Author Archives: eric_wheeler

About eric_wheeler

I'm a social media specialist and a graduate of St. Cloud State University with a Masters Degree in Mass Communications with emphasis in PR and Advertising. My interests include social media, marketing, photography and traveling.

My Top 5 Super Bowl Ads of 2016

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#puppymonkeybaby by Mtn Dew Kickstart. Image via Mashable.

Last year’s Super Bowl ad lineup was so poor, I felt completely uncompelled to watch any of the spots a second time, let alone actually write about them. The year before—the 2014 Super Bowl—wasn’t much better, the only truly memorable ad was “Puppy Love” from Budweiser—good enough for the No. 3 spot on my annual list (I hated the song, but loved the story).

Super Bowl 50 was loaded with hilarious ads selling for as much as $5 million for a :30 second spot. The main players—Budweiser, Volkswagen, Bridgestone—were either absent from the lineup or just didn’t deliver. Here are the top five spots that made the cut:

#5. Audi R8: Commander

Starting out in the No. 5 position on my list is also the only ad that took a dramatic approach. Audi’s Super Bowl commercial features a retired astronaut getting a taste of his old days of blasting off into space upon getting behind the wheel of his son’s Audi R8 V10 plus. Bonus points for featuring David Bowie’s “Starman.” Ah, who am I kidding? David Bowie made this commercial.

#4. Hyundai Genesis: First Date

Coming in at No. 3 on the list is a brilliantly executed ad featuring Kevin Hart as an over-protected father sending his daughter off on her first date. Hart offers the suitor the keys to his Hyundai Genesis, equipped with “Car Finder.” Little did they know, the Car Finder option allowed Hart to keep tabs on their date with his over-protective face popping up at all the wrong moments. The ad uses celebrity endorsement and humor while also showing off the car’s features and hitting a soft spot most of us are familiar with.

#3. Doritos: Doritos Dogs

It wouldn’t be a top Super Bowl ads list without a Doritos ad or two. One of two winners of the annual Doritos Crash the Super Bowl contest features dogs attempting to enter a supermarket to buy Doritos, but continually getting kicked out by the manager because dogs are not allowed. The dogs ended up using some old-fashioned trickery to sneak their way in. After a glorious 10-year run, this is apparently the last Doritos Crash the Super Bowl contest we’ll see.

#2. Heinz Ketchup: Wiener Stampede

Not much to say here. Stampeding wiener dogs meet their Heinz Ketchup family. Not much to it, but man, watching those cute little dachshunds dressed up in little hotdog costumes slow-motion-running through a field is both funny and adorable. It’s a good ad because of the product reinforcement played by the humans dressed in condiment bottle costumes.

 

#1. Mountain Dew: Puppymonkeybaby

I can only assume most viewers found this ad to be completely stupid, annoying and even creepy—I certainly did. However, once I watched it again (and again and again), I realized I couldn’t turn my eyes away as soon as the odd ‘puppymonkeybaby’ creature enters the room. Chubby baby legs, a hairy monkey body and tail, and an ugly little pug face. This ad is ranked lower on most lists, but it earned the top spot for me because it was memorable and laugh-out-loud hilarious. Also, this is a brilliant use of hashtag integration—go ahead, search #puppymonkeybaby on your social networking site of choice. This is not only the ad you most likely talked about at the water cooler the next morning, but also undoubtedly saw a gif or two show up on your Facebook News Feed. Well done, Mtn Dew, welcome to the big time.

Another great year for Super Bowl advertising. I was happy to see a nice return to slapstick comedy that we’ve come to expect from ads during the only sporting event capable of pulling in 100 million or so worldwide viewers. It was tough to narrow this list down to only five and even harder to pick a favorite—I even did some last-minute reshuffling. Which Super Bowl 50 ad was your favorite?

 

Honorable mentions:

Hyundai: The Chase – Who doesn’t love cute talking bears?
Hyundai: Ryanville – If you’re a Ryan Reynolds fan, this ad is for you.
Honda Ridgeline: A New Truck to Love – A little long and over-produced, but again, talking animals is always a safe bet. Oh, and Freddy Mercury.
Doritos: Ultra Sound – Here’s a familiar spot from Doritos (Remember “Sling Baby” from the 2012 Super Bowl?)


Is Peach the next big social networking app? Or is it already seeing a slow, painful death?

 

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“Peach is a refreshingly fun and simple way to keep up with friends and be yourself.” -Apple Store description.

 

Peach, the private social networking app loaded with innovative features, but lacking in usability and a large user base, may already be a thing of the past, according to recent headlines.

Peach officially launched eight days ago.

You read that right. Peach launched a mere eight days ago and its potential is already in question. Is the online world really that consumed (and satisfied) with only a handful of social networking mainstays (namely Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) that an innovative, exciting new app can’t penetrate the market? Sadly, it’s getting increasingly difficult for a new social networking service to compete with the big guys. Peach has my attention, and the potential contend with the heavy hitters, but can it rise to the challenge?

It’s been awhile since a new social networking site or app has really caught my eye. Draw Something was more of a mobile game than a social networking app, but it definitely roped me in due to its incredibly addictive attributes.

Path, the social networking app that set a limit of only 50 friends you could connect with, came and went before I even had a chance to write about it.

Pinterest definitely won me over, even triggering a blog post about the visual bookmarking tool being a ‘game changer.’

Ello was apparently all the rave for a few short months about a year ago. I was an early adopter of Ello, but never really saw its benefits. With nothing particularly innovative or unique about it, I stopped using Ello just about as soon as I signed up. It’s still in service, but is anyone talking about it? Have you Ello’d lately?

I never wrote about Snapchat, but we all know the success the disappearing messaging app has seen. Snapchat is so popular that it’s now entering its “mom moment” of social networking sites—when an app or service becomes so popular that even your mom starts using it.

Maybe I’m not too good at this whole trend-spotting thing. Of the services mentioned above, Pinterest is the only social networking site that has had real lasting power. Pinterest is growing, and I still find myself browsing through hundreds of pins nearly every day.

Starting a new online social networking service is a difficult task. Just barely into its second week of operation, Peach is already seeing a flood of naysayers. A recent blog post on Social Media Today suggests Peach won’t stick, but that existing social networking power houses should adopt some of its features. A Mashable article suggests the ‘week-old social network named Peach may already be over,’ and that Facebook should buy it up.

One thing most who have used Peach love is how innovative it is. Its ‘magic words’ feature allows you to type in certain words or phrases that prompts a special action to include in your post. It’s a fun addition and one that most people would love to see integrated with Facebook and Twitter. Magic words include typing things such as “gif” to search for an animated gif within the app to easily and seamlessly include in your post. Typing “draw” gives you the ability to make a quick sketch to include with your post. Typing “weather” brings up current conditions, “here” adds your location, “goodmorning” prompts the time of day along with a couple emojis, and so on.

Peach is getting a ton of coverage for such a young start up, but unless it finds a way to dramatically grow its user base and greatly improve its ease of use, it’ll end up as a mere footnote in social media history (or a social media ghost town of sorts). Lastly, Peach must continue to innovate. It’s what helped Peach make a splash in the first place and it will need to keep giving users more in order to stay alive and relevant.

What are your thoughts? Will Peach last? Are you on Peach? Add me! Peach username: @eric_wheeler

Further reading:

Eric Wheeler is a social media specialist based in Massachusetts. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications from Northwestern Oklahoma State University and his Master of Science degree in Mass Communications from St. Cloud State University. He is currently taking Northwestern University’s Social Marketing Specialization MOOC offered by Coursera. Follow Eric on Twitter and Instagram.


#Instafamous: 3 ways to grow your following and engagement on Instagram

If you’re on Instagram, you have likely come across someone who has a huge following and gets an incredible amount of engagement with every photo or video they post. I have maintained an Instagram account for about five years now and, while I’ve always sought high engagement, I’ve only just now started to really focus on gaining a larger following and on increasing engagement on every photo or video I post.

The number of blog posts about increasing engagement and growing a larger following are abundant to say the least. A recent example from Margot da Cunha gives “5 Free Tips to Increase Your Instagram Followers,” which speaks from a marketing point-of-view.

Most of her tips are specifically geared toward companies looking to use Instagram as a social marketing tool. In one such example, the author suggests sending out “a company-wide reminder to add a link to your company Instagram in employee email signatures.”

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Image via dailytekk.com

In an article by Ross Simmonds on convinceandconvert.com, the suggestions speak from a more general perspective with tips on building community through engaging content, using relevant hashtags and establishing relationship with influencers.

Both articles include a list of actionable steps you can make right now to start building up your Instagram community and tricks to begin increasing engagement on each post you send out. The articles are definitely worth the read, but I would like to argue that building up a following and increasing engagement starts with the content itself.

Here are three steps you can take to build a larger following and increase engagement:

  1. Post high-quality content. This is easier said than done, but it really is important to post only your best images and videos. Lately, I have been focusing on posting high-quality images, which means I shoot in RAW format using a DSLR camera so I can edit the photos in post using Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop before I ever upload it to Instagram—even then, not all images make the cut.
  2. Post consistently. I typically try to post once or twice per day, but only if I have a high-quality image to share with my followers. If you’re a marketer using Instagram, it would be wise to put together a content calendar specifically for Instagram to ensure that you always have high-quality images and videos to share. From a personal standpoint, this means I’ll often take several shots of the same subject so I’m sure to have plenty of content for the coming days, weeks and months.
  3. Tell a story. I couldn’t agree more with the first tip from Ross Simmonds, which is to use emotion in your content. Some of my more well-received Instagram posts tell a story both in the image itself and in the caption. For example, I recently participated in a compensated social media campaign for Mazda. I was hesitant to post an advertisement in my feed, but by uploading a high-quality image that matched my style and by including a short narrative in the caption, the photo was well-received.

Again, there are myriad articles about increasing your Instagram follower count and boosting engagement, but I feel high-quality content is your best arsenal. Only share your best images, be consistent and tell a story. Below are several additional resources for tips on increasing engagement and growing your Instagram following:

Eric Wheeler is a social media specialist based in Massachusetts. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications from Northwestern Oklahoma State University and his Master of Science degree in Mass Communications from St. Cloud State University. He is currently taking Northwestern University’s Social Marketing Specialization MOOC offered by Coursera. Follow Eric on Twitter and Instagram.


How to: Use an Event Hashtag Before, During and After an Event

Schmidt says

If used effectively, a hashtag can bring added excitement leading up to and during your event.

By now we should all be familiar with hashtags and how they can be either annoying or helpful depending on how they’re used. At their core, hashtags are meant to categorize online content, emphasize keywords or phrases and aid in connecting with others through common interests. Once exclusive to Twitter, hashtags are now widely used across most online social networks. When used sparingly and appropriately, hashtags can enhance communication. But when used out of context or without creative thought, they become distracting. Using hashtags in verbal communication can make you the butt of a joke. And nobody wants to be the butt of a joke.

One effective use of hashtags is for events. If you’ve attended a networking event or large conference in the past few years, you’ve probably noticed or even used an event-specific hashtag. When used at events, hashtags can be a great way for attendees to actively participate, allow for social networking and make it easy for people to find event highlights with just a quick Twitter search. Event hashtags can even allow for people to follow the event virtually if they’re unable to attend in person.

Unfortunately, many events do a poor job of execution when it comes to maximizing event hashtag usage. The list below should give you some good ideas to effectively promote the event hashtag in the days and months leading up to the event, increase hashtag usage during the event and in using the hashtag to recap the event.

When looking through this list, keep in mind that these are merely ways to get the most out of an event hashtag. Remember that the event hashtag also needs to be unique, short, descriptive and memorable. Check out this article in AdWeek for more on how to choose and effective hashtag.

Hashtag promotion leading up to event:

  • Include event hashtag on any main graphics produced for the event
  • Make sure to include the hashtag on all communications leading up to event
    • Save the date email/mailer
    • Newsletters
    • Registration email
    • Reminder emails
    • PDF flyer
    • Tweets leading up to and during event
  • Include on website(s)
    • Main event landing page
    • Registration page
    • Confirmation page/event ticket
    • Website homepage banner
    • News section
    • Blog post promoting event and what to expect
  • Include the hashtag on event printed materials
    • All signage (posters, large print banners or tabletop items)
    • Name tags and lanyards (also include company Twitter handle and attendee’s Twitter handle or leave space to fill in)
    • Table cards
    • Agenda print outs
    • Presentation decks
    • Event specific SWAG (lanyards, T-shirts, pens, note pads, etc.)
    • Place on food items (on coffee cups, printed on napkins, written on desserts, stickers on chip bags, etc.)

Encourage using the hashtag during event:

  • Have speakers mention the hashtag prior to their presentation or during their introduction by the emcee
  • Encourage audience participation by giving out prizes (signed book from one of the speakers, free registration to next year’s event, gift cards, etc.)
  • Project the branded hashtag at a main area where attendees will convene or just off stage from presenters
  • Have someone live-tweet the event from event Twitter handle
    • Monitor the hashtag and favorite/retweet the best ones
    • Have pre-planned tweets ready to go out during the event
    • Share photos/videos during the event
  • Project event hashtag conversation on a wall or monitor using a tool like HootSuite’s HootFeed (more services here)

Post-event hashtag use:

  • Thank attendees and everyone who participated
  • Share notes or speaker presentation decks
  • Post a recap video (embed on event page, post to YouTube, share on other sites)
  • Share photos from the event (make a Flickr slideshow)
  • Share a Storify event recap focusing on the best tweets and moments shared

Do you have ideas on how to get the most out of an event hashtag? Let me know in the comments below or tweet me: @eric_wheeler.

Schmidt gif via metro.co.uk.


PHOTOS: Apostle Islands Ice Caves

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Apostle Islands Ice Caves, a set on Flickr.

I had the fortunate opportunity to visit the Apostle Ice Caves along the shores of Lake Superior in Wisconsin last weekend. Here’s some of my best photos.

Via Flickr:

Photos from the Apostle Islands Ice Caves on Lake Superior in northern Wisconsin. www.facebook.com/photographybywheeler


My Top 5 Super Bowl Ads of 2014

Image of the Super Bowl XLVIII logo.Another Super Bowl has come and gone and that means it’s time for a breakdown of my top five ads from one of the biggest days in sports. There’s not much to talk about in the 43-8 beating the Broncos took from the Seahawks so we’ll just dive right into it.

This year’s crop of Super Bowl ads seemed pretty weak at first glance. Maybe I was a little distracted from munching on a delicious assortment of Chex Mix, pizza and other delicious treats. Maybe the game was so boring that I just had too many side conversations and browsing on my iPhone to catch all the details of the commercials. In any event, upon a thorough review of each game-day ad on YouTube, it turns out there were some pretty high-quality ads. I’m still a fan of the slapstick comedic spots, but this year seems to have fallen suit with 2013 in leaning toward the dramatic and heart-warming side of life.

Below is my fourth annual list of the top five spots that aired during Super Bowl XLVIII. View my top five list from previous years here.

#5. Audi: Doberhuahua

This ad was a must for my top five list for the sheer chaos that ensued during the 60 seconds of terror. Things got a little weird, but you gotta love the appearance from Sarah McLachlan and just the mere thought of a Chihuahua with a snarling, oversized Doberman head running rampant in a zombie apocalypse-style setting. It was certainly talked about at offices around the country on Monday.

#4. Jamie Casino: Casino’s Law

You probably weren’t expecting any local ads on this list and you’d be right in assuming I’ve never featured one before. However, this is the most extravagant local spot I’ve ever seen–Super Bowl or not–and it deserves to be on this list. As AdWeek put it, Jamie Casino takes on a Saul Goodman-esque role, who was a “lawyer to the crooks until something bad happened to him—and he reinvented himself.” Please watch the full two minutes of local advertising glory. 

#3. Budweiser: Puppy Love

Here’s a sweet quasi-followup from Budweiser’s “Clydesdales Brotherhood” spot from last year. This ad probably would have slipped into the No. 2 position had the music been of a different tune–I can’t stand Passenger’s voice. My opinion aside, the girls in the room were nearly in tears before the commercial ended and it’s a must for this list.

#2. Chrysler: America’s Import (Bob Dylan)

This ad being in the No. 2 position reveals two things about me: 1.) I’m a sucker for Americana and 2.) I love Bob Dylan–my parents even thought was good idea to name me after the legendary American singer-songwriter. There’s a couple moments of this ad that I think are a little weak and it probably could have been done in 1:30 or even 60 seconds, but again, you gotta love the Americana set to the tune of Dylan’s aging voice and iconic music. Actually, I’m probably only justifying the presence of this ad on my list because I am such a Bob Dylan fan. Who cares, it’s my list.

#1. Doritos: Time Machine

After four years of reviewing Super Bowl ads, the score is even: two dramatic ads and two funny ads clinch the top spot. By now you should be familiar with the annual Doritos Crash the Super Bowl online commercial contest. The contest made a big splash when it debuted in 2006 and has produced some of the most memorable Super Bowl ads of the past decade. Indeed, I’ve now placed three Doritos ads throughout my four years of top five lists. This spot has it all: Short, cute and hilarious. I could watch this over and over and get a smile on my face every time. Well done, Mr. Anderson and good luck in your future film career.

Bonus spots that didn’t quite make the cut:

CarMax: Slow Clap – Who doesn’t love a good slow clap? Plus a cameo from Rudy!
RadioShack: The Phone Call – Everything you loved about the 80s.
Coca-Cola: It’s Beautiful – Nicely done and bold move–even stirring up a little controversy.
Chobani: Bear – More Bob Dylan!


Union Depot Station

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Union Depot Station, a set on Flickr.

Take a look at the main entrance to Union Depot in St. Paul, Minn. These photos were taken with a newly issued Nikon D610 and 35mm lens while on assignment for Metro Transit just before the press conference announcing the METRO Green Line opening date.

Lots of excitement gearing up for June 14, 2014 when the downtowns of St. Paul and Minneapolis will, once again, be connected via light rail. Learn more about the METRO Green Line and see the countdown at http://www.metrotransit.org/greenline. It’s a great time to work at Metro Transit!


Twitter Analytics is Finally Here!

Screenshot of eric_wheeler's Twitter analytics

Twitter analytics provides lots of useful data including interests and location of your followers.

Twitter recently launched its analytics function for advertisers. I’m a little behind the curve on this one, but I finally had the chance to poke around a bit by looking at my own analytics–I found all sorts of useful data. One thing that is especially useful is the ability to look at your entire history on Twitter (apparently going back to Dec. 28, 2008 for me) to uncover follower growth, top interests, gender of followers, top locations and more.

There is also a breakdown of your timeline activity for the past 30 days that shows mentions, follows and unfollows for each day and each post. What’s cool about this is you can sort the data by “best,” “good” or “all” posts meaning I can sort by only the best posts and see what is most successful. So I can easily sort the data and know that one of my most popular tweets of the past 30 days is the article I posted about the food truck employee who got fired for tweeting at a company for not tipping–three retweets and three times the normal reach. It also tells me the link to the article got 13 clicks–highly valuable intel.

Here’s a nice summary article on using Twitter analytics from PR Daily if you’re interested in learning more:

A Twitter analytics cheat sheet

Have you used Twitter analytics yet? If so, how and what for?


#Infographic: Are you Suffering from Facebook Fatigue? Need a Break?

Image of an infographic about fatigue from Facebook.

Do you need a break from Facebook?

If you’re like most people, a Facebook vacation may be in your future…

Facebook now has more than 1 billion users. That’s a lot. And most of us are aware the social networking site is the largest in the world. Facebook has seemingly proliferated nearly every crevice of the ‘interwebs.’ Websites are using Facebook widgets in place of the ‘traditional’ comment section, the Facebook share button sits next to nearly every blog post and most people check their Facebook news feed several times a day.

For many of us, Facebook is such a huge part of our lives that it can be hard to get away from the daily dose of friend updates, brand pages marketing their products and news about the site itself. I get made fun of for my constant social media consumption–I’m always on the hunt for articles spanning a wide array of topics just so I can share it across my networks. All this Facebook usage and consumption of updates from our online social networks can be rather taxing. Even I take a break from time-to-time. According to the infographic from onlinecollegecourses.com below, I’m not alone–61 percent of current Facebook users have taken a break from Facebook for one week or longer.

The infographic states several reasons why people feel the need to take a brief hiatus from Facebook. For me, it’s just nice to ‘unplug’ for a day or two just to clear my mind a bit. Take a look at the infographic below and let me know if you’ve taken a break from Facebook or if you plan to soon.

Facebook Fatigue Infographic


My Top 5 Super Bowl Ads of 2013

It’s time for a breakdown of my top five spots from advertising’s biggest day. This was certainly a good year for Super Bowl advertising and an even bigger year for social media during the big game. Last year I ended up picking five funny spots and this year I have a more balanced list (as balanced as a top five list can get). Brands mostly went for heart-warming over hysterical this year and many of the comedic spots were really not that funny in my opinion or they were produced a little too over-the-top.

Social media played a role in this year’s brand bowl more so than ever before. If you’re a marketer reading this, I’m sure you’re well aware of the brilliant and timely posts delivered by the Oreo social media team. When the lights went out at the Superdome, Oreo pushed out the below image on Facebook and Twitter in a matter of minutes:

This was an image with real staying power. It picked up another thousand plus retweets the day after the big game, the Facebook post got over 20,000 ‘likes’ and close to 7,000 shares and the quick and witty post picked up tons of free press. Oreo is certainly on top of its game and made sure its ‘Cream Or Cookie’ Super Bowl spot was fully supported with social media build up and timely posts sent out before, during and even after the game. Social media activity like this can only be achieved with a command center and all hands on deck. The social media activity during the Super Bowl this year was certainly impressive, but it’s time to break down my favorite ads.

#5. Samsung Mobile USA – The Next Big Thing

I’m not usually one to fall for celebrity endorsements, but these two are hilarious. Not sure how much the ad will help in its epic battle for marketshare over Apple, but it can’t hurt.

#4. Viva Young – Taco Bell Game Day Commercial

This commercial is great. I can only wish I will be this cool when I’m sitting around in a retirement home a few decades from now. Only thing bad about it is now I have that Fun. song stuck in my head, which I spent most of 2012 trying to get rid of. At least it was in Spanish.

#3. OREO – Whisper Fight

A whisper fight in a library? Brilliant. Though I’m a little surprised it hadn’t been done before. Again, Oreo absolutely stole the show from a branding and marketing standpoint. They even took this moment to launch an Instagram account. Before the Super Bowl, Oreo had around 2,200 followers on Instagram and garnered around 35,000 followers by the end of Sunday night. Props to 360i and the Oreo social media command center.

#2. Budweiser Super Bowl Ad — The Clydesdales: “Brotherhood”

This ad literally brought tears to the eyes of some of my coworkers. With several terribly awful ads from Bud Light, Anheuser-Busch InBev totally redeemed itself with this tear-jerker of an ad.

#1. Ram Trucks Super Bowl Commercial “Farmer”

This one struck a chord with me from the first frame and had chills going through my spine by the end. Growing up in northwest Oklahoma and listening to farmers talk about the weather and wheat prices everyday definitely had an influence on this year’s pick. Paul Harvey had a big part in my life as well. Seemed like anytime I showed up at my grandparents house in Alva, Okla., Paul Harvey was delivering his famous “The Rest of the Story” segments on the kitchen radio. It also helped that the commercial was beautifully done with shots from a National Geographic photographer and a renowned documentary photographer. Nicely done, Dodge.

Bonus spots:

Because of my Oklahoma roots and because the Flaming Lips are just incredible in general: 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe | Big Game Ad | “Epic Playdate

Because I love awkward moments: Unattended Laundry: You needed the machine. You got caught panty-handed (Speed Stick)

Because I love Amy Poehler: Best Buy – Asking Amy: Official 2013 Best Buy Game Day Commercial


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