Why Instagram Will Crush Vine

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Everyone’s buzzing about Instagram video. Social mastermind and well-respected wine connoisseur Gary Vaynerchuk even released one of his short and sweet video blogs about it today.

Vaynerchuk also happens to be working on a brand new agency concerned with representing Vine celebrities and despite his excitement about Instagram video, is arguing that they can both exist and be successful.

Despite my utmost respect for Gary, I’m going to plant my flag firmly in the camp of disagreement.

Gary, I think you’re wrong and here’s why:

 

Current Users

Instagram is currently home to 130 million users. Vine had 13 million a month ago, just prior to its Android release. Perhaps if Vine had reached Instagram’s usership, I’d be open to considering Vine to be a long-term threat.  We saw what happened to Pheed last season. It didn’t have the usership to weather the Vine “storm”. Instagram has remained firmly anchored over the past, potentially tumultuous last few months and remains in a position to re-motivate their users with video.

 

User-friendly Experience

On top of Vine’s inferior usership, of those 13 million Vine users, how many had actually abandoned Instagram? I, for one, still wasn’t impressed with the slow load time and the finicky navigation of Vine. To me, Instagram was far and away the more sleek of the two and still continues to do pretty well with the addition of video.

 

Individual Features

Many Vine advocates are arguing that the 6 second time limit will work in its favour and people (with increasingly short attention spans) will be annoyed by a full 15 second video. Luckily, people get better at posting (perhaps shorter) videos as they learn what their friends like and don’t like by seeing a presence or absence of likes. If you’re annoyed with a 13 second video, you can always hit the unfollow button. The other feature that Vine enthusiasts advocate is the looping nature of Vine videos. If this, in fact, is enough of a reason to stick with Vine then I’m sure Instagram will be aware of this and adjust accordingly. Talk about a flimsy and easily duplicated competitive advantage.

 

Conclusion

This one comes down to Instagram’s far superior user base and user-friendly nature. Those professing loyalty to Vine and vocalizing a displeasure in Instagram’s copycat ways must realize that a large majority of “art” is stolen. And, as I mentioned in the post immediately preceding this one, harbouring your product’s strengths and relying on them for a competitive advantage won’t get you anywhere. The only way to win is to learn faster than everyone else.

My money’s on Instagram. But hey, let the games begin.

 

 

 

The Stanley Cup of Twitter: Bruins vs. Blackhawks

The series is knotted up at a game a piece after two exciting overtime games. Those placing bets might as well just follow their heart because it’s basically too close to call if you’re relying on logic and each team’s performance in games 1 and 2.

Can the same be said for the team Twitter accounts? If the cup were handed to the team with the best social media presence, who would be declared the victor?

Let’s find out.

First, we must establish what “best” means. We believe that a great Twitter account helps a person establish a personal connection with a business or entity. From the business’s (or team’s) standpoint, an account should align with the image and values they portray and become more passionate about their product in order to facilitate purchases. In the case of the NHL, purchases include things like tickets, merchandise, and television/streaming subscriptions. The goal of these accounts should be to recruit new fans and engage those who are already fans.

I always say that the best marketing is a great product or service and, in this case, both the Hawks and the Bruins have iced an amazing product as has been made evident by their respective playoff runs. They already have that advantage over the competition so for this head to head matchup, we must establish some criteria.

But first! (I’m sure the suspense is killing you) it should be noted that Chicago and Boston are very similar hockey markets. Before looking at the accounts, it could be assumed that each team has a similar following based on annual revenues in these Forbes NHL Teams Valuation Rankings.

Ranking NHL Team worth

As chosen by the TSN panel..err..Strategy Lab panel, each team’s account will be evaluated in a seven game format with each game being based on a different competency category:

Tweet Frequency – the team’s ability to find a quantity-of-tweets “sweet spot”.
Game 1: Following Quantity – number of followers.
Game 2: Quality of Content – the degree to which a team’s tweeted content is dynamic and compelling
Game 3: Personality – the account’s ability to establish a twitter identity that aligns with the team’s and garners interest.
Game 4: X-Factor/Standoutishness – the team’s deviation from tweeting norms that often make for a dry, uninteresting feed.
Game 5: Engagement and Response – the team’s ability to mobilize/respond to followers.
Game 6: Faux Pas Avoidance – avoidance of spelling mistakes, rookie mistakes, and twitter worst practices.
Game 7: Contributing Platforms – a look at the quality of each team’s most commonly used twitter-connected app (ie. Instagram).

Let’s take a look:

Game 1: Number of Followers

Blackhawks vs Bruins

Recap: Boston edges Chicago out by an almost negligible 20,000. These extra followers could be due to their more recent cup run having taken place when Twitter had increased in popularity since Chicago’s championship season in 2010. Another reason could be the 7,300 edge in total tweets.

Game 1 Winner:      (Boston Leads Series 1-0)

Game 2: Quality of Content: 

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Recap: Boston starts it off with a nice picture showing the pre-game festivities, evokes emotion with the Boston Strong theme, and makes fans following on Twitter feel like they’re really there. The Blackhawks counter with some lineup information and let everyone know that Ben Smith is in and Marian Hossa is out after an incident in warm-ups. The tweet lacks the degree of insider detail you’d expect from a team’s official account.

Game 2 Winner:     (Boston leads series 2-0)

Game 3: Personality

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Recap: Tweets with any sort of personality that come even close to touching that of the LA Kings twitter account are hard to come by with these two squads. If this were a real game, it’d be a bit of a snoozer. Luckily, the Hawks’s Twitter team just came through with an awesome tweet that shows the tweeter is a real person — capable of having emotions. In doing so, it made me feel like I’m in Ben Smith’s skates and don’t doubt I’m alone in feeling that.

Game 3 Winner:      (Boston leads series 2-1)

Game 4: X Factor/Standoutishness:

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Recap: In comparison to many great accounts that aren’t afraid to do something off-the-wall or out of the ordinary, these two play it pretty safe. The one standout thing that the Hawks do is retweet Hawks-related content from supporting organizations and subsidiaries like the Cubs picture tweet above. This, in my opinion, engages the community and helps prevent the team and the sport of hockey from becoming siloed. The Bruins have ample opportunity to do the same and more as the city recently became more tightly knit after the Boston Marathon tragedy but there is no evidence of this on the Bruins Twitter feed.

Game 4 Winner:      (Series tied 2-2)

Game 5: Engagement and Response:

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Recap: The only recent effort at fan engagement made by either team was this tweet from June 15th by the Chicago staff. Fans were encouraged to ask their questions to the hosts of a third-party show. Plenty of room for improvement in this area for both teams but Chicago narrowly escapes this one with a victory.

Game 5 Winner:      (Chicago leads series 3-2)

Game 6: Faux Pas Avoidance:

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Recap: In this crucial game 6, with the Bruins on the brink of elimination, it became a lesser-of-two-evils battle. Chicago missed the mark (and constantly does so) with hashtag overuse. Every tweet during games is adorned with a head to head hashtag. I, for one, am skeptical of the effectiveness of these hashtags and think they should be used in moderation but Chicago’s own metrics will be the final judge of that. Boston, whose tweets always include the initials of the writer despite there being no documentation of the full name of the initial-bearer in the bio or previous tweets, luckily had one tweet that included the initials “B.B.” amidst the thousands of “C.S.” tweets. The slightly less stinky team in this one was the Bruins, who force a game 7.

Game 6 Winner:     (Series tied 3-3)

Game 7: Contributing Platforms: Instagram

For the seventh and deciding game, each team’s most recent Instagram post was scrutinized:

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Recap: As is expected in game sevens, a valiant effort was put forth by each team. Chicago really captured the energy following Patrick Sharp’s impressive 9th goal of the playoffs. The post was timely but lacked the organic feel Instagram enthusiasts have come to know and love. Boston’s pre-game hype picture, on the other hand, is quite likely taken with in iPhone and looks great with a black and white filter. It hasn’t been doctored by any gaudy text and really uses Instagram properly with a post that likely appeals to ‘Gram enthusiasts.

Game 7 Winner:     (Boston wins series 4-3)

 

2013 Stanley Cup of Twitter Champions

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Off-Season Analysis:

Each team does a good job of delivering hockey news and updates in a traditional way. The only real instance of going to the next level in terms of non-traditional media was when Boston really embraced the platform that Instagram is with an organic-feeling post. Twitter is dominated by witty and compelling people and businesses. Neither of these teams has truly found Twitter’s sweet spot. If they’re looking for an off-season trainer, it should perhaps be the Los Angeles Kings account.

App Spotlight: Tinder: The Spicy New App That Could Get You A Date (Even in Regina)

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Perhaps one of the spicier apps catching on these days is Tinder.

Overview:
Tinder is simple. It connects you with people around you, whether you know them or not, lets you decide if you want to connect with them based on their appearance, interests, and mutual friends, and then allows you to chat with them if you’re a “match”. You become a match if they, while unaware of your interest or lack of interest in them, decide that they want to connect with you. The concept sounds a lot like what Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker were trying to accomplish with their under-utilized Airtime creation but with more emphasis on what is loosely referred to as “dating”.

The User Experience:
Users upload up to five pictures of themselves and have the option to write a short tagline that will appear under them. Mutual friends and interests are drawn from Facebook profiles. You can set your matching preferences for the categories of age, gender, and search distance (to a maximum of 100 miles). The fun begins when you click on Recommendations and the first profile pops up.

At this time, you can click the photo to view the others and then make a decision on whether or not you want to invite this person to connect. You have to make this decision to discard them into an abyss, never to be seen again, or save them before viewing the next profile. The allure and thrill come from the feeling, real or contrived, that you’re tempting fate with each dismissal swipe to the left or approval swipe to the right.

The Evaluation:
What some might immediately dismiss as a meat market of sorts actually has some draw to it. The problem at this point is that very few people in the Regina area are using it, meaning you’ll quickly run out of match recommendations and have to check back every few days to see if any newcomers match your criteria. The value of this app for a business is extremely minimal or non-existent since it lacks the premise of meeting new people for the idea of knowledge-sharing and relationship-building in a business context. My initial thought is that an app could make a road trip into a strange new city a bit more exciting depending on your selectiveness. This app has the potential to take off as more users get it.

Overall Rating: 6/10

thumbs up if you like fun-stratlab stock photos downloadable

Networking? Get Outta Here

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Almost exactly five years ago, I was playing cards with some friends and talking about business school, careers, and how to be successful (according to one of its many definitions). One of the friends in attendance, already a successful businessman (or as Jay-Z would say, a successful business, man), decided to chime in when someone mentioned their plan to accomplish their business goals and land the job of their dreams by “networking”.

Having already made his first move toward the door, on his way to conduct a 12:00am conference call, his voice of reason exclaimed:

“No, no. Networking is nothing. It’s about building relationships. Networking will result in you possessing a network that’s an inch deep and a mile wide. Relationship-building, which takes more time and genuine interest in others, will give you a circle that’s an inch wide and a mile deep. And that’s where things happen.”

This simple explanation made sense to me and I knew it complied with what I truly believed. I was forced to eat some earlier words and was provided with a new perspective. Since then, I’ve swung almost completely to the relationship-building side of things to the point where uttering the word “networking” leaves a foul taste in my mouth. Now, five years later, it’s plain to see that the vast majority of valuable friendships, mutually-beneficial business deals, and  progressive idea sharing partnerships have come from relationships built on trust and shared value rather than from shallow networking touch-points.

I don’t doubt that you have had a similar revelation; instantaneous or gradual. I think many people have and I think that this is great and a rite of passage of sorts.

But now there’s a problem.

The same businesses and careers that were built by relationships are now turning to social media and online strategies to create loosely connected networks and flimsy touch-points. A person sending an email to a business or business professional is met with a reply from the business or professional asking them to contact them via a website or preferred social networking platform. Requests to a small retail store for more information on the sizing of a clothing item are left unanswered. Words of thanks go unnoticed or simply feed a business’ ego.

The worst mistake a business or professional can make is taking the social media/online plunge and forgetting that everyone touched is a real person.

Instead of spreading yourself thin and neglecting real people in order to adopt an outside-in promotional/customer recruitment approach, blow those closest to you out of the water with your service, your level of care, and your product. Adopt on inside-out approach, wow those around you, and then look outward.

These are my thoughts. I’d love to hear yours.

 

Kitchener School Needs Your Help

My good friend Stacey Laing (@stacelaing) works as a “dream broker” at Kitchener School. Awesome title right? Anywho, Stacey is doing a used sporting equipment drive for the school so more kids have the opportunity to play sports. As of now they don’t have nearly enough equipment, that’s where you can help.

dream broker equipment drive

If you have used equipment that you want to get rid of, let us know where to pick it up from and Capital Ford Lincoln has agreed to let us use one of their trucks to pick up the equipment tomorrow morning.

All you need to do is Tweet (@CapitalFord or @JephMaystruck), e-mail jephmaystruck(at)gmail(dot)com or comment on this post and tomorrow morning, Friday April 19, from 9:00-12:00 we’ll come by to pick up your used equipment.

Please help spread the word, it’s a great cause. Every kid should have the chance to play sports.

Three Simple Ways to Listen Online

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As I hope you’ve read in my recent post, An Urgent Message for All Businesses on Twitter, it’s (still) time to stop shouting about yourself and start listening to others on social media platforms and in life in general. Marketing is now way more about what others are saying about you than it is about what you are saying about yourself. If there’s a disconnect between these two things, people will find out. That’s now easier than ever to do so. Think of marketing as being completely reversed. Advertising and bleeding incessant brand info is the old way. Now, you can be the most effective by zipping your lip for awhile and listening to what others are saying and, whether its positive or negative, using the information constructively to make improvements to your product or service’s core and rectify customer dissatisfaction.

I’ve tweeted my thanks to multiple businesses on this week upon receiving slightly above average customer service and quality repairs. I’ve received a response or acknowledgment roughly one third of the time. Yes, ONE THIRD. ONLY ONE THIRD. I’m basically tossing Jose Bautista an underhanded lob in the middle of the strike zone and watching him refuse to swing. As far as I’m concerned, these businesses who aren’t listening might as well delete their accounts immediately. Their tweets about themselves have very little value and EVEN LESS VALUE if they aren’t going to respond to their satisfied customers.

I’m going to cease this rant to illustrate three easy ways to listen to your customers online:

1: Twitter Search
This is so simple. Search your business name, your product name, or some industry keywords to get a perception of what people are saying. Just be sure you’ve got all your basic bases covered before you do this (replying to those who have mentioned you, thanking people for sharing your information, and acknowledging new followers). Twitter culture allows you to jump in on conversations that pertain to you without being deemed a troll. Try this out and don’t fear negative feedback. It presents a world of opportunity.

2: Net Promoter Score
Net Promoter Score is a feedback system easily added to websites and bricks and mortar businesses that asks customers to answer one simple question: How likely are you to recommend our product or service to a friend or family member? We love it and think no business should move a muscle until NPS becomes their starting point. View a quick slide show.

3. Asking Simple Questions
Sometimes listening and getting feedback is as simple as asking. Don’t be so afraid of the answers you’re going to get that you avoid asking your customers questions. Avoid asking just for the sake of asking or asking questions with the sole intention of sounding like you care. Embrace any information you receive. This is a tactic that will result in valuable information if executed correctly AND create the kind of engagement that will be constructive for your business.

An Urgent Message For All Businesses on Twitter

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Forget everything you’ve learned about having a presence on Twitter. Start over.

Twitter has never been about incessant self-promotion but, luckily, people have put up with businesses like yours repeatedly reminding them of your groundbreaking 10% off sale for quite some time now. The charade is over and patience is wearing thin.

Check out your past ten tweets. If more than two of them are telling your customers something about yourself, I’m willing to bet you’ve become white noise by now. Marketing is changing. At first, businesses thought it was good enough to just be on Twitter. That was never good enough and now, being a business who interacts a bit but spends most of your tweets bleeding brand information is the same as “just being there.”

The change is apparent. It’s 90% about what people are saying about you and 10% about what you say about yourself. Twitter and other platforms exist to allow you to listen – not to allow you to shout. It’s not an opportunity to be the one in a one-to-many scenario. Flip that megaphone around and be the one who listens to many. If someone’s mentioned you or your business on Twitter and you haven’t responded, take whatever cash you have in your pocket, crumple it into a ball, and toss it at the nearest waste basket. This is exactly what you’re doing. A response to one person is likely worth more to your company than a blanket promotional tweet to no one in particular. Not responding is the quickest way to form negative brand impressions in a world where there is no such thing as a neutral one. Grab that low-hanging fruit.

Luckily, the overwhelming majority of people and businesses are doing things horribly wrong. It’s never been easier to stand out. Create contrast. Think like Will Smith and flip that school uniform inside-out.

Your ears grow until the day you die. Your mouth does not. Coincidence? No.

Use platforms to be the one learning from many – not the one yelling at the desensitized masses.

You can start right now:
Three Simple Ways to Listen Online

Professional Stock Photos-the im ammused by a good book

Snapchat. Yay or Nay?

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Surprise surprise. Another social media platform is gaining steam. But can you really call Snapchat a platform? I suppose you can but, for those looking to grow their own platform, can it really be of any use? In a recent Six Pixels of Separation podcast (which I highly recommend you check out), Mitch Joel discusses the permanent internet vs. the impermanent internet. Snapchat falls under the category of impermanence.

Here’s a quick rundown for those unfamiliar with Snapchat:
1. A user takes a picture (or short video) using the app (the user can’t use pictures that already exist in your camera roll as you can with Instagram).
2.  They can then add rough animated sketches or text to the pictures.
3. A time limit/expiry time is set for the picture – making it only available to be seen for that length of time while the viewer holds a finger on the screen.
4. If a viewer decides to take a screenshot of the picture, they can do so successfully but the viewer will be notified.
5. The picture is then deleted forever.

In a world where many of us work hard to create content that will help us find our voice online and give us permanent credibility, Snapchat seems to be much too fleeting to be instrumental. This skepticism is met with even more pessimism from those who scoff at the app, calling it “sleazy”, “controversial”, and “obviously only for racy photos”.

Let’s consider the good, the bad, and some possible uses.

The Good: Snapchat has continued to bring enjoyment (on somewhat of a surface level) to its users who enjoy giving people a glimpse into their daily lives without worrying as much about how they look or how the Toaster filter affects their like count. And of course, fuelling our dopamine-driven social media world, is the busy nature of a person’s Snapchat inbox due to the ability to mass send pictures. The fact that Snapchat connects people can’t be disputed. It can brighten a boring workday, enhance an event, and give you a laugh you otherwise wouldn’t have had (and who can put a value on that?). My initial concerns were that Snapchat would become everyone’s default photo app – limiting Instagram use and hindering the spread of video apps like Vine. I’m starting to become more optimistic about its effect on apps like Instagram which, in my opinion, are bombarded with those low-quality-look-at-me-now pictures. Now these pictures can be shot out into the Snapchat world and expire like they should – increasing the overall quality of pictures posted to the ‘Gram.

The Bad: As you’d expect, and as the naysayers will attest to, Snapchat does get used for pictures that would otherwise not be taken or sent. It’s almost like “don’t worry, i’ll just snapchat it” will begin justifying things that shouldn’t be justified. Also, the “humour” sometimes goes a bit too far and “fun” is had at the expense of a person being photographed by adding cartoon drawings of things I’m sure you’ve seen or could imagine before the picture’s sent. Here’s a controversy resulting from inappropriate use of the app: Teens’ Nude Photos From Snapchat Lead to Investigation Also in the category of “bad” falls the fact that Snapchat’s impermanence makes it more easily classified as a time-wasting app – increasing doubt as to whether a business could use it in a positive, meaningful way.

Possible Usefulness: On that note, here’s where I’ll make a quick argument regarding its usefulness for a business. I ran into the organizer for the Regina Folk Festival the other day. She was carrying a roll of posters of the 2013 summer festival’s lineup on them. The lineup was to be announced the following day and the group of us sitting near her did all we could to convince her to give us even a one second glimpse. And now I’m sure you can see where this is going. How easy is it for a major festival to encourage people to add them on Snapchat with the incentive of advanced lineup “glimpsing”? I’ve spent minutes looking at full lineups for festivals and failed to notice a band that later sparks conversation with a friend. The amount of conversation resulting from a multitude of people each getting a one second glance at a small picture of the lineup would be an interesting thing to attempt to measure. Even if someone manages to take a screenshot, the idea of a “leaked” schedule can create even more conversation. It’s these kinds of things, that actually add some value for viewers who give companies the permission to speak to them, that will endure as we become more selective about who we follow, like, and listen to.

Conclusion: Check it out for yourself and let me know what you think. Would love to hear your thoughts!

 

5 Tips for Effective LinkedIn Advertising

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1. Bid at the high end of the suggested bid range.
2. Continuously review and adjust your daily budget.
Make sure your daily budget supports your click goals.
ie) $10 per day at $2 per click = 5 clicks. $10 a day at $4 per click = 2 clicks.
Note: Wednesday is the highest traffic day on LinkedIn so adjust your budget and optimization accordingly.
3. Be leery of granular targeting.
Although it may seem counterintuitive, adding more criteria to a campaign severely limits your audience. Shoot for an audience size of 200,000 to 400,000.
a) Determine criteria
b) Create several campaigns with only one or two criteria
c) Carefully watch estimated audience numbers to see if they fall in the 200,000 to 400,000 range.
4. Pay attention to creative best practices.
a) Calls to action
b) Mention value-adds like white papers and free trials
c) Use legible images (50×50 is very small). If using words, make sure they can be read easily
5. Optimize
Shoot for CTR (click-through rates) of above .025%. LinkedIn rewards ads of this nature while a poor track record is difficult to bounce back from. If you develop a poor track record, start a brand new campaign. In order to hedge against the poor track record, create three or more ads, put two live, then swap the third one in for the poorest performing one at the end of the first week.
 
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