Content is King.

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As 2012 comes to an end, let’s reflect on some of the big stories that took social media by storm this year.  From Gangham style to Sandy to the election, they all had one important thing in common: content.

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“Content marketing” was one of many buzzwords for 2012, and it will only grow in 2013.  As brands try to reach consumers in increasingly fragmented world, it will become vital to share engaging content across platforms.  Gone are the days when an ad was an ad, now marketers need to learn how to leverage new media to post a blog that links to Facebook that reinforces a pictographic that is shared on Twitter.  And oh yeah, take an Instagram so you can Pin it and share it on G+.  Phew!  It sounds exhausting, but it’s an important strategic effort that will lead to more integrated marketing communications to deliver a unified message and consumer experience.

As we go into 2013, keep your ears open for “transmedia storytelling” aka the new “content marketing.”  Currently a hot topic amongst filmmakers and game developers, transmedia storytelling will start to enter the mainstream of marketing in 2013, as brands start to leverage multiple platforms and properties simultaneously in support of the same campaign or goals. In a practical sense, transmedia storytelling for brands will incorporate visual platforms such as Instagram and video into campaigns; more broadly, brands should start to think about gaming and augmented reality.

So, as the year comes to a close and the new one is about to start, think about how you’ll strive to share your content in new and integrated ways.  And if you need a little inspiration, here are 7 content marketing trends to watch for in 2013.  

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Slingin’ Soup in a Digital World

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Campbell’s recently launched a new line of gourmet “Go” soups meant to target oh-so-coveted Millennials.  These new soups come in pouches, not cans, and are aimed at offering hip, young consumers more diverse flavors like Madras Curry Lentils and Moroccan Style Chicken with Chickpeas.  To promote these soups, Campbell’s is ditching traditional media for digital channels like Facebook, Spotify and a custom Tumblr-esque website designed to engage consumers with quirky humor.

So far, efforts seem to be paying off.  Sales are up 8% year over year and its Facebook page has more than 143,000 likes.  So why then, as a Millennial, am I so annoyed by these new soups?  Perhaps its because Campbell’s seems to be reading off a creative brief that pigeon holes all Millennials as the same: “They go through life hunting out and gathering different experiences,” says Charles Vila, vice president of consumer insights. “They sample foods in the same way they sample jobs.” [These soups are] meant to convey freshness while capturing millennials’ adventurous tastes, restless spirits–and food-shopping dollars.”

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I applaud Campbell’s for thinking outside of the can and for trying to reach younger consumers through digital channels, but the current strategy seems forced, hollow, and the opposite of authentic (didn’t the creative brief also tell you that we all crave authenticity??).  I haven’t tried the soups, and despite the good reviews, I’m not sure I can bring myself to throw a pouch of Spicy Chorizo into my cart knowing that the face on the package is supposed to represent my indie, free-spiritedness.  I’m in Colbert’s camp on this one—how about you?  Do you like the new campaign or should Campbell take this one back to the drawing board?

Pinning!

Pinterest is quickly becoming the darling of new media social channels.  But many companies aren’t using the virtual pin board to its fullest.  Rather than simply posting product shots or trying to hard-sell consumers, companies need to take a step back and learn how to offer their pinners something of value beyond the products themselves.  Fast Company has 5 Rules for Pinterest and my favorite is “become a source of valuable information.” People want to solve their problems, and that’s what they need or want your products and services for.  In other words, use Pinterest to build brand rapport.

If you sell products, weave them into a bigger story.  Right now Pinterest has a great campaign to gear up for the holidays, called “30 Days of Pinspiration.”  Every day a new company’s board is unveiled offering pinners new ways to celebrate this holiday season.  One board that stands out is Potter Barn.  The company’s “Nostalgic Christmas by Pottery Barn” board creates a festive mood that includes much more than its current product offerings.  By providing ideas on décor, food, trinkets, and gifts, the company can help consumers imagine their dream holidays.  The board is aspirational, inspirational, and a great example of a company using new media to build brand awareness and maybe, just maybe, grow holiday sales this season.

Do You Want to Interact With Your Ads?

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Earlier this year the Red Hot Chili Peppers released a new kind of music video, one that allows fans to interact with the band and take part in the online experience.   The video incorporates a click-and-drag feature that allows viewers to explore different scenes in a panoramic manner. Click the “Show Hints” option to reveal even more interactive layers—check it out here:

This new type of digital interactive video is becoming increasingly popular, especially in the world of online advertising.  Gone are the days when a simple banner ad will suffice.  Marketers are looking for new ways to break through the clutter and engage consumers in more interesting and lasting ways.  People are always going to want a form of entertainment that scales with the technological advances around them… Interactive elements in web television are only a way to help supplement the actual content within the videos. They are a way to keep audiences focused and engaged.

While most digital ads today are lacking interactive elements, that could change within two years when potentially half may be interactive, says Peter Minnium, head of brand initiatives at the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

This shift in advertising allows for marketers to keep in pace with the transformations in technology and heavy use of social media. These new “dynamic display advertising” formats that allow on-the-fly customization as a user interacts with a site, as well as the ability to change ads via the social stream. In one case, as someone types in a ZIP code on Google Maps, a rectangular display ad next to the typing is customized to that region. Other ads, some of which exist today, allow companies to put live Twitter streams and comments into a banner.

So the question is, do you want to interact with your ads?  Is this new form of advertising truly engaging or just another intrusion into your life from pushy advertisers?  What would it take for you to interact with an ad online?

Rule #8: Always Write Back!

Fast Company released a list of social media rules back in August and rule #8 says “Always Write Back.”  Seems simple.  Seems obvious.  Yet a new study reveals that so many brands are failing to utilize social channels like Facebook or Twitter to manage customer service.

According to a recent survey from SAP and Social Media Today, a huge share of companies, 41.2 percent, use social media to answer five percent of their customer service issues or less. Not even a fifth of the companies surveyed—17.7 percent—said they use social media to address a quarter or more of their customer service issues.

Social media can no longer exist in a marketing or PR silo.  Social media needs to become an integral part of a larger communications and sales strategy that embraces these channels as an effective means of customer relationship management.  People are on social media, they communicate with brands on social media, and they expect answers to their questions on social media.  So what does this mean for businesses?

It means that companies need to invest the time and resources to create and manage a cohesive social media plan that integrates marketing, sales, communication, PR, and customer service for a holistic customer experience.  American Express surveyed social media users and non-users alike, and found that social media users have markedly higher customer service expectations and are more likely than non-users to change brands after a poor customer service experience. However, they are also willing to pay a premium for higher-quality customer service and are staunch advocates for the businesses that they support.  In other words, take care of your fans because they’ve already shown an interest in you and you want to keep them happy.

The best way to achieve this symbiotic relationship is with an integrated plan.  Any strategy for the implementation and integration of social media customer service must be future-proof, responsive and enhance the business as a whole. The social customer service model needs to be as organic and flexible as the medium that created it, while simultaneously delivering tangible results for the business through a stronger brand identity, better customer service and a long-term strategic plan.

The moral of the story kids?  Don’t forget about rule #8 (and the other 35 aren’t too shabby either).

Mobile Mania!

Mobile advertising is a hot topic in emerging media.  As more of us spend our time on smartphones and tablets, it’s becoming increasingly important for advertisers to reach us where we are.  Mobile is an interesting topic because while it only accounts for 5% of digital spending, it increased by 149% in 2011 and shows no signs of slowing.

Marketers have been a bit perplexed about how to tackle this new (profitable) beast.  For the first time, people are spending more time on mobile apps than they are on the web.  But, unlike ads on our desktops, today’s mobile browsers do not support cookies. This has forced advertisers to rely on other information, such as the mobile device’s unique ID number, which gives the advertiser far less data about the user to go on.

This lack of consumer data coupled with questions about content consumption habits, multiple platforms, use of apps, lack of media rich ads, and evolving measurements, make mobile a more than a little complicated.  Mashable has a great article outlining how each of the above-mentioned issues is making mobile a complete headache for marketers.

And yet, despite these complications, there is no turning back.  Mobile advertising in the US totaled $1.60 billion during the full year 2011, a 149% increase from the prior year total of $0.64 billion.  So, why then, are mobile ads still so undervalued?  Wall Street analyst, Mary Meeker, conducted a study showing that the effective cost per thousand impressions (CPM) for desktop web ads is about $3.50, while the CPM for mobile ads is just $0.75.  What this says, is that marketers are still uncertain about how to harness the power of mobile.

Perhaps the hardest part of the equation is that we’re asking “mobile” to mean so much.  It’s a broad definition that has to encapsulate ads on smartphones, tablets, and apps.  And we use each of these platforms in very different ways.  Getting the experience right is often easier said than done. Not only is the conversion rate lower, but there are concerns that the smaller screen size on mobile devices make search and display ads seem more obtrusive and less appealing to consumers. As a result, publishers and advertisers can’t just shrink down their desktop web ads for mobile and call it a day; they need to rethink their strategies.

With this challenge lying ahead, I ask: Who do you think is using mobile well now? Who will be doing it well in the future?

Looking Beyond the “Like”

Social Media continues to dominate the world of new media and this infographic shows who’s getting the most love (or in this case, fans) online.  While some of the players seem obvious (Coca Cola, McDonald’s) others were less obvious (Snaptu?).

There’s a lot of buzz about how social media channels, specifically Facebook and Twitter a powerful ways to educate, engage, and empower consumers.  But not everyone is absorbing these valuable lessons and applying them to how they manage their online communities.  Many companies—including a few pictured above—are trying to define success by the number of “likes” they have.

A recent study by Napkin Labs, a Facebook app developer that works with brands and agencies showed that “On average, just 6% of fans engage with a brand’s Facebook Page via likes, comments, polls and other means… Of those fans that did, the average engagement was the equivalent of less than one like over the course of the eight weeks the study was conducted.

What this study suggests is that a smaller group of “super fans” are really driving engagement online and companies need to take notice and talk to these people in order to drive brand excitement.  “The study found that, on average, the engagement of each one of a brand’s 20 most engaged fans is equal to that of 75 average fans. Each month, the so-called superfan likes 10 posts, shares five pieces of content and comments once.”

Finally, the study argues that defining ROI metrics for social media is evolving and companies will need to look beyond the “like” for more accurate and meaningful measurements.  “‘Every business has to measure what they do and make sure that it is effective. Likes can be part of that measurement, but we need to start looking beyond that a bit, and start looking in more depth at what fans are actually doing,’ Riley Gibson, the co-founder and CEO of Napkin Labs, told Mashable. As part of this, Gibson argues that brands need to focus on interacting more with their existing fan base rather than just focusing on growing their numbers.”

Here’s a quick look at three myths of social media ROI–what measurements do you think help define success in social media?

 

 

Chew on This!

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Tomorrow is Election Day 2012.  After months of being bombarded by political ads (we sympathize with you Abigael) it all comes down to tomorrow.  In the last hours leading up to the election, President Obama and Governor Romney are frantically crisscrossing the country in hopes of swaying those last coveted undecided voters.  At the same time, thousands of us are taking part in our own rallying cries, but from the comfort of our couches.  Whether you prefer to tweet, upload or update, one thing’s for certain: new media is changing the face of politics forever.

In 2008 we saw the impact that social media had on the election—President Obama was able to amass a virtual army that helped carry him to the White House.  Four years later, both men understand the power of social media and the implications it can have on the outcome of the race.  2008 was called the “social media election”, with 1.8 million tweets sent on Election Day… and that now, in 2012, there are 1.8 million tweets sent every six minutes.  More than 39% of adults using social media are using it to talk politics.  What might be considered taboo to talk about at a dinner party is fair game in the online world, and people are taking advantage of it.

Social media has empowered passionate voices on both sides of the debate to share their opinions and mobilize in mass online communities.  From fundraising by text message to watching stump speeches on YouTube, new media offers endless ways to connect, engage, and build online communities with real-world impact.  Just check out some of the stats on social media this time around:

So, no matter if you vote red, blue, green or tie-dye, tomorrow is a chance for us all to exercise our right to cast a ballot for the future of our country.  And for those of you who have the insatiable urge to make your choice publicly known, feel free to partake in Gum Election 2012.

The Zombies are Coming!

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Today is Halloween, and also the end of Zombie Preparedness Month, so its only fitting that we address how the use of new media is helping us ward off these flesh-eating creeps.  The U.K.-based price comparison website Confused.com.  created this handy guide to identifying zombies of all types.  Thank goodness for the internet and stay safe out there tonight!

New Media & The Digital Age

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“The term “new media” seems to escape its very definition. Loosely, new media is a way of organizing a cloud of technology, skills, and processes that change so quickly that it is impossible to fully define just what those tools and processes are.” -Bailey Socha and Barbara Eber-Schmid

Twenty years ago, new media was a Zach Morris cell phone.  At the time, it was revolutionary, cutting edge, and an entirely new way to connect to people.  Today, while the term is still the same, new media refers to a whole new set of digital engagement tools—from Facebook to Yelp to blogs, and everything in between. The exciting thing about new media is that its constantly evolving and we’re always on the cusp of the next great thing.

New media matters because it’s how we interact with each other in an increasingly cluttered, fragmented, and growing online world.  New media empowers us by allowing us to create and manage our own corner of the digital realm.  It allows us to communicate with friends, family, and colleagues.  It’s a new way to consume news.  It’s where we go to tune out or get inspired.  It’s how we expect to interact in real-time with everyone—from businesses to boardrooms.

New media is exciting.  What’s “new” today will be passé tomorrow, and it’s our job as marketers to understand how these trends will affect our interactions with consumers.  Companies that harness the power of new media will be more engaged with customers, leading to greater loyalty, and ultimately yielding higher profits.  These companies will also understand that the power now lies with the consumer and all it takes is one computer monitor thrown over a fence to create a frenzy (you know what I’m talking about FedEx…). Companies that fail to adapt will be left behind.  This is survival of the digi-fittest.

This blog will seek to understand the effects new media has on our daily lives and how we can apply those lessons to integrated marketing communications.  We’ll examine trends and theorize about what’s waiting around the corner.  While the name might be outdated, new media is here to stay and its only becoming more powerful in our digital age.