Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

With Bebo a No-Go, AOL Will Unload the Social Site

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

Ending a failed attempt to capitalize on the social-networking craze, AOL Inc. is close to selling its social-networking site Bebo to a private investment firm at a fire-sale price, according to people familiar with the matter.

AOL is in final negotiations to sell Bebo for a small fraction of the $850 million it paid for the site two years ago—the latest example of a hot Internet property that faded in popularity before figuring out how to make money.

The buyer is Criterion Capital Partners LLC of Studio City, Calif., according to a person familiar with the matter. The small investment firm, which specializes in turning around companies with revenue between $3 million and $30 million, has been actively pursuing technology and media acquisitions, this person said. A deal could be announced as soon as Thursday.Exact terms of the deal couldn’t be learned, although one person said it was “an exceptionally uninspiring number” with almost total “value destruction.”

“Bebo is a challenged asset at best,” said Ross Sandler, and Internet analyst with RBC Capital Markets. “It is not an asset that is going to get AOL anywhere.”

Bebo’s plummeting value shows the difficulty of predicting consumers’ fickle preferences on the Web.

An AOL spokeswoman declined to comment. Adam Levin, a Criterion partner, declined to comment.

The Bebo acquisition was made when AOL, then owned by Time Warner Inc., was under a previous executive team. The deal was part of a broader plan to transform AOL’s business from a subscription-based service for connecting to the Internet to an ad-supported media business. It represented a bet that consumers would flock to social-networking sites, and that ad dollars would follow.

From the get-go, analysts questioned whether AOL overpaid for Bebo. Time Warner Chief Executive Jeff Bewkes called Bebo the “riskiest acquisition” his company made that year.

The divestiture comes just six months after AOL separated from Time Warner. AOL is now in the midst of executing its strategy to evolve into a top creator of news, information, entertainment and other digital content.

That transition is shaky. In the most recent quarter, AOL’s revenue dropped 23% to $664.3 million, with advertising revenue plunging 19%.

Bebo, which was popular in Europe, never gained much traction in the U.S. It had 5 million unique U.S. visitors in May, down 44% from the same period last year, according to comScore Inc. In contrast, Facebook attracted 130.4 million unique U.S. visitors.

AOL said in April that it was evaluating whether to sell or shut down the site.

“Bebo, unfortunately, is a business that has been declining and, as a result, would require significant investment in order to compete in the competitive social networking space,” Jon Brod, executive vice president of AOL Ventures, wrote in a message to employees last April. “AOL is not in a position at this time to further fund and support Bebo in pursuing a turnaround in social networking.”

Cashing in on social-networking sites has proven tough. Ad revenue and traffic continue to fall at MySpace, the social-networking site that News Corp. acquired for $580 million in 2005. (News Corp. also owns The Wall Street Journal.)

Despite the low price tag, AOL is likely to recognize some tax benefits by marking down the value of its Bebo acquisition, RBC Capital Markets’ Mr. Sandler said.

AOL has been selling off other assets that don’t fit with its new focus, such as the ICQ instant- messaging service and digital ad firm Buy.at, which was acquired for $125 million in 2008 and sold for about $17 million.

Yahoo Layoffs Deep, Wide & Global

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

Yahoo has been laying off employees since last week in Sunnyvale, CA. Most of the layoffs are/were part of a search integration with Microsoft. Apparently some pretty high level people were let go – folks that thought they had a job for life were surprised to learn that they were let go. It is not known how many people were laid off but it is estimated to number upwards of 1000. Another source told me that engineers in the search development group in India were also let go. The layoffs in India have been  happening in small groups and that it has been happening since the beginning of the year. A different source told the San Francisco Chronicle that the people in the editorial team that does search relevance testing was also let go.

About six weeks ago many Yahoo employees were shocked to learn that 600-700 people in the Flickr team would be laidoff. Om Malik wrote then “Yahoo layoffs have started and they seem to have hit the Flickr team. Many engineers from the service have been either laid off or are leaving on their own. Rev Dan Catt, Ashot Petrosian and Neil Kandalgaonkar were amongst those who tweeted about their exits. Catt, for instance, is moving back to UK. I am told Cal Henderson, Flickr Architect – a rock star developer — has also left, though I have not been able to confirm that. His name is missing from Flickr’s About page “

Apple secrecy is bitter fruit on Hill

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

Apple is famous for its veil of secrecy around the new iPads and iPhones. But Sen. John Rockefeller and others in Congress wonder whether the company has more than technological innovations to hide.

When Apple didn’t participate in an April hearing on children’s online privacy, the West Virginia Democrat who chairs the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, gave voice to his suspicions.

“When people don’t show up when we ask them to … all it does is increases our interest in what they’re doing and why they didn’t show up,” Rockefeller said of Apple and Google, which both declined to testify. “It was a stupid mistake for them not to show up, and I say shame on them.”

While Apple’s success has earned rock-star status in Silicon Valley, its low-wattage approach in Washington is becoming more glaring to policymakers. Despite its increasing influence over consumers’ use of technology — most recently with the iPad and iPhone 4 — Apple has kept a particularly low profile inside the Beltway.

“It’s unfortunate because they are a major player in this area, and we are going to continue to have a long, in-depth conversation,” on these topics, said Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), who presided over theprivacy hearing, referring to Apple’s empty seat at the witness table.

Like Microsoft and Google before it, Apple is getting attention from regulators as it grows and starts to compete more directly with other technology heavyweights.

This week, Google complained about Apple’s new rules limiting application developers’ ability to share iPad and iPhone user data with third parties. Google said the new rules restricting advertisers from Apple’s popular platform are anti-competitive.

This follows other objections to Apple’s exclusion of Adobe’s software from the iPhone. The Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission are looking into the complaints.

Last fall, the Federal Communications Commission demanded to know why Apple rejected the Google Voice application from the iPhone App Store. The FCC is also investigating whether exclusive arrangements between wireless carriers and cell phone manufacturers — such as the one involving AT&T and the iPhone — are anti-competitive.

And on Thursday, the FBI launched an investigation of a security breach that revealed information about some 100,000 iPad users, including those working on Capitol Hill and in the White House.

“As Apple continues getting success in new areas, the more they’ll be a lightning rod for attention,” said Rebecca Arbogast, managing director of analyst firm Stifel Nicolaus. “So far, these are all issues Apple’s been able to ignore.”

It’s not that Apple doesn’t pay attention to Capitol Hill. Four respected lobbyists make up its Washington office, led by Catherine Novelli, former assistant U.S. trade representative and partner at Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw.

Apple is active in several industry trade groups — including TechNet, Business Software Alliance and Information Technology Industry Council — but goes out of its way to stay under the radar. The company would not comment for this story.

6 Tips on Image SEO

Monday, June 14th, 2010

Images as an asset for organic search results and search engine optimization are often overlooked.  Images can drive traffic through image search as well as inclusion in universal search results.

There are actually several dimensions to image optimization that involves better placement in search results, optimization for user experience and in some cases, optimization for easier sharing of images on the social web.

For image SEO, it can be helpful to think of optimizing images like optimizing a tiny webpage within your page. Things like url structure, anchor text and descriptive tagging are factors for optimizing images for search engines, just like regular webpages.

Here are a few tips for optimizing your images to improve their performance on the page and in search.
1. Find the right images

Finding the right kind of image is incredibly important. Great images can add another dimension to an article or page that can encourage people to share the page and create some great backlinks. Research shows that while text is still the first thing seen on the page, the image is what sells the page.

Here are some of the best places to actually find images:

* Flickr – Probably the de facto service for finding free images. They have a really useful creative commons search as well. Skellie has an excellent article on how to find Flickr images.
* stock.xchng – Weird name, but a ton of royalty-free stock images.
* iStockPhoto – Large selection of stock photos that you can buy.

You can also use Google Images to find images for your site, as long as you search with the proper licensing. (They allow you to search Creative Commons and other public licenses.) But you have to be very careful when using images, as if you don’t have the permission to reuse it, companies and sites can take legal action against you.

The general rule of thumb is this: if the image isn’t Creative Common licensed or you didn’t buy or create it, don’t post it.
2. Use the keyword(s) in the file name

Just like keywords in post urls are important for pages, the same is true for images. Using keyword-rich words in your image filename is important for helping search engines determine relevancy. For example, the image above was originally named “iStock_000004221245XSmall.jpg” which doesn’t add much information about this web page. It has been renamed to “image-optimization.jpg”. Of course, most images that are not simply decorative like the one above are literal and connected to the content of the page such as a photo of a product.  If the above image were used in an article about eye color, then the file name should reflect that.

Google suggests that you should place your images in one folder on your site, mydomain.com/images versus placing them in random folders throughout the site. Another suggestion from Google related to file names or URLs of images is to make sure you use common image filetypes such as JPEG, GIF, PNG, and BMP.
3. Create descriptive alt text

Alt text or tags are another way that search engines help determine what your image is about. Unlike traditional web content, search engines can’t determine the text content of an image. (Search spiders are pretty smart, but as far as I know they haven’t developed eyes yet.) As a result, search engines need to rely on captions around the image, alt text, file names and other surrounding text. Adding descriptive text in the alt tag helps the search engines determine what the content of the image is.

If an image is used as navigation, ie as a link to another page, be sure to use alt text that is meaningful to the content of the page being linked to.
4. The right anchor text

Anchor text is another important factor in image SEO. If you decide to link to images with text, your anchor text can play a role in how your image is ranked for keywords. Use descriptive anchor text that describes the image.  For example, linking to an image using a generic term like “image” or “photo” or a file name that doesn’t use keywords doesn’t give search engines much meaningful information on what the image is about. Linking to an image with keywords is helpful to search engines as well as people visiting your site.
5. Make sure the image matches the content

The content surrounding the image should be related to all of the things that you’ve optimized thus far: anchor tags, image url, alt tags. When these things align, it helps search engines confirm that you’re not spamming and that the image is of higher quality and relevant.
6. Don’t stuff

This goes for all kinds of SEO, but we’ll say it again just for clarity: don’t keyword stuff when filling out things like image alt text. Your alt text, captions and file names should be short and descriptive, not a long list of keywords. Remember to optimize images for your website visitors. Image SEO is as much about user experience as it is about achieving better search engine rankings.

Google Reduced To Copying Bing

Friday, June 11th, 2010

Google has reduced itself to copying Bing. First, when word got out that Bing was going to have tweets appear on its search results, a few Gaylers (google employees) jumped in a car and drove to San Francisco with a $25 million check and begged Twitter to give them access to the feed firehose. Next they copied Bing’s search results page and now they are copying Bing’s homepage.

Bing displays spectacular images from around the world. It has become very popular, so much so that some grade schools begin their day by discussing about the picture on Bing’s homepage.

Unlike Bing, Google’s homepage allows you to upload your own image. They pass it off as personalization. The real reason is that the pictures Microsoft features on it homepage costs alot of money. Microsoft does it as part of its community give back. Whereas, Google is too cheap to pay for anything, unless they think they are getting your first born for nothing as in the case of the Twitter firehose.

Worse, the homepage upload feature has a bug. It will not let you delete the image. The image is stored as part of a library that others can reuse. So if there is a lawsuit the person that uploaded it is at fault not Google. YouTube operates under a similar model – the person that uploaded the video is responsible not Google. On the other hand it could be a bug – and if it is then that tells you that they are asleep at the wheel or just plain stupid to allow such an error on the homepage.

In the end Bing did not end up displaying Twitter feeds on its search results page because it was too spammy. Google did and turned its search results page into a spam engine.

Social Media Marketing: You Have To Be Consistent

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

As social media marketing gets more and more popular, business owners all over are jumping on board and signing up for everything in site. Now social media is a great tool to market your business but one thing gets missed that most business owners don’t get with it.

It takes time and consistency to work for you.

Pretty much every marketing venue out there is the same but social media marketing is more so than anything else I have ever seen.

Let me tell you about an example of this. I have a lot of followers on Twitter. From time to time I like to go in and clean up my list. One of the first things I do is look for people that haven’t posted for a while.

I just wiped out over 100 people that haven’t posted anything in over 6 months. YES, 6 months!

Many of these people started their accounts for business, and then were really good for a month or so and then gave up on it. They stopped posting and say that Twitter isn’t a good marketing tool.

Now I hear this about just about every type of marketing I see people trying from postcards, to networking, to newspapers, to online marketing.

Too many business people think that they can just try it for a bit and if it doesn’t work, drop it and move to the next shiny object.

If you want any type of marketing to work, you have to give it time to work. People aren’t going to buy from you right away. They don’t know anything about you. They need to get to know you first and get to trust you.

Especially, with Social Media. Its a harder place to get people to just buy. It’s exactly what the name implies “Social” media. That means that you have to be social and build a relationship with your followers.

And one of the most important things is that consistency will help you build that relationship.

With all the tools out there to cross promote your social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc, there isn’t any reason you can’t keep up with it. I spend about 15 minutes a day and most of that is actually on direct communication with other people. By the way, that 15 minutes is for ALL of my social media sites, not just one.

You need to keep up with it. If you can spend 5 minutes to post something that you can share with your followers, it will build each and every day. You will build a better relationship with those people and the by product of that… more sales.

Here are a couple of things that you can post that will help build that relationship with others.

Share tips, tricks and ideas
If you have a way to help do something faster, share it with others. They will appreciate it.

Retweet or repost other people’s stuff
This one will get some great Social media love going on and they will be more likely to help promote you as well.

Be consistent.
Don’t slack off. Ideally, you will post once a day, but at least post once a week. Keep connected with other people. Reply to their comments, ask questions, answer other people’s questions. But post often. You can’t expect to be good for a week and then let it go to nothing. People will think you dropped off the Earth and stop following you. They will give up on you because they expected you to be part of the conversation and you let them down.

Which leads to the last one…

Be part of the conversation.
Don’t just post your own stuff. Talk to people, share with them. Offer advise and help them out. Comment on what they have going on as well.

By just following these few steps a few minutes a day you will build up a large following of loyal fans that want to know what you have going on and share out your message with their followers.

But, be consistent. Don’t let your work go to waste. It’s going to take a bit longer but you will have a much stronger following and people will be much more likely to want to hear what you have to say.

Lessons Learned from the Social Media Plus Summit

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

On May 25th, I participated in the Social Media Plus Summit at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia.  The event included a series of lectures geared towards different business audiences (i.e. Sales, Marketing, Executive, Human Resources, etc) and exhibitors showcasing their products/services.  A scan of the crowd showed a diverse audience made up of several hundred individuals hoping to learn more about social media.  Below is a summary of the sessions that I attended and the lessons learned:

Lead, Follow, or Get out of the Web

This session was presented by Bill Lublin, CEO of the Social Media Marketing Institute, who has been recognized as a leader in education and technology in the real estate industry.  The goal of the lecture was to provide tips on how to monitor, manage and measure your reputation across all of the social media channels.  Some of the key takeaways were as follows:

* While social media is creating conversations between customers and businesses online, it will not replace the need for engaging individuals offline – online interactions are enhanced by face to face meetings.
* Before launching a social media campaign it is important to use the POST method to determine the right path.  POST = People, Objectives, Strategy and Tools.
* Whether you actively participate in social media, you MUST monitor and listen to the conversations that are or in some cases not happening.  A lack of conversations around your company when you are in the middle of a marketing blitz can be as damaging as it potential means that your campaign is missing the mark and is failing to generate buzz.
* In order to be successful in social media “be nice, be real, under-promise and over-deliver.”

Aligning Marketing & Sales in a 2.0 World

This session was led by Garth Moulton, VP Community and Co-Founder of Jigsaw, who is a seasoned sales professional.  The presentation was designed to showcase some the Sales 2.0 tools and processes that have helped companies successfully transition into a new world in sales.  Some of the key takeaways were as follows:

* The buying power has shifted from one individual controlling the budget and decision-making to a multi-layered hierarchy of control and a more complicated decision-making process.
* In order to achieve the best results in social media it is recommended to have the strategy and implementation carried out by the Marketing team and layering in the Sales team when the conversations become product specific.

Social Media for B2B Marketing Mix: Planning, Expanding, Executing & Measuring

This lecture was given by Beth Hate, Sr. Subject Matter Expert, Digital Marketing at Serengeti Communications, who has over 15 years of experience in integrated marketing communications.  The goal of this presentation was to share how B2B marketers can add social media into their campaigns.  Some of the key takeaways were as follows:

* There is a shift from looking at the traditional 4 P’s of Marketing to the 4 C’s (Customer, Cost, Convenience and Communication).  Personally, I prefer looking  at the 5 P’s of Marketing (People, Product, Price, Place and Promotion) which has been updated as marketers added “People” to the mix.
* A successful fully integrated marketing communications campaign incorporates the 5 R’s (Relevance, Receptivity, Response, Recognition and Relationships).

Measuring Social Media Effectiveness

This session was presented by Connie Bensen, Director of Social Media & Community Strategy at Alterian, who is also recognized by Forbes.com as having one of the top 20 best marketing and social media blogs by women.  The purpose of this presentation was to show how businesses can effectively measure the results of their social media campaigns.  Some of the key takeaways were as follows:

* The five steps for effectively measuring social media include 1) Listen using a comprehensive tool 2) Decide on objectives and plan strategy 3) Define metrics based on objectives 4) Benchmark and execute 5) Measure, report and refine.
* When listening to social media conversations marketers should consider the daily volume of conversations, the social networks being used, the locations of the communities online and offline and the sentiment and tone of the discussions.

The Art of Conversation: Engaging Fans, Friends and Foes Successfully

This discussion was by far my favorite and was led by Jason Falls, Principal at the Social Media Explorer.  He was billed as being smart and witty and he delivered.  The presentation focused on examples of how to get back to the core of good customer service and stewardship by effectively communicating to your fans, friends and foes with the goal of business success in mind.  Some of the key takeaways were as follows:

* People inherently want to find like-minded people to have conversations with to share and receive recommendations.  Marketers must gain trust in order to join these groups by providing value consistently over time.
* “Conversational marketing success occurs when our genuine participation (that not motivated by marketing goals) earns our audience’s permission to share information that is.”  This can be achieved by: 1) Purposely avoiding pitching 2) Illustrating your expertise and not your catalog 3) Over share that of others 4) Designate a channel for buyers only 5) Offer to inform or help if they are interested 6) Be confident that you offer value 7) Make the conversation about them.
* If you find yourself in a situation where the conversation turns negative it is important to acknowledge their rights to complain, apologize or assert yourself if warranted, assess what will help them feel better, act accordingly and abdicate if necessary.

If you attended this social media summit, let us know what sessions you enjoyed and the lessons learned.  If you did not attend, do you agree or disagree with these lessons and have you incorporated any of them into your campaigns?

Lunch 2.0 changes name to TechCafe, partners with nPost

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

One of the most popular networking events for startups in town is getting a new name — along with a couple of new partners. Seattle Lunch 2.0 — created by Josh Maher four years ago — has changed its name to TechCafe. As part of the change, Maher also has formed deeper strategic partnerships with Seattle tech blog and job site nPost and the Eastside networking event TechFoam.

“While a lot of the partnership is about hosting, cross-promotion and sponsorship, there will definitely be some joint events in the near future using a combination of our resources,” Maher tells us.

Maher has been chatting about a possible name change for some time now, in part because of some of the confusion created by the Seattle Lunch 2.0 moniker. Many of the Lunch 2.0 events take place later in the afternoon, which led some guests to mistakenly show up at the event location during the lunch hour. When the events were held over the lunch hour, some guests showed up later in the afternoon.

“I know that Microsoft gets away with branding like this, but they have been outpaced by Apple now as well,” writes Maher in a blog post.

In addition to the new name, Maher said he’s looking forward to the partnership with TechFoam and nPost. And he said that it was simply time to supercharge the effort amongst the three organizations.

Nathan Kaiser, founder of nPost, agreed. By combining forces, Kaiser said they hope to “bring even more energy to the Seattle startup community.”

TechFoam and TechCafe said they still plan to hold their regular events, which bring entrepreneurs together to talk shop. Here’s our coverage from the Seattle Lunch 2.0 events from last month, as well as our podcast interview with Maher.

Microsoft bringing Apple battle home with Seattle-area store

Monday, May 31st, 2010

Microsoft plans to open a store at the Bellevue Square mall, bringing its budding retail rivalry with Apple to its own backyard, according to building permits filed with the city.

The filings confirm a rumor reported last week by the Downtown Bellevue Network blog. The same blog reported that the existing Apple store at Bellevue Square will be moving to a larger location — setting up a high-profile retail battle between the technology giants a short drive from Microsoft’s Redmond headquarters.

Microsoft declined to comment when we contacted the company about the rumor last week, so we don’t know when the store is slated to open. However, the recent flurry of permitting activity makes it look possible, if not likely, that the store could be ready in time for the upcoming holiday shopping season.

The look and feel of Microsoft stores have been criticized for their similarities to Apple’s stores, but retail experts say copycatting isn’t as shameful in shopping as it is in, say, operating systems.

Bellevue Square becomes the fifth known retail location for Microsoft, joining existing outlets in Mission Viejo, Calif., and Scottsdale, Ariz., and planned stores in Denver and San Diego.

The choice of Bellevue Square isn’t a huge surprise. Microsoft has thousands of employees in the city, including a large contingent across the street at the Lincoln Square office and retail complex.

Although it will be the first Seattle-area location for Microsoft’s retail chain, technically it won’t be the region’s first Microsoft store. The company operates a store at its Redmond visitor center, moved from a previous location across the highway. It also tests retail concepts in a private prototype store dubbed the Retail Experience Center in an office park on the other side of town.

The broader competition between Microsoft and Apple was back in the spotlight last week with the news that Apple had surpassed Microsoft as the most valuable technology company.

Social Media for Dance Studios – Using Facebook Wisely

Friday, May 28th, 2010

Facebook is a very valuable social media platform that will allow you to connect with your current customers, as well as prospective customers in a big way, if used properly. There’s a good chance that you already know how to set up a Facebook page, since it’s about as easy as setting up an e-mail account. So for today, Day 7 in our Social Media Success Challenge for Dance Studios, I will answer one very important question about Facebook:

Question: Do I need a separate Fan page for my dance studio/business if I already have a personal profile page?

Answer: YES!

You should absolutely keep your Facebook profile page and business page separate. This may seem obvious, but, it’s important to establish an online social media presence for your dance studio/dance business, that is separate and apart from your personal page. The types of updates that you’ll post on your fan page will of course be very different from what you would post on your personal profile page. This allows you a lot more control, and an opportunity to maintain a certain level of privacy and separation from your business, which is important. You may suggest that your friends “Like” your Facebook fan page by clicking on the link under your fan page profile picture that says, “Suggest to friends”. However, generally speaking, it’s best to keep a definite distinction between these two types of Facebook pages.

For more information on keeping your Facebook profile page private, click here, http://finance.yahoo.com/family-home/article/109670/how-to-secure-your-facebook-account?mod=family-home.

If you have questions about social media for your dance studio or dance business please post it here, or on our Facebook or Twitter pages, and join in our 90-Day Social Media Success Challenge for Dance Studios. http://facebook.com/KinerEnterprisesInc or http://twitter.com/kinerenterprise