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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Amazon Acquires Shoe-Retailer Zappos

amazonAmazon, the largest online-shopping company has acquired Zappos, an online footwear retailer company for $928 Million. This is Amazon's largest acquisition to date. Zappos' investors will receive 10m Amazon shares, worth $888m. In addition, Amazon said it will provide Zappos employees with $40 million in cash and restricted stock units. Tony Hsieh, Zappos CEO, from his open letter to the employees, pointed out three main reasons why he was excited about the deal. He thinks that there is a huge opportunity for them to really accelerate the growth of the Zappos brand and culture, and they believe that Amazon is the best partner to help them get there faster. Amazon supports them in continuing to grow their vision as an independent entity. Lastly, they want to align themselves with a shareholder and partner that think really long term. On the other hand, Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive, recorded a statement on the merger on YouTube, saying he had admired Zappos’ customer service, and its unique culture. Though it was not clear why Amazon bought Zappos, I believe it was an excellent move for the biggest online shopping company. If you can’t beat them…buy them! No company comes close to Zappos customer service. Zappos is very transparent and Amazon, as a big public company, lacks this transparency. I can only hope that Zappos rubs off on Amazon and not the other way around.
Friday, July 24, 2009

MILFF - Moms I'd Like to Friend on Facebook

Fallacy: Facebook is a social networking site for teens and young adult Fact: Facebook is a social networking site for teens, young adults and older people! I for one am surprised at the fact that old folks have broken the technology barrier and started populating the social networking sites. Check out how fast their numbers are growing. According to Inside Facebook, there is significant growth in Facebook users over 35. Over the course of the last month, the 35-44, 45-54, 55-65 demographics, each add more than 1.2 million user. What’s more surprising is that the 18-25 demographic, Facebook’s bread and butter, lost 600,000 users during the same period. In a comparison between March and July statistics, the number of people over 35 on Facebook nearly doubled in the period of just 3 months. As old folks start spreading the word, they start to catch up with the younger generation. Although the 18-25 bracket is still the largest group by far, it may not remain this way for long: What are the reasons behind this trend? One reason is connectivity. Facebook is becoming a sort of a reunion site for the older people to reconnect with old friends and class mates. Facebook is also challenging LinkedIn as a place to network with professional contacts. Finally, many parents are joining Facebook to monitor their children’s activity. Whatever the reason is, it’s still great that our older people keep up with technology. Facebook made their social site easy, making it appropriate to old folks. CEO Mark has perfected the formula that works for all demographics.
Friday, July 24, 2009

Top 9 Location based iPhone Apps

With the recent buzz around FlyChat (new iPhone app that allows you to connect with people all over the world) I’ve been inspired to compile a list of location based social iPhone apps. I’ve collected information from the entire Smarter Social Media team to figure out our top 10 favorite apps. It took some effort (i.e. bothering my colleagues while they were doing very serious work) to get this list together, but I think it pretty much highlights the best location based apps.
GPSTwit Simple app that allows you to tweet and at the same time relay your location. GPSTwit
Bliin A social network that gives you the ability to keep people updated on your location – based on privacy levels. You can upload geo-tagged audio, video, and photos. Bliin
iCloseBy Allows you to meet people on the same WiFi network as you. Great for coffee shops and hotspots. It is also available on laptops and anything else that can connect to WiFi. IcloseBy
Whrrl Shows you where your friends currently are, what they’re doing, and where they’ve been. Whrrl
Loopt Find your friends and what they’re doing. Discover new places that have been recommended by your friends and location recommendation services. Picture 1
Google Latitude Similar to Loopt, but with this you can actually instant message, email, or call your friends by clicking on their icons. Another thing is that this is not a native app, you run this through safari, which some people may prefer. Picture 2
WhosHere This app will match you with people who are nearby that also share similar interests with you. Picture 3
Twinkle See tweets that have been posted within a certain distance from your current location. You also have the ability to add pictures to your tweets and they become visible as thumbnails. Picture 4
Brightkite This one is a personal favorite. You can “check in” and disclose your location. Then you can search for people’s updates based on their location. It also has a very friendly user interface. Picture 5
If you’re a skeptic like I was at first, then you may be creeped out by the idea of people being able to view your current location. This is a valid concern, but almost all of these apps allow you to turn of location sharing completely. I recommend trying one of them out. They really are pretty cool.
Thursday, July 23, 2009

Social Media, Marketing of the Future

Social Media – Marketing for the Future It seems the words ‘social media marketing’ have been popping up in the blogosphere more than ever these days. One reason for this is that Forrester Research released their five year Interactive Marketing Forecast and it seems that companies are planning to make social media significant part of their marketing budgets. Forrester estimates that in 2009 firms will spend $716 million on social media, but what’s more impressive is that in 2014 an estimated $3.1 billion will be spent on Social Media Marketing. Those are some pretty impressive growth rates. So if you don’t know what Social Media Marketing is, then perhaps its time to learn. Forrester There are two ways to market through Social Media: The first is an ad-buy, similar to those seen in traditional media. This amounts to paying for advertisements on Facebook, blogs or other social networks. These can come in the form of banner ads or pay per click advertisements. Although this type of marketing doesn’t seem completely innovative it cannot be ignored because it doesn’t require a large amount of manpower to execute. That said, much like traditional advertising, this method is akin to yelling at a group of prospects hoping to siphon up a fraction of their attention. The second way to use social media is by entering into the conversation with your customers. This method is much more effective and can lead to a very successful marketing campaign. However, it requires strategy and grace not only to become a part of the conversation but to set the tone and direct it. Whereas the first method doesn’t require very much human capital, the second method requires a very long and laborious effort. But remember, the most success is generally found by using a combination of the two marketing avenues. So in 2009 spend your share of the $716 million wisely. In an economy like ours, the last thing you want to do is waste precious dollars and hours on an ineffective approach.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Faster Web?

In an interesting development involving the latest player that could rival Google’s Web Accelerator Toolbar (not available anymore) and AOL TopSpeed, YL Ventures has recently announced a deal with Israel-based FasterWeb. CEO Yoav Andrew Leitersdor stated that they have decided to invest in what could be the future of the web. FasterWeb is a web optimizer that uses 45 different techniques to speed up page load times by 2 to 10 times. Optimization can be done on either a site or the ISP itself. It is also designed to work on all major browsers: Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera, Chrome and Safari. If it works, this service is heaven-sent. Since FasterWeb is said to have a new technology to increase optimization, one of the first ISP companies they should focus on is VERIZON, the ISP we are forced to use here at Smarter Social Media. Our offices at Santa Monica Airport offer NO OTHER ISPs, and Verizon itself offer a maximum of 3 MB download, which is hardly enough to run a 21st century business with. (Excuse the rant) Look how slow Let’s just hope FasterWeb is finalized as soon as possible while there is still hope for Verizon.
Monday, July 20, 2009

Can Facebook sustain their user growth?

According to CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook has recently scored a milestone by passing the 250 million user mark. It’s a very interesting feat especially if you know how Facebook really started. According to TechCrunch, comScore statistics show 316 million unique visitors on Facebook each month. Which probably means that the number of actual users maybe somewhere between 250 and 300 million. Regardless, Facebook’s popularity is phenomenal. It has only taken them 3 months to reach 50 million users. Now the question becomes can they sustain this rate of growth? There are 6 billion people on the planet, but according to Internet World Stats, only 1.5 billion have access to the Internet. While Internet penetration is certain to grow in the coming years, not every internet user will be a Facebook user. In America, far lower percentage of older internet users are also Facebook users. Using these statistics, we can assume that 45% of global internet users may open Facebook accounts. This puts the ceiling on Facebook’s growth at 675 million global users, that will expand gradually as internet penetration increases. That said in my opinion, the global internet to Facebook ratio is far more likely to be 3:1. I see user plateau at just under 500 million users. If growth continues at this fast of a clip, Facebook will reach this point in the next 12 to 18 months. The question is…then what?
Saturday, July 18, 2009

Social Media vs. Mainstream Media - Round 2

So what I thought would be just a one post battle has now turned into a multi-post war. Mainstream Media won in round one by using its ability to convert their enemy (the Sexman) into an ally by tempting him with the glamour of meeting a celebrity. But the war is not over, Social Media has armed up with big guns for retaliation. bruno-movie By now you are almost certainly wondering what on earth I’m talking about. Well, I’m talking about the recent release of the controversial film – Brüno. The film was projected to take in $50 million dollars over the weekend but fell $20 million short. Why were the projections so far off? The reason for this was an unanticipated drop in box office receipts from Friday to Saturday and then again from Saturday to Sunday. According to Time Magazine this sudden drop in sales wasn’t due to bad reviews in the press. Instead it appears that it was almost entirely the result of negative viewer feedback that was plastered all over Twitter, Facebook and sent via SMS text. As people left the movie theatres on Friday night they whipped out their cell phones and sent out texts and tweets calling the movie, “unfunny”, “stupid”, and “no where near as good as Borat.” This kind of negative sentiment, especially when spread amongst friends, is poison to any enterprise. Picture 3 In this, round 2, Social Media has flexed its weapons of mass destruction and shown that it’s not afraid to drop bombs on whomever gets in their way. So I deem Social Media as the winner. But my friends, the war is not over, and only time will tell us which is truly superior.
Friday, July 17, 2009

Social Media On-The-Go

When you think of businesses that use social media, a food truck – the kind you normally find dolling out sloppy Joe’s at construction sites - probably doesn’t spring to mind immediately. But it might if you are an avid eater of Kogi BBQ. Kogi BBQ is a Korean BBQ, taco truck that travels the streets of Los Angeles and serves a simple menu of deliciously high quality food to hungry pedestrians on their lunch breaks. Did I mention that they also serve tofu tacos for our vegetarian friends? kogitruck You’re probably curious as to how all of this fits into Social Media, so I’ll relieve your curiosity. Kogi BBQ uses Twitter to let all of their customers know the truck schedule for the day. They also notify customers of delays in the schedule. Picture 7 Picture 8 This is another step towards the Social Media revolution. Maybe you think I’m being a bit dramatic, but think about it, Kogi obviously has a loyal and large enough following that they can expect customers to go onto Twitter (they have over 35,000 followers), find out where the truck is stationed, and go to it for lunch. Lines have been reported queuing up around the block an hour before the truck’s scheduled arrival. Most food trucks have to go to the same place every day in order to have repeat customers, but Kogi has discovered a way to get ahead in the mobile food industry. And clearly it’s working. Kogi has recently added a 3rd food truck to their fleet so that they can serve even more hungry inhabitants of the Los Angeles area. I applaud Kogi for being so incredibly innovative in their usage of social media and I hope that they will achieve even greater success in the future…and maybe stop by the Santa Monica Airport (the location of Smarter Social Media offices) sometime soon.
Thursday, July 16, 2009

At it Again!

In further evidence that the tech sector is being pressured to generate immediate cash flow, Pandora has now started serving up video advertisements! Here’s a screen shot I captured yesterday, while listening to Gotan Project – my favorite: pandora It seems that Pandora’s favorite advertiser is the old Golden Arches – McDonalds is the same company that experimented with Pandora’s audio advertising back in 2007, where a 9-second advertisement from McDonald’s was heard once a day. Pandora later removed the ads, after being overwhelmed by negative feedback. But with in 18 months the same audio advertising method was reinstated, now with 15-second advertisements appearing occasionally between songs. Pandora offered listeners a $36/month ad-less account. Quite a hefty tag I must say! In the most recent experiment from the Oakland-based internet radio service provider, Pandora has started venturing into video advertising. Who can explain it better but leading video advertising company Mixpo CEO Anupam Gupta. He stated that video advertising is now becoming a more effective media to convey information compared to static banner advertising. Even Google has also started experimenting with this. More companies will surely follow with this trend. But the million dollar question is: will Pandora users embrace these new advertisements? If history is any guide, an outcry is coming. The masses want to have their cake and eat it to. They don’t want delays in their music, but also refuse to pay for premium service. The real challenge that none of these services have yet to figure out is how to advertise products in an innovative, non-invasive fashion.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Pomegranate Phone

How would you like to have a cell phone with a built in live voice translator, video projector, harmonica, electric the-pomegranate-phoneshaving razor, and even a coffee maker? All this and more will soon be available in what many gadget blogs are labeling THE iPhone KILLER – the Pomegranate Phone. Now for the coolest part – this is all a hoax! The government of Nova Scotia (that tiny place in Canada that you may have heard of) created the Pomegranate Phone in order to drive traffic to their website. After looking at the amazing features of the Pomegranate Phone people can either click “I’ve seen enough” or “release date”. At this point the ploy is revealed, clicking either link redirects them to a page that displays a variety of interesting information attempting to convince you to go to Nova Scotia. But will this work? Was the $300,000 they spent on this campaign worth it? Well I’m not packing my bags and moving there. But I definitely learned some things about Nova Scotia that I didn’t previously know, and I would consider traveling there at some point. Not just because of the things that I learned from their informational website, but because I like their style. They created a fresh approach, and although they may be attempting to trick you into visiting their website, they aren’t attempting to trick you into going to Nova Scotia. Summer vacay anyone?