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Just Friggin' Peachy
Just Friggin' Peachy

business, digital strategy, & life in the #atl

Three Stats Regarding The Second Coming Of Podcasting

podcast_hype

With the success of the hit series Serial, Marketer’s rejoiced that “podcasting is back!” The question is, is this exuberance hype or herald? Let’s look at the facts.

1. Penetration Is Still Under 20%

Even after the hype of Serial, regular podcast consumption is still only 17%.  That’s just about 46 Million people that have listened to a podcast in the last month.

You would think that if listeners were that bullish, that number would be higher. I’m not saying this stat negates the trend on its own but it’s something to look at.

2. “Share of Ear” For Podcasts Is Now at 30%

In 2014, AM/FM radio and owned music took up a combined 43% of the total audio consumed by Americans. Podcasts, in comparison, now represent almost a 1/3rd of the time we spend listening to audio content.

Now, this stat is actually from late 2014 and probably was conducted during the height of Serial. However, it is from the same source as our first stat and it makes me think it does hold some water.  The question is, does this represent true share-of-time or are there some people that skew the balance as podcast listeners tend to be more singular in their tastes?

3. Search Interest In Podcasting Has Not Grown 

According to search data available through Google, the interest in podcasting via search over the last 12 months has not been impacted, nor is growing.  In fact, though not a statistically relevant number, search interest actually shrank -.033%.

 

podcast_search_interest_google

You would think that if consumers were suddenly getting behind podcasting one of the key indicators would be interest via search.  After all, search interest is the foundation of Google’s Zero Moment of Truth.

With these three stats, my best analysis tells me that podcasting is still very much a niche medium. I’m not going to preclude investing in it as a potential channel to reach stakeholders but it’s not going replace traditional digital outreach channels like blogs or digital public relations anytime soon.

Meerkat: Worth The First-Mover Risk?

Why the new live-streaming app might just be worth the risk for brands.

One of the biggest gambles a digital media professional can make is recommending a new social media platform. If it goes right, the client wins accolades for being a first mover. If it goes wrong, you’re the geek that cried “wolf” and wasted a lot of time and money.

This week, #SXSW will be abuzz about a new platform called Meerkat. Simply put, it’s a live-streaming video app that has direct integration with to Twitter. Meerkat-ers can schedule streams in advance or do one on the fly. Twitter users see Meerkat streams right in their feed if they follow the user’s Twitter accounts. Watching videos is fun and users can even tweet in-app to comment on streams.

We’ve seen other apps like this, such as Qik that never really took off. However, I’m actually kind of bullish on Meerket and here’s why:

1. It’s easy to get your head around.

Unlike Snapchat – which I still can’t figure out – the premise of Meerkat is simple. It’s interface is understandable and it conforms to video viewing and commenting behavior that users have become used to thanks to with popular platforms like YouTube and Webex.

2. It takes advantage of pre-existing platforms. 

I can’t underscore the importance of Twitter in the Meerkat equation. Rather than asking you to sign up for a new platform, users log in with their Twitter name and password. This is critical because I believe that users are at or nearing a point of platform saturation. Allowing users to skip the account creation process is going to speed adoption in a big way.

3. It fulfills a business need.

Finally, Meerkat delivers on something I think that users can enjoy and that marketers could really use – the fusion of streaming video and chat. The potential for use across PR, event marketing, and even corporate communications is HUGE. Just think about live-streaming a press conference, a product reveal, or even a just an “ask me anything” session.

Though we’ll have to wait and see if Meerkat really debuts as big as I think it will, it made a big enough impression on me to start ideating on ways my clients can utilize the new platform. In the meantime, follow me at @jareddegnan for live streams.

Countering The Issue Apathy That Kills 99% Of All Campaigns

There’s just no softer way to say it – most audiences are apathetic to any issue that doesn’t directly affect them. That’s why 99% of issue advocacy campaigns fail even before they begin.

Fully understanding why consumers care about the things they do and don’t care about the things they don’t is the first step in building better issue-based campaigns that drive better results.

Let’s start with the basics: not all people DON’T care. Chances are, however, that these people are already familiar with the issue. Many marketing communications professionals look to the people that care as their primary audience and, in certain cases, this is effective. When you have a plan to activate these people to lend their time, connections, and even fortune to a cause, this can be a great strategy.

However, more often than not, marketing communications professionals look to speak to these people that care as a way to “ignite the voices of their grassroots community.” This approach is admirable but is many times equivalent to over-watering a flower garden, washing out your message rather than inciting growth.

If you can’t reach the people who care, who is left?

One often overlooked constituency is people that maybe haven’t made up their mind on an issue. This strategy is often where we find the bulk of the audience where you can turn apathy into something more productive. You just have to know how to re-position the issue into something these people DO care about.

In order to accomplish this, we start with the basics of consumer decision-making…

  1. I care about me. – I am being asked to care about something else
  2. There’s stuff online about the thing I’m being asked to care about
  3. Does it pertain to me?No. – I’m going to ignore the issue. (50% of your audience)
    Yes. – This pertains to me but I’m going to ignore it anyway. (10% of your audience)
    Maybe. – This might pertain to me but I need more information (40% of your audience).

You see that 40%? That’s the sweet spot.

Yes, that 10% is important too but usually these set of consumers make snap judgments and ignore further overtures. The 40% though remain pliable, if you know how to serve up information on your issue that somehow pertains to them.

This 40% though is also why 99% of all issue-based campaigns fail. Organizations want to dwell on and talk about the issues that are important to THEM and that only incites more apathy.

To avoid this, take a closer look at our consumer-decision tree. The moment you make your appeal to consumers in terms they understand – in other words when you make it all about them – is the moment they start to care.

Keep in mind; most audiences don’t care about scientific studies, what bevies of experts have to say, or even the sympathetic consumer case studies. They care about themselves.

These consumers care about saving money, they care about spending more time with their family, they care about caring for their loved ones, they care about doing something for the greater good. Starting to re-position your issue so it hits on the reasons it impacts them is the key to unlocking the 40%.

That’s why opposition voices are sometimes so effective. They start by framing the issue in terms that audiences care about. They play on fears about health, they show the nasty effects of the issue on poor, cute fuzzy little woodland creatures, and generally tug at every heart string they can find. In short, they appeal to the audience’s heart.

Many marketing communications professionals, though they have a lot of heart, many times aren’t great at appealing to the heart.

This is particularly true when you’re dealing with trade groups when bottom-lines are threatened. Most organization executives and boards’ instincts are to counter with appeals to the head – with science. That approach is well intentioned but is ultimately ineffective vs. things like threats to the a fore mentioned cute, fuzzy woodland creatures.

The good news is that the 40% we mentioned do turn out to be reasonable. Their very nature tells them to give someone a chance when they talk about the issues that impact them. In other words, if issue-based campaigns appeal to the heart, and backs up their campaigns with the same science, facts, and expertise they were going to use anyway – the issue campaign succeeds.

The fact that most consumers just don’t care about anything other than themselves is a tough truth for some marketing communications professionals – particularly those run by people passionate about an issue.

However, when we start thinking about re-positioning campaigns to appeal to what consumers DO care about, our success rates start to look a lot, lot better.

Explaining The Advantages Of Emma Email Marketing Vs Outlook To Non-Techie Co-Workers

Working with folks that are decidedly non-digital can be challenging. It can also be a hell of a lot of fun…if you play your cards right. For instance , a coworker was asking about our company’s recommended move to Emma Email Marketing.

Now, for anyone who has managed any type of email marketing campaign, the reasons NOT to use Outlook are pretty obvious. However, part of digital strategy is explaining things in clear and simple terms. Observe:

Dear {Coworker},

There’s an easy way and a visual way to explain what happens when you send a blast email out from outlook:

jfp_email_1

The kitten in this picture is a blast email via outlook.  It looks like it’s all cute and normal and nothing’s wrong with it.   The things in the background…yeah – that’s the metaphorical manifestation of collective spam-sensitivity karma of the internet.

The only thing is that the karma doesn’t get the kitten…it gets the system that the kitten came out of.  In this case our company. This is what karma does to our servers when it catches up:

jfp_email_2

Karma rips up any authority our servers have because it thinks that we’re spamming people. It puts us on what’s known as a blacklist.  When you get blacklisted, it looks like this:

jfp_email_3

Basically, our ability to send any type of email is compromised because our email tends to go to spam folders.  This is what happens to Mike, our IT manager, when our servers are blacklisted:

jfp_email_4

So, in summary….

As to not incite the collective wrath of the internet, grind our ability to send emails to a screeching halt, and cause Mike a nervous breakdown, use EMMA.

Best,
Jared

PS – I might be overstating a bit for dramatic effect but that’s pretty much what happens… http://www.bluegrassdigital.com/blog/2011/june/29/why-sending-bulk-email-campaigns-from-outlook-is-a-bad-idea/

As you might imagine, this kind of response endears me to my co-workers.

Third-Party Website Functions Can Ruin Customer Relationships

It’s not like anyone likes to get a traffic citation but at least the Dekalb Country officer that pulled me over for a rolling stop was nice about it.

Despite the fact it was raining, the officer politely explained what I had done, pointed me to the online instructions on how to pay the citation, and even apologized for the inconvenience. As a customer experience, particularly in setting expectations, it was a textbook encounter.

Initial interactions like these can go a long way in building trust and the long term potential value of a customer. For instance, though I don’t currently reside in Dekalb Country, should I ever consider moving here or even spending more time and money here, that encounter set a positive expectation in how I might be treated. However, that encounter was only one touch-point.

To maintain that level of trust and continue building that relationship, that expectation of clear and transparent communication has to be upheld.

Now, I realize that only customer strategy geeks like myself intellectualize a traffic citation like this but follow along…Flash forward to a couple hours later: thanks to the officers explanation, I see I clearly deserved the citation and I decided to go ahead and pay the fine.

Flaw One – Long URLs & Broken Redirects

I followed the instructions on the citation, only to find that not only was the website they were directing me a very long URL that I had to enter manually, the page it did send me to was dead. Not cool but not altogether frustrating. After all, sometimes it takes a while to update text copy on receipts and forward progress on shorter URLs are always a good thing, right?

Flaw Two – More Than 3 Clicks To Get To What I Need

After arriving at the broken link I decided to go back to Dekalb County’s website. Surely traffic citations and other forms of revenue must be one of the more important things to the city so it can’t be that hard to find, right? Apparently not. Not only did it take me more than 5 minutes on their home page to find the right link, I had to click through several more times just to find the link to the right form for traffic citations.

Flaw Three – The Third-Party Payment System

At this point, my experience with the polite cop has been eclipsed by the “typical government bureaucracy ” frustration. All I want to do is pay the fine and get back to playing on Facebook. The fine itself isn’t that bad but apparently I also have to pay a court fee and a “convenience fee.”  Neither of these fees are explained and I feel very much taken advantage of.

This kind of experience underscores how third-party website functions can undo any goodwill for a customer.  Explanation and consistency is key to keeping a strong customer relationship. If you do have to go with a third-party system, think about those three major flaws and how you can avoid them.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, the citation for a rolling stop has drained me of my lunch money and I now have to go heat up my ramen noodles.

How Resolutions Constrain, Rather Improve Us

I’ll make this a quick one. Seems that this year, there’s a lot less talk about making specific resolutions. Ok, well I saw one gay rag talking about how to “get a boyfriend in the new year” but that’s besides the point.

Resolutions have always seemed to me to be doomed from the moment you make them. Personally, I’ve always favored the “better decisions” resolution but even that one falls by the wayside after a couple of months.

The problem for me, and I’m guessing pretty much everyone else, is that life happens. We get busy, we get distracted, we have other things that take priority. None of us say “I think I’ll gain 5 founds in the first quarter of the year despite my new, fancy gym membership” but it happens anyway.

Let’s just leave it at this, we are busy people. Resolutions are fun for the first seven to ten days of the year but then they’re just anchors dragging us down.

I, for one, am elated to see fewer of those resolutions posts on Facebook, Twitter, etc. I say this not because I think we should just say “f-it all” but because it frees us to focus on more important things. Resolutions drag us down, handcuffing us to commitments that we make in overly idealized versions of reality.

Let’s just say we’re going to make today better than yesterday and see how that turns out. How’s that for something we can stick to?

To QuikTrip Or Not On Ponce De Leon?

This week, I want to post on the proposed QuikTrip on Ponce de Leon between Penn and Argonne Aves. Though the bulk of the conversation is happening on the local Nextdoor message board, I figure any discussion is good discussion. Plus, it gives me a reason to keep up with local development in my neighborhood.

The basics of the discussion is whether or not a currently undeveloped parking lot could be better utilized as a QuikTrip gas station, or can the neighborhood hold out for something more upscale?

On spec, I am general fan of anything that can help bridge the recent new developments near Peachtree with the up-and-coming Ponce City Market corridor. In fact, I think anyone in the neighborhood would back a developer that wants to step up and add value to Ponce over some businesses that might thrive off the seedier elements of the neighborhood.

On the other hand, I do see the points brought up by many of my neighbors. There are environmental, traffic flow, and security concerns that have to be dealt with not to mention the debate over the historic vs. modern character of Ponce de Leon, itself.

There’s even a debate about whether or not a QuikTrip might drive out the last vestiges of in-neighborhood businesses like L & M Service Market at 6th and Argonne. Just to put it out there, the defense of L & M is probably my strongest personal call to arms. I love that market and its owners and would rather the streets run red with QT slushy juice than see L & M shut down…just sayin….

Ultimately though, my opinion is just one of many. I’m going to try to make it to the public hearing at Jason’s Deli on 10th, Tuesday night at 8 PM. If you’re interested, I suggest you go to.

Until then, I’ll be at L & M buying up all their Whynattes just in case….hey, you can never be too prepared, right?!

Let’s Start A Shadow Marketing Campaign For The ASO!

If a symphony plays in midtown and no one is around to hear it, does it sound as beautiful?

Let me ask it another way…what does it take to translate art into a marketing campaign? Money? Resources? Media Attention?

The truth is that great marketing campaigns are never, and have never been built on big budgets. Sure money, resources and media attention helps but what really compels marketing to touch the very heart and soul of its intended audience is the passion and conviction of its creators.

This truth isn’t new. In fact, artists like musicians have relied on it for centuries to produce some of the most compelling “communications” in human history.

It’s no wonder then, that the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra is up in arms about it’s own marketing. After enduring an extended lockout, they are ready to show Atlanta why it is the great cultural epicenter of the south. You would never know it, though by looking at their marketing.

I’m not trying to pass judgement on whoever does the marketing for the ASO. However, I am interested in knowing what people that benefit and are inspired from the music of the ASO can do if they took brush to paper?

Starting today, I am going to publish one piece of marketing collateral for the ASO. A tweet, a Facebook post, a brochure, a flyer…something that says what I think the ASO means to me and to Atlanta. I am encouraging my friends in the marketing space to join in. Let’s create a shadow/grassroots marketing campaign for the ASO that helps them sustain their efforts and shows the Woodruff Arts Center we support arts in the community in a very real and tangible way.

Just to be safe, let’s set the basic standard that if we wouldn’t show it in our own professional portfolios, let’s not publish it. Post your creation with the hashtag #ASOgrassroots. Let’s see if we can even come close to creating marketing with the magic and conviction of the ASO musicians.

Photo Courtesy of Flickr User – Wally Gobetz (via Creative Commons)

PS – Flickr is a great place to find photos to support your marketing collateral.  Just make sure it’s under the Creative Commons license!  

Dealing With Facebook’s New Promotional Content Penalty

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Late last week Facebook announced a significant change to its news feed algorithm as it pertains to promoted posts.

Though the change – slated to go live in Jan 2015 – will hit retailers and/or eCommerce sites the hardest, there are some key ways you can deal with this penalty before it costs you a dime:[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

The Rule Of Quality Content Still Stands

Facebook is making this change to crack down on pages that go for the “hard sell” with a direct call to action (CTA) in a promoted post. We’ve known this for a while, including their move earlier this year to eliminate “like bait.” As of now, Facebook is just trying to make it harder to get away with bad content by penalizing marketers that try to compensate with promoted posts.

Chances are if you’re creative and make your content stand out with personality, value to the reader (outside the CTA), and that appeals to the way users naturally share and converse on Facebook you’ll be fine.  If you’re {achem} more laid back about your content and it sounds a little too much like a billboard or a banner ad, you’re going to find it much more expensive to get your content read[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

Avoid “Hard Sell” Keywords In Your Posts

For instance, if your post says “buy now,” “click here,” “enter our promotion,”  or similar CTAs, it will likely trigger the penalty. This includes promotions without a ton of context (i.e. sweepstakes vs. contests).

The good news is that this is not a deal-killer for promotions on Facebook.  You just have to think through how you make “the ask” for promotions and consider the venue.  It’s possible that Instagram, Tumblr or Twitter might make a better platform for a promotion depending on how explicit you need the CTA to be.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

Make Ads Unique From Promoted Posts

This the easiest thing to avoid.  Facebook is now going to cross-reference your promoted posts and ads.  If the content overlaps, it will invoke the penalty and it will costs you more to reach the same amount of people.

My advice for this one is that if you have hard sells, use them in your ads.  Use your posts to tell a story, to highlight content, and/or highlight an issue.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Again, this penalty only affects promoted posts starting in 2015.  It does not mean promoted posts are going away but you may see impact on your ultimate reach numbers and cost.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Self Help Clickbait

How many of us have seen one of these lists (or similar ones) pop up on Facebook or Twitter?

  • 8 Traits of Truly Successful People
  • 5 Traits of Emotionally Happy People
  • 10 Things Stable People Don’t Do

They promise the secrets of eternal happiness and even, in veiled form, the keys to eternal wealth. It’s tempting, no-doubt but it plays on a very sinister side of our cynical brains. We don’t want to be helped but we’re glad to see examples of those who have been helped.

It’s like hearing a therapist from the other side of a wall just so you can claim you don’t actually “see” a therapist.

These articles aren’t help, they’re clickbait. Rather than luring you to look at llamas that look like Taylor Lautner, they want you to look at self help dogma. The authors of these articles want and need the clicks just as much as the Monster energy drink-addled millennials BuzzFeed calls writers.

It’s not that clickbait isn’t entertaining, it’s that there’s no real substance to it. Sure, I can read a biography about George S. Patton but does that mean I’m ready to command a battalion of tanks into a battle? For the sake of our brave veterans I sure as hell hope not.

Just by looking at a list, we cannot and should not measure ourselves in terms of our progress towards our life goals. We’re too diverse and our paths to happiness are too different.

You want advice? Talk to your best friend. Don’t have a best friend? Find a therapist. Can’t afford a therapist? Journal.  I guarantee that any of these are better than the clickbait you’ve been reading.

Moving On

 

moving_on_jj

One year ago today, I was laid off. It was swift, it was unexpected and they handled it in the most unprofessional way imaginable.

For a while now, all I’ve wanted to is use this anniversary to close the book on the whole affair. After all, I am now in a better paying job with a company that is far more stable.

I should be able to move on but I can’t…

There is something deep inside of me crying out – particularly because I saw it happen time and time again to other people in the same organization.

I can’t tell you how many of these posts I’ve drafted and then thrown away. Would they make any difference? Probably not. They would make me feel better, though. Perhaps they might even help one or two people.

The truth is much different, though…

The truth is that the world will go on turning no matter what I say…

The truth is that the only way I can move on is to say “I forgive you.”

… … …

Oh, and I bought some of your domains and pointed them to a website with nothing but Alan Partridge playing air guitar to “Get Lucky”…

Now, I can move on.

PS – Just to show you “no hard feelings,” the domains are going back up to auction for purchase on Monday.  All proceeds from that auction will benefit the SHRM Foundation.

Happy Pride?

The festival known as Gay Pride and I have always had an unconventional relationship. Oh, we’ll tolerate each other in public. Behind each other’s respective backs, though? Our actual feelings towards each other vary widely from admiration to an acerbic questioning why each other exists.

Let me lay some groundwork for you: it’s never always been this way. At one point in time I was a flag-waving, gay history-obsessed HRC intern. I held attendance at Pride up as the ultimate in gay patriotism, second only in importance to voting for only candidates with a 100% equality score.

What happened though was reality. As I came out of the closet, I entered into the “real world” of gay culture. For those of you who don’t know, the truth about gay culture is a far cry from the pained artists and “out of the closets and onto the streets” activism that it might have once been.

“Gay Culture” as it exists now is a overly-commercialized attempt at reconciling our sexually rebellious past with an intense need to be liked by mainstream culture. It has morphed the concept of gay identity into a couture ideal guarded viciously by the club queens, bar fairies, and gym rats.

It’s possible I’m a little jaded, though.

The good news is that I’m not alone in my opinions. Louis Perlman, a year ago today, documented this phenomenon in his article “It Get’s Better, Unless Your Fat.”

Don’t get me wrong. Despite the fact that I am an – achem – not a thin girl, this is more than aesthetic ideals. It’s about what we stand for as a community and what we want to leave to the generations that come after us.

This brings me back to the concept of Pride. I chose to buy my first house in the shady, tree-lined neighborhood right in the epicenter of gay Atlanta. It was important for me to seek out a home where I felt surrounded by not just gay-friendly businesses, but also by like-mind Atlanta natives that feel a connection with the area and it’s past.

Of course, this also means that once a year, our neighborhood is flooded by queens and dykes from all over the southeast who want to revel in the three-day event that Atlanta Pride has become.

To them, it’s a carnival of culture where the overwhelming presence of corporate sponsors are just another way to collect free shit they can go back and hang on their OTP walls. They might even look fondly on all the rainbow beads and bottle openers branded with ID Lube and Bud Light and affirm to themselves that they are indeed a part of the “gay community.”

The fact of the matter, though is that we are more than corporate sponsors. We are the community of Harvey Milk and Larry Kramer and of Ruth Simpson and Elizabeth Birch. We are the modern carriers of the American legacy of civil rights. We can be out, proud, and frivolous at the same time that we are restless, politically engaged, and hungry to cultivate the amazing creativity and talent that have sprung from our struggle.

Let’s bring back the connection we have to the past and realize the rainbow flag isn’t just a pattern. It started as a binding of the diverse elements of our nature and support for the rainbow of diversity, of equality for all, not just some.

When you come to my neighborhood this year and someone wishes you a happy pride, think for a moment. Is it a come-on or is something more? For me, it’s important to wish you a Happy Pride as a reminder of our connection to each other and our collective responsibility to lift each other up.

Have a safe and a meaningful Pride, Atlanta.

What “Work Hard, Play Hard” Actually Means

Ever notice that companies love to talk about what kinds of perks they offer as a way of explaining their company culture?

For instance, they talk about “flex time” when they value loyalty and longevity.  When they value energy and hyperactive productivity, they talk about “cross-functional training.”  My favorite “perk pitch” though is when they say they “work hard, play hard!”

You hear this phrase a lot in the agency world.  Most people take this to mean that the culture is young, fun and driven. Companies talk about all the fun things they do like Thursday afternoon socials, wild and crazy holiday parties, and sometimes even cruises.

What it really means, though is that they company wants you to gloss over the time you spend in the office in preference for remembering the good times when they got you plastered.

In my experience, the companies that tout a “work hard, play hard” mentality use it to excuse a lack of attention and interest in the actual working environment.

Now, maybe this is something that other people knew, already. Perhaps its an accepted fact and people are perfectly fine excusing the 8 to 14 hours a day they spend in the office as long as they get to blow off that steam at the end of it.

To me though, this is a relatively new realization.  I say “relatively” because I stopped working at those kinds of companies when I stopped drinking. The least rewarding part of my job became the times I have to stand around during office parties watching other people make idiots out of themselves.

What I wanted in a work experience changed and I became a lot more cognizant of the time I spend in the office. To me, I want a company culture that works for a purpose and cultivates their employees talent with peer-to-peer development and a chance to explore your own career potential.

I’m not trying to disparage recreation with your co-workers. I’m really not.  I just find there’s something to this pattern I can’t ignore.

Photo Courtesy of Whatleydude

HoneyBubble Brings Awesome Bubble Tea To Atlanta

If you drive up and down Ponce as frequently as I do, chances are you’ve seen it at least once. The sign proudly proclaims “The Very First HoneyBubble On Earth!” A bold, ambitious statement for a little tea shop…or is it?

It’s easy to dismiss places like HoneyBubble as well-funded, good intentioned shops that pin their hopes too much on temporary fads. As evidenced by the cupcake fad of 201o to 2012; many try but few succeed.

My guess is though is that that HoneyBubble may just have a shot at bucking that trend and achieving the world domination their sign suggests.  Here’s why…

Let’s start with the basics. HoneyBubble is a purveyor of bubble (or boba) tea, a traditional a Taiwanese milk-based tea with tapioca balls at the bottom. Yes, I know it sounds odd but try to keep an open mind. Trust me, it works and it’s delicious.

My personal introduction to the amazingly, refreshingly gummy beverage was thanks to my friend Amanda. During my stint in Washington, DC we’d venture up to the burbs to shop at malls popular with the Asian-American community.

Amanda, you see, was/is a big fan of anything anime/comic book related. To her, these malls were an oasis of cool for her away from the increasingly gentrified (and overpriced) areas like Georgetown and Pentagon City. Case in point – they were hipster/harajuku cool before said sub-cultures were “cool.”

On our first trip out to these malls, Amanda insisted I had to try bubble tea. After looking at the odd, gelatinous balls resting at the bottom of the shrink-wrapped beverage, I tried it. I’ve been hooked ever since.

You see, bubble tea is more than a beverage. It’s a chill, refreshing snack with just enough weirdness to trump anything Starbucks can offer.

What’s great is that HoneyBubble takes bubble tea to the next level. Not only do they offer traditional, milk-based bubble teas, they offer “clear” bubble teas as well as gelato, hot tea and a variety of snack-able items courtesy of a partnership with Alon’s Bakery. They even have a variety of “bubbles” including tapioca, sweet aloe vera, and coffee gummies.

The result is that you can mix and match teas, flavors and beverage experiences to find the combination that suits your style.

I’m not going to lie. You can go wrong with certain combinations. For instance, I tried the coffee gummies instead of regular tapioca with a clear bubble tea and immediately regretted it. Your best bet is to stick with the traditional bubble teas, at least at first.

If the selection seems intimidating, the staff at HoneyBubble knows their stuff. This isn’t Starbucks and the the staff isn’t going to look down your nose at you if you ask questions. As you get familiar with the nature of bubble teas, you can expand your palette and then it’s off to the races.

What also makes me believe HoneyBubble has staying power is that it has created a space to socialize as cool as the beverages it serves. Too often cafés like this obsess over the food as a fad without thinking about creating a place you actually want to come back to over and over again.

HoneyBubble doesn’t just have once space but three distinct areas to lounge in. There’s the main room with a variety of seating options, the conference room style working space, and a patio. Each space is cute, well designed but thoughtful enough with the ambient noise to make it a place you want to hang out.

Located a short walk from the Beltline and across from the Claremont Lounge, HoneyBubble occupies it’s own little corner of character on Ponce. Parking can get a bit tight in front but they also have a lot in back accessible via Bonaventure Ave.

Traffic is brisk, particularly on sunny weekend afternoons, with many patrons opting to walk from either from the Beltline at Ponce City Market or from the Freedom Parkway Trail. The walk is about a block and a half from either direction and is more than worth it.

The net result is that HoneyBubble is one of my favorite places on Ponce.  For date nights, long exploration off the Betline, or just a casual drop-in to see what its like, I really want to encourage you to discover HoneyBubble for yourself.

Not only is their product great but they are capitalizing on doing a unique cafe right.  My hope, and my bet, is that they become a staple in the Poncey-Highlands community and they indeed are able to embark on their quest to conquer the world…or at least offer an alternative to cupcakes.

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My Life In Association Communications

When I joined Kellen, the leading management and communications company for industry trade groups, I knew my job wasn’t going to be a walk in the park. Working with trade groups (aka associations) is lot like herding cats. Well…it’s kind of like herding cats, if the cats had the added disincentive to cooperate of anti-regulatory scrutiny.

Associations, by their very nature, are meant to appeal to the consensus. The association doesn’t take action until a majority of the members finds it in their best interests to cooperate. This makes movement on anything from issue advocacy to picking the font for their logo painfully slow. For someone used to working “at the speed of digital” this can be…let’s just say slightly frustrating.

The fact of the matter, though is when an association takes action it has the potential to move an entire industry. Once you do get a consensus, all of the members – more or less – have a vested interest in supporting the decision. Having the backing of not just one but sometimes dozens of Fortune 500 corporations helps a great deal in executing an industry-level agenda.

Working for Kellen also has the benefit of sticking me in the middle of some of the most talented communications professionals on the planet. I’m not joking!

These guys are like the Army Rangers of public relations. They don’t just deal with one issue or one company, they have to speak and advocate for an entire industry. Achieving and articulating that kind of consensus and while facing down a highly organized issue-opposition takes mad skills, not to mention patience and confidence.

Sure, Kellen works with more than just associations. In fact, our communications team has quite a few “individual” clients. These clients are less complicated and usually move at a pace akin to a “normal” agency environment. READ: “OMG…I need it now!!!”

Ultimately, a lot of the work we do is thankless outside the rarefied air of the representatives of the companies we work with. When we win, it reflects on our members rather than our firm. You almost never hear of Kellen in the news.

For agency veterans this can sound like a dreary existence. I assure you, though the work never lacks a challenge. What’s more, there’s an element of accountability that Kellen’s work has to have on behalf of its clients. For me, whenever you talk about measurement or tracking, I am all about that!

Associations aren’t the most exiting clients. The work is intense and it’s largely a behind-the-scenes job. The fact of the matter, thought is that not everyone can do it. It takes skill, mastery of industry-level dynamics, and a lot of patience.

However, when you’re effective, there is no better feeling in the world than knowing you didn’t just impact one business but multiple businesses. That’s why I do it and that’s why I’m proud to work at Kellen.

Blatant Sales Pitch

Just so you know, Kellen does work with non-Association clients. In fact, most of them value our industry-level focus. If you’re interested in learning more, feel free to reach out to me.

The Flaw In Gallup’s Survey On Social Media Impact On Purchase Decisions

In the research equivalent to asking “did you eat the cookie?” Gallup makes a tenuous connection to real social media outcomes. The WSJ is happy to play along.

Why is it that businesses are still actively trying to disprove social media as a channel to reach consumers?

That’s the question I had to ask myself as I perused my digital copy of The Wall Street Journal, this morning.  Gallup, a noted consumer research firm, is releasing a survey today that says it speaks to the “real” impact of social media on consumer behavior.

Normally I am very enthusiastic about any hard data on consumer behavior – social media impacted or otherwise. There’s only one problem with this data: it’s self reported. In case you’re not a stat geek, self-reporting is the research equivalent of asking a little kid with chocolate smeared all over their face if they ate the cookie.

The gist of the research is that Gallup showed that consumer buying behaviors aren’t impacted by whether or not they follow or like particular brands.  The WSJ article then goes on to detail several major brands including Ritz-Carlton and how they are abandoning what was thought of as traditional social media marketing strategies.

In fairness, the Gallup survey is actually pretty solid. It doesn’t purport to represent heuristic research methods nor does it say that social media is a waste of money.  The WSJ does that job all on its own.

Here’s where my beef is: the headline of the WSJ article is Social Media Fail to Live Up to Early Marketing Hype. A closer examination of the article yields that someone originally titled the article by its sub-head: Companies Refine Strategies to Stress Quality Over Quantity of Fans. How do I know this? Check out the URL…http://online.wsj.com/articles/companies-alter-social-media-strategies-1403499658.

What this discrepancy tells me is that an editor found more utility in trying to convince readers that social media is “failing” than the real story which is that your customers don’t care about the number of fans you have. (Side note…we needed a national, census-adjusted survey to tell us this?)

The WSJ is not dumb. The editors know what they are doing and they know what their readers want. In this case, they know their readers are inherently skeptical of social media so they give them what they want in order to lure them into reading the article. This kind of bait and switch is all well-and-good but it actually obscures the actual story, which is quality over quantity.

Like I said, I’m all for research. However, we shouldn’t confuse self-reporting with actual impact on consumer behavior, which has been documented copiously in peer-reviewed journals.

The Importance Of Measuring Content Quality

At first, it might seem like content quality is subjective and not really quantitatively measurable. The fact is, though that content quality is quantitatively measurable and has a HUGE impact your success, online.

Before discuss what exactly those measures are are, let’s talk about exactly why they are important:

1. Content Quality Scores Both Measure AND Impact The Traffic To Your Page

Think of this as a “catch 22” that you can actually impact. Content Quality Scores measure how relevant your content is based on the interest and validation of your online audience.  Content Quality Scores are also used by search engines to determine what content gets what traffic with better quality content receiving the lion’s share of the search traffic.

2. Content Quality Scores Also Impact How Much You Spend On Paid Search

Robert Stephens, founder of Geek Squad once said “advertising is the tax you pay for being unremarkable.”  I’ll add onto that statement by saying the more unremarkable you are (e.g. the poorer your content quality) the more expensive your advertising will be. Sure, you can throw money at anything and make it work but because Google uses Content Quality Scores to determine search ad pricing, it might take 3 to 10 times more money to push the same volume of traffic to a page or site with poor Content Quality Scores vs. a site with high quality scores.

Now, we can talk about the scores themselves…

Domain & Page Authority

This is a score I use commonly in digital public relations because it gives me a measure, site to site or page to page, of what users think is useful.  If a user thinks a site or page will be useful, they link to it, share it or cite it in their own work.  Domain & Page Authority aggregate all of those factors into a single score of 1 to 100.  The important thing to note is that there is no single “great” number when you’re talking about authority measures.  They are a site-to-site, page-to-page, or even a measure of the same site/page over time.  Here’s an example:

A Domain Authority score of 40 might pale in comparison to a site like Wikipedia, which has a domain authority of 87. However, if your primary competitor is coming up with a Domain Authority score of 30, that means users are finding your content more useful and thus with more authority than your competitor’s site.

Quality Score

If this measure sounds rather generic its because it is.  Every search engine, comparison tool, and ad network has its own way of measuring quality. Though there are many, many sites that offer content quality scores but my favorite is the one provided by Raven. Raven tools aggregates several different data sources including Moz, WordStream, AdWords, MajesticSEO and CALAIS as well as meta-data from the site itself. By using multiple data scores, I’m able to get a pretty darn good idea of trustworthiness and a user-based measures of content quality.

Both of these scores will come up in conversation when I talk to my clients about how well the content on their site or page is doing.  My advice is to find a quality score you like and pull the current scores of your client’s web sits so you can proactively discuss how you can improve their content quality.

Of course, this is to be combined with ensuring that you eliminate technical barriers to search visibility but that’s for another time.

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