Ahhhh……Freak out!

Social media is all the rage these days.  And these days, rage might be an understatement.

Last week, Twitter experienced the longest service disruption since its hour long outage in October 2011, causing an internet freak-out.  Known for its history of similar outages, it didn’t take long for the user base to divert attention to other social media platforms like Tumblr, Instagram, or Facebook.

Just as Twitter came back online, Facebook became headline news. As the media leaked the “stalker app,” Facebook’s user base erupted after being set up with an @facebook.com email address listed on the ‘info’ page. While a Facebook spokesperson explained that it was an attempt to provide consistency for everyone, users again flooded Twitter and other social media outlets with complaints of yet another Facebook oversight. Seemingly, Facebook has earned a reputation for doing first then asking for permission, or rather, forgiveness later.

Despite the rising popularity for all things social, users still maintain control over engagement.  A majority of users are active on more than one social media platform, making it almost impossible for Twitter and Facebook to prevent the next freak out.

Rise of the New South

Forget the clichéd confederate rallying cry “the South will rise again!” The American Southeast has, in fact, recently managed to change the nation’s perception and rebrand itself as arguably the most up-and-coming region in the country. As its unofficial “capital” city, Atlanta, GA is a perfect example of the rise of this “New” South.

Over the course of the past half century, Atlanta has successfully managed to emerge from its shadowed past, marked by attitudes of slavery and rebellion, and rebrand itself as a modern hub of business and culture. The change in the city’s brand image was kickstarted by milestones in the Civil Rights Movement that took place there during the 1960s, spearheaded by native son Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In addition to attracting four professional sports teams in the second half of the 20th century, the city underwent major revitalization in pursuit of hosting the 1996 Summer Olympics. The city also took major steps in marketing itself to attract major conventions, increase tourism, and attract new residents. These initiatives have helped market Atlanta as a city on the rise, igniting a transformation into an influential and cosmopolitan city.

Thanks to effective marketing of the area’s business-friendly legislative environment and readily available labor, large companies like UPS, the Home Depot, and Newell-Rubbermaid, among others, call Atlanta home. One of the largest is Delta Airlines, which has helped Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport earn the title of the world’s busiest airport annually since 2005. This statistic is meaningful to the branding of Atlanta as one of the most accessible cities in the world.

Atlanta is a hub for sustainable, green-focused building and lifestyle initiatives. The Atlanta Beltline, currently under construction, is one of the largest and most ambitious eco-friendly urban development projects ever undertaken. Reclaimed spaces and new constructions using renewable materials are the trademark of real estate around the city, setting a trend that has latched on in other urban areas across the US.

Culturally, Atlanta headlines a list of destination cities in the region boasting a healthy mix of high-end, chef-driven restaurants receiving praise at the national level, a blossoming ethnic restaurant culture, and traditional Southern eateries that put a form of history on a plate. The city has also become a major center for film and television production, earning the nickname “Hollywood South.” Education is proliferating too. Nearly 43 percent of adults in the city have college degrees as compared to 27 percent in the nation as a whole, with Georgia Tech and Emory leading the way as world-class institutions of higher learning and research. This renaissance has all but destroyed the stereotype of the undereducated, uncultured Southerner.

Thanks to the growth of business and increased quality of life, Atlanta has had little trouble selling itself. People from all parts of the world have been attracted to the city as permanent residents, helping the population grow almost six fold since 1950. From 2000-2008, Atlanta added 1.13 million people to its population, more than any other city except Dallas. With this boom in population, the South has combined its own age-old ethos with national and global influences to market a unique new identity that is drawing serious attention from people around the world. Perhaps that is what the old cliché rallying cry is all about.

Sticker Shock

Earlier this year, JC Penney unveiled a rebranding and a new strategy that eliminated discounts and coupons in favor of an ‘everyday’ low pricing structure along the lines of Walmart and Target. The shift didn’t necessarily come as a huge surprise, after former Michael Francis, a former Target Executive, took the reigns as president in October of 2011. The results, however, have been shocking – shockingly bad.

Francis lasted only eight months, leaving the company as revenues have fallen more than 20% since the announcement of the change in strategy with big-dollar advertisements during the Oscars.  The disaster is attributable to a major flaw in the strategy that the company undertook. As brilliant as it may have seemed on paper, the campaign was missing the point from the get-go.

Despite the forward-thinking nature of the move, Francis and his team failed to recognize that JC Penney consumers had, over the years, become strongly conditioned to look for sales and seek out discounts as a motivating factor when making purchase decisions. The company offered as many as 600 ‘sale events’ a year, running print coupons and in-store promotional pricing, attracting legions of loyal customers who perceived a good value. Moving to lower, more consistent prices caused problems due to the perceptions of the company’s competitors in the everyday value pricing category. In addition to Walmart and Target, Kohl’s also offers consistently low prices, and even mixes in coupons and a solid rewards program. The market was already oversaturated, not leaving JC Penney enough room to convert new customers with its rebrand.

Seemingly, the coupons passing through JC Penney cash registers each week didn’t provide enough data on consumer behaviors, or did it? As the data now proves that there is a correlation between the company’s revenues and the cycle of sales and discount events. The minds behind the shift in strategy simply failed to acknowledge the real wants of the consumer, and the consequences have been severe.

London Calling

In a time when all of Europe is feeling the effects of a low point in its economic recession, the summer of 2012 is shaping up to be a game changer for at least one major city: London, England.

Earlier this month, Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee celebrated 60 years of her reign over the United Kingdom, drawing the close attention of the international media. Anglophiles from all over the world watched the festivities closely, and many even made pilgrimages to London to take part. The event dominated American television and newspapers as Her Majesty’s loyal subjects reveled in the streets of their magnificent capital city.

Following the Jubilee by a month will be the annual edition of pro tennis’ oldest and most prestigious event, Wimbledon. The sporting world will watch intently as the locals once again cheer on hometown favorite Andy Murray to become the first Brit to win the tournament in the Open Era. As many as 500,000 spectators inside the All England Club grounds will join the hundreds of millions of fans tuning in on TV and the web to watch the action, putting the often rainy but still charming city on prominent display for two more weeks.

As impressive as the display of great tennis will be, London’s big year culminates with a singular event that unites people from all corners of the world and brings an unparalleled media frenzy. The 2012 Olympic Summer Games are to be hosted in the English capital, beginning July 27th, and will bring London into the spotlight with an unprecedented level of coverage. The Games are actually expected to boost the UK’s economy, but even the possibility of financial losses would not overshadow the incredible exposure and sense of pride they will bring to the city.

With our planet more connected than ever before, the world will literally be watching as the summer unfolds in England. Thanks to the astounding extent and power of traditional and digital media, the trio of events will reinforce London’s status as one of the greatest cities on Earth, and they could not come at a better time.

Tag, You’re It!

The internet marketing research firm comScore, Inc. provides periodic reports illustrating website metrics including tangibles like traffic and more subjective insights like social media and advertising effectiveness and user engagement. In the company’s latest review, Tagged.com was ‘tagged’ ahead of giants Facebook and Twitter as the United States’ most engaging social network. Considering most people likely haven’t even heard of it, this is an extraordinary achievement.

The numbers are fairly surprising and in cases, downright impressive. Tagged users visit the site only half as frequently as Facebook users, but spend more minutes on the network on average. Tagged was the only social media site to score in the top two spots for both duration and number of visits.

But what exactly is Tagged.com? The term social discovery has been adopted by the site’s founders to describe a process of making new social connections similar to how LinkedIn users network professionally. In its current state, Tagged is intended to coexist, not compete, with Facebook. So far, attempts at prying market share away from the ubiquitous ‘Social Network’ have proven fruitless, as in the case of Google+.

The network’s distinguishing feature is the ability to deliberately find new people to connect with. Unlike Facebook and LinkedIn, which rely heavily upon existing connections to expand one’s network, Tagged encourages reaching out and responding to strangers who live in the same area or share common interests and activities. The allure of easily finding new friends seems to be effective; the comScore review reported upwards of 330 million members generating an average of 2.4 million new matches every day.

Joining yet another social network is a tall request for many devoted Facebook and Twitter users. It is early to determine whether Tagged will ultimately fit into the grand scheme of social media, but because the nature of the site certainly offers the early adopter a head start, it may continue to grow exponentially. Given its impressive metrics, there is little reason to doubt this new entrant into the race.

3 Clever Social Campaigns

Social media has arguably been the single largest trend in marketing over the course of the past few years. As more and more businesses shift their strategies and increase marketing spend on these social platforms, it is becoming harder to make a brand message stand out. Social is unique in that marketing to these networks is not about who can be the loudest. Instead, success is dependent on how well a brand creatively draws attention to how it fulfills a group’s wants and needs.

There are plenty of examples of failed attempts at capitalizing on the unique opportunities social media offers. These cases share a common problem of failing to understand how a message will be consumed, or acting with disregard for how disastrous a misstep can be.

On the other side of the coin, there are a several unique social media campaigns that exemplify the ability of social media networks to deliver a clear message organically across a large captive audience. Here are a few examples:

– Healthy Choice understood that its female customer base was becoming increasingly social, and responded well to coupons when making purchase decisions. The company took this information and introduced a “growing” campaign that offered a printable coupon that increased in value as its Facebook page garnered more likes. In a few weeks’ time, the fan page went from 7,000 to over 60,000 likes, and customers responded well, with more than 30,000 of the new fans subscribing to the company’s newsletter.

– When Old Spice introduced its new humor-injected advertising campaign in 2010, the ‘Old Spice Guy’ quickly became a viral sensation, and the main advertisement was so well made, it actually won an Emmy.  The company took notice, and signed up their popular actor to create more than 180 YouTube videos responding to tweets and blog posts that mentioned the ads. The entire campaign created a lasting image that the brand’s target demographic still shares online over social networks today.

– With Pinterest’s rise to popularity in 2012, Honda is hammering home it’s multi-platform ‘Leap List’ campaign by crossing over into the social visual network and encouraging users to take a ‘Pintermission’ (a 24 hour break from Pinterest) and attempt to visit, buy, and experience places and things they have pinned. They are even paying fans of the brand to help accomplish their goals. Most of Honda’s pins link across different networks back to the campaign, and drive home the message of adventure that has been wildly popular since its launch during the Super Bowl.

Social media is ultimately not about the product or service being marketed, but the relationship between marketer and consumer. Communication on social networks is a two-way street; brands have a chance to be relatable to their audience, and customers unwittingly increase awareness and loyalties. Creating strong relationships turns customers into brand ambassadors more powerful than advertisements.

Sharing A Social Snapshot

Two months after Facebook announced the acquisition of the mobile photo editing and sharing app Instagram for $1B in cash, the social media giant has become the favorite subject of scrutiny in the financial media. The 10-figure purchase was made in anticipation of an IPO on the NASDAQ; part of a feverish run up to a landmark valuation that elevated Facebook above long-standing power brands like McDonalds and the New York Times as it went public. After a disastrous first two weeks that has seen the company’s shares fall 30% in value, investors and market regulators are looking for answers.

Why anyone believed that buying stock in a company that is fundamentally not interested in generating revenue is a relative mystery. Combine that problem with the company’s ongoing lawsuits with Yahoo! over patents, its FTC privacy issues, drastically increased competition in the marketplace, and the still relative youth of social media as a viable business proposition, and several more questions arise.

In advance of the IPO, the immense valuation of Facebook was well known by the public to have been based solely on potential, rather than tangible assets – its nearly one billion users worldwide would constitute the single largest captive audience for any message on the planet. However, the inability of Facebook to convert this opportunity into revenue is equating to a disaster on Wall Street and in the company’s new Menlo Park, CA headquarters, severely testing the breaking point of the social bubble.

The winner of this whole debacle is Instagram. Following the blueprint of what social can really achieve, the makers of the app grew a userbase of 30 million people with an innovative product and ultimately sailed away from the treacherous waters with a billion dollars in cash. Facebook, meanwhile, is drowning.

In reality, Facebook is worth more than just money. More accurately, Facebook’s value transcends what any amount of marketing or advertising money can buy; the network is deeply entangled in the everyday lives of a majority of Americans, serving as a primary vehicle for their social interactions. Even if the company’s stock continues to fall through the floor, general users will be largely unaffected, carrying on their status updates, photo sharing, and social gaming. Perhaps the example that is being made of social media as a poor investment will change the game for businesses and ultimately return the website to those who make it valuable: the users.

Visual Search Revolving Around Axis

Last week, Yahoo! officially released its new “visually enhanced” web browser for desktops and iOS devices. Known as Axis, the browser is an innovative spin on visual searches that aims to streamline the searching experience by effectively eliminating the concept of a ‘results’ page.

Yahoo!’s demo video shows why Axis’ technology could be the key to getting consumers to return to using the company’s search engine, which has lost a huge amount of market share since its heyday in the time before Google’s rise to the pinnacle of the search mountain. The idea takes hold of trends in social and mobile computing that offer users distinct value, such as connecting search history across multiple devices and offering a much richer experience on mobile platforms. Plus, the thing just looks great.

The initial reception has been mixed, with the main theme being that Axis is simply great on mobile devices, and not-so-great on desktops.  With smart devices and mobile applications expected to reach its peak by 2015, Yahoo! is capitalizing on the trend.  On an iPhone, and especially on an iPad, the integrated search feature feels intuitive, and being able to move seamlessly through visual search results without having to hit a ‘back’ button is long overdue. On the way is a version for Android platforms which can be expected to offer solid functionality similar to that found on the iOS version, meaning that the entire smartphone market will have the chance to give Axis a spin. Apple and Google apparently aren’t too worried about the competition as of yet, but that may change in time.

Amidst the excitement that Axis is generating, the browser may potentially affect Yahoo!’s business, as it eliminates a huge amount of the search advertising revenue that has already been suffering in recent years. If it’s successful, Axis could begin a revolution in search technology, fueled by current user preferences bringing Yahoo! to the forefront of contextual and experiential computing.

Junction Sponsors Second Annual Optimist Club of Gettysburg Golf Tournament Supporting Local Youth

Junction was proud to sponsor The Optimist Club of Gettysburg’s Second Annual Golf Tournament on May 31, 2012. Held at The Links at Gettysburg, the event drew more than 100 golfers competing while raising funds for programs supporting youth in the Gettysburg area.

Junction joined other sponsors including ACNB, the Historic Cashtown Inn, Interfaith Housing, Riggle & Associates, Campbell & White, Biggerstaff’s Catering, Raffensperger Martin & Finkenbiner, Bradshaw Dry Goods, Four Horsemen, Project Design, Gettysburg Construction, the Millar Family, the Bair Family, and more in supporting the tournament.

“Great weather, superb camaraderie, and all for a wonderful cause,” commented Don Ferrara, Golf Tournament Committee Chair, Gettysburg Optimist Club.

The tournament has become an important part of the Club’s fundraising program, contributing to the 19 youth-oriented programs the Club supports financially throughout the year. The proceeds from events such as these have benefitted multiple generations of children over the past 54 years, and Junction is proud to help the Club carry on the tradition of helping support the next generation.

Julie Gareleck, CEO & Managing Partner, Junction, champions the Club’s commitment to the greater community. In addition to sponsoring the tournament, Junction also assisted the Club with the development of its new website, launched in May. “As we extend our effort to help build better businesses in the Central Pennsylvania region, we believe strongly in the value of supporting organizations like the Optimist Club of Gettysburg.”

For more information about the Optimist Club of Gettysburg, visit www.gettysburgoptimist.com