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CEO Today: Interview with the co-founder of Flip.to – Brian J. Kent

Brian_Flip-toBrian is the co-founder and product lead of Flip.to. He’s been breathing life into web products for over 10 years as a hybrid developer/designer. As a Brooklyn-born, engineer by schooling, world traveler by preference, visionary by self-proclamation, Brian is a proponent of social media, travel and new technology bridging the two. You can follow Brian on Twitter and Linkedin.

G: Tell us a little about your start-up?

B: Flip.to is a platform that helps hotels & restaurants earn new guests by turning their current guests into a huge team of trusted advocates.

Here’s an example of how it works for hotels. After a guest books a room, Flip.to incentivizes them to spread the word about their upcoming trip and where they’ll be staying. So if you’ve just booked a room at The James Chicago, you’ll earn a complimentary room upgrade certificate in all of two clicks. And the hotel just reached all of your friends, family & followers in a really natural way- boosting brand awareness and deepening their pool of potential future guests.

Just as Flip.to engages hotel guests at convenient touch points (like at time of booking, suggestions when they arrive, a quick review after their stay), Flip.to engages restaurant guests right from their table on their own mobile device. Restaurants learn who their guests are, incentivize happy ones to spread the word, make a personalized connection with their friends and get negative reviews turned into real-time alerts for staff- all in a few swipes and taps.

G: What were the biggest obstacles launching the start-up and how did you overcome them?

B: Like most start-ups, our biggest challenge was getting past that initial inertia when you’re sitting there with only a glimmer of a product and zero customers. Because once the ball is rolling (when you have customers), it becomes easier to build on that traction- both in terms of landing new customers and figuring out what the product should grow up to be.

We started talking to folks in the hospitality industry really early on in the product development process to get their take on what we were doing. It helped validate the direction Flip.to was headed, build some excitement and it’s how we landed one of our very first proponents, who is now heading up our business development. Even before Flip.to was ready to go live, we had signed our first (paying!) beta client.

G: Where should social media be integrated by start-ups? (marketing, customer service and etc)? What are the best ways to do that?

B: Every company needs to take a good look at what their goals are and then match those up to how social media can help- there’s no one-fit solution. For start-ups, doing that is especially important because resources are scarce.

For consumer-oriented start-ups, social media makes sense for customer service provided you can be responsive. But if you’re going to make public the good and the bad about what your customers are saying, you better be on top of it. People don’t expect perfection, things happen, but you can lose credibility if it looks like you’re being unresponsive to issues. For B2B, you should respond directly and give your beta clients direct access to the team.

Using social media for marketing makes lots of sense. Only in the past few years, has it been amazingly easy to reach a large number of people. And social media becomes particularly potent, when folks are pushing out messages about your product or service on their own existing social networks. Flip.to is all about this- the hotels and restaurants using it can reach far beyond their own network by tapping into their guests’ networks, which collectively becomes massively bigger. And hearing something from a friend is always going to be more trusted than from a PR or marketing person.

G: Which social media sites do bring the most value to your start-up?

B: At Flip.to, we’ve found that Facebook has been the most popular place for our hotel’s guests to post about their upcoming trip. It has also generated the most traffic back to the hotel’s site, in terms of visitors and real action. Twitter isn’t far behind, followed by LinkedIn.

G: What are your favourite social media campaigns created by start-ups?

B: You’ll always get my attention if you can make me laugh out loud. Betabrand is a young online clothing company that is proving hilarious, well-written copy is sometimes all you need to get people buzzing. Their “privates” underwear that “promises to block TSA employees from seeing your scanned junk” is a good example of that.

The best social media campaigns feel authentic and for me personally, a little wit goes a long way.

 

G: What is the funniest/most unexpected thing that happened while developing your startup?

B: The very first incarnation of Flip.to (pre-beta) was to help companies spread the word about new products or services with the help of their employees and customers. We got lots of interesting feedback but as we were kicking ideas around, it felt far more natural for folks to talk about their travel experiences. Plus the marketing budgets for boutique hotels and destination restaurants were hurting after the downturn- helping them turn their guests into advocates just made sense.

 

A big Thank You to Brian for his great insights!! You can find the rest of the CEO Today interviews  at Social Media interviews category.

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How Effective is Social Media as a Fundraising Tool?

As more and more businesses are jumping on the social media bandwagon, it’s only natural that many non-profit organisations regard it as an essential tool in their fundraising arsenal. However, while social media on the whole does confer myriad advantages on charities, what non-profits should understand and be aware of from the outset is that its use does not directly translate into increased funds and donations; rather social media is far more effective in raising awareness of causes on a much larger scale, and establishing relationships with donors (existing and potential) which can later be leveraged to solicit funds, implying more of an indirect link to fundraising efficacy.

For one, most of the success stories we hear about non-profits using social media to raise funds tend to revolve around large, highly-recognizable entities which most often have their brand equity to thank rather than the ingenuity of their social media campaigns. As well, where smaller organisations are concerned, they tend to raise significant amounts of funds usually during major one-time events, such as the recent disasters in Japan and Haiti, as opposed to on a continuous basis.

To complicate things further, in order for any social media initiative or campaign to be successful, significant investments in time and staff are necessary. While this might not prove difficult for larger organisations, many smaller ones, especially non-profits with tight marketing budgets simply do not have the means of making such investments. Without devoting the necessary time, money, and staff into devising and executing an actionable social media strategy, any efforts on the part of organisations are destined for failure.

In addition, it has been well-recorded that many of the most popular social networking sites such as Facebook, and the platforms they have engineered to facilitate online donations (e.g. Facebook’s Causes) have, generally speaking, not produced significant financial results to date. As well, the overall lack of performance indicators on these sites makes it increasingly difficult for non-profits to measure the success (if any) of their fundraising initiatives, leaving many charities ‘lost in the dark’ as to what to do with respect to their social media strategies.

These points aside, on a recent trip to Toronto I visited the founders of many small charities, and not only did I witness an overwhelming rate of failure where social media fundraising was concerned, but also the unanimous belief in the ineffectiveness of social media as a fundraising tool. Almost all the charities I visited believed that social media was more effective in raising awareness of their causes and connecting with potential donors than in directly raising money online, and that traditional, offline channels would continue to generate the bulk of their revenues.

Thus, it may be wise for non-profits to reconsider exactly why they want to use social media and develop a clear strategy for doing so rather than blindly assuming it to be essential. If fast and hard cash is what your non-profit is after, stick with the tried and trusted methods and channels that charities have been using successfully for years. However, if you’re looking to significantly raise the awareness of your charity and cause on a scale otherwise unattainable (given the same set of constraints) and wish to create and maintain meaningful relationships with donors, both existing and potential, it may be time to hang on to your hats and jump on the bandwagon after all.

Joobin Bekhrad

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Facebook launches “Facebook Places”

 

 

Capture

Here we go, all the mist surrounding Facebook’s development towards location based application is cleared off, The “Facebook Places” has been launched in US today, and probably shortly we will have it in Europe as well. It’s going to be interesting how it will challenge the favourite location based social network Foursquare. Personally, I believe it can affect Foursquare quite a bit, but let’s wait and see.

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Nearby Digital Announces Second Winner of ‘Most Liked Business In’ Competition

Nearby Digital is happy to announce The Happy Sailor, a pirate-themed tattoo parlour as the second winner of its ‘Most Liked Business in Shoreditch’ competition! Well done, Happy Sailor!

Although it has been a long, tiring month, it was also hugely rewarding as we met so many wonderful and inspirational people along the way, and we would therefore like to take this opportunity to say a big THANK YOU to everyone kind enough to spare us their time! As well, even though this month’s winner has been announced, this is only the beginning of a long series of competitions, and we are pleased to inform our previous contestants that they can continue to participate in future contests by sending in new pictures to like@nearbydigital.com.

The Future of the ‘Most Liked In’ Contest

Right now, we’ve got expansion on our minds! Not only do we plan to expand our reach with respect to businesses in Shoreditch and allow for companies to arrange photo shoots themselves, but we also plan to expand the project to other hip and trendy areas in London, such as Soho, Camden Town, London Bridge, and Covent Garden. In addition, our ultimate goal is to establish a local recommendations search engine, www.mostliked.in – so keep on following and sharing with us!

About the ‘Most Liked Business In’ Competition

Launched in May 2011, the ‘Most Liked Business in Shoreditch’ competition selects new winners at the beginning of every month, and concludes in the annual Most Liked Business in Shoreditch awards at the end of the year.

It’s one of a kind. Essentially, the competition is a location-focused social media competition based on rating local businesses using Facebook ‘Likes’. Pictures of local businesses are taken by the Nearby Digital team, and are then uploaded onto our Facebook photo album, where the public has one month to ‘Like’ them. In the process, stronger relationships are forged between local businesses and their customers, and due acknowledgment is accorded to the actual people behind these businesses creating value in their communities.

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Nearby Digital Announces Third Winner of ‘Most Liked Business In’ Competition

Nearby Digital is happy to announce Esoteria Espresso Bar, a very cosy coffee shop on Hackney Road as the third winner of its ‘Most Liked Business in Shoreditch’ competition!

Although it has been a long, tiring month, it was also hugely rewarding as we met so many wonderful and inspirational people along the way, and we would therefore like to take this opportunity to say a big THANK YOU to everyone kind enough to spare us their time! As well, even though this month’s winner has been announced, this is only the beginning of a long series of competitions, and we are pleased to inform our previous contestants that they can continue to participate in future contests by sending in new pictures to like@nearbydigital.com.

The Future of the ‘Most Liked In’ Contest

Right now, we’ve got expansion on our minds! Not only do we plan to expand our reach with respect to businesses in Shoreditch and allow for companies to arrange photo shoots themselves, but we also plan to expand the project to other hip and trendy areas in London, such as Soho, Camden Town, London Bridge, and Covent Garden. In addition, our ultimate goal is to establish a local recommendations search engine, www.mostliked.in – so keep on following and sharing with us!

About the ‘Most Liked Business In’ Competition

Launched in May 2011, the ‘Most Liked Business in Shoreditch’ competition selects new winners at the beginning of every month, and concludes in the annual Most Liked Business in Shoreditch awards at the end of the year.

It’s one of a kind. Essentially, the competition is a location-focused social media competition based on rating local businesses using Facebook ‘Likes’. Pictures of local businesses are taken by the Nearby Digital team, and are then uploaded onto our Facebook photo album, where the public has one month to ‘Like’ them. In the process, stronger relationships are forged between local businesses and their customers, and due acknowledgment is accorded to the actual people behind these businesses creating value in their communities.

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The Best Viral Ever: A hunter shoots a bear!

Well just wanted to share with you this viral from Tipp-Ex. It is the most engaging and fun viral video ever. I bet there’s going to be a lot of talks in the future about this campaign , so it’s here to follow it. I think we are watching the future of advertising  here – just love it!.

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Mad Avenue Blues – The day “Old Media” died

No serious posts on Fridays !!! :) Just found this super funny video about changing media on one of the friends wall’s and couldn’t not to share it with you. What do think ?  I bet by next friday it will have over 1 00 000 clicks, wanna bet? :)

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“Social Media Citizens” is under construction

Well the new year is coming along with the new face for Social Media Citizens. If you are reading this blog don’t mind a few changes which will take affect in a few forecoming weeks.

thank you for your patience,

Giedrius.

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Why augmented reality will change the world as we know it?

Augmented reality is clearly the buzz word of 2010. There were not too many bloggers who hadn’t identified augmented reality as a top subject in their trend lists of 2010 and there is a simple reason for it – it is (or will be) the world-changing trend.

Consumer behavior

I’ve been browsing through the case studies and examples of augmented reality and it looks really amazing – bands playing live on you PC screen, journals and even buildings interacting with you (fool list at the end of the article). I completely agree with Adam Broitman that at the moment augmented reality is all about having fun trying the new technology, but it will be so much more in the future. If the technology like LED Contact Lens will take off it just hard to imagine what can be done, literally, the sky is the limit. It will simplify  our lives and will facilitate decision making process process by reducing the time dedicated to information search or looking for alternatives. It will completely change our personal lives as eventually this technology will become as the second brain where all the information will be stored in your personal server about the important objects from your everyday lives.. i.e. can you imagine wearing your Led lenses, you just take a quick look at you refrigerator and you already know what is in it without even opening it or browsing through the shop and not only getting additional information about the products but comparing the prices in the real time? Sound’s quite exciting and the best part of it that the technology is almost there. It just takes my breath away how much I’m going to love the world we will live in that I’m jealous for myself already. But what will it mean for marketers?

Brand communities and augmented reality

It will definitely be a game changer – Google’s is already trying to integrate real time ads on its “Street view” which will replace the old ads on the system. But at the moment, speaking about the subject we are concentrating on the technological development of augmented reality not thinking enough about social aspects of the technology, which I believe will be the key for branded communications. Almost 5 years ago, I came across this concept called branded learning which have never gained much popularity because the media channels couldn’t deliver the social experience and messages as well as they can now (mainly because of  the social media power ) But the augmented reality is about to change that. The art of connecting your brand with your brand community through augmented reality can be the next big communication challenge for your company. Augmented reality will create great opportunities for story telling, socializing and even greater personalization of the brand by providing that additional information in the real time and connecting your brand with your consumers through learning can be the one of the answers for you. Social media will facilitate this process enormously. How? Imagine this: You are traveling around the Europe and you’re visiting some famous building which you are not really familiar with, you just point your phone at it and here you go you have all the info you need plus you can see the other people who are visiting the place by reading their tweets, reviews or recommendations what else you should visit in the town. Even better example would be going to the shopping mall and getting real time recommendations from the customers, information about sales and trending products or competing for discounts in live promotions with other brand community members.
When you really embrace the idea of augmented reality, it’s just seems so clear what amazing opportunities it can bring on to the table: I was thinking about my last client 77diamonds.com (the diamond’s e-shop) and imagine that you could create the technology that you could embed some sort of really small code into engagement ring and whenever you feel lonely you just point it to your camera and you can see your engagement video or your wedding pictures on your phone, TV or PC screen , wouldn’t it be cool? I guess what I’m really saying is that this technology can carry not only additional information but an emotion with it and it can really make the things even more personal and that’s where all the branding begins – creating and building emotions. We will see, won’t we?

If you are really interested in augmented reality and want to find out what it is all about here is the list of TOP recent articles and videos related to the subject:

Q&A: Adam Broitman on augmented reality marketing (eConsultancy)

16 Top Augmented Reality Business Models (Personalize media)

How Will “Augmented Reality” Affect Your Business? (Harvard Business Review)

Augmented Reality: A New World for Advertising (Boss Creative)

Live Twitter Feed on an Augmented Reality Building

The Future of Shopping by CISCO

Augmented ID

Yelp Augmented Reality on iPhone 3GS

Pattie Maes & Pranav Mistry on augmented reality – the “Sixth Sense”

Augmented Reality in Marketing and Sales

Esquire’s Augmented Reality Issue: A Tour

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SES London 2010: Get ready – it is kicking off on Monday

 

SESLondon

 

It’s all good news for social media citizens, I finally received the confirmation from SES London that I’ve been granted with a permission to report from the event. SES London 2010 looks really promising this year – great keynotes, great speakers, its definitely the event that you can not miss if you want to stay ahead your competition . Particularly I’ll be looking forward to attend Online Marketing Summit Day at SES London and these three keynotes:

With all the social media explosion in the UK this year it’s definitely going to be a lot of talks how to integrate these two marketing tools together (social media and search marketing). Well I hope I’ll see you there, but if you can’t make it you can follow the news updates on Twitter or Facebook:  

@SESConf or #SESLondon

http://www.facebook.com/SESConf

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