Is What We Read More Important Than Who We Are?

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For a brief minute, social media marketing seemed to be a golden ticket into giving marketers a better look at who consumers really were and what they really liked. Facebook pages filled with “likes” for favorite brands, tweets mentioning interests and Pinterest boards chock full of lusted-after items give the illusion of really getting to know a consumer. Yet many think when it comes to content marketing, we should really be asking consumers what they’re reading instead of analyzing their status updates.

The webpages we visit, the blogs we read and the things we search for say far more than social media ever could, says the Guardian’s Jonny Rose.

“By tracking consumer interactions as they browse and engage with content, brands can begin to reveal current and evolving interests, inclinations and needs — sometimes before the individual knows themselves,” Rose says.

Technology referred to by Rose as “content analytics” gives brands access to invaluable insights — but how?

“Content analytics technology analyses pieces of text and makes it understandable and readable for computers. It allows computers to understand the topics, people, places, companies and concepts in the content, sentiment towards aspects of the content, and the language of that content,” Rose says. “This, in turn, means computers can track an individual’s interaction with a piece of content and collect and draw trends about that individual’s tastes and interests.”

If this sounds Big Brother-ish or a little creepy to you, you’re not alone. A lot of folks are startled by the amount of information that advertisers have access to. But others would argue that content marketing analytics helps companies get a more truthful look at the person they are trying to reach. These analytics have also been a long time coming; by now, most people know that when they’re online, they are communicating with brands, whether they want to or not.

Regardless of opinion, these kind of analytics are unavoidable.

“Whether you are browsing to kill time, entertain yourself or researching for a friend, what you are reading right now is incredibly indicative of who you are as a person — and this is immensely useful for brands,” Rose concludes. 

But what do you think, readers? Are content marketing analytics helpful or a borderline invasion of privacy? Tell us in the comments section below.

 

Vine Marketing: Nailing the 6-second Commerical

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Tired of hearing social media experts go on and on about Vine? Well, get used it. The mobile app, launched in 2012 and acquired by Twitter shortly thereafter, has just begun to generate the kind of buzz it deserves, and brands are finding all kinds of ways to make it work for them. But what is Vine exactly, and how can small businesses use it in online marketing?

Love it, loathe or fail to understand it, Vine isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Vine is a smartphone app that lets users create and post short videos — short as in a max of six seconds — which then can be shared or embedded on social networking. These tiny videos are easier to share and download given their size. Like YouTube’s early days, initial content has ranged from grating to nonsensical. Skateboarding, cats, skateboarding cats, weird old people making faces — you know, the kind of things that are the cornerstones of online video creation. Yet the longer Vine grows, the more brands are finding ways to creatively use the micro-video format. Oreo, Urban Outfitters and Lowe’s, for instance, are a few companies with the budget and talent to make effective and memorable videos on Vine.

“The good news is that almost any business can find a way to use Vine, but those that are great at storytelling are the most likely to be successful,” writes Yael Grauer for Business2Community.com. “Communicating via video works best for brands that have already identified how their story connects with customers. And as always with video or images, visually-appealing products or storylines win the day: The challenge is to fit a story into six seconds, say marketing experts, so some creativity is required.”

In other words, when it comes to standing out in the already crowded Vine jungle, creativity and an already high visibility are key ingredients.

Readers, what’s your take on Vine? Is it the next YouTube? Or the decline the of online video innovation as we know it? Sound off below!

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.

Clever Online Video Needs a Good Home

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Quality online video creation requires a lot of dedication, talent, effort and time. Producing branded videos can be such an exhausting experience that distribution is often the last thing on our minds. But for small companies, finishing a video is only the beginning. Figuring out where a video needs to go is a whole other journey that can be equally as confusing and time-consuming. So where do place our videos so new followers and consumers can find them?

Naturally, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are the obvious and necessary channels, but they’re also incredibly crowded. Simply sticking your company’s video content online on YouTube is sort of like placing one box of homemade cereal in a giant warehouse stocked with a billion boxes of cereal and expecting people to find it. Video platforms are stocked daily with brilliant videos. In order for your efforts not go to waste, you have to think outside the usual channels.

Interactive media strategist Tessa Wegert suggests asking your brand’s biggest fans for help.

“Identify your most enthusiastic fans on Facebook and Twitter, and give them a sneak preview to share with their network of equally enthusiastic friends,” Wegert writes. “Do the same with bloggers and reporters who have generated positive interest in your product in the past. These are the people who will give your content the push it needs to go mainstream.”

Shares and likes are great, but previews help give the video a boost before the rest of the world sees it. Also, bumping up your social media followings before you post your latest video is a great way to help your video get seen by more folks. Another option to consider is a video-uploading dashboard like OnLoad or StarCut. These services do have a cost, but they push videos out instantly to a variety of social media channels and platforms.

Lastly, word-of-mouth doesn’t end once your video gets posted. Video virility often takes time. Some of the most popular videos didn’t go viral for months. For a video to be successful, brands need to continue to push videos on social media and to bloggers long after the filming has stopped.

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. 

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.

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!

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.”