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Pinterest Users: Beware of Copyright Law

Let me start off by saying that I’m not a lawyer, I’ve never studied law nor do I plan to.

However, the things that I’ve been reading online lately have me thinking a lot about copyright law and how it relates to social media. In particular, a lot of articles have been written about the fact that by posting content on the popular social networking site, Pinterest, users could be violating copyright law.

What’s more, a recent article on cbsnews.com points out that users are solely responsible for what they pin.

This has several implications for both users and businesses.

Copyright Law and Social Sharing

If users have to worry about being penalized for sharing something on Pinterest, will this discourage them from using the site?

And, if sharing copyrighted content on Pinterest is a copyright violation, wouldn’t the same hold true for Facebook, Tumblr, or any other site where users can post an image that can be seen without actually having to visit the website where it was originally posted?

Furthermore, will the court ever enforce the law and actually penalize a user for sharing something on the Internet for the sole purpose of letting other people know about it (i.e., not for monetary gain)? I’d hope not.

The foundation of social media is based on users being able to freely share content that they find around the Internet. If that premise is destroyed, then social media is going to change dramatically. Users who are really worried about this issue would be forced to only share their own content, content that is posted with a Creative Commons license, or content that the content creator encourages people to share by placing social sharing buttons on their blog or website.

Businesses Using Social Media to Market Their Products and Services

The copyright issue could potentially get even muddier for businesses that use Pinterest to market their products or services.

If the business posts their own photos of their products or services, then copyright issues won’t be a problem.

However, many businesses that use Pinterest have created pinboards that don’t necessarily feature their own products or services, but are of interest to their customers and potential customers. For example, in addition to pinboards about food, Whole Foods Market has pinboards that feature information about gardening, fitness, technology and books. This is a great way to get consumers to interact with the brand without beating them over the head with marketing messages.

However, here is where the copyright issue comes into play. If a business pins a copyrighted photo on Pinterest, it could very well be interpreted as a way of marketing to customers and potential customers. Therefore, the company is looking to make money, albeit indirectly, from the use of the copyrighted material. In my estimation, this would be the time when copyright law would most likely be enforced. (Again, I’m not a lawyer; I’m just using some common sense.)

Therefore, businesses need to be very sure that they have the right to share content before they post it on Pinterest or any other social networking site.

Final Thoughts

It’s important to keep in mind that when you share something on Pinterest, you might be violating copyright law. This is particularly important for businesses that are using Pinterest to interact with consumers.

However, as anyone who is even remotely interested in social media marketing knows, having your content shared on social media sites is a good thing. In fact, some companies dream that their content will go viral.

Furthermore, as a recent article that was posted on marketingprofs.com points out, even if a company doesn’t like that consumers are sharing its copyrighted content on Pinterest, it may not be the best idea to sue them because of it.

In the end, it will be interesting to see how this issue plays out in the near future, because if the court chooses to enforce copyright law and penalizes users for sharing copyrighted content on Pinterest, it could have ramifications on other social media sites as well.

Photo credit: theilr on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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The Power of Social Media

People often see life through their own lens.

Some people even go through life believing that most people in the world think the same way that they do and want to live the same way that they do. Furthermore, they believe that there is something wrong with those people who disagree with their opinions.

However, the reality is that this couldn’t be more further from the truth. Everyone has a slightly different perspective on the way that life should be lived.

The Internet and all the social networking sites out there give people the opportunity to see the world through other people’s eyes, or at least get some insights into how others see the world. However, I’d speculate that many people don’t take advantage of the resources that are available to them because they are either short on time, lack the interest, or don’t want to shake up their world and try to imagine that someone else has a completely different perspective on life. Or even worse, they are afraid that they might find out that the way that the other person thinks might actually be more logical.

‘Kony 2012’

By now, you have probably heard about the 30-minute video produced by the San Diego-based charity, Invisible Children, that was created to raise awareness about the African guerrilla leader who is known for kidnapping children and forcing the boys to fight in his army and the girls to become sex slaves.

As the sign in the photo points out, most people should agree that Joseph Kony is an evil person who should be stopped. However, not everyone agrees that posting the video on YouTube was a good idea. In fact, some critics have said that the buzz that the video has created could actually make it more difficult to catch Kony.

The criticisms that this video received actually inspired this blog post.

Keep in mind, I’m not an expert on the best ways to capture guerrilla leaders in Africa, but my gut feeling is that the video is a good thing. If for no other reason, it forces people to think about issues that have an effect on people on the other side of the world.

What also intrigued me (and many other like-minded people) is the way that the message spread.

By leveraging social networking sites, the charity was able to bypass the traditional media and get the story out to millions of people and eventually make it so important that it has been covered by the traditional media, as well.

What This Means for Business

By using social media, Invisible Children was able to spread the word about a ruthless guerrilla leader who needs to be captured, and in the process was able to raise money to fund their charitable work.

However, the issue doesn’t need to be as tragic as this to get people mobilized to action. And, the thing is, given the nature of social media, it can be a consumer who starts a movement that can help or hinder your business.

Just look at how Kristen Christian, an art gallery owner in Los Angeles, California, used social media to encourage thousands of people to switch from banks to credit unions by organizing an event that she called “Bank Transfer Day” to protest, among other things, the $5 a month debit card fees that were being charged by Bank of America.

The event was so successful that according to the “Credit Union Directors Newsletter” published by the Credit Union National Association in December of 2011, “Since Bank of America announced its debit card fees in late September until Bank Transfer Day on Nov. 5, nearly 700,000 consumers opened new accounts at credit unions—40,000 on Nov. 5 alone. To compare, credit unions added about 650,000 members throughout all of 2010.” (Note: For full disclosure, I must point out that I am a former employee of the Credit Union National Association.)

Final Thoughts

Social media has changed the way that we communicate.

It has given people who would have had a hard time getting their message out via the traditional media outlets the voice to try to change in the world.

It is important to acknowledge that we don’t all speak in a unified voice. That is, as humans we all have our own opinions on how to solve problems. Furthermore, people often disagree about whether there is a problem in the first place.

From a business perspective, this creates a unique challenge. Not only have businesses lost control of the message, but anything that a business says or does has the possibility to be a huge win or a huge setback, depending on the way that it is perceived by the public—particularly those people who are very vocal on the Internet.

Therefore, it becomes even more important to try to think through all of your business decisions in an effort to predict how your customers and potential customers might react. It is also important to understand that people from different backgrounds might have different reactions to your message.

And now, with the power of social media, they have the ability to let everyone know about it.

Photo credit: Robert Raines on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Are You Ready for Some Football? (The Second Screen Edition)

Historically, the Super Bowl has been one of the most viewed telecasts of the year.

According to The Nielsen Company, five of the six most watched prime-time telecasts of all time in the U.S. were Super Bowls.

In fact, the last four Super Bowls played (2008 to 2011) are on this list. And, there is no reason to believe that this year will be any different.

Therefore, it’s not surprising that advertisers are willing to spend huge amounts of money to air their 30-second spots during the game. (According to CNNMoney, the average cost to air a 30-second spot during this year’s Super Bowl is whopping $3.5 million a pop.)

Extending the Story Online

As I mentioned in a blog post in October of last year, brands need to understand the importance of utilizing the tools that are available to consumers on their smartphones, tablet computers and laptops to extend the story online and keep the conversation and connection going, long after the television commercial is over. (Gary Vaynerchuk likens this to the game of Ping-Pong.)

This year, it looks like many brands are going to take advantage of this opportunity during the Super Bowl.

For some brands, this could be as simple as requesting that viewers visit their website, Facebook page or their page on any other social networking site out there.

Other brands have taken it one step further by partnering with companies that own certain smartphone apps to help facilitate the interaction.

Hopefully, this will enhance the experience that viewers have during the Super Bowl.

Required Game Day Gear

In order to participate in the experience that the advertisers intend to provide, viewers are going to have to be aware of what they need to do and have the right tools at their fingertips.

For brands that ask viewers to visit their website, Facebook page or their page on any other social networking site out there, a laptop or desktop computer is the only thing that will be required. In fact, a pencil and a piece of paper or a strong memory could suffice if viewers want to wait until after the game is over to go online. (Here is where SEO and paid search could play a big role in helping the brand continue the conversation online.)

However, several brands will be taking advantage of the fact that many people will have access to a smartphone or tablet computer during the game and have partnered with companies that own certain apps to help drive viewers directly to a specific landing page or possibly provide them with an in-app experience.

Shazam and IntoNow are two of the apps that viewers might want to download to their smartphones or tablet computers before the Super Bowl begins. Other apps that could possibly come in handy during the Super Bowl include Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and GetGlue.

There are also apps available that will allow people to watch the game on their smartphone and others that are dedicated to letting people watch and rate the commercials before, during and after the game.

Final Thoughts

The Super Bowl is one of the most watched telecasts in the U.S. each year.

For many people, especially those who are fans of teams that aren’t participating in the game, the commercials might be more important than the game itself.

This year, several brands will take advantage of the fact that many people will have their smartphone, tablet computer or laptop in front of them during the game. These brands will be asking viewers to continue the conversation online or within smartphone or tablet computer apps.

In this post, I’ve linked to a few articles and blog posts that provide people with additional information that might be helpful to them before, during and after the game.

I also plan to tweet links to some additional articles and blog posts this weekend. Please feel free to follow me on Twitter at: @sunbeltbadger.

Also, if you hear of something that is worth mentioning, please send me a tweet or let me know in the comments section below.

Photo credit: rmlack22 on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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What Apps Are Currently on Your Smartphone?

As I mentioned in a post earlier this month, comScore reported that for the three-month average period ending in October 2011, 90 million people in the United States owned smartphones. As would be expected, this number continues to increase.

In fact, according to Flurry Analytics, 6.8 million Android and iOS devices were activated on Christmas Day. This is a 353% increase over the average number of activations per day that were observed in the first 20 days of December, 2011.

Therefore, it’s not surprising that the number of smartphone app downloads was 125% higher on Christmas Day, when compared to the baseline measurement.

Suggested Smartphone Apps

With all the new smartphone owners out there, it makes sense to suggest some smartphone apps that people might be interested in.

It should be noted that I currently own an Android phone, so most of my suggestion will be based on apps that are available for that operating system. However, most of these apps are also available on other mobile operating systems, as well.

If you are currently using any of the social networking sites out there that have apps available (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google+, Myspace, YouTube, etc.) then it makes sense to download those apps to your phone. There are some other apps that can be used to access these social networks, as well. In fact, there are many apps currently available that allow you to access your Twitter account.

Google Maps is also a very useful app. The Android version of the app eliminates the need for a separate GPS navigation system. It also now includes indoor maps. I haven’t tried this feature… but it sounds really cool.

The CNN app is great for keeping up with the latest news. When the app is installed on your phone, you can choose to have it notify you about breaking news. I also recently installed the CNNMoney app. It is similar, but it focuses on business news.

CNET TV and G4 both have great apps that provide users with the kind of information that satisfies the tech nerd in all of us.

Evernote is included on a lot of favorite app lists, including mine. Among other things, you can use the app to take notes in meetings or write down ideas that you want to remember when you are on the go. As an added bonus, you can also access Evernote from your PC. I use this app a lot for taking notes about topics that I want to blog about in the future.

Foursquare is one of my favorite location-based social networking sites. The app is very easy to use, and businesses sometimes reward you for checking in to their venue. I have written several blog posts about Foursquare in the past. It should also be noted that there are other apps out there that serve a similar purpose, like SCVNGR and Google Latitude. However, I currently tend to use Foursquare the most.

If you are looking for a cool photo sharing app, I’d suggest giving picplz a try. However, I have also heard a lot of good things about Instagram. It was recently announced that Instagram is working on an Android version of the app. Until the Android version of Instagram is available, picplz is a very good alternative. In fact, there are people out there who say that they prefer picplz to Instagram.

GetGlue is a great app that allows you to let others know what you are currently doing (i.e., reading a book, listening to music, watching a television show or movie, playing a video game or just thinking about a topic.) The current version of the app is a little clunky, but I still enjoy using it. And, hopefully, future versions of the app will fix some of the problems that I am currently having with it.

I am also a fan of the Yelp app. It gives you access to user-generated reviews of the local bars, restaurants and stores in your area. Yelp is a great resource for people who have recently relocated to a new city or are visiting a city that they have never been to before. It also has a check-in component similar to Foursquare. And, if you get a chance, check out Yelp’s Monocle. Yelp’s Monocle is an augmented reality feature that among other things allows you to see reviews of the businesses that are nearby.

Urbanspoon is another app that can help you find nearby bars and restaurants. The unique thing about this app is that if you can’t decide where you want eat, you can use the Urbanspoon slot machine to get additional suggestions. It’s a very cool app.

Many of the daily-deal sites, such as Groupon and LivingSocial, also have apps. As I mentioned in a post that I wrote this past summer, I think that Scoutmob is the daily-deal site that offers the best value to businesses and consumers. As is the case with most of the daily-deal sites, Scoutmob can only be used in certain markets.

Shopkick is another fun app that allows you to earn kicks by visiting participating brick-and-mortar stores and scanning certain items with your smartphone. The kicks can then be redeemed for merchandise at participating retail stores or donated to certain charities.

I also need to mention the Google Reader and Listen apps. I use these apps a lot for reading blog posts and listening to podcasts, respectively.

And, if you sell things on eBay, you definitely will want to download the eBay app. It has many useful features that help facilitate the buying and selling process.

Finally, there are a few apps that I haven’t used that much, but I want to mention because I think that they could potentially be very useful to some people. These apps include Google Googles, RedLaser, Zaarly and WHERE.

Final Thoughts

Many people received smartphones over the holidays.

That means that many people are now learning about the different ways that smartphones can make life a little easier by simplifying some of our everyday tasks.

However, in order to take full advantage of their smartphones, people need to know what apps to download.

The list that I just provided is a good place to start.

However, with over 500,000 apps in the both the Apple App Store and Google’s Android Market, it’s just the beginning.

For additional suggestions, you might want to check out the lists that are provided by other bloggers. In fact, Nate Riggs just published a list today. Jeff Hilimire also frequently blogs about apps that you might never have heard about before.

Other popular websites also frequently list some of the best apps that are currently available.

However, the only way you can truly know whether or not an app is valuable to you is to actually try it yourself. So, I’d suggest heading over to the Apple App Store or Google’s Android Market and give some of the many apps out there a try.

And, if you have any other apps that you would like to suggest, I’d love to hear about them.

Photo credit: mcclanahoochie on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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An Excellent Resource for Internet Marketing Advice – HubSpot

HubSpot Inbound Marketing UniversityIf you are looking to leverage the power of the Internet to help grow your business, one of the first places I’d suggest that you look is HubSpot.

According to the “Company Fact Sheet” on hubspot.com, “HubSpot is an Internet marketing startup whose software helps businesses get found online, generate more inbound leads and convert a higher percentage of those leads into paying customers. HubSpot’s software platform includes tools that allow professional marketers and small business owners to manage search engine optimization, blogging and social media, as well as landing pages, lead intelligence and marketing analytics.”

However, you don’t need to be a paying customer to benefit from HubSpot’s expertise.

HubSpot provides many free resources that your business can use to keep up with the latest inbound marketing trends and best practices.

I have been a fan of HubSpot ever since I first tuned in to the Marketing Update (formerly HubSpot TV) back in the summer of 2009. This is a great resource if you want keep up with the latest inbound marketing news. (You can watch HubSpot’s Marketing Update live at 4 p.m. EST every Friday.)

Since then, I have learned a lot from HubSpot’s many white papers, webinars and blog posts.

HubSpot also speaks at, sponsors and participates in various industry conferences and events, including OMMA Global, PubCon, Business of Software, Online Market World, Search Engine Strategies, SMX, Venture Summit, Inbound Marketing Summit,  etc.

In fact, earlier this year I attended an AMA Tampa Bay event that featured HubSpot’s Ellie Mirman. As you would expect, it was a very informative event.

Inbound Marketing University

Recently, I earned my Inbound Marketing Certification from the Inbound Marketing University after completing its comprehensive Internet marketing training program.

The training program currently includes 18 in-depth classes covering each facet of inbound marketing.

The courses are taught by some of the most respected names in Internet marketing today, including New York Times’ best-selling author Chris Brogan, Google Analytics Evangelist Avinash Kaushik, best-selling author and international speaker David Meerman Scott, best-selling author and co-founder of Alltop.com Guy Kawasaki, and more.

Inbound Marketing Certification from HubSpot's Inbound Marketing UniversityTo earn the Inbound Marketing Certification, students must pass the comprehensive certification exam that includes 50 multiple choice and true & false questions.

As stated on the site, “The Inbound Marketing Certification acknowledges the recipient’s proficiency in Inbound Marketing principles and best practices. These principles include: blogging, social media, lead conversion, lead nurturing, and closed-loop analysis.”

In order to earn the Inbound Marketing Certification, the student must receive a score of 75% or higher on the comprehensive certification exam.

The Honors Distinction is awarded to the top 15% of exam takers. To receive this honor, test takers must earn a score of 90% or higher.

The Inbound Marketing University training program is administered by HubSpot.

And, the best part… both the training and certification are completely free.

For more information, visit inboundmarketing.com.

Final Thoughts

As I mentioned earlier, I have been a fan of HubSpot since the summer of 2009.

They are a very respected company that definitely delivers value to their customers.

According to co-founder and CTO Dharmesh Shah, “The average HubSpot customer grows their lead generation by 32% monthly, and over 80% of customers report increased web traffic and lead generation when using HubSpot software. 85% of HubSpot customers recommend the software to their friends.”

However, as I mentioned before, you don’t need to be a paying customer to gain from HubSpot’s expertise.

Chances are that your business could benefit from the wide range of free resources that are available from HubSpot, including their many webinars, white papers, and blog posts.

Futhermore, even if you don’t take the certification exam, HubSpot’s Inbound Marketing University is definitely worth the time and effort. And, it’s free.

So what are you waiting for? Head over to hubspot.com to find out more information.

Photo credit: jameskm03 on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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1911 Main Street’s Top 10 Social Networking Sites for Business 2011

Photo credit: Montage Communications on Flickr.This is the time of the year for holiday parties, college football bowl games, Santa Claus, and looking back at the year that was.

It is also the time of year for “best of” lists… and lots of them.

So, in keeping with the tradition, I submit to you my list of the top 10 social networking sites for business 2011.

Note: There are many smartphone apps that could be considered social networking sites that I haven’t included on this list. I plan to write a post in the near future dedicated to smartphone apps, so if some of your favorite apps didn’t make this list, check back in the next few weeks.

The Top 10 List

1. Facebook

A “best of” social networking site list would not be credible if it didn’t start off with Facebook. The site was launched in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg with the help of some of his roommates and fellow students, including Eduardo Saverin, Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes. Facebook was initially limited to Harvard students. However, it eventually opened up to the general public and now boasts more than 800 million active users worldwide. With numbers like that, it isn’t hard to see why this site is number one on my “best of” social networking site list.

On its site, Facebook has several resources to help businesses connect with current and potential customers.

2. Twitter

Founded in 2006 by Jack Dorsey, Noah Glass, Evan Williams and Biz Stone, Twitter enables users to send and read text-based posts of up to 140 characters, also known as “tweets”, in real-time. Twitter’s “About” page mentions that, “Businesses use Twitter to quickly share information with people interested in their products and services, gather real-time market intelligence and feedback, and build relationships with customers, partners and influential people. From brand lift, to CRM, to direct sales, Twitter offers businesses a chance to reach an engaged audience.”

For more information about using Twitter for business, check out the “Twitter for Business” page.

3. LinkedIn

LinkedIn was founded in 2002 and launched the following year. It is one of the premier social networking sites for business professionals. According to its website, as of November of 2011, LinkedIn had more than 135 million members in over 200 countries. LinkedIn mentions that all of the 2011 Fortune 500 companies have executives who are members of LinkedIn. Futhermore, LinkedIn’s hiring solutions are used by 75 of the Fortune 100 companies.

Check out the LinkedIn “About Us” page for additional information.

4. Google+

Launched in June of this year, Google+ has grown rather quickly. (A recent Mashable article stated that it has an estimated 40 million users.) With the recent launch of Google+ Brand pages, Google+ should definitely be on your radar.

For more information about Pages for Google+, visit the Google.com website.

5. Myspace

Launched in 2003, this once dominant social networking site has experienced a massive exodus in recent years. However, according to comScore, Myspace still had over 28.4 million unique visitors in October of 2011. This is a sizable number. Furthermore, Myspace was recently purchased by Specific Media and Justin Timberlake. They plan to relaunch the site in 2012. Will this be enough to revive Myspace? I don’t know. However, it might be a good place to buy ads in the short-term, as people will most likely revisit the site to see what changes are made.

6. Tumblr

As I mentioned in a recent blog post, businesses, particularly those that are targeting consumers age 18 to 34, should keep an eye on Tumblr. According to a recent Nielsen study, titled “State of the Media: The Social Media Report Q3 2011,” Tumblr nearly tripled its audience in the last year. In fact, it has become the 8th largest site in the U.S. Social Networks and Blogs category.

For more information, check out my blog post about Tumblr.

7. Foursquare

Around 15 million people worldwide are using Foursquare. Therefore, it’s not surprising that over 500,000 businesses are using the Merchant Platform. While other sites have tried to compete, Foursquare is currently the most successful location-based social networking site. Will it ever gain widespread acceptance? Probably not. However, there are a lot of cool things that can be done with location-based social networking sites. Furthermore, as a recent Adweek article points out, the early adopters of location-based social networking sites tend to be influential and young. The article also mentions that these early adopters are more likely to share product information, promotional coupons or discount codes than average online U.S. adults. This is definitely something that businesses should think about.

8. YouTube

The YouTube website states that more than 3 billion videos are viewed per day on the site. It also states that 98 of AdAge’s Top 100 advertisers have run campaigns on YouTube and the Google Display Network. Furthermore, the number of advertisers using display ads on YouTube increased 10 fold in the last year. If your business is already creating engaging video content, you might want to consider sharing it on YouTube. You might also want to consider video podcasting as a way to get the word out about your business. But remember, don’t just talk about your business. Instead, focus on a topic that is related to your business and deliver content that your customers and potential customers will be interested in.

9. Yelp

According comScore, Yelp had 31.3 million unique visitors in October of 2011. This alone should give businesses a reason to make sure that they have a presence on the site. Good reviews will help drive Yelp users to your business. And, keep in mind, Yelp reviews can also show up in Google Search Engine Results Pages. Therefore, it pays to monitor what people are saying about your business on Yelp and other user-generated review sites and respond to your customers concerns.

This summer, I wrote a blog post about how user-generated online reviews can influence sales. You might want to check it out.

10. Flickr

According to Wikipedia, Flickr was created by Ludicorp in 2004 and acquired by Yahoo! in 2005. Flickr is a site that allows users to post photos and videos. The Yahoo! website states that Flickr has 20 million unique U.S. visitors (nearly 80 million worldwide) that spend an average of 2.7 minutes per visit on the site. Therefore, it might be a good idea for your business to upload visually appealing photographs and videos that highlight its products and services. As an added bonus, many people use Flickr to find great content to share on other social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. Flickr is also a great source to find photos for blog posts.

Note: You might want to give the content that you post on Flickr a Creative Commons license to encourage sharing.

Final Thoughts

This is my list of the Top 10 social networking sites for 2011.

Are there any social networking sites that I should have included? And, if so, what sites would you take off the list?

Photo credit: Montage Communications on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Social Media and Television Part Two: A Game of Ping-Pong

Photo credit: xploitme on Flickr.Lately, there has been an increased focus on social media marketing as social networking sites, blogs, podcasts, virtual gaming worlds, etc., have become more popular with consumers.

However, traditional media (e.g., television, print, radio, etc.) is not going away any time soon.

As I mentioned in a post, titled “Social Media and Television: A Symbiotic Relationship,” the rise of social media is not necessarily hurting television ratings.

In fact, when combined, social media can actually make the audience’s television viewing experience more enjoyable and social.

This is something that many brands and their advertising agencies have taken note of.

The ones that haven’t should seriously consider integrating social media into their traditional advertising campaigns.

The Thank You Economy

In his book, “The Thank You Economy,” (affiliate link) Gary Vaynerchuk, founder of VaynerMedia and a New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-selling author, gives several very interesting and useful case studies that showcase some successful and not-so-successful social media marketing campaigns.

He points out that when brands run television ads, they should use social media to keep the conversation and connection going.

Vaynerchuk uses Reebok as an example of a brand that successfully executed this strategy when he talks about its marketing campaign for Speedwick training T-shirts.

Reebok started by running a television ad that featured Sidney Crosby and Maxime Talbot from the 2009 Stanley Cup champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The ad features Crosby and Talbot paying a visit to Crosby’s childhood home in Nova Scotia.

During the commercial, they head down to the basement and admire a dent-riddled clothes dryer that caught every puck that Crosby didn’t get into his practice net when he was growing up.

The commercial continues with the two shooting pucks into the clothes dryer—the first to get nine pucks in the clothes dryer wins.

Tablot was leading 3-1 when Reebok abruptly flashed the words, “See who wins at facebook.com/reebokhockey” on the television screen. (Click here to watch the commercial on YouTube.)

In order to see who won, viewers had to become a fan of Reebok on Facebook.

And, that is exactly what many viewers did.

According to Vaynerchuk, in a short amount of time, Reebok saw the number of fans of their Facebook page (or the number of people who like the page, as it is now called) increase by the tens of thousands.

In addition to all of the free word-of-mouth advertising that the campaign generated, it also gave Reebok the ability and permission to remarket to these people in the future.

That’s pretty cool.

Ping-Pong

Vaynerchuk explains how brands should combine social media and traditional advertising by having his readers think about the game of Ping-Pong.

“When traditional and social media work well together, as they did for Reebok, it’s like a friendly Ping-Pong match,” writes Vaynerchuk. “Instead of spiking their traditional media and ending the match, Reebok hit the ball back over to social media. Ping. Then they gave social media a chance to return the shot. Pong. Anyone can do it. Develop creative work that allows the platforms to rally, to work together to extend your story, continue the conversation, and connect with your audience.”

In March of 2011, fastcompany.com published an excerpt of Vaynerchuk’s book in a blog post, titled “Old Spice Man Marketing, Redux: What Went Right–and What Did Not.”

You might want to read it, as it has some very interesting insights.

Don’t Forget About SEO

If your business does decide to integrate social media into its traditional marketing campaigns (or even if it decides not to), don’t forget about SEO.

For an explanation about why SEO is so important to the success of your marketing campaigns, check out a recent guest post that I wrote for the strategyessentials.com blog, titled “When Developing Your Next Marketing Campaign, Don’t Forget About SEO.”

The post has some very interesting insights from Vanessa Fox, former Google employee and founder of Nine By Blue, including an example of a brand that understood the importance of taking the story that it started during a Super Bowl advertisement and extending it online.

However, the brand dropped the ball because it forgot about SEO.

Conclusion

When combined, social media can help make the audience’s television viewing experience more enjoyable and social.

Brands that take advantage of the opportunity to extend their story online can definitely benefit from their efforts.

Not only will it help fuel online conversations about the brand, but when properly executed, it can give the brand the ability to remarket to its target audience with very little effort.

And, if the brand makes sure that consumers benefit from future interactions in some way, the ROI of its marketing efforts might be immeasurable.

Photo credit: xploitme on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Beyond the Check-In: A Loyalty Program That Is Worth Checking Into

Photo credit: A Year of Yesterdays on Tumblr.If you have been reading my blog posts for the last few months, you know that I am a fan of social media, and location-based social networking sites, in particular.

In a previous post, titled “In the Spotlight: An Introduction to Foursquare for Business,” I wrote about some of the ways that businesses can use Foursquare to market their products and services.

In that post, I pointed out that businesses can offer Foursquare specials (e.g., mobile coupons, prizes or discounts) in an effort to get customers to visit their physical locations more often.

PlacePunch

In today’s fast-paced world, innovative startups often find a way to take a good thing and make it even better.

In the realm of location-based marketing, PlacePunch is one of those innovative startups.

PlacePunch is an Atlanta-based company that was formed in the summer of 2010 with the help of Shotput Ventures, a technology startup accelerator located in Atlanta.

According to placepunch.com, “PlacePunch is a location-based marketing platform that enables businesses to drive more customers to their venues, build customer loyalty and gain new insights into their customer base. PlacePunch includes tools to run loyalty and marketing programs that integrate with Foursquare, Facebook, Twitter and other location-based social networks.”

An article on techcrunch.com, titled “PlacePunch Launches Location-Based Marketing Platform For Foursquare, Twitter And Facebook,” that was written by Leena Rao, gives further insights into how companies can utilize PlacePunch’s services.

According to Rao, businesses can create custom loyalty programs that offer rewards and coupons to customers just for checking in on various location-based social networking sites. PlacePunch provides the infrastructure to run these programs. Businesses can also run personalized messaging programs through Twitter that allow them to communicate with their customers who check in at specified venues. For example, you could set up a recurring tweet to welcome your customers when they check in at your venue.

“PlacePunch also provides a dashboard of reports and analytics to help businesses learn more about their customers and venues, including demographics, time of check-ins, and more,” Rao explains. “And the bootstrapped startup has signed on InterContinental Hotels Group as a client.”

However, it was the way that another one of their clients used their services that really caught my attention.

Check In to a Concentrics Restaurant and Get Rewarded

According to its Facebook page, Concentrics Restaurants, founded in 2002, has “some of the industry’s most unique and electrifying restaurants.”

Their Facebook page describes their restaurants like this: “Each with its own mesmerizing design and unparalleled approach to food, these dining sensations are setting creative trends in both the hospitality and wine industries across the country.”

When it comes to loyalty programs, they are definitely doing some innovative and creative things, including utilizing PlacePunch’s location-based marketing expertise to reward customers who check in on Foursquare, Facebook, Gowalla or Yelp. (Note: I am not sure what effect, if any, the recent changes that Facebook has made regarding check-ins will have on this program. If you have an answer, please feel free to let me know in the comments section below.)

A blog post on placepunch.com, titled “Concentrics Restaurants Debuts Loyalty Program Powered by PlacePunch,” written in October of 2010, states that, “Using PlacePunch, Concentrics will be able to reward customers for checking into its restaurants with Foursquare or Facebook Places. For every 5th check-in via Facebook Places or Foursquare, Concentrics customers will receive the choice of any beer, wine or dessert, under $9. For the 50th and 100th check-ins, Concentrics customers will receive 50% off their check. (Max discount of $25.)”

When customers sign up for this loyalty program, PlacePunch keeps track of how many times they check in to participating venues on Foursquare, Facebook, Gowalla or Yelp. When customers qualify for rewards, they receive an email inviting them to redeem their reward at a participating Concentrics restaurant. In order to redeem the reward, customers must use their mobile device to show the email to their bartender or server.

To find out more information about Concentrics Restaurants, visit their website: concentricsrestaurants.com. (Note: You might want to check out some of the other offers that are currently available, including their “Circle Concentrics” loyalty program.)

Conclusion

Location-based social networking sites give businesses another opportunity to reach their customers wherever they are.

This includes giving businesses a very cool, technology-enabled way to offer deals that reward loyalty and encourage customers to visit their physical locations more often.

Innovative startups, like PlacePunch, have found ways to take a good thing and make it even better.

Several different businesses, including Concentrics Restaurants, have utilized PlacePunch’s expertise to help them with their location-based marketing efforts.

When customers sign up for the Concentrics Restaurants loyalty program and check in at any of the seven participating Concentrics restaurants via Foursquare, Facebook, Gowalla or Yelp, their check-ins are tracked by PlacePunch. After the 5th check-in, customers receive an email that invites them to redeem their reward (i.e., any beer, wine or dessert, under $9) by using their mobile device to show the email to their bartender or server.

If you own a restaurant, you might want to take a page from their playbook and offer a similar type of loyalty program.

Although I don’t have access to any of the actual data that could be used to measure the ROI of this loyalty program, I can tell you from personal experience that when I lived in Atlanta, I visited each of the seven participating Concentrics restaurants as a result of the rewards that they offer when customers check in at any of these restaurants on Foursquare, Facebook, Gowalla or Yelp.

I have also recommended all seven of the participating Concentrics restaurants to friends and family who have visited Atlanta in the last few months. And, I am willing to speculate that others have probably done the same thing.

In my opinion, the PlacePunch-powered loyalty program offered by Concentrics Restaurants is definitely one that you should check into.

For additional information about this loyalty program, click here.

Photo credit: A Year of Yesterdays on Tumblr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Using Facebook’s Demographic Data for Market Research

Photo credit: marcopako  on Flickr.In today’s business environment, results need to be measured and success needs to be proven.

That’s just the way it is.

The Internet has given brands the ability to measure a lot of things (e.g., pageviews, unique visitors, conversion rates, click-through rates, etc.)

And, social media monitoring tools are getting more sophisticated.

However, up until recently, most of the metrics that were available to online marketers were used to gauge the success of their direct marketing campaigns.

Very few tools were available to help brand marketers.

Nielsen is looking for ways to change that.

Nielsen’s Online Campaign Rating System

In an effort to help brand marketers justify their online ad spend to senior management, Nielsen has created what it calls the Online Campaign Rating system that debuted earlier this month.

As an article on fastcompany.com, titled “Facebook Is The New Nielsen Family,” explains, “Here’s how it works: Advertisers tag their ads and then place them on their targeted sites around the web. When the ads are viewed, the ads make a call to Facebook, which then searches its own user database to identify the viewer of the ad. Facebook then gathers up that person’s demographic information and sends it to Nielsen. Nielsen is then able to report back to advertisers who saw their ads in a particular campaign.”

The Nielsen Company also posted a video on YouTube, titled “Nielsen Online Campaign Ratings,” that gives a brief explanation of their new product.

The Nielsen Family

As the article on fastcompany.com points out, historically advertisers have relied on Nielsen’s panels (often referred to as “Nielsen families”) to gauge who watched a particular episode of a television program.

The methodology used by Nielsen for collecting information on television viewership has been analyzed and accepted by industry experts for many years.

Nielsen created the Online Campaign Ratings system to serve a similar function in the online world.

The problem is that in its early stages, it appears that Nielsen is currently relying only on Facebook to supply the demographic information.

Concerns With Facebook Demographic Data

Facebook, as you know, is a social networking site that is used by people all over the world for many purposes.

While Facebook collects tremendous amounts of data on the people who use its social networking site, at the end of the day, it is still a social networking site.

Therefore, there is no guarantee that the information that people list on their Facebook profiles is valid.

As the movie Catfish (affiliate link) points out, there are people on Facebook who aren’t who they say they are. In fact, a person could, if he or she wanted to, create multiple Facebook profiles under different aliases or pseudonyms as long as he or she had multiple email addresses. (And, as you know, that’s not a difficult hurdle to jump.)

Furthermore, in episode 163 of The BeanCast, titled “Trending Trouble,” Cindy Gallop, CEO and founder of IfWeRanTheWorld, pointed out that people who she knows, particularly those in Gen Y, use the family and featured friends lists on Facebook to highlight members of their “posse,” even if they don’t actually fit the category for which they are listed. In other words, the information that they are providing to Facebook is completely incorrect. (Note: If you get a chance, I recommend that you listen to episode 163 of The BeanCast. In this episode, Bob Knorpp and his guests tackle several very interesting topics, including the one that I am currently blogging about.)

Another issue with using Facebook as the only source of demographic data is that people are fickle. Although Facebook is currently a very popular social networking site, it is entirely possible that people could lose interest in the site in the future. (It can happen, just look at Myspace.)

And, even if they don’t migrate to another social networking site, there is no requirement that people keep their demographic data up-to-date (if they enter it at all.)

Furthermore, privacy issues can influence the validity of Facebook’s demographic data.

As time goes on, more and more people have become concerned with Facebook sharing its data with third-party vendors, even though Facebook says that it is taking steps to protect its users.

This healthy skepticism may be another reason for Facebook users to leave off some of their demographic information (or fabricate some of the information) on their Facebook profile.

The Future of Nielsen’s Online Campaign Rating System

There are some very intelligent people who work for Nielsen.

Therefore, I can guarantee that they have thought about these issues, and many more.

In fact, as the article on fastcompany.com points out, “Facebook isn’t the whole solution for Nielsen, however. Only about half of Americans are on the social network which means that OCR can only provide accurate demographics on about 42%, on average, of a campaign’s impressions, Buchwalter says. So Nielsen will still have to bring in more publishers to play the same role as Facebook and fill in the remaining gaps.”

As they add additional sources of data, Nielsen will hopefully be able to verify the validity of the demographic data that they receive from each of their sources.

However, that option is not currently available to them.

Conclusion

Nielsen’s Online Campaign Rating system is a very valuable tool that will help brand marketers measure the reach of their online marketing campaigns.

However, in its early stages, Nielsen is relying only on Facebook to provide that information.

As mentioned, brands using the data should be aware that there are some limitations to the accuracy of the data obtained via Facebook.

People can, and often do, provide incorrect information on their Facebook profiles for a variety of reasons.

It should be noted that Nielsen is one of the most trusted sources of market research data out there.

However, it is appropriate, even suggested, that you scrutinize the data that you receive, even if it is coming from a trusted source.

The data that brands receive from Nielsen can only be as good as the data that Nielsen receives from the organizations that it has partnered with.

In the future, when Nielsen partners with additional organizations to collect demographic data, it will give them the ability to cross-check the data and verify its accuracy.

However, in my opinion, as long as the data is only coming from one source, and that source is Facebook, the accuracy of Nielsen’s data cannot be guaranteed.

At the end of the day, Facebook is a social networking site, not a government tax form where falsifying information could lead to penalties.

As such, the demographic data obtained from Facebook should be taken with a grain of salt.

That’s my take on the topic. Whether you agree or disagree with me, I’d really like to hear your opinion. So, please feel free to comment below.

Photo credit: marcopako  on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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The Life Cycle of a Social Networking Service

Photo credit: deanwissing on Flickr.On June 28th, 2011, Google added its shiny new toy to the social networking space.

Although it has only been about two weeks since the launch of Google+, many blog posts and news articles have already been written about it.

Some talk about the features of Google+, some focus on its potential business uses and others speculate that its introduction could mark the beginning of the end for Facebook or Twitter.

Although I received a Google+ invite on Monday, I haven’t taken the time to explore it, yet. Therefore, I’m going to wait a while before I weigh-in on these topics.

Instead, I want to focus on one of the key benefits of a social networking service, in general.

Access to thought leaders

In a recent post on spinsucks.com, titled “Three Reasons Twitter Is Beginning to Suck,” Kary Delariaa digital PR strategist and social media research analyst for Kane Consulting, explains why she feels Twitter has lost some of its value.

“Some people have stopped playing altogether,” is among her top three reasons listed in the post.

“A handful of thought-leaders who I used to really enjoy having in my timeline have grown their networks to the point where the possibility of engagement is almost non-existent,” she says. “When you have more than 20,000 followers, you can’t really stop using the platform. I think that, in order maintain presence, their content has become very robotic and sanitized, void of any true engagement. My guess is that they’ve moved to other platforms for their engagement and are doing so with a smaller, more manageable (and “elite”) group.”

Although I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Twitter is beginning to suck, I wholeheartedly agree with the point that she is making.

What I’m beginning to wonder is whether or not this is just part of the life cycle of a social networking service. That is, in the beginning, you get a lot of thought leaders flocking to the new social networking service, looking to learn as much as they can about it is so that they can either find ways to use it to build their own businesses or become experts so that can explain the value of the particular social networking service to other businesses. In the process, they connect with other thought leaders who are doing the same thing, and for a while, the new social networking service is an extremely valuable resource to them. And then, as it becomes more mainstream, it loses part of its value, for the same reasons that Kary Delaria pointed out in her post. (Or, if it doesn’t catch on, it disappears altogether.)

In a recent blog post on chrisbrogan.com, titled “Using Google Plus to Source Ideas,” Chris Brogan writes, “For a long time, I’ve used Twitter to help pull together ideas. Since jumping on Google+ however, I’ve found that so many more people respond, and that there’s a great range of potential answers given to questions. Because comments exist under the post, I don’t lose them in my stream the way I do in Twitter.”

Chris Brogan is definitely pointing out some potential benefits of Google+ in his post. However, as the network grows in size, I wonder if he will still get more responses to questions on Google+ than he does on Twitter.

A perfect social network

From a marketing standpoint, I think a perfect social network is one that is used by as many people as possible.

However, from a user’s perspective, this is not always true.

The type of social networking service and your purpose for using it in the first place definitely influence your opinion on this matter.

For example, if you are using a social networking site similar to Yelp, which has a review component baked-in, more people joining the network means that there will be more people who will potentially review the product or service that you are interested in. In this case, adding people to the network makes the site more valuable.

On the other hand, if you want to have access to experts in your particular field of interest, more people on the site may decrease the likelihood that your question will be heard in the first place, thus decreasing the value of the social networking service.

With that said, I wonder if there will ever be a social networking site that is valuable enough to attract and keep the attention of thought leaders, while remaining small enough so that people can actually connect with them and exchange ideas. Is Google+ that network? Or, are new social networking sites needed every so often in order to serve this purpose?

Photo credit: deanwissing on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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