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There’s been a lot of talk lately about social media.  First a quick definition–see if you agree with it. I like this one as it makes more sense than others I’ve read.  It was written by Joseph Thornley, CEO of Thornley Fallis a full-service communications and public relations firm.

Social media are online communications in which individuals shift fluidly and flexibly between the role of audience and author. To do this, they use social software that enables anyone without knowledge of coding, to post, comment on, share or mash up content and to form communities around shared interests.

Some examples of popular social media sites are on line discussion forums like those available at Weightwatchers.com; networking sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and MySpace; and social messaging services like Twitter

Chris Crumhas blogged about some ways that businesses around his hometown of Lexington, Ky. have utilized social media–along with suggestions for others to jump on board.  His post can be read here–Real Life Examples: Local Social Media Marketing in Action.  Seeing how businesses are putting social media marketing techniques into use is a great way of gaining an insight into just what can be done with today’s technologies.afaceatwti1

 Taking a look at Facebook, I’m amazed at its continued growth.  Facebook has now outpaced MySpace with a registered user base of over 180 million.  Smart businesses can use this huge community to their advantage by using just a few simple ideas.  One thing a business can do is to watch what people are saying about your business and use that to build and improve on your brand’s reputation.  By having a Facebook presence your company will increase brand awareness and chances for interacting with customers.  Facebook also has many ways of targeting ads through user profile information.  Because people can opt in to be your friend, you can target messages specifically to those who have already shown an interest in your business.

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Twitter is continuing its wildfire like spread–now showing up in courts around the world.  Journalists are  seeking and gaining permission to Twitter about cases they’re covering so that those interested can follow the proceedings live.   While the debate about this continues, more and more judges are permitting Twitter in the courtroom.  Check out the discussion about the Pirate Bay case in Sweden.

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Follow Pirate Bay twitters here

Twitter continues to grow with an estimated 7 million who now consider themselves Twitterers.  What started as a simple idea–that of asking “what are you doing” to fellow twitterers,  has turned into a serious social phenomena .  President Obama used Twitter to promote fund-raising for his campaign and had a staff member producing Twitters for him at an astounding pace.  Mr. Obama has apparently ceased twittering since the inauguration and there are some who would like to know why.   A recent post by Paul Bouton in the New York Times is one who wants this question answered.

Barack Obama’s online presence drove his campaign’s early fund-raising and his primary victory over Hillary Rodham Clinton. His campaign’s use of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube proved that he was part of the Web 2.0 generation. In the run-up to November’s election, Senator Obama – or one of his staff members – typed more than 250 updates to his Twitter account at twitter.com/barackobama.

Some think Obama supporters have been “pumped and dumped” now that the election is over. Others believe that as president, Mr. Obama has been restricted from thumb-typing tweets on his BlackBerry because of federal restrictions on presidential communications. But that shouldn’t stop an eager intern from taking over.

What is most interesting about Twitter is its ability to yeild an extensive amount of marketing data directly from the consumer.  Twitter allows businesses to know when consumers are talking about them and what they’re saying.  It allows companies like Zappos.com to respond quickly to customer concerns and to encourage an interactive relationship.

Interviewed by  USA Today, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh says that he uses Twitter to maintain contact with the public.

For people who follow us on Twitter, it gives them more depth into what we’re like, and my own personality,” he says.

Zappos  tested a new site, zeta.zappos.com, recently on Twitter, “and we were able to make some improvements based on the comments,” says Hsieh.

Jefferson Graham from USA Today quotes CEO Mike Hudak of Blip.tv as follows:

“In the past, companies would hire a market research firm to understand their audience,” says Mike Hudack, CEO of Blip.tv, a New York-based video website.

“Now we use Twitter to get the fastest, most honest research any company ever heard – the good, bad and ugly – and it doesn’t cost a cent,” he says.
What could be more important to those in marketing than honest, fast, up to date research coming  directly from the consumer?  And Twitter is free!

So what do you think of corporate blogs?  Do you know what a corporate blog is?  According to Wikipedia a corporate webblog is published and used by an organization to reach its organizational goals. The advantage of blogs is that posts and comments are easy to reach and follow due to centralized hosting and generally structured conversation threads.

Wikipedia goes on to explain  two types of corporate blogs.  Internal–meant for employees to view and comment on and external–published for the public to view.

The question here involves those corporate blogs created for the public to view, comment on and follow.  Are these blogs being visited? Do consumers take the time to look for and then read a company’s blog?  Why would they or why wouldn’t they?  It seems that the goal of an external company blog would be to build a relationship with their consumer by providing news and up to date information about their products.  While many attempt to do this, often the blog posts come across as nothing more than press releases—looked upon as just another company marketing attempt.

Josh Catone who blogs for Sitepoint, an online media company, discusses 15 companies who are successfully providing interesting, stimulating blogs that encourage discussion among readers.  Quoting  from a  Forrester Research report on corporate blogs, Catone discusses how  most B2B blogs are “dull, drab, and don’t stimulate discussion.”  Most of these businesses have not seen a significant value for their blogging attempts, either. The Forrester report suggests that companies not discontinue their blogs, but rather to boost their entertainment value so as to attract and keep interested consumers.

Some of Catone’s favorite corporate blogs include the following with his comments:

DellThough Dell’s corporate blog rarely strays from Dell-centric news, the company posts with a great conversational voice, often breaks news on their blog (which keeps people coming back), and listens and responds to customers. Dell also posts regularly (1-2 posts per day at least) which keeps content fresh and encourages repeat visits.

AdobeAdobe offers a huge collection of employee blogs, many of which are great reads. By allowing employees to blog, Adobe has empowered them to evangelize their products for them — many post tutorials, advice, reviews, and other great tid-bits promoting Adobe products — while not pigeon holing them into talking only about Adobe.

Southwest AirlinesSouthwest Airlines’ “Nuts About Southwest” blog doesn’t take itself too seriously — and that’s a good thing. The company blogs about itself and the airline industry with a personal touch and has been producing a series of fun, behind-the-scenes videos that are both interesting and engaging.

While these are great examples of successful corporate blogs, it doesn’t help the image of corporate blogs in general.  A recent article in Business Week written by Heather Green, (December, 09), further quotes the Forrester Research report with the amazing figure that only 16% of consumers put any trust in corporate blogs.  They rate these blogs on the trust scale lower than direct mail, print media and even corporate emails.   So what’s the secret to encouraging a brand relationship with your customer through the use of corporate blogs?  What is it that’s going to make the consumer sit up and take notice of your company’s blog?

A recent posting on The Agitationist discusses the trust issue with an eye on what a social media team can do to help.  The main gist of this post seems to be that a corporate blog must offer the consumer something– desired information, a solution to a problem, a believable insight into the company, entertainment, and a place where consumers can post their opinions and have proof that they have been listened to.  This may be why Dell has been so successful with their blogging.  By listening and responding to their customers’ ideas and opinions, they have created an active and interesting blog.  Direct2Dell is a prime example of how a coporate blog should work.

Time to jump on the blogging bandwagon–especially since it is a requirement for my Emerging Media class!  In this blog, I plan to post about the trials and tribulations of playing catch up in a digital world.   Learning to make use of the many technological gadgets created to simplify our lives is going to be quite challenging.

With new buzz words and gizmos jumping out at us every day, becoming simplified is not so simple.  I’ve found I need to find friends on Facebook, connect on LinkedIN, identify what a Twitter is and understand widgets, tags and RSS feeds!  With the ultimate goal of becoming a digital marketing guru, I’ll really need to get with it.

First, things first, though–I really need to understand how this blogging thing works.  I want my blog to look creative, cool, savy and intriguing like all the others.  But so far, I’ve spent two hours just trying to create my header.  I’m in for a true learning experience with this one.

A bit about me and the tech I CAN comprehend.  I love discussion forums.  I talk and trade books, plants, recipes and eggs.  (hatching eggs)  I love Photobucket, Ebay, Youtube and my good friend, Google.  Some of the sites I visit daily include:

paperbackswap.com 

backyardchickens.com

gardenweb.com  

Well, time to feed the chickens and gather the rent.

This concludes post 1–I’m sure I’ll be back to edit and add more linkies!

Please comment and hit me with some tips on any and all social media, marketing, techie buzzwords and sites you consider relevent.

Becky