Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Google+ About To Hit 10 Million Users [REPORT]”

Mashable: Latest 29 News Updates - including “Google+ About To Hit 10 Million Users [REPORT]”

Google+ About To Hit 10 Million Users [REPORT]

Posted: 12 Jul 2011 05:16 AM PDT

Google’s social network, Google+, might be one of the fastest-growing networks ever, having already reached 10 million users according to one estimate.

Paul Allen, of Ancestry.com – not to be confused with Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen – has developed an interesting methodology to calculate the number of Google+ members.

He sampled a number of surnames from the U.S. Census Bureau data and compared it to surnames of Google+ users. By comparing surname popularity in the U.S. with the number of users on Google+ with each surname, he can guesstimate the percentage of the U.S. population that signed up for Google+. Finally, he calculated a ratio of U.S. to non-U.S. users to generate an estimate for the number of Google+ users worldwide.

The result? According to Allen’s estimates, Google+ has approximately 9.5 million users worldwide, with 2.2 million joining in the past 32 to 34 hours.

This is amazing growth even for a giant such as Google: We cannot remember any social network reaching so many members so quickly after its release.

Coming from a third party, the data is obviously unofficial (we asked Google for comment on these numbers, but haven’t yet heard from them) and should be taken with a grain of salt. If they’re true, though, they indicate that – after so many stumbles – Google might finally be conquering the social networking arena.

More About: Google, social network, social networking

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Step Into a Mobile Photo Booth With PopBooth for iPhone & iPad

Posted: 12 Jul 2011 04:59 AM PDT

Startup Sincerely, makers of Postagram for iPhone and Android, continues its mobile-photos-meet-the-real-world mission with the release of PopBooth, an iPhone and iPad 2 app that turns your mobile device into an old-fashioned photo booth.

PopBooth for iPhone and iPad uses the front-facing camera to let you snap four shots in a photo booth-like fashion. You can then choose to apply a filter, à la Instagram, to all captures.

The final result is a photo strip you can send and share via Facebook or email, or have printed and shipped for $2.99. The hard copy PopBooth photo strips are printed at 300dip resolution on thick card stock are delivered as two printed six-inch photo strips.

The inspiration for PopBooth, says Sincerely co-founder Matt Brezina, was fellow co-founder Bryan Kennedy’s wedding. “People love photo booths at weddings, but they are expensive,” says Brezina. “He thought it’d be cool if someone could pass around an iPad with a free app and get the same result at a much lower cost.”

It seems fitting then that the PopBooth for iPad application includes a Party Mode feature that the Sincerely team believes is ideal for weddings, conferences and other social gathers. The idea behind Party Mode is to transform the iPad 2 into a digital and mobile photo booth that attendees can use to make their own photo strips.

PopBooth cleverly re-imagines the photo booth for a mobile photo-obsessed generation and we suspect Sincerely’s second product will become a fast hit on the App Store.

PopBooth Photo Strips

PopBooth iPad 2 Camera

PopBooth iPad 2 Filters

PopBooth iPad 2 Order Form

PopBooth iPhone Filters

PopBooth iPhone Order Preview

More About: iPad 2 apps, iphone app, Mobile 2.0, mobile photo sharing, PopBooth, Sincerely

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Google’s Photo Sharing Service Photovine Gets a Website

Posted: 12 Jul 2011 02:20 AM PDT

The site for Google’s new photo-related project Photovine has gone live, but the actual product or app is still missing.

Located at photovine.com, the site currently features an image of a mobile app – interestingly, the device in the image is definitely an iPhone and not an Android device – and a short description of the upcoming product: “Photovine is a fun way to learn more about your friends, meet new people, and share your world like never before.”

The site also contains a Privacy Policy that says, “Photovine is offered by Slide (part of Google Inc),” as well as a support page that explains some details about the project.

“Photovine is a community that’s about creating fun and unique collections of photos that we call Vines,” the support page says, explaining that a vine is “like a constantly growing family of photos connected through a common caption created by you, your friends, and people all over the world”. Google also makes it clear that it will not tolerate just any kind of photo. “As a rule of thumb, if you wouldn’t want your family to see it, you probably shouldn’t post it,” the support page says.

At this point it’s unclear whether this project is connected with Google’s recently launched social networking service Google+, but it seems to be an independent product.

Recent reports indicated that Facebook is working on a photo-sharing app of its own, and in March 2011, a photo-sharing app called Color piqued a lot of interest, which seems to have largely dissipated by now.

[via Business Insider]

More About: App, Google, photo, photo sharing, Photovine, trending

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Private Messaging iPhone App Auto-Organizes Your Friends Into Groups

Posted: 11 Jul 2011 09:01 PM PDT

Google+’s Circle-driven social network tasks its users to manually dump their friends into buckets. But what if it could auto-determine those groups instead?

That is the promise of Katango — the sFund-backed friend relationship management startup formerly called CafeBots — and its powerful people-sorting algorithms.

Tuesday, the startup is launching Katango for iPhone to help mobile users bridge group communication across Facebook, email and SMS, and do so in a more natural fashion.

Katango for iPhone is a group and private messaging application that automatically groups together your contacts by life stage or activity. So groupings will include family members, high school friends, college buddies, co-workers and so forth.

“The charter of sFund companies to think about how to rebuild social from the ground up,” says Yee Lee, Katango’s VP of Product. “Just having one flat social graph isn’t nuanced enough. It’s really important, we think, to have another layer on top of the social graph that is the meta structure of people who really talk together for different reasons.”

That layer is Katango’s algorithms for social organization, which can now be seen in action in the iPhone application.

The application plucks out your address book contacts and Facebook friends and organizes these folks into groups based on patterns of previous social interactions. You can then tweak the groups to your liking and start sending photos or messages to particular groups.

The iPhone app is structured into two tabs: Inbox and Groups. New users will land on the Groups tab and first see the results of Katango’s auto-structuring, with friends’ faces highlighted in horizontal scrolling filmstrips. Here you can click the compose icon to post photos and messages to group members. The Inbox serves as a feed of activity where you can see responses and follow group threads.

How and where messages are delivered via Katango’s iPhone app is quite unique as well. An iPhone address book contact will receive content via email or SMS and a Facebook friend will receive a photo or message as a privately locked-down wall post on Facebook.

With Katango for iPhone, siloed modes of communication — Facebook user to Facebook user, for instance — are out. “The user really shouldn’t have to worry about it anymore,” says Lee.

Katango for iPhone is just the startup’s initial release of its social organization technology. A similar Android client is on the immediate roadmap, and Lee says that Katango has broader plans to help people use their auto-created groups as viewing filters for Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter stream activity.

“Social search is also an interesting idea,” Lee says. “A lot of companies are usual social search as a content discovery mechanism. We’re thinking of it in terms of actual search for people. If you were to type in “kiteboarding” and be able to get back a list of your friends who are into kiteboarding, that’s a really interesting and exciting functionality we’d like to bring to market” he explains.

Katango was founded as CafeBots in 2010. It was the first startup to receive funding from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers’ sFund.



Message Group

Compose Message

Private Message to Group

More About: cafebots, group messaging, groups, iphone app, Katango, sfund, social networking

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StumbleUpon Launches New iPad App With “Social Bar”

Posted: 11 Jul 2011 09:00 PM PDT

Web discovery tool StumbleUpon launched a revamped iPad app on Tuesday features the service’s first “social bar.”

The new bar creates a section on each “Stumbled” page that highlights a user who also liked the page. If someone who you follow on StumbleUpon liked the page, his or her avatar might show up there. If not, now might be the point when StumbleUpon introduces you to someone new who you’d like to follow. You can click through to his or her StumbleUpon profile to see whether this is the case.

“We do a good job of connecting people algorithmically who might never meet in the real world,” says StumbleUpon VP of Business Development Marc Leibowitz. But, he says, the company has received a lot of feedback from users who also want to see what their friends are liking. The new feature is a response to that feedback, and one that could expand to include more than one featured “liker” or extend to other StumbleUpon platforms.

Though the only new functionality, the social bar is just one small tweak in a completely revamped user interface for the app. Photo thumbnails for your interests and the people who you are following have replaced a “recommended for you” list. Quick links to photos, videos and news have replaced a long sidebar of categories. And you can now swipe to stumble instead of hitting the button, which is not an easy feat considering the data involved in the personal recommendation process.

It makes sense that StumbleUpon is investing in its mobile apps — like most web companies, mobile is its fastest growing area.

The company launched its first iPad App, which was also its first mobile product, back in April 2010. Shortly later, it launched iPhone and Android apps.

Today stumbles on the three platforms combined are growing about 35% month over month and account for about 10% of the stumbles that StumbleUpon’s more than 15 million users make every month.

Leibowitz hints that the company might also be looking for mobile stumblers on new platforms in the future.

“It’s not inconceivable that we would do this with other tablet devices,” he says.

Graphic courtesy StumbleUpon

More About: App, ipad, social bar, stumbleupon

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Add a Personal Touch To Any Webpage With BO.LT

Posted: 11 Jul 2011 08:07 PM PDT

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark. If you would like to have your startup considered for inclusion, please see the details here.

Name: BO.LT

Quick Pitch: BO.LT is a platform that allows anyone to copy, edit, comment on, endorse, share and socialize any webpage.

Genius Idea: Add your own personal touch to the webpages you share.

Great applications and services make people feel more powerful. Such is the belief of Jamie Roche, one half of the fraternal twosome behind BO.LT, a startup that exited invite-only stage one week ago.

BO.LT empowers its users by letting them remix any webpage and do so anonymously, should they so desire.

Here’s how te service works: Enter a URL, just as you would on any URL shortening service, and BO.LT creates an exact replica of the page, storing the copy on BO.LT’s custom-built network. You can then annotate the page, alter it as you see fit and share the end result with friends or followers. BO.LT tracks views and clicks, along with where — mobile, Facebook or Google — visitors come from.

BO.LT’s page-editing options are quite sophisticated and allow for adding links, deleting chunks of page content and replacing webpage images with your own. Simply mouse over a section to select it, and then choose from the available options.

With BO.LT, you become the new owner of the web content you want to share. As Roche sees it, that’s an incredibly empowering value proposition.

“The days of building a beautiful website and having people come to it are long gone,” Roche says on his power-to-the-web-consumer stance. He believes that BO.LT can help publishers reach wider audiences by encouraging visitors to mix-and-match publisher content with their own personal content.

In addition to web-browsing consumers, the tool is also meant to appeal to marketers. For instance, Rickshaw Bagworks, a built-to-order bag maker in San Francisco, uses BO.LT to market bags fresh off the production line. A team member takes an iPhone photo of the bag, emails the photo into a custom BO.LT template and then tweets the BO.LT-enhanced page to @Rickshawbags account followers.

In response to the question of who the product is best-suited for, Roche says that BO.LT “has two audiences and is actively serving both,” adding that, “the distinction between a marketer and consumer has blurred.”

Ultimately, Roche sees the startup as a content-delivery platform that will compete directly with large internet infrastructure companies such as Akamai or Amazon.

BO.LT was founded in 2010 and secured $5 million in funding from Benchmark Capital. The startup launched in invite-only stage in April, opened its doors to the public last week and is said to have tens of thousands of users. Roche expects BO.LT to serve one billion pageviews before the end of the year.

Series Supported by Microsoft BizSpark

Microsoft BizSpark

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark, a startup program that gives you three-year access to the latest Microsoft development tools, as well as connecting you to a nationwide network of investors and incubators. There are no upfront costs, so if your business is privately owned, less than three years old, and generates less than U.S.$1 million in annual revenue, you can sign up today.

More About: bizspark, BO.LT, spark-of-genius, startup

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Foursquare to Offer Daily Deals From Groupon, Gilt & Others

Posted: 11 Jul 2011 05:26 PM PDT

Location-based service Foursquare is adding a new marketing component to its popular mobile apps.

Soon, the startup will be incorporating daily deals from partners such as Groupon, LivingSocial, Gilt Groupe and others into its product.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Foursquare co-founder and CEO Dennis Crowley stated the company would be passing on daily coupons from these marketing partners to the service’s users — and taking a cut of the revenue along the way.

“We are trying to see if our targeting works and how users will react,” Crowley told the Journal.

Currently, Foursquare partners directly with around half a million merchants, many of them small and medium-sized businesses, who use the service as a marketing medium. Through these accounts, merchants are able to deliver specials, including discounts and freebies, to users who check in at their locations.

However, merchants don’t pay for the privilege, and Foursquare makes no money from these merchant-initiated specials.

Foursquare recently passed the 10 million user milestone. The startup also raised a $50 million Series C just last month.

More About: daily deals, foursquare, groupon

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Hulu Plus & Netflix Faceoff [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted: 11 Jul 2011 04:49 PM PDT

When it comes to subscription streaming services in the United States, what option is most popular with users?

According to a new infographic from social media monitoring company Mashwork, users in the United States prefer Netflix over its subscription streaming competitor Hulu Plus.

Mashwork monitored more than 10,000 tweets between June 28, 2010 and July 6, 2011 and found that 29% of users had a Netflix account while 20% had a Hulu Plus account.

The real eye-opener, however, is the revelation that 51% of the tweets were from users looking to cut their cable subscriptions in lieu of a streaming subscription service.

We’re not surprised that Netflix has the upper hand. The service has been around longer, is available on more devices and has a larger library of television shows and movies. Still, Hulu continues to add features, shows and compatible devices to its Hulu Plus lineup. With rumors that Google and Yahoo are interested in acquiring the service, its brand is still very valuable.

Mashwork’s study, which was composed of Twitter message, isn’t what we would calls scientific, but it does highlight a growing trend of cutting cable subscription services in lieu of those available via connected devices.

A Hill Holliday study from earlier this year showed that cutting the cord is actually harder than it might first appear, but that doesn’t mean that consumers aren’t willing to test the waters.

More About: connected devices, hulu plus, netflix, streaming, subscription streaming

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Harry Potter Gets the “Friday” Treatment in Mock Trailer [VIDEO]

Posted: 11 Jul 2011 03:39 PM PDT

Each day, Mashable highlights one noteworthy YouTube video. Check out all our viral video picks.

The final installment of Harry Potter premieres on Friday, and, appropriately, someone has created a Potter-themed cover of Rebecca Black’s “Friday” to mark the occasion.

The production quality of this vid — created by The Hillywood Show — is pretty solid, and the actors look eerily similar to the real deal, but we feel there was a missed opportunity here when it comes to the surname shared by Rebecca and Sirius Black.

More About: Film, Friday, harry potter, humor, pop culture, Rebecca Black, viral-video-of-day

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5 Legal Considerations for Your Social Media Campaign

Posted: 11 Jul 2011 03:19 PM PDT

law image

Gonzalo E. Mon is a partner in the Advertising Law practice at Kelley Drye & Warren LLP. Read more on Kelley Drye's advertising blog, Ad Law Access, or keep up with the group on Facebook or Twitter.

Most companies enjoy the benefits of having a social media presence, but not every company also appreciates the legal risks that can lurk there. Companies have run into legal problems, and been forced to defend their social media campaigns in public, in front of regulators or in courts.

All of this, however, can be mediated with a little knowledge and forethought. Although each social media campaign should be evaluated individually, there are at least five legal considerations every company should note.

1. Be Transparent

It would be great if your customers spontaneously started to praise your product via social media, but that won’t always happen on its own. Sometimes, you need to get things started yourself. It's OK to do that, but you need to ensure you do so in a transparent manner so that people know the content is coming from the company and not from consumers. There have been a number of cases in which companies have gotten in trouble when their employees posed as ordinary consumers and praised the company online. For example, in the past year, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has entered into settlements with two companies that faked consumer reviews.

The same advice goes if you use bloggers to promote your products. The FTC's guidelines for endorsements state that if there is a "material connection" between an advertiser and an endorser, the endorser must disclose that connection. If you pay a blogger, give a blogger free samples or provide other benefits to the blogger, the blogger may need to disclose that in his or her posts.

The onus doesn’t just lie with the blogger. The FTC has investigated companies whose bloggers failed to make the proper disclosure and has made it clear that the companies themselves can be held liable if bloggers fail to comply. It pays to establish guidelines for your bloggers.

2. Don't Invite Problems

One of the scariest aspects of social media is that companies can get in trouble for what consumers do in the context of a company's social media campaign, even if a company didn't authorize it. For example, over the past few years, companies have been sued over content that consumers posted on their sites when that content allegedly violated someone's copyrights, included false claims or contained defamatory statements. Fortunately, courts have generally held that companies are not liable for problematic content posted by consumers.

But those rulings don’t mean blanket immunity. Courts have also determined that companies can be liable if they play a role in developing the problematic content. For example, when Quiznos was sued over content posted by consumers on its website, a court held that a jury would have to examine what Quiznos did to solicit the content and decide whether the company stepped over the line.

Be careful not to invite problems and consider providing clear guidelines about what consumers can and cannot do. Some of the laws that offer you protection also dictate what you must do to enjoy that protection, so be sure to check with your legal team.

3. Remember That Laws Apply

There is a tendency to think that because social media is so casual and campaigns can be launched so quickly, the laws that govern "traditional" media campaigns don't apply in the social media space. Not so. Facebook sweepstakes are usually governed by sweepstakes law spread out across all 50 states. This can dictate how you structure the sweepstakes, what disclosures you need to make and whether you need to register with regulators before you launch.

Keep in mind that the platform you use for your campaign may also have its own rules. For example, Facebook has issued promotions guidelines that apply to a variety of promotions on its platform.

4. Keep Some Control

It's axiomatic that the more control you turn over to consumers, the less control you have. It's possible that your consumers always play nice and do what you like, but that's not always the case. Imagine, for example, that you run a contest in which you ask consumers to name your newest product and that the winner will be selected entirely by public vote.

What are you going to do when the consumer whose entry you hate the most manages to rally all of his friends to vote day and night? If you turn over complete control to consumers, you may not like the results. Indeed, many companies have found that they were "too successful" in getting consumers engaged and regretted the way their campaigns turned out. Balance your desire to let your consumers speak with your own need to have control over the outcome.

5. Think Before You Act

Things don't always work out the way you want them to. In social media, problems often play out in public, so most companies try to address problems quickly to prevent bad news from spreading. Keep in mind that those solutions will also play out in public.

Sometimes an ill-planned solution can be worse than the original problem. There are times when taking down a problematic post is the right answer and times when taking it down may make things worse. There are also times when your customers will respect you for admitting a problem and times when your admission could be Exhibit A in a subsequent court proceeding. When something goes wrong, assemble all of the relevant stakeholders (including the legal team) and carefully think through your options before you act.

Image courtesy of Flickr, orangesparrow

More About: business, facebook, law, legal, social media, startup

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Awkward Family Photos Website Launches Board Game

Posted: 11 Jul 2011 03:01 PM PDT

In addition to books and a bunch of other random merchandise, that popular website focusing on familial agony — Awkward Family Photos — now has a board game as well.

I had the chance to check out the game (from All Things Equal) this weekend, and much like its namesake, it is both fun… and awkward.

There’s a board decorated with a plethora of awkward photos, as well as decks of cards featuring those same snaps. Each player gets five colored chips, as well as paper and pencil (which bears the game’s title).

One player flips over a card, revealing the awkwardness below, and rolls the dice. He or she matches the number on the dice to one of the numbers around the periphery of the board. Next to each number is a directive (Example: Describe what happened right before this picture was taken).

The players who did not roll the die follow the directive, writing down their answers on the piece of paper. One of the players takes the papers, reads off the contents, and then the dice roller chooses the best answer, and guesses who wrote it. The winner gets to put a chip on the corresponding photo on the board. The first person to get rid of all five clips win.

Yup. A little complicated, and well, awkward, but definitely fun if you have friends with creative (or twisted) minds.

More About: awkward family photos, game, humor, memes, pop culture

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HOW TO: Measure the Success of Group Buying Deals

Posted: 11 Jul 2011 02:40 PM PDT

Jonty Kelt is CEO of Group Commerce, a white label group buying platform that enables publishers and media companies to succeed in the daily deal market. Before cofounding Group Commerce, he led DoubleClick’s search technology and services businesses in Europe and Asia, through the acquisition by Google.

In today's daily deal market, rigorous performance measurement often takes a backseat to sensational success stories. A fascination with these "blockbuster" deals is understandable; even more than the millions of dollars in revenues they generate, they embody the promise of this emerging space.

As is often the case with new markets, these incredible stories, widely reported in both tech and mainstream media, have helped galvanize excitement around (and entrants to) the deals industry. However, this enthrallment with revenue leads to a critical misunderstanding — namely, that the relative success of a deal can best be measured by the number of deals sold (and revenue generated).

While revenue is an important indicator in any industry, it's also frequently among the most deceptive. As Group Buying 2.0 takes shape, partly fueled by traditional publishers keen to introduce deals programs to their large audiences, participants are increasingly looking to determine which metrics should be prioritized in evaluating program efficacy — specifically, which numbers are going to tell you the whole story.

Over the past few months, my company has been particularly interested in the "send-to-conversion" rate on offers, which measures how well a certain group of people responds to an offer. This is a classic ecommerce metric that has been previously used to evaluate send-to-targeted lists for coupons, emails and other uses, and is now providing invaluable insight into analyzing the performance of deals. The STC calculation has been and continues to be widely used to monitor the effectiveness of group deals.

The send-to-conversion of a deal is calculated by dividing the number of offers sold by the number of emails to which the offer was sent:

Clearly, a number of different variables have an impact on the STC rate of a given deal: price, discount and relevancy to the defined group all play into this calculation, along with a number of other merchandising factors (e.g. seasonability). Additionally, and perhaps most critically, STC is particularly useful because it prevents daily deal providers from being deceived by list size, and helps place the focus instead on engagement and program efficiency.

How so? Well, one question we hear a lot is, "How large of a local list is needed to make a deals program profitable?" The answer depends largely on the list characteristics. If the list has a highly-engaged, vertically-focused audience in a tight geographic radius, then 30,000 emails could generate real revenue — and far more efficiently than a more general list sent across a wider geography. In fact, one of our clients recently released an offer to its modestly-sized, vertically-focused local Facebook list. The offer sold out in less than three hours, achieving an extraordinarily high STC rate.

In addition to maximizing program efficiency (specifically, revenue per dollar spent on program), tracking STC is critical precisely because deals are a new type of content. Sending an irrelevant deal to a publisher's audience can be off-putting, and will increase unsubscribe rates and reduce traffic. Even if more offers are sold by sending to a larger list, the send-to-conversion will be lower than with a more concentrated list, and audience apathy can eventually devalue the larger list.

Finally, it also should be noted that the denominator in the send-to-conversion calculation also has implications for sales force compensation, which can be based on total revenue from a deal or on deal revenue per email sent. In the latter case, a large, untargeted list will result in low revenue per email, making the work of sourcing offers for that list unappealing and further driving down the quality of offers.

Final Thoughts

It's important to remember that price-point has a strong impact on STC. For example, a $1,000 deal on a spa getaway is going to convert at a lower rate than a $6 deal for movie tickets, but may ultimately result in greater revenue per recipient, and therefore represent a better offer for the client. As a result, STC gains additional accuracy by normalizing with revenue per email — a process that we're still refining in my line of work.

As with any emerging industry, new metrics will continue to be developed. It will be critical for both merchants and publishers participating in the space to respond by evolving their respective approaches. More than anything, the diversity of opinions surrounding Groupon's planned IPO highlights the difficulty inherent in achieving consensus in the current climate. How will the next generation of metrics inform the valuation process of players like Groupon? Time will tell.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, mattjeacock

More About: business, group buying, groupon, MARKETING, metric, send to conversion

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Got a Minute? Website Requires You To Sit Still for Japan Memorial

Posted: 11 Jul 2011 02:13 PM PDT

sun image

July 11 marks four months since the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami that slammed Japan’s coastline. The natural disaster claimed thousands of lives, wrecked massive damage and caused a disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Even though the initial trauma may be over, there is still much rebuilding and emotional recovery to be done. This was the impetus behind Still for Japan, a website that asks people around the world to observe a minute of still contemplation.

Indeed, the only way to see the website is to keep still for 60 seconds. Any typing or movement of your mouse will cause the screen to pause until you stop fidgeting. The site draws influence from donothingfor2minutes.com, a viral sensation that also required viewers to sit still.

Still for Japan adapts that principle and puts it towards a good cause. As viewers sit, they are greeted by woodblock-style illustrations and a giant sun. The sun rises, revealing information about the disaster and words of support and Japanese proverbs, such as “In adversity we are saved by hope. Perseverance is strength.” The site is a collaboration between VCU Brand Center, McKinney and Clear Channel, which will be donating space on its Times Square digital billboard and its radio stations across New York.

japan map image

The initial goal of the campaign is to reach 180,000 minutes of stillness, one for every dead, injured, missed, orphaned, homeless and radiation victim from the disaster. The second is to reach 1,031,704 minutes, the number of people in the Sendai Prefecture.

The idea came from Kaede Seville, a New York-based Japanese reporter, who wanted to show Japan that the world still supports it. She teamed up with 27 students at VCU Brandcenter to make the site a reality.

After sitting through 60 seconds, viewers are presented with a map of minutes, a short video about the project and a way to share their support through various social platforms.

As the website says: “After a tragedy, one of the most comforting feelings is to know you are not alone.”

What do you think of donating time instead of money? Is emotional support just as important as the huge outpouring of financial support? Let us know in the comments below.

More About: charity, japan, japan earthquake, non-profit, social good, still for japan, tsunami

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Geo-Dating: OKCupid Adds Location to Mobile App

Posted: 11 Jul 2011 02:00 PM PDT

OKCupid has added a handful of location-based features to make spur-of-the-moment dating easier.

As of last week, OKCupid started beta testing three location features within its mobile app (iPhone and Android):

  • 1) Broadcasts. This allows you to let your best matches know that you’re free now and suggest activities. You can even include photos. Other users can browse your Broadcasts — and vice-versa — and reply to those they find interesting.
  • 2). Locals. This shows you matches nearby (this is handy, considering OKCupid only lets you search for matches within a 25- to 500-mile radius). One can then indicate that they would like to meet those locals, and chosen folks will get a notification.
  • 3). Notifications. OKCupid will let you know when a good match is nearby.

We can see these new features posing a threat to pre-existing location-based dating apps, which can sometimes function as hookup services more than anything else. Yes, the whole “clicking and letting someone know you want to meet them now” thing is a little creepy, but the Broadcast feature, which allows users to suggest specific, date-like activities seems a bit more structured. Suggest a date, and see who bites.

In fact, “Broadcasts” strongly recalls HowAboutWe’s new iPhone app, which allows users to suggest dates tied to locations. Still, HowAboutWe’s offering is less about in-the-moment meetings than it is about planning interesting dates.

What do you think of the addition of location to a booming dating site? (OKCupid was acquired by Match.com for $50 million in February.) Creepy or clever?

Image courtesy of Flickr, gareth1953

More About: android, iphone, location, Mobile 2.0, okcupid, online dating

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The Biggest Tech IPOs of 2011 [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted: 11 Jul 2011 01:25 PM PDT

It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that 2011 is the year of the technology IPO.

Linkedin kicked off the tech IPO wave with its successful public offering. The company is now worth more than $9.5 billion. Pandora quickly followed suit. And later this year, Groupon and Zynga will hold their multi-billion dollar IPOs.

Singlegrain decided to condense the biggest tech IPOs of 2011 into a single infographic. It provides an overview of how each of these technology giants turned into billion-dollar Wall Street darlings.

Check out the infographic, and let us know what you think of the tech IPO boom in the comments.

More About: groupon, infographic, ipo, linkedin, pandora, Zynga

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Can Social Media Help Feed A Billion Hungry People?

Posted: 11 Jul 2011 01:06 PM PDT

To celebrate World Population Day, the World Food Program has launched a campaign to pair a billion Internet users with the billion-plus hungry people in the world.

The Billion for a Billion campaign makes a stark contrast between the daily activities of the digital community and the world’s have-nots. During the one minute you spent watching the above video, more than 145 million emails will be sent, more than 2 million other YouTube videos will be watched, $43,681 will be spent on eBay, 83,273 people will log onto Facebook, 2,083 tweets will be sent and 10 children will die from hunger.

The World Food Program estimates there are the same number of people surfing the Internet as there are living in hunger. The United Nations Population Fund has also joined the good fight, launching its 7 Billion Actions campaign in an effort to pledge one good deed for every person on the planet. (The world’s population is expected to hit 7 billion sometime this year.)

To get involved on World Population Day, you can pledge a deed at 7 Billions Actions or sign up to help feed the “hungry billion.” You can share out a series of messages on your social sites, such as “Reading this? You're 1 of the online billion who can help the hungry billion.” On Twitter, you can use the hashtag #b4b, or download a special background for your account.

There are also a slew of other options available such as planning parties (which the World Food Program may stream online), signing a petition, or donating. Just $5 can give healthy school meals to a child, $100 can provide food to 1,000 victims of emergencies, and $170 can feed a person for one year.

You can see where your donations will land on this map [PDF].

How else can the online billion help the hungry billion? Let us know in the comments.

More About: a billion for a billion, charity, Food, non-profit, social good, UN World Food Program, world food programme, world population day

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Zappos Ads Use QR Codes to Dress Naked Women

Posted: 11 Jul 2011 12:52 PM PDT

Zappos has launched an ad campaign that expands the definition of “interactive” — by using QR codes to let consumers dress naked models featured in print ads.

The ads, breaking later this month, seek to drive home the point that Zappos offers “more than shoes,” so that phrase is splashed across the otherwise nude women’s nether regions. The QR codes then lead to a website with a video showing what happened to the women after the ad. Consumers can choose an outfit for the women and go to Zappos to buy it.

The ads feature just women for now, but will add a male character at the end of the month, according to The New York Times.

The campaign is a departure from Zappos’s previous creative approach, which featured Crank Yankers-like puppet dramatizations of Zappos sales reps handing customers’ inquiries.

Note: The ads below don’t contain the QR codes. A rep for Mullen, the ad agency that created the campaign, says they will be added when the ads go live.

More About: advertising, MARKETING, QR Codes, Zappos

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10 Tips for Better B2B Community Management

Posted: 11 Jul 2011 12:31 PM PDT

Business Network

Maria Ogneva is the Head of Community at Yammer, where she is in charge of social media, community programs, internal education and engagement. You can follow her on Twitter, her blog, and via Yammer’s Twitter account and company blog.

The communities most of us are familiar with tend to be customer or fan-facing. However, business-to-business (B2B) communities are also an important part of the social media experience.

Social media has changed the way we relate to each other, and even when you talk to business users, you are interacting with people inside those companies first and foremost. To ensure success in managing your community of business users, here are 10 best practices.

1. Know When to Create Your Own Community

It doesn't always make sense to create your own community. Depending on your intentions, you may opt to join an already existing community. If you plan to lead conversations focused on serving your industry in general, just join that community and take a prominent role there. If, however, your community is more narrowly focused around your product, you will probably want to create a unique destination.

2. Think Through the Purpose

If you opt to create one, remember that each community should have a purpose and a vision — otherwise, chaos will ensue. Are you creating a user community or a broader best practices forum for your industry? Do you want to foster a better dialogue between customers or inform the product road map and gather feedback? Or both?

How will community members interact, contribute or learn by being a part of your conversation? Will it revolve around vertical applications of your product? If so, you may want to think about having several vertical-based communities.

3. Establish Membership Guidelines

Think about whom you want to invite and how people should join. If you’re aiming to create an industry-wide best practices exchange, you may opt to have a completely open community. If your community is more of a value-add for VIP clients, with personalized help from their account managers, you should opt for a private, invite-only community. You should also figure out if your membership will be open to employees of your company, and if so, which ones. Your community’s purpose should drive these guidelines.

4. Understand Your Members

It's imperative that you understand what business users and their employees need from your product. When your community serves business users, its job is to help those people get their jobs done. Think about how you can make them look like rockstars in front of their peers and managers.

5. Outline Roles

Depending on your type of community membership, you’ll need to structure participants' roles. This is especially necessary for a newly launched or relaunched community. In a large community, a subset of superusers can become moderators or take on an advisory role. This status promotion should be aspirational. Make it clear how someone can achieve that status, and empower the community to "self-police."

If you have a more intimate community where both employees and top customers participate, place employees in consultative roles, but beware of clashing objectives.

6. Establish a Vision and Charter

The clearer you are from the beginning, the better off the community will be. Establish a charter and a set of goals driven by your community's purpose. Let members know which behaviors are frowned upon, and which will not be tolerated. Share all of this with the community as well as internally with your company.

7. Success Metrics

Now that you've stated your purpose, membership and roles guidelines, decide how you will measure success. You should track community health metrics, such as growth, engagement and the percentage of active users. Additionally, make sure you align your success metrics to overarching business objectives. If a better customer experience is the primary goal, you should measure the impact of your community on satisfaction scores and customer sentiment. If education via best practices is a goal, you should see fewer support tickets and higher usage and renewal rates.

8. Have a Community Manager

Each active community should have a designated community manager. Although you should empower your community to self-sustain, active community management establishes accountability.

9. Establish Internal Processes

You should work cross-functionally to ensure that the community doesn't operate in a vacuum. You will probably have amazing insights and feedback coming from inside the community. Ensure you are sharing insightswith the right teams internally to facilitate dialogue.

10. Enable Sharing

People love to share their successes, whether for bragging rights, to be viewed as an expert, or to help others. On the other hand, listening to others' successes helps people visualize success. This is especially key for business users who are often tasked with proving ROI and who need to point to demonstrable examples of someone else's success. In your community, encourage members to share their successes publicly and point these stories in the direction of other community members who are grappling with a similar problem.

Of course, there are basics of solid community management that apply across both consumer and business communities. You should be building up community advocacy, facilitating (not forcing) the conversation and monitoring engagement. Ask yourself if your community helps people do their jobs. If the answer is no, course-correct, and you will be on your way to success.

Images courtesy of iStockphoto, studiovision, max_carpenter

More About: b2b, business, communities, community management, forums, List, Lists, online communities, social media

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Interactive Music Video Lets You Watch 12 Videos at Once

Posted: 11 Jul 2011 12:08 PM PDT

Why watch one music video when you can watch 12 music videos? More is always better — that’s the idea behind the interactive music video for The Bynars’ single, “How Does It Feel to Be in Love?”

“How Does It Feel to Be in Love?” (click to see the video) is a rather simplistic, repetitive jam from Boston-based synthpop band The Bynars’ self-titled album [iTunes link].

The video presents you with a Rubik’s Cube of videos to click through. Mimicking the song’s simplicity, the videos — cast by and large in a primary color glow — basically contain the band members playing their instruments, and a quartet of stoic furries (reminiscent of the menacing pandas in LCD Soundsystem’s “Drunk Girls” video).

The vid (which is rendered in Flash) isn’t the most innovative in its class, but it’s definitely a fun diversion to get you through this Mon-daze.

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Twitter’s Ecosystem Now Includes 1 Million Apps

Posted: 11 Jul 2011 11:47 AM PDT

Despite reports to the contrary, Twitter’s developer ecosystem seems to be alive and kicking. The information network now has more than a million registered third-party Twitter applications, the company revealed Monday.

With 1 million applications, Twitter’s ecosystem has growth significantly in the past 12 months. Just one year ago, Twitter had 150,000 registered applications. Now, the company says it has more than 750,000 developers around the world contributing to its developer community.

“A new app is registered every 1.5 seconds, fueling a spike in ecosystem growth in the areas of analytics, curation and publisher tools,” the company writes on its blog.

The highlighted areas of growth are key — and speak to the type of apps that the company is encouraging its developer community to build.

Twitter has been criticized for encouraging third-party development, then building its own products that compete directly. Twitter’s photo-sharing service, which could take away photo-sharing audiences from TwitPic, Yfrog and others, is a recent example of this type of behavior.

Twitter has also acquired app makers such as Tweetie and TweetDeck, making it difficult for other Twitter client makers to compete.

But Twitter has been attempting to clarify its stance toward application makers. In March, the company told developers to steer clear of pure-play Twitter clients. Instead, Twitter would prefer developers focus on social media analysis around Twitter data.

In conjunction with Monday’s announcement, Twitter is also releasing a new Twitter Developer site.

More About: social media, twitter, twitter apps

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More U.S. Adults Own a Smartphone Than Have a Degree

Posted: 11 Jul 2011 11:24 AM PDT

35% of American Adults Own a Smartphone

More Americans own Smartphones than hold a bachelor’s degree or speak another language in their homes, according to a Pew Internet Project report released Monday.

In a telephone survey, 83% of respondents said that they owned a cellphone of some kind and 35% of the 2,277 U.S. adults questioned in English or Spanish said that they owned a smartphone.

Not surprisingly, wealthy, well-educated and young respondents all had high levels of smartphone ownership. African-Americans and Latinos in the survey were also more likely to own smartphones than whites. But just about everyone who owned a smartphone was likely to use that phone to access the Internet.

Nine in 10 smartphone owners (87%) used their phones as Internet portals — about 78% of them did so every day. Nearly a third of smartphone owners use their device as their primary Internet connection.

With so many people relying on their phones for both verbal and digital communication, it’s no wonder the word cloud the researchers compiled to show respondents’ feelings toward their cellphones includes words like “necessary,” “convenient” and even, perhaps somewhat disturbingly, “love.”

Smartphone word cloud

More About: Pew, smartphone usage, study, trending

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Test-Drive a Car & a Date at the Same Time

Posted: 11 Jul 2011 10:32 AM PDT

Skoda's Family Composer

Car company Skoda is getting into the matchmaking business with a new tool that will pair you with your musical soulmate, whom you can then ask to go on a test-driving date.

Skoda launched a website called The Family Composer, which asks users to enter their Facebook and Spotify information (which means it won’t work for U.S. residents — until later this week, most likely) to find a lady or gent who marches to the very same drummer. After being matched, a user can message his/her future mate and ask him/her to jointly test one of Skoda’s family vehicles.

The idea is interesting — if a little half-baked. After all, what does having the same taste in music have to do with buying a car? (Aside from avoiding a lifetime of misery in said car if your mate likes, say, recordings of Tibetan singing bowls while you prefer death metal.) Perhaps if there was some tie-in with Spotify, it would make more sense: Give free Spotify service to successful matches.

If you’re looking for similar matchmaking service, without the brand tie-in, you can check out Tastebuds.fm, a dating site that matches users based on musical tastes.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, 4×6

More About: facebook, MARKETING, music, skoda, spotify

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The R’s Show Their Dark Side in “Mr. Hide” [VIDEO]

Posted: 11 Jul 2011 10:22 AM PDT

Each Monday, Mashable highlights an exclusive new video or song. Check out all our Music Monday picks.

Italian rock band The R’s has released its first single from its U.S. debut record, De Flora Et Fauna. The song, “Mr. Hide,” is a likable bombastic ode to baring all to the one you love.

“I wrote that song to ask the girl I was with to accept my dark side,” says bassist and singer Pietro Paletti. “That’s the Mr. Hyde I’m trying to hide from people. I wrote that song because I felt like I was kind of divided in two, and you get to a point where you have to let people accept your dark side.”

The band strove to keep the imagery in the video spare, so as to focus attention on the music. “We were playing with mirrors in the video, so we tried to announce the duality of the reflection — yourself and the other self reflected into the mirror,” Paletti says.

So did the girl manage to see all that was reflected in Paletti’s soul and accept the darkness present within? “Well, she left me,” he says, laughing. “But not because of the song.”

More About: Mr-Hide, music, music monday, the-rs

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New Apple iPhone 4 Ads Promote FaceTime, AirPlay [VIDEOS]

Posted: 11 Jul 2011 09:23 AM PDT

Apple's iPhone 5 may hit stores as soon as August, but Apple hasn't let up on its support for the current model. Apple this week has released two ads promoting FaceTime and AirPlay.

The FaceTime ad (above) shows off the video chat feature, which lets you set up conversations between two iPhone 4s or an iPhone 4 and a Mac. The ad comes after Facebook announced its Skype-based video chat last week.

Another ad (below) highlights AirPlay, which lets you play music from your iPhone 4 on your home stereo or display iPhone movies or photos on your TV.

The ads, which continue the upbeat the-product-is-the-hero style of previous commercials, comes as the iPhone 4 has been out for a year and rumors of the iPhone 5 and even the iPhone 6 are hitting the blogosphere. With the new releases looming, Apple is no doubt attempting to create demand to clear out old inventory and continue drawing attention to its technological lead on certain mobile fronts.

What do you think of the ads? Let us know in the comments.

More About: airplay, apple, facebook, facetime, iphone 4, iPhone 5, iPhone 6, Skype

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10 Best Practices for Bands on Facebook

Posted: 11 Jul 2011 08:56 AM PDT

The Facebook Marketing Series is supported by Buddy Media, Power Tools for Facebook. Are you posting blindly? Use our insights to help you deliver the right content at the right time and get the results you need. Download our data report now.

Hey, bands, Facebook isn’t just for laughing at formerly popular kids (“Ah, that dude teaches English at our old high school now? Sad.”) whilst swilling whiskey in your tour bus anymore. It’s slowly becoming a hub for fan outreach, marketing your tunes and collaboration.

Mashable reached out to a cadre of music industry experts to put together the following list of best practices for using Facebook to promote your music. After all, you want Mr. English Teacher to be impressed by your page — not laughing about how you consistently misspelled your own band’s name.

1. Reach Out To Other Artists

So you just joined Facebook and have a grand total of 50 fans (44 of which are your extended family). Well, you know how you can hook new fans by opening for another band on stage? The same goes for Facebook.

“We have some bands that have Facebook Pages that grow really slowly, so we try to reach out to other artists who they have a relationship with, and that tends to drive those ‘likes’ up,” says Allison Schlueter, VP of digital marketing at Island Def Jam Music Group.

Ask a band whom you’re tight with to post your new music video/track/album art to their wall with a link back to your Facebook Page, and remember to return the favor — or, you know, you could just buy said band a beer the next time you play together.

Still, Schlueter reminds us, those initial 50 fans are pretty valuable, so don’t forget them when your Page has ballooned to 75 fans. “You can have 37 million fans, but how many of those are loyal?” Schlueter says. “Those [early adopters] are the ambassadors for the artist.”

2. Take Your Fans Backstage

In order to make sure those ambassadors keep spreading the gospel of your gospel, make sure to give them what they so desire: backstage access to you (especially the groupies, am I right?).

“The number one thing for people to do when creating their Page is be really personal,” says Meredith Chin, manager of corporate communications at Facebook. “Previously, you had to wait for your favorite musician to be on Leno [to find out more about him], but now you can see when they’re touring, what’s going on backstage, etc.”

A lot of bigger musicians rely on their labels/managers/PR etc. to update their social media channels for them. If you’ve hit the big time, try to avoid posts of this nature, cautions Chin. Fans appreciate the extra effort.

3. Go Beyond the Music

Yes, you are a band, and people likely enjoy your music, but they also probably like other things about you — your style, your tastes, your opinions on the domestication of American wildlife, whatever.

“Make your fans want to check out what you’re doing on Facebook,” says Myles Grosovsky, of Big Hassle Online Marketing.” I always love to hear about things that bands are into that aren’t directly tied to their own work. Remember — fans look up to bands. We tend to follow the bands’ lead on discovering new things. They’re our tastemakers.”

Instead of always posting content directly related to your band, share videos, pictures and articles that you find interesting, which will, in turn, spark conversation with and among your fans.

4. Ask For Input From Fans

One way you can really connect with your followers is to ask for their input. Chin tells us that Keith Urban used the platform to crowdsource an album cover. He posted two pictures before the release, which garnered thousands of comments and Likes.

Chin also suggests making use of Facebook Questions to reach out to fans. “It’s really lightweight and makes it easy to get that feedback,” she says. You can use the tool to ask yes-or-no questions (“Should we add Arkansas to our tour schedule?”) or pose multiple choice queries (“Which song title is the most evocative?”)

You can also get your fans involved by posting pictures of meet-and-greets and concerts and asking fans to tag themselves. That level of engagement also doubles as promotion for you, as tagged snaps will pop up in the news feed of your fans’ friends, prompting them to check you out, too.

5. Be Visual

As much as your fans might hang on your every word, some of them are, in fact illiterate. Just kidding (kind of). But, seriously, Facebook lets you share photos and videos, so make sure to exercise that option.

“Any time an artist does any kind of status update, include a photo, because a photo speaks volumes,” says Doug Barasch, director of new media at Verve Music/Universal Music. “Or include a video clip, if you have a camera.”

Photos and video are much more dynamic content than just text, and fans are much more likely to comment on and “like” updates that they find compelling. For even greater ease of use, we suggest downloading apps like Instagram and PicPlz, which allow you to take awesome, dynamic snaps and easily share them on Facebook, as well as to a network of fans on those individual services.

6. Make Everything an Event

It may seem obvious, but every time you’re playing a show, you should create an event and invite your fans. “But the venue I’m playing already created an event! Why do I need to?” you may whine. Maybe because all of your followers might not necessarily be fans of the venue in question. Cover all your bases.

“Artists really need to take advantage of Events,” says Barasch. “Any time you post an event, that shows up in your fans’ news feed. And if someone RSVPs to that event, that RSVP shows up in their news feed as well.”

Hot tip: We know you look much more rock ‘n’ roll when you litter said event invitation with asterisks and LOLcat speech (or perhaps that’s just the bands in my neighborhood), but event invites of that nature are confusing and misleading. Make sure you have all the relevant information clearly stated before you add your own special flair — you want people to show up, after all.

Barasch also recommends you create invites for events such as TV appearances and album releases. Obviously, your fans can’t attend “My Disc Drops on May 23,” but RSVPing “Yes” makes it more likely that they will, in fact, buy it when it drops.

7. Don’t Just Ask For Things

“Facebook can be a very important tool to build awareness around sales of music, ticket sales, merchandise, etc., but fans will tune out if they’re constantly being asked to open their wallets,” warns Grosovsky.

So go easy on the shilling. If you post a “buy” link to your new album at 3 p.m., it will still be there at 4 p.m. There’s no need to repost it. Instead, keep up a dialogue with fans that reminds them why they love your music, which will impel them to shell out the cash for a show or merch.

Chin cites Javier Dunn as a prime example of good communication with fans. “The great thing about his page is that he responds to all of the posts on his wall,” she says. “People feel very connected to him. It’s the same as writing a letter to a musician and hearing back from them.”

8. Don’t Forget the Basics

Unless your band name is ►◄▲▼, or some other Witch House concoction, make sure to lay out all of your info — band name, bios, contact info, etc. — as clearly as possible.

“One thing I find frustrating and think bands can improve on is posting their bios and their names on their Facebook,” says Amy Sciarretto, from Roadrunner Records. “It’s helpful for journalists needing or wanting to fact-check.”

9. Offer Exclusive Content

It’s a fact: People like free things, and if you give them free things, they will “like” you more. We’re not saying you should post your entire album — free of charge — to Facebook and offer each fan comp tickets for life, but throwing your social media followers something that they can’t get anywhere else is surefire way to garner more fans (and keep the ones you have).

Barasch recommends using a “like” gate as a mechanism for distributing content like videos and downloads. If you’re unfamiliar with “like” gates, they work thusly: If a fan “likes” your Page, he unlocks content. It’s as easy as that.

They’re also super easy to set up, which leads us to our next tip…

10. Check Out Some Tools

Yes, Facebook offers bands a lot when it comes to profiles — galleries, a wall, etc. — but it’s becoming more and more necessary to add apps into the mix. And before you go into some long monologue about how you don’t have time to set anything up because you have to remix that song/call that guy back/secure a melatrone, chill out. Apps aren’t that difficult to figure out, and they don’t take that long to plug in.

We recommend checking out apps like BandPage, ReverbNation and Damntheradio, which bring in elements like music players, events listings, merch sales, “like” gates, email list builders, etc. Most of them have a free option, so, no worries — you do get to eat this month.

Series Supported by Buddy Media

The Facebook Marketing Series is supported by Buddy Media, Power Tools for Facebook. Are you posting blindly? Use our insights to help you deliver the right content at the right time and get the results you need. Download our data report now.

More Facebook Marketing Resources from Mashable:

- 4 Ways to Set Up a Storefront on Facebook
- HOW TO: Create a Facebook Engagement Policy
- HOW TO: Engage and Mobilize Facebook Fans Beyond the “Like”
- 5 Creative Facebook Places Marketing Campaigns

Images courtesy of iStockphoto, Jaap2 and Flickr, ConvenienceStoreGourmet, notsogoodphotography, John-Morgan, EuroMagic, Annafur, Sarah Parrott, Everfalling, freeloosedirt

More About: band-page, bands, damntheradio, facebook, Facebook Marketing Series, Facebook Questions, music, ReverbNation, rootmusic

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Spotify Plans To Launch as Invite-Only in the U.S. [REPORT]

Posted: 11 Jul 2011 08:49 AM PDT

Word on the digital street is that much-lauded European music subscription service Spotify will land on U.S. shores this week.

Our sources in the music industry told us Spotify won’t open the floodgates all at once: The service will execute a slow launch, giving pre-existing members invites to distribute.

Last week, our collective American heart skipped a beat when the company posted a landing page declaring that "the award-winning music service that's taken Europe by storm will soon be landing on US shores."

Others have speculated that Spotify will land in the U.S. this week.

The U.S. launch of Spotify has appeared imminent for months, with the company closing a $100 million round of funding and reportedly securing licensing deals with UMG, EMI and Sony.

Our sources say Spotify has not yet confirmed a deal with Warner Music Group, but they say that the service is meeting with the label staff to talk about marketing, so the deal seems nearly sealed. Last week, documents detailing Spotify’s launch plans leaked, revealing that the service plans to rely on Facebook to garner buzz for the brand.

What do you think? Will we be getting our hands on Spotify this week? If so, will you make the switch even if you’re already patronizing a music subscription service?

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First Google eBooks Device To Go on Sale at Target This Week

Posted: 11 Jul 2011 08:15 AM PDT

iriver Story HD will be sold at Target

Google will make inroads into the ereader market next week when the first such device using the Google eBooks platform will go on sale at Target.

The iriver Story HD will retail for $139.99 — the same price as the Kindle and the Nook Simple Touch Reader — at the chain July 17, according to a blog post from Google. The device sports a qwerty keyboard and a black-and-grey screen similar to the Kindle. It also can access more than 3 million free Google eBooks and hundreds of thousands of paid ebooks in the system. The device is the first to be able to download the eBook titles via a Wi-Fi connection. Previously, users had to download the titles with a PC and then transfer them to the ereader.

Google entered the ebooks market in earnest in December with its Google eBookstore. Since then, the company has been expanding distribution for the format — it added its 250th independent bookstore partner in May.

iriver Story HD will be sold at Target on July 17

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How Western Entrepreneurs Are Supporting Egypt’s Growing Startup Scene

Posted: 11 Jul 2011 08:00 AM PDT

egypt image

A group of young American and Danish entrepreneurs traveled to Egypt last week for the NexGen IT Entrepreneurs Boot Camp, an intensive mentorship program meant to teach Egyptian youth how to turn a simple idea into a viable business in the IT space.

The sort of “traveling startup accelerator” was organized by the U.S. State Department's Global Entrepreneurship Program, USAID, the governments of Denmark and Egypt, and entrepreneurship organizations such as the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC). The goal was to get young business people to teach a group of Egyptian youth how to turn a simple idea into a viable business in the IT space.

The mostly young delegates included Scott Gerber, founder of the YEC, Alexis Ohanian, cofounder of Reddit.com, and Ryan Allis, cofounder and CEO of iContact, an email marketing company that will also be hosting two of Egyptian teams for a three-week internship in the fall.

At the end of the week-long bootcamp, all 38 Egyptians — representing 19 different business teams — competed for those two iContact internship spots as well as two similar internships in Denmark. The winning companies were Crowdit, a digital collaborative storytelling platform; SuperMama, the iVillage of the Middle East; Inkezny (RescueMe), an iPhone app helping travelers get emergency help in any part of the world; and Bey2ollak, an iPhone app that provides user-generated reports of local traffic conditions.

The bootcamp also led to the creation of a $125,000 investment pool to be distributed by Flat6 Labs, a fund launching this month run by Sawari Ventures, an Egyptian venture capital company.

Mashable had a chance to speak with two of those winning teams and YEC’s Scott Gerber to find out about the entrepreneur scene in Egypt and what lies ahead after the bootcamp. “Two things were very obvious,” Gerber said. “Entrepreneurship is alive and well in Egypt, we just need to solidify the ecosystems. All the pieces are there, they’re just not on the same board yet.”

This seems to be indicative of the Egyptian startup scene. There are highly motivated, highly skilled business people lacking the vibrant infrastructure Americans (and Danes) sometimes take for granted. “There are some small organizations that are trying to do things like startup weekends and bootcamps or three or four months of incubations but it still needs work,” said Zeinab Samir, 29, design director for SuperMama.

It’s a sentiment shared by the co-founders of Bey2ollak. “It’s growing. There’s lot of information and ideas, but actually we still lack the infrastructure for entrepreneurship to grow and gain it’s full potential,” said Mohamed Rafea, 30, of Bey2ollak. “There were lots of people at this bootcamp that we really should have met before.”

Bey2ollak Goes Global

One of the biggest benefits for Bey2ollak was the confidence to scale globally. The traffic-reporting app actually had more than 5,000 signups before it even launched, but will now try expanding to new regions. Meeting similarly-minded entrepreneurs from across the ocean was an inspiration, said Bey2ollak cofounder Gamal El Din Sadek, 23. “What I think I want to call for is more of these events because that’s what makes people open their eyes,” Sadek said. “It’s really life changing. I wish everyone I knew attended this.”

That spirit extended past the classroom, explained Rafea, as mentors and Egyptians shared lunch and dinner, spending time after hours to talk shop and get to know each other. “The interaction was not only about ideas,” Rafea said. “There was this element of friendship that grew between entrepreneurs and delegates and it was inspiring actually.”

Rafea and Sadek are working to expand their company after their internship at iContact in the fall. Rafea was already invited by a community of Egyptian students to give a talk about his experience at the bootcamp and to inspire an even younger generation.

SuperMama Finds Its Voice

SuperMama is looking to inspire both younger and older generations of women. In the U.S., women are used to a plethora of health advice forums and digital communities to assist them through pregnancies and daily health concerns. Not so in Cairo, said Yasmine El-Mehairy: “We don’t have mommy clubs or mommy forums. Usually when women have a question, they call their mother who gives them some advice. Then they call a friend who gives them conflicting advice, then they call their sister who gives them conflicting advice …”

That cultural difference was actually a sticking point for the startup as El-Mehairy and design director Samir had to explain to the delegates why an app offering centralized health information to women wasn’t entering an over-saturated market.

El-Mehairy and Samir will be traveling to Denmark in the fall as winners of the bootcamp competition. “Zeinab had an idea that once we entered this bootcamp we are winners and we aren’t going to stop, and I think that is the right feeling. Validation is also the right word but [winning isn't] just about validation. There was exposure, and not just in Egypt. For example, [Mashable is] talking to us.”

SuperMama is planning to launch in the fall, right around when El-Mehairy and Samir will be in Denmark. They hope that if they can launch their startup remotely, it will help other Egyptian women realize that they too can start working from home.

The NexGen IT bootcamp not only inspired new business ideas in Egypt but cross-cultural friendships and partnerships. The spirit of the international market is one of mutual collaboration and friendly competition. Gerber is hoping that this program will be the first of many international accelerators to connect entrepreneurs in different countries. It’s a spirit shared by the Egyptian youths Gerber only just met. “Many days, two or three days, we sat for three or four hours after the event discussing our ideas,” Sadek said. “We went out several times afterwards, we as Egyptians. We as teams.”

The NextGen IT Bootcamp

A Welcome Speech

Some of the Egyptian Entrepreneurs

Small-Group Mentoring

A Presentation

Listening to a Seminar

A Breakaway Group

Ryan Allis mentoring young Egyptians

SuperMama Delivers a Presentation

Thumbnail image courtesy of iStockphoto, hronos7, CostinT. Gallery images courtesy of USAID/ECP and program participants

More About: Egypt, entrepreneurs, social good, startup, yec

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Philadelphia Newspapers To Offer Subsidized Android Tablets

Posted: 11 Jul 2011 07:30 AM PDT

Philadelphia Inquirer news on Android tablets

Eager to hop on the tablet trend, the publisher of The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News plans to sell discounted Android tablets with preloaded content.

The announcement, first reported in Adweek, will cost the publisher — Philadelphia Media Network (PMN) — somewhere in the six figures. In exchange, PMN will get data on how consumers are interacting with the tablet version of the newspapers.

Pricing for the program hasn't been determined. The publisher plans to launch with 2,000 tablets in the second half of August. A PMN rep says the brand of device hasn't been decided yet. Initially, the tablets will be loaded with the Philly.com app, as well as digital versions of the two newspapers, which now cost $2.99 per week.

The move is perhaps the boldest attempt by a newspaper publisher to get ahead of the “tabletization” of the category. While there have been iPad versions of The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times and The New York Times since last year, most newspapers were initially slow to embrace the trend. Meanwhile, a survey by Prosper Mobile Insights this month found 28.2% of respondents have already replaced their newspaper with a smartphone or tablet.

More About: android tablets, ipad, iPad 2, newspapers, Philadelphia Daily News, Philadelphia Inquirer

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5 Tips for Creating an Online Survey

Posted: 11 Jul 2011 07:02 AM PDT

This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.

Would you be willing to take a brief survey after this call? What's your zip code? How did you hear about us?

Each of these questions probably sounds familiar to you. We've all heard them when stuck on the phone with the cable company, or checking out at The Gap, or signing up for a newsletter.

That's because knowing more about the customer is valuable to the companies you patronize.

Similarly, more information about your customers, including their demographics, preferences and sentiments on your product, can be extraordinarily useful to you as a small business owner or entrepreneur, if you know how to properly gather information and interpret results. Online surveys are one inexpensive and quick way to do this and get great feedback. Here are some steps to get started.

1. Define Your Objectives

First, it's important to define the business objectives you are attempting to further by conducting a survey. Are you trying to decide whether or not to launch a new product line? Are you attempting to collect information that will bolster pitches to potential advertisers or investors? Are you assessing performance of your marketing campaigns? In order to limit survey length, you'll have to resist the urge to ask everything that's on your mind, so having a clear set of objectives will help you to determine which questions should make the cut.

2. Work Backwards

Once you've defined your objectives on a high level, you can start to take a more granular approach. Think about the information you'd like to glean from the survey results, and then reverse-engineer questions that address these issues. For example, if you are trying to determine whether or not your customers are satisfied with the level of service at your restaurant, make a list of the various elements of the customer experience — e.g., cleanliness, friendliness of staff — and then frame each individual element in question form. Make sure to avoid what Dr. Phil Garland, vice president of methodology for SurveyMonkey, refers to as "double-barreled" questions; for instance, "how friendly and knowledgeable were the customer services representatives?" Perhaps they were friendly but not knowledgeable, or vice versa, which could affect how a customer responds. The more focused and narrow the scope of your questions, the easier it will be for you to gain useful intelligence when interpreting the results.

3. Check For Bias

Since you have a sense of the answers you'd ideally like to get, it's a common pitfall to write your questions in a leading manner, i.e., "The customer service representatives were friendly. Do you agree with this statement?” Garland says this can skew your results in a more positive direction, since people naturally tend towards politesse and tact. So, when working backwards to create your questions, take care to make sure that each of your questions is just that — a question — and not a statement. You might also consider randomizing the order of your questions and response choices.

4. Do a Test Drive

As is good practice in any written online medium, have someone with copy editing experience — or, at the least, a strong grasp on language — take a look at your survey once you have built it. What seems intuitive to you could very well be confusing to a reader. Additionally, having a guinea pig take your survey before you let it out into the wild means you have a chance to double check not only for logistical issues but also for how long it takes to complete. If it’s more than 12 minutes, you need to bring an editing eye to your masterpiece to whittle it down — Garland estimates that the optimal length is eight minutes. Additionally, while open-ended questions take longer to answer, they can yield fruitful insights. Melissa Kim, vice president of product for Minted, an online paper goods company, always makes sure to include at least one such question, noting that some of the most useful information she gets from customers is in the free-response areas. "If we start to see something popping up in those types of questions … within a couple of days we can have an entire assortment [of products] sourced," Kim says. "It's like absolute gold in there."

5. Collect Results and Analyze Data

Depending on how you keep track of your customers, you may send out emails soliciting feedback, run interstitial ads on your site, or even utilize third-party sites like Mechanical Turk to target survey respondents. But whatever means you use, Garland suggests keeping your survey open for at least a week, since respondents at different times of day and days of the week may tend towards different answers.

Once the results are in, sites like SurveyMonkey will allow you to compare your results across segments. This is a good time to go back to your core objectives you identified in step 1 and parse the data you've collected by those criteria. For instance, Kim highlighted Minted's "How did you hear about us?" question as a useful "point of triangulation." By comparing responses based on acquisition source, she is able to gauge which customer acquisition sources are bringing in the most satisfied clients.

There are a lot of factors to consider here, so getting started may seem daunting. But if you are able to make meaningful business decisions, as Kim has, based on the information you gather, it's worth the extra effort needed to design and execute your survey properly.

Have you learned anything that affected your business from conducting a survey? Let us know in the comments.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, bluestocking

More About: feedback, minted, small business, survey, surveymonkey

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