Social Icecubes

Social networks are rapidly changing the way we communicate and how we define ourselves.

For many, the line between the life you have in the real world and the one you have online is becoming blurred.

The social networks of today are just starting to become a major part of our daily interactions. For a majority of people, their online presence is held at arms length and is  just an efficient way to stay in touch with an extended network of people.

The relationship we have with social networks is pretty basic. We tend to send the same information to a general audience covering big or minor events in our lives.

This is all changing. 

Not only are we more connected but the business es we use and even the objects in our house and daily lives are to. Cars, appliances, and Tv’s are all wired in and are capable of distributing and providing information. Social networking will be worked into almost every aspect of our daily lives and information will not only be readily available but personalized to your needs.

What is driving this?

Opportunity: Social networks allow us to connect and access information in a fast and relevant way and companies are more flexible and quicker at addressing needs. It’s all about how social networks expand our reach and increase opportunity through access to information on a large scale.

Jeremiah Owyang from the Alimeter group sums up this evolution into five eras.

The Five Eras of the Social Web:

1) Era of Social Relationships: People connect to others and share
2) Era of Social Functionality: Social networks become like operating system
3) Era of Social Colonization: Every experience can now be social
4) Era of Social Context: Personalized and accurate content
5) Era of Social Commerce: Communities define future products and services

Currently we are somewhere in Era’s 3 through 5 but are steadily moving towards the Era of Social Commerce which Jeremiah describes as. 

” Socially connected consumers will strengthen communities and shift power away from brands and CRM systems; eventually this will result in empowered communities defining the next generation of products.” 

In the next 5 years we will see major developments and challenges concerning the following two subjects.

Unified ID or online identities.

The exchange of information between public and private

The problem with social media today is that it is too open. It’s difficult to unify your information in one place and conversely it’s difficult for marketers to build a clear idea of who you are. Most data is collected and analyzed on a macro scale or as an overview. As we move forward there will be a push from both consumers and businesses to unify that information. To create an identity that will connect data between multiple networks and web sites. Allowing you, your friends and companies to know your preferences and be able to personalize content that best suits you.

It’s already happening.

Companies have already figured this out and have started to utilize Facebook as the social net work of choice. Connecting using a social network instantly communicates who you are to the company and at the same time allows you to communicate with your friends. The social act of shopping is now possible start to finish in the Facebook environment.

Brian Solis does an excellent job describing this next stage for social networks.

For some, this is the dawn of an exciting new world but for others it’s a terrifying breach of privacy.  Take for example this story of how Target knew a teenage girl was pregnant before her father did. When and how our data  is used is still be explored  and debated but there is no doubt that this new world exists and it will challenge who we are and how our society functions.

This is not a Bag

There aren’t a lot of things I pay top dollar for but when it comes to a quality bag or backpack I have learned  you don’t skimp.

I am a commuter.

On a daily basis I travel by Car, Train, Bus, sometimes by boat or bike. One of the first things I realized when I moved to the city is that your bag is your life.

Well, maybe not your life but its pretty essential.

Carrying everything from a tablet to a change of clothes; the items you stow away in your trusty backpack or briefcase represents who you are. For such a versatile item I only wanted the best.

So about a year and half ago I purchased a Timbuk2 messenger style bag. For just a shade under $100 It was a major purchase for me but one that I don’t regret in the least.

At the time I had never encountered a Timbuk2 advertisement, commercial, or store, to be honest I had no idea who they were.

What I did know was that there was a company out there that made durable bags for bike messengers. A couple of my friends had them and I had seen a couple of messengers in the city wearing them.

Why did I want one?

Simple, I figured that for a bike messenger a bag had to be durable, weather resistant and well designed.

I wanted a bag that would not only be good for my daily commute but for travel, camping, and business trips.

From what I had seen of them, Timbuk2 messenger bags fit the bill with heavy nylon canvas exteriors and weatherproof interiors. 

The Brand

A strong Brand identification and subtle word of mouth marketing strategy is what Timbuk2 has been built on.

It is at the core of their highly successful Social Media and eCommerce Strategy.

My experience discovering the product is the type of inbound marketing T2 excels at. 

Over the last 10 years the messenger bag as grown from a bag of necessity to a “Urban fashion accessory” Timbuk2 has been at the center of this transformation.

Started in 1989 by Rob Honeycutt a San Francisco bicycle messenger, Timbuk2 first design was homemade. Honeycutt created the bag that fit the rigors of Job; when people started asking him make them one Timbuk2 got its start.

Timbuk2 is known for high quality bags, design, and a vibrant bike culture.

The company has been organically grown over the last 20+ years and has centered their product line on the identity and lifestyle of the people who use them.

Custom Manufacturing

Timbuk2 bags are highly customizable and the company is constantly improving their product based upon recommendations from their customers. This is largely due to the fantastic eCommerce platform developed as the company grew to a national brand.  

Initially Timbuk2 was launched in a traditionally retail environment. The company struggled in with retail finding it difficult to present their customizable product on the retail floor.

“it was our frustration in dealing with traditional retailers that made us decide to add e-commerce to capabilities to our web site. So we thought it made sense to develop software that lets consumers pick their own colors fabric and options.” VP Jordon Reiss

In 1999 T2 turned to ecommerce and developed the Bag builder web platform, dedicated to letting the consumer create their own custom bag.

Ecommerce and direct customer feedback

Bag builder established an efficient and direct channel to their consumers. The site not only  allowed users to customize their bag but streamlined the distribution process and generating real time sales metrics.

Today Bag builder accounts for 30-40% of Timbuk2’s sales and is often found on display in rental locations that carry Timbuk2 allowing consumers to see and design bags at the same time.

Ecommerce also opened a direct dialog with their base consumers. Customers naturally wanted to review the bags they created and provide feedback to improve quality and design. Reviews brought T2 Closer to their base and is the foundation for the companies  aggressive social media presence.

From the start Timbuk2 was a company understood how to utilize and drive sales through word of mouth,  Social Media merely extended their reach.

As they have grown Timbuk2 has worked hard to partner with their base. As a brand they represent more of a lifestyle then just a product line. Of course they have a great product but its the character of the company that really shines through their social media channels.

Its this connection that enables them to position themselves as a discovery brand encouraging the consumer to find them.

Aside from bag builder T2 has an extensive social media presence, utilizing email, blog and various social networks.

Social Media Tools

Facebook page






When you watch their youtube videos demonstrating the latest products you get a sense of the casualness the company embodies.  T2 employees are excited about what they sell and often reference how improvements were made based on customer feedback.

Risk of Brand Dilution

For a company that basically evolved with social media you would think that the risk of embracing social media would be almost nonexistent.

For the most part this is true but Timbuk2 but for a brand like T2 there is a risk of overexposing the product and going “Main Stream”. Alienating their core consumer base and losing thier brand identity. To grow Timbuk2 had to move into new markets meaning new types of consumers. 

The original T2 customers prided themselves on finding unknown styles or products. They identified with labels that are not well known and respond to brands that communicated purpose and honesty.

New timbuk2 customers tend to be motivated by new trends and styles. More of the urban trendsetter instead of the hardcore bike messenger. To appeal to the commuter Timbuk2 has to expand their product lineup creating styles that would appeal more to the avg Joe on the go instead of the bike messenger.

The more popular they become the more risk of losing focus and turning to more of a mass apealing message.

The difficulty is finding the balance between brand identity and progress. At times this may mean sacrificing your most ardent supporters to competitors but the objective is to maintain the essence that made the brand successful.  

Enjoying a gradual growth rather then overexposing your product and making it appealing to everyone.

TimbukT2 has successively struck this balance maintaining the practical rebluoos bike messeger vibe and listing to thier core customer base. Timbuk2 may expand into new markets but on their own terms allowing the consumer to understand the brand.

By utilizing social media and avoding traditonal  marketing; Timbuk2 maintains it under the radar presence while meeting the expectations of the converted.

Personally I sought out this product because of the reputation I perceived about it.

I love this product because it lived up to its promise.

Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name



We’ve been living in the great city of Boston nearly 3 years now and I still marvel at how much is packed into to such a small area.

 Navigating the city was overwhelming at first, let alone picking out a place to get a drink.  As a dive bars aficionado, I knew finding the places that the locals go would be difficult but fortunately I happened upon Yelp and can now proudly say that I know some of the best dive bars in Boston to  hang my hat.

So what’s this yelp?

Yelp employs a pretty simple model that has been hugely popular – just check out the “10 things to know about Yelp” highlighted on the company website. image
Yelp began as a review site centered around local business. Want to know if the Chinese restaurant is any good ? Check out Yelp.  It’s driven completely by it’s users who rank all type of businesses from banks, restaurants, plumbers and yes even dive bars. They use a simple  1-5 star ranking and offer personal,  insightful and often funny personal reviews.


Not only can you find out if your dinner is likely to be good, you’ll also find  helpful hints and suggestions that you typically wouldn’t get from standard review. Reviews may not always be helpful but they are typically fun to read and often motivate you to add your own two cents. 


As Yelp has grown, it’s developed a social network aspect but unlike Facebook which is centered around users, yelp focus remains on local business.  It’s the word of month effect that Yelp is trying to duplicate. Since the dawn of marketing, the best advertising is word of mouth or personal referrals. People ask their friends or people they trust for recommendations . Yelp  integrates this into a social media platform and introduces a social network to support it.  Instead of doing personal searches, discovering new restaurants becomes a social search between a group of people. Suddenly as a yelp user you can nurture your own network of like mined friends or reviewers generating unique and personalized way to find information in you area.

Were Yelp shines…. Mobile

With the heavy proliferation of smart phones- mobile apps have changed the way we and businesses  interact with the web and information.

Yelp’s app for the IPhone and Android exemplifies how location based information can be used not only to drive business but engage consumers in a whole new way.

Already a go to site for many consumers when trying to determine the best place to get sushi Yelp has now utilized location based information provide by cell phone or GPS to give the end user relevant information based on where they are and what their preferences are.


At south station and looking for a old school Sinatra bar?

Just pop into you yelp app and and bring up the the monocle feature on the app. This application utilizes you camera and overlays search information on what you are looking at based on you location.

You can scan around in a circle and it provides directional information depending on where you are pointing.

Maps and Directions

You can also search by map using the “near by” feature. This not only provides standard Yelp information and reviews but will integrate maps to give  you directions on how to get there.


Once you have found where you are going you can check to see if your friends have reviewed the location or “checked in” allowing other yelp users to know where you currently are or if you have been there recently.

I’m not a huge fan of the “check-in” feature as I have used a similar feature on Facebook  and have ended up connecting with people out of the blue. (not always for the best)

Bottom line: Yelp’s mobile application engages consumers on a whole new level and allows them to discover new businesses on a broader integrated level.

Yelp for Business

Last February Yelp released the following data: image

  • Yelpers called a local business every other second via the mobile application.
  • 35 percent of all searches on came from a Yelp mobile app.
  • Every other second a consumer generated directions to a local business.
  • A photo was uploaded every 30 seconds from a Yelp mobile app.

From a business perspective Yelp magnifies the word of mouth effect a 1000 times over. Not only will  people be able to easily find your restaurant or bar  faster but you can actually collect real time feedback and reviews from your customers, sometimes while they are in your establishment.

Yelp offer a variety of tools for business to not only monitor customer information and search data but to generate more business through marketing.

One of the coolest new features is “yelp deals” similar to groupon.

image Yelp utilizes it’s network as a channel for companies to activate deals or specials based on very specific criteria.

Time limited or per person offers can be pushed to users who have checked- in or tagged a business as a favorite or just to show up in general searches.

Offers or messaging can even be activated within proximity of the business.

Many restaurants offer special offers for simply checking in while you are there to raise their profile on yelp.

Paired with reviews and social preferences, businesses can be very exact with targeted offers and marketing strategies.

Mobile applications and location based information is enhancing the way we find, connect and relate with each other and with businesses.

As a yelp user, simply walking into your local dive bar suddenly becomes a status update for friends and an instant recommendation for a local business.

Travel Bug

Travel enhances who we are as individuals. It’s one of the few ways we can escape our daily routine and enter a totally foreign environment. It’s a way to rebuild our sense of self and redefine who we choose to be.

Logically, social media is a natural fit for the travel industry as it’s a medium that incorporates all media and is as close to the real thing as you can get.

Over the last five years the travel industry has embraced and incorporated social media into their marketing strategy. Not just because it is a fast and efficient way to promote offers and products but because it can create a dialog with customers.

What makes social media the ultimate platform for travel? Two primary objectives for any travel or tourism organization is to engage customers and to create loyally or familiarity with travelers while  nurturing relationships they’ve established.
                                                                                                                                                    Here are some ways social media achieves this in the travel industry.

Great content & Vibrant Networks

Travel is expensive and typically a luxury item, it requires time and a break in routine. For these reasons there is a high level of resistance in converting leads to sales as well as a higher level scrutiny of trips and services.

Social media allows travelers to feel confident about their purchase by providing pictures, videos, stories and information that you couldn’t get from a brochure or print ad.


Check out the Royal Caribbean International website a great example of how they tie in direct marketing into their reach social media strategy. Including Videos as well as multiple social net works to stay connected.


imageOn Facebook Royal Caribbean hosts videos explaining trip options allowing travelers to comment or travel brag about their experience .

Allowing users to express their likes and dislikes bout the Royal Caribbean product.


Ratings and Reviews Keeping ’em happy
For hotels, B&Bs, resorts and just about anyone else involved in the travel industry, it is all about reviews and what your customers are saying about you.

People who are thinking of traveling want advice and they are looking for the most trustworthy information possible. Reviews and forums are a great resource to travelers and an easy way to decide if a particular hotel or vacation is right for you.

Trip Adviser is pretty much the be all end all in the travel industry when it comes to reviews. image

Covering just about everything, trips are rated  from excellent to terrible with supporting reviews from thousands of people.

The rating system gives travelers a sense of quality while the reviews are chock full of helpful hints and interesting stories.


They also rate the users, rewarding people for insightful and detailed reviews.


This encourages higher quality content and allows for participants to not only document the trips they have been on but to feel like they are helping others at the same time.

Enlist your customers sell your product. U.G.C!

People enjoy documenting their trips by taking video, writing blogs, and sharing photos sharing with friends and family the experiences and adventures they have been on.

This translates to user generated content and is a huge benefit to travel companies as people relate their stores and experiences giving travel a personal touch. More and more companies are learning to integrate this content on their own hosed sites or in social networks like twitter and Facebook.

Check out this travelers Blog submission to My company’s Facebook page at Grand Circle Travel.        

Talking back

A huge advantage of using social media is companies can now react and respond to their customers in real time. Customers often express issues or are looking for information regarding their trips in forums. This provides a great environment for fellow travelers and business representatives to respond and maintain positive relationships. Often efficiently solving issues while letting customers know that they are listing. In fact this can reduce support costs as in many situations fellow travelers will step in to resolve issues or answer questions.

These are just some examples of how Social Media is being used by the travel industry today. This medium provides so much more than just an opportunity to market new products. Social media allows the travel industry to connect with and better understand their customers creating a mutually beneficial relationship.

Social Media- Lets start the conversation.

Social media has been gaining steam and for many if not the majority businesses the start of 2012 will include a social media marketing campaign. It’s clear that the business world has woken up to online marketing and it’ benefits.

A recent article on reports that for the first time ever, online ad spending has exceed print media. But that probably doesn’t come a surprise to many who predicted this major shift in advertising dollars.

“According to
a study released Thursday by eMarketer, online advertising is expected to generate $39.5 billion in sales this year — a 23.3% increase from 2011 — compared to a sum of $33.8 billion on print.” *”Online Ad Spending to Surpass Print for First Time in 2012 [STUDY]” by Lauren Indvik


The question now is not should you be involved in online marketing but how? What strategies, tools and resources should be dedicated to the online world to be successful.

Let’s take a look at some the most common and easy to use social media platforms currently available and how they can enhance your message- whatever that may be.

Start some Blog blabber
Blogs are an excellent way for companies to keep you customers up to date on aspects of the company as well as a way for consumers to provide feedback  on ways to improve your services or products. It is a great way to develop a dialog and become know with in your industry.

Great blogs not only generate sales they generate traffic and reputation.

Check out this article by  Mark Suster on how to write an effective blog
How to: Create a Sucessful Company Blog 

Tool Box: WordPress is an excellent start up tool for this, with an easy interface and wealth of information its easy to quickly set up a personalized blog even under your own domain. If you need support or more control over the platform they also offer paid packages as well.

Distribution & consumption:                                                                                               Once you have set up your blog its a good idea to get a lay of the land and follow other who are like minded. Almost all blogs have RSS capability which stands for really simple syndication.

RSS allows people to “Follow” your blog or site on one location. Instead of having to continuously go to your blog they get get the latest updates sent to one location or reader.


Personally, I am  Google fanatic so I stick to Google reader which has a clean interface (Take note) and a lot of great features to track all of the other blogs you will be following.

Social Networking anyone.                                                                                          Now that we are in the business of creating content a great way to distribute and gain followers is develop a strategy for the major social networking sites.

Think of you blog as the meat and social networks as the potatoes.

Your approach to Facebook, twitter or Linkedin should reflect what you are posting on blog.

If you are generating  interesting content on your blog you should translate that and communicate it to people via social networking. That content to what you are posting on all three should line up.


Welcome to the Conversation: Remember its all about communication

Entering the world of social media and online marketing is about personalizing your business to your consumers but on a intimate level.

Online marketing is a conversation and like all conversations good ones are interesting and they go back an forth. When considering what strategy you would like to use remember that you are starting this conversation with your customers, clients and peers.

You should be interesting, ready for questions and genuine really you should think about the character of your Brand. Framing your approach in this light will create a baseline understanding of the not only how social media works but how to engage it.

Yes I am growing a mustache, I am so glad you asked!

imageBecause this blog is dedicated to all things social media, I figured I might try a little experiment, test the waters so to speak.

As we’ve been discussing, social media provides the perfect medium to connect with friends, family and acquaintances so it’s only natural that fundraising would find its way to the social media platform.

On February 1st, I shaved my face to raise money for Community Servings, a Boston based, non-profit whose mission is providing individuals and families with critical and chronic illnesses with nutritious meals. Their goal is to help clients maintain their health and dignity while sending a message of caring direct from their community.


I was drawn to this non-profit because of their simple but powerful mission. With efficient preparation, just 25 dollars can sponsor an individual for an entire week.

Did I also mention that I really wanted to grow a mustache?  Yes, Community servings is hosing an event called “Mustacho Bashio” and it’s pretty ingenious.


Here’s how it works: Community Servings asks participants to shave on the first on February when, from that point on, they grow a mustache for the month. Using social media, events and constantly answering the question “Why are you growing that mustache?” they will generate awareness and raise money to meet their goal.

It’s a marketing bonanza! 

So I have gathered a group of 5 fearless gentleman who have already shaven clean to join me on this growing adventure.

Stay tuned for regular updates and find out how I tweaked the social wires to reach my goal.

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Oh by the way………………….
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