The last day of panel sessions kicked off with a heated, albeit nerdy, discussion. With representatives from Tumblr and Facebook present, two platforms that have clearly mastered the mobile platform, I was anxious to hear about how one should evaluate the appropriate mobile execution for their client. Instead, the session got off to a pretty technical debate about native/web hybrid vs. 100% mobile web, with representatives on the panel sitting firmly in one camp or the other. But before I dig into the specifics, it’s important to outline the four different solutions that were discussed:
- Native Application – An application written specifically for the device operating system (OS). It is not cross-platform and it requires you to install and upgrade. Example: Mint.com iPhone app
- Native/Web Hybrid – An application written specifically for the device OS that relies on native elements like navigation, settings, etc., but employs web services to provide dynamic content experiences. Example: Facebook, Tumblr
- Locally Rendered HTML – An application that requires installation, but locally renders HTML and stylesheets to provide a dynamic, web-like experience. Example: Flipboard, New York Times
- Mobile Web – More specifically, HTML5. Site requires you to access through the browser application or shortcut icon, but uses HTML5 to create a custom for mobile experience, all using the browser’s built-in display functionality.
And while the panel did not land firmly on one side or the other, they did offer pros and cons to each which I thought I’d share, rather than taking a position (since honestly, I’m still not 100% sure which way I’d lean).
Native / Web Hybrid
- Pro: Allows you to take advantage of the best of both worlds. You can access the native widgets for each OS, but also provide dynamic content.
- Pro: You can easily monetize your app by listing it in the Apple app store.
- Con: Given the native application shell, creating a native/web hybrid has a slightly higher barrier to entry since it requires a programmer familiar with the iOS code.
- Con: Requires a specific content strategy.
- Pro: Programming a mobile site can be achieved by most developers. A much lower barrier to entry compared to the note above for hybrids.
- Pro: Mobile web allows for the use of HTML5 and responsive layouts and can take advantage of the same content applied for tablets and web, even if just a portion of it.
- Pro: Gets around some of the restrictions imposed by the Apple app store.
- Con: On the flip side, a mobile website is much harder to monetize… at the moment.
So, I think the key takeaway is that there are many ways to take your content to the mobile device, but understanding what your business strategy is, what content you want to share, and who your audience is will greatly influence which way you go. I think the one point everyone agrees on is that brands can no longer sit on the sidelines; a mobile presence is required for all brands.
Pinterest Explained: Q&A with Co-Founder Ben Silbermann
Practically a full house, we attended a great Q&A session with Ben Silbermann, the man behind Pinterest led by entrepreneur/investor/blogger Chris Dixon. It was an hour conversation where Ben talked freely about his aspirations and inspirations and his goals for the future development of his fasted-growing social media service.
What I really enjoyed listening to was how he walked us through his personal journey from when he started at Google up to the his company’s success today. He always reinforced how important it was to stay focus even through rough times and keep yourself surrounded with the people who are passionate for the right reasons.
Some other interesting points he made:
- His core inspiration for starting Pinterest came from simply how he saw life—as a world of collections.
- His team worked through the usability of his site all on paper.
- He strongly believes that you show that you have put as much time into the product as you expect out of your user.
- His goal is to never try and out perform his clone competitors. His focus is always on creating the best product.
- And at the end of the day in addition to developing Pinterest, his team is the most exciting thing he’s building these days.
The last session of the day and of our entire SXSW excursion discussed the usual obstacles faced when using a Facebook brand page as a customer service tool. This panel was certainly a popular one as it was a packed house and it had every right to be with equally (if not more) popular panelists Mark Williams of LiveWorld, Bryan Person of Social Dynamx, Eric Ludwig of Rosetta Stone, and Molly DeMaagd of AT&T. From tips on how to handle difficult customer inquiries or how to deal with the new Facebook Timeline format, the well-spoken speakers shared some of their insights on the best use this social channel in handling customer inquiries.
Here are some of their best points:
- Constantly look at efficiency tools & staffing capacity and needs on a daily basis. Time is of the essence so make sure you are as efficient and well-staffed as possible
- When taking the conversation off-line, do it in a matter that doesn’t stifle the conversation. Stay human & transparent.
- Investigate how your fans engage before dedicating attention to a certain channel on your strategy. You don’t want to misdirect resources.
- When staffing customer service social teams, writing skills and passion for what the company is about are crucial.
- When you personify your brand page, make sure you follow the “feelings not facts” philosophy.
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The morning got off to an early, but energetic start with a great discussion about the future of the tablet, led by Brian Burke from Smashing Ideas Inc. The topics of discussion ranged from a consumers unwillingness to purchase apps to the advantages offered to the web experience by the more intimate tablet interface. The key question on everyone’s mind, and quite honestly, one that our clients ask when considering taking their brand to the tablet, is what makes the tablet experience different than that from the web? Why should they consider a unique tablet experience when their website displays “just fine” on the tablet? And if you spend any time on the tablet, the answer is quite simple: the tablet plays a much more intimate role in your user’s life than their computer does. The tablet encourages the user to use gestural actions. Consuming content requires you to use your whole arm, which activates more neurons than clicking a mouse. The tablet encourages you to invite the content you are consuming into your personal space. And the panel theorizes that as we get more and more used to engaging with brands on a tablet device, we will begin to reject controls that separate us from the content we are trying to consume. But if there is one key takeaway from this session, it happens to be a philosophy that I believe in very passionately: when designing an experience for the tablet, don’t get sidetracked by stats. Instead, think about the role the device is playing in your audience’s life when they are consuming your content. Are they at their local Starbucks? Are they on their couch late at night? Or, while we may not want to think about it, are they in the bathroom? Regardless of what the answer to that question is, create a tablet experience that complements the “how” and “where,” not just the “why.”
The purpose of this session was supposedly to discuss “alternative” channels of content distribution, and given the savvy level of many attending SXSW, I believe we all assumed that channels other than Facebook and Twitter would be discussed (sad that many of us consider Facebook and Twitter “mainstream”). However, the panelists themselves represented major brands (AmEx, Warner Bros and Smirnoff Diageo) who actually still DO consider Facebook and Twitter alternative to the web and traditional forms of media. And given the relative success American Express Go Social and the fact that movies can be made or broken through social media, Amex and WB had a few nuggets that I thought were worth passing along to you:
- The loyalty marketing world is not shifting to digital rewards. Instead, it’s using the digital platform to extend their offering.
- The beauty of the digital reward is that for the first time, brands can actually engage their audience and quickly enable that audience to influence others.
- When developing your social loyalty program, you cannot forget that it’s a journey, and you may make a mistake along the way. That’s OK.
- Don’t ask for ROI to justify that journey. It’s a crutch for the fearful. What is the ROI that marketers are getting from bus backs or mass transit campaigns? And did your client ask you for an ROI then?
As a digital marketer, the last bullet hit home more than any other statement made during the discussion. Why? Because as a digital marketer, you are accustomed to tracking every touch point and sometimes, the data can be scary. It’s that fear that may stifle innovation, when in reality, if that same data had been available for offline tactics, some of the more brilliant marketing campaigns may have never come to be.
This session discussed how brands have evolved into taking on the role of publishers as they embrace the broadcasting capacity of social media channels. This panel was of particular interest of mine because I specifically wanted to hear the insights of panelist Sarah Smith who is the Director of Online Operations at Facebook. Other panelists included EB Boyd a reporter at Fast Company, Kevin Barenblat CEO of Context Optional, Justin Merickle VP of Marketing at Efficient Frontier, and Halle Hutchinson Senior Director of Brand Marketing at Expedia.com. The point that resonated most with me is how they all agreed that the definition of a good ad has greatly changed. Before, the more distracting and attention grabbing an ad is, the better. Now, the more an ad seamlessly integrates itself within customers stories and overall social “talk” or chatter, the better. Smith stressed this notion while giving Facebook’s Sponsored Stories as an example of branded messaging assimilating itself with friend’s stories. With this shift in marketing and advertising, the skills of the staff has to appropriately shift as well. More and more are marketing professionals being required to possess reporting skills in order to meet the demands of daily content generation.
This panel discussion consisted of three panel speakers: Dan Roam from Digital Roam, Inc., Jessica Hagy from Creative Mercenary, and Sunni Brown from sunnibrown.com. The topic of the panel dealt with how more and more companies are reinforcing the whiteboard culture because of the benefits that visual language can bring into a presentation or sales’s pitch.
As a designer it’s important to be able to sketch out our ideas, but what I learned from this discussion was a how important a simple sketch can be in expressing any idea regardless if you can draw or not. It has been proven that drawing or using simple visuals to articulate even the most complex concepts such as mathematical equations can improve your thinking. Surprisingly, you’ll also even remember it longer that if someone said it. In addition to the talk, they walked us through a few quick tutorials that taught us to take a simple statements and rapidly transform it into a visual displays .
Overall, here are few tips to remember:
- Visual language is not meant to be beautiful. If you’re stuck, start by drawing a circle.
- Do not judge your drawing skills. The point is not to be perfect.
- Create as sense of confidence. To be smart is to “see.” There’s nothing more to it.
I chose this session because more and more of our clients are asking for video. Presented by Tim Washer, senior marketing manager of Cisco, this talk was one of the more entertaining presentations so far. His work has appeared in Advertising Age and AdWeek and The New York Times and he has also a comedy writer/actor, and credits include Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, SNL and the The Onion Sports Network.
Along with sharing some of his favorite videos that he wrote and produced, Washer mentions some great advice and rules on how to go about bringing humor into our own videos. Here were a few examples:
- Humor can be a wonderful way to simplify your message. Start simple and sometimes you have to fight to be simple.
- Bringing humor in B2B videos can be successful because it’s unexpected.
- Identify your natural employee storytellers and arm them with the ability to create shareable content.
- Don’t talk about the product.
- Always try and evoke a positive emotion.
- Humanize your brand.
- Humor is like giving a gift to your audience.
- Look into nearby film schools to resource out video if your budget is tight.
- One of the strongest connection we can make with another human is to make them laugh.
- Finding a key editor is important but finding an editor that can edit humor is essential.
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The glorious Austin sun decided to grace us with its presence on Sunday which made running around the city from panel to talk to session a lot more enjoyable. The Grafik team continued their live-tweet and live-blogging coverage, but in case you missed it, here is a rundown of what we attended and our key takeaways:
By far one of the best panels Brad has attended in his two years at SXSW, Jimmy Fallon hosted a panel consisting of Stefan Olander, VP of Digital Sport at Nike, Andrew Wilson, Executive VP of EA Sports, and even an Olympic gold medalist! The purpose of pulling together such an interesting group of people was to discuss how technology is evolving how consumers engage with sports, using real life examples ranging from the use of Nike+ while you workout or the incorporation of live stats into video game play. Some of the key takeaways included:
- Technology has broken down barriers, making information that was only available to elite athletes available to the every day athlete.
- Technology is influencing real life. Manchester City youth soccer players are required to play FIFA on the EA console to learn team strategy and tactics.
- For Nike to grow, they must evolve from being just a product company to becoming a service company, and Nike+ is leading the way.
Between the foot race contested between Jimmy Fallon and an audience member, and several questions from black level Nike+ members, it’s safe to say that this panel go-er felt slightly out of shape and in desperate need of the new Nike Fuel Band!
Based on just reading the title, you may ask why I would attend this panel? Planned Parenthood Federation of America is known to have it’s own share of controversy and they’ve utilized social tools for crisis management. All the five panelists were involved with the “Stand Up for Planned Parenthood” campaign which targeted the negative reproductive healthcare conversation that erupted in the House of Representatives last year. There’s an balancing act between the right information/message and timeliness when tweeting on behalf of an organization or brand, especially during a high-pressure situation. Here are some of the top tips/insightful quotes the panelists gave:
- Inform and educate as much as you can. When it’s your issue or cause, it’s easy to believe that others know and care as much you do. That isn’t always true
- Get control of your message early. Old instinct is to wait to respond, but new media doesn’t wait.
- Because a crisis may require an all hands on deck responding, EVERYBODY in an organization should know social media social media.
- Have a plan. Everyone in the organization should be on the same page. It’s very difficult to do constant checks in during a crisis so make sure the entire team know the messaging and stick to it.
This session was a packed house as it attracted people from branding, social media, video production, marketing, journalism as well as both online and offline strategists. In the advent of social media, any one person has numerous channels and platforms to consume content, whatever that type of content may be. This session focused on the importance of maintaining authentic voice across the different venues of content. Coming into this talk I defined an authentic social voice as a transparent one that stays true to the brand it represents. I still believe in that definition, but panelist Sean Amos, Founder/Managing Partner of Amos Content Group also expressed different angle to the definition. He said “a beer company and it’s beer-drinking customers share beer as a common interest. However, it’s likely that there are other common interests. Identifying those interests and speaking to them in line with your brand is what authenticity is.” I agree with Amos. Social media is a two-way channel and finding a way to actively listen to your audience and learning what they need and want, before engaging is an “authentic” way of communicating on behalf of a brand.
This panel discussion dealt with how the rise of mobile photography was effecting our creativity and what it now meant in this post photography era. The panel was composed of four diverse individuals—an associate professor of New Media from Berkeley, a curator of photography for the Library of Congress, and the founder and CEO of Instagram.
Overall, the panel was in agreement that mass of photography may at times appear mundane and thoughtless, but we are indeed in a golden age of storytelling. As Vernas Curtis (curator from the Library of Congress) puts it, “the mundane helps capture our world today. This mass collection of photography will serve as a form of documentation when we look back in history on things such as what we buy, eat and drink. This very act of personal expression is important in knowing who we are as people now more than being artsy. Applications such as Instagram will not only helps us see more of the world, it allows us to share it with the rest of the world.” Kevin Systrom (founder of Instagram) also adds that his company is constantly looking at ways to apply value to this documentation with building off new technology. Richard Koci Hernandez (the associate professor from Berkely and journalist photographer) is also a big fan of Instagram and encouraged us to use it, but also quickly advices and points out to the crowd, “it’s not about what we keep, but what we throw away.” And Mila interpreted this as, even if the world has gone camera-mad and we can photograph everything we want at anytime, it’s also good to filter through our photos and keep what we really feel is worth keeping. This editing process is still a very important aspect in your creative process.
When it came to question and answer time, an interesting question was directed to Kevin Systrom from Instagram, “which brands are using instagram successfully?” He quickly listed the brands below. We’re looking forward to see how some of their best practices could apply to some our clients.
And finally to top it off, Koci Hernandez ended the session where he hooked up his iPhone to the screen and walked us through a quick tutorial of how he creates some of his photos and showed us some of the cool apps he was using.
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Day one of SXSW was certainly an interesting one for the Grafik team. And while nature and other circumstances prevented the team from picking up our registration badges and attending the handful of panels for the day, we had a busy day nonetheless. Here’s a little summary of how our day went:
8:00 am – Rise and shine! The team is up and ready for the day. The plan is to head out at 11:45 thinking we will get our registration badges, have lunch and make the 2:00 pm panels. Boy, were we ambitious.
9:00 am – Will go grocery shopping in the afternoon. Rely on host’s espresso machine (which took us a while to figure out) to hold us over till we can grab breakfast downtown.
10:45 am – Mila calls a cab. And even though we rented a house five minutes from downtown (driving), freak thunderstorms prevented us from walking there, so alternative transportation is required.
11:30 am – No sign of the cab.
12:00 pm – Still no sign of cab. Mila follows up and the cab company reports that it will be another hour. We busy ourselves by attending to our normal Grafik obligations.
12:30 pm – Hunger sets in. We start snacking on leftover M&M’s that were purchased from the airport the night before. 2:00 pm panel is more than likely not going to happen.
1:30 pm – Still no sign of our cab and the ladies’ toilet backs up.
1:35 pm – No plunger in the house. According to landlord, “this has never happened before”.
1:45 pm – I walk over to borrow plunger from neighbor. Awesome, right?
2:30 pm – Break open a box of Wheat Thins discovered in pantry and make executive decision that a rental car is required if we are to actually participate in SXSW.
4:00 pm – After instructing cab company we would need transportation back to airport and rental cars, the cab arrives within 10 minutes (think double fare).
4:15 – 4:45pm – Sit in traffic from rain-caused accident.
5:00 pm – Rent our wheels for the duration of our stay.
5:10pm – Grab breakfast/lunch/dinner and proceed to Walmart for groceries. We had learned lesson. Supplies were warranted.
5:45 pm – Visit Starbucks for first time for much-needed coffee.
6:00 pm – Drive through downtown to get our bearings.
6:30 pm – Arrive back at the house. To our chagrin, rain is still pouring and we start discussing if we attend any events at night.
6:30 – 9:00pm – Snack, check work email, nap, and veg.
9:00 pm – We eventually decide to stay in for the evening and have a few SXSW friends over to our house.
10:00pm-12:30am – Entertain friends.
1:15am – Call it a day (night).
We can’t wait for Saturday and will summarize our adventures on the blog tomorrow! Until then, please follow our adventures at www.grafik.com/sxsw!
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API, or application program interface, is a source code base that is released by the developers of an app that allow communication between the platform and third party applications. Foursquare, Facebook, Twitter, to name a few, each have their own APIs that developers can utilize so their apps can communicate with these platforms. The result of this technology is a collaborative atmosphere where information is shared and sometimes even controlled centrally.
Up until recently, I haven’t been exposed a great deal with using APIs. The only APIs I have interacted with are Google Maps and the occasional Facebook commenting system on other websites. Since I’ve become a little more in the know as to what APIs are, and how they can empower an app/service, I’ve become more fond of apps/services that use them.
Path, a journal-like, mobile-only software, is an excellent example as to how developers and designers alike are making use of APIs. Path, which is very similar to the popular social media services pointed out above, is actually a hub of sorts. It allows for content published in the app to be pushed to Twitter, Foursquare, Tumblr, and Facebook. Path is an interesting step in mobile software. For starters, it is mobile-only, meaning users can only post content from their mobile device. You can still “like” and comment on content in the web version, but only by clicking through a permalink when an update is posted. This facet of the software was a little jarring at first, but what Path has created is an on-the-go social media platform that makes use of these popular services. For me, it made me more willing to trust and engage with the app. Not to mention it’s incredibly well designed.
I’m not necessarily here to plug Path, but I wanted to take a minute and share a service that I enjoy using. Path was an acquired taste, and I think it’s important to note that partnerships with the big players might even help start-ups like Path gain momentum. No one wants to post their content to a service that will die in a few months. With the conceived failure of Google+, I have been left a little exasperated when it comes to the birth of new social media platforms. The fresh approach to Path is they aren’t necessarily introducing something new, rather, they are building on the services we use today. In Path, I am able to check in on Foursquare, push to Twitter, and post pictures and status updates to Facebook. All the while it lives in my Path timeline.
APIs are something a developer or designer (and even client) should consider when starting a project. It is true that APIs are not always viable, but in situations where they are, it creates a more comfortable user experience. In the case of Path, I was at ease using this program as it used the APIs of other services that I have come to know and trust. All of these are important components that factor into the success of an app or service.
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I first heard about Pinterest from my sister, a fourth grade teacher in Michigan who is not known as an early adopter. I was reading one of my favorite blogs, clicked on a Pinterest button on the site, and all of a sudden found myself in a different world that I knew nothing about. Just at that moment, my sister called me. I told her that I had just found this interesting site, Pinterest, and she told me it is one of the best places online for teachers to share ideas and curriculum—she has been using it for months. Three hours later, I was hooked.
I have been trying to figure out the many ways to use this new social media tool. Growing from 1.2 million users in August to over 4 million in January 2012, it is a site that allows users to share images they like about objects that they like. Each time you choose an image—whether it is from a website or within the Pinterest boards, it is called “pinning.”
A user can group infinite numbers of images into a board that can be organized and categorized according to the users preferences. The site is being used predominantly by women, and there are myriad boards on kitchens, fashion trends, bridal dresses. There are also boards featuring textures, art, places to travel, black and white photography and architecture. If you find someone who is constantly pinning up images that are interesting, you can choose to follow that person, and can select which of her boards you want to follow. If you see an image you like, you can repin it on your own board, like it, or even make a comment.
By installing a Pin It button on your desktop, if you see a beautiful image of an elephant on a nature site, you can click on the button and it will be added to your collection (board of images).Well, lots of sites allow you to post images, Grabbit for one, but what is interesting is that the Pin It photo arrives at your board with the credits and original site attached. And here is where I think it gets interesting…since Pinterest allows a “pinner” to see where the original content is from, if you repeatedly see that images you like are from the same website or blog, you are encouraged to visit that url. In this way Pinterest can subtly act as another method to get people to your own blog or website.
I decided to try an experiment. I posted eight images from my own blog. On a good day I normally get about 50-70 page views. The day before I started pinning on Pinterest I had 62 page views. For the next few days after I had started pinning, my page views went up to 379 and the views have remained higher.
More research has to be done on Pinterest, however right now it is currently the seventh highest trafficked social media site. The demographic is predominantly female which should be interesting to advertisers. And in talking with some of our social media team and our creative directors we are already thinking of ways we could use this both for our clients and internally. One cautionary note—it’s addictive and can really suck up a lot of time, so be prepared to spend hours investigating it. Enjoy, and happy pinning!
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Yesterday, Facebook + Media released the list of Most Shared Articles on Facebook in 2011. As a sucker for “top” and “most” lists and the like, I look forward to the last quarter of the year, when they start popping up left and right on any topic you can possibly think of, because they are somewhat descriptive of the past year. Much longer than other year-ending rundowns, this list surprisingly had a really good mix—funny and serious, informative and seemingly useless, print and multimedia. This list left me almost in tears (of both laughter and sadness), but most of all, it has left me a bit confused. Its wide variety of subject matter and type of content makes me wonder about what all this means.
With online video and multimedia consumption emerging, only 11 of the 40 stories are videos or have a video component, and only four are primarily based on photos or have an interactive feature. With 44% (and growing) of Facebook users accessing the social networking site via mobile, does this mean that multimedia content has yet to be better utilized for mobile consumption despite Facebook’s recent push for mobile? Or do text-only articles show no signs weakening? My bet is on the first rather than the latter.
I also noticed that reputable news sites such as CNN.com, NYTimes.com, WashingtonPost.com and Yahoo! News dominate as the most popular sources. As someone from a journalism background, it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside that the online community still primarily refers to the respected and esteemed news outlets for content—at least I’d like to believe that. Much of the sharing could be better attributed to Open Graph apps which has increased Yahoo! News’ traffic by 600% and garnered the WaPo more than 3.5 million users via the Social Reader app based on early statistics.
With this in mind, the majority of the articles are content primarily originating from, or touching issues directly affecting, the U.S. despite 75% of Facebook users living outside the United States. With topics ranging from Steve Jobs, job hunting, laughing babies, the U.S. deficit and Japan tsunami, this list is indeed indicative of this past year. It would be really interesting to see analytics and demographics on who shared what. Check out the list and let me know what you think.
Most Shared Articles on Facebook in 2011
1. Satellite Photos of Japan, Before and After the Quake and Tsunami (New York Times)
3. No, your zodiac sign hasn’t changed (CNN)
5. Father Daughter Dance Medley (Yahoo)
10. New Zodiac Sign Dates: Ophiuchus The 13th Sign? (The Huffington Post)
11. Parents keep child’s gender under wraps (Yahoo)
12. How to Talk to Little Girls (The Huffington Post)
13. Stop Coddling the Super-Rich (New York Times)
14. Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior (Wall Street Journal)
15. Twin Baby Boys Have A Conversation! (Yahoo)
16. Man robs bank to get medical care in jail (Yahoo)
17. Why You’re Not Married (The Huffington Post)
18. A Sister’s Eulogy for Steve Jobs (New York Times)
19. Ryan Dunn Dead: ‘Jackass’ Star Dies In Car Crash (The Huffington Post)
21. Notes From a Dragon Mom (New York Times)
22. A Message to Women From a Man: You Are Not “Crazy” (The Huffington Post)
23. Obama’s and Bush’s effects on the deficit in one graph (Washington Post)
24. Penn State, my final loss of faith (Washington Post)
25. Golden-Voiced Homeless Man Captivates Internet (Yahoo)
26. The most typical face on the planet (Yahoo)
28. Permissive parents: Curb your brats (CNN)
30. Laughing Baby Loves Ripping Paper! (Yahoo)
31. Epic Cover Letter: How To Get Hired For Your Dream Job (Pic) (The Huffington Post)
32. New Zodiac sign dates: Don’t switch horoscopes yet (Washington Post)
33. Things Babies Born in 2011 Will Never Know (Yahoo)
34. The Psychology of Revenge: Why We Should Stop Celebrating Osama Bin Laden’s Death (The Huffington Post)
35. Where Children Sleep (New York Times)
37. Steve Jobs, Apple founder, dies (CNN)
39. Grant Hill’s Response to Jalen Rose (New York Times)
40. Steve Jobs’s Patents (New York Times)
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Unless you have been hiding under a rock the past two weeks, the Jerry Sandusky and Penn State child abuse scandal has dominated headlines, talk/radio shows, and all forms of social media. And through the course of events, I have been particularly fascinated with how Twitter has been used (or not used) to take advantage of what it is good for: pushing out information instantly and engaging a broad audience that you may have no immediate connection to. Being the digital geek and spaghetti western fan that I am, I have selected a few examples from the past two weeks to highlight how Twitter was used or could have been used, and broken them down into the good, the bad, and the ugly.
However, before I go any further, I should note that as a Penn State graduate and husband to a wife who devoted hundreds of hours working with The Second Mile organization as a student, I was particularly transfixed by the unfolding events of this tragedy and consequently more obsessed and affected personally than the average American by the situation. And while this is not intended to be an op-ed, I do want to say that my heart goes out to the victims and their families, and also to the students, alum and all those associated to the University who are still trying to make sense of everything. My prayers are with you.
The Good: Twitter as a Breaking News Source
On November 5, the investigation into Jerry Sandusky became public knowledge as the formal grand jury presentment was released and Sandusky was formally accused of making sexual advances or assaults on eight boys. At the time, the news item was a footnote on ESPN’s website, and a small headline with local Pennsylvania news outlets. As a dedicated Penn State football fan, I needed more information, and not able to find anything of value on the web, I turned to Twitter to learn more. I did a quick search on Jerry Sandusky and found several Penn State users using the hashtag #PSUCharges to comment on the news. By following those users, I built a list of about 10–15 sources, most local to the State College area on Twitter that posted updates every 5–10 minutes over the next week. Not only did I have the latest news and information about the events as they happened, I also had an insight into what the students were going through and what the mood was like on campus, including photos and videos, as those local users retweeted tweets posted by Penn State students. Twitter continues to prove itself as the top source for breaking news and I recommend you use it as such for personal use, or as a means to disseminate your own news. Since Google ended their agreement with Twitter, real-time information is harder to come by in Google search results, and until Google Buzz catches on, you cannot rely on a search engine to surface the latest news.
The Bad: Twitter as a Form of Crisis Communication Management
The University knew about this investigation, and they also knew that the information would become public knowledge on November 5. And while most of the sports world was focused on the LSU-Alabama football game set to take place that night, which some argued was a game between the two best college football teams in the nation, Penn State’s public information department had an opportunity to set up a social media crisis response team, outline a strategy of information dissemination, and get ahead of the impending media storm. Social media has proven to be a critical component of any crisis communication management strategy, and as an example, Penn State could have established their own hashtag, could have set up a Twitter profile dedicated to distributing updates, facts, and contact information. This team (and I emphasize team as something this large would require many people) could also have used Twitter to engage the media in real time, and headed off the propagation of the multiple rumors that were flying fast and furiously. Sadly, Penn State stumbled out of the gates and chose to take a reactive approach which demonstrated their incompetency, led to the distribution of misinformation, and further fueled the media frenzy. As a digital strategist, it pained me to see my alma mater fall so short on something that should be PR 101 at this point and urge you to recognize the power of Twitter and never underestimate its value in defending your brand.
The Ugly: Twitter as a Means to Expand Your Audience
It became very clear at the outset of the media blitz that Twitter would not be exempt from sensationalism reporting, furthering personal agendas, and driving eyeballs, listeners, or in this case, followers. I have never been as disgusted as I was seeing people who styled themselves as “news” media shamelessly spouting off complete ignorance, conjecture, and speculation, taking advantage of an emotional and personal tragedy to make a name for themselves. What, ideally, should have been basic fact reporting turned into a contest to see who could denounce Penn State officials most vehemently, who was more against child abuse and Penn State, and who could criticize Penn State alums or students the hardest for being upset. 140 character pearls of wisdom have been tweeted and retweeted, effectively making the rounds within the Twitterverse similar to the email chain letters of old. And while I was personally disappointed with the content, I could not argue with the fact that these personalities were exposing themselves to new eyeballs, effectively growing their audience.
Finally, one other lesson I learned the hard way: use Twitter with caution when attempting to get work done at the same time. If you’re not careful, you will quickly get sucked in reading tweets, news articles, trading messages with users, and ultimately getting nothing done. Not that I’m speaking from experience…
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Internet users evolve faster than the internet itself. The massive movement of personal data onto the web has triggered the birth and death of many web services. As the internet continues to evolve, with big players like Twitter and Facebook, one can only imagine what happens when those services have failed to keep up with the crowd. In the wake of so many dead web services lie the stale collection of user-generated content. I kind of wish I could take it all back. Problem is not all of it is available in an easy format and the trouble of downloading that content supersedes the sentimental nature of said content. This might be changing as both new and old services begin to see the importance of owning your own content.
When Google+ soft-launched earlier this year, many users worldwide praised its advent; Facebook finally had a competitor. After years of Facebook burnout, I was ready to ditch the social media behemoth for a fresh new service. I found it was easier said than done. The hangup was abandoning years of data; a visual and textual account of my online interactions with people in my life.
I was reading an interview in November’s issue of .net magazine. The interview was with GimmeBar’s founder, Cameron Koczon. GimmeBar is a very promising service, still in beta, that allows for users to collect snippets of text and imagery around the web. It was important for Koczon and the GimmeBar team to allow users to own their curated content. The users of GimmeBar can at any time batch download all their snippets. I can’t describe what a breath of fresh air this idea is. It’s simple, but the implications are profound.
Shortly after reading that article, I stumbled upon Facebook’s Archive. I can’t stress how I literally stumbled upon it. This service was launched without much publicity (can you blame them?). This new capability allows for users to download their entire Facebook history. History includes: “your photos, wall posts, messages, and other information” as described in the Account Settings. Both GimmeBar and Facebook provide an archive that is raw data, not a proprietary file structure.
A download capability reflects that users are sharing more sensitive information on platforms that don’t give them complete control. As the web service market continues to expand and evolve, this ability will hopefully be integrated into every service, providing a security and peace of mind to users.
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It’s now November and Christmas is just 52 days away. Gift shopping, turkey feasting, and snow shoveling (Hope I don’t jinx it!) seem to occupy the top of your to-do list, and tweeting and posting may not be such a priority. Anyone who engages in social media, either personally or professionally, knows that it’s one of those tasks you know you have dedicate time to, but when things get crazy busy with work projects and personal schedules, it’s what usually gets pushed aside. Here are a few basic tips to keep in mind that will make sure your Klout score doesn’t suffer during one of the busiest times of the year.
1. Start now and plan ahead
Take a cue from department stores that are already playing Christmas songs and selling holiday decor. Start thinking about what topics you should be blogging, posting, and tweeting about now so, when you have to leave work early for that holiday party, you’re covered. Tools like HootSuite and Crowdbooster allow you to schedule tweets and Facebook posts to be published at a future, predetermined time which is really useful when you’re out on vacation or just plain swamped.
2. Be timely and newsworthy
The risk you encounter when you schedule tweets and posts is that your content may be stale (or as Eric would say, “So nine minutes ago!”) by the time it gets pushed out. For your content to stay relevant, don’t just say what happened, but include your take on it. Don’t tweet “It’s 52 days till Christmas,” but say “Tips for tweeting your Christmas countdown.” This is where your brand’s voice comes in giving your content added value.
3. Go mobile
If you haven’t already, definitely get access to your social platforms on your smart phone. Some of you might be thinking that this is a given, but just this week, I’ve encountered a few people who work in the online media field who don’t have Twitter and Facebook apps on their phone. Enough said.
4. Keep your audience top of mind
It’s important to remind yourself when generating content, that your audience is in the same boat. They’re also as busy as you, if not more, and you have a smaller window of opportunity to engage them. Echoing number 2, be smart about when and what you tweet. If you know that most of your audience tend to comment on Facebook during their lunch break, then concentrate your Facebook activity at that time. Crowdbooster has a useful feature that gives you suggested times on when you should tweet and Facebook post based on previous clicks, replies, and shares on your content.
5. Get in the holiday spirit
One “perk” of this busy season is since there is a lot going on, there’s more to talk about. Do your coworkers decorate their offices? (Yes, Danielle, I’m talking about you.) Is your company holding a holiday marketing campaign, sale, promotion or the like? These all make for good ideas for blogging, posting, and tweeting. Tis’ the season to be jolly after all.
These simple and somewhat logical tips do not only apply to the holiday season and can be quite helpful if practiced throughout the year. Just based on my informal research, people rarely follow all of the above which can save you a lot of time and maybe even your sanity. If you have any other tips in mind, please do share!
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