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Ten Easy Digital/Social Predictions for 2013

I’ll spare you a plodding introduction. Prediction lists are quick and easy. Here’s 10 of them for 2013.

Google+ Rises – Google, the company that made its fortune in search, will figure out that G+ isn’t a social network, it’s a content directory. Google+’s best chance at success lies in its bread and butter – SEO – by giving big brands, celebrities and other entities the opportunity to dictate organic search. Look for Google to start showcasing G+ content in organic search results. It’s already starting to happen; expect more of it in 2013.

Snapchat Gets More Buzz – Snapchat, a messaging service seemingly inspired by Inspector Gadget with its self-destructing (sort of, but not really) messages, photos and videos, will go mainstream. It’s just starting to pick up buzz and the teenage demographic. Parents are no longer in the dark about Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, but how many know that their kids are on Snapchat? After all, teenagers are always looking for loopholes, so if you tell them they can’t use Instagram, they’ll just go somewhere else. For now, Snapchat seems to be that destination.

MySpace never really takes off – Tom may be sitting on his $580 million while you slave away hoping for another half day off, and Justin Timberlake may have signed on to be the new face of the old social network, but so far, there’s no evidence that every day users have interest in reclaiming their old space on the new Myspace. I’m not holding my breath. Besides, I always liked Friendster better back in the day.

Facebook and Twitter continue aggressive monetization push – Facebook changes the rules of engagement on a weekly basis, and they’re guaranteed to continue to seek out more revenue channels. Now a billion users strong, Facebook has gotten very aggressive about monetization, looking to charge fan pages anywhere from $2-25,000 for millions guaranteed impressions from, get this, their own audience! In December 2010, I predicted in this space that Facebook would charge brands in 2011. Looks like I was ahead of the curve at the time. But it was inevitable. As for Twitter, look for them to follow suit, and look for more tweets from people you never followed popping up in your timeline.

Social Networks Continue to Sell Your Data and Content – Most of us will continue to agree to the Terms of Service without thinking. But no worries, that picture you took of your lunch isn’t valuable anyway. But your data, what you like, and your user behaviors are likely all up for grabs.

Here Come the Commercials – With DVRs and On Demand neutralizing commercials on television, look for advertisers to seek out targeted video ad placements on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Social Media Gurus Go Out of Business – As Corporate America continues to staff up to manage social media internally, it will continue to realize that the only thing many outside social media consultants are actually selling is unquantifiable “engagement,” not to mention their own books. Those who refuse to measure ROI (with ridiculous justifications like, “What’s the ROI of your mother?”) or generate tangible results will be out of business. I think we’ll see more and more of the self-promoting, self-proclaimed “gurus” running for the comforts of a steady paycheck with a full-time job in Corporate America.

Journalism Continues to Die – As the gap that separates professional journalists from citizens narrows and the race to be first with a story intensifies, you’ll see more shoddy reporting from professional news outlets. This trend is well underway, but as traditional media relies more upon gathering information from Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, the quality of reporting will continue its steady erosion.

The Daily Deals Industry Finally Dies – Either Groupon, Living Social or both will go out of business this year. There’s a million stories out there about Groupon “deals” putting restaurants out of business. It will finally come back to haunt them and the shoe will land on the other foot. Remember when they turned down a $6 billion dollar offer from Google? Who was dumber? Google for offering, or Groupon for turning it down?

1,000 More Bad Ideas Emerge – They’ll be easier to spot this year. Let’s face it, for every Pinterest, there’s 40 startups out their trying to be Pinterest-meets-Tumblr-meets-Instagram. Trust me. They’re all horrible ideas.

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Brian Solis’ Pivot Conference 2012 – Reputation Warfare Panel

Here’s a 16-minute video of the panel I participated in at Brian Solis’ Pivot Conference in New York City this fall, discussing how big brands protect their reputation on digital and social media. It was a brief chat but I think we covered a lot of ground in the conversation.

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The Boston Globe Goes Inside the Celtics’ Social Media Efforts

The Boston Globe gave the Celtics a brief write up for our social media efforts, as reporter Chad Finn spent a game day with myself and others from the front office getting an inside look at our digital marketing initiatives.

There’s a lot more to it than the article covers, and many people in our organization help make this stuff work. Social media is just one spoke on the wheel that runs the marketing engine. It just happens to be the sexiest spoke these days, one in which there’s currently plenty of interest.

One thing is certain: marketing the Boston Celtics has changed dramatically since the days of Larry Bird, and even just in the seven years that I’ve been with the team. When I came on board in 2005-06, it was all about Celtics.com and email marketing. These days, there’s always something new around the corner. Just when we think we’ve mastered Facebook, Pinterest comes out of nowhere. Now that we’ve got Twitter pretty much nailed down, here comes Instagram.

The only real question: What’s next?

Boston Globe: Celtics Applying Themselves with Social Media

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Five Guidelines for Effective Twitter Hashtag Marketing

Of all the recent innovations in digital communications, the hashtag is among the most misunderstood and misused conventions.

Necessity is often the mother of invention, and in the case of the hashtag, it evolved from Twitter users’ desire to categorize their thoughts into groups. As the legend goes, @chrismessina, an early adopter of Twitter, suggested in a 2007 tweet, “how do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]?”

The idea, of course, was to provide context and organization for his missives. Without such a utility, many of the communities that exist on Twitter may never have materialized. Likeminded users would struggle to find each other, and it could be argued that the platform as a whole may have stagnated without the semblance of order that hashtags provided in the early days.

Five years later, the convention has morphed dramatically. Far too often, the hashtag is misused for attempts at humor, sarcasm, irony, or simply to avoid using spaces, given that the 140 character restriction can be a bit, well, restrictive.

But it’s not just individual users who misuse whimsical 45-character hashtags. Sadly, many brands and “gurus” have poor understandings of how to use them. Plenty of them have been blindsided when their marketing plans blew up in their face.

But when used properly, hashtags are powerful tools for spreading your message, as well as measuring audience volume and sentiment. A well-promoted hashtag creates and curates online conversations about your topic, while categorizing that content for searches. Many vendors have built businesses around delivering relevant content powered in large part by sourcing hashtag content, which can then be embedded in your website, integrated into your broadcast, or ingested and displayed in venues via digital media displays.

For advertisers, buying sponsored tweets against a hashtag is still a nascent method for reaching a target audience, and if poorly executed, the purchase could end up doing more harm than good.

Spammers (and even mainstream marketers) often attempt to do this for free by tweeting unrelated content against trending hashtags. It even works sometimes. Trending hashtags can become the gateway to generating extra exposure for their Viagra offers on the backs of otherwise interesting and innocuous trends.

There’s much to evaluate when launching a hashtag campaign. Since there’s no handbook, here are five guidelines for using hashtags in your marketing:

  1. Keep them short and sweet – While there’s no official convention, I’d suggest that anything over 20 characters is way too long for a tag that you’re going to ask people to use and retweet. In general, shorter is better, as long as the tag is specific enough to be absolute in its meaning. About 10-15 characters is probably the sweet spot. After all, you’ve only got 140 characters to use, so the longer your tag is, the less room users will have to share meaningful thoughts about the topic.
  2. Make them clear – You’d like to think it goes without saying, but casual twitter users too often create lengthy tags that convey little to no meta information about their tweet. In fact, usually the “hashtag” itself delivers more punch than the tweet. But the best hashtags are unambiguous.

    For instance, Fox Sports recently used #Rivalry on screen during a Red Sox and Yankees national TV broadcast. While it was clear to viewers that Fox was referring to the age-old rivalry between the Red Sox and the Yankees, #Rivalry lacked context for Twitter users not watching the game; the hashtag was far too generic. Remember, hashtags on TV aren’t just for your viewers, but they’re also free advertising to reach potential viewers who will be exposed to your tag in their timeline.

  3. Consider how it might be used against you – If you’re going to promote a hashtag, consider the fact that it could blow up in your face. Of all the classic examples, #McDStories is among the most notorious, as the fast food giant’s detractors commandeered the generic tag by sharing horror stories about McDonald’s, turning their marketing dollars against them. Mitigate that risk by considering what might go wrong before handing your branding over to the public.
  4. Promote it…without being obnoxious – Twitter users understand what a hashtag is when they see it, but not everyone is familiar with the platform. So while the hashtag should be prominent enough to be recognized, there’s still a universe out there that doesn’t even use or understand Twitter. Displaying your tag persistently on screen during a commercial or prominently in a print ad is an effective way to generate buzz and encourage use, but be mindful of cluttering your message with information that’s not necessarily relevant to a large portion of your audience.

    Comedy Central was among the first media outlets to fully embrace the on-screen hashtag, tagging its Charlie Sheen Roast program with a #SheenRoast bug in the lower left hand corner of the entire broadcast. It was subtle, but effective. Similarly, NBC Sports is currently using the #StanleyCup hashtag just below their iconic peacock logo just next to the score at the top of the screen, away from the on-ice action but conspicuous enough to generate plenty of activity.

  5. Don’t expect it to trend – Set realistic expectations, and don’t gauge your success on whether or not your hashtag managed to trend. Most trending topics happen organically, briefly, and with little fanfare. Instead, set specific, measurable goals for engagement. Then analyze the number of users tweeting your tag, the nature of the conversation around your brand, and finally, identify commonalities among influencers participating in your campaign. Your most invested fans will likely join the conversation by using the tag you’ve provided, but how effective was your tag in reaching your existing audience, as well as a new audience?
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Mashable Covers Celtics on Pinterest

Mashable just did a write-up on Friday about the Celtics leading the pack of sports teams who’ve jumped on the Pinterest bandwagon.

The also talked to the New York Giants, fresh off their Super Bowl win, and Dan Harbison from the Portland Trail Blazers. Much like we try to be at the Celtics, Harbison and the Blazers are always ahead of the curve on this stuff.

Article: Pinsanity: How Sports Teams Are Winning on Pinterest

Also, if you missed it last week, I went into some depth here on this blog about our efforts at the Celtics on Pinterest.