Meet Our New Social Media Manager!

February 20, 2017

IMG_9105Van West Media is extremely excited to introduce our new Social Media Manager, Stephanie Cowan! Stephanie will focus on increasing visibility, engagement, leads, and sales for our clients using their social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and LinkedIn. These platforms are a great way for our clients to effectively reach specific audiences and Stephanie is a master at putting together a social media strategy and creating the appropriate copy and visuals to accomplish this.

Stephanie brings to Van West Media a keenly artistic eye, sharp wit, and unbridled enthusiasm and we wanted to give her the opportunity to introduce herself to all of you:

“I am really excited to be working here at Van West Media and have hit the ground running in the social media department. My biggest focus for the first month was revamping our own Instagram account.  I am super passionate about creating unique and thoughtful content that can strengthen our brand’s voice and visibility. I want each piece of content that goes live to give pause and have reason. It is my goal to make every single aspect of a post on social focused and goal oriented. That’s what is so special about social media. You can mold the big picture by obsessing about the nitty-gritty to create something unique, flawless, and memorable.

I have also spent a great deal of time meeting with many of Van West Media’s new and existing clients, learning about their various industries, and helping them curate and tailor their specific social media profiles. This includes understanding their corporate culture and identity as well as their vision and goals moving forward.

One of the reasons I was originally drawn to Van West Media was because of the vast differences and variety between the client base. Some digital marketing agencies focus on certain niche markets, but Van West Media has a wide-ranging and exciting client roster including law firms, financial firms, fashion brands, luxury travel destinations, non-profits, and more. This diverse clientele makes my job uniquely interesting and fulfilling and means that I get to constantly create new, varied, and exciting content.

If you have not yet taken a peek, I encourage you to visit our newly revamped Instagram account! Follow @vanwestmedia for a behind-the-scenes look at all of the great work we are doing here. I look forward to continuing to improve our client’s social media profiles and if you would like to discuss your own company’s social media strategies, please reach out to me so that I can help you.”

-Stephanie Cowan

Snapchat’s Biggest Threat is its Own Design

August 23, 2016

If you think Instagram’s new Stories feature looks remarkably similar to Snapchat’s feature of the same name, that’s because it is. Apparently, it’s completely legal to copy draw inspiration from other applications (apps). How? It turns out copyright law doesn’t protect ideas so as long as there are inherent differences in the interfaces of the competing apps. Instagram’s Stories feature is free to use and is formatted like Snapchat which has become the most popular social network among teens.

The Stories feature is a bold move on Instagram’s part. Prior to the release of Instagram Stories, there were obvious differences between the two platforms. Snapchat, with its disappearing photos, was geared more towards short-term, in-the-moment glimpses of a user’s everyday life. Instagram, however, provided a variety of filters used to create and amplify aesthetically pleasing images and videos, perfecting an album of the best parts of a users’ life for the long-term. Although it’s not the case for every user, Snapchat stories tempted users to post every day, while Instagram posts were not necessarily published as frequently.

Is Instagram declaring war on Snapchat?

…Or is the platform simply just trying to inspire more content creation from users?

The two features of Snapchat and Instagram share a lot in common:

  • Both allow 10-second clips
  • Both stories remove images after 24 hours
  • Both let you reply to stories
  • Both allow you to add custom text
  • Both have filters
  • Both have a built-in marker
  • Both let you save the media to your camera roll
  • Both show who views your story

The differences between the two are few:

  • Instagram lets you “rewind” stories
  • Instagram lets you post sections of your story as an Instagram post
  • Unlike Snapchat, Instagram doesn’t show you who screenshots your story
  • Instagram does not feature geo-filters or facial-mapping

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Whatever Instagram’s intentions may be, two things are apparent. Firstly, the new Instagram feature cannot single-handedly crush Snapchat. It may have some impact on Snapchat’s numbers – but not enough to completely sway the minds of avid Snapchat users to switch over Instagram 100 percent of the time. Secondly, the aforementioned information doesn’t mean Instagram Stories don’t have potential. In fact, it has several factors going for it. For starters, Instagram Stories is very well made; it is easy to understand and navigate in a way that is much more user-friendly than Snapchat. Most importantly, Instagram has taken a powerful hold on the social world by creating a network which allows users to easily follow new people and “experience” places all over the world through the eyes of another person. This existing sense of community makes it so much easier to have access to the everyday lives of users you may be interested in without having to find them through a username the way Snapchat users create their list of friends.

It will be interesting to see if Instagram’s new feature takes off right away or if it will be another Instagram Direct scenario (which only gained traction about three years after its initial launch). What will be even more interesting is to see how Snapchat will react to this whole ordeal.

In the past, Facebook (Instagram’s parent company) has repeatedly tried and failed to buy Snapchat. It seems to us this feature launch might be Facebook’s way of saying it’s done trying to acquire Snapchat and is taking on their niche with the highly successful Instagram app.

Your move, Snapchat.

Coming Soon: Facebook at Work

November 25, 2014

Facebook At WorkA recent article in the Financial Times suggests Facebook is currently testing a new site, Facebook at Work. But most of us are already using Facebook at work, so what gives?

Here’s what we currently know about the new platform:

  • Your Facebook for Work profile is entirely separate from your personal Facebook social account(s); there’s no cross-pollination between users’ professional and social accounts
  • It’s geared specifically to the professional realm
  • The functionality is very similar to the existing Facebook site
  • No obnoxious advertising (…yet)
  • Includes collaborative tools catered to the work environment

It’s easily understood that Facebook at Work is expected to rival existing job tools and career networks like LinkedIn, Google Docs and Microsoft. It has been reported that Facebook employees have been using this interface internally for quite some time.

We want to hear from you. Are you excited about the possibility of Facebook at Work? Will it be a distraction or will it streamline workflow? Comment below or tweet us at @vanwestmedia!

Van West Media is a full service design, support, and consulting agency, offering comprehensive Internet marketing solutions for small to mid-size businesses.

The $19 Billion Dollar App You’ve Never Heard Of

February 20, 2014

Mobile messaging app WhatsApp has $19 billion reasons to celebrate after Facebook recently announced that it had reached a deal to acquire the company for $19 billion in cash and stock. This is the largest acquisition in the history of Facebook and you can be sure that the $19 billion dollar number made headlines across the tech world and beyond. The initial reaction by many was that Facebook might have paid too much for a company with less than 60 employees, but other analyst point to a lot of upside – if nothing else to avoid competitors from getting the app first. One thing is certain – WhatsApp cofounders Jan Koum and Brian Acton are the Silicon Valley’s newest billionaires.

What Facebook Paid – $19B acquisition details
Even in today’s speculative tech market, $19B is a huge chunk of change. Here are some of the details on the cash side of the WhatsApp acquisition:

  • $4B Cash, $12B worth of shares, $3B restricted stock = $19B
  • Largest acquisition in the history of Facebook
  • Costs close to 10% of Facebook’s Net Worth
  • Nineteen times the price of 2012 Instagram acquisition

What Facebook gets for $19 Billion?
Is this company really worth this kind of cash? It is to Mark Zuckerberg and at the end of the day that’s all that matters. Here’s some of what he gets in this deal:

  • A company with 450 million users (think double what Twitter has)
  • A company growing by 1 million plus users daily
  • The only app that has grown faster than Facebook ever did
  • Younger user base, mostly outside North America
  • Expanded presence in Mobile

WhatsApp…? Never heard of it
You’re not alone if you haven’t heard of WhatsApp prior to this announcement. Despite being a Mountain View based company, a large part of the user growth is in Latin America, Europe, India and other developing markets. In other words, a lot of places that Facebook wants to be. This means huge potential growth in terms of user base for Facebook, and may be part of the reason Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg were willing to pay so much.

With a market cap close to $200 Billion, Facebook needs to continue to convince shareholders it can keep performing in a landscape that continues to innovate and change. In acquiring WhatsApp, the company gains a big chunk of young users in new regions. It also prevents it from being acquired by competitors (read: Google).

How does WhatsApp work?
WhatsApp is cross-platform messaging app that lets users exchange messages without paying the SMS charges many carriers apply. Basically it found a way to exchange messages via the internet using the same data plan your phone uses for email or web. It also allows for images, video and audio messages and group functionality. This appeals to many users globally and the app is available across iPhone, Blackberry, NokiaS40, Symbian and Windows platforms. Feel free to contact VWM for more info on Mobile App Development

Off the cuff:
Snapchat might be feeling pretty good right now. The company turned down a $3 Billion dollar offer from Facebook not too long ago, and now might be looking more valuable in the eyes of Google or well positioned for a potential IPO sometime in the future. Instagram on the other hand might be feeling a little jealous.

Some of the sources referenced in researching this article: 2/14/2014

Forbes here and here

New York Times

The Guardian

Martin Varsavsky

Facebook M-Commerce

August 22, 2013

Since almost everyone has a Facebook and many websites already ask to log in by connecting to it, why not add storing payment information in there as well? Facebook is currently testing a feature for their mobile app that allows users to store their payment data into their Facebook account for faster m-commerce.

The payment data stored into Facebook would allow users to checkout from partner mobile apps easily. They are currently testing it with a men’s retailer JackThreads. Facebook will pull information from users that entered their credit card information from past Facebook purchases like Facebook gifts or Facebook game features. This will save people the time of the tedious typing on a mobile device when trying to purchase something online while on the go.

Many people are skeptical about storing their payment information onto a social network but Facebook reassures people that they are not actually releasing the payments from Facebook itself but from other third-party sources such as PayPal, Stripe or Braintree. Those payment methods on the web are already popular and widely-used. Facebook is only going through testing as of now but by integrating payment information with the Facebook login, purchasing things mobility should be much easier in the future.

Expanding E-Commerce Through Facebook

August 15, 2013

It’s difficult to advertise for a restaurant as most places within a type of cuisine have similar dishes on their menus. Pictures of decor, ambience and the dishes themselves are all over every restaurant’s website and ads. What can make them stand out more? By actually reaching out to their audience through social e-commerce and giving them another method to engage with the restaurant themselves.

OpenTable, an app for restaurant reservation service, is very popular as people can use it on almost any device, especially mobile ones. Last minute reservations for that special occasion or just a hangout with your friends is easy when you can make them in the palm of your hand. However, people also depend on reviews to see what places have the best dining experience. Who can give you the best advice that can cater to your needs? Your friends. Social media networks like Facebook allow you to check in to places, comment, like and discuss your experiences, making them very critical for e-commerce.

These discussions on social media are what makes the networks so viable to our everyday lives and dining is an essential part of that. You can see what your friend’s eat, what their opinion is on each dish and their overall experience right through Facebook. By adding OpenTable to the Facebook network, you can now click on each restaurant’s Facebook page from your friend’s status and directly make a reservation for that restaurant.

By having this new connection through social media, restaurants are now more directly connected to their prospective customers. People won’t have to put more effort into looking up the restaurant on a separate app or call to make a reservation. Placing all of these aspects into one location makes things easier for people, giving the restaurant more of a chance to gain reservations. This is one of the most direct e-commerce methods and makes all the difference.

Social Media Consulting

June 19, 2013

In this day and age, social media makes a huge impact on where your business can stand amongst the rest. The growth you can achieve from a social network is endless as people from all over are connected to each other in ways you can’t even imagine. As a marketing agency, we understand the impact of such a strategy.

Social Media builds Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and therefore, brings more traffic to your site not only through the social media networks themselves, but through large search engines as well. Here a chart to help you understand the capabilities:

social media

UberAds: Targeting Smartphone Users Through Social Media

May 20, 2013

As the amount of smartphone users skyrocketed over the past few years, advertisers saw this as an advantage. With internet usage on the go, ads out in the world on billboards, posters and subways are ignored as people have constantly been staring down at their phones and tablets. This is a disadvantage to brands that haven’t transitioned into mobile ads but for those who have, users are bound to come across their ads as they can be anywhere on any application, social media network or the mobile browser itself.


Mobile ad firm UberAds is launching a new ad product coming this summer of 2013, which targets app users based on their social media data and location. By having ads that are relevant and useful to users, people see them as helpful prompts rather than annoying  ads. This tactic allows better performance and effectiveness.

“So if you follow Tom Cruise on Twitter and are near a theater, you could see an ad for movie tickets,” explained Bill Gross, UberAds CEO.

NBC Universal tested this app recently on Tom Cruise’s new science-fiction movie “Oblivion” by creating 2 million mobile impressions specifically targeting audiences including Cruise’s 3.9 million Twitter followers. The positive feedback increased significantly with a 4% mobile click-through rate compared to the average 1% click-through rate of mobile ads. With the successful trial run, NBC Universal will continue to use this method on Cruise’s new movie “Purge,” which is coming out this summer. They will also use expand to other social media networks including Instagram and Pinterest to pull interest from users.

As other advertisers saw the increasing effectiveness of these targeted mobile ads, they too have decided to join in.

“We see long-weekend types of trips in the summer months,” said Elizabeth Dorrance, director of media and analytics at Expedia. “So people‚ while driving, are more likely to book hotels last minute on their phones.”


These UberAds will revolutionize the mobile advertising industry using this social signal targeting system. The real-time data will deliver increasing positive feedback rates for advertisers as people will be more inclined to respond to the helpful notifications. With the usage of intent, location and time, the mobile ads made for the right audience will be presented and both advertisers and the people will be satisfied with the outcome.

Don’t Burn Your Brand In Public

May 15, 2013

Brands always want customer awareness but how much is too much? Through social media, the connection between a company and its audience becomes a personal one. You are able to read each other’s thoughts and understand each other better. However, it’s important to maintain a great relationship, especially because these messages are seen with the public eye.

There will always be people who disagree with you and those who are not satisfied, but you have to remember to stay positive to keep your business running. By letting others get to them, Amy’s Baking Company Boutique and Bistro burned their brand to the ground. As Gordon Ramsey gave up on this restaurant in Scottsdale, Ariz. on his show Kitchen Nightmares, the owners felt the need to defend themselves to the public. However, it wasn’t pleasing to see as they had a massive meltdown in public.

With several Facebook status rants in all caps, it was clear they were freaking out and this drew negative attention towards them.  They also swore and threatened to pursue legal action against Yelp and Reddit, claiming that God was on their side. None of it was pretty and this public breakdown came back to haunt them.

This poor restaurant suffered through the carelessness of owners Amy and Sammy. They demonstrated a valuable lesson for all business owners out there. Through stressful times, it’s important to keep calm, stay proud and think of the positives. Gordon Ramsey may be a renowned chef but he is only one man. If the restaurant had customers coming in, they must’ve done some things right with their business. Stay aware of your actions, especially those on the internet that can are publicly displayed and can easily be spread as well. Don’t burden yourself with even more problems when you only started out with one minor one. It’s impossible to please everyone so just think about how you’re positively affecting others and work from there to make your business grow.

Why You Should Never Delete Your Facebook Friends

May 7, 2013

“Just cleaned out my friends list on Facebook! If you can still see this status, you made the cut!” Yes, because nothing says friendship like a Facebook official friendship.

Social media has become a valuable aspect in our lives that defines things “officially.” When Facebook first started, you added EVERYONE. You just met this girl in the bathroom of a frat house last night? Why not add her on Facebook! The advantage of these actions in the early stages of Facebook is that pretty much everyone you know became a part of your social network.


With adding people to define friendships came deleting people. Whether it was passive-aggressive technique to evoke a certain reaction from the other party or a “Hi. I never talk to you in real life so why should I continue to be Facebook friends with you?” thought, people have been “cleaning out” their list of Facebook friends. These online goodbyes are made in a purely social aspect but is there more to that by being someone’s Facebook friend?

From friendships to relationships, we see how people are connected to one another through social media. However, the most valuable aspect of it all is usually overlooked. What adds value to social media is the business networking potential of these connections. Through a Facebook page, you can see where people attended school, where they reside now, where they are working and so many other things without even having to speak to your so-called Facebook friend. If you were interested in a job field or needed a service provided to you, you can simply go on Facebook and see what your friends have to offer.


You have more knowledge of your Facebook friends than you do of a service you found on Yelp or a human resources agent in a large corporation. With this in mind, you can speak more openly about your opinions and really get to know things. You can also see the benefits of working at a company based on the accomplishments your friend has made. On top of all this, not only do you get your friend’s opinions, but you can also get mutual friend’s opinions as well. You know the personality of your friend and the potential they have, which also gives you an advantage for how it’d be if you worked at the same company or used her services.

There are so many benefits to just having a connection on a social network so think about this before you decide to delete your friend on Facebook. You probably never looked at social media this way but the business possibilities are endless with this route. From friends to friends of friends, the potential for success in this manner is much higher than just simply applying for a job with no referrals or searching for the top services online. Connections are everything in life as they get you what you want where you want it so take advantage of your social media network.