Fiat’s Re-Launch in America

Bandcamp for Fans: An Open Letter

Dear Bandcamp,

I woke up this morning to an email in my inbox inviting me to be part of the first beta-testers for Bandcamp‘s new fan accounts. (Bandcamp is a music site that has previously just allowed artists to host music there, sell merch, list their upcoming shows via songkick, and make recommendations.) Fan accounts are (what appear to be) your attempt to make the site more two-way communication.

I’ve been using Bandcamp for a few years now, and to be honest it is a site I never really considered a “social” future for. Sure, I have wanted time and time again to be able to have my own account to bookmark the great stuff I come across and keep a history to come back to, but if I am looking for music recommendations, I go to my friends first, and then to record labels or blogs that I respect. You seem to be placing a heavy emphasis on being able to follow bands and other fans. Following bands… Are Facebook,Tumblr, and Twitter not enough? What’s new, Bandcamp???

As far as how it works goes, my fan account only hosts the collection of music I’ve paid for–a whopping total of 8 albums. Before you come after me with accusations of illegal downloading, please rest assured that I am one of the few (are we really that low in number anymore??) who buy physical records. Many of the bands I listen to are on labels that make pressing albums to vinyl their main priority and main source of income, and I am completely happy to support them in continuing this practice.

Back to the point, though, 8 albums is my entire collection? What about the countless albums I’ve downloaded for free, Bandcamp? Listening to music, downloading it, and sharing it with pals is supporting the artist, too. I understood your undertones in that invitation email…

Screenshot of invitation email reading "Thanks so much for purchasing music via Bandcamp. In an industry where the welfare of the artist is often an afterthought, and fans are frequently treated as aggregated eyeballs/earholes to sell to advertisers, it sure is heartening to know that people like you are out there, directly supporting the musicians you love."

 

But why the passive aggressive hate on free downloading? Bandcamp, I’ve only loved you. You make high quality streaming a cinch, which is a huge help for my radio show on WLUW. You give artists a chance to share what they like in an unobtrusive and organized way via recommendations. But these services are not unique to you. Spotify, 8tracks, YouTube, artists themselves, and even (dare I say it) New Myspace make it easy to function without you :( If you want to really compete, here are my suggestions:

  • Fan accounts = special privileges and ability to add ALL downloads to collection
  • Bookmarking/likes/hearts/etc for songs, not just artists, so we can create a library of songs. If I want to like an artist, I’ll probably still just do it on Facebook. For now.
  • Make playlists featuring music on Bandcamp with collaboration and sharing features
  • For heaven’s sake, a better homepage. I know this is a transition period for you but NO ONE appreciates confusing hierarchy and such blatant sales pitching (you sound p desperate).

Bandcamp, I appreciate the effort. I really do. And thanks for making me feel important by inviting me. But for now, all I can really give you is this:

gold star with text in comic sans reading "you tried"

What are you thankful for?

Facebook status update: What are you thankful for?

Happiest of Thanksgivings to you all! It seems like Facebook already knew what my entire newsfeed would be full of. I am writing this from my family’s house in Michigan City, IN, and it feels so great to be with them for longer than a day. Our house smells so good! I can hardly wait for the rest of my extended family to get here to start eating!

In the spirit of the holiday, which is by far my favorite one, I would like to take this post to reflect on what I am thankful for–a task I know I will never complete and hope to never complete. About two weeks or so I finally got over my “change of seasons” sickness that seems to come around every Autumn, so I am really thankful to have good health and a mom who is a nurse who always takes care of me in my paranoia (shout out to WebMD). I am also so, so lucky to have and thankful for having family as great as mine is, who supports me through my craziness and loves me unconditionally in their own ways, including Rosie, the best dog there ever was. I am thankful to be almost *graduated* from Loyola, even though these past three years have flown by in a blur of fun times, great friends, incredible experiences, and learning more than I even thought was possible and I will surely miss them. I am thankful for having such incredible friends wherever I am, who understand me and know me and push me to constantly improve myself to be worthy of their kindness and affection (even though they probably don’t know that). And finally, I am thankful to have very few reasons to doubt that the future will be anything short of great.

I hope you all enjoy your holiday! What are you thankful for?

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Ideas for Your Brand on Pinterest

Pinterest's 20 Days of Pinspiration Calendar

Yesterday, Pinterest began its “30 Days of Holiday Inspiration” campaign with a board by Katie Couric detailing her family’s Thanksgiving traditions:

A look at what I’m doing this year… and some traditions from my Thanksgivings past!

The board is chock full of recipes, photos, and commentary by the journalist, including some ideas that many of her fans seem to want to try themselves. Several of the posts have more than 100 likes, all of them have received comments, and a few have more than 500 re-pins. This brings up a really interesting future for brands on Pinterest: guest pinners. Couric is not necessarily representing anyone but herself and Pinterest on this board, but working with someone that is well-known, respected, and has interesting things to say about what he or she is pinning can create solid engagement and branding via  Pinterest.

This is an approach that I have not seen happening that much, but I would suspect that will change. While Pinterest is relatively new to the game (it only launched 2 years ago), its growth and popularity have made it the third most popular social networking site, behind only Facebook and Twitter. Brands are still figuring out how to best approach Pinterest, especially brands that are not as traditionally visual. Guest Pinners offer not only a new source of content but also offer an opportunity for brands to show potential customers who and what they are in a (hopefully) useful and meaningful way. For instance, (apologies but I see these ads everywhere) imagine if Midori had Kim Kardashian create a board featuring her favorite recipe for using Midori in a cocktail, along with some of her favorite accessories, clothes, that are “easy” to assemble into an outfit to go along with their campaign to “stand out” and emphasizing that “Midori is easy.” Obviously many companies or organizations may not have the budget to work with someone as famous as Kim Kardashian, but local thought leaders, philanthropists, authors, designers, artists, and even supporters or fans could lend their “face” to your brand’s boards and showcase what you really stand for.

 

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Favorite from Social Media Week: Is Viral Really Viral?

Due to an overwhelming culmination of projects, designs, work, volunteering, and papers, I wasn’t able to make it to a Social Media Week presentation in person. However, due to the integration of Livestream with many of the events around the world, I was able to catch a few of the presentations. One of the most interesting was a feature that Alphabird presented called “Is Viral Really Viral? A Youtube Campaign Case Study.” Their approach to dissecting what makes the best viral videos consisted of three “ingredients:” content, contact, and context. The most successful viral videos have strong representation in all of these factors.

The content aspect of a viral video is usually comprised of striking visuals with a clear purpose. Oftentimes they create or play off of a strong emotional attachment in the viewers, whether that be by relating to the subjects or in a universal human theme. The most important part of this ingredient is creating engagement, which in turn leads to people wanting to share the video.

Contact in a viral video works exactly as one would think: there has to be a high level of sharing among viewers. Eventually there is high visibility with a real audience, to the point where the video or its subject is unavoidable. I’m sure this will be out of date in a month or so, but “Gangnam Style” is a perfect example for the time being. It seems as though I can’t go a day without hearing the song, a parody, a cover, or seeing someone try to do the dance. Gangnam Style is unavoidable in daily life.

Finally, the context is an extremely important ingredient for a viral video. This is where content and contact come together. There’s a high level of social visibility for the video, people are talking in real life about the video, and more and more people get added into the conversation as the “early adopters” spread the video through network upon network.

If you’re interested in seeing more examples of this approach, Alphabird’s presentation on “Is Viral Really Viral?” is available for streaming.

Google Drive: My Perspective


Earlier last week, Google finally converted my Docs hub into Google Drive, its cloud storing service that allows users to access files both online and offline from any of their devices. In a market that is already rather saturated with options, I’m going to explore a few points that make Google’s service different from other top online/offline storage sites.

Amount of storage

Google Drive offers 5 GB for free, but only stored files take up space. Google Docs format files/presentations/etc do not use any of that space. For instance, as a Docs user for three years, all of my former documents, folders, presentations, and spreadsheets that I created in the Docs format automatically converted into my Drive, but are not taking up any space: it shows that I am using 0 MB of my free storage, even though I have a long list of files and folders. With the ability to automatically convert files to Docs formats as they upload, one could potentially “store” a huge amount of files without ever infringing on that 5 GB limit.

Drive also allows up to 16 TB (aka 16348 GB) of storage (lol @ $800/month, though… my college-student brain doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry at anything costing that much besides a house or something), the largest option I’ve seen. I assume this feature could come in handy for video production companies or other companies that have really large files in large quantities. Drive also has several cheaper options that are at fairly similar prices as their competitors.

  • Google Drive: 5 GB for free ($30/year for 25 GB, etc.)
  • Dropbox  2.5 GB for free (referral program and added bonuses = free increases, or $99/year for 100 GB)
  • Amazon Cloud Drive: 5GB for free ($10/year for 20 GB, etc.)
  • Apple icloud: 5 GB for free ($20/year for 10 more GB, etc.)
When compared to the price of a physical external hard drive, these prices seem relatively high, but these services offer so many extras (including not having to worry about forgetting the external hard drive, losing it, or having it stolen), that the price makes sense.
Collaboration

The biggest selling point and point of difference for Google Drive is the collaboration aspect, which is carried over from the Googe Docs setup. Instead of simply storing an item and being able to share that item as it existed when you uploaded it, Google Drive allows users to work together in real time on a document or spreadsheet or presentation, regardless of where the users are. The chat element is also still here, to talk with other viewers instead of waiting to see word by word in the document what someone else is thinking, only to erase and lose the discussion later. The collaboration aspect is absent from all three of the aforementioned competitors, and from a Google search, I haven’t been able to find any other file storing, sharing, and collaboration service all-in-one like the Drive offers. 

All in all, Google Drive seems to be the best option for me because I already used Google Docs for much of my document creation needs, especially in group work. As several other people have mentioned, including Tony Bradley of PCworld.com, the best file storing system depends on your current systems and future needs:

Ultimately, cloud services from Google, Microsoft, and Apple tend to be more proprietary, and make the most sense for users that already work in a Google, Microsoft, or Apple-centric environment. For broader cross-platform integration, the more independent offerings like Box, Dropbox, and SugarSync may be the better choice.

One question this leaves me with is if telecommuting is about to take over. Google Drive certainly makes it seem even more possible. From video hang outs on G-chat (conference calling?), to live collaboration on documents and presentations, maybe my future job search will actually include perusing listings for “Work at home!” jobs.

 

 

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