Thursday, June 11, 2015

Pinterest Brings E-Commerce to Social Bookmarking With a Buy Button - NYTimes Blogs · by Mike Isaac

Pinterest is bringing e-commerce to the platform.

Pinterest is bringing e-commerce to the platform. (Credit Pinterest)
Pinterest, the online social scrapbooking service, has long claimed to help people discover new things in the real world. Soon users will be able to buy those things, too.
The San Francisco company announced Tuesday that it would offer the ability to buy products from inside of pinned items, in what is its first foray into e-commerce on its service. The new product, named “buyable pins,” allows sellers large and small to place a “Buy it” button on items that they post to the site.
Founded in 2009 by the entrepreneur Ben Silbermann and some of his colleagues, Pinterest quickly caught on as a sort of digital scrapbook where people could save things that drew their interest online. A user may come across an interesting pair of jeans on the web, for example, and “pin” a photo of those jeans to a Pinterest board. The idea was that users could collect items that they may find or buy later.
But there was no way to purchase items directly on Pinterest, so for many users, the idea of buying their saved items was largely aspirational. That changes with buyable pins, as Pinterest, which has raised more than $1.3 billion in venture capital, works to justify its valuation of $11 billion. While the company does not disclose its number of users, estimates place its audience in the United States at more than 75 million, according to the online analytics firm comScore.
With buyable pins, Pinterest has teamed up with major retailers like Cole Haan, Ethan Allen, Kate Spade and Macy’s. More than two million blue “Buy it” buttons will appear on products posted to Pinterest by these companies. Payments made through the service will be powered by Stripe, an e-commerce start-up that focuses on small and midsize online businesses. Braintree, a payments processing company owned by PayPal, will also handle processing.
Other merchants will be able to sell items on Pinterest using Shopify, which does the heavy lifting of online commerce for smaller, independent businesses.
The move is a major moneymaking opportunity for Pinterest and perhaps an obvious one for the company, which has been around for close to six years but has only recently pushed heavily into generating revenue. In December, the company introduced its first major advertising effort with its “promoted pins” product; the announcement Tuesday is the company’s first real effort at building an e-commerce site.
Pinterest does not plan to make money off e-commerce the traditional way, by taking a cut of retailers’ transactions. Instead, the company said, it would make money selling promoted-pins advertisements to retailers, who can then insert buyable pins into those ads.
“We believe that if we focus on building an incredible experience for pinners, we’ll create a very big business down the line,” said Tim Kendall, general manager for monetization at Pinterest.
Mr. Kendall said 87 percent of Pinterest’s users had purchased items they found on the site and that two-thirds of the content on Pinterest came from businesses.
“The reality is that the experience is already a commercial experience,” he said.
It is also an effort to make shopping for items on mobile devices much easier. On many sites, customers are forced to enter their address and credit card information before purchasing an item, a task that is particularly difficult on a mobile phone. Over the years, retailers and payment companies like Stripe and PayPal have tried many ways to simplify that process to limit what is called customer drop-off, the point at which people leave without buying the items in their online shopping carts.
With buyable pins, consumers do not need to re-enter payment information every time they want to buy an item.
“Buyable pins is Pinterest’s effort to make shopping specifically for your phone,” Mr. Silbermann said at an event in San Francisco on Tuesday.
Pinterest is not the first company to experiment with the medium. Twitter also works with Stripe to let customers buy items within posts. And Stripe and Braintree work with Facebook on various mobile payments products.
Farhad Manjoo contributed reporting.
A version of this article appears in print on 06/03/2015, on page B4 of theNewYork edition with the headline: Pinterest Adding ‘Buy It’ Button to Retailers’ Posts.

Instagram to Open Its Photo Feed to Ads - nytimes.com · by VINDU GOEL · June 2, 2015

A mock-up of an ad from the Tieks brand on Instagram.
Instagram is cranking up its money machine, and that means a lot more ads in your photo feed.
Facebook, which bought Instagram in 2012, has kept the mobile photo-sharing service mostly free of advertising, allowing only a handful of big brands to put a few carefully drafted commercial messages on the service.
But on Tuesday, the company announced plans to open the Instagram feed to all advertisers, from the local tattoo parlor to global food makers, later this year. Marketers will be able to target ads to the service’s 300 million users by interest, age, gender and other factors, just as they can on Facebook.
Instagram will also begin testing a type of ad that allows viewers to click on a link to buy a product or install an app that is advertised.
The commercialization of Instagram, while sure to disappoint some users, was probably inevitable. Major social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest have committed to keep their services free to users, and they have turned to advertising to pay the bills.
The expanded advertising options signal that Facebook is becoming serious about making money from Instagram, which has a younger audience than the main Facebook social network.
Instagram offered its first ads in November 2013, but since it has been subsidized by Facebook, it has had time to develop an ad strategy.
The advertising expansion has long been anticipated by marketers and investors, who see big money for Facebook and the brands in ads shown to Instagram’s users — a generally young, passionate group who share, like, click and comment on posts at a much higher rate than users of other services, including Facebook.
One Wall Street firm, RBC Capital Markets, has estimated that Instagram ads could bring in $1.3 billion to $2.1 billion in additional revenue to Facebook this year alone, depending on how quickly its new ad offerings are introduced.
Consumer brands and retailers have been particularly eager for an easy way to lead people who, for instance, like an Instagram photo of a pair of ballet flats, to a place where they could buy the shoes.
Right now, that experience is clumsy, especially on mobile phones, when users are forced to cut and paste a link into their browsers or search for the shoes on a retailer’s site.
“It’s not fun as a user and hard to track as a brand,” said Kfir Gavrieli, chief executive and co-founder of Tieks, a Los Angeles maker of foldable ballet flats that sells its wares entirely online. Mr. Gavrieli, whose company has about 400,000 Instagram followers, was briefed by Facebook on the coming changes and said he was eager to try the company’s new targeting and click-to-buy options.
Nevertheless, increased advertising could also turn off Instagram users. The service’s founder, Kevin Systrom, who still runs the service within Facebook, built it to be a place to relax and appreciate beautiful photos and videos posted by people and companies that users have chosen to follow. When Facebook bought Mr. Systrom’s company for $1 billion, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, said he wanted to preserve that experience.
Filling the feed with unexpected ads from random companies could alter that.
“It’s not necessarily going to be the beautiful imagery that fans are used to, ” said Debra Aho Williamson, a principal analyst at eMarketer, who was briefed in advance about the company’s plans. She cited the infamous Facebook ads promoting belly-fat reduction as an example of “ugly” ads that could soon show up in Instagram feeds.
Instagram insists that it is treading carefully to balance the desires of its advertisers and its users and does not want to appreciably change the user experience.
“Visual storytelling for brands has more resonance. People remember it more,” said James Quarles, Instagram’s global head of business and brand development. “But we want to make sure the ads they see are for things that matter to them.”
Instagram has roughly the same number of users as Twitter. But Instagram has been much slower than Twitter and its own sister network, Facebook, in allowing ads on the service and building sophisticated targeting tools to help marketers reach potential customers.
Google has also been creative. Last week, for example, it began public testing of a tool that allows people to buy products from within a YouTube video. And Pinterest, another growing social network, said Tuesday that it would allow sellers to add “buy” buttons on items they post to the site.
Instagram has “taken it in a very gradual way to maintain as much of the purity of the environment as they can,” said Brian Wieser, a media analyst with Pivotal Research.
Collectively, the expanded advertising options signal that Facebook is becoming serious about making money from Instagram, which has a younger audience than the main Facebook social network, whose core users are middle-age mothers.
“Who are brands obsessed with? High-income teens and people in their 20s,” said Scott Galloway, a New York University marketing professor and chairman of L2, a research firm that studies how consumer brands use social media. “Those people are leaving Facebook. Where are they going? Instagram. Facebook has shored up its rear flank with this important cohort with Instagram.”
There is little doubt that Instagram is a powerful storytelling platform for marketers. But so far, most of them have not advertised on the service but instead have used it for more subtle forms of marketing.
The Oreo cookie brand, for example, just finished “Tiny Tasty World,” a campaign on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter that turns Oreos into miniature life scenes. In one, tiny people lounge on beach towels that rest on top of a golden Oreo in the sand. That post drew nearly 25,000 likes and more than 200 comments on Instagram.
“The visual style really resonates with people,” said Kerri McCarthy, a brand manager for Oreo North America.
So far, Oreo has only posted images on its Instagram account and has not paid for advertising, Ms. McCarthy said. While that has been successful — since December, the size of Oreo’s audience has doubled to roughly half a million followers — paid advertising could further increase the brand’s reach.
That opportunity to reach people who are not yet fans but have the demographic traits that make them likely customers is part of Facebook’s appeal to advertisers.
And over the coming months, the company says, it will bring that targeting to Instagram, which could appeal even to brands with large numbers of followers.
GMC, the truck brand of General Motors, for example, uses such targeting to advertise on Facebook to potential truck buyers, a group it has identified through outside marketing data as well as Facebook’s data about its users.
By contrast, the automaker’s first Instagram ad, a panoramic experiment that made its debut last week, was sent to all American Instagram users ages 25 to 54.
“Instagram, at this point, doesn’t have the level of sophistication that Facebook has,” said Janet Keller, GMC’s marketing director. “Ideally, down the road we would have access to a lot more targeting and filtering.”
Mr. Quarles of Instagram was much more cautious about promising the other feature that advertisers really want: the ability to embed a link in a post so that interested viewers can click to buy a product or learn more.
Instagram will begin testing such “call to action” buttons soon, but only in ads and only in Spain, Mr. Quarles said.
“Our sense is that the time from being inspired to making that purchase is probably a longer one than a single session on Instagram,” he said.
Retailers would beg to differ.
Many of them already use third-party workarounds, such as Curalate’s Like2Buy tool, to allow fans to shop their Instagram feeds. Visitors to the Instagram pages of Target, Nordstrom, Forever 21, Williams-Sonoma and other retailers can click on a special link that the store posts in its account description that leads to a mirror image of its Instagram feed — but one where photos are clickable and link to product pages where a shopper can buy the items.
“We have a lot of marketers who post beautiful photographs, and it’s inspiring, and it causes people to want those products,” said Apu Gupta, chief executive of Curalate.
Instagram’s lack of product links has not only frustrated marketers, he said, “it’s frustrated consumers, too.”

Monday, June 1, 2015

How to Create a Viral Idea in a Boring Vertical - by BuzzStream · May 21, 2015

BuzzStream

How To Create a Viral Idea in a Boring Vertical
As much as we love variety, let’s face it: Some things are just plain boring. This can feel especially true when you’re working with multiple clients – some days you’re offering endless ideas about comic book characters and movies; the next you’re trying to make any inch of linoleum seem cool. It’s a daunting task, but it’s not impossible.
You can successfully create viral content within boring verticals; however, it requires you to conduct a focused research strategy and curate a very specific outreach plan. It all comes down to who will link to it and who will share it.
Here, we’ll walk you through five steps to improving your chances of creating content that will not only reach your niche audience but land your content on the screens of potential consumers.

1. Research what’s performing well in your niche and create unique ideas through lateral thinking.

A great place to begin ideation: Learn what your audience already finds interesting. This will help you understand the bigger picture of what people want. From there, you can break down the topic into smaller themes that you can use as the basis for your ideation. Gather all you can about the topic area – including articles that are currently earning a lot of shares along with any that have done well in the past.
You’ll want to visit sites that allow for advanced search options; this will help you narrow your queries by keywords and social shares. Some popular sites include:
  • Google: This is where most people begin with ideation. Using the query “viral + keyword” (“keyword” being whatever topic you’re exploring) is the easiest place to start. The initial list of links delivered is a great place to search for ideas; it also provides a snapshot of which sites could be included in a list of potential targets for promotion. You can also narrow your search further via the Advanced Search option as well as with the use of supplementary Google tools, including Google News and Google Trends.
  • Reddit: Begin with a simple search using two or three keywords concerning your topic. For this instance, we searched “finance.” Right below the search box you’ll find a list of popular subreddits. These are niche communities discussing your primary topic, and they’ll help you identify narrower themes.
Reddit search for finance
  • BuzzFeed: This site dominates in social shares, so it’s a great resource when you’re looking for currently trending stories. Enter two or three keywords about your topic in its search box and review the returned list of stories. BuzzFeed also easily lets its readers know whether a topic is trending by including a special icon near the story (see below); trending items are also readily available on the site’s homepage in the lower right-hand corner.
Trending on BuzzFeed
Trending on BuzzFeed
After exploring these strategies, you’ll begin the actual ideation process. This is where you and your team can explore the different content ideas that will fit within each of the subcategories, helping you to determine which topics could truly go viral.
Keep in mind, some of the most shared content has an emotional appeal, and a lot of the time your audience wants to be surprised. Make sure you deliver. Coming up with this sort of idea requires lateral, outside-of-the-box thinking. What are some ways to do this? Run an idea through one or more of the following concepts:
  • Negate – Take an assumption and present data that prove the opposite. For example, if everyone assumes the divorce rate is on the rise, provide data that show the decline.
  • Reverse – Look at an idea from another angle and present it in a different way. For instance, instead of providing the benefits of eating organic, show how many pesticides could be left in your system after a year of eating non-organic.
  • Distort – Take something everyone can identify with and present it in a new way. For instance, show how much fuel and how many people it takes to make a single plane trip.
  • Hope – Present an idea that everyone would enjoy and explore its potential benefits. For example, say consumers all suddenly had access to self-driving cars: What would people be able to do with all the extra time?
Throughout the ideation phase, be sure to keep everything organized in a shared document – e.g., a spreadsheet. (Some useful column labels include “idea owner,” “target audience,” “theme,” “possible asset,” and “campaign description.”) This organization will give everyone a better understanding of each possible campaign idea, which will help you when vetting your ideas (more on that later).
Example of ideation doc
Example of ideation doc

2. Review what your competitors are doing to learn what’s working and what’s falling short.

Competitors: They’re out there, and often you’re after the same audience. Keep in mind, competitive analysis is crucial if you want to stay ahead of the curve – without it, you could be missing out on game-changing opportunities; so once you’ve exhausted your research, take the time to find out what your competitors are up to. Identify their latest campaigns via a quick online search. You’ll learn which ideas soared and which ones missed the mark. This will help you narrow your idea and determine the best possible assets.
Once you’ve determined their highest-performing campaigns, look at specific pickups. This will help you in three ways:
  • You’ll find inspiration for your campaign assets.
  • You’ll be able to create a list of targeted sites you’ll want to go after during your promotions cycle.
  • You’ll learn what your target audience liked and didn’t like through each article’s comments section, which will help you create new angles.

3. Use social media to find out what your target audience is sharing.

Your goal is to create content that gets shared, and social media is the best place to learn what people are engaging with. Start by visiting the social media sites of your targeted publishers. See what they’re posting on their networks and which stories are earning the most shares. Checking the share buttons or links below each post is an easy way to do this.
Example of Facebook shares
Example of Facebook shares
You’ll also want to note the feedback in the comments under each post. Perhaps people want to know more about a specific angle? Make sure your new campaign helps them find the answer.
It’s also a good idea to search within the specific social networks. For example, Twitter can offer insight on what’s currently trending with your topic along with who are the key influencers in your vertical. After an initial keyword search, Twitter will deliver the top tweets, live tweets, and accounts that directly involve your topic, and any photos or videos related to your topic.
Twitter search for finance
It also presents you with “More options.” This feature allows you to filter your results even further while also allowing you to save your search for future reference.
Facebook makes it easy to determine who’s sharing within your niche along with the latest trending stories. Simply type your keyword in the search box and you’ll be redirected to a page that allows you to filter by the top accounts and pages.
A new Facebook feature also allows you to filter trending stories by different verticals – specifically politics, science and technology, sports, and entertainment. Even if your niche vertical isn’t listed, it’s a great way to see which stories are trending in high-performing verticals and connect your idea to one of those stories.
Facebook search for finance

4. Build a list of target websites and determine any patterns in their top-performing content.

The good news about a boring vertical? You’ll usually have an idea of the specific publishers you’ll want to target. Use this to your advantage during the ideation phase through tools like BuzzSumo, where you can search specific publishers to see what stories are high-performing within their audience.
For example, finance topics can be very niche, and a great target that you would already have in mind is the Wall Street Journal. Searching its URL within BuzzSumo will give you the top-performing articles on the site.
BuzzSumo search for WSJ
BuzzSumo search for WSJ
From here you can look at each article and identify any particular patterns. Were infographics used more than dynamic assets? Did certain numbers perform better than others (i.e., maybe “eight ways” did better than a “top 10” list). These are all insights you can use to amplify your asset.
Additionally, you can directly contact editors of a targeted publisher and offer them the opportunity to collaborate. Editors and writers are the gatekeepers for content, and they understand what their audiences want. Offer them a few ideas and address their feedback. This is not only a great way to ensure your content will be shared, but it’s also a means of guaranteeing a placement.
BuzzStream includes features that can help you organize this feedback from editors. For example, in the main dashboard of a contact, you can quickly add a note on which projects they’re open to along with any feedback on particular assets that do well with his or her audience.
BuzzStream note feature
BuzzStream note feature

5. Once you’ve created a list concepts, have at least four other people provide feedback before choosing the final idea.

A good rule of thumb: Include at least 10 ideas within your vertical before vetting. Once you’re ready to compare each idea, you’ll want to get feedback from at least four people who are familiar with the client – these should be associates who know the parameters the content needs to meet and have a good understanding of what gets content shared. Ask them to assign a score (1–10) to each idea based on the following factors:
  • Whether the idea closely aligns to set parameters.
  • The idea’s originality.
  • Whether the idea is newsworthy.
  • The idea’s emotional appeal.
Once the list is tallied, present it to your client to determine which idea is most viable after considering both the cost and timeline.
A viral hit isn’t impossible in a boring vertical, but it does take some work. Remember, there’s no such thing as boring ideas but rather uninspired content. With some creative thinking and strategic research, you’ll be able to create a campaign that compels your audience to share.

George Zimmer Starts an ‘Uber for Tailors’ - NY Times DAVID GELLES · May 31, 2015

 NY Times article by David Gelles

George Zimmer’s desire to help tailors was part of the reason he founded zTailors, a new app and website. He says he thinks the company might be able to double tailors’ incomes. Peter Earl McCollough for The New York Times
Though he was ousted from Men’s Wearhouse, George Zimmer still wants you to “like the way you look” — only this time with an app.
Once the gravelly voiced, graybeard face of the retail chain he founded, Mr. Zimmer has been refashioning himself as a technology entrepreneur. On Monday, he will unveil his new company, zTailors, a website and app that connects customers and their frumpy wardrobes with on-demand tailors who are ready to make house calls.
“It’s Uber for tailors,” Mr. Zimmer, 66, said in an interview.
Backing the nascent company with his own money, Mr. Zimmer says he believes that zTailors — yes, the “z” is for Zimmer — has the potential to transform millions of ill-fitting garments into like-new items.
Its app and website allow customers to schedule a tailor to come to their homes or offices, where they will measure and refit suits, shirts, jackets and dresses for a set price. The altered items are then returned in a few days.
The market, Mr. Zimmer says, is as wide open as a walk-in closet in a sprawling McMansion.
“In the closets of Americans, there is billions of dollars’ worth of apparel that has accumulated over the years,” he said. “It doesn’t all appear on the good side of the closet. It doesn’t all fit. That’s either because it has shrunk, or you have grown.”
No obvious rival is currently on the market. A company called Combat Gent introduced a similar concept called Haberdash last year. But Haberdash failed to gain traction and was shut down.
And Uber itself teamed up with a tailor in Singapore for a special offer, bringing a reputable tailor to customers’ homes.
Mr. Zimmer, whose net worth has been estimated to be $150 million to $800 million, is the chairman and the financial force behind zTailors. Other people and wealthy families have contributed money to the start-up, he says, but no venture capitalists are involved, despite the Oakland, Calif., company’s proximity to Silicon Valley.
In recent months, zTailors has been in stealth mode, operating in several major cities around the country, and it already has 600 tailors signed up. The plan is to be operating in all 50 states by the end of the year, with more than 1,000 tailors.
One test customer was Nathaniel Burns, from Walnut Creek, Calif., a style-conscious executive at a local credit union. Mr. Burns had recently lost 30 pounds after competing in obstacle course races like Tough Mudder, and no longer fit in his suits.
“I had $1,000 dollar suits that I no longer could wear,” he said. “I was curious to see if they could do anything with them.”
Using zTailors, he summoned a seamstress to his house after work one day; she measured him, and returned the suits a few weeks later — fitting Mr. Burns and with more modern detailing — for $450. Mr. Burns is now planning to use zTailors to refit several of his sports coats and some of his wife’s outfits.
Motivating Mr. Zimmer, in part, is a desire to help tailors. The average tailor makes about $38,000 a year, he said, adding that his company might be able to double that sum. At the same time, tailors are a highly fragmented work force, with no national chain offering a reliable and branded product.
“Tailors deserve this opportunity to take advantage of smartphones, to double their incomes and to enjoy the fruits of their labors,” he said.
Prices are $20 to taper a shirt and $16 to hem a pair of pants. But Mr. Zimmer says that once a tailor is in a client’s home, business will boom.
One tailor who came on board early was Mario Galvan from Temecula, Calif., a former Men’s Wearhouse employee. Mr. Galvan’s first job through zTailors was to a home along the Los Angeles coast, where one man wanted 30 shirts completely refit. The bill was $800.
“When someone is giving you basically everything in their wardrobe off the bat, it’s a huge deal,” he said. “To get that deal right off the bat was fantastic.”
Now Mr. Galvan said he believed he could make more than $100,000 a year.
“As long as you’re a go-getter and you like working, the sky’s the limit,” he said.
ZTailors takes a 35 percent fee from each purchase. Though that is steep, the company says that tailors will find it worthwhile given the higher volume of clothing they are altering.
Asked if he had come up with a slogan to rival the Men’s Wearhouse signature tagline, “You’re going to like the way you look — I guarantee it,” Mr. Zimmer demurred.
“We’re working on something, but it’s not ready for prime time yet,” he said. “It’s only four words.”