Plight of Blockbuster Proves You Must Innovate or Die

In Indiana, we're blessed to have a culture of business innovation and entrepreneurial drive. This article from Hootsuite explains why businesses must never lose that passion for innovation.

When some companies stop innovating, it can literally kill them.

Remember Blockbuster?

Just 10 years ago, with 8,000 stores and $3 billion in annual revenue, Blockbuster was easily the planet’s biggest video chain. Today, after bankruptcy and massive closures, it’s limping along with 500 stores. And their days seem numbered.

What happened? Netflix happened. Redbox happened. Streaming video happened. The world and the technology surrounding how people like to watch stuff changed. Blockbuster didn’t.

And there are many other examples out there, of big brands who faced the same fate. The latest story making waves is that of RIM, formerly known as Blackberry, who—after years of struggling to stay afloat in the highly competitive smartphone market—announced this week they are looking at the possibility of selling off the company…

So to avoid this, I’ve embraced a few innovation strategies from some of the best business minds out there:

1. Let them chase rainbows

Give employees in-office time to explore their craziest ideas and passion projects. This concept is actually decades-old, but it’s still around because it’s effective. Major US corporation 3M’s unwritten “15-percent time” rule, for instance, has been around since 1948. It encourages its scientists and engineers to spend up to 15 percent of their working hours pursuing their own projects, even if they have nothing to do with their actual jobs. The program has resulted in the development of many of 3M’s top-selling products, including Scotch tape and the Post-it note.

2. Start a skunkworks

Have a secret innovation lab somewhere in your business. “Skunkworks,” is a small group within an organization that is given a high level of independence to research and develop secret projects, often in the spirit of radical innovation. Google’s skunkworks is their top-secret Google X Lab, which gave birth to Google Glass. Current Google projects that have emerged from the lab are a driverless car and Project Loon, “a network of balloons traveling on the edge of space,” that will give internet access to people in rural and remote areas.

Amazon has a similar group, called Lab 126, from which the Kindle was born. It’s reportedly now developing a 3D Kindle. And last year, LinkedIn launched its own unique skunkworks-type initiative called [in]cubator. Under the program, any employee at LinkedIn can, up to 4 times a year, pitch an idea to a panel of their bosses (which includes CEO Jeff Weiner). If approved, the person is granted up to three months of work time to turn it into a reality with a designated team.

3. Have Hackathons

Set aside days for employees to run wild with their best new ideas. Working in the technology industry for over a decade, I’ve seen firsthand that great ideas emerge when people feel free. They don’t tend to surface in high-pressure situations, like in boardrooms with bosses standing overhead. So the hackathon, or hack day, is a great way to facilitate creative brainstorming. This is a fairly casual, in-office event that can last anywhere from a day to a week. Employees come together to share great new ideas and ultimately pick the best ones to pursue further.

While Hackathons originally were events for developing new software technologies, many industries have embraced the hackathon for all-around brainstorming and innovation. One of the most interesting examples is Brainhack, a three-day hackathon aimed at fostering innovation in the field of brain science.

My company also holds Hoot-Hackathons, two-day events which allow employees to freely pitch ideas, work with new people, and build new things. These events foster a culture of innovation and gets people enthusiastic about new ideas. Plus, it doesn’t cost a lot.

Quantifying Your Impact on Social Media When You Need to Report It to Superiors

The following is a guest blog from Steve Robinson of Constant Contact:

What are the best ways to quantify your impact – and progress – on Twitter and Facebook when you have to report it to your superiors?

If you accept that social media will help your organization, then what the issue really comes down to is: How do I measure its impact and know whether my posts and tweets are generating the social media buzz we’re looking for?

The easiest thing to keep track of is the number of “followers” you have on Twitter and the number of people who "Like" your Facebook Page. Over time, those numbers should go up if you engage your network with valuable and relevant content.

How will you keep track of the engagement? Allow me to suggest a variety of tools, all of them free, that you can use to monitor what’s being said about you. They have the added benefit of allowing you to streamline some of your social media activities as well:

• NutshellMail – This tool allows you to monitor and manage your brand’s social media presence right from your email inbox, and to do things like track your Facebook Page Insights, manage your Likes and followers on Facebook and Twitter, engage with your networks, and use other social media sites (like Yelp and Foursquare).

• HootSuite – This is a social media dashboard that allows you search for hashtags, terms, and keywords; merge and monitor your Facebook and Twitter streams; and gather social media intelligence as well. You can also post and schedule updates to multiple social networks all at once from within HootSuite.

 TweetDeck – This is a real-time browser, connecting you with your contacts across multiple social platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.

• Google Alerts – Google Alerts allows you to “save” keywords. It will then send you an email anytime your keyword matches with new content found on the web.

Other tools you can use include Google Analytics, to see if social media is driving traffic to your website, and email marketing reports, to see how many people click on the social media icons in your emails and how many people have joined your email list.


Steve Robinson is a Senior Regional Development Director for Constant Contact. In addition to serving as the President of the Lake County, Illinois Chamber of Commerce, he relies on his nearly 30 years of experience in small business ownership, business development, sales, and fundraising to help associations, small businesses, and nonprofits achieve success. He understands the importance of staying connected with one’s customer base and using affordable marketing technologies to do it.

Get ReTweeted Like a Champion

Fast Company magazine recently publicized some very interesting findings from viral marketing scientist Dan Zarrella, who examined what types of Tweets are most likely to be retweeted. This is incredibly useful for businesses who are looking to get out the word about what they offer — and for bored college students who think everyone should know they are eating Zingers while watching the World Series of Poker: 

If I wanted (to) make sure this post did not go viral–according to the standards put forth by Hubspot viral marketing scientist Dan Zarrella in "The Science of Retweeting"– I could promote it on Twitter by posting something like this:

"was bored watchin the game on tv and saw this thing about RTs…made me lol after i had really bad stomach cramps"

Note the lack of punctuation, the use of of slang and abbreviations, the limited vocabulary, and the awkward overshare–all traits that Zarrella can now definititively say would turn Twitter users off. How? Because the avid Twitter-er and author of the upcoming The Social Media Marketing Book spent nine months analyzing roughly 5 million tweets and 40 million retweets (which are usually symbolized with an "RT" on Twitter). He noted when they were posted, which words they used, whether or not they included links, and more. Then, he says, he compared the two groups to get the first "real window" into how ideas spread from person to person: "Retweets may seem like a small idea…but many of the lessons [they teach us] will be applicable to viral ideas in other mediums."

The full report is 22 pages, and won’t be available until tomorrow. But Zarrella offered me a sneak peak–via Twitter, no less. Below, his nine most effective ways to get retweeted on Twitter:

1. Link Up (But Don’t Use TinyURLs)
In Zarrella’s sample, links were three times more prevalent in RTs than normal tweets (19% to 57%), suggesting that their mere prescence could help buoy your bon mots. (Not sure whether that holds true for sporadic use of French terms.) But choose your URL shortener carefully: Newer, shorter services, such as,, and, were much likelier to get retweeted than older, longer services, such as TinyURL. Ouch…

Zarrella also discovered that asking people to "Please Retweet" actually works, and he came upon something that I’ve noticed based on our Hootsuite tracking, which is that Tweeters are much less active in the morning. The most RTs tend to come between 3 pm and 6 pm.

For the full report, read it here.