Brizzly Makes a TwitFace

But do Facebook and Twitter belong together?
Another guest post by Carly Schwartz

Of all the social media aggregators out there these days, I was most excited to beta-test Brizzly, and not just because its icon is more adorable than the Snuggle bear. The program promises to simplify online social activity by allowing you to access Twitter and Facebook at the same time, on the same screen. As a longtime user of both platforms for very different purposes, my curiosity piqued. Is it possible to enjoy the benefits of both at once?

Brizzly offers a way to view your Facebook and Twitter accounts on the same webpage, dividing the two programs by tabs. Its clean interface makes for easy navigation of content. Users can even integrate up to five Twitter profiles into their Brizzly account and peruse the individual pages’ activity side-by-side.

Brizzly’s Twitter content looks almost exactly like Twitter’s webpage itself, with minor design tweaks (black stars instead of gold ones for favoring posts, lists moved to the lefthand side of the page instead of the right). Its Facebook content, however, is much more limited, displaying only news feeds, wall postings, and status updates—essentially Facebook’s most Twitter-esque features.

Perhaps the most compelling aspect of Brizzly is its ability to explain Twitter trends. Users simply click “why?” next to a topic, and Brizzly offers a concise explanation in a neat little pop-up box. This saved me the agony of scrolling through streams of 140-character gobbledygook to figure out why #sorrysorry appeared as the number one trend yesterday, as Brizzly quickly informed me it’s a reference to a hit single by Korea’s Super Junior, allegedly the world’s largest boy band. Fascinating stuff, I know.

Other useful Brizzly features include the ability to embed photos and videos into the actual Twitter stream (as opposed to accessing the content on a separate client like Twitpic) and the option of saving drafts of your tweets and Facebook status updates (not sure why anyone would want to, but it’s a nice touch). Its real-time updates feature also saves users from constantly refreshing their page, a flaw that plagues both Twitter’s and Facebook’s original websites.

While most of Brizzly’s positive attributes relate to its Twitter features, the majority of its problems have to do with Facebook. Its Facebook content prohibits users from updating their profiles, playing games, chatting, or engaging with any part of the program beyond the wall. When users click a link to access their Facebook photos, a new window opens up entirely, directing to their actual Facebook pages. Kind of defeats the purpose of accessing Facebook through a separate client.

Brizzly’s successful use of Twitter and limited integration of Facebook begs the question: Do Facebook and Twitter—or any differing social mediums, for that matter—belong together? As social media continues to evolve, will one network reign supreme, or do different programs serve different purposes?

I’ve been actively tweeting for more than a year, and on Facebook since [gasp!] 2004, and I use each platform for very different reasons. Though Facebook statuses are useful every now and then to brag about an impending vacation or vent about a tough day at the office, for me, the program is a vehicle for keeping in touch and communicating with friends. Whether chronicling photos, planning a party, playing a game of Scrabble, stalking a crush, or indulging in general vanity, Facebook is best suited as a means to socialize in the digital space.

Twitter, on the other hand, is an information aggregator extraordinaire. I use Twitter to read the news, stumble upon discounts, follow my favorite musicians and artists, share interesting tidbits, and monitor the general pulse of San Francisco. Of course, a few friends and I call each other out on inside jokes and upcoming plans, but I prefer to use Facebook for that.

Furthermore, as a member of the ad industry, I believe tools like Brizzly inhibit the potential to develop marketing programs across social platforms. Successful social campaigns take very different forms on Facebook (games, fan pages, gifts) than they do on Twitter (hashtags, retweets, customer relationship management). Integrating the two poses a significant challenge for marketers, who clearly want to move beyond display banner ads as the social space continues to grow.

Despite Brizzly’s earnest attempt to blend the two programs, I think they’re ultimately better off alone. Social networks will continue to grow and find their respective footings in the coming years. For now, there’s a place for Facebook and a place for Twitter, and although some of their features overlap, I’m not convinced they belong next to each other—even when joined by a mascot cute enough to turn my insides to oatmeal. 

Happy holidays from Traction!


A Creative Alien at the iMedia Agency Summit

This is a guest post written by blogger Renee Crawshaw, Associate Creative Director at Traction.

I've just returned from the iMedia Agency Summit in Scottsdale. On my first day, a group of four Summit veterans took us newbies aside to tell us what to expect in the coming days. Afterward, I asked the group of 40 or so freshmen if there were any other creatives present. Not a single hand raised. It was plain to see: I wasn't in Kansas anymore.

Now, to be fair, the iMedia Agency Summit is the opportunity for agency media planners and buyers to meet with digital publishers and technology providers. But as the person who is ultimately responsible for communicating ideas through digital media, it's important that I understand their capabilities. That's why I jumped at the chance to go. And I encourage more creatives to get their names on the invite lists of future Summits. Here is a bit of what I took away.

Collaboration, education, and standardization.
At the Summit, these three ideas were meant to apply to the relationships between media agencies, publishers, and clients. From a creative person's point of view, I say that they apply to how we here at Traction approach a project. We employ cross-discipline collaboration, starting at the concepting phase. In addition to the copywriter and art director, our brainstorms include our UX designer and our technical leads. This organic ebb and flow of expertise from each discipline results in experiences that generate visceral responses and reflect natural human behaviors on the web.

Traditional, digital, social: it's all a big blur.
Deelish, isn't it? I'm a copywriter by discipline. Nine years ago I felt my advertising career was all but wrapped. The San Francisco ad scene was decimated by the dot com implosion. And this new-fangled thing called online marketing limited me to a character counts and static executions. Today, technology has caught up to what I do—and is pretty transparent to me. Not only can I work in my familiar territories like video (for you traditionalists, that's what used to be known as "broadcast"), I now have a host of new channels in which I get to tell a brand's story. At the Summit, we heard a lot about the importance of developing original content for interactive video. I'm looking forward to it.

It can be messy at times. All these options. All that content. None of us quite speaking in the same language. But to the consumer, it all mashes up to a yummy dish of relevance.


Traction pulls ahead

San Francisco Business Times just published this article on Traction. You can read the original here.

Ad firm Traction's software supports creative side

As far as Adam Kleinberg is concerned, there are ad agencies and there are software companies. Traction Corp. is one of the few that blurs the line between the two.

“We work across integrated branding and advertising, interactive experiences and social media to create experiences and align human behaviors with the brands,” said Kleinberg, founder and CEO of San Francisco-based Traction. “We’re as much a software development company as we are an ad agency.”

This model of combining advertising principles with web applications has worked for Traction. Over the past three years, the company has grown 105.5 percent, to $3.7 million last year from $1.8 million in 2006.

Illustrating this is a campaign the company created for Adobe in 2008 that involved a Facebook application that allowed users to guess if an image was an original or modified using Adobe’s Photoshop software.

“They wanted to reach out to the college student audience, so we created a game called ‘Real or Fake’ that leveraged images created with Photoshop,” Kleinberg said. “It provided a really successful brand engagement for Adobe’s customers.”

Kleinberg said the company tries to align a brand’s business objectives with human behavior through something it calls “engineered marketing.” The traditional marketing that had audiences move from awareness to consideration to intent to purchase doesn’t work anymore because “consumers can consume media on their own terms,” Kleinberg said.

The company’s blend of traditional and interactive ad experience led to an identity crisis early on, said Kleinberg, who has a web design background. “Were we a web development agency or an ad agency?”

But Kleinberg and the company’s other founders, Theo Fanning and Paul Giese, who all worked together at Tribal DDB before founding Traction in 2001, decided they were both and decided to combine the two.

The lines were blurred further when Traction was hired by Bank of America to create an Internet application that allowed customers to engage with the BofA brand while investigating their personal finances through the bank’s web site.

“It was truly different from anything the bank had ever done before,” said Tim Brown, who was creative director for Bank of America’s e-commerce division. He has since moved to a similar position with Kaiser Permanente.

“Instead of just taking what we thought would be a good idea, they really went to town and did great research on how people view their finances,” Brown said.

Kleinberg said 2008 was the company’s best year, and despite a tough beginning to 2009 he expects the company to come out of the recession stronger.

“At the beginning of this year, we had two months where most of our clients froze and we were very touch and go,” Kleinberg said. “But things quickly picked back up and we’ve grown quite a bit this year.”

Kleinberg said that through the third quarter, the company was on a path for more than 40 percent growth compared to the same period last year, despite the lull. He said the recession has made the firm focus on companies that value their brands, choosing clients more selectively.

As a manager, Kleinberg has learned that the most difficult aspect of managing the firm has been hiring good people.

Traction has grown to about 30 employees, with 12 of them joining in the past three years. Kleinberg estimates that he will hire about 10 more in the next three years. He said he took one of the company’s biggest risks when he decided to keep a particularly cohesive team even after the project they were working on was canceled.

Among Traction’s competitors are San Francisco firms such as AKQA and Organic, Kleinberg said.

“The team knows that we really care about them and I would say to a man when the need comes to put in that extra effort and put in a long night, people don’t hesitate to make that happen,” said Kleinberg, who thinks the risk paid off. “That’s been something that has made us a stronger company.”