Let Go in Under 140 Characters

April 30, 2015

by Dan Ward

Houston Rockets Digital Communications Manager Chad Shanks was let go on Wednesday for firing off an incredibly insensitive tweet as his team finished off a playoff series with the rival Dallas Mavericks.

Did he deserve to be fired? After posting emoji of a gun pointed at a horse’s head and a message reading “Shhhhh. Just close your eyes. It will all be over soon,” I’d say the only question is why he wasn’t fired the instant he hit “send.”

Before you accuse me of hypocrisy, yes, I know that last year I defended the digital manager for DiGiorno, who posted an insensitive tweet with a hashtag tied to stories of domestic violence.

But there’s a clear difference in my mind, and the difference is the intent of the sender. In the DiGiorno case, the digital manager made a stupid mistake, not checking the meaning of the #WhyIStayed hashtag before posting. He also immediately apologized, not only to his entire audience but also in individual responses to those who were offended.

It clearly appears Shanks knew what he was doing, knew that an image of a gun to a horse’s head was offensive, and knew that his “just close your eyes” message was demeaning. And his “apology” after being fired, claiming he pushed the envelope too far for some, feels empty when it’s immediately followed by his desire to be hired by an organization “in need of someone willing to take chances.”

Organizations can live with employees who make mistakes. They can’t live with bullies.

Too Busy to Socialize

February 25, 2015

by Kim Taylor

I’ll admit, I never thought it would happen.  I didn’t even see it coming.  And, then it hit me.  I haven’t blogged in weeks, I rarely find time to tweet during the day and I even scheduled a Facebook update a week in advance knowing what my upcoming schedule looked like.

I used to shake my head in dismay when people said they “didn’t have time for Twitter.”  I’d argue it only takes a few minutes here and there.  That’s the truth, unless you really want to contribute something valuable to keep your followers engaged and attract new ones.  When I look through the tweet stream at my last 30 tweets, I’m not exactly providing earth-shattering value.  And, no, live-tweeting the Oscars Sunday night doesn’t count.

So, what do you do when you’re too busy to “socialize”?  Am I the only one who feels a twinge of guilt for being absent on social media channels?  Or, is it natural to shelve it when “real work” takes precedence?

Can Pinterest Find Amy Dunne?

September 12, 2014

by Kim Taylor

We’ve all seen movie trailers or celebrities on the talk show circuit promoting their latest film.  And, it’s not uncommon for a big movie to have a website totally dedicated to its characters, the soundtrack, related promotional material—anything that might incite more interest and sell tickets.

So how do you stay fresh, stand out and build buzz when reports are indicating that fewer people are going to the movies?  You have your movie’s main character create a Pinterest page.

Why a Pinterest page?  Well, Amy Dunne, the main character from the upcoming movie “Gone Girl” turns up missing in this mystery-thriller.  The main plot of the novel-turned-movie is finding her.  Her Pinterest page, then, might hold clues about who she is, what her interests are, and most importantly where she might be.

If Ben Affleck doesn’t get you to the movies for this one, maybe this extra level of creativity will.

Taking a Risk on a Played Out Trend

September 10, 2014

by Kim Taylor

Flash mobs were all the rage a few years ago.  Well-orchestrated mobs have garnered millions of views on YouTube and gained worldwide attention.  Then, poof!  They faded quietly into the background.  To assemble a flash mob now—in 2014—would be inviting praise’s ugly cousin, mockery, to your doorstep.  Or, would it?

Kudos to the Orlando Shakespeare Theater for taking a chance on a played out trend and performing a spectacular Les Miserables flash mob at The Mall at Millenia to publicize the show’s opening.  With nearly 100,000 views on YouTube, coverage on NBC’s Today show and CBS Sunday Morning and more press than they probably imagined, they hit it out of the park.

Delving a little deeper into why this worked:

  1. They nailed the element of surprise.
    Actors in plain clothes carrying shopping bags and Starbucks cups don’t exactly draw suspicion.
  2. It was well-planned and executed.
    Perhaps by technical terms, this wasn’t a flash mob.  We can assume the Mall knew well in advance the performance was going to take place, and it likely wasn’t a spontaneous act, but rather a calculated performance for publicity.  However, flawless execution was a big factor for success here.
  3. Direct promotional tie-in.
    Orlando Shakes wants to sell tickets to the show.  They brought a glimpse of the show to a crowded mall, many of whom may’ve been unaware of the show’s opening.  What better way to sell than to let your buyer sample the product? 

Sometimes the reward is worth the risk.

Anticipating Sales with Social Media

August 5, 2014

by Vianka McConville


Does posting to Facebook or sharing a tweet contribute to the bottom line? Let’s see…

A recent blog post from TrackMaven (a data company for marketing professionals) highlights a statement from J.Crew’s annual S.E.C filing:

“J.Crew customers who engage with us via our social media outlets (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram) generally spend approximately 2x more than the average J.Crew customer.”

How did J.Crew track data to make such a statement? TrackMaven pointed out that products with direct links to buy online were included in posts, but these posts were not frequent, meaning there is another measure for sales from social media. Does a magical tracking system exist?

The S.E.C. filing goes on to note:

“We believe our success depends in substantial part on our ability to originate and define product and fashion trends as well as to timely anticipate, gauge and react to changing consumer demands.”

J.Crew’s methods in tracking data are not revealed – therefore we might never know if a magical system exists.  However, we are given a hint as the company alludes to mastering the ability to anticipate as a key component to sales. Perhaps the connection between social media and customer spend (at least some part) is that social media can create a great data mine for a much better understanding of what to anticipate, i.e., what product to mass produce for high revenue.

Social media can often be looked at through a lens of “likes” and “retweets,” but perhaps its real value is in the amount of data that it can reveal about current and potential customers.

The QR Code Debate

July 10, 2014

by Kim Taylor

We recently had a small debate in our office about the relevance of QR codes and whether there’s still a place for them in marketing.  I argued that they were “out” and that many marketing and PR people I follow mostly mock their usage.  But, who cares about mockery if they’re effective, right?

The ink was barely dry on my argument when Curley & Pynn Founder & President Roger Pynn handed me two recent pieces of direct mail with, you guessed it, QR codes.  The first mailer presented three options for requesting a copy of a long-term planning guide:  go online with a code, scan the code or complete the form and mail it back.  Scanning the code was easy enough and it pre-populated his information for ordering the guide book (keep a lookout in the mail for that one, Roger).

In this scenario, scanning the QR code was the easiest of the three options.  My only complaint was whether their target audience (a presumably older demographic) would know what a QR code was and how to scan it.

The second was a small postcard for a local cabinet maker.  Scanning the code launched their website, which sadly was not optimized for mobile … totally pointless use of a QR code.

The moral of the story is obvious, I think.  If you’re going to use QR codes, think about how you use them.  Make it worth it for the user to open their app and scan the code.  And, most importantly, don’t send them to a website not optimized for their phone—that’s the ultimate dead end.

Crowdsourcing the Earth

April 23, 2014

by Kim Taylor

Far and away one of the greatest aspects of social media is the simple act of discovery.  I had one of those discovery moments yesterday while scrolling through my Instagram feed.

I saw a post from Instagram about a user who shared an experience of spotting a piece of garbage on the ground while on a walk with his daughter.  Instead of just tossing the garbage in the nearest trash can—or walking by as many people would—it sparked an idea to use social media to reduce littering.

Enter litterati.  It’s easy:  spot a piece of trash, snap a picture of it with your phone, upload it to Instagram and tag it #litterati, and then throw the item away.

Litterati already has 11,539 users on Instagram.  If those users picked up just one piece a trash a week they’d clean up more than 600,000 pieces of garbage a year.

The call to action is simple, but the impact is huge.

What simple change did you make on Earth Day?

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