Social Media products for businesses

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I was reviewing my emails and various reports early one morning at the office. Whilst deep in thought about the day of meetings ahead, I was somewhat startled by a message that came up on my pc via the company’s internal MSN Messager along the lines of “Hey Sal, how’s it going?!”. I asked myself “who is ‘Johnny BB’ and why has he decided to rudely interrupt me in this rather informal manner?” I was not impressed and decided to ignore the message.

I found out the identity of the ‘annoying mystery MSN Messenger’ when I attended a board meeting later that day and the CEO asked me if I had received his message!

I have always felt uneasy about involving myself with overly-informal, social chit-chat at work. In particular those less-productive conversations that tend to eat-into valuable time because staying focused and ‘cutting through the ambiguity’ of creative environments is important if you are wanting to be ‘busy being effective’ rather than simply ‘busy’.

Having said this, I do think sharing ideas and knowledge is critical to the success of businesses such as the collaborative process of problem solving, which we all know creates competitive difference. Whilst this idea is nothing new, making use of social media applications to facilitate the sharing of knowledge is something that businesses have considered only recently but shied away from because of their ‘public’ nature according to Jim Rapoza’s article Labs@Work featured in eweek.

Jim reviews SAAS (software as a service) products Socialcast, Socialtext and Huddle as access-controlled ‘non-public’ alternatives to Twitter and Facebook that enable business users to share what’s on their mind, have special topic discussions and manage projects amongst colleagues. They mainly differ from IBM Lotus Notes, MS Exchange and MS Sharepoint because they have a micro-blogging ‘twitter-like’ function that executives can use to track ideas, themes and issues.

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Loc8te objects and pets using RFID technology

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I have recently purchased a Loc8tor Lite which uses RFID technology to track-down objects and pets. Aside from the technical features and implied benefits of this product,  I was curious to know if it would really make a difference to my quality of life in terms of reducing the amount of time I spend looking for my beautiful cats Willy (pictured modeling his new tag) and Harvey.

Anyone who owns a cat, and particularly a siamese, will know that there are consequences to consider when letting this highly inquisitive and independent creature roam free from time to time. Lucky I live in a fairly quiet rural location – with very tolerant cat loving neighbours who don’t seem to mind my cats sneaking into their houses to pinch a sock or two (yes Willy has a fetish for wool) or for a quick nap, however sometimes they go further a field for many hours and looking for them can be a really stressful, time consuming experience.

Following a few days of testing, my initial conclusion is that the Loc8tor Lite in this context is a tool that will increase the propensity of me finding my cats. However, it’s success rate will depend on using a combination of technology, instinct and past experiences because whilst the receiver ‘picked up’ the transmitter tags relatively quickly when they were close-by, I had to walk to places they were ‘likely to be’ when they were more than a ‘couple of houses’ away.

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21% of Publishing Associations are making money from Social Media

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Whilst there are less-measurable commercial benefits to using Social Media, Sponsorships do create the ideal opportunity for businesses to develop additional revenue streams using their client-base and network. Matt Kinsman’s article Associations Experiment With Social Media published in January suggests that whilst companies have struggled to monetize social media, 21% are generating revenue through sponsorships.

The article published in Audience Development highlights the findings of a survey conducted by Angerosa Research Foundation in which 300 US Publishing Associations were asked about their participation in Social Media.

The research findings also suggest that (of those who have set up their own network) 27% use their own software whilst 25% use Microsoft Sharepoint and 64% use other Software such as High Logic, Moveable Type or Community of Practice. Interesting only 19% are using established platforms such as TypePad, Ning and Second Life to build their own network. This may explain why the biggest challenges with Social Media were expressed as cost and resource allocation.

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Marketing Payback from Social Media

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Karen E. Klein of BusinessWeek Online writes about How To Use Social Media To Promote Your Business. She mentions running polls for customer research, prospecting and promoting special offers using Web 2.0 applications such as Facebook, Ning, Twitter and SurveyMonkey.

The article describes how businesses can combine traditional marketing communications techniques with Social Media to promote products and services.

Businesses can also use Social Media to extend their ‘servicescape’ (create an alternative place for consumers and businesses to experience their brand) to build relationships, learn more about their customers and drive product and service development as part of their overall competitive strategy.

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