Old Navy Goes Green

I got more than great bargains on my last trip to Old Navy. By the time I’d gotten back to my car, I’d received an email copy of my receipt from the retailer. (Tech.mom.o.gy has a great screenshot of one.) The customer in front of me was asked if they wanted a paper copy or an emailed version, but the cashier handed me a paper copy automatically, perhaps because I was redeeming my Groupon. (BTW, the Old Navy Groupon sold out at 50,322. That’s a lot of flip-flops, y’all.)

This is a win-win for Old Navy, as they’ll conserve paper while building up their roster of email addresses. However, I’m more excited by the fact that I’ll have one less receipt to keep up with!

Stop, Collaborate, & Listen

Collaboration is becoming more and more important as new forms of media take shape and become part of our daily routines. In a post for Fast Company, blogger Shawn Graham asserts that a new, “collaborative class” is emerging where people are connecting and establishing communities to meet their needs. Graham also notes that sites like Brazen Careerist are using these advances to inspire more and more people to go into business for themselves, a trend that could certainly impact the U.S. economy.

I’m not sure how collaborative Vanilla Ice was back in the day, unless you count sampling David Bowie and Queen’s “Under Pressure” without permission. And that brings to mind one of the consequences of a more collaborative online environment–intellectual property rights. With a quick copy-paste, content from one website can be transferred to another; or, cybersquatters claim domain names (or those that are “confusingly similar”) that legitimate companies would like to use themselves. Although IP laws exist, it’s sometimes difficult to enforce them in a wide-open, global forum like the Internet.

On the flip side, there’s free speech. The Internet has developed into an open forum for exchanging ideas, and is a primary means of communication for many people. At what point does expressing an opinion or taking advantage of available technology cross the line and violate a protected, trademarked entity? Groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation work “to preserve balance and ensure that the Internet and digital technologies continue to empower you as a consumer, creator, innovator, scholar, and citizen”.

Regardless of the potential IP pitfalls, collaboration is a valuable way for everyone to network, build relationships, create, and innovate on an exponentially larger scale than just a few years ago. It’s a great byproduct of the advances in new media.

They Get It: Coach Poppy Project

In an earlier post, I talked about all the fun I had watching Livestream’s coverage of Social Media Week. While I learned a lot in all the sessions I “attended”, I must admit my favorites were from Lucky magazine’s first-ever Fashion & Beauty Blogger (FABB) Conference. Speakers included fashion and entertainment royalty (Jenna Lyons AND Joan Rivers? Seriously, best conference lineup EVER.), as well as reps from a number of top fashion and beauty brands.

During a session on how fashion and beauty bloggers can access and develop relationships with larger brands,  David Duplantis, SVP for Global Web and Digital Media at Coach, talked about a very innovative campaign his company launched last year.

The Poppy Project was developed to spread the word about Coach’s Poppy line of affordable luxury items. Here’s how the project worked, according to Creativity Online:

To participate, online fashion bloggers register their sites to the Poppy Project to receive a customized code that will place a colorful Poppy vine on their site. Participants grow their vine by getting others to tweet a chosen personal hashtag. The blogger with the greenest thumb, or, the biggest vine, will then win [a] $2500  Coach shopping spree. Also, hidden in the growing vines will be bags that users can click on for special gifts.

Coach Poppy Project

Coach Poppy Project (via Creativity-Online.com)

Coach’s decision to reach out to bloggers and their followers is brilliant. Many luxury brands, regardless of industry, take a less-interactive approach to marketing, fearing that if any external voices join in the conversation, it will tarnish the brand. Even the simplest move, such as adding a “Like” button for Facebook, can be too much.

But by engaging fashion bloggers (who have the potential to generate lots of word-of-mouth referrals), Coach was able to spread the word about Poppy to a plugged-in, younger audience–which was their target with this fresh, colorful line. Coach gets it because the entire Poppy Project, from the contest concept to the graphics used, reflected the line’s image–an important lesson for any brand that chooses to use new media to build its following.

Fighting for justice, one tweet at a time.

Video by Common Cause.

There’s been much discussion on the role that social media played in January’s Egyptian protests. The people used Twitter and Facebook to get the word out about the events taking place in Cairo, even as “technical difficulties” threatened to shut down the flow of information between Tahrir Square and the rest of the world.

But breeding activism through social media doesn’t just happen in other countries. Organizations in the United States are using online tools to get the word out about rallies taking place here. To find out more, I interviewed Nikki Willoughby, social media outreach manager for Common Cause, about her group’s protest against a billionaires’ retreat in California.

Media Merge: How and why did Common Cause use social media and bloggers to rally the troops, both literally and figuratively?

Nikki Willoughby: Palm Springs is two hours outside Los Angeles, in the desert, surrounded by desert. Not easy to get to. We used social media to attract people who were interested in our cause. We started following well-known bloggers and tweeters in the area who had enough audience capacity to merit engagement. We reached out to them, talked about what we were doing, gave them a featured role at the event, and promised 100% access for blogging/tweeting to anyone there.

MM: In what ways did you use these tools once the rally was underway?

NW: We used social media to help mobilize people to a new location or to get the word out about when specific actions would happen. For example, the police gave us a specific time to take the street, and we couldn’t miss that window. So we instituted hashtags from the beginning. Those are still being used so that people can keep up with the after effects from the rally.

MM: The “Koch Busters Rally” took place around the same time as the uprising in Cairo. Did the events in Egypt have any impact on your event?

NW: A lot of people at the protest said that the situation in Egypt directly influenced their coming to Palm Springs. They just wanted to fight injustice somewhere!

Google’s All-Powerful Algorithm: How it Affects What You Read

Take a look at the primary goals of almost any website and somewhere on the list you’ll find “get on the first page of Google”. Regardless of how well-designed a website is, your customers have to be able to find it–and that’s usually through a search engine.

Google and other search engines use complex algorithms to determine how websites are served up in response to queries. Tweak your content and keywords and get better results–until Google changes the algorithm and the game starts all over again.

The most recent change to Google’s algorithm happened on February 24 and was aimed at content farms, companies that use freelance writers and editors to produce articles, videos, and other information, often for little pay. Google says their new policy will reward websites that have well-written, informative content, not just articles designed to trick the algorithm.

It’s believed that one possible target of the so-called “farmer” update is Demand Media. Demand Media works with over 13,000 freelancers to produce content for sites it owns, like eHow, and sites it partners with, like USA Today and the NFL. Larry Fitzgibbon of Demand Media cited his company’s commitment to producing quality content, saying, “We have built our business by focusing on creating the useful and original content that meets the specific needs of today’s consumer.”

I’ve written articles for Demand Media and can attest that there is an editorial process and that many of the available titles are on useful, practical subjects. Having seen the inside of a content farm, so to speak, I don’t think they’re all created equal. To me, sites created purely for spam purposes are a different breed altogether than Demand. It makes sense that content aggregators like Demand will continue to grow, since content is a major reason that people go online–but so is search.

What does the future hold for content vs search? Are content farms the best (or only) way to create the amount of content that the world wants to consume?

Video Killed the Radio Star; Is Conference Travel Next?

Last week, I attended social media seminars in New York, London, and Paris–without having to suffer through airport security. While it would’ve been nice to jet around the world to learn from the movers, shakers, and up-and-comers in social media, I was able to take it all in from the comfort of my desk thanks to Social Media Week‘s livestream channels.

Crowdcentric Media started Social Media Week in 2009 to bring people together from around the world to share ideas about the impact of social media on our society. Organizers switched to a twice-yearly format in 2010.

This year’s conference coincided with the uprising in Egypt, with some panels stopping to watch Hosni Mubarak not resign, while others fielded questions about social media’s impact on the revolution.

Social Media Week sessions from around the world can be viewed anytime on Livestream. Topics range from fashion, to sports, to celebrity spokespeople, to travel–and everything in between.

I love the fact that streaming video makes it possible to participate in events like Social Media Week. Their collaboration with Livestream was free, but I can see a time in the future where conferences would charge a (lesser) fee for virtual attendees. Would this option reduce in-person attendance at conferences or dilute the economic impact of conference travel? I think the jury’s still out, but it would be a great benefit for the time- or cash-strapped individual who wants to learn and connect with professionals in any industry.