Twitter brings "hope" to nonprofits

If you're a sucker for a good cause like I am, you'll want to know about Twitter's Hope140 project. As part of the company's effort to be "a force for good", it has created a site to highlight worthy causes. For those of you who work for nonprofits, this is an easy way to get your charity a bit more attention. Or, if you simply want to promote a cause on your own (meaning you don't work for the group, but simply support its efforts), you can do that, too. 

If you go to the Hope140 page, just click "contact us" and fill out the brief form (a six-box no brainer). Your charity of choice will then be reviewed by Twitter HQ for possible inclusion on the site. Most of those that are accepted are put on the Case Studies section, where your organization will be profiled (along with a prominent logo and relevant photographs). If you're actively (and creatively!) using Twitter to spread the word about your work, you have a much better chance of being highlighted. After all, practicality would dictate that this altruistic effort is also a nice way to promote the value of Twitter, right?

Other lucky causes may receive a tab of their own on the Hope140 page, as was the case with Hope for Haiti. These organizations and/or campaigns enjoy the added bonuses of donation buttons and showcasing tweets that pertain to the cause.

Nonprofits may also be eligible for a special version of sponsored tweets called Tweet for Good. Details aren't available yet, but just tell Twitter your organization is interested and information will be sent to you as it becomes available. For Twitter newbies, sponsored tweets are essentially ads that earn you money.

So, if your charity could use some added exposure, check out Hope140. It might be a nice addition to your online marketing efforts.

Social media's next big name

Bryan Elliott
I love it when you discover smart people online. Folks you can learn from and engage with are such an important part of your professional development.

Now, we all know the really big names in social media such as Chris Brogan, Gary Vaynerchuk, and Darren Rowse. Not only are they big online, but they have the added exposure of being highly successful authors. One name you may not be familiar with, however, is Bryan Elliott. If you don't know Bryan, you should.

I discovered Bryan about a year ago. He's a smart guy who has a bright future (his present is pretty darn impressive, too!). In the Los Angeles/Orange County area of California, Bryan is known for the impressive events he puts on through his organization, LinkedOC.

With a warm personality, solid business acumen, and an understanding of the value of creating community, Bryan has managed to establish a top-notch speaker series and attract some of the industry's biggest names. Earlier this year, Bryan hosted marketing guru Seth Godin (see my review HERE) and his upcoming events will feature thought leaders such as Brian Solis, Scott Stratten, and the aforementioned Chris Brogan. Getting Seth was a real coup as Seth usually only speaks in front of massive audiences at very pricey conferences. However, Bryan somehow got Seth to speak in front of a smaller group of people for an unprecedentedly low entrance fee.

Bryan also sponsors smaller networking events throughout the year where local business people can connect, buyers and sellers can meet, and all the while fostering an environment where people help one another. This phrase from his website sums up Bryan's approach best and illustrates the mindset he's trying to create through LinkedOC, "A place where innovation, creativity and collaboration thrive. And self-promotion takes a back seat to generosity."

As if that weren't enough, Bryan hosts a fun, business show on the local PBS TV channel. He is also founder of the SoCal Action Sports Network.

Even if you're not in the Southern California area, I encourage you to connect with Bryan via Twitter. He's someone you can learn from and who will add real value to your Twitter stream.  And, trust me, I know it won't be long until Bryan's name is rattled off with all the other big names in social media. Heck, he's already there in my book.

Is email marketing dead?

Ben and Jerry's has decided to do something that many companies are too afraid to do. It is dumping its email marketing efforts.

This month, the popular ice cream maker distributed its very last e-newsletter and has decided to engage with customers exclusively through social media. Many are touting the decision as smart; whereas others say the move is premature.

I don't know about you, but the last time I read an e-newsletter all the way through was probably 2005. Although the medium was effective at one time, I simply don't have the time for it anymore. Besides, I just see those kinds of emails as clutter. More "stuff" clogging up my inbox to sort through and delete. And, frankly, email is the last place I go to these days. The majority of my personal and professional dealings take place on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

One of the things I love most about social media platforms is that the content is short and digestible. And, it lives somewhere else (e.g. a Facebook page, a Twitter feed, etc.) which means no "housekeeping" for me.

Now I know that last part is what companies traditionally don't like. They want you to have to see it. But the new world order dictates that people will willingly consume advertising for products and services that interest them. That means catching up with a friend on Facebook and then visiting a company's Facebook page is no big deal. People are happy and willing to do that. What they're not willing to do, however, is to read a series of long articles touting how great your business is. That's so 20th century.

Besides, if you look at the stats, social media is the future of advertising. On Twitter, for example, 42% of users use the platform to learn about products and services. If your company is not represented (and engaging with current and potential customers!), you're missing out. 

So, what do you think? Is Ben and Jerry's just the first of many big companies to make the big move and dump email marketing? Or it is a shortsighted effort that the company will come to regret?

Twitter offers early bird specials via new account

If you're active on Twitter and you like a good deal, check out the new account @earlybird. Managed by the folks at Twitter HQ, this brand new feed will feature a variety of special offers from select advertisers. As is the case with a lot of online promotions, however, supplies may be limited and you may have to act fast. I know firsthand that Twitter promotions are frequently enjoyed by those who are quick to respond.

Right now, the feed is new so the tweets are getting ready to kick into gear, but the first promotion should be coming soon. More good news is that the deals will be from large, international or national brands so most everyone should be able to get in on the fun (sorry, just the U.S. to start). Local and regional promotions are in the future, though.

Oh, and if there's a product or event that you'd especially like to get a deal on, send a tweet to @earlybird. Suggestions are welcome.

Sure, on one hand you're intentionally signing up for advertising, but on the other hand, you might be getting in on some exclusive deals. It's worth checking out and, of course, you can always unfollow if it's not your cup of virtual tea.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

It's free Slurpee Day!

I love Slurpees. It even says so on my Twitter bio! So, I think you know you can count on me every year to reminder you that July 11th (yep, 7/11) is 7-Eleven's national birthday!

Today, at most 7-Eleven locations, you can get a free 7.11 ounce Slurpee of any flavor. You know I'm a sucker for freebies, so be sure to stop in and claim your icy, sweet treat before the day ends!

This year, as the popular chain prepared for the b-day festivities, I was lucky enough to have a gap in my schedule so I could attend 7-Eleven's big pre-party in Hollywood! Well, it must have been my lucky day because I ended up winning a Guitar Hero World Tour complete band kit, coupons for free Slurpees, and a bunch of cool swag (in a green, canvas, recycling bag which is right up my alley!). I was the first person in line, way before the others, so I guess being early has its perks!

If you're in Southern California, check out 7-Eleven on Twitter for all the street team action. For those of you in other states, click HERE to find the 7-Eleven Twitter feed for your area. Now, enough of my jabbering. Go get those free Slurpees (and leave me a comment before the brain freeze kicks in, eh?).

Why are you following me? You're freaking me out!

If you've read my blog before, you probably know I hate the word followers. And, although I don't like it, I accept that this is the accepted term on Twitter.

In LinkedIn's continuing effort to turn its site into a platform with more social networking options, it introduced the "follow" button a few months ago. I saw it, didn't like the idea, and forgot about it. Until today, that is.

I was participating in some discussions on a few LinkedIn groups and I happened to see my "follower" count was 361. Now, I know my contacts are rolled into my follower count (which I think it foolish, by the way), but I only have 349. My follower number is 11 higher than that.

I clicked around and saw that a dozen people I don't know were "following" me. That means they are able to keep track of my contributions to groups, my comments, my activity, and my overall interaction on LinkedIn. To some people that might not matter, but to me it does.

My LinkedIn network is comprised of people I have worked with or other professional contacts I have developed. I'm not an open networker (i.e. a LION) and I don't connect with random strangers. My contacts are people I've interacted with in some shape or form who I wanted to add to my online rolodex. They are individuals who I can generally count on when it comes to business; people I respect and trust. Sure, I connect with unknown people on Twitter and Facebook, but LinkedIn is my exclusive professional hub.

So, as I see it, 11 people are sitting in the shadows spying on me. These people have not introduced themselves to me, they haven't shot me an email, they haven't made any overture. They're lurkers. Watching what I do. Now, I realize some of you might think it's a compliment if someone thinks you're interesting enough to follow. And for casual socializing and networking, on Twitter for example, I might agree. But, not on LinkedIn. Not in my professional, online office. (By the way, you can block people on Facebook and Twitter, but there doesn't appear to be a block option on LinkedIn.)

I don't need, nor want, followers on LinkedIn. If someone is interested in my professional contributions or knowledge, reach out to me! I am always open to a "how do ya do?" and eager to make new contacts. Heck, I love it! But, watching what I do in a professional context and not having the courtesy to extend a virtual handshake freaks me out! 

Wanna connect on Twitter? Let's do it! Want to engage on Facebook? You betcha! Want to strike up a mutually beneficial professional relationship? I'm in! But don't be the weirdo with the high-power binoculars who watches people from afar without their knowledge. It's unsettling and I don't want any part of it.
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