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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 16, 2012

Here’s this week’s edition of  #ManyCoolThings, a Social Media Group culture jam. These are the many cool things that recently caught our attention or inspired us:

Dominic Wilcox’s giant ScotchBlue tape flower sculpture
ScotchBlue and Design Milk launched a challenge for fans to create inspirational designs using ScotchBlue Painter’s Tape. Dominic Wilcox came up with the idea to piece together a giant blue flower.


Facebook, retailers testing ‘want’ button. Move could open sources of revenue
Facebook partners with seven retailers to test a feature that lets users of the social network create “wish lists” of home furnishings, clothing and other retail products, laying the groundwork for what some believe could be an eventual push into e-commerce.  

Multi-tasking is bad for your brain. Here’s how to fix it
All the streams from the social web have created a flood of information. With this influx of life and data streams comes the desire to stay on top of it all. But this is a bad idea, according to Clifford Nass whom GigaOm interviewed on the topic. Watch the video for Nass’s tips.

FoldIt – Solve puzzles for science.
FoldIt is an online puzzle video game about protein folding. The game is part of an experimental research project, and is developed by the University of Washington’s Center for Game Science in collaboration with the UW Department of Biochemistry. The objective of the game is to fold the structure of selected proteins to the best of the player’s ability, using various tools provided within the game. The highest scoring solutions are analysed by researchers, who determine whether or not there is a native structural configuration (or native state) that can be applied to the relevant proteins, in the “real world”. Scientists can then use such solutions to solve “real-world” problems, by targeting and eradicating diseases, and creating biological innovations.

For more on FoldIt, watch this short documentary.

Also, check out EteRNA, a sister project of FoldIt in which players help reveal new principles for designing RNA-based switches and nanomachines — new systems for seeking and eventually controlling living cells and disease-causing viruses.

Is this the blueprint for retailers to finally monetize Facebook?
Much has been written about retailers’ failed attempts at “F-Commerce”, but a look at what’s happening on Walmart’s Facebook page reveals what could well be the blueprint for how retailers will finally turn a profit on the world’s largest social network.
Walmart appears to be selling its suppliers promoted posts on its Facebook page, just like it sells its suppliers shelf space in store and half pages in their catalog. Yes folks, co-op marketing has arrived on Facebook.

Digital Marketing BS
What marketing buzzwords are most “electrifying”? Watch to find out.

Unsuck It – Need help translating all of those business buzzwords?
Unsuck It lets you input an overly complicated business term and it provides you with a definition in plain English. It’s just that easy. There’s even an option to “email the definition to the douchebag who used it.”

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?


Facebook Taking More Cues from Pinterest

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

They say imitation is the highest form of flattery; I wonder if Pinterest agrees. As Pinterest continues to gain traction in the social scene, it seems like Facebook has been investigating what they’re all about and what they are doing well.

Inside Facebook recently reported that Facebook appears to be testing a layout for Open Graph app stories that look very similar to the Pinterest design, with boxes for individual items that allow Likes, comments and other app-specific actions.

This change would make app stories more prominent in Facebook’s News Feed and app developers would benefit from being able to use larger photos, captions and new options for users and their networks to engage with app content.

What exactly are they testing?

“Clicking on a photo takes users to the third-party app page or website. When users hover over a photo, they have the option to comment on the item, which wasn’t available in the old layout. Also on hover, users can take in-app actions without leaving Facebook if the app has created custom action links.” (Inside Facebook)

Pinterest integrates Open Graph in its platform, so this latest News Feed change also happens to apply to Facebook stories from Pinterest as well.

Pinterest Story Before:

Pinterest Story with the new design (look familiar?):

According to Inside Facebook, it’s still unclear how widely this test has been rolled out or if this would apply to all stories from games and other apps. What is clear is that the layout is surely going to remind Facebook users of the Pinterest design.

What do you think about this potential new change to the look and feel of stories on Facebook’s timeline? Do you think it was smart of them to take a cue from the popular new kid or should they have taken another direction in order to distance themselves from Pinterest?

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.


Turned off by Facebook's Facial Recognition?

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

Facebook recently acquired facial-recognition firm, reviving concerns about their use of facial-recognition technology.

For those who are super creeped out by Facebook facial-recognition tagging, there are ways to limit the use of the feature (though it can’t be turned off completely). The steps below will prevent Facebook from suggesting your name/tag to your friends when they upload photos of you.

  1. Go to your Facebook account’s privacy settings.
  2. Go to “Timeline and tagging” and click on “Edit settings.”
  3. Choose “Who sees tag suggestions when photos that look like you are uploaded?”
  4. Select “No one” if you don’t want Facebook to tell your friends when it has recognized your face in a photo they have uploaded.
  5. Press “OK.”

(Note, some accounts may not have this option available just yet, mine for example. I will continue to check back and will update this post once I have the option to remove the feature.)

Making the above changes doesn’t necessarily mean that Facebook won’t learn about what you look like and associate it with your likes and friendships, but it does mean that you can opt out of Facebook being able to use the data it has collected on your beautiful mug shot.

Source: The Liberty Guardian

These steps are somewhat of a band-aid fix until Facebook decides to change the rules of the game (again). It does make me feel a little bit better about protecting myself online and on Facebook. What do you think about Facebook using facial-recognition features to recommend your photos to friends?


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.

Column: It's Time For Facebook to Grow Up

This post was originally published by Marketing Magazine by Patrick Gladney, Director of Research and Insights at SMG. Follow him @pgladney

Last week was kind of like Facebook’s Bar Mitzvah – a time for the social network to grow up and begin taking responsibility for its own actions. Funny that Mark Zuckerberg chose to wear his trademark “hoodie” to ring the bell on Nasdaq the day of the IPO, signaling to the market that he still plans on playing by his own rules.

Zuckerberg may still choose to dress casually, but I would hazard a guess to say that he’ll soon begin to feel the pressure of the Street. Facebook needs to share a strategy that will explain how they plan to achieve revenues that will justify their valuation, especially in light of GM’s public announcement that they will be pulling ad spends from the platform because they can’t clearly define the value of Facebook ads to their business.

With GM as the backdrop, Facebook is working hard to help its advertisers achieve measurable results. Just last week at the CMA conference, Facebook and L’Oreal took the stage and admitted they were still working together to crack the ROI challenge. While most brands by now are committed to investing in Facebook as a content channel play, brands publishing content to generate awareness won’t pay a dividend to Facebook investors, and besides, for large advertisers like GM, awareness isn’t the problem. GM needs people to buy cars.

Working in Facebook’s favour is the fact that they are already an immensely profitable company, earning $1 billion in profits on $4 billion in revenue. Also working in their favour is the fact that their entire mobile platform is yet to be monetized, which is promising knowing that the 54% of users who access Facebook through mobile are two times as active. But unfortunately, activity, including time on site, does not yet translate into sales. Sure, ads on Facebook can be accurately targeted, but accuracy doesn’t amount to anything if the ads perform no better than their display ad brethren.

Early attempts at “f-commerce,” designed to create an integrated user experience where consumers can shop and buy without leaving Facebook, have failed to generate any meaningful results or more companies would be doing it. Mind you, most trailblazing Facebook e-tailers haven’t worked to create much in the way of retail excitement to entice Facebook buyers. Brands need to do more than simply iframe in their e-commerce site and emulate companies like BMW, who last year began selling exclusive limited edition brand merchandise on Facebook. In targeting BMW owners, this initiative helped test the potential of f-commerce to drive customer retention and generate advocacy through the network effect. But once again, we are back to putting the onus on brands to develop great content and customer experiences, with a relatively small amount of measurable sales potential in return.

So is Facebook a good bet? The risk is that the tremendous potential of Facebook turns out to be just that. The long term success for Facebook depends on the ability for brands to measure sales. And now that the company is public, they will be measured against other media companies, which are valued based on revenue per user. According to a recent mathematical model published by the MIT Technology Review, Facebook will have to increase their profit per user by between 160 and 600% for their current valuation to make sense in this context.

At Social Media Group, we’re obviously bullish on the potential of social media. But now that Facebook is a publicly traded company, it’s time for the platform to mature past the stage of experimentation and help deliver solid business returns.