Archive for ‘Holiday’

February 12, 2015

Send your sweetheart a “pin” on Valentine’s Day

Pinterest-heartLately when I look at my social media accounts, I get the impression that there are two types of posts when it comes to Valentine’s Day: 1. Boohoo, I hate Valentine’s Day, stop celebrating your love on MY Facebook page. 2. Please, please, please buy something you don’t need from our company! You’re doing it in the name of love.

The first type of people are those who encourage others to punch cats to mark the occasion or plan on doing everything in their power to block Valentine’s Day posts from their social networks. The second type of people are offering deals, promotions, and contests trying to align their product to the holiday of love. Although I love tent-pole programming/content, somehow antivirus software, family sedans and minivans, or pan pizzas don’t scream “passion” to me.

I had almost given up hope for this year until I came across a very neat little feature on Pinterest. It turns out that you can head over to their blog and send your Valentine a cute and crafty message to be posted for the world to see (or in a private message if you’re the shy type). If you’re looking for a quick gesture of love, it may be worth while to check out what custom-made pins they have to offer…Some are funny, some are sweet, some are romantic. There’s just so many good ones to choose from:


Will you be celebrating Valentine’s Day using social media? I’d love to hear what you are planning!


January 15, 2015

Think twice about using the #MLKday hashtag to promote your brand – remember last year?


The day this blog post was published, January 15, 2015, would have been Martin Luther King Jr.’s 86th birthday. Each year, Americans observe a national holiday on the third Monday of January to recognize Dr. King and the American Civil Rights Movement.

Marketers, PR folks, and advertisers are always looking for ways to get their message in front of as many eyeballs as possible. Often, this means trying to piggyback on an existing major event, celebration, or holiday. A great example of this was Oreo’s famous “You can still dunk in the dark” tweet sent during the power outage at Super Bowl 47. It was clever, timely, and a bit funny as it made light of an awkward situation. The Super Bowl blackout had nothing to do with cookies, but after this tweet, it did.

MarCom professionals can run into challenges when they apply this strategy to events with a very serious nature: Remembrance Day (Common Wealth Nations), Veterans Day (US), Martin Luther King Jr. Day, etc. Brands run the risk of looking too opportunistic as they try to cash in on the importance and sacrifice of others.

Last January, several public figures and brands made questionable (to put it nicely) social media posts trying to cash-in on the popularity of the #MLKday hashtag used to recognize Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Reviewing a few of these missteps from last year has led me to three key thoughts on the subject.

The tone of your message should match the spirit of the observance

As a brand, you should seek to create and share content that serves to match and even enhance, the serious nature of the holiday. A few examples from last year that missed the mark:

1. Book a party bus for MLK Day?

2. The infamous “Freedom to Twerk” event that was planned for the good folks in Flint, Michigan drew attention to itself after the promoters Photoshopped Dr. King’s head onto a body of a Man wearing a gold watch, chain, and medallion while making what appears to be a “west side” hand gesture. After this poster gained notoriety, the party was eventually cancelled. Several people weighed in on the issue, including MLK’s daughter, Dr. Bernice King, who was appalled by the poster.


3. Sarah Palin’s tasteless political grandstanding starts with quoting Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech, and concludes with her telling President Obama “no more playing the race card.” Yikes.

You may not be as funny as you think

Humour is tough. Attempts at humour during otherwise serious situations may be interpreted as your brand’s attempt to make fun of, or devalue the purpose of, the event.

1. This misguided tweet from Nyquil reads like a joke that didn’t quite hit the mark.

2 & 3. Two other notable attempts at humour came from the Chive, and a pornographic website. In both instances they used humour in a way that some would consider distasteful, but considering that the source of these jokes were the Chive and a pornographic website, they pretty much lived up to expectations. Instead of posting these attempts at humour on, I’ll let you google those two tweets yourself.

Don’t make a big stretch to connect your brand with the event

This is obvious self-promotion. It looks insensitive, self-interested, and opportunistic. If you are going to run an MLK Day promotion, make sure it makes sense within the context of the observance. Be aware of the nuanced difference between an event designed to celebrate as opposed to one dedicated to recognize something. What the heck do potato stamps, cereal,  apples, diapers, or a day at the salon getting pampered have to do with the civil rights movement?


This Pampers Facebook promotion is particularly cringe-worthy because (as a current diaper customer) I can tell you that 10 rewards points is what you get for buying about $5 worth of baby bum wipes. They almost couldn’t have offered less.

For any organization thinking about joining the #MLKday trending topic this weekend, I encourage you to focus on respect, not referrals; honour, not sales; legacy, not leads; person to person, not business to business; and to make sure your content reflects the nature and tone of the observance. Without question, Dr. King serves as a hero to millions of people around the globe, and is absolutely a hero of mine.

December 22, 2014

Amazon reviews are almost as trusted as peer recommendations [Infographic]

A recent survey suggests that 50% of customers are actively using their smartphones to compare prices while in store.

A recent survey says 50% of customers are using their smartphones to compare competitor prices while in-store.

CRM software providers crowdtap published an infographic (below) this month to share some emerging trends in the ability of social media to influence consumer behaviour. After surveying over 3,000 US customers in 2013, and again in 2014, they found that social media is increasing its value to businesses who want to influence buying decisions throughout the holiday season.

A few things caught my eye:

1. Amazon reviews are almost as trusted as peer recommendations. I was a little surprised to see the difference between trusting a peer and trusting an online review was only 5 percentage points. I suppose this speaks to the importance of hearing directly from an existing product owner, rather than just trusting somebody in your network who you happen to already know who may not actually own the product.

2. Facebook dominates. If your business is only going to participate in one social media activity, you better make it Facebook. The survey results suggest that people are turning to Facebook, more than any other social network, to research gifts, look for promotions, and share their purchases. The only category where Facebook finished second was “gift inspiration” – losing the top spot by only one percentage point to Pinterest. Twitter seems to be rounding out the bottom of each of these categories. Perhaps this could be due to the transient nature of the messages, and also because Twitter relationships are often centered around topics of interest rather than trusted personal connections.

3. People are shopping at your competitors, right from within your store.  The survey results suggest that 50% of the people physically walking into your store will whip out their device and check a competitor’s price to see where you compare. I do this. I do this all the time. I expect this trend to continue to grow year-over-year.

4. Social media supplants TV as the most popular source for “inspiration”. For the first time, we’re relying on social media to provide us with gifting ideas more than any other medium; overtaking traditional television’s historical dominance in this area. This could be a symptom of the declining TV viewership numbers across every age demographic – with the largest decline in television consumption belonging to the 18-24 segment.

How does social media impact your holiday shopping behaviour? Check out the following infographic, and let me know what you think.


December 17, 2014

4.5 Social Media and Tech trends to watch for in 2015


It has been a few years since I’ve done a prediction post, but there’s so much going on in the social media and tech world right now, and I couldn’t resist making a few guesses for the year ahead.

1. Wearables will not live up to expectations

Even though this recent 2,325-word news release suggests that wearable tech is primed for growth, I just don’t see it happening in 2015. Innovators and early adopters may jump on the wearables bandwagon, but I can’t imagine that this new product line will capture the early majority segment of the market.

I’m thinking that these products may fall below expectations because: first, the price point. Google Glass is selling for around $2,000 on, and smart watches range from about $100, but if you want a watch with good two-way connectivity, you’ll be putting out a couple hundred dollars for these watches. I’m not convinced that the average Jane or Joe will opt to fork out another couple hundred bucks for an accessory for their smartphone, which already set them back close to $1,000.


Wearable technology may not have the anticipated caché and growth many are predicting for next year.

Second, appearance. Admittedly, I’ve been interested in a smart watch for a little while now. How cool would it be to get alerts, take photos and videos, and even use talk-to-text features to communicate just using your wrist (cue Dick Tracy). The problem is, these watches, are definitely lacking in the style department; they look like the modern version of the calculator watch. Although that look was coveted on the playground, I’m going for a different image in the workplace.

As for Google Glass, Google is trying to give the impression that this technology is for the super fit, attractive, person on the go. I imagine people who will actually drop the 2K are the über techies or large organizations where real-time connectivity will help their employees do their jobs – jobs like police, paramedics, and other first responders, but not your everyday commuter.

2. Continued innovation in the content marketing space

Creative creators will keep on creating, and I love content marketing. My absolute favourite example of content marketing is Lowes’ Fix in Six campaign on Vine. Besides the recent Black Friday deals listed on the channel, the vast majority of the content is quick little tips for easy home improvements. This is THE example I use to demonstrate what content marketing looks like in my Social Media Management course.

American Express’s Open Forum is a good example of a more traditional approach to providing your customers value through content marketing rather than a sales pitch. The forum is packed full of ideas, tips, how-tos, white papers, trending topics, etc. designed to help business owners on the marketing and sales side of their business, which isn’t a strong suit for many small and medium-sized business owners.

Want more great examples of content marketing from 2014? Here’s 30 more from Exacttarget/Salesforce.

3. Music industry fails to embrace new distribution methods and continues to whine about profits


Talyor Swift (left) and Lars Ulrich (right) follow in the footsteps of John Philip Sousa (centre) in their opposition to new ways to record and distribute music.

Spurred by the recent comments of wealthy pop singer Taylor Swift (I’ll get to more specific details on this in a minute), it seems like the music and technology worlds are clashing once again. This battle seems to have been taking place in perpetuity for the last hundred, or so, years. In 1906, John Phillip Sousa, legendary American composer and marching band leader, published an essay entitled “The Menace of Mechanical Music.” In this essay, Sousa warns that recorded music, as opposed to live performances of music, removes the human skill, intelligence, and soul required to create “American musical art.” He continues with a colourful metaphor to describe how the recording of music will destroy American values and eventually concludes with a discussion on the latest copyright bill introduced by Congress. Within a few years of this publication, however, Sousa himself became a prolific recorder of music on his own turning the new technology into a new revenue stream – naturally you can find his works on iTunes if you are interested.

Almost 100 years later, the same battle was still raging when Metallica’s Lars Ulrich  sued a couple of young entrepreneurs to shut down their digital music sharing service, Napster, because he didn’t like that the service allowed for the trading of music among music fans. I suppose Lars forgot that Metallica built a loyal, world-wide following with the help from the (illegal) underground tape-trading network in the Metal scene of the 1980s. He was cool with music sharing when he needed the exposure to grow his band, but called in the lawyers when he thought this new business model was a threat to his royalties.

Now, 15 years after that, Taylor Swift seems to be offended by the current shift in the music distribution model, and she has Spotify squarely in her cross-hairs. Taylor’s people are saying that she’s only received a half-a-million dollars from Spotify, where as Spotify is saying that she’s on pace for a $6 million pay cheque this year. As a result, she decided to remove her entire back catalog from Spotify, forcing her fans to buy her new pop record instead of streaming it for free. This current musician vs technology debate doesn’t seem to be going away because Taylor keeps bringing it up every chance she can get… at Billboard’s Women in Music Awards,  American Music Awards, and through news releases and PR efforts.

In each of these examples, the musicians have taken a combative approach to the new technology with an interest to protect their profits veiled as an interest to protect the music from the vile people who want to share it in a way that doesn’t fit into the existing business model. My gut tells me that we haven’t heard the last from Taylor Swift on this issue, and if history serves as a guide, this won’t be the last time a hugely successful artist challenges new technology for a bigger part of the pie.

4. Increased tech invading the education space

The battle is brewing in this arena. I spent two days this month at an international conference hosted here in Ottawa called EdTech Summit 2014. This inaugural event featured keynotes and panel discussions with textbook publishers, silicon valley hardware/software giants, and students and representatives from a broad range of North American colleges and universities.

It was clear that two different views of education were in the room. One side saw education as another potential market for their product offering. For these folks, colleges and universities were the customers of their enterprise-level “solution” – be it course content, email provision, or software productivity tools. On the other side of the room, educators were looking towards technology as a way to achieve learning outcomes, improve student retention, and make use of the advantages current technology provides. It will be interesting to see whose “view of education” will dominate.

In the months and years to come I envision that we will see more collaboration between these for-profit businesses and our not-for-profit education sector. Mobile devices and eTexts will continue to proliferate in the classroom. The real story in all of this will not be the existence of new education technology – that’s a given. Instead, the success of this technology will depend on how curious professors, instructors, and teachers adapt it to serve the needs of their students. I’ll be looking to share case studies of this nature in 2015.

4.5 More social media meltdowns

MichaelJacksonThis one only gets half a point because it’s just inevitable; this prediction is as difficult as saying that there will be hockey in Canada this winter. The reason I included it is, yes they are entertaining, but even more so they are great reminders of the power of social media and the importance of managing your online reputation. Whether it’s something on the global scale of the Justine Sacco saga that caught the world’s attention at around the turn of 2014, or something as benign as a football player’s Twitter account being hacked and a few funny tweets sent out on his behalf, it will happen again in 2015. I’ll be waiting with popcorn in hand.

What do you think? Did I miss something that you see happening in 2015? Am I totally off with some of these?predictions? Let me know, sound off in the comments section below.

November 21, 2012

The social side of Black Friday: Where will you be checking-in? [Infographic]

It’s almost upon us again. That’s right, Black Friday. When our American friends line up for some great holiday deals on the day following turkey and football day. And it’s a big deal. Some wait in line all night for the stores to open to get one-day-deals of around 60%-80% off, even on big ticket items.

If it’s a big deal in real life, it’s a big deal online. Just take a look at the #BlackFriday hashtag. It is filled with tweets of excitement and plenty of businesses trying to get the word out about their great deals. And the tweets keep mounting up. When I took the screenshot below from on November 21, 2012, it clearly showed the sheer amount of Black Friday related tweets going through the roof.

Twitter will be a great source of information this weekend, but the one social network I’m most interested in for Black Friday is Foursquare. Will a Black Friday badge be available? Who will be the most popular retailers? Who’s offering discounts and sales to people who check-in at their store? I couldn’t find many answers online, or through my own Foursquare app (perhaps because I’m in Canada). To be quite honest, the lack of Foursquare specials in my city has led me to stray away from that social network altogether.

But Foursquare has been very popular in the past. Check out the infographic below released by Foursquare that outlines last year’s activity on the network. It shows that Black Friday is the day that sees the greatest number of check-ins at retail outlets. It also suggests that people start arriving at their shopping destinations around midnight of the day before to either stake out their spot in line or to participate in Black Friday Midnight Madness events.

I would like to ask my American readers if they can add some first-person accounts from the Black Friday social media front. Will you be looking for deals using apps or social media sites? Is Foursquare part of your game plan? What hashtags do you find the most value in? If you are a business owner or retailer, will you be offering any incentives to your social media audience? Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving!

November 3, 2012

Talknowledgy Podcast #105: Hurricane Sandy, Movember, Uncle Drew, Star Wars goes Disney, social gaming, and more

Plenty to chat about in the world of news this week. We kick off the show by discussing the social media and tech implications of  Hurricane Sandy, the most popular Halloween candy on social media, and the launch of Movember.

In our “Creepy of Awesome?!” section we look at a new Facebook rumor – Users may be able to place classified ads to display to their friends on the social media giant. The main difference between this new feature, and the existing marketplace function, is you now have to pay to have your ad seen.

Our “YouTube Hero” this week is Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving. He reprises his role as Uncle Drew in a Pepsi Max commercial posted to YouTube this past Tuesday. The first video he did, posted May 2012, received 16 million views. Adding to the interest, Irving himself, wrote and directed both commercials.

Uncle Drew: Episode 2

And we couldn’t go a full show without touching on the US Presidential Election, so here’s our Bonus YouTube Hero this week, courtesy of The Simpsons:

Our “Hashtag Fail of the Week” is near and dear to Phil’s heart. Disney announces a new Star Wars trilogy. What do you think super-nerd Phil has to say about that? Tune in to find out!

If you liked the show, feel free to subscribe to this blog or our RSS feed to make sure you’re always up-to-date with Talknowledgy.


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