Heather R. Huhman is the founder and president of Come Recommended, a content marketing and digital PR consultancy for organizations with products that target job seekers and/or employers. You can connect with Heather and Come Recommended on Twitter and Facebook.
An online portfolio allows you to compile what makes you employable — it should include things like your resume, cover letter, references, certifications, transcripts and any examples of your work (including writing samples, press clips, artwork or lesson plans). Plus, you should include basic contact information, such as a phone number and email, and more modern information, like a Twitter handle, LinkedIn profile, or Facebook URL. Put all of this into one online package that’s easy to browse and voilà — you have an online portfolio!
Here are five great options that can host your online portfolio. There’s a breakdown of each one, so you can pick which one works best for you and your career goals.
Summary: WorkSimple is the first work portfolio that helps you manage your career and performance inside your organization. Users have endorsements, followers, goals and accomplishments, which can help you build your professional and social reputations. Set your professional focus, add your goals, and get recognition for your work.
Additionally, WorkSimple allows users to brand themselves by sharing goals and contributions with co-workers in real-time. Essentially, it’s a Facebook Timeline for professionals.
Best Feature: WorkSimple encourages you to set career focus and add “Social Goals” that support your direction, which help you keep track of your accomplishments, efforts and successes as you build your reputation. Plus, you can get great feedback from co-workers.
What Needs Work: Those looking for a traditional portfolio to display resume, work samples and more may not find these features in WorkSimple.
Ideal User: A corporate worker who is tech-savvy and wants to establish goals and stay synced with co-workers. Like the other portfolio platforms, you can add images, but this portfolio is not solely image-based.
Cost: Free for an individual plan but pricing plans exist for team or company plans.
Summary: Behance is a platform for creative professionals to gain exposure and manage their careers. Users can create multimedia portfolios that showcase their work to millions of visitors.
Best Feature: Behance turns your work into an online gallery; It claims to get 15 times the traffic of all other leading portfolio sites combined (including Carbonmade, the next site on our list). Recruiters can find and track talent and post jobs for the creative professionals on the site.
What Needs Work: In order to have your own personal portfolio website, rather than just a profile on Behance, you need to join ProSite. This costs $11 a month, but it allows you to create a full website without coding, and it syncs with your Behance portfolio.
Ideal User: Any creative professional wishing to showcase multimedia projects — images, text, audio or video. The layout of the site is better for viewing visual projects, so anyone from graphic designers to photographers to industrial designers can benefit.
Cost: Free for a Behance profile, $11 a month for the ProSite.
Summary: Carbonmade is an online portfolio platform that helps users show off their work — especially creative work like design, illustration and art.
Best Feature: Carbonmade makes portfolios easy. Users can create a profile in a snap, and the service offers tons of ways to personalize your portfolio. Plus, users can establish their own URL — for example, yourname.carbonmade.com.
What Needs Work: The site isn’t conducive to any text, audio or video work — a still image is best for this portfolio.
Ideal User: Again, this portfolio service is primarily for creative professionals. In comparison to Behance, Carbonmade seems even more geared toward visual art. Any professional who can share an image of their work — fashion designers, illustrators, architects and more — would find Carbonmade useful.
Summary:Pinterest is basically an online pin-board. It’s primarily a social photo-sharing website where users can create separate boards for various things. For example, you could have a board for recipes, pictures of places you’d like to travel or, in this case, your professional creative work.
Best Feature: Pinterest is far more social than Behance or Carbonmade, so you can have eyes from all parts of the globe on your work. Plus, you can “pin” any image, and when users click on a pinned image, they’re redirected to the original website. For example, if you “pinned” a piece of your artwork from, say, your personal blog, you can attract more traffic to your blog.
What Needs Work: The platform was not made to be a professional portfolio site. Therefore, the site may have a different audience of viewers than an actual portfolio platform. Plus, like Carbonmade, text or audio works cannot be “pinned.”
Ideal User: Pinterest only allows photos or videos (which will be “pinned” as a still picture), so creative professionals with image-based work will find this site most useful. Any professional with visual work that can be put into image form can display their portfolio on Pinterest.
Summary: Dribbble is a “show and tell” for designers, where users can share small screenshots of their work.
Best Feature: The platform shows off your work with screenshots of your progress or completed project. Plus, it’s easy to browse other people’s work by tags or color.
What Needs Work: Dribbble isn’t useful for anyone with non-visual works; it’s really only conducive to visuals.
Ideal User: Anyone who creates visual work that can be shared via an image, especially graphic or web designers, illustrators and logo designers.
All online portfolio platforms have their pros and cons, and different sites work better for varying types of professionals in myriad industries. There are many portfolio services to explore aside from the ones mentioned above, but what all of these sites have in common is that they allow professionals to display their work online and continue to build their personal brand.
Do you have an online portfolio? What service do you use? Let us know in the comments.
Social Media Job Listings
Every week we post a list of social media and web job opportunities. While we publish a huge range of job listings, we’ve selected some of the top social media job opportunities from the past two weeks to get you started. Happy hunting!
Who can forget their first computer game? It wasn’t just kind of awesome, it’s what took up most evenings and every weekend. If you’re the type to have spent far too many hours playing these games in the 1980s and ’90s, you might want to clear your schedule now.
Some of the best gaming franchises are making a comeback. Here are five being revived in a new-school way, thanks to the crowdfunding site Kickstarter.
1. Double Fine Adventure
The Double Fine Adventure project isn’t a remake or continuation of a retro game series. Rather, it’s an effort to revive an old style of gameplay — the point-and-click adventure game. And who better to bring it back than Tim Schafer, one of the most creative and quirky innovators in the genre?
Throughout the 1990s, Schafer played a major part in classic adventure games such as The Secret of Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle, Full Throttle, and, what many consider his magnum opus, Grim Fandango.
But even that kind of clout couldn’t help him find a publisher that would finance this recent venture. So he turned to Kickstarter in February, looking to bring in $300,000 for a new game, plus an additional $100,000 to film a documentary on the game-making process.
Shafer’s past success might not have had much sway with game publishers, but it definitely had some pull with fans. The Kickstarter campaign met its goal in eight hours and reached $3,336,371 by the time it ended on March 13. Shafer’s wildly successful campaign has inspired other developers hoping to revive an old franchise.
2. Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards: Reloaded
In the late 1980s, most computer games were created primarily for kids. However, there was one mainstream franchise that was made with adults in mind, Leisure Suit Larry, from famed adventure game publisher, then called Sierra On-Line.
The six-game series followed the exploits of Larry Laffer, a leisure suit-wearing loser looking for love in all the wrong places. Filled with humor that was a little bit seedy and a whole lot funny, the series was widely played around the world. In fact, the first game was so popular that it’s been called one of the most pirated games ever.
The last franchise game was released in 1996, but Replay Games later convinced series creator Al Lowe to come out of retirement. The result: Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards: Reloaded. This remake will feature updated graphics, a touchscreen interface, and will be available on PCs and tablets — if it reaches its $500,000 Kickstarter goal. The company is well on its way to 100% funding, and has until May 2.
3. Shadowrun Returns
Shadowrun is a pen-and-paper role-playing game mixing elements of Tolkien-esque fantasy and William Gibson-style cyberpunk, creating a world filled with trolls, elves, hackers, and cybernetically-enhanced street samurais. First released in 1988, the game was adapted into two American role-playing video games in the mid ’90s, and a poorly-received first-person shooter for Xbox 360 in 2007. The problem is, every version has had to make certain compromises to the gameplay style, leaving many fans disappointed.
Fast-forward to April 4, 2012, and game developer Harebrained Schemes has brought Jordan Weisman, the creator of Shadowrun, on board for a Kickstarter campaign that promises fans an old-school, turn-based computer RPG set in the dystopian streets of Seattle.
Shadowrun Returns set out to raise $400,000, and surpassed that goal in 28 hours. (The campaign ends on April 29.) But it’s not just going to create a game with that money. The company is also giving players the ability to create their own Shadowrun adventures with an integrated game editor, which should help keep the Shadowrun world alive and kicking for years to come.
4. Wasteland 2
America has been devastated by nuclear war. Misfits, mutants and man-eating machines have made the deserts of the Southwest an inhospitable place. The only hope for mankind are the Desert Rangers, a small group of men and women trying to bring civilization back, one bullet at a time.
This was the world of 1988′s Wasteland, a post-apocalyptic computer role-playing game well known for its sense of humor, a “sandbox” world ripe for exploring, and a branching narrative where decisions made early in the game could have an impact later on. Despite an outcry from fans, Wasteland never received a direct sequel. However, many of the same developers created the early entries of the Fallout series.
Brian Fargo, the creator of Wasteland, tried for many years to get a sequel made, but he wanted to stick to the same gameplay that made the original famous. Modern game publishers refused to back a game that wasn’t a first-person shooter, so Fargo and his company, inXile entertainment, turned to Kickstarter. The initial goal for the Wasteland 2 campaign was $900,000, but fans have spoken to the tune of more than $2.5 million and counting.
As a way to give back to the Kickstarter community, Fargo has started a grassroots program called “Kicking it Forward.” The gist is that any Kickstarter campaign that gets funding and joins this group agrees to reinvest 5% of its profit to help fund other Kickstarter campaigns. There’s no oversight committee or auditing process; Kicking it Forward works purely on the honor system. And it’s already gaining support, with dozens of campaigns involved, including two retro revival games, Shadowrun Returns and Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded.
5. Project Fedora
Heavily inspired by Blade Runner, the Tex Murphy games continually pushed the envelope of computer gaming technology between 1989 and 1998. This immersive world of gun molls and gangsters, developed by designer Chris Jones, left fans clamoring for more.
However, the developer, Access Software, was bought by Microsoft in 1999, and the team shifted its focus from back-alley deathtraps to back-nine sand traps as it worked on the successful Links series of golf games. The division was sold off again and changed names numerous times, before finally going out of business in 2006.
Although Jones, now head of Big Finish Games, has tried to revive the franchise nine times with a new game called Project Fedora, he has yet to find the funding to make it happen. Now he’s giving it one more shot with a Kickstarter campaign set to launch on May 15. If Jones and Big Finish are able to drum up the kind of funding other retro games have, who knows what kind of groundbreaking game we’ll see added to the Tex Murphy legacy?
The game that made dysentery fun was released as a Facebook app last February, much to the delight of grown-up school children everywhere. It's now social, of course, but the decision whether to ford the river is all your won.
Do you ever feel like there’s a competitor around every corner? Budding entrepreneurs often hesitate to follow their business dreams because they believe their target market is already so saturated that there simply is no more room to absorb any new entrants.
However, savvy small business owners can make it in a crowded field, even one filled with a couple of 800-pound gorillas. The key to your business’ success doesn’t hinge on finding a completely empty field, but how you define your company and its place in the market.
Here are four easy ways to set yourself apart from the din of voices in your industry. Do you have any tips for making it in a crowded market? Let us know in the comments.
1. You Don’t Have to Reinvent the Wheel
Many first-time entrepreneurs make the mistake of thinking they need to blaze a new trail to be successful. Of course, the market always needs innovators, but a business doesn’t necessarily have to be disruptive in order to succeed.
Rather than struggling to come up with a brand new idea, take a look at your target industry and see where there’s a void to be filled. Then, figure out the best possible way to service that need and run with it. Starbucks wasn’t the first company to sell coffee, but they did revolutionize the coffee shop by selling an experience along with a caffeine fix.
These days there may be more than 17,000 Starbucks all over the world, but other coffeehouses around the country are finding a niche. From Smokey Row in Des Moines, Iowa, to Rock City Café in Rockland, Maine, local coffee shops are succeeding by promising more than a cup of coffee and a place to sit. They’re tapping into some of the most primal elements — community, connectedness, security and comfort.
Your product and service may be similar in many aspects to that of the competition, except for a few defining factors — and those are the key to everything. You should be good (or great) at all the basics, and then put your energy and focus on being exceptional at what makes you different.
2. Customer-Centric Companies Win
When trainer Chris Stevenson wanted to open a fitness center in Southern California, many questioned the decision. Here he was, in the heart of the recession, starting a business in an area that was already saturated with multiple boutique gyms and two large, corporate, chain fitness centers competing for the same customers from the same nearby neighborhoods.
Yet despite contending against huge chains with deep pockets and big advertising budgets, Stevenson Fitness is hugely successful today. Why? Chris focused on creating a one-of-a-kind culture at his company that defies people’s expectations of what a fitness center can be. There’s no snootiness, intimidation or pretentiousness at Stevenson Fitness. Yes, it offers top-caliber facilities and a great range of classes, but what sets Stevenson Fitness apart is the friendly, approachable personality of the entire staff. The tag line “Your community, your gym” says it all. His company continues to grow because customers love what Chris’s company gives them.
No matter how big your business gets and how much staff you bring on, I always advise business owners and top management to stay as close to their customers as possible. Talking to customers one-on-one is the best way to truly take the pulse of the market, customer needs and just how your company is doing.
3. Don’t Compete on Price
Eager to attract customers, many small businesses feel the only way they can compete in a crowded market is to undercut the competition on price. I have to admit that my husband and I fell into this same trap with our company — we dropped our prices to unsustainable levels. Our business grew, customers were happy, more customers came in, yet we were nearly losing money with every new order.
This happens to many small businesses in crowded markets. They find themselves running as fast as they can, yet they are still barely bringing in enough money to keep their operations afloat. Faced with this situation, what we did do? We repositioned from competing on price to competing on service.
In a saturated market, someone will always be able (or willing) to absorb a lower cost than you. You’ll need to find a new way to stand out; for us, this was by offering personal service. We began providing free business consultations to everyone who wanted one. We increased our customer service. We even increased our prices to support the higher service levels, and we saw sales and repeat business rise. The key was defining who we were and what made us different, and then focusing on being as exceptional as possible in those differentiating areas.
4. Saturation Can Mean Strength
A competitive and crowded industry indicates that customer demand exists, and that the market is viable. If you carve your own niche, there will be room for your business.
If you’re considering starting a business, don’t be disheartened if a lot of other companies are already offering a similar kind of product or service. You should still look before you leap and do your research on how you can stand out, but don’t let the idea of a saturated market stand in your way.
Liz Elting is co-founder and co-CEO of TransPerfect, the world’s largest privately held provider of language and business services.
The world’s population reached 7 billion in Oct. 2011, and according to an IDC report, one in every seven of those people owns a smart device. By now, we’ve all heard, “mobile is the future.” What the IDC report should tell us is that mobile is already here.
Emerging markets such as Brazil and China are particularly key, with companies scrambling to reach consumers in these spaces. As companies do this, they should be aware that a one-size-fits-all approach will be ineffective in establishing a presence.
What companies should do is create localized apps in order to increase specific customer bases. To do this you must have a strong localization strategy. Here are four things to consider when getting started.
1. Appropriately Translate the Content
It’s exactly what it sounds like. The content should be translated into the language of the target market. Make sure to work with language professionals who can best identify regional dialects or slang terms that will resonate with the intended audience. These experts will essentially keep things from getting lost in translation, or cultural blunders from happening.
2. Localize the Content
Companies must localize their apps to the standards of each regional market. This includes cultural nuances, idiomatic expressions, images and the layouts of mobile pages. Whether it’s ensuring that proper sports terminology is used for athletic brands, or that luxury fashion brands maintain their image rights in foreign markets, the key focus is to provide a “local” experience for target market consumers.
3. Determine the Operating Systems
Localizing apps for various platforms, like iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Windows, depends greatly on the target market. In China, for instance, Samsung holds the largest market share, with Apple coming in fifth. Make sure to research this, particularly if your business must prioritize apps for specific platforms. Doing this will also help identify the necessary post-localization testing, verification and workflow creation. A consultant can help identify which platforms are ideal to focus on in each country.
The final step presents one of the biggest challenges. Businesses must be sure to test apps on each platform for which the app is localized, in addition to the main mobile browsers. The testing process will show how an app works on various operating systems, and ensure consistency across all of them. It will also show whether the app needs to be adjusted to contain fewer graphics or media in order to load in a reasonable amount of time.
Flexibility is key when approaching the testing stage on mobile apps. Test apps directly on the devices themselves to ensure their compatibility. In other cases, apps lend themselves more to testing on emulators, which mimic specific mobile environments on a desktop.
Have you ever encountered an app that wasn’t localized properly? How did it affect the user experience?
This little fella became an instant favorite because fans were able to interact by taking him to their own destinations. There's just something cheeky and highly enjoyable about taking a photo of a garden gnome standing in front of an epic vista.
Image courtesy of Flickr, CoryGurman.
Trying to gain attention in the tech industry can be daunting. If you don’t make a booming first impression or raise millions in your first VC round, you could be destined for obscurity.
In order to stand out from the crowd, some startups adopt mascots for their products. However, a mascot’s success all depends on the public’s reaction. (See Microsoft Word’s Clippy or the Pets.com hand puppet for examples of what not to do.)
The trick is to make your product lovable enough that the public embraces whichever mascot you’ve chosen. URL shortener Bit.ly’s pufferfish is a great example. The company introduced a clever mascot to make the brand more three-dimensional.
Here’s a few mascots that caught our eye. Know any that we overlooked? Let us know in the comments.
Ethan Riegelhaupt is senior vice president for corporate and public affairs at Edelman. Previously, he served as vice president for speech writing and internal communications at The New York Times Company. He was also a senior staff member for New York Gov. Mario M. Cuomo.
We love the Internet because it supports our overwhelming desire to have a larger influence over what happens in our lives. This fundamental longing to control our destiny has inspired every successful political movement in the last 250 years, whether it was the American Revolution or the fight against Communism in Eastern Europe.
Now, a few decades later, our need to exert real influence over the larger activities of life continues. We see countless examples of individuals, much like ourselves, employing digital tools to create sparks, ignite fires, and shine bright lights on alleged injustices, misdeeds, or desired changes. People all over the planet use their computers and smart phones to confront organizations, forcing them to pay closer attention to what they are saying, thinking, and doing.
The Trayvon Martin tragedy is an excellent case in point. As Brian Stelter reported in The New York Times, the story gained traction when people started talking on Facebook and Twitter about what George Zimmerman, the alleged shooter, did on the night of February 26 in Sanford, Florida. It took a few weeks before the mainstream media began to pay attention. But they did, and the case became a national fixation.
In a recent piece, Paul Krugman, a Times Op-Ed columnist, referred to Richard Hofstadter’s famous 1964 essay, The Paranoid Style in American Politics arguing that people in this country see conspiracies everywhere. While this dark mindset still exists, the Martin case demonstrates that the Internet can serve as a sane political and social counterbalance.
Far more importantly, the Internet has become a catalyst for concerted behavior, enabling individuals throughout the world to make the transition from commenting and speaking to doing and acting. This has exponentially enhanced anyone’s ability to alter and shape the course of events.
Out of all this activity, we see the emergence of what may well be the most important political development of the 21st century: digital populism. It is global in scope with a flavor of the New England town square and speaks to the intrinsic need for personal expression, mass action, and ongoing engagement.
It is worth noting that digital populism is a hotly contested concept, generating lengthy exchanges regarding what it means, what it has already achieved, and whether it will be a truly disruptive political force. Naturally, this debate became quite heated in the midst of the Arab Spring when the Egyptian and Tunisian governments were overthrown.
To avoid becoming overly utopian or romantic about this era, we must maintain a historical perspective. After all, mass action around a common objective is not a new phenomenon. Nevertheless, it is abundantly apparent that the Internet is profoundly shaping a new politics of inclusion that invites all to contribute to the ongoing narrative.
It is something that will certainly shape the U.S. political narrative this campaign season, and it won’t be the first time. In 2008, then-presidential candidate, Barack Obama, provided a textbook example of how to use online tools to rally supporters, raise money, and convey his positions.
Four years later, the President’s campaign is undoubtedly becoming even more proficient at using the web to mobilize its millions of supporters and to engage in old-school grassroots campaigning, providing another example of the Internet fusing the old and new.
But candidates will not be the only ones relying on the web to create change; citizens will too. The public is no longer content to sit and watch what is happening. Instead, they will continue to use the Internet to learn more about positions, question candidates, and become far more involved in issues that affect their lives.
This is the essence of digital populism and the new politics of inclusion. It makes sense because personal empowerment is what we have wanted since the dawn of time. Call it human nature.
Gilad de Vries is vice president, brands and agencies at Outbrain. Before joining Outbrain he served as VP of Digital Media and Principal at Carmel Ventures, one of Israel’s top venture capital firms.
Lately, it’s impossible to open a newsletter, check Google alerts, or visit any news sites without reading something on the benefits of content marketing. It seems as though the entire marketing industry is out to convince the world that this is the wave of the future. While that may be true, there is a real shortage of practical, how-to advice for brands that want to dip their toes in the content marketing pool.
Yes, advances in technology and the rise of social media as a marketing channel have eliminated the need for traditional modes of distribution. But at the end of the day, creating great content and getting it in front of the right audience still demands creativity and skill.
Luckily, there are already a handful of companies who have really nailed down the art of content marketing, and their efforts serve as great examples. Here’s a closer look at some of the do’s and don’ts from content marketing’s greatest hits.
1. Don’t Skimp on Design
This may seem obvious, but if you want to be taken seriously by consumers, it’s important to make your content visually compelling. The folks at the General Electric Company have this down. There, issues of innovation and environment have been brought to life with the thoughtful design of their Ecomagination site. Sure, it’s the quality of the content that will keep your visitors coming back, but don’t underestimate the power of a slick, eye-catching site. Using a 16:9 ratio predispositions viewers to think of your site as premium, as does using high-quality images that take up the entire frame. In general the ratio of text to images has slowly been shifting in favor of the latter, with no more than five to six paragraphs of text per page. Magazine-quality content and photography from sale site, Mr. Porter, adheres to this rule nicely.
2. Do Make it Multimedia
This goes hand in hand with investing in design. Varying the type of content you use is essential to providing an engaging, well-rounded user experience that sucks people in and keeps them clicking for more. Fashion maven, Tory Burch, combines videos, slideshows, photos, and even playlists on her blog, which draws nearly 200,000 unique visitors per month.
3. Don’t Go for the Hard Sell
Although the ultimate purpose of all marketing is to drive sales, content marketing employs a more nuanced, indirect approach. The focus is on educating, entertaining, and delivering value to the consumer, rather than giving a hard pitch for your products or services. For a great example of this, look no further than Unilever’s The Adrenalist. The site’s content includes news and information on adventure, extreme sports, gear, and travel. It basically provides adrenaline junkies and adventurers with a place to convene online. Visitors will see plenty of Bear Grylls, former host of Man vs. Wild, but Degree for Men only makes a handful of appearances.
4. Do Strike a Balance
That balance should be between content that is professional and content that is generated by users. Now, there’s no doubt that enlisting professionals is key to any good content strategy, but incorporating the consumer voice is equally important. Both Kraft and General Mills have done a commendable job of getting readers involved by soliciting user recipes for their respective sites, KraftRecipes.com and Tablespoon.com. Productivity app maker, Evernote, also blends professional with community content through user-submitted tips and tricks on their blog.
5. Don’t Leave Any Dead Ends
When it comes to content marketing, the old adage about “leave ‘em wanting more” most definitely does not apply. The best time to engage your audience is when they’re already in content consumption mode, which is why every page on your site should offer plenty of links to further content. L’Oreal, which many folks don’t realize is behind beauty how-to site Makeup.com, is a master at this. A recent article on sunscreen featured links to videos, a “tip of the day” and trending stories along the left-hand navigation, as well as suggestions for further reading.
6. Do Make Sharing Easy
If you create great content, there’s a good chance that you’ll garner some fans along the way, which is why it’s so important to give them mechanisms to share that content with their friends. Check out a great example from the marketing automation experts at Marketo. Their blog puts Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google +1 buttons on posts to encourage sharing. Another “Like” button and a Disqus link at the bottom of the post further enable readers to spread content beyond the bounds of the site, creating a ripple effect of influence.
7. Don’t Forget About Offline
A solid offline strategy can be one of the keys to bringing your online content to life, engaging your audience, and attracting new eyeballs. Red Bull has become an inimitable force in the field of content marketing and has blended online and offline marketing to become synonymous with extreme sports. In addition to a hugely popular website and magazine, Red Bull organizes sporting events from freestyle motocross, to extreme downhill sledding, to chariot racing. These offline events allow it to own the agenda, while engaging with their community in a very natural way.
This May, Mashable will be be exploring the future of digital marketing at our signature conference, Mashable Connect. See below for all of the details.”
Our annual destination conference, Mashable Connect, brings our community together for three days to connect offline in an intimate setting at the Contemporary Resort at Walt Disney World®. Registration is now open.
Held in a unique location away from everyday distractions, Mashable Connect is a rare and valuable opportunity to be surrounded by digital leaders across industries. You’ll spend time with Mashable’s passionate and influential community, hear from top speakers who will provide insight into the the technologies and trends that are shaping the next era of digital innovation, and get to spend time with the Mashable team.
To keep Mashable Connect as intimate as possible, only a limited amount of tickets are available.
A Look Back at Last Year’s Mashable Connect
1. Mashable Connect Race Powered by Gowalla
Team members check in to a race location at Magic Kingdom during the Mashable Connect Race powered by Gowalla.
A limited number of sponsor opportunities are available for Mashable Connect. This is an excellent opportunity to get in front of Mashable’s passionate and influential audience. Contact email@example.com for opportunities.
“Going viral” is a distinct phenomenon particular to today’s Internet culture. But if you think about it, viral movements have been around forever. How else do you explain those horrifying motivational posters from a decade ago, or Britney Spears, or Furbies? Ick.
An incredibly powerful sub-category of viral content on the web is video. And everyone from Aziz Ansari to Apple to Allen’s Apricot Farm is trying to produce the next viral hit. Why? It’s all about eyeballs. And yours have probably seen a viral video in the past month, past day or even the past few hours.
The guys at creative agency Seedwell specialize in imagining, producing and distributing viral video. Partners Peter Furia, Beau Lewis and David Fine represent the heads of strategy, business and production, respectively.
But don’t you dare call Seedwell an advertising agency; this team values creativity over commercials. Its goal is to communicate brand messages via viral means, which means turning traditional advertising on its pretty little head.
The lads at Seedwell also produce for a separate YouTube channel, called Pantless Knights, which features mini-docu-series and music videos about pop culture and digital humor. Their newest channel, American Hipster, profiles the trendiest people in the country and gets behind the mustaches and vintage scarves.
Mashable spoke to Seedwell to discover just what constitutes a viral video. What is today’s viral audience looking for? Is there a formula for going viral? Read on to learn how this team builds views, targets tastemakers and caters to the modern web audience.
Q&A With the Partners at Seedwell
Is there something all viral videos have in common?
Lewis: This conversation begins with a speed bump, the lack of a universal definition for what constitutes a “viral video” (kind of like “hipster” — more on that later). Perhaps we can use this opportunity to propose one?
We’ve heard “viral video” used to represent: a threshold of views, a rate of growth, a threshold of sharing, and occasionally an aesthetic. What if we thought about “viral criteria” the same way our teachers did: relative to the class?
In most classes, 95% is an “A.” By that metric, getting 10,000 views on YouTube earns a video as viral “A.” This is a bit of a surprise to many who think about “viral” as being in the millions, but it should make you feel better about the video of your cat that hasn’t gotten 1 million views yet (the 99.8th percentile).
There is also precedent for defining a “viral video” relative to the class in Unruly Media’s viral video chart, which ranks the top videos in terms of sharing. To make the top 100 list, you have to rack up about 8,500 shares in 24 hours. This is closer to the 99.9th repeated percentile than the 95th (and there is a big snowball at the top), so let’s do napkin math and relax that to about 1,000 shares.
For the sake of pushing the conversation forward, let’s assume the definition of a “viral video” is an impressive performance of views, sharing and growth curve relative to the top 5% of the class (10,000+ views, 1,000+ shares in 24 hours). Let’s also ignore the videos that simply paid for their views. Most “viral videos” that achieve along these lines do have some things in common: theme, structure and tastemakers.
Structure: There’s a compelling case for a progression that starts by surprising the viewer, avoids interjecting much advertising, and takes the viewer on an emotional roller coaster. Viewers’ screen time may be going up, but attention span appears to be going down, which means that the video needs to repeatedly earn the viewer throughout its duration.
Tastemakers: Almost all viral videos get their legs after being discovered by tastemakers and digital influencers. These are celebrities with built-in audiences the size of cable channels. Kevin Alloca gives a good TED talk on the subject, and the Kony 2012 video was perhaps the best example of engineering it to date.
How would you define today’s “viral audience?” Or is it a general audience because viral is so universally appealing?
“The key is making a video that elicits a strong enough emotion or reaction from a group of people that they feel compelled to share it with others.”
Furia: We don’t believe there is a “viral” audience. Certainly, younger tech-savvy people have a greater propensity for sharing content online, but videos can go viral within the general population, as well as within any number of niche audiences.
The key is making a video that elicits a strong enough emotion or reaction from a group of people that they feel compelled to share it with others. In some cases, that might be something universally appealing, like a laughing baby. In others, that might be a music video about an Apple product that touches on things only Apple users understand. In the latter case, the potential sharing population is smaller than that of the laughing baby, but it’s also a community that is so passionate about the subject matter, that they’ll share the video far and wide.
What are people clicking on most these days?
Furia: There are a handful of triggers that motivate people to click on videos these days. The biggest ones are probably video thumbnail, video title, relevancy and curation.
A provocative thumbnail and/or title will drive lots of clicks, especially if they seem relevant to viewers. It’s not always the case, but you’ll often notice way more views for “lower quality” videos that pertain to a major news event, pop culture trend or hot topic than for “higher quality” videos that are more timeless. Videos that capitalize on these “tentpole events” (like national holidays or major news events) can capture the public eye. The home run, though, is when you can create a video that is both high quality and relevant — this video stands out from the rest, and is something we always strive for.
Curation is also hugely important. People are much more likely to click a video that gets shared with them by a friend or a blogger whose opinion they trust. In many cases, the biggest YouTube celebrities, Twitter celebrities and bloggers have the power to make a video viral simply by posting it to their massive audiences. These people are the tastemakers of the digital world.
There is also a mob mentality around already popular videos — the thinking goes, “Wow, if 100,000 people have watched this in the last two days, it must be relevant and worth watching.”
Oh yeah, and it will always be the case that sex sells. A thumbnail with a close-up on a sexy body party — whether it’s a pair of boobs or a guy’s sculpted abs — will always get clicks.
Lewis: It’s also worth noting that there’s an interesting trend in the world of YouTube where clicks are becoming less important. The model is moving more towards channels, subscriptions, playlists and a “lean back” experience. Assuming the trend continues, this means platforms will favor fewer different video clicks in favor of a longer watching time-per-click.
What are people sharing most these days? Is there a difference between a video that’s clickable and shareable?
Furia: There are two very separate decision points for a viewer: the moment of choosing whether to click on a video, and then the moment where they decide whether to share it.
Most people will just watch a video and then click away or close it. If they decide to share a video, it usually is because they either a) altruistically want to share the enjoyment of that video with others, or b) selfishly want to be seen sharing or critiquing that video. The former is usually accompanied by an enthusiastic statement, like “OMG, this is awesome!” While the latter is usually accompanied by an understated or critical post, like “Is this what the internet has come to?”
It’s amazing how many people will post videos that they dislike. This often reinforces the phrase “any press is good press.”
You emphatically state that Seedwell is “not an ad agency.” Why is that?
“The reason we get up in the morning is to create videos that make people smile, not to sell chips or body wash … We’re extremely paranoid that the moment we forget that will be the moment we make videos nobody wants to watch or share.”
Lewis: The reason we get up in the morning is to create videos that make people smile, not to sell chips or body wash (both of which we do use). We’re extremely paranoid that the moment we forget that will be the moment we make videos nobody wants to watch or share. That is when we lose relevance — both to viewers and (ironically) to advertisers.
So, we think of ourselves as a “creative studio” rather than an “ad agency.” Ad agencies have historically paid for distribution with creative as an add-on. We believe in paying for creative and earning the distribution.
As much as we enjoy watching Mad Men, the world has changed. It’s frowned on to drink old fashioned’s before 10 a.m., and there is no such thing as a guaranteed audience. People only watch what they want to watch, advertisements included.
It used to be enough to think about the message that your target consumer wanted. Now you have to earn their attention before you can even deliver a message. So, even if we’re building a business that relies on advertising, we better be thinking about creating content that engages the viewer first.
You launched the YouTube channel American Hipster recently, and we love it! Where did the idea come from?
Fine: I came up with the idea for a documentary series called American Hipster about 4.5 years ago with a close friend from college, Abby Weintraub. The idea was to explore the word “hipster,” and all the contention surrounding it, by profiling the people whose passions became the trends that have been co-opted by the “hipster,” whatever that word means.
The original idea was based on two assumptions: 1) that there are interesting people doing interesting things that, while widely considered to be “hipster,” lack the pretention and “F-you” attitude we all associate with hipsters, and 2) that people will watch a show called American Hipster because at their core, both words are highly charged and contentious.
Furia: Once we decided to develop a full YouTube channel around this American hipster theme, we renamed the documentary series American Hipster Presents (to emphasize the show’s focus on our interview subjects). And [we] developed the other two more tongue-in-cheek, pop culture-focused shows, Hipster Grandmas and Max Movie Reviews. At a high level, the channel is just a fun way to explore today’s youth culture.
Many people think the whole hipster thing is over, but the fact that the term is still so contentious makes us think there’s substance to explore. We also suspect there’s new humor to enjoy as hipsterism’s influence expands further into the mainstream and crosses generations.
Where do all your ideas come from?
“We’ve all known each other since we were 12, so we’re not precious about our ideas when we’re collaborating on creative. We admit readily when an idea is bad. Or great. Or just OK.”
Fine: Creative is what we do best. We’ve all known each other since we were 12, so we’re not precious about our ideas when we’re collaborating on creative. We admit readily when an idea is bad. Or great. Or just OK. There’s no love lost, or time for that matter.
That said, we spend a lot of time working through a creative process that involves whiteboards, blindfolds, walking meetings and sometimes tumblers and trust falls.
Furia: I think the best ideas are born from moments when our subconscious thoughts can breathe (i.e. when we’re not trying too hard to think), like in the shower or during a commute, but we’ve found that the best concepts are developed through collaboration. I think we have a special collaborative chemistry there; every single good concept has come about because one of us had a kernel of an idea and then others iterated on it.
What kind of people participate in your videos (both actors and behind the scenes)? How do you determine whether those characters/creative minds will appeal to a viral audience?
Lewis: Our videos began with just us and our friends, both in front of and behind the camera. We like that tradition and continue it. Making viral videos requires taking a lot of creative risks, which is something that you are better at doing in the company of people you trust.
As we’ve grown and realized the limitations of our on-screen talent (there are only so many dance moves we know), it has required us making more friends. That is a good thing, too. Many of our new friends are technically very skilled or highly magnetic in front of a camera.
Do you simply create the video and hope it goes viral? Or do you take steps to ensure its “virality?” Share some tips!
Furia: There is absolutely an element of uncertainty in the world of viral video. You can never know for sure whether something will catch fire and spread.
That said, there are a number of steps you can take to improve your chances of going viral. Here are our tips.
Start with a catchy concept. The content is the single most important element to a video being shared virally. Your content should be fresh or relevant, or both. The online video world rewards the new, the unexpected and the relevant. It’s a world where content goes stale in a matter of days and trends become old news quickly. If you’re tackling a topic that’s no longer new, you’d better be offering a fresh or creative perspective on it.
Alternatively, you can go for the quirky or sensational. People will share a video showing a physical or mental feat that’s objectively impressive (like a toddler soccer phenom or StarCraft II keystroke freak), or something that’s just hilarious, weird or unexpected (like the Nyan Cat or Randall’s animal voiceover).
Additionally, it can be helpful to identify your core audience and make sure you’re speaking their language. Something that’s too general can get lost in the noise, while something that’s very specific can ignite the passions of a niche community who sees your video as uniquely personal, and who will be thrilled to share it with other like-minded people.
Optimize the content for online audiences. While there are a handful of exceptions, most videos that go viral are shorter in length and convey what the video is about in the first 15-30 seconds. As people become increasingly busy, and as more and more content competes for their attention, they’re developing shorter attention spans and less patience. They want to know right away that a) they’ll be glad they watched the video when it’s done, and b) it’s not going to burn up too many minutes of their busy day.
Making the content easily searchable and identifiable, via its video thumbnail and its title, description and keywords is also very helpful.
Additionally, people are less likely to share a video with overbearing packaging, branding or calls-to-action. Minutes-long opening credits or overt advertising can often be a turn-off for viewers.
Get your content in the hands of relevant press outlets and tastemakers. The world of online video has become increasingly saturated, and it’s harder than ever to break through the noise, even if you have a catchy concept and a video that’s optimized for online audiences.
Getting your video shared by digital influencers with large and engaged audiences is essential. While some bloggers and web celebrities get annoyed by “cold emails” and self-promoting, many more of them are interested in being among the first people to post a hot video, especially if it speaks to their specific interests.
Identify the tastemakers with large audiences for whom your content is relevant, and share the link with them, along with some context for why they should check it out. They’ll always read your emails or tweets, but they’ll often only reply if they’re interested in posting it.
The type of outlet is also important. We’ve found that posts by traditional media outlets (like newspapers or magazines and their corresponding websites) with massive audiences can actually have a smaller impact on video views than posts by dedicated blogs and YouTube or Twitter celebrities with smaller audiences. This is because the latter often use more sharing-friendly publishing platforms, and their audiences are more tech-savvy and familiar with online video sharing.
In other words, a write-up in Mashable with a video embedded, or a tweet from Ashton Kutcher with a video link can be an order of magnitude better for virality than a write-up in The New York Times.
Lastly, you can pay for promotion. There are now a number of platforms on which you can advertise a video, such as YouTube Promoted Videos or Facebook Ads, and those tools can help drive the same initial momentum that a press feature would.
How do you promote a movie that attempts to give a voice to the voiceless? This is the challenge that fell upon the makers and distributors of Bully, a documentary on childhood bullying that will hit theaters nationwide on Friday.
The film’s path to theaters is a rocky one. Initially released for a limited audience on March 30, the documentary was slapped with an R-rating for strong language by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). The appeal was denied, effectively blocking the film’s opportunity to reach its true audience of middle and high schoolers. Filmmaker Lee Hirsch says he was devastated at the possibility that his film couldn’t have the impact he hoped it would.
“We knew we had to fight it, but we didn’t know how,” says Hirsch of his film’s struggles. “It was a done deal.”
It was, at least, until a massive multi-platform campaign to bring awareness to the movie was launched by myriad sources, with Twitter entering as a main theater of activity. Mashable spoke with Hirsch, The Weinstein Company‘s Senior Vice President of Marketing Bladimiar Norman and 17-year-old Change.org petition leader Katy Butler about the documentary’s massive Twitter campaign.
Do you think this campaign has changed ways to gain awareness through Twitter? Let us know in the comments.
The Strategy: Mega Awareness
For Norman, who led the campaign for Bully distributor The Weinstein Co., the strategy for Twitter boiled down to two words: Twitter Tuesday.
“The goal was to create an organic trending of #BullyMovie by a massive grassroots campaign, securing one million tweets within one day in a 24-hour period,” Norman says of the March 27 campaign.
If it sounds like a lofty goal, and that’s because it is: Norman says he spent a while researching just how to grow a campaign large enough to make a worldwide trending topic on the platform before realizing that there’s no way to force a phenomenon. Instead, awareness of the desired scale would require rallying around the message of the movie: 13 million kids in America will be bullied this year, and 3 million of those kids will be absent from school due to the bullying they endure. Norman says that while he wasn’t bullied as a child, he felt very sympathetic to and motivated by the cause.
“I watched hours of footage, and I was completely blown away from the amount of teen suicides in the world,” Norman explains. “I was completely shocked.”
It was this emotional resonance that also hit 17-year-old Michigan high school student Katy Butler, who says she’d seen the trailer and knew it had the potential to change the bullying she herself experienced.
“Bullying is such a personal issue for me that I was so excited for the movie to come out so kids could see it,” Butler explains. “But then I saw that it was rated R.”
Butler began her campaign on Change.org in early March, and hopped aboard the “Anti-Bullying Twitter Tuesday” idea she read about on the film’s website. She encouraged her petitioners, whom by late March had swelled to nearly 500,000, to stand alongside the film and provide a voice for bullied kids.
These two missions, separate in their origins, converged on March 27th. Norman says that all hands were on deck at The Weinstein Co. to help encourage everyone to retweet messages about Bully through a custom-made toolkit that made it simple to promote the movie. He adds that he spent much of his time looping celebrities into the cause and leveraging their influence to fuel awareness.
“We live in a world where pop culture runs our lives,” Norman explains. “This was the only chance we had to get into the eyes of as many people as possible.”
Hirsch says on March 27th, he was surprised at how much the campaign had gained steam.
“I woke up to ‘Have you seen this?’ More and more high-profile folks joined the call,” Hirsch explains. “It really took off and helped raise the profile of the film.”
“Just to know — as a 17-year-old — how much a difference I can make gives me so much hope for my future,” Butler says. “It showed me that if you truly believe in something, you can get it done.”
Back at The Weinstein Co., Norman says that he was overwhelmed not only by the celebrities’ support of the cause, but also the willingness from Twitter itself to take part in perpetuating the anti-bullying message of the day.
“I can’t tell you how impressed I am that people came together on this day,” Norman explains. “It was absolutely incredible, the support that we got. It blew me away, and it’s been kind of a whirlwind since then.”
The day before the campaign, The Weinstein Co. had said it would release the film unrated. After March 27, Bully went back to the MPAA for another rating round. This time, it was a success: The film was able to secure a PG-13 rating, while still retaining the strong language found in one of the documentary’s most powerful scenes. Hirsch says he’s pleased the campaign helped the film reach its wider audience, and added that the bullying awareness itself is a joy.
“We had a real victory, we did,” Hirsch says. “It was not just about beating the MPAA — it started the conversation about bullying and gave people a way to talk about it.”
Between the rise in location-based social networks, like Foursquare, and the mobile market’s meteoric growth, a new marketing avenue has opened up. Location-based marketing is a nascent frontier, and marketers are clamoring to take advantage of it.
Already, about 30% of smartphone owners access social networks via their mobile browser, and that figure will continue to grow, according to an infographic by Microsoft Tag. So, if your marketing plans include location-based networks, below are five ways to get started.
1. Push Notification Integration
One of the big reasons people don’t use location-based apps like Foursquare or SCVNGR is simply because they forget. Integrating push notifications into a location-based app is a great and simple fix.
Marketers often use these notifications to highlight activity, specials, announcements, and to further promote the app as well as the business. Allowing users to alter these notifications is an important way to give your audience some power. That ensures your messaging makes it to their phone without being a burden.
2. Loyalty Programs
Giving rewards to loyal customers for continuing to check in via a location-based networks is a great option. Arby’s marketing team did this on Foursquare by offering special reserved seating to their Foursquare mayors at 30 restaurants and 50% off on purchases. Ideas like these drive competition and increase use, which leads to greater exposure for the business being marketed on these networks.
Geofencing has been around for some time, but it’s increasingly becoming incorporated in more location-based networks. For those who aren’t familiar, geofencing is a virtual boundary set around a location, like a store. One way marketers are using geofencing on location-based networks is by sending messages to users who’ve opted in to a particular service.
Lets use Starbucks as an example. If a person crosses a Starbucks geofence, they will receive a message from their location-based app highlighting an offer, coupon, or just a reminder to stop by. This is similar to the idea of a push notification, except it’s only triggered by a person who comes into a geofence around a specific location. This messaging is more relevant to a user and more effective for a company.
4. Mixed Media
Apps like GetGlue and Foursquare both give you the ability to check in and incorporate other media. For instance, GetGlue allows a user to check in and share a favorite book, song or TV show. Optimize your content and forge partnerships with companies like GetGlue as a way to extend your reach among users that are more likely to view your content if recommended by their friends.
5. Better Content
As the king of the location-based space, Foursquare helps set the tone for innovation in this industry. Recently at South by Southwest, Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley spoke about the future of location-based apps and how the company’s focus is shifting from checking in to other features that their audience uses more and that will help the company become more mainstream.
For instance, Foursquare’s “explore” feature is fairly new and allows a user to discover food, nightlife, shops, and more based on broad categories. It aggregates suggestions based on your checkin history as well as information available on the network about a location. This is why any content you add to Foursquare and similar sites should be optimized.