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Successful Grassroots Advertising In Its Most Simplistic Form

rockyWith all the technology available to advertisers these days, the only media worth investing in is the one that works. It is a concept that agencies and their clients learn right away if they are to succeed, but this ideology works on all levels. This week’s article was inspired by events far “Beyond Madison Avenue” in Eastern Long Island, where a family took to a grassroots campaign to find their missing puppy. What was to follow would be considered a success in any circle in the creative world.

It started with a simple question, “Did they ever find that dog?” I saw the posters a few weeks ago in my parents’ neighborhood while visiting them, and as I was driving, a poster on a telephone pole caught my eye. My mother informed me that they did, in fact, find the puppy and told me that a family not far from where the puppy lived found him howling in the middle of their backyard at 1 a.m. He’d been missing for almost a week. I was kind of surprised that the family who found the puppy called the owners at that hour to retrieve the pet and wondered how they knew the number offhand. That’s when I learned of the details of the campaign that saved Rocky.

The day that Rocky wandered off from his family, he escaped through the backyard into a nature preserve behind his family’s property. Immediately after failing to find him, Rocky’s family started posting flyers around the area. They were literally everywhere, and you couldn’t get very far without seeing one of them. There were so many posts on trees, telephone poles and in windows that the community immediately knew of Rocky.  That alone would have been a successful campaign, but the dedication to the people in the area sparked even greater efforts

Neighbors took to social networking, specifically Facebook and Twitter, to grow the word and the virtual net to find the missing dog, and after five days, there he was, hungry, dehydrated, scared and infested with fleas and ticks. All the family that found him had to do was turn on their computer or look at the flyer in front of their house to know who to call. The campaign was now an undisputed success, but the story didn’t end there.

In an effort to let the community know that Rocky was home safe, his owners went back out to the streets and posted neon pink tape over every sign they posted with the word “Found” across it accompanied by a smiley face. Again the neighbors reacted, this time calling up and asking about the dog’s health, updating their social efforts accordingly in an effort to spread the good news, and that is where things started really paying off for the now locally famous pup. Families started dropping off treats and baskets to the dog they all have become attached to over the week of his absence.

How does this relate to advertising? Imagine if Rocky was a brand. The passion and effort that went into his return could ignite any product. It is a factor sometimes missed when making things look cool. Sometimes, just a heartfelt, clear message is all you need to drive passions and create a loyal following. As far as Rocky is concerned, he is still catching up on his sleep and struggling to find the time to eat his way through all of his gift baskets. As a creative, it is nice to know that success doesn’t always have to be measured in dollars and cents, and for some of the negative things that can be said about the industry, in its simplistic form, it can be one of the most powerful tools in helping us to become better people.

Can LinkedIn Endorsements Hurt Your Career as a Creative?

LinkedInBefore I even get started, I feel it is important to state that I am a fan of LinkedIn. I believe there is a huge upside to being able to meet other professionals in one’s area of expertise. However, there are certain aspects of the professional network which could be considered a hindrance to one’s career. Now that some time has passed, and the dust has settled a bit in regard to LinkedIn recommendations feature, I thought now would be a good time to revisit the feature and assess whether it is a viable career advantage.

Although the creative industry is more of a “show me” world, usually a recommendation is never a bad thing, or is it? What LinkedIn did was find a way to invite a member’s contact to vouch for their skills in regards their area of expertise. It is a simple-to-use feature, which could be a valuable tool, for those deserving of the praise they are receiving. Lately, though, many of my connections are receiving endorsements for disciplines they really should not advertise as part of the services they could provide to prospective new clients, but who does a false endorsement really hurt? Pretty much everyone.

The problem starts with the person giving the endorsement. Unfortunately, in many cases, those people do not know what they are actually endorsing. What this person knows is they hire a company to do a job, over the course of the project they hear buzz words pertaining to their request. Once the project is complete (and to the client’s liking), they want to show appreciation, and one way of doing it is by giving endorsements to their direct contact. Unfortunately, all too often a contact person is not the same person developing all the aspects of the project that the client has heard about throughout the creative process.

Although this is an easy-to-make mistake on the behalf of the endorser, the real responsibility falls upon the endorsed. This is because once an endorsement is given, it is up to the person receiving it to decide whether to add it to their profile or decline it. For those who accept a non-earned endorsement, what they do is hurt the credibility of the person giving the endorsement — they take credit for someone else’s work, and they build a false expectation for future clients they might come across. Not to mention the fact that it dilutes the value of endorsements given to deserving LinkedIn members. Overall, everyone loses.

Although LinkedIn endorsements do not hold as much weight for creatives as their portfolios do, reliance on social media is ever growing for employers. Without educating those giving the endorsements, or having members police themselves in regard to what they approve on their profiles, in time LinkedIn could suffer a credibility issue, proving once again that not all enhancements actually help a business model.

A Lack of Confidence in Instagram

instagramAn old freelance client recently approached me for help with some of their social networking needs. Although this client had not done social marketing in the past, we had talked about it and this year, they were finally ready to take the leap. The thing about this client’s particular client is that it would be a prime candidate for an Instagram account. A year ago, I would have done all I could to talk them into one, but in our most recent meeting, I spent the majority of time talking them out of it.

To give you a little background on the client, they are a major annual festival. Having always been a fan of Instagram, it was the absolute first service I thought of when brainstorming ideas, however, about eight weeks ago while working on my 365-Day photo project, the Instagram stopped working for me. I could not upload photos or like or comment on my friend’s photos. I immediately contacted the app’s technical support team through its online form, and although I was told I would be contacted soon, I wasn’t. I understand the service is huge — and free — so I sent in another help ticket, followed by another and another, never receiving a response. I even followed all of their online suggestions, and still no luck, so I continued the 365-Day Project on Twitter. Although it serves its purpose, I was really hoping to use the service that was created for the media I was using, but I submitted.

When the initial client meeting took place last week, we talked about new ways to promote the festival on social media. One of the board members asked, “Is Instagram something we should consider?” I wanted to say yes immediately, because I had so many ideas for the use of the app, but instead had to say it needed to be looked into. Over the next few days, I wrote to Instagram asking for its help. If I am unable to get my account working, why would I trust a client’s business with the app? Every day since, I sent Instagram a list of what the app was doing, what I tried to do to fix it and even reached out to them via Twitter and still had got no response, which leads me to the question, “If you don’t care enough to support your business, why should other businesses want to use it?”

As great as it would have been to use the functionality of Instagram, I could not go back in good conscious and recommend the service. The unfortunate thing? Even though Instagram is currently a free service, this client would have paid for a commercial account if one ever became available in the future, and the project would have been a success. In the end, it all comes down to customer service. If your business cannot properly support your product, clients will take their ideas elsewhere.

~ Original story written for @TalentZoo

Vine: The Next Big Thing in Advertising?

511b190645bd7As with any technology, if it’s deemed worthy, it is only a matter of time before people find a way to promote their products and services with it. Lately I have found myself drawn to Twitter, and I feel as if it has helped me a lot in developing promotional-driven messages in a fast and timely manner. So it is only an evolutionary expectation that Vine takes social-network advertising to the next level.

First of all, I realize that online video is not a new idea. YouTube has done very well developing the media, and advertisers have come to embrace it, but not wholeheartedly like they have done with other social-networking platforms such as Twitter. In order to understand why Vine has a future, you must ask the question, “Why have businesses flocked to Twitter over YouTube?” The answer is timing. Advertising runs on a beat; part of being a creative is to understand the beat and act accordingly.

As YouTube gave minimal restrictions to their users, Twitter implemented what made its users either love or hate the service: its 140-character limit. The easy guess would be that technology that has fewer limits would be better for relaying a message. But creatives will argue that point by saying that the opportunity to relay a message is fleeting, and one that fits well within Twitters restrictions. With that said, business YouTube accounts have had, according to Hubspot, a 39-percent increase between 2011 and 2012, which would make Vine, a time-restricted video program, a prime tool for advertisers, forcing a quick message along with a video element.

Although Vine has been around for approximately three weeks at the time of this article, Mashable released that in the past weekend, between Saturday and Sunday, 113,897 videos were posted on Twitter using the Vine service. The scary thing about the app is that the majority of Vine users do not yet understand its full abilities. What Vine offers is the ability to post and share a six-second video. For the right creative, that is more than enough time to relay a message, and for the end-user, it is not enough time to lose their interest. In short, it is the discipline of Twitter’s trademark constraints, combined with YouTube’s capabilities. For an advertising vehicle, it is literally the best of both worlds.

If you are new to Vine, don’t expect to see its full potential for a few months. As with any new technology, learning the capabilities and how it can best benefit an advertiser will take some time. But I am sure that creative teams are working on rolling out the next wave of social-media marketing for their clients. It is always good for agencies when a new potentially lucrative technology emerges, and it is also good as a creative to be at the top of the learning curve when it does happen. So for all you idea-driven people, here is your chance to download Vine and master it, as the next great social-media marketing race has begun.

~ Original story written for @TalentZoo

Did You Know: I Finally Reached 100?!

thanyouI know a lot of people that are on social sites who’s main focus is on gaining followers as opposed to producing content. I had found that WordPress is the most difficult to gain a following because it is here that you can not hide behind a 140 character limit or have the support of your friends to grow your popularity. WordPress requires the distribution of quality over quantity, and is rewarding to those that know their area of expertise, but it takes tome to build a following.

The way I see it is people will not clutter their reader with content that is not consistently fresh, and that takes work. It’s no easy task to find people willing to take the time to sit down in front of their computer and share their experiences in what little free time they may have. It is because of this that I cannot tell you how excited I was when I hit my tenth follower here on WordPress. The idea that ten people wanted to read what I wrote was very flattering, but it also made me not want to disappoint them.

In the beginning, coming up with content was really rather easy, but at some point, at least for me personally, You feel like you have written all you know and you start to struggle with topics. Some how, luckily, more subjects come but the process becomes more difficult. I went from four good ideas a week to maybe one or two, which is what inspired me to start organizing my ideas. I now post a reprint of one of my Talent Zoo articles every Tuesday, my weekly updates of my 365 day photo project (at the suggestion of the best blogger i know) every Wednesday, Weekend Wisdom quotes every Saturday and Sunday and I try to get at least a Creative Crumbs and or a Did You Know article futon either a Monday, Thursday or Friday. Quite honestly the new scheduling format has made me more focused on different types of content and my blog has had more constancy, focus and views!

What made today so exciting in regards to my blog, is the three digit milestone I have reached. I would have never thought that my personal blog would be alluring to 100 people but as of today it officially is. The really impressive part of that number is, that over forty of my new followers found my online rantings in just the past three months. In the grand scheme of things this may not sound like a huge number. I write for another site where hits are in the thousands, but my 100 personal followers mean more to me in a way because viewers are not reading my posts as part of as a collective, they are taking the time to read my personal writings, the ones I have been doing for my original ten followers since the beginning and will continue to do.

As an act of showing how grateful I am I wanted to think of a way to thank those who have invested their time in me, so as I think of some ideas that would show my gratefulness, I want to say think you. Thank you for following me, liking my posts and inspiring me to continue on, even in imps when sleep may seem far more inviting. I appreciate you all.

Is Klout’s Social Measuring Relevant Now That It Has Copied Quora?

kloutAs mentioned in a previous article for Talent Zoo, I believed that Klout was once headed in the right direction to help separate those who could be perspective social media experts from those who are social media hobbyists. However, after an article released by Wired.com this past week, I no longer have the same faith in the app that I once did.

According to Steven Levy, the article’s author, Klout wants to break away from just the scorekeeping aspect of its business to become more of a social network. The premise is that if you have a question, you can now ask a “Klout Expert” who will eventually, in real time as the service catches on, be able to answer your question. The premise sounds good, but is it good for Klout?

Although the service will continue to track social influences, will it spread itself thin by taking on this new aspect of their business? And, in time, will these experts monopolize the Klout landscape to the point where emerging social experts will not have a fair shot at a higher Klout score? Maybe most importantly, what would a Klout score even be worth once the service abandons its statistical model as its main focus to take on a social presence? Is it not in some way a conflict of interest where as the company measuring social influences tries to emerge as a social site?

The concept of being able to ask a question and get an answer already exists in an app called Quora, which already has 180,000-plus monthly active users. The strange thing about Quora is that while it is still growing on a daily basis and has been around since 2010, it is a service not currently being monitored by Klout. Which is strange since it is already popular, but the influencers using it don’t count since now Klout has a competing product to go against the service. It comes down to business ethics over relativity.

For employers that were looking for social media employees, Klout seemed as if its service would provide some answers as to a candidate’s successfulness in the field. A service, if perfected, which could have ben a valuable asset to a social media employer. By adding in this new element into its business model and excluding pre-existing popular social media apps, there is no possible way it could boast an accurate social influence reading. It would appear that measuring influence wasn’t as exciting or as lucrative as actually being a social site, but you can’t have it both ways.

With this new introduction into Klout’s future, it has abandoned what it was once an expert in. Is it a strong plan? Time will tell; it is concerning out of the few existing Social Influence Measuring Apps available, Klout appeared to be the strongest, and while building its reputation, it decide to abandon the plan. It just goes to show, however, that even those who judge influence sometimes need to be judged themselves. Klout has turned a relevant tool into just another social media site and hopefully this will work out in its favor, while social media experts look for the next tool to help them measure their worth.

~Originally written for @TalentZoo

Trust in Creativity

501979b1e93f2These days, all industries are faced with financial uncertainty, but what happens when you are selling an idea as opposed to a tangible product? This is an issue that creatives face on a daily basis. Whether you are trying to pitch a design to your senior management or a client directly, it is sometimes not easy to sell an idea without the most important ingredient: trust.

It is not necessarily the trust that you are going to create an effective design to relay the client’s message. If a client chose you for a design project, chances are they are familiar with your work and believe you can adhere to that task. The trust most clients look for these days is more reliant on if you will be able to deliver that which you promise within the budget you have set for it.

Over the years, some of my oldest and best clients were the ones that were burned by the designers before me. For new business owners, parting with advertising dollars is not always an easy write-off until a return can be seen, so it is important, especially in these cases, to deliver on what you promise because they are in many cases expecting to be ripped off.

So how do you gain the trust and confidence of those you are trying to pitch your work to? When creating a proposal, spell out exactly what a client will be getting for the price you quote them. If there is an area where the price of the work may fluctuate, explain to them the possible issues and give them an idea of additional charges that may incur. Always have a written proposal that you can have a client sign off on acknowledging that they are aware of what they are supposed to receive. For new designers entering the field, in the case you may take on more than you can handle, it becomes your burden and should not reflect on your client’s bottom line.

Always try to put yourself in your client’s shoes, and be prepared to answer any and all questions before they are even asked. How might you ask? Take your time going through your pitch, and try and get a read on a client’s reaction to what you are saying. If you see concern on their faces, go deeper in to your explanations to address any concerns before they are brought up. This will help instill trust before it is questioned. It is hard to sell people on an idea for even the most experienced creative professional, but the more you can do to assure your integrity going into a pitch, the better off you will be during the process.

~Originally written for @TalentZoo

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