How Technology Helps Fashion Labels Like Marc Jacobs Lead Social

New York Fashion Week is one of the most anticipated events on the fashion calendar, occurring twice a year in February and September. With events taking place all over New York City from Lincoln Center to Milk Studios, how does a fashion marketer create a digital campaign that will set their label apart?

Here are two examples of successful digital and social campaigns by some of the world’s hottest fashion brands from this year’s February event: (more…)

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Weibo, WeChat and the Future of Chinese Social Media

“China, not the U.S., is the most important country to watch as it relates to social and mobile.” -James Gross

With each passing day, our co-founder’s statement sounds less like an educated opinion and more like a hard fact. Simply consider the scale of the Chinese social + mobile market. The country has 618 million Internet users, and 500 million of them primarily access the web through mobile. The United States only has 319 million people in total.

But in order to understand China’s social + mobile landscape, you have to go beyond its massive scale. You have to understand what makes the Chinese market and the platforms that dominate it distinct from those in the United States.


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New Possibilities for Real-Time Marketing

As a brand, all communications falls somewhere on the spectrum of unplanned to planned and reactive to proactive. Rebecca Lieb from Altimeter has broken this down into a framework of four quadrants that we’ve used to guide our thinking on this topic, shown below.


On the top right, you have traditional media - planned, proactive content, or what brands have been doing for years across channels. Due to lead times and production costs, brands were exclusively focused on campaign-based communications.

When social arrived, brands started focusing on customer complaints on Facebook and Twitter. In other words - unplanned, reactive communications, found on the bottom left. SMMS apps were created to address the explosion of CRM and customer service inquiries that occur on social each day and have been focused on that goal ever since. (more…)

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The Next Phase of Marketing Technology is All About Content

I was doing research on Google Trends and noticed something interesting. The phrase “social media marketing” grew tremendously from 2009 to 2011 and has since leveled off, without future growth in sight. Meanwhile, the phrase “content marketing” has really picked up in the last year and is on a significant upwards trajectory. I realized that these simple graphs told a larger story about today’s marketing landscape.

Social Media Marketing vs Content Marketing Google Trends

Where We Started

About five years ago, social media hit an inflection point. Facebook introduced the “Like” button and a few months later surpassed MySpace to become the number one social network in the United States. Ashton Kutcher battled with CNN to reach 1 million Twitter followers and Oprah sent out her first tweet in all caps.

Forward-thinking brands saw the potential to reach their audiences with more engaging and responsive messages. New technologies, services, and job descriptions emerged to handle this new trend. And thus social media marketing took off. It took a while, but eventually even the most skeptical and stodgy brands got on board.

Where We Stand

Now, as we dive well into 2014, we live in a world saturated with social media.

This year’s Academy Awards is a great example: some 11.1 million Facebook users contributed to more than 25.4 million interactions (updates, comments, likes) and of course, Ellen’s record breaking Oscar selfie which has been retweeted a stunning 3.4 million times, beating the “Four more years” photo posted on Barack Obama’s Twitter account (no social media slouch himself) which had previously held the record with 781k retweets.

Brands have entire teams devoted to “Social” and a suite of software products to help them manage dozens of accounts on various platforms. 77% of the Fortune 500 have Twitter accounts, another 70% are on Facebook and the numbers continue to grow.

But this flurry of activity has given way to new challenges. The easy work of monitoring and publishing have become solved problems. Simply “being on” various social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Tumblr and more is not enough. Simple slogans like “joining the conversation” become meaningless unless you have something of value to contribute.

The question on every marketer’s mind is now: “What do we say?”

Where We Go

Creating great content at scale is the new challenge of every marketing team, ours included. Just as social media marketing sparked a series of tools, processes, and job titles, the new age of content marketing requires new forms of marketing infrastructure. Ultimately, it boils down to one fundamental task: creating compelling narratives around your brand.

What stories will you tell?

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How A Mobile App For Honesty Can Make You A Better Marketer

Over the summer of 2013, David Byttow, a former Google software developer, started building a mobile app to solve a problem he had. Byttow noticed he and the engineers he worked with were bad at giving each other feedback, and he wanted a way they could comment honestly on each other’s work without professional or personal backlash for saying something negative. Byttow wanted a way to tell the truth, without revealing who said it.

Eight months later, the most talked about content at SXSW 2014 wasn’t a flashy new tech launch, sharing economy roll-out or big-budget event activation: it was a SXSW feed from Byttow and co-founder Chrys Bader‘s two month old app, Secret, that aggregated and shared honest, anonymous feedback about the conference. The feed, coming on the back of Secret’s $10 million fundraising announcement, caused the app to jump more than 500 spots in the Apple app store rankings over the weekend, making Secret one of the fifty most downloaded social media apps, ahead of Foursquare and Facebook’s new Paper.

By itself, Secret is a noteworthy example of product design and community-building in an identity-conscious, mobile feature-unbundling world. But Secret isn’t alone. Its largest competitor Whisper also just raised venture funding, another addition to a Snapchat-led ecosystem of apps that help users create, share and consume content that’s genuine, unedited and in the moment. In fact, I see Secret, Whisper and Snapchat as part of a larger content and cultural trend centered around a key brand pillar: honesty.

From Sochi to the Oscars to SXSW, honesty and authenticity is consistently winning people’s attention — not to mention share of voice among marketers. At Sochi, P&G’s honest, heart-felt “Thank You Mom (Pick Them Back Up)” and “Tough Love” attracted as much positive content attention (over 20 million YouTube views and more than 650,000 social shares) as satirical coverage of “Sochi fails.” And Ellen’s record-setting, Twitter-breaking Oscar selfie might have been a planned product placement, but it wasn’t rehearsed, and hit Twitter with no edits or photo filters. It just happened, it was authentic, and the world loved it.  Even retailer Radio Shack was recently able to revitalize its embattled brand during Super Bowl XLVIII with a delightful, content-driven campaign that admitted the truth most consumers already knew: it’s an analog 80’s brand struggling to transition to a digital era.

Outside of event-based content, authenticity matters a lot for marketers too. New data from Chartbeat finds that a typical online article holds two thirds of people’s attention for at least 15 seconds. With native sponsored stories, average content engagement drops to one third. Moreover, 71% of web visitors scroll vertically on pages with published news stories or blog posts. With native ads that number drops to 24%. I’m not presenting these stats to say native ads are dishonest or they don’t work, but the data makes one case pretty clear: people bounce from native ads when the content they click through to isn’t what they expected (or wanted). Make your content more authentic and appropriate to the platform you’re publishing to — like some of the best native advertisers are doing — and this performance gap between published and paid content closes meaningfully.

At the end of the day, people want to be heard, they gravitate to authentic, connected experiences, and they know branded content when they see it. As marketers, we need to craft content that respects these principles, rather than chase ephemeral brand boosts from click-bait, staged stunts or misleading ad units. So now I’ve let you in on one of marketing’s closely held secrets: honesty still works in advertising.

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Empathizing With Your Audience In The Age Of Social And Mobile

At Social Media Week NYC Laura Simpson and Nadia Tuma, the global and deputy directors, respectively, of McCann Truth Central, gave a presentation on privacy and sharing in social media. They spoke at length about the varying attitudes people of different generations possess regarding the ownership and use of their online data.

At the end of their presentation, they unveiled a pyramid graph entitled “the hierarchy of compensation.” Organizations scale the pyramid by using an individual’s data to provide benefits that are increasingly intrinsic in nature. In other words, companies move from merely providing transactional benefits to enabling self-actualization by using the personal data they collect to actually make the lives of their customers better (as opposed to just making their purchases less expensive).

Empathize_highlight (1)

As I listened to Laura and Nadia speak – I sat on the panel that followed their presentation – I couldn’t help but think of Percolate Design Director Dom Goodrum’s post on the role market research plays in product design. He wrote:

One of our big goals for the year ahead will be to ensure that the distribution of our findings works harder for the company. If our research is empowering us with empathy around our customer’s lives, then we’ve got to make sure that empathy is served on a never-ending conveyor belt so everyone across the company can easily pick learnings up all day long.

Empathy is the key to ascending the hierarchy of compensation Laura and Nadia created. Whether a B2B or B2C organization, if you aspire to provide not merely cost-saving solutions but life-altering ones, deeply understanding the challenges and concerns of your customers is critical.

Great marketing, like any form of storytelling, needs to make an emotional impact. But in order to do so, you have to understand your audience. You have to empathize with them. In the third, social and mobile-driven phase of marketing technology, we can do so in ways never previously imagined. The data we now have access to, both in terms of its scale and its specificity, is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. It’s dramatically changing the ways in which marketers can make their content compelling.

When discussing our audiences, we can talk in terms of billions, not just millions. At the same time, we can target small groups of individuals with highly tailored messages. And we can do them both on the very same platform. The more information an individual provides, the better we can ensure we’re telling stories and providing solutions he or she will be impacted by. We can ensure we’re talking to the right people on the right platform and in the right ways.

I mentioned that Laura and Nadia’s presentation was actually about generational attitudes regarding privacy, sharing and the corporate use of data. How do marketers ensure that the content they create – content that appears in feeds along with photos and messages from friends and loved ones – will be well received? Empathize with them. Produce content that genuinely speaks to the reality of their situation, and distribute that content at the appropriate time through the appropriate channels. If you do so, branded content won’t feel invasive. It will be welcomed.

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An Open Letter to Art Directors

This post is an open letter to Art Directors working at advertising agencies. It’s based on a presentation I gave at Social Media Week NYC where I shared some thoughts on how Art Directors and Designers can help their clients create more effective social marketing in 2014.

The first thing you should know is these thoughts are coming from a former Art Director. 1Before joining Percolate, I was involved in the conception, planning and execution of digital campaigns at agencies in London and New York. Over the last 10 years I have seen how the web, social and mobile have shifted the ways teams create brand campaigns and content marketing. Let’s take a look at how this went down.


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What Declining Reach Means for the Future of Content

Since Facebook adjusted their News Feed algorithm in early December, there’s been a considerable amount of coverage about the decline in organic reach for brands. As more data emerges, the story becomes more apparent: one study documents a drop in organic reach from 9.5% to 7.7%; another cites a 42% decrease in fan penetration; a third claims declines can range as high as 88%.


While these studies generate a lot of clicks and attention, the recent uproar around organic declines misses the bigger opportunity by a large mark. With social, marketers can think of reach in terms of billions of people, not just millions. With organic reach already capped around 16% of fans, many brands were stuck measuring reach in the thousands.

The signal is clear from social platforms about what they offer marketers: massive scale and the data to make good use of it. As targeting capabilities mature, the real-life applications become almost farcical – for example, the ability to message several millions of moms 34-45 in the United States that have purchased frozen pizza in the last six months.

Social platforms – now some of the largest media companies in the world – have structured their businesses on sponsored and targeted content. The shift away from organic shouldn’t come as a surprise to marketers. And despite recent attention, it actually hasn’t – Social@Ogilvy and others began predicting organic declines of 40% as early as 2012.

As the idea of an “organic post” goes away, the job of the marketer is to capture attention and deliver messages that fit the brand. With a focus on paid promotion, brands will create two kinds of content in 2014.

Promoted Brand Content

If brands are no longer able to reach mass audiences without sponsorship, social starts to look a bit like television. And indeed, the language being used by social platforms themselves has leaned towards a TV advertising narrative. On Facebook, any moment can offer primetime reach. On Twitter, second screen activity plays a nice complement to any TV advertisement. The growing focus on visual storytelling in social aligns more closely to the pattern of content TV advertisers are accustomed with.

The News Feed is designed to deliver “the right content to the right people at the right time” – and brands should take full advantage of this. Test multiple pieces of promoted content to small segments, and learn before promoting content to larger audiences. Create specific messages for niche groups, and promote content only to the people that will find that message valuable. Place a lot of small bets, and go big on the content that works.

Organic One-to-One Response

As brands create less and less unsponsored content, the role of organic communications shifts towards consumer response. Twitter in particular has become a critical CRM channel for certain industries like airlines, restaurants, and retail chains. And according to Altimeter, many consumer expect to be responded to within an hour.

However, there’s a gap between consumer perceptions and social reality. 4 out of 5 messages from consumers don’t ever receive a response, and the majority of top brands engage directly in a very limited fashion. Platforms like Twitter and Facebook have redesigned to move consumer responses to side channels separate from the main brand feed.

This isn’t to disparage consumer response or downplay the effect that a one-to-one interaction has from a marketing perspective. Ignoring a customer on social could sour him or her on a brand indefinitely. With some individuals having influence and audiences that rival brands and media companies in size, tracking who is interacting with your brand becomes particularly important for brand management.

Is there overlap?

Customer interactions can also be used as a trigger for original brand content. Often, the same team is responsible for both creating brand content and for managing consumer outreach and response.

For example, Oreo and KitKat used one woman’s tweet as inspiration for original content between the brands. Denny’s regularly riffs with its followership, using comments as inspiration for real-time, often bizarre, content creation. SmartCar used an off-hand joke as inspiration for a light-hearted infographic.

With the above examples, the focus is still on the brand, but with consumers as the context. This not only gets the brand’s name out in a clever, potentially viral manner – it actually furthers the perception of the brand as receptive and responsive to their consumer base. Organic interactions can be complemented by paid promotion and take full advantage of the massive targeted reach social offers.

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Facebook to Wall Street: Content is the atomic unit of marketing

Facebook announced their latest earnings on Wednesday, posting $2.59 billion in revenue and beating analyst estimates. The market has responded in kind – Facebook’s market value went up by more than $20 billion in a single night, and the stock is currently trading at near-record highs. Apart from the effects on Wall Street, the latest from Facebook presents a series of clear signals for marketers about one of the largest media companies in the world.

What can the latest earnings announcement teach us about Facebook?

Facebook is officially a mobile company

In 2013, Mark Zuckerberg announced that “Facebook is a mobile company” and the latest news makes it official. For the first time, mobile ad revenue was greater than desktop ad revenue, now accounting for 53% of all ad revenue, or $1.25 billion. The company posted its first billion-dollar mobile revenue quarter, more than all revenues combined the previous year. Mobile ads generated $8 million on Black Friday alone.

Mobile usage is also the key driver of gains for Facebook. Mobile monthly active users have more than doubled in the last two years, growing to 945 million. More notably, mobile-only users now account for a massive portion of Facebook’s user base, with nearly 300 million people accessing the site exclusively through mobile. As marketers think about their future on social, mobile teams can’t be divorced from the planning process.


Social provides global scale

One of the most important trends to note in Facebook’s growth is its international focus. Facebook gained 2 million users in North America in Q4 and another 6 million in Europe – but grew by 17 million in Asia and by another 14 million across the rest of the world.


The potential for global scale is massive, and even with 1.2 billion people on the platform, the company is still very early in its plans for international expansion, with Mark Zuckerberg admitting “We’re still a small part of the world’s population.”

As the largest social network, we can look to Facebook as a leading indicator of broader trends for all social platforms. International expansion will be a key focus for almost all social platforms, and marketers need to plan for how their brand is managed, portrayed, and controlled on a global scale.

Facebook side-rail ads are going away. Facebook tabs are gone.

Facebook side-rail ads and tab experiences have been declining for some time, but the latest revenue figures signal their status as a marginalized tactic.

News Feed ad revenue drove Facebook’s gains, up more than 65% in all of the regions of the world Facebook tracks. They also outperform other advertisements and continue to drive up the price per ad. Facebook’s ad prices increased by 92 percent in 2013, citing that the positioning and quality of their advertisements – ie. in-feed – matters far more than the volume.

Mobile has no place for side-rail ads and doesn’t easily host tab experiences. If Facebook is seeing more revenue, better rates, and better consumer response from News Feed ads, we can reasonably expect them to downplay display ads and tabs in the near future, or completely eliminate them as with the Sponsored Stories product. Once a go-to tactic, Facebook tabs are experiencing the same siloed treatment that brand microsites did in the early 2000s, and should be off the table for any forward-facing marketer.

Content is the atomic unit of Facebook marketing

If we take the above three trends – mobile, global, and a focus on the News Feed – then the future of Facebook revolves around content. The leadership of Facebook echoed this sentiment from all sides, with an emphasis on quality over quantity.

“We have this long-term goal of making the advertising quality content as good and as relevant and timely as the content that your friends are sharing with you,” Mark Zuckerberg stated on the call. “Our plan is to continue focusing on improving quality, since we think this is the best way for us to improve the experience for people on Facebook, returns for advertisers, and our own revenue.”

For marketers, creating great content has to be the biggest focus when planning for social. This is the biggest win for all parties. Advertisers see better reactions from potential consumers, Facebook sees greater revenue, and Facebook users have a better experience on Facebook with less interruption from brands.


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How Do You Plan for the Super Bowl?

Last year’s Super Bowl was the third most-watched TV show in U.S. history, drawing an audience of nearly 109 million people. With more than 80% of viewers using their mobile device as a second screen, tens of millions of tweets were also created during the game.

Social was already primed to complement a mass-media event like the Super Bowl when last year’s blackout opened a large dialogue about social, rapid response, and real-time marketing. Many marketers are asking themselves the same question:

What’s the best way to plan for a live event like the Super Bowl?

In this free report, we walk through some of the best ways to set your real-time marketing up for success at a major event like the Super Bowl. We also share several different ways Percolate’s content marketing platform helps brands of all sizes tackle the challenges associated with live event coverage and content creation.

Download the report today and learn how Percolate can help make the most out of one of largest marketing events of the year.

Learn how can Percolate help you with real-time event coverage.

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