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Why Pinterest? Because it makes me smile

6 Apr

Over the past several weeks, I’ve been watching the excitement and then naysayers cycle around the rise of Pinterest. The same argument we saw in the early days of Twitter about no clear revenue streams strikes a familiar chord, but users continue to flock. And where there are users and eyeballs, there is always money to be made.

For those of you unfamiliar with the site, Pinterest is an online pinboard website where users can pin images found on the web of things that interest them to board they create around any theme they want. It’s also a social site where you connect with others and “like” what they pin and even “repin” their images to your own boards and/or comment. It’s extremely simple. And yet can be quite addicting.

And I’m not alone. The chart below shows the growth of unique visitors to the site in the US. Nearly 20 million in January and, on average, those visitors spent a whopping 89 minutes on the site. That’s pretty impressive for a site few had even heard of 3 months ago.

I have to admit, I joined Pinterest to see what all the fuss was about and started exploring –creating boards, pinning, commenting, sharing –because that’s how I find I learn about social technologies best. I I learn by using them.

I’ve seen friends, colleagues, journalists and brands pop up and have been interested in seeing how others use the platform –both personally and professionally. Most of the men I know have said “don’t get it”, which makes sense I suppose given the user population which is skewed so heavily towards female users.

I tend to most of my Pinning late in the evenings though occasionally I’ll pop on it during the day. Without any real “strategy” other than creating boards for things that interest or inspire me, I find myself today with 20 boards and nearly 600 pins.

From my “Fashion Icons” board which gives me ideas for clothes and make-up to my “Photography” board which, as I’m sure you can guess, is full of beautiful photos to my “Hostess with the Mostess” board which is full of great party ideas. From my “Loft Aspirations” board which is busting at the seams with wonderful home decorating ideas to my “Fantastical Foodie” board with recipes I’d like to try and my “Travel Adventures” board where I’ve posted images of places I’d love to one day visit.

But my board that answers the question “why Pinterest?” most perfectly is my “Things That Make Me Smile” board. A hodge-podge of images that don’t neatly fit in a particular category, but are inspiring or joyful to me in some way.

Because in the end that is why I Pinterest. I Pin because the beautiful and interesting and inspiring images shared on Pinterest make me smile. They brighten up my day. They inspire me. They make me see things differently. They spark new ideas. They capture my imagination. They give me break from the chaos and ugliness life can sometimes throw my way. And at the same time, the site provides me with a new and interesting way to connect online with friends –and make new ones –through a set of shared interests, which is at the very heart of “social”.

Why do YOU Pinterest? –OR — Why don’t you?

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Miracle Whip’s new “pick a side” ads are pure genius

24 Feb

Miracle Whip is something you either love or hate. Like black licorice. The taste is simply not for everybody. Personally, I’m on the hate side of both. I find Miracle Whip to be far too sweet as a sandwich spread and it simply conjures up thoughts of crappy, soggy sandwiches made on white bread with Kraft American Singles and bologna. Yuck.

But I have to admit, I think Miracle Whip’s new marketing campaign urging consumers to “pick a side” that actually uses the well known consumer love/hate relationship with its product is pure genius. I think its genius because those Krafty Miracle Whip folks are providing a mechanism for both fans and non-fans of the product to add to the buzz. #MiracleWhip is was a top trend on Twitter today with plenty of Tweets from not only people who like Miracle Whip, but also those who hate it, like me. Here I am writing a frickin blog about a product I would never buy and try like heck to avoid eating. But the end result is Miracle Whip is part of the conversation.

Thanks to a quick Google search, I learned creative agency Mcgarrybowen from Chicago is behind the ads from this MediaBistro.com’s Agency Spy article. Hats off to their creative team!

Miracle Whip’s new marketing tagline is “We’re Not for Everyone” and their new ads star everyone from Pauly D of Jersey  Shore fame to comedian Amy Sedaris and plenty of regular folks too.

The ads show alternating “pro” Miracle Whip testimonies followed by “con” ones, both of which are kind of hilarious.

My favorite “con” has got to be “Miracle Whip tastes like disappointment; like spreadable disappointment.”  I also love: “I could never date anyone who likes Miracle Whip, but I could maybe be friends with them.” What fun ads they must have been to write. To take community engagement to the next level, Miracle Whip could launch a campaign to solicit user videos with their own creative takes on why they love –or hate miracle whip. Perhaps even making a contest out of it …and/or using the best footage in another commercial.

Check out Miracle Whip’s YouTube channel here to see all the ads: http://www.youtube.com/miraclewhip

Which side are you on?

are coupons cool again?

18 Feb

I received am email from Open Table today offering a 50% off deal for Café Riacce, an amazing Italian restaurant in Palo Alto that its been far too long since I last visited.

My initial thought was…wow, it seems like everybody’s trying to get in on the success of sites like Groupon and LivingSocial, cashing in on the rising popularity of where crowdsourcing meets something that’s been around for ever, couponing!

If that leads you to wonder about the history of coupons like it did me, here’s a quick background on coupons from Wikipedia. It cites Coca-Cola as the inventor of the coupon, which evidently dates all the way back to 1887.

I’ve never been much of one for coupons. I’ve never really enjoyed using them, often causing my coupon-loving mom tons of frustration. I mean don’t get me wrong, I love a good deal, but for whatever reason I feel cheap when slapping down a coupon for a meal I’m perfectly capable of paying for. I don’t know why I feel that way, but I do.

And yet, although I have this aversion to coupons in general, here I am happily and willingly subscribed to Groupon and LivingSocial. What gives? 

I haven’t purchased from the sites alot, but I have scored great deals on the Napa Wine Train and more recently a great 60-minute massage at a new spot close to home for $35 bucks instead of the usual $80.

Is it more interesting to me because Groupon and similar site are “new”? Or because they’re topping headlines?

But what struck me most thinking about these kinds of services what the simple fact that Groupon seems have made couponing “cool” again. No longer something most heavily used by penny pinchers, starving college kids or stay-at-home types with too much time on their hands to do, but something people are drawn to more and move, regardless of income level. I have a number of good friends who make plenty of money and don’t “need” to use coupons, but leverage these deals offered by the Groupons and similar services as a great excuse to try out new restaurants and services.

What are your thoughts on whether or not couponing is cool again? Do you buy deals from sites like Groupon? Do you use online coupons for other retailers, such as those provided by Coupons.com?

Additional related resource:
Pretty interesting TED talk by Lisa Gansky on the future of “mesh” delivered at a recent TED event in Motor City. She talks about the rise of mesh businesses such as Zip cars and Netflix that combine social, mobile and service-oriented offerings to deliver new and unique products and services to consumers. Lisa also talks about how much more easily sharing of these kinds of services is in a world of Facebook and Twitter and how that can help accelerate their growth rate.

the importance of knowing your audience

21 Jan

Late last year I attended a really interested session at my old PR agency where Nancy Duarte (@NancyDuarte) presented tips on developing presentations that really resonate with an audience. She shared lots of great tips, which I busily scribbled down in my notebook. One tip for building successful presentations was to spend time thinking about and *really* getting to know and understand your audience. Seems like kind of an obvious one, but think about it…

Whether presenting a keynote on a big stage, in a staff meeting or even to an audience of one, tailoring the content of your presentation or pitch to resonate with a specific audience helps ensure it’s not only understood, but more likley to be well recepted. The examples, stories and annecdotes you chose should help the audience “get it”.

And yet, how much time do we really spend doing this in practice? Thinking about the level of knowledge or understanding our audience has about the topic we’re presenting on *before* we actually pull together our content.

In PR, we typically tailor pitch content and speaking points to the type of reporter we’re talking to. But I can think of plenty times content developed for one audience is used “as-is” for a completely different one, sometimes resulting in things getting lost in traslation in the process.

Earlier this week, I dialed in to a meeting where the presenter made some big assuptions about the level of general understanding and buy-in of the topic being discussed. So instead of starting with content to get folks on board with the importance of the topic, they jumped right to some recent results and “asks” of the team.

We sometimes assume when we’re close to a particular topic and passionate about it, other people have a similar level of understanding. But that’s not always the case. And as a result in this particular case, there wasn’t much engagement of the larger team on the call. Not because they didn’t care or want to participate, but more, I believe, because they were simply a bit lost. Both the presenter and the attendees likely left feeling a bit frustrated they didn’t get more out of it.

It was a great reminder about how critical it is to deliberately take time to understand our audience.

the art of ignoring everybody

10 Jan

Along with some of the holiday shopping I did on Amazon, I bought myself a book that I finally cracked this week called “Ignore Everybody: And 29 Other Keys to Creativity“. The book is written by Hugh MacLeod, the creative mind behind GapingVoid.com. For you Twitterheads, you can find him at @GapingVoid.

For those of you not familar with Hugh, he’s an illustrator who’s known for doodling cartoons on the back of business cards. He does prints and other kinds of illustrations, but its his business card doodles are what he’s really known for.

I absolutely loved the title of the book, which I’m really enjoying reading and am about half-way through. Just a few pages in to the book, readers see one of his illustrations with an idea that’s been on my mind ever since I read it:
“Great ideas alter the power balance in relationships. That’s why great ideas are initially resisted.”

It’s one of this simplest cartoons of his that I’ve seen, relying on the words to carry the message. And the idea has stayed with me all week.

You see, I’ve always been particularly drawn to creative people. People who can draw. Musicians. Digital artists. And even people who have a real knack with words. I love any excuse for a brainstorm. Others have described me as creative. And I’m *always* coming up with new ideas. Often more ideas than I can actually do anything with, so I’m sometimes challenged with choosing which one(s) to use or suggest. I’ve learned that not everyone values creativity the same way. Some people actually feel threatened by it. And Hugh’s cartoon offered an explanation.

I think there’s alot of good advice in Hugh’s book for anyone that wants to start their own thing. From the somewhat obvious advice to “put the hours in” and “keep your day job”….to the book’s title “ignore everybody” and a very pragmatic reminder that “the idea doesn’t have to be big, it just has to be yours”. Snuggie anyone?

Pleny of good advice and things to ponder for those ready to take a creative plunge, as well as those still working to figure it out.

Proof of everyday miracles

6 Jan

My good friend @Merredith shared a story on Facebook today that offered a great reminder that miracles happen around us every day.

The story of Ted Williams, a homeless man in Columbus, Ohio with the “gift of a great radio voice” (which we learn after further inspection is a skill he actually honed through years of training and experience) and the power of the the viral web. Ted had been living on the streets off and on for the last 20 years who can fallen on hard times after bouts with drugs and alchohol, although he’s been clean for 2 years.

The Hollywood Reporter reports that within 24 hours of a video interview with Ted going viral online, he’s fielding job offers from the NFL and Cleveland Cavaliers.

In fact, a Google search on news related to “Ted Willams” returns a whopping 1,183 articles and the original Columbus Dispatch video interview with Ted on YouTube has already seen more than 8.7 MILLION views in just a few days. Ted’s all a buzz in the New York Times, CBS News and a bazillion other outlets.

And now my friend Jennifer (@Mediaphyter) tells me he’s going to be on the Today Show tomorrow. It’ll be real fun to find out where he lands.

Now that, my friends, is a story that makes me proud to be human.

A new year, a fresh slate

4 Jan

Like many others, I find the end of one year and beginning of a new one a perfect time for reflection. A time for thinking about all that was accomplished the year before, new lessons learned (or perhaps old lessons that took a few times to really “stick”), goals I came a bit short of and things I missed all together. The coming of a new year is also a perfect time to reflect on the good habits I want to bring in to the new year as well as the not so good ones I strive to leave behind, of which there always seem to be plenty.

This year, I put pen to paper to really outline what I want in 2011 and longer term. I actually found a framework for this activity thanks to Google (what did we ever do before Google?) with this great personal goal setting reference on MindTools.com. If goal setting isn’t something you’ve done, but would like to do, I’d defnately recommend their framework as a really easy way to get started.

After thinking about my short and long term goals in the categories MindTools suggested: career, financial, education, family, artistic, attitude, physical and pleasure, I decided no better time than the present to cross one off my list. So here I am authoring a blog, something I’ve been wanting to do for years, but hadn’t gotten past a couple of false starts with until now.

Why Social Swmimmer? Well, I’m an incredibly social being, almost to a fault sometimes (I simply hate to miss out on a good social opportunity), and though often swimming with the school of the day (work, friends, etc), I do occsionally chose to swim upstream. And I’m a Pisces don’t forget. Plus, Social Fish (my other blog name idea) was already taken by a social media company, of course.

I’m not sure yet what direction this new project will take me in, but I’m looking forward to the journey.

So…hop on in and lets go for a social swim, the water’s perfect.