Sunday, February 27, 2011

Understand the Groundswell

Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff's book, Groundswell, explains and teaches readers about the importance of social technologies. The text describes a number of reasons, and ways, that companies can use social networking sites to understand their consumers, and increase sales.

Chapters 4-6 focus on the "groundwell" and how to tap into it. In order to understand what the authors mean by the groundswell, we must define it. In chapter 1 of the book, the author says, 

"[the groundswell] is a social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from a traditional institution like corporations" (Bernoff, Li 9). 

The text goes on to explain that the groundswell has existed for years. On eBay you purchase from people, through Craigslist you interact directly with people over the internet, and many other actions we partake in are influenced by these large social technologies.

In order for a company to be successful, they must have a good understanding and application, of the groundswell in their everyday business tactics. Li and Bernoff developed a planning process for tapping into the groundswell. Chapter 4 of the book covered POST: people, objectives, strategy, and technology. As the book says, it is "the foundation of groundswell thinking" (Bernoff, Li 67). 

Let's break this acronym down to understand it's importance...

People: What are your customers ready for? It is important to understand your audience before you act on it. 

Objectives: What are the goals? Do you want to sell a product? Do you want to advertise to your customers? Having a set plan is important to ensure the efficiency of your sales.

Strategy: How do you want the relationship with your customers to change? This step is important in understand how you will achieve your goals.

Lastly, technology: What applications and tools will you use to achieve your goals? Making sure you choose the right tools and networks that work best for your company will help ensure productivity. 

In addition to the POST tactic, chapter 5 of the text goes on to explain another important step in understanding the groundswell: listening. 

One thing that stuck out to me like a sore thumb, was when the authors said, "your brand is what your customers say it is." This is a HUGE point that I think many companies are still missing. In our technologically consumed society, advertisers need to LISTEN to consumers in order to adequately reach their audience. 

The first week of school we discussed the top-down method, where the power used to lie in advertisers. Now, as the internet opens a whole new type of communication, the power of influence lies in the consumers - thus creating a down-up model, where the consumers are in control. 

Companies use market research to better understand their consumers. Surveys, and syndicated research is a great way to get opinions of people. However, the internet now offers many of those opinions right at your finger tips. 

Twitter is an amazing tool to use if you want to tap into a market. Being able to type in anything in the search box and see who is talking about it, and what they are saying, helps companies get more personal with their consumers. Twitter's ability to allow open communication with followers/consumers also allows people to feel more connected to the company and, as a result, more attracted to the company in the future. Happy consumers are more likely to come back after great service and attention.

Li and Bernoff offer two listening techniques for companies. 

A great concept discussed in chapter 6 talks about a "marketing funnel." The funnel is a model for how consumers move from awareness of a product, to purchase, then to loyalty. 

Groundswell talks about how consumers in the middle of the funnel are heavily influences by blogs, reviews, and other social technologies. According to the text, 83% of people trusted recommendations from friends or family. More than half trusted online reviews from strangers. What does all of this information say about consumers? They are influenced by one another, not the company (as discussed earlier).

Just a few days ago, I decided where I was going to get my haircut based solely off online reviews. Internet communication is unavoidable. It is the fastest way to get, and spread, communication. 

Overall, Groundswell offers a fresh, new outlook on marketing and the effect of social technologies. Social networks are changing every dynamic of the public relations and marketing industry. Now, we have the ability to reach consumers on a very personal level through social networks. By doing so, we can better adjust our advertisements to fit THEIR wants and needs. Internet reviews allow companies to see where people want change. By engaging in this type of internet communication, it allows for a "win-win" by both the consumer and the company. Social media is key. Those who underestimate social media networking power have probably already been a victim of it and don't even know it. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


On Friday February 18th, the worst thing in the world happened to Blackberry (and Android) users everywhere: UberTwitter shut down. For the millions of people that use this application daily, the sudden shutdown came as a surprise. 

As I sat in the library Friday morning finishing a paper, I went to tweet about how aggravated I was about the paper. Since Twitter is my "complaining" forum, this was a pretty regular task. Suddenly a foreign message popped up on my phone saying "FORBIDDEN." Naturally, I tried to send the tweet again. FORBIDDEN - again. Was this a joke? At first I blamed my Blackberry. It's not that I don't like my Blackberry, it just never likes to work when I need it to. After trying to send in the tweet 93029341 times I gave up and just went online. As soon as I signed on my Twitter, I noticed a bunch of tweets saying things like "RIP UBERTWITTER" and "UberTwitter has shut down." I was floored. Surely, this was causing a major inconvenience to people all over the world. For those of us that live and breath social media, this was the worst news ever. Sure there are other applications, but none were as efficient as UberTwitter (in my opinion). 

UberTwitter was unexpectedly suspended  from using Twitter’s API for multiple violations. According to sources, "These violations include, but aren’t limited to, a privacy issue with private direct messages longer than 140 characters, trademark infringement, and changing the content of users’ tweets in order to make money." News of the sudden shut down spread everywhere. Reports were posted on many major news sources such as: The Washington Post, The LA Times, and Mashable. Later on Friday, UberTwitter tweeted: 

In accordance with Twitter's policies, UberTwitter changed its name to UberSocial. As of Saturday, the new application was up and running. In my opinion, the new app is even better than the old one. It is easier to use, with many more options for users. While February 18th is a day no Twitter fanatic will forget, the outcome definitely outweighed the momentary tragedy. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Influencing The Web

Everyday, millions of people surf the web for a variety of reasons. Whether it be Facebook, looking up fun facts on Wikipedia, or buying something off Amazon, the internet is a powerful tool that enables us to receive information. However, what is it that leads us to these websites and to do the things we do on the internet.

Recently, a number of articles about "influencers" hit the web. What exactly is an influencer and how is it shaping the way we interact with the internet?

In a time when everyone blogs, Facebook is king, and Twitter is the fastest way to acquire news, people everywhere have a new way to look at internet influences. It appears that the influencers are no longer major corporations, but instead, it is us - the individuals swarming the internet.

As discussed in class, anytime I make an Amazon purchase, I make sure to read all the reviews. When it comes to ordering a product off the internet, you can never be too sure of what you will get. By reading reviews from other customers, you can get a general feel for the person selling the item, thus, you have been influenced by another shopper.

In an article entitled "The Influentials: New Approaches for Analyzing Influence on Twitter." the authors define Twitter influencers as, "the potential of an action of a user to initiate a further action by another user." Basically, every time you read something on Twitter, an influencer is someone who will cause you to do something else - in this case retweet - as a result of what you saw. You have been influenced by the tweet, or tweeter. 

During the first week of school, we discussed how our PR model is changing. We are no longer in a "top-down" model, but instead, a "down-up" model where the consumers are the ones in control. As we can see, that "down-up" model is very influential and important for sales and PR. 

As technology continues to change the way we communicate and live our everyday lives, the concept of influencers is becoming more and more important in the PR and marketing world. How will you influence you market? Better start influencing. 

What's the latest trend? Ask Twitter!

School can be such a drag. Sometimes, it seems like weeks go by without even noticing. Can anyone else believe it's almost March? I must have been asleep for most of February because it doesn't seem like that much time has passed. Between the work, studying, and hustling around, it is very easy to lose track of current events and what is going on in the world. However, have no fear, Twitter is here!

Anyone who thinks Twitter is pointless should probably get with the times. As one of the largest and most influential social media networks, it is changing the way news is spread. One of the greatest features on Twitter,  is the trending tool. Twitter keeps track of what topics, words, or phrases are being talked about the most. Every week, Mashable collects this data and organizes it into a nice, easy to read charge that highlights the most talked about stories of the week.

While the topics themselves are interesting, it's the "trending" itself that is fascinating. The events and people captured in this chart are an exact reflection of who and what are running our society. Twitter is like a history book, but in electronic form - let's call it Twistory. 

The "most trended" story this week was "The Grammy's" To many people, this may seem like a useless fact. On the contrary, this is history in the making. 50 years from now, historians will look back on these "trending" pages and be able to have an accurate idea of what was going on in our society and this given point in time.

Yes, I am getting a little bit ahead of myself, but this is just another example of how influential social media really is.

To catch the rest of this weeks biggest trends, read the trending story on Mashable

Sunday, February 13, 2011

It’s Almost As Sweet as Candy:

Delicious. When I first heard that this was the name of a webiste, I was expecting to see cupcakes, candy, and sugar galore. Much to my dismay, it was a social book marking website (not that theres anything wrong with this, but I fancy candy products a little bit more!)

In class we learned about the social booking marking site Five years ago, the company was bought out by Yahoo!, and recently, has been scheduled to shut down. Millions of deliciousers, as I like to call them, were upset about the sudden closing of their favorite social book marking website. Before I go on anymore, I think it is important to explain what exactly “social book making” means.

Most of us probably spend a good number of hours perusing the internet and finding funny, random websites that we enjoy. We send these websites to our friends, family, and anyone else that might find them funny. After a while, it is easy to lose track of all these websites and forget about them. For anyone else who spends as much time as me online, have no fear, delicious is here!

Delicious is a social book marking website that allows users to not only save and store websites (like an RSS reader,) but, to socially exchange them with other members of Delicious. What’s the point of this? I found myself wondering the same exact thing at first, but after a brief demonstration, I was hooked.

Any communication major loves finding out about news. Delicious is a great way to witness how fast news can spread over the Internet. 

A Social Media State of Emergency

It’s 10 o’clock at night and you’re riding your bike home from school. As you cross the intersection near your home, a car swerves into your bike and knocks you on the ground. You try to stand up, but realize you can’t move your legs. What is your next step?

For most people, the obvious answer would be to call 911 and ask for help. However, in our technologically consumed society, 911 might not be the first number you dial. Instead, many people are turning to Facebook and Twitter to get their voices heard.

A recent story on Mashable looked at how social media is influencing emergency situations. One event in particular really stuck out to me. In 2009, two girls were stuck in a water drain. Rather than call the police or 911 for help, they posted their cry for help on Facebook and later received help.

Would I have done that? Eventually, but 911 would have been my initial instinct. Does this mean we are changing as a society? When I was growing up calling 911 was standard. Have we become so obsessed with our electronic devices that rather than call for help, we tweet or Facebook about it? Revolutionary.

According to the Mashable study, 28% of people would definitely use a social media tool to contact friends and family in an area-wide emergency to let them know that they were safe. On the contrary, only 16% of people said they would definitely not. As technology continues to be even more intertwined in our lives, it is slowly changing the way we handle almost any situation.

If people are turning to social media for help, what does this say about our basic infrastructure? Recently, the Austin-Statesman wrote an article about 911 staff shortages how it was causing phone delays. This past year, more than 6,000 [911] callers received a recorded message instead of speaking to an actual operator. If citizens are unable to rely on the government-provided services, it's no wonder they have decided to turn to social media networks.

Many social media websites have adapted a "location" or GPS capability. Foursquare gives users the option to add new locations. Locations include a Google map from where the user has "checked in." In a time of emergency, this location feature might be a life saver. Like Foursquare, Facebook also has a "check-in" option available for users. 

Although many people have began to use social media as an emergency-outlet tool, the system is not completely flawless. Twitter only allows users to use 140 characters or less per a tweet. In a time of a crisis, 140 characters might not cut it. Depending on the application you are using, programs such as twitlonger, allow for tweets to continue outside the traditional 140 standard.

Another major flaw that most of us social media advocates have encountered, are the network overloads. “Twitter is overcapacity, again!” How many times have you tried to log in and instead get stuck with the picture of the whale telling you the website is over capacity. This could be hazardous during an emergency when you need to get news out. Facebook is generally pretty good with keeping the network up and running. However, this past semester Facebook was down for a few hours and chaos almost broke out.

I have always said Twitter makes you realize how many friends you actually have. I have close to 2000 Facebook friends, but barely 200 followers on Twitter. What would be the point of using a social media tool if no one could get my message? Thank goodness for hashtags (#seriously).

As we continue to spend most of our time living through some sort of social media alter-universe, it is only natural that we integrate it into every aspect of our lives – including emergencies. How and when we choose to use these social media networks during a crisis is completely situational. However, it has been interesting to see how our society has slowly started using social media for more than a PR or business tool. 

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Dating Services - For Mac Users Only

Online dating websites are the new "I met him at the bar" story behind relationships. According to studies, 1 in 6 people meet online and then get married. It seemed almost taboo to me a few years ago when I first heard about online dating. Something about it seemed creepy, invasive and unsafe (I've seen too many Lifetime movies). Although I have never joined, or used, an online dating website, it seems to be the latest and greatest way to meet your future lover.

As a Mac lover, I laughed when I found this website called Cupidtino: an online dating service specifically aimed for Mac users.

As it says on the website:
"Cupidtino is the first ever "Mac-inspired" dating site. It's goal is to bring Apple fans and lovers of beautiful hardware and software design together."

Is this really a dating service? At first I thought the website was a joke, but it is the real deal. Developed by four men in San Francisco, Cupidtino is the revolutionary way to meet somebody. I thought I was the only one who was in love with my Apple products. However, it turns out there is an entire network of people who feel the same way, and are searching for someone who feels the same way. The mission statement on the website really made me smile. Apparently you are supposed to date people with similar interests, so Cupidtino is just saving you some time and narrowing down the candidates. Who could complain about a service like that? 

For those of you who are single and love Apple products, maybe Cupidtino is the website for you. For the same price as a venti Mocha at Starbucks ($4.79) , you could potentially meet your technological-significant other. Why wouldn't you want to date someone who would rather take their computer out to dinner than you?

Cupidtino has covered all the necessary steps to providing a great dating website. Users are able to link their Twitter and Facebook accounts, so your potential mate can get to know you even better. 

In an era where technology and social media are king, Cupidtino is joining the revolution and trying to bring people closer together. Overall, if I was single, I'd say it seems to entertaining to not try. Cheers. 

Cupidtino: Meet an Apple fanboy or girl

2011: A Social Revolution

Whoever said Facebook and Twitter are pointless really doesn't get out much. Facebook has 500 million users for a reason. The ability to have so many users speaks for itself. I got my Twitter account in March of 2009. Back then, I didn't see the point of a website where individuals were asked to constantly update what they were doing. So, I'm brushing my teeth, do millions of people really care or need to know that? Probably not, but if you take a step back, then you could see the amazing potential and power of a social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. 

Power and potential - how so? Malcolm Gladwell's article, "Twitter, Facebook, and Social Activism," in The New Yorker, really puts the importance of social networking sites in perspective. In an era where news can be transferred at the click of a button, and mass movements can be arranged over the internet, is our society on the brink of a social revolution? Possibly so. The recent protests in Egypt have put a heavy spotlight on social media websites and the power they hold. After reading articles day after day about the chaos and tragedy in Egypt, it is unbelievable the entire event was organized over Facebook. 

Facebook. How many times a day does the average person check their Facebook? I would answer for myself, but I would like to save some of my dignity. A website most people take for granted, including myself, most Facebook users look at their friends' walls, pictures, and comment back and forth on walls. The average user doesn't use the largest social networking website as an organizing tool for an national revolt, but what if this became a more common theme? Gladwell might have hit it on the nail when he said we're on the verge of a social revolution. 

Twitter has drawn a lot of attention recently because of it's ability to transfer "real time news." Users are able to place themselves in the situation and make any reader feel as if they are partaking in the event as it transpires. Gladwell talks about protests the 2009 protests in Moldolva, when citizens rebelled against the government. Sounds familiar. With the protests in Egypt, Twitter kept millions of people informed about events going on in Egypt as they happened. The use of metadata tools, such as a hashtag, help group and organize news as it is tweeted in. The #Egypt hashtag on Twitter brings up millions of people talking about the protests. Within these tweets, users provide the readers with valuable information and "real time" updates. 

After reading Gladwell's article, I am semi-convinced he might be telepathic. Gladwell's ability to weave history and technology, perfectly demonstrate what might be in store in the future. The article was written in October 2010, months before the events in Egypt. Although the protests are an isolated event, they could potentially serve as an example for future movements. 

Friday, February 4, 2011

Happy Birthday, Facebook!

February 5th is a monumental day in history. You might be asking yourself, "What is so important about this random day?" Well friends, today marks the seventh birthday of the largest and most revolutionary social network: Facebook. Over the years, Facebook has grown from an exclusive website for Harvard students to an international social and business phenomenon.

Social Media website, Mashable, did an awesome write-up about the history and changes Facebook has undergone over the past 7 years. Have a look back in Facebook history and reminisce on the days when advertisements and privacy settings didn't swarm your news feed.

7 Years of Facebook: A Retrospective