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SOPA: Stop Online Piracy Act or Shortage Of Proficient Advocates?

Posted by Jon Bloom under Events, Media, Public Relations, Strategy, Trends

January 31st, 2012

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) have been items of hot debate in the tech world this month. According to Christina DesMarais of PC World,  this may “possibly be the most contentious uproar seen on Capitol Hill and in the tech world ever.”

Originally, the bills provided a primary means of fighting online piracy. By forcing service providers to block infringing domain names, it would be more difficult to access file sharing hubs or other copyright violating websites. Furthermore, according to Jared Newman of PC World,  the bills would seek court orders “requiring payment providers, advertisers, and search engines to stop doing business with an infringing site.” Although this may hinder many online pirates from downloading with ease, it would also open the door to a new type of online censorship. Governmental control over Internet access could snowball into general censorship over opinion, content creation and social media. After public discovery of SOPA and PIPA, protests flooded many blog sites, Twitter, Facebook and news channels as technophiles around the world voiced their opinions. The uproar culminated into a 7,000-site blackout on January 18, 2012 and support from the Internet hacktivist group Anonymous.

What specifically caused the commotion and how it could have been handled differently? I believe that there were two core fallacies behind SOPA and PIPA that created a whirlwind of bad press. These fallacies could have been easily fixed by applying very basic PR principles.

Communication Failed From the Top Down
Those of us in PR know how quickly opinions can sour if communication is not handled in a professional way. SOPA and PIPA supporters were at a loss with communicative explanations for the bill and its intended purposes. Mel Watt (D) North Carolina, ranking member of the Intellectual Property Subcommittee stated that he was “not a nerd and didn’t understand a lot of the technological stuff.” This sentiment was soon followed by Zoe Lofgren (D) California, Darrell Issa (R) California and Jason Chaffetz (R) Utah, who all stated that they were not enough of a nerd to understand the issue. One step that could have helped mitigate the social upheaval would have been better communication with stakeholders. Obviously, congressional members had spoken with lobbyists from Hollywood’s powerhouses, but hadn’t discussed the issues with bloggers, online journalists or the technology industry at large. Worse yet, congress retaliated to the protests with public name-calling. The generalizations were astonishing. Apparently, all those in the technology industry, anyone who publishes online content, as well as general Internet end-users are, for all intensive purposes, “nerds.” Jon Stewart,  host of the Daily Show and news comedian, stated it perfectly when he responded, “Really? Nerds? You know, actually, I think the word you’re looking for is ‘experts.’” Communication is key. Communicating professionally, early and often could’ve alleviated this issue.

Research Didn’t Exist
Another PR101 lesson that would have helped the SOPA and PIPA bills would have been better understanding of the dialogue and audience. Had the congressmen understood the terminology in the bill and read the bill as a whole, they would have better grasped the consequences and the possible infringement on the 1st amendment it could cause. One of the first lessons learned in PR, either in school or on the job, you must understand what your client does. How can you represent your client if you don’t understand what they do? How can a congress represent the citizen-base if they don’t understand what we do? Lack of research and comprehension can be devastating in any field.

Through research, shared vision and communication SOPA and PIPA could have helped prevent the expansion of online piracy, along with protecting the rights of online content creators. According to Eugene Lee, the CEO of Socialtext, SOPA and PIPA identified and targeted the wrong side of the issue. Lee asks, “how would we solve the problem if it were analog? Would we shut down video stores if an independent film company made a movie that violated copyright? We need to start with a rational assessment of the problem and propose solutions that make sense for both the protection of copyright and the protection of innovation.”

With thorough communication around the issue and research backing the solution, PR basics (and a little common sense) can make problem solving more effective in any field.

—Majhon Phillips


The Super Bowl Goes For A Hashtag Hail-Mary

Posted by Jon Bloom under Events, Media, Public Relations, Strategy, Tools, Trends

January 26th, 2012

Over the next two weeks, three teams will be gearing up for Super Bowl XLVI. You read correctly, three teams. Not only will the New York Giants and New England Patriots be battling it out at Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium, another team will take to a different field – the social media field.

This past Monday, the Super Bowl committee announced that the most watched sporting event will have the first-ever Social Media Command Center. In the lead up to the game, a local digital marketing firm will send a team of roughly 50 strategists, analysts and techies to monitor the digital fan conversation on various social media channels. The people in the command center include college journalism, public relations and telecommunications majors from Ball State University, Butler University and Indiana University and they will work out of a 2,800-square-foot space facility that utilizes over a mile of Ethernet cable.

You might be asking what are these people going to do all day? Troll around on social media channels? Essentially, yes. But there is very good reasoning behind this approach. This social media super team will monitor the Web for the 150,000+ football fanatics who will descend on Indianapolis for the game. The team will specifically be looking for key words and phrases to help the out-of-towners maneuver around Indy, providing directions, parking information, things-to-do around town provide alerts should an emergency arise.

The super team concept is pretty novel, if you ask me. Indianapolis is effectively utilizing the social media super team as virtual tour guides. With cash-strapped cities looking to lure visitors in order to jump-start local economies, this is a cost-effective tool that can be used for future events as well.  If well-executed, it could have a profound effect on the people attending the event and enhance their experience. The super team concept could very well catch on with other major sporting event such as the Olympics, World Cup, World Series, and NASCAR – all major events with significant online interactivity. The beauty of the super team concept is not limited to just sporting events as it could also be applied to big tradeshows such as the Consumer Electronic Show, or even multi-day music events like Coachella and Stage Coach.

Many of you may be shaking your head and saying sure, this is a great concept, but the mobile networks will get bogged down, fail to support the increased online traffic and kill the experience? Not so fast. Recent reports indicate Verizon and AT&T have spent millions of dollars to prepare their networks for the influx of data usage in the Indianapolis area. AT&T has also deployed nine COW’s  (Cell on Wheels)  which will boost high speed 3G and 4G LTE service to the surrounding area to help alleviate the added stress on the networks. The city of Indianapolis will most definitely benefit from these advances in the long run.

Sports fans are without a doubt that are the most rabid in social media posts as record-setting Tim Tebow tweets clock in at a solid 9,420 tweets per second  and last summer’s Women’s World Cup finals approached that with 7,196 tweets per second. The Super Bowl’s groundbreaking Social Media Command Center is more proof that people, especially sports fanatics, prefer to communicate via social media than any other outlet available today.

Do you see Social Media Command Centers catching on? What events do you see this concept being adapted for?

— Marta Weissenborn


Think CES Works For Your PR Program? Why?

Posted by Jon Bloom under Clients, Events, Public Relations, Strategy, Tools

January 12th, 2012

I’ll bet you one of my children that numerous exhibitors at this week’s Consumer Electronics Show are standing in their booths today asking “why?”

“Why am I here?”

“Why did we think this show would be a good vehicle to announce news?”

“Why are we not getting any attention?”

“Why should I do this again?

To the last query, I would answer: You shouldn’t.

While I think CES is a fun show to wander, I am not a fan of CES to communicate company news.  In fact, I am not much of a fan of any large-scale trade show as a place to be heard at any level.

Yes, we have clients attending the show and, yes, we are communicating on their behalf before and during CES.  But it wasn’t our first choice.

And it shouldn’t be yours.

Literally hundreds of companies thought issuing news and doing some level of promotional activities at CES would pay dividends.  The majority of them wasted their time, energy and budget because they believe that they will be rise above the boisterous conversations at this industry event.  Sure, it would be nice to capture the industry attention while everybody is in one place but that is a dream for the vast majority of companies that flock like lemmings to Las Vegas.

The days of the tradeshow are numbered in my opinion and I am not alone.  Apple long ago pulled out of CES and Microsoft announced plans this year that the 2012 CES would be its last.  Hey, I am not dogging CES alone.  I’ve been attending trade shows for nearly 30 years and we have represented several events including a five-year run with the RSA Conference and this year’s forthcoming Open Networking Summit.  Industry events have a definite place in the landscape.  For certain (read: large) companies, they can be effective as communications’ vehicles.  For the majority, however, not so much.

Back in the day, major shows like CES and Comdex were “must drop” events, meaning every company no matter what size or how important would drop news at the show.  Period.  Also back in the day, we did some pretty wild things to break through the growing clutter at shows including conducting an actual funeral for a product that competed with a client’s offering.  As recently as last year, we did sky writing over an Apple industry conference.  Both were effective but for different reasons.

The funeral was a hit because we broke the rules and created a stir on the show floor.  ‘Nuff said on that.  The sky writing was a huge success because it was in the physical world outside the show and the event was concentrated on a single venue.  Venue “creep” ultimately helped doom Comdex and it makes it hard to break through the noise.  Noise and size doom attention seeking small and mid-size companies.

When it comes to maximizing communications activities at shows, we counsel clients to view them strategically:

> Don’t use a show to communicate long-form information – you will only get brief attention spans from influencers and you run the risk of not being heard.
> Don’t make the show your focal point.  Think of it as the period at the end of a sentence.
> Plan to get heard by influencers or other target audiences in advance of a show.
> Use that advance buzz to attract your audience during the event.
> Consider a two-pronged news approach in which the primary announcement drops 2-4 weeks in advance and a follow up “show announcement” reiterates the key points in a show wrapper
> Consider using social media as a means to connect with show attendees on site and build further buzz onsite – but don’t rely on at-show social as the primary vehicle for the same attention span challenges mentioned previously.
> Only undertake a creative attention-getting if it is actually creative and actually capable of gaining attention (most aren’t).

Of course, if you have a highly recognizable brand with a highly newsworthy announcement, a show like CES can be an effective part of your marketing mix.  Few companies can claim that mantle and many of them are unfortunately left asking “why?” long after the event has concluded.

–Jonathan Bloom



What’s In A Label? The Pros, Cons Of Changing An Icon

Posted by Jon Bloom under Public Relations, Strategy, Trends

December 7th, 2011

Every holiday season, the iconic soda maker Coca-Cola issues the traditional holiday edition soda cans. This year was no different.

For this holiday season, Coca-Cola decided to create an attention-grabbing campaign by putting regular Coke in winter white cans with polar bears roaming the can. Coca-Cola has stated the design was in conjunction with the World Wildlife Fund to highlight global warming’s threat to polar bears’ Arctic habitat. While the cause is commendable, the color change has left Coca-Cola out in the cold.

Historically, regular Coke has been packaged in the classic red can while Diet Coke has been packaged in the polar opposite silver can. Consumers have been conditioned to visually understand the difference between the red and silver cans without having to read the label. This holiday season, diabetics across the nation are seeing a spike in their blood sugar all because of a little fun with color.

The Coca-Cola faithful have taken to social media to express their displeasure with the holiday cans. The main issue at hand is how strikingly similar the holiday edition regular Coke and Diet Coke cans are. Since the uproar over the can color, Coca-Cola has decided to scrap the white holiday cans and quickly replace them on store shelves with red holiday edition cans as early as this week.

While changing an iconic label is not unheard of, there has to be a substantial reason behind the transformation. Let’s explore a few reasons:

You should change a label if:
> The business is growing – As a business evolves so does the consumers. The business needs to be able to adapt as it progresses to their consumers changing needs and perspectives.
> Product repositioning – Brands often need to realign or redirect company goals. In this case designing a new identity with a logo or color scheme change is an effective way to come across as modern and fresh.
> Your brand is outdated – Ever look at an old picture of a Campbell’s soup can? What if they never update the soup pictures or the layout of the label? They wouldn’t exist. If your label looks outdated, your brand probably is too. Labels need to transform with society.

You shouldn’t change a label if:
> Your brand is having an identity crisis – So your brand hasn’t caught on just yet, that is not a reason to up and change the color scheme or logo. Changing your brand’s identity too often can make the brand seem unstable.  Consumers like consistency.
> You want to create buzz – Changing your brand identity to create buzz, can have serious backlash. In the social media world, how a person expresses their pleasure or displeasure of a brand on social media channels has a trickledown effect.  Consumers’ are highly influenced by their peers and social media gives them a soapbox to stand on.
> Everyone else is doing it – Just because your competition is changing or altering their brand does not mean it is the best decision at the time for your brand. Have your own identity.

Brands evolve and change over time; they have to in order to stay relevant. But it is how the company executes the change that makes it a smooth transition or an epic fail. Could you imagine if one day, McDonald’s went from golden arches to green arches?

Do you have an example of how a brand successfully or unsuccessfully changed their logo? Share with us in the comments section below.

–Marta  Weissenborn


Giving Thanks Post Thanksgiving

Posted by Jon Bloom under Clients, Media, Public Relations, Strategy

November 29th, 2011

Any good agency can do solid work.  Product launches, trade show support, standard social media elements…check, check, check.  But few agencies get great opportunities to not only be creative but also move the needle on public opinion.  Earlier this year, we were given an opportunity to do just that in undertaking a bold communications program on behalf of a controversial company in the Internet tablet market.

Fusion Garage had introduced the industry’s first tablet in 2009 – even in advance of Apple’s iPad – but execution issues stalled company and product momentum.  Many people wrote the company off.  Fusion Garage’s CEO asked us for a completely different communications approach to put his brand back on the map.  We gave it to him in the form of an aggressive, parody company called “TabCo.”  The four month campaign not only hinted at something big to come from Fusion Garage, it also poked fun at the industry, its shortcomings and some of the seminal moments that define the market space.  And it worked.

Fusion Garage and its CEO received a much coveted “second chance” by the often fickle influencers and consumers who follow the tablet market.  The industry took notice of the “TabCo” campaign in a big way.  It garnered extensive, positive Twitter commentary and media coverage including initial stories by the likes of Fast Company and All Things Digital.  Just a few short days ago, we were thrilled to read about the campaign from the communications industry perspective when PR Week highlighted TabCo.

It is a rare opportunity to be able to implement a campaign that is a delicious mix of risk/reward, edginess and non-traditional approaches.  It is an even rarer opportunity to have a client that enthusiastically gets behind the campaign and participates like a true partner.  Even though Thanksgiving has passed, we remain thankful for both.

–Jonathan Bloom


The Netflix Nightmare – Skewed Transparency

Posted by Jon Bloom under Events, Media, Public Relations, Strategy

October 27th, 2011

Earlier this week, the San Jose Mercury News reporting some shocking numbers: Netflix lost almost one million subscribers after the company announced pricing and services changes.  The article called Netflix management and the company’s external communications “tone deaf.”  How did a Silicon Valley mainstay company and consumer darling fall so hard and so fast?  Let’s take a look.

“We need to be transparent.” I hear that at least once a week from my colleague and McGrath|Power CEO, Jonathan Bloom. I fully agree, so I’ll start this post off with a little personal transparency. I’m not ashamed to admit that I signed up for Netflix because they offered “The X-Files” through their streaming service. I am, however, ashamed to admit that the reason why I have not taken a stand against their abominable PR and canceled my Netflix service yet is because I want to finish the epic sci-fi series first

In PR, as in our daily lives, it’s important to be transparent, especially when communicating on behalf of a client. What’s even more important though is how the transparent message is relayed.  Everyone knows the story by now. Earlier this year, Netflix tried to split their DVD and streaming video services into two brands, Netflix and Qwikster. They also increased prices astronomically for both DVD and streaming after the split of said services. You may also know that the poor delivery of these changes caused customers to cancel their subscriptions. If not, here’s a quick recap:

> On July 12, 2011, Netflix sent out a message to its users via email and the company blog. Beginning with “our lowest prices ever” and ending with a mathematical equation that spelled out “you’ll be paying more than double what you were before,” Netflix announced a few changes in the services they offer.

> They planned on splitting the DVD service and their online streaming service into completely separate entities with different websites, which meant that if you wanted to change your account information or service, you must do so on two separate sites. The reasoning behind this split was to “better reflect the costs of each and to give our members a choice.”

> The combined price for the two services increased 60 percent, going from $9.99 a month to $15.98 a month. Now, customers will receive half of the services they were offered before for almost the same price if they sign up for one service or they can pay double for the status quo if they sign up for both services.

It is apparent that Netflix underestimated its audience because this caused an uproar. While Netflix told the truth, they tried to hide it in words and phrases they thought would resonate positively with customers. People weren’t fooled by terms like “lowest prices” and “terrific value.” They saw through the “transparent” message Netflix was relaying and understood the truth of it. Netflix was more than doubling prices while making it inconvenient to manage accounts. The message was delivered and the people had spoken:

> “How exactly is this “lowest prices ever”? According to the article, a 1 dvd plan with unlimited streaming will now cost just about as much as I’m currently paying for my 3 dvd plan with streaming. Not only are you slapping existing customers in the face with a fairly significant price increase, but you’re outright lying about it too.” – Blog Comment

> “Just cancelled the DVD part of my contract. You’re welcome. Thanks for making the decision easy.” – Facebook

> “No @netflix you pissed me off with your c list movies and your depressing price hike! I will not come back to you no matter how u ask” – Twitter

In mid-September, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings put out another message on The Netflix Blog. While full and honest transparency from the company’s CEO is typically what’s best when major changes are announced, he was two months too late. The tone of the first message had already taken its toll. Customers are unhappy and untrusting, and it will be hard to get them back. The Netflix team is still trying to make things right by killing Qwikster just three months after announcing it, but it’s going to take time and transparency to get back to where they were.

While not many like change and certainly no one likes a price hike, Netflix could have kept a number of customers by changing the way they relayed their message. By stating the facts up front, letting customers know that it’s not ideal and giving real reasons for why it needs to be done, Netflix would have built more trust with their customer base.
It’s part of our job to make bad news sound better while telling “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” Netflix may have told the truth, but they went about it in the wrong way. How do you think Netflix could have handled this situation better? But more importantly, who’s canceling their Netflix subscription and hitting up Redbox because of this nightmare?

- Rory Mohon


Me, Me, Me…It’s All About Me

Posted by Roger Fortier under Employee Musings, Public Relations, Strategy

July 17th, 2011

It’s funny, we all talk about ourselves constantly, for any number of reasons, from pride to insecurity to simply keeping others informed.  Most of us meter the “I” discussions with just enough interest in others to show them we care about what they are saying.  It’s not faux interest; it’s truly genuine.  And while we are doing it, we forget that we get annoyed at people around us who constantly talk about themselves.  You know THAT friend.  Everything comes back to them.  It pisses us off to no end. If we get pissed off about the people around us who are “all about me,” why don’t we realize that the majority of conversations the businesses we represent are trying to have with target audiences are also “all about me,” with the “me” being the company?

This is what came to mind as I read a recent blog post from Neicole Crepeau, “Are We Killing Our Customers With Engagement?” Crepeau’s basic point was that consumers don’t want to have conversations with a business, at least if they are not the small percentage of Brand Advocates I’ve discussed here before. 

What he says is consumers want to have conversations with their own friends, not businesses.  It’s the businesses that want the conversation with the individuals. They do this to the point of forcing the conversations onto people.  We are starting to see backlash against businesses within the social media networks based on this very behavior.  So what can you do to engage in a way that is not a turn off?  Here are a few ideas to consider:

Make Me Laugh – Everyone wants to laugh.  I want to make others laugh. I love the feeling I get when I show something funny to a friend. I am also motivated to find more things that make me laugh, after my initial laugh. Any page, Twitter-feed or YouTube channel that can accomplish this instantly has a greater chance of having me return.

Make Me Proud – If you recognize something I do or say in a public way, you will get my attention. This gives me yet one more thing to talk about in those conversations I am having about myself. This also increases the chances I am going to say something to my friends that will make you proud (like a recommendation to go to your page).

Make My Life Better – A client of mine recently pointed out that one of the reasons that Google and Microsoft got out of the home energy monitoring business was because they were giving people access to information for which they really had no use. Consumers simply didn’t know what to do with the information. Life was not getting better.  Give me information that I can immediately use in my day to day life, and I will spread the word to others.

Make Me Think – Bringing me something thought provoking.  I like to debate because it allows me to express my opinions. I will come back and engage with others regarding their opinions..

Is your business suffering from a case of Engagement Anxiety? Perhaps engagement shouldn’t be the goal.  More likely, when you are trying to engage with me, you’re probably still too focused on you.

–Roger Fortier


Using Research Reports To “Choose The News”

Posted by Roger Fortier under Clients, Media, Public Relations, Strategy

June 22nd, 2011

Having represented more than a dozen IT security firms of all sizes over the years, I can tell you this. I have never seen an industry more bent on flooding the market with research surveys.  For a time it seemed like they would be released one per week from vendors big and small.  The interesting thing was, in a content starved world, reporters and bloggers alike would flock to cover the information as “news.”

Now over time, the less valuable ones have fallen by the wayside, while reports like Symantec’s Internet Security Threat Report and Cisco’s Visual Networking Index have become industry mainstays. This might lead you to believe that only brands with household names and billion dollar marketing budgets can create research reports considered viable and newsworthy.  On the contrary, it’s less about who is telling the story, and more about what’s the story being told.

While not in the security space, our client Bytemobile is a perfect example of a smaller brand that has made huge strides in establishing industry thought leadership through a quarterly market research report that is timely, topical and relevant to both people in and outside the technology world.  Now let’s be clear, within the mobile market, Bytemobile is indeed well known. The company’s Smart Capacity solutions have been deployed with over 125 operators in 60 countries, including 8 of the world’s top 10 tier-one carriers.

This vast customer base is the goldmine that the company has been able to use to create the quarterly Mobile Analytics Report (formerly called Mobile Minute Metrics.) The Mobile Analytics Report is generated from the company’s own mobile data traffic reporting solution, which means it’s not only a source of great information on trends relating to Mobile Operator networks, but a showcase for the value they can bring to their customers. The Mobile Analytics Report anonymously sources data traffic statistics from the 3G and 4G networks of Bytemobile’s global tier-one customer base and provides insight into the current state of the mobile ecosystem. Its findings have been cited widely by industry market research firms and the media. You can read the most recent Mobile Minute Metrics report here. Please note registration is required for download.

When considering whether or not to dedicate the significant resources required to create, market and sustain an industry research report of this nature, there are several things you will want to take into consideration:

> Find a specific and timely topic – if a topic is considered old news, or there are simply dozens of reports already covering it, nobody will show interest. Carving out a niche that is applicable to a wide cross section of relevant media and influencers will ensure that there is a captive audience predisposed to consuming your content.

> Make it relevant to your business – often companies will create “research” that leaves reporters asking “Why would I want to talk to your company about THAT topic?” Resist the temptation to try and create a market research report just because you may have one product in a given market. If the research is more relevant to other companies’ businesses, reporters and bloggers will look to those firms first for information.

> Have a documented and repeatable methodology – nobody likes wondering where and how a firm gathered its information. This is an important issue of transparency. You may be able to get away with a faux report once, but eventually someone will start digging into the methodology. The more people understand about how the information was gathered the more credible the source will be viewed.

> Make sure to add context and POV to the story– don’t rely solely on the numbers to tell the story, or for reporters to come up with their own analysis of the data. Add company POV to place the research data into the context of broader trends. This is where the thought leadership truly begins.

> Don’t be commercial – the research data can point to a need in the market that the company’s products address, but the research itself should be void of promotional company content in any way, including vague references to “solutions” to problems that are identified. If the research is good, they will understand why you are promoting it.

> Be consistent – once you get people hooked on your research, make sure they keep coming back by delivering a report that is consistent in look, feel, sections and information. The specific data can be different, but one of the most powerful opportunities with research reports is to show change in the same trends over time.

> Socialize The Content – a simple PDF report is no longer enough. Social media communications demands thinking about the type of content you create to promote the research in a different way. Create a 2 minute summary video from a corporate spokesperson. Have multiple charts and graphs available for download in web-friendly formats. Create a quote sheet so bloggers can pull from a variety of company “opinions” to create their posts.

Here are some of the great articles we were able to secure for Bytemobile which demonstrate how powerful of a tool a good market research report can be in creating thought leadership that supports your company’s business objectives.

Bytemobile Gives Update on Mobile Video Traffic Trends
Video is still wreaking havoc on carrier networks
High-quality video bogging down wireless networks

iPhone Video Data Consumption Tops Laptops, Android Phones
TV and video grab lion’s share of mobile network traffic

–Roger Fortier


Quit Playing Games With My Heart—Keep Playing Them Online

Posted by Cynthia Horiguchi under Clients, Public Relations, Strategy, Trends

May 12th, 2011

Recently, we’ve been talking a lot about gamification, mostly because our client iLoop Mobile has been having conversations with media and analysts about its new mobile retail app SlingShop. “Gamification” has been one of this year’s hottest buzzwords, evidenced by rumors of an IPO for FarmVille creator Zynga, the recent rush to join social media stock exchange Empire Avenue, and major brands’ willingness to jump into social gaming. In fact, M2 Research estimates that industry revenues will total $1.6 billion by 2015, up from less than $100 million last year.  And according to Gartner, over half of companies that want to drive innovation will be gamified by 2015.

With so much focus recently on social gaming, it’s only a matter of time before the market becomes saturated. After all, there is a finite amount of free time that people have to spend. Social games aren’t just competing with each other; they’re also competing with other forms of entertainment, such as television, video console games, surfing the internet, reading, etc, etc.

In my opinion, social games can go one of two routes: they can compete with games such as FarmVille and SecondLife for users’ spare time spent in front of a computer, or they can “create” more downtime by developing games that people can play in situations such as standing in line or waiting to meet a friend.
Games that take the first route are already being used for promotions by big brands such as McDonald’s. But brands haven’t really started to take advantage of the second type — the “free time” games such as “Words with Friends” and “Angry Birds.”

By integrating promotional campaigns into “free time” games, companies can reach a broader audience of people who may not have the time or inclination to play CityVille, but might take out their smartphone while in line at the grocery store for a round of “Angry Birds.”

Or, companies can take it one step further, like iLoop Mobile is doing with SlingShop, and integrate simple gaming elements into everyday transactions such as coupons and loyalty cards. This adds an element of fun without requiring much time investment from consumers.
What do you think? Have you spent time playing social games? Do you think they will continue to catch on?

–Cynthia Horiguchi


I Tawt I Taw a Twitter Page! I di-Nope, Not Quite Yet

Posted by Rory Mohon under Public Relations, Strategy, Tools

May 3rd, 2011

For me, November 6 is a date to remember. On November 6, 1935, Parker Brothers acquired the forerunner patents for Monopoly. I do so love a good game of Monopoly. On November 6, 1947, “Meet the Press” made its first television debut. You’ve got to respect the longest-running television series in American broadcasting history. And on November 6, 2007, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg introduced Facebook Pages. This changed the world of social media as we knew it. Facebook was “open for businesses” in the form of Pages.

And now Twitter might be trying to follow suit..

Earlier this month, news spread quickly about the launch of Twitter branded pages.  Currently, Twitter is making money from businesses through promoted tweets, trends and accounts. As a way to increase long-term revenue, Twitter is considering offering brands the ability to create profile pages. We’re happy for Twitter, but what’s in it for companies? If a company already has a page on Facebook, how can they gain value in a Twitter page as well? What’s the motivation to create, launch and monitor a “yet another” social networking page? I can think of a few good answers to those questions.

If You See $20 on the Ground, You Better Pick It Up Before Someone Else Does
Facebook Pages are free. Facebook Ads are not. Both are used by thousands of companies to increase revenue and build a relationship with customers. While we know Twitter ads such as sponsored hashtags and trending topics are not free, we don’t know if there will be a cost associated with Twitter branded pages. If Twitter pages are free though, why not take advantage of the service? In more than 140 characters, Twitter branded pages would offer your company a way to listen to and engage with your customers in real time, promote your brand and stay connected to the industry. Whether or not you choose to start a page on Twitter, your competition probably will, allowing them to continue the conversation with your customers on their page. Take the freebies when you can and use them to your advantage.

They’re Still Going to Talk about You Behind Your Back
If you’re one of the few businesses that has yet to join Team Twitter, now is the time to do it. We hate to say it, but a conversation about your business, products and services is happening in real time on Twitter, whether you want it to or not. If Twitter is going to offer brands a new way to communicate with their audience via pages, then jump on the bandwagon because this is one social network you can’t ignore.

Make it Your Own, but Make it Fresh
At McGrath/Power, we realize that every company is different, as are most social networks. Because of this, we don’t pigeonhole companies into specific social networks. We recommend the most suitable online channels to connect with your audience and get your message across. Twitter, however, is one of the few channels that we recommend for most of our clients as it’s the second-largest social network. While Twitter hasn’t provided any information about their branded pages yet, there is a possibility that they will have a similar look and feel to Facebook Pages. If so, it’s up to you to make it unique from your Facebook page. While it may be difficult for companies to repurpose information for each of their online channels, it is also a necessity. If you post the same content on one channel as you do on another, there is no reason for your customer to follow you on both channels. From posting entirely different content to simply rewording your messages for each channel, companies can engage their audiences without bombarding them with the same information.

As we wait with baited breath for Twitter to officially announce branded pages, we ask that you keep the aforementioned items in mind. Don’t write off Twitter pages before they’re even introduced. We understand that there are a number of social networks to choose from, and each has its own place, purpose and user base. All of which you can use to your advantage and should if the service is free and easy to maintain. There’s a conversation out there and your brand should be a part of it. Just think of Twitter branded pages as the host of a party, introducing you to its guests. 

– Rory Mohon