Writing about cycling could go in so many directions for me; I could spend columns discussing the value of a domestique like Sky’s Richie Porte and how I believe he won last year’s Tour De France for Chris Froome. To tips on how breathing deeper into your chest will prevent neck pain over a long ride. But instead, I’d prefer to touch on just the pure joy that is riding in New York City. It is spring after all.
New York City may not be thought of as a great place to be a cyclist, but the truth is it is wonderful. My personal moments of joy come from riding laps of Prospect park early on weekday mornings, pacing against a pack practicing for weekend races. Crossing the Manhattan bridge never disappoints, it much less cluttered and traveled than the Brooklyn or Williamsburg and the view from the north side is just as awesome.
A few of my favorites reasons are:
This one is easy. Pre-Citibike, commuting via bike for me had one style; aggressive. One eye was pegged over my right shoulder watching for cabs, the other eye worked crosswalk signs to time the lights and avoid hitting pedestrians lazily crossing with headphones in. Not to mention car doors and salmon on motorcycles, ahem “electric bikes”, etc. My expectations for Citibike were low; it would replace my bike when it rained and I was going to look terrible while being passed by everyone.
Then I tried it. The well built blue machines can be ridden with a beautiful freeing style; head up. Fat tires and a very low gearing ratio makes it is easy to cruise around, climb bridges and just enjoy the city. I implore to spend an afternoon with one; leave the track bike at home and try it, trust me it’s great.
Right on the other side of the George Washington Bridge is the gem, River Road. A 7 mile long park road, hovering over the edge of the Hudson and cutting back under the GWB. The road is a great escape from the city, within moments of going past its gates you’ll forget that 10 minutes before you were in Manhattan.
There are few cars, a handful of joggers and a very, enjoyable 103M climb at the far end to “Ranger Station”. You’ll have to dig, far, far down the Strava leaderboard to find my best time (4:53) on the climb.
Not yet complete, but totally awesome. The Brooklyn Greenway will be 14 mile bike path from Greenpoint to Sunset park along the east river. As of today a lot of the pretty parts are already done; you can cruise under both Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges and go through the parks by the water. The Navy Yards are also pretty cool to ride by. The Greenway is perfect for a casual ride or when family visits and you can unbridle a Citibike, pedal away and take pictures in front of stuff, like I do with my own Dad.
Contrary to how one would instinctively think about the population in New York, by and large cyclists are happy to lend a hand, ask if you’re okay when struggling through changing a flat or point you in the right direction when you’re inevitably lost. Additionally on many occasions, groups would let me tag along and show me how to get to the coffee shop in Nyack. Cyclists are also friendly, I have several friends met tearing up laps in the park. Nods and passes became hellos and meetups to ride.
Being a marketer is a tough job.
Between putting out the latest fire, turning around a piece of content, tracking the performance of your ongoing campaigns, meeting with clients, partners, and vendors, staying on top of industry news, and actually blocking out time to think strategically about the big picture, it seems like the days and weeks can blur together. Time is always slipping away from us.
Just as technology has transformed how consumers socialize, communicate, discover products, and make purchases, it is transforming how we work as marketers. That’s in fact our vision at Percolate: to transform marketing through technology.
We’re proud of the complete marketing technology platform that we’ve built and we’re constantly working to make our technology help marketers be more efficient, effective, and consistent with their efforts. And in that quest to do more in less time, here are a few simple tools that might be worth checking out.
Note: Pecolate does not recommend or endorse these products and companies in any official manner.
1) Keep your passwords secure and fill ‘em out fast with [1Password] for Win/Mac or [LastPass] for Win/Mac
After perhaps the worst security flaw in the history of the internet, everyone, especially marketers because we usually have accounts for a lot of services, need to make sure they use strong, unique passwords. CNET calls 1Password [Win/Mac] the “best software available to keep your logins secure”. For those who’d like to avoid the $35 price tag, LastPass offers similar features and has a freemium product that can be upgraded to $12/yr for additional features.
2) Manage your windows with [BetterSnapTool] for Mac or [WinSplit] for Win
Hopefully your company has seen the productivity value of having large monitors (if not, here’s a paper to forward to your boss). The key to actually getting value out of a big screen is making it easy to work split screen - like when you monitor social streams in one half of the screen while drafting an email on the other half. These low cost tools ($1.99 and free, respectively) make it easy to create keyboard shortcuts or hotspots to maximize, split or otherwise wrangle those windows,.
3) Supercharge your clipboard and have copy+past history with [ClipMenu] for Mac or [Ditto] for Win
Have you ever wanted to copy and paste more than one thing at a time? Or overwritten something important on your clipboard by accident? Then you want a clipboard manager – these tools save things you copy into the clipboard so you can retrieve them later. Super helpful when writing emails, drafting blog posts and much more.
4) Find and open files or apps faster with [Alfred] for Mac or [Launchy] for Win
The built in tools our operating systems provide for searching and opening files are pretty weak. With Alfred or Launchy, both free, a quick global keyboard shortcut opens “launchbar” where you can perform a variety of functions: search and open a specific file, launch applications, even perform basic calculations.
5) Write faster by automating common phrases with [AText] for Mac or [PhraseExpress] for Win
Everyone’s got certain words, phrases or boilerplate text they use over and over again. Maybe it’s your brand’s tag line, or the URL to a certain page, or an introduction to your major products. Now you can type something short like “.percolateis” and get “Percolate is a thoughtful technology company. Our mission is to help brands create content at social scale.” Once you get started.
6) Quickly take, annotate, and share screenshots with [Monosnap] for Win/Mac
Whether your offering quick design feedback, highlighting something on a competitor’s website, or reporting a bug, you want a fast, free screenshot tool. And that’s exactly what you get with Monosnap.
7) Discover what content is trending with [BuzzSumo]
Every marketer has a set of topics they know they need to keep on top of. And whether that’s breakfast food, mens personal care, or fashion trends, it helps to make sure you’re reading what everyone else is reading. At Percolate, we’ve built some powerful monitoring tools directly into the platform, and another service offers some of this functionality is BuzzSumo, where you can look for the most shared pieces of content in any given category.
8) Find out how popular a piece of web content is with [Sharedcount]
Do you ever find yourself reading an article or looking at a landing page and wondering whether just how popular the post really is? Then you’ll like Sharedcount - a free tool that allows you to see engagement on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, Pinterest, and Google+ for any URL or list of URLs.
9) Stay on top industry news with [Digg Reader]
When Google Reader was shuttered last summer, it was a blow to every news obssessed marketer. A number of challengers emerged to win the “best RSS reader” title and we happen to be partial to Digg Reader but Lifehacker has a few other great options.
10) Quickly produce images for social with [Canva]
Well over 1 billion images are shared every single day on Facebook, WhatsApp, Snapchat and Instagram, and smart marketers know they can’t always wait for their design team to fire up Photoshop to make pixel-perfect images. Our clients love the built-in image editing tool we’ve built that can quickly shoot out social-ready images. Another option is Canva, a freemium tool that allows you to build posters, make collages, edit photos, add stock images and more.
11) Make a cluttered page easier to read with [Readability]
With all the ads, sidebars, popups and sign up boxes on content sites these days, it can be easy to get distracted from the actual article. Readability strips out all the non-essentials, leaving you with clean, well-formatted text. You can also save an article for later, good for
12) Deal with your tab hoarding ways with [OneTab]
Are you a marketer who always has a million tabs open all the time? We open don’t want to close our browsers because we haven’t read everything we’ve opened, but having all these tabs gets untenable. OneTab collapses your tabs into a single list of URLs that is saved, making your computer faster, and reducing tab clutter.
13) Get super quick stats on a URL with [Webquantified]
With one click, see a domain’s Alexa ranking, Compete traffic, and Pagerank. This extension is a great resource when you’re doing competitive reconnaissance.
14) Stay focused and relaxed as you browse the web with [Momentum]
With this extension, every time you open a new tab, you are greeted with a beautiful piece of photography, the time, a personal greeting, and a place to remind yourself of your top task(s) of the day. It was a runaway hit last year and it’s not hard to see why.
15) Get the lowdown on someone using just their email address with [Rapportive]
Whether you’re trying to find the Twitter handle of the user who just emailed you, or you want to view the LinkedIn profile of a contact based on their email address, you’ll want to use Rapportive. It’s a plugin to Gmail that displays a sidebar with a person’s face and their social channels (if they’ve synced their email up with those accounts).
16) Have a GIF for every occasion with [Giphy]
It’s official. GIFs are cool again. From Buzzfeed to Reddit to Tumblr, they’ve taken over the internet. Giphy allows you to search a library of GIFs tagged with different emotions or topics and you can drag an image you like directly into Gmail or Twitter.
17) Know how time you have till your next meeting with [Google Calendar Checker]
As a marketer, you’ve often got to juggle focused creative time, with meetings interspersed throughout the day. This simple extension lets you know how long until your next appointment, so you don’t have to check your calendar as frequently, which means you stay in the zone for longer.
Get another few hundred marketing and analytics tools with [Annie Cushing’s Must-Have Tools]
In case these tools weren’t enough, here’s a monster list of tools courtesy of Annielytics which help marketers with SEO analysis, keywords, tracking, social media, data visualization, and other efficiencies. It will take you some time to wade through this, but it is a treasure trove for marketers who want to use technology to enhance their outputs.
The post 17 Simple Tools That Help Modern Marketers Save Time and Effort appeared first on The Percolate Blog.
I looked up one night while taking the subway home and noticed some ads for YouTube. They were highlighting three popular creators: Michelle Phan, a make up vlogger, Bethany Mota, who does fashion and beauty, and Rosanna Pansino, a popular baking YouTuber.
At first I was a little confused about the ads. Arguably the web’s second largest search engine, YouTube gets over 1 billion unique visitors a month, which means the majority of internet users have encountered the video platform. Why are they now running print ads in NYC subway trains?
Every piece of content has an audience, and I realized that these ads were targeted towards media buyers. In other words, it was advertising for advertisers.
As reported in AdAge, Google is running three 30 second TV spots, each featuring a YouTube creator, print placement in magazines like Allure and Seventeen, as well as billboards, subway stations, and trains in New York and Chicago.
The goal is for brands to see YouTube as bigger opportunity in their marketing mix and win a greater share of their ad budget. This push comes right in line with the announcement that advertisers can now, for the first time, buy guaranteed audiences on YouTube.
“What this means is that ads aired on YouTube will continue to air against content until a certain percentage of the target audience is reached. … This, combined with a change to allow advertisers to buy advertising space ahead of the content being made could allow channels in the top 5% to make significantly more revenue.” – via ReelSEO
In some ways, this makes YouTube look like it’s trying to compete for TV ad dollars. And certainly there will be financial shift in that direction. But there’s a crucial way in how YouTube advertising is different from TV commercials.
Every ad on YouTube is in fact another YouTube video. Long before Facebook started offering Newsfeed ads and promoted posts, YouTube had native advertising. And since videos longer than 30 seconds are entirely skippable after 15 seconds, it totally changes how the ads are made.
Unlike TV commercials, where 30 second spots turn into 15 second clips, ads on YouTube can be several minutes long, as long as the content is good. It would be unbelievably expensive for a brand like Dove (a Percolate client) to run a 4 minute video on Prime Time Network television would cost around $880k. And yet, in new ad/video Patches, Dove has already garnered 14 million views in just the last week (the video premiered April 9th). While I don’t know how much they’ve paid to promote it, my guess is it was far less than the $0.9M figure I just cited.
When you look at the top commercials of 2013, they tend to several minutes long and 80% of them have a fairly developed narrative. This focus on storytelling, on evocative and emotional content that draws people in, that they are compelled, rather than forced, to watch, is what makes YouTube completely different from television. The former is about creating fanbases, the latter about audiences.
As Alex Carloss, YouTube’s global head of entertainment, explained to a crowd of TV executives at Cannes:
An audience tunes in when they’re told to, a fanbase chooses when and what to watch. An audience changes the channel when their show is over. A fanbase shares, it comments, it curates, it creates.
As YouTube continues to grow, this type of guidance is needed to help brands figure out their strategy.
For instance, make up and beauty is an incredibly popular vertical for YouTube, and yet according to the Touchstorm Video Index, there are zero make up brands among the top 5,000 channels on YouTube. This has allowed popular creators, like Michelle Phan (one of the featured vloggers in this ad campaign) to establish her own line of cosmetics, in no small part because of the 6m subscribers who watch, share, comment on her fun, interesting, and highly informative videos – and then go out and shop.
Brand marketers: are you taking notes?
As Twitter looks to expand globally as a communication channel for businesses of all sizes, the social giant is trying to help brands figure out what to talk about.
The Twitter for Business team for UK + Ireland recently released a calendar to help companies plan tweets around events. Covering just April and May to start off, the calendar lists about 30 unique events in categories like Season, TV, Sports, and Culture – some are global like Easter Sunday, while others, like Bloom Flower Show Dublin, are more region specific. Each event has a very light “tip” associated with it and the option to add it to Outlook or Google Calendar.
Branded as #OwnTheMoment, the site has a very experimental feel to it, and it looks like they want to offer more, but aren’t sure exactly what that might be. So what’s the play here?
Every social channel wants more brands engaging with their platform. But unlike TV commercials or magazine ads, these platforms are geared around stock and flow, emphasis on the latter. People (and by extension, brands) are still trying to figure out what to say.
Literally, Google tells us so.
Most major brands engage in a lot of internal content planning. Often over spreadsheets, calendars, or even plain text documents, they will map out ideas for social media, often based on brand events, upcoming campaigns, seasonal moments and more. Depending on the brand, the team might look a few weeks to a few month ahead.
Great marketing is always triggered by something. Sometimes it it is an unpredictable trigger: the lights go out in the Super Bowl. But often it is sometime you can prepare for in advance, like the Super Bowl itself.
Additionally, brands want to make sure they are covering all their pillars. Nike represents a wide range of sports, from Basketball to X-Country to Golf, and in a range of levels, from Olympic to weekend warrior.
Planning allows brands to stay on top of their message as much as possible and keep their content mix balanced.
It’s great to see that platforms like Twitter recognize the need to help companies plan. The Twitter calendar is a great start, and for small businesses getting on Twitter, it might be exactly what they need to get started. But this stuff is hard.
In our work with brands, we’ve heard a number of pain points come up when it comes to planning.
— it’s hard to share and update planning documents
— it’s hard to track and group conversations around specific topics
— there’s not a lot of flexibility in how teams and view and organize content
That’s why we built the world’s first content planner that directly integrates into the creation and publishing work flow for brand marketing teams.
We suggest specific events that are directly relevant to a brand’s target audience – teams can tag events based on topics and platforms and populate their calendar with the right mix of triggers.
Of course, a content planner is not a silver bullet. Without creative and empathetic CMO’s, community managers and agency partners, you’ll still end up with uninspired content.
But when great tools, systems join forces with savvy marketers, magic can happen.
Last week we released the first Percolate Quarterly Report. With this post I‘m going to share the thinking and design process behind our new report format.
The project began when we started kicking around the idea of publishing an annual report at the end of 2013. We were keen on telling stories around what it’s like to build a technology company. As we started to think about what such a report might actually entail, it didn’t take long for us to realize that it’s really hard to remember all the things that happened over the course of a year.
To produce a report we’d be really proud of, we would need to come up with a system for how to easily capture everything that went down across tech, design, business, culture and more. How would this happen?
We regrouped in January and came up with a brief that outlined the goals and direction for a 2014 report, one we would publish in quarterly installments. We decided to organize the report around topics and used a spreadsheet to keep track major developments in each category.
Our first report featured six topics:
1) News — Announcements around company milestones
2) Product — A highlight of our latest products and the value they give our clients
3) Content — A roundup of our best blog posts, articles, whitepapers, and presentations
4) Events — How we build communities around the things that matter to us
5) Culture — A peek into life at Percolate
6) People — An introduction to all our new teammates
With our editorial direction established, the next question we needed to answer was how would we bring these stories to life?
We wanted the report to be visually strong and prominently feature great photography. We were already regularly taking photos of people around the office, and this project gave us a chance to re-evaluate what we were shooting. To build a library of assets for the report, we focused our attention in two areas: covering events we host and participate in, and taking portraits of new employees.
Once we began speaking about the project, the design team took a look at report designs we loved. This included the work of Nicholas Feltron, Visual Supply Co, Network Osaka, Paul Rand, Warby Parker, Kickstarter and Artsy. All of this stuff prompted us to explore a range of executions both print and digital.
We found ourselves most excited about making a website, one that would be easy to share amongst our friends, family, clients, peers, and prospects. Early on, we considered using infographics as the primary structure for the report because they do a great job of displaying quantitative information in an interesting way. After some some discussion, we felt that this first report should go beyond the hard numbers and use photography to focus on the people and activities behind our accomplishments for the quarter. We wanted to show a simpler, human side to our company.
We have loved working with the brand system we developed together with Berger & Föhr last fall. This project would allow us to showcase how this system has played out to date, whilst also challenge us to understand how the system would allow us to tell our quarterly stories.
A great example of how this came together was the Content roundup section. Here we show a wide range of content executions, including; cover designs with color blocks, our graph styles using our primary and secondary color palettes, product imagery, all combined with typographic headlines.
My favorite part of designing the report was the close collaboration with the different teams throughout the process.
I worked with with Craig in Marketing to develop content bites that could be easily read at a glance. As set forth by our editorial guidelines, we tried to be thoughtful, interesting, bold, and proud in our writing; and strike a balance between readability and depth. I collaborated with Ben, a frontend engineer, to design templates with clear typographic structures and a grid that allowed elements to stack well for a responsive site.
Working across these different teams meant different perspectives, which constantly pushed us as to design and build a better report.
Our first quarterly report has laid a great foundation for us. We’ll continue to use the tracking system and visual language in future versions and we’re excited to explore new assets in a variety of mediums such as video and print.
Check out the report, we’ve had fun making it and I think you’ll enjoy it.
As the largest drugstore chain in New York City, Duane Reade has a major presence both physically in the city and online. They boast over 2M followers on Twitter and 101k likes on Facebook. They’re even featured as a case study by Twitter as a business that effectively used rich media, promoted tweets, hashtag campaigns to see a 67x increase in followers year over year.
But because of the massive challenges that come with social content, the brands that perform the best are also the ones that move the fastest. And sometimes speed can lead to a stumble.
On March 18th, Duane Reade posted a photo of actress Katherine Heigl holding Duane Reade bags on the company’s Twitter and Facebook accounts. The tweet read:
Love a quick #DuaneReade run? Even @KatieHeigl can’t resist shopping #NYC’s favorite drugstore.
It had at least 181 favorites and 74 retweets before it was taken down. The Facebook post, which had similar text, had over 100 Likes. The photo appears to be taken from set of photos posted on celebrity news site, Just Jared, on March 14th.
Now, Duane Reade is facing a six million dollar lawsuit for tweeting the photo, which Heigl asserts is for “economic and reputational injury flowing directly from the Defendant’s unlawful acts” which including depriving Heigl “of her valuable right to select what endorsements to grant, including and nhw those endorsements are presented to and perceived by the public”
Heigl claims that the photo in question was taken without her permission by paparazzi and Duane Reade, according to the lawsuit her lawyers filed, “misused and misappropriated the photograph for its own commercial advertising”, also without her permission.
Heigl and her legal team argue that because Duane Reade’s tweets “predominantly promote commercial advertisements” and that they “only occasionally use large photographs” and thus the photo of Heigl stands out as the only celebrity image, implies “falsely that Plaintiff endorses Defendant”.
Which gets us into a bigger question: does social media fall into free speech or advertising?
On one hand, posting from a Twitter account is akin to getting a column in a really big newspaper and looks like a form of free speech. But at the same time, most social platforms are moving towards native ad model where tweets and Facebook posts can get paid promotion, which means almost every status update, photo, video, could be viewed as a potential ad that just doesn’t have any money behind it yet.
This lawsuit comes off the back of another collision between social media and brand advertising as the White House objects to Samsung’s attempt to use “the president’s likeness for commercial purposes” after it retweeted a selfie David Ortiz took with President Obama and then posted using Ortiz’s Galaxy Note 3. When does a photo become more than a photo?
As organic reach continues to decline on Facebook, our Co-Founder James Gross’ prediction that “you won’t create content without promoting it” looks more and more prescient. Regardless of how the suit falls, the trend is clear: social content from brands is looking more and more commercial.
One of the key challenges for brands is how to keep up the volume and pace of social content without losing control of messaging or skipping steps like obtaining the rights for the media they distribute. For some time, social media has gotten a big free pass and lower scrutiny than, say, a billboard ad or 30 second TV spot.
But as social becomes a fundamental channel for marketers to push commercial content, they need tools and systems that address key issues:
1) Stock Photography
Free, licensed, pre-shot photography is a crucial part of traditional media production, but traditional methods of obtaining stock photos is too slow for social. Percolate clients can leverage our partnerships with Getty and Shutterstock to quickly find licensed photos and immediately post them into their social accounts.
2) User Generated Content
Often the best performing visual content are created directly by consumers who simply love the product. Lots of brands retweet content or run contests to collect images, but often fail to get the legal rights to use the image indefinitely. That’s why we created Fanbranded, a tool within Percolate that allows brands to request legal permission to use and modify photos from around the world, with the click of a button.
3) Employee Photos
Live events have always been a part of the mix when it comes to obtaining great visual content. But what happens when that excited customer decides they no longer want their smiling face on your Twitter stream? Printing model release forms, getting them signed at the event and storing them adds a significant burden to workflow. At Percolate, we saw this need and built Photographer, which allows a brand’s team to take photos at events with their smartphone, get the rights inside the app, and upload the image directly to the media library.
As brands get more savvy with social content, the complexity only increases. Avoiding lawsuits while continuing to move quickly requires a new approach and we hope to continue developing the tools that marketers need to win.
The post What Brands Can Learn from the Katherine Heigl Lawsuit appeared first on The Percolate Content Marketing Blog.
At Percolate, we’ve developed a set of ideas we call the building blocks of marketing. They’re essentially things that marketers need to consider whenever they create and publish a new piece of marketing content. The final building block in this series is Platform.
At it’s core, marketing is about reaching a targeted audience with a specific piece of brand content. Platforms set the stage for content, without them there would be no way to reach our customers and prospects.
While the brands we talk to tend to be very tapped into the rapid evolution of social platforms, we’ve noticed that there are a few crusty ideas that can sometimes lead marketers astray. We’d like to clarify a few of those myths here.
There are still major brands out there who wonder if social media can truly rival television when it comes to reaching massive audiences. Certainly, TV has enormous reach: the 2010 World Cup final saw 909 million viewers tune in, making it the largest televised event in history. (For our US readers, this is the viewership equivalent of eight 2014 Super Bowls.)
The counter point to that of course is the fact that just three social networks (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) reach 1.5 billion people every single day: over 50% more than the World Cup. And with the new IAD numbers that were just released, we see that Internet ad spend hit $42 million in 2013, surpassing Broadcast Television for the first time ever. The industry has responded.
As platforms go, Facebook is a big one. As the social media giant turned 10 this year, 57% of American adults are on the platform and nearly two-thirds of them visit the site every day. It’s also the leading social network in both North and South America, Australia and most of Europe, reaching 757 million daily active users.
Still, focusing on just one platform, even one as big as Facebook, is a mistake. There are now 25 social platforms that reach 50 million daily active users, each with a different demographic, frame of mind and context. YouTube, the #2 most trafficked social network reaches audiences in a very different way compared to WeChat, the mobile messaging platform that’s dominating China. Simply the fact that Facebook has spent tens of billions of dollars acquiring multiple social platforms should indicate to brands that its leadership position is not absolute.
One response to the challenge of new platforms and increased content demands is simply to repost. A recent Forester report suggested that brands simply reposting content to Google+, a practice we don’t recommend. As Gary Vanerchuck, not one to mince words, puts it in Jab, Jab, Right Hook:
“Posting the same content on Tumblr as Google+ is the equivalent of the tourist deciding that since he can’t speak Norwegian he’ll just speak Icelandic and it will do. That’s stupid.”
Each platform has its own style, pace and audience, and to be successful, a brand must understand those. Beyond that though, the definition of “platform” for distributing marketing content continues to expand. While we once thought of only email or Facebook, platforms now include dozens of different social networks, landing pages, micro-sites and even publishers, who increasingly make their audiences directly available to brands in the form of native advertising.
Successful brands see past the commonly held misconceptions about platforms. They are thinking long and hard about the channels that will bring their content to their audience.
A few weeks ago, I went along to the Bloomberg BusinessWeek Design Conference. Having come across the event earlier in the year, I was curious to hear what the speakers (hailing from companies like Asana, Frog Design, and Gap) would share around the role design plays inside their organizations and how this has changed as they’ve grown and taken on new challenges.
Here are my takeaways from that sunny day in San Francisco:
Regularly taking a step back and focussing the team on your core mission is vital for companies of all shapes and sizes. Evaluation brings priority to design decisions.
Sometimes taking a step back can fuel an overhaul. This is what Rebekkah Bay is currently navigating as Global Creative Director of the Gap.
In the last 10 years, the retail giant’s offering has diversified tremendously. So when Bay moved into her current role, she first tasked the design team of 160 people to focus on the foundation of the brand. To focus on creating the iconic basics that made the company relevant in the first place: the best t-shirts, shirts and pants on the market. Only after this foundation is in place does she plan to address communication and retail experiences.
Creating a space for interdisciplinary teams to meet and understand the problems they are solving is part of the design process. This friction creates an engine for teams to deliver.
Establishing etiquette around design critiques has been a focus of Asana Co-Founder Justin Rosenstein. When he brings designers and engineers together to review the progress of software features and products, he asks everyone to offer problems, not solutions with their feedback. By framing critique with ‘When I look at that, I feel…’ his aim is to ask the team to engage with the empathy. For the critique host, he encourages them to ask questions to understand the problems their team have identified before explaining design choices.
Maintaining a familiar look, feel and tone across products, and services isn’t easy for large organizations. Building tools which communicate brand DNA can inspire success.
Target’s slogan has been the same since 1962 ‘Expect more, pay less’. A promise that has helped scale the business to nearly 2,000 stores worldwide. When Todd Waterbury arrived a year ago as Executive Creative Director, he installed 5 Principles: Emotional, Useful, Democratic, Simple and Purposeful.
These principles have helped guide design efforts and give ‘brand soul’ to everything Target does. You can see them at work with Target’s Feed USA collaboration and Cartwheel app, to the championing of new designers like Peter Pilotto and the information design they bring to medication.
Embracing the opportunities, and constraints, of rapid product development is what builds an open design culture. These values establish productivity and collaboration across teams.
‘Constraints are king’ is the motto of Quirky, an online marketplace whose mission is to make invention accessible to everyone by crowd sourcing product ideas and bringing them to life with a team of inhouse designers and engineers. Founder, Ben Kaufman, let us know that if the Empire State Building could be built in 410 days in 1931, there is absolutely no reason why his company can’t help its community release three products every week in 2014.
The cycle of launching Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday helps focus decisions across the company everyday.
Feedback systems are at the heart of every great product company: Capturing it improves the experience of customers and employees.
Until recently, understanding the behaviors and characteristics of successful leaders has been a pretty manual process. Timothy Morey from Frog Design, showed off an electronic device that could potentially change that. Sociometric Badges, the result of an MIT research project takes the idea of quantified self into the office. The devices measure conversations between colleagues, looking for patterns in tone and duration, and well, 98 other signals as it looks to build a physical graph of employees. Behaviors of effective leaders include brief, lively conversations.
Conference transmission ends.
As you may know, the role of design is something I’ve been thinking about since we started Percolate. We knew from day one, that putting a design department in place wasn’t enough.
Over the last three years, we have seen how great products and services aren’t designed by designers alone. We are working hard to create an environment where design thinking permeates the entire organization. If you are a reader of this blog, you may have come across our thoughts on how service informs design, our approach to market research and how we design with people.
Hearing the diverse and interesting ways other companies are using design to help drive their organizations forward was great validation for the things we are doing at Percolate today, and the things we have up our sleeves for tomorrow as we grow the team.
I absolutely recommend attending the conference next year. The breakfast burritos were pretty impressive too.
A great way to see how much a company values culture is through the way it onboards new employees. I started working at Percolate in the Growth team about a month ago and was immediately taken aback by how comprehensive and thoughtful the onboarding process was here.
I’ve worked at startups, inside the federal government, and even developed onboarding practices as a startup founder, and this has been the most exceptional process I’ve seen by far. That’s particularly impressive when you consider that Percolate started 2013 with 27 people and now we’re close to 110 with about 30 job openings in NYC, SF, Austin, & London.
In this post, I’ll talk about Percolate’s current onboarding process and why I think it works so well.
When you arrive at Percolate on your first day, our operations manager April takes you to your desk where you’ve got your machine (MacBook Air for Business, MacBook Pro for Product), monitor (Dell 24″ for Business, Apple Thunderbolt Display for Product), and what ever peripherals you might need.
Step one is setting up your Google Apps account, where you’ve got a few emails waiting for you. One of them tells you to sign in to Asana, where your task inbox is filled with a few dozen onboarding tasks. Things like:
— Add yourself to our internal calendar
— Write your introduction email (more on that in a minute)
— Create a Paychex account and verify your first paycheck
— Reflect on Week 1
These tasks were all fired off from a master template which includes tasks for your manager, your Percolator (more on that in a second as well), April herself, and other people from throughout the company. The tasks are also tagged for different teams. For example, new Engineers will get “Run Percolate locally” while Sales people will be assigned “Practice the Demo”. All in all, there are about 175 possible tasks that could be assigned across the company.
It’s amazing that someone (or rather, a set of people) sat down and actually thought about what new hires would need to get ramped up. Rather than seem overwhelming, the list actually gives a sense of order to the madness.
Hi there and welcome. If you’re reading this then you’ve been hired at Percolate. Congratulations and great work, you must be awesome. Prepare to be challenged, inspired, rewarded and transformed.
— Day One @ Percolate
One of the key tasks listed in Asana is to read Day One @ Percolate, an 18 page Google Doc. It covers a number of things, including:
— The story of our founders James Gross and Noah Brier met and why they decided to start Percolate in 2011
— Creating strong passwords (complete with the relevant xkcd comic )
— Our culture, values and the idea of communal genius
— Guidelines for running meetings (#1 is “Do you really need a meeting?”)
Day One @ Percolate also links out to other documents, including our fairly robust internal wiki, a vocabulary of terms frequently used inside the company, a longer document on our mission and vision, and our very down-to-earth employee manual. It’s a a living document – people will make comments, ask questions and Noah, our CEO, will actually follow up pretty quickly to update the doc.
Noah borrowed this practice of extensive documentation from his time at Naked Communications, where his manager had done something similar. It might be a lot of work to write (and read) so much content, but it’s incredibly helpful for providing context and setting expectations.
It often takes a while for new people in the office to “break the ice” and start forming genuine connections. One way Percolate accelerates that process is through the introduction email.
As explained in Day One @ Percolate, you need to send out an email in your first week introducing yourself to the company – including where you grew up, what you were doing professionally before Percolate, and at least a few random/personal tidbits. You also have to include an embarrassing photo of yourself and link to three questions you’ve asked in our internal Q&A site, Barista.
The email goes out to the entire company and pretty much everyone reads it.
I wrote about my experience with rejection therapy, my experiences as a gymnast and growing up in Newton, a suburb of Boston. More than 25 people replied back to me — it turns out our VP of engineering was a high school gymnast and someone else had lived in my hometown. It was great to start building genuine connections throughout the company.
Onboarding isn’t just in forms and documents though. It’s in people. Every new hire is assigned a Percolator, someone who’s volunteered to be your buddy as you get settled in.
My Percolator was Brittany, a member of the Client Solutions Team. She stopped by a few times during the week to check on me and helped me with a bunch of random, new-hire questions (“Where can I find pens?”) via chat. On my first day, we went out for lunch at an Italian restaurant nearby with two other new hires (Rachel and McKenna) and their Percolators.
When a company reaches 100+ people, there are a lot of names and faces to remember. I was very impressed when Brittany could introduce everyone else by name. And because people had read and responded to my introduction email, I could actually have meaningful conversations with a bunch of folks on the team and start putting faces to names.
“This onboarding process involved the most immersive training and dedicated time to getting me comfortable to take on business. Usually you get two days and you’re being included on emails and expected to pick up where the last person took off. People take training seriously here — they don’t just ‘grab you when they have time’. You come in and immediately have 20 invites for training sessions.”
— Rachel Lary (Started Mar ’14)
For most people, the first two weeks are about picking up what information you can when you can. At Percolate, it’s a more formal process.
Through the tags in Asana, different people will be assigned different training sessions — engineers get a run down of the Percolate tech stack, sales people compete in a “Demo Off” where they pitch Percolate in front the business team, and client solutions team members have to get Product Certified, a 3 step process which includes a 30 min presentation, an oral exam, and a 75 question multiple choice exam.
No matter who you are, you’ll get a core set of training sessions:
— a discussion with April about how benefits and perks work
— a presentation by Noah on vision, mission, and culture
— a walkthrough of the product by someone on the client solutions team
Onboarding at Percolate isn’t perfect, but continuous improvement, a core value of the company, is built into the process.
Our IT manager Kyle, who started in February, told me how he wants to automate the machine deployment process so that licensed software, printer settings, Dropbox accounts, and other details are already loaded and configured. Day One @ Percolate continues to get edited as the company grows. And now that we have offices in Austin, San Francisco and London, with more on the way, we will have to adjust some of our processes to account for the distance.
Overall, I think we do a great job with onboarding but I know we can do even better. I’ll end with a quote from Noah:
“If we were grading our onboarding system on a curve, then Percolate would get an A. But on an absolute scale, I think we could do so much better. I want our onboarding to be unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. It needs to be a differentiated experience, which helps from the recruiting angle, but it also affects the bottom line. If we can get you ramped up faster, then you can start closing deals and shipping product weeks or even months sooner.”
If you’d like to transform marketing through technology and experience the Percolate onboarding for yourself, apply for one of our many openings.
At Percolate, we’ve developed a framework called the building blocks of marketing – key elements that should be addressed in every piece of marketing. Perhaps one of the most overlooked building blocks is Business Objective
Marketing, ultimately, is a business discipline and each piece of marketing communication should be attached to an objective or set of objectives established by the brand. While a brand might measure metrics such as followers, likes, retweets and mentions, those numbers are essentially raw data. Unfortunately, we often see brand marketers treat these numbers as the final outcome of their effort. To really understand the full picture of their marketing content’s impact on audiences, brands need tie that social engagement with more fundamental objectives.
— For marketers at e-commerce companies, that might be the average order size.
— For those at consumer brands, it might be sales volume for a particular product.
— For those at enterprise companies, that might be new leads from webinar and white paper landing pages.
— And for marketers focused on Masterbrands, it might be measuring brand sentiment over time.
Nichole Kelly of Social Media Explorer recently did a tear down of the math of Social ROI. Using an estimate of that a company could reach 16% reach of it’s total following on a social account with a single post/update, a 1% click-through rate on the post and a 2% conversion rate from visits to lead, she argued that a brand would need 1,250,000 followers to generate 250 leads.
That seems like a really steep funnel in our view, but even if we recognize that this analysis is conservative, her point is well taken: simply measuring activity can offer a false sense of progress. Only by measuring real goals can marketers be sure that their efforts are paying off.
While each brand has different objectives, understanding what you’re trying to accomplish with a piece of content, and how you plan to measure that, is crucial for determining whether your marketing is achieving progress for your brand.
Business Objective is a key marketing element that emerges from the challenges that content marketers face. For a free, comprehensive report on this topic, download our free white paper: The Building Blocks of Content