Singles’ Day on Chinese Social Media

Posted by on November 12, 2015 with 0 Comments

This latest in our PR in Asia series was contributed by guest blogger Eiffy Luo, a EiffyLuomultimedia story teller who discovered her passion for business and journalism through work at, Reuters and the New York Times.

The post is about Singles Day (11/11), which started out as a Chinese holiday but has grown into an international phenomena.

Thanks Eiffy! And thank you for reading, we hope you find the information to be helpful and interesting.

Competition Heats Up

E-commerce giants are competing for “Singles’ Day,” an online shopping festival similar to “Black Friday” in the U.S. In the first 90 minutes, Alibaba Group said it pulled $5 billion in total sales. Last year, the firm recorded $9.3 billion at the end of November 11.

The Singles’ Day has intensified the rivalry between the two e-commerce retailers in China, Alibaba Group and It was launched by Alibaba in 2009 to promote their Tmall online shopping mall and encourage single people to shop for themselves and celebrate their lives.

In August, Alibaba Group partnered with consumer electronics retailer Suning Commerce Group in an effort to match or exceed JD’s capabilities. The partnership gives Alibaba access to Suning’s logistics network, which reaches across most of China, to boost same-day delivery of consumer electronics and appliances.

However, has been gaining in areas like clothing, and has called apparel the “most important growth engine” for JD Mall. Last year, developed a partnership with Tencent Group, China’s largest social media company, to attract consumers through Tencent’s popular social media platforms WeChat and QQ.

Social Media in China:

E-commerce operators are working on providing deep interactive experiences for customers via social media.

The major social media platforms in China include:

  • Weibo, or “microblog” in Chinese, a hybrid of Twitter and Facebook, and
  • WeChat, a messenger tool similar to WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger or Line. WeChat is even more popular than text messenger and email in business settings in China.

How do e-commerce sellers use social media for “Singles’ Day”?

Sellers are using social media to win over the consumer. The first step is to create deep interactive experiences between consumers and products. For example, an UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) company designed a WeChat animation: as users touched the screen, they could follow the UAV and open an invitation letter. The letter invited users to attend offline events featuring the real UAV.

Next, marketers should deliver a “key message” of their products, catch consumers’ interests, and propose appropriate marketing strategies on social media platforms.

Common Strategies on Weibo:

  • Repost and Rewards: one way to reach out to consumers and “touch” them on social platforms is by offering incentives and encouraging them to post. Weibo users are encouraged to repost a promotion by tagging (“@” in Weibo) their friends (usually the post requires 3), and will get the chance to win the rewards (including sample products, discount, or other gifts) from sellers.
  • KOLs: another important way is to use KOLs, or Key Opinion Leaders, to promote products. KOLs are celebrities on Weibo, which called “Big V” in Chinese, as they have a “Verified” symbol on Weibo ID. Since all of them have over 1 million fans, their post and repost will greatly affect market performance.
  • #Hashtag: Sellers use hashtags to post hot topics, usually related to trending events or celebrities. Sometimes marketers will reach out to Weibo PR and promote their story to “hot topic rankings.” As more people see the topic, they will comment and repost about it with hash tags.

How about WeChat?

WeChat users have profile pages similar to Facebook’s timeline. They post “Moments” like text, photo, and video. Users can also subscribe to official accounts to read and repost news, articles and content they are interested in. Online sellers use HTML5 to add text, pictures, and animations with one link. It could be an interactive game, an article with funny screen shots from a hot TV series, or simply a creative video with an eye-catching title.

At the Tmall Global Shopping Festival party, Jack Ma, CEO of Alibaba Group, even played a short video of President Frank J. Underwood (played by actor Kevin Spacey at House of Cards). In WeChat moments, this is said to be “probably the most expensive ads.”

Singles’ Day is no longer just a special day for singles, but a global shopping festival with everyone in it. One of the keys to winning the game is to get most out of Chinese social media.



Filed Under: events, Social Media, Tech PR, Uncategorized, Web/Tech

The Martians Have Landed, Your Pitch Stinks, We’re All Going to Die!!!

Posted by on October 29, 2015 with 0 Comments

I was glued to third Republican presidential debate last night, watching for signs of intelligent life bal-runaway-blimp-under-investigation-20151029, when the show cut to an important announcement. It said:

“Ladies and gentlemen, we interrupt our program to bring you a special bulletin from the Intercontinental Radio News. At twenty minutes before eight, central time, Professor Farrell of the Mount Jennings Observatory, Chicago, Illinois, reports observing several explosions of incandescent gas, occurring at regular intervals on the planet Mars.”

Soon afterwards, there were news reports that a mysterious blimp-like vehicle had crash landed in rural Pennsylvania. They said it was a U.S. military surveillance vehicle, from NORAD (Yea, right, we’ve heard that story like 1000 times!).

Astute readers will recognize the above quote from the infamous “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast, the monumental “JK” that stoked fear in the hearts of listeners back in 1938 (see the transcript). Narrated by Orson Welles, the show was based on the science fiction novel of the same name. But it led to outrage and panic, as many listeners thought the events described were actually happening.

Now, as we approach Halloween, it is natural to ask: what things do PR people fear?
Some fears are valid, and should be respected. Others should be confronted and vanquished. Here is my list:

Fear of rejection: PR people seem increasingly reluctant to actually call reporters, as I pointed out in my post Don’t Slam the Phone on Proven Media Relations Tactics. They say that the media don’t like to get calls; some admit to being afraid of getting a cranky response, or having their pitches rejected.

Tips: While you need to respect the wishes of the media, it is also true that squeaky wheel gets the grease. The best remedy is to be sure that the information you are presenting is truly of value to the journalist. Of course, it helps to have the kind of media relationships where there is mutual trust – and they welcome your calls.

Fear of measurement: PR has traditionally been hard to measure. Also, we may have a natural fear of having our work evaluated and quantified. What if we don’t hit the mark – or if the ROI is just not there?

Tips: Yes, it is true that not everything can be boiled down to a number (see my post One thing You Can’t Measure in PR). But I think this fear needs to be met head on and conquered. The excuses for not measuring are getting harder to defend. Let’s face it, in an online world, there is readier access to data of all kinds. The tools are growing in number and power, and data driven marketing is the new mantra. PR should not get left behind – when we measure, we can prove ROI.

Fear of being uninteresting/irrelevant: This is one fear that should be taken very seriously. If more in our profession held this concern, pitch spam would not persist to the extent that it does.

Tips: It’s generally safe to assume that your pitch sucks. The remedy? Make it not suck! Know your space, know the reporters, and make sure the pitch is on target. There are no short cuts. Hone that pitch, test market it among colleagues, and polish it some more. I am not saying you should take forever and make a career out of it. Just don’t drink your own Kool Aid.

What do you think? Which fears hold you back?


Filed Under: Fun Stuff, In the News, PR, Public Relations

Ted Underwood on Topic Modeling and PR

Posted by on September 24, 2015 with 0 Comments

I like to follow developments in unstructured data and text mining.  Advances in these text-miningareas can mean big things for PR and social media marketing.  The din is only growing in social media chatter and online content. Those with the best tools will be better equipped to glean insight and turn it into action.

One area in the field that I feel has much potential is topic modeling.  It came to my attention during a series of conversations with Stanford University researcher Jure Leskovec (I had been speaking with him about how info spreads online; see this post, which describes the findings of Jure and his team).

I had wanted to learn about technologies and research that can help understand online content, and answer questions like “what topics are being shared, discussed and trending?”

On the surface, this might sound simple.  There are many monitoring tools, trending reports and social media dashboards that claim to do just that.  But they might not do such a good job when different words are used to describe the same topic, or in slotting content into very granular “buckets”, or spotting totally new trends / keyword / topics.

Topic modeling is an example of unsupervised machine learning.  This means that its algorithms can identify the topics in content without being told what to look for. One of the most promising methods is Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA).

It can get very complicated, which is why I was thrilled to run across the Stone and the Shell blog, which is run by Ted Underwood of the University of Illinois.  His post Topic Modeling Just Simple Enough offered a great overview of the subject.

It whetted my appetite, and I wanted to learn more – so I reached out to Ted, and he graciously consented to an email interview, summarized below.

I will follow this up as I learn more; meanwhile, I wish to thank Ted Underwood for helping to shed light on topic modeling and its implications for PR.

I hope my blog visitors find the information helpful and interesting, thanks for reading.

Can you use LDA to:

(A) categorize short form content such as tweets to topics?

TU: Yes, LDA does work on short-form content, but tweets are short enough that you may lose some conceptual connections that would be visible in longer forms. (LDA will only see the connection if ‘both parts’ of it are contained in a single document, so very short documents become a limitation). Some researchers have recommended aggregating all the tweets of one author, in order to make those connections more visible.

(B) Discover rising topics on Twitter?

TU: Yes, potentially, although I think in reality you might be better off just looking for words or short phrases on the rise. The “topics” produced by LDA are diffuse enough that they can often be a little tricky to interpret. This makes them interesting, but it’s not necessarily what users would want for a “trending topic.” If you wanted to do this you would probably also want to select a topic-modeling algorithm that’s designed to identify topics with a particular temporal profile: something like “Topics over Time” could be tuned to reveal especially topics that are on the rise.  Otherwise every topic model could reveal a lot of topics that are just, e.g. “youthful slang” or “scientific jargon” (kinds of language linked by demographic patterns rather than trends).

(C) Identify favored topics of influencers by analyzing article content and social media updates?

TU: This is an example of a place where I think predictive analytics (supervised learning algorithms) would likely perform better than an unsupervised method like LDA. Unsupervised models can be startling because they’re able to find patterns without being told what to find. But if you actually already know what you want to find (e.g., if you want to know how a particular tweeter, or a particular influential group of them, differs from others) there are usually simpler and more direct ways to model that boundary.

Do all this in near real time (assuming you have access to article text and the Twitter “fire hose”)?

TU: Here you’d really need to talk to someone with more CS or business background than I have, because this becomes a question about optimizing the performance of really large systems. My historical data mining sometimes gets big (a million volumes), but I’m never required to do that on the fly in real time as text is produced.  In principle, I’m sure it’s doable; I know people have worked on ways to make topic models “updatable” so you don’t have to re-run the whole thing every time you get more data. For instance Hoffman and Blei have this article. But there are going to be challenges, and I wouldn’t know exactly how severe they are in practice.

Also, does topic modeling take a semantic approach, i.e. identify the words and content that belong to a topic, when the words used to describe the topic may vary?

Yes, this is its great strength, and it’s the exception to what I said above about mere word-charting probably being better for “trending topics.” If a topic could be described in lots of different ways, LDA might actually be better at revealing it. (On the other hand, this flexibility also means that LDA may reveal things we don’t think of as “topics” — e.g., patterns that are really just the typical diction of particular demographic groups, etc.).


Filed Under: Interviews, PR Tech, Public Relations, Uncategorized, Web/Tech

Naughty or Nice? State of Tech Brand and PR Implications

Posted by on August 10, 2015 with 0 Comments

Is the tech industry a land of opportunity, a growth engine of our economy; a place where GoodEvilcoders garner huge salaries and entrepreneurs achieve the American Dream?

Or is it is a hyper-aggressive frat party, where arrogant Masters of the Universe throw mad money around and Kool Aid drinkers build stupid things?

Perhaps it is a little of both. Sadly, the second narrative is the one that seems to have taken hold in media coverage these days, especially regarding Silicon Valley.

Those who actually work in the field know that it isn’t so simple. Sure, you have the offenders – we have all heard the stories about bad behavior. But some say that businesses, including tech companies, are doing their best to step up and make a real difference when politicians can’t or won’t (see Frank Bruni’s excellent NY Times op ed The Sunny Side of Greed).

Reputation and brand can be funny things, and very resilient. E.g. Amazon is often portrayed as the enemy of publishers, but this has not seemed to hurt it too badly. Similarly, institutions ranging from the NFL to the American auto industry have had their reputation issues, but still hold a special place in our hearts.

For all the dings to tech, it continues to have an allure; and it is hard to argue against its importance to our economy and the careers of many. Moreover it is growing, as how we define the industry changes.

The Times wrote that As Tech Booms, Workers Turn to Coding for Career Change. I said on this blog that there is Gold in them Thar Apps, and App Developers. David Kirkpatrick of Forbes famously wrote Now, Every Company is a Software Company.

More and more companies are rushing to adopt the tech label, according to another recent NY Times piece. Apparently, businesses and investors see an upside to the being associated with the field.

One thing is for certain. When it comes to image problems, the PR industry is here to help. And if every company is a software and tech company – well, the future looks pretty good for tech PR, I’d say.


Filed Under: PR, Public Relations, Tech PR, Technology

Posted by on July 30, 2015 with 0 Comments

Filed Under: Blog

One Thing you CAN’T Measure in PR

Posted by on June 22, 2015 with 0 Comments

PR measurement has evolved, with the addition of solutions such as SeeDepth and AirPR.tape-measure-145397_640

The migration of people and content online makes it easier to connect the dots between PR effort and results. And international initiatives such as the Barcelona Principles aim to take a fresh look and improve the craft (see this Cision blog post).

Yet there is one thing that is impossible to measure – and is ignored at our own peril.

There is no technology that can look into the brains of people and know what they are thinking. That might be obvious, but why is it important? Don’t we just care about coverage, website traffic/conversions, i.e. things that can be measured? Should we consider every announcement or pitch that does not produce immediate results a flop?

Direct marketers understand the importance of repetition. They know that you often need to present your message with prospects several times before anything happens.

The recipient may see your ad or email pitch, or direct mailer, once, twice, three times – and not respond. But there is a cumulative effect of these impressions – each one may barely register, but eventually they bubble up from the subconscious into recognition, a sense of familiarity and perhaps even a response or order.

Similarly you may get no reaction to that pitch, that piece of minor news, that big idea.

But then, they bite on the next pitch… or call you… or, you get them on the phone for the first time after all these pitches and they are warm and friendly, like they were expecting the call.

So I tell clients, “Sure we’ll pitch or send that minor news. Don’t expect coverage, but do hope we are gaining mind share that will pay off in the long term.”

This is also the reason why one shot PR programs and pay for performance seem short sighted.

You can’t measure this kind of impression.

(Please note, and this is VERY IMPORTANT – I am not recommending that you carpet bomb reporters, AKA spam them, with the hope that brute force persistence and repetition will pay off.  You will create negative impressions and do the program more harm than good. Always respect their pitch preferences and make sure the info is relevant to their coverage areas.  Moderation and balance are important).


Filed Under: PR, Uncategorized

Does Intel have a major advantage in tablets?

Posted by on June 3, 2015 with 0 Comments

computerworld.comSo far the tablet market has been pretty much driven by the ARM processor camp, which power the vast majority of devices (including iPads, which have their own derivative). Intel is definitely coming from behind when it comes to mobile as it tries to muscle its way into the market. But it’s made some significant strides over the past year with some big wins including Dell Venue, Asus ZenPhones, rumors of Samsung devices, etc. Many have speculated that Intel doesn’t have a chance when it comes to mobility, but is this in fact the case?



Filed Under: Agency news

Social Tools Summit Wrap

Posted by on May 15, 2015 with 0 Comments

I attended and really enjoyed the Social Tools Summit in Boston earlier this week. Neal STSummitSchaffer and Brian Mahony produced a great event; kudos to both, and thanks again for inviting me to speak there.

The day was chock full of discussions and helpful information about the many aspects of social media marketing – it covered challenges, best practices, and yes – tools.  If you like social media and tech, as I do, it was like being a kid in a candy store.

An added bonus was that I got the chance to hang out with (and in some cases, meet for the first time) people I knew from my days writing for Maximize Social Business – like Joe Ruiz, Debbie Miller, and of course Neal.

I also met many very nice new people, including Frog’s Leap Winery social wiz Natalie Barnard, who was kind enough to share this photo of the session I moderated.

Although some complain that there are too many tools, and it is hard to understand and navigate all the options, that is exactly why I found the day to be so useful. I learned about new ones, and was able to kick the tires of some that I was curious about during the speed demo portion of the event.

I also jotted down notes of tools that were recommended by speakers.  I list below a few that struck my interest (a more complete list can be found in Alan Belniak’s post).

  • AhaBooks, AhaAmplifier – Mitchell Levy of THINKAha (and fellow MSB alum) was on my panel; they offer social-media enabled ebooks, and tools to amplify thought leadership.
  • TraackrKatie Paterson was on my panel too, their service is the go-to option when it comes to social influencer relationship management.
  • Oktopost – I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with the founder and CEO, Daniel Kushner – Oktopost is a great option for comprehensive B2B social media marketing and management – many of our clients could benefit.
  • SimplyMeasured – Great system for cross-channel analytics; they took one of the top awards there.
  • Here’s a cool hack / feature someone mentioned; you can use with Buffer (which I use and love) to curate content and tweet to multiple Twitter accounts.
  • Other tools mentioned in the session:
    • Trendspottr Signal, platform for social listening and curation; I use and love Trendspottr
    • Cyfe – I use this social dashboard, one of the panelists mentioned that it can be used to create content calendars.
    • Meddle.IT enables each employee be a content creator
    • In a similar vein, EveryoneSocial gives your team social media advocacy tools
    • Ditto – Deep learning, discovery of image content
    • Visual content and design tools including Canva, PicMonkey and PostCreator

Filed Under: PR Tech, Technology, Uncategorized

Getting in with the New In Crowd: Developers

Posted by on April 23, 2015 with 0 Comments

Many PR and marketing teams target the usual suspects. They launch campaigns to get InCrowdcustomers, recruit employees and channel partners, and cozy up to investors and local communities.

But if you are in tech, there is an increasingly important audience that may be getting short shrift.

The software developer is becoming the linchpin in more and more business plans. Once a minor influencer and cog in IT procurement, they have emerged as a major force that can hold the keys to your market, further adoption of new tech and products and even make or break companies.

Why is the developer suddenly so important? And how can you court this coveted group?

In this series I will try to answer these questions. This first post will discuss the developer imperative, describe some of the challenges, and set the stage for a discussion of the tactics that can help you achieve success.

The Rise of the Software Developer

Perhaps you want to foster adoption of your software and drive grassroots growth in the enterprise. Maybe you want ISVs to add compatible solutions and functionality; this makes yours more useful and the vaunted network effect can be the key to becoming a standard. Or, it could simply be that your product is geared to programmers, and you want to sell to them.

Of course, let’s not forget a primary motivator: recruitment. Many want to promote their companies and technologies as cool for programmers.

In any of these scenarios you will want to find a way to get through and win them over.

Their rising importance can be tied directly to the growing role of software for consumers and businesses. Our lives and work are increasingly organized by apps. The rise of software-driven architectures has played a role.

Open source is growing, lowering costs and promoting standards. Apps, SaaS and the cloud bring code within reach of everyone. SDKs and APIs make it easier to extend functionality and integrate solutions.

In a world in which every business is becoming a software company, software is increasingly the Lingua Franca, and the developer, a hero (see my post: There’s Gold in them Apps – and App Developers).

So What, Really, is New Here?

Of course, marketing to developers is not new. If you’ve worked in tech, you have no doubt heard about the trend – just check out the following headlines:

It is a fair bet that the major vendors have big war chests and teams dedicated to winning over this coveted group. But smaller companies and startups might not know where to start.

With the growing importance of this group, you do need a plan if you don’t have one already.

What Does the Developer Want?

If the rationale is clear, the path to winning their hearts, minds and commitment can be anything but.

Developers are not some monolithic group that you can influence with top down marketing. They can be fiercely independent, or belong to tribes. Many value their affiliations and credentials, and wear their certifications like military stripes and skills like battle scars. They can be mired in legacy tech or early adopters.

Having said that, there are some common threads, and ways to communicate that can help you achieve your goals.

Before you begin, ask the following questions:

  • What types of developers are important?
    • Where do they meet in person and online?
    • Where do they get information?
    • Are there similar adjacent communities?
  • What are their hot buttons? Relevant trends?
  • How can you interest /incentivize them?
    • Why should they care about your company/technology?
  • How can you work with developers to further your goals?

My next post will explore PR campaigns designed to build visibility and reputation with software developers.


Filed Under: Blog

3 Surefire Open Spaces Marketing Tactics

Posted by on March 4, 2015 with 0 Comments

Last month I explained the Open Spaces Marketing concept.  Basically, it is background-21717_1280about getting your customer’s attention by avoiding noise and going where competitors aren’t.

I also shared a tip that should be especially effective for those who work in the tech sector.  It is about communicating clearly and powerfully.  Here is an excerpt:

“… impenetrable prose leaves an open space for those who can relate more clearly and powerfully.  How can you fill the space? Replace [jargon] with words that actually mean something – and sentences and phrases that connect with the intended audiences…

Do it well and you will not only hit the bulls eye when it comes to getting on the radars of prospects – you will also likely reach a wider audience via approachable language.  My Words that Work in Tech PR series goes into more detail about this tactic.”

In this post, I list two additional tactics.  See below, and visit this page if you’d like to register to learn more about open spaces marketing.

Time your Communications

When considering the timing for a campaign, most seek to avoid bigger noise and find the times when people are more likely to tune in. For example, conventional wisdom says not to issue press releases on a Monday or Friday, unless you are trying to bury your news. Attention tends to trail off on days surrounding the weekend or holidays. Don’t announce your tech product when others (especially Apple) might be stealing thunder with their big news.

The latest technology and research opens the door to a more nuanced approach. Dan Zarrella, an authority on data-driven marketing, has written extensively on this topic. In his book Hierarchy of Contagiousness, he writes about “contra-competitive timing”, essentially an open spaces approach to social media. Zarrella’s research reveals non-intuitive findings such as:

  • Friday at 4pm is the most retweetable time
  • Weekend stories get shared more
  • Blog early for links, on the weekend for comments

There are also tools that claim to help identify the best time to tweet, e.g. see this features list for SocialBro.

Content types and Networks

Good marketers like to tap the latest methods for reaching customers. These days, this often involves using social media, and tempting buyers with informative and entertaining content.

But the most popular social networks can be crowded and noisy places. There’s a herd mentality in marketing, and if something works well, you can be sure that others will quickly jump in. Take visual content, which has become popular in the last few years. Infographics used to be a novel idea; now they are passé; there are so many, and most are not that impressive, making them easier to ignore.

Open spaces marketing means zigging when others zag. It also means keeping your eyes on emerging vehicles, getting good at picking the likely winners, jumping on board and mastering them before the competition does.

This works especially well for brands that want to be edgy, and are interested in early adopters (whether it’s the youth crowd in consumer or business buyers). Newer social networks and content types might not have the mass appeal or audience as the mainstream – but you will be among the first to stake a claim and build audience – one that can grow as the network grows.

What other networks and communications vehicles are emerging?  There’s been some buzz about Ello, an ad-free social network that has a minimalist design and promises not to sell personal data.  The New York Times recently wrote about the rise of messaging apps.

To read about great examples of innovation in content marketing, see the Moz blog.

There you have it – the same idea applied to disparate areas of timing, language and networks. Open spaces marketing can be a versatile and powerful approach – do you have thoughts on other applications?


Filed Under: Uncategorized