn’t have to make if it wasn’t for people making a huge deal out of something that should never have been a big deal to begin with. Social media allows people who otherwise wouldn’t have a voice to voice their opinions, and it leads to a lot of wasted effort and extra money/time/stress that definitely isn’t needed.

2) If you try to make everyone happy, you will end up pissing them all off. There are too many beliefs, opinions, and idiots out there that it is impossible to make everyone happy at one time. The two campaigns I’ve described above are examples of things that may be slightly offensive to some, but won’t be for a lot of people. One great example of “trying to do too much” is Facebook in the early years (and some of the not-so-early years as well). Facebook tried their best to make all of their users happy, and still does, and how does that help them out? It doesn’t. They have a sub-70% user satisfaction rate…the lowest of all the social networks. They try to update too many features too quickly and it ends up making everyone mad because their are too many changes going on to keep track of. Google+ comes out with their group chat Hangouts and Facebook prematurely released their video chat feature and it’s relatively useless.

Google+ is in danger of hitting this point too. They release a super sexy social network after many failed attempts to join the social space, and they tried to make everyone happy. Grabbing aspects of Facebook (site design, news feed) and Twitter (great for real-time updates, lists (G+’s ‘circles)), Google released a social network that does everything, except entice users to use it. I’ve had issues with Google+’s ability to succeed since the beginning, and it looks like we’re out of the honeymoon phase and heading in that direction. Google needed to release something that made a difference in how people experienced social media, yet they released something that isn’t integrated into their other services (including search!), have actively told brands to not join yet, and have deleted accounts of users not using their real names/are underage (which blocks them from all other Google services as well, including Gmail for which you don’t need to specify age). They are making a mess of a situation in which they are trying to make everyone happy, and have only succeeded in making a majority of people either angry or indifferent.

One company that has done a great job of sticking to their guns? Apple. Apple consistently releases quality products to rave reviews, how do they do this? They start in a vertical, and perfect it. They started their success with iPods. For years they perfected the handheld mp3 player and that’s what they did. After owning that market, they brands slightly out by making a phone. It was one of their iPods with phone capabilities. After phones they’ve moved on to tablets. But what have they consistently done? They stick with one type of product and dedicate themselves to it and branch out once they have reached a high level of success. That’s a huge difference compared to other companies who try to do too much.

There will always be people unhappy with what happens, and there are people who are only happy when they can complain about being unhappy. If everyone in the country won the lottery today there would still be people complaining that they could have won MORE money if not everyone else had won, even though they are being given money for free. It is the nature of people to disagree, compete, debate, and argue. It is this that allows us to be creative and evolve and innovate. But along the way we have to understand that we can’t back out of what we do just to make people happy. Sometimes we have to take a risk and stick by it. Whether that’s altering an ad to make it less controversial rather than pulling it down, or simply defending your position, we have to grow. Otherwise, the ones holding us back will keep winning.

Heineken Makes Party Planning As Simple As Opening A Beer

As the result of a project from two awesome students at the Miami Ad School in Hamburg, Germany, Heineken has a potential product on their hand that would be the first of its kind, and is simply cool. As a Community Manager I’m inclined to think products with social integration are cool to begin with, but I think this will be “cool” even to those not in the same profession.

The Heineken social bottle opener works like this:

  • You pop open a bottle of beer (preferably Heineken in this case) with this new bottle opener.
  • The bottle opener is connected to Facebook through Bluetooth, via Facebook Connect it seems, and automatically creates a Facebook event at your location and invites all of your friends on Facebook located in your city.
  • Get as many friends as possible to RSVP and the person with the most people attending their party gets a free case of Heineken for the next weekend.
Simple, elegant, and uses social media to create a social experience that is offline. It’s social media doing what it is supposed to do, and doing it well will minimal effort. As a student project it obviously doesn’t have the details ironed out (what if you don’t WANT to throw a part but the bottle opener is the only one you have? Can you shut it off?), but it has so much potential it makes me wish Heineken will jump on board with this. Honestly, I would prefer a certain other beer if I’m throwing a big party (I’m still 23 folks, I’m choosing the cheap stuff), but maybe there can be multiple brands branding this bottle opener. I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

For a video version of everything I just said have a look below.

What Is The Future Of Marketing? We Are.

My boss, Jeff Hilimire, published a blog post about the future of advertising and marketing. I loved the post because it addresses something that is almost NEVER done, which is using PEOPLE as the sole marketers of a product. As Jeff says, “I personally think that in the future, WE will be the media.” And I think that we’re slowly reaching that point. All signs lead to it. What do I mean?

  • Brands are constantly talking about becoming “more human.” That is, on social networking sites brands are attempting to take on a more authentic brand voice, rather than sounding like a corporate billboard spitting out cliches and statistics about their company being superior.
  • Relationships in social media matter just as much, if not more than, anything else. Most brands using social media still don’t understand this. In order to succeed and increase trust and loyalty from your customers via your social channels, you must foster relationships down to the individual level.
  • Word of mouth marketing has never been easier to implement. The magic of social media is that it allows anyone and everyone to have their own voice. Sure, some are more visible or more influential than others, but everyone has a space to voice their thoughts and opinions. Word of mouth marketing is one of the most powerful forms of marketing, and the fact that everyone can have a public voice now makes using it all the easier.
  • Identifying influencers has never been easier. With services like Klout becoming more widely known, with constantly updated algorithms that are more accurate almost daily, identifying individuals who are influential both on a general level, and on a brand specific level, is an invaluable tool for brands to use. Allowing influencers of your product to use said product for free may be counter-intuitive but they attention they may bring to your brand is immeasurable.

One thing I have learned while working at Engauge as a Community Manager is that as a brand, you are the least credible person talking about your own brand. When posting content one has to keep in mind that engagement and loyalty are two of the top priorities in social media. Why is this? Because we want our fans and followers to go to their friends and talk about our brand. We can spend all of our time preaching about our own product but in the eyes of consumers, one friend telling them the same exact thing will influence them more. Much more. Brands are credible to a point. They will never enter the “circle of trust” that a friend or role model will already be a part of. Instead of trying to reach that level, brands must utilize the relationships that people already have with their friends, something brands are trying to recreate on their own. The relationships are already there, completely underutilized, and instead of focusing on them brands are trying to duplicate them in a way that can’t be done. You can’t invite brands to your birthday party. You can’t sit with them on the couch and watch NFL Sunday with them. Instead of paying millions of dollars for a week long television campaign, spend less money giving away your product to influencers throwing that birthday party, or throwing a bash for that rivalry game.

The evolution of Klout Perks has me excited because it’s one of the best ways companies are attempting to reach out to individuals who have influence. Sure, you may be giving away something for free but if a celebrity or very influential person starts raving about your product via Twitter, Facebook, their blog, etc. it gives you free advertising that you would have had to pay for otherwise.

There are downsides to this kind of marketing of course. And the tried and true methods of television and print campaigns have been proven time and time again. But for every memorable and successful campaign you can remember there are ten that you can’t. And those busts? Well that company just spent possibly millions of dollars that got them bad press or, even worse, ignored. The negatives for a major campaign like that are very serious. While the negatives of allowing influencers to market your product can be just as great as the positives, there are some difference. You are giving away free product, which is magical in today’s world. Free stuff means a better outlook on things…reviews won’t be as harsh since the person didn’t sacrifice anything for it. Also, giving away to specific people allows you to regulate how many people get the product, which also allows you to stop distributing it if it is bringing in bad buzz. There is more control on the company’s side, making it safer.

I really hope that this type of marketing is embraced in the future because it has such ridiculous potential. There’s a reason companies pay celebrities to endorse products: they hope that people want to be like those celebrities so they will buy those products to emulate them. The only problem is that these messages are commonly interpreted as “that celebrity is being paid to say this” and it loses credibility. With the friend-to-friend word of mouth marketing, that credibility is still intact.

What do you think, is this the future of marketing? I sure hope so.