Google Went “Code Red” to Save Google Buzz

Here’s the story of how panicking just enough may have saved Google’s answer to Facebook and Twitter.

Last week, Google launched an add-on to Gmail called Google Buzz. Almost immediately, the world howled with complaints that the product exposed users’ privacy by publishing lists of followers made up of the people a user e-mailed and chatted with most.

This made Google Buzz a danger zone for reporters, cheating spouses, mental health professionals, and anyone else who didn’t want to tell the world who they e-mailed or chatted with most.

But since this early failing, Google employees — specifically VP of product Bradley Horowitz and Buzz product manager Todd Jackson — have done a rousing job answering criticism from users and the media with rapid-fire updates to the product.

It wasn’t easy.

Horowitz and Jackson’s first move was to set up a  “War Room” for Buzz, where engineers and product managers could plot and push immediate changes to the product. Then, on Friday, the team took questions at a company-wide meeting with Google employees. With that feedback, Jackson pushed Buzz into “Code Red” starting on Saturday so that all updates to Buzz code would push as soon as possible.

With the proverbial alarm bells ringing, Buzz team members decided to stay at Google until the product was fixed. A Google spokesperson said, “Some of them [were here] straight through Friday and Saturday nights and through late Sunday, making changes.” A bunch of Googlers actually slept two nights in a row at the Googleplex.

A week after the complaints, Google corrected all the privacy flaws. Back in 2007, it took Facebook a month to figure its way out of the Beacon privacy mess.

Here’s the Google Buzz timeline:

(via Silicon Alley Insider)
(Photo:
star5112)

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Kids Don’t Hate Twitter Anymore! [Chart]

Remember last year’s obsession about kids hating Twitter?

The site saw growth across all demographics in 2009, but growth among people 24 and younger accelerated faster than older folks in 2009, according to comScore.

Unlike most social networks, Twitter started out being more popular with adults before it caught on with younger users. That changed last year as celebrity tweets caught on and mainstream media started talking about the service more.

At the end of 2009, more than 30% of Twitter’s visitors were under 25, this chart suggests, up from about 20% of its visitors at the end of 2008:

(Via Silicon Alley Insider)


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Advertisers Embrace Facebook, Other Social Networks

Social ad spending will become a higher priority in 2010, with the combination of mobile and social advertising generating more opportunities for advertisers to reach their target markets for branding and engagement. eMarketer forecasts that 2009 ad spending on social networks will surpass $1.2 billion when all expenditures are tallied, a year-over-year increase of almost 4%. And social-media ad spending is anticipated to grow more than 7% next year:

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According to Debra Aho Williamson, author of the report Social Network Ad Spending: 2010 Outlook:

As more marketers incorporate social networks in their business, they will no longer look at them as siloed destinations. Instead, they will look to increase the impact of their social network presence by linking it to other marketing initiatives, both online and offline.

So social network advertising is set to intersect with other kinds of advertising. Geotargeting, earned media (the additional unpaid exposure a brand receives when consumers talk about it online), social search, and social ad networks will be pivotal themes next year.

Facebook has become the preferred social network for marketers

Facebook is poised to surpass MySpace in advertising revenue. At 350 million users, Facebook is the premier destination for marketers in the U.S. and in many other countries. In 2010, marketers are expected to spend more than $600 million on Facebook (vs. $385 million for MySpace), accounting for nearly one-fourth of worldwide social-network ad spending — up from 20% in 2009:

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Facebook Pages are increasingly becoming an integral part of brand advertising.  They will become even more popular as Facebook introduces the Open Graph API, enabling branded social experiences to occur anywhere on the Web.

Williamson also says,

When companies budget for social media marketing in 2010 and beyond, a substantial portion of their expenses will go toward creating and maintaining a fan page, managing promotions or public relations outreach within a social network, and measuring the impact of a social network presence on brand health and sales.

The viability of social media advertising was reinforced during the holiday shopping season, as many retailers turned to social media destinations like Facebook and Twitter to bolster their efforts to reach potential shoppers. Kohl’s, Best Buy, and Target were among the companies that leveraged social networks for customer engagement. Online ad spending dropped overall in 2009, but the increase in buys on social networks has created opportunities for brands to increase their market share. Ad buys on these sites could account for up to 5.4% of all online advertising.

As advertisers search for new avenues to grab customers’ discretionary income, the shift away from traditional online advertising will continue to accelerate.

What’s your opinion? Do you think Facebook will surpass MySpace? How has MySpace been able to retain its revenue lead for so long? Please leave a comment!

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26 Free Tools for Monitoring Your Brand’s Reputation

Are you listening? Do you know what people are saying about your brand?

If you have customers, odds are they’re talking about you to their coworkers, to their friends, and to anyone else within earshot — including those on social networks. Isn’t it in your company’s best interests to be engaged and  take part in the conversation so you know what’s being said and can respond appropriately?

As brands get going with social media, they find that understanding who is talking about them online, what they are saying, to whom, and where is a great advantage. After auditing your current brand footprint, you’ll be armed with the data you need to start weighing what’s important to your audience about your brand and where you should have a presence.

Build a list of keywords and terms about your brand, customers, company, and market, then use some of these free tools to get a clearer view of what people are saying — with this knowledge in hand, you can begin to really develop a social-media strategy:

  1. Addict-o-matic: Allows you to create a custom-made page to display search results.
  2. Bloglines: A Web-based personal news aggregator that can be used in place of a desktop client.
  3. Blogpulse: A service of Nielsen BuzzMetrics, it analyzes and reports on daily trends in the blogosphere.
  4. BoardTracker: A useful tool for scanning and tracking forums conversations.
  5. FriendFeed Search: Scans all FriendFeed activity.
  6. Google Alerts: Target keywords that are important to your brand and receive streaming or batched reports­.
  7. HowSociable?: A simple way fto begin measuring your brand’s visibility on the social Web.
  8. Icerocket: Searches a variety of online services, including Twitter, blogs, videos, and MySpace.
  9. Jodange: Tracking your brand or a product is one thing, but turning that tracking into a measure of consumer sentiment about your brand or product is something else entirely. Jodange’s TOM (Top of Mind) tracks consumer sentiment about your brand or product across the Web.
  10. Keotag: Keyword searches across the Internet landscape.
  11. Facebook Lexicon: What are people talking about on Facebook? Lexicon searches Facebook walls for keywords and provides a snapshot of the chatter volume around those terms. [3/27/13: This service has been discontinued.]
  12. Monitter: Everyone is talking about Twitter, but what are people talking about on Twitter? Beyond the integrated search of Twitter apps like Seesmic and TweetDeck, Monitter provides real-time monitoring of the Twittersphere.
  13. MonitorThis: Subscribes you to up to 20 different RSS feeds through one stream.
  14. Samepoint: A conversation search engine that lets you see what people are talking about.
  15. Seesmic: Monitors multiple Twitter accounts and enables keyword searches and tracking.
  16. Surchur: An interactive dashboard covering search engines and most social media sites.
  17. Technorati: Search engine and monitoring tool for user-generated media and blogs. Billing itself as “the leading blog search engine,” Technorati has been helping bloggers and those with their fingers on the blog pulse stay informed for years.
  18. Tinker: Real-time conversations from social media sources like Twitter and Facebook.
  19. Trendrr: Want to know how your brand or product is trending compared with others? Trendrr uses comparison graphing to show relationships and discover trends in real time. Use the free account, or move up to the Enterprise level for more functionality.
  20. Tweetburner: In the world of Twitter, URL shortening is the key to effectively connecting with the public. Tweetburner also lets you track the clicks on those magically shortened links, giving you some hard numbers.
  21. TweetDeck: Not only a great way to manage your Twitter account, but the keyword search means you can see what people are saying about you.
  22. Twendz: Public relations firm Waggener Edstrom’s Twitter-mining tool that monitors and highlights user sentiment in real time.
  23. Twitter Search: Twitter’s very own search tool is a great resource. Can be subscribed to as an RSS feed.
  24. UberVU: Track and engage with user sentiment across FriendFeed, Digg, Picasa, Twitter, and Flickr.
  25. wikiAlarm: Alerts you to when a Wikipedia entry has been changed.
  26. Yahoo! Sideline: A TweetDeck-esque tool from Yahoo. Monitor, search, and engage with the Twittersphere.

Listening and making sense of how your brand lives on the Web is only part of the calculus — the next step is how you leverage that information to engage with your audience.

Are you listening and monitoring your brand online? Have you tried any of these tools?

Top 50 Companies That Make the Best Use of Facebook

The drumbeat by marketing and public relations experts about the importance of building a social media strategy is growing louder, and with good reason. The benefits to companies large and small in this new medium are legion, and more and more businesses are taking the plunge.

But not all social media strategies are full-fledged, with some companies exerting far more effort to engage their target audiences via Facebook and Twitter than others.

Slate’s TheBigMoney.com has devised a ranking of companies based on their social media engagment. The list ranks the top 50 companies that are making the best use of Facebook, with Coca-Cola and Starbucks leading the pack. The rankings are based on number of different metrics:

Companies had to have a minimum of 200,000 Facebook friends or fans before being considered for The Big Money Facebook 50. Qualifying brands were then assessed on whether they employ a dedicated social media staff, how long the brand has been present on Facebook, and how much money it spends on the social networking site. Companies were then ranked from one to five on how often they update their Facebook offerings; the variety of material they offer; how much user interest their pages have generated; how integrated Facebook is in to the company’s broader marketing; how easy it is to find the company’s Facebook page through a search engine, and creativity and effectiveness.

Later this week, the company plans to release the Twitter 12, a list of the 12 brands making the best use of Twitter.

On its site, The Big Money offers a window into the investment and engagement by assorted businesses. Most of the companies on the Top 50 are big brands, but the scales haven’t been completely tipped toward the largest names. Coca-Cola and Starbucks may top the list, but Dr. Pepper — a company with an international presence — is ranked 38th with 906,914 fans.

The Top 10 of the Facebook 50 are:

  1. Coca-Cola
  2. Starbucks
  3. Disney
  4. Victoria’s Secret
  5. iTunes
  6. Vitaminwater
  7. YouTube
  8. Chick-fil-A
  9. Red Bull
  10. T.G.I. Friday’s

The full list is available here, or you can view  the SlideShare presentation below. (If you can’t see the embedded media, click here.)

Beaten to the Tweet: Twitter Cybersquatters Have Hijacked Brands

Brandjacking is alive and well on Twitter.

Remember this phenomenon in the 90’s? The world’s largest marketers were racing to define an Internet presence, only to discover that squatters had already registered their brand names as domain names and were scuttling their messaging.

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Image by Yu^2 via Flickr

It’s happening again, only this time it’s happening on Twitter. Many of the largest brands in the world have discovered that they can’t use their own corporate names because they’ve already been scooped up by people who aren’t affiliated with their companies.

Here are just a few:

The list goes on — you get the idea.

Especially in these tough economic times, it makes sense that brands would want to engage with their customers on the popular free platform  Brands need to be where their customers are, and it’s becoming increasingly apparent that they are using Twitter. According to the latest data from ComScore, Twitter had 19.2 million users in October. And since budgets are being cut left and right, embracing Twitter is a wise business decision.

What’s a brand to do?

According to AdvertisingAge:

Twitter’s head of commercial products, Anamitra Banerji, said, “We understand brands’ frustration when it comes to account verification. We are working on ways to make the process easier and faster …. Given the volume of requests we receive, sometimes it might take a little while to close requests but we are trying to improve that too.” The social-media service, he said, is “[working] with business owners extensively to ensure that they own their trademarks/brand names on Twitter as our terms of service doesn’t allow name-squatting or impersonation.”

In August, Co-founder Biz Stone said that Twitter was in the first phase of rolling out commercial accounts, to goal being to lure businesses to pay for premium services. He also talked about creating new application programming interfaces (APIs) to create a “commercial layer” on top of the network. If brands are unhappy with Twitter’s network oversight, why would they choose to pay for premium services? Trust comes before monetization, yes?

The folks at Twitter should make it a priority to straighten all of this out and suspend the squatters’ accounts. How else to gain the respect and confidence of the businesses that figure prominently in Twitter’s quest for profitability?

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