Thursday, August 4, 2011

Facebook Launches Online Education Center For Businesses.

From Evernote:

Facebook Launches Online Education Center For Businesses.

Google+, Google+, Google+! The folks at Facebook must be sick and tired of hearing about Google’s new entry into social networking. Well, the social media giant is hitting Google back right where it hurts. Google’s failure to have pages for businesses has been well documented. To make that pain a little worse, Facebook has launched Facebook.com/Business.

According to an Inc.com article, a Facebook spokesperson said, “Facebook allows small businesses to create rich social experiences, build lasting relationships and amplify the most powerful type of marketing—word of mouth. We created Facebook.com/Business to make it even easier for people to reach these objectives and grow.”

It is clear that Facebook and other social media companies are growing up and working on refining their monetization strategy. Facebook understands that for it to generate revenue from not only major brands but also small business owners it has to provide education for businesses. While much of the information is pretty basic, especially if you have already read some of our Facebook Marketing ebooks, it is valuable information for businesses that are new to Facebook. Especially valuable is the information and walk-through content that Facebook provides around its advertising platform.

Marketing Takeaway

Facebook is an important part of a successful social media marketing campaign, regardless if you are a B2C or B2B company. It is important to get the basics right, which include setting up a Facebook Page. Once you have the basics down, be sure to test other aspects of Facebook marketing, including their advertising platform, to determine how it works for your business. Stay on the look-out for more social networks working harder to cater to business users.

What do you think of Facebook’s new resources?

Free eBook: 2011 Facebook Marketing Guide

Posted by Kipp Bodnar on Thu, Jul 28, 2011 @ 12:25 PM

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FaceBook for Businesses Launches.

From Evernote:

FaceBook for Businesses Launches.

In an effort to keep pace with Google+ and its business unit, FaceBook has announced a special unit to help businesses advertise with FaceBook as well as maintain a presence on the social networking giant. FaceBook is not used to having to keep up with the competition, but now with the success of Google+ it is being pushed. We are beginning to see a feature war in the process as both services reach out for businesses and the lucrative advertising they bring with them.


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 This can work in both directions for the digital agency. FaceBook’s dominance might make some firms think the digital agency is not terribly important as long as there is a FaceBook presence. This launch will make that presence easier to maintain and create, allowing the digital agency to be cut out. Of course, the entrance of Google+ might cut against this notion as FaceBook’s dominance is now threatened. The digital agency can benefit from this change, however, because this is just the opening salvo in an appeal by both services to capture the business sector . That feature war will probably make advertising less expensive and spur innovations making those same, now cheaper advertisements, more effective. Engagement has never been easier and that makes the efforts of the digital agency easier and more productive.

   

About this article

Article Author: Derek Mehraban

Derek Mehraban is CEO of Ingenex Digital Marketing. Mehraban is a leader in social media and online marketing. With 15 years of experience working as a writer, producer, marketing strategist, and digital CEO. Mehraban is a Technorati fan!}

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Do You Need an App?.

From Evernote:

Do You Need an App?.

Mobile applications can be one of the best ways to keep your consumers engaged with your brand as they are on the move. But first you have to decide whether or not you actually need it. Here’s how to make that decision.

By Lou Dubois |  @lou_dubois   | 
 

“The mobile consumer is on the move, and marketers will have to learn how and where their customers aggregate in this new digital landscape.” - Chuck Martin

Related Tools

When Canadian pizza chain Pizza Pizza rolled out a mobile marketing strategy and accompanying mobile application in early 2011, they were already a few years behind the competition. In America, Domino’s Pizza had gained considerable press for their Pizza Tracker, which lets you see the progress of your order from the time you place it until it arrives at your door.  So what did Pizza Pizza, who operates 600 chains in Ontario, do? They streamlined both ordering and delivery, and encouraged consumers to use the application via an incentive-based system. After an early April launch, they reported meeting the six-month performance metrics in six weeks and won a Webby Award (honoring innovation in web and mobile) as a smartphone-shopping tool.

“When we first sat down with Pizza Pizza, they knew very little about mobile apps, because what they really know is pizza,” says Melody Adhami, co-founder of Plastic Mobile, the Toronto-based mobile experience and design agency who created the application. “We wanted to offer a totally immersed mobile experience that didn’t require consumers to leave the app, and to showcase what was already delicious food.”

Success stories like Pizza Pizza, while inspirational for many small businesses, are rather rare in the mobile application world, despite the explosion in the space. Late May stats (and a cool infographic) released by BuySellAds.com state that worldwide app revenue is set to hit $15.1 billion by the end of 2011, a 200% increase over 2010, while July research from Deloitte LLP says that 45% of smartphone users download a new app at least once a week. In the same Deloitte research, however, they found that 80% of the apps they reviewed had less than 1,000 downloads. So while the Apple App Store hit 15 billion downloads last month, it still has over 425,000 apps and growing that you need to set your app apart from.

“An application is in many ways a piece of software,” Adhami adds. “And to that point, it needs to be only a piece of your overall mobile marketing and advertising strategy to be successful. You need to be different and innovative to be successful.”

Developing a smartphone application can also be costly, so you need to ensure you do it right the first time to get repeat engagement and downloads. In this guide, we’ll explore what questions to ask before deciding to design an app, keys to successfully creating one that appeals to your consumers, how to measure success and some standard costs to consider.

What Questions to Ask Before Designing an App

“The mobile consumer is on the move, and marketers will have to learn how and where their customers aggregate in this new digital landscape,” writes Chuck Martin, also known as “the mobile evangelist, in his new book The Third Screen: Marketing to Your Customers in a World Gone Mobile. “This new wave of digital mobility is leading to what we call the untethered consumer, who are freed from the constraints of awaiting a broadcast message or any form of traditional online communication from a company.”

As you review your overall mobile marketing strategy, it is important to remember that it’s more than just building an application. An app can be a great engagement medium, but it isn’t necessarily the right solution for each business type and each business need. You need to evaluate those issues, listen to what your customers want, and then as Michael Becker and John Arnold write in Mobile Marketing for Dummies, ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I trying to reach the most people possible? According to recent numbers released by Pew Research, only 35% of Americans own a smartphone. While that is rather high and will only increase, that’s still 65% of consumers that can’t use an app. If you’re looking to reach the masses, you need to evaluate how many of your customers are actually using these devices, and if they are, which platforms (iPhone, Android, etc.) they prefer.

 

  • Do you need a mobile app or mobile Web site? “It really comes down to budgets and again, determining where your customers are,” says Adhami. “If you don’t have a budget to build an app, don’t do it just for the sake of having an application. If mobile advertising would work best, go with that. If enhancing your mobile site is easier, do that first, because it works across the many different smartphone platforms. If you’re not targeting or tailoring your solution to your business and your customers, it has very little value.”

 

  • Do you have the time to do the care and feeding of a mobile app? An app is not like a microsite you can take down in a few months. The applications that do best in the market demand your users to come back over and over again, and that requires you to refresh and develop new content. If you can’t do that, you won’t get repeat visitors and your app will end up losing.

 

  • What phones do your customers use? You may need to develop a variety of apps for different platforms, dependent upon where your customers are. Companies that develop their first app for every platform are not recognizing where their customers are and where their business will fit in best.

“Even if you think you have a great idea for an application, that’s such a small part of the equation,” says Professor Rahul Mangharam, the chair of Electric & Systems Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania School of Engineering and Applied Science, which has a Masters and Undergraduate program focused on developing businesses and applications. “Whether it’s a student or company, it’s easy to forget about what you’re really trying to achieve with the app because you become so focused on the actual look and feel. The best applications don’t just look good, they actually solve a problem or simplify life for the mobile consumer.”


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Using Dropbox To Manage Projects With Big Files

From Evernote:

Using Dropbox To Manage Projects With Big Files

Recently I was involved in a video production for the DIY Lighting Kits that demanded synchronization between a large number of participants. Well, that is usually the case right, you have the photographer (or more than one), the editor, a retoucher sometimes, a sound man,  and a client. It can get even more complex if you have even more stakeholders to the project. how do you sync them all? In this post, I want to share my personal experience with Dropbox a semi-free file synchronization solution. (Here is my personal subscription link, if you sign up through this, both you and I get some extra space)

Before diving into the technical solution a few words about projects. The ability of ad-hock teams to organize like this to meet a project creative goals and deadlines is truly amazing. Only a few years back it was not really possible to work with a scattered team like this unless you were working for a big organization with a pricey network and expensive servers. For me this means freedom. Freedom to hire better craftsmen regardless of their physical location. Freedom to interact faster and on a deeper level with fellow photographers, and freedom to put my efforts into my core business rather than deal with bureaucracy and technicalities.

Defining The Problem

When a big group works on a project files may have to move around. Sometimes (like in my case) there was a very clear path of how files had to move in order to complete the project. I our case it was a short clip made with still images.

It all started with a script. The photographers (me included) were handed with assignments and went off to work. The first step was to get the director’s approval for the shot. Once approved, the processed version of the file went to the editor.

In parallel, the sound-man and singer had to work to get the soundtrack. A raw version of the music was sent to the singer, a voice track was sent back and then remastered by the sound-man and sent to the editor.

The editor received the pictures and sound files and edited it down to a video clip. Sounds easy, right? Here is a chart to help visualize the flow of things.

If all stakeholders belong in the same firm or to a closely located group this may not be something even worth discussing. Portable hard drives and thumb drives may be enough. But for the project in question, we were a team scatted in three different countries with multiple locations in each country.

The music / sound man, myself and a second photographer were located in three different location in Israel, the editor and singer were located in the US and a third photographer was located in Canada. None of us could jump over with a thumb drive or a portable disk for deliveries. Yes we needed a way to move files around.

The Enterprise Solution

When I was working in the software industry, this was no issue at all. One team “checks in” a file at location A, and the other team almost instantly sees it in location B. This was done via a piece of software called clear case. The overhead was enormous. There were a few servers on my facility, a few on the remote location. A dedicated DBA to handle the configuration and needs for the different teams. All and all it is a solution that works great, but demands a huge overhead.

What Is Dropbox

Dropbox is a file sharing application. Once you upload a file to Dropbox, you can access it from any device that has internet connection. It is possible to access your files and folders with a browser, but I want to discuss one of the different options Dropbox suggests which is integration with the operating system.

One of the features of Dropbox is to install a piece of software on your computer ( a client) that opens a Dropbox folder in your “My Documents” folder. that folder is always in sync with your Dropbox content, so when you drop a file in that folder, it is automatically uploaded to Dropbox and when a new file or folder is shared in Dropbox, it is automatically downloaded into your computer.

Dropbox can also share selected folders with a group of people, so for instance you could share your “project A” folder with the group of stakeholders for “project A”.

If they have the client installed on their computer, the files you upload will “magically” appear in their Dropbox folder.

How I Manage Files In Dropbox

I have two ways of managing files in drop box - people based and project based.

Here is a partial snapshot of my Dropbox folder.

As you can see, for each person I work with I have a base folder. all sharing of data with that person is done via that folder. As you may have noticed, each folder has is build from my name and the name of the other person. This convention makes sure that the folder has a meaningful name on the other persons Dropbox. Otherwise, it would just be “cars” or “dogs” or something like this. I may still have a folder names dogs, but it will reside inside the specific folder for that person.

Managing A Project In Dropbox

For projects I take a slightly different, yet similar approach. Each project gets a dedicated folder. that means that all communications for that project happen inside that project folder. It may sound trivial but keeping to this simple method really helps keeping your folders in orders.

Dates based folders - for stuff like daily shots that were sent to the director for approval, or any other accumulative task I use daily folders, those have the format of YY-MM-DD and they keep the daily work done on that date for all the project stakeholders to see. You can have further breakdown in each folder. Those files are not deleted till the end of the project.

Task based folders - task based folder or delivery folders are folders that represent a task in the project, say the raw selected still for the video, and can accumulate over time. Good examples for those are Soundtrack, Raw Stills and Edited Stills. I usually do not deleted those files either till the completion of the project.

Flat Access Model - Dropbox only a pretty basic permission structure: you either have access to a folder or do not have access to that folder. If you do have access to that folder you can read, write, delete and pretty much rename all the files to say “I love Jennifer Aniston”. Be Aware.

Upload Speed - While Dropbox files appear almost instantly on your computer when shared, it may take a long time to upload them. Sadly most internet connections are not symmetrical and upload is slower than download. Take that into account when deciding on who uploads files and when you need them.

The final product

If you have not seen this already, sit back and enjoy

Competing Options

Here is some stuff I used to do before Dropbox (in order of my growth…)

  • emailing files
  • Breaking large files to small zip files and sending them separately
  • Sending files via You Send It
  • Sending files via We Transfer

None worked as seamlessly as Dropbox, if you have any good/bad experience with it, I would love to hear about it.

Richard Branson on Embracing Change

From Evernote:

Richard Branson on Embracing Change

In business, change sometimes happens more quickly than you want it to – transformative technologies arrive suddenly and economies shift. Telling your staff to embrace change and get creative is all well and good, but that will not address their (or your) underlying anxieties. The reality is that change is usually a threat – one that has the potential to bring your business to a halt.

Related: Seven Ways to Boost Employee Morale

Given Virgin’s long experience in the music industry, I often receive questions from readers about the industry’s future. How can anyone successfully launch a business in this sector when transformative change is stressing even the nimblest players?

Our experience shows there is always opportunity in times of change. The pundits who have predicted the end of the industry should remember the last time it was in meltdown: 1982. The economic recession was having a deep impact. Many people were home-taping off the radio or from a friend’s LP – a forerunner to illegal downloading.

At the time, Virgin Retail had over 100 record stores across the U.K. On weekdays they were deserted. Then we learned that the CD was about to take the market by storm.

The new format’s advantages were immediately obvious. It was much smaller than the LP, and there was no wear, distortion or surface noise. My notebooks from that period are full of questions about the potential impact on our business. I wrote: “What happens to the record collection around the country – do people replace their vinyl with CDs?”

Related: The Dusty Groove America Record Store Keeps on Spinning

At first the only way for us to survive was to start clearing the decks for the new stocks and discounting our LPs. We succeeded in switching our business over to CDs, which not all competitors did.
We could also see the dawn of another retailing phenomenon. Two years after the introduction of the personal computer in 1980, there were already nearly 500,000 video-game machines in use in the U.K. Soon, selling games and then films became a worthwhile sideline for our stores.

By 1986, even Virgin Megastores was under threat. Our biggest rival, HMV, was going after us by opening giant stores, some near our flagship locations. Undeterred, we launched our Dublin store, then the biggest in the world, at Aston’s Quay. That store not only stocked specialist classical and jazz, folk and rock music, but also sold music videos, games and computer software. This was where I could see the future of our business.

And we gave the old-fashioned retailers, such as Woolworths, Dixons and Currys, a run for their money. Our shop windows and store interiors were dynamic and exciting. We brought in bands to perform and play a few songs. These events brought more sales and better publicity.

So, despite — and because of —the disruptive change that had just taken place, we transformed our business model and did very well in the ’80s and ’90s. 

Related: A Record Label Mines the Past for Music Aficionados and Collectors

Did all this work make us future-proof? Of course not. Even from the start, our smaller Virgin Records shops made little money. The stores kept our youthful, irreverent brand in the public eye, but they were unsustainable in the long run. One of my biggest business mistakes – indeed, regrets – was not selling all of our stores sooner. Closing the book on Virgin Records in 1992, with the sale to EMI, was painful, but the best decision.

Today, is digital downloading killing music? The economics of music production are far healthier now than they ever were in Virgin’s heyday as a music company. When we built our recording studio, it was a massive, expensive undertaking. Virgin Records’ job was to bankroll recording sessions for musicians – and take the risks. To make money, we had to sell a lot of albums.

Related: Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne on Reinventing the Music Industry

Now a top-quality album can be made on a laptop, and then you can send the file over the Internet to anyone, almost anywhere. Promotion is as easy as setting up a page on MySpace, Facebook or another social networking site. Economies of scale don’t matter anymore to young musicians, although they still matter a great deal to the record companies and their shareholders.

I do think that record companies will survive, but they will have to be much leaner – and in business, small is beautiful. Those smaller companies will have to discover genuine talent, which is the reason many people who are passionate about music choose careers in the industry. And with all that energy and zeal, there’s no telling what some entrepreneurs will achieve next.

This is an edited excerpt from Richard Branson’s book Business Stripped Bare: Adventures of a Global Entrepreneur (Virgin Books, 2010).

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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Ubuntu One Hits the Million Users Mark

From Evernote:

Ubuntu One Hits the Million Users Mark

Posted by samzenpus on Sunday July 31, @03:04PM

“Roberta Nilerud of Canonical has announced that their cloud storage service – Ubuntu One – has hit the one million users mark. Ubuntu One is a cloud storage service from Canonical that is very tightly integrated into Ubuntu. Although Ubuntu One is installed by default in Ubuntu, it is also available on Windows and Android.”

Google+ growing fast!

From Evernote:

Google+ growing fast!

July 30, 2011 | Sean Ludwig

Google+ has only been active for a month, and tech enthusiasts can’t seem to get enough of it. There are a few concrete reasons why: A handful of new features that Google just does better than other social networks.

While Google is still trying to figure out exactly how to approach social media, the network has built enough buzz to attract a reported 20 million visitors. While this doesn’t compare to Facebook’s staggering 750 million users or Twitter’s sizable 200 million users, those networks have been around much longer.

Several of us on the VentureBeat staff have immersed ourselves into the Google+ ecosystem to see what it has to offer. Thus far we’ve come to enjoy the service and noticed a few strengths it has over Facebook and Twitter, especially in the realms of privacy and video chat.

Here are five features we’ve seen that we like in Google+ more than Facebook and Twitter:

1. Circles

One of the most talked-about Google+ features (and for good reason) is Circles, the tool that allows you manage the people you follow and want to share updates with. With Circles, you can send status updates to select groups, rather than blasting it out to everyone. For example, I created a Circle just for friends of mine who love music, so I could share music videos that I have created or really enjoyed.

Facebook and Twitter do offer ways to share updates selectively but they’re not as fine-tuned. I can block updates from certain groups on Facebook but to actually configure that takes time. For Twitter, it’s all or nothing with your updates, as you can make your profile private or public, but nothing more fine-grained than that.

2. Hangouts

Another often-cited feature for Google+ is Hangouts, which let you video chat with up to 10 people at the same time for free. Every person you’re chatting with appears in a small box and whoever is speaking is in a large window on top.

While Facebook recently partnered with Skype to bring video chat to Facebook users, it only supports one-on-one video chat. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg hinted that more features were coming down the pipeline, but right now Google+ is the champion of video chat. Twitter, unfortunately, does not have a video chat option.

3. Mobile capabilities

Google+ so far has released apps for Android and iOS, and both offer much to users on the go. Outside of the basic functionality like reading updates and watching videos, there’s also a mobile group chat feature called Huddles. Unlike apps from Facebook and Twitter, this allows you to chat with many friends at once to make plans or waste time.

While I think Twitter’s mobile presence is generally excellent, the limitations of the network’s core features hinder what can be done on mobile devices, and it doesn’t offer a comparable real-time group chat. Facebook’s mobile applications are fine for reading updates and sending messages, but it could use an overhaul to keep up with Google+.

4. Data downloading

Google+ is the first prominent network to offer the ability to download your personal data and updates easily. Google’s new Google Takeout service lets you download your saved data from Google’s servers. If you wanted to leave Google+ tomorrow, for example, you could easily download your status updates before checking out.

At this time, Facebook and Twitter offer no service as comprehensive and as easy. Facebook does offer a way to download your data but the tool to do so is basically hidden. The option to “Download Your Information” used to be prominently displayed in Account Settings but now there is a barely noticeable link for the same option.

5. Sparks

Sparks might be one of the most underutilized features in Google+. The feature lets you find content like articles and videos related to any topic you can think of. At the bottom of each peice of content is a Share button that makes it easy to show it to those in your circles.

It’s easy to miss the small “Sparks” link on the left side your Google+ stream and at first click, it seems like the feature is narrow. It highlights interests like Cycling, Fashion, Recipes, Sports cars, Android, and Robotics. But above the highlights is a search bar that pulls up anything you might want. I searched for “Harry Potter” and found entertaining blog posts published today and YouTube videos uploaded this week.

Both Facebook and Twitter don’t make it this easy to find and share content. Both competing networks make you stumble across content from someone else’s steam or look outside the network for new things to share.

Wrap Up

While Google+ still has much to do if it wants to catch up to the popularity of Facebook and Twitter, it’s made many steps in the right direction. The above features already show how Google is making some smart decisions.

It’s not all good, of course. Google has also already made missteps like booting users off for “fake name” or “community standards” violations. Facebook and Twitter are surely watching closely and will make their own feature additions to keep up.

Are there any other things you think Google+ does better than the rest? What things do you wish Google+ did better?

Be sure to check out the rest of our series covering Google+, its features, and how it fits into the social ecosystem.

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About the Author,

Sean Ludwig is a freelance journalist and technology consultant. He runs Ludwig Social Solutions and has written for PCMag, LAPTOP Magazine, Computer Shopper, Fast Company, and Seattle Weekly. He specializes in mobile tech and social media. Follow him on Twitter at @seanludwig. Please send all pitches to tips@venturebeat.com.

Google+ opens "what's new in Google+

From Evernote:

Google+ opens "what's new in Google+

July 28, 2011 | Devindra Hardawar

Google has added a new section to its Google+ help center where it will list new features being added to the fledgling social network.

Dubbed “What’s new in Google+“, the page currently consists of short blog-like posts explaining the new features. The posts often link back to Google+ posts from Google employees, and some also include YouTube video explanations of new features.

The move is part of an effort by Google to be more transparent about how Google+ is evolving. The company is already seeing flack from privacy advocates about its confusing name policy, which has led to Google+ users with nicknames or odd sounding names to have their accounts shut down.

While it’s nice to have a single spot to go to for fresh Google+ features, it’s strange that Google has created a custom site to do this instead of making it an actual blog. The site also lacks an RSS feed and commenting, two features power users would certainly appreciate. Many posts end up linking back to Google+ listings where you can leave comments, but for the few that don’t there’s no easy way to leave feedback. And since there’s no RSS feeds, curious users will have to manually visit the site instead of just adding it to their news reader.

About the Author,

Devindra Hardawar is VentureBeat’s lead mobile writer and East Coast correspondent. He studied philosophy at Amherst College, worked in IT support for several years, and has been writing about technology since 2004. He now lives in Brooklyn, New York. You can reach him at devindra@venturebeat.com (all story pitches should also be sent to tips@venturebeat.com), and on Twitter at @Devindra.