Social Media and the Business of Serendipity

This is an excerpt of the deck I presented as part of Harvard Business School’s Alumni webinar series on May 8, 2013.  If you happen to be a HBS Alumnus, you can catch the replay here.  I will continue to fine-tune this presentation with the intent of publishing an e-book on the topic.  The Business of Serendipity is the quest to recognize patterns that may lead to moments rich with the promise of serendipity.  Social media is just the platform for this quest.

P-Tailing: Pinterest Tips for eTailers

P-tailing using Pinterest to Drive Ecommerce

From a personal perspective, I’m a fan of Pinterest. From a business perspective, I am a HUGE fan of Pinterest. Why? Well the stats are staggering on how much the site, while still in beta, has grown to the point where it drives more referring traffic than Google+, YouTube, and LinkedIn combined!  Pinterest is becoming an increasingly important tactic for all of the social media strategist of ecommerce sites and retail brands.

Armchair Psychology behind the Pin

To understand the success of Pinterest you have to understand the psychology behind the act of “pinning”.  Pinning is a declaration.  A declaration that the Pinned image (ergo the object(s) in the image) is worth sharing.  It could simply be beautiful photograph or work of art but most of what you’ll find are objects of desire. When Pinners create Boards (collections of Pins) they become a collage of that pinner’s visual representation of their personal brand crafted (intentionally or subliminally) for public consumption. Public, mind you. Not just for friends. Pinners are curators of whatever they deem shareable. There’s even a gaming mechanic the comes in the reward of having their Pin “repinned” by as many people as possible. Repinning is not exactly a follow of Twitter and it’s far from the Friend on Facebook. It’s more like a hat-tip to say thanks for sharing. Eventually, the hat-tips become follows of a pinner’s board or entire collection of Boards.  Because the act of Pinning and Repinning is so effortless and visually driven it becomes in some ways more of an act of lust rather than a gesture of love or even a “Like”.  But that’s the secret sauce of Pinterest – we as marketers can turn that lust into sales and brand equity.

Purchase Intent and the Pin

There are many adjectives that can explain reasons behind a Pin such as “cool”, “interesting”, “amazing” but I’m more interested in one verb – “Want”. It’s easy for eTailers to be fooled by the visceral, lustful and even passionate act of thousands of Pins as a love of the brand. It’s not. It’s a collective of individuals declarations of “Want” of the brand’s object. Remember, they’re going by visuals alone. The difference between converting a Pin to a one-off sale versus converting the Pinner to a lifelong customer is still driven by the immutable laws of branding. Lust, love or like, the act of Pinning speaks volumes on purchase intent. And it’s because of this, that Pinterest is a game changer for eTailer and retail brands.  Our challenge create catalyst that drive conversion in their moment of attraction.

Turning a Pin into a Win

So in the end Pinterest is going to be force to be reckoned with.  What do you do? Pinterest does not yet have any kind of advertising model that we as marketers can leverage to reach our target audience. So how do you turn a Pin into a win?  Here are just a few quick ideas to get the Pinning started.

  • Ask for Follow
    This may seem obvious, but invite visitors to follow you by adding a Pinterest button on your site.
  • Find Influencers on Pinterest
    Sign up for PinReach to discover, follow and engage Pinterest influencers in your category.
  • Search for Your Brand’s Wants
    In the Pinterest search box, type in the word “Want” and your brand/product and follow those who have mentioned you then repin their Pins.  For example, type in “Want Victoria’s Secret” and you’ll see a cavalcade of Pins.
  • Reward your Frequent Pinners
    Reward your frequent Pinners. To find them, type to see who your most passionate Pinners are and reward them in them in a big and very public way.  Promote your Pinterest campaign across all channels.
  • Make your site “Pinterest Friendly”
    Turn Pinterest into a powerful branding and PR tool. Make your site Pinterest friendly by peppering it with imagery that is “Pinteresting”. Invest in photography, create stunning visuals, get creative with your product shots but think about what that image will look like as a 200×200 pixels.  Most importantly, be sure the images are recognizable by Pinterest.  Flash content, for example, is a no go. Look what happened when I tried to Pin the Nike+ Fuelband!
    Nike's Not So Pinterest Friendly Site
  • Create “Pin Farms”
    Yes product shots should be beautiful but why not create a what I call a “Pin Farm”? What’s a Pin Farm? It’s an easily browsable gallery of photos of really Pinteresting shots with your products featured in them. Design the page(s) to drive Pins. Five word, keyword rich captions and an easy way to convert to a sale.
  • Mobilize the Pin
    Don’t forget about Pinterest’s mobile app!  Put some “Pin This” calls to action on your displays and encourage real-life pins. Better yet, use QR code to drive to the Pinterest page of the real life object and ask for the Pin.
  • Architect Your Boards’ Information
    Organize your Pinterest Boards to align with your product categories. If they don’t align with what is organically happening on Pinterest, you may want to rethink your site’s information architecture.  As people browse your brand’s Pinterest page, they should be able to find accessories for example, as quickly and easily as they would on your site.
  • Tagging for Dollars
    Be sure to put a “$” and price for your Pinned products. It will show up under the “Gifts” tab and SCREAMS “buy me” in the process.
  • Pinteresting to SEO
    You can leverage Pinterest to drive traffic to your site if you optimize your Pinterest brand page for image search. Here’s a great post I found on Google+ with nice tips.
  • Ask for the Pin
    Along with your Like, +1 and Tweet buttons on each product on your eCommerce site, be sure to add your “Pin This” button.

If you like Pinterest, You may Also Like…

If your in the fashion arena, I highly recommend It went live around the time of Pinterest and has a eerily similar user interface. The main difference is this is consumer generated content where “Posers” snap photos of themselves wearing their favorite fashions then post to Pose for peer review.  Follow the influencers including Rachel Zoe and engage.  Heck, might as well Pin your Poses!

Google Don’t Hurt Me!

Google+ is rolling out a new interface that replaces the black utility bar across the top of the page. In the video, it show how elegantly it cascades to reveal all of the different services that integrate into G+.

Lovely or Scary?

Well I decided to take inventory of all of the Google services I’m using and what it means to my privacy. Here’s what I came up with:

They know the names, emails and numbers of all of my contacts. They know every single correspondent to/from each and every one of them.

They know where I’m going to be and when

// Documents
They know the formulas for my estimating and the board minutes from my meetings

// Bookmarks
They know everything I find important enough to save

// Chrome
They know my entire web surfing history

// Maps
They know the routes I’ve taken

// YouTube
They know how many times I’ve viewed the cute kitten videos

// Picasa (only because of G+)
Now they’ll have my kids birthday pictures

// Latitude
Ok. I maybe checked in once. But chances are it will be integrated into the G+ experience

// Google Voice
They know the who and time every inbound and outbound calls and the transcript of every voice mail and text sent to my phone

// Reader
They know what I’m passionate about learning

// Music
They know what songs I listen to and which ones I love

// AdSense
They know the behaviors of the visitors to my wife’s site

// Analytics
The traffic of my site and nearly every one of my clients

// Google+
This is the glue. The master plan. They now know who my friends are and what circle I’d categorize them. Where I check in and when. What I like and what I love. I’m going to +1 my world.

// OH YEAH…and Search!
Every keyword I’ve ever searched



All of these services have enriched my life with their convenience and delight. But it’s shocking to retrospectively look back and take inventory of all I’ve paid for these free services. These bytes of my life are now terabytes of my existence. And people are worried about Facebook’s privacy policy?

I’m ok with the price I’m paying. I have nothing to hide or to be embarrassed about.

But darn it, Google…

……don’t you DARE hurt me!

NYT and The Daily on iPad: Media Companies’ Missed Opportunity

The launch of The Daily on the iPad is likely to be a step in the right direction, but media companies (Newspapers, Periodicals, TV & Radio) are still trying to put an engine on a horse-drawn buggy and calling it a car.

The Bad News First

Media companies need to realize that going digital is not just about turning picas into pixels. It’s about sparking a relevant dialogue that is wrapped around content delivered at the right time on the right device that empowers that user experience.
The best example of what NOT to do is my hometown’s newspaper, The Columbus Dispatch (locally owned along w/ TV & Radio Stations). By now you’ve heard of Ted Williams, the homeless man with the golden voice. Well, the paper had YouTube remove the video due to copyright claims. True as it may be, had the video not been posted, it would never have gone viral. They insisted on viewing the video on THEIR site in hopes of benefiting from the ad impressions. Hours later after backlash from twitterverse, the video was back up, but now on the paper’s YouTube channel (great!).
But this “mine, mine, mine” philosophy about content is the same antiquated approach the music industry had about MP3 downloads. As soon as they realized that the horse and buggy industry was gone, they adapted and are reemerging and embracing the digital space.

The Good News

Media companies power is NOT in controlling the content, but rather creating, curating, validating and distributing the content. Think about it. You’re pitching a company on a big project and you need facts. What’s more reputable – a quote from my blog or The New York Times? Media company’s editorial process means the content is well written and based on fact. Their access to the insiders of a story is deep and wide which ultimately means better content.

The Inconvenient Truth

This is NOT 1990 anymore.
The internet changed EVERYTHING.
Facebook changed EVERYTHING.
Twitter changed EVERYTHING.
Content is everywhere so convincing viewers that your content is better is like Gary Vaynerchuck convincing the guy chugging Boone’s Farm that a $50 of wine tastes better! YOU know it’s better! I know it’s better! But to the Boone’s Farm guy?…Not so much. And even then, I’m not convinced it’s worth what your charging. I am convinced, however, that when I subscribe to a newspaper I get a tangible object delivered to me. The exchange of value is simple to demonstrate. But content delivered to me on screen?? It’s not the same.

What to Do?

Here’s where I think media companies are missing the boat…ARCHIVES! This is where people can and will be willing to pay. Imagine if you will, a freemium subscription model for media companies where they BREAK the free news that goes viral because they empowered consumers to share as they see fit under creative commons. They get the traffic as long as the story is hot. They’re on their home turf doing what you do best -breaking important news. NOW, let’s say a year later, I’m writing a report to submit to a client and this story has the facts I need to cite. THIs is where I’d be willing to pay for premium content. I’ll pay market value for that news story. The price is set by demand tracked by their analytics and social sentiment. So one story may be $50, while another may be $1. The best part? Subscribers get the story for free! Think about it, pay $50 for 1 story or for a 1 year subscription. The choice is obvious. Now your web site is a backchannel for all stories and the breaking story is the gateway. News breaks that relates to archived story? Sell it!!

In A Nut Shell

  • Your content is not as valuable as you think.
  • Your content does not belong to you. Liberate your content to the masses and the masses will thank you! Ask Ted Williams.
  • Create user experiences that are designed for the device in which the content is consumed. Repurposing content is a no no.
  • Don’t treat your digital ad inventory like the red-headed step child. It has value if you hire someone to monetize it to it’s potential.
  • Forget everything you think you know or you will be a black smith serving horseless society.
  • What you learn about digital this will be old news by evening drive time so don’t just break news, break new ground.

Is Dailybooth the next Twitter?

Mrs. Kutcher on Dailybooth

Remember when @mrskutcher only had 28,784 followers on Twitter? Neither do I.  But that’s the point about! It’s like the wild west all over again in that it completely levels the playing field.  Everyone starts at 0 followers.

Get Kozy with @Adventuregirl

THIS is your second chance to connect with the people on Twitter you follow who have hundreds of thousands (or millions @MrsKutcher) of followers.  If you’re lucky, they’ll have only…say…72 followers on Dailybooth like @Adventuregirl who has 1,494,734 on twitter! Spark a dialogue with your favorite Twitter peeps BEFORE they reach the same number of followers. Who knows, maybe you’ll get a follow back on Twitter and some link love, right @adventuregirl ?  (call me < cheesy wink>).

WTH is DailyBooth??!

I first heard of Dailybooth during the TechCrunch Disrupt in March 2010. Back then, I signed up a poked around but didn’t get hooked until recently.  Here’s the gist: remember how much fun you used to have jumping in to a photo booth and snapping some goofy shots with your pals/girlfriends?  You’d then show off the snaps to your friends or put them in your locker for others to see?  Well now imagine doing that with the web as your locker.  When Twitter first launched they were educating users to “tell us what you’re doing” when in reality we were using it to tell people what we’re THINKING!  Dailybooth, in contrast, is “SHOW us what you’re doing”.  But the real fun and audience engagement comes with the replies.  You’re not just writing a reply, you are “miming” your reply in a photo response.  Following some of these streams can be absolutely addicting and hilarious!!! Making new friends and exploring is easy.  Follow the live stream and start connecting with people that seam interesting but don’t be “that creepy person”!!!

Sorry Kiddies, Secret’s Out

Just like in the early years of  Facebook, Dailybooth is a really younger demographic.  I mean REALLY young. Not sure of the policy is on minimum age, but you almost feel like a perv at first.  As a dad of two young daughters some of the provocative poses (though PG-rated) may be a bit awkward and even unsettling. But I felt better after seeing some real celebs more my age and the following they’ve developed and how it really is a GREAT experience and a fantastic way to express your creativity and individuality. So, sorry kids!  Here come your parents and aunts and uncles to ruein the party. And up next….<insert horror music and scream> the ADVERTISERS!!

Squeeze Dailybooth into your Social Media Playbook

Advertising! Marketing! That’s why I’m writing about it today.  Dailybooth is a hidden gem just like the Twitter in the early days where you can still have the first mover advantage.  What makes Dailybooth so interesting is that it’s incredibly quick and easy (you’d be amazed at how I agonize over carefully choosing my 140 characters)!  You just sit in front of your web cam and snap away (or upload),  type as little as a one-word comment and pick sharing options of  Twitter and/or Facebook or what I like to call the photo-mojo.  Compared to the other popular social media sites, Dailybooth is pure entertainment and the easiest to create content which means there will be a ton of content and it will be very entertaining and easy to go viral. It really is positioned nicely among the other social media sites (see below).

Infographic - Dailybooth positioning

Get the QR Codes Out

Get people to show you some love using using QR Codes!  You can cross promote to other sites like this!

Get em flyin’ your colors

Studies have shown that people LOVE to brag about their latest shopping finds.  Get them to snap a photo with your product and post on Dailybooth then reward them with coupons or discounts.  Just get the ball rolling with a few simple rules and the crowds take over.

Send them on a Scavenger Hunt

Don’t forget, “boothers” are not tethered to their desktops!

Theres an iPhone app and you can also email photos to your profile.  So get them engaged in activities and interacting with your brand at your location or get them to put lampshades on their heads at your events.  Set up a Dailybooth BOOTH at the event and let the frenzy begin!

These are just a couple of ideas.  So what do you think?  Will Dailybooth become as big as Twitter?

QR+RETAIL=Killer App or App Killer?

Is anyone old enough to remember Merry-Go-Round clothing store? If you are old enough to remember, you’ll probably chuckle when I say it was my first job right after I quit Burger King at the tender age of 16.  I LOVED working in retail. You should have seen my skinny tie and bandanna collection!  I went on to manage Benetton stores all through college (this is the 80’s folks – United Colors of Benetton, remember?), then later worked for The Limited stores.  I STILL LOVE RETAIL!  In fact, I can outlast my tween daughters on a day at the mall!

I also LOVE digital.  So a couple of years ago, when I first heard about Augmented Reality(AR) apps and saw QR Codes and glyphs in action, my first thought went straight to how they can be used in a retail environment.  What is commonplace today in Japan is shaping the vision of the future in the U.S. with great videos showing  how the analogue and digital worlds can be integrated into a unified user experience.  Great right? Well not exactly.

As I was shopping with my daughters today when we stumbled into The Gap.  Much to my surprise I see a QR Code on a display (only 1 in the entire store).  I of course was curious and got out my favorite QR reader on my  iPhone, NeoReader (try it, it will work from this web page). First of all, the display was on a table that was about 2 feet high.  I debated internally if I wanted to get on a knee in the middle of The Gap to scan, but in the end, my curiosity got the best of me. It took a second to register the QR tag on my screen but I finally got the happy “ding” and my browser launched!  My excitement was completely squashed when I saw this…

NooooOOoooo…. what a let down and major #fail.  So we’re not quite here yet are we?   But it did start my wheels turning?  What are the killer apps for QR codes in a retail experience?


Engage me

It’s easy to go with a simple link to a product page.  But what are you going to ask me to do next? Give me social tools to share my adoration for this product.  Let me save this in a favorites list that I can refer to later or email to my Aunt Helen as a hint for my birthday. Think and engage!

QR Codes Clicks = Purchase Intent

Don’t use QR codes to show them 5 angles of the product they can hold in their hand.  Give them details that will help inform their decision and feel smart about their purchase.

Listen to Your Customer

This is your chance!  Your customer clicked on the QR code indicating interest.  100 clicks on product A, but only sold 1 today? Why?? They are holding their mobile device and in the perfect scenario to provide you feedback.  Ask one question – “do you like this? yes/no”. Feeling lucky? Ask “why/why not?”! Feed this data back to your buyers.  Just imagine the data you could capture if this was a branded app where you know the demographic profile of the respondent! WOW this can be powerful.

Make it Easy

It was interesting to me that I had to think before I scanned! Me, the uber geek was contemplating NOT scanning a QR code.  I have to admit, I felt like a dork scanning a QR code and it was only worse that I had to kneel down to do it. Place codes at eye level for signage.

Commit to the QR

Train the staff on what the QR tags are.  Give them talking points at two levels for the novice and the expert.   This becomes part of your brand experience. You NEVER want to have your associate say “I don’t know” even if it’s NOT a sku.

Cross-Media Optimize the Campaign

Use the QR Code to launch to the video of the TV spot that features the product their holding in their hands and vice versa.  Use QR codes on print ads with a call to action the rewards the customer with a promotional offer then list nearby stores based on their location.  And if you REALLY want to get crazy think about linking  location based systems (LBS) such as Foursquare, Gowalla and even now Facebook Places.  Why not have them checkin via QR code?

The QR Opt-in

Email marketing is not dead! Ask for their email address and reward them with an offer that they can redeem in the store at that moment!  What do you think the redemption rate of that coupon would be?  What was your cost of acquisition and the lifetime ROI of that one simple click??

Beyond the Sign

Think of new places to put QR codes.  Put them on the price tag with product specific information.  Heck, put them on the LABEL.  When that tween goes home after a day at the mall, they invite their friends over for an impromptu fashion show! Empower their friends to scan the tag then snap photos of their friend wearing that item to share.  Just imagine them posting their new outfits on holding the price tag w/ the QR code. Their friends can instantly scan and engage the exact product with the nearest store location.

Educate Me

Most people will walk by and never notice the squiggly squares.  Talk up the codes!  Tell your customers about QR codes and why they will enhance their shopping experience. GONE is the day of “can I help you find something?”!

Inform Me

When I was in the dressing room today, I needed a different size shirt.  How amazing would it be if I could scan the QR code on the price tag to see if the RIGHT size was even in stock? Make the QR code a customer service tool, NOT just a marketing tool.


  • Don’t put you QR Codes knee level!!
  • Broken QR codes are NOT good for  your brand
  • Don’t link a generic webpage.  Create an in-app experience designed specifically for mobile browsing
  • Commit to the QR code or don’t do it

Admittedly, QR Codes can be borderline gimmicky.  Think gimmick, you’ll get gimmick.  But on the other hand if you can think of ways that ENHANCE the brand experience in a very simple way you can bridge the analogue world with the digital to build loyalty, engage, spark dialogue and spread word of mouth.

What do you think? Are there any great application of QR codes you can share?