May 25 2010

How Digital Marketers Can Use Geotagging Applications

I came across a Mashable.com article for journalists last week that I thought would be valuable for online marketing and community professionals as well. 7 Ways Journalists Can Use Foursquare pointed out some key elements that news writers can engage their audience and source valuable information. And those use-cases can also be extremely valuable for digital marketing teams.

For those not familiar with Foursquare, it’s a geo-tagging application for online and mobile users that tells your friends know where you are and vice versa. It also provides you with online schwag such as points, badges and even coupons for use at local businesses. It’s also not the only geo-tagging game in town and anyone interested should check out Gowalla, Brightkite, Loopt, Where and Hot Potato.

Like journalists, marketing professionals often need to target communities and get valuable information. In today’s social environment, where interacting with one’s audience is a key element, these geo-tagging apps have the potential for greatness. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the valuable ways to use them:

  1. Find targeted contacts. With geo-tagging applications, you can attach real people to actual places. Find people who frequent certain types of establishments. Reach out and chat. Find out what type of people are going where. There’s valuable information here.
  2. Get tips on local business, customers and competitors. Users leave lots of tips regarding local businesses and venues which provide insight that a professional analyst may not be privy to. Knowing how people view a restaurant chain or coffee shop can be gold for marketing teams.
  3. Learn about people you’re profiling. You can learn a lot about people based on where they go and things they say. Make more friends on apps such as Foursquare and you can follow their activity, as well as begin to understand their habits. Find out where folks are going and you can “accidentally” show up to observe activity. Yeh, it’s essentially like cyber-stalking, but if you have a relationship with them, it’s not too creepy.
  4. Discover and monitor trends. This is easy with Foursquare and other apps. Find out where people are suddenly going and why. Find out if a local joint that sells competing products is becoming popular and why. More gold here.
  5. Publish and distribute content. As a member of a community, there has to be some give with the take—one of the golden rules of digital marketing—and it pays to link to places you go, as well as share your tips. An online marketer would be wise to share tips and information about places you like, in addition to just peddling your product or service.
  6. Crowdsource real-time information and reward readers with badges, etc. People just love online schwag and badges. It’s like Internet coolness merit badges. You need to find out what people think about your client’s juice stores or a local event? Create a badge, ask folks to check out and offer them incentives with badges and coupons. Forget surveys, this is uber-valuable marketing information. You can also offer different badges and incentives for different levels of participation.

Geo-tagging applications now provide digital marketers a fast, effective way to gather market information about clients, businesses, services and the people who rely on them. Tools such as this could be a massive game-changer for marketing budgets and gathering valuable metrics. I believe that any marketing team or service with their salt should be looking into using one of these tools.

And be sure to read this hard-hitting article about social networking tools and how we cover them. ;)

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May 21 2010

Random Friday Video: Perpetuum Jazzile Sings Toto’s Africa

Published by under internet,movies,music

Remember when you were in the chorus or glee club? Well, some of you, anyway.

A colleague of mine sent a link along for Perptuum Jazzile, Slovenia’s only jazz choir. I was blown away by this vid and it gave me goose bumps. Here’s hoping you enjoy it and find yourself singing in your next shower.

YouTube Preview Image

You gotta check out some of the other vids by Perpetuum on YouTube, such as Stevie Wonder’s ‘As’ and Mas Que Nada. They make the kids on Glee seem like pathetic amateurs.

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May 20 2010

Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds Visit Our Window and Hanging Feeders

Published by under bird watching,nature

I finally had a chance to hang my two hummingbird feeders late this April to attract some hummingbirds this season. And filling them with a homemade sugar and water solution was easy. (See recipe below)

My efforts at refreshing the sugar/water solution every week paid off last week. A Ruby-throated Hummingbird visited our window feeder late one afternoon and now visits every couple of days.

 

 

A ruby-throated hummingbird hovers at the kitchen window. (Photo by Randye Kerstein/Kerstein Creative)

It’s amazing to see how tiny it is when compared to the small American Goldfinches that frequent daily. Thankfully, the hummingbird is not afraid of the larger birds.

 

 

The hummingbird zips in and perches at our hanging feeder in the backyard. (Photo by Randye Kerstein/Kerstein Creative)

 

 

Glug, glug! The hummingbird drinks sugar water from the hanging feeder. (Photo by Randye Kerstein/Kerstein Creative)

The coolest part is watching the hummingbird hover, then dart in and out from the feeder. We’re going to try and snag some video at some point this summer.

Hummingbird Sugar and Water Recipe

  • 2 Cups of tap water
  • 1/2 Cup of white processed sugar

Boil the water, then measure and add the sugar. You can decrease and increase the amount of water and sugar, but be sure to keep a 4 parts water/1 part sugar ratio. Stir the sugar into the boiling water until it is completely dissolved.

Let the mix cool and store any excess in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it. Don’t add artificial coloring or sweeteners.

Clean your feeder and refill about once per week or more frequently in hot weather.

The National Audubon Society recommends rinsing your feeder in a one part white vinegar to four parts water mixture. Follow the vinegar wash with 3 thorough rinses with warm to hot water before refilling.

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May 19 2010

U.S. Military Deaths Surpasses 1,000 in Afghanistan

Published by under History,Military/Veterans

The United States has reached the macabre milestone of surpassing 1,000 deaths of military servicemen and women in Afghanistan. Sad news for Americans, veterans and sobering information for our current administration.

 

Servicemen unloading the remains of a U.S soldier at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. (Photo by Steve Ruark/AP via NYTimes.com)

 

The New York Times reports that it took almost 7 years to reach 500 and the second 500 in fewer than two years.

A resurgent Taliban active in almost every province, a weak central government incapable of protecting its people and a larger number of American troops in harm’s way all contributed to the accelerating pace of death.

Also interesting and sad to note is the lowering average age of killed servicemen. From ’02 to ’08, the average age of killed service members was roughly 28. It dropped to 26 last year and in 2010, more than 125 troops killed in action averaged 25 years of age. Additionally, military records show that more are dying right after boot camp.

On top of that, in the last two years, improvised explosive devices (I.E.D.’s) have taken the highest number of American lives.

Understandably, the number of casualties is bound to rise with the troop surge in Afghanistan and increased Taliban activity. However, I believe the DoD should take note of how are troops are loosing their lives.

The most prevalent mode of engaging the enemy, as well as working with the civilian population, is for our troops to leave the safety of their posts and bases. This creates a “target-rich opportunity” as my comrades and I used to say in the Army. On the few shows and documentaries on combat troops in Afghanistan that I’ve seen, soldiers are on foot with bomb detectors, bomb-sniffing dogs or are using satellite and other surveillance methods of catching bomb-layers in action. All these are effective in their own right, but obviously not 100%.

I do hope that the Obama Administration, the DoD and military experts continue to look closely at how to fight the IED problem. With each major American conflict—Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq—IEDs continue to stymie many of our tactics.

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May 14 2010

Random Friday Video: Star Wars Geek

Published by under internet,movies

A classic internet meme. Gotta love it. This Star Wars kid with his make-believe light saber just never gets old.

YouTube Preview Image

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May 13 2010

Space Shuttle Atlantis is Ready for its Final Launch on Friday

Published by under astronomy,science,technology

The space shuttle Atlantis has been cleared for its final mission and lift off is scheduled for 2:20 p.m. from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

At 25 years of age, the veteran Atlantis will blast off from Launch Pad 39A on NASA’s 132nd space shuttle mission.

Space Shuttle Atlantis lifts off from Kennedy Space Center.

Star gazers and skywatchers will also have a chance to see Atlantis as it approaches the international space station and when it undocks. Anyone interested in checking it out should read ‘How to see shuttle Atlantis from Earth‘ on Space.com. Atlantis’s crew will perform three spacewalks on the 12-day mission and deliver Rassvet (Russian for dawn), the new research module and other spare parts.

Cool Atlantis Facts

  1. Atlantis was named after the original exploration sailing vessel of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. It has lived up to its namesake venturing out into the unknown and returning with an abundance of scientific information.
  2. It’s the shuttle fleet’s workhorse. The unsung hero Atlantis will have flown 32 missions to orbit and space stations. No stranger to space station missions, NASA’s oldest flying shuttle flew seven times to the Mir space station and 11 times to the International Space Station.
  3. It was the first shuttle to launch an interplanetary probe. In 1989, Atlantis launched the Magellan spacecraft, which mapped more than 98 percent of Venus’s surface.
  4. It helped us watch a comet hit a planet. In 1989, Atlantis launched the Galileo probe, which captured close-up images of an asteroid on its way to Jupiter. Then in 1994, it made the only direct observations of a comet collision when Shoemaker-Levy 9 slammed into the solar system’s biggest planet.
  5. Atlantis doesn’t have an extension cord. Basically, it can’t plug into solar-powered electrical systems on the space station and is limited to 14-day missions, the maximum its hydrogen-oxygen fuel cells will allow.
  6. It has a clone. The shuttle Endeavour was built from a complete set of spare parts that were originally made in case Atlantis was damaged. After the Challenger shuttle was lost, NASA decided to build another shuttle. (Endeavour’s last mission will be in November.)
  7. Atlantis was the last space shuttle to visit the Hubble Space Telescope. During its May 2009 mission, the crew made five space walks to repair and enhance the Hubble with the Cosmic Origins spectrograph allowing the telescope to peer deeper into the universe’s ultraviolet light spectrum, as well as add Wide Field Camera 3 allowing astronomers better quality observations of galaxy evolution, dark matter and dark energy.
  8. Atlantis is a movie star! That’s right, the shuttle co-stars in the movie “Hubble 3D” with narrator Leonardo DiCaprio about its 2009 mission to upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope.

Looking for more cool space shuttle stuff? Check out the NASA website, of course.

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May 12 2010

A Look at WordPress 3.0

Published by under Blogging,internet,technology,Writing

The second beta of WordPress 3.0 is ready and the official release for public consumption is not far off. There has also been a lot of buzz about some of the new features and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention them on Blog de Puree, a WordPress blog.

Here’s a quick rundown of what’s got bloggers and content management system (CMS) folks amped up:

Custom Post Types

At this point, WordPress has two default types of content, posts and pages. (You can read posts on this blog and you can view extra pages through the navigation bar at the top of the page. Other themes may have different link placement.) In version 3.0, you can create custom post types with their own attributes for things like press pages, client testimonials, portfolio display, podcasts, video libraries, you name it. WordPress users are not forced into jury rigging posts or pages to fit their needs.

Menu Management

WordPress 3.0 takes control over navigation menus to a whole new level. Using the drag and drop user interface, you can create menus with internal links, external links, category or tag pages, or whatever you choose. Then you can use and manage these menus as a widget in the link management screen.

Custom Taxonomies

The ability to create taxonomies enhances WordPress’ standing as a true CMS. By default, you have the ability to create categories and tags within your site, but now you can add additional layers of meta data, and even make them hierarchical. For example, on this blog, there are over-arching subject categories for each post and more specific tags. Each of these allows readers and search engines to find topics of interest more easily. With version 3.0, I could choose to create another taxonomy for rowing and label posts with names such as sculling, sweeps, coaching, coxswainship, etc. and provide deeper layers of categorization and searchability. I’ve worked on websites with single-layer taxonomies as well as websites with multi-relational and hierarchical taxonomies, and this feature excites the web geek in me.

Multi-site

WordPress 3.0 now allows the management of multiple websites (with different domains and/or sub-domains). The former WordPress multi-user tool has been integrated into the newest version. An average blogger will probably not need this feature because you need to know a bit of code and how to configure server settings, however, for those who run blogging networks, news sites or companies with many employees with branded blogs, this feature is likely to raise an eyebrow or two.

Shortlinks

As Twitter and Facebook become more important, the need to shorten your URLs also becomes more important. With the wp.me URL shortener, you don’t have to rely on other URL shorteners such as TinyURL or bit.ly and can keep your branding intact. That’s right, you can shorten your URL and keep your own domain name. The WordPress blog has more on that feature.

Author Templates

Now everyone gets personal branding! Despite how you feel about personal branding (and I love Doc Searls’ insights here), you can create individual author templates, which are great for multi-author blogs such as this one or if you want to apply different styles or layouts to author pages.

Select Username and Password During WordPress Instillation

Anyone installing a new WordPress blog before 3.0 had their master account default to “admin” as the user name and a password was auto-generated. Now you can create your own user name during install and provide a little more security.

Other New Stuff

If you’re interested in the entire list of new features, upgrades and changes, check out the Codex page for WordPress 3.0.

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May 07 2010

Random Friday Video: The Ultimate Victory Dance

If you want to celebrate a great victory, nobody does it like the Albanians do. Or did.

Try out the Albania Victory Dance with some pals after your next triumph.

YouTube Preview Image

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May 07 2010

Viral Heat and Performable: Two New Online Marketing Tools to Check Out

I’ve been digging into some SaaS online marking tools and came across two new apps that digital marketers should take some time to check out. From getting valuable metrics on the ROI of your social marketing efforts to optimizing our online marketing tools, Viralheat and Performable look like they offer some great features.

Viralheat

Viralheat seems to be a few months old, judging by the history of their “In the press” section. It is a social measurement software as a service platform that provides social marketers and social networking types with an in-depth way to slice and dice information from Facebook, Twitter, “the realtime web,” and viral video. (And I suspect they’ll be adding more sites in the future.) One can then track, react and optimize social campaigns and audience engagement.

Poking around the site reveals a clean and easy-to-use user interface, as well as offering important geolocation data for global brands and an API to embed key statistical information into applications and internal websites for the movers and shakers at your company.

Notably, Viralheat has been instrumental in the helping to decide the outcome of the geolocation war between the two social-geo giants Foursquare and Gowalla after the recent South by Southwest conference.

For marketers grappling with analyzing the right social data, this primer post about ‘Making Sure You’re Tracking the Right Data‘ by Viralheat CEO and founder Raj Kadam on Mashable offers a great starting point.

Performable

Performable is a new product that’s in a closed beta mode. It offers analytics that help to optimize important online marketing tools such as landing pages, lead acquisition forms, newsletter sign up pages, targeted videos and contact forms.

At this point, the information at Performable.com is rather sparse. However, the potential is huge. I’ve been in countless meetings with UI designers, editorial teams, marketing and sales teams, as well as developers, trying to figure out how best to create a landing page, lead acquisition form or newsletter page. Each stakeholder has a different perspective and level of understanding. I would leave frustrated as these pages were diluted into watery mud puddles that proved to be ineffective in the end.

With Performable, one can: A. Easily create numerous variations based on stakeholder input without having to worry about design and development time and B. Easily gain insight from measurable real-time usage statistics. That’s a double win in my book.

Unfortunately, I can’t find any quick data on results or customer testimonials, but this looks like a good group to keep an eye on.

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May 05 2010

Grassland Bird Study Continues to Third Year in Amesbury

Researchers from Tufts University will be spending their third year of a study on grassland birds at Woodsom Farm in Amesbury, MA, this summer, the Newburyport Daily News reports.

The research will include casting nets to tag and draw blood from birds, as well as figure out why species such as the Bobolink and Eastern Meadowlark prefer large fields instead of small ones. The students will be looking at nest density of the different birds at the 350-acre farm, vegetation structures, physical attributes of the birds, predator avoidance, bird alertness and their overall condition, as well as insect populations within this habitat.

Bobolink
The Bobolink is the only American bird
that is black underneath and white on top.
(Photo by Marie Read via AllAboutBirds.com)

A press release from Mayor Kezer’s office asks visitors to Woodsom Farm “not to approach or tamper with the nets as this may endanger the birds and impact the research.” Visitors with dogs are also asked to obey Amesbury’s leash laws and keep dogs away from the nets.

The research will start in May and continue through autumn. It will be follow strict principles to keep down the disruption to the birds.

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