Monthly Archives: May 2009

10 Ways Twitter Will Change Business

twitter_introMicroblogging platform Twitter has 32 million users, an increase from about 2 million a year ago, according to research mentioned in the Wall Street Journal. Some Internet measurement services show that figure increasing 50% to 100% month over month. While it is not clear that Twitter will become as large as social networks MySpace and Facebook or video-sharing site YouTube, the company could certainly have 50 million visitors by the end of the year.

Because Twitter can be used with ease on both PCs and mobile devices, and because it limits users to very short messages of 140 characters or fewer, it has become one of the largest platforms in the world for sharing real-time data. A number of large businesses and celebrities have hundreds of thousands of followers on Twitter. This includes personalities like Oprah and Ashton Kutcher. JetBlue (JBLU), Whole Foods (WFMI) and Dell (DELL), along with other multinational corporations, are among the most followed names on the service. (See the top 10 celebrity Twitter feeds.)

As Twitter grows, it will increasingly become a place where companies build brands, do research, send information to customers, conduct e-commerce and create communities for their users. Some industries, like local retail, could be transformed by Twitter — both at one-store operations that cater to customers within a few blocks of their locations and at the individual stores of giant retail operations like Wal-Mart (WMT). In either case, having the opportunity to tell customers about attractive sales and new products can be done at remarkably low cost while providing for greater geographic accuracy.

For Twitter to be a part of a company’s efforts to communicate with customers, the customers must be willing to “follow” the company on Twitter. That allows the individual consumer to choose which firms he is willing to get messages directly from. It may not be surprising that “new age” brands like Whole Foods and JetBlue have large followings and older and much larger brands like Kroger (KR) and American Airlines (AMR) do not. Whole Foods and JetBlue have successfully marketed themselves as being “customer-centric” — the kind of companies that would not misuse the access to a customer’s private Twitter information. (Read Ashton Kutcher’s take on why the Twitter founders made the TIME 100.)

While there may be commercial value for using Twitter to communicate with customers, the danger is that the Twitter community could turn against a marketer viewed as being too crass by being relentlessly self-promoting. Twitter users have set up their own rules of conduct when using the service, not unlike those with MySpace and Facebook. These rules were not put together by Twitter itself, which mandates only rules of use. Like many social-network sites, Twitter is self-governed by its members, and companies must take that into account as they join the service.

Twitter is still in the early stages of developing a plan for making money as a company, but plenty of large corporations like Starbucks (SBUX) are already using it as a marketing tool. Twitter will probably evolve into both a community of individuals and a community of companies that provide goods and services for those individuals.

24/7 Wall St. has come up with 10 ways in which Twitter will permanently change American business within the next two to three years, based on an examination of Twitter’s model, the way that corporations and small businesses are currently using the service and some of the logical extensions of how companies will use Twitter in the future. Some of these firms are already using Twitter, but their efforts are in the earliest stages of development. 24/7 Wall St. evaluated other sensible and potentially highly profitable ways Twitter’s real-time, multiplatform presence is likely to be exploited — in the best use of that word — to expand businesses both large and small.

Courtesy of  TIME.

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Why Energy Demand Will Rebound

Energy guy

As the global downturn continues, the world economy faces a period of lower oil prices and overall demand for energy, a welcome change for consumers after the price spikes of recent years. But unless policy makers can find ways to improve the balance between energy supply and demand, the current slackness in energy markets will last no longer than it takes for the global economy to recover. That scenario will eventually impose significant costs on consumers and businesses in the form of higher energy prices. The importance of achieving a supply–demand balance extends, of course, beyond the next few years: in the longer term, demand seems set for robust growth.

As of late April 2009, the price of oil stood at around $50 a barrel—down from a high of nearly $150 a barrel in July 2008, though many observers doubt that oil demand will rebound enough after the current economic downturn to prompt another price shock. However, research from the McKinsey Global Institute conducted in 2008 and 2009 reveals the potential for a new spike in the price of oil between 2010 and 2013.  Courtesy of The McKinsey Quarterly.

4 Ways Social Media is Changing the Non Profit World

earth-day1

Beth Kanter, author of Beth’s Blog, is the 2009 Scholar in Residence at the Packard Foundation and was named one of Business Week’s “Voices of Innovation for Social Media.”

When I started my blog in 2003, only a handful of nonprofit techies were experimenting with the social media. As Marnie Webb from TechSoup Global recalls, “The throw away line was social media wasn’t for organizations but people who wanted to share what their cats ate for breakfast.”

Six years later, the landscape has changed. Organizations are flocking to the social web, although most in the last two years. Non-profit organizations that have embraced social media with a “listen, fail informatively, and evolve approach” are seeing results.

Social media is beginning to transform non-profits both in the way they work as well as their relationships with constituents.

1. Deepening relationships and Engagement

Over the past five years, The March of Dimes has used social media to nurture its online community, Share Your Story. It is one of the better examples of how non-profits can use social media to empower supporters without having to control it.

A few weeks ago, the March of Dimes supporters came out in droves for a networked memorial service for a toddler named Maddie. The community raised tens of thousands of dollars for the March of Dimes in Maddie’s memory as well as covering the funeral costs for the family. The organization did little to stage this event. The March of Dimes has embraced openness and inspired their stakeholders to feel empowered enough to take action on their own.

2. Individuals & small groups are self-organizing around non-profit causes

Social media is enabling individuals to create, join, and grow groups around issues they care about outside of the direct control of a non-profit. Whether flash activists or fundraising events like Twestival, activities like these are on the rise. 

causes birthday app

 Social software design is also helping accelerate this trend. Look no further than the Facebook Causes Birthday application that encourages an individual who is a member of a Cause to use their birthday as an excuse to raise money for a non-profit organization. DonorsChoose recently launched a similar feature called “Birthday Give Back,” with Stephen Colbert leading the charge. And keep an eye out for more social apps with a conscience that will offer even more creative ways for supporters to self-organize and take action around causes.

As non-profits begin to engage their own communities in these online conversations, they are able to reach more people than ever before, and using less effort doing so. As Maddie Grant, a partner at SocialFish, observes, “We can all be change agents and that has to be good for the entire non-profit industry, as long as organizations adapt to this new way of being part of a two-way conversation and groundswell of social responsibility.

3. Facilitating collaboration and crowdsourcing

The social web lets people who work in non-profit organizations connect and collaborate informally across institutional boundaries quickly and inexpensively. Non-profit organizations are also collaborating with their supporters by crowdsourcing ideas, feedback, and content for programs.

Lights, Camera Action, Help Film Festival, which was created to promote the idea of films-for-a-cause, was a collaboration that happened across different non-profits by individuals connecting on the social web.

Another example is WeAreMedia, a wiki project where over 100 non-profit technology professionals have pooled knowledge resources and developed training materials to help non-profits learn how to use social media effectively. The initial content was facilitated through discussions on blogs, Twitter(Twitter reviews), and Facebook(Facebook reviews). Now, presentations are being remixed and delivered as trainings to non-profits at conferences and workshops across the country.

An interesting example of crowdsourcing by a nonprofit comes from Michael Tilson Thomas, artistic director of the San Francisco Symphony with the recent performance of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra. The performers were selected from thousands of video auditions from around the globe. The finalists were winnowed down by a jury of professional musicians, not unlike a traditional audition, but the winners were crowdsourced by YouTube(YouTube reviews) users via online voting. The resulting “mashed up” symphony orchestra, had more than 90 players representing over 30 countries.

4. Social change behind the firewall

We know that for many non-profits, adopting social media requires a culture shift before it can be successful. And, while that is certainly true for a lot of organizations, a number have been effective in introducing social media to help change the culture, flatten hierarchical structures, speed decision-making, improve programs and services.

American Red Cross logoThe American Red Cross has been an early adopter of social media, beginning with listening strategies in 2006. According to Social Media Strategist Wendy Harman the intent was to “prevent people from saying nasty things about the Red Cross on the Web.” As they discovered in their organizational listening efforts, there were some vocal critics, but most mentions were enthusiastic and supportive of the Red Cross.

Harman has documented many different stories and shared these internally. Through listening the organization has come to view social media listening as a valuable market research channel and has even changed some social media skeptics to supporters.

Danielle Brigidia, who is responsible for social media strategy for National Wild Life Federation, says “Internally, we have started to focus on cross-promoting our ideas and programs more thanks to social media tools like Yammer (internal Twitter).” Carrie Lewis, social networking strategist for the Humane Society of the US, observes how their Internet is now working differently. “We have daily 9 minute meetings. Short meetings have helped them be more efficient and effective with every aspect of social media campaigns.”

Conclusion

We’re just at the beginning of seeing how social media is impacting how non-profits engage with their supporters and do their work. As more and more non-profits adopt social media and their practice improves over time, we will no doubt see a transformation of the non-profit sector.

5 Twitter Marketing Experiments

Has Twitter jumped the shark? If Oprah’s doing it, and Ashton Kutcher can harass more than a million people into following him (certainly not me), then where is Twitter to grow? Like MySpace and Facebook, the young social networking tool has to grow up, move out of its parents’ house, and probably engage in a little youthful experimentation.

Is Twitter for marketing? Bringing in customers? Developing a brand? Improving company performance in other ways? Since Twitter is such an open-ended tool, there’s no obvious approach to using those 140 characters to benefit your business, but many companies have been willing to take a chance and see what it can deliver. That means trying new things and diving in without a life preserver.

Take a look at these five recent business experiments, each trying to find their way to Twittered glory, and see what’s been working in the Twitterverse.  CLICK HERE.  Courtesy of IMedia.

Latest Social Media Marketing Study

social-media-mapAccording to a social media study by Michael Stelzner for the Social Media Success Summit 2009, 88% of marketers in a recent survey say they are now using some form of social media to market their business, though 72% of those using it say they have only been at it a few months or less.

Marketer’s Use of Social Media Tools
Social Media % Respondents Using
Twitter

86%

Blogs

79

Linkedin

78

Facebook

77

YouTube or other video

41

Social bookmark sites

38

Forums

38

StumbleUpon

28

Digg, Reddit or similar

26

FriendFeed

18

Source: Social Media Marketing Industry Report, March 2009

Key survey findings about specific application show that:

  • Small-business owners are more likely to use LinkedIn than employees working for a corporation
  • Men are significantly more likely to use YouTube or other video marketing than women (52.4% of all men compared with 31.7% of women)
  • For those just getting under way with social media marketing, LinkedIn is ranked as their number-two choice, pushing blogging down one notch
  • Among those who have been using social media for a few months, Facebook is in second place. This group also has more Twitter use
  • Twitter is used by 94% of marketers who have been using social media for years, followed closely by blogs. This group also endorses online video significantly more than the other groups

72% of marketers say they have either just started or have been using social media for only a few months.

Duration of Social Media Use by Marketers (% of Respondents)
Duration % of Respondents
Just getting started

28%

A few months

44

A few years

23

No experience, plan to use

4

No experience, don’t plan to use

1

Source: Social Media Marketing Industry Report, March 2009

The largest group just getting under way with social media marketing is sole proprietors, with 30.2% reporting just getting started, the survey found. Owners of businesses with 2-100 employees were the most experienced, with 29.3% reporting doing social media marketing for years.

64% of marketers are using social media for five hours or more each week, with 39% using it 10 or more hours weekly and 9.6% spending more than 20 hours each week with social media.

  • Those working for a company are twice as likely as business owners to be committing 20+ hours a week to social media
  • 44.8% of those ages 30-39 old spendi 10+ hours weekly using social media marketing
  • 40.3% of 20-to-29 year-olds spend 10+ hours weekly
  • 38.7%  of 50-to-59 year-olds spend 10+ hours weekly

According to the survey, 81% of all marketers indicate that their social media efforts have generated exposure for their businesses. At least two in three participants found that increased traffic occurred with as little as 6 hours a week invested in social media marketing. Owners of small businesses with 2 – 100 employees are more likely than others to report benefits.

Half of participants reported that a major benefit of social media marketing is the resultant rise in search engine rankings that often comes with increased efforts. Improved search engine rankings were most prevalent among those who’ve been using social media for years, with nearly 80% reporting a rise.

Benefits of Social Media Marketing (% of Respondents, multiple response OK)
Benefit % Responding
Generated exposure

81%

Increased traffic, subscribers, list

61

New business partners

56

Increased position in search rankings

52

Generated qualified leads

48

Reduced overall marketing expenses

45

Helped close sales

35

Source: Social Media Marketing Industry Report, March 2009

When marketers were asked which social media tools they most want to learn more about, social bookmarking sites slightly edged out Twitter as the number one response, with a four-way tie for third place between LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, Facebook and Digg/Reddit/Mixx.

Courtesy of Social Media Marketing Report, March 2009.

Can Newspapers Be Saved?

Can our traditional form of media be saved? Here are some desperate steps Washington is considering.

CLICK HERE  Courtesy of Web Pro News Video.

How to Build Brand Widgets

Here’s a great, in-depth article on the wonderful, wacky world of “brand widgets”.  Courtesy of IMedia Connection.

Article Highlights:

  • Netvibes, Widgetbox, and SpringWidgets are all good places to start dipping your brand’s toe in the widget water
  • Sprout Builder, Mixercast, and KickApps offer more robust options for brands with more experience in this area
  • Top-tier options enable fast “wrapping” for app distribution across multiple social platforms

Marketing departments are feeling the downturn squeeze. They have fewer resources, yet technology continues moving forward. Thus, departments are challenged to maintain their existing online presences while continuing to experiment in various portable and social media.

After you’ve mapped out your brand strategy for content and determined where your audience spends most of its time online, you have multiple options when it comes to making your content more portable and sharable. The resources you rely on will depend heavily on how advanced your in-house capabilities are. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the myriad app-development services out there, broken down according to the level of in-house sophistication required.

READ FULL ARTICLE HERE.