A Digital Perspective

Test FB Video

Posted in Uncategorized by Tony on Thursday

The Next Big Thing in Social Media: Context.

Posted in Uncategorized by Tony on Sunday

As I write this post, I hold a 1-month-old infant in my arms. He is asleep. After two baby boys who hate being swaddled and love being awake and aware of everything happening around them, I find great pride in this accomplishment. He has been struggling with acid reflux over the past few weeks, which means that sleep has been even harder to come by, as has peace of mind us for us as parents since he is often in pain when he is awake. But right now, at 12:41 on a Sunday night, all is well and the only sound in the apartment is the whir of the AC window unit and the clacking of the keyboard as I type with one hand.

I write this to give a little bit of context behind my post – what is prompting what I am about to say, and perhaps what is putting me in a sentimental mindset. I am incredibly grateful for the technology that pervades our lives – a camera with virtually limitless capacity to take pictures in our pocket at all times, social networks that connect us with friends, family, coworkers, etc. I would be willing to bet that my parents took a total of maybe 500 pictures of me my entire life to date, mainly of vacations, birthdays and holidays. As I look at the iPhoto library on our home computer, I see more than 7,700 pictures uploaded from my phone alone from the time that my first son was born 27 months ago. Those pictures are of everything. Today alone I took 25 pictures and 4 videos documenting the bike ride he and I took to the Union Square farmer’s market, visit to the Highline to splash in the water and eat our blackberries, and afternoon at the Natural History Museum where he hand-fed an overly friendly squirrel a Shake Shack french fry.


Of these 7,700 pictures, I have shared about 200 on Instagram, on each including about a 10-15 word caption, sometimes a location, rarely a hashtag (hashtags were SOOO 2013) and occasionally tagging friends/family.

All of this combined will serve as a good way of documenting my son’s life, at least in pictures and video. However, one thing that it misses, almost altogether: context. And I think that people will soon start to realize that almost all of social media is missing it, and will find a way to begin adding it in. It will take what we call social media currently to something that will have more purpose and permanence, which will give it staying power. Without it, people will migrate on to the next big thing when it comes along. Context will give the content we are posting the gravitas and sense of personal investment required to keep our long-term attention.

When my son looks back in 20 years from now, I want to be able to easily give him the context behind the picture of him feeding a squirrel a french fry – that he was fascinated by squirrels at the age of two and that he would say “hi squirrel” to every squirrel he saw. That he lived in an apartment where he couldn’t have a pet of his own, so the squirrels of Central Park were kind of his adopted pets, usually only observed from afar. That when he saw rats scampering through garbage on the subway tracks, he’d call them squirrels. (We haven’t corrected him, because I feel it reflects the optimism of youth what kind of parents would we be to take away from him?) That he was finding himself into a forced independance now that a baby brother was stealing the majority share of his parents’ attention, an independance that found him with new confidence. That we were there, eating Shake Shack fries, with old friends from Seattle, where my wife and I met, fell in love, got married. All of this adds so much to the experience that will be lost if it is not somehow captured.

And I think that’s the next big thing in Social – capturing that context. I think that as the Facebook generation starts to look back at their lives, they will see them as lacking substance. I think part of where they find this substance is in sharing feel-good articles, thus the emergence of platforms such as Good.is. But I think we will also look to add a level of context to give it substance. I think it may be a platform (or an extension to existing platforms) where people will be encouraged to write and share longer-form content, or adding personal notes/better tagging/organization to the content that is being shared. This may be wishful thinking, but I think that it is part of a social media backlash that is bound to start sometime.

Social Media: The Bullshit Meter

Posted in Social Media by Tony on Tuesday

When I started my job 7 years ago as a PR professional at the largest firm in the world, what I found was a culture of “strategic messaging” (AKA “spin”) and a heavy reliance on high-profile media relationships. Since then, that world has deteriorated to reveal a new world of messaging – the truth. Social media – something that I have a deep love-hate relationship with, as I have seen it both improve and destroy life as we know it – has exacted this change.

I believe that there are three primary drivers behind Social Media’s power in this context. The first is the power of voice. Social media has given a voice to anyone who has an internet-connected device. While I’m sure brands have always had their dissenters, spreading negative word of mouth conversation, brands are now forced to listen because that negative conversation is sitting right there in front of them – as well as in front of potential millions of their followers/fans.

The second is the power of opting out. Decades ago the best you could do was try and tune out the constant barrage of ads around us. Now, potential consumers can do it much easier. On Hulu+ they can click “Not Relevant,” on YouTube they can skip, and the extremists out there can use Ad Blockers. And on Facebook and Twitter, they can unfollow. This is surprisingly powerful in obvious terms – severing a communications tie that once existed – but also powerful in terms of the feedback sent to marketers creating the messages. One of the most useful metrics that social content tracks is Negative Feedback. This is something that will help a brand optimize their message more quickly than anything else. If twice as many unfollow a page after Post A than Post B, brands quickly learn their lesson.

And the third is the ability to react. Social media gives us the option to respond, which means it also requires us to think about what we are hearing or seeing, and analyzing – even for a moment – whether it is consistent with our understanding of a product or brand. Simply by having the ability to react, we are forced to think whether we should be reacting. And this gives us as consumers a highly sensitive bullshit meter that, when it goes off, drives us to call bullshit on the type of “strategic messaging” that once permeated traditional media and advertising.

I think the next 5 years will be an exciting time when transparency and honesty will become the most valued message coming from a brand. It creates a personal relationship between consumer and brands like nothing else ever has. For example, if you look at what Target did post debit card crisis, their social accounts went silent for about 2 months until they had everything figured out with customer security. They were apologetic, honest and transparent with what they were saying. Although this may seem like an obvious approach, it was revolutionary and I’m sure required a tremendous level of pushback from the Sales and Marketing teams.

This new brand/consumer also will (hopefully) trickle up to the product/operations/policy level so that the overall consumer experience improves as well, but I think that’s a bit further out. But I do believe eventually social media will be a true catalyst for positive change.

#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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