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September 13 2011

How Digitally Connected Are the U.S. News Top 20 Colleges?

Mashable received exclusive early access to the U.S. News list of top ranking national universities and national liberal arts colleges, which was released on Tuesday. The rankings take several factors into account, including tuition, acceptance rate, retention rate, class size, SAT scores and graduation rate.

We decided to add another factor for review: social media connectedness. Below you’ll find top 10 lists of universities and liberal arts colleges alongside an analysis of their social media presences.

Mashable looked at Twitter feeds encompassing university life, official Facebook pages and YouTube channels, not to mention the follower count for each official university/college account. Take a flip through the galleries to discover how higher education institutions stack up to the growing trends in social media. Also, you can check out U.S. News’ newly launched social tool that allows participants to discover where their Facebook friends went to college.

Feel free to share in the comments below how your college stacks up socially.

Top National Universities

1. (tied) Harvard University

U.S. News university ranking: 1 (tied)

Main Twitter account: @harvard

Twitter followers: 66,737

Other Twitter accounts: @thecrimson,@HarvardMagazine, @Harvard_Library, @THCSports, @HUDSInfo, @ABCDSocialMedia

Main Facebook page: Harvard

Facebook fans: 698,933

YouTube channel: harvard

YouTube videos/subscribers: 390/ 27,786

1. (tied) Princeton University

U.S. News university ranking: 1 (tied)

Main Twitter account: @princeton

Twitter followers: 15,572

Other Twitter accounts: @pace_princeton, @PUArtMuseum, @princetonian, @PUTIGERS, @PrincetonDining, @princetoncareer

Main Facebook page: PrincetonU

Facebook fans: 52,125

YouTube channel: princetonuniversity

YouTube videos/subscribers: 164/ 2,979

3. Yale University

U.S. News university ranking: 3

Main Twitter account: @yale

Twitter followers: 22,774

Other Twitter accounts: @yaledailynews, @YaleAthletics, @yalelibrary, @Yale_Emergency, @Yale_Athletics

Main Facebook page: YaleUniversity

Facebook fans: 36,825

YouTube channel: YaleUniversity

YouTube videos/subscribers: 650/ 19,986

4. Columbia University

U.S. News university ranking: 4

Main Twitter account: n/a

Other Twitter accounts: @CU_Spectator, @ColumbiaGS, @columbiajourn, @ColumbiaScience, @ColumbiaCCE, @GoColumbiaLions, @ColumbiaCSA

Main Facebook page: ColumbiaNYC

Facebook fans: 12,840

YouTube channel: columbiauniversity

YouTube videos/subscribers: 619/ 4,121

5. (tied) California Polytechnic Institute

U.S. News university ranking: 5 (tied)

Main Twitter account: @Caltech

Twitter followers: 2,570

Other Twitter accounts: @caltechevents, @CaltechMITForum, @CaltechAMT, @CaltechGreen

Main Facebook page: California Institute of Technology

Facebook fans: 7,713

YouTube channel: caltech

YouTube videos/subscribers: 38/ 302

5. (tied) Massachusetts Institute of Technology

U.S. News university ranking: 5 (tied)

Main Twitter account: MITstudents

Twitter followers: 781

Other Twitter accounts: @mitlibraries, @MITNews, @MITscience, @MITMuseum, @MIT_Spectrum, @MIT_TechTV, @MITCampusDining, @MITEECS, @MITgetfit, @MITmedical

Main Facebook page: MITnews

Facebook fans: 55,827

YouTube channel: none. But hosts its own video site called MIT TechTV.

5. (tied) Stanford University

U.S. News university ranking: 5 (tied)

Main Twitter account: @Stanford

Twitter followers: 45,590

Other Twitter accounts: @StanfordDaily, @stanford_humsci, @suathletics, @stanfordrec, @stanfordbuzztap, @StanfordDining, @StanfordCareers

Main Facebook page: Stanford

Facebook fans: 226,322

YouTube channel: StanfordUniversity

YouTube videos/subscribers: 1,383/ 89,041

5. (tied) University of Chicago

U.S. News university ranking: 5 (tied)

Main Twitter account: @UChicago

Twitter followers: 2,600

Other Twitter accounts: @uchicagonews, @UChicagoMag, @ChicagoMaroons, @UCPD, @uofcpsac

Main Facebook page: UChicago

Facebook fans: 47,555

YouTube channel: TheUofChicago

YouTube videos/subscribers: 70/ 511

5. (tied) University of Pennsylvania

U.S. News university ranking: 5 (tied)

Main Twitter account: UofPenn

Twitter followers: 9,013

Other Twitter accounts: @underthebutton, @dailypenn, @PennCurrent, @pennbookstore, @pennathletics, @PennWebTeam

Main Facebook page: UnivPennsylvania

Facebook fans: 24,057

YouTube channel: UnivPennsylvania

YouTube videos/subscribers: 233/ 1,999

10. Duke University

U.S. News university ranking: 10

Main Twitter account: @DukeNews

Twitter followers: 4,333

Other Twitter accounts: @Duke_SA, @dukestudents, @DukeOSAF, @DukeLibrarian, @dukeondemand, @DukeCampusFarm, @dukechronicle, @DUMBand, @DukeWellness, @Duke_Athletics, @DukePerformances

Main Facebook page: DukeUniv

Facebook fans: 88,191

YouTube channel: Duke

YouTube videos/subscribers: 219/1,386

Top National Liberal Arts Colleges

1. Williams College

U.S. News college ranking: 1

Main Twitter account: @williamscollege

Twitter followers: 2,675

Other Twitter accounts: @EphSports

Main Facebook page: williamscollege

Facebook fans: 6,523

YouTube channel: williamscollege

YouTube videos/subscribers: 193/ 267

2. Amherst College

U.S. News college ranking: 2

Main Twitter account: @AmherstCollege

Twitter followers: 2,104

Other Twitter accounts: @wamhamherst, @AmherstBaseball, @theateranddance, @CollegianStaff, @AmherstSports

Main Facebook page: amherstcollege

Facebook fans: 4,800

YouTube channel: AmherstCollege

YouTube videos/subscribers: 132/ 242

3. Swarthmore College

U.S. News college ranking: 3

Main Twitter account: @swarthmore

Twitter followers: 1,069

Other Twitter accounts: @swatgazette, @swarthmorestuco, @SwatAthletics

Main Facebook page: Swarthmore-College

Facebook fans: 3,030

YouTube channel: SwarthmoreCollegePA

YouTube videos/subscribers: 153/ 103

4. Pomona College

U.S. News college ranking: 4

Main Twitter account: @pomonacollege

Twitter followers: 1,564

Other Twitter accounts: @PomonaArtMuseum, @PomonaCDO

Main Facebook page: pomonacollege

Facebook fans: 4,136

YouTube channel: PomonaCollege

YouTube videos/subscribers: 71/ 55

5. Middlebury College

U.S. News college ranking: 5

Main Twitter account: @Middlebury

Twitter followers: 2,789

Other Twitter accounts: @middblog, @middcampus, @MiddAthletics, @middartmuseum

Main Facebook page: middleburycollege

Facebook fans: 7,859

YouTube channel: middcommunications

YouTube videos/subscribers: 78/ 782

6. (tied) Bowdoin College

U.S. News college ranking: 6 (tied)

Main Twitter account: @bowdoincollege

Twitter followers: 1,092

Other Twitter accounts: @bowdoinnews, @bowdoinorient, @GoUBears, @BowdoinMuseum, @BowdoinCstore

Main Facebook page: Bowdoin

Facebook fans: 7,558

YouTube channel: Bowdoin1794

YouTube videos/subscribers: 57/ 52

6. (tied) Carleton College

U.S. News college ranking: 6 (tied)

Main Twitter account: @CarletonCollege

Twitter followers: 1,581

Other Twitter accounts: @CarletonNews, @CarletonKnights, @TheWellnessCntr, @BamcoCarleton, @CC_theCave

Main Facebook page: CarletonCollege

Facebook fans: 5,846

YouTube channel: carletoncollege

YouTube videos/subscribers: 19/ 37

6. (tied) Wellesley College

U.S. News college ranking: 6 (tied)

Main Twitter account: @WellesleyNews

Twitter followers: 1,900

Other Twitter accounts: @Wellesleymag, @WellesleyBlue, @MyCWS

Main Facebook page: WellesleyCollege

Facebook fans: 7,528

YouTube channel: WellesleyCollegeTV

YouTube videos/subscribers: 25/ 56

9. Claremont McKenna College

U.S. News college ranking: 9

Main Twitter account: n/a

Other Twitter accounts: @cmcforum, @CMCnews

Main Facebook page: ClaremontMcKennaCollege

Facebook fans: 1,928

YouTube channel: claremontmckenna

YouTube videos/subscribers: 22/ 55

10. Haverford College

U.S. News college ranking: 10

Main Twitter account: @haverfordedu

Twitter followers: 641

Other Twitter accounts: @AskHaverford, @FordsSports, @haverfordhhc, @hcblacksquirrel

Main Facebook page: haverfordcollege

Facebook fans: 578

YouTube channel: haverfordcollege

YouTube videos/subscribers: 44/25

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, atreides64

More About: education, Social Media

September 07 2011

Happy Birthday, Television: 26 Essential Connected TV Resources

The high-definition Super Bowl replays and 3D animated films of today wouldn’t be possible without the genius of Philo Farnsworth, inventor of the electric television.

On Sept. 7, 1927 Farnsworth transmitted the first image via television — a simple, straight line. His image dissector camera tube created an electron image which, in turn, generated an on-screen representation recognizable by the human eye. Two years later, Farnsworth had tweaked his invention enough to transmit the first live images to television, one of which was a 3.5-inch portrait of his wife, who sat squinting into the bright light then necessary to transmit a picture.

Since television’s inception, the world has witnessed its impact on advertising principles, news distribution, the music industry, technological innovation, political coverage and, well, reality. In recognition of the first electronic television developed 84 years ago, we’ve compiled a roundup of resources that cover the latest in TV tech — today’s web-enabled platforms and the social viewing experience.

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Back to School: 10 Privacy Tips for the Connected Student

Fran Maier is the president and executive chair of TRUSTe, the leading online privacy solutions provider. She speaks widely on issues of online privacy and trust and is active in mentoring women in technology. She serves on a number of Internet and trust-related boards, including the Online Trust Alliance.

With each new school year, students have even more reason to spend academic time online. My nephews cheerily informed me that they won’t be needing paper planners this year; instead, they’ll track assignments, grades and events using their school’s new online system. My son in high school is prepping for the SATs using online tutorials, and my college-age son will begin an internship programming mobile apps.

SEE ALSO: Back to School: 42 Digital Resources for Students & Parents

We share and transmit a lot of personal information online. This is especially true for students, who not only use academic online tools that require personal information, but who are also incredibly active social network users. Whether a ninth grader, college senior or parent, these privacy tips can help you and your family stay safe this school year.

1. Password-Protect Your Computer/Smartphone/Tablet

You store a lot of personal data (like photos) on these devices, which may also save automatic logins to your email and social networking accounts. Someone could easily abuse this information if you leave your device unattended — an important consideration outside of the classroom as well. A solid password contains a mix of letters, numbers and symbols and does not contain common words. In other words, rethink your “1234” iPhone passcode.

2. Consider Theft-Recovery Applications

These applications can geo-locate your lost device and/or allow you to remotely login. Electronics theft on college and high school campuses is a real problem. Installing such an application on your computer, smartphone or tablet could mean the difference between recovering your device and losing it forever.

If you’re an iPhone user, check out Apple’s free Find My Phone app, which will track your device remotely in case of loss or theft.

3. Review Your Social Networking Privacy Settings

This tip is especially important for high school seniors who’ve submitted college applications, and for new grads applying for their first jobs. According to a 2010 Kaplan survey, 80% of college admissions officers use social media to evaluate prospective students. And my company conducted a survey that determined 68% of teens have at some time accepted “friend” requests from people they didn’t know.

4. Protect Your Online Reputation

Social networks may not be the only component of your online identity. Blogs, personal websites, discussion forums and photo accounts also reflect online activity. With little effort, people can piece together your various online accounts and activity — even accounts under fake names that you thought were anonymous. With every piece of content that you share, ask yourself: Would I want my parents, teachers and future employers to discover this? Once you post something on the Internet, it can very difficult, if not impossible, to remove it.

5. If You’re a Minor, Lock Down Your Location

Many social networks and mobile applications allow you to tag your current geographic location. For your physical safety as a minor, the visibility of your location should only be available to your closest friends — if at all. Parents should talk to their kids about online predators and ensure they’re not sharing their location with strangers.

6. Do Your Back-to-School Shopping Securely

Some of the best back-to-school shopping deals can be found online, but not all shopping websites are created equal. At minimum, you’ll disclose your name, home address, phone number and credit card information to complete a purchase, so make sure that each website is secure. Look for privacy and reputation seals on the website. The URL of checkout webpages that require your personal information should begin with “HTTPS,” indicating that the website encrypts your personal information during transmission.

7. Avoid Online Gossip

While school-age gossip and bullying seem unavoidable, remember that the effects can be magnified online, be it through email, chat or social networks. Inappropriate photos of or comments about someone else can go viral in a matter of minutes — within a few hours your entire school could potentially see what you’ve written or shared. Viral gossip is almost always permanent, and can only come back to haunt you.

8. Don’t Share Passwords With Friends

It might be tempting to share your passwords with friends, but it’s better to keep them to yourself. For instance, your password to a gaming account might be similar or identical to your password for another, more sensitive account, like email. Moreover, sharing your passwords may put other friends or family members at risk, especially if your accounts include their personal information.

9. Beware of Identity Theft

College students especially are targets for identity theft. Beware of the signs: If you receive notices about accounts you didn’t open, or if you see unexplained charges on your credit card statements, be suspicious and follow up. Federal law entitles you to three free credit reports every year through AnnualCreditReport.com, so check periodically to make sure that nothing is amiss. College students aren’t the only ones at risk: In 2011, the Federal Trade Commission found that child ID theft is a growing problem, with over 140,000 cases reported annually.

10. Get a Lock For Your Locker/Desk/Closet

This tip is as old as school itself, but it’s especially important in our digital age. Chances are your locker or desk doesn’t just hold your books, jacket and lunch – it may also store your smartphone, computer or tablet devices which are typically loaded with personal information. If you’re in a high-traffic dorm room, consider investing in a laptop padlock that secures the device to your desk.

Stay safe and study hard!

Image courtesy of Flickr, tinkerbrad, david roessli

More About: education, privacy, Social Media

For more Social Media coverage:

5 Tips for Getting More Video Views

Justin Nassiri is the founder and CEO of VideoGenie, a company that helps brands gather, moderate and track customer contributed video. Prior to founding VideoGenie, Justin served as an officer in the U.S. Navy, directing the operations and navigation of a nuclear-powered warship. He is a graduate of Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.

Video is increasingly becoming a preferred medium for online communication. Current research suggests that the emotional connection of video is the surest way to the hearts of customers. Apart from the ubiquitous phenomenon of YouTube, ChatRoulette connected all types (and we mean all types) of people; Google+ now allows users to hang out via webcam; and Netflix and Hulu are challenging cable by streaming television.

The problem is, with so much video content out there, how do you ensure that yours gets noticed? Here are five steps to ensure your audience presses “play.”

1. Location, Location, Location

The location of video content on your site is more important than you may think. Just as newspapers strategize selling prime advertising space close to the headlines, you also need to think about locating your video. Therefore, embed front and center. You can’t hide your video below the fold (or in this case, below the scroll) and expect stellar pageviews. Furthermore, don’t publish your video to a microsite and then expect viewers to migrate. Give your video prime real estate by placing it on your landing page, and then post to the video tab of your site’s Facebook fan page.

2. Tap Your Fan Base

Fans are the best resource for spreading news, and therefore, video content. You know the ones: the die-hard followers on Twitter and Facebook who are always the first to comment, respond and retweet. Make sure they feel special — send your video to them directly before it goes live on your site, and make sure to emphasize their exclusive VIP access. Encourage them to share it with their followers soon and often. Turn your fans into marketers. They’re more likely to generate unique views than a simple company tweet, for example. Finally, engaging your ardent followers will ensure that they stay your biggest advocates.

3. Share Smartly

There’s no way to get noticed without sharing content. The majority of the time, dumping your video onto the web and hoping that people stumble across it will not generate a viral movement. Be diligent about sharing your video. That means using all the obvious channels like Facebook and Twitter, but it also means sharing smartly.

For example, assume that followers likely subscribe to more than one site channel. If you plan to repost content from one channel to the other (and you should), tweak the text of your message. You don’t want to make your biggest fans feel like they’re being spammed.

4. Gamify

People love a good contest, or at least, they love being rewarded for something easy — like watching a video. Therefore, offer an incentive, or notify fans that when your video reaches a certain number of views, you’ll release a follow-up “secret” video, for instance.

You could consider offering something of value, such as a discount code, but often the promise of extra or exclusive content is enough to incentivize sharing.

5. Be Authentic

Some videos have a really high clickthrough rate, while others get barely any clicks at all. Some of the most mundane videos appeal to the widest swath of a community (remember Subway’s Jared?). However, it’s not a crapshoot: The golden rule is to make your video authentic, more than just the subject you’re filming. Commit to that authenticity from the beginning of the recording process to the final publishing phase.

At the end of the day, you can never perfectly predict which videos will resonate with your community, but a metrics-driven approach can help to simplify the guesswork.

More About: business, Social Media, video

For more Video coverage:

September 04 2011

Happy Birthday Google: Making Sense of the Web for 13 Years

What were you up to 13 years ago? Maybe you were perfecting the ideal AIM screen name. Or you might have been surfing the “WestHollywood” neighborhood of GeoCities. Chances are, you had been using Yahoo! or AOL as your primary search engines. But Google’s debut on this day in 1998 would change the World Wide Web forever.

On September 4, 1998, Larry Page and Sergey Brin filed for incorporation as Google Inc. — they had received a $100,000 check from an investor made out to Google, Inc., and needed to incorporate that name so they could legally deposit the check.

Prior to the launch, Page and Brin met at Stanford in 1995, and soon decided to launch a search service called BackRub in January 1996. They soon reevaluated the name (and the creepy logo) in favor of Google, a play on the mathematical figure, “googol,” which represents the number 1 followed by 100 zeroes. The name embodied their mission to create an infinite amount of web resources. And that they did.

Since then, Google has become a household name to billions of people worldwide. You’ll overhear senior citizens command their grandchildren to “google” the price of foot cream. You’ll witness toddlers punching the screen of the latest Android phone. And chances are, you’ve navigated the circles of Google+ (if not, let’s get you an invite already).

SEE ALSO: 10 Fun Facts You Didn’t Know About Google

We’d like to guide you on a trip down Google lane, presenting the key products and acquisitions that were born in the first Google garage office, and innovated in the Googleplex. In the comments below, please share how Google has had an impact on your life, and join us in wishing Google a happy birthday!

1996-1997: BackRub

Google was first launched under the BackRub nomer. Soon after, founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin registered the Google.com domain name in September 1997. The two arrived at the name as a play on the mathematical figure, "googol," which represents the number 1 followed by 100 zeroes. The name embodied their mission to create an infinite amount of web resources.

1998: Google's First Homepage

The original Google homepage prototype debuted in November 1998. Earlier that year Google received a $100,000 check made out to as-yet-unestablished Google Inc. from first investor Andy Bechtolsheim.

In September 2008, the two founders set up shop in Susan Wojcicki‘s garage in Menlo Park, CA, deposited their check and hired their first employee, Craig Silverstein.

1999: The Uncle Sam Homepage

Apart from adding Uncle Sam to its homepage, in 1999 Google outgrew its next office and moved to its first Mountain View, California location. The team announced $25 million in equity funding from Sequoia Capital and Kleiner Perkins in its first press release.

2000: Google Becomes Yahoo's Default Search Provider

Apart from its partnership with Yahoo, in 2000 Google announced that its index reached the 1 billion-URL mark, making it the largest search engine in the world. Google also launched AdWord, a self-service ad program that allowed people to purchase keyword advertising that would appear alongside search results.

2001: Google Image Search

Image search launched in July 2001 with an index of 250 million images. That same year Google acquired Deja Usenet and archived its index into categories that ultimately made up Google Groups.

2002: Google Search Appliance

Early in 2002 Google marketed its first hardware, the Google Search Appliance, a device that plugged into a computer and provided advanced search capabilities for internal documents. In May Google announced Labs, a resource for people interested in trying out beta programs emerging from Google's R&D team. Later Google launched its News tool that provided links from 4,000 sources.

2003: AdSense

Google announced the world's largest content-targeted ad program, later dubbed AdSense after Google acquired Applied Semantics. Earlier in the year Google acquired Pyra Labs, the creator of Blogger.

2004: Gmail

Google launched Gmail on April Fool's Day 2004, but the beta version required an invitation to join. In January Orkut launched as Google's foray into social networking. In August, Google's initial public offering contained 19,605,052 shares of Class A common stock at $85 per share.

2005: Google Maps

Google Maps launched in February 2005, to go live on the first iPhone in 2007. Additionally, code.google.com went live to provide resources for developers, and included all of Google's APIs. The company also acquired Urchin, whose content optimization service helped create Google Analytics, launched later that year. In June Google released Google Earth, a satellite-powered mapping service. In October Reader was unveiled to help organize and consolidate content into a single feed.

2006: YouTube

In a $1.65 billion stock transaction, Google acquired YouTube in October 2006. Google also unveiled Trends, a tool that allows a user to evaluate popular searches over a specific timeframe. Earlier that year Google released Gchat, a Gmail-based instant message service derived from Google Talk. Google Checkout emerged later as a way to pay for online purchases.

2007: Android

In November 2007 Google announced its first mobile venture, Android, which the company called "the first open platform for mobile devices."

2008: Google Chrome

In September 2008 Google introduced Chrome, its open source browser. The surprise was spoiled when the comic book that was meant to help debut Chrome leaked a day ahead of schedule. Later that month T-mobile announced the G1, Google's first Android-powered mobile device. That year Google also added Google Suggest capabilities and site search.

2009: Google Wave

To much anticipation, Google announced its venture into real-time communication via the Wave platform. Little more than a year later, however, Wave was no more. That same year Google launched Mac-based photo application Picasa.

2010: Google Apps Marketplace

In 2010 Google launched its Apps Marketplace, an app store that allows third-party developers to sell their creations. That same year Google unveiled Google Buzz, its latest attempt at social sharing that originated in Gmail. The company also released Google TV after teaming up with Intel, Sony and Logitech.

2011: Google+

Google's most talked-about and participatory social platform thus far, Google+ launched in June 2011 with invite-only access. The tech giant also announced its most expensive acquisition to-date when it bought Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion.

More About: Google, media, Tech

For more Business & Marketing coverage:

September 03 2011

39 New Digital Media Resources You May Have Missed

Summer may be lazing into fall, but we’re just ramping it up! Brought to Mashable readers exclusively, we bring you the weekly roundup.

This week seems to have a peculiar culinary theme, so we’re going with the flow. Two of our editorial picks involve browser cookies and Facebook tips for restaurants. Now that you’ve got the munchies, fix yourself a plate and kick back this weekend with our favorite features.

Editors’ Picks

Social Media

September 02 2011

September 01 2011

July 19 2011

7 Things Facebook Should Do To Increase Security [OPINION]

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

Eugene Kaspersky is CEO of Kaspersky Lab, the company he co-founded in 1997, which is now the world’s largest, privately-held anti-malware company. You can follow him on Twitter @e_kaspersky and his blog at eugene.kaspersky.com.

For the past seven years we have seen how Facebook has dramatically changed the way people communicate while it has formed a new culture of online socializing.

For most people, Facebook has been about keeping in touch with friends and family in a totally new way. But for security researchers, such as myself, it has led to seven years of new challenges for the security industry. The main issue with social networking and security is that social networks are, well, social, and when the human mind gets involved, vulnerabilities can be exploited. I’m talking about human vulnerabilities, those against which it’s hard to defend.

Many Facebook users lack knowledge and experience about how to protect themselves in the social networking environment, which has made the situation worse. Facebook appeals to new Internet users who often lack the computer savvy to identify online threats, and the most vulnerable segment of the audience — kids — have little life experience required to make reasonable decisions.

Because of this, I believe Facebook needs to enhance the security and privacy features of its site so the problems don’t escalate out of control. With the help of my colleagues, here are seven key recommendations I believe will make Facebook a safer place:

1. Enforce Full HTTPS Browsing

This way, all users can make sure no one is snooping into their conversations, even if they’re browsing Facebook through an untrusted Internet connection. Additionally, it will render attack tools such as Firesheep completely useless.

I admire the fact that Facebook has enabled optional HTTPS browsing in its recent security features roll-out. However, I don’t think the option is clearly marked enough for most users to find and utilize it. Therefore, I feel that this feature should be made mandatory for everyone.

2. Implement Two-Factor Authentication

Banks are offering e-tokens to their customers to safely access their online banking accounts; but in a world where social networking sites are becoming more and more important to what we do online, users should also have the same technology available for protecting their Facebook accounts.

This option should be enforced and mandatory, otherwise it may easily be lost in the depth of account settings. Following Facebook’s initiative to send verification codes via SMS, I suggest the company develop a mobile application that will generate a one-time password in addition to the master password. This way, an attacker would have to compromise not one, but two devices to access a Facebook account. This is not an easy task even for an experienced hacker.

3. Make Clear Which Facebook Apps Are Trusted

Malicious Facebook apps are being analyzed and reported by researchers on a daily basis. Facebook needs to perform a thorough security check and approve all incoming applications to make sure no malicious app makes its way onto a user’s profile.

At the very least, allow users to add a list of trusted/approved applications to his or her profile. If the person wants to use an application that is not trusted, they should be able to run it in some sort of “profile sandbox,” so that any malicious activity would not affect their friends and family.

4. Tighten the “Recommended” Privacy Controls

Currently, Facebook’s recommended privacy settings easily allow for an attacker to become the friend of a friend of a target, and consequently to access data needed to reset a password for an email account, or to misuse other personal information. Why does Facebook allow “everyone” to access status, photos, posts, bio, favorite quotes and family and relationships by default?

In the security market we follow a simple rule that works: “Disable everything, then enable the things you really need.” If Facebooks wants to take steps to actually make its site safer, the default setting should make personal information visible only to friends. Allow the users to decide later whether they want to change their data exposure.

5. Allow Permanent Deletion of Facebook Accounts

Permanently deleting a Facebook account should … permanently delete the account. Respect the user’s will to entirely wipe out his presence on Facebook, without worrying that some materials have been left available on the Internet, and make permanent account deletion a simpler process that doesn’t require a special request to Facebook customer support.

6. Commit to Parental Controls

Allow parents to set up limited-access accounts for their children, as sub-accounts under their own Facebook presences. The limited sub-accounts could automatically be turned into full-access accounts once children reach the age of consent.

My colleagues and I support initiatives to protect users under 18, as expressed in California’s SB242, which extends the opportunities for parents to control their children’s social media accounts.

7. Better Educate Users

I value Facebook’s commitment to educate users about security and privacy in social networks, including the initiative to set up dedicated Pages to these topics (Facebook Safety, Facebook Security and Facebook Privacy). However, no matter what sort of protection surrounds Facebook users, those privacy features will remain useless should users lack the awareness.

For this reason, I recommend extending the practice by introducing more opportunities for user education. A good example would be to launch daily webinars that cover the most important aspects of Facebook security in the clearest and simplest way possible for the general public.

It is also the belied of myself and my colleagues that a closer interaction with security vendors will assist in building a stronger community to bolster critical Facebook initiatives and allow for more informed decisions. An advisory board consisting of the most authoritative experts in the security community, and regular summits to review past and future initiatives could bring additional value to the development of a safer Facebook.

These are seven realistic, doable and actionable steps that can dramatically increase the safety and privacy of Facebook’s users. Of course, no technology can guarantee 100% security as long as the human factor is involved. Still, Facebook can and should do everything it can to protect its users and keep them safe.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, malerapaso

More About: facebook, letter, mark zuckerberg, op-ed, Opinion, privacy, safety, security, social media

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July 18 2011

Mashable Weekend Recap: 29 Stories You May Have Missed

It was a weekend for the record books.

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

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

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

News Essentials

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

Netflix Heading to Europe in 2012 [REPORT]

LinkedIn Revamps Profiles for Students

The Rise of Mobile In-App Ads [INFOGRAPHIC]

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

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

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

Is Google+ Becoming More Female?

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

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

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

World Cup Final: A New Tweets Per Second Record

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

Helpful Resources

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

19 Essential Google+ Resources

46 New Digital Media Resources You May Have Missed

Google+: The Complete Guide

Top 10 Twitter Trends This Week [CHART]

5 Tips for Group Deals Success

5 Ways Journalists Are Using Google+

8 Crucial Elements of Startup Success

15 Rad Retro Office Accessories [PICS]

HOW TO: Make RSS Feeds for Google+ Profiles

Tips For Negotiating Employee Equity

Weekend Leisure

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

Jerry Seinfeld Joins Twitter

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

Android App Displays Brain Waves Via Wireless Headband [VIDEO]

3 New Digital Apps For Offline Fun

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

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July 16 2011

Top 10 Twitter Trends This Week [CHART]

Twitter Chart Image

The world’s obsession with soccer in all its incarnations, is a topic too big to leave Twitter’s top trends. For the umpteenth consecutive week, fútbol remains above the fold on our chart, this time at number one.

For those of you keeping tabs on The Great Twitter Race of 2011, Justin Bieber is gaining on Lady Gaga. The Biebs just reached the 11 million follower threshold, closing in on Gaga’s 11.6 million. The milestone keeps Bieber on this week’s chart at number two.

And a surge of kid media hit the Twitterverse in these past few days. Coming in at number three on our chart is the Disney Channel show Phineas & Ferb, whose buzz was sustained at the prospect of a forthcoming movie.

You can check Twitter trends from the past in our Top Twitter Topics section.

Top Twitter Trends This Week:

Mario Been, the head coach of Dutch football, quit his job, citing a lack of trust and confidence from his players. Patrick Vieira, French footballer of Senegalese descent, announced his retirement. The USA women’s football team defeated the Brazilian & French squads to enter the finals. And the Copa America competition continues in South America with Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay & Venezuela entering the Quarterfinals.
Justin Bieber
Bieber reached 11 million Twitter followers coming close to the biggest account, Lady Gaga, who has 11.6 million followers.
Phineas & Ferb
This upcoming movie spent another inexplicable week in Twitter’s Top 10 trending topics list. Disney’s Phineas and Ferb: Across the Second Dimension is a movie coming out on August 5.
Harper Seven Beckham
Victoria and David Beckham had their fourth child (and first daughter) whom they named Harper Seven. Tweeters shared their opinions of the name.
Major League Baseball
The MLB All-Star Game and Home Run Derby, and Derek Jeter’s pursuit of 3,000 hits caused baseball to make an infrequent appearance in the weekly top 10.
Lil Wayne
Sorry 4 the Wait is a mixtape by Lil Wayne that was released this week.
Harry Potter Movie Series
While awaiting the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Harry Potter fans watched other movies in the series and talked about their favorite characters and books.
Demi Lovato
Demi Lovato hit number one on iTunes with her most recent single “Skyscraper” (released July 12, 2011). It marks the end of an almost two year hiatus from the music industry.
Betty Ford
Betty Ford, the former First Lady of the United States (1974 to 1977), passed away on July 8.
Fairly OddParents
To celebrate the tenth anniversary of its hit show The Fairly OddParents, Nickelodeon produced a television movie, A Fairly Odd Movie: Grow Up, Timmy Turner!.


Data aggregate courtesy of What the Trend.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, 123render

More About: List, Lists, social media, Top Twitter Topics, twitter, Twitter Lists

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46 New Digital Media Resources You May Have Missed

Get ready for Mashable‘s weekly roundup! This week, we’ve performed original Google+ analysis, prepared you for the Mac OS X Lion release, and pointed you toward the best fictional Twitter accounts. We’ve celebrated startups and mourned space shuttle finales.

So review the list of important resources you may have missed over the past week. Tune in for more great stories and tools coming at you sooner than you can say “Spotify.”

Editors’ Picks

Social Media

For more social media news and resources, you can follow Mashable’s social media channel on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.

Tech & Mobile

For more tech news and resources, follow Mashable’s tech channel on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.

Business & Marketing

For more business news and resources, you can follow Mashable’s business channel on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.


Image courtesy of Flickr, webtreats.

More About: business, List, Lists, MARKETING, Mobile 2.0, social media, tech, technology

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19 Essential Google+ Resources

Already using Google+? Follow Mashable News for the latest about the platform’s new features, tips and tricks as well as our top social media and technology updates.

Google+ hit the news feeds like a strategic and popular ton of bricks. But we haven’t stopped there. In addition to breaking news, Mashable has provided how-tos and tools for maximizing your Google+ experience. We’ve sourced reviews from some of the network’s early adopters, and we’ve also welcomed your input as you navigate one of the most buzzworthy social outlets of the year.

Read on for Mashable‘s roundup of all resources Google+. Gather tips, analyze reviews, participate in polls and, as always, voice your thoughts in the comments below.

Google+ Tips, Tools and Talk

Screenshots: Inside Google+

Google+ Logo

This is the Google+ logo.

Google+ Icons

The Google+ icons. Starting top left and circling to the right: Circles, Hangouts, Home, Sparks, Profile, Photos.

New Google+ Navigation Bar

All Google sites will sport the new Google+ navigation bar. It includes notifications, profile information and content sharing options.

Google+ Stream

This is the Google+ Stream, where users share content and see what their friends are sharing. It is similar to the Facebook News Feed.

Google+ Circles

Google+ Circles is Google's version of the Facebook friend list or the Twitter List. Users can select multiple friends and drag-and-drop them into groups. This makes it easier to send stuff to friends, family or the entire world.

Google+ Circles Editor

This is the Google+ Circles editor in action. Google has created unique animations for adding and removing friends through HTML5.

Google+ Sparks

Google+ Sparks is Google's content recommendation and discovery engine. Users can search different topics and find relevant articles, videos and photos. Users can then share that content with their friends.

Google+ Hangouts

Google+ has a unique video chat feature called Hangouts, which lets you chat with up to 10 people at the ame time.

Google+ Photos

Google+ allows you to upload and share photos with your friends. It includes photo tagging and a simple browser-based image editor.

Google+ Profile

Google+ Profiles are like most profile pages -- it includes basic information about the user like interests, occupation and profile photos.

More About: Google, Google Plus, List, Lists, resources, roundup, social media, tips

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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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5 Best Practices for Applying Game Mechanics to Your Website

Craig Ferrara is a senior gaming & UI expert at Gigya, where he designs the integrations of Gigya’s technology into clients’ websites. Gigya makes sites social by integrating a suite of plugins like Social Login, Comments, Activity Feeds, Social Analytics and now Game Mechanics into websites.

Conversations about game mechanics — the rules that govern how enjoyable a game is — are changing. Formerly a topic mostly discussed by game designers and gamer geeks like myself, gamification is now part of the business discussion as marketers look to apply it to websites.

One concept that has remained constant, regardless of who is having the conversation, is to identify ways to keep players engaged and games fun. This applies to your site as you encourage social user participation via gamification tactics. Let’s break websites down by their common social tools, and target ways to effectively gamify them.

1. User Generated Content

Increase content generated by users on your site. By incentivizing content creation, the user becomes more engaged, thereby making your site richer and more dynamic, as well as improving its SEO. Content is mostly submitted through simple vehicles like comments, ratings or reviews. These are basic ways to get feedback from users based on the content you produce and present.

For example, reward top commenters, but also look for alternative ways to reward commenting on pages. Perhaps allow “weighted commentary” — that is, permit users to sort comments based on each commenter’s respective “rank,” with the most highly ranked users’ comments appearing at the top of the feed. While this kind of reward falls outside the scope of badges and points, it gives the most active users something just as desirable: clout.

2. Sharing

Aside from being both repetitive and easy, sharing can prove incredibly useful in syndicating your content. With gamification elements, users feel even more compelled to syndicate your content. While sharing naturally lends itself to gamification, content publishers should be aware of one potential pitfall: rewarding the user simply for sharing is in violation of many of the major social networks’ terms of services. Social networks prohibit immediate incentives for clicking the share button in order to prevent users from spamming their feeds with random content to earn points.

One way to work within this system is to have users work toward a larger overall goal or ranking as a result of sharing. Instead of prodding your visitors to “click to share and earn ten points,” sharing can be a means to bring users toward an achievement. Doing so gives visitors the idea that sharing has value, but does not drive toward mindless clicking. Instead, they’ll share what actually matters to them instead of just spamming their networks.

3. Feedback

The Facebook “Like,” Google’s new “+1” and other reaction buttons serve as both content contribution and sharing tools. They allow users to express an opinion with just one click. Furthermore, you can incorporate gamification by rewarding users for “liking” content on your site — prioritize the opinions and feed activity of highly ranked users. For example, when a website’s activity feed displays popular articles and top user reactions, a visitor will likely feel more compelled to click. Think in terms of Roger Ebert giving “a thumbs up” to a movie versus relying on someone less influential.

The benefits of showing ranked reactions in the activity feed are two-fold here — not only will the user expose content to others on the site, but they will also showcase their rank, thus encouraging others to achieve the same status.

4. Social Login

Social login brings an invaluable layer into the game: a user’s social graph. A basic principal in game mechanics states that users are more inclined to participate if they have some real world benefit behind the rewards. This can be as simple as increased reputation within a community. Once a user logs in via social APIs such as Facebook Connect or Twitter, she can then compare herself with gaming friends as well as social network friends, all in one space.

Now your visitor knows some people in the site community — but they’re still new to the game. How can we encourage participation? Maybe award them small amounts of points just for clicking around, or more points for remaining on a page and consuming content. Therefore, a user who may have no initial interest in earning badges will still be able to advance in the rankings given their increase in participation points. As soon as they recognize the value in earning points (perhaps their comment appears higher in the activity feed), they’ll get hooked and consciously participate. Keeping users involved in the game without any effort on their behalf is a great strategy for converting them into active gamers.

5. Keeping Score

Any good game mechanics implementation goes out of its way to educate users on achieving and advancing within a system. For instance, offer instructions alongside every badge, and show an indicator of their progress within that achievement. At the same time, you don’t want to bombard site visitors with constant, blazing reminders. Instead, consider using simple JavaScript notifications that don’t monopolize valuable site real estate.

Of course what good are all these badges and points if you can’t show them off? By integrating game mechanics into activity feeds and leaderboards, you allow your users to do just that — all while putting a human face to the game. Activity feeds not only allow users to find their friends within their social graph, but also to view their friends’ badges. In turn, those participating in the game learn how to unlock badges for themselves. Any good game mechanics implementation should go out of its way to inform the user about how to level-up.

Follow these pointers to connect your site’s social elements with game mechanics that allow you to reach both your passive and enthusiastic “gamers.” Keep in mind that tying rewards to your existing social elements is just as important as the rewards themselves. Just as with social games like FarmVille or World of Warcraft, participants should feel as if they’re part of a community through which they can proudly syndicate their achievements.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, yurok

More About: business, game mechanics, gamification, incentives, social media, web

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July 14 2011

Harry Potter and the Social Media Surge

The Summer Blockbuster Series analyzes the social media campaigns behind major summer movie releases and runs each Thursday.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, the final film in the uber-successful Harry Potter film franchise, opens in the United States on Friday, July 15, 2011.

The film series has generated billions at the box office, and with the eighth installment, Warner Bros. has kicked up its social media marketing game. In addition to the official site at HarryPotter.com, the following social networks are being used to promote the film.


Warner Bros. has long maintained a solid Facebook presence for the Harry Potter film series. With Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, the studio ramped up its efforts in engagement and in Facebook app features.

Nearly 29 million users have “liked” the Harry Potter Facebook Page, with a big chunk of those users “liking” in just the past week.

The Independent reported on the surge in Facebook “like” activity in the days leading up to the film’s London premiere. In the week before the premiere (which occurred on July 7, 2011), the Harry Potter Facebook Page gained nearly 100,000 new fans per day.

That kind of growth is spurred by a page that frequently posts images, behind-the-scenes tidbits, interviews with stars, links to coverage on other media outlets and movie trailers.

In a particularly nice touch, Warner Bros. Entertainment has created local Facebook fan pages for a variety of different countries and languages.

The studio also allows fans to rent and watch past Harry Potter films right on Facebook.


The @HarryPotterFilm Twitter account isn’t as active as the Facebook Page (it had 343,000 followers at the time of this writing), but the crew managing the account does a good job engaging with users, sharing links to interview and media articles and posting photos.

At the New York premiere of Deathly Hallows, photos from the even were live-tweeted using TwitPic.

Harry Potter as a brand is very popular on Twitter, with character names and various memes involving the series frequently becoming trending topics.


For Deathly Hallows Part 2, the Harry Potter franchise embraced YouTube big time.

In addition to the assortment of trailer uploads and fan-made spoofs, the Harry Potter YouTube channel has been used as a repository for official clips, TV spots and interviews.

The red carpet from the London premiere of Deathly Hallows Part 2 was livestramed on YouTube, as well as on other video streaming services like Ustream and Livesream.

The YouTube page contains a special highlight reel from the premiere, as well.

The YouTube page was designed in such a way that it shows off not only videos from the channel, but gives fans access to real-time updates from Facebook and Twitter from official feeds, members of the cast, fan sites and the Harry Potter: The Quest web game.

The tool, built by thisMoment is also accessible from the Harry Potter Facebook Page. It’s a great way to keep users engaged with what people are saying on YouTube, commenting on Twitter and posting to Facebook, while also tying in the official feeds.


Online ticketing for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is being heavily promoted via social channels. Not only do ticket sites like Fandango and MovieTickets.com have their own Harry Potter campaigns, but Warner Bros. has integrated a slick Facebook ticketing app into the main Harry Potter Facebook Page.

The Harry Potter ticketing app is similar to other Facebook ticketing apps we’ve seen in the past. It allows users to not only find showtimes and buy tickets, but also invite friends and share their ticket purchases on Facebook.

Fan Sites and Pottermore

The success of Harry Potter is due in no small part to its loyal fan base. The fan communities surrounding Harry Potter have been used to help keep the film promoted across the web.

Fan sites like The Leaky Cauldron and MuggleNet post a frequently updated stream of news and information not just to the main webpages, but also to Facebook and Twitter.

These sites also run contests and promotions to keep the masses enthused and engaged. The sites also played a role in hyping another Harry Potter announcement.

Last month, J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter books, announced Pottermore, a fan-centric online experience for the Harry Potter book series. Rowling has started to tweet out previews of the site, which will open to a limited audience at the end of July and to the public in October.

Social media, or at least, social gaming, seems to be a central part of Pottermore and though this network isn’t directly tied to the film, the announcement was obviously timed to coincide with the final film’s release.

Box Office Impact

We won’t know the full impact of the media campaign until the first box office receipts start to pour in, but if past performance is any indicator, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 will be a huge hit.

Let us know your thoughts on the social media campaign surrounding the film in the comments.

More About: facebook, fandango, harry potter, harry potter and the deathly hallows part 2, summer blockbuster, Summer Blockbuster Series, twitter, youtube

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July 13 2011

HOW TO: Turn Fans Into Brand Ambassadors

The Behind the Social Media Campaign Series is supported by Oneupweb, an award-winning agency specializing in search marketing, social media and design for mid-to-enterprise level brands. Download Oneupweb’s free whitepaper, “Measuring Social Media’s Contribution to the Bottom Line: 5 Tactics.”

The introduction of Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point in 2000 was a tipping point in its own right. Ever since that book was published, marketers have been obsessed with cultivating influencers — those members of the public whose messages go further than most.

The Tipping Point preceded social media as we know it today, but Gladwell’s model of “connectors + mavens = marketing success” fits well in the age of Twitter and Facebook. For a marketer, the mission is pretty simple: Find a bunch of influencers, get them charged up and then sit back and reap the rewards.

Of course, it’s not that simple. Just look at the range of brands in the market. On the one hand, there’s Apple which has a cult-like following that is so pervasive and dedicated that it doesn’t even need to be on Twitter or Facebook. But if you’re marketing something less buzz-worthy, like paper towels or frozen pizza, you might find that cultivating brand ambassadors is a bit more tricky.

Nevertheless, experts on social media marketing have a few tips that any brand in any category can use to create a devoted following. Here are a few.

Rate Your Fans

Dave Balter, the CEO of BzzAgent, a word-of-mouth marketing agency, says the first thing you should do is take stock of your existing fan base. “Understand who is a fan and who is already an advocate,” he says. Of course, there are tools on the market, like Klout, that let you do this. Audi USA is one of the first brands to integrate Klout scores on its Facebook Page, letting you earn a desktop or a ring tone based on your score.

Klout uses an algorithm based on various factors to create its rankings, but it’s tempting to try to short-circuit the process by looking at which fans have the most followers. Balter says a better metric is sharing: “It’s important you place value on elements like how often they share and how often others engage with what’s shared. Another, simpler way of identifying potential brand advocates is to simply ask them how likely they are to recommend the brand to a friend. When rated on a 1 to 10-point scale, that is known as the “Net Promoter Score.”

Give Them Something to Do

Getting people to “like” your brand on Facebook is great, but you still have to generate discussion and activity. That can be fairly easy to achieve. Last year, for instance, Oreo got its fans to weigh in on a Pandora playlist, and Philadelphia cream cheese spurred conversation by soliciting ideas for recipes and offering how-to videos.

Another, simpler, way to create engagement is by asking fans questions. “You have to create a compelling dialogue,” says Paul Longo, vice president and group digital director at MediaVest, a media-buying firm. Such give-and-take should fit in with a brand’s image and make the fans feel like insiders who “get” the brand. Here are a couple of recent status updates from the Skittles candy brand’s Facebook Page. Both got tens of thousands of “likes” and thousands of comments: “If you drop Skittles on the floor, you should abide by the 3 million-second rule,” and “I need to stop adopting every octopus that follows me home.”

Use Exclusivity

Give your fans exclusive opportunities to make them feel special. For example, Walmart has been known to court mommy bloggers by flying them to its Bentonville, Arkansas headquarters and letting them test new products. On the other side of the marketing universe, Howard Stern lets his self-proclaimed “Superfans” host a call-in show on Sirius XM’s channel 101 once a week. “One quick way to turn someone into an advocate is to ‘bring them into the fold’ and to help them feel part of the deeper community,” Balter says.

Pamper Your Advocates

Walmart doesn’t just give its Walmart Moms exclusive products and experiences. The company also hosts a blog and YouTube channel for them, using its huge media reach to reward its most loyal brand advocates. Similarly, Oracle has a program called Oracle ACE that spotlights various IT pros as Oracle experts. SAP’s equivalent is the SAP Mentor Initiative, which recognizes SAP experts and gives them a forum (an SAP site plus a YouTube channel.)

Go Up a Lifestyle Level

So if you don’t market new computers and smartphones, how do you get people to care about your brand? Jeremiah Owyang, a partner at Altimeter Group, calls this practice “going up to the lifestyle level.” For instance, it may be hard to get people excited about a tile cleanser that gets rid of soap scum, but keeping a house clean and germ-free is something people can feel passionate about. That’s exactly what Lysol, the disinfectant spray, is doing. The brand has more than 460,000 fans on Facebook, whom it engages with live chats and tips on how to keep your house clean.

Beyond those basic tips, MediaVest’s Longo suggests something counterintuitive: Doing nothing. At least for a while, he says, let your fan base breathe a little bit and avoid heavy-handed interactions. “In general, brands are so caught up in the technology because it’s so cool right now,” he says. “But don’t rush into anything.”

Series Supported by Oneupweb

The Behind the Social Media Campaign Series is supported by Oneupweb, an award-winning agency specializing in search marketing, social media and design for mid-to-enterprise level brands. Download the Oneupweb sponsored Marketing Sherpa free study, “Measuring Social Media’s Contribution to the Bottom Line: 5 Tactics” to learn how to cut through the clutter and be sure to catch up with them on Facebook and Twitter.

Images courtesy of Flickr, bnilsen, navets, Daehyun Park and iStockphoto, terraexplorer, Yuri_Arcurs

More About: 360i, altimeter group, Behind the Social Media Campaign Series, facebook, Malcolm Gladwell, MARKETING, twitter

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July 12 2011

5 Ways to Encourage Customers to Share Your Content

Sanjay Dholakia is CEO of Crowd Factory, the leading provider of crowd-powered marketing applications that add a quantifiable social boost to every digital interaction.

Nearly every brand has realized that integrating social elements into most or all of its marketing programs is essential. Companies are also thinking about social media as an integrated element that spans all of its campaigns and channels – not as its own silo. But enabling people to share a campaign with friends is only half the battle; you’ve got to give them a compelling reason to socialize.

Here are five creative ways to motivate social sharing. We’ll provide insights as to how you can structure campaigns to encourage more people to share, alongside examples of brands that are getting it right.

1. Increase the Payoff When People Share More

With the advent of DIY group deals, you can create campaigns in which the more people share among themselves, the more they all save. The idea of collective benefit also plays to team dynamics: people will mobilize when lots of folks can get a benefit.

Oscar Mayer’s recent program for its new Oscar Mayer Selects hot dogs provides a good example. Oscar Mayer offers consumers a coupon to try the product, and encourages them to come back to share a “Taste-a-Monial” (essentially their personal review of Selects Hot Dogs) to get a second coupon. But this second coupon is progressive in nature: for every 5,000 people who share their Taste-a-Monial, the value of the coupon will increase by $0.50. The value continues to increase until the deal becomes a free pack of hot dogs, or until the promotion ends on August 15. At that point, everyone who shared a Taste-a-Monial will be rewarded their coupon.

Snoop Dogg made headlines recently for the progressive group deals he runs from his Facebook page’s “Shop Snoop Now” ecommerce tab. Each day, one product is featured for a special group deal – the more “Likes” the product gets, the lower the price for the product.

2. Give Them Something Exclusive

Giving people something unique or exclusive in return for sharing can be a powerful motivator — we all want to feel privy to something special.

For example, in a recent campaign to build awareness for recording artist Cady Groves, RCA offered fans a free song download for registering on the Cady Groves website. RCA also incentivized fans to share Cady’s music with their friends by offering a free merchandise pack to every fan who convinces five people to download the song.

Many brands are also rewarding fans by providing early access to content. For example, a big trend we’re seeing in the music industry is “share to reveal,” where fans get advance access to music videos or song tracks in return for sharing with friends.

3. Appeal to Their Altruism

People are inherently good. If you make it easy for them to help, they often will — and your brand will get a major boost along the way.

For example, Clarisonic recently ran a fundraising campaign for “Look Good, Feel Better,” a program that helps women battling cancer cope with treatment-related skin changes and hair loss. It contributed a $1 donation for each new “Like” on its Facebook page. The campaign made it fun and easy to share the program with friends by designing different “calls to action” that visitors could choose to share. As a result, Clarisonic generated over 30,000 new Likes on the page.

Of course, many fans will share simply because they love the cause and want to spread the word — so make sure you’ve at least added social elements to all your customer touch points.

4. Let Fans Help Create the Offer

Giving fans the ability to choose which version of a product should be offered, or to vote for the discounts or special offers they want to receive, helps ensure they’ll share it. For example, HarperCollins’ Bookperk website, which keeps readers up to date on new books and special deals, lets members select which books will be offered at a discount. Once members have chosen a book, they have the option to log into Facebook and share their selection with friends, therefore spreading the word about the discount.

5. Identify, Recognize and Reward Superfans

Humans are inherently social beings, and like to be recognized for their expertise and achievements. Recognition can be a powerful motivator for social activity.

In the Cady Groves example mentioned above, not only was the campaign successful in getting many fans to share with their friends, but furthermore, quite a few “superfans” took sharing to the next level. They generated their own tweets, direct messages and Facebook posts. Some individuals managed to recruit several hundred new fans to the Cady Groves website and Facebook page.

These superfans aren’t necessarily motivated by the incentive; they’re interested in promoting the artist, getting free merchandise for their friends and establishing their reputation as someone in the know. Smart marketers will look to identify and reward these superfans on an ongoing basis, and further provide them with ways to carry on their message.

Once you’ve identified your superfans, make them part of your marketing mix. Give them preferential or early access to new items, and reward them with recognition on your Facebook page, Twitter or your website.

Whatever your methods, find a way to incorporate a social element into every marketing campaign you run by finding compelling reasons for people to share. That’ll make every dollar you spend on marketing look like two.

Disclosure: Cady Groves, Clarisonic and HarperCollins are clients of the author’s company.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Anne Helmond.

More About: business, Contests, ecommerce, facebook, incentives, sharing, social media, twitter

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4 Reasons Why Email Overload Is Your Own Fault [OPINION]

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

Nick Mehta is CEO at LiveOffice, where he is an innovator in the cloud-based archiving and search space. You can see the latest company news here and read his blog at blog.liveoffice.com.

Have you heard the one about email being dead? Every month, a new pundit breathlessly pontificates about the evils of email.

“Too many people email me.”

“Too many people copy me on things.”

“I’m tired of constantly checking email.”

Some even go on email strike. Each time, the author points to the latest technology (instant messaging, Groove, SMS, Google Wave, SharePoint, social media, Yammer) as the antidote for our poisonous email addiction.

Email is a symptom of modern information culture. Whereas hierarchy, structure and bureaucracy used to work as a filter that shielded us from the horrors of overload, today’s email is the great democratizer. If you have a brilliant suggestion or an idle complaint, the distance between your idea and a company CEO is the space between the “From” and the “To” fields.

So why all the haters?

I contend that the problems we have with email aren’t about the technology at all — they are about us. So we’d better own up to our core issues, because they’ll follow us no matter which communication medium we use.

1. Loneliness

It’s Saturday morning in your neighborhood, and you’re in line at Starbucks with your family. Why are you checking email on your iPhone?

As much as emails can be annoying, they do make us feel important. Someone wants to talk to us. Remember the Peanuts specials when Charlie Brown would go to his mailbox every day to see if someone sent him a letter?

2. Vanity

Although we’ve all been faced with colleagues who use the “CC” option far too often, are we blameless ourselves?

Perhaps we just want to demonstrate that we’re actually getting things done, or that we are indeed in the know about what’s going on. Whatever the reason, do we consider the effect our message will have on the recipients before thoughtlessly adding to the CC line?

3. Paranoia

And then there’s paranoia.

“I don’t want to be left out.”

“Why was I not copied on that email that I should have known about?”

This aversion to missing out on conversations others are having reinforces our CC addiction.

4. False Productivity

Often, email can be a mindless activity. Answering it gives you quick gratification.

Writing back to people with “thanks” and “great job” is much easier than creating something original from scratch. It’s a way to “get things done” without actually doing anything. This false productivity can be consuming and drain time away from things that actually matter.

Striving for a World With Less Email

We wanted a world of open communication, and we got it. The problem is that openness cuts both ways.

Regardless of the technology, we can address these issues by retraining ourselves and engaging in some serious self-discipline. There are many schools of thought on how to do it and even a grassroots movement that follows TED curator Chris Anderson’s Email Charter.

This is something I consciously work on every day and emphasize in my company. Getting communications right as a society is very simple, and it starts with me as the sender.

“Email unto others as you would have them email unto you.” Or something like that.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Carbon NYC.

More About: email, email management, etiquette, how to, Opinion

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July 11 2011

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