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What’s all the interest in Pinterest?

11 Mar

Pinterest for Digital MarketingAh the birth of a new social media darling…we all greet its ascension to the throne of social hyperbole with both excitement and caution.  Is Pinterest the next Twitter/Facebook or just the latest new inhabitant of the land of misfit social toys?   We have certainly heard it before, “you need to be on it”, “its the next Twitter”, “don’t be left behind”, or “get in early while you can stake your position.”  Now, I certainly can’t say that I have not been a victim of this land rush mentality before…look at Google+.  But, I really see an interesting tool developing here.  I have spent some time recently playing with Pinterest’s functionality and envisioning how it can help both businesses and people.  I really like it and you should certainly give it a look.

What is Pinterest?

Pinterest User Volume explodesLaunched in 2010 by Yale Graduate Ben Silbermann, Pinterest was developed to help people share their interests and passions by “pinning” those images to a virtual bulletin board.  Think of it as a visual Twitter.  While founded by a man, an astounding 80% of users are women.  For many women, it is a digital scrapbooking tool to share recipes, fashion, decorating tips, and more.  Interestingly, these are not your typical East or West coast influencers, but 18-34 year old mid-westerners.  Growth started slowly, but when they moved to an “invite only” model, usage exploded.  In January, 11.7 million unique visitors came to the site representing the fastest growth of any social networking site to top 10 million.  While that is remarkable, what is astounding is that in February, Pinterest drove more referral volume to other sites than Twitter.  Now that represents some very big numbers.

Why do you care?

While all of this is both compelling and interesting, is Pinterest somewhere you should be expending your marketing resources?  I believe that the answer is yes.  At the heart of Pinterest is sharing.  Pinterest is not an island unto itself.  You are connected to Facebook and Twitter with all of your friends and followers.  So, when you begin putting remarkable content onto your Pinboards, you can easily share it with your social world.  And, as more people share your Pins, it tracks right back to you.  As well, if you post content from your site including blogs and videos, as people Pin your content it will refer others to your site.  Finally, Pinterest is an outstanding tool for developing your personal brand.  I can think of no other tool that lets you so easily develop a storyline about who you are, what is important to you, and where you specialize.

What do you need to do?

Pinterest is all about the visual.  Note all of the sumptuous pictures of food.  But, even if your company or brand isn’t about beauty, you can still make a strong statement on Pinterest.  All you need to remember is to start with a picture and then develop your content around attracting people to the visual.  If you make it remarkable, Pinners will be attracted to it.  Here is how you should start:

  1. Begin by requesting an invite (or ask a friend who already has a Pinterest account– it is quicker)
  2. Sign up with your email address connected to your Twitter business account (not your personal Facebook email account, unless it is only about you, since Pinterest currently cannot connect to Facebook business pages)
  3. Fill out your Pinterest profile page (Don’t forget your logo and links to social sites)
  4. Create Pinboards (choose topics that define you and delete the “suggested” topics that populate your Pinboard initially)
  5. Add a “Pin it” button to your browser to easily add content you find that is Pinnable
  6. Populate your Pinboards (make sure to begin populating with meaningful content before you start promoting your Pinterest Pinboards)
  7. Create visual content (Refer to other content such as product photos, video links, ebooks, blog posts, or infographics in your market focus.)
  8. Build your Pinterest following (Select “Find Friends” invite Facebook friends or select Facebook friends who are already on Pinterest)
  9. Promote your Pinnings (Let people know through Facebook and Twitter that you have a new pinning, add the Pinterest logo to your website and emails, and share links through Linkedin)

Pinterest Examples:

Remember, Pinterest is young.  Right now, it might not seem like the perfect fit for you or your product.  Maybe, you have a macho product and it is hard to see it appealing to the current female dominated audience.  I am certain that as this product evolves, the categories will grow to represent a broader range of interests and demographics.  So, start your Pinterest page, begin experimenting, and learn from this tool.  You really don’t want to be left in the dust on this one.

The Five (and a half) Eternal Truths of Digital Marketing

2 Nov
The Five and a half Eternal Truths of Digital Marketing

What are our eternal truths of Marketing?

It has been a while…I guess, like many, I have been too busy with all of the things that take time up in life including work, family, and friends.  I thought it would be good to reconnect with Practical Digital Marketing by sharing with you my 5 1/2 Eternal Truths of Digital Marketing.  Let me know what you think.

  1. If you don’t have a message, it doesn’t matter what tools you choose to market your business.  You must know how to communicate consistently what is unique and special about your business. Without a message, the greatest marketing tools will be unable to help you succeed.
  2. Building a brand can’t always be quantified…even when you can, the numbers may be irrelevant.  Definitely develop metrics and measures of success, but don’t try to quantify that which can’t be measured.
  3. Simply having a website rarely guarantees web success.  Make sure your website is structured to deliver the results you want.  An e-commerce vs. brochure vs. lead generation site must be designed and promoted differently.
  4. Web “findability” is critical.  How will people find your site among all your competitors?
  5. Digital Marketing is about voices.  Does your online presence have a voice and a personality?  Are you listening to your customers’ voices?

and. 5.5.   Marketing is a strategy, not a tactic.  Twitter, Four Square, Digg, Email, web, PPC, and SEO are all tools and tactics…what is the strategy?
Bonus Tip!
LinkedIn is your business card and resume today…make sure it says what you want it to about you and your business.

Appy New Year: 10 Indispensable iPad apps you should be using this year (Part II)

30 Jan

More indespensable iPad apps

Here it is part dos…featuring some great productivity choices.  It really was hard to limit the list to just 10 favorites.

6.  Instapaper (Free)

What it does: Allows you to save interesting web pages you find for reading at a later point when you have time.

Why it’s great: Every day I find interesting web pages, people forward me interesting web pages, and I stumble on interesting web pages.  I don’t have time to read all of the “interesting” stuff I find during the day.  All I do is click on the “read later” button in my browser, and it is saved to my Instapaper account.  When I go to my iPad, click on Instapaper, I can then read the article at my leisure.  You don’t need an internet connection to read the article, but you do to sync your iPad to the web.

Worth noting: You are basically creating your own paper populated with the stories you want to read…how cool!

7. ReaddleDocs ($4.99)

What it does: A repository on your iPad for reading all of your downloaded   PDF documents.

Why it’s great: There are other PDF readers available, but none that do it so well.  It truly has become indispensible for me. When I want to have access to documents I have created, I save them as a PDF and store them on ReaddleDocs.  Bottom line, there are so many useful features to this product; I don’t have space to describe them all.  A must for anyone who downloads white papers, saves PDF documents, or receives PDF docs.

Worth noting: The key benefit to this product is how it connects your iPad to so many document sources such as Googledocs, Gmail, and even as a virtual drive on your PC.

8.  Teamviewer (Free)

What it does: Remote access and desktop sharing from your iPad

Why it’s great: When you need a quick and dirty way to logon to your computer at home or work remotely, it works seamlessly to give you access to your system.  I have gotten use to using my finger to replicate a mouse on my home PC…it really is great to email files you need when you are away from your computer.

Worth noting: There have been some discussion about security issues with remote access, but these are very rare.

9. Soundnote ($4.99)

What it does: This is a great app for taking notes on your iPad

Why it’s great: Soundnote allows you to both type your notes into your iPad while it records the information.  If you don’t get it all down, don’t sweat it.  Just tap on your text and the player skips to the audio portion that corresponds to your notes.  WOW…I could have really used that in college.

Worth noting: When you are done taking your notes, it is easy to share by emailing the audio and your notes as one document.

10. Quickoffice ($14.99) +GoogleDocs

What it does: Gives you MS Office capabilities on your iPad

Why it’s great: It is cheaper and in some ways more robust that the Apple offerings in this category.  Whenever you need to view or edit an Office doc you get as an email attachment, you can easily work in this program.  It certainly doesn’t replace you computer version, but it is very functional.  As well, it connects seamlessly to GoogleDocs for editing and sharing documents.  A great team!

Worth noting: If you want to use your iPad to do PowerPoints, you need this app to be able to project your presentations.

So here it is…my top ten.  I will add 10.5 by saying that Pinball HD app is worth every penny.  It really is like playing pinball…I love it!  Let me know what you think and if I missed a really special app.

Appy New Year: 10 Indispensable iPad apps you should be using this year (Part 1)

16 Jan

top ten best ipad applications

Happy New Year!  It is the time of year where I often like to take stock of my personal and business life.  I want to ensure that I am going in the right direction, changing things up, and hopefully, doing a few things better.  I also like to challenge the way I have done things in the past and begin incorporating new ways to work smarter, get more information, and enjoy my downtime.  So, it is with my good wishes (and a bit of bias) that I offer up my list of those apps that are indispensable and you should start using, if you aren’t already, on your iPad.

One quick caveat….I am an Apple guy and, in fact, am writing this on my iPad.  So these suggestions are for iPad users.  Many of these apps are also available for Android tablets, iPhones, etc., but this list will be focused in the Apple apps for the iPad.

1.  Spring pad (Free)

What it does: Creates a single point of contact for all the information you want to remember including bookmarked pages, movie recommendations, products you want to purchase, and tasks you want to complete.

Why it’s great: First, it organizes information into a searchable database where you can easily locate it.  Second, it enhances the information with prices, pictures, reviews, etc.  Finally, it syncs everywhere from your browsers tool bar, to your iPhone, and to your iPad.  It’s literally like your second brain…only with better memory than your firstJ

Worth noting: I love all the apps mentioned in this blog, but this is, hands down, my favorite.  You must try it out!

2.  Flipboard (Free)

What it does: Creates a customized magazine of news on the topics you think are important such as business, technology, green, etc. and turns your social media feeds like Twitter and Facebook into a vibrant magazine.

Why it’s great: Flipboard is a truly innovative interface that turns news from the web into “pages” that you can “flip” through.  But, the feature that I love is how each Twitter feed of only 140 characters is transformed into a full featured article complete with pictures, video, and full text.

Worth noting: OK…I didn’t get it for this reason, but it was named Apple’s iPad App of the Year, so that must mean something.

3.  Friendly Plus (99 cents)

What it does: It’s Facebook for the iPad

Why it’s great: If only Facebook could figure out how to create an interface that is so logical and intuitive.  I guess it took a third party to figure that out.

Worth noting: Can’t understand why Facebook hasn’t come out with its own iPad app.  In the mean time, I am not waiting and certainly am not missing it.

4.  Wall Street Journal (Free- but requires online WSJ subscription)

What it does: Provides the full daily issue of the newspaper in an intuitive digital interface.

Why it’s great: When a publication is designed from the bottom up to work on the iPad, it shows.  It is quicker to get through the digital version that the traditional paper.  I love the ability to easily forward articles to people and file articles in categories, so I can refer to them later.  Finally, the integration of video is excellent.  Many times I will listen to the video instead of reading the article.

Worth noting: Since downloading this application, I no longer look at my print version.  It is everything that the iPad hopes to achieve in delivering a better experience than the traditional medium.

5.  Netflix (Free-but requires a subscription to Netflix)

What it does: Streams movies and videos from the massive Netflix library

Why it’s great: As long as you have a Wi-Fi connection it is easy to catch up on all of the movies and TV shows Netflix has available to view.  I am blown away by the quality of the videos.  While dependant on the Wi-Fi connection, the images are generally un-pixilated and clear.  If you need to stop viewing, you can always resume where you left off…of course!

Worth noting: Netflix has become the source for every device/service looking to provide video on demand on the web.  After using this app, I am convinced this is the future and the cable companies should be scared.

Hope you enjoy the list…stay tuned for part 2 next week!

The Internet is a Place to Connect

9 Dec
Do More Mission

Do More Mission Does More

I sometimes feel like a pinball when it comes to web surfing. My day is frequently spent bouncing from site to site.  Often, a friend or a business associate sends me a link. Other times, it is just a mindless meandering that leads me to a site that when asked, I couldn’t tell you how I got there.  Today, I found myself at a site called Do More Mission.  Do More Mission is all about helping non-profits do more by operating better, and focusing on making every scarce dollar contribute toward achieving their mission. Do More Mission’s founder Todd J. Sukol wrote a recent post about the epiphany he experienced when he discovered that the internet is a place, not a thing. WOW…that is big!  Todd discovered something that many in business, and even marketers don’t get…the web isn’t about doing, it is about connecting.

Today’s Marketing Mix

The traditional marketing mix focused simply on the Four P’s, namely:  Price, Promotion, Product, and Place (a weak “P” standing for distribution).  In B-school we were taught how to manipulate these elements to drive sales for a given item.  If sales slowed, we might run a promotion or lower the price.  If things got stale, maybe we tweaked the product or looked for new distribution outlets.  All of these were actions we controlled.  The marketer determined a plan and “did” something to drive sales.

Today, the marketing mix is still relevant, but only a single component of a more significant effort to influence consumers.  As I mentioned previously when discussing Jet Blue, companies don’t own their brands, their customers do.  They hold all of the power.  The customer has the ability through the multiple outlets available on the web to influence a product’s perception, and both positively and negatively impact sales.  For the marketer wed to the Four P’s, this amounts to heresy. No longer can they improve sales by simply “doing”, they now must figure out how to influence customers and prospects who will influence others to “do” something.  This is a seismic shift.

Where’s the Connection?

The big discovery for Todd at Do More Mission was that the web is “the ether in which we live and conduct our day.”  How prosaic, but true.  The web has advanced from simply being a tool to find information, buy plane tickets, or order a new book.  It has become the base station of our lives.  It is where we keep up with old friends, meet new business associates, express our feelings, and impact causes.  But, it is not simply a single person’s actions.  The power of the internet is in how by connecting with our network of friends, associates, and even strangers, the power of our influence becomes turbo charged.   The web simply is about connecting.  Digital marketing today is about facilitating this exchange.  The goal is to create the connections that bring people together to create a larger impact…what many call a community.  Ultimately, that is how we “Do More”.

Tiger hasn’t found his…have you found yours?

28 Nov
Tiger Wood Apology

Where is Tiger's Voice?

It is Thanksgiving time again.  Many of you have already enjoyed the ritualistic and gluttonous feast, the awkward family gatherings, and the requisite, never ending, left over parade.  As well, we remember events from Thanksgivings of years gone by including, as recently as last November, that baffling accident which set-off the death spiral for Tiger Woods.  It is rare to see a public figure lose so much, so fast.  Not even his well orchestrated PR events, Nike ads, public acts of contrition have been able to stem the tide of negativity surrounding this once dominant golf figure.

Tiger’s empty voice

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, John Paul Newport derides Woods for his feeble attempts to manage the message prior to his one year anniversary of his Escalade hit and run episode.  Newport describes Tiger’s absolute inability to connect with fans, despite working an array of mediums including sports radio call-in shows, op-ed pieces, and Twitter posts (only 4 as of early last week).  Tiger is losing the PR war despite valiant attempts to communicate with his fans.

At the heart of Tiger’s message issues is his lack of a voice.  More specifically, he has had his thoughts so thoroughly homogenized by his cadre of expert message makers that when Tiger speaks it lacks authenticity.  When you hear Tiger, you don’t feel that you are really hearing him speak.  And that is a shame.  Because I am sure that Tiger has much to say that could be interesting, could be titillating, and could be redemptive.  But, he has no consistent voice and no personality, and hence, his audience is bored and not paying attention.

Does your organization have a voice?

Unfortunately, Tiger’s communication issues are not unique him, but face many businesses attempting to connect with their audience…customers and prospects.  With the voluminous, continuous stream of information emanating from the cacophony of internet sources, your target will not focus on your message unless it is authentic and has a personality.  Who wants to read Twitter posts that are nothing more than sanitized PR releases?

The key for an organization is to find its voice.  A voice is sometimes hard to describe, but a critical first step in a communications strategy.  Your organization’s voice can be defined among multiple dimensions, but it must be consistently deployed and refined.  In the end, the voice of your organization must give the impression to the reader that they are hearing from a person, not a droid.

It is important to answer these types of questions in defining your voice:

  1. Who is the communications being penned under?  (CEO, the everyman employee, communications)
  2. What is the style? (folksy, casual, joking, official)
  3. What types of issues will you comment on in your communications? (and which do you need legal/regulatory input, subject matter experts, or need to pass)
  4. How quickly will you respond to comments?

You can’t connect without a voice

In the Wall Street Journal piece, John Paul makes the case for Tiger to favor Twitter as an effective medium to connect with his audience.  And that may be true, but it will fail miserably if Tiger isn’t freed of the stilted, rehearsed language that bores his fans.  So it is for your social communications.   Your audience is looking for a little entertainment, the feeling of intimacy, and compelling thoughts.  They will only be willing to let you in if you recognize the need to speak to them in a voice that resonates with them.  The positive benefit of social communications is clear, but you will waste your time if you don’t develop your authentic voice that enables you to connect with your audience.  Where is your voice?  Don’t wait to find it, seek it out and make it part of your communications strategy.

Your Company Doesn’t Own Its Brand

16 Nov
The JetBlue Difference

JetBlue Rules the Skies

As I sit waiting for my wife’s flight, which is over 3 hours late, I am overcome with the belief that flying has to be one of the most de-humanizing activities we regularly engage in modern life.  Where else are you asked to wait in monstrous lines only to have to remove various  articles of clothing and, maybe, in the future, be x-rayed revealing your body in all its glory…and you haven’t even boarded the plane yet!  As you progress on your journey, you will be subjected to surly flight attendants, seats designed for Lilliputians, undersized overheads, and super sized fees for everything including, on some flights, the lavatories. Flying may be necessary for many of us, but that has never meant that it is an enjoyable experience.

The Jet Blue Difference

For this reason, it is with awe, and a bit of bewilderment, that I view the success of JetBlue Airways.   As the so called “Haggler” recounted in this past Sunday’s NY Times, he showers unusual praise on JetBlue which has successfully created a culture of empowerment where employees treat the customers the way they would want to be treated themselves.  And this culture has paid dividends for the company in the form of J.D. Powers top rankings, and the rarest of commodities today, strong customer loyalty.

The Ice Incident

Next to this past summer’s flight attendant down the emergency slide incident, many people remember the iconic disaster that was the 2007 ice storm that grounded the JetBlue fleet at JFK Airport.  As the Haggler pointed out in his piece, JetBlue should not be judged on these colossal PR explosions, but the day-to-day success that the company is able to achieve 99.9% of the time.  Yet, this incident held some very important lessons that JetBlue painfully absorbed after they had begun to recover from this debacle.

Specifically, Jenny Dervin, Director of Corporate Communications at a recent Business Development Institute forum discussed how JetBlue learned of the problem on the tarmac.  Instead of the company’s internal communications mechanisms alerting management, it was a phone call from CNN that went like this “One of our iReporters on a JetBlue plane just sent over a video saying that they were being held hostage on the tarmac at JFK…would like to respond to this claim?”  Well, for Jenny this was a wake up call that neither she, nor her company, owned the JetBlue brand, but their customers held all of the power.

Your Customers Own Your Brand

It is a testament to the strong culture at JetBlue that enables it to thrive in an environment where every customer is also a potential news source, reviewer, and brand ambassador.  With the ubiquitous availability of mobile communications, anyone can decide on the spot to broadcast their thoughts, opinions, complaints, and praise.

The ramifications for your organization are monumental.  Despite your efforts to shape your brand through advertising, websites, social media , PR, and the like, today your customers have all the power.  This means that every customer interaction whether in person or online has the capacity to make or break a brand.  The viral nature of online communications can positively or negatively impact a brand rapidly.  Your job, as your brand’s sherpa,  is to be cognizant of where the brand ownership truly rests and focus on delivering a nearly flawless customer experience every day.  The lessons and successes of JetBlue demonstrate that while it can be very scary, you need to take the leap and entrust your brand to a mostly unlikely owner…your customers.

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Ignore the Inevitable at your own Peril

9 Nov

U.S. News Ceases Publication

With its December issue, U.S. News and World Reports will cease to exist in its current print form.  In case anyone was paying attention, U.S. News stopped publishing its weekly edition in 2008, and then moved to a monthly version since.  It is still well known for its print speciality guides to colleges and hospitals which will continue to be in print…for now.  Subscriptions to U.S. News has dwindled to around one million.  While this may seem like a lot, in the crazy world of magazines, where subscriptions are almost given away in the hope of attracting a meaningful audience that will attract advertisers, most are losing money.  News weeklies, including Time and Newsweek, have struggled as well with the rapid movement from print to digital news.

Digital Readers Win

I remember when I got my first Kindle.  The feeling was similar to when I purchased my first iPod.  I recognized that this was a paradigm shift that was going to change my reading experience.  To be honest, it was a better experience including a built-in dictionary, easy marking, note taking, and the ubiquitous availability on my Kindle, laptop, iPhone, and iPad.  The printed magazine can’t compete with this arsenal of features.

I felt the shift again when I purchased my iPad.  Now I was getting digital magazines and newspapers that had enhanced features.  The reader experience in the Wall Street Journal is arguably better than the print.  I am stopping my print subscription.  And sure, I am an early adaptor, but the writing is on the wall.  We are moving inextricably from the hard copy print version of newspapers, magazines, and books to the digital equivalent.  This is an inevitable direction that everyone in business and marketing must grasp.

We Can’t Hold on to the Past

I have yet to meet a person, regardless of their pleading that they “love the feel of a book” or “need to turn the pages of a newspaper”, who hasn’t recognized the superior experience delivered by digital print.  And even if there is a sector of readers who will always want the book or the magazine, eventually they will fade away as a new generation of digital print savvy consumers take hold, similar to the niche who still prefer vinyl records.  We are just seeing the implementation of digital texts in schools and universities.  This will be a disruptive change that will create a whole new generation of consumers preferring to receive their printed media digitally.

Make Sure Your Business isn’t Left Behind

As a marketer and business person, you ignore these types of inevitable seismic shifts at your business’ own peril.  In our modern world, change is a given, and you either embrace it or face extinction.  Yes it is brutal, but we do not have the luxury of waxing poetic about quaint memories of obsolete technologies.  The job of American business is still business, and more aptly making profits.  To be profitable, you need to sense the change, not fight it, or hope it doesn’t take hold, but seek to understand it and learn how to adapt you business to profit from it.  So kudos to U.S. News for reading the writing on the wall and moving decisively and rapidly to change their business model.  They deserve our support and admiration.


Become social…or risk becoming irrelavant

5 Nov
The Social Network

Netflix changes social strategy

This is the message from Facebook founder and social scion, Mark Zuckerberg.  It seems that Netflix, the company that is always a little paranoid about the future, has decided that it isn’t social enough.  As described in a recent Fast Company piece, Netflix has pulled the plug on its Netflix Community.  Apparently, the community concept is so 2004 and the concept of a social community has evolved quite significantly thanks to our friends at Facebook.  The real issue for Netflix is the need to embed social community building into its offering and not simply make it an awkward add-on to the movie service.  It says a lot about the kind of company Netflix is, as well as the kind of company it wants to be in the future.  Netflix is smart to understand that customers want to share and to connect, but they want to do so in a natural way that in consistent with the product experience.  What this means for Netflix is not clear, they are not yet showing the offering, calling it “nascent”.  But, that is OK.  Admitting that you have a problem is the first step.

What this means for all business is that simply checking the box of having a Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter accounts is not sufficient if you want to truly reap the significant benefits that a strong social community can bring.  Every business should have a deep review and develop an  idea of what it means to be social for your business.  What does community really mean?  I have seen successful B2B and B2C social offerings across many industries…some you would never believe could be social.   What differentiates the good from the bad is the clear research and iterative revisions that make a vibrant social community.  Don’t put your head in the sand.  Act like a Netflix and admit you have a problem.  It will be your first step to NOT becoming irrelevant.