After a series of proof-of-concepts, experiments and conversations around harnessing internet of things technologies with social marketing in mind, my coworkers Christian Dodd, Max Morein and I decided to take an internal prototype across the finish line, and use it as an springboard to evangelize building physical products to marketing folks both locally and nationally.
Our concept was to use Cramer-Krasselt's "Make Friends, Not Ads" slogan as a tool to prove a simple point about ads and brands. We built a sign with that tagline, and then "Friends" and "Ads" were wired up to flash accordingly as we pulled down real-time data from Twitter. It was a simple concept, but also a powerful message about our brand, given a ratio of ten #friends to every one #ads.
Once we had an inital concept, I began to build out an initial proof of concept. I took an Arduino Uno, an Ethernet Shield, and two BlinkM LED's, and then created a web service on Heroku that listened for specified hashtags on Twitter's streaming API.
My first attempts tried to sidestep writing web services, through evaluating services like IFTTT and Zapier, but I found that only a custom service was real time enough to support the concept. For instance, queuing up cached results and serving them up every 30 seconds completely changed the experience.
Once we had a working proof of concept, I worked with a larger team to get the sign into production, working with our studio artist team on the design, and wiring up the final version with EL Wire instead of bare LED's.
Our physical prototype was well received internally at C-K, and thanks to C-K's PR team, Max Morein and I had an opportunity to present to Chicago marketers about using physical products in their own social media efforts: Using Social Data to Create Real-World Brand Experiences and also wrote a blog post outlining our materials and code.
Co-authored with Christian Dodd and Max Morein, our article in the Journal of Digital and Social Media Marketing discussed the "where's, when's, why's and how's" of connected real-world marketing experiences. My focus was on "how", explaining at a high level the logistics of building and securing physical hardware, when to use hand-rolled vs out-of-the-box software, and using social API's.
Scheduled for print in 2017, this article gave social media marketers some much needed outside the box thinking to reach modern Millennial audiences who may be cynical about traditional native social advertising.