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Friday5: 5 Highlights From SXSW

With another South By Southwest (SXSW) in the books, Edelfolks from Texas share their biggest takeaways, observations and findings after immersing themselves in the nine-day festival. From Meerkat to artificial intelligence, robots and ISIS’ social presence, here are the team’s takeaways.

1. Spike Jones, Managing Director, Southwest – Where did Social Media go?

My biggest takeaway this year is that nobody was saying the words “social media” anymore. Maybe it’s because it’s now such a part of our everyday lives, but there were no panels on “how to use Twitter” or “best Facebook techniques.” Outside of Meerkat, the social media conversation finally gave way to what SXSW was founded on: smart people collaborating and birthing BIG IDEAS. There were conversations about robots, artificial intelligence, tech and how it’s helping/hindering us as humans. In other words, some really exciting stuff. No longer are we so focused on the what, but focused on the why – and more importantly – the how.

2. Dominic Ybarra, Technology Sector Lead, Southwest – Think global!

Countries from every region showed up in full force – bringing in tow a delegation of global startups to show off innovation, insert an authentic international viewpoint, talk cross-border policy and most of all, lure in top entrepreneurs and big brands with special visa programs and tax incentives. There’s always been a hint of international companies at SXSW, but this year it was evident that SXSW is a global stage like no other. The infusion of the unique cultures from around the globe just enhanced the collaboration, reminding us that the next big thing can (and will) come from anywhere.

3. Deven Nongbri, VP Digital, Houston – ISIS making inroads at… SXSW?

For the first time, the Islamic terrorist organization was a hot topic of conversation across a couple of different panels during the week-long festival. And it makes sense, since they make extensive use of social media to both promote their work and recruit others to their diabolical cause. What we saw in Austin was a close look at how the group was using public social platforms like Twitter and what private organizations, NGOs and governments were doing to track and battle the group online. What’s their secret? Themes included: people being drawn to drama and extraordinary visual storytelling, the emotional outrage that gets so much attention, and why Twitter should use a systematic, big data approach instead of a “whack-a-mole” method for shutting down participants who are using the platform to spread hate.

4. Jennifer Trou, Account Supervisor, Austin – Battling for earned media coverage

Obtaining earned media coverage at SXSW continues to become more challenging as more brands, more panels and more attendees create more white noise. The breakout of Interactive this year was Meerkat, with many media piloting its use to do live streams of the festival. The brands that earned the most coverage were the ones providing a benefit to festival-goers (beyond just a free beer), such as MasterCard’s Priceless Elevator Pitch, which awarded $15,000 to the winner of a pitching contest. To stand out at SXSW, the mandate remains clear – be proactive, be strategic and be ready to think on your feet.

5. Neven Simpson, Account Executive, Austin – Navigating ever-evolving platforms

Reoccurring themes for me all stemmed back to the plethora of platforms that exist for both news outlets and influencers. When Dan Rather states the nightly news won’t exist in 10 years, but Snapchat will, you know the game has changed in traditional media.

Similarly, Mashable’s CEO Pete Cashmore touched on the role of artificial intelligence in content writing in the future. Luckily robots won’t ever be able to provide the “human element” (we hope), but the key to good storytelling, now more than ever, is finding a new voice and leveraging new formats. We saw this first-hand throughout SXSW Interactive with the explosion of Meerkat, which really put a spotlight on in-the-moment audience interaction. While this style may not always be perfect, it makes audiences feel like they’re right there with you.

In a keynote, Astro Teller, Captain of Moonshots at Google[x], stated, “If you want to make a ton of progress, you have to make a ton of mistakes.” While we may not be inventing Google Glass or Self-Driving cars, the message still applies to us every day: if we’re not willing to take risks, explore new mediums, and push the boundaries of storytelling, we’ll never get ahead.

The biggest question for me coming out of SXSW was what types of platforms will we continue to see evolve and how will they be integrated into our communications strategies moving forward? We have more opportunity than ever to continue taking risks with our brands using new formats to share authentic, credible content.

This post and image were contributed by Neven Simpson

Friday5: 5 Things You Should Know About Brand Engagement On Snapchat

By Caitilin Doherty, Edelman London

Snapchat has risen in popularity with its “disappearing act,” attracting millions of users. While it was not initially designed as a platform brands could easily engage on, newly added features and a $19 billion valuation as reported by Bloomberg raises the question of why more brands aren’t on board.

Snapchat offers brands an opportunity to engage one-on-one with its audience. Not only do users have complete control over who they want to see content from, they also have no idea who else is viewing that Snap. It becomes a more intimate conversation between the brand and the audience.

1. Back to Basics

The tried and true sponsored ad approach to amplifying content has enabled brands to take a more traditional route to engagement on Snapchat. However, it is not the type of platform that you can use any and all content on. The key is to be authentic and, most importantly, relevant to your audience. The sponsored ads will appear in users “Recent Updates,” but be aware that you will quickly lose your audience if you don’t become the ”friend” whose content they can’t wait to open. The biggest differentiator for the platform is a model built around the idea of connected engagement versus reach and frequency.

2. Tell Your Story

While the “My Stories” feature first showed up in 2013, it has definitely found popularity within the app and continues to offer a unique opportunity for brands. Linking multiple snaps together over a 24-hour period has driven billions of views in a day. This feature offers unique ways to engage, with brands creatively developing campaigns that tie directly to the limited viewing time of this feature.

Audi’s partnership with The Onion for this year’s Super Bowl was a great example of how a brand found a new way to insert itself into social conversations. Audi moved away from a traditional ad placement on one of the biggest TV viewership days of the year and offered content to audiences who wouldn’t typically engage. Drawing in users with jokes about real-time aspects of the game and halftime show, which opened the conversations for anyone to get involved. They understood the real-time advantage of creating content that users would want to receive, and how going beyond product placement would yield a much greater return for their efforts.

3. Live Action

Building off the “My Stories” feature, brands can also choose to sponsor events with the “Our Story” option. Originally designed so that users who are at the same event location can contribute their Snaps to the same feed, it has recently evolved to allow brands to participate. Brought to life in 10-second interstitial title snaps, the sponsored content is then interlaced through the user-generated content. In the name of transparency, the sponsor is always clearly identified. The one thing to keep in mind is the importance of leveraging content directly from the event, as opposed to pre-produced content, to stay relevant to your audience in that moment in time.

Samsung* was one of the first brands to utilize the popularity of the “Live” section of the “Our Story” feature at last year’s AMAs. Providing a stream of posts from the awards show, including user-generated shots from the crowd and red carpet, Samsung promoted its Galaxy smartphone series. This was the first time that a live event took user-generated content and sprinkled it with branded content for one big socially driven share session.

AMA samsung

Image via TechCrunch

4. Get Discovered

As mentioned in a previous Friday5, Snapchat recently introduced the “Discover” feature as a way to explore stories from media publishers. Coined by Snapchat as “a storytelling format that puts the narrative first” and not your typical social media feed, this is whole new way to look at Snapchat. You can already view content from ESPN, Food Network, Comedy Central, People Magazine, National Geographic, Cosmopolitan, CNN, Vice, The Daily Mail, and Yahoo.

With popular media outlets publishing the content, Snapchat moves from a peer-to-peer content sharing platform to a news provider. Brands may also be organically featured at the discretion of the editorial teams who feed the stories into their channel. There is a paid component, as the feature is ad-supported, with most editions showing a video ad every few pages. With users following these brands, the “Discover” feature offers an engaging way to offer up text and video on a platform that audiences want to be on.

5. Expand Possibilities

With all of these features re-inventing the way users and brands can engage on the platform, the next step is to get creative. Already, brands are finding ways to expand on the features you can use on Snapchat.

To stay ahead of the curve, look at ways Snapchat can expand your current social ecosystem, or even become a new full-time engagement platform.

GrubHub* uses the platform to stay authentic, keeping on message with its very honest approach to social, and directly engages with its audience. From rewarding its followers with promo codes to sending out custom doodles, they understand the unique opportunity to stand out from the crowd.

*Edelman client

Image credit: Snapchat

Friday5: 5 Observations From SXSW

Every March, digital thought leaders, agency folks, musicians, film aficionados and directors gather in Austin for South By Southwest (SXSW), a 9-day conference-festival hybrid described as “the premier destination for discovery.” Among the concerts, film premieres, exclusive parties and other events are new ideas and technologies, especially at SXSW Interactive, which focuses on emerging technology, gaming and digital creativity. Brands also have a presence in Austin through event and concert sponsorships and branded booths and displays. We talked to some Edelfolks in Austin during this first week to get their on-the-ground perspectives and observations.

1. Spike Jones, Managing Director, Austin

The conversations around 3D printing have moved this year beyond the “curiosity” factor of the technology. We’ve been talking about 3D printing at SXSW for a few years now, but this year it’s both finally hitting the threshold for widespread consumer use—allowing us to create things that are useful in everyday life. On the other hand, the tech has evolved as well, allowing for intricate, high level use—for example, our clients at Carnegie Mellon University* will be talking on Monday about their use of 3D printing technology for artificial heart valves.

2. Gi-Gi Downs, SVP, Group Planning Director, Digital New York

I’ve noticed two major trends so far: AI/Robots and a new generation of wearable technology. AI and robots have had quite a bit of coverage so far, particularly in the emergence of automated consumer electronics products for the high end market—health care robots, home robots, and so on. There’s even a robot petting zoo. Wearables are on everyone’s minds as well. But it’s less about the clunky “arm party” of watches and bands. Our wrists are being freed thanks to intelligent apparel, GPS-based haptic feedback stitched into panels and piping in clothing, giving the wearer nudges to move more, turn left, or simply sit up straight.

3. Cory Sealey, Account Supervisor, Digital Chicago

All brands know they need to reach their consumers where they’re actively looking, but it’s becoming crowded and almost a joke. At SXSW, people are even proactively reaching out to brands knowing that they’ll get hooked up with free swag. So I’m really interested in seeing how brands here try to become an active part of thoughtful conversations without simply tweeting ads at people and giving away free stuff.

4. Dominic Ybarra, SVP, Digital Austin

SXSW is a convergence of digital, innovation and creativity through film and music. From my perspective, that convergence creates a melting pot of ideas, which are celebrated and shared in true community. The conference has not been dictated by traditional brands but instead is a place where companies and people can bring forward new ways to look at the world.

On the topic of creativity, I see a big emphasis on makers (inventors) this year, which speaks to recent spike in innovation we’re seeing in the tech industry right now. Our National Instruments* client stated it well, “makers change the world but the tools change the maker.” I’m curious to find out what they’ll cover and how it will inspire others to harness their creativity and develop something completely new.

5. Phil Gomes, SVP, Digital Chicago

This year marks my first time at SxSW. Admitting this openly elicits one of three reactions: 1) Macbook-clutching shock at having avoided the annual hajj to this Mecca of glorious nerddom, 2) doubts as to whether I’m really in this business, or 3) pity that I’ve only managed to make it to Austin after the festival has supposedly “jumped the shark”—something that, by my reading, has apparently occurred every year for the past ten.

I care equally about all three opinions, which is to say not much at all. In truth, I’m less interested in what brands are doing at SxSW so much as what can be learned from the shared insights of the makers, creators, and (non-pejoratively) hackers that are shaping new realities by building a more open, hierarchy-averse innovation ecosystem.

G.H. Hardy once wrote that “There is no scorn more profound, or on the whole more justifiable, than that of the men who make for the men who explain.” As someone who has had a twenty-year career in the “explaining business,” more or less, I take Hardy’s criticism as an important wake-up call for our trade. I may never be the one who builds the next world-changing Web standard or API, but I can try my best to infuse that spirit into my own work.

What are you most intrigued by at SXSW so far this year?

*Edelman client

This post was compiled by Josh Lieberthal and Chris Rooney.

Image credit: SXSW

Friday5: 5 Things You Should Know About Advertising on Instagram

One year after being acquired by Facebook, Instagram began offering native advertising to a limited group of brands as a beta. Since then, the visual-centric social platform has collected and reported initial results, opened their doors to more advertisers and introduced features to sweeten the deal for digital marketers. As native advertising becomes the norm of digital advertising and display media continues to fall by the wayside, Instagram, with its limited functionality and palette for creative expression, has taken steps toward becoming a staple in the social and native advertising world.

1. Simplicity of the platform

Unlike its parent company Facebook, Instagram is a simple social feed focused on photos and videos in a mobile-first format without an algorithm limiting content’s organic reach. Its minimalistic design allows images and videos to span the entire width of a mobile phone’s screen, keeping the user’s attention on the content itself instead of other functionalities/features of the platform. Brands have been successfully using Instagram as part of a social content strategy from an organic perspective, though the platform’s simplicity is also a strength of its advertising options, as well.

2. Truly native video

Facebook and Twitter offer native advertising and both added native video uploading relatively recently. Instagram was a video production and distribution platform before it introduced advertising and, due to the visual nature of Instagram content, video advertising on the platform is truly native. Furthermore, Instagram’s advertising guidelines prohibit overt branding in sponsored content, making it appear organic in a users’ feed.

3. Introduction of image carousels

This week, Instagram announced carousel-format image advertisements, allowing brands to include multiple images in one promoted post. Like stories on Snapchat, these carousels allow brands to publish and promote multiple images without overloading users’ feeds with separate posts. This feature could open new opportunities for brands whose products or offerings are better shown with multiple images, such as an energy drink company showing a new variety of products in one image and focusing on individual products in each subsequent image.

4. Clickable links

Until this week’s announcement, the platform disabled links in organic and promoted posts in an effort to keep users on the platform instead of linking to other content like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. The non-linkability prevented brands from driving action from their Instagram content, which limited content impact to driving positive brand lift, product recall and other loftier, hard-to-measure metrics. Introducing clickable links that open webpages in a browser within Instagram allows advertisers to drive measurable impact, even if that’s just a visit to the brand’s website. As pointed out by TechCrunch, clickable links also give e-commerce companies a new reason to advertise on the platform since their business relies on driving online sales.

5. Results

Instagram has released case studies detailing the success of beta advertisers on the platform. Ben & Jerry’s sought to drive awareness for their brand and new flavor Scotchy Scotch Scotch among an 18-35-year-old audience. Over the course of an eight-day campaign, Ben & Jerry’s reached 9.8M people, increased ad recall by 33 points and increased awareness of their new flavor by 17 percent. Over nine days, Levi’s reached 7.4M people and increased ad recall by 24 points in an effort to build awareness for Levi’s products and lifestyle before the holiday season. The case studies available are still somewhat limited and don’t speak to what metrics advertisers have access to, but prove Instagram’s ability to scale sponsored content in a native format on a fast-growing social platform.

Image credit: Instagram

Friday5: 5 Reasons To Pay Attention To Product Hunt

As spheres of online influence evolve and shift, and social networks become more niche, it’s important to keep a pulse on all channels where influential individuals and general consumers are talking about your or your client’s product. Enter Product Hunt – a community-based website built as “a place for product-loving enthusiasts to share and geek out about the latest mobile apps, websites, hardware projects, and tech creations.” Users go to the site to browse recently discovered products, post discoveries of their own or join conversations about specific products. As conversations about brands and products continue to proliferate from mainstream social channels, Product Hunt and similar sites are increasingly important spaces to watch.

1. The Community

One of the great things about Product Hunt is the community built around these products. The platform marries the power of word-of-mouth marketing and peer referrals with the democracy of a forum style. Brands and corporations are marketing their products through a variety of channels and tactics, but Product Hunt removes the guesswork of investigating every product imaginable and surfaces the ones that are most relevant and intriguing to its community members. Furthermore, the Product Hunt team actively discourages asking or incentivizing others to upvote products on the site, which bolsters the credibility of the community promoting these products.

2. Product Launch Exclusives

Instead of launching a new mobile app by simply adding it to the iOS App Store or Google Play, marketers can release products exclusively on Product Hunt to offer first access to early adopters and get the conversation started. The people on the platform are fellow product-hunting consumers, makers, developers and members of the startup community, among others. Together, they constitute an influential community that could help get a new product off the ground. “Hunters” share their findings on social media, whether it’s a product they found themselves or a recent find from a fellow hunter.

3. Journalist Access

Product Hunt provides journalists unprecedented access to makers on the platform through a private messaging function. We know the rise and evolution of social media and shifting spheres of online and offline influence have changed the way journalism intersects with brands, and Product Hunt is ahead of the curve by providing a direct channel of communication. They know the product makers put their lives into their work and deserve recognition, so they make it easy to tell their story through news sites and other media sources. This could provide opportunities for earned media once somebody else adds your or your client’s product to Product Hunt.

4. Email Digests

Product Hunt knows and understands their site, while very active, is not the only place their users spend time online. Recently added products are sent in daily or weekly digests to their subscribers, meaning new products added to the site are constantly surfaced to their dedicated constituents on a regular basis – they don’t miss a beat.

5. Product Hunt Radio

The site’s blog is home to a weekly series called Product Hunt Radio. Often co-hosted by members of the founding team Ryan Hoover and Erik Torenberg, the podcast-like episodes include thought leaders in the tech and media industries and cover tech and Internet culture and new and emerging products. Their radio show, hosted on the audio streaming service SoundCloud, could be a great opportunity to have a client thought leader join the conversation and create compelling, amplifiable third-party content.

Image credit: Chris Devers

Friday5: 5 Predictions for GoPro As A Media Company

Media companies look and feel fundamentally different in 2015 than they ever have before. They’re real-time (for better, or worse), they’re social and they are content driven. But, in a world where, as Richard Edelman put it, “The reader is now also content creator and advocate,” they also don’t have to be made up of traditional journalists and reporters.

Take GoPro. It currently distributes its owned content on Virgin Airlines, LG Smart TVs and recently, announced the spring launch of a Roku channel featuring a combination of original and user-submitted content. Here are five predictions for how this move could change our experience with GoPro, as a brand, moving forward:

1. Behind the Scenes Revamp

GoPro already has partnerships with the National Hockey League and the X-Games, where GoPros capture close-up footage during games. With cord cutters on the rise—steering away from traditional TV and cable, and instead opting to consume entertainment through an Internet connection in the home—Roku channels are a prime source of in-home entertainment. GoPro’s ability to push live or near real-time behind-the-scenes footage from live events, even if they aren’t streaming the whole event, could allow them to capture a new frame of relevancy.

2. Content Creators Connection

Vine and YouTube have shifted traditional notions of popularity, creating new tiers of celebrities where anybody has the opportunity to reach mass audiences with their content. Through GoPro’s newest distribution channel, content creators have another avenue to share. And, it’s one built on a powerful community connected by a central element: the shared experience of using the same tools. We may see social layers built to allow creators to connect with one another, and even collaborate on future products.

3. The GoPro Gap

There is still a consumer education element to GoPro’s actions that is necessary for it to succeed. Too many people are unaware of the amazing content they produce. Introducing a Roku channel is a smart way to start putting it in front of people. Next, it would make sense to see GoPro expand partnerships with Smart TVs to feature content on a channel of its own.

4. Shoppable Video

GoPro’s Roku channel will feature content that allows viewers to “learn which GoPro products were used to ‘get the shot.’” Social channels are becoming increasingly shoppable, allowing users to find products and click-to-buy from almost anywhere. This channel may allow GoPro to test videos where users can break down the content, identify what products (accessories, mounts, etc.) were used and buy them directly through their Roku.

5. Accessories get Stylized

We’ve seen fashion become an important factor in wearable devices, with top designers such as Rebecca Minkoff and Tory Burch leading the way. Consumers need devices to fit into their personal style; we may begin to see an increase in products and accessories designed in partnership with brands like Nike or North Face* to incorporate GoPro stylishly into gear. Imagine a snowboarding jacket with a GoPro chest mount built in, a bag with a GoPro compartment — compatibility that makes producing content on a GoPro more accessible, convenient and naturally integrated with daily life.

There are many other directions GoPro could take next, from a full-length feature film created solely on GoPro devices, to its own Snapchat channel on Discover. What are your predictions for GoPro’s next moves?

*Edelman client

Image credit: wales_gibbons

Friday5: What was it about SERIAL that was so darn engaging?

Yeah, I mean, who else did it? They’re running out of suspects.”

If you’re like us, you’re one of the two million people that streamed each episode of Serial. Since it made its debut in October 2014, Serial, the new podcast spinoff of “This American Life” consistently topped the iTunes charts, spawned dozens of discussions – both online and offline – and made a lot of people anxiously excited for more each Thursday morning.

It’s been a month since the podcast ended and momentum around this is still running hot. The subreddit is constantly updated with facts, debates and discussion even after the series ended.  What was so engaging about the podcast? After we peeled the layers back, we realized it may be the intersection of three main PR pillars: content strategy, audience identification and platform selection.

1. The Story Itself

Audiences are captivated by stories that are emotional, encourage discussion and present mystery. For Serial’s inaugural season, they choose to focus on the real-life story of a 32-year-old man named Adnan Syed, who was convicted of murder at age 17 in Baltimore, MD. The story detailed the case that convicted Adnan, the fact that Adnan continues to profess his innocence, and the current interviews and audio of witnesses that lead to the police’s case.  Because the story touched on those areas, it created a sense of mystery that drove the audience to find the answers, to start discussions, to develop their own theory. The story turned audiences into Sherlock Holmes to solve the case. Serial was a success partially because the story kept the audience guessing and made them feel like they were part of the journey to find answers. We’re always told that content is king when telling a story, and while that is true, it’s important to consider how we interpret the story to fit how an audience will engage with it.

2. The Characters/Players

There’s no denying – people can relate to other people and characters. The podcast structure reproduces the conventions of classic novels; each episode unfolds the plot and characters from episode to episode. It was the way each character, including the narrator, became a storyteller that made Serial so engaging. The audience could either relate to life as a teenager or understand the struggle of recounting every moment of a day six weeks prior. We see the narrator take the role of main character in the story and the audience is driven to trust her as a journalist. Listeners ultimately connect with her as a narrator as though she is a friend. Character development is critical to creating an engaging piece of content. Infographics and articles were written just about the characters in Serial. Fans would rave about it to friends and family on Facebook and through word-of-mouth, celebrities tweeted about it, and a subreddit spawned more than 43,000 subscribers who discussed each character and their role at length.

3. The Delivery

The most engaged audience responds to an emotional connection to a story, andSerial is no exception. When we create content for our clients, we ask ourselves, “Will the target audience relate? Would they share it?” The delivery was successful in several ways. The installments of episodes, the website and even documents and maps that helped the audience understand each played a role in the success of Serial. While the story was told in weekly episodes, once the final episode was published, a resurgence of new fans emerged who binge-listened to the entire season. The story was not just told through the eye of one person, each character and the actual audio of interviews led to the success. Even the theme song for Serial was so unique that it would excite the audience every time they heard it. Serial was executed in a way that drove emotion and mystery to its audience and that delivery was optimal for audio storytelling.

4. The Medium

While podcasts have been around for about 10 years, Serial has definitely helped the medium gain popularity. So why now? We know content has something to do with it. As listeners waited for new episodes each week, they re-listened to the series. They savored the details and gained a deeper appreciation for the story. They turned to other outlets – news articles, blogs, Reddit, Twitter – to learn more.

At the end of the day, the podcast structure invited listeners to do their own investigating, leading to a shared experience – online and offline.

The truth is, podcasts are a very unique medium compared to television, film and even social media. We listen to podcasts during our commutes. We put them in our headphones when we’re going for a run. These entertainment sessions are much more intimate; typically podcasts are something we listen to alone and talk about with others later. With such an intimate experience, it’s very common for those who listen to quickly become addicted to them and think of the podcast hosts as friends. Even the sponsors become a part of your life; who can’t stop thinking about Mailkimp – er, Mailchimp?

We live in a world of rapidly evolving technology and our endless thirst for more content, however, to yield returns, sometimes we’ll need to harness the power of slow. Podcasts are the perfect medium for just that.

5.  Engagement: Bringing Online Offline

Social was always intended to be a way for people to connect along the lines of shared interests, but with a goal of finding each other and connecting offline as well. We’ve lost sight of that, and this content experience brings it back – revealing the true power of “social as social.” We recently hosted a brown-bag lunch in Edelman’s Washington, D.C. office to connect and discuss our varying perspectives on Serial. It was riveting and even more engaging for those in the room (and even via phone from Edelman’s London office) than we imagined it would be. We had a room full of colleagues, many of whom wouldn’t typically interact, but here we all were. Why is this, and how do we harness this magic for clients? We simply cannot underestimate the power of word-of-mouth marketing – creating and crowdsourcing viewpoints is the first step, but sharing these viewpoints with others and driving people to online discussion boards gets us to the real heart of social: engagement. Engagement is key. Content is the driver but when done right, the social engagement takes on a life of its own and evolves the content into something new and even more valuable. Something everyone feels some ownership stake in. This is when true engagement happens. This is the magic that moves the needle – for a community, for a courtroom, and for a client.

This post was written by Aimee Rose, Tatiana Posada and Aleena Hasnain

Image credit: shinemy

Friday5: How The White House Mastered Fractured Media

A version of this post was originally published on Medium.

It doesn’t matter where you land on the political spectrum: one can’t help but notice how the White House continues to master the ever fragmented media landscape. The White House knows to reach people where they are vs. relying solely on the traditional “mainstream” channels of its predecessors. Though however masterful it may seem at first glance — the principles the White House is putting into action can be broken down into a set of best practices.

1. Tapping the reach of internet celebrities

The notion of an “internet celebrity” was something many media and professionals once scoffed at — now it’s a multi-million-dollar industry with many of the top players who have built vast audiences on YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, and Vine laughing all the way to the bank. “Pewdiepie” for example is considered to be YouTube’s #1 highest paid YouTube star taking in an estimated annual income of nearly nine million dollars after YouTube’s cut.

Obama’s move to once again utilize internet celebrities to access their audiences and generate an amplified response is becoming a standard tactic in the playbook of marketers and communicators. The strategy is simple — in order to reach millennials, you have to be culturally relevant to them and traditional celebrities are no longer the only ones shaping cultural relevance. The internet celebrity not only offers a gateway to cultural relevance but also a potentially huge audience. One of the Obama Youtubers for example, has a channel subscription over eight million. For those of us however that don’t enjoy the clout of the White House — working with these influentials is largely a paid game. Get ready to carve up your media dollars.

2. Showing Vs. Telling

Throughout the State of The Union address, there were live tweets as you would expect — but there was also a barrage of visual content ranging from infographics to nostalgic pictures of Obama as a boy riding a tricycle. On Facebook, videos were posted that split screened images and text that acted as visual aides to Obama’s speech — illustrating the main points and bringing to life his spoken word.

3. Publishing Direct – Mobile First

The White House made history as it bypassed the tradition of leaking the transcript to the media before making it public and published a copy directly to the mobile and social optimized Medium platform. By doing this, a precedent has been set, sending the signal that people are media as much as the media itself is. Also, it’s a nice win for Medium.

4. Owning Your Owned Assets

In this age of social savvy media upstarts, the general public and influencers who distribute your message, the White House still understands the value of the home court advantage and used various means to drive traffic to Whitehouse.gov/SOTU which directed users to a content hub where the State of the Union could be watched online as well as hosting several assets such as graphic and animated gifs. The owned property also does what many other assets cannot — it’s a CRM data acquisition strategy prompting visitors to share their e-mail and zip code which places them into “the system.”

5. Why It Worked

There’s much that can be learned from watching the White House pull the many levers now needed to reach audiences where they choose to engage. But many of the strategies and tactics are not new — they are simply planned and executed with the understanding that many efforts vs few now need to work in concert, and a message can be “controlled” more than you think if the right levers are pulled at the right time.

Image credit: Diego Camblaso

Friday5: 5 Reasons to Embrace Responsive Web Design in 2015

In 2010, Morgan Stanley released an 87-page report declaring that mobile would rule the world by 2015. Well, here we are five years later and while we might not have hoverboards yet, mobile has exploded as predicted. With the huge influx of smartphone adoption, device fragmentation, and mobile Internet usage, creating a responsive web experience for all devices is no longer an option—it’s a requirement.

What is responsive web design? The folks over at Froont have a great blog post with helpful visuals, but essentially, RWD is the belief that websites should respond to the needs of the users and the devices they’re using by changing the layout of the site based on the size and capabilities of the device.

Why is that important?

1. Mobile usage

As predicted, mobile usage did surpass desktop usage for the first time in history in 2014. Mary Meeker, the same woman who made the 2010 prediction, also reported that global mobile data usage increased by 80 percent from 2013 to 2014 and it doesn’t show signs of slowing. But that’s not all. According to Google, 77 percent of mobile searches occur at home or at work, places where desktop computers are likely to be present. Even when there are desktops available, people are on their phones.

2. User experience

According to mobiForge, 46 percent of mobile web users are unlikely to return to a website they had trouble accessing in the past and 33 percent of tablet users are less likely to purchase online from a company if they experience poor website performance. The goal of your business should be to solve a problem, not create one. The same should go for your website. You should strive to make the lives of your users easier.

3. Device fragmentation

Before responsive design, the prevailing practice was to create “Mobile-versions” of websites. Now, with almost 20,000 different types of Android devices (and countless other phones, tablets, TVs,) with varying screen sizes and resolutions, responsive design is more important than ever. How can you possibly account for all those combinations? You can’t. So you design an experience that gracefully expands and contracts to intelligently fill the corners of the device screen. If you’ve done your job correctly, your website should look as good on an iPhone as it does on a 40” flatscreen.

4. Multi-screen World

In August of 2012, Google released a study called The New Multi-screen World: Understanding Cross-platform Consumer Behavior. Without getting too deep into the behavioral findings of that report, the key insight here is that the device we choose to use is often driven by our context: where we are, what we want to accomplish and the amount of time needed. Often times tasks start on mobile devices and end on PCs and vice versa. To help users complete those tasks, we need to provide a seamless experience across all devices and that’s where responsive web design comes into play.

5. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

In December of 2014, Google announced that they would be giving preferential treatment to websites that they consider to be “mobile-friendly.” If responsive web design was a nice-to-have before, this change has made it a need-to-have. Before, it was a courtesy, now your site will be penalized in search results for not abiding by the new standard of the web. Wondering if Google considers your website “Mobile-Friendly”? Check out their free tool and see for yourself.

These are exciting times we live in. Our clients rely on us to push them to stay ahead of the curve and best serve their customers. To quote Google’s Javier Perez, “Let’s ditch the pinching, scrolling and aimless tapping, and welcome the new wave of mobile-friendly sites.”

Welcome to 2015, the year of responsive web design.

Image credit: Google Mobile Guide

Friday5: Digital Predictions for 2015

It’s the start of the new year, and with it comes the yearly predictions of what’s going to be big and noteworthy in the next year. We spoke with five people throughout the network to see what they’re most excited about in the digital and tech spaces in 2015:

1. Aniz Ruda, VP, Insights & Intelligence, Chicago

With CES 2015 wrapping up, it’s hard to avoid the influx of wearable devices that are starting to become accessible in the market. As these technologies become increasingly popular, Aniz wonders what brands will do with the massive amounts of data that these devices will produce. What are the ethical and regulatory issues that will pop up in the year, and how will brands take action on them?

2. Matt Stanton, Partner Knowledge Manager, New York

Matt is interested in seeing how brands and entertainment companies will use micro-content to distribute high-quality messages on social channels and mobile messaging apps like kik, Line, WeChat, and Whatsapp, which have exploded in popularity and will likely continue to do so.  In addition, with phone screens growing in size, people can give more attention to short-form video content, opening up huge opportunities for brands, which might use mobile messaging apps to distribute them most effectively.

3. Sara Azadi, EVP, Group Head for Consumer and Digital, Bay

Sara predicts that 2015 will bring requests for better attribution of digital activities to sales. Historically, a CMO could roughly correlate TV advertising budget with fluctuations in sales. It is increasingly difficult to attribute one digital activity or channel to sales with the rapid proliferation of social networks, tools, platforms and channels. Sara has noticed CMOs are increasing their expectations of social ROI. According to Sara, communications marketing professionals will need to take a step back and look at communications more holistically to build an attribution model. Although clients might wonder how a single tweet or promoted Facebook post affects sales, we should be practicing measurement among the client’s entire digital ecosystem so we can skip the leap of faith inherent to TV advertising.

4. Marko Muellner, VP, Group Director, Digital, Portland

The internet of things has been gaining traction over the past few years and has shifted gears in a big way towards the automotive industry. Marko’s been thinking about the implications of connected cars for consumers and stakeholders in the automotive industry. Will we see a “data war?” Specifically, your next new car will include a data plan for entertainment and navigation, but will also stream diagnostics and other data to manufacturers, dealers, the telecom companies and tech companies like Apple and Google. 3rd parties like mechanics, tire centers and gas stations, for example, will be at a distinct disadvantage in the near term. Additionally, considering the size of the automotive industry, this huge cascade of data will enable major competitive advantage. These companies will become the new gatekeepers to deeper consumer relationships, will our clients be paying BMW to reach their drivers during drive time? Yes, yes they will.

 5. Brittany Dow, Account Manager, Digital, Toronto

Brittany’s on the lookout for evidence of “post-demographic consumerism” marked by the change of traditional status symbols in the digital environment, which required high income and therefore were restricted to older and more traditional demographics. Now, with experiences, lifestyles, personal connection all representing a new form of status, consumers will increasingly choose their products, brands and experiences outside of our traditional understanding of those products’ demographics. Brands who respond effectively to this melting pot will continue to succeed.

What trends are you looking out for this year?

This post was compiled by Josh Lieberthal and Chris Rooney.

Image credit: Keoni Cabral

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