Archives For social media

If you are going to disrupt an industry, it makes sense to challenge a service that doesn’t provide a good customer experience. Most people who I know have had a negative experience in a taxicab at one time or another. Hailing a cab, rude drivers, cabs that are late and never show up, dirty and poorly maintained vehicles are just some of the problems people encounter. The best innovations identify and solve a customer problem in a new and unique way. Brand Storyteller, Blogger and author Bernadette Jiwa says that “the job of every single business on the planet is to do just one thing – to make people happy. When you find ways to do that you win”.

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Uber is startup ride sharing service based in San Francisco. Uber was launched in 2010.  Uber utilizes mobile apps to connect passengers with drivers of vehicles for hire. Uber arranges pickups in over 200 cities worldwide. Consumers reserve a car by using a mobile app to request a car. The mobile app can be used to track the reserved car’s location, make, model, driver’s name, license plate number and estimated pick up time.

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I started using Uber as a result of a promo code that a friend shared with me this summer. A key lesson for content marketers is that good and useful content is easy to share. I downloaded the app on my iPhone, requested a ride and the driver arrived within 5 minutes. I had dinner that night with a friend in the Fells Point section of Baltimore. After dinner, I requested my ride from Uber and the driver again arrived in five minutes. The driver was polite and the during the 20 minute ride home we discussed basketball and the Baltimore Bullets. My experience was great. Following that experience, I have recommended Uber to several friends. I love Uber’s tagline “Everyone’s Private Driver”. In 2013, the USA Today named Uber its tech company of the year.

For me, Uber, is more than a tech company. Uber is a brand that utilizes technology and data to create a great customer experience. Startup’s like Uber are very unique. They connect buyers and sellers through a unique business model. They use data to make sure users have a great experience. Data is also used to continually learn and improve the service. Consumers are able to rate their experience with drivers building trust in the Uber Brand. Uber is powered by technology but delivers a unique, human experience.

Have you used Uber and if so how was your experience?

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Ten years ago Dove set out to widen the definition of beauty. In 2004 Dove commissioned a research study called “The Real Truth About Beauty” to more deeply understand the relationship of women, beauty and well-being. The results of the study were very surprising. Only two percent of women interviewed considered themselves to be beautiful, while the majority placed themselves in the average or below average category. The study found that women felt disconnected from the way culture describes beauty. The study found that women held different criteria for beauty than popular culture. Women see emotional qualities, character and individuality as equally expressive of beauty as the narrow physical aspects of beauty that currently dominate popular culture.

In 2004, Dove launched the “Campaign For Real Beauty”. The campaign was designed to change the conversation about the need for a wider definition of beauty. This campaign has had a positive impact on women, changed the conversation and generated strong sales increases. Dove produced one of the best ads of 2013 in “Real Beauty Sketches”. 

Last week Dove premiered “Selfie” an eight minute film that challenges young women through social media to take an honest selfie and to encourage their mothers to do so, too. “Selfie” premiered at the Sundance Institute in Park City, Utah. This marked the 10th anniversary of Dove’s “Campaign For Real Beauty”.

Selfie is directed by Oscar Winning Documentarian Cynthia Wade and produced by Sharon Liese. “Selfie” captures the journey of multiple generations of girls and their mothers in the western Massachusetts town of Great Barrington as they create a new type of selfie that celebrates their unique beauty. In the film, the girls admit that they adopted many of the insecurities that their mothers also felt. The girls are seen getting together with their moms to create a new type of selfie that features what they perceive as their least desirable physical features.  

A decade later, Dove has uncovered through a major study in the U.S. that 62% of women feel they are responsible for influencing their own definition of beauty, nearly triple the number from ten years ago. Women believe the definition of beauty has evolved to become more inclusive and have taken on the role of defining the standard for themselves and each other.

Social media has emerged as one of the most powerful influencing factors in how women define beauty. Social media offers women the opportunity to create their own media, personalize beauty and influence the conversation. More than half (55%) of women believe social media is playing a larger role in influencing the beauty conversation than traditional media.

“Selfie” is an excellent short film. Dove has done a great job promoting self esteem. As a father of teen age girls and a husband, I applaud what Dove has done. Once again they have redefined the notion of beauty. Dove has stayed true to their brand purpose of celebrating women’s unique beauty.

What do you think of Dove’s short film “Selfie”?

I am always and open to learning about new ways of marketing and business building. I recently became aware of a new approach to marketing called “Growth Hacking”. The name intrigued me and I decided to dig deeper to find what it is and how it was different from traditional marketing. I also wanted understand what brands had done it well and what can be learned from this approach. Most marketers that I spoke to were not familiar with the term.

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In his book “Growth Hacker Marketing”, Ryan Holiday states that Growth Hacking is rewriting the rules of marketing. He offers examples of companies that barely existed a few years ago such as Dropbox, Zynga, Pinterest, Instagram and Airbnb. These brands were built using the marketing principles of Growth Hacking. In the absence of a big marketing budgets, startups used growth hacking to build their company. According to Holiday, “a growth hacker doesn’t see marketing as something one does but as something one builds into the product itself”‘ . Growth Hacking is a mindset. A growth hacker is someone who has thrown out the playbook of traditional marketing and replaced it with only what is testable, trackable and scalable. Their tools are e-mails, pay-per-click-ads and blogs instead of commercials and publicity. Growth Hacking is a mindset as opposed to a specific toolkit.

Growth Hackers are marketers with technical skills who understand the principles of direct marketing, testing and offer optimization. Growth Hackers are on a constant quest to get more customers for their product. Their ultimate goal is to achieve product marketing fit through lean business practices and ongoing testing and optimization. They run experiments utilizing A/B Tests, Landing Page Optimization and Predictive Models. Everything they do is scrutinized by its potential impact on scalable growth. Once product marketing fit is achieved businesses will grow because their product or service provides a unique solution to their target audience.

Growth Hacking started in Silicon Valley on technology products but can be applied to any business. For those interested in finding out more about growth hacker marketing, I highly recommend Ryan Holiday’s book. Additional resources include:

Will Growth Hacker Marketing go Mainstream?

Brand Marketing is undergoing a fundamental change as new media channels emerge. Bombarding consumers with “sell, sell, sell” advertising and direct mail no longer works like it used. Response rates continue to decline. The same old same old doesn’t work anymore. Consumers are tuning out blatant sell messages. They no longer buy what you do, they buy why you do it. Consumers want to understand your story. People want to support companies with a purpose beyond just selling me stuff and making money.

Today, consumers have a wide variety of media channels where they can research products and services. More and more brands are engaging consumers with authentic stories that matter. These stories inspire and inform consumers. Brands like Zappos, Dove and Chipotle are excellent storytellers with a customer focused purpose. They understand that brands today are in the publishing business. Owning your own media channels is important for success. Storytelling is the essence of Content Marketing.

This morning, I had the opportunity to hear John Robinson speak at a New York Capital Region AMA event in Clifton Park. John is a master storyteller. John’s stories are engaging and inspiring. He also has a great sense of humor. I don’t remember many of the commercials I saw on television last night but I will never forget John’s stories and inspirational message.

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John Robinson overcame countless obstacles to become a successful entrepreneur, family man and inspirational keynote speaker. John is a congenital amputee born without full arms and legs. John stressed how important it was to be comfortable with who you are.

John told the inspiring story of his bicycle ride across New York State which he called the “Journey Along the Erie Canal”. John, his family and Doug Hamlin completed a 17 day bike ride from Buffalo to Albany in July of 2013. Their purpose was to raise awareness of the ability inside all People with Disabilities and to raise funds to support Adaptive Sports, Accessibility, Education and Employment for New Yorker’s with Disabilities. Through his organization, Our Ability, Robinson mentors, connects, and inspires people with disabilities toward education and employment. They were greeted by local politicians and enthusiastic supporters along the way. They overcame many obstacles including rough trails, extreme heat, rain and sore muscles. As Doug Hamlin, John’s partner and guest speaker Doug Hamlin so aptly stated, “Things that look like a disadvantage are an advantage”.

The audience was inspired and engaged by John and Doug’s story, their sense of purpose and how they used Social Media and Content Marketing to distribute their story. They will likely remember the inspirational stories John and Doug told for years to come.

Can you share a story that inspired you to overcome an obstacle?

Yesterday I attended a Social Media Tech Valley Breakfast event at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall in Troy, New York. It was an excellent event. It was my first visit to the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, which is a wonderful venue with a great story and heritage. It is notable for having a music hall constructed on the second floor above the bank itself. The Troy Savings Bank Music Hall is world renowned for its near perfect acoustics. In another post, I will tell the story of the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, one of the gems of the capital region.

I was impressed by the presentation given by FarmieMarket founder Sarah Gordon. Sarah had a great story to share about the founding and growth of FarmieMarket, an online farmers market.

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Sarah is a third generation farmer who grew up on the family farm in Knox, New York. She lived first hand the struggles and simple pleasures that come with a family farm. After college she knew that she wanted to do something that promoted sustainability and paid tribute to the knowledge she picked up on the farm. Living in downtown Burlington, Vermont, she was inspired by the prevalence of active farmers’ markets, local foods restaurants, and the agricultural community in the urban environment. Burlington was the first place she had ever been where the small farmer was King, and she knew she wanted to replicate feeling back home.

Sarah had two unique insights that has helped build her business. Consumer’s were hungry for fresh, local food but often too busy to visit the farmer’s market every week. Most families with active children fall into that segment. Sarah also understood that small local farmers were time constrained. Local farmers were too taxed by the day-to-day challenges of farming to market themselves.

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In January 2010, she began marketing her family farm’s products online, using social networking tools. The concept caught on. From there, she began talking to other farmers she knew and offered to help them to market their products by building synergy amongst local farmers in a central, internet-based market place.

In June 2010, Gordon founded FarmieMarket, an online farmers market where Capital Region consumers could order fresh produce, eggs, meat and more from local farms and have them delivered directly to their door. Catering to the needs of time-strapped consumer and farmer has proven to be a good business model.

The goal was to help family farms make their businesses viable by expanding their access to a broader customer base. The small farms she works with have limited resources and often cannot take the time away from the farm to go sit at a booth at a farmers market (especially not knowing how much they may actually sell).  By marketing on behalf of family farms online, farmers save time and money and reach a broader customer base than may be at a traditional farmers’ market.

The concept is simple and convenient. Local farmers list what items they have in stock on the FarmieMarket website, where shoppers can order online. Once a week, Farmie Market makes deliveries to consumers, while also marketing products on the website to help farms attract more business. Farmers set their own prices and Gordon adds her own operating costs on top of that. Shoppers only have to place a minimum delivery order of $25, plus a $5 delivery charge.

FarmieMarket’s mission is easy to identify with and support:

  • Improve small family farms profitability and economic sustainability.
  • Provide naturally grown, organic and local food to families and individuals.
  • Offer local customers a modern, convenient service.
  • Improve rural and regional economies by recycling customers’ food dollars with local farms and small businesses.
  • Create and maintain jobs on farms, in small businesses and amongst entrepreneurial local food leaders.

FarmieMarket is a great example of an entrepreneur following a passion who understood the jobs that consumers and farmers are trying to get done. Sarah has done a great spreading the word about FarmieMarket through content marketing and social media. I wish her continued success.

Have you purchased farm fresh vegetables online?

American Express OPEN Forum is a great example of successful Content Marketing. In his book “Epic Content Marketing”, Joe Pulizzi defines Content Marketing as the marketing and business process for creating and distributing valuable and compelling content to attract, acquire and engage a clearly define and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable consumer action. Content marketing is a strategy that focuses on the creation of a valuable experience.  American Express understands the importance of a brand publishing useful content for their target audience. They have become a “trusted authority” for small business owners.

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OPEN Forum is an online community of small businesses hosted by American Express. Members use OPEN Forum to exchange insights, to get advice and expand connections. Open Forum helps business owners make smarter decisions. The mission of OPEN Forum is to provide small business owners information, education and connection. OPEN Forum is a community with content at its core.

OPEN Forum was launched in 2007 as a digital home for live events where small business owners gained valuable information while networking with each other. In 2008, during the middle of the recession, OPEN Forum established itself as a blog for small business topics. OPEN Forum partnered with industry leaders such as Guy Kawasaki, Chris Brogan and Ann Handley of MarketingProfs to post expert content. This approach helped OPEN Forum build credibility. The idea for Small Business Saturday came from this community.

The site’s content provides useful information that small business owners want and need. Popular topics include productivity, business management and finance. The site is aimed at small business owners who are time pressed and in constant search for ways to improve their business. The site focuses very clearly on their needs with insightful content in multiple formats such as videos, infographics, blog posts, articles and audio. It also attempts to be helpful with practical tools, how to content, marketing tips, and latest industry forecasts. The site has user-generated content but also content from publishers.

American Express has seen positive returns from OPEN Forum. American Express OPEN is the leading payment card issuer for small businesses in the United States. American Express OPEN Forum has over 1 Million monthly unique visitors. 85% traffic comes from unpaid sources as readers share the content with their own social networks, bringing back more visitors. Their number one goal to drive people to small businesses. They understand that if small businesses keep growing they will be successful as well. The business goal is to increase brand awareness and sign-ups to AmEx products, American Express intentionally do not publish self-promotional content.

I believe that there are several great lessons to be learned from the American Express OPEN Forum initiative:

  • Understand the needs of your target audience
  • Have a clearly defined content mission
  • Provide valuable and useful content that helps your audience
  • Don’t use content to sell, establish yourself as a “Trusted Advisor”. 
  • Leverage experts outside your organization to provide relevant content.
  • Commit for the long haul – Content Marketing is not a campaign but a long-term effort to engage your audience.

Can you think of other brands who are doing a great job of Content Marketing?

America has a strong love affair with the hamburger. Half the country reports eating a burger at least once a week. 90% of people eat at least one burger a month. Hamburgers are among the biggest and most competitive food markets in the United States. In 2012, the “Better Burger” market grew by over 20%.

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Smashburger is an American chain of fast casual burgers restaurants that originated in Denver, Colorado in 2007. The company was founded by Tom Ryan. The name Smashburger refers to the process by which its 1/4-pound, 1/3-pound and 1/2-pound burgers are made. It begins with a ball of raw Angus Beef, which a grill cook “smashes” with a handheld steel mold on to a butter-brushed grill for ten seconds, giving the patty a caramelized sear to lock in the juices. Every burger is made fresh to order. Smashburger offers unconventional toppings including avocado, fried eggs and garlic mushrooms. The typical meal at Smashburger costs $10-$12, $2-$4 more than a meal at McDonald’s.

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Every market has specialized burgers created for and sold only in that market. In the D.C. market, for example, there’s the Capital Burger, which isn’t made with lettuce but baby arugula. It’s also has grilled onion, aged Swiss cheese, applewood-smoked bacon, tomatoes and mayo and is served on a brioche bun. Or, there’s the Brooklyn Burger which is topped with grilled pastrami and served on a pretzel bun with yellow mustard. Smashburger also sells sweet potato fries, chili cheese fries, and the house-specialty Smashfries, which come tossed with rosemary, olive oil and garlic.

Smashburger has experienced rapid growth. It is estimated that Smashburger will end the year with over 250 locations. Their goal is to build 400 new units over the next six years. When Smashburger opened its first unit in 2007, the better burger category was just starting to take off. Six years later Smashburger is an industry leader. Forbes magazine ranked Smashburger as America’s most promising company. Smashburger has also made the Inc 500/5000 list an exclusive ranking of the fastest growing private companies for three consecutive years.

Smashburger marketing has relied heavily on social media and generating word of mouth. Smashburger focuses heavily on events, such as when it offered a free sandwich to anyone with “burger” or “berger” in their name on National Cheeseburger day, he said. Each time it enters a new market, it contacts social media trend-setters like restaurant bloggers and “mommy” bloggers who influence where consumers eat. Then, before the restaurant opens its door, it invites the bloggers in — as a group — to demonstrate how the food is prepared.

The other key differentiator is the in-store environment and customer experience. The stores have a cool look. The food is brought to the table, so consumers  don’t have to stand around and wait. The burgers are served in a stainless-steel wire basket with a real knife and fork not plastic.

Have you eaten at a Smashburger location?