Monthly Archives: April 2011

Social Media and the Art of Storytelling

Courtesy of the blog MaggieCakes.

A few days ago, Chris Sullivan ofMyNorthwest.com wrote an article called “The art of storytelling in a world of technology”.  He asked if you can tell a story over Twitter and wondered if the limitations of the medium limited the message.  He quoted professional storyteller Anne Rutherford as saying “Whatever their age, whatever their circumstance, if it’s a good story and it’s well told we completely have the ability to respond to that. However, what I think we’re losing is the opportunity to be in those situations.”  Ms. Rutherford believes the communications over digital technology, particularly via social media, are causing us to cut back on our in person interactions, and thus on our chances to tell and listen to stories.

In response to Mr. Sullivan’s article, Amanda Cosco of the Social Times said:

“It is my argument that social media makes story-telling even more possible today than in earlier years. While I’d agree with Sullivan that we’re not sharing stories in the same manner as we used to, I’d suggest that Story itself is an evolving beast, something that grows and mutates with time. Throughout history, storytelling forms have changed with technology— from oral traditions, to the printed word, to most recently digital media—but the elements of narrative can be detected throughout, as Story manages to creep its way into every linguistic or visual expression.”

And, I agree.  We use social media to connect and to share about our lives.  Really, our posts, tweets, and status updates come together to tell our stories.  A new “friend” is a new character entering the story.  Every check-in on FourSquare brings a new scene.  So, while the medium may be changing, the stories are still being told, now more than ever.  After all, we’re all writing our autobiographies, whether we know it or not.

Admittedly, social media tends to focus more on non-fiction than fiction.  (Interesting, because if you asked teens or twenty-somethings what they prefer, I bet the vast majority of them would say fiction.)  But, there are whole realms of online social interactions that are devoted to fiction.  Although they’re not as big of names as Facebook, they’re still important.  LiveJournal has many story writing communities.  And, there’s always fanfic.  (Yes, I realize that fanfiction.net is probably the lamest fanfic link, but I’m not sure who all is in the audience here and how many of them would think I were crazy if I posted some other ones…)  See the story of Cassandra Clare (fanfic author that got a book deal and made good) for an example of social media and online communities leading to authorship.

In response to Mr. Sullivan’s dare (“I challenge you to tell a great story on Twitter”), I submit that Charles Dickens released his stories in serial format.  I’m sure that they were much longer than 144 characters, but his medium was novel at the time, too.

So, keep updating, keep posting, and keep tweeting –  after all your writing your own story.  (And if you don’t write it, it probably won’t get told.)


The 10 Minute Guide to Digital-Out-Of-Home (DOOH)

Courtesy of IMediaConnection

So you think you know digital. But do you know digital out of home (DOOH)? Chances are that many of you are a little rusty on this segment of the industry. Several DOOH leaders told me that there is clearly a divide between those who know, understand, and utilize this space well, and those that don’t understand the space at all.

The number of people “in the know” is growing, but my suspicion is that there are plenty of iMedia Connection readers that would find an overview of this category valuable. Without further ado, here is a ten minute primer so that you can decide if DOOH might have value for you.

DOOH size and growth
No doubt about it, we all need to pay more attention to the size and growth of the DOOH segment of our industry. Take a look at these figures and think about them in the context of the size of the industry segments we talk endlessly about.

With greater than $3.5 billion in sales expected this year, it’s apparent that DOOH has a whole lot going on.

Category structure
Most industry observers break down the opportunities into four main buckets:

•Retail: The retail category encompasses in-store opportunities like PRN’s Walmart TV, grocery store checkout TV, and the like. The idea, of course, is to impact consumers at the point of sale. Sometimes these units work as broadcast screen only, while other units may offer deep interaction to help a consumer learn more about an item or choose the best product for them.

•Place-based: These screens appear in a variety of venues, particularly in captive audience environments where content can entertain consumers. Examples include in-taxi ads, ATMs, elevator screens, screens in bars/restaurants, and even in professional offices like dentists’ waiting rooms. Again, some work as broadcast units, other as interactive units.

•Outdoor: Think billboards, with sight and motion. You’ll typically find these in very high traffic areas like on main highways or places that attract millions of people, like Times Square.

Movie Theatres: Not the trailers, the ads that appear in the programming before a movie, or just before the coming attractions get started.

Targeting options
While many people think of out of home as a mass play, digital out of home has always offered a variety of targeting options from broad to highly defined population segments. Those options get better and more granular all the time. Some of the options available include:

  • Demographics: The broad range of DOOH venues makes it possible to deliver to a well defined demo. You can target by gender, age range, income, market, ethnicity, and more. While you are unlikely to get 100 percent composition, you can deliver a highly targeted campaign.
  • Venue: Naturally, there are a variety of venue targeting options. In-store vehicles let you reach consumers when they are most likely to be persuadable. Here there are options to target by class of trade (grocery, drug, mass, convenience store) or even by chain/chain and market. In-taxi media might be a powerful way for NY entertainment venues, for example, to drive awareness and purchase intent.
  • Location: This can range from a general location, like the Long Island suburbs, to a particular one, like medical offices. Additionally, digital outdoor also offers the option, pioneered by traditional OOH, of targeting by proximity, for example, within a certain number of miles from a Walmart.
  • Behavior/affinity: Adcentricity also reports that behavioral and insight targeting are also becoming much more common. Says their authoritative planning guide, “The practice of deep data based/rationalized targeting is growing daily to rationalize plans and justify solutions to the end client.” Interactive units surely play a key role in this regard.
  • Daypart: Many DOOH options offer the opportunity to schedule impressions and exposure by daypart. For example, a board might feature Minute Maid in the morning and MGD at night.

When to use DOOH
In order to best make use of DOOH, it’s important to think about it in the context of overall marketing objectives and tactics in use. In my view, DOOH should be thought of as part of an overall marketing solution — a supporting part.

I’ve put together six use cases that illustrate a broad range of situations in which DOOH can play an important role. Consider the following:

  • Mass reach: DOOH can be great at this. From digital boards at key locations on highways, to a broad scale buy at the entrances of retail stores, DOOH can hit tens of millions of people in a week or less. I think it’s best to think of this as supporting media in a mass reach effort, because the more passive nature of the broadly targeted units likely make them less effective at telling a complete product story. But in-store TV, for example, would be great at reminding consumers of a new product they’ve seen on TV, putting the item top of mind as the consumer wanders the aisles. Similarly, a digital billboard on the 405 in LA could remind millions of a TV premiere or the like.
  • Addressing underdelivery: DOOH is particularly good at reaching consumer groups that tend to be harder to pinpoint with traditional and PC-based digital media. For example, Toyota spent heavily to introduce its entry level Yaris car to young people through cinema advertising. The creative helped make the messages particularly resonant with the well defined audience segment.
  • Situational awareness: Imagine you are a tourist visiting New York City. You see an ad for Sweeney Todd on the In-taxi TV. Odds are that you are more likely to buy a ticket, no? Or how about this: You are waiting in a doctor’s office for an appointment to discuss joint pain. An ad for Celebrex appears on the screen in the lobby. Again, you’re a lot more likely to “ask your doctor about Celebrex.” Or how about this one: You work in an office building. It’s lunchtime. As you ride down the elevator, Subway’s “$5-dollar foot long” offer appears on the in elevator TV. You’re that much more likely to go get that big sandwich, yes?
  • Promotion delivery: You can make offers available to consumers through interactive units AND display units. For example, a billboard might offer a short code to download a coupon. Or an interactive unit might offer the option of a QR code to deliver an offer to a smart phone.
  • Real and symbolic brand support: In-store TV or kiosks will help drive more brand sales. But they also are very marketable to retailers that you are serious about the success of that item. That you’re committed to drive velocity. This might be a great alternative for premium priced brands to pursue versus circulars and end-cap discounting.
  • Product immersion: Interactive units, in retail or in captive locations, can give consumers an opportunity to “go deep” in product information. Imagine your cough medicine has eight formulations. An interactive display can help the consumer find exactly the right set of benefits for them.
  • Naturally, the opportunities and situations in which DOOH can help support your efforts are quite broad. The important thing is to consider DOOH as you consider all of your other media options, because it may well provide an edge.

    Media costs cover a broad range, with many broad vehicles offering CPMs similar to good online media, and more highly targeted tools charging significantly more for their precision.

    Creative considerations
    Digital out of home units tend to be rather “forefront.” They have the motion characteristics that demand consumer attention, and often appear in “captive venues” where there are few other distractions. Indeed, that is part of their power. I am sure some will take issue with this article for not vilifying certain DOOH vehicles as “over the line.” I’ll leave it to you to decide what’s OK and what isn’t.

    In an era of consumer empowerment, it’s important to think carefully about value exchange when you plan a DOOH effort. What information or entertainment value are you offering the consumer in exchange for their “captive attention?”

    In my view, there are two things to consider:

    1. What inherent value does the specific channel offer the consumer? For example, PRN and WalMart are careful to maintain a strong edit to ad ratio in Walmart TV. Ads surround strong content including home, lifestyle and entertainment stories. When the medium has value, consumers are willing to tolerate advertising to support it. It’s the classic US media model.
    2. What tangible value does you execution offer the consumer? DOOH experts may disagree with this, but I believe that the consumer should be able to expect more value from a more intrusive medium. The less value the medium offers, the more value your execution needs to offer in order to be received positively by the consumer. I’m not saying that it wouldn’t be effective to run a TV ad in an elevator, but rather that we are missing out on some of the promise of the medium by doing so. But at the same time, we need to consider cost/benefit of producing specific executions for media.

    Value can come in the form of information, lifestyle ideas, and entertainment. For example, that Toyota Yaris ad was clearly designed to reflect the high entertainment standards of the movie goer. No one wants to spend $8 to $12 to watch a “sale-a-bration” ad, but Toyota added value to the viewing experience with great action, storytelling, and production values.

    Interactivity is playing an increasingly significant role in DOOH. With the advent of larger displays, gesture control, multiuser touch screens, and other whiz bang technologies, consumers are getting more and more opportunities to become a part of the DOOH execution. Check out these two programs to get a sense of what I mean. The first is an InWindow Outdoor execution for PNC Bank.

    While historically these programs have been difficult to scale, that is slowly changing, and they continue to provide a create deal of buzz and news value when placed in the right locations.

    While such executions have their place in DOOH, many brands make the mistake of thinking about DOOH as “special occasion” media. As a result, they might consider a whiz bang program like this on rare occasions, but might overlook the work-a-day tools and tactics that are really driving the sales and growth in this industry. To think about DOOH solely in the context of these kinds of programs would be analogous to buying only site takeovers in online, without broad reach video, banners, or social programs to deliver a communications foundation.

    Conclusions
    Are DOOH media right for you? How the heck would I know? But it is safe to say that they warrant serious consideration by a larger number of brands. DOOH is growing like a weed because it is powerful, proven, and affordable. That’s a combination a lot of brands might find very valuable indeed. With expected sales this year of more than $3.5 billion, it’s quite possible that your competitors are already utilizing it to create competitive advantage.

    I’m indebted to two key sources of information and data for this piece:

    I hope this piece provided a useful overview for you to consider as you devise future strategies and tactical programs for your brand.

    Jim Nichols is senior partner, strategist at Catalyst S+F.

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5 Must Haves for Every Small Biz Site


by Ken Builder
Courtesy of Manta

I’ve put together a list of 5 must-haves that every small business website needs to include. Whether you’re building a website yourself, or have a web designer to do it for you, work through this check list and you won’t go wrong.

1. Contact details.

It might seem a bit obvious this one, but you’d be surprised how many people forget to add their contact details. Not only must you have your contact details–at a minimum your address, phone number and email address–but you must make those details easy to find. Don’t hide them away in the footer. Make the “contact us” page one of the most obvious ones. Because having a website boils down to just one thing: making more sales. And if your website visitors have a hard time getting in touch, then they’re not going to buy from you.

2. Map

A bit less obvious, but a must-have that can make a real difference to the number of leads your website generates. The nature of the Internet is anonymous–we’re all dealing with companies and individuals through a computer screen. And because of this, the Internet is a scammer’s paradise–it only takes a few minutes to build a website and pretend to be a company. So having a map of where you are adds a real reassurance to your website visitors. It turns a virtual interaction into something more solid, and gives your website visitors the peace of mind that you’re real people living in the real world

3. A Lead Capture Form

This is the next step on from adding your contact details. Many website visitors want to know more about your products and services, but are disinclined to give you a call or drop you a line. But they’re quite happy for you to get in touch with them. And in order to make that possible, you need a lead capture form. Think of this as a sales assistant approaching a shopper, rather than a shopper going out of their way to approach a sales assistant. A lead capture form allows your website visitors to leave their details and express an interest in you, without going the whole hog of picking up the phone. And since many people surf the web out of office hours, the chances are that the time that they’re actually on your website is a time when you don’t have anyone to answer the phone. Having a lead capture form allows you to give them more information when it’s convenient for you, and lets them express and interest when there’s no one around to talk to.

4. Photos of You and Your Staff

This is another great way of reassuring your customers about who they’re dealing with. In the same way that having a map gives your web visitors the confidence that you exist, having your photos on the website creates a personal connection between them and you. It’s so much harder to turn away from a face than a computer screen. Having a photo kick-starts a personal relationship with your website visitors, and it makes it much more likely that the visitor will then get in touch. The added advantage is that not many websites include personal photos, so get this right and your site will start to get head and shoulders over the faceless ones around it.

5. Newsletter Sign-Up Form

This option is a good opportunity to warm up future customers. Many people surfing the web for products and services will be in a “research” phase of the buying cycle. They’re not ready to get in touch or start buying just yet, but they are interested in finding out more information. Having a newsletter allows you to start to interact with them before they’re ready to buy. They get the opportunity to “‘taste” your service and personality, without having to commit to buying from you. You can start having a conversation with them, so that when they do decide to buy, that relationship already exists. And as anyone running a successful weekly or monthly newsletter will tell you, it can be the biggest source of new leads for your website. So add a newsletter sign-up form, and start emailing news about your company and industry to those signing up, and the customers will surely come.

5 More Must-Haves For Every Small Business Website

About the Author: The webeden.co.uk free website builder lets you build a website, even if you’re a complete beginner. Make your own website instantly with WebEden:You can sell your products, uploads your own videos and music and even integrate your blog.

Host Your Own Radio Show

Every business we talk to today asks the same question, “Is there any Social Medium that has real and immediate return on investment”?  Every business executive and owner has a blog, Twitter and Facebook account and few of them see the benefit to any of them.  “Total waste of time”, is what I too often hear.

Well here’s one social medium that works:  hosting your own Internet Radio show.  For just a couple hundred dollars per month (depending upon the service you use) you can:

1.  Instantly brand yourself as “the expert on some subject”.  Who else hosts a weekly radio show on this subject? The fact that you do instantly suggests you must be an authority on the subject.

2.  Instantly differentiate yourself from all your competitors.  “Hey, remember me?  I’m the one with the radio show on this subject”.  The novelty alone will make people remember you.  And if they check out your website, they can listen to all your past shows, archived as Mp3 files (or “podcasts” as they are popularly called).  What better way to get to know someone than to listen to a sample of WHAT they know and WHO they know.

On the Internet Highway, no one wants to stop and read the billboards anymore.  They either want to watch something (like a video) or listen to it instead.  And live or downloadable audio files have the added benefit of being something you can listen to while doing something else.  You can’t multi-task watching a You Tube video, but you can listen to a show while working out or working on something else.

3.  Start conversations with anyone you want to meet. “Hey, can I take you to lunch and tell you about my professional service?” CLICK….I’d love to invite you to my free seminar…FORGET IT.  But try cold calling any business owner or executive and asking them “I’d love to interview you on my local radio show” and watch their eyes light up.  “Sure!  When would you like to do it?”

Who wouldn’t want to talk about their company to your audience or network?  It’s flattering and it’s free publicity.  And with so many newspapers going out of business or downsizing down to nothing, there simply aren’t many (or any!) other outlets to tell their business story.  And if you’re smart, you won’t just talk to them on air.  You’ll set up a meeting at their office first (as a pre-interview to learn more about them so you can ask better questions).

Suddenly, you’re in the door and talking one-on-one to the main owner or executive (whom you couldn’t otherwise meet in a million years).  And what’s more, he or she isn’t looking at their watch and asking “why are you here again?” and “how long is this going to take?”  They’re much more likely to tell their secretary “hold all my calls…the guy from the radio show is here to talk to me!” as they walk you enthusiastically throughout their business and tell you everything you ever wanted to know.   Unparalleled access and information, just because you host your own radio show.

Then, after the show airs, send your guest a link to where the archived copy resides (or links to where it can be heard, like ITunes and other places) and suggest that the guest put it on his or her site as well. And you’ve not only got an introduction to a new prospect or networking partner, but a free ad on their website forever.  Viral marketing at its best.

That’ s why we tell all our clients “hosting your own internet radio show” may be the most powerful and effective “social medium” yet imagined.  For if the purpose of social media in general is to get people to start a conversation with you, what easier or more effective way could there be to accomplish this goal then just getting them on the phone, streaming that live to the world and then recording and archiving that conversation for everyone in your network (and theirs) to reference and enjoy.

For more information check out the few Internet Talk Radio stations in business across the country such as http://www.voiceamerica.com, http://www.wsradio.com or our own http://www.OCTalkRadio.net.

Don’t Make These Social Media Blunders

Courtesy of SignOnSanDiego.com

Social Media is hot these days. No matter what the size of your business, you should be using Facebook, Twitter, blogging, YouTube and LinkedIn daily to get your content online, so you can be easily found and “shared.” Social Media should be considered another marketing tool, and it involves planning, strategic thinking and tracking metrics just as any another element in your marketing mix.

The mistake comes when a business jumps too quickly to get its social sites up. Starting a social media marketing campaign without prior thought and planning cannot yield the results you are looking for. If you don’t start with a goal, how will you know when it has been met?

Here are the top five social media mistakes that businesses make:

No social media marketing plan

Once you determine your goal for your social sites, it’s much easier to determine who in the company should manage it: marketing or customer service or both. Don’t be afraid to have multiple people at your company responsible for different aspects of your social media voice. There are many reasons a business wants to have a social media presence:

• Build a loyal community

• Allow its customers a way to provide instant feedback

• Be a valuable resource for information in your niche

• Offer limited time coupons

• Provide faster customer service

Lack of posting frequency to social sites

Once you create the sites, how often should you post to them? It depends on how quickly you want to improve your search engine optimization (SEO) and grow your network. Here are some best practices:

• Blog: Once a week minimum. Once per day is best.

• Twitter: Once a day minimum. Three to six times per day is best, spread out throughout the day.

• Facebook: Once a day minimum. Three times per day is best, morning, afternoon and evening.

• LinkedIn: Personal profiles should have status updates daily. Groups should post a weekly discussion topic.

• YouTube: Post three times per week if it’s a short update (three minutes or less). Once a week if longer Q&A or “Product Review” type format.

Not using keywords

Social media is so much bigger than building a community of loyal “followers.” The smart business knows that keywords are the way to be found online. To improve your SEO, you must use your keywords often. Many businesses don’t realize that Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn can all be used as search tools, and if you conduct a keyword search while you are logged in to one of your social sites, you’ll get results within that site, based on your query. All business social sites are public and 100 percent indexed by Google, so tweets and posts can come up in natural search results.

Lack of engagement

Your social sites won’t yield the results you are looking for unless people are participating. Participation includes:

• “Liking,” sharing or adding comments to your Facebook posts

• “Retweeting” your Twitter tweets

• Subscribing and commenting on your blog or YouTube videos

Your posts should tell people what you want them to do. Always reply back when they have taken the time to comment. Be personal and add value.

No call to action

When people find your content online be sure to tell them what to do next, e.g., call you, fill out your online form, subscribe to an e-newsletter or download a free report. How will you entice and capture them to get them into your sales funnel? Make sure your offer “adds value” and tells your visitor “what’s in it for them” so they will be more likely to respond. Provide valuable content, build relationships and don’t always sell.