Posts Tagged ‘iPhone App’

Blue Media Boutique’s Tori Rose on social media strategy

March 16, 2010


Read what Tori and Mary Beth West had to say about social media strategy in an article from the Knoxville News Sentinel.

Strategy before execution essential in social media

By Amy Nolan, March 15, 2010


Tori Rose shares a secret with businesses excited about how many fans their Facebook page boasts.

“A lot of them are hiding you,” says Rose, founder of Blue Media Boutique, a Knoxville Web development firm that recently joined with Mary Beth West Consulting to promote their strategic interactive expertise.

The former Rivr Media Interactive executive launched her business two years ago as social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter exploded in popularity, and she’s watched as clients and prospects “jump in with no direction.”

They start a Facebook fan page believing “if we build it they will come.”

They start a blog, but no staff member is charged with writing it.

They want an iPhone app, but don’t know why.

To be sure, the Internet’s vast audience is alluring the corporate world, and so is its promise as a free, easy, do-it-yourself marketing platforms. The trend has been keenly by those businesses helping them shape their message.

“I think a lot of people think if you have the tools, you have the skills,” says Cynthia Moxley, CEO of Moxley Carmichael, who likens the situation to the Macintosh computer putting graphic design in reach of any user, giving rise to the term, “Mac ugly.”

Not unlike many industries affected by seismic economic shifts, marketers have used the downturn as an opportunity to take stock and reinvent themselves.

Advertising, public relations and Web development firms are consolidating and creating joint ventures, as well as tapping high-profile talent to boost their digital media credibility in the marketplace.

And businesses big and small, those already taking part in the online conversation and wondering whether anyone is listening as well as those considering jumping into the fray, are increasingly seeking expert assistance on how to be efficient and successful on the online frontier.

“Social is now at the curve where it’s becoming a more mature medium and people are expecting more out of it,” says Dan Alton, of Bluegill Creative, which recently merged with Internet marketing firm Eluminare.

Adds his business partner, Billy Rivet, “I think one of the challenges we face within the realm of social communities and mobile networks are the concerns of being interrupted. People don’t want to be marketed to, so how do you market to them without seeming to be marketing to them?”
Different audiences, approaches

Mary Ellen Brewington is a partner in Cherokee Distributing Co. and passionate community volunteer, who considers writing a hobby. She’s written articles for a Knoxville lifestyle magazine and earned a college degree in creative writing.

She began playing around with Facebook and Twitter last year, and signed Moxley Carmichael to talk through her efforts and get the technical assistance to make the company’s Web site more interactive.

Brewington now authors the blog, “On Tap,” that’s accessible from Cherokee’s Web site, and visitors are also invited to follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Her audience is primarily local: Cherokee distributes beer and non-alcoholic drinks to grocery stores and restaurants in 22 East Tennessee counties.

She’ll write about a beer-tasting event or fundraiser for a worthy cause, but she also devotes a fair number of words on less obvious promotional topics — from favorite beer drinking songs, the history of craft beers to some pointers on how to determine “what moderation means for you.”

Her mission is provide some entertainment and education, she says, along with promoting Cherokee’s products.

“Good business is really all about relationships, and I view social media as one of the ways to build those relationships,” she says.

She’s now receiving weekly reports on her Web traffic, and is particularly interested in how readers came to visit the site, the demographics of fans and followers, and what experts say is an often overlooked metric — whether readers are responding.

Tracking a reader to the grocery story is difficult, but she intuitively believes “putting a bug in someone’s ear,” about the nostalgic resurgence of Pabst Blue Ribbon, for example, may prompt him to pick up a six-pack at Food City.

Ruby Tuesday, on the other hand, wants to build relationships with potential customers around the world with hopes they’ll visit its nearly 900 restaurants.

Gavin Baker joined the Maryville-based restaurant chain eight months ago as social media manager.

Facebook is currently the “big dog” in the social media space, Baker notes, and Ruby Tuesday boasts 60,000-plus fans of its page.

The marketing department creates a conversational calendar for Facebook posts, dividing messages into three categories: community, product and company.

“We set that up ahead of time, and coordinate that with everything else we are doing,” he says.

Messages are vetted in the marketing department before they’re posted.

“The easiest thing to measure is the fan count — unfortunately that number doesn’t really tell you anything,” Baker says.

He watches closely what wall posts elicit comments and analyzes demographic information and engagement scores provided by Facebook.

Tracking the reader to the restaurant is made easier by an old-fashioned tool “that gets a lot of love,” he says — a coupon. Fans this month get a free appetizer; in mid-March the company launched a $1 million contest tied to the NCAA basketball tournament.
Beyond Facebook, Twitter

Katie Granju joined Ackermann PR in April 2009 as the agency’s first director of social media. She brought with her nearly eight years of participating in a variety of online communities, both professionally — she was among the first community producers for the Oxygen network — and personally as a citizen actively engaged in her neighborhood’s development and a mother interested in learning and sharing the triumphs and travails of parenting.

When HGTV, the Knoxville-based lifestyle television network, sought to tap into the exploding group of so-called mommy bloggers they turned to Granju, who blogs at

“The idea was tossed around to start from scratch” with its own blog or other targeted messages, Granju says.

Ultimately, the network signed to its talent stable Heather Armstrong, who in 2001 began publishing, a blog that has spawned two books.

“Instead of taking on-air talent and giving them an online component, this is taking some of the best online talent in the world and growing them in the other direction,” Granju says. “That makes HGTV very smart and ahead of the curve.”

The move also illustrates what Granju says are often overlooked opportunities — from endorsements of online celebrities to the more mundane Listservs and Yahoo groups.

While Granju may be a poster child for new media and all things digital, she sounds not unlike Cathy Ackermann, her boss and the public relations strategist who founded the agency 28 years ago.

“This is new, so people got excited about it, got out there in the space and many put execution before strategy,” Granju says. “It’s never going to work as well if it’s put into a silo and not aligned with a company’s business goals and everything else they are doing.”

She also preaches that companies need to integrate all their digital media elements. Her firm has been called on to perform “digital audits” for locally-based companies with national footprints, including Ruby Tuesday, Pilot Travel Centers and Radio Systems, the makers of the Invisible Fence and other pet products.

Granju says metrics to measure success are getting “better and more accurate,” particularly in just the last year.

“The metrics that matter are different for every client,” she says. “They are only as meaningful as to what they can do the product or whatever your call to action is. We determine first, ‘What does success look like?’ and then we can create a system that we can measure for that.”

Ackermann’s digital audit at Pilot Travel Centers will look at what tools are being used to monitor online traffic and conversations, consolidate its interactive strategies with its brand vision, as well as adding functions to the Web site that allows visitors to plan their trips with stops at Pilot.
Conversation is two-way

While the company’s message and user-friendly presence are important, conversation is ultimately a two-way street making listening and responding integral to the strategy.

Lyndsay Caylor, named Pilot Travel Centers’ social media manager in October, finds herself frequently communicating with the company’s human resources office, where she started her Pilot career, the legal team and the executive suite.

Such was the case recently when Pilot’s Facebook page became ground zero for a battle between the Humane Society of the United States and agriculture interests unhappy with the organization.

At the crux was an employee-driven fundraising appeal to customers to support funding shelters for animals displaced by disasters that came to light when the Humane Society identified Pilot as a corporate sponsor. Ultimately, Pilot stopped the solicitations and CEO Jimmy Haslam explained why on a farmer-hosted radio show carried by 100 rural radio stations.

Caylor was unfazed that the controversy consumed the company’s fan page, because it’s just that — the fans’ page.

Besides posting its own statement of clarification several times, Pilot let the conversation continue freely — and that in itself earned the company plaudits from its fans.

“We understand these are customer issues, and it’s their space,” Caylor says. “We are very honest. We just talked through the facts and posted the truth.”

Facebook, she says, “compared to all of our online chatter is a very small percentage,” she says, noting that she monitors online forums, blogs, Twitter and a number of other sites to determine who’s saying what about her employer.

That type of interaction is also a measure of a company’s social media success — for better or worse, the fans are engaged with the brand.

“If you don’t tell your story, someone else is going to tell it and it might not be on their Facebook page,” notes Bluegill Creative’s Jeremy Floyd. “I would much rather see a client participate in that conversation than not know about it.”

Moxley notes those types of disruptions are what scare many companies. “We got a lot of push back from businesses that their biggest concern was tjat in the social realm people might ‘talk bad about us.’ We tell them they already are talking about you, you just can’t hear them.”

Amy Howell, founder and principal of Howell Marketing Strategies in Memphis, told a Knoxville audience recently to remember, however, that corporate messages via the Internet carry the same rules as with any media.

“We tell clients posting online is global, discoverable and permanent so having a policy in place is important,” she said. “Just because the younger generation is technically savvy, doesn’t mean they’re corporate savvy.”

That policy extends to the company’s internal audience, as well — its employees.

Caylor says she was somewhat surprised how quickly and vehemently loyal employees would rush to the company’s defense online.

Pilot now has an internal social media policy — and Granju says more companies are following its lead.

At its basic level, the policy reminds employees to treat customers no differently online than they would in person at a convenience store or truck stop.

“It’s really just about being mindful of what you do online,” Caylor says. “And to remember than nothing is anonymous and that Google has a really long tail.”

Mary Beth West, the public relations professional and Rose’s partner in Interactive Springboard, says employees are one of the most overlooked audiences.

Board members, volunteers and the community-at-large are also audiences that have expectations from companies that may be different from customers, she notes.
Collaboration versus competition

In part because interactive media is still developing territory, communications professionals — being who they are — are talking about it. A lot.

Knoxville boasts not just one, but two associations devoted to social media.

The groups sponsored a half-day seminar in February attended by some 200 marketing and media types. Their members’ blog feeds, Facebook posts and Twitter streams are populated by the latest and greatest thinking on the subject.

“Five to seven years ago it was all about who could come up with the next big idea,” Blue Media’s Rose says. “Now there are so many of them if you don’t collaborate it’s impossible to keep up.

“We have a very collaborative environment online now,” she adds. “That is why business ventures are changing and there’s a lot more collaborating in person, as well.”

The “in person” collaboration is likely the ultimate measure of success, Floyd says, whether it’s a customer buying a product, inquiring about a service or making a referral.

“Ultimately, you want the relationship you have developed online to be taken to the physical realm.”

Amy Nolan is publisher/editor of the Greater Knoxville Business Journal.

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Pizza Hut iPhone app

November 12, 2009

Pizza Hut launched an application for the iPhone and iPod touch (iTunes link), and it hit a chord with customers. With a host of features besides ordering food, including the option to virtually build your own pizza, a virtual fridge, and games to play while waiting on your order, the app has been dubbed “a killer app for your appetite.” Customers also get 20% off on orders placed with the application.

“We are extremely excited here about the explosive growth we’ve seen with our iPhone app since its launch 3 months ago—$1 million in sales is pretty substantial for an iPhone app,” said Bernard Acoca, senior director of digital marketing at Pizza Hut, Dallas, TX. “Overall we’re tremendously excited with the momentum the app has and the attention it’s received—it is featured in Apple’s recent television commercial campaign, which is any app developer’s dream scenario.”

IMC2 (Squared) and QuikOrder partnered with Pizza Hut for the creation of the iPhone application. Pizza Hut says it was the first national pizza chain to introduce an application for iPhone and iPod touch with ordering functionality.

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Don’t have time to sift through 60,000+ apps?

August 27, 2009

The iPhone App Store has more than 6o,000 apps. They have apps for everything, but who has the time to sift through 60,000 anythings these days?

16apps has a solution. Enter your username for Twitter, FriendFeed, or (Facebook coming soon…maybe) and 16apps will scan your activity for relevant meta-data that it can then use to recommend iPhone applications. Your location, the topics you commonly discuss, and even your conversation style influence the evaluation.

Give it a try and let us know what they recommend.


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