2011 Will be the Year of Integration

Credit: Jeremiah Owyang's Flickr account

Credit: Jeremiah Owyang's Flickr account

Thanks to the amazing BC AMA Facebook page, I stumbled upon Jeremiah Owyang’s Slideshare regarding the social business forecast for 2011. (Owyang is an Industry Analyst at the Altimeter Group.)

Check out the full Slideshare below. Some interesting things that caught my eye:

  • The “holistic” approach – An interesting concept, and something that companies might need to look into given that Zappos is seen as a leader in social media.  But to adopt this, a complete shift in thinking and in culture needs to happen. Not an easy nor affordable task. No wonder only 1.4% of companies surveyed have adopted this structure!
  • All about ROI – Looks like the pursuit for good ROI measurement will continue.  Owyang recommends the ROI pyramid to help with measurement. Overall, though, ROI might be difficult to measure because social media is about relationships, not necessarily revenues.  Twitter’s planned official analytics product might help produce some more metrics for professionals to look at.
  • Even more increase in ad spend – This is a confirmation of the recent survey that suggests that advertisers will be increasing their spending on internet marketing. It is good to see that companies plan on investing on training employees.
  • Social Graph – It’s the first time I heard of this, but it looks like Owyang explained this way back in 2007. Given that Owyang’s blog post regarding the social graph is more than three years old, I wonder if it’s still accurate. Any thoughts on this?

What’s clear is that businesses continue to recognize the importance of having an engaging presence in social media. Some may be late to the party — but more and more companies are starting to get it., More importantly,  it looks like many are ready to move on to the next step.

What do you make of these findings? Is there anything that surprised you? Let’s hear it – please leave a comment.

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Group Buying: It’s More Than Just Providing Discounts

Credit: dealio.com

Last night, I attended Net Tuesday Vancouver, a meetup where “Social Media and Web Innovators come together with Social Change Makers and Nonprofits to mix, swap stories and ideas, and build new relationships.”

This month’s topic is group buying and Google Analytics goals. I haven’t had enough experience with Google Analytics yet, so that part of the meetup actually didn’t make too much sense to me. The panel for group buying, on the other hand, was great because they brought in perspectives from both the non-profit organization and the group buying company.

Chris Mathieson is the Executive Director of the Vancouver Police Museum, a non-profit that has already offered two Groupons. Chris considers both Groupon campaigns a success. Annalea Krebs is the founder of ethicalDeal, a group buying site with a focus on environmentally-friendly products.

Why Group Buying is All the Rage

Annalea briefly discussed why the group buying business model makes sense. First, there’s the viral component – the model requires a minimum number of transactions before a deal becomes official, and so there’s an incentive for users to spread the word and invite friends. Secondly, there’s the sense of urgency. Deals are only on for a short period of time (usually 24 hours), and this urgency usually convinces people to get on it and grab the deal.

Of course, neither one of these are really a surprise, but I think that this is a good framework to start the discussion. These also suggest that group buying is likely here to stay, given that the business model behind it makes sense. (Google’s attempt to buy Groupon for $6 Billion is probably another indication that group buying is not a fad.)

What About Relationships?

From the non-profit side, Chris shared a glimpse of what it’s like to work with Groupon. To participate, the organization/business is expected to provide deep discounts – at least 50% is recommended. Again, this not really surprising as this is one of the main draws of group buying. It is quite interesting, though, how the revenue is split between Groupon and the organization.

A major consideration for the organization should be the consequences of the deal. Given the popularity of these deals, a spike in customers should be expected. A critical question for your organization is whether you have the necessary resources for this increase in business.

Also, group buying sites will get people in your organization, but it is up to you to build the relationship from there. Have a plan on how you can build on the relationship once customers are at your door.

As an alternative, Chris mentioned the possibility of building partnerships with other organizations such as Yelp or Google Places in order to strengthen customer relationships. (Location-based apps such as Foursquare and Gowalla were also mentioned.) The one advantage of these sites over something like Groupon is that organizations can offer on-going discounts. Creating brand loyalty may be possible with these sites.

Chris also mentioned that once an organization offers a deal, other group buying sites may approach to see if you’d like to do it again. Be careful with this. Think about whether you really want to be seen as a discount brand. Don’t compromise your brand identity for promotion’s sake. This point is especially true for non-profits, who may be strapped for resources and may not be able to offer discounts all the time.

Conclusion

Group buying is something that’s relatively new, but it definitely has a place for businesses and non-profits. If done right (i.e. with lots of preparation) and if done occasionally, it can definitely contribute to an organization’s brand awareness.

This month’s meetup was great, and I’m impressed that attendance seems to be growing every month. If I had one complaint, it’s that the panel could have been more diverse. There is value to having opposing views on a panel. I think that the organizers could have extended an invite to organizations that haven’t had a good experience with group buying. (On a side note, I think Scott Stratten’s blog post on how to make a conference panel rock is pretty bang on.) Chris provided some good things that organizations should think about, but it may have been even more interesting if these insights were coming from someone who haven’t had success with the process.

Overall though the meetup was informative, and there was even free food! (W2 Storyeum sponsored the meetup.) There won’t be a Net Tuesday meetup for January, but I’m already looking forward to the February one!

Were you at this month’s meetup? What were some of the new things you’ve learned? Leave a comment and let me know!

The Pulse News app is an iPhone Must Have

Pulse News for iPhone, iPod and iPod Touch

Photo credit: alphonsolabs.com

The Pulse News app describes itself as “a beautiful application that makes reading news fun and engaging”.  It promises to transform your news sources into “a colorful and interactive mosaic, instantly”.

Well, I’m happy to report that this description is on point. Simply put, Pulse is the best app I’ve come across with in a long while.

The first thing you’ll notice about the Pulse iPhone app is that it’s intuitive. If you’ve been operating an iPhone even just for a week, you’ll know what to do with the app as soon as you open it.  Navigating the app, adding more news sources, and sharing stories are all easy.  In case you need help, though, the app also provides some tutorials.

The app is also incredibly visual – a clear departure from most RSS Feed reader apps, which all tend to be boring. The use of images (taken from the stories themselves) creates a stunning mosaic that makes reading news and blogs more fun.

Also interesting  that Pulse tends to load faster than most other news apps . Both the Mashable and the Techcrunch apps tend to take a few seconds to load new stories on my 3GS; the Pulse app seems to do it in half the time.

What’s most incredible is that the app is free. Frankly, this is an app I wouldn’t mind paying at least $2.99 for. (I thought that the least I could do was write a good review for the app; hence this blog post.) If Alfonso Labs, the creator of the app, decides to use advertising as a business model someday, I just hope that they maintain the neat features of the app.

If there are possible limitations, it could be that it only allows up to  20 news sources. Quite frankly, though, I don’t want more than 20 news sources on my iPhone. I just want the best ones while I’m not on my desktop. (I can see it being a necessity for iPad users.)

Over the last few days, Pulse has already rendered some of the apps on my phone useless. Pulse News is a visual, slick, and engaging app that all news junkies should have.The app is also available for Android and iPad users.

Why Students Should Attend Meetups

One of the things that kept me busy these past few months was attending meetups. For those not familiar with what a meetup is, it’s basically “an arranged informal meeting” around a pre-determined topic.

When I talk about meetups with most of my fellow students, I usually get the deer in the headlights look.  It’s an alien idea. Something intimidating.

But there are many reasons why students should attend meetups. I outline a few of them below.

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Whatever your interest is, there’s likely a meetup for it. Interested with a career in the non-profit sector? No problem – Net Tuesdays can give you ideas on what non-profits are doing.  Are you an aspiring entrepreneur? The Vancouver Small Business Meetup might be for you.

If you don’t find a meetup that’s of interest to you, you can always start a group and organize one. You don’t need to be an expert to go to these events. In fact, most people are there to get and share information; it’s a great place to learn.

NETWORKING

Truth be told, networking is not my primary purpose when I go to meetups, but I do see it as a possibility.  These events attract like-minded professionals, so they are a perfect place to network.

Whenever I go to a meetup, my following on Twitter always increases by at least five.  Now, I’m not saying that each one of those followers will result to an opportunity, but networking is pretty much a game of numbers. The more you connect with, the more possibilities.

FREE

Most meetups are free, which is fantastic considering the quality of information you usually get.  Conferences and workshops usually offer student discounts, but you can’t beat free stuff. In the last Third Tuesday meetup, I heard from RichardAtDell, a member of the Dell social media team.   I don’t know any other way you can hear from insightful speakers at no cost.

From my experience, where there’s a small charge for a meetup, the proceeds were given to a charity.

DISADVANTAGES?

Meetups have a few disadvantages, but all of these are workable. First, there are too many meetups; just check Meetup.com to see how many alternatives there are. There’s  a quick solution for this: Use the “find” feature on Meetup and try several keywords that’s related to your interest. If you’re on Twitter,you can also keep an eye out for what meetups your professional networks are attending.

Some also question the quality of the meetups. As I’ve already said, my experience with meetups so far have been great. If you’re really worried, though, you can check the rating of a meetup before you RSVP.

CONCLUSION: Meetups are a great way to learn new things and meet new people.  If you’re a student, you should take some time from your busy schedule to attend these events. It’s an affordable way to develop your skills and grow your network at the same time.

Ever been to a meetup? I’d love to hear your experiences – share them with me!

The Story of Electronics

Note: This blog post originally appeared in the AIESEC SFU blog where I regularly contribute.

Ever wonder what happens to your old iPod when you decide to replace it? Or to your old cellphone once you decide that it’s time to move on with a Blackberry or an iPhone?

The Story of Electronics tries to take on that question that we often fail to ask: what happens to our old gadgets once we decide to dump them?

For some of us, it’s a question we never really thought about. We dump our stuff in the garbage, and that’s where it ends. Some of us try to be more green and drop off our old electronics at a recycling centre. The Story of Electronics video exposes the consequences of e-waste and recommends some ways we can tackle this issue as a society.

Main takeaway for me? That this is not an issue we can solve via consumption. The proposed “Take Back” programs certainly sounds interesting and something we should all look into supporting. It’s also pretty clear that this issue can be solved mostly through sweeping policy changes and our individual choices when we shop.

I love technology –  I can’t really imagine a day without my iPhone. But sustainability is also an issue I care about. Watch the video and take action today.

By the way, if you want more information about the Story of Electronics, visit its official website. The video is a sequel to the video “The Story of Stuff”, which went viral and is now being used by some institutions to educate the youth about environmental sustainability.

11 Basic Best Practices for Email Newsletters

As part of a social media project I’m working on, I spent some time tonight researching different email marketing tools. I also looked for best practices when sending newsletters.

The result? Some surprises – others, not so much. Here are my top 11 findings:

1. Keep emails social – i.e. Make sure subscribers can easily share your emails with friends/followers. Also, make it easy for them to spot links to your social networking sites.
2. Send welcome note. Establish the relationship early.
3. Avoid the following words: free, help, percent off, reminder, donation.
4. Avoid using the exact same subject line.  Avoid exclamation marks.
5. Use 50 characters or less in the subject line. Consider the use of questions in the subject line
6. Do the occasional A/B testing.
7. Never buy or rent a list. (Get people to subscribe.)
8. Avoid spammy phrases; also, avoid all caps. e.g. “CLICK HERE NOW!!!” or “LIMITED TIME OFFER!”
9. Make it easy for subscribers to unsunscribe if they want to.
10. Include your organization name in the “From” line.
11. Include great content.

I do send email newsletters in my current job, and so this was also of particular interest to me. I think doing A/B testing is really important because, as I’ve learned in the last Net Tuesday meetup I attended, what works for one company may not work at all for another organization. Including great content is another no-brainer, but it’s nevertheless good to be reminded to do it.

It’s a bit of a surprise to learn that using the word “help” is not a good idea. Same with “free”. I suppose we see these words so frequently now that we (and the spam filters) just assume that marketers use these to trick consumers.

Did any of these tips surprise you? To read more about email newsletter best practices, visit these helpful pages from MailChimp and Emma.

HOW TO: Get a Job Using Social Media (and Other Traditional Tactics)

On the WordPress home page, I stumbled upon a featured article titled “How NOT to Get a Job After Graduation”.  To my surprise, the article consisted of an awesome slideshow (embedded below).  An even bigger surprise was the second half of the presentation, which included tips on how to leverage social media in your job search.

I’ll let you get through the presentation yourself, but what stuck out to me is this: that although social media has changed the dynamics of job search a bit,  the basic system pretty much remains intact – i.e. as follows:

Research > Create a Target List > Reach Out

Tip #6 (Don’t “Lose It” Once You Land a Job) is also a good one. With the availability of sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook nowadays, it’s really unacceptable to lose touch with your connections.

Adding “Takeaway Tweets” on her presentation was another nice surprise. What a genius idea! Seriously! Making it easy for your audience to tweet about your presentation is such a great tactic. It builds buzz arout your event, but it also ensures that they don’t spend too much time thinking of something to type and (therefore) not listening to you.

On a side note, it’s great to see that she’s from PR, a field I’m kind of thinking about right now.  (I’ll be following her blog from now on.)

Anyway, just go through the presentation below. I think you’ll be impressed.