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July 15 2011

5 Online Tools For Activists, By Activists

Susannah Vila directs content and outreach at Movements.org, an organization dedicated to identifying, connecting and supporting activists using technology to organize for social change. Connect with her on Twitter @susannahvila.

Why are social networks powerful tools for causes and campaigns? Many times, people begin to engage in activism only after they’ve been attracted by the fun stuff in a campaign — connecting with old friends and sharing photos, for example. When they witness others participating, they’ll be more likely to join the cause. With socializing as the primary draw, it’s become easier for organizers to attract more and more unlikely activists through social media.

But once a campaign reaches its critical mass, activists might think about moving to other platforms made with their needs — especially digital security — in mind. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter will remain standard fare for online activism. But the time is right for niche-oriented startups to create tools that can supplement these platforms. Here are a few worth investigating.

1. CrowdVoice

Similar to the social media aggregating service Storify, but with an activist bent, CrowdVoice spotlights all content on the web related to campaigns and protests. What’s different about it? Founder Esra’a al Shafei says “CrowdVoice is open and anyone is a contributor. For that reason, it ends up having much more diverse information from many more sources.”

If one online activist comes across a spare or one-sided post, he can easily supplement information. Furthermore, campaign participants can add anecdotes and first-hand experiences so that others can check in from afar.

CrowdVoice makes it easier for far-flung audiences to stay abreast of protests and demonstrations, but it also helps organizers coordinate and stay abreast of other activist movements.

2. Sukey

During London’s UK Uncut protests this year, police used a tactic called “kettling,” or detaining demonstrators inside heavy police barricades for hours on end.

In response, UK Uncut activists created a mobile app to help one another avoid getting caught behind the barricades. The tool, Sukey -- whose motto is “keeping demonstrators safe, mobile and informed” — helps people steer clear of injuries, trouble spots and violence.

Sukey’s combination of Google Maps and Swiftriver (the real-time data verifying service from the makers of Ushahidi) also provides a way for armchair protesters to follow the action from afar. Users can use Sukey on a browser-based tool called “Roar,” or through SMS service “Growl.”

3. Off-the-Record Messaging

Off-the-Record” (OTR) software can be added to free open-source instant messaging platforms like Pidgin or Adium. On these platforms, you’re able to organize and manage different instant messaging accounts on one interface. When you then install OTR, your chats are encrypted and authenticated, so you can rest assured you’re talking to a friend.

4. Crabgrass

Crabgrass is a free software made by the Riseup tech collective that provides secure tools for social organizing and group collaboration. It includes wikis, task files, file repositories and decision-making tools.

On its website, Crabgrass describes the software’s ability to create networks or coalitions with other independent groups, to generate customized pages similar to the Facebook events tool, and to manage and schedule meetings, assets, task lists and working documents. The United Nations Development Programme and members from the Camp for Climate Action are Crabgrass users.

5. Pidder

Pidder is a private social network that allows you to remain anonymous, share only encrypted information and keep close track of your online identity -- whether that identity is a pseudonym or not.

While it’s not realistic to expect anyone to use it as his primary social network, Pidder is a helpful tool to manage your information online. The Firefox add-on organizes and encrypts your sensitive data, which you can then choose to share with other online services. It also logs information you’ve shared with external parties back into to your encrypted Pidder account.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, onurdongel.

More About: activism, apps, demonstration, platform, protest, social good, social network, web

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July 07 2011

10 Top Google+ Users Weigh In on the Web’s Newest Social Network

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A list ranking the top users on Google’s invite-only social sharing platform Google+ turned up some interesting results. Mark Zuckerberg topped the list, but his profile is almost entirely inactive — that is, if the profile is actually his to begin with.

We’ve scoured the profiles, Twitter accounts and blogs of the top Google+ users that aren’t Google employees or Mr. Zuckerberg. You might be surprised to read their thoughts and reviews of the recent social networking phenomenon.

Do you agree with what they have to say, standing atop their invitation-only soapboxes? Let us know in the comments below.

Robert Scoble

Tech blogger Robert Scoble ranks #5 on the most-followed Google+ list. This week he posted a link to Cinch in which he interviews his wife Maryam about her hesitations to join Google+.

She says: "I have only so many minutes during the day, and the minutes that I choose to waste I like to waste on Facebook. Why do I have to go somewhere else, be lonely by myself and waste time when I can be on Facebook like everybody else? ... If within a year, I see that a lot of family and friends are there, and they're doing things I cannot do on Facebook...then I'll probably get on Google+, but that's far away from now."

Robert Scoble himself posted some thoughts to his Google+ profile:

"Google+ sometimes removes me from following someone that I know I already followed. This has happened dozens of times now, so I think it's a bug but I haven't figured out a pattern to it."

"Even with all of its noise, Google+'s feed is 600x more interesting than my Google Buzz feed. Why? No Tweets. All organically added stuff."

"I'm getting more engagement here than anywhere else."

"The speed of notifications and new items here doesn't match Twitter, yet, but blows away Facebook's speed."

"The Google+ mobile experience on web is quite nice. I am using Google+ exclusively this weekend on Safari on iPhone. Yes, it is missing lots, like I dont see a way to upload photos. But the UI and your posts are great looking ... This week I will be using G+ on Android, which is a lot better."

Kevin Rose

As the co-founder of Digg and Milk, Kevin Rose isn't the most active Google+ user yet, but he certainly has an opinion about the service. Here are some of his thoughts we found on Twitter:

"just started using Google+, i get it.. just not sure if I need it.."

"liking Google plus, hoping the Sparks get better / more news integration, those could be powerful"

Pulled from a longer post by Rose: "Where does Google+ fit in my life?...Feedback Loop: +1's next to everything give me a way to acknowledge others for their contributions...Realtime data: Seeing comments appear Quora style (as they are happening) is fun...What happened to 140 characters? This post will reach a wider audience than posting it on kevinrose.com...I might replace my blog w/G+ if it bring more traffic and sharing."

MG Siegler

The TechCrunch writer shares his reactions to Google+ on both the site itself and his Twitter:

"If only Google+ had search..."

"The Google+ photo uploader is pretty great. Fast."

"Yep, the G+ realtime comment sections are pretty great."

"All I know for sure is that Google+ needs to figure out a way not to have comments boost an old story back to the top of the stream. Makes everything feel very stale, even though it makes some sense to do this. FriendFeed battled with this issue as well, but there was more data constantly flowing in due to Twitter imports, etc."

"Whether or not Google+ succeeds remains to be seen, obviously. But they're adding a sh*t ton amount of users like I've never seen before."

"Whereas previously 90% of the talk on Google+ was about Google+, now it looks like only 75% or so is. That's good, but it needs to keep dropping fast."

Gina Trapani

Coder and blogger Gina Trapani is the most-followed woman on Google+. She shares her thoughts via the site and her blog.

"I'm fine with comments from strangers on public posts (though I'm a blogger first, so very used to that). However, the fact that strangers can start Huddles render that feature useless for me. Otherwise, an interesting take on Google's social effort from a Facebooker."

"Is it possible to enjoy the Circles interface TOO much?"

"I've been been watching Google flail around social web apps for a few years now, so what I appreciate most about Google+ is that it's a well-thought out product informed by past experience. The more I use Google+, the more I see just how many lessons Google learned from Wave and Buzz..."

Tom Anderson

Tom Anderson, creator of MySpace, uses his Google+ profile to pose questions about the product. He's generated thought-provoking discussions about the features of the site and released his own views as well:

"Analyst video about Google+ — suggests Google won't disrupt FB or Twitter, that the cost to build/retain engineers has been a big hit to Google's bottom line, and monetization is unclear. Suggests Facebook gets social search ... He seems to be missing that Google+ has already integrated +1 and Twitter into search ..."

"I've also noticed that my own 'circle' count is quite different than what I see on my circles page (like it's showing I'm 3,000 and I actually have 6,000). Guess there's some lag between counts/dbs."

"If you're following a huge user (like MG [Siegler]) and he chooses to upload 500 photos (go MG!) then you're stream is going to be inundated till the end of time with people commenting on his photos. You can "mute" the sharing of his album, but each photo is its own item, and thus you'd have to mute each photo as it comes up with its first comment, right? Am I missing something here? I know the potential for feed noise is crazy on Google+ right now, but this example seems nuts. It really seems like Google+ will have to provide a "sort by post date," at the very least."

"Google+ does seem like it could take a bite out of Twitter - it seems to let you do what Twitter does (but maybe better), and it definitely lets you commmunicate with your followers in a more normal fashion (not stuck with 140 character DMs)."

Jeff Jarvis

CUNY professor and blogger Jeff Jarvis sounded off on Google+ pros and cons on his blog:

"To paraphrase Mark Zuckerberg, it is too soon to know what Google+ is. But I've been trying to imagine how it will and won't be useful to news. You should add rock salt to anything I say, as I thought Google Wave would be an important journalistic tool."

"Note this good news: Google+ made 'ranking changes ... that demote such comments if the commenter is not in your circles.' That's a good start. I still want the option of a feed of only latest posts, regardless of comment timing."

"RWW looks at how Google+ could be useful in teaching. +Rebecca MacKinnon sees potential. So do I."

"I REALLY want to be able to embed links in posts here. That alone makes this far inferior to blogs and even Twitter for writing pieces with responsible linking."

"This whole notion that one can/should be able to "disable reshare" is setting a treacherous precedent for the rest of the web. Will news organizations tell me I can't share their story? We never had the expectation until G+ gave it to us. Don't go too far with it, friends."

Loic Le Meur

Founder of Seesmic and LeWeb conference, Loic Le Meur reviews Google+ on his Twitter account:

"I wish google did circles for just gmail contacts too, I would totally use them, wouldn't you?"

"Testing the google plus app on samsung tab honeycomb, not optimized but it works"

"What's my incoming stream? Anyone who added me in a circle? I don't get it"

"So, if I do a circle "assholes" and add people in them, they won't even be able to know I tagged them that way? That's disappointing :-)"

"Google+ is entirely streaming, no delay, all push, no reloading a page or clicking anywhere, that's way cool."

"Google+ might hit Twitter more than Facebook, it's so clean..."

"okay, I'm more and more impressed by Google+, I think it's a real competitor to Facebook in the making."

"One thing that frustrates me with G+ is that I don't have a stream of every feedback I get: plusses and comments, see all interactions only. Do you not?"

Felicia Day

Actress and gamer Felicia Day uses some humor to review Google+ on the site and her Twitter account:

"Lots of appealing features in Google+. Can't wait to see what Twitter updates next to counter."

"WHOAH when can you collapse comments? The train gets crazy-sauce long in the feed!"

"This service is confusing! I'm part of people's circles but I didn't agree to be in them, I don't know who I'm sharing with and how ... eeep! Trying to figure out how to use it more like Twitter than involuntary Facebook groups. #1: Email notifications OFF!"

Markus Persson

Markus Persson is the founder and game developer at Mojang, creators of the indie gaming megahit Minecraft.

"Dear Google+, I want to be able to have public circles that people can join. That way, I can post to the "wants to know about Minecraft" circle when I want to talk about Minecraft without having to invite every single fan out there manually."

"Holy moly, I have like 2200 followers! (but my profile page seems to be stuck at 191)."

"Dear Google+, I want to be able to have public circles that people can join. That way, I can post to the 'wants to know about Minecraft' circle when I want to talk about Minecraft without having to invite every single fan out there manually...Or let me tag posts."

Leo Laporte

Twit.tv technology broadcaster and author Leo Laporte reserves precious space on his phone's home screen for a Google+ widget. Here are some reviews Leo Laporte posted on his Google+ profile:

"It's really hard to remember that G+ is still in closed beta. I was going to talk about it on KFI this morning, but I don't think it's a good idea to sing the praises of something most people can't access."

Laporte quotes a Wired article by Steven Levy: "Emerald Sea is not a Facebook killer, Gundotra told me. In fact, he added, somewhat puckishly, 'people are barely tolerant of the Facebook they have,' citing a consumer satisfaction study that rated it barely higher than the IRS. Instead, he says, the transformation will offer people a better Google." Laporte responds, "I'd say they're well on their way to succeeding."

"Google+ earned a spot on my phone's home page. Two actually. Replacing Facebook and Beluga."

Image courtesy of Flickr, halilgokdal

More About: facebook, Google, Google Plus, reviews, social media, social networking, top 100, twitter, users

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July 04 2011

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden Sends First Tweet

Vice President Joe Biden’s office sent out its first tweet on Independence Day.

Although the @vp Twitter account was created on June 28, the Vice President’s staff waited until July 4 to tweet: “VP & Dr. B [Dr. Jill Biden] hope you take time to think about our troops & military families this Independence Day, Happy 4th from OVP! @joiningforces.”

The White House Blog wrote that Vice President Biden’s office joined Twitter in preparation for the first ever Twitter Town Hall with President Obama, scheduled for this Wedensday at 2 p.m. EDT.

The tweeters behind the account promise to keep followers updated on the activities and news surrounding the Vice President’s executive actions and travels, as well as “a behind the scenes look at Veep-life.”

More About: Joe Biden, News, polics, social media, tweet, twitter, vice president

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May 25 2011

February 24 2011

Why Online Marketers Should Not Track Children [OPINION]

This post reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily those of Mashable as a publication.

James P. Steyer is CEO and Founder of Common Sense Media, a non-profit organization that provides education and tools for parents and kids about the media and technology in their lives. You can follow them on Twitter at @commonsensenews, on Facebook, and read reviews and advice at commonsense.org.

Most kids today live their lives online, immersed in a mobile and digital landscape. While the Internet is a platform for innovation and provides rich resources for entertainment and learning, the nature of digital interaction creates deep concerns about the privacy of children. Parents fear that their children will inadvertently make personal information public, potentially damaging their own reputations and those of their friends. But they also have profound — and justified — concerns that what their children say and do in the digital world is being tracked by marketers and information aggregators who aim to profit from their personal information and online activities.

Children’s online privacy involves two key concepts: our fundamental right to privacy and our need to protect our children from potential harm. At the moment, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which prohibits the collection of “personally identifiable” information from kids ages 12 and under without parental consent, is the cornerstone policy protecting children’s online privacy.

But COPPA was written before 1998, long before the advent of social networks like Facebook, information aggregators like Google, social game sites like Zynga and geolocation announcers like Foursquare. These sites all have business models that are based on following online activities. It’s no wonder these companies and their competitors oppose legislation that would in restrict their access to information — even if it means not protecting the privacy of kids.

Recently, congressional leaders introduced a “Do Not Track” bill, which would build on the principles of the national “Do Not Call” registry, and set clear standards for how and when a consumer’s personal information can be collected. It also would enable users to opt out of online tracking.

But this legislation may not end up addressing the issue of tracking of minors. Kids should not have to opt out of something in order to protect their privacy. Both sides of the political aisle should agree on that point, but to truly protect our kids, we need a comprehensive approach, and one that includes these important components.

Ground Rules

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Children and teens should not have their online behavior tracked or any other personal information about them profiled by or transferred to third parties. Companies — whether Internet service providers, social networking sites, third-party application providers, data mining companies or advertising networks — should not be permitted to sell or transfer that personal information.

Without parents or kids knowing it, companies collect, store, and sell information about what kids do online and on mobile phones. Companies can track which websites kids visit, what searches they conduct, which videos they download, who they “friend” on social networking sites, what they write in e-mails, comments or instant messages, and more. This type of tracking is what needs to stop.

The Industry Standard for All Privacy Should Be Opt In — Especially for Kids

Companies and operators should not collect or use personal information unless users give explicit prior approval. The opt in standard is fundamental to our ability to control our personal information. If online companies, services and applications want to collect and use personal information, they should get permission beforehand by asking people to opt in to the service.

Most sites and networks achieve this through a terms of service agreement, or a privacy policy, which users must agree to before signing up for an account. The trouble is, many policies are extremely long and complex, and few people actually review them before hitting “I agree.” While this is ultimately the responsibility of the user (or the user’s parent, in this discussion), it’s in the industry’s interest to simplify these agreements (see below). Additionally, if any changes are made to the policy after a user registers, the user should be notified and required to review and agree to the new terms — especially when it comes to minors.

Privacy Policies Should Be Clear and Transparent

Privacy policies need to be easy for users to find and understand and should be carefully monitored and enforced. Any significant privacy policy changes should require a clear new opt in by the user or the parent, depending on the age of the child. Most privacy policies today are lengthy legal documents written at a college level or beyond. Instead, companies should use icons and symbols that would be easy to understand and would clearly convey how personal information will be used.

Parents and Children Should Be Educated About Online Privacy

Kids and their parents need to do their part to protect their online privacy and the privacy of their friends. We need a large-scale, multi-year public education campaign to help them learn how to do so effectively. I believe that it should be funded by the industry. Young people need to learn to protect their own privacy and to respect others’ privacy. There should be a digital literacy curriculum in every school in this country with privacy as an essential component.

Privacy Protections Should Apply Across All Online and Mobile Platforms

Current privacy regulations need to be clarified and applied to all online and mobile services and platforms. Social networking sites shouldn’t be able to collect or sell kids’ private information, and neither should third-party apps on those sites. Location-based services shouldn’t be allowed without prior parental consent to a clear and understandable privacy policy, regardless of whether the service is provided by a non-FCC carrier.


After years of complaints from consumers, industry leaders have finally begun to acknowledge the enormity of the privacy issue. Now it is time to step up and make it easier for parents and kids to protect themselves. Through a combination of legislative action and advocacy, we can make the web safer for kids.

More Social Media Resources from Mashable:

- 4 Effective Tools for Monitoring Your Child’s Online Safety
- 6 Valuable Social Networks for Parents
- School Tech: 6 Important Lessons From Maine’s Student Laptop Program
- 8 Educational Gadgets That Make Learning Fun
- 10 Free Online Resources for Science Teachers

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, RBFried, and Flickr, loop_oh, Franklin Park Library

More About: childrens privacy, kids privacy, op-ed, Opinion, privacy, social media

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February 16 2011

HOW TO: Jump-Start Your Career by Becoming an Online Influencer

David Spark is a veteran tech journalist and the founder of the media production and consulting firm Spark Media Solutions. Spark blogs regularly at Spark Minute. Follow him on Twitter @dspark.

For all the advice about how to approach and attract influencers, I haven’t seen much written about how to actually become an influencer. It’s important, because once you’re seen as an influencer, you’re seen as an industry equal and a resource. You’re no longer perceived as a nuisance constantly broadcasting your own agenda, hoping others will relay.

Being an influencer yourself is an often overlooked way to engage with other influencers. It takes time, but it is worth it. There is also financial benefit to becoming an influencer. People of influence have increased value, and can charge more for their services.

Always wanted to be an influencer but didn’t know where to start? Here are some effective techniques.

1. You Must Create Content

Whether it’s a blog, podcast, YouTube channel, or an endless Twitter stream, you absolutely must be a content producer. People who don’t produce content online often feel overwhelmed. They claim they don’t do it because they don’t have the time. If you can’t create content, you simply can’t be an influencer. Content is the currency of social media and search. You must expose your voice with some type of published editorial.

2. Go After a Niche

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Failing to be an influencer is often the result of conceding the title of “industry influencer” to someone else. For example, why try to be a “social media” blogger if Mashable or other sites already own that space? It may be difficult to go head-to-head with established companies, but you could own a small slice of that very large pie.

In an interview I did with tech influencer Robert Scoble, I asked him if he were starting fresh today how would he go about building his influence. He said he’d go after a very specific subset of a popular market like Nick O’Neill did with AllFacebook.com. A few years ago O’Neill saw Facebook trending and jumped on it as a source to write about. O’Neill is now considered a Facebook authority and is invited to a number of Facebook-related events.

3. Create a Regular Series

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Whatever you choose to do, make sure to produce it regularly and let your audience know when to expect it. Andrew Warner, host of the Mixergy, a blog and video podcast for and about entrepreneurs, saw a dramatic change in his traffic and credibility when he shifted his video production from a casual once or twice a week, to every single day.

While the increased traffic was a nice result, it wasn’t Warner’s goal. He shifted to a daily interview schedule with the intent of becoming a better interviewer.

4. Request to Interview Influencers

John Jantsch imageMany successful podcasters who were at one time complete nobodies have built their street cred and successful businesses by associating themselves with people more well know than themselves. The reason the “Can I interview you?” technique works is because everyone loves to give their opinion. The audience that will hear it is often a tertiary consideration.

John Jantsch, founder of Duct Tape Marketing, built his reputation off of the reputation of others. In my interview with Jantsch (part of my “9 Successful Techniques for Making Money from Podcasting” series), he admitted that when he started he was a complete unknown. Even with few listeners, the fact that he had a podcast gave him tremendous access to well known people and authors. Asking influencers to be interviewed on his podcast was a great way to make an introduction. All he did was send an e-mail with the subject line, “Interview request.”

Not knowing who Jantsch was at the time, many well known social media luminaries, such as Seth Godin and Guy Kawasaki, agreed to be on his podcast. Those interviews initiated relationships that resulted in both Godin and Kawasaki contributing to Jantsch’s book.

Warner has had similar experiences. His interviews have become the launching point for great influencer relationships. In addition, Warner admits that he’s perceived as an expert through association. Each person Warner interviews puts him in a different world in his audience’s eyes, thus increasing his influence to an even broader market.

People love to give their opinion and it often doesn’t matter if your audience is small. They simply appreciate it when you give them a forum to express their viewpoint.

5. Offer Yourself for an Interview

Susan Bratton ImageProducing media takes a ton of work. Many people have this mistaken notion that there are tons of checks and balances before an interview or story is put on the air or in print. Quite the opposite, especially with media outlets that have to produce tons of content, like 24 hour news networks. They’re so overloaded that they’re more than happy when you do their job for them.

The trick to offering yourself up for an interview is to know the editorial of the outlet and who specifically to ask. If it’s a magazine or blog, you’ll want to know who is the editor of the section you want to be on. If it’s a TV show, you’ll want to know who is the booker or associate producer. When you contact the media outlet, make sure you reference a previous piece, complement it, or offer up an alternative contrary viewpoint, then suggest that you could be that viewpoint.

Susan Bratton, founder of Personal Life Media, did this with me on my now defunct “Be the Voice” podcasting series. She heard my podcast and offered herself up as an interview, saying that the editorial of my podcast fit in with the model of how she started her business. She was right, and a great interview. I’ve interviewed her a couple of times since.

An excellent service for offering yourself up for interviews is Help a Reporter Out. It’s a resource that effectively matches journalists with sources in times of need.

6. Contribute (for Free) to Well-Trafficked Media Outlets

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Many blogs and media outlets take free contributions from their readers and viewers. It can be as simple as a guest post to a well known industry blog or an eyewitness video contributed to CNN’s iReport.

Some publications have built their brand and reputation on accepting contributions and filtering only the best stories. Contributors often do it solely for the sheer honor of being seen in such a respected publication. In return for these free contributions, you can ask for a mention of your name, business, and a link to your business and social media accounts (e.g., Twitter and/or Facebook Page). Your appearance in the well-trafficked publication can increase your visibility, your Twitter followers, Facebook fans, and search ranking.

7. Go After Your Industry’s “Whale” Publications

Similar to the above advice, set your sights on the biggest/most respected media outlet in your industry. It’s far more valuable for you to get a tiny little 20-word blurb in your industry’s top tier media outlet than it is a cover story in your industry’s third-tier publication.

The goal is to get your name and content in it … anywhere. Once you’re in, you can work your way up and out.

Going after an industry whale is how I got started in tech journalism. About 15 years ago I met an editor from PC Computing Magazine and inquired about writing for the magazine. Now defunct, PC Computing was one of the top three tech publications alongside PC Magazine and PC World.

My first assignment was to write a tiny little 200-word review in the back of the magazine. I spent 10 hours on that review to make sure it was perfect. Then I got another review, and another. I was offered the chance to write features and cover stories. Having the PC Computing seal of approval gave me the street cred to request and land other tech publishing jobs.

8. Connect Your Story With a Current Trend

Andrew Warner imageLast year a major argument began brewing online between WordPress founder Matt Mullenwag and Thesis theme creator Chris Pearson. At the heart of the argument was the fact that Pearson was distributing a WordPress theme without using the open source GPL license for distribution.

Mixergy’s Andrew Warner got wind of this argument and simply extended an invitation to both Mullenwag and Pearson to come on his show and air their grievances. He saw the story brewing and capitalized on it. The interview with the two blogging founders resulted in huge traffic for Warner and became a real turning point in the success of his show.

You can find more examples of this technique in another piece I wrote for Mashable entitled, “Trending Topics: 5 Ways Companies Used News Trends for Business Success.

9. Connect Your Brand With a Much Bigger Brand

I used to produce and host two different podcasts for Sprint. While Sprint was a big brand at the time, it was completely unknown in the podcasting space. In an effort to raise the profile of Sprint’s podcasts, I specifically sought out interviews from Sprint’s two biggest sponsor partners, NASCAR and the NFL. I interviewed the IT director from the NFL and the IT director from Joe Gibbs Racing, who at the time had Tony Stewart.

Since the brands were so huge, it gave us an excuse to issue press releases, and as a result, both interviews netted huge traffic for our then completely unknown podcast.

If you’re going to interview people at big brands, you’ll probably have to go through the company’s media relations department. Don’t be bullied into giving your traffic numbers, but be ready to explain the editorial of your podcast, your audience, and what you want to interview the subject about.

10. Engage With Your Audience


To be an influencer you have to influence someone. Your audience, the ones who consume your content, are the first ones to perceive you as an influencer. They’re also going to be the first ones to describe you as an influencer to others. That’s why it’s critical to engage with your audience.

It’s the technique Revision3 has used to build its audience base. According to CEO Jim Louderback, Revision3′s hosts and producers spend 40% of their time engaging with their audience.

Advertising alone can’t convince someone that you’re an influencer, but your audience can. Not only should you respond to their queries, but you should think of fun and engaging ways to interact with them, such as contests, that they’ll want to participate in and tell their friends about.

Conclusion — It Takes Time

While FOX’s American Idol is designed to make you think people can be made into celebrities overnight, the truth is it doesn’t happen that easily. It takes hard work. The difference between the people who make it and those who don’t, is dedication and wisely targeted efforts.

More Business Resources from Mashable:

- How Brands Can Make the Most of Facebook’s New Pages
- 5 Tips to Strengthen Your Company’s Social Media Voice
- Why Permission Marketing Is the Future of Online Advertising
- Why Influencer Marketing Needs to Go Beyond Follower Counts
- 10 Online Strategies for Your Next Product Launch

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Juanmonino

More About: business, how to, influence, influencer, MARKETING, social media, social media marketing

For more Business & Marketing coverage:

January 28 2011

HOW TO: Optimize Your Company’s LinkedIn Profile

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Adam Kleinberg is co-founder and CEO at Traction, an interactive agency that aligns psychology with technology to create ideas that work. Look for Traction’s LinkedIn page and free toolkit. Catch him tweeting at @adamkleinberg and blogging at tractionco.com/blog.

Boasting 90 million users, LinkedIn is one of the social media titans. For business professionals, it has become an essential tool for staying connected to their business network.

But for companies, there’s been little reason to pay attention to their presence there. LinkedIn has been about individuals, not organizations. LinkedIn Companies existed, but offered little in the way of functionality. That has now changed.

In November, LinkedIn quietly introduced an upgrade to LinkedIn Companies that makes it both a critical and powerful tool for managing your company’s digital presence (especially if you market B2B).

Here’s a primer to help you plan and make the most of some of the powerful new features on LinkedIn Companies.

The Basics

The basic features have not changed since previous iterations of LinkedIn Companies. (In fact, if I have one criticism of the new version it’s the utter lack of integration between the new features and old. The new ones all live under one tab.) You can upload a logo, add a paragraph describing your business, list contacts and attach their profiles. There’s a decent chance someone at your company has already done this. Other legacy features include the ability to post job listings.

LinkedIn also automatically displays the profiles of employees and new hires. This can be a great tool for business development pros because they can quickly discover the people with the “right” job titles at companies they are targeting.

Unfortunately, LinkedIn does this by keyword association, so there is a significant degree of inaccuracy in the profiles listed. Of the forty-four “employees” listed for my agency, at least ten are from other companies with similar names. Allowing administrative control over this would be nice.

Products & Services

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The biggest new feature of LinkedIn Companies is the addition of the Products & Services tab. Your company can list each of its products or services, upload a 100 x 80 pixel icon and description of each, and create a bullet list of attributes. Pretty standard, right?

This is where we begin to have fun and start to build a really powerful marketing tool. The first thing you’ll notice when you visit a souped-up page is the “carousel.” Through a simple admin tool, you can upload three whopping 640 x 220 banners (JPEG, GIF or PNG, no Flash) that rotate on the page and link to specific URLs that you designate. Obviously, these can be landing pages set up to generate leads. You can also go with a softer sell — my agency put up ads driving toward case studies in our website portfolio.

The impact of these is substantial and the fact that LinkedIn allows you to create links that take users away from their website (and advertising revenue) is to be applauded.

YouTube Videos

You can now also embed a YouTube video on the Overview page and each of the individual Products & Services pages you create. When done well, video is a powerful tool to convey your message to customers. This is a huge opportunity to engage people in a contextually relevant manner. You can use a different video on every page and embedding them is as simple as copying and pasting a URL from YouTube.



Probably the most important new feature is the ability to solicit recommendations from your customers for each of your products or services. This works just like the Recommendations feature does on an individual LinkedIn profile. You’ll want to take the time to edit the default message when asking for an endorsement.

This will soon become a vital reference checkpoint that people use before doing business with your company. According to Forrester Research (in Groundswell), 83% of us say we are at least somewhat influenced by word-of-mouth. While the highly edited “Success Stories” on your website may comprehensively cover the breadth of benefits and messages you want to convey, their impact is no match for a three sentence endorsement attached to the personal profile of an enthusiastic customer.

LinkedIn has elected to give you administrative approval over which testimonials go on your profile. Users are savvy and will recognize this, so don’t think Recommendations can replace actually having good products and services. Google is only a click away.


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This is where LinkedIn Companies gets powerful. LinkedIn allows you to completely customize how you present your products and services to distinct audience segments.

If your ears just perked up, you may work for a company with a diverse customer base or product offering. Or maybe you’re a marketer who knows that creating content that is relevant to your target is essential for provoking engagement, inciting response and maximizing ROI.

Either way, you’re probably realizing that this is not something you’re going to do in one afternoon. You’re going to want to be strategic in your approach and thoughtful about the content you create.

Taking advantage of Audiences may take strategic planning, but it won’t take technical acumen. LinkedIn lets you easily “Create an audience segment,” select its attributes (job title, seniority, company size, industry, location, etc.) with a few clicks and then edit a clone of your base company profile.

Offers and Campaigns

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Each product or service (for each audience segment) also has a placeholder for a unique offer associated with it. For example, you can easily create an offer for a free white paper or a free coupon for your tasty and delicious consumer packaged good.

Once you’ve got your products and services all set up, you can create targeted Campaigns to drive traffic to your profile. LinkedIn has a self-service tool with simple filtering options to find the right audience. Self-service is a good thing because it means you don’t have to be a big company with a big budget to start generating traffic, leads and revenue.

The system works a lot like Google AdWords. You can create multiple versions of your campaign — up to fifteen of them — to see what works best. You can set a daily budget and a maximum bid for either clicks or CPMs (cost per thousand views). And you can set campaigns to run indefinitely or until a specific date.



Lastly, it wouldn’t be digital if you couldn’t measure it. LinkedIn has some nice charts that allow you to view your performance in terms of page views, visitors, clicks on various types of content visits by industry and followers.

What I really like is that LinkedIn compares your performance in each of these categories with similar companies, so you have a contextually relevant benchmark. I don’t like that I can’t export any of these charts to Excel or embed them in a dashboard. But hey, a guy can dream, right?

Overall, I think LinkedIn Companies could become as important to brands as websites or Facebook Pages. It’s worth taking the time to do them well to harness the power these new features can provide.

More Business Resources from Mashable:

- 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
- 5 Masterminds Redefining Social Media Marketing
- 24 Professional Events & Organizations for Social Media Strategists

Image courtesy of Flickr, nan palmero

More About: business, Guide, how to, linkedin, linkedin companies, social media

For more Business & Marketing coverage:

January 27 2011

4 Social Trends Impacting the Future of Online Fundraising

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Geoff Livingston co-founded Zoetica to focus on cause-related work, and released an award-winning book on new media, Now is Gone, in 2007.

Social fundraising is becoming a buzzword within the cause space. The growing trend allows citizens to create their own fundraising campaigns independent of, but still benefitting non-profits. These efforts use a middle platform or set of tools to create grassroots communications across traditional social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

While Facebook and Twitter continue to dominate the general social networking space, there is a need for middleware platforms to provide additional functionality when it comes to causes. These solutions also incorporate traditional outreach mechanisms like e-mail. Causes, Crowdrise, Jumo, and Razoo are some of the early leaders empowering individual fundraisers, donors and non-profits with grassroots functionality.

“Obviously, people/orgs want to capitalize on the best feature of Facebook — the wealth of social data,” said Holly Ross, executive director of the Nonprofit Technology Network. “What they don’t want to [deal] with is the Facebook UI etc. When Facebook is a platform and not just a site, you get the best of both worlds. An additional feature is that some of these third-party tools also integrate with your donor database, so you can actually track which of your supporters are participating, and what that participation yields for you.”

Here’s a look at how these early leaders are starting to shape the social fundraising marketplace, and some of the challenges the rise of middleware brings.

1. The Rise of the Independent Free Agent

Because these platforms support individuals engaging in their own citizen philanthropy activities, they are attracting free agents — people who want to operate outside the domain of a 501c3. These free agents feel empowered to fundraise for a cause they care about without management. When their efforts are completed, a check is cut for the non-profit, and the individual can walk away or choose their next project for the cause.

As independent philanthropists continues to rise, more influence may transfer to them, making efforts and experiences a critical piece of the puzzle. Causes, a recent recipient of $16 million in venture funding, is expected to move towards a more individual-centric experience over the course of 2011.

“Philanthropy is going to become a more donor-centric experience, and non-profits will not be able to ‘own’ the donors, as people in the sector commonly say,” said Matt Mahan, the vice president of social impact for Causes. “Individual donors can talk to each other and discuss what’s working via the Internet. This creates more transparency, accountability, and a more enjoyable experience with donors. And this will cause non-profits to become more responsive and better.”

2. The Importance of a Social Good Identity

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At the core of the fundraising platforms’ approach to the individual is the concept of a social good identity. Facebook and Twitter provide general identities for people, but they don’t allow someone to delve deeply into their philanthropic side. This lack of definition also prevents opportunities to connect based on shared interest in social good.

Whether or not there’s a real market for a place to connect and explore social good identity remains to be seen. Prior attempts at creating social good communities like TechSoup’s NetSquared and Idealist have done well within the causes space, but they have not translated to the general public.

Several platforms like Crowdrise and Causes see themselves transcending that gap and breaking into the general public marketplace. “If Facebook is the platform where people assert ‘This is who I am as defined by who my friends are’ and Twitter is where people say ‘This is who I am as defined by what I’m doing right now’… Crowdrise is where people proclaim ‘This is who I am as defined by what I’m doing to make the world a better place,’ ” said Jeffrey Wolfe, co-founder of Crowdrise.

3. The Challenge for Middleware Platforms

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Social fundraising can be a challenge for non-profits. Often, while raising money for the cause, there are fees ranging from 2.9% to 8% (credit card fees plus transaction fees). In addition, some of the platforms protect the individual’s privacy and don’t provide non-profits contact information, denying them the opportunity to build a file of contacts.

Each platform has strengths and weaknesses in this regard. Some of the weaknesses from the non-profit’s perspective are the very strengths that make the platforms attractive to individuals. But generally, non-profits have to decide whether to plunge into the space and support it.

“At the end of the day though, ‘social fundraising’ will not be a silver bullet for raising money for your non-profit,” said Allyson Kapin, editor of the Care2 Frogloop blog. “Using multiple channels (e-mail, your website, direct mail, telemarketing, etc.) to raise money will bring in the dough!”

Razoo is differentiating itself by making its grassroots tools more non-profit friendly. “We make it incredibly easy for non-profits to raise money, giving them everything they need,” said Sebastian Traeger, CEO of Razoo. “From the ability to tell their stories, to receipting donors, handling refunds and customer support, to simple, robust reporting, to tools to empower peer and team fundraising to widgets to distribute throughout the web — all with no setup or monthly fees, and transaction fees of just 2.9 to 4.9%.”

4. Team Focus for Social Fundraising

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One unique development is the rise of teams in these platforms. Causes, Crowdrise and Razoo all have added multi-person functionality to enable grassroots fundraising for groups of people. Whether it’s friends, competitive fundraising groups, offices, school clubs or civic groups, people can now enjoy the autonomy of an independent grassroots platform not seen before in the non-profit sector.

One example is musician Glen Hansard’s campaign on Crowdrise to buy two much-needed trucks for the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust (MWCT). People join the team as a show of support and others join to fundraise. One person on the team put on a concert for her friends to raise money, another did a bake sale, another offered to build websites for donors. Showing a higher level of connectivity, two of the team members that had never met before just went to Kenya together to volunteer for the MWCT.

“Social fundraising, where fundraisers and charities involve their friends and supporters, is incredibly effective,” said Crowdrise’s Jeffrey Wolfe. “It takes an individual team leader or charity that inspires their squad to set personal fundraising goals, feel connected to the team, and fully engaged in the campaign.”

Razoo is also putting resources into supporting teams: “Since teams represent the future, we plan to pour our efforts into making them more fun, social and easy,” said Razoo’s Sebastian Traeger.

The Future?

The future of online giving is still uncertain. What is clear is the early market leaders will try to cement their role in the space this year. “The non-profit software market is defined by a few big names and then oodles of niche product that fill very specific needs,” said NTEN’s Holly Ross. “We see this in every single software type. So I think that we’ll see these early leaders continue to get more robust, but I see a lot of other players continuing to enter the space.”

There is also hope that if successful, the social fundraising middleware platforms will not only do well, but successfully grow online donations as a whole. Perhaps it’s an ideal, but it sure seems worth the strenuous effort.

“If we can empower philanthropic identity, we can create more philanthropic activity because it’s easier,” said Causes’ Matthew Mahan. “As people interact with each other, and see millions of people interacting, it will become a more worthwhile experience. It’s part of making the experience more meaningful. We think this is a win-win, and that people will end up donating even more.”

More Social Good Resources from Mashable:

- Why Video Games Are Scoring Big for Social Good
- 5 Facebook Giving Campaign Success Stories
- 4 Innovative Social Good Campaigns for Education
- 3 Ways to Empower Social Media Giving This Holiday Season
- 5 Creative Social Good Campaigns for the Holiday Season

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, cpopik

More About: causes, charity, crowdrise, facebook causes, non-profit, razoo, social good, social media, social platforms

For more Social Good coverage:

January 21 2011

6 Valuable Social Networks for Parents

Rearing, I’ve heard, is a tough business. This is probably why Google returns more search results for websites on the topic than there are newborn babies in the United States — and why many of those results are online communities of parents that exchange advice and support.

While I’m not a parent myself, I played one on about 20 such communities this week. During my time as an impostor mom, I found some communities that were too focused on marketing a brand to be useful, and others that were functionally more like parenting ghost towns than networks. These six sites, however, impressed me as useful resources and active communities.

1. Cafemom


CafeMom is one of the most active online communities for mothers that I’ve seen. When I posted a question (I used the same question on all sites), I received six reasonably helpful responses in the first ten minutes.

The site gets several features right. First, the focus is on conversation, not necessarily just parenting advice. There are forum sections and groups for a number of interests like politics and techie topics in addition to parenting topics. Moms also have an opportunity to write journal entries and blog posts, the most popular of which are highlighted. Other entertainment options on the site like polls, videos, contests, and games make it a destination even when moms don’t have pressing parenting questions.

CafeMom’s creators have also invoked game mechanics. You get points for asking a question (as long as its not anonymous) and answering questions. When people respond to your inquiries, you can award the authors of the best responses more points — which encourages helpful responses. These points increase your “level” on the site and help earn badges.

Another boon is that it’s easy to find and keep up with mothers who have similar interests. You can search for other mothers to introduce yourself to based on your location, interests, children’s ages, or a combination of the three. When you sign up for groups, there’s an option to get an e-mail digest of daily responses.

2. MothersClick


Like most social networks that have sprouted in the last five years, MothersClick borrows a few facets from Facebook. Moms can create profiles that include wall posts, friends, private messages, photos and status settings. Groups form around subjects like “moms who rock” and “moms who blog,” and it’s possible to post questions to either your groups or to everybody.

One thing I like is that you can keep track of the conversations that you are involved in and the questions you’ve asked through a simple news feed instead of constantly checking for a response. A search bar at the top of the site is also a great feature that most often gives you the answer to your question before you’ve even asked it.

This isn’t the most active site, however, and the newest posts under some topics are more than a year old. The network does, however, helpfully take the liberty of suggesting other moms with your interests and in your area who you might add as friends.

3. Mamapedia

The most unique feature of mamapedia is that it sorts discussion topics based on a timeline of your child’s development. You can see the issues that other parents have already started conversations around based on the common age of your children.

Beyond this, the platform is intuitive and effective. A large search bar lets you forget about navigating and find the information that you need quickly. You can follow questions that you have answered or asked through separate tabs as well as questions asked by moms in your area. Highlighted blog posts are also often specific to your location.

The community is fairly active, and I received five responses to my inquiry in the first ten minutes. The local aspects are also appreciated, opening up the opportunity for more relevant, and possibly even in-person, discussions.

The site supports itself by offering “sweet deals” and “member perks” from your local sponsors. Most of these are relatively appealing, but if you don’t want to look at them they stay tucked in their own tab.

4. Minti

Dads, here it is: a social network for patents that doesn’t have “mom” in its title. Minti has a robust arsenal of archived advice written by parents. The site, which is mostly organized in a forum style, has Q&A format sections but also encourages each member to write advice blog posts.

The amount of information on Minti is truly useful and can accessed by search. Interaction, however, seems less of a focus than on some of the other sites. It’s easy to get lost in the forums and recent questions, which, while given their own tabs, aren’t highlighted. Nobody responded to my question until the next day.

Rewards for participating do exist, however. The site has its own virtual currency that can be exchanged for real currency (at a rate of about 500 to 1) that users earn by doing things like writing blog posts and inviting friends.

5. Momslikeme.com


Momslikeme.com has built communities around more than 60 locations. When you register, you’re automatically placed in a group with your zip code and directed to your local site. The zip code groups generally don’t have much activity, but it is helpful to have your homepage organized to highlight what other parents in your area are talking about.

Polls feature prominently on the page and often stray away from parenting advice topics. For instance, today’s featured NYC poll is “Should the health care reform bill be repealed?”

As with other sites, you can add friends, send private messages, and join groups. The site’s bread and butter is a coupon section that mostly offers discounts for grocery items.

6. BabyCenter Community


The community section of online parenting publication BabyCenter follows a similar format as many others by giving parents an opportunity to add friends, post journal entries, and share photos.

The most active portion of the site is probably its “birth clubs.” You enter the club that matches the month and year of your child’s birth or anticipated birth. Since all the group member’s children are going through the same stages at the same time, it’s easy to find relevant discussions. It’s also easier to build relationships because there’s no need to jump forums or groups as your child ages.

More Parenting Resources from Mashable:

- 4 Effective Tools for Monitoring Your Child’s Online Safety
- The Future of Social Media Parenting [COMIC]
- 5 Fun and Safe Social Networks for Children
- HOW TO: Help Your Child Set Up a Blog
- 5 Fun Ways to Help Your Kids Learn Math Online

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, damircudic

More About: Children, Dads, Kids, Moms, parenting, parents, social media, social networking, social networks

For more Social Media coverage:

January 07 2011

Mashable Awards 2010: Announcing The Winners

With more than 1.3 million nominations and votes, we’re pleased to announce the 2010 Mashable Awards winners.

The Mashable Awards, our annual contest highlighting the very best of tech and the web, received a record number of votes this year. After entering the final round, we narrowed the list to the top five nominees in each category based on your votes. The winners received the most votes from readers like you, and we want to thank each of you for participating.

The winners were announced Thursday at the Mashable Awards Gala, which was hosted by comedian Baratunde Thurston, The Onion’s director of digital, at the Cirque du Soleil Zumanity theater at the New York New York Hotel. The gala featured a special Cirque du Soleil Zumanity performance, appearances from guests like Antoine Dodson, as well as the DJ/VJ stylings of remix masters Eclectic Method. Stay tuned for more highlights from the Mashable Awards show, but in the meantime we’d love for you to join us in celebrating this year’s winners.

Congratulations to all the winners!

Best Social Media Management Tool: HootSuite

HootSuite is an advanced social networking dashboard aimed mainly at professionals who need to leverage sites such as Twitter and Facebook for their business needs. HootSuite relies on a freemium business model. Its free version allows you to add five networks and supports Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare, MySpace, PingFm and WordPress.

HootSuite is best for actively managed accounts because its design focuses on streams, which are housed in customizable tabs. You have the flexibility to organize tabs by account, network or content, making it easier to monitor a specific type of feed more closely.

Most Creative Social Media Campaign: Stand Up For WWE

In an effort to “set the records straight” about inaccurate media portrayals, World Wrestling Entertainment launched the Stand Up For WWE campaign, using social media and video to gather support from its fans. It also posted a list lesser known facts about WWE and inaccuracies and corrections to media portrayals from across the web with facts accompanying the claims. The campaign included videos with its superstars as well as the likes of President Barack Obama.

Best Social Media Customer Service sponsored by BlackBerry: Eurail.com

Eurail.com is an e-commerce site for Eurail train passes for travelers from all around the world. Eurail offers rail passes to non-European residents wanting to explore Europe.

Its social media presence is focused on customer service and the company regularly updates and replies to its customers on its Twitter account, Facebook Page and more.

Best Internet Meme sponsored by Dynadot: Bed Intruder

The “Bed Intruder Song” from Auto-Tune the News was the most-watched, non-major label video on YouTube this year with 47.5 million views. The auto-tuned parody of a news cast featuring Antoine Dodson inspired hundreds of others to create their own videos as a tribute. The song even hit the Billboard Hot 100 across every single genre.

Best Music Discovery Service: Fizy

Fizy is an international music site based out of Turkey that was designed with the goal of being simple and easy to use. It’s simple. It enables you to listen to music track-by-track, create playlists and play songs from your homescreen that you may have never heard of. Just a simple search and it plays the tracks you’re looking for. If the track has a video available, it will show you that as well. It has a database of more than 75 million mp3s. The site supports 26 languages.

Best Use of an API: Qwitter Client

Qwitter uses Twitter’s API to notify you when any of your Twitter followers stop following you. Simply give the system your Twitter name, an e-mail address to contact you, and you’ll receive a summary e-mail at least once a day telling you the users who have stopped following you. It’s that simple, and yet highly useful.

Must-Follow Personality: Super Junior

Super Junior is a Korean pop boy band with 13 members and a strong presence on social sites like Facebook. The band, which was formed in 2007, attracts millions of views on YouTube.

Best Social Media Service for Small Business: ReachCast

ReachCast is a social media and web presence management tool for small businesses that specializes in search discovery, social media marketing and conversation and reputation management through a distributed presence and custom tools to reach local consumers.

Currently in beta, the service offers content publishing, reports, tracking and social media integration.

Entrepreneur of the Year: Doug Walker

Doug Walker is one of the creators behind That Guy With the Glasses website, which showcases content for movie buffs and video gamers.

The site was launched in 2008 and is home to episodic series including Walker and other contributors. Walker is best known for his series 5 Second Movies, The Nostalgia Critic and Ask That Guy with the Glasses. Before the website, Walker was a video personality on YouTube, where he created satirical video reviews of movies.

Best New Gadget: iPad

It’s hard to believe that it hasn’t even been a year since Apple launched the iPad, a device that has turned the tablet form factor into a must-have. Apple is expected to sell 13.3 million iPads this year, up from… well, up from zero iPads in 2009. It’s not just the fact that Apple single handedly created a new multi-billion-dollar revenue stream, but that it’s redefining all of computing. Notebook sales have dropped since the iPad’s introduction. Apple accelerated the rise of HTML5 with its tablet device at the expense of Flash. Its influence is already affecting countless web apps. Oh, and it’s redefining the meaning of “mobile.”

Most Promising New Company: PSGive.org

PSGive.org is a site focused on increasing awareness and funding of non-profits by enabling users to participate in online events. Users buy tokens to participate in events that give you a chance to win cool prizes, like the iPad, while benefiting a charity of your choice. In some ways it is like an online charity auction.

Must-Follow Non-Profit: @TWLOHA

To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) is a non-profit focused on advocating for hope and help for people struggling with depression, self-injury, addiction and suicide. It leverages various social sites to inform, inspire and invest in treatment and recovery for people who need help. Since 2006, the organization has responded to more than 150,000 messages from people in 40 different countries and has worked to spread the message of hope to universities, concerts, festivals and churches.

Best Location-Based Service: Foursquare

Foursquare, the mobile location-based service, had a year of tremendous growth that paved the way for other location-based services, including Facebook Places. The service recently surpassed 5 million users, increasing its user base by a factor of 10 in just nine months. At SXSW 2010, the company announced it had more than half a million users. It also recently opened an office in the bay area.

Best Online Game: “Farmerama”

Farmerama is a free online game similar to FarmVille that focuses on tasks around tending a virtual farm by completing farming jobs like tilling the land, planting trees, sowing seeds, raising animals and more. The game has more than 20 million registered users. It also enables you to invite your friends to help you with growing your farm. You also compete against other farmers online and can barter and trade with them as well. The challenges largely revolve around the goal of raising the most cattle. The game of course includes plenty of social activities that enables you to communicate and converse with other players online.

Best Website User Experience: Gaia Online

Gaia Online is an anime-themed social networking site. Founded in 2003, the social and forums-based site originally began as an anime community and moved toward social gaming and forums with some 1 million posts made daily with 23 million registered users. The site includes virtual currency known as Gaia Gold, which is distributed regularly to users as a reward for activity and participation, and Gaia Cash, which can be purchased with real money and is used to buy virtual gifts. The site includes various mini games, which can be played to earn gold and virtual items. The site also includes virtual worlds, such as Gaia Towns in which users can interact with one another’s avatars.

Breakthrough Website Design: Twitter

Twitter rolled out a new version of its web interface in September. The new Twitter homepage redesign was robust, transforming the site to be more like a stand-alone application, offering support for multimedia, keyboard shortcuts, and easy access to various types of content. The new design also has different dimensions (originally based on the golden ratio).

Best Web Video: Jay Park

Jay Park is a Korean-American actor, singer and dancer who has leveraged video to entertain his fans. The American-born personality initially became famous after getting the lead role for Korean pop boy band 2PM. At the end of 2009, he left the band to focus on a solo career in the U.S. In 2010, he posted a cover of B.o.B.’s “Nothin’ On You” on YouTube, which received 1.5 million views in the first 24 hours. It prompted Warner Music Korea to release the track, which went to number one on Korean music charts.

Must-Follow Brand: AllKPop

AllKPop is one of the top destinations for the latest Korean pop culture news and gossip. Launched in 2007, the site has leveraged social media to reach more than 3 million monthly readers and is the most trafficked English language Korean pop blog in the world.

Best Mobile Device: iPhone

This year, Apple released its latest version of the iPhone, selling 1.5 million on the first day. Despite a reception issue that angered its users and poor reviews, Apple still sold millions of iPhone 4 devices and even quickly sold out internationally in countries like China.

Best Mobile Game: “Angry Birds”

Angry Birds is a simple yet very addicting mobile game that has received more than 50 million downloads with 80% of users keeping the mobile app installed on their devices. According to Peter Verterbacka from Rovio, the makers of the game, there are 200 million minutes a day spent playing the game. The game is also making its way to the Wii, Xbox 360 and PS3.

Best Mobile App sponsored by Mobile Future: DriveSafe.ly

DriveSafe.ly is a mobile application that reads text and e-mail messages aloud in real-time and responds to the messages automatically without the driver having to touch or look at the phone. It helps you, well, drive safely. The application, available for BlackBerry and Android devices, will soon be coming to the iPhone and Windows Mobile. According to its website, it has prevented more than 380 million texting-while-driving incidents. The app features include Bluetooth and radio transmitter compatibility, easy activity, hands free use, reading shorthand in messages and an optional customizable automatic responder.

Best Mobile Platform: Android

Android is Google’s mobile operating system, which it bought in 2005. This year, however, the operating system became the top-selling smartphone OS. Android-powered devices also outsold the iPhone this year and the future looks even better as Android grows in popularity among users and app developers.

Best Mobile User Experience: eBuddy

eBuddy is a mobile and web messaging company that created the first independent browser-based IM service with e-Messenger in 2003. Its technology enables users who use various chats like AOL, Google Talk, MSN, Facebook, etc. to chat on one aggregate interface from their mobile device. Its mobile messenger is available through mobile web browsers or through iPhone and Android apps.

Most Creative Social Good Campaign: Twitchange

Twitchange is an innovative charity auction that enables you to bid on the famous for a chance to have them Twit-talk to you. It bills itself as the “first-ever celebrity Twitter auction,” and offers up a hefty list of celebrities, from Simon Pegg to Pete Wentz. Users donate money for the chance to have these celebrities follow you, retweet you or mention you in a tweet and all the money raised goes to aHomeInHaiti.org, which will then be able to finish rebuilding the Miriam Center, a home for children with cerebral palsy, severe autism and other disabilities.

Most Influential Social Good Champion sponsored by Yahoo!: John Cena

John Cena is a WWE personality and actor who leverages his social media presence and influence for good. He’s been heavily involved with the Make-A-Wish Foundation since 2004, granting the wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses. He’s earned the foundation’s highest honor, the Chris Greicius Award and was later named Wish Ambassador by the organization. He uses his online presence to encourage his fans to take part in the foundation’s mission to grant wishes, and most recently he is encouraging the donation of Delta frequent flyer miles, which he’s already contributed 3 million matching miles for.

Thanks to Our Sponsors

Mashable Awards Gala Partner:

cirque logo From a group of 20 street performers at its beginnings in 1984, Cirque du Soleil is now a global entertainment organization providing high-quality artistic entertainment. The company has over 5,000 employees, including more than 1,200 artists from close to 50 different countries.

Cirque du Soleil has brought wonder and delight to nearly 100 million spectators in 300 cities on five continents. In 2010 Cirque du Soleil, will present 21 shows simultaneously throughout the world, including seven in Las Vegas.

For more information about Cirque du Soleil, visit www.cirquedusoleil.com.

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January 03 2011

The Art of the Checkin: From Location to Content to Brand

Caroline Giegerich is the blogstress behind the Daily Marauder and a digital marketing consultant. Follow her on Twitter for more social media and emerging tech insights.

Within the spectrum of social media, the act of sharing essentially amounts to a desire to personally define ourselves to others. In the age of the social network, there are an almost infinite number of options for creating that personal definition on the web. Checking in is just one of the newer ones.

There is an art to checking in and a way to make it part of your online identity. Below, we walk through some of the obstacles and best practices for doing it right. Read on and let us know what tips worked for you in the comments below.

Location, Content, Brand

progression image

This all began with location but has shifted to allow users to check in to TV, movies, books and finally to brands. Each of these additional options allows us to personally define ourselves by answering the following questions: Where am I? What am I watching/reading? What am I buying?

While each of these choices from location, to content, to brand allows for an additional layer of sharing, they also each call for an additional level of activity from the user. It’s not enough to visit a restaurant or watch a TV show; we now must announce to the world that we’re doing it.

“If a tree falls in the middle of the woods but no one is around, does it exist?” Or the digital edition: “If you visit your favorite bar at Santacon and never check in on Foursquare, did it ever really happen?”

Simply put, we have fallen into the age of the overshare. There is a happy medium to be found, but we haven’t quite hit on it yet.

So, what do these companies think the reward is for users? And what do users think about interacting with these platforms?

Location: Cast of Characters

cast image

The San Francisco Chronicle claimed in October that there were 20,000 location-based applications in existence either with location as their core feature or with location weaved in. I’ve identified the four mentioned here simply for the story they tell about the evolution of this space. They also happen to be generally thought of as the leading location-based networking apps.

Loopt launched in 2006 and has approximately 4 million users on its platform. In the beginning, location was about coordinates rather than places. Foursquare and Gowalla both launched at SXSW in March of 2009. With both, the audience could now check in to locations rather than simply a cross street. Foursquare blazed ahead with specials and game dynamics, tapping into our inner need to compete with each other and resulting in its current lead of 5 million users to Gowalla’s hundreds of thousands. Latecomer SCVNGR decided not to focus on checking in at one location or another, but instead, on what we are doing along the way.

In August, Facebook Places launched and shook up the location-based apps scene. It instantly had access to the more than 200 million active users accessing Facebook from a mobile device. At launch, Facebook Places merely allowed users to check in and tag others at the same location. No game dynamics. No specials (although Facebook Deals has since been added). The location wars continue.

Why Are We Checking In?

location image

There are five main reasons people use location-based applications: serendipity, game dynamics, as a personal diary, for sharing experiences and to score deals.

Dennis Crowley, co-founder of Foursquare, called the platform: “Technology that facilitates serendipity.” The ability to find friends on the platform and sponsor serendipitous encounters is probably the most obvious reason why people interact with the platform.

Game dynamics fulfills the human desire to play and compete. Game elements that location apps use include mayorships, pins, badges, points, or any other competitive function of the application. Some people think game dynamics lack sustainability. Once I fight for a priority position and win, will I continue to fight for number one? What keeps us playing after we win?

The personal diary function gives us a running history of every location we have visited. On a recent trip to Munich for Oktoberfest, I found that I had forgotten the names of a few bars and beer gardens we visited along the way. Why? 1) It’s Oktoberfest. I was drinking beers in steins the size of my face. 2) Everything was in German. When traveling, location-based apps become an excellent way to record the places we visit along the way.

Sharing experiences, such as leaving tips for friends at your favorite locations, is the best alternative to actually being there with them. It also helps us foster connections with people based on those shared experiences.

Finally, seeking out discounts at our favorite locations is a good motivator, and there is built in convenience since most people always carry their phones. However, location-based services have not yet figured out an easy way to allow a mass audience to tap into the deals on their platforms. Their success moving forward depends on their ability to ease accessibility and make users aware of specials.

Checking Into Content: TV, Movies, Media

Similar to why we check in to locations, checking into to what we’re watching is less about chronicling our viewing habits and more about defining who we are to our friends.

Remember when watching TV used to truly inspire water cooler moments? Television and movies connect us. They give us something to talk about when we’ve exhausted commenting on the weather and traffic.

As DVR and On Demand erased our live viewing habits, television became less viable as a water cooler topic. It’s time to bring it back. Enter GetGlue, Miso, Philo, Tunerfish and others. I may now live across the country from friends in New York City but I can still connect with them via GetGlue’s stream and see who is also addicted to The Walking Dead.

Similar to the location side, there are badges and the ability to become a “guru” of a piece of content. Unlike the location platforms, the competitive desire to become “the number one” on a television show or movie is not quite as enticing. There just aren’t incentives that are as compelling as those on location apps. So far, the issue has been a bit of the chicken and egg problem.

Content companies want to play on these platforms as they scale, but they don’t want to invest too heavily until they see the mass audience in attendance. That audience may never materialize, though, if they don’t offer the incentives.

We choose what we check in to as a function of who we want to be. This is personal cachet. I don’t check into The Jersey Shore, but I do check into Boardwalk Empire. That latter shows something about my personality I want to display, the former does not.

Miss piling onto the couch and watching TV together? Enter the second screen experience. Applications like Miso are focusing less on the checkin and more on the information surrounding what’s on screen, including comments from friends and additional information.

Checking Into Brands

On the brand side, checking in involves interacting with the brand in some way, either by scanning a barcode or using a virtual gift card. These platforms are the most recent entrants to the checkin space, so features and use cases are still being figured out.

As with the content checkin, there are similar reasons to why the audience is checking in, including game dynamics and personal cachet. With the latter, it stands to reason, that we will be more likely to check in to certain brands rather than others. The biggest reason why the audience will interact with brands, however, will ultimately be for discounts and deals. Simplifying the pathway to a discount will push these platforms to success. Retailers have used rewards programs for ages, but the days of plastic cards will soon be behind us.

From location to content to brands, our world has become way more checkin heavy. The “why” in all of this returns to the reason we use social media in the first place: to define ourselves. The checking in began with location, but the possibilities will only increase over time as each one us decides what things or actions we want to align with.

How do you use checkin apps?

More Social Media Resources from Mashable:

- 10 More Creative Uses of the New Facebook Profile [PICS]
- 10 Cool Facebook Status Tips and Tricks
- 6 Reasons Why Social Games Are the Next Advertising Frontier
- 3 Things Brands Must Do to Reach Millennials Online
- How Social Media Can Help With Your Long Distance Job Search

Image courtesy of bkbooth!

More About: checkin, facebook, Facebook Places, foursquare, geo-location, getglue, gowalla, loopt, miso, PHILO, scvngr, social media, tunerfish

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December 31 2010

6 Predictions for Social Networks in 2011

The past year was an eventful one for the world of social networking. Facebook went on an acquisition spree. Twitter started growing up. And MySpace? Well it’s the same old story over there.

In 2010, we predicted that Facebook would conquer the web. We just didn’t know the social network would do it so convincingly. We’re not oracles, though, and we did miss on some of our acquisition picks. Well, time for round two.

Now that Facebook is clearly king, what is going to happen to the rest of the world’s social networks? What will happen to Bebo? What’s next for MySpace? And will Facebook finally hold that IPO?

Here are my predictions for what will happen in the world of social networking in 2011:

1. Google’s Social Networking Efforts Flop Spectacularly

Google dominates search. It has nailed mobile. Oh, and it owns YouTube, the web’s biggest video property. So why the heck does it fail so miserably at social?

Until this year, Google’s had middling success in social — YouTube, Gmail, Gtalk, Blogger and Orkut have all had varying levels of success. This year though, Google Wave was shut down, Google Buzz flopped and Google’s big social initiative has been delayed due to in-fighting and a lack of clarity and purpose.

Here’s my first prediction of the year: Google’s social media efforts will be spectacular failures. TechCrunch nabbed a screenshot of the “Google +1″ social toolbar, one big component of Google’s social plan, we’ve been told. We remain unimpressed, though. As Buzz demonstrated, sticking something social on a page doesn’t mean people will instantly use it.

More importantly, Google as a company is built for speed and efficiency, neither of which are critical to the success of a social network. That’s why we predict another horrendous year for the search giant in the social realm.

2. A Middling MySpace Is Sold Off

Despite a total redesign and overhaul, MySpace continues to plummet like a boulder pushed off a cliff. While we’re fans of the social network’s attempt to reinvent itself as a “social entertainment destination,” the frank truth is that MySpace is bleeding money and there’s no end in sight to the bloodshed.

Eventually MySpace will bottom out; we just don’t know when. It won’t come soon enough for News Corp. though, and it will start looking for someone to take its high-profile Internet property off of its hands. MySpace is still a valuable asset in the right hands, so somebody will pick it up.

3. Bebo Gets a New Owner… Again

Bebo’s fall from grace is one of the sad stories of social networking. When we first covered Bebo in 2006, it was on its way to becoming a powerhouse. In 2008, AOL acquired Bebo for $850 million, an astounding (and overvalued) price point.

Six months ago, AOL sold Bebo for about $10 million to Criterion Capital Partners. Then they made a few big moves: they hired Kevin Bachus, co-creator of the Xbox, and brought Bebo co-founder Michael Birch back as an advisor and investor.

Bebo’s still shrinking though. Unless Birch and Bachus can orchestrate a comeback of Rocky proportions, Criterion Capital Partners will start looking to make money on its investment or at least minimize its loss. Even if it makes a comeback, Criterion’s reportedly interested in selling Bebo this year.

We expect Bebo to be in new hands by this time next year. The most likely acquirers, we believe, would be a group led by Birch himself.

4. No Facebook IPO in 2011

There have been countless rumors about a Facebook IPO since 2007. The media has been waiting with baited breath for the day that Mark Zuckerberg cashes in on his baby and turns his company public.

I’m here to tell the media: Don’t hold your breath.

I could create a list of reasons the size of an SUV why Facebook and its billionaire leader aren’t going to be raising money on the public markets. Here are just a few of them:

  • Mark Zuckerberg is famously uninterested in money. He believes in delayed gratification and has lived in a modest home for years — he’s the opposite of the far more extravagant Larry Ellison, co-founder and CEO of Oracle. In other words, he’s in no rush for a big payday.
  • Secondary markets like Sharespost have changed the game for cashing out on investments. In the past, VCs needed to cash out on their investments by acquisition or IPO, but as Accel Partners proved last month, VCs no longer need an IPO to do so.
  • Zuckerberg sees no strategic advantage to an IPO. In fact, it’s just a lot more paperwork, headaches and scrutiny. He’d love to delay that as long as possible.
  • Facebook doesn’t believe it’s ready for an IPO: “Facebook would benefit from another year of growth absent the added scrutiny that comes with a public listing,” Business Week reported earlier this year.

The result is that there won’t be a Facebook IPO in 2011. So long as the company’s growth metrics are strong, Facebook has no need for the public markets. When it hits its saturation point though, that’s when you should expect the social network to make its move. I predict that will happen in 2012.

5. Twitter Has a Very Boring 2011

While I don’t consider Twitter a social network, many people do, so it’s only appropriate that I provide a prediction for what will happen to Twitter in 2011.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t come up with anything interesting: Twitter’s going to have a steady and boring 2011.

Sure, Twitter will launch new features, and senior execs will continue to step down and new people will take their place, but that’s what happens to any maturing business. Now that Twitter has new funding, has launched its ad platform and has launched a complete redesign, is there an earth-shattering event that could take us by surprise?

I don’t discount it; I just don’t predict there will be one. An IPO makes no sense with the new round of funding. A redesign isn’t necessary. Really, Twitter is focused on its ad platform and will launch features that enhance it. Twitter will slowly continue to grow, but I don’t expect Facebook-like hockey stick growth.

In 2011, Twitter is going to be one of the most boring social media services around. And I know the Twitter team is just fine with that.

6. The Social Networking Trend of 2011: Mobile Photos

“We’re in a unique time right now because of the power of the cell phone with the two cameras, both the front and the back, and the broadband networks that allow photos to be shared simply and consumed through social networks in realtime.” ~Brian Pokorny, Dailybooth CEO

Pokorny was discussing during his Ignite talk at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco. He argued that publishing has evolved from the desktop (blogging) to the phone (tweeting) to the smartphone (photo-taking).

While social photography is nothing new (Flickr and Facebook dominate), mobile photography is just beginning to blossom, thanks to apps like Instagram, PicPlz, Path, and Dailybooth. Other services like Tumblr, Gowalla, Posterous and most recently Foursquare are only pushing the trend further.

2011 will be the year mobile photo sharing becomes all the rage. These services will hit critical mass as smartphone users install apps in order to keep up with their friends. I also predict that Facebook will join the fray and implement new mobile photo-sharing features integrated with its Places platform, bringing the whole trend to another level.

What Are Your Predictions?

Enough with my predictions. What do you predict will happen in the social networking space in 2011? Who will get acquired? Who will be acquiring? What will the big trends in social networking be next year?

Let us know your answers in the comments below.

More Social Media Resources from Mashable:

- HOW TO: Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions Using Social Media
- 4 Predictions for the Future of Politics and Social Media
- Why Chocolate Companies Are So Sweet on Social Media
- 10 More Creative Uses of the New Facebook Profile [PICS]
- Reddit Political Action Committee: We’re Not Happy With the New Net Neutrality Rules

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, temniy

More About: bebo, facebook, Google, Google +1, Google Me, List, Lists, myspace, predictions, predictions-2011, social media, social networking, social networks, twitter

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December 29 2010

HOW TO: Launch a Successful Twitter Contest

Clay McDaniel is the principal and co-founder of social media marketing agency Spring Creek Group. Find him via @springcreekgrp on Twitter.

Everyone loves a good contest, and Twitter is a valuable platform on which to run one. If your followers already like your brand, they’ll typically be willing to enter a contest in exchange for the chance to win your products, recognition or prizes.

Launching, running and measuring a Twitter contest takes specific social media marketing skills. You’ll need a deep knowledge of contest laws in your state, as well as the right tools to measure participation, viral sharing, brand impact and bottom line sales resulting from the contest. A Twitter contest should not just be promotional, but should further the business goals of your entire social media program.

If you want to launch a Twitter contest that boosts sales and brand recognition and helps your company reach specific social media marketing goals, there are a few proven strategies you can implement. Here are five steps to launching one with high impact.

Step One: Determine the Rules and Regulations

Before you launch your contest, make sure to map out the rules and regulations, such as who is eligible, what the prizes are, the time frame for the contest, and how will winners be determined. For example, will it be a “straight draw” sweepstakes, or will you let the community vote on the winner? Will participants have to complete a quiz or test? Include a link to some short and clear contest rules. Make sure your contest follows all the legal requirements in your state and country.

While Twitter contests are often thought of as footloose and fancy free, whenever you invite people to “enter for a chance to win,” you have entered the realm of the legally regulated contest. Consult legal counsel before launching the contest. There are regulations on whether you call it a “sweepstakes,” “contest” or “lottery,” for example, and some states require official registration of your contest with state authorities. A general rule of thumb is to keep prizes under $500 to avoid winners being required to pay taxes on their winnings.

It may seem obvious, but make sure your contest actually highlights the products or brand you want to promote. Sometimes you spend so much time getting the details right, you forget the big picture goal: to drive brand engagement or sell more of a certain product.

Step Two: Iron Out the Details

Your contest needs a name, start date, end date and clearly defined prizes. It’s best to have one grand prize, a first prize, second prize and third prize, then a large number of much smaller prizes –- as more than one chance to win gives people more incentive to participate. For each prize, make sure to create a unique URL, so your analytics program can track which prizes are most compelling (clicked on the most). Sometimes, it turns out your first or second prize is more compelling than your grand prize, for example, and that’s valuable information to have for your next contest.

Make sure your hashtag for the contest is clear and unique, such as #WinWin7 that was used by Microsoft for a contest inviting people to enter for a chance to win seven great prizes for seven days during the Windows 7 launch. Use your hashtag in all contest messaging, even when promoting it via e-mail, banners, mobile or other channels. Use your analytics software to measure how and where people shared the contest hashtag with friends and what direct impact the contest hashtag had on increased Twitter and website traffic.

Step Three: Promote Your Contest

Treat your Twitter contest like what it is: a serious marketing campaign. You need to plan, launch and measure the contest with the same precision you would any marketing campaign. Start by defining clear marketing goals (Is this a branding campaign? A sales push?) and ROI objectives, then create a calendar for the entire project, starting from planning through to launch, execution, measurement and post-mortem. Create a messaging road map listing every tweet, ad creative, Facebook update, mobile text message, etc. you plan to put out to promote the contest –- with dates for when the message will go out.

Make your messages catchy, but also plan what you want to say to drive the most traffic to the contest at key times; messages in the beginning of the campaign should drive participation (i.e. “Tweet this message for a chance to win a Free iPad!”), those at the end should focus on urgency (“Time’s almost up –- enter today!”). Invite people to share the contest with friends to improve their chances to win.

Step Four: Ready, Set, Launch

Now that you’ve done all the planning, it’s time to launch the contest. On your planned launch date, make sure there are no big news stories or other contests, promotions or one-day trends that would overshadow your contest. If all’s clear, post your first tweet about the contest –- “Contest Will Start in 15 Minutes –- Get Ready!” –- and simultaneously launch any other marketing campaigns you are planning to promote the contest (external promotion is not required, it just helps make your contest all that more successful). Create a flurry of dialogue, tweets, retweets and direct messages on the first day of the contest. Start measuring activity in your analytics system right away, because you’ll want a clear picture of the entire contest from start to finish. Keep a log of every tweet you send out and every one that comes in.

Step Five: It’s a Wrap

When the contest is done, it’s time to award prizes and promote the winners. If your contest required people to take a quiz or complete a task, then the winner is the person with the highest score. Or perhaps your contest required the community to vote on the winner –- such as a vote for the best photo, video or logo created.

However the winner is chosen, as based on your rules and regulations, don’t just let winners know they won by direct message and then disappear –- use the end of the contest as another chance to promote your brand and connect with your followers. Tweet out congratulations to all the winners.

Next, it’s time to collect and analyze all your contest data. Search Twitter for every mention of the contest hashtag, then use social media analytics tools to see where else the hashtag was shared — Facebook, blogs, forums, mobile social networks, etc. Lastly, remember that the winners of your contest may become “super evangelists” for your brand, so make sure to reach out to them regularly after the contest with special promotions, offers and direct tweets that will encourage them to continue spreading good vibes about your brand or products in the future.

When done right, a Twitter contest can build your brand, dramatically increase your followers and fans, and create true customer evangelists who will continue promoting your brand to friends for months or years to come.

What do you make of these steps? What advice can you give based on your own Twitter contests? Let us know in the comments below.

More Twitter Resources from Mashable:

- What Twitter’s Trending Topics Told Us About the World in 2010 [CHARTS]
- HOW TO: Use Twitter’s Advanced Search [VIDEO]
- 6 Ways to Score a Job Through Twitter
- We Hold These Tweets To Be Self-Evident [COMIC]
- HOW TO: Activate Your Brand’s Super Influencers

More About: contest, how to, social media, social media marketing, twitter, twitter contest

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December 27 2010

HOW TO: Get the Most Out of Facebook Insights for Small Business

David Hartstein is a partner at JG Visual, an Internet strategy company that works with organizations to develop and implement their online presence. You can connect with David on the JG Visual Facebook Page.

You’re a small business owner and you’ve decided to create a Facebook Page for your company. Or you’re an employee in an organization and, since you are the only one who “gets” social media, you’ve been charged with running a Facebook Page.

You set it up and make it look nice. You put up some photos and videos that you think represent the organization well. You e-mail a bunch of your friends and the page has almost 100 “Likes.” But one day, your boss comes in and asks you the question that you have been dreading: “Is this Facebook Page helping us or just eating away most of your time?”

Enter Facebook Insights, a powerful analytical tool that can help any organization evaluate the effectiveness of its Facebook presence. But, for a small business where time is perhaps the most important (and often rarest) resource, Facebook Insights can help you evaluate whether you’re investing or wasting your time.

The following scenarios are illustrations of how a fictional small business, “Bill’s Tech Company,” can leverage Facebook Insights to evaluate the effectiveness of its new Facebook Business Page. Within each scenario are the different aspects of Facebook Insights that Bill could utilize to answer his questions. Beside each measure (in parentheses) is a note on where to find that specific piece of data in Facebook Insights.

Facebook Insights Overview

Before delving into the specifics of Facebook Insights, it is helpful to understand some of the basics. Once you have 30 “Likes” on your Facebook Page, Facebook Insights will automatically be activated and available on the left sidebar of your Facebook Page.

When you navigate to Facebook Insights, you are brought to the main dashboard, which shows you two summary graphs titled “Users” and “Interactions,” both providing overviews of subpages with the same names. Below is a list of the measures you will find on each of these subpages:

Users: monthly active users, daily new “likes,” total “likes,” new “likes/unlikes,” “like” sources, demographics, page views, tab views, external referrers, media consumption

Interactions: daily post views, daily post feedback, daily story feedback, most recent posts, daily page activity

Now that we’ve outlined the basics, let’s dive into the scenarios.

Scenario 1: Are “Likes” Enough?

Bill’s Tech Company launched a Facebook Business Page two months ago. When he created the page, Bill sent out messages to all of his friends and it quickly grew to around 100 followers. While he feels good about having 100 “Likes,” he wants to know if having these “Likes” is enough.

  • Daily active users (top of main dashboard): Bill should avoid the lure of looking only at the number of “likes” that his page has received. Realistically, passive followers that “like” his page and never come back aren’t helping his business grow. Instead, he should focus on daily active users, which are the number of users that actually come to his page or consume his content on a given day. If a follower engages in some way with Bill’s page, it is far more likely that Bill’s Tech Company will be on the top of this follower’s mind, which is crucial for any small business.
  • Daily page activity (bottom of Interactions): To go beyond “like” counting, Bill should use daily page activity to measure his followers’ level of engagement with his page. In particular, he should pay attention to the number of mentions that his page is receiving. When someone mentions Bill’s Tech Company, they are broadcasting his company to their friends. Mentions can help a business reach a whole new audience.
  • Daily story feedback (top of Interactions): Is Bill engaging his followers? Is he alienating them? Daily story feedback can provide Bill a glimpse into the minds of his followers. Whenever a follower “likes” or comments on something on Bill’s page, it will show up here. Bill could go a step further by looking at particular days of the week that his followers are more active and targeting the release of his content to the days that are more likely to garner a response.
  • Spikes in “likes” and “unlikes” (top of Users): Bill should take time to check his “likes” and “unlikes” for any deviation from the norm. A spike in either is worth investigating. To help him understand such a spike, Bill should align the date of the spike to the content he has released using most recent posts (middle of Interactions). He can sort his content by date posted to see what he did on a particular day that may have caused users to “like” him or leave him. If he sees that a certain subject or type of content seems to cause a spike in people “unliking” his page, he should avoid this content in the future.

Scenario 2: Producing Content Your Followers Want

Bill’s Tech Company only has two full-time employees and can never seem to find enough hours in the day to get everything done. They can’t afford a full-time social media strategy coordinator but definitely want to leverage the “power of social media” that they keep hearing about. In the little time that they have between serving their clients, Bill wants to know what content he should focus on to use his time most effectively.

  • Most recent posts (middle of Interactions): Bill can’t afford to waste time producing content that no one cares about. By utilizing most recent posts, Bill can sort his recent content first by impressions to see how many people are seeing a post on his page, on a news feed or on a follower’s profile page. Generally, the more that followers share a post by posting it to their profiles or sending it to their friends, the more impressions it will receive. Bill can then sort his most recent posts by feedback percentage to see which of his posts are leading his followers to comment or “like” an individual post.
  • Media consumption (bottom of Users): Bill loves the idea of producing videos, recording audio and shooting photos to engage his followers, but each is quite time consuming. Bill should use media consumption to see how many views each type of media is getting per day. If Bill’s active users are not listening to the audio files he uploads, he should either change the nature of these audio files (perhaps try a new topic) or scrap them and use this time elsewhere.
  • Daily story feedback (top of Interactions): Bill can leverage daily story feedback to see if a particular day has a spike in “likes” or comments. If so, Bill has clearly found a topic that resonates with at least some of his followers. He can focus his efforts on producing content that is similar enough to receive the same favorable response.
  • Tab views (bottom of Users): This measure allows Bill to see how active users are engaging with his Facebook Page. If he’s spending a lot of time writing in the discussions tab but none of his visitors are viewing this tab, Bill should probably spend his limited time doing something else. Conversely, if one of his tabs is particularly popular, he should use it to engage his followers. To optimize the use of his tabs, Bill should ask himself the following questions: “What tabs are my fans engaging with?” “What content is within these tabs?” “Can I cut out any tabs?” “Should I change the order of my tabs to prioritize what I want active users to see?”

Scenario 3: Evaluating Facebook Beyond “Facebook.com”

Bill devoted an entire weekend to setting up his web presence. He created accounts on many social media sites, put Facebook Like buttons on his company website and began promoting the company’s Facebook Page all over the place. Bill wants to know what worked and what didn’t.

  • External referrers (bottom of Users): Bill’s concern is a common one. He wants to know if the time he spent setting up everything was worth it. Fortunately, Facebook Insights has something called “external referrers,” which shows the top external domains from which visitors are finding a Facebook Page. Bill can see which sites are driving traffic to his Facebook Page and use these successes to change his profiles on less successful websites. Additionally, if Bill is getting traffic to his Facebook Page from his website, he’ll know that something on his site is piquing his visitors’ interest.
  • “Like” sources (top right of Users): Since he added the ability for visitors to “like” his Facebook Page from his own personal website, Bill now wants to track whether people are actually doing so. He can find out simply by looking at his “like” sources. Most of his “likes” are probably coming from his Fan Page, but he may get some from other sources. If Bill wants to prioritize getting more “likes” from another source like his website, he should consider making the button more prominent and seeing if it leads to more “likes” from external sources.
  • Insights on an external domain: Now that Bill took the time to add “like” buttons to his company’s website, he should definitely set up Facebook Insights for this domain. By going to facebook.com/insights and clicking the “Insights for your Domain” box, Bill can easily copy a bit of code onto his website and link it to his Facebook account. By doing so, Bill can see how users of his website are interacting with his content including what users are “liking” and sharing with their Facebook friends.
  • Website analytics: Since Bill is interested in how effectively his Facebook Page is integrating with his overall Internet presence, he should definitely keep an eye on the website analytics on his company’s website. Ideally, Bill wants his Facebook Page to drive traffic to his website, which would show up as a referring source on his website analytics.

Scenario 4: Reaching the Right People

Bill has been using Facebook Insights to create content that he thinks will be popular with his followers and has been linking to this content on numerous tech blogs. He has been seeing steady growth in “likes,” which he is very proud of, but Bill runs a local service business and wants to make sure that he is reaching the right audience.

  • Demographics (middle of Users): It is important that Bill first identifies the target audience for his Facebook Page. Does he want to target older men and women that may own businesses in the area? Does he want to target a younger crowd in the hopes that they will be influential when it comes to making decisions about tech spending? Once he has his audience identified, Bill can use Facebook Insights to evaluate how effectively he is reaching this target group.

    Since Facebook collects personal information from all of its members, it can give page administrators demographic info about page followers. Bill can see who “likes” his page according to age and gender. He can also see what countries and cities his followers come from as well as the languages that they speak. If the demographics of his followers do not match his target demographic, Bill may need to adjust his content or even his entire Internet strategy to target a different group of people.

  • External referrers (bottom right of Users): Bill can use external referrers to see if he is effectively driving traffic from the established tech blogs that he is posting on regularly. By adding his voice to conversations in his industry, Bill can establish his own authority on technology-related topics and drive traffic to his Facebook Page. If he’s not seeing any traffic from these websites, he may need to adjust the content he posts or the websites that he frequents.


Hopefully the scenarios above resonate with you and your organization. While Facebook Insights won’t provide you with all the answers to your questions, it can be a powerful tool for any organization to utilize when evaluating its online strategy. By utilizing Facebook Insights, you can ensure that you are making the most of your business Page while using both your successes and failures to craft a solid presence on Facebook.

More Small Business Resources from Mashable:

- 5 Predictions for Small Business in 2011
- 5 Essential Web Apps for the Lean Small Business
- 5 New Online Services Perfect for Small Businesses
- What Does Web Design Say About Your Small Business?
- 10 Customizable Holiday Gifts for Your Tech-Savvy Office

More About: analytics, business, facebook, facebook insights, facebook marketing, facebook page, List, Lists, small business, social media, social media marketing

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December 16 2010

10 Free Online Resources for Science Teachers

One of the greatest ways technology can empower teachers is by helping them demonstrate concepts and by making it easier for students to learn through their own exploration and experimentation.

Because science teachers are often called upon to teach topics that are too large, too small, happen too fast, happen too slowly, require equipment that is too expensive, or has the potential to blow up a laboratory, the Internet can be particularly helpful in assisting them convey a concept.

Universities, non-profit organizations and scientists with free time have put an overwhelming number of resources for teaching science on the web. These are nine of our favorites.

1. The Periodic Table of Videos

A group of scientists based at the University of Nottingham added some character to the static periodic table of elements by creating a short video for each one.

Hydrogen, for instance, seems much more exciting after you’ve seen what happens when you hold a match to a balloon that is filled with it, and it’s easier to remember the name Darmstadtium after you have seen Darmstadt.

The group also puts out a non-YouTube version of the site for schools that have blocked the site.

2. Teach the Earth


The Science Education Resource Center at Carleton College has compiled just about every fathomable resource for geoscience educators. By serving as the portal to helpful web pages from dozens of independent project websites, the site provides visuals, classroom activities and course descriptions for everything from oceanography to “red tide and harmful algal blooms.”

3. Stellarium


Stellarium is a planetarium for your computer. Just input your location and explore the sky outside or the view from any other location. The program offers up information on stars, nebulae, planets and constellations according to 12 different cultures.

In addition to being ideal for classroom astronomy lessons, Stellarium’s open source software is also used to light up the screens of a number of real planetariums.

Even though Google Sky won’t give you a view from a specific location, it will direct you to specific galaxies, planets and stars or to a map of the moon that notes where each of the six Apollo missions landed.

4. YouTube

“What happens when you put Cesium in water?” is a question that in some cases is best answered by YouTube. YouTube’s archive of demonstrations have the advantage of being safe, clean and unlikely to catch on fire.

You’ll find experiments for most concepts just by using the search bar. But if you’re in a browsing mood, check out this list of the 100 coolest science experiments on YouTube.

Most schools that block YouTube allow access to educational alternatives like TeacherTube and School Tube.

5. NASA Education


NASA has lesson plans, videos and classroom activities for science subjects ranging from Kindergarten to university levels. The best part of this resource gold mine is that it’s easy to search by keyword or to browse by grade level, type of material or subject.

Check out the Be a Martian Game, the interactive timeline and the NASA Space Place for some smart fun.

6. Learn.Genetics


These resources for learning about genetics by the University of Utah’s Genetic Science Learning Center include interactive visualizations, 3D animations and activities. Student activities include taking a “tour” of DNA, a chromosome or a protein, building a DNA molecule, or exploring the inside of a cell.

The university is also building a sister site, Teach.Genetics, with print-and-go lesson plans and supplemental materials for some channels on the Learn.Genetics site.

7. The Concord Consortium


The Concord Consortium is a non-profit organization that helps develop technologies for math, science and engineering education. Their free, open source software is available for teachers to download to use in their classes. They include visualizations and models for a broad range of topics.

Some examples include: The Molecular Workbench, a free tool that creates interactive simulations for everything from cellular respiration to chemical bonding. Geniquest introduces students to cutting-edge genetics using dragons as their model organisms; Evolution Readiness is a project designed to teach fourth graders about evolution concepts using simulations; and The ITSI-SU Project provides lab-based activities involving probes, models and simulations.

To search for classroom activities across all projects, teachers can use the site’s Activity Finder to browse by subject, grade level or keyword.

8. The ChemCollective


The ChemCollective, a project that is funded by the National Science Foundation, allows students to design and carry out their own experiments in a virtual laboratory and provides virtual lab problems, real-world scenarios, concept tests, simulations, tutorials and course modules for learning basic chemistry.

The project recently won a Science Prize for Online Resources in Education from Science Magazine.

9. Scitable


Scitable is both the Nature Publishing Group’s free science library and a social network. Teachers can create a “classroom” with a customized reading list, threaded discussions, news feeds and research tools. There’s also an option to use the material on the site to create a customized e-book for free that can include any of the more than 500 videos, podcasts or articles on the site.

Topic rooms combine articles, discussions and groups related to one key concept in science and make it easy to find material that is relevant to your class and connect with people who are also passionate about the subject.

What resources did you find most helpful, or what great science tools did we miss? Let us know in the comments below.

10. Impact: Earth!


Want to see how a particular projectile from space would affect the Earth? With this tool that was developed for Purdue University, your students can enter the projectile parameters, angle and velocity to calculate what would happen if the object were to actually hit Earth. You can also get the details on the projectiles that caused famous craters.

More Education Resources from Mashable:

- 8 Ways Technology Is Improving Education
- The Case For Social Media in Schools
- 7 Fantastic Free Social Media Tools for Teachers
- How Online Classrooms Are Helping Haiti Rebuild Its Education System
- 5 Innovative Classroom Management Tools for Teachers

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, rrocio

More About: education, education resources, Kids, List, Lists, resources, school, Science, social media, teachers, tech, visualizations, youtube

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December 12 2010

YouTube Tops 2010’s Most Buzzed-About Social Network List

YouTube has come out on top in a ranking of 2010’s most buzzed-about websites and social media services.

This year was the year of video- and photo-sharing; 2010 saw the rise — in volume and positive mentions — of YouTube and Flickr and the fall of some of the first social networking sites.

The Zeta 2010 Buzz Awards measures the mentions of 125 of the top social media sites to determine not just popularity but how people feel about those sites, too.

“We held a mirror up to the social media world and try to get an understanding of what people are saying about the various social networking sites,” said Al DiGuido, CEO of Zeta Interactive, a digital marketing agency in New York City.

People seem to be saying good things about YouTube and Flickr. The blogosphere spoke positively about YouTube 91% of the time and about Flickr 98% of the time. Those positive mentions, along with the sites’ volume of mentions, landed them in the top two spots on the list.

“Flickr was very, very strong in terms of volume ranking but even stronger in terms of tone. That’s the highest number we’ve ever seen in terms of positive ranking in this category,” DiGuido said.

Craigslist, Friendster, MySpace Drop From the Top 10

Some of the first sites for networking online have fallen from the most buzzed-about list. Craigslist, which was ranked fifth in 2009, and Friendster and MySpace, at the ninth and tenth spots respectively last year, didn’t make this year’s cut.

“If you look year over year, sites that have had problems with security, like Craigslist, Friendster and Myspace, these sites have kind of all dropped off from 2009. It shows the rising stars in terms of social networking sites and those that are on the wane… in the number of people at least speaking about them,” DiGuido said. “If you’ve got issues with security and privacy, you’ll deal with it pretty directly with how people are talking about it. People want to feel their information being exchanged is secure. Big mistakes will be aired in the marketplace.”

Although Facebook still made its way onto the list, security concerns dominated the buzz about the world’s largest social networking site. “Security,” as well as “information” and “safety,” were some of the words most often used in association with Facebook, which ranks sixth on the list.

Facebook’s mentions were just 68% positive.

Groupon, StumbleUpon, Google Buzz Make the Cut

Newcomers to the list include Groupon, StumbleUpon and Google Buzz.

It’s been said before that 2010 has also been the year of the daily deals, and Zeta’s data seems to support that statement.

“Groupon’s coming on real strong,” DiGuido said. “We’ve been watching a lot of different verticals, brands, commercials in the last couple years, and this year is the year that deals — sites focused on deals, value, saving money — are going incredibly strong. Groupon has totally captured the social networking world.”

Google Buzz rounded out the list at the number-ten spot, but it had the second lowest tonal rating with just 68% positive.

Newbie StumbleUpon, on the other hand, had a whopping 94% positive mentions. Words most often used in association with the site include “advice,” “recommend,” “web/site,” “new,” and “original.”

Here’s the complete list of this year’s top 10 most buzzed about sites. Were you surprised by any of the findings? What changes do you predict for 2011? Share your thoughts in the comments.

More About: craigslist, eHarmony, facebook, flickr, friendster, google buzz, groupon, linkedin, Match.com, myspace, stumbleupon, twitter, youtube

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November 19 2010

Cracking the Mainstream: Why Social Gaming Is More Than Just a Fad

games keyboard image

Ravi Mehta is vice president of product for Viximo, where he drives the product strategy for Viximo’s social game distribution platform and helps social networks monetize via social games and virtual goods. For more information on virtual goods, visit his blog, Virtual Goods Insider, and follow him on Twitter.

Since taking off in 2009, the social gaming phenomenon has drawn hundreds of millions of players, but it has also found more than its fair share of critics. Many claim that social games are too shallow and simplistic to attract a sustainable audience, while others assert that a free-to-play business model leaves too much money on the table to support the development of social games that compare favorably to traditional games. Some believe that the biggest threat to social games is the force that gave life to them in the first place — the fate of the industry seems inextricably linked to the ebb and flow of the Facebook platform, and Facebook’s wavering commitment to developers does little to inspire confidence.

All this has led social gaming’s biggest critics to suggest that social games are a flash in the pan that will eventually be subsumed into the rest of the online game industry. But social games are far more than a fleeting fad or a watered down version of “real” games. Just as social distribution has led to new forms of written media (i.e. the tweet) and new forms of video media (i.e. YouTube video), it has led to a disruptive form of gaming that plays an essential role in the way that people engage with the web.

Social gaming is here to stay, and it’s here to stay for two fundamental reasons: 1.) The format of social games is a perfect match to the daily pattern and rhythm of how people use the social web, and 2.) Social games are the only form of interactive entertainment that are natively woven into and distributed via social networks — the Internet’s new gateway.

Form Follows Function

Throughout the history of entertainment media, content has been developed in short and long formats. Five hundred page novels, full-length feature films and television mini-series coexist harmoniously with blogs, 30-minute sitcoms and two-minute YouTube videos. Why? Because each format serves a different purpose and, without subsuming the other formats, manages to engage users in unique ways and for different reasons.

Short-format show Seinfeld ran for nine seasons and generated hundreds more viewing hours than the typical 90-minute comedy movie, while the 56-second “Charlie Bit My Finger” video on YouTube has been viewed for the equivalent of nearly 4 million hours since it went viral in 2007. In many ways, the social game is to gaming what YouTube is to video: A shorter format that has been enabled by new, social forms of distribution and is no less compelling or permanent than longer-form content. This type of gaming simply enables different behaviors and attracts different users than subscription MMOs, free-to-play MMOs and casual games; but this deviation from the traditional model does not guarantee its demise. Instead, social gaming represents an adaptation to new social norms; a typical social networker’s day is punctuated by periodic visits, and social games are designed to fit perfectly into these short bursts of activity where a user may spend just a few minutes catching up on the latest wall posts, browsing tweets, and tending to his or her digital farm.

In addition, it’s worth noting that long-format content and short-format content have very different price sensitivities. People who are willing to pay $10 to watch a two-hour Steve Carell movie in the theater aren’t necessarily willing to spend $2.99 to buy a 30-minute episode of The Office. Social games leverage the perfect combination of cheap, viral distribution with a free-to-play model that allows 1 to 3% of the most active users to subsidize the game experience for the other users. This is a great mass-market model that requires fundamentally different content than traditional games.

Social Games are Woven Into the New Web

Every month, 75% of worldwide Internet users log into social networks or visit blogs. For many users, Facebook has replaced Google as their point of entry to the web. Although keyword search was once the dominant way that users discovered news, information, products and entertainment, users are increasingly turning to social media channels to find the content that has the most personal relevance. Social games are the only form of gaming that are natively tied into and distributed via social media, and social games have been brilliantly adapted to leverage the viral distribution opportunities afforded by social networks.

This disruption in distribution is evident both in the massive uptake of social games on sites such as Facebook, as well as the decline of casual content portals, such as MSN Games, which don’t have the benefit of social distribution. Users are increasingly gravitating away from content portals to social networks. Entertainment activities are always more enjoyable in groups (that’s why we like to watch movies with friends), so when players have the option to go to one site, get a game recommendation from and play with a friend on that site –- while also exchanging status updates and photos — the single player format on content portals begins to rapidly lose its appeal. Content sites lack the social context and tools necessary to drive revenue and usage from virtual goods and social games. The numbers support this; earlier in the year, Yahoo Games, MSN Games and AOL Games saw a combined 14% drop in monthly traffic worldwide, and an 11% drop in U.S. visitors during that same period (Source: Comscore, January vs. May 2010). This might explain Zynga’s decision to pull FarmVille from MSN.

However, social distribution is not without its challenges. Facebook walks a fine line between its desires to preserve the core social networking experience while addressing the viral distribution needs of game developers. Although this dependence on the whim of Facebook may seem like the Achilles Heel of the social gaming industry, significant opportunity exists beyond Facebook’s blue and white walls.

Today, Facebook generates a majority of social gaming revenue and gets much of the press, but the site only represents 30% of the global social networking audience. The social networks that comprise the other 70% of users have found that social gaming is an intrinsically valuable part of the social networking experience, not a feature particular to Facebook. Networks such as hi5, Orkut, Tuenti, and StudiVZ are fostering the virality, discoverability, adoption, and monetization necessary for social games. If game developers tap into this audience and broaden their distribution beyond Facebook, they have the opportunity to go where no casual game has gone before –- plugging into sites with a native social graph where gaming is a more meaningful activity, but without fierce Facebook-level competition, high user acquisition costs and limitations on viral growth. If Facebook continues to take steps to curb the proliferation of social games, those games and their players will sprout up on more fertile ground.

The Takeaway

Darwinian evolution suggests that the species that survives isn’t the strongest or most intelligent — it’s that which is most adaptable to change. Although social gaming has thus far taken the form of basic simulation games, changes are coming and a new generation of games is already beginning to take shape. Social gaming 2.0 will move beyond the same formula perpetuated over a variety of themes from farm, pet and fish, to café, bakery and bar.

Newer titles are drawing more from the history of gaming and showcasing more creative gameplay, stronger social features and potential for higher monetization. For example, Nightclub City has incorporated high quality music into the game, which engages a crowd in a different way, while Car Town is incorporating licensed brands that connect gameplay to real-world touchstones. These new games, combined with new modes of social distribution, are clear indicators that social gaming has the strength to innovate, adapt to change, and become a permanent fixture in the diverse cosmos of the game industry.

More Gaming Resources from Mashable:

- 6 Emerging Social Games Taking the Web by Storm
- 4 Frighteningly Fun Zombie iPhone Games
- 5 Great Games for Learning Stock Market Strategy
- 3 Innovative iPad Games That Use the iPhone as a Controller
- 5 Free Ways to Improve Your Typing Skills Online

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, rubenhi

More About: facebook, farmville, gaming, social gaming, social media, social networks, video games, viral, web games, youtube

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October 30 2010

October 27 2010

How the “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear” Nailed Social Media

rally stewart colbert image

“Jon [Stewart] wants to harness the public’s frustration. I want to bombard the public’s frustration with gamma rays until it turns on its master with a lust for blood.”

So sayeth Stephen Colbert in support of his upcoming “The March to Keep Fear Alive,” a mock political rally taking place October 30 on Washington, DC’s National Mall. That rally is being met by Jon Stewart’s own mock political rally called “The Rally to Restore Sanity.” While the sides could not be more starkly drawn, the two rallies share an increasing awareness of how social media can help fans across the world become part of the sanity/fear-mongering/hilarity.

The two rallies, occurring at the same time and jointly held by Colbert and Stewart as one event, have managed to mobilize their fans and people across the country in just one month. In roughly 30 days, the event has spawned a number of sites and mini web-campaigns.

Engaging Through Social Media

jon stewart image

The sites offer surprisingly robust options for such a quick turnaround. Fans of Stewart can head to the Sanity site for updates, merchandise (proceeds go to charity), and to see if rally signs are suitably “sane.” Fans of Colbert can head to the Fear site for its own Halloween-themed app called “Spooky or Dooky” where fans can upload and vote on people dressing up as their worst fears (examples include hippies, tanks and ninjas).

Both sites also have dedicated social good options, with Stewart offering a link to donate to the Trust for the National Mall and Colbert directing people to DonorsChoose.org. Rather than serving as simple news pages, the rallies’ individual websites have taken active roles in galvanizing their fans to participate while offering real value.

The Main Attraction

stephen colbert image

The event itself has loaded on social media features with a planned, uncensored livestream through Dailyshow.com, ColbertNation.com, and ComedyCentral.com that will also work on mobile devices. Foursquare badges will also be available on October 30 in both Sanity and Fear flavors.

Anyone somehow unable to access the livestream can follow the action through the live tweets from the competing Twitter accounts — @Rally4Sanity and @StephenAtHome — offering info up-to and throughout the event. Don’t like Twitter? Text RALLY or MARCH to 44686 for text updates or check out their Facebook pages: Sanity, Fear.

How They Did It

rally poster image

Social media is too often an afterthought — a detail stapled onto traditional media. The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear has taken the most traditional form there is — speaking to a large group of people in person — and made it a social media vehicle. The websites each offer all the updates and news that users have come to expect from event sites. The addition of unique apps, like Stewart’s sanity signs or Colbert’s spooky costumes show a desire to engage the users.

“It’s hard to imagine pulling something like this off where you couldn’t have the underpinnings of Twitter or Facebook to rally the people that are participating,” said Erik Flannigan, EVP of digital media at Comedy Central/Spike TV.

The goal was to use social media to help fans feel like they were participating in the rallies.

“We want to memorialize what’s happening on the [National] Mall, not just what’s happening on stage” Flannigan said.

By reaching out to several social networks, the team at Comedy Central hopes to see the rallies trending in several fields, allowing users to connect however they like. Don’t have Twitter? Sign in with Foursquare, post to Facebook or simply snap a photo to share later.

Of course, it helps when your spokespeople are two of the brightest, funniest, fake-newscastiest people on television. The faux competitiveness of the event encourages fans to pick a side and fight for it. The naturally-engaged fans of Stewart and Colbert are prime examples of how to do social media right: Rather than selling a product, the shows and their respective personalities are building communities. There are currently 1,000 related meetups planned worldwide, while the email blasts for the two shows have jumped by more than 150,000 new subscribers, combined.


As a lampoon of the bipartisan silliness of American politics, Stewart and Colbert’s competing rallies were guaranteed to be a success. As a way of engaging with their audience, earning new followers and maximizing the reach of social media, The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear might just be setting the model.

What do you think of the rallies? What have they done and what could the event do better? Will you be participating? And more importantly, do you settle on the side of Sanity or Fear?

Reviews: Facebook, Foursquare, Twitter, foursquare

More About: daily show, entertainment, funny, humor, jon stewart, march to keep fear alive, politics, Rally, rally to restore sanity, rally to restore sanity and or fear, stephen colbert, The Colbert Report, tv

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October 26 2010

HOW TO: Become a Foursquare Super-User

The Digital Influencers Series is supported by Waggener Edstrom Worldwide (WE). To learn how to measure influence, visit http://waggeneredstrom.com/driveinfluence.

When Foursquare was starting up a little more than a year and a half ago, only a handful of people were checking in. It was pretty easy to hold down a healthy number of mayorships just by being one of the few people using the game. Today, it’s a different story.

Foursquare registered its four millionth member this past week. As the network has grown in popularity, it has evolved from a location-based game to a social media staple that has shown potential in civic engagement, education, and non-profits. It has also become much harder to beat out the competition for coveted mayorships and badge counts.

When IBM employee Eric Andersen took over the mayorship of a popular Boston ice cream shop, for instance, he had to stop in two to three times every week for ice cream or spiced butterscotch lattes (a Boston Globe reporter dubbed the not-so-painful battle the bloodless revolution). The mayor who ousted him checks in about 35 times every 60 days.

“One way to think of it is, for nearly every venue, whether it be a bar, a coffee shop, a laundromat, or a park, there is probably someone who owns a smartphone who is there almost daily,” Andersen says. “So as Foursquare adoption increases, mayorship battles will heat up as regular patrons of every location suddenly begin to adopt their new virtual status.”

When you find yourself in such a battle — or just want to get the most out of playing the game — you can rely on these five tips from Foursquare’s most accomplished players.

1. Make Foursquare a Habit


“I don’t know if I really have a strategy, but playing Foursquare has definitely changed my habits,” says Chris Preiss, who has checked into Foursquare more than 5,800 times, the third-most times of anyone on Foursquare according to Osnapz.com. “If I am in a mayorship battle, I will frequent that place a little more often. Or if there is a location that I know will help me earn a badge, I will go there.”

Adding Foursquare to your habits is a common theme among Foursquare champions. It seems obvious, but most people still don’t naturally check in when they arrive somewhere. Remembering to do so is a huge advantage, especially if you have a job like Preiss’s. His company provides CO2 to bars and restaurants, so he’s often in new places that he might not otherwise even know about.

2. Pick a Strategy


Gathering mayorships, badges, and checkins requires different and often conflicting strategies.

“In the past, many badges had clearly defined rules, and you could check venues’ tags to determine if a checkin there would help towards the badge,” explains Andersen, who currently has the second most number of checkins on Foursquare. “Now, most of the newer badges can’t easily be obtained by a concrete set of checkins. There are some sites like aboutfoursquare.com that can help guide you though – but these strategies typically involve checking in to new and different places, whereas something like [becoming] mayor involves going to the same place every day.”

In order to truly excel in a Foursquare super-user category, it can be beneficial to define your strategy. Chris Radzinski decided to focus his efforts on badges.

“I am not a fan of going for mayorships — if you notice my account does not have many,” he says. “In terms of Foursquare, getting badges doesn’t really affect any other user specifically. But if I went around and had a thousand mayorships, some users would be irritated and would actually be affected.”

Radzinski is currently the Foursquare record holder with 131 badges. Those who wish to focus on badges, he says, should focus on the limited time badges first.

“Unlike mayorships, which can be taken, not everyone can say they have certain badges after they are inactive,” he says.

Preiss is less targeted. “For the most part, I just check in where I am and let the chips fall where they may,” he says. “Earning a badge unexpectedly can be more fun than working for one.”

3. Know the Rules and Decide What is Cheating


All checkins are not created equal. If you’re planning on being competitive, it’s important to know the rules.

“Many don’t realize that only checkins in the last 60 days count towards mayorship, or that only one checkin a day counts towards mayorship,” Andersen says. “Multiple checkins a day to a place aren’t necessarily mistakes, but someone might be doing it thinking it will help them become mayor more quickly.”

There are, of course, ways to bend the rules. You can check in on the mobile Foursquare website without actually being in a location, you can check in to a location as you pass it without ever actually going to it, and you can decide not to “share with friends” in order to unabashedly check in multiple times per visit to one location.

“I don’t really see the value in doing this more than a few times a day,” Andersen says about checking in off the grid. “You lose nearly all of Foursquare’s social benefits when you aren’t actually sharing anything with friends other than the fact that you’re accumulating points.”

Some people also consider employees who check in to their own business’s Foursquare page to be cheating.

But, as Preiss points out, “There aren’t really rules to the game, so cheating is kind of a touchy thing.”

Preiss says he considers checking in to places that he hasn’t actually visited to be cheating. He doesn’t do it, but, he says, “Foursquare hasn’t done anything to end this practice, so if they don’t have a problem with it, why should I?”

Foursquare has, in fact, made an attempt to stop rewarding armchair mayors. It continues to permit people to check in wherever they are, but, as Foursquare puts it, “We’re never going to NOT let you check-in –- you can checkin wherever you want, whenever you want — the idea is simply to not award points, mayorships, badges or venue specials if it looks like you didn’t really earn them.”

Before you get competitive, it’s good to set some boundaries for what you will count as fair play. Foursquare pride isn’t as much fun when accompanied by cheater guilt.

4. Use Twitter


Radzinski says Twitter gives him a competitive edge. “Following the right people is crucial because many of the badges are only valid for a few days if it is event based, and the news hits Twitter faster than anything,” he says.

These are some online resources the super-users we interviewed recommended:

  • @aboutfoursquare: “Lots of updates on new badges and brands that are part of Foursquare,” says Preiss.
  • @4squareTips: Great for tips, how-tos, and swarm alerts
  • @mattersofgrey: General Internet news, but often reports on Foursquare. Great for badge lists.
  • @foursquare: Get Foursquare news directly from Foursquare
  • @getOsnapz: The Twitter feed of social media leader board site Osnapz.com.
  • @4squarebadges: Outlines the best strategies for earning specific badges
  • Andersen keeps a Twitter list of “Foursquare gurus” that collectively span anything you would want to know about the platform.

5. Stay Social


Foursquare is intended to be a game. It can get competitive, but it should still be fun. Even the super-users say the most important parts of the game are the social aspects.

“As a social person who works in a very social industry, it’s nice for friends to be able to see where and what is going on,” says Radzinski, who works as a general manager at a Cleveland Heights restaurant. “I can’t even tell you how many times someone has stopped at a place I am or texted to see how long I am staying at a bar or restaurant because they saw me checked in. The badges are just icing on the cake.”

Preiss says that the badges he’s most proud of are not those that were hardest to win, but those that remind him of good times. One of them he won at a friend’s birthday party while visiting New York. Another is the Jet Setter Badge, which he is proud of because it shows his passion for traveling.

What are your tips for becoming a Foursquare super-user? Add them in the comments below.

Series Supported by Waggener Edstrom Worldwide

The Digital Influencers Series is supported by Waggener Edstrom Worldwide (WE). How do you measure your brand’s influence in fast-moving online mediums? Winning and maintaining social influence demands ongoing measurement of conversations, trends and responses. Waggener Edstrom Worldwide finds the most influential voices that have the biggest impact on campaigns. To learn how to measure influence, visit http://waggeneredstrom.com/driveinfluence.

More Foursquare Resources from Mashable:

- Foursquare vs. Gowalla: Location-Based Throwdown
- 10 Foursquare Apps You Can Use Right Now
- Foursquare: Why It May Be the Next Twitter
- 6 Foursquare Apps We’d Love to See
- 6 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Foursquare

Images courtesy of bkbooth!;iStockphoto, yuri_arcurs; Foursquare

More About: Digital Influencers Series, foursquare, how to, how tos, lbs, location, location services, location-based, location-based apps, location-based games, location-based networking, location-based social network, super mayor, super-user

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