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These days, using social media to promote your brand and business isn't an option. It's a must. And one of the most effective ways to do that is by using Twitter. Used properly, Twitter is a fantastic channel for engaging customers and for building both buzz and a wider customer base. Used badly, Twitter can be the hot stove that burns the hand of your brand.

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When it comes to the topic of social media, few people leverage more experience and knowledge than J.D. Lasica. A veteran journalist and entrepreneur, Lasica turned his attention to the social sector as a strategist, blogger and author before it became a buzzword.  He is a frequent guest speaker and lecturer on social media, marketing and technology and has written several books on the subject.

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Think about how many hours each day you socialize with friends online, and then think about how many hours a day you socialize with friends in person. Yeah, it’s not even close. Businesses have surely noticed this growing divide and have been trying to capitalize on this digital trend for years, but the ever expanding online environment continues to keep statistics vague. Let’s take a look at current projections.

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Events are social by nature, and the beauty of the promotion business is that getting one person to attend will often ensure he or she brings several friends as well. Thanks to the Internet acting as an accelerant to the word of mouth strategy, businesses no longer need to rely on expensive marketing campaigns as much as in the past. However, with the world communicating through likes and shares on social marketing sites, the new dilemma is putting a price tag on each online interaction.

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So you think you have a lot of social clout? Social clout is a more difficult concept than most people think. The creators of Klout have created an algorithm to determine exactly how much influence someone has over their social networks. The interesting thing about a Klout score is that numbers mean nothing and true influence means everything. You cannot fake a Klout score—so far anyways.

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First social networks were fun. Then they were a public relations tool for businesses. Later they became customer service outlets. And finally, they were monetized. Finally there are ways to actually make money from the endless hours spent on the endless array of social networking sites.

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Social networking sites have given non-profits an incredible portfolio of free tools to use to boost their public image, garner new volunteers, and raise money. Did I mention they’re free?

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Scene: It was 20 years ago and a nearly-gone-blind PR professional combs 17 daily papers with size 10 fonts for mentions of their company.

Flash forward to 2011: A PR pro has an alert of all the media mentions of their company forwarded to their inbox—then they begin responding and forwarding the content via their online social networks.

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Shopping on social networks is barely in its infancy yet new reports expect social commerce sales to rise 6-fold by 2015 (Booz & Co., Feb 2011). With the sector poised to be a key revenue driver in the coming years, Facebook is ideally positioned as the dominant leader and there’s little reason for businesses to wait to tap into this new B2C channel.

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What’s interesting about the growth of social media is that it has grown largely independent of search engines. That is, social networks have been fairly closed off places for the majority of their existence. That means that all the information and links shared through social networks wasn’t directly boosting your SEO. It was helping boost your brand name recognition and perhaps helping customers find ways to engage with you brand, but it wasn’t helping your Google rank.

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