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April 2009

College Admissions Using Social Networking Tools

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060914_college_myths2_shutterstockhmedium Think you are completely safe when it comes to what’s being posted on your social networking profiles?  Think all those photos of you or your kids that are tagged, all of those videos you or they might make little cameos in, are safe and sound and seen by no one but you?  Think again.  Turns out more people are seeing this information, even people you would not exactly want seeing some of it…think prospective employers, think college admissions.

That’s right, be afraid, be very afraid.  New reports are coming out that a growing number of college admissions around the country are turning to social networking tools to dive deeper into the candidates for admission into their schools.  Cue the great big collective *gasp* for high school seniors and their parents around the world.

The reports found that “one-fourth of colleges surveyed indicated that they used a Web search or social networking technology to locate information about prospective students.”  What’s more, it also dug up some interesting habits that pertain to social networking.  Try this on for size:

  • “More than half (53 percent) of colleges monitor social media for “buzz” about their school.”
  • “33 percent of colleges maintain a blog, 29 percent maintain a presence on social networking Web sites, 27 percent maintain message- or bulletin-boards, 19 percent use video blogging, and 14 percent issue podcasts. 39 percent of colleges surveyed reported using no social media technology.”
  • ” 88 percent of admission offices believed social media were either “somewhat” or “very” important to their future recruitment efforts”

Seems like we’re a far cry from the importance of the “Final Essay” on your application process.  Who knew that all those silly photos, videos and Wall Posts “can and will be held against you.”  Yikes.

(image via msnbc.com)

CDC Using Twitter For Flu Information

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cdc Last week we discussed briefly how Twitter was rapidly becoming much more than just a place to find out who’s doing what, when, and why, and shifting into much more of a conduit for information.  Today, in the midst of a nation-wide pandemic scare, we’re learning just how true that really is.  Twitter, it turns out, is becoming the conduit for information, to the point where even the CDC is turning to its services.

That’s right, the Center for Disease Control is actually using Twitter to spread as much vital information as possible about the spread of this nasty flu that is claiming the lives of a great deal of people in Mexico and even making its way into the United States.  According to CNet:

“The CDC is using Twitter to spread the word on how not to spread or get swine flu. The CDC has several Twitter accounts including @CDCemergency, which is posting new recommendations, bulletins on confirmed cases, and information on antiviral drugs and other ways to deal with or prevent the disease. “

Amazing how far it has come and amazing how far it looks like it could go.  When the Government of a country starts using a social networking service to broadcast vital information to its citizens, pretty sure you’ve got something fairly important on your hands.  The only questions left to really answer is what other uses will come, and how else the service can be used.

Could this be a potential replacement for the Emergency Broadcast Station?  Could this replace that annoying test we’re all so used to hearing interrupt our nightly television shows?  Time will tell…

Learning WordPress

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wp This is my third try at writing this post as I have lost my draft three times.  Isn’t that just the way when you want to talk about a technology?  I am writing this in the dashboard of WordPress.  There are many choices when wanting to use a blogging platform, like Blogger, Moveable Type, Squarespace and others.  I like to stay up to date on what all of them are doing.  I was able to see what was new in the world of WordPress and learn some cool stuff and meet some new friends yesterday.

I had an opportunity to attend an event this weekend in Reno, Nevada, called Reno-Tahoe Wordcamp.  I had a chance to see again for the fourth time many users and evangelists of the blogging platform.  I was one of the presenters and wanted to thank the organizers for allowing me to talk about “Blogging For A Living.”  This is my fourth Wordcamp this year attending Vegas, Miami, Denver previous, and I will be speaking at the Chicago Wordcamp coming up in June. If you are going, I would love to see you there.  Next month the main event in the world of Wordcamps is happening in San Francisco. Matt Mullenweg the founder of WordPress will be talking about the company more in depth at that event and everyone should attend.

I wanted to thank the organizers of the Reno-Tahoe Wordcamp for allowing me to be a part of their exciting event.  The event was held in a journalism school in Reno at the local college.  That to me was a bit of an irony as we are just now being taken serious by the world of journalism so it was also fun to think about how far we have come. If you have a local Wordcamp make you get signed up to attend it will allow you to learn from some of the best and the brightest using this application.  I have had an opportunity to walk away always with a new nugget of information or a trick or tip to make my use of WordPress a little better.

Twitter Becoming Huge Conduit For Information

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twitter-bird From Twitter’s humble start as a way for you and all of your friends to update each other on what’s going on, where you are, what you’re thinking and what you’re doing, it’s hard to believe where things have currently landed.  A year ago, would you have believed that some of the most popular celebrities in America would be not only using Twitter, but championing it and spreading a huge amount of their news on the service?

Would you have believed, only a year ago, that some of the most major and popular news stories were literally broken on Twitter?  No.  Probably not.  The bottom line is, over the last year, Twitter has shifted from a small, personal place to update your own social networking statuses, to a full blown hotspot and conduit for information.  Twitter has rapidly become THE place to go for any and all things information…from breaking news, to the actual pulse of this world, it’s hard to argue against it.  Everyone from Shaq to Oprah to the FBI to President Twitters, so when you want or need information that’s absolutely up to the minute, why would you go anywhere else?

According to an article we just found, Twitter:

“…isn’t just about celebrities or the silly anymore. It’s about real information, in real time…Sometimes that can be tweeters telling people about a shooting in their town, or about who was arrested overnight and is now in the county jail. Or letting residents know about severe weather headed their way.“Twitter is a scanner. It’s a scanner of life, scanner of the country,” said Jen Reeves, an expert in new media and a professor at the University of Missouri School of Journalism.”

We couldn’t agree more.  Fast forward 10 years from today and the need for major newspapers or even yes, the News, might be completely gone.  Why listen to a reporter’s second-hand report of a situation when you could hear directly from the people that were there and actually witnessed what happened?  The time is coming…the time is now.

During Recession, Marketers Turning To Social Networks

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In today’s economy, I’m fairly sure just about everyone has been feeling the pinch.  When it comes to bigger companies, one of the divisions that I’m sure has been struggling, is the marketing division.  How do you advertise your product to people who are struggling with their own financial issues, without spending more money than you can afford?  That is the question plaguing a great deal of companies today and they are finding answers in unlikely places.

Those “unlikely places” are getting far more likely in today’s day and age.  According to new reports, marketers are increasingly turning to social networks to reach their potential clients without blowing huge sums of money they just don’t have.  According to a new study by WhitePaperSource, when over 900 of the leading marketers were asked about their marketing habits:

“…more than 88 per cent of the business establishments are using social media sites, such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, to reach out to their clients and further enhance their exposure beyond the conventional reach using other traditional means.”

What’s more, this is actually a pretty new thing.  Of those that responded, almost 2/3 of them have only been turning to social networks in the last few months.  While there are definite positives and negatives to employing this time of marketing plan, it’s clear that it’s a style of marketing that is getting huge and needs to be addressed.  On the plus side, it is Free.  On the negative side, it is, as noted, fairly time consuming to update and more importantly, monitor community and social reaction to your brand.

The study showed that those that have taken the plunge are actually seeing surprisingly great business returns.  Traffic has been up, exposure has been spread and business increased.  Again, a great idea if you can afford the time to deal with the brand you are spreading.  So, all of you in the marketing world, sound off…has social networking helped your business or brand?  Are you turning to social networks?

Did Ashton Kutcher Exploit The Children Of Africa?

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While searching for other blog posts about the recent hubub over the hypothetical possibility of Oprah Keynoting BlogWorld this year, I came across another post that stunned me and brought a whole new perspective to Kutcher’s million Twitter follower quest that I hadn’t considered before.

Blogger Clement Nthambazale Nyirenda has a post accusing Kutcher of exploiting the children of Africa in order to be the first person with one million followers on Twitter.

You really need to read the entire post before commenting, but I would sincerely appreciate your comments when you have read Clement’s post as well as this one.  For now, here is an excerpt:

Ashton Kutcher, an American based actor, is trying to use the Malaria problem in Africa in his quest for personal glory.  It all started when Ashton Kutcher challenged CNN for  Twitter supremacy. As I write, the online community is abuzz with Ashton’s competition with CNN to see who can be the first to attract 1 million followers on Twitter. Ashton has vowed to donate 10,000 mosquito nets to at-risk families in Africa on World Malaria Day if he wins the race by April 25. As a result, many people on twitter are following him simply because they think that by so doing, they are helping in the fight against Malaria in Africa.

I, for one, am completely against Kutcher’s motive. Why should I follow him on twitter for him to release the nets to folks who are suffering in Africa? This guy wants to use Africa for his own fame.

After reading the post, it took a moment for everything to sink in. Did Kutcher exploit the children of Africa?

I quickly concluded it was quite the opposite and wrote a long comment on Clement’s blog. At the end of that process it brought me back to the hue and cry from the Twitterati that Kutcher’s drive to one million was a sham and against everything Social Media stood for.  That still doesn’t sit right with me. I have said before and I will say it again, I think @aplusk absolutely gets new media and certainly as well as any celebrity who has crossed over into our world.

Yes, his one million followers dwarfs one of Twitters earliest adopters and champions  Robert Scoble (82,000 followers). It makes Jason Calacanis’ drive to become King of Twitter look like childs play.

But didn’t Kutcher just prove something that many have been saying about Twitter and Social Media all along?

Didn’t Kutcher just leverage his celebrity and social media to raise awareness and money for a worthy cause?

Isn’t it very similar to what @amanda did with the amazing Twestival event, but on an entirely different scale?

Starting as one person’s idea, Twestival involved tens of thousands of people and raised over $250,000 for worthy causes.

Kutcher’s drive to a million Twitter followers started as one person’s idea and raised $300,000 with just two checks. One from him and one from Oprah Winfrey. It also involved well over a million people in the social media space and millions more in the traditional media world. The CNN coverage alone was immeasurable to Malaria No More.

The cover of their website says it all:

marlianomorescreengrab2

Some are saying celebrities’ new found fondness for social media will ruin it, but they are simply wrong. It will certainly bring a new set of problems that we will have to find ways of dealing with. There will be clueless celebs just as there are clueless businesses and other clueless people who try to use these tools the wrong way. As Beth Harte suggests, we should call them on it when they do.

But the biggest take away from all of this is that celebrities’ adoption of social media is a sign of the beginning of the beginning of new media reaching its full potential.  Adam Kmiec does an excellent job pointing out the pluses and minuses of the mainstreaming of new media much better than I can here.

Bottom line.  The change we have all been espousing for so long is finally coming. This is a good thing for all of us.

Here is the comment I left on Clement’s blog:

Wow your post may have been well intentioned Clement but you couldn’t be further from the mark.

Ashton Kutcher doesn’t need to donate 10,000 nets to Africa or $1 to anyone to raise publicity for his goal of reaching one million followers on Twitter. He could have done that without you, without the nets or anyone else.

Instead what he chose to do was use the occasion to make a very significant donation to a very worthy cause. You should be very grateful he chose a cause close to your heart instead of someone else or none at all.

Furthermore he just raised awareness of this problem to not just the one million people who followed him on Twitter, but the millions more who watched him on Oprah and all the publicity raised on CNN and every other news outlet in the world that covered this story.

This may have been the biggest publicity this cause has ever received and it is all due to Ashton Kutcher. Yes he could have given the money to buy these nets without ever mentioning it. He could have given the money anonymously. He certainly comes off as the type of guy who would do just that. But if he did that what would you have? 10,000-nets. No millions of other people now being aware of this problem and donating $5 and $10 here and there. No world wide publicity raising awareness of this issue.

What Ashton Kutcher did for the children of Africa was far greater in value than just give money; he gave you something very few people in the world could.

And what is his reward for doing so? You didn’t just look this gift horse in the mouth, you spit in his face.

I humbly suggest that you seriously rethink your position.

What’s your take?

Two people I greatly admire have weighed in on the implications of the great Twitter Race.

Jeremy Owyang’s take here.

Brian Solis may have the best post on this seismic shift yet.

Job Seeking? Social Networking Can Help!

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linkedin-logo In today’s economy, it seems to me that people fall into one of two categories:  Lucky to still have their job, or desperately searching for a new one.  Granted this is most likely a very vast generalization, but you get the point.  The good news is, the tools available as a job seeker are more plentiful than ever, and given the rise of social networking, you have more methods at your disposal than at any other time in history.

The fact that you’re reading this blog means that you know, better than a lot of people, that when it comes to success, networking can be a huge part of it.  Networking is key, and the better you’re able to do that, the more success you’ll probably be seeing.  Why would it be any different when it comes to job seeking?  Social networking sites from Twitter to Facebook, Myspace to LinkedIn are making networking easier than ever, and given the current state of our economy, the timing is just about perfect.

How bad has it gotten?  Try this on for size:

“Since December 2007, 2.7 million U.S. residents have lost their jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics…In answer to those swelling unemployment numbers, U.S. web traffic to employment sites has increased 20 percent across the board in the past few months and 4 percent in February 2009 compared to February 2008, according to Hitwise. Traffic to MySpace accounted for 52 percent of those visits, the highest in the category; Facebook visits increased 149 percent in February compared to the same period a year ago; and Tagged received 2.47 percent of visits in February.”

In a word…Wow.  Bottom line is that people are using social networking and social media more than ever to not only find the jobs that are hiding out there, but actually land them.  The time to adopt and embrace new technology is now, and when it comes to your employment, don’t you want every single trick you can possibly find?  Yeah, us too.

Should Oprah Be Allowed To Speak At BlogWorld?

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Wow people can really get their shorts in a twist really quickly in the Blogosphere or in this case the Twittersphere.

Tonight Twitter and the tech blogs were buzzing with talk about Ashton Kutcher’s little challenge to CNN to see who could be the first to get to one million followers on Twitter. Larry King Responded.  Many of the “real Tweeple” were put off with the entire event.

Then our Social Media Director Jim Turner Tweeted this:

So how hard would it be to have Oprah keynote blogworld on the “New Media”?

I then replied:

@Genuine let ask her. @oprah now that you are on Twitter, would you like to come give a keynote at the worlds largest social media event?

Several people were immediately up in arms.  Here is a sampling of the replies:

Kencamp: @blogworld 2 cents worth – BWE is a maybe for us, but Oprah speaking would blow credibility of it all and lead me to opt out I think.

LisaHoffman: @Genuine Guess it depends on who you’re trying to attract. I thought BlogWorld was aimed at SM fans and practitioners, not celeb groupies.

adamkmiec: @blogworld you’ve got to be kidding me

CathyWebSavvyPR: @LisaHoffmann Probably not a good choice for Blogworld. Fun, entertaining, zany, smart? but not keynot. if celeb MCHammer takes it seriously

DougMeacham: @MackCollier Having Oprah speak as an “expert” could damage blogworld expo’s cred w/practitioners but mayB they’re looking 4 a new customer

BethHarte: @Genuine If Oprah Keynotes BlogWorld, I am staying home… Because if she’s a SM expert that means I don’t have enough coin to ever be one.

I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised. Social Media insiders tend to be a little clubby and insular but I sincerely hope the folks above and others who might have a similar knee jerk reaction reconsider their opinion.

Continue Reading

How To Monetize Your Blog; A Gary V Post You Must See!

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I just had a great conversation with @Jason Falls from Social Media Explorer and had to write this post.   We were just talking about how some smallish (1,500 to 2,000 readers a day) but high quality niche blogs kept trying to pitch him to get a world wide brand to advertise on their blogs.

Jason finally explained that while the blog may be high quality and a perfectly targeted niche, his client was not going to spend $5,000 to advertise on their site. His client spends $500,000 or more on media buys. It simply doesn’t work logistically for them to spend that small amount of money on a media buy.  Jason advised them to start a network with other blogs in their niche, combine their demographics and then pitch the client.

While he was telling me this story (which is great advice for any niche market blog btw) he mentioned a video that Gary V posted a couple months back where Gary actually came up with a concept for a blog, did a search on Google for advertisers in that space and actually called the first advertiser on the list live on the video. What transpires next is an incredible real life example of what a sales person does and what you as an independent blogger need to do if you want to monetize your blog.

This is one of the best videos I have ever seen on how to monetize a blog in particular and good advice on how to sell in general.

I have loved Gary’s energy and enthusiasm ever since I first met him at the first BlogWorld in 2007 but as a salesmen I have a whole new respect for him.

You see creating great content is not enough. You need to be able to sell it.  If you are a great writer and you have built a community around your site you can make money but you need to be able to sell like Gary just demonstrated if you ever have a hope of making a dime.

If you can’t sell then you better find someone who can sell your blog for you. The truth is most of us will never have hundreds of thousands of readers but you don’t need that big of an audience to monetize your content.

If you have 2,000 regular readers on your site and they are engaged with you and you aren’t making money, then you need to learn how to sell and who to sell to.

Gary just gave some great advice on how to do that but Jason mentioned something else that was very important. Think locally. Again a national brand is not going to write you a check for $5 or $10k but a local retailer or distributor will.

I compare blogs to traditional media; newspapers, magazines, television and radio all the time.

If your blog has more than 1,500 readers a day you need to think of your blog as a local radio station, or a local newspaper and sell it that way. If you can sell like Gary or can find someone who can sell like that, then there is no reason you can’t make a nice income from your blog.

You can check out Gary’s 2008 Keynote at BlogWorld here.

Church Encourages Twitter Use During Service

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Welcome to the 21st century.  I guess when the institution that has been considered the most traditional and least technologically advanced starts to embrace modern technology like Twitter, it’s time to say it’s officially arrived.  I just caught wind of a church in North Carolina that not only doesn’t care if you text message and Tweet during the church service and sermon, they Encourage it.  Huh?

That’s right, at the Next Level Church in Charlotte, NC, they are actually encouraging members of its congregation to get those cell phones out and send Tweets all throughout the service and most importantly the sermon.  Apparently their pastor believes that it’s his responsibility to ensure that the church is using every technological advance possible to help spread their message.

According to reports:

“The congregation was urged to post minute-by-minute updates to their Twitter accounts to allow members across the room to broadcast in real time how the message was touching them…“People who didn’t get to make the service get the opportunity to see what notes I’m taking and what’s going on here in the service,” church member Robbie McLaughlin said.”

Once again this brings up an entire new question that I’m sure will be popping up more than ever before:  Where else can new social media and social networking services like Twitter be used?  It’s interesting to see it being used in previously ultra-traditional places like churches, but it makes me wonder where else Twitter might be extremely beneficial?  What about Government?  What about more real-time updating of sporting events?  What about NASA in space?  I know there have been Tweets from the rovers on Mars, but what about directly from the astronauts on the moon?

Apparently the sky, is no longer the limit.  Hold on tight, who knows what else is on the way.

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