Social Media Leads Humanitarian Efforts in Wake of Japan’s Disaster

One of the greatest impacts social media is having on our lives today is its immediacy to allow us an avenue to react: to help, to vocalize, to bring light to an issue or situation, to protest, to sympathize, to mourn and to share the great outpouring of human emotions with other people. Technology now allows us to share and connect instantly with millions of other human beings across the planet that have access. And more importantly, this access allows us to DO!

Such amazing outpourings are happening across the globe in the wake of Middle East uprisings in Saudi Arabia, Libya, and Egypt. And now with the devastation in Japan in the wake of the 8.9 magnitude quake that hit early Friday morning and subsequently trigged a massive tsunami through coastal towns, social media is helping to lead news coverage and launch philanthropic efforts. The response has been swift, heartfelt and caring.

Google has responded by creating a set of tools and pages with information about what’s happening on the ground on its Google Crisis Page. They also set up a People Finder whereby anyone can type in the name of people they are looking for who may have been impacted by the disaster.

The Hawaiian Red Cross is tracking news of the impact of the tsunami on its shores on its Twitter feed, and “text REDCROSS” will generate a $10 donation. MSNBC also has philanthropic information. Even the SXSW conclave is lending its support by introducing SXSW4Japan to raise money for relief efforts. These are just a few of the efforts that have immediately looked toward social and emerging media to help communicate a human need in the wake of Japan’s natural disaster. Technology is helping to unite us to champion a cause and help our fellow human beings, and that is a great thing.

Is YouTube Becoming a Media Company?

Video sharing website YouTube is taking the next steps to solidify its dominant market position and help the company grow by boosting short-form video content available on its website. Not only will they continue to host millions of user-generated videos, but the company also plans to help cultivate and promote the amount of professionally-generated videos in the form of series webisodes to keep viewers coming back and tuning in. The company just struck a deal to acquire Next New Networks, known for creating short video webisodes like Barely Political’s “Auto-Tune the News.”

Next New Networks has become very adept at launching web series and growing viewership by cross-promoting the programs like Autotune the News.  

However, does this signal an aggressive push by the social site to become more of a mainstream media outlet by creating its own content? According to Tom Pickett, direct of content at YouTube, it does not. “We are not good at creating content,” said Pickett. “If we wanted to create content, we wouldn’t buy Next New Networks. There business model over the past few years has transformed to one of helping others distribute and promote content.”

I tend to agree with Mr. Pickett. YouTube is evolving as an entertainment / social portal providing a combination of user-generated and professionally-produced content. It’s a smart move to keep up with consumer demands for content, not necessarily the first step in moving away from a social site toward a professionally run media company.

Viewers are voters as Academy Awards embraces digital arena

Last night’s Academy Awards was filled with star-studded celebrities, nominees for the year’s best movies and more social media interaction than any previous award show. From ABC’s “Oscars Red Carpet,” with Robin Roberts and Tim Gunn to Entertainment News’ “On the Red Carpet,” and E!’s “Live from the Red Carpet” with Ryan Seacrest and Kelly Osbourne, the night was about interaction and engagement as much as it was fashion and movie awards.

Each of the pre-shows featured substantial live reporting of Twitter feedback. No need to resurrect Joan Rivers comic engagement when home viewers were helping to script the coverage and provide instant feedback of what consumers liked or not. Much to Kelly Osbourne’s surprise, Marisa Tomei’s dress was not a hit according to the flurry of real-time Tweets. And, it was refreshing to see consumer polling and forecasting as part of the pre-show coverage. Viewers wishing to participate in the night’s event had plenty of opportunities to express their opinions and did so in the form of forecasting which male actor would walk away with Oscar (they overwhelming chose the winner Colin Firth), and expressing a 47% “hate it” rating for Scarlett Johansson’s Oscar look.

Actress Scarlett Johansson arrives before the 83rd Academy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 27, 2011, in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles. - Provided courtesy of AP / AP Photo/Matt Sayles

As marketers continue to look at the old measures of reach and frequency to gauge media, it’s obvious that indicators of engagement and involvement are beginning to emerge to add more meaningful context to consumer impressions.

Opportunity Knocks (Again) for Professionally Produced Content

With advertising spend showing hopeful signs of recovery in 2011, there’s been an increased focus on not only spot TV, but also digital, mobile and social mediums to mirror the change occurring in how all of us actually consume media. But a real opportunity for companies may be the marriage between relevant content and the multitude of platforms and channels in need of it. According to an Advertising Age interview with Michael Wolf, co-founder of Activate, a digital consultancy, the pendulum appears to be swinging back from the far left of solely consumer-generated content to a midway range where the combination of real-life imagery and opinions along with those that are professionally produced may be where we actually settle in.

Let’s face it, media consumption habits are going to continue to fractionalize because we want what we want, and I for one can be a little snobbish to only want what I want. As consumers, we continually feel more empowered by the choices we have and expect customization more than ever. However, I have to admit that it’s nice to hear that professionally produced content is regaining some of its lost appeal. While I absolutely appreciate the advice and recommends of my fellow consumers, and enjoy seeing YouTube and blog posts, when I’m evaluating an entertainment option or travel destination, it’s nice to be able to combine those third party reviews along with better quality content to help me more realistically make an evaluation of where I should go or what my expectations should be. What can I say, I like being prepared, and some of the user-generated content doesn’t always cut it. Professionally produced content can go a long way to inform and entertain, which is what consumers are looking for.

Luckily, we’re at a time when technology is helping to fuel our needs and desires by serving up more relevant content options at the touch of a button.

Groupon Super Bowl Ads Deemed Offensive

Pulled just days after the Super Bowl, a series of Groupon ads created controversy for being too edgy by equating its deal making business to more holistic and philanthropic endeavors. Produced by CP&B and directed by Christopher Guest, the ads used celebrities like Elizabeth Hurley to hype Groupon deals for Brazilian bikini waxes that were a necessary form of deforestation, as compared to the real thing.

Hurley – Groupon Brazilian Bikini Wax

More interesting, however, is that after a little online push back from consumers who didn’t get the joke, Groupon pulled the advertisements saying “the execution was off and the joke didn’t come through.”

I was disappointed that the ads were pulled. And, the ads were successful for a couple of reasons. First, subscriber signon to Groupon was gaining since the airing of the ads on the Super Bowl. Second, all of the philanthropic efforts spun in the ads were recipients of donations by Groupon users who were able to contribute to the causes when signing onto Groupon. Greenpeace netted more than $100,000 in less than 48 hours. One such cause, The Tibet Fund, issued a statement after being notified the ads were off saying that “even though it [the ads] offended people, it brought the issue of Tibet to millions of people who may have never heard about our struggle.”

Was this a smart move for Groupon? Possibly. Groupon may continue to get more buzz for pulling the ads then continuing to repeat them and certainly has garnered more buzz about the ads. I personally found them funny and not offensive, and liked the fact that one could donate to the causes mentioned in the advertisements. Critics may argue that Groupon could have altered the ads to more strongly put a donation call-to-action on the spots – but at what cost do marketers try to communicate so much in such a small space, that they actually wind up communicating nothing?

I for one am hoping to continue to see fresh creative from a fresh business model like Groupon.

Increasing web interaction and engagement with page views

Mark Golin, digital editor for People Magazine, did an interview with Advertising Age staffer and posted earlier this week regarding how to get 1 billion page views for your digital magazine site. While some of the advice was a bit tongue-in-cheek, the four top line opportunities are pretty spot on for increasing web traffic to any site, not just digital magazines. Just think of your own surfing/shopping experiences – what do we all want a website to do for us:

• Be speedy with information and easy to navigate

• Have the information we are looking for

• Categorize items that help us organize and prioritize what we’re looking for is a great feature

• Be a trusted/secure source for the information

Golin’s advice is to:

• Make technology work for the site. The faster, more seamless, the better. He uses an analogy of a light switch. If it’s broken half the time and doesn’t turn on, people stop using it.

• Press on social media. Build Twitter and Facebook fan pages to help funnel traffic. Social media sites are now in the top 10 referral sites to People.

• Highlight the different kinds of content. A little love and attention to better place content you may already have, but is not standing out, can go a long way.

• Provide links to yourself. By linking to other spots on your site, you can increase the duration and engagement of a site visitor.

Solid advice for any website or blog story, and it’s certainly working for People, who set a record for having more than 1 billion page views in January.

People Digital Editor Shares How to Get 1 Billion Page Views

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) — Visitors to People.com generated more than 1 billion page views in January, according to Omniture, setting a record for the magazine and probably for all magazine sites. What’s the secret, beyond obsessive coverage of Sandra Bullock, Halle Berry and Katie Holmes?

Mark Golin “Hitch your website to an enormously successful magazine,” said Mark Golin, editor of People Digital. Beat. “I’m joking.”

Here, then, are Mr. Golin’s four ways to get your magazine to 1 billion page views.

No. 1: Make the tech work for users
“Over the last few years we really have focused on speed,” Mr. Golin said. “The faster you serve up your pages, the lower your bounce rate is and the more likely people are to keep looking at your site. It’s sort of a like a light switch. If it only works 50% of the time, people stop using it.”

No. 2: Press on social media
“At first I was unclear whether it was going to pay off for us,” Mr. Golin said. “But Twitter and Facebook are in our top 10 referrers at this point. So we’ve been spending a lot of time building up our Facebook fan base. And our Twitter followers are at somewhere like 2.3 million. Once you start hitting the big numbers, you really start seeing your returns.”

No. 3: Highlight different kinds of content
“When I first got here the site was sort of ‘Here’s our news, here’s our photos, come again please,'” Mr. Golin recalled. “We started building out verticals — a StyleWatch channel, a moms and babies channel, a games channel, a video channel. … It’s not as though we didn’t have all of those things in the mix but, you separate them out and emphasize them and throw a little more work into each one and you start to see more page views per user in each of these categories.”

No. 4: Link to yourself
A lot of sites don’t link to themselves very well.

“We spent a lot of time doing a celebrity database,” Mr. Golin said. “When you look at most of our news articles, you get to the bottom and there’s an automatic feed from our database: Would you like to read more about this celebrity? There’s a bio, more photos.”

“Essentially it’s impossible to know everything about your user but when your user is on a particular page, you do know what they’re interested in right now,” he added. “You do that well, you keep them in the site longer.”

Social Media Saturdays: Check In with Foursquare, Post to Facebook, and Upload to YouTube

One of the advantages of living in sunny Florida is that you get to take advantage of some amazingly beautiful winter days.  I’m talking 75, bright blue skies, and so many art, music, food and theme park happenings that it really can be a choir to decide what to do.  Yesterday, my hubby and I decided to check out a new World of Beer that opened in our area: 50+ beers on tap and acoustical live music from three different bands.  A perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

But besides telling you what I did this weekend, what does that have to do with new media technology and marketing?  Well, several things actually.  On Mashable’s “42 New Social Media Resources You May Have Missed,” they dig into several interesting social trends, fueled by technology, that were clearly in use during our outing yesterday.

  • 15 Aspiring Musician Who Found Fame through YouTube.  Mashable’s Elliott outlines some top musical performers whose claim to fame happened due to social media channels.  All three acts at WOB yesterday touted their Facebook fan pages and YouTube videos as a means to access more information about them and as a way to get their soon-to-be-released albums.  Its grassroots awareness that’s giving these musicians a shot at fame that previously was tightly controlled only by recording studios.  Certainly an indication that social media is mainstream and becoming tightly woven in our everyday lives; thanks to the technology that makes it possible.
  •  Foursquare’s Rise to 6 Million Users: This week, Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley released impressive figures.  More than 6 million people have registered for a Foursquare account, and the company has experienced more than 3400% growth in 2010.  Everyone’s “checking in” and letting their friends, family and followers know where they are, RIGHT NOW.  Yesterday was no exception.  There was not a table in the place where consumers were not using their smartphones, engaging with face-to-face friends, but also snapping pictures, posting to networks, and reporting on the day’s happening.  While the clientele was skewing a bit younger (20s-30s), even the more mature patrons (40s-50s) were mobile ready, engaged, and interacting.  Another indication that social media is moving well beyond the early adopters into the mainstream.

Smartphone projections are astounding, with some forecasting that by 2013 there will be 1 billion smartphone users worldwide.  Even Verizon this week is projecting its smartphone penetration will double in 2011, from an ending point of 26% in 2010, to 50% by the end of 2011 among subscribers.  That’s a whole lot more sharing and social connection forecasted for 2011.  A perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Great Websites and Why We Love Them

A lunchtime conversation with my coworkers had us chatting about websites we LOVE. Not just like, or find functional like checking in on the weather, but truly websites that we LOVE and feel such an affinity for, that they have become part of our extended self. All of us around the table were working moms with kids ranging from 2 to 22, and I found it interesting that we have such passionate, brand loyalty to a variety of sites. But why? What did these sites do better than the thousands, no – actually millions, of other sites around? They all had one thing in common –somehow they make our lives easier to manage, more efficient, and just plain hassle-free in some way or another. Even if they are just trying to sell us something (which we don’t mind, if they are also helping us out).

In digging deeper to understand this loyalty, one coworker shared that she loved the Publix website. For those unfamiliar with the supermarket chain, Publix is an employee-owned grocery retailer primarily located in the south – Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee. Their motto is “where shopping is a pleasure” and they do strive to deliver on this brand promise through customer service. However, what this mom loved about the website was that in addition to providing printable coupons, she also could download simple Pubix-branded “Apron’s” dinner recipes, along with the shopping list needed for it. The site also has a Pharmacy feature to order refills online. And some stores are actually allowing you to shop online and pick up your groceries curbside, for a fee of only $7.99. This hometown grocer has succeeded by not only providing information about the chain and its weekly specials, but because it is making life a little easier for a mom rushing home after work to get dinner on the table and pick up a refill of her daughter’s earache antibiotics. Now that’s a relationship this mom is interested in keeping!

It was the same for all the other websites moms loved – clothes shopping sites that allowed these moms to share “wish lists” with girlfriends to get feedback and confirmation that the outfit was truly a hit; fitness sites that allowed them to track their nutrition and exercise programs; and social sites that allowed them to set play dates for kids.

Retailers today have to understand and adapt to time-strapped, savvy shoppers who are looking for products they love and convenience to boot. According to Brian Ross in his recent Colloquy article, in order to reach desirable shoppers, retailers and CPG companies must move beyond promotions and think of solutions to shopper demands. Successful retailers will use emerging media as a means to build stronger relationships with their consumers by anticipating needs and being the resource to help provide solutions rather than solely products.

Welcome To” Digitally Dazed, but working on it”

I’ve decided to immerse myself into the digital world even further by trying my hand at blogging. I’m a marketing professional with more than 15 years experience in advertising, marketing communications and media in the travel, leisure and theme park industry. And while I certainly would like to consider myself somewhat savvy about the Internet, social networks, online video, in-gaming platforms, digital display, SEO, SEM, and all of that “emerging media” stuff (it is kind of what I get paid to do for a living), the reality is that new media and the technology that’s driving it is moving at such lightening quick speeds, how can anyone really know it all, and know what is reaching consumers in the most real and engaging way? (Sorry Google Analytics, if that comment hurts your feelings).

And although the blog is entitled “Digitally Dazed,” my goal is to explore new topics specifically related to how moms (in my mind, the “CDO,” or chief decision officer of her household) are using new and emerging media to help manage their busy lives, make decisions about brand products and services, and plan activities for her family. I myself am a mom and will share my own personal experiences, but also would love to hear from others. There are so many opportunities presenting themselves to marketers that are opening the door for more relevant, long-lasting relationships with consumers. Join me in exploring what’s connecting with moms in real ways, and what’s on the forefront of emerging media geared toward this audience.

Since I am new to blogging, would love your suggestions about topics to cover. Feel free to chime in with your experiences, feelings and thoughts.

Welcome to my blog!

Diane

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