Five Things You Might Have Missed!

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Happy Friday! From Facebook pages gone ugly to blunt billboards, we’ve rounded up all the social media marketing, digital branding and online marketing news on a list we call our Five Things You Might Have Missed.

1.) Blogapalooza: Topping our list is a new study from Neilsen that is music to our ears: Blogging is back and bigger than ever. According to Neilsen, blogging is on the rise and the three major platforms — Blogger, WordPress and Tumblr — account for 80 million unique views in October 2011 alone. This is great news for blog writers and blog readers and more proof that if you blog it, they will come.

2.) ‘Sync. Tweet. Save: This brilliant Twitter marketing campaign from AmEx is a game changer. For the first time, the brand will use specially-created hashtags to reward card holders with bonuses. Each time AmEx customers tweet about using their card to buy coffee or get gas, for example, their cards get bonus points. It’s social media savvy meets rewarding customer loyalty.

3.) Pretty Ugly: The unpretty side of social media reared its ugly head this week in a controversial and popular Facebook contest called “The Most Beautiful Teen.” Parents were horrified when news of the page, which calls upon teens to sound off on the appearance of other teenagers, surfaced. Teens being teens, the comments got out of control and Facebook shut down the site — but not before the media hopped on the story at lightening speed.

4.) Hot Dogs in Hot Water: Those rascals from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine are at it again. This time, it’s a billboard that states Hot Dogs Cause Butt Cancer. (Alrighty then.) Sometimes it’s the blunt and simple messages people remember most.

5.) The Fed Tries Twitter: And finally, the Federal Reserve took to Twitter to clear up its much-maligned messages and image. We say bravo, Fed. If Twitter marketing can work for Charlie Sheen, then anything is possible!

5 Things for September 13: Fiona Crucifies 'Big Food' for Chipotle

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Haunting and genius online video creation? Yup. Oddities from the world of social media marketing? Uh huh. Some legitimate news thrown in just for good measure? You got it. Our weekly list of five things you might have missed has all that and then some.

1. Pure Imagination:  The creative team on Chipotle’s new online short film and game reads like a big-budget movie: Fiona Apple singing an iconic song, Oscar-winning producers and a compelling look at a controversial topic. While cute and charming in animation, make no bones about it: This film takes a tough stance against “Big Food.” Undoubtedly one of the most creative and most-talked-about online videos of the year. 

2. Footlong Couture: Project Subway incorporated the currently happening New York Fashion Week with its “$5 Any Footlong in September” promotion to produce a competition where designers made outfits entirely out of Subway wrappers. The hashtag #ProjectSubway was used by the chain to help engage its 1.6 million followers in this unique fashion smackdown. 

3. Twitter’s New Song: Speaking of Twitter, the social media giant has long tried to launch its own music platform. The results have been underwhelming at best. Yet all hope for #TwitterMusic may not be lost: This week, the company paired with massive music service Spotify to hopefully take music streaming and social search to new heights.

4. Skip the McLine: Mobile ordering to pick up real-life items and in real time is something a few brands have been ballsy enough to attempt. According to Mashable, McDonalds is willing to give it a shot. The company is now testing a mobile payment application in Utah and Texas. “With the app, you can order ahead and pick up your food at drive-thru windows, curbside or in the restaurant,” Mashable reports. 

5. Try to Forget: Finally, we round out this week’s list with a major Twitter bellyflop from AT&T. The communications magnet tried to pay tribute to those lost on 9/11 with a tweeted image of the Twin Towers in searchlights, but consumers weren’t having it. After hundreds of complaints, the company took the image down and apologized a couple of times. The moral of the story? Take the day off from marketing on 9/11, brands… Or deal with the wrath.

Blog Like the Big Brands: TOMS

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The terrific thing about blogging for business is that you have a daily opportunity to tell your brand’s story. Blog writing is the fastest and most clear platform for expressing a company’s message. Blogs can become online magazines, portfolios and biographies for businesses willing to get creative and post dynamic material. Hipster shoe manufacturer TOMS is a unique company with a one-of-a-kind business model that uses blogging to tell its ever-developing, fascinating story.

TOMS Stories is certainly a blog, but upon first glance it looks more like the product of a real content provider rather than the newsletter of a shoe company. Filled with videos, travelogues, profiles of company initiatives and human interest pieces, TOMS Stories is an online magazine talking about so much more than shoes, which makes a lot of sense. Founder Blake Mycoskie is committed to social causes, and TOMS has given away more than 2 million pairs of shoes since the company started back in 2006. Fittingly, the company blog features information and news stories on the brand’s altruistic endeavors. A recent post, for example, reported on TOMS’ recent partnership with Save the Children to help, according to the blog, “get kids moving and eating better.”

TOMS’ commitment to global causes is certainly blogworthy, but the blog also talks about the money-maker: shoes. This trendy line of footwear makes the other projects possible. Therefore, the latest boots and shoes and the people and places that inspired them are covered in the blog with photos, videos and descriptions. Glossy fashion layouts and style reports from around the web fit in seamlessly with the rest of TOMS Stories. 

Why can’t our own company blogs be great looking, fabulous reads that defy all preconceived notions? We can’t think of any good answer to that. Blog writing like TOMS Stories gives our brands and blogs the permission to be more. More interesting, more global, more involved. TOMS loads its blog with dynamic content for a variety of readers, and gives readers and followers a blog about shoes but also a whole lot more.

Five Tumblrs You Might Have Missed

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Purchased by Yahoo! in May for a cool $1.1 billion, Tumblr continues to be the blogging for business and social media marketing solution for savvy brands who know how to really rock the platform. Unlike other social media channels, Tumblr is powered by sharing images and interests rather than personal information. Plus many Tumblrs are single topic blogs meaning that brands that use it wisely and specifically can easily reach out to target audiences. In honor of the vast and creative landscape that is Tumblr, we’ve devoted today’s “Five Things” to branded Tumblrs that will hopefully intrigue, delight and inspire you to consider using it for your company.

1.) Los Angeles County Museum of Art: LACMA, as the locals call it, uses Tumblr to give followers an up close and personal glimpse inside the museum. From photos taken at recent events and the installations of new exhibits to art news and museum job postings, the Tumblr is as diverse as the museum’s collection. 

2.) Glamour Magazine: The fashion industry was one of the first to hop on Tumblr and to really utilize its image sharing capabilities. Glamour magazine turns its Tumblr into a visual fashion feast for the eyes. Lush photos right from the runway, delicious fashion-themed memes and arty shots that you won’t see in the print edition are the kind of thing Glamour’s Tumblr does perfectly.

3.) Nabisco: Here’s a great idea from the folks who ingeniously created Oreos. Instead of having a Tumblr created by a nameless, faceless robot, Nabisco uses a real-life correspondent to cover branded events and promotions while posting the expected coverage of products and company news.

4.) Animal Planet: Tumblr users love cute photos of animals, and cable network Animal Planet wasted no time joining the social network to contribute to the never-ending stream of aww-inducing pics. Animal Planet is a fantastic example of how honing in on Tumblr’s single topic blog searches really pays off.

5.) HarperCollins: The book is not dead! Long live the book! Or that’s the impression one gets when visiting the Tumblr of HarperCollins. The brand uses the site to tease covers of new releases, quote famous authors and give the sort of dirt book lovers are nuts about.

Your Blog Can Handle More

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The art of blog creation is always evolving. Beyond posts that sell your brand, way past posts of crazy videos and even further past posts with incredible images lives infinite possibilities for your blog. Our blogs need content, so why not burst outside of the bubble and use it a variety of ways? Here are six other ways your blog can serve you and your company:

Blog as PR Maven: Blogs make great places to house press releases, articles, interviews and official statements for your company. Not only do publicity-based posts solve a content crisis, they also direct members of the media to your website. Brilliant.

Blog as Bulletin Board: Changes in hours? New location? New staff? Hiring new staff members? Return of beloved product? Use blog posts to give the skinny on all the happenings at your business. Encourage employees and customers alike to visit your blog for the newest information on your business. 

Blog as Polling Place: Polls are increasingly simple to post to blogs and, with the cooperation of social media, can be popular and fun ways to gather market research and opinions from your customers.

Blog as Bookseller: If you’re in the advice/how-to business, blogs are a terrific place to push your e-book. Same goes for romance novelists, travel writers, poets and sci-fi authors with tomes to promote. Publishing excerpts, hosting book giveaways and posting reviews are just a couple of ways your blog can help you have a bestseller.

Blog as Catalog: For e-commerce companies, blogs can double as online catalogs. With more room for more copy and bigger images than your online store, blogs can profile products like shoes, furniture and gift items with stunning detail.

Blog as Employee Hub: Big companies like airlines, soda makers and toy companies alike are using inner-company blogs for their employees to help train one another, share experiences and problem solve. Why stop there, though? Industry videos, live feed from conferences, interviews with employees and tutorials all make for terrific inner-office blog posts.

When Promoted Tweets Bite Back

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Promoted tweets are one of those things Twitter marketing specialists can never agree on. Some love the fact that promoted tweets can put a brand and its hashtags in front of the right audience, while others dismiss them as overpriced and not affective. Nevertheless, we believe the days of promoted tweets being only for the big boys may be over.

Twitter user Hasan Syed took promoted Tweets into his own hands after an allegedly terrible experience with British Airways. Syed was upset that the airline lost his father’s luggage and the way it handled the situation. So he used Twitter’s self-serve ad platform to buy a promoted tweet to vent his frustrations.”Don’t fly @BritishAirways,” he tweeted on Sunday night. “Their customer service is horrendous.” Under the Twitter handle @HVSVN, Syed’s promoted tweet secured a place atop Twitter’s list of trends and gained notice worldwide.

“Interesting; a disgruntled customer is buying a promoted tweet slamming a brand where they had a bad experience,” senior vice-president of marketing at JetBlue Airways, Marty St. George, tweeted. “That’s a new trend itself!”

Syed wouldn’t tell members of the media how much this promoted tweet set him back, but modern data would suggest that Syed will end up shelling out a least a couple of grand by the time all the CPE numbers are in. Maybe he didn’t know that the comment cards are free?

But seriously. This enforces what we’ve thought about promoted tweets for sometime: if you have an idea that folks will respond to and have the cash, they’re a good investment. Promoted Tweets can become smash hits in now time as long as the subject matter is hot button and easily tweetable. Readers, how do you feel about any old guy buying and having success with promoted Tweets? Does this give the power to Twitter users and consumers or could it turn into (perish the thought) a bitchier, paid version of Yelp?

Is the New Gmail Email Marketing Hell?

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Custom content creators whose online marketing plans include email marketing and digital newsletters rolled their eyes back in late May when Google announced new inbox tabs for Gmail. This organized inbox now features tabs for primary messages, social media-generated email alerts and promotions. Many worried the “promotions” tab was nothing more than a fancy-titled junk mailbox. We wondered if our fears about Google inbox limbo were true or if they actually ended  up being pretty helpful for email marketing.

Dela Quist of The Guardian believes we have nothing to be afraid of, given Google’s brilliant marketing moxie.

“Google gives people an email platform for free for a good reason — to tie people into its range of online products. This gives them access to valuable consumer data for its search and advertising business. It’s important to remember that Google wouldn’t make these changes if it thought it would damage its core business and if it didn’t think there are going to be additional business benefits,” Quist writes.

Quist also notes that the new inbox is simply replacing traditional banner ads and allowing marketers to get inside of Gmail inboxes instead.

But not everybody agrees that this is a good thing. Gap reportedly asked subscribers to move its messages into their primary inboxes. We happen to agree with AdAge’s Tim Peterson, who thinks these new inboxes could challenge brands to get more creative and less spammy when it comes to email marketing content.

“Message with relevance and maybe they’ll mark you with a ‘priority’ label or even let you into their primary inbox,” he writes. 

Amen, Tim. Great email newsletters and interesting content will get in front of the right eyes — and read — regardless of what box it ends up in. We also think that the “promotions” inbox could eventually turn into a jackpot for companies that market directly to deal hunters (like former Groupon addicts).

Readers, give it to us straight. Are you a fan of the Gmail redesign or has it left you wishing for your old AOL inbox? Holler at us in the comments section!

Blog Like the Big Brands: Frito-Lay

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Brands dive into the blogging-for-business waters for many different reasons. Some companies find blogs to be the perfect place to post photos of new products. Others use blogging to talk about all the behind-the-scenes action happening at a busy company. And even more take up blogging to explain the services and products they offer. Yet smart brands like Frito-Lay use blogs for all those reasons while pushing the latest promotions and events.

Snack Chat is Frito-Lay’s blog, but really it serves as a visual press release and bulletin board. A busy brand like Frito-Lay, with its dozens of subsidiaries, has hundreds of PR statements, social media events and new product releases in any given month. Therefore, it makes sense that Snack Chat is given the task of reporting on each and every one. Frito-Lay also sponsors events around the globe and those too are covered here. Blogs are terrific platforms for companies that generate news stories on a regular basis. Blog posts can go further in-depth than social media posts while saving room on website front pages.

Frito-Lay also uses blogging to create excitement around social media promotions. A recent post, for example, detailed “Get Fired Up.” This Twitter party celebrates the snacking (I mean, football) season with live game day recipes, special hashtags and product giveaways. The collection of diverse posts covers everything from WWE and a health fair to National Potato Day and a profile of a recent contest winner. Snack Chat doesn’t bother with a fancy layout or ultra-modern look which could be distracting. Its simple design reinforces the direct intention to talk about Frito-Lay’s many products and promotions. 

Promotions, events, fundraising campaigns and contests are the kind of thing blogging was made for. By using social media to promote these things and to direct folks back to the blog is even more powerful and amazing for your page visits. Special promotions are fantastic bait to reel in readers to a new company blog, too. There’s no limit to the promotional ideas and specials you can create, and your blog can be an integral part of each and every one. So how will you use your blog to promote the latest and greatest happening at your business?