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July 18 2011

Mashable Weekend Recap: 29 Stories You May Have Missed

It was a weekend for the record books.

The FIFA World Cup Final made some big news this weekend with Japan beating USA in the final match Sunday. We saw tons of people commenting on the outcome of the game on their social channels, and as it turned out, Twitter users set a new record with the number of tweets sent per second.

Of course, we can’t forget about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 either. The final film in the Harry Potter franchise released in U.S. theaters late last week, but it continued to make news as the weekend progressed. Fans set a box office record for opening night and eventually box office records altogether.

And as far as useful resources go, we’ve got the ultimate guide to Google+, Google’s new social layer. You’ll find some other handy tools for Google+ too, including how to set up an RSS feed and how to follow Mashable staff.

News Essentials

Carmageddon Approaches: Here’s What It Will Look Like [VIDEO]

Netflix Heading to Europe in 2012 [REPORT]

LinkedIn Revamps Profiles for Students

The Rise of Mobile In-App Ads [INFOGRAPHIC]

This Week in Politics & Digital: Cyber Security in The Spotlight

Dual-Screen SpaceBook Laptop Up for Pre-Order [UPDATED]

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 Breaks Box Office Records

Is Google+ Becoming More Female?

Reaching 200 Million Accounts: Twitter’s Explosive Growth [INFOGRAPHIC]

Spacecraft Orbits Protoplanet in Asteroid Belt, a First [INFOGRAPHIC]

World Cup Finals: USA Loses to Japan, the Web Reacts [PICS]

World Cup Final: A New Tweets Per Second Record

David Beckham’s Baby Photo Debuts on Facebook [PICS]

Helpful Resources

HOW TO: Add Mashable Staff to Your Circles on Google+

19 Essential Google+ Resources

46 New Digital Media Resources You May Have Missed

Google+: The Complete Guide

Top 10 Twitter Trends This Week [CHART]

5 Tips for Group Deals Success

5 Ways Journalists Are Using Google+

8 Crucial Elements of Startup Success

15 Rad Retro Office Accessories [PICS]

HOW TO: Make RSS Feeds for Google+ Profiles

Tips For Negotiating Employee Equity

Weekend Leisure

Can Web Video Views Predict Box Office Magic for Harry Potter?

Jerry Seinfeld Joins Twitter

Discovered a New Band? Find Out Which Songs To Check Out First With GoRankem

Android App Displays Brain Waves Via Wireless Headband [VIDEO]

3 New Digital Apps For Offline Fun

More About: Google Plus, harry potter and the deathly hallows part 2, Weekend recap, World Cup Final

For more Social Media coverage:

July 05 2011

HOW TO: Measure the ROI of a Content Marketing Strategy

Shane Snow is co-founder of Contently.com, an “agile publishing” platform for brands-turned-publishers and freelance journalists.

Most people quit blogging — and most companies do too, for that matter.

Like healthy diet, frequent exercise, proper posture or any other New Year’s resolution, blogging results take time. A 2008 Technorati survey put the abandonment rate of blogs at about 95%.

Part of the reason for low blog success rate is that most of us have a hard time predicting what kind of return blogging will achieve. “If I blog every day for a month, will I get more leads?” Probably. But it may take six months, not one.

That doesn’t mean it’s not worth the fight.

Before the Internet put publishing and distribution tools in everyone’s hands for free, companies that wanted brand exposure paid for time and/or placement on a third party media property (radio ads, TV commercials, banners). Many still do, but a general shift is occurring online – away from outbound marketing and paid media, toward creating one’s own branded content and spreading that media across the social web.

According to the Content Marketing Institute, 68% of CMOs say they are shifting budget from traditional advertising to this type of content marketing [broken source link, requires membership].

But measuring the return on investment (ROI) on content is difficult, especially if you’re not judging success by ad revenue.

Nine out of ten organizations market with content, according to a recent B2B content marketing survey. Companies like Mint, American Express and Hubspot are now competing with “traditional” media companies for eyeballs with their own content. [not sure what that means ] They’re seeing results -– not necessarily in the form of advertising, but rather, through leads, subscribers and brand awareness.

A recent study by Hubspot indicates that Hubspot customers who practice inbound marketing (of which content is a core element) increase leads an average of 4.2 times within a few months. Other studies have shown similar results, that consistent content output increases conversions.

Content costs money, and measuring the results of your content effort is important. But an effective content strategy is like planting a garden: it takes consistent work that eventually pays off in large quantities. However, failure to water or plow that garden will result in weeds, in other words, a blog post every three months whose only comments are spam.

So how do you convince your boss, your partners or even yourself that content is a good investment? Here are three steps to effectively measure your content strategy:

1. Understand What You’re Measuring

Traditionally media companies use readership and ad revenue as the yardstick for content’s success. In content marketing, however, the goal is typically to achieve some sort of conversion or to build “brand awareness,” a rather ambiguous metric.

A conversion can consist of a mailing list or an RSS subscriber, a user signup, a phone call, a sale or any number of user interactions. The first step to measuring ROI on your content strategy is to set a goal.

If your content goal is to increase user signups, you first need to know your baseline: how many signups are you getting now, and from what sources? Once you start your content efforts, you want to be able to measure the results against that baseline.

2. Use Proxies to Measure Initial Success

Unless you’re already starting with a large audience (huge mailing list, captive user base, etc), it’s going to take a while to build momentum, and even longer to start seeing conversions. However, several proxies can help you chart your progress.

These proxies present immediate signs of encouragement, more so than, say, search engine ranking, which can take a while to manifest. Here’s a quick list of proxies for measuring a blog’s ROI:

  • Facebook likes
  • Retweets
  • LinkedIn and other shares
  • Reblogs
  • Links back
  • Comments
  • Time spent on page
  • Average page views per visitor (especially if you’re effective at internal linking of your posts)
  • Followers
  • @mentions

These proxies will monitor how well your content is resonating, how you’re building trust in your brand. That trust will eventually turn into loyalty, advocacy and continued conversion.

It’s important to note that absolute measurements are rarely useful. What you’re looking for is a trend line. The number of retweets relative to previous content on your site or peer sites is a more useful yardstick than the total number of retweets.

Though it may not seem like much, an average of five tweets on a post today versus an average of one tweet three weeks ago is a great sign of progress.

Also, because some pieces of content will be outliers (whether spikes or duds), it’s important to pay attention to aggregate trend data rather than isolated post data. For example, the average number of retweets in June compared to April is a better measure of progress than the number of retweets on today’s blog post versus yesterday’s.

3. Measure Both Primary and Secondary Conversion Indicators

From a practical standpoint, measuring conversions can be as simple as installing Google Analytics, or keeping a spreadsheet of leads or even tick marks on a whiteboard.

While keeping track of the raw conversion numbers (How many leads are we getting this month versus five months ago when we weren’t blogging?) is important, it’s also crucial to measure secondary indicators. If you’re measuring leads, these might include the following:

  • Quality of leads
  • Retention period
  • Lifetime value per lead
  • Length of sales cycle
  • Number of new customers referred by lead

“One way we try to quantify ROI is to track content users very closely,” says Sam Slaughter, a producer at Comcast.net. “That way we can tell if they went from consuming content to buying a product, or to bookmarking the page, or to digging deeper into the publisher site or any number of actions that the publisher might be able to monetize. From there, we can often come up with an actual dollar value from that piece of content.”

Patience Is the Secret

Content strategy for most businesses isn’t about instant advertising metrics anymore; therefore, clear ROI data can take a while to manifest. Once it does, however, returns will generally increase as you continue to consistently publish.

“When we talk about ROI for content we often use terms like ‘adoption,’ ‘time on site,’ ‘page views per unique’ and things like that,” says Slaughter. “The idea [is] that while you might not be monetizing the content on your site directly, you are using that content to attract new and better users who you can monetize down the road.”

In the end, planning, tracking and consistency will help you succeed. As Problogger founder Darren Rowse recently tweeted, “Building blogs is like building muscles.” Great content properties, like muscles, take patience.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, pearleye

More About: advertising, blogging, business, content, MARKETING, online marketing, ROI, social media, twitter, web

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July 03 2011

Mashable Picks: Our 11 Favorite Tumblr Themes

We all love Tumblr for its ease of use and unique social blogging features. But we really love Tumblr because the right theme can turn your humble cat musings into sophisticated works of web literature. Just click that “install” button and, “Look Ma, I’m a web designer!” (Our judges would have also accepted, “Mmm, I loves me some gradients.”)

Tumblr’s theme garden grows bigger by the day thanks to the contributions of some premier developers. Whether you’re looking to pimp your existing blog or arrive on the Tumblr scene in style, we thought it helpful to highlight a few of the themes we find beautiful, compelling and feature-rich.

See below for staff-picked Mashable favorites, and let us know which theme(s) you’re using in the comments.

1. Savory

Josh Catone: One of the things that makes Savory so nice is that it clearly defines different Tumblr post types while still cohesively tying them together. It also has a massive amount of customization options and built in support for Disqus and Typekit.

Preview it: here.

Install it: here.

Price: $49

2. Field Notes

Lauren Rubin: Field Notes FTW. Not only do I love the products, I love how they've kept the branding consistent in the digital space.

Preview it: here.

Install it: here.

Price: Free

3. Plaid

Brenna Ehrlich: The theme that started my hipster media empire.

Preview it: here.

Install it: here.

Price: Free

4. Brutal Simplicity

Christina Warren: Brutal Simplicity, as the name implies is simple. It's also elegant and easy to customize.

Preview it: here.

Install it: here.

Price: Free

5. Chunky

Lauren Drell: I love Chunky, which I use for my typo blog (#nerdalert). For a lot of Tumblrs, you have to keep scroooooolling down to see older posts. For my purposes (flaunting people's careless spelling on signage), Chunky provides a collage aesthetic that makes the images super easy to consume -- barely any scrolling necessary! Plus, I love bright colors, and this theme is "slabby, colorful, fun."

Preview it: here.

Install it: here.

Price: Free

6. Solaris

Matt Silverman: Few Tumblr themes make good use of white space while keeping posts organized. Solaris is modern, super clean, and instantly digestable. Well worth nine bucks.

Preview it: here.

Install it: here.

Price: $9

7. Effector

Christina Warren: Lots of options, color styles and built-in social tools make Effector a great theme to use and tweak.

Preview it: here.

Install it: here.

Price: Free

8. Chalkdust

Stephanie Buck: I've always wanted to paint my apartment walls with that chalkboard paint. The "Chalkdust" Tumblr theme allows me to virtually paint - without inciting the wrath of my landlord.

Preview it: here.

Install it: here.

Price: Free

9. Rubber Cement

Stacy Green: I love the Rubber Cement theme from SleepoverSF, because thats what I use -- in purple of course. ;)

Preview it: here.

Install it: here.

Price: Free

10. Storybook

Christina Warren: This illustrated Tumblr theme is just beautiful to look at.

Preview it: here.

Install it: here.

Price: $49

11. Blank Slate

Christina Warren: Blank Slate indeed! I love the fixed sidebar and the textured background.

Preview it: here.

Install it: here.

Price: $49

More About: blogging, List, Lists, social media, tumblr, tumblr themes, web design, Web Development

For more Dev & Design coverage:

May 01 2011

How 3 Companies Took Content Marketing to the Next Level

content image

Shane Snow is a Mashable contributor and cofounder of Contently.com, an “agile publishing” platform for brands and professional bloggers.

It goes by many names: branded content, custom publishing, content marketing. Cheap and ubiquitous web technology has become fuel for a rising trend of businesses becoming publishers and brands becoming media companies. Through content creation, brands can engage directly with an audience rather than relying on intermediary media channels. If you publish and spread great content, customers will come to you.

According to the Content Marketing Institute, an organization that provides research and education on content marketing, “93% of marketing professionals create, or plan to create content marketing as part of their overall programs in the next year.” Money is being slurped away from print advertising (44% of marketers have decreased their print ad budgets over the last three years) and put in large part toward social media and custom publishing (70% have increased their social media.publishing budgets over the last 3 years), according to CMI.

Blogging, tweeting and posting not only generate brand awareness and buzz, they also build links, which are like gold to Google’s ranking algorithm. In short, content marketing is the new SEO.

How should your business or brand think about its content marketing strategy? Take some tips from the following companies.

1. Mint.com

mint image

When personal finance startup Mint launched in 2006, it was quickly thrown into competition with web startups like Wesabe, and established juggernauts like Quicken. Three years later, the company is a market leader in online personal finance and sold to Intuit for $170 million.

Mint owes much of its user adoption and brand success to its aggressively intelligent content strategy. Unlike the half-hearted, months-between-updates blogs that most businesses keep, Mint’s blog “MintLife” was a core part of the company’s operation.

Mint dedicated significant resources to its blog, including a full time editorial staff and a slew of freelance contributors. It invested time in social news sites like Reddit and Digg, and after months of seeing consistent, quality Mint content, readers in those communities began trusting Mint as high quality, reliable, and cool to share. Eventually, those users turned into Mint customers, even advocating Mint in their personal networks.

News and tips posts, link roundups, slideshows, videos, and infographics were all key components in Mint’s content strategy, and they were held to a strict editorial standard. By establishing itself as a smart resource that was easy and accessible to the financially curious, Mint was able to leverage its content credibility to convert readers into buyers of its actual product.

Mint is consistently lauded as a pioneer in successful blog content marketing. Big takeaways for attaining Mint-like success include the following:

  • Dedicate resources to content (whether paying outsourced/contributed writers or in-house editors).
  • Enforce high quality editorial standards on all content types (writing, illustration, video).
  • Share content smartly through social channels.
  • Remember consistency and patience in building up an audience.

2. Hubspot

hubspot image

Makers of the marketing software platform Hubspot know the value of good content for inbound marketing. Hubspot cofounder Dharmesh Shah anecdotally told me that his customers who blog regularly average about six times more inbound leads than those who don’t.

It makes sense that Hubspot itself does a lot of content marketing. They produce case studies, videos, podcasts, webinars, and ebooks for their audience, educating them about their industry. All of that education helps Hubspot customers use the platform more effectively, but it also scoops new users out of seemingly thin air with every piece of content it publishes to the blogosphere.

Hubspot has over 4,000 customers. Their primary customer acquisition method: inbound leads from content marketing.

Here’s what the rest of us can take away from Hubspot’s content marketing:

  • Produce content with the goal of being seen as a “thought leader” rather than simply for the sake of having large quantities of content.
  • Publish diverse types of content, and don’t confine yourself to a single effort.
  • Don’t just produce content about yourself; create content that’s helpful to your audience.

Disclosure: Hubspot is a Mashable sponsor.

3. American Express

amex image

When did credit card companies start turning into media companies? It’s been happening for years, but American Express has done a bang-up job of turning its business and money expertise into actionable content for entrepreneurs — an influential subset of Amex’s total user market — with OpenForum.com.

Open Forum offers tools for small businesses, many of which have tie-ins with Amex products, but the site is also dedicated to hosting insightful and engaging content about the many facets of running a business. Useful content is produced by publishers like Inc. Magazine (as well as Mashable), and hosted on OpenForum.com, while other articles are created by in-house Open Forum writers. It’s a hybrid advertising/guest blogging/in-house editorial operation, and it’s fostering a community around the topic of running a business. All of the conversations and content in the community live under the American Express flag.

Lessons from Open Forum’s content marketing include the following:

  • Get trusted contributors to publish guest content on your properties.
  • Develop a community of users around a topic (rather than around your brand), and let your brand be the host of the community.
  • Don’t neglect original content authored by you. (You want to be the host and an expert).

Disclosure: OpenForum is a Mashable content partner.

Final Thought

Omnipresent publishing tools and Internet culture have made branded content more than a possibility for web businesses; they’ve made it a necessity. Whereas five years ago your business needed to have a website in order to exist, soon your company’s survival may depend on your ability to be an effective publisher.

Aside from Mint, Hubspot, and American Express, many other companies have had great success in with content marketing. Whose branded content have you liked (or disliked)?

Interested in more Business resources? Check out Mashable Explore, a new way to discover information on your favorite Mashable topics.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, jgroup

More About: blog, blogging, business, case study, content, MARKETING, publishing, social media, startups

For more Business & Marketing coverage:

April 29 2011

3 Amusing Tumblrs That Poke Fun at the Royal Wedding

From the mainstream media to Twitter, there’s been no shortage of Royal Wedding-related content across the web lately, and Tumblr users have been doing their part to keep their colleagues informed and amused.

While there’s a fair number of “serious” Tumblrs chronicling the minutiae of wedding preparations and the particulars of Kate Middleton’s wardrobe, there’s also a welcome handful intent on providing comic relief from the obsessive coverage of the engaged couple and all of those involved.

We’ve identified three of our favorites here. Love one we’ve missed? Please share it with us in the comments section below.

Kate Middleton For The Win

Kate Middleton For The Win features photos of Kate Middleton plastered with Lolcats-style captions, mainly pertaining to the bride-to-be’s enviable figure and penchant for large hats.

Royal Wedding Tat

One of my personal favorites, Royal Wedding Tat, crowdsources photos of the thousands of tacky Royal Wedding-themed products hitting store shelves around the world. Among the strangest? Royal Wedding bedding and meerkat statues dressed like Will and Kate.

Prince Charles FTW

While not precisely Royal Wedding-themed, we couldn’t leave out Prince Charles FTW, especially after seeing the image above. The Tumblr curates, as you might have guessed, giggle-worthy photos of Prince Charles watching polo, walking sheep and making funny faces in the rain. It’s only a few days old, so we hope the (anonymous) author keeps it up after the festivities are over.

Interested in more Social Media resources? Check out Mashable Explore, a new way to discover information on your favorite Mashable topics.

More About: kate middleton, royal wedding, rw2011, tumblr

For more Media coverage:

April 28 2011

The PR Pro’s Guide to Blogging

The Social PR Guide Series is supported by Mynewsdesk. Our online newsroom makes it easier to exchange news with key influencers, reach top of search engines and automatically update your social media channels.

Lots of companies benefit from having a blog. For some, it’s a friendly, accessible way to say hi to devoted fans, curious onlookers and likely a few haters and skeptics. For others, it’s simply the way they communicate important messages. The role of public relations professionals in this chatty puzzle is to help companies build, shape and fine-tune their public voice. In fact, many PR campaigns aren’t complete without a blog strategy. But building a client blog from the ground up can be daunting. So where do you begin?

Start, With Help

When it comes to picking out a blog platform, there are certainly plenty to choose from, but Jeff Davis, who runs the content services team at San Francisco-based PR firm LaunchSquad, generally points clients towards WordPress, a mostly-free, open-source platform. Davis also makes another point: When you’re just starting out, don’t go DIY. “If you’re building something strategic for a client, even if it’s small scale, hire a WordPress developer to handle set up, find the right plugins and design a nice UI. It can be fairly inexpensive and is critical to building a blog that will work the way you need it to quickly and effectively.”

With a bit of help, WordPress’ initial set up process is simple and fast, and yet it offers a huge range of customization and configuration options. And with thousands of plugins, there is one that will satisfy any need that you can think of, often for free. For those who are coordinating blogs for multiple clients, WordPress also offers admin features for easy management across the board.

Optimize, But Not Too Much

According to Rich Brooks, President and “Chief Blogging Officer” at Flyte New Media, your SEO practices should have a very simple goal: rank high in search results for the things that your client’s customers are looking for. He recommends starting with a keyword analysis service like Raventools, WordTracker or Google Adwords’ keyword tool.

You want to pick one keyword topic per post, mentioning it once in the post title and once in the body of the post. Be sure to link important words to past posts as well, but keep it to one or two internal links at most. Beyond that, make sure you’ve got the WordPress SEO plugin installed and place the rest of your focus on working with your client to create engaging content.

Make It Worth Sharing

The company and product news that grace the vast majority of corporate blogs can certainly be both useful and good, but it’s just a tiny snippet of what is possible and inspiring. Arik Hanson, principal at ACH Communications, recommends considering content that is less about your client’s product, and more about the “culture that surrounds” your client’s product.

Hubspot, a company that offers inbound Internet marketing software, is a prime example. Its blog offers up creatively packaged, practical information that appeals to its very own target audience. Readers will find witty, educational posts, videos, guest contributions and even cartoons that cover everything from SEO and lead generation to Charles Darwin and cupcakes.

As you work together with your client to determine the content and focus of the blog, you should ask two key questions:

  • Who is going to read it?
  • What kinds of topics and issues do they care the most about?

There are tons of ways to develop an ongoing flow of engaging blog content, especially if your client is willing to talk about something other than the company. Don’t be afraid to pull in experts for Q&As, give spots to guest authors, respond to news and timely topics, share the spotlight with partners and customers and provide educational how-tos. And of course, we all love lists.

Think Like a Media Property

Davis says that there are times when a company blog can fill a pretty significant informational void. In 2009, Boston-based PR agency March Communications launched a blog for client TuneUp, which makes PC utilities for consumers. After conducting some market research, the company learned that when faced with PC problems, many people turned to forums and blogs to end up finding unverified and even potentially harmful solutions. The goal of the TuneUp blog was to become a reliable source of information for PC users who want to improve performance. The team brought on an external, experienced editor-in-chief to ensure editorial quality, and it placed the majority of the blog’s focus on helping users solve real problems. Since launch, more than 170,000 people have visited the TuneUp company blog to find answers to their PC questions and concerns.

Build Your Own Newswire

Traditionally, when a company has news to share, the official statement comes in the form of a press release. However, a carefully-written, information-rich blog post can play a similar role. Andrew Sinkov, VP of marketing at Evernote, explains that “your blog can be your own newswire.” A pre-published draft of a blog post, shared with reporters under embargo, is a legitimate source for news. Last month, Evernote used a blog post as the “news announcement” for the launch of its redesigned web app, with an embargo set for the time the post was to be published. Instead of having the information live on a wire somewhere, the Evernote blog is the ultimate source for Evernote news. The announcement post has since been viewed over 17,000 times.

The benefit of incorporating blog posts into your news announcement strategy is that it’s an opportunity to share the news in the client’s voice. “You write a blog post like it’s coming from you. You’re telling a story, you’re talking to someone. If you’re excited about something, that personal excitement comes through,” says Sinkov. This doesn’t mean that blog posts should replace press releases, it simply means that they should not be overlooked. So if you’ve got a press announcement and a blog post all drafted up and set for a big launch, make sure the reporters who cover your news get to see them both.

Turn Your Readers Into Viewers

Some of us and/or our clients might have the luxury of a video-savvy person on staff — but many do not yet. Not having a dedicated video pro doesn’t mean you can’t post videos, which are a great way to engage an audience. Whether it’s a user offering her own how-to, a customer waxing poetic about how great your client’s product is, an employee explaining why people should want to work there, or the CEO talking about his favorite kind of ice cream (or his company vision, for that matter), video tells a story in a way that text often cannot match.

Steve Garfield, author of Get Seen: Online Video Secrets and the first-ever video blogger, explains that video is easier than ever to capture. Any smartphone will do as a start. For example, capture a video on an iPhone, pull it into the iMovie app to trim the clips and layer in photos and sound, upload it to YouTube directly from the app and embed it in a blog post. Keep it short and sweet — 30 to 60 seconds at most. Garfield also recommends the Kodak Playfull, a simple camera with built-in editing and sharing features.

The best advice here is to be ready to experiment. Blogs can be casual, and captured video can be real, authentic and less-than-perfect. Companies are made of people, after all, and all of these same characteristics apply. Pick your device and take it with you when your client is speaking, out at an event, or excited about a new product, and encourage your client to capture video around the office, too.

Some Parting Advice

  • Create an editorial calendar that outlines both the types of posts that you would like to see on your client’s blog (video, text, photo), and the post topics. Make sure you’ve got at least two months of blogging covered at any given time, and that there is clear delineation of responsibilities, including someone who is actively maintaining the calendar. And don’t be surprised when the topic pipeline changes, because it inevitably does.
  • Come up with a realistic posting schedule. One post per week is a good starting point, and it can go up from there based on time and resources. It is good to be consistent, and it is okay to for some posts to be relatively brief in order to keep things going.
  • Determine who your writers are and what amount of time and resources you’ll have at your disposal. Get them to commit to a certain number of posts per month or quarter — and start conservatively.
  • Make it as easy as possible for readers to spread your content around and be sure your blog is decked out with all the key sharing plugins.
  • Make a list of the top 10 or 15 most influential bloggers in your client’s space. Then, make a habit of sending them a friendly note when a great, relevant post goes up. And be sure to give back to your blogger community by setting up a blogroll and offering “link love” and retweets of great posts that you come across.
  • Think like a reporter. Whether you are the main writer of your client’s blog or are working with a handful of people on the client side who do the posting, pay attention to timely topics that come through and share your ideas.

What do you think of blogging for PR? Let us know in the comments below. Share your blogs, as well as your advice for PR professionals who use blogs.

Disclosure: The author works for Launchsquad, and Evernote is one of her clients. Hubspot is a Mashable sponsor.

Series Supported by MyNewsDesk

Mynewsdesk’s social media newsrooms makes it easier to exchange news and multimedia content with key influencers, reach the top of search engines and automatically update your social media outlets and homepage. Learn more.

More Social Media Resources from Mashable:

- The Pros and Cons Of Tumblr For Small Business
- 4 Innovative Ways to Use Web Video for Small Business
- 10 Online Strategies for Your Next Product Launch
- What to Look For When Hiring a Community Manager
- 8 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Get More Out of Twitter

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, tioloco, LdF, narawon.

More About: blogging, BLOGS, PUBLIC RELATIONS, social media, social pr guide series

For more Business & Marketing coverage:

April 07 2011

March 24 2011

11 Pro Tips for Better Business Blogging

word image

Scott Gerber is a serial entrepreneur, syndicated columnist, public speaker and author of Never Get a “Real” Job. The content of this post was sourced from the Young Entrepreneur Council, a non-profit led by the world’s top young entrepreneurs. You can submit your questions to this group on YoungEntrepreneurCouncil.com.

Blogging isn’t easy — and certainly not for individuals who don’t have the capacity or desire to commit their minds and time to a long-term cause. In an age where everyone and their mother has access to Blogger, Tumblr, Posterous or other flavor-of-the-year services, getting your blog to be well-trafficked, highly syndicated and massively popular is no easy task.

Know this before you consider blogging as a marketing option for your business: Even though you can write a blog, doesn’t mean you should. Not every business needs one, no matter what the “one-size-fits-all” startup books and “experts” say. In fact, for most businesses, it will be an utter waste of precious selling time that will not meet your expectations. Cutting corners or half-assing this exercise will do nothing more than lead you to produce advertorial dribble.

Should you decide that blogging is the right marketing vehicle for you and/or your business, know that there are many tried-and-true ways to organically build traction, create awareness over time and achieve value for your small business. I asked a panel of successful young entrepreneurs how to ensure that your blogging efforts remain on point, effective and primed for success.

1. Become an Industry Expert

stefanie imageUse the blog to position yourself as an industry expert. Write about what’s going on at your company but also consolidate important and interesting industry happenings so that others will look to you as a resource and expert in the field. Make your blog worth reading by collecting valuable content and making it easier to stay on top of for readers.

- Stephanie Kaplan

Company: HerCampus.com

Twitter: @StephanieKaplan

Facebook: Stephanie Kaplan

2. Always Be Adding Value

Devesh imageAbsolutely don’t create a advertorial time drain. … We have plenty of those around! Write something that adds value instead. Write something that educates, inspires and informs your audience. Real-life stories written by readers are the best way to keep the content engaging. Success stories in your genre/industry could be a great start to involve masses at both ends, creating and consuming content.

- Devesh Dwivedi

Company: BreakingThe9to5Jail.com

Twitter: @Break9to5Jail

Facebook: BreakingThe0to5Jail

3. Blogging Is a Big Commitment

Matt imageIf you’re not willing to put the hard and persistent effort into building an audience over a prolonged period of time, your best bet might be to look at guest writing opportunities on existing blogs, websites, email newsletters or even in print publications, which have large and established readerships. Every publisher and media company is always looking for quality contributors who deliver value.

- Matt Mickiewicz

Company: 99designs.com

Twitter: @sitepointmatt

4. Reader Loyalty Cannot Be Bought

kent imageThere is no overnight method to create a respected and popular blog. Remember, general “hits” are insignificant compared to loyal readers — and there is no way to build loyalty immediately. Focus on providing excellent content by balancing both company insights and personality. A good blog to model for you may be 37 Signals‘. Then use social media platforms to share your posts wherever possible.

- Kent Healy

Company: TheUncommonLife.com

Twitter: @Kent_Healy

Facebook: Kent Healy

5. Network, Share and Repeat

Ashley image“If you build it, they will come” is not how it works with blogs and websites. You need to focus on creating unique content, and when you do post something, be sure to share it with everyone in your network. Never underestimate those in your network because they may just be the people who become your voices.

- Ashley Bodi

Company: BusinessBeware.biz

Twitter: @businessbeware

Facebook: Ashley Bodi

6. Be Passionate, and Show Your Readers Some Love

Adam imageAs we know, anyone can set up a blog in a day or so, but it takes quite a bit more work to be a superb blogger and start realizing the real benefits of blogging. Creating entertaining and informative posts based on specific experiences and statistics is a fast track way to grow a loyal readership. Show your readers that their comments are appreciated, make sure you respond to them!

- Adam Toren

Company: YoungEntrepreneur.com

Twitter: @thebizguy

Facebook: Young Entrepreneurs

7. Solve Your Readers’ Problems

Natalie imageToo many companies focus the company blog on promoting a product line and trying to make more sales rather than focusing on solving readers’ problems. Think of questions and concerns your audience has or better yet, ask them. Then address those concerns on the blog. For example, a mechanic shop can discuss car maintenance tips and tell readers what they need to know before buying a new car.

- Natalie MacNeil

Company: She Takes on the World

Twitter: @nataliemacneil

Facebook: She Takes on the World

8. Don’t Start a Blog, Just Write for Other Blogs

Eric imageIf you aren’t willing to commit to developing a high quality blog (it’s hard), then don’t start one. Instead, develop relationships with other successful bloggers in your industry. Ask whether you can write an occasional blog post for them and point back to your company website. This is a great way to optimize your exposure and stay non-committal about writing a regular blog post.

- Eric Bahn

Company: BeatTheGMAT.com

Twitter: @beatthegmat

Facebook: BeatTheGMAT

9. Know Thy Audience

Elizabeth imageYour blog content should appeal first and foremost to your customers and potential customers. Think about what they would want to read and form your content around meeting their needs in a unique way. To increase readership, you can include links to these articles in your company email newsletter.

- Elizabeth Saunders

Company: Real Life E®

Twitter: @RealLifeE

Facebook: TimeCoaching

10. Remember the Two-Month Rule

Ryan imageBlogging won’t be a successful marketing avenue for you overnight. It might never be. Here’s a good test: The first two months of starting a blog are the most difficult because it feels like nobody is reading. If you can keep yourself focused on a topic and remain consistent over that first two-month period then you probably have what it takes to run a successful blog. If you can’t, just stop.

- Ryan Paugh

Company: Brazen Careerist

Twitter: @ryanpaugh

Facebook: Ryan Paugh

11. Interview the Big Dogs

Jared imageInterviews are a great source of content and allow you to tap into others networks. Find the experts in your industry and especially the experts with an online presence who will mention the interview.

- Jared O’Toole

Company: Under30CEO.com

Twitter: @JaredOToole

Interested in more Business resources? Check out Mashable Explore, a new way to discover information on your favorite Mashable topics.

Image courtesy of Flickr, aablog, blogger, blogging, business, virtual tools, yec

For more Business & Marketing coverage:

March 11 2011

Hacktivism: Startup Mentality for the Non-Profit Sector

Saad Khan is a hacktivist and Partner at CMEA Capital. He’s a seed and early stage investor in companies like Blekko, Pixazza, Jobvite, and Evolution Robotics. He blogs at SaadWired and conversates on Twitter @saadventures. If you’re a hacktivist, reach out to him — he wants to connect with you.

A young hacker is holed up alone in his apartment. His face is lit by a laptop screen, monitor split between a live video stream and a text editor filled with code. Fueled by Ramen Noodles and caffeine, he codes away through the night, monitoring the latest hashtags on Twitter, never a few seconds behind the newest exploding meme, instantly transmitting the latest news to others in his social graph.

This is a scene that is played out in the rooms of countless hackers and their “lean startups” around the world. Only for the past few weeks, it could have just as easily described an entirely new, organic, philanthropic phenomenon: Hacktivism.

Hacktivism is the use of hacking and the startup mentality to tackle and support social good causes. Here’s a look at some of the minds behind hacktivism and ways that it is helping charities worldwide.

Welcome to the Hacktivism Era

egypt image

I was invited to Washington, D.C. for the Tech@State: Open Source event hosted by the Office of e-Diplomacy at the State Department. Rather than besuited C-SPANers, geeks from around the world had descended on D.C. to intermingle with practitioners of statecraft. It was also unusual for another reason — a hemisphere away, a million Egyptians had descended on a main square in Egypt and demanded of their government and the world that their voices be heard. A couple of hours into that Friday morning, they got just that when Hosni Mubarak finally stepped down after 30 years.

In a cosmic coincidence (the event had been planned for weeks), I was on a panel two hours later discussing the political implications of new media with people like Habib Haddad, one of the many volunteers involved with the AliveInEgypt initiative and recently vindicated friend of Wael Ghaneim (the Google employee who had, until very recently, been incarcerated). The panel also included Katherine Maher, ICT program officer at the National Democratic Institute, and Mark Toner, deputy spokesperson for the State Department.

Consider the propagation of organic efforts like AliveInEgypt. When Internet activity had been shut down in Egypt, volunteers from Google and Twitter launched international lines that one could call to leave voicemails that would then be tweeted out with location hashtags. The creators of AliveInEgypt set up a crowdsourced translation service to take those mostly Arabic voicemails and convert them to text in as many languages as possible in the Twittersphere. Loosely organized, geographically dispersed, and entirely volunteer-driven, hundreds of people contributed.

This Visualization of the Egyptian Twitter Sphere helps put into context the various efforts. Its designer, Kovas Boguta, called me a few days before I went to D.C. saying he wanted to do something useful for the Egyptian cause. We discussed what was possible over the phone, and three days later I was showcasing his #Egypt visualization on a big screen at the State Department.

Another interesting example is the OpenMesh project. It’s a virtual collaboration with the objective of developing a communication solution for when Internet and/or mobile communications are shut down as they were in Egypt recently. Among the many options being explored are ad hoc mesh networking solutions that enable peer-to-peer communications.

These are just a few examples of how entrepreneurial creativity has been unlocked over the past few weeks to respond to a higher cause. Others are creating Gov 2.0 apps. I suspect countless ideas and plans are hatching in cubicles everywhere.

A New Kind of Activism

The events of the last few weeks have clearly galvanized a new kind of lean entrepreneurial activism. It’s enabled by the same drivers as lean startups: Free software, pay-as-you-go data centers and social distribution channels. But these entrepreneurs aren’t trying to be the next Mark Zuckerberg. What drives them is the desire to effect change, a sense of digital empowerment and an intuition that we are at a unique moment in history, one where generational transfers of leadership are at stake and increasingly possible.

Underlying much of this energy is an unprecedented global solidarity among people traditionally separated by thousands of miles of physical space and cultural artifacts. It’s forged by a very visceral empathy that comes with directly shared images and personal connections that today’s technology enables. Tens of thousands of people followed the unfolding saga of Ghonim’s capture and redemption on Twitter and Facebook. They saw what he saw and read what he was thinking. They watch. They connect. And then they want to do something about it.

Make no mistake, these people are entrepreneurs. They are agitators, opportunists, and catalysts for change. They measure success one follower at a time. I for one, think it’s time to get behind them. Let’s start activist hackathons, organize StartupWeekend “.gov Edition,” and engineer for a higher cause. We just might start a new kind of revolution.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, ssstep

Interested in more Social Good resources? Check out Mashable Explore, a new way to discover information on your favorite Mashable topics.

More About: charity, Egypt, hacktivism, non-profit, social good, twitter

For more Social Good coverage:

January 19 2011

HOW TO: Beat Writer’s Block Online

Nowadays, we are all content creators. Whether it’s work or a school project, the next blog post, or even that next tweet, we all suffer from writer’s block from time to time.

Traditional advice suggests taking a break from your monitor and getting some fresh air. That’s great old school advice, but it isn’t a useful suggestion for anyone tied to their computer. We’ve pulled together some top ideas, tools and services for beating writer’s block in an online environment, so you can break through that barrier without leaving your desk.

Have a read below for our quick tips to help you beat writer’s block online and let us know in the comments about any methods that have worked for you.

1. Get Inspired

Staring at your choice of word processing program is not likely to inspire you. If you can’t physically get outdoors, why not let the outdoors come to you. Take a virtual break — hop over to YouTube and refresh your brain with a seascape video, or stimulate your senses with the sounds of a forest.

Alternatively, music can help with creativity, but don’t just hit play on the usual suspects. Why not try some classical music that can lift your spirits without the distraction of lyrics. Or how about a foreign language radio station far removed from your usual choice of music to offer your brain some different input.

Images can also trigger a creative response. Flickr offers slideshow functionality — just tap in a keyword, hit the “slideshow” option on the top-right of the screen and let your mind wander as you view the images.

Finally, reading some classic literature is a great way to kick your brain into writing mode. You’ll find classics and more available to view for free at sites like Project Gutenberg and Google Books.

2. Improve Your Focus

If you are stuck in an office and can’t tailor your work environment to suit you, you can at least make on-screen changes to try and make you more productive and get rid of the many distractions of Web 2.0.

If you just need to sit down, get over the creative blockage and for goodness sake type, there is software available for both Mac and Windows users that can help. Writing is all about the text — you can worry about frills and formatting later on. Full-screen, no fuss text editors offer no distractions from other programs you may have open. There’s no on-screen clutter to hinder you and it can be a great way of forcing yourself to write.

Paid-for software WriteRoom is the seminal distraction-free writing tool for Mac users, while Windows users can try DarkRoom or WriteMonkey.

3. Use Language Tools

Sometimes writer’s block can strike when it comes to one line of text you can’t move past, or even just the one word you need to complete the perfect paragraph. There are online tools that can help. Rather than the obvious standard online dictionaries and thesauri, you may find alternatives can better help your creative process.

You can take advantage of a rhyming dictionary, an urban dictionary for slang and street speak, an online graphical dictionary or a visual thesaurus.

Lastly, a semantic dictionary might be the answer if you’re not even sure exactly what it is you’re looking for. Princeton University’s WordNet project groups words into sets of synonyms and then shows the semantic relations between those sets. It is arguably more intuitive than traditional methods, and might just be what you need to grab that bon mot out of the ether.

4. Develop Ideas

If idea generation is the problem, then going back over your old, similar work (especially the successful stuff) is a worthwhile exercise.

“Brainstorming” software can also help develop loose ideas into something concrete by giving structure to your thought process. As shown in the screengrab above, Bubbl.us is a good example of such a tool done right — it is so simple to use you can concentrate on your ideas rather than how to use the software.

If you like the ability to draw freehand, as well as create flowcharts, then DabbleBoard might be the service for you. It also lets you upload images and documents and share your screen with others.

LanguageIsAVirus.com is more suited to creative writers, offering a ton of tools for idea generation, including writing games like the “random line generator,” a text collage and a poem engine.

5. Get Social!

Two brains are better than one. And 10 are better than two. If you are really stuck then don’t be afraid to reach out to your social circle. Whether it’s fact or opinion-based help from Q&A services such as Quora or Aardvark or a quick bit of crowdsourcing on Twitter or Facebook Questions, your online buddies are there to help — just as you’d assist them in return.

If you’re lucky enough to have longer term collaborator(s), you can always employ some software to help the feedback process. Wridea is ideal for this use. You can note down, categorize and search your ideas on the web service and then share them with friends for feedback.

More Productivity Resources from Mashable:

- 18 Online Productivity Tools for Your Business
- HOW TO: Choose a News Reader for Keeping Tabs on Your Industry
- HOW TO: Use a Start Page to Stay Organized
- HOW TO: Use Social Media to Connect with Other Entrepreneurs

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Pgiam

More About: blogging, blogging tools, flickr, inspiration, List, Lists, online, productivity, writers, writing

November 30 2010

16 Handy iPhone Apps for Better Blogging

This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.

The statistics indicate that small businesses with corporate blogs receive 55% more web traffic than small businesses that don’t blog. That’s why it is so important for companies to explore the possibility of adding blogs to their marketing and social strategies.

Blogging isn’t just writing posts. You have to choose images for your posts, monitor your blogging platform and analytics, market your blog and constantly think about new post ideas.

To keep your blogging activities flexible, there are several iPhone apps that you can use. This allows you to keep up with your blog no matter where you are.

These 16 apps will help you do just that. Add your favorite apps for blogging in the comments below.

Blogging Platforms

BlogPress ($2.99) provides complete mobile blogging, including text, images and video. It supports multiple platforms such as Blogger, WordPress, TypePad and many more.

If you don’t need to have multiple platforms at your disposal, there are some apps for specific blogging platforms available. And many are free.

WordPress for iOS (free) allows you to moderate comments, create or edit posts and add images or videos. You can use this app with both a WordPress.com or self-hosted WordPress.org site.

And if you have a Squarespace site, there’s an iPhone app (free) to create and manage your Squarespace site entirely from your iPhone. It also offers “seamless importing” from WordPress, Blogger, TypePad or Movable Type sites.

Images and Video

Strong images or videos increase reader interest and engagement, so they’re an important part of every blog post. And there are several apps that can help you find, format and insert them on the go.

Photobucket Mobile (free) allows you to upload photos and videos to your blog, Facebook or Twitter. The app also provides access to a searchable media library, with uploading capability and album management.

Adobe Photoshop Express (free) provides one-finger photo editing. You can crop, adjust, filter and add effects or borders on the go.

CellSpin ($1.99) offers the ability to capture video, photo, audio or text and upload it simultaneously on all of your social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, etc. This could be an easy way to send out photos of the team at a company event to your entire network (at one time!).

Marketing Your Blog

Once you have your blog up and running, you have to start marketing it. Some of the best ways to market your blog are via other social media sites.

Twitter (free) provides you with the same real-time search and trending topics you enjoy on your desktop.

If you are looking for more organization, Tweetdeck (free) provides the ability to create groups, manage multiple accounts as well as sync to your existing desktop Tweetdeck account.

Facebook (free) gives you access to not only your personal Facebook account but any company Pages to which you’re assigned administrator access, as well. So you can check your Pages and respond to comments.


After spending time marketing your blog, it’s only natural to want to see the traffic numbers. Analytics App ($6.99) provides complete mobile access to Google Analytics.

Analytics Pro ($6.99) also provides access to Google Analytics, along with features to export data into reports, as well as grouping and sorting of accounts. In addition, it provides an intuitive date picker for setting the date range.

For a quick check on numbers like subscribers, Twitter followers and page views, Ego ($4.99) offers a single dashboard to check the statistics that matter to you.

Idea Gathering

Bloggers are constantly looking for their next post idea. To make sure you don’t forget your best ideas, consider a note-taking app.

Evernote (free) allows you to create text, photo and audio notes that will sync with your PC, Mac or Web. A nice feature is Evernote’s search capability, so you can store and catalog a lot of thoughts without losing them.

If you’re already using Microsoft OneNote, MobileNoter (free) can be used as a standalone app or synced with OneNote. It allows you to create notebooks and share your information. This could be very handy if you have a multi-contributor blog and want to exchange ideas among several people.

As the name implies, Simplenote (free) offers a straightforward, easy note-taking app that syncs with your computer. It’s a great place to jot down a list to reference later.

And while we’re talking about ideas, don’t forget to set up Google Reader on your iPhone so you can read your favorite blogs when you’re out of the office. Other blogs are a great source of inspiration.

Writing a blog is hard work. But it doesn’t have to be a burden. Finding a few apps that can make managing your blog a bit easier makes all the difference. What apps are you using to manage your blog? Leave a note in the comments.

More Blogging Resources from Mashable:

- 15 Excellent Corporate Blogs to Learn From
- 10 Tips for Corporate Blogging
- 10 Free Drupal Themes for Small Business
- 20 Free Social Media Icon Sets For a More Shareable Website
- 5 Hot Design Trends for Aspiring Bloggers

More About: Adobe Photoshop Express, Analytics Pro App, blogger, blogging, Cellspin, corporate blogging, evernote, facebook, google analytics, google reader, iphone, List, Lists, microsoft onenote, mobile blogging, photobucket, photobucket for iphone, simplenote, squarespace, tweetdeck, twitter, typepad, Wordpress

For more Apple coverage:

November 11 2010

10 Free Drupal Themes for Small Business

This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.

With the emergence of excellent open source content management systems (CMS) in recent years, a business seeking to develop a professional online presence rapidly at a reasonable cost is a reality.

Drupal, an open source CMS used by large corporations and governmental organizations such as CNN, AOL, WhiteHouse.gov, Harvard and many others, is a wonderful option for businesses needing a powerful website without the typical costs of having one made from scratch. It’s highly customizable to your needs, and with the thousands of free Drupal themes out there, you can build a site that will impress your customers.

This is a collection of free Drupal themes that are suitable for small businesses. To learn more about Drupal, start your journey on the official Drupal website.

1. Acquia Prosper

Acquia Prosper

This cleanly designed Drupal theme is built specifically for e-commerce sites. Drupal can have e-commerce capabilities through extensions such as Ubercart, enabling you to get an enterprise-level e-store up and running within a fraction of the time and cost it normally takes to deploy one.

2. Ishalist


Ishalist is best described as minimalist in aesthetics. If you want a neutral and humble look that lends itself to customization, you should consider using this theme. This Drupal theme is spacious, with plenty of white space, big typography and a nice header region to place product images on.

3. St Octavin

ST Octavin

St Octavin’s visual design is oriented toward modern corporate website. Out of the box, it has a slick, animated dropdown navigation menu and a top image banner region for showcasing your products and services.

4. Orange


Orange is a beautiful and modern Drupal theme. It has a great structure for placing your company’s web copy. The integrated search bar is quickly apparent to your site visitors, ensuring that they will be able to find what they are looking for.

5. Acquia Slate

Acquia Slate

This corporate Drupal theme is dark in color scheme, clean and professional. The huge header region gives site owners plenty of room for images, company slogans and so forth. The sidebar features a vertical navigation menu that readily affords site visitors ease-of-use for exploring the website.

6. Contrast


The Contrast Drupal theme will give your future website a slick, two-column webpage layout. The aesthetic is crisp and clear, using a blue, red and black color palette.

7. Danland


Danland is a free Drupal theme outfitted with clean, clear and professional visuals. It has support for one, two or even three columns for your web pages, wide cross-browser support even for outmoded browser versions (such as IE6), an emphasis on SEO to help your business gain exposure from search engines and much more.

8. AD Novus

AD Novus

This Drupal theme is professional and features a light color scheme. You can configure the website layout to have one or two columns depending on your needs and preferences.

9. Fields 2009 template

Fields 2009 template

The free Fields 2009 Drupal theme will be especially appealing to business owners who are in the health, organic, environment and nature industries. The vibrant green and blue color scheme and the illustrative background allow the theme to be fun and light-hearted, but business-ready at the same time.

10. ST Conch

ST Conch

ST Conch is an elegant business theme aimed at business/e-commerce site owners. An animated image banner at the top of the layout serves as a great location for flipping through your company’s images to intrigue and engage your site visitors.

Do you use Drupal for your small business blog or website? What are some of your favorite themes? Let us know in the comments.

More Business Resources from Mashable:

- 5 Beautiful Tumblr Themes for Small Businesses
- 10 Free WordPress Themes for Small Businesses
- 5 Small Biz Web Design Trends to Watch
- How Businesses Are Unleashing Their Employees’ Social Media Potential
- What’s the Value in a Brand Name?

Image courtesy of Flickr, Matt Farina

More About: blog themes, blogging, business, CMS, content management, content management system, drupal, free drupal themes, List, Lists, small business, theme, themes, web design, Web Development

For more Business coverage:

November 10 2010

20 Free Social Media Icon Sets For a More Shareable Website

If your blog needs a face lift, the creative types who power the web are here to help. Sometimes a few well-designed, tastefully placed icons can add a little class or creativity to an otherwise neutral theme.

Social media links, which we’d argue are a priority for any blog, are a great opportunity to add some texture. You could always roll with the standard-issue glossy, rounded-edge fare, but for those who want to distinguish themselves, there are more creative options out there.

To help, we’ve rounded up some of the most impressive works of social icon art circulating the web lately. The sets below all feature high-quality, high-detail icons that are easy to download and manipulate, thanks to their high resolutions and transparencies. Best of all, they’re free.

If you use a fun icon set that didn’t make our list, be sure to share the wealth in the comments section.

1. Bulb Social Media Icons

Social Media Icons

You don’t need a “science” blog to take advantage of these lovely beakers. Anything that evokes knowledge, creativity or experimentation would be a good fit. Nine large icons in this set hit all the hip networks and then some.

2. Latte Art Social Icons

Social Media Icons

These are just too cute to pass up. There are only four of them, and we wish they were a little larger, but the detail and the theme make them great for your foodie blog or caffeine-infused treatises.

3. Social Snow

Social Media Icons

These ice cubes are less practical, but they’re so nicely rendered we had to include them. Add them to your refrigeration industry news blog, or if you’re partial to the 3D icons without the ice, they are included in the download as separate PNG files.

4. Yammy Social Icons

Social Media Icons

Add these social pastries to any blog for a hint of the sweet updates you’ll be posting to Twitter and Facebook.

5. Moleskine Social Icons

Social Media Icons

Pining for the days when you’d scribble appointments into a book, rather than your Google Calendar? Show your readers that you remember penmanship with these sleek Moleskines.

6. Vintage Social Icons

Social Media Icons

There’s something about the texture of these swatches that draws the eye. They don’t feel like paper, but perhaps cardboard or fabric. They’d make a great fit for a grungier blog theme, but use them sparingly. Because they are all textured identically, too many of them in a row may detract from their casual, worn-out look.

7. Grass Textured Social Icons

Social Media Icons

Is your blog full of “nature” and “out-of-doors” things, like “plants” and “animals?” This beautifully textured pack is perfect for green thumb content.

8. Sleek Social Icons

Social Media Icons

If you’re tired of blue Twitter logos and orange RSS buttons, mix it up a little with these sophisticated, modern, and gradient-infused icons. Each logo comes in six different flavors, and the files are nice and big (420 pixels square). With this many color options and size possibilities, the set is a valuable asset for blogs of any style or hue.

9. Vector Social Icons

Social Media Icons

This bold set feels like a sticker book, but forgoes the “page peel” effect that can look redundant when you’re using multiple icons on the same page. They’re simple but clean, and the slightly raised look adds that dose of texture that many layouts crave.

10. Creature Social Icons

Social Media Icons

Short, pudgy social media creepers? Yes, please. There are only four in this set, but they hit the big networks (and an RSS logo), and would make an adorable addition to any fun-sized content.

11. Vintage Postage Stamps

Social Media Icons

If you added up the cost of all the stamps in this set at current USPS prices, you’d be looking at a hefty bill of $10.12. Fortunately, these virtual stamps are free, and they’ll harken back to ye olde days of yore, when you’d receive things in the mailbox besides piles of coupon clutter.

This set is a great fit for a paper theme.

12. Furry Cushion Social Icons

Social Media Icons

Do you ever just want to snuggle up with LinkedIn? Me neither. But if you’re blogging about kittens or Muppets, these are a great way to connect your content back to the social web.

13. Painting Social Icons

Social Media Icons

Even if the only painting you’ve ever mastered is the finger variety, you can still class up your social links with these oil-on-canvas masterpieces.

14. Picasso Social Icons

Social Media Icons

If Facebook was invented in Spain in 1903, you can bet that Pablo Picasso would have interpreted the logo during his Blue Period.

Or not. But these are still pretty cool.

15. 3D Social Icons

Social Media Icons

These 3D icons are large, crisp, and classic. The set also contains one of the best Foursquare icons we’ve seen on the web — a commodity that is still hard to find.

16. Breakthrough Social Icons

Social Media Icons

Place these cracking transparencies over any “surface” and the icon will appear to be busting through from the other side — no Photoshop mastery required.

17. PC Monitor Social Icons

Social Media Icons

Keep it simple with these elegant flat-panel monitors that display big, bold icons. We can envision these on the side bar of a tech or tech support site with a social presence.

18. Paper Social Icons

Social Media Icons

Get that “I wrote your contact info on a crumpled cocktail napkin” feeling in convenient digital form with these nicely textured social icons. Each one is rendered a little differently, so they’ll still look good in layers.

19. 3D Statuette Social Icons

Social Media Icons

These little trophies may not be all that versatile, but the eye-catching crisp 3D renders earned them a place on our list. The files are nice and big too.

20. Puzzle Piece Social Icons

Social Media Icons

If you’re illustrating a “connected” social presence, these smooth little puzzle pieces are a nice touch. We wish the files were a little bigger, but there’s a boatload of sites and services represented in addition to the social heavyweights.

More Design Resources from Mashable:

- 5 Website Designs That Blew Us Away
- 9 Free Resources for Learning Photoshop
- HOW TO: Customize Your Background for the New Twitter
- 5 Hot Design Trends for Aspiring Bloggers
- 21 Creative Blogger Bio Pages

More About: blog, bloggers, blogging, design, Design Lists, free, icons, List, Lists, social media, web design

For more Dev & Design coverage:

October 29 2010

October 25 2010

Procter & Gamble Launches Widget To Convert Clicks into Water


What if the one click it took to open this story could also provide enough clean drinking water for one person for an entire day?

Starting today, major consumer goods company Procter and Gamble (P&G) has launched a widget that bloggers can embed into their blogs. For each click they receive from readers, P&G will donate a day’s worth of clean drinking water (about two litres) to someone in need. The goal is to generate 100,000 days worth of clean water by the end of the year.

Started in August, the widget is part of P&G’s “Give Health Clean Water Blogivation,” which showcases the power of female bloggers to help improve the lives of people in need. The participants have already donated more than 20,000 days of water.

give health

Bloggers can sign up this week to embed the widget on their sites. On November 1 the widgets will go live, and any user that clicks on the widget will donate one day of clean drinking water and receive a coupon from P&G. If interested, you can find the widget here. Select bloggers, or “Changents,” will be documenting their travels and efforts through the Give Health homepage.

P&G has set up the widget as a sort of fundraising competition to see how many clicks individual bloggers can accumulate. It’s an interesting spin on social good that focuses on cultivating a community rather than coercing friends (or strangers) to pay up.

Because P&G is responsible for the actual “donations,” bloggers can spend their time writing and producing great stories instead of sending out e-mails to ask for donations, which makes the contest more about helping the cause than promoting oneself.

Is this a major shift in social good campaigns? Could it be handled in a better way? Let us know what you make of the campaign — and if think you’ll participate — in the comments below.

Image courtesy of Pamela Crane

More About: blogger, blogging, clean water crisis, fundraising, give health, P&G, procter and gamble, social good, social media, water

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Mashable Weekend Recap: 18 Stories You Might Have Missed

It’s been an eventful weekend in social media and technology, and we’re here to help you get caught up before an even more eventful week begins.

This weekend, Sony retired the Walkman, Groupon added self-served deals, Lady Gaga surpassed 1 billion YouTube views, Kanye West released an innovative online music video, Microsoft revealed that Windows 8 is a long ways away, Netflix started rolling out streaming-only subscriptions and WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange walked out of an interview with CNN.

As always, we also have some helpful features that you might want to check out. Thanks for reading!

News Essentials

Helpful Resources

Weekend Leisure

More About: facebook, groupon, kanye west, Lady Gaga, mashable weekend recap, microsoft, myspace, netflix, privacy, sony, starbucks, walkman, wikileaks, Windows 8

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October 17 2010

10 Fresh Blogger Templates for Any Application [PICS]

I’ll be the first to admit that Blogger isn’t the sexiest publishing platform out there. But if you like to keep all your logins under one Google-powered roof, and you’re not afraid of a little XML template tweaking now and again, Blogger can be one of the most versatile content dashboards available.

The first rule of Blogger: Don’t use any of the built-in themes. And searching the web aimlessly will likely turn up a big pile of design faux pas. Whether you’re looking to use Blogger for business or pleasure, these versatile themes should satisfy even the most discriminating blog design connoisseur.

1. Devine

Devine has a really rich, dark background with texture illuminated just at the top of the header bar. A wide white content column and light blue side bar make for a striking, contrast-rich presentation.

2. Decomposed

You can go red without going over-the-top with this sleek three-column theme. A soft grain and wrap-around tabs compliment the polished metal header and simple white content column. Decomposed is great for a personal site, and flexible enough for a creative business blog.

3. Academy

Keep it classy with this theme dubbed "Academy." Subtle stripes on the header and grain in the side bar give this one just the right dose of texture to compliment the white space. Throw in a dash of orange-brown widget headers, and you're on your way to the blogging equivalent of smooth jazz.

4. Cosmic Mission

You might have to lose the cutesy rocket ship if you intend to use this template for anything other than a blog about cutesy rocket ships. But the gray "stone" of the wrapper is a nice departure from the traditional white space. Layer that on the clean blue plastic graph, and you've got a pretty stylin' home for your precious content.

5. Fabiano

I'm not in love with the leathery texture in the header and footer, but the fading pen lines that mark out the content boxes are really excellent. Clean white space abounds, but the theme in general has a warm, handmade feel.

6. Insector Vector

You can get a little bolder with patterns if you dare. Insector Vector's got some quilted, vaguely paisley motifs happening here. Be warned: If you go this route, it's probably best to keep the clutter factor of your actual content (widgets, embeds, photos, etc.) to a minimum.

7. i3Theme Series

If you're a Mac fan who sneaks over to the Google side of the aisle when it comes to blogging, rest assured this series of themes will mask your defection.

Built to mimic a Mac OS, you've got all the sleek bars and patterns you'd expect from Apple's design -- perfect for a digital portfolio, or perhaps a digest of the latest news out of Cupertino.

8. Latitude

Just because you're keeping it professional doesn't mean you can't throw some new colors into the game. The Latitude theme is staunch in its clean lines and wrap-around tabs, but mixes up the color scheme a bit with rich purple hues.

9. Old School

The worn pencil edges and graph paper chic are just enough to take this minimalist theme to the next level, design-wise. It's great for a journal or an artist's digital sketchbook.

10. Old SkoolBoard

There's something about the way the side bar jumps up on the right and shouts, "Here I am!" It's a great spot to stash your social icons or About Me page.

The rest of Old SkoolBoard is subdued, save for the subtle "lens flare" in the header bar. If you're looking for something classic blue and minimal, give this theme a whirl.

BONUS: Medieval Book

While this theme is not nearly as versatile as those mentioned above, we had to mention it, since it's just so darn cool.

If you're a fan of 12th century illuminated manuscripts (and who isn't these days, am I right?), you've got to check this one out. Heck, I'd start a blog about the Middle Ages just to use this theme.

More Blogging Resources from Mashable:

- 10 Beautiful Free Blogger Templates
- 5 Hot Design Trends for Aspiring Bloggers
- HOW TO: Build a More Beautiful Blog
- HOW TO: Help Your Child Set Up a Blog
- 21 Creative Blogger Bio Pages

More About: blogger, blogging, BLOGS, design, social media, templates, themes, web design

For more Dev & Design coverage:

October 05 2010

Write a Post for Clean Water [Blog Action Day 2010]

blog action day image

On October 15, thousands of bloggers across more than 100 countries will participate in Blog Action Day to debate, brainstorm and raise awareness around clean water. Bloggers will take a single day and use it to write about the event’s chosen cause.

Blog Action Day is an annual event that brings bloggers together to post about a worthy cause. In its fourth year, Blog Action Day has covered environmental issues, poverty and climate change. This year, water was chosen by user vote on Change.org’s blog. It is the first year that Change.org is taking on the event from Blog Action Day Co-creators Collis and Cyan Ta’eed.

Clean water is an important but often-overlooked cause. Change.org estimates almost 1 billion people across the planet don’t have access to clean, safe drinking water. That’s nearly one in eight people who are subject to preventable disease and death due to poor drinking water and unhygienic water for everyday needs. Approximately 4,500 children die each day from unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation facilities.

Blog Action Day is very much about grassroots activism, taking the philosophy that a lot of ordinary people can make an extraordinary difference. Change.org hopes that the volume of blog posts on October 15 will create a meme around water issues, raising awareness and creating a digital, global think tank.

How to Get Involved

Blog Action Day 2010: Water from Blog Action Day on Vimeo.

Change.org has set up several ways for you to get involved with Blog Action Day if you have a blog. Read below for three ways you can lend your voice to support clean water across the world.

  • Register your blog at the Blog Action Day site and contribute a post on October 15. Stuck for ideas? There’s a whole list of idea starters.
  • No blog? No problem. Sign the petition to encourage UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to continue the UN’s life-saving work bringing water and sanitation to developing nations. You can also embed the petition request as a widget.
  • Fundraise for water through charity: water’s fundraising portal.

How to Follow

Blog Action Day has set up its very own Twitter account, @blogactionday, complete with updates on the campaign as well as interesting, sometimes shocking news clips and info.

Use the hashtag #BAD10 to follow the conversation or add your own voice. Also look up the list of partner organizations, including charity: water, Water.org, and UNICEF for more information on Blog Action Day or social good in general.

What do you think? Does Blog Action Day have the potential to create real change? Is this exactly what social good ought to be? Let us know in the comments if you plan to participate and what you’ll be writing about.

More About: blog action day, blog action day 2010, change.org, charity: water, clean water, fundraising, petition, UN, water, water.org

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October 04 2010

12 Essential News Media Tumblrs You Should Follow

With Tumblr growing rapidly, it’s attracted a number of media organizations both local and national that are looking to engage their audience in a new way and perhaps attract new readers. But it’s not just about promoting their own content.

Many of the media organizations jumping on the simple blogging platform are using the tool to curate content for their audience and start a dialogue with readers. Mark Coatney, the media evangelist at Tumblr who was likely hired in part because of his tremendous success managing the Newsweek Tumblr, said participation in the Tumblr community is what makes a media blog effective. That is, they are having a conversation with the community, not just about what the brand is doing.

“They’re good conversationalists — they have interesting things to say, they’re courteous, and they’re interested in what others have to say,” Coatney said. “A great media Tumblr is one that does all that and has a great individual voice.”

We’ve highlighted 12 media Tumblrs that are well worth following, along with a bonus list of others worth a look. If there are any great ones we’ve missed, please share them in the comments.


Newsweek's Tumblr is often credited as one of the best media Tumblrs. In fact, it was so good that Tumblr hired its author, Mark Coatney, to be their media evangelist.Not only does it sport a nicely customized theme, but the content shows a clear understanding of the Tumblr community. At the same time, it provides content that is consistent with the Newsweek brand (most of the time). Although the Tumblr does point to Newsweek.com content, it also shows great voice and personality, often curating content from around the web.

Front Pages

Front Pages is just that: the daily front pages of major newspapers and links to their top stories brought to you by the Newseum. The Tumblr includes the front pages of The New York Times, The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, The Boston Globe, and The San Francisco Chronicle. A very simple and easy way to get your news fix in the morning, right from your Tumblr Dashboard.

The Atlantic

If you love The Atlantic, you'll love its Tumblr. Taking a few notes from Newsweek's playbook, The Atlantic does a good job of curating content from the web (or the Tumblr community via reblogs) and featuring snippets of their own content in unique ways.

The Los Angeles Times: Go

Instead of creating a corresponding Tumblr, The Los Angeles Times did something unique. They created created Go Mobile, which focuses specifically on "what to do with your phone." L.A. Times Go is all about mobile, utilizing Tumblr as a way to not only post original snippets but to connect with its audience through Tumblr's built-in engagement features, like its "Answers" functionality.

Today Show

The Today Show Tumblr is a great complement to the broadcast, often posting videos from the show or content from MSNBC, which also has a Tumblr. However, the gems (like this quote) it finds from across the web are what make it truly worth following.

The New Yorker

The New Yorker Tumblr mostly promotes its website and magazine content in a more conversational tone. It also utilizes the many unique posting formats Tumblr offers, from audio to quotes to video. If you enjoy the quality content The New Yorker puts out, you'll won't go wrong by following that content it tumbles.


ProPublica, the independent, non-profit that produces investigative journalism, has created a great Tumblr that serves one purpose: showcasing the "darndest" quotes from public officials.


LIFE was made for Tumblr, were photography is so elegantly shared. It's easy to scroll through photos, or click through slideshows on the platform, and LIFE uses its Tumblr to showcase its iconic photography. It also focuses on engaging with its readers and creating a place where dialogue can take place easily around the content.

The Huffington Post

The Huffington Post Tumblr is part behind-the-scenes promotions of its projects and part curation of the Tumblr and web community. The content is everything from reblogs of interesting news or video to a blurb about a new feature on the main site.

NPR Fresh Air

NPR Fresh Air, an extension of National Public Radio's Fresh Air with Terry Gross, does a great job using its Tumblr to engage readers through the questions feature, and often receives dozens of responses. NPR has a general Tumblr as well.

The Economist

The Economist Tumblr has a great voice behind its posts and a beautiful magazine theme design, showcasing its content in a grid format. It takes part in the Tumblr community by recommending other blogs to follow for "Tumblr Tuesday."

Utne Reader

Utne Reader, an alternative magazine, offers some great finds in its Tumblr that match its editorial voice on "independent ideas and alternative culture."

BONUS: MashableHQ.com

Of course, you can't go wrong with the Mashable HQ Tumblr if you want a behind-the-scenes look at Mashable. It's the place to go for reader submissions, contests and curated content from the Tumblr community.

Other Media Tumblrs

Reviews: Tumblr

More About: atlantic, blogging, BLOGS, Economist, media, News, Newsweek, simple blogging, tumblr

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September 23 2010

5 Beautiful Tumblr Themes for Small Businesses

Tumblr Business Image

This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.

Having a blog is a great way for small business owners to communicate with their customers and to give their business a voice. There are tons of blogging platforms and services out there, but one of the growing favorites is Tumblr. Quite often, Tumblr is considered a micro-blogging service because you can use it to quickly post links, videos, quotes, audio files and pictures. Tumblr also lets users easily re-blog content from other Tumblr sites.

Because it’s lightweight, easy to use, and has support for multiple users, many businesses big and small are turning to Tumblr to power their blogs. Because Tumblr is hosted, you don’t have to worry about server maintenance or being hacked and you can even configure the URL to match a domain you already own.

There are hundreds of great themes that you can use with Tumblr to give your blog or site its own unique look. Here are five of our favorites for small business owners.

1. Just Plain Theme

Tumblr’s own Peter Vidani has designed nearly twenty themes for the platform and all of them are clean and easy to customize.

With Just Plain Theme, Vidani offers exactly what is advertised, a very simple two column Tumblr theme with support for pages, advanced features and Disqus comments. Check out Kickstarter’s customization on its blog to get an idea of what you can do.

With a little bit of custom CSS editing, you could make Just Plain Theme a lot more unique!

2. Brand New Day

Brand New Day by Roy David Farber and Hunson is a great looking two-column theme. The theme includes support for people that you follow and you can really go nuts customizing the colors.

Check out The Travel Channel’s modification. The theme colors match the Travel Channel logo and the sidebar includes links to other social media properties.

3. Scaffold

Scaffold is a feature-rich premium Tumblr theme from Mark Harding. It’s $9 but packs a huge punch in terms of features, customization options and is frequently updated. We love the vertical navigation sidebar that moves as you scroll down the page, as well as the juxtaposition of how posts are displayed.

Tons of users are doing some amazing things with Scaffold, check out Diedrik Dijkstra’s modification. By adding some texture and a new background, the theme takes on a whole new look.

4. Headline

Headline is a great looking magazine theme for Tumblr. It has three columns and some really nice typography, plus support for pages and links to other sites.

As with all Tumblr themes, the real power comes with personal customizations. Check out MashableHQ, the Tumblr that chronicles office life at Mashable, to see what we did with the Headline theme.

5. Rank & File

Rank & File is another premium theme and it is also $49. What you get for $49 is a beautifully designed magazine-theme that could easily power an entire website.

The theme supports pages, includes links to your various social media profiles and supports comments via Disqus. You can even customize the header with your own logo or graphic.

Your Picks

Do you use Tumblr for your small business blog or website? What are some of your favorite themes? Let us know in the comments.

More Business Resources from Mashable:

- HOW TO: Choose the Best Workspace for Your Business
- 5 Winning Social Media Campaigns to Learn From
- 10 Emerging Social Platforms and How Businesses Can Use Them
- 10 Free WordPress Themes for Small Businesses
- 8 Funding Contests to Kick Start Your Big Idea

More About: blog, blogging, BLOGS, business, small business, theme, themes, tumblr

For more Business coverage:

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