Monthly Archives: October 2009

PR Week/MS&L releases social media survey results: Start strategizing!

So we know you’re good at uploading the latest pictures of your cat to Facebook, but what about doing something productive with your business?

The latest PRWeek/MS&L survey shows that 37% of respondents don’t use social media tools in their marketing efforts, 53% of those reporting that their biggest barrier to successfully incorporating social media is a lack of internal resources.

On top of that, 49% of the respondents that are using social media admitted that they don’t have a specific approach to using social tools (this is okay when you’re dealing with album #6 of Fluffy, not when it’s your corporate reputation at stake).

Now and especially in the years to come, social media will be an essential tool for branding, customer service, crisis control and sales. “Both business and communications are going through a revolution, if not a complete transformation,” says president of North America for MS&L Jim Tsokanos. “While it is more of a communications mind-grab today, in the future, social media will certainly be focused on business generation.”

The survey respondents said social media will have a greater impact on the following aspects over the next year or two:

Connection to customers (79%)
Building company or brand awareness (76%)
Generating sales and revenue (63%)
Increasing or maintaining market share (62%)
Managing corporate reputation (61%)
Managing stakeholder opinions of the company or its brands (48%)

If this is the future, I suggest we start strategizing.

Here are good resources for social media ROI and metrics and social media strategy.



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User-centered design with room for cream?

I don’t think a week passes that I don’t spend at least one night at my local Barnes and Noble. It’s something about the coffee aromas and mere presence of volumes and volumes of information at my fingertips. It’s the tangible hardcopy of my dear friend and confidant Google (even if it is a meager microcosm). I will always love the smell and feel of books. Always. (sorry, Google, I love you too).

As I sit here, perched once again with my beloved MacBook Pro and café Americano, I am surprised by just how many people frequent Barnes and Noble on a Friday night. It was sheer luck that I snatched the one and only remaining comfy chair in the entire building.

What is going on here? What makes people put on pants and find their cars keys and fight the traffic to sit Indian-style under the fluorescent lights of a mega bookstore? Is it something in the Starbucks? (I realize I just dropped a lot of brand names in succession but I promise I am not getting paid…you would believe me if you could see my car.)

I think the answers to these questions are important to the future of interactivity, marketing, the Internet – all of it.

People are attracted to bookstores like Barnes and Noble because that is where they find control, valuable information, community, and a rich user-centered experience.

No one monitors how long you’ve been reading a book before you pay for it. You can sit there all day long and read three books and leave without paying a dime—and many people do. No one makes you download the trial version of your manual or self-help book before you take if off the shelf. And certainly no one pops out of the bookcase with an annoying flashy advertisement.

This model works because it offers the consumer a user-centered experience, complete with tasty coffee, comfy chairs and most of the conveniences of home (minus the PJ’s). It offers a lot for a little in return. And it works because people really appreciate it.

So here’s my point. If you want to be effective in wooing consumers online, look and see what works in the “real world.” Your first goal should be to find what would satiate your consumer’s intrinsic need for things like control, personalization, convenience and community online. This goal has to trump your personal agenda to sell or market whatever your latest and brightest idea may be.

“If you build it, they will come,” is dead and gone.

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5 Must-Haves for Effective Web Site Design

There are a lot of principles that create good web design. Here I’ve highlighted what I think are the five most important tools to effective design.

1. White Space

This may seem contrary to the small voice inside you that cautions you from “wasting” space. But more important than your agenda is the user’s dread of cognitive overload. In other words, keep it classy. Leave some room to make your ideas stand out and allow your audience to process and breathe.

2. Consistency

To make your site user-friendly and professional as possible, make sure things like type, buttons, colors and navigation stay consistent. Global navigation should remain static to ensure usability.

3. Color

Contrast is key, but make sure it’s easy on the eyes. If you’re using type, it has to be legible (that means no lime green text with a black background). If you need help with your color palette, check out one of the sites below:

4. Balance (grid)

Whether you are striving for asymmetrical, symmetrical or discordant balance to your site, it needs an intentional structure to put the user at ease. If you’re familiar with photography’s rule of thirds, borrow that idea for your layout.  Both the rule of thirds and the golden ratio are concepts of balance that are based on a grid. Ideal placement is along the intersections of a superimposed grid that looks a lot like a tic-tac-toe board.

5. Typography

Remember that using and designing type is much different for web than for print. Here’s a good resource for typography.

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The future of media as told by Hulu CEO Jason Kilar

I had the opportunity to attend an interesting lecture last night by Jason Kilar, CEO of Hulu and fellow UNC j-school alum (go heels).

If you’re not familiar with it (and you should be), brings together video from more than 230 content partners, including FOX, NBC Universal, ABC and Comedy Central.hulu screenshot

This content is then made available at our every beck and call – for free. Since its inception in early 2007, Hulu has welcomed more than 38 million users and joined hands with 250 Fortune 500 advertisers. It is the second most popular video site on the Internet (behind YouTube, the mega-giant).

If you think that sounds like drastic growth, here’s the reality laid out by Kilar:

–       95% of all songs downloaded last year were not paid for

–       More video has been uploaded to YouTube in the last 2 months than if ABC, NBC, and CBS had been airing new content  24/7/365 since 1948 (when ABC began)

–       In 18 months, Hulu attracted more users (38 million to be exact) than the combined subscriber base of the nation’s two leading cable companies

The average person would point to the advent of the Internet for these surprising statistics. In Kilar’s words, “It’s not about the Internet. It’s about the customer. The Internet is just a means. It’s just a tool to deliver a much better customer experience.”

At the core, this is about convenience and user satisfaction. “In the end, customers are going to be served and be served very well,” Kilar said.

So what does that mean for the future of the media? Here’s what Kilar says we can look forward to:

–       Media will be what you want, when you want, how you want it

–       It will be in real-time (no more waiting for yesterday’s news)

–       It will be transparent and held accountable

–       It will give power and participation to the people (more interactivity!)

–       It will offer advertising that is actually relevant to its users and works well for marketers

It’s looking pretty good don’t you think?

Is there anything you would add to this list? Here’s a better question. How are we as communicators going to execute all of the above in conjunction with emerging technology?

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5 reasons videos go viral

Chances are you have passed along the link to your favorite YouTube video to at least one unsuspecting loved one or cubicle neighbor. But why? (Don’t think too hard. I’m going to tell you).

Top 5 reasons videos go viral

1. Relevance

A video generates vast appeal when it becomes culturally significant to its intended audience (or sometimes unintended audience). This is dependent on its meaning to particular demographics based on age, race, gender etc. Timeliness is also a key factor in relevance.

2. Emotional Response

The viewer must indentify with the video content in order to appreciate it. The video must have a human-interest appeal that allows audience members to personally connect with the subject matter. Emotional reactions can range from shock and awe to love and nostalgia—anything to get people talking.

3. Innovation

With today’s media noise, videos have to be unique and creative in order to be viral. Blaze a new trail or at least add a fresh perspective to something familiar.

4. Quality Presentation

Viral videos are short and high quality (lighting, camera steadiness, volume). The best content is genuine and oftentimes inspiring.

5. Multiplatform Accessibility and Malleability

In order for something to be spreadable, it must be easily accessed and shared. Videos have to adapt to fit TV, mobile phones, blogs and multiple social networks in addition to YouTube. Let go of control and allow viewers to manipulate your work in a way that best suits their changing needs.

What is your favorite viral video? Why?

View the latest viral video at Viral Video Chart.

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3 Ways to Increase Interactivity in TV and Film

Ok, coach potatoes – you can run but you can’t hide. TV and film are on the fast track to interactivity.

3 Ways to Increase Interactivity in TV/Film

  • Let life imitate art (or vice versa)
    • It’s important to stay grounded in current social and online media trends. Encourage viewers to become content producers in a way never before thought possible.
    • Example: For those of you who watched The Office wedding last night, you might have noticed the “You Tube” scene at the end of the show. The wedding party very closely imitates a popular wedding video where the attendants dance down the aisle. Michael Scott even goes so far as to say “Did you see this on You Tube?” (It has received more than 24 million hits already). Did I mention that you can watch the show for free on the NBC Web site?
  • Use mobile interactive TV services
    • Engage audiences with text voting and polling, live chats, quizzes, contests and games that involve viewers through mobile devices.
    • Example: NetInformer partnered with WB20 to launch a text message TV contest where viewers who watched King of the Hill were prompted to play an interactive quiz via text for a chance to win $50.000. Each participant also received a mobile coupon for a free candy bar, which 20% of participants chose to download. 43% of participants also opted-in for future WB20 offers.
  • Create online demand
    • By putting power in the hands of the audience, you are instantly making them feel more invested in the film (and therefore more likely to purchase tickets, DVDs, etc).
    • Example: It’s not my favorite film genre, but the latest low-budget independent film Paranormal Activity is using a very unique marketing campaign by encouraging people to go online to “demand” a nationwide release for the movie. Paramount has promised to release it if it receives one million demands, giving it the tagline “the first ever major film release decided by you.” Site visitors can retweet, share or link the information and even buy tickets in advance (it’s already a trending topic on Twitter).

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Watch mobile searches double in the U.S. before your very eyes

Since I wrote about data visualization tools earlier this week, it’s only right that I take a few minutes to show you just how easy this chart-making business can be.

I used Google Docs to throw together a quick chart illustrating mobile search usage – and it’s interactive – our favorite!

In recent research of interactive marketing, I have come across some interesting statistics regarding mobile Internet usage and what this could potentially mean to the online marketing world.

comScore M:Metrics reported last year that 20.8 million U.S. and 4.5 million European mobile subscribers accessed mobile searches during June. This figure was an increase of 68 and 38 percent compared to June 2007.

So, to illustrate this growth, I plopped the numbers of users into a Google spreadsheet, along with the year and country. Then I went to insert gadget and transformed the data into a motion chart.

Once it has been applied, the viewer can scroll through and view the trajectory of the mobile search use over time in every country included in the study.

Here’s a screen shot of the chart showing the 2007 data:

Picture 4

Once you scroll across the bottom, you are able to view the figure for 2008. Then the chart looks something like this:

Picture 3Here, the orange ball represents the tremendous growth of mobile search by subscribers in the U.S. Pretty impressive huh? That’s the point.

Pictures will forever be a more impressive way to tell a story, or in this case, share a fact. By creating an interactive data visualization, your audience is able to learn, understand and care more about what you have to say.

If you have a Google Docs account, you can view the spreadsheet I used to create the motion and test-drive the interactive features of the chart.

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