Sunday, 31 July 2011

Mashable: Latest 7 News Updates - including “3 Terrific Tools for Social & Mobile Viewing Audiences”

Mashable: Latest 7 News Updates - including “3 Terrific Tools for Social & Mobile Viewing Audiences”

3 Terrific Tools for Social & Mobile Viewing Audiences

Posted: 30 Jul 2011 03:05 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.

Each weekend, Mashable hand-picks a few startups we think are building interesting, unique or niche products.

How we as consumers of physical and digital content view and experience the world around us is changing, and the startups highlighted here are all dedicated to helping us better find, discover and consume content.

SocialGuide, which focuses on social media ratings of broadcast television shows, gives us a real-time glimpse at how viewing audiences are reacting to content. New video search engine Smivi aims to give us better tools to shift through the troves of the web’s video library. And, Sparkatour, a mobile guide maker optimized for museums, could come in handy when we’re exploring and consuming real-world content.

SocialGuide: Social Media Meets TV Guide

Quick Pitch: SocialGuide is a social TV guide and ratings system that mines, filters and displays conversations about TV on social networks.

Genius Idea: Television show ratings that pivot around social conversations.

Mashable’s Take: Social media and armchair quarterback TV commentary seem to go hand-in-hand. Brooklyn-based SocialGuide, which launched in April, reveals much of this online chatter and makes sense of it in a TV guide-like fashion.

The service’s “Most Social Now” algorithm is a real-time ranking of TV shows generating the most online buzz. You can use SocialGuide to see which shows are super social, filter results by show genre, limit shows to just those your friends are watching or simply check out what’s on now.

SocialGuide also spits out “The Social 100″ report of the top programs across 170 different cable networks. You can view the report in daily, weekly or monthly increments and check out the social performance stats for the top 100 shows.

SocialGuide has raised $1.5 million in funding from angel investors. In addition to its web app, the startup has TV companion apps for iPhone, iPad and Android.

Smivi: Smart Video Search

Quick Pitch: Smivi is a video search engine that lets you follow searches and find live events.

Genius Idea: Discover live videos as you search.

Mashable’s Take: New video search engine Smivi launched its beta application Friday to help users better search for and discover online videos across the web — not just on YouTube.

“At its present data stage, Smivi has crawled videos from many of the top websites,” explains creator Danny Witters. “Smivi searches across numerous video sources and puts all relevant results, whether they are from YouTube, or, in one convenient place.”

Smivi also supports categorial search to help you filter video searches (use “search query .category”), and has a follow feature so you can keep track of your queries. Smivi also has a live search marker that informs you when videos on the results page are being live streamed.

Sparkatour: Mobile Phone Museum Tours

Quick Pitch: Sparkatour enables small to medium-sized museums to easily create a mobile multimedia-guided tour of their art collections for their visitors.

Genius Idea: Giving museums and their visitors a more practical alternative to audio guide hardware.

Mashable’s Take: Carrying around bulky audio hardware while touring a museum feels unnecessary, especially considering that most of us already tote around more-capable machines in our pockets. Such is the belief of Sparkatour, a San Antonio-based startup that helps museums create mobile guides to replace antiquated audio tours.

“Museumgoers are becoming increasingly more technologically savvy and want to interact with the pieces of art in different ways,” Sparkatour co-founder Kyle Rames explains. “Museums can leverage their visitors' devices instead of purchasing equipment.”

Museums, for a cost, can use Sparkatour to quickly create a mobile app that includes all their video, audio and image content. They can even assign guests numbers to use as visitor keys to gain access to specific tour content.

Sparkatour’s first client is the San Antonio Museum of Art. The museum created a mobile guide for the last destination on its “The Missing Peace: Artists Consider the Dalai Lama” exhibit. San Antonio River Foundation and The National Ranching Heritage Center are also said to be soon releasing mobile guides of their own.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Ary6

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, Smivi, SocialGuide, spark-of-genius, Sparkatour, Startup Weekend Roundup

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5 Tips for Running Successful Cause Marketing Campaigns

Posted: 30 Jul 2011 02:35 PM PDT

piggy bank image

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

Businesses love cause marketing, and the belief is that supporting a good cause translates into stronger sales.

The Cause Marketing Forum has some pretty convincing numbers: In 2009, 72% of American consumers said they avoided purchasing products from companies whose practices they disagreed with. Accordingly, two-thirds of brands started engaging in cause marketing in 2010, up from 58% in 2009, according to a study by PRWeek and Barkely PR.

Consumers have taking a healthy shift towards doing good, with 86% of global buyers believing that businesses need to place at least equal weight on societal interests as on business interests, according to an Edelman survey. It’s not enough to make money — businesses also need to do good.

Okay, so you need to get on the cause marketing train. Unfortunately, the term has received a strange reputation thanks to cries of “greenwashing” and “cause-washing” — the act of hijacking important causes just to sell more stuff.

How do you run a successful cause marketing campaign that reflects well on your brand and also does some serious good? We’ve got five tips for you:

1. Do Your Homework

You can’t just pull off a cause marketing campaign overnight. It’s important to take a look at a several non-profits and causes and make sure that they have enough infrastructure to pair up with your business. This may not seem like a big deal for small business, but if you’re Pepsi or Justin Bieber, you need to make sure your non-profit partner can handle the increase in donations and web traffic without crashing our losing track of funds.

It’s also important to properly vet any non-profit to make sure their track record is above-board. Look them up on sites like or request their financial records so that you know exactly with whom you’re going into business. Nothing can deflate your brand faster than launching a campaign that turns out to be a scam.

2. What Is Your Brand About?

Of course, the other part of doing your homework is making sure that the cause matches up with your brand’s target demographic and with your brand image. For example, KFC got some serious backlash for its partnership with Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Many were upset that breast cancer awareness would be associated with an unhealthy food like fried chicken.

By the same token, non-profits need to be careful of their corporate partners. You wouldn’t want a heart disease research non-profit accepting money from a cigarette company.

Think of partnerships that make sense. A sports equipment seller could pair up with a non-profit aimed at weight-loss or youth exercise. A technology company could pair up with non-profits focusing on education or startup support in developing countries.

Once you’ve found a non-profit that matches your brand image and customer base, it’s important to give the non-profit organizers a seat at the table, says Susan McPherson, the SVP of Fenton, a business consultancy that specializes in cause marketing and public interest communications. Not only does this show good faith, but the non-profit will know their cause better than you and can give you valuable information about how best to incorporate it into a campaign.

3. Involve Your Employees

If you business is embarking on a cause-marketing campaign, then your entire team needs to be on board. Talk to your employees about the causes that are important to them and make sure to get them engaged and motivated once you’ve picked a cause. Some companies offer their employees paid “volunteer” time, allowing them an hour each week, for example, during which they can volunteer at local charities or with the company’s partnered non-profit.

Once you’ve made a partnership, the cause is part of your business strategy. You’re not losing money by letting your employees contribute their time.

4. Manage Expectations

We’ve been speaking about cause marketing in terms of a long commitment. Most successful cause marketing campaigns aren’t one-offs, but rather sustained, mutually-beneficial partnerships between a business and a non-profit. This will be a less daunting proposition if you’ve done your homework and found a cause that syncs well with your brand image.

“For a cause marketing campaign or program to be successful, it must be planned and executed as a partnership,” McPherson says. “It must not be one-sided, and both the for-profit and non-profit partners must each have a stake to make it successful. Given that, a well-thought out and researched plan with milestones, deliverables and ROI built in needs to be created and agreed to at the get-go.”

It’s possible to run a one-off cause marketing campaign, but be clear what your goal is: Are you trying to make a difference in the world? Are you trying to sell more product? Are you trying to improve your brand image? These are each valid goals, but keep in mind that consumers are placing more and more emphasis on a business’ desire to do good, not turn a profit.

5. If It Hits the Fan

Sometimes things just don’t work out. If a partnership falls apart, it’s important for any business to take responsibility to their fans and be honest and transparent about what went wrong. If you find out your non-profit partner isn’t doing what they said they would, tell your audience and vow to find a way to keep supporting the cause.

If the partnership just wasn’t the right fit, like the KFC example above, tell your audience you made a mistake but stand by the message (being healthier, for example) and find another cause speaks to that message and syncs with your brand (sports training, for example).

Most often, people are turned off by cause marketing because it reeks of marketing lingo and has an uncomfortable PR sheen. Honesty and transparency will help combat this stereotype while drawing in your audience to get behind your chosen non-profit.

Cause marketing is a growing industry, but it can be susceptible to a “business-first” mentality. Anyone undertaking a cause marketing campaign will be fighting an ingrained preconceived notion that brands will just use non-profits to get more cash and fans. But when done properly, these partnerships aren’t just about profits and bottom-lines, but about making a real difference and putting brand power behind important issues.

Is cause marketing a win-win or a lose-lose? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

More Small Business Resources From OPEN Forum:

- 15 Keyboard Shortcuts To Enhance Your PC Productivity
- 5 Services For Building Websites On A Budget
- 10 Accessories To Boost Office Morale
- Top 5 Foursquare Mistakes Committed By Small Businesses
- How To Use Social Media For Recruiting

Image courtesy of Flickr, Daniela Vladimirova

More About: brand, business, cause marketing, charity, corporate social responsibility, csr, non-profit, social good

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F-16 Fighter Jet Crashes On Runway [VIDEO]

Posted: 30 Jul 2011 02:11 PM PDT

An F-16 fighter jet ran off the end of a runway and crashed at the EAA AirVenture convention in Oshkosh, Wisconsin on Friday.

The lucky Alabama Air Guard pilot wasn’t injured, but it looks like that $20 million F-16 Fighting Falcon might need a serious overhaul.

The cause of the crash is unknown, but it appears that for some reason the pilot simply ran out of runway. As you can see, after a few tense seconds the pilot exited the aircraft and jogged away to safety. He was taken away in an ambulance and found to be unhurt.

An Air Force team has begun an investigation into the cause of the accident.

EAA AirVenture, originally known as the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Fly-In Convention, is an annual event in Wisconsin, billed as “the world’s greatest aviation celebration.”

[Via WBAY]

More About: crash, EAA airventure fly-in, F-16, fighting falcon, jet, video, youtube

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This Week in Politics & Digital: Rickrolls & Debt Woes

Posted: 30 Jul 2011 12:51 PM PDT

obama image

Even as the United States moves precariously close to defaulting on its national debt, it’s nice to know the White House still has enough time to Rickroll the nation (literally).

Of course, the debt debates are no laughing matter with Republicans and Democrats playing some political brinksmanship ahead of the August 2 deadline. With Washington focused on the debt, things have been a little quiet in the social universe. A recent survey released by the Congressional Management Foundation, however, shows just how important social media is for modern politicians. Read on to find out more and check out our weekly series looking at stories in the intersection of digital technology and politics.

White House Rickrolls the Nation

This week, the White House launched a Twitter program called “Office Hours” to help the public understand the ongoing debt ceiling and deficit reduction negotiations. While packed with information, the material is understandably a little dry. So dry, in fact, one snarky user tweeted, “This WH correspondence briefing isn’t nearly as entertaining as yesterday’s.” The White House responded with the above tweet and a link to Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.” For those unfamiliar with Rickrolling, the song is a bait and switch where a prankster promises a link which instead re-directs to Astley’s video.

It’s nice the White House can have a little fun and not take itself so seriously. The response might, however, lose some of its charm if the government then defaults.

Survey Reveals How Capitol Hill Views Social Media

white house image

A survey from the Congressional Management Foundation, a non-partisan non-profit, asked 260 congressional staffers just how important social media is in national politics. Facebook came in as the favored network with 74% of the senior managers and social media managers polled saying it was somewhat or very important for communication their Members’ views. YouTube came in a close second with 72%, and Twitter lagged behind with just 51% staffers saying it was an important part of a Member’s communication strategy. There was also a clear age divide. Two-thirds of staffers under 30 felt social media was worthwhile, while only 32% of their colleagues 51 or older felt the same way. Still, 72% of those polled believed social media allowed their Members to reach people they previously had not.

Veterans Hold Virtual March on Washington

usa imageDisabled American Veterans, the nation’s largest such group, held a virtual march on Washington this week to show its disproval of how the government is treating them in the debt talks, reported the Washington Post. Veterans took to Facebook for an online protest. Veterans, family members and supporters posted stories, updates and links, showing how to email local officials to notify them about the ways veteran benefits could change due to the debt talks.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Tumbleweed:-), michael baird, Vermario

More About: barack obama, debt, Debt Ceiling, democrat, obama, politics, President, Republican, social media, Washington, week in digital politics, White House

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Missouri Forbids Teachers and Students To Be Facebook Friends

Posted: 30 Jul 2011 11:45 AM PDT

If you’re a student living in Missouri, you’d better not be Facebook friends with any of your teachers – that will soon be illegal.

According to Missouri Senate Bill 54 that goes into effect on August 28, any social networking — not just Facebook — is prohibited between teachers and students. It’s all part of an effort to “more clearly define teacher-student boundaries.” However, KSPR reports that It’s only direct social media contact that’s prohibited; teachers are allowed to create Facebook Pages where all students have direct access to the teacher in a more public setting.

Inappropriate contact between students and teachers is at the root of the legislation. Senate Bill 54 is designed to protect children from sexual misconduct by teachers, compelling school districts to adopt written policies between teachers and students on electronic media, social networking and other forms of communication.

Teachers and students usually shouldn’t be friends, anyway, so on the surface this sounds like a good idea. However, we wonder how this will be policed. Will the state be allowed access to Facebook accounts, personal computers or Internet service provider records to see who’s befriending teachers or students? Inappropriate relationships will be hard to detect, especially since teachers and students engaged in such relationships would probably be concealing their communications, electronic or otherwise.

The question now is, will this new law pass a constitutional test? And who would step forward to challenge it?

More About: facebook, friends, law, missouri, SB54, Senate Bill 54, trending

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Google+ Hangouts Adding YouTube Live Video Viewing

Posted: 30 Jul 2011 10:24 AM PDT

The Hangouts group video chat platform on Google+ now lets video-chatting groups of up to ten people watch live streaming videos together on YouTube.

The ability to watch recorded YouTube videos together has been possible in Hangouts from the start, but now, YouTube Live product manager Brandon Badger told GigaOM that Google‘s been quietly rolling out live video stream viewing while chatting in Hangouts.

While it’s not exactly simple to enable a live video feed alongside a Hangout chat now, Google plans to add tools that will make it a lot easier to find those live video feeds on YouTube while using Hangouts. According to GigaOM, it’s already possible to incorporate live feeds into hangouts using the following five-step manual method:

  • Start a Hangouts session in Google+ and invite your contacts to join you.
  • In a separate browser tab, head over and select a live stream of your choice
  • Copy the YouTube video I.D. of the selected live stream. Not sure how to find it? Just click on the share link below the video. You'll get to see a link like – the cryptic code after the slash is the video I.D.
  • Switch back to hangouts, open the video tab and search for the I.D.
  • Click play, and you're all set.

It doesn’t stop there. As you can see above, this is not a convenient way to incorporate live video into a Hangout, so YouTube plans to create tools that will tightly integrate the feature into its Google+ interface, as well as integrate Hangouts into YouTube Live.

For example, Google+ users will be able to watch a live stream on YouTube and see which of their friends are watching that stream in a Hangout. Then, they’ll be able to join their pals to watch that live video, letting them, say, virtually gather together to watch a live football game, with the ability to interact with each other face-to-face at the same time.

We’re going to select our friends carefully to watch live streaming video with this feature — imagine nine of your most talkative friends distracting you so much that you can’t pay attention to the broadcast. Beyond that, we have a feeling this capability will go way beyond watching football games together. What are some other uses for this new group watching of live streaming videos?

[Via GigaOM]

More About: Google Plus, hangouts, trending, video, youtube, YouTube Live

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38 New Digital Media Resources You May Have Missed

Posted: 30 Jul 2011 08:51 AM PDT

Aaaaand…we’re back! The list might seem intimidating, but this week’s roundup of top Mashable features will ultimately save you loads of time otherwise spent scouring the web for tech resources.

We’ve compiled the past week’s features, how-tos and insights into a handy little package — and it’s just for you. Presenting everything from geeky galleries to thoughtful think pieces, this handy guide is here to help.

Editors’ Picks

Social Media

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

Tech & Mobile

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

Business & Marketing

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


Image courtesy of Flickr, webtreats.

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

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HOW TO: Choose the Right Office Space

Posted: 30 Jul 2011 07:40 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.

The right office space can make or break a business. It’s not easy getting the balance between affordability and the perfect premises, especially if your experience is limited, but it’s crucial to take the time to do so.

“Getting the right office space is so important because your business will have to live with it for the life of a lease,” says Paul Kelly, head of marketing for Morgan Lovell, a leading office interior design, build out and refurbishment specialist with offices across the UK. “Get it right and you have happy and productive staff; get it wrong and it will slow people down, cause aggravation and waste money.”

Mashable spoke with Kelly to create a checklist of basic considerations for your new space. While not every point will be relevant to your business — and you may need to compromise on a few areas — it’s a useful list to work through once you’ve drawn up a shortlist of properties.

1. The Location

  • Is it a safe neighborhood?
    If premises seem cheap, there’s often a very good reason. Is the area safe? “Your staff and visitors will feel safer visiting your office if the area has a good reputation,” says Kelly. “Employees spend in excess of eight hours a day in the office, so having a secure neighborhood where your employees feel safe should be a priority. Consider the route staff will need to travel to and from local transport, especially if traveling by foot.”
  • Are there good transport links?
    How easy are the premises to commute to? The obvious question for big city center offices is how close the nearest subway or rail line is, but consider bus, bicycle and automobile routes, too. Your staff may be open to a different style of commuting if say, there are no trains but a fantastic bus service. Kelly suggests sitting down with staff to look at their options. “Map your employees’ new journeys into work to assess how the move will affect their daily commute.” If relevant, visitors’ and clients’ access should also be a consideration. “You may also wish to pull together a travel plan to identify alternative routes for visitors,” suggests Kelly. If you struggle to make such a plan, then maybe it’s not the location for you.
  • Are there amenities nearby?
    Are there places nearby where staff can buy their lunch? Where you could take clients for drinks or a meal? Where you can buy essential supplies for the office? “Life carries on when we are in the office; your employees will have errands to run after work or during lunch. Find an office close to a bank, pharmacy and shopping area and your staff will thank you forever,” according to Kelly.
  • Is it a trendy neighborhood?
    Setting up in an area with a reputation as a hot spot for up-and-coming startups or promising young businesses can have a positive effect on how clients and staff view your company, as well as on hiring, not to mention being more likely to boast a thriving social scene.

2. The Building

  • Is the building secure?
    “Nobody likes to work in an insecure environment, and your staff are no different,” says Kelly. “How secure is the building? Do you need extra security for different areas? Have there been any recent break-ins? Are windows, skylights and doors secure, or will they need to be altered upon occupation?”
  • Is there a manned reception? If so, what’s the customer service like?
    Does the building provide a manned reception, and even more importantly, does it provide good customer service? Is it manned by security types or more traditional receptionists? Even if the staff at the front desk aren’t your own, they will still be the first impression a client or other visitor has of your company.
  • Is there major building work planned?
    It’s worth asking about any long-term building work planned for the near future. Moving into a brand new office only to find out the floor above is being completely renovated — and you’ve signed up to live with the noise and mess for many months — isn’t going to be a great experience.
  • Is the building well-maintained?
    Does the company that manages the building do a good job? Kelly suggests canvassing existing tenants to find out: “Find out who is managing the day-to-day operations, security and services of the building. Is it a credible firm? Ask other tenants about the quality of service.”
  • Is there out-of-hours access?
    If you’d like access at all times, this is essential to determine. “If your staff are likely to need access to the building outside of normal office hours, you’ll need to consider how easy it is for them to do so. Is there 24-hour access and security?” Kelly says.
  • Is there parking or bike storage?
    There’s no point analyzing how long it takes to drive or ride to the office unless you also consider what you’re going to do with your car or bike when you get there. “Are there enough parking spaces? If your building doesn't have its own car park, is there sufficient parking nearby for employees and regular visitors? You may wish to consider renting out several individual parking spaces for those all-important client visits,” suggests Kelly.
  • Are there competitors in the building?
    It might seem an odd consideration, but you don’t want staff from a rival firm lingering in public spaces where they can overhear going-ons at your company, or worse still, elevator-pitching your potential new clients.

3. The Space

  • Is there enough room?
    Rather than agonizing over square footage, if you’re hiring an office designer, Kelly has a suggestion to work out if you’ll fit into the space. “Get your office design company to do a ‘test fit’ of the space before deciding on a property. That way you can be sure you’re getting exactly the right amount of space for your business,” suggests Kelly. For smaller offices, if you can’t afford that, why not mock out a potential layout with newspaper taped together to represent desks, chairs and other equipment? You might feel a little foolish in the moment, but it’s a great way to better visualize how you’ll use the space.
  • Can you decorate?
    You need to ascertain how much freedom you have to make the space your own. Are there any restrictions? If you can decorate as you see fit, will you have to return the space to neutral decor before you leave?
  • What are the acoustics like?
    There are things to consider which are easy to miss when viewing an empty office with the windows closed. “A noisy office is one of the most common complaints from staff. Check the acoustics of the internal space. An echoing space can be very uncomfortable to work in,” says Kelly. And be sure to consider the external sound, too. It’s worth visiting the premises at different times of the day to check what it’s like at rush hour, when schools kick out, at night, etc.
  • Will the layout work for your business?
    Take a long, hard look at the layout. It’s easy to be wowed by a clean, empty space or a tidy suite of offices, but how will the layout work for you? Is it on just one floor? Are there separate offices? Are they big enough or too big? Is it an open floor plan? Can areas be easily divided if need be? Will this work with your company’s existing style of work? Is it possible to carry out modifications on the space? And, if you are planning to divide the space (even temporarily), are there enough outlets, windows, heating units, etc., in each area? Kelly has two pieces of advice on this topic: “Larger floor plans are more cost effective because they lessen the need for multiple [break rooms], copy points, etc.,” and, “Irregular shaped buildings fit fewer desks and will increase your cost per employee per square foot.”
  • Is there room to expand?
    Finally, it’s an obvious one, but if you’re hoping for growth, then make sure that there is room to grow.

More Small Business Resources From OPEN Forum:

- 15 Keyboard Shortcuts To Enhance Your PC Productivity
- 5 Services For Building Websites On A Budget
- 10 Accessories To Boost Office Morale
- Top 5 Foursquare Mistakes Committed By Small Businesses
- How To Use Social Media For Recruiting

Images courtesy of Paul Bica, Tom Heyes and Morgan Lovell

More About: advice, business, commercial real estate, how to, List, Lists, office, property

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