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Instagram and Netflix: Privacy Changes and Consumer Power

Posted in Social Media The social media world is ending 2012 with a bang. Between the fallout over Instagram’s new privacy policy and Netfllix’s plan to introduce social sharing, the Internet is ringing in the New Year with plenty of changes. With these changes comes the opportunity for consumers to redefine their role in the social media world.


The general sentiment expressed throughout the social media world about Instagram’s new terms of use was outrage. Concerns that the popular photo sharing service would begin selling users’ photos ran rampant, and many users threatened to terminate their accounts. In contrast, the “Netflix amendment” to the Video Privacy Protection Act was met with enthusiasm from the online movie service’s users who have yearned for the ability to share their viewing habits via Facebook. With polar opposite responses from users, what do the new social policies of Instagram and Netflix have to do with each other? They both give signs that 2013 will be defined by the power of the consumer. Instagram and Netflix have realized traditional word of mouth as one of the most successful means of advertising. That’s the motivation behind the companies’ end-of-year policy changes. For years, Instagram-ers have been creating ads without realizing that’s what they’re doing. Every time users post filtered pictures of their Starbucks Frappuccino, it’s an advertisement for Starbucks.


  The power lies in the genuine nature of the ad; the picture is backed by the personal recommendation of someone the viewer is personally connected to. All this realization by Instagram means is those personal “ads” are now worth something to businesses that are paying attention. The same is true for Netflix. Commercials for movies and the online-viewing service lack the personal connection consumers find from a friend’s recommendation. So what does this mean for consumers? We have all the power. Embrace your new role as personal recommender. Be a brand advocate for the places or products you love. Don’t be afraid to post pictures to Instagram – think of each picture as your personal endorsement for the product.


At first glance, all of these new privacy changes might seem like a huge intrusion on the personal lives of consumers. If we look harder though, these companies are really giving us the biggest voice we’ve ever had in the online world.    
Comments Off Posted on by Archives

All You Need is Love

Posted in Best Practices, Creativity and Design, Shanny's Posts

As I was thinking about what should be the topic of my next blog post, I saw this bumper sticker and it truly resonated with me.


First of all, I think it’s terrific design; it tells a story in a very simple and yet effective way. The shapes and the primary colors remind me of childhood, learning new things, trying different combinations to see what works best and the joy of creating something new.

The word that the blocks spell out is the ultimate message – LOVE. This is especially important after the tragedy of Shady Hook.

So often we get caught up in the everyday stress of working and running our businesses that we lose site of what is truly important. Take some time over the holidays to be with those you love. Everything else pales in comparison – all you need is love.

I wish you a 2013 filled with love.

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Comments Off Posted on by Shanny Morgenstern

How Social Media Networks Can Step Up Their Games in 2013

Posted in Social Media

This isn’t your typical 2013 blog post, folks.

Everyone is blogging about how companies can prepare for the New Year, whether it be embracing new technology, adopting new practices, etc. Instead, I want to share some thoughts on how Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram can step up their games in 2013. While these social media network giants probably won’t read this, here are some ways they can better engage and serve users:

Note: I’m sorry to all you Pinterest lovers. I am aware this network can be extremely addicting and time-consuming, so I have been trying to refrain from it despite my creating an account over the summer. I know, I know. I’m missing out on all the fancy art projects and delicious recipes, right? Perhaps one of these days…

By the way, according to a December 2012 social media report by Nielsen, Pinterest boasted the greatest increase in the number of audience members and time spent interacting with its boards. However, I’m sure it doesn’t surprise you that Facebook is still the largest, most-visited social networking site.


There have been instances when I’m killing time on Facebook, and I think to myself, “I wonder if anyone has seen X movie in theaters yet, or if anyone bought Y’s new album?”

Facebook should allow people the option to search for key words they want to know more about. So, I realize this would somewhat be ripping off Twitter, but it would be different because users would be filtering through friends only. Facebook revealed that any given post (whether by an individual or company) reaches approximately 16 percent of its audience. If Facebook added this extra search option, that percentage could increase, based on your friends’ and fans’ interests and how you cater to them.

Another thing – I was thrilled when the timeline came out. I had always wanted to look back on what I was saying when I first created a Facebook account as a high school student in 2007. However, it would be nice to have an easy-to-access calendar to seek out past interactions rather than having to scroll and scroll to get there.

TwitterMake it easier to access trends from country-to-country, or city-to-city. Twitter should allow up to two or three windows open with different locations’ trends.

When national news explodes in the U.S., I’m anxious to see whether other countries are talking about it. When my favorite professional athlete pulls off a ridiculous play, I want to see if another distant city recognizes my pro sports team. Not only would it be easier to check these other locations I may be interested in, but I could also compare the trend rankings across the board.


I’m impressed with LinkedIn’s upgrades to users’ profiles. It looks much more modern and polished. I applaud the people of LinkedIn, because the new layout just might attract users to interact more often. It’s important for LinkedIn to stay fresh, and I think they need to make these kinds of “look and feel” changes more than any other network to keep people coming back. Some professionals look at LinkedIn as a chore, especially if they’re happy with their careers and aren’t seeking a job. Nevertheless, it’s important to stay relevant within your industry and show your connections that you are – no matter how content you are with your job.

I just have one minor suggestion: Allow bullet points to be formatted into resumes once it’s been imported. Most resumes I’ve seen coming out of college have bullet points. It makes for a cleaner, more organized look.


Much to my disdain, Instagram wasn’t included in Nielsen’s report. I tend to think of Nielsen as a credible source, but perhaps they define social networking differently. This blogger compiled a report of the most-visited global social networks to the best of his ability. When discounting the other networks belonging to other countries, Instagram makes the top 20, but just barely misses the top 10.

Still, a lot of people haven’t caught on to the photo sharing application just yet. I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised, considering I have found myself trying to recruit my friends to it (with some successes, some failures). I do think there are some stigmas attached to the network, but I foresee its popularity increasing come 2013.

Instagram, I still have a message for you, as I announce my fandom: Stop cutting off my pictures! It’s frustrating when I’m eager to share a photo with friends, and it won’t fit to the screen. I always have to zoom in on an image (and therefore crop sometimes necessary objects out) so it doesn’t have black around the edges. There are times I try to settle for the black edges; and I’m serious when I say this – it’s a less than attractive border.

Instagram should also take Twitter’s approach in allowing lists to be made. I love browsing through Instagram when I have five minutes to do so, but having to keep scrolling gets tiresome, especially because I’m the type of person who I doesn’t want to miss a thing. I follow 143 users, and I’m hoping to limit it to that until a change is made. I know people who follow up to 500 users! It would be nice if users could separate followers into lists – from closest friends to acquaintances to celebrities.

What do you think about my suggestions? Are they realistic? Do you envision them being implemented at some point over the next year? What changes would you make to social media sites?

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Comments Off Posted on by Hannah Babcock

Five Tips for Holiday Business Greetings

Posted in Best Practices At Morningstar Communications, we have the privilege of working with many business leaders who are passionate about what they do, and have extensive knowledge and expertise in their industries. Our client Hallmark Business Connections, the B-to-B division of Hallmark Cards, is an industry leader in business relationship marketing. In light of the holiday season, I want to share expert tips for sending a holiday business greeting from Hallmark Business Connections’ recent holiday blog series. These five tips show how business holiday cards can help your organization build meaningful, memorable relationships during the holiday season with the people who matter the most: 1. Send at Thanksgiving or the New Year 2. Connect in a More Personal Way 3. Customize & Personalize 4. Create a Calming Effect 5. Energize Your Image


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Comments Off Posted on by Archives

Gain positive ROI by going beyond engagement

Posted in Executive Insights, Sheri's Posts

A recent Towers Watson study indicates employees need three things to outperform their peers: Engagement, enablement and energy.

Towers Watson defines engagement as an attachment to the company and willingness to give extra effort. Enabled employees work in an environment that supports productivity and performance. Energized employees enjoy individual physical, social and emotional well-being at work. Sustained engagement requires all three.

These three key elements become increasingly important during times when basic engagement alone simply isn’t enough to ensure the long-term benefits that come from an engaged workforce. Towers Watson found even engaged employees lose their effectiveness in times of dramatic change and fluctuating economic situations.

If you take stock of your organization and find a culture shift is in order to achieve sustained engagement, take a lesson from the Public Service of New Hampshire or Eagle Star Insurance Company. Rather than spending countless resources and energy on huge culture change, they focused on immediate issues and achieved results much more quickly. Setting incremental goals and addressing specific issues first allowed for immediate steps toward success, and the ability to focus on more strategic challenges later. Importantly, the process enabled employees to address issues, set direction and achieve results.

Our client, Hallmark Business Connections, encourages companies to create a culture of enrichment to achieve the energized state Towers Watson mentions. As author Simon Senik describes, “People who love going to work are more productive and creative. They go home happy and have happier families. Inspired employees make for stronger companies and stronger economies.”

As your business closes the book on 2012, what plans have you made to foster sustained engagement in in the New Year?

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1 Comment Posted on by Sheri Johnson

Where’s Your To-Don’t List?

Posted in Best Practices, Eric's Posts, Executive Insights

All of us have a To-Do list. We keep track of what we need to accomplish and enjoy a sense of satisfaction after completing each task. In fact, my colleague Sheri Johnson often makes a list that includes a few items already completed just so she can start by scratching a few things off!

But where’s your To-Don’t list?

We don’t do blast faxes anymore. Nor do we use paper maps, or even go online to prepare and print directions. Now we just jump in our car and let our smart phones tell us where to go, step-by-step.

So what are you still doing, that you simply shouldn’t do anymore? What tasks aren’t relevant or important anymore? I’m not talking about delegating or postponing; I’m talking about eliminating.

This is concurrently both a terrifying and liberating process for business executives. I’ve personally coached a number of execs through this process. It really works. Here’s how to proceed:

Start with a blank sheet and, from memory, make a list of all the To-Dos that come to mind. Stop when you reach 10 or so. Then, step back and reflect. I’ve found at least 10 percent of our tasks don’t need to be done anymore, whether it’s that mid-month meeting or report, the pre-planning meeting for the meeting or a status update that nobody really needs.

Here’s an example. As a company updated its software throughout the month various people issued update notices. At the end of the month the head of the communications department wanted to make sure that everyone understood what changes had been made that month, so he consolidated all of the update notices into one summary. But he wondered how much value his colleagues received from the summary. He surveyed all 300 of his colleagues, and he only got nine responses. And the ninth one told him, “…I never read this report, but I really like you, and wanted to respond.”

Clearly, this activity should slide immediately to his To Don’t list.

Can you trim 10 percent off your list?

I contend that at least 10 percent of everyone’s To-Do list can simply be eliminated, and with no real loss.

What are the characteristics of good things to put on a To-Don’t list? I believe they fall into one of three categories:

  • Used to be important, but not any more (that mid-month update, etc.)
  • Can now be replaced more efficiently with different technology (instead of printing, stamping and mailing invoices, send a PDF attached to an email)
  • Your responsibilities have changed, but you are still doing the old things (it’s really someone else’s To-Do now, not yours!)

Stop doing a regular task and see if anyone notices. Or complains. If they do, just start right back up again. But you might be pleasantly surprised how many tasks you simply don’t have to do anymore. And you’ll find at least 10 percent more time every day!

Create your personal To-Don’t list today. And then scratch that one off your To-Do list. ;)

Onward and upward.

(For more on To-Don’t lists, check out this article:

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Comments Off Posted on by Eric Morgenstern

Top Five Favorite Blog Posts from 2012

Posted in Best Practices At the end of each year, our team meets with clients to plan for the next year. We evaluate what went well during the last year and identify areas for improvement. As 2012 comes to a close, it is the perfect time to stop and reflect on everything we have learned and accomplished, and set goals for future success. My colleagues have captured and shared many great insights in their blog posts in 2012. Here a few of my favorites:   From the Summer 2012 Olympics to Google Fiber and everything in between, 2012 has been an exciting year on a local and national level. What are some of your favorite blog posts from the last year? Tagged , ,
Comments Off Posted on by Archives

Black Friday and Cyber Monday Results

Posted in Online Marketing My Dad snagged an $18 live Christmas tree at a Home Depot Black Friday sale, a purchase he was delighted about considering he usually pays $40 or more. I’m not one for crowds, but even I managed to make it out to one of my favorite stores, World Market, for some tempting buy-one-get-one free deals. A couple friends, on the other hand, decided to avoid the crowds and browse deals from their laptops, wearing pajamas with a warm cup of coffee in hand. TIME reports a 1.8 percent decline on Black Friday sales from last year, but argues that the slight dip in sales on that single day may indicate that there has been a shift from a one-day Black Friday shopping spree to a multi-day sales extravaganza that is comprised of both brick and mortar stores and online deals. The increase in online shopping is apparent in the statistics, as more people are choosing to browse holiday deals from their home. According to the Memphis Business Journal, Cyber Monday sales experienced a 24.1 percent increase compared with last year. There was also a huge increase in customers purchasing through mobile devices, with PayPal reporting a 196 percent boost in mobile payment volume this year compared to last year’s Cyber Monday. In terms of marketing, part of what makes Black Friday and Cyber Monday so appealing to consumers is the sense of urgency to buy now before the deals are gone. As Black Friday and Cyber Monday continue to extend into multi-day sales, it will be interesting to see how marketing shifts, as well as how retailers balance marketing in-store deals versus online deals. And in the midst of the holiday deals and gift giving, consider giving back to your favorite non-profit organization. Today is considered Giving Tuesday, what may become a new tradition as charities ask consumers to reflect on what is really important during the holiday season. Tagged , ,
Comments Off Posted on by Archives

Staying “Connected” During the Holidays

Posted in Best Practices, Social Media, Tips and Tricks We're all guilty of it; we're spending time with our family or friends, perhaps having dinner or conversing at a party and suddenly, you get that itch. That itch to dig out your phone, check your email, refresh your Twitter page and see what's happening on Facebook. It's not that you don't enjoy the company you're with, but if you're anything like me, living and working in the "digital age" has left me with an involuntary itch to "stay connected." But now that I'm living even further away from home, making opportunities to see my family very rare, I've decided to make a conscious effort to ditch the smartphone itch this upcoming holiday season. With Thanksgiving just a few days away, I thankfully (no pun intended) stumbled across this article from Mashable  that asked the question, "Should You Take a Vacation from Checking Your Email?" The article does make a point to say that checking your email (and social media platforms) isn't necessarily a bad thing, it's just important to keep in mind how often you're logging on, updating, refreshing, etc. Some helpful tips I plan on using to balance both my family and (Twitter) followers this holiday season include:
  • Set a timer for 20-30 minutes and avoid looking at your phone during this time
  • Don't give yourself the option to check your phone; leave it in the car, at home, etc.
Do you plan on taking a break from your smartphone this holiday season? If you're on the fence, I'll leave you with this last interesting fact: according to research done at University of California, Irvine, people who took a break from checking their email for more than five days "experienced more natural heart rates," which simply means they were happier and less stressed.
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The Do’s and Don’ts on LinkedIn – How to make it work for you effectively

Posted in Best Practices, Social Media, Suchitra's Posts, Tips and Tricks

LinkedIn is a powerful tool for making business connections. There are many ways to optimize the usefulness of this tool and it is entirely up to the individual to work it to their advantage. Since LinkedIn is part of your professional image, it is important that you invest the time to present yourself in the best way possible. You should update your LinkedIn page regularly.

Following are some do’s and don’t’s to optimize your LinkedIn experience.

Do upload a picture of your self: Having a professional looking headshot on your profile helps people put a face to the name. If you are not comfortable that anyone who checks your profile online can see “you,” you can change privacy settings on your account so that your picture is visible only to your connections.

Do post your status: Updating your status gives you visibility within your connections. If you have a “pearl” you want to share or you have some good news at work you wish to share, you can spread the word around via LinkedIn.

Do have recommendations: Three recommendations are all it takes to “complete” your profile on LinkedIn. However, having more does help to bolster your online profile.

Do connect wisely: Ignore any invitations to connect if you don’t know the person extending the invitation. Apply caution when accepting an invite yourself. On the other hand, when you send an invitation to link, be sure to tell the contact how you know them and why you want to connect.

Do join and participate in groups: LinkedIn has thousands of groups that you can join and get involved with for some targeted, work-related social networking.

Do treat your profile like you would your resume: Make sure it is formatted, clean and free of typos and grammatical errors.

Don’t lie. Falsehoods and embellishments on your profile will eventually come back to harm you and may cause you embarrassment, or cost you your job in the worst case scenario. It is simply best to keep it honest and transparent.

Don’t have an influx of recommendations. Getting five recommendations on the same day appears suspect and leads to speculation that you are in the market for a new job. You might be just getting around to striking this off your “to-do” list, but a better way to do it would be to make it a weekly or monthly task to “ask” for a recommendation from a past or present colleague, client or contact.

Don’t make drastic and plentiful changes to your profile in a single day: Remember, any changes in your profile sends a notification to your connections highlighting the fact you have done it. The message that comes across to employers and colleagues may not be what you had in mind so space it out gradually.

I hope these tips help you use LinkedIn more effectively.

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Comments Off Posted on by Suchitra Kamath
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