Miami Startup Weekend returns this month!

Attention, all entrepreneurs and creative professionals: Miami Startup Weekend is back! Startup Weekend is an intense 54-hour event that focuses on building a web or mobile application that could form the basis of a credible business. The weekend brings together people with different skill sets – primarily software developers, graphic designers and business people – to build applications and  develop a commercial case around them. This year’s event will take place November 19-21. To learn more, visit www.miamistartupweekend.org.


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The Social Side of Charitable Giving

More and more charities are reaping the benefits of using social media as their gateway to gaining awareness. One great example is Causes, which almost entirely relies upon social media applications and tools to interconnect charities from around the globe. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that one of its co-founders is former Facebook president Sean Parker.

Causes started as one of the very first applications on Facebook in 2007. It acts as an online broker between charities, helping them leverage contacts and foster relationships to find donors and philanthropists to support their causes. In articles such as this one in Bloomberg Businessweek, Parker has said that online networks, and Facebook specifically, are better than offline methods for “leveraging social capital between people to get things done in the world.” With over 26 million monthly users on Facebook alone, social media certainly brings the numbers.

Another great example is online gaming company, Zynga. Their self-stated mission is to “connect people through games” and they’ve been doing this as well as anyone since their launch in 2007. By connecting gamers to charitable efforts, they’ve helped raise nearly $3 million for Haiti since the January 12, 2010, earthquake. They’ve continued their efforts with their recent Haiti Sweet Beets and Backpacks campaign which ended just last month.

These types of online and social media-supported success stories are becoming more common. What I found to be extraordinary is that Americans donate $263 billion a year to charities but only 5.7 percent of that is given online, according to the Blackbaud Index of Online Giving. The opportunity for growth is limitless and can be applied to nearly any business venture. The twist is the role social media will play in all of this. As noted on their site, Causes “empowers anyone with a good idea or passion for change.”

In my opinion the social space can do this for all of us. How do you plan on harnessing its influence?

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Monitoring tools that improve the social experience!

Wouldn’t it be great if there were websites that acted as the Google of social networking? Well, there are: howsociable.com, folowen.com and radian6.com. Since I wasn’t so familiar with these products, I figured there were others who weren’t either, so here is a quick brief:

Howsociable.com is a free online tool that lets you measure your brand’s visibility across 32 social networks, helping you track how successful, or unsuccessful, your buzz-generating efforts are. When you enter the name of a person, organization or brand into the search bar, howsociable.com searches the top 32 social sites and tells you how many times your brand was mentioned within those sites. While howsociable.com covers all the obvious social sites, it also searched not too obvious sites such as wikipedia.com, digg.com, photobucket.com and others.

Folowen.com is a free social media search tool that, using Google AJAX Search API, combines social profiles across 27 social networking sites into one search result. This site tells you what social networking site a person or organization is on. This makes it easy for you to see where your customers interact in the social web and gives you a chance to engage with them there. It also allows you to see what kind of social media avenues your competition in engaging in and how.

Radian6.com, available only through subscription, built a listening platform designed to help companies monitor what consumers are saying about them.

Radian6.com allows businesses to measure, analyze and report on their social media efforts.

Radian6 has a dashboard that’s a web-based social media-monitoring platform that lets you see conversations happening around your brand and products in real time. The dashboard aggregates those conversations and puts them into visuals that make it easy to analyze what is being said, where and by whom.

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Fragments Okay When Writing for the Web!

Your high school English teacher might faint, but it’s true.  When creating content for the Web, we need to rethink the way we write.  Especially when blogging, we need to make our copy succinct and to the point.  One rule of thumb is to keep word counts at half of what they would be normally when reporting or telling a story.  Readership studies indicate most Web users scan content rather than actually read it word for word    

Jakob Nielsen still lauds the use of keywords, bulleted lists and meaningful subheads for writing for the Web.  The three most important tactics he mentions are:

  • Concise text
  • Layouts that can be scanned
  • Objective language

These same rules of thumb are even more important when writing corporate blogs. Business audiences are simply selfish – in most cases, these readers want content based upon a specific search request.  So deliver it, without marketing-speak and self-promotion – once you start selling your services within your blog, you lose your audience.  Readers want value, transparency and just the facts.

Even your high school English teacher would have to agree with that!

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Is LinkedIn Becoming an Executive Playground?

A number of professionals say they’re confused about the benefits of being on Facebook versus LinkedIn.  To those of us in sales and marketing, this might seem funny. But even I have to admit I was originally skeptical to the value in having both.  After all, a lot of my “friends” on Facebook are current and former co-workers who I’m also connected to via LinkedIn.  It just seemed easier to stay in touch via Facebook since everyone seemed to be on it already.

So, what’s changed my mind? Well, beyond still displaying personal preferences such as the last books I’ve read along with my WordPress blog entries, which always seemed more “social” in nature, LinkedIn continues to take definitive steps toward becoming the professional’s portal of choice.  Recent acquisitions and product launches are positioning LinkedIn as more than just a social media juggernaut built upon networking capabilities.  They’re now becoming a powerful destination site for professionals looking for industry information and a legitimate career resource center.

In exploring LinkedIn, you will find through their Learning Center that you can easily set up tools to follow news about your company, contacts and even your competition.  User guidelines allow you to categorize yourself as a student, job seeker or as a professional simply interested in business development.    There also are training resources.  To check out some of their newer features, simply visit their “New on LinkedIn” page. 

Now, I don’t intend for this to become a public service announcement for LinkedIn. But to me, more than ever, there’s a clearer delineation to staying connected with peers at work within a professional network versus just Facebook.  After all, do you really need to see what your co-worker’s husband looks like in a bathing suit while on vacation?

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