How Shinola is Making Real-Time, UGC Marketing a Reality

For marketers working to deliver consistent, relevant brand experiences to their audiences at scale, user-generated content can be an efficient way to source authentic and timely media directly from fans. But despite the fact that friend recommendations and online consumer opinions are the two most trusted information sources for consumers making purchases, only 3.3% of online retailers use user-generated photos as part of their content marketing strategy.

With digital content volumes continuing to grow across networks like Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram, the pool of potential UGC available to marketers will be even richer and more diverse in 2014. So why is UGC marketing so difficult for brands?

The first obstacle for brands working with UGC is legal rights; brands need the appropriate permissions to use third-party content without the risk of copyright infringement or other mis-use. The second complexity is managing UGC at the speed of social. Often, even when marketing teams can get permission to use third-party content, obtaining the necessary media releases and legal approvals takes too much time.  Finally, marketers need tools and processes to consistently curate UGC while maintaining brand voice and content quality.

So is real-time, safe and scalable UGC a possibility for content marketers? Absolutely, and we’re building the marketing technology at Percolate to enable it. Here’s a recent example of how Shinola, a retailer of high-quality watches, bicycles and leather goods built in Detroit, is using UGC sourcing and approval tool FanBranded as part of their social monitoring and content strategy to quickly activate UGC and forge closer connections with their customers.

Shinola’s Twitter feed is full of examples showing how UGC can be a conversation opportunity for a brand to engage and acknowledge its fans in real-time.

Shinola activating UGC in real-time on Twitter

Backed by FanBranded, Shinola curates UGC imagery straight from followers who include the campaign hashtag #MyShinola, using Percolate’s integrated media release software to obtain image rights to the content. FanBranded lets Shinola secure full legal rights to user content in minutes, eliminating the need for repeat social media compliance checks.

Getting Legal Approval for UGC with Percolate

In a short amount of time, this new workflow has helped Shinola grow its media library without costly photo shoots or recurring legal reviews, increase visual post frequency and engagement on its Facebook page, and show thanks to its fans by publicly featuring their signature looks.

Shinola Facebook Page UGC Examples

For your brand to have the same real-time success with user-generated content as Shinola, it’s important to align your UGC strategy with these five recommended best practices:

1. Set internal, agreed-upon UGC guidelines that determine the quality and types of images that meet your brand’s content standards. It may also be helpful to create up-front goals for the amount of different types of content you want to procure.

2. Be an attentive social listener through the use of monitoring tools. Cultivating dedicated campaign hashtags like #MyShinola can help focus social listening at scale.

3. Use sincere, transparent communication when you interact with your fans and followers around UGC.

4. Set up a streamlined process for securing legal rights to digital assets directly from Twitter, leveraging cost and time-saving technology like FanBranded and the Percolate Photographer app for iOS and Android.

5. Have a plan for where and how you’re going to deploy your brand’s new UGC assets.

When Shinola’s customers show their pride for their favorite products on social, not only is the brand listening, its also using Percolate to save its marketing team time, energy and resources, while delivering consistently great, real-time content to its followers.

Follow @Shinola on Twitter.

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Client Summit

Customer Summit Case Study: Denny’s

Denny’s had a plan – establish itself as America’s Diner and use that positioning to reestablish relevance for the brand and drive growth at the register.


The fastest growing segments of Denny’s customer base are the most represented on social networks. Social would be a key to their future marketing strategy. What they didn’t anticipate was the change that they would go through as they executed this strategy. Percolate_CS_5.069

As of the Customer Summit, Denny’s has been working with Percolate for 16 months.16 months

In that time the brand has had 2 agencies managing their social presence.2 agencies

They tested 3 different approaches to marketing Denny’s on social – from curation to conversation to creation.3 strategies

Importantly, over those 16 months Denny’s had 6 different community managers creating content on their behalf.6 community managers

The lesson of this is that your audience is there to be entertained and engaged. Change is of no consequence to them. Keep the content coming.


Denny’s did just that, producing over 2,700 pieces of unique content in that 16 month period. That’s 173 per week, nearly 25 pieces of content per day.

2766 posts

Denny’s tested a series of tactics, leveraging user generated content to drive engagement. This post had more than 30,000 notes on Tumblr.


The results speak for themselves. 63% increase in shares on Facebook since Denny’s started posting at social scale.more shares

Twitter was also impacted positively by a strategy of greater volume.

more retweets

Tumblr has been a standout success. Where the Denny’s tumblr is being hailed as the best brand tumblr she’s ever seen, by no less an authority than Digg’s Social Media editor Veronica D’Souza.  notes

Denny’s VP of Marketing understood how technology enabled his agency partners to succeed in this fast paced environment.

dennys vp

Denny’s agency partners, Erwin Penland and Gotham, have been active users of Percolate’s entire toolset, and continue to lead the way among Percolate’s client base.


Ultimately creating content at social scale comes down to removing friction between inspiration, creation and production. Kevin Purcer’s team at Erwin Penland drove this point home with their hugely successful iPhone 5S parody which was RT’d 2,500+ times.


Removing friction creates efficiency, effectiveness and sustainability. In the time that Denny’s agency partners have leveraged Percolate they have generated 400% more content in half the time (we know this because prior to joining Percolate as Director of Client Solutions, I was Strategy Director on the Denny’s business).400x

It’s those kinds of numbers that showcase the possibilities of creativity at social scale.


This emerging space is a team sport where brands, agencies and technology collaborate to create smart workflows for powering social creativity.


Want to learn how Percolate can help with your content marketing?

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Percolate’s 1st Annual Customer Summit

On November 13, we will have our first Customer Summit with a preview of a series of major developments for our company.

Percolate clients, partners and senior marketers will gather with the goal of sharing ideas, learnings, and a few drinks.

On the agenda for the day:
◦ The latest from Percolate, featuring a series of new products and a bold new look for our company
◦ Case studies from Percolate clients Procter & Gamble, Denny’s and Mastercard
◦ Presentations from our partners at Visually, Scripted, Getty Images, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Business Insider

It’s going to be great and we plan to share the videos after the event on our blog. If you would like more information about the event please get in touch via email.

Percolate Customer Summit (social)


Want to learn how Percolate can help with your content marketing?

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Bring Creativity Into the Enterprise

“Mess tends to loosely weave together disparate elements, messy systems are more resilient to destruction, failure and imitation. Neat systems tend to have more sharply defined strong and weak point, and thus are often brittle, easily foiled or disrupted and easily copied.”

Abrahamson and Freedman – A Perfect Mess

While the biggest news out of Apple this week may have been a gold iPhone 5S, the most important news was revealed on Monday in an article AdAge. Apple is planning to bring Creative Directors and Heads of Innovation from the agency world into its internal ranks and build out their in house creative capabilities. The question raised by this move is – Can creativity in house increase enterprise value?

Creativity has for years been outsourced in large part because the organization didn’t know how to grow creative employees through the management ranks. That meant that if creative people were on staff they would stagnate through the organization and eventually move out of the organization. This is a bad investment. Organizations expect that certain employees will be bad investments, but they cannot hire a class of employees who they expect with certainty will fail out of the organization.  While it’s clear that creativity is valued, it’s not valued in an enterprise context, because creative types don’t have clear career paths. The larger problem is that the best conduits of your brand values are your employees and traditional organizational structures aren’t positioned to leverage employee creativity.

Translating organizational values directly outwards wasn’t a concern in the traditional media era, when access was controlled and attention was focused. In fact, exposing your employees was a liability. Attention was concentrated on crafted portrayals of the brand. Then social media came of age and authenticity, passion and connection emerged as the key drivers of communication success. The best transmitters of those values are your employees. All of a sudden creative employees matter.

This presents a fundamental question is an organization willing to deal with the volatility of creativity and make it part of how the organization operates. Nassim Taleb’s latest book Antifragile helps to illuminate the potential positive economic impact of creativity on an organization. The fundamental thought here is that in order to build value long term we must test limits and expose ourselves to small mistakes in order to grow stronger. Antifragile systems take failure as stimulus to grow and become stronger. Fragile systems limit all points of “known” failure and optimize that system to extract as much value as possible from the present. This sounds quite a bit like most modern corporations who have been built in large part on the seminal work of Frederick Taylor and his ideas of scientific management. Scientific management and Taylorism are a part of any modern organization, but perhaps we need to introduce a bit more of a creative mess.

Organizations need creativity as an antidote to the brittleness of efficiency. Apple, Nike, Purina and Campbell’s Soup are bringing through their social media practices creativity in house. Ultimately what they may find is that they are able to both create better social content and perhaps more importantly leverage creativity in the development of new management structures that make their brands more resistant to downside and exposed to upside. Ultimately, creativity becomes not a liability, but the most important asset within the organization. Strikes me that we will be seeing a lot more creativity brought in house in the years to come.

Want to learn how Percolate can help with your content marketing?

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From Community Manager to CMO

We have a saying at Percolate about our aspirations for our customers:

  1. We want to make the CM the CMO
  2. We want to make the CMO the CEO

So how do we accomplish this?

It starts by shifting the way the marketing departments think. One of the biggest challenges in modern marketing is moving beyond episodic, campaign-based storytelling and into real-time content that is always on.

Marketers are coming from a world where storytelling lasted months, not minutes. Where reach was defined by DMAs, not continents and where content was a very expensive story that ended after 30 seconds instead of a continuous, pull-to-refresh, stream of messages.

In order to properly solve this challenge, the CMO must understand the social support workflow (e.g. the operational model) is table stakes. The larger issue is what to say, day-in-and-day-out, across multiple channels. There is a need to blend art and science while staying on message, in real-time.

The answer is for marketers is to think in systems. From the CM to the CMO, day-in-and-day-out marketers must follow a process to deliver on the increasing demands of a global content strategy.

There are a lot of big questions that marketers need to ask themselves: In a social world, can all content still be created in the same linear way with things like production calendars and long approval processes?

For the most part, all content before social was designed this way. But how does that change when you need to create a message one minute about your latest product and then the next minute you need to tweet out your condolences to the folks that were just affected by a bombing at a marathon you sponsored?

At the end of the day social isn’t a line item on an Excel sheet that has to pass procurement. It isn’t how you complement your TV spot. Social is the new way of thinking about building systems inside of a marketing organization. The CMO that thinks in systems will have the ability to scale this operation as they become the major touchpoint to consumers and employees inside their organization. They can make a very good case for themselves as to why they should run the entire enterprise. The case to transition from the CMO to the CEO.

CMOs must find themselves in the social trenches with the CM, building the systems to help scale their organization and raising the status of the folks doing the work that is moving the business forward.

That is the promise of social and the opportunity for the folks from the frontline to the boardroom.

Want to learn how Percolate can help with your content marketing?

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Our Commitment to Culture and Clients


As part of building a strong and transparent culture, one thing we like to do a lot is take questions from everyone at the company. We are still very young, growing quickly and things are changing fast. We try and make decisions after a lot of thought and we also try to do what is right for our company, our employees and our clients. Nothing else really matters.

Over the past few weeks I read, Lean In, a book I have heard a lot of buzz in the office written by Sheryl Sandberg, whose career I’ve always admired, albeit from afar.

The book was great, and while it is primarily around gender equality in life and the workplace, a very serious topic and one that we can all stand to learn more about, I want to use some of the lessons from Lean In as it relates to the lessons Sandberg learned in scaling a growing technology company. She helped build two of the most impressive companies of our time: Google and Facebook. Her lessons from the book help explain why we make some of our decisions, what it takes to work at Percolate and why we will always do what is right for our clients.

Lesson 1: The most important thing to look for in joining a company: Fast Growth.

In Chapter 4 of her book she talks about wanting to join a technology company. It was 2002 and she had a long list of companies in Silicon Valley that were recruiting her and she had to make a decision on where she was going to go. At the very lowest priority of her organized spreadsheet, because of vague title and undefined role, was a company called Google. She went to then CEO Eric Schmidt and explained her dilemma. The other companies had her managing big teams, with big titles, a defined role and goals. At Google she was the first “business general manager”. When she said this to Eric Schmidt he responded with what she calls, “maybe the best career advice i ever got”:

He covered my spreadsheet with his hand…… Then he explained to me the only criterion that mattered for picking a job was — Fast Growth. When companies grow quickly, there are more things to do than there are people to do them. When companies slow down or stop growing, there is less to do and too many people to do them. Politics and stagnation set in and everyone falters.

As leaders inside the company our goal is to deliver fast growth. If there is fast growth you can grow as people, you can be challenged and you will learn a ton that you can put on your resume as a signal that you know how to build that kind of business.

From Sheryl’s advice, we have to be conscious of two things as we grow our company:

  1. Slow Growth

  2. Politics

The good news is that most of the time, these two things are actually just one. By that I mean politics are a direct result of slow growth. This is generally why big companies become political, they are slowing down, or more importantly, slowly slipping into irrelevancy. It’s a land grab, fewer important positions and people can get nasty.

As a company we have to always keep our eyes on the opportunities that will drive fast growth, even if they are something we never conceived of doing before. One of the great things my  co-founder Noah has taught me is how to question things that I’ve felt 100% sure about. Breaking down what I perceived as absolutes has helped me think in ways I’ve previously thought weren’t possible. This type of thinking has permeated our culture and I believe it has helped us find opportunities. A good exercise to challenge ourselves with is to ask: what is something that we absolutely wouldn’t do as a company and then try to actually do it.

Lesson 2: It’s a Jungle Gym, Not a Ladder

Chapter 4 of Lean In is entitled, It’s a Jungle Gym, Not a Ladder, and in the opening of the chapter she tells a great story from her 2012 Harvard Business School commencement speech:

When I was first at Facebook, a woman named Lori Goler, a 1997 graduate of HBS, was working in marketing at eBay and I knew her kind of socially. And she called me and said, I want to talk with you about coming to work with you at Facebook. So I thought about calling you, she said, and telling you all the things I’m good at and all the things I like to do. But I figured that everyone is doing that. So instead I want to know what’s your biggest problem and how can I solve it. My jaw hit the floor. I’d hired thousands of people up to that point in my career, but no one had ever said anything like that. I had never said anything like that. Job searches are always about the job searcher, but not in Lori’s case. I said, you’re hired. My biggest problem is recruiting and you can solve it. So Lori changed fields into something she never thought she’d do, went down a level to start in a new field and has since been promoted and runs all of the people operations at Facebook and has done an extraordinary job.

Lori saw Facebook as a jungle gym and she took on the challenge and executed in a fast growth environment. There was no clear ladder and that was perfect, it allowed her to fix the biggest challenges the company was facing and it allowed her to take on additional responsibility within the company.

These two lessons are a great way to think about Percolate. We want to grow fast, we want to set people up to succeed and we want to create multiple paths for our employees to grow.

Now with those two lessons behind us, let’s shift the focus to the future and our clients.

To quote William Gibson, “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.”

We believe this quote is true for our clients and we have done our best to lay it out. Stock & Flow. Intersection of cultural relevance and real-time. Scale, Pace and Pattern of media creation has forever changed. Content is the lifeblood of social.  And oh yeah, there is this: For every person online, there are two who are not. By the end of the decade, everyone on Earth will be connected. Where will they be connected? On social platforms.

We love the future, we want to live there but it does us no good to live in the future alone. We want to evenly distribute the future because we can all see it and we aren’t going to let any barriers to that future stand in our way.

For our clients and from our site entitled, How We Work:

With our clients, we take this quote as literally as possible. They are coming from a world where messages lasted months, not minutes. Where reach was defined by cities, not continents and where content was a very expensive story that ended after 30 seconds instead of a continuous, pull-to-refresh, stream of media. The process to build these bridges aren’t easy and we know that. But we also know if we don’t build that bridge, someone else will.

Nothing matters more to me than our employees and our clients. We are aggressive in our viewpoint on where we see the world of marketing going and how we are going to get there. If you like what I’ve said above you will most likely also like working with us.

Get in touch and say hello.


Want to learn how Percolate can help with your content marketing?

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Percolate + Twitter


We have great relationships across all the platforms. Some of those relationships are formal like Tumblr and others remain regular check-ins. Today, after many months of helping brands determine “What should I tweet about?”, we have officially joined the Twitter Certified Products Program (TCPP) to help brands and additional partners create engaging content.

We’re very happy to be in the second wave of the TCPP, which helps businesses find the best products and services on Twitter. You can find us here in the directory.

Should you have any questions, please get in touch.

Want to learn how Percolate can help with your content marketing?

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SPEAKEASY, a Night for Community Managers

Last night we held our first happy hour specifically for community managers, SPEAKEASY. We had an incredible turnout at Percolate HQ, especially for a night packed with holiday parties across the city.

Our celebrity photographer Dom Goodrum was on hand to document the night’s festivities:

Thanks to everyone who came out including our co-hosts Kristine Michelsen-Correa, bitly; Lauren Cucinotta, TEDx; and Allie MacPherson, TEXT100. We hope you enjoyed meeting team Percolate and other like-minded folk.

We’re busy planning the next SPEAKEASY so look for invites just after the New Year.

Want to learn how Percolate can help with your content marketing?

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Percolate + Tumblr

Today, Tumblr announced the A-List Partnership Program . We are proud to be included as Tumblr’s technology partner. Through the partnership, Percolate will be providing our technology and lightweight services to brands to help them build their audiences and content strategies on Tumblr in a scalable way.

Tumblr is a unique platform for brands that want to manage all of their digital assets within a single, socially connected environment. We are also excited by the sheer  scale of Tumblr’s reach and engagement:

  • Tumblr hosts more than 80 million blogs
  • Each day users create more than 70 million new posts.

With the scale for brands in place, Tumblr is now laying the foundation for how brands can natively communicate and build a sustained presence on the platform.  We have long been fans of Tumblr and we even wrote about the potential we saw in a post sixth months ago explaining how Tumblr was important in the larger social ecosystem. From that post:

Tumblr is a unique channel for brands as it relates to how they think about social content strategies in the future. There is the ability to have your own branded domain (, enough of an infrastructure in place that you can create unique stock content and house it there (permalinks), while also using the channel to curate 1st party and 3rd party content that flows through the channel with a networked community behind it…..

Why does this all matter? The future of marketing lies in how brands best create content in real-time and showcase it to their audiences. The brands that will set themselves apart from the rest will have an real-time strategy that supports both stock & flow content.

We are stoked and we hope you are as well. If you are interested in seeing how our platform seamlessly works with Tumblr, case studies for how we’re leveraging this partnership with our current clients or how Percolate might help you, please get in touch and say hello.

Want to learn how Percolate can help with your content marketing?

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Brands must live at the intersection of Stock & Flow

At Percolate, when we’re introducing people to the concept of Stock & Flow, we use the following quote:

“Change is a constant conversation in the marketing industry, but the last few years have brought two tectonic shifts: From campaign-based thinking to sustained messaging and from 21-week production schedules for television commercials to 21 minutes between tweets. Ultimately, we’re moving to a world where brands start to recognize their roles as content creators. Many argue (and we agree) that brands always were content creators. But clearly there is a difference between a 30-second spot that cost millions and a 4pm Facebook status update.”

Beautiful campaign-based assets that attract new customers, the type of content brands are great at creating — that’s stock: timeless, durable, and traditionally working off of very slow-moving trends. Tweets, pins, tumbls, and status updates represent flow — lightweight content that brands are expected to create in real-time to engage their growing social audiences.

Brands are still struggling to make their way in flow. Like awkward teenagers with gangly arms, brands are slowly finding their way into communicating with millions and millions of fans and followers on social platforms. Consumers aren’t dumb, and they can be mean: They see the awkwardness and may even mock it. (Welcome to the mean girl clique represented by the Condescending Corporate Facebook page.) At the same time, it does us no good in the marketing community, as stewards of brands, to mock these awkward teenage years when we know they are going to grow up into powerful adults.

The key is to understand this awkward transition and how brands are going to get to the next phase. We have talked a lot in the past about why brands struggle in social, how brands have to consume in order to create, how brands have to stop depending on just listening for mentions, and how they need to become a magnetwith their content strategy instead of simply mirroring their audience.

We have also talked about how, as a brand becomes more adept with flow, these lightweight messages can start to inform how they create their more expensive stock. It is at this intersection of stock and flow that brands will thrive. When brands can marry what they stand for with what the consumers they are trying to reach care about, customer engagement and loyalty will follow.

Being culturally relevant in real-time will allow brands to keep social audiences engaged beyond wheeling out those manufactured ‘timely’ posts: “Llike us if you like Friday. RT this if you like Friday. Pin this if you like Friday. Re-Blog this if you like Friday.” It might sound challenging to live at the intersection of stock and flow or to be culturally relevant in real-time, because it is. But it is a challenge worth pursuing.

The social platforms have themselves been exemplars in this area, with insightful posts from Facebook, Twitter and others explaining how brands can communicate with stock & flow strategies.

Paul Adams, in his his recent post “Six examples of brands doing great work on Facebook,” showed how Oreo married its iconic stock asset, the Oreo, with an event that was culturally relevant: the Mars Rover landing. [See above image.]

Now, you might say that only fun, playful CPG brands like Oreo can do this. But witness Intel, the massive microprocessor company, and its recent Intel Man mashed up Gangnam style. Result? More 500K likes and one of its best  ever Facebook posts.

Twitter has provided great examples of how you can build a real-time brand with examples from Tide, Pepsi, and Bonobos.

Tumblr’s announcement of a real-time analytics partnership is also showing how brands can effectively create content on their platform, and that the passionate Tumblr community appreciates clever, relevant and interesting work. IBM withSmarter Planet and American Express with OPEN Forum are two brands doing work on Tumblr at the intersection of what their brand stands for with what is important to their communities. Stock, meet flow.

These examples together provide early suggestions for a standard that works well on these social platforms, for both brands and their audiences.

This emerging standard is very different from the digital boards of the past. The IAB did a great job of bringing together publishers and advertisers to build standards in a world where boxes were needed to complement content.

In this brave new world your content is your ad and the brand is the owner of massive audiences in social. Brands need to live and create in real-time at this intersection of stock & flow to make social platforms more engaging for everyone involved.

[Main Image: WikiMedia]

This post first appeared as a column on PandoDaily.

Want to learn how Percolate can help with your content marketing?

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