A Digital Perspective

#theoandbeau and The Land of Nod

Posted in Uncategorized by Tony on Monday

This month’s Land of Nod cover is an adorable picture of a boy wearing a superhero mask snuggling up with a dog. As the father of a 2-year-old boy, who is starting to develop a unique personality and take on life (including a cautious love for dogs), I really loved it. Turns out that the boy and dog featured are Instagram celebrities Theo and Beau, of @mommasgonecity. The Land of Nod reached out to them after seeing their social media fame. A bit more on the collaboration in a blog post on her site.

One of the things that I sometimes regret about advertising generally is that it features fake people doing take things. If you look at something like an ad for a menswear brand and you see a man with impossibly coiffed hair standing on a sailboat in a full tux, it does sells the lifestyle and product. What it doesn’t do is tell an authentic story. The Land of Nod cover tells a true, authentic story – the true love of a boy for his dog. It’s the kind of context and gravity that you simply can’t script or cast. This is why I think that social media can have such a positive impact on the mainstream advertising world (even as they converge).

Social media can become a silent casting call for brands looking to tell their story. You can find people living the lives that you want to depict in ads (and catalogs), and they often come with a built-in network of avid followers to help spread your reach. Followers also help a brand understand the audience segment that a given person/personality resonate with (to the extent that those followers self-identify – typically enough to get a sense of age, gender, location).

The Land of Nod is an excellent example of how brands should would with social media influencers, and not only on social. They have clearly made an investment in the value of social across their organization, even to the point of giving prime real estate – the front cover of their catalog – to developing relationships with those influencers and their fans. They are very active in doing nursery makeovers for top mom bloggers, which I’m sure has required a sizeable financial investment from the company. Based on how they are continuing with the strategy, my bet is that it is paying dividends.

There is Much We Can Learn from Link Shorteners

Posted in Uncategorized by Tony on Saturday

When I started working in the digital marketing world years ago, the one thing that surprised me the most was how much happens behind the scenes when you do anything online – click on a link, do a Google search, submit your email address, pretty much anything. And it really changes how you see anything online. I wanted to call out one example, and that is URL shorteners. I think there is a tremendous amount that we can learn just in a few minutes as we look at these shorteners.

The Beauty of Bit.ly

This is likely common knowledge among digital marketers, but something that I learned fairly recently. If you add a + to the end of any Bit.ly link or to a vanity URL shortener that has been created through Bit.ly, you can get basic analytics around how successful that link has been. This can be immensely insightful when trying to measure the effectiveness of industry or competitor content. For example, look at this (kind of douchey) Promoted Tweet from Nokia that I recently got in my Twitter feed:



There are a few things that I know from this and a few things that I would like to learn. I know that it was promoted (obviously). I don’t know how much Nokia invested, but I do know that they have paid media behind it. The Tweet is from May 8, so it is not fresh content by any means. It seems like Nokia would want to promote fresher content, but perhaps this particular Tweet was remarkably engaging with their fans. Looking back at the original Tweet, it does appear to outperform other content in their stream. However, much of this may come from the fact they have paid media supporting it.

This is where I find looking at the Bit.ly links helpful. If you look at: https://bitly.com/1kPXdBT+ (note the + at the end), you get the following information:





We can find out how many times it was clicked – 2,384. When you compare this to other posts, this performs extremely well. For example, a link posted in a Tweet from a few days earlier received ~395 clicks. My initial guess is that this post performed well because of paid media, but those suspicions are confirmed in the next chart.

In this chart, we see how the post has performed historically since it posted. For an organic post, you would expect to see a spike when it first posts, and then a long tail of clicks over time (perhaps with a spike here or there as someone with lots of followers RTs it). However, what we see is a sustained number of clicks over the course of weeks. You can reasonably infer that Nokia has been investing ad dollars consistently since early May.



The final bit of information we can get from Bit.ly is the geographic distribution. Not too much detail here, but you can get a sense that most of the targeted ad dollars were focused on the US (which makes sense, since it was Tweeted from the @NokiaUSA Twitter handle).



Workflow and Marketing Ecosystem Insights

Just a couple of final notes here on how much you can learn not only from Bit.ly but from Link shorteners generally. When we look back through @NokiaUSA’S recent posts, we see a few different URL shorteners that are being used. The straight Bit.ly link, Nokia.ly links, Ow.ly links (from other Nokia handles), NGX.me links. This may seem trivial, but I think that it gives us great insight into the marketing workflow and how many parties are involved in the creation and posting of content.

First of all, in the Bit.ly link, when you look at the analytics (above), we see that the link creator is an employee of a digital ad agency/technology provider. This likely means that a portion of Nokia’s social ad budget is managed by that agency, and it is unclear how closely integrated that ad management is with the overall content planning/response of the company. It may be very closely integrated, but not integrated enough to use the same link shorteners as the other posters.

When we look at the Nokia.ly links, we are able to get similar information as the Bit.ly links since Nokia.ly is a custom link shortener based on the Bit.ly platform. This is likely the shortener used by the primary social team at Nokia (whether it is handled internally or externally, we don’t know). Looking at the links they share, they seem to have an initial spike, and then a secondary spike a couple of weeks after content initially posted, which means there is likely an ad spend that the primary team manages, although it does not appear to be as significant as the budget managed by the ad agency.

One other thing to note here, which is particularly helpful, is that you can click on the Nokia USA profile on Bit.ly to see all of the Nokia.ly links that have been created and see where their social media team is actively engaging/creating content. For example, the profile is used to create links shared across the @DVLUP social media profiles, which is a developer forum that is lightly Nokia/Microsoft branded. You can look back through the last 10,000 posts if you find yourself with too much time and unquenchable curiosity.

As for the other link shorteners, the Ow.ly one simply shows that @NokiaUSA and other Nokia subsidiaries (@NokiaMixRadioNA, for example) are on different engagement platforms that probably aren’t integrated in any formal way. This is not a huge issue, but an indication that there may be some workflow issues as they try to become more integrated as business demands. NXG.me is a shortener owned by Engage Sciences, which is a content marketing platform of some sort. Looks like they either use the platform or a service to run sweepstakes such as this one. Interestingly, if you go to http://ngx.me/imcTjS+ (again, with the + at the end), you get some detail, but not the same level of detail you get through Bit.ly shorteners. Gives you what content tags are being used, and seems to indicate the campaign is run by Tern Bicycles and that Nokia is just a sponsor, although that is conjecture based on the tags used.


As we look at something as simple as a link shortener, we can use it as an indicator of how complicated the work behind the scenes is for a brand and how many moving parts, agencies, and (likely) politics are involved. We can also see how complicated true integration becomes across a brand’s digital presence, making social at scale difficult without major shifts in structure. I am not saying this is the case with Nokia, by the way. I am just using this as an example to look at real-world observations. I believe that in the next few years we will start to see a shift towards solutions that actually can be leveraged across a brand to improve the overall experience for customers and digital practitioners alike.


The Evolution of “Social Media”

Posted in Uncategorized by Tony on Wednesday

I have been working in the Social Media Marketing world now since 2009. That, by Social Media standards, is quite a while. I have seen an evolution of Social as a novelty act, to the panicked rush by brands to create their social presence, to what now seems to be brands taking a step back to try and figure out what it all means. Especially in a world where it costs a lot of money to even reach existing fans, etc., it requires companies to try and figure out value versus other actual dollar investments they could be making. And as they have done that, there are three things they have figured out.

1. You can’t have a good social media experience without a good customer experience. If a retail brand’s return policy, for example, is frustrating, then no level of responses from a friendly social media community manager will help. In fact, it will actually end up hurting the brand’s reputation. Consumers’ bullshit meters are especially sensitive once they are already worked up, and they turn to social media to complain once they are worked up. Look at brands that have been thoughtful about the overall consumer experience, and you will find brands who are loved on Social. 

2. Social media cannot operate in a silo. This is not news to anyone who has worked in the industry, (or who has any common sense, I suppose) but social media – response strategy, outreach, campaign development, analytics – is limited by a company’s willingness to integrate them deeply within its culture and business processes. For example, look at Uniqlo’s recent campaign, UTme!. It is an app that allows you to create a basic white t-shirt with a picture, typography, text, and share it with your friends across social channels and add it to the app gallery. However, it also allows you to purchase the shirt that you have created. This is what makes it cool, and also what makes it difficult on the brand side. I am sure that it required tremendous coordination between the Marketing and Manufacturing teams, as well as coordination with Legal to make sure they could handle images uploaded/printed with copyright issues, etc. This is such a great example of how social media campaigns look when social is really truly deeply integrated to the core of a business, not in a silo.


3. Don’t put all your eggs in the Facebook basket. Or any basket for that matter. Over the course of about 2 years, the Newsfeed algorithm has changed so dramatically that it has forced brands to invest literally millions in ads just to reach their existing audience. We can expect that to continue for Facebook, but also for other networks as they reach critical mass. Even if not officially limited by an algorithm, by sheer volume of noise to cut through. Part of the value proposition of building a social following is that it becomes an asset that you can leverage moving forward (similar to an email distribution list), with some attrition. However, Facebook has basically pulled this rug out from under many brands, shifting the expected value dramatically.

Increasingly, it will become important for brands to diversify their activity, even to potentially creating their own “social” experiences where they have greater control. Sephora’s Beauty Board, for example, is a step towards this. There is a large up-front cost here, but the payoff over the lifetime of the investment could be higher since a brand can define its own terms.

At the end of the day, social media will be defined as the way that humans connect as opposed to the underlying technology or network. As such, it will become more and more integrated within the fabric of a company as opposed to being a marketing tactic. It will be an exciting time to see how it continues to evolve and change over the next decade.

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It’s about the experience, not the medium

Posted in Uncategorized by Tony on Wednesday

I recently saw this GIF. It is simple but mesmerizing – a GIF of a roller coaster ride that was made into a flipbook. However, if you think about it, perhaps it’s not quite so simple. This was first a video. Then it was made into a flipbook. Then it was re-recorded on video. Then it was posted to Vine. Then that Vine was turned into a GIF. Which was then posted to Tumblr. It creates this Inception-like experience that you wouldn’t even realize unless you spent a few minutes thinking about it. Which brings me to an interesting question – does the medium matter?

As a child that grew up with long road trips to experience any new part of the country, I bemoan the fact that people spend weekends browsing Instagram feeds from friends in far off places, feeling like they are having new experiences. Does reading a blog about the East Village give you the same experience as living there? The short answer is no. (Unless you have smelled the East Village, you haven’t experienced it.) But the longer answer is, “maybe so.”

There is so much information and context that has started to exist in a digital format that the gap between virtual experience and real experience is closing. And it is not necessarily because of innovative new developments in technology (i.e. I am not talking about VR/Oculus Rift type inventions). It is because we have so many inputs that give us context that we never could have gotten years ago. Pictures posted across Social Media can give us candid moments of any time or place, from thousands of angles and perspectives. And we can get thousands of interpretations of that same moment from people from different backgrounds. In a way, we get more context than we would have being there in person.

This is all to say that our digital lives are creating a new way of experiencing life – not because of new forms of media, but because of new perspectives. Is a story best told on Facebook or Instagram or Tumblr or in prose? They all tell part of the same story, providing crowd-sourced context. Is it the same as how we would experience life 20 years ago? No. Is it better or worse? In many ways, it is both better and worse.

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Brief Social Conversation Analysis: Mavs vs. Heat

Posted in Social Media by Tony on Monday

I did not watch the NBA finals this year – live sports is the one area that I miss out on by not having a TV – but I did watch social conversation as my friends hated on Bron Bron. I don’t have a real opinion either way. I used to like Lebron and I thought it was fascinating how fast he turned the Cavs into a title contender. But once he started playing on the Heat I couldn’t watch because I find Chris Bosh hard to look at. Plus, I think the purchased talent such as the Heat and Celtics cheapens the thrill of the sport. This is generally, one of the reasons that I like college sports more than professional sports – you only have one Alma Mater, Cam Newton aside.

I have done a brief unscientific analysis of Twitter conversation. Mainly I am interested in seeing who people are rooting for – the Heat or Mavs. My hypothesis is that people  love to hate the Heat. I have broken the analysis down into two pieces. First, conversation of “Go Mavs” (and variants) to “Go Heat” (and variants). This is admittedly simplistic, but shows fan sentiment – if you include “Go Heat” in a Tweet, you are clearly a Heat fan. This will miss a lot of conversation for both teams, but yields results that are representative of overall conversation.

The second analysis shows mentions of the Heat to mentions of the Mavs. Heat conversation includes mentions of Heat players, including nicknames such as Bron Bron. The same is true for the Mavs. The problem with this is that a lot of conversation is just anti-Heat chatter. So if someone sends a Tweet that says “Can I get a binky for baby Bron Bron?” it would be anti-Heat, but would increase Heat conversation overall. And would not mention the Mavs.

Here we go.

Go Mavs vs. Go Heat

Generally what we see here is that prior to the Finals, there were more Heat fans than Mavs fans. The first time that we see the Go Mavs conversation overtake the Go Heat convo, it was the night that the Heat beat Chicago, meaning that the world knew that the Mavs were the last defense against a Heat championship. This, combined with overall higher conversation for the Mavs between that point and the end of the playoffs, indicates that the world was generally rooting for the Mavs over the Heat.

Mavs total conversation vs. Heat total conversation

This graph, as mentioned earlier, just compares total conversation around the Heat vs. Mavs. Note that these sample sets are not mutually exclusive. So this shows what people are most interested in – the Heat or the Mavs (and their associated players) – whether good or bad. So Heat conversation is “Go Heat” or “Heat, burn in hell.” What we see in the chart below is that most people talking about the game today were talking about the Heat, not about the Mavs, even though we see in the chart above that there are many more Mavs fans than Heat fan talking on Twitter. This means that we have a lot of anti-Heat conversation filling in the logical gaps in the data.

An interesting insight into the human psyche – see that first peak in conversation? Not where the game started, but where the 2nd-quarter scuffle broke out. Ah, how we love conflict.

Quick review of Vidpresso: Slideshare and video in lockstep

Posted in Brilliant Ideas by Tony on Wednesday

So I wanted to do a lightning review of a new video share technology that is in Beta right now, Vidpresso. The overarching idea is that you can sync slides from a slideshare.net presentation to a video on YouTube or Vimeo. This probably makes the most sense in an academic or professional setting where audio/video would make more sense if they were accompanied by some visual aids, and vice versa. It would be especially nice for online tutorials, especially from the standpoint where you can jump from one slide to the next (in the Details tab) and it will automatically take you to the corresponding position in the video.

Another way that this could be used would be to provide notes/feedback on a video that is in production/currently being previewed by a company. So a production company sends a video draft to clients and asks for feedback. The clients could watch the video, make comments in a slide deck, and then sync those slides to the video in Vidpresso and send back for revisions. May be a bit clunky for that purpose, but I think there’s possibility there, especially if there were an interface where you could create slides on Vidpresso that would then sync to Slideshare (not sure if Slideshare has an open API … prolly not) and as such to the video.

The product is definitely still in Beta, so a few UX pieces that need to be worked out. For example, I kept on getting error messages when I tried to create a new presentation. Turns out I just had to give the presentation a unique name to create a new one. But once a presentation is created, I couldn’t figure out how to go in and edit it. Small things like that I’m sure will be ironed out over time. And the resolution on the slides is hardly legible at times, but I wonder if that is an issue with Slideshare as much as Vidpresso. Not sure.

In brief, I’d say that the platform is promising and could have a lot of interesting applications for anyone in instructional fields who need a quick and dirty way to get slides and videos synced. There are some more elegant, but more complicated, solutions out there such as Echo360 for education (note: Echo360 is a former client), but the barrier of entry for those solutions is going to be infinitely higher.

Screenshot of the experience below, with the complete experience at http://www.vidpresso.com/presentations/view/cute-french-bulldog. I randomly selected a video of a cute Frenchie and then built slides around it, in case you didn’t guess that.

My five micro-seconds of fame on Pinterest

Posted in My bike fetish, Social Media by Tony on Wednesday

This is perhaps one of my proudest moments recently. Last night I put together this little bike mosaic on Pinterest. It was RT’ed by @Pinterest and a handful of other folks. I am still trying to develop a sense of personal style so I don’t embarrass myself by pinning things like pleated khakis, so until I do, this is what my Pinterest is.

Anyways, just patting myself on the back while I have the chance to do so. Now to go out and buy this bike and a sense of personal style.

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Easily make a fan-gated Facebook welcome tab

Posted in Uncategorized by Tony on Saturday

Facebook is an excellent tool for smaller brands who are just trying to get started among a small group of very active fans. It is also a nice tool for big brands with millions of dollars to spend on making their page and immersive, interactive experience. Unfortunately, small brands just don’t have the budget to create those same experiences. Often times their Business pages just look like a basic personal page, especially when they are managed by poor liberal arts degrees like me.

I want to run through an easy way to create a nice, effective welcome tab that is fan-gated (meaning that only people who Like the page can see the content on the tab) and can direct traffic to other relevant online properties for a brand. This is all free and very, very easy to do. I have run through the paces on my own personal “Business page.”

Step 1: Go to the TabPress Application on Facebook and click Like.

Step 2: On the TabPress Application page, click “Add to My Page” and add the Business page to which you’d like to add the application.

Step 3: Select the business page you’d like to add it to from the list of pages that you manage.

Step 4: Go to your business page and click on the TabPress application.

Step 5: This will open up a couple of dialogue boxes into which we will insert some HTML snippets, described later. After this step, we will be doing some visual design. But leave this tab open.

Step 6: Create the visual design for your Fan-gated tab. This is something you’d sit down with your graphics design department to do it you have one. But I’m assuming that you don’t, so we’ll do it in the non-graphic designer’s best friend – PowerPoint. Create a “canvas” that you will be working from, which will just be a box that will fit onto the welcome tab. Tabs on Facebook will live in a 520-pixel-wide space. Since PPT doesn’t measure in Pixels, set the dimensions of your box as 4.13″ high by 3.11″ wide. Add simple text and an image or two if you’d like to this canvas. In the end, it should be something basic that says in a nutshell: “Like us.” Here’s a screenshot of what that looks like in PPT for what I am designing. Using a puppy since it is so darned cute.

Step 7: Save the design as an image by right-clicking and grouping all elements, and then right-clicking and selecting “save as an image.”

Step 6: Upload the image of your design to an online photo album. I use Photbucket, but it could be anything similar. Just need to put the photo online somewhere you can get a direct link. Get the direct link.

Step 7: Add the welcome page to the TabPress application. Paste the following code into the box that says “Enter content for non-fans”: <img src=”ENTER THE DIRECT LINK TO THE WELCOME TAB HERE“</a> Take the direct link to your welcome tab image and paste it over where I have “ENTER THE DIRECT LINK TO THE WELCOME TAB HERE”. Once you have done this, the fan-gated part of your welcome tab should be ready to go. Click Save on the application.

Step 8: Create the visual design for your actual welcome tab (after people have Liked your page). The process for creating this tab will be similar to the process for the fan-gate. Go to PPT, make a 3.11″-wide box pretty. Give information about your business, thanks them for liking your page, etc. Then, save the design as an image and upload it to an online photo album. With this tab, we are going to take one more step – image mapping the tab (see next step).

Step 9: Image map your welcome tab. Image mapping refers to adding links into certain parts of an image. So if my landing tab has an image of my wife and I want to link to her Facebook page when people click on her, I can do that. The best way to understand how this will work is by referring to the image below, my welcome tab being image-mapped. It is very easy to do – just go to image-maps.com and paste in the link to your tab on Photobucket (or whatever photo share site you choose). The site will display the image and then give you options to create new links that are mapped to parts of the image. Here’s what my links look like:

Step 10: Click the Generate HTML code from image-maps.com and paste it into the Enter Content for Fans box on the TabPress application page (the box below the Enter content for non-fans box which you have already used). Once you paste in this code, just hit “save” and your welcome tab will be up, running and ready to go.

Rapture is a fraud. But if not …

Posted in Life Generally, My Wonderful Wife by Tony on Saturday

So according to the highly reputable and un-false prophet Harold Camping, the world will end tomorrow. I guess there is no way for me to know for sure that it won’t but I am pretty sure that we’re good. After all, it is already May 21 in New York and it’s not the end of the world there yet. And since the world rotates around New York, I have a good feeling I’ll wake up tomorrow morning all in one piece. In fact, my secret hope is that this whole Rapture thing is one big Axe body spray viral campaign. How great would that be?

But I digress. What it got me to thinking was what I would do tonight if I knew that the world were going to end tomorrow. I did eat a delicious mango and spend the night with my wife – that I wouldn’t change. But I would have done more with it. I would have flown to Europe because I’ve never been. (Logistically, I actually probably would have flown to Hawaii since that is the last time zone before the international dateline, so I’d be around for another few hours. If I were in Florence I’d be many hours gone by now.)

As I rack my brain to think of what I would have done, all I can think of are experiences as opposed to things. Places I wish to be, people I wish to be with, thrills that I wish to have sought. I have never considered myself a particularly materialistic person, except for a brief lapse of judgement where I bought a genuine pair of Wayfarers, but I think I see it more clearly now. Experiences over stuff.

For a brief period of time, my lovely wife became very passionate about a blog called the The Zero Waste Home. Basically, it chronicles the life of a California family that doesn’t produce any waste. Things like bringing their own containers to the butcher to put meat in instead of plastic wrap, etc. I love the idea, although Oreos unfortunately only come pre-packaged, so I’m out of luck pursuing that life on a long-term basis. I also find it a bit ironic that they live a couple of hours outside of LA, where the husband commutes for two hours to get to work. At $4.30 a gallon on gasoline, that is very wastey.

Anyways, one of the things that the family advocates is giving experiences as gifts instead of things so that those things don’t eventually go to waste. The more I think about this, the more I believe in it. To this day I remember my birthday party where my mom took me and Ryan Harrell to PoJos although I don’t remember what I received on that birthday. I remember more distinctly every Thanksgiving dinner at home in Boise or at my aunt and uncle’s place in Boston or with distant family in Carmel better than I do opening presents on Christmas morning.

So if I do get Raptured tomorrow, I want you all to know today that I care more about you people in my life and the experiences that I shared with you than the trinkets cluttering up my closet. So thanks for making my life delightful, regardless of when the world will end.

Prairie Dog Rapture, that is

Hijacked from GhostsAmong.us. Prairie dog rapture.

Recognize my face please

Posted in Brilliant Ideas, Social Media by Tony on Friday

The last few days there has been a bit of buzz around the tech world about a statement from Eric Schmidt of Google about how he finds the use of facial recognition “very concerning.” This has been countered by patents already filed by Google for facial recognition software. I also listened to an interesting conversation on Technology News Today about that very topic – whether there is reason to be concerned. The folks at TNT – including my good friend Randall Bennet, who is working on an interesting new venture called vidpresso – make a good point. Of all the privacy concerns out there, facial recognition is the least of them. Let the world know what I look like, just don’t let it know my social security number.

Today as I was trying to figure out this Lady Gaga Starbucks QR Code adventure and was asked to log in to my Facebook account, I thought of the best use of facial recognition. Why can’t my front-facing camera on my iPhone log me into Facebook as opposed to me fumbling through an email and password? Similarly, why can’t I sit down in front of my computer and have it automatically log me in? Once my tech devices start recognizing who I am and no longer require that I give them passwords, I will be a happy man. To be honest, this is my philanthropic idea to save frustrated Starbucks baristas from the frustration of hundreds of customers who are too distracted by trying to log in to their accounts to figure out what the hell this Lady Gaga thing is – both the campaign and Lady Gaga itself.

I suppose this could become a problem when a person, for example, gains so much weight they no longer look like their former more svelte self. So not only could you not fit into your car, but you also wouldn’t be able to Facebook about it. Certainly some kinks to be worked out still, but I for one would be entirely in favor of the technology.

Seriously, when someone figures out what it is, let me know.


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