#WorldBookDay: See Inside the Blanc & Otus Team’s Bookshelf

It’s World Book Day and we thought we would celebrate by sharing our favorite books. Some of them date back to our high school days; others have stuck with us since as far back as elementary school, but each one means something special.

Danielle Tarp, Vice President: It’s too hard to choose, so I’ll give you two – one oldie and one a bit newer. Oldie: John Steinbeck, Grapes of Wrath. It’s rustic and well written. Newbie: Erik Larson, Devil in the White City. WOW, just WOW, and now Leo is making a movie of it, so obviously it must be good.

Neil McAllister, Director, Content and Media: Don Quixote de la Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes. It’s a rich, compelling, episodic story on the theme of remaining sane in an insane world — or vice versa. It’s also widely considered to be the first true novel ever written.

Sophie Sieck, Senior Account Executive: Most of the books I read are truly embarrassing, but one I’ve held close to my heart is A Million Little Pieces by James Frey. Despite the controversy surrounding its factual integrity, it’s a true, very harrowing look into the reality of addiction that I found riveting. The sequel, My Friend Leonard is great as well.

Chris Navalta, Account Supervisor: Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom is my all-time fave!! It’s a story of friendship, compassion and wisdom… and it was written by a sports guy!

Allison Barry, Intern: The Great Gatsby, because it’s a perfect mixture of romanticism and realism; also, Leo DiCaprio is Jay Gatsby IRL *heart eyes emoji*

Cate DeBenedictis, Intern: To Kill A Mockingbird. Harper Lee showed what kindness, humanity and a genuine sense of being looks like when forced to consider the status quo, or doing what is right. Also, because Scout Finch is an OG feminist.

Jay Anderson, Vice President, Analyst Relations: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami; amazing novel that mixes fantastical characters, a detective mystery, WW2 history, jazz records and the best way to cook spaghetti. Thinking about it makes me want to read it again!

Jen Smith, Account Supervisor: Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness, because it’s the ultimate medical mystery. It’s an eerie, sad, educational and so unbelievable that an autoimmune disease could cause a totally normal 24 year old girl to go insane. The brain is a crazy place.

Annemiek Hamelinck, General Manager: Any Gabriel Garcia Marquez book but especially One Hundred Years of Solitude; such an immensely beautiful tale that brings together every imaginable emotion, and then some.

Christine Pai, Senior Account Executive: The Little Prince. What seems to be a children’s book at first glance actually teaches you very applicable life lessons: be open-minded, importance of adventure, give more than you take.

Julia van Broek, Associate Account Executive: This is so hard! I have so many, but ok I’ll pick one. My current favorite is Flight of the Silvers by Daniel Price. It’s got all the stuff I love: two strong and smart female leads with genuine character progression, a totally new take on the post-apocalypse, time travel, super powers, a maniacal bad guy that used to be a good guy, and a super sci-fi alternate reality with inexplicable twists that JJ Abrams would be proud of. The only thing it’s missing is people with barcode tattoos. That’s always awesome.

Neil Desai, Account Supervisor: The Count of Monte Cristo, because I couldn’t put it down – the hallmark of any great book.

Vanessa Krooss, Intern: The Secret History by Donna Tartt. Her most recent book The Goldfinch made her a household name and solidified her as one of the greatest writers of our time, but the meditative, intimate, and deeply disturbing story of a too-close group of friends at an elite college will always be peak-Tartt for me.

Natalie Pridham, Account Supervisor: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. This was my favorite book when I was a kid. In 4th grade, I had to put together a diary as if I was one of the characters in the book and my dog literally ate it. Well…. he just chewed the corner of it. I turned it in and said the rats chewed on it. It was artistic.

Sara Shaughnessy, Associate Account Executive: Having a very difficult time picking just one but I really like Michael Pollan books: In Defense of Food, The Botany of Desire, Cooked. They’re super fascinating and I love cooking and reading about where nature and culture intersect with the food we eat, the science of nutrition, the history of our food, etc. Plus I think it’s cool he boils his advice down to the simple phrase: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”

ThinkstockPhotos-501816888

And there is one thing we all agreed on: The Giving Tree is awesome.

What’s your favorite book? Let us know on Twitter @BlancandOtus.

If Blanc & Otus Won the Lottery…

A man with money. A man wins money. A man has Money. A man Sniff

In the spirit of the massive Powerball winnings being pulled tomorrow, we asked B&Oers what they would do if they won the cool $800 million. Everything from an animal farm to a pizza party was thrown into the mix, keep reading to see how we’d spend our newfound wealth.

“I’m going to throw a pizza party for everyone that I know, including my enemies, because they didn’t want me to win.” – Christine

“On a fun note: open a cat zoo that goes in chronological order from big a** tigers and lions all the way to fat domestic house cats. That way we can see the progression (or digression I should say) of the cat kingdom. Claritin included with all zoo maps. On a real note: use it to kickstart R&D funding to find climate change solutions.” – Cate

“Obviously I’d hop on Amazon before my free Prime subscription runs out (don’t want to totally mismanage my new found wealth) and buy this money gun and make it rain dollar bills all over my apartment and everywhere I go because I am now incredibly rich, and I can.” – Kelly

image001.gif

“I guess for me, I would take cruises all over the world (Greece, Alaska, Caribbean) and also write a series of books. Start off with memoirs, but then work my way to novels. I would also buy a farm and adopt all the sheltered animals to roam (something I know my wife would make me do).” – Chris

“I’d buy 50 pugs, and for my niece, every piece of “Princess Sofia” merchandise on the planet.” – Nicholas

“I would buy a sports team (likely the SF Giants) and an island.” – Danielle

“Obviously buy an animal rescue ranch and have lots of dogs and cats. And an ocean front house in Hawaii.” – Megan

How would you spend your winnings? Tell us on Twitter @BlancandOtus!

Wait? What! Introducing #SendDonaldToSpace and Spending Time Behind the Scenes of the InstaFamous

As 2015 winds down, we’re getting our fair share of “best of,” “top 20” and even “looking forward to 2016” lists, but this is not one of those posts. Welcome to our regularly scheduled recap of the wackiest news from around the Web, tech and otherwise. Without further ado, let’s get started:

  • Twitter went wild earlier this week when Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, responded to yet another Donald Trump outburst on Facebook – this time simply letting the mogul know he was willing to send him straight to space. We’re confident that a lot of people might be okay with that.Young hipster with a beard inside the rocket flying in a space.
  • 2015 was the year of #GirlPower. From Beyoncé to Hillary Clinton, there was no shortage of explosive moments from influential women around the globe and GoldiBlox is back with another video to recap it all for us. You go, girls!
  • Ever scrolled through an Instagram feed and wondered, “who the heck takes these pictures!?!” Look no further than this sketch on the lives of Instagram Husbands, who attest they’re “basically a human selfie stick.” Bummer.
  • Twitter released its year in review, and it looks like we might be stuck with another year of boy band drama. Tweets from the boys of One Direction topped the list for most retweets, while social movements like #PrayForParis and #BlackLivesMatter were among the most popular hashtags.
  • Finally, if you’re looking for a cool place to grab a drink in San Francisco this weekend, local blog The Bold Italic has you covered. Check out these six quirky bars around the city and let us know which is your favorite. 

Well, that’s all, folks! Until next week, that is. Tweet us your favorite stories of the week @BlancandOtus.

2016: “Data-Driven” Isn’t Going Anywhere Anytime Soon

A wise woman once said to me, “If I have to hear the phrase ‘data-driven’ one more time, I’m going to throw my computer out the window.” Okay, that person was me. And I’ve come to terms with the fact that the phrase “data-driven” is here to stay, but it’s no longer a term just being tossed around for the sake of tech journalism – it’s got some substance. Data is improving organizational processes and initiatives in every industry, from healthcare to education, but marketers in the past year have really taken the cake for embracing and experimenting with data-driven strategies.

According to a recent Forbes Insights study, the current state of the industry is somewhat bleak – to quote: “33% of respondents say they’re grappling with a mix of technologies with little coordination. And only 29% recognize a common set of tools emerging to support data gathering, analytics, insights, programmatic advertising and planning.” On the flip side, spend on these types of tools and technologies is exploding and expected to reach $100 billion by 2020.

Marketing Completes Analysis

Over the next year, we’re going to see an exciting maturation of data-driven marketing strategies that will help to better support a wide range of business initiatives including sales, customer experience and service, and ultimately, securing the CMO’s spot as a key member of the C-suite. How, you ask? By being smart about when, where, and how data is being used across the organization. Let me outline the ways…

  1. Data Isn’t A Marketing-Only Party: In fact, data has often been an everybody-but-marketing party. The same Forbes Insights study cited above found that data silos within an organization prevented marketing departments from having a complete view of the customer, and that’s not ideal at all. However, this year marketers had their time in the spotlight, taking the reigns in the data department and spreading the smart customer insight love across the organization.

Beyond specific lines of business, this customer data is giving organizations the information they need to overcome customer-facing hurdles that set them ahead of the pack. Predictive recommendations, improved and customized customer service, and addressing long-term pain points (ahem, Delta Airlines) are among the leading benefits that are also making consumers spend more.

  1. Customer-Centric And Doing It Well: We all know it: our data is being collected from hundreds of touch points, scoured by data scientists and analysts at hundreds of companies, for multitudes of different reasons – and the thing is, we don’t usually notice. Yes, as expected, there have been cries that this data collection is an “invasion of privacy” and “wholly unnecessary”, but what consumers are starting to understand is that this is the trade-off for engaging with companies’ often free services; they give us things we like to use, so we give them our user data.

The point is that these companies are starting to get to know us, know what we want and when, and they’re delivering better services and products as a result. Isn’t that what we all want? In 2016, we’ll see data being used to improve customer initiatives both inside and out, leading to happier customers and more sales. And that’s something beautiful.

  1. ROI, For Real: Yes, we’re saying it – we are really going to be able to track tangible results from digital marketing campaigns that prove the value of the CMO. That’s not saying the CMO hasn’t been valuable previously, but in terms of proving direct impact on the organization’s bottom line, data is going to be the ticket. In 2014, according to a Duke University study, 37 percent of CMOs reported that they’re able to prove the short-term impact of marketing spending quantitatively, while 44 percent have a good qualitative sense, but not a quantitative one, leaving 1 in 5 unable to show any impact at all.

In 2015, that isn’t really an option. Ninety-three percent of CMOs say they are under greater pressure to deliver ROI, but half still state they lack ability to tie marketing efforts directly to revenue. Here’s where we can call innovation to the rescue. Tools like Quantifind and Optimizely are providing CMOs with the data they need to measure campaign results, identify exactly which messaging is converting into sales, and ultimately prove that marketing does, in fact, drive sales.

So there we have it: a quick snapshot of how data is changing the game for not only marketers, but consumers and the wider organization as a result. 2016 is going to be an interesting year as we continue to see data be used in exciting ways (and as we continue to get to use it ourselves here at Blanc & Otus) to drive business onwards and upwards.

Watch this space to see more of our 2016 predictions.

Wait! What? 4/17: The Great Video-Streaming War of 2015 Continues

boxingimage
BigStock

It’s been a great week for television. Game of Thrones is back (our office was pretty excited), and we saw the return of our favorite nerds in Silicon Valley. HBO and Uber didn’t waste this opportunity to shamelessly exploit fan dedication to The Throne to promote the launch of HBO Now – we only wish they had brought some to San Francisco. Onto the rest of the tech news this week:

  • Reddit has gone legit, pushing its way into the publishing game by joining the likes of The New York Times with a weekly email newsletter of hand-selected content, Upvote. The hope is that this will help people better understand the “concept” of Reddit, so we’ll see about that.
  • Is Twitter cyberbullying celebs into using Periscope? According to TechCrunch, the answer is yes. Twitter’s influence in Hollywood may signal the end of Meerkat’s short-lived time in the spotlight.
  • Another day, another Snapchat scandal. The social media giant is allegedly using geotag filters to poach engineers from Uber. Where is Silicon Valley’s reality show? This is getting juicy.
  • If you’ve been living under a rock for the past two weeks, you might have missed Hillary Clinton announcing her presidential candidacy. If you’ve been off the Internet, you definitely missed the birth of “Hillvetica,” a font inspired by her campaign logo. #cringe
  • Tidal might actually be worth that $20 subscription fee. Apparently artists can log in and see who is listening to their music, and this is provoking them to make personal calls to subscribers. BRB, I think Jay Z is calling.

That’s all, folks – now go enjoy your weekend, and don’t do anything too foolish à la Twitter/Snapchat.

Social Posting 101: The Skinny on Sharing Good Content

Thinkstock
Thinkstock

A few months ago, we discussed the optimal time for posting on social media. Here we are again to set the record straight: more content doesn’t always mean better content, and posting for the sake of posting should be avoided at all costs. Social media content should be aimed to delight, engage, educate and (sometimes) even create some controversy with your audience. Follow these tips to make sure you’re on track with your social content:

Facebook

Facebook doesn’t make it easy for brand posts to be successful. In short, if you want promotional brand posts to appear, it won’t be free. However, this does not mean that all content goes unseen – Facebook is mainly filtering out posts they consider to be “promotional,” meaning that quality content will still be organically distributed. Now the questions remains, what is quality content?

Kevan Lee, content manager at Buffer, has pulled together a list of what makes the “perfect” Facebook post:

  • Must contain a link: Research conducted by Facebook itself found that users prefer displayed links over photos with text displayed above.
    • This same research found that 80 percent of users preferred not to see “click-bait” headlines, but rather headlines that helped them decide if they wanted to read the story or not.
  • Keep it short: A study done by Buddy Media found that posts that contained 40 characters or less received 86 percent more engagement than longer posts.
  • Relevance is king: Guess what? People want to share real-time news with their friends! No surprise there, but you might not know that the Facebook algorithm boosts posts that are “trending” or being mentioned across the platform. Follow conversations and see what your audience is talking about to boost engagement.
  • What’s your content strategy? The most engaged-with brands on Facebook have a strategy when posting content. Consistence and frequency are crucial, though this doesn’t mean post five times a day. But make sure you have a regular cadence of content being shared with your audience.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn has about 260 million users and leads the pack for professionals among the social networks listed. It can be both a way to connect with old colleagues, as well as a powerful tool for lead generation. Econsultancy found that LinkedIn sends four times more traffic to your company’s homepage than Twitter and Facebook. Additionally, the platform has the highest visitor-to-lead conversion rate at 2.74 percent. How do you make sure you’re maximizing this potential?

  • Let us repeat ourselves, consistency is crucial to the success of your profile. Whether it be a personal or brand page, consistent messaging ensures that your profile effectively conveys your message if a visitor decides to read one post or twenty.
  • Make sure your content is appropriate for the platform. LinkedIn members are professionals; they aren’t looking for cute cat videos (albeit, don’t hesitate to share these elsewhere). In fact, according to research from LinkedIn, 6 out of every 10 users are interested in reading industry insights, followed closely by company and product news (53 percent and 43 percent of users are interested in this type of content, respectively).
  • LinkedIn has two tools for marketers to determine what content is resonating best with their audience: Content Marketing Score and Trending Content. You can learn more about both tools here. These aim to arm you with the insights needed to post the most relevant and engaging content to both personal and brand pages.

Twitter 

Twitter is a bit like the Wild West of social media. Finding the best content to post often takes some experimenting to see what hashtags, articles, and voice resonates the best with your audience. Nick Lewis, PR and social media expert, compiled a list of the components of a good Tweet:

  • Don’t tweet with nothing to say: Does your Tweet serve a purpose? Does it warrant engagement from your audience? Over-posting without adding any value will likely result in reduced engagement, so the purpose of your content should be clear.
  • Link to associated sources: Due to Twitter’s character count, it’s sometimes tough to convey your whole message in a single tweet. This is where directing your audience to a related source (i.e. an article, blog post) comes in handy.
  • Include images: It’s simple. Tweets that include an image receive 150 percent more retweets than those that do not.

Instagram

Instagram is the fastest growing major social media network in the world with over 300 million users, including more than half of all online young adults. It’s no secret that visual content is exponentially more engaging than written content, especially with millennials. What is the secret to Insta-fame? Let us explain:

  • Context and relevance are key: Think before you hit the ‘Share’ button. What value does this add to my customer’s life? How do they benefit? Why would they be interested? How can I make this relevant to my followers?
  • Hashtag brilliance: Branded hashtags are a great way to not only engage with your audience, but also a great way to curate photos to share on your brand’s account. The clothing brand, Aritizia is a great example of a successful, branded hashtag.

For examples of what not to post, check out this article from The Huffington Post.

Regardless of the network, one piece advice rings true – know your audience before you say anything. What trends do they care about? What annoys them? What content are they seeking out on social media in the first place? And what are they posting?

Once you begin to answer these questions, you’re well on your way to posting engaging content.

Wait! What? 1/16: Mobile Mean Girls and glitter for all our enemies

Mean Girls. They're mobile now. (Thinkstock)
Mean Girls. They’re mobile now. (Thinkstock)

CES was last week, meaning we’ve seen a lot of listicles about the best and worst gadgets and software released, including a multitude of robots and a 3D printer that prints chocolate. Here’s what’s been hiding behind the lists:

  • The Lego Movie didn’t receive an Oscar nomination this year, but director Philip Lord wasn’t fazed – he made his own, which we think is cooler than the real thing.
  • Glassholes rejoice! You may just own the worst tech gadget ever created, but don’t fret. Now that Google has shuttered the program you can still act like you’re cooler than everyone else who doesn’t have one and never will.
  • Where are all my early 2000’s girls at? Get out your iPhones because Mean Girls the Mobile Game is coming to iOS.
  • Sneakerheads are in luck, Nike’s Power Laces look like a reality for 2015. Marty McFly would be proud.
  • You might have heard something about a little site called ‘Ship Your Enemies Glitter.’ Unfortunately for the man behind this genius idea, so did 1 million other people, which he was not prepared for. The site is now up for sale, who wants to go halfsies?

Those were our favorite tidbits from this week – what were yours? Send us a tweet @BlancandOtus!

What Time Works for You? Social Media Posting Guidelines

Thinkstock
Thinkstock

While we all know there is no such thing as a one size fits all approach to social media, there is now a lot of data available that can help us determine what, when and where to post different types of content. For now let’s focus on when, as the time you chose to post directly influences who will see your content. Below, we’ve shared some guidelines to posting on you blog, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter.

A note regarding timing suggestions below: All suggestions are based on EST. Although 80 percent of the population is located in the eastern and central time zones, we advise using Google Analytics to locate where a majority of your audience is located to identify the best posting time for you. And yes, this is our version of a disclaimer.

Blog Posts

Blogging is a tricky business; it’s harder to gain visibility for longer-form content in the age of short attention spans. However, as is the case with every social platform, posting can be a calculated science.

Facebook

Research on Facebook’s optimal post timing is more concrete. Engagement is the highest towards the end of the workweek. Thursday and Friday engagement is at about 18 percent, up from about 15 percent through the rest of the week.

  • Audience: A study done by KISSmetrics states Facebook sees its largest audience at noon and again at 7 p.m.
  • Engagement: The best times to post is before work, during the morning commute between 6 and 8 a.m., and again later in the afternoon between 2 and 5 p.m. (it’s ok to admit you check Facebook then as well). Posting towards the end of the week also encourages consumers to interact with your posts on weekends, when engagement is 32 percent higher.

Google+

Don’t underestimate the power of morning people; they may not be fully awake, but they are sharing on social media. Google+ is another network where early-in-the-workday posts do best. Like with Twitter, individual brands can use analytics to see what posting times resonate with their audience – a good resource for this is Timing+.

  • Audience: Google+ sees the largest audience between 10 and 11 a.m. according to data compiled by Fannit.
  • Engagement: As a general guideline, posting between 9 and 11 a.m. while avoiding posts after 6 p.m. will garner the most engagement. Peak time for click-throughs and shares is Wednesdays at 9 a.m.

It’s not just about kids: Be mindful that Google+’s fastest-growing demographic is adults between the ages of 45-54 and adjust your content accordingly.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a strictly weekday social network. While we might all be guilty of occasionally checking over the weekend, that is probably a good thing.

  • Audience: LinkedIn’s audience is engaged periodically throughout the day, however the largest audience is reachable during lunch hours, 12-1 p.m. and at the end of the workday, 5-6 p.m.
  • Engagement: According to research from SurePayroll, optimal LinkedIn posting times are before the workday begins and right after it ends, with peak days being Tuesday and Thursday. Beware though, Entrepreneur reported that between the hours of 9 and 5 p.m., LinkedIn is an engagement “dead zone.”
  • Keep in mind: LinkedIn sends 4 times as much traffic to your business’ website as Facebook and Twitter, so make sure to be consistent about publishing content.

Twitter

Twitter has a fast and high volume feed, so picking your time carefully is crucial. Research pertaining to the optimal time for brands to post on Twitter varies; some studies state that brands get more engagement on weekdays while others say you should be more of a weekend person, so it’s important to experiment with posting times to see what resonates best with your specific audience. However, there are some guidelines to follow:

As you can see, finding the best times to post content will require a bit of trial and error. Continue to tweak posting times until you find what works best. And remember there are a multitude of resources that provide analytics on what posts are getting the best engagement including HootSuite and Google Analytics. Now it’s time to get your message out – post away!

Wait! What? 10/3: Facebook gets more Big Brother-like; How to hack your jack-o-lantern

Facebook sticks its thumb into healthcare. (Thinkstock Photos)
Facebook sticks its thumb into healthcare. (Thinkstock Photos)

From avoiding traffic to the latest healthcare innovations and getting more connected with your inner self, this week the tech world served up all kinds of things that are good for you. If you missed the latest and greatest, here’s a healthy digest of weekly news:

  • Traffic app Waze has partnered with 10 cities around the world to say goodbye to traffic. Pair less traffic with self-driving cars and we might abandon Uber altogether (just kidding, Uber, we would never do that to you).
  • Facebook announced its foray into the healthcare industry following closely on the heels of its older siblings, Google and Apple. Anyone else getting a 1984 feeling about all of this?
  • Not to be one-upped by Facebook, Google announced it will be releasing another messaging app to compete with WhatsApp. You won’t even need a Google account for this one.
  • Design firm Code and Theory introduced a wearable that helps you unplug by listening to your own thoughts, literally. Should we be concerned we need a wearable device to unplug? Either way, the design alone has us interested.
  • In honor of October, we give you the Hack-o-Lantern. What’s Halloween without a few unnecessary purchases? We’re totally getting this little device for the office pumpkins.

Those were our favorite tidbits from this week – what were yours? Comment below or send us a tweet @BlancandOtus!