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Posts Tagged ‘Mashable’

The World’s Fastest Supercomputer Now Belongs to China

Posted Thursday, October 28th, 2010

Mashable, 28th October 2010

Unveiled today at the Annual Meeting of National High Performance Computing (HPC China 2010) in Beijing, Tianhe-1A is the world’s fastest supercomputer with a performance record of 2.507 petaflops, as measured by the LINPACK benchmark.

Tianhe-1A was designed by the National University of Defense Technology (NUDT) in China, and it is already fully operational. To achieve the new performance record, Tianhe-1A uses 7,168 Nvidia Tesla M2050 GPUs and 14,336 Intel Xeon CPUs. It cost $88 million; its 103 cabinets weigh 155 tons, and the entire system consumes 4.04 megawatts of electricity.

Tianhe-1A ousted the previous record holder, Cray XT5 Jaguar, which is used by the U.S. National Center for Computational Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratories. It is powered by 224,162 Opteron CPUs and achieves a performance record of 1.75 petaflops.

According to Nvidia, Tianhe-1A will be operated as an open access system to use for large scale scientific computations.


When Are Facebook Users Most Active?

Posted Thursday, October 28th, 2010

Mashable, 28th October 2010

We know that users are spending increasing amounts of time online on social networks like Facebook, but when exactly are users the most active? Social media management company Vitrue just released a study that identifies the days and hours users are most active on the Facebook channels maintained by companies and brands.

For the study, Vitrue analyzed Facebook post data from August 10, 2007 to October 10, 2010 from more than 1,500 brand streams — more than 1.64 million posts and 7.56 million comments in all. Shares and “likes” were not included in the study.

Here are some of the big takeaways:

The three biggest usage spikes tend to occur on weekdays at 11:00 a.m., 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. ET.
The biggest spike occurs at 3:00 p.m. ET on weekdays.
Weekday usage is pretty steady, however Wednesday at 3:00 pm ET is consistently the busiest period.
Fans are less active on Sunday compared to all other days of the week.


Leaked Google Documents Reveal How Much Big Brands Spend on Search Ads

Posted Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

Ad Age has obtained an internal Google document that highlights some of the biggest AdWords buyers for the month of June 2010, offering insight into how big brands are using Google and how much they are spending.

Mashable, 8th September 2010

According to the documents, the biggest buyers of AdWords in June included AT&T Mobility, Amazon, eBay and BP. Although most of those companies are frequent big Google spenders, BP was a newcomer to the list, spending $3.59 million on search ads in the wake of the gulf oil spill (compared to just $57,000 in the two months prior).

Top Spenders

The top spender in June, AT&T Mobility, spent $8.08 million on search ads to coincide with the release of the iPhone 4. According to Ad Age, AT&T’s the third-largest U.S. advertiser overall, so its Google spending is not a big surprise.

Other companies that made up the top 10 include:

Apollo Group – You know them as The University of Phoenix and they spent $6.67 million in June 2010
Expedia – $5.95 million
Amazon – $5.85 million
eBay – $4.25 million
Hotels.com – $3.30 million
JC Penney – $2.46 million — we’ll admit, this one surprises us
Living Social – $2.29 million
ADT Security – $2.19 million

Why Brands Buy Google Ads

The data shows us that for big brands, a heavy investment in Google is usually tied to revenue that comes directly from search traffic (as in the case of Amazon, eBay, Expedia, Hotels.com) or in instances where companies are trying to build awareness (AT&T) or weather a PR crisis (BP).

It’s also interesting to note some of the brands that aren’t on the list. The documents obtained by Ad Age indicate that companies like GM, Disney and BMW spent less than $500,000 on Google ads in June. Even Apple spent just less than $1 million on Google ads, despite its high-profile launch of the iPhone 4.

However, we also think it is possible that some big brands are spending money on search, but not directly with Google. For instance, although Ad Age cites Walt Disney as one of the companies that spent less than $500,000 on Google ads in June, the movie studio released Toy Story 3 that month, a film supported by a massive ad campaign. The film has gone on to gross more than $1 billion worldwide, making it one of the most successful animated films of all-time. It seems odd that Disney would spend only $500,000 on search terms for its big summer release.

What seems more likely, however, is that Disney purchased advertising through companies like Fandango or MovieTickets.com and those companies have their own arrangements with Google. In other words, when it comes to evaluating search spending, don’t count out the potential middle men.

This also makes sense when taking a big-picture approach to Google’s own revenue. The top 10 brands only accounted for 5% of U.S. revenues for the month.

Google is a big target for advertisers because of its strength in search and because of its ubiquity across devices. We do wonder if ad buys will shift to other outlets, like say, Facebook, as users spend more and more time on those networks.


Advertisers to Spend $1.7 Billion on Social Networks in 2010

Posted Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

Mashable, 17th August 2010

The latest numbers from eMarketer project that advertisers will spend nearly $1.7 billion in the U.S. on social networking sites in 2010. Worldwide, spending will hit $3.3 billion according to the report.

The numbers represent a significant bump up from estimates published by the research firm at the end of last year, when it projected $1.3 billion would be spent on the space in the U.S.

Not surprisingly, eMarketer sees about half of that money (in the U.S.) going to Facebook, with MySpace continuing to see a smaller share of the pie. Separately, the firm estimated that Facebook’s 2010 revenue would hit $1.2 billion in a report published last week.

Earlier this month, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said that some of the social network’s biggest advertisers had boosted ad spending by 10x this year; a trend that’s apparent in the eMarketer report.

Check the site for chart: http://mashable.com/2010/08/16/social-networking-ad-spend-2010/


5 Small Biz Web Design Trends to Watch

Posted Thursday, August 12th, 2010

The importance of having an attractive website that converts visitors into buyers and helps cleverly promote your small business is essential in these fiercely competitive times.

Mashable, 10th August 2010

Your website has to capture a visitor’s attention, entice him or her to stay and browse around, create an interest in your product or service, and result in sales. For small businesses with limited time and budgets, design is an essential factor in both attracting and converting potential customers.

With this in mind, here are five current design trends that most small businesses can utilize to great effect.

1. Minimalism

While this web design style has been popular for some time, it’s worth revisiting as no small business owner wants to turn visitors away with a cluttered, overbearing and hard to navigate website.

Minimalist design effectively strips away the excess and helps the user concentrate squarely on the content. If a page has too many elements, the user will easily become confused about where to focus on, with many elements vying for attention.

With page weight now affecting your Google search engine position, it’s the perfect time to reassess how streamlined your design is.

There are several principles and steps you can follow to create a more minimalist design:

  1. Go through your site and prune any unnecessary widgets or elements which aren’t serving a real purpose.
  2. Make good use of whitespace, which is the space between different elements of a design. Used well, it will allow for easier scanning of your site and help frame the elements on each page.
  3. With fewer elements, choosing the right color palette or accent color is critical. As color has great significance and meaning, it’s best to test how certain colors interact with each other.
  4. Browse your site through the eyes of your visitors, evaluating if there is too much information, confusing or off-putting elements, or sufficient calls to action. Answering these types of questions truthfully will help you prioritize the essential elements.

A minimalist design doesn’t have to be bland and boring; it can easily be modern, fresh, sophisticated, elegant or refined, based solely on the details within the design.

2. Unique Photography

Two men shaking hands, a group of people in suits sharing a joke, the call center girl: these are all tired, clichéd images that litter thousands of business websites. These types of images fail to convey either information on the company or a sense of the site’s character, and are essentially meaningless.

Using custom photography or artwork whenever possible is recommended, though for small business owners, both time and budget are limited and stock photos are a relatively cheap and accessible resource.

So when choosing stock imagery, it’s best to keep in mind these four tips:

  1. Research your competitors and industry and take note of the images used. You can then find a unique way to represent your product or service.
  2. Avoid being too literal in your choice of imagery as abstract compositions often give a more dramatic and memorable effect.
  3. Don’t always opt for the cheaper low-res image, as pixelated imagery devalues your overall design and looks unprofessional.
  4. Veer away from the bland and predictable and let the images ‘break out of the box’.

Imaginative imagery will reinforce your brand message and add greater character to your website. So, when you must use stock imagery, do so with great care and take the time to find the right piece that will convey the true personality of your service or product.

3. Bold Typography

Web design at its core is about communication, and typography is a vital component of that. Great web typography helps bring order to information and creates a coherent, visually satisfying experience that engages the reader without their knowing.

A recent trend is the use of big, bold typography which helps to create contrast between other text while grabbing a user’s attention. Oversized text can help create hierarchy and ensure users understand your message loud and clear.

In order to utilize typography to create a bold statement, keep in mind the following tips:

  1. Determine the single most important message you want to emphasize, as too many messages can lead to choice paralysis. Understand the qualities of the message you are trying to convey, and then look for typefaces that embody those qualities.
  2. Choose a typeface that will match the character of your work. For instance, if your company embodies the feel of an Old Style font, you should consider Bembo, Garamond and Sabon. It will also greatly depend on what you want to convey with the type, because legibility is as important as the character of the type.
  3. Give the typography the prominent position it deserves by surrounding it with a generous amount of whitespace. This will add emphasis and create even more focus on the typography.
  4. Test out some of the various font replacement options such as Typekit or Typotheque. These allow you to license fonts to embed within your site, and help you to experiment with beautiful typography.

Typography is an art and the decisions you make are subjective; however, carefully selecting a typeface can make a huge difference to the quality of your design.

 

4. Clear Calls to Action

As a small business owner you want your visitors to complete a certain task when they land on your page. It could be to download, sign up or checkout, but these calls to action are one of the most important (and overlooked) elements in a small business website.

You want to grab your visitor’s attention and move him or her to take action. Crafting a clear, concise call to action is essential.

Here are four tips to keep in mind when designing a call-to-action button or advertisement:

  1. Language: Keep the wording short and snappy (always start with a verb), but also explain the value behind the action the user is taking. In some instances it also helps to create a sense of urgency using words such as ‘now’, ‘hurry’ and ‘offer ends,’ with ‘free’ being the number one incentive.
  2. Positioning: Ideally, calls to action should be above the fold, and be placed on every page of the site in a consistent position. For instance, Squarespace, not only has a large call-to-action button at the top of the page, but also has a slightly smaller button in the footer of every page.
  3. Color: The color should make the call stand out from the rest of the design. Brighter, more contrasting colors usually work best for smaller buttons. For larger buttons, you may want to choose a less prominent color (but one that still stands out from your background), so as to balance out its size.
  4. Size: The call-to-action button should be the largest button on any given page. You want it to be large enough to stand out without overwhelming the rest of the design

.

It’s vital you test different combinations of call-to-action buttons and see how each affects your conversion rates (see A/B Testing below). It’s also best to make sure they fit within your overall design.

  1. 5.      A/B Testing

With competition growing fiercer online, it’s important for small businesses to have a website that converts visitors to buyers and creates a competitive edge. That’s why it is important to continually measure and improve site performance, usability and conversions.

One of the foremost ways of optimizing your web design is via A/B testing (sometimes referred to as split testing). An A/B test examines the effectiveness of one landing page over another. The two versions are randomly shown to site visitors to see which generates the best results. You then evaluate the performance of each and use the best version.

Various elements can be tested, including, layouts, copy, graphics, fonts, headlines, offers, icons, colors and more. Here are a few tips for A/B testing:

  1. Clearly define your goal before beginning any test. For example, if you wanted to increase sign-ups, you might want to test the following: type of fields in the form, length of the form, and display of privacy policy.
  2. Start with elements that will have the biggest impact for minimum effort. For instance, you could tweak the copy on your checkout button to see if conversions can be improved.
  3. Don’t use A/B testing in isolation as this alone won’t give you a well-rounded picture of your users. Instead, use other feedback tools, such as Feedback Army or User Testing, in conjunction with A/B testing to get in-depth analysis of user behavior.

A/B testing won’t make a bad design great, but it will prove an effective aid in optimizing your current design’s usability and conversions until you decide to overhaul your website design completely.

These are just five web design trends that small businesses can take part in to enhance their websites. Which web design changes would make the most sense for your small business?


Why Small Businesses Shouldn’t Take Social Media for Granted

Posted Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

It seems like social media is everywhere these days. But the 2010 Business Monitor United States report — commissioned by UPS — shows that when it comes to small- and medium-sized businesses, social media is still a missed opportunity. A mere 24 percent of respondents said they’ve received sales leads from social media, with just 1 percent citing it as a factor for business growth.

Mashable, Jun 02, 2010

The data would appear to indicate that in spite of all the positive press that social media gets and all the use cases we’ve seen emerge over the past few years, small business owners are taking social media for granted. When done right, social media can be a valuable source for customer acquisition, retention and satisfaction. Here are a few reasons to help drive the value home.
Information is There for the Taking
Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to the web. Ignoring, avoiding or just not looking at what people are sharing online about your small business or your competitors is just plain lazy.
Now more than ever people turn to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Foursquare, Yelp and a slew of other sites to share information and make it publicly available. As such, there’s a wealth of information that existing customers, future fans and online detractors are putting into the public domain, and there are a plethora of tools to make it easy for you to follow along.
The customer that tweets about a poor experience, the guy that leaves a tip about a venue on Foursquare, or the woman that tweets about being overwhelmed by an event she’s planning, are all real humans sharing real bits of information that if ignored could translate into missed opportunities.
In the case of the person with the poor experience, if it’s your business being discussed, offer to step in and fix the problem. If it’s a competitor, offer to let the person try a comparable product free of charge. When it comes to Foursquare, acknowledge great Foursquare tips, even if they’re not for your own business. If you can help the woman who’s overwhelmed, do it, even if it is just by responding, “is there any way I can help?”
As a small businesses owner, it’s your responsibility to use these bits of public information to build relationships, improve customer service and enhance your products.
Simple Works
Finding the right way to use social media can be daunting, especially when there are so many examples of big brands pushing the limits of creativity and possibility when it comes to their Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare initiatives. Often times the big guys forget that it’s the simplest of gestures that can have the greatest impact. But simple works.
On the simple side of things, just take the time to acknowledge customers that mention you. Did someone tweet about dining at your restaurant? Did they checkin at your venue? Did they share a story about your small business on Facebook? These actions that take place in the public domain are all opportunities to connect with a current or potential customer and make them feel special.
Responding is easy — a simple “thanks for stopping by,” or “how can we make your next visit better?” tweet can go a long way and even make someone’s day. Yet, it’s something most companies take for granted. People like to be recognized, but often times they’re never presented with an opportunity to associate restaurants, stores and other venues with the people behind him. You can create that opportunity by recognizing their patronage, which in turn should help ensure that they return for a future visit.
Another simple thing you can do is post signage — on your website and in your store — to indicate that you’re social media-friendly. The Express retail chain has their chief marketing officer’s Twitter handle printed on all their bags, which works to reinforce that the company cares about person-to-person connections. Take that idea and apply it to your own business. For that extra touch, make stickers, punch cards or window decals that showcase your small business’s online personality and reinforce that you’re interested in conversations with your customers.
Your Size Works in Your Favor
Starbucks is the perfect example of an early adopter brand that understands social media, and yet their size prohibits them from engaging with every customer that walks in the door.
As a small business, your size is your friend in social media channels. Use your small size as an advantage and respond to each and every person that mentions you. Since you’re working with a smaller customer base, you can also build customer Twitter Lists to separate different categories of customers into groups, which should help you offer more personalized customer service — something the big businesses don’t have the time or resources to support.
Here’s an easy example: Who are your most frequent customers? Make a Twitter List called “Regulars,” and add your regulars on Twitter to it.
In doing so, you’re associating patronage with prestige. Your efforts could even inspire semi-regular customers to frequent your business more often just so they too can get added to the list. This tactic might also serve as a catalyst for one regular to connect with another, though you could also facilitate customer-to-customer connections with introductory tweets. So if a customer tweets for a recommendation, you could respond with something simple as, “@customer1 good question, I like the cheesecake but @customer2 really loves the custard.”
These types of personal exchanges highlight the advantages afforded to small businesses using social media.


How Startups are Using Social Media for Real Results

Posted Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

For startups, the amount of money you have to burn before you either need to break even or raise more capital is your runway. Extending the length of that runway is an art form that requires startup founders to learn how to squeeze maximum value out of every dollar they spend. Social media is one important way that startups are saving money while still delivering value.

Whether being used for customer service, community building, product marketing, or internally for staying organized and communicating as a team, one common thread can be found through the social media use of every startup we talked to: Cost savings.

“We have no outside investment. That means we’re bootstrapping right now,” said Jack Benoff, Director of Marketing at Zugara, which last year went back into “startup mode” to create their own augmented reality software. “Social media has given startups the ability to market themselves in a way that wouldn’t have been possible before. Sure, it takes a commitment (in time), but the hard costs are minimal. It allows us to focus our financial resources on production, research and development, and sales, which is huge for us.”

Here are four ways that startups are using social media for real results.

1. Customer Service

One of the most useful ways that startups are employing social media is for customer service. “On the customer service side, beamME gets tremendous value out of social media. These days, people expect to be able to post issues with companies directly to Twitter and obtain a real-time response. This instantaneous access to our customers is invaluable,” said Gabe Zichermann, CEO of beamME, a maker of mobile networking tools.

According to Zichermann, one of the most useful tools they’ve used to manage their customer-focused social media efforts is Hootsuite, which has cut the amount of time necessary to look after their Twitter and Facebook accounts tremendously by allowing them to be used at the same time. “HootSuite is particularly effective and cuts down our time/cost requirements,” said Zichermann, who still advises getting someone, at least part-time, to help manage the flow of social media use and plan things out as far into the future as possible. “[That] will reduce the repetitive workload and make campaigns run faster.”

Phonebooth.com, which sells PBX services to small businesses, has had a similar experience using Twitter for customer relations. Said Todd Barr, Vice President of Marketing at Phonebooth:

Twitter has become the launching point for many of our internal processes. We have multiple examples of responding to an issue on Twitter within a couple of minutes and being on the phone with them within ten minutes. A tweet actually starts an internal process where we pull in the appropriate parties, get our information together, and reach out to the customer.

All of our other social media usages are extremely important, but Twitter is actually helping to create a culture change. We’re able to quickly assemble the correct folks to improve life for the customer. Internally, this begins to shed light on the power of social media and the team of folks who want to be involved is gradually expanding.”

Barr told us that Phonebooth has solved over 20 customer support issues using Twitter and has also created a “vibrant product feedback loop, with good user participation.”

2. Building Community

Barr and Phonebooth also utilize social media for building a community of customer evangelists. “With the launch of Phonebooth Free, we heavily relied on our social media efforts to rapidly build a community and are providing support, invites, encouragement and general engagement through Twitter. Social media also impacted our decision to launch Phonebooth Free at SXSW,” said Barr. “We believe that it is important to focus on where our customers are and not where our industry is. This is a very important distinction in our minds.”

Zugara also uses social media to create community and build awareness. Both the company’s Twitter account and Facebook page are used to actively engage people, Benoff told us. “We also use Twitter to attempt to organicly build relationships with our industry’s key influencers,” said Benoff, who reached out to Mashable over Twitter for this post.

Building relationship and fostering community are commonly talked about uses for social media, but one of the most often overlooked aspects of social media is building relationship offline. It is important for startups to take online networking to the next level and go out and talk to customers in person at tweetups and conferences.

“There were at least ten social media people that were critical to our success at SXSW that we had met in person before or planned to meet in Austin. Many of those connections even helped funnel people to our booth and evangelize Phonebooth,” said Barr.

3. Product Marketing

Using social media for marketing is another cost-saving no-brainer for startups. Social media tools like YouTube, SlideShare, and Ustream have helped Zugara save money and increase new business opportunities, said Benoff. Much of Zugara’s social media use is centered around thought leadership and allowing journalists and potential customers to have immediate and easy access to information about their products and industry.

Social media marketing tactics also figured into the launch plans for Phonebooth Free. “Social media levels the playing field. It has never been easier to be more in touch with your customers or market than it is now,” said Phonebooth’s Barr, who used social media to lay the groundwork for the Phonebooth Free product. “Traditional marketing promotes messages to unwitting audiences –- our marketing seeks to draw in interested people who want to hear from us with compelling content, products and conversations.”

As a result, Phonebooth Free “blew away” launch goals, according to Barr, in large part because “our [social media] messages were amplified by a strong group of followers.”

However, startups using social media for marketing need to be in it for the long haul, cautioned Benoff. “If you are going to use social media to market yourself think of it as a commitment, or strategy, not a campaign. You can’t start a conversation with someone (in the real world) and then walk away. The same applies here.”

Every startup we talked to counseled on the value of being authentic. “Be honest. Be respectful. Be responsive. Be transparent. Sell infrequently,” said Benoff.

“Keep it real: Don’t try to be someone you’re not; don’t cover up issues/problems –- instead, address them head-on and transparently; follow-up with people (do what you say you are going to do),” was Barr’s advice.

“Concentrate on the value you’re providing for others through these tools,” said Dmitry Dragilev, Marketing Lead at ZURB. “The tools are just another communication medium. What value are you providing for them through SM? Try to imagine yourself in their shoes –- would you be interested? Imagine you’re standing with strangers in an airport -– what would you say to them to get their attention and get them excited about what you’re doing?”

4. Staying Organized

Finally, startups are also using social media with great success internally as a way for employees to stay organized and more connected with each other. At interaction design firm ZURB, they’ve actually built two social media tools, Notable and Verify (in invite-only beta), to help streamline their internal workflow. Though they now sell it as a “software as a service app,” their flagship product Notable, an application that organizes and manages design feedback, is actually used internally at ZURB.

“The homepage of Notable was actually designed with the help of Notable,” said Dragilev. “We took the capture of it, iterated through feedback with the team, then closed it down and implemented it.”

The team also uses Harvest (time tracking) and Highrise (CRM) to keep track of complex consulting hours and people at the more than 75 companies they have worked with. “Social media has provided another channel for teams to streamline their internal workflows,” according to Dragilev.

Online gadget community gdgtuses a number of social media and web-based applications to create a virtual office environment for its employees that increases communication and collaboration. Company founder Peter Rojas explained how gdgt uses social media tools internally:

“We don’t have an office (at least not yet!), so being able to collaborate together online is essential. We use Campfire as our primary chat room, Skype when we’re rolling out new features and need really close collaboration or have a conference call, Google Docs for documenting anything and everything, Dropbox for sharing files, and Yammer as sort of a looser way to chat and share links.”

By relying on web-based tools and not needing to have an office, said Rojas, the company is able to save a significant amount of money and been able to better communicate with each other. “I think it’s made it easier to be decentralized and run very horizontal organizations with a minimum of micromanagement,” said Rojas.

One thing to remember when putting social media in place internally, according to Rojas, is to test applications and find the ones that work for your startup. “I’d recommend trying out different [apps] until you find one that’s the right fit for your organization. The tools need to fit with the team rather than the other way around,” he said.


Mobile App Market to Surge to $17.5 Billion by 2012

Posted Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

Lithuanian-based GetJar, an independent mobile phone application store with more than 60,000 mobile applications for major mobile platforms such as Android, Symbian and Windows Mobile, commissioned a study that predicts a huge surge in the number of mobile app downloads and the overall size of the mobile app market.

Mashable, 17th March 2010

According to the study, created by Chetan Sharma Consulting, mobile app downloads should jump from 7 billion in 2009 to almost 50 billion in 2012. By this time, the market will be worth 17.5 billion dollars, the study predicts, despite the expected lower price of mobile apps, which should drop from the current average of 2 dollars per app to 1.5 dollars in 2012.

GetJar chief executive Ilja Laurs makes another bold prediction, echoing the one we’ve recently heard from a Google executive. “It is easy to see how mobile apps will eclipse the traditional desktop Internet. It makes perfect sense that mobile devices will kill the desktop,” he said.

He backs this up with more data from the study, citing that 17% of GetJar users spend more time on internet-linked smartphones than they do on desktops.

Be that as it may, the work you do on your desktop is still a lot different than the work you do on your smartphone. The mobile application market definitely has tremendous room to grow, especially with the coming of iPad, which takes the mobile app paradigm and slaps it onto a bigger, tablet device. But let’s wait and see how it performs on the market before we declare desktop dead or irrelevant.


Social Media Marketing: How Pepsi Got It Right

Posted Friday, January 29th, 2010

Social media marketing campaigns are proving to be goldmines rich with customer engagement and insight that companies wouldn’t likely have otherwise. Companies like PepsiCo are going to extensive lengths to foster this type of collaboration with fans, and the payoff has been big.

Mashable, January 20th 2010

The company’s Mountain Dew division is several stages into its DEWmocracy campaign — a plan to launch a new Mountain Dew flavor with the public’s involvement at all levels of the process, and PepsiCo also just launched the Pepsi Refresh Project on January 13th. Rather than spending money on Super Bowl television ads this year, the company is spending $20 million on a social media campaign.

Jay Baer, founder of the social media strategy company Convince & Convert, said brands are realizing they need to market for the long haul. “I do think it’s a good move for Pepsi. I don’t know if every brand can pull it off,” he said.

The Pepsi Refresh Project and the DEWmocracy campaigns are part of a crowdsourcing effort that’s part of the larger PepsiCo plan to more closely integrate consumers with the brand. “Driving consumer interest and engagement takes imagination and often a certain amount of reinvention, so it’s fair to say we’re rethinking everything we do from product development to marketing campaigns across our entire portfolio,” said Bart Casabona, a Mountain Dew spokesman.
A Closer Look at Mountain Dew’s Social Media Campaign

The first DEWmocracy campaign launched in 2007. This inaugural DEWmocracy effort let consumers choose Dew’s new flavor, color, name and graphics, and resulted in more than 470,000 people voting and an overall 1 million people taking part in some phase of the process, according to the company’s DEWmocracy media site. The winning new flavor, Voltage, hit store shelves in January 2009.

Brett O’Brien, Mountain Dew’s marketing director, said that for the first campaign a site was built for people to interact with, which made sense at that time.

Fast forward to July 2009, when the second DEWmocracy campaign launched. The multi-stage effort tasks die-hard Mountain Dew fans to narrow seven sodas down to one final new flavor that will become a permanent part of the Mountain Dew family, using social media platforms 12seconds.tv, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube in the process.

O’Brien said that with the explosion of social networking, they felt it was best to interact with people where they are.

 Flavor Nations Play a Large Role

The second iteration of the Mountain Dew campaign is fueled by the 4,000-strong DEW Labs crew, an online community of die-hard fans. The DEW Labs are divided up into three Flavor Nations for the three Mountain Dew soda finalists: Typhoon, WhiteOut and Distortion. Once the three flavors debut in April, the Flavor Nations must talk up their flavor and get people to vote for it to become the permanent new Mountain Dew soda. That one winning new permanent soda flavor will debut on Labor Day, according to the company’s DEWmocracy media site.

O’Brien said the several stages involved are really part of the normal product innovation process. He said if they were going to be totally transparent the whole time in launching a new Mountain Dew flavor, they needed their customers to be there the whole time.

Every part of the campaign involves the fans and the public — from picking flavor names, to voting on the best user-submitted ad campaign.

Collaboration With Consumers

“What we’re calling it [is] collective intelligence,” O’Brien said. “It’s less about crowdsourcing, but more about collaboration.” PepsiCo looks at DEWmocracy, which has literally been driven by word of mouth, as a way of doing business rather than an ad campaign, he said, and the most important thing to recognize is the passion consumers feel for Mountain Dew is like nothing that’s out there.

According to O’Brien, PepsiCo looks at social media as the best way to get direct dialog with their fans and for the company to hear from those fans without filters. “It’s been great for us to have this really unique dialogue that we normally wouldn’t have,” he said. “It really has opened our eyes up.”

Convince & Convert’s Baer said the DEWmocracy campaign fits with Mountain Dew’s brand and customer profile. He said giving customers ownership of the brand is a fantastic idea.

“What they’re trading off is reach for depth and they’re trading short-term impact for long-term impact,” he said. Baer sees the process of brands asking customers to craft better products or services as a trend. He pointed out that companies aren’t just soliciting customer input, but they’re putting it into practice. And some business decisions are now based solely on customer feedback.

“To me, that’s tremendously exciting,” he said. “To me, that’s the social media story.”


How Social Media Has Changed Us

Posted Monday, January 11th, 2010

Over the last 10 years, we’ve seen social media galvanize thousands over politics, create as many industries as it has destroyed, and offer an abundance of visual and audio entertainment. But has all this incredible change actually changed us, or just the world we live in?

Mashable, 6th January 2010

Child Literacy

It stands to reason that children who read and write more are better at reading and writing. And writing blog posts, status updates, text messages, instant messages, and the like all motivate children to read and write. Last month, The National Literacy Trust released the results of a survey of over 3000 children. They observed a correlation between children’s engagement with social media and their literacy. Simply put, social media has helped children become more literate. Indeed, Eurostat recently published a report drawing a correlation between education and online activity, which found that online activity increased with the level of formal activity (socio-economic factors are, of course, potentially at play here as well).

Ambient Intimacy

Lisa Reichelt, a user experience consultant in London coined the very pleasant term “ambient intimacy.” It describes the way in which social media allows you to “… keep in touch with people with a level of regularity and intimacy that you wouldn’t usually have access to, because time and space conspire to make it impossible.”

Consider the many communications technologies through history — the telephone, Morse code, semaphore, carrier pigeons, smoke signals — they are all fairly inconvenient and labor intensive. Lisa has hit on the idea that communication has become so convenient that it’s actually become ambient around us. It surrounds us wherever we want it, not necessarily when it wants us. We dip into it whenever we like.

Knowledge Was Power

From his Meditationes Sacrae, published in 1597, Francis Bacon was paraphrased as saying “knowledge is power.” Fundamentally, the more you understand about life, the more chance you have at success. But these days, Wikipedia (Wikipedia) and Google (Google) have democratized information to the point where anyone is able to acquire the knowledge they may want.

As a case in point, I had never even heard of Meditationes Sacrae until I looked up the term “knowledge is power” on Wikipedia. In Bacon’s time, the only people that had access to books and the literacy to unlock the wisdom within were the wealthy with the time and inclination to learn.

Of course, books weren’t the only source of knowledge. Consider blacksmiths, dressmakers, cobblers or sailors who passed their skills and techniques from mother to daughter, from father to son. Back then, the friction that held people back from learning was low literacy, a lack of access to books and very little time. Now, that friction is almost non-existent. That is because of both the ability of computers to replicate information for distribution, and the the way that Google, Wikipedia and blogs have empowered people to share what they know. Now, the only real friction that exists is our own desire for knowledge. It’s there for you — if you want it.

The Reinvention of Politics

A recent report by PEW found signs that social networks may be encouraging younger people to get involved in politics. You only need look at Twitter’s (Twitter) recent impact on the Iran elections, the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, and even the election of Barack Obama to see that more and more people are getting involved in politics and are feeling they can make a difference.

One of the most popular blogs on the web, The Huffington Post, is mainly political. Politics has a fast pace, and that lends itself well to social media. UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown said in June last year that because of the Internet, “foreign policy can no longer be the province of just a few elites.” Twitter even postponed an upgrade because of the important role it was playing in the Iran (Iran ) elections.

These are all signs of both social media’s growing influence in politics, and the growing interest in politics from users of social media.

Marketing Flux

Marketing and advertising is transforming itself from an industry reliant on mass market channels to one which must embrace the power of the consumer and (attempt to) engage in conversations. The traditional approach of wide reach and repetitive messaging is now being replaced by many much smaller, niche and people-centric activities. Advertising isn’t dying, it’s merely changing form. We now have more power and more choice.

News as Cultural Currency

We’re no longer lazy consumers of passive messages. Instead we’re active participants. We now get news through the network we’ve created, and the news we pass to one another says something about us. It tells others what we’re interested in and what’s important to us. We used to call this gossip — and to a certain extent it still is — but unless you were a journalist at a local daily, the amplification that’s now possible through the likes of Twitter, Digg (Digg) or StumbledUpon hasn’t been experienced before.

Conclusion

Clearly there are skeptics. Susan Greenfield thinks that social networking is turning us into babies, shrinking our attention spans, our ability to empathize, and eroding our identity. She even suggests a correlation between the rise in prescriptions for drugs used to treat ADHD with an increase of time spent at computers. Similarly, Vincent Nichols, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster recently suggested that social networking causes increasingly “transient relationships,” is “dehumanising” community life and, as a consequence, we are “losing social skills.”

I think they couldn’t be further from the truth. Anyone with the slightest experience of using social media knows that it’s about being more social. We are more engaged with friends, we are more literate, more connected, more open to creating new relationships, and generally more interested in the world around us.


 
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