Storytelling is magic for brands


The explosive growth of social media and content marketing means more opportunities to promote your brand. With so many companies vying for attention in the digital sphere, how do you stand out? The answer lies in engaging storytelling.

Creating a story around your product allows you to shape consumer brand perception. After years of declining sales, Apple rebounded after its 1997 “Think different” rebranding campaign.


Apple relied on its outsider status and imagery of iconic visionaries to compel customers to “rebel” by buying its products. The company successfully gambled on the concept of individuality – rather than technical capabilities – to sell computers.

At its core, storytelling isn’t a sales pitch. It’s meant to emotionally connect with consumers, in the process building loyalty, attracting new customers, and increasing brand visibility.

Beyond traditional television or print ads, the digital age has equipped marketers with new platforms for visual storytelling. Social media channels like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat allow even the smallest company to gain a greater amount of exposure than with typical advertising – thanks to free or affordable posting options – with the added benefit of possible post amplification when fans share its content.

It’s key to follow a few guidelines for savvy social media storytelling.

  1. Use arresting visuals. Visual content, like photos, receive 40 times more shares and 90 percent more clicks than text-only content.
  2. Infuse your posts with personality. Use an informal voice in your writing to attract and retain your audience.
  3. Create magnetic characters. Your customers should root for your protagonist, even if it’s just short-form content, like Microsoft’s Instagram post above.
  4. Don’t give it all away. Posting teasers can lead to additional offline or mobile marketing opportunities.

How have you successfully used storytelling to sell your brand?


30 predictions for social media & social media marketing in 2016


As the last month of 2015 dawns in a flurry of gift-wrapping and cocoa-drinking, prediction lists start their steady creep across the internet, with every technology prognosticator, online marketing expert, and social media blogger clamoring to forecast the potential state of our digital world in 2016.

They might be right; they might be wrong – only time will tell. So, what’s in store for us on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest next year? Let’s learn what the fortune-tellers at SocialMediaToday anticipate:



More Emoji

We used to star tweets we like. Now we “heart them.” Soon we’ll be able to express a full range of (cartoon) emotions. Twitter is experimenting with an emoji reactions tool. Why? Emoji are incredibly popular the world over, and are more likely to hook a younger crowd than traditional icons. Expect this feature to become widespread in the first half of 2016.

Enhanced Engagement

Twitter has always skewed young. To retain this vital demographic and ensure its continued growth, Twitter will roll out more interactive features. In addition to emoji, Twitter will further develop its poll feature and branded event emoji, the latter of which has already been used by Coke, Star Wars, Taylor Swift, and Starbucks.

Customer Service

A significant amount of customers turn to brands on Twitter to answer customer service queries. In fact, many bigger players have hired employees dedicated solely to social media to meet this need. Twitter has evolved to make it easier for businesses to interact with their customers by removing direct message character limits (previously limited to 140) and instituting quote tweets, which allow users to track relevant conversations. The next step? A streamlined platform catering to customer service, possibly even a form of artificial intelligence-driven assistant service. Earlier this year, Twitter acquired AI provider Whetlab, so clearly something is in the works.



On-Platform Content

Facebook is making a big push to keep its users on its site, rather than following links to other sites. Its newest features include Instant Articles – posts uploaded directly to Facebook (reducing load time and giving creators access to new tools like in-post video) – and on-platform blogging with its revamped Notes. With a new focus on aesthetics and customization, the new Notes (screenshot above) is a big improvement over the bare-bones style of the previous version.


Last year, Facebook made headlines with its $2 billion purchase of virtual reality startup Oculus VR. While the first Oculus headsets will soon be available, virtual reality will take time to become truly transformative technology. In 2016, we’ll likely see VR take its first baby steps on Facebook with more 360-degree videos and the rise of VR gaming. We’ll probably witness a greater impact from VR in 2017.



Advanced Search Tools

Pinterest launched a very clever search tool this month (apparently simply called “our crazy-fun new visual search tool“): You can search a visual element within a pin. Say you’re redecorating and spy a lamp you like in a pin showing someone’s kitchen. Now, you can highlight the lamp and Pinterest will bring up visually similar items, so you’ll know where to find the it. Pinterest will look to further improve the functionality of its search tools to make them more personal – and useful – than ever, potentially resulting in an uptick in ecommerce transactions.

More Buying

Speaking of ecommerce, this year saw the launch of “Buyable Pins” allowing pinners to buy featured products. As ecommerce and search options expand and become more valuable, Pinterest may develop better algorithms to predict what pinners will want and offer a more streamlined on-platform buying system.

What are your predictions for 2016?

KLM gets local with new employee-run Twitter account for travelers

It’s easy for companies to grow stale on social media – but not Dutch airline KLM, which continues to dominate social media. Its latest venture is LocalEyes, a Twitter account and webpage offering tips from local employees.

Every week, the company chooses an employee to take over the LocalEyes Twitter account and tweet about local traditions and culture, cozy coffee shops, hotel recommendations, and more.

This week features Stockholm tips by KLM employee Madeleine:

After a week, all the tweets are rounded up and posted to the LocalEyes website. The Twitter account is then handed off to the next employee for another dose of hyper-local recommendations in a new city.

Past KLM social media experiments include destination info mashup site MyDreamCatcher, social gifting service Wannagives, a space flight contest called Claim your space in space, and trip tips via a social graph-based application called Must See Map.

Kudos to KLM for keeping the travel industry on its toes.


How a 113-year-old brand saved Christmas (or at least invigorated its holiday sales)


Everyone knows The Polar Express, the massively popular children’s tale from 1985 that spawned the Oscar-nominated film. Less common knowledge: Lionel LLC, the 113-year-old toy company, is the only manufacturer holding the official license to release collectible Polar Express-themed train sets.

With the 10th anniversary of the film approaching, Lionel aimed to harness the attention of locomotive-loco fans with a marketing push from September to November this year, coinciding with the jingle bells (and jingling pocket change) signifying the holiday season. As an older company, Lionel had to get creative to breathe life into its brand. With this in mind, the marketing team developed a contest, entitled “I Believe,” to drive holiday sales while highlighting the visibility of the Polar Express brand and Lionel’s product line.

Railroad enthusiasts were rewarded for their efforts. Lionel gifted an official Polar Express train set once a month for three months, finding winners among those who participated on the company’s social media pages. Contestants socially engaged on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ or signed up for an email newsletter for a chance to gain a train. Lionel got an extra publicity boost from Warner Bros. as the studio promoted the sweepstakes on its own social media platforms.

The marketing project was a success: Nearly 70 percent of people who visited the contest page entered the sweepstakes.

Has your company ever run a social media-centric promotion? What were the results?

Sixty Things You Should Know About Social Media in Travel

Via Tnooz, by Julie McNamee from Webnwords.

Here’s a selection of mostly social media tips that I picked up from World Travel Market in London this week.

Social media’s “Dirty Little Secret” (Social data)

Sarah Kennedy Ellis – Sabre Labs

1) Instagram is the place to be for brands – people engage with brands 40 times more on that platform than they do on Twitter, and 20 times more than Facebook. Great for brand engagement.

2) Photos aid conversion – another good reason for making use of Instagram.

3) According to Sabre Labs research, more men submitted photos with their check-ins on FourSquare than women.

4) 60% of smiley faces and exclamation marks were used by women on check ins.

5) Amazon’s Mechanical Turk is a great research tool, eg for analysing the subject matter of a large number of photographs.

6) Small companies with small budgets can access 10% of Twitter’s feed for research purposes.

7) A good way of searching Instagram is by hashtag #.

Facebook – Future of travel marketing

Lee McCabe – Facebook

8) Facebook marketing is all about:

  • Efficiency
  • Multi-channel (across devices)
  • Identity

9) Facebook tools include Facebook Exchange – re-targeting within one hour of leaving the website.

10) Facebook Connect – for increased conversion rate with easy one-click logging in, plus lots of profile information.

11) The travel journey includes and is helped by Facebook:

  • Dreaming – is kicked off by viewing friends’ photos
  • Planning
  • Booking
  • The experience – is shared with updates and photo sharing
  • Reflecting – the photos kick off friends’ dreaming

12) Mobile’s is clearly where it’s at – an increasingly so in the future

13) 45% of the world’s population are forecast to have a smartphone by 2015.

14) For the first time, digital media consumption has overtaken TV in the US – driven by mobile.

15) There are 874 million mobile daily active users of Facebook.

16) Match the people on your CRM database with their Facebook profiles to find out more about them and connect with them.

17) Graph search is getting better at targeting hotels and restaurants that you really might like (with the help of friend recommendations).

How travel bloggers impact the booking funnel

Debbie Hindle – Four bgb

18) The traditional marketing funnel is: Awareness – Interest – Desire – Action

19) The new marketing funnel (c/o Xavier Blanc) is:

  • Reach
  • Engage
  • Activate
  • Nurture

20) Your customers don’t care about you as a brand. They care about themselves.

21) Content marketing = creating the information your customers are passionate about.

22) Example of an effective campaign is the #Feelmorealive campaign by adventure travel company Exodus – blog posts, photos, videos – lots of content by bloggers and lots of shares.


23) Another is the Liming Appreciation Society for St Vincent and the Grenadines – a group of bloggers invited to provide posts, imagery and video. 60% of searchers have viewed one of the videos before booking. The most popular post was shared 2,000 times.

24) Traditional marketing is about telling the world what a rockstar you are. Content marketing is showing the world what a rockstar you are.

Travel blogging

Keith Jenkins – Velvet Escape

25) The value of bloggers? Niche experts, personal experience, immediacy and an audience.

26) The booking funnel is:

  • Inspiration
  • Influence
  • The Final Nudge

27) As a blogger, one photo Jenkins posted (of ice floating) was viewed 2,000 times and resulted in four bookings for a travel company overnight.

28) Bloggers are good for giving tips and sharing ideas on where to go/what to do.

29) The feedback from people who have taken their advice is invaluable for the company concerned.

30) When engaging a blogger, have specific objectives in mind. What do you want out of the relationship?:

  • Brand exposure?
  • Online content?
  • To drive engagement?
  • To grow your social media followers?
  • To make sales?

31) Monitor the results of your blogging campaign by

  • Using tracking codes
  • Using vouchers or downloads
  • Using tracking systems
  • Keeping track of blogger posts

32) Agree the number of posts, tweets etc with the blogger before you start.

Nicholas Montemaggi – Emilia Romagna Tourism Board

33) Needed a way to make people more aware of Emilia Romagna, so came up with the idea of Blogville – providing an apartment for the use of bloggers from all over the world. The tag line was “Eat, feel and live like a local in Italy”.


34) Only cost to the tourist board was for the apartment – bloggers paid their way.

35) Master of the house present at all times to help and advise the bloggers.

36) Campaign carried out over 2 years – 120 bloggers and 500 blog posts, 3.8 million Twitter users reached and 700,000 visitors later…

37) Example direct benefit – a Chinese blogger went on a cooking course and wrote a post with lots of photos. The organisation who ran the course reported 2 bookings from China overnight!

38) Important: Spaghetti bolognese isn’t a real dish – it’s tagliatelle ragu! :)

Lee Stuart – Caliber

39) Bloggers bring authenticity and honesty.

40) Brands and PR companies should look for focused blogs – not necessarily big blogs.

41) Look at the kind of keywords the bloggers rank for – there’ll be a ready-made audience for your product if it fits that keyword.

42) Bloggers are hyper-local.

43) They can act as guides to your destination.

Are you mobile?

44) The cost of marketing an app is going to be much more (and much more important) than building the app.

45) Tip for the future – we’re going to be seeing mobile-only companies in future.

Social media masterclass 2013

Alan Young – TrustYou

46) 81% of online reviews are positive (according to TrustYou stats).

47) In the UK, 49% of online travel reviews are on, 37% on TripAdvisor.

48) The more reviews you have the more likely you are to benefit from them.

Debbie Hindle – Four BGB

49) Kuoni has wifi in its shops so people can check TripAdvisor when they’re discussing booking a holiday.

50) When coming up with your new holiday campaign, think about you want your customers to feel. Eg, how did you feel on your first holiday?

51) Viator have pages worth of information on each of the locations they feature. They have lots of useful stuff to keep visitors on your site and make it more likely you’ll book with them. They also reward customers with treats and rewards and have conversations with them.

Google and travel: Sharing best practice

Sarah McDonald – Google head of travel

52) Airbnb has a great guide to Brixton that gives lots of authentic, interesting information about the area.

brixton airbnb

53) The questions everyone asks themselves when choosing something.

  • Is this product what it says it is?
  • Is it right for me?
  • Is it at the right price?

54) Video can address some of these questions. For example it can give a street view from inside the hotel and a better feel for what your hotel is and where it is.

55) YouTube isn’t as good as Twitter and Facebook at helping consumers find relevant material. Brands should take not and learn to optimise videos.

56) An excellent site is Visit Brasil – consumers can make their own wishlists on what they want to hear about and the site will give hand back relevant information.

57) Have a common experience across all channels.

58) Use relevancy and urgency like the big hotel booking sites do.

59) The journey isn’t just online or offline – there are touch-points on both for a lot of people.

60) 89% of social media users share holidays photos while away – even if they don’t share the rest of the year. Connect with them when they do it and continue to talk to them when they come back. Reach out at every stage.

NB: This is a contributed article by Julie McNamee from Webnwords. Follow McNamee on Twitter.

“Tweeting” honey badger drums up business for Johannesburg Zoo

It’s a lot of work keeping up a Twitter feed, but it’s even harder when you have claws.

That hasn’t stopped BG, Johannesburg Zoo’s resident – and now famous – media-savvy honey badger, who “tweets” at @ZooTweetsLive. Armed with the desire to boost crowds and overall awareness – but limited funds – the Jo’burg Zoo appointed BG as the world’s first “live-tweeting badger.”

How does it work? As BG wanders around his enclosure, he sets off infrared motion sensors, six in all, or cameras, all strategically rigged throughout his habitat. This triggers one of hundreds of prewritten tweets, some combined with a snapshot of the moment. Who can resist this bathing beauty?

The honey badger has made his rounds in the media circus, including TED Talks, Time, MSN, Huffington Post, and more. Was it a success? You bet. With 5,000 followers in the first week alone, 618% return on investment, and six million dollars earned media, BG’s campaign is a smash. While zoo visitor numbers aren’t available, it’s clear the digital world has gone mad for the badge.

When is the best time to tweet?

Similar to the old adage about that falling tree, if you tweet in the middle of the forest and there’s nobody around to read it, will it make a sound impact?

Well, first of all, you’re going to get horrible reception in the middle of the forest. Secondly, it’s easy for your message to get lost in the digital noise of millions of others tweeting simultaneously.

When is the best time to tweet for the largest audience possible? What’s the best way to engage your audience? Buddy Media performed a great study and discovered some interesting results. Check out these savvy guidelines:

  • Save those midweek tweets for Saturday or Sunday
  • Stick to daytime hours
  • Construct snappy tweets that are less than 100 characters
  • Hashtag your content (but no more than two hashtags per tweet – it #starts #to #look #like #this, and is that ever visually disruptive!)
  • Ask your followers to retweet your message

Take a look at this infographic detailing how to maximize your Twitter power:


See? So simple! If you try out these guidelines, report back and tell us how your social media accounts fared.

What makes Vine so hot?

Reblogged from – an insightful op-ed on the #4 app in the App Store. How do you think Vine will affect the social media landscape? – SS

by Chris Taylor

Vine-markerIt’s the kind of moment that comes rarely, but tech journalists live for it: a service is launched with little fanfare and receives a sudden, energetic burst of genuine buzz. Developers start remixing it in all kinds of fascinating ways. It’s supremely easy to use, and mobile, so we get hooked.

The technology itself is not new, but it is presented in a new and interesting form. It fosters creative competition. It starts to get traction in our lives.

The last time the tech world could agree this was happening was the launch of Instagram in 2010. We’d seen plenty of photo services before; Flickr had been around for the better part of a decade.

But here was one that was kind of a throwback to instant cameras, kind of something new, supremely social and creative in a quick and easy way.

It also resolutely refused to exist as anything other than an iPhone app. If you wanted to use it, you pulled your phone out of your pocket, took some snapshots and filtered them, or browsed the work of others. The fast-loading stream of Polaroid-like shots was a perfect match for a smartphone screen.

You hoped your gauzy efforts would rack up Likes from friends, of course. Who doesn’t crave that recognition? But you also felt like you were participating in an historic, global effort to document human life, one snap at a time.

In short, Instagram perfectly captured the ineffable shared something that 21st century Internet users have taken to calling “the now.”

Now here comes 2013’s hot contender, another iPhone app: Vine. It’s too early to tell if the service is going to blossom like Instagram did (the service has 90 million active users and counting, two and a half years after launch).

Vine is currently #4 in the App Store, beating out Google Maps and YouTube. It’s the top social networking app by far.

Why Vine Will Thrive: Three Words

One advantage Vine does have in its search for staying power is the enormous benefit of starting out with a major social service, Twitter, as a parent. (Instagram had to prove itself in the wild before it was snapped up by Facebook in a deal originally valued at $1 billion.)

And if anything, Vine is even better at capturing “the now” than Instagram.

Like Twitter, Vine benefits from an inherent limit. The parent company won’t let you transmit more than 140 characters of your brilliance at a time; Vine makes you shoot your video in six seconds or less. Those six seconds don’t have to be consecutive — you just start and stop recording by tapping on the screen — which can lead to all manner of interesting stop-motion animations, such as this heroic example from Mashable‘s own Jeremy Cabalona.

That means Vine is easily understandable, even mockable — as in this animation from the blog Willa’s World:

That’s fine. Instagram was consistently mocked as a purveyor of food photos. Twitter was consistently mocked as a stream of short “what I had for breakfast” updates. Neither stereotype stopped tremendous growth. Indeed, they may well have aided it.

What mattered in each case was that the service was easily summarized and differentiated. You could grok it instantly. You had a reason to try it. And here’s a good rule of thumb: if you can describe what makes a service different in three easy words — “filtered square photos,” perhaps, or “140 character updates,” or “six-second videos” — it has a good shot at taking off.

To put it another way, here’s how top Valley VC Marc Andreessen has described his process for deciding which companies to invest in: “I look for the thing people are laughing at, but is growing like a weed.”

Or, indeed, a vine.

Haven’t We Been Here Before?

Some argue that Cinemagram, or GIF creation tools like it, are better apps than Vine. Cinemagram has more functionality — you can, for example, create a GIF that loops back and forth in time, rather than repeating the way Vine does.

But that doesn’t really matter. Cinemagram and apps like it are riding a wider wave of animated GIFs. They’ve sacrificed differentiation to be part of a web trend. Can you honestly tell whether a GIF was created on Cinemagram? Do you care? Can you make the service sound unique in three words?

Vine videos are short, but they’re noticeably longer than most GIFs. There’s less of that jarring ADD sensation. You can pack a surprising amount of visual information into six seconds. And because it’s in a stream, you’re encouraged to move on to the next one rather than stare at the same video over and over.

GIFs are timeless; part of their appeal is they can be reused in online conversation over and over. Favorite GIFs become memes, and favorite memes become GIFs. But Vine’s appeal is almost the opposite. It’s raw footage, cinema verite. It’s not surprising that the first news Vine, a dolphin trapped in New York harbor, arrived almost immediately.

You can see that most clearly on a service like Vinepeek, which aggregates Vine videos in real time. The results are quotidian, but endlessly fascinating. A guy jumps for joy in a parking lot. A horse grazes in a field. Someone opens a Pop Tart. Someone bowls a strike.

All human (and non-human) life is here. It’s the now, in its purest distilled form.

Is Vine going to keep growing, or will it wilt? Share your predictions in the comments.

Twitter, Google go transparent with information requests


Did you know today is Data Privacy Day? And what better way to celebrate than with new reports from Twitter and Google about government and rights holders’ requests for user information in 2012? Google, the internet giant that it is, received far more requests than Twitter, with about 21,000 requests from July through December last year versus Twitter’s 1,800. You can find Twitter’s transparency report here and Google’s transparency report here.

The bottom line: government requests for user data is on the rise.

Twitter saw an increase in information requests (from 849 in Q1/Q2 to 1,009 in Q3/Q4) and removal requests (from six to 42). There was a slight decrease in copyright notices: 3,628, down from 3,378.

Governments asked Google to turn over user information 21,389 times between July and December 2012, – an increase of 70 percent since 2009. The United States government isn’t the only one to ask for information, but the number of its requests far outstrips other countries. During the latter half of 2012, the U.S. government racked up 8,438 data requests, vastly more than the country with the second most requests – India with 2,431.

Facebook has been conspicuously silent on the transparency front. When asked about its own data, the company released this statement:

We do not have any immediate plans to release a report, however, we have been working diligently on meaningful transparency such as the Law Enforcement Guidelines in the Help Center and our work with the Digital Due Process coalition to ensure the privacy of our users. While we will continue to evaluate our plans in this area, we devote our primary efforts to auditing every request we receive to ensure the strictest compliance with law. You can find out more here –

Social media tips & tricks, part II

image via

Have you caught up with last week’s Social Media Tips & Tricks, part I? Guess you’re ready for part II! Read on to discover more ways to synergize your social media presence and increase your influence:

  • Demonstrate your social media clout by boosting your Klout score and highlighting your numbers of followers
  • Provide an RSS button on your blog; each new post will automatically queue up on subscribers’ Google Readers
  • Make your LinkedIn profile public
  • Identify power players in your industry and follow their social media accounts to stay on top of the latest trends
  • Frequently comment upon, retweet, and at-reply (@ on Twitter) your industry colleagues’ social media content – the more people see your name (and your intelligent input), the better name recognition you’ll receive
  • When uploading photos in a blog post, include several appropriate keywords to boost the “searchability” of the post
  • Write a short direct message (or create an amusing automatic direct message) welcoming new Twitter followers, mentioning what you bring to the table
  • Ask questions to engage your audience and increase the likelihood of responses
  • Include a “share” button at the bottom of each blog post so readers can share your (hopefully fascinating) posts with the click of a button
  • Provide a subscription button on your blog – if your readers sign up, they’ll be notified via email every time you publish your latest post

Above all, make your content interesting – that’s the absolute BEST way to ensure your brand’s continued growth and influence.