Augmented Reality for the Visually Impaired

One percent of the world’s population, approximately 70 million people, are blind.[/tc_dropcap] That is not a huge number when you think of it in terms of a potential use base for a consumer product, but it is massive when you consider that there are currently few assistive technologies available as an aid to make the…

via Oxsight uses augmented reality to aid the visually impaired — TechCrunch

Advertisements

Facebook Analytics Exercise: “XYZ Company” and IMC

This week in Intro to Multimedia, we’re examining data derived from Facebook analytics regarding a company we’re calling “XYZ”, which is a heating and cooling company in Western Massachusetts. XYZ provides installations, maintenance, and repair services. The company currently has a Facebook page, a website, a Twitter account, a Yelp page, and Google+ page, and sends emails to recipients within a thirty-mile radius of the business.

Data Insights

Screenshots of data provided by Facebook analytics, which cover both monthly (summer to fall) and recently weekly page activity is rather telling. For example, Facebook ads and paid reach are driving most of XYZ’s likes and other engagement. Summer months tend to drive interest in product and service related posts, likely because of greater need for cooling in hotter months. Judging by the provided data, there’s no particularly advantageous day to run an ad, but between 6:00 PM and 9:00 PM is when the company should run ads, as the people they reach are most accessible during the evening hours. Pictures of unit models actually being installed in real locations tend to see lots of post clicks and shares. Also, posts about special offers on services and products appear to drive a lot of clicks and shares.

ads and likes

The most receptive crowd are English speakers in the Springfield, MA area. Those most likely to “like” the page and become followers are younger men age 25-34 and women age 35-44. Depending on marketing goals, posts are being served a little off-target if the company desires more “likes”, as men age 35-44 are being targeted, but are not the most likely to “like” the page. However, if the company desires more shares, the male, 35-44 group is the best target, as that demographic shares more posts than any other.

who is targeted

Posts are being served less efficiently to women. In the past week, ads have heavily targeted women age 18-24, one of the most marginal demographics who historically “like” the page. Women age 45-54, who are most likely to share page content and are fairly likely to “like” the page are not being targeted nearly as much as less reliable groups.

who likes the page

Using Insights and IMC

One of the most important aspects of good IMC is consistency. XYZ Company does appear to practice consistency in its voice and post content, but its consumer targeting would benefit from some fine tuning, and the application of some marketing goals.

XYZ Company would do well to focus on page likes as a first priority. Being a small, local business, whose service and sales reach is currently around thirty miles in radius, XYZ will want to focus on keeping in touch with its past, current, and prospective customers, establishing a loyal customer base. Shares and awareness are important, but their organic reach can’t be controlled or predicted. To be more specific, XYZ would benefit more from word-of-mouth recommendations that reach other locals, rather than organic reach that may extend to people outside of XYZ’s service and sales area. Collecting local followers will support building a repeat customer base, and local word-of-mouth may prove to create awareness in a more optimal service and sales range.

To achieve more likes, and thereby, more loyal, local customers, XYZ should try and create a Facebook ad, on-the-job photo post, or featured product photo / offer post, and fine tune the targeting parameters within Facebook ads. Using the insights gleaned from Facebook analytics, the best way to gain the most page likes would be to target women age 35-54 and men age 25-44. Running the ad during peak hours, from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM, and manually pausing before and after this block of time may further help to achieve more likes per dollar spent.

follower activity

To lend more strength to such a campaign, XYZ Company should invest some effort on other social media channels where their brand lives. When examining the data and insights provided via Facebook analytics, it appears that XYZ’s Facebook page sees clicks and engagement with its timeline most, but its info tab, reviews, and photos tab also see some engagement. The company website ought to serve as a bank of even more photos, product and service descriptions, contact info, and other company information, should the Facebook page lead a customer to further research and inquiry. This information and imagery should be consistent with the info posted to Facebook.

The company Yelp page is another great resource for past, current, and potential customers to learn more about the business, its products and services, and, most importantly on this channel, customer reviews and company feedback. Yelp, like Facebook, is a great place for the company to gain consumer insight, and it’s also a great channel for responding to publicly posted comments regarding XYZ. Such responses should echo the company’s persona, and strive to be informative, professional, and friendly.

XYZ also has its own Google+ and Twitter accounts. While Google+ can act as a secondary channel on which to post content similar to that on Facebook, Twitter is a great place to both engage quick and simple customer tweets, and a great channel for XYZ to mention special offers or post eye-catching product pictures. It wouldn’t be a bad idea for XYZ to create a short, sweet company slogan–something catchy, easy to remember, and not too long to type, which can be used as a hashtag on Twitter and also on Facebook for duplicate posts, or posts regarding similar content. For example, in the summer months, while running a Facebook ad for cooling units, use the hashtag, “#XYZcooldeals”, and in the winter months, “#XYZhotdeals”.

A few final ideas…

IMC continues offline, and considering the company is targeting a thirty-mile emailing radius, it would be to their advantage to mention their company hashtags, social media pages, and/or website in any relevant special offers they place in emails, local newspapers, on billboards, or in physical handouts (anything from product and service pamphlets to business cards). The same rule applies to local radio ad spots.

Additionally, XYZ should follow companies in related industries on all channels, especially Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Keeping an eye on products, businesses, and services that other companies provide, and examining how they’re successfully engaging customers on social media can help inform XYZ’s social media marketing tactics going forward, and may result in valuable leads, or to professional networking, partnership, or contracting opportunities.

LDI Trade Show 2015

Note: this blog post is for educational purposes, and is not official press coverage or commentary on the events discussed.

This week in Intro to Multimedia we’re following the 2015 LDI Trade Show, taking place from October 19th-25th in Las Vegas, Nevada. This post will take a look at the trade show’s IMC, including its event website, social media channels, and general online self-coverage and promotions.

LDI 2015, Las Vegas

home page 10-20
The LDI 2015 home page offers an exciting, visual glimpse of the show’s highlights, sponsors, exhibitors, and features.
Vimeo highlight reel 10-20
A Vimeo highlight reel recaps last year’s events and sets the thematic stage for what is to come this week.

If you follow the link to Live Design International’s home page, it’s immediately clear that the big names attending this year’s event are important, and a central highlight of the show. The website boasts an attention-grabbing collage of thumbnails that serve as links to more info about sponsors, exhibitors, and special events taking place over the course of the week. LDI’s website is really focused on the who’s-who and what’s-what of the show, and includes a highlight reel from last year’s event at the bottom of the page.

Facebook feed 10-20Facebook feed 10-22Twitter cirque du soleil promo 10-20Facebook win colorise fixtures 10-20

Twitter 10-20
Twitter features a number of product promotions and incorporates the show’s primary hashtag, “#LDI2015”.

LDI 2015’s Facebook page and Twitter account (see the snapshots above) are pretty like-minded and consistent in content and purpose. On these accounts, the show has been promoting a number of sponsors’ and exhibitors’ products, some of which are featured in contests and giveaways directed to the attention of attendees, followers, or those registered to follow event news updates. Similarly, there have been promotional offers for local Las Vegas shows and events such as Cirque du Soleil. Leading up to the show (and ongoing) are a multitude of behind-the-scenes images, allowing followers a look at some of the show prep, as well as special nightly events tagged with the phrase, “#LDIAfterDark”. Coverage on Facebook and Twitter is good, but not great in my opinion. In fact, a greater amount of show insights come from searching event tags on Twitter and seeing what everyone else is saying about the show. I was surprised that LDI itself hasn’t attempted any short, live video, via Periscope, Snapchat, or otherwise, but Live Design Magazine has promoted some podcasts, such as this one, featuring speaker Vickie Claiborne of PRG.

Twitter 10-22
“#LDIAfterDark” is one of this year’s big tags, and appears in promotions for nighttime events consistently across channels.

It’s now about midweek, and Facebook and Twitter continue to largely cover the event much the way they have been since day one. On Thursday, some new hashtags have appeared, such as #LasVegas, which more generally promotes the show’s host city, and ties in to the themes of some of the special events and nightly activities also promoted by the show’s “#LDIAfterDark” tags. Facebook has received far fewer updates than Twitter, but by midweek, the latter channel appears to be experiencing more follower response anyway. It’s also worth noting that some proximity promotion has been implemented: check out Wednesday’s tweet about the trade show’s mobile app.

Facebook 10-23Twitter 10-23

Update: Friday, October 23, has kicked off the Exhibit Hall portion of the trade show, and a noticeable amount of new content has begun to pop up particularly on Facebook and Twitter. New posts featuring exhibitor booths, such as Neal Preston Photography, and interactive events like the LDI Photo Booth and Booth Crawl Scavenger Hunt are now underway.

Youtube previous videos 10-20
The LDI Youtube channel has not been updated since last year’s event, and will presumably feature a recap video following this year’s show.
LinkedIn 10-20
LinkedIn is the least active channel, and seems to serve only as a basic touchpoint for professional followers on this social platform.

From the start, this year’s LDI trade show has listed its presence on two other main channels, LinkedIn and Youtube. The links to these event-specific pages can be found right on the show’s main website. However, three days into the program, neither LinkedIn nor Youtube have been updated with any major posts or videos, and seem to serve simply to host information about the show. There is no apparent follower activity on the main LinkedIn profile, but the LDI LinkedIn user group does have about 1,500 members presently (Note: I have requested to join this group but have not received confirmation at this time). For the time being, The official LDI Youtube channel offers only some video footage of previous years’ event coverage, but there are many outside sources talking about LDI 2015, and have even posted preview and early-look videos to other accounts.

Wrap-Up Thoughts…

These last two channels are where the show’s coverage and IMC could really use some effort. It’s certainly a good idea to keep an archive of recap videos on Youtube, but the event could drum up a lot more excitement if, as we see on the show’s main page, Vimeo, Snapchat, Vine, or some other video sharing platform were being used to post live, real-time footage of the show, especially its “After Dark” events, which appear to be rather exciting in the pictures that appear on Facebook and Twitter. Youtube can serve to promote pre-event and post event discussion and excitement just fine, but there should really be some quick, snappy, interesting, on-the-spot footage of a highly visual event such as LDI being posted to social media fairly frequently as the week goes on. Additionally, it’s a wonder why Youtube has not been used to promote giveaways and contests that were being promoted before the official start of the 2015 trade show.

Also surprising, is that LinkedIn isn’t leveraged more like Facebook. It’s presumable that many of LDI 2015’s attendees are working professionals in the field of digital and technological arts, and might prefer to follow the LDI trade show via a LinkedIn event group or simply by keeping an eye out for interesting articles and image-based posts coming from the week’s live events. LinkedIn is a great place to post about featured sponsors, exhibitors, and booths, as many of these represent companies likely tied to LinkedIn’s professional networking in one way or another.

Niche Social Media: Book Publishing and AuthorsInfo.com

So last week was midterm week, and I wrote about the popular, mainstream app, Snapchat (article here). This week’s focus, however, is industry-specific, or “niche”, social media channels. Since I’ve worked in book publishing and editing for some time now, and I have several titles to my own name, I’m actually pretty familiar with a number of niche social media networks, particularly those designed for authors and publishers. This week I want to talk about one of the newer sites, a social channel called Authors Info.

AuthorsInfo home

What is Authors Info?

The simplest way to describe Authors Info is to compare it to a Facebook / Goodreads hybrid platform, only, Authors Info is designed more for authors, publishers, and agents first, and then readers. The site acts as a social network for those in the writing, editing, and publishing industry, and continually curates and manages new author and book information submitted by professionals who sign up to use the site. Its landing page often runs a looping slideshow-style banner that displays new or featured titles, and just below, users will find a “Search Listing” section, where they can browse newly reviewed titles, newly added listings, or search specifically for books or authors.

AuthorsInfo search listing

AuthorsInfo book info
Book info is descriptive, and even includes summaries, teasers, and reviews.

In this regard, Authors Info might look familiar to those similar with the popular social reading platform, Goodreads. I would argue, however, that Authors Info’s design is cleaner and more robust, and its content is much more detailed, setting it apart from other sites that host information about authors and their works. For example, if users look up a title and click the link to its on-site page, they access a detailed page (example left) that tells them everything they could want to know about a book, its author and publisher as well as their Twitter handle(s), its ISBN and ASIN numbers, genre and subject tags, all available formats, publication dates, page count, language editions, editor and user reviews–everything. Plus, these info pages are “favorite-able”, shareable across six other major social networks with the simple click of a button, and provide direct purchase links to sites like Amazon, one of, if not the largest seller of books online. But what makes Authors Info really special?…

AuthorsInfo author profile

Author profile pages! That’s right, Authors Info isn’t merely an information dump for reviews and book info. When it comes to its authors, publishers, and other industry professionals, Authors Info is a living community. It’s a place where readers’ favorite books and authors, as well as those authors, their publishers, and agents, gather to be able to speak to and network with one another.

AuthorsInfo profile feed
The profile feed is easy to use, especially if you’re familiar with similar platforms such as Facebook.

Are you a reader who wants to know more about an author? Are you an agent looking for undiscovered or emerging talent? Maybe you’re a publisher trying to connect your imprints’ professional circles online? On Authors Info, that’s where public profiles come into play. They look and act much like a Facebook profile, and just as with other, similar channels, users can “follow” or “friend” one another, or simply view their bio, posts, links, videos, and other content. Publishing industry professionals, writers, and other users can post to their own feeds (and others, with permission), create calendars, discussions, notes, and track reviews and favorites from profile pages. The possibilities and uses are many. Publishers can create groups for their authors, unpublished authors can engage publishers and agents, and agents can network on behalf of their clients easily within the platform. Additionally, the site offers users the option to link their profile to their accounts to other networks, particularly Facebook and Google+.

Publishing, Social Media, and Proximity Marketing

I think Authors Info is built to work wonderfully alongside its more mainstream social channel fellows, and provides a great outlet for publishing industry professionals and readers to engage away from the noise. There’s also great potential for Authors Info to help its users tie their traditional blogs and Youtube channels into their Authors Info profiles and feeds. Youtube, in my opinion, is especially important, and I think as publishing moves forward, professionals need to find more ways to bolster print entertainment with engaging visual content online. As Penn simply explains, “video search is increasing, and you want to be found,” and “book sales are all about a human connection.” Video content is huge, and book publishing needs to invest effort in it.

What I’d like to see most, however, is the publishing industry employing some creative proximity marketing, and I’m not talking about setting up iBeacons in Barnes & Noble. I’m looking at small or independent publishers who frequent convention center or open-air book festivals representing their authors.

Glimworm
Glimworm Beacons declares that “it’s the end of festivals as we know it”, because Bluetooth is changing the way people are experiencing the arts and the events that host them.

Think about it–festivals are basically temporary shopping malls, and malls are one of the best places to implement proximity marketing, grabbing consumers’ attention at the best possible moment, when they’re looking to buy. I’ve defended the value of selling at book festivals for years, now, and I think in-person booksellers either have neglected the advantages of combining social media and proximity marketing at book fairs and book festivals, or that they just have no idea the tools are available. Imagine the possibilities! Why not promote special offers on books, or tech-engagement with the event itself, like music festivals Coachella and Bonnaroo did in 2014?

Consider a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers that surveyed 1,000 people:

“The study included some information on what people liked that marketers can use when planning proximity ads. For example, 76 percent say they browse in-store because they want to see and touch the item before buying online, and 65 percent say they browse online but purchase in the store because they don’t want to pay shipping costs.”
–Peter Roesler, Bizjournals.com (2015).

Despite the rise of online shopping, there’s most certainly an audience that wants to shop and make purchases in-person. To publishers, that means we’re talking about those readers who swear by “old-fashioned” books, and who just “love the smell, feel, and look of a good ol’ print edition”. Many of these readers are on mobile, and if they’re looking to save on shipping cost, I’m willing to bet they’re open to receiving on-site or in-store offers as well. Don’t rule it out!

Concluding Thoughts

Authors Info has the potential to be an interesting toolkit for publishing as well as a great supplement to small-publisher and indie author proximity marketing. Authors Info itself is a platform that brings familiar social networking functionality to a niche industry by combining the best aspects of already-popular and successful channels. It doesn’t merely act as a professional network for the publishing industry, it also creates an interesting public forum for authors and their readers, a place where readers and writers can pierce the publishing veil a bit. As it’s a fairly new site, I’m excited to see how it grows as well as how it continues to weave itself into other industry-specific networks and general, mainstream channels.

Ref.

Penn, Joanna. (2010, March 8). Thecreativepenn.com – “7 Reasons Why Writers Need To Start Using Video For Book Promotion”

Roesler, Peter. (2015, February 23). Bizjournals.com – “How to use proximity marketing without alienating potential consumers”

Other Sources

https://glimwormbeacons.com/about/festivals/

http://www.ibeacon.com/ibeacon-featured-at-coachella/

http://9to5mac.com/2014/07/14/bonnaroo-festival-used-ibeacons-to-collect-valuable-data-about-concertgoers/

http://www.zdnet.com/article/what-is-apple-ibeacon-heres-what-you-need-to-know/

3 Brands and IMC: Wendy’s, Playstation, and Southwest Airlines

A few weeks ago I talked about three different brands’ blogs and why I thought they were successful based on content, features, design, how they were integrated with other channels, and so on. This week I’m going to do something a little similar and discuss three brands who are active on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, and Youtube, and how they’re using IMC. Let’s start with…

Southwest Airlines

I’m going to start with the brand at the end of the list because as far as social media presence goes, frankly, it’s one of my favorite brands, and I think it sets an example to follow.

SW Air collage
Images from Southwest Airlines’s Facebook (left), Google+ (top right), and Instagram (bottom right), featuring the heart of its company–employees, customers, and their families.

The first two things I notice about Southwest Airlines’s social media presence is consistency, consistency, consistency…oh, and content galore. Southwest Air wastes no time letting consumers know it’s personable. Whether on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, or Youtube, the brand highlights the real, everyday people who give its company life–namely, its customers, its employees, and their families. Instagram is particularly abound with photos of the company’s planes, passengers, baggage handlers, flight attendants, pilots, and Facebook and Google+ even feature duplicated content highlighting celebrity fliers like Middleman Burr and Barenaked Ladies. If you don’t know of the latter, yes, the link is SFW.

SW twitter
#WineWednesday

You’ll find some of the same imagery across this brand’s channels, particularly photos and videos linked by hashtags like #Disneyland60, and the new, big one, #SouthWestHeart. However, the consistency isn’t cookie-cutter. Every channel does have unique content, such as a more spontaneous #WineWednesday post on Twitter. I think this balance between consistent and unique content is a great way to both link the company channels as well as drive consumers between them both ways.

Simple SW
The new Southwest Airlines tri-color heart, featured online, and now, onboard! (Photo and mention w/ permission).

That Southwest heart logo, before I forget, is a new, tri-color version of Southwest’s familiar, older one. It’s clearly central to their current look, as it appears on all of their media channels. The company has even begun to feature the logo onboard their planes, literally giving their machines a heart, as real-life Southwest Air flight attendant (and personal friend) Simple Flores demonstrated in her recent Instagram post (also pictured above/left).

Although Southwest Airlines’s Youtube and Google+ channels aren’t as frequently updated as their other sites but they do stay fresh, and the two do come together nicely to support the company’s video content, which is fantastic. Southwest Air uploads everything from company-wide service updates to more candid, on-the-ground employee and customer stories (see their “A Day In the Life” series), and customers contribute their own experiences such as entertaining vignettes like the one below:

SW listen team
The Southwest Airlines social media team (image source).

Before I move on, it’s also worth mentioning that there is an entire team dedicated to listening in on what consumers are saying about Southwest Air across all social media channels. This team doesn’t just watch, however, it’s tasked to providing as much real-time feedback to its audience as possible. Read more about it here on Southwest’s blog.

Let’s keep it weird, and continue moving through the list backwards, with…

Playstation

Playstation is one of the most prolific brands I can think of when it comes to social media and IMC. You can find the videogame giant just about everywhere. What strikes me about Playstation’s channels is the large amount of content. The company really loves to post images and videos–it makes up most of their overall content. In fact, their Google+ page, which is linked to Youtube, features so many video posts, it’s hard to tell apart from their Instagram.

Playstation collage
Playstation’s Google+ (left), Facebook (top right), and Instagram (bottom right) are all highly visual channels.

Like any brand with good IMC, Playstation is consistent. Its Twitter and Facebook pages are buddied up. They tend to stay updated with new, similar content such as release dates, previews, Playstation Network (PSN) coupons and offers, and the like. Meanwhile, it’s Google+ and Youtube channels tend to prioritize video sneak peaks and announcements. On Instagram, you’ll find more niche photos, such as Playstation products being showcased at big conventions like E3, or snapshots of product anniversaries and awards.

Playstation doesn’t seem to use as many hashtags as Southwest Air and other brands that I’ve seen. Perhaps the need is diminished by the company’s already-overwhelming presence in the gaming-focused corners of the social media world, or because Playstation’s content and posts contain a great variety of already highly-visible subjects whose tags are bringing in consumers as it is. High-profile, or “triple A”, titles like Star Wars Battlefront (see the preview trailer PS posted below) often already have followings so massive that extra effort just creates more meta tag clutter than anything.

Playstation complaintsMy one criticism of Playstation’s IMC isn’t that it’s not well-connected, or that it lacks content or cross-channel push and pull. The issue I see is that unlike other brands like Southwest Air, Shutterstock, Nike, or Starbucks, Playstation isn’t ranked among the “greats” of social media feedback and customer service. The company’s Facebook and Twitter accounts are informative and fresh, but they tend to be ridden with unanswered comments and complaints. As popular as its products are, Playstation ought to invest some more effort in “being human” rather than risk applying old-fashioned “top-down” tactics to new media.

Wendy’s

Here’s a brand we all know, and one that I began paying more attention to while writing my blog post on Snapchat–Wendy’s.

Wendy's collage
Snippets from Wendy’s Google+ (left), Youtube (top right), and Instagram (bottom right).
Wendy's side by side
Wendy’s DTFA Coupon Books simultaneously posted on Twitter and Facebook, and check out that brand feedback! 

The way Wendy’s approaches its IMC is similar to the other two brands I’ve talked about in some topical ways. Consistency? Check. Content? Check. Hashtags and common videos and photos? Check. Wendy’s has the crucial basics, but I like some other things the brand throws into the spotlight. One is style. As you’d expect, the company’s Facebook and Twitter are content-sharing pals, as are its Google+ and Youtube accounts. I think we’ve established that as a popular big-brand tactic. And why not? It works well, and generates some push and pull. However, if you visit the Wendy’s Instagram you get something different…

Wendy's fries n frosty
Dipping fries in a Frosty–it’s like they know us.

There’s a noticeable interest in artistic depiction of Wendy’s food–not something you may expect from a place that serves up fast food, but hey, maybe I went in expecting too little. The photos are a cool mix of interesting, bird’s-eye-view shots of Wendy’s menu items and the hands of consumers holding and eating them. There are also some close-ups of employee uniforms and some homages to Dave Thomas. It’s a nice change-up, and it helps establish the brand’s Instagram as distinct from the others, rather than a “we-couldn’t-decide-exactly-what-to-put-here,” tag-along channel.

Wendy's twitter DTFA
Wendy’s tweets about their new cups supporting the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.

Something else I think works well for Wendy’s is that it doesn’t make excessive use of traditional hashtags in the headlines of tweets, or Facebook or Instagram posts. I think the company does well to use other key words and phrases to link its content together. Take Twitter, where it mentions @DTFA, or the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption in tweets that feature stories of adopted children. These stories can also be found on a special Wendy’s Youtube playlist, “Adoption Stories – My First Family Memory“. The series uses multiple social channels to connect its audience animated short stories of real adoptees’ first family memories, such as the one below.

Well there you have it! What brands do you think are making the most of IMC? Visit the comments below and share your thoughts!

Social Channel Spotlight: Snapchat

What is Snapchat?

snapchat ghost
The Snapchat icon is actually named “Ghostface Chillah” after “Ghostface Killah” of the Wu-Tang Clan (image and source).

Functionally speaking, it’s a pretty easy question to answer. Snapchat is a mobile app that first launched in 2011. Its design and purpose are simple: it allows users to take photos or videos, edit them with text and freehand doodles, and send them to friends and followers. What makes Snapchat unique is that it provides a solution to the social media problem of “what you post is forever”, meaning, photos and videos sent via Snapchat have a short lifespan. Once they’re viewed for the maximum time specified by the sender, they vanish for good. Users have the option to send their photos and videos to contacts they specifically choose, or they can add photos and videos to their “Story (aka My Story)” which is a collection of media shared over the course of 24 hours. Media in the “Story” gradually vanishes as the 24-hour viewing limit runs out. Snapchat also includes a chat feature. Users can chat one-on-one in a thread and continue to send text messages or “snapbacks” in response to one another.

In 2014, Snapchat launched Snapcash, a feature supported by Square that allows users to send money to one another by entering a chat and typing an amount preceded by “$”, i.e. “$5.00” (Neistat).

Snapchat qualifies as a social media channel and thrives as a mobile app. Though it’s all about imagery and video, it can’t truly be classified as a content community by virtue of its distinguishing “self destruct” feature, or, in other words, because its content is not permanently accessible. Its users don’t necessarily have to know one another personally, but many users do tend to know one another to some degree, as one of the main ways to contact another user via Snapchat is by phone number. Other means of establishing contact with another Snapchat user include searching for a particular username manually or using a Snapcode to find them quickly.

A Little History…

Snapchat’s entire life story is one as steeped in founder tension and legal drama as competitor Facebook’s. It all starts with three main players–Evan Spiegel, Bobby Murphy, and Reggie Brown–and goes something like this:

Evan_Spiegel_at_TechCrunch_2
Evan Spiegel (image and source).

The original roles were fairly defined: Murphy as CTO, Brown as chief marketing officer, Spiegel as CEO, honing the idea as part of a design class he was taking. The first iteration was a clunky website that required users to upload a photo and set a timer before sending. The eureka moment only came when the idea migrated to mobile. “At some point it was like, ‘Hey, there’s a camera on your phone,’” Spiegel says. “‘Wouldn’t that be easier?’”
–Colao, (2014, January 20). Forbes.com

Pretty soon after its birth, Snapchat and Spiegel drew the attention of Mark Zuckerberg, who had devised a similar app, called “Poke”, which he intended to use to empower Facebook and eliminate Snapchat as competition. Poke initially rose to the top of the iPhone app store at launch in December, 2012, but Snapchat pulled ahead once again within three days (Colao).

The app’s value, reach, and user base has grown ever since, despite the fact that the app itself is free, and, until more recently, advertisers and big influencers weren’t catered to by features such as “Discover”, which highlights large, Snapchat editorial teams that users may be interested in following.

To the surpise and scrutiny of many, when Mark Zuckerberg offered $3 billion cash for the app in fall 2013, Spiegel turned down the offer (Colao, et al).

Audience, Numbers, and Growth

bii_ageincreasesetc_snapchat
Snapchat usage by age (image and source).

So who uses Snapchat? According to press reports, the majority of Snapchat users are female between the ages of 13 to 25, and two-fifths of 18-year-olds in the U.S. use Snapchat daily. It’s also estimated that more than 760 million snaps are sent every day and about 1 billion stories are viewed (Ballve). As of January 2014, Forbes estimated that 50 million people use the app (Colao), but, more recently, others estimate a user base closer to 100 million (Talbot).

Snapchat’s growth and future are somewhat difficult to measure and predict. Some analysts remark that the app’s young, fickle, teen audience may or may not continue to use the app as time passes. On the other hand, even though interest in Snapchat has experienced alternating surges and slumps in the U.S., internationally, it has seen increasing popularity, for example in the U.K. and France (Taylor).

Integration and How It Works

kt-zoolander-snapchat
Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson took it a step further and reprised their Zoolander roles as Derek Zoolander and Hansel for a runway walk-off. They even had a “Blue Steel” geofilter at the fashion show (image and source).

Integrating Snapchat with other channels may have been much trickier before users began taking screenshots of snaps and stories. After all, when a platform is designed to destroy its content, how can you be sure your message is reaching anyone or whether it makes a lasting impression?

Even without the ability to capture a screenshot, Snapchat has still proven to be an interesting and effective marketing tool. The app allows an opportunity to create “exclusive” content, and provide real-time or behind-the-scenes looks at a brand or celebrity. In that regard, it takes advantage of consumers’ interest in getting a “sneak peek” of a new product or a company process. Many companies have also employed a “guess” tactic–sending a snap and having users guess what the photo is of or about, and prompting them to tweet their guesses with special hashtags (Ceira). In addition, like Instagram, Snapchat is a great platform for partnering with big influencers (Talbot).

The following are a few Snapchat campaign success stories. See these and more at Slideshare.net and Fastcocreate.com:

  1. Heineken’s “SnapWho?” campaign. At Coachella 2014, Heineken sent users cropped snaps that provided clues about secret shows that would be held during the music festival. Correct guesses about a mystery artist or band were rewarded with early-access info about shows that would take place at the Heineken House (the sponsor’s stage). This was a successful implementation of “exclusive content” and sparked a snap conversation among users and “HeinekenSnapWho”.
    download
  2. Taco Bell’s Snapchat mini-movie. Taco Bell launched its Spicy Chicken Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Tacos with one of the first Snapchat stories—a six-minute mini-movie directed by Jason Zada that included a scene on the red carpet of the MTV Movie Awards, and was filmed and posted in less than 24 hours. This move highlighted and pushed the boundaries of what could be done on Snapchat while targeting an audience using a great combination–MTV, Taco Bell, and Doritos.
  3. World Wildlife Fund’s “Last Selfie” campaign. Making a clever connection to Snapchat’s signature disappearing content, the World Wildlife Fund began the #LastSelfie campaign to create awareness about disappearing and endangered species. In a week, 40,000 tweets with the hashtag reached 120 million Twitter timelines and in 6 different languages. As a result, 50% of all active Twitter users were exposed to the campaign.
    download (1)

For more interesting facts and info about Snapchat, check out this Prezi presentation!

References

Ballve, Marcelo. (2014, August 15). Businessinsider.com – “Snapchat’s Explosive Growth Among Teens and Millenials Means It’s Emerging As A Powerful Brand Platform”

Beer, Jeff. (2014, August 12). Fastcocreate.com – “How 12 Brands Used Snapchat”

Ceira, Rochelle. (2015). Jeffbullas.com – “5 Ways to Integrate Snapchat Into Your Marketing Strategy”

Colao, J.J. (2014, January 6). Forbes.com – “The Inside Story of Snapchat: The World’s Hottest App or a $3 Billion Disappearing Act?”

Misener, Jessica. (2014, July 2). Buzzfeed.com – “13 Cool Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Snapchat”

Neistat, Casey. (2015). Pocket-lint.com – “What’s the point of Snapchat, and how does it work?”

Simplify360. (2015, February 1). Slideshare.net – “5 Brilliant Snapchat Campaigns That You Need to See”

Talbot, Kate. (2015, July 28). Socialmediaexaminer.com – “5 Ways to Use Snapchat for Business”

Taylor, Everette. (2015). Growthhackers.com – “Snapchat – How Did Snapchat Reach a Multi-Billion Dollar Valuation?”

Images

Heineken “SnapWho?” — http://chcdigital.com/5-brands-that-use-snapchat/

WWF “Last Selfie” — http://www.clickz.com/clickz/news/2340740/wwf-s-lastselfie-reaches-millennials-underscores-snapchat-constraints

3 Blogs: Spotify, Engadget, and Anthony Bourdain

For this week’s post I’ll be highlighting and talking a little about three blogs that I recently discovered–the music app Spotify’s news blog, the collaborative tech news blog Engadget, and Anthony Bourdain’s travel blog on Tumblr. Without any further ado, let’s jump right in with…

Spotify

Spotify blog
A news feed post announces the arrival of Spotify Running on Android.

Spotify’s blog is a hybrid in purpose. It serves primarily to keep Spotify users up-to-date on the goings-on at Spotify, the music and artists the app hosts, and updates to the app itself as well as its services. On some level, it’s a niche news blog, but the blog team also posts about the Spotify community (“Life at Spotify”), music previews, artist interviews, marketing, contests and so on, so it’s mainly a professional blog representing the company, its employees, and product.

Spotify blog follow user
The White House has its own official playlists, and you can follow them on the app or right here on the blog.

What makes Spotify’s blog unique in some regard is that it also serves as a host for the downloadable app that the blog is all about. So, if someone who doesn’t use a music and radio app searches for any such service, should they come across Spotify’s blog, they don’t have to go to its main website to get the app. On that note, Spotify’s shareable blog posts (the blog is connected to Facebook and Twitter) make it easy for potential news users to discover Spotify on social media and to find the downloadable app right as they follow a link and land on the blog. Additionally, the blog provides instant Spotify follow buttons on posts featuring a real user’s playlist, such as the “White House” playlist, put together by President Obama himself.

skullcandy-logo
Skullcandy is the brand partner I would want to see. The logo even agrees with Spotify’s aesthetic, which favors black, white, and green. (Image source)

Spotify pops up pretty high in Google search results, along with comparably popular apps such as Pandora, iHeartRadio, and Jango. As I mentioned before, it’s also well integrated with Facebook and Twitter. Its posts are made more alluring by interesting photos of musicians and artists, the Spotify team, and screenshots of shiny, new app features. There isn’t any real advertising on the blog–after all, it’s really Spotify advertising Spotify–but if there were third-party ads, I’d expect the obvious. Skullcandy earbuds, Beats headphones, or maybe (strong emphasis on maybe) a concert ticket vendor like Ticketfly would make appropriate placements. Any kind of hip tech or related service that supports popular music would do, but I can’t say whether Spotify needs or wants to go that route. The lack of ads also strengthens the brand’s identity online. After all, ad-free music is the number one feature of the “Spotify Premium” upgrade.

Overall, I’d say Spotify’s blog is successful. It’s updated often, there’s plenty of original content, the brand embraces IMC, and it’s easy to connect to and follow. The visual design is a little plain, in my opinion. I’m used to seeing the cool layout of Spotify’s desktop app, and it makes the blog layout a little boring in comparison.

Engadget

Engadget homepage
On the homepage you’ll see share buttons galore, and large, attractive images that link to full articles.

Engadget is quite different. It’s an online magazine that operates like a news blog. Engadget focuses on technology news–everything from smartphones and videogames to light pollution and “robo-babies”. Its posts come from a number of contributors and its news feed updates pretty frequently. In fact, several fresh stories have popped up since I last checked the site just a few hours ago. The content is also diverse and interesting. It’s not fair to call Engadget “primarily a mobile device blog” or “mostly a videogame blog”. These writers talk about anything tech. I think that’s the first thing I liked about Engadget, and what lends it uniqueness. Something else worth mentioning is that not only does the magazine / blog have a high follower count on Facebook and Twitter, it offers the same content in multiple languages (check out its Spanish Facebook page and Japanese Twitter account).

Engadget from mobile
Here’s the view on mobile: a smooth, simple stream of recent article titles and their featured images.

I think it’s appropriate that Engadget’s logo incorporate’s the universal wifi / wireless communications symbol (left), because the blog itself is structured with its target audience in mind. The first thing you see when you land on Engadget’s homepage is a ton of links (videos first), followed by clickable news articles, and share buttons abound. The magazine is all about tech, and their blog makes well-rounded use of social apps and engaging links. This design philosophy suits the brand image and facilitates the news consumption habits of readers, who, no doubt, are visiting via smartphone, tablet, and other such gadgets–you know, the ones that put the “gadget” in “Engadget”.

I noticed a conservative amount of ads on the blog. The most prominent was a large banner ad for Qualcomm (a 3G and next-gen mobile technology company). There were also a few credit related ads for Citi and Equifax, as well as an ad for Marriott. This tells me the blog likely targets readers no younger than about 24 or 25 years old, and appeals to professionals who may be on-the-go or may have to travel on business.

Engadget spanish facebook
Engadget’s Facebook page for Spanish-speaking readers.

Overall, I’d say this is the most successful blog on the list. Its IMC approach is clearly well-devised. I’m especially impressed that it integrates with channels that cater to foreign language audiences. Its content is interesting and fresh, and its contributors make it easy to connect with them on Twitter. I’ve tried to find a weakness, but I don’t honestly think any additions or subtractions from the current design are necessary. The blog offers just enough without overwhelming.

Anthony Bourdain

anthony-bourdain-no-reservations
The No Reservations title shot (image source).

If you’ve ever watched the TV series No Reservations, Parts Unknown, or The Layover, you already know who Anthony Bourdain is, and it’s easy to guess what his Tumblr blog is about–travel, and all the food, culture, and political context that entails. However, Bourdain’s blog isn’t really just a travel blog. I’m considering it to be a professional blog not only because Bourdain, by profession, is a traveling writer / journalist (and chef), but also because, 1) Anthony Bourdain is essentially his own brand, and 2) Bourdain’s blog is, to some degree, an extension of his television shows. This is to say that the quality of his blogging meets an obviously (much) higher-than-recreational standard, and is affiliated with companies, Scripps Networks Interactive and Cox Communications, but most directly,  the Travel Channel.

Bourdain blog home
Sometimes, less truly is more.

This blog is the least cluttered of the three I’ve featured; in fact, there’s zero clutter. The page is nothing more than Bourdain’s neatly arranged travel pieces, associated photos, contact and social media links in the right margin, and a simple profile picture crowning an “about this blog” style quote. It’s clean, straightforward, and journalistic. No nonsense. It suits the brand  (Bourdain’s persona) and almost reminds me of a design philosophy I’d see in a single-page piece in National Geographic, only simpler. It may not appeal to some bloggers, but I like it, and here’s why:

  1. It doesn’t try to do the job of other channels. In Bourdain’s case, his Tumblr blog is probably not the first place you’ve seen him. The Travel Channel (television) is the medium that’s doing all the pushing. Bourdain’s blog is more of an outlet to receive the pulled crowd. It’s a neatly organized source of information for anyone looking to see some “behind-the-scenes” material, Bourdain’s books, or “Spare Parts Unknown” (a music blog that pairs with the shows).
  2. All the IMC connections are there, and easy to use. Want to follow Anthony Bourdain on Facebook or Twitter? Every link you need is tucked up in the top right corner. The blog is already being hosted on Tumblr, so sharing on that platform is built right in.
  3. It showcases a brand / public figure’s persona without undermining the artist. In other words, the blog makes it clear that it’s affiliated with the shows you already know and love, but there are no advertisements, a pretty unique quality. This is a case where what’s missing, at first glance, probably doesn’t need to be there anyway. I’m glad I didn’t see palm-tree-and-azure-sky-filled images bearing the Travel Channel logo all over the margins. The blog stays true to its goals and brand while keeping what doesn’t really need to be there at arm’s length. TV, Facebook, Twitter, and Bourdain’s Instagram are all doing a fine job of pushing, but there does need to be one channel that can catch the curious fans away from all the noise.

So, what do you think? Visit the comments below and let me know what other great blogs I should be following or featuring in the future. Oh, and there’s a fun poll below. Take some time to go click on it!