Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Corporate America and its Social Media Embrace

Ran across this interesting article written by David Sarno and Alana Semuels of the LATimes in which they cover corporate America's surprising and rather clumsy embrace of social media. Using the CNN, Dominos and Amazon case as a studies, the article claims that, when the three major brands engaged with their Web-savvy fans and critics in separate incidents in recent weeks, their responses demonstrated how corporations are still learning how to control their messages --- and reputations -- in a fast-twitch online world. Take the time and read the article for yourself, do you agree with their assumptions of the relationship between social media and corporate America?

Corporate America's messy embrace of new media comes with pain

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Business of Online Communities

I came across this great presentation from Bryan Person today on on the business of online community building and management. Take a couple of minutes to see it below.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Golf, anyone?

According to the Great Lakes IT Report, A new social networking site has been developed just for golfers. Golfers Unite will feature message boards, personal profiles, photo galleries and other ways of collaborating with other members of the golf communities.

Jeff Stanislow, the creator of this community, said:
"Golfers recognize the value of social media and building out an online community aligns my experience and passion," said Jeff Stanislow, principal of Golfers Unite and president of Motor City Interactive. "Our community will include content which appeals to enthusiasts of all types from beginners to season pros, and much more.”

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Friday, April 24, 2009

The Speakers of Community 2.0: Beth Murphy

This week we’re speaking with Beth Murphy the Head of Marketing & Communications at Digg. Beth will be participating in the panel discussion “Don’t Just Survive, Thrive. Tips & Techniques for Sustaining Your Community” on Tuesday, May 12.

Listen to the podcast here:

And as a reader of the Community 2.0 blog, we’d like to invite you to join us at Community 2.0 from May 11-13, 2009, in San Francisco. We’re offering you an exclusive 25% discount when you register for the conference using the code XM2105Link. We hope to see you there!

Community 2.0:

Join us at Community 2.0:

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Face Person or a Community Manager

By Dawn Lacallade, Community Manager at SolarWinds

Someone recently asked me what qualities you should look for in someone to run your Corporate Community. While this is a great question, first you have to decide if you are looking for a “face person” or a “community manager”. Let me explain…

First, what is a "face person"? (yes, I totally made that term up) A face person is generally a highly visible representative of the company that closely resembles the target demographic of the community. Examples of these people would include: Whurley, aka William Hurley, of BMC; Lionel Menchaca at Dell; Robert Scoble formerly of Microsoft and SolarWinds own Josh Stephens (the head geek). These people connect with the audience because they are someone the audience knows. They are experts in their area and can “talk shop” with the best. These people could be experts in Community or Digital Media strategy, or not.

What to look for in a face person:
1. They have to expertise in the subjects within the community (faking this DOES NOT work)
2. They have to be real and be able to connect with the community (this includes sharing personal information and showing their personality)
3. They need to be accessible and comfortable with the online space. (ready to travel in this role- ie. conferences)
4. They need to have insights or opinions to share (or there is nothing to write about).

Do you know Sean O’Driscoll or Rachel Makool or Vida Killian? Chances are you don’t, even though they run some of the biggest communities (Microsoft, eBay & Ideastorm). While you don’t know them, be certain that the members of their communities do. A community manager is much more a practitioner that is focuses on the understanding of business goals and the steps to accomplish. Often this person will take a back seat role on the community focused more on gathering community feedback and interacting with members on community topics and less focused on having their voice heard. This person does not have to be an expert in your industry to successfully drive your community.

What to look for in a community manager:
1. They have to expertise in digital media and community management experience
2. Ability to craft a custom strategy for your community
3. Analytics skills to craft and demonstrate the ROI
4. Negotiation and collaboration skills to sell the ideas and secure support

So this begs the question: Can you find one person to be both? Absolutely you can, you just don’t have to.

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First Time Blog Readers

First impressions are important in person and the same concept rolls over to blogs as well. Here are some tips I came across post in ProBlogger that highlights what you can do to do some analysis of first time impressions of your blog. First you'll need a co-worker, friend, or family member who hasn't seen your blog yet. Second you'll have to you'll need to have a computer in front of your test subject and ideally you would have to be in the same room. While your friend is surfing the blog for 4-5 minutes you can monitor how they use your blog.
  • How do they navigate?
  • Where do they click?
  • What do they pause to read?
  • What do they skip over?
  • What areas of the blog do they seem most drawn to
Once they've finished surfing you can ask them about their overall impressions and experiences
  • What were their first impressions?
  • What did they first think your blog was about when they arrived at it?
  • Did they find it easy to read/navigate/understand?
  • What did they ‘feel’ when they first arrived at your blog?
  • What suggestions do they have on how you could improve your blog?
  • What questions do they have having surfed your blog?
  • What words would they use to describe the design?
  • What are the main things that they remember about your blog 10 minutes later?
  • What suggestions do they have from a user perspective?
Definitely some worthwhile tricks to analyze how someone navigates in your blog for the first time.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Twitter around the world

Yesterday, we reported the surge in Twitter users due to Oprah's recent show covering the social media tool. We've seen the popularity in the Untied States of Twitter, but how is it faring around the world? Thanks to a few fellow Twitterers, they pointed me in the direction of comScore's February Twitter stats which also provided the number of Twitter users around the world. They chart is below. It was also intereting that the 18-24 year olds aren't the core users of this applcation, but instead, it's more likely that 45-54 year olds are more likely to be Tweeting.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Oh, Oprah.

In case you've been under a proverbial rock this past week, Oprah has joined Twitter. We decided to do a small observation yesterday in our office to look at the effect that Oprah has had on the Twitterati after just a few short days of joining the club. Using Monitter, we noticed that not only were people tweeting about signing up for Oprah but many were tweeting "Here before Oprah" to extract themselves from the loads of newbies following their afternoon talk show leader. More than anything, we noticed that tweeters were placing "Oprah" in ads for products, blog posts, conferences, etc. Oprah was a magic way to get followers, though I think that most of the new Oprah followers aren't quite sure how to aggregate tweets.

Marketers have long known that Oprah is magic for products, books, celebrities and even procedures. Oprah's seal of approval means more than Good Housekeeping, so how will this parlay into the social networking sphere? Will Oprah have a Facebook account, start her own Ning network, join Blogher and maybe even interview a troll or two on her show? Will her effect be magic or is Oprah everywhere but online?

Don't forget to follow us on Twitter.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

What's Your Online Ad Preference?

Thinking of including ads on your social network, blog, or other social media platform? According to this chart provided by eMarketer, users are more likely to read and take action after viewing online articles that include brand information, email offers, and sponsored search engine links over banner ads and pop-up ads. Check out the chart below. Interesting information.

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Using Twitter as an engagement tool

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...Image via CrunchBase

This has been yet another week where Twitter has featured high in many discussions - in part thanks to the triple impact of Susan Boyle's performance on Britain's got Talent, the Pirate Bay decision and of course Ashton Kutcher's one millionth follower. At FreshNetworks we think that Twitter is a great example of how people are innovating with social media - each of these different topics is being made popular by different people using Twitter for different reasons - sharing good content, keeping up-to-date or just following celebrities.

One of the main benefits that organisations can get from Twitter is to use it as an engagement tool - as part of a hub-and-spoke approach to social media and online communities. Use it to engage people and then provide them with a destination to go to or a thing to do. Today, I was presenting on this topic and how to get value from Twitter as an engagement tool and you can find the slides below.

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Meet Community 2.0 Speaker: Matt Warburton

We've started our podcast series for Community 2.0. This will be a chance for you to hear from some of the speakers that will be joining us this year in San Fransisco.

In our first podcast, we speak with Matt Warburton the Interim Director, Enterprise Community Marketing at LinkedIn. Matt will be presenting “Voice of the Customer Programs-Using Insight Communities to Drive Your Business” on Wednesday, May 13.

Listen here.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

TONIGHT: Community 2.0 NYC Meet-up!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

5:00 PM - 7:00 PM

Legends New York
6 W 33rd Street (at 5th Avenue)
New York, NY 10079

This is free! It is an opportunity to meet and network with other social media peers in the New York area. Bring your friends and colleagues. There will be happy hour specials from 5-7. See you there!

RSVP Here:

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Twitter and its Multiple Usages

It seems as if the media has really taken Twitter under the spotlight the past couple of months. This article in the NY Times highlights how companies like Starbucks, Whole Foods, and Dell have used Twitter as a researching tool in order to find out what customers are thinking as they use one of their products. recently found out how important Twitter is when many consumers responded negatively on Twitter when certain books were reclassified as "adult" and so were removed from search rankings. The company felt it was necessary to respond to these tweets even over the Easter holiday.

Twitter's usage does not stop at the consumer level though. Last week in Moldova, several protesters used Twitter as a means to rally up troops and to help them understand what was happening in their small country. Twitter has definitely created an enormous impact across the globe, but what are some other examples of its usage that you have come across?

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Mining Twitter

Today at the New York Times, they've asked their readers whether it is ok for companies to mine posts of consumers for their opinions.

A few of the opinions:

Consumer privacy is extremely important. Twitter, recognizing this, gives individuals the ability to protect their messages, so they are only available to people they specify.

Consumers have fine-grained control to opt-in and opt-out of receiving messages from anyone else. The uses of information on the so-called public timeline are growing every day, so consumers should exercise the same due care with Twitter as they do with their work email.

That being said, companies should take time to consider how the use of Twitter is being used by consumers as a public replacement for the suggestion box. That should be their first priority when it comes to managing data on consumer attitudes.

Brian, Denver, CO

At first it seemed that twitter was a cheap imitation of Facebook, but it really is more complex than that. Journalists can utilize this tool to keep people informed at all times of the day. And if mashines can start auto sending "tweets" it could made getting information across even easier. I'm excited to see how far this can actually go.

— laura, Madison, WI

Though twitter only represents a niche audience, it does provide a real-time example of what consumers are thinking. Specifically, it can help detect when a problem needs to be confronted ASAP.

— ALH, Chicago, IL

What do you think? Head over to the New York Times to give them your opinion.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Finding Your Social Media Purple Cow

In Darren Barefoot's post on Mashable, Finding Your Social Media Purple Cow, he discusses what social media experts must do in order to continue to sell product through the viral avenue. Barefoot's 10 step plan is simple: gimmick.

Find a gimmick. Devise an original way of talking about (or around) your plain old brown cow. Marketers like to describe this strategy as ‘creating a meme’, but that’s always struck me as needlessly high-minded. Let’s call it what it is: a gimmick. My dictionary describes a gimmick as “an ingenious or novel device, scheme, or stratagem, especially one designed to attract attention or increase appeal”.

Read the 10 step plan on his original post here, any new gimmicks to add?

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Friday, April 10, 2009

Where should the Communtiy team live?

by Dawn Lacallade

I have had the rare opportunity to manage communities that lived in the Support organizations (Dell- Forums), the Marketing organization (Dell-Ideastorm) and Product Strategy (SolarWinds-thwack) and were both Centralized and Distributed. If you are considering starting a community, the reporting location is a critical part of the strategy to determine early. The reporting structure often dictates the quality of the participation so align it with your primary goals.

Part I: Central vs. Distributed Team:

In my experience there are two general models of Community Team. The first model is a Distributed team and includes a small central team that is basically the air traffic control that gets the right questions/ideas to the best department in the company for answers. The bulk of the actual expertise resides in these secondary participants from across the company.

- a broader set of expertise because you have part of a lot of people's time
- the ability to have less head count actually on a Community Team
- Initiating and maintaining the participation from these groups when they are not in the same reporting structure.
- Ideastorm at Dell is a good example of this set up.

The second model is to have a Central Community team that is broader in expertise but dedicated to the Community exclusively.
- dedicated staff even in busy times
- ongoing relationships these dedicated staff members have with the community
- need to prove the value of the larger team requiring strong ROI measures
The Starbucks Ideas site is a good example of the central team.

Part II: Marketing, Support or Product Development?

Early in Dell's community efforts, the focus was on the support value of the Forums, we found reporting into a support organization of great value. It helped to ensure we were included in the new product training and knowledge base information, ensured that we fed into all of the product failure analysis processes, and aligned us with the escalation sources when our broad based team members were out of their expertise areas. On the other hand, living in a cost center (rather than a revenue center) limited the interest from the rest of the company. It was often a challenge to have people see past the support origins.

Dell had concurrent efforts (that were eventually merged) from within the marketing team to launch the blog and Ideastorm. This alignment had the value of being in the space where forward thinking ideas and leading edge concepts are more valued. The focus was more on the front end of the customer life span including PR, product marketing and growing customer evangelists. The challenges were the opposite, we fell farther out of alignment with the Support teams that were a lot of the needed input to the Community.

At SolarWinds, the community lives under the product strategy organization. That alignment has built a community that is closely tied to product development and has very high participation from the Product Development and Design teams. Because of that focus we have utilized the community for new product betas, strategic brainstorming, feature recommendations and early life product bug identification.

As you can see, selecting the goals for the community are a huge part of where the community should live within the company.

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Examples of online communities in healthcare

It is a couple of weeks since our last set of online community examples, with trips to the Marketing 2.0 Conference in Paris and Web Mission 09 in San Francisco taking up much of our time and space on the blog. But we're returning today with a great set of examples from the healthcare industry.

Online communities in healthcare

On one level, healthcare would seem to be an ideal area where online communities can add real value to professionals, patients, families and carers, friends and others. We've written before about how user-generated medical content can add value to people's lives, and why this online space is a great place for people to be sharing their experiences and stories and also finding and connecting with others in a similar situation to them. Online communities for healthcare can provide real insight and real support as the examples below show.

Mayo Clinic Blogs and Podcasts

There are a number of examples of healthcare providers making good use of social media and online communities, and Mayo Clinic are one of the most notable of these. They describe themselves as the largest not-for-profit practice in the world and treat about half a million people in the US each year. Their use of social media is a great case study of how you can use a number of simple tools to engage your stakeholders and how providing a range of ways to engage you can reach different people. At FreshNetworks we believe that sometimes the best online communities can be quite simple, but effective, and this is the case with Mayo.

There are three main parts of the Mayo Clinic strategy and together they are starting to build an online community of people with a shared interest in the organisation, and in the topics they cover. On their own website they host a blog and a series of video and audio podcasts. Together, these serve both as a way of them communicating internal developments and changes but also their opinion and expertise. Alongside this they run a YouTube channel where you can see expert videos and also videos that give you a real insight into the organisation, their clinics and the people who work for them.

The best online communities are often simple, providing a way to engage people around themes, topics and content that is relevant to them and you. For somebody like Mayo Clinic, this engagement is around their knowledge and expertise as healthcare providers. They also, through their blogs, videos and podcasts open their organisation to outsiders - showing you inside their buildings, putting forward their own experts and putting a human face and interaction on a large organisation. For healthcare organisation this kind of interaction makes all the difference - they're about social interactions and real stories, online communities help them to show this.


AIDSPortal is a knowledge-sharing online community sponsored primarily by the UK's Department for International Development and aimed at people who are working as part of the response to the global AIDS epidemic. The site provides professional and peer-to-peer networking and an online community where they can share experiences, knowledge and support each other with answers to questions and problems. Part of its purpose is, undoubtedly, to open up policy making and the UK governement sponsorship is a sign of this, but as a service to those working in this area it is a powerful tool.

Whilst the Mayo Clinic case study was about engaging around their expertise and knowledge, AIDSPortal is about 4,500 professionals with knowledge, experience and expertise connecting with each other. They can share knowledge and articles, experiences, blog posts and answers to questions. But one of the strongest elements of this site is how it is organised.

Any online community is only as useful as the way that users can find and AIDSPortal is particularly strong in the way it organises this, allowing you to view data by region and country or by topic area. You let people dive into the content in a way that makes sense for them and organise their own content so that it fits with this. This is a large part of the battle of getting an online community launched and is an important aspect to work out during the pre-launch strategy stage.

Novartis's CFVoice

CFVoice is an online community for people with Cystic Fibrosis, built and managed by Novartis, a pharmaceutical company. Launched in March 2008, the site has a clear focus on children, teens and young adults and on their families and carers. The site is indeed split into separate areas for each of these user-types, with a different mix of content, activities and games that each of them can do.

This online community is a great example of engaging different people in different ways - using interactive games as a way of younger audiences sharing their information, videos and personal stories for teens and the younger adults and discussion boards and forums for parents and carers. A different way for different members to use and gain benefit from the online community.

And for these members, the benefits are clear. They get to meet and share experiences and stories with people like them, people facing the same challenges and issues and people with similar concerns. And they can do this even if they don't know anybody in that situation or aren't able to reach them locally. For Novartis the benefits are also clear. Through the stories, questions, discussions and contributions they are able to get a real granularity of insight into the lives of people with Cystic Fibrosis, and the lives of their carers. This kind of insight has traditionally been difficult for them to obtain and is an area they would probably not have had the same level of understanding about. So benefits on both sides and a clear example of how to use an online community to engage different member-types.

From the FreshNetworks Blog

See all our Online Community Examples

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Community 2.0 East Coast Meetup

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Now following Gordon Brown

Brand Republic has a new article about TwitterMinister, a service that lists all of the public officials in Great Britain related to Downing Street.

TweetMinister aggregates the Twitter streams of members of Parliament, prospective candidates, the major political parties, government departments and Downing Street. It also claims to have a "secret sauce" to capture relevant conversations going on in Twitter pertaining to UK politics.

This is a service that is bringing the politics home for the British citizens. What do you think? Would you like to see a service like this come to America?

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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Facebook puts fizz in Coke

Have you become a Facebook Fan of Coca-Cola? If not, you're missing out on one of the largest groups in Facebook, only a few members behind President Obama. Interestingly enough, Coke's rise to Facebook Fan stardom didn't come from the Marketing Execs at Coke--but from page Dusty Sorg, a Los Angeles-based actor, who maintains it with his friend Michael Jedrzejewski, a writer. According to the, What spurred the enormous growth remains something of a mystery. There were already more than 200 Coke-related fan pages on Facebook. Michael Donnelly, Coca-Cola’s group director of worldwide interactive marketing, who had been monitoring the page since October, believes it may have been as simple as a good visual cue. “They chose a great image,” he says. “It was a high-resolution picture of a can of cold Coke, and it was just perfect.”

Read the full article on here.

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Monday, April 6, 2009

How to analyze a podcast for advertising?

Measuring the micro media of today is a big challenge. For marketers there is this ever pertinent challenge of how to measure mediums like blogs, wikis and podcasts.

With Social Media Channels like blogs and podcasts, the traditional metrics of reach and frequency won’t work, and more often than not, you will have to justify by qualitative metrics at best. So here I attempt to highlight the right metrics for marketers. And hope that user generated content is monetized in a way that it is worthy of.

I have always thought that podcasts and blogs need to be monetized- in a way that is appropriate. I think one major hurdle to achieve that objective is marketers ignorance. Another one is the content creators incapacity to market themselves well. But that is another story. The main issue is the lack of standards and ignorance. Chicken and egg situation actually. Usually problems like this wait for ’scale’ to be solved. Marketers scramble for answers only when the right scale is achieved.

I just put together a podcast series on and attempt to put together a set of metrics and parameters to analyze podcasts. What better way to put up an analysis through the medium itself. Hence a podcast to analyze podcasts.

There actually is going to be a series of webisodes on this one topic- three to be exact. Following which, we will have other topics- hopefully some suggested by you.

To take a perspective- I am going to analyze three of my favorite podcasts from Singapore.

I analyze them on the basis of their

  • Web "weightage" (Page Rank),
  • Blog buzz (inbound links from other blogs),
  • Buzz within the podcast channel (Comment to webisode post ratio),
  • Frequency of posts, and average time per podcast.
  • And of course I will be covering some qualitative criterion as well

Not perfect. But in the absence of any other criterion- should give you a reasonably good insight rather than go by gut feel. Or worse- scrap spending on this media at all- because there are no parameters or justifications.

In the first podcast of this series- I cover a technology podcast/videocast by a bunch of young lads. Some details and how they fare on each of the above highlighted parameters.

Do let me know what are the other things that interest you- in case you are marketer or a content creator. Meanwhile, I get down to creating some more content and putting in more distribution channels for the podcast. Can only get better with time. Till then- Enjoy!

Shalabh Pandey


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Friday, April 3, 2009

Using experts to get real engagement in online communities

Online communities are about engagement, between consumers and between them and the brand. They bring huge benefits for and brand or organisation, from rich insights through innovation and ideas to word of mouth and advocacy. The question we are often asked is why the consumers would take part. Why would they take part in your online community.

My presentation at the Marketing 2.0 conference in Paris earlier this week addressed this very issue and discussed different ways in which you can incentivise people to take part and which of these we have found to be most successful at FreshNetworks.

1. Pay people to take part

We've discussed incentives in online communities before and the simple truth is that if you are building an online community that is about long-term engagement and real dialogue then they don't necessarily have the impact you want. Online communities are about social interactions and social dynamics. Once you pay people or incentivise them to take part (by giving them, for example, vouchers or entry into a prize draw for completing a minimum number of actions each month) you shift the member's mindset from this social one into a market one. They make a judgement on what you are giving them and how much effort they are willing to expend for this. And the end result is typically that you don't get the kind of involvement that you want. Some people may do slightly more, but these will be fairly transactional contributions. And you may even dissuade some people from doing as much as they would otherwise.

2. Feedback from the brand

There is a definite benefit in online communities to real feedback from the brand. You are not leading the online community but taking part in it alongside all of the other members. With this in mind you should take part and respond to people in your online community. Feedback is essential and an online community won't work, won't grow and won't meet your objectives if you don't take part. It should be seen as a normal part of community management, and the way that you reward people for their comments and contributions. They want to know you're listening and responding so do this.

3. Using your brand's expertise

Over and above the importance of listening and responding, there is a real power of using the expertise that is inside every organisation to give something back to your community members. All organisations are experts in something - you may be an insurance company that has a lot of information to help home-owners, or you may be a travel firm that has expertise in travel and making the most of your holiday. Whatever your brand and whatever your product you will have expertise that your customers can use. And there is real power in this. By putting yourself forward as experts you are giving people an insight into your brand and an opportunity to engage directly with you. By answering questions from community members, you are incentivising them within a social dynamic rather than giving them money and making their behaviours more transactional. And video brings all of this to life a lot more.

At the conference, I presented a video we have made to showcase how you can use expertise in a community, and you can see this here:

Social media in action - Using expertise in online communities

So our advice is simple. Don't incentivise people with money or anything equivalent to this. Rather involve yourself in the community - give them feedback and leverage your internal expertise. It's the best way to launch, grow and build a real online community.

From the FreshNetworks Blog
Read all of our posts based on the Marketing 2.0 Conference here

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Google now features Twitter in Google Ads

Google is now selling ads featuring tweets. The ad offers the five most recent tweets from a specific account. The first company to jump on board for this is Intuit, who owns tax giant Turbo Tax. They're trying to increase their Twitter followers as well as add a human aspect to the brand, because they believe that microblogging humanizes the brand.

Seth Greenberg, the director of marketing at Intuit said,
"We could have used this as an acquisition vehicle, but we're looking at it more like a conversational vehicle. We're measuring this [in part by] how many followers can we get. Can we get to 100,000 by allowing people to know we're a resource? We're not going to hard sell you on the product, but we want people to know there are lots of people here who can help answer your questions."

Read the full article here.

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Thursday, April 2, 2009

For teens, a friend online is usually a friend offline, too

According to an article in today's USAToday, teens real life (or RL friends) are often their friends online and vice versa. This research squashes the idea that teens are, as a whole, actively seeking new friends online and that they may be succeptable to predators. This reasearch was found in a 2008 study by the University of California researchers asked 251 teens about their face-to-face friends and those they communicate with via social networking and instant messaging. For more information, please visit the original article here.

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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Why Pay Attention to Online Ads?

I came across this post on eMarketer that details some reasons why UK internet users pay attention to online ads. Top 2 reasons why users pay attention to ads it because "it is relevant to them" and "it is useful to them." This information is definitely worthwhile to all social networks that incorporate online ads on their platform. Take a look at the chart below.

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