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Social-Powered Holiday Cheer and Goodwill

Karly Gaffney is a Manager on the Content and Community team at Social Media Group.

Every so often I pull my head out of the social media world and take a look at what’s actually happening out there IRL. I did just that recently, researching holiday campaigns that were taking place in the real world but being powered by social media. As it turns out, there are not only some really cool campaigns out there, many include a charitable element, making it so much cooler.

For those of you who have either been living under a rock or like to stick your head in the sand around the holidays, I’ve put together a list of some great social-powered holiday campaigns from 2011/2012 for your reading pleasure.

The Christmas Spirit Tree

Here in Toronto last year Canadian Tire and TribalDDB launched an innovative “Christmas Spirit Tree” campaign in the heart of downtown at Toronto’s Union Station.

A 30-foot tree was wrapped in 3,100 lights that reacted to social/digital conversation buzz around the Christmas holidays. Posts that included words like Santa, holiday, merry, gift, time and year contributed to the holiday light show.

What was really awesome about it is that the colour and brightness of the lights were directly related to online activity:

  • When the lights flashed white, social networks like Twitter and Facebook were alive with Christmas chatter.
  • Green lights meant Christmas was being mentioned in the news.
  • Red lights showed onlookers that blogs and forums were abuzz.
  • Blue flashing strobe lights were reacting to people posting massages on the Christmas Spirit Tree microsite or sending a text to the specified number.
  • The brightness of the lights represented the total number of messages per minute being shared, so when online sharing was at its highest the tree shone its brightest.

The Communitree

In November of this year there was a great campaign called The Communitree supporting the Philadelphia Toys for Tots charity.  Scented ornament company Scentsicles teamed up with the online Christmas Tree retailer Balsam Hill to create a robotic arm that was controlled remotely via a microsite to digitally decorate a real Christmas tree.

Each ornament added to the tree equated to a $5 donation to the charity and users were encouraged to share their activities on Facebook with each like on their posts adding an additional $0.25 to the cause.

The whole thing took place on livestream and they hired two fun hosts to interact and engage with the visitors both online and through a phone they had on set where people could call in their holiday song requests or to ask questions talk to the hosts. They were also able to tweet them at @TheCommunitree.

At campaign end, they raised a total of $21,330 for the Philadelphia Toys for Tots and there were 2,159 ornaments hung on The Communitree. It looks like their top participant in the leaderboard received 172 likes (x $.25) on his/her post.

Zynga’s Oh, What Fun

Zynga recently launched their holiday “Oh, What Fun” campaign, which turns virtual goods into real-world donations. From now until Dec 31, Zynga is offering players the option to purchase an in-game good that will benefit Toys for Tots this holiday season. Items start at as little as $1, making it a bit of a no-brainer for gamers who want to give back but don’t know where to start.

If you’re a Zynga gamer who plays CityVille, CastleVille, Words With Friends, FrontierVille, Bubble Safari, Draw Something or Farmville, you have the option to purchase a good and make a donation today.

I love seeing brands use social platforms to not only generate awareness about their products or services, but also to spread goodwill and cheer during the holidays.  Have you seen any other really great real world social-powered campaigns?


Many Cool Things – November 2, 2012

Today, we held our second Social Media Group culture jam, which we call #ManyCoolThings.

Here are summaries and links to the #ManyCoolThings we found this week:

Facebook Gifts gets ability to make charitable contributions on behalf of friends
Facebook has begun testing the ability to give charitable contributions on behalf of friends in its Facebook Gifts product. The gifts product used to be limited to giving physical or digital items to friends and having them delivered, but now takes on a charitable bent.

Cory Booker uses Twitter to reach constituents in need during Hurricane Sandy
Hurricane Sandy has provided politicians across the Northeast with an excellent opportunity to prove how much they care about their constituencies — especially via social media, the easiest means by which public officials can demonstrate how ~in touch~ they are with real people.


Open Wines – “Open For Anything” campaign
Call the Open hotline (1-855-5-BE-OPEN) for a random suggestion of what to do tonight.

Image: Open Wines

Political Engagement Map
See the level of engagement by state by Obama and Romney tweets.

Science reveals how not to choke under pressure
Cognitive psychologist Sian Beilock has a formula for performing in the clutch: Don’t pay too much attention to what you are doing.
Nova Science Now show

La Carnita – Art and Tacos
La Carnita is an experiment in progress: one that combines the global street food and street art cultures with the local talent and ingredients we’re blessed to be near. For more, check their story or read about them in Marketing Magazine.

Louis C.K. Hates Twitter – Conan on TBS
Louis C.K. has the rare ability to live his life without looking at his phone all day.

Be sure to follow @SMG_Agency to participate live in future #ManyCoolThings culture jams.

Social Media: The Gateway to High Fashion for the General Public

Karly Gaffney is a Manager on the Content and Community team at Social Media Group.

It’s no secret that social media is a natural fit for fashion brands and designers. Considering the ever-changing nature of fashion, it’s not surprising that this industry has adapted quickly and is leading the way with its experimentation and innovation in social media.

Social media platforms have allowed the fashion world to reach a larger audience of both loyal consumers and aspiring purchasers who like myself, may not always be able to afford the products (but love looking at them!)

There have been hundreds of articles and blogs focusing on this very topic; however, fashion changes constantly, as do the stories. Below are a few that stood out recently.


Gucci recently grabbed attention after unveiling a ‘Pinnable’ banner ad as part of its Fall/Winter 2012 digital campaign, featuring a “Pin it” button in the creative. Not entirely ground-breaking, considering anyone with the Pinterest plug-in can pin straight from their browser.

Gucci, however, is providing users with the option to either pin the model or pin the shoes. (Though this isn’t inherently obvious when looking at the ad.) In any case, adding the Pin it button to the creative will likely prompt an increase in shares for Gucci on Pinterest.


Burberry boasts 536k followers on Instagram, over 1.2 million Twitter followers and 13 million Facebook Likes and is a brand that is very aware of the responsibility it has to its large following. In an interview with Mashable at the Spring/Sumer 2012 runway show, Burberry’s Chief Creative Officer, Christopher Bailey commented, “A brand is not just about product, it’s about experience as well, and experiences need to come from the center of a community.”

Burberry Spring / Summer 2012

As a brand that values content and experience, Burberry has developed some pretty interesting social campaigns over the last year. During the Spring/Summer 2012 runway show in London, photographer Michael Kus published a real-time photo feed to Burberry Instagram followers, providing the images before they were available anywhere else. Burberry also staged “Tweetwalk” where it premiered every look on Twitter moments before the models hit the runway, #Burberry was trending worldwide shortly after the show began. (Not bad for a 155-year-old company.)

Louis Vuitton

Louis Vuitton has been actively recruiting new fans and rewarding loyal customers through Facebook over the last three years. It broadcasted the spring 2010 ready-to-wear show live exclusively to Facebook followers and continues to stream shows live on Facebook.

For an industry that has historically been pegged as elitist, high fashion brands like Burberry, Gucci, Louis Vuitton and many others have been using social media to open the doors and let the common folk inside.

What are your thoughts on fashion brands on social media? Are they authentic or just another way to peddle merchandise?


The Age of the Social Shopper

Kirsten McNeill is a Coordinator on the Content & Community team at Social Media Group.

The social shopper is not a new phenomenon, but the scale and scope of the new social shopper is much greater. This shouldn’t come as a surprise considering new smartphone technologies and group buying sites. A recent study from Barclay reported that sales driven by social media influence is expected to double within the next 5 years. This is obviously a trend that shouldn’t be ignored; now let’s take a look at who and what is a social shopper.

According to Commerce in Motion, a social shopper is a consumer who regularly uses social networks and apps, smartphones and location-based services as part of their shopping lifestyle. Essentially, these shoppers are using technology to create the social interactions that they would have found in physical malls and stores, in the comfort of their own home.

Take a look at the Infographic from SteelHouse below to see where social shoppers are visiting and engaging.

The infographic shows that 55% of consumers are sharing their purchases on social networks, with Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest taking the top spots, making these essential networks to be engaging on. What’s even more noteworthy is the conversion rate of Facebook vs. Pinterest. Pinterest has received a lot of hype this year and looks to be the top network converting social shoppers to customers, with 59% of users having purchased an item they saw on the site.

Are you on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest? If so, have you seen an increase in website/mobile purchases since engaging on these channels?


Cut digital calories with

Lindsay Stanford is Director and Group Head, Content & Community, at Social Media Group. Follow @lindsaystanford

Lately, I’ve been feeling a little uninformed. It sounds crazy I know, in a time when there’s a virtual fire hose of information aimed at us, you would think that I would be overwhelmed with knowledge. Like many people of my generation, I don’t have cable or listen to the radio, I get all of my information from word-of-mouth or online.

Here is my biggest challenge with this method of data collection: I have such little time to dedicate to reading the news and there is so much to sift through, how can I possibly get the most relevant, valuable and important news in that time?

I recently scrubbed and listed all the accounts I follow on Twitter, reorganized my reader, added several apps like Flipboard to my mobile in an attempt to categorize the information for easy consumption. There was a slight improvement but I still have to check 3 to 5 places for information, so it hasn’t really cut down the time overall, just the time on each tool. I’m still finding that at the end of the day there are stories of importance that I have somehow missed.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and what I think I need is a completely customizable curator that will pull from various sources and give me the option of how I want to receive the information. I know I’m not alone and I honestly think we’re close to seeing something like this in the very near future. In the mean time, I’m checking out apps and tools that are presently available in hopes of get closer.

My most recent discovery is (they are owned by betaworks who recently bought Digg). is a service that collects the links to the top stories from your Facebook and Twitter followers and distributes them to you in an email or gives you the option to view the feed on their app (IOS only). They determines identifies top stories as those which are shared the most by your Facebook and Twitter communities. In that, there is this whole assumption of trusting your communities to determine what is worth sharing, and in this case, what is news. As well the assumption that you are going to have similar interests in the informaiton you are seeking. I guess you could say the old ‘birds of a feather, flock together’ notion.

I opted to only have my Twitter account activated as that is where the majority of the relevant information I want is, and chose to download the IOS app instead of receiving emails. So far I’m really enjoying the experience. The interface is really simple and clean, the stories are what I would deem newsworthy and it’s got some really cool features that make it worth checking out.

One of the features I like is called ‘Paperboy’. If you choose to activate it, you will get a refresh and push of new articles when you leave your destination of choice. Essentially, you could get the news when you leave your house to read on the train. Brilliant! It also has a ‘Reading List’ feature, so if you’re someone like me who has little time in the day to read a whole article, you can easily add the article to your Reading List for reading when you have more time. The app also allows you to share the news through Facebook and Twitter if you like.

I’m quite impressed with and will see if, over the next few weeks, it gives me the information I’m looking in what little free time I have available.

Give it a whirl and let me know what you think. Additionally, if you have other tools you would like to suggest, I’m always up for trying out something new.


WWDC Apple Updates and What They Mean for Social Media

Yesterday, Apple dropped an atomic bomb of updates at WWDC, sending shockwaves throughout the tech world. The MacBook Pro line, OSX and iOS all received much anticipated (and at times surprising) upgrades. Those close to the blast radius are now undoubtedly waxing over’s newly refreshed product page, basking in the brilliant wired future their new hardware toys will bring. Yes, hardware updates caused most of yesterday’s commotion, but like almost always, it will be the updates to software that will cause the fallout.

OSX Mountain Lion Notification Center
Apple continues to bring some of iOS’s best features over to the Mac, creating a more seamless experience for users across devices. In Mountain Lion, Notification Center will now post app notifications in the top left hand corner of the desktop. What’s interesting is the inclusion of Twitter. Users will have the ability to both Tweet and respond to Twitter notifications directly within the OS, effectively turning the Mac into a lightweight Twitter client in itself.

Facebook will now join Twitter as a fully integrated social layer within iOS. Users will have the ability to log into the social network at the system level, sync contacts directly with the iOS address book, “like” apps on the App Store and post updates directly from the iOS Notification Center. Functionality to post updates from the notification center has be extended to cover Twitter as well.

Photo Stream
Photo Stream has gone social. In a move that sees Apple treading on a bit of Instagram’s turf, users will now be able to share, subscribe and comment on a stream of photos taken by friends directly from their iOS device. What makes this move even more disruptive are the endless amounts of apps available for iOS that provide comparable if not superior photo editing features than the ones provided by Instagram.

Apple seems to be moving away from attempting to roll their own social network, rather embracing the rich communities that exist today. A smart move for a company that’s best known for their top notch hardware and software and not the web. Today, social media is vital to the digital experience of users, and Apple is now incorporating the best of breed properties directly into their ecosystem.

How HOT is Social Media Lately…

Wangari Kamande is a Research Analyst at Social Media Group.

I am sitting on my couch this quiet Saturday evening reading June’s edition of O magazine – an uncommon activity as I rarely buy magazines. I am one of those boldly unashamed people who walk into a Chapters store, picks a favourite magazine, finds a spot near the in-store Starbucks, and reads through each and every article (but my ‘redeeming’ quality is that I always return the magazines to the rack that I found them). Why am I talking about this? What does this have to do with social media? There was one fateful day when I forgot my smartphone at home; I literally felt lost with nothing to do in between breaks for lunch and waiting for an appointment – I had to get something to fill my time – hence O magazine. You see, when I have my phone I’m mostly perusing through my social sites reading up on what’s new and what’s going on with other people’s lives…so I wondered if this “subconscious” craze is still taking over the world’s populace.

Let’s review some high level statistics and see…

Growth of Usage

According to a study by GlobalWebIndex, purported to be the world’s most detailed global insight study into consumer behaviour online:

  • Social networking has seen 23% growth in the last 2 years
  • Micro-blog updates have increased by 11% and video uploads by about 6%
  • Forums have become significantly less active, showing a 6% decline in activity and blogging seems to have remained stagnant at 27% in the past two years
  • China is the most socially engaged country in the world, with 84% of users contributing at least once a month. Russia, Brazil and India follow in that order
  • reports that 66% of all online adult users are connected to one or more social media platforms. In addition, social media use for both personal and business purposes has been increasing steadily in the last 10 years

Social Media Platform Statistics

According to the Realtime report:

The list goes on, what appears to be social mania is just a new way of doing what humans have done always, communicate!

Social Brands

Websites continue to be the primary brand engagement point for consumers online, according to an earlier version of the Globalwebindex study nearly a third of consumers online are engaging with brands on social media, no doubt a clear sign of social traction for those brands that are doubtful if social media is here to stay.

According to some overwhelming stats coming via Facebook’s S1 registration statement courtesy of its initial IPO, as of Dec 31, 2011, more than seven million apps and websites were integrated with Facebook.

Mobile and Social Media

Since Facebook is such  hot news with the whole “to buy or not to buy” driving investors mental – again from its SI registration statement, Facebook identified 425 million active users of Facebook via mobile devices (mobile, social media – something is cooking really fast here).

To emphasize how quickly all this is changing, according to digitalbuzz of the 6 billion humans in the planet, 4.8 billion own a mobile phone and only 4.2 billion own a tooth brush. Now really – I get the sense here that the new ways of getting us all to connect are supposedly surpassing our need for dental hygiene. Mobile is something to watch especially with the social overlay that is now quickly becoming the faster and cheaper way to connect with others.

Still not convinced of the value of this social movement? I would like to hear from you…


Stevie For Your TV

Michelle McCudden is a Manager on the Client Strategy & Innovation team at Social Media Group. Follow @mmccudden1

I’m not an indiscriminate social networker. I keep a fairly tight circle on Facebook and try to keep my Twitter follows around the 200 mark. I’ve experiemented with bigger circles, but find that I start to tune out when they get too big. Thanks to this careful pruning, I know that most of the content my network shares is going to be of at least some interest to me. And when it comes to video content, I end up starring a lot of tweets to find the video later, or bookmarking links from Facebook into a folder called “Stuff I Want to Watch.”

The new startup, Stevie, from Gil Rimon aims to address that. Stevie is a web-based platform that takes the content from our social networks and creates what it calls “TV shows” out of it, with names like The Comedy Strip, Music Non-Stop, and Top Stories that sort the video and audio content into themed streams. The content plays as part of themed TV show, with relevant tweets and Facebook updates scrolling in the bottom and side margins.

Essentially, Stevie provides a similar functionality as Flipboard—in the same way that Flipboard takes your content and makes a more attractive looking magazine-type display, Stevie makes an (arguably) more attractive and easy to use video display, complete with iPhone and Android apps that act as remotes, so you can easily watch Stevie on your TV, rather than your laptop. The app and the service are free, so there are ads to support the service, similar to the overlay ads that you might see on YouTube.

It looks like they’re still working out a few of the kinks—in the time I’ve been experimenting I’ve seen a few videos repeat themselves, and I seem to get a lot of “celeb” updates from celebs I don’t follow—but the idea has promise. What do you think? Would you use Stevie as your new tool for content consumption?


Pinterest – Valuation, Usage & Experience

Jordan Benedet is a Manager on the Client Strategy and Innovation team at
Social Media Group.

Everyone is in a tizzy about the Facebook IPO today, but when I noticed that Pinterest had raised $100 million in funding, which valued the company at $1.5 billion, I felt the need to write about the platform. Pinterest has been the talk of the town since their explosive growth in late 2011 (which has actually almost leveled off in March). When a platform generates as much referral traffic as Google and Twitter, it will definitely spur many people to write a lot about it, such as explaining what it is, how to use the platform, and of course some obligatory demographic data (spoiler: overall it is around 70% female).

This post focuses on some of the ways people and marketers use Pinterest, sprinkled with some miscellaneous stats, with a side of my personal experience and thoughts.


Pinterest has so many different usage applications for both consumers and marketers. Users love how they can tell their own story and express themselves through pinning their favourite images, or sharing and discussing with friends. The phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” really applies here. Content on Pinterest also really gets around—80% of all pins are repins, or things that other users have already shared.

Pinterest is such a new platform, which means marketers are experimenting with ways to connect with consumers to drive brand awareness, and sales. It’s a great platform to showcase products, implement tasteful link-bait strategies, hold contests, and show off a brand’s true “style”. I personally really like General Electric’s Pinterest board; it has a great mix of product focused content, interesting content, and user-generated content in the #GEInspiredME board.

One of the biggest concerns affecting both users and marketers is the legality of Pinterest related to copyrights, which I’m sure will continue to grow as more and more people use the platform.

Personal Experience

Sure, I have a Pinterest account, but I will be honest—I don’t use the platform outside of work. Not personally using the platform does not mean I’m far from it though, and here is why—I’m getting married in July, and moving into a new place with my soon-to-be wife.

Pinterest is great resource for both wedding planning, an interior decorating. My fiancée religiously uses Pinterest to get ideas and inspiration ahead of our big day, and I totally approve because it has also made my life a little easier during this somewhat stressful planning period (although I have not really seen my iPad in quite a while…).  I definitely like Pinterest, and think it has a lot of potential, but like all up and coming platforms, they will need a great monetization strategy that balances both corporate and user interests to stick around for the long haul.

Social Media Roundup for March 30

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

The Timeline Deadline is Here

Today Facebook will implement the mandatory switch to Timeline for Pages. If you’ve been reluctant to make the switch, here’s some good news to ease you through the transition: It looks like Timeline will actually benefit your page. A study from Wildfire this week showed that Pages with less than 1 million fans are seeing a big boost in engagement from switching over to Timeline, with sizeable increases to comments, likes and People Talking About This. Larger pages have seen a smaller boost, but are still benefitting. We’re looking forward to more data after the switch this weekend. In the meantime, it’s been interesting to see what some brands are doing to take advantage of that Cover Photo real estate:

Another awesome use for Timeline? Tracing your brand or industry back hundreds or thousands of years. Two of the best examples are the New York Times, which begins its Timeline in 1851 with the paper’s first issue, and Spotify, which traces the history of popular music back to the year 1000.


Pinterest’s New Terms of Service

Last weekend, Pinterest rolled out their new policies, with updates to the  Terms of Service taking effect on April 6 and updated versions of Acceptable Use and Privacy policies taking place on March 23. Among the changes are new tools for reporting alleged copyright or trademark infringements, the prohibition of pins or boards promoting self-harm (targeting “thinspo” boards, among others), and an update to the Terms of Service to remove the word “sell.” (Pinterest recently came under fire for their stated right to sell any content posted to Pinterest, with critics sighting concerns about copyright and ownership.) The new Terms also state that users aren’t to post any content that would infringe upon the rights of the creator, as a means of protecting Pinterest against charges of copyright infringement. How tightly this will be enforced remains to be seen. Check out John Herrman of Buzzfeed’s projection of what a board without copyrighted content might look like:

Understanding the Twitter Bug


A big story this week has been Twitter’s confirmation that there is, indeed, an “unfollow” bug, making it appear that you are not following someone that you had previously followed. Since Twitter’s redesign late last year, it’s much easier to see if someone is following you or not, thanks to the “FOLLOWS YOU” that appears next to their name.

While there’s some speculation that the bug is the result of the December redesign, others (myself included) seem to remember it starting earlier. Twitter reports that they’re working to fix the bug.