5 Things for August 9: Blog Marketing, Watery Billboards and Applebees

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Need a longer lunch break? Want more people to read your blog? Can’t find your keys? Our weekly list of the best content marketing stories you might have missed can help! We have five stories that could very well answer your most puzzling questions when it comes to social media and online marketing. When it comes to things like finding your keys, however, you’re on your own.

1.) On Trend: It feels like there has been a never-ending supply of new Facebook stories this summer, and here’s one more you might have missed. On the heels of its hashtag rollout two months ago, Facebook is trying out another Twitter-born application: trending topics. Facebook told Mashable on Wednesday, “Today we started running a small test that displays topics trending on Facebook. It is currently only available to a small percentage of U.S. users who use Facebook’s mobile web site (m.facebook.com) and is still in very early stages of development,” a rep for Facebook said. Good idea or just another Twitter knockoff? Tell us in the comments section.

2.) Blowup Dolls and Burgers: Applebees is back with more inflatable dolls in hopes of inspiring folks to take a longer lunch break by leaving a stand-in behind at the office. Sounds ridiculous, but two styles of the dolls, “The Overachiever” and the “Cubicle Queen,” have already sold out on Amazon. It’s a clever and successful stunt. Still, it’s hard to say if these blowup buddies actually inspire people to eat at Applebees.

3.) Get Your Blog Noticed: Forbes published a fantastic list of easy solutions to blog marketing earlier this week. The list is worth a read since it gives 14 blog marketing and content ideas that every business can put into practice immediately. 

4.) A ‘Pizza’ the Action: Domino’s is investing in startups while generating some huge buzz with Pizzavestments. The program, covered by tons of blogs this week, hands out $500 Dominos cards to 30 startups who probably spend a lot of late nights munching on pizza while working. #PoweredByPizza is the hashtag the company is using to inspire Twitter users to share their own tales of pizza-assisted genius. 

5.) We’ll Drink to That: We close out this week’s list with a billboard in Lima, Peru worth celebrating. UTEC, a tech and engineering school, looked to solve Lima’s drinking water problem by creating this billboard which captures humidity and converts it into drinking water. Since the billboard went up 3 months ago, this magical billboard has created a whopping 9,450 liters of drinking water.

5 Things for August 2: Slurpees, Hot Pockets and Cronuts

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Can we get an “Amen” up in here? Divine Twitter marketing, holy Hot Pockets, salvation for travel bloggers and much more make this a list of five things you might have missed that’ll have you saying “hallelujah!”

1.) Oh Thank Heaven: When it comes to engaging with their Twitter followers, no brand does it quite like 7 Eleven. The convenience store rocks with clever, timely responses that evoke the brand’s sense of humor and fun. For example, this week a follower tweeted “There is no God” after discovering the Slurpee at her local 7 Eleven was broken. To which, @7ElevenCares replied, “We’re sorry this has caused you to question your faith. Can we get the location to eliminate your doubt?” 

2.) Snuffed Out: This viral spot for Discovery Channel’s annual Shark Week featuring Snuffy the Seal is so funny, delightfully wrong and surprising, we won’t spoil it for you. Just go watch it — immediately. 

3.) Blog Travel Advisory: This excellent post in The New York Times about the changing face of travel blogging is a worthwhile read for blog marketers, too. Written by Dan Saltzstein, the editor of the Times’ Travel section, the piece is chock full of sage advice as well as being illuminating on how blogging has evolved for travel writers. Example: “Despite all the growth and expanded opportunities, for successful bloggers it comes back to guiding and connecting with readers.” Haven’t we been telling you this?

4.) Cronutty: The hoopla around the pastry hybrid the Cronut is officially out of control. As if paying up to $20 bucks a pop for this donut-meets-croissant mutant wasn’t enough, creative agency BBH has taken it one step further. According to AdWeek, “‘The Cronut Project,’ spearheaded by some BBH New York interns, partnering with NYC Food Bank and Cronut inventor Dominique Ansel, features a daily raffle — with the donor who pledges the most money, plus another random donor, getting a free Cronut. ” All proceeds go to the NYC Food Bank. We’re thinking the BBH interns are behind the “another random donor” hijinks.

5.) Drop It Likes It’s Hot: We wrap up our list this week with Hot Pockets. The stoner treat is back with a new makeover, and apparently we’re really excited about it. Like, over 3.5 million views on YouTube excited. The videos, which feature a variety of chefs plus “sandwich expert” Jeff Mauro, aren’t incredibly entertaining, but nevertheless the public still loves this brand. And with this kind of popularity, Hot Pockets could be the branding comeback of the year. Take that, Twinkies. 

Twitter Gets Tough on Abuse

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Spam, inbox stuffing and abuse are just some of the things social media experts are used to when it comes to Twitter management. But that doesn’t mean we’re not tired of it. There are only so many infected links you can deal with before it gets completely annoying. A new blog post published Monday, entitled “We Hear You” from Twitter’s Senior Director of Trust & Safety, Del Harvey, indicates that Twitter is acting fast to block abuse. 

Harvey confessed that,”We are not blind to the reality that there will always be people using Twitter in ways that are abusive and may harm others.” This statement comes on the heels of a popular Change.org campaign to have a “Report Abuse” button added to Tweets. “While manually reviewing every Tweet is not possible due to Twitter’s global reach and level of activity,” wrote Harvey, “we use both automated and manual systems to evaluate reports of users potentially violating our Twitter rules.”

The changes in reporting abuse actually went into effect 3 weeks ago and include the ability to file reports regarding an individual Tweet on its iPhone app as well as Twitter’s mobile site. Twitter plans to roll out desktop and Android versions of the feature in the coming months.

Twitter abuse is an especially hot-button issue in the UK right now. The Change,org campaign was launched after activist Caroline Cirado-Perez started a petition to keep women (other than the Queen) on banknotes. Cirado-Perez’s Twitter feed was reportedly flooded with rape and death threats. In the U.S., Twitter abuse hasn’t made headlines, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t a huge problem. On these shores, abuse usually takes the form of hacked Twitter accounts, spamming and fake follower schemes. But any violation of Twitter’s rules is juts that: a violation. So we’re glad the little bird is doing something about it.

Readers, what do you think: Are these report abuse upgrades enough? Sound off in the comments section.

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!

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!

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.”

5 Things For July 19: Sharknado 2, Cheerios & PBS

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Not to pat ourselves on the back, but this week’s collection of online marketing news stories that you might have missed is totally rocking. Don’t believe us? Then by all means, read for yourself — and feel free to post your favorite stories of the week in the comments section, too!

1.) Cheering for Cheerios: The biggest non-troversy of 2013 might be the Cheerios ad which featured a mixed race family (and drew criticism from, well, morons). The comments got so out of control on YouTube that the video was removed by Cheerios. Cheerios fired back by essentially keeping the ad the way it was and defend its casting choices. Now a viral video featuring kids’ response to the commercial has single-handedly shut the whole controversy down with brilliant wisdom like “Some people just fall in love like that” and “Underneath it, you’re literally the same. You have organs and a heart.” Score? Kids: 1, Bigots: 0.

2.) Shanghai Surprises: TimeOut’s Shanghai edition actually wanted to have its cellphones stolen. The magazine placed cellphones all over the city and the lucky thief who swiped the phone got a first-class tour of Shanghai. From fancy dinners to crazy old jazz hotels, these lucky thieves scored more than just a lame phone, while TimeOut got to show off its legendary tour guide skills. 

3.) Bring on the Clam Kings: A reality show about a family who tans together? Another about Long Island gardeners? What’s this world coming to? Fortunately, those shows are spoofs. A series of very funny fake commercials for Clam Kings, Meet the Tanners and Long Island Landscapers are part of an online campaign cooked up a New York PBS station. These videos are done just right and almost convince you these horrible shows might exist. 

4.) Follower Frauds: Ever wonder how small companies wind up with hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers seemingly overnight? This interesting post by PCWorld has all the dirt on the folks who buy and sell Twitter popularity. A must-read for Twitter marking specialists. 

5.) Sharknado, Sharknado, Sharknado: This beyond awful, made-for-television movie, which aired on July 11, has us all still yammering about Sharknado. An instant camp classic (thanks in large part to social media), Sharknado will now have a sequel to be released in 2014 and SyFy channel is asking viewers to help name it via Twitter. Our faves so far? “The Wizard of Jaws,” “Sharkpocalypse” and, of course, “Sharknado 2: Sharkalanche.”