Tuesday, July 20, 2010

5 Social Media Trends to Watch Right Now

July 6, 2010: summarized from Mashable.com -- With social media itself an exponentially growing trend that’s here to stay, many companies both small and large are keeping tabs on new social technologies as they emerge. With new sites, services, apps and practices that help businesses connect more directly with customers coming online at a rapid pace, it’s often helpful to zoom out a bit and keep an eye on upcoming trends on the cusp or just over the horizon.

Whether or not particular individual services succeed, the following trends are likely to stick around in the near-term future. Some may not be immediately relevant to your company or industry, but being aware of oncoming movements in the social media landscape can help keep you and your business out ahead of the curve when a new trend holds promise for your organization’s growth.

1. Location, Location, Location
From Foursquare to Gowalla - it’s all the rage: sharing where you are, where you’re going, where you’ve been – and being able to tell it to your friends…mobilecasting? Competition amongst mobile brands vying for "location mindshare" is heating up. "Checking in" has become second nature, and part of the parlance. Twitter now enables local information to be attached to tweets. Google Latitude lets you update your location automatically in conjunction with privacy settings. Facebook will soon follow suit. And as a marketing opportunity, geolocation is good news for brands of all sizes.

2. Group Buying
Top two sites, Groupon and Living Social, have helped spur consumers to band together to leverage bigger deals and deeper discounts in specific cities. Depending on the number of users who sign on for that day’s deals, everybody can benefit from the offer. But if too few sign up, nobody gets the deal. The local factor plays a key role here and daily deals are an alternate way to reach new customers. Social media as economic leverage?

Read more at: http://bit.ly/cdGICF

Participation Marketing - Playing Your Part

When you hear the term "participation marketing," what comes to mind? Do you associate it with engagement marketing, direct marketing, or even permission marketing? Do you immediately think of social media, or campaign customization? In fact, participation marketing is all of these things and more. It's about encouraging Internet users to participate in your digital campaigns. But it's just as much about your brand participating in the online experience.

Now more than ever participation marketing is expected; Internet users anticipate the opportunity to interact with brands online. As you saw last week, those marketing in association with the World Cup have been focusing on interactivity, inviting users to customize and personalize online media in support of their preferred team.

Participation marketing is essential at times like this. We're in the midst of an international obsession that resonates so strongly with consumers that they want nothing more than to be a part of it. Brands that can offer them the chance to feel included will succeed in attracting their attention. Even if the chance to participate seems relatively inconsequential (creating a virtual team jersey for example, or painting one's face on a Facebook profile picture), this simple, but meaningful act gives consumers the chance to be a part of a cultural trend.

That isn't to say participation marketing must be limited to major cultural events. Digital marketers are eternally finding good excuses to incite participation in their everyday campaigns. Regardless of their campaign objective, most marketers value the importance of creating positive product associations, increasing brand familiarity, and encouraging a level of interaction that will boost affinity and recall. Participation marketing is ideally suited to accomplish all of these things, because it's primarily about two things: engagement and customization.

Read more at: http://bit.ly/aBPwDK

Online Gambling Is Illegal, But Betting Sites’ Logos Often In Nevada Casinos

July 13, 2010: summarized from Las Vegas Sun -- Black-market online gambling companies have a considerable presence on the stage that is Las Vegas.

Those who watched the start of the World Series of Poker main event at the Rio this month were just as likely to see logos for online gambling companies as they were to see the tournament’s ubiquitous poker chip icon.

Internet casinos pay tournament winners, celebrity players and other high-profile gamblers to wear their logos, and wannabes wind up wearing a lot of the same logos.

Despite the federal government’s long-standing position that online gambling is illegal, such brand advertising has moved into the mainstream, with logos appearing on the shorts of mixed martial arts fighters, the green felt of gaming tables and advertising banners adorning Las Vegas casinos.

Lately, some area casinos have entered into sponsorship deals with online gambling sites and the celebrity poker players hired to promote them.

Now, the Nevada Gaming Control Board is taking a closer look at many of those arrangements.

One primary target of the Control Board’s recent attention is the Venetian, which hosted a traveling poker tournament in February sponsored by PokerStars.net.

Years ago, gambling companies created separate, free-play tutorial websites ending in “.net” — thinking they would be protected from federal government prosecution. American broadcasters and Nevada gaming regulators have historically accepted this form of advertising because these Web portals don’t offer real-money gambling. And yet, while ads for these .net Internet poker sites continue to be broadcast on American TV, the Control Board, upon further investigation of such sites, has more recently concluded that there’s little difference between .com and .net sites because they are owned by some of the same corporate entities and individuals.

Control Board member Randall Sayre takes a dim view of .net sites.

“We are concerned that Nevada licensees are associating with companies that are ... purposefully violating the law,” by continuing to accept wagers from Americans even as they advertise .net sites in this country, Sayre says.

Whether a casino company is violating state law by affiliating with a .net site would depend on how the relationship is structured, he adds.

Sayre clarified the Control Board’s position on Internet gambling relationships in May when he responded to a query from a casino company (which the board will not name) and distributed his written response to the Nevada casino industry.

The Venetian then dissolved its sponsorship arrangement with PokerStars and its North American Poker Tour.

“We don’t have any current relationships with any of the online companies. Obviously, we’re going to follow” the Control Board’s lead, Venetian spokesman Ron Reese says.

Sayre won’t comment on the Venetian deal or discuss any other specific casinos and their advertising or marketing arrangements, though he said some casinos are in the process of dismantling or changing contract terms.

His letter urges the industry to be cautious. The Justice Department “has shown no indication of relaxing its position and interpretation that Internet gambling in any form is illegal in the United States,” the letter notes.

The ubiquity of online gambling brands in Las Vegas remains a murky subject, in part because of the Control Board’s unwillingness to comment on specific casinos or deals that cross the line in favor of pursuing private discussions with casino companies. The May letter notes that the board is “assessing these relationships on a case-by-case basis ...”

The federal government has taken the lead on Internet gambling by charging online gambling operators with money laundering and mail fraud, among other infractions. Internet gambling is, after all, an interstate, even global, enterprise. Nevada regulators, lacking the resources, jurisdiction or will to prosecute offshore gambling companies — have taken a backseat role. Still, the Control Board has a requirement to ensure that Nevada casinos aren’t doing business with illegal entities, Sayre says.

Nevada’s two largest casino companies, Harrah’s Entertainment and MGM Resorts International, have been careful in recent years not to enter into direct deals with Internet gambling companies that accept bets from Americans, even as they urge lawmakers to legalize Internet gambling so they can capitalize on demand and diversify their bricks-and-mortar casino empires.

Read more at: http://bit.ly/dnsXSa

How Social Media Drives New Business: Six Case Studies

July 17, 2010: summarized from TechCrunch -- Businesses both big and small are flocking to social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Foursquare. The fact is that a presence on these platforms not only allows companies to engage in conversations with consumers, but also serves as an outlet to drive sales through deals and coupons.

And while major brands like Starbucks, Virgin, and Levi’s have been participating in the social web for some time now, the rate of adoption among small businesses is increasing too. According to a recent University of Maryland study, social media adoption by small businesses has doubled from 12% to 24% in the last year. But as these businesses look to Facebook and Twitter to connect with customers, many are finding that some strategies work and some do not produce results. We’ll be exploring these questions at a panel on Social Media and Businesses at our Social Currency CrunchUp on July 30. We’ve found some local and national businesses using social media effectively, ranging from Levi’s to a creme brulee cart, whose case studies are below. Some of these businesses will be sharing their experiences at the CrunchUp.

Levi’s: Now more than ever, retail brands are engaging consumers on social networks to offer deals, allow users to socialize around purchases, and more. Levi’s Jeans was one of the brands that was first to use Facebook as a tool for sales and marketing initiatives and has launched a number of compelling campaigns using Facebook.

As one of Facebook’s initial partners using the social network’s new Like functionality, Levi’s allows Facebook users to like products on Levi’s online store and its Facebook page (which has nearly 500,000 likes) and share their favorite items with their friends. Within the first week, Levi’s got more than 4,000 likes, says Inside Facebook.

The jeans giant also promoted a major campaign in conjunction with SXSW this year, partnering with music publication The Fader to promote a music event at the festival. The company worked with brand marketing platform Involver to incorporate music and video into their page, with the hopes of driving music fans to buy jeans from the Levi’s brand. Most recently, Levi’s has begun to promote retail offerings with geo-targeted event advertisements on Facebook.

In terms of Twitter, Levi’s recently enlisted a “Levi’s Guy,” 23-year-old USC graduate Gareth, to engage consumers on the microblogging platform. He has over 6,000 followers and is responsible for responding to and engaging in conversations about the Levi’s brand on Twitter. The company is currently in the process of trying to find a Levi’s Girl, which will serve as a female foil to Gareth.

Levi’s director of digital marketing, Megan O’Connor, told us that the engagement with both Twitter and Facebook is about creating and informing brand ambassadors that will help drive sales through their own actions and word of mouth.

Starbucks: Most experts will agree that Starbucks has one of the best social media strategies out there. Now that it is giving away free WiFi, it is even more of a magnet for roving laptop warriors. And with 10 million Facebook fans, Starbucks is now close to surpassing the Facebook fan base of Lady Gaga. The company has held a number of promotions on its page to drive engagement. For example, Starbucks held a promotion for free pastries on its Facebook page, allowing customers to access a coupon that would give them a free pastry with a purchase of a coffee drink. Advertising on the social network has also helped to drive traffic to Starbucks’ page.

In terms of Twitter, Starbucks has also been incredibly active on the microblogging network, amassing nearly one million followers. Not only does the company’s Twitter stream serve as an engagement tool with customers who are talking about the brand on Twitter, but it is also used as a way to spread news from Starbucks. Starbucks has also participated in Twitter’s promoted Tweets program, which allows advertisers to buy sponsored links on Twitter.

The combination of geolocation and social networks is also a huge avenue for Starbucks and the company was one of the first major brands to broker a deal with popular location-based social network Foursquare. In March, Starbucks started offering Foursquare mayors of retail stores special ‘Barista’ badges that would come with discounts on drinks and food. Starbucks also partnered recently with mobile social network Brightkite to give members special discounts on drinks.

Read more at: http://tcrn.ch/aiFrLY