Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Starbucks and Foursquare

In March, Starbucks started offering customers rewards and badges for checking into to its locations on Foursquare. According to the New York Times' Bits Blog, Starbucks plans to use the data they will receive from Foursquare's new "Business Dashboard" feature to gain a deeper understanding of what customers like and don't like. Starbucks is still trying to figure out how to reward frequent customers using the Foursquare application.

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Monday, June 21, 2010

The magazine of the future?

Those of us who mourned the loss of Domino magazine (and Blueprint, and House & Garden) last year can rejoice: Lonny, the shelter web magazine launched by two former Domino employees, just received venture capital money. Lonny looks like and feels like a magazine, not like a blog or a website. It has pages to turn, full-page advertisements, is only published every other month, and generates real ad dollars. In fact, advertisers report that ads on Lonny have been more effective than other online advertisements, with higher click-through rates. Lonny could represent a path for publishers to reach electronic reading devices like the iPad.

Read more about Lonny at the New York Times.

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Time Suck

According to Nielsen, internet users now spend 22% of their time on social media. Three-quarters of global consumers now use social networks or blog sites, up 24% from last year. The average user spent 6 hours on these sites in April 2010, up from 3 hours 31 minutes last year.

6 hours is a lot of time. Yikes.



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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

More about the need for a decent youtube app in Facebook...

Sooo... I continued my little research on Facebook and there seems to be only two apps that allow you to quickly see your friends favorite YouTube videos:
- "YouTube Box", and
- "YouTube Video Box"
Both these apps are unofficial and not sponsored by YouTube. They seem to be UGC... and after taking a look at the functions of "YouTube Video Box", I am pretty disappointed. The App is not user friendly, not all that popular, and it does not allow viewing an aggregate best video ranking among one's friends...
Why would youtube not make a decent app for facebook? I guess youtube is afraid of loosing traffic in their own website...

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How can we Filter all the rubbish?

I was just searching for "Best Ad Ever" in youtube to share with you. However, after looking at the top 10 search results sorted by relevance, I found none that was all that good, and in fact many were simply rubbish. Now that I think about it, every-time I go to youtube to search for funny or good content I waist so much time looking at pathetic UGC, with the hope to find something worth seeing. Youtube seems to work when one gets video recommendations from friends (usually through emails). I just found some widgets to share youtube videos with friends through facebook. Again, it would be nice to see which videos are most recommended by friends (a ranking perhaps)...

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Cram time...

In case you were not fully engaged in class over the past 6 weeks, WSJ has nicely condensed "How to Use Social Media to Market a Business" into a 1 minute 51 second video.


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Why they buy...

There are at least 5 reasons people make a purchasing decision:
1. They have a need
2. You have a great product
3. They are loyal to your brand
4. It is a great price
5. Emotional connection

While businesses can leverage internet marketing to address the first 4 reasons, social media is the jackpot for tapping into the 5th. To the extent that businesses can create warm fuzzies with their customers through social media, there is a huge opportunity to increase brand equity and loyalty without spending more than spare time.

http://dailyvoicemaildealio.com/2010/04/19/the-five-reasons-why-customers-buy/

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Office fight: MS Office Live vs. Google Docs

Even though so far people are still using offline application much more often, not that long time is left before we all will switch to online applications. It's all there: internet infrastructure, necessary applications, reliable storage that offer volumes far more than enough for normal users. Same happened several years ago with offline mail programs: when did you connect to Gmail with your laptop over POP3 through port 110 last time? Or POP3 doesn't even say you anything? Yes, we all still use outlook and lotus notes for our corporate mails - but that's just a matter of time.

Going back to online office applications. There are lots of online applications out there: WorkSpace, HyperOffice, Zoho, Thinkfree and lots of others. Thankfully at least Apple is not playing this game - but its 2 major competitors do. And they are very ambitious about their products. Over the last years both MS's Live.com and Google Apps had added pretty powerful online office tools. And although so far companies are just in process of finding right business models - meaning both behemoths artificially limit functionality of their apps (Google for the sake of Google Apps and MS for the sake of offline apps) - it seems once they figure out the right way of charging people for their products, they will be able to make another small internet revolution (actually part of ongoing claudization process).

So now it's a good time to choose what system you will stick to and don't judge so quick MS's products - they are indeed very close competitors with Google. So here is the list of major differences I see in both systems:
- Storage: MS - 25Gb and Google - ~6Gb (do you have 25Gb of docs on your laptop (with no pics)? I doubt.
- Format support: MS is pushing hard (way too hard) its failed *.docx format while Google is as usually maximum user-friendly with handful number of formats supported
- Editing: with Live you can easily edit your docs using your offline Word/Excel/MS Whatever and then the docs will be automatically saved in web - as you might guessed no such a sexy feature to purely internet giant Google
- Reliability: have you seen blue screen of death while using MS? Be prepared - that does happen even with their online apps - not exactly the screen, but the system is indeed buggy - but MS is famous for fixing their products for long years - so wait until Live 2016 if you are really cared about full system stability
- Version history: this feature is quite useful if you use online office and MS here can boast the best realization from all online systems I've seen
- Interface: yes, I hate new MS Office, moreover I've killed office 2007 by installing office 2010 and then killed the last one with office 2003 on my netbook, but nevertheless we all got used to MS Office overloaded interface and after it Google's simplicity seems a bit awkward and intuitively hard to use. Perhaps that's the major reason MS decided to keep exactly the same interface for their online apps.

This post was unusually long, although it's point is pretty straightforward: the world is indeed moving towards clouds and online office is one of inevitable parts of this process. So whether you are proponent of Google, or MS - you can start getting used to this new experience. And since it's the last post, I want to say what I always willing to express:

Sc..w Apple!


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Only the Onion

I'll leave it to the onion to sum up our collective struggle to find something new and interesting to post every week.

A fitting end to the J Term's postings.
New Social Networking Site Changing the Way...

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At Havana Central, Fidel is not the Mayor...


... According to Foursquare, someone else is more important!

Check it out

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Do you want a network connection? Buy a Frappuccino!

Strabucks has just announced that it will provide FREE, timed unlimited internet wireless connection in all of its US stores. This is the result of a partnership with AT&T, the largest hotspot provider.

The service will be free of charge and will not require a registration. In the past, in order to log in, users needed either an AT&T account or a Starbucks card.

On top of this, Starbucks has also announced that it will provide free access to paid content (e.g. Wall Street Journal website or iTunes downloads) on laptops, tablets and mobile phones. The rationale for content providers is that they will get advantage from these partnerships by expanding their customer base.

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LinkedIn Brings Business Connections to Twitter

In November 2009, LinkedIn, the popular social networking site geared to business professionals, released a new feature that allowed you to update your status via Twitter. Now they have apparently taken this one step farther. LinkedIn decided to further build out this integration. By installing the Tweets application, LinkedIn users will be able to find and manage their LinkedIn connections on Twitter through LinkedIn. The application allows you to see which people you are connected to on LinkedIn also have Twitter accounts listed in their profiles. Not only does this application show you a list of the names but it even allows you to follow people through the Tweets application. This new feature will basically eliminate the need to go back and forth on these two sites. Another distinct feature of the application is that you can take all of your LinkedIn connections and turn them into a private Twitter list.

LinkedIn will also keep this list current by updating it based on your connections. So it appears that worlds are officially colliding. This new integration of social and business networking will certainly expand the reach and inner connectivity among online users. It should also cause an overlap between Twitter's primarily younger demographic and LinkedIn's older demographic. This is especially important not only because these sites appeal to different demographics but because many of the Twitter followers do not currently have a LinkedIn profile, and vice versa.

It appears the social media game is officially changing as the social graph continues to evolve. Who knows perhaps the Internet will soon be a one-stop shop providing access to an infinite number of online applications, provided by a finite number of websites. One thing's for sure LinkedIn and Twitter's latest integration will increase the level of scrutiny for corporations in evaluating the social conduct and public behavior of its employees. I would expect many recent college graduates will re-evaluate which posts, pictures, tweets they post in the future. This appears to only be the beggining of what's to come...

For more information on the article, click on the link, http://blog.linkedin.com/2010/05/25/find-and-follow-your-linkedin-connections-on-twitter/.

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Buying your flights through Facebook?

EasyJet wants to be the first airline to enable users to plan and book their flights through Facebook.

They currently have the "Holiday Planner" which allows groups of 3 or more to coordinate, propose a range of budget options and then invite other friends along the trip. Shortly, the new application will allow users to book the flights diretly from the Facebook page. Facebook will keep your credit card details and you will be able to complete the transaction without having to go to the airline webpage. The entire experience would be counducted through the social network.

Facebook and PayPal interated in February, and that was the begining of a shift that is supposed to integrate social media and ecommerce. If companies set up an ecommerce functionality on their Facebook pages, the social network could realistically charge a percentage of those sales in addition to attracting more advertising opportunities. Its a shift that could generate a great amount of revenue to Facebook.





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A Restaurant that Serves Social Media

A new restaurant chain is taking social media to a new level. 4food, a New York City burger chain, is set to launch its first of 11 Manhattan restaurants in July 2010 with a flurry of social media functions to go along with it. The following are some examples of how 4food's marketing techniques:

- Customers can place orders via iPad
- Customers can name and brand their burger creation and then post it on Facebook or Twitter
- When ordering from home, customers can create commercials on YouTube.
-Seating at the restaurant consists of bleachers and communal tables, further driving home the idea of social networks.

The owners claim that they don't have to do any marketing if social media does it for them. They also don't have to pay for labor search costs as almost all of the 60 future employees found out about 4food through social media.

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Blackboardeats: Winning Over New Customers with Every Bite

What if I were to offer you now and for a limited time only, a free bottle of wine or a 30% discount coupon to one of the most coveted, high-end restaurants in New York City? Still not satisfied? How about in LA? Blackboardeats is the hottest, new site in the social shopping arena. It is sweeping the nation and making a name for itself with each and every bite. Blackboardeats, which was recently launced in September 2009, is a new start-up company that provides coupons to carefully-selected restaurants in NYC and LA in exchange for their customers' contact information.

The company was founded by Maggie Nemser, the Food Editor at Yahoo!, and Dan Levy, one of the original founders of the social media sensation, Daily Candy. Using a similar model to Groupon, the site operates by getting large discount vouchers from restaurants and then marketing them to a large list of potential customers through email and over the internet.

The site offers exclusive restaurant specials online and via email newsletter distribution. Blackboardeats delivers it newsletters to subscribers twice a week via e-blast or mass distribution over the web. It has currently expanded rapidly and now has over 50,000 subscribers to its newsletter. Maggie Nemser, the company's founder, is the first to admit that the company's success will depend on the quality of deals offered and the loyalty of its user base.

For additional information on Blackboardeats, click on the following link to read an interview with Maggie Nemser and learn more about the company's marketing strategies going forward.

http://econsultancy.com/blog/5831-q-a-black-board-eats-ceo-maggie-nemser

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2010 World Cup Biggest Event in Social Media History

It's finally here! The 2010 FIFA World Cup officially began last Friday, which marks the start of the first social media World Cup. One can't help but to think how far we've come since the explosion social media over the last four years. Considering it's the biggest media frenzy there is and viewers all around the world tune in, social media strategies will be the focus of advertisers.

Sony Ericsson, a major World Cup sponsor announced that they are focusing their advertising dollars on social networking rather than traditional marketing tools. Sony launched what they are calling the Twitter Cup, which will pit tweets from countries participating in the games again each other. Coca-Cola also intends to run an ad exclusively focused on social media during the tournament. FIFA, however, has not taken full advantage of this opportunity. Although FIFA developed The Club, their social network consisting of 1.6 million users, many are surprised they haven't created a Facebook application to join together the global elements of the tournament.

So who will win? Time will tell... From a social media standpoint, aggressive offense is key. Advertisers must tenaciously position themselves for expansion so they can gain exposure and leverage this unique opportunity the World Cup brings. For more information see the article by clicking on the link http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/6075/The-FIFA-World-Cup-The-Biggest-Event-in-Social-Media-Yet.

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Twitter vs. Newspapers??

A recent poll by the tech industry website Mashable asked its viewers where they got most of their news from social media platforms or "real" newspapers. by 52% to 22% the social media platforms were the winner (others said they were equal or neither was valuable.) While this is an admittedly tech-focused base of respondents, what does this say about us as consumers and our threshhold for truth? Are newspapers necessarily any more reliable than social media? How do advertisers affect the content? Who are the people writing the content on either media? These are all important questions that we must answer as we move into a new age of digital information consumption.

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Foursquare launches interactive button on WSJ

The restaurant reviews and cultural sections of the Wall Street Journal's online edition will feature a new button from Foursquare, which will add the venue information into user's favorite list, reported TechCrunch. Along with adding the venue, a comment or review from a WSJ editor will be added to it. The company follows a list of social networking sites which have launched similar "add to" buttons, but is among the first to do this for location based services, particularly with such a well known journal.

Foursquare is launching the feature as test first and will try to gather more partners, however, similar buttons for services such as Twitter, Facebook or Digg are well widespread both to newspapers and blogs now, and are free for users to add to their websites. While this may seem like a trivial feature, the fact is that in most cases, Foursquare users had to be out on the street, near the actual venue to have it show up on their map and be able to add them to their list. Now, this feature connects user's regular web surfing with the mobile service, creating more impression opportunities as it creates more content.

Growingly, autogenerated Foursquare content is appearing as posts in Facebook and Twitter, increasing the interdependability of the services. Perhaps the market will grow enough to accomodate several big players, even after mergers consolidate the current competitors?Foursquare is launching the feature as test first and will try to gather more partners, however, similar buttons for services such as Twitter, Facebook or Digg are well widespread both to newspapers and blogs now, and are free for users to add to their websites. While this may seem like a trivial feature, the fact is that in most cases, Foursquare users had to be out on the street, near the actual venue to have it show up on their map and be able to add them to their list. Now, this feature connects user's regular web surfing with the mobile service, creating more impression opportunities as it creates more content.http://techcrunch.com/2010/06/14/foursquare-buttons/Growingly, autogenerated Foursquare content is appearing as posts in Facebook and Twitter, increasing the interdependability of the services. Perhaps the market will grow enough to accomodate several big players, even after mergers consolidate the current competitors?" annotations="" class="__wave_paste">


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I Can Has Longtail?

The New York Times reports on the growth and success of I Can Has Cheezburger--a website featuring lolcats (see below). The company is now an amalagam of websites featuring niche humor.
funny pictures of cats with captions




"One secret to the company’s success is the way it taps into the Internet zeitgeist. It seeks clues to what is funny right now by monitoring the Web for themes bubbling up on community forums, blogs and video sites. Then it spins off new sites devoted to the latest online humor fads.

“Cheezburger figures out what’s starting to get popular and then harvests the humor from the chaff,” said Kenyatta Cheese, one of the creators of a popular Web video series called “Know Your Meme” that documents viral online phenomena, known as memes. “Things like Lolcats and Fail are easy to make, easy to spread and hit on an emotional level that crosses a lot of traditional boundaries.”
...

"Not every new site is a hit. One called Pandaganda, which collected images of pandas looking comically evil and sinister, fizzled after a few weeks, so Mr. Huh pulled the plug. “We kill about 20 percent of all the sites we start,” he said.

The idea of quickly tailoring a blog network to satisfy the fickle tastes of a Web-savvy audience, generating new sites to capitalize on a viral sensation and dropping the ones that don’t catch on, is what convinced Geoff Entress, a noted angel investor in the Seattle area, to help Mr. Huh purchase the original company. "


Or, put another way, Mr. Huh has realized that there is money in catering to niche markets that are under-served by existing humor distribution models, and that you don't need 100,000 users to make money, just a few thousand. Sound familiar?

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Starbucks: One Grande Wi-Fi Connection - Gratis

Starting in a few weeks Starbucks coffeeshops will offer free wi-fi in all of it's shops nationwide. There will be no registration, specific provider needed, time limits or constraints. Just free wifi- straight-up.

It remains to be seen if this will be a positive or negative effect on the bottom line but according to this article, Starbuck's goal is to bring the Starbucks experience online. However I would venture that this policy will ensure more customers visit a local Starbucks and spend more time there - which can't hurt. I can't tell you the number of times I've foregone visiting Starbucks in order to study, and consume food and drinks, at a different coffehouse where internet was free. Well, barring a closer coffeeshop, I'll probably going to the 'Bucks for my study needs from now on.

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Panmind: open source collaborative knowledge

Mind2Mind s.r.l. an Italian based company, in partnership with Imran Tayebaly (Columbia MBA '76), recently launched Panmind.org.
Panmind, as the name suggests, is a network to facilitate shared construction and connection of knowledge.
How does it work?
First of all Panmind gives its users the chance to share their knowledge: users can upload their documents, tag them, comment them and "collect" documents posted by others.
Second, users can create "projects" with different levels of privacy and security: "virtual" projects can be created collecting knowledge from people spread around the world.
Marketing opportunities? For sure on Panmind there are opportunities to market yourself: if you have a deep knowledge on a subject, you can probably get in touch with people who are working in that field and, why not, get an interview!

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Online Contact Lens Sales: A case how e-commerce is changing a traditional brick & mortar market

The online contact lens industry is rapidly growing and has already stolen more than 10% marketshare from the incumbent brick & mortar stores. It seems that the traditional players have finally woken up and are going head-to-head in the online market.

Contact lenses seem most suitable to sell online. Due to their relatively high value to weight ratio, the shipping cost of a contact lens only compromises a small part of the total cost. In addition, online businesses have a lower cost basis than their brick & mortar counterparts, mainly because they do not require expensive retail space. The business model for online retailers is therefore simple: compete on price with the traditional stores.

The main drawback is that eye examinations cannot be done online. As such, these online retailers therefore concentrate primarily on the sale of replacement contact lenses. The online contact lens industry is yet to find an answer for this.

The main players in this online industry are 1-800 Contacts, Vision Direct, Lens.com and Coastal Contacts. Only the latter is publicly listed. Coastal Contacts' financial reports show a positive picture: strong sales growth and upwards profitability trend.


It seems that the large traditional mortar-and-brick players are starting to take these online retailers serious. Luxottica, the largest eyewear retailer, has recently announced that it will also start selling contact lenses online.

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Fujitsu & Toshiba could merge their mobile phone business

Fujitsu and Toshiba recently announced to be in conversations for merging their mobile phone businesses according to close sources to the deal. This transaction would create the second largest mobile phone manufacturer in Japan. Through this strategy both companies would be able to share the large development costs in the shrinking Japanese Market.

This union is a clear strategy to confront market leaders Nokia and Samsung Electronics as well as the fast growing Apple mobile phone business and RIM's Blackberry business, both of which are growing at a huge pace.

It is quite strange that this transaction takes place now, since it is not the best moment in the capital markets for a transaction of this nature. However, market pressure sometimes is enough to push deals through and right now it seems to be one of those moments. Time will judge how good the deal is for both manufacturers and more importantly, for their customers (current and future ones).




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Facebook Replacement Business Plan

So I was thinking about how a viable competitor to FB might emerge, and maybe an investor and programmer group could take a play from MySpace's playbook (with a wrinkle) and "recruit" the top 1000 most influential users from Facebook to the new enterprise. Maybe sprinkle in some ownership and/or stock options based on incentives (users recruited perhaps, views, etc.) and there might be enough negative sentiment on FB for there to be some momentum (if the platform is of a high quality). It worked for MySpace versus Friendster, why not for NewSocialNetworkCo versus FB?

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Newscorp's Purchase of Skiff Good Strategic Move

Newscorp announced today that it purchased Skiff, an e-reader platform developed by Hearst. Skiff is an e-reader platform that will allow Newscorp to easily publish content to tablets, netbooks, mobile devices, etc. Assuming the Newscorp didn't overpay (acquisition price was undisclosed), this is a good strategic investment for Newscorp, as it will allow the company to easily distribute its content to portable devices. It is clear that digital distribution content is shifting the way consumers access their newspapers and periodicals, so it's reassuring to see Newscorp making digital distribution a priority.

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Gaming Expo

In anticipation of tonight's class, here are some links with information about the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2010. Each site features pretty cool stuff.


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Kayak Introduces Really Cool New Feature

Kayak has introduced a new feature allowing users to select their origin, and allowing them to see exactly where they can fly to and how much it will cost them. The results are incorporated into a Google map, with tags indicating the locations and price of travel. This feature is obviously not designed for those looking to fly to a particular destination, but rather those leisure travelers who have a fixed budget for a flight and want to see where it will take them. While the online travel industry is considered to be one of the most mature internet industries, it's refreshing to see a company structuring data in an innovative way that is more useful to consumers.

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Facebook gives you wings, well your blogs at least.

Surfing the Internet, as always, I came across this interesting post on Mashable.

http://mashable.com/2010/06/13/facebook-like-increases-blog-referral-traffic/

According to the post, Facebook Like, a button by which users of the social network can share information with their friends without leaving a particular website, has been instrumental in increasing traffic to blogs that have traditionally relied on dedicated readership, search engines, and links on other blogs and websites.

It seems like the perfect plug that fills in the gap between UGC on blogs and social networks. Where previously, people have to copy a link, sign into their facebook accounts and post something to their status update, the same can now be accomplished with a simple click of a button that doesn't interrupt your browsing experience. Whats the harm in one simple click right? Wouldn't I be more likely to do something if it was this simple?

Is Like the perfect sharing mechanism?

I mean, there are certain privacy implications right? How can you share something with your friends unless the website that you are surfing already knows who you are and has access to your profile? Will they ask for you information before you like something? Are they using your browsers saved, hidden cache to figure out who you really are?

To experiment, I visited a mashable post, saw the like button and clicked on it. The icon changed from "like" to "i like this". I didnt log onto my facebook, I didnt give the website access to my information, I didnt do anything!

Food for thought!

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World’s Hottest Brands – AdAge Insights

Today I saw a report on Ad Age on the World’s hottest brands .Not having bought the report I do not know the methodology by which they have come to this conclusion so I did some quick research on each of these brands and their social media/marketing strategy
Manchester United – Supposedly the world’s most valuable soccer team doesnot have a social media strategy .Its unofficial fan pages in Facebook boast of 300000 fans. The official statement , “The club wishes to make it clear that no Manchester United players maintain personal profiles on social networking websites.Any official news relating to Manchester United or its players will be communicated via ManUtd.com.”
Coca Cola – An iconic brand with a very savvy social media strategy .A recent success is the
Coca-Cola’s Expedition 206 campaign, in which the company uses social media to pick three individuals who visit all 206 markets where Coca-Cola has a presence. Along the way, the “Happiness Ambassadors” will take photos, make videos, send out updates on Twitter and Facebook and connect with individuals around the world.
H&M- known for its edgy clothes and designers like Madonna it had a social media disaster when, an outpost of the retail giant was caught shredding and discarding unsold clothes. When a New York Times reporter came calling for a comment, H&M didn't bother responding. But two days later, after readers expressed trending outrage on Twitter, H&M had to issue a statement
McDonalds – is very active in social media. Has a Mindshare community that helps owner-operators share ideas with one another. One of Steve’s favorite examples was how an owner in Italy used it to share a simple way to remove fingerprint stains from doors and windows with other McDonald’s owners around the world.
Havaianas – the flip flops from brazil are one of the hottest brands underwent a rebranding in 1994 and now has a very good social media strategy which includes Facebook , Twitter and routinely leverages viral marketing
Tata Nano- the world’s cheapest and smallest car from India has a beautiful website , a fan pages in Facebook, a user profile in Orkut and some half hearted attempts to blog through its website .
Li Ning - is a major Chinese athletic company which makes athletic shoes and sporting goods, it is started by the Olympic gymnast Li Ning . An official website exists.according to Wikipedia they emulate Nike in their branding and marketing strategy.
Tencent holdings - owner of China's most popular instant messaging service- QQ, had devised a payment system of coins in 2002 to allow its 233 million regular registered users to shop for treats in its virtual world. They were a big hit, perhaps too big a hit. Soon, these coins were being accepted by sites outside the Tencent network. People began exchanging them for real cash based on discount rates and traders began hopping onto the bandwagon to make a quick buck. The situation soon spun out of control when gamblers and private chat room girls among others, soon converted QQ coins into an alternate currency to the Yuan forcing a Government crackdown on sites brokering the currency.
Mercadolibre- is a
website dedicated to e-commerce and online auctions in Latin America mostly.A s the site was in Spanish , I couldnot get any sense of social engagement except it has an ebay look and feel
MTN Group- MTN describes itself as "the leader in telecommunications in Africa and the Middle East). They are the sponsors of the World Cup and Man U. They have appointed a new Media agency which I read about in their corporate looking web site.

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TopGuest: Rewards for Loyalty? Yes, please.

Those who use FourSquare know that (most of) the benefit of badges and mayorships come from digital bragging rights (MAGNUS). Welcome to the digital world, TopGuest. TopGuest threw a cool unveiling party this past weekend to introduce its platform that offers actually discounts for loyalty. While Foursquare and Starbucks are giving mayors $1 off their frappucinos... I would rather have 25% off hotel rooms.

Traditionally, hotels, airlines, and car rental services have utilized customer loyalty programs. I don't know about you, but I never have my numbers or cards readily available and usually forgo the "check in" points at actual locations. TopGuest links to Foursquare, twitter and Facebook, so it will not require much more effort or "check ins" to reap the benefits. I am a fan already.

TopGuest is invitation only, but is currently open to all in light of its recent launch. Sign up to get some loyalty points and then share your deals with your classmates!

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Multivariate Landing Page Optimization (MVLPO)

Multivariate landing page optimization (MVLPO) is focused on “optimizing” a webpage in order to improve the percentage of visitors that become customers. Take for example the landing page of a credit card company. The following design options may be under consideration (either as standalone or combinable options):

1. Small images that link to each of the credit cards available
2. Links (text) to each of the credit cards available
3. A “display” mid-screen that highlights the 3 most popular credit cards
4. Links (text) that correspond to credit card categories (i.e. Personal, Business)

MVLPO uses experimental design (statistics) to test different combinations of the options listed above. One company, Memetrics (now part of Accenture’s Interactive practice) applies an approach that tests all possible combinations of elements. Software is used to generate each of the possible combinations, and each option is made available to users. The results (i.e. how many people apply for a card) are then measured and compared across each of the options to determine which option, from a statistical perspective, performed the best.

Relevant Sources
• http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multivariate_landing_page_optimization
• http://www.accenture.com/Global/Consulting/Accenture-Interactive/Digital-Consulting.htm

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Start-up in a weekend?


Internet Week closed with an awesome event: StartUp Weekend. This 54-hour event was dedicated to networking, and providing resources and support to budding entrepreneurs and savvy marketers. The event encouraged community and brisk decision-making in order to convert dreams of a business into reality.. in one weekend!

This year 57 ideas were pitched and 20 teams were formed. A sample of this year's companies included: Libatious: an application that helps beer drinkers track their favorite brews; PeerAround: a Foursquare service that provides information on the people around you (kind of creepy); Deal Over Year: a geo-location based platform that delivers time sensitive deals in the users immediate vicinity; Score.Ly: a gaming add-on aspect to social media; GoGo: teaches Mandarin to children; SpareKeyPlease: leverages your social graph to find out when someone won't be home and you could potentially stay at their house (again, pretty creepy); CoWander: a community of world wanderers; ProphetMargin: helps small businesses increase profitability. More companies can be found on the site.

I plan to attend this event next year... and in the meantime I might hit up the Miami or Puerto Rico events to get some sun while I am at it.. hey, it is all in a weekend.



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BP pays for Oil Spill!

The wonders of the new Internet.

BP, the very company that is responsible for the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, has purchased the term oil spill on various search engines. As a result, users who search for the term oil spill will now be able to see the official website of BP at the top, along with the message "see how BP is helping".

http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/Broadcast/bp-buys-search-engine-phrases-redirecting-users/story?id=10835618

A sample of the web result on Google is provided here.

Notice the yellow highlighted box at the top. This is what BP has paid for.

This action by BP clearly demonstrates the importance of the Internet, and how vital it has become in determining the success or failure of a brand. Given the significant negative publicity that the company has generated as a result of this environmental disaster, and the fact that users now have access to information from a variety of different sources such as blogs, social networks and instantly updated news articles, all ripe with opinions of its creators that BP might, or might not find desirable, BP has taken this action to mitigate the negative impacts. So rather than be directed to sources of information that might be less flattering for BP, the company purchased the term to ensure that at least the first search result was their own website, giving users the opportunity to visit their homepage and learn about their perspective on the issue and what they are doing to resolve the crisis.

This news also demonstrates the long tail concept that Google has used to its advantage. Typically, a search term such as Oil Spill would not be heavily demanded, especially since these events are few and far between. However, the long tail concept dictates that at a given point in time, there might be enough users out there that would want to purchase such rare keywords that are not heavily demanded, but can generate enough usage in total to even eclipse the revenue generated through more popular search terms that typically go for a lot more per click.

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The Development of Kaixin.com in China


Kaixin.com, in Chinese means "happy", was originally treated like a Chinese version of Facebook. It has a similar customer interface, simple user friendly system, and user generated content. It allows users to publish diary, photos, and comments, and play games like farm and fishing. Unlike Facebook, people on Kaixin normally only look for friends from their alumni associations, including kindergarten, work environments and family networking. It is an online platform to connect of different offline communities, thus the slogan is “find people who you know”. The engagement and interaction between communities’ members are extremely high. Also, it divides the private and public areas. Users can set up the privacy standards themselves and go to a public forum to look for blogs, news and videos shared by other people.

Kaixin has made a great effort to make this social network interacted closely with people's real life. You can play the Monopoly game with the real stock data. During its development, the most popular function is called “my home”, integrated “home decoration”, “gardening” and “farming”. As more and more people achieved the highest level of those games, Kaixin started to find a decrease in people’s engagement and the time spending to the website. It then moved the focus to enrich the social games to keep users’ vitality, by adding new games, and launching special tasks with limited edition’s rewards.

It is very cautious for the online advertising. Even with very high traffic volume and large customer base, there is no display banners, pop ups or any kinds of direct ads. Many companies and celebrities have set up their Kaixin profiles. It’s a good way to promote their products or work by sending them as rewards of tasks in the games.

In order to keep its popularity, Kaixn has cooperated with third parties to develop creative online games. It is a big challenge for how to keep people’s interest and not get them bored easily.



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Toys for big and small boys

With the launch of the iPad Apple has set out to revolutionize personal computing yet again. There was one target group they probably did not have in mind: toddlers.

Parents and tech journalists are astonished by the ease little children, that cannot use the computer or even read, use the iPad. The product is so easy to use that they intuitively figure out how to start and back out of apps and swipe pages. For a little demonstration see the following video.



Children's publishers are rushing to create child-friendly content. New York start-up MeeGenius! had its app for electronic children's books ready for the launch of the iPad. The application allows parents to personalize books with the names of their children and other information. The books are then read aloud by the application and the appropriate word is highlighted while it is reading. Check out their website at: www.meegenius.com. The possibilities of course are endless. First experiences with vocabulary learning programs and other educational software have shown promising results.

This could well change how an entire generation uses media!

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Foursquare: Yahoo, Facebook or???

After looking to sell to Yahoo or Facebook, the social networking on mobile is planning to complete a round of funding from the founder of Netscape, Marc Andreessen.

It doesn't mean that an agreement between Facebook and Foursquare will not be found but it will be on the functional side rather than an acquisition.

Let's see what future awaits for geo-locating applications...

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