?>?> twitter

To be Fair, HRBlock responded after 16 hours

I hate doing my taxes. Every April I pledge to NEVER again do them on my own and every March I am again slogging through all my paper work and once again doing my own taxes. For years I have been using TaxCut now known as H&R Block At Home. On Tuesday of this week I was finally wrapping up and ran into a problem. The return wouldn’t print.


So, since being so successful just two days before with @BestBuy on Twitter, I tweeted @HRBlock.

No response.

I was surprised that just two days before the deadline all I heard from @HRBlock was dead silence and especially after being so happy with Best Buy.

Sixteen hours after my first tweet to HRBlock I tweeted:


I not only heard back from HRBlockAnswers I also heard back again from my friends at Best Buy.



By the time HRBlockAnswers contacted me, I had already finished my taxes and worked around the printer issue. I was pleased they finally responded and that they apologized. As a bonus, I also found out that I was getting $25 back from Best Buy since my washing machine has an extended warranty plan. And more than likely, even after swearing off preparing my own taxes next year, I’ll probably be purchasing another tax preparation software program come January 2011. But, I will be doing my homework on which tax preparation software program delivers the best customer support via Twitter.

Best Buy Responds In 5 Minutes


This morning the tub door seal on my Whirlpool Duet popped off after a wire popped off underneath. My husband quickly got to work to see if he could fix it and I quickly turned to Google after scanning my Best Buy service plan. Two years before I had purchased the washer online along with the service plan but discovered the link to the receipt no longer worked.

So, I turned to Twitter.


Within 5 minutes I heard back.


After a few more tweets I was on the phone with Jason and a fix to my problem was in the works. Tomorrow the technicians arrive and hopefully everything will go as smoothly as today. But for me, what was important was that Best Buy was listening (on a Sunday morning!) and willing to engage me online to ensure I was pleased with their customer service. Is your Brand listening to your customers?

Five Social Software Predictions from Gartner

Creative Commons License photo credit: respres

2009 saw an explosion of growth in the use of social media by business users. According to Mark R. Gilbert, research vice president at Gartner “A lot has happened in a year within the social software and collaboration space. The growing use of platforms such as Twitter and Facebook by business users has resulted in serious enterprise dialogue about procuring social software platforms for the business. Success in social software and collaboration will be characterized by a concerted and collaborative effort between IT and the business.”
Gartner’s report, “Gartner Reveals Five Social Software Predictions for 2010 and Beyond” makes five predictions about how social networking will transform business in the coming years:

By 2014, social networking services will replace e-mail as the primary vehicle for interpersonal communications for 20 percent of business users.
“The rigid distinction between email and social networks will erode. Email will take on many social attributes, such as contact brokering while social networks will develop richer email capabilities,” said Matt Cain, research vice president at Gartner. “While email is already almost fully penetrated in the corporate space, we expect to see steep growth rates for sales of premises- and cloud-based social networking services.”

By 2012, over 50 percent of enterprises will use activity streams that include microblogging, but stand-alone enterprise microblogging will have less than 5 percent penetration.

The huge popularity of the consumer-microblogging service Twitter, has led many organizations to look for an “enterprise Twitter”, that provides microblogging functionality with more control and security features to support internal use between employees. Enterprise users want to use microblogging for many of the same reasons that consumers do to share quick insights, to keep up with what colleagues are doing, to get quick answers to questions and so on.

“However, it will be very difficult for microblogging as a stand-alone function to achieve widespread adoption within the enterprise. Twitter’s scale is one of the reasons for its popularity,” said Jeffrey Mann, research vice president for Gartner. “When limited to a single enterprise, that same scale is unachievable, reducing the number of users who will find it valuable. Mainstream enterprises are unlikely to adopt standalone, single-purpose microblogging products.”

Through 2012, over 70 percent of IT-dominated social media initiatives will fail.

When it comes to collaboration, IT organizations are accustomed to providing a technology platform (such as, email, IM, Web conferencing) rather than delivering a social solution that targets specific business value. Through 2013, IT organizations will struggle with shifting from providing a platform to delivering a solution. This will result in over a 70% failure rate in IT-driven social media initiatives. 50% of business-led social media initiatives will succeed, versus 20% of IT-driven initiatives.

Within five years, 70 percent of collaboration and communications applications designed on PCs will be modeled after user experience lessons from smartphone collaboration applications.

As we move toward three billion phones in the world serving the main purpose of providing communications and collaboration anytime anywhere, Gartner expects more end-users to spend significant time experiencing the collaborative tools on these devices. For some of the world, these will be the first or the only applications they use. The experience with these tools for all who use them will enable the user to handle far more conversations within a given amount of time than their PCs simply because they are easier to use.

Just as the iPhone impacted user interface design on the desktop, the lessons in the mobile phone collaboration space will dramatically affect PC applications, many of which are derivatives of decades-old platforms based on the PBX or other older collaboration paradigm.

Through 2015, only 25 percent of enterprises will routinely utilize social network analysis to improve performance and productivity.

Social network analysis is a useful methodology for examining the interaction patterns and information flows that occur among the people and groups in an organization, as well as among business partners and customers. However, when surveys are used for data collection, users may be reluctant to provide accurate responses. When automated tools perform the analysis, users may resent knowing that software is analyzing their behavior. For these reasons, social network analysis will remain an untapped source of insight in most organizations.

You can read more about the report here.

24% of US Small Businesses Now Engaged in Social Media Survey Says

American small businesses are pushing the limits on new ways to improve efficiency in the prolonged downturn, including a steady increase in social media adoption according to results of a study from the Small Business Success Index™ (SBSI) sponsored by Network Solutions and the Center for Excellence in Service at the University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business . The SBSI reports social media adoption by small businesses has doubled from 12 percent to 24 percent in the last year.

The SBSI found that nearly one out of five small business owners are actively using social media in their business. Small businesses are increasingly investing in social media applications, including blogs, Facebook® and LinkedIn® profiles. The biggest expectation small business owners have from social media is expanding external marketing and engagement, including identifying and attracting new customers, building brand awareness and staying engaged with customers.  Sixty-one percent of the respondents indicated that they use social media to identify and attract new customers.

Creative Commons License photo credit: harrietbarber

“Social media levels the playing field for small businesses by helping them deliver customer service,” says Janet Wagner, director of the Center for Excellence in Service at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. “Time spent on Twitter®, Facebook® and blogs is an investment in making it easier for small businesses to compete.”

Small business owners use social media to attract new customers:

  • 75% surveyed have a company page on a social networking site
  • 61% use social media for identifying and attracting new customers
  • 57% have built a network through a site like LinkedIn
  • 45% expect social media to be profitable in the next twelve months

Small business owners still have concerns with social media:

  • 50% of small business social media users say it takes more time than expected
  • 17% express that social media gives people a chance to criticize their business on the Internet
  • Only 6% feel that social media use has hurt the image of the business more than helped it

To download a copy of the Small Business Success Index and also find out how your business scores on the six key dimensions of small business success, visit www.growsmartbusiness.com.

Has your business adopted social media? What is your company doing? What have been the results so far?

What are the Best Tech Products of 2010?

My iPhone Apps
Creative Commons License photo credit: marcopako 

Michael Arrington, founder and co-editor of TechCrunch and the world’s fourth-most-powerful blogger, according to Technorati, has released “2010: My fifth Annual List of the Tech Products I Love and Use Every Day.

According to Arrington:

This is a simple list of the tech products that are an integral part of my day – work or play. Some have withstood the test of time and I just can’t live without. Others are newcomers that have captured my imagination.

I use most of them every day, or nearly every day, and I would not be as productive or happy without all of them. There are now 24 products on the list.

Arrington writes that TechMeme, Skype and WordPress are the only products that have been on his list for all five years. The entire list of products  follows:

  • Android
  • Animoto
  • Apple Magic Mouse
  • Facebook
  • Gmail
  • Hulu
  • Kodak Zi8
  • MOG, Pandora and Spotify
  • Scribd and Docstoc
  • Skitch
  • TripIt
  • Twitter
  • WordPress
  • Yammer
  • YouTube

What tech products do you love and use everyday?

140 Twitter Conference LA Recap; From Tony Robbins to Dr. Drew to Chris Hardwick

Tony Robbins - 140tc
Creative Commons License photo credit: Randy Stewart

After previewing online the two day conference agenda and the speaker roster for the “140 Twitter Conference” in Los Angeles, run by the Parnassus Group, I was hesitant to sign up. Although I really enjoy using Twitter and believe both individuals and businesses of all types can get a lot of benefit from it, the agenda gave me pause to register—it was heavy with a seemingly “entertainment focus”.  And my interests primarily center on what I could learn that would best benefit my clients. But I went ahead and registered.

Well, I was very pleasantly surprised. And I was most surprised by Tony Robbins. I really wasn’t looking forward to his day two keynote address. His talk was informative, insightful and yeah—it was pretty motivational. He was supposed to speak from 8:30 am till 10 am. Instead his talk was nearly two and a half hours and he had his audience of 400 business people and Twitter users clapping, jumping, play acting, giving each other massages, and quite mesmerized by his free form talk. He said he was giving the talk for free because he “wanted to give back.”

Robbins views Twitter as an “Intelligent browser that teaches what people say about your brand and is a brief way to connect, share and trigger.” That’s how he says he uses it. Robbins has more than 1.36 million people who follow him on Twitter now—plus one. According to Robbins, “Twitter is the crack of the tech world.”

Other surprises came from the celebrity panel and the musician panel which included a number of power Twitter users including television host Dr. Drew Pinsky, professional skateboarder Tony Hawk, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome, actor Levar Burton, singer Tyrese Gibson, rapper Chamillionaire, musician Mark Nubar, Tears for Fear singer Curt Smith, and comedians Chris Hardwick, Tucker Max and Loni Love. The panelists debated how they used Twitter, what were the right ways to engage their followers, their feelings on letting others “tweet’ for them and whether they should financially benefit directly from the Twitter conversations.

They all agreed that the overriding principle that should be honored on Twitter is “authenticity.” They also agreed to have someone else tweet in your name was dishonest. Chamillionaire talked about how  “Twitter can be an active conversation.” He likes to start arguments on his account and enjoys lively debating his followers over who is the best athlete of all time—Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant.

Curt Smith - 140TC
Creative Commons License photo credit: Randy Stewart

Curt Smith likes to use Twitter not primarily for pitching his music but for engaging others to talk about politics, his kids and everyday life. Curt is now working on a song with someone that he met on Twitter. What he seems to enjoy most about Twitter is its ability to let him be direct and not have his words translated by a record label or a reporter.  Levar Burton mirrored Smith by explaining that for him, “Twitter has created an environment that is absent the gatekeepers ad it has leveled the playing field.”

For Mark Nubar,  “Twitter’s elegance lies in its simplicity. I love its 140 characters.” Mark also spoke about his band’s evolution with social media, “MySpace was the gateway to Facebook and now Twitter. We now have a global family. My band would not be alive without social marketing.”

Tony Hawk believes that what he learns from Twitter about his own brand is “the best focus group.”  For Mayor Newsome, Twitter marks “the beginning of the end of how things have been done with governing. Twitter is changing the world of government. We want to lead the world. It’s about government 3.0 not just 2.0. ”

What was impressive at the conference, was not the continual updates or “tweet” being noted by the 400 attendees and flashed up on screens, but the eagerness and willingness of the Twitter users –both celebrity and business users– who enthusiastically sang its praises. Instead of quickly escaping once their panels had finished, both celebrity and technology luminaries stayed and sat in the audience to learn more from each other.

The two day conference can be summed up pretty well by Tony Robbins, “Twitter is a community. We are a culture on the surface but we have the tools to go deep. Twitter allows you to understand someone’s blueprint in seconds. Look at what they write and what they share.”

Fighting Breast Cancer One Tweet at a Time

Last month Health.com took a look at whether Twitter and Facebook could help in the fight against breast cancer in an article by Sally Chew and Heather Mayer. Chew and Mayer reported in the beginning of their article, “Twitter and other social media sites are often perceived as the ultimate navel-gazing tools. Seemingly a narcissist’s dream, many think that Facebook status updates and the 140-character Twitter messages (known as “tweets”) are really just boring play-by-plays of daily life—I had granola for breakfast! I’m stuck in traffic!”

The reporters described how Laurie Brosius, 31, a business analyst in Dallas, raised $6000 through Twitter for a walk for breast cancer to honor her husband’s deceased mother. Brosius raised 50 percent of the money through strangers that found her original tweet through the power of re tweets, people sending out her original tweet requests to their followers.

Ocala Relay For Life 2008
Creative Commons License photo credit: Steve Beger Photography (Beger.com Productions)

In their article “Can Twitter and Facebook Help Fight Breast Cancer?” Chew and Mayer write:

In a busy world, Twitter posts are succinct and to the point, and that’s one of the main reasons they’re so successful in charity promotion, says Adam Hirsch, the chief operations officer of Mashable.com, a social media blog. Navigating websites can be time-consuming, notes Hirsch. Twitter, however, states a user’s case in no more than 140 characters. “It’s a message you know people will read because, face it, it’s only 140 characters,” he says.

With Twitter, users can interact one-on-one, but they can also broadcast a message to many followers. Even if an individual doesn’t have a lot of followers (say, just family and friends), those people can re-tweet that message in outgoing concentric circles of social contacts—potentially reaching thousands.

In the article, Chew and Mayer  also write about breast cancer survivor Sharon Adams who took on Facebook after the social media company took down photos Adams had posted “of her ropy red mastectomy scars” in the hope of shocking her friends in England into “checking their own breasts for cancer.”

What ensued was an avalanche of media attention and a 3,000 Facebook member protest. Facebook eventually relented and allowed her pictures to be posted. Adams saw the whole controversy over her photos as a benefit. More people became aware of her story and the need to do breast exams than would have if Facebook had not removed her pictures.

You can read the entire article here.

Have you used any social media sites to raise awareness for a cause that you believe in?

25 Media People to Follow

One of the first things I tell people who are interested in learning more about Twitter and how to use it, is to find people on Twitter they already know of who they admire or are at the top of their industry and to start following them. I also believe you can learn a lot from the media people that are shaping the social media landscape. In that spirit, Ad Age Magazine has compiled a list of the top 25 media people to follow on twitter and they are definitely worth following.

Creative Commons License photo credit: loop_oh

Here’s a partial listing of Ad Age’s top 25 media people:

Nieman Lab (@NiemanLab) The Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard — “Trying to figure out the future of news.”

Jennifer Preston (@NYT_JenPreston) just named the first social-media editor at The New York Times

Sree Sreenivasan (@sreenet) Columbia Journalism School professor and

Mark Cuban (@mcuban) – Owner of HDNet (and the Dallas Mavericks)

John Battelle (@johnbattelle) – Founder and Chairman of Federated Media

Chris Anderson (@chr1sa)- Wired Magazine editor

Jeff Lanctot (@lanctot) – Chief Strategy Officer at Razorfish

David Carr (@carr2n) – New York Times media columnist

David Berkowitz (@dberkowitz) – Emerging Media Director at 360i

Brian Lam (@blam) – Editorial Director at Gizmodo

Pete Cashmore (@mashable) – Founder/CEO of Mashable, the social-media blog

Fred Wilson (@fredwilson) – Managing Partner of Union Square Ventures

Who do you recommend that is not on the list?

Is NPR the Future of News Media

In Josh Catone’s recent article in Mashable “Why NPR is the Future of Mainstrem Media“,  he describes how National Public Radio (NPR)  “is starting to look like they have the future of news all figured out. Or at least, they appear to doing a lot better at it than the rest of the traditional media.”

Catone reports that NPR now has 23.6 million people ” tuning into its broadcasts each week. In fact, NPR’s ratings have increased steadily since 2000, and they’ve managed to hold on to much of their 2008 election coverage listenership bump (with over 26 million people tuning in each week so far in 2009), unlike many of their mainstream media counterparts.”

Why has NPR been so effective at building its audience while the majority of media outlets are losing their audience? According to Catone the reason for its success lies in its three prong approach: a focus on local; a focus on social media; and a focus on obiquitous access.

NPR headquarters
Creative Commons License photo credit: NCinDC

By focusing on what is happening locally,  NPR fulfills a need that has been abandoned by most media.  Catone reports, “Focusing on local information is a very smart approach for two reasons. One, because as Schiller says, it fills a gap in coverage, and two, because many people feel that delivering and aggregating hyperlocal content will be an important part of the future of media. In 2007, Alex Iskold, the CEO of semantic web application company AdaptiveBlue, predicted the rise of hyperlocal information, indicating that extremely targeted local advertising could be the path forward for the ad industry.”

NPR has also built its audience by building a strong social media presence. NPR’s Twitter account has more than 780,00 followers and NPR has more than 400,000 FaceBook fans. In addition, NPR has more than 650 podcasts, nearly 20 blogs, as well as their own social community.

According to Catone:

Perhaps the most important aspect of NPR’s approach to new media, is that they have an organizational level commitment to allowing listeners and readers to access their content on their own terms. Schiller, who prior to joining NPR at the start of this year was the SVP-GM of The New York Times web site, told mediabisto.com that NPR aims to bring people access to content “online, mobile, whatever people want, podcasts — you name it — so that you have that same sense of the NPR experience wherever you are. As far as NPR.org — sure, I want the traffic to increase, but to me the ultimate goal is not just bringing people to this walled garden that is NPR.org.”

NPR’s ability to build its audience is certainly impressive especially at a time when so many media outlets are going under. What lessons can your organization learn from NPR’s success?

Need to Organize Your Tweeps?

How many followers do you have on Twitter now? How many are you following? Do you know who you are following or who is following you? What causes some of your followers to stop following you?  Josh Catone writes today in “10 Twitter Tools to Organize Your Tweeps” in Mashable that if you are like many of us, “You’ve followed so many people, it’s hard to keep up, and it’s probably time to do a little housekeeping.”

Downing Street
Creative Commons License photo credit: Nils Geylen

Here are Josh’s “10 Twitter Tools” to check out:

1. Twitter Grader – Using a detailed 5 piece algorithm, Twitter Grader assigns every users you run through its system a grade from 1-100. Using this tool you can investigate how engaged the people you’re following are and that can help you decide if you want to keep following them.

2. Twinfluence – Twinfluence is a scientific approach to measuring the influence of Twitter users. It’s another set of metrics you can use to help you figure out who you want to follow.

3. Tweetcloud – One of the most important factors when deciding whether you want to follow a Twitter user is what sort of content they tweet about. If someone tweets mostly about topics you don’t care about, they might not be the best person for you to follow. Tweetcloud creates a tag cloud of a person’s tweets to give you a bird’s eye view of the type of things they tweet about.

4. Twitter Karma – Twitter Karma is a great app that lets you sort through all of your follows and see who’s not following you in return, who you have a mutual follow/follow-back relationship with, and who is following you that you’re not following back.

5. Friend or Follow – Friend or Follow does essentially the same thing as Twitter Karma, helping you figure out who your friends, follows, and fans are on Twitter. The difference is in the presentation, and it might be a little easier to use for those with a large number of follows or followers.

6. Qwitter – Once you’ve done your initial cleaning, Qwitter is a nice app that will update you via email whenever someone stops following you. It will even let you know what you tweeted that caused them to stop following you, which could be useful (if you lose five followers every time you tweet about your cat, for example, that might be a hint to stop talking so much about your cat if you want to retain followers).

7. Nest.Unclutterer – Nest.Unclutterer will automatically block Twitter users who are following more than a certain number of people or who have been inactive for a certain number of days. You can specify those thresholds and white list certain tweeps so that they are exempt from the cleaning. Nest.Unclutterer is actually less about who you’re following, and more about making sure people following you are actually friends you want to be associated with.

8. Twitoria – Twitoria scans through your Twitter account and finds anyone who has been inactive for the past week, two weeks, month, two months, six months, or year.

9. TweetSum – TweetSum digests all your new followers, rates them using what they call the DBI (”Douche Bag Index”), a number that supposedly weeds out Twitter users likely to be annoying, and then lets you easily follow them back or categorize them as tweeps you don’t want to follow. You can see a list of recent tweets for each new follower as well, which is helpful.

10. Tweepler – Tweepler is a new follower management application that lets you make quick, one click decisions about whether to follow people back or drop them into an ignore pile (out of sight, out of mind). In addition to being able to view recent tweets, Tweepler gives helpful stats about new followers, such as average tweets per day.

What are you using to organize your tweeps?