I ate lots of meat and learned a few things at SXSW

Mar 13 2013

Following is a list of the panels I attended at the 2013 SXSW interactive conference and what I learned from them.

The Economy of the GIF #GIFecon

From a simple animating file to a form of art, the GIF has grown up since it was first used 25 years ago and it’s currently experiencing a resurgence thanks to Tumblr. I went to this panel to support my friend Lindsey Weber but also hoped to leave with a few bits of knowledge for clients. Lindsey rocked this panel and if you look back at the hashtag on Twitter, 85% of the quotes came straight from her mouth. Unfortunately the other panelists left something to be desired but that’s because I wanted to learn more about how brands should be using GIFs and didn’t care to hear about how it’s been elevated to an art form.

Favorite quote


Sources in the social media age #sourceby

I’m not really sure why I put this panel on my schedule initially but when a friend mentioned he was going, it validated my choice and so I started my day early. The content of this panel was both too close and too far away to my area of focus to be interesting. I spent most of the time fending off vultures who wanted the seat I saved for my friend that never showed (nudge-nudge Matthew) and then left early. I learned nothing.

Favorite quote


Why Tiny Habits Give Big Results #bigresults

I really enjoyed the book The Power of Habit and thought this panel would also talk about how to leverage the psychology behind habit formation in marketing. While I didn’t walk away with many marketing gems I was compelled enough to sign up for one of BJ Fogg’s 5 day sessions. I am really interested in seeing if I can remove guilt and the need for will power as I work toward my goals of getting in shape and learning to code.

Favorite quote

“Get specific with your goal. Abstract goals don’t succeed.” – This made me think about how so many marketers set an engagement goal when it comes to social media. We need to drill them on what specifically they want and help define what engagement really means.


Deadliest Catch’s Twitter for Tough Guys #CatchSXSW

I went to this panel purely for the entertainment value and it didn’t disappoint. I heard more F bombs dropped before the panel even started than I had in the previous two days at SXSW. This was one hour of Sig Hansen unfiltered and I loved every minute of it. When you are a celebrity who’s been made famous by being raw and real you can be as crass as you want in social.

Favorite quote

“Social media is like a spider web. All you have to do is use a hashtag to build and expand that web.” This from Captain Keith the @crabwizard. He spoke more intelligently about social media than most “gurus” I’ve heard.


Democracy Games: Civics for the digital age? #CivicPBS

After hearing that people had been in line for the Al Gore panel for 3 hours I decided to stay put at the Hyatt and find out what Peter Sagal looks like. His words, not mine: “you’re a lot shorter and balder than I imagined.” This panel didn’t end up being a game of Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! but I did find it very interesting. The panelists included Gene Koo from iCivics.org and game designer Dan Norton. They talked about the games they’re making to teach middle schoolers about civics and how important gaming is to education today. The games actually look really fun to play and I’m hoping they can teach me a thing or two as I’m embarrassed to say I couldn’t remember what the three branches of government of were.

Favorite quote


Physical Products & the New Distribution Model #newmodel

I had a few other panels starred at this time but if I hadn’t attended his panel, Colin would likely have fired me. Once it going I was psyched I was there as it’s helpful to understand how small companies with practically no marketing budget are getting their stories out there and becoming successful. There’s so much big brands can learn from the tactics and strategies these small companies are using. For example each week Of a Kind holds a “customer of the week” meeting in which they use Google to learn more about their customers. It helps them get out of the trap many big brands fall into when they only focus on one demographic that was determined by some research study.

Favorite quote


Digital Time Machines & the Future of Learning #Giza3D

Maybe I secretly want to be a teacher as this was the 2nd panel I attended that focused on technology in the classroom. The Harvard professor leading this panel is using data from old maps and photographs to create a virtual reality of the Giza pyramids. One might think its a virtual reality like those found in games but the difference is that this one is based on data that’s nearly 99% accurate. In fact they have no idea what the models will look like until the computers are done rendering. Considering how quickly archeological sites degrade and how some, like Giza, can become difficult to travel to during an uprising, their work is extremely important. I can’t say I’ll use what I learned in this panel in my day-to-day work but it was fascinating.

Favorite quote


100 Year Starship: Interstellar Travel & Beyond #100YSS

What do space and LeVar Burton have in common? The 100 Year Starship project. As a disclaimer I’ll mention that The Barbarian Group just launched the website for the 100YSS but I didn’t work on this project and had no idea what it was about until SXSW. This panel absolutely blew my mind and not just because it featured LeVar Burton. The women were inspiring. Dr. Mae Jemison was the first woman of color in space and Jill Tarter was the inspiration for the book that Contact was based on. Their mission is to make interstellar travel a reality within the next 100 years. How awesome is it to consider that our children may be traveling outside of our solar system in their lifetime. But lots needs to happen in order to make that a reality,  the least of which is building a spaceship. They need people from all walks of life and throughout the world to get involved. I encourage you to donate here as I know I’m going to.

Favorite quote

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#Watergate – Poland Spring did the right thing by doing nothing

Feb 13 2013

I went to bed last night thinking Obama’s fist bump would be the most shared moment of the State of the Union address. Guess I should’ve forced myself to stay up a little bit later as it looks like #Watergate won out as the made-for-meme moment. Let’s pause and watch Rubio in slowmo…yup it was pretty awkward.

Naturally the great folks on Twitter jumped at the opportunity to spawn fake accounts and those will be somewhat funny for the next 24 hours until the Internet moves onto the next thing. That’s the thing with the Internet, it gets bored easily; it has a serious case of ADD. And that’s why everyone in the ad industry is tripping over themselves to figure out how participate in real-time conversations. It’s the viral video craze of the moment.

I give props to Oreo for being armed and ready to participate in relevant, real-time moments. It’s certainly helped them generate lots of buzz within the advertising world. But you’ll notice that they didn’t comment on the SOTU last night, a night when millions of cookie eating Americans were watching their TVs and active on Twitter. Why? Because it wasn’t a relevant moment for the brand. A cookie has no business getting involved in politics. And really, I question if it makes sense for any brand to get themselves mixed up with politics given how divided our country is at the moment.

So all you people who are blasting Poland Spring for not taking advantage of #Watergate just sit back down, take a deep breath and put on your thinking caps. Do Republicans drink Poland Spring? I think Rubio answered that question for us last night. So what exactly could Poland Spring have said about the moment that wouldn’t have risked pissing off a large percentage of their customers? Let’s pretend for a second that Poland Spring actually does have a social media team manning active accounts. If they did, then I applaud them for not getting caught up in the moment and posting a response to #Watergate as it just didn’t make sense.

Now let’s all watch that amazing exploding fist bump again cause it was pretty awesome.


obama fist bump

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Got Box?

Jan 10 2013

I’ve read loads of 2013 prediction articles and have even contributed to one, but after some retrospection I’m shocked nobody is talking about boxes. So I’m going to come right out and declare 2013 the Year of the Box!

It was just last Spring when the ever-so-trendy Kristin Maverick introduced me to Birchbox and it was love at first box. Every month I await delivery of my box and cannot wait to unwrap it once it arrives. I’ve been so enamored with their service that I didn’t think to seek out other subscription companies and it wasn’t until recently that I learned just how many different types of boxes exist.

Don’t have a box yet? Well what are you waiting for? There are a seemingly infinite number of boxes to choose from. What’s your hobby? Fishingknittinggetting down? Yeah, there’s a box for that. There’s even a site that’s dedicated to reviewing different boxes.

OK I admit that perhaps I’ve been living under a rock for the last year and this box fad has been around for awhile. I guess that’s what happens when you move to Maine and have a baby. This trend even has it’s own buzzword – subcom – for subscription commerce and sometime in 2011 someone even did an infographic on the trend. But I’m not backing down from my claim that 2013 will be the Year of the Box and here’s why – it’s like the IRL version of targeted Facebook ads, except they delight consumers instead of annoy them.

Think about your target demographic and what they’re interested in and you can find a subscription service that will reach them. Give that company a call and figure out how you can partner with them to deliver your product, or product information, to their subscribers in a meaningful way. It’s truly a “lean forward” marketing vehicle as the subscribers are eager to discover what new products they’ll find in their box each month. The reach even extends beyond the subscription base as consumers blog about the box contents. So in all seriousness, Got Box?

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The small details matter

Nov 06 2012

Small details can make or break a social campaign. The placement of a social button, pre-populated tweet copy, whether or not to Like-gate – details like these shouldn’t be considered at the last minute, they should be important decisions made during the UX phase. At The Barbarian Group, this is why members of the Earned Media team are involved in every project from the very beginning. We sweat the small stuff.


If you pay attention to the details, mistakes are easy to avoid. That’s why I get irrationally aggravated when I encounter flawed campaigns in the wild. And when it’s a campaign for a product or brand I care about, I get so annoyed I’m forced to blog about it.


Barack* typically kills it in the social space. Micro-payments, witty tweets, infographics – it’s all really great stuff. But the Facebook share functionality on his website could be improved. Over the past few days, his campaign has emailed out smart graphics that I would have liked to post on my newsfeed. But when I click through from the email, I’m dropped on a page that only has the share function. It’s missing the Like button or a prompt to simply post this to my newsfeed.


I don’t know about you but the share feature on Facebook feels spammy to me. When I see something I want to “share” I typically post it to my newsfeed so that all of my friends can see. If it’s something I only want 1 or 2 friends to see, then I’ll message them. The rare times that I have seen the share functionality used by my friends, it turns out that their account was hacked and they really didn’t want me to know how viagra changed their life.


Because this page used the share feature, I ended up not sharing it at all. Sure it would have been easy for me to copy the link and post it to my newsfeed, but I was annoyed. I was annoyed Barack had selected a list of friends for me. Annoyed that I would have to unselect each friend I didn’t want to share this with. Annoyed that he didn’t even give me a search feature to find the friends I might want to share this with. And so I closed the tab on my browser and moved on to my next task and Barack missed the opportunity to get his message in front of my 340 friends.

Share function on Obama's site


*Yes, he and I are on a first name basis; I have hundreds of emails to prove it.

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5 overused Facebook tactics

Jul 03 2012

I’ve managed a few Facebook Pages and understand how hard it can be to come up with fresh content everyday. Sometimes you want to do what’s easy or what you know “just works.” But I beg of you, stay true to your brand and your content strategy and stay away from the following overused tactics.

1. Fill in the blanks 

I know this one can help your engagement numbers and perhaps it’s OK every once in awhile. Please don’t overuse it and for the love of all that’s good, make sure it’s relevant to your brand.

 My answer “Docker’s khakis.” Oh wait…that doesn’t make sense.


2. Silly holidays

Did you know that today is Compliment Your Mirror Day? Do you care? There’s a bizarre holiday for everyday of the week making it an easy choice for filling up a content schedule. Again, use it sparingly and only if it’s relevant.

 Dunkin’ Donuts can pull off National Donut Day, but I’ve never been in a Best Buy that sold donuts.


3. Fan milestones

No one, except your CMO, cares when your brand reaches a 1,000, 10,000 or even a million fans on Facebook. So when you reach a milestone, pat yourself on the back and send your CMO a e-card.

 Only 836 of Chili’s 2 million fans cared


4. Like this if…

This is just another cheap way to boost your engagement metrics. Don’t use it.


Who doesn’t love the weekend? It’s an easy way to get a Like but if you aren’t tying in your brand in a way that’s useful to your fans, then you aren’t trying hard enough.





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Pinterest isn’t real life

Mar 29 2012

Late last year Pinterest became the darling of social media. You couldn’t read and industry blog without running into a Pinterest article. Around that time I decided I better jump in and see what all the hubbub was about. Well like hundreds of thousands of other women, I became obsessed.

I’ve never been a scrapbooker so at first I didn’t think the site was for me. But in November we were planning for Christmas, bought a new house and were expecting a baby. It was the perfect trifecta for Pinterest use. I started pinning design ideas for my home, decoration ideas for Christmas and items I wanted for the nursery. The visual method for cataloging was so intuitive and found myself visiting and pinning everyday.

Once Christmas was over, the baby had arrived and I became a part-time stay at home mom, something strange happened to me. I started to think I was Martha Stewart. I would browse Pinterest and see all of these beautiful DIY projects. When I clicked through to the instructions the bloggers would make everything seem so easy. Build your own bookcase from rain gutters? Sure no problem. Make your own Glow In The Dark Slime? Look how dang happy that kid is. After embarking on a few of the projects I had pinned I learned something. Pinterest isn’t real life.

In real life I don’t have oodles of time on my hands to plan out a craft project. Christ I can’t even spend 5 minutes in a store without a kid spiraling into a temper tantrum. Real life is messy and I’m sure that’s the case for 90% of the women on Pinterest. So I thought it would be helpful to show you what a DIY project looks like in real life.

Step 1 – Gather your materials

Other bloggers seem to spend time laying out their materials in an artful way. Like this one,  isn’t it nice how she laid out the bags of eggs? Well shit who has time for that? I just threw all of mine on the table.

Other how-to pinners also have these amazing craft tables. They’re clean, everything is organized, labeled and within reach. Well this is what mine looks like mid-project

Step 2 – Test your materials

Make sure your glue stick is fresh…um actually that’s not a step, that’s just something my freak daughter felt she needed to do.

That brings me to another point, other how-to bloggers don’t seem to have helpers but since I never get any alone time I have lots of them, and some of them aren’t that helpful.

Step 3 – Assemble 

Glue the eggs to the foam wreath. Don’t worry about laying out your pattern in advance because 4 year olds don’t like to follow directions. They’re going to put 4 green eggs in a row no matter how much you tell them it won’t look good.

Step 4 – Admire your finished product

When I started on this Easter Egg Wreath project I fully expected it to look like a hot mess in the end. But surprisingly the finished product turned out quite well. It certainly isn’t perfect but neither is real life. However if you want to try this on your own I recommend following this blogger’s instructions. Not only is she sassy but her life seems to be slightly less chaotic.

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Unveiling a new logo

Dec 06 2011

In October of 2010, Gap debuted a new logo on its site and instantly suffered a barrage of criticism. A few days later the president of Gap tried to explain the update hoping to change the opinion of their fans. He was met with deaf ears and a few weeks later Gap went back to their old logo, wasting the money spent on the redesign.

Uber clearly learned from this lesson. Today they unveiled a new logo but rather than just updating their site and hoping for the best they went to their community first. In a transparent email, Uber’s CEO explained the history of the logo and why there was a need for change. Uber is going global and the big red U would have been met with trademark infringement in other countries. Did I like the big red U better than the new logo? Yes, but who cares when this update means that there will soon be an Uber in every city I fly to. Thanks for explaining the change Uber and congrats on the big news.

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Social Media Hot Sheet – Week of 11-7

Nov 14 2011

Thanks to Noah King, Lindsey Weber and Jason Chan for their contributions to this week’s issue.

Brands as content curators


The short: The need for content filtering is greater than ever as we all increasingly suffer from information overload. In a TED talk and follow-up article on Mashable, Eli Pariser spoke to the flaws of the algorithm based filtering used in Google Search and in Facebook’s Edgerank system. Instead, he suggests that human editors do a better job of providing a balanced variety of content to users, building trust over time between the curator and the consumer.

Why it matters: While SEO techniques and paid media can help outsmart these algorithms and get your brand’s message through to users, there is an opportunity to act as content curators for your audience. Publishing a stream of relevant content and on-brand stories works to associate your brand with a wide range of third party content, while adding value to the relationship with customers. Through consistent, high quality content filtering, customers will build trust in your brand and will have yet another reason to regularly visit your owned media properties.


Brand loyalty in 140 characters


The short: The number of Twitter users in the US who follow brands was pegged at 21% in a recent study from Constant Contact and Chadwick Martin Bailey. 64% of these users cited being an existing customer as their top reason for following a brand on the social network, and half of them disclosed that following a company’s tweets upped purchase intent. Diving deeper in, the data revealed that 60% of these users were also more likely to recommend these brands to others.

Why it matters: While Twitter’s user base remains relatively small in comparison to Facebook–eMarketer predicts there’ll be 21 million users in the US by year’s end–this study shows how receptive they are to brands, particularly if the content allows followers be the “first to know.” 61% cited this as a primary reason for keeping up with a brand, highlighting the power and importance of exclusive, sharable information in driving affinity and ultimately, sales. Twitter’s recent, TV-driven partnership with Mass Relevance and Crimson Hexagon will also further the ability of brands to see and sort through what is being said about them in order to extract insights and optimize their strategy.


Instagram set for future domination


The short: Earlier this week at Beijing’s TechCrunch Disrupt, Instagram announced that they will soon add video sharing to the widely popular application. CEO, Kevin Systrom, said that the company’s vision “is to allow you to tell the story of your life” and that story includes videos.

Why it matters: While still only available on the iPhone, Instagram is 9 million users strong and is consider by some to be a social media channel. Fledgling companies like Postagram and Printstagram have tapped into Instagram’s popularity and created products by piggybacking off the service. News outlets including CNN, NPR and Daily Beast have taken a liking to the service, along with some major celebrities and brands. In a world chockfull of image-sharing locations, Instagram has managed to hold its own, and with the addition of video sharing, the service is definitely one to keep an eye on.


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Social Media Hot Sheet – Week of 10-24

Oct 28 2011

Thanks to Cody ShankmanNoah King, and Jason Chan for their contributions to this week’s issue.

Google+ rolls out innovation

The short: This week Google+ introduced 3 exciting new features to the young social network. Included in the release are “What’s Hot,” a new take on the newsfeed, “Google+ Ripple,” a data visualizer that shows the source of trending topics, and the “Creative Kit,” an updated photo editor with built-in filters and text application.

Why it matters: With Facebook continuing to hold an inarguable dominance in the social market, Google+ needs to keep rolling out innovative features to attract and establish a strong user base.  It is important that Google+ gain more of steady following before brand accounts are introduced in order to keep the site relevant and companies interested.  These kinds of exciting features may be able to serve just that purpose.

Africa’s mobile usage points to future of social

The short: A report by the United Nations found that many nations in Africa experienced 1500% growth of cell phone adoption rates over the last six years, with 75% of the population currently having access to mobile devices. This same explosion of growth is now being seen with internet access, and it’s expected that the number of connected Africans will soon rise well into the hundreds of millions.

Why it matters: As social audiences increase in size and cultural diversity, brands will need to adapt the content of their messages to be universally appealing and accessible. Those brands that are first to connect with users in the developing world will not only find an eager community of new social media users, but they’ll also benefit should any of the explosive growth translate to an increase in customers.

Video on the go

The short: Yahoo recently conducted a study on mobile web usage, with a focus on what video content users are watching and how much. Beyond the expected fact that users are consuming more of the mobile web than ever, the study found a 29% uptick in time spent viewing videos on devices, with one in five users accessing mobile videos daily. The most popular content remains sports recaps, weather and news, while 33% stream full-length shows, movies, and sports broadcasts. Despite the surge in traffic, 60% of consumers still seek a better user experience on mobile.

Why it matters: As smartphones continue to take over the mobile market and on-the-go technology improves, media brands have an opportunity to deliver customized, bite-sized content that plays to users’ interests. These companies should also look to create a richer mobile presence that not only meets user expectations for the increasingly critical space, but delivers a holistic brand experience across all platforms, especially since much of the time spent on mobile occurs before 1pm.


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Social Media Hot Sheet – Week of 10-17

Oct 21 2011

Thanks to Cody ShankmanNoah King, Lindsey Weber and Jason Chan for their contributions to this week’s issue.

Ads on WordPress.com

The short: During the Web 2.0 Summit, leading digital advertiser Federated Media announced a strategic partnership with WordPress developer Automattic to help brands connect with readers across the 24 million blogs on the platform. Starting in Q1 of 2012, WordPress.com bloggers will be able to opt-in to host ads while brands can place these ads on relevant blogs. With its recent purchase of startup Lijit Media, Federated Media now boasts a reach of nearly 250 million uniques in the U.S. alone.

Why it matters: This represents a mutually beneficial opportunity for bloggers and brands, with a potential revenue stream for the former and an engaged audience for the latter. An excellent supplement to blogger outreach, brands will be able to leverage sponsored posts, content curation and conversation targeting to ensure that their content and messaging is seen by audiences that matter.

Facebook proves effective in becoming media hub

The short: Last month, Facebook announced a series of significant changes to its platform, including the ability for brands to create the next generation of media-rich Facebook apps.  Spotify’s music streaming service was part of the launch, but since then, many additional media channels have followed suit.  The Guardian, a popular English newspaper, was one of the first news organizations to take full advantage of this socially integrated product opportunity and is expected to reach the one million user mark in just a few days.

Why it matters: Although Facebook’s recent changes were largely considered to be user-centric, it’s evident that many pioneering brands are taking advantage of the new ways to connect with their audiences.  Facebook is migrating from a social community to a full fledged media hub, where community members not only enjoy music, movies, news, and games, but also engage in conversations about the media with their friends.  With full integration of media consumption and social interaction, it is even easier for users to make the word-of-mouth recommendations that lead to increased sales and brand awareness.

Changes at LinkedIn make it friendly for marketers

The short: LinkedIn has recently made an enticing update for brands with the addition of the “Follow Company” feature. Brand accounts can now post status updates as well as gain analytics from the actions of their followers.

Why it matters: With the addition of status updates, LinkedIn is raising its game in the social network landscape. When people interact with the updates through comments, likes or shares, the information is pushed to their followers. Combining the potential for earned media with powerful analytics makes LinkedIn an important tool for any marketer

The future of TV is Facebook

The short: Facebook is “courting the TV business,” talking to major broadcast and cable networks about distributing shows on the platform.

Why it matters: With more and more online outlets making the jump to TV (GoogleTV), new social outlets revolving around TV (IntoNow, Miso) and traditionally TV-based outlets going social Hulu), it makes sense that Facebook would enter this arena. With its audience of 800 million, Facebook could easily become the go-to destination for TV on the web and perhaps make cable providers obsolete.

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