Avatar

Last month, the social networking site Twitter celebrated its 5th year of public use. Twitter reached popularity as it helped track wildfire updates in California, free an American student from an Egyptian jail, find gas during a shortage in Atlanta, track Mumbai terrorist attacks, and even break the news of the US Airways plane crash on the Hudson.

David Wells, Jr. Marketing Specialist/ Photographer

If you don’t know what people are talking about when they use words like tweeting, following, hashtag (#), mentions (@) or trending in the same sentence, you may not know exactly what Twitter is. Twitter is a social networking site that allows users to send short status updates to their friends – called followers. Users can also choose to follow other people—consisting of their friends, celebrities, companies and brands they like, TV shows and more. The status updates are generally 140 characters or less in length, but many tweets provide links to longer posts, websites, videos or other related content.

Recently Twitter surpassed 200 million users. The Women’s World Cup soccer match featuring the United States against Japan broke the ‘Tweets per second’ (TPS) record; the total number of tweets sent out across the entire platform. A record of 7,196 tweets per second were sent out at the end of the exciting and nail-biting match. In comparison, at the end of the 2011 Superbowl, a mere 4,064 TPS were sent.

Twitter grew rapidly in the past five years. In 2007, 400,000 tweets were posted per quarter, growing to 100 million tweets per quarter in 2008, and in February 2010, over 50 million tweets were being sent per day. Today, twitter users send over 200 million tweets each day.

Who uses Twitter?

Since the end of 2010, total Twitter users nearly doubled. According to an infographic created by Digital Surgeons, 55% of Twitter users are female with 45% male. The 26 to 44 age group makes up 57% of users. Of those who follow a brand, 67 purchase that specific brand—showing action. Some of our favorite top Twitter-using brands include Chevrolet, Southwest, Old Spice, Carnival, Home Depot and Starbucks. These top-name brands have great twitter strategies that engage their audience including customer service responses, tips, deals and insights to their brand.

Social media is a multiplatform tool to engage an audience and could include Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs, Flickr, FourSquare and more, depending on the goals and objectives of the strategy. It is increasingly more important for brands and businesses to have a clear and consistent message for their target audience across all platforms. The good news is, tools and applications are making this easier by allowing integration of the same messages across multiple platforms. For example, TweetDeck is an application that allows you to post updates to your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and FourSquare all at the same time. This ensures consistent messaging across your platforms. Also, Facebook posts can automatically link to your twitter account allowing your followers to be directed to your other social media platforms. Social media icons and links are showing up in print ads, television ads and even radio.

Social media, even though it’s still a new medium, allows businesses and brands to reach a broader audience in new ways, and those who are implementing good strategies are really seeing the benefits pay off.

Avatar

Social Media Day

abimaster

Thursday, June 30 commences Social Media Day presented by Mashable. This is “a day to celebrate the revolution of media becoming social.” Now the second annual, Social Media Day encourages offline ‘meet ups’ of a social community around the United States and also across the world. These ‘meet ups’ consist of organized panel discussions about social media influences or impromptu coffee house networking events, but Mashable says there is no wrong way to celebrate Social Media Day. During the first Social Media Day in 2010, more than 600 ‘meet ups’ in 93 countries took place. With the expansion of social media followers and users, the numbers for this year’s global event are expected to be much larger.

At A. Bright Idea, we plan to celebrate by keeping our own content flowing, and maintaining the latest in cutting edge social media for our business and our clients. A. Bright Idea stays current through news articles, blogs, Twitter and Facebook posts, videos, seminars, webinars and more. Some of our favorite industry sites: Mashable, CreativityOnline, AdvertisingAge, Adweek, Time Magazine, and Ragan.

Some cities across the globe are hosting organized Social Media Day events in an attempt to earn the title of Most Social City by Mashable. Burlington, Vermont is hosting several events, a scavenger hunt with top local businesses and ‘tweet ups’ in an effort to become the Most Social City. Phoenix, Arizona is hosting a blowout informal networking event at District American Kitchen and Wine Bar. New York, the city having the highest concentration of Twitter users, is hosting events throughout the city to “celebrate the technological advancements that enable everyone to connect with real-time information, communicate from miles apart and have their voices heard.” New York currently has the largest fan base for Social Media Day, based on their planned attendance at events. Other top cities across the globe include Sao Paolo, Brazil, Barcelona, Spain, and Antwerp, Belgium.

Current social media statistics are mind blowing, and anyone who thinks social media won’t make or break their business or brand should think again. Social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, FourSquare, LinkedIn, Myspace, Wikipedia and more, are changing the way we interact, share and gather information and spend our time, both personally and professionally. Even further, Smartphones allow users to stay connected to their network of friends, businesses and online data at all times through the Internet.

Social Media Facts

  • Facebook tops Google for weekly traffic in the U.S.
  • If Facebook were a country, it’d be the world’s 3rd largest
  • 95% of companies using social media for recruitment use LinkedIn
  • Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and Britney Spears have more Twitter followers than the entire populations of Sweden, Israel and Australia
  • GROUPON will reach $1 billion in sales faster than any company in history
  • YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world
  • Every minute, 24 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube
  • Wikipedia would be 2.25 million pages if it were a book
  • 90% of customers trust peer recommendations
  • 93% of marketers use social media for business
  • It took radio 38 years to reach 50 million users, TV 13 years, while Facebook added over 200 million users in less than a year.

* Statistics from Socialnomics video

Erik Qualman, author of Socialnomics, a book about how social media transforms the way we live and do business, put together his Social Media Revolution 3 video last week about the impact of social media on business and the globe:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0EnhXn5boM&feature=related

When we consider a clients brand, we realize that sometimes, social media enables businesses and brands to build online communities and share information from thousands to millions of online users and communities. Facebook allows the business to create a page to share information and build a community of followers. Twitter allows a business to share quick bits of information and @follow users similar to them and discuss #trends through tagging. The platform of YouTube allows businesses to share videos across the web. The outlets for sharing information on the Internet are almost endless.

With this new wave of technology becoming more popular over the past five years it remains crucial to understand how to effectively use this medium. With this continuing trend, Social Media Day exists as an outstanding way to celebrate the phenomenon and use social media outlets to plan events to celebrate this “technological holiday.”

Social Media Day website on Mashable: http://mashable.com/smday/
Follow on Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/mashSMday

Avatar
Melissa Mauldin, Senior Marketing Specialist - A. Bright Idea

We’ve all been there. Your food arrives cold, your online order ships and is different than it appeared on your screen (or three weeks after the estimated ship date and far too late), or the expensive piece of equipment you just bought brakes the first time you use it. Whether it’s a service or product based issue, we’ve all been disappointed by a company at one time in our lives. You may have complained to a manager or bravely took on a 2-hour on-hold session with the Customer Service Department. While it’s likely that some of you received a satisfactory result, I’ll bet for most of you even thinking about customer service mishaps initiate a twinge in the heart, just knowing how unbearably annoying the lack of service can be by a company’s attempts at rectifying an issue.

Now, thanks to social media, consumers have a broad stage to complain on and spread these bad experiences through word-of-mouth (or type-to-tweet) messaging. While some companies have taken the initiative to use these channels to effectively respond to customer complaints, others have shied away from the tool are finding that customers are also shying away from their brand.

In a recent article in American Marketing Association’s Marketing Researchers, Dr. Guy Winch, psychologist and author of The Squeaky Wheel: Complaining the Right Way to Get Results, Improve Your Relationships and Enhance Self-Esteem, discussed how today’s social media channels impact consumers’ complaining psychology.

Many consumers believe that companies could care less about their complaints. The article cited that only 5% of consumers voice a complaint to the company when dissatisfied with a product or service, meaning that 95% will not voice a complaint because they believe it requires too much time and effort. However, if you’re like most consumers, you’ll instead complain to your closest 15 friends/associates. Now, social media channels offer consumers the option to complain freely without involving too much time or effort, and by bypassing lengthy toll free calls and the fear of being put on endless hold or even disconnected when you’re transferred for the fourth time. Consumers have access to voice their complaints in a direct way, which also invites more and more people to do so – those who may not have normally responded to an issue before (impacting that 95%).

While social media is still considered “new” and most of us still have a negative perception toward customer service attributes in response to consumer complaints, some companies, like Wachovia (Wells Fargo) or Delta for example, do monitor these channels and use them as social media Customer Service Departments. They manage responses quickly and use the data in attempts to get better – and it’s visible. What’s more, these platforms offer businesses access to direct consumer feedback – what customers like, don’t like, what they are buying, what they aren’t, etc. It’s a free focus group!

In general, consumers have a good relationship with a business until something goes wrong. It’s up to the company to make it right and mend the relationship. Companies need to find out the details of the situation and show the customer that they are doing something about it. Rather than citing the return policy verbatim, businesses should offer a real heartfelt response and a sincere recognition of the pain a customer has gone through. Customers want to know that they’re heard. Even if their situation can’t be completely rectified, the manner in which it’s handled is the key. Social media makes it easy for customers to complain, but it’s the company’s responsibility to resolve the issue and convert the relationship. Responding to consumers via these channels with a message that says, “We hear you,” ‘We understand there is an issue,” or even “Here’s how to contact us” is just the first, but very important step.

In my November blog post I cited some interesting statistics from an article in Marketing News, which noted that people generate nearly 500 billion online impressions on each other in regards to products and services each year, and Nielsen Online estimates the total number of online advertising impressions comes in around just under two trillion. Now are you listening? In general, people tend to believe and associate themselves with the experiences of other people. If you’re not providing the service quality people expect, no matter how big your budget is and how much of an ingenious marketing campaign you develop, that word-of-mouth negativity can infringe on your brand and erode your profits if your not choosing to rectify these situations and promote that you’re doing so  – turning around those perceptions and making them brand advocates.

Today, we all expect instant gratification. Companies that are not responding to complaints made on social media through social media – or with plans to do so soon – may be impacted in the long run. Monitoring these tools will help businesses better understand their customers and be more attuned to their target audience. When companies do a good job of handling customer complaints and responds to them correctly, customer loyalty can increase exponentially – more so than if there was never an issue. The complaint response creates a story that the customer will share with all of their friends and acquaintances – and most important, it’s a story with a happy ending.

Avatar
Popular iPhone Apps

It seems that everyday someone new jumps on the iPhone or iPad bandwagon; talking about their new apps and the innovative and exciting capability they just acquired. Companies and agencies recognize this new medium to reach consumers, and some even created their own apps. But the true question is – how to do it effectively?

How can an organization reach their target audience through an app? It must be useful and optimize the brand all at the same time.

When contemplating the best way to launch an iPhone app, consider these suggestions to boost its success.

1) Clearly identify the target audience, and expectations
Like any marketing plan, identify the target audience and outline the expectations and objectives. Creating an app reaches an entirely new audience, and this form of mobile marketing is interactive, driven to cause consumers to act. Most importantly, do not confuse your wants with your target audience’s expectations. Ensure that your app clearly adheres to your brand.

2) Optimize your App’s Name
Recognize the importance of creating a concise name that communicates the purpose of your app to your target audience. Be clever and creative to cut through the static but hold true to what your app delivers.

Incorporate keyword phrases into description copy. Because pages get indexed within iTunes and then ranked by major search engines, do not use the app or company in the keyword descriptions. Utilize auto-suggested keywords since these optimize the search functionality.

3) Blog about it
Create buzz around the new app by blogging. Bloggers create a cyber environment that discusses the functions of the app, what it does and why they like it. Try and get ahead of the curve and start your own blogs before others begin writing about it. Create positive messaging and lay the groundwork for other bloggers and traditional media outlets.

4) Plan, Plan, Plan
Plan how to measure success of your app. Whether this involves financial success or overall awareness and recognition of your brand, a carefully crafted plan must be implemented and results monitored.

Now that we’ve shared our thoughts about creating apps, check out some of A. Bright Idea’s favorites:

• Trover
• Photosynth
• Facebook
• Pandora
• Fooducate
• Mashable!
• WalletZero

Avatar

Ali Blais, Junior Marketing Specialist

Welcome to the world of new media, where utilizing social media seems essential to stay relevant and up-to-date in business. Twitter’s key role in the media mix may feel a bit tricky; however, with some strategic planning, results indicate a highly effective addition to any marketing plan.

Twitter, a social networking and microblogging website, allows users to post 140 character status updates with little limit on content. Users can also  link to articles, other websites, video content and pictures. Currently, Twitter maintains 190 million users worldwide. Through the use of hashtags (#) and follow symbols (@), Twitter allows users to direct their messaging to a specific target, using groups or keywords.

Furthermore, Twitter promotes blogs through brief updates and links to outside resource pages. The ability to ‘retweet’ relevant information from other sources and pages aides in the dissemination of information to key stakeholders.

In an effort to simplify this tool, review these suggestions to help your brand gain credibility through Twitter.

1) How to “handle” a name

Just as important as a creative company name, a unique and concise Twitter handle proves essential. Your Twitter handle should reflect your company name or an abbreviation of that name. In order to avoid confusion, steer away from numbers in your handle as well as more than one underscore.

Personal Twitter accounts used for business purposes should consider a handle that references your name and industry.

2) Give them something to talk about

Utilizing Twitter to spread the word about your company or initiatives means exposing your brand. Sometimes, it’s not just what you send, but what other people say about you. Track discussion through retweets, trending topics and other forms of monitoring. Start by looking at the tab called “@Mentions.”  Initiate a conversation about your company; Twitter campaigns and keywords can sometimes create more exposure than traditional marketing plans.

Create a keyword using a hashtag (#). When searching the hashtag (#) you will see a detailed list of people talking about this topic. Make sure hashtags (#) are pertinent keywords that people will use and will generate buzz about your company or initiatives. Monitor statistics about your topics on sites such as Trendistic.com or set up Google Alerts for your keywords.

3) The whole is greater than the sum of its parts

As with any marketing plan, there are many aspects, and Twitter is no different. Pairing your Twitter initiative with other outlets such as Digg, StumbleUpon, Facebook, You Tube, Flickr, an RSS feed, blogs or even Foursquare, can optimize your reach. These other social mediums enhance the content you are sending out on Twitter, diversify your tweets and in some cases utilize a call to action.

4) Sometimes it’s good to be a follower

Adding a Twitter icon to your email increases awareness of your company and provides a direct outlet to disseminate information. Anyone receiving an email from your company will be able to view this link; therefore 50 emails sent could mean 50 new followers for your Twitter account.

Research ‘experts’ in your field to follow, see what they have to say, retweet and reply to these people. contributing to the conversation also helps gain exposure for your brand.

Beware of following everyone you see on Twitter. Many believe that following someone means they will reciprocate the follow. However, this isn’t usually the case. Many companies receive irrelevant follower requests from those just looking to increase their follower count. Make sure your followers have a vested interest in your company and you both can benefit from the network of information.

Avatar
David Wells, Junior Marketing Specialist/ Photographer

If you are like me, you usually research an area before you travel there. You also probably have a list of places you want to visit during your trips. I have been given the opportunity to travel a lot in recent years and am always looking for things to do, places to stay, where to eat and overall information about the areas I visit. This requires a lot of research, ‘Googleing’ or asking others who have been there for suggestions. A lot of time and effort is made in planning the perfect trip.

Sonoma County remains a huge destination for vacationers, wine lovers and families. Have you heard of SomethingAboutSonoma.com?

After opening A. Bright Idea’s west coast office, we recognized a need for an all-inclusive destination resource for one of California’s (and our favorite) tourist attraction – ‘Wine Country.’ While some good information can be found on the web about Sonoma County, A. Bright Idea knew there needed to be a single resource connecting users to the area businesses, giving them a feel for the area, all the things we love about the area, and all before a visitor steps foot in the county. This resource needed to be vibrant and visual, providing users the ability to view attractions and hotspots and map out their stay.

SomethingAboutSonoma.com was created for this purpose. It’s the premier destination resource for everything there is to know about Sonoma County. Launched in March 2011, SomethingAboutSonoma.com offers unique 360 degree panoramic views and videos from amazing locations all over the county. Users can get up-to-the-minute details on local businesses featured on the site with social media news feeds, read customer reviews and even look up specials. SomethingAboutSonoma.com features videos, an interactive map and much more.

Over the past month, I have been traveling to our Sonoma office frequently and meeting with businesses to introduce SomethingAboutSonoma.com. A. Bright Idea also had the opportunity to present the site at the Sonoma County Chamber of Commerce Business Expo and have been very happy with the results and feedback, some even noting, “we have been waiting for a site like this to come around!”

In today’s virtual world, many of us turn to online resources and social media sites for research and data. The elements of SomethingAboutSonoma.com ensure businesses create buzz in the social media world and enhance their reach to new target audiences, while offering online users the right information and a connection to the area – all found in a single source.

So what’s your something? Check out SomethingAboutSonoma.com to see this premier destination resource in action.

SomethingAboutSonoma.com window sticker outside a restaurant letting passersby know they belong to the site.
Avatar
Melissa Mauldin, Senior Marketing Specialist

While many businesses have decided to get their feet wet in the realm of social media (and yes, some are still hesitant), it’s apparent that some businesses do so without proper planning. Lack of planning causes wasted time and often includes inefficient methods. Social media, like any form of marketing for a business, must involve strategy.

As we all learned from the popularization of social media in 2009 and the enhancement of the medium in 2010, social media can be a truly efficient and effective way to communicate to stakeholders on a different level. It’s no longer a “new” medium, rather it is broadly being incorporated into business marketing plans and is a sought after resource in communicating businesses key messages, events, and product news and promotions directly with customers.

I recently came across a blog on socialmediatoday.com indicating the 12 reasons why businesses will fail at social media in 2011. Overall, many of the issues stemmed around businesses not incorporating social media as part of their strategic marketing plan. Rather, businesses attempted to use the medium because they thought they should get on board. Wrong. Below are a few tips to keep in mind to help businesses utilize this popular medium efficiently.

Understand the medium.

Social media is not a tool that’s going to fix a broken business or be the answer to down sales or a poor reputation. Social media will actually enhance these issues, if not conducted properly. Businesses need to have a true understanding of the medium and have a strategy in place before engaging.

Plan, plan, plan.

Businesses without a plan will fail. Otherwise known as Random Acts of Social Medial, or RASMs, no one can afford to waste time. Avoid the randomness and develop a strategy and appropriate messaging for utilizing this tool as part of your overall marketing plan. Think about the big picture as well as the logistics involved in the strategy. (i.e. What is our key message? Is our messaging appropriate for the audience? How much and how often? Will we develop any special events/promotions for this audience only? Who will manage our presence on social media sites? Who will have access? Do we have the manpower to devote one person to manage social media activity? If not, how can the workload be divided?)

Don’t expect too much too early.

Certainly, online resources provide data and feedback immediately upon entering this world. However, it takes time to understand the environment, engage with the audience and build a following that will respond, before determining the success or failure of this resource.

So, have you planned your social media participation strategically? This year, get on board with a strategic goal and action plan that’s in line and in support of your marketing efforts. Social media can help contribute to building your brand, as part of your overall marketing plan. Ensure you’re messaging correctly and devoting the resources needed to be successful in this ever-changing and continuously evolving medium. Don’t waste time.  There never seems to be enough anyway!

Avatar

Hello 2011

abimaster
Casey Hawes, Graphic/Interactive Designer, Illustrator

Hey 2011. It’s nice to meet you. I know we’ve only known each other a week, but I was hoping to ask you a few personal questions.

First, what kind of year do you see yourself being? Are you the energetic and fun-filled year we all hope you’ll be? Being the second year born in a decade long family, what lessons would you learn from your older brother 2010? I hope it involves less Snooki & Twilight.

Will you be the year that brings Baltimore another NFL Championship? That would certainly be a great start! Are you the year that will get the O’s back to .500? It’s a feat that none of your 2000’s relatives could achieve.

Oh and when you get older, have a mid-life crisis late in the summer, bring back football season like years previous so we still think you’re cool. Some say you won’t but I have faith in you.

If you could date any other year, who would it be? Last decade had some hotties. ’09 was literally the hottest. ’82 had some thrills. 2008 was full change. 2001 turned out to be a downer. Maybe you’re into the older years. 1776 was very independent. ’69 was very adventuresome.

There’s a lot of hype and expectations for you 2011. The entire world had a celebration at your birth! You may have noticed.

Well ‘11, I’m sure you will be filled with production and creativity so that we can grow our bright ideas during your tenure in the office of time.

Cheers,

A. Bright Idea

P.S. Will your younger brother 2012 really bring an end to all things? It’d be nice if you could talk him out of it. Thanks ’11.

Avatar

In the midst of this season of giving and reflection, I’m reminded of the many worthwhile organizations we had the pleasure of working with and supporting over the years. At A. Bright Idea, we all enjoy working with nonprofits and seeing our work contribute to better the community and help the individuals and families these organizations serve.

A cornerstone of our core values, we believe in giving our time and talents in the form of in-kind donations and serving in leadership positions. We can tell from the excitement in an executive director’s voice or from the turnout at a fundraising event that our design and marketing services were appreciated and helped make a difference. Even while helping these organizations solicit much needed donations that keep their doors open to serve deserving members of our communities, we also see other needs.

Even though these organizations are by definition nonprofits, they operate like a business, with all the associated expenses with running a business. Administrative leadership, staff, building expenses, insurance, technology, utilities, transportation and more can provide an overhead hardship to organizations struggling to funnel as much funding as possible to supporting their mission.

While many strive to offer their time as a volunteer staff member or even make that end-of-year monetary donation incentivized by tax credit, organizations remain burdened by the costs of services to keep everything running smoothly. This season, we encourage individuals and businesses to consider how they can lessen this burden to help improve a worthwhile nonprofit’s efficiency. Can you provide IT support or perform building maintenance? Mowing grass, painting, cleaning, website maintenance, accounting, answering phones – consider any of the things that keep a business ticking and consider letting your business make a difference for a nonprofit in your community.

Here are a few of the organizations we’ve supported in Harford County, Baltimore, Sonoma County and around the country. Connect with them today!

William E. Proudford Sickle Cell Fund
Website
Facebook
Twitter

The Fuel Fund of Maryland
Website
Facebook
Twitter

The Boys and Girls Clubs of Harford County
Website

The Greater Edgewood Education Foundation
Website
Facebook

Harford County Public Library Foundation
Website
Facebook
Twitter
Flickr
You Tube
Mobile app

Sonoma Valley Teen Services
Website

Semper Fi Fund
Website
Facebook
Twitter
You Tube

Avatar
David Wells, Junior Marketing Specialist/ Photographer

If you are an avid online shopper, you’ve probably heard about Cyber Monday, or at least see it splashed across the subject lines of emails from your favorite stores. Cyber Monday falls on the Monday following Thanksgiving and Black Friday, and refers to an online shopping day on which stores offer great online deals and discounts. A shopper who saw his or her favorite gifts in the stores over the weekend, but didn’t wake up early enough to snag one, can hit online sites to place their holiday orders – without all the lines and maybe even with free shipping.

While Black Friday allows stores to generate millions of dollars from the crazy amount of shoppers that bombard their stores, major retailers recently began to acknowledge the online shopping habits of their customers to get the real boost in revenue on Cyber Monday.

According to comScore, Inc. – a global leader in measuring the digital world – last year Cyber Monday alone generated $887 million, a five percent increase from 2008, and a number that matched the heaviest online shopping day ever- December 8, 2008. Since 2005, online shopping on Cyber Monday has increased over $425 million.

What’s funny about this, at least to me, is that 52.7 percent of Cyber Monday shopping was from work computers, a gain of 2.3 percentage points from the previous year. According to CareerBuilder, employers lost $580 million in productivity on Cyber Monday in 2008. They estimate that 43 percent planning to shop on Cyber Monday will spend at least one hour doing so from their workplace computer.

Some companies believe this is a moot point to try to stop employees from shopping from work, and some even encourage it. Employers would rather let an employee shop from their computer for an hour, then spend an extra long lunch break fighting the shopping crowds and traffic in the stores. Also, some employers believe it improves morale in the workplace by allowing employees to spend a little work time for personal use.

Online shopping and e-commerce sites have only been around since the mid 1990s and rapidly continue to grow. E-commerce and online sales sold more than $160 billion worth of merchandise in 2009.

We’ll have to wait and see if the trend for online shopping continues to grow this year as more and more consumers utilize new technologies and the Internet. This year, will the greatest volume of Cyber Monday shopping come from smartphones? Enough about the numbers, time to shop!