Bred in CAPtivity

Feb 24

Have you fallen in love with Pinterest like many others?

Neal Alfano Pinterest

Just before the holidays, my boss asked me about  Pinterest . Now I have to admit that when she asked I had never heard of it, however afterwards I noticed everyone I knew was talking about Pinterest. It turns out that Pinterest is a visual bookmarking social media tool. 

Pinterest acts as a digital corkboard that lets you organize and share visual things that inspire you. It has a little something for everyone no matter what your interests are, including cooking, arts and crafts, design, DIY things, architecture, things for kids, etc.  As a designer I have to say I’m in love with Pinterest and wish I had more time to create boards all day long.

With the growth Pinterest is experiencing it is becoming an important tool for brands and companies looking to push products online. According to  Mashable, the site has 3 million users and surpassed 421 million page views (as of Oct. 2011). While 70 percent of “pinners” are female, according to Open Forum and other sources, one simply can’t avoid the discussion on how to use this tool to market products and services, especially if the target audience is women.  

Here are a few brands that have jumped at this opportunity. Based on the number of people following them and repining their images, I have to say it is a success for the brands below:

Brands on Pinterest Board

Whole Foods Market - Grocery | 12,171 followers
West Elm - Furniture | 9,894 followers
Mashable - Digital news source | 8,934 followers
General Electric - Products | 289 followers
GAP - Clothing | 1,615 followers
Food Network - TV cooking network | 2,429 followers
Lowes - Home Improvement |  1,553 followers

If you know of other companies worthy of mentioning that I have missed please share them.

Follow me on Pinterest

Feb 16

How “Social” is Social Media?

Social media: Billions and billions served every day.

But what is social media? Sure, it’s a form of media; but is it social? And if so, how social is it and has the act of socializing changed as a direct result? Do social media users have more friends (real friends, not “friends” in Facebook lingo), and are those friendships strengthened through social media?

What we commonly refer to as social media has been around for a couple decades now. It didn’t start with Facebook and Twitter. And it didn’t start with MySpace, either. Back in the 90s before those things existed, there were AOL chat rooms and Instant Messaging. There was email, there were pagers and clunky cell phones. Before that there were other mediums to socialize on, and this is nothing new. The terminology behind it just is.

Those channels and others that have evolved from them are now referred to as social networks – from Pinterest and Twitter to YouTube and Google+. I personally have been on Facebook since October 2004, making me one of the site’s first million users. Thus, I’ve seen it evolve – for better or worse – over the years. And with it, I’ve seen my social life evolve too. It has helped me stay in touch with some whom I probably would not have otherwise. It has helped me meet people I probably wouldn’t have. On the flip side, it has hampered conversations – things I might normally ask when getting to know someone – What’s your favorite movie? Musical artist? TV show? Now, I can just look at their Facebook profile.

Be it making plans with a long-lost pal or conversing about similar interests while dressed in your PJ’s with some bloke from Down Under, social networking has expanded the idea of what being social exactly means. Looking at it from that perspective, what “social” constitutes is more subjective now than ever before. As a society, what was considered social a decade ago is not social today.  And, it won’t be “social” a decade from now. Plus, social media is still finding its footing in the social hierarchy of life. Perhaps one of my former college professors said it best when he said that tools like Facebook were “excellent for communicating with people whom you don’t want to talk on the phone with.” Isn’t that what texting is for?

Social media, in my humblest of opinions, is making us more social – just in different and new ways. It’s directly rebelling against the notion of what being social traditionally means.

The truth (or just common sense, if you prefer) is that people need people, and as people, we desire and seek out human interaction – such is natural; social media is just another tool to go about doing so. Social media is yet another distraction in a modern world chock full of ‘em. How social or not it makes a person really all depends on how they use it, and how social they are to begin with.

Omnipresent in our daily lives, social media is like gum on a sidewalk: It’s everywhere and it’s not disappearing anytime soon. Whatever role it currently plays in your life, accept the fact that it is here to stay and embrace it for the social possibilities contained therein – it can be a veritable hoot-and-a-half if you let it.

Feb 03

What Is PR?

PR Cloud

What is PR? How should PR be defined?

In January, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) created a “PR Defined Initiative.” The initiative was designed to provide a forum for its members to contribute their thoughts about re-defining the term, “public relations.”

Recently, PRSA  announced the following three member-contributed definitions as the leading candidates for the new definition:

Definition No. 1:

Public relations is the management function of researching, engaging, communicating, and collaborating with stakeholders in an ethical manner to build mutually beneficial relationships and achieve results.

Definition No. 2:

Public relations is a strategic communication process that develops and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their key publics.

Definition No. 3:

Public relations is the engagement between organizations and individuals to achieve mutual understanding and realize strategic goals.

Out of the three I prefer the second definition best. This definition resonates with me because it includes the term “strategic.” I think the most effective PR campaign is the one with a strategic goal and plan behind it. Without a strategy, a campaign can become lost among all the white noise in an already crowded media environment.

Definition No. 2 also describes PR as a mutually beneficial relationship. I think it can be easy to forget that PR is a two-way street when it comes to communication.  PR isn’t just disseminating information, but it is also listening to feedback and effectively responding to questions and concerns your publics have. 

I also like definition No. 1 for incorporating the words,  “ethical manner.” Personally, I think being ethical and truthful is vital to a PR professional’s reputation and to the profession as a whole.

Ultimately, I think the final definition PRSA comes up with (the announcement will come sometime in February) will be a blend of all three. It will be interesting to see how it turns out.

Jan 31

Macy’s Uplifts Go Red For Women Campaign

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: When nonprofits find the right corporate partners, awareness and visibility sky rocket.

This is true for Macy’s and the American Heart Association as they partner for the ninth year on the Go Red for Women Campaign and National Wear Red Day (Feb. 3), a movement to spread awareness and raise money to prevent heart disease in women.

In partnership with national sponsors like Macy’s, the American Heart Association campaign has raised more than $28 million.

Anatomy of a Campaign

So, what makes this partnership and campaign so special? National visibility and integration.

Jan 20

Top 5 HTML5 features to watch in 2012

Despite HTML5 and its equally snazzily-dressed cousins, CSS3 and SVG, being a few years away from finalized W3C recommendations as a whole, that hasn’t stopped developers from going full hog on certain features. On the flip side of the coin, the Big Three browsers continue to enable HTML5 developers to use them, so why not? Chrome and Firefox appear to be in a battle for who can release more versions in a month to keep up with the latest recommendations and, while they slice up Internet Explorer’s (IE) market share like an orange on Fruit Ninjas, Microsoft seems fit to wait out the changes before releasing version 10 with more aggressive HTML5 support. It’s great to be on the forefront of a trend if you know what you’re doing. But with spotty support for some HTML5 features, how is one to know which to safely incorporate in their 2012 website redesigns without alienating those “old beater” browsers? Here’s my list to watch in 2012:

  1. Semantic Markup. While your users may not notice them, they have the potential for some useful applications when viewed on devices which can understand their intent. They better organize your content and should help tremendously with SEO in the coming months and years. Pros: Easily implemented. Wide support with a few tweaks, including old IEs. Potential for improved SEO and relevance. Cons: Some tags are still changing in purpose and some confusion around semantic uses.
  2. Video and Audio. Arguably, two of the most anticipated HTML5 features, these elements already ran rampant in 2011 with YouTube’s migration from the soon-to-be-antiquated Flash video platform. Pros: Easily implemented. No more proprietary Flash software. Adopted by Google and Apple. Cons: No standardized file formats across the Big Three.
  3. Hashchange Event and Session History Management. With the growing popularity of “one page” websites, this feature lets the URL address bar change as you move through websites without reloading an entire page while still being search engine friendly. If used properly, this could speed load times between users and your pages. Pros: Wider-spread support as aging IEs die. Could allow for some nice transition effects between pages. Cons: Could quickly become overused fad. High development learning curve in some applications.
  4. Drag and Drop. For member-based websites that offer customizing features, it’s tough to beat letting your users simply rearrange a page layout with a little drag and drop action. Pros: Fun, easy interactivity. Cons: Higher development learning curve.
  5. Form Validation and Form Features. One of my personal favorites. With ready-made date pickers, sliders, and data validation, this could be a huge time saver for any developer. It’s the frozen dinner of the HTML5 world. Just heat and serve. Pros: The aforementioned time and cost saver—‘nuff said. Cons: Partial support in current browsers.

You can certainly incorporate whichever HTML5 features you like in your 2012 redesign, but be sure to include the necessary “Plan Bs” for unsupportive browsers, where applicable. What are your most looking forward to in HTML5? Don’t know anything about HTML5 but want to? Let us know in the comments.

Jan 06

Plan Your Bathroom Breaks Accordingly.

The NFL Playoffs are about to begin, which means two things:

My beloved Green Bay Packers have a shot at another Super Bowl victory - a “G-peat” - and the Super Bowl ads are right around the corner. 

This year’s air time sold out by Thanksgiving for a mere $3.5 million per spot. Pundits have long debated the value of dropping that type of media coin on one spot. I’m neither for nor against it, but as an agency creative, I do enjoy watching. 

It’s fun checking USA Today and the trade pubs the next day to see what resonated with consumers.

It’s time to see if what I think is funny, is funny to millions of Americans.

Time to see if the same spots that make an emotional connection with me do the same for others.

Time to see if you and I agree on the spots are the best and the worst.

Time to wonder why I’ve ever done business with Go Daddy.

Well, this year we don’t have to wait until the day after the big game.

This year, USA Today and Facebook have teamed up to create the “USA Today-Facebook Super Bowl Ad Meter.” It will allow you to view, rate and share Super Bowl ads. The best part about the new Ad Meter is that this will be the first time consumers - not just focus groups - will be able to determine who will be this year’s winner of the USA Today Ad Meter.

Who will unseat last years winners, Bud Light and Doritos? Plan your bathroom breaks accordingly and be sure to cast your vote.

And let me know which spot was your favorite. Game on!

Dec 29

5 Social Media Experts Describe 5 Ways to Be Better at Social Media

social media
Every week, I spend hours gleaning the best ideas and strategies from the myriad social media eblasts, enewsletters, blogs and website links I receive in my inbox. Because there is so much information and misinformation available about social media, I am especially interested in tips from people who know what they are talking about.

I’ve condensed this list from an article by Amy Porterfield, author of Facebook Marketing All In One for Dummies. She based the article on interviews she had with social media experts. I hope you find it useful:

 1-Help others who aren’t necessarily famous
“Don’t try to build your personal brand or company brand alone. Go out of your way to look for opportunities to help others and give others credit,” says Erik Qualman, author of Socialnomics: How Social Media Transforms the Way We Live and Do Business. “Easy ways to do this include recommendations on Twitter of others’ work, retweets and hot tips on the comment section of blogs,” Erik added.
2-Don’t over-focus on marketing
“All too often, businesses overlook the ‘social’ part of the phrase social media marketing and jump straight into the ‘marketing’ part… to their detriment,” explained Hollis Thomases, author of Twitter Marketing: An Hour a Day.
3-Meet people in real life
“You can meet people online, but solidify these online relationships face to face,” says Steve Garfield, author of Get Seen: Online Video Secrets to Building Your Business. Steve founded a networking group that meets in person each month. “What’s very important is that the meeting is free, we never cancel and everyone is welcome,” explained Steve.
4-Invest in social media after you do your research
Corporations should gauge their own social business maturity and prioritize spending decisions based on the industry benchmarks, according to a study by the Altimeter Group. “Just as you would invest your personal finances based on your family size, age and market conditions, you should be spending on social using the same industry knowledge,” Says Altimeter’s Jeremiah Owyang, partner of customer strategy.
5-Share the knowledge of experts with your audience
“Get experts involved with your content. Determine who the experts are in your industry. Then go to them and offer to interview them about their hottest new project,” said Mike Stelzner, founder of Social Media Examiner.

Social media isn’t new (I wrote a travel and tourism blog way back in 2004!) but one thing that is a constant is this: social media is a moving target. What worked in 2004 definitely doesn’t work today. My best advice is to stay current, read everything you can and try new things. Not every platform will work for you, but you won’t know unless you try.

Dec 23

The End of Advertising as We Know It

Hugo90's photostream

The next five years will hold more change for the advertising and marketing industry than the previous 50 decades. How will businesses take advantage of these changes?

Imagine an advertising world where spending on interactive, one-to-one advertising formats surpasses traditional, one-to-many advertising vehicles.
Advertisers now know who viewed and acted on an ad, and can pay for campaigns based on actions rather than estimated “impressions.” Consumers can self-select ads they watch and share their favorite advertisements with their peers on many social media platforms. It won’t be long before user-generated advertising will be as prevalent (and appealing) as agency-created spots.
Based on the results of an IBM global survey titled, “The End of Advertising As We Know It,” there are four change drivers shifting control within the ad industry:
   1. Attention – Consumers are increasingly in control of how they view, interact with and filter advertising in a multichannel world.

   2. Creativity – Thanks to technology, the rising popularity of user-generated and peer-delivered content, and new ad revenue-sharing models (e.g., YouTube, Crackle, Current TV), amateurs and semi-professionals are now creating lower-cost advertising content.

   3. Measurement – Advertisers are demanding more individual-specific and involvement-based measurements, putting pressure on the traditional mass-market model.

   4. Advertising inventories – Ads will be bought and sold through efficient exchanges, bypassing traditional intermediaries.
There is no question that the future of advertising will look radically different from its past. The push for control of attention, creativity, measurements and inventory will reshape the advertising value chain and shift the balance of power.
Change is a part of every industry, but the changes we are seeing now are coming more rapidly than ever before. My take-away? Stay informed to prosper in this rapidly changing environment.

Dec 16

Have You Created a Google+ Company Page Yet?

Google Plus

So the big question is:
Why do I need a Fan Page on Facebook and a Google+ page for my company?

There are several reasons to jump on the Google+ bandwagon. Yes, this means one more social media channel to keep up with, but it will become a very important tool for your placement on the web in the near future. Google has become the largest and most successful search engine to date.

Most of us refer to Google as a verb, as we did for so many years with Xerox.

"Google It."

While Google may not be thrilled about this, it has become a way of life for so may of us. So, what does this have to do with company pages on Google +? It has everything to do with it. In my opinion, Google+ pages will become the official pages on the web under the Google search engine. This means your profile pages and company brand pages will be among the first items to show up on Google when searched. That in itself should be reason enough, but if not, here are a few more:

  1. The +1 button is deemed by many as the fastest growing recommendation widget in history, with more than 1 million websites and receiving well over 5 billion impressions a day. More importantly, it’s how Google will use this data in the near future. This will be used to connect users and serve them relevant content they seek. This button will become an vital part of web development and search engine optimization. You will also be able to obtain analytics from the button, which is important for you as a brand to know what your audience likes. The +1 button will become another measurement tool for Google to rate rank and place your content.
  2. The Hangout feature can be used to host focus groups. This is just one of may ways you can use this feature. This will create activity and conversation for your page. The social media blog Mashable did this a few weeks ago and had great success. The topic was, “What do you want to see on the Mashable page?” I wasn’t able to participate in the Hangout, but I did monitor the participant feed on the topic, along with 50 others, and I have to say it was a great experience.
  3. Using Hashtags can be another great feature for your brand page. As of right now, Facebook has not jumped on this bandwagon, but I’m sure it wont be long. Hashtags are very important when it comes to social media. They allow a user to quickly filter information based on that hashtag. If you click on a hashtag in Google+ it’s as if you searched whatever term is attached to the tag. Twitter does this better than anyone right now.

While it’s still early and only time will tell how much impact Google+ will have, you can only assume it will be a big player in the social media arena. I have a feeling the next item Google will be integrating into Google+ will be the Place Pages. If you think about it, what could be better for your Place Page than adding a social component to it. It would definitely make your Google Place Page more relevant, with hashtag reviews, holding hangout sessions, and allowing people to +1 it and share it.

Yeah, that’s right, the new verb is going to be +1 (if not, something like it). I’m excited to see what Google does in the next few months.

As I was writing this post I came across HubSpot Blog post on Google+ Business Pages. They are offering up some good advise on tactics to Jumpstart your page. 

What are your thoughts on Google+ company pages?

Dec 09

3 Holiday Social Media Campaigns To Make You Smile

Gimbel’s Manager: Why are you smiling like that?

Buddy: I just like to smile, smiling’s my favorite.

- Elf

Well, I know why I’m smiling. I love this time of the year and what I love even more are the creative holiday campaigns that inspire us to give back. Here are three social media campaigns worth checking out.

1. #GoodSpotting - The Case Foundation

Since social media is a strategic focal point for this philanthropic foundation, it’s no surprise they’ve taken a simple concept - document people and businesses doing good - and are integrating every facet of social media to encourage and share participation. They payoff? Besides feeling good about yourself and helping others, the foundation has arranged a sweepstakes with $500 in holiday spending cash and a $5,000 donation to your nonprofit of choice.

Check out their kitschy promo video below:

2. December to Remember - Lexus

Lexus is taking December to Remember - the company’s annual sale and promotion - to the next level by integrating social media with holiday philanthropy. This year, through Jan. 3, Lexus will donate $5 to Toys for Tots each time someone shares one of its “big red bows” on Facebook and Twitter. The donation is capped at $100,000.

3. 12 Days of Giving - Walmart

This year, the mega-retailer is using Facebook to solicit nominations of nonprofits who people think should receive part of $1.5 million the company is distributing in grants this season. The campaign, called 12 Days of Giving, benefits people in need of basics like clothing, food, shelter and baby supplies.