Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Bottlenose is the social media dashboard your mother warned you about!

As if you weren’t spending enough time glued to the your social media feeds already, along comes a new service that will have you…well…glued to your social media feeds. But this time, it won’t feel like a front row seat to what Bottlenose CEO Nova Spivak calls the Sharepocalypse–a phenomenon that causes, and is caused by, social overload. This time, were talking about searching for things and getting near real-time well organized updates from Facebook, Twitter and Google+ in an era Spivak hopes will be the next frontier in social networking: social assistance. The company wants to “organize the world’s attention” and why not, we need it. 

This latest attempt at getting the whole social search engine thing right is using a homemade algorithm that will use fancy semantic techniques to figure out what loads of people are paying attention to in real-time. The ‘Now’ page with its trending topics, people and images is not quite the latest illustration of James Surowiecki’s theory on the wisdom of crowds, but it may get close. In any event, this service wants you to ditch Google and use Bottlenose as your default search engine. Not likely, but worth the ask.  

Source: http://venturebeat.com/2012/07/23/bottlenose-social-search/


Social Media as Marketing Research

The New York Times reports that companies such as Frito-Lay and Walmart have turned to social media to garner ideas for new products. Frito-Lay has a Facebook app that encourages consumers to suggest new flavors and vote on them. Walmart uses text mining to monitor trends in order to introduce new products into stores at the regional level.

I'm very interested in text mining, and companies such as Radian6 (owned by SalesForce) and Crimson Hexagon are enabling brands to listen in on the online consumer's conversation. I think social media can be a very useful tool to gaining consumer insights. However, it's just one tool in the marketing researcher's toolbox, and I don't think it will ever replace traditional proven research methods such as surveys and focus groups. It helps to add to the big picture, but it's not the end-all-be-all.

For one thing, using social media to monitor consumer activity is only useful to a brand if their target consumer uses social media. According to the New York Times, Kohl's most responsive fans on Facebook are more heavily in the 18-24 age group than their overall customer base. This is great if Kohl's is trying to market products to the 18-24 year-old customer base. But what about the 40-something suburban moms? Even though "everyone" is on Facebook, that doesn't mean everyone is on social media, and it doesn't necessarily mean they're willing to interact with brands.

I have a feeling that marketers are using social media as a research tool primarily to reach younger potential buyers. In traditional research, it can be difficult to find teenagers and pre-teens who are willing to sit in on a focus group and whose parents are willing to give their consent. It can be even more difficult to engage these young people during the focus group. Social media allows brands to passively listen to a more candid conversation happening in this hard-to-reach group.

Every marketing research method has its strengths and weaknesses, and the same can be said of using social media for research. As long as brands understand this, I believe they can play to the strengths and gain valuable insights.

Read the entire article here.


The First Social Media Olympics and its Criticism

The London Olympics is known as the first cosical media Olympics. But organizers and broadcasters now may wish the events were a little less social, as heavy smartphone use caused technical glitches and Twitter became a worldwide platform for complaints about the game.

The organizers seem to fail the preparation for a surge in wireless traffic is inexplicable. It would seem that this would have been expected, given the inherently social aspect of the Games. Overall, Twitter reaction to the Games has been solidly positive. But that leaves plenty of room for hostile comment. In the United States, critics of NBC Universal flooded Twitter with complaints about the network’s decision to broadcast most major events in prime time, hours after they have actually taken place. And in the Olympic village, US athletes took to Twitter to protest a rule forbidding them from appearing in ads for anyone other than official sponsors of the Games.

It's amazing how much trouble can be stirred up in 140 characters.


Custom phone numbers help track conversions

Though we have been talking mostly about digital conversions and marketing via internet, email, social, and mobile, we can't forget about all those people who really like talking to someone live.

Enter Ifbyphone, a company with a service that "lets SMBs create custom phone numbers that can be linked with certain marketing campaigns, that can be solely associated with your Web site or used randomly in print media to track leads."  -ZDNet

Yes, there are still some people who will do their research online but want to call someone either for verification or comfort.  "Various research statistics cited by Ifbyphone suggests that 43 percent of all search-related "conversions" require a phone call to get them closed."  Because the company's dashboard tracks all the custom numbers, marketers can easily correlate certain digital campaigns and even help determine which search keywords work and which ones don't.

According to ZDNet, "It costs $50 per month to establish an account, and then each number costs $2 per month to rent."

Facts on conversion and leads

Even though the world is moving toward digital and mobile advertising, it is still important to incorporate traditional conversion methods such as voice and chat into the digital strategy.


Microsoft’s New Facebook-friendly Hotmail

Microsoft unveiled a new Facebook-friendly version of its free, online email service today in an attempt to reverse market share losses to Google’s fast-growing Gmail. In a bid to recapture growth, Microsoft is renaming the service Outlook, a name familiar to most corporate workers who use Microsoft's Office email application. Users can link up with their Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ accounts, to see the latest updates from friends and contacts. Online chat is available via Facebook.

LinkedIn has also planned to integrate its services with a LinkedIn plug-in on Microsoft. Users will have to login once with their Linkedin account details and will then be able to see profile information within Outlook. Information from Linkedin will also be displayed on People Cards, which Microsoft is marketing as a new feature in its upcoming version.

Despite such drastic steps to revamp their email website, Google’s cloud service may still be much more sophisticated than Microsoft’s. At first glimpse, it seems the only selling point for me is using SkyDrive which gives you more storage space than the Google Drive (7GB compared to 5GB).

Article: http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/breaking/chi-microsoft-launches-revamped-facebookfriendly-hotmail-20120731,0,272756.story and http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/2194574/linkedin-will-hook-up-with-microsoft-outlook-2013


Social Media Creates the Largest Focal Groups

Instead of using focal groups, research and trend analysis, Frito-Lay is turning to Facebook to develop a new potato chip flavour. An ‘I’d Eat That’ button is added to the new Lay’s Facebook app to collect preferences. Currently, the results show that a beer-battered onion-ring flavor is popular in California and Ohio, while a churros flavor is a hit in New York. Because of this geographical divide in preferences, it can tailor its products to specific areas of the country.

Another example is Wal-Mart acquiring the social media company Kosmix last year for an estimated $300 million, chiefly because of Kosmix’s ability to extract trends from social media conversations. The department now, called @WalmartLabs, has a wealth of data which allows for the company to decide what merchandise to carry and where.

These are examples of companies turning social media sites into an extension of market research departments since companies can receive real feedback as opposed to speculating. The use of social media has turned online communities into the largest focal groups than has ever before been created. However, the participants of these communities are often much younger – not attracting all demographics. Will this lead to products being created for only a specific demographic?


Widespread Social Media Use Spoiling Olympics Experience?

Part of the thrill of watching the Olympics is the uncertainty of who will prevail. The swimming events are particularly exhilarating to watch... so much tension is pent up during the seconds before the athletes dive and glory (as well as sorrow) ensues only minutes later. Imagine my discontent when one of my Facebook friend's outrage at the French appears in my newsfeed hours before the 4x100 meter relay is scheduled to air in New York. Social media has killed the lovely suspense of the games.

Nowadays, results from events spread throughout Facebook, Twitter, and fan blogs like wildbrushfires well before American viewers get to watch the outcomes for themselves on TV. How has this trend impacted ratings for NBC? I would think that the social media-enabled spoilers would deter people from tuning into events later when they air. The consequent lower viewing would have a negative result for advertisers during prime time. However, NBC reports that they actually experienced the biggest first weekend for any summer Olympics ever with an average of 35.8 million viewers. It's also the first time NBC is streaming all events live on the official  website. Hence marketers are getting even more bang for the buck during these games. What gives?

One possibility is that all the social media chatter ahead of local airtimes has generated even more buzz and boosted interest in watching the games on TV. Another is that social media consumers are simply restraining themselves from checking their Twitter feeds to minimize exposure to spoilers and preserve the excitement of the Olympics. Either way, those spending ad dollars on NBC this summer must be quite pleased.


The Business of Social Content Curation

The Business of Social Content Curation 

The social curating summit focuses on the visual nature of social networks and the variety of content depicted in these networks.  It is interesting to me that although pictures and any sort of visual representation are key motivators in social network engagement, search engines cannot track images; only text.  I am still a bit fuzzy on the technical workings behind search algorithms, but I know that they run on text identifiers and that .pdf or .jpg or the like cannot be tracked, linked or shared through any other means other than through text associated with them.  There exists a fundamental conflict here it seems.  At least in terms of the people who want as much control over their posts.  These people will have to learn how to create their own websites and dictate the text associated with their video and pictures.  Assuming they want more control over their material.


www.stylitics.com/ - how my friend's site may help us

At the risk of sounding promotional, I wanted to mention my friend's company because it reminds me a lot of our project companies.  www.stylitics.com.  Quite frankly, I think Stylistics may be a bit further along than some of our project companies.  After graduating Wharton with an MBA in 2011, my buddy Rohan co-founded Stylitics with an eye for marketing and digital media.  As they say on the site, "Stylitics is a fashion insights company that provides a better way for brands to understand and connect with consumers. We use social media, games, rewards, and virtual closet features to give engaged, stylish, hand-picked consumers a fun and easy way to share their styles and opinions with their favorite apparel brands."

I bring this up because it is a real-life example of much of what we're going over in class, at least in terms of clarity of email sign-up solicitations, etc.  Looking at his site may give you all some ideas for recommendations for your own target companies.

Eric S.


At the end, it is about simplicity

I don't know how many of you every heard of the name 'Google Wave'
It was a super cool product long awaited by many tech geek, including me, few year back.

"Google Wave is an online communication and collaboration tool that makes real-time interactions more seamless -- in one place, you can communicate and collaborate using richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more.
A wave is a conversation with multiple participants -- participants are people added to a wave to discuss and collaborate on its content. Participants can reply any time and anywhere within a wave, and they can edit content and add more participants as a wave develops. It's also possible to rewind waves with the playback functionality, to see what happened, and when." - Google

From the above descriptions, it should be the product of a decade after the invention of email. I've seen product demos on Youtube and I thought to myself 'wow' that's amazing. Google hoped that the Google Wave were the next big thing.

Time passes by, the service were closed earlier this year.

"We announced in August 2010, we are not continuing active development of Google Wave as a stand-alone product. Google Wave will be shut down in April 2012. This page details the implication of the turn down process for Google Wave."

The reason was simple. The product was extremely complicated even for a early adopter like me. Therefore after few trial and error, users quit using it.

Morale of the story was that, if you really want to success, you need to simplify your products or services for your target audience to understand.


Apple vs Samsung case is so annoying

In the past years, I've been seeing so many articles, news, blogs, etc regarding so many litigation between Apple and Samsung.

Apple accuse that Samsung copied their iPhone ideas. Which is partly true.

However, in technology world, these kind of copying is a part of doing normal business and I think it is completely appropriate, normal, and unavoidable. Apple also copied the use of mouse and graphical interface from Xerox. Touchscreen phones were existing before the time of iPhone, did you copy it too Apple? As long as these competitors do not copy the code, it should be OK.

If everyone could not copy any function from competitors, we, the consumer will bear the ultimate cost because the phone you would have will be a crippled one as patents of most cool functions were held by different companies.

This is totally different from the case of drugs patents where each molecular structure is distinct, therefore that formula is protected. However, different drugs with same effect could still be market (i.e. painkillers with similar effects, sexual dysfunction drugs) without consider that a patent infringement.

Instead of doing these unproductive litigation which the ultimate winner is those lawyers. Why wont you two trying to compete for market share.

Read: just google 'Apple vs Samsung'


Monday, July 30, 2012

Doing Nothing is Worse than Doing Nothing

A lack of a Twitter plan seems to be biting NBC at the Olympics.

The NY Times recently discussed fan’s anger over tape delays and live streaming issues, coming together in a torrent of complaints tagged by #nbcfail.

Not only does NBC not seem to have a fire-fighting response plan to extinguish the blaze of annoyed viewers, its own employees seem to be going rouge: NBC’s chief digital officer re-tweeted an originally Piers Morgan tweet, stating, “the medal for most Olympic whining goes to everyone complaining about what happens every 4 yrs., tape delay.” Posting your own annoyed tweet is not-so-great a plan towards winning over annoyed customers.

Because of the broad-based appeal of the Olympics, taming annoyed viewers could have been a great chance for NBC to respond to a wide demographic of their viewers. If tape delay is always a complaint, NBC should have come up with a plan ahead of the Olympics to 1) address anticipated social media complaints (via pre-set procedures to apologize to customers) and 2) come up with a plan to actually avoid the ire - perhaps consider creating a “prime” online membership where people pay in order to see events ahead of primetime viewing. Or decide that winning customer goodwill by immediately streaming rather than forcing people to wait until ad-laden prime-time TV is simple worth the cost of any lost prime-time ad eyeballs. 

For streaming issues, an IT problem of the moment, proactively tweet about the issue and your plan to fix the problem. Or pull the classic "apologize and redirect" technique by responding to tweets (or other social media venue complatins) with a "I'm sorry to hear you've experienced delays... we are working on fixing the issue by [...] and should have streaming resumed by [...] time"

Either way, NBC seems to be doing the worst option: nothing. 


Foursquare Rolls Out Sponsored Ads

The location-based app Foursquare recently rolled out sponsored ads for a pilot group of brands. These sponsored ads would be activated for a user when they're in the vicinity of the retailer and using the "Explore" function within the app. These "promoted updates" will encourage users to check in at the store and offer special promotions. In the past some retailers on Foursquare have offered promotions, but these must be searched out by the user. The new promotions show up presumably when a user is searching in an area using the "Explore" feature.

Among the 20 or so retailers participating in the pilot program are Macy's, Gap, JC Penney, Hertz, and Best Buy. The current pricing model is cost-per-action, but the pilot program will ultimately determine the best metric to use.

I think these ads are a relatively unobtrusive way to advertise on Foursquare. I can also see how many users would love to be notified of sales and specials nearby, much like Groupon Now. But I wonder if the reach will be worth the cost to advertisers. Foursquare has 20 million users, but they don't report how many of these users are actually using the Explore feature. I also don't know how many users are actually active users, who check in to Foursquare on a regular basis. I use Foursquare, but I don't check in everywhere I go. Sometimes I can go weeks without using it. However, their recent redesign and the Explore feature are a great improvement and definitely make me want to use the app more often.

Macy's is hoping to reach female milennials (age 18-30). I'm in that target group. Will a Foursquare offer make me shop at Macy's? Probably not. It will remain to be seen how effective advertising on Foursquare will be. I just don't want to see a Foursquare where every retailer that comes up in the Explore feature is a sponsored retailer.

Read the entire article in AdAge.


Facebook’s Updates Photo Viewing

Facebook has once again redesigned the look of its Photos service. Facebook is rolling out the new features out slowly to its 955 million monthly active users. Facebook has been regularly tweaking the look of Photos on its site since the service first launched and this appears a big improvement.

With the new design, when you click on the Photos tile at the top of your own timeline, you’ll be directed to a new kind of page. Instead of white space separating thumbnails, you’ll see a mosaic of pictures that fills up the entire page. From there, you can use the menu to find images you’re tagged in, pictures you’ve posted, and albums you’ve created.

It seems obvious to me why Facebook is focusing on the photo viewing experience – Pinterest’s popularity has demonstrated a user preference for a more visual experience.


The Commercial Power of Pinterest: Benefits Goes to eBay?

Not sure about how many people will chose the question of Pinterest for our final exam, but definitely Pinterest is a hot topic when discussion comes to social media. People question about the business model for Pinterest. Supprisely, research find other parties already get use Pinterest to booze revenue. eBay is gearing up for the back-to-school shopping season with several marketing and affiliate initiatives, including Pinterest contests, a Facebook backpack drive, and a promotion for its affiliates. The marketing is designed to increase user engagement with eBay on social media websites, encourage sellers to list back-to-school items, and to reward affiliates for driving traffic to back-to-school listings.

I tried the eBay's affiliate program, called the eBay Partner Network. It is majorly back-to bonus promotion for fashion goods and electrionics. Data shows that during the month of Augest, eBay Partner Network have the opportunity to earn extra cash for driving incremental revenue in those two categories.

ebay starts to harvest the commercial power of Pinterests. Who's next?


Twitter and the Olympics

I find the IOC’s restrictions on social media with respect to Olympic athletes a tricky one to argue.  On the one hand, I understand the desire to limit posting conditions, as there can be huge PR repercussions with respect to both the athletes themselves as well as their sponsors.  There are many reasons why a sponsor or a country representing an athlete would want to remain conservative in the social media realm, including the avoidance of embarrassment and violation of sponsor-athlete contracts.  In addition, given all the buzz regarding sexual activity around the “village”, it is understandable that certain parties may want to enforce some communication boundaries.  That said, on the other hand, we have the inevitable fact that people will post whatever they want about anything, and this may include Olympic athlete commentary.  Perhaps it is better to let the athletes speak as they wish and fuel the social media marketing fire.  Although, I would say that I agree with the IOC that each athlete should be speaking about himself in diary form.  On this last point I am torn between two reactions:  (1) Fundamentally, I have reservations about restrictions on freedom of speech; and (2) A sponsor should be able to enact whatever restrictions it wants if it agrees to fund an athlete.  To my second reaction, I will add that perhaps it should be the sponsor who writes these social media limitations with respect to their sponsored athletes, and not the IOC.


Stop the Social Media Restriction for Olympic Athletes!

One of my first blog posts was about the social media restrictions that athletes would have to endure for the Olympics. At the time I questioned whether or not they would be able to control or limit an athlete’s social media usage. I also felt that in trying to prevent Olympic sponsors from losing their competitive advantage, the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games could face backlash from the public and Olympic players outraged over the restrictions being imposed. I was right. On Sunday, dozens of athletes posted on Twitter to bash rule 40 of the Olympic Charter that states, “… no competitor, coach, trainer or official who participates in the Olympic Games may allow his person, name, picture or sports performances to be used for advertising purposes during the Olympic Games.” Only Olympic sponsors that spend millions to be official sponsors can have their brand tied to the games. In response, athletes, like U.S. Track and Field competitor Dawn Harper, have taken to twitter and posted photos such as the one below.

 What surprises me now is the reason why the athletes are protesting. The athletes claim that Rule 40 affects their ability to earn a living. Athletes rely on sponsorships to pay the bills but at a time when they are most visible to the world, they can’t promote the brands that support them. I’m surprised it isn’t also because of the infringement this poses on freedom of speech. Athletes should have a right to post or tweet whatever they want if it is outside the realm of the competition. As the Olympics continue, it’ll be interesting to see if more athletes join the protest and how organizers respond.




News aggregator Digg will unveil a new photo-heavy site this week with more photos, Facebook and Twitter integration. Originally launched in 2004, Digg was the first of the big community news sharing social networks, which allowed users to vote on community submitted URLs, with the best stuff rising to the top for increased presence. Today, people are ‘digging’ through several internet community websites and using social media to influence what stories people read.

The new site will be a result of a user survey to determine what users want. Digg is also adding moderators to help highlight noteworthy stories, a mobile focus with a new iPhone app, and a new mobile site for other smartphones and tablets.

One of the main features Digg needs to ensure is that their main attraction, the simplicity of their website, is not compromised through social clutter. Furthermore, One thing that will be absent at the time of launch is a working comment system because Digg said that conversation is already happening on other social   networks. I can agree with Digg’s logic - especially since comments on Digg are rare these days. Overall, the “Rethink Digg” preview makes a compelling case for long-time, inactive Digg users to check out the new site when it launches.


The cloud - too good to be true?

Is my data safe?
Will my applications be available when I need them?
Can my system be compromised?
Can I control access?

Why bother about all these questions? Below are some headlines.....
  •  Microsoft’s Windows Azure cloud suffered a 2.5 hour outage in Europe last Thursday..
  • An outage of Amazon’s ec2  in North Virginia has taken down Netflix, Pinterest, Instagram, and other services. Amazon indicates that there are power issues in its North Virginia data center, most likely caused by severe storms in the region. That came just two weeks after another significant outage in the same U.S. East data center....
  • Twitter’s down … and it has cost the economy $1 billion already? (Twitter returned to fully-operational status at about 9:30am Pacific time, after about 45 minutes offline.)
 Bottom line is , is the cloud ready to welcome us?

While the cloud offers amazing advantages such as cost efficiencies ( bring down capital expenses by eliminating the need to purchase hardware), better speed to market ( businesses can provision and implement a cloud solution in a fraction of the time), resource efficiencies ( reduce need for software and hardware management), stories about cloud outages continue to make the headlines….

So what can we do to eliminate the risk? Well we can’t….the cloud is not “one-size-fits-all.” Risk cannot be 100% eliminated. However, it can be minimized to a level that is acceptable for a given business.

Below are some recommendations:
1)     Choose your vendor well ! cloud is cool and there are a multitude of start-up firms offering their services. Think of how destructive it could be to your business operations to have your cloud vendor disappear! Think long term and  choose a firm of proven history, financial strength, and success.
2)     Ask for Guaranteed capacity. One of the greatest benefits of cloud computing is its elasticity – that capacity can be expanded and contracted on-demand. However cloud providers often overbook and can’t accommodate extra capacity! Ask for  a service level agreement (SLA) that will articulate how much added capacity is guaranteed to be available for periods of peak usage.
3)     Guaranteed availability. A company’s business will grind to a halt if connections to the cloud are severed. Therefore, it is vital that a vendor provide an SLA guaranteeing availability, reliability, and redundancy.  At least you get your money back in case of a major problem!
4)     Guaranteed storage. Managed storage is a must, with integrated backup and restore capabilities. Or get your data backed up with a different cloud provider!
Are we romanced by the opportunities of the cloud? is the cloud too good to be true? Maybe or maybe not but the point is, when it comes to put our business on the cloud, we need to choose our cloud solution with intelligence.
For more information on cloud safety read  : https://rapidrequest.emediausa.com/4/?14216014.EULHCXIT.124824


Google mobile app analystics

Google is bringing its Analytics to mobile apps to help developers to gain greater visibility of their apps’ performance. Mobile App Analytics, the name of the tool, is being released in beta on Friday. The reports are designed to give developers (and the brands they work for) data about who is using the apps, how they’re using it and if that use is leading to purchases. Google admits that the tool is not revolutionary since most of  data are provided by several tools. However, as JiaJing Wang (product manager for the Google Analytics Team) says “Yes, you can get information in different places, but you can’t engage from it and make a determination from it.”
At the moment there is no charge for using the tool. Indeed, according to Wang “We really want to make Mobile App Analytics available and make it helpful for marketers to have the end-to-end information. We wanted to make sure we didn’t only focus on the platform we own to help them make the best decisions.”
Below, a picture illustrating the kind of information available from Mobile App Analytics.