Monthly Archives: April 2015

SXSW 2015: Meerkats, Beacons & Bacon

R&R Partners’ Corporate Director of Measurement and Insight Justin Gilbert co-authored this article.

In case you have been amidst a social media cleanse, SXSW just wrapped up in Austin. It is a weeklong tech, music and film festival that takes place every March, and attendees discuss the future of technology, eat great barbecue and listen to emerging artists. The interactive portion was attended by 32,798 people this year, and we stood in line with the best of them − we even got into a few sessions and saw some pretty cool stuff along the way.


Tech Trends

The buzz this year was all about Meerkat, a two-week-old, live-streaming app that generated 100,000 users at launch and came close to Twitter’s breakthrough presence at SXSW in 2007. While the app lost access to Twitter’s network on the first day of the interactive festival and was then snubbed by Twitter in its acquisition of competitor app Periscope, it continues to see rapid user growth and press within the last week. Teleparty and also aim to provide live-streaming services, leading to one of the key takeaways from this year, being that video is the name of the game in 2015. Tech and media companies alike are clambering at the opportunity to capitalize on the channel to connect with users in real time.

Similar to what we saw this year at CES, wearables are extending beyond the fitness industry into medical to enhance the user’s daily activities. The fashion world is beginning to use 3-D printing technology combined with smart textiles that can read and adapt to the wearer’s heart rate, including a material that transitions from opaque to sheer as the heart beats faster. Robots were also on full display, designed for a wide array of uses, including psychological counseling, journalism and teaching programming.

More than 1,000 beacons were deployed around SXSW, primarily for the purpose of helping attendees network. GE also used beacons to measure people’s brain activity while eating various types of BBQ to determine optimal temp and smoke levels. Proximity targeting and micro-location targeting are now allowing advertisers to interject themselves into “smart networking” around events or within retail locations, augmenting the RFID targeting that we’ve seen over the last few years.

Good Social & Social Good

Tinder created a fake profile for the main character in the film Ex Machina and had a bot carry on conversations with eager SXSW attendees, eventually directing them to an Instagram account with a video promoting the film. Also similar to CES, self-driving technology and connected cars were reviewed in various panels, events and discussions. Data analytics from connected cars are being leveraged to identify traffic patterns, optimize auto safety and as behavioral targeting segments for advertisers.

Social good was an integral part of the programming at SXSW, in addition to the companies showcased. Related to the robotics trend, several panels focused on the use of bionics and drone technology to assist in disaster/war areas, viral outbreaks and social issues. The United Nations hosted a session that discussed “Project 8,” an online research platform that helps the organization better anticipate and prepare for the needs of the global population, essentially leveraging social listening and data mining from a global perspective to identify changes in sentiment, communication trends and human needs. Mophie partnered with the St. Bernard Foundation to bring smartphone battery cases to people at SXSW with drained phones, while driving adoption awareness for the foundation.

Internet of Things

More than 70 sessions at SXSW mentioned the term “Internet of Things” or “IoT.” This latest buzz phrase defines a world of users connected by intelligent devices that offer a new convenience and functionality to day-to-day life. This lofty phrase intends to enhance life, not only on the individual level, but also on a global scale, leading to improvements in farming, medicine, clean water and smart cities.

So what does this mean to an already fragmented and saturated media landscape?

The proliferation of cloud integrated and smart consumer products is producing large amounts of real-time data that can be leveraged for future consumer product development and within ad-level targeting. This new digitally interwoven IoT ecosystem can better inform the marketer’s perspective of consumer habits, preferences and media consumption.

As the media landscape is becoming more saturated, SXSW Interactive’s panel conversations reiterated that while content is still king … it does not comprise a brand strategy on its own. Distribution of the content is key. Taking advantage of the efficient scale and frequency of interactive channels, combined with niche targeting capabilities, indicates that brands and agencies should be thinking digital first. Writers should not just write for broadcast − they should think of how a viewer consumes broadcast content simultaneously with social media and how both impact their subsequent Web-browsing behavior across all connected devices.

Data Empathy

This mass influx in consumer and device profiles also inevitably leads to data privacy issues and consumer distrust, making this one of the hottest topics at SXSW Interactive. Consumers fear how their information is collected, shared and used; they are becoming more aware of the profitably behind their information, while companies are struggling to maintain control over transactional data with third parties. Restoring consumer trust, coined as “data empathy,” and identifying ways to balance the respect for privacy and commercial use of data, is going to be one of the most important topics in the interactive industry for years to come. This topic within SXSW challenges us, as leaders in the industry, to consistently ask ourselves if what we are designing uses data to be consumer centric, granting ease of use and being adaptive to personal preferences, or if it is merely interruptive for the sake of cutting through the clutter.

To view the presentation shared at SXSW Interactive, visit its SlideShare.

Mobilegeddon? Google’s latest algorithm update

The end of search as we know it?

Well, not quite, unless you haven’t adapted your website to shift with the ever-growing mobile consumption rate. Beginning on April 21, 2015, Google will begin including mobile friendliness as a ranking signal within its search algorithm. Word on the street is that this new ranking algorithm will have more impact on Google’s search results than the previous Panda and Penguin updates ever had. Pages that are not mobile-friendly may experience a loss in rankings and subsequent traffic. Alternatively, websites that are created for mobile, via WAP, or adaptive or responsive designs will potentially benefit from the update based on their priority in Google’s results and the updated sort order of their competitors.

Is this a surprise?

Not at all. Not only has mobile search been on the incline since 2007, it’s also forecasted to surpass desktop search this year in both volume and ad spend this year. Google has also reported that more than 50 percent of searches are done on mobile devices, thus they want to create the best user experience for searchers. Search marketers have forecasted this change for a while, since Google announced that the “mobile-friendly” label and weighting had been integrated into mobile search last November.

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What’s next?

Essentially, you need to think like your consumer because what is good for the searcher is often good for improving SEO. This update will impact Google’s mobile searches, specific to smartphones and will now be separate from Google’s desktop searches. You will not see a sitewide ranking improvement or drop, as rankings will be applied on a page-by-page basis. This provides the opportunity for you to provide a mobile alternative for users without having to redesign your entire website to be mobile friendly. The update will actually take several days to a week before it completely takes affect. This is a great time to adapt your website accordingly, while also gaining an advantage over competitors that may not have mobile-friendly versions of sites. You may also potentially lower your mobile SEM costs since your overall quality score and ranking will naturally exceed others that have not prepared for this change. In summary, be mobile forward; consumers continue to be a driving force of its growth and the customer is always right.

Your cellphone is ringing

Imagine a negative attack has been launched against your company by a well-organized and vocal collection of critics who are determined to inflict as much damage as possible on your company, your brand and CEO. The attack has gone viral and now the mainstream media is picking up the story – a firestorm has begun and your cellphone rings. It’s an investigative journalist with a history of going after companies like yours. Are you ready for that phone call?

For far too many companies, the answer to that question is no. They are not ready and the result will be corporate leadership resignations, a hit to your stock price, congressional investigations, prolonged litigation, and a barrage of bad media that will take years to repair. It’s often a situation that should have been handled better and, in retrospect, was entirely preventable. As Warren Buffet once famously said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” In today’s world of instant communications, dropping the ball on a high-profile event can undo decades of work. Fortunately, there is a way to be prepared in the event a crisis strikes.

There are a million excuses for not having a quality crisis communications plan in place. Some corporate executives view them as an unnecessary expense that will likely never be used. Others think they have one when in reality all they really have is an outdated plan and an internal communications team ill-equipped to modernize it and put it into action. Still others think they can just invent one on the fly should a crisis break out. These are examples of mindsets that lead to PR disasters and cost corporate executives their careers.



So what are the elements of a good crisis communications plan? For starters, have one. A good crisis plan should contain the following items:

  • A good crisis consultant with experience developing and executing crisis plans
  • An internal leadership team in place that makes crisis planning a priority
  • Previous crisis communications practice/simulations
  • Reliable and current spokespeople
  • An internal company protocol for handling crisis media inquires
  • Existing media relationships with priority press
  • A draft holding statement
  • Anticipated Qs & As
  • A reputation rebuilding plan post-crisis

Every crisis is unique (that’s what often makes it a crisis), but by having a plan in place and anticipating and practicing problems and solutions, your leadership team can rest easier at night knowing they are prepared for whatever comes their way, whether it’s an attack on your company from determined activists, a data breach, an employee scandal, a product malfunction or a fatality (hopefully not).

R&R Partners offers a range of services for managing crisis and high-profile events. Our team has a proven track record of helping clients weather the storm of a bad situation while protecting their brand. We can help you develop a plan and prepare for that day when your cellphone rings.

Your cellphone is ringing – are you ready?

Favicons: The First Visual Statement of Your Website

Pretend I am Oprah for a second, and listen to me share one of my favorite things:


I love them so much. In fact, since I have started working as a developer the use and importance of a favicon has been the topic I have debated the most. While some people think they are just clutter, I think they showcase a brand and profressionalism.

Unfamiliar with favicons? Well let me tell you what they are.
The word is a combination of favorite and icon. They are tiny little square images that are 16 pixels by 16 pixels. They are not a JPG or a PNG, but an icon file that is saved as an .ico file. They are used as branding / bookmarking on websites. They go next to the title of the webpage if you have a tab open. Like so:

You also may have noticed them here in your bookmarks bar:

The reason I love them is because no matter the web browser, I am a heavy tab-user. I always have at least 8 tabs open with music, email, and projects I am working on. When I am jumping from one tab to another, I am usually just skimming the text because my eye is focused on the favicon.

The virtual space in my life that would most benefit from more favicons is my RSS reader. I personally love using Feedly. If you aren’t familiar with Feedly, it is an RSS feeder that keeps a running list of all your favorite websites. Rather than visiting their actual URL, you can just get their updates streamed into one place. There are several different RSS feeders out there, but the ease of Feedly makes it my favorite, hands-down. I subscribe to all of my favorite blogs and organize them by their categories: friends, traditional design, fabric, web-design, food, and religious.

Here is a little screen shot of what I see when I sign into Feedly.

Clearly, my friends folder doesn’t have a lot of personality in the favicon department. The orange favicon is the default created by Google for any blog that is made by Google Blogger (hence the “B” in the favicon).

Last month, I set out to change this. I told my friends that I would make any of them a favicon for free. It could be whatever their hearts desired. A flower, a letter, a picture of your face? You got it. I gave them a little bit of guidance because even though Martha Stewart is powerful enough to have a picture of herself as a favicon, not everyone can pull it off. I showed them some of my favorites:

Because the image is so tiny, it is good to have just a few details in the image but nothing too complicated. Here are some of my favorites:

Successful favicons are simple; they are a continuation of the brand in a small space.

  • Hulu reversed a little snippet of its familiar logo for their favicon. The green is strong against the common neutral backgrounds of a browser tab.
  • Melimba is a lifestyle fabric company and has a heart for a favicon. Although the heart is not part of the logo, it represents warmth – a feeling that the fabrics should bring as well.
  • Price Waterhouse Coopers has an intricate logo, but they successfully collapse their look into their favicon space.
  • GO Rving redid their website a couple years ago. By taking a small portion of their logo, they named the title of the page so that it purposely works with the favicon. So the title on your browser tab has an image, but still reads “GO RVing.”
  • Central Market is a grocery store in Texas. They recently updated their website and elements from the logo were combined to make this favicon.
  • And lastly, Target. They have already created an iconic look, which translates perfectly to a powerful favicon.

In my opinion, a favicon is one more simple spot to showcase your brand. It’s kind of a big deal if you don’t have one. Depending on your browser, you may get a small replacement favicon that looks like a blank document. In the last few months, Google has taken an interesting tactic with favicons. If you do a Google search and then go to a site from the results, Google will put their default favicon on that found site. If the website has created their own favicon, it will quickly replace the Google default. But if not, Google’s logo will be placed next to the title. Pretty clever there, Google…

default favicons

I am happy to report that my friends responded to my plea for a favicon recall. I have created 20 new favicons and my RSS feed couldn’t be more pleased!

default favicons

Happy favicon day to you!

If you want to see even more, here are a few sites with favicon examples: Smashing Magazine |  Sitepoint