Communication

QR Codes: Location, Location, Location

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I’ve written about how to use QR codes. I think it’s also important to think about where you’re using them. You want them to be easy to find and identify. What do you think about these approaches?

Simon & Schuster is starting to put QR codes on dustjackets; they’re hoping to drive subscriptions to their newsletters. Thought: If you read print books, are you going to appreciate this? If you read digital books, are you going to see it?

The Metro newspaper chain in Canada is using QR codes to promote their mobile edition. Thought: The micro-newspaper box–or is it nano?–is either adorable or invisible, depending on whether you look there.

QR code on Mine Bats van

Mine Bats puts a QR code on one of the rear doors of their distributors’ vans. Thought: Friends don’t let friends drive while scanning QR codes–but too many of us are already ignoring hands-free legislation, so this is probably smart.

And if you’re looking for some flat-out FAIL when it comes to QR code placement, you may enjoy WTF QR Codes. Don’t try those at home.

Photo by John Lisiewicz

The Best Time to . . .

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Mashable has an article about the best times to post on Twitter and Facebook. The answer for Twitter: Monday between 1 and 3 p.m., east coast time. For Facebook: Any weekday between 1 and 4, but particularly on Wednesdays at 3.

Which is great, unless everyone does it at once. Then it’s pretty much the worst time, because you’ll just get lost in the noise. As Matt McGee points out, “there’s no magical time to publish.”

As he explains, you need to take a look at when your audience is online–what gets the greatest response? When did you post it, and when did people respond? Keep the quality of your content high, and be open to the unexpected. That makes a lot more sense than assuming that there’s one answer for everyone.

Besides, don’t those days and times sound like you’re James T. Kirk setting up a game of Fizbin?

Guest Post by Adam Paul: Simple Is As Simple Does

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I’m delighted to introduce my first guest post, written by Adam Paul. Adam is the executive producer of The Steps, a web drama that has recently started its second season. (Disclosure: One of the creators, Dylan Kussman, is a close friend, and I am a contributor to the Kickstarter campaign that funded this season.)

In addition to creative work on the (very) small screen, The Steps has showcased innovative and integrated marketing through myriad social media channels, using a variety of tactics based on larger strategic goals, as Adam explains:

As an independent producer of web and television filmed content, I should be much more savvy about marketing via social media than I am. Working with lower budgets just to get the story told, never mind marketed to the public, you’d think I’d have a firm grip on the ins and outs of using Facebook and Twitter to spread the word about my product.

But I don’t. It seems I’m always learning about some new way to cleverly reach out to an audience. A contest or survey or targeted ad or email campaign. But I’ve come to accept recently that that’s the nature of the beast. If new content is the fuel on which the internet runs, then social networking is the Internet’s true combustion engine. And there will always be a myriad of ways to fill the engine’s tank.

My current series, ‘The Steps’, is now in its second season. During the first season, we gave away a Dell netbook via a Twitter hashtag campaign and premiered the series at a ‘Device Party’ which encouraged participants to bring their own connected platform – be it smartphone or laptop or tablet – to our party event, join the wifi network there and simultaneously view the first episode together. We took out Facebook ads, rigorously administered our pages and found multiple distribution partners to screen our series to the widest possible audience.

The Steps

While our budget was raised entirely via Kickstarter.com’s brilliant site and a strong outreach to our production team’s networks, this year we’re utilizing far fewer event-based methods to actually promote the series. Aside from a weekly new episode release (Thursdays at www.WatchTheSteps.com), we’re letting the show gain traction through the simplest of marketing techniques: word of mouth.

Despite a compelling premise and world class production values, ‘The Steps’ is a unique animal in the world of web series –

  • It’s a drama (a noir thriller, to be exact)
  • It takes its time – far from boring, our series is a particular type of tale, with richly textured characters, strong imagery, and an overarching story that requires some investment from the viewer.
  • Like life, it’s complicated – the story’s hero, Charlie Madison, is a private eye with a habit of getting into trouble. He gets in his own way. He may have even killed his last girlfriend. He’s a human being who’s made mistakes, can’t forgive himself, but trudges on and tries to do the right thing.

That’s a lot to pitch to a new audience in a blurb or even a press release.

And so, our most recent revelation in the world of social media marketing has been this:

That’s right. A badge. We’ve asked our followers on Facebook and Twitter to use it as their profile picture for a week. Then we’ll change it up with another image from the show each week as we roll episodes out.

Simple, no? But very effective. No one has to beg their friends to check it out. Those who like the show just change their profile picture. Yes, we seed our social network pages with behind the scenes stills and notes from the creator of the show during the week between episodes. We keep topping off the tank of that engine so it can run loud and strong. But this little badge has proven to be the best way to get our name in front of the maximum number of eyeballs. Our followers wear it with pride, their followers see the bold url, and hopefully, just hopefully, we’ve penetrated their subconscious with our three-word call to action.

Adam Paul is the founder of Giantleap Industries, a digital studio that develops multi-platform content to bridge the divide between television, the web and wherever else you’re watching. ‘The Steps’ is currently rolling out new episodes of its second season at www.WatchTheSteps.com, Youtube.com/TheStepsWebSeries, Koldcast.tv and Blip.tv

All images provided by Adam Paul.

Ask Better Questions to Accomplish Organizational Goals

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Tricks are easy. They’re also transient. Good work is hard, and requires serious thought and preparation to succeed. Take a look at these links to see some things you should be thinking about, and extrapolate.

Start of a Horse Race

Are you too focused on “likes”?
Social Business: Far Beyond The Like at Brass Tack Thinking.

Should you be on Pinterest? Well, what do you do?
The 10 Most-Followed Brands on Pinterest at Mashable.

Are you trying to sell when you should be listening?
Why Are Retailers Shutting Their Facebook Stores? at Mashable

So, what questions should you be asking? And are you asking them?

Photo by Rennett Stowe, via Flickr.

Why We Should Require More When We Donate

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Do you care about women’s health issues? In a case like this, how do you choose?

The Susan G. Komen Foundation raises money–lots of money–for breast cancer research. Planned Parenthood provides health services across the country. For years, Planned Parenthood has received grant money from the Komen Foundation, which has funded 170,000 breast exams over the past five years.

This week, the Komen Foundation eliminated its financial support Planned Parenthood, citing a regulation that prohibits funding organizations that are under Congressional investigation. Criticism was immediate and ferocious, claiming that the change was political in nature and pointing out the Komen Foundation’s ties to political parties.

Today, the Komen Foundation reversed that decision, saying that a new policy would mean that only criminal investigations would result in a loss of funding:

Our only goal for our granting process is to support women and families in the fight against breast cancer. Amending our criteria will ensure that politics has no place in our grant process. We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants, while maintaining the ability of our affiliates to make funding decisions that meet the needs of their communities.

–Nancy G. Brinker, Founder and CEO of Susan G. Komen Foundation

But the statement does not address the influence of politics on the organization. Their own Senior VP of Public Policy, Karen Handel, identifies herself as a pro-life Christian and has publicly shared her opposition to Planned Parenthood. While there’s no evidence that Handel played a role in this process, people “with direct knowledge of the Komen decision-making process” have said that the regulation connecting funding decisions and Congressional investigations was designed specifically to exclude Planned Parenthood. Certainly other organizations have not been subject to the regulation.

What was the immediate result of the Komen actions? In one day, Planned Parenthood received direct donations totaling $650,000–replacing nearly all of the money that Komen decided not to give them.

Longer term, though, this is a reminder to take a hard look at the organizations to which you give your time and money–no matter where you stand on this particular issue. What do you know about them and how they make decisions? Who determines their priorities? And when they have a crisis–as many organizations will–how transparent are their communications? We all need to ask more questions and insist on real answers. That is our responsibility.

Unfriendly Skies

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An Austria-based airline recently forced its passengers to pool funds to pay for $31,500 worth of fuel during a trip.

And in another instance, passengers refused to deplane from a Hong Kong carrier until they received what they felt was appropriate compensation for a 9-hour delay.

In the era of social media, these instances will not go unnoticed. They may not make endless headlines like, say, a quickie celebrity divorce–but people will talk about them, to a global audience.

So if you’re a business, how do you handle this? What do you do to keep this from happening at your company? And here’s a tip: it’s better to keep the incident from happening in the first place than to make up for it later.

Don’t strongarm your customers. It’s a really bad business practice.

Tips for Using QR Codes Effectively

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Everywhere you look, bar codes that bear an eerie resemblance to Space Invaders are appearing. “Quick Response” codes, known as QR codes, can be found on posters, magazine ads, ice cream containers, and beyond. So what are they good for, and how can you make the most of them? Mashable has a post with tips; here are my thoughts.

1) Start with “why?”. Know what you hope to accomplish by using a QR code. “All the cool kids are doing it” still isn’t a great reason. Are you driving people to a mobile site? Supporting a specific promotion or campaign? The answer to this question is important.

2) Know what you want your customers to do. You need them to want to scan the code. Think about your call to action, and why a customer would want to follow it.

3) Think about where you’re sending them. A QR code is a mobile tool. Don’t send them to a regular website–send them to a mobile-friendly page.

4) Know what you’re measuring. It’s great to know how many people scan the code. Beyond that, though, take a look at how much time they spend on your site after scanning that code. Engagement matters here. And how does it compare to other avenues? Are other approaches–Facebook, Twitter, etc.–providing greater contacts and engagement?

5) Be creative. I was at the Santa Barbara Zoo this summer, and they had what I thought was a terrific use for QR codes: providing current video of animals that are likely to be asleep, hidden, or sedentary at the time you walk by the enclosure. Toys R Us is including them in their “Great Big Toys R Us Book” this year, to provide more information about specific products–and even to show some of them in action.

Redbox: How to Communicate With Customers

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Previously, I’ve talked about Netflix‘s communication woes. They’ve repeatedly managed to do a stunningly poor job of explaining their business changes to their customers, and it’s been costing them.

So it’s nice to see that another company either learned from that, or just knew all along how to do it better. A colleague forwarded the following e-mail that he got regarding price changes at Redbox. Take a look at how they explain why this is necessary.

New Daily DVD Rental Price

Redbox is making an announcement about its prices today, and we want to make sure that you hear it from us first.

Starting on Monday, October 31, the daily rental charge for DVDs will change to $1.20 a day.* The price change is due to rising operating expenses, including new increases in debit card fees. Daily rental charges for Blu-ray™ Discs and video games won’t change.** Additional-day charges for DVDs rented before 10/31 won’t be affected, either.

In order to make the transition easier, Redbox will discount the first day of all online DVD rentals to $1.00 from 10/31 through 11/30. Additional rental days will be $1.20.***

If you have any questions, please visit redbox.com/pricechange. There, we’ve provided additional information.

This marks our first price change in more than eight years as we work hard to keep prices low for our customers.

Thank you,

Redbox

See, Reed Hastings? That isn’t so hard, is it?

Occupy History

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If you haven’t heard about Occupy [insert name of city], then you really haven’t had access to any media at all.

Yesterday morning, Occupy Oakland protesters were ordered to disperse. Later in the day, they reconvened and were met by riot-gear-clad police with tear gas canisters.

The response on the mayor’s Facebook page makes me wonder: what would the history books say now if the Bonus Army had had access to social media?

(Note: I am a former history book editor, and therefore I feel that I have some credibility when I say that the answer is more complicated than it may look at first glance–which is also worth considering as we evaluate current events and the impact of technology on communication.)

Photo by Theodor Horydczak, via Library of Congress (gift of Norma and Francis Reeves, 1973)

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