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Designing Social Media Feed Widgets

Raise the bar to build custom, branded feeds that fit your website

As social media has become a stronger component of our clients’ marketing efforts, we’ve had the opportunity to use several of the standard social media widgets when building websites to add the various feeds into pages. This past week I decided to push the bar and not settle for what I was being provided by the masses. After spending some time online researching various treatments, I found a few that went above the standard widget. The styles of those feeds didn’t really fit with what I was going for, but it did show me that the mold could be broken and designed a lot better.

After looking through the different sites, I chose a feed that I thought was close to what I wanted functionality wise, but it needed some design help. Once I had the feed on the page and it was running like it should – pulling our BLU feed and rotating accordingly - I started ripping apart the old design and rebuilding it to fit the overall look and feel of the website. Everything about the feed was customized - the size of the feed, background colors, images, font, etc. It took a while to figure out where all of those styles needed to go, but once I figured it out the build went quickly.

Don't Sweat The Small Things—Or, Well, At Least These 4 Things

Your business is your baby. Well, at one distant time in the past it was. If you’ve been running it for awhile, it has probably grown up.
And like a grown-up, a developed business is resilient, probably more resilient than you think. But many entrepreneurs refuse to believe their businesses can withstand one bad day, one unforeseen expense, one minor mishap. In their minds, problems start small then blossom out of control. It’s the classic Mom’s slippery slope: First it’s dirt behind the ears, next it’s sleeping in the gutter. For the entrepreneur, first it’s one bad sales day; next it’s selling your office fixtures on Craigslist and eating Ramen Noodles for dinner.
Sweating the small stuff, one can really hurt your business by keeping you needlessly fixated on minor problems while ignoring the important stuff. Below are four things business owners commonly fixate on when they should be treating their business like a grown-up who can tie their own shoes, thank you very much.
1. One bad day, one bad week or even one bad month

Sell Like Apple: 5 Ways To Create A Product That Sells Itself

Are you trying to create a product that sells itself? The type of products that Apple creates? If you want your product to be the next hot thing, here are five things you can learn from Apple.
1. Attractive design
A great product has a great design. But don’t confuse beauty or coolness with functionality. For a product to be truly wonderful, it has to fulfill a useful function and work well.
You’ve probably seen products that look great but are not useful. Take a toothbrush, for example. When I was growing up, toothbrushes were pretty dull. But that didn’t matter because they functioned well.
Today, there are hundreds of cool and unusual toothbrushes. The truly beautiful ones are those that do their job well…and look good.
But why is design important? It’s an issue of trust. A well-designed, attractive product immediately conveys a sense that somebody took the time to get this product right.
Steve Jobs was notorious for his perfectionism, but it worked. The craftsmanship of an Apple product is beyond dispute.
2. Serves a broad market

How 'The X Factor' Vote-by-Tweet Partnership With Twitter Has Affected Its Social-TV Footprint

Earlier this month, "The X Factor" became the first-ever reality-TV competition show to allow voting by Twitter. (See "How to Vote for Your Favorite Act on The X Factor" in the Twitter Help Center.) What's that done for its social-TV footprint? Ad Age asked our editorial partner Bluefin Labs, a Cambridge-Mass.-based social-media analytics company that specializes in social TV, to give us a view into the data it's been collecting on the show all season. Some notes about the charts below:

The chart shows social-TV activity for each episode of "The X Factor" this season (except for last night's airing, for which data is still being parsed). The fat red bars, labeled "Total Comments" on the top left, represent volume of commentary about a particular episode of "The X Factor" across social media, as tracked by Bluefin (with the lion's share of comments, as usual, appearing on Twitter and in public Facebook updates). The little blue square points, labeled "Avg # Comments / Commenter" on the top right, show just how active each unique commenter is on average.

Aaron Rodgers Ad Lifts Up State Farm Among Football Fans, Wisconsinites

Since the early October release of a State Farm commercial featuring Green Bay Packers Quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, State Farm’s Buzz score—a measure of consumer perception—has increased among two groups: football fans and Wisconsin residents.

In the ad, which promotes State Farm’s “Discount Double Check” program, Rodgers confronts a State Farm employee and several customers who have adopted his signature touchdown dance to represent the “Discount Double Check”. The customers—incredulous that he is in fact an NFL player—end up mocking the star quarterback.

The ad comes as part of a larger salvo of media efforts this year by State Farm, with spots ranging from the comedic to the sentimental. Perhaps thanks to this, State Farm’s Buzz score is top among property and casualty insurers in BrandIndex, but its overall score has not moved significantly among U.S. consumers since the debut of the Rodgers ad a month and half ago—or since the beginning of the year for that matter—hovering since January in the low 20s.

How Apple's Siri Could Destroy Local SEO

Have you met Siri yet? If not, it's worth taking the time to learn more about the iPhone 4S's digital ambassador, as she could represent the future direction of local search engine optimization.
On the surface, Siri -- the voice recognition app that allows iPhone users to control their cell phones verbally -- seems like a cool party trick, sending text messages from your spoken instructions, checking the weather and setting up calendar reminders. But does this added functionality really mean the end of traditional local SEO as some experts are predicting?

The Art Of Creating Buzz

Few people would argue with the notion that the most effective kind of marketing is word-of-mouth. Most of us would love to have all the world talking about our products or services, but how many of us know how to create that kind of buzz?
Until recently, I thought that achieving the desirable but elusive tipping point of viral world-of-mouth was more luck, mystery and magic than anything else.
Then I met Jonathan Kay, the ambassador of buzz at Grasshopper, an award-winning virtual phone system for small businesses. Grasshopper bills itself as "The entrepreneur's phone system."
Three years ago, Kay created a buzz department. During those three years, he generated more than 500 mentions of Grasshopper in premier media outlets such as The Wall Street Journal, the Associated Press, TechCrunch, Mashable, ForbesInc. magazine and Fast Company. More than a third of Grasshopper signups come from word-of-mouth referrals.
Grasshopper's buzz department was so successful that Kay now helps others by teaching his methods in a short e-course called Learn2Buzz. I recently spoke with him and asked him a few questions about the art of creating buzz.

Regional Chain Uses TV To Take On Big Pizza Brands

How does a regional pizza chain compete with the mega marketing budgets of giants like Papa John’s, Pizza Hut and Domino’s?
A willingness to try new strategies certainly helps. Case in point: Anthony’s Pizza & Pasta, a chain with 26 franchised locations in Denver and surrounding areas.
Anthony’s has been relying heavily on out-of-home because of its low CPMs and effectiveness at brand differentiation. But this year, the chain is switching from 90% OOH to 90% television. Moreover, it’s running nearly a dozen different spots.
Anthony’s’ creative and media agencies, Cultivator Advertising & Design and Explore Communications (both Denver-based), worked with John Le Bel, an Anthony’s franchise owner and head of marketing for the chain’s franchise organization, to devise a strategy for realizing impact with TV on a small budget.
Goals include introducing a fresh, compelling approach within the market, ensuring that all franchisees get equal benefit from the campaign (out-of-home tends to work best in the urban, high-traffic locations, as opposed to outlying areas), targeting two core audiences (males for single meals and moms for family meals) and of course, driving pizza sales.

Online Poised for Dominance in Local Ads

Online advertising seems poised to overtake newspapers as the top spot for local advertising within the next few years, according to Borrell Associates Local Online Advertising Forecast due out today.
Online currently accounts for $15.7 billion of an $89.5 billion local advertising market — 17.5%, compared to newspaper’s 22.7% — according to Borrell. The research firm is predicting that local advertising will grow 5% in 2012 and online will rise 18% to $18.5 billion, or 19.7% of all local advertising. At that rate, online could pass newspapers by 2013 as the favored medium for local advertising.
But traditional media companies still control more than half of all local ad dollars spent online. Pureplay companies — such as Yahoo, AOL, Google and other Internet-only outlets — only pull in 46.7% of those ad dollars, a share that’s expected to decrease slightly to 45.1% in 2012.
But the biggest increase in local dollars will be seen on the mobile side. Borrell forecasted a 66% increase in local mobile advertising in 2012, reaching $4.3 billion from $2.6 billion in 2011. Local mobile advertising is expected to double its share of local advertising by the end of next year, from 6.3% to 14.1%.
Further out, Borrell expects mobile advertising to make up 88% of all local digital advertising by 2016.

How To Avoid Mayhem In Your Marketing

By now you’ve surely seen those clever Allstate Insurance ads featuring a guy called Mayhem, ready to wreak havoc on the unprepared. The commercials have popularized the idea of mayhem, but it’s something I’ve seen for years in the area of marketing.
When marketing is seen as an event rather than a system, mayhem ensues. When organizations abdicate marketing strategy to creatives, mayhem ensues. When business owners try to make marketing harder than it is or easier than it really is, mayhem ensues.
Below are seven sure-fire ways to invite mayhem into your marketing mix.
1. Be all things to no one
Rather than trying to effectively appeal to a narrow slice of a market, many businesses attempt to be all things to all people and, of course, wind up being all things to no one in particular.
This is how commodities are created and we all know commodities are traded on price alone.
2. Think good service is enough
Quick, how many of you reading this right now think that your business provides lousy service? So, I’m guessing no one raised their hand and that everyone believes—I didn’t say it was true—that they provide good service.
The problem with good service is that it’s an expectation, not a difference. The problem with relying on good service is that anyone can claim it.