Thursday, January 28, 2021

Ghouls and Graveyards

As a lifelong fan of video games, I'm officially dipping my toe into composing music for them. Below is the first song I'm publishing and it's available for anyone to use completely free (with attribution).

Originally created for a friend's game prototype, the brief with Ghouls and Graveyards was to communicate a combination of eeriness as well as childhood innocence.

If you like what you're hearing, follow me on Bandcamp to be notified whenever I publish something new.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Redesign and Relaunch... Let's Go!

Hello, world! 

It's been a little while. I'm dusting off the old blog and will be starting to publish new content here on a semi-regular basis about everything from community building to my music projects and more.

You can also keep up with me on Twitter as well: @ericjfransen

Thanks for stopping by!


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

3 Rules For Promoting Your Business on Social Media

With all the advice and information available to you about how to use social media to promote your business, it's difficult to know where to start. It's with that in mind that I've put together a short list of what I personally have found to be the three most valuable rules when promoting your brand or business using social media.

1. Lead with Value

What captures your attention as you scroll through your social media feeds? For me, whether it's a hilarious cat photo or a new movie trailer, the common element is value. Value can mean a lot of things, so here is how I define it within the context of marketing: communication that leaves me better off having received it.

Some examples of valuable communication include:
  • a video that entertained me
  • a news story on a topic I care about
  • an update about a product that I'm following
  • a coupon that will save me money
  • a chance to win an incredible prize
  • a tutorial about how to do something
If your communication is valuable to one person, there's a good chance they know someone else who will find it valuable too and are that much more likely to share it. As tempting (and easy!) as it may be to repurpose existing promotional material and publish it on your business' Facebook page, ask yourself: "would I share this?" If the answer is "no," perhaps it's time to rethink your approach.

2. Know Your Audience

Before you can deliver value to your audience, naturally you need to know who your audience is in order to understand what they value. The most popular social networks like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube provide helpful dashboards with demographic and other data about your audience. There are also a variety of 3rd-party tools that can analyze your audience against your competitors'. It's also critical to create personas or profiles of your ideal customers in order to better plan and segment your communications.

3. Start Conversations

This may seem obvious, but all too often I've seen this be one of the first things to go out the window when it comes to a company's social media presence. Posting dozens of times each week with heavy sales pitches and product messages, overwhelming their audience and tanking results in the process. Remember: social media is not a broadcast channel, it's a conversation with your current and potential customers. Ask questions and engage your followers - you just might learn something new.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Dark Social: The Next Frontier For Brands

What if I told you that over half of the traffic to a brand's website was unable to be tracked to a specific source? This is the essence of Dark Social - social communication that exists on private channels such as email, SMS and messaging apps like WhatsApp, and is virtually invisible to brands. What if I also told you that each of these channels each had over a billion users? Do I have your attention?

Last year, our own Tom Edwards predicted that 2015 would see the rise of Dark Social. And he was correct. Brands like Adidas are waking up the importance of Dark Social as a way to understand and better engage their customers. While some simple things can be done to capitalize on the behavior such as SMS and messaging app share buttons on mobile websites, the opportunity goes deeper than that.

In partnership with WhatsApp (acquired by Facebook in 2014), Adidas has created what they've called squads -- hyperlocal communities around the world in cities like Berlin and Paris where content and brand news will premiere first. It's a brilliant way to learn from the consumer behavior -- providing value as a way to drive users to engage and share the brand news.

So what does this mean for YOUR brand? A couple things:

1) Learn everything you can about the dark social traffic that's leading to your website. What content is being shared by users through these channels? Are you creating content and value that's designed to be shared in this manner? Apply these learnings and evolve your branded content accordingly.
2 ) Consider messaging when creating brand experiences. From customer service to building communities, this kind of 1:1 engagement among consumers and brands is the preferred medium. Embrace the behavior and learn from it as Adidas has.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Pause for Playlist: Lord Huron's Strange Trails

It's not very often that an artist or an album stops me dead in my tracks. I'm deeply entrenched in my music collection, and explore as many new ways to discover new music as possible. Far and away, Spotify Weekly Discover has been the most compelling source of new tunes - and this week was no exception with Lord Huron's masterpiece, Strange Trails.

Strange Trails is hauntingly beautiful, with gorgeous melodies and floating reverb. Recorded by frontman Ben Schneider in his Whispering Pines studio in Los Angeles, the album began its life as an idea for a feature film. And it shows. The album plays like an outdoor adventure and instills a sense of wanderlust like no other record before it.

I had certainly heard the name Lord Huron before. But I wrote them off as just another "indie folk" act, lumped in with Mumford and Sons, The Lumineers and about a million others. As it turns out, I just needed to hear the right album at the right time and place in my life. It was perfect as the soundtrack to a productive evening working at my desk, carrying me along to the end of my duties for the day. And it's been on repeat ever since.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Google Serves Up Shopper Trends to Retailers to Win in Mobile Moments

Google's recently begun to use the term Mobile Moments to describe mobile's place in the consumer journey across devices. Specifically, trying to understand how search signals intent at a regional level and how retailers can capitalize on this intelligence. I'm certainly in Google's camp when it comes to search as a signal -- when you're asking a question about a product, you're almost certainly heading toward a purchase, depending on what information you discover -- and Google's plan to address (and monetize) these signals just got better.

Earlier this week, Google announced a new ad product that allows retailers to tap into their massive databank of search and mapping data, offering them the opportunity to fully utilize local shopping trends and behaviors. For example, Google found that demand for Playstation 4 was 2x that of Xbox One in New York, while consumers in Los Angeles were nine times more interested in Xbox One. This kind of insight could change the entire strategy of merchandising and co-op advertising to fit local preferences and nuances in behavior. Why spend equally everywhere when the same dollar promoting Xbox One would go a lot farther in Los Angeles compared to New York?

I shop here because of their people-first approach to marketing across devices.

So, where does mobile fit into this behavior? Everywhere. In fact, according to a recent study, 54% of shoppers are expected to shop in these Mobile Moments between other activities throughout the holiday season, rather than simply cramming it all into Black Friday or a "shopping day." This also includes the ever-present behavior of "show-rooming" -- where consumers are checking prices and comparison shopping online even while they are in other stores.

Here's the bottom line: mobile is going to be bigger than ever this holiday season, and Google's got a new bag of tricks to make sure you're reaching the right customers with the right message on the right device.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Virtual Reality and Retail

I have a confession to make. I wasn't always a believer in virtual reality. I thought it was the latest tech fad, with everyone trying so hard to make it happen.

Gamers are in the middle of the Virtual Reality rebirth with Playstation VR (formerly Project Morpheus), Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard and others. You can't talk about the future of the gaming industry without discussing Virtual Reality. Want to ride a virtual rollercoaster? What about a survival horror experience? You got it.

Yet, none of it was speaking to me in a way that caused me to say "THIS is the future..." Until I tried the HTC Vive with Steam VR. It was eye-opening to say the least. For the first time in my life, I actually felt like I was completely immersed and present in a virtual world.

HTC Vive taught me everything I know about digital kitchens.
To try and describe my experience with the Vive would not do it justice. It truly must be experienced to comprehend how realistic it really is. In the demo that I tried, I watched as a full-scale whale swam by me on a sunken ship, I painted in 3D space and could walk through my creation, I cooked a meal in a kitchen, and tried to repair Atlas -- a robot from the beloved Portal series. It was incredible. TL;DR I'm a believer.

So how does this come to life in retail?
The possibilities are endless. With flexible VR tech like Google Cardboard and other smartphone enabled opportunities, retailers can create simple, lightweight experiences designed to be used remotely or to enhance the in-store experience. With the more sophisticated tech like the HTC Vive that requires a substantial footprint, there's an opportunity to create in-store engagements that transport consumers into virtual worlds with products to experience them firsthand.

Here are a few ideas of how this could come to life:

Design: Stores like Bed Bath and Beyond or Home Depot could create an interior design experiences where consumers virtually build their dream house using products available in the store. Once the design is complete, they're provided with a shopping list of the appropriate materials.

Outdoor: Outdoor stores like REI could create experiences that allow consumers to try out the gear in the context of amazing locales like Yosemite, the Grand Canyon and even Everest.

Fashion: Stores like Forever 21 and H&M could allow customers to model various clothing items on avatars modeled after their body types. This could extend to unique designs and colorations to be custom made for the customer.

But why does this matter?
As I've touched on in a previous post: personalization (or perceived personalization). Virtual reality offers the ability to completely personalize the experience for each customer. It affords flexibility and immersion in the shopping experience like never before. In many cases, it's going to be the closest consumers can get to trying out products without actually trying out the product. The possibilities are endless.