Monday, January 23, 2012

Pinterest: The Visual Phenomenon Of The Internet

Posted by Amanda Walsh

Pinterest is an online visual bulletin or pin board that allows users to gather or "pin" images on the Internet to categorized boards thus organizing them together on a themed page. The images retain the original URL of the web page from which the user pulled the “pin” creating a visual bookmark for future reference. Other users can “repin” or "like" your images to their boards then share them to Twitter or Facebook, which creates a viral link-sharing environment.

The invite-only website began in March 2010, as a way to manage or curate an inventory of images on the Internet. First growing popular with Etsy crafters, mom bloggers and designers, the website’s popularity has grown to 421 million page views according to Mashable.

Some popular pin board categories include wedding ideas, home decoration, crafts, recipes and fitness tips. I started using Pinterest a few months ago and quickly became addicted to the visual sharing aspect of it, as well as the bookmarking capability. It can be a great go-to when in need of ideas or creative ways to do just about anything.

Brands have begun to jump on board for the SEO and viral link-sharing advantages as well. Three examples of brands using Pinterest include:

- Zales: The jewelry store has some interesting boards of what else? Jewelry! The company also switches it up a bit with a board for “Favorite Quotes” and another of love songs called “Sounds like Love." Not only is the company advertising their own products, but they are adding value by sharing romantic visuals that could be associated with jewelry.

- Whole Foods Market: The grocery store known for organic and natural food products, has 493 pins of seasonal recipes for different times of the year, along with dinner or dessert ideas. Additionally, the company’s boards reflect edible art displays from around the world, recycling ideas and pins of Whole Planet Foundation. According to Whole Foods’ website, Whole Planet Foundation “is a private, nonprofit organization established by Whole Foods Market.” The Foundation funds “grants to microfinance institutions in Latin America, Africa and Asia who in turn develop and offer microenterprise loan programs, training and other financial services to the self-employed poor.” This is an example of how Whole Foods uses Pinterest to not only share recipes using products from their stores, but also to spread the mission of their nonprofit foundation.

- Cabot Cheese: Run by Cabot Creamery, a family-owned farm cooperative located in the hills of Vermont produces all-natural cheeses. On their Pinterest boards, the company pays homage to farmers and farms, their state of Vermont and the cows that produce the milk to make their cheese. To me, this helps to tell a brand’s story and humanize the everyday production for consumers.

Other ways businesses can utilize Pinterest include, adding the “Pin It” widget to their website so users can easily pin website images and/or follow a company-branded board.

Gina Rubel has done an excellent job of adding value by pinning relevant infographics for PR and communications professionals, as well as link sharing of events that she supports. Check out her boards here:

Resources to learn more include:
Photo courtesy of

Optimizing Company Websites For Mobile Screens And Tablets - The Time Is Now

Businesses need to prepare now for the next major trend in web design and development which will be the majority of internet users browsing a company's website on small-screen cell phones and tablets.

According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, more American adults own cell phones than own desktops or laptops. It has been predicted (and is entirely expected) that by 2014, browsing the Internet on mobile devices will become more frequent than browsing the internet on a desktop computer or laptop.

Well-developed professional service company websites are traditionally designed and programmed to reach the company's target audience. That audience is typically thought of as sitting at work or at home using a conventional computer with one of the popular browsers - Internet Explorer, Firefox or Chrome. Over the next 24 months, the audiences that businesses need to reach most (clients, new business leads, referral sources, job candidates, etc.) will continue to move away from their desktop and laptop browsers to more convenient devices - mobile and tablet. The browsers they will be using are Opera, Andriod browser, Safari, BlackBerry browser, Internet Explorer Mobile and more.

If your website is using Google Analytics to monitor and measure site traffic, take a look at the "Devices" report under Audience > Mobile. The report provides a list of the various devices that visitors are using to view your site. This should be used as a starting point for prioritizing your next steps for website mobile / tablet optimization. You can also use today's data from the device report as a benchmark as you watch the predictions come true about the incredible growth of mobile and tablet usage through 2014.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Google Search Coming To Your World

Posted by Amanda Walsh

Today, Google announced that its search results has a new feature “Search plus Your World” which lets users find Google+ posts and Picasa photos through the main search site. Now, you can gather information from people that you are actually connected to through the posts that they have shared publicly or with you in a limited group. This new feature will be rolled out to those users searching the Google site in English and signed into a Google account.

Google Fellow, Amit Singhal provides some practical examples of how the new feature works on the Google Blog. For example, his childhood dog was called Chikoo, named after a sweet fruit found in parts of Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. When Amit was signed into his Google account and plugged in a search query for Chikoo, his results were a blend of Picasa photos and Google+ posts (even those he shared with a limited circle) about his dog, as well as his favorite fruit.

This screen capture below (courtesy of Google) shows the Chikoo results and shows the other features of “Search plus Your World.” Google provides a handy toggle bar (indicated by the green arrow) for those people who don’t want a blend of personal and public results with the “Search Plus Your World” feature. The red arrow indicates how to search only within your personal Google+ and Picasa results.

Through the “Search plus Your World” feature, Google profiles and contacts will now be easily searchable and will populate the search box automatically through autocomplete. This new feature makes looking for a specific person easier. Additionally, if you are logged into Google, you can automatically add that person to a Google+ Circle directly from the search results. Amit gives the example of searching for his friend Ben Smith. Google populates Ben’s name automatically in the search box and directs Amit to his friend Ben’s Google+ profile. Instead of giving Amit all the search results for many Ben Smiths on the Internet, his search is personalized for his network on Google+.

When signed into Google, the blend of search results and private content is protected automatically by SSL (secure sockets layer) for the highest encryption and security. The personal search results, whether they are from you or your connections, are clearly labeled “public,” “limited,” or “only you” depending upon how the content was originally shared via Google+ or Picasa.

What is interesting about the "Search plus Your World" feature is that you don’t need a Google+ profile to see the personal results. This is just the first concerted step towards integrating more Google products into search results and I’m sure it won’t be the last bit of news coming from Google this year. This could be a new strategy for PR people to connect with new media sources and journalists, as well as a way to “crowd source” opinions from your connections. How do you envision this change to Google search affecting your industry?

Some other helpful resources can be found here: Google BlogMashableCnet

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Please Don’t Ask To Pick My Brain

Written by Gina Rubel

Amanda Walsh from our office shared a great article with me from No, You Can’t Pick My Brain. It Costs Too Much by Adrienne Graham hits the nail on the head. (That’s two clichés in one sentence – I’m on a roll.)

My office mates have heard me say time and time again how much I dislike when people ask if they can “pick my brain.” It is by far one of the most unappealing requests one can make. Think about the visuals: a monkey grooming its young, a chicken pecking for grub, or a surgeon performing a cranial exam. The images are endless – none of which are pleasant.

But the truth of the matter is that it does cost money when someone wants to “pick your brain.” Time is money.

Graham provides a few tips for maintaining boundaries so as to not give it all away for free. In a nutshell, she advises:

• Believe that what you know is valuable.
• Create a fee schedule
• Decline lunch/coffee invitations unless they are strictly non-business.
• Keep it light.
• Prominently post that there are no freebies.
• Exchange for equal value.
• Refer them to your “free” resources (referring to blogs, articles, podcasts, etc.).
• Don’t be afraid to send them to Google.
• Ask them for a paying referral.
• Don’t back down.

If you are an expert at what you do: a lawyer, accountant, financial advisor, doctor, marketer, publicist, and the list goes on, remember, your knowledge has value. Be sure to read Graham’s article and remember that people know that they get what they pay for (there’s another cliché) – and will usually ante-up.

Images courtesy of Gina Rubel.