You are currently browsing the archives for March, 2012.

Facebook Timelines: Creating Brand Authenticity Through Old Photos

At the end of this month, Facebook Timelines will officially open for business. In the meantime, Econsultancy asked its readers to rank the brands who are already making good use of the new format for corporate pages.

Among the most popular are Fanta and Captain Morgan, both of whom offer custom apps and games — not to mention alcohol and sugary deliciousness. Who can resist the combination of pirates and boozy recipes, or cute cartoon characters and soda pop? Some brands have it easier than others.

My favorites, though, are Subway, New York Times and Burberry, who are using Timeline to reinforce the authenticity of their brands through old pictures. Burberry resurfaces a print ad from the 1950s: Burberry’s, apparently, has been the outerwear for rich adventurers since the days when traveling by airplane defined you as rich and adventurous. Subway, the unpretentious lunchtime favorite of guys like Jared, presents storefront photos from its older self, a corner joint called Pete’s Subway. And the New York Times, the Gray Lady of trustworthy news reporting, digs up images of reporters in 1948 walking past a plaque memorializing Times reporters that fought in the First World War. Heck, the Huffington Post wasn’t even around to cover the First Gulf War. Who you going to trust?!

Let’s be honest. I have no idea if Subway was really started by a guy named Pete who wore a white paper hat, but pictures have a way of presenting themselves as truth. Whether I like it or not, I believing Subway’s heritage-through-pictures story. All of sudden I’m feeling like I could be friends with that giant, Fortune 500 corporate entity that sells me lunch three times a week.

(Thanks for the tip, Toby Bodner!)

Facebook’s History of People Using Media Badly

From a presentation by Facebook’s Paul Adams at FM’s Signal SF event last week: A history of technological advances and the early missteps of the media creators who used them (via Business Insider). It’s about time someone called out the idiocy of using the printing press for printing books in LATIN!

The more important point, though, is that content creators respond to new media technologies slowly — early TV was like going to the theater, only the actors appeared inside a small box in your living room; the early web was like reading the newspaper without the inky residue on your fingertips. Advertisers tend to respond even more slowly. Web publishers are hustling to embrace the social, conversational expectations of digital audiences, while most of the ads that support them are still Flash banner that beg you to click them. But, hey, we eventually figured out television advertising — I have hope.

Donald Duck Commercial for the IRS (1943)

In the 1940s the US government was spending heavily on the war effort and was looking to introduce a broader population (not just rich folks anymore!) to paying federal income taxes. So it enlisted a lovable pitchman to sell it through.

From NPR’s Planet Money:

The government needed to get the word out. It needed a spokesperson. Someone credible, and easy to understand.

The government needed Donald Duck.

The movie at the top of this post is from 1943. In it, Donald Duck marches around his house, listening to the radio and filling out his tax form. Occupation: actor. Dependents: three (Huey, Dewey and Louie).

Publisher Strategy and the Image Explosion: Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Luminate


(Credit: Christina at Greige Design.)

It’s starting to feel like this photo frenzy isn’t just a passing phase. Maybe there’s some inescapable human affection for pretty pictures. We just can’t help ourselves.

As Antony Young, CEO of Mindshare North America, put it in his recent column for Ad Age:

We’re seeing a consumer movement toward a more visual culture brought on by technology and media. Smarter devices are prompting more occasions for people to create and consume visual content, while social media is encouraging that content to be shared on multiple platforms.

Facebook will tell you the same. When you talk to its executives or founders about the company’s inflection point, they’ll all tell you some variation of “It’s the pictures, stupid.” The Facebook community uploads 250 million photos a day, and one Harvard Business School study estimates that 70% of all activities inside the social network — from Liking and commenting to looking at friends’ content or uploading your own — revolves around photos.

Relative upstarts like Instagram and Pinterest are riding the image explosion too, bursting onto the scene with audience growth rates that are even steeper than Facebook’s or Twitter’s in their early years. Instagram went from launch to a million users in 2 months, and grew to 15 million by the end of 2011, at which point users were uploading 60 photos per second. Pinterest has grown from obscurity to 10 million pinners in 6 months.

There’s an underlying explanation for this image explosion, according to Shawn Graham at Fast Company: “Pinterest’s rapid ascent into the social strata has reemphasized something we’ve known since the day the first camera was invented way back in the 1800s — pictures matter.”

I’ll say! And we’re taking and sharing more of them than ever before. Ten percent of all photos taken by humankind were taken in the past 12 months.

Publishers are taking notice. Photo galleries have long been a staple of the user-experience at entertainment sites like Yahoo’s OMG and Entertainment Tonight. But news sites like CBS News and business publications from The New York Times to The Business Insider have gone photo-happy too. Readers process more information more quickly from images than from text, and thus images drive more audience engagement than text content. Everyone’s got an image strategy these days.

And like a publisher’s mobile strategy or social strategy, the image strategy needs to contemplate three elements:

1. Audience engagement.
How can images increase engagement among my existing audience?

Most publishers are making great progress on this front — investing in large, high-quality images on every page, and organizing clusters of them into galleries. The only catch is that sometimes the most “successful” images, the ones that are most effective at lighting up consumer interest, are also the ones that launch readers off your site. Your most passion-inspiring images drive visitors to Fox Sports to get an athlete’s stats, or to Wikipedia to get biographical info on a political figure, or to Macy’s or Gilt Group to shop for the fashions worn by a favorite celebrity. The image apps we create here at Luminate bring that content right into the image itself. If your happiest readers are using you own images to abandon you, it’s tough to argue that images should play a more prominent role in your digital publishing strategy — even if it’s the format your readers enjoy most.

2. Audience acquisition.
How can I convert that engagement into sharing?

Facebook and Twitter buttons are a start. Feeding image content into Instagram (as well as Facebook and Twitter) is another way for publishers to amplify their investment in images: It puts them inside social networks where the sharing activity is happening. According to Sharaholic Pinterest is driving more referral traffic than G+, YouTube, LinkedIn and Reddit combined. Pinterest makes “pinning” and saving images easy for users of its browser extension, and its integration with Facebook drives new eyeballs to those images (though not all those eyeballs convert into clicks back to the original publisher’s site). Luminate’s social apps are another approach. Rather than waiting for readers to download the Pinterest applet, publishers can present all of their readers with apps attached to each image. Several of Luminate’s apps, for example, facilitate positional image-sharing — attaching a comment to the part of the image he or she wants his friends to check out.

3. Revenue.
How does the strategy help me make more money?

One approach that’s gaining traction among smaller sites: Just put ads at the bottom of images, the image equivalent of the overlays at the bottom of YouTube videos. As long as the ad message inside the overlay is highly relevant to the image content, overlays are a reasonable approach. An even better approach, I’d argue, is delivering advertising that’s attached to a user-initiated bonus content experience. If a brand sponsors relevant content and services that enhance an image, the reader is much more likely to pay attention.

(A version of this post appears at Ad Age, under the headline In An Age of Pinterest, Instagram, Marketers Need An Image Strategy. And if you live in a rainy part of the world, Om Malik recommends you add this post to your weekend reading list. Thanks, Om!)

98 Major Advertisers Ask to Stay Away from Rush Limbaugh’s Show

The consumer boycott of Rush Limbaugh’s radio program, which has already prompted nearly 50 advertisers to pull their ads, spreads to a longer list of advertisers and a wider pool of programs hosted by right-wing shock jocks.

Ninety-eight brands, including Ford, GM, Toyota, Allstate, Geico, Prudential, State Farm, McDonalds and Subway, have requested — by way of a letter from Premier Networks, the company that distributes these programs, to traffic managers at the local radio stations that air them — that their ads not appear during commercial breaks on the right-wing talk radio shows:

They’ve specifically asked that you schedule their commercials in dayparts or programs free of content that you know are deemed to be offensive or controversial (for example, Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh, Tom Leykis, Michael Savage, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity).

Some of these advertisers didn’t realize their radio spots were running in those shows in the first place.

“This is big,” says John Avlon at Daily Beast, hitting right-wing radio at a time when audiences are already declining and the segment that does remain tuned in, old white guys, isn’t especially in-demand among big advertisers.

It’s a tough time to be a rude idiotic angry jackass, I guess.

Time-Spent with Google+ Is Less Than One-Percent That of Facebook

“New data from research firm comScore Inc. shows that Google+ users are signing up — but then not doing much there,” reports the Wall Street Journal. Google+ has racked up 90 million registered users, but the average computer user only spends 3 minutes per month on the service. Those same users are spending nearly 7 hours per month with Facebook, 140 TIMES more minutes than the time-spent with Google+.

There are two ways to look at those numbers, I suppose. One, lots of people barely use Google+. Or two, some people love Google+ deeply and use it all the time, but they make up a small group so their power (as measured in minutes per internet user) is diluted by a large denominator. There are some snarky critics who believe the latter; in fact they suspect the small group of Google+ users is pretty much just people who work at Google.

Come on, that just can’t be true! The global internet population is about 2.3 billion. On average they each spent 7 hours last month with Facebook, but since only 845 million of them are actually using Facebook, that means the average Facebook user spent more like 19 hours Facebooking.

If, on average, each of the 2.3 billion internet users also spent 3 minutes with Google+ last month, that’s 6.9 billion minutes, or 115,000 hours. Divide that by Google’s 33,000 employees, and you get 3,485 hours per month per person. Which is pretty darn good, considering there are only 720 hours in a month. This suggests that the snarks are at least a little bit wrong. But if they’re not, and every single Google employee is using Google+ more than 24 hours a day, then Google has a giant hit on its hands — if only they can get more people to use it as enthusiastically as Googlers do.

Turns Out Yesterday’s News Is More Interesting Than We Thought

So much for the expression “that’s about as interesting as yesterday’s news.”

Since the early days of newspapers, editors have been obsessed with breaking news faster than the competition. But as newspapers and other websites deploy Facebook’s Open Graph — making it easier for readers to share stories with friends, and for publishers to see which articles garner the most reader attention — there’s emerging evidence that good (or weird or funny or important) stories don’t lose their relevance as quickly as we once thought.

The above image is a slide lifted from Barbarian Group CEO Benjamin Palmer’s OPA presentation. Apparently London’s Independent, as it rolled out the Open Graph, learned that several quirky stories from the late 1990s are the most shared stories of the early 2010s. (More data here.) If news publishers are sitting on a goldmine of buried archival content, imagine the opportunity for publishers outside the breaking-news category if they can figure out how to resurface those great stories from last month, last year, or a decade ago.

Meanwhile I wonder if this will inspire a rebranding exercise for the folks at Yesterday’s News kitty litter.