The News Chair
  1. Microsoft dives into social media with LinkedIn acquisition

    June 14, 2016 by Christopher Lloyd

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    Like many people I was rather surprised by the announcement that LinkedIn, the mammoth social media network for professionals, is being acquired by Microsoft. The $26.2 billion deal was announced yesterday, with assurances that LinkedIn and its estimated 433 million users will continue to operate as a separate unit under Microsoft’s umbrella.

    It seemed strange because heretofore Microsoft has gone conspicuously out of its way to avoid the social media battlefield, where Facebook and to a much lesser extent Twitter reign supreme. Indeed, they seem to have refocused their energies on being a software company, even going so far as to shutter their once-dominant browser, Internet Explorer.

    So why this move now, and what does it mean?

    (I should point out that while the boards of both companies have already approved the deal, it still awaits sign-off by regulatory agencies.)

    The New York Times called this Microsoft “reasserting its muscle.” Other reporting focused on how the deal will benefit the companies’ stock prices and bottom line.

    According to TechCrunch, which has made mergers & acquisitions of tech companies its journalistic bread-and-butter, this is more about Microsoft building its social networking services and professional content. They note the company’s acquisition of “private” social network Yammer in 2012 for similar reasons.

    “For Microsoft, it’s bringing a key, missing piece into the company’s strategy to build out more services for enterprises, and give it a key way to compete better against the likes of Salesforce (which it also reportedly tried to buy),” reporter Ingrid Lunden wrote.

    Translation: this will provide Microsoft with a large channel through which to market and sell its existing products.

    This especially makes sense when you think about how Microsoft is transitioning to a subscription-based model for its titan-like Office suite and other software. They no longer want to get you to buy a box of CD-ROMs once every few years, but get you on the hook for monthly payments ad infinitum.

    While LinkedIn is an important platform that companies want to be on, it operates mainly as a place for job seekers and recruiters to connect, or as a source to learn information about a particular company. It’s not necessarily a place where people go scrolling for news or social engagement.

    My prediction: assuming this deal goes through, you won’t see much difference in your day-to-day use of LinkedIn. Do expect to find more integration with Microsoft products like Cortana, Windows’ version of the digital “personal assistant,” that inevitably point you toward other features you can pony up for.

    Some, such as PC World’s Mark Hachman, have gone so far as to insist a Cortana-LinkedIn synergy is what the deal is really all about.

    “Jeff Weiner, the chief executive of LinkedIn, said that his company envisions a so-called ‘Economic Graph,’ a digital representation of every employee and their resume, a digital record of every job that’s available, as well as every job and even every digital skill necessary to win those jobs,” he writes.

  2. Marketing in 2016

    June 13, 2016 by Lisa Deremiah

    Lisa_Headshot_3inIn this age of social media, consumers want to feel a close connection to companies. According to a recent article from Lean Labs, one of the best ways to maintain a relationship with your prospects is through “inbound marketing,” which essentially advertises a product or company without screaming “Buy this!”

    Also called “content marketing,” inbound advertising focuses more on fostering a sincere bond with potential customers or clients through content. As Jodi Harris from the Content Marketing Institute writes, “Content is essential to supporting loyal, trusting relationships between brands and consumers.”

    Don’t worry about steering away from the more obvious forms of advertising — TV commercials, newspaper ads, etc. — in favor of subtler approaches to reaching an audience. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 80 percent of prospects prefer to get company information through a series of articles on the company’s website — blogs, white papers, etc. — rather than typical advertisements.

    In terms of staying on a more personal, social path with marketing your company, prioritizing online reviews helps as well. As Lean Labs states: “88 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Thus, you would be wise to make leaving online reviews for your business as easy as possible. Besides listing your company on local search directories, consider including a review section (or testimonials) on your website.”

    “A recommendation from a family member, friend, or even an acquaintance, carries more clout than lines recited by anonymous actors on television,” Lean Labs states — further proof that drifting from traditional advertising like TV commercials is the way to go now.

    Allowing people to write reviews is also a great way to connect with clients and prospects directly. People don’t want to engage with companies that treat their customers as faceless consumers. They want to have a relationship with the people behind the products they buy and the companies with which they do business. They want to know that you value their opinions and revise your business methods accordingly.

    Whether attracting prospects through helpful, engaging content — blogs, videos, social media posts — or connecting with them through reviews, the key is to focus on bonding with them rather than simply selling to them.

  3. Get in Your Creative Groove

    June 3, 2016 by Tim Coulon

    “Creativity is intelligence having fun,” the great Albert Einstein said. I wholeheartedly agree. As a graphic designer, I’m like a little boy in a sandbox, buzzing with imagination. Listening to music at the office helps transport me to a world full of ideas.

    In his book, Imagine, neuroscientist Jonah Lehrer argues that music can be an essential key to creativity. As he writes, “Music can alter the state of our brainwaves, as well as trigger neurotransmitters, like dopamine, that alter our mood and reward us for creative breakthroughs.” My job requires me to shine a light on my psyche and pull out ideas.

    Music gets me in tune with idea development. The sound seems to block out all the stress that clogs up my creative flow. As Lehrer says, “Music can ignite your imagination, immersing you in a certain mood and creating images in your mind that spark ideas.”

    Many studies point to classical music, especially Mozart, as a concentration tool. However, I go in a different direction — toward the exhilarating, improvisational styles of the Grateful Dead and Phish.

    A lot of people call these groups “jam bands,” but that label doesn’t come close to describing all the magic these guys create through music. They’re like mad scientists, fusing several different elements and creating a formula for unpredictable, explosive songs, complete with catchy lyrics and face-melting guitar solos. Their music defies category, combining country, folk, blues, improvisational jazz, reggae, psychedelia and space rock. I try to be similarly versatile, never repeating myself and always trying new things in graphic design. Like the Grateful Dead and Phish, I throw a bunch of different ideas and genres of art at the wall and see what sticks.

    Most importantly, this music puts my mind at ease. Being in a good mood at the office makes me more eager to take care of business and get the job done. The energy of the music flows through my fingers and onto my computer screen.

    In a way, I have Phish and the Grateful Dead to thank for the countless ads, brochures and billboards I’ve designed at Coles Marketing. Their music allows me to escape the daily grind and explore my imagination, making work feel more like play. If you’re struggling to find inspiration at work, turn on some tunes, and as the Grateful Dead says, “get in the groove and let the good times roll.”



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