Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Info-Currents December Trends: Unlikely Financial Service Players, App Games and Social TV

Emerging trend:  Digital giants are getting into financial services. Google credit card is an example.

Implication: Connecting search and payment data will make Google even a stronger advertising platform.  

Action: Consumers will need to be even more cognizant of privacy issues. As a business, look for more creative and targeted search ad products from Google that are based on consumers’ spending habits. 


Emerging trend: App-based games are making parents think twice about game consoles as gifts.

Implication: Game developers will weigh on content and experience differentiators to justify price.

Action: Ask for demographic and usage information when planning for immersive, branded gaming experiences. Popular downloads may not be as targeted as n established console players.


Emerging trend: The old fashioned TV relation, where the viewer has a solo connection to characters in a plot, is changing as Twitter networks become default TV companions.  

Implication: Social TV audiences dish a wealth of information about shows, advertisements and brands as they chat about their likes and dislikes.

Action: Offer branded experiences and purchase incentives to Twitter-engaged TV audiences. Gather clues about what make audiences tick and use these insights to create content that resonates.


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Monday, September 24, 2012

Retro and Counter Trends in Social Media

The following is the September issue of Info-Currents. To sign up for monthly social media and trend updates and action items, click here


Re-Emerging trend:  The value of singular, physical experience over multiple, virtual experiences is being emphasized through documentaries, experiments on life without Facebook, online dating services organizing offline events and research-based books such as The Face to Face Book.

Implication: For every trend such as the social media rush, there is a counter trend such as the one that underscores the value of face-to-face relationships. Some cohorts may seek lifestyles balanced between the emotional gratification of in-person relationships and the efficiencies of virtual ones. 

Action: When creating experiences as marketers and entrepreneurs, use social media as a lever to spread news fast and reach new frontiers. Rely on in-person connections to cement the concept in people’s minds and to give them something to talk about.


Re-Emerging trend: Subscription services such as get back in the spotlight as an alternative to free but ad-cluttered services such as Twitter.

Implication: Tech-savvy early adopters will sign up for services where they will pay to have ad-free content. Majority of Internet users will continue with ad-centric, free services and continue to ignore ads. 

Action: If you are running an information business, diversity your offerings by adding a subscription service. The select few who sign up for it are likely to be your most dedicated readers and followers.


 Re-Emerging trend: Bartering old but gently used goods is becoming a new source of satisfaction for e-commerce aficionados. Sites such as and give people the simple joy of acquisition in an environmentally conscientious way.

Implication: Millennials have different perceptions of value than older generations. Their interest in all things retro (retropia – a phrase coined by futurist firm Weiner, Edrich and Brown) is also spilling into trade.

Action: Turn this retro trend into a business advantage by creating second-hand markets online. It can bring longevity to your brand and help increase the value of limited edition products as collectors’ items.


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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Key Questions to Ask When Reviewing Social Media Listening Tools

If you are in a position to review and compare several social media listening tools, be critical. Ask tough questions on data quality and probe into black-box algorithms. Here is a short list of questions to direct to social media research partners:

1- How do you collect your data? How do you address spam issues?

2-Do you own your data or do you provide a sub-set of sites from a third-party?

3-What kind of support do you provide, if my team is not trained in research or analytics?

4-What solutions do you offer beyond baseline KPIs (volume, sentiment, etc.)?

5-How do you define influencers? Do you have a recommended approach?

You would never commission a survey without knowing where the sample is coming from or how the questions are phrased. Social research should also be held to high standards. Be ruthless about  getting quality data and methodologically sound solutions. Quick and dirty is not good enough in a world where social insights drive business decisions.

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Sunday, June 3, 2012

Info-Currents June Answers Critical Marketing Questions

Tomorrow morning, Info-Currents readers will find answers to the following questions in their inboxes:

1- How can my brand benefit from the surge of women's interest in Pinterest?

2- Is email the solution to engage scattered, inactive social network users?

3- What can advertisers do, if consumers click on 'do-not-track' buttons?

If interested, click here. 

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Saturday, May 19, 2012

Sandwich Maker from Antep Solves F-Commerce Riddle!


Move over GM, Tostcu Mehmet from Gaziantep, Turkey will show you how to work Facebook. Tostcu means sandwich shop in Turkish. Gaziantep is a major city in the Southeast region of Turkey, known for its cultural heritage, phenomenal cuisine and entrepreneurship. Mehmet is the owner of this 'Tostcu' in Gaziantep who takes orders from his clientele in the area via Facebook. That's not all -- you can even chat live with Mehmet's staff. One click from the simply designed Facebook tab will launch your MSN.

To date, the page has over 1,200 likes and more than 150 check-ins. The dialogue between Mehmet, his staff and customers is the kind you can't imitate through all the social media tricks in the house. The comments read as if everyone knows each other and Tostcu Mehmet always thanks those customers who order through the page.

No fancy app or sapplet. No check-out cart. Just authentic hospitality, rapid response and a network of loosely connected individuals in one area.  

Wish they delivered to my office!


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Saturday, May 12, 2012

What do Instagram, Slideshare and Meebo Have in Common?

These are the latest/pending acquisitions by social media giants Facebook, LinkedIn and the omnipresent Google. What does it all mean? Even the largest distribution channels need sticky content. Yes, I used that web 1.0 word 'sticky'. I could have said 'engagement is the new king.' Bottomline, advertisers need eyeballs to stay with content for a long period of time so they can sell more and more. Whether you're looking at a friend's photos, a colleagues' slides or getting social ads served to you, it's the same basic principle of being exposed to a message. 

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Saturday, May 5, 2012

Info-Currents... May is the month of mobile

Emerging Trend #1: The latest Nielsen report on Hispanics' use of mobile and social media shows that this population segment is significantly more likely than the rest of the population to use mobile devices and social media to connect and communicate. 

Implication: Digitally savvy Hispanic consumers serve as a proxy for proactive consumers who are open to brand communications and who will pay for content. eMarketer projects Hispanics to spend $500 million on mobile apps in 2012.

Action: To augment multi-cultural campaigns, invest in social media and hyper target through mobile. Hispanic users are 25% more likely to follow a brand than the rest of the population.  

To get the full newsletter and to receive Info-Currents monthly, click here. 

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Speaking At University of Chicago - Booth Business Book Roundtable on 04/25

I will be speaking on my book Implementing Word of Mouth Marketing: Online Strategies to Identify Influencers, Craft Stories and Draw Customers tomorrow at the University of Chicago. The event is a joint effort by Chicago Booth Business Book and Marketing Roundtables as well as the Savvy Women in Marketing group. Networking starts at 6PM at Chicago Booth Gleacher Center, 450 City Front Plaza Drive, Room 100.

Here's a synopsis of my presentation:

Setting up for Success: How to Generate and Measure Business Impact in Social Media

The euphoria around social networking compelled many businesses to join consumer conversations, pen expert blogs, and set up social media communities. Yet many corporate players share the challenge of attracting the right audiences to these venues and showing a return on their initiatives.


There are systematic ways to set up for success in social media and scientific methods to gauge results. In this session, you will learn how to:

-          Understand conversation trends and get to know your influencers

-          Distinguish between sustainable social media initiatives vs. creative but short-lived ideas

-          Prepare your organization for social care

-          Set benchmarks and measure success


 Ping me a note if you will be there! Looking forward to the discussion.


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Monday, April 9, 2012

Faced with Declining Sales, Toy Makers Go Digital

My friend Stephen Baer, managing director of the Game Agency, published a terrific article on toy makers' transformation into digital content publishers on MediaPost. Stephen cites the NPD Group reports on declining toy sales (by 2% in 2011) and says that the industry is trying to revamp by acquiring 'digital customers'. Here's an excerpt from the article, giving Mattel's initiatives as examples of this emerging trend:

"Mattel is introducing a new platform called Apptivity that will allow kids to take a physical toy and safely play with it on their iPad’s screen. In May, the toy maker will begin with Hot Wheels Apptivity, which lets kids take a 1:64 scale Hot Wheels car and race through three game modes on the iPad. The company will also introduce Apptivity to the youngest techies-in-training with Fisher-Price’s Laugh & Learn Apptivity Monkey, an interactive plush learning toy for babies that give them their very own apps on mom or dad’s iPhone or iPod touch device. Later this year, Mattel plans to roll out this technology to Barbie, Monster High, WWE, Angry Birds, Cut the Rope and Fruit Ninja."

To read the full article, which is full of examples from brands such as Hasbro and Identity Games, click here. 


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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Online Ads Improve with Offline Cues -- Info-Currents April Issue

Info-Currents April issue went out to subscribers at the beginning of the month. Here's a sneak peek at the trends covered in April. If you would like to sign up for this monthly future social media trends newsletter, click here

Emerging Trend: Online/mobile advertising will improve with cues from offline data.

Implication: Location-based services will inform mobile and web-based services about users’ purchase intent. Consumers will get more relevant ads and coupons served to them on their mobile devices based on their physical paths.

Action: Watch retailers that integrate mobile payment systems such as Google Wallet and Square. Consider partnering with players digital marketing software companies such as Kenshoo and Proclivity Media. They will have the most detailed data on consumer decision journey.



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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Cravebox - A Box of Consumer Interest

Cravebox is a new marketing service from the smart folks behind SheSpeaks, the word of mouth marketing company. The opt-in service sends a mix of products in a box to subscribers at $10/month. It's like 'an omnibus for new-to-market products' that get bundled when being presented to customers. 

Who picks the products? Consumer Curators who sign up to scour for products. Currently, they are looking for products in these categories:

  • Health & Wellness
  • Cooking, Baking & Grilling
  • Beauty & Skincare
  • Hobbies, Crafts & Recreation
  • Kids, Babies & Parenting
  • Home Organization & Home Cleaning Solutions

Why is all this so smart?

1- Influencers get to pick products and spread word of mouth through Cravebox subscribers -- brands that participate circumvent the challenges of finding their influencers and creating communities

2- Subscribers are paying to get a valuable package, but also covering some of the business costs

3- The opt-in trial process gets people more vested in using and talking about the products than your typical sampling program. The subscribers are so enthusiastic to receive this mix of new things, they don't hesitate to try, talk and post about them. Here are 4min+ videos of those who're going through their box.

Intrigued? To sign up for Cravebox, click here


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Sunday, March 25, 2012


What do you think of the phablet as a concept? Smart phone + tablet, that is. Samsung and LG are the two players offering this type of device now, with some saying that Samsung's Galaxy Note is ahead of LG's Optimus Vu is in the lead in terms of video, battery, display and overall user experience. Fans also gasped in shock when LG's Optimus Vu launched in Korea at close to $900. If you read Mike Elgan's post and reader comments here, most agree it is a step in the right direction. 

Phablets let you economize in terms of space (5" screens should be big enough to read, write and watch), without compromising on functionality. The winning models will be those that combine video, voice and basic work functions (note taking, graphics, email) while remaining on the light side. 



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Sunday, March 4, 2012

Info-Currents March Issue is Out

In this issue: Women taking over social media, Asia Pacific and Middle East reigning mobile video viewing, young adults join teens in dropping email. Sign up here. Sneak peek below.

Emerging Trend: Women are becoming the predominant audience in social media. Recent research by NM Incite and Nielsen had show that more than one-half of video viewers (53%), social networkers (54%) are women, now image sharing sites such as Pinterest are boasting largely female audiences. 

Implication: Women have transgressed from being family chronologists with cameras to active online consumers who indicate their ‘wants’ through vivid visuals.

Action: Retailers and manufacturers can boost catalog sales by setting up profile areas on image-sharing sites such as Pinterest and Fancy. These areas can directly communicate product details to primary shoppers. 

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Can Social Image Curation Mean The Demise of Written Language?

It was an action-packed week for those following the social curation space. Pearltrees raised $6.6 MM in funding, while Pinterest colonies continued to bubble up. GigaOm's Bobbie Johnson correctly reminded people that content curation is not just about Pinterest, it also includes players such as Delicious, Mlkshk, Paperli, and shoppers' delight Svpply. I'll add FFFFound to that list.

It's hard to say who will be a winner among these services in three years. It may depend on:

a- Number of dedicated return visitors, who do not stop clipping and curating after the 'in-thing' fades out

b- Whoever manages to make the best sense of aggregated consumer data collected on these sites

Nonetheless, the rush to these content curation sites underscores online populations' preference for image-based communications, supported with few words -- if at all. Visuals help communicate fundamental concepts at a basic level. There may be deep thoughts and long dialogues with rich vocabulary behind them, but the more we clip and click, the fewer words we need to get the idea across. As Lawrence Baines, the author of the Futurist article: "A Future of Fewer Words?" indicates, we're losing precision and eloquence as we use fewer polysyllabic words. 

The sharp increase in social curation site users confirms the universal language of the Web as 'the image.' 

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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Wearable Technology

Following my post on the Like Belt, one of my readers emailed me about the Wearable Technology Conference that takes place in Munich. In addition to the conference and a professional community, the site features neat gadgets such as thermal socks that heat up with batteries (well-suited for 30 Fahrenheit evenings in NY). But my favorite is the UP app that works with a wristband and not only tracks your activities, but also your sleep pattern. It eggs you on to get healthier by showing you how you're doing at a moment's notice, with fancy charts and an activity timeline.

For those of us sitting at a desk all day long and going around with 6 hours of sleep thanks to Real Housewives series re-re-re-runs, this may just be the necessary wake up call: to see your lack of activity charted...

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Sunday, February 5, 2012

Geek Accessory Alert - The Like Belt!

Do you wear what you like? If running out of wardrobe options, you may give the 'Like Belt' a chance. The device from the creative technology shop Deep Local will let you check-in, tap and register things or people you like. This could be an ice breaker at events.

<p>LikeBelt from deeplocal on Vimeo.</p>

Joking aside, I could see how this sort of technology can be used as:

1- A research tool - keeping a diary of tastes and preferences by consumer groups

2- A game - getting users to move around in a scavenger hunt to uncover branded prizes

3- A mobile app - giving users the flexibility to use their phones like a scanner in a gift registry

What do you think? Any other thoughts?

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Monday, January 30, 2012

Consumers Will Avoid Purchasing, If They Don't Like The Parent Company Behind The Product

A newly released study from Weber Shandwick explores the connection between corporate and product brands. Based on a survey of 1,375 consumers and 575 executives of $500MM+ companies from four global markets (Brazil, China, the US and the UK), the study shows that perceptions of a corporate brand can truly affect product purchases:

  • 70 percent of consumers say they avoid buying a product if they do not like the company behind the product
  • 40 percent stop purchasing the product when they see a disconnect between the product and parent brand

The web plays an integral role in this delicate decision-making process. Of those consumers surprised to find out that a product they like is made by a company they do not like:

  • 34 percent will go online to find what other products the company makes
  • 19 percent share or forward information about the company
  • 17 percent make negative comments about the product or company to others
  • 15 percent post a comment online about the brand and the company

Where do consumers get these ideas about corporate brands? The web's influence is almost as strong as offline word of mouth:

  • Nine in 10 (88 percent) say they are influenced by what people say
  • Eight in 10 point to online reviews (83 percent) and search results (81 percent)

Consumer opinions have a direct impact on sales and also on companies' market value. Interviewed executives said they would attribute 60% of their firms' value to these companies' reputation. In other words, online buzz can have an impact on a company's evaluation. But reputation is a holistic concept--whether online or offline, at the product or corporate-level, it needs to be consistent and positive. 

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Sunday, January 29, 2012

What Google's New Privacy Policy Really Means

How many mainstream Google users fully know or understand how the search engine collects and pieces information together? Probably not many. To "simplify things", Google reduced its 60 privacy policies down to one. Google informed me through my work and personal emails. Catch is - I didn't realize they had my information. Very spooky! But come to think of it, I had probably gladly opted into a Google-owned service at some point. Or used a service (e.g., YouTube), that got purchased by Google. That's Google's game: collecting disparate pieces of personal data and stitching it together. 

Here's what Google's new policy says and what it really means:

"...we want to ensure you can move across Gmail, Calendar, Search, YouTube, or whatever your life calls with ease"

i.e: We trace your footsteps from email, calendar, search to video. We then show you the ads based on themes you talk about in your personal space.

"...we suggest search queries or tailor search results, based on the interests you expressed in Google+, Gmail and YouTube."

i.e.: We connect what you like on google+, with what you frequently email about and what you watch on YouTube. We know you. 

"...By remembering the contact information of the people you want to share with, we make it easy for you to shre in any Google product or service with minimal clicks..."

i.e.: We know your friends too



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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Novo Nordisk Handles Paula Deen Reactions on Facebook

I received this interesting clip from a friend. Novo Nordisk fans were reacting negatively to the Paula Deen deal on Facebook, but some advocates stepped in to defend the brand without brand interference. Below, you'll see that the Novo Nordisk community manager "played it cool" by only reminding the fans of the FDA guidelines. Good approach to issue management in social media.

Here are the best practices this mini case study underscores:

  • First, monitor closely
  • If the community handles the issue itself, continue to host the conversation -- do not interfere
  • If someone does not abide by the communication guidelines, step in and send a reminder



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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Info-Currents January Trend #1 So-Lo-Mo

Here is a snippet of trends cited in this month's Info-Currents issue:

Emerging Trend: So-Lo-Mo – In 2012, social will grow locally and extend into mobile space. According to Nielsen NM Incite research, nearly half of visitors to local deal sites recommend these sites, fueling online word of mouth. Meanwhile, smart phone users spend majority of their time on apps, customizing their experiences.

Implication: Social networks will offer hyper-targeted local services to users. As smart phone usage becomes the norm, majority of social networkers will access these local services from their mobile devices.

Action: Consider app makers as content and commerce partners. Invest in f-commerce pages, online review features and mobile opt-in lists. Motivate social networking consumers to shop with deal alerts that match their needs and locations.

To subscribe to monthly social media trends newsletter Info-Currents, please click here.


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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Great Commentary on What Tablets Mean for Magazine Business

Check out this interview with Lee Isenberg, the former editor of Esquire and Time magazine veteran. Isenberg points out the growing number of magazine subscriptions among tablet owners. This is a promising sign for an industry that had been struggling to get its fair share of digital dollars. It also suggests that the industry can charge for content and not be as tied to advertising for revenue.

In the interview conducted by Temple University's Dr. Brooke Duffy (ASC Phd '11), Isenberg (ASC '70) says:

"The magazine business is finally getting the opportunity to sell subscriptions (in the past they have not been successful here). The Kindle Fire is the breakthrough in terms of selling subscriptions. Amazon is taking a small share of subscription money, and the rest will go to the publishers. Interestingly the cost of subscriptions will be higher even though the cost of distribution is lower. My guess is that consumers/readers will pay more to get their favorite magazines in tablet form or in bundle form. I do that now. I get The New Yorker at home but I can’t remember the last time I picked up the hard copy; I read it all on my iPad...having the content on a tablet is a pleasant and easy way to consume a magazine. It will be a boon to publishers." 

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Monday, January 9, 2012

New FDA Draft of Social Media Guidance Helps....A Little

The FDA released a draft document on how companies can respond to off-label remarks in social media . Basically, medical staff from the company can acknowledge the off-label post only if the post is unsolicited and mentions the product name.

When communicating with the user, the public response can only include contact information with full disclosure about the medical staff's relationship with the company.  The rest of the communication has to be directly with the user, through private channels; and it should include standard response information.

The best illustration of this maze of conditional communications came from Dose of Digital. Here's a great decision-tree that you can use to navigate through the new draft guidelines.

Understandably, sales and marketing cannot be involved in these communications.But I hope that future guidance from FDA gives companies ways to share information publicly that can guide all social media readers towards verified information.

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