The Rise of the Livestream

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Livestreaming isn’t new, and so when I first heard of Meerkat around spring – which I affectionately dub  SXSW season at this point- I was in no rush to download the app. It wasn’t until I heard rumblings about Twitter getting peeved with Meerkat’s use of its platform that I decided to check it out. And, with my luck, this all happened right around the time when Twitter upped its defense, cut off access to its API, and launched a competitive platform called Periscope.

Meerkat and Periscope are popular because they are inherently mobile-first, they tailor livestream video for a social audience, and they boast functional social components that fit in more naturally than is the case with any of their competitors – even my beloved Google+ Hangout On Air.

When Twitter enters into a companion-app rivalry, it doesn’t always win. Vine is still very much thriving, but adoption of the channel pales in comparison to Instagram. I fought for Vine, but in the end, I sold out to Instagram. It was a more intuitive, user-friendly experience that worked so well for content discovery as a standalone channel. And, when Facebook purchased Instagram, I’d like to think it added more fuel to the fire for Twitter to hit a home run — or in this case, to close a deal with the team at Periscope.

We already know that the social audience is hungry for experiential visual content — just look at the success of Snapchat. Like Snapchat, Periscope isn’t permanent, and users have a “playback” option which keeps their content for 24 hours. Periscope works so seamlessly with Twitter, and allows brands, public figures (Andy Cohen used it the other day!) and organizations an opportunity to build more dynamic engagements with their followers. Better yet, it turns news outlets – and information-hungry users – who use Twitter to offer minute-by-minute updates into real-time, no-frills round-the-clock broadcasting machines.

Measuring success on the platform may be tricky at this point, but considering the integration with Twitter, initial success on the platform could be measured by way of Twitter Analytics – looking at engagement and reach of the tweet with the Periscope link, as well as physical clicks on the link.

I’m really excited to watch Periscope grow. One of the reasons I stepped into the social space was because I saw myself as a schmoozer. I love connecting with people, and after learning more about Periscope, it’s clear to me that this tool could be a real game-changer for social community-building initiatives.

If you have five minutes, take a peek at the Periscope blog to learn more about their plans for the app and its growth. I’ll still be keeping an eye on Meerkat, but I’m currently Team Periscope, and can’t wait to take it for a spin with my clients.

 

 

Best of Breed Data Approach: Bottlenose Nerve Center

The Finn Partners Insights Team deals in data, and it’s my favorite part of the job. But that data doesn’t mean anything if we can’t turn it into useful intelligence that can improve the effectiveness of social and digital media activities.

This means we can’t just go spelunking around the internet looking for nuggets of information that might be interesting. Analysis tools make it possible for us to capture, filter, analyze, and digest the huge amounts of data available about what’s happening online and on social channels.

Luckily, there is no shortage of dazzling tools and products designed to do exactly what we need them to. Well, not quite. There are a lot of tools, but they all have different capabilities, different strengths and weaknesses, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Rather than use just one tool, our team relies on a variety of different products to best meet client needs.

Taking this best of breed approach requires a bit of leg work on our end. Just like test driving a car, we test run tools and products by conducting mini-research projects to determine if a tool is a good fit, and for what type of research or monitoring activity. This is fun for us (Yay! More research!) and great for our clients. Not only do we know what’s available, but we’ve tested the capabilities and figured out how to get the most from a tool. This week I put Bottlenose Nerve Center to the test on a sample topic.

Smart homes – what they are and how to make one – have been in the news a lot lately, so this week I took a look at how the smart homes topic is being discussed in social media. I honed in on three channels (Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr), focused the analysis on the month of April, and asked the following questions:

  • How big was the conversation?
  • Where did it take place?
  • What content trended?
  • Who was most visible?

Rather than bore you with a narrative of my findings, because we all know data is more fun in charts and graphs, check out the “April Smart Home Headlines” infographic for a little insight into last month’s conversation and the kind of information Bottlenose Nerve Center can supply.

 

 

The Joys of Project Management

When you’re planning your day between deadlines, deliverables and meetings (oh my!), the struggle feels as real as ever. At Finn Partners, I feel a little spoiled. We have an awesome team of dedicated project managers (PMs) who keep clients happy, budgets in check, and the production team…well…productive.

There’s so much industry chatter about the importance of a mentor in the workplace — which I wholeheartedly agree with — but I’d almost go as far as to argue that working with a real-life PM is as important as having a mentor. How are you supposed to focus on professional development when you’re drowning deep into the depths of account service and management?

My secret? Neby Ejigu. If you’re wondering what’s so special about Neby, you probably haven’t crossed paths with him yet. He’s the Director of Production at Finn Partners. Not sure what that means? In a nutshell, it means that he is the neck that turns the head. Neby oversees a team of digital PMs to ensure that all projects — including internal collaborations with account teams — run smoothly.

I’m always fascinated by what Neby does, and how attached I’ve grown to his team. (Really. I won’t even submit an RFP response without bouncing my ideas off at least one of our PMs.) To demystify project management, and to reveal just one of the reasons I’m able to do my job smoothly, I asked Neby some questions about his role, his team, and the importance of project management. Like only a true PM would, Neby was able to whittle away at my questions in between several important meetings, and an Amtrak journey.

Question: The term project manager gets used so loosely. What is a project manager, really?
Answer: We’re chameleons – we morph into whatever we really need to. A project manager can be expected to develop projects and plans, while also managing and monitoring overall project execution. When there’s a change in scope, that’s when a project manager takes control, and helps to redefine, and realign the project. I sometimes like to think of PMs as project guards; we have authority over project scope, time, cost, resources and team members.

Question: What are the three key benefits of having a dedicated project manager?
Answer: The benefits are pretty simple and straightforward. Embed a project manager if you want to:

  • Manage client expectations perfectly
  • Produce a well thoughtful, high-quality campaign
  • Deliver a project on time, within budget, all while utilizing the right resources

Question: What traits make a good project manager?
Answer: Social skills and patience are key, because the core of project management isn’t just about management deliverables, it’s about managing people — balancing client needs with the needs of the internal team. A good project manager needs to be willing to dig in, and get their hands dirty — diving into project foundation pieces like storyboarding, strategy, wire-framing, content entry, design, coding, etc. Finally, creativity is essential, and should have no limits. A solid PM should be able to creatively solve problems, because there’s no such thing – and never will be – as a perfect project. In this industry, flawless executions are most often a result of having the right mix of talent with a great PM putting out fires and solving any issues.

Question: What’s your advice for teams that don’t have enough budget for a project manager?
Answer: Honestly, consider the opportunity cost. Not having a PM will cost more in the long run. When faced with smaller budgets, some teams assume that an account manager can play the PM role as well. This couldn’t be more wrong, because both roles are so very different. Don’t be afraid to consult our team – I swear we don’t bite! Remember when I said we’re problem solvers? We will find alternative ways to accommodate budgets and to identify the right resources to fit that respective budget. Don’t forget that PMs serve two needs. They’re a support system internally, but they are also client-facing, and in most cases we eliminate overlap with the account manager.

Question: Is a project manager beneficial for clients, too, or are they only beneficial for internal workflow?
Answer: Having a sound PM in place is super beneficial to clients. They help to simplify technical jargon, while educating them on elements of a digital strategy. Having a PM available to offer those insights, while providing an accurate update on the project at any given time, without having to bother the team also helps manage the bottom line.

Question: When’s the best time to loop in a project manager?
Answer: From the beginning. If we’re there from square one – or really, square zero – it sidesteps any potential issues. The PM should be looped in at pitch time whenever possible to allow them to establish a scope of work, assign the right resources, and strategically think about solutions relevant to client needs. The sooner a PM is involved, the smoother and smarter your projects become.

Question: Is having a dedicated project manager expensive?
Answer: Project management costs are accounted for in all budgets that we give out to teams. It is typically the lowest cost from the breakdown and is not expensive.

 

It’s Time to Start Paying Attention to Intention: Some Lessons from Social Media Week New York

Be honest. How often have you shared or retweeted an article without reading it? How often have you opened a blog post and just read the first paragraph before moving on? Did you really feel connected to the story and the people providing their expertise on the matter discussed?

This week, I attended a presentation by Michael Zimbalist, SVP of Advertising Products and R&D at The New York Times, entitled, “Measuring Attention and Intention.” Michael spoke about how his department was taking a closer look at the relationship between readers’ attention and intention in an effort to help those of us in the audience understand how brands can create more engaging original content.

Not surprisingly, Michael’s team had discovered that the longer an ad could capture a person’s attention, the more deeply that person engaged with the brand or product. Because of this, the team is now focusing on ways to keep people on the page with sponsored content for longer periods of time. For example, the Financial Times is now charging advertisers by the length of time a reader looks at an ad or sponsored item instead of the number of clicks or shares the content generates.

While Michael’s presentation focused on advertising, he did let us know that the Times’ editorial staff has access to some of the same tracking engines and can use them to gauge what’s popular with readers. Therefore, on both sides of the earned and owned media coin, PR professionals should keep a keen eye on the quality of storytelling versus the volume of story installments: the tweets, blog posts, videos and infographics that create a brand’s overall narrative.

What can we learn from Times’ focus on this relationship between attention and intention? For one thing, it is more crucial than ever to be selective and focus on the quality information we share. There is too much noise to constantly bombard reporters and their readers with every single incremental announcement a brand makes. It’s also inaccurate to measure success solely on the number page views, re-tweets or posts. To fully engage an audience, a brand must translate people’s intent to understand a message into their undivided attention to the story.

 

You Should Make a Video Game

I had the privilege of spending last week working at San Diego Comic-Con with Microsoft. Its Games Studios wanted presenters to talk about the future of game design, and for some reason they wanted one of those people to be me. This was all in an effort to promote the upcoming game development software Project Spark, which opens up video game design to more than just computer scientists. It makes it so kids, adults, parents, teachers and students can all jump into complex game development in a very easy-to-use and easy-to-understand way.

Throughout the four-day event I spoke one-on-one with a wide range of people. The interactions that stood out the most though were kids and their parents. Project Spark requires some coding and development in order to create video games. Something that shouldn’t sound too appetizing to a 6-year-old. But every time I demonstrated a simple line of code, (WHEN: A is pressed DO: jump) which made the video game character jump up and down every time I hit the A button on a controller, little eyes lit up.

Coding, development and gaming are becoming the playthings of the next generation of communicators. Every parent I talked with told me about how they had their kid messing around with Scratch or Hopscotch (programming languages geared towards kids). They spoke about fun mini-sites their kids were developing and online resources they were playing around with. Now gaming is joining the open-source movement.

As I was walking through how you can make your own video game, kids were picking it up almost instantly (watch a 5-year-old explain game design). That’s in part because gaming is already everywhere around them. Points, levels, rewards, online competition, Club Penguin. These are staples of the 21st Century Playground. As gamification seeps more into our everyday lives, it moves closer and closer to the focal point of a communications strategy.

So what is my recommendation?

Think of communications like a gamer. Think about why the original Super Mario Brothers was so captivating in its 8-bit glory. It’s the challenge, the points, the score, the progression.  And it’s all of these things wrapped up together in a story (sometimes a very loose interpretation of the term) that makes you feel accomplished.

Gaming is no longer a fad, a platform for kids or a purely entertainment outlet. As future-leaning communicators, we should embrace gaming and gamification and understand how big of an impact it will have on our industry.

From my experience, the best way to embrace is to understand. Try making a game. It’s much easier than you think. Understand the architecture of gamification. There are a number of free tools to get you started:

  • Project Spark is free and currently available only on Windows 8 and Xbox One. That is my software of choice, because it’s simple to get you started and has very advanced layers when you’re ready to play with code and mechanics.
  • Scratch may seem geared towards kids, but it doesn’t matter. I’ve learned a lot from it myself. And it’s free, brought to you by MIT.
  • Sploder is a free online tool that is dead simple to make your own quick 2D game. It’s a bit limited, but great for people who want to dabble without getting into any sort of coding.
  • Game Maker Studio has a free version that is limited in what you can create, but great if you just want to poke around to see what gaming is all about.

So there is my big challenge to you: make a video game.

sdcc

 

INFOGRAPHIC: 2014 Oscars Broadcast Sponsorships Impact in Social Media

Advertisers spent millions of dollars securing sponsorship slots for the 86th Annual Academy Awards. Samsung, American Express and Lipton among the most visible on Oscars night . How did that translate to the social media conversation for these brands? A well-covered selfie might make you think Samsung ran away with all the prizes, so we dug a little deeper than conventional wisdom and found some interesting activity that fueled a couple of lessons.

We utilized Crimson Hexagon to scan for posts associated with the Oscars and selected sponsors. We limited the analysis to advertisers that produced a measurable social media impact. I’m sure there were more sponsors than we examined but we caught the big ones.

Two insights we developed:

  1. It’s fine to staff up your social media team for the big event, but keep them around for the next day too — when the conversation gets the most traction.
  2. Depending on your business objectives, find the metrics that best help you prove that your activity is having an impact. Hint: it’s not just the usual KPI (key performance indicators) suspects.

Check out the embedded infographic below or download the high-resolution static version. We’ll look for the next big event to test out this analysis again, and if you have suggestions please let us know.

FinnPartners_2014OscarsSponsors_in_socialmedia

Finn Partners analysis of the social media impact of leading 2014 Academy Awards advertisers.

 

Something New for Your Ears

In 21st century PR, it’s hard to keep up with the news. What with the new social media announcements, industry flip-flops, online evolution, and the two-thousand new services announced every day. The capabilities of your average PR firm are also broadening dramatically. There’s social media strategy, online development, the company blog, community management, blogger relations, search engine optimization. Need I go on?

We’ve been cooking up something new at Finn Partners for the past month. A podcast. Not just a podcast, but the Finncast. It’s our attempt to dissect all of this information in our rapidly evolving industry. Our weekly podcast series is launching today, with a new episode planned every Monday. In each weekly episode we hit on some of the top news items of the week and then discuss one topic in the PR, social or digital space.

Your week-to-week co-hosts will be Alexandra Kirsch and I. And in each episode we will invite on another Finn Partners team member with expertise in the weekly topic to discuss it with us. The topic of discussion in this first week is “Who Should Manage Social Media Advertising?” In it, we are joined by Barry Reicherter, a partner of digital strategy. It’s a great discussion, where we weigh the credentials of marketing agencies, PR agencies and your community manager.

I’m passionate about podcasts and listen to about 15-20 each week, so I’m incredibly appreciative of this opportunity. I hope that passion translates to the enthusiasm we bring to each episode, and the topics we explore. Because ultimately we do this for you, not for us. We want to give you the best PR & digital podcast out there. We want to give you interesting news, knowledgeable insights and great personalities. And we want your feedback to. Tell us what you want us to discuss. Or even if you have questions for us, we’ll answer them on future shows.

You can find our podcast on iTunes, just search for Finncast, and subscribe to have each episode delivered right to you. You can also subscribe to our Podcast feed on Feedburner. Or if you just want to listen to the MP3 for our first episode you can do that as well.

I hope your ears enjoy what we’ve made here. I know we’re excited.

 

Storify as a Social Curation Tool

Social curation is an emerging trend in the social space. Tools like Storify allow users to crowd-source through public social postings — either during events, or on a daily basis — and allow you to publish those posts, formatted to flow like a story.

This takes storytelling to a whole new level with user generated content versus brand-owned content.

Common uses of Storify include:

  • Collecting and recaping tweets during Twitter Chats
  • Documenting live events as they happen, like the recent fires on the New Jersey Shore boardwalk, or the tragic events at the Washington Navy Yard
  • Collecting responses to announcements
  • Collecting news stories from various outlets
  • Showcasing speaker quotes from conferences

Just like the platforms it pulls from, Storify is not without engagement features. In fact, stories can also be liked, commented on and embedded, encouraging sharing and open dialogue.

Storify co-founder Burt Herman, said, “People have used it to capture mentions about their products. People also use it to push things out there—to say, ‘Hey, tell us what you think about this, use this hashtag, we’ll use your best responses, and put them online.”

Watch Storify in action with the following examples:

-       Fire Blazes Through Seaside Park, N.J. Boardwalk via The Weather Channel

-       Twitter Files for IPO via CNBC

-       Trending Topics + News via Dieste

-       #INBOUND13 by Valentina Falcinelli

Storify allows users to search public updates across platforms, including Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, YouTube, Flickr. Once you’ve decided which tweets to pull and showcase, you can add context by adding in your own commentary to guide the story. Even The White House uses Storify as a behind-the-scenes tool, and as a way to social disseminate information.

We tend to rest easy knowing that almost everything published in cyberspace lives there for eternity, but in case that’s not comforting enough, you can export stories as PDFs for archival.

I’m excited to see how Storify grows, and how it impacts the way people collect and share social experiences.

Have a great Storify case study, or know of a brand who uses it especially well? Share it with us in a comment, or via Twitter (@FinnPartners)!

 

4.5 Ways Social Media Compares to Romantic Relationships

Most of us by now have experienced a romantic relationship (or two, or three) – the butterflies, new experiences, the “firsts” and the inevitable heartbreak. Which oddly enough, the more I think about it, the more I’m reminded of social media. Let me explain:

  1. The “introduction” stage: When you first set your eyes on “that” guy/girl, you can’t wait to get acquainted, and learn more about them. Now let’s say a hot new platform is about to be released in beta. You know you’re signing up to be on the mailing list, hoping for one of the first invites or begging your friends who have access to “introduce” you to this new hottie. Oh, hey there, Pinterest!
  2. The “honeymoon” stage: Everything is going better than a Disney fairytale with your newfound arm candy. You count the hours until you can see them, can’t take your thoughts and eyes off of them, and are over the moon with happiness. Doesn’t this sound like your first few months with Facebook? Point made.
  3. The “this takes a lot of work” stage: Relationships require a ton of energy and time to continue growing successfully, as do your social media platforms. Just because you have built your mini follower base and become a “social celeb” of sorts does not guarantee you will stay there if you don’t continue putting in work. Your Twitter followers will drop you like a fly and your Facebook friends will start wondering why they even have you on their list. In other words, stop making an effort and your “relationship” will come crumbling down. Hello there, Xanga.
  4. The “it’s not you, it’s me” stage:As the decline of a relationship rears its ugly head, the “it’s not you, it’s me” line might be used. Whether you’re the one using the line or on the receiving end, it takes a lot to admit the relationship is no longer working. Social media works very much in the same manner. We outgrow people very quickly, what makes us think we’re not going to get sick of Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest or #insertnameofanothersocialmediachannel? (Hey – remember MySpace? Me neither!)
    1. The “I have no idea why he/she broke up with me” stage: In contrast to the above stage, you might get your heart broken without a “good enough” reason or explanation. It’s best just to acknowledge the loss, pick up the pieces and know that you will someday find someone who makes you happy. Another company acquires your favorite social network and changes all the features you loved without asking? Admit it will no longer make you happy and move on. You will find your happiness eventually, I promise.