Category Archives: Brands

MoneyThere are tons of businesses and brands eager to get a solid foothold in the social media scene. Sure, they’re able to set up Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, blogs, and the like, but how do they really connect with their users. Is there something else besides creating conversation? What if you have a product that you’re trying to sell? Well believe it or not, it’s not that difficult to do. The premise is probably pretty simple: you want to encourage people to buy your product in a secure environment while also finding a way to exploit the sharing aspect of social media. Now how do you execute?

Well for starters, you could probably create some links back to your own store’s e-commerce section where they can buy your product. But then, how would you make it viral? You’d probably have to find some way to incorporate Twitter OAuth or Facebook Connect in order for the customer to share their experience. It would seem so unnatural though and there’s no guarantee that they would do that because it would also seem out of place. So if you can’t bring them to the experience, you might as well bring the experience to them. And one particular service has found a solution to do just that…

ShopIgniter, a provider of social commerce software, today announced its latest product: an enterprise-scale social commerce platform. Basically what this means is that for businesses, this is a new way for them to sell their products right inside the social network. Social commerce is a huge market opportunity for brands–in fact, it’s estimated to be a $30 billion industry globally over the next five years. And a lot of companies are starting to realize this. Many have already set up Facebook pages or Twitter feeds in order to come up with great ways to engage with their customers.

Booz & Co social commerce quote

In a recent study by Booz & Co., retail, consumer electronics, and media companies are among the many types of organizations following consumers into social arenas. Even more, Shop.org reports that in 2010, 68% of North American consumer-oriented businesses have acquired at least some customers through Facebook. So the eventual trend here is pretty obvious: in the next phase of social media and buying, communication won’t be the “thing” anymore. Rather, Booz & Co believe that the next phase will be when consumers transact commerce inside social networks–selecting products, adding their selections to shopping carts, and completing purchases through payment with credit cards and points. This will signal the beginning of the social commerce era.

Social CommerceAnd this is exactly what ShopIgniter looks like it wants to do. They’re offering a complete solution that will give brands the tools that they need in order to create more commerce-centric (not consumer) designed with products and promotions in mind. In addition, this platform is designed to give businesses the ability to easily create, manage, and measure social commerce programs like VIP-only stores, product launches, curated product collections and storefronts. But first, ShopIgniter is going to have to get rid of the myths and fears associated with giving credit card payments over social networks like Facebook. In a Digitas infographic released earlier this month, one of the things brands will need to do is act with certainty to address security concerns. Out of those surveyed, 55% indicated that they were not comfortable with giving credit card information through social media. Most of these were over 54 years old, female, and had a household income of less than $35k. So if people are afraid of giving out their credit card information over social media (but yet still give it to play games like Farmville?), how exactly will brands manage to get things sold? ShopIgniter took a look at this and solved it. Rather, they created peace of mind. In this new platform, ShopIgniter made sure to include a key requirement for merchants who process high volumes of credit card transactions. With PCI (Payment Card Industry) Level 1 certification, ShopIgniter is one of the only social commerce platform providers authorized to meet the security needs of large retailers and brands–meaning, they have your security in mind.

Matt Compton, CEO of ShopIgniter, explains it this way:

Customers expect, and brands demand, the same level of security and confidence when buying through social channels as they do on their eCommerce stores…by adding PCI Level 1 certification to our Social Commerce Platform, we’re proud to offer brands and retailers the most complete social commerce offering on the market, with peace of mind that their transactions and data are completely secure.

Example of Group Gifting by ShopIgniter for TargetSo now that we’ve secured peace of mind for merchants and their customers, what else does ShopIgniter’s social commerce platform offer up? Well for one, it takes your e-commerce service and throws it right into the social media mix. Currently available for Facebook, one of the cool features of the service is their Group Gifting program. What this allows is for anyone to create a gift card at any participating retail store. Then, you can invite your friends via Facebook to chip in to add some money to the card–essentially creating a collective gift. Once that’s done, a virtual card will be sent to the recipient and they can use it at any retail store or online. Isn’t that a great gesture? I asked Kevin Tate, CMO of ShopIgniter, about whether this Group Gifting could be done for someone besides an individual? Imagine during Back to School days in late August, a non-profit organization with a Facebook profile sets up a Target gift card (powered by ShopIgniter) in order to see if the community would donate to help kids get school supplies? Wouldn’t that be a great idea on how to use Group Gifting? Mr. Tate told me that it’s a great idea and “certainly the kind of thing that our Group Buying feature can support.” I imagine that this will hold promise to some great charities and those eager to help those less fortunate. Great community work.

As for the rest of ShopIgniter’s offerings, Mr. Tate breaks it down into three top-level components: a social promotions engine that will allow users to create, manage, and measure social commerce experiences both “authentic and engaging”, a social presentation layer giving the ability to publish social commerce to Facebook (including mobile) done through HTML5-compliant themes and shared anywhere on the social web, and a foundation which involves integration with merchant’s existing e-commerce solutions, fulfillment, inventory, etc. But what e-commerce and CRM systems are currently supported? A wide range, apparently–ShopIgniter can handle working with systems like DemandWare, IBM, Oracle, etc., as well as a variety of payment, tax, and fulfillment providers. An API is even available for businesses eager to build their service using ShopIgniter.

Services besides the Group Gifting feature that merchants will get include tools to handle product launches, special offers for their VIPs, flash and private sales, seasonal and holiday collections–build a nice little community within Facebook that gets people to virtually shop, share their purchases, and talk about your great products! ShopIgniter hopes that by giving brands a “repeatable and cost-effective toolkit”, merchants will be able to take their social conversations and e-commerce programs and make them work together to increase revenue and loyalty–a double win!

Currently, there are over 40 leading brands using ShopIgniter for their social commerce experiences, including Target, Levi’s, Nike Golf, Kaenon, Steven Alan, Omaha Steaks, and CafePress.

The world of e-commerce is rapidly changing. People are becoming way more active on social networks than ever before. It will be interesting to see how in the next ten years whether the estimated $30 billion social commerce is expected to bring in skyrockets into an astronomical amount.

Are you going to buy anything online?

Photo Credit: Money by Nick Ares/Flickr

Twitter advertisingGood news for those small businesses eager to try and find another way of being a part of the the social media collective. Last Friday, Twitter announced that they’re rolling out a new advertising solution that will help make it easier for businesses to set up an account on their own and amplify their messages on the social network. This is a great move that will benefit emerging and new businesses who often times get swamped out of the market by the bigger and more noticeable brands. To help promote this release, American Express was brought on board as a partner designed to give all of their Cardmembers and merchants in the United States early access to this new advertising platform. While it won’t launch until late March, the partnership with American Express is probably a good move, especially when trying to reach small businesses.

To encourage small businesses to participate, American Express is giving to the first 10,000 Cardmembers and merchants $100 worth of free advertising on Twitter and in March, the credit card giant will notify its customers how to begin. For many, it might seem like Twitter’s move to have a self-serve ad platform is something akin to Google AdSense or AdWords since the advertiser will be bidding on keywords. Right now, customers are able to place their bids on promoted tweets and promoted accounts — something meant to help cut through the noise and increase exposure for whatever the advertiser wants to tweet about. According to AdAge, Twitter had already begun rolling out the self-serve ad platform in mid-November with about 20 or less advertisers, but it has since expanded to about 100 advertisers. In addition to this expansion, advertisers will pay for the bids via electronic payment, not through invoicing by the sales team–an interesting decision that makes it akin to Googl AdWords since Google processes via electronic payment while Yahoo advertising used to do it through sales teams.

As AdAge points out:

As is the case for any of Twitter’s 3,000 advertisers, small businesses can set bids for promoted accounts on a cost-per-follower basis and for promoted tweets on a cost-per-engagement basis/ In the latter case they pay only when users actively engage with the tweet (by retweeting, for instance.) While national brands might be bidding on keywords or hashtags associated with major events like the Oscars, which makes bidding competitive and expensive, small businesses would be more likely to bid on highly specific terms and to localize their bids, according to Mr. Costolo. (Twitter currently allows for city-level targeting at its most specific.)

eMarketer: Twitter Ad Revenues to Grow 210% to $139.5 Million in 2011Could this move by Twitter be a boon not only to the small business but also to Twitter’s bottom line? We’ve all been wondering what the public monetization strategy will be for the company–sure, they have a deal with several companies to allow them access to the firehose and also has/had a deal with search engines like Google and/or Bing. Now, it just seems right to really take the advertising opportunities on the service out for a ride and see how it handles. But if recent studies are any indication, Twitter is set to make a hefty profit off of this endeavor–according to an eMarketer report, ad revenues are projected to grow 210% in 2011…and as you can see from the chart on the right, Twitter’s advertising worldwide is going to increase year after year all the way to nearly $400 million by 2013. There’s definitely a lot of demand for people to want to get their message across on the service. According to eMarketer’s principal analyst Debra Aho Williamson, “since their debut in April 2010, Twitter’s Promoted Products have proven successful in the US. Marketers have seen solid engagement rates with Twitter advertising—in some cases better than those on Facebook—despite Twitter’s relatively smaller audience.

American Express’ involvement in this promotion is definitely not a coincidence. For the past few years, if not longer, the credit card company has been a strong supporter of the small business community. They were the first ones to start the Small Business Saturday campaign during the Thanksgiving holiday and have recently launched a social media show that is designed to help small businesses “harness the power of social media”. They’ve even partnered with Foursquare by offering specials to specific check-ins–most likely small businesses. Recognized for being the credit card of choice by small businesses, it’s not a tremendous leap to believe that American Express would partner with Twitter on this initiative. Definitely a win for both parties.

It will be interesting to see how Twitter’s advertising platform will still play out. At this point, there’s not a lot of advertisers that are participating in this endeavor, but soon more advertisers will be on the service and how will that add to the noise that everyone already has? With increased growth and use, comes the question about scale. But I’m sure that there are contingency plans in place to ensure sanity for all.

Photo Credit: Moma Propaganda via Laughing Squid

Identity TheftAre you who you say you are when using social networks? Many of us get some of these random friend requests or follows on sites like Twitter and Facebook and to add complexity to it, how can we easily tell people apart when often the same names are being used? If you’re the slight bit famous in your circle or industry, the odds of you having impostors goes up significantly — just ask CrunchFund’s MG Seigler, Michael Arrington, TechCrunch’s Alexia Tsotsis, and Ben Parr, for starters–all have people impersonating them online. Social networks have slowly, but surely adopted ways to help offer people peace of mind that who they’re interacting with are who they say they are.

Twitter was one of the first popular social networks to implement a verified account program and established some strict criteria in order for people to be credentialed. Google+ was the next one to offer this, but at a much faster rate than Twitter. The only major service that stalled was Facebook…until now. TechCrunch’s Josh Constine is reporting that tomorrow, Facebook will allow prominent public figures the ability to verify their account and display a preferred pseudonym instead of their birth name. As a result, by giving this information, Facebook will place these accounts in their “People To Subscribe To” feature list.

You might be wondering why is this such a big deal? Well according to Facebook’s policy, there’s specifically a section that covers registration and account security. Specifically, users are not allowed to provide any false personal information, meaning that if someone like The Rock signed up as Dwayne Johnson, but changed his username to The Rock, it would be in violation of this policy and his account, along with his millions (and millions) of Facebook friends would be disconnected. Famous author Salman Rushdie recently came under fire from Facebook for this. Turns out that Facebook deactivated (not deleted–deactivated means it’ll be temporarily offline) his account because his passport has him as Ahmed Rushdie, but everyone else recognizes him as Salman Rushdie.

Facebook verified account programThis new verified policy would be helpful for celebrities eager to want to grow their communities on Facebook, but don’t want to have people follow them using their real name–it doesn’t have true star power behind it and wouldn’t make sense from a branding/marketing standpoint, either…would you want to follow Stefani Germanotta on Facebook? Would you even recognize WHO that was? Well that’s Lady Gaga’s real name, but chances are that you wouldn’t have known that. Facebook’s verified account program will allow Lady Gaga to keep her profile registered as Stefani Germanotta, but would allow her to have her name displayed as Lady Gaga. Plus, if you happen to be one of the lucky people who sent a friend request to your celebrity and they accept or you want to subscribe to their updates, wouldn’t it be helpful to have some way to make sure that you’re talking to the right person instead of someone who could be a spammer or just on a phishing expedition?

TechCrunch is also reporting that unlike the verification badge that you get with Twitter and also with Google+, Facebook will not be displaying anything like that on your profile. In addition, there’s no way for people to volunteer to have their accounts be verified. It’s definitely not similar to the developer or email verification system either. Mr. Constine is correct in saying that by not having any sort of verification badge prominently displayed will basically offer up no added value for the celebrity to use Facebook, except that the service won’t terminate their profile. For now, I’m sure that even if you have a verified account, there will still be plenty of impostors out there on Facebook that will still survive until they get deleted–and that could be a while.

This is a decent attempt by Facebook to recognize that some prominent people who recognize the potential of the site want to use their service. However, by simply having the celebrity give more information to the service just makes it seem a waste of time. If they get their account booted, then it looks bad on Facebook. Or, the celebrity could instead set up a fan page–still business gets done on Facebook, but is it to their advantage? Wouldn’t it be better to simply get them to create a profile page instead of a fan page so that the service can get some more data/information and set up a new profile? I think that would be better than just creating a page where existing Facebook users can go to view information. Plus, with the new subscribe feature, wouldn’t that just be consolidating the fan page and profile page in one? C’mon Facebook…think better about how this verified account program could be run!

Let’s hope that this verified account program works out for the best…but I think in the short term, we’re going to see some famous people upset that their accounts just got terminated. In the meantime, here’s a screenshot that TechCrunch has about the verification process:

Facebook verification process

Football Field

Yesterday, we bore witness to one of the greatest sporting events in the history of the modern age. A clash of titans, as it were…the New York Giants slugged it out against the New England Patriots and emerged to come out victorious in what is now being called the most-watched television program in US history and also the highest-rated Super Bowl in 26 years! Congratulations to the New York Giants!

But while we remember the game, let’s not forget all the other news that are happening around the Internet simultaneously as the big game. Not only was this the first time the Super Bowl was livestreamed on the Internet to mobile and tablet devices (leading to more viewership, I’m sure), there seemed to be a greater play on social media by not only the NFL and the NBC Network, but also advertisers too. Twitter reported today that the service set a record for the most tweets sent per second (TPS): 12,233 tweets! That’s an amazing amount since in 2008 during the Super Bowl, it was 27 TPS, and in 2011, it was 4,064 TPS. Of course, this massive record of tweets per second occurred during the last three minutes which is when Twitter says an average of 10,000 TPS were sent. But what does this all translate into? Well during the Super Bowl, there were 13.7 million related tweets sent out during the five hour game. These numbers are absolutely staggering!

And what about the other part of the game? The so-called “Brand Bowl”? Well some of them did very well in terms of the conversation, but it’s a bit of a mixed reaction. First, let’s see which of the brands succeeded in getting the most comments:
Super Bowl commercials via AdAge In Advertising Age this morning, Bluefin Labs analyzed data of all the television commercials to see which one of them earned a spot in the top 10 highest rated spots with the most response. It should be noted that Bluefin only reviewed content pushed on two major networks: Twitter and Facebook. I wonder how these would be changed with Google+ or on social sporting networks like on OnShare?

Regardless, each ad was tracked for 45-minutes after it began to air and what’s surprising is that one of the first commercials to air during the game was the David Beckham H&M underwear commercial and received 108,914 comments – a sign that the first is the best? Either that, or sex sells…

Not surprising, Chrysler’s hit ad featuring Dirty Harry himself, actor/director Clint Eastwood in “It’s Halftime in America” was a rousing success with over 95,000 comments and came in second. It was definitely one of the big winners of the evening and people are STILL talking about it today! But nowhere on this list was the GoDaddy commercial – perhaps a sign that after years of the racy ads, the public is getting tired about ripping on them and decided there’s much more worthy commercials to talk about?

Perhaps the biggest stumble in the “Brand Bowl” this year was the use of the hashtag in commercials. In light of the McDonald’s hashtag debacle, it might not have seemed good to throw out a hashtag unless you were 100% sure that your commercial would ellicit the response you were hoping for. Some had a pretty good chance at positive reactions, like the Audi vampire commercial (#solongvampires) and the Bud Light Platinum (#MakeItPlatinum), but then there were others like GE’s commercial with the hashtag #whatworks — a friend of mine said that he would tweet out “#whatworks not this commercial”. Hashtags were genuinely a gamble for advertisers in an attempt to get into the social scene.

But did advertisers really embrace the role of social media this Super Bowl? According to the Altimeter Group’s Jeremiah Owyang and Brian Solis, maybe not and they’ve discovered five interesting trends out of the 87 advertisements:

  • Brands heavily invested in promoting their traditional websites
  • Many did not promote a call-to-action
  • Only a sixth of ads explicitly promoted social media
  • Hashtag marketing emerged to stimulate continual engagement
  • Cutting edge marketers teased with new marketing tactics, including Shazam

So while I think that the hashtag attempt on commercials was a fumble, it’s a trend of the Super Bowl nevertheless. But is anyone still surprised at any of these trends? The website is here to stay and advertisers will continue to push people to them just like they asked them to call their 800 numbers for several decades. There are a few risky marketers who will ask people to tweet at them using the hashtag, but if anything, the Super Bowl is showing us that advertisers are starting to be a slightly bit more innovative in how they reach people, especially on television. Just take a look at this breakdown from the Altimeter Group:

Altimeter Group Super Bowl online destinations

Maybe the 32% of brands during the Super Bowl were airing ads more as brand promotion, but the question is why aren’t you giving your customers something more to take away from it? Even those commercials that asked viewers to use Shazam were giving them a song that would forever be associated with their commercial (lasting branding) and also invited them to rate their commercial (feedback), but by not doing anything like that leaves much to be desired.

So I leave you with this fascinating tip from the Altimeter Group report: promoting traditional websites still king with brands while social integration is “nascent”. Yes, that’s right…brands seem to be gun-shy at using social media to help converse with their customers and the viewers. If anything, the most successful commercials from last night will become viral and people will be talking about it. But will the brands actually be listening?

Photo Credit: Football field by Juggernautco/Flickr

Ferris Bueller

A couple weeks ago, a quick teaser video emerged on the web and many thought that all signs pointed to the sequel to the classic movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The teaser video simply had Ferris Bueller star, Matthew Broderick emerge from behind a curtain and hint “how could he go to work on a day like this”. The full-length video was supposed to air around the time of this year’s Super Bowl, but according to All Things D’s Lauren Goode, Hawker Media’s car blog Jalopnik, discovered it online last Friday. It seems that the rumors were all wrong…well at least technically. The teaser wasn’t about a movie sequel. Rather, it was a promo spot for a car – the Honda CR-V.

Directed by the writer/director of “The Hangover”, Matthew Broderick pulls a Ferris by calling in sick from his work and does all the things he did in his movie, but with a more modern twist. There’s no more high school in Chicago – he’s now playing himself in real life and avoids work with his agent. Next, instead of the favorite St. Patrick’s Day parade and crooning “Danke Schoen”, he celebrates Chinese New Year (well-timed, by the way). Oh, and the topping on the cake? Remember when Cameron’s car gets stolen by the valets in the movie? Well Broderick’s video has that too, except the valet steals the CR-V.

So the video has been definitely upgraded for the modern times, but I’ll admit that I’m a bit disappointed that it’s not for the next part of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Nevertheless, it is a bit funny and doesn’t necessarily focus on the car, but you do see Broderick driving it around Los Angeles enjoying his day off while reminding us about the cool parts of Broderick’s movie.

Below is the entire YouTube video for your enjoyment.

Broderick? Broderick?

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