Category Archives: Food For Thought

Food For Thought

Amazon Launches ‘Home Services’ To Take the Guesswork Out of Booking Goat Grazing Services

Written by: Rita Mogilanski
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Amazon recently launched Home Services, a portal that allows users to find, schedule, and purchase professional services through Amazon. The services that are currently provided include appliance repair and installation, home cleaning, music lessons, iPhone repair, and so much more (including Goat Grazing).

Why Use Amazon?

Amazon handpicks the service providers to assure quality by performing background checks and verifying insurance and licenses. They remove most of the risk associated with choosing domestic help by suggesting only verified vendors and giving customers standardized, prepackaged prices. Amazon will match prices if customers find a lower price for the service provider elsewhere, and you are only charged after the service is completed.

4.1-1This service will prove helpful for users making purchases that need installation. When shopping for an air conditioner, I was served a link to book a professional to install the appliance. This seamless integration relieves much of the stress around installing major appliances. Consumers already trust Amazon and will be willing to go with the professional services the platform recommends to expedite the process.

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How is it Changing the Industry?

Other similar platforms like Angie’s List and Yelp provide users with trustworthy reviews. Unlike Angie’s List, there is no membership fee for Amazon, and unlike Yelp, you can book directly through the site. Competing platforms may choose to increase the services they provide to be more robust in order to compete with Amazon’s one-stop shop experience.

TaskRabbit, which is a platform that provides services very similar to Amazon Home Services, has partnered with Amazon in such a way that allows Amazon users to hire fully-vetted “Taskers,” or TaskRabbit’s service providers, through Amazon.

Small businesses that rely on the local community may feel the pressure of competition from businesses listed on Amazon. For professional services looking to get their business on the website, they can apply here. Businesses pay Amazon a portion of the profits, and Amazon handles payments and customer complaints and issues, taking some of the stress off the professionals as well as the customers.

If you’re looking to take the risk and guesswork out of booking professional help, Amazon Home Services is a great tool. They are currently making life easier for customers and small business owners in most major US cities. For similar platforms, however, the competition just got real.

Image: Amazon.com

Image: Amazon.com

 

TechnologyAdvice Expert Interview Series, feat. Tom Edwards

Written by: Digitally Approved
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Tom Edwards, the executive vice president of Strategy and Innovation here at The Marketing Arm, was recently invited to be a guest on the TechnologyAdvice Expert Interview Series to share his insight on the digital marketing landscape. The series, which is hosted by TechnologyAdvice’s Clark Buckner, explores a variety of business and technology verticals through conversations with industry leaders.

Edwards joined Buckner to discuss modern day digital, social, and mobile innovations, the importance of bridging technology and marketing, and the four core elements that bring a campaign to life.

Below are a few of the highlights from the conversation:

TA: Tell us about what life is like at TMA and some of the projects you work on every day.

Tom: At The Marketing Arm, we’re really a consumer engagement agency, so that touches a wide range of project types – everything from digital to promotional to talent to production. A number of different types of projects come across my desk on any given day.

I’m a part of the digital engagement division and we service about 16 core clients, everything from ExxonMobil, to GameStop, to name just a few organizations. So over the last 15 years, my role within the industry has really shifted from starting more on the technology side, and really kind of incorporated being that bridge between technology and marketing.

As digital continues to progress, we’ve seen it all: the end of the dotcom boom, massive portals, the rise of consumer social. All of these different types of trends we’ve seen definitely had a hand in touching and guiding different project types across multiple platforms and different routes of sale. It’s been a fun, interesting ride and it continues to get better. 

TA:  What suggestions do you have for a team trying to compare and find the right marketing automation vendors? What should they be looking for? 

Tom: Portability. If I’m able to either leverage a tool that can aggregate content, redistribute, visualize – things where there is a seamless flow, whether that’s through an API or through an SDK or whatever it may be, that’s what I’m ultimately looking for now.

I’m looking for, “How can this one piece fit into the larger strategy that I’m trying to deploy and continue to add value without adding additional barriers or additional layers?” That’s really the key piece for us as we’re moving forward, because we’re touching so many different channels, everything from top line awareness via digital all the way down to shopper and point of sale. 

So, making sure that we can have programs that can work in scale. Scale is another key piece for us, too, and the data considerations depending upon local versus global, so there are a lot of different pieces that we look at when we’re evaluating. But for me, it’s how can whatever tool that you’re leveraging best provide value for everything as a whole, versus just one specific piece or one specific function.

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Connect with Tom on Twitter @BlackFin360 and follow his blog at BlackFin360.com/blog. Be sure to also follow @TheMarketingArm.

Listen to the entire show above in order to hear the full conversation, or download the show to listen later. You can subscribe to the TA Expert Interview Series via Soundcloud, in order to get alerts about new episodes.

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This podcast was created and published by TechnologyAdvice. Interview conducted by Clark Buckner.

The More You Know: Cyber Dust

Written by: Sarah Shapleigh
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Cyber Dust

The world of social media is a constant cycle – as soon as people get comfortable and used to the way things are, a new movement begins. Prior to the launch of Facebook, people would communicate online via email or instant messaging, with ambiguous usernames like GreenBayFan56 or CutieKate16. Then, with Facebook, people were no longer anonymous and hidden behind these online identities. They used their real names and provided specific details about their lives online.

Now as we move into 2015, a new movement is taking shape. As people share more and more personal information online, there is a growing level of skepticism about the security of that information. People are starting to shift back to the anonymous days of the pre-Facebook era. This is evident in the growing popularity of networks like Snapchat, Whisper, Secret, and more.

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There are many companies trying to emulate the success of Snapchat and Secret. One of the latest ventures comes from entrepreneur Mark Cuban with his app, Cyber Dust. Cyber Dust is a cross between WhatsApp and Snapchat, with privacy and security being the main priorities. Similar to WhatsApp and Snapchat, it allows users to communicate directly with friends using disappearing text, photos, or emoticons.

Upon opening the app for the first time, users are greeted with a welcome screen emphasizing the simplicity and security of Cyber Dust. As creator Mark Cuban explains, “I wanted to have a means of communication that is analogous to face-to-face – where you can speak openly and honestly. That is why we created Cyber Dust.” The main screen echoes this sentiment stating, “Every spoken word isn’t recorded, why should your texts be?” In Cyber Dust, messages delete based on their length, and last from 20 to 100 seconds.

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Cyber Dust also shares their data policy with app users, which reemphasizes the data privacy issue.

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Once you have created an account, the app lets you connect to social networks or scan your contacts to find other people who use the application. Once you have added some friends, you are able to start sending messages.

There are three different types of messages you can send: dusts, group dusts, and blasts. Dusts are messages between you and one friend. Group dusts let you message with a group of up to 12 people. The group dust is a new phenomenon because it not only lets you send a message to a select group, but also allows everyone in the group to see each person’s response. Blasts let you send messages to all the people you select. Blasts also let you add a location by choosing your current location or a nearby place. If a user taps the location, they will be taken to a map view and can also be directed outside of the app.

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The overall functionality of the app is very similar to Snapchat, where you have a list of friends you can send “snaps” to or you can share your snap story with your full list of friends. Users also have the option to “pin” their own sent messages in order to remember the conversation. If you pin a sent message, it will remain at the top of the chat room until you leave.

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Cyber Dust gives you the option to follow celebrities including founder Mark Cuban (blogmaverick.com). Cyber Dust users that are on iOS devices also have the ability to take screenshots since it is a key function of the device; however, the app will send a notification to the other user (as seen below). 

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Overall, Cyber Dust is very similar to Snapchat but one of the main advantages is that you are able to share pictures from your photo library, whereas on Snapchat you need to take pictures within the app itself. Instagram launched its video capabilities with these limitations; however, a little over a month later, they announced that you could upload videos from your phone’s media library and share to Instagram regardless of when they were captured.

Cyber Dust taps into the anonymous messaging trend and brings a few competitive advantages to the table, including the group dust feature and the ability to use photos from your phone’s photo library. However, the social app landscape is constantly changing. With the Snapchat hack last October, Whisper being attacked for tracking personal data, and even the Sony email hack, people are starting to get nervous. Time will tell whether some of these security/privacy breaches are enough to drive people away from these messaging apps for good.

Extending Virtual Reality at SXSW 2015

Written by: Tom Edwards
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Another year, another SXSW Interactive is in the books. Each year I look to get inspired, reconnect with publishers and 3rd party partners and look for new or incremental innovation that can add value for my clients. This year, one of the areas that caught my attention was the advancement of 3rd party integration and applications tied to virtual reality experiences.

In 2014, one SXSW exhibit in particular received a lot of attention for creating an immersive Virtual Reality Game of Thrones experience courtesy of Oculus Rift. 2015 did have its share of branded experiences tied to Oculus, see Samsung below, but a majority of 3rd parties were focused on showcasing how they create value through integrating VR and mobile devices as they prepare to go to market.

game-of-thrones-exhibit-oculus-rift-sxsw

Samsung – I had the opportunity to experience the Samsung Gear VR headset while at SXSW. The Samsung Gear VR is powered by an Oculus Rift headset that integrates with the Galaxy Note 4. The approach of serving as an extension of an existing device that can scale through various media and applications is the right approach to allow optimal personalization of experiences through devices and media entities that consumers already consume.

The #GalaxyLife VR exhibit was a rich experience that I definitely enjoyed. My tour featured a Mountain Dew branded snowboarding adventure. There are pros and cons to the experience as it was immersive, although the audio was a bit lacking. If you have not tried the core Oculus Rift experience and this was your first foray into VR it is an impressive experience. For the average consumer, consuming media, be it VR cinema, gaming or 360-degree experiences can all be achieved through the Samsung Gear headset.

This type of VR experience is ideal for branded integrations as the experiences are tied to the mobile device and with the right SDK, it is possible to extend immersive content experiences through the Samsung Gear VR.

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Google – One of the more unique takes on a similar premise to the Samsung Gear VR came from Google. Google Cardboard is a simple, inexpensive way to enjoy VR-based experiences through either Android or iPhone devices. When the Google team handed me the device, it was about the size of an iPad Mini. After a few minutes of folding I had an instant VR viewer that I could view media from VRSE or other Google Cardboard supported applications.

As with most things Google, there are Android and Unity SDK’s available to easily integrate Cardboard into existing VR applications to ensure that it is supported. The experience is surprisingly rich and the fact that it is inexpensive and also supports iPhone VR applications is a plus. Google Cardboard is a great tool to introduce younger audiences to enhanced VR experiences. It definitely passed the test with my crew of 12, 10 and 7 years of age. And with the simple design, I am not concerned about how they would handle the device.

Photo Mar 17, 9 51 05 AM

Intel and 3rd Parties – The SXSW Gaming Pavilion featured multiple extensions of the Oculus hardware with various groups working to create new integrations that could bridge the gap between traditional gaming and VR. Intel and CybertronPC showcased one of CybertronPC’s gaming rigs that supported an Oculus experience. This experience drew quite a crowd as onlookers wanted to catch a glimpse of PC gaming + Oculus.

Photo Mar 15, 4 15 35 PM

Another 3rd party that caught my attention was Sixense’s STEM System. This was a Full-Body Presence VR system vs. just an Oculus Visual experience. The system provides motion controls, haptic feedback and additional spatial awareness in the VR experience to create a full-body controlled experience in game. The demo featured a lightsaber duel, think Microsoft Kinect in terms of open-space, body-controlled motion but with a fully immersive Oculus Rift visual experience.

Photo Mar 15, 4 20 07 PM

We are inching closer to mass consumer availability and I have been impressed how much has been developed within a single year. I still have my doubts as to whether or not Facebook’s Oculus Rift based experiences as they exist today will appeal to the mainstream consumer. We are still at the nascent stage of the technology and I do believe that augmented, virtual reality and digital overlays will become a part of our lives as some point in the next 10 years – it just may not be a bulky headset, it may be something as simple as a bionic contact lens.

Bionic-Contact-Lenses-3

I definitely enjoyed playing with the new hardware and look forward to what the future may bring at SXSW 2016.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

SMWNYC: Day 2 Recap

Written by: Sarah Shapleigh
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“The New Millennial Model for Business: Under-30 Leaders Sound Off on This Generations Impact”

This session featured a panel of millennials from the Forbes 30 Under 30 list and was moderated by Randall Lane, the editor of Forbes Magazine. The panelists were Elise Andrew, the creator and editor of I Fucking Love Science, Jeremy Cabalona, a community manager at Vine, and Rachel Gogel, a Creative Director at The New York Times. Each of the panelists brought a different perspective because they each had a different path to lead them to the position they have today.

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It is predicted that by 2025, 75 percent of the global workforce will be comprised of millennials. As more and more millennials are becoming leaders, they are bringing tech-savvy ideas and changing the way business is done. Each panelist stressed the importance of technology in their personal and professional lives. Elise Andrew talked about how she created a Facebook Page so she could share articles and funny things she found on the Internet without clogging up her friends’ News Feed with science posts. Similarly, Rachel Gogel discussed how technology and social media are transforming businesses from fashion to publishing. Gogel has worked at companies such as Diane Von Furstenberg, Travel and Leisure, and GQ, and she now works at The New York Times. Her experience spans many industries but digital played a large role in each.

A common question in recent years has been “How do we manage millennials in the workplace?” With millennials making up such a large portion of the global workforce, people are now beginning to wonder about Gen X. Jeremy Cabalona stressed the importance of treating them like a peer because there is so much you can learn from them. He even said he has recommended hiring a 15-year-old consultant for Vine because they really have become the experts on that platform.

One of the most interesting responses from the panel came as a question from the audience. An attendee asked a classic interview question: “What is your five-year plan?” All three of the panelists had the same basic answer: A five-year plan doesn’t work anymore because the landscape is constantly changing. With the rise of social media and advances in technology there will be jobs in five years that don’t even exist today, so it is impossible to plan that far ahead in today’s world.

“Is Social Media Just Media? The Future of Paid, Earned and Content”

The second session I attended was with Matt Britton and Lisa Weinstein, and moderated by Mike Shields, senior editor of The Wall Street Journal. Matt Britton is the CEO and Founder of MRY, the creative agency that was one of the first social media marketing stewards. Lisa Weinstein is the President of Global Digital, Data, and Analytics at Starcom MediaVest Group, the largest media shop in the world.

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Weinstein and Britton discussed how social media marketing is currently at a crossroads because Facebook has stressed that brands will have to pay to get visibility for any of their posts, and most social platforms have rolled out “promoted post” ad models. This shift causes brands to have to pay to play in social. In addition, both Weinstein and Britton agreed that there really isn’t such thing as a USP anymore. All brands claim their product works and is the best – so nothing is unique. This is where content comes in. Creative briefs need to shift from focusing on a USP to focusing on content and the unmet needs of the consumer. Brands will have to be more selective in the content they produce – as Britton said, “The days of ‘Like this if you like Wednesdays!’ are gone.” If a brand can deliver on that unmet need and provide compelling content, then they will be successful.

Matt Britton brought up dark social and his views on whether social networks such as Whisper, Snapchat, and Yik Yak were a good solution for combatting the zero organic reach on Facebook. He argued that brands don’t really have a role on these platforms and that consumers don’t want brands to be there. On Snapchat for example, brands think they have a role in branded stories and events, but consumers may not. Similarly, Discover on Snapchat is not set up for success. Facebook and Twitter naturally integrate sponsored content into the overall user experience, but for Snapchat it is on a completely separate page. Many teens and other users are using the app daily but not even going to the Discover page because it is not an integral part of the user experience for the platform. Weinstein added that from an ad model perspective she loved it, but from a consumer perspective Snapchat hasn’t fully figured it out yet.

Britton and Weinstein also brought up an interesting point – “brands are people, people are brands” and that most times brands don’t influence audiences, people do. This is evident in Marc Cuban having more followers than the Dallas Mavericks or Bill Gates having more followers than Microsoft.

Overall, it was a very interesting discussion about the challenges that marketers face in getting their message across to consumers. In an increasingly crowded space, brands need to act as publishers and develop focused content that meets the unmet needs of their consumers, with an emphasis on quality content over quantity.

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“Networks of Influence: Hosted by Translation, Elite Daily, and Crimson Hexagon.”

My final session of the day was my favorite session of the week. It included a presentation by Marcus Collins, Head of Social Engagement at Translation, with an overview of a social analytics tool by Mitch Brooks, a Senior Research Strategist at Crimson Hexagon. The session ended with a Q&A with David Arabov, Co-founder and CEO of Elite Daily.

First, Collins shared a presentation on networks of influence and how important they are for marketers today. He defined networks as groups of people that exchange information, experiences, data, and knowledge. Networks have shared beliefs, unwritten rules, rituals, and social rules. Essentially, our networks significantly impact our behavior. Collins explained that our brains are wired to imitate people and we are most likely to imitate people that are like us.

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The rise of the connected class and the social web have made it theoretically easier to reach target audiences but more difficult to forge authentic connections with consumers. Traditional methods of demographic-segmentation will no longer work, because demographics fail to fully describe people. For example, a person who lives in a certain area or falls into a particular age range does not tell you much about their interests or behaviors. Marketing to the connected class will require a deeper understanding of human behavior and to see consumers as complete human beings. This can be done through leveraging networks of influence.

As marketers, we need to understand that we are in the business of behavior adoption. Broad demographic information does not help us anymore, so “target audiences” are useless. Instead, we need to be focusing on target networks, which have social norms and can influence the rest of the people within that network. This will completely change the dynamic of how we target consumers, and if done correctly can help us reach consumers more effectively in order to impact their behavior.

SMWNYC: Day 1 Recap

Written by: Sarah Shapleigh
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Last week I had the privilege of attending the Social Media Week conference in New York City. It was overwhelming and enlightening at the same time, and I walked away so energized and excited about the career path that I have chosen.

“Measuring Attention and Intention, with The New York Times.”

In my first session, Michael Zimbalist, SVP Ad Products and R&D at The New York Times, discussed the evolution of digital advertising. Previously, advertising promised intention – a user action (usually a click) is a proxy for intent to purchase. Google developed AdWords, which allows you to target users based on their intentions.

Now, with the rise of video advertising and social media, digital advertising has shifted. Essentially, it has become a method to capture people’s attention. This migration from the bottom of the purchase funnel to the top has completely changed the game for digital advertising. Marketers now need to shift their focus to storytelling, leverage social marketing, and use different measures of success. Overall, Zimbalist argued that attention is a deliverable in its own right and that marketers who use content to win consumer’s attention will have a distinct advantage when the time comes for those consumers to take action.

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“From Fans to Advocates: How to Build Community and Grow #BrandLove”

The second session I attended was presented by HootSuite. HootSuite’s Jeanette Gibson, VP Community & Customer Experience, and Dr. William Ward, Director of Education Strategy, shared best practices and real-world examples of how a strong community of fans and followers can be a powerful tool in activating others to get involved and fall in love with your brand.

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Gibson started her presentation by sharing some statistics, including:

  • It costs 80% less to retain a customer than to acquire a new one
  • 25% increased engagement on community sites can result in 25% increase in revenue
  • 92% of companies view customer service as one of their top priorities
  • 60% use customer service as a competitive differentiator
  • Yet, few companies deliver an outstanding experience

In order to grow brand love, brands must leverage stories, experiences, and momentum in order to inspire fans by curating experiences and stories that surprise and delight.

Gibson then went on to break down the steps necessary to seed brand love: Relationships, Add Value, Engage Employees, Advocacy, and Insights.

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Gibson and her colleague, Dr. Ward, discussed the HootSuite Ambassador Program and how it has been helping drive their business. The HootSuite Ambassadors have the opportunity to connect with other likeminded industry leaders as well as advocate HootSuite’s products/services, share HootSuite content to their networks, provide regional insight and feedback, and create a stronger regional presence for HootSuite both online and offline. Ambassadors also strengthen the support community by providing 1:1 support in online forums and chats.

HootSuite often gamifies the experience for their ambassadors. One way they did this was by initiating a 60-day race to see which ambassador could answer the most support questions in exchange for an incentive (the most requested was a LinkedIn recommendation).

The HootSuite ambassador program is one way that HootSuite is using their existing community to spread the word and grow brand love.

“The New DIY – Drones, Makers, and Bots: A Fireside Chat with Martha Stewart and CEO of The Barbarian Group, Sophie Kelly.”

I was extremely excited to attend my last session of Day 1 – and see Martha Stewart in person. I was also interested in learning about the evolution of the DIY industry. Pinterest and Etsy have made incredible technological advances that have impacted DIY and spurred what has become known as the Maker Movement. Referred to by Fast Company as “one of the most disruptive new trends in the entire economy,” the Maker Movement has created a collaborative world where makers can access technologies to prototype, create, and iterate faster than ever before.

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Martha Stewart talked about her love of technology and how it has impacted both herself personally and her business. She emphasized, “we have to evolve as quickly as technology is evolving around us.” Her passion for technology has never wavered, from buying her first IBM computer in 1982 (with a table attached to it) to playing with her personal drone collection on her farm with her grandchildren.

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Stewart shows image of her farm taken by one of her drones

Stewart talked passionately about her American Made initiative, which spotlights the next generation of great American makers, including entrepreneurs, artisans, and small business owners. As part of the American Made initiative, there is an annual contest that invites makers from around the country to submit a homemade item that falls into one of four categories: crafts, design, food, and style. The executive editorial team at Martha Stewart Living magazine serves as category judges and Martha Stewart serves as the head judge with final say. Stewart’s American Made program drives home her view that DIY can be a painter with a paintbrush or someone with metal in their garage or a photographer with their iPhone. Stewart was clearly passionate about this program and the community of makers around the country.

When asked one thing that people don’t know about her, Stewart replied that she was one of the first investors in Google. She also invested in a home grocer company that she described as a “total flop.” However, it looks like Martha Stewart ended up just fine.

Stewart looks forward to what’s next for the Maker Movement for her brand. Her immediate plans revolve around international expansion of the Martha Stewart brand. She recently visited China, because the middle class is “100 million and growing and they need stuff, and to be able to afford it.” Providing quality products at a price they can afford will take the Martha Stewart brand to the next level.

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MakerBot 3D printer and Martha Stewart products on display

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Martha Stewart products on display

The session ended with a drone jousting tournament between Stewart and Sophie Kelly, CEO of the Barbarian Group and moderator of the session. After a valiant effort by Kelly, Stewart came out on top. As Kelly put it, “Of course you won, you’re Martha Stewart!”

See video below:

 

 

SMWNYC 2015: “The Future of Social Data”

Written by: Hannah Redmond
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One of my favorite parts of working in social media is identifying insights via social listening data to help our clients drive real business decisions that will help propel their brands toward their goals.

Last week, I attended a session called “Using Social Listening in Business” at Social Media Week NYC, hosted by the CMO of Brandwatch, Will McInnes. He made some solid predictions as he discussed the future of social data, which I found to be both very interesting and also parallel to the way we’re thinking about data within our agency. It was a great session to sit in as we’re constantly looking for ways to optimize our social listening strategies and tactics for our clients.

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McInnes summed up the future of social data into four categories:

  • Predictive: We are getting closer to predicting what will happen to consumer behavior, business, or to content based on the data from the past. How will we get even better at it?
  • Blended: How can we better blend multiple sources of data and research from a business and various sources to help get us closer to real predictions and successes?
  • Physical: How do we get all of the amazing data we’re finding in the social space to the front lines of a business?
  • Visual: How can we better and more accurately measure visual user content that may not have keyword branding and is harder to track?

The two ideas I found the most interesting were “Blended” and “Physical.”

The “Blended “ idea makes a lot of sense. As social media becomes more understood in organizations, it becomes an integral part in key brand activations and campaigns. This is resulting in a spike in curiosity about measurement within these organizations, whose marketers are now asking questions about the data and how we can use it more than ever before. The social listening and measurement tools we now have access to provide us with amazing data that can help guide business decisions on their own – but layer that onto sales data, CRM systems, web site and behavioral analytics, search trends, seasonality, and you have a much better picture of the insights. The reality is, this type of collaboration will take buy-in from a variety of stakeholders in an organization, but the ones who do it first will have an edge on the rest.

The “Physical” point also really struck me. As social media strategists, we often are not in the picture when insights found in social data are filtered back out to the physical space (if they are at all). We may help shape recommendations and decks – but they usually are specific to content. McInnes makes the point that the future of social data will include much more than strategic content marketing recommendations based on social, which can create changes in the physical way a business is run, by effecting change in-store, on packaging, in sales messaging, and more.

Overall, a key thing to think about here is expanding social insights and learnings beyond just the digital space.

Why Your Brand Will Love Snapchat in 2015

Written by: Tom Edwards
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Each year I like to dive into a specific platform that can make an impact for brands in the coming year. In February of 2014, I published “2014: The Year of Tumblr.” This prediction was recently validated, as TechCrunch released data showing that Tumblr just overtook Instagram as the fastest-growing social platform.

In 2015, Snapchat is the fastest growing social app. I have received numerous client requests for POVs on the platform, and I was recently briefed by the Snapchat team. What the team unveiled takes the platform to the next level for brands interested in reaching the 14-to-28-year-old demo in 2015.

Snapchat is already the fastest growing social app heading into 2015.

Here are the five reasons to consider Snapchat in 2015:

1. Heavy usage by younger audiences

According to Business Insider, nearly half of Americans aged 12 to 24 have used Snapchat.

A majority of campaign briefs called out some form of Millennial as the target, and Generation Z began to regularly appear toward the end of the year as well. Combine the penetration and rate of growth with new offerings that are designed to further enable brands on the platform, and Snapchat is important to consider for the right brand.

Snapchat launched in 2011 with a heavy emphasis on teen and 20-something users, and it has quickly gained traction over the past few years. Snapchat’s sweet spot is between 14 and 28, with a slight female lean. The numbers are impressive, including the fact that almost 50 percent of U.S. users aged 12 to 24 have tried Snapchat. The company now sits at 100 million active users with 50 million users in the U.S.

When it comes to frequency of use, the platform is even more impressive, as 60 percent of the active users are on the app daily, with frequency numbers as high as 22 times per day.

For those not familiar with Snapchat, one of the unique elements of the platform is that content “disappears” after a short period of time that is set by the content creator.

Users also have the ability to “doodle” directly on the content to quickly personalize it, as well as add filters and comment on top of content.

To give you further perspective, check out this Snapchat infographic that our team developed in 2013. You can see the explosive growth since then.

If that’s not enough, there are more than 700 million snaps sent everyday. One of the key behavioral factors is tied to the fact that there is a sense of urgency with the content, as it will eventually disappear.

2. Brands are active on Snapchat?

When it comes to the various use cases of Snapchat, users can chat with one-to-one messaging and live video chat, they can consume a feed of directly sent snaps and messages from friends, capture photo and video (filter, doodle, caption), and interact with the story feed.

While some brands go the route of directly sending and feeding snaps and messages, one of the key areas of focus recently has been tied to the “story” feed.

Here is an example from Taco Bell showcasing new products directly to its followers:

The “My Stories” feature was introduced in 2013 and has become one of the most popular features within the app. “My Stories” allows users to link multiple snaps together over a 24-hour period. This feature alone is driving more than 1 billion views a day and has become the “go-to” for brands emphasizing a one-to-many strategy on the platform, versus one-to-one messaging.

Here is an example of McDonald’s using multiple snaps to reveal a new product:

3. Snapchat and advertising

When it comes to an approach to advertising, Snapchat is more like BuzzFeed than Facebook. It focuses on contextual relevance of the content to drive impressions versus a highly-targeted approach. Both have their pros and cons, but Snapchat recommends that relevance and authenticity are the keys to success when it comes to advertising within its platform. Furthermore, it has recently introduced the ability to position sponsored content in the friend feed.

A sponsored post is for a period of 24 hours and can be up to 20 seconds of premium content. From a viewability standpoint, Snapchat counts a view as two seconds of consumption, and it states that the biggest difference is its model is built around the idea of connected engagement versus reach and frequency.

Here is an example of sponsored content from the recent “Ouija” movie:

4. Snapchat is opening up opportunities for brands and event sponsorship

One of the latest additions and one of the bigger brand opportunities is tied to the new “Our Story” offering. “Our Story” is a location-based collaborative story that leverages content from events and allows others not attending to directly experience the events. A user at an event has the ability to upload a photo or video snap, and Snapchat drops a Wi-Fi geofence around the event. Content is then aggregated and the “Our Story” content prompt is located in the story feed next to friend content. The video below helps to clarify this new offering:

There is also an opportunity for brands to “sponsor” the “Our Story” events. This comes to life in the form of 10-second interstitial title snaps. The sponsored content is then interlaced through the user-generated content and clearly identifies the sponsor. One key point to consider with this type of offering is to leverage authentic event content versus pre-produced content. This better aligns the message and makes it more contextually relevant.

Check out this example from Samsung tied to the recent “American Music Awards” show:

5. Snapchat partnerships

It was recently reported by multiple media outlets that Snapchat is in negotiations with Comedy Central, Spotify, Vice, and other media publishers for the upcoming launch of “Discover.” “Discover” will most likely serve users articles, music, and videos produced by media companies. This will create an additional avenue to drive contextually relevant native advertising to further monetize the platform.

In addition, Snapchat recently partnered with Square to release a peer-to-peer payment prototype. The prototype allows users to store their debit card via Square to quickly process a payment or send cash to a friend’s bank account through the chat feature. Users can type the dollar sign, an amount, and hit the green button. It is available in the U.S. to those 18 or older with a debit card.

With its diversity of use cases, ease of use, sense of urgency tied to the consumption of content, and focus on enabling brands and partnerships, Snapchat is primed to have a very big 2015.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

 

 

BERLIN: the logo of the brand “Snapchat”, Berlin” and “heart shape design for love symbols” images via Shutterstock.

2015 Will See The Rise Of Dark Social

Written by: Tom Edwards
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dark-social

Dark social is the sharing activity that is somewhat invisible to traditional analytics. It’s the culmination of referrals and sharing of content that originates from instant messages, emails containing links, and most recently, the rise of ephemeral social communication platforms such as Snapchat, WeChat, and WhatsApp.

A majority of focus today is on social broadcast platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. With the tides shifting toward ephemeral social communication applications as a key driver of sharing, the attribution data of the share — and all of the value that comes with it — is essentially untapped and, in some cases, simply unknown.

According to a recent Radium One study, 59 percent of all online sharing is via dark social. Furthermore, a whopping 91 percent of Americans regularly share information via dark social methods. This study also showed that 72 percent of sharing is simply users copying and pasting long URLs and either emailing or texting the information.

There are a significant number of conversations — and more importantly, potential intent— from a marketing perspective that are simply being ignored and untapped. Currently, there’s an over-reliance on retargeting. Dark social could represent an opportunity to bring balance to the equation.

What makes cracking the code with dark social in 2015 even more paramount is the sharp rise in adoption of ephemerally charged, socially-centric communication apps such as Snapchat, WhatsApp, WeChat, and Kik. The convergence of social and mobile is here and the percentage of content shared through dark social will continue to rise at an exponential rate in 2015.

A few pioneering brands have incorporated sharing functionality with the Facebook-owned WhatsApp, which has over 400 million users sending 50 billion messages a day. FTW, a USA Today sports site, introduced a WhatsApp sharing button to its mobile experience recently, and almost immediately saw shares from WhatsApp climb to 18 percent of the site’s overall sharing activity. Furthermore, 53 percent of shares came from “dark social” vs. 47 percent through traditional social mechanisms.

Snapchat, another ephemeral application, is the fastest-growing social app heading into 2015. With a user base of 100 million active users, 60 percent of whom engage with the app 22 times per day, Snapchat represents another dark social platform that should be considered in 2015. This is especially true with the upcoming strategic partnership model that will incorporate multiple media outlets into the platform. This will convert the experience to include more content from external networks and publishing partners.

And there’s Wechat, with a global audience of 600 million users, 180 million outside of China. It is the fifth most-used smartphone app worldwide. All of these essentially represent the next wave of dark social that will quickly raise dark social sharing’s current percentage of 59 percent of total sharing even higher in 2015.

Outside of the applications listed above, there are many more that are growing quickly, including Kik. Even Apple’s AirDrop is being used to share images and messages with school-age kids.

And there are more on the way — hybrids of the hybrids — like Mark Cuban’s Cyber Dust, which essentially combines elements of WhatsApp and Snapchat, boasts high levels of privacy and security, and is, as Cuban recently commented,  “troll-proof.”

Moving forward, there are ways to begin building a dark social strategy. In addition to simply relying on URL-shortened links, brands can employ advanced Google Analytics against long-form links.

It’s also important to consider what integration options are available from the social communication providers themselves, the type of data and analytics available, and how these will be aligned with existing measurement framework.

Taking these steps will ensure that while we’re testing and learning, we can begin to formulate how these platforms will go from experimental to a reliable part of the marketing mix.

Understanding how content is shared when not immediately visible will be a key metric in 2015. Dark social is on the rise, and the more we can harness its power, the faster we can build connections and leverage intent to drive conversions.

Prediction: Perceived Personalization

Written by: Eric Fransen
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It was sometime between my first battle with an Uruk captain and overthrowing my first war chief that I realized something was special about Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. While the gameplay itself was fantastic, it was something in particular about the game’s enemies that struck me. Each Uruk had a unique name, appearance, and set of weaknesses, strengths and fears. Each Uruk had its own personality that was only present in my game. If I fell in battle to one, he made sure to let me know the next time I saw him — in alarmingly specific detail.

This is all thanks to Monolith’s Nemesis System. What the Nemesis System has managed to accomplish is something extraordinary — and noticeably lacking in many other of its AAA game brethren: perceived personalization. It wasn’t a matter of going after these Uruks because the game said I had to — I went after them because I wanted to. For sweet, sweet vengeance. It was no longer purely a game mechanic. It was personal. It was as if I KNEW the Uruk and he existed purely to antagonize me and make my life more difficult. All of this made it that much more satisfying by the time I was able to exact my revenge by parting his head with his shoulders.

So what does this all have to do with digital marketing? Everything.

You see, Monolith has stumbled onto something utterly brilliant. Mechanics that go a long way in making you, the consumer, feel like you’re having a completely unique experience. At its core, the Nemesis system is essentially a bank of possible names, attributes, personalities and sound bytes that combine to form randomly created characters. But it’s how it all comes together to form a cohesive experience that’s where it really shines.

You could apply this same logic to attributes in product design, custom web experiences, or experiential events. If you feel like you’re the first and/or only person to experience something, how much better of an experience is that compared to a one-size-fits-all approach? By creating something truly unique, you’re creating social currency and empowering your consumers to speak on your behalf.

But why perceived personalization? Isn’t it just personalization? Yes and no. Yes, the experience is unique and personalized to me, the end user. But where I see the differentiation is the fact that it’s unique without any additional input from either the development side OR the user side. It’s a highly sophisticated automated system that makes me FEEL like it’s built specifically for me. That’s the magic. And something I believe we are going to start seeing even more in 2015.