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Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Google Building Third-Party Commenting Platform



Google is working on third-party commenting platform to rival Facebook’s, according to multiple reports. The system will be deeply integrated with several Google products so that comments left on third-party websites appear in Google search results and on Google+.
The commenting platform was allegedly discussed at an event Google hosted in Saudi Arabia earlier this week and later confirmed by inside sources to The Next Web. A spokesperson for Google declined to comment on the matter.
With so few details, it’s difficult to speculate what sort of impact a Google commenting system would have on the online publishing landscape. Should there be a SEO, and a resulting referral traffic advantage, to using Google’s commenting platform, it would likely attract a fair amount of interest among publishers — even those already using Facebook’s commenting system. Google’s tool could also pose a threat to independent commenting platforms such as Disqus, Livefyre and Intense Debate.
In addition to a commenting system, news emerged from the Saudi Arabia event that Google would roll out vanity URLs for Google+ users in the near future.



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The Double-Edged Sword Of Social Media


As an Internet marketing professional, I love the power, influence, and reach that social media has to offer. Online venues such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ enable a level of instant human outreach that is unparalleled in history.
For example, if you are a fan of a TV, movie, music or sports celebrity, your ability to interact with that person (or at least see them outside of their normal context) is fascinating. Social media enables us to easily find long lost friends, old flames, and remote cousins you never knew you had through the Internet, and renew relationships with these people.
Best of all, at least for my business, if you are a brand name, be it a large company (or perhaps just a small one looking to make it big), you can have direct, personal interactions with both existing and potential new customers that the Mad Men of yore could only dream of.
Social media enables businesses to promote their products, encourage brand and company loyalty, cross-sell new company products to existing customers, and generally be there for them when they want to find you (via search on social channels). It’s really an amazing phenomenon.
Best yet, the proliferation of online mobile devices, such as laptops, tablets, and smartphones, in addition to the ubiquitous desktop Web browsers, are all new opportunities for companies and customers to find one another, communicate, inform each other of your wants and needs, and find fulfillment! It’s nothing short of nirvana, right?

Not So Fast

That all said, ask me about my Twitter account. I have one, sure, but I pretty much only use it to communicate with my professional peers, inform those who might be interested when I publish a new blog post, and really not much else.
Unlike many Twitter users, I don’t tweet about the difficult decision I had to make this morning choosing between oatmeal and scrambled eggs for breakfast. I skip telling the world I am checking in at Bruno’s Bail Bonds (again!). I don’t take 10,000 phone pictures of myself and post them as tweets (I know what you’re thinking – and you’re welcome!).
And how about me on Facebook? Yeah, I have a Facebook account as well, but it’s locked down as tight as a drum. There’s nothing there about me to see, anyway. I pretty much only use it to administer the controls, settings and posts of several Fan pages I manage.
Am I a social media snob? No, far from it. I certainly see the value of regularly communicating with friends and family. But I have my reasons for my reticence.

Waiting For Something To Say

Part of my reluctance goes back to why I never jumped into the personal blogging fad that was so popular in the late 1990s/early 2000s. I never felt that my personal daily thoughts, random utterances, or really anything else that had to say was so important that everyone would wait with bated breath to see my next post. Perhaps I was afraid to trust my words and thoughts would be popular on their own merit just to have those dreams dashed in the empty anonymity of the Web.
When I got into the world of SEO several years ago, I was initially pushed into blogging, and even then, I only got into it when I felt I had something professionally helpful to say. Of course, my previous careers as a tech writer and, before that, an instructor of technology courses, helped shape my approach to writing for public audiences.
But beyond the nagging self-doubt that no one would care was the more pressing reality of the danger of unbridled transparency – the intentional abandonment of privacy. Not that I have anything in particular to hide, but some things are better left unsaid. There’s a wise, old axiom that goes, “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”

Confirming The Fool

Call it the Cisco Fatty Syndrome. Do you remember the Cisco Fatty incident? I very much do (as I love learning life lessons vicariously). It seems there was this very promising young woman who was fresh out of college and looking for work in Silicon Valley. This was back in 2009, long after the Dot Com heyday had passed. The economy was in serious trouble, and the job-seekers market of yore had become an employer’s market.
Apparently our protagonist had the credentials and the interview skills to be offered a starting job at Cisco. It was apparently a well-paying position (at least relatively), but unfortunately not the glamorous role she was envisioning she’d get coming out of college. So she was torn about whether she should settle for the steady, well-paying but mundane job or continue looking for her dream role.
We’ve all be in this situation, more or less, haven’t we? Do you settle, or do you keep looking? It’s always a hard decision every time. But there’s a difference here.
While most of us old enough to remember the days before social media was big went through this conundrum by speaking face-to-face to our trusted confidants, our 2009 college graduate was a modern child of the social media age. She tweeted her dilemma. For all to see. To the Internet. Where things never die. Ah, to be so young and innocent again.
She tweeted, “Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work.” She sent that message unencumbered by restrictions, security, or any sort of public access limitations.
And wouldn’t you know, the ever-present, self-appointed, vigilante Netizens Justice League made dang sure that this student’s identity and indiscreet tweet became known to all (there were even websites created about this little folly). And of course, someone working at Cisco quickly got wind of that tweet, and it was forwarded on within the company. Needless to say, her dilemma was solved for her. Some of the above story details are still in dispute, but you get the picture.

Double-edged Nature Of Social Media

But truth be told, this is far from an isolated incident. And this is the troubling, double-edged sword that is social media. Sending a letter to the editor is a private person reaching out to communicate in a public venue. But that private person reaching out to communicate with personal friends is not meant for public consumption.
Unfortunately for so many, though, it still is when it involves the Internet. Tweets, Facebook posts and even blog articles (oh the horror!) are all publicly accessible (and searchable) communications. At least they should always be written with the assumption that they will become public (because they often do).
I see so many young people today (and a great many not so young) who are careless, if not simply reckless, with what they say, do and post online. They may think they are clever, witty, and that they pwn3d someone good. They post embarrassing if not humiliating photos and comments about family members, friends, co-workers, and often, of even themselves online. How many teachers have been publicly fired over posting Facebook photos of themselves getting a little too loose at a weekend keg party?

Facebook Scores

Facebook Mobile Web and App IconPublic embarrassment is one thing, but I submit we need to start thinking about our personal online reputations as we do our credit scores. We all know that our credit scores can influence whether we are approved for loans and credit cards, but do you know these scores also influence our ability to get approval for an apartment lease, to be hired in a new job, or the cost of our insurance rates?
So if HR departments can pull credit scores to help determine whether a job applicant is trustworthy and has sound judgment, doesn’t it make sense that they would do a Web search on an applicant’s name to see what sort of person they are online? It’s already happening. The Wall Street Journal recently wrote that Facebook profiles can predict future job performance. In fact, there’s apparently now a Facebook score for assessing employee candidates!
The way I see it, while some online citations can be positive (which is why I like the power of recommendations in a LinkedIn profile), HR is likely using searches in Facebook, Twitter, and other information online to find reasons to not hire a person. If you worked in HR, wouldn’t you use all the tools at your disposal to verify whether an individual is a good risk for hiring?
In the case of not opening one’s mouth to confirm one’s idiocy, having no reckless, self-published information online, or at the very minimum, a well-managed and professional online reputation in social media, can be a major factor in making or breaking a career, especially a new one.

The Illusion Of Privacy

Don’t be fooled into complacency by thinking you’ve got all of your hilariously raunchy bits hidden behind privacy settings that only friends can access. Facebook has earned a reputation for adjusting privacy settings on us.
But more importantly, MSNBC recently reported that many official entities, such as some government agencies and potential employers are now either asking for Facebook usernames and passwords or, in the case of some colleges, requiring that students friend a school official to enable account monitoring when people are accepted for admission.
Even if that doesn’t specifically happen in your next new job, how will you handle it when your new boss or a nosy colleague wants to friend you in Facebook? Are you comfortable with the potential consequences of declining their request, or do you open the privacy doors to your, well, sullied online past?
Privacy has, in many ways, become a thing of the past, but do we really have to spoonfeed the haters with our ample, self-published evidence of our less than perfect online past?

A Facebooked Generation

The young people today (and I mean those who are not yet adults) who use Facebook as a means of rudely and lewdly boasting, taunting, bullying, lying, and hurting others are effectively dumping online rat poison into the nascent body of their careers-to-be. We are potentially raising a generation of pre-screened, self-inflicted failures.
Yes, we can say, “Hey, they were just kids, they weren’t grown up yet, so cut them some slack.” But would you hire a young person with a criminal past, especially when they are competing with others who led quiet, dull, and crime-free childhoods? That’s an act of indiscretion that reflects one’s poor judgment, but so is an offensive, expletive-laced rant or a risqué photograph. Most criminal records are wiped clean at age 18, but the Internet offers no such promise. All of the regrettable things said and done that were published are always going to be there, searchable online.
As I said earlier, I think social media is an amazing opportunity for people to interact. But it can be very revealing as well.
A lack of maturity mixed with the eternity of Internet posts is a career time bomb waiting to go off. Before we end up with a generation of self-inflicted, black-balled job applicants, let those of us in the social media marketing field help everyone else understand that you can use social media wisely or foolishly. Competition for good opportunities is hard enough these days. There’s no benefit in shooting yourself in the foot forever.
As online privacy evaporates for us all, our words and actions represent us to people who initially have no other way of judging us. Our reputations are formed by our deeds, good and bad. Yes, we are all imperfect beings and we all make mistakes. But let’s not publicize them on social media, OK?



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Sunday, 25 March 2012

Social Marketers: Plan for the Marriage, Not the Wedding


Social media marketing is new, changing constantly, and for many, confusing as hell. Fortunately the nascent industry has no shortage of social gurus, ninjas, and wizards hawking their version of best practices to the masses.

In a presentation titled, “Will You Still ‘Like’ Me In the Morning?,” Paul Dunay, CMO of Networked Insights, warned marketers from stopping at their Facebook fan page when launching social marketing strategies. “They spend more time planning for the wedding than for the marriage,” he said. Having a snazzy Facebook page with a sizable fan base is the cost of doing business—everyone needs it (“Your fans expect you to be there, and you’ll lose them to the competition if you aren’t,” Dunay said). But many marketers don’t go beyond making a pretty page; they don’t realize that a mere .2 percent to 2 percent of a brand’s Facebook fans ever return to the brand’s homepage after initially “fanning” it. It means marketers need to focus on creating relevant content that keeps fans engaged with their brand through their news stream, he said.  

Another way brands can be their own worst enemy on Facebook is by ignoring the mountain of data their fans willfully supply to them. Thanks to the availability of “fanships,” marketers have access to granular facts about their followings. A beer brand could learn, for example, that its fans’ favorite TV shows are The Simpsons andFamily Guy, which is a valuable insight for making TV ad buys or even developing ad creative. It also creates right and wrong answers for marketing decisions, Dunay said. One brand he worked with was planning an event with Lady Gaga; after looking at Facebook fan data, the marketer realized its own fans weren’t that into the artist.


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Friday, 23 March 2012

With 140 million active users & 340 million tweets per day, Twitter is officially mainstream


Hot on the heels of Twitter’s 6th birthday, the company has released some stats that shed light on just how much it has grown since 2006. According to Twitter, the site has more than 140 million active users, with over 340 million Tweets per day. This means that a jaw-dropping 1 billion tweets are sent every 3 days.
With this, Twitter has also shared Jack Dorsey’s first sketch of what he envisioned the service could be. Surely the end results look nothing like the original idea, but the core of the service is there:
Six years may not be very long in human terms, but it’s been quite an enormous span for the thing we know and love as Twitter. When @jack first sketched out his notion in March 2006, no one could have predicted the trajectory of this new communication tool. Now it seems that there are as many ways to express yourself in 140 characters as there are people doing it. And at last check, there are more than 140 million active users (there’s that number again) — and today we see 340 million Tweets a day. That’s more than 1 billion every 3 days. However concisely, it turns out there’s plenty to say.
Without you, of course, there wouldn’t be a Twitter. We mark our sixth birthday with you in mind, and celebrate your myriad ways of engaging, enjoying, and emoting on our platform. As Jack noted when he posted his sketch of the service he envisioned, “I’m happy this idea has taken root; I hope it thrives.” Thanks to you, it is.
Fun facts: it took Twitter 3 years, 2 months and 1 day to reach the first billion tweets, and it took about 18 months for the first 500,000 users to sign up. It was only back in September that Twitter reached 100 million active users, and now it has grown wildly fast, thanks in part to its iOS integration.
As always, we’ll be keeping a close eye on Twitter, but as TNW’s Robin Waulters said earlier today: “we raise our glasses to Twitter and wish them a very happy birthday, and many years to come.”



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Adobe: Social media impact undervalued by nearly 100 percent


Summary: Adobe finds that most digital marketers are quick to add social media into the mix, but they don’t understand the value just yet.
Marketers are underestimating the value and impact that social media can have for a website by up to 94 percent, according to Adobe’s latest Digital Index report.
That finding is based on the hypothesis that most marketers rely on using last-click attribution as the primary model for measuring the value of social media.
However, Adobe researchers posited that first-click attribution models better capture the benefits of social media in engaging customers earlier in the buying process.
The biggest problem with using a last-click model, according to Adobe, is that by ignoring the value of earlier interactions, last-click attribution gives disproportionate credit to the marketing channels that customers use late in the purchase process. That would undervalue the role of other channels in building awareness and relationships between customers and brands.
Aseem Chandra, vice president of product and industry marketing within Adobe’s Digital Marketing Business unit, argued in the report that “as an industry, digital marketers have been quick to add social media to the marketing mix, but have perhaps not considered new and better ways to measure this complex channel.”
Instead, as pointed out in the study, marketers tend to default to traditional direct measurement models. Chandra advised that a “better measurement of social marketing will lead to better ROI.”
For reference, Adobe analyzed more than 1.7 billion visits to more than 225 U.S. companies’ websites in the retail, travel and media industries for this study. The Digital Index report examined how marketers measure the impact of website traffic from major social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, YouTube and Yelp.



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Thursday, 22 March 2012

Klout and PeerIndex Don’t Measure Influence. Brian Solis Explains What They Actually Do


Whether you like it not, Klout, Kred, PeerIndex, and Radian6 are measuring your social capital — not your influence but your potential for it. Altimeter Group’s principal analyst Brian Solis today releases a free report that explains why influence is largely misunderstood, and breaks down what 14 of the top measurement services are really good for. It eradicates consumer myths about one of social media’s hottest trends, and gives brands an action plan for making money with these tools.

Brian Solis Rise Of Digital InfluenceYou can see and download “The Rise Of Digital Influence” report on Slideshare, or check it out here along with my key takeaways and analysis of why these products are flawed now but have big potential.
For the world’s social media users: accept that you’re already being indexed by these services, and they’re going to sell data about you. ‘Influence’ scores are going to become more important with time. Once they reach a threshold of accuracy, you can bet a new wave of brands will start rewarding and providing better service to people identified as influencers.
Brian Solis believes that rather than sending out a flurry of tweets in hopes of boosting your score now, you should think about your short- and long-term goals with social media. It’s not worth trying to game the system. I think services like Klout should inspire you to think critically about how to use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media. That way you can increase your real-world influence and let your scores rise to reflect that, instead of the reverse.
For brands: You too need to start by outlining specific goals for how you’ll identify influencers and what you want them to accomplish for you. Do not start by brainstorming what you want to give people with a certain score.
Solis writes that “What does a “74” mean to your business goals and objectives?” should be one of the first questions you ask. Then choose a service with the data to power your influence plan. Solis has already gone to the trouble of evaluating AppinionseCairnEmpire AvenueKloutKred,mPACTPeerIndexPROskoreRadian6TraackrTweetLevelTweetReachTwitalyzer, andTwitterGrade in the report.
A lot of people think that nobody gives a damn about your Klout score, and that those from other services are equally useless. I disagree. They may not be very accurate yet, but they’re getting better quickly. Brands want to spend their marketing and customer service dollars wisely, and there’s simply too many people in the world to give everyone the highest quality experience.
Brands aren’t going to measure influence themselves. They’ll choose one of the vendors from this report. You either understand them now, or be the one without influence later.


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Your Guide to Successful Business Blogging


A blog is one of the easiest ways to keep your clients up to date on what’s happening in your business and also to share your experience and knowledge online. This guide is designed to help you to plan your blogs, generate ideas for posts, encourage people to share your blog across social networks and to handle any negative comments.

Plan your blog posts

Throughout the year there are hundreds of different events happening in your business, the industry you operate in and the wider world which you can blog about.

National and international events

As well as the obvious dates in the calendar such as Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Halloween, there are plenty of other special days you can blog about and relate back to your business. For example, in March in the UK its National Bed Month and National Vegetarian Month plus St. David’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day. International days celebrated in March include International Women’s Day and World Theatre Day.
There is a special day, week or month dedicated to pretty much every cause, event and occasion you could think of, so check out which ones are applicable to your industry and set a reminder to write a blog post a couple of weeks before the event.
Industry events

Other events to look out for are industry specific conferences and exhibitions which you can write about both before you attend and after you visit. For example, Internet World in London is Europe’s largest digital marketing event and takes place on 24 – 26th April 2012, so if you’re attending the event you could blog about your expectations for your visit or write a roundup of what you learnt after attending the event.

Events specific to your business

If you’re planning to speak at a conference or organise a discussion forum then blog about it before hand to raise awareness and receive feedback on your plans. Other events specific to your business which you can plan blogs for include product launches, special offers and sales.

What to blog about

Once you’ve planned your blogging schedule and included topics you know you’ll be able to write about you’ll then need to expand on this to ensure your blog is updated regularly. Writing a new blog post two or three times a week will mean your website is constantly being updated with fresh content and your website visitors will have something new to read whenever they visit your website.
It’s not always easy thinking of what to write though so the best starting point is to share what you know. Think about what you do in your business and how other people will benefit from your experience and knowledge.
For example, at Pure Ink we blog about copywriting and marketing and include tips, advice and opinions which will benefit our readers. We’ve written ‘cheat sheets’ which cover the basics of copywriting; reviewed copywriting books and podcasts; given our opinion on other companies marketing campaigns and copywriting; rounded up the best marketing news stories of the week and highlighted the best marketing and copywriting resources on the web. Whatever your business does, you will be an expert at it so share your knowledge through your blog.

Blogging for social media

Blog posts can be shared by hundreds of people within seconds via social media but with so much information being posted online, how can you ensure people hear what you have to say? It takes time to build up a loyal following on your blog but regularly posting insightful information will mean people will gradually start to take notice. The key is not to be tempted to rush blog posts so you can just post something for the sake of keeping your blog up to date. By writing blog posts which other people actually find useful, you are far more likely to have your posts shared by your followers on social media networks such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
To gain exposure for your blogs on social media you can make the people in your network the subject of your blogs.
You could interview people in your network or write reviews of their products, services or even their blogs as a way to encourage the people featured in the blog to link to the post and share it with their network.

Handling criticism

People can be quick to criticise online as they are safely hidden behind their laptops and it can be really difficult to not take criticism to heart if someone has left an unfavourable comment on your blog. There are a few ways you can handle any negativity though...

Ask for specific examples

If someone has been negative about your blog post but not said specifically what’s wrong with it then find out what exactly they disagree with. It could be that the tone of voice is out of sync with your other posts, or maybe your blog has spelling errors or perhaps a point you’ve made is factually incorrect. By asking for specific examples you can soon separate the people who are just being negative for the sake of it and the people who do have a valid point and who could potentially offer more constructive criticism.

See it as a learning process

It’s not easy to chalk a bad comment down to experience but try to step back from the situation and see what positives you can take from the comment. Criticism can actually be a great way of improving your blog writing. For example, if someone has pointed out that the data you’ve used to back up a point is out of date then it could be time to source some new statistics, or if you’ve been pulled up on spelling then ask someone to proofread your blogs before posting them.

Don’t try to please everyone

The best defence against negative criticism is to take the time to write well researched and informative blogs which give your readers information they can apply to their business or which simply entertain them. You can’t please everyone and you shouldn’t try to.
By writing about what you love and sharing your expertise, your enthusiasm and knowledge will be evident and you will start to grow a positive community for your blog.
By trying to please everyone the key message of your blog will become diluted and you’ll be in danger of losing what makes you unique as a blogger.

Blogging is a great way to connect with your customers, your website visitors and your social communities. It takes time to build up content and attract regular readers but it’s well worth it as a successful blog will demonstrate your industry knowledge and passion for what you do and enhance your brand exposure.
Sarah Evans is joint owner of the UK copywriting company Pure Ink,which she co-founded in 2008. She has been creating content for clients' websites and offline projects for over five years and has worked with clients such as Avon, Best Western, Ford and the Private Health Partnership as well as a range of other companies in the B2B and B2C sectors.
Sarah specialises in search engine optimisation copywriting, developing tone of voice for clients and also crafting headlines and tag linesfor projects. 



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Does anyone on Boris Johnson's campaign understand social media?



If they do, they should probably have a chat with their campaign chief Lynton Crosby.

Earlier this week Lynton's team launched a ham-fisted attempt to steal the Mayor of London's official twitter account.

This resulted in a full blown Twitter storm, official complaints and reports in those well known radical outlets The Daily Telegraphmajor tech websites and even the local press.

After accusing the mayor's followers on Twitter of "hysteria" the campaign backed down and deleted all references to the campaignfrom the official feed.

Next, for reasons best known to himself, Lynton decided to launch an attack on the strictly impartial MayorWatch website.

MayorWatch's crime? To politely request that Boris's campaign send them some press releases.

Rather than contact Mayorwatch and apologise for failing to send the releases he'd requested, Crosby instead took to Twitter.


This jibe was apparently based on the fact that Guardian Journalist Dave Hill had earlier highlighted Mayorwatch's request on Twitter.

Mayorwatch, who has been covering City Hall for over a decade, has since received messages of support and disbelief about Crosby's response from right across the political spectrum.

If Lynton wanted to have a crack at one of Boris's critics then he chose completely the wrong person.

Instead of engaging with an impartial and influential news outlet, Crosby has instead chosen to alienate them. Bizarre.

As if that wasn't enough, Boris's campaign have since been highlighting "Londoners" who have come out to wave placards at Ken on one of his campaign visits.


They've even posted a video titled "Londoners confront Ken Livingstone in Croydon"

 

The thing is, if you want to pretend that something is coming from ordinary Londoners, it's probably best not to have the cameraman telling them to shout "louder."


It's probably also wise not to have previously posted pictures of these same ordinary Londoners wearing campaign t-shirts whilst sitting on a campaign bus:





Online campaigning has yet to be a major factor in winning UK elections. 

And if Crosby's attempts this week are anything to go by then it's unlikely to be so in this Mayoral election either.


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