Lights… Camera… Silence: Are Silent Autoplay Videos the Commercials of the Future?

Video Ads

Silent Autoplay Video Ads

Flying broomsticks, talking portraits and invisibility cloaks were a few of the magical forms of entertainment we got to see on the big screen during the Harry Potter films.

Animated newspapers

Animated newspapers were common features in the Harry Potter films.

Though each of these unusual props worked in tandem – along with other forms of wizardry – to make the films the popular blockbusters that they became, it was the animated newspapers that often intrigued me (of course!). Moving, flashing images of Harry Potter or Sirius Black displayed across the traditional, black and white tabloid newspaper were eye-catching, to say the least.

Much like these silent, animated pictures, autoplay videos that have become common on social media sites like Facebook and through Twitter’s Vine app, have the ability to catch our attention as we scroll. In an attempt to make newsfeeds more engaging, Facebook began allowing user-uploaded videos to auto-play in-line when they’re scrolled over in 2013.

autoplay video

An example of an autoplay video on Facebook.

You’ve probably encountered this in your own Facebook newsfeed by now – you’re scrolling along, skimming the posts in your feed when a video enters the screen and begins to play, silently (more than likely, it’s a feature on babies, or cats and dogs… just kidding… kind of). Only when you click or tap on the video does the sound pop on. Once you’ve scrolled past the video, it immediately ceases to play. No harm, no foul, right? If you don’t want to engage with the video, you don’t have to. But, then again, there might be more to it than that…

The Autoplay Argument
Much banter has been made over the rise of the autoplay video. Some marketers say video autoplay has the ability to discourage consumers and damage a brand’s reputation because of its annoying disregard for allowing users an “opt-in” option before playing.

Still, other marketers have called Facebook a “super troll” because of its move to blast “intrusive” video ads into newsfeeds at a time when marketing is moving in the direction of giving MORE control to users.

And then, others are concerned about having to create new content to fit the autoplay format, instead of being able to re-purpose old video content.

To these arguments I say, silent autoplay video advertising is here to stay. To conclude that autoplay video advertising will damage a brand is simply fear-mongering brought about by an unwillingness to accept change.

I do think silent autoplay video formats will require marketers to specifically design video in such a way that complements the new silent feature, but this is not necessarily a bad thing…

To design ads for silent video it will take solid creativity on the part of content developers, strong visual storytelling skills and a deep understanding of the content consumer.

On April 16, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) announced their Top 5 Digital Innovations Changing Advertising and Marketing in 2015, and the report included some insight about silent video. CEO of Decoded Advertising, Matt Rednor, was quoted saying brands need to consider silent video in their plans for 2015.

“Autoplay on platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter starts with the video muted and a majority of people don’t take the extra effort to click to turn on the sound,” Rednor said. “As brands shift their spend to online video this year, they’re going to see that just running TV commercials online won’t work as well and will start designing for the flick, creating short-form video ads that people consume in their feeds without sound.”

Rednor predicted 80 percent of brand content on Facebook in 2015 will be video, and the network will be more effective than TV.

Adding fuel to this flame is the fact that video in general is far more shareable than any other form of online content. According to Douglas Karr of MarketingTech Blog, video is the easiest online content to grow on social media, with 12 times more chances to be shared than links and text combined. Twitter users share 700 videos every minute, while 60 percent of social media users choose Facebook to share their videos.

“By 2018 video will make up 79% of all Internet traffic, up from the current 66%, so you have to be prepared because the so-called online video boom will never cease to grow.” – Douglas Karr, MarketingTech Blog

Where consumers are concerned, consider some of these stats on video usage from Hubspot:

  • 90 percent of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and visuals are processed 60,000 times faster in the brain than text.
  • Posts with videos attract 3 times more inbound links than plain text posts.
  • 85 percent of the US internet audience watches videos online, with the 25-34 age group watching the most online videos.
  • 25 million smartphone users stream 4 hours of mobile video per month. 75 percent of smartphone users watch videos on their phones, 26 percent of whom use video at least once a day.
  • Viewers are 85 percent more likely to purchase a product after watching a product video.

HighQ, a software development company, called 2015 “The Year of Video Marketing,” and supported their claim with this interesting infographic on the rise of online video.

If all of this isn’t enough to convince you of the importance of having an online video content strategy that works across all networks, in January, Strategy Analytics published its latest figures for advertising spend in the U.S., reporting that social media — advertising on sites like Facebook and Twitter — will see the most growth at 31 percent this year, followed by video (29 percent) and mobile (20 percent). By 2018, it’s predicted that TV’s share of ad revenue will fall to 40 percent, whilst digital’s will have grown to 35 percent.

Ad Spend chart

Ad spend across different mediums from Strategy Analytics

A Less Intrusive Form of Video Advertising
Have you ever visited a website and, while browsing through the content, some invisible person suddenly begins talking to you? You scroll back up, looking for the source, only to discover an audio autoplay video has opened at the top of the page, effectively slowing down your page and causing a lot of undesirable noise.

With silent autoplay video, a video will never yell at you. Facebook, for example, has made it a point to make these videos as non-intrusive as possible. According to Social Media Today, mobile users will not have to worry about data usage with this new video system; Facebook’s autoplay is only pre-downloaded by devices that are already connected to the internet. Videos will not play with sound unless you actively turn the sound on.

Example of a Business Insider autoplay video, utilizing features that work with silent video.

Example of a Business Insider autoplay video, utilizing features that work with silent video.

Great examples of brands using silent video content (thought not necessarily advertising) to their advantage are already cropping up.

Take Business Insider, for example. The business news site makes daily posts to Facebook that showcase the silent video storytelling format. They post educational videos on such topics as “The Simple Science behind Weight Loss,” and “8 Essential Tips for Making Google Search Better and Faster.” Each video, playing silently, makes use of large, bold text, well-developed graphics and powerful images. This video at left was viewed more than 12,000 times, with 300 shares.

Southern Living Magazine is another brand doing silent autoplay video content development right. The video below visually walks users through substitutions for common baking ingredients. The video was first posted on Facebook on April 18, and was viewed (silently) almost 200,000 times, with more than 5,000 shares. The video is high quality, and almost as entertaining as it is interesting and informative.

So, what is it about silent autoplay video advertising that makes it effective? Consider these reasons:

  • They’re not pop-up ads or road-blocks.
  • If you don’t want to view them, you can keep scrolling.
  • They won’t yell at you. The sound won’t play unless you click on the video.
  • They won’t burn up your data plan.

What do you think about the silent autoplay video feature? Do you think it’s here to stay? Can you think of any other brands who are creatively using the silent autoplay video feature to their advantage?


Emerging Media in the Manufacturing Industry

manufacturing and mediaMore than a decade ago, the American Journal of Business published a definition of emerging media, describing it as something that will a). Alter the influence of distance, b). Increase the volume and speed of communications, c). Enable interactive communications and d). Permit the merging of media forms.

Though the rapidly changing nature of emerging media can make it difficult to define, examples are easy to identify: Emerging media come built in to cell phones and are a part of daily Internet news communications. They can be video games, apps, marketing packages or multimedia platforms. They are social sharing or relationship building networks. We might even wear them now, on our heads (Google Glass) or wrists (Apple watch)

It is quite unusual to find companies these days that haven’t realized or are still struggling to understand the importance of emerging media to their overall marketing strategies, but they do exist…

Having held positions previously in industries where emerging media – social media in particular – were a high priority to the business at hand, it was initially hard for me to adapt several years ago to a manufacturing environment. The manufacturing industry has been notoriously known for lagging behind when it comes to using less traditional forms of media.

An article in Automation World in 2011 quoted a senior level global marketing manager for Cisco Systems as saying this about the manufacturing industry and social media: “They’re not using social media enough as a listening post or as a means to provide communications with plant operations.”

Then in 2013, a third party logistics company, Cerasis, found that while 80 percent of manufacturers at that point were using social media for marketing purposes, they still preferred outbound marketing methods, such as networking tradeshows and advertising. Additionally, research presented these findings about manufacturers:

  • They use social media passively – reading and consuming content, instead of creating it.
  • Some 60 percent read online discussions.
  • About 30 percent actively participate in discussions.
  • Only 7 percent actually initiate a conversation.

And then this about consumers:

  • They make some 60 percent of their buying decisions by viewing content online before even contacting the supplier or manufacturer.

From the Public Relations Society of America in 2013, Donald Wright and Michelle Hinson claimed in a report that new media have changed the rules of the game in every part of strategic communication. Over the past decade these new communication vehicles have not only turned upside down everything people knew about communication but also have dramatically changed the business of managing relationships.

It is vitally important that the manufacturing industry recognize and find ways to implement strategies that involve new and emerging media, but to many, social media in particular is still a novelty. Some of the biggest challenges facing manufacturers online is finding and building a following with target audiences, and developing content that those audiences will find interesting.

Of course this is all more difficult with B2B marketing than B2C marketing, because the B2B community is smaller, typically already well-versed in the products they’re interested in buying and make purchase decisions based off of rationale as opposed to emotion. With B2B, relationship building and maintaining is of utmost importance to a strategy.

In the 2014 Social Media Marketing Industry Report by social media guru Michael Stelzner, it was found that most marketers are using social media to develop loyal fans (72 percent) and gain marketplace intelligence (71 percent). Since 2013, marketers have had increased benefits to their business, where the largest increases were developing loyal fans, which increased to 72 percent from 65 percent in 2013, followed by increased sales, which jumped to 50 percent from 43 percent.

But How Is Emerging Media Improving the Industry?
When people think of manufacturing, they think of hard hats, heavy machinery, processing conveyor lines and safety vests, but the industry is so much more than this. Though manufacturers have been slow to adopt, emerging media IS having some effect on the way these industries operate, do business and communicate with their employees. Greater uses for emerging media can be had internally in manufacturing.

Many manufacturers are learning how to operate Business Intelligence (BI) systems by integrating their enterprise resource planning (ERP), supply chain and customer relationship management (CRM) applications. Some manufacturers currently using socially enabling technology applications include Ford, Coca-Cola and Harley Davidson.

For example, Automation World wrote that at Coca-Cola, the same phones used in offices have been deployed in warehouses with a voice-activated warehouse picking system used by forklift truck operators. The converged network used by these phones links them back to the company’s IT systems, integrated with the SAP ERP system.

Aside from internal benefits of emerging media, social media is more about the customer. For example, in 2000, Proctor & Gamble said that about 15 percent of its product ideas came from outside of the company. Since then, due to social media outreach and monitoring, that number has risen to 50 percent.

What Do Manufacturers Say?
Despite the facts and the obvious changing face of today’s marketing world, manufacturers still lag behind – either out of fear of the unknown, stubbornness to abandon old habits, or corporate politics – but are fast realizing the untapped potential of emerging media. For example, in the last two years, the manufacturing company I work for has, hesitantly, joined some social media channels to harness the power of those areas for relationship building and staff recruitment; implemented a CRM and a computer-connected phone system; and are in the beginning phases of updating the company’s ERP software. Likewise, robotics and 3D printing are playing a role in the manufacturing process on shop floors.

It was a long time coming, but emerging media is set to change the face of the manufacturing industry as a whole just as it is changing the world.

Several manufacturing communications industry experts from my company agreed that emerging media is changing the industry for the better. Here’s what they had to say.

    • “Emerging media is changing the way manufacturing companies market product offerings and communicate information about those products. In the past, the only way to get product information out to prospective buyers was through printed literature. The internet has made getting that information out a little easier, but the prospective buyer had to go look for it. By using social media such as Twitter and Facebook, that information can be blasted out to groups without them having to sign up or opt-in to email distribution lists, which might inevitably be perceived as junk mail. Emerging media types like Twitter and Facebook are also viewed as less intrusive than the traditional email blast.” – Bryan Myl, Marketing


    • “Not too many years ago, ‘effective two-way communication” was the gold standard for judging how well a manufacturing company – or any company for that matter – communicated with, and responded to, its internal and external audiences. Now this seems like a two-dimensional model. Like printing, communicating has exploded into three-dimensional reality driven by relationships that cannot be limited to linear planes or command-and-control lines. Now it’s all about social communities, transparency and authentic engagement. Your “brand” is what your audiences think and say about you – and it doesn’t always align with what corporate, PR or marketing espouses. Therein lies the challenge for professional communicators in manufacturing – how best to use today’s amazing and ever changing communication tools to help build and nurture the relationships essential to success.” – Myra Hunter, Senior Communications Specialist


    • “Emerging media is changing the role of communications/sales personnel in the manufacturing industry because it is a facet of business that can no longer simply be ignored by those in heavy manufacturing. Going back only a few years, social media in particular was seen as an exclusively recreational activity by leadership in our industry. Now, as the line between work and play becomes increasingly blurred in regards to emerging media, thought leaders in heavy manufacturing are realizing that communications and sales personnel can no longer afford to sit on the sidelines. The potential benefits of participating in emerging media are too great, and not only that, our youngest generation of customers now expect it.” – Jordan Byrd, Marketing


  • “Our company has been slow to embrace emerging media, but is now venturing into this wide new world with a news blog, social media and this summer, our first IP targeting campaign. A company known for 110 years for its “Golden Rule” business philosophy, we have built and maintained loyal relationships with our customers the “old fashioned” way – face-to-face. And that will always be important to us, but there is growing support for the use of new technologies and channels to help us reach and engage all our constituencies – internal and external – and we are seeing that across the industry. It is too soon to know the impact of these new technologies on our business, but I believe we will see, as others have, the usefulness of these strategies along with the tried and true.” – Joy Carter, Communications Manager

Do you see other positive changes or trends in the manufacturing industry where emerging media is concerned? Can you name some manufacturing companies already knocking social media out of the park?

How Will Google’s App Re-Engagement Feature Improve Your Campaign?

Smartphone AppsPhone apps have become a pretty important part of our everyday lives.

You want to know whether or not it’s going to rain on you during a road trip? There’s a weather app for that. Need to monitor how many steps you take when you power walk in the evenings? Plenty of apps to choose from.

Need a recipe, a definition for a word you’ve never heard of, a date…? No problem – your smartphone’s app store will offer you a variety of options, both free and paid.

According to comScore, in 2014 more people spent more time in apps than they did on desktop computers, and it is estimated that by 2017, mobile apps will be downloaded more than 268 billion times, generating revenue of more than $77 billion and making apps one of the most popular computing tools for users across the globe.

As impressive as these number are, Google has reported that 60 percent of all apps available are never installed, while 80 percent are only ever opened once. It is estimated that the average smartphone user has 36 apps on his or her phone already.

What does this mean for a business with an app and a goal to meet?

It means that people interact with apps when they have a specific use for them or need to solve some issue, and you should be making your app memorable among the competition and as useful as possible for your users.

How Google AdWords Can Help You with This
Google, who has taken note of the mobile app craze, has many fancy tools that can help you make the most out of your mobile app campaign. Some of these include:

  • Developing ads and an app store page. Create ads and an app store page that clearly show how your app can meet people’s needs
  • Promoting your app with a “Mobile app installs” campaign. With this campaign, you can create custom app install ads that run exclusively on phones and tablets. Adwords will even allow you to promote your app to people who are more likely to be customers, based off of their existing app installs and usage. This strategy has been known to increase downloads of a particular app, with some businesses claiming as much as a 30 percent increase in downloads.

    ad promotion

    Google search shot of a mobile ad promotion involving grocery store apps.

  • App Conversion Tracking will help you track that you are accurately tracking and attributing installs. According to Google AdWords, you can measure AdWords performance reliably by installing the AdWords conversion tracking SDKonto your app, which counts only confirmed installs and doesn’t rely on estimation to attribute conversions.
  • AdWords app is now available for you on-the-go. Google announced in early March the release of a new AdWords app (only for Android currently) that allows businesses to access and make changes to their ad promotions on-the-go.

In March, Google also announced it would be enhancing its app promotion features by offering video app promo ads – immersive video ads that highlight how users will interact with your app – and Conversion Optimizer for in-app buyers.

But one feature that interests me most, is Google AdWords’ re-engagement offerings.

Re-Engagement Defined
According to Christina Fournier of More Visibility, promoted re-engagement should be thought of as a gentle reminder that a user already has an app on their device to solve the problem they are currently working on.

Getting a user to install your app is just the first step. Now you must get them to continue using your app. App re-engagement will allow you to direct your ad traffic by way of “deep-links” into an app instead of sending your mobile traffic to a landing page on your website. With app re-engagement, you can send traffic to a specific page within your app.

Why Is The Re-Engagement Tool Good For Business?
This feature will allow for more specific messaging while reaching app users who have more interest in a product or service. Specifically, advertisers will use lists to target specific groups of people, based on how they interact with the app, including those who haven’t used the app recently, those using specific versions and those who took specific actions within the app.

Google also says that these types of ads allow flexibility for counting conversions, bidding and targeting. Likewise, the app helps people complete an activity they already started and can recommend they try out specific features or levels.

Though these features are all well and good, simply having something to remind users that your app is there is probably the top selling point of re-engagement. Google does specify that this type of ad works best for apps with a significant number of downloads, as they work to encourage users who already have the app and have been engaged with it previously.

Re-Engagement for the Future
It can be said that in the SEO realm, web search is still far ahead of app search. Mike Fyall of Wired described re-engagement best when he said “Deep links help us understand the content inside apps so we can categorize them in a smart way.” With deep linking, ads will have the ability to become more meaningful to app users and more effective for advertisers.

Should You Trust Curated Content News Websites With Your Branded Message?

Word Art about Content Curation

Recently my company entered the world of social media…

We joined Twitter.

Yes, I know, we’re a little behind considering 93 percent of marketers use social media for business… and that statistic is two years old now! We’re slowly and cautiously tiptoeing into the 21st century of social media marketing. Each time we get a new retweet or follow, it becomes a point of excited discussion.

Last week, one of our branded news stories was chosen for placement on a news website we had never heard of. Upon examining the site (whose content focused on one major theme: Issues related to the water industry), I quickly came to the conclusion that the site curates content from all over the web on the topic, writes a catchy piece of intro text and then places the story on its site, with credits and a link-back to the original source. The site was broken into helpful water-related sections such as “Technology” and “Environment.” It was quite interesting reading, and, if I were a water industry professional, I probably would have bookmarked the site.

As excited as we were to have our content picked up from Twitter and then linked back to from a site that focuses on important issues in a particular industry, I couldn’t help but feel conflicted about this “service” that had been freely bestowed upon us.

Is this a legit site we want our brand to be associated with? What unnamed person is making the calls about the content they are choosing to put there? Why did they feel we were a good fit?

I realize that a link back to our website from a site that is probably heavily visited by professionals of the water industry – an industry we want to be associated with – could only increase our website traffic and possibly open up avenues to conversation or even a purchase order.

But I couldn’t help but feel a little put out… no one even asked if we wanted to be included on this site.

If our story had been chosen for publication somewhere like the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times, would I have felt differently?

I think my answer would have to be “yes.”

These publications – well-known and respected – have spent countless years building their reputations by way of publishing quality news pieces that are well-researched, written and edited by journalism professionals. I feel they’ve earned the right to be a good judge of quality content.

Maybe I’m just being a journalism snob, having hailed from the newspaper industry. I do love reading those curated content news sites like Huffington Post, Buzzfeed and Upworthy myself – and sharing their content on my various social media platforms. I know curated content has its uses.

But, these are my top issues with curated content news sites and those illusive souls who manage them…

#1. I don’t know to whom I’m entrusting my brand.

Though the news site that chose to include my company’s content was very well-designed, organized and aesthetically pleasing with good quality content, WHO exactly is it that has chosen to put my content on their site? What makes them an authority on how to categorize, summarize and present my content? There is no obvious biography or description of who owns, operates and/or manages this site.

#2. Loss of Control

This issue effectively puts my content and the presentation of my content out of my control. According to Curata, when using curated content, acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission. The key is that you are not cause harm to the original author by sharing their work and to not share too much of their work.

The site curator for the website that used my company’s content definitely did not use too much of the content, and the attribution is front and center. However, if I had been asked, the entire name of the company would have been given attribution and not the shorter Twitter handle from which the story was pulled. I also wouldn’t necessarily have put the content under the “Technology” section.

I could just be a control freak…

#3. Is the Branding Obvious?

One thing that has always irritated me about curated news sites is that I often have a hard time figuring out how the author of some story is connected to the site that their content is being presented on. A nicely curated site will take the time to make sure this information is prominent, but if your content is promoting a product, do the readers of your now borrowed content understand this? Are they making the connection? Are they remembering the product and/or the brand?

My guess would be, most of the time, no.

#4. It’s Often Difficult to Measure Curated Content ROI

In “The Single Biggest Problem With Content Curation,” Michael Cheng, Cofounder of Sniply, writes that, “in order for there to be a measurable return, an action needs to take place, and the most directly measurable action is a click-through. Whether it’s to your landing page, an Amazon page, or an Eventbrite page, there simply needs to be a click-through opportunity.” Cheng argues that social shares, likes, retweets and/or favorites simply aren’t enough to measure results of content curation.

But, I’m not entirely anti-content curation…

Content curation, by nature, has blown up with the proliferation of social media and social sharing. To pretend that it does not play a significant role in today’s marketing landscape would be naïve, for one, and, second, foolhardy on the part of any marketer. Pamella Neely of Web Marketing Today offers one definition for content curation: it is the technique of choosing content from other websites and assembling it into a useful piece of information. Yet, content curation, to most experts, is also the simple sharing of another’s content with your own audience – such as a retweet on Twitter.

A survey by Trapit analyzed by the Huffington Post found that 74 percent of marketers believe content curation is an important element of a content strategy, while roughly 76 percent of marketing professionals share curated content via social media channels. Audiences enjoy curated content sites so much because, instead of having to sift through the overwhelming abundance of online information, they can find exactly what they need in one place without much searching.

The benefits of content curation are obvious. It can:

  • Increase traffic to your website or webpage
  • Build credibility among your followers
  • Establish you/your brand as a thought leader
  • Create a good relationship between your brand and curators of your content

To ethically curate content from the web, Curata offers these three “best practices:”

  1. Reproduce only those portions of the headline or article that are necessary to make your point or to identify the story. Do not reproduce the story in its entirety, and retitle the headline.
  2. Prominently identify the source of the article and provide a link-back
  3. When sharing images, unless you have explicit permission to share a full-size image, always share a thumb-nailed image at most.

Visit this link for the full list of best content curation practices

Though my opinion about a curated content news site still remains somewhat on the leary side, I can’t deny that the curator of my company’s content followed all of Curata’s best ethical practices for content curation, up to retitling the headline. I think if a site goes to the trouble of following all of these best practices when curating another brand’s content, they are, grudgingly, probably a trustworthy source.

What do you think about content curated news sites? Do you have any examples of content curated news sites who aren’t following best practices?

5 Photo Crowdsourcing Platforms for Brands Wanting More Authentic Stock Imagery

New York Times cover shot

The Wednesday, Jan. 28, cover of the New York Times showcased nine crowdsourced images of the winter storm.

On January 28, the New York Times featured a story about the blizzard that had been raging across the northeastern half of the U.S. The blizzard itself wasn’t necessarily anything new in January for that part of the country, however, the nine images that dominated the front page along with the story were…

Two days earlier, the Times had asked their readership to share their Instagram photos of the storm with the paper by using the hashtag #NYTsnow, and the nine images were later selected this way. At the time, this was the first instance where crowdsourced photos were used on the front page of the paper.

Stories like these are becoming more common as media, marketers and advertisers alike realize the importance and usefulness of crowdsourcing and user-generated content (UGC).

According to Tanya Dua of Digiday, UGC and crowdsourcing are attractive to brands because they make them more approachable, their campaigns more authentic, and they build greater loyalty and engagement among fans who get to become co-creators of content.

Crowdsourcing is usually when a brand has a problem and petitions its consumers for a solution. It helps a brand create new content, while providing an opportunity for recognition of participants within the brand’s social community. Campaigns created through crowdsourcing are unique because they’re a departure from the more traditional types of marketing strategies, and they can generate a lot of buzz for a brand.

Last year, AdAge said that 2014 was the year that solidified crowdsourcing not just as a trend, but something that is here to stay, with big name marketers adopting the strategy and profiting from it. For example, PepsiCo increased its crowdsourcing by 325 percent in 2014, and other big name brands ran successful campaigns including McDonald’s, Disney and Coca-Cola.

Not only do crowdsourcing campaigns help build consumer loyalty and increase engagement between consumers and brands, but they are also more cost-effective than traditional forms of marketing because they eliminate the need for a brand to go through the motions of producing their own content.

With the popularity of crowdsourcing, new services are beginning to crop up that offer brands options when considering the use of crowdsourced content.

The Birth of “Photography on Demand”
In the world of marketing and content creation, the need for unique, eye-catching images in the content creation process is never ending. We need images for our blogs; images are needed for landing pages or to accompany product descriptions; we need images for social media campaigns and/or email marketing.

In the days of old, brands would turn to such online paid image services as Getty, iStock, Dreamstime and many others. But images on these services, though professional, are often well-used, and brands today are beginning to look for more relevant, timely, and less stale forms of photography to include in their communications materials, combined with opportunities to provide them with a closer connection to their fans. Plus, with the proliferation of many different forms of mobile technology, photography is no longer limited to the professional photographer with traditional camera in-hand.

Several mobile crowdsourcing services have cropped up in the last five years to feed this photography-on-demand need. Here are just five you might want to take a deeper look at if you are thinking of using crowdsourced images for your next campaign (Note: These are NOT free services).


Scoopshot home page

Scoopshot is a photo crowdsourcing service launched in 2010.

Launched in 2010, Scoopshot is a photo crowdsourcing service that seeks to connect both amateur (mobile) and professional photographers with media companies and other photo-buying entities. By 2014, Scoopshot’s free app had been downloaded around 600,000 times, and the service had paid out more than $1/2 million to amateur and professional users worldwide. You can search the sites inventory of images, or you can request a “ScoopShooter” to collect you specific photos or videos.

In Scoopshot, a brand who is looking for specific images can do a manual search by localized area, or can pinpoint a specific area on an interactive map. By doing this, the map will show you how many photographers are in your chosen area.

You’ll then create a task, set a title for your project and a description (you’ll answer the question “what type of photos do you need and why?), and then post your project. You have the option to pay a ScoopShooter per photo/video, or you can choose a package that can range from $500 to $2,000. Not only can Scoopshot crowdsource images, but brands can run photo competitions, do content marketing, gain consumer insights and much more.

CEO of Scoopshot Niko Ruokosuo said of the service in 2013: “For the first time, [brands] can request exactly what they want and receive it within minutes and without spending a fortune. The birth of on-demand photography will be as much of a game changer for the photo industry as iTunes for the Music industry.”


Twenty20 Cover image

Twenty20 is a crowdsourcing photo service that caters a little more to the artistic community.

Twenty20, formerly Instacanvas, lets users turn images into physical products like wall canvases, prints, t-shirts, smartphone cases, magnets and greeting cards. In 2014, the company began allowing users to license their work commercially as stock images, and the site has quickly begun to gain steam with advertisers and content marketers looking for more authentic stock images.

The site caters to two types of users – mobile photographers looking to advertise their images, and individuals and/or brands needing images. As of April 2015, the site serves almost 260,000 photographers, more than 150 different countries and has an inventory of almost 50 million images. More than 30 percent of all Twenty20 buyers purchase a second item from the site within two months, according to the company. The company offers a “Zappos-style” return guarantee, but sees less than 0.1 percent of all purchases returned.

Twenty20 caters a little more to the artistic community, and non-photographers have to pass certain criteria before their images will be made public on the site.


Foap cover image

Since its launch, Foap has amassed 500,000 registered users.

Launched in 2012, Foap allows smartphone users to monetize their photos by selling them through Foap’s marketplace for $10 and keeping 50 percent of the revenue. Like Scoopshot, Foap offers brands the option to create tasks – called “Foap Missions” – to find content from top Foap photographers.

According to TechCrunch, Foap has run nearly 200 ‘Missions’ for Fortune 500 brands and leading advertising agencies over the last two years, and has amassed 500,000 registered users who on average upload 30,000 photos per week. Brands who’ve utilized Foap include Volvo, Heineken, Honey Maid, Master Card and many others.


Snapwire cover image

Snapwire is one of the newest crowdsourcing image services.

Having just emerged from beta mode in 2014, Snapwire is the newest service attempting to connect the new photography generation with clients who need their talents and are willing to pay for it. The site has already attracted more than 8,000 users and 50,000 image uploads.

According to a Gigaom article in mid-2014, Snapwire is different in that it specializes more in creative collaboration and crowdsourcing. Anyone can submit a request for an image and assign it a budget. Photographers can then upload their images and/or ask questions to the buyer. The buyer selects finalists, which rewards the photographer with profile points.  Snapwire collects 30 percent of the earnings with 70 percent going to the photographers themselves, who also get to keep the copyright.

‘Moment’ by Getty

In 2013, in an effort to compete with mobile crowdsourcing services like Snapwire and Scoopshot, big-name stock photo service Getty Images quietly released its own mobile stock photography app ‘Moment’ to their current contributors. A year after its launch, Getty Images had posted more than 200 requests to ‘Moment,’ photographers had submitted more than 120,000 in response, and the amount of image views on the app totaled more than 3 million. ‘Moment’ currently appears only to be available for users with Getty Images contributor contracts.

These are only a few of the mobile crowdsourcing photo services making headway in the market today. If purchasing images through one of these services is not an option, other crowdsourcing techniques can be utilized on social networking sites such as Instagram, Facebook and Flickr. You can run a photo contest on your social networking sites, asking users to hashtag their posts and images, or you can simply ask your fans for images just as the New York Times did.

If you choose to gather your own crowdsourced content, remember that new rules are always emerging about how to use UGC and crowdsourced materials, and you should be familiar with what you can and can’t do.

Have you had experience using any of these emerging mobile crowdsourcing platforms? Do you think that mobile crowdsourcing tools are here to stay?

Behavioral Retargeting Gives a Leg Up to Online Novice Fashion Retailers

In nightmares, sometimes we are being chased by an unknown, barely visible individual or thing.

We run, this way and that way, trying to escape our terror, but to no avail – our dreams are smarter than we are, anticipating our every move or reaction and, no matter what we do, only awakening can banish our fears.

Behavioral retargeting can be a lot like a bad dream…

Everywhere you go online, there it is. Those boots I pondered buying earlier are taunting me in the right-hand sidebar. An entire outfit, the individual pieces of which I placed in a shopping cart I later abandoned, keeps flashing to the side of my email inbox as I scan through random messages. For us ladies who have a penchant for online shopping and fight the urge to give-in on a regular basis, the battle is real.

Though retargeting ads can sometimes be annoying – especially when that pair of boots you already purchased as a gift for your mom keeps following you around online – they have their benefits for consumers, such as personalizing the online shopping experience, and they are helping many small fashion retailers carve a niche for themselves in the online retail industry.

Re-Targeting the Target
On average, we see almost 2,000 banner ads per month, and, according to ComScore, over 5.3 million display ads were served to U.S. users in 2014. Only about 8 percent of Internet users account for 85 percent of clicks.

Why so little interest in banner ads?

Our online search experience has become so flooded with advertising of some sort, that we have learned how to tune it out. Though retargeting has been around for some time, with the advent of new forms of technology and other advancements, it has only just begun to gain in popularity. In a survey of 400 clients by a San Francisco-based marketing company, 74 percent said their retargeting ads performed better than regular banner ads.

Why does retargeting work?

Considering that almost 70 percent of all online shopping carts are abandoned before purchase makes it easier to wrap your head around how retargeting gets the job done… retargeting works by keeping track of those people who visited your site and displaying retargeting ads to them as they visit other sites. According to a Shopify article, 2 percent of shoppers convert on the first visit to an online store; retargeting brings back the other 98 percent.

The reason behavioral retargeting is so effective is because it breaks through the clutter – it is a highly personalized ad that is relevant to the target audience at the time it is displayed.

The target has already expressed an interest in the item being displayed, so therefore, they are a more eligible prospect. Gone are the days when guesswork was needed by a marketer to determine which items a lost customer was interested in – with behavioral retargeting, the customer will find it hard to forget about that item they were on the fence about.

Retargeting Infographic

Behavioral Retargeting Infographic courtesy of Retargeter.

Online Fashion Boutiques Take Retargeting in Hand
According to a Business Insider article, in the first quarter of 2014, 198 million U.S. consumers bought something online; that translates to 78 percent of the U.S. population age 15 and above, with millennials remaining the key age demographic for online commerce. Cyber Monday sales this year were up 8.7 percent, while sales over mobile devices jumped 29 percent. However, brick-and-mortar stores saw about 6 million fewer shoppers over the holidays. There is a trend in online shopping that can’t be denied

Allen Gannet of The Next Web said the rise of the online-only brand marks a new generation of e-commerce – one that offers more affordable, higher-quality brands that consumers are growing to prefer. Though there are many brands that would now fall into this “new generation” of e-commerce, online fashion boutiques that provide clothing, shoes and accessories to women (particularly the millennial generation of women), are really stepping to the forefront in a time when some brick-and-mortar clothing stores are closing up shop.

Wet Seal, Delia’s, Aeropostale and American Eagle are all once popular clothing stores that have either closed now or are struggling to re-define themselves in a changing industry and re-identify with their once loyal target market. As they struggle to find an identity, online boutiques like Red Dress Boutique, Mint Julep, Lime Lush, Grace and Lace, and Two Chicks on a Clothes Line are finding that the power of the “social business” – one with strong social networking and email marketing capabilities, a personalized website and a heavy retargeting strategy – sometimes brings more benefit than being able to offer an in-store experience.

Let’s take a closer look at three of these successful boutiques who are gaining popularity among online female shoppers (and, of course, because I’m a loyal customer of all three).

Red Dress Boutique

Red Dress

Red Dress Boutique “Our Story” puts a personalized touch on the business.

The Red Dress Boutique is quite possibly the most well-known of the three, toting itself as the “fastest growing online women’s boutique in the U.S.,” with 80 percent of its clothing line retailing under less than $50. Red Dress owners Josh and Diana Harbour appeared on an episode of Shark Tank in late 2014. The company had $8 million in gross sales in 2013, with anticipated sales of $12-$15 million in 2014.

Red Dress was the first boutique I took an interest in online. I first became aware of them on Facebook when friends began sharing a Red Dress post as part of an online contest. After visiting their site, I could not escape that fur vest I talked myself out of buying. It followed me for days before I finally caved and made my purchase. Red Dress was actually my first taste of behavioral retargeting.

Though their clothes are high-quality and they offer a variety of both casual and professional dress, it is their story that most interested me the first time I visited their site. They have an “Our Story” section of their website that tells Diana’s journey from working a 9-5 job to becoming an entrepreneur based off of a dream she had to design clothes. Each outfit on her site is lovingly given a unique name and a unique story. The outfits also come with a very detailed sizing chart and description of the fit, so that no customer is left in doubt about what size is perfect for them. The company now sends hundreds of orders per day to women all across the country.

I would be remiss not to mention that their marketing does not stop once you’ve made your purchase online – the item arrives wrapped up like a gift, with the Red Dress logo stamped across the front and a special hand-written ‘Thank You’ card addressed to the customer. If that’s not personalization, I don’t know what is!

Mint Julep Boutique

Mint Julep

The Mint Julep Boutique offers women’s clothing and accessories to fit many different sizes and style preferences.

The Mint Julep was a site I also first became aware of on Facebook. Of all the boutiques featured here, Mint Julep provides the heaviest marketing on Facebook, posting creative, enticing statuses with photos daily. Their email marketing of “New Arrivals” and “Slouchy Sundays” make them the boutique I most frequently feel compelled to visit online. Their website is fresh and fun, with a well-maintained blog called The Sugar Cube that provides advice on style, maintained by each of their employees. This year, they’ve expanded their audience reach by adding sections for “Curvy” women and “Maternity” wear.

According to an article in DigiDay in 2013, four in 10 social media users have purchased an item in-store or online after sharing or favoriting it on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest, and Facebook is the leader when it comes to driving social traffic to retail sites, responsible for about 60 percent. Half of social media-driven purchasing happens within one week of sharing, tweeting, liking or favoriting the product.

Last year, an outfit I had lingered over on Mint Julep followed me around Facebook for two days. I eventually bought the look – from the boots on the models feet all the way up to the scarf around her neck. I love putting on that entire outfit, getting compliments and praising the Mint to anyone who asks.

Grace & Lace

Grace and Lace

Grace and Lace Boutique began as a frilly boot sock boutique.

Grace & Lace, also a boutique that appeared on Shark Tank, offers looks that remind me of a similar brick-and-mortar shop known as Free People. The styles are very casual and chic. The company first started out offering frilly boot socks and bows, selling $800,000 worth of socks in their first calendar year. Following their appearance on Shark Tank, the company closed out 2013 with 2.8 million in sales.

I have not had much experience with Grace & Lace employing retargeting to me, but their email marketing and company story are the biggest drivers of their success. Their slogan is “Made with His grace and a little lace.” Grace & Lace is a Christian-based boutique, whose owner offers a heart-wrenchingly beautiful story about her triumph over tragedy, and the birth of her boutique.  Their site immediately prompts you to “join their mailing list” to receive a 10 percent discount coupon.

These boutiques’ eagerness to embrace emerging media and trends is one big driver of their success in the online fashion retail market, however, they also offer highly personalized experiences to their customers and stories that are relatable. Though the fashion retail space is changing (mainly how consumers shop is changing), I think brick-and-mortar stores can survive – but they will have to learn how to carve out a niche of their own in an industry that is quickly moving online, where the customers are.

Have you had experience with any other online boutiques that have “creeped” on your online searches? Or, any other boutiques with an interesting story, for that matter?

Responsive Web Design and 4 Higher Ed Websites That Are Getting It Right

“A responsive website adjusts to various screen sizes, not only giving a consistent experience across platforms but also eliminating the need for a separate mobile site. Streamlining website maintenance saves time and resources, allowing you to invest in other areas without sacrificing excellence.” – Mark Neal, C. Grant & Company, Integrated Research, Strategy and Marketing

In years past, desktop devices were the most popular tools used in conducting Internet searches. Desktop web designs took front row seats ahead of mobile design, and many never believed they would see a day when PC/laptop use for online searches would fall to smaller, handheld devices. Now, with the explosion of smartphone and tablet Internet use, it is no longer a question of designing a website simply to get your message across to visitors – now it is more about designing your website to fit the growing needs and demands of those visitors and the avenues they’re using to access your online content.

Let’s take, for instance, this infographic on Most Popular Devices Used in a recent report by Smart Insights:

Desktop vs Mobile Stats

Infographic from Smart Insights.

The closeness in use of PC’s and laptops to conduct online searches (91 percent) compared to smartphones (80 percent) is startling, to say the least. Add to that the growing number of emerging devices and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a point of no return – the way in which people are accessing online information is forever being altered by the various – and growing – options they now have to get the information they need. According to a Pew Research Center report, almost 35 percent of Americans say they access the Internet primarily through the use of a mobile device. Karen McGrane of Harvard Business Review said in The Rise of the Mobile-Only User that marketers and web designers do not get to choose which device customers use to access the Internet but instead, it is our responsibility to deliver the same experience to them across whatever device they choose. With this rise in alternate access points comes the need for an integrated, multi-screen-adapted Internet viewing experience.

Enter Responsive Web Design (RWD).

Responsive Web Design

Examples of how multi-screen use of RWD.

Web Developer John Polacek offers a simple definition of RWD as “websites that respond to their environment,” or, rather, websites that are built with the capability to automatically adapt to whatever screen size a user is viewing the site on. A good starting place with RWD, is designing with a mobile-first approach. A more effective experience can be had by enhancing your site for each device instead of starting with desktop design and trying to edit your website to fit mobile.

At the end of this month, RWD will become even more important to marketers when Google’s new mobile-friendliness search algorithm launches, rewarding in rankings those websites that are fully optimized for mobile platforms.

While brands everywhere should be feeling the pressure to adapt their online presence to RWD, no field has seen quite as many benefits from the trend as that of higher education institutions.

Admissions recruiting has never so heavily had to rely upon, not only the aesthetics of an online presence but the usefulness of it as well. According to research from Edison in 2013, more than 75 percent of people, ages 18-24, own smartphones, and 75 percent of teens – a prime demographic for undergraduate institutions of higher learning – are more apt to use devices other than desktops to go online. In addition, an annual report from the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA in 2013, revealed that 97 percent of students visited a college’s website on mobile, and most of those students didn’t find the experience satisfying. At a minimum, colleges and universities should be optimizing pages such as academics, cost and aid and admissions for mobile usage.

Mobile Web Use

Mark Neal of C. Grant & Company writes in Responsive Websites: Four Reasons Why Universities Should Make the Switch, that responsive web design “gives prospective students, parents, and potential donors alike the best user experience possible on your website. A responsive website maximizes the impact of your institution’s web presence across multiple platforms.” College and Universities that have made the leap to utilize RWD have opportunities to shine a light on their ability to adapt to the changing times by delivering exactly what their target audience needs while other brands are still struggling to catch up.

Here are four higher education institutions that are getting – and in some instances, have been getting – responsive web design right.

#1. Sewanee – The University of the South

Sewanee desktop

Sewanee’s desktop homepage

Sewanee mobile

Sewanee’s Mobile site

Sewanee’s mobile site is a mini version of its desktop design. In fact, if it weren’t for the mobile-friendly menu located at the very top of the smartphone-adapted design (which makes up for the missing horizontal, top-of-page navigation), you might not even be able to tell the difference, the experience is so seamless. Sewanee’s RWD is definitely a mobile-first creation, with a focus on content. When clicking on the smartphone-adapted version of the site, the first few options are “Academics” and “Admissions and Financial Aid,” a few of the most important searches to prospective students visiting a college website for the first time. The load time for Sewanee’s mobile site is impressive, especially considering the large flashing banner images, and is a testament to the benefits of RWD.

#2. George Fox University

George Fox desktop

George Fox University desktop site

George Fox mobile

George Fox University on Mobile

Though George Fox University in Oregon may have one of the most interesting desktop sites, utilizing video in place of its banner image, the schools mobile-ready site is what is under investigation here. The smartphone enabled site offers a variety of options right away for vertical viewing – including the school’s contact information at the top of the site and a menu built into the main body. The most interesting part of the George Fox RWD is that the mobile experience changes as soon as you flip your device to horizontal viewing. In horizontal mode, the site looks entirely similar to the desktop version. Besides its considerate menu in vertical mode, the mobile-ready site next lists tabs for the satellite locations of the university, followed by upcoming events and news.

#3. Regent College

Regent College desktop

Regent College desktop site

Regent mobile

Regent College mobile site

Regent College, a Canadian-based institution, has a very clean and modern-looking desktop design, with large, colorful tabs and high-quality photography. Like Sewanee’s site, Regent’s mobile-optimized sites are a mini version of the larger desktop site. With the bold tabs splayed across the top of the mobile-ready site and easily digestible blocks of content viewable upon scroll, Regent’s RWD may be the most polished so far.

#4. Samford University

Samford University desktop

Samford University desktop site

Samford University mobile

Samford University mobile site

Samford University in Alabama shows that content is top focus with their RWD. The mobile-ready site mirrors the desktop site but offers a few different pieces of content compared to the other institutions featured here – including a homepage section on interesting, eye-catching, infographic-style facts and figures about the university. This design is the only one of the four that utilizes more images in its RWD, and though this creates more of a need to scroll for a longer period of time, the images add more personality to the design.

These are just a choice few of the hundreds of colleges and universities taking steps to create great responsive web designs. Can you think of any higher education institutions that have fallen behind in the mobile-ready game?

Murder by Meme: Addressing the ‘Bedroom Culture’ & Teen Internet Use


The ficticious Slenderman is one of the Internet’s most horrific memes.

His face is blank. He is tall and thin, and wears a black suit.

He has the ability to stretch and shorten his arms at will, and has tentacle-like appendages protruding from his back…

Most people understand he is a mythical creature, created by a man called Eric Knudsen for a “paranormal pictures” Photoshop contest in 2009. But, sometimes, the younger generation gets it confused…

The Slender Man (or Slenderman) is a popular meme derived from an online forum called Something Awful, and has appeared in amateur horror fan fiction, drawings, video games and YouTube videos. The Slender Man “urban legend” took on such precedence in online forums that it gained a large following of knowledge-hungry young fans. In 2014, two 12-year-old girls allegedly stabbed a friend 19 times and left her to die in the woods, with the reasoning that she was a “sacrifice to Slenderman.” Later that same year, a 13-year-old girl stabbed her mother with a knife, and it was later discovered she had been journaling about Slenderman and playing the popular video game Minecraft, which allegedly makes reference to the character in the form of “Enderman.”

The incidents brought about interesting considerations: What the heck are memes (aren’t they supposed to be funny?)? How easily are teens influenced by popular online cultural trends? Do memes kill people? The Verge writer Adrianne Jeffries wrote, “The [Slenderman] crime has become a warning to parents to take a closer look at what their children are doing online.”

 A Meme of Change
Like the changing seasons, well-developed and shared internet memes are often altered over time as they are passed along.

According to About Tech, a meme is a “virally-transmitted cultural symbol or social idea.” Linda Borzsei, author of “Makes a Meme Instead,” describes memes as a piece of content spreading online from user to user and changing along the way, and which is not only amassed on humor sites, but is a way of communication and genre. And, according to Know Your Meme, a platform that conducts crowd-sourced research into memes, a meme is not a meme until it has “spread beyond its original subculture, exhibited signs of mutation and is an Internet culture-related phenomenon.”

Critical memes

From About Tech, the meme appears innocent enough but is actually criticizing someone.

Memes are often innocent enough, and can take the form of minor jokes, or human and animal oddities. But, sometimes, memes are art and music curiosities, political ideas or even messages that pass judgement. Take for example this popular 2014 meme discussed on About Tech – while the imagery seems innocent enough, the message is passing sarcastic judgement on someone. Olga Goriunova, author of “The Force of Digital Aesthetics,” who believes youth are the main creators and sharers of digital memes, writes that as soon as the opinion of people producing memes is considered, memes can often be seen as loaded forms – small, creative acts that work as an exercise in power.

Grumpy Cat

The popular Grumpy Cat inspired hundreds of Internet memes.

Remember Grumpy Cat? Perhaps one of the most iconic memes of the 21st Century, thousands of captioned meme photos have been created and shared in reference to the feline, who is actually not “grumpy” at all but suffers from a form of feline dwarfism that gives her an under bite. Memes can also take the shape of videos, songs, websites, Web personalities or inside jokes that spread rapidly.


A sample of today’s popular emoticons.

Though the idea of memes has been around since the mid-1970s, they’ve only really just begun to break into digital culture and gain traction mainstream because of the proliferation of message boards, forums and social networks. You are probably familiar with one of the very first Internet memes – the “emoticon.” The first one, a sideways smiley face, was created in 1982. Emoticons have rapidly evolved, assuming many shapes and characteristics over the years.

What If I Told You, Creating Memes Isn’t Hard…

Celebrity Meme

Celebrity meme produced on Meme Generator, sourced on

Today’s teens have never known a life without technology. Much of the information and learning they are gaining, and interactions with others are taking place in the virtual space. Amanda Lenhart of the Pew Research Center writes in “Teens & Technology: Understanding the Digital Landscape,” that 93 percent of teens have a computer or have access to one today, and 74 percent of teens ages 12-17 are “mobile internet users” who say they access the internet on cell phones, tablets, and other mobile devices on occasion.

Teen Internet Use

From the Pew Research Center; Amanda Lenhart presentation.

In 2011, a study conducted by comScore and NDP found that 69 percent of parents with children ages 10 to 17 were concerned with several different dangers associated with social network use, including contact from strangers, publicly displaying geo-location data, defamatory public messages and cyberbullying. However, only 32 percent of those parents actually monitor their child’s social networking activities every day, while another 28 percent admitted they only occasionally, rarely or never monitor activity. Gustavo S. Mesch, author of “The Internet and Youth Culture,” calls this lack of monitoring of teen internet use and devices a “bedroom culture.”

“Acting in a media-rich environment and a bedroom culture, the Net-generation, or digital natives, express different values, attitudes, and behaviors than previous generations. These youth create and use digital spaces for social interactions, identity expression, and media production and consumption.”Gustavo Mesch

Zipperman Pugs meme

Kane Zipperman created a variety of Twitter memes to break up with his girlfriend. When Zipperman’s girlfriend angrily asked him if he was “on drugs,” he responded by posting the above picture and the comment “No, I’m on pugs.”

It’s true that teens are using online spaces to express themselves more fully to their peers. Memes have become a popular trend for doing this, whether used to showcase a teen’s creativity or to garner attention. Take for example, Georgia teen Kane Zipperman who used memes to dump his cheating girlfriend in mid-2014. Zipperman released a flurry of celebrity memes that related to the situation on Twitter. The activity gained him more than 25,000 followers, and the tweet of the total takedown of his ex has been retweeted almost 100,000 times. Yet, many on Twitter questioned Zipperman’s intentions because he had been in the social media limelight before.

Alex from Target

Teens created many “Alex from Target” memes in response to the image posted on Twitter of a cute Target cashier.

Another example was the “Alex from Target” phenomenon in late 2014. A girl at a Target took a photograph of a cute cashier bagging her items and posted the image on Twitter. The teen Twitter-sphere went crazy. By that night, the image had amassed enough retweets, favorites and general teen chatter that Alex himself (whom the teens had digitally tracked down) had reached over 300,000 Twitter followers, and, by Monday morning, he had made it on to CNN. Hundreds of memes were spawned from the “Alex from Target” event, resulting in articles like this one from Buzzfeed that showcases 17 memes that prove teens are the best people on the internet.

Indeed, websites (like Meme Generator) and other software today make it easy for anyone to create a meme. But not all teen memes are light-hearted and humorous; some take a slightly darker twist. In 2012, a new form of cyber-bullying began to emerge in the form of hurtful memes, created by teens and directed at other teens. According to a New York Daily News article, a Facebook page called “Hey, girl did you know…” was formed and began posting “slut-shaming” memes that teens created to mock or shame their peers. And, in 2013, some Utah teens faced embarrassing cyberbullying in the form of memes when their Facebook pictures were stolen, captioned with vulgar language and shared. The issue caused one cyberbullied teen to change schools three times and seek counseling.

Hey girl Facebook page

The “Hey, girls, did you know…” Facebook page is a site that publishes sometimes insulting memes.

Mesch writes that being online not only detaches individuals from the constraints imposed by location, but also frees them from the constraints associated with their offline personalities and social roles. This may be the case with darker teen internet memes – you could say that the lawlessness of online culture and the ease of sharing thoughts has emboldened teen users and creators of memes. Or, you could just say that teens have been bullying teens for centuries, and the Internet has just given them new options.

Borzsei of “Makes a Meme Instead,” believes memes, despite their potential for misuse, can offer users a new way of engaging with the news, politics and what is happening in the world.

In conclusion, the Slenderman meme was only one rare occasion where two teens confused fiction with reality, not because they were totally influenced by a meme but perhaps because those psychotic, unempathetic tendencies were already present in their personalities. As Jeffries writes, “If you need a role model, you will find one… memes don’t kill people, people kill people.”

Can you think of any popular memes that have been created to encourage something good?

Marty McFly’s “Back to the Future” No Competition for the Real 2015

back-to-the-future-2Flying cars, hoverboards, double ties and fax machines everywhere – the 2015 of Marty McFly’s popular 1989 film Back to the Future II was overrun with high-tech gadgets and trends that, at the time, intrigued our minds and made us hungry for what was to come.

Flash forward more than 25 years, to the 2015 of today, and the scenery looks quite different – flying cars are still a fantasy, and, though a French artist created a hoverboard several years ago, the contraption doesn’t quite function like the hoverboard’s of Marty McFly’s future. Who wants to wear one tie, let alone two? And the fax machine’s fate was sealed with the introduction and proliferation of email.

Back to the Future II, and other futuristic movies like it, seek to depict emerging media and trends of a particular time period, fascinating us with their mysteriousness. But just as certain aspects of the film’s visionary future haven’t yet come to pass, others quickly went the way of the dinosaur, a huge testimony to the abruptly changing digital landscape of today’s world.

Defining Emerging Media & It’s Influence
In 2008, writer’s Dale Peskin and Andrew Nachison of IIP Digital described emerging media in such a way: “The relationship between traditional media and the public is changing, a trend these information professionals call “We Media.” This emergent journalistic process allows the Web’s social network to produce, analyze, and disseminate news and information to technologically interconnected publics unbounded by geography.”

Emerging media is anything innovative, interactive and dynamic. Digital T.V., social media, wearable technology, webcasting and smart phones would all fit under the umbrella of emerging media, among others.

Emerging media influence our lives on a daily basis – from the personalized Pandora station we’re listening to on our smart phones while connected to the Bluetooth in our cars, and the video we just shot, uploaded and shared with friends on Vine, to the T.V. show we’re interacting with in real-time through hashtags on Twitter, and the outfit we just chose to purchase based on the coupon we received by email or text after entering the brick-and-mortar store – emerging media is changing the way we interact with each other, but even more than that, it is changing the way we interact with brands and marketers. Here’s a great video from Ball State University that delves further into the definition of emerging media:

“Innovation in information technologies has thrust humankind into an era of democratic media in which almost everyone can have immediate access to news and information, and become creators and contributors in the journalistic enterprise.” – Peskin & Nachison, Emerging Media Reshape Global Society

The above quote reveals the importance of emerging media to our world today: It has changed – is changing – the way we consume and use information, and how we want to receive it. Marketers and content creators have a unique challenge – not just in understanding the way their key audiences are using emerging media – but how to stay on top of this constantly evolving landscape.

Trends to Watch in 2015
Just as the creators of Back to the Future II hypothesized the advancements in technology for their time period, each year, WebMedia Group publishes an annual report on emerging tech trends they predict should not be ignored. Their 2015 Annual Report includes some interesting scenarios, but here are just a few:

  1. Deep Learning – Artificially intelligent computers are now capable of “deep learning” using neural networks. For example, robots will eventually be able to recognize objects they haven’t seen before and navigate to new locations on their own. Chappie, is that you? Deep learning will intersect with numerous fields, aiding in manufacturing, medicine and retail, to name a few.
  2. Uber-like Services – With a $40 billion paper valuation, certain features of this simple app that connects passengers to drivers will be all the rage other businesses try to emulate.
  3. Data Privacy – With the rising popularity of new technologies – such as the FitBit, which collects data on users through a third-party analytics tool – coupled with continued data breaches, 2015 will see more demand for digital consent agreements and increased transparency.

Can you think of other emerging media upcoming in 2015 or on the horizon? Likewise, can you predict other types of media or trends that might just meet the same demise as the once trusty fax machine?