Tag Archives: twitter

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New Forms Of Communication Causing Generation Gap

Social Media Gap

New forms of communication are causing a generation gap in the workplace — but who’s really at a disadvantage?

Look around your workplace. Chances are you’re seeing younger and more employees on Facebook, Twitter, iPhone and Android apps, and hundreds of other social media applications and platforms. The prolific little snippets of social interaction have spread like wildfire.

To the younger generation, they blur the line between personal interaction and a professional business tool. The Old Guard still often sees them as noise compared to established traditional channels of business communications. Both generations often wonder how the other gets anything done.

The work force 10 years ago was dominated by personal relationships, marketing savvy and big personalities. The phone, e-mail, cocktails and personal meetings dominated the corporate environment. The traditional work force relied heavily on building long-lasting relationships. It was not uncommon for deals to be forged over golf games and wine tastings. Access to key players was controlled by “gate keepers” who kept people’s time at a premium. Employees worked harder on fewer relationships with higher returns. Patience was a virtue and personal networks were closely guarded. This made the world harder to operate in, but also kept the noise down.

From the perspective of the social media savvy work force, tools such as Twitter and Facebook allow them to reach people more quickly and on a broader scale. As both producers and consumers of small bite-sized pieces of information, the younger generation views it as a time saver all around. They say, “Twitter is great. I can get hundreds of followers and talk to them all at once.”

If only a few of them engage it’s a win because so little time went into the relationship. For the more advanced social media users, the medium can be used to boil down complex human interaction into simple metrics. Suddenly, interacting with 500 people on Facebook becomes a game of which word in a sentence sells more product. This drive toward obtaining results immediately fits perfectly with the behavior of social media, as well as the millennial generation’s mind set.

The question isn’t about how well employees will communicate with each other across the gap, but rather, how they will communicate with customers. Companies looking to bring in social media talent must first learn if the consumer they are serving is ready for that type of engagement. A traditional work force will have a difficult time communicating with social media consumers. The solution here is simple: Hire a younger, more Twitter and Facebook happy employee. The Old Guard then assumes a more managerial role. Minor training will be required to bridge the intra-office political gap, but at least the consumer is being served.

If the company is serving a traditional consumer through a younger work force heavily engaged in social media, there may be a significant impact to the bottom line. It’s usually impossible to retrain consumers, and very hard to undo the customer interaction expectations social media has set for many younger employees. Given characteristics of the millennial generation, training social media employees to use traditional means may also be next to impossible. With a significant supply of traditional employees still on the market, companies will probably end up matching their employee base to their consumer base through hiring practices.

Employees have the option to transition from traditional to social media communicators. Traditional employees have the advantage of growing up in a world that did not know social media; that world will never completely go away. Social media can be learned at a fundamental level fairly easily. However, younger employees have grown up with social media. They’ve learned to use it in many creative ways and can ride the wave of social innovation with little effort. The new generation will, however, have to rely on the Old Guard to pass down hard lessons learned in the traditional space.

So what does social media mean for employees in the future? Based on trends, it will probably be a requirement soon. The world is embracing social media, and the medium is just in its infancy. As new tools to manage and control social media emerge, it will become more complex and essential to both office politics and customer interaction.

Everyone graduating today is steeped in social media and only a few years away from key workplace positions. The Old Guard will transition to areas requiring less and less social media and then fade from the workplace, leaving behind only a handful of the most effective old school communications techniques. By then, it may not matter; social interaction is evolving so quickly the social media we know today will be old school in the very near future.

Paul Kenjora is founder and CTO of Arkayne Inc. Arkayne helps marketers improve online sales conversion. Kenjora can be reached at pkenjora@arkayne.com.


Arizona Business Magazine Mar/Apr 2011

Social Media Employment

Social Media Series: Using Social Media In Hiring And Firing Employees

This article is part of an on-going, social media series.


With an estimated 34,000 Google searches every second, the Internet is most assuredly a source of information for employers when making hiring and firing decisions. Given the inevitable use of the Internet to make these decisions, there are a number of questions that employers should consider:

  • Should an employer use the Internet to investigate prospective employees?
  • What liability could there be if an employer uses the Internet in this manner?
  • Should an employer affirmatively address, in its practices or procedures, the use of the Internet to investigate prospective employees?
  • May an employer terminate an employee for online content posted during non-work hours?
  • Does it matter whether the employee’s online content is or is not about work-related topics?
  • What recourse, if any, does an employer have in disciplining an employee for inappropriate conduct on social media?

 

Prospective employees generally know that they should scrutinize their online presence so as not to have their resume hit the trashcan due to one weekend of debauchery posted on a Facebook photo album. Employers, on the other hand, too often fail to scrutinize their use of social media in hiring. Whether there is an official policy to run an online search of a prospective employee or informal protocol of the hiring manager, an employer’s practices and procedures should address the use of social media to investigate prospective employees.

Businesses should be aware of the potential liability in searching the online content of prospective employees. For example, a human resources representative decides to look up a prospective employee on Facebook and discovers that the individual is two months pregnant. She decides not to hire that candidate. Now, the business is vulnerable to an employment discrimination lawsuit if the candidate finds out about the human resources representative’s online activity and links the decision not to hire to the candidate’s pregnancy.

If a business wants to affirmatively use social media in evaluating the candidate and in hiring decisions, then it should express this practice in a social media policy and remind interviewers of the pertinent laws prohibiting discrimination in employment decisions.

Firing

In a survey conducted by the Health Care Compliance Association and the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics, almost 25 percent of respondents reported that the employer had disciplined an employee for conduct on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. In November 2010, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) initiated an unfair labor practice action on an employer for terminating an employee who posted personal negative comments about her supervisor on Facebook. The NLRB argued that the employer’s termination was unlawful under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) in that it was based on a policy that prohibited employees from engaging in “protected concerted activities” — discussing the terms and conditions of their workplace with each other.

In an effort to avoid common traps in cyberspace, employers should seek legal counsel when developing a policy that outlines the accepted use of social media in hiring decisions, as well as firing decisions. For instance, while there may be certain circumstances where an employer can terminate an employee for his personal online communication performed off the clock and outside the office, there are other circumstances where an employer cannot take such adverse action. A public employer generally cannot prohibit its employees from engaging in private communication that is protected by their First Amendment right to free speech. Similarly, an employer generally cannot fire employees for online discussions with co-workers about the terms and conditions of work, such as how much pay each employee at the office earns.

Such a social media policy has two important benefits: it helps employees to align their conduct with the company’s expectations and it helps the company to support a decision to reprimand an employee as appropriate under the expressed standard. Employees left to question the cause of their termination are often the ones who also decide to visit the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to explore filing a discrimination charge and/or the NLRB to file an unfair labor practice charge against their employer.

Carrie Pixler, an associate with Fennemore Craig and a member of the firm’s Litigation Section, co-authored this story.

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What are your thoughts regarding this article?
Your comments won’t go unheard! (Or unread for that matter.)
The authors of this on-going social media series will be back monthly to answer any questions you may have and/or to continue the discussion. So let us know!

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Funding Startup Companies Jumpstart Economy

Funding Startup Companies Can Help Get the Economy Moving Again

Wanted: More Jobs

I don’t have a fancy degree from an Ivy League school, and I’m not formally trained in economics. So you won’t see me on the President’s economic advisory team, or lecturing on the philosophical differences between the Keynesian and Austrian economic theories.

Instead, I grew up watching my father start a manufacturing firm and build it into a successful, multimillion-dollar business. I followed in those footsteps by helping two technology startups grow from infancy to a spot on the Inc. 500 list and eventually sell for more than $100 million.

What I’ve learned through these experiences is that innovative startups are the engine of the American economy. Startups breathe life into slow growth industries (think Starbucks, Crocs and Netflix). Startups create new products and new markets (think salesforce.com, Google and Twitter). And startups solve complex scientific and engineering challenges to create life-changing products (think Intel, Amgen and TiVo).

Naturally, as innovative startups grow they create jobs — and lots of them. An eye-opening study by the Kauffman Foundation brings that into sharp focus. The study showed that startups are responsible for all net job growth in the U.S. since 1977.

Think about that for a minute. In aggregate, older more established firms do not create jobs (at least not in the U.S.). Job growth at one company is matched or exceeded by a decline at another. In essence individual companies are trading market share, but the market itself is growing slowly or not at all. When you add in technological advances to improve employee productivity, outsourcing to offshore locations, or simply eliminating positions to meet a lower level of demand, it is not surprising that established firms do not drive job growth.

Not all startups are equal

Any entrepreneur with the guts to launch a new startup deserves enormous respect, but not all startups are created equal when it comes to job creation. Startups in slow-growth markets such as restaurants, retail and other consumer services suffer from the same challenges as more established firms. Namely, a new growth company takes market share from an established player, so any new jobs created are eventually met with job cuts at other companies.

Similarly, startups in cyclical industries such as transportation, hotels, construction, real estate, etc., will not create sustained job growth. In good economic times, these companies will boom — and just as quickly go bust when the economic winds change.

While there are exceptions to these broad generalizations (note Starbucks and Crocs), sustainable job growth usually comes from scalable, innovative startups. These are the startups that venture capitalists and angel investors target. And these are the startups that will create new markets and lead the U.S. out of this economic slowdown.

Angel and venture capital investing

The startups noted earlier all share one common trait: they were funded by angel and/or venture capital. It is safe to say that without that capital, these companies would not have reached their respective heights.

Venture capital (VC) as a distinct asset class has existed since the ’60s, reaching its high point during the dot-com boom of the late ’90s and early 20000s. With such a long history, venture capital remains a relatively small segment of the capital markets. According to a report by HIS Global Insight, in 2009, new venture investments totaled $18 billion. Since 1970, only $474 billion has been invested in 27,000-plus companies. By comparison:

    The U.S. Treasury Department will issue more than $1.1 trillion in debt this year to cover the budget deficit.

    The junk bond market is greater than $600 billion in size.

    The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan cost more than $170 billion in 2010 alone.

But venture-backed companies have an outsized impact on GDP and employment. VC-backed companies produced more than $2.9 trillion in revenue in 2009, representing more than 21 percent of total U.S. gross domestic product. More importantly, 12.1 million people are employed at venture-backed companies, representing more than 11 percent of total private sector employment.

These numbers clearly show that innovative startups create economic growth and sustainable employment.

An alternative plan

That’s why I get viscerally angry watching the economic ignorance of our federal and state governments. Politicians pay lip service to wanting to create jobs, then spend tax dollars on big corporate giveaways, old industry subsidies, and pet projects that have little impact on actual job growth.

And when our government finally recognizes the need to create jobs and support small businesses, they create programs that will do neither.

A simple (and most likely profitable) plan that will have a fast and tangible impact on jobs is to create a federal “matching fund” for any angel group or venture capital firm to access. The matching fund would automatically invest a matching amount in any innovative startup that receives investment from the VC/angel group. Funds should be made available only for seed and early-stage investments. Extra incentives should be given to promote investment in regions of the country with low levels of VC investment and/or high levels of unemployment.

Under this plan, capital will be invested in companies with the highest potential for job and economic growth, and the fund will most likely turn a profit when all is said and done.

But don’t hold your breath waiting for innovative economic solutions to materialize in Washington. Instead, allocate some of your portfolio to angel/venture investing, then find a local angel group and get involved. You will be rewarded by working with some of the best and brightest entrepreneurs, while helping get the American economy growing again. And with any luck, you will make some money along the way.

Lynne King Smith, CEO of TicketForce

TicketForce Jumps Ahead Of Competition With Facebook App

For all you concert junkies, Facebook now meets concerts as TicketForce has just made purchasing tickets online even easier, joining forces with said social media platform.

Lynne King Smith, CEO of TicketForce, announced they will be merging ticket sales with the social media powerhouse in hopes to create an all-inclusive process for potential concert goers.

“We push the mark,” Smith said. “[We] take it a step further and have everything right in front you – [a] buy tickets tab.”

TicketForce acknowledges the impact of social media, as Facebook has jumped to the No. 2 spot in all U.S. Internet traffic in 2010 — just behind powerhouse Google, according to Alexa.com.

ConcertTicketForce’s website advocates to “Take your ticketing Social,” and that’s exactly what they’re doing with Facebook. The social media giant Facebook has crossed borders other social media sites such as Myspace and Friendster never have.  Facebook — in comparison to Myspace and Friendster — provide users a more professional and legitimate medium for online marketing and sales.

Smith strongly acknowledged the influence of the social media explosion in recent years, which allows TicketForce to be “very fluid and flexible…the company is able to respond [to customers] instantaneously.”

Smith said TicketForce initially developed the idea a year and a half ago but just recently gathered the company and developers together to make it a reality.  As this Mesa-based company continues to grow, they recognize the downfall of many ticketing agencies.

Smith made the point of minimal processing fees, which over the years Ticketmaster has increased.

However, TicketForce utilizes white label ticketing solutions, which in effect removes private agencies from the purchasing process and “makes the ticketing process more relationship based,” Smith said.  This allows for minimal fees, usually between $.50 and $2.00.

TicketForce offers an all-inclusive website where customers can utilize a user-friendly guide to shows playing nearby, a live Twitter stream and links to various other social media sites including Facebook.

“Our approach to business is to stay out of the way,” Smith said, and she stresses how important positive customer relations is for their business.

TicketForce has truly expanded their influence in the ticketing world far beyond Maricopa County.  They offer tickets in 48 states and Canada, and show no signs of slowing down.

TicketForce

For more information, visit www.Ticketforce.com, or check them out on Facebook.

Twitter Screen Shot

Has Twitter Peaked? A New Study Questions The Relevance Of The Social Media Form

I love year end lists. ‘The 10 This …’ and ‘The Top 15 That …’ This year, one that I enjoyed was on CNN.com, in the business section, about “The Five Most Underreported Stories of 2010.” There’s some great stuff there about Apple’s “slow and clumsy move into the cloud” and “How Amazon saved the Kindle.” There’s even a mildly reassuring piece that argues there isn’t actually another tech bubble going on — though I’m going to take a wait-and-see approach to that.

But the one that really caught my eye was, “Hype aside, Twitter isn’t mainstream.” Like all of the items it was brief, but it pointed to a Pew study that’s fascinating. Some of the most interesting facts:

  • Only 8 percent of American adults use Twitter.
  • Less than a quarter of these, or 2 percent, are heavy users.
  • Half never listen to what anyone else tweets

There are a number of other interesting stats in there, but those were the big ones for me. Interestingly, while the article’s attitude toward the percentage of adult American users was negative — only 8 percent — I actually thought that seemed reasonable. I know we hear more and more mainstream references to Twitter, but it’s never felt even close to the type of critical mass that Facebook ultimately hit.

Out of curiosity, I decided to compare it to Facebook. That turned out to be harder than I thought. But I did learn that 27 percent of Americans use Facebook in the bathroom! Now, we’re somewhat comparing apples (American adults) to oranges (all Facebook users), but it’s still somewhat startling. Roughly three times as many people are using Facebook in the bathroom as are using Twitter at all. I’m not certain what that tells us, but it certainly seems like it tells us something! I’ll leave it for the social historians to figure out what.

The real question, though, is “has Twitter peaked?” I have had a Twitter account for a couple of years, but I never use it because to me it just feels so narcissistic. I feel odd broadcasting personal observations in 140 characters or less.  And as for reading tweets, the types of things I’m interested in hearing, from the types of people I’m interested in listening to, most often can’t be communicated in such limited form. The statistics seem to indicate that Twitter is most popular with people who are eager to share their thoughts with others, but have no interest in what others are saying. That just doesn’t seem to me like a formula for lasting relevance.

Use Amazon to help you shop this holiday season

Amazon And Twitter Are Resources For Savvy Shoppers This Weekend

There are many Web resources for the frugal shopper, like Groupon, LivingSocial, SocialBuy and BuyWithMe, but there are still ways to save on the Web without printing a coupon.

Amazon

Amazon’s daily Gold Box deals were intensified this week with the addition of Black Friday Week Lightning Deals. Everything from atlases to car seats were available at an immensely discounted price for a short period of time and in limited quantities.

Black Friday deals at Amazon include ridiculously cheap DVDs, diamond earrings and even a Martha Stewart electronic cake cutting system – as if you didn’t already have one of those.

After Thanksgiving’s shop-till-you-drop marathon, Amazon’s Gold Box deals are available every day. You can sign up to receive daily e-mails or texts about the Gold Box deal, or you can follow the deal on Twitter.

Twitter

Twitter is another resource for shoppers this weekend.

If you’re a little behind the game and are still looking for Black Friday deals, try searching #blackfriday. No doubt people will be tweeting about their finds and stores will probably still be tweeting about their promotions.

Search #cybermonday and you’ll find people tweeting about deals. Check out the following Twitter pages for links to some great Cyber Monday deals.


If you still want to save after the holiday weekend, Twitter can still be a great resource.

For example, @RetailMeNot shares coupons for more than 65,000 retailers worldwide. You can also visit the Web site if you’re looking for a specific coupon.

Willing to search through thousands of tweets to find a deal? CheapTweet.com is the right place for you. The site indexes the deals on Twitter and allows you to search for deals by category and store.

If you’d like to learn more about how to use Groupon, read AZNow.Biz’s Groupon article.

Social media sites are no longer just places to reconnect with childhood friends or college roommates.

Social Media And The Hiring Process: Your Profile Can Sink Or Save You

Social media has set up camp in the professional world and is there to stay.

Social media sites are no longer just places to reconnect with childhood friends or college roommates. Companies now use social media websites to do unofficial background checks on potential employees.

A Cross-Tab Marketing Service study, released earlier this year, reveals that 70 percent of companies have rejected a candidate based on an inappropriate social media website posting.

This is a scary reality for everyone who uses these sites as a harmless way to catch up with friends, but may have crossed the line by uploading funny, yet work-inappropriate pictures. In today’s world, a world inextricably tied to the Internet, anything posted on a public page can and will be found by potential employers, says Lew Clark, an attorney with Squire, Sanders and Dempsey.

However, there are ways to prevent shooting yourself in the social media foot and, if you’re smart, work the system.

There are a few obvious things not to have on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube or other social media websites — including inappropriate photos or conversations. Poor grammar, spelling or writing skills, use of profanity, and poor people skills also can turn off a potential employer, Clark says.

“One of the huge no-nos that we discuss with folks … is to never, ever post anything negative about a former boss, co-worker, employer. It creates the wrong image. No matter if it’s true, valid, anything else, you just do not want to go there,” says Cindy Jones, vice president of human resources at Synergy Seven.

Don’t despair. Companies aren’t just looking for reasons to disqualify you. They’re also looking for reasons why you’re perfect for the job, Jones says. Especially on professional social media sites, such as Linkedin, companies look to see prospective employees’ connections.

If used properly, social media can be an effective marketing tool, Jones adds, providing a real-world example of how to use social media as an advantage.

When a woman decided to switch careers from Realtor to sommelier, she changed both her professional — Linkedin — and personal — Facebook — social media pages to reflect her new career path. She posted her excitement about passing tests toward receiving sommelier certification and changed her main picture to one of her toasting with a glass of wine.

While this type of online makeover won’t work for all fields, Jones says it’s an example of using social media to one’s advantage.

“There’s nothing at all improper with a prospective employer (looking) on someone’s public Facebook page, their public Twitter page, or any other online networking website that you can access publicly,” Clark says.

However, accessing a potential employee’s private page by figuring out the password, accessing it through someone else’s page or by pretending to be someone else is illegal, he adds.

Aside from accessing a page illegally, employers can find themselves in other sticky situations.

Employers may find information about a person’s religion, health, age or personal life that they wouldn’t otherwise learn and can’t legally take into consideration in the hiring process, Clark and Jones say.

“The risk to the employer is that someone could allege that you used information that is legally protected to decide whether to hire somebody or not,” Jones says. “Our guidance with most companies starts at the place of there’s nothing illegal about it, but be careful.”

Clark adds: “Employers are looking for whatever resource they can to try to get information about candidates so they can make a good hire.”

Background checks, including checking social media websites, can reduce costs, encourage honesty among employees and ensure the best person gets the job, says Marcia Rhodes from WorldatWork, a global human resource association.

Although using social media in the hiring process offers many perks, Jones and Rhodes say they’ve seen a trend in which companies are limiting social media background checks on possible employees, contrary to the report previously cited.

Kim Magyar, an attorney with Snell and Wilmer, says she doesn’t see the number of companies using social media decreasing, but companies are being more targeted and cautious with their searches.

Some companies wait until they’ve already interviewed a candidate to check social media, while others check before they conduct an interview, says Magyar, who has given presentations on social networking and the workplace.

Many companies believe social media can be a treasure trove of information; information that might not always be accurate, Magyar says.

“There’s nothing to prevent an employer from making decisions based upon what they see (on social media sites),” Clark says.

Nothing, except the awareness that public social media pages are fair game and the preparedness of prospective employees to maintain their pages in a way that represents them in a respectable, hire-able way.

V icon, similar to Facebook icon

How Should Employers Respond To Social Media In The Workplace?

Virtual Networking:

According to some major news articles, the reign of e-mail as a primary tool for communication is coming to a close. This does not mean e-mail will no longer have a place in many people’s daily lives, but rather that its use will be minimized as new generations of communicators strive for instant feedback.

The Nielsen Company conducted a study that found that as of August, 276.9 million people used e-mail across the U.S. and other major countries. In contrast, the number of users on social networking sites was 301.5 million. What is staggering is that social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter have only been in existence for about five years or less. What does this mean for employers?

Currently, there are three major responses by employers regarding employee (and their own) use of social media. The first response is to completely ignore social media and deal with issues if and when they arise. In fact, according to Russell Herder and Ethos Business Law, more than one in three businesses have no policies concerning the use of social media sites in the workplace. The second response is to completely ban social media and even block social media sites so there is no potential for use. As of July 2009, the American Management Association found that approximately 71 percent of IT departments are blocking users from social networking. The third response is to allow employee use of social media within a defined setting.

While trying to weigh how to respond and considering the potential risks, such as security issues and low productivity, it is important for employers to consider that studies show that, although 61 percent of all employees access their Facebook profile at work, this may be a phenomenon to embrace. It is no secret that the delineation between work time and home time has blurred with the use of laptops and cell phones.

In August, the University of Melbourne reported the results of a study that showed people who use the Internet for personal reasons at work are about 9 percent more productive than those who do not. One possible theory according to Brent Colker, the Melbourne study author, was that “short and unobtrusive breaks, such as a quick surf of the Internet, enables the mind to rest itself, leading to a higher total net concentration for a day’s work, and as a result, increased productivity.”

Given these dynamics, most employers will want to choose the third approach and opt for a social media policy that will provide active social media users in the workplace with defined parameters. Much like Internet-use policies, the employer will want to advise its employees on the proper professional etiquette of social media while protecting its own interests. To do this, the employer should be mindful to consider the following when drafting its policy:

  • Encourage employees to use good judgment: Don’t write anything you wouldn’t say in person.
  • Advise them on how to preserve confidentiality and intellectual property: Do not disclose customer or proprietary information.
  • Require employees to disclose any work-related blogging to their supervisor: An employee should use a disclaimer on his blog clarifying where he works and that the opinions and views expressed are not necessarily those of the employer.
  • Mandate that social media use not interfere with getting the job done and that computer use will be monitored appropriately: Always stay productive.
  • Provide a reminder or training regarding the ethics code of the business or given profession: Respect copyright and fair use and do not risk harassment, discrimination or defamation.
  • Encourage employees to be courteous social media community members: Pay heed to mutuality, authenticity and timeliness; these concepts have special meaning in the social media sphere.
  • Clarify the place of social media within the overall business goals and communication plan: Workplace social media use should follow the employer’s goals.

As employers venture into this brave new world, they should be mindful that any policy implemented should work consistently with any Internet-use policy or disciplinary policy already in place.In addition, some employers may need to consider drafting more than one policy — one for hourly and one for salaried employees due to wage hour laws. Also, employers should remain aware of other legal issues that may arise, such as free speech rights and potential litigation and discovery issues. As such, it is always prudent for employers to have legal counsel review such a policy before it is implemented.

Social Media

How To Get The Most Out Of Social Media

“Are you taking advantage of Web 2.0?” This question has been circulating throughout the business world regarding the online world of mass collaboration and consumer-generated content. Web 2.0 is redefining public relations, marketing, communications and branding for businesses worldwide.

Nielsen’s 2009 Global Faces and Networked Places report states that two-thirds of the world’s Internet population visits a social network or blogging site, and the sector accounts for 10 percent of all Internet time. “Consequently, the global media and advertising industries are faced with new challenges around the opportunities and risks this new consumer medium creates,” the report states.

Ken Reaser, a partner at Spin Six Strategic Marketing Design in Scottsdale, agrees. “People’s opinion is going to be out there,” he says. “You can attempt to influence it, but you can’t control it.”

Gabriel Shaoolian, founder of New York-based Blue Fountain Media, says social media can be tough to navigate at first, but once a company starts talking to its customers, “that dialogue is priceless. The persistent nature of online interaction means that (social media) has the long-lasting effects of traditional advertising, but the immediate interaction means it also has the revenue-driving power of traditional sales.” However, Shaoolian cautions that social media marketing is not for every business or marketer — but its impact is hard to ignore.

Businesses are all at some level of using social media networks, says Anthony Helmstetter, a partner at Spin Six. “Some are using it for reputation management, where social media is used as a function of customer service,” he explains. “However, 90 percent of the businesses out there will not stop using other marketing outlets.”

Forrester Research released its five-year forecast in July 2009, which states that spending on interactive marketing in the United States will reach almost $55 billion and represent 21 percent of all marketing spending by 2014. The report shows that social media spending alone will increase to $3.1 billion in 2014 from $716 million in 2009, representing a compound annual growth rate of 34 percent — the highest percentage gain in the marketing mix. This spending activity ranks social media as the third most prominent program behind search marketing and display advertising.

“Social media has its place, and we do find it to be a helpful tool, but only when it’s used correctly. … Be cautious with it.”

— Ken Reaser, partner at Spin Six Strategic Marketing Design in Scottsdale


The following is a look at the top social networking sites on the Web:

Link it Up: Optimizing LinkedIn for the Business Owner

LinkedIn helps people manage and make connections with other industry professionals, and expand beyond boundaries companies have been unable to reach. The site is relatively easy to use and provides a helpful breadth of information, as well as multiple ways to expand small businesses.

Mashable, an online social media guide, posted “How to Build Your Company’s Profile on LinkedIn” in August 2009. Adam Ostrow, a regular Mashable commentator, writes that LinkedIn separates itself from other social media networks with its company profiles. Company profiles allow a business owner to provide potential candidates with a lot more information about the company and the people who work there.

Here are Ostrow’s tips on how to set up a company profile:

  • Go to the “Companies” menu on LinkedIn. Select “Add Company.”
  • Enter the company’s basic information, such as a description, number of employees and industry in which it operates.
  • Follow LinkedIn’s wizard for creating your company profile, which allows you to add a logo, locations and feed for your company blog/newsletter.

LinkedIn will pull data about your company from around the Web site to further enhance the company profile that already has been established. For example, all of the company’s job listings will show up automatically on the profile, along with links to profiles for current, former, new hires and recent promotions regarding company employees.

Inovedia Marketing provides several tips for small business owners when utilizing LinkedIn, such as:

  • Connect with customers and vendors.
  • Improve a company’s image by requesting LinkedIn recommendations from happy customers.
  • Answer LinkedIn questions to build the company’s brand and promote it within the LinkedIn community.
  • Keep track of all contacts. You never know when you’ll need them.
  • Test a company’s ideas by joining marketing groups and utilize the “Start a Discussion” feature to act as a focus group.
  • Connect with fellow small business owners and find multiple small business resources.

All of this aggregate data about the company provides potential candidates information to determine if the company is a good fit for them. If a company is concerned about the information available online, LinkedIn does allow edits to the company’s basic profile information.

According to Ostrow’s post, LinkedIn recently added a premium product, Custom Company Profiles, that allows a business owner to add more features such as videos about the company, positions, interactive polls and several customized options for recruiting. Ostrow adds: “These are worth considering for larger companies (they come at a price), but for small businesses, a basic LinkedIn company profile should be enough to add lots of efficiency to the recruiting process — both for candidates and for you.”

www.linkedin.com

Face Off: Putting a Face to Your Business through Facebook

Facebook has become the largest player on the global social networking stage. In September, the company announced it had 300 million active users.

“Based on a simple design, broad demographic appeal and a focus on connecting, Facebook has become the most popular social network measured by Nielsen Online.” — Nielsen’s 2009 Global Faces and Networked Places report

Facebook started out as a service for university students, but now one-third of its global audience is aged 35-49 years, and one-quarter is over 50. In July 2009 alone, Facebook attracted 87.7 million unique visitors in the U.S., which was 14 percent higher than the previous month, according to comScore. In absolute terms, Facebook added about 10 million new visitors in July 2009 versus roughly 1 million new visitors for Twitter.

In August 2009, Facebook purchased FriendFeed for just under $50 million, which cost one-tenth as much as Twitter would have, had Facebook gone through with its plans to purchase the site.

So how can businesses capitalize on this growing social network empire? HubSpot, an inbound marketing system specifically for the Internet, published a report called “How to Use Facebook for Business.” The report outlines the difference between Facebook Profiles and Pages — the latter being specifically for business use.

  • Facebook Pages allow a company to designate multiple administrators to help manage the account.
  • Pages are by default made public and will start ranking in Facebook and public search results, and engines such as Google.
  • Pages are split into different categories to help the company get listed in more relevant search results.

For companies worried about privacy, Facebook is flexible in letting administrators control a business’ exposure. The creation of a Page is very similar to a user profile, except that you choose a category (i.e. brand or product) and a name for your Page (usually the company’s name). Once the creator is done setting up the Page, be sure to hit “Publish” to make it public.

Ken Reaser, a partner with Spin Six, strongly warns Facebook users to keep their personal profiles separate from their company pages. “You are now becoming a participant in a community where you no longer have control — be cautious,” he says.

There are various ways to promote company Facebook Pages, such as leveraging the viral nature of Facebook via the news feed, drawing on the administrator’s personal existing network, making the Page publicly searchable, and using Facebook Ads for an extra push, according to HubSpot.

Other areas Facebook excels at include:

  • Facebook Groups: Similar to Pages, but meant to be built around a group of people rather than an individual business or a brand.
  • Applications: Developers may write software to help promote a business on Facebook.
  • Polls: Marketers can use them to get quick answers about a particular feature, or find out information and opinions from specific demographics.
  • Facebook Connect: Helps integrate a company Web site with Facebook.
  • Facebook Ads: You can choose a specific demographic target, see how many people that demographic will hit and advertise to that demographic.

This point spotlights the biggest challenge for Facebook — turning its network into a revenue-producing mechanism. In 2008, Facebook earned around $300 million in ad revenue compared to MySpace’s estimated $1 billion. MySpace has primarily become an entertainment site. In September 2009, Facebook said it achieved positive cash flow for the first time since its founding six years ago.

Still, the fact that content supplied by the social network’s members is of a highly personal nature creates a Catch-22. The personal data is potentially one of the network’s most valuable assets, yet it provides a major obstacle in generating revenue as members see highly targeted ads as an invasion of privacy.

“If Facebook were a country, it would be the 8th most-populated in the world, just ahead of Japan.”

— Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder, January 2009

www.facebook.com

A Birdie Told Me: Utilizing Twitter’s Real-Time Potential

The first reaction many people have to Twitter is bewilderment, which matches the reason for the name of the micro-blogging site.

“Twittering is the sound birds make when they communicate with each other — an apt description of the conversations held on Twitter,” says site co-founder Biz Stone on the Twitter 101 site. “Every day, millions of people use Twitter to create, discover and share ideas with others. Businesses can use the outlet to quickly share information with people interested in the company, gather real-time market intelligence and feedback, and build relationships with customers, partners and other people who care about the company.”

Evan Williams, Twitter’s CEO and co-founder, says that in the best cases, Twitter makes the public smarter, faster and more efficient. However, not everyone believes in the Twitter-hype.

Anthony Helmstetter, a partner at Spin Six Strategic Marketing Design, says Twitter, despite being hot right now, sees a less than 40 percent retention rate after someone has had an account for 30 days.

“What this shows is that this exuberant hype is short-lived,” Helmstetter explains. “What Twitter lacks is a ‘sticky’ component. There’s nothing to make people keep using it.”

He clarifies that Twitter is better for real-time information, but not to build legacy content. But that’s not stopping major brands across the nation from tuning into the world’s mind. Mashable’s commentator Ostrow reported in August 2009 that big brands are embracing social media, with Fortune 100 companies selecting Twitter as their choice of venue. According to recent study by the global public relations firm Burson-Marsteller:

  • Among Fortune 100 companies, 54 percent have a Twitter presence, 32 percent have a blog, and 29 percent have an active Facebook Page.
  • Of companies using only one of these tools, at least 76 percent of them choose Twitter.
  • Of the Fortune 100 companies on Twitter, 94 percent use it for news/announcements, 67 percent for customer service, and 57 percent for deals/promotions.
  • The average Fortune 100 Twitter account has 5,234 followers. The median is 674 followers.
  • Many companies are simply avoiding blogs and going directly to Twitter instead.

One of the most well-known brands on Twitter is Starbucks. According to the Twitter 101 Web site, Brad Nelson tweets on behalf of Starbucks Coffee, and says he “loves” the 140 character limits for tweets. He manages it through a third-party application called TweetDeck that allows him to group his followers and see everything at once, from DMs (direct messages) and replies to searches and trending topics.

What a company chooses to post about depends on its goals for using Twitter.

“Listen regularly for comments about your company, brand and products — and be prepared to address concerns, offer customer service and thank people for praise,” Twitter’s co-founders say. But most importantly, don’t spam people.

“There’s the idea that social media is free, but it’s not free,” Spin Six Partner Ken Reaser says.

He adds that businesses looking to go into social media, especially sites such as Twitter, need to be consulted as to why they want to get involved, what their goals and expectations are, what they want to get out of it, how much money they have budgeted for it and the cost to manage it.

www.twitter.com

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