Monthly Archives: October 2014

HBO give us free! Cable, your days are numbered.

hbogo

I’ve been trying to contain my excitement over something I just heard.

“What’s that?” you ask.

Brace yourselves…

Next year you can get HBO without a cable subscription.

Now let it sink in.

Awesome right!?

I know.

Like many of you, I’ve got a two year contract with Fios for my TV, internet and phone.

When I switched from Comcast to Fios, I signed up for the bundled service with that great introductory price.

Once I added the DVR box, the additional set top boxes, and premium channels to the mix, that “great introductory price” went away.

And I end up with a bundle costing me a cool two bills a month.

Outside of the occasional on-demand movie or DVRd show I missed when it originally aired, I was just throwing away money with my cable subscription.

With the exception of HBO, I rarely watch anything on EPIX, STARZ, or any of the other premium channels I pay so dearly for.

So you can imagine my delight to hear that I’ll be able to decouple from cable and still get my HBO on.

Well maybe you can’t actually imagine my delight – but I am delighted damn it!

It’s true.

I started transitioning away from cable a few years ago when I got my Apple TV.

With Hulu Plus, Netflix, and iTunes, I’ve got access to virtually the same content as if offered on premium cable channels.

And the HBO GO app also allows me to watch all the content on that channel (albeit with my cable subscription) on the go.

The bigger thing for me, though, is not the decoupling of HBO from cable, it’s the precedent that HBO has set with this move.

Already, premium networks like EPIX, STARZ, ESPN, and Showtime have apps that let you access their content on demand.

With Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, Amazon Fire and gaming systems like Xbox and Playstation all offering streaming services, once other broadcast companies follow suit, you’re no longer going to be beholden to the cable companies.

And soon(er than later) you’ll be able to cut the ties that bind (literally and figuratively) and get rid of that stupid cable bill.

We’ll have to see what kinds of deals HBO is able to strike with other set top box manufacturers, and how many of them ultimately end up carrying the channel.

But it’s definitely a sign of things to come.

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Go loyal. Five tips for building a loyalty campaign.

Loyalty

If you’re anything like me, you’re a loyalty whore.

If a brand or business I patronize has any kind of loyalty program, sign me up!

CVS, Duane Reade, Starbucks, Amtrak, US Airways, Starwood, Modell’s, Whole Foods, Children’s Place.

You name it, I’m registered.

And why the fuck not?

If I’m spending my hard earned dough buying your goods or services, why shouldn’t I be rewarded?

Sure, I’ve got to spend $1,000 in order to get $5 off my next $500 purchase, or fly a gazillion miles to upgrade to first class, but so what?

I’m being rewarded for my loyalty!

And loyalty equals retention equals repeat purchases and visits.

As happy as I am to find that a business I support has a loyalty program, I am equally dismayed when they don’t.

Really, why wouldn’t you want to incentivize patronage?

In this competitive day and age, when shoppers have so many choices of where they can spend their dollars, doesn’t it make sense to offer something your competitors don’t?

If you’ve thought about implementing a loyalty program, but don’t know where to start or think that it’s too expensive or difficult to manage, here are five simple tips to get your loyalty game popping!

1. Use an existing loyalty platform.

If you’re unsure of how to start a loyalty program, fear not. There are a number of really good off-the-shelf loyalty programs that you can use to get started. They don’t require any technical expertise, and in many instances, they’re free.

loyalblocks

One such program is LoyalBlocks. LoyalBlocks is a loyalty app for businesses. It’s fully customizable and allows merchants to offer promotions and specials to their customers, in exchange for frequent visits. With LoyalBlocks, you simply set up your ‘loyalty club,’ create your rewards, custom specials, punch card offers and in-store content, and you’re ready to go. There’s also a customer-facing app which your customers can download and start getting rewards.

shopkick

Shopkick is another app that rewards users for simply walking into different businesses. Partner stores and establishments benefit from the foot traffic and engagement. With Shopkick, users who visit partner businesses receive “kicks” or points, which can be accumulated and redeemed for rewards. Businesses who sign up for Shopkick receive beacons which can be discretely installed, and which track when users are in (or near) their stores. Shoppers can receive targeted offers and prompts, based on their location to drive sales.

Still a lil’ gun-shy and just want to test the waters? Then FourSquare may be perhaps the simplest way to get started. Currently, there are over 50 million people using Foursquare to find businesses. The simple act of having visitors check-in to your business via FourSquare and share that check-in with their networks, can prove an invaluable driver for your business. FourSquare’s online tools for merchants let businesses track visitors, create ads, special offers and deals.

2. Give something away!

retailmenot

One sure fire way to get people into your store is giving something away – discount on their next purchase, 2 for 1 special, coupon or gift-with-purchase – anything to make customers feel like they’re saving a buck. Apps like RetailMeNot have made it super easy for businesses or brands to give potential customers a reason to shop with them. RetailMeNot operates the world’s largest marketplace for digital offers, enabling consumers across the globe to find hundreds of thousands of digital offers from their favorite retailers and brands. App users can search through offers, which can be redeemed in store or online.

groupon

Similarly, platforms like Groupon or Living Social, which offer steeply discounted deals, are another way of giving customers (and potential customers) a means through which they can get down with your brand. By routinely publishing special offers, your customers will have a reason to check in on you often to make sure they’re not missing out!

3. Incentivize sharing.

If you’ve ever purchased a Groupon or a Living Social deal, you know that you can get your deal for free by inviting your friends to buy the same deal. If the deal is compelling enough, it’ll gives users a reason to share. Even if the person who shared the deal can’t get enough of their friends to buy it (and thereby earn their’s free), people love to announce the fact that they just copped a good deal to the world. By adding social sharing capabilities to your offers, you’re taking advantage of folks’ natural narcissistic inclination to share.

4. Make it social.

Much like the point above, we live in an increasingly connected world, where virtually everything we do is posted on social media. Folks share when they’re on their commute to work, when they’re eating out, when they’re at the gym, even when they’re doing nothing. People spend more time on social media than they do with their children. Make it easy for your users to share by building social sharing capabilities directly into your loyalty program. More importantly, give points for liking you on Facebook, tweeting about your experience or adding a hashtag to a picture and posting it on Instagram and engaging in that social behavior. Social is an increasingly important part of most people’s lives nowadays, so get in on the action!

5. Promote. Promote. Promote.

icon_promote

If you’ve got a marketing budget, think about taking out ads talking about your loyalty program. Set aside part of that budget on Google Ads that drive specifically to your loyalty landing pages or to landing pages where your loyalty program is featured prominently.  Don’t have a budget? Then tweet, post status updates on Facebook and hashtag the heck out of some flicks to drive awareness about your new program.

If a loyalty program falls in the forest and there is no one around, does it make a sound? There’s nothing worse than a loyalty program that no one knows about. So don’t let your loyalty program languish in obscurity. Talk about it!

Have some ideas on building a loyalty program, I’d love to hear about it. So feel free to comment below.

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Filed under apps, branding

Hello, Ello? I hate Facebook too! Where’s my invite? UPDATE!

ello

I’m sure by now you’ve heard of the anti-Facebook social media platform, Ello, that’s been all over the news.

Okay, okay.

I’m slightly exaggerating.

It hasn’t been all over the news.

It launched way back in March (that’s like five years ago in tech years), and has only recently been getting mainstream attention.

Primarily because the CEO, Paul Budnitz, has been making waves with his controversial statements about Big Brother Facebook.

The usual suspects.

The usual suspects.

Oh, wait…you haven’t heard of Ello?

I see that some background is in order.

You’ve probably seen the Ello logo – the eyehole-less black and white smiley face icon that sits atop user’s headshots – and thought, “WTF?”

And you wouldn’t be alone.

Ello is a new social media platform, released several months ago, that lets it’s users post status updates, photos and GIFs, as well as comment on their friends’ posts.

It’s being touted as the antithesis of Facebook, because it has no ads, the mainstay of the social media world.

And a real break from how most social media networks operate.

Their manifesto (called “Manifesto”) clearly speaks to the significance of being ad free.

Your social network is owned by advertisers.

Every post you share, every friend you make and every link you follow is tracked, recorded and converted into data. Advertisers buy your data so they can show you more ads. You are the product that’s bought and sold.

We believe there is a better way. We believe in audacity. We believe in beauty, simplicity and transparency. We believe that the people who make things and the people who use them should be in partnership.

We believe a social network can be a tool for empowerment. Not a tool to deceive, coerce and manipulate — but a place to connect, create and celebrate life.

You are not a product.

But it’s only quasi-free.

Sure, if you’re using the platform “naked,” it’s free.

If you want to add any features, you’ve got to upgrade – to just the features you want, of course – for a fee.

This customization, allowing users to create an Ello page unique to them, is another feature which sets Ello apart from Facebook.

As someone who hates Facebook for introducing paid (or “sponsored” rather) ads into my feed, Ello seems like a breath of fresh air.

Who wouldn’t want to read their friends’ inane drivel devoid of pesky ads clogging up their timelines?

Sign me up!

Oh, wait…Ello is invitation only.

I, for one, am at a complete loss for how I have not yet been invited to take Ello for a test drive.

Earth to Ello!

My 1,015 readers (as of this morning) are dying to know what Ello is all about.

And they shouldn’t have to troll the interwebs or chance upon an article in Mashable, Engadget, Techcrunch, Business Insider, or some other marginal publication, to get their tech news, when I’m all they need read!

Me thinks too much of myself, me thinks.

I digress.

Point is, Ello is staking its claim as an alternative to Facebook.

And the future looks rosy (for now).

Time will tell whether their gambit pays off.

I’ve requested an invitation, and received a reply (letting me know that I’d have to wait).

I was hoping for a "Welcome to Ello" message. Instead, I got this. SMH

I was hoping for a “Welcome to Ello” message. Instead, I got this. SMH

So I’ll give you the inside scoop as soon as I can.

UPDATE

As of 10:31 am EST October 1, I am officially Ello-ed!

Nick Beck is my dude!

Nick Beck is my dude!

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Filed under social media