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Posts Tagged ‘tweet’

Google v Bing: it’s about brains and money

Posted Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

When Google accuses Microsoft’s Bing search engine of plagiarism, we get a glimpse of how commerce now needs academia more than ever

Google’s Search Fellow Amit Singhal complained via Twitter that Bing was copying Google’s results. That should tell you everything you need to know about the scale of this dispute: serious accusations of theft of intellectual property, even in Silicon Valley, are made in court.

But it would be wrong to suggest Google’s merely orchestrating a publicity stunt; rather this is a warning shot across the bows of rivals at Microsoft and beyond. Every web company stands on the shoulders of preceding giants, but that can be taken too far.

But the nature of search – still the core of Google’s business – is a monopoly business. Nobody wants to search the web and then have to search it again: the site that provides the best answers first time is the one that you’ll make your homepage. So it’s natural that Bing should look at what the dominant player is doing. The most academic aspect of computer science – the advancement of search – is meeting commercial reality head on. Microsoft’s blog response say they’ll keep focused on the customers. Most customers, still, are focused on Google.

The new corporate must-have: the social media manager

Posted Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

Over the past couple of years, an entirely new kind of executive has begun to appear in the upper echelons of US corporations: the social media strategist. Some 200 major US businesses now employ such a person.

If you want to understand why, just look at what befell Sarah Palin last week. She’s not a corporation exactly, but her recent adventures in social media have been salutary – showing why engaging with people online can be such a double-edged sword.

Since emerging on the national scene, Palin has used social media like Twitter and Facebook to rally her core supporters, with a fair degree of success. But then she got embroiled in the aftermath of the horrific shooting of US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Arizona earlier this month.

Palin‘s first mistake was to allow an employee to claim on the day of the shooting that a poster her campaign created last year and which featured gun sights superimposed on locations where she hoped to help defeat Democrat incumbents in fact depicted “surveyor’s marks”.

That explanation was quickly de-bunked when journalists found an old tweet of Palin‘s referring to the map as featuring “bull’s-eyes”, leaving Team Sarah to appear either shiftless or guilt-ridden. Next, more than 350,000 people raced to US expat Karin Robinson’s ObamaLondon blog to read how negative comments on Palin’s Facebook page were being erased in almost real time – but not before Robinson was able to copy the original posts and share them with the world.

Then, last Wednesday, Palin posted a video to Facebook defending herself from accusations of inciting political violence and accusing her detractors of perpetrating a “blood libel” against her – a term widely construed as being either shockingly ignorant or grossly insensitive, or both.
It added up to a nightmare week for the possible 2012 presidential candidate – and should give pause to anyone concerned with their online reputations.

Most US corporations, of course, care very much about their reputations and many will be thankful to feel at least a step ahead of Palin when it comes to managing their presences in the complex new social media world.

But they are only a small step ahead. The confluence of social media with the long memories of online search engines has dramatically altered how national conversations about politics, or products – or oil spills – now run. So it’s hardly surprising that the people whom companies have been hiring to try to influence such conversations are making up a lot of what they are doing as they go along.

Among the challenges they face is the potential for anything anyone said months or even years ago to return and haunt the speaker. It used to be that your critics had to keep archives of the right press clippings or spend a lot of time in a video library to find material relevant to their cause. Not so today.

It’s never been easier to “prove” someone’s hypocrisy by exposing inconsistencies between what they say now and their comments in the past.
Tweets, meanwhile, can seem ephemeral, but once sent are all but impossible to repress. And, as Karin Robinson deftly illustrated last week, Facebook comments are tricky to edit quietly when you suddenly start getting trashed for something you’ve done.

In the wake of Palin’s (and others’) mass online editing following the Tucson shooting, CBS Business writer Erik Sherman wrote: “Executives need to understand that social media isn’t a trivial plaything to be used on a whim. They need strategy as well as tactics, and the tools and sophisticated business processes to control them.”

Establishing such a strategy is the corporate Social Media Strategist’s main job. Distinct from traditional roles in marketing, advertising or corporate communications, the position also requires a comprehensive understanding of how social media change the overall media equation for businesses, an ability to prevent everyone from senior executives to low-level employees from blogging or tweeting things they (or the company) will one day regret, and the foresight to know what those things might be.

Many such strategists also run their company’s corporate blog and Twitter feed. That makes them public figures in the way that only CEOs or paid celebrity endorsers used to be. Take Scott Monty, head of social media at Ford, for instance. He has nearly 50,000 followers on Twitter.

“This role will become pervasive in the coming years, just as leaders who manage the corporate website have become essential,” believes Jeremiah Owyang, a technical analyst who began noting corporate hiring in social media back in 2007 and has been tracking it ever since.

While it can easily pay a cool $150,000 (£94,500) salary, Owyang calls the job of social media strategist “deceptively challenging”. That’s partly because corporate leaders are often clueless about what the job actually entails or why they need to listen to the person occupying it.

It’s also hard to measure the value such positions add – at least until you have a full-scale social media brand disaster on your hands.

Many hired into these roles are online marketing experts. And yet “most social strategists and their programmes lack maturity”, concludes Owyang in a recent report. To succeed, they’ll need be highly strategic in their thinking, he writes, or risk relegation to “the social media help desk”.

The repercussions for their employers can be worse. A brand disaster is pretty much how you could describe Palin’s recent online experience – a performance variously described as poorly-timed, tone-deaf, offensive, shameless, self-pitying, and anti-semitic. Others have speculated that her actions were calculatedly divisive.

But companies would be wiser to view Palin’s as a textbook case of what not to do – and hire themselves a social media strategist quick.

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.

Website of The Week

Posted Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

Easywriting.co.uk, January 19, 2010

Blippy.com is a new social network that answers a simple question: “what are your friends buying?” The venture was founded by Philip Kaplan, Ashvin Kumar and Chris Estreich and the service launched on the 12th December 2009

So how does it work? Superficially, it looks a lot like Twitter. Once you’ve signed up, you can follow others, see what they’re buying, where they bought it, and how much they’ve spent. You can then add comments or questions to any transaction.

It’s a controversial idea. Your Blippy account can be ‘linked’ with banks, credit cards, and large online stores such as Amazon and iTunes. Any purchase you make is added to your Blippy stream which can be publicly shared or shown to those people you approve. The site recommends that you also retain a ‘private’ credit card to save embarrassment about certain purchases or secret gifts.

In many ways, Blippy achieves something Twitter does not: passive sharing. You don’t need to post updates or even have internet access — your location and behaviors become visible by the things you buy. The founders have already experienced opportunities and unexpected consequences of using the service:

* The information is far more interesting than a typical tweet.
* It allows you to see what your friends are buying. You know where there are and what interests them — which could be useful for gift ideas.
* You can find online deals or discover whether you’ve been ripped off.
* It could become easier to track stolen credit cards.
* Valuable commercial data can be collated and analyzed. An API is planned so it will eventually be possible for companies to recall your previous visits and purchases. It could mark the end of store loyalty cards.

However, there are several big hurdles that could affect Blippy’s success. Are people willing to have their buying habits tracked? I accept large stores are already doing it, but making the information public is another matter. I suspect the younger generation would be more eager to share their whereabouts and what brands they’re buying, but the service is limited to those who purchase goods via credit card. Few teenagers will be able to use the service.

Passive sharing is a great idea and many social networks are likely to adopt similar techniques and technologies. But do you want to advertise your daily location and activities? I’m sure burglars would be especially interested in that information!

Finally, security will be the biggest concern for most users. Although they make strong statements about privacy and security, you still need to register your bank, credit card, store IDs and passwords with Blippy. I doubt many will share that information especially when they read Blippy’s terms of service:

“You understand and agree that you use the Site and Services at your own discretion and risk and that you will be solely responsible for any damages that arise from such use.”

Banks are continually advising customers to keep their IDs and passwords secret; few will understand or compensate you for security issues caused directly or indirectly by Blippy’s service.

Would you use Blippy?  Is it a great concept or too controversial? I am signing up now!!

10 Branding and Marketing Trends for 2010

Posted Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

Niels Bohr once noted that “prediction is very difficult, especially about the future,” but then he didn’t have access to predictive loyalty metrics. Happily, we do. And, as they measure the direction and velocity of consumer values 12 to 18 months in advance of the marketplace and consumer articulations of category needs and expectations, they identify future trends with uncanny accuracy.

BrandingStrategy, October 01 2009

Having examined these measures, we offer 10 trends for marketers for 2010 that will have direct consequences to the success – or failure – of next year’s branding and marketing efforts.

1) Value is the new black

Consumer spending, even on sale items, will continue to be replaced by a reason-to-buy at all. This spells trouble for brands with no authentic meaning, whether high-end or low.

2) Brands increasingly a surrogate for “value”

What makes goods and services valuable will increasingly be what’s wrapped up in the brand and what it stands for. Why J Crew instead of The Gap? J Crew stands for a new era in careful chic –being smart and stylish. The first family’s support of the brand doesn’t hurt either.

3) Brand differentiation is Brand Value

The unique meaning of a brand will increase in importance as generic features continue to plague the brand landscape. Awareness as a meaningful market force has long been obsolete, and differentiation will be critical for success –meaning sales and profitability.

4) “Because I Said So” is so over

Brand values can be established as a brand identity, but they must believably exist in the mind of the consumer. A brand can’t just say it stands for something and make it so. The consumer will decide, making it more important than ever for a brand to have measures of authenticity that will aid in brand differentiation and consumer engagement.

5) Consumer expectations are growing

Brands are barely keeping up with consumer expectations now. Every day consumers adopt and devour the latest technologies and innovations, and hunger for more. Smarter marketers will identify and capitalize on unmet expectations. Those brands that understand where the strongest expectations exist will be the brands that survive – and prosper.

6) Old tricks don’t work/won’t work anymore

In case your brand didn’t get the memo here it is -consumers are on to brands trying to play their emotions for profit. In the wake of the financial debacle of this past year, people are more aware then ever of the hollowness of bank ads that claim “we’re all in this together” when those same banks have rescinded their credit and turned their retirement plan into case studies. The same is true for insincere celebrity pairings: think Seinfeld & Microsoft or Tiger Woods & Buick. Celebrity values and brand values need to be in concert, like Tiger Woods & Accenture. That’s authenticity.

7) They won’t need to know you to love you

As the buying space becomes even more online-driven and international (and uncontrolled by brands and corporations), front-end awareness will become less important. A brand with the right street cred can go viral in days, with awareness following, not leading, the conversation. After all, everybody knows GM, but nobody’s buying their cars.

8) It’s not just buzz

Conversation and community is all; ebay thrives based on consumer feedback. If consumers trust the community, they will extend trust to the brand. Not just word of mouth, but the right word of mouth within the community. This means the coming of a new era of customer care.

9) They’re talking to each other before talking to the brand

Social Networking and exchange of information outside of the brand space will increase. Look for more websites using Facebook Connect to share information with the friends from those sites. More companies will become members of Linkedin. Twitter users will spend more money on the Internet than those who don’t tweet.

10) Engagement is not a fad; It’s the way today’s consumers do business

Marketers will come to accept that there are four engagement methods including Platform (TV; online), Context (Program; webpage), Message (Ad or Communication), and Experience (Store/Event). But there is only one objective for the future: Brand Engagement. Marketers will continue to realize that attaining real brand engagement is impossible using out-dated attitudinal models.

Accommodating these trends will require a paradigm change on the parts of some companies. But whether a brand does something about it or not, the future is where it’s going to spend the rest of its life. How long that life lasts is up to the brand, determined by how it responds to today’s reality.

Growing Your Business: 5 Tips from the Co-Founder of Foursquare

Posted Thursday, March 25th, 2010

smallbusiness, 23 March

As co-founder of the Internet’s hottest startup, Foursquare, Dennis Crowley knows a thing or two about growing a small business.

Foursquare is a location-sharing mobile app that lets users check-in to venues, share that check-in with their friends and social media sites, and discover friends, tips, and popular places nearby. The startup launched one year ago, has attracted massive press coverage, and has grown to around 600,000 members.

This isn’t Crowley’s first success story as a technology entrepreneur, and given that he’s also worked for Google, his perspective is colored with the sagacity of knowing that being nimble, lean, and fast can be just as effective — if not more so — as having bigger budgets and more manpower.

Over the years, Crowley’s learned several key lessons applicable to small businesses. Here are five that small business owners should take to heart.

1. “Twitter is your best friend”

Crowley speaks of Twitter as a distribution channel for all types of communication, and describes it as the most immediate way to connect with customers.

“At Foursquare we use Twitter for a little bit of everything: Good news and bad news, press clippings, RTs [retweets] from other users and customer service inquires. We’ll tweet when new versions of our apps are ready for download and tweet when our database is experiencing hiccups. Keeping users in the know doesn’t take any more than a few seconds and your most loyal users will spread the word via RTs.”

The nature of Foursquare may position it to be more heavily followed than the typical small business, but the point here is that small business owners should use Twitter to compliment their day-to-day work experiences.

2. “Keep it light”

The Foursquare team lives by this mantra, so while they share everything from where they are to what they’re doing, they’re doing so in edible, consumer-sized bites, perfect for the sporadic attention spans of their audience.

On this front, they’ve opted to use Tumblr as a lightweight blogging platform. Crowley explains, “On our company Tumblr we’ll post the success stories our users send in, write recaps of what goes down at Foursquare HQ meetings, and post pics of what we’re having for lunch. Our staff is full of personality and we try to show that as much as we can. The story of 16 guys and girls crammed around four tables is much more interesting than the story of a faceless Internet startup.”

Crowley also advises to apply the “keep it light” philosophy to all customer-facing initiatives. He also suggests that small business owners don’t have to be “all business, all the time.”

3. “Guerilla customer service”

Foursquare is by no means perfect. As a young startup, the company faces the challenge of keeping their servers running as they attract record levels of activity, and doing so always in the public eye. It’s a daunting position to be in unless it’s approached head-on, and that’s what Crowley and his team do on a daily basis.

“We’ll use Twitter Search to search for things like “foursquare sucks,” “foursquare broken,” etc. to find people who are experiencing problems but who would probably never submit a support ticket. With a quick @reply we can often shed some light on the issue and do it in public.”

The same guerilla-style customer service is perfect for small businesses, especially with regard to negative press or unflattering blog posts and comments. Crowley says, “don’t feel shy, jump in and comment. Making yourself part of the conversation shows users you’re listening and care about the issues they have.”

4. “Small and scrappy marketing 4eva”

Not everything should be expensive, especially when it comes to marketing. Small businesses could easily be intimidated by the money that bigger companies can throw at large campaigns, but bigger isn’t always better.

Steal a page from Foursquare‘s play book and get scrappy. Take the SXSW Interactive festival. Inside the convention center there were dozens of sponsors with huge tents and elaborate setups. Here’s what Foursquare did:

“Instead [of formulating a marketing plan] we did two things: #1. Took all the swag we had (pins, stickers, temporary tattoos) and put them in ziplock bags. Everytime we found a user that told us how much they loved Foursquare (and there was an army of them!) we gave them a bag of swag to hand out to their friends. #2. We picked up a rubber Foursquare ball and a box of chalk, drew a Foursquare court on the ground outside the convention center and played for four days straight (and yes, we are still sore).”

The game was a huge hit and attracted the attention of conference goers and big media alike. Crowley continues saying, “Thousands of people stopped by to see what was going on, say hi, play a game or two, and pick up some swag. It gave people the chance to meet our team in a super informal setting (playground game!) and hang out with us in an environment where phones and laptops were completely out of the way.”

5. “Show off your team”

The scrappiness didn’t stop with fun and games. Crowley also used the offline event as an opportunity to introduce users to team members, and vice versa, in a playful way.

Crowley states, “We designed our business cards as collectibles — collect all 6 and unlock a Foursquare badge. Once word of this got out, people were looking all over downtown Austin for employees just so they could introduce themselves and collect a badge. Every time we handed out a card, we got to meet one of our users. Actually encouraging people to reach out and introduce themselves to your team puts a name and a face on the products you’re building. It also helped us start a dialog with people who’d probably never introduce themselves.”

It’s a smart strategy that small businesses can emulate to create more personal connections with their customers.

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