Friday Wrap #33: Responsive design, animated GIFs, measurement standards, search engine for tablets2013-01-11
The past week has presented the Wrap with an embarrassment of riches. The challenge: Which items to include? To see the abundance of stories from which I had to choose, visit my link blog, where I collect stories and posts for consideration in the Wrap and on my podcast. The link blog is at LinksFromShel.tumblr.com.
How to generate buzz? Extraordinary customer service will do it
We are so accustomed to lackluster customer service that when somebody steps up and delivers exceptional service, it’s noteworthy. It’s also frequently not that hard. Consider the response from a LEGO customer service rep to an eight-year-old who wrote in asking for a replacement minifugure he’d lost from his Ninjago Ultra Sonic Raider set, which he bought with his Christmas money. In sending along the replacement (rather than citing policy), the customer service rep wrote, in part, “Sensei Wu also told me it was okay if I sent you a new Jay and told me it would be okay if I included something extra for you because anyone that saves their Christmas money to buy the Ultrasonic raider must be a really big Ninjago fan. So I hope you enjoy your Jay minifigure with all his weapons. You will actually have the only Jay minifigure that combines 3 different Jays into one! I am also going to send you a bad guy for him to fight! Just remember, what Sensei Wu said: keep your minifigures protected like the Weapons of Spinjitzu!” The Mike Krumboltz article from Yahoo Games concludes, “And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how companies score lifelong customers.”
Accommodating shift to mobile a top priority for AOL
AOL is undertaking a redesign of all its online properties with an eye toward accommodating the various screen sizes now employed for viewing its wide range of content. Writing for AdAge Digital, John McDermott notes the change will “let AOL serve ad space on its mobile and desktop websites from the same portal rather than sell mobile and desktop display separately.” Engadget and games.com have already undergone the redesign, resulting in ad click-through rates three times higher than before. Of course, it also will make it easier to read AOL’s content on the myriad devices consumers use today. With the shift to mobile for news consumption, it should serve to increase audience numbers and time spent on properties like TechCrunch and Huffington Post, as well.
Earned media or paid media? Hedge fund manager doesn’t care
If you had any doubt that the long-standing wall between public relations and advertising has come tumbling down, look to billionaire hedge fund manager Bill Ackman. Convinced that the company Herbalife is an illegal pyramid scheme, he has undertaken a one-man campaign against the company. He’s lined up against other hedge fund managers who are wagering Ackman is wrong. “That has set up what could be one of Wall Street’s most epic battles in recent memory, and whoever wins stands to gain billions,” writes Econsultancy‘s Patricio Robles, who adds that the battle is being fought in public. Ackman has launched a microsite, factsaboutherbalife.com, and is committing dollars to Google AdWords to attract people to the site. As of this morning, a search of “herbalife” on Google produces a paid link to the company’s site followed by a link to Ackman’s site. Whether the campaign will succeed remains to be seen, but, Robles writes, “The AdWords spend…might be a sign of things to come. Here, Ackman isn’t soliciting investment in his funds, so his campaigns wouldn’t appear to run afoul of any laws. But with the Securities and Exchange Commission set to relax the rules on general solicitation, which will allow financial firms and funds to solicit accredited investors, we could see a flood of Wall Street money coming into paid search as well as other forms of digital marketing.” Using paid search to drive traffic to what has traditionally been earned-media’s jurisdiction is set to be the new normal. (As if the dramatic rise of native advertising hasn’t already convinced you of that.)
TV series premieres as animated GIFs
GIF, in case you missed the news, was the Oxford American Dictionary’s word of the year. Yes, the image format introduced back in the CompuServe days (1987, to be precise) has rocketed back to popularity because of the animated versions that flood Google+, among other places. Leveraging the popularity of animated GIFs, pay-cable station Cinemax has assembled a series of animated GIFs that collectively tell the story of the first episode of a new series called BANSHEE. Created in a partnership between Cinemax and Buzzfeed, the animated images “will give fans of suspense and edge-of-your-seat drama access to the most intriguing and provocative moments from the new series,” according to Amanda Kondolojy in a TV By the Numbers article. The companies are using Tumblr’s GIF Shop, an online hub of sharable animated GIFs, to present the images in addition to collecting them at Banshee GIF Shop and ini proper sequence on BuzzFeed. Given the word-of-the-year popularity of animated GIFs and the fact that visual social communication is solidifying its place in the digital media ecosystem, marketers and communicators should consider the footage that could be turned into GIFs and used in a creative, attention-grabbing way.
Lunch Roulette: Tapping internal mobile to create face-to-face networking opportunities
When David Thompson wanted to have lunch but none of his colleagues were available and he didn’t know anyone in the cafeteria, an idea was born. Thompson—a scientist turned social media strategist for pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim, developed an intranet application that would randomly pair people throughout the company for lunch. In her article on a Harvard Business Review blog, Sylvia Ann Hewlett outlines Lunch Roulette’s four steps: “Participants select a date — or dates — when they are free for lunch and choose one of the company cafeterias they’re willing to travel to. They then click a “Match Me” button, and a lunch date and calendar reminder are emailed to their mailbox. After that, all they need to do is show up with an open mind and a willingness to network.” In less than two months, more than 350 people were mached, including the company’s CEO, who lunched with a young brand marketer. The tool is already being applied to a number of other uses. Christopher Tan, a marketer who helped create the mobile app, says an imminent update to the tool will let someone interested in career growth get matched with people already working in the field of their interest.
Coalition set to issue standards for measuring PR
David Geddes sees the establishment of standards for measuring PR as “one of the hottest new developments in public relations this year.” Writing for the Council of Public Relations Firms, Geddes—managing director at Geddes Analytics—argues that the time is now for developing industry-wide measurement standards, and reports on the work of the Coalition for Public Relations Research Standards, which has brought together “leading professional organizations to address standardization of the most important measurements.” Participants include the Council of Public Relations Firms, the Institute for Public Relations, PRSA, the Global Alliance, and AMEC. (IABC’s absence from the discussions is curious and disappointing.) More organizations will be added in order to ensure voices are heard from outside North America. Client organizations like General Electric, GM, Southwest Airlines and McDonald’s will also be part of the review. The group has launched a microsite where proposed standards will be published and practitioners can comment on them. Geddes urges PRs to review the standards and make suggestions.
Facebook rolls out single-column Timeline design
From the “design matters” category comes word that Facebook has started introducing a new single-column Timeline design “which better organize users’ personal pages and places greater emphasis on communication between friends,” writes Jon Russell on The Next Web. Facebook’s New Zealand users were the first to see the revamped Timeline, where “all communication from friends and status updates (are) placed in the left-hand side column only.” The narrower right-hand column is fixed, displaying Friends, Recent Activity and other non-messaging updates. Users can no longer expand a post across the page by “starring” it. No word on when the design will roll out to the rest of us.
Betterific: Reddit for customer service
Reddit has risen to prominence as a meme-generator. A user posts an item—sometimes original, sometimes a link—and others comment on it and vote to promote or demote it. Frequently, those that earn a lot of promotion spread well beyond Reddit to become trending topics. Micha Weinblatt has applied the basic concept to a new site, Betterific, designed to provide consumers with a platform for providing companies with feedback on how to improve their products and services. Along with his two co-founders, Weinblatt launched the site in beta in December. After signing up, you indicate what you’re interested in, pick some people to follow, and are presented with ideas that have been submitted, each of which begins with the phrase, “Wouldn’t it be better if..?” For example, a user named Sarah asked, “Wouldn’t it be better if stores that sold winter jackets had rooms where you could test out different coats in different temperatures and wind variables?” So far, 45 people like the idea. Like Reddit, your score increases the more you contribute and participate. “The (Betterific) team is working to fill in the other side of the equation by reaching out to big and small companies,” according to Mashable‘s Seth Fiegerman. “The goal is to get businesses to embed part of Betterific on their own websites, so they can tap into the community’s feedback, as well as that of their own customers.” There are also plans to let companies engage with specific users to follow up on their suggestions. At the very least, it’s a new site for organizations to monitor. Undoubtedly, the monitoring services will be anxious to tap into the data to include in monitoring efforts like Dell’s Social Media Command Center.
Blekko launches search engine just for tablets
I’ve long maintained that shrinking Google to fit a smartphone or tablet screen doesn’t make it a good search platform for phones or tablets. Projects like Everything.me and Maluuba are efforts to make one-handed search on phones easier. Now, search engine Blekko has launched izik, a tablet search engine and browser “designed to deliver a ‘from the ground up’ tablet-friendly search experience,” according to Greg Sterling, writing for Search Engine Land. “Users swipe or scroll horizontally to see more results ine ach category or can expand any individual category to see more content,” Sterling writes. “I compared a wide range of search queries and results on iziki to Google and found that izik immediately surfaced more information and made it more visually accessible.”
Scientists find reason for compulsion to post updates
You know those friends whose Facebook status updates seem like a never-ending flood? The ones about whom you ask yourself, “Geez, where do they find the time?” Scientists were curious about the phenomenon, too, so they undertook a study involving 100 undergraduates at the University of Arizona. “The students were sent an analysis of their average weekly status updates (online wall-memos) and some of the participants were then told to post more statuses than usual over the next seven days,” writes Megan Gannon of Live Science. During that week, all completed a short online questionnaire at the end of each day about their mood and level of social connection.” The students who “went on a status-writing blitz” felt less lonely and isolated over the course of the week, suggesting that the decline in loneliness was connected to an increase in greater social connectedness. Getting likes or comments wasn’t a factor in the lower levels of loneliness; the act of writing the update was all it took.
Create a free infographic resume
They’re not really infographics. More like infoposters. But if you’re looking for an easy way to distinguish your resume from the crowd, you could always spend a few minutes with a tool from Kelly Services that lets you choose a graphical template, log in to your LinkedIn account and produce a slick visual version of your CV. You’ll find the free service at Create.Visual.ly/kelly. Visual.ly is a “one-stop shop for the creation of data visualizations and infographics.” Writing about the visual resume service, my friend Laura Thomas says, “There are currently five styles to choose from, but hopefully there will be more in the future because I was almost tempted not to share these for fear everyone would start to have one like mine.