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.

 

 

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.

 

The Rise of the Emoji

My love for emoji is far from secret. They were the only thing that made me relate to Zosia Mamet’s character on HBO’s Girls, and they’ve helped me to replace the classic text messaging fillers of a forced “haha” or “LOL.” Friends and family have grown accustomed to receiving random eggplant emoji when I’m cooking, or an angsty emoticon when they send a text too early or too late.

During my routine morning scan of my Feedly feeds, I noticed more than three articles mentioning the rise of the emoji in varying capacity, and there was one in particular that I wholeheartedly agreed with.

Owen Williams of The Next Web penned a piece that argues against the idea that emoji have compromised the future of the English language. Instead, he says — and I agree — that emoji have had a positive effect on the way we communicate across digital channels.

Regardless of reception, emoji are here to stay. Apple implemented an emoji keyboard with iOS5, and Instagram made a welcome update by allowing users to include emoji in hashtags on the platform.

If anything — and the clue is in the word — emoji have forced digital, social and mobile communicators to visually express and share their emotions.

Williams makes some great points — and goes on to concede that emoji have of course spurred some miscommunication — but he said it best when he said, “If the internet were a country, emoji would be the official language.”

Emoji have made simple text messages — whose real-life equivalent would be the “stop-and-chat” a la Larry David — so much more pleasant. Communicate stress with a couple of ambiguous emoji, or like me, just confuse your husband.

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Either way, with social platform integration and ongoing Unicode updates, I’m excited to see where the world of emoji will take us.

 

 

Inside My Insta-Love

I’m obsessed with Instagram. And while I promise not to treat this blog post like some sort of editorial confessional, it’s important to me – really, it is! – that you understand why I’m hooked. It’s also worthwhile to note that I’m pretty neurotic, as far as creatives go. All of my iPhone apps are organized into folders, and then by frequency of use. Imagine the challenge this poses when a new platform is launched, or when a platform rolls out a companion app (like Instagram did with both Hyperlapse and Layout).

Smartphone photography

My favoritism for Instagram doesn’t mean that I don’t love other photo-focused experiential platforms like Snapchat and Vine. I’ve kept a close eye on them to watch for smart and subtle brand engagement opportunities. But still, I find myself totally and completely enamored with Instagram for five key reasons:

1. Low-Barrier Engagement: Instagram may be owned by Facebook, but its engagement functionality for brands and consumers alike is much less overwhelming. A simple double-tap gesture is all that it takes for a consumer to passively engage with someone they follow. While comments and private messages are also an option, they’re secondary. This is very important to keep in mind for larger Instagram campaigns from an executional and measurement perspective. Considering the means of engagement on Instagram, KPIs may be more challenging to establish.

2. Clean & Nonintrusive Advertising: I’m a big believer in balancing a social strategy to account for both organic and paid support. That said, the front-end product of the back-end targeting isn’t always pretty. As a consumer, I’m grateful for the speed in which Instagram has rolled out its ad platform. As a social strategist, I’m wildly impatient for them to roll out advertising capabilities more broadly, but completely respect their reasons for a slow and steady approach.

The end product of an Instagram ad works not only because of what seems to be some solid targeting (I’ve gone on to follow many of the brands whose advertisements have landed in my feed), but because of strong content. And that’s exactly why it makes sense to kick it off as an exclusive set of brands; it reemphasizes the importance of producing strong, original and unique content to capture and engage your social audience.

3. Challenging Creativity: Not totally dissimilar to the concept of challenging brands to create great content, is this idea that Instagram challenges overall creativity for the user, by making us reevaluate what makes a good photo, and what’s worth sharing. From the filters to various level adjustments, Instagram puts the user in the driver’s seat, and for brands, that means a lot of creative license. Instagram forces brands to think more creatively about campaigns and activations, and it’s a great platform for leveraging brand partnerships and influencer relationships.

While the ability to upload photos and videos to Instagram is useful in plotting out an editorial calendar, brands have an added pressure to be trendy and timely, while also being polished and strategic. Facebook and Twitter have become more static in strategy because of scheduling functionality, whereas Instagram – as well as Snapchat and Vine – is keeping users on their toes, forcing more “of the moment” content.

4. Logical Features: Unlike some channels, Instagram has rolled out two really solid companion apps that offer its users more creative freedom. Hyperlapse is a super cool time-lapse video tool, and Layout is an equally cool photo collage tool. Both apps allow you to publish to Instagram with the click of a button, without being pushed to include a branded third party hashtag like many others. In addition to its companion apps, almost all Instagram app updates are echo user feedback, including its most recent addition of new filters and emoji-laden hashtags.

5. Awareness & Discovery: I feel about my social channels like I feel about my job. I’ll only continue to love them if I can continue learning and discovering. One of the totally underrated features on Instagram is its discovery feature, built nicely into its search tab. The platform allows you to search intentionally for a handle or a hashtag, while also curating an always-updated selection of Instagram images based on who you already follow. For me, that means a lot of shameless food photography mixed with random brands and marketing thought leaders, but it also means endless new recipes, social exclusive coupons and interesting work-related tips. The discovery functionality is great for brands and marketers, because it opens doors for building smart relationships with potential influencers, and getting a sense of who your audience engages with, offering insight into content that you could be creating.

 

 

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.

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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 Moo.com’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!