To be 13 again…

Floating Cars

In honor of 2013, HB is introducing “Blog the 13th.” That’s right! On the 13th of every month, we’ll share a special post with you (we promise it’s not as scary as Friday the 13th).

I recently sat down with my 13 year-old son, Johnathan, to get his perspective on technology. I was looking for some riveting, insightful and potentially surprising answers about what he likes, expects, and desires from technology. I was “shocked” at the complexity and detail of his answers… well, I guess I wasn’t terribly surprised, so I went to my 15 year-old daughter, Jane, for backup.

Q: What do you find the most engaging and contagious technology?

John: Cell phone. Why? Talk to friends and play games. And go on social networks… I guess. What social networks? Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. They’re kind of addicting.

Riveting.

Jane: Twitter. Why? It has so many updates and I can follow people that I want (it’s selective) and they can follow me without me HAVING to follow them. Everyone uses it. What do you use it for? Basic life updates and sometimes texting in real time back and forth. I don’t do it that much because I don’t want to flood the twitter feed.

Q: If you had an app that could do anything, what would it do?

John: I don’t know.

Captivating.

Jane: It would learn everything about me and give me advice about anything I ask it. Totally personal to me.

Q: What do you think technology will do for you in 10 years?

John: I think it will be faster, lighter and more mobile. What do you mean? Smaller. I don’t know… floating cars.

Floating cars?

Jane: I think technology will be used even more in schools and throughout our lives. Touch screens and connected technologies to control everything in the house, my car, my life… from anywhere at any time.

Q: What would you do without technology?

John: Basketball. No, I mean what would you do without “technology”? Basketball.

Oh boy.

Jane: I grew up with technology so I have no idea what it would be like without it… read more. Play more board and card games. Have to find more ancient ways of communication. It would be less social because everyone would be less connected. Technology gives me access to other people’s lives.

“Ancient technologies”? I feel old.

These kids have far less wonderment about technology than people who didn’t have it growing up. It’s simply an ordinary part of their lives. Does that commonplace attitude forecast more innovation or less? As Jane says, we’re moving to a world where everything – and everyone – is connected. What will the world look like then? How will communications look? Will our books and libraries and keys to open doors and more everyday life staples become “ancient”? Is the future really “floating cars”? Maybe. Regardless, technology is an ever-changing, captivating and awesome part of our lives.

13 Marketing Resolutions For 2013

In honor of 2013, HB is introducing “Blog the 13th.” That’s right! On the 13th of every month, we’ll share a special post with you (we promise it’s not as scary as Friday the 13th).

To kick off Blog the 13th, marketers need to think about what changing priorities a New Year will bring, and what that means for you, your business and your clients.

January 1st is like hitting an imaginary reset button; to take advantage of this opportunity and consider your marketing resolutions for next year, here are 13 of our suggestions:

  1. Don’t count on luck. It’s important to take risks, but don’t hit go on an idea and wish for the best. Create a plan.
  2. Step back, slow down. Take an honest look at your marketing activities in the past year. If they were non-existent, does it make sense for you and your business to consider a change in 2013? If your company is a marketing machine, take a step back and evaluate all facets of your marketing plan. Was PR successful in 2012? If the answer is yes and you think it could be even more successful in 2013 with additional investment, consider making a change.
  3. Kill your darling. Next year is a fresh start, so don’t hold on to anything that proved to be useless last year. For example – you sponsored several trade shows which resulted in virtually no leads but ate up a significant portion of the marketing budget. It’s time to reevaluate. Or you clung onto a marketing theme that was inconsistent with your overall messaging, but stuck with it because you loved the idea of it.
  4. Be practical. Big ideas are important, but it’s often the little things that count. Set measureable and realistic goals that you can chip away at during the next 12 months.
  5. Measure. Monitor. Reward. Measurement remains one of the most critical activities we can do as marketers, and still one of the most challenging. Since 2013 is the year you’ll set measurable goals, make sure you monitor progress throughout the year. Have a tough time doing that? Set up a rewards system as incentive. It doesn’t have to be something big, but make it something that will motivate you.
  6. Use money to make money. Businesses have held on to their cash for a few years now. With the economy warming up, it’s time to invest in growth.
  7. Demand message alignment. A critical review of a business’ creative assets will show more often than not that its website language, sales material collateral, press releases and other items tell different stories. Rather, make them tell the same story, but in different ways to appeal to each specific, intended audience.
  8. Explore new media. In general, people like to stick with what they know. Expand your horizons and consider a marketing activity that, while out of your comfort zone, may pay big dividends. There are so many new ways and places you can tell your story in 2013.
  9. Don’t jump on the social media bandwagon. Just because it’s popular, that doesn’t mean you have to do it. Ask yourself first – is my target audience on social media? What do I hope to accomplish through social channels? Do I have time to devote to social media? Define your goals first before you decide it makes sense. And then commit to success.
  10. Create meaningful content. With the internet at your fingertips, you have access to a never-ending resource of fresh content. While it’s important to be seen and heard, make sure you add value with your curation.
  11. Make a personal and intimate connection with your audience. Doesn’t matter who your audience is, but know to whom you’re selling to and make a point to connect with the right people, not all people. Consumers and B2B buyers alike respond to content and ideas that map to their interests.
  12. Listen More. Talk Less. While marketing may seem like a whole lot of talking at people, the most important part is listening. Make it your mission to listen more than anything else next year.
  13. Create your own resolutions and stick to them! What are your marketing resolutions for 2013?

Burst the bubble: discover something new

UnPanel

At last week’s UnPanel at FutureM, the topic of discovery dominated the conversation. In a marketing world with strong social ties, folks shared their thoughts on today’s discovery tools – specifically how people find new music.

Spotify, iTunes, and other music services offer their versions of new music through “related artists” tools. A user might also find “listeners also bought” lists. These form our social “bubbles,” or groups of people with seemingly similar tastes, likes, and lifestyles.

The simple theory: like-minded listeners may also like similar artists, albums, or songs. That’s how we find “new” music. Seems simple enough, right?

Seriously, what is new?

HB’s CEO, Nicolas Boillot, raised an interesting point during the UnPanel discussion:

“How do we reach folks outside the bubble?”

In the world of music sharing, it’s not an easy task. There are potentially hundreds of thousands of music fans who would buy an album… but may never come in contact with the artist through their music service.

So is this considered “new” music? Does the definition require that the first introduction to the music be random and not through a recommendation?

Marketing to the new

Here’s the challenge: You need to market to groups that may be in your target audience but have yet to be reached. So what strategies will help deliver key messages?

  • New language: marketers can try reaching a “new” group through different words or key phrases. One group may like affordability while another like reliability.
  • An inch deep and a mile wide: cast the net wider but with more general tactics. Try promoting a product’s value – not necessarily that it’s up to certain technological standards.
  • Go old school: the delivery mechanism provides alternatives. Just because you’re offering a digital product doesn’t mean the marketing needs to be digital. How about a tried-and-true three-dimensional direct mailer?

To go beyond the bubble – to the true new audiences – we must be willing to try new tactics. The language, style, and delivery mechanism are only a few alternative solutions.

Reaching outside the bubble is possible… it just requires a “new” way of thinking.

What happened to my big-screen TV?

BIg screen television

The big-screen, flat-panel television: an in-home entertainment game changer. More pixels and high-definition signals created amazing, high-quality images for television shows and movies. These TVs became commonplace in many homes where bigger is better. Larger dimensions create a better experience when watching a sporting event, concert, or movie. Size matters.

So what happened to all that real estate?

Since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, news and sports stations have added scrolling tickers to their broadcast. At the time, this seemed strange – but now it’s expected. On that terrible day in American history, we were able to follow multiple stories at the same time: the live broadcast and updates from those at ground zero.

In the 10+ years that followed, users have received their news less from broadcast television and more from web sites and social tools – the so-called “second screen.” Someone watching television will simultaneously access their phone or tablet for additional information. These changes led to the biggest shift in high-def TV.

Information, not size

Television broadcasts are shifting away from “the most pixels make the best picture.” Instead, televisions are using that extra space for more information. What was once a beautiful 42″ display has now been reduced to 2/3 of its size because of graphics, charts, and information.

Take the third presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. The broadcast cared less about showing as much of the candidates as possible and more of the “pulse of the nation” – something typically found on Twitter and other social tools. Less face time, more information.

Counterintuitive

In a world of second screens, does it make sense for television broadcasts to fill precious pixels with information found elsewhere? The television industry is already considered to be behind the rest of the technological world (why are cable boxes and their interfaces terribly designed?).

For the smart networks, they’re relying on mobile web sites or apps to deliver secondary information to the user. A perfect example: Conan on TBS. Their iPad “sync” app does precisely that – during a broadcast, you can sync your iPad in order to follow along with the show, in real time, with secondary information. In this example, TBS can use as many pixels as possible towards their comedy bits and beautiful celebrities while their audience still shares in the experience of additional data and information.

The lesson: use the tools as they were intended. Keep it simple and rely on compatible strategies to deliver additional information to the user or viewer. It makes for a better experience – and a better use for your television!

Professional Growth the HB Way

At the beginning of 2012, Nicolas and Kevin challenged HB team members to set individual professional growth goals, keeping in mind how they could benefit the company. One goal I set was to keep in tune with creative design trends.

Years ago I had the opportunity to attend the HOW Design Conference in Atlanta and Dallas. It was truly amazing! This year the HOW Conference was in Boston…who would miss the opportunity to attend when it’s right in our backyard?  Joesph Duffy of Duffy & Partners’ discussion was memorable and gave knowledge on using a “Visual Brief” effectively. Which will help HB for future initiatives.

Attending conferences and events allows for growth and learning best practices that can be applied in our daily jobs. The design field is constantly evolving so keeping up with the latest knowledge and tools is essential. Not only do I have a notebook full of key takeaways from the event but it also boosted my professional growth and helped me gain the necessary tools and continue to be successful.

To share the experience I used my new iPad, which I won at the Navitor booth, to develop a Storify document. Here are key snippets of social media chatter during the four day event.

Print Lives and Other Content Marketing Trends

Companies are realizing the power of creating and sharing “unedited” messages through channels that more directly reach their consumers, the need to infuse a strategy to support these branded content opportunities. We’re in a content marketing renaissance; HB suggests paying attention to the following trends:

  • Integrated marketing is back with a vengeance (and PR is part of it): Companies are choosing to work with firms that embrace and incorporate video, design, content marketing, search (SEO and SEM) and other creative tactics, coupling those efforts with public relations programs.
  • Video spreads like… a virus? Video is compelling, and websites and social networks now show and share video seamlessly. Companies are creating video at record levels, but not all video is good or accomplishes its intended goals. Successful videos tell good stories and move audiences to specific thoughts or behaviors.
  • Curation is not just for museums: Content curation is old school for the social media vanguard, but it is a new focal point for companies looking to develop independent “content centers” on their websites. These news and information centers can drive search, serve as educational portals and fill in the gaps between earned media (media coverage) and paid media (advertising).
  • Corporate journalists are in demand: Even the best executive blog posts can’t match the stories that trained journalists create. Larger companies have already started hiring journalists to frame their marketplace, share their information and define their industries through regular, in-depth reporting. This trend will continue as companies see the value in the independent and/or marketing content that staff journalists deliver.
  • TV is, well, TV: Broadcast outlets, television and radio, still aren’t capturing meaningful audience share to their websites. Master content creators for TV and radio continue to share redundant information through their websites, social media and branded content, ignoring the web’s major differences and opportunities.
  • Content marketing is seeing resurgence in college curricula: There is more hand-on classroom learning and internship opportunity for the next generation of content marketers. We hear about through our great interns and see it reflected in the online presence and savvy of new grads.
  • Content marketing budgets are increasing: According to a survey by MarketingProfs and the Content Marketing Institute, 60 percent of companies are increasing content marketing budgets this year.
  • White papers are evolving: Moving beyond static, lengthy and dry pages, white papers feature more digestible content, parsed out in smaller nuggets, supplemented and shared using social media. Video is emerging as a slicker, content-rich way to disseminate white paper findings and knowledge.
  • Print lives: Despite the troubles within the U.S. Postal Service and the dominance of digital, print marketing has reemerged as a tactile, creative and multidimensional way of sharing stories.
  • Trutho-Meters are getting better: Socially networked audiences waste no time in sharing both good and bad content. Fact-checking, sentiment-creation, good and bad experiences race across mobile channels at unprecedented speeds. This keeps content creators up at night, and rightly so. With audiences so networked and willing to communicate, successful organizations must maintain uncompromising standards of truth and integrity in their communication, all the while keeping their audience interaction rapid and genuine – sometimes a difficult balance.

Interested in reading more about these trends? Please visit the Global Business Hub blog on Boston.com for Mark O’Toole’s extended post.

Could Facebook Replace College Fairs?

University recruitment through Facebook

This guest post is contributed by Katheryn Rivas, who writes at online university.  She welcomes your comments at katherynrivas87@gmail.com.

Traditionally, recruiters utilize college fairs to persuade stellar high school seniors that their college is the absolute best. It happens once, at most twice, a year. But with recent budget cuts, some colleges are turning to a more affordable, interactive, and most importantly faster way to increase enrollment: Facebook.  In fact, 98% of colleges use Facebook to recruit and communicate with college-bound students, according to data collected from a 2011 survey.

While using the popular social networking site is a hip, fresh, and “youthful” approach, is it really a reliable way to recruit?

Faster Response Rate

Through a Facebook college liaison, students have access to a real person at all times. Even if the student doesn’t know who to address when writing on the college’s timeline or sending a personal message, someone on the other side monitors the account and responds. Younger generations also tend to respond quicker to Facebook messages than traditional email – so if an admissions officer or recruiter has something important to say, students are more likely to respond to the message faster. Fast communication, both outbound and inbound, can do a lot to cement a new relationship. [Read more…]

The power of the comment

Crowd

Chances are you left a comment on Facebook or retweeted on Twitter today. If you’re fancy, you may have done the same on newer social sites Pinterest and Path.

Are we leaving blogs out in the cold?

Home base

Your business calls its web site and blog its home. Branded messages and campaigns may live on several (or several thousand, through AdWords) other web sites.

But your home page – and your blog – houses your customer community. A comment left on a blog comes from a true “subscriber,” someone who chooses to read your work or receive the latest updates through a news feed.

Design and media

Even better, the visual experience of a blog post far surpasses that of Facebook, Twitter, or other social offerings. As an author, you can work with your creative team to include video, photo galleries, infographics, or type treatments to call out specific parts of your post.

The main course

Sure – your Facebook page and Twitter might offer your customers the “sweets.” Giveaways, campaigns, and discussion can take on a life of their own.

But your blog – rich of nutrients and vitamins – is the main course. Treat it well and it will do the same for your community.

Control vs. continuation: a shift in marketing strategy

Last week, I overheard a conversation between our PR team and a representative from a prominent wire service.

“When I started, we concentrated solely on media. We differentiated ourselves from our competitors through speed – as soon as you faxed something to us, we had two people proof it as soon as possible.”

That was only 10 or so years ago.

Then, media strategy stressed control. An agency suggested key messages – and that would be the only thing you heard from a business.

Lack of control

And then the internet happened. Through the birth – and rapid explosion – of social networks, companies soon learned a then-awful truth: they no longer controlled their messages and stories.

The customers had a new playground to express their opinions. Gasp!

Embrace uncontrollability

As companies learned to harness their networks over the last few years, the power of the customer grew exponentially. Companies now interacted directly with customers… and often, the customers drove business decisions. What a novel concept!

The shift to continuation

More recently, companies’ social strategies matured into something Gary Varynerchuk called “continuing the story.” Instead of fearing the uncontrollable, businesses began crafting their own story… and extending it online with a microsite, hashtag, or Facebook URL.

Customers are now characters, taking the beginning of an idea and crafting it into a story of their own, providing ample opportunities for brands to re-engage.

Now that’s continuing the story.

What is Google+?

Google+

“You don’t even know what the thing is yet.” – Sean Parker, “The Social Network”

Much like Justin Timberlake’s line from the 2010 film, “The Social Network,” this Google+ “thing” has yet to find an identity since its launch in June of last year – and that’s okay.

The platform offers some of the same things as other major players Twitter and Facebook:

  • follow other users’ news streams,
  • share interesting content via text, links, photos, and videos, and
  • comment on others’ posts.

However, there are two unique offerings that help separate Google+ as its own platform.

The power of search

As we all know, Google dominates the search market. Google+ offers users and businesses the added bonus of search traffic to their accounts. Now, your bio, content, and posts are all searchable content. In fact, Google created controversy with their recent announcement regarding Google+ content appearing in Google searches.

Businesses can heighten their brand awareness efforts with engaging content on their Google+ pages that will accompany searches about their brand, product, or service.

Let’s hang out

The second unique feature comes from Google’s take on video chats. They’re called Hangouts, or impromptu video chats with dozens of people.

With a few simple clicks, you can invite certain people to private chats for collaboration and communication, or offer a public forum for topical discussion. I see great potential in Hangouts for businesses. Companies can offer previously impossible direct contact with their customers to provide support and recommendations in the hopes of extending the customer’s relationship with a brand.

Only six months into its life, Google+ sits in prime position to grow in 2012. Will you grow with it?