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Social Media & The World

Social media is affecting the world in big ways, both good and bad. Just a few years ago, news didn’t travel as quickly as it now does through Twitter, Facebook, news aggregators, etc. Positively, this means we have access to world news in a matter of seconds, and we no longer have to wait for the evening news to catch up on daily occurrences (see: social media’s role in Egypt’s 2011 Revolution). Negatively, especially for those in the public eye, this means that nothing goes unreported, even private pictures sent through a site like Twitter (see: Anthony Weiner). We take a look at some ways social media is affecting the way we look at religion, sports and politics:

Religion: The Catholic Church has joined Facebook and Twitter. In June, The Vatican announced the launch of a social media-integrated official news website, news.va, that will make heavy use of social networks. Pope Benedict XVI himself sent out the first papal tweet. News.va will function essentially as a Vatican and Catholic Church-related news aggregator, republishing stories from L’Osservatore Romano, Vatican Radio, Vatican Television, the Fides news agency and from Vatican media relations. Livestreaming of Papal events will also be featured, along with links to homilies, statements, and speeches. Spanish, French, German, and Portuguese-language versions of the site will be launched over the next few months. Users will also be able to post links on Twitter and share stories on their Facebook walls.

Sports: The International Olympic Committee has issued rules for athletes using social media at the 2012 London Games. The athletes are encouraged to “post, blog and tweet their experiences,” but forbidden from using Twitter, Facebook or personal blogs for commercial or advertising purposes or to share videos filmed at Olympics venues. If the rules are broken, athletes are warned that it can withdraw accreditation, shut down online operations and start legal action for damages. These new social media rules come after some controversy at the 2010 Vancouver games, where US skier Julia Mancuso was asked to stop online merchandise sales after her silver medal-winning performances generated interest in her official website. Some of the other social media stipulations for London? Posts, blogs, etc. should be in first-person, should not contain vulgar or obscene words or images, and should not reveal confidential information. “Unlike in Vancouver, where the rules were adapted to fit changed circumstances, the rules in force in London have been properly codified,” the IOC said.

Politics: In mid-June, Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., resigned from Congress in the wake of a sexting scandal. The move, which abruptly put an end to Weiner’s on-the-rise political career, serves as a warning to politicians and lawmakers about dealing with the social media world. To recap:  Reports indicated that a college student had received a sexually suggestive photo from Weiner’s Twitter account. Weiner denied sending it, saying the account had been hacked, but as more texts and photos of the congressman surfaced, Weiner finally admitted that he’d sent the photo. The story picked up and more revelations surfaced, including messages to a 17-year-old Delaware girl. Ultimately, Weiner sought a leave of absence and said he’d seek treatment. While Weiner isn’t the first politician to deal with a sex scandal, the incident reverberates as politicians grapple with the new world of social media. It should serve as a “serious warning sign to politicians,” said Steven Schier, a professor of political science at Carleton College in Minnesota, that that they need to be careful. “They send out this stuff unfiltered, so the risk is increased considerably,” Schier said.

In what other ways is social media changing the world? Tell us in the comments!



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Social Media Whets Appetites for Pop-Up Restaurants

Are you in a restaurant rut? Hungry, but not sure where to go? Often, hitting the old neighborhood standby, with its familiar menu—maybe even a waiter who knows your name—can be the path of least resistance.

But on occasion, a bit of experimentation is in order, and it can be well worth the effort. The best laboratories in the food world right now are pop-up restaurants, in which a well-known chef takes over someone else’s kitchen for a temporary run.

Unfettered of the responsibilities of managing overhead costs or assembling a permanent menu that covers all dietary bases, pop-up chefs let their imaginations run wild. When was the last time you had teriyaki rabbit meatballs with foie gras and yuzu? That was on a recent dinner menu at a pop-up in Los Angeles, in which a French chef took over the kitchen of a casual Asian lunch spot.

So, how does one find out about these fleeting eateries? Social media, of course. Like gourmet food trucks—which rely on food blogs, Twitter, and Facebook to spread word of their ever-changing locations in real time—pop-ups use social media networking as their principal, and often only, marketing vehicle. According to a National Restaurant Association spokesperson, the time-sensitive nature and “experimental aspect” of pop-ups make them particularly ripe for promotion via the blogosphere. And it seems to be working: The trade group has named pop-ups and food trucks as the biggest expected industry trend for 2011.

Indeed, social media are largely responsible for pushing the pop-up concept from the exclusive realm of in-the-know foodies to the mainstream. The Sundance Channel even has a new TV show about pop-ups, “Ludo Bites America.” Now, hardcore foodies are trying to come up with new dining experiences reserved for only the most plugged-in-events such as a “flash mob”-style gourmet dinner served on the New York subway, or a Manhattan version of Paris’ ultra-exclusive Dîner en Blanc, planned for a secret location in August. Will these gourmands succeed in excluding the hungry hoi polloi from their hush-hush “underground” meals? As we know, all it takes is one innocent little Tweet, and the word is out….

Check out more on the business of pop-up restaurants here.


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Facebook Pages

Unsurprisingly, Facebook’s top branded fan page is…Facebook’s own Facebook page, now at around 40 million fans. Last month, a few more surprising brands made it into the top 50, including:

Playboy:  Newcomer Playboy rounded out the top 50 as number 47, with 5,038,757 fans. It bumped Forever 21 off the list, which just goes to show the power of those…bunny ears?

Red Bull: Red Bull ( number eight ) has been a steady fixture on this list for a while now. The energy-drink superstars keep their 20 million plus fans engaged daily with interesting apps, such as access to Red Bull Athletes on Twitter, Red Bull Web TV, and games, such as the Soapbox Racer.

Ferrero Rocher: Number 17 on the list, the Ferrero Rocher fan page features not much to engage its 11 million fans besides pictures of the delicious chocolate. Sometimes, that’s all you need.

Disneyland: The Disneyland fan page jumped two spots to number 22, keeping fans entertained with an app that allows them to share their favorite Disney memories. The page’s almost nine million fans also have a chance to ask vacation planning questions when traveling to Disneyland, and users can even create a stick figure Disney family!

What are your favorite Facebook pages and why? Share with us!


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Social Media Tools

Social Media moves at a remarkably fast pace, meaning that just one month in social media time can lead to stunning new developments, including new tools that allow you to save both time and money. Let’s take a look at some of this month and last month’s newest tools:

Panabee:  This site is truly a one-stop shop; search for available web domains by desired address or via associated keywords, browse related terms, the Google definition, and more. A simple entry like “safety pin” in the search box immediately yielded suggestions for available domains (safetypinn.com and gosafetypin.com) since our first choice (safetypin.com) was already taken. Panabee also pulled up to-the-minute twitter feeds relating to safety pins, as well as the top Google searches related to the product. Consider us hooked.

AppMakr: This free ‘drag and drop’ tool allows you to create your own mobile apps on iPhone, Windows and Android. It might signal the full arrival of mass mobile media and allows you to see the thousands of apps that have already been created using the site, by people just like you!

IconSeeker:  This site solves the difficult problem of finding social media icons to suit your site. While Google Image search can leave you with hundreds of options as far as site icons, IconSeeker narrows the results down to only the best. Example: We searched “fire” on both IconSeeker and Google Images. The results speak for themselves: and

Facebook Vanity:  Check out the availability of Facebook URLs in a matter of seconds, and grab yours if its available- it makes for a professional addition to your business card to have your profile listed as facebook.com/john.smith, versus facebook.com/skjdwi13.

PeerIndex: Use it to get an initial feel of key conversation drivers in a particular field.

What social media tools do you use on a daily basis? Tell us some of your new favorites in the comments.


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Google (+1)

Do you like things? That is, do you often, or even sometimes, “like” the news story, music video, picture or status that your Facebook friend has posted? Chances are, you’ve “liked” something in the past year; it has become second nature to most of the Facebook-using world. Which is why Google’s new service, +1, which launched a few months ago, may be turning your “like”-heavy world upside down.

The explanatory copy reads:

Use the +1 button to publicly show what you like, agree with, or recommend on the web. The +1 button can appear in a variety of places, both on Google and on sites across the web. For example, you might see a +1 button for a Google search result, Google ad, or next to an article you’re reading on your favorite news site. Your +1’s and your social connections also help improve the content you see in Google Search.

Hmm, sounds familiar…

Google’s +1 competes directly with the Facebook like button, in that it serves as a signal for determining what content appeals to a certain individual. Google, as the world’s largest search engine, integrated the product immediately. Since the mega-site accounts for over half of incoming traffic on many sites, publishers had a marked interest in implementing +1. The question is, aside from Google’s touting of the product, is it actually that great?

First of all, at its most basic, it’s hard to argue that “+1” is a great name. How awkward is it to tell someone, “Yeah, I totally just +1’d that page; check it out!” It just doesn’t flow that smoothly. “Liking” something, on the other hand, comes pretty naturally to most of us.

Furthermore, when you +1 something, the +1 button will turn blue and the +1 will be added to the +1’s tab of your profile. Meaning, anyone who wants to participate in +1’ing has to create a Google profile as a sort of basecamp. There, you can manage all your +1’s.

Whether or not you choose to make your +1’s public through sharing, they will be visible to others viewing the content. Meaning, you really shouldn’t +1 something you wouldn’t want your boss to stumble across, because your name could appear next to the +1 to help your friends and contacts identify which content may be most useful to them. +1’ing is a public action, and although one would wonder why you’d “like” or “+1” something you wouldn’t want others to see, this visibility aspect is nonetheless an irritating one.

Google’s goal is clear; they want to be bigger players on the social media field, and who better to steal plays from than Facebook? Google will need to be markedly aggressive in order to implement +1, which started off as an experimental feature. However, they don’t exactly have a great track record in the world of social media; i.e. Buzz. What Google does have going for them is influence, but as we’ve seen with other social media failures, influence can only carry a brand so far if their product fails to deliver.

So, is +1 for you? Let us know in the comments!


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Social Media Agencies

Since we’ve recently highlighted a few of our favorite social media case studies, this week we thought we’d bring attention to some top social media agencies and what they are doing. These are the agencies that are setting the bar high and implementing innovative social media marketing.

There are many types of social media companies; some are research focused, some feature a team of app developers, some are extending and developing upon tradition PR. The best social media agencies combine these skills and help companies extend their brands through training, long term strategy, and execution.

Mullen is a full-service modern advertising agency, with clients ranging from Fage Greek yogurt to the Department of Defense. National brands like Zappos, Olympus and Jet Blue have turned to Mullen for campaigns; last year, the social-media savvy JetBlue chose Mullen as its lead advertising and marketing agency.  The You Above All campaign  featured a full mix of media including online, social media, in-flight, print, and out-of-home components. For the social media portion of their campaign, the agency created a series of hidden camera scenarios called Ground Rules. The unscripted videos poke fun at other airlines’ service policies  by featuring real people in being deprived of things they’ve come to expect, such as legroom in a taxi and a full can of soda from a street vendor. The videos were primarily shown through a YouTube homepage takeover.

Ignite is a social media agency completely and exclusively focused on social media marketing. As opposed to PR and marketing firms that offer elements of social media marketing (like Mullen), Ignite’s team of tech, creative, account, and strategy professionals form a complete social media company, solely dedicated to the interactive and social media markets. Their work for Bing is one example of their success in the social media market.  Bing wanted a tab on their Facebook Page that would showcase the variety of what Bing Travel has to offer its fans. Ignite created a tab with a standardized background to tie all of the individual pieces together; each individual section engages the fan in a different aspect of Bing Travel. Fans can also share Bing Travel elements on other social networks, by retweeting Did You Know facts on Twitter, for example.

Crispin Porter & Bogusky, an advertising agency based out of Miami, is known mostly for viral marketing techniques. Their Subservient Chicken campaign for Burger King was created to promote the chain’s TenderCrisp chicken sandwich and the “Have it Your Way” campaign.  Crispin created the “The Subservient Chicken” web page, on which a “chicken” performs actions based on user input, showing pre-recorded footage and appearing like an interactive webcam. The site is meant to capitalize on the slogan: “Get chicken just the way you like it”.

Have you come across any social media agencies doing some truly innovative work? Let us know in the comments!


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Social Media in Unusual Places

This week, we take a look at a few more cool social media case studies and the success certain brands have seen from their efforts. While in the past, social media campaigns were best used by marketing giants like Coca-Cola and Burberry, today social media is present in many industries, including healthcare, real estate and even credit card companies. Here are a few of our favorites unexpected uses of social media:

Mall of America: Lisa Grimm, digital public relations specialist for the Mall of America in Minnesota, recently shared the success of one of the Mall’s most triumphant campaigns. Since the most difficult time to park at the mall is during Christmas week, the Mall of America team decided to take advantage of this increase in activity to boost their social media following. The team decided to actually auction off parking spaces in the front row of the mall’s lot, but only to their social media followers. By using the parking event’s hashtag on Twitter, followers were entered into the auction. The campaign was a success: The Mall’s Twitter following increased by 11% and the campaign was covered by Forbes, among other news outlets. This campaign is just one example of the far-reaching grasp of social media.

Century 21 Real Estate: Century 21, a leader in real estate, recently revealed that QR codes will be available on Century 21 signs. These custom bar codes can be scanned on a smartphone and will direct you to specific information, such as a real estate listing.

American Express: American Express has been heavily targeting small business in the US for the past few months. One feature of their campaign is the American Express OPEN and Facebook collaboration called Big Break for Small Business.  The national contest was designed to help transform the way small businesses use Facebook, and of course, to publicize American Express as the leader for small business use. Business owners could enter to win an all-expense paid trip to Facebook headquarters for a two-day “boot camp” and a US $20,000 cash prize by submitting responses to a short questionnaire. Over 10,000 businesses entered to win their “big break,” and on July 5th the five finalists will be subject to a public vote. Read an interview with Rosa Alfonso of of the American Express Open program here.

The No Kids Hungry Pledge: Share our Strength, a non-profit organization, is working through their Facebook page to help end childhood hunger. On their custom welcome page, they ask you to take a pledge and help end childhood hunger by 2015. Once you sign up by providing your email and zip code, you receive an email asking you to help spread the word by way of social status updates (templated Facebook and Twitter posts) or via email. Note, they don’t ask for money or for you to volunteer your time. In doing so, Share our Strength is building their email database while gaining trust from their new fans.

Have you seen any cool uses of social media in the past few months? Share with us in the comments section!


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Mike Volpe Talks ROI

This week, we continue our interview series by speaking to Mike Volpe, Chief Marketing Officer at HubSpot, a marketing software company. Volpe leads the company’s lead generation and branding strategy through inbound marketing and under his leadership, HubSpot’s marketing has won more than 30 awards and been featured in over 20 marketing and business books.  Volpe also co-hosts the weekly marketing podcast HubSpot TV, blogs frequently and is very active in social media and as a marketing speaker.

What are your thoughts about the ROI of social media? Two things: First, the ROI is huge. There has been a big transformation in what marketing is effective today. You used to be able to just tell people what to think of you in advertisements and sell to them with cold calls. Now consumers have all sorts of ways of blocking that outbound marketing. You need to attract people using inbound marketing, making it easy for them to find you in blogs, search engines and social media. So, as part of an inbound marketing strategy, social media can be a great and valuable tool.

Second, I am not sure why everyone is holding social media to such a precise and exactly measured ROI when marketers have done all sorts of things for decades that did not have a great measurable ROI.  Sure, you can measure the ROI of social media pretty well, but why hold it to a higher standard than print ads or events?

Are marketers that promise ROI setting expectations that cannot be delivered solely by social measures? Maybe, but it is not because of ROI they promise. The reason that is a mistake is that social media is actually not all that helpful or effective on its own. Social media is just a technology like the phone or email.  Using it alone is not useful or effective.  You need to have something useful, valuable and interesting to talk about in social media and a way to convert those social media connections into leads and sales. So anyone that says they can use social media alone to deliver ROI might not have a great strategy and might be misguided.

Is there a difference between ROI or “impact”? If so, is one more important? No difference in my mind.  The R in ROI is the impact that your activity had. Technically ROI also compares the impact to the cost or investment, so maybe there is a little difference, but the concept is the same.

Does a consultant or agency need an ROI mindset when they work with a client?  If so, how do you find out? Yes. Marketing today is measurable, and all good marketers measure what they do.  I think clients should demand ROI and reports from all of their vendors.  It often makes sense for the client to use their own analytics to measure what their consultants or agencies are doing, so they have an unbiased view.  Smart marketers and companies take an active role in their marketing, and if you do outsource some of it, you are the ones who manage it, set the goals, and measure it.

Read more about Mike Volpe at his website.


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Rick Bakas Talks ROI

This week, we begin our series of interviews with social media superstars. First up is author, certified Sommelier and brand strategist Rick Bakas, of Bakas Media in San Francisco. As the first Director of Social Media in the wine industry, Bakas has influenced new ideas and new concepts that connect wineries to new consumers through tweet-up tours and global online wine tastings.  He specializes in translating personal and corporate brands to new media. This year, Bakas will be traveling the world educating businesses on how to build their brands online, stopping in cities including NY, London, Mexico, Sydney, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Munich and Napa, and speaking at the Inbound Marketing Summit in San Francisco.

We asked him about social media ROI, impact and more:


What are your thoughts about the ROI of social media? In my opinion, “Return on Investment” is an outdated term based on the old way of doing things.  New Media is just that—it’s new, which means we need to redefine what “return” looks like.  The return we get in this new world takes on a new form we haven’t seen before.

I like to refer to it as ROA, or Return on Attention because the real magic happens when we’re able to get someone’s attention online and convert that attention into action.  We’re increasingly overwhelmed with more technology and are bombarded daily with emails, text messages, tweets, blog posts, YouTube videos, Facebook posts and all the other stuff in addition to the overstimulation from traditional media.  We’re spending more time online than watching television so that’s where people’s attention is.

Going forward, savvy marketers will be able to nurture a healthy relationship online, so that at any given moment they can get someone’s attention no matter what channel they’re sending the message through.  The true value is getting that mind share, even if for a moment and affecting a behavior such as a purchase.  Where traditional media and new media share a commonality is Reach.  In traditional media you pay for someone else’s reach for impressions.  With new media you can create your own reach.

Are marketers that promise ROI setting expectations that cannot be delivered solely by social measures? Yes.  In the previous answer I mentioned “return” taking on a new form we haven’t seen before.  There’s a new factor in determining “return” called Time.  Time is a multiplier now because digital content lives for a longer time. One single YouTube video could influence someone’s behavior in 2011 or 2016.

Marketers who promise anything related to social media are probably desperately trying to position themselves as experts out of a survival instinct, and are telling clients what they need to hear.  No one can control digital content over time, nor can they guarantee how much attention they’ll be able to capture online.

Is there a difference between ROI or “impact”? If so, is one more important? Return on Investment, or as I call it Return on Attention, shares something in common with Impact.  It comes down to Reach.

The number of impressions has a direct correlation to affecting someone’s behavior.  In traditional media you rely on someone else’s reach like magazine readership or television viewers.  In new media you can create your own reach.  Either way you’re going for impact from impressions.  The real magic happens when you leverage both at the same time.

Does a consultant or agency need an ROI mindset when they work with a client?  If so, how do you find out? A consultant needs to have their client’s interest in mind.  And because their client is most likely a business, then yes, working towards ROA should be the driving force.

When we work with client partners, we turn their sales funnel into an hourglass.  We all know the sales funnel is about getting people to an action like a purchase, but the real beauty of new media adds a second half of the equation to the mix.

Ultimately, each client partner is going to have different objectives, so it’s good to start with their endgame and work backwards to build in the systems needed to accomplish the result.

For more information on Rick Bakas, head to his website.


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Will Blog for Food…

Typewriter Robot by Jeremy Mayer

I’ve been asked to write a blog post.

A blog? Me? But I get PAID to write and to whip other people’s meandering brain-farts into glorious prose! Well, that is, I did until two weeks ago, when I was laid off from my job as editor at a book publisher. You know, moldy old books. Like, paper and ink and four-color printing and stuff.

I’ve been in print publishing for nearly 20 years, writing for and editing magazines and books on everything from international business news to music to architecture. Why should I stoop to a medium that’s attainable to any idiot with an iBook? I mean (to paraphrase the old joke about awards), blogs are like hemorrhoids: sooner or later, every asshole gets one.

The truth is, publishing now really is for everyone, from bloggers to tweeters to the right-place-at-the-right-time bystander who manages to capture breaking news with a cellphone camera.

This may be bad news for the professionals, that endlessly growing pool of talented, out-of-work journalists who are duking it out for the few available jobs at established publications. For everyone else, though, it means access to a wealth of opinions, points of view, and, yes, insane ramblings, which may inform, infuriate, call to act, or simply amuse.

The Web, with its accessibility and immediacy, lends itself intrinsically to writing of an egocentric nature. My own writings have never been personal; my professional duties have always been as a reporter or as an editor of other people’s work. I find it incredibly embarrassing to talk about myself; can’t we discuss that fascinating individual over there?

But clearly I need to get with the program. My profession has changed; hell, even the language we use to discuss it has changed. While I won’t stop looking for a job at a “legitimate” media outlet, in the meantime, I will begrudgingly learn to write snappy, snarky, first-person Web-speak, and to embrace the blogs and Twitters and Diggs and Wikis, and, yeah, I still don’t know what Foursquare is.

So, here’s my blog entry. Maybe some people will happen upon it. But for now, until I get used to the idea, one thing you can count on is that I won’t be posting a link for all of my friends on Facebook. Just give me a few weeks.


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