Blackberry’s Open Letter, LetsLunch, Flickr’s “New Photo Experience”, and Boston’s Weekend Festivals

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Top Story: Blackberry’s Open Letter to the Public

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Four years ago, Blackberry had 51% of the smartphone market in North America, according to research firm Gartner. As Apple took over the mobile industry and Samsung swooped up right behind, Blackberry swiftly dropped off the mobile industry leaderboard as it failed to keep up. Amidst constant news of iOS and Android updates and battles, Blackberry crept deeper and deeper in the recesses of our mobile minds.

 

After years of dwindling sales culminating up to a $1 billion quarterly loss, Blackberry announced that it was up for sale. Concerns about the company grew when it announced plans to cut up to 40% of its workforce in an effort to reduce expenses by 50%. This means more than 7,000 employees since 2011, as reported by The Globe and Mail.

 

This past Tuesday, Blackberry placed an open letter to its customers in 30 newspapers across nine countries to address its future.

 

“You’ve no doubt seen the headlines about BlackBerry. You’re probably wondering what they mean for you as one of the tens of millions of users who count on BlackBerry every single day,” the ad begins. “We have one important message for you: You can continue to count on BlackBerry.”

 

Hoping to divert the course of conversation from impending doom to the glory days, the ad urges everyone to recognize that it remains the company with the best in class productivity tool, security, enterprise mobility management, and mobile social network.

 

Blackberry is now juggling a number of options with a conditional $4.7 billion purchase offer from Fairfax Financial Holdings of Toronto, a possible buyout from its two founders Mike Lazaridis and Douglas Fregin, a non-disclosure agreement with both computer manufacturing giant Lenovo and private-equity firm Cerberus Capital Management among others.

 

While the ad seemed to have lifted some people’s outlook on the future of Blackberry, others remain coldly wary. Read the full ad here.

 

What did you think of the ad?

 

Tool of the Week: LetsLunch

lets_lunchLet’s face it – networking can seem daunting, or at least awkward to the best of us. It takes a certain level of fearlessness to walk up to a stranger and strike up a conversation with substance. That fearlessness may not come as easily as it does to the next person, but networking can make all the difference between where you are and where you want to be.

 

A few years ago, Founder and CEO of Silicon Valley startup LetsLunch Syed Shuttari was looking for a career change after working the same corporate job for five years. He started grabbing lunch with people in the area when he came up with the idea for a social network centered on connecting lunch partners. Launched in 2010, LetsLunch now coordinates more than 3,000 lunches per month.

 

LetsLunch works with restaurants to send a networking groups their way. When an expert hosts a paid lunch, LetsLunch receives 15% of the check.

 

“A lot of people find networking awkward,” says Shuttari about the pressure inherent in large-scale networking events, with anywhere from dozens to thousands of participants. “But why not just meet those same people for a normal day-to-day activity like lunch?”

 

Would you want to network with a stranger over lunch?

 

Under the Radar: Flickr’s “New Photo Experience”

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Flickr surges forward on a redesign spree with the latest “new photo experience,” an effort to put the focus back on the images. Before, Flickr displayed each image bounded by a black box overlaying your screen and you would have to scroll down to find the comments and details. With the goal of making the images in your photostream as large as possible, the rest of the interface has been stripped down, pushing details off to a column to the right of the screen.

 

“With the new photo experience the image is about 25% bigger than on the previous photo page,” Flickr said in a blog post. “You’ll see more pixels, get a cleaner view without any elements on the top or the bottom of the screen, so that photos can really be the center point.”

 

To preview this fresh layout, just hit the “Try Our New Photo Experience” button when you find an image you would like to view. Currently in preview mode, the new layout will become standard later this year. What do you think?

 

Around the Hub: Weekend Festivals

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Celebrating the power of words and promoting a culture of reading, the Boston Book Festival takes over Copley Square for its fifth year. Beginning yesterday, free seminars, workshops, readings, and signings were held throughout Copley and its surrounding areas.

  • Where: Copley Square
  • When: Today through Sunday
  • Time: 10:15 a.m. 7 p.m.
  • Admission: Free, apart from a number of ticketed events

 

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It’s that time of year again. The 49th Head of The Charles Regatta returns to Boston, attracting some 300,000 spectators lining the banks of the river to cheer on 9,000 rowers from around the world. The largest of its kind, this massive event encompasses over 60 feats of competition. The regatta kicks off with Men’s Senior Veteran Singles and concludes with Women’s Lightweight Eights. The most intense races will be the Championship Fours and Eights on Sunday, October 20 from 2:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.

The Head of the Charles website has an interactive overview map complete with shuttle stops, boathouses, and key locations for download free.

  • Where: Along The Charles River
  • When: This Saturday and Sunday
  • Time: 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Admission: Free, but get there early if you want to get a good spot.

 

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If you’re looking to get-away from the city for a bit, the 13th annual Wellfleet OysterFest just may hit the spot. This annual celebration of the local shellfishing industry brings together 75 artisans, 16 food vendors, 12 raw bars and 13 community organizations, along with live music performed by Crabgrass, Sarah Swain and the Oh Boys, The Rip It Ups, Link Montana and The Incredible Casuals. The festival also boasts a family fun area including crafts, moonbounces, face-painting and more, educational programs about shellfishermen, culinary programs and book signings, recreational activities including oyster reef tours and a skateboard competition, and the Annual Oyster Shuck-Off competition.

  • Where: Wellfleet, Cape Cod
  • When: This Saturday and Sunday
  • Time: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Admission: $5 for a one day ticket or $8 for a two pass. Children 12 and under are free. Tickets here.

What are your plans this weekend?

Facebook “Home”, LinkedIn Mention, Pongr, New Balance’s Boston Marathon Campaign

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Top Story: 3 Changes Facebook is Making to Your “Home”

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via http://news.cnet.com/8301-1035_3-57578006-94/facebook-home-bold-experiment-or-extreme-bloatware/

For years there has been speculation about a “Facebook Phone” that would be built fully around the platform, but there has yet to be any credible information of its materialization. The rumor of a Facebook Phone took another hit yesterday with the announcement of “Facebook Home”, a new Android experience (not quite software, but more than an app) that re-skins your phone with Facebook content and apps. Facebook Home will create three major changes to Android devices it is installed in:

  1. Cover Feed – Facebook Home will replace your phone background with images from your News Feed, with small text captions superimposed on top. The photos will continually shift, although it is unclear how far back it will be drawing from.
  2. Chat Heads – This is Facebook Home’s chat interface that will pop up a small picture of the senders face in a circle on the screen that can be tapped on to continue the chat. What is really unique about Chat Heads though is that it merges text messages and Facebook Messages, so they are received in the same manner, possibly upping the usage of Facebook Messages.
  3. Facebook Launch Tray – Facebook Home will also replace the Android launch tray with one that has the user’s favorite apps, including native Android ones, as well as Facebook ones.

HTC will soon be launching its phone the HTC First, which, staying true to its name, will be the first phone to have Facebook Home installed natively.

What do you think of the Facebook Home announcement? Would you install it?

 

Under the Radar: LinkedIn to Add Mention Capability

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In the world of Networking, you can never be too engaged with your connections. This week LinkedIn launched a new feature in which users can Mention companies and other professionals in status updates. Though not all profiles have the new service yet, they will be rolling out changes moving forward.

LinkedIn has long allowed users to “Like,” Comment, and Share status updates from other users throughout the platform. Though they have taken the signature “Thumbs Up” from Facebook (with a professional spin), LinkedIn has ditched the idea of the “@” symbol used for the original Mention on Twitter. Users will be able to simply type the name of a contact or company within the status update field. Similar to Facebook, a drop-down menu will appear with matches to select from.

Mentioned users will receive real time notifications on in their inboxes, allowing them to respond quickly and engage with users and companies directly.

Wondering about people you aren’t connected to? Though there is no way to directly mention those outside of first-degree connections, professionals have the opportunity to engage with them in the comments section of a post. If a user you are not connected with comments on a post, you may mention that user in your own comment on the same post. This feature allows professionals to expand their networks organically.

The addition should ramp-up overall engagement on the LinkedIn Update Feed, bringing users to the site for reasons beyond resumes.

Interested in this feature? Try it out today. According to the LinkedIn blog, English-speaking users will see the change soon while other countries are in the pipeline. LinkedIn also plans to extend this feature beyond status’ and comments in the near future.

 

Tool of the Week: Pongr Incentivizes Brand Photography

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Do you love snapping pics of your favorite things? Why not get paid for it? Boston startup Pongr asks just that.

Photo-marketing site Pongr makes a game out of brand photography. To play, users simply snap a photo of an advertisement or product, and send it over to Pongr via email or text – no app required! Submitting photos also gives users the opportunity to “climb the corporate ladder” from intern to CEO (like mayor status on FourSquare).

Imagine – you are walking down the street when you see a Starbucks advertisement for their newest season offering. It’s a hot summer day, and that watermelon-mint lemonade (why is this not an offering yet?) looks like just what the doctor ordered. Rather than sprinting in to place your order, you snap a photo of the ad and send it to Pongr. Not only have you been hired as a Starbucks “intern,” but you’ve just earned yourself a 10% off coupon. Now that drink is definitely yours.

The marketing value of Pongr is clear: brands are able to identify their biggest influencers and build those critical relationships in offering incentives. Not only will their biggest fans continue to send in photos, but they may even share those photos on their own social media networks.

“People already like to take pictures of themselves with brands,” Pongr founder Jamie Thompson explains. “So if you’re a Sephora enthusiast, and you’re inclined to take your picture in front of their lipstick poster, with Pongr you can do that and see if Sephora is going to give you anything in exchange.”

Several major brands, such as Dunkin’ Donuts and UNREAL candy, have leveraged the site’s massive potential to bring in user-generated content to roll out successful crowdsourcing campaigns. To promote a new product, Sierra Mist asked users to submit photos of their Sierra Mist Cranberry Splash for a chance to win a 3-month supply. Cross-promoted on twitter with the hashtag #CranSplash, the contest presented a new way to unleash the untapped potential of consumers.

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What do you think about this new social media network on the block? Will you get in the picture?

 

Around the Hub: New Balance Launches Boston Marathon Campaign

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Athletic brands in Boston are smart to jump on the largest athletic event our city sees: The Boston Marathon. This year, we’re celebrating the 117th marathon in Boston and New Balance is kicking off a marketing campaign that fits right into both the event and their brand. Called the “Midnight Ride of Paul Revere”, it’s dedicated to running in Boston.

First, New Balance is creating ads for bus shelters and light pole banners and select MBTA stations will have digital flat screens. The ads will contain Paul Revere-friendly taglines like “The Runners are Coming, the Runners are coming,” and “Made for Midnight Miles.”

But this campaign is about more than just ads; there’s a way for consumers to get involved on social media, too. If you happen to see Paul Revere in Downtown Boston, take a photo of him and tweet out with #nbboston2013. You’ll be rewarded with a card that you can bring to New Balance’s Boylston Street store for a chance to win everything from shoes (including the limited-edition version of the 990v3 and 574 that they’re unveiling to coincide with the campaign) to gift cards to water bottles.

The shoes New Balance have designed to coincide with the campaign will be glow-in-the-dark and come in dark midnight-like colors (think navy and purple) and will also include stars, Paul Revere’s lantern, and a map of his route. Talk about one of a kind!

We absolutely love that New Balance is combining their athletic mission with rich Boston history and we can’t wait to see the results of this campaign.

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Boston Business Journal Top 100 Women-led Businesses Breakfast

Thursday morning, a few of the 451 Marketing ladies and I attended the annual Top 100 #BBJWomenLedBiz breakfast at the Westin Copley, presented by The Boston Business Journal and The Commonwealth Institute. It was an inspiring morning to say the least with almost 300 attendees, networking, panel discussions, awards and more. We were pleased to be there to witness the fabulous roster of women leaders to be recognized.

What I found to be the most interesting part of the morning was the panel discussion, newly added this year. The panel was moderated by Andrea Cohen, CEO of Houseworks (@house_works) and speaking was Kip Hollister (@kiphollister), founder and CEO of Hollister (@HollisterBoston), Laura Sen, president and chief executive officer, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Inc. (@BJsWholesale), and Shirley Singleton, president of Edgewater.  The panel discussed how to be an authentic leader vs. how to be deliberate in your leadership – a topic I was eager to hear about. The general consensus of the panel was that the key was to make sure that you stick it out when times get tough; “you don’t cave,” said Laura Sen. “When times get tough, you just don’t cave.” Kip Hollister echoed Laura’s sentiment. “Go right through the pain – don’t go around it,” she stressed. “It will make you stronger as a leader.”

The panel also discussed the importance of maintaining office culture as a leader, especially when it comes to retaining talent whose goals align with yours and that of your business to strengthen your mission. Laura Sen stated simply “Leadership is surrounding yourself with the right people.” Kip agreed, saying “Be deliberate in your office culture. Say it out loud. And if people don’t want to get on board, get rid of them.”

In addition to the four companies on the panel, 96 other women-led businesses were recognized in a presentation at the end of the event. Rounding out the top three were the soon-to-be retired Trudy Sullivan, president and CEO of Talbots (@Talbots), Laura Sen of BJ’s Wholesale Club, and Carol Meyrowitz, president and CEO of TJX Co. (@TJXCO).

It was so refreshing to learn just how many businesses in the state are women-led. You can find photos and the full list here.  I can’t wait to see who makes the list in 2012.

Were you at the event? What were some of your favorite quotes from the panel?  Who were you especially inspired by?