You’ve Cat to be Kitten Me: A Quick Lesson on Cats in the Media

I recently switched desks, moving to another section of the office.

As I broke a sweat hauling a bookshelf, client folders, pictures and knick-knacks to my new space, I realized how much of my stuff is cat-related.

Cat butt magnets.
My day-by-day tear-off calendar.
A sticky note dispenser.

(Mind you, these things were given to me. Okay, except the cat butt magnets.) But it isn’t just the tangible “stuff” that’s cat related, it’s also my social media feeds, news sites, emails, TV news segments, GIFs and more.

We all know that dogs are America’s favorite pet. But, IMHO, cats are the ones that are dominating digital media… search algorithms and Google crawlers aside. Nearly two million cat videos were posted to YouTube in 2014 alone, resulting in almost 26 billion views. That year, cat videos received more views per video than any other content category.

For example, since being posted in 2007, Keyboard Cat has received more than 48 million views (and counting) on YouTube. These countless hours of watching cat videos have led to some interesting research.

In a survey of nearly 7,000 people, the Indiana University Media School measured the relationship between watching cat videos and mood. Overall, participants reported fewer negative emotions such as anxiety, annoyance and sadness after watching cat-related online media than before. They also felt more energetic, and the pleasure they got from watching cat videos outweighed the guilt they felt about procrastinating (#preach).

These views, videos and memes eventually led to the world’ first CatCon, held in Los Angeles in June 2015. Modeled after ComicCon, the “cat convention” attracted 12,000 people that year. This year, the crowd topped 30,000, plus 162 cats.

In the media, cat-related stories tend to go viral. Per BuzzFeed’s “Beastmaster,” the average feline story gets almost four times the viral views as canine. That’s not even going into the social media behind it.

Hashtagify reports #cat having a popularity score of 76.2 (never fear, #dog is right up there at 75) on Twitter. However, it looks like cats aren’t spending as much time on Instagram. On the platform, #cat has a mere 124 million posts, compared to #dog’s 147 million.

hashtags data by

So, what’s a marketer to do with all of this information?

  1. Cat content works – well, really anything furry and cute works. Users can’t resist liking and sharing animals on the internet. Even in terms of B2B social media, don’t be afraid to break through the clutter with furry content. A cat GIF is sure to spark more engagement and produce more smiles.

  1. Cats are your competition – there are thousands of memes, GIFs and videos out there competing for attention. Use this as a way to challenge yourself to think outside the box when it comes to your strategy. At EMA Boston, we do our best to surprise people. This GIF was sent agency-wide to express this idea… it’s the perfect example.
    1. Animals trigger the emotional appeal of your brand and there is a direct connection between sales volume and the emotional connection your consumers have toward a brand. Build a friendship with your audience by using good humor or a soft story – remember this Super Bowl commercial?



    1. Millennials love cats (or cat content). If your brand is looking for a way to reach millennials, a good cat-themed campaign may do the trick. According to a survey by Mintel, 51 percent of Americans in their 20s and 30s have cats. Just sayin’.


    1. Marketing can be fun, people. Do we need another super-serious graphic filled with stats about the user journey or decline in white paper consumption? If you enjoy your own company’s marketing, guess what? Others probably will too.


    1. As the winter grows darker and colder, and SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder – Google it) begins to kick in, start watching cat videos. It’s cheap therapy. In the meantime, enjoy this cute picture of my feline friend.


Moving towards simplicity: It's not that simple

In our complex and confusing world, more and more of us strive for simplicity. It may not look that way on the surface, as we scramble to buy “stuff” (both in stores and online) for our homes: electronics, collectibles, furniture, books, and kitchen gadgets. However, we stroll to the mailbox to find a copy of Real Simple magazine.

Don’t you find that ironic?

Simple Marketing

At HB, we create simplicity. This can be an interesting process when working with high tech, clean-tech and healthcare. My colleagues on the “creative” side distill messaging for websites and promotional content. On the public relations side, we create news opportunities and media coverage with snappy sound bites.

Most of our technology clients are deeply entrenched in Big Data. We work side-by-side with them to tell the story of simplifying business processes. Structured and unstructured data. Industry folks use words such as optimization, streamline, and scalability. Translation: Simplify.

Simple Social Media

In social media, the new buzz is content curation.  Because of information overload, we gravitate towards online newsletters where a team of writers and thought-leaders curate relevant content into one publication with what they deem important.

On Twitter, it’s simple: 140 characters or bust. There’s no place for verbosity.

Simple Lifestyle

Hans Hofmann was an abstract expressionist painter (1880-1966). He said: “The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.”

How many times have you heard of people and families who decided to shun their “stuff” and lifestyle? Their destination: A 500 square foot cabin.

Following the terrorist attacks on 9/11, several people I know who worked in lower Manhattan and experienced the horror of that day quit their corporate jobs. The commute and pressure of being in the city was too much. A few started their own business, on their own terms. Others decided to spend more time with their young children. Each yearned for a simpler way of life. 

Occasionally my husband Andrew and I (briefly) contemplate packing a few bags and going to Idaho, or some other faraway land that seems a lot simpler. The conversation doesn’t last very long. Cell phones start making funny noises, our kids rant about school or the iPad, and an automated telemarketer is on the phone.

Simplicity is a beautiful thing.

My Simple Advice to Protect Your Twitter Reputation

Okay, this is wrong on so many levels: another hacked Twitter account.

Since the Twitter spam seems to be getting out of control, here are a few basic rules:

  1. Don’t have a s***ty password.
  2. Change your password occasionally.
  3. Don’t click on suspicious links.
  4. Don’t enter your password after clicking a link.
  5. No, it WASN’T you.
  6. No, he’s NOT 24, female OR horny.
  7. No, you DON’T look funny.
  8. No, you WON’T perform better by clicking a link.

These are basic rules, people. Don’t ignore them.

With apologies to the first poor bastard among my Twitter friends whose account got hacked and ended up in my Flickr (and now my blog) feed. If you recognize him despite the bar/blur, let me just say that his other tweets and DMs are spectacular and he now practices safe tweeting I’m sure. 🙂

5 Things I Hate About Twitter

To say I have a love/hate relationship with Twitter doesn’t even scratch the surface. I find the tool itself to be fascinating, useful and a focus of my day. But it’s also frustrating. As it approaches the tipping point of becoming a mass media I get the same feeling from it that I got from Second Life a social-media-lifetime ago. Twitter is a tool with great promise, but seems to shoot itself in the foot whenever it tries to reach that promise.

So what follows are the five things I hate about Twitter, followed tomorrow by the five things I love about Twitter.

  1. Who needs a business model? – Perhaps nothing frustrates me more than the fact that Twitter can’t seem to find any way to earn money. Worse, no one at Twitter seems to care. Since we’re talking about a service on which so many people are relying, it would be kind of like AT&T, in the early days of phone service, saying “we’re not going to worry about making money, we just want people to talk on the phone.” If Twitter runs out of cash all the servers go dark and all this work people are doing to build a following is for naught. Thanks guys.
  2. Numbers, numbers everywhere – People love seeing their Twitter follower numbers grow. It’s a badge of honor but also gives actual figures to the idea of “I’m more popular than you.” The only problem is that it really doesn’t mean anything. Sure, you could have 800,000 followers, but how many are engaged in what you’re doing on any given day? And if you’re following more than 1,000 people do you have any idea what someone says? Lists make this a little easier, but those will get unwieldy too. Analytics companies are starting to downplay the follower numbers and look at other factors, such as how often you’re retweeted or whether people mention your name. But none of this gets to the core issue of influence, which is much more difficult to measure. Still, numbers give the illusion of measurement when none really exists.
  3. That’s what she said… – It’s great to get retweeted, what a wonderful feeling. Someone loved what I said so much that they wanted to say it too! Yay! I’m a retweeter, that is, when I think something is relevant to my specific audience. But I’ve seen people become retweet central, in which most of their Tweets are not their own, but someone else’s tweets. In the news business people decry “pack journalism,” the idea that everyone covers the same story the same way. To me, retweeting is much the same idea. It doesn’t add anything new to the conversation, it’s just an echo. Why have your own audience if you’re just going to repeat someone else’s words? Worse, getting retweeted is a measure of how influential you are on Twitter, so we need to be retweeted to make up for the fact that the follower numbers really mean very little.
  4. Those features aren’t half-baked, they’re just chewyTwitter Lists came along and got pushed out to users long before it was fully baked. Yeah, lists are great (more on that tomorrow) but as of this writing there is no way to search list titles or descriptions and application developers weren’t given time to fully integrate lists into their services before it went live. So if you develop a list on Twitter, it doesn’t show up in Tweetdeck or on Seesmic, which for most of us is how we use Twitter (not the Website). Worse, Twitter didn’t take time to consider how they may be able to make money on lists, such as letting people max out at, say, 10 uses on a list but charging for more additions (see number 1). Not to mention that adding people to the lists is a clunky process. And yes, I know it’s technically in “beta,” but let’s be real here, beta doesn’t mean what it used to.
  5. The non-techie barrier – Non-techies just don’t understand the language we Tweeters use as if it were AP Style. All the @ names and hashtags look terrifying to a new user, not to mention all the abbreviations made necessary by the 140 character limit. Then there is the time problem; in order to get the true value of Twitter you need it running all day long. Like a toddler in need of constant attention, it sits on your desktop or mobile device spitting out new information just waiting to be retweeted. If you’re a non-techie, do you really need this constant influx of information? For most the answer is an unequivocal “no.”

Tomorrow I turn this all around and share the love. But in the meantime, what do you hate about Twitter?

Stop, Look and Listen: Your Customers are Everywhere

“My customers aren’t on Twitter.”

I hear that a lot. And not just about Twitter, but replace “Twitter” with just about any social networking tool and you get the idea. However, these assumptions are pretty dangerous.

A jeans and workboots guy at a job site in Boston

Taking a break from working on the job.

Let’s look at general contractors and construction workers who build skyscrapers and state-of-the-art hospitals. You’re probably thinking that these folks aren’t checking their twitterfeed or reading blogs online, participating in webinars, let alone viewing video blogs on their iPhones.

Well, you’re wrong. Vico Software, which makes software for the construction industry, gets 17 percent of its Website  traffic from work it does on LinkedIn. That’s nearly as much as it gets from Google. This is, of course, thanks to the work of the marketing team who works hard to keep the Vico User Group vibrant and updated, but they also reach out to the 27,000 general contractors they communicate with regularly on LinkedIn.

The executive team and product managers blog regularly about current industry news items, trends, and best practices.  These blogs are shared on LinkedIn and new discussions start every day, leading to new connections. According to Holly Allison, VP of Marketing at Vico Software, “The LinkedIn Community is ripe with networking, opinions, and sharing what works.  Our target audience utilizes LinkedIn and other social media outlets on a daily basis in order to stay one step ahead of the competition.  And in this rough economy, every advantage counts.”

Vico also hosts a bi-weekly educational webinar called Fridays with Vico. Over the last 5 quarters more than 7000 people have viewed one of those webinars, either live or recorded, with 25 percent of those being new prospects, all generated from social media outreach such as LinkedIn, Twitter or a forum in which Vico participates. As far as leads go, those 7000 people turned into an average of 90 leads a month to each US sales representative.

All this outreach has  the industry talking, with partners telling Vico executives that they see Vico Software everywhere.

Let’s move on from construction workers to teachers.

Credit: Chicago 2016 Photos via Flickr

Credit: Chicago 2016 Photos via Flickr

Picture a public school teacher in your head. She is on her own in the classroom, maybe with an assistant, but facing a roomful of children. What if she has a question? What if she needs help, on the fly, with a lesson? What if a student asks a sensitive question and she just doesn’t know where to go with it?

Twitter to the rescue!

Thanks to Karen Miller of, I learned how teachers are reaching out to each other through Twitter. So if a teacher has a question or needs help, he simply picks up his mobile phone, sends out a Tweet and in minutes has an answer from a community of teachers around the country.

So, what if you’re a company, like, that has a business model focused on attracting teachers? Then you get involved in those teaching discussions, and that’s just what Miller and her team do. That work has led to a boost in traffic for the young company and increased use among students.

So before you dismiss any social media tool as being “irrelevant”  to your audience, take a listen. You may be surprised at what you find.

Turning Social Media into Topical Media

I started a Facebook page. Suddenly I had friend requests from three dozen people I had not seen in years, among them relatives living on other continents. It was great to see everyone again. There I was in my home office late one weekend evening, having a little reunion with people from my past. Then the gloss wore off when someone IM’d me and we had nothing to say to each other. Awkward moment… how do you end that conversation? Fortunately, I had to put my son to bed. Well, um… nice chatting. IM you again sometime.

I went back to my Facebook wall the following day. I learned that one friend was taking a shower at that very moment, and one would be staying home from work on Monday to take care of her sick kids. A friend had forgotten his wallet on the bus, and another declared that she now prefers the taste of Tom’s of Maine over Crest toothpaste. The same friend had tried fallafel for the first time the previous evening. She liked it and would try to make it at home. Bored yet?

While I love people and their stories, Facebook’s personal content is often diluted to suit all “friend” audiences, and as such it becomes sterile. The sterile-content problem is addressed in an interview that Tom Ashbrook, host of NPR’s On Point, recorded last week. His guest, Vanessa Grigoriadis, just published an article in New York Magazine entitled, “Do you own Facebook? Or does Facebook own you?” This is a question I’ve often asked myself when looking at some of the Facebook addicts I know.

Yet despite the trivial, diluted content that might give Facebook a bad rap (and at times drive me crazy), social media are emerging as extraordinarily effective personal and business tools. [Read more…]