Brand connections

Our generation is accustomed to seeing advertisements everywhere.  Beyond magazine pages and billboards, advertisements are now infiltrating our social media accounts and browser pages.  At times it can be annoying (no, I have no interest in a male enhancement drug), but then we contradict ourselves by choosing to follow certain brands, essentially signing up for their “advertisements” to mix in with our other posts.  Yesterday’s class discussion got me thinking – how important is it that brands have social media accounts? And also, what differentiates their posts from advertisements?

I have to admit, I have an online shopping addiction.  To me, it makes more sense to search through pages of clothing from the comfort of my home rather than tackle the messy racks in malls.  Due to this addiction, I follow many different brands on Instagram, or at least check up on them regularly.  I follow all of my favorite stores so that I can see the new arrivals they post daily and keep up with the sales.  However, I have never been annoyed in the sense that I am at advertisements.

In today’s digital age, it is not only beneficial, but essential for brands to manage several social media accounts in order to further establish relationships with consumers.  The posts go beyond the selling of merchandise by incorporating quotes, non-brand photos, etc. to the point that I feel a stronger tie to the brand, while simultaneously increasing my interest in the products themselves.

These posts don’t resemble an advertisement so they aren’t necessarily an eyesore on my newsfeed.  For example, on Instagram the brands I follow tend to blend in with similar posts to that of my friends.  Although the post may be marketing a specific clothing item, the account manager will make it visually appealing and not solely focused on the product itself.  While only a small percentage of the tens or hundreds of thousands of followers of each brand will actually go purchase something from the site that day, they still establish a connection with the company and are more willing to consider the brand in the future.

No matter what the product is, a brand’s social media presence is essential in order to keep up with the competition.  Account managers just need to understand the fine line between advertisements and social media posts and be careful not to cross it.

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Checked out or tuned in?

While some say millennials have checked out from news sources altogether, I (and I’m sure many of my classmates) have to disagree.  Despite what this American Press Institute article says, the news content I see is not “lost” among hundreds of other posts, it is simply separated.  I specifically use Twitter as a news source – instantly bringing a variety of different sources and topics to my attention in a highly convenient manner.  Whereas in other instances the information could be lost among my friends’ tweets, I and other millennials have decided to separate our personal and professional accounts.  This is hardly classified as a disinterest in news, it exemplifies our ability to separate the matters and devote full attention to the news.

This behavior is clearly classified as that of a millennial, but it is not necessarily less intelligent or less informative than reading the daily newspaper.  Older generations don’t necessarily understand that what is different isn’t necessarily wrong.  This technologically advancing practice of turning to online sites and platforms for news doesn’t make us less intelligent, it coincides with our fast paced lifestyle  of wanting information at the tip of our fingers.

“Nonetheless, the reliance on nontraditional news outlets is still the exception rather than the norm. ” – Pew Research Center.

Although the older generations have not yet reached this realization, this is the understanding of millennials and is what we live by.  I still pick up a print copy of the Daily Tarheel on my way to class and will thumb through the pages of the News and Observer when I’m at home but the ease of opening an app in between classes or at the gym has overtaken the print industry.  We are not checking out from news sources, we are simply adapting to the digital age faster than those around us.

Timehop > New York Times?

After our assigned reading on the attraction of nostalgia, I decided to do a little further digging into Timehop.  I have the app, I love it.  But then again, I’m one of those people the article referred to who easily get a kick out of old photos.  I’m also one of those people who ritually checks the app every single day (even if I forget, the app sends me a notification that I haven’t yet checked today’s posts).  And on that note, I definitely do not check the New York Times or USA Today on a daily basis.  Timehop’s co-founder proudly states that of Timehop’s 14 million users, about half of them check the app every day – resulting in more people than the number who read the New York Times every day.

This got me thinking, does our society really value old memories over current news? What prompts us to open an app of old photos rather than a news source, often containing photos itself?  It all goes back to what the article said: nostalgia has made a comeback.

Although I have only been a Timehop user for a few years now, and don’t have all of my social media accounts synced to the app, I get genuinely excited at the prospect of finding an old photo from more than just a few years ago.  Now we can only go back so far; I haven’t had Facebook much longer than I’ve had Timehop, but the prospect of potentially still using the app in a decade makes users curious at the idea of what they will stumble upon.  Although the app is just depicting moments we experienced a few years prior, it simply reminds us of the great time we had (if we hadn’t, why would we have photographed it?).

In response to the Timehop versus New York Times statistic, I would like to think that our society isn’t simply avoiding the news, but using apps like these as a distraction from it.  Although it is the responsible thing to do, who wants to wake up first thing in the morning and read about the latest death toll in a war, or the latest company’s bankruptcy.  We would much rather open a lighthearted memory box to start our day off on a good note.  I support the millions of users who are die hard Timehop fans and hope that this app continues to be a success in the future.

Black and blue or white and gold? Beyond the colors of #TheDress

So blue and black or white and gold? Kidding… But this internet phenomenon did make me think.

What seemed to go viral among many of my group chats in a matter of 15 minutes broke the internet in a matter of hours.  My question is – where did this originate from and how many millions of people did it spread to?

I honestly would rather rip my hair out before I get into another debate about the actual color of The Dress (IT’S BLACK AND BLUE!!!) but I am extremely curious about how this photo managed to spread like wildfire.

Buzzfeed’s article “What Colors Are this Dress?” is on its way to becoming the site’s most viewed post, ever.  So how did this story manage to go viral within a matter of hours when normal posts take at least a few days? It even has its own hashtag, #TheDress. While internet viewers are determined for an end-all theory as to why they see the dress the way they do, journalists should take note of the incredible speed of this story and how it can be repeated in the future.

What was originally shared to a blog post made its way to Twitter with one of the highest trending hashtags, became a trending topic on Facebook, covered Buzzfeed’s homepage, and became a topic on Snapchat’s TGIF “my story.”  The more we are diving into the digital age, the more I tend to notice how quickly the internet is spreading even the simplest of stories.  The Chapel Hill shootings last month found their way across media outlets worldwide due to the tragic message that affected such a large group of people, but now a random dress is even surpassing that.  I realized the magnitude of the story, and the internet, when I opened my Snapchat Friday morning and discovered that Snapchat users in Sweden and Norway were making jokes about “The Dress.”

According to Buzzfeed editor in chief Ben Smith, 79% of Thursday’s views of “What Colors Are the Dress?” were from mobile devices.  We have heard marketers and advertisers stress the need to specifically target mobile users, but this statistic fully supports that.

The reason stories like this are becoming viral at an even faster rate is all thanks to our mobile phones.  With one click I can send a photo to a huge group of my friends, who then share it with another group of theirs.  Besides frustrating the hell out of millions of people, The Dress brought to light an excellent point – we, especially as journalists, need to take advantage of the efficiency of mobile sharing and accept that it will most likely be the future of communications.

Superfish, more like super fail

Last week Lenovo made national headlines.  Unfortunately, not all PR is good PR.  The computer company was filed with a lawsuit for malware installation without the consumer’s knowledge.  The malware, Superfish, presents major security risks and Lenovo consumers are extremely unhappy (understandably).  Lenovo handled the situation as best it could – the company released a press statement the morning the issue went viral, it accepted full responsibility for the issue, and it provided information as to how to detect and remove the malware.  This may be a PR nightmare but it also raises questions as to what other software we are unaware of. If a major computer company doesn’t detect security threats in software, how are we supposed to?

The risk of Superfish is that it essentially shares information from computer to computer as long as they are on the same network – this includes passwords, documents, you name it.  Clearly a major issue.  As part of its PR response, Lenovo promised to pursue PC cleansing in order to win back their consumers through preventative measures.  In a statement released by the CTO, Lenovo quickly figured out how to detect and remove Superfish and shared links for users to do it themselves.  While Lenovo did its best to resolve the issue, it broke a major trust pact with loyal customers.  Lenovo claims it was phasing out the software due to unpopularity among users but was unaware of the security risks involved.

If it is so easy for users to fix the issue themselves then how did this problem spiral so out of control?  Hopefully after this disaster other companies prioritize testing their software to prevent a similar issue. In today’s day and age, our entire lives are saved on our computer.  When this information ends up in the wrong hands, it could be detrimental and in this case, putting all the blame on Lenovo.

Facebook place tips

Facebook is at it again.  Rather than connecting users with just their friends, this time Facebook is aiming to connect users with the world.  It’s introduction of “place tips” was tested in New York City at the end of January.  Place tips is a timeline feature that utilizes users’ locations by providing information, pictures and menu items of stores/shops/landmarks nearby.  The feature will also show any friend’s post or photo relevant to the location, connecting a shared interest between the two users.

Based on our security discussion yesterday, will this feature be a new threat? By sharing a photo with your location will that share your location with Facebook users you aren’t friends with? The feature says that this only works with people who have their location services on, but isn’t that the vast majority of us, even unknowingly?

The increase of technological advances, like this, have become an overall threat to our security, privacy, and ultimately safety.  Although there are ways to opt out, it’s usually the more difficult way and therefore, unknown to many users.  As previously stated, I fully believe that internet users are accountable for the actions they take and posts they share when signing up for a service, but behind every new update seems to be a whole new set of risks.

This feature and those similar to it do give you the option to “hide” its services, but does that really turn it off? Most likely not.  Upon further investigation I found that Facebook says “users would only share their location if they choose to.” I applaud them for attempting to give users the opt out but there always seems to be a loophole.  In several instances I’ve found that I cannot access certain parts of apps unless I consent to sharing my location and I assume this feature will be similar.

I’m not necessarily bashing the new Facebook feature, I’m simply offering precautionary advice.  I think the idea is great – similar to Instagram’s geotag where users can search photos from the same location.  New location based features like these are just allowing one more intrusion into our lives, no matter what the privacy terms may say.

#askhermore

This weekend’s Oscars sparked the Ask Her More Campaign, a twitter campaign designed to eliminate sexism in the entertainment industry.  Oscar attendees like Reese Witherspoon, Amy Poehler, and Lena Dunham took to social media to spread the campaign’s message.

After the Sony hack last year which revealed income discrepancies between male and female actors, celebrities are taking to social media to take a stand.  Its 2015, why are women still being objectified on the red carpet while men are asked about their professional accomplishments?  Although I am a fan of pre-award show red carpet segments, I too would like to hear about something besides these women’s designer dresses and jewels.  They may look gorgeous, but that’s not the reason they’re standing there.

Buzzfeed’s article hits the nail on the head. “Bradley Cooper gets asked about the community of actors, Lupita gets asked about her dress,” says Rossalyn Warren, a Buzzfeed news reporter.

The #askhermore campaign allows celebrities and fans to tweet questions that they would like to be asked on the red carpet, rather than “who are you wearing?”  Reese Witherspoon posted a message on Instagram, heading the campaign, that seemed to actually resonate with red carpet reporters.  The E! red carpet reporters attempted to feign interest in topics outside of fashion, before asking the wardrobe questions, and tried to even the playing field by also asking the men.

I applaud this campaign and the women supporting it but am curious why it is just now making headlines when awards season is over.  There have been many nationally televised red carpet events over the last several months where women have been pestered with the same tiresome questions and although some do complain, it hasn’t been on this type of scale. With all of the women involved, I expect to see more on this campaign in the coming weeks, but its effectiveness will present itself come next awards season.

Mobile-game revenue growth

For those who still actually watch commercials on live TV (the pain…), you might have noticed a new trend.  Since when have game apps advertised their services through commercials? The most memorable of these features Kate Upton, a model who has literally nothing to do with these products whatsoever but hey, these advertisers seem to know what they’re doing.  Anyway, these commercials seem to be the result of a projected 2015 revenue growth of U.S. mobile-game downloads, projected to reach $3.04 billion.

The mobile-game download revenue is compared against e-books, music, and video.  Although e-books are still the most profitable, their projected revenue increase is only a fourth of the mobile games, at 16.5%.

As an entertainment seeking population, why is this a new trend? Haven’t people been playing games for years. Or have game companies changed their apps to become more profitable? I’m not a tech savvy person but I would say with the increasing use of mobile apps, these companies redesigned their marketing skills as well as the games themselves to attract a wider user base and eventually turn a profit.

As discussed in the Wall Street Journal, eMarketer analyst Martin Uteras explains another reason for increased growth.  “There’s more room to grow in terms of demographics for gaming. Mobile opened the gate for a lot of people who were not traditionally gamers,”

The next couple months will prove if these projections are correct.  Hopefully the mobile game revenue growth proves more successful than its commercials let on…

Time to redesign

During print’s age of decline, re design is on the mind.  The New York Times is taking a major leap by introducing a whole new look for their magazine.  “There will be new columns, new columnists, new page concepts and layouts, new features and new typefaces.” A month prior, the Times announced their web redesign.  NYTimes.com will look just like the print version you see on your kitchen table every morning.  New York Times aims to maintain their identity and strengthen their brand.

In addition to the new look, the news source aims to increase their readership among young users with the use of the NYT Now app.  Currently offered for $7.99 a month, the Times is considering making this app free.  Although missing out on a profit, increasing subscribers is of greater importance, especially if it means opening its brand up to a new generation – specifically the generation eliminating the newspaper.

These two major changes would seriously change up the traditional news source and raises questions as to whether other competitors will follow in their footsteps.  The threat of digital news putting print sources out of business is causing the New York Times and others to reconsider their methods.  This makes me curious what other actions will be taken in the future.  How will print news sources reach out to their readers in 10 years? Even 5? The digital age is moving at such a fast pace no one can keep up, let alone lead the pack.

Is Apple Pay on the outs already?

Big news was released yesterday in the technology world.  Apple’s lead in technological advances has come to an end.  Its competitor, Samsung announced the expected release of LoopPay, rivaling Apple Pay.  Samsung announced a deal to purchase LoopPay in hopes of eventually launching a holistic mobile wallet.

As discussed in class today, the technological field is filled with fierce competition.  When one company launches an innovative idea, other brands jump on the idea in attempts to outdo the other and wow the consumer (think Google Glass now branching to Microsoft, Sony, etc).  The convenience of leaving your wallet at home is appealing to most all consumers, therefore providing great incentive to invest in a product that can provide such a service.

After the investment of LoopPay, Samsung intends to build the technology into its future mobile devices, suddenly creating competition between the iPhone’s mobile pay services and Samsung’s.  The question is who will outshine the other?

I completely understand the need to compete with one another, but from the viewpoint of the consumer this makes buying decisions that much more difficult.  Whereas the iPhone used to sell itself with its one-of-a-kind features, other devices are quickly adapting similar features that may even be better.  As we head into the future of technology the question of which product has more features will be obsolete – instead we will be asking which one is better.  In the case of Samsung, they might even have a leg up.  Whereas Apple Pay only works with certain retailers, Samsung’s LoopPay will work with even more retailers.

I, and I’m sure many others, are curious to see how this all plays out.  Will Samsung come out on top in terms of the mobile wallet or will Apple continue to be the reigning champ? Stay tuned.