Social networking is continuing to grow. We saw the introduction of Google+ and it has grown quickly (mainly with web developers). Facebook keeps evolving, Twitter is still an important player and other less known social groups like Instagram (an app for iPhones that allows users to share photos) quickly becoming popular with millions of users. StumbleUpon has become more mainstream as well. (choose your interests and this site takes to you topics that are all over the web).
Here are some of the trends that are really going wild at the moment and getting larger. Some of them may be right for your business.
Smart phones have helped to add the dimension of GPS to your applications so that you can have recommendations on where to shop or where sales are happening based on where you are. Called “check-in” services, if you allow your location to be available to these services, you can stay in touch with friends, get instant sales or deals from stores near your location. Foursquare is one of these groups. You can get recommendations from other Foursquare members on where a good restaurant is in an area, for example.
Apparently, women aren’t as keen to sign on to these types of services as men. Citing privacy and worries about stalking, for some the promise of bargains nearby isn’t enough of a lure. Plus, people are already sharing so much on tweets and facebook, does everyone need to know our exact location at any one time?
The first item isn’t exactly commerce, but a site called HelloWallet (which Canadians can use, but is set up for U.S. banking and taxes) sounds like a great service that is not tied to any financial institution, so is not selling you credit or ways to get hold of your money. It helps you manage your money, and helps you balance your budget, save for your goals (be it vacations or just getting out of debt).
Goshi, is an iPhone app that shows you things for sale in your own neighbourhood. A “mobile storefront in your neighbourhood”. taap it, another app to help you eat, shop and see what’s going on locally. Skyfer is a place for professionals to put their credentials online (think plumber, babysitter, dog walker) and then for people in that neighbourhood to find those services. Grabio is another location based classified app.
I’ve been looking up recipes for a few years now online. I have a few favourite cookbooks that have my seasonal favourites and I make a lot of things without needing to look anything up, but once in a while I want to make something with an ingredient I have, or I’ve never made before. I often do searches now for recipes and don’t bother looking at my cookbooks to see if there is a recipe in there. There are thousands of sites and blogs that are all about food. Raw Food, Diabetic recipes, French cooking and everything in between. Some sites are more about the photography of food than the recipes themselves. And food apps are on the rise too!.
Feastie is a site that asks you what you want to cook, and it creates a grocery list for the ingredients. And it features recipes from all sorts of sites so you find new great cooking sites in the bargain! Yummly claims to have every recipe in the world! Punchfork claims to have the best new recipes from top food sites. The photographs are awesome and lists the top image (and recipe) from each site. Keeprecipes.com lets you find recipes and keep them safe “in the cloud” when you sign up. Most of these sites have a full site and mobile version.
Subscription based service
Now this is a great marketing idea. A lot of these sites aren’t available to Canadians, but a good idea to think about. And I’m sure it will catch on in Canada too!
- babba box. A monthly subscription of materials and instructions of things to do (crafty stuff) with your kids.
- Birchbox.com samples of beauty products.
- Lost crates is stationery and accessories.
- Umba box – handmade goods (connected to Etsy) each month.
- Lollihop – healthy snacks monthly!
- Smart-ass Knitters/World Domination – bi monthly hand dyed wool, pattern, and small gift. This is in Haliburton, Ontario!
A lot of countries in Africa already can make payments and put money onto their mobile phones. And that is catching on here (as in U.S. mainly) too. Here are a few sites that are doing it.
- Square – – a mobile square card reader that allows you to swipe a credit card on your phone! Pretty cool. Think of all those markets you go to in the summer! How handy would that be!
- Go payment – similar to square, this one is by intuit. And will soon be launching in Canada.
- Dwolla – Send money to friends through social networks, pay for things using your mobile phone, merchants accept payments for a set .25 cents per transaction.
- google wallet – store your credit card details in the cloud and when you go to a merchant that accepts google wallet, you pay by tapping your phone.
This is similar and tied in with mobile money, where you are offered for example 20% off while in a store if you sign up for a link to their Facebook page or to agree to receive texts from that store.
I mentioned these a couple of months back. These are getting a bit more creative. For example, the Iron Man movie poster had a QR code in the corner, so that when you took a picture of the code, you went to a trailer to find out more about what the movie was about.
Shop Socially is the idea of getting your happy customers to do your advertising for you. The old fashion way was word of mouth, but now with Facebook and Twitter, you can “Like” a product and it will go on your Facebook wall, and your friends can not only see what you bought, but some retailers can offer them a discount because you referred them.
This is just a small taste of what has started this past year and is going to be bigger in 2012. And I’m sure there are things that we haven’t even thought of yet!
I’m just overwhelmed with all the new things that are happening in the world of the web. I sometimes feel like I’m on one of those airport walkways going the wrong way. Learn one thing and six more pop up. You must all feel the same. I was in my favourite electronics store a week or so ago and saw all the shiny new tablets that are out now. I resisted the book readers (thankfully) mostly because I like reading a real book, and like to share the books that I’ve read with my friends. Also, I don’t have to worry that my book will run out of power on a six hour flight and I’ll be stuck with nothing to read. HORROR! Last year when going to the UK, I read the second in the series of “The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo” non-stop on the way to my holiday (stopping for the meals, but not movies) and the third one on the way home. (Okay, I slept quite a way on that flight) I’m not sure any reader could have lasted!
Now you have Facebook, Twitter, Linked In (which I quite like for the wealth of information) and now Google+. Their argument is that you can have levels of friendships or “circles” so you can share with some people your drunken escapades, but exclude others. I’m sure Facebook will add this soon enough, and I have to learn all of this stuff, but frankly, I’d rather talk to you on the phone or go for lunch. Here’s a video explaining it all.
Twitter is a micro blog, or mini blog. You can only use 140 characters in a single post. It is simple to set up, very public is a one to many platform. One post can go viral. This is done by a Tweet being re-tweeted. When you re-tweet you can have 160 characters to allow for the new address.
How do you get followers? The best way is to mention your account to people on your website, in person and on all your advertising or paperwork. And write interesting posts and they will tell others. You can also follow other Tweets and your name will show up as a follower.
What should you write? The rule of thumb for a business Twitter account is a third sales and marketing, a third general company info ie. General information what you do, how you can help people, about your staff, promoting other clients etc. And finally a third industry news. New and exciting advancements in your particular business, laws that affect your business and re-tweets by followers.
You should have things like free items for followers, valuable knowledge to pass on, calls to action (if they do something in a particular time, they get a bargain)
Another aspect to Twitter that larger firms are using is searching what has been twitted about themselves. It is good to keep your finger on the pulse of how your company is being perceived out in the world. Many large companies are now using Twitter for their customer service.
Facebook is different in that you aren’t limited to only a few characters. You can have links, images and movies. It’s almost like a website in itself. It is more structured and has rules. There are distinct pages for businesses called “pages”. Here, your followers are called “fans” rather than “friends”. Pages must be linked to a personal account, so you have to decide who in your company you can rely on to hand it over should they leave the company and who wants it linked to their own account.
Once you set up a Page, you will want to choose an image that best reflects your company, and that is usually your logo.
How often to post to your “wall”?
It’s a good idea to have a plan of things that you will post, so you don’t spend unnecessary time looking for ideas of what to post to your page. Like the Twitter advice, it is important to make it interesting enough so that fans who have signed up want to continue getting your updates and even share it with their friends. If you are a retail store, it could be information about an exciting new product that you are introducing, a restaurant could have a new menu being announced. Non-profits would have information about someone they’ve recently helped or details of an upcoming fundraiser.
How often to post depends on your business and how much time to have to devote to Facebook. You don’t want to post so often that you turn off people, but if you leave it too long they may just forget about you! Likely once a week or bi-weekly for a small business, and a couple of times a week for a big company with lots of news. But it is completely up to your own business.
How to build a following?
Announce your new page through email marketing. You can use an existing database of email contacts to start yourself off. Put it in your email signature so that everyone you email to, gets the news. Put up physical notices in your place of business. Link to it on your website. And tell all of your friends in your Facebook world and your real world that you now have a business presence too.
You can also follow other companies through your page, and they can do the same with you, creating other avenues for creating new customers.
Here is a timely article about customer service and Social Media.
Isn’t it the way that you just mention something and you hear that term or subject a lot in the next few days. You never know if it is because you just became aware of it or a cosmic co-incidence.
After writing on Crowdsourcing, there was a news article today that Coca-cola will team up with the band Maroon 5 to engage with thousands of fans as they crowdsource a song for charity. At the event, the band will write and record a brand new song in just 24hrs, inviting fans from across the world to inspire them throughout the process.
More and more companies are searching twitter and blog posts to see what their customers are saying about them, and changing the way they do business as a result!
Spring is here. My cat killed her first mouse today, oh, and I saw a Robin. Whoo hoo to the Robin. He’s faster than my cat.
Crowd sourcing is the act of outsourcing tasks, traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, to an undefined, large group of people or community (a “crowd”), through an open call. The term “crowdsourcing” is a combination of “crowd” and “outsourcing,” first coined by Jeff Howe in a June 2006 Wired magazine article “The Rise of Crowdsourcing”.
Photography is a good example. The advent of the digital camera, easy to use photo editing software and of course the internet have seen a surge in the availability of stock photography at a reasonable price. So the quality of photographs created by individuals started to get on par with professionals and you have a larger pool of people to choose from when you are looking for photographs for yourself of your company.
Crowdsourcing can be for design work such as 99designs.com clients can ask for submissions for designs for anything from business cards to logo design. You state what kind of design you’d like, how much you will pay, and then interested designers will start submitting designs. You choose from the designs submitted and agree to pay what they have asked for (it may be more than you offered, but the perfect logo, so you are willing to pay the higher price).
A t-shirt company, threadless, asks for submissions on t-shirt designs and the most popular (voted on by the crowd) are offered for sale in their store. If your design is chosen you get money as well as money towards buying other t-shirts and further cash rewards should it be so popular that they re-print it!
Some crowdsourcing is for the benefit of better knowledge. Wikipedia was an early example of crowdsourcing. Linux or Open Office are also examples where the user is also a contributor to making a product or application better.
Galaxy Zoo is a citizen science project that lets members of the public classify a million galaxies from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.
Gooseberry Patch, has been using crowd-sourcing to create their community-style cookbooks since 1992.
Mechanical Turk web service allows humans to help the machines of today perform tasks they aren’t suited for. Such as choosing a favourite between three photos. You sign up for the work and get paid a fee for doing it.
Of course there are benefits and casualties to crowdsourcing.
1. Numerous ideas from numerous people. Gets more ideas which means that you are more likely to get the best idea
2. Cheap. It cuts costs as you are employing a person, just using them for a limited time. Plus the competition that results.
3. Fast. It takes less time to get a job done as it is more likely that the right person is available now.
1. Quality could be questionable. Ideas and designs are submitted now just by professionals but amateurs as well. So while they may, for example, have created a great logo, they have no idea how to make it into the format you may need. And as you don’t have a relationship with the particular designer, you may not be able to find them in the future for any changes or issues.
2. It is unreliable. You may not get too many people interested and are getting ideas from a less talented pool of people.
3. Confidentiality. You are on the net for everyone to see what you are asking for, so with large corporations as an example, everyone will see you are thinking of changing your branding before you are ready to launch the idea.
Of course, for designers, photographers, crowdsourcing has been very difficult as not only do they have to compete with one another, but they have to compete with anyone who owns a computer.
I have noticed that there is a lot of interest in the sites such as Twitter and Facebook, and it grows even bigger. I find it funny that even though I am computer savvy and enjoy my work, I can’t drum up any interest it these social networking sites. It’s hard to get excited with the idea that people you left behind in high school can now look you up and revisit your past. I have friends that are addicted to their Facebook pages to the detriment of the relationships in the here and now.
But the other thing I worry about is privacy. Especially since I appear to have a stalker. It’s a bit sad, but this person seems to search the web looking for items about me. I’m not particularly interesting, nor am I famous, but it is scary to know that someone can find out information about you that you have thought was fairly private and safe.
And I am glad that I don’t subscribe to Facebook, or Twitter to people about the boring details of my day. And if I want to find out what my friends are doing, I call them up and ask them!
That doesn’t mean I don’t like the technology that we have to keep in touch. Far from it. We are able to talk often to our relatives in Scotland and London easily and it is just like the cartoon family the Jetsons portrayed that we can view them smiling at the same time!
Just remember that everything you write on Facebook and sites that are similar are read by more people than you think. Students going for jobs have their sites looked at by more than their friends; a young man who was about to be sentenced and was portrayed as full of remorse for his drunk driving was pictured on his page, drunk and partying with his friends just prior to being sentenced! No remorse shown there, but who would have thought that a prosecutor would have been looking at that page!
Two weeks after Joshua Lipton was charged in a drunk driving case, the college junior attended a Halloween party dressed as a prisoner, with the words ‘jail bird’ on his costume. Not surprisingly, his prosecutor was able to obtain photos of him at the party that were posted on Facebook, and claimed he was an ‘unrepentant partier who lived it up while his victim recovered in the hospital.’ The photos were presented in a slideshow, with one of them showing Lipton holding a can of Red Bull in one hand, and an arm draped around a girl bearing sorority letters. The judge agreed with the prosecutor, and changed Lipton’s sentence to two years in prison. The article also cites other instances of people getting harsher sentences from pictures of them posted online.
So apart from behaving yourself, which is always a good idea, it is best not to leave a trail of things you would rather people not know about you. It takes a long time for that information to disappear even after you have deleted it.
It is also likely a good idea to change your passwords on accounts you have such as email, banking etc. as well as being careful what you write in blogs such as this, and the social networking pages. You never know who is reading or looking over your shoulder.