Category Archives: social media

The More You Know: Wantering

Written by: Jordan Lee
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Online shopping can be overwhelming. Combing through a sea of retail sites, blogs, and Pinterest in search of something on trend to wear can feel daunting.

Many retail search engines, like ShopStyle and Polyvore, offer the same experience. You can sort by color, size, and price. A new site, Wantering, is offering something more to consumers: item search based on social popularity.

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Image via wantering.com

Ranking is determined by mentions across the web including blogs and social networks. Clicking on a product allows you to see both where it is most popular and a “hotness” score based on current mentions and relevancy.

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Image via wantering.com

Social influence impacts the consumer journey as a consultative force. According to a study by Bazaar Voice, 84% of millennials say user-generated content plays a role in their purchase decisions, even when that UGC is from a stranger. In addition, 71% of millennials say they share their opinions and input because they help other consumers’ purchase decisions.

Wantering is leveraging the movement of consumer empowerment and providing a unique online shopping experience. Product reviews are going to be weighted more and more in the future. Brands and retailers will need to not only keep up with how their products are evaluated but also with what is trending in order to drive sales in the changing shopper landscape.

Humanizing and Amplifying Your Brand Voice Through Employee Advocacy

Written by: Jake Schneider
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One of this year’s breakout films is Ex Machina. At its core, the sci-fi thriller is the story of an inventor’s quest to create an authentic, seamless human experience and connection through something that isn’t human at all: an android.

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We have never had more global avenues to connect and be connected to than we do today, and we do it seamlessly and authentically through these platforms of personal expression as if it were second nature. For consumers, digital authenticity is an expectation; for brands, however, it remains a goal that only gently grazes the surface.

For a brand to reach a truly authentic and emotional connection with their customers, and become a part of their lives, they have to do something in this day and age that is very foreign. In order to humanize a brand, they must give a piece of themselves over to their humans, their employees.

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External employee advocacy and internal employee engagement are not mutually exclusive of each other and have become popular topics for our clients for great reasons. In today’s highly connected world, employees provide knowledge and expertise – as well as authentic relationships – in their social ecosystems, providing value to both their network as a trusted expert as well as a valuable ambassador for their employer.

What are some of these benefits? It really comes down to the goals of the brand and what problem they are trying to solve internally and externally.

External: Reach & Trust

For brands, trust in a recommendation from an employee has never been higher or more credible. In fact, in a recent study, consumers named “a person like yourself” 62% more likely to trust, “a regular employee” 52% more likely to trust, and “a technical expert” more likely to trust 66% compared to a “CEO” or brand at 43%.  It is easy to see why. Word of mouth, even in digital form, is still the most powerful form of marketing. We still crave human interaction and connection; it’s only how we interact and connect that has evolved.

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According to a Nielsen study, 92% of consumers still trust recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising. Additionally, consumers are still 71% more likely to purchase based on a referral from a connection and 78% of salespeople using a social selling strategy outperform their peers.

Despite those statistics, less than two-thirds have any sort of strategy for sales and marketing teams and even less have a structure that empowers employees to share.

The reason? Fear on both sides.

Control of identity, message, narrative, and brand protection has been a traditional part of brand marketing, but the more restrictions and controls brands feel they have over their message the more they feel they are mitigating risk but also depreciating authenticity and approachability. Enabling employees to share and join in brand efforts means opening brands up to some risk it also means opening  up to massive scale, impact, and authenticity.

An employee assumes a great amount of risk, as well. The greatest risk is their job, and therefore financial wellbeing. Employees fear sharing, or don’t feel empowered to share, for fear they might position the wrong information or fired for sharing their personal interests, views, and activities while identifying as an employee of their company.

As early as 2008, brands were asking employees to not post to LinkedIn (the world’s largest business network), Facebook, or Twitter. As early as 2011, we were still trying to convince brands to build Facebook pages because of the fear of negative comments. As early as last week, I had a conversation with a major brand requesting that employees not identify themselves as employees for fear that their personal actions might reflect poorly on the brand.

From a brand perspective, social collaboration is the idea that everything I do remains private with the exception of what I choose to share, so that the message is controlled. From a human perspective, everything I do, I share, with the exception of what I want to keep private.

Brands benefit by breaking down this disconnect and empowering their employees.

Brands that empower their employees can see a considerable shift in organic reach on Facebook. One of the greatest complaints over the past year is the massive drop-off in organic reach for Facebook Pages where it is generally 0-5%. Person-to-person sharing is much greater. When working in parallel with paid campaigns, the brand can weave a great creative story with human content, increasing the impact of the campaigns.

For Retailers – especially big box retailers. Employee advocacy can allow you to position regionalized content, making your brand feel more local. Because employees often identify as a target demographic with the brand they work for, an employee program allows you to impact more accurately and efficiently, as the employees’ connections within their network are of the same demographic.

For Tech Brands – recruitment and the cost of recruiting are always constant. More and more companies are giving new hire bonuses as an incentive, which is a great first step but few go beyond that incentive. Employees are the best extension of your brand culture, and the theory is top talent knows top talent. Incorporating recruiting into your marketing and enabling your employees to play an active role helps reduce time and costs in finding the right people for open positions.

Internally: Purpose & Loyalty 7.14.15E

Engaged employees are brilliant ambassadors for brands, because while they are beacons externally they are also improving the foundational culture internally.

Even more brilliant is that while employee engagement seems a no-brainer, less than 30% of employees say they are engaged in their workplaces, according to Gallup. The least engaged demographic: millennials. It is easy to see why when you consider the traditional philosophy of corporate sharing (everything is private, except what I allow to be open) vs. the personal view of sharing (everything I share is open, except what I wish to remain private).   Millennial engagement internally and externally with their network is a plus.

Employee advocacy programs add a feeling of purpose and deeper involvement outside of the day-to-day mandatory productivity that employees execute. That small participation involves and empowers employees and, more importantly, it engages them.

Engaged employees can impact all areas of the balance sheet. Statistics show that there was 2.5x more revenue for companies with engaged employees than competitors with low engagement levels.

From a corporate expense number, $11 billion is lost annually due to employee turnover, yet we’ve seen that highly engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave the company they work for than their counterparts, reducing the cost of onboarding and ramp-up, as well as breaks in culture.

These are just a few reasons why to consider an employee advocacy program.

Employee advocacy programs are becoming more and more important for our clients and for the industry, in general. It is important to understand that this is not something that you just decide to do. The formation of a plan to humanize a brand through the empowered voice of its employees isn’t turnkey. Authenticity never is.

In my next post I will walk you through things to think about when considering enabling and engaging employees as advocates.

Jake Schneider is the Director of Digital Strategy for The Marketing Arm, overseeing both digital and social strategy and in particular leading TMA’s Employee Advocacy practice. You can find him on Twitter @jakeschneider.

Influencer R&D: The New Landscape of Brand Partnerships

Written by: Jordan Lee
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As the landscape of bloggers and social influencers changes, so do the partnerships that drive their content. As bloggers, YouTube stars, and Instagrammers become more popular, the campaigns become more robust. Product seeding is almost an expectation and not innovation in this landscape.

Bloggers partnering with retailers is nothing new. However, over the past few years, brands have been looking for ways influencers can shape their consumers’ experiences offline and bring innovation to influencer marketing. Target was one of the first brands to collaborate with these influential social stars and create product consumers can actually buy. Baublebar is another brand consistently partnering with bloggers to create products. Some mainstay products, like the Courtney Bib Necklace named for Courtney Kerr, owe their moniker to bloggers – a place in fashion typically reserved for models and actresses.

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Image via Target

The recent announcement of blogger Emily Schuman of Cupcakes and Cashmere partnering with Nordstrom to create a product line should come as no surprise. Undoubtedly, it’s a smart move for retailers. They are leveraging online popularity in a way that directly impacts sales in addition to any brand affinity generated by social media.

According to a study by Imperial, expert content by influencers lifted purchase intent over brand content by 38 percent, and 83 percent over user reviews. Influencers are critical to the purchase journey for consumers, so the extension of this is naturally influencer-created products.

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Image via Nordstrom

This collaboration correlates to the new normal for bloggers and social influencers. Those with larger star power are looking for more meaningful partnerships – for them this is a career path.

This new normal isn’t just product creation, either. YouTube stars are getting their own shows and some, like Flula Borg who recently appeared in Pitch Perfect 2, are landing movie roles. Others like Zoe Sugg are writing popular books.

Influencers are already becoming more selective about brand partnerships. Just having enough budget for fees is no longer going to land you a deal. Brands with thoughtful, meaningful integrations are going to win in the future of this landscape.

Pinterest and Instagram Add New Features, Look to Drive Business Outcomes for CPG Brands

Written by: Jake Schneider
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June proved to be a huge month for Pinterest and Instagram, as both platforms introduced the phrase “action oriented” into our lexicon. Over the past year, both platforms have been making strides to enter the digital media space with Pinterest’s “Promoted Pins” and Instagram’s “Sponsored Posts” as introductory offerings; however, both are falling short beyond brand awareness in aligning to business outcomes for marketers.

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Pinterest has long been a passionate community, and particularly for DIY. According to a PriceGrabber survey, more than 70 percent of Pinterest users claim that cooking inspiration and recipes are their number one interest on the platform.

Pinterest added a search functionality to make it easier to be discovered, but the introduction of the “Buy It” button is a huge step for CPG brands in closing the loop that started with “Promoted Pins.” Now with Pinterest you can holistically inspire, promote discovery, and purchase direct from the platform within a few clicks, giving CPG brands another potential storefront and point of entry for commerce. 

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 8.26.27 PMPinterest is only making the “Buy It” button available through mobile for now and has limited it to a few of their partners. There is a waiting list, however, and we suggest you get on it. 

Coincidentally, Instagram introduced us to their new suite of offerings for their platform the same week. Instagram initially entered digital media via sponsored posts with a few exclusive partners a year ago as they built out their media narrative and offerings. This recent unveiling takes Instagram from peripheral, brand-awareness centric content to something much, much more. 

For Instagram, the emphasis is on quality of content and narrative with CPG brands playing on the same level with users and the best content surfacing to the top. With “Carousel,“ Instagram takes the user out of the single moment snapshot and throws them into an immersive experience with multiple pieces of content to provide inspiration or to better tell a story. 

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Carousel is still a continuation of brand, something Instagram has long been known for, and something that has taken them out of consideration when focusing energy and effort on driving to business outcomes.  

Instagram elevated themselves from peripheral to near primary with their action-oriented buttons. Brands can now direct their audience to add “Shop Now,” “Install Now,” “Sign Up,” or “Learn More,” directly through the app, making it a true channel for actionable outcomes. 

CPG brands can now promote discovery, inspire, and inform this passionate and massive audience while directing them to take deeper action, whether that is downloading a brand app, e-commerce, or other promotions. 

Like Pinterest, Instagram is only allowing a few of their partners to leverage their offerings before making them open through power editor to advertisers. 

Needless to say, these bold — and welcome — moves for each platform both ushered in offerings for brands without diminishing the user experience.  

Netflix Knew Exactly What They Were Doing When They Released OITNB Early

Written by: Rita Mogilanski
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I can’t be the only one who stayed up until the wee hours of the morning watching the new episodes of Orange is the New Black. Netflix released the third season of the award-winning show on June 11, six hours early. This genius and strategic move by Netflix created a flurry of excitement on Twitter from fans.

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Netflix announced the early release at OrangeCon as the cast was celebrating the new season. It became available around 9 PM Eastern, 6 PM Pacific, just in time for New Yorkers like me who were contemplating sleep to turn on Netflix, and for Californians to cancel their dinner plans and head home to the couch.

Surprising fans with the early release was not only smart because of the timing of the release, but it also allowed for an additional layer of anticipation from fans. It is to be expected that die-hard OITNB fans would take to Twitter to express their excitement when the show finally came back, but the element of surprise triggered a burst of tweets from fans. This buzz helped spread the word about the release of the new season. #OITNB trended on Twitter within minutes of the release.

The show’s talent also took to social to inform fans of the early release and drive buzz.

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Typically, programs on television leverage Twitter for live-tweeting to drive buzz and awareness for the show. Exposure to TV tweets has been shown to encourage viewers to take action, whether they watch, search for, or share content about the show. In the case of shows that are exclusively on Netflix and are released a full season at a time, they have to find ways to use Twitter outside of live-tweeting premiere episodes to promote the show. Orange is the New Black found their way in. Due to the excitement and the element of surprise, #OITNB was used over 360K times in the first weekend after the release. Comparatively, there were only 319K #GameOfThrones tweets during the epic finale on Sunday.

With the restrictions Netflix and Orange is the New Black face considering all viewers watch at their own pace, they definitely figured out how to leverage Twitter to drive tune-in.

Smart move, Netflix.

With New Offerings, Instagram Comes of Age

Written by: Jake Schneider
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This week, the Golden State Warriors will take the floor against the Cleveland Cavaliers in their first NBA Finals appearance since 1975. As incredibly as the Warriors have played over the past month, the buzz over the past few days may belong to another Bay Area team: Instagram.

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For marketers, Instagram has largely been about building a brand through creative and visual storytelling. Like Tumblr before it, success for brands on Instagram has relied on compelling visual narratives, where both brand and user sit equally at the table as premium content creators.

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Because of this, they’ve given way to a massive influencer support channel for brand engagement and a supplementary channel for authentic content. They rolled out their first trial ads service a year ago – injecting sponsored content into newsfeeds and crafting what would be their offerings, waiting like any good Nor-Cal vintner for the perfect batch.

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What has been missing for brands is direct attribution for business outcomes for advertisers…until now.

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I checked the “this day in history” calendar for important events, and other than Marconi filing his patent for the radio and Dana Carvey and wrestler Lex Luger’s birthdays, “Instagram releases action oriented formats and targeting for ads” is about the biggest thing going for June 2 – especially for brands.

Instagram has taken the time to meld the visual narrative we love with the business outcomes (“shop”, “install”, “sign-up” and “learn more”) direct response marketers need without sacrificing the authentic feel we have come to know from Instagram.

Blending aspirational creative and narratives with specific calls to action can hit multiple goals specific for retailers looking to drive discovery, purchase, and mobile app downloads all with attribution back to campaigns.

Combining these new assets with the recently launched Carousel, Instagram gives brands the potential to extend their story and expand their ecosystem. Providing the user an interactive and near immersive experience evolves Instagram into a destination rather than a vessel for serendipitous content that relies on “link in profile” clicks to further the conversation.

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The ability to provide a deeper, richer front-facing experience through Carousel, along with the ability to extend to actionable outcomes through “learn more” CTAs, could prove to be a game-changer for Tech and CPG brands looking to drive registrations for loyalty programs, innovation sessions, or specific communities that are brand-centric.

It’s been called “a year of progress” by Instagram, but the additions of these actions and interest targeting evolves the platform, pulling it from the periphery as a support/influencer channel and adding it to core digital and digital media strategies as a viable and true power channel.

Three Great Ways for Brands to Use the New Twitter Audience Insights Dashboard

Written by: Rita Mogilanski
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Last week, Twitter launched a new, free dashboard that shows demographic information about your Twitter followers. You can see your followers’ interests, household incomes, net worth, occupations, their buying habits, education levels, and even what credit cards they have.

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Having access to these insights is a great way to inform your content strategy. There are three great tricks that can guide creative and messaging, and even inform other areas of your brand’s marketing strategy.

1. Compare your follower demographics to the general Twitter population.

Add a comparison audience, and analyze “All Twitter Users” versus “Your Followers.” You’re able to see what the general Twitter population’s habits or interests are versus your brand’s, which will show you what resonates specifically with your audience. In the image below, this brand’s audience is much more interested in fast food than the average Twitter user, showing the brand that fast food is an area they can own on Twitter.

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2. Look at the followers you are reaching, as well as the followers who are actually engaging with your content.

This is a great way to see the user behavior of an engaged user versus a follower that was not impacted by your brand’s content. For example, one of our brands saw that among engaged users, 90 percent were using iOs, and among the users the brand was reaching, only 32 percent were using iOs. This information shows that the brand should be targeting mobile users, or keeping them in mind when looking for engagement and participation from followers.

3. Use relevant purchase habits to inform business decisions.

The insights dashboard shows followers’ Consumer Buying Styles and Consumer Goods Purchases, which is extremely helpful for targeting both on social and in-store. For example, if your fans over-index in healthy living, it can inform the keywords you use to target them on Twitter, as well as what other brands to partner with and advertise through, or even how to set up an in-store display.

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Overall, the new dashboard is very insightful and can serve different purposes for different brands. Take the time to click around and see if you can learn something helpful about your audience to inform social content strategy, creative, messaging, and targeting.

3 Things to Consider After 72 Hours with the Apple Watch

Written by: Tom Edwards
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Seventy-two hours ago, I was among the 22 percent of lucky customers whose orders were fulfilled for the Apple Watch. Many have asked I summarize my thoughts about what I like, what I think needs work, and what marketers should consider when creating an Apple Watch experience.

What do you like about the Apple Watch?

From Apple’s first announcement last September to receiving it on launch day, I have consumed a significant amount of information about what to expect from Apple’s latest technology. Yet, all of my research did not prepare me for the full experience.

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The watch is beautifully designed and the 42mm face is just the right size. The interface is very smooth and responsive, and I am getting a good feel for which elements add the most value for me and how I want to extend my iPhone experience.

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Setup was incredibly easy and primarily facilitated through the Apple Watch app on my iPhone. After language selection and visually pairing the Apple Watch and iPhone, I dove into setting up my application preferences.

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The key thing to consider if you are looking to invest in an Apple Watch is to understand that it is NOT an iPhone on your wrist, but it is an extension of the iPhone experience. It WILL streamline lightweight tasks such as messages, notifications, and quickly reviewing email.

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I like the flexibility of the interchangeable watch bands; it literally takes seconds to completely change the look of the watch. Third-party band options are already appearing on eBay, and I have ordered a second Apple Watch band myself.

Tom Edwards Apple Watch

What needs work?

Outside of the passcode keypad, there is not a consistent input mechanism beyond voice. Responding to messages either consists of predetermined phrases, emoji, or voice response. This is fine 90 percent of the time, but for those times when it is not convenient to speak your response it will require you to pull out your iPhone. #FirstWorldProblems

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The same goes for making and taking calls on the Apple Watch. Be prepared to look like Dick Tracy when you are speaking into your wrist. Calls are better meant for taking on your actual iPhone.

Dick-Tracy

One surprise was Facebook was noticeably missing from the Apple Watch app store on launch day. You still receive notifications from the app, but there is not a native Facebook Apple Watch experience as of yet.

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One additional missing element is a browser experience. There are third-party apps that provide an abbreviated browsing experience, but there is not an official Apple Watch browser. Siri is voice-based, and any search query that is not tied to an existing app function is handed off to the iPhone.

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I have experienced accelerated battery drain on both my Apple Watch and paired iPhone. Also, Handoffs between the watch and app can be awkward in some third-party apps. Upon initial setup, a number of applications have to be preconfigured via the iPhone prior to working with the paired Apple Watch.

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How can marketers benefit from the Apple Watch?

For brands that have a native app in market, the Apple Watch can provide a way to extend the value of the application if marketers focus on creating utility. From a shopper marketing standpoint, Target’s focus on list creation is a good example of taking a single element of the app experience and using the Apple Watch to drive a specific user behavior.

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Target’s Apple Watch app initial user experience

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Target app example of highlighting item location via Apple Watch

I have used the Starbucks app extensively over the past 48 hours. The “glance” tells me how close I am to a Starbucks location as well as extends their loyalty program, and I can leverage Passbook for quick payment for my morning Americano. I have been impressed by the ease of use and the value the app is bringing me through a simple experience.

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The key areas of focus for marketers are understanding how to leverage both short and long notifications to influence certain behaviors while also leveraging the most relevant data to visualize – via a glance – to sustain ongoing wrist engagement.

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American Airlines is simplifying the boarding experience

By focusing on extending apps through the lens of consumer value and lightweight interaction, marketers can capitalize on staying at the top of mind through a user’s wrist.

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Uber’s Apple Watch experience

 

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

Art + Science = Facebook’s Anthology Program

Written by: Tom Edwards
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I recently attended the latest Facebook Openbook event in NYC. The topics included the latest video product updates and the unveiling of the new Anthology initiative.

Openbook

Anthology is a creative brief based program that combines the insights and scale of Facebook with the reach and relevance of large publisher partners.

Anthology

Facebook is providing access to insights rooted in detailed analyses of target audiences to inform publisher creative. Their goal is to combine art and science to inform the creation of highly relevant and shareable content that drives business.

Facebook Anthology Purpose

There are seven initial partners in the program:

1. Vox Media – Millennial-focused media entity targeting sports (SB Nation), tech (The Verge), gaming (Polygon), real estate (Curbed), food (Eater), and retail/shopping (Racked)

Vox Media

2. Vice Media – Millennial-focused media entity that creates over 6,000 pieces of content daily across 10 primary channels covering news, music, tech, food, sports, and fashion, all by young people and for young people

Vice

3. Oh My Disney – Brings the ability to leverage assets and properties of Disney in short-form content that is designed to be shared

Oh My Disney

4. The Onion – Satirical news content creator

The Onion

5. TasteMade – Mobile-centric video network that reaches 25 million people monthly

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6. Funny or Die – Original and UGC comedy and pop culture content creator

Funny Or Die

7. Electus Digital – Properties include Collegehumor.com, Dorkly (Geek Culture), and Nuevon (Hispanic)

Electus Digital

In the unveiling, each publisher partner had created a mock “anthology” based on Facebook insights and a hypothetical brand/agency creative brief. Each anthology program had its own unique creative slant based on the insights provided by Facebook and the unique perspective of the publisher.

ForD Anthology

In the future, the publishers will produce the content and partner with Facebook to distribute the content through both Facebook’s media network and their own distribution properties.

anthology example

The Anthology program can be beneficial for brands and agencies alike. It is a quick way to collaborate with some of the most relevant millennial-focused publishers, as well as leverage proprietary user data and insights provided by Facebook.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

Is Today Mobileggedon? 5 Things to Know About Today’s Google Update

Written by: Tom Edwards
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Today is the day Google is rolling out a major update to its mobile search algorithm. Some are proclaiming this “Mobileggedon,” others the “Mobilepocolypse.”

The reality is that this is a major update that will boost the ranking of mobile-friendly pages. There are five things to know about how this update may impact your brand.

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1) The update only impacts mobile search results. This is a mobile first update and will only impact results from mobile queries.

2) The update does impact all languages. This is a global roll-out. Those that manage pages across locations should take note.

3) The update applies to individual pages vs entire websites. This may not be apparent initially, but makes sense as a whole. Google indexes pages and queries map to intent which extends from the relevance of the content on the page.

4) This is one dimension for how Google will rank a mobile search query. –This update does raise the importance of a mobile-friendly experience, but this is not the only signal being considered.

5) Strong content can overcome… For now. User intent based on the query is still an important factor. If the content on a non-mobile friendly page is considered the most relevant for the query it will still rank high for now.

It is important to take the necessary steps to create an optimal experience not only from a search perspective but also from a user experience standpoint.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360