Advertising and Marketing Social Media Uncategorized

What are hashtags and how should I use them?

Over the last decade consulting hundreds of businesses and communications professionals on digital and social media communications – “What are hashtags and how should I use them?” have been two of the most common questions people ask. It has also become clear that many businesses that think they understand hashtags are actually not using them to their full potential. For that reason I put together a short and sweet summary to help you understand hashtags and how to use them to get more customers while engaging your current audience.

Snowboarding Sports

Snowboard Mag October 2011 – QR Code Battle: YES vs. Under Armour vs. Oakley vs. Volcom

The Deal: While developing a strong social media strategy and related QR code strategy for a client in Vancouver, BC I wanted to see how well other marketers were using those little bi-chromatic nuggets off audience inertia, QR Codes. Standing in front the latest issue of Snowboard Magazine, iPhone in hand, the opportunity presented itself to do some fieldwork. Within the first 8 pages I had all I needed: four ads, four codes from some old school rippers and some new players in the park: Volcom, Under Armor, Oakley and YES Snowboards. Let’s see how they shape up, in order of appearance: Volcom, Under Armour, Oakley and YES. If you have this magazine (or are near a 7 – 11) and a smart phone why not play along?

Volcom – Score 4/5

On Sight: In line with Volcom’s signature style to always do something a little bit different, everything but the rider in the ad was negative except the rider turning the snow blacker than a Sambuca slush-cat and the tree trunk whiter than well… snow. This and the rider’s bizzaro angle on the rail approach let me know things were out of the ordinary and made me want to know more. Fortunately hidden in the white trees was no… not said slush-cat but a QR code. Bonus point to Volcom for putting the code in this unusual spot, it was still noticeable, added rather than took away from the look and made me feel like I had discovered a little treasure box that needed to be opened with a bang of bandwidth.

On Scan: I was taken to a promotion specific landing page that showed the trick in full Technicolor. My questions were answered and I got to see some Volcom product in action. More importantly I was not pissed off at the advertiser, see below.

Under Armour – Score 2/5

On Sight: Quiksilver called, they want their look from 3 years ago back. The QR code was big and bold like the mark of the beast, no chance of missing it though, unfortunately…

On Scan: Holy bandwidth-burner batman. While a video is obviously going to take more bandwidth in the end at least I know what to expect when the preview screen loads (see the Volcom beauty above). With Under Armour I waited a while to see a bunch of little boxes slowly fill up until I could even tell what site I was on. All I could see was a whole lotta white, like driving behind a Mack Truck in Crowsnest Pass in a snowstorm. Guess the main site image was taking a while to load. Finally I could decipher it was the generic Under Armour snowboarding home page, at least I didn’t get dropped at the top level of the corporate site. I am in a giving mood so I’ll give them that.

Conclusion: Like in slopestyle, bad landing/bad score. I did not access any content complimentary to the ad itself on the landing page and I had to wait forever for it.

Oakley – Score 3/5

On Sight: Great photography, featured the product clearly, very editorial looking for this sort of mag, it almost tricking me into thinking the magazine had started. The QR code was bottom left and pretty straightforward. Not adding to the design but not taking away too much.On Scan: Possibly due to an IP redirect I was not taken to a campaign specific page (/jake1?). I was reading from Canada. Instead I hit the default Oakley page and while it featured a rather attractive female runner in shades it really took me out of the snow zone.

YES – Score 4.5/5

On Sight: Nice modern layout using the rule of thirds. Full-face portrait looking straight at the viewer, nothing like a face to catch attention especially when it is peering out at you as soon as you start to turn the page. The QR code is made to look less obnoxious with a minimal border and actually compliments the black box surrounding the logo be it deliberate or not.

On Scan: Saving the best for last like Kelly Slater in a ASP tour final YES delivered the goods. Scanning took me to a video of the same rider featured in the ad, talking about the features of the board from the ad. The whole think felt pretty Alice down the rabbit hole as I was digitally transported into the ad itself. Well done YES. This is the strongest example I say of how to use QR codes effectively.

Have any examples of great or horrible use of QR codes? Send ’em in! Or tweet me @trevorjurgens.

Social Media

To Blog or Not to Blog

The opportunity is rife for social media agencies to leverage blogging and walk the talk. Potential clients are proactively seeking out answers in the rapidly changing realm of social media and what better way to demonstrate your expertise and the value you provide than by playing Gordon Ramsay to their Kitchen Nightmare (with fewer expletives).

A corporate blog is a great place to answer questions for potential customers and start a relationship. There is nothing better than a free trial to get customers to act and that is possible through a blog. Think of it as a buffet of your best ideas that potential clients can test out and develop a taste for. This is not an all you can eat Smörgåsbord but a way to show you know your flan from your crème brûlée.*

On this site I offer a “one good idea guarantee” to anyone who wants to let me know their industry and social media or marketing challenge. This lets me demonstrate how I can help them with their digital strategy and I encourage other marketing professionals to do the same. Running a business? Fire away!

* Special Note: This sentence sets the new record on this blog  for “most foreign accents used” at 5. And use of asterisks at 1.


New Rules or No Rules in Social Media Marketing?

Triggered by Forbes’ Magazine article listing the “20 best social media campaigns of all time” but ultimately motivated by his love of the film itself and a tinge of ghoulish excitement leading up to Halloween, Chad Freeman, social media specialist for MassMedia Corporate Communications examined “The Social Media Lessons from the Blair Witch Project“.

online social media buzz blair witchI dug this post but don’t agree with everything that was written. While trying to add potency to his theory that the technique and execution of the campaign were more important than the film itself, the author attempts to rebuke two commonly held assumptions about what products can be successfully marketed virally:

1) products that are of great quality and essentially sell themselves
2) products that are new and novel so people talk about them naturally.

I will agree with the author’s and Rotten Tomatoes’ assessment that the film was not great. However, I would challenge his second assessment however that faux documentary films had been done before. To me, other than hearing stories of the War of the Worlds radio hysteria, for most of the BWP’s target audience, university and college students, it would have been the first time such an eerie but plausible story was presented to them in a way that lead you to believe it was authentic. And also, the larger Blair Witch story (which was the true product of the campaign as identified by the author) that three students had disappeared under mysterious/supernatural circumstances and that their experience was documented would have been novel and remarkable at any time.

Social Media

Pandas on a plane

My aim is that if this blog were a person, you would want to sit beside them on a long-distance flight because they’re friendly, funny, share the good section of the newspaper and know when to shut up. Life can be too serious. People are busy and if they are going to take the time to read, I need to at worst give them something to grin about and at best give them a new perspective, while grinning.

I write about communications, advertising, sports, food and media. So do a lot of other people. So, my words need to stand out from the herd like pink pandas. Friendly pink pandas you want to take home to be your pets. Communicating in a way that makes people take notice and then take action is my product and if I can’t do it for myself, how can I suggest I’ll do it for clients?

Plus, like attracts like and I want to work with fun companies, companies that are serious about not taking themselves too seriously. Companies like

Threadless’ fun loving and informal culture comes through in their social media campaigns. They even almost make myspace seem cool

Threadless is brief in their social media communications. They talk about the important things, like cool t-shirts and food. For a week all they really used Twitter for was to get street food trucks to set-up in front of their office so they could dine.

Crouching Tiger Stolen Panda.

Even when they are mad, Threadless is friendly. And smart about spreading the brand love. When one of their contributor’s designs was “appropriated” by a visual artist for a gallery show, they took effective action and blended it with a good dose of humour. Via a flash-mob they staged a silent protest. Most wore t-shirts featuring the stolen design, bar one who wore a full-size panda costume. They snapped some great pics and made sure to get them up in their flickr account. Of course the activation got mentioned in many other blogs because people don’t like cheaters and they love pandas.

Hopefully Threadless doesn’t forget their persona and their community as they continue to grow. Of late on Facebook they seem less neighbourly. Listening less and taking a longer time to respond to customer comments on the wall, sometimes not at all. They are becoming somewhat one-sided in the conversation, pushing recent promotions and products is becoming a bigger portion of their Twitter pie (where once meat-pies served from trucks were the order of the day). Their community is following suit, most posts are just plugs for individual designs trying to score enough votes to get printed. And last time I checked that type of banter is rarely grin inducing.