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Thursday, 23 August 2012

Best of All Worlds; new Invite-Only network

One of the pioneering figures of social media, the little known Swedish Count Erik Wachtmesiter, is back to launch his latest creation, Best of All Worlds.

The new site, which is expected to launch on the 27th August, will be highly exclusive and cater to the more elite levels of society. Naturally the site is invite-only at the moment, claiming around 25,000 members through the 5,000 invitations Wachtmeister initially issued. It is expected to continue in this vain as the network revolves around this exclusivity and seeks to unite the wealthy community pinpointed by Wachtmeister, providing a service that can really support their needs.

Speaking about the network, Wachtmesiter has claimed that Best of All Worlds will “deliver clever filters, cut through the mess and get information that’s relevant and we can trust”. The ‘About’ section of the site continues this view by stating the purpose of the site to be; to ‘discover people, common passions, and compelling information… in worlds of shared interests and friends’. Subsequently, Best of All Worlds will most certainly appeal to high-end marketers delivering such products as ‘yachts, watches, wine and liquor’.

Another potential selling point of the network is Wachtmeisters aim to allow users increased control over their data. In a move which appears to try and draw people away from LinkedIn and Facebook, Best of All Worlds offers the user ‘five modes to switch between’. These modes are entitled private, professional, family, social and party. After the user has picked their preferred mode, each one then provides its own set of photos, links, recommendations and suggestions. The idea is that this will enable like-minded people to connect in a ‘trusted environment’ and be able to discuss what really interests them. The categories of these discussions include ‘business, food and wine, health or a better world’, but this is expected to soon expand. 

A Small World

Back in 2004 Erik Wachtmesiter launched his first social network A Small World. Sharing many similarities with his latest creation, A Small World is an ‘invitation-only website that catered to a wealthy crowd where users could meet other world travellers, make business connections and find services’. After selling a significant stake of the business in 2009 and quitting his post, it seems Wachtmeister is fully focused on Best of All Worlds now. It appears that the Count has picked and streamlined the most successful elements of A Small World and can utilise the near 800,000 user base to promote his new venture. Reports have viewed this as an attempt to ‘poach’ users and this was extended when the two sites shared their mobile app launch on the 27th July. According to Wachtmeister this was a “total coincidence”, but these events do suggest the Count should be careful In the future. 

The potential competition between the two sites will be interesting to observe in the coming months and also whether Best of All Worlds can tempt the so-called ‘jet-setters and well-heeled away from Facebook Inc. and LinkedIn’. This should indicate whether the demand is actually present among these elite groups. 

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Social Media takes on the role of 'Church' in times of need.

Social media takes on ‘church’ role in times of need

Research has recently come to light underlining the pivotal role social media played during, and after, the Christchurch earthquakes.

Ekant Veer, a Senior Lecturer in Marketing at the University of Canterbury, has discovered that social media unexpectedly became the communal meeting place during the quakes. Veer has noted that the people affected increasingly took to social networks for help, to provide information and lend support. With the city undergoing such turbulent times - many buildings became unsafe for occupation and transport links were damaged - social media took on the role traditionally held by the community halls and churches.

The lecturer, who has revealed his findings in the lead-up to the Australasian Natural Hazards Management Conference, monitored a variety of social networks after the quakes and noted his findings. Overwhelmingly, it was found that people utilised social media for ‘immediate and timely updates’. In addition to providing practical information, such as where to find fresh water and food, social media was important in supporting those who were badly affected and created a great sense of community.

Some significant players during the quakes included Geonet and Civil Defence who tweeted regular and useful updates. The hashtag #eqnz also came into play, helping boost the informative element that became so significant. News channels, whilst maintaining importance in informing the public as a whole, could not keep up with the instant updates boasted by social media. Subsequently, the quakes have led to heavier use of the platforms and claimed many more users.

Positive reports

In a time when social media is continuously cropping up in negative news articles, this is something that reaffirms the importance it can play.

The Christchurch earthquakes cannot be viewed in isolation as social media has played a significant role in other natural disasters. The disasters in Japan, for example, saw a huge spike in social media usage, with users relaying their support under such hashtags as #prayforJapan and posting ways in which others could help or donate. Similarly, in Australia, a Facebook page was created when it was announced that the Cyclone Yasi would hit Queensland. The page provided key updates, information and a place for users to connect. Studies have further shown that social media usage ‘during natural disasters is comforting, empowering and can limit psychological damage’. Clearly, it helps fulfil a number of functions in these times of need.

Two sides

Although social media was cited as one of the catalysts behind the London riots, it was proved in the aftermath how the good side overcame the evil. Initially, social media helped gauge public opinion, showing how unpopular the riots were, and united people and communities in combatting the situation at hand. Facebook pages and Twitter accounts were created, along with the hashtag #riotcleanup, sparking people into action to help their cities. In turn, this gained many ‘likes’ and retweets, as well as receiving further exposure with inspirational images of communities cleaning up their cities. A similar movement occurred in Vancouver following the riots there in June 2011.

When the dust had finally settled, social media also took on an important role in discerning those who had been a part of the riots. The authorities were made aware of images portraying individuals involved and those who had utilised social networks to incite trouble. In addition, users were urged to come forward with any information they had concerning the rioters.

Despite not being a natural disaster, these riots similarly show the role social media can play as becoming the ‘church’. It is evident that it helps promote the community and allows people with no prior connections to work together for the greater good. Furthermore, social media promotes support for individuals affected by the events. The informative element must also not be forgotten as users can be instantly kept up to date with significant changes and information.

It is all too easy to criticise social media at present, but perhaps people should look back to these events to realise the important roles it has played. Were it not for these social networks the essential help, information and support may have been far less than what it was, and in no way as swift. 

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

3 Ways to Simplify Online Marketing

This post was originally written by Jonathan Gardner for Mashable

Technology makes the magical possible, but it’s also making marketing complicated. With ad exchanges, hyper-local targeting, and endless mobile options, it’s easy to get tangled up in an alphabet soup of advertising technology. Just one look at Terence Kawaja’s ad-tech landscape induces tears of empathy for over-marketed-to marketers. Basically, the time for simplification is here.
Simplicity is what consumers want, what marketers need, and what standard-bearers such as Apple andGoogle have shown as the way forward.
What did Steve Jobs do when he returned to Apple in 1997? He simplified the product line and, by extension, Apple’s whole business. That worked out pretty well.
The same goes for Google. Every once in a while the tech giant cuts products to move forward with new offerings. Sure, some of their initiatives — say, wind energy or self-driving cars — may seem to come out of left field. But Google’s basic promise to consumers is to develop products and services that help them organize and navigate the world in a better, geekier way. (I’m talking about you, Google glasses.)
We need to learn from these examples. When advertisers obsess over brand impact, and agencies insist on slicing and dicing every impression, it’s hard not to wonder if we’re focusing on the wrong things. For all the efficiency we’ve gained with the burgeoning of ad tech, we’ve lost a lot in the way of simplicity. Keeping marketing simple — delivering compelling ads and content that consumers actually want to engage with — could take the industry a long way toward improving performance for both brands and consumers.
Here are three rules that brands can follow to simplify their marketing for everyone involved.

1. Put Consumers in the Driver’s Seat

Let’s move away from strategies and metrics that aren’t really relevant for branding. Brands always look for some kind of number and stat to justify their online spend — CTR, view-through, attribution, “likes.” Does that make sense at all? Did brands worry about measuring the impact of a full-page spread in Vogue back in the day? The issue is over thinking the numbers and not thinking enough about advertising in the interest of consumers.
Give people choice, control, and relevance in their experience. Don’t put a roadblock between anyone and the story, images, or video they want to see. Create intriguing, value-add experiences that are relevant to the page, that make users want to click, view, and engage. Make it user-initiated and easy to start and stop engagement. Instead of real-time bidding (RTB), how about trying real-time relevance?

2. Get in the Content

We’ve seen a recent surge in attention for the “native ad,” sponsored content, and branded-content meme. But it’s really nothing new. Ever watch soap operas on TV? Those started out as radio broadcasts that were literally created by consumer packaged goods companies. Since the dawn of digital time, we’ve known that the traditional ad concept had to change and that brands needed to move into the content-creation business and get their content seen.
But what if your stellar campaign assets are part of the one-third of display advertising that, according tocomScore, goes unseen due to banner blindness? Even if you have awesome, entertaining, useful branded content like Red Bull or Unilever, you still need to surface it. How will your brand’s content be discovered by consumers who have literally zillions of content channels to choose from?
Focus your attention where consumer attention is focused: in the edit well online, on mobile, and on the tablet. Surface your content through advertising technology that gets you in the words and images where a relevant, immersive brand advertisement or content experience will really make an impression with consumers.

3. Simplify Your Strategy

Instead of doing one thing on mobile, another on tablets, and something else on desktop, consider puttingmobile at the center of the design process, then refining and customizing everything from there.
Brands can now respond directly to how consumers interact with all kinds of devices. In an era where we swipe, expand, and share an ad or useful brand content, it isn’t enough to rely on the same old creative approach. Brands need to leverage their great assets with amazing creative executions in high-impact, exciting ways that are native to devices, contexts, and formats.
So let’s leave the purchase funnels behind, and stick with these three simple rules. Chances are people will thank you with ever-coveted, ever-elusive, real engagement

Friday, 17 August 2012

Pinterest launch Android and iPad app

The virtual pinboard site has been ringing in the changes recently, much to the delight of its users, and this move will further add to the sites popularity with the greatly requested Andriod app.

Android users will be thrilled by this news after being ‘very vocal with their requests for an app’. Pinterest have ensured a job well done by designing the app to be fully functional on both Android tablets and phones, allowing users to spend more of their time productively on the site. This news will be similarly welcomed by Kindle Fire owners who can download the app from the Amazon Appstore later this week.

As well as addressing the need for an Andriod app, Pinterest have simultaneously released their iPad app, which they believe may be ‘the best Pinterest experience yet’. This is because the app makes it even more effortless to discover and pin new material. Furthermore, it has always been part of the vision of Pinterest as the sites co-founder, Evan Sharp, has recalled witnessing Steve Jobs demo of the iPad and realising that “Pinterest would be used [like that] sometime in the future”. According to the Pinterest blog post, the app will also offers new ways to engage with pins through the ‘embedded browser’ and swipe screen feature, which returns the user to the main screen. Whilst the iPad app has just been created, Pinterest have updated their existing iPhone app to allow users to see more pins in a more efficient 2 column layout.

Part of the aim behind these apps is to allow users to go out and do the things they love, inspiring them to later contribute to the site. By having it in the form of an app, users will be able to utilise the site when and wherever they feel. It is expected this will increase usage of the site and possibly even see a growth in the number of users. This may increase even further with hints that Pinterest will be working on an app for Windows mobile platforms.

Becoming a force in the mobile market may have another consequence in leading to further brand engagement. With already 51% of the top 100 global brands on their site, this is destined to rise. The brands must follow where the users go to maintain their status and Pinterest is often the perfect platform to showcase them. The creation of new categories will also suit these brands as it becomes even more crucial to their social media marketing work.

Overall, these new developments at Pinterest represent clear steps they have taken to address the needs and requests of their users. Maintaining a clear line of communication and stressing how invaluable the Pinterest community of users is, has really endeared people to the site. It must also be noted that Pinterest has risen to these impressive heights by working with existing social networks, not shunning them. A lot could be learnt from the examples Pinterest are setting. 

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Google+ to get custom "vanity" URLs

In a welcome change to Google’s social network, steps have been taken to finally introduce what they are branding ‘vanity’ (custom) URL’s.

The move will eventually see the removal of the elongated, and difficult to remember, URL’s, which irritatingly involve many numbers. In place of this, one’s URL will be a plus sign followed by their desired name. So for example, instead of BBC News having their current URL ( it could quite simply be This will make it far easier to share and discover sought after Google+ pages.

Already some of the major companies and celebrities on Google+ have been handed these custom URL’s (+davidbeckham, +TOYOTA and +hugoboss to a name a few). Google Product Manager, Saurabh Sharma, has noted however, that these custom URLs will initially only be applied ‘to a limited number of verified profiles and pages’. He continues to promise that they will be available to more brands and individuals in the future.

Judging by the comments to Sharma’s post, this is something many Google+ users have been craving. Most significantly it seems that many companies have been seeking this change to help increase their visibility and ease in sharing their page, not to mention the fact that it looks far more professional.

The time frame for this change has not been specified and it appears it could take a while to verify those who require custom URL’s. Nevertheless, it is a step by Google to bring their network in line with competitors Facebook and Twitter, who have offered this service for a while now. It proves Google are still investing time and advancing their social network despite it having faltered against competitors. Still there remain many companies who question whether a Google+ account is worth the effort as the ‘social give and take’ is far less than comparable sites. If anything though, this move should benefit businesses as more may potentially join the site looking to boost traffic and visibility.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Reality Television and Facebook?

Reality TV on Facebook

A Chance to Dance is a new American reality show that will become the first show to air both on a cable channel and Facebook.

The move taken by the show’s producers, Nigel and Simon Lythgoe, highlights their ambitions to generate more of a buzz and subsequently capitalise on this with improved audience ratings. It has been recognised, particularly from the recent Olympics, that viewers are often online whilst they watch, contributing to various social media sites. This is something that television companies could really look to harness and reality TV seems a perfect start.

Although there have been increasing steps to combine social media with reality TV in recent times, this move is the ultimate step and may see the show really prosper. In similar shows, Twitter has been utilised to involve the audience, creating hashtags to spark conversation and debate. In A Chance to Dance, Facebook viewers will be able to post comments and chat about the show, answer trivia questions, get access to exclusive footage and witness interviews with the producers. Clearly, the combination of the two will immerse viewers even more than before and will hopefully help build a bigger audience.

By targeting fans of the previous shows American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance, the producers hope to see a large proportion of Facebook viewers during the shows air. These viewers will be required to pay $1.99 per show or $11.99 for seven episodes. The network company Ovation will not be using the Facebook credit service and will instead opt to use credit card or Paypal transactions.

Facebook credits

The decision not to utilise this service signifies part of a growing trend which recognises the relative inoperability of the service. Reality show Big Brother has experienced a great amount of difficulty with the service and recently had to completely suspend it for one eviction. Facebook themselves have begun to move away from the service, choosing to use actual money in their Bingo and Slots Friendzy games. The Financial Times has reported that Facebook are likely to discontinue the service ‘at the end of the year after hearing from merchants that the 30 per cent cut it took on transactions was unpalatable’.

Social media and other shows

Having Facebook stream live shows does make a lot of sense in the reality TV world but if this were to branch into other areas it could have detrimental effects. With reality TV, arguably the shows don’t require a great amount of concentration and social media lends itself to the format as viewers can voice their opinions and feel part of the programme. Conversely, if a new drama were to be aired on Facebook, viewers are likely to not pay it their full attention, possibly missing significant information and superior camera work. Whilst social media can be beneficial in generating the hype, perhaps keep these shows to television. In spite of this, viewers could be online anyway during watching a show. Either way, it is difficult to see credible shows turning to social media as another way to stream their shows.

It will be intriguing though, to see whether this move will be mirrored by other shows in the future. Were it to prove a success with A Chance to Dance, then it is likely to be seen again. Hopefully, were this to be the case, the shows would be given the same attention as if it were shown on television.

What do you see as the future for television and social media?

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Twindex - Is this the future of political polling?

With the current US presidential campaigns in full flow, it has become clear how significant a role social media now plays. Polls have long played an essential part in gauging candidates’ popularity but the development of the ‘Twindex’ begs the question if these will ever be redundant?

Brought to life by data analysis company Topsy, in conjunction with polling firms North Star Opinion Research and The Mellman Group, the Twindex will provide a daily update of how the candidates are polling. Each day at 8pm EST, the Twindex will be updated, scoring the candidates from 1-100 as a percentile, Topsy explains. So in the present situation, Obama has a relatively neutral score (44) whilst Romney, the Republican presumptive nominee, is sitting at the more negative end of the scale (26). The tweets taken into account include those that directly refer to the candidate’s surname or their Twitter handle, but omit the use of hashtags and other ways of referring to the candidates.

Whilst the Twindex cannot be considered totally representative, only ‘15% of online adults are on Twitter (Feb 2012)’, it does help highlight the current overall trends in opinion of the candidates. When shown in comparison to the Gallup polls, the Twindex does generally reflect a similar view. Most notably with this, one can see Obama’s ratings universally shoot upwards following the death of Osama Bin Laden in May 2011.  The daily updates of Twindex can highlight the role of smaller scale events in their favourability. For instance, Twitter Government (@gov) has recently posted that Michael Phelps has suggested ‘#olympics gold-medal US gymnasts helped drive @BarackObama's +10 #twindex gain’.

So will the Twindex ever eclipse the need for traditional polls? Quite simply it seems the answer is no. Instead, if the two systems were to be used together, a more comprehensive view of public opinion would be possible. With traditional polls, a range of questions can be asked in a conversational, public style. Conversely, with the Twindex, insight can be gained into more private views, those usually limited to ‘coffee shops and water coolers’, but with lesser range. The head of government, news and social innovation at Twitter, Adam Sharp, views this combination as being the future of the Twindex. Still, one cannot totally rule out the possibility of polls exclusively utilising social media at some point. Voters could be asked to voice their opinions through social media on a range of topics and the results of this then collated into a chart much like what the Twindex uses. This would avoid any false answers and perhaps give a more realistic result. It is unknown where this creation could take political polling but there are definitely possibilities for change.

What the Twindex really shows us is the ever-increasing role social media plays in politics. With both candidates surpassing previous budgets on their digital campaigns and more people turning to social media, it is understandable how this is the case. Political Science professor Colin Moore has highlighted that ‘it allows candidates to… tailor their messages to specific demographics’. Furthermore, it can be important with those crucial undecided voters. The informative and influential role social media can have is able to directly contact with voters, arguably more closely than television or other forms of media. Ultimately, social media is slowly finding its form in the political realm and this trend undeniably has the power to expand.