Don’t Forget the Story Behind the Story

Posted on September 28, 2010 by Comments Off

How often have you seen a video that blows you away, then immediately leaves you baffled and questioning — how in the world did they pull that off?

It’s unrealistic to go into a campaign expecting to produce a “viral” hit, but you do sense when you’re tapping a creative goldmine. There is nothing more exciting than being in a brainstorm when the big idea finally surfaces and the foundation is in place to build out a creative project.

But during a campaign planning phase there is also a need to maintain a proactive mindset, analyzing and assessing every possible outcome and interpretation of your campaign across various audience segments. Any good viral campaign is going to lend itself to series of spoofs and remakes that twist the messaging and shift the focus around a marketer’s own specific goals. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if ad agencies are already marketing “spoofs and remakes” as a key service area.

In most cases, this isn’t a bad thing. Remakes and spoofs will often actually help drive traffic back to your original campaign as viewers reference back to provide context around a related spot they are watching. That being said, preparing the “story behind the story” can serve as a huge asset to help extend coverage around your message or campaign.

Undoubtedly, if your campaign does go big, outlets will come knocking, wanting to know how in the world you pulled off the idea (examples: Old Spice & Coke Happiness Machine). Why not dump a few extra resources into capturing video, photos and interviews with key people behind the campaign to build out this asset in a creative way?

In looking back on the Walk Across America video, what I particularly love was the way the crew simultaneously developed a “behind-the-scenes” video detailing out how they developed the spot:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cp8t27oT_ww

Immediately after providing viewers with a “wow” video, they quickly enable interested viewers to dig deeper on context. Would you mind taking in a extra 350k views?

This is a huge strategy for brands as it can afford a method for pulling off a great creative spot while still having a backend asset to enhance some brand messaging that would otherwise detract from the original creative. Furthermore, the additional context can drive the authenticity of the campaign and provide a viewer with a greater appreciation for the time and resources devoted to making the end product appear smooth and effortless.

Big Takeaway
Whether you’re building out a video, narrated photo slideshow, blog post, infographic or other asset, always keep the extended storyline in mind as a way to garner additional attention.

“Behind the Scenes” – Image By: Bryan Fenstermacher

What Powers the Facebook Status Update

Posted on September 14, 2010 by Comments Off

We’ve all seen the mundane status updates from our friends and brands we follow on Facebook:

  • “Cat just coughed up hairball. Great.”
  • “PBJ or ham & cheese…hmmm…”
  • “People are here. We’re starting our meeting.”

Facebook status update

To no surprise, these types of status updates rarely receive a “like” or comment. Following the f8 developer’s conference in April, TechCrunch wrote a post detailing Facebook’s insight into the algorithm that makes the all-so-important Facebook news feed tick.

To most, the news feed has become second nature. Log on to Facebook at some point in the day, scan your news feed and receive quick updates about what your friends or brands you follow have been up to lately. Simply put, a user is far less likely to specifically click over to a particular group, page or person’s profile on Facebook on a regular basis. For online marketers, this emphasizes the critical need to publish content that will continually pique the fans’ interests and prompt them to engage with brands.

So, what is this “secret sauce” that determines what shows up in your news stream? The technical formula can be found on the aforementioned TechCrunch post.

But, what does that mean to you? Great question.

Teach to Digital Fish has done a superb post addressing just that topic.

How is all this being used by brands?? Another great question.

Smart brands are providing extremely engaging content via photos/video, gathering feedback from fans, prompting action and promoting deals. In January, I provided my recommendations and tips around elements that make a good status update. This of course varies based on your overall goals and primary use of a page.

Case Study
I would encourage you to hop over to Thomas Umstattd Jr.‘s blog where he has embedded a video from a recent SMB Austin event. In the video (at about the 6:30 mark), Thomas talks about the work he recently did on a political campaign and the strategy and tactics he utilized to engage fans in support of his candidate. It’s an excellent case study and example of the crucial role page content plays in bolstering engagement.

Big Takeaway
No one brand has the golden ticket answer as to how to build a foundation of hundreds of thousands of engaged fans overnight. Certain brands are certainly doing things better than others but all brands should at least be cognizant of thinking through the implications of each and every status update. Most importantly, continue learning, tweaking and improving by analyzing Facebook Insights all the time.

Facebook Causes Get a Major Facelift

Posted on August 26, 2010 by Comments Off

Facebook CausesNot a moment too soon, Facebook Causes announced on Tuesday that the application would be receiving some major changes to enhance engagement and interaction with supporters.

The announcement came with little fanfare but is actually quite significant for nonprofits and organizations that have struggled to find ways to maximize utility behind the application. To date, causes has come under criticism for only raising around $22 million through the application — a relatively small amount in consideration of the platforms 500 million user base.

According to Causes, the new open graph API will allow Cause administrators to do the following:

  • You will be able to post bulletins to your members’ News Feeds, the first page they see when they sign into Facebook.
  • Your causes will be searchable in Facebook. Before, your cause was searchable in the Causes application but not the main Facebook search. Not anymore!
  • Your causes will be featured in the Likes and Interests section of your members’ Facebook profiles.

In a word — HUGE.

Anyone who utilizes Facebook for marketing purposes understands how crucial it is to tap into user’s news feeds with compelling content. It’s a tricky business and one that Facebook takes very serious by utlizing a special algorithm to determine when and where content appears in users’ feeds.

We applaud you, cheers Causes!

Image by luisramirez.cl

Facebook Places? What Do I Do Now?!

Posted on August 19, 2010 by Comments Off

FacebookGet ready. The giant social networking behemoth known as Facebook has finally stirred from its hibernation in location-based land.

A move of this nature by Facebook is undoubtedly always followed by a flurry of activity by communications pros as everyone races to establish a POV, spotlight bugs or issues and highlight best practices.

A quick blogTwitter or news search this morning around “Facebook Places” is enough to produce a whirlwind headache before you even reach that slew of 30 client e-mails with subject lines similar to the title of this post.

Ready? Deep breath. WE’s got your back.

First, it’s important to note that not all 500 million Facebook users are waking up to find that they have access to Facebook Places this morning. As opposed to blasting the entire community, Facebook is being smart, testing the waters and assuredly waiting to gather feedback as they slowly open access to all users.

You’re also not going to find a new ”Places” tab simply by logging on to Facebook via your desktop or laptop unless you visit here — http://touch.facebook.com. In addition, unless you have an iPhone, you’re out of luck until Facebook rolls out versions for Android and BlackBerry.

If this is the first you’re hearing about Facebook Places or have only heard mentions of the service, here are some helpful resources to get started:

3 Resources to Help You Learn About Facebook Places

1. Mashable. A Field Guide to Using Facebook Places

2. All Facebook. Complemented by Inside Facebook, but both will help you stay on top of the latest happenings.

3. Techmeme. Another good resource to follow key updates and changes. If you need the minute-by-minute, nitty-gritty details and insight, following the topic Twitter stream is probably your best bet.

Yada, yada, yada. Great, I can “check-in” now using a platform other than Foursquare. Why is this stuff at all important to me, my company or business or my clients???

I highly encourage you to hop over and check out Tracey Udas’ post about 5 Things You Need to Know About Facebook Places Right Now. To summarize Tracey’s post, Places impacts the following:

Check-In Integration. Facebook is working with Foursquare, Gowalla, Yelp and Booyah’s InCrowd to integrate and allow users across any platform to share their check-ins on Facebook.

Business Presence On Facebook. Facebook is hedging confusion around how Places will impact businesses that currently have pages, be it robust or minimal.

Privacy. A unique and possibly controversial aspect of Places is the fact that you will be able to check friends into locations similar to how you tag friends in photos. This is currently a DEFAULT setting and needs to actively be changed by users. No fear, it’s a simple process, and LifeHacker has provided an excellent step-by-step video to guide you through the process:

YouTube Preview Image

Feeling calmer? Good. Mission accomplished. Now, let’s get strategic…

How do you plan on using Facebook Places personally or professionally for your own business or clients?

Image by libraryman.

Why Creativity Needs to Drive Agency Culture

Posted on August 10, 2010 by 4 Comments

In the communications industry, “creativity” carries a wide array of meaning and interpretation. All too often, the word is aligned with designers and marketing specialists who are responsible for creating a fancy brand or dreaming up a viral PR/ad campaign. Dangerous.

For agencies large and small, it’s all too easy to bucket out creativity without recognizing the crucial importance of infusing a creative mindset across an agency setting. In essence, creativity should never be thought of as that “thing” that you focus on only during client brainstorms. Similarly, creative resources should never be aligned with “X person” at your agency that is identified as THE creative head.

The reality is that each and every person at your agency has the potential to be creative. How your agency activates and leverages that potential as an asset to your client base and as an overall competitive threat is a key capability differentiator.

Last week, I had the opportunity to chat with David Mahlmann, VP of Ideation and Creative Insights at Waggener Edstrom to discuss his thoughts on infusing creativity into agency culture.

YouTube Preview Image

I couldn’t agree more with David’s thoughts on the topic. Personally, it’s the creative nature of my job and the industry that keeps me excited each and every day. In the world of communications, there are no boundaries to how we craft messages, build narratives and develop compelling prompts to generate action.

Whether it’s the physical environment of your agency, your team’s approach to brainstorming or the unique way you pitch new business and market yourselves online, take a moment to think about the multitude of ways creativity can separate your agency from the pack.

Are You Analyzing Your Competitor’s Videos?

Posted on August 3, 2010 by 1 Comment

I’m a big fan of YouTube Insight.

As with most content published via social media, there is always a degree of trial and error — especially when it comes to video. It’s the reason so few videos ever actually do achieve “viral” status. Nonetheless, video marketing has become slightly more scientific based on the analytics you can pull from various hosting platforms. In particular, I’ve found the data from YouTube Insights to be incredibly useful for tailoring content to a specific audience’s interests.

Just recently, I discovered that YouTube has now extended access to most of their analytics to the public. In other words, any person watching any video on YouTube can now look at various statistics including total views, comments/favorites/ratings, links, audience demographics, honors and more. This isn’t breaking news, but it also wasn’t something that was buzzing around when it was put in place in June. In my eyes, this is HUGE.

Think about the competitive insight that YouTube has just opened up. Rather than dig deep on details, I highly encourage you to hop over to this fantastic post by CJ Bruce that goes into details about how to maximize use of all the data provided. I’ve also included a quick graphic below so you can see how to access the analytics from any individual video page (note, not a channel).

YouTube Insight

Ford Facebook Reveal Day = Smart Digital Launch

Posted on July 27, 2010 by 4 Comments

Yesterday, Mashable announced Ford’s plan to unveil the new Ford Explorer via a dedicated Facebook page.

Typically, Ford would unveil a new design at the Detroit Auto Show but the team decided to capitalize on an opportunity to make its mark around a product launch.

If you haven’t explored the page, here’s a quick breakdown on the context of how things came about prior to Ford’s big Reveal day:

  • The Ford Explorer Facebook page was created on March 16, 2010. Ford utilized social ads to drive traffic to the page with the promise of giving away a Ford Explorer if the page surpassed 30,000 fans. The giveaway was key in helping build a fan base before launch day.
  • A custom tab labeled “Reveal” was set up to serve as a hub for the launch day activity. In essence, Ford’s newsroom for the day as it positioned itself as a key media hub.
  • A build-your-own widget was created to assist users in creating their own perfect Explorer.
  • Planned content was unveiled throughout the day featuring rich content that went live on the Facebook page wall, Ford YouTube channel and Flickr channel. Content includes:

Though we would all love to think that this innovative launch helped Ford sell zillions of Ford Explorers and created a perfect case study for pairing social media and ROI, let’s look at the approach from a bit more practical standpoint.

Ford was smart. Why? Here are a few reasons…

  • INNOVATIVE HOOK: This is the first time that Ford has unveiled an automobile outside of a car show. This is the news hook that various news sites and blogs have been picking up.
  • FOCUS ON CONTENT: Appropriate interesting content is necessary to get your target audience involved and enthused about the product. In this case, Ford phased their content so fans were encouraged to return several times today as new content went live. In addition, all content is hosted on familiar social media platforms, encouraging easy sharing and embedding.
  • INTEGRATION ACROSS MARKETING: Advertising, PR, social marketing and direct marketing are all in synch to support and extend the campaign. Brilliant integration of the Facebook “like” buttons into online media ads.
  • CALL TO ACTION: Besides just viewing the content, visitors were able to enter the sweepstakes contest, find unveil events in their market and easily engage with the “build your own Explorer” module.
  • OPEN ENGAGEMENT: The wall posts were honest and seemingly uncensored with good, neutral and negative posts from visitors showing that Ford is interested in real conversation. Ford continues to monitor the posts and is responding to questions and comments.

24 hours later, how did Ford fare from its creative launch?

  • Brian Skepys notes that Ford increased its fan base by 10,000 fans in one day (currently at 53,000+ fans) and has most certainly prompted competitors to begin thinking about alternative ways to launch cars outside of the traditional auto show setting.
  • WE’s twendz tool shows strong positive sentiment around #fordexplorer hashtag. In addition, kudos for the team for integrating a promoted tweet into search queries around #fordexplorer. While the Ford Twitter profile remained active throughout the day yesterday, it seems that the team could have done more on the stream to maximize utility around the great content it had created and to tap influencers within target market launches nationwide.
  • On the video front, the spots positioned on the page Reveal tab generated a total of 50,857 views — not bad for day one as this will continue to snowball as buzz spreads. Hopefully the Ford team is digging deep on YouTube Insights to assess the demographics of its viewers and look at the referral links and search terms driving views.
  • The launch strategy alone created significant blog activity helped create a side door entry to garnering buzz.
  • All wall post chats throughout yesterday generated strong response and active dialogue. Kudos for opening up dialogue with consumers from a variety of different perspectives. These chats will likely provide incredible direct feedback from some of Ford’s most passionate brand enthusiasts. Hopefully the team will create easy-to-access transcripts of each of the full chat sessions.

Did Ford Miss Any Opportunities?
Opportunities will always surface after the fact. Ron Callari does note one important potential miss around focusing on the Explorer’s Web-based features. As Ron notes, these features may have been of particularly relevant to the targeted social savvy audience base.

Final Takeaway

Kudos. Time will reveal the full impact of this launch but the fact of the matter is that Ford ditched the old school strategy of dumping millions into traditional advertising and instead created a smart, interactive and integrated campaign that took their messaging and content direct to consumers. For an industry that constantly relies and thrives on innovation, Ford took advantage of an opportunity to step outside of its comfort zone and create an alternate strategy to generating buzz.

Last but not least, it will only take a couple handfuls of these to justify the effort:

@nathanmisner also provided analysis for this post.

Want to Get a Blogger’s Attention? Comment.

Posted on June 16, 2010 by 3 Comments

Let’s face it. In the blogosphere, you’re either a spectator, critic or creator.

To put the spectator or critic categories into a visual format, consider the following. Would you rather be:

A) A Statistic …

spectator

OR

B) A Connector …

critic

The answer is easy for anyone who has the intent of ever building relationships and engaging with others online.

Let’s be honest — we’re all strained for time. PR people are lucky to sneak in a glance at blogs or social news sites before having to jump back to client work (unless you’re Gatorade and have opted to centralize monitoring with a social media war room … yea, I’m jealous). While most people may be perfectly okay consuming content in a passive manner (option A above), we all know that it takes active participation to actually build dialogue and make connections online.

Too often, blogger outreach is still vastly overlooked on the PR front. Don’t get me wrong, everyone loves a headline story in the NYT or Washington Post. But, why only bank on delivery of the golden ticket when having a vast network of influential bloggers can drastically help boost your outreach? In addition, bloggers are often the starting point for building momentum around a story that will eventually help you leverage outreach to top-tier publications.

So Scott, let me get this right. You’re saying we just need to start commenting like crazy on industry blogs and we’ll be moving right along?

Wrong.

Connecting with bloggers is different from connecting with mainstream media. You don’t pitch bloggers. You build relationships, and as we all know, relationships take time (check out Brian Solis‘ and Arik Hanson’s tips on blogger relations).

Commenting is a solid start to building relationships, but it’s important to remember the following before throwing up any random response:

1. Comment early
If you’re not already, you should be using Google Reader, Feedly or some other aggregator to pull in blogs and news sites that you want to read daily. A quick glance at your reader each morning provides a great opportunity to be one of the first to comment. This shows the blogger that you’re attentive and also gives you more freedom to shape the follow-up discussion.

2. Keep your comment concise and relevant
Deviate too much from the topic of the post or try to be a sly marketer and you’re asking to have your comment blocked or deleted.

3. Add value
Very rarely does a short “Great post!” comment do anything but boost the comment stats for a blogger. Provide some additional insight, share a relevant link to a similar article or useful resource (again, be careful not to appear as though you’re marketing yourself — it’s good to link to content that doesn’t directly benefit you), suggest that the blogger connect with person X — the options are endless.

4. Provide your name and a legit link
There is nothing worse than seeing a comment from someone only to find that it’s a spammer attempting to get you to click over to a bogus site. Keep it personal by linking your comment to your Twitter handle, blog or LinkedIn profile. It’s also not a bad idea to sign off your comment with your Twitter handle for other commenters to connect with you. NOTE: If you’re a PR pro and represent a client, say so. Transparency trumps all.

5. Monitor
Don’t just leave a comment and not return to a post — especially if you are voicing a strong opinion that is likely to generate further conversation. Some blogs do provide the option to be notified when you leave a comment, but if not, be sure to check back one other time that day and the morning after to see if you should respond further.

6. Show respect
Would you walk into someone else’s house and greet them by spitting on their shoes? No … at least I hope not. Same rules apply. It’s absolutely okay to disagree with a blogger (and bloggers will often write posts with the intent of prompting feedback with differing opinions), but don’t come out of the box with a contentious line. Step back, breathe, think about what you want to say, and carefully craft your response in a respectful manner lest you plan on being shunned from the comment board forever.

Bonus — Connect Further!
Comments are great, but you can easily be buried in the mix, especially with popular bloggers or posts. If the blogger provides an e-mail address, try connecting further after you’ve commented on his or her blog a few times. Your name will likely ring a bell as most bloggers receive e-mail notifications when a new comment is posted. That being said, keep your initial outreach simple. Don’t dare use the e-mail as a way to paste in a press release or irrelevant pitch and call it a day simply because this blogger made it onto your target outreach list.

On that same token, do your research: Some bloggers refuse pitches all together. But, remember degrees of influence. A “don’t pitch me” blogger may help you connect with a better resource down the line.

If not by e-mail, try poking around on other social sites to connect further. A few retweets and replies or consistent post bookmarks on Delicious are likely to help draw a blogger’s eye and assist with name recognition down the line.

Finding Time to Comment

Kiesha Easely recently provided a breakdown on her daily blogging schedule. Few people in PR have time to maintain this intense of a schedule, but it’s a good example. At the least, you should be monitoring. It’s too easy to do and way too important. If you’re not, you’re missing out on huge opportunities.

Start by taking 15 minutes after your daily monitoring to comment on three different blogs. Analyze the types of comments on others post, and find ways to fit your voice into the conversation. Over time and if done right, people will respect you as a member of the community.

Now, go get your comment on.

Cheers,
Scott

Transforming Video Spectators Into Creators

Posted on June 4, 2010 by Comments Off

A recent report from the Pew Internet Project and an announcement on Mashable reinforce an online trend over the past few years — video is hot. As stated on Mashable:

52% of the American population is watching videos online — that’s 69% of all Internet-connected American adults

In addition, a few other key findings stand out in the study (benchmarked from 2007):

  • Increased popularity of online video consumption outside of the 18-29 year-old age range
  • Comedy or humor videos have risen in viewership from 31% to 50% among adult Internet users (now trumping news video consumption)
  • Increase in educational video viewership from 22% to 38% among adult Internet users

On the video creation front, men and women are also now posting videos at a similar rate (used to be more popular among men) and video sharing is most popular on social networks:

Pew Research - Online Video

As PR/marketing pros continually look to integrate video into contests, digital storytelling efforts and general communications campaigns, the primary challenge is to move people from a “spectator” status to “creator” status. Active participation on the creator front can ramp up the amount of authentic content to engage target audiences — a key asset when budgets are tight or geographic restrictions are in place.

Here are a few steps that can be taken to move your spectator group into action:

  • To start, if video does not already play a significant role within your overall communications plans for clients, it’s time to go back and rethink those plans.
  • Common Craft has demonstrated great success in the ”how-to” space but given the upswing in educational video popularity, don’t shy away from generating a creative “how-to” video. In other words, make the technical process as simple as possible for your audience to get involved.
  • Yes, YouTube and Vimeo are primary video hubs, but don’t forget about pulling people in through social networks and niche communities.
  • Keep your ask simple. Visa’s FIFA “Goooal!” campaign is a great example. Clear ask, easy to participate and affords a world of creativity.

As a general takeaway, it’s important to note that as technology advances, video creation will undoubtedly increase. More video creation will result in a general rise in familiarity with video as as a communication medium and eventually drive quality content. All-in-one devices and faster upload times will help prompt this process as we continue to push past the first wave of mainstream adoption.

What role do you see video playing in the next 5-10 years?

Add BP to the Brandjacked Bin

Posted on May 24, 2010 by 3 Comments

Brandjacked.

Though brandjacking is certainly not a new concept, it’s one of those words that can quickly ignite panic in the world of social media.

Unfortunately, brands, people and products are brandjacked every day. With the lightning pace and ease by which online presence can be established and content shared, online reputation management has become more important than ever.

BP has quickly become the latest big brandjacking victim with the launch of @BPGlobalPR — a rogue Twitter account that is claiming to be BP’s PR department pumping out snarky tweets about the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Sample Tweet from @BPGlobalPR:

Negative people view the ocean as half empty of oil. We are dedicated to making it half full. Stay positive America! #IwantmyBPtshirt
about 12 hours ago via web

Tweets such as the one above are pulling in hundreds of followers by the minute. When I started drafting this post, the @BPGlobalPR account displayed 7,925 followers. 15 minutes have elapsed and the account currently has 9,000 followers. The account launched on May 19. Yikes.

One would hope that whoever manages BP’s official Twitter account (@BP_America) has some type of listening and monitoring process in place and is by now well aware of the @BPGlobalPR account. That being said, here are a few immediate steps that BP should consider taking … pronto.

1. Contact Twitter. Though still in beta testing, the announcement of Twitter’s Business Center is proof that Biz and the boys recognize the important role that their platform plays for businesses, and vice versa. This isn’t the first case of brandjacking and certainly won’t be the last. Given the national spotlight on the oil spill, chances are good that they’ll be sympathetic toward helping BP get their ducks in a row and shut down the @BPGlobalPR account.

In the meantime…

2. Acknowledge. Obviously, BP has a bit on its plate at the moment. That being said, someone at BP is updating the official Twitter account. At the least, acknowledge the account to your followers so that they know it is fake. It’s also important to not backlash against the @BPGlobalPR account but rather open up some dialogue and let them know that you’re aware of its existence.

3. Monitor & Respond. It appears that the originator of the @BPGlobalPR account is on a quick mission to sell some BP Cares shirts. They’re managing to build a quick following with witty, clever tweets. Tweeters and bloggers will eat this content up, and a flurry of offshoot posts and other content is sure to emerge. The best BP can do at this point is stay tuned to the conversation, monitor the follower base and respond and comment when possible.

Though it’s a rough position for BP, it’s an opportunity to offer up some quick key reminders to prevent your own brandjacking incident.

Secure Usernames — If you’re heading up social media at your company or in any way in charge of communications, I highly recommend hopping over to http://www.usernamecheck.com/. The site provides a great overall analysis of common and not-so-common social media sites. Simply type in a username at the top, and let the analysis begin to see where a particular username is already being used. Whether you plan to actively use the username or foresee potential use, lock it down on the most popular social media sites.

Think Proactively, Plan Broadly— The endless possibilities of URL and username combinations make it tough to ever create a full protective brand shield. Whether planning for a campaign or updating your crisis-comm plan, think proactively about potential secenarios and the keyword/username slate that could impact your efforts.

Have your own advice for BP or general brandjacking prevention tips to share? Feel free to post below!

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