Admit it: Google+ is a ghost town. After the initial hoopla, how often did you log in? If you were like most of us, the answer is hardly ever. Clearly, the giant’s attempt to be part of our daily lives like Facebook hasn’t quite yet clicked as hoped.
But, a month ago at the company’s annual Google I/O developer event, the eager empire introduced a ton of new features, programs and hardware—not the least of which is the new Google+ Events, which promises to reinvent how we plan events online.
According to the Official Google Blog, the new service is “for all of the moments that matter – before, during and after the event.” Setting this apart from other party planning services, like Evite, is the ability to personalize invitations with video or customer themes and animations along with instant calendar integration.
How It Works
Creating an event is incredibly easy: just click Events in the left menu and then complete the options that you have available.
Simply add title, locations, details, time and who you want to invite. You can choose from a collection of animated themes or create a custom invite from one of your own photos. Once the event is created, it’s automatically added to the Google calendar of every person invited.
The invite includes Google+ Events greatest strength: it’s an online, invite-only party with instant-upload photos and chat, running on the desktop of anyone who’s invited, as well as any mobile users running the Google+ app in Party mode.
Similar to Facebook’s event curator, Google+ allows users to search for public events. The main difference between the two is that while Facebook only allows you to see events your friends created or were invited to, Google+ shows all public events in real time as they’re created or updated.
A critical component to this new event planning approach is the Party Mode feature of the mobile app—not only do your guests’ updates instantly appear in the stream for the event, but so do their photos and videos. As more guests participate, your event “gets a pulse.” What’s more: there’s a live slideshow option, meaning everyone can be part of the action.
As someone who uses online event planning tools, you can see the power of this tool: it’s not only fun, but truly enhances engagement leading up to and during an event. I’m eager to see how this new tool plays out for experiential marketers. Have you tried it out yet?
Now that I’ve got your attention (particularly my husband’s), let me explain. A few weeks back, I was researching a company who tapped us for an RFP on thought leadership and influencer marketing. After a quick listening scan and review of their websites and social activity, I knew a whole lot about what they do, but virtually nothing about who they are, what they know or what they stand for.
That initial online meeting is like a first date. It could fall flat. Or it could be the start of a beautiful friendship. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, more than 80% of consumers go online to research products before they buy. So if you want a consumer to commit time and attention to you, then make that time well spent by giving them the kind of information they want and need at these early stages of the buyer’s journey.
In the Awareness and Consideration phases of the decision journey, the consumers’ focus is on being smart about their options and then having informed conversations. Much of that initial view is driven by the brand and a well-developed thought leadership program that integrates both the brand’s perspective and the influencers’ voices.
So what can you do improve the odds for making a great “first impression”?
Like any good relationship, it grows over time but it all starts with a first look.
It certainly was a wake-up call for me last month when Facebook announced that it was acquiring the photo-sharing app Instagram for $1 billion. The jaw-dropping payout was buzzed about everywhere and made me wonder: is there more to the app than a way to share photos with family and friends? What’s more, is this a social tool we as marketers need to be paying attention to?
Turns out, the answers are “yes” and “maybe.”
Instagram is now the hottest thing since, well, Pinterest. In fact, it already boosts more than 30 million users and 400 million photos. Why is this thing suddenly so insanely popular? I decided to take it for a two-week test drive. Based on my experience, I believe Instagram’s success can be attributed to the following:
· It taps into the power of community. Instagram is more than a photo app; it’s a social network in and of itself. Sure, there are other photo-sharing sites (and Facebook does this too), but Instagram elegantly creates a community solely dedicated to sharing photos. Built into the interface are community features that keep you coming back for more. “Home” takes you to the latest photos from friends and those you follow. “Popular” serves us a fresh batch of the latest and most-liked pictures. “News” reveals what’s happening with whom you’re following and who’s following you. “Profile” enables you to find friends, review your filtered photos, edit your profile and configure sharing on social networks.
· It’s nostalgic. Digital may have killed the sharing of physical photographs, but Instagram taps into what we loved so much about them in the first place, with 18 filters that can make new photos look old or as if it was from a Polaroid. Cool artistic effects are a snap too, including the ability to add borders and blur backgrounds.
· It’s free. Doesn’t cost anything (not even 99 cents) and (for now) has no advertising. No wonder, the recently released Android app garnered more than 5 million downloads in just a few days.
· It’s simple. One click is all it takes for you to Photoshop your cute little puppy and share it with the world. And, for social media connoisseurs, there’s nothing new to learn—incorporating hash tags and @ signs to simplify connecting of themes and users. Facebook can’t do that (yet).
· It’s the right time. Smart phones have become the center of our universe, plain and simple. In fact, Pew Internet Project just reported that more than half of all mobile users have smart phones. Instagram taps into our desire to share our stories—anytime, anywhere.
Instagram is perfect for brands that want to reach the young, artistic and hip—its core demographic, and can authentically tell their stories visually. This explains, perhaps, why fashion brands are currently leading the way. Some brands that have embraced the platform and built quite the following during the past year include Threadless, Playboy, Red Bull and Starbucks.
Ford Fiesta in Europe, for example, launched a contest last fall inviting fans to post photos about the car using the #Fiestagram hashtag. Every week, prizes were awarded for the best photos and were featured on the brand’s Facebook Page and on digital billboards.
From what I’ve seen, the brands that are currently using Instagram truly get it. They understand that it’s not about digitizing your product shots, but rather telling and collecting stories and making personal and emotional connections with your customers. As is a best practice with any social channel, meaningful engagement requires interesting content—content that is updated consistently and frequently—and encourages participation from your fans.
Do you have any Instagram stories to share? We would love to hear how you use it or plan to use it in your marketing efforts.
Repositioning a venerable brand needs to both honor its heritage and create a new reality that is credible and disruptive. The disruption breaks the schema that has previously defined the brand, but if the disruption is too far afield, the new positioning will lack believability and authenticity and ultimately will fail to connect.
When ComBlu was asked to be part of the team to reposition Encyclopaedia Britannica, we searched for a platform that blended the old with the new. Part of the process was learning both the brand’s history and grasping the vision of its future.
What surprised us most at the outset was what we didn’t know about the company. When we thought of Britannica, we thought of the multiple volumes of encyclopedias lined up on the shelf like toy soldiers. We all had fond memories of using the books during our own school days, but even those of us with kids and endless research projects (myself included), had no idea of all they had to offer today.
We learned that Britannica had spent the past two decades transforming the company into a thriving, global digital education and instruction company. Today, the firm is well-positioned to make an even greater contribution to education and gain a significant share of the $10 billion school curriculum and digital learning markets.
In addition to the encyclopedia—print and online—Britannica offers a diverse range of digital products and services, including instructional programs for the classroom, reference and education portals, language courses, and educator tutorials for knowledge seekers of any age.
With its audience-specific, segmented product line, Britannica is well-rounded and thriving. But who knew? We did not, and as we learned through the listening program we conducted, we were not alone. Our listening revealed that:
· Britannica was not included in much of the conversation about online access to information and research.
· Many mentions of Britannica were nostalgic in nature and not forward-looking.
· Conversations often reinforced a perception that the company is outdated.
So, we definitely had a challenge on our hands. We knew we needed to find the right news angle to reintroduce and reposition Britannica as a global digital brand.
The sunsetting of the print set of Britannica provided the perfect platform to present who Britannica is today, what differentiates them in the competitive online research arena, why now is the right time to go all digital, and showcase their plans for the future. We used this event as an opportunity to tell the story of the new Britannica to a mix of influencers who could tell the story and give it perspective, context and power.
It was a fully integrated social and traditional media campaign that used a variety of assets that collectively created “lightning in a bottle.” All of the elements we created to tell the story had distinct roles and made it “easy to care; easy to share.” People were very attached to the legacy print brand so we made sure they had plenty of images and stories that reignited a deep emotional connection to the brand. We also included assets that showcased the “new” Britannica as a powerful digital and social suite of products. The result? More than 2 billion impressions that told the story in a respectful yet disruptive way.
Our infographics were shared wholesale and tidbits from them were used in various stories; segments of the B-roll footage were used in a number of broadcast and online pieces; the blogs and social posts were quoted, tweeted and retweeted; and the photos we provided appeared literally everywhere. Check out some of our favorite clips, articles and social posts that we consider highlights of the campaign.
When we started this phase of the rebranding program, almost 2,000 print editions were sitting in a warehouse—today, none remain. But more importantly, many people now know the story of a 244-year-old print publisher that has successfully repositioned itself for a long and successful future as a digital learning brand. This campaign was just the first step on a new journey for Britannica.
I have to admit that I did get a bit nostalgic about the end of the print era. The memory it evoked for me: I was cleaning the room that our set of Britannica’s lived in, dusting them off, and getting pleasantly distracted by perusing a page and seeing where it took me. Do you have a favorite memory of your own? We’d love to hear it.
Upon reflection, perhaps I shouldn’t have second guessed the significance of our encyclopedic announcement revealing the end of the publication’s iconic print set and the company’s pursuit of all things digital.
But I did.
True, everyone involved was passionate about our story. We believed in it. We prepared for it. Still, I worried (I’m a bit like Woody Allen that way). Will people care? Will they understand its significance and why it truly matters?
Turns out they did–beyond our wildest expectations. Breaking news from the front page of the most influential of newspapers (New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Financial Times), the global news wires, and national and international news programs were liked, tweeted and commented on around the world. We were number one with a bullet on Google and Twitter. Stories popped up where least expected—on iPad apps, in elevator screens, even after an oh-so-fascinating conversation about Kathy Lee’s new hairdo on The Today Show. I knew we were part of the zeitgeist upon seeing us featured on the RidicuList segment of Anderson Cooper 360 and becoming the answer to a question on “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” I chuckled at the resulting banter:
“If you don’t understand why it’s a big deal that we’ll no longer be able to buy a whole shelf of leather-bound encyclopedias for more than a thousand dollars a set, go find your parents and ask them to ask their parents to find an Ouija board to commune with their grandparents, and they’ll tell you.”
While it’s true that this story was 244 years in the making, nostalgia for the iconic brand is only one reason why it has become one of the most talked about topics around the world. While I’m sure this list will grow as the news becomes a day eight, nine and 10 story (it’s like the Energizer bunny in that it keeps going and going), success secrets certainly would include:
· Be prepared—be very prepared. Telling a compelling story requires more than a press release. First and foremost, compelling messages must be developed that are accepted and internalized by anyone who communicates with customers, the media, analysts and influencers. Once in hand, these messages serve as the foundation for all of the assets developed to tell and share a story. Britannica did this quite well, as you can see from the videos, blogs, infographics and social assets leveraged for our announcement.
· Relentlessly tell the story you want to tell. Time and time again, the influencers we spoke with wanted us to express sadness for the end of the print set. We wouldn’t go there, no matter how hard they tried. Rather, we were passionate about using this milestone to effectively communicate that Britannica today is a very different company—it’s digital, mobile and social—and its reach and relevancy today is undeniable. In fact, our announcement is something to celebrate.
· Make time for the influencers. Critical to our success was the strategy to arrange one-on-one briefings with the people that ultimately shape what we talk and tweet about. We were quite successful in lining up nonstop meetings on the days prior to our announcement, yet ultimately it was up to Britannica’s president, Jorge Cauz, to bring it home for us. And bring it home he did by knocking it out of the park every time.
· Then, make time for everyone else. Once the news broke, the requests for interviews were fast and furious. And, we were ready. We kept at it, in fact, until the wee hours of the night, for three straight days. And we delivered responses to questions such as, “How much does a complete set weigh?” like it was the first time they were asked (129 pounds—more than my colleague Pam weighs, incidentally).
· Don’t take yourself too seriously. News like this takes on a life of its own as reporters and bloggers look for new ways to tell the story. Embracing the process and having fun will keep the news engine running—even when you are running on empty.
What did you think of Britannica’s announcement? Who knows, we might be able to share your story.