All posts in “content”

The Shared Experience: Live TV and Social Media


Ruth is the Director of Business Development at Social Media Group. You can follow her @rutbas.

Our family recently moved into a new house. My husband was lobbying hard to “lose the cable”. It would have been cheaper, but I resisted. You never know what’s going to happen I said. I may have felt differently if we had a fancy new TV set… but I’m still working with the TV we got when we first set up house, way back in the 90’s, so I held firm. I just suspected that there would be times when only live TV would do.

These last few weeks have been such a time.

We have all have snuggled around the TV to discuss the merits of Presidential candidates, marvel at how vulnerable “life as we know it” is with the onslaught of Sandy, and generally counted on the cast of characters across all the networks to guide us through the build up to election night. I still love that CNN map. And did you see Letterman do his show on the night of Sandy? I found it hilarious, and poignant all at once. OK, granted, I saw it on YouTube after the fact (Check it out)… but I love that Letterman went live with the show.

And nothing beats seeing those election results come in live. Loved it when Peter Mansbridge held up cue cards because the “number machine” was acting up, and was presenting everything backwards…

Granted, at any one time, all of my family members supplement live television viewing with various devices. It was very entertaining to watch the last set of Presidential debates while following Twitter. I’d never done that before, and I get the appeal. When Sandy hit I could track power outages via the Toronto Hydro Web site on my phone, and feel very on top of things. But the main event for us was still on that little box in the living room.

While we continue to have our shared experience with respect to media, around the television screen, families like ours are supplementing the experience with those various tweets, posts and conversations that clearly expand the “shared experience” outside of the household. My husband got thousands of views for one of his election posts one night. Sometimes, it’s just weird. It’s like we’re having this shared experience, and publishing it to the world at the same time. Or something like that. I hardly know what to call the emerging model- but I suspect it’s the new normal.

Check out the info-graphic below,  “TV Goes Social: The Rise of the Second Screen”  to see how radically our TV viewing habits are changing…  and integrating into the social media experience, whether watching the live version or canned version.

What has the experience in your household been in the last few weeks with regards to live TV viewing and social media?


New Start-Up Aimed at Selling Goods Socially

Lindsay Stanford is a Director of Client Engagement, Content and Community at Social Media Group. Follow @lindsaystanford

Have you ever created a song or digital art that you thought might be worth something, but were so discouraged with complex e-commerce sites to even think about selling it? Well you can rejoice because a new startup has come to save you from that fate! Gumroad, a social-centric site makes selling your stuff online super simple, much cheaper than competitive sites and lets you share links of your goods through your social platforms.

Sahil Lavingia, the 19-year-old brain child behind Gumroad and former Pinterest employee, dropped out of college to pursue his dreams of running his own company and creating a service that allows people to sell anything they can share. Gumroad even has a cool feature that allows the buyer to pay what they think the product is worth, love that idea!

I think Gumroad will be extremely successful. They have taken away the complication and created a space where in a matter of minutes an item can be uploaded, shared and bought. I’m not the only one who believes it will take off. Monday it was announced that Gumroad received 7 million in funding. For a company who only takes a 5% cut of sales plus $0.25 per transaction, it is just a matter of time before they are making a profit and possibly forcing the competition to lower their rates.

Check out the video below and if you’re not the creative type pass along Gumroad to those who are. You never know, you could end up buying something from one of them.

Adding animated GIFs to your content toolbox

Brandon Oliver Smith is Research and Insights Analyst at Social Media Group.

Last July, I reviewed a new iOS app called Loopcam. Loopcam made it easy for users to capture GIF images and publish them to a variety of social networks including Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr. Since then, the animated image space has seemingly exploded with a handful of new apps like GifBoom and Gifture, format spin-offs called Cinemagrams and a couple kick-butt examples of how the animated GIF format can be a valuable addition to a brand’s content toolbox.

Opening Ceremony - Pixel Geometry

Opening Ceremony – Pixel Geometry

Not surprisingly, fashion brands have been some of the first to adopt the alternative image format. Movement within images allow shoppers to get a more realistic sense of how wearable items are. Traditionally, this sense of realism is communicated using video which while becoming increasingly commonplace, still suffers from some accessibility, portability and sharability challenges.

Burberry - London Fashion Week 2012

Burberry – London Fashion Week 2012

The small footprint of the GIF format allows it to circumvent some of the challenges encountered with video. GIF files are typically small in size and like standard images, theyß can be saved to the desktop with a simple right click save as.

The popularity of GIF blogs have already shown a strong demand for the cheeky format on sites like Tumblr. Taking the audience demographics of Tumblr into consideration, it only makes sense that brands should showcase products using a content format that’s already popular with the target audience.

General Electric Innovation

General Electric Innovation

Animated GIFs are also proving to be valuable content assets for industries far removed from the fashion world. The iconic General Electric recently showed off the epic scale of their manufacturing and design process with GIFs, doing so also cast a light on the company’s ingenuity and dedication to push the boundaries of technology.

The 25-year-old image format is now in the midst of a renaissance. Its endearing qualities are catching the eye of a totally new generation of web user and exploration of it’s applications as a branded content asset are just beginning.

How Content Marketing is Changing Everything – Free SMG Webinar March 22

SMG Content Marketing

Content Marketing is the latest buzzword – but what does it mean for marketers?

On March 22nd at 12pm ET, explore How Content is Changing Everything during a live webinar hosted by Leona Hobbs, VP of Social Media Group.


Webinar Overview – How Content is Changing Everything

Disruption. It’s one of the most common buzzwords used to describe the social web. But when we use it, we have largely been referring to technology and platforms – broadband web access, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook. But what about content? In some places, there’s too much, in others, not enough – causing major problems for established business models. In this presentation we’ll explore how content is emerging as a major challenge (and opportunity) for marketers, how progressive programs and partnerships are changing the way branded content moves across the web, and how it can effectively be used to earn attention and shift marketing from push to pull in a billion-channel universe.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • What is Content Marketing?
  • Why should I care?
  • What can I do with it?
  • How do I find my target audiences?
  • What kinds of results can I expect?
  • What do I need to get started?


About the Presenter

Leona Hobbs

Leona Hobbs, Vice President & Partner. With over a decade of experience in communications and marketing, Leona leads the SMG account teams and provides social media and digital communications counsel to SMG clients. A specialist in digital communications and social media marketing, Leona frequently speaks about Internet-powered communications to students and at conferences. She is an advisor to the Public Relations Program at Loyalist College and a volunteer organizer of the Toronto Girl Geek Dinners and PodCamp Toronto. In 2010, Leona received The International Alliance for Women World of Difference 100 award in the Community category. / @flackadelic



Transmedia Storytelling: It’s Not Only for Fiction

James Cooper is a strategist on the Content and Community team at Social Media Group.

Follow @jamescooper

As part of Social Media Week Toronto last month, SMG hosted Social Media Group Spark, during which five colleagues and I were each given 5 minutes to inspire our audience on a social media topic of our choice.

I took the opportunity to talk about the emerging trend of “transmedia storytelling”.

What is transmedia storytelling?

social media group

Image: The Matrix

Also known as “multiplatform storytelling”, it’s storytelling across multiple platforms and formats using digital technologies. It’s not to be confused with “multimedia”, which is content presented in a combination of different media forms. Transmedia storytelling focuses on the narrative and the experience. Whereas, multimedia, puts emphasis on the technology and the content.

The Matrix franchise is a classic example of transmedia storytelling. It’s fictional storyworld is constructed across films, animation, video games, a massively multi-player online role playing game (MMPORG), a graphic novel and a series of comics. Each platform enriches and adds nuances to the over arching storyline.

So what? Why does transmedia storytelling matter?

It matters because, as humans, we love stories. We love to tell stories. We love to hear stories. We love the experience that is created by a really great story. Marketers have an opportunity to immerse their audience in a brand experience that follows a story and engages the audience across multiple media platforms.

I recently encountered a great example of transmedia stortelling on History Television. Battle Castle, a new show which premieres on March 15, “brings to life mighty medieval fortifications and the sieges they resist: clashes that defy the limits of military technology and turn empires to dust.”

screenshot of Battle Castle landing page


The Battle Castle “action documentary” — which is a collaboration between New York-based Starlight Runner and two Canadian companies, Parallax Film Productions and Agentic Communications —  is enriched across web games, virtual castle tours, social media channels, and 3D-ready content both online and for broadcast TV. Each of these platforms creates a unique entry point into the medieval world that is Battle Castle.

Unlike billion-dollar transmedia franchises, such as The Matrix, Harry Potter and Star Wars, which create fictional universes, Battle Castle’s documentary format is largely based on historically accurate information. I think this sets an example for other transmedia storytellers who wish to explore the realm of non-fiction.

Now what? What should marketers do with transmedia storytelling?

We’re living in an age of blurring lines between media. As this happens, it’s becoming less a question of whether or not marketers should consider using transmedia storytelling and more a question of when they should act on it.

As we’ve seen, there are many examples of transmedia’s natural fit in the entertainment industry. There are also many examples of transmedia use in the extended B2C market, such as Coke’s Happiness Factory, Mattel’s “Should Barbie take Ken back?” and Dos Equis’Most Interesting Man in the World”. But does transmedia work in B2B?

I think it’s safe to assume that most B2B marketers would consider the thought of creating a fictional storyworld around their brand — full of faeries and other mystical beings — to be brand suicide. But, if there’s a lesson to be learned from Battle Castle, it’s that transmedia is not strictly for fictional storytelling. In some B2B industries, marketers may have an exciting opportunity to approach transmedia storytelling as documentarians.

What do you think? Does transmedia storytelling have the potential to become the status quo? Does it apply to B2B or is it only suitable for B2C marketing?

Watch the full video of my talk:

Let's Stop Saying Viral

Michelle McCudden is a Manager on the Client Strategy & Innovation team at Social Media Group.

On Friday February 17th, SMG participated in Social Media Week Toronto by hosting an Ignite-inspired event, with each speaker given five minutes to speak on their topic. I delivered a talk entitled “Let’s Stop Saying Viral” and you can watch the video here:

We had a great time, but five minutes goes by really, really quickly. (As an added challenge, I could probably discuss my distaste for the term “viral” for hours on end.) So, as my colleague Cam Finlayson did yesterday, I wanted to take some time here in the blog to follow up on a few points and dig a little deeper.

Much of my thinking around the idea of viral content is covered by the excellent series “If It Doesn’t Spread, It’s Dead”by Henry Jenkins, Xiaochang Li, and Ana Domb Krauskopf, with Joshua Green which I would highly recommend for a nuanced take on the issue. In short, “virality” is a weak metaphor for how content is actually shared, because it downplays the role of the user—the person who will actually choose to share it with their networks. It’s preferable, the authors argue to think about content as “spreadable” instead:

“A spreadable model emphasizes the activity of consumers …in shaping the circulation of media content, often expanding potential meanings and opening up brands to unanticipated new markets.”

Let’s look at a recent example of a piece of content that has been incredibly popular over the last month (in fact, you’re probably sick of it already):


The “What People Think I Do/What I Actually Do” meme’s first appearance was as a photo on artist Garnet Hertz’s Facebook page on February 2, 2012, according to The original version, depicting the profession of “contemporary artist” received only a handful of comments and just over one hundred likes, but 5,124 shares (for reference, Hertz has about one thousand Facebook friends).

From there, this concept was shared and repurposed quickly and widely. It’s hard to say for sure how many times it’s been shared, but it’s garnered coverage on Mashable, Gawker, and PCMag for its ubiquity. There’s also at least 20 Pinterest boards dedicated to collecting examples. It’s fair to say that most would say this meme went “viral,” or as I would argue, was highly shareable.

However, Jenkins et al. argue: “Content is spread based not on an individual evaluation of worth, but on a perceived social value within community or group. Not all good content is good for sharing.” So what made this meme so shareable?

Let’s look to this meme using the key qualities of shareable content from their article:

  • It expresses something about the user or their community. Because it’s easy to modify (source a few pre-existing images, type simple text on a black screen, and ta-da—you’re done!), this content is almost infinitely adaptable.  Versions have been created for professions as niche as Laptop DJAnalyst Relations,and Keyboard Player. Whatever your job, whatever your community, there’s either an existing take on it, or it’s incredibly easy to make your own.
  • The message serves a valued social function. There’s a clear social value inherent in this meme. By sharing it to with colleagues or those who work in a similar industry, users are able to provide something that is intended to be humorous, relevant, and resonant. By sharing with those outside of one’s own profession, there’s an opportunity to comment on how they might perceive your job.
  • The content gives expressive form to some deeply held perception or feeling about the world. What I Do/What People Think I Do allows users to demonstrate how they believe their job is perceived by others, and society at large. It’s a commentary on the perceived worth of a given profession.
  • Individual responses to the content helps users determine who does or does not belong in their community. In sharing this meme, users are providing a piece of content for others in their networks to converse around. If for example, someone posted a version specific to their profession to their Facebook wall, what might they expect? Some, particularly those with similar jobs, may express their agreement or amusement with the content in the form of a like or comment. Alternatively, there’s an opportunity to critique or disagree with the meme’s depiction, or ignore it all together. These responses will help the original poster to learn about their social network.

What People Think I Do/What I Really Do clearly embodies the qualities of spreadable piece of content. Looking at others that have blown up recently (I’m looking at you, Sh*t People Say), I would expect to find much of the same. What’s your take? Can we please move away from viral as a model for how content is shared?

5 Reasons You Should Use a Conversation Calendar

James Cooper is a strategist on the Content and Community team at Social Media Group. Follow @jamescooper

social media group conversation calendar

With so many social media accounts, all hungry for engaging content that offers value, you might be asking yourself, “How will I ever manage all of this?”

Have no fear. You can manage it. All you need is the right tool – a conversation calendar to help you take control.

What exactly is a  “conversation calendar”, you might be wondering?

In essence, it’s an editorial calendar specific to social media. Bloggers, publishers and companies use conversation calendars to control publication of content across their blogs and social media channels. Utilizing a conversation calendar is an extremely efficient way to control multi-channel postings over time.

In this post, I’m not going to focus on how to develop a conversation calendar (I think Debbie Williams does a great job of explaining this in her post Develop a Social Media Conversation Calendar). Rather, I’m going to tell you why you should use one.

1. Ensure consistency in the timing and voice of your communications

Using a conversation calendar lays out all of your pending posts in a single document. Being able to see all of your content in this consolidated format will help you maintain a consistent company voice in your communications across all social channels. It will also make it easier to ensure that you post at optimal times and avoid duplicating content on social properties.

2. Create accountability within your team

In a conversation calendar, you can assign actions to your content creators and community managers, creating accountability among them. At Social Media Group we set up a conversation calendar for our blog using a Google Spreadsheet which is shared among our team. The calendar is always updated at least a month in advance, giving everyone plenty of time to write our blog posts.

As an added advantage, being able to see what topics our colleagues are working on, we’re able to lend one another a helping hand and provide relevant insights into other reports and articles we may have seen that could add value to a post.

3. Be proactive and stay ahead of the content curve

Because so much changes so quickly in social media, you might find it difficult to fill out a conversation calendar several months in advance. But making your best effort to do so will help you think about and identify the important hurdles and milestones that you could face in the coming months. You can also plan to theme your content according to seasonal and special occasions, like Thanksgiving and Black Friday.

Your conversation calendar should be an evolving document. Don’t hesitate to make adjustments to it as opportunities arise or when tactics are proving unsuccessful.

4. Identify opportunities to repurpose existing content

Further to my previous point about being proactive, a conversation calendar enables you to reach out across your organization to find existing and planned content that could be re-purposed for use on your social channels. It also helps you make plans to track down relevant content from outside of your company, such as posts from industry bloggers and communities, that could be curated and shared in your company’s networks.

5. Make tracking and reporting (and impressing your boss) easier

A conversation calendar is not only useful for planning for the future, it also plays an integral role when reviewing insights and analytics. For example, when you see spikes in activity on a social channel, you can easily refer back to your conversation calendar to see what content was the trigger. Since the calendar consolidates all of your posts from across your networks, it simplifies the task of doing a year in review, which will likely make your boss happy.

What are your thoughts? Do you use a conversation calendar? If not, do you plan to start using one?

Instagram – A Brands Content Machine

Lindsay Stanford is a Director of Client Engagement, Content and Community at Social Media Group. Follow @lindsaystanford

About a month ago I wrote a post about Instagram becoming an up and coming social network and all the cool offshoot tools and platforms that leverage Instagram content.  Clever marketers have also taken notice and several prominent brands are getting on board and creating some noteworthy user experiences. Now that Instagram has released their API, brands are able to promote contests to connect with users and utilize the content through this exciting app.

Topshop launched their “Wish You Were at Topshop” contest across 4 UK and 1 US retail shops last summer. The idea was that users would go into Topshop, get styled and made-over in the new summer line, post their photo on Instagram, then upload it to the Topshop Facebook page and tag themselves for a chance to win a £1000/$1000 summer spree. The contest, that promoted their new summer fashion line with real shoppers as models and drove traffic to their Facebook page, ran for 8 days in 5 cities and generated over 3,375 photos for the brand. Below is a small sample of entries from the New York shop:

Fashion brands are a natural fit for Instagram. Gucci, Burberry, Levi’s, Club Monaco, Kate Spade and Marc Jacobs have all embraced the app to promote seasonal trends and give followers behind-the-scene glances at fashion shows and photo shoots. There are even photos taking followers all the way through concept to final product and all the steps in between, giving them the opportunity to see design, craftsmanship and production – everything it really takes to get that pair of 501s to the retail stores.

Chef Jamie Oliver was an early adopter of Instagram, and one of my favourites to follow. With an exciting cooking career and traveling the globe to promote his various Jamie Oliver products, Jamie’s photos are visually mouthwatering and he’s always ready and willing to engage with fan comments from his over 174,000 followers. He promotes his magazine, cookbooks, kitchen products, family events and recipes with clever candid comments that encourage follower interaction.

Bands and musicians have also started to engage with fans through Instagram to create richer fan experiences and run contests, some have even leveraged the content to create music videos. The Deftones, who have a band Instagram account, created a contest promoting their summer tour. They asked fans to upload and tag photos from the shows they attended with #deftones and #thecityyouattend. Each day a “Fan Instagram of the Day” photo was featured on the band’s website and Facebook page. At the end of the tour, the winner was chosen from those photos and won an ESP guitar signed by the band.

The Vaccines and A Place To Bury Strangers have both recently put out videos with the content generated solely from fan Instagram photos. A clever and inexpensive concept that integrates the fan experience right in the video.  The Vaccines video generated a lot of buzz and was featured in a Mashable post which received over 1,400 shares across various social platforms.

The Vaccines – Wetsuit

A Place to Bury Strangers – So Far Away

A Place to Bury Strangers “So Far Away” from Secretly Jag on Vimeo.

And lastly, venues have embraced Instagram to leverage the content to promote services and enrich the user experience. The Brooklyn Bowl kicked off their Instagram experience with a contest encouraging users to tag Instagram photos of their bowling experience with #brooklynbowl for the chance to win 2 tickets to any show at the venue.

Instagram allows a brand enthusiast a richer, more personal experience and with a little incentive, also a producer of content.  What are some of the cool Instagram campaigns you have seen or participated in?

Social Media Round Up Oct 21st: Content marketing around the 'net

“Content is King”

Content marketing is one of the most discussed topics at SMG everyday, and this week we would like to share some of the conte-related items that caught our attention with you. For those of you not entirely familiar with content marketing, I think this short interview Social Examiner did with C.C.Chapman, co-author of Content Rules,  should provide the basics.

From the interview, Chapman explains his definition of content and why it is important for brands,

“Content has been around forever, since we were kids. We’ve been creating content whether we called it content or not. We email newsletters, print ads, radio ads, all that is content. So it’s nothing new, we’ve known content marketing forever. The problem is, now in the internet, anybody can create content, publish content, get it out there. And let’s face it, there are a lot of them coming out, there is a never ending stream of content coming out. So doing content marketing and doing it smartly and strategically is the thing that’s hard and gets people lost. You maybe doing it, but you maybe doing it the way you did 10 years ago, but your customers are not the same as they were 10 years ago.”

He makes good points. Now with social networks it takes a lot more consideration and planning for brands to create content, even for the entire marketing strategy.

What does Content Marketing mean for B2B companies?

Now let’s take a look at content marketing for business-to-business companies.  Research conducted by has presented insights on how Content Marketing helps B2B companies to boost their lead generation effort. eMarketer’s Lauren Fisher, author of this new report says:

“Informative, nonpromotional content in the form of webinars, white papers, videos, blogs and peer recommendations on social networks and forums can attract prospects,”

“It can also be used to build and maintain ongoing relationships with potential buyers—a must for remaining top of mind throughout the purchase process.”

The figure below shows the different effects generated by different types of contents for B2B and B2C  companies.

Based on the research, Fisher continued:

“Online content is the fuel for the new B2B marketing lead generation engine,”

“In creating informational, educational and actionable content in the form of white papers and webinars, marketers can effectively lure early-stage buyers into their sales pipeline.”

“By mixing this content with comparative, company-specific and interactive content—and regularly sharing it via email or e-newsletters—marketers can build relationships designed to nurture prospects throughout the sales funnel.”

Content Marketing and  SEO

Good content assets go far. This infograph from Brafton shows that a good content marketing strategy helps brands to deeply engage with their customers and helps the brand to boost SEO ranking on search engines.