Book Marketing: How 4 Authors Are Finding Success With Social Media


Andy Meek is a senior business reporter for The Memphis Daily News. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyMeekTN.

The book industry is in upheaval. The recent news that Borders will liquidate and shutter all of its 399 stores is the latest sign of print’s unstable market.

In many ways, tech advancements have forced the industry’s deterioration. While print struggles to catch a foothold, tech-savvy authors are managing to bridge the gap. Therefore, I’d like to introduce four tech-savvy authors whose statuses range from rookie to bestseller. Thanks to social media, they’re writing their own rules about branding and fan engagement.


1. John Green – The Fault in Our Stars




Author: John Green

Twitter: @realjohngreen

Facebook: John Green

Website/Blog: JohnGreenBooks.com

John Green’s latest book, The Fault in Our Stars, is riding high on the charts. It recently landed the number-one spots on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. But here’s the thing – his story won’t be published until 2012.

Green promoted the book to his 1.1 million Twitter followers, according to The Wall Street Journal:

On (a) Tuesday afternoon, he posted the title of his new book on Twitter, Tumblr and the community forum YourPants.org. An hour later, he upped the stakes by promising to sign all pre-orders and the entire first-print run, while also launching a YouTube live show. Mr. Green discussed his plans for signing the book and also read a section to give viewers a sense of what The Fault in Our Stars would be about.

On the same day of the WSJ article, Green responded by tweeting, “I am genuinely uninterested in marketing, but I am VERY interested in being part of awesome communities.”

Publisher @penguinusa also tweeted the news: “did you hear? @realjohngreen’s new #ya novel THE FAULT IN OUR STARS is #1. One catch, he’s still writing!”

To which Green could not resist shooting back: “@penguinusa HAHAHAHAHA Don’t make fun of me corporate overlord or I will refused to finish it! ;)”


2. Laura Hillenbrand – Unbroken




Author: Laura Hillenbrand

Twitter: @laurahillenbran

Facebook: Laura Hillenbrand

Website/Blog: LauraHillenbrandBooks.com

Earlier this year New York Times bestseller Laura Hillenbrand – the author of Seabiscuit – participated in a new media experiment to promote her new book Unbroken, which follows a WWII pilot who was shot down, only to survive a Japanese prison camp.

NPR produced what it described as a “book club-meets-social media experiment” across its Facebook, Twitter and web presences -- places where Unbroken was widely discussed. On the NPR Books Facebook Page Hillenbrand also contributed to the discussion.

By achieving direct access to the author, readers like Robin Politowicz became inspired to write back:

Laura,

Was there a moment in your research that just stopped you in your tracks? A particular incident or injustice or cruel twist of fate (of which there were so many) that gave you pause? Wonderful book – listened to the audio version on a long vacation drive, and had to think of errands to run once we got home so that we could finish listening :-)

–Robin Politowicz

Dear Robin,

Good question! There were so many breathtaking moments in Louie's story. I think the one that was most striking to me was the one when he was on the raft, and the Japanese bomber began strafing him and his raftmates. This was incredible enough, but in seeking cover under the raft, Louie ended up having to fight off sharks, striking them in their noses while the bullets showered down. I can't imagine that there's been another man in history who has been simultaneously fired upon and attacked by sharks. That he survived it continues to amaze me.

–Laura


3. Blake Northcott – Vs. Reality




Author: Blake Northcott

Twitter: @ComicBookGrrl

Facebook: Vs. Reality

Website/Blog: BlakeNorthcott.com

If you’re a new writer who’s looking ahead to a seemingly daunting publishing task, take a tip from Toronto writer Blake Northcott.

She recently self-published Vs. Reality, a work she’s calling a “comic book-inspired urban fantasy novel.” The Kindle version is now available through Amazon.com.

During the nine months spent writing her comic and movie blog, she amassed a 16,000-strong Twitter following, and collected more than 1,700 personal Facebook friends. Furthermore, in the space of one week earlier this month, her re-launched blog got 4,500 page views.

To put the numbers in perspective, her Twitter tribe is roughly the same size as that of publisher Image Comics. And a few days ago, Goodreads.com notified Northcott that she is the tenth most-followed Canadian on the site.

Northcott’s social media presence includes what she describes as an “instant feedback mechanism that tells me people are listening.”

“People are so passionate about books, comics and movies,” says Northcott. “When you connect with them on their level, and they know you’re legitimate, they respect you a lot more. Social media facilitates the ‘secret handshake’ where you get into the club, and people know you’re one of them.”


4. Duane Swierczynski – Fun and Games




Author: Duane Swierczynski

Twitter: @swierczy

Facebook: Duane Swierczynski

Website/Blog: Secret Dead Blog

If Quentin Tarantino ever decided to put down his camera and pick up a novelist’s pen, the result might read like the action-packed work of Duane Swierczynski. He writes hard-boiled thrillers that have the inventiveness, colorful characters and crackling dialogue of comic books.

His latest book, Fun and Games, was released a few weeks ago. To coincide with the release, Swierczynski devised a promotional contest that met with great fan approval.

To boost his pre-order numbers, Swierczynski invited fans to send him a confirmation once they had pre-ordered the book. In return, he randomly picked winners to which he sent personally chosen prizes - for example, signed copies of his five previous novels, a copy of Rockstar Games' recent title L.A. Noire, and even the right to name a minor character in the third book of his current trilogy. Additionally, he sent everyone who pre-ordered his book an offbeat postcard he picked up from the road, complete with a handwritten note of thanks.

“I was just talking to a friend the same age as me [late 30s] about how much harder it was to find like-minded people back in the early '90s,” says Swierczynski. “Sure, there was 'zine culture, but other than that, you couldn't help but feel kind of all alone in the universe ... Social media makes it so much easier, and so many people I've met online have turned out to be good friends in real life. So [social media] is not really a ‘strategy’ – it's a matter of craving that hive-mind experience. And as part of that hive-mind, you should give as much as you take.”

Image courtesy of Flickr, matthileo.

More About: amazon, authors, books, business, Facebok, MARKETING, publishing, social media, twitter

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Sharepocalypse Now: Why Social Media Overload Means New Opportunities for Startups


Nova Spivack has several ventures in production that focus on the real-time stream, including Bottlenose (for filtering the stream), StreamGlider (a new mobile stream delivery platform), Live Matrix (the schedule of the live web), and The Daily Dot (a new online daily newspaper about what’s trending online).

The social media landscape is changing quickly, but this change won’t be immediate, or for that matter, efficient. And that’s going to be a big problem for all of us.

I believe that Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn are fundamentally different, and thus, should not be in competition. However, I’m not sure the companies themselves see it this way. It’s likely they will continue dedicating resources to competition instead of differentiation.

And while the social media gods fight it out in the clouds above us, what will happen down here on Earth? What about all of us, the little people — the users?

We’re entering a new era of social network chaos, and this, in turn, is going to create new needs and opportunities for startups.


The Sharepocalypse


Welcome to he “Sharepocalypse,” a new era of social network insanity.

In the Sharepocalypse hundreds (if not thousands) of online friends share content with us across various social networks, culminating in massive information overload. Our lives will become more fragmented, we will lose productivity, and we’ll perpetually be playing catch up.

Granted, we’ve heard this song before. But I argue that the movement will reach a fundamentally new level of chaos — and the data from my portfolio of companies bears this out.

The Sharepocalypse causes (and is caused by) social overload — an evolution of information overload. Because the distinctions between each social network are not entirely clear, we feel obligated to maniacally juggle different apps and social networks just to keep up and be heard everywhere.

It would be one thing if all our social messages were part of a single, parsable, filtered stream. But instead, they come from all different directions. The Sharepocalypse is aggravated by social streams that originate in many competing silos. We spend nearly as much time hopping between networks as we do meaningfully digesting and engaging the content within.

Furthermore, the more we engage in cross-posting, the more noisy and redundant each network will become. Social overload begets more social overload. In a room where everyone is shouting to be heard, the mob shouts even louder.

And it’s not just one room full of people shouting — it’s many. Among the social networks of Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs and other social outlets, which network is the most appropriate forum for any given post? But wait, it gets worse. Now we have to choose among Circles as well.

Google+ circles are mini virtual sharing networks, and they’re potentially infinite in number. What circle or list or group should you share with? But first, how well organized are your circles? Do they overlap? Are you sure that by only sharing with certain circles you can reach everyone you need to? No.

On top of all the social noise we experience, look forward to new noise from brands. Brands are becoming more lost and confused about how and where to communicate than ever before. Predictably, they will try to reach us redundantly, everywhere, all the time to make sure we see them. Social media consultants, on the other hand, will have a total field day, because ultimately they will benefit most from the chaos.

To make matters worse, it looks like Microsoft may now be on the verge of launching a new kind of social sharing service. And many other companies will follow, I’m sure. Why not every mobile company, for that matter? Why not every big brand? Even celebs may start their own social networks in which fans can share and compare their adorations.

And I’m not talking the micro-networks like Geni and Dogster. We’re moving toward a landscape in which social networks and sharing mechanisms will be built into the DNA of every site and service.

As Mark Zuckerberg has argued, everything that can be social will be social. I agree…and that’s the problem.


Choice Overload


Nobody is going to know where to share or where to look.

How will you know if you missed anything important? Which networks will you visit to get updates from friends, from brands, from publications you follow?

The sad truth is that you can’t get it all in one place.

In fact, choosing with whom to share is going to become harder and will require more thought. Ironically, by trying to solve this problem using “circles” and other gestures, Google+ may just be piling on more disparate channels. Therefore, many people will simply opt to quickly and easily share everything with the public, rather than denote a special group or circle with which to share.

The fact is, when people have to ponder a choice, they often opt for the easier alternative: don’t choose at all. This is classic choice overload theory. Many studies have shown that choice overload leads people to make fewer choices. People become stressed when they have to choose from too many options at once.

It’s a perfect storm: A massive expansion of networks on which to share and track information, but all the while, its users have less and less energy to make choices. The result will be a lot more confusion and noise.

Soon we will long for the days when we were unplugged, cut off from the global brain, and able to, at least once in a while, enjoy that rare feeling of being up-to-speed.


A New Category: Social Assistance


The Sharepocalypse will generate an expanse of new problems. However, this will generate a new opportunity for social assistance — a new category of software and services — and therefore, a ripe environment for startups.

Social assistance will be the next frontier spawned from social networking, and we’re all going to need it. We’ll require help managing our online relationships, tying our streams together, sifting through the noise, keeping up with what matters personally, finding who and what we need, and remaining productive.

Google+, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Microsoft will all struggle to deliver acceptable signal-to-noise ratios to their users. But they will be focused on solving this problem within their silos, rather than across all platforms. I call this approach “vertical social assistance” because it focuses on assisting people only within particular networks. Because each service is biased toward its own social graph and content, it’s unlikely that any of them will help solve the horizontal overload. Understandably, it’s not in their interest to enable users to make better use of competing services.

This world of fragmented messaging systems is akin the early days of email in the 1980s, when users of one network were unable to communicate with another. It was a mess. Eventually, email gateways were created to link these disparate networks. But the problem wasn’t fully solved until everyone adopted a single set of standards, and all the email networks connected into one common fabric.

Unfortunately, the unification of email networks and standards immediately killed of a lot of the smaller email networks and client makers. But through simplification, the world became less complex and more connected.

The question is, will something like this ever happen for social media? Will we see the social networks connect into a common fabric anytime soon? Right now, the major social networks own the content — it’s captive on their platforms. If that were to change, and you could read any social media message anywhere, they would have to compete on features alone — and that’s another can of worms.

What I call “horizontal social assistance” is the opportunity to access and use social media messages in a unified way. This approach is different from the vertical social assistance approach because it would span across all networks. The users of social networks need this capability in the same way they needed email unification. However, until all the social networks agree on standard profiles, messages, contacts, groups and streams, it’s not going to happen. And to be frank, such an agreement is highly unlikely in the near future.

But it could happen if some neutral party takes the initiative.

In the meantime, many other social assistance resources will emerge that target a range of different needs and opportunities, including:

  • Social Relationship Management (SRM): : Services that help people create, organize and manage sets of social network relationships — for example, sets of people to follow and/or share with on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, etc.
  • Social Awareness: Services that help people keep up with their social networks, especially among a user’s friends.
  • Social Curation: Services that help people organize and make sense of their streams and messages.
  • Social Personalization: Services that help people sift through the network noise for information most relevant to their particular needs and interests.
  • Social Analytics: Services that help to measure online social behavior and trends, optimize engagement, monitor activity and communicate more appropriately.
  • Social Automation: Services that help to automate activity in social networks, like automatically updating your status, helping to increase your influence, suggesting what to share, matchmaking, alerting, and using bots to intelligently interact with and assist users.

Because social assistance will become so necessary, both vertical and horizontal social assistance could mean interesting opportunities for startups. Ventures that provide vertical social assistance for particular networks, like Google+ and Facebook are going to be early build versus buy acquisition targets. These are rapid innovation opportunities for individual developers or small teams.

Ventures that attempt to solve the harder problem of horizontal social assistance will have a chance at building longer-term independent value. Some may become strong stand-alone ventures, or larger exits, but they will also be more technologically challenging, requiring larger teams and more capital.

One thing is certain: The Sharepocalypse is here and, as a result, social assistance will soon be the cutting-edge of social media innovation.

Images courtesy of iStockphoto, Kileman, and Flickr, World Bank Photo Collection, zipckr

More About: facebook, Google Plus, information, Overload, social analytics, social media, social networking, twitter

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The Future of Social Customer Relationship Management


Killian Schaffer is VP/Strategy Director, CRM for Cramer-Krasselt/Chicago. You can follow him on Twitter @kschaffs.

Currently there’s a lot of buzz around social customer relationship management (CRM). Social media platforms and technologies like Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare are transforming how companies market their products and engage audiences. But when you’re also concerned about delivering results to your clients, you’ll do well to study the evolution from traditional CRM to sCRM.

Like different forms of intelligence – abstract, practical, emotional – customer data reveals different value traits that help to assess each individual. Then we can develop programs to extract revenue from that data.

While “transactional” value has been a mainstay for decades, the web and its social media platforms have introduced new “relationship” and “influence” measures. The more comprehensive data complements CRM’s traditional indicators:

  • Transactional: Determines a consumer’s monetary value based on purchase recency, frequency and dollar amount. Database marketers have relied on these attributes for decades.
  • Relationship: Predicated on information sharing activity, the type and depth of information shared by consumers is directly related to their value to the brand.
  • Influence: Evaluates the consumer’s social potential as an “earned media partner” based on their publishing frequency and social graph responsiveness.

The seamless integration of what we call the “Value TRInity” — transaction, relationship and influence — will be the future of CRM.

Some marketers are already combining aspects of the Value Trinity. Quirky outdoor outfitter Moosejaw not only encourages its customers and fans to interact with the company via Facebook and Twitter, but they’ve also created communications programs and established a rewards program that ties an individual’s transactional activity to his social web activity.

Some travel and hospitality players are ahead of the curve as well. Several hotels have been inviting guests or offering upgrades on rooms based on their high Klout scores, and therefore their increased ability to influence others. Similarly, PR agencies have been forging relationships with key influencers via blogger outreach programs.

These programs can no longer be practiced in silos — firms need to integrate social media, PR, customer service and loyalty programs in order to benefit from the Value TRInity.

Earlier this year, American Airlines launched a Facebook page and quickly grew its audience from 2,600 likes to over 200,000 in fewer than three days. Moreover, the AA Mystery Miles promotion secured visitors’ AAdvantage numbers, enabling it to evaluate participants’ transaction, relationship and influence measures.

As the practice of CRM evolves alongside the social web, it’s critical that we not only think in terms of measurable data, but also about the integration of social behavior to provide a true and accurate reflection of valuable customers. Success will be defined not by chasing influencers, high-volume buyers or friends-of-friends, but by leveraging the Value TRInity to forge enduring, mutually beneficial relationships with your brand’s true friends.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, turkkol

More About: crm, custmer relations, customer lifetime value, data, facebook, klout, Revenue, social media, twitter

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What Twitter Can Learn From Facebook [OPINION]


This post reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily those of Mashable as a publication.

Tom Anderson is the founder and former president of MySpace. MySpace sold in 2005, and Anderson left the company in early 2009. You can find him on Google+, Twitter or Facebook.

Sometimes when you follow a trend, you fall flat on your face.

Early adopters of Google+ have declared that Twitter is now “obsolete” and that they are “bored” using Twitter. Most suggestions for improvement are a list of Google+ features that Twitter doesn’t have.

Yet, even while Twitter’s own CEO, Dick Costolo, has maintained that Twitter will remain simple, the company’s founder and executive chairman Jack Dorsey recently let go four key product people from Twitter, indicating some kind of change is in the works. So what’s @Jack to do? What does the future of Twitter look like?


Taking Measured Risks


Facebook is actually instructive on this front. One of the things that founder Mark Zuckerberg and crew have done exceptionally well is to know what and what not to incorporate from competitors. They’ve evolved their vision, but instead of jumping on every trend, they’ve found ways to expand by incorporating the best innovations of their competitors into a holistic vision that’s kept Facebook growing.

When Facebook had 12 million uniques thanks to nearly every college user in America using the service and MySpace had 80 million uniques (what seemed like “everyone else” at the time), it was a bold move to open up the site to the outside world. In hindsight, it may have seemed risk-free, but it could have killed the entire feel of Facebook. They moved slowly, adding companies, high school students and eventually went fully public. It wasn’t a given that this wouldn’t destroy the closed, private and wonderful service Zuckerberg had created for college students.

When Twitter became a significant force, Facebook tried to acquire the youngish company. A deal was never reached and Facebook ended up up incorporating the status update into the newsfeed — which really made the newsfeed more interesting than it ever would have been otherwise. Again, a great move that fit in with the evolving vision of Facebook as a “sharing platform” (before that, Zuckerberg used to talk more about “efficient communication“).

But it’s also instructive to look at the things Facebook did not do. To compete with MySpace, lots of people thought Facebook should offer some level of profile customization (definitely controversial), but even more thought they should launch a music service. Facebook toyed with the idea by briefly allowing users to put some apps on their profile pages, and they gave priority status to iLike, a music service that let you create playlists. I’d heard rumors at the time that Facebook had actually built a full customization platform for profiles that they never launched. Just this month, Facebook decided to allow users to put images and videos into comments (something that probably would have been too MySpace-y back in the day). Facebook knew when to add feature at the right time. And that music service? Well, it may still be coming.


What This Means for Twitter


So what does this teach us? It’s difficult to extract a lesson or set of rules from these examples. It’s hard to know how to evolve your service, and it’s hard to say what Twitter should do to continue its growth trajectory. I think the answer lies in trying to step back and understand what’s the real value you provide to your users. How can your service evolve to realize that mission without following every trend that rules the day?

In Twitter’s case, is the 140 character constraint really a benefit or is it a leftover relic of the text-message infrastructure that smart phones have replaced? As pundits and users, we can all make our demands about what we want from Twitter, but that probably only tells us about our own personal biases. Twitter will undoubtedly do better to analyze its own data to understand its own user behavior.

Then they can look at those numbers in the context of competitors’ numbers that are public. Who’s driving more engagement, where and how?

You might say, you and I don’t know jack about Twitter. Only @Jack knows jack about Twitter.

Depending on what he learns, he’ll make the tough decision of what to change and what to keep the same. Maybe he’ll test, iterate, analyze and revise. He’s already decided he needs a new product staff, so change seems to be coming.

No answers here, but hopefully they’re the right questions.

Editor’s note: This post was adapted from a post originally published on Google+.

More About: facebook, Google, myspace, Opinion, twitter

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Why Location-Based Gaming Is The Next Killer App [OPINION]


This post reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily those of Mashable as a publication.

Greg Steen currently serves as a trendspotter for Moxie, discovering and assessing marketing implications for global trends. He has over five years experience in analyzing trends and creating strategic campaigns for brands such as Verizon Wireless, Marriott and the Alzheimer’s Association.

Capture the flag. Hide and seek. Marco Polo. These location-based games brought hours of fun to many of us as children. Then video games came along and suddenly the only location you played in was the living room. Now this shift is coming full circle as innovative mobile games are using geo-location, image recognition and augmented reality technologies to combine the real and virtual worlds.


Location-Based Games Are Already Starting to Emerge


For example, the popular Finnish iPhone game Shadow Cities, which recently made its debut in the U.S., uses the city of each player as a game board, allowing them to roam their neighborhood casting spells and taking over city blocks. Players can engage with others nearby by either teaming up or fighting over territory.

Angry Birds will soon include location-based features that give players access to new characters and content. Players will also be able to compete with one another on a unique leader board tied to each location. This feature will turn coffee shops, bars and apartment buildings into proving grounds for the next Angry Birds champion and could serve as a great ice breaker for players that compete in the same spot at the same time.

Paparazzi is an Android game that layers digital animation on top of the real world, a technology known as augmented reality. The game challenges players to take photos of a 3D character standing on a table. The character becomes agitated and will throw tea cups at the player. He’ll even jump onto the phone itself if given the chance.

Games such as these can be a great fit for marketers looking to connect with customers. Logos, buildings and products can all be incorporated into the gaming environment through barcode scanning, image recognition or GPS. Such games add more depth to social check-ins, a field where developers are still trying to figure out how to create worthwhile experiences. MyTown is an early example of how this can work. Players buy and sell the locations they check in at, much like Monopoly, and products are integrated through barcode scanning, which can unlock virtual goods and manufacturer promotions.


The Location-Based Gaming Market Is Poised for Growth


A confluence of smartphone adoption and interest in gaming has laid the foundation for mobile games to become a cultural touchstone and an extremely profitable industry. eMarketer estimates that 31% of mobile users have a smartphone and projects that 43% of mobile users will have one by 2015. That’s 101 million people. Interest in gaming has grown rapidly as well. According to Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal, 183 million Americans report playing a game for an hour a day. That’s more than half of the population.

All it will take is one breakout success and the market will explode with new players and more innovative games. Marketers should look for successful games to partner with rather than creating their own, since building a player base from scratch is difficult. But marketers would do well to think about how these integrations can enhance the gaming experience. Developers have been known to turn down partnership dollars if they fear the in-game additions won’t add something meaningful to the game.

A good example of a brand integration that improves the gaming experience is the Dreyer’s Fruit Bars campaign that is running in FarmVille. Players have the opportunity to plant Dreyer’s branded crops, which are more profitable than comparable plants and create the possibility of receiving recognition as a top grower. Dreyer’s is even bringing the promotion into the real world by selecting a few players to travel to Farmville, Virginia, and plant an actual fruit orchard for the community.


Conclusion


The market is primed for the right game to galvanize interest in experiences that combine the real and virtual worlds. Just as FarmVille put social gaming on the map and Angry Birds brought attention to mobile gaming in general, we could see a wave of smartphone owners flood the application markets looking for similar experiences. This will present a valuable opportunity to marketers that want to foster emotional connections with their audiences, so keep a close eye on new releases and brace yourself for the next big thing in mobile gaming.


More About: android, angry birds, farmville, gaming, location-based apps, Paparazzi, shadow cities

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5 Social Good Websites Aimed at Youth

kids image

Adora Svitak is author of three books — Flying Fingers, Dancing Fingers and Yang in Disguise. She is one of the TED Conference’s youngest speakers and the curator of youth event TEDxRedmond. Since age 7 she has been drumming up excitement about reading and writing among fellow students.

You know that teenagers are using the internet for social networking, self-expression and even school-work. But that stereotypically self-absorbed, trite teen you see on Facebook might just have an altruistic side. Throughout the years, countless youth have founded charities, raised money, and dedicated time and money to service; today, new websites help more students do exactly that.

A growing number of websites are centered around youth activism — whether networks of like-minded young people trying to solve problems, or large charities attracting awareness and donations through trivia websites. Below are five major websites attracting young people who want to help the world and prove that “adolescence + Internet” can be a worthwhile equation .


1. TakingITGlobal




TakingITGlobal, an online social network for young people, is centered around linking youth around the world in order to solve problems. Joining the community opens up forums where students can write their ideas and ask for suggestions from fellow TakingITGlobal members. Students can then go to “Action Tools” and start enacting a solution.

One example is the DeforestACTION campaign, which aims to halt the destruction of rainforests. Sleek graphics and gamification elements help the project attract users, sign pledges, donate money and spread the word online.


2. RandomKid




RandomKid emphasizes three-step solutions where you select a world issue (clean water, animal welfare, etc.), choose a solution (provided by various organizations, or create your own) and “Make it Happen” by collecting donations on your project’s page and spreading the word.

Students can donate to other youth projects that come under RandomKid’s 501(c)3 umbrella and contribute to a community seed fund.


3. KooDooz




KooDooz is an interactive social network for “youth who want to make a difference.” Challenges are customized based on the age inputted by the user. For example, a challenge relating to stopping teen dating violence might not appear for an eight-year-old while it would for older users. KooDooz requires users to register in order to access challenges and information.

Registration is free but requires a parent or guardian’s permission. Donation buttons are well-placed across the site, while privacy safeguards, like the parental permission, help attract a younger audience.


4. DoSomething.org




DoSomething.org features more teen-related content and has a simple interface. With its drop down-list search questions, teens can look for projects based on four criteria (What Cause? Who With? Where? and How Long?). The site's “How Long?” search criteria allows teens to find project based on how much time they can commit, from one minute up to one year. DoSomething also offers grants to worthwhile projects, and online resources.


5. FreeRice (World Food Programme)




Unlike the other sites on this list, Freerice (which benefits the World Food Programme) is not a social network and appeals to a wide audience of users. Adults can (and often do) visit the site which asks users to answer questions in return for donating rice to needy communities. The site was initially established by a dad looking to prepare his teenaged son for the SATs. It attracts a dedicated following of educators and students alike. Sponsors donate grains of rice for each correct answer.

Many teachers use Freerice as a teaching tool. The "Groups" tool allows a school or classroom to compete against one another to do good. Even with all the healthy competition, the rice raised by gameplayers all goes to further the same cause: Eradicating hunger.

Other websites for education, like iEarn and ePals, link young people from around the world to fellow students in other nations, like digital pen pals. They can work together to solve problems and learn about each other’s cultures. Youth do frequently organize on a local scale, as well. Teenage Simone Bernstein founded St. Louis Volunteen, for example, a comprehensive website of youth volunteering opportunities in the St. Louis area.


Image courtesy of Flickr, paul goyette

More About: charity, Children, kid, Kids, non-profit, philanthropy, social good, social media, social platforms, web, websites, youth

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7 Things Facebook Should Do To Increase Security [OPINION]


This post reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily those of Mashable as a publication.

Eugene Kaspersky is CEO of Kaspersky Lab, the company he co-founded in 1997, which is now the world’s largest, privately-held anti-malware company. You can follow him on Twitter @e_kaspersky and his blog at eugene.kaspersky.com.

For the past seven years we have seen how Facebook has dramatically changed the way people communicate while it has formed a new culture of online socializing.

For most people, Facebook has been about keeping in touch with friends and family in a totally new way. But for security researchers, such as myself, it has led to seven years of new challenges for the security industry. The main issue with social networking and security is that social networks are, well, social, and when the human mind gets involved, vulnerabilities can be exploited. I’m talking about human vulnerabilities, those against which it’s hard to defend.

Many Facebook users lack knowledge and experience about how to protect themselves in the social networking environment, which has made the situation worse. Facebook appeals to new Internet users who often lack the computer savvy to identify online threats, and the most vulnerable segment of the audience — kids — have little life experience required to make reasonable decisions.

Because of this, I believe Facebook needs to enhance the security and privacy features of its site so the problems don’t escalate out of control. With the help of my colleagues, here are seven key recommendations I believe will make Facebook a safer place:


1. Enforce Full HTTPS Browsing


This way, all users can make sure no one is snooping into their conversations, even if they’re browsing Facebook through an untrusted Internet connection. Additionally, it will render attack tools such as Firesheep completely useless.

I admire the fact that Facebook has enabled optional HTTPS browsing in its recent security features roll-out. However, I don’t think the option is clearly marked enough for most users to find and utilize it. Therefore, I feel that this feature should be made mandatory for everyone.


2. Implement Two-Factor Authentication


Banks are offering e-tokens to their customers to safely access their online banking accounts; but in a world where social networking sites are becoming more and more important to what we do online, users should also have the same technology available for protecting their Facebook accounts.

This option should be enforced and mandatory, otherwise it may easily be lost in the depth of account settings. Following Facebook’s initiative to send verification codes via SMS, I suggest the company develop a mobile application that will generate a one-time password in addition to the master password. This way, an attacker would have to compromise not one, but two devices to access a Facebook account. This is not an easy task even for an experienced hacker.


3. Make Clear Which Facebook Apps Are Trusted


Malicious Facebook apps are being analyzed and reported by researchers on a daily basis. Facebook needs to perform a thorough security check and approve all incoming applications to make sure no malicious app makes its way onto a user’s profile.

At the very least, allow users to add a list of trusted/approved applications to his or her profile. If the person wants to use an application that is not trusted, they should be able to run it in some sort of “profile sandbox,” so that any malicious activity would not affect their friends and family.


4. Tighten the “Recommended” Privacy Controls


Currently, Facebook’s recommended privacy settings easily allow for an attacker to become the friend of a friend of a target, and consequently to access data needed to reset a password for an email account, or to misuse other personal information. Why does Facebook allow “everyone” to access status, photos, posts, bio, favorite quotes and family and relationships by default?

In the security market we follow a simple rule that works: “Disable everything, then enable the things you really need.” If Facebooks wants to take steps to actually make its site safer, the default setting should make personal information visible only to friends. Allow the users to decide later whether they want to change their data exposure.


5. Make Permanent Account Deletion Easier


Permanently deleting a Facebook account should … permanently delete the account. Respect the user’s will to entirely wipe out his presence on Facebook, without worrying that some materials have been left available on the Internet, and make permanent account deletion a simpler process that doesn’t require a special request to Facebook customer support.


6. Commit to Parental Controls


Allow parents to set up limited-access accounts for their children, as sub-accounts under their own Facebook presences. The limited sub-accounts could automatically be turned into full-access accounts once children reach the age of consent.

My colleagues and I support initiatives to protect users under 18, as expressed in California’s SB242, which extends the opportunities for parents to control their children’s social media accounts.


7. Better Educate Users


I value Facebook’s commitment to educate users about security and privacy in social networks, including the initiative to set up dedicated Pages to these topics (Facebook Safety, Facebook Security and Facebook Privacy). However, no matter what sort of protection surrounds Facebook users, those privacy features will remain useless should users lack the awareness.

For this reason, I recommend extending the practice by introducing more opportunities for user education. A good example would be to launch daily webinars that cover the most important aspects of Facebook security in the clearest and simplest way possible for the general public.

It is also the belief of myself and my colleagues that a closer interaction with security vendors will assist in building a stronger community to bolster critical Facebook initiatives and allow for more informed decisions. An advisory board consisting of the most authoritative experts in the security community, and regular summits to review past and future initiatives could bring additional value to the development of a safer Facebook.

These are seven realistic, doable and actionable steps that can dramatically increase the safety and privacy of Facebook’s users. Of course, no technology can guarantee 100% security as long as the human factor is involved. Still, Facebook can and should do everything it can to protect its users and keep them safe.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, malerapaso

More About: facebook, letter, mark zuckerberg, op-ed, Opinion, privacy, safety, security, social media

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Why Every College Should Start Crowdsourcing

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Michelle Lindblom is a Communications Associate at JG Visual, an Internet strategy company that works with organizations to develop and implement their online presence. You can connect with Michelle on the JG Visual Facebook Page and on Twitter.

Just like all large organizations, universities have their fair share of problems. These problems come in all shapes and sizes and can sometimes seem unrelenting. The usual method of attack for solving these problems involves sending out surveys, forming committees, setting up forums or hiring consultants. For any college that craves a chance from the norm, it may be time to turn directly to the community for a solution.

This is where crowdsourcing comes in. Crowdsourcing refers to the notion of outsourcing to a crowd (hence the name). Essentially, when an organization needs a solution to a problem, instead of investing time and money into generating a solution internally, the organization opens up the problem to a crowd of people for mass collaboration. This method of decision-making is a perfect fit for universities. Read on to find out why.


1. The Ready Availability of a Crowd


Crowdsourcing is a great fit for the unique setting of a university. The student body on any college campus provides a group of people with untapped talent looking to learn, build their resumes, get involved and maybe make a little extra cash. By capitalizing on this talent, universities can give their students great opportunities for real world learning and get quality solutions for their problems (all while building the university name as a forerunning institution that encourages student involvement).


2. Universities Benefit from Crowdsourcing


By solving problems via crowdsourcing, the university gets more than just a quick fix. Some of the extra benefits include:

  • Quality Solutions: The students know the community and therefore have a better shot at creating solutions that truly fit the community’s needs.
  • Offer Real World Learning: Students can apply classroom knowledge to real world problems and learn the ins and outs of their chosen fields from a practical perspective.
  • Student Investment in Community: Student involvement through crowdsourcing can lead individual students to feel more invested in their on campus community and give students pride in their school. (Not to mention that successful graduates who feel connected to their community are more likely to donate money back to their alma mater.)
  • Positive PR: Increasing student involvement is also important because it will contribute positively to the school’s image. The university has an opportunity to gain a reputation for producing students who can successfully solve practical problems after graduation.
  • Save Money: Instead of hiring and paying a contractor, the university can let its students problem solve for credit hours. Even if the winner gets a cash prize, crowdsourcing can still be more economical than traditional routes.

3. Students Benefit from Crowdsourcing


Crowdsourcing also offers a bunch of benefits to the students that participate. For example, crowdsourcing give students real world experience in coming up with creative solutions to important problems. These projects can also help aloof students feel like they belong to a larger community, while engaging them to use their minds and get involved. Crowdsourcing projects can also be a huge boon to a student’s resume. Undergraduates without much work experience can gain real-world examples of their job skills via crowdsourcing and show that they were able to to follow projects through to completion while working with a team of peers.


4. Colleges and Crowdsourcing: An Example


Of course it’s one thing to support crowdsourcing as a solution and another to actually implement it. Crowdsourcing works best when it’s targeted. Broad questions like “What should we do better?” won’t bring in the desired results. Here we’ll walk you through a hypothetical campaign and how to set up an infrastructure for crowdsourcing.

Imagine a university is crowdsourcing a “Going Green Initiative.” The university president tried email surveys, but received a weak response from the student body. Here’s one way to attack the problem:

  • Divide and conquer. Break the project into pieces to engage the entire student body. For example, designing a logo for art students, a finance contest aimed at business students, a copywriting competition for marketing students, etc.
  • Market and advertise. You can let your students create their own sites or use an existing platform (like Google Moderator or IdeaJam) to get the project off the ground. Make the project part of daily life such that participation is expected and encouraged.
  • Choose a winner. You can do this either through an administrative committee or leave the choice up to the students. The former will give you more control, but the latter may truly get the student body engaged, not only in the process but the outcome. Studies show that students are motivated to produce their best work when they know they’ll be judged by their peers. If you’re undecided, you can always go for a hybrid.
  • Offer fewards. As much as you want to believe in the civic-minded altruism of your student body, rewards always help participation and motivation. You can offer a cash prize, special privileges or class credit hours equivalent to the time commitment of the project.

Crowdsourcing has already proven successful in a university setting. In the fall of 2010, Cal State Fullerton asked its students and staff to propose problems the university should address; and the Chief Technology Officer of Notre Dame has been pushing colleges to crowdsource information-technology help desks since the spring of 2009.

More universities should open up their stuffy cabinets and let students take a crack at solving their problems. It will save them money and give their students real world experiences, all while still solving university problems.


Image courtesy of Flickr, ChrisM70, Anirudh Koul

More About: college, crowdsourced, crowdsourcing, education, school, social media

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4 Ways Colleges Can Take Their Social Media Presence to the Next Level

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Dan Klamm is the Marketing & Communications Coordinator at Syracuse University Career Services, where he leads social media engagement. Connect with him on Twitter @DanKlamm and @CareerSU.

Is your college or university really doing a great job with social media? Lists like Student Advisor’sTop 100 Social Media Colleges” and USA Today’s20 colleges making good use of social media” point out the growing role social media plays in higher education.

We’re now at a point where almost all schools have a social presence, but many have yet to fully embrace the spirit of social media and tap into its potential. Social media presents a wealth of possibilities for engaging prospective students, current students, alumni, and other community members.

Here are some big-picture ideas for taking your school’s social media presence from good to great.


1. Coordinate Your Strategy Across Campus


Social media management can’t occur in a vacuum. While social media roles are often housed in a central marketing or communications office, it’s imperative that social media managers have strong relationships with departments across campus and that they keep up constant communication.

When an alum announces on Twitter that he or she just landed an exciting new job, his alma mater’s social media manager might reach out with a quick, congratulatory tweet. But what happens after that? Does the social media manager alert the school’s career center that the alum has a new job and might be in a position to mentor current students (or even hire them)? Does the social media manager relay to the fundraising/development office that the newly successful alum might now have the financial resources to give money?

Imagine another scenario: A high school freshman asks a question on a university’s Facebook Page about an academic program, indicating that he or she can’t wait to apply for admission in three years. Does the school’s social media manager simply answer the question and offer a friendly, “We’d love to have you!” or does he or she alert the admissions office that a particularly enthusiastic high school freshman has made an inquiry via Facebook?

In these examples, many schools would just keep the dialogue on social media. Forward-thinking schools, however, have systems to mine the conversations already taking place and to proactively help departments across the institution to leverage the insights therein.


2. Invest in Education and Training


Having lots of Twitter followers and a high Klout score is great, but a more important measure of a school’s success with social media is whether its alumni and students can use the school’s social platforms to connect with each other.

Take LinkedIn, for instance. With the job market in such an unsteady state, professional networking is more important than ever. Students graduating from college should be able to easily connect with successful, established alumni. By that same token, alumni should equally be able to contact one another for job leads and business opportunities.

Despite the fact that some schools boast tens of thousands of alumni on LinkedIn, many may not know how to conduct advanced searches, join groups or ask for introductions. This makes networking difficult.

The answer to this problem? Training. Progressive schools offer workshops and webinars not only for their current students, but for alumni decades out of college. Sessions cover everything from searching for alumni to the etiquette of reaching out and writing an introductory message. Schools that offer education and training programs have strong, thriving networks where students and alumni can turn to each other for advice and connections.


3. Get Students Involved


Students are the lifeblood of academic institutions, so they should also be an integral part of any school’s social media strategy. Students have the ability to connect with their fellow students, compel prospective students to enroll and tug at the heartstrings of alumni who wish to relive their glory days on campus. They know the school personally, and they’re familiar with student activities and traditions, giving them an authenticity that resonates especially well in social media.

There are some great examples already out there. At Stanford, a team of digital media interns curates content for the school’s Facebook and Twitter accounts. Cornell features a group of student bloggers delivering an “uncut, uncensored glimpse at life on the Hill.” At Villanova, students star in YouTube videos promoting use of their school’s career center.

Think of other ideas like having students live-tweeting campus events, doing online Q&A sessions with prospective students, or interviewing successful alumni to feature on YouTube. Lots of schools already involve students, so there are plenty of strong examples to learn from. The key is for school administrators to loosen the reigns just a bit, allowing for students to express their own school spirit and get creative.


4. Put Your School’s President/Chancellor on Twitter


For the “old school” institutions out there, this must seem like an absurd suggestion. University presidents are too busy to eat meals, let alone tweet! But the truth is that dozens of presidents already have Twitter accounts and many of them are already tweeting effectively.

At UW-Madison, outgoing Chancellor Biddy Martin tweets to more than 5,000 followers about campus events and meetings, frequently responding to questions and comments from her community. Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee tweets to more than 18,000 followers about faculty and student accomplishments, university news and his perspective on happenings in the world.

There is a lot of room for growth here. University presidents might even start hosting “Town Hall”-style meetings (as Barack Obama recently did) to answer questions from students, alumni, faculty and parents.

When a president tweets (or blogs), he or she sets a tone of transparency and signals a genuine interest in communicating with the school’s community. Whether the president tweets about what was for breakfast, shares interesting tidbits from daily meetings or raises questions for the community to answer, just the fact that those comments are online makes the college seem friendlier and more open. Additionally, it sends the message that the school values innovation and modern means of communication.

These are just a few ideas for strengthening your school’s social media presence. As we look to the future of social media for colleges, what do you think is the next step? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


Image courtesy of iStockphoto, gizmotoy

More About: college, education, social media, twitter, university

For more Social Media coverage:

4 Ways Colleges Can Take Their Social Media Presence to the Next Level

graduation image

Dan Klamm is the Marketing & Communications Coordinator at Syracuse University Career Services, where he leads social media engagement. Connect with him on Twitter @DanKlamm and @CareerSU.

Is your college or university really doing a great job with social media? Lists like Student Advisor’sTop 100 Social Media Colleges” and USA Today’s20 colleges making good use of social media” point out the growing role social media plays in higher education.

We’re now at a point where almost all schools have a social presence, but many have yet to fully embrace the spirit of social media and tap into its potential. Social media presents a wealth of possibilities for engaging prospective students, current students, alumni, and other community members.

Here are some big-picture ideas for taking your school’s social media presence from good to great.


1. Coordinate Your Strategy Across Campus


Social media management can’t occur in a vacuum. While social media roles are often housed in a central marketing or communications office, it’s imperative that social media managers have strong relationships with departments across campus and that they keep up constant communication.

When an alum announces on Twitter that he or she just landed an exciting new job, his alma mater’s social media manager might reach out with a quick, congratulatory tweet. But what happens after that? Does the social media manager alert the school’s career center that the alum has a new job and might be in a position to mentor current students (or even hire them)? Does the social media manager relay to the fundraising/development office that the newly successful alum might now have the financial resources to give money?

Imagine another scenario: A high school freshman asks a question on a university’s Facebook Page about an academic program, indicating that he or she can’t wait to apply for admission in three years. Does the school’s social media manager simply answer the question and offer a friendly, “We’d love to have you!” or does he or she alert the admissions office that a particularly enthusiastic high school freshman has made an inquiry via Facebook?

In these examples, many schools would just keep the dialogue on social media. Forward-thinking schools, however, have systems to mine the conversations already taking place and to proactively help departments across the institution to leverage the insights therein.


2. Invest in Education and Training


Having lots of Twitter followers and a high Klout score is great, but a more important measure of a school’s success with social media is whether its alumni and students can use the school’s social platforms to connect with each other.

Take LinkedIn, for instance. With the job market in such an unsteady state, professional networking is more important than ever. Students graduating from college should be able to easily connect with successful, established alumni. By that same token, alumni should equally be able to contact one another for job leads and business opportunities.

Despite the fact that some schools boast tens of thousands of alumni on LinkedIn, many may not know how to conduct advanced searches, join groups or ask for introductions. This makes networking difficult.

The answer to this problem? Training. Progressive schools offer workshops and webinars not only for their current students, but for alumni decades out of college. Sessions cover everything from searching for alumni to the etiquette of reaching out and writing an introductory message. Schools that offer education and training programs have strong, thriving networks where students and alumni can turn to each other for advice and connections.


3. Get Students Involved


Students are the lifeblood of academic institutions, so they should also be an integral part of any school’s social media strategy. Students have the ability to connect with their fellow students, compel prospective students to enroll and tug at the heartstrings of alumni who wish to relive their glory days on campus. They know the school personally, and they’re familiar with student activities and traditions, giving them an authenticity that resonates especially well in social media.

There are some great examples already out there. At Stanford, a team of digital media interns curates content for the school’s Facebook and Twitter accounts. Cornell features a group of student bloggers delivering an “uncut, uncensored glimpse at life on the Hill.” At Villanova, students star in YouTube videos promoting use of their school’s career center.

Think of other ideas like having students live-tweeting campus events, doing online Q&A sessions with prospective students, or interviewing successful alumni to feature on YouTube. Lots of schools already involve students, so there are plenty of strong examples to learn from. The key is for school administrators to loosen the reigns just a bit, allowing for students to express their own school spirit and get creative.


4. Put Your School’s President/Chancellor on Twitter


For the “old school” institutions out there, this must seem like an absurd suggestion. University presidents are too busy to eat meals, let alone tweet! But the truth is that dozens of presidents already have Twitter accounts and many of them are already tweeting effectively.

At UW-Madison, outgoing Chancellor Biddy Martin tweets to more than 5,000 followers about campus events and meetings, frequently responding to questions and comments from her community. Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee tweets to more than 18,000 followers about faculty and student accomplishments, university news and his perspective on happenings in the world.

There is a lot of room for growth here. University presidents might even start hosting “Town Hall”-style meetings (as Barack Obama recently did) to answer questions from students, alumni, faculty and parents.

When a president tweets (or blogs), he or she sets a tone of transparency and signals a genuine interest in communicating with the school’s community. Whether the president tweets about what was for breakfast, shares interesting tidbits from daily meetings or raises questions for the community to answer, just the fact that those comments are online makes the college seem friendlier and more open. Additionally, it sends the message that the school values innovation and modern means of communication.

These are just a few ideas for strengthening your school’s social media presence. As we look to the future of social media for colleges, what do you think is the next step? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


Image courtesy of iStockphoto, gizmotoy

More About: college, education, social media, twitter, university

For more Social Media coverage:

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