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Charlie Sheen Sets New Guinness World Record for Twitter

Charlie Sheen may or may not be “winning,” in life, but he has won a rare honor: the “Fastest Time to Reach 1 Million Followers” Guinness World Record.
Guinness community manager Dan Barrett says the agency “just researched and approved” the record this morning. According to Barrett, Sheen reached that milestone in 25 hours and 17 minutes. As of this writing, Sheen’s Twitter account, @CharlieSheen, has close to 1.2 million followers. Guinness did not have a previous record for that category, Barrett says. Sheen also set a Guinness record for “Highest Paid TV Actor Per Episode Current” at $1.25 million.
Sheen joined Twitter March 1. In a matter of minutes, Sheen acquired more than 60,000 followers and a Klout score of 57 without even tweeting. According to a report in Advertising Age, Sheen was able to get his account verified so quickly because Internet startup Ad.ly brokered his account with Twitter.
Sheen, of course, has been all over the news since he publicly disparaged Chuck Lorre, producer of Sheen’s successful sitcom Two and a Half Men in a bizarre interview with Alex Jones of InfoWars last month. Since then, Sheen has been interviewed by various other high-profile outlets making equally odd statements. The public meltdown has made Sheen a continual trending topic on Twitter and the subject of several YouTube parodies.
For Guinness, this is the second high-profile application of the brand’s records system to social media. Last month, the Nabisco cookie brand Oreo and rapper Lil Wayne squared off for the record for the most Facebook likes. Lil Wayne won that contest handily.

How the U.S. Engages the World with Social Media

The perception of the U.S. abroad varies widely, and is subject to many forces, including world events, media coverage, policy changes, and presidential administrations. In response, the U.S. State Department, America’s public relations branch, has been charged with the difficult task of engaging in the dialogue surrounding the controversial policies discussed in almost every corner of the world.

Social media has proven to be a valuable tool in this regard, and the State Department has made impressive gains in their mission to turn conflict into conversation. Cabinet officials, foreign dignitaries, and embassies are experimenting with ways to inject America’s voice into the global chatter. Some of their experiments are paying dividends that few expected. Here’s a look at some of these efforts.

Social Media Can Bridge the “Last Three Feet”
President Barack Obama garners an enormous response when he solicits the country’s opinion online, as when he circumvented the White House press corps with YouTube-submitted questions this past February an effort that received over 11,000 responses.

But when Obama fields Internet questions from local residents during an overseas trip, the numbers are staggering a whopping 17,000 responses during a visit to Ghana, and an astounding 250,000 in South Africa (though some responses did come from outside Africa). Given the relatively smaller population and shallow Internet penetration, these numbers speak volumes about the world’s web-based engagement with U.S. leaders.

Obama’s responses alone, just out of sheer publicity, may have some positive impact on foreign attitudes. But, for Bill May, Director of the State Department’s Office of Innovative Engagement (i.e. social media), being at the epicenter of online chatter is what he thinks of as the “new version of the last three feet.”

May was invoking Edward R. Murrow’s famous public diplomacy strategy where he wrote, “The real crucial link in the international exchange is the last three feet, which is bridged by personal contact, one person talking to another.” In public diplomacy, there are a latent number of people throughout the world who will befriend America’s vision after a thorough conversation. The reverberation of Obama’s message, coupled with the hyper-local follow-ups from America’s Embassies, can reach more of those hidden friends than ever before.

Indeed, when Elizabeth Tradeau of the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria tweeted, “South Africa, what’s the impact of new media in your view of America?” there was a mix of negative and positive comments. But, one in particular seemed to prove May’s point:

@USembPretoria: for one, the US seems much friendlier than I imagine and accessible.

America is Fun
For every serious news or political blog, there are likely twice as many dedicated to sex, drugs, or rock n’ roll. And when Bill Clinton pioneered a youth outreach strategy answering questions from MTV fans, it was the infamous “boxers or briefs” question that garnered him the most attention. In the end, entertainment is just so much more appealing.

Seizing on this strategy, the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia has seen Facebook fan growth of jaw-dropping proportions, an increase from 36,000 to 120,000 in roughly one month. On a single Facebook post, the embassy often receives between 700 to 1,000 comments (that’s about 10 times more comments than The Huffington Post). This is especially astonishing when you consider that less than 10% of Indonesia’s population even uses Facebook.

So, what’s their winning strategy? Simple social games, where users can dress up Barack Obama in local garb and share the creation with friends, or suggest what Obama should eat during his next visit.

While the U.S. Embassy in Indonesia does delve into some culturally thorny issues, foreign diplomat Tristram Perry admits that Facebook is “not a good venue for hard policy topics.” Instead, he says “we make our Facebook fun. Jazz, technology, tourism we have a fascinating history. There’s lots about it that people admire.”

The embassy saw huge traffic from an essay contest to win a trip to “Barack Obama’s America” (Hawaii and Chicago), where winners will blog about their tour for what will surely be a stadium’s worth of jealous peers back home.

Many of the messages texted to President Obama plead for “not a hand out, but a hand up,” says Trudeau of the South Africans she speaks with. Centuries of colonization, war, and resource scarcity have paralyzed innovation in many parts of the world. To jump-start the economy, the U.S. helps plant what is seen as the seed of technological innovation: Education.

For instance, in the humble rural township of Mamelodi, just outside Pretoria, the Embassy provides technological and scientific literacy to disadvantaged children. In the Mae Jemison reading room, which is named after the first female African-American astronaut, children are “introduced to the Internet,” says Trudeau. She tells them, “This is how you use Google this is how you get an e-mail account,” and my personal favorite as a writing teacher, “don’t use Wikipedia as a source.” The students’ curiosity is limitless. During class, Trudeau observes that students bunch up by computers “six-deep” in line “looking, exploring,” and are eager to learn more.

The current business culture in South Africa points to some promising returns on this educational investment. “It’s like being in Silicon [Valley] or San Francisco in 2004 with Biz Stone and all of his friends,” said one visiting American at a local technology conference, as recounted by Trudeau. “It’s journalists, it’s editors, it’s tech entrepreneurs … they all use Twitter to connect. It’s a very interconnected, very engaged community,” Trudeau notes.

Media Outreach
The State Department has taken to providing timely information on crises and policy via social networks. During an attempted coup in Madagascar, a rumor began circulating that the threatened president was seeking refuge in the U.S. Embassy. After refuting the rumors themselves, the State Department tweeted out the correct information, “and immediately we started getting retweets and people saying ‘thanks for the correction,’” notes Daniel Schaub, Director of Digital Communications for the State Department. “And, then within probably an hour or so, the traditional media had caught it,” helping to blanket the spreading fire of a rumor that “could potentially put embassy staff at risk.”

Moreover, Schaub’s department manages Secretary Hillary Clinton’s blog, Dipnote, which provides rich context for otherwise curt policy pronouncements. Dipnote is now cited by news organizations such as the Associated Press and The New York Times for detailed explanations of Department policy and procedure.

The importance of this supplementary information should not be underestimated. A recent study suggests that the clarity of White House rhetoric can impact the political world. “If the president is able to define an intervention in simple, compelling terms, he is likely to get considerably more support from the public,” says Associate Professor Cooper Drury, editor-in-chief of Foreign Policy Analysis.

Every single Department official I spoke with admitted that the era of one-way broadcasting is dying. The ubiquity of mobile and social technologies means the U.S. must now have an ear as well as a voice. It seems like an unprecedented opportunity to open a dialogue with people and communities all over the world who would otherwise be isolated.

It should be noted that members of the State Department often disagree with their bosses on best practices. But, they also understand that conversation, even in 140 characters, may one day mean the difference between conflict and peace.

By Greg Ferenstein
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10 Essential Social Media Tips for B2B Marketers

When we write about how companies or individuals are using social media in their marketing strategies, it’s usually in the context of a business to consumer relationship. However, business-to-business (B2B) marketing is really getting a boost from social media as well. According to a recent study, 60% of B2B marketers plan to increase social media marketing spending this year.

Non-B2B-centric services like Twitter and Facebook can still offer great opportunities for B2B shops. Sometimes, the approach is the same as it would be in non-B2B marketing, sometimes it can be very different.

Figuring out how to best implement and harness social media in the course of B2B marketing can be difficult but we’ve put together ten tips to help get you on the right track!

 1. Use Twitter Effectively

This may seem like a no-brainer, but plenty of businesses and even B2B marketers aren’t on Twitter. Get an account on Twitter and start engaging. While having profiles on other social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn can be equally important, Twitter remains one of the best ways to find and engage with others.

How do you do that? Start by searching for phrases relevant to your business and by monitoring those searches regularly. Look at what people are saying and join in the conversation. If people aren’t necessarily looking for your business offerings right away, start joining other conversations of interest. The more you build bridges, the more likely you are to be noticed.

Second, use hashtags. The #B2B hashtag, for example, will connect you with several other like-minded businesses who are also trying to leverage Twitter to build an online presence. Don’t overdo it, though. There are some people #who #tweet #like #this.

We’ll discuss this in the next point, but consider Twitter to be an informal medium. With social media, businesses can (and should) be human again. That’s why it’s safe to use Twitter not just for pure self promotion but to build a meaningful relationships with those who you are likely to do business with you in the future. If you feel comfortable using your business Twitter feed to talk about what makes you tick (versus purely promoting your business), you might be pleasantly surprised to see that your audience might very well be receptive to that messaging.

What’s great about Twitter, especially from a B2B perspective, is that you can follow just about everyone. Take advantage of the opportunity to follow your industry influencers, connect with potential customers, and keep a heads up on the competition.

A great example of Twitter usage from a B2B perspective is @salesforce. Salesforce has used its Twitter feed to share relevant news, to empower current customers, and to offer customer support.

2. Figure Out Your ‘Social Voice’

Social media works best when it is personal and authentic, and thus, it’s important to make sure that the way you communicate when using social media tools comes from a personal and authentic place.

Kevin Dugan, the Director of Social Marketing for Empower MediaMarketing recently wrote a blog post about finding your social voice. I spoke with Dugan about establishing a social voice, and he had this to say:

“It is critical that brands understand a social voice is different from brand voice. Social voice reinforces the brand voice indirectly. Social voice doesn’t follow communication guidelines or identity standards. That’s because a social voice equates to a person. A brand voice is anonymous while a social voice can be found on Google. They must also have an understanding of the brand and a passion for it.”

Social networks are now helping to put the “human” back in businesses again. The traditional messaging of yore has been replaced by businesses who actually appear to show that they care about their customers. With a social voice, informal is perfectly acceptable. Having a social voice, as opposed to just a generic “brand voice,” is an important step when connecting with potential customers. Prospective customers want to connect with businesses who think just like them.

Just because your clients are other businesses doesn’t mean that the “social” aspect of social media needs to disappear.

3. Take Advantage of Opportunities on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is continuing to get bigger and bigger and it continues to be a great resource for businesses and employees to connect with one another.

One of the best things about LinkedIn is the Shared Connections feature. This feature makes it possible to find people like potential clients and then see what connections you have in common. Shared Connections then makes getting a virtual introduction that much easier.

building up a strong LinkedIn network and being willing to introduce others (in good faith, of course always use your best judgment) can also increase what opportunities you can get in the future.

B2B marketing is often built through trust and word of mouth. Having a shared connection is a great way to start establishing some of that trust from the very beginning.

LinkedIn also has a community of active participants. LinkedIn Answers serves as a knowledge base where business representatives can establish authority and expertise by participating in the ongoing discussions. LinkedIn Groups is an opportunity for business professionals to interact with other topics relevant to his/her interests. One business successfully used LinkedIn Groups as a way to build business leads. This business opted to engage in relevant industry discussion and offered business services when requests were made, thereby bringing in a highly targeted business lead. Actively participating in LinkedIn is often one of the best ways to not only help people out, but also to make a connection for your service and even generate leads.

Answering questions across LinkedIn Answers and LinkedIn Groups doesn’t mean to simply put out the marketing blurb, but to really engage and offer feedback and solutions. Again, social media is most effective when it is genuine.

4. Start a Blog

Social media provides the opportunity for companies to promote themselves but also to welcome commentary from a community of peers. By starting a blog, you give your readers an opportunity to see you with your social voice outside the typical corporate website’s newsroom. Blogs become platforms where you can announce new product releases, share personal company stories, answer any specific questions from your customers, and empower customers to achieve success with your products and service offerings. Blogging can also establish business professionals as thought leaders in their field, thereby aiding with client acquisition.

Blogs can build up qualified prospects through search engine rankings too. Be sure to update your blog regularly with valuable content and follow up with the comments written on each individual post.

5. Monitor Your Industry

Social media means that content is being posted everywhere, and businesses have a unique opportunity to gather intelligence to make well-educated and informed business decisions. Google Alerts is a great tool to keep up with what’s happening in relation to your company, your industry and your competitors. You can get updates via e-mail or in RSS (and even in real-time) about new search results or news stories for a certain query or topic.

Further, free tools like Social Mention and YackTrack will monitor the social sphere for other mentions of your business on social sites, especially. BackType will take that a step further and monitor phrases in comments on blog posts. All of these aforementioned services can be emailed to you in a daily digest format which your team can evaluate to find opportunities.

If you don’t already have alerts set up on these services for your company name, do it now. Also set up a more generic alert for your industry as a whole to see what people are talking about. If you want to see what your competition or other big industry players are doing, add those to the mix as well.

Monitoring can also be useful because you can then highlight the big stories on your own social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, Google Buzz, etc.

6. Be Consistent and Don’t Be Afraid to Follow Up

While you don’t want to be creepy, it’s important to not let potential opportunities slip by when using social media. If you’ve answered someone’s question on LinkedIn or on Twitter, don’t be afraid to reach back out to that person to ask if they have any follow-up questions or if you can send them more information. There’s an abundance of opportunity to strengthen a business relationship but it starts by initiating and then making sure that your business is fresh in your prospects’ minds.

Staying engaged and staying communicative is really important. Social media is not about setting it and forgetting it. It’s about being social, so don’t be afraid to reach out and check back in with potential leads you meet using social media. Similarly, don’t be afraid to direct message your followers on Twitter when an opportunity presents itself. They followed you because they want to hear from you. Use that opportunity to your advantage but don’t overdo it. Auto-DMs are a no-no.

If you’re going to blog, don’t leave that blog stagnant. Provide valuable content on a regular basis. Give employees of your company an opportunity to help build your brand. You can get a lot of great blog content by involving many company employees in the process. Similarly, get many employees of your company to utilize the social networks and to be continually responsive to customer inquiries. Remember, the more visible you are on the social networks, the more likely you are to be remembered when another business actually needs to utilize your services.

7. Leverage Your Analytics for Business Metric Measurement

After you’re involved enough in the social space, you’ll likely see tweets, retweets, traffic, and social network links that point to various parts of your company website. Take a look at your website analytics and start seeing where you’re making a difference, especially as it relates to ROI measurement. Don’t lose sight of your business metrics and start considering practical social media measurement to assess clickthroughs, popularity of links, and other important metrics.

As part of measurement, consider using URL shorteners. Not only do they make links more manageable (and limit the number of characters in a Tweet or Facebook message), they also can be a great way to track data as many URL shorteners provide valuable statistics about the performance of each individual shortened URL. Monitor this data throughout the process with your main website analytics package to see if your message attached to the shortened URL resulted in conversions.

When looking at conversion trends or successful tools in building leads with social media, reviewing analytics data is crucial. It gives you insight into content that performs very well in the social space but also through other marketing techniques, such as search engine optimization. Use the data as an opportunity to improve your content or your social media/search marketing efforts.

8. Find and Follow Industry Influencers

B2B social media marketing is often about connecting with the right people and about building relationships. Social media makes both of these actions simple and painless. Being aware of who the influencers in your industry are and then following them, whether it’s on Twitter, Facebook or their own blogs, is the first step to building a connection with those influencers. With a genuine relationship, these influencers may be able to help you make your mark in the social media marketplace. This is especially true of influencers who may already have your target audience at their disposal.

This doesn’t mean you need to retweet every tweet or share every blog post on Facebook, but it does mean that you should be aware of who the movers and shakers are. By following them and then reaching out when appropriate or just to get to know them further, you have a much better shot at getting some attention.

Even if you’re not necessarily connecting to influencers, social media affords the opportunity to connect with other people in your industry and your customers. Use the various social media platforms as an opportunity to connect with these industry colleagues and peers and build upon each other. Consider celebrating your colleagues’ or customers’ success. Make it known that you’re here to help them not just yourself. Repeat this process with anyone of interest and you’re bound to attract eyeballs.

9. Use Social Media for Giveaways and Promotions

Sometimes, the hardest part of social media is sticking out from the sea of other users. Giveaways and promotions are a great way to help differentiate yourself and your business. Using Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, you can target your desired customer base and then let them know (if appropriate) about different promotions or giveaways related to your product. If you offer a service, consider giving a free year to a loyal customer. If you manufacture products, give some away.

Offer a coupon on your company’s Facebook Page and pair it with a lead-generation form for future contact. Let people know on Twitter about specials or contests that are going on and follow-up with those that show an interest. Perhaps you can have a retweet contest where you can monitor responses or host some trivia on your Facebook Page. You can also open an online survey to get feedback about your offerings and reward participants. The possibilities are endless. Creativity in this capacity breeds success.

Companies like Wildfire make it really easy to build these sorts of promotions directly inside your own social media channels.

10. Don’t Be Creepy

If you use social media like a keyword searching robot, you are going to come across as creepy and turn off potential clients. Don’t be creepy.

Use best judgment and common sense when approaching people using social networks. If you wouldn’t want to be approached the way you are approaching another user, don’t use that approach. It’s as simple as that. Social media etiquette isn’t much different than real life relationships, so what won’t work in “real life” probably won’t work online.

Respecting boundaries doesn’t mean you can’t still answer questions, engage and follow-up with potential leads, it just means that if it’s clear that the other party isn’t interested, or more importantly, if the context of their communication really doesn’t involve or seek out input from your company, don’t do it.

Context is really important in social media and it is something that is very, very easy to overlook. While we think that using keywords and Google Alerts are good methods for keeping atop of your field, that doesn’t mean you can automate your responses or just go into autopilot based on those alerts.

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How Much Are Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn Worth? (Report)

For the moment, the valuations we have for private companies like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are based mostly on what we know from venture capital investments.

SharesPost, however, is a company that lets owners of shares in private companies sell them to prospective buyers, and it has just released an index detailing valuations of some of the most prominent companies in the social media space.

Here’s what they report:

Facebook: $11.5 billion

Zynga: $2.6 billion

Twitter: $1.4 billion

LinkedIn: $1.3 billion

Linden Labs (Second Life): $383 million

How close are these valuations to reality? Facebook’s most recent investment from DST valued the company at north of $10 billion, while Twitter was valued at roughly $1 billion when it took $100 million in funding back in September. In other words likely not too far off.

SharePost also says that it has been involved “in the negotiations of more than $229MM worth of transactions,” so there is enough activity in its marketplace for it to make rough estimates of valuation. Its estimates also take into account venture capital investments and research reports from equity analysts.

What do you think of the valuations? Let us know in the comments!

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The Multi-Billion Dollar Question: Will Users Click on Twitter Ads?

It’s official: Twitter’s advertising platform launches in the next 24 hours. The much-anticipated Twitter business model will begin appearing in search results in the afternoon, with ads on Twitter.com and within third-party apps to follow.
The launch of the new ad platform, known as Promoted Tweets, isn’t a surprise like any other company, Twitter has to make money from somewhere, plus the existence of Twitter’s ad platform has been known for some time.
Now that the ad platform has been revealed and Twitter is focused on making money, the multi-billion dollar question is this: will users click Twitter ads? The answer to this question will decide not only the fate of Twitter as a company, but change the direction of all social media.

Twitter Resonance: The New Digg Ads?

Twitter’s new ad platform will begin by charging per thousand impressions, but will eventually switch to a model that the company calls “resonance.” Essentially, a sponsored tweet gains points based on factors such as retweets, favorites, impressions, and clicks. Combined, this resonance score will tell Twitter whether or not an advertisement is performing, which will affect its longevity and its price.
To us, the system sounds very familiar to Digg Ads. Digg Ads appear in the homepage stream as sponsored Digg submissions. Based on the number of diggs, buries, and clicks an ad receives, that ad will either stay on the homepage for longer and decrease in price, or it will be “buried” and the advertiser is charged more for submitting a bad ad.
While clearly there are differences between Digg Ads and Promoted Tweets, the same concepts and philosophies underly both: users know the difference between a good ad and a bad one, and thus they should get a say as to which ads appear in their streams. It’s not a bad strategy on Twitter’s part: Digg Ads have been successful thus far.
Could this be a fundamental shift in how online advertising is done? We’ll reserve judgment on that question until we see Promoted Tweets in action.

Will Users Click?

Will users embrace in-stream ads? Will they click them, thus giving Twitter the revenue it needs to become a truly profitable company?
There are a ton of factors involved in predicting click-through rates it’s almost a science. Twitter seems to believe that a combination of relevancy and its in-house resonance score will be enough to address that issue. If Digg Ads are any indication, relevancy shouldn’t be a problem.
Another factor is the presentation of Promoted Tweets. On this charge, Twitter seems to be balancing the need to identify promoted tweets with the desire to integrate them seamlessly into the stream. Twitter ads look nearly identical to regular tweets the only real difference seems to be the “Promoted By X” line at the bottom of the tweet. Many users will barely notice the difference and will thus click these links just as they would with any regular tweet.
To succeed, Twitter ads have to maintain a level of sincerity that has been one of the cornerstones of social media communication. They also have to be compelling and conversational, rather than overly-promotional. This is something Digg has been able to manage through Digg Ads, and it is something that Twitter must replicate if its model is to prevail.
If Twitter can fine-tune its resonance scale so that promotional, value-deprived advertisements are quickly expelled from the stream, the company may very well be able to entice users to click. It’s those clicks that will determine the fate of the platform, so we can only hope that Promoted Tweets is a success.

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