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May 10 2012

3 Ways Companies Can Leverage Social Reviews

Ann Smarty is a search marketer and full-time web entrepreneur. Ann blogs on search and social media tools. Her newest project, My Blog Guest, is a free platform for guest bloggers and blog owners. Follow Ann on Twitter at @seosmarty and on Google+.

Testimonials can be powerful marketing tools. But in the digital age customers have reason to doubt if every good review is a reflection of a good product or a made up comment meant to boost a company’s reputation. Social media testimonials, on the other hand, are harder to fake because there’s generally a person with a record of activity behind each one.

In fact, collecting and re-posting positive social media reviews not only shines a credible light on a company but may actually help search results for the brand and promote the company’s biggest supporters. Here are three ways to do this.

1. Twitter Favorites

Someone is always tweeting about your business and you want to be there to listen and respond to what people are saying. That’s why collecting the most favorable mentions is something you need to embrace. Twitter Favorites is a great tool to instantly save anyone’s Twitter testimonials for promotion. Below are three great ways to search Twitter for these items.
  • Determine all possible ways your brand name may be used. This will include: [brand name], [brandname], [brandname.com]. Twitter search allows you to combine all of them in one search like this: ["brand name" OR brandname OR brandname.com]
  • Filter out your own tweets with “minus” operator: ["brand name" OR brandname OR brandname.com -from:@brandname]
  • Filter out re-tweets of your own tweets by searching: ["brand name" OR brandname OR brandname.com -from:@brandname -RT]

Here’s an example.

If you are using Tweetdeck, Hootsuite or Cyfe, consider adding the following search commands as well. You can see an example in the image below.

  • Filter out links with -infilter:links command to find unlinked mentions
  • Search for “unsatisfied” and/or “happy customers” by adding :) or :( to a search query

Here’s an example.

By re-tweeting Twitter testimonials and adding them to your favorites list, you give them a chance to rank better in Twitter “top” search results, which is a default tab for Twitter search. You can also use these reviews in the following places.

  • Add your favorites to your signature with Wisestamp
  • Import your favorites to your Facebook page
  • Create a widget of your favorites using Twitter’s official tool to share the testimonials on your site which would certainly add to your brand credibility
  • Create an RSS feed. Twitter has removed the link to your Favorites RSS feed, but it’s still working and can be found here: https://twitter.com/favorites/TWITTERUSERNAMEHERE.rss.

2. Pinterest

Pinterest may have plenty of possible applications — one of which is to let people better understand your business. So creating a separate board to feature your social media testimonials, like those you pulled from Twitter, can be a good idea. This will allow your followers to opt out if they don’t want to see your testimonials in their timelines without unfollowing you. This will also serve as a page that can rank on Google.

To take items like tweets and put them on your Pinterest board, consider using Pin a Quote. (See the example below.) Another way to share your text testimonials on Pinterest is with Screen to Pin or Url2Pin.it. Both of these can instantly create a screenshot of a page and share it on Pinterest. Finally, consider pinning videos, which make for great exposure on this site.

3. Content Curating Sites

Most content curation sites support Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other key content sources you need to curate for your brand mentions. (To better understand what content curation is, I highly recommend this article by Gianluca Fiorelli.) Here are three curation tools I use and recommend.
  • Storify: Summarizes Twitter search results, especially around your official hashtag.
  • Themeefy: Creates tablet-friendly magazines you can easily download.
  • ScoopIt: Aggregates sources into one RSS feed.

Are you collecting and re-packaging your social media testimonials to promote them? Please let us know your tactics!

More About: brands, content curation, contributor, features, Marketing, pinterest, Twitter

For more Business coverage:

January 18 2012

Curated Commerce: How Retail Brands Can Cash in on the Latest Craze

John Doyle is VP of digital strategy for Cramer-Krasselt / Chicago. Keep up with him at johndoyle.posterous.com.

As we kick off 2012, one of the most prominent online trends is an increasingly diverse array of content curation platforms. While sites like Digg and reddit have been around for years, a new crop of sites like Polyvore, Svpply and, most notably, Pinterest are allowing people to organize their favorite discoveries from around the web into themed collections that friends and contacts can follow.

Marketers are excited about the trend’s subsequent opportunities, as it appears to be an evolution in online influence. (Consider that Pinterest, with only 5.3 million active users, drives more traffic to Real Simple than Facebook.)

Shoppers are turning to these curated experiences to help filter the Internet’s overwhelming amount of content down to manageable collections of products centered around shared taste. Unless you know specifically what you want to buy (in which case, search is the weapon of choice), browsing curated collections can be the most interesting way to discover new products and retailers. As an example of the power of human curation, just compare the results of a Google search for gloves with the same search on Pinterest. Now ask yourself which search makes you want to buy something?

With a little practice, shopping curated collections can be a lot like shopping in a real-life boutique — a boutique where the goods are selected and stocked to meet the needs of its best customer: you. And because these collections are created by real people (in many cases, friends from within the shopper’s own personal social network), the resulting shopping experience is authentic, powerful and hugely influential on purchase behavior.

The trouble for retail brands? Consumers often prefer curated collections, which tend to be absent of overt branding and promotion. They don’t turn to curated communities to learn about the Gap’s winter line or the latest sale on Macys.com. No, what drives both curators and the consumers who enjoy these experiences is discovering and sharing “products on the verge.”

But that doesn’t mean established brands and retailers can’t leverage this trend and capitalize on the powerful influence curated collections can generate. Try these three ways that brands and retailers can leverage curated commerce.

1. Look for Your Brand ‘In the Wild.’

Just because curated collections don’t often feature bigger brands doesn’t mean these retailers don’t show up at all. And when they do, it presents a huge learning opportunity for brand and store managers to see products in a new context — the way influential tastemakers see you. By understanding which other brands or products surround yours, you may discover a new dimension to your merchandising strategy.

A simple Pinterest search for “Brooks Brothers” yielded this visually rich and focused collection called “Preppy Cool.” Perhaps the Brook’s Brothers site could benefit by creating similar visual appeal, leading customers to purchase items that naturally fit a targeted style preference.

2. Bring the Outside In.

If you find that your brand has been included in a curated collection, take pains to identify the curator, explore past collections and try to gauge her influence and audience. If you can’t find yourself in curated collections, you can still look to identify tastemakers that share your aesthetic or ethos.

Once you’ve identified the right individuals, encourage them to consider adding you to their collections. Better still, invite these curators to create a collection on your owned site and in stores, thus giving them a new platform for expression and self-promotion, and you a fresh take on your merchandising. For an example of a brand that understands the power of bringing the outside in, check out J.crew’s partner-curated collections and brand partnerships.

3. Go Off Property.

Sure, you can curate a collection on your own website or other digital properties, but you’ll tap entirely new tastemakers and audiences by integrating your products within an existing community site. Just be sure not to focus too much on your own brand, or else you risk being labeled a shill and, thus, lose customer-valued authenticity. Your brand should be the garnish on a plate of freshly discovered “products on the verge” — never the main dish.

For example, check out how a few Sephora products benefit from a widened context on this color-themed Svpply.com set.

Leveraging the effects of curated commerce will require extra time, effort and imagination. However, it can have an extremely powerful impact on both shoppers and your brand. When it comes to influencing consumers, the human touch is everything.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, MarsBars

More About: content curation, contributor, customer engagement, ecommerce, features, Marketing, pinterest

November 11 2011

May 14 2011

Gaining Authority in the Age of Digital Overload

We’re entering into a new era of the Internet, where users are now looking to find validated sources within the mix of information overload that we all experience, said Steve Rubel, EVP of Global Strategy and Insights for Edelman during his presentation at Mashable Connect 2011. This shift is changing the nature of authority.

“The reality is, there’s too much content and not enough time,” says Rubel. “More content will be created today than existed in entirety before 2003.” With limited time and attention spans, people are experiencing information overload as well as “people overload.” Rubel called it a “friending arms race,” referring to the Facebook phenomena in which “he or she who dies with the most ‘friends’ wins.”

While Facebook is known as the most intimate of the large social networks, the simple truth is that the average user doesn’t know 20% of his Facebook friends. Rubel pointed to this — and the fact that in 2009, the New Oxford American Dictionary‘s Word of the Year was “unfriend” — to propose that the new “Validation” era of Internet life has begun, as of 2010.

Prior to the Validation era, the Internet experienced two other distinct eras, says Rubel. The first was the era of “Commercialization” (1994-2002), in which publishing was “costly and inaccessible to the masses.” As a result, media companies and brands ruled the digital space and the dot-com boom gave rise to a few new players, including Yahoo, Amazon and Google.

With the dot-com crash, though, publishing costs decreased, enabling almost anyone to be a publisher — thus, the era of “Democratization” (2002-2010). Cue the entrance of mainstream bloggers and Twitter fiends, accompanied by the shift of authority and trust from brands to individuals.

Edelman publishes an annual “Trust Barometer,” which gauges attitudes about the state of trust in business, government, NGOs and media across 23 countries. In 2006, during the pinnacle of the era of Democratization, the study found that people trusted their peers most when forming opinions about companies. Rubel pointed to the rise of social media to explain this finding.

The 2011 Trust Barometer survey illustrated an essential shift in trust, with academics, experts and technical experts within companies rising to become the most trusted sources. Meanwhile, the authority of peers has notably declined 4% since 2009.

With this shift in authority, Rubel proposes that as of 2010, the Internet has entered the Validation era, in which Internet users are beginning to “find the signal in the noise” and hold on to only those pieces of information and people that are most important to them online. The rise of intimate social networks such as Path, and group messaging apps such as GroupMe, Beluga, Fast Society and Kik, is an indicator that “people want to be closer to people they care about and let all the riffraff set aside,” says Rubel.

How do brands gain authority in the age of digital overload, then? Rubel pointed to the “Media Cloverleaf” as a solution, calling it the brainchild of Edelman’s CEO Richard Edelman. The Media Cloverleaf features four distinct spheres of media which should all be utilized to engage the public on a regular basis, he said. This is the idea of transmedia storytelling. Here are the four spheres of media:

  • Traditional media encompasses the big media companies that have “survived and thrived.” This includes radio, TV and print media outlets.
  • “Tradigital” media includes “digitally native media companies that are largely blogs, sometimes niche-focused, sometimes horizontal,” explained Rubel. These outlets are characterized by having high social amplification, SEO sophistication and sometimes a blur between advertising and editorial, says Rubel.
  • Owned media was defined by Rubel via a quote from Andy Heyward, former President of CBS News: “Every company can be a media company.” This is the idea that every brand can create valuable content.
  • Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are driving increased engagement with brands and increased traffic to the other media spheres.

Consumers see these media channels as one, not as four distinct areas, Rubel warns. As a result, the opportunity for businesses is to “propagate new ideas across the Cloverleaf.” Here are Rubel’s five steps for success:

1. Elevate the Experts

Find your company’s subject-matter experts and empower them to “cultivate new ideas and engage in meaningful conversation around them,” advises Rubel. These experts could be employees or even your most valuable customers. Start by setting them up with press interviews or enabling them to represent your company on Twitter, Rubel suggests.

Cisco Together, for example, is an owned media project from Cisco that brings together subject matter experts to discuss how technology is connecting people in all new ways across various industries.

2. Curate to Connect

Rubel pointed out an unprecedented opportunity for companies and individuals to gain authority and become thought leaders by being the ones who “separate art from junk for people to understand it.” Curation is just as important as creation.

Social video king YouTube, for example, is finding new ways to curate the massive amount of videos that YouTube users upload on a daily basis. Most recently, the company partnered with curation startup Storyful to put together playlists for each day of the Egyptian protests.

3. Dazzle with Data

“People on the Internet do not read,” Rubel says. “They read 20% of a webpage before they move on; 57% never come back to that page; and we spend 15-20 seconds on a webpage before we move on. We are a global planet of fruit flies.”

The solution is to make data and information more visual and entertaining. The New York Times understands this idea and even employs a team specifically for data visualization. From visualizing America’s consumption of meat and how various groups of people spend their days, to making interactive maps of homicides in New York City and minorities in China, The Times has produced some of the most compelling graphics on the web.

4. Put Pubs on Hubs

Publish your company’s content, such as slideshows and white papers, on hubs like SlideShare and Scribd, so that interested parties can access it and “go deeper” when they want to.

Facebook, for example, is using Scribd to publish guides and case studies for developers, journalists and Facebook Page administrators.

5. Ask & Answer

“Be a source of knowledge,” says Rubel. Social media is a great outlet for doing just that. Rubel recommends that companies empower all of their employees to ask and answer questions via social media, instead of putting a few people in charge of that responsibility.

While at Mashable, I have sourced experts from “Help a Reporter Out,” Quora, Twitter, Facebook, blog comments and many other online outlets. Answering and asking questions online is just as valid as doing the same thing in person. The Internet is not just a playland; it is an extension of our offline lives, a place where individuals and companies can become highly influential and respected.

Which companies are best positioned to gain authority as we move into the era of Validation? Let us know what you think in the comments.

View Steve Rubel’s Mashable Connect presentation:

More About: business, cisco, content curation, curation, facebook, mashable connect, mashable connect 2011, scribd, steve rubel, the new york times, youtube

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January 06 2011

4 Promising Curation Tools That Help Make Sense of the Web

Steven Rosenbaum is a curator, author, filmmaker and entrepreneur. He is the CEO of Magnify.net, a real-time video curation engine for publishers, brands, and websites. His book Curation Nation is slated to be published this spring by McGrawHill Business.

As the volume of content swirling around the web continues to grow, we’re finding ourselves drowning in a deluge of data. Where is the relevant material? Where are the best columns and content offerings? How can we balance the need for timely, relevant information with reasonable limits of our ability to find, sort, fact check and validate information?

The solution on the horizon is curation. You can either choose to be a curator — offering your filtered world view to followers — or you can choose curators to follow. As curation moves to center stage, a new category of software is emerging to provide curation solutions. 

In the past 90 days alone, there has been an explosion of new software offerings that are the early leaders in the curation tools category. Each of their unique differences will make them popular with different classes of users. 
It would be impossible to explore all of the tools here — and there are more appearing every day — but here are four worth the consideration of anyone curious about curation workflow options.

1. Storify

Storify co-founder Burt Herman worked as a reporter for the Associated Press during a 12-year career, six of those in news management as a bureau chief and supervising correspondent. He headed AP’s office in Korea and also founded a bureau covering the five countries of former Soviet Central Asia.

At the AP, editors sending messages to reporters asking them to do a story would regularly write, “Can u pls storify?”  The dictionary defines “storify” as “to form or tell stories.” 

Storify uses existing elements from the web and gives curators the power to drag and drop elements into storylines.  Tweets, photos and videos can be searched on multiple social networks. You can re-order the elements and also add text to give context to readers.

Storify is being used by journalists looking to search, organize and curate social media in real time with some solid success. Here are a few examples.

Storify is currently invite only. And based on the questions on the invite, the company seems to be offering early access to mainstream media rather than emerging curators, but that could change when it comes out of closed beta. So if Storify interests you, get your name on the mailing list early.

2. Scoop.it 

Scoop.it is often described as Tumblr without the blog. It offers users the opportunity to “be the curator of your favorite topic” and suggests that visitors use the site to “create your topic-centric media by collecting gems among relevant social media streams. Publish it to people sharing the same interest.”

Scoop.it is based in Paris and had its public launch at LeWeb this past December.  The site’s creators compared the service to creating your own magazine.

Scoop.it gives users the ability to set up a themed topic, or multiple topics, so they can curate and update themes as content is discovered. Content can be added via a bookmarklet or using a post button on the topic page. It posts to Facebook and Twitter.

It’s not clear from the page who is behind Scoop.it, and for me that’s a negative. I like to be able to read about the team members and see what their backgrounds bring to the software.  It’s also in a closed beta stage, but sign up for sure. It will be worth watching. 

3. Curated.by

Curated.by describes itself as “the Smithsonian of the web. Curated.by is a growing collection of topics and interests edited, organized and curated by everyone.”

Curated.by lets users collect and organize topic-based content (media, links, tweets) into bundles — for instance, collections of content around a specific topic, like “The Beatles” or “Technology.”

The homepage is designed to give you a quick overview about your friends’ activity on the site. Curated.by users create “bundles” of tweets similar to favorites. Members can curate by adding tweets to a bundle. The bundler is used with a multi-column view of your timeline or with a the Google Chrome extension, which will add a “Curate” button to your regular Twitter web view.

I have to say that I’m still getting used to the concept of bundles. And I didn’t find it warm and fuzzy at first blush. That said, it’s clear that Twitter is a great link discovery stream,  and there will need to be a concept that rides on top of it to gather and organize what used to be known as bookmarks. Will Curated.by’s bundle concept catch on? That’s the question right now. 

4. Pearltrees

“Enliven the world with your passions,” invites the curation and sharing platform Pearltrees. If all of the above curation tools create lists, then Pearltrees attempts do something rather different.
Pearltrees begins with a captivating Flash-based graphical interface. But Pearltrees’s branch-and-tree structure gives users a drill-down option that has them experiencing the material on their own unique journey. Mashable’s Ben Parr explained Pearltrees this way: “Pearltrees is nothing less than a reinvention of how we organize the web. The service provides a completely unique and visual experience to saving your favorite websites, organizing what you find interesting, and even seeing what others are saying about specific web destinations.”

Using a group function called Pearltrees teams, others in your group can create a Pearltree in a collaborative manner in real time. You can also share your team curation easily via Facebook and Twitter. 

Pearltrees allows you to embed your ‘pearl’ in a site, but the unique nature of the results suggests that this team is working to create a new visual language for creating and sharing themes and collections. It’s a bold step and worth your exploration. 


Storify, Curated.by, Scoop.it and Pearltrees are all arriving at a moment where the web is hungry for curation and the tools to power curation. There are others of course — and there will be more — but these four offerings merit your exploration as early and thoughtful attempts to solve the data overload problem.

More Curation Resources from Mashable:

- 6 Crucial Social Media Tips for Traditional Media
- Google News and Why Human Editors Still Matter
- Why Content Curation Is Here to Stay

More About: bundles, content curation, curated.by, curation, List, Lists, Pearltrees, Scoop.it, social media, Storify

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July 15 2010

6 Crucial Social Media Tips for Traditional Media

Now more than ever, traditional media outlets are embracing social media as a way to generate story ledes, increase site traffic and create conversations with readers.

Over the past decade, we’ve witnessed a growing shift in readership and advertising dollars from traditional media (print, radio, and broadcast TV) to online outlets. This year, when the Newspaper Association of America released the numbers on advertising expenditures for 2009, we gawked at the 27.2 percent decline in advertising from 2008. Over the past year or so, we’ve also chronicled how traditional media outlets are going social and using online video to engage new audiences.

Most recently, we’ve watched as news organizations discovered new revenue models to replace the losses they continue to face. The New York Times, for example, is set to introduce a paid model for content on nytimes.com starting in January 2011. While The Wall Street Journal and Financial Times already offer online subscriptions.

At Social Media Brasil, the largest social media conference in Brazil, I spoke about six social media tips for traditional media outlets looking to either initiate or evaluate their social media strategy. Each tip is general enough to apply to any news organization, but can be tailored to fit a particular company as well. Check out the embedded presentation below for an overview and read on for a more thorough look at each tip.


1. Share Content

The first step to using social media effectively is sharing your content. Begin by taking an inventory of the type of content your company produces. It is important to be as efficient as possible in repurposing content. The idea is to promote the articles, videos and photos that you currently produce, instead of creating new content specifically for your social media presence.

If you are an online news site, you will have an endless feed of articles and blog posts, but you may also have an array of video and photo offerings. Once you have a grasp of all of the various types of media that your site produces, you’re ready to take a look into which social media platforms may be best for you.

Most brands should start with Twitter and Facebook at a minimum. Both platforms can easily be set up for manual or automated updates. As a start, use these platforms for sharing links to your most recent articles or blog posts. If you also produce videos and photos make sure you share those too. For video producers, YouTube is an obvious option, as it’s the most popular online video community in the world. Depending on the type of videos you produce, you may find a valid fit on Vimeo, Hulu and Blip.tv, among others. And for photos, Flickr is the go-to service. Just make sure you are following their terms of service, as brand promotion can be a touchy subject within the Flickr community.

Keep in mind that users react differently to various types of media. You’ve probably noticed this on your website, and it certainly applies to media posted on your social sites, as well. Diversifying your content can help you get a better idea of which type of content does best or promotes certain actions (comments, shares, click-throughs, etc.) on various social platforms. As a starter, test the grounds to see how your Facebook audience reacts to different types of posts, including status updates, photos and videos.

The New York Times does a great job of not only diversifying which platforms they are on, but also mixing up their content. You can find The Times on Facebook (where they have over 30 fan pages), Twitter (where they have over 200 feeds), YouTube, Vimeo, Foursquare and Flickr. Because they have a range of content types, they are able to serve up videos, photos, tips, discussion questions, and simple updates across the social sites that they are active on.

Figure out your audience’s preferences and needs when it comes to frequency and timing. When posting, try not to overwhelm your audience with updates that are too frequent or lengthy, and make sure you’re updating at times when your readers are most active. When it comes to timing, look at your audience’s behavior patterns. When do they comment or click-through to your site most? If you plot out the number of comments and click-throughs by the hour for your Facebook page, you’ll see a pattern. Concentrate your efforts in the hours where users are more active.

Lastly, keep your updates short. Get inspiration from Twitter’s 140-character model. You have a limited amount of time to catch a reader’s attention. Make it quick and include a link to the article or post. For keeping it as short as possible, use a shortened URL, using services like bit.ly or ow.ly.

2. Curate Conversations

Some brands look at social media as a way to simply promote their content. While it’s a great way to promote media, it’s so much more. When evaluating the effectiveness of your social media strategy, you should be able to at least answer one question: What value are we bringing to our audience?

In fact, you should be able to answer that question with every strategic business decision you make, above and beyond social media. If you can’t answer that question or your answer seems a bit shallow, you should rethink your strategy.

Naturally, your audience craves the latest news, not just from you, but from around the web. It’s not enough to simply self-promote, as eventually your audience will need to go elsewhere for news. It’s impossible to create all the news, so why not curate it?

Strive to be the news source with the go-to list of top sources for particular coverage areas. Create Twitter lists for important topics in your industry, or for breaking news events. Many news sites, including The Huffington Post, CNN and the New York Daily News, are on the ball with Twitter lists. Check out Mashable’s Twitter List Directory for a look at some of the top lists in specific categories, including Tech & Science, Sports and Business.

Once you have the hang of Twitter Lists, try pulling the data into a visualization on your website. For example, The New York Times features its curated lists on nytimes.com/twitter. And on Mashable, we integrate an entire Twitter List Directory within our site. Take inspiration from these curation ideas and brainstorm how your site could begin implementing valuable resources like these.

Another way to curate news is to share breaking news and interesting articles from other news sources on your social sites, giving appropriate credit, including @mentions on Twitter and Facebook. After all, what’s more important: providing your followers with a timely update or waiting until your writers have a post on the story? Once again, it’s about creating value for your fans and followers.

3. Engage Audiences

It’s important that traditional media outlets continue to push the envelope and strive for true audience engagement by asking and answering questions. It is human nature to answer a question when it is posed, so start asking questions with each of your posts and see what type of feedback you get. Most likely, users will be intrigued to answer your questions and add their opinion, especially if they feel that you truly care. A few media outlets have realized that questions lead to responses. On Facebook, CNN seems to make it a point to ask a question with posts that may elicit widespread response. With nearly a million fans, they seem to be doing something right.

Read through user comments and respond to particularly insightful ones. Most news sites already do this on their websites, especially if they employ a comment moderation team. It’s strange that this type of interaction hasn’t already been fully translated into the social world. This type of engagement is a good step in the right direction.

4. Promote Your Presence

Just like all brand initiatives, social media campaigns and strategies need to be promoted. Often times, brands entering the social media space have the Field of Dreams misconception, “If you build it, they will come.” Unfortunately, social media doesn’t work that way. You have to put time and effort into building an audience.

Think about the ways you currently promote house projects. You probably have a mix of web, mobile, e-mail and social media marketing options set aside for house advertising. Don’t forget to take advantage of these promotion opportunities. On-site opportunities include embedding buttons, links, and widgets to promote your presence, as well as building micro-sites to showcase your full social presence.

Click through my embedded presentation above for a full section on promotion examples. The promotion section of my presentation was the heftiest, as I feel that this is the area that most traditional media companies are lacking. Because a lot of brands have seemed a bit uncomfortable with the social space, they have been reluctant to promote, in order to reduce liabilities and possibly embarrassment. Now that they are warming up, media companies should begin to see the wonderful advertising opportunities available. If you build it and promote it, they will come.

5. Customize the Experience

Every social site comes with a set of defaults — make it your practice to know the options and customize as necessary. Deviating from the defaults makes your profiles appear to be more professional and allows you to create a cohesive look and feel across social platforms.

Start with avatars, backgrounds and layouts. ESPN, for example, recently had a World Cup theme on its YouTube channel to tie into this year’s biggest sporting event. It was a simple customization, but it got the point across that ESPN planned to dedicate the channel to World Cup news during the event.

Once you have a custom appearance, look into creating a custom user experience. Are there apps or features that you can implement for added value? As a starter, brainstorms ways that you may be able to add customized Facebook Tabs to your profile using apps that your readers would find useful.

6. Track Everything

No matter where you are in implementing a social media strategy, tracking should be a priority. Without analytics, you cannot make informed decisions. With proper tracking though, you’ll be able to decide what type of content does best on certain social platforms. Furthermore, if you’re incredibly motivated, you even have the opportunity to monitor optimal conditions down to the smallest details, such as time of day, day of week, length of post, type of post, and even the topic of the post.

For starters, try using the options that come built-in to each social site. Some are free, such as Facebook Insights, while others come with paid accounts, including Flickr Stats and Vimeo Plus Stats. If you are a copyright holder on YouTube, you can even try the YouTube Content Manager, which includes lots of data on video performance.

When sharing links, make sure you use a URL shortener that counts clicks. Use the dashboard on bit.ly, for example, for a quick pulse on which links are doing best, but add on your own tracking codes for better analytics. Many Twitter clients, such as Hootsuite, CoTweet and Seesmic come equipped with or can be configured to accommodate a URL shortener.

If you already track using the built-in options and find them to be lacking, you may want to explore social media management tools, such as Radian6, Postling, Vitrue and SocialTALK. These are all enterprise-level tools built specifically for brand management on the social web.

If your analytics team is up for pitching in, consider creating your own customized tracking system, integrated with your current site analytics. Some common web analytics tools include Webtrends, Coremetrics and Omniture. Most large companies use one of these analytics tools, and all three already offer some type of social media analytics. But most likely, these products will need to be tweaked to fit your needs. Luckily, most social sites offer an API, so that developers can built off of data. Make sure your developers have access to and are well versed in the APIs for social sites that your company uses. Meet periodically to explain needs and brainstorm solutions.

Your Tips

Everyone has an opinion, and we would like to hear yours. What are your social media tips for traditional media companies? Let us know in the comments below.

More Social Media Resources From Mashable:

- Why Social Experience is the Future of Online Content
- 5 Ways to Build a Loyal Audience on YouTube
- How Real Estate Pros are Using Social Media for Real Results
- How Social Media is Helping Veterans Connect
- HOW TO: Help New Users Stay Engaged on Twitter

More About: brand, cnn, community engagement, content, content curation, curation, curator, customization, customize, engagement, ESPN, facebook, flickr, new york times, promote, promotion, social engagement, social media, social media brasil, stats tracking, the new york times, track, tracking, traditional media, twitter, Vimeo, vimeo plus, vimeo plus stats, vimeo stats, youtube, youtube channel, youtube cms

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May 03 2010

Why Content Curation Is Here to Stay

Computer Mouse Road Sign ImageSteve Rosenbaum is the CEO of Magnify.net, a video Curation and Publishing platform. Rosenbaum is a blogger, video maker and documentarian. You can follow him on Twitter @magnify and read more about Curation at CurationNation.net.

For website content publishers and content creators, there’s a debate raging as to the rights and wrongs of curation. While content aggregation has been around for a while with sites using algorithms to find and link to content, the relatively new practice of editorial curation — human filtering and organizing — has created what I’m dubbing, “The Great Creationism Debate.”

The debate pits creators against curators, asking big questions about the rules and ethical questions around content aggregation. It turns out that lots of smart and passionate people are taking sides and voicing their opinions.

In trying to understand the issue and the new emerging rules, I reached out to some of the experts who are weighing in on how curation could help creators and web users have a better online experience.

The Issues at Hand

Content aggregation (the automated gathering of links) can be seen on sites like Google News. Overall, this type of aggregation has been seen as a positive thing for content creators and publishers, and up until very recently, it was left to technology. Content creation, meanwhile, was a human effort.

But all that changes with curation — the act of human editors adding their work to the machines that gather, organize and filter content.

“Curation comes up when search stops working,” says author and NYU Professor Clay Shirky. But it’s more than a human-powered filter. “Curation comes up when people realize that it isn’t just about information seeking, it’s also about synchronizing a community.”

Part of the reason that human curation is so critical is simply the vast number of people who are now making and sharing media. “Everyone is a media outlet”, says Shirky. “The point of everyone being a media outlet is really not at all complicated. It just means that we can all put things out in the public view now.”

Who are curators? What can they gather and re-publish? Do they have the right to get paid for curation? If so, who’s adding the real value, the content makers or the curators/publishers?

For creators — people who’ve spent their careers making content and trying to sort out an economic model — curation can seem like an end-run around hard work. And so the conflict ultimately comes down to this: Is curation about saving money? Or about adding value? The answer, it appears, is “yes” to both.

“A lot of it is economic — doing more with less — and it has crossed every media industry,” explains Allen Weiner of Gartner Group. “If you think about the tools you want to give an editor to make him or her more complete, you want to give them curation tools.” It could be “something they add to their own content. As more old media companies attempt to do more with less, publishing tools that allow this efficiency without demeaning the product quality … [are] going to be very important.”

So certain things are clear — there’s an economic imperative to add curation to the content mix. And from a user perspective, well done curation is a huge value-add in a world where unfiltered signal overwhelms noise by an ever increasing factor.

Where We Stand Now

In March at SXSW in Austin, I took part in a session that delved deeper into the issue of creation vs. curation. In attendance were representatives for people from both sides of the debate. This, in a nutshell, is the conclusion that came out of that discussion:

  • We’re living in an era of content abundance.
  • Even prolific creators are going to end up mixing their created content with a mix of curated sources.
  • Creators, distributors, aggregators, and curators are all economically essential parts of the value chain.
  • Advertisers will embrace trusted ‘places’ over trusted sources — large curated collections will achieve higher CPMs.

What is clear to me after these past three months of accelerated change is this: Curation is now part of the content equation. It doesn’t kill anything, rather it adds a powerful new tool that will make content destinations more relevant, more robust, and more likely to attract and retain visitors. Curation is here to say, though creators should have the ability to create boundaries, both editorial and economic, around what they create and how it is repurposed.

Further, the economic models for both creation and curation will continue to evolve. There’s no doubt that economic solutions will emerge around hosts and distributors.

“I don’t know if everything will be always free. The main thing is you shouldn’t be afraid to accept what is happening,” says performer and early web denizen Heather Gold of curation. “You should not be afraid of the present moment. That is the essence of being an artist. That’s what makes it exciting.”

It’s important to remember that curation can’t exist without creation. Content makers are the essential part of the aggregation/curation solution. So it’s impossible to imagine curators as adding value without a reasonable economic arrangement to content creators. But the ethical issues around attribution, re-purposing, and editorializing around others’ content is far from resolved. Respect and remuneration seem to be reasonable starting places.

For more social media coverage, follow Mashable Social Media on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook

More Social Media resources from Mashable:

- How Journalists are Using Social Media for Real Results
- How Companies Should Approach the New Twitter Advertising Model
- 4 Tips for Tapping Into Twitter Conversations
- Gowalla CEO Talks About the Future of Social Media [INTERVIEW]
- 10 Dos and Don’ts for Brands on Twitter

Images courtesy of iStockphoto, aspectimages

Reviews: Facebook, Twitter, iStockphoto

Tags: blog, BLOGS, content, content curation, curation, curator, Web 2.0

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