What You Can Learn From the Worst Interview Ever

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One of the biggest trends in online video content today is to produce and post live footage and interviews. Thanks to technology, brands of all sizes can dip into this river by taping things like segments from industry trade shows, in-store events and the like. Yet if you aren’t prepared, a live video and interview can go from bad to worse in the blink of an eye. Just ask Fox News’ Lauren Green.

In what’s being called the “worst interview ever,” Green has made headlines and viral history for all the wrong reasons. In an interview with Reza Aslan, a best-selling author, Green breaks journalism law 101 and browbeats her guest. Green repeatedly wondered how Aslan, a Muslim, could possibly have written a historical analysis of the life of Jesus Christ. The painful three-minute segment featured borderline-discriminatory questions like, “Why would you be interested in the founder of Christianity?” while Aslan squirmed and tried to remind her he has a Ph.D. in religion and writes about a variety of faiths. What Green never got around to doing is getting more information on his book (which she clearly didn’t read) or even starting a real conversation or debate. Oy.

But Green’s train wreck can be our tutor in what to avoid in branded live videos and interviews. Here’s three tips we can take to heart for our own live videos:

1.) Come Prepared: Whether Green was simply fed questions or didn’t have anything else to talk about rather than the faith of her guest, there is no denying it was awkward. She seemed totally ill-prepared. When interviewing and shooting live footage, make sure you know who you’re talking to and what you want to ask them. Read their bio, visit their website, email them beforehand get to know them a little (bonus tip: if they’re promoting a book, you should read that, too). Also, get professionally schooled on the technical requirements of streaming live and uploading to your channels. What’s the WiFi situation where you’re filming? Have you tested your equipment? How will you address sound issues? Answer these before you go live. You don’t want to promote a live interview or event and have your followers not be able to watch it. 

2.) Be Respectful: It’s important to remember when shooting on location or while interviewing that the people involved are most likely doing us a favor by letting us show up with cameras and equipment. The least we can do is get there on time, make them feel comfortable and return things to where we found them before we leave. With guests, a little warmth and respect not only makes them feel comfortable but makes you easier and more engaging to watch. 

3.) Move On: What makes this downright excruciating is Green’s one-note questions which accomplish nothing, other than make her look like a tool. Instead, when someone is rambling or a guest isn’t as fascinating as you hoped, move on to different questions. Try to engage them in topics that relate to their field and to the things your followers are interested in. If it still isn’t working, wrap it up. The last thing any brand wants is its video to go viral for being a disaster.

TSA Uses Social Media to Carry On the Message

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Over the last few years, Twitter marketing and Facebook campaigns have been paramount in helping government agencies and nonprofit organizations spread information about important regulations and changes happening in said organizations. New traffic laws, food safety alerts and disaster relief efforts are just a few ways these agencies have used social media platforms to inform the public. And now, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is the latest group to rely on social media marketing in hopes of driving home an obvious but important point.

You’d think most of us would assume that since we get scolded on the size of our toothpaste or forgetting to take off our shoes, we’d know that loaded firearms were a huge no-no on airplanes. You would be wrong. In fact, the TSA reports that a surprising 894 guns alone have been taken directly off passengers or from their carry-on bags since January. This a 30 percent increase from last year. The TSA hopes to remind folks that weapons on airplanes are not okay by using Instagram. The account, which debuted in June, features pictures of cleverly disguised weapons with witty captions. The campaign hopefully will remind passengers what they can and cannot bring on a plane.

And so far, it seems to be a hit. With 46,000 followers and just 11 posts, folks are obviously responding to the agency’s humorous but informative snapshots. Still, this isn’t the TSA’s first social media rodeo.

“The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) uses a variety of ways to engage with the traveling public in order to provide timely information that assists them in traveling safely,” the agency said in a statement.

But the TSA is one of the first government agencies to really utilize Instagram, and we think it is wise move. With image-based blogging at an all-time high, brands that capitalize are undoubtedly going to turn heads. For non-profits and government organizations, image-based blogging seems incredibly progressive, even edgy. 

But whaddya think, readers: Is Instagram marketing the new Pinterest marketing? Are government-based social media campaigns effective? And just for kicks, tell us your airport security horror stories. We know you have some. Sound off in our comments section!

Blog Like the Big Brands: Driscoll’s

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When a person or company really loves what they do, you can tell pretty quickly: Their employees are happy; they have plenty of clients. And this warm and fuzzy juju spreads to their followers. So why not give a little love to your blog creation? Driscoll’s berries really loves berries, and the Berry Blog certainly proves it.

Driscoll’s has been selling and distributing berries since 1904, and nearly every major grocery store carries its products. To be in the berry game for so long likely requires that the company have a deep affection for little, juicy fruits. Need proof? Just take a look at the Berry Blog. The posts have beautiful, original images of berries. Pictures of berries being used in recipes, photos of farmers harvesting berries and shots of Driscoll’s employees at work make the blog pop while giving readers a well-rounded look at a the company itself.

With blogs for food products, the ultimate goal is to inspire readers to turn off their computers and run to the grocery store. That’s a goal the Berry Blog accomplishes with recipes and how-tos for things like old-fashioned strawberry shortcake and chocolate-covered strawberries. By giving readers a look at the company’s practices and the day-to-day operations, however, Driscoll’s accomplishes something deeper. Driscoll’s open door proves the company is really proud of — and truly loves — its business and the people who support it.

If Driscoll’s blog can be this enthusiastic about berries, why can’t your accounting or event coordinating blog be filled to the brim with love? Why not inject some love into your personal training or pet supply blog? And why don’t you put a little love in that online shoe store of yours? When you love what you do, people can feel it and are attracted to your business. Blog content that loves what it’s talking about accomplishes the same thing. Blog about the products, services, employees and awards you are really proud of. Blog about the things that make your company unique. Share images and videos that you love with your customers. Create posts that are rich with your passion for your company. Your life is too short to create boring blog posts that you don’t truly love. Moreover, readers aren’t going to waste time on posts that put them to sleep. So get out there and put a little love in your blog.

5 Things for July 27: All Twitter Edition!

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Why, hello Friday. As per the custom ’round these parts, today is the day we publish the list of 5 stories you might have missed. Thing is, there were so many interesting, juicy tidbits about Twitter marketing and management this week, we decided to devote the entire list to our favorite little birdie. Let the tweeting begin! (And to follow us on Twitter, go here.)

1. Whack Hack: Oh, Chipotle. How could you? In what’s one of the most polarizing Twitter campaigns in recent memory, to celebrate its 20th birthday, the burrito mecca’s Twitter account was “hacked” on Sunday. But the hacking in question was actually a ploy by Chipotle to promote the milestone while picking up new followers. The company fessed up to Mashable later in the week, but the scam already had worked: Chipotle gained a whopping 4,000 new followers. Is this genius Twitter marketing or just plain shady? Let us know in the comments.

2. Favorites Are Our Favorite: Favorites are in! This May, Twitter users hit their ‘favorite’ buttons 1.6 billion times. But what is it? Favoriting a tweet lets users know you loved what they were laying down in 140 characters. Think Facebook ‘like’ without the evil corporate agenda behind it. Favoriting has become a safer, less intimate way for regular folks, brands and celebrities alike to communicate with followers. In time, ‘favorites’ could be a real commodity for brands and it is certainly a marketing trend to watch. 

3. Twitter Twalk: We love coming up with Twitter-inspired words almost as much as we love Twitter itself. After all, the site has a language all its own, and an ever-changing one at that. This funny post by TIME Magazine’s Katy Steinmetz looks at the ebb and flow of Twitter-inspired words and the forces that create them. 

4. More Faking It: Et tu, Twitter? B.S. tweets praising products have existed on the site for years, but when the pretend tweets in question come from Twitter itself, there’s a real problem. Twitter issued an apology on Thursday for a series of phony tweets touting one of its products. The big no-no here? Twitter used real bloggers and their images to endorse stuff without their knowledge. Twitter said sorry to its users and the ticked off bloggers and took down the tweets. 

5. Geraldon’t: And finally, let’s all agree to learn from the poor judgment of one Geraldo Rivera on what not to tweet. A drunken, nearly-nude photo by the talk show host was tweeted this week, much to his 18-year-old daughter’s dismay, who told Rivera about the picture and ordered him to take it down. Geraldo said in his defense that it seemed like a good idea at the time. Sexy pictures on Twitter are never a good idea, especially for Geraldo. Let’s all keep Twitter fun and less gross while not embarrassing our kids, shall we?

Content Marketing and the PR Renaissance

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Remember PR? You know, public relations? Remember when companies paid for that stuff instead of just having an intern tweet it? It’s okay. We barely do, either. In our post-content marketing revolution world, PR seems like an ancient beast tiptoeing its way to extinction. Many industry insiders say, however, that could be changing. 

As a recent panel, BuzzFeed’s Jonathan Perlman optimistically stated, “I think PR is bound for a renaissance.” The panel also featured Matthew Browher of Ketchum and Digiday’s Josh Sternberg. Sternberg agreed that the explosion of content marketing hasn’t killed PR. Rather, it’s brought it back to life.

“At the end of the day, all people care about is good content. PR people have the skills to create that content. There’s going to be a big push in the PR agency world in the next 12-18 months toward this, especially as media agencies and ad agencies are getting squeezed,” Sternberg said.

Not only do PR firms have the writing skills, distribution is sort of what they do best. PR geniuses become that way because they have a talent for getting the right stories to right media channels. A great story becomes a forgettable one if no one knows about it.

“Content is king, but distribution is queen and she wears the pants. It’s not nearly enough to create a good piece of content. You have to understand how content spreads across the web,” Perlman concurred. 

Personally, we’ve seen the small business PR trend explode because of content marketing. Motivated business owners get a crash-course in PR when they’re stuck with great, original content and pushed to find new ways to distribute it. Thanks to social media, blogging and more online media options than ever before, folks are feeling empowered to take on the PR reigns for themselves.

Readers, do you agree? And are you a do-it-yourselfer when it comes to PR, or do you use an agency? Tell us in the comments section!

Attack of the Blog Clones!

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At Brandsplat, we blog about blogging. That means we spend a lot of time reading blogs. Keeping up with the habits and styles of other blog writers has given us an education that we then get to pass on to you, our awesome readers. For brands, reading the blogs of other brands can be similarly informative. Seeing how others in your industry blog can teach you new tricks and inspire you — just as long as you’re not trying to be an exact replica. Everybody hates that. And yet, we find borderline-plagiaristic patterning all over the web.

“Why does every website look the same?” is something we wondered recently. This has happened before with blogging and online media, but the cloning seems especially out of control right now. Look at Mashable. Then go check out ReadWrite. Then go look at BuzzFeed. Even your Outlook and Gmail inboxes look like clones of one another. While all the content on the aforementioned sites is admittedly different, you can’t help but notice how much they look the same: bold color in either the logo or in a color bar at the top of the page followed by a slide-show of the top stories and wrapped up by little photo boxes of the other top stories on the site. We’ll put the blame on BuzzFeed who seems to have single-handedly changed the way we blog. They’ve even morphed Mashable from a fabulous news source to another spot for Twerking videos and soggy writing. We’re frightened that there’s some evil empire changing every site into copies of one another. 

All kidding aside, we tend to believe that a desire to have our blogs turn into clones of the big guys only makes our blogging less valuable. When the goal is to morph into the next BuzzFeed, the originality of a blog’s voice gets watered down. This is especially true if you’re blogging for business. Brand identity is something every company has to define and it’s an ongoing task. Why throw all of that in the fire, just to look and sound like other brands? Sure, read other blogs; that doesn’t mean you need to be a photocopy. Don’t sacrifice your brand’s unique identity for a fad. It didn’t work so well in middle school with parachute pants and it doesn’t work now for blogging. Sure, it is important to stay on top of blogging trends, looks and personalities, but these things always fade. The next big blog trend is around the corner and trend victims will once again be scrambling to keep up.

Does Social Media Marketing Equal Buying?

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For as long as social media marketing has existed, one question has remained constant: How do our efforts with Facebook and Twitter management turn into dollars? Despite a blur of infographics and a tornado of blog posts from journalists, many are unsure if social media is really worth it. Yet a new study might finally provide real insight into how “sharing” equals “shopping.”

From Social to Sale is a published study conducted by Vision Critical that looks into how social media drives customers’ purchasing decisions. The study reports that nearly 40 percent of social media users have purchased an item after sharing or “favoriting” it on sites like Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook. And speaking of Facebook, the study claims that the social network is the most likely to drive customers to purchase. The big shocker here is how social media drives real-life, in-store shopping at about the same rates as online purchasing.

“One of the more surprising findings in this whole research for me,” the study’s co-author Alexandra Samuel, vice-president of social media at Vision Critical, said in an interview, “was to see how significant that in-store purchasing is. This is one of those really not intuitive findings.”

Facebook once again reigns supreme when it comes to pushing people to purchase, both online and in-store. A full 30 percent of participants said “liking” led to in-store purchases, while another 29 percent said liking influenced online buying. Other data showed incredibly positive signs of how “likes” and “favorites” effect purchases on sites like Pinterest, which has a high rate of post-pin sales, and Twitter. 

But the quest for a real, meaty conversion rate advertisers can sink their teeth into will undoubtedly carry on —primarily because consumers don’t have exact information.

“If you ask people how many cars they’ve pinned or tweeted before they bought their car, they would have an idea,” Samuels says. “But the number of instances vary so much by product category. I mean, if you asked me how many pairs of boots I’ve pinned in the past year, not only would I be ashamed to tell you the number, but I don’t really know.”

Blog Like the BIg Brands: Zillow

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If you’re in the information website biz where all you do is help people find stuff, blog content management is probably the last thing you want to do. After all, all your business does is spew out helpful tidbits to help folks — and you’re expected to blog, too? We get it. But a blog can also be a chance for an information-based brand to cut loose. Brands like Google use blogging to help explain products, while other reference sites use blogs to show what’s going on behind the scenes. But mainly, if you’re a brand like Zillow, blogging can become a way to show off your company’s mad skills and knowledge (while having a good time!).

Founded in 2005, Zillow is one of the world’s most popular online real estate databases. Sure, this material could be dry, but given Zillow’s extensive access to amazing information about millions of properties, the brand has solidified itself as a true resource in the real estate industry. An information database with some real know-how, Zillow also knows when to have fun at work. The Zillow blog is a cool, interesting and even educational read about real estate. Who knew that was even possible? Posts like “Top 10 Cities for Renters,” “What Really Influences a Credit Score” and “3 Bedroom Homes for $100,000” just beg house-hunters to click on them. Other posts about design and repair tips, photos of lavish celebrity homes for sale and the latest on the real estate market are the kind of dynamic content that appeals to all kinds of readers. Wisely, most of the posts feature links to its site or featured properties on the site. The layout is attractive and not distracting. Obviously, Zillow wants to keep it simple in order to keep the focus on real estate. 

Yet what we especially love about Zillow’s blog is that it really knows its audience. From first-time home buyers to house flippers, this blog has tips for everyone. This is a great thing for all brands to practice, particularly information brands. Don’t be afraid to do some digging on your own site. Who uses it? Who comes back over and over? Who is the first in line to buy new products? Who emails your CEO with comments? Get these answers and write the blogs for them. Knowing who you’re blogging for and simply focusing on that will get you your audience. By continuing to regularly post new content, your blog will soon turn into an authority.