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.


Finncast Episode 17: Social Design

We took a slightly different direction for Finncast’s 17th episode, as we were joined by repeat guest and wildly talented account supervisor, Anush Davtian. Together we explored digital news as of late, including Vine’s desktop redesign,  Pinterest’s “Guided Search”, and Foursquare’s app split, before launching into a larger discussion on social design and Twitter’s desktop redesign.

Want in on our news-fueled discussion? Lend us your ears, and click here.


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.


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


April Fools’ Day

I’m not really one for pranks – which didn’t stop my colleagues from covering my office in bubble wrap a while back – but I do appreciate a good brand gag for April Fools’ Day. Last year, we chimed in with an Inbox Zero spoof called Inbox 90, but this year, we’re watching through the lens of BuzzFeed, who has dedicated a page on its site to aggregating today’s social stunts.

LinkedIn has always been playful with its “People You May Know” feature on April Fools’ Day, and today was no different as they debuted a “Cats You May Know” spinoff. My favorite spoof of all (so far, anyway) today has been’s pug couriers. One part kitschy and one part cute-overload equals total success in my book.

Have you seen any good social stunts so far today? If so, share them with us in the comments, or on Facebook/Twitter.



Our View on the FDA’s New Social Media Regulations: Coloring Inside the Lines Can Be Creative, Too

For a social media professional – a breed of marketer stereotyped as young, crazy, uber-creative hipsters – I’m an odd bird. Even at a very young age, I was most comfortable coloring inside the lines. I found comfort in rules and would get upset at those who broke them – although that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the challenge of bending those rules a little bit to have some fun.

So how does this relate back to social media at Finn Partners? My team has found our little niche in the social media world – regulated industries. With recent clients spanning healthcare, insurance and finance, I was excited to see the Food and Drug Administration release a first draft of social media guidelines for pharmaceutical companies last week.

Although still vague and coming in pieces, I find it encouraging to see this gradual shift for the industry – one dominated by more type-A lawyers, regulators and red-tape procedure loving folks than almost any other industry. With these guidelines, I hope pharmaceutical companies will begin to embrace social media as a way to provide relevant, valuable content to healthcare professionals, consumers and caregivers – all while better understanding what these audiences want to learn and know about the diseases and conditions their products aim to cure, comfort and control.

Ready to jump in?

  • First, understand the guidelines. (If you haven’t read them yet, they can be found here.)
  • Next, invest in a great listening exercise. Get the right tools and do your homework to find your key audiences online – where are they talking? What are they saying?  What information can you provide better than anyone else?
  • If the above step sounds intimidating to do internally, find an agency partner who understands how to be both careful and creative. Coloring inside the lines can still be beautiful and impactful!
  • Get your ducks in a row – create processes and plans that will prepare you for the unexpected. This is where you create flow charts and utilize best practices in the banking and insurance industries and prove out how to handle PHI, off-label recommendations and community guidelines.
  • Educate as you plan. Don’t forget to invite legal and key executives to the table. If you keep all decision-makers looped in along the way, they’ll be more comfortable letting you make the leap.
  • Finally, dip that toe in the social media pool and then jump on in. The water’s fine.

Happy Festivus: A Social Media Airing of the Grievances

Hanukkah may have fallen early this year, but there’s still one other winter holiday with which I identify: Festivus.

Seinfeld fans know Festivus as an annual holiday celebrated by the Costanza family that falls each year on December 23. The holiday, created by Frank Costanza (played by the lovely Jerry Stiller), is celebrated over a meal where family members and friends alike air their grievances. And while I don’t condone the Feats of Strength element of this fictional holiday or appreciate the Festivus Pole, the Airing of the Grievances custom has — believe it or not — a social media parallel.

In the five-ish years that I’ve worked in social media, and the years beyond that in which I’ve used social platforms as a consumer, I’ve seen platforms come, platforms grow, and have even seen some platforms go. I fondly remember platforms like Yelp and Facebook in their infancy, and am comforted by their improvements and integrations ever since.

That said, like any 20-something, I have things that I want. And so, when I said that I wanted to air my social media grievances, I meant that I wanted to share with you, our readers, my list of social media features that I wish were implemented.

  • Improved On-Platform Measurement Solutions - Facebook has made great strides in its on-platform measurement solution called Insights, but even so, there’s room to grow across platforms. Twitter allows all users to access metrics via its ad dashboard, but the metrics are fairly high-level, and not super granular or ground-breaking. In 2014 and beyond, I’d love to see Twitter refine its on-platform measurement, and for platforms like Vine, Instagram and Pinterest to follow in a similar fashion. Each of the so-dubbed “emerging” platforms have strong enough business buy-in that there should be some sort of solid metrics program in place, beyond that which is available via paid efforts. In fact, such a tool would be a great way to initiate efforts with brands on the paid side of the fence.
  • Multiple Login Capability - One of my biggest pet peeves when manning social communities for a client, is when I have to constantly log in and out of handles/profiles to access their content. Third party tools are great, but it would be much more efficient if Twitter made it easier — like it is on their iPhone app — to switch between handles. Facebook does this well with page management, and it’s something that I’d love to more immediately see Instagram do, with Pinterest and Vine adapting at some point. 
  • Tweet Editing - Facebook recently brought back one of my favorite features, one that it eliminated years ago. It allows users to edit timeline posts and comments after they’ve been sent. While they do mark the post as “edited” near the timestamp, it’s a lot less embarrassing than having a glaring typo hanging in an update. I’d love for Twitter to do something similar. While it’s bad to have errors in social content, no matter the platform, I find that with Twitter being more public, it’s perhaps even worse than when this happens on Facebook. It’s rumored that Twitter is considering rolling out this functionality in 2014, and I sure hope they do, as it’ll save community managers from having to delete and repost content that may have garnered high engagement on an original posting, regardless of the error in question.
  • Instagram, Vine, and Pinterest Scheduling - Facebook and Twitter have made it super easy to schedule content ahead of time, directly on-platform. I’m eager for Instagram, Vine and Pinterest to follow suit. So much of their content relies on real-time activity, but when you’re on-site handling client visual content, sometimes it’s better to wait before posting, or to have someone else review – not super seamless with their posting protocol as it currently stands.
  • Vine Editing - I love the Vine has finally evolved and allow for videos to be saved as drafts, but I’d also love if they allowed for minimal editing. I’m not asking for uploading functionality like we have with Instagram video, but instead, just the ability to make small adjustments to videos like muting the sound, rearranging frames, and adding filter-like embellishments.
  • Tweet-level Privacy - When working in community management, it’s not unlikely that a client or former client will follow you on Twitter, or friend you on Facebook. On Facebook, the privacy settings are fairly idiot-proof, and if you’re truly concerned with your client seeing your personal content, you can prevent them from doing so without having to reject their friend request. On Twitter, however, the privacy settings are such that if you “protect” your tweets, that’s all encompassing, and not on a tweet-by-tweet basis. I think it would be a great, easy to implement (but what do I know?) feature, and allow users a bit more freedom, while allowing companies to test tweets without having to do a Photoshop mock-up.

What changes would you like to see across social media platforms in 2014? Share them here or via Twitter. And once again, Happy Festivus!


PR Lessons From Ron Burgundy and “Anchorman 2”

Full disclosure: the co-authors of this blog post are devoted fans of actor Will Ferrell and this holiday season, when many people are opening Christmas gifts and spending time with family and loved ones, you will find us at a screening of Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.

There’s another reason why we are excited about the release of the highly-anticipated Anchorman sequel: we are fascinated by the movie’s overwhelmingly successful PR campaign.

When you take a close look at the media and promotions, what becomes clear is that Ron Burgundy is everywhere: endorsing Dodge Durangos (which led to a jump in October sales of the pick-up truck by 59% compared to the previous year); co-anchoring a local newscast in Bismarck; unveiling the “Ron Burgundy School of Communications” at Emerson College; reporting for Canada’s The Sports Network on the Olympic curling competition; and, our favorite, interviewing Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning for ESPN The Magazine.

And, let’s not overlook the remarkable branding partnerships, too: Ben & Jerry’s limited edition flavor of Scotchy Scotch Scotch; Jockey briefs; the official “Anchorman” cologne that “60% of the time, works every time”; and Riviera Imports’ Great Odin’s Raven scotch.

About the popularity of the Ron Burgundy-inspired whiskey, the CEO of Riviera Imports told The Dallas Morning News, “I’ve been doing this a very long time and I’ve never seen a reaction like this.”

We’re amazed by the reaction, too. Because, as far as we can tell, there is no sign of “Anchorman” fatigue. And when you’re promoting a major campaign for a client, you want everyone to stop and listen.

Our take-away is that “Anchorman 2” makes for a great case study of what can happen when you hit every PR and marketing best practice and execute them flawlessly. So, what are some of those best practices? Here’s what we came up with:

  • Adapt Your Message for a Wide Range of Audiences – It certainly could not have been an easy decision for the management team at the Newseum to partner with a major studio picture. The distinguished Washington, D.C. for-profit had to decide if they wanted to devote their fall season to a 2004 cult hit that mocked the journalism business, as much as it promoted it. The partnership between Anchorman 2 and the Newseum delivered a perfectly unhinged combination of hilarity and news history. Anchorman: The Exhibit didn’t just reach the 18-49 year-old males that made the first film such a hit; it draws an international audience, women, teenagers on school trips and families from the D.C.-area, and beyond. The exhibit garnered positive press for both the Newseum and the film, with media praising its innovative and bold strategy. The campaign’s dénouement was Will Ferrell’s day of interviews from behind the news desk, something the typically-skeptical D.C. press couldn’t resist.
  • Stay on Message – In this case, kudos to Will Ferrell for putting on the mustache and polyester suits for the duration of the campaign. He recently told the Boston Globe that he has stayed in character as Ron Burgundy “not because the studio required it, but because he likes it.” He’s so committed, you can’t help but become a fan. Spokespersons who demonstrate a higher level of dedication and skill in message training can elevate a campaign.
  • Play to Your Strengths – As some studios have recently discovered (i.e., “The Hangover”), doing the exact thing again and again can erode a franchise’s fan base. The Anchorman PR and marketing team has successfully walked the fine line between distinguishing the new campaign from the original, while still playing to the things that worked the first time around. They’ve largely done this on social media, and by building off of Ron Burgundy’s appeal. It’s hard to believe that YouTube, Twitter, Tumblr, Reddit and Instagram didn’t even exist when the first “Anchorman” debuted in 2004. With dozens of original video clips, animated GIFs and other content, the promotion has made Ron Burgundy’s odd non-sequiturs, lack of self-awareness, and stiff but hilarious delivery of the news, work perfectly in today’s viral media landscape.

So, there’s a lot we can learn from the serious strategic thinking and creative mix of campaign elements driving the Anchorman 2 promotion. As a recent AdWeek article suggested, the film’s marketing push is not just “a sign of things to come in movie promotions,” but will likely have a much broader impact. It gets us excited thinking about what’s ahead for our own clients in 2014, and how we can put the most creative PR best practices into play.

Happy holidays, and stay classy, Finn Partners.


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)!


6 Seconds or Less

Since its launch in January, Vine has been gaining popularity amongst brands and everyday users. The Twitter-owned app, which recently launched its Android version, presented even more of a micro-content challenge than its parent company: creating quality video content with no more than 6 seconds of footage.

Like any other social media manager, my curiosity was piqued from a business perspective. I wondered how brands would showcase their products creatively, and of course, how we could implement Vine into our social practice.

And, as it happened, brands (Oreo Cookie, Urban Outfitters, Lowe’s, GE, PlayDoh and America’s Test Kitchen are all good examples) flocked to Vine, using it as a creative direct marketing tool.

One major misconception about Vine — and something that is being more widely dispelled as Vine artists like Meagan Cignoli rise to cyberfame –  is that making a great Vine video is easy.

Believe it or not, a good Vine video takes a great deal of planning and creative conception.

As my team learned last week when creating a Vine for one of our clients, the press-to-record, stop-motion nature of Vine will throw perfectionism into overdrive. With Vine, all footage must be recorded in real-time, and while they recently launched a “ghost” feature that allows Vine users to see their last captured frame, the lack of editing capabilities means that if even one detail is out of place, you’ll have to re-do the entire thing.

Luckily, the Vine they (the amazingly clever duo of Austin Weedfall and Lauren Gray) produced turned out really well, and we even captured some behind the scenes photos (courtesy of our in-house editor, Eric Russoniello) to give a little glimpse into the Vine creative process.




Inbox 90

I spend a lot of time focusing on the number 0. Zero calorie sweeteners, 0% APR, and even Zero Dark Thirty.

As it relates to work, my focus on this particular numerical digit has been almost exclusively in reference to my e-mail inbox. At the end of each work day, I confront my inbox, doing my best to sort through the masses of unread messages, filing ones of importance, and tossing all others. Until recently, Inbox Zero was my end of day workplace ritual; Merlin Mann was my leader, and SaneBox my prayerbook of an app.

But who am I kidding? I’m far from a minimalist – my office alone might qualify me for A&E’s Hoarders. Fixating on the number zero has proven ineffective, which is why I’ve decided to invent a new trend in productivity. I’m calling it Inbox 90 (trademark pending).

The idea is that instead of trying to narrow your end-of-day focus to a small list of things, put productivity to the test by splitting your attention amongst 90 different things.

Drawing inspiration from the concept of multi-tasking in the workplace, coupled with the need to appear more productive and important, here are some of the need-to-know components of Inbox 90:

  • Overshare - If you have 90 e-mails, or 190 e-mails, the world should know about it. The more you share with your colleagues about the volume of e-mail you receive daily, in specific quantities, the more important you’ll appear. (I’ve already told 6 people about the 90 e-mails sitting in my inbox right now.)
  • Reply All – On a slow day that only produces a small volume of e-mail, make it your job to “reply-all” when the opportunity presents itself. Not only will you be filling your own inbox with responses from people who also choose to reply-all, but you’ll be helping them reach their 90 e-mail quota, too.
  • Calendar Invites – If you’re at 85 unread e-mails, and are just looking for 5 more e-mails to reach 90, send calendar invites for a series of 15-minute meetings to 5 people, and wait patiently for confirmation of their response. Have fun with it by inviting each of your five potential attendees to five completely different, completely worthless events.

For a snapshot of just how important I am, take a look at the screenshot I captured from my computer last week.