On Saturday, March 5th, I skied 15,500 vertical feet at Vail Resort.  On Sunday, March 6th, I skied 12, 300 vertical feet.  For a skiing nut like me, this type of information is what I can only imagine Heroine must be like for a drug addict.

My friend Kelly, a Denver local, clued me in to this super cool bit of technology during my recent visit.  Part way through the day she pointed out the Epic Mix transponders and mentioned how it was tracking her pass and at the end of the day she would be able to know how far we had skied. 

The transponders capture your information from your pass each time you get on a lift

At the moment I was so conflicted – am I more excited about heading towards the back bowls or more excited to get home and register my pass so that I can track my own vertical accomplishments?!?!

Another bit of marketing genius unfolded for me at that moment.  When I did get to a computer and register my pass it asked for the basic information – name, address, some basic demo questions – all stuff that we in the marketing world know is insanely valuable and expensive information to obtain.  They could have asked me for my social security number, mother’s maiden name and the login information for my bank account and I probably would’ve provided it because the information they had about my skiing adventures was that valuable to me.  Ok, I’m exaggerating a tad, but I was pretty darn excited.

The technology is a genuine mix of different emerging media trends.  It is a tracking device, a means for the company to collect personal information, has a social media component intended to create buzz around the resort and your activites and it is a loyalty program.  Pretty much, it encompasses every cool thing about marketing into one nifty bit of technology.

Check out this YouTube video of Vail Resorts executives discussing the launch of this Epic program:

Vail Resort Execs discuss Epic Mix

I have not jumped into the social media world of ‘checking in’, but this is a social media tool that I could totally get on board with – I can see the posts now:

Julie Checked in at Vail Resorts

Julie skied 16,000 feet today at Vail

If social media doesn’t serve as a tool for making your friends jealous then what good is it anyway? 🙂

Here is what a text from my Mom looks like:

“Hi Julie! I hope you’re having a great day! I love you!

Love,

Mom”

Here is what a text from my Dad looks like:

“Hy JB hv a good 1 luv Dad”

My Dad, has embraced ‘text code’ similiar to what I must imagine texting looks like from a teenager.  I think its cute! Even though, sometimes, I must admit I have to call him because I don’t understand what he’s trying to say.  Now, with my father being retired, I don’t think he’s at any real risk of ruining his future professional career by becoming too complacent with his  grammar.

Teenagers, on the other hand, may be in for a long road ahead of them.  I frequently see Facebook posts by teenagers that are so cryptic I cannot even begin to understand what they mean, I don’t know, maybe that’s the point. They speak in some sort of code that no one but their High School sect can translate.  What happens, though, when they go to write a resume or a college term paper?  Will they be able to shut it off?  Do they even know when they’re supposed to use a semi-colon?

As more companies embrace different forms of emerging media – whether it is social media, integrated advertising methodologies and even text message advertising, it does make me wonder – will the employees be able to know when to turn it on and turn it off?

As mobile marketing continues to grow and become a vital component in the marketing world, companies are realizing that advertising cannot happen simply on the radio and television alone and that reaching out to consumers on their mobile devices is an integral part of a successful marketing plan.  However, as we continue to take the human out of human contact, we have to wonder, what communication skills will this next generation have?

To solve this mystery, I reached out to marketing and employee onboarding expert, Emily Bennington, who co-authored the book “Effective Immediately: How to Fit In, Stand Out and Move Up at Your First Real Job.”  According to Ms. Bennington, she does not see the texting language as the real issue in the communication skills of the upcoming generation of workers,

“From an employer perspective, the notion of texting is huge. Traditionally, the criticism has been that it’s an inappropriate medium for business communication, but I disagree and think that perception will change over time. There is also criticism that students will begin to incorporate ‘texting’ language into emails, etc. and – while this does happen – it’s something most students are very capable of turning on and off at appropriate times.  For me, the biggest problem with the ‘constant shorthand’ world we live in is that students are losing the critical thinking skills required to succeed in the workplace. (See: this article published by the Wall Street Journal) To win in business, you need to be able to analyze a situation at its deepest levels. And if we’re subconsciously conditioning students to look for the answer in 140 characters or less, the long-term ramifications of that will be unfortunate for all of us.”

Bennington taps into what I have missed as the real issue – it isn’t the letters and punctuation they use in their communications, but the analysis that goes into the thought that’s the concern.

From a media standpoint, as companies yearn for young employees that are well versed in emerging media trends, they will need to keep an eye on ensuring that the employees they put into place to execute their strategies are equally as adept at the development and analysis of which strategy to use.

Babies are busting out into the world at a shocking pace all around me as of late. My good friend Valerie had a baby in December, my old study friend that survived a degree in Finance with me had a baby 2 weeks ago, my BFF and college roommate, Michele, is in labor as I write this and my sister is due in exactly 60 days.  I’ve had a few close friends that have had babies in recent years so I’ve gotten fairly well versed in all things ‘baby’ but what I desperately need to know how to do is… how to be an Aunt.

See, I’ve been blessed in my life with 3 amazing Aunts, so the bar is SUPER high for a stellar performance by none other than yours truly.  I mean seriously, they have come through at every turn in my life – its like they have some sort of pychic power that delivered a check to my dorm room mailbox just after I ate my last box of Ramen noodles, a care package with just the right brand of tissues when things didn’t go my way and lots of Congratulations cards along my path through life.

So as I anxiously prepare and make to-do lists of things that good aunts should do what I am currently completely perplexed by is: what gift to give this baby when it makes it debute into the world? It has to be special. What it cannot be is a package of onesies and a Babies R Us gift card (even though that’s frankly what my sis and brother in law would probably like!).  What’s a confused Aunt-to-Be such as myself to do?

Scour the internet that’s what.  So I google none other than… “How to be a good aunt”. 

I got  a return for a company called “Savvy Auntie” – perfect, I thought.  Until… I couldn’t find one nugget of information on how to be an aunt.  I looked at her website for what seemed like forever and I will attest that under normal circumstances I would have never spent that much time looking at a website for information – the exceptions being: (1) the importance of my question (2) procrastinating writing this very blog post.

 That being said, this Savvy Auntie entreprenuer or “Auntreprenuer” as she likes to call herself, has somehow formed a rather impressive company and a book deal no less.  Huh.  At this point my googling progressed from how to be an aunt to how to be a millionaire without working.

Now, fair is fair.  I think the girl has some good stuff, the problem is – I can’t find it! After I completed the registration on her website which you had to do in order to enter the site (see, she’s a smart AND Savvy Auntie) I then browsed and browsed to no avail.  There was content there, but nothing that came close to what I was looking for.  Then I found her blog and I thought, well this will be it!   Surely there will be a post in here about gift giving to a newborn niece/newphew.  Much to my dismay the blog was entirely about how she started her company – the company that is about how to be a Savvy Aunt, only I haven’t found the part about how to be a Savvy Aunt.  Good news though – in her blog she talks at length about how she got her book deal – so, I bet that’s where she’s hiding the content! Mystery Solved!  Ok, so now I’m just being crass.  And I’ll bet that if she has a decent web presence tracking system that in rather short order I’ll be receiving a comment directing me in no uncertain terms to all of the ‘content’ that I somehow overlooked in my 30 minutes of browsing. 

The point isn’t to bash her site – her company is a great idea in concept, the point is to analyze how someone took a concept for a company, created a website that in my opinion doesn’t actually do anything, created enough of a niche that people are willing to fork over their personal information in order to register for the site AND land a book deal.  More than that, it is to look at the overall portfolio of her choices of media: website, Facebook, Twitter and she clearly has some good PR skills up her sleeve because judging from the media coverage I see that she’s gotten she’s no stranger to a microphone.  Impressive.  I still don’t know how to be an Aunt, but I’m impressed by her business skills nonetheless.

Now, while the website, in my opinion, leaves a lot to be desired, her  Facebook page is extremely well executed.  Since I work with clients day in and day out with great websites and crappy if not non-existent social media presence, to find the opposite was intriguing to me. Her page has 37,425 ‘Likes’ and she updates her content regularly with conversation starters that she frequently starts with “Auntie Up!” and then asks a question to her followers such as today’s post where she asked what special things her following Aunts were planning to do with their nieces and nephews this week.

This begs the question – can social media be more powerful than traditional media? Is a website even considered traditional media? I’m not sure, but I would argue that the answer to that question is more a matter of opinion than fact.  As you ponder this (and hopefully comment!) please also consider what lifetime, heartfelt gift I could give that could possible convey the love I feel for a child that hasn’t even been born. 

After scouring the internet for an answer, reading a blog about a book deal, reviewing a Facebook page and writing this post, I think I have figured out where I will find the answer to my question and it will not be found in a website, social media, traditional media or any other form of emerging media – it will be found in 3 phone calls, to 3 aunts, who each, in their own way helped shape who I am.

In two months, I will be departing on my first major international adventure (the Caribbean just doesn’t really count).  I have paid for my trip, triple checked my passport, submitted my Visa application, ordered a video camera, you know, all the typical things one does for a trip that you know you will never repeat ever again in your lifetime. 

A 7 day trip to China. 

People keep asking me why I’m going and I have really no good answer other than, an organization that I work for planned a trip, it was reasonably priced and one of the things on my bucket list is to get a major international stamp on my passport before I turn 30.  Since the trip is scheduled 4 months in advance of my 30th birthday, it seemed well timed.  I like Chinese food and the Great Wall seems like it would make for good Christmas Card pics, so why the heck not.

Today, I dropped off some of my final documents for my Visa application.  While at the office, I talked with some folks that went on the trip last year.  Initially we were talking about laptops – apparently, most people on the trip last year didn’t take them.  For me, someone who has a ‘desk’ laptop and a ‘handbag’ sized laptop and my Blackberry (just to get me through in a pinch) had trouble conceptualizing 7 entire days without one.  It was as if you had told me “yeah, most people went without water for 7 days.”  Just as I was trying to process what 7 days of my life would be like without a keyboard and the internet, they hit me with the BIG ONE….

“Even if you have a laptop and get internet, you might not be able to login to Facebook”

Excuse me while I sit down to collect myself. 

I’m not what one would call a Facebook addict.  I couldn’t be if I wanted to – I spend at least 700 miles a week in my car, which doesn’t leave a lot of time for “Facebooking”.  

But still, I like to have the option and no one has ever told me NO in respect to anything like this before. I knew China limited Driver’s Licenses, I knew they limited you to only one child – but since I wasn’t planning on driving or giving birth while I’m there it hadn’t occurred to me the other ‘fundamentals’ of life that I may not be afforded. 

It should have though. 

When I decided to go, one of my friends said “well don’t call me when you get thrown in jail for spitting your gum on the street” – my response was “why would I spit my gum on the street, that’s gross” – I missed her point… completely.

Even though the guy who told me this revelation about Facebook had been to China, I still had to check his facts – turns out, he’s totally right.  I did a little research when I got home  – here’s an article about how they restricted Facebook in the light of the 2009 riots.

As we spend endless hours debating the how-tos and the proper strategies of utilizing social media in order to continue to reap the American dream (which is, in case you’re not sure – is to obtain complete and total economic excess) – let’s take a minute to think about how much better we have it that our worst problem is figuring out the right Tweet, the best status update and the most mobile enabled website, rather than what technology will or won’t be available to my company tomorrow.

And let me leave you with this spine chilling thought – as much as American’s protect their Constitutional right to Bear Arms – imagine if the US Government were to restrict Facebook….

What would happen? What sort of reaction would we see from the American people?

My guess… it would be so severe that the NRA would seem like the AARP in comparison.

What percentage of people in the United States do you think have a Smartphone?

I’ll give you a second to guess….

60%

I don’t know if I’m more astonished that we have so quickly advanced past the days of flip phones (I mean, it seriously doesn’t seem like it was THAT long ago) or if I’m more astonished by the fact that a staggering 40% of people do not have 24/7 access to the internet.

In case you’re wondering what 60% means in terms of numbers that’s 63.2 Million people. If you ever wanted to be Steve Jobs, it would be after you multiply the price of an iPhone by 63.2 Million.

Now, that’s not totally fair, iPhone doesn’t have 100% market share it only has 25% market share (which, in corporate market share ‘speak’ is pretty much, well, everyone…), followed by its closest competitor – Microsoft, who’s really closing in on them at a whopping 8.4% (note the sarcasm).

What does that mean for media? What does it mean for companies? It means that if you don’t have a mobile enabled website you are SO very flip phone era. It means that if you aren’t dabbling in the waters of mobile marketing via text messaging, backgrounds, and apps then you are SO very big, bulky, only really meant for e-mail original Blackberry era.

Remember this guy? Yeah, he didn't really do anything except take up a lot of space...

Now, in keeping with my other posts, all media platforms are not for every company.  However, whatever media channel you pursue, it is critical to remember that tracking and ROI will never be forgotten at any board meeting.  Here’s a great article on ways to track revenue generation and how NOT to lose all of that valuable information the customer just left on your digital doorstep.

In the meantime, for goodness sakes, please click here and learn how to make your website mobile ready – 63.2 Million people are waiting.

As mentioned in the previous post, this week’s assignment was to choose a Fortune 100 Company and analyze it’s Twitter account.

 I reviewed the account of General Motors and in my research stumbled upon some interesting reading and learned a lot about their Director of Social Media, Chris Barger and the strategy he used surrounding Twitter during the wake of their June 2009 bankruptcy filing.

 

This is my analysis – take a look… how does this affect the way you view Twitter and how it can be used for business?

GM’s approach is ‘its 20% about the company and 80% about the conversation with the customer’.  I am impressed by this strategy and am curious to find other companies utilizing this tool in the same way.

This week’s writing assignment for class is about Twitter.  We have to analyze the Twitter account of a Fortune 100 Company – determine the benefits the company likely sees from properly utilizing their Twitter account, how they could better utilize it and any potential negatives that could come from having such an account.

While I understand Twitter and its purpose in business, what I don’t understand is Social Media Guru’s assertion that every business in the world needs to have a Twitter account.  Social Media Today cites 7 Reasons:

Interact with Customers

Interact with Prospects

To Influence the Influencers

To Gain Market Intelligence

To Become a Resource

To be a Part of the Conversation

Content Marketing Today put together a great image map of how businesses can benefit from Twitter.  Ironically, I don’t think it has any real content:

Which is precisely my point – Twitter seems like a great idea (just like that map, which looks snazzy and cool until you realize it doesn’t actually say anything worthwhile) and certainly all the ‘cool kids’ are Tweeting (‘cool kids’ defined as big business/Fortune 500 sort of folk), so if you’re the ‘real deal’ then you’ll have a Twitter account for sure, but does anyone ever pay any attention to their content? Or are companies simply ‘checking the box’ that now at the bottom of their website they say “Follow us on Twitter!” and assume they’ve arrived at the Social Media graduation ceremony?

What do you think? Do you think companies truly take the time necessary to construct quality content and more importantly analyze whether their business model supports having a Twitter account at all? I know, perish the thought, right?  My opinion – eventually the fad will fade and unless you’re posting truly quality content, you’ll find the only people following you are sellers – not buyers.