The “Fall” of Flickr Royalty

February 27, 2009 at 4:17 pm | Posted in Social Network Sites | 1 Comment
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Plagiarism on Social Network Sites

Rosie Hardy: Did She Cross The Line?I love Rosie Hardy. Every day, I check my contact list on Flickr to see if she’s uploaded a brilliant new picture because her work is truly breathtaking. This week, I was greeted with yet another wonderful piece by Rosie- but this one was accompanied by a sad story detailing her hiatus that she will be taking from Flickr. The reason?

The “Rosie Hardy Plagiarism” Blog

You can Google “Rosie Hardy plagiarism” if you want to read all the gory details, but to sum it up: Rosie copied/stole/was inspired by (depending on what side of the fence you sit on) other photographers’ work when creating a handful of her own. A Flickr member, known as Harry, called Rosie out on his blog over the past few days. He posted side-by-side comparisons of her work and the work of the original artists. With some, there is no argument- the photos are undeniably similar. Others, it’s hard to say. Could it have been coincidence? If not, where is the line drawn between creative inspiration and plagiarism on the Internet?

Plagiarism in the Age of the Internet

Flickr, Photobucket, Shutterfly, Snapfish… there are tons of photo-sharing websites on the Internet, and millions upon millions of members on each site. With all of these pictures on the Web, how can one keep track of them to make sure they’re not being used illegally? And what constitutes illegal?

Right around Valentine’s Day, I saw dozens of pictures posted on Flickr which featured heart shadows created by a ring. Did each of those people plagiarize each other? Or did they take inspiration from another’s photos? Or did they coincidentally discover that inserting a ring into the binding of a book causes a heart shadow on the same day?

How about all the people who have ever written something across their knuckles and snapped a shot? Copycats? Does it depend on what they write?

See where I’m going with this?

So where do we draw the line? And how do we monitor all of the information that’s out there? The Internet is a glorious thing, but it also opens the door to issues that never existed before. With so many people interconnected, can there ever be true originality ever again? Or has everything already been done and posted on the Web?

Whatcha think?


“Separate but Equal” Campaigns?

February 26, 2009 at 12:01 pm | Posted in Campaigns | Leave a comment
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Marketing to minorities: ethical or not?

When I first started thinking about it, I had no qualms with a company creating a separate marketing campaign to target minority groups. The “Me Encanta” campaign from McDonalds seemed harmless enough, translating slogans and catch-phrases into Spanish and featuring Hispanic men, women and children in their advertisments. They have a different culture, so why not celebrate that in a McDonald’s campaign?

Well, the problem lies in the fact that when a company creates a campaign around a specific ethic group, they are in a sense segregating them from the rest of Americans. Is it: They’re Hispanic, they have a different culture than White Americans, they need a different campaign designed for them. Or, is it: Let’s celebrate their culture and speak to them in a way that they will appreciate.

I think there is a very fine line drawn here between celebrating and honoring the diversity in our country and furthering the separation of minority groups from the rest of America. Many students in my class have suggested the use of “culturally senstive professionals” to oversee these sort of campaigns to make sure they are not offensive in any way. During a time when the minority populations of America continue to grow at an increasing rate, I think this is an exceptional idea. Having someone on staff that would be able to communicate which ideas perpetuate stereotypes, and which actually speak to the members of the minority communities would be invaluable.

I’m interested to hear your opinions on this topic. What do you think?

Mobile Marketing at Trade Shows

February 24, 2009 at 8:20 pm | Posted in Mobile Marketing | 1 Comment
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Who would have thought the WasteExpo would be the first event I see mobile marketing being used in my industry?

The WasteExpo is a trade show for the waste management industry, to be held in sunny Las Vegas this year. Yes, I tried to sign up as a trip chaperone. No, I don’t actually want to check out the new garbage trucks on the market. Besides the fact that it’s in VEGAS, there’s another reason I’m really interested in this show: they’re using mobile marketing!

Yesterday afternoon, I received the show’s Marketing Handbook, which outlines all of the marketing and advertising opportunities available surrounding the show. The usual list rentals, logo display and event sponsorship opportunities were available… as was a “Mobile Marketing” opportunity.

A little excerpt from the handbook:

Reach a new generation of industry buyers who rely on mobile marketing for their communications needs.

Through WasteExpo’s new mobile marketing program, you can alert WasteExpo 2009 attendees of the following:

  • Activities in your booth
  • Show Special Promotions and Giveaways
  • Invitations to Hospitality and VIP Events

When the show attendees arrive, they will be greeted by signs instructing them to “sign up” for alerts by texting a code from their cell phone. Throughout the day, our company can send offers, up to 160 characters in length, to those attendees who have signed up.

The cost: $500 per message.

Is it worth it?

It’s new, it’s exciting, and it’s easy. Plus, this new technology may entice attendees who normally wouldn’t leaf through the exhibitor brochure’s advertisements. Increasing booth traffic through the use of mobile marketing will increase the number of prospects we receive, therefore increasing the number of sales we’ll eventually make.

Additionally, calculating an ROI for this marketing effort would be easy. Make one sale as a GPS tracking provider, and you’ve paid for the investment three times over.

I think it’s a really interesting idea to introduce mobile marketing to trade shows. It really lays the groundwork for what’s to come with these industry shows in the future. The attendees want to get as much information as possible from the companies they are interested in while they are there. Having access to time-sensitive information about booth events, presentations and demonstrations will greatly improve the attendee’s experience at these shows.

Introducing Via…on Twitter!

February 22, 2009 at 9:41 pm | Posted in Web 2.0 Strategies | 1 Comment
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Starbucks' New Via Instant Coffee Line, Announced on Twitter

Starbucks' New Via Instant Coffee Line, Announced on Twitter

On February 17th, I loaded up my TweetDeck thinking it would be like any other day on Twitter. Some inappropriate jokes, some celebrity gossip, maybe even some pictures of a photographer otter. But, no, it was not like any other day.

9:53 a.m.

Starbucks announces on Twitter that it’s now offering INSTANT COFFEE in my state. Ok, ok, maybe it’s not as earth-shattering as the Rihanna/Chris Brown situation but still, this is a big step for Starbucks. My interest in the Starbucks tweet was not that they were announcing the brand, because there were emails and press releases that also went out. What I was very interested in was how Starbucks used their Twitter account throughout the day to answer consumers’ questions, offer free samples, and share pictures of the Via events.

Starbucks understands the power of social media, especially instantaneous sites such as Twitter. Those companies who are auto-following everyone who won’t block them, sending out 1-way advertising messages are NOT using Twitter to their advantage. In fact, they are becoming the new age spammers. But Starbucks has a solid understanding of the power social media in a marketer’s hands: it is the ultimate customer relationship tool. Use it wisely to answer questions, create buzz and involve customers with your brand and you’ll hit a home run.

Oh, and by the way- I ordered my free sample of Via. I’ll let you know how it is =)

Six Flags Goes Mobile!

February 12, 2009 at 1:08 pm | Posted in Mobile Marketing | 6 Comments
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Not really, but it would be a cool idea.

Six FlagsMobile marketing is a pretty neat thing. Being able to reach an audience that’s on the go is becoming increasingly important as the younger generations become more mobile.

While talking about mobile marketing during this week’s class discussion, I started thinking about companies that could potentially use mobile marketing to their advantage. The companies who could benefit most would be those companies whose target market needs information but is not in front of a computer.

Six Flags could definitely use mobile marketing to their advantage. With the goals of improving the customer experience by providing useful information, as well as increasing interaction with their customers, Six Flags could enact the ultimate mobile marketing campaign.

Here’s what I came up with:

When a visitor entered the park, billboards and posters can be displayed which encourages them to text “ACTIVATE” to “6FLAGS” to begin receiving the following information:

  • Ride closures/delays
  • Limited time sales at concession stands and souvenir shops
  • Giveaways such as free tickets for their next visit, free upgrade to a Flash Pass, free lemonade, etc.
  • Video ads of the top coasters in the park
  • Proximity messaging through strategic kiosks throughout the park, sending information about the closest rides and concession stands

In addition, visitors could download an interactive map application which uses the GPS signal from their cell phone to show them exactly where they are in the park. Six Flags could then use this information to determine heavy traffic areas, which could be used as support for future park development and restructuring.

When leaving the park, visitors could either text “DONE” to “6FLAGS” to end the text messages, or they could text their email address to receive future promotions from the park.

Is this something you would be interested in? In my head, it’s a brilliant idea but I want to hear other peoples’ opinions!

Spam- It’s What’s For Dinner!

February 10, 2009 at 4:18 pm | Posted in Email Marketing | Leave a comment
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MMM Spam!

The advent of the Internet in the 1990s was a great thing. The current interconnectedness of the world, efficiency of the workplace and speed of news distribution can all be attributed to it. Personally, I can’t picture my life without the ‘Net, personally and professionally.

90% of my work day revolves around my computer: emailing, managing our PPC account, sending electronic newsletters to customers, researching competition. You name it, I’m doing it on the Internet. (Ok, maybe not everything…don’t worry, Dad.) What I mean is that we hold meetings online, we can chat face-to-face with clients across the world, and we’re able to retrieve and disperse information instantaneously.

In my personal time, I’m constantly uploading pictures to Flickr, chatting with friends on Facebook, reading some hilarious blogs, updating my Twitter status, or wasting hours playing this game. (don’t try it if you’re competitive and you have less than an hour of spare time lol)

Oh, the glories of the Web!

But is it all sunshine & fairy dust?

fairy dust!With the rise of the Internet came the rise of identity theft and spam. I’m sure they are 2 things the world could have lived without. Because of the poor actions of few, many spend time defending the security and legitimacy of business conducted over the Web. (Side note: according to Wikipedia, 80% of spam is sent by fewer than 200 spammers!)

When I send out an electronic contract to customers, asking for a digital signature capture, there is almost always some sort of question about the security of it.

When I ask customers for their email address to send over a newsletter, they want to know what it will be used for. They are worried about their inbox being flooded with spam…and I can’t blame them! Wikipedia states that in June 2007, 100 billion pieces of spam were sent out each day! That means 90% of all incoming email traffic at the time was spam.

CAN-SPAM, Can you Spam, Spam-a-lot, Spam in a Can?

In 2003, the CAN-SPAM Act was passed which helps the FTC to regulate the transmission of spam and pornography through email. E-mailers are now required to include a valid return address and opt-out information on all commercial email messages that are sent. Although the act was designed to prevent spam, there are no provisions in the Act which require e-mailers to get permission before sending marketing messages. This doesn’t mean it’s a free-for-all if you’re running a legitimate and ethical business, though. (See my thoughts on “opt-in” below.)

Since the CAN-SPAM Act was signed, technological advancements by ISPs have reduced the number of spam messages that users actually see. Many spam messages are trapped in spam filters, keeping inboxes (relatively) clear. Needless to say, you still get that occasional email from Viagra or the Prince of Nigeria. And even though the amount of spam Americans receive has leveled off, they are still skeptical about email marketing- unless they have requested it.

What’s in the future for marketers?

No SPAM!Opt-in email marketing: it’s as simple as that. Ask your audience for their permission before sending emails. Whether you collect their information on your website, as they become a customer, from an email they send to you- make sure you ask them for permission before sending out a marketing message.

In addition to getting your customers’ permission to send them emails, let them know what the value is! A customer will be much more willing to release their personal info if they are getting something of value out of it.

Sending a newsletter? Let them know that they’ll learn tips & tricks about the software they’re using. Sending coupons? Tell them that they’ll be saving money on the products they already buy. Sending press releases? Let them know they’ll be the first to know about breaking news about the company. A customer’s information is a valuable commodity for marketers- it will not just be given up without a trade-off.

Something else to consider is frequency of emails. Every 3 months? The customer will forget your company. Every 3 hours? You will have more un-subscribe requests than you can handle. Take a lesson from Victoria’s Secret and understand that the customer does not want to receive multiple emails from you every day. If possible, ask your recipients how often they would like to receive emails from your company…and then follow those recommendations!

Although email marketing has gotten a bad reputation due to spam, there is still a way to use it correctly and see a good ROI:

  1. Ask for permission
  2. Provide value
  3. Don’t bombard them

I’m interested to hear what other marketing professionals think about email marketing. Have you run into any problems? Have you seen an incredible ROI with this method? What are your thoughts?

Saying Bye-Bye to Hard Copies?

February 9, 2009 at 7:37 pm | Posted in New Technology | Leave a comment
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Oooh, look at that gorgeous peice of technology!

Oooh, look at that gorgeous peice of technology!

Today, Amazon introduced the second generation electronic reader, Kindle 2. Much like its predecessor, the Kindle 2 functions as an all-in-one magazine/book/newspaper/blog reading device. By “purchasing” a book, newspaper, magazine or blog through Amazon, Kindle owners can have electronic versions uploaded to their devices within seconds. And with enough memory to hold 1,500 books, the Kindle 2 is literally a hand-held library.

Most of us would cringe at the thought of reading an entire novel on a computer screen: the eye strain would most likely cause legal blindness. Not fun. Developers of the Kindle took this into consideration, and according to Amazon:

Kindle 2 is purpose-built for reading with a high-resolution 6-inch electronic paper display that looks and reads like real paper, which lets users read for hours without the eyestrain caused by reading on a backlit display.

What does this mean for hard copy?

Why, oh why, would a person want to tote around paperbacks when they can have their entire library at their fingertips on a Kindle? Well, there are a few reasons:

  • Cost– the Kindle comes in at $359. Not exactly a bargain in this economic situation.
  • Battery Life– although Amazon claims extended battery life, many testers found the battery draining to halfway after a day of intermittent reading. Your hardcover isn’t going to die on ya.
  • Availability of Titles– not everything is available on the Kindle. I’ll give it to Amazon, they do have an incredible selection but it’s not perfect.
  • The Feel of a Book– or a newspaper, or a magazine. There’s something nice about curling up with an actual book on a rainy Sunday. For some reason, I don’t think an electronic version will be as, well, cozy.
  • Borrowing– you can lend a paperback to a friend while you read another. Not the case with the Kindle. You buy it, it’s yours. No sharing. If Amazon allowed you to “lend” the title to other Kindle users, I would be impressed.

Overall, it’s a pretty cool product. I have a feeling that a couple years down

Have no fear, library. You'll be around a little longer.

Have no fear, library. You'll be around a little longer.

the road, Amazon will work out the kinks (slow page turning, battery life, cost, etc.) and a far superior product will emerge. I don’t think hard copies have anything to worry about until then. I don’t forsee enough people wanting to shell out $359 for something when they can borrow a book from the local library for free, pay $1 for the newspaper, or read a blog on the computer for free. Let’s talk again when the Kindle 5 comes out.

The sky is falling! How to handle the blogosphere when the roof caves in.

February 5, 2009 at 5:01 pm | Posted in Web 2.0 Strategies | Leave a comment
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Were you on Twitter the day the music died for Motrin? In November 2008, Motrin posted an online ad on their website, chronicling the phenomenon of “baby wearing.” Using one of those little kangaroo pouches no doubt puts some strain on a mother’s back and neck, so what’s the problem?

The last line in the ad: “so if I look tired and crazy, people will understand why.” So….mom’s look crazy with their baby sling on? Not such a good idea, Motrin- don’t, I repeat: DON’T piss off the mommy market.

What ensued afterward was an all out uprising of mommies all over the Internet. Within hours, the most tweeted subject was #motrinmoms. Videos of outraged moms appeared on YouTube. Bloggers asked followers to boycott the brand. Did I mention this all occurred within a few hours?

#motrinmoms spread like wildfire across the Internet.

#motrinmoms spread like wildfire across the Internet.

When the ad agency who created the video ad was questioned, they admitted they didn’t know much about Twitter. Essentially, they had no idea that the brand they represented was being torn to shreds by the public, simply because they were not in tune with technology.


A Word to the Wise: Know Your Audience!

Motrin obviously knew that Moms are part of their target audience. What they didn’t know was that Moms have become ever-present on the Internet as of late. They blog about their children, they connect with other mommies on Twitter, and they start groups on social networking sites. Motrin made a tremendous mistake by not knowing this- they were not able to be prepared for what happened.

The Internet has dramatically changed the world of public relations, and more specifically crisis communications. The Web has given everyday people a platform to speak their opinion, find like-minded people, and wage an all-out war against companies. This doesn’t mean that all companies need to be terrified of Web 2.0. It simply means they need to be aware, and prepared.

Understand that the blogosphere and the world of social networking allows information to be exchanged instantaneously and to many people at once. Re-tweeting, posting to Digg, and linking in a blog can spread information faster than a, um, “cold” in a college dorm. Google Alerts and RSS feeds add to the speed at which news travels on the Web.

Bottom line: technology continues to evolve, and if marketers and public relations practicioners do not get on board, they’ll be left in dust wondering what in the world just hit them.

Calling All Designers!

February 2, 2009 at 2:07 pm | Posted in Web 2.0 Strategies | 5 Comments
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Need a website designed? Want a new logo? Not sure who you want to work with?

Put the job out for bid on!

99-designs-quote199designs utilizes the latest R&D method available: crowdsourcing. According to Wikipedia, “crowdsourcing is a neologism for the act of taking a task traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people or community in the form of an open call.” In laymen’s terms: it’s allowing the public to help a company in research, development and product design.

Using Web 2.0 For New Ideas

How would you like that gentleman in the front to design a new logo for you?

Companies like 99designs take full advantage of the concept that the world is flat by allowing people all over the world to connect and collaborate. Coordinating with people all over the globe means that the most creative ideas can finally come together in one place: the Internet.

But how do the creatives feel about the ability to collaborate like this?

99designs, founded by some SitePoint guys, uses inane web 2.0 vernacular (“crowdsourcing”), deceivingly open-armed design (“oh look, it’s a paper airplane icon! tee-hee!”), and the thin veil of “contests” to come across as a legit alternative to traditional business practices.

According to this post by Kevin Potts on graphicPush, 99designs is the anti-christ who steals the blood, sweat and tears from real graphic designers for a measly $200. His argument is valid: sites like 99designs cheapens the art of graphic design for everyone. The designs submitted are based on a creative brief created by the client, but the designer never has the chance to meet the client, learn about the business, and get a feel for the company’s brand.

As we’re learning in the IMC Program, cohesiveness in a brand is imperitive. So maybe these sites ARE the anti-christ? Or maybe they’re a great alternative for a start-up company without much expendible cash? The jury is still out.

What are your thoughts on crowdsourcing design work? Is it the next big thing, or is it destined to strip the world of talent as Potts argues?

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