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Bill Gates hosted his 2008 CEO Summit a couple of weeks ago. It's a high powered event, attended by more than 100 company CEOs from around the world that are reported to drive over $3 trillion in revenues.
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As twitter has continued to grow it has become THE hot service that social media people like to talk about. Now that twitter has started to go mainstream, it has moved past the earlier adopters and is being used by more and more people.  However, the funny thing is most of the people that are using it still feel utterly confused by it. Those who aren't using it don't see the purpose in using it.
Most social media people will talk about using twitter in very general terms. They will talk about being part of the larger "conversation" and how important it is. While I don't deny that participating in the larger "conversation" is important most users  would like details on:

1)    What can twitter do?
2)    How do I use it?

Today I want to talk about the benefits of twitter and show how it was practically applied to a small business.  This is a simple plan with an explanation of the tools that are being used.

The Case Study

My friend owns a small pub in a college town. He recently redid his website to include a blog and began to branch out into social networking by creating a MySpace page, a facebook "fan" page, a regular facebook page, and a twitter account. His goal was to use these social media platforms to inform his customers what was going on at the pub that night, what special events were coming down the road, and to monitor what people wanted.

Since the pub is in a college town he figured that leveraging social media would be a great way to reach his current customers and touch some potential customers. While he used the social networking sites to target market and add people that might be interested in going to his pub he used twitter as his main communication hub.

Here are some of the tactics he applied and the tools he used:
Ease of creating a message

1)  He set up his mobile phone to update on twitter- (tool- twitter.com) This comes standard with a twitter account and often is taken for granted that people automatically know this. He now has the ability to announce specials for dinner, for drinks, or push special events while he is on the run.

Additionally this feature allows him to get instant feedback when things strike him. He can see games or events that he likes in other establishments and ask questions on the fly if his customers would be interested in seeing those games or events at his pub.

Ease of spreading the message

2)  He has twitter update his facebook status message automatically-
(tool: twitter facebook app)   Being a business owner my friend's time is rather limited. He doesn't have time to log into facebook every time he needs to update his status. By using twitter to update his status on facebook automatically he is reaching out to multiple audiences on multiple sites.  Expect  a solution for MySpace to appear in the near future.

3) Has twitter posts go post to his blog- (tool: twitter wordpress plugin) Using this wordpress plugin my friend can also migrate his tweets to his blog. On his blog his tweets appear as posts, giving updates to his RSS or e-mail subscribers.

Monitoring the Response

Using Terraminds- (tool: terraminds)  The pub owner can track to see if anything was said about his business as well as his competition in the area by searching for keywords via this twitter tracker.  If people complain or say positive things about his pub he has the ability to respond with a thanks or correct any issues. This was something that in that past he didn't have the ability to do because the conversation was being held elsewhere.

He can also figure out trends using this, if there is a large party for example he knows the crowds will be in later in the evening and can appropriately prepare for that.  

Reach out to local users

5) Targeting active local users-(tool: twitterlocal.net)  Allows him to follow and engage local users in conversation. By setting it up for a twenty mile radius he can reach out and follow local users as well as creating contacts that can later become advocates.

Build Loyal Customers

6)  Participating in the conversation goes a long way-  (tool: thwirl- a twitter desktop application) By replying to messages and talking to customers a couple of times a week it allows you to be part of the conversation. This personal attention goes a long way to establishing loyalty and repeat business. People will remember the interaction by giving

As always with social media it does come back to the conversation. If you use the tools around the conversation the right way you can enhance what you get out of it. This is one example of what a small business can use twitter for. Other great examples of companies using twitter are Zappos (for customer service) and Robbie Gordon Racing (for event updates).

How have you been using twitter? And what tools are using?

Awareness has officially entered the world of twitter and would like to participate in conversations with you.
You can add our new twitter account here: http://twitter.com/awarenessinc

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At some point in the future we are all going to be signed up for at least 5-10 social networks apiece. (Some of us are well past that number now.)  This fact has become inevitable as more and more companies and organizations begin to integrate social networking into their websites. Soon we will have a social network for everything:

  • Your general personal sphere (MySpace, Facebook, et al.)
  • Your professional sphere (LinkedIn)
  • An employer created network(internal and external facing communities)
  • And education based (your continuing education or your child's school)
  • And the fast growing Niche based (with sites focused on entertainment, news, shopping, finance, home management, etc)
Being part of these communities is going to become important in order to manage the latest communication and information in our everyday lives. With all of these networks out there the big question is how we can manage all of the activity, data, and logins. Allowing us to participate while managing our time effectively and not burning out in trying to maintain all of these profiles.
There are solutions that are being developed and deployed to help users manage all of these networks.

1) Data Portability- The ability for users to share their content and data across multiple social media sites is encouraging. Of course right now there is no clear standard as of yet but the data portability project is working towards specifications.

Last week facebook, MySpace, and google all announced their own data portability efforts. In reality these companies are racing to be your preferred data home.  Each of these projects will allow smaller sites to use their log in credentials to populate your information on new participating sites that you are working with. Eventually though we will have a list of standards and people will have options to choose as their "home base" of information.

The days of joining a network or site and having to fill out all your information will be done in the near future. Also we will no longer have to upload content onto various websites and networks. For example if we have one picture that we want to share on multiple sites and networks we can upload them to one account and share them over multiple systems.

2)    Open ID- Besides having to worry about populating our profiles and sharing our content we have to keep track of multiple user names over various networks. OpenId is a project that is working on correcting that. Users are getting a single digital identify to manage and maintain, allowing people to have a central set of credentials to control and manage.

While the first two solutions seem to be on the right path in making our lives easier the third is something that I think has a lot of potential but hasn't really been developed yet.

3)    Better aggregation of data- Currently we can follow what our friends are doing via multiple types of activity streams: blogcatalog, friendfeed, 8hands, and various other methods. None of these though integrate the direct messaging features of social networks. While we can be alerted of comments and messages via e-mail or desktop clients, one single program needs to come along and not only integrate activity feeds but messaging as well.

This is the one hurdle that is probably going to be the toughest to overcome because of monetization, traffic, and programming issues. But I believe at some point we will see some type of full aggregation of all the data and messaging on these social networks.

In the end the evolution of the social network is going to boil down to openness and aggregation. I am excited to see what the next few years bring.

What do you see in our future?
(Besides flying cars.)

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What social bookmarking/news sites do you regularly use?

Digg, Mixx, StumbleUpon, Del.icio.us, and Reddit are just a few of the many social bookmarking/social news sites that are out there, which sites do yo...
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