Using Social Media Tools In Emergency Situations

This weekend Hurricane Irene managed to cause some serious damage along the east coast. After having it’s own Twitter account and seeing millions of American’s updating on social networks about the storm’s damage, it got us thinking about how social media has changed the way the world reacts to emergency situations. When there’s a storm in our home town, Windsor Ontario, discussions begin on Twitter, residents update each other on conditions and damage, and the community comes together online. We’ve found an infographic that illustrates how American’s use social media tools in emergencies.

Do you fall into any of these categories?
social media emergencies

What Is Google+ And What Does It Do?

Just this week we started using Google+ to see what all the hype was about. At first we were unimpressed with the simple profiles and the lack of customization options but soon after we remembered a time when Facebook was the same way. There is no doubt that over time Google+ will grow and develop into a more diversified and detailed social network but in the meantime, it’s a nice reminder that sometimes less is more. Whether you haven’t been able to wrangle up an invite yet, you have no interest in trying it out, you hate Google, love Google or are obsessed with Facebook, this post will give you some insight into Google+ features and help you make that tough decision; to use or not to use?



Circles
Google+ places a strong emphasis on privacy features and tends to shy away from universal openness exhibited by other social networks like Twitter. Everything you do and share on Google+ revolves around your circles. These circles represent different acquaintances in your life. They are personalized and organized by you into groups such as friends, family, professional etc. Whenever you upload new content or update your status on Google+, you have the option to specify which circles can see your content.







Sparks
We all like certain things and it’s no surprise that we want to follow topics online, share information and start a conversation with people who share the same interests. Sparks is a feature offered by Google+ that allows users to do just that. Just enter your interests in the Sparks search bar and Google immediately delivers a feed of content from across the internet on any topic you want in over 40 languages. You can even bookmark topics for quick future access. Sparks is well organized, visually appealing and easy to navigate making it a must-use feature that’s bound to take up a lot of your time!







Hangouts
Everyone loves to socialize so it’s no surprise that Google+ has managed to incorporate Hangouts as a unique feature on it’s network. Hangouts allows up to ten people to participate in a group video chat. The best part about this feature is that anyone can launch it and when you do so, it shows up in your activity stream so any of your circle contacts that are online can join in at any time. I wouldn’t be surprised if this becomes a Google+ favourite!







Mobile Apps
Almost everyone has a smartphone these days so mobile applications are growing in popularity. Instant Upload is a photo sharing app that lets you add photos directly from your phone into a private album that you can share with anyone in just one click. As of yet, there is no limit on the file size, the number of albums or the number of photos. When it comes to video uploading, Google+ has restrictions that limit each video to 15 minutes but they allow up to 1080p resolution.







Have you ever tried texting four of your friends at once to try and plan a movie date? With Huddle, a group messaging app, you can let all your friends within a certain circle know what’s going on and you can all chat together in one place at the same time. It’s essentially like Blackberry messenger for Android devices.







Unfortunately these mobile apps are geared towards Android devices for the time being and there’s no telling if mobile apps will ever be available for Blackberry or iPhone users. Based on Google’s relationship with Apple, I doubt the apps will ever be compatible with Apple products but only time will tell.



Google+ is definitely a work in progress. There are no doubt bugs that need to be fixed and kinks that need to be worked out but it seems like the foundation has been set and from what we can tell, it’s solid this time. Long gone are the days of Orkut, Wave and Buzz. Hopefully this time Google hits a home run and gives Facebook a run for their money. With a sleek user-interface that makes excellent use of white space, new innovative features and simple functionality, Google+ is positioned to make it’s mark on social networking. Have you tried it yet? Let us know what you think!

5 Tips To Avoid A Social Media Scandal

In the past week, Republican Anthony Weiner has taught the world some very valuable lessons. Last Friday a lewd photo was sent via his twitter feed to a college student in Seattle. The photo managed to stir up some controversy as Weiner publicly denied posting it, stating that his accounts had been hacked and he was in the process of hiring a lawyer to investigate. At one point, when asked by multiple reporters if the man in the photo was him, he responded saying he wasn’t sure. Throughout this media frenzy, many people began to doubt his sincerity as he dodged questions and denied all claims with a straight face.

Yesterday, during a public press conference, Weiner admitted to sending the photo and confirmed that the man in the photo was him. The congressman said, “Last Friday night I tweeted a photograph of myself that I intended to send as a direct message as part of a joke to a woman in Seattle. Once I realized I had posted to Twitter, I panicked, I took it down and said I had been hacked. I then continued to stick to that story which was a hugely regrettable mistake.”

Surprisingly enough, this is a very common mistake on Twitter. As you may remember, other high profile organizations have been embarrassed by Twitter mistakes before. Earlier this year, a Chrysler employee was terminated after dropping the f-bomb on the automaker’s Twitter account, and a Red Cross social media specialist tweeted drunk on the organization’s behalf after a HootSuite slip up.

In honor of these brand-abolishing mistakes, we’ve put together a list of the top five tips to avoid a social media scandal. After all, a wise man named George Santayana once said, “Those who can not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”






1) Remember that everything you post online is public whether you set it as “private” or not.



2) The only sure-fire way to ensure that your information, photos etc stay private, is to avoid posting them online.



3) If you know you’ll be out on the town and there’s a possibility that you could use your device while intoxicated, leave it at home. It’s too easy to lose control of inhibitions and internal censors when your judgement is impaired.



4) Always think before you post. No amount of security can protect you from your own thoughts. If you wouldn’t say this in front of a customer, you shouldn’t be tweeting it.



5) If you slip up and make a mistake, admit it, apologize and move on. Lying to cover up an issue just delays the inevitable.

Is Groupon The Right Fit For Your Business?

Coupons are not a new concept. Chances are your family has been saving money for years by cutting out coupons from flyers and as the times changed, printing them from the internet. The truth is, everyone loves to save money and Groupon’s business is built around the public’s desire for a good deal. Group buying has recently become a growing phenomenon. As consumers begin to realize the benefits, businesses are jumping on the bandwagon to offer whatever deals they can.

Each day, Groupon offers a new deal on food, retail merchandise, or experiences in your city. As a user you can purchase these deals online or through their mobile app. Each deal requires a certain number of users to purchase before it “tips” and becomes active. This ensures that businesses participating get the desired minimum amount of users to purchase. Businesses can also set limits in terms of how many coupons are available for purchase, when they expire, how they can be used etc.

The important thing to remember is that while Groupon is a great business with a great concept, it may not be the best fit for you. There are many factors that come into play when organizing a deal through Groupon and as a business, it’s vital that you’re prepared in advanced.













Can You Afford To Offer The Discount?
The first step in determining if Groupon will work for your business is to start crunching some numbers and learning more about how the process works. Upon investigation, businesses will learn that Groupon typically takes 50% of sales. If your business sells 1000 Groupons for $15 each that’s $15,000 in total so Groupon gets $7,500 and you get the other $7,500. If those 1000 people all come into your business and spend exactly $15, you’re left with no other profit whereas those who come in and spend more than the allotted $15, put that money directly into your pocket. It’s very important to figure out how much your business can sacrifice financially in order to really leverage a group buying deal.






How Will You Handle The Traffic?
Imagine that you sold 1000 Groupons that, according to the terms of use you provided, expire in three months. You have to assume that in the next 90 days, these 1000 people will be waling through your doors and significantly increasing your traffic. This is an important factor for smaller businesses who have a very desirable product or service. Often times businesses forget that once the deal is over, they’re now responsible for how it plays out. If they can’t handle the traffic because they have very few employees, a small storefront, or few resources, it could jeopardize the customers experience. The smartest way to eliminate this issue and avoid it from the start is to set a limit on how many Groupons can be sold for your business. This is a great example of how planning ahead can save you a lot of grief!






Are You Prepared To Track Redemptions?
Once your business has made its appearance on Groupon and customers have purchased the deal, it’s your turn to take over the reins. Each Groupon is only redeemable once, so when the barcode is scanned, the customer forfeits the coupon to the business. The process of tracking redemptions can prove very useful. As a business owner it ensures that you’re aware of how many Groupons have been redeemed so you can plan ahead. Tracking Groupon redemptions helps you stay on top of things and ensure the process runs smoothly. What many businesses fail to realize is that tracking these coupons can provide them with loads of interesting information in terms of buying habits. How much did these Groupon customers spend? When did they redeem the coupons? Did they buy any additional as gifts?






Have You Educated Your Staff and Created a Game Plan?
You’re potentially bringing in new customers with Groupon and you want their first impression to be amazing so they’re enticed to return without a coupon in the future. Ensuring that your staff is educated and prepared to handle Groupons can make all the difference. Do you know how the staff will ring up the deal on the cash register? Do your employees know how to properly track the incoming Groupons? There are many bases that beed to be covered to provide the best user experience possible but preparing things in advance and staying organized can help the process run smoothly.






Have You Done Your Research?
Researching Groupon’s services and reading business case studies can really help steer you in the right direction. It’s important to remember that there are many responsibilities and risks involved with group buying deals, as there are with almost any aspect of marketing. At the end of the day, it all comes down to making an informed decision so you can ensure that your business will be prepared to take advantage of everything Groupon has to offer.

Transforming The URL Shortener Into A Serious Marketing Tool

At some point in our lives, chances are, we’ve all used the services provided by a URL shortener. They’re a great tool to utilize, especially when posting content to a micro-blogging platform like Twitter where every single character counts! Now it may seem that a URL shortener can’t really get much better, but a new startup called Bre.ad is seeking to change that mindset.

Bre.ad is, as expected, a URL shortener. It shortens links, has the ability to sync to Twitter and Facebook and it provides link analytics. What makes this new startup so unique is that it helps users promote brands, interests and charities through a full-page interface. The difference becomes apparent when you click on the Bre.ad link. You aren’t taken directly to the content, but instead, are re-directed to a webpage that was created by the person who originally shortened the link. These pages display messages left by the person who created them as well as 720 pixel by 300 pixel billboards. The user stays on the page for five seconds before being re-directed to the link he/she originally clicked on.

These pages are delightfully referred to as “Toasts” and they can be used to promote anything from a personal Twitter account, to a charity that you support. As a user, you can upload multiple “Toasts” and when you generate Bre.ad links, they will be chosen from at random.

Bre.ad founder Alan Chan believes that people are always willing to promote causes whether they’re personal or business related so his goal was to find a simple, classy way for them to display their passion. While Bre.ad hasn’t gone public yet, its Beta version will be launched in the next few weeks. In the meantime, Lady Gaga, North Face and many other brands already have Toast pages. The site even features an explore option that lets you see which brands, causes and profiles are the most popular.

It’s difficult to judge public reaction to Bre.ad as it’s yet to be released. The service was designed not to feel like advertising but users could avoid clicking on Bre.ad links because they know they’ll be forced to watch an ad. It’ll be interesting to see if people adopt the technology with open arms and if users can find creative ways to convey their messages through “Toasts”. Who knew URL shorteners had so much to offer?!

Top 10 Youtube Tips For Small Businesses

It’s no secret that Youtube has become a seriously powerful online search engine when it comes to music videos, news stories, cute babies, funny cats and everything in between. We’ve compiled is a list of 10 tips for small businesses that are interested in utilizing Youtube as part of their social media strategy.






1) Customize Your Channel
Having a channel on Youtube is like having a page on Facebook, it needs to be branded! Take the extra time to customize the colours so they compliment your brand, experiment with adding graphics and really make your channel stand out.






2) Utilize Subtitles
Since March 2010, Youtube has provided users with the option to add auto-captioning to their videos. By providing subtitles, you’re allowing the hearing impaired all around the world to engage with your content, something that most companies ignore.






3) Beware Of Annotations
Have you ever watched a video and been annoyed by text appearing over top of the footage? If you have, you’re definitely not alone. Don’t be tempted to go down this route as annotations are very unprofessional and tend to be a big distraction to viewers. You want to grab people’s attention and make a great impression but relying on irrelevant text to do that is not the best strategy.






4) Remove Offensive Comments
While everyone knows you should never delete negative comments from your social media pages, offensive comments can be a tough judgement call. You can’t actually stop people from leaving unfriendly comments on your videos or your channel but you do have the power to remove spammy or offensive remarks. If the comment is negative or critical in nature, it should be left alone, especially if it’s relevant. If the comment uses offensive language, racial slurs or is completely saturated in spam, removal is recommended. Keep in mind you always have the option to moderate comments before they are posted live so this may be a better solution in terms of managing your reputation.






5) Engage With The Youtube Community
Some people forget that Youtube is a social site so it’s important to explore other users’ channels and content. You can favourite videos that you like and are applicable to your business and even make suitable Youtube friends. If you’d prefer to stay away from associating with other individuals or companies, try searching for content or channels that are relative to your local area or a good cause that your company supports. Aside from being social, it’s also important to stay up to date on Youtube’s own news as the site goes though some fairly major changes from time to time and is always adding new features.






6) Organize Your Content
It’s tempting to avoid organization, especially on Youtube, but making sure your content is viewer friendly is the most important part. Group together related videos, or stash older content in time-related folders. It’s also important to keep in mind that Youtube offers the ability to embed entire playlists into external sites such as blogs or personal webpages so always keep that feature in mind when organizing content.






7) Don’t Ignore Tags
As well as many other social sites, Youtube’s content is organized on a tag word basis. This is an important facet that many users and businesses fail to recognize. A tag word system works on the basis of logic; what words will people type in to find your product? On the other hand, there are no limits as to how far you take the tag words so if you’re offering a cat food product you can use words like “kitty”, “cat” and “kitten” because you really never know for sure what people will type in. Youtube also offers about 15 categories to classify your content. Try to choose the most relevant but don’t be afraid to experiment if your content falls into more than one category.






8) Promote Your Channel
Don’t always assume that any interested viewers will come to you or automatically know you have a presence on Youtube. Utilize your other social media platforms as well as any external websites or blogs to promote and share your content. Keep in mind that linking social accounts can also help in terms of ensuring that your content is published across as many platforms as possible. There is also an embedding option that allows other users to showcase your video on their own external sites. This is always a benefit to you because the more views you get, the better!






9) Don’t Be Scared Of Analytics
There are many free analytic tools offered directly through Youtube. The information they provide should never be overlooked as they give valuable insight into view stats, demographics, community and most importantly, discovery data which shows you how users found your videos.






10) Stay Active
Don’t mindlessly create content for the sake of staying updated, but realize that its important to stay active. Even if you have no new content to post, continue to respond to comments or friend requests and work on building up a database of favourite videos. If Youtube is a platform you’re very interested in utilizing, don’t let your enthusiasm dwindle after the first few weeks because it’s important to remain active. Come up with a schedule that works best for you and try pre-planning your content for videos so it’s easier to stay organized and up-to date.

Top Five Most Creative Uses For QR Codes

Lately it seems like QR codes are everywhere, even in Windsor! We’ve seen Bozii Restaurant use one as a window decal in the front of their shop to share information with passers-by, we’ve seen Workforce Windsor-Essex use them on their business cards and even we’ve used them, attached to pumpkins to promote our launch last fall. There’s no doubt that QR codes are changing the way we share information. They are a great asset to businesses and are fun for consumers with smart phones but what about all the QR code stories that never seem to make it into mainstream news? If you’re looking for some inspiration, look no further!



QR Code Tattoo
So you’ve gone out to the bar with your friends. You start talking to a few people and suddenly you’re being asked for your phone number. Not to worry! Just hike up your shirt and have them scan your personal QR code tattoo.










QR Code Made Of Sand
There are some decent beaches in this area and once the weather warms up it’s not uncommon to find many people out exploring areas such as Point Pelee. But when’s the last time you walked along the water and stumbled across a QR code made of sand?! Apparently in Tokyo, its no big deal.










QR Codes On Shoes
North American shoe retailer John Fluevog, has taken QR codes to mainstream retail and they’ve done a great job! They’ve placed QR codes on the insoles of their new shoes and when you scan them, they link directly to a video which shows consumers how the shoe was made! Talk about providing real value with a QR code!







QR Code Hotel
In Dubai, Project Code, a hotel that will look like a massive QR code, is well underway. The photo below will show you what the hotel will look like when it’s complete. Although it’s extremely impressive, the purpose is unclear and is most likely purely for design. Whether or not it will be scannable remains a mystery, but either way, you can’t ignore how cool it is!










QR Code T-shirts
Who doesn’t love meeting new people? Imagine talking a walk downtown in your customized QR code t-shirt and allowing strangers to scan your code and be added to your Facebook friend list. An interesting Facebook app/QR code mashup allows you to do just that!



Networking With Your Smartphone

It seems like the process of networking has changed a lot over the past few years with the development of new technology. Gone are the days of filing business cards and keeping business contacts on blocked social media profiles. Things have changed and the wide world of mobile apps has a lot to do with it. We’re using our smartphones to make our lives easier in every aspect so why not use them when we make new connections? Take a look at our top three mobile apps to help push your networking practices into the 21st century.



Hashable
Described as the “ultimate networking app,” Hashable offers a unique user experience that takes it roots from the check-in craze. Sure, all your friends are checking in to restaurants and TV shows, but have you ever considered the concept of checking in with a person? Luckily for us, Hashable has! As a user you can track your meetings, calls and other events either privately or publicly which makes it easier for you to remember who you spoke with and why. You can type in another persons email address or Twitter username to exchange contact information directly with them and you can even expand your network by watching who your friends connect with.

One of the great things about Hashable is it allows you to connect and network on the go through your smartphone so if you make a connection in an unexpected place, you don’t have to worry about not having a stack of business cards on you. What Hashable focuses on is tracking your strongest relationships and in a world so heavily dependant on constant communication, this free app makes the stress of networking and keeping in touch less of a burden.



CardMunch
Have you ever lost an important business card and in turn, an important contact? If you answered yes then this app is definitely for you! CardMunch allows you to take a photo of a business card and it then pulls important information like the name, phone number, email, website, and address, and creates a new contact on your phone in seconds so you’ll always have that contact’s information no matter where you go. Business card enthusiasts can leave their binders at home because this app will save you a lot of storage space! With a simple flip of your phone you can also view all the business cards you’ve snapped photos of in a beautiful rolodex style.

If you’re a fond user of Linkedin, you’ll be happy to know that CardMunch is owned by Linkedin so scanning a contact’s business card and adding them to Linkedin through the app is only a one-click process. As a user you’ll also have the option to use the search function if you’re looking for someone but can’t quite remember his/her name. As for storage, CardMunch can either add your contacts to your iPhone address book or create a separate CardMunch address book to keep you more organized; the choice is yours. On top of all these features is peace of mind. CardMunch automatically backs up all the contacts you’ve added through the app on your web account so you can log in anytime, anywhere, and retrieve lost data.

I think the best part about this app is that it’s completely free! As networking professionals, we’re always looking for tools to make mundane tasks easier and to integrate social media into our every day lives so CardMunch is definitely worth it!



Quora
Networking online can be a difficult process. It’s never easy to find the right people in the right place and as a business person you never want to scare them away with a sales pitch. The folks at Quora must have asked themselves, “Why doesn’t the internet have a place where professionals of any ranking can ask business questions and participate in conversation?” After some intense brainstorming and planning, Quora was born! As a networking professional, using your skills online is important and Quora helps connect you to a vast array of people including CEO’s of major North American companies and even business enthusiasts who just want a place to connect and talk.

Using your knowledge on a specific subject to help another business person in need, is better than any hard sale tactic that would typically drive them away. What Quora does is give you an opportunity to show others what you’re made of and have intelligent discussions about topics that are near and dear to you. As a user you can ask or answer any questions you want, you can follow topics that interest you, communicate through messages, add connections and create a biography. You can log in via the website or through the free app for your smartphone. This is one social network you can’t afford to miss out on!

5 Ways To Get Linkedin Working For Your Business



Create a company profile
Take the time to set up a profile for your business on Linkedin. It’s a simple process that will give you a presence on the social network. When users search your company name or make generic searches within your industry, your page will be available. In addition, you can add your company name to your page as a current job and it will link back to the profile so if any of your connections are interested in learning more, they don’t need to leave the website. As long as you already have a personal page on Linked in, you qualify to create a company profile.



Get Your Employees Involved
Chances are at least some of your employees have a presence on Linkedin. Encourage them to add the company name to their current job title and they’ll show up on the company profile as an employee. This can help your business gain credibility and gives your employees’ connections a chance to learn more.



Include the Linkedin Widget on Your Website
Take advantage of your presence across multiple platforms and use the Linkedin widget on your company blog or webpage. The widget allows visitors to interact with your content and re-post something they like to their own Linkedin connections therefore spreading the word about your business. The more people share your content, the more likely you are to attract new visitors.



Join Groups
Linkedin is more than just a profile page; it’s all about interaction with your connections and learning to network on a new platform. Groups are designed to attract niche users who enjoy discussing certain topics. For example, as a graphic designer, there are many groups you can join with other established graphic designers that act as a forum for questions and niche networking. You can also join groups based on your location or groups designated for a specific event. Participation in groups is a great way to generate leads without seeming pushy and it can help you establish a solid base of potential connections for the future. As a group member you can participate in any discussions as well as start your own so if you have a question you’ve been dying to get another experts opinion on, this is the perfect platform. You can also submit articles, search for jobs or even post your own job adds if you’re looking for new employees.



Say Active by Asking and Answering Questions
Linkedin Answers allows users to ask questions to other members or answer questions that have already been asked. Participating in an activity like this can really show others your expertise and knowledge on a certain subject which can help provide solid business leads from members who require your services. This area of the site also presents a great opportunity to learn more about your industry and stay up to date on the latest trends by gathering knowledge and insights from other members. If you answer enough questions where your answer is selected as the best, you will eventually earn the title of expert and an expert star will be added to your Linkedin profile. This can increase your exposure on the site and lets your connections know just how credible you are.

Five Social Media Resolutions For 2011

Be Real
Sometimes it’s difficult to draw the line between business and fun but when you’re interacting through Social Media, people don’t want to talk with a robot or a brand, they want to talk with a real person! Drop the act online and just be yourself, no bells and whistles! People will still respect you but chances are they’ll find it much easier to interact and find you much more approachable. Inject some personality into your tweets and updates for the New Year and see first hand why hiding behind a brand is much less rewarding than letting people know who you actually are.



Give Your Social Networks a Sense of Unity
It’s easy to see that everyone uses multiple social network to communicate with different people across the web, but users shouldn’t have to guess if they’re interacting with the same brand on a different network. Take the time to do some personal branding and ensure that your usernames match (as close as possible) across all platforms. This is basic Marketing and will help your brand stay cohesive across the web which in turn makes it easier for people to interact and find you on different networks. Don’t be afraid to add some pizazz to that generic background with some branding or make a custom avatar. It’s the small things that help you establish a unified presence where you need it most.



Never Stop Learning
Social media changes every single day with new platforms, updates and tools. Sometimes it can be frustrating to stay on top of what’s current and how best to reach your target market but the most important part when it comes to social media is to never stop exploring and never stop learning. Every day you can learn something new and one day you may come across something that could drastically improve your business online. Try to be patient when researching and always keep your goals in mind so when you’re sifting through webpages and blogs, you know what you’re looking for. Keeping an open mind is one of the best things you can do, it allows you to stay one step ahead of the competition and will give you the confidence to make important decisions for the future of your business.



Don’t be Afraid of Analytics
Creating social media pages may seem simple, but it’s tracking the analytics that really separates the small players from the big kahunas. After all, what’s the purpose of having a presence online if you can’t research where people are coming from, how they’re interacting and what they’re saying? It’s high time that the fear and denial surrounding user comments and brand perception were actually taken into account. It’s hard to accept criticism and as a business, you can’t look at it as a negative but rather a positive, that will help you address your users’ concern and ultimately improve your business!



Plan Your Social Campaigns
One mistake that many businesses make is failing to plan their campaigns. “Set it and forget it” is a bad state of mind when it comes to social media. If you expect your audience to do the hard work, you are sadly mistaken. Take some pride in your campaigns and set aside time to plan the launch of a viral video or Facebook campaign so when all is said and done, the stepping stones are in place for success. Marketing through social media is no different than marketing through traditional advertising mediums. Would you create a global television campaign and just sit back and see how it goes? Many people see social media as a low risk alternative that require less effort and less money when realistically, it’s a platform that requires serious dedication of time and effort. Take the time to plan out your actions and soon you’ll see that the ROI for social media is no joke.