Reviewing TechCrunch Disrupt 2010

By Perks |

A few of our team members were very excited to join Perks client, DataRockit!, at TechCrunch Disrupt this week. The event included three days chock-full of panels, presentations, networking, surprise appearances and innovation. Besides learning about more than fifty new startups that are vying to burst through the clutter, Disrupt provided a great opportunity to hear from top executives about how business models are changing and how technology is adapting. Below are some highlights from the conference:

Be A Square

One of the new applications that got high markings from almost everyone in the audience is Square, a way to pay with a credit or debit card using your mobile device anytime and anywhere. As demonstrated by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, after downloading an application from squareup.com you receive a card reader that plugs into the top of your phone. A credit card is scanned through the mobile plugin and a signature is taken by using your finger on a touch screen. This easy-to-use, sexy application could very well be a game-changer in mobile payments.

Surprise, Surprise

On Tuesday, Mayor Bloomberg made a surprise guest appearance at the conference to share news of the NYC Entrepreneurial Fund, a $22 Million fund created to support technology-based start-ups in the city. Mr. Bloomberg announced that the first company to receive a share of this money is My City Way, a participant in the TechCrunch Disrupt Hack Day competition. My City Way was selected because of its NYC Way application, which won three awards at the recent Big Apps Competition. The mobile application helps users identify local amenities, restaurants and events, and is currently available on iTunes.

The iPad Revolution

One of the afternoon panels on the first day of the conference discussed whether the iPad would change the way that news is digested and shared. As sales have continued to shake the scales, the panel agreed that the iPad has enormous potential and is challenging the innovation of fellow technology companies. The consensus seemed to be that all content based on iPads will eventually move to the web even though developers are pushing to keep the information on applications. In line with Apple’s business model, companies are forced to sell applications rather than web-based subscriptions. We agree with the panelist that argued that Apple might have to reconsider their model as competition enters the market and offers users additional choice.

Saluting Soluto

Of the twenty start-ups and products in the Startup Battlefield, just one made it past the judges’ critical eyes. Soluto, a service described as anti-frustration software, won the final prize of $50,000 and the heralded Disrupt Cup. Created by a team based in Tel Aviv, Israel, Soluto aims to end the frustrations that PC users encounter. The service uses a form of crowd sourcing to offer potential solutions to your problems and inform users of which applications may the cause of the anguish they are experiencing. Congratulations, Soluto!

If you’re interested in learning more about the companies that took part in TechCrunch Disrupt or want to watch archives of the panels, visit the TechCrunch website. We’re already looking forward to the event next year.


Should Interns Run Social Media Campaigns?

By Perks |

Incorporating social media into your marketing efforts is essential in this digital world. While some businesses have decided to embark on this on their own, by assigning the task to their marketing department, others have turned to what they consider to be the most cost-effective solution – hiring a summer intern.

From the perspective of the Gen Y population, a “deep understanding of social media” or “experience launching viral digital campaigns” is what they do on a daily basis – updating their Twitter statuses every 5 minutes or creating new groups on Facebook.

Source: Business Insider

Image: Business Insider

Sure, these students may claim they are “Social Media Experts” because they know how to upload a YouTube video or follow a Twitter hashtag. But, they may not possess the essential communication skills and strategy experience that are required to move your social media efforts forward.

Below we have listed some of the pros and cons of hiring a college intern or relying on rather than sticking with an external agency.

Pros

· If you are looking to bring on talent at the end of the summer, a summer intern is a great excuse to give someone a trial run before handing over a contract

· Summer interns can provide valuable insight if you are launching a campaign or your company target market is the 18-24 age group

· Low budget

Cons

· College students know how to chat with their friends on Twitter, but they often forget the purposes of managing this for a company rather than for fun

· Students may not be committed to your company the same way that an agency is, especially if they are not getting paid or receiving minimal compensation

· Agencies have worked with numerous companies with various needs, therefore they have familiar with best practices and understand what works better than someone who has only played with social media for personal purposes

· Summer interns require quite a bit of training to educate them on your company’s messages and core values

Interns are great assets for any business, but after you have spent numerous hours, endless effort, and invested valuable resources on building your brand online, it can be risky to leave a public media channel open to someone who is unfamiliar of the foundation of your company. Social media is your company’s face to the world. Make sure you know this face, and most importantly, that the face knows you and your company.


What’s going on with Facebook?

By Perks |

facebook_icon

Over the past few years, Facebook has been an object of wonder, entertainment, connection, and, more recently, scrutiny. Today, the social media giant claims to have 400 million active users, half of which are logging on to the site on a daily basis. That’s a whole lot of private information stored on a single site. If you’re confused as to what exactly has been going on with Facebook lately and why there are so many privacy concerns popping up, we have broken down some of the recent changes and key points for you below.

Privacy Opens Up

In December 2009, Facebook made a major shift that led all user information to be public by default. If users didn’t update their privacy settings, all new updates and photos would be shared to the entire internet. Many pondered if this change was to keep up with other real-time, social media sites such as Twitter.

F8

It’s more than just a keyboard command. The latest f8 conference held in San Francisco in April was announced with the mission to “bring together the developers and entrepreneurs who are building the social Web by moving fast, taking risks, and hacking traditional systems.” At the conference, developers unveiled an array of new features, such as:

  • A “Like” button for popular websites such as NYTimes.com, CNN.com and IMDb. When you “like” an article or post on these sites, it will show up on your friend’s news feeds.
  • Instant personalization so that partner websites can cater to your personal interests and style based on information found on your Facebook profile.*
  • The new Graph API platform, which changed the way developers read and write data to Facebook. Sites can now get real-time updates every time a user adds a connection or posts on a wall.

Guidelines and Glitches

Just days after the f8 conference, complaints about privacy started pouring in, specifically from four U.S. senators who asked the FTC to set privacy rules for social networks. Public interest groups also filed complaints with the FTC, pushing to restore privacy of personal information.

Then, in the beginning of May, a glitch in the system opened up private chats to all of a user’s friends. In a New York Times article, one user was quoted saying, “Facebook has become more scary than fun.”

Crisis

An interview that Facebook’s Vice President Elliot Schrage participated in to try and calm user concerns ended up backfiring and stirring up even more discontent. Today (May 13), Facebook will hold a crisis meeting in an effort to create a plan to regain user trust while pacifying the concerns expressed by political organizations. According to this infographic demonstrating the history of Facebook’s default settings, they have a lot of work on their plate. What do you think? Are the critics right or are people over-exaggerating?


Blogging for Business

By Perks |

Until recently, blogging was seen as more of an extracurricular activity rather than a corporate marketing tool. However, in the age of SEO and thought leadership, blogging can now be an effective and fun way to promote your company, share recent events and create a platform on which to share your personality.

A mediabistro Blogging panel that we recently attended got us thinking about what we value in a corporate blog and how one can be leveraged to promote marketing efforts. Below are some tips if you are looking to start or grow your blog:

  • Streamline your content. Select a clear and consistent messaging strategy that is in line with your company’s industry and communications goals. Consider what those interested in your schedulecompany may want to learn more about and how you can promote your company’s expertise through insightful, related content.
  • Create a posting schedule. The most frequently visited blogs are those that are constantly refreshed with new information to keep readers engaged and interested. Whether you decide to post twice a week or every day, create a schedule and stick to it.
  • Vary post lengths and styles. You don’t have to write a 1,000-word, research-heavy article every time you update your blog. It’s ok to incorporate quick thought pieces with longer, thought-provoking posts. If you’re so inclined, you can also add videos and photos to spice things up and add life to your blog.
  • Talk to your readers. While it’s important to keep in mind that you’re representing a company on a corporate blog, it’s also nice to know that there’s an actual person behind the words. Make sure your blog has a space for readers to comment. Use the comment section to build a relationship with your readers by responding to their questions and thanking them for reading.
  • Be an authority. Any blog, especially one you are using to enhance your company’s online presence, is the perfect place for you to demonstrate that you are an authority in your industry. Write with confidence and stay on topic.

If you want to check out some companies that are doing a great job at corporate blogging, here is a list of 15 blogs that are on the right path. Enjoy and good luck!


#4sqday

By Perks |

A year ago, we never imagined that there would be an entire day dedicated to a social media application. However, Foursquare Day, which took place last Friday, April 16, was the driver for more than 150 parties across the globe, celebrity swarm appearances (Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore stopped by the NYC event at Hotel on Rivington) and special offerings at hundreds of businesses in locations from Mumbai to Miami.

The origins of Foursquare Day are a true tribute to the power of social media. The idea was generated by an optometrist named Nate Bonilla-Warford, who mused on an open forum that because the number four squared equals sixteen, 4/16 would be the perfect day to celebrate the Foursquare phenomenon. With only three weeks to prepare and market the concept, Foursquare Day became official and was launched globally.

The impact of Foursquare Day? On Friday, there were 550,000 total check-ins on the mobile location-based application (adding up to 9 check-ins per second at peak) and 20,000 new users signed up for the free service. Even people who had never heard of Foursquare or hadn’t the slightest idea how or why they would use it could be found waiting in line for the rooftop parties and spillover events. Talk about a shining moment for the Foursquare founders and hard-working team.

Check out pictures from the events across the world on Flickr or on the Foursquare Day Facebook fan page.


Application Sensation – Marketing Your Brand Through Mobile Applications

By Perks |

When the iPhone was introduced in 2007, the idea of a branded mobile application on a high-quality Apple product quickly caught the intrigue of marketers across the world. Although the iPhone wasn’t the first smartphone to allow branded applications, it sparked the rush for every company to out-do the competition with the most engaging and unique application to appeal to an audience constantly seeking stimulation and entertainment.

iPhone Applications

Since the original iPhone made its début, the number of mobile apps in the iTunes store has increased by leaps and bounds. An InformationWeek article from April 6 stated that 2010 would see the number of mobile application downloads increase to almost 6 billion applications, up from 2.4 billion downloads in 2009.

Keep in mind that this doesn’t just include applications designed for the iPhone – there are now thousands of apps available for every type of smartphone on the market. And with the introduction of the iPad and competing tablets, this marketing medium will only continue to thrive, especially as technology allows for more and more advanced features.

Have you considered creating a mobile application for your brand? The positive brand equity that comes with a properly executed application could definitely make it worth your while. But there are a number of considerations to review before pushing ahead blindly to create a mobile application just because it’s what the competition is doing. It’s important to take a strategic look at what you can do to make your application as relevant as possible to your audience.

A CNN source was quoted saying “At the heart of apps that have been successful and that will continue to be successful are apps that are practical and allow people to do something that they weren’t able to do before.” In addition, you want your application to be one that properly resonates with your brand and keeps the user engaged.

When thinking about building an application for your brand, consider:

  • Will this augment your customer’s experience with your brand?
  • What level of engagement are you looking to achieve?
  • How will consumers relate the application to your brand?
  • What value is this application providing to its users?

Many brands have been successful in creating mobile applications to enhance customer experience in a way that can’t be achieved through static webpages. Restaurants and amusement parks, such as Disney World, have created apps that allow visitors to upload line wait times in real-time. Yahoo! created a fully functional application for Fantasy Football season, which let customers trade players and make adjustments to their fantasy teams up until kick-off.

Consider how to translate the services that your business provides into a value that consumers can benefit from when they’re on the go. Given the huge number of applications in the iTunes store today, how will you stand out from the competition? Put yourself in the shoes of your target audience and challenge your vision of what might be involved in the best application that you can possibly create.

And if you want to take a peek into the future, check out these predictions of the Top Consumer Mobile Applications for 2012.


To iPad or Not?

By Perks |

This week, the long-awaited iPad was introduced to stores and met with crowds of people who couldn’t wait to test out the device we’ve heard so much about over the past few months. While everyone wants to be the first kid on the block with the latest and greatest toy, is it reasonable to jump up and buy the iPad in its baby stages? And what are the considerations to keep in mind?

· iPad versus Netbook

iPadThe majority of consumers who have purchased the iPad thus far seem to be early adopters, tech/media geeks (we admit, we at Perks been called this name ourselves) or Apple fanatics who can’t wait to get their hands on this shiny gadget. Functionally, the iPad has big competition with other mobile notebooks and netbooks already on the market. The iPad is great for jotting down quick blog posts, emails and updating your Twitter status, but would you be comfortable sitting down and writing a client proposal on your iPad? Of course, it’s possible to use the iPad with a normal keyboard, but you will have to carry around a separate dock. Right now, the iPad is more of a fun, exploratory technology than a “must-have” item, especially for those looking to use this mobile device for purely functional reasons.

· Mobile carriers

While the 3G version of the iPad won’t come out until the end of April, there are questions as to why Apple selected AT&T to be its carrier of choice after all the complaints iPhone users have issued. Many people see this as a deal-breaker, mainly because service on the AT&T network (especially in New York) is average, at best. On the other hand, the iPad is mainly going to be used for consuming content on the web and mobile applications instead of for important business calls. So if connection does fail, iPad users will only be left with a half-open browser page rather than a dead phone line. Still, the poor relationship that many have experienced with AT&T and the iPhone leads us to question if it was the best decision for Apple to stick with this carrier.

· Multiple devices

Do you really need an iPad if you already own a Macbook and an iPhone? There is no camera, hence no video-conferencing available on the iPad, and you can’t make phone calls from the device either.** If you are planning to use the iPad for business purposes then you will probably want to shell out the additional $100 for a keyboard and a dock. You will also be paying AT&T another $15 a month for 3G service in addition to your monthly iPhone service bills. Plus, the iPad won’t be getting multitasking capabilities until the fall with the launch of OS 4.0, while this is already built in to your Macbook.

The excitement built around the impressive new iPad is a kind that only Apple can create with its dramatic new product launches. The iPad holds a world of possibility for the future of mobile capabilities, advertising, and consumer engagement. But, before you run out and stand in line to take one home, we encourage you to keep these considerations in mind.

Do you have an iPad and want to share your thoughts? Shoot us a tweet @PerksConsulting.

**You are able to make a phone call on the iPad if you install a Skype or similar application, but this capability is not organically built into the device.