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Melissa Mauldin, Senior Marketing Specialist, A. Bright Idea

Think about a good customer experience you’ve had: how elated you were and happy to share the news with your peers! In a world where we’re surrounded by negative-toned news, we often feel overjoyed when someone does something nice for us.

I recently had a nice experience with the online discounter, Groupon. I purchased a Groupon offer as a gift for my sister-in-law but later found out the retailer was not meeting Groupon’s criteria (obviously Groupon received complaints from people attempting to use their coupon for services and were not getting what they were promised) and as a result, Groupon provided a refund to everyone who purchased the coupon and they stopped offering the deal. I was so impressed with the fact that Groupon took care of me, when I called my sister-in-law to tell her that her gift no longer worked I explained how great Groupon had been – and how awful the retailer must have been to have Groupon nix the deal for everyone. Customer service in this case elevated my perception and loyalty to Groupon, but it also made me an advocate of how providing bad customer service can bite you.

When you have bad experiences (and those seem to stick out more than the good ones) they leave a taste in our mouths that you’re only too happy to share with your friends and neighbors. Add social media to the mix and now your interactions with bad customer service are known to millions of people.

An article in the recent issue of Marketing News cited that people generate nearly 500 billion online impressions on each other in regards to products and services each year. It went on to say Nielsen Online estimates the total number of online advertising impressions comes in around just under two trillion. Put that together and you could say people are generating around one-fourth as many impressions on each other as the entire marketing industry is generating. Now, taking that into consideration, who are you most likely to believe – a user of a product or service, or the company that provides it?

While testimonials are nothing new as a method of marketing for businesses, they become increasingly effective in the online age – prone to stimulate greater impressions among viewers – when they are honest responses from an end user and customer. When your business considers its marketing and advertising plans for the coming year, it’s important to check up on your operational touchpoints to ensure your customer experience lives up to your brand promise.

Ensure you have the resources and training to provide good customer service. Laying the groundwork will support the marketing messages communicated to your intended audiences, thereby increasing the brand loyalty and continued growth via word of mouth and blog to blog.

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David Wells, Junior Marketing Specialist

I recently returned from a 10 day whirlwind trip to Europe with visits to Dublin, London, Paris and Rome. Although I could write about a million different topics or events, including the crazy drivers and insane amount of mopeds, people knowing how to speak more languages than I could wish for, how everything is just plain older, how Europeans travel way more than Americans, how Europeans work way less than Americans, or how I probably looked like an idiot sprinting through Kings Cross Station in London to catch my train to Paris. Instead, I really want to write about my love and hate of modern technology.

I am a photographer by nature. I love taking pictures, and I take pictures of anything and everything. I started taking pictures many years ago using film cameras, and have used all kinds of cameras since then. I’m pretty savvy when it comes to technology, especially cameras, so figuring out how to use each one is never a hard task. I’m the person my friends come to when they are having trouble with their camera or want to know how to shoot a picture on a certain setting, or which setting would work best. In the days of film and disposable cameras, you thought about each and every shot you took and spaced out your clicks because you had a definite limitation to the number of pictures you could take. I didn’t really have such a limitation on my 10-day trip, but probably could have used one.

Ten days. How many pictures do you think I took? If you guessed in your head, you’re probably wrong, and you probably underestimated.

I took more than 2,600 pictures on my Canon SLR. That does not include the pictures and videos on my Kodak waterproof camera or the images I deleted on the fly if I knew I didn’t like the shot. This amount of pictures used over nine gigabytes of memory. I know… I have a problem.

I encountered lots of interesting things to take pictures of in these incredible cities, but, it was still too many pictures.

Modern technology is great because you can sort of take an unlimited amount of pictures and don’t need to worry how many pictures of the same thing you take (ahem, Eiffel tower), because you can just choose your favorite one later and delete the rest.

Thankfully, with all the advancements in computers, cameras and the internet, I can take this amount of pictures, not worry about the cost of prints, and share over the internet via multiple social media outlets including Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, blogs like this and more.

While I still appreciate an actual printed photograph, accessing all of your old pictures is becoming a lot easier with a few clicks of a mouse without digging through boxes, piles or albums of photographs.

Now we get to why I hate modern technology. It takes an incredible amount of time to download, sort and edit all of these photos! And, who wants to look at that many pictures anyway? Even I got sick of going through them and I was the one on the trip! I’m still working on narrowing this number down to a manageable amount so I can share with my family and friends, and by that time, no one will care about my trip anymore.

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Melissa Mauldin, Sr. Marketing Specialist

I recently saw a news report that discussed how the public is becoming increasingly aware and more concerned about their online persona than their “real-life” persona. While it was shocking to hear this at first (“hello, we live in the real world!”) as I thought about it more, it made more sense. Your online persona can be potentially viewed by millions of people, whereas you may only interact with a few hundred or so. How you appear to millions of people versus how you appear in your immediate interactions might allow for some additional pressure.  This obviously not only affects one’s personal image online, but has potential risks and opportunities for businesses to take note.

An article on American Public Media’s Marketplace discussed how consumers are getting more and more accustomed to providing businesses information about themselves and their friends through that ubiquitous little “Like” button on Facebook. Who wouldn’t want to give a “thumbs up” to their favorite salon, soft drink, clothing store, politician, bank or dare I say it…advertising firm!

The “Like” button is a tremendous tool for businesses. When you as a consumer “Like” something, you are endorsing that company or product. You’re notifying the business that you are someone interested in what they have to say, you like what they sell, not to mention that you’re informing all of your (thousands) of closest friends that they should take note and interest too. One example mentioned a scenario that sounds not hard to believe:

“Say I’m searching for an Italian restaurant…If I see seven of my friends all like one restaurant, I’m going to go there and I don’t care what else is on a search engine.”

While Google may not like this, this is an important opportunity for businesses to take note. Social media is continuing to encroach on our world. People are turning more and more to social media for referrals. Your online presence will continue to be an important aspect of your business persona and should be an increasing focus of your marketing strategy.

While we all still live in the real world and relationships have and will continue to drive business, how we utilize the marketing tools available to spread the message and build relationships in new ways will help businesses move the needle and evolve in this ever-changing and competitive market. The online accessibility through social media allows us to communicate to our potential audiences and their “friends.” However, it’s worth noting that in order to be successful, our online persona must match our “real-life” persona.

Reference: Marketers like that you “Like,” American Public Media, Oct. 1, 2010, http://bit.ly/bpXrtv

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Sarah West
Sarah West serves as A. Bright Idea's Government Public Affairs Specialist.

“OK, at 9:00 tonight we have to stop what we’re doing and talk about the wedding,” I said to my fiancée last night, who was studying the muscles of the shoulder online, in between refreshing the Oriole’s game to check the score, while he played with the cat. Meanwhile, I was breading a pork chop according to the healthy recipe I had pulled up on my laptop, holding a highlighter in one hand, ready for the proposal I was reading, all the while taking breaks to listen to the evening news and keep up on email. As the clock approached 11 p.m., I said we’re going to have to reschedule wedding planning to tomorrow night – he grunted his acknowledgement.

According to a recent article in the Chicago Tribune “Researchers studied 1,100 workers at a British company and found that multitasking with electronic media caused a greater decrease in IQ than smoking pot or losing a night’s sleep.”

Maybe that explains why I have completely expunged the process of long division from my brain?

In today’s media world, you have to multitask. There is no getting around it. According to a recent study by Ball State University,The average American spends more time using media devices —television, radio, iPods and cell phones — than any other activity while awake.”

I have found myself very annoyed lately by people who insist on vigorously thumbing through their Blackberry or iPhone while we wade through a lengthy conversation, peppered with “What was that you said?” or “Huh?”

Sometimes, we can be our own worst enemy in our quest for constant information. Although the workload won’t change, our approach can. I felt refreshed today putting an actual pen to real paper to capture my “to do” list and stopped skimming my email to focus on a live conversation with a colleague and noticed not one “huh?” kept the conversation to a few minutes instead of several.

Although the mantra “one thing at a time” may be dead in today’s society, perhaps we can all at least try just two things at a time.

Now I’m going to go practice a few long division problems.

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Social Media Today
www.socialmediatoday.com

I remember wondering early in my career, as blogs emerged, how many people would really undertake the responsibility of writing and maintaining a website devoted to their own musings or watchdog tactics, and how many blogs would keep readers’ interest. Of course, anonymity was a plus, but could bloggers really develop a loyal following?

More than 12 years after the introduction of the blogosphere, blogs are alive and well as bloggers create niches and everyone from corporate executives to mom and pop at the shop on Main Street begin to grasp the value of starting a dialogue and engaging multiple viewpoints.

Technorati tracked more than 112 million blogs in 2008, which provides a pretty succinct answer to my one-time question about who would carry the blog flame throughout cyberspace. And of course, blogs have loyal followers as evidenced by commenters and repeat commenters. It’s still difficult to track the exact demographic of loyal blog readers, yet highly targeted topics and analytic software can track hits and impressions.

Now, other technology makes it increasingly easy for us to share blogs that we read regularly and even those that we stumble upon and want to share. Sure, we can subscribe to a blog’s RSS feed to catch up on our RSS Reader or sign up for email notifications when a new post is made. But with the integration of more than one million websites on the Facebook Platform – including two-thirds of comScore’s U.S. Top 100 websites and half of comScore’s Global Top 100 websites according to Facebook – receiving updates on new blog posts as part of your news feed or sharing via the Like button nails the “touch it once” rule suitable for both organizing your desk and managing a busy social media network.

Around the agency, we value blogs on industry news and cutting-edge trends. We’re inspired by art techniques and the clever integration of the verbal and visual because it’s what we do! We also appreciate the quirky and downright creative. Enjoy a few of our favorites and look forward to exploring a few of yours.

Social Media Todaysocialmediatoday.com

Useful nuggets of info on social media that we can implement immediately plus valuable resources too

Message With A Bottlemessagewithabottle.tumblr.com

A freelance writer turned stay-at-home dad armed with a pen, post-it notes and hysterical observations about “the kid.”

Beast Pieces, Blog of Studio on Fire – www.beastpieces.com

Hybrid design and letterpress concepts from the Studio on Fire workspace in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Dralin Design Co. – www.draplin.com

Satirical approach to the daily life of designers who love what they do

Stuff No-One Told Me –  stuffnoonetoldme.blogspot.com

Comic strip-style blog with new lesson or saying for each day

All Businesswww.allbusiness.com

Compilation of bloggers on business intelligence, small business, finance, operations, sales and technology

Catalogue Livingcatalogliving.tumblr.com

“A look into the exciting lives of the people who live in your catalogs.”

Daily Hellerwww.printmag.com/dailyheller

Commentary on graphic design pieces from industry expert, Steven Heller

Designwww.design.org

A blog about anything and everything design

Woot! The Blog –  www.woot.com/blog

Information on technology and technology based products

Designer Dailywww.designer-daily.com

Design inspiration and resources for industry professionals

Think Designthinkdesignblog.com

Designer blog with freebies, resources and inspiration

The Daily Reckoningdailyreckoning.com

A veteran blog, giving advice for how to live well in uncertain times

Felt & Wirewww.feltandwire.com

Impressions from the paper-obsessed

Lifehackerwww.lifehacker.com

Better living through technology

A List Apartwww.alistapart.com

Critical thinking, industry trends and fantastic tutorials for designing on the web

DC Radio and Televisiondcrtv.com

Information/gossip on the media scene

Simply Recipessimplyrecipes.com

Food blog for easy meals–beautiful pics too!