Top 10 Reasons to Stop Blogging…for a bit.

brownies no pudge fat free

I’m done too…for just a bit!

[With tongue-in-cheek and shameless hyperlinks]

10. I’m on the 2nd to last chapter of Fifty Shades of Grey.

9. My social value (Klout score) has stalled at 47.

8. I ran out of gum…Orbit is my go-to brand because the flavor lasts for one post.

7. It’s sunny outside…what is o-u-t-s-i-d-e?

6. My 17 lb cat needs to be fed…again and again and again. Moow.

5. I can’t #Tweet and blog at the same time…left brain, right brain co-domination.

4. My spine care doctor recommends I stand up more.

3. Project Runway or Say Yes to the Dress is on and either are pointless to resist.

2. Firewood gladly needs stacking (with traditional cross-hatched end towers) and not editing, linking or spell checking.

…and the number one reason I stop blogging…for a bit?
1. The No Pudge fat-free brownies just came out of the oven, enough said.                   …and yes, I prefer them over Trader Joe’s.

What are your Top Ten Reasons for temporary blog stoppage (aka “Save Draft”)?

Hey look, a picture of a bird…

…and a clown, a bedroom and a ball of rubber bands.rubberbands No explanations required right?

The social media’s (SM) trend of pictures…lots and lots of “preferred” pictures, may have tough implications on SM activity for advice brands (i.e bloggers, consultants, etc.).  How do you sell consulting/advisory skills with a picture? If SM networks like Pinterest continue to blow past their competitors (e.g. Linked-In, FaceBook, YouTube, etc.), online dialogue won’t be about what’s written anymore but about the catchy media displayed (e.g. rubberband ball) The recent statistics for Pinterest are staggering.  For example, Pinterest drives more referral traffic than Google+, Linked-In and YouTube combined!  In years to come, consultants (advice/data types) including blogging gurus (yipes), may have difficulties communicating on the web’s ever shrinking world of just pictures and bullet only blogs.

Is one picture really worth one-thousand words?  This original to the US phrase (not really Chinese or Japanese), emerged early in the 20th Century.  A bit of foreshadowing here maybe, but it’s seems to be a SM trend running away with itself.  This may be happening because there IS psychological proof that the “one picture” phrase bears merit.PictureWorthwords

In 1987 a couple of cognitive science professionals Larkin and Simon (L&S) did research on Why a diagram is (sometimes) worth ten thousand words and the effects imagery v. words have on the human response.  And for those who need to know, their data is also referenced in a study by Paula Goolkasian titled Pictures, Words and Sounds: From Which Format Are We Best Able to Reason? found in the 2000 Journal of General Psychology. Well it seems their data suggested pictures DO provide a more direct access to information when compared with printed words. Reaction time responses showed a consistent picture advantage (Pinterest folks will love this!). YouTube may be winning online users too, simply because these cognitive studies also suggested that when participants responded to materials stored in human memory, both pictured and spoken (i.e. movies) formats provided quicker responses in comparison to printed words.

Advice/data brand experts DO have several opportunities to suppress the one-hit-wonder picture craze and also take advantage of it.  Did you catch it in the previous paragraph? One picture may be worth one-thousand words but per L&S a diagram is worth TEN-thousand!  By combining well researched data with fantastic visuals, advice brands may be able to capture 10x the response of their picture-only sellers of product.

Clown ThinkerInfographics combined with in-depth social technographics may provide non-widget companies the perfect combination of online imagery needed to sell their professional services.  In recent years I’ve heard the generic complaint humans are getting lazier about reading stuff online (reading F-shaped pattern only)…bring on the clown pictures please because I don’t want to read about them.

But, what if an industry specific image was combined with appropriate statistics and an infographic carefully created? THAT bit of data visualization may be worth its weight in unread content by the follower.

Out comes The Home Depot…and Maybe with Real Skill

Are you a DIYer with real skill?  Or a lowly weekend hacker of attempted drywall?  If you had the opportunity to show off your do-it-yourself skills, would you share them online? I propose The Home Depot (HD) do just that…encourage their online community members (fixers/decorators of home stuff) to show us their measuring, wiring and/or painting expertness…or whatever they like!

fix-repairI’m sure most new home owners, in their desperate Google search to repair, have seen at least one HD “How-To” video.  These videos are just part of HD’s social media campaign (launched in 2010) to “Bring their Culture to Life in Social Media.”  The DIY videos are created by a variety of in-store associates, from different departments, showing how-to-do many household repairs, renovations and decorating. Fairly yawnish.  Instead of the HD associate doing the demonstration, wouldn’t it be much more interesting to watch your neighbor Hal attempt to build a deck?  …Sans the CC of course.

These personalized additions to the social media How-To video archives, would be completely do-able.  HD already has their YouTube account set up, although another category will have to be added (“DIY For Real”). Rules for submission would have to be determined too and the videos pre-screened for content, but the possibilities are endless.  They could prompt more online/lateral dialogue among customers and possibly energize the mundane HD forums.  Polls/ratings could be added to the videos.  Not enough votes? Off line it goes.  Lots of votes? The video star/creator gets a gift certificate to guess where.

hdlogoWith a little more management of their current social media, HD could considerably increase their likeability across all their networks …especially from the guy/gal next door.  And remember, content is produced by the users at no expense to HD, a big savings of time and money.  Video IS the best social media outlet for HD and they should continue to massage this venue to their benefit.  Adding a “real” twist on their traditional demo video, could be just the beginning of better outcomes for their transmedia storytelling.

Social Media Trends and Utility

M-sunglassesRemember in the 80’s when Madonna-wear was so trendy? VanDesign (VD) has been in existence since then…we are pushing 30 years in business and luckily no longer wear hair hankies and shoulder pads.  As founder/owner, I consider three decades a long career path especially when compared to some well-intended but ultimately short-lived enterprises (e.g. dot.coms).  As a boutique creative/marketing firm with its roots in the horse industry, VD business strategies and use of technology have had to evolve or simply close our door. Yes, I guess one, not so trendy door.

However, you know the story about the cobbler’s kids with no shoes?  Well, VD has failed in that respect. Adept as we are at marketing ideas for and about our clients (aka the kids), VD has been hesitant to engage new SM marketing technologies and only lightly manages three social media (SM) networks, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

We are becoming more aware of SM platforms, strategies and current trends (through online SM education…thank you SNHU and Dr. J. Rogers) but actually engaging and awareness are distinctly different.

Let’s pretend for this post, that VanDesign IS the client and we want to enhance VD’s SM reach. As a consultant on their corporate marketing team, I first want to identify and then apply, a new SM tool/tactic that would enhance their target market.  Remember, SM is simply another tool in our marketing toolbox. We only should use it in conjunction with VD’s overall business plan or to help achieve a specific company objective.

Funny, I just happen to know one of VanDesign’s business objectives…to increase their brand awareness, beyond the equine industry. What SM tool would YOU suggest for VanDesign (see poll below)?

pinterest-logoTaking what I know to date about SM, VanDesign’s objective and as a savvy marketer, I would recommend VD immediately set up some pin boards on Pinterest. Here are my reasons why:

  • Pinterest is visual…a perfect platform to display latest designs, logos created, illustrations, font/color trends, etc.
  • In 2012 alone, Pinterest usage rates grew by over 1000%…a completely overwhelming statistic.
  • At present, Pinterest is driving more referral traffic than LinkedIn, Google+ and YouTube combined. And the only social media site driving more traffic than Pinterest is Facebook (Stelzner, 2012).
  • Pinterest shares a similar demographic to the Horse Industry (HI): 88% of the HI involve women, while 59% are between the ages of 25-54. 46% of horse owners have an income of between $25k and $75k…28% of an annual income over $100k.
  • Up to 80% of Pinterest users are women between the ages of 25 and 55. Pinterest users are fairly affluent too, with a salary of $50,000+.

Pinterest it seems, is a perfect match from a demographic standpoint, but now let’s help VD further confirm their efforts by applying these ideas specific to Pinterest.

  • Setting up a Business Pinterest account would be appropriate.
  • Board ideas may include…fonts that inspire, annual color trends, logos created by VD…anything along these lines.
  • VD has portfolio’s of design work/illustration to pin on boards
  • Use “Pin it” and “Follow” buttons AND Profile and Board Widgits to grow VD’s community and increase traffic…these make it easier for people to pin items from VD’s site, see what they’re doing on Pinterest, and follow VD or their boards.
  • Promote VD”s Pins…link to Pinterest Profile from other SM networks (e.g. FaceBook, LinkedIn, etc.) and VD’s Website.
  • Pinterest tracks trends and VD can adjust their pins and social networks accordingly.

Like the passing of Madonna’s trendy-wear, social media tools and strategies will continue to evolve (Rogers, 2013). Similar in sans-trendiness to VanDesign, networks such as FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest seem to be here for the long-term.  So, with research, proper planning and a slight “wait and see” attitude, businesses can confidently leverage these SM platforms to their advantage.

References

Stelzner, M. (2012) Pinterest Marketing: What Marketers Need to Know to Succeed, Retrieved February 1, 2013 from http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/pinterest-marketing-what-marketers-need-to-know-to-succeed/

AHP-Equine-Survey-Final-3.pdf, Retrieved February 1, 2013 from http://goo.gl/BBOHG

Rogers, J. (2013) Module Four Lecture: Social Media: Considering the Horizon, SM Market Strategy, MKT655-X2158, SNHU, Manchester, NH

Armano, D (2012) Harvard Business Review: Blog Network; Six Social-Digital Trends For 2013, Retrieved February 1, 2013 from http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/12/six_social-digital_trends_for.html

Bullas, J. (2013) 6 Social Media Trends You Should Not Ignore, Retrieved January 31, 2013 from http://www.jeffbullas.com/2013/01/03/6-social-media-trends-you-should-not-ignore-in-2013/

Michaelian, B. (2013) Huff Post Small Business: New and Social Media Trends for Small Business in 2013,  Retrieved January 30, 2013 from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/britt-michaelian/social-media-small-business_b_2491821.html

You Can Never Be Too Thin, Except…

In the publishing industry a magazine’s weight and thickness is a strong indicator of their ad revenue.  We’ve all sadly watched as some of our favorite print magazines get thinner and thinner, and maybe even disappear because of the lack of ad revenues, smaller circulation levels (e.g. Newsweek) and/or the failure to transition well to digital.

The Association of Magazine Media shows that actual magazine ad pages have dropped back to levels found in 1992.  To simply survive, magazines must consider jumping from print to some level of online presence.  It’s also noted that digital magazine formats extend the reach of printed versions and that can benefit the whole industry.  However, this positive point may not save publishing.

The bulk of consumer magazines are primarily driven by their ad revenue (other than circulation/subscription dollars) and the transitioning of their print ad money to web ad revenue is one of the biggest issues facing the large-circulation magazines today.

There are very few magazine publishers that can survive the loss of print ad income if they discontinued their printed versions.  However, there are digital magazines creating ad sales from web-only publishing, but higher revenue is still generated from the combination of both print and web.

Meanwhile, much of the value consumer magazines offer is moving to a variety of other web media, including blogs, forums and image based/special interest sites such as Pinterest.

Print magazines are clearly struggling and for many, the long-term prognosis looks grim unless they have already taken steps toward surviving online.  It will be interesting to see who survives the fallout long-term.  Will more consumer magazines or B2B survive?  What’s your opinion?

Sources

http://thefutureofpublishing.com/industries/the-future-of-magazines/

http://www.magazine.org/insights-resources/research-publications/trends-data/magazine-industry-facts-data/1991-2011-magazine

http://suite101.com/article/print-vs-online-magazines-a155014

Saddle Up for Social Media

Me and Mya in her witch hat for Halloween

Equus Wishes – Although artistic since three (I rocked Crayola and string), I have known horses physically only from the 5th grade.  It started with my older sister wishing on cake every birthday since her fourth for a backyard equine.  As the second sibling, I soon joined in the wishing until my mother and father finally folded when pony “Mya” then horse “Jolly” (one year later) arrived.  The small barn and pasture were built in our upstate New York backyard, and a local club of the United States Pony Club (USPC) was discovered and energetically attended.  While my sister’s interest in the equine waned, I was in…completely.

Weanling Years – Fast forward many years and stall cleanings later, I am a graduate “A” USPC pony clubber (highest level attainable) and proudly own a BFA in communication design (with a minor in Illustration) from Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT).  Post BFA achievement, my horse at the time “Dundee” was sold to buy a car, but teaching young riders and the resulting begs for mounts prevailed. Hand and hand with ongoing extra-curricular equine activities, my design career moved forward (and away), averaging 4-years of experience per placement in and around greater Boston.

Jumping from the Corporate Corral – VanDesign (short for Van Valkinburgh) had been a burr under my saddle since graduation.  Even then I had developed a rough logo, created cards and continually did free-lance graphic design on the side.  My soul had remained in the horse barn all those years, and now, I was also professionally ready to run my own business.   With the formal launch of VanDesign, I was able to combine my parallel life interests…marketing, advertising, illustration and design for the equine industry.

Keeping up with the Herd – As the years in business have passed, the horse industry has grown significantly but remained somewhat the same in content/function. On the other hand my profession’s technology (way of doing business) has changed dramatically.  It has gone from Phone/Fax/FedEx/Desktop/Print to Text/Send/Share/Like/Mobile/Tweet. Luckily, but without much fanfare or self-promotion, VanDesign has kept up and evolved from producing mostly print related projects (ads, brochures, letterhead, etc.) to materials destined for only digital/online use (low resolution/rgb graphics, web sites, digital/PDF manuals, etc.).

Stampede! – The herd is running now full speed “liking” and “sharing” toward Social Media (SM) for every “carrot” it has to offer.  Labeled by Forrester Research as the groundswell, it is a social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations (Li & Bernoff, 2011).  But, how is the Equine Industry (EI) using the groundswell to their benefit.

Slow Out of the Gate – Seemingly slow for adopting new technologies, the EI is still discovering SM.  While the annual economic impact of the equine industry is significant – involving some $300 billion dollars, 4.0 million horses, and 1.6 million full-time jobs – SM user statistics for the horse lover are lacking (Wyrick, 2011).  According to the American Horse Publications (AHP) EI study (10/09-01/10), the following statistics do exist.

  • 30.8% of those surveyed, were between the ages of 45-54;
  • 88.8% were female;
  • 23.4% had an average household income of $50-$75K and;
  • 48% lived in a 2-member household.

How these basic facts relate to SM technographics still need to be analyzed and revealed.

Stable Tools for Social Media– Regardless of the lack of equestrian based SM technographics here are how some common SM tools are generally used by the horsy set.

  • YouTube: Selling horses, especially from a distance used to be a huge ordeal…make and snail-mail video and reverse those steps.  Now video clips can be uploaded instantly, linked, synced, etc. for all who are interested in that particular horse or simply for those horse shopping online. This platform alone has probably created the biggest change in how the EI communicates.
  • FaceBook Communities have been created specifically for all horse topics imaginable…breed clubs, buy/sell horses and/or equipment, real estate (horse farms), equestrian vacations, etc….anything related to the equine.  A couple in New England to “like” are “Horse Friends” and “Horse Collaborative.”
  • Blogging.  When Equestrians get together their favorite hobby is talking horse.  Whether it’s about horse health, feeding, training (rider or horse) or competition scoop of the day…blogging is very popular and offers in-depth details.
  • Equine Publications (online too) offer forums (and blogs) that provide discussions about, Dressage, Racing, Carriage Driving, Sport Horse Breeding, Horse Care, Tack, etc.
  • Smartphones/mobile equi apps are often used to get directions to shows/farms, search for equipment, assist trainers, find restaurants and hotels while on the road.

Sources
Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2011) Groundswell: winning in a world transformed by social technologies, expanded and revised edition, Forrester Research, Harvard Business Review Press, Boston, MA

Wyrick, J. (2011) Today’s Equine Industry, Retrieved October 14, 2012 from http://www.alltech.com/blog/posts/todays-equine-industry