Sunday, July 31, 2011

LinkedIn Apps for Sales Teams


Everyone knows that LinkedIn profiles are great online resumes, but ever since various plug-in apps have been enabled on the LinkedIn platform, the website has functioned as an effective sales lead generation engine. In essence, LinkedIn -- through its app plug-ins -- provides an online, findable and social extension of sales content generated by many companies’ sales teams.

Content can include sales presentations, data sheets, case studies, and existing customer references . Self research now drives B2B discovery and the process of buying within the B2B sector. Research of qualified prospects go a long way in eventual sales conversions. Apps useful to make a sales case on LinkedIn includes SlideShare, Box.net, TripIt My Travel, Wordpress, and Events.

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Online Magazines are now part of E-Commerce

Online beauty magazines are trying to find new ways to generate revenue beyond advertising. (www.paidcontent.org) Publications like Lonny include buy links for featured products. Condé Nast’s Allure.com has found another creative solution – the women’s beauty magazine has teamed up with Quisidi properties Soap.com and BeautyBar.com to allow readers to buy beauty products directly through the site. This agreement is apparently the first time a woman’s magazine has partnered with an online retailer and other magazines have followed this trend. Last June, for example, MasterCard sponsored the iPad issue of Wired, allowing users to purchase the products from Amazon. These deals essentially remove the middleman involved in a customer’s purchase; rather than go through a retailer, customers can purchase items directly from the manufacturer. In class, we examined the case in which Mattel, a toy manufacturer, sells its products directly through the company’s website. As another example, one can buy P&G products like Crest toothpaste and Pampers from theEssentials.com. Now online magazines want a piece of the pie and have managed to fit into the line of purchasing steps by selling products directly from their pages. This puts retailers in an even more precarious situation.

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Gmail Man Parody Video

After I read Hoonmo's post on Facebook and Privacy, I came accross this video and thought to share it with you all. The video is a parody on Gmail and introduces a character called Gmail Man who is accused by Microsoft of invading the privacy of its users. It highlights some gaffes made by Google when they snoop through the emails and wrongly connects words and then displays an ad to the consumer that is inappropriate. The online world seems to think that this video has been released by Microsoft in order to promote their new software Office 365. So far Microsoft has not claimed ownership of the video. Regardless of whether they did or did not create the video, the video has already gone viral and seems to be doing an amazing job at Digital marketing for Office 365 while simultaneously making Google seem like an intruder in our private lives. The video link is:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OrkAuwaoFGg&feature=player_embedded

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Do bloggers have too much power

This is the famous story how blog is commercialized and being abused!

Case of ‘power blogger’ reveals ugly side of online pundits



A total of 4,983 people staged a cyber protest against an online homemaking pundit Sunday morning, calling for an apology and compensation for her public deception.

They said 46-year-old Hyun Jin-heui, running one of the nation’s most visited blogs, had arranged sales of an electronic gadget that could harm people’s health and bagged a fortune in commission. The blog, blog.naver.com/jheui13, has more than 50 million accumulated hits under the ID babyrose.

According to the “victims,” Hyun induced 3,300 people to purchase 360,000 won ($305)-ozone sterilizers through her web site over the past 10 months. But the device turned out to use an excessive amount of ozone, which could make people sick, according to the Korean Agency for Technology and Standards. Nonetheless, the company refused to give refunds citing lack of scientific evidence.

The fury was directed at Hyun, who had bridged the deal.

Hyun, who claimed that group purchasing could bring down the price and benefit customers, confessed that she received 70,000 won per sale of the device as commission. She expressed regret but said the fee was conventional and that she had done nothing illegal.

“She tricked us into buying the product and has concealed the dirty deal. If she cannot take legal responsibility, we will seek for her to take the moral burden,” a member of an online community against Hyun, said.

The Babyrose incident exposed the dirty laundry of some professional bloggers as well as the extent of their power and responsibility.

In a survey of 513 Internet users by the Korea Press Foundation in 2008, online media, including blog posts, placed second in a credibility ranking after terrestrial TV broadcasters.

These bloggers do not just entertain readers. In a DMC Media survey of 1,650 people, 48.5 percent replied that their shopping patterns have been affected by their online pundits. Online Today Korea reported that power bloggers could create 10 times the promotional effect of conventional media advertisements.

Currently, there are about 700 “power bloggers” selected by the nation’s largest portal site Naver.com. Several hundred more are actively working at other sites, drawing tens of hundreds of daily visitors.

These bloggers have emerged as darlings of viral marketers, who target consumers preferring recommendations from “next-door housewives” over newspaper articles or advertisements. They are treated with freebies, samples and sometimes free trips and tours from companies hoping for a mention on the blog.

“Most of the bloggers appreciates the pure joy of being respected but many of them welcome business opportunities, too,” a viral marketer said.

Hyun appeared on a GS Home Shopping channel program to promote marinated meat. With her influence on overall industries, she wrote several cookbooks and appealed to become Martha Stewart of Korea by publishing monthly magazine on homemaking.

The breakdown of Hyun’s enterprise is having a domino effect in the industry.

Moon Sung-sil, another power blogger with 90,000 daily visitors, admitted Saturday that she had received 4-5 percent of the sale of products as commission.

“Some I have received more and some less. But I have paid my tax. I have nothing to be ashamed of,” she said. But she has cancelled all upcoming co-purchasing events and shut down several sections of her blog. Several other similar online communities ceased commercial events over the weekend.

People say it’s time society comes up with ways to hold bloggers to their responsibilities as much as any other online businessmen.

U.S. authorities last year threatened to fine bloggers $11,000 for not clarifying corporate sponsorship in articles endorsing or commenting about products.

“With their growing power, bloggers should think of ways to be responsible about their articles and deeds before any others,” Prof. Kang Mi-eun of Sookmyung Women’s University was quoted as saying to a local paper

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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Facebook for Business


Last week, Facebook introduced a new site called ‘Facebook for Business’ that teaches companies how to use Facebook's "powerful marketing tools" to create a Facebook Page, build relationships with members of the Facebook community, and use Facebook Ads and Sponsored Stories.

Facebook’s release of the site was, according to some industry insiders, a quiet attempt to poach on businesses that are dissatisfied with Google+’s decision to boot businesses from the social network because the Google+ platform hasn't been optimized for them yet.

In the middle of this muddle, a Facebook spokesperson wrote in an email to Reuters to reaffirm Facebook’s movement into the business and e-commerce space. "Facebook allows small businesses to create rich social experiences, build lasting relationships and amplify the most powerful type of marketing -- word of mouth. We created Facebook.com/business to make it even easier for people to reach these objectives and grow."

Although Facebook is sought after by marketers, many have found the process of buying ads on the network complex. A number of third-party agencies have been spawned that specializes in helping businesses place ads on the network. Facebook's new business site, therefore, is its latest bid to court advertisers, a move that is in line with Facebook’s strategic moves into online and mobile payments this year. In April, Facebook Studios was launched by the company, with the site showcasing the successful Facebook campaigns and awards for the best Facebook advertising work and how businesses have used Facebook to reach its business and revenue generation goals. The launch of Facebook Studios and Business is only the tip of the iceberg of what will be a huge migration of large social media companies into the business-to-business space.




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Friday, July 29, 2011

Groupon In The News - Accounting Weirdness

Frankly, it is somewhat scary to me that I am finding an article like this one, not only important, but very interesting... It also happens to tie up themes in this Digital Marketing class with my other Financial Planning and Analysis class, so my whole academic world is circling right on this very post!!!!

Here is the article: (the link may have expired but just search "Groupon's Accounting" within WSJ site ) http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111903635604576472531846174782.html?KEYWORDS=groupon

The breakdown of the article is that in the preparation for Groupon's IPO, its financials are compiled and disseminated - like every company. BUT unlike most companies that are IPO'ing soon, they have super high valuations with very little profit to show (if any at all).

Therefore Groupon uses "creative accounting" to create a metric called "Consolidated Segment Operating Income", which in other industry leaders' eyes amounts to Profit before Expenses.

We learned in our Marketing class discussions that Groupon has yet to turn a profit, still very high in costs due to the model needing high personnel costs, but they have to "window dress" somehow...

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

WAR! What is it good for?

Google+ (http://www.businessinsider.com/heres-the-presentation-that-inspired-google-2011-7#) and Facebook are at war, and who benefits? Neither Facebook nor Google benefit, they are both sinking money into competing products. The advertisers don't benefit, they have a more diffuse marketplace to buy space in. The users don't benefit, we now have two places to comment and check on our friends. Yet there are two clear winners who are winning and will continue to benefit from this ongoing war: developers and valuable startups.


First, the developers: the first shot that started this war for the Internet was fired by Google in 2007 with the founding of OpenSocial (http://techcrunch.com/2011/07/22/google-plus-opensocial-facebook/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Techcrunch+%28TechCrunch%29). Quick disclaimer: as a developer, I love the idea of OpenSocial. In short, Open Social sought to unite the social graph of the web by providing a common core functions across websites. the return fire? The Like button, the Open Social graph and thus began the Reign of Facebook (http://techcrunch.com/2010/04/25/the-age-of-facebook/).


Round 1 to Facebook.


Second, the startups benefit. Years pass, Google nurses its wounds and then, last month, comes out with it's next big assault: Google Plus. Facebook shouldn't be surprised, but there has not yet been retaliation. Google is compounding this initial assault with purchases of valuable startups like Multiply and Fridge (http://techcrunch.com/2011/07/21/g-google-acquires-privacy-centric-social-network-fridge/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Techcrunch+%28TechCrunch%29). Fridge is a privacy focused photo sharing social network, while Multiply is a shopping centric social network. Clearly, Google+ has an interesting future with potential revenue streams beyond the advertising dependencies of Facebook.


Round 2 to Google?


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High increase in video streaming on the web...

Thinking about the video streaming options and channels that we have discussed in class such as Youtube, Vevo among others... and with the broadband of the internet getting better and better every day... How important will be video streaming and live streaming in the web's future.... and what new opportunities they will bring in developing new video platforms... Undoubtly this is an interesting are to focus as research from Pew Internet Research Companu shows that 71 percent of online Americans are using YouTube and other sites. This is up from 66 percent a year ago and way up from 33 percent in 2006. I was strike by such big growth in just 4 years... and still we haven't seen announce challenging youtube directly yet... Youtube represents 52% of the streaming video traffic on the web... so how are companies are going to capitalize on that... Will brands continue to launch their youtube channels providing consumers unique exclusive content...? Is this currently working for consumers...? Those are interesting questions to ask as marketers and visualize a bit further about how this applications can end up working for some industries... What about if we can virtually shop in supermarket and shops... with livestreaming... or even virtually party with the music of the best dj's of the world with high quality high speed video streaming that the quality might become some good that you would feel almost the club experience... How useful can this trend become towards education... as people won't need to assist classes anymore... One interesting consequence of this phenomenon is how anyone can express their point of view of current events in matters of seconds and with very low technical requirements... and share it with the world... This is pretty powerful now that youtube represents 10% of the traffic worldwide and it became a good source for information for large media groups around the world.

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Zynga Gets A Zinger

It looks like the social gaming wars are starting to heat up. In June, Zynga filed a lawsuit against Vostu, the largest social gaming company in Latin America based out of Brazil, stating that they had ripped off some of their most popular games like Farmville. In a countersuit, Vostu has claimed that Zynga's games themselves were rip-offs of other games, and that they had meetings with Vostu only to find out information about the Brazilian social gaming market. It seems that everyone has something to argue over, now that there is so much money at stake.

Here's the full article.:

http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/07/20/zynga-is-hit-with-countersuit-over-game-designs/?scp=2&sq=zynga&st=Search

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Tell Me What You're Wearing

Our discussion in class last night regarding the ways that retailers are experimenting selling products through Facebook and mixing products in with editorial content got me thinking about the newest wave of fashion marketing emails hitting my inbox- online fashion clubs with monthly subscriptions. Originating with the online bag and shoe clubs, which sell shoes and bags at steep discounts with monthly subscriptions, these new websites blend editorial and curation with the monthly subscription model. Jewel Mint lets users create a style profile, after which they’re shown jewelry that is curated for them based on users’ style. Beginning with the first purchase at $29.99, the monthly subscription includes a new piece of jewelry each month. StyleMint does the exact same thing with t-shirts. In addition to these innovative models, the two sites have the celebrity plug. StyleMint is run by Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, and JewelMint by Kate Bosworth. Despite this new way of mixing fashion advice and retail, to me these seem like just another fad, as the editorial and curation part doesn’t actually add value. It seems like it’s just stuck on to add sales. Unless there is a lot of iteration in the coming months, I don’t see a large enough group of people signing up for these.

However, emails and websites that began as mainly editorial and innovated with retail partnerships later, such as WhoWhatWear and Refinery29, look like the wave of the future for fashion retail. These sites are already providing value and have established themselves as “fashion experts.” It’s a logical next step, and even helpful for readers, for them to not just provide advice but the actual clothes as well. Has anyone here signed up for monthly subscriptions through a retail site? What are your thoughts on it?

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Facebook and Privacy

When I first joined facebook, I used the e-mail address that I have been using since 1998.

Up until that moment, I had no idea how facebook actually find the 'network' for its users.

Yup, they dug into my old email 'received' and 'sent' folder, and gave me a bunch of list of people that 'I might know'.

As I said earlier, that e-mail was used from 1998, when I was dating my ex-ex-ex-ex girlfriend. And I was ignorant and foolish enough to 'invite all', including my former girlfriends. I don't even want to talk about consequences. All I can say is.. it was 'disastrous'.

The reason that I bring out this issue is because of privacy.. Honestly, when I found out that facebook was very aggressive in ‘making connection’ among users, I was really afraid of using it.

For instance, a lady had a blind date with a man, and next day, she was freaked out to see the facebook recommending him as a new friend. She didn’t even let him know her e-mail address.. so guess what happened? Yes, after the date, he found her in the facebook and took a glance at it.. and facebook is assuming that they know each other, then sent the recommendation. Pretty spooky to me.

It will be a pleasant surprise if facebook can find an old friend of mine.. but it will be really embarrassing if facebook sends recommendation to my ex-girl friends or ex-bosses.


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Monday, July 25, 2011

Online Social Gaming - The Real Opportunity

Doing my weekly browsing of digital marketing news I came across a blog entry by Steve Olenski called “The Big Opportunity Marketers Are Missing Right Now”

http://www.stargroup1.com/blog/big-opportunity-marketers-are-missing-right-now

Olenski argues that on-line social gaming is a huge opportunity for marketers given its size (around 250 million users a month of which 59% of the adult category are women). In his view companies undervalue this medium to advertise to their customers, only 16% of the companies surveyed by Forrester have plans to use social games in their U.S. marketing strategies in the next year. Additionally, only 19% believe on-line social gaming will become a more effective marketing vehicle in the next three years.

Although I think Olenski is right, i.e. companies should definitely be advertising in online social gaming, I believe he misses to touch on the real potential of social games. Marketers should start thinking of how to use on-line social games around their brands to engage current and potential customers around something that is entertaining for them. Companies could build simple games that can potentially go viral and gather a lot of data from their customers. People are playing an entertaining on-line game while the company is gathering information about the customers’ interactions with the products. The benefit is three-fold, first it is a vehicle for brand building, second it is an opportunity to introduce product features and benefits to clients, and third marketers can disguise conjoint analyses studies in games.

The Old Spice guy comes to mind. After the success of the TV ad P&G spent a significant amount of money to shoot more than a hundred responses to influencers (celebrities, bloggers, etc.). Although a very smart move to extract more mileage from the ad idea, P&G could have gone even further and built a simple on-line game (e.g. the guy responding with predefined lines to questions posed by the users, similar to the idea behind Burger King’s subservient chicken)

In conclusion, marketers can use on-line social gaming to let their creativity lose and build viral games that allow them to pursue several marketing objectives at the same time.

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Netflix: raising fees and being bullied by content provider?

Just read an article on Netflix about how customers are really angry with the company raising monthly subscription fees for the DVD + Streaming package. It is an attempt for Netflix to move towards digital streaming vs. the actual DVD distribution. Customers was not happy about that. Granted, streaming digital content online is good economic because the marginal cost to produce additional unit = 0. Yet, Netflix is facing another mounting challenge. As Netflix is becoming more and more successful, in which it posted $750million in revenue this past year. Many of the content providers saw it as a chance to chew this company out and squeeze more juice out of it. Now, as I just saw in the news, these content providers want to increase license fee on Netflix. It is estimated that the content license fee will go from $180million in 2011 to a staggering $1.2 Billion in 2012.

Netflix is in deep doo doo.....

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Crowd-funding and social media

In class, we've heard about facebook translating its pages to different languages in a super fast manner … and for free by using crowd translation.

Crowd is hot! Its fast and less expensive, making it a lucrative approach for firms wanting to do anything from translation, OCRing, to recently, FUNDING!

Unbound, a british firm seeking to "crowd-fund" books, emerged as a response to the decline in bookselling business. The idea is simple, visitors to the site see portions of unfinished books and pay a small amount (say $15) in return to getting the finished book.

Will social media ride the bandwagon? They clearly have a massive advantage. Tons of users, targeting capability and the ripple effects make social media the best platform to take this idea forward. Anyone from funds to entrepreneurs can benefit from this value proposition as it links the investors directly to investment projects.

Regulation will need to step-in, but I think this will eventually happen. It’s a natural extension.

Article about Unbound:

http://www.economist.com/node/18988946


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Mobile Apps

Out of all the content we covered in our social media lecture last week, I think that mobile applications have the potential to be the most revolutionizing to the industry. The most poignant personal experience I had was about 2 years ago, when my love for photography led my downtown to the Lomography store. My boyfriend and I were going to Guatemala, and he was in love with my Leica, so as a little surprise I thought I would get him a lomography camera to get his creative juices flowing.

It was really fun, and a totally different kind of fun, using an old school camera with manual settings that used real film and no real-time feedback. The anticipation of receiving the prints gave us a tiny adrenaline rush, as corny as it sounds, that we kind of had forgotten about in the era of digital photography. Before I even had a change to get the prints however, Instagram came out, instantly stealing my thunder, lol. In the real world, who is going to pay for film and take time to go get pics developed when we can have the instant equivalent? Overnight, my gift was completely antiquated and useless. Even today, I would say that this mobile app has probably had one of the most significant impacts on my day to day experience with my iPhone.

Same is true for other conveniences. I used a mobile boarding ticket on Delta for the first time 2 weeks ago. The funniest part about that was then I actually had to board the plane, there was no scanner and the attendant didn't have her glasses, and couldn't...well see my boarding pass. Maybe that one isn't quite there yet.

True again for the relatively new banking concept of scanning and depositing checks to checking and savings accounts. These are serious game changers, that I think we don't necessary classify as social applications because we immediately think to Linkedin, FB, and Twitter, and not all are built for sharing per se, but I would say this where we should be looking for the highest level of upcoming innovation.

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customer input content vs. professionally produced content

After Youku (YOKU, NYSE, the online video company, Chinese version of Youtube) went IPO in New York stock exchange, it now has abundant capital available to purchase professionally produced content. And Youku actually has already started the large volume purchasing on professionally produced content, such as the TV series and films. This may indicate that Youku's corporate strategy is to balance on these two categories and is seeking a strong position in both the customer input content area as well as the professionally produced content area. These two categories actually are quite different. In my opinion, if a online video site focuses on customer input content, the website is acting as a social media website. While if it focuses on the professionally produced content, it is more like a distribution channel of the programs.
It is interesting to see how these two categories would attract different target customers as well as the advertisements, and how customers' behave pattern would be differently. If there is any study on this topic, it would be interesting.

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My Google + comment got erased :(

So I'll try to my best to recreate it here. Basically, I was chuckling to myself that I have loads of Google + invites in my inbox, yet I haven't managed to find the time to sign up yet. I guess you want what you can't have...and in this case I have it.

So instead of spending time exploring the UI of Google +, I read what other users have been saying about the new platform. Responses have been pretty harsh, insinuating that Google is simply redoing what other predecessors have already done, like Twitter and Facebook. But, I think Google deserves a bit more credit.

In my opinion, FB still has some serious UI issues. And, it can be really annoying to use multiple different services to stay social. To me, Google + is just the 2012 version of iGoogle, which was one of the first concepts out there for a personal dashboard, but now with group capabilities, and Google has simply done only what any company can do in such a saturated market, and that is make the products out there just simply better. In this sense, I think Google has done a good job of re-prioritizing features that current users value most, like group video chatting, something as far as I know, FB does not even offer (maybe I'm just out of the loop).

I mean, in this day and age, what is it that we internet abusers value? easier UIs. We take the abilities totally for granted. It's HOW we can use them that we value most, and Google + may have pushed that ball forward. Will it have a lasting impact? probably not. Service aggregators will simply add Google + to their menu of options, and so the wheel will go round and round.

The more important question, I think, and what I believe the Google + team was thinking, is how can we get customers to invest so much time in setting up shop with one service, that it becomes nearly impossible to switch. Google + isn't something you just dabble with, it's designed to be your homebase.

And finally, while I am reading all this talk on Google's impact on FB, I've not heard anything about how the partnership with Android could affect iPhone market share. I personally think it could have a significant impact.

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Are smartphones the smarter way for advertising?

Turns out the mobile ad market is growing in a higher rate than expected. BizReport shares today the results of the latest mobile search report from search agency Latitude which reveals that paid search clicks on mobile accounted for 8% of total paid search clicks and that this is expected to reach double figures by the end of the year. Furthermore, the search report found that CTR on mobile averaged higher than desktop at 4.7% compared with 3.8%.
Although right now there is less ad space available on mobile, it is bound to change as the market and technology evolves.
It will also be interesting to see whether these numbers will impact the arbitrage between mobile and desktop regarding brands' marketing budgets; perhaps some companies will specifically decide to focus on mobile rather than desktop.

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Who knew milk could be so controversial?

Recently, the California Milk Processor Board, the media-saavy Milk Board also behind the famous "Got Milk?" campaign, released a new milk promotional campaign focused on PMS. Apparently, milk can relieve the symptoms of PMS, which is news to me. Their plan to roll out this information to the public was quite obviously designed to go viral. Instead of appealing to women looking to alleviate PMS, they went with a funny ("funny") campaign that focused on men suffering from women's PMS. An example: "I apologize for not reading between the right lines." It certainly got attention! After a few days, rage spread across the internet, and funnyordie.com made a parody video about it.

Leaving out my personal opinion about whether or not I think the campaign is funny - although I can say that I will not be using or recommending milk as a treatment for PMS - it certainly got everyone thinking about milk. But more importantly, they seem to have found a way to deal with the controversy in a way that still benefits them, in contrast to other companies with controversial ad campaigns such as Groupon or the Motrin ad we saw in class. The website for their campaign now redirects to a website where people can talk about the ads and have a reasoned discussion. I haven't looked into the website in great deal and I don't know how many people will want to have a reasoned discussion about milk and PMS, but if moderated and formatted well, it has the potential to defuse the situation while still promoting their product. In fact, it almost seems like this was their intention. Depending on how accidentally-offensive a social media campaign is, this strategy may or may not work, but it's worth keeping in the toolkit!

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Will techies replace bankers?

Facebook has just announced a partnership with AMEX to provide deals and discounts in some places. Google is introducing the wallet and even working on a full scale payment system through mobile phones. Ebay just acquired Zong for an amount north of $250 million and Gartner expects 141 million people to use mobile payments in 2011. The trend of technology merging with financial services is only getting stronger. Popular technology platforms like Google and Facebook are more and more becoming the distribution channels of payment systems and even small accounts (Google wallet). In several emerging markets (particularly in Africa) Telco operators play the role of banks by allowing users to charge purchases (mostly online but even some offline stuff) to their mobile bill instead of using cash or a credit card. Will this lead to a trend where telcos, dotcoms and techies in general replace or eat a big share of the bankers' cake?

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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Twitter and...location

The possibility to target someone with advertising is extremely powerful because companies can fine tune their commercial offers based on their customers’ gender, age, profession, location, etc. And even consumers are happier to be targeted because they can receive better offers. What’s the point in receiving an annoying promotion of a Los Angeles store if we live in New York?! Location in particular I think it’s a very important targeting tool and in fact, a big success factor of many mobile applications is their ability to be location based. If I search on google map or on yelp for a restaurant my phone proposed me all the restaurants close to my current position. However being able to be “local” doesn’t have to be just a privilege of mobile applications, it could also be the key to success of one of the most popular social networks of the moment. This morning I was reading a very interesting article on Techcrunch about the opportunity for Twitter to gain even more success by becoming “local”, connecting people to places. The article suggests that Twitter should distinguish between regular and business accounts and then use Twitter Places to link pages with the corresponding business accounts and aggregate content from other local sources. Twitter could then add a “where to follow” section to increase the visibility of Twitter Places and become the leader in aggregating all explicit (Foursquare, geo-tagged tweets) and more implicit (Instagram) check-ins to be able to organize what’s happening in any neighborhood. It could also enable paying advertisers to geo-target tweets to followers in a particular location (e.g., Whole Food would be able to make weekly promotions only to New Yorkers without alienating users in other cities) and set up a sort of “Google Alerts” where people get notified when keywords (e.g., location, club, food) happen nearby. By engaging users on a local level and increase usage by local businesses, Twitter could find a lot of natural monetization opportunities.


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Your Every Move

While all of us enjoy the ever delightful benefits and conveniences of the internet, mobile access, digital innovation, etc., in the back of our minds we can also sense that our growing online footprints are increasingly creepy. Companies are learning more and more ways to track our behaviors and patterns and drawing frighteningly pictures of who each of us are. And although this may make many of us uncomfortable, it also means exciting things are on the horizon for digital marketing. A Techcrunch article highlights, for instance, marketers' recent improvements to the redemption loop. The redemption loop occurs from when consumers see an ad, to when they make a purchase as a result of that ad. Coupon sites like Groupon and Livingsocial issue ticket numbers for each discount they issue, but have not fully leveraged any sort of tracking system to give their clients in depth redemption data about the customers. With new initiatives GrouponNow and Livingsocial Instant Deals however, they are able to offer local, up to the minute deals based on the location shown on mobile phones. The growing use of smart phones will give marketers an exciting new venue to learn consumer behaviors. The vendors are are quickly able to take advantage of mobile capabilities will be able to offer their clients the most valuable targeted ads that can lead to the highest rates of conversion.

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Why Digital Marketing Matters for Social Change

The November/December edition of Foreign Affairs featured an interesting essay by Google's Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen on 'The Digital Disruption', the idea that the digital revolution is making autocracy and oppressive regimes less viable around the world. Looking at this piece alongside our discussions of the power of digital marketing raises a fundamental question:

Can oppressive regimes avail themselves of the business benefits of digital marketing without pushing their governments towards transparency?

Economies like China and Russia must allow both domestic and international companies to use digital marketing tactics -- including social media -- to stay competitive. Closing these channels would be a distinct disadvantage to doing business. But the nature of these technologies also require that individuals are comfortable enough to reveal some level of personal detail on the web.

While Schmidt and Cohen focus primarily on the idea that social media connects people in ways that allow them to coordinate and digitally congregate around ideas, I would argue that the business potential of social media is equally important. You can't shut down social media if it is a primary driver of economic growth for retail and services companies. And the potential to drive massive change only exists if oppressive regimes choose to keep social media active and free of perceived government control.

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One company's success with Facebook...

So, I think I’m convinced… maybe social media really is a profitable, realistic and effective way to build a business!
Of course, I’ve always believed that social media was an important tool in a company’s marketing arsenal. However, I always viewed it more as a retention device—keep in touch with former customers and build brand loyalty. I always wondered just how effective it would be to bringing in new customers to the company and drive business.

Working on our digital marketing project, however, I looked at the social media our company has used to build its brand. Other competitors rated higher in SEO and had several advantages in their email marketing. However, when looking at Facebook, our company has over 28,000 fans—our nearest competitor, less than 5,000!

When discussing this with the head of marketing at our company, he was pleased, but not surprised. While they hadn’t really had the time to look at the numbers of their competitors, they always assumed they were far ahead because Facebook marketing has been one of the main focuses of their marketing since the beginning. Of course, a good product, an easy to understand social add-on, and some excellent PR has also helped their business grow very quickly. But the fact that they focused on Facebook to not only retain but add customers was somewhat eye opening for me… and apparently it is a model for success, if done well. SEO, email marketing etc will now follow suit, no doubt further increasing the pre-eminent status on social media against their competitors.


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Have You had any Real Success on Facebook?

This is more of a personal blog posting: I want to know who in the class has had some business success on Facebook. I'm interning at a big media company this summer and they are struggling to figure out how to use Facebook (they sell eyeballs, nothing physical). So far the best anyone there has come up with is manually re-posting articles on FB fan pages = time consuming and not very profitable. Meanwhile the company we're consulting with for the class has a few thousand fans and DOES sell digital downloads (apps, specifically) but hasn't really figured out how to convert to sales on FB.

So, assuming anyone reads this, take a second and tell us of anything you tried that worked or didn't work to build fans, draw eyeballs, get sales, whatever. I'm personally very skeptical that FB is going to be much of a marketplace. When I look at corporate fan pages they are mostly used for customer service and keeping up with the crazy people who obsess over camping stoves, industrial-strength juicers and driving lawnmowers.

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I'm worried about Google+

I've read a few posts here about the pros of using scarcity as a technique for driving demand for Google+. Initially, I agreed with these ideas, as I waited impatiently for my invite. However, I am having trouble having any fun wasting time on Google+ in the way I am able to on Facebook. At the moment I am attrbituing this to the way Google+ recommends potential friends. These recomendations are based on who I have contacted via email. Aside from a very few close friends and my family, the majority of my email contacts are professional and formal--hence the reason I chose to email them and not Facebook message them in the first place.

Additionally, one of the reasons Facebook can be such a fun time waster, is that a large majority of my Facebook contacts are people I haven't seen or spoken to in a long time. It is psychologically pleasing in many ways to keep up on these people, even if I never message them directly. Google+ will not connect me with these people, and it will be a long time before I start amassing these types of long-lost contacts via Google+. My wonder is whether the new network will survive this psychological missing link. I could be very wrong, and I hope I am as I want Google to succeed, but at the moment it seems like this new network is missing some of the raw human factor that Facebook was able to cultivate early on.

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Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Online outrage against Netflix

What should Netflix do? After announcing a price hike on their services, their consumers have taken to Social media in droves to protest their decisions. An upcry like this has not been heard since LeBron James decided to ditch Cleveland and move to Miami. Consumers are vocally rejecting the announcement of the price increase that was made on their blogs. The consumers have takes to Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook to express dismay at the signs of greed from one of their favorite companies and that too with no prior warning.
For those of you who were under a rock, almost two weeks aga, Netflix announced that it was ending its beloved $9.99 plan for video streaming and one dvd rental a month and increasing to to $15.98. The public outcry has been huge and so far Netflix seems to be sticking with its stance. However, immediately after the announcement went up, searches for Netflix rival immediately went up by a huge amount. Customers have threatened to cancel service and many news outlets have picked up this story and have published it.
All in all, I would consider it a poor move on the part of Netflix. With the increase speed that news spreads in todays day and age, I think Netflix should bow down to the consumer demands and reduce their prices. Because if social media can cause a revolution in the Middle East, who knows where Netflix may be after the storm dies down.

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Spotify uses ‘Scarcity’ to Acquire Paid Subscribers


It was recently reported that Spotify, the new music streaming service released in the United States this week, are acquiring new paid users by counter-intuitively limiting its membership base. Since its launch in the U.S. market, Spotify members have only been able to sign up through personal invitations, which has driven up hype about the website and created a sense of exclusivity on its membership.

Simple economics tell us that with limited supply and an increasing demand, prices increase. Spotify ingeniusly amalgamates the idea of scarcity and premium membership to acquire paid subscribers. By signing up for the paid version of the service, Spotify allows those seeking a membership to jump the queue. For $4.99 per month, the website provides unlimited, ad-free service on its website and for $9.99 per month, users can run its premium, mobile service. Launch parterships with Klout, Chevrolet, Coca-cola have also been made to enter users into contests to gain free invites to the website. Other social tools used to generate more interest in the service include posting service-related questions such as “What will be the first song you play on Spotify, and why? on various social media platforms such as Facebook, Mashable, and other Technology blogs. Invites are then sent to the readers with the most inspired responses. Again, user acquisition, brand and product marketing, and subscriber acquisition - three birds with one stone.

Such instances of hybrid online marketing hint that as as various business models surface online, there is much room to innovate in terms of user and partner acquisition.

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Disney uses UGC in Advertising Campaign

Walt Disney Parks and Resorts is using UGC in its recent “Let the Memories Begin” campaign. (http://mashable.com) Since January 2011, visitors of Disneyland and Disney World can submit photos and videos of their experiences at these theme parks on YouTube, Facebook, MySpace and DisneyParks.com/Memories, which Disney incorporates in advertisements and promotions. The purpose of this campaign is to remind individuals of their good memories at the Disney resorts so they will pay another visit. Disney has also incorporated this content into the theme parks themselves; at Disney World in Orland, for example, guest photos are projected against the spires of the Cinderella Castle. At Disneyland, these photos show up on the façade of the “It’s a Small World” ride.
This form of UGC is a terrific idea from a marketing perspective. Not only does it remind visitors of their magical experiences at the parks and resorts, but viewers can connect better with footage from real families and friends. Like many forms of UGC, this campaign has fundamentally altered the way Disney reaches audiences. It has also blurred the line between profession and non-professional media. How else do you think the travel and hospitality industry could employ UGC?
The website for the “Let the Memories Begin” campaign can be found here.

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Google Tries to Find Google

In a move very similar to our guest speaker from Thrillist, Google is spending millions of dollars investing in startups in the hopes that it will come across the next hot thing. Some are indicating that the current investments in the tech market are definite signs of an "overheated" industry. They say that $583M in venture funds have been spent on startups in the first three months of the year. Leading the pack in investments with Google are Facebook, Zynga and Amazon. With that much money and interest, it definitely seems like this is the time to get your idea out there if you have one!

Full article here:
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/20/technology/google-spending-millions-to-find-the-next-google.html?_r=1&scp=2&sq=google&st=cse

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The fall of Myspace

In a recent TechCrunch article, Myspace founder Tom Anderson (sideways guy) admitted that his social network was the casualty of its own success. "MySpace “committed suicide” through continual mismanagement."

We spoke in class about how the recent $34 Million acquisition of Myspace was a huge comedown from the $580 M price tag that NewsCorp originally paid for it. So what went wrong? My belief is a lack of accountability that arose from a diverse ownership. In Julia Angwin's book Stealing Myspace, she discusses the origins of the social network - Tom Anderson and Chris DeWolfe discovered the website while working at a marketing company called eUniverse. Shortly after the Newscorp acquisition in 2006, Google spent $900 Million on the rights to provide search results and display ads. Both Newscorp, the original founders, and the eUniverse team made a ton of money at Google's expense. After the payout, there was no real motivation from the original innovators, and there was no real vision from the new owners. Facebook's decision to stay private is one of the reasons why it has outlast Myspace.

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Friday, July 22, 2011

Got Milk... I mean discussion?


Once again, an ad has been canceled due to the uprising of people through social media. The California Milk Processor Board introduced a campaign explaining that milk can help reduce the symptoms of PMS (premenstrual syndrome). The problem was that they joked on the fact that men suffer from its effects along with women.
Apparently some people found it offensive and the California Milk Processor Board had to cancel the campaign and create a website to apologize to all those that took it personally. The website is called "Got Discussion?": http://gotdiscussion.org/#/
So this is related to our last class were we talked about the importance of following an ad closely just in case there are any negative repercussions. Marketers have to be more attentive than ever since, as in this case, negative comments are spread very quickly online and can damage greatly the brand. In this case, the marketers acted very quickly, creating this web site and even uploading information on the subject and discussions that took place due to the ad.
So advertisers have a great challenge ahead. It is already hard enough to create an ad, but now they have to create an ad that pleases everyone? That's impossible. If 10 people don't like this ad but brag about it so much that they create great buzz, a campaign has to be canceled when actually most people liked it. I would like to know how many people really cared about this ad and really found it offensive. I understand that in some cases, campaigns can be offensive but after looking at some examples in class I also think people are exaggerated. Anyway, nothing can be done about it since nobody likes bad publicity, so ... good luck advertisers!

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Ugly truth of social commerce in Korea (Using Porter's 5 force model)


This may sounds pretty much offending to those of you who have firm belief that social commerce is one of the best channels that we had so far... but this is the ugly truth that is happening in Korea, known as leading country in IT industry.

Few years ago, some of the HBS graduates copied the Groupon service model and established a company called Coupang (http://coupang.com/). As you can imagine, they were a huge success. Soon afterwards, once they found out that this was a awesome Biz model, so many other companies (including original Groupon) launched the business in Korea. As a consequence, competition became fierce. Yup.. 'the barriers to entry' of this Biz model was way too low..

Korea is not a hugh country... and this means that resources of social commerce (good restaurant, Spa, products or whatever) are confined. In the early stage, it was fairly easy for social commerce companies to contact these resources and get a good deal out from them. However, nowadays, a typical nice restaurant in Seoul is receiving at least 10 offers from various social commerce companies each week.. Yes, 'Bargaining power of customers' are now so big.

What happened was, social commerce companies began to rely more and more an advertising. After all, 'price cut' and 'awareness' was their only weapons to deal with the fierce competition, and both had a extremely negative effect on profit. Non of the social commerce companies in Korea is making money nowadays. 'The competitive rivalry within an industry' is also huge.

What happened afterwards is so obvious.. Recently, social commerce companies are being blamed in Korea for their poor quality management. The meet that was delivered was rotten, the restaurant that was reserved offered awful foods, and nail care service that they reserved asked customers to pay more.. As a result, now Korean Government is starting to pose a heavy and strict regulation on these social commerce companies. 'The government regulation' is also increasing.

This is what is happening in Korea. I really hope that this is the phenomenon that is going to last temporarily... But things are much more complicated than I can write in here..

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Got a Question? Ask the Experts. No, Really.

For those of you who’ve gotten to the social media portion of our final projects, you may, like me, be thinking about how your company can benefit from using Quora. I personally signed up for Quora a while back because it was the new trendy site, without any thought that the questions would be relevant to me, or that I would trust the answers of anyone on the site.

The other day, the New York Times announced that three New York Times journalists will use the site to engage readers, holding a sort of “office hours” during which they’d take users’ questions. Times Associate Managing Editor Jim Schachter wrote that this is just a test, and they’d have to see how it goes before considering embedding Quora on NewYorkTimes.com. The announcement is one of the coolest things I’ve hear come out of both the New York Times and Quora. Everybody benefits. Users benefit by having the opportunity to talk to tried and true experts, the New York Times benefits by giving people a timely reason to reach out and listen to their journalists, and Quora benefits by being known for hosting such interesting content exchanges.

Interestingly, when considering bias and the Internet, this model allows for a new kind of journalistic accountability, at least from those asking the questions. Each questioner’s entire social and online identity is tied to the question. So not only does it confirm the person’s identity but it gives an (at least basic level) summary of the questioner, through his or her social profile. A great idea and new direction… tt will be interesting to see how this “test” plays out.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

AmEx Wins!

In professor Pham's Marketing class, we were lucky enough to have the CMO of American Express meet with us, and during that discourse he asked us for Digital Marketing ideas. Specifically, he asked us to for potential engagement strategies for customers. Now, we skip ahead 3 months to Introduction to venturing with Murray low, where we are evaluating several technology companies. When we arrive at the group presenting GroupOn, the inevitable question about competitive insulation arises. Specifically, why doesn't AmEx make daily deals, leveraging the natural advantage they already have with our credit data and existing shops. The answer was "because they are a large company, and large companies suck at innovating." Today, we eat those words, because AmEx has released a new deals platform alongside Facebook.
Initial launch partners include big brands like H&M, Sports Authority, Dunkin' Donuts, Sheraton, Westin, Travelocity and Celebrity Cruises. This is a massive rollout, and I think it's brilliant for AmEx to engage customers on the web, a previous weakness of theirs, and for Facebook to gather even more data about its users. The deal requires that you link your Facebook account to your AmEx, which will naturally be the big questionable privacy point, but if you volunteer this data, the rest is easy sailing. The major problem with many of the daily deal sites is the outreach and training required to use the coupons, but because AmEx has an existing relationship with these shops, they can apply the discount without any additional actions from the shops.
This is the natural outcome of the daily deals fad, it is primarily a marketing tool with questionable financials, but now AmEx can fully own that it is a relationship building tool, rather than a bottom line item. I fully anticipate AmEx becoming the dominant force in online daily deals very soon, and the other credit cards should be following suit before the end of the year.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Captain America Converts for Dunkin Donuts

Because I need two promotions to get me to act on anything, Dunkin Donuts (DND) was recently able to complete a promotion I participated in at a Mets game a few months ago with the help of their promotion for the new Captain America movie.

The Mets had given me a discount coupon and I had noticed that Dunkin had a pretty flashy promotion going for the new superhero film, with red, white and blue Coolatas and theme cups for other drinks. I have been waiting 35 years for the Captain America movie, but a cup alone was not enough to get me into the store.

Once I used my Met discount card to obtain a latte, I then used the text code on the cup to enter the online contest Dunkin was running for the movie, and see the exciting content online.

The movie alone was not enough to get me to convert, but with my cheap latte, I was able to see a few of the Captain America promotions' possible conversion goals:

1. Entering personal info to sign up for the contest.
2. Entering personal info to sign up for Dunkin Donuts rewards program.
3. Returning to the site to see more previews and trailers.
4. Downloading wallpaper and other media.
5. Purchasing movie tickets.

Because the trigger for the contest was a text message, Dunkin and Marvel have the opportunity to locate where the promotion worked the best, especially when combining a few of the metrics above. Movie theater tickets are a highly local purchase as well, so this contest creates numerous data points for marketers to analyze.

Superhero movies are unique in that they appeal to a wide range of age groups compared to other action/big-budget films. By associating with a very mainstream product, albeit one with a focus in the northeast, Captain America's marketers seem to be focusing on adults age 35+, and this makes sense as it would be a valuable audience for Dunkin Donuts too. Captain America is mostly from the 60s and 70s, so the content matches the conversion goals as well.

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Monday, July 18, 2011

Digital marketing, much more than an advertising tool

When we talk about digital marketing, the common sense is to think about a tool companies use to advertise their business. However in some industries digital marketing has been able not only to influence the advertising strategy of the companies but also to change the structure of their main business model.

During my consulting experience I had the chance to work for an international pharmaceutical company to optimize their marketing strategy. Because of the recent economic crisis, my client had to cut costs by reorganizing its sales force and making it more effective. Sales representatives are part of the core business of a pharmaceutical company. Their job is quite difficult, as they have to sell drugs to very busy doctors that do not want to meet them. In 2010, one every four American doctors claimed he/she was not willing to meet sales representatives because of the “bad reputation” that pharmaceutical companies have. Facing this current situation, many companies started to use digital marketing to improve their sales techniques and cut costs. Digital sales became the opportunity to sell drugs without the intrusion of an office visit. AstraZeneca, for example, created a digital marketing tool called “AZ Touchpoints”, a website where doctors can ask questions, order free samples, ask about insurance coverage and learn about all the products. The site contains also brochures that the doctor can print out and use with his/her patients and is supported by a call center to answer whatever question a doctor might have. These new digital marketing instruments are not seen yet as replacement, but as a good supplementing instrument to sales representatives. The advantages of these new tools are that they give the possibility to decrease marketing costs by reducing the number of sales representatives, have a better utilization of reps allocating them to new products or to the most complex drugs and they also give the doctors the option to avoid meeting the sales force. Moreover by tracking doctors’ behaviors on the website, the pharmaceutical company can understand better their interests and target accordingly the new products offers. The negative side of this marketing strategy is that the sale becomes much more “pull” than “push”, in the sense that doctors have to decide by themselves to go to the website and look for the product instead of being pushed by the sales representative. Still overall the new strategy seems to work pretty well. Proof of that is given by the constantly increasing number of new medical applications and websites, such as Coags Uncomplicated, which offers tools to help doctors diagnose bleeding disorders and many other apps offered by Sanofi-Aventis, Merck, Pfizer Inc., GlaxoSmithKline PLC and Novartis AG.


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Spotify... changing an entire industry?

So after months of speculation that this amazing music service was going to arrive to the US... finally the time has come and this week Spotify launched its service into the american market... The media and the business world are very excited cretting huge expectations... is it going to be the same success than in Europe...? Does this notion of renting music for 10$ a month will be translated into other industries ? What happened with the idea of buying music...? How does this affect Intellectual Property rights...? Itunes already revolutionized the music store concept globally... so I'm sure than Apple will give it a big fight back... so why it hasn't launched a similar concept of service yet with their available music rights.... Do they think it won't work and maybe European purchasing habits are different than americans...? Let's see what happens but if there's a clear sign from this launching is that the way content is been sold might change in the near future if Spotify is a big success.

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E-mail Newsletters: Is the Market Saturated?

There are a ton of "lifestyle" e-mail newsletters out there that cater to more of a young, hip, urban audience. Thrillist, Daily Candy, Urban Daddy are just a few that we discussed in class. Expanding upon just the editorialized, article-based newsletters are the e-commerce-based newsletters. The big player there is Gilt Groupe. Another segment of sites that is e-mail heavy are the coupon sites like Groupon or Living Social.

I get so many of these types of emails that if the subject line doesn't jump at me, they just get filtered or deleted away. Another concern I have with these newsletters is that the content just seems forced. Either it is obvious that a bar, designer or store paid for the space or the copy is very trite ("soak up craft suds with gourmet, organic gastropub grub").

What I think is needed in this space is unique and differentiated content. A lot of what I see on these sites seems like rehashed versions of previous content. One way around this is to add even more customization to what users receive.

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Is portal dead?


Portal.. means gate. I mean it used to be a 'gateway' to all source of information, such as search, news, e-mail, personal blog, internet community and so many other stuff..
Yes, this was the period when yahoo ruled the world.

However, now what do we have? Google and facebook... Google took the function of Search and e-mail, and facebook took the function of blog and community.. I believe that if Google buys Facebook, they will once again become total package, that is, portal.

So here is my question.. if a portal can provide everything in one stop service, what is the reason that they are sharply declining in US market?

Unlike US, actually in Asia (China, Japan, Korea.. and others) portal remains strong and google is doing awful.. What is the factor that makes american walk away from portal?



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Lack of Privacy

We talked a lot about privacy being compromised in social media websites which thrive on UGC. But think about the privacy infringement in traditional media - case in point, News of the World.
When reporters went to unethical lengths to obtain news tidbits on the royal family and a variety of celebrities in the UK, an elaborate legal proceeding ensued. Finally, this terminated in the newspaper being closed down along with the resignation of top government officers. The point to be noted is that with traditional media, accountability is much higher. Media outlets are limited and subject to stringent scrutiny.
But social media, being as ubiquitous as it is, is very difficult to censure. This is compounded by the fact that news spreads instantaneously online, making damage control much harder. It will be interesting to track the evolution of online watchdogs and the roles they take on going forward.

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Epic Mealtime & Youtube

Youtube created many online wonder - one that is worthy of noting is this channel named "Epic Mealtime". It all started when a group of college students (or unemployed college grads) got together and made videos of themselves making gigantic, record-breaking, sized meal. Their most notable video is one that was released in Nov 2010, in which they made a video about stuffing a turkey with five different types of birds (duck, chicken, garnish hen, quail, etc), and putting this massive turkey in a roasted baby pig. Throughout this video, there is a calorie counter that showed how much calories they can consumer (75,000 calories for this thing). They are also famous because they like to cook and consumer and inexorable amount of bacon strips.

These videos had gone viral and the channel garnered millions of subscribers. In fact, it has so many visitors that it became the 3rd most viewed online video channel in all of Canada. These kids became semi-celebrities overnight and it is a huge social phenomenal now. Since their videos get so many views, marketer and big corporations took notice. In their recent videos, they now have sponsored segment by Netflix, EB-Games, and other big companies that want a piece of the air time.

Talk about revolution in advertisement.

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Internet companies’ valuations –back to the future?

With the recent talk of high profile IPO plans and multi-billion valuations of internet companies I wonder if we are experiencing a second round of the tech bubble. Theory tells us that a company’s worth is equal to the present value of its future cash flows. In practice it is very difficult to forecast cash flows, even for brick and mortar companies with fairly stable revenues. In the on-line realm, forecasting cash flows is only an illusion of due diligence. Amazon lost money in the 90s and now is worth around $85 billion. Some analysts said it would never make money, and certainly it wouldn’t if it had remained selling books on-line. But who did effectively forecast that Amazon would become an e-commerce platform, and even if someone did, how to value that?

Not all companies can replicate the success of Amazon. Take MySpace for example, which was bought in 2005 by NewsCorp for $580 million, it hit a top valuation of $12 billion in 2007, and in 2011 it was sold to Specific Network for $35 million. This illustrates that the perception of MySpace’s ability to generate cash in the future changed dramatically in a short period of time. The overvaluation of internet-enabled opportunities that in the end do not deliver the expected returns are common. The “new media” opportunity in the AOL-Time Warner merger comes to mind, $350 billion made it the largest merger in U.S. history, and a colossal failure.

More recently we have seen several internet companies that command incredibly high valuations in relation to their earnings. Linkedin with a market value of around $9.5 billion has revenue around $200 million. Pandora with a value of around $3.6 billion had revenues of $90 million for the first 3 quarters of fiscal 2011 but still reported a loss of $0.3 million, they don’t expect to report earnings until the end of fiscal 2012. Later this year we’ll see multi-billion IPOs for Groupon and Zynga. Groupon launched in the end of 2008, in two years it had revenues around $700 million, which generated an offer by Google for $6 billion (in the low range of the valuations in the news today). Zynga on the other hand is already very profitable, it generates $17 million of free cash flow each month giving it a valuation of $14.5 billion.

Certainly some of the multi-billion on-line companies will give shape to their respective market segments and be very profitable, others will “pivot” until they figure out a successful business model, and others –most of them– will perish in the attempt. Insofar as investors think these companies can effectively be as profitable as their valuations suggest I wouldn’t say we are experiencing a bubble. Nevertheless, I do believe some companies are overvalued by Venture Capital activity that is betting on selling these companies to the established players (e.g. Google, Facebook, MS, etc.) at much higher prices in the future. This phenomenon has been characteristic of the development of the business models enabled by the internet. Whenever there is an opportunity of something becoming the next big thing a lot of capital flows in and valuations soar when competitors rush to get in first. In the end, some companies turn out to be worth their buzz, and many others don’t.

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Twitter – King of Publishers

Awe.sm co-founder Jonathan Strauss recently published an article 'Twitter drives 4 times as much traffic as you think' giving facts as to how publishers underestimate the volume of links shared / traffic driven by Twitter. Awe.sm's findings were as follows:
  1. Just under 25% of links shared on Twitter produced a twitter.com referrer.
  2. Nearly a third of links shared on Twitter contained no referrer information.
  3. 13% of Twitter links listed another referrer.

As mentioned above, only 25% of the traffic generated from tweets comes with a twitter.com referrer. This makes calculating the true amount of traffic attributable to twitter very complex. There are a number of reasons why links shared on Twitter don't get the referrer credit they deserve. Many users simply use Twitter clients that don't pass referrer information which means that this traffic will never get attributed to Twitter.

And increasingly, links shared find their way onto other sites which display tweets and feeds – traffic generated from these tweet will also won’t have Twitter as its referrer. The reason for this is that a lot of 3rd party websites syndicate tweets on their own sites, to add real-time content to compliment their service. As the tweet is now on a 3rd party site, it means that when the user clicks on a link, their browser will pass the referrer details of the site which was displaying the tweet, not Twitter.com. This issue of being unable to truly track the impact of tweets suggests that Twitter has a huge amount of advertising potential for publishers - and it is just getting started in this area.

Since last year when Twitter first launched its advertising platform and its two ad formats – ‘Promoted Tweets’ and ‘Promoted Trends’ it has been slowly experimenting and releasing more and more features for marketers. Early this March it launched geographical segmentation which allows marketers to do more localised and targeted advertisements e.g. showing different ads to different Twitter users across the world. It is also working on a strategy allowing marketers to target Promoted Accounts–its pay-per-follower feature–by country.

This was followed by their recent launch of “Quickbar” (their much hated feature) – a bar installed across the top of their app which “shows trends and other important stuff”.

Lenore in her post has already talked about the emerging trends of “Promoted Tweets To Followers” in the Twitter story. This would allow brands to send messages directly to users who already follow them by inserting advertising at the top of their timelines. These tweets would appear in the followers’ actual timelines. In the past a Twitter user would only see personalised tweets it he/she search for a specific term but this is no longer the case.

If the Quickbar uproar was any indication I am sure lots of devoted Twitter user will have something to say about all these new ad features of Twitter. Twitter might be trying to please its users by saying that Quickbar is an ‘alert system’ that will deliver ads and other information to the user but that is just sugar coating the truth. Quickbar is an ad delivery mechanism first and foremost. Regardless of what the Twitter users say, the truth of the matter is if Twitter cannot convert its inventory into money stream, we will eventually be tweeting its demise.

Other Sources: Quickbar, Personalised tweets

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how do the Chinese online video players differentiate themselves

The online video players in the US market have different positions and may target at different users. For example, Youtube is very interactive and the customers involve a lot in contributing to the contents, while Hulu itself is the content provider, acting as a distribution channel for these programs. But things are different in China. In the China market, there are around 10+ online video players and their operation models are very similar. Youku, the company recently went IPO in New York Stock exchange, is the leader in China market. While it find itself hard to differentiate from other similar online video companies. New entrants supported by established internet companies, such as Qiyi by Baidu.com (BIDU, NR), QQ video by Tencent (700-HK, NR), Sohu video by Sohu.com (SOHU, NR), are rapidly gaining users and possibly market share. These online video sites as well as Tudou.com (IPO pending) and PPStream (private) all likely have achieved over 100M monthly visitors during 1Q11, some closely following YOKU’s 231M in 1Q11. Almost all major competitors are willing to invest large amount of capital on professionally-produced content purchase. How to differentiate yourself is a difficult question to answer for these companies.

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Consumer = authority for B&M, but what about Online Stores?

I don't need to belabor the point that has been covered in recent lectures supporting the new found authority consumers hold in a Web 2.0 world, but something struck me as very odd as I was doing social media research for our Digital Media Project for Thrillist. Suddenly I stumbled upon the realization that there is no real equivalent of Yelp, for example, for online stores. It's true, I don't make any purchases anymore without checking user ratings, be it through a dedicated service such as Yelp or a feature through an e-commerce site like Amazon...but where can I find a substantial volume of user ratings for a purely online service like Thrillist? I think that there is a huge opportunity here.

Sites like Yelp have made brand equity more important than ever before. Especially in a phase where discount deals and flash sales are exponentially increasing, wouldn't Thrillist want to be on a UGC site and rated, ideally, higher, than it's competitors like GiltCity? I did some research and there are site that have dabbled in this, such as StellaService, which has Amazon listed with no ratings, and Thrillist does not even show up. Clearly such a B2C offering needs to gain some traction, but I don't buy that this stuff is useful only for brick and mortar establishments.

Sure, there is no in-store experience, but Thrillist Rewards has plenty of other stuff if could be rated on, like service, deal quality, and most importantly, frequency with which the deal was really "deal". In a time where I get 10 flash sale emails a day, such service would greatly aid me in managing my emails, cutting out the dead weight and refocusing on the sales that are "best".

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PPC for keywords your website is already visible organically

The question "Should I spend money on CPC/PPC Ads for keywords I am already ranked higher through search engine optimization (SEO)?" Well the article I read today has the same answer.i.e. "It depends". I am confused and therefore sharing here to see if someone have a better idea or experience.

Let me rephrase my question by using Amazon example I just ran on my brohttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifwser. Look at the highlighted sections, Ads verses Organic results.




Now that you see this visually, I would like to know why Amazon invested in PPC for keywords like "Camera", "Best Camera" when they are organically listed on Google first page at #7/8.

It looks clear to me that they have a set budget for PPC that they need to spend in any case. Also it does look like that it is working for them quite well. So should I assume that SEO+SEM should go parallel to cover each other and there is no hard and fast rule where the searchers will clicking.

This article might be interesting for some of you looking for answers.

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Specialization in Social Media Monitoring

As social media sites are being used as an integral part of firm's digital marketing campaigns, monitoring and tracking tools are gaining momentum as well. Marketers interested in measuring the success of their campaigns will be relying more on such tools to extract values for the metrics they are monitoring.

Tools were once specialized by their focus on social media sites: you had the twitter tools, the facebook tools. However, a new breed of tools have emerged that focus on a specialty topic, like wine for example (read below article).

But is a vertical specialization sustainable? In theory, the idea looks appealing. Each specialization has certain lingo that people use so the tools to measure it will take that into consideration and thus provide a tailored service to that vertical. However, trends in the net have always favored scale.

Eventually, i believe monitoring tools will converge towards a mega platform across sites that provides a customization interface that will allow for keying in certain keywords specific to the vertical you want to monitor. This approach has roots in both worlds and benefits from scale and customization based on industry knowledge.

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How much is Facebook really worth to a company?

We all know that every company out there should have a Facebook page- it increases brand visibility, it allows customers to interact with the company more, and hopefully builds loyalty to the brand. But one of the biggest problems with this type of social networking is what metrics to use… Is Facebook really helping your brand? Does it really make a difference to your bottom line?

While browsing through some of the material on EConsultancy, I was interested in a figure that at least partially addresses this. Rather than focusing on the issue of retention and customer loyalty, a recent study went to examine how much traffic does a Facebook page drive TO a company’s webpage. According to their study on leading retailers, each new Facebook fan acquired by a company results in an extra 20 page views of that company’s website.

The study focused on the share of all clicks each retailer received versus the share of all clicks after a visit to the company’s Facebook page. I think it is particularly interesting how they are measuring the number of people being driven to the company website from the Facebook page and not vice versa. As the article points out, however, there still remains no real way to determine what amount of these visits ends up resulting in sales.


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Excluding Users to Attract Users

Just like most of us in the class, I've been following the buzz on Google+ and trying to figure out whether it has staying power versus Facebook. I'm not convinced, although it was kind of exciting to get my invitation and see which friends of mine were already on it. This ties into an article posted in the NY Times today about start-ups (and Google+) using exclusivity to attract users. It talks about Google+, which apparently has over 10 million accounts now, as well as a start-up called SocialCam which also rolled out their new app little by little. There is more than one advantage to this strategy - in addition to getting people to want what they can't have, the developers get to smooth out any possible problems with the app or site. Some analysts have said that this approach is counterintuitive - don't you want the most people signing up as fast as they can - but especially for a company with brand recognition like Google, I think it's anything but. Google+ had buzz from the beginning, and those of us who were interested in these things were reading articles about it from the bloggers and journalists who got the first invites to try to see what it was all about, and how it was different. This approach won't work for everyone; apps and sites with little name recognition probably do need to sign up as many users as possible, especially an app like "Color" which had a ton of buzz but is now failing because it requires a tipping point of users to make it actually fun. But for sites with cache like Google or an app with a completely unique and new idea that early adopters would want to use first and spread the word about, it's definitely a winning strategy.

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Wait for me! says Microsoft

According to industry experts, Microsoft has "unintentionally" leaked information on their own social networking site in the works. A picture showing the homepage of Tulalip (also the name of a Native American tribe near Microsoft HQ), on the site socl.com, which is allegedly owned by Microsoft. The picture has since been pulled down and replaced with the statement, “Thanks for stopping by. Socl.com is an internal design project from a team in Microsoft Research which was mistakenly published to the web. We didn’t mean to, honest.”
Based on what we could see on the page, it seems like Tulalip will try to "socialize" the search process, and make it more interactive between communities. As the leaked page showed both FB and Twitter links, Tulalip will most likely leverage existing social networks rather than try to compete directly. Do we have room in our lives for yet another social networking function online? And will Microsoft, not known as an innovation powerhouse when compared to google and facebook, be able to successfully market to the social network users? And what's to stop google from easily incorporating a "social search" element into google+?

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Chris Brogan on 10 things CMOs should know about Google+

I've already logged my blog for this week :-), but this post from Chris Brogan about Google+ caught my eye. It's worth a read if you're trying to figure out whether it's worth your time to develop a presence. Google+ is tempting to downplay or ignore -- because who needs another social network? But Brogan talks about why it's likely to be an important player.

http://blogs.forbes.com/onmarketing/2011/07/18/10-things-cmos-need-to-know-about-google/

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Sunday, July 17, 2011

From E-Commerce to Social Commerce

E-commerce has been around for eons now and most of us can piece together a fairly good definition of it. I’ve been looking into several companies who offer fully integrated ‘ecommerce’ solutions and as I adventured through various glamorous websites I started realizing that e-commerce is ‘so 2010’ and everyone is now raving about Social Commerce. So what is it?

My trusted fountain of knowledge Wikipedia defines it as ‘a subset of electronic commerce that involves using social media, online media that supports social interaction and user contributions, to assist in the online buying and selling of products and services’. Apparently Yahoo introduced the term some time ago to describe a set of online collaborative shopping tools such as user ratings and other user-generated content-sharing of online product information and advice. Given Professor Kagan’s emphasis on the fact we trust our peers recommendations more than companies – social commerce is fast becoming the only way to shop for customers and to shift stock faster for companies.

In the first 3 months of this year alone, $1.93 billion in funding was provided to social commerce start ups. Within this space, group buy businesses(such as Groupon ) and shopping clubs (e.g. Ideeli, KupiVIP) dominate but there are rising stars within social plugins for the ecommerce space and a new class of social reward platforms (social media powered referral programs e.g. MyLikes).

One good example of a social commerce company is Stylitics.com. A friend of mine started the company a year ago and it recently won the Wharton Business Plan Competition. It is a fashion insights company that provides a better way for brands to understand and connect with consumers. Stylitics use social media, games, rewards, and virtual closet features to give hand-picked consumers an easy way to share their styles and opinions with their favorite apparel brands and provide companies with valuable market insights compared to traditionally expensive consumer research methods.

Real time accurate insights in the fashion industry or indeed any industry are hard to come by. There is a lot of ‘social crap’ out there and if these guys find a way to filter it in a meaningful way by attracting insightful, fashion conscious and influential customers – the potential is massive.

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