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December 07 2013

SpaghettiOs' Dubious Tweet to Remember Pearl Harbor Enrages Twitter

"Uh-oh! Spaghettios" has just gotten a whole new meaning

Seventy-three years after the Japanese navy attacked the U.S. with a surprise strike on Pearl Harbor, American pasta company SpaghettiOs commemorated the event in a dubious tweet Friday night — and many Twitter users were not happy.

Here's what SpaghettiOs tweeted Friday, on the eve of the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack.

SpaghettiOs deleted the tweet and apologized on Saturday.

We apologize for our recent tweet in remembrance of Pearl Harbor Day. We meant to pay respect, not to offend.

— SpaghettiOs (@SpaghettiOs) December 7, 2013

More about Marketing, Brand, Business, Us, and Spaghettios

September 30 2013

Apple Is Now the World's Most Valuable Brand [REPORT]

In the last couple of years, Apple has been either the first or the second most valuable brand in the world, depending who you believe

Now, we can chalk one up for the first camp: According to Interbrand's 2013 global brand rankings, Apple has overtaken Coca Cola to become the world's most valuable brand, with its value estimated at a whopping $98.3 billion

Apple's rise through the rankings has truly been meteoric: In 2011, the company sat at eight place with an estimated $33 billion brand value

Google has also leaped past Coca Cola this year, and it now sits in second place, with its brand value estimated at $93.3 billion. It's followed by Coca Cola with $79.2 billion, IBM with $78.8 billion and Microsoft with $59.5 billion Read more...

More about Google, Microsoft, Apple, Brand, and Ibm

July 14 2011

Is Purchasing Power the Best Way To Help Good Causes? [OPEN THREAD]

social responsibility

Since writing about Sevenly on Tuesday, we observed one constant from your comments: People appreciate the integration of social responsibility into business models. Brands gain loyalty from consumers when they see a thoughtful process behind each product.

These socially responsible brands help bring philanthropy into mainstream culture. Wearing a pair of TOMS shoes makes a statement, informing onlookers that you support sending shoes to underprivileged kids. But purchasing shoes or a t-shirt that support a charitable cause is not the same as making a flat contribution. When you spend $24 on a Sevenly t-shirt, only $7 goes to charity.

Through your feedback, you told us about several other producers that integrate social causes into their business models. We learned about Kno Clothing, Rosa Loves, Moral Fibers, Sam Soul, TanQ, I Wear Your Shirt and Shop With Meaning. Given the popularity of these models, we had this to ask:

Question: Are you more likely to buy brands connected with charities, and how much good do those brands really do?

Share your thoughts and join the conversation in the comments below.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, skystardream

More About: brand, non-profit, open thread, sevenly, shopping, social buying, social good, social responsibility, toms shoes

For more Social Good coverage:

June 23 2011

7 Tips for Better Twitter Chats

Megan Berry is marketing manager for Klout, the standard for online influence. She also blogs at The Huffington Post and Brazen Careerist. You can follow her on Twitter at @meganberry.

Twitter chat

Twitter chats are an increasingly common way for people to discuss a topic or passion online. Basically, a group will organize around a specific hashtag so people can follow a single thread of conversation on Twitter. There are now hundreds, if not thousands of regular Twitter chats going on, and for good reason. It’s an easy, low-commitment way to get involved in a conversation with other people in your industry. It’s also a great way to network and get new ideas.

See Also: HOW TO: Start and Run a Successful Twitter Chat

Starting a Twitter chat, however, requires both time and effort. Make sure you’re setting yourself up for a positive outcome with these seven tips.

1. Be Clear About Your Goals Going Into the Chat

Some say there are already too many Twitter chats. How does creating a new one (as opposed to joining existing ones) help you or your company? When I spoke to creators of successful chats like #wjchat, #blogchat, #smmeasure and #u30pro, they pointed out some powerful benefits of doing it right. For a company, it can position you as a thought leader and grow brand awareness. For an individual it can help you meet people in your industry and grow your personal brand.

Still, it is not something to take on lightly. You’ll have to put in serious time before you see any results. If you’re in a company, make sure you talk about what success looks like before starting your chat. Consider metrics such as the number of people participating, mentions of your brand, sentiment of mentions, and lead generation.

2. Choose a Topic People Care About

How do you know if people care about your chat? They should already be discussing it informally. “It’s better to build a twitter chat around a topic of interest that’s directly related to your brand,” says David Spinks, creator of #u30pro, a Twitter chat for young professionals. “In the end, the participants will still relate the chat back to your brand because you’re the one organizing it.

3. Be Authentic

“The key to true reach and success is being authentic,” says Robert Hernandez, founder of #wjchat. “#wjchat is something organic and represents a passion shared by others. … If you have a topic you are passionate about, there may be others that are looking to connect with you.” Don’t do it just because you think you’re supposed to. Do it if you are genuinely looking for a way to engage and communicate with a community. Use that passion to stick with the chat when it starts out slow. Spinks says #u30pro’s first chat only had seven people and 150 tweets. Today, their typical chat includes 150 people and 1,200 tweets. Keep engaging and the right people and community should find you.

4. Choose a Schedule and Be Consistent

Most Twitter chats occur once a week for an hour, but if you’re just starting out, you may consider a bi-weekly or monthly chat instead as it’s easier to add sessions than to try and cut back. Sheldon Levine of #smmeasure says if he had to start again, he might have made #smmeasure a bi-weekly (as opposed to weekly) chat, simply because of the time commitment involved. Mack Collier of #blogchat points out the importance of choosing a time that works for both you and your audience. You want people to have time to join your chat. Collier suggested “either in the middle of the day around lunch time, or at night around 7 or 8 p.m. Central.”

5. Plan, But Stay Flexible

Most Twitter chats have a topical focus each week. The goal is to facilitate the conversation without getting in the way or letting it get out of hand (easier said than done). “Realize also that a Twitter chat for your brand will be another avenue for customers to express their complaints,” Spinks warns. “Twitter chats move fast, and can get out of hand quickly. It’s real time to the fullest.” Get ready for just about any question to come up. If you’re a business, make sure the person running the chat is someone who can speak for the company.

6. Bring In Thought Leaders

Don’t be afraid to get others involved, whether you need a partner to develop and plan the chat (#u30pro is operated by a team of four), or great guest “speakers” to help bring in audience. Twitter chats are successful because of the people in them. Do what you can to get great people involved, especially when you’re just starting.

7. Thank People Who Participate

If people take the time to engage with your chat, take a moment to thank them individually or in the chat itself. Collier has found huge success by following this strategy. “These are your rock stars, and you need to treat them as such,” he said. “That will simply give them more incentive to spread the word, and help you grow your community.”

Have these tips helped? What advice can you give for organizing a Twitter chat? Let us know in the comments below.

More About: brand, business, social media, tips, twitter, twitter chat

For more Social Media coverage:

June 10 2011

June 01 2011

Causecast Launches a Wikipedia for Brand Philanthropy

suit image

Causecast is aiming to become the Wikipedia of philanthropy with the launch of its Cause Integration Profiles.

The site allows any company to sign up and create a page listing its charitable actions, partnerships and grants. This data can then be searched and pulled up for a snapshot of how your favorite brands are — or are not — giving to charity. It will produce a Cause Integration Scorecard which rates the company’s employee volunteer programs, sustainability initiatives and corporate donation matching programs.

Corporate social responsibility has seen a ton of growth as major brands realize the financial benefit to doing a little good every now and then. Consumers prefer brands that are associate with a cause, and in a 2008 study, 90% of those surveyed said it is important that businesses, governments and non-profits collaborate to solve pressing social issues.

“[Brands] can’t go out and toot their own horn about this stuff, it doesn’t come off right but we still want to go and put that information out there,” says Ryan Scott, Causecast‘s founder and CEO. “There is a viable way of doing direct marketing on the Internet that is also ethical.”

causecast image

The profiles are also a way to make charitable outreach a larger part of brand identity. The site allows companies to add customizations like RSS feeds, recent examples and links to relevant topics. The Cause Integration Profiles is a win-win. Brands can show-off their philanthropic actions to the public and consumers can see if those brands are actually doing good or just greenwashing their PR.

Causecast is a cause integration platform that helps match up non-profits and brands. However, the profiles won’t be limited just to Causecast clients. Causecaust has paired up with Corporate Responsibility Magazine to use its “100 Best Corporate Citizens List” as a way of seeding the Cause Integration Profiles site. That list includes companies like Campbell Soup, Nike and Hewlett-Packard. The profiles will be free though Causecast will gradually introduce a premium version based on company size and need. “I’m not terribly concerned about making money off this, just the same way we’re not terribly concerned about making money off of non-profits,” Scott said.

What do you think? Should brands have more transparency about their social good efforts? Can the public help keep them honest? Let us know in the comments.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Truthout.org

More About: brand, cause integration profiles, causecast, charity, corporate social responsibility, csr, non-profit, social good

For more Social Good coverage:

May 25 2011

May 17 2011

May 12 2011

Why Some Brands May Need To Rethink Their Social Media Strategy

fan image

Arron Kallenberg is the founder of FanSignal.com and co-founder of RevHarvest.com and Claim.io. You can find him on Twitter as @kallena.

Social media is widely recognized not only for creating deeper, more connected relationships between people, but for the promise it makes to brands to help them become more human. But just because a brand is humanized doesn’t mean everyone will suddenly want to be its “friend” or naturally decide to “Like” it.

A brand that desires to leverage social media to create meaningful, more integrated relationships with consumers is faced with a task that is significantly more complicated than simply “being human.”

The idea of engaging socially with a brand (even a humanized brand) is still a very nascent phenomenon in our culture. All of the social networks that currently exist were built to connect people with people — not people with brands.

As a result, the ability to form a relationship with a brand has more or less been tacked onto social networks as an afterthought.

The Challenge of Context

The kinds of relationships we create with brands are fundamentally different from any of the relationships we form with people. Consider LinkedIn, a social network that curates strong professional relationships between individuals. LinkedIn is powerful precisely because the type of relationship it facilitates is not causal. The people you connect with on LinkedIn are not necessarily your friends on Facebook. And even if they are, you still engage with them in an entirely different way.

Now think about the consumer-brand relationship. This relationship is neither casual nor professional. There isn’t anything that fosters this type of relationship online. As a consequence, brands are asking consumers to connect with them in obscure contexts. For example, when a brand tries to join a conversation on a social network, it can be perceived as awkward — like the creepy guy who invited himself to the party.

Some people can rationalize being a brand’s friend, liking it on Facebook and talking to it on Twitter. However, for every one of those people, there are several more who have legitimate relationships with brands but do not view Facebook or Twitter as the appropriate place to cultivate those relationships.

By asking these people to connect with a brand in a manner that is normally reserved for a specific type of human relationship, you taint a consumer-brand relationship that might have otherwise been welcomed with open arms. People are obviously willing to form relationships with brands in the real world. However, in the online world, brands need to do a much better of job providing ways for consumers to engage with them appropriately.

Consumers Are Comfortable With Branded Content

Ironically, brands may already have the beginnings of a platform that, if made more social, has the potential to curate much stronger, more integrated relationships with consumers in a way that current social networks can’t. Consumers are already familiar with the idea that brands communicate with them via ads.

Currently, most brands ignore the potential to extend that conversation into a truly social experience. Brands need to start developing ads that function less like a one-way conversation that beg consumers to like them, and more like a distributed social network that engages the consumer and his friends in an explicit way.

Without providing consumers with integrated ways to connect around and relate with brands, the consumer-brand relationship will continue to be as awkward and forced as friending your boss on Facebook.

Interested in more Business resources? Check out Mashable Explore, a new way to discover information on your favorite Mashable topics.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Rupert Ganzer.

More About: brand, business, engagement, facebook, MARKETING

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April 22 2011

The 7-Stage Evolution of a Socially Responsible Brand

money happy image

Simon Mainwaring is the author of a new book, We First: How Brands and Consumers Use Social Media to Build a Better World (Palgrave Macmillan). Prior to founding We First, a social branding consultancy, Simon was a Nike creative at Wieden+Kennedy and Worldwide Creative Director for Motorola at Ogilvy. He blogs at simonmainwaring.com and tweets @simonmainwaring

For decades, the decision to be an environmentally and socially responsible company has been based on the bottom line: Would it be profitable? In general, companies have crunched the numbers and chosen shareholder profits over a sufficient commitment to invest in greater social responsibility. In terms of traditional accounting and the legal requirements of corporations, costs always outweighed benefits.

But it now seems that this equation is starting to lean the other way as brands recognize the potential financial and reputational advantages they can gain by engaging with consumers around the shared ambition of building a better world. We can see this already happening among some leading brands such as Pepsi, Google, Nike, Patagonia and Starbucks, who have all earned consumer respect for their involvement in some area of environmental or social responsibility related to their business.

How did this come about? In large part, it is because the payoff for corporate engagement with customers has risen dramatically as a result of social media. The new dynamics between brands and consumers, driven by social media, are proving to be a powerful impetus for change.

It begins with brands recognizing that, in the future, they must position themselves to win customers by offering them a vision of a better world and inviting them to help achieve it by co-creating the brand’s story. As the brand’s customers become loyal fans, they use their social networks to spread the word about that brand, driving even more new fans to join in. This dynamic may have its initial upfront costs, but it pays off in the end through an extended global audience of buyers and fans.

Transforming a brand into a socially responsible leader doesn’t happen overnight by simply writing new marketing and advertising strategies. It takes effort to identify a vision that your customers will find credible and aligned with their values. The company must learn how to engage its consumers with authenticity and transparency, using social media to create a meaningful dialogue. Finally, it must beat back the forces resisting change, including opponents among shareholders and management fighting to preserve short-term rewards for themselves.

The Seven Stages

The process of becoming a brand leader in the next decades will be an evolutionary one involving at least seven stages. Each stage is defined by its unique leadership style, brand vision, social media commitment and level of engagement with the brand’s customer base:

  • Unsustainable corporate self-interest: This is where most organizations sit today. They donate to philanthropy or practice some type of cause marketing but they largely define their success in terms of monetary returns for shareholders.
  • Self-directed engagement: A growing number of organizations are moving up to this stage, recognizing that changing their social responsibility profile can earn benefits. But most of their outreach efforts at this stage are still done for image management in the public eye. They are still motivated mostly by self-interest and the desire to avoid bad publicity.
  • C-suite reflection: In this stage, the corporate leaders of the brand begin to reflect deeply on their vision for the brand. A few leaders among them will put together a proposal for the company’s future based on fulfilling greater social responsibility benchmarks.
  • Consumer facing self-interest: At this stage, the brand begins moving toward an authentic commitment to socially responsible behavior. However, it still fails to make all of its consumer-facing outreach consistent. As a result, consumers (and employees) often experience a disconnection between what the company says it stands for and its actions, including its supply chain and the products and services it offers.
  • Self-directed reform: Here, a brand examines the details of its mandate — its core values, purpose and consistency of its messaging. It starts making serious changes such as changing suppliers, imposing strict ethical standards and hiring new leadership to reformulate its vision. These changes are mostly unseen by the public.
  • Brand leader: At this stage, the corporation embraces the need to share stewardship of their brand with their consumers. It recognizes the need to be transparent, accountable, and authentic. The brand endeavors to become a pacesetter for others in its socially responsible behavior. Its employees rank it as a great place to work, watchdog groups give it high marks as a responsible company, and consumers hold it up as a leading purveyor of positive social impact, by talking about the brand in their blog posts, tweets, and across their social networks.
  • Brand visionary: In this final stage, the brand is well respected for carrying a strong, long-term vision of a better world that it seeks to bring to fruition. It quiets shareholders who clamor only for short-term profits. It conducts a regular dialogue with its consumers, who willingly co-create the brand’s story, while being loyal fans of the brand and driving its profits. In achieving this brand visionary status, its customers form a global synaptic network that is always in support not just of its products but also the core values of the brand, which become meaningful in their lives.

  • The opportunity for many of today’s companies to become true socially responsible brand visionaries is available, but only if they want it, and ask their customers for help. Indeed, if we consider the online reach of companies like Facebook and Twitter, the offline reach of companies like Proctor & Gamble, Unilever, Coca-Cola and Walmart, and the fervent consumer loyalty that companies like Apple, Nike and Patagonia inspire, it’s easy to imagine how a web- and social-savvy population could coerce these companies — and any others who want to follow their example — into becoming the leading global brand visionaries of the future.

    Interested in more Social Good resources? Check out Mashable Explore, a new way to discover information on your favorite Mashable topics.

    Image courtesy of iStockphoto, clu

    More About: brand, business, charity, csr, MARKETING, noon-profit, social good, social media, social responsibility

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January 07 2011

Twitter for Brands: 6 Winning Strategies to Learn From

Megan Berry is marketing manager for Klout, the standard for online influence. She also blogs at The Huffington Post and Brazen Careerist. You can follow her on Twitter at @meganberry.

Twitter can sometimes create a dilemma for brands. It’s a medium that focuses on people, so how should brand accounts work? Should you let your users know who is the voice behind your brand? Should key employees represent your brand instead of a brand account? There’s not a one-size-fits-all answer to this question, but you can learn from how these companies are handling it.

1. People Like a Person, Not Just a Logo — @ford

ford image

Scott Monty is head of social media for Ford Motor Company and, for many, the face and personality of Ford on Twitter. His account, @ScottMonty, has more followers and a higher Klout Score than the @ford official account. Immediately upon talking to Monty, you realize why he’s had such success in his role: He’s not only personable but very much believes in the company. He says: “One of the reasons that it works so well is that I don’t do it simply because it’s a job. I truly believe in the things Ford Motor Company is doing — from the products to the great leadership. The reason I took the job is that it was something that resonated with me personally. I think you can tell when people are doing something just because it’s a job or because they truly believe in it.”

Monty points out that one of the biggest challenges to this approach is finding a representative that will be the right fit. As for the benefits, Monty adds: “People appreciate looking at a face as an avatar instead of a logo. That personal touch brings along a degree of humanity to the brand. I talk about 360 degrees of my life and people like that.”

Best for: Companies that have a strong social media lead who is committed to the company and who fits well with the brand image

2. Announce Who’s Tweeting — @Zappos_Service

zappos image

The Twitter handle for Zappos support has a rather unusual, but practical approach to having multiple people run its account: They simply tweet when they change shifts (which happens fairly often) and let people know who’s helping at any given time. It’s a very brick-and-mortar approach similar to how you can check the name tag of who’s helping you at the store, but you still view them as a company representative.

“We want Twitter to be more personalized,” says Corina Craig, one of Zappos’s tweeters. “We want people doing Twitter who like to do it. A lot of our customers have their favorite tweeters. People reach out and say, ‘Hey Corina — how’s everything going?’ ” This method was chosen to promote the best customer experience. You can get 24/7 service from Zappos and you can still correspond with someone who has a name and personality.

Best for: Companies that need to provide service 24/7.

3. Carefully Craft the Brand Voice — @VirginAmerica

virgin image

Virgin America does a remarkable job of being responsive on Twitter despite the fact that there are only two people behind the handle. Jill Fletcher is the social media and communications manager and one of those two people. She explains that they work very hard to develop a consistent company voice for the account that fits with the overall brand.

“The ‘Virgin Voice’ is casual, cheeky and irreverent, and so are we,” she says. “Nick [her colleague] and I work very closely together to inject as much of the ‘Virgin Voice’ into our tweets as possible, but we aren’t afraid to let our personalities shine through either. I think it’s a mistake to over-think every message that goes out on social media. Our aim is to simply be true to Virgin’s values in our social media posts by going out of our way to create ‘wow’ for our guests and having fun along the way.”

Best for: A brand with a strong voice.

4. Avoid a “Cult of Personality” — @WholeFoods

wholefoods image

The Whole Foods Twitter handle definitely has a social media savvy team behind it (even if you can’t easily tell who its members are). They have a very active presence and even post the hours that they are available to answer tweets, making expectations clear for their customers. Due to Whole Foods’ international nature, with each store potentially having quirks or a neighborhood feel of its own, having one Twitter account to represent all of them is a unique challenge.

Winnie Hsia, social media senior specialist for Whole Foods, says, “From the beginning, it has been important for us to avoid creating a ‘cult of personality’ around any individual managing our social media presence. We want our social media channels to convey our brand personality and not necessarily the personality of the individual managing the outgoing messages and conversation. We have, however, sought individuals who understand our brand voice — friendly, positive and conversation-driven –- to be our social media specialists.”

She believes keeping a certain level of anonymity is important for the brand. Michael Bepko, social media specialist, adds that this has never been a problem for them with their fans. “In general, what is really important to our customers, fans and critics on Twitter is that they receive quick, helpful responses from us … not that information originates from a particular person,” Bepko says.

Best for: Brands that are international or multi-faceted where it may be hard for one person to represent the entire company.

5. Get Many Departments Involved — @JetBlue

jetblue image

JetBlue Airways is another great example of a company that manages its Twitter brand well. Morgan Johnston, manager of corporate communications, says there are approximately 20 people behind JetBlue’s corporate account. “Every one of us is an established crewmember with expertise in different areas within the company that our followers find useful,” Johnston says. “Representatives from Corporate Communications, Marketing, Interactive (web) team, TrueBlue (customer loyalty) team, and Customer Commitment team are all able to respond directly to customers.” This allows the JetBlue Twitter presence to answer all kind and varieties of questions. Johnston adds, “We like to think of the team as an all-seeing, quickly accessible amazing information booth.”

JetBlue maintains a Twitter list of on-duty reps so customers can find out who’s behind the voice at any given time. JetBlue also uses co-tags when someone is expressing a personal instead of brand opinion. Johnston explains: “So while @JetBlue as a corporate entity may not be able to advocate for any particular restaurant at our airport terminal at JFK, you can be sure if I’m handling the question, there will be a “Try the guacamole at Revolución ^MJ” attached.”

Best for: Companies where customers are looking for information first and need to be able to get in touch with different parts of the company.

6. One Account, One Voice — @PalmsLasVegas

palms image

This Las Vegas hotel has an active Twitter presence that works well for its image. It maintains its brand without feeling stifled. Amber Olson, the social media strategy manager for the Palms, notes that the account has one voice behind it, making it easy to maintain one consistent feel and personality. While having one person behind an account may be impossible for bigger companies, it may be just the right mix for a local hotel or business.

“Tweets are done freely and in real time; it’s more genuine and in the moment,” Olson says. While most companies strive for this, it’s especially easy with this approach because there’s no need to check to ensure the tweet is in the right voice.

Best for: Small or local businesses where it’s possible for one person to manage the whole account.


Much like every other aspect of social media, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to how you should run your company account. However, there were some themes that held true in every conversation:

  • Your company Twitter handle should fit with your brand’s voice.
  • The person (or people) behind your company handle should have a personal voice that meshes well with the brand voice, and they should believe in the company’s core message.
  • Twitter is meant to be genuine and in real time. You have to trust those behind your Twitter handle and not make tweets go through layers of approvals.
  • Differentiate between personal and corporate views when appropriate.

The final take-away from these brands is that the voices behind them enjoyed what they were doing. That may explain a good deal of their success.

Disclosure: Ford is a sponsor of the Mashable Awards.

More Twitter Resources from Mashable:

- HOW TO: Launch a Successful Twitter Contest
- What Twitter’s Trending Topics Told Us About the World in 2010 [CHARTS]
- HOW TO: Use Twitter’s Advanced Search [VIDEO]
- 6 Ways to Score a Job Through Twitter
- We Hold These Tweets To Be Self-Evident [COMIC]

Image courtesy of Flickr, MARCOS XOTOKO.

Reviews: Flickr, Twitter

More About: brand, brands, business, customer service, ford, jetblue, List, Lists, MARKETING, palms, social media, twitter, Virgin, whole foods, Zappos

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January 04 2011

Why Every Brand Needs an Open API for Developers

Adam Kleinberg is co-founder and CEO at Traction, an interactive agency that aligns psychology with technology to create ideas that work. Catch him tweeting at @adamkleinberg and blogging at tractionco.com/blog.

The most effective ads today are experiences that provide value to customers. The biggest challenge is providing that value at scale in a world where people are empowered to consume media on their own terms through a dizzying array of gadgets, devices and doodads.

This puts marketers between a rock and a hard place.

For years, marketers have distributed messages to people with banner ads, which are like a rock that we throw at people with the dim hope that we’ll knock them upside the head. These rocks provide no value whatsoever.

Today, we’ve figured out how to create value — apps. Figuring out how to create utility is no easy path. Indeed, it is a “hard place” to reach.

But the reward is so great because with that app comes a deep and meaningful relationship with your customer — a new platform for your brand to foster long-term engagement with your target. And you are no dummy — you’ve even got a plan and a budget to drive downloads of your app. Bases are covered. What could go wrong?

We Already Have an App. What Could Go Wrong?

Application downloads look great in an ROI report, but when you take into account the proliferation of digital devices entering the market, the cost of producing unique brand experiences across all of them is exorbitant. You could spend a boatload of money creating and distributing this app only to have no one use it.

That’s what could go wrong.

Brand APIs as Value Platforms

Ironically, it is because of this proliferation of devices that the overall demand for content and utility is increasing. Brands should create value in the form of content and utility and distribute it via platforms that extend in reach beyond proprietary channels.

Apps are just channels. To establish value platforms, I propose that brands should consider creating their own APIs.

What is an API? An API, or application programming interface, is a hook. It’s one part of a software program that makes it easy for other programs to make use of a piece of its functionality or content. When APIs are made open, they can be accessed and used by anyone.

Facebook has APIs. Twitter has an API. Google has APIs out the wazoo. Why don’t brands have APIs? Well they should.

With APIs, you let other developers do your R&D for you. The benefit? You get development at scale with minimal investment. You effectively outsource risk because failures don’t cost you anything.

Brands need to think like startups. They must devise experiences that not only meet the demands of content and utility that audiences crave, but that are readily consumable in bite-sized chunks so that audiences can devour them on their own terms — and developers can serve them on theirs.

This last point is critical because it allows innovation to happen rapidly and without sustained investment.

“It Doesn’t Make Sense for My Brand”

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“Not my brand,” you say. It’s easy to envision how brands whose core business revolves around technology or data could make use of an API. eBay has APIs that allow developers to access their database so they can create new and innovative ways to buy and sell merchandise. Netflix had more than 6,000 developers download its API to participate in its $1 million innovation competition. But what about the rest of us?

First, interfaces are becoming core to the fabric of more and more brands and products. Soon, you’ll have breakfast in the morning and there will be an interface on your refrigerator. You’ll hop in your car and there will be another interface. You drive to the airport, jump on a plane and voila… another interface. All of those interfaces are opportunities for brand APIs.

What if you sell macaroni and cheese? Kraft recently released a behemoth of an application for the iPad called Big Fork Little Fork that is filled with games, recipes and videos to help parents teach their kids about healthy eating and discover ways to do so using Kraft products. A worthy goal, but does it sell Kraft products? I downloaded it two months ago, but neither I nor my kids regularly use the app.

Imagine if Kraft released a simple API that allowed people to type in any ingredient and get back a list of healthy recipes from Kraft’s database? As new form factors emerge (like that refrigerator interface), independent developers could create new distribution mechanisms in a fraction of the time Kraft could — and without the cost.

What’s more, a company like Safeway could use that API to create its own app tied to their grocery delivery service. Customers could have all the ingredients in a selected recipe delivered to their front door. That would sell Kraft products.

APIs to Spread Utility

evian imageBrands could also create APIs to allow for the spread of utility. Here are some examples for major brands. Nike could create a “Just size it” API that allowed you to take a picture of your foot and find the perfect shoe size. How would they distribute it? Let their resellers figure that out. Evian could create a hydration API that calculated how much people really ought to drink each day and then reminded them to do so. Netflix created an API so developers could come up with better ways to make movie recommendations. Why couldn’t wine company Constellation Brands create an API so developers could come up with better ways to make wine recommendations?

Note that any of these ideas could make use of an app as a delivery mechanism for their API, but their underlying value comes first. By providing access to that value through an API, they would allow the delivery of that value to spread exponentially.

Sure, ideas aren’t always obvious or easy to come by. They never have been. That’s why some advertising works and some doesn’t. Today, ideas that actually work are even harder to devise. We must not only understand the psychology of why an idea will work, but how they will work. Rather than truly gaining an understanding of the latter, many marketers fall prey to a disease called “Shiny Object Syndrome.” They follow the pack and slip the latest shiny object into their marketing plans. Last year, it was a Facebook Page. This year, it’s an app.

Before you grab for that shiny object, ask yourself what you’re really trying to accomplish and how best to make that happen. The best answer may not be an app. It may be an API.

More Business Resources from Mashable:

- HOW TO: Get the Most Out of Facebook Insights for Small Business
- Why the Fashion Industry Is Betting Big on Branded Online Content
- Top 10 Digital Advertising Innovations of 2010
- 5 Predictions for the Public Relations Industry in 2011
- 7 Stellar Examples of Branded Content from the Fashion Industry

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, enot-poloskun

Reviews: Apps, Facebook, Google, Twitter, iStockphoto

More About: api, App, apps, brand, business, MARKETING, small business

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December 08 2010

3 Things Brands Must Do to Reach Millennials Online

Nick Parish is the North American Editor of Contagious, a London-based intelligence resource for the global marketing community focusing on non-traditional media and emerging technologies.
Whereas yesterday’s concept of convenience was all about value and location (e.g. the 24-hour 7-Eleven store), today’s convenience is about getting what you want, when you want it, whatever that may be. This applies to content, customer service, and experience in equal measure.
In part, we can blame this shift on the Millennials, that quixotic generation marketers are still struggling reach. But Millennials’ style of empowered consumerism is beginning to have an effect on our expectations of brands and the places we expect those brands to be present.
A good example shows up in how they source new products. A recent survey by Edelman found that 87% of people born between 1980 and 1995 (referred to by the company as “8095ers”) go to multiple sources before buying a new technology product; 31% looked in seven or more places; 86% looked in multiple places before selecting a more commonplace product or service. They’re not afraid to shop around and actively contemplate purchases.

With this in mind, here’s a look at some of the core competencies marketers should have in place if they hope to reach this important demographic.

Provide Exceptional Social Media Customer Service

Good service, and the ways in which a brand can best meet the needs of its customers, lies at the heart of this new approach.
Glen Parker, research director at Universal McCann, whose team conducted the agency’s Wave.5 social media survey and interviewed more than 350,000 people, found that respondents really only had one thing in common when it came to online expectations from brands:
“Most (brands) inherently aren’t social, but users are expecting to see them in the same places [the users] are in. For all customers, the one thing they all want is good service, but in all other aspects they are completely different.”

This isn’t as easy as waving a magic wand and saying “Twelpforce” three times. Each solution will be different. UK retailer Debenhams, for example, appointed six in-store sales associates as “Twitter Assistants” to monitor a designated hashtag during its four-day New Season Spectacular. One roamed each floor of the department store, fielding questions about the products, offering to meet customers and show them where things were located, and generally answering customer queries.
The store had an average of 10 inquiries every hour during the course of the experiment, and it led to an interesting follow-up. The store is now inviting product designers to respond to customers’ questions. For example, you can ask the person who designed the retailer’s bedding range which loveseat and throw pillows would match, or query a clothing designer for fashion advice.

Do Good, Even When It Challenges Your Interests

Malcolm Gladwell’s recent indictment of social networks as not carrying enough weight to promote meaningful change has resonated with brands that want to provoke consumers to take action. Social good initiatives may not always be a boon for sales, but they are a great way to lock in brand loyalty with a demographic that cares about connecting with causes online.
Volvo has taken what some might consider a counterproductive approach to marketing with its “‘Fight for Your Right to Clean Air” campaign, which emphasized the number of premature UK deaths due to poor air quality linked with fossil fuel combustion (approximately 50,000, according to the campaign). The automaker, taking some responsibility for those deaths, worked with cleangreencars.co.uk to develop an environmental rating system which they hope to implement for every vehicle on the road. It’s also launched petitions to lobby the government, and developed an iPhone app to help you choose the most emissions-neutral car.

According to some automotive insiders, in a few years, Volvo’s cars will be topping these ratings, and the company is essentially building a framework that it’s going to excel in — that is to say, seeding a need. It’s a marketing campaign cloaked in public concern, with time before the tech comes to market. Indeed, earlier this year, Volvo contracted with a company called Clean Air Power to develop diesel-methane dual fuel applications on some tractor units.

Brands have to be able to offer more than just value. Addressing customer desires as they arise, anticipating the media channels in which they’ll arise, and pre-empting those desires with genuinely useful products and services are just a few ways to stay relevant.

Be a Smiling Omnipresence

If the consumer-facing proposition is one of ultimate convenience, then brands must be seen everywhere as a do-good enterprise.
We’ve recently seen this omnipresence in several campaigns. For instance, Wheat Thins’ widely seen “Crunch is Calling” effort rewarded a hungry fan who voiced her disappointment about running out of the snack food on Twitter. The brand went and delivered a pallet to her door. It’s an interesting way to use sudden response marketing to connect online consumers to real-world products — a “surprise and delight” strategy for the real-time age.
It’s often tough to be responsive and off-the-cuff when it comes to planning for this kind of eventuality, both in developing fairly open strategic frameworks and executing once the time seems right. But talkable stunts possess the power to transform into a sustainable marketing campaign, generating PR (such as national press, in Wheat Thins’ case) in the process.
A New Zealand bank has been using social media and online chat to revive face-to-face banking in an attempt to connect the old branch manager relationship style with the new reality of faceless online banking.
ASB Bank developed a Facebook-based “Virtual Branch” that offers a confidential online chat service between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. daily. The idea is, why would you head all the way to the bank on your lunch break when you can just chat directly with a representative, on your terms? The service is available to all, whether you have an account with the bank or not. There’s a sweepstakes element as well, where customers interacting can win one of 10 laptops in the give away.
Ultimately, these new conveniences is predicated on brands being preemptive and attentive beyond the checklist of a tidy media plan. Brands need to be actively scouting out new locales to interact with customers, both present and potential. It’s time to start giving the people what they want.

More Marketing Resources from Mashable:

- Beyond Viral: How Successful Marketers Are Embracing the Social Web
- HOW TO: Boost Holiday Sales With Commonly Overlooked Marketing Strategies
- Social Point of Sale: The Holy Grail for Location-Based Marketers
- The State of Small Business Online Marketing Budgets [REPORT]
- 5 Invaluable Marketing Lessons from an Epic Campaign for… Cream Cheese?

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Neustockimages

More About: brand, business, facebook, MARKETING, millennials, small business, social media marketing, twitter

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November 06 2010

What’s the Value in a Brand Name?

Companies invest a lot of resources, including time, talent and capital, in an effort to procure a positive status in the minds of potential customers. But how much value do companies really derive from cultivating brand names?

According to Aswath Damodaran, Professor of Finance at New York University’s Stern School of Business, a brand’s value is simply about the extent to which it can sell its goods and services at a premium price.

Damodaran presented on valuating brands at Friday’s L2 Innovation Forum. He noted that many marketers mistakenly attribute product quality, styling, service and reliability to a brand name’s value, when all brand value ultimately comes down to is pricing power.

“If you as a company tell me that you have a brand name, I’m going to ask you a question: ‘Do you have the power to charge a higher price for the same product?’” Damodaran said, “If your answer is no, I don’t think you have a brand. You may think you do, but I don’t think your brand has any value.”

To prove the value of brand names, Damodaran compared two companies making similar products: Coca-Cola and Cott, makers of RC Cola. “Soda is water with a bunch of sugar and a lot of crap thrown in. You can put whatever you want on the outside of the can, but there is really no difference between a cola and another cola. You may say that Coca-Cola tastes different — that’s what 100 years of playing with your mind does to you,” he stated. The cola business, then, is all about branding, not the product, he stated.

Damodaran valued Coca-Cola’s business at $79.6 billion, while the value of Cott was limited to $15.4 billion. To figure out the pricing premium, he simply subtracted Cott’s value from Coca-Cola’s value, arriving at a $64.2 billion total worth for Coke’s brand alone. That’s about 80% of the company’s value. Damodaran noted that the key number driving the valuation is the companies’ operating margins — Coca-Cola’s margin is 15.57%, while Cott’s is 5.28%. The typical company has an operating margin of 5-7%, so Coca-Cola’s margin is phenomenal. The bottom line: If Coca-Cola suddenly lost its brand name tomorrow, its operating margins would drop to around 5.28%, and it would lose $64.2 billion of value.

Wouldn’t we all love to have brand names as strong as Coke’s? Of course. The problem is getting there. Damodaran provided four insights into the core of branding that every marketer should keep in mind when pursuing a valuable brand name.

1. A Brand Is the Most Sustainable Competitive Advantage

Damodaran argued that brand name value is the “most sustainable competitive advantage known to business.” In Coca-Cola’s case, branding accounts for 80% of its value. Founded in 1886, the company is still going strong, with about the same brand personality.

He cited a study that looked at how long brand names endure. The top five brand names in 1925 were compared to the top five brand names in 2000. Three of the five brands survived the 75-year period. Damodaran asked, “How many competitive advantages do you know of that last 50, 60, 75 years?”

2. Luck and Serendipity Are Just as Important as Advertising

“Advertising can help, but it can’t be everything,” stated Damodaran. “In fact, I would argue that if you look at the value of brand names, the way they make it is a mix of some advertising, a lot of luck, and being in the right place at the right time.”

In an e-mail interview after his presentation, we asked Damodaran to elaborate on this concept that luck and serendipity are just as important as advertising. He responded:

“Take any of the big brand names of recent years: Crocs, Ugg, Under Armour… If you trace back their success, it cannot be because they came in firing on all cylinders. It was word of mouth, helped by networking (in this case among teens) and becoming fads… I am sure that there were other brands that were just as worthy that never made it.”

As the old adage goes, timing is everything.

3. Brand Value is an Illusion

As clearly demonstrated in the Coca-Cola example, branding is an illusion. Damodaran calls this the “Coca-Cola Corollary,” saying that taste doesn’t matter. “Taste is irrelevant here. It is an illusion,” he declares.

For marketers, he suggests, “Preserve the illusion.” When you mess with the illusion, you’re messing with the basis of how your brand is perceived. Damodaran pointed out the 1985 “New Coke” campaign, in which Coca-Cola rolled out a cola with new ingredients, replacing the original formula. This new formula was based on very expensive consumer research, which proved the new formula tasted better.

Although the tests said it was a hit, it turned out to be a marketing horror story. Receiving great backlash, Coca-Cola reintroduced the “original formula” and branded it as “Coca-Cola Classic,” learning that it wasn’t the taste that consumers wanted, it was the intangible emotional connections they felt with the brand.

Also relevant is the “Tiger Woods Corollary.” “If you mix your brand name with another brand name, watch out, especially if it’s a personal brand name,” he said. Do you think Nike foresaw any problems when it associated itself with Tiger Woods? I’m sure the flood of media coverage of his less-than-pious lifestyle was a complete surprise to the marketing reps at Nike.

“If you tie your brand name to celebrity brands, then you’ll essentially ride up with them, ride down with them, and you won’t control the brand name,” Damodaran said.

4. Even Valuable Brand Names Lose Value

If you have a valuable brand name, Damodaran recommends, “Don’t assume that value is going to stay intact forever. There are companies that have dissipated back into remnants… If you have a valuable brand name, hold onto it; preserve the image.”

Continue to nurture your brand’s image, “the illusion” as Damodaran would call it. Sometimes, the image is more valuable than the product itself.

What are your thoughts on the value of a brand name? Add them in the comments below.

See Damodaran’s full presentation from the L2 Innovation Forum below:

Images courtesy of Flickr, mleaks, dominicspics, kaibara, Edyta MaterkaTheTruthAbout

More About: advertising, brand, brand management, brand marketing, brand name, brand value, branding, business, coca cola, Coke, famous brands, MARKETING, small business, value

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October 19 2010

3 Things Any Video Needs to Go Viral

Viral Video Image

Dan Greenberg is co-founder and CEO of social video advertising company Sharethrough, where he as worked on more than 200 campaigns for top brands such as SONY, Xbox, Victoria’s Secret and LEGO.

Marketers are investing millions of dollars in creating branded video content, from webisodes to viral videos to extended commercials. Why? To engage audiences with authentic, inspiring, entertaining content, and to encourage those viewers to share that content with their friends.

Branded video content works. Recent research conducted by Vizu revealed that viral video can be highly effective in driving purchase intent. For example, one campaign Vizu tested delivered a 110% lift in consumers’ purchase intent, with video viewers two times more likely to purchase than people who hadn’t seen the video campaign.

Of course, the hope of most marketers is not just that people will watch their video, but that they will also share it. At my company, we’ve found that people will often remain watching a video three times longer when it has been shared by a friend, as opposed to finding it themselves on a website. But while shared advertising is considered the Holy Grail, getting people to share is often an elusive goal.

While some say viral video is an art, there are ways you can apply a little science to the process. Here are some attributes common to many successful viral videos and campaigns. They should inform your video strategy, from the types of content you create, to how you distribute the content, to how you optimize it along the way.

1. Psychological Share Motivation

There are three key reasons why users share video content, and tapping in to one of these three basic psychological drivers is essential to creating content that is likely to be shared.


Sharing feelings is a basic human need. If your videos capture an emotion that resonates with its audience, users will share it, because they are not just sharing your content — they are sharing the feeling your video has created.

A great example of a campaign that hit an emotional chord with viewers is the above Halo Reach: Deliver Hope, promoting the next installment of the hugely popular Halo franchise. This video paired gripping scenes from the new game with a moving soundtrack to touch both long-time fans as well as new viewers.

Identity and Self Expression

From the books we read and the movies we recommend, to the bands on our Facebook profiles, the content we share online increasingly defines our personality to our friends. In order to influence video sharing, it’s important to ask yourself: “When a user shares this video, what are they saying about themselves?” Your message needs to be clear and it needs to be something people will want to align themselves with, whether it’s a reflection of their humor, fashion sense, tech-savvy or popularity. If users don’t want their friends associating your video with their identity, they won’t share it.

For example, in this video, 8th Continent Soymilk created a very funny scenario that many of us can relate to: Moms who are trying to do their best but sometimes make mistakes. This campaign generated a lot of feedback on Twitter and Facebook along the lines of “this is totally me!” or “this happened with my mom!”


People are hard-wired to teach and learn. Online video is one of the most creative and effective ways to share information. Make a video that includes genuinely new and interesting information, and it will be shared, guaranteed.

A great example of this is the Stand Up 2 Cancer: Change the Odds PSA campaign, which presents information about cancer odds and prevention in a lighthearted, engaging way.

2. Easy Shareability

There are a ton of great, curated video sites popping up on the web that provide ideal audiences for brand content. We are all familiar with YouTube, but the incredible amount of content on the site makes it very easy for your videos and even sponsored buys to be ignored. Make sure you are not overlooking the rising tide of social video sites, such as Vodpod, Devour and PopScreen.

But that’s just the first step in distribution. If you are buying video placements in ad products that are not easily shared, you’ve vastly reduced your chances to generate any viral activity. All video players that house your ad need to have built-in social features that facilitate easy sharing of the content, and ideally, also feature a user’s social connections next to the video content.

For example, the above campaign promoting the Martha Stewart Show on the Hallmark Channel targeted a female audience across highly social web properties.

3. A Data-Driven Strategy

If your goal is to make your video go viral, you need to have some data behind your distribution strategy. Good questions to ask include: What sites generate the highest amount of sharing for the type of content you are making? Which users? What time of day do they share content most often? All of these factors need to be analyzed before you begin your distribution in order to give your video the best chance of going viral right off the bat.

Once your campaign is underway, look at which sites are driving the most shares, what demographics are sharing the most and so on, and start to shift more resources toward what’s working. YouTube offers some great free data options, but taking your analytics further to measure key categories like average view time per video and the share rate will give you a much better picture of what is really going on.

More Web Video Resources from Mashable:

- 10 Memorable Viral Videos of 2010
- 10 Killer Tips for Creating a Branded YouTube Channel
- 5 Indie Films that Couldn’t Be Made Without Social Media
- 10 Incredibly Inspirational Moments on YouTube [VIDEOS]
- 10 Best “Worst” Infomercials on YouTube [VIDEOS]

More About: art, brand, campaign, Science, video, video search sumit, viral video, viral videos, web video, youtube

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October 07 2010

8 Quick Tips for Developing a Facebook Marketing Strategy

Antony Mayfield is iCrossing’s Senior Vice President, Social Media, leading the company’s services and innovation efforts related to the social web. You can find him on iCrossing’s blog or on Twitter. This article is based on an iCrossing research paper of the same title.

When Mark Zuckerberg said that Facebook was “almost guaranteed” to reach 1 billion users, there were few that doubted him. The social network has become a mainstay of the web experience for so many people, and many would argue that it’s second only to Google in its importance to online marketers. This rapid rise means that the site is constantly presenting marketers with new challenges and opportunities — some that can be overcome, some that just need to be accepted, and some that could change the way people use the web.

Here’s a look at what brands face when it comes to marketing on the largest social network.

1. Facebook Will Compete with Search Engines

Search is about making sense of the web. Google has traditionally done this by using links as a sign of authority. Facebook aims to do the same with “Likes.” Facebook isn’t a search engine itself, but it is a different route to making sense of the web. Moreover, Google is increasingly adding real-time social media content to its index in tacit acknowledgement that it sees itself being outflanked by the social media platforms.

For the moment, Google remains the place where consumers go to find things, but Facebook’s ability to capture eyeballs means that it should now be a primary focus for any online marketer.

It’s also worth noting that Facebook has chosen to embed Bing search results from the web alongside queries within the network. Marketers, take note: Facebook is positioning itself not only as a place for in-stream, friend recommendations, but as an all-purpose hub with both traditional and social search value.

2. Ignore the Anti-Hype

There has been a backlash against Facebook in the media, focused predominantly around the privacy debate, with speculation about whether this means users will leave the site. For brands, the question is always, “Is it safe to invest in what could be a short term, MySpace-style fad?”

But the media backlash has been just that — a predictable response to a company that’s enjoyed a spectacular honeymoon with the press. In terms of real users, it seems that there’s less to worry about. Some early adopters have left in response to privacy concerns, and some of the younger demographic might be tempted away by new social gaming platforms, but the mass market is here to stay when it comes to Facebook.

3. Live with Community Pages

The introduction of Community Pages has been one of the most significant developments for brands on Facebook. These automated pages are intended to pull together content around topics to create information resources for users. In the real world, they have largely served to clog up Facebook search results with hundreds of overlapping pages containing posts of indifferent value to users.

It’s hard to spin community pages as a positive for brands, since they compete with official brand presences and can serve to promote negative comments in a forum where responses can’t be made. However, many now hope that consumers will quickly recognize that community pages aren’t serving their needs and so will focus their attention on the official brand Pages.

In short, make sure your official Facebook Page is full of relevant and up-to-date content so that it’s clear to consumers where the interaction should be taking place. If current trends continue, Community Pages will likely not stay relevant enough to be a threat.

4. Facebook Can Be a Dangerous Place for Brands

Brand Facebook Pages seem like a no-brainer these days. They’re a cheap and effective way of connecting with fans. However, some have found that it’s not so simple. Take Nestle for example.

An on-page dispute over environmentally sound purchasing practices and alleged misuse of Nestle logos quickly escalated into a global PR crisis. However, the potential for backlash shouldn’t keep you from having a Page; it’s simply a matter of training and preparation.

Before you build a Page, you need to think about whether you have the resources and strategy to manage it properly. Can your agency offer you expertise in community management? Have you established a set of best practices to guide your Facebook Page managers? Do you have a Facebook plan in case of a crisis?

5. Build It and They Won’t Come

There is an assumption among many marketers that Facebook is a free medium that will deliver hundreds of thousands of new customers. That’s not the case. It has a massive audience, but that audience isn’t necessarily on the site searching for brands. There are few brands out there with the clout to spontaneously generate an audience, so you need to think about how you’re going to proactively build your fan numbers.

The obvious options are Facebook ads, which can be cheap and effective, and promoting your Facebook page on your dotcom site. On top of this, you can leverage your employees to include the brand’s Facebook address in their e-mail signatures and get them to tell their friends. On top of that, look at it as any other marketing campaign; reach out to bloggers and journalists, e-mail your best customers and put signage in your retail stores.

These might seem like resource-intensive options, but marketing is rarely free. Facebook has the potential to reach a massive audience, but it’s a competitive marketplace for attention, so you need to fight for your fans. Of course, once you’ve got your fans, you’ve got to make sure you use them well. A massive fan base left disengaged can quickly lose interest. However, with the right community management strategies, your Facebook fan base can be a powerful tool.

6. The Changing Face of Facebook

One of the constants of Facebook is change. Social marketers are used to waking up to find that something has changed in the way that Facebook works without warning.

Whether it’s the new “Like” button, the social graph protocol or the recently announced new Facebook Groups, the fact is change and adaptation are at the heart of Facebook marketing.

7. Facebook the Retailer

While the world has been debating Facebook’s privacy procedures, the site has been quietly preparing an assault on a new battleground: e-commerce.

Commerce isn’t new to Facebook. The 200 million people who play games on the network every month are already paying for virtual goods. However, Facebook is targeting a much broader audience. An e-commerce Facebook app, Payvment, is already in use by 20,000 small retailers. It’s in its early days, but no retailer should ignore these trends. With the average user spending something like seven hours a month on the site, and with many already “Liking” commercial brands, there’s a real chance that retailing might soon shift away from dotcoms and over to Facebook’s social graph.

8. A Facebook Page Isn’t a Social Media Strategy

A Facebook page isn’t a social media strategy. It might be an important part of one, but being connected socially means engaging with customers, fans and critics wherever they are. People talk all over the web, and being connected is about being part of those conversations. Your social strategy should be about putting a little bit of social into every move your business makes.

What are some of your own key tips when it comes to planning a Facebook strategy? Let us know in the comments.

More Business Resources from Mashable:

- HOW TO: Advertise Inside Social Games on Facebook
- Why the Social Gaming Biz is Just Heating Up
- Why Games Are the Killer App for Social Networks
- How Online Retailers Can Leverage Facebook’s Open Graph
- 15 Twitter Lists for C-Suite Execs to Follow
- HOW TO: Legally Structure your Startup

More About: brand, business, community pages, engagement, facebook, facebook pages, Google, like, List, Lists, MARKETING, SEO, small business, social media strategy, tips

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October 05 2010

Top 5 Enterprises Using Social Media

The Social Media for Business Leaders Series is supported by The Awareness Social Marketing Hub, an enterprise-grade application for marketers who manage multiple social channels. Learn more here.

money idea imageBusinesses use social media — that’s no longer news. But not all of them really understand its unique properties and the opportunities it can create. Copy-and-pasting traditional advertising onto social platforms doesn’t work. It requires openness, creativity and commitment.

For our purposes, a top enterprise is any business or organization that not only figured out social media, but implemented it with unique success. In coming up with this list, we considered “enterprises” as far reaching as Burberry, Wilson Tennis and Justin Bieber.

There are countless enterprises — from mega brands promoting campaigns, to small business owners growing their presences — maximizing social media in their day-to-day. In choosing these five to highlight, we looked for both creativity and success. You’ll notice that shoo-ins like Old Spice and Pepsi Co. are missing. Instead, we focused on enterprises you might not have thought of as “social media savvy,” but that are no less capable of leading the charge.

Which enterprises really get social media? Fill us in on your picks in the comments below.

1. The National Wildlife Federation

nwf image

The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) is a U.S. non-profit dedicated to conservation and advocacy. Moreover, it has shown a commitment to social media to help raise awareness and build community. Its social media page collects all of its (many) accounts.

Rather than update from a social media hivemind, the non-profit has created individual channels, communities and accounts to update and connect with its unique audiences. Just want to know about Alaska? There’s a Facebook Page for that. Want to connect with staffers? There’s a Twitter List for that, too.

The woman behind much of the effort is Danielle Brigida, the Digital Media Marketing Manager at NWF. Each department runs its own social network feed with Brigida acting more as a social media consultant to help NWF connect. “We’re reconnecting with people we may not be able to touch personally,” Brigida says, noting that some of the NWF’s long-term members “now feel more connected than ever because we can reach them on Facebook.”

As far as converting the NWF staff, Brigida used the strategy “if you use it right, it feels right,” and turned skeptics into social media enthusiasts and evangelists.

Social media has helped the NWF reach a younger audience and improve engagement, even leading to a mobile app. Still, their efforts have remained on-brand. “Our history has been [one of] a very grassroots organization,” Brigida said. “Social media is sort of getting back to our roots where every individual who can support something or speak up can do that.”

2. Ann Taylor

ann taylor image

Clothing and fashion companies have been an unexpected proponent of social media, for both offering deals and regional discounts as well as fostering brand loyalty. Ann Taylor went a step further, using feedback from its social presence to drastically alter its marketing and advertising.

Facebook fans were upset when LOFT (a brand owned by Ann Taylor Inc.) used ultra-thin models to sell clothing that they felt didn’t look good on real women. The next day, LOFT responded by posting pictures of their own employees in the clothing. Not only were fans pleased at the company’s honesty, but it allowed them to get a glimpse at the people behind the brand. Other companies have since followed suit.

Ann Taylor also set up tiered Foursquare promotions to focus on customer loyalty. While Ann Taylor has gotten in trouble in the past, it uses social media in a focused way to build loyalty not just by offering sales but by interacting and listening to its most important constituents: its customers.

3. The Muppets Studio

The Muppets Studio is probably the black sheep of this list. Who would have thought that the fuzzy-wuzzies of our childhood would so aptly nail social media both in parody and practice?

The Muppets Studio is a case study in how to properly leverage YouTube. The Muppets, once television and movie stars, had seen a decline in popularity (despite the long-running success of similar property Sesame Street). To compete, the Muppets created a YouTube channel and started making exclusive videos that retained the charm and humor of the show, but with social media twists. The above video is a clever combination of Beaker’s mishaps and the trolling nature of YouTube comments and annotations. Other videos play on the auto-caption function or home-made song mash-up videos à la Pomplamoose.

The Muppets have also appeared on cooking shows, clips with the band OK Go, soon-to-be-released mobile apps and another feature movie. At heart, the channel has helped reinvigorate the brand with most videos receiving hundreds of thousands of views (the average is about 400,000). The Muppets Studio understands the changing tastes of its audience and has created a social video experience that caters to it.

4. Whole Foods

whole foods image

Whole Foods has built a brand on the home-grown, authentic feel of mass produce. They’ve carried those same principles into social media. Sure, big retailers have Twitter accounts, but how many encourage individual stores and regional areas to create unique accounts in order to reach specific communities with targeted information and updates? That’s exactly what Whole Foods did. They extended that philosophy to other social networks with the creation of Foursquare deals (complete with window clings), a company blog, a dedicated customer feedback site and mobile apps offering utilities like store finders (obvious) and searchable recipes (less obvious).

Whole Foods’ social strategy has a lot of moving parts, but it’s not reaching beyond the main tenets of its brand. Authenticity and regional communities are at the core of its social media outreach.

5. Staples

Staples provides a good lesson in how to make a huge company feel personable. Its Twitter page is a great source of community feedback and customer support. It also features some caricatured headshots of its online support team, who sign their tweets with their initials. This helps the customers identify with the real people responding to their tweets, while also easing the sometimes alienating process of customer complaints.

Customer interaction pervades all its social media efforts including its Facebook app, “I Shred U“. The app lets you digitally shred or edit pictures of yourself on Facebook. It’s a lighthearted addition, but one that embeds Staples into the social mindset of its customers by offering utility as opposed to berating them with promotions.

While there are many companies like Staples, they are still a good example of an enterprise using social media in a concentrated and effective way.

Ultimately, these five companies showed forethought and creativity in the way they approached social media, but this is certainly not the end of the story. There are plenty of companies out there with unique takes on social media. Let us know about your favorites in the comments below.

Series supported by Awareness

The Social Media for Business Leaders Series is supported by The Awareness Social Marketing Hub, which builds social marketing software for marketers leveraging multiple social channels to engage with customers, build their brand, and increase revenues. Built upon Awareness’ expertise deploying more than 200 communities and social media projects for the world’s biggest brands including Sony, JetBlue, Kodak, ASOS.com and AIRMiles, The Awareness Social Marketing Hub is a leading enterprise-grade application for marketers struggling with the social media chaos of managing multiple social channels. With the Awareness Social Marketing Hub, marketers are now able to publish, manage and measure across all their social channels from one central location using advanced built-in permissioning, workflow and audit controls.

More Social Media Resources from Mashable:

- 5 Winning Social Media Campaigns to Learn From
- HOW TO: Get the Most Out of Your Business Facebook Page
- 5 Huge Trends in Social Media Right Now
- The WikiLeaks Debate: Journalists Weigh In
- A Field Guide to Using Facebook Places

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, skodonnell

More About: ann taylor, brand, business, danielle brigida, facebook, loft, muppets, muppets studio, national wildlife federation, nwf, social media, social media for business leaders series, staples, twitter, whole foods, youtube

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September 08 2010

11 True Stories Behind Tech’s Top Names

Contrary to popular belief, Pete Cashmore doesn’t have an obsessive love for potatoes. Rather he dubbed his blog “Mashable” because the original site covered tech “mashups” — web projects created by combining two services, like Flickr and Google Maps.

Other companies have different strategies for naming or branding themselves or their products. And in the tech world, most of these reasons aren’t apparent. Sure, everyone knows by this point that Google comes from a specific large number called a “googol” and that Microsoft combines “microcomputer” and “software.” But what the heck is a Twitter?

We reached out to tech companies asking them to explain their names. What we got were 11 interesting stories that will satisfy your curiosity.

1. Twitter

The name Twitter was picked out of a hat. A small group of employees from Odeo, the San Francisco podcasting startup where Twitter initially began, had a brainstorming session. They were trying to come up with names that fit with the theme of a mobile phone buzzing in your pocket with an update.

After narrowing down the options (which included Jitter and Twitter), they wrote them down, put them in a hat, and let fate decide. Fate decided on Twitter (because clearly asking someone if they saw your latest ‘jeep’ is just weird).

2. Android

Apparently Andy Rubin, the co-founder and former CEO of Android, really, really likes robots. “You have to be a little bit careful when you’re around Andy and his robots,” says Nick Sears, the other Android co-founder, in this YouTube video. “I’ve seen his dog attack his robots.”

3. Foursquare

Dodgeball, Dennis Crowley’s first attempt at social networking for mobile phones was acquired by Google in 2005. When Google killed the project, Crowley founded an improved location-based social game he named Foursquare.

Does Dennis Crowley have some sort of unresolved childhood issues relating to playground games?

As it turns out, no he doesn’t. “Dennis chose to name both companies after playground games because they were both designed to be fun and playful,” said Foursquare’s PR manager in an e-mail. Apparently Foursquare was actually always Crowley’s first choice, but the domain name wasn’t available when he founded Dodgeball.

4. 37signals


As with so many great things, the name 37signals was inspired by PBS. Carlos Segura, one of the original partners of the company was watching a science show called NOVA. He learned that in the search for extraterrestrials, humans constantly analyze radio waves from outer space. While almost all of the signal sources have been identified, 37 signals remain unexplained.

As for the camping theme, there’s no great explanation. “Camping… It just happened,” wrote founder Jason Fried in an e-mail. “Basecamp was the first product and then we sort of ran with it. But Highrise and Sortfolio didn’t follow the theme. If we can follow it, great, but it’s not at all a requirement.”

Still, for a company that professes to not care about names, 37signals has some pretty creative ones.

5. Yahoo!

Founders David Filo and Jerry Yang started what would become Yahoo when they were Ph.D. candidates at Stanford University. The project originally consisted of categorized lists of favorite links on the web, which made its original name, “Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web,” at least accurate if not so catchy.

Yahoo is actually an acronym for “Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle.” But according to the company, the team chose the name for its definition: “rude, unsophisticated, uncouth.”

6. Adobe


Adobe founders John Warnock and Chuck Geschke were working for Xerox during the late 70s and early 80s, and living in Los Altos, CA, and Adobe Creek just happens run through the town.

According to the creek’s Wikipedia page, it was named for the nearby house of a 19th Century governor. So, at least in some sense, the company was named for the building material.

7. BlackBerry

Despite popular belief, the way that the buttons look a bit like the seeds of a berry wasn’t taken into account. The name BlackBerry was purely a marketing decision. The communications team offered up this explanation in an e-mail:

“RIM wanted a name that would be distinctive, memorable and fun and that would work well internationally and appeal to a wide range of customers. RIM decided to go with a connotative word for the brand name rather than a descriptive or invented word.”

8. Apple


Apple has no official story, which means that you can take your pick of the following rumors:

  • Steve Jobs used to work at a California or Oregon apple farm during the summer. He grew to really appreciate apples.
  • Steve Jobs really liked the Beatles.
  • Steve Jobs was three months late filing a name for the business, and he threatened to call his company Apple Computers if his colleagues didn’t suggest a better name by 5 p.m.
  • Steve Jobs wanted to distance the company from the cold, unapproachable, complicated imagery created by other computer companies at the time.

    You probably have your own theories, so let us know in the comments below.

    9. Zappos

    Zappos was originally named ShoeSite.com when it was founded in 1999. This posed a bit of a problem when it wanted to start selling more than just shoes. While still quite fond of shoes, the team didn’t abandon the theme entirely. They decided on a variation of the word “shoes” in Spanish. Thus “zapatos” was converted to Zappos for the company name.

    10. Nintendo


    The three words “Nin” “ten” “do” is Japanese for “we do all that we can, as best as we can, and await the results.” Nintendo is sort of a motto and company name all in one. Who knew that the gaming giant was so poetic?

    11. Aardvark

    Today, Aardvark has a sleek website where users can type or e-mail their questions to be answered by the appropriate people in their own social networks. But co-founder Max Ventilla’s idea began as a chat buddy that could intermediate conversations with people you know online.

    There were advantages to having this name at the top of the buddy list, a spot which was occupied on Ventilla’s buddy roster by his friend Aaron. Alphabetically speaking, there aren’t many options that trump Aaron. “Aardvark” is one of the few names that could shoulder him out.

    Other factors the name had going for it were its ability to conjugate into the invented active verb “vark,” and being an animal that people recognized but typically didn’t have strong associations with.

    “We also felt that an animal had the right positioning as helpful but not perfect,” said Ventilla in an e-mail. “If we chose a human or a robot mascot people would spend their time trying to make it look stupid, but they’d cut an animal more slack.”

    More Tech Resources from Mashable:

    - Life After Google: 15 Startups Founded by Ex-Employees
    - 10 Fun Facts You Didn’t Know About Google
    - 10 Great Google Slideshows
    - 10 Great Watches for Gadget Lovers [PICS]
    - 10 of the Web’s Most Insightful News Infographics

    Image courtesy of iStockphoto, monkeybusinessimages

    Reviews: Aardvark, Android, Dodgeball, Foursquare, Google, Mashable, Twitter, YouTube, iStockphoto

    More About: 37signals, adobe, android, apple, blackberry, brand, branding, foursquare, name, Name origins, Nintendo, steve jobs, twitter, Yahoo, Zappos

    For more Tech coverage:

  • September 03 2010

    A Beginner’s Guide to Facebook Insights

    Facebook Image

    Ekaterina Walter is a social media strategist at Intel. She is a part of Intel’s Social Media Center of Excellence and is responsible for company-wide social media enablement and corporate social networking strategy.

    You have created a Facebook Fan Page. Now what? I bet these questions come to mind: “Is my page a success?” “Who is engaging with us?” “Is our engagement effective?” “Does our content strategy work?”

    The Facebook Insights dashboard will help you answer some of these questions. As defined by Facebook, “Insights provides Facebook Page owners … with metrics around their content. By understanding and analyzing trends within user growth and demographics, consumption of content, and creation of content, Page owners … are better equipped to improve their business with Facebook.”

    So what’s the best way to use this relatively new tool? We’ve outlined some steps below that should have you measuring Facebook engagement in no time.

    Note that only page administrators can view Insights data for the properties they own or administer.

    Examine a Wide Range of Data

    There are two types of Facebook insights:

    • User Insights: Total page Likes, or a number of fans, daily active users, new Likes/Unlikes, Like sources, demographics, page views and unique page views, tab views, external referrers, media consumption.
    • Interactions Insights: Daily story feedback (post Likes, post comments, per post impressions), daily page activity (mentions, discussions, reviews, wall posts, video posts).

    The question then becomes: “What do you want to track and measure?” There is a lot of data offered, but you want to sort through it and identify what information is meaningful and will help you make decisions about your engagement and content strategy. If that data is not readily available, you might want to do some manual calculations to derive the numbers you’re looking for.

    Below are the insights I recommend you pay attention to and track.

    • Monthly fan size growth: Record the number of fans (or “Likers”) you have on the first of every month to see what your growth looks like. I’d say if you are growing organically and you have 10 to 13% monthly growth, you are doing extremely well. That is probably the highest organic growth number anyone can achieve. You can even go more granular and calculate weekly growth. Whatever you decide to do, make sure to watch for the spikes in fan growth and try to identify what contributes to those spikes.
    • The average number of Likes or comments: These are your engagement measures. If you know the average number of times fans interacted with you for every single post, you will be able to identify which discussions are of more interest to your fans. Watch for unusual spikes or drops in this number. I love this metric because it is extremely helpful in making immediate decisions in your content strategy and changes to your editorial calendar. Increase the number of posts around the topic your fans are more engaged with and decrease the number of posts around topics they are not interested in.
    • Unlikes and attrition rate: The fact is that you will always have some unsubscribes, no mater how great your engagement is, but hopefully it is just a small number. I usually just watch for spikes in the unlike numbers. You want to try and correlate them with the activity on your page and understand why people are leaving your page. It is rather hard to nail down the exact reason, but if there is an unusual spike, you will usually have a pretty good idea.

      The simple attrition rate formula is:

      Daily Unlikes / Daily Fan Count

      This metric will tell you how many of your fans are leaving your site. It is normal to have small constant attrition over time.

    • Demographics: No matter what your objectives are, you can always find the demographics data useful: the gender of your fans, their ages and where they are from.
    • Page views: I like this metric because it helps you identify the number of returned fans. If you take the number of page views and subtract the number of unique page views, you will see how many of your fans are actually coming back to your page. You can also look at the Daily Active Users metric.
    • Mentions: This is the number of times someone tagged you in their post. The reason why this metric is important is because it is the easiest way for your fans’ friends to click through to your page. Every time someone tags you, the name of your Page appears as a link. It is much easier for someone to click on that link and learn more than to search for your Page manually. One of your goals should be to increase the number of mentions by your fans.
    • Tab views: This is the new metric Facebook implemented a couple of months ago. If you have multiple tabs on your page, it will tell you which tab gets what percentage of traffic. This metric will help you decide on whether you would want to keep or maybe get rid of some of your tabs. This is especially helpful as you can only have six tabs visible on your page at one time, and this data will help you prioritize accordingly.
    • Referrers: Another new metric that tells you where the traffic to your page comes from. You want to increase exposure to your page on the sites that bring you the most traffic.
    • Impressions: If your page is over 10,000 fans, you will see the number of times your post was viewed –- impressions. This metric is not exact since every time someone’s page refreshes, it counts as an impression. This number is usually a little overblown, but can show you how many times your post has been seen.

    Some of these metrics require constant manual tracking and analysis, which is a big downside. However, the above metrics will help you make decisions about your engagement and content strategy that would allow more effective interactions with your customers.

    More Social Media Resources from Mashable:

    - HOW TO: Get the Most Out of Your Business Facebook Page
    - 5 Huge Trends in Social Media Right Now
    - The WikiLeaks Debate: Journalists Weigh In
    - A Field Guide to Using Facebook Places
    - 5 Useful Facebook Trend and Search Services

    Image courtesy of iStockphoto, alexsl

    More About: analytics, beginner, brand, business, comments, demographics, facebook, facebook insights, facebook page, likes, List, Lists, measurements, metrics, monitor, small business, social media monitoring

    For more Business coverage:

    August 30 2010

    AMD Discards ATI Brand Name

    Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) has decided to kill its ATI brand name, judging that the names of its graphics chip products, such as Radeon and FirePro, in combination with the AMD brand, are familiar enough to consumers to stand on their own.

    AMD had bought graphics chip manufacturer ATI for $5.4 billion back in 2006., in one of the biggest acquisitions ever in the semiconductor industry, and internally, ATI was renamed to AMD Graphics Product Group.

    However, due to the strength of the ATI brand (and the long-time rivalry with competitor Nvidia), the ATI name survived to this day, often causing tech journalists trouble as they had to squeeze three brand names – AMD, ATI and Radeon – in one title.

    Now, after conducting market research which showed that the AMD and Radeon brand are strong enough, AMD has decided it doesn’t need the name ATI anymore. Current products will not be renamed, but we can expect to see the first AMD Radeon products later this year.

    More About: AMD, ATI, brand, business

    For more Tech coverage:

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