What’s Trending for 2017? Look to Snapchat.

The beginning of the year is the time everyone starts reflecting less on the year past and more on what is to come, especially in the world of social media and marketing. If you’re curious what kind of things we can expect in the social media landscape, however, you need only look to the direction of one app: Snapchat.

I know, I know. You’ve heard a ton of hype around this app, and you may or may not have adopted it—especially with Instagram nipping at its heels and fighting feature-for-feature with Snapchat. But I’m not trying to convince you to hop on board. I’m simply pointing out some of the features this app has implemented that are steering the direction of what we can expect from social in 2017 and beyond.

A constantly changing landscape

If Snapchat has been anything this year, it has been ever-evolving. Adding some functions, taking others way, and even making some simply temporary. The constant iteration of facial recognition filters, and now augmented reality filters, keeps users on their toes wondering what is next. It is also a way to find out (via clamoring when they’re gone) which ones users are particularly attached to. This constant evolution keeps the app fresh and new, giving them plenty of press and making each update something to look forward to. Iteration like this, or simply keeping your company fresh and in the spotlight, will be a challenge brand marketers and app developers will need to be prepared for in 2017. This ain’t going away.

A convenient aspect of an ever-changing landscape is the ability to push the boundaries, sometimes to a weird place. Let me tell you, there have been some absurdly odd facial filters on Snapchat. And since they’re only there temporarily, it gives Snapchat the ability to experiment. One bonus to this weirdness though, is that it creates virality. People appalled or amused by some of the filters are more likely to screen capture and share on other social sites, leading to more popularity potential for Snapchat. In a sea of weird selfies, brands will need to figure out how to stand out, how to experiment, and ultimately how to stay relevant.

Augmented reality and interactive media

In Q4 of 2016, we saw Snapchat do some really ingenious things with AR and their filters. One that really stood out to me was the ability to turn your own face into an old school slide puzzle game (see below), with only 10 seconds to successfully solve it (since Snapchat videos are only 10 seconds long). Entire apps are created around a game like this to pass the time. Snapchat put it IN their app. How will brands create interactive experiences that make customers and prospects feel like they are part of the fun?

There was also a skiing game, reminiscent of the old Ski Free game on Windows computers (for those of you my age) that put your face on the skier. You had to tilt your phone to move the skier and avoid obstacles. You literally become the game, and could share it with your friends to find out if they could do better than you in 10 seconds. A messaging app became an interactive game with AR functionality. Whoa.

Chris Pratt mindblown gif from Guardians of the Galaxy

Bringing people together

While this isn’t necessarily a new thing, going from one-to-one chat, to one-to-many chat has taken off (live video anyone?). Snapchat does this in a few ways. The Snapchat Stories feature isn’t anything new (and has also been copied by Instagram), but the ability to do two-person filters and face swaps encourages you to take more than selfies—ussies, perhaps. A new feature Snapchat added this year is group chat for up to 15 people, which still disappears after 24 hours as has been their M.O. This builds friendship and community through a chat app while still staying true to itself. Want to stay top of mind in 2017? Be the hub for your community.

Snapchat holiday filters reindeer
Just my lil sister and I at holiday time, filtering around.

I read an interesting post claiming that Snapchat’s non-intuitive interface may actually work in its favor by encouraging collaborative learning. By actually learning how to use the app from another (possibly younger) person, you’re forming a relationship with them via the app. Now this claim hasn’t been substantiated by Snapchat, nor would it be. Some have claimed this would never work for another app, and it only works because Snapchat has buzz behind it already. I can agree with that. But it’s an interesting perspective to consider, and there is a lesson here. If you can find a way to encourage your community to help each other, with you being the connection point, you’ve just become vastly more valuable to both teacher and student.

Adapting to the way people use the product

Listening to your customers? Whoda thunk it? Snapchat has done a really good job of paying attention to which features and filters people use and love, and how people use the app. For example, people were often taking screen captures of their own content, so Snapchat added the ability to save to camera roll and in the cloud in a section called Memories. Then people wanted to be able to upload photos from their camera roll and edit them, so the functionality was added. Actually, there are even a special set of paintbrush filters specifically for images pulled from your camera roll, like below.

A look at Snapchat's paintbrush filter

As more companies become agile, listening to feedback and acting on it will be key to success. Snapchat exhibits this approach very well. While some companies will find an agile approach daunting due to bureaucracy and red tape, being able to quickly pivot and make changes based on customer feedback can be another key to success in 2017.

So, what do you think? How will these shape up in 2017? Where do you stand? Are you already on Snapchat, and if so, what is your favorite newer feature? Tell me in the comments. Also, feel free to follow me by snapping a photo of my code below.

Robzie81 on Snapchat

Why vanilla is the worst flavor of marketing

I have a friend who recently wrote a blog post for the agency she works for. It was a great post: well written, included graphics she made herself, was helpful and offered takeaways, and had a title just interesting enough to garner clicks without being click bait. Then, the CEO had her take it down. “It might give the wrong impression.” (It didn’t.)

Vanilla is the worst flavor of marketing-title image

Vanilla is the worst flavor of marketing

Maybe you love vanilla ice cream, or vanilla pudding, but no one likes vanilla content. To make an impact among the overly crowded digital marketing space, you need to do something to stand out. You have to take a position. You must offer helpful information while not turning your content into a snooze-fest lecture. With the concept of Content Shock looming over all of us marketers, you have to write something worth reading.

Maybe try chocolate instead

Embrace a deep, rich, and possibly darker side of content. Piss someone off, start an argument, take a stand. But be willing to back up your argument with informed points and a reasoned point-of-view. Don’t just troll the world. In Jay Baer’s “Jay Today” video series, he goes on some pretty serious rants—calling marketing and service mediocrity where he sees it. Some people may disagree with him on some points, and that’s ok. His definitive, and sometimes angry, perspective is visceral and real. People remember it and share it if they relate to it. Do you have a viewpoint in opposition to the status quo? Talk about it! I did in this guest post, and things got pretty hairy, but I stood by my points and even helped some people in the process.

Vanilla marketing click to tweet image
Click the image to share this post

Don’t forget the savory bits

My choice would be salted caramel, but you do you. Ahem, I digress. Give people definitive takeaways and sharable tidbits in your content that they just can’t help but share with their friends and followers. For example, provide a click-to-tweet takeaway image (like above) that makes sharing those points seamless (something else Jay Baer does really well with his Social Pros podcasts). Try putting some key takeaways in bullet points to visually sum up what the reader should get out of a post. Before you hit publish, seriously ask yourself, “What exactly will someone reading this post/article/blog get out of it?” If the answer isn’t clear, fix it.

What’s better than regular ice cream? A sundae.

Don’t be afraid to mix up your content. Slap on some toppings, mix up some flavors, and create a tantalizing piece of content people can’t help but share. Here are some examples of how you can incorporate different media to see what resonates with different audiences.

  • Embed a slideshare in a blog post to reinforce the points you’re making.
  • Record a video clip to break down a complicated concept rather than writing a long-form post.
  • Try embedding tweets surrounding a hot topic you’re discussing to show its relevancy and highlight important points-of-view.

Your content has to have some character, something uniquely you. There are likely other posts in the world on the same topic you’re writing about, so what makes yours different?

Admit it, you totally want some ice cream now, don’t you? Sorry about that.

Now go get your social on!

How to provide epic customer service

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I’m not really a fan of pointing out FAILS unless they really irk me. Rather than posting precautionary tales of what not to do, I’d much rather point people toward examples of what to do. Coming from a customer service background has given me an affinity for wanting to point out people and brands that get it. The ones that make you feel like an individual rather than one in a giant number of social media followers. Here are a couple that stood out to me this week.

How to provide epic customer service

Misfit Wearables

Anyone who knows me knows I really get into two things: technology and exercise. During SXSW last year, I came across a fashionable and lightweight fitness tracker called the Shine, by Misfit Wearables. I love it. It’s minimalistic and not clunky, attaches nearly anywhere, and I get asked about it by people all the time.

So you can imagine my disappointment when mine suddenly stopped working a couple weeks ago. Meanwhile, a buddy of mine just picked up a high-tech Microsoft band and was trying to get me to convert. When I find something I like, I’m typically pretty loyal, so I decided to post on Misfit’s Facebook page asking for any recommendations on what I could do to try and get my Shine working again.

Their page boasts over 21,000 fans at the time of this writing. That’s no small number. Their posts to page section is a constant stream of comments, both compliments and complaints, and my question easily could have been overlooked. But it wasn’t. Instead, I was directed to private message, where they asked for my address to send me a new shine. No twenty questions, no asking me to send in my defective product. They fixed it for me. In my preferred color. Like customer service bosses. And now I’m writing and sharing about it. Social listening, folks. Do it. Your customers will love you for it and you’ll be respected because of it.

Misfit Wearables fitness tracker wearable technology
My shiny new red Shine

More importantly, they kept me from leaving. Had I received no response, I’d have likely started shopping around for another fitness tracker to see what was out there. By keeping me with them, they kept me from meandering. Nicely done, Misfit.

Buffer

There isn’t a single bad thing I can say about the folks at Buffer. Their app is solid, their content never ceases to amaze me, and their people are genuinely the nicest on the entire interwebs. When I see their logo, I don’t see a brand. I see the smiling face of someone who genuinely gives a damn. They also happen to lead a weekly #Bufferchat that continually engages and informs their audience around consistently interesting topics.

I recently jumped in to a #Bufferchat that they held. It featured my very smart friend DJ Waldow (who actually inspired my last post), and turned out to be a great discussion. Afterward, I received a DM from Nicole, the Community Champion at Buffer (ps, I love their titles), asking me if she could send me some stickers to show her appreciation of my participation. One thing you should know about me is that I’m kind of a swag whore. Gimme all those things. Naturally, I was geeked.

Buffer social media scheduler customer service
The folks at Buffer are pretty swell. Their sticker game is strong, and they really appreciate their community. Plus, just look at that handwriting!

What I received was a premium-stock card with a handwritten note (in very fancy handwriting, might I add), plus two high-quality stickers. All because I actively participated in a chat. You want to talk about building community and making your fans feel special? Nailed it.

Now, some of this could be chalked up to an influencer marketing strategy. I get that. I’m not what one could call a high level influencer (my followings aren’t that massive comparatively), but I am very vocal about things I’m passionate about. And you can bet I’m going to continue to be vocal about my affinity for Buffer and Misfit.

Good customer service also isn’t just about handing out freebies. The main points of this are to listen to what your customers are saying, solve their problems, let them know you appreciate them in whatever ways you can, and don’t treat them like faceless entities in an online crowd. Hats off, Buffer and Misfit. You won the week.

What are some examples of amazing customer service or community-building that you’ve experienced from a brand? Share your story in the comments below.

Now, go get your social on!

The Walking Dead Premiere: Social Media Failings

Like millions of other people, I sat wildly awaiting the premiere of season 5 of The Walking Dead this past Sunday. The perils of Rick Grimes and the gang, however, is not the topic of this post (so no spoiler alerts! Yay!). This post is about a few things that were just improperly handled when it came to social media and the premiere of my favorite show about zombies and post-apocalyptic survival.

The Walking Dead Season 5 Second Screen Experience

A campaign that is dragging its feet

I’m a fan of second screen, being one who is constantly checking the online chatter surrounding shows, events, and stories. So I was delighted to see that AMC was embracing the second screen usage of its fans right from the onset of season 5 — sending people to a website where they could play along with the show. I obviously went straight there. And that’s where things went awry.

The second screen experience, called Story Sync, was that of telling how you’d handle scenarios, voting on the level of gore in specific scenes, whether you thought someone was going to make it or not, and some behind the scenes type stuff. Kind of a fun idea, but I found it to be overall pretty distracting from the actual show. This is where I feel the disconnect is. People typically like to check what others are saying by following the dedicated hashtag and adding their own input, and this didn’t really add to the social experience. The connection to Twitter was pretty generic, no feed from the hashtag or real sharing opportunity to be found.

I could have forgiven that, however, if it weren’t for what happened next. Rather than keeping people engaged and interested during the commercial break — y’know, when most people are checking the second screen — you’re shown ads from the sponsor. So you’re served up ads as you try to find distraction from ads. Not quite a success. No contest, no engagement, just a static ad for a tablet. My attention was pretty quickly lost. I was really disappointed in that, and I hope AMC does something better with that time and the attention they could have. Otherwise, I’ll absolutely abandon this second screen experience for a real one. Namely, my Twitter stream.

My recommendations: use a branded model for your advertising (one that’s visible but not dominant) but try to engage people during commercial breaks and get them sharing the hashtag using some Twitter integration directly from your second screen page. Try doing “vote using this hashtag” or something to keep people from going elsewhere during the commercial break. Don’t just drop a static ad (especially one that is the same ad on my damned TV).

Ads that should be beheaded

All that being said, I can forgive it as AMC continues to work on fully embracing the full second screen experience. Some of the promoted posts I saw on from other brands on Twitter though — just no. NO, NO, NO, NO. Don’t promote a post and jump on a hashtag with a stupid plea for engagement. Like below:

Die Hard Walking Dead Twitter promoted post

C’mon guys. Really? A plea for empty engagement? An unnecessary tie-in? Stop it. You might as well be using the “Retweet a picture of this llama, for no reason” strategy. Also, this:

MTV's Twitter post for The Walking Dead

Pardon my language, but what the actual fuck? Paper dolls? What the hell does that have to do with an intense, high-anxiety, apocalypse survival show? Can we have tea time with Rick Grimes next? To play off the old adage: if you don’t have something nice to tie in, don’t tie in at all. And with that, there’s also Kotex:

Kotex Walking Dead season 5 premiere tweet
Image courtesy of Refinery29

I rolled my eyes pretty hard at that one when it was brought to my attention by M Mallory on Google+. Hat tip to Refinery29 for having a post about it so I could find it.

Look, I get that brands want to be a part of something popular. And I know everyone is looking for their “Oreo moment”, as its been dubbed. But just stop. If it happens, it happens. Stop trying to force yourself into popular things, and feigning real association to try and connect with people. And stop clogging my feed with ads that just make me roll my eyes.

What do you think? Am I being too harsh? Are these, in fact, poor tie ins? Have you seen similar things with some of your other favorite shows that make you crazy? Share them below!

Now, go get your social on!

Google to allow Google+ emails

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Google recently made a couple changes to the ways Google+ users can contact each other. In a recent email sent from Google, they state “Ever wanted to email someone you know, but haven’t yet exchanged email addresses? Starting this week, when you’re composing a new email, Gmail will suggest your Google+ connections as recipients, even if you haven’t exchanged email addresses yet.”

Gmail to allow contacting people circled on Google+

Now, there are a couple points in the email that are a bit confusing. Though the email says it will suggest Google+ connections (as you can see in the bubble above), the function hasn’t started working for me. I tested a few letters of Google+ connections whom I’ve never emailed before just to see if it shows up, but it has not. Are you seeing the functionality yet?

There’s a troubling portion that I’m also not quite sure how to translate. See below.

Non-circled emails may head to your social tab in Gmail

As it stands right now, an email from a real person goes in my primary tab. Does the above mean that if a real person emails me, but isn’t in one of my Google+ circles, they will be relegated to the social tab? Will all first time emails from people go to the Social tab? I could see this making some people unhappy, especially if they don’t monitor their tabs consistently. The social tab, as described in the settings, is meant for “Messages from social networks, media-sharing sites, online dating services, gaming platforms, and other social websites.” Some people may not check it often, as it may simply be filled with updates from social networks. This could potentially get real emails lost in the pile.

You do have the option in your General Settings. There’s a new option that says Email via Google+ which allows you the options of Anyone on Google+, Circles, Extended Circles, No One. You can adjust according to your comfort level.

Have you seen the changes start happening yet in your inbox? Have you received an email from a Google+ contact you’ve never exchanged emails with before? Do you see high spam potential here?

Comment below and tell me what you think about it, or if you’ve seen any of the examples above.

Like this post? You might also enjoy this one!

Now go get your social on!

2014 Could be the year of Google+, and it might be rough

In late 2013, Google+ clenched the #2 spot for active users on social networks. The ghost town/Google employee jokes should finally start to subside. Now, I’ve been on Google+ since you had to get invited to it, but didn’t fully embrace it on the regular until last year. Jumping back in, I can honestly say that it felt like being a kid at a new school. There were established relationships, social mores, and groups of people that were either happy to help or eager to chastise.

bamboo wall with plants, 2014 The Year of Google+
Breaking through the social platform walls

With some of the recent changes Facebook has made to reach and Google’s increased leveraging of Google+ across all its properties, it’s a definite possibility that more brands will be making the shift to start checking out G+. It will not be an easy transition. So here are some things to remember for those starting out, and those already well established.

Be patient

We’re going to see people doing the link dropping thing. Anyone reading this that’s considering Google+, know that it’s not a ‘link drop and forget it’ platform. We’re going to see people spamming communities. Facebook and LinkedIn groups have taught people to do this by letting them get away with it. Future Google+ friends: don’t do this, or you’ll pick up a poor reputation quickly. Read community guidelines. Each one typically lays out the rules of being a member, clearly on the community’s page. It’s going to take time to undo this mindset for new Google+ users. We’re bound to see those damned notifications for things that are irrelevant to us, because Google doesn’t do a great job of explaining what that function really means. New users, only click the ‘Notify via email’ box when posting if those people have opted in to get notifications from you. Otherwise, you’re spamming them.

Be a guide

I have Dustin W. Stout’s “The Anatomy of a perfect Google+ post” on standby for anyone I introduce to Google+. I feel like it gives them a definitive look into how to compose interesting posts and treat the platform properly, as well as just honestly engage with others. I also often share Michael Bennett’s complete guide to Google+ once people get their bearings about them (it can be a bit overwhelming because it’s an awesomely exhaustive list of useful information). I also have a circle of Google+ rockstars that I share with people to get them going in the right direction. Using these and other resources to help others understand the massive differences in this platform from others will help people enrich the community, rather than simply annoy others.

Create and cultivate relationships with new users.

I am a firm believer in the idea of Relationship Marketing (check out the awesome weekly Google Hangouts from Wade Harman that is all about this topic). Not only do I find this important for my own work, it’s important to teach that aspect to others. As an established user, you should create a communal bond with new people, and they’ll be a better Google+ user (and marketer) for it. New users should strive to make real connections, and will quickly learn how to properly use the platform and engage with others on Google+. Everyone wins, and social media is social again.

What other recommendations would you have for people getting started on Google+? If you’re a new user, what questions about the platform do you have? Leave your comments below.

Now go get your social on!

Welcome to the Bribery Economy

I  just signed up for an account on Empire Avenue because I heard it was a great networking site for people who blog. The things I found left me shocked.

Shady business and bribery

Empire Avenue, as you may have guessed from the name, is kind of like Wall Street. People buy ‘shares’ in you, investing in your worth, and you’re expected to do the same. People can offer large sums of ‘eaves’ (EA’s digital currency) if you perform certain tasks, such as retweeting a tweet, sharing a Google+ post, or following them on Instagram. That is where some of the perceived ‘networking’ comes from, as far as I can tell. More on that later. People seem to swear by the networking opportunities here, and that it can drive traffic to your various pages.

First off, the spam-style comments I was bombarded with right from the get go almost made me leave. This stuff was the likes of what you’d see in the spam folder of your blog.

“Welcome. LIKE MY PAGE. FOLLOW MY BLOG. DO THIS FOR ME. CLICK MY LINKS. MY. MY. ME. ME!!!” Well, so much for quality networking. How does that Inigo Montoya quote go? “You keep using that word, but I don’t think it means you think it means.”

I did come across some great people, who I was happy to invest in and comment back. They talked like humans. They used proper capitalization and punctuation. The seemed genuine. The EAbot must not have eaten their brains yet.

The real slap of disappointment came to me when I realized what was really going on. With these ‘missions’, people are pretty much bribing others to engage with them on social media and blogging sites. Not necessarily prospects, potential customers, or even people in your field of interest. People are heading in droves to ‘Like’, comment, +1 and share, retweet, etc. For digital, fake currency. Now. Does it spawn worthwhile conversation and new visits? Sure, but that’s not the point that bothered me.

I look to others in the industry for inspiration, guidance, perhaps some best practices. I feel like I’ve been fed lies. Social media posts that I see that are super successful, blog posts that get tons of comments and shares, so many predicated on bribery. Here I am, thinking I’ve been failing at blogging because I’m not getting tons of engagement, just some, when it turns out I’m apparently just not bribing people. How much engagement would those other folks’ blog posts and updates have seen without bribery? Would the mighty be not quite so mighty? Am I not as much of a blogging failure as I thought, but just comparing myself to impossibly stacked odds? I’m not sure whether to be inspired by this, or completely crushed by a system of underground engagement trading.

Will I still participate? Damn yea. I want a piece of this seedy underbelly of engagement pie. Now that I know how the game is being played. However, THIS guy below. No. Companies just got fined hundreds of thousands of dollars for fake reviews. Buddy, you’re doing it wrong.

Paying for reviews is never cool

Are you a devout user of Empire Avenue? Am I completely wrong in the way I’m viewing this? Tell me in the comments below. Do so, and I’ll give you ONE MILLION DIGITAL HIGH FIVES! They’re worth it. You can spend them high fiving EVERYONE ON THE INTERNETZ!

And I’m done.