What is a Blog?

I was familiar with blogs prior to this class.  I’ve looked at friends’ blogs, wellness blogs, work-related blogs, and even occasionally celebrity-gossip blogs.

According to the WVU IMC program,  a blog is defined as a word that was created from two words: “web log.”  Blogs are usually maintained by an individual or a business with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video.

I had a basic understanding of what a blog was, however prior to this class, I wasn’t sure how or why to have a blog.

The two main take aways I’ve learned from this process about how to keep an interesting blog are: keep it active with ongoing posts and use visuals when possible.

One source notes that there are more than 152 million blogs on the Internet and that a new blog is created every half second.  That means there are a lot of options for users to choose from when sourcing a go-to blog.  Therefore, engaging, relevant, and visual blogs will be more likely to stand out.

Here  is an infographic with more facts about blogs and their influence.

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I’ve enjoyed developing and maintaining this blog for the past few weeks.  The reason why?  I’ve learned a lot about emerging media and nuances of how to maintain a blog like importing visuals, linking sources, and naming pictures to improve SEO.

Additionally, here are six reasons why marketers should keep blogs on behalf of their businesses.

1. Attract an audience

Every marketer wants an audience.  A blog is a great way to get an ongoing one.

2. Inform, interact, and learn from your audience

Once a marketer has an audience, it’s important to educate them about the brand so that they may make informed purchasing decisions.  As more people are turning to the Internet to perform research before making a purchase, company blogs can help shape the decisions.  Additionally, blogs can serve as places for consumers to provide feedback so that if their is negative feedback, the company can respond.

3. Building trust and familiarity

Trust is vital in maintaining long-term relationships with consumers.  The accessibility that companies offer through blogs helps build trust by making corporations feel human.

4. Branding

Using a blog can show the brand’s personality and tone beyond TV commercials or print ads.

5. Grow a community

Blogs are perfect for creating your own townsquare that’s all about your company and brand.  It’s a forum to talk about new products and services, promotions, events, news, etc. and engage people who are fans (or potential fans) of your brand.

6. Initiate more sales

Simply explained – informed consumers feel more confident to make purchases.

Overall, blogs are a great tool for marketers to use to reach consumers and increase brand exposure.




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Facebook Getting Visual Too

In January, I wrote an entry titled “Results Becoming Visual with Google Carousel” that explains the emphasis being placed on visuals in Google search results.

Facebook is another emerging media that is trending toward visual posts.  The social media platform is sending a clear message to marketers: posts with engaging, creative, and smart imagery will be rewarded with greater exposure in users’ News Feeds than posts that are text heavy.

Facebook has changed its algorithm to encourage brands to submit more compelling content using high-quality imagery because it’s what users want to see.  If brands don’t comply, their News Feed exposure is reduced in favor of brands that are using great visuals.

Here is an example of a text-heavy post that Facebook wants marketers to evolve away from:

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Here is an example of a visually-based post that Facebook wants more marketers to embrace:

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Marketers shouldn’t just use visual posts because Facebook wants them to, they should also use visual posts because posting images increases engagement and shares.  Photo posts account for 93% of the most engaging posts on Facebook, and they can get 53% more likes, 104% more comments, and 84% more click-throughs on links than text-based posts.

Additionally, pictures are better at grabbing users’ attention than just text.  As people scroll through their News Feeds, stunning imagery is more likely to garner interest than just words.

Here are seven ways marketers can use images on Facebook.

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Marketers can use these suggestions to incorporate images on their social media pages, and increase their engagement numbers while also improving their exposure numbers.

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Interactive Videos Not Just for Bob Dylan

Interactive videos  are becoming more prominent in the emerging media landscape.  These videos encourage users to adjust different variables within the video to make it more personalized to their tastes.

Bob Dylan’s 2013 music video for “Like a Rolling Stone” has users  flipping through 16 different channels of simulated TV programming to see people lip synching the words to the song.  It’s fun, quirky, and engaging.  Check it out.

Just last week, another band  used this interactive approach with one of their videos.  Users can toggle between a dance version of the song or a more guitar-heavy version of the song or they can listen to it with an even fusion of the two versions.  The visual moves with the toggled sound as well.  It’s a lot of fun to go back and forth between the versions.  Here it is.

This engaging approach to online videos isn’t just for Bob Dylan.  Marketers should use these technologies to help consumers personalize their experiences with brands.

One group that has already taken this approach is Volkswagen  for an online video featuring the Beetle.  The video features the band Walk Off the Earth singing their song, “Gang of Rhythm” in three versions: playful, soulful, and powerful.  Users can click between the different versions of the song, which have different sounds, visuals, and vibes showing that the Beetle is the perfect car for any situation.

More companies can begin to incorporate this highly engaging and personalized approach into their campaigns to help users feel a part of the process.  The more fun and interactive a video can be, the more likely users will be to share it with their friends to promote the viral-potential of the video.

Interactive videos are becoming more common, and I’m looking forward to seeing marketers use this technology to help build their brand’s online presence and engage consumers.

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What Emerging Media Advice Can Marketers Trust?

There is so much information available for marketers to sift through, learn from, and apply to their plans.   The trick becomes figuring out which sources to trust because a lot of the available advice can contradict itself.

For example, one group encourages companies to strongly invest in their social media forums in 2014 because that will influence their search-engine ranking more than ever before.  The source claims that Google’s new Hummingbird algorithm places more weight on how businesses are talked about on social media platforms.   The logic is that if a brand has a strong social media presence, their organic search engine ranking will be higher.

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However, there is another source directly contradicting this point of view that Google’s new algorithm takes into account what’s being said on Facebook and Twitter.  Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s webspam team explains:

“Facebook and Twitter pages are treated like any other pages in our web index so if something occurs on Twitter or occurs on Facebook and we’re able to crawl it, then we can return that in our search results. But as far as doing special specific work to sort of say “you have this many followers on Twitter or this many likes on Facebook”, to the best of my knowledge we don’t currently have any signals like that in our web search ranking algorithms.”

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So the question becomes, “What emerging media advice can marketers trust?”

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I think the best approach is to perform research on different aspects of an initiative before jumping in with two feet.   Even if that research just includes a few quick Google searches, arming oneself with knowledge is the best way to know if the tactic is right for the company or brand.
There is a wealth of information available to marketers, especially about emerging media trends and tactics so performing preliminary research can help determine what’s right.  Look for counter arguments, different execution styles, and results-focused details to source the best approach for your brand.

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When Emerging Media and Traditional Media Meet to Do Good

Super Bowl Sunday was just a few days ago, and people are still abuzz about which ads they liked, the halftime show, and the Broncos’ no-show.

One ad from the Super Bowl evening featured Bono, the famous frontman of the band U2 and known philanthropist.  The spot featured a new song from U2 titled “Invisible.”  The spot claimed that in support of (RED), which is an organization for AIDS relief, viewers could download the song for free on iTunes and Bank of America would donate $1 for every download.

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The goal of the campaign was to raise $2 million for the organization.  Within an hour of the song premiering during the Super Bowl first half, there were more than 1 million song downloads. A representative from Bank of America said the bank would continue to donate per download for an additional 24 hours after the ad aired during the Super Bowl broadcast.

This extension of the donation time period was promoted across Twitter by (RED) and U2.

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And even Bank of America’s Twitter handle used features from the (RED) logo as their image on Twitter to promote the partnership.

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The Super Bowl had over 112 million viewers – that’s high visibility using a traditional media tactic.   The spot encouraged users to take an action online  – download a song for free.  Downloads of the song resulted in a corporation donating money to an organization to help with AIDS relief.  The progress of the campaign was then communicated to people in real-time via  Twitter.  The TV ad tied to an emerging media tactic of engaging users online, led to raising more than $3 million in two days.  That money can provide over 7.8 million days of live-saving HIV medicine.

Here we have emerging media and traditional media coming together in a seamless campaign to do good for our global community.

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They’re Watching You (and it may not be a bad thing)

Do you ever feel like you’re being watched?  Well you are … at least online by brands trying to sell their products to you.  I went to Anthropolgie.com a few days ago and now it seems like every site I visit online is serving an Anthrolpogie ad to me!

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As a marketer, I don’t mind having the ads follow me from site to site online.  I understand that my movements are being tracked and that brands are trying to provide ads that are pertinent to me.  In fact, I prefer targeted ads because the content is usually more beneficial to me.

However,  most people (nearly 74%)  are more concerned about their online privacy than they were a year ago.  More consumers are learning about how businesses track them online and are becoming increasingly concerned about protecting their online privacy.   A lot of people find targeted online banner ads to be creepy.

I understand not liking the idea of being tracked online, but there is an underlying benefit to the highly personalized ads – they are likely relevant to you.

Additionally, users can be empowered by a little blue triangle icon.  Here it is called out in the Athropologie ad that’s following me.

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I’ve circled it because one study showed that in 2013 only 6% of the surveyed population was aware of the AdChoices icon.   The little blue triangle can empower consumers and make online experiences with brands feel less creepy.

When a user clicks the blue triangle icon they are taken to Google support.  Here is a list of users’ options to manage the ads they are fed.

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The resources available to consumers on the support page are “Ads Settings,” “Security and privacy tools,” and “privacy policy.”

From the Ads Settings link, consumers can customize their ad profiles so that they are more in control of the data that is collected about their likes and habits.  Here is a list of some of the interests AdChoices has listed about me.

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(And yes, I am interested in “dictionaries and encyclopedias,” but  feel a little called out about it by Google – haha!)

Additionally,  if a user simply clicks the x icon  provided within an online ad, this message from Google is displayed:

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This is a top-line overview of why some ads are served and gives consumers an understanding of what brands are doing with the data collected about them and their habits.

I think it’s possible that there can be a shift in perception from the process being totally creepy to being empowering.  Brands are taking time and money to try to send the right ad to the right person at the right time.  I think that places power in the hands of the consumer as brands continue to jump through hoops to try to get consumers’ attention.

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Women Using Social Media to Define Beauty

Most of us with social media accounts such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn  can be guilty of  checking out others’ profiles to see what they are up to.  Where does that friend from high school live now?  Who let Justin Bieber design his own shoe?  And where did a former colleague end up taking a job after they moved?

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A benefit of social media is to help us stay connected.  One expert has even likened Twitter to a town square where people can gather and talk in an informal environment.

However, others note that social media, especially Facebook, can create envy among users.  It’s noted  that when users view social media, they see lots of posts about what people are doing which sets up social comparisons.  It can make users feel like their life isn’t as interesting as the people they follow on social media.   #FOMO syndrome!

How does this envy affect consumers?  Dove conducted a survey asking women if social media influenced their perception of beauty.   The study revealed nearly 82% of women believe social media does influence beauty standards.  Most people on social media cultivate a perception of their lifestyle of having fun and/or looking attractive  People usually post positive things and so there is a curated sense of what’s actually going on in the person’s life.   It’s no wonder envy is a side effect of social media usage.

Marketers need to keep this in mind when they use social media platforms.  Instead of talking “at” social media users and only posting over-the-top cheerful posts, there should be some authenticity in the brand’s social media voice.  Brands shouldn’t cultivate a fake sense of who they are, but should be real and down to earth to encourage users to have a positive takeaway from their social media interaction with the brand.

A brand that I think is taking an authentic approach on social media is Dove.  The brand’s Facebook page and Twitter page  show that beauty comes in all shapes, sizes, ages, and colors.  #BeautyIs, and they encourage us to define it!

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This is an example of a brand being more authentic in its online presence which should leave users with a positive feeling after interacting with the brand.  Dove even developed a video called “Selfie”  where they challenged teenage girls and their mothers to take pictures of themselves, no filters and no edits.  The brand then held an exhibit of all of the shots and invited guests to comment on the pictures.

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One girl noted, “I’m not blonde or super tall or super skinny, but that doesn’t mean I’m not beautiful.”  Dove wants to take the 82% of women using social media to judge what is beautiful, and give them the power to see that they are what is beautiful not the photoshopped magazine covers or cultivated profiles.  This approach is innovative, and a way for a brand to turn what could be a negative, envy-driven platform and turn it into something positive and endear people to the brand.

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Web Design Don’ts

According to Mashable.com, there are several website practices that experts are ready to move away from in an effort to keep consumers from getting aggravated while exploring company websites.  Here are a few of their website pet peeves that I agree with.

1.) Irrelevant elements.  One web expert encourages those in charge of finalizing a company website (usually marketing) to think twice before adding another element just for the sake of doing so.  Really think through if that element is going to contribute to the site or ultimately detract.  Clean websites are easier to navigate.

2.) Flash Intros.  It’s noted that Flash intros take a long time to load and don’t work on Apple devices.  Apple makes up nearly 52% of the American population’s mobile phone brand.  That’s a lot of missed consumers if a company is still using Flash.

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3.) The usage of stock photos is noted by one web expert as a practice that needs to go out of style.  I absolutely agree!  Some stock imagery can be great, but other times it looks fake or cheesy.  Showing people using actual products from a brand is great way to build authenticity.

Here is a stock shot of people eating at a nice restaurant

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(boring, cold, no personality)

Here are shots from the high-end restaurant The Palm’s website.

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These shot feature the signature caricature walls of the restaurant and actual menu items the restaurant serves.  The shots give an authentic feel to what dining at The Palm is like.

Where would you rather have your meal?

4.) Automated popup windows  are really frustrating to me.  I know companies with excellent brand equity use this practice to capture email addresses, but I think it interrupts the user’s experience.

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5.) Automatic video/sound play is another tactic that can negatively influence user experience. Check out the Arizona Tea website .  I think it’s obnoxious and invasive and really difficult to navigate.  The sound and colors are a cool effect, but only briefly.   If you’re on a mobile device and can’t access the Arizona Tea site, it’s because it’s in Flash! (see the second item on this blog entry)

If a user went to the site to get real information on the brand, he/she would be lost in golf ball noises, animated elements across the screen, and music.  None of these elements are initiated by the user, but instead users have them forced upon them.

Website design is a changing art form that emerging media marketers are trying to perfect for brands.  An example of a site that I think is user friendly is Ford.

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It’s clean and easy to navigate, making for a strong user experience.

I think functional and well-branded websites are a key to an emerging media plan.  Take these five “Don’ts” into consideration when developing a site for a brand.

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Results Becoming Visual with Google Carousel

The professor teaching our emerging media class has placed an emphasis on the use of visuals in not only our blogs, but also our internal class discussions through West Virginia University’s IMC program.

Some experts agree with his urging to use graphics as our brains tend to more quickly process images.  It’s noted that in order for humans to understand text we must first see the words then translate them to a language and then convert the words into meaning.  Images speak to us much more quickly.

This rationale leads us to Google Carousel which offers prime retail at the top of a Google SERP (search engine results page) plus imagery!

Google Search Carousel

The imagery helps sell a result by making it easy to understand and easy to navigate since it is at the top of the SERP.  Currently, the carousel contains up to 20 results and mainly appears in industry searches such as travel and restaurants.  It can be assumed that we are just in the initial phases of Google carousel and that it’s only a matter of time before other types of industries are included in the carousel.

What does this mean for marketers?  It means that a Google search can now yield even more information than just text, providing another outlet to communicate with and market to consumers.  A carousel entry can contain photos of the property, a Google Map, a Google Street View image, contact information, the address, reviews, booking information, and other suggested searches.

Marketers will need to be diligent in their SEO efforts to try to obtain a “top spot” in the carousel and make sure their photos and information are up to date, and that they are monitoring their online reviews.  It’s an exciting form of emerging media that is still in its initial stages.   But we can be sure Google is always looking to what’s next so carousel is likely to become more standard as Search progresses.

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#fail (When Brands Should Reconsider Social Media)

When should marketers  reconsider using social media to get sales?  How about in times of disaster?

Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast of the U.S. in 2012 and killed more than 100 people and left 8 million without power.

How did some brands try to capitalize on the disaster?  With puns and promotions.

Apperican Apparel fail

(who’s bored during a destructive hurricane?)

Urban Outfitters fail

(“this storm blows” seems a little insensitive. I guess Urban Outfitters thinks they can make everything okay with free shipping if you enter the promo code AllSoggy)

Adler fail

(“Storm our site,” get it?)

Here is another example of an inappropriately-timed tweet after the Boston marathon bombing from the cooking site Epicurious.

Epicurious fail

Brands can quickly communicate with consumers through emerging media, which sometimes leads to callous messaging.   I personally don’t think any of these brands were intentionally disregarding the severity of these situations.  I think they saw an opportunity to connect with consumers about a relevant news media topic, but they just didn’t go about it in the best way.

It’s important for marketers to slow down and think through exactly what they are saying and how it could be perceived before they click “post.”  Otherwise, they may regret encouraging people whose streets and homes have flooded to use the promo code “AllSoggy”

An example of a brand that handled Hurricane Sandy with compassion is  Jet Blue who partnered with food trucks to provide warm meals and cell phone charging stations  to areas of NYC hit the hardest by the storm.  The way they communicated the food truck locations was through Twitter so that people knew in real-time where they could get food.  This shows a brand thoughtfully responding to the disaster and using emerging media to reach people who may be in need instead of pushing a promotion.

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