Creatives of the week – You, you and you there too

This week we start with the creative of the week because that's what we'd like YOU to be: creative.

In a time where brands get slaughtered by the public for a branding decision (hi there, GAP), we thought we'd go a step further and make co-creation the heart and soul of our new brand identity. Cue the perpetually changing crowdsourced RAAK logo.

How does it work? You design an R, an A or a K, in your own gorgeous, beautiful way. And when you upload it, it becomes part of the RAAK logo. 

We call it PDLB: Process-Driven Liquid Branding.
Or JPF: Just Plain Fun.

Read more about the why and what. And then go and upload your beauty of a letter.
And spread that word.


The media revolution

Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian delivered a clarion call to journalists on the changes sweeping media today, in a long piece called The Splintering of the Fourth Estate. The article veers from the big picture to the detailed insight.

In one big picture moment he discusses the possibility…

that we are living at the end of a great arc of history, which began with the invention of moveable type. There have, of course, been other transformative steps in communication during that half millennium – the invention of the telegraph, or radio and television, for instance – but essentially they were continuations of an idea of communication that involved one person speaking to many.

That's not dead as an idea. But what's happening today – the mass ability to communicate with each other, without having to go through a traditional intermediary – is truly transformative.

Twitter is the king on news

He also reserves many detailed insights for Twitter and admits to being perplexed about why many a journalist are not embracing it. He proceeds to name 15 things that Twitter "does rather effectively and which should be of the deepest interest to anyone involved in the media at any level."

Here is one choice bit:

You can sit back and let other people you admire or respect go out searching and gathering for you. Again, no news organisation could possibly aim to match, or beat, the combined power of all those worker bees collecting information and disseminating it.

The Empire strikes back?

Is that so, Mr Rusbridger? Not even the might of news tycoon Rupert Murdoch? Much has been made this week of the fact that Murdoch is launching an iPad-only newspaper.

Our opinion? It might be a profitable operation but not much. And it certainly won't match the popularity of an app that aggregates your news from Twitter and Facebook, like Flipbook does.


What can Social Media do for Fast Moving Consumer Goods?

Nothing, right? Social Media is all about earned media, right?

So are those marketeers seeking to pimp soap, crisps and shampoos wasting their time? We explore the options.

It's Social Media in an advertising kinda way

Have you also noticed the increase of 'Promoted Tweets' in your feed? That's because Twitter are really developing that part of their business. Even though a campaign is rumoured to be costing a minimum of $80,000, Evan Williams has said that demand outstrips supply and that advertisers who have tried Promoted Tweets are coming back.

Rumour has it that Twitter has recently turned down a few multi-billion dollar acquisition offers (from Google), so they must be getting confident about monetising their service. 

I'm a brand ambassador – make me feel good

Embracing your crowd is an art. But this excellent BBH Labs post talks about the value of the 'creative contributor', the few people who stimulate communities.

A good example of that comes from Yelp, a location service that lets people review restaurants,… and their Yelp Elite Squad. The service awards the passionate Yelpers by giving them access to special events, giving them badges,… Not automatically; they take the effort to handpick them, because they know these people are what keeps their service relevant.

Ushahidi moves to become a platform

You might remember we have talked about Ushahidi before. It's the open source tool that allows you to crowdsource events to a map. It was developed off the back of the ethnic violence that engulfed Kenya in 2008.

Well Ushahidi 2.0 has just been released and along with many other improvements it now allows the ability to extend its capabilities via plugins: pieces of code that extend its usefulness. Our bet is one of the first plugins will be a WordPress integration.


On the right Path

There's been lots of talk about Path this week, a new social network that limits you to selecting just 50 friends. Yes, it might get some traction. But we're not wildly excited by it. What about friend 51? Will it become huge? We doubt it.

Tech insight of the week – Twitter Firehose

Social media aggregator Gnip recently announced its plans to resell portions of the Twitter Firehose for $60,000 per year (10% of the firehose) and $360,000 per year (50%). When metioning this to people, I am mostly met with blank stares. Read more >>

Social media aggregator Gnip recently announced its plans to resell portions of its access to the Twitter timeline of public Tweets (better known as the Twitter Firehose). It asks $60,000 per year for 10% of the firehose and $360,000 for half of it.

When mentioning this to people, I am mostly met with blank stares. Even by people who are extremely Twitter-savvy. In fact, it seems the more you know about Twitter, the less this makes any sense. How can you resell something that Twitter is giving away for free, at THAT price? All of Twitter’s data is publicly accessible through their API, right?

Right, and wrong.

Twitter Firehose

The Twitter API is consumed in many ways. Most applications, user applications like Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, etc, only need to deal with one user or a few users’ data at a time, and they have specific parts of the API dedicated to their needs.

Some applications need everything though – all of Twitter’s data. The Firehose. These applications include Google, which includes Tweets in search results, Datasift, which gives you the ability to search Tweets in advanced ways, and the above mentioned Gnip.

Rate limiting

Let’s consider using the statuses/public_timeline function of the Twitter API. Makes sense, right?

Consider the following piece of documentation, on top of the same page:

[This function] Returns the 20 most recent statuses, including retweets if they exist, from non-protected users.
The public timeline is cached for 60 seconds. Requesting more frequently than that will not return any more data, and will count against your rate limit usage.

Now, it’s hard to keep track of an unpublished number that grows exponentially, but last I heard, the data rate on the Twitter Firehose was approaching 1000 tweets per second. Let’s have a look at the Twitter API rate limits:

The current technical limits for accounts are:

  • Direct Messages: 250 per day.
  • API Requests: 150 per hour.

It is quite clear from this that we’re not going to get the full public timeline, 20 tweets at a time, 150 calls per hour. This gives us a possible tweet retrieval rate of 3000 tweets per hour, vs the required 1000 tweets per second! That is roughly 0.08%. A bit off the mark, then.

Let’s consider using the search API. After all, the search API is made to do searches on the public timeline, right?

On the rate limiting documentation page, we see the following piece of information (under the heading Search API Rate Limiting):

Requests to the Search API, hosted on, do not count towards the REST API limit. However, all requests coming from an IP address are applied to a Search Rate Limit. The Search Rate Limit isn’t made public to discourage unnecessary search usage and abuse, but it is higher than the REST Rate Limit. We feel the Search Rate Limit is both liberal and sufficient for most applications and know that many application vendors have found it suitable for their needs.

This means the search API is also rate limited and the rate limit is unknown. My guess is, while this will yield a slightly higher return than using the statuses/public_timeline method, it will still be way below 1%. This, together with Promoted Tweets, is the sum total of Twitter’s revenue after all.

This also explains why, as Twitter grows, the time a Tweet is searchable for is getting progressively shorter. It used to be longer than a month, but now a tweet decomposes in a matter of days.

Streaming API

Let’s consider using one of the streaming APIs. With them, instead of making successive calls, one call is made and the connection stays open, delivering Tweets as they arrive. Sounds good, right?

Uh oh! – on the Streaming API Concepts page, we read the following:

The current sampling rate is ~1% of public statuses by default (aka Spritzer), and ~5% of public statuses for the Gardenhose role. The algorithm is exactly as follows:
The status id modulo 100 is taken on each public status, that is, from the Firehose. Modulus values from 0-4 are delivered to Spritzer, and values 0-14 are delivered to Gardenhose. Over a significant period, a 1% and a 5% sample of public statuses is approached. This algorithm, in conjunction with the status id assignment algorithm, will tend to produce a random selection.

This is the answer to all of our searching and deliberating. A maximum of 5% of the firehose can be consumed without paying. Furthermore, the algorithm is consistent. Combining more than one such a stream will yield the same 5% of the Firehose.

Now you might be thinking: how is this possible? Aren’t thousands of people using clients like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck to access their own and their friends’ Tweets all the time? How do they manage that?


An application like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck is not using the Firehose. It displays a single user’s account activity at a time, using the REST API (the common API), or a User Stream.

Thus, while at face value the Twitter Firehose seems to be free and open, it is, on the contrary, a very expensive luxury, even if it is difficult for most people to understand that it costs anything at all.

This is how Twitter makes money.

Social Media has undermined the idea that businesses are always in control of their branding. Crowdsourcing has altered the idea of what creativity is. So as a company that operates in and explores those spaces, we wanted to – actually, need to – practice what we preach.

It was BBH Labs’ logo project back in April 2009, where they got 1,700 logo submissions and chose one, that got us fired up about including the public in the creative process. Since then we’ve learnt a thing or two from using the crowdSpring platform and did our very own logo experiment, where we got ordinary people to design us an R, an A or a K without them knowing what it was for  (using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk platform).

Now we’re taking it a step further: a never-ending RAAK logo project that integrates individual letter submissions into a perpetually changing logo made by (hopefully)  hundreds of people.

A company for everybody – A funny take on corporate logo design

We were inspired by designer Phil Seddon’s enthusiastic feedback on our initial branding experiment. So this time, we are setting restrictions as to what people can do. After many discussions about grid patterns and freestyle, Phil has created a framework for design that we think will integrate submissions in our new website look and feel.

Still, if an identity is about making a fancy logo, then we’ll probably fail. But if branding is about

  • 1. making you stand out
  • 2. making people remember you
  • 3. communicating the core values of the business

then we’re doing quite ok.

We want our brand to reflect what we’re about:

open, social, digital, participatory, creative and constantly changing.

So this branding exercise is as much about the process of open collaboration as about the result.

And all the designs will sit in our Logo Archive, with links to the URL of choice of their creators.

You can find more practical info about how it all works and submit your design on the Logo Project page.

PS: We reserve the right to delete really egregious designs. ;)


Social media is earned media, right? How do you get people to spread the word about a new soap, a typical fast moving consumer good (FMCG)?

In a recent report by Randall Helms – Suitably Social (PDF) – he provides some reasons why FMCG brands have an issue with social media:

“(FMCG’s have) relatively low brand resonance compared to some other types of branded products and services. This is partially a function of price (since low price generally equals low involvement), as well as ubiquity breeding apathy.”

I’m not convinced by those arguments. Google and Twitter are both free, available everywhere and great brands. But they are remarkable: they provide a fantastic product that is hard for others to replicate.

As we know, advertising is for those that don’t have a remarkable product. Does this mean FMCG brands should stick to advertising and forgo social?

Hell No.

The gold standard of awareness creation via social media was for an FMCG brand – the Old Spice Guy campaign. And it beats many standard advertising campaigns hands down for results.

I mean, it almost immediately lifted sales!

Here is a good summary of the campaign and its results, but to sum it up – Old Spice marketed to an audience with an audience creatively on a grand scale.

Ah, but I hear you say: the Old Spice Guy never spoke about Old Spice. The link with the brand was ‘merely’ an emotional connection.

True. But if you are going to play to the product’s strengths of an FMCG brand, you better be sure that they really are remarkable. Else you need to go the creative, emotional and less product-y way.

One avenue is to engage key influencers in a remarkable way like Old Spice did.

But hang on a minute. What about this sharing fad? Sharing is so now! ;) Ergo.. Can’t I make people share stuff under the banner of my brand?

We’ll deal with the sharing ‘fad’ and whether your brand can get people to share stuff in a next post.

RAAK’s top list of FMCG brand’s campaigns on social media:

1. Old Spice – by a country mile.
2. Whopper friend sacrifice – very creative use of social media AND directly related to the brand!
3. Skittles – much maligned in the marketing community but very good value for money awareness creation none the less.

Hello *|FNAME|*,

Did you know…

That Brazil has 10 million more internet users than India? But that it still has less than a 5th of the internet users of China?

Or that the US has 136 million 3G users at a penetration of 48%, the UK has 29 million 3G users and a 38% penetration rate, while China has 14 million at 2%?

Or how about the fact that the iPhone, iTouch and iPad platform has sold 120 million units world-wide in its first 12 quarters. For comparison: Netscape Navigator, the web's first mainstream browser achieved 32 million downloads in the same period during the first years of the web.

Or that by 2012, smart phones will outsell desktops and laptops together. Laptops will sell almost double the amount of desktops.

Or that in the US time spent on print is a mere 12% of time spent on all media, yet it still gets 26% of all advertising. Time spent on the internet stands at 28%, while ad revenue spent on the net is only 13%.

All this and much more come from an informative report by Morgan Stanley.


Social browsing

For some young demographics social browsing has completely over taken other forms of casual browsing. In other words users sit for hours imbibing the status updates of Friends in the News Feed.

Will this bother Google? Probably not, because people normally use their site with the intent to search. Or will it?

PageRank and EdgeRank

Most marketeers have familarised themselves by now with how Google ranks pages (PageRank). But very few have an understanding of how Facebook Ranks content in the News Feed. Behind that link is a primer .

Digital publishing pays better for authors

By 2015 eBook sales will top $3 billion according to PaidContent.Org. And says the Indie, the margins publishers will get for these sales will be lower, while authors will get more.

The real barriers for marketers in the UK in terms of investment in social media

The Internet Advertising bereau (IAB) has conducted an open-ended, anonymous survey with around 50 ISBA members. And the results make for an interesting read.

In terms of general usage, the most popular use of social media amongst ISBA members was found to be:

- As a PR tool to reach bloggers and online influencers (69%);
- To extend brand websites via social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter (63%);
- Over half (52%) were using social media as a research tool to find out what people are saying about their product or service;

This would suggest that few brands are ready to follow the Old Spice route to social media glory.

The main challenges for using socia media were:
1. Monitoring and control
2. Measurement and ROI
3. Policy and regulation
4. Social media strategy
5. Where social media sits within organisations

Getting sentimental

Sentiment analysis is a holy grail for marketing folk. The idea? Monitor a brand and see how positive and negative sentiments fluctuate depending on events. But this well-argued and considered post by Tim Whitlock points out that the technology is still not up to the task.

Creative of the week – Han Hoogerbrugge

Sure. We're biased because we've worked with him before. But Dutch animator-slash-webartist Han Hoogerbrugge makes us laugh every time we see one of his creations. Read more >>

We’re big massive of Dutch animator / artist Han Hoogerbrugge. We love his sense of humour, we love the simplicity of his style. And we love how he’s embraced the Internet to turn it into his very own playground.

Hoogerbrugge is no stranger to the self-publishing powers of the web. Already back in the late 90s, he applied his interactive minimalism to Gif-animations and made a series of  weird and wonderful self-portraits called Modern Living / Neurotica. It garnered him a cult following and a spot in the London Design Museum.

These days he splits his time between ‘real’ exhibitions (you know, the ones in galleries), commercial illustrations and animations (yep, the Pet Shop Boys are fans) and his online cartoon diary called ProStress.

ProStress has now been turned into a book, but if you want to get your daily dose of Hoogerbrugge’s surreal look at the world, just follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

Media invaders - EdgeRank vs PageRank

Media invaders - EdgeRank vs PageRank

Until recently Google was the lone collosus bestriding the web world. Knowlege of how its system of ranking web pages in search results works (called PageRank) was a key bit of knowledge webmasters, SEO experts, marketing professionals needed.

But there’s a new upstart in town. With time spent on Facebook far exceeding that spent on Google, with traffic driven by Facebook matching and in some cases outstripping Google, the spotlight has turned onto Facebook and in particular it’s News Feed.

Jeff Jarvis calls the Newsfeed Facebook’s secret sauce. It’s the news according to your crowd. But what he failed to mention is not all members of your crowd’s News feed are treated equally. This blog post elaborates on how the feeds work:

To explain further, every Facebook profile has a live feed and a news feed. The feed is a stream of content and Facebook status updates coming from your friends, groups, causes and the pages you Like (also ads you have Liked – so-called social adds – end up in the feed). For every unique profile (or Facebook account) there is a unique feed. Your feed is different then mine because we each follow and friend different people/organizations. The live feed is a real-time stream of posts that populate as they occur.

The news feed is a little bit more complicated. Facebook determines what should go in your news feed based on your previous behaviors, and not everything makes the cut.

It’s important to understand that there is a view on the News Feed that allows you to see your friends’, Groups’, Likes’ updates – Twitter like – in real-time.

But the vast majority of users view their feed through the Top News feed (that’s the default setting).

Facebook EdgeRank Top News

Facebook EdgeRank Top News

And this is where EdgeRank comes in. EdgeRank is an algorithm like PageRank – it ranks content. You don’t get to see all status updates unless EdgeRank deems it important enough.

Some estimates have it that only 0.5% of status updates make it to Top News. In other words – if you have 200 Facebook fans or friends, and you publish a status update, on average only 1 of those 200 will see it!

Specialer than you

That is if EdgeRank does not deem you special.

You will notice that there are some persons or brands in your feed that show up regularly. And some people who you never see. Why? How does this work?

Lets have a closer look at EdgeRank – the arbiter of what you get to see.

The Edgerank algorhythm

The Edgerank algorithm

Affinity score
What is the relationship between the Edge Creator (The content creator) and the viewing user. Yeah, if you have not friended each other, or Liked you won’t even figure in feeds. But the more Friends or Followers have liked posts, commented on them, the more likely your Affinity Score will go up. What is not clear is if the number of mutual relationships play into these scores at all. At this stage it seems it does not.

Weight score
This is attached to the particular content you shared. The more Likes, the more Comments, the higher the weight of that content. It would seem – anecdotally that mutual relationships do play a role in pushing this score higher.

Time or Recency score
Content looses its mojo quickly. It’s seldom that you will see content in a Newsfeed that’s over 48 hours old. It’s very different from Google’s PageRank if you think about it. With PageRank content can accrue value over time.

Now this has a number of implications.

Things for you to consider:

  • Affinity scores are the scores that really matter;
  • New Facebook accounts will have a much harder time to get noticed since they have low Affinity scores;
  • Google’s PageRank has an inherit bias towards good content, and to an extent this is true for EdgeRank. Although celebrity and relationships do muddy the waters, making it possible for inane content to figure more prominently if the affinity score is high enough.
  • The so-called long tail does not apply in Facebook land in the same as it applies to search. Content falls from grace and out of mind quickly.
  • Google’s PageRank encourages the creation of good content. The user behaviour of promiscuous people flitting between websites that have the best stuff, ignoring the brand of sites has become common. Facebook’s affinity score however encourages a return brand building.

Strategies for getting seen:

  • Write compelling status updates – yes content is King;
  • Diversify the types of content you share – Some of your followers of Friends might not be interested in what you have to say. You can get around that by posting content on divergent topics. If they interact with this, your overall score will go up, and all your content will be visible more prominently to them.
  • Now and again, ask friends to Like or Comment on a particular bit of content;
  • Use video as often as possible – Video is easy to dip into and engaging, and video makes great little thumbnails in the news feed – making your stuff stand out;
  • Bear in mind when most people access Facebook and when most people are likely to see your content. It might be that posting late at night might be better as there are few bits of competing content, although you might have a

Focus on the news feed

A study mining Facebook API data found that 99.5% of all comments on status updates come from within the News Feed, rather than the Wall of their Facebook page. But at the same time, less than 0.5% of Facebook Status updates show up in user's news feeds. In other words if you have 200 Followers only one of them on average will see your updates.

In an excellent post Jae Baer explains why businesses should not focus too much on building their Facebook pages, but rather put their energy into getting seen in the Facebook News stream.

How your fans interact with your status updates, and their historical propensity to do so, is what determines whether your missives are seen in “Top News,” or relegated to the scrap heap of “Most Recent,” left to fight it out with inane and dubious Farmville and Mafia Wars updates for scraps of attention.

The commodification of news and citizen involvement

Clay Shirky once again trained his brilliant analysis on the newspaper industry this week. On the Times paywall and newsletter economics he states:

The “paywall problem” isn’t particularly complex, either in economic or technological terms. General-interest papers struggle to make paywalls work because it’s hard to raise prices in a commodity market. That’s the problem. Everything else is a detail.

Even if The Times manages to make the paywall work, it will utterly change the paper into a newsletter. In another piece for the PoynterOnline Shirky opinions:

What's going away, …, isn't the importance of news, or the importance of dedicated professionals. What's going away is the linearity of the process, and the passivity of the audience. What's going away is a world where the news was only made by professionals, and consumed by amateurs who couldn't do much to produce news on their own, or to distribute it, or to act on it en masse.

This a change so varied and robust that we need to consider retiring the word "consumer" altogether, and treat consumption as simply one behavior of many that citizens can now engage in. The kinds of changes that are coming will dwarf those we've already seen, as citizen involvement stops being a set of special cases, and becomes a core to our conception of how news can be, and should be, part of the fabric of society.


Silence please!

Here's a nice campaign that shows a good understanding of all kinds of media. To raise awareness and funds for ex-serving troops, the British Legion have released an iTunes single. But not just any tune, no, it's actually 2 minutes of silence, featuring the likes of Thom Yorke and Mark Ronson. And they're trying to get it to number 1 in the charts for this Sunday, which is Remembrance Sunday.

Lovely idea. Even if it is just to annoy Take That.


Getting swamped by social media?

There are now several social media management tools. Jeremiah Owyang, former head analyst at Forrester, has made a great summary of them here. We prefer to use Hootsuite.

Jeremiah adds a caveat, these tools should only be used after you have a social strategy.

Enough said

Impressive number of the week. Facebook now owns a healthy 23.1 per cent share of display ad impressions in the US, up from 17.7 per cent in the last quarter of 2010. Read more.

And don't forget to read our post on how Facebook display ads are different. Hint – it's social.

"McRib is back and it's as bad as you remember"

McDonalds reportedly spent $80,000 to advertise on Twitter in the US. Ignoring the sage advice that if your product is a lemon, the crowd might say it's sour.

"The national Promoted Trend ad points to a Twitter search result page for the phrase "McRib is back," and tweets and re-tweets have poured in today at the rate of about nine per minute.

ClickZ eye-balled tweets appearing on the ad's landing page over the course of five hours and concluded that while there was some positive buzz, a majority of the comments were negative in sentiment."

In praise of WordPress

RAAK is huge fans of WordPress, in fact our site runs on it. This eulogy to WordPress is a good read.

…much like the printing press transformed publishing, the true cultural significance of blogging — which is only incipient at present — will be a consequence of its production process. … Similarly, it's likely that the future of blogging — and the future spread of knowledge — will reflect the characteristics of whatever blog platform achieves dominance. Increasingly it appears that the winner will be WordPress. It first appeared seven years ago as a successor to software typically used for online diaries. Thus, it was originally text-based, but has since evolved to also encompass audio, video, and animation. It has even become a popular platform for entire websites as well as important components of prominent sites such as The New York Times.

Creatives of the week – OK Go

A new video from OK Go is always something to look forward to. But since they've left their record company, they're also finding new ways to get their art out there. Cue Samsung. Read more >>


Tech insight of the week – Facebook Integration: User Experience considerations

Facebook is permanently in the hot seat about either usability or security. It's not that they're doing it blatantly wrong, it's just that they've set up an extremely complex playing field for themselves. Read more >>

A new music video from American indie band OK Go is always something to look forward to. After all, they’re the ones who made dancing on treadmills look easy (53m YouTube views and counting!).

And this week they released the video for ‘Last Leaf’, a stop-motion bonanza, featuring lots of toast.

Now, they didn’t get our Creative of the Week accolade just for making a nice pop video. We also commend them for thinking creatively about distributing their art and where they fit into the music industry.

Earlier this year, the band left their record company EMI over a dispute about allowing people to embed their videos on their own sites. The record company had done a deal with YouTube to block embed codes (because they don’t make money from them). Which seems surreal, given that the band had become such a hit because of the viral aspect of their videos.

They wrote a very balanced open letter about it all and decided to set up on their own.

Now, that’s easier said than done: there are financial reasons to sign up to a record company. So we were pleasantly surprised to find out that the ‘Last Leaf’ video is a collaboration between the band and Samsung, who are using the opportunity to promote their NX100 phone (the stills are shot on their phone).

We’re not sure whether the video concept was there first or whether Samsung said “if you shoot something with our phone, we’ll give you x y z”, but either way, it’s an opportunity for OK Go to keep doing what they’re doing.

And credit to Samsung for realising the band’s potential and connecting with them for what they are: creative. Positioning yourself as a patron of ‘good people’ is more and more becoming an efficient way for brands to raise product awareness and increase brand values. ‘Sponsoring’ it was called, I believe, back in the old days.