Wait! What? 9/18: Facebook Finally Gives Us The Thumbs Up To Give A Thumbs-Down

“It’s Friday.” That is arguably one of the sweetest phrases in the world. From finally being able to ‘dislike’ your crazy uncle’s political views to giving tweens yet another way to take photos of themselves (hands free, anyone?), we’ve got the rundown on the top tech and industry stories of the week:

Credit: Thinkstock
Credit: Thinkstock
  • To like or not to like – that is the question. This week Facebook announced a ‘dislike’ button is in the works, empowering grumpy users everywhere to share their distaste.
  • Are you kidding me right meow?! Apparently a Cisco employee accidentally sent an email to the entire staffing list of over 30,000 employees, and pictures of cats and memes were circulated to everyone for hours. Obviously, madness ensued.
  • Taking your selfies to new heights … forget having to carry around a stick or deal with that pesky arm of yours in the photo: Dronies can follow you around, taking in-action photos of you and your friends on command. Kind of like drones flying around at concerts and NFL games taking photos of everyone, except now it’s just you, doing your thing, looking cool. Right?
  • Social media has that wonderful ability to take a giant event (the Super Bowl, GOP Debates…) and pick out one tiny aspect and run with it. The second GOP Debate was on Wednesday night, and amongst the pressing issues discussed, we discovered the variety of faces Donald Trump can make and who the #HotDebateGuy really is. Thanks, Twitter.
  • Definitely swiping right. Oscar Meyer recently rolled out a dating app for bacon lovers called Sizzl. It even provides a variety of safe first date questions, including:
    • “How do you like your bacon cooked?”
    • “What kind of bacon do you like?”
    • “If there’s one strip of bacon left, you…?”

Those were our favorite stories of the week, share yours with us on Twitter @BlancAndOtus!

Wait! What? 7/10: Let’s Get Social!

Facebook...like...obviously. (Thinkstock Photos)
Facebook…like…obviously. (Thinkstock Photos)

This week we bring you the social (Facebook) edition of Wait! What?

Facebook, Facebook, Facebook. It’s all about Marky Mark and his band of merry followers.

  • Sorry Jay-Z, it looks like this may be the end of TIDAL for good. Facebook is getting into the music game – the social network is reportedly bringing music videos and perhaps a music streaming service to its platform.
  • And in other video developments, Facebook has added floating videos, so you can watch and scroll at the same time. Our attention spans needed this.
  • Furthermore, media institutions finding it increasingly difficult to compete in the digital world are now giving up their autonomy and working with Facebook to publish articles on the platform.
  • Meerkat is also turning to FB to drive growth after being snubbed by Twitter. Hopefully, the social juggernaut can save the struggling live streaming service.
  • And in case Facebook’s apparent world domination is making you a little anxious, now there is Joyable, a new app to curb anxiety, which we initially found out about via an ad on Facebook.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter @BlancandOtus! Have a great weekend!

Wait! What? 6/19: Enter the taco emoji

Yum. (Thinkstock Photos)
Yum. (Thinkstock Photos)

With the exciting win from the Golden State Warriors you might have missed out on quite a bit of news. Here’s a little recap of some of the week’s top articles on tech and marketing:

  • What do the Pillsbury Doughboy, Tony the Tiger and Mr. Clean all have in common? Brand awareness. Who would have thought that our favorite childhood mascots would teach us a thing or two about charming audiences?
  • Never fear, the taco emoji is finally here! Earlier this week the makers of Unicode Consortium released a new set of emojis complete with popcorn, a cheese wedge and of course, the taco.
  • Facebook engineered its algorithm to better detect and track user interaction on the news feed. The latest update can actually track how long users take to read a post.
  • ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, Like A Girl and Love Has No Labels topped the charts as some of the best marketing campaigns from this year’s Facebook Awards.
  • According to researchers, the perfect blog post contains social buttons, an average of 3.2 images and an average number of 9.96 links through out. Seems like overkill, but hey.

What were some of your favorite tidbits from this week? Send us a tweet @BlancandOtus.

Innovation: Beyond Buzzwords

Thinkstock
Thinkstock

Out here in Silicon Valley, “innovation” is center square on buzzword bingo. Everybody talks about it. Everybody wants to be associated with it. Everybody claims to do it. But not all innovation is created equal. As we strive to become innovators in our industries, I’d like to offer a few practical tips for how to think about innovation in a way that breaks through the noise and delivers impact.

Necessity is the mother of invention
Step 1: Find a purpose.

Innovation is most useful when it’s in response to a clearly understood need. The more grounded we are in a precise, differentiated purpose, the more effective our ideas will be. Just last week, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner shared with a group of LinkedIn B2B Connect attendees that having a clear differentiated purpose is in fact the single most important determining factor in the success of any new LinkedIn feature or service.

For a professional services organization like Blanc & Otus, there are three primary needs to consider: helping our own people, helping our clients, and helping our profitability. And while all three are connected, helping our people is the most important. After all, we are our own product.

Whether we’re looking to improve our efficiency and automate tasks we’re already doing, or looking to improve our effectiveness with new services we’re not doing yet, or looking to improve our impact with data services that show the value of what we’re doing…helping unleash the full potential of our amazing tribe of consultants is, I believe, the best possible purpose behind any of our innovations.

Engage in a little creative destruction
Step 2: Blow some stuff up.

Not literally, of course, but conceptually. When imagining and engineering new ways to work, it’s extremely helpful to blow up old assumptions and outdated models to clear a path for fresh thinking. When Facebook first launched, it was a stated assumption of all Internet-driven businesses that it was bad to have “white space” on your web site. MySpace had set the standard, and it looked a teenager’s bedroom wall that had been over-run with fan posters. But Facebook challenged that assumption and believed that a social network was less about pushing media and more about pulling people together. And when it launched, it had the most minimalistic webpage anybody had ever seen. It defied convention. And it worked.

So, once you’re grounded in purpose, ask yourself what old assumptions you’re carrying around with you. Dump them. Create some conceptual white space in which to work. And have some fun while you’re doing it!

Innovation isn’t just about technology
Step 3: Be human.

Innovation is about way more than the latest shiny new gadget or app. Technology is but one of many forms of innovation. People, process and technology all have to work in tandem for a new idea to work. And of the three, people are usually the slowest moving component of any change. After all, a new technology doesn’t resist change when you upgrade it.

That’s why cultural innovation and changing the human operating system are as important, if not more important, than the technology operating systems we work with. Process innovation, and shifting the protocols by which we work together, is also a great way to reduce complexity and increase speed and scale. Even environmental innovation, and changing the space in which we work, can have a profound impact on our overall creativity and productivity. So, ask yourselves, how can we innovate the non-technical aspects of innovation and make a real impact?

Ingenuity is as valuable as innovation
Step 4: Use what you’ve got.

Innovation is the creation of something brand new, like a wheel. Ingenuity is the creative recombination of existing components to produce something useful, like when somebody took two wheels, ran a stick through the center of them, and put a box on top to make a cart. Ingenuity is particularly helpful in professional services firms where people are already resourceful and tenacious.

Looking again at Facebook as an example, ingenuity is what the company was all about. Mark Zuckerburg didn’t invent anything. He used existing technologies in a new and disruptive way. Same with LinkedIn. Same with Uber and Lyft. So, the question is, how can those of us in the professional services industry become models of ingenuity?

Co-Create Something Amazing
Step 5: Crowd-source your solution

Once you’ve found your purpose, blown up old assumptions, thought through the human implications of your innovation, and used your existing resources to full effect, now you’re ready to create something brand new. And in this final step, nothing is more important than tapping into the wisdom of the amazing tribe of people around you. And it’s important to reach beyond your immediate circle of employees and colleagues. Involve your customers and clients, partners, influencers and most especially your critics in your creative process. Collaborative co-creation yields so much more innovation because it brings together such a rich combination of complementary perspectives. And collaborative co-creation allows for more people to have a personal stake in the success of the innovation initiative you’re pursuing.

At B&O, we’re fortunate to have a tribe of digital natives who are in touch with the latest digital tools and techniques, and who are on the front lines of delivering value to our clients. Our Facebook, Instragram and LinkedIn programs were all started by our youngest employees. We recently aired one of our marketing summits on Periscope at the recommendation of our staff. By being open to experimentation and involving a broader group of people in the creative process, we’ve been able to embrace change in a way that brings us closer together as a team. 

What are your own pointers for embracing innovation? We’d love to co-create some professional service innovation with you, so join the conversation!

Wait! What? 6/12: Non-Sportsball News of the Week

"Let's take a break from this to discuss the latest technology trends." (Thinkstock)
“Let’s take a break from this to discuss the latest technology trends.” (Thinkstock)

While you were all busy cheering on the Warriors this past week (Cleveland fans, please see yourselves out immediately) and contemplating whether anyone actually looks good in Golden State yellow (the answer is no), we generously took some time out of our rigorous viewing schedules and compiled some top tech newsbites for you:

  • Somewhere, a Target PR intern scheduled their first press release this week. We’re going to assume it was also their last. Whoops.
  • In news that really rocked the tech world this week, Blackberry and Android are contemplating what could potentially be the least consequential business partnership ever.
  • A little blue bird told us that Dick Costolo stepped down as Twitter’s CEO this week, but we’re not really sure since we were too busy checking our Snapchat stories and Instagram feeds to care.
  • Whoever called Mayweather v. Pacquiao the fight of the decade definitely did not anticipate Apple Music v. Spotify. In one corner, Taylor Swift and Drake. In the other, everyone who’s been listening to music since iTunes stopped being a thing in 2011.
  • And in what was legitimately the coolest tech development of the week, Facebook and Microsoft announced that the Xbox One will be in virtual reality thanks to Oculus Rift starting in 2016. We’re brushing up on our Super Smash Bros skills this very moment.

Now, back to sports.

Wait! What? 5/29: Justice for gifs, a robot cheetah

You can finally post this robot cheetah gif on Facebook. #progress #hope #change (Source: futurist-foresight.tumblr.com)
You can finally post this robot cheetah gif on Facebook. #progress #hope #change (Source: futurist-foresight.tumblr.com)

Hey there, Friday people! It’s been a short week, but that doesn’t mean you don’t deserve some cool tech stories. Let’s get this weekend started off right:

  • Google held a big fancy party for itself this weekend and announced about 18 million new projects in development. Even still, that didn’t seem to be enough for some journalists. They must have been holding out for Google Glass 2.0.
  • Comcast, like the Houston Rockets, couldn’t seem to close the deal to buy Time Warner. But this week Charter announced that it had scooped up the company for a cool $55B.
  • Finally the pressure to actually type responses to friends and loved ones has been obliterated completely – gifs now work on Facebook; this is not a drill.  On the flip side this is totally a drill.
  • You ever get the feeling you’re being followed? Well according to recent reports it may be because Facebook Messenger tracks you by default – so you know, check your settings.
  • MIT has created a robot cheetah and they’ve taught it to jump without losing its pace. While it may terrify some of you, the video is insanely awesome.

Now that you’ve had your fill of tech news, go out there and rewatch the new Mad Max for the second, or third, or fourth time.

Wait! What? 5/15: Shape-shifting planes, secret agent desks, and Facebook’s controversial new feature

It's a bird, it's a plane! It's a plane. (Credit: Jim Ross, NASA)
It’s a bird, it’s a plane! It’s a plane. (Credit: Jim Ross, NASA)

Lots of big announcements this week in our beloved world of tech, but if you wanted to read about Verizon’s acquisition of AOL or the new Gmail login screen – you’ve come to the wrong place. As usual, we’re more interested in the weirder, more wackadoodle stories that you weren’t paying attention to over the past seven days. Buckle up – it’s time for this week’s roundup:

  • NASA successfully tested a plane with shape-changing wings. Will we ever get tired of futuristic space-stuff? No, we won’t – and before you say anything, ‘space-stuff’ is the term used by actual scientists.
  • Feeling less Ethan Hunt-y than usual? No problem. Introducing Sharetable, the desk that makes every other desk look like complete garbage. Its surface features a shareable screen connected to your desktop monitor, so that the person sitting across from you can see what you’re seeing. Although, he won’t be able to see the expression of total awe on his own face, since that view is reserved for you.
  • All the pretty girls love Samsung? Britney Spears and Iggy Azalea released the video for their song “Pretty Girls,” in which Iggy uses her space-alien super powers to transform Brit’s old school cell phone into a gigantic Samsung Galaxy something or other (marketing!). We don’t really have time to go through all of the problems with the video – but our main concern is that Iggy seems to think that robots and aliens are the same thing.
  • Media no-likey Facebook’s “Instant Articles.” Facebook announced “Instant Articles,” sparking controversy among media outlets. They’re concerned that the new feature will make it difficult for publishers to control their own content. They have a point, but we’re pretty sure that Facebook has been aggregating content for a while now, simply through its users. You know…because, like…cat videos.
  • If we use Waze, can we skip the rush-hour traffic out of King’s Landing? The answer is no, because you can’t just leave King’s Landing, and this totally awesome Google Map of Westeros isn’t connected to Waze.

Now you’re all caught up. Hopefully some of this will come up in your next round of bar trivia.

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? 3/30: HBO woos tech, Facebook woos media, Comcast … yeah.

gifSometimes Monday morning rolls around and you think, “Wait, I did not read enough news about corporations last week.” So, here you go:

  • HBO treated the SF tech scene to a star-studded Game of Thrones season premiere party. Was it a PR stunt? Yes.
  • In response to a request for comment, a YouTube spokesperson simply sent back an animated GIF to the reporter. It’s inspiring, really.
  • Very Official News: Facebook is in talks with several media companies, The New York Times and BuzzFeed included, to host articles directly on its website. But will the deal ultimately help or hurt media brands? It doesn’t matter. They must obey.
  • Apple is developing smart packaging that allows customers to set up devices before they’re unboxed. Because, like, why would I take my iPad out of the box?
  • Remember that time Comcast customer service was the worst? To avoid future PR nightmares, the rarely beloved cable company just tripled its social media staff. I personally won’t follow up on this development – just ping me if anything hilarious happens.

I’m sorry that four out of those five bullets contain rhetorical questions; the advent of GIFs and listicles has destroyed my ability to form original sentences. Catch us again at our usual time this Friday for another tech-filled #WaitWhat!

Wait! What? 3/20: Meerkat dominates SXSW, brands go mad for March Madness and more

So inspiring. (Thinkstock)
So inspiring. (Thinkstock)

St. Patrick’s Day, SXSW and March Madness – oh my! While you were off drinking Guinness, fighting your tech hangover from Austin, and frantically filling out your NCAA March Madness bracket, we’ve compiled a list of this week’s top stories to keep you in the know:

  • From barbeque and brews to flying cars and Google Glass, here’s a look back at five standout moments from the interactive portion of this year’s SXSW festival in Austin, Texas.
  • Is Facebook suffering from a severe case of me-tooism? The social media network is gearing up to turn its Messenger app into something of a platform, similar to that of Asian chat giant Line. Hmm…
  • Wtf is Meerkat? The Internet’s shiny new toy, an app for live-video streaming, has gone from obscure to nearly viral in just two weeks. Brands such as Starbucks, JCPenny, NASDAQ and Red Bull are among the first to use it. C’mon, you know you want to try it…
  • The time has come, basketball fans – the three most unproductive weeks of the year: March Madness. While you were off gathering teams and filling out an excessive number of brackets, these brands took to social media to participate in all of the madness.
  • How did your office celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? Ours was filled with team uniforms, green booze, a good ole St. Patrick’s Day feast and an…Irish jig-off? (See evidence here). All silliness aside, here are five PR takeaways from St. Patrick’s Day. Slainte!

See anything else of note in tech media this week? Tweet us @BlancandOtus and let us know! Our thirst for news is never quenched.