Vine: Still Overlooked as a Brand Builder

By Mark Evans - July 25th, 2014

vine-logoMany brands that either are in social media or want to be, tend to face the same problem. They don’t have the bandwidth or staff to create the digital presence that they desire.

Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram seem to be the hubs where most brands feel the need to invest. While there’s a lot of merit to that, the one that often gets overlooked is Vine, and this is something that needs to change.

Not only is Vine insanely popular (40 million registered users) but it allows you to create fresh content in the form of videos, which just happens to be the most popular form of communication between the web and users.

There are many reasons to adopt Vine for your brand. it’s easy to use and the time commitment isn’t as great as some other networks. It’s simple enough of a technology that you don’t have to learn about hashtags, pinning, filters, etc…

It allows you to be spontaneous, inventive and creative – everything a brand should be in social media.

As much as we prompt readers to invest their time in Vine, it seems that many brands are still resistant. As well, small to medium size businesses are not signing up in droves as they should be.

You can create quick videos that can educate, instruct or just flat out entertain. There’s nothing not to like about it.

You can have instant video content in the palm of your hand, it makes just as much sense as Facebook and Twitter while offering something wholly different.

Out of the major social networks it allows for the most creativity. Digital marketers should rejoice that they have an option to escape the box and have some fun. The only limit is their own creativity.

There’s no doubt that it can build a brand. It allows a doorway into what you want to achieve and how you want to be perceived by your audiences.

Best of all, it’s measurable.

Have you invested in Vine yet? If not, why are you waiting?

From Customer to Champion

By Sheldon Levine - July 24th, 2014

Any successful business knows that turning customers into repeat customers is of paramount importance. But companies with true marketing savvy don’t merely get customers coming back for more — they turn them into champions for their brand. The latest research shows that consumers now trust word-of-mouth recommendations from families, friends and followers over marketing messages from companies or brands more than ever , meaning that businesses with the most loyal and vocal communities often come out on top.

But that’s easier said than done, right? Not so fast.

Marketers invariably overthink what it takes to turn customers into champions. In fact, companies spend countless hours and resources developing elaborate social media campaigns in the hopes of building social engagement and, in turn, their bottom lines. But the truth is: “Likes” don’t equal dollars. Most social media campaigns persuade some at best, and offend many at worst.

Bing Insensitive Tweet

According to social media specialist Peter Shankman, the not-so-big secret to developing communities that are local and vocal can be simply to provide a customer experience that’s above average — which in many cases, exceeds expectations.

“The concept of ‘Liking’ ‘Friending,’ ‘Following,’ and ‘Fanning’ is going away,” says Shankman, keynote speaker at last month’s Social and the Customer Intimacy Imperative. “If you go to a restaurant a lot, you don’t need to ‘Like’ it, because clearly, you already do. The key for companies is to create an exceptional customer service experience, or as is often the case, an experience that merely reaches one level above what’s expected.”

Marketers who still believe champions are won on social media fail to understand its purpose. Social is the world’s greatest forum, focus group and digital water cooler. It provides companies with a fire hose of insights directly from their audiences that are essential to improving products, narrowing marketing focuses or responding to issues – especially if the right monitoring and analytics tools are used. But when it comes to winning new customers, the word-of-mouth endorsement is still king. And when it comes to turning customers into champions, nothing takes the place of superior customer service.

Does Social Media Belong in the Classroom?

By Mark Evans - July 23rd, 2014

social_media_classroomSince 2010, digital technology has been implemented and featured in many classrooms across North America. Sometimes in small ways but more so in grand ways evolving how students learn.

Now is the time for social media to take a seat at he front of the class.

We live in innovative times with social media at the forefront, and the potential advantages to our education system is remarkable.

Blogging, Google+, Twitter and Facebook have become essential learning tools and it seems like they are not going away anytime soon.

Not only is the knowledge of how to use these social networks key, but ensuring that young people understand how to use them safely needs to be taught.

Social networks are great tools to learn and connect. Google+ and Twitter can allow you to bring different perspectives into your classroom from all over the world. It fits the budget of every school since it is essentially free.

If you are discussing certain current events, why not bring in an expert or someone experiencing it without having to fly them in. 

Allowing students access to the world and different viewpoints that they just can’t get from textbooks is a game changer. Consider the authors, CEOs or historians who would be willing to join in for an hour or do a Twitter Ask session.

The same can be said for having students learn about different industries and companies. Really, the possibilities are endless.

Social media can be powerful tools for collaboration, opening doors for students and teachers to work with peers to share and learn. Social media expands the classroom in so many ways.

Herein lies a great opportunity for brands to connect with young users, but the opportunity isn’t to sell. It’s to brand and communicate and also to learn. Incredibly valuable as you can imagine. It doesn’t just have to be on career day either.

No one is hindered by time and geography anymore because. Learning should not the last stone left unturned by social media or the digital world, and all indications are that it will not be.

Weird Al Knows How To Stay Relevant In The Digital Age

By Sheldon Levine - July 22nd, 2014

weird-al-mandatory-funIn a world where everyone is competing for attention via whatever screen happens to be in front of your eyes at the time, it may not always be that easy to get people to pay attention. Add to that, being a musical genius, but to a relatively niche audience, that’s been in the game for over 30 years. How do you get people to pay attention?

Well, if you’re Weird Al Yankovic, you go on a musical marathon across the web.

Last Tuesday, Weird Al, the king of the parody song, released his latest album entitled Mandatory Fun. But rather than let the record companies release one song as a single and handle the promotion, Al took matters into his own hands to make sure that his new songs spread across people’s computer screens.

Weird Al did a promo for his latest album by releasing a music video a day for songs from the album that was aptly called #8videos8days. Every day for 8 days a new Weird Al music video appeared online, but always in a different place, which really added to the genius of this promotion.

Weird Al is no stranger to stirring up attention when he has a new album release. Dating all the back to 1984, Weird Al would go on TV stations that played music videos (back then being MTV and Much Music in North America) and take them over for a few hours at a time with what he called Al TV.

But today, there’s no real music channels left on TV as people have switched their focus to watching more and more things online. Especially music videos. So, in true fashion of understanding his audience and today’s youth, Al took things online as well.

Weird Al teamed up with some of the most trafficked websites that show videos, with a focus on sites that show humour videos, and released a video a day across these networks. Some of the websites that Al enlisted for help include popular humour video sites like Funny Or Die and College Humour, but also video networks with a bit more of a spread than just funny videos like Yahoo! Screen,  Nerdist and even the Wall Street Journal.

By doing this, not only did Weird Al get to promote himself across a wide variety of channels that could offer him different kinds of exposure, but each website where he released his videos promoted Al as well by being able to say “this video is exclusive to our site.”

Then, to tie all of the sites and work together, Weird Al promoted the whole thing with the hashtag #8videos8days so that those that were interested just needed to search for that hashtag to find where the video of the day was being posted.

The whole thing was rather genius.

So, how did the whole thing work out? We took to MAP, our social media monitoring and analytics software, to quickly check.

A search for mentions of Weird Al or his Twitter handle @alyankovic over the 8 days of his promo (July 14-21) show that he was mentioned in over 287,000 social conversations. We found Weird Al being talked about in 3,301 blog posts, 3,513 online news articles, 26,621 forum postings and 254,008 tweets.

Sysomos MAP - Activity Summary

Now, these aren’t the same numbers as you’d see when Beyonce releases an album, but they’re still quite impressive for an artist who falls into a very niche category.

The idea was to get people interested in Weird Al again, and it seemed to work. On top of all those mentions he received over those 8 days, it was also impressive to see the interest rise around the world. Below is a geo-location heat map that shows where tweets about Weird Al were coming from, and they were coming from everywhere.

Sysomos MAP - Geo-Location Heat Map of Tweets

Weird Al has always seemed to be a master of promoting himself and we think that he’s brought that mastery into the digital age for his latest album.

What can you learn from him? Know where your audience spends their time online. Learn to diversify and don’t spend all your energy on one channel when you can cover many that actually make sense to target. And most importantly, do something interesting that will grab your audience’s attention.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

And, if you want to see all 8 of Weird Al’s new videos you can view them on his official webiste, but here’s our personal favourite in which he parodies Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines to call out how people butcher the English language (which we run into a lot as we spend a great deal of time in social media and it drives some of us crazy):

To hoax or not?

By Mark Evans - July 20th, 2014

The foolNews flash: the Internet is not the most honest place on Earth. And as high-profile hoaxes of late have shown, dishonesty online can have a myriad of effects.

A YouTube video revealing a shark in Lake Ontario went viral in early July. Within days, Discovery Channel fessed up: the video was a hoax intended to market its Shark Week, but the campaign was so successful parents were discouraging their kids from swimming in the Great Lakes. The pro-science, pro-health channel could hardly be seen discouraging children from physical activity and enjoying nature.

Before the reveal, even the most astute of social media mavens and traditional media outlets got snared in this net. It called to mind the wonders of April 1, 2014, where just about everyone (particularly Google), was putting out questionable news stories, tweets and videos — with many of them getting traction.

The hoax, like the traditional in-person practical joke, never seems to get old. It works when the news posted is outrageous, but also touches a nerve — such as an injustice, or when it offers free money. Celebrity deaths are often picked up. Faux job ads will make the rounds. Lately, content with video (easy to cook up with today’s editing tools), particularly entertaining ones, will get traction.

The hoax as a marketing tool is one social media marketers should handle with care. The content may seem funny in the office. But does it somehow offend as part of the joke? Will a person or a business experience a loss of reputation because of what you’ve done? There are victimless crimes, sure, but not that many of them.

More importantly, while the hoax never gets old, the Web is wising up. Once bitten, twice shy. Any outlet who got caught by the shark video is going to be extra wary next time. Annoying certain folks can make a campaign backfire and lead to brand damage.

As the window on this opportunity closes, would-be-hoaxers need to do due diligence before they try their own stunt. Does the message match what you’re trying to accomplish? Will there be no harm? Is there a plan A, B, C and beyond if things go badly? Is there follow-up to capitalize if you get lucky and go viral? And, perhaps most importantly, is the hoax content truly entertaining? If you’re going to try to fool them, at the very least, do it right.

Derek Jeter Eclipses The MLB All Star Game

By Sheldon Levine - July 17th, 2014

RE2PECTOn Tuesday night Major League Baseball’s best of the best gathered in Minnesota for the annual All Star Game. This event is a highlight for all baseball fans every year as they get to watch all of their favourite players play together for one night only.

This year though had a bit of an extra special element to it. This year was Derek Jeter’s last time to appear in the All Star Game as the very well known and soon-to-be hall-of-famer will be retiring from the game at the end of this season. And while the game itself was a great one to watch, Jeter’s last appearance seemed to be the focus of everyone watching.

Using MAP, our social media monitoring and analytics software, we were interested in looking into how the All Star Game resonated in social media. When we looked up direct mentions of the All Star Game or their official hashtag, #ASG we found nearly half a million mentions of the game on Tuesday. These mentions consisted of 677 blog posts, 544 online news articles, 2,166 forum postings and 495,468 tweets.

Sysomos MAP - Activity Summary

As we started to dig a bit deeper into the actual conversations happening in social media that contained mentions of the All Star Game, we started to see a trend. Looking at our buzzgraph of conversations across all channels, we found that Derek Jeter’s name seemed to have the strongest links to almost all points of conversations around the All Star Game.

Sysomos MAP - Buzzgraph

We then looked at some of the most retweeted tweets that came from conversations around the game. Of the top 5 most retweeted tweets about the All Star Game every single one made mention of Derek Jeter.

Sysomos MAP - Most Retweeted Tweets

The trend continued when we looked at the top hashtags also being used when people were tweeting about the All Star Game. Of the top 10 hashtags being used, 5 of them were in reference to Jeter; #Yankees (Jeter’s team for his 20 year career), #DerekJeter, #Jeter, #RE2PECT (which is from a Nike’s Jordan brand commercial paying homage to Jeter) and #FarewellCaptain (because Jeter is the Captain of the Yankees and arguably the whole MLB).

Sysomos MAP - Top Twitter Hashtags

Even on Instagram, Derek Jeter seemed to be the focal point of the All Star Game. A search for the #ASG hashtag being used on Instagram came up with 105,331 photos, and if you look at the sample of photos below you can see that most of them also seemed to focus on Jeter.

Sysomos MAP - Instagram Activity Summary

After seeing all of this, we decided to look into just how much talk on Tuesday actually focused on Derek Jeter. So, we plugged his name and all of the hashtags mentioned above (minus the #Yankees one) into MAP and found something incredibly interesting. Mentions of Jeter on Tuesday totalled over 690,000. 906 blog posts, 2,390 online news articles, 1,417 forum postings and 686,132 tweets all made mention of Jeter. Those numbers eclipse mentions of the actual All Star Game by almost 200,000.

Sysomos MAP - Activity Summary

Do you think that the MLB veteran deserved all this attention? Did he steal the thunder of the rest of the All Star Game and the other players involved? We want to know what you think in the comments.

And finally, just because we do love and respect the man, here’s the Nike Jordan’s RE2PECT commercial (which is also just a fantastic tribute to a legend). Enjoy.


Superman Meets his Match in Social Media

By Mark Evans - July 16th, 2014

baldwin_statue.jpg.size.xxlarge.promoIt seems that Superman was no match for the strength, speed and power of social media, which erupted after DC declined to allow the Superman logo to appear on the statue of a young fan who died from abuse at the hands of his grandparents.

Jeffrey Baldwin died in 2002 from septic shock and starvation. Years later, a Kickstarter campaign was used to raise $25,000 for a sculpture to be created in his honour. The statue was to have Jeffrey dressed as his favourite superhero, Superman.

DC Entertainment decided not to allow the statue to use the Superman logo, citing trademark laws and other legalities. 

Needless to say, social media erupted in a fury leaving a mark on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit. While it took too long according to some, DC did reverse their decision.

Once again, the power of social media was on display. Brands need to be on high alert and recognize that every decision they make is now under the digital microscope.

It’s easy to fault DC in this instance along with the other entities who own parts of the trademark, but social media users were particularly vigilant.

While you can respect DC’s initial decision in some part for various reasons, one of their missteps was not seeing the onslaught coming once the decision was made public. 

Brands, especially those who are historic or operate on the global stage, need to be prepared and ready to protect their reputation across social platforms. 

The message will always be to have protocol in place that can help a digital marketing or communications staff deal with any crisis. Constant monitoring is essential all of the time, but if you know arrows are about to be shot your way then you need to be right on top of it.

DC might not have been prepared, and they did the right thing in the end. This is an important lesson for brands. 

Which Hashflags Waved Highest During The World Cup?

By Sheldon Levine - July 15th, 2014

After a super exciting 32 days, the World Cup is finally over.

Not only was the game play throughout the tournament exciting, with 171 goals scored to tie for the most goals scored during a World Cup, but the social activity around the event was a whole event itself to try and keep up with.

One of the cool things that was abundant in the social media world during the World Cup was Twitter allowing users to display “hashflags” for the countries they were supporting. Launched just a days before the tournament started, Twitter allowed users to display country flags right in their tweets by simply typing in a # with the three-letter country code beside it.

List of all Hashflags from Bleacher Report

We thought that the hashflags were a genius way for both Twitter to get a little more involved in the World Cup (past the tremendous amounts of real-time talk during the matches) and for fans to show their support for the team they were cheering on. But how much were these hashflags used?

We took to MAP, our social media monitoring and analytics software, to find out just how many times each hashflag was raised. We plugged in the hashflag hashtags and searched over the 32 days of the World Cup to find out.

What we found was actually quite interesting. As it turns out, how a team actually performed during the World Cup didn’t always correlate to how often their hashflag was used.

While Germany took home the World Cup, their hashflag was actually beat out by Argentina’s who came in second in the tournament. This may not be so surprising after seeing our post last week that showed Germany wasn’t getting as much support in social media from their homeland as Argentina was going into the finals.

The United States also showed great pride for their team during the tournament with their hashflag being the fourth most used of the 32 teams, beating out the Netherlands who actually placed third in the tournament.

For the full counts of each hashflag, see the chart below:

Total Counts For Country Hashflags Over 32 Days of World Cup Play

We also put all of the hashflag count numbers into a pie chart so that you could visually see the difference in the share of voice each country’s hashflag garnered throughout the World Cup.

Share of Voice for All World Cup Hashflags

We also thought it would be interesting to look at how each of the hashflags was used over time. It’s no surprise here to see that each country’s hashflag would spike in usage on days when they played a match. Below is a chart of all 32 team’s hashflag usage spread out over the 32 days of the world cup. Unfortunately, 32 teams in one chart makes it incredibly hard to read, so below that we’ve also broken down the charts to only include 8 teams, or 2 groups from the original group play round, at a time.

Popularity Chart of All World Cup Hashflags

Popularity of hashflags for Groups A & B

Sysomos MAP - Comparison Popularity Chart of Hashflags from Groups A & B

Popularity of hashflags for Groups C & D

Sysomos MAP - Comparison Popularity Chart of Hashflags from Groups C & D

Popularity of hashflags for Groups E & F

Sysomos MAP - Comparison Popularity Chart of Hashflags from Groups E & F

Popularity of hashflags for Groups G & H

Sysomos MAP - Comparison Popularity Chart of Hashflags from Groups G & H

Lastly, we hope that you were keeping an eye on our Sysomos #WorldCup Hashtag Tracker during the tournament. This dashboard was used to visually show where mentions of the official #WorldCup hashtag were coming from. In addition to showing where the hashtag was actually being used over the course of the tournament, we were also keeping a running tally of which countries were using the official hashtag the most. Now the the World Cup is over, we have the final tally and without further ado, here’s the top 10 countries that used the #WorldCup hashtag over 32 days of play:

Sysomos #WorldCup Hashtag Tracker - Top 10 Countries

We’re curious if any of these numbers above surprise you? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

What Goes Viral?

By Mark Evans - July 14th, 2014

stock-partyThis past weekend, a teen from Mississauga did what lots of teens have done in the past: announced a get-together on Facebook. Somehow, this innocent announcement of a small, private event spiralled out of control. The word spread via social media, the party eventually developed its own hashtag, and even a paper flyer went out (put together by persons unknown).

The teen’s parents ended up calling the police when droves started arriving at their home. For four hours, if you can believe it, police stationed themselves at the house and turned prospective partygoers away. The cops even sent out their own social media messages, warning visitors that they’d be met with a police cruiser upon their arrival. They claimed their word prevented even more visitors. But still.

This party gone wild is yet another example of a social media message inexplicably going viral and having real-world consequences. There are other viral instances no one wants: the politician saying something sexist, the athlete caught on video, drunk at a party. Marketers, meanwhile, would love to know just how to command an audience in the millions for their story, video or image.

So academics and social media groups have put their minds to studying the phenomenon; trying to crack the viral code so those who want to go big can do so. Here’s what the research says:

-Positive material spreads faster than negative, according to one study. Rage has the most velocity, according to another.

-Evoke emotions: shock, awe, pity, alarm. Further to the above, really — emotional content is what people want to share.

-Be practical. Service-style information gets traction. Makes sense: we all want to know how to do stuff like get healthier, live better and make more money.

-People share what they think others want to know or hear about. This really puts the social in social media.

-Studies are showing that long posts attract the most links. Meanwhile, multimedia content is more likely to go viral than text-based material.

-Be funny. Humour has been working in traditional advertising for decades. In online content, it’s key for everything but the most serious content.

If that seems like a lot of bases to cover, that’s because it is. In truth, we don’t yet fully understand what turns a get-together into the biggest party in town. But we’re getting closer to understanding the odd modern phenomenon that is viral content.


Avoid Trendjacking at all Costs

By Mark Evans - July 14th, 2014

XHK0Kyo-360Every day in social media there is a topic that grabs the attention of users across all platforms. For the past month it’s been the World Cup along with strife in the Middle East.

Last Friday though, the topic of Lebron James returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers was all the rage. Users from all over the world and many popular platforms were discussing it and its implications as the story continued to break.

For brands who wants to build their social media presence, it’s always a good idea to get involved in these conversations where appropriate.

What you always want to avoid is what is commonly referred to as “trendjacking”. This is where a user or brand elbows their way into an online conversation and tries to take over. It never feels natural and organic and has the potential to do more harm then good.

This doesn’t mean you have to get involved in every conversation and it is sometimes best to stay away from the serious stuff unless it directly correlates. When entering into more serious territory it’s best to not promote in any way.

If you are a digital manager or managing the social media account of a brand, than by all means get involved in big stories of sports, culture or community. The idea is to be part of the conversation without hijacking it.

Your content or posts need to be original and relevant, and the ultimate goal is to get involved without turning other users off.

The Lebron James signing is a great example because many brands on Twitter kicked into creative overdrive in order to take advantage of the increased activity. Some brands prospered from it and saw their clever posts retweeted, and others had to delete their tweets before the digital ink dried.

One of these brands was Tide, who came up with a funny tweet about how their product can “wash away the last four years”. It is believed they removed it because by using an image of Lebron’s jersey they could have encountered from legal trouble.

Just remember, it’s okay to get involved but as a brand you have no ownership over a conversation.