Dear Daily Beast Editor, Tina Brown

By David Capece, Managing Partner

We believe The Daily Beast is tomorrow’s digital leader: a smart, edgy, fearless site that appeals to a young, tech savvy audience. At Sparxoo, we are big fans of the Daily Beast’s fresh approach to news.

We love your use of cheat sheets, highlight hot topics, and go deep on the “Big Fat Story.” Tina, you have said: “The Daily Beast doesn’t aggregate. It sifts, sorts, and curates. It’s a speedy, smart edit of the web from the merciless point of view of what interests the editors.” We think this is the right approach As Daily Beast fans, we were disappointed that you didn’t make our top 25. The truth is that having been around for just 1 year, you haven’t had enough time to build traction to compete with the big guns… yet. While you are building momentum, Daily Beast still has a Google page rank of 7, just under 25,000 Twitter followers and 15,000 Facebook fans, and less than 10,000 RSS subs. These stats pale in comparison to the market leaders. We want to help you, our friends at The Daily Beast, so we are sharing a roadmap to success:

Obsessively Excited Users: In today’s cluttered market, you need to rise above the crowd and make a real connection with your users. NPR is best-in-class at developing deep relationships with their fans as evidenced by tremendous number of Twitter Followers and Facebook Fans. Get your users to share and recommend The Daily Beast.

Build a Multimedia Presence: We know that video and podcasts can be more expensive than writing a blog, but you’ve got to do it. The written word has dominated the Internet for the last 15 years, but we’re moving beyond to a multi-dimensional experience. We see you have videos, but it’s not enough. And how about launching a podcast?

Push for More Quantity: Yes, we’ll take quality over quantity any day. However, as the beast, size should matter to you. Huffington Post has done an amazing job with a content creating machine that makes it #2 on links into site and #1 in Diggs. We did a Google search on “Obama” for the last 30 days, and Huffington Post showed up more than anyone else except USA Today and Yahoo News. If you don’t have the manpower in-house, you can partner with others, and empower your users to create content on your behalf.

Aggregating Isn’t So Bad: You specifically say that you don’t want to aggregate. We understand that aggregating seems so cheap. But in truth, it does have some value. Google has made it to #12 on our list even though they don’t create any content. Think about how you can aggregate in a way that is true to your mission.

Thanks for listening Tina. Keep up the good work, incorporate some of our tips, and we hope to see you surge up the list next year.

Sincerely,

Ana the Analyst

Read the full Digital Influence Report (PDF)

Keeping your Head in the Paper Disco

This paper disco animation video is fantastic. From a conceptual and craftsmanship perspective, this short gets an A+. Not only is it fun to watch, it’s awe-inspiring because the amount of time that went into its production is incredible.

Stop motion animation is a great example of how burgeoning entrepreneurs should look at their business in the long term. There are hundreds of images in the paper disco animation—thin slices that when put together, create amazing entertainment. The same goes for entrepreneurs. There are hundreds of decisions you have to make—all culminating in the success of your enterprise. The incredible labor that goes into a business plan, the investor presentation, hundreds upon hundreds of conversations and hours poured into your business actually means something.

In the middle of the chaos in the entrepreneur’s world, it’s important to monitor your progress and take notice of your incremental success. To see your tireless efforts are paying off can keep you grounded. The occasional pat on the back is worthwhile in a world where you’re constantly fighting to grow your business.

There are of course many ups and downs in the process, but if you take a moment to reflect, it can give you a piece of mind and illustrate your impact. It can help you survive the Dip. Adding one element at a time, eventually your company will grow into a full-on disco.

[via apointb]

The Value of Reciprocity in Social Influence

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By Ethan Lyon, Senior Writer

In the digital age, reciprocity has never been more essential and evident than in the development of communities. Whether it’s digging a friend’s story, introducing a colleague on LinkedIn or adding a link to a fellow blogger on your blogroll, reciprocity is an integral part of online community development. In our Digital Influence in News and Politics Report, we found those with the greatest social influence heavily relied upon reciprocity.

The 2009 Digital Influence in News and Politics Report illustrates benefits of reciprocity and its impact on social influence in the blogosphere. The main contributor to a blog’s influence is the number of links pointing to the blog. Often times, bloggers use link exchanges as a way to drive traffic to their blog and network with their peers. Link exchanges tie together large communities of bloggers and symbolize affiliation. There is an etiquette involved between link exchanges that is based on reciprocity: if a fellow blogger adds your website to their blog, it’s common courtesy to do the same. As your blog is added to more blogrolls, the greater your influence within the community.

The Digital Influence in News and Politics Report shows of the handful of blogs on the top 25 influencer list, half of the most backlinked sites are blogs. The Huffington Post (2), Daily Kos (3), The Drudge Report (5), Real Clear Politics (6) and Politico (10) are those that made the top 10 most backlinked sites. To illustrate the impact of reciprocity on backlinks and social influence, consider The Huffington Post. The internet news site places number two on our social influence list and features over a hundred links to blogs, news and columnists ranging topics such as politics, media, business, living and the list goes on.

As media transition to more digital formats, reciprocity will continue to increase in value. In essence, even simple link exchanges build social capital between community members. The web has enabled and empowered those without a voice to get up and make their opinion heard. The Huffington Post, Daily Kos, The Drudge Report are all soap boxes constructed from the nails and wood of the web. Other media could take a lesson from bloggers and find new and innovative ways to engage and activate new audiences through reciprocity.

Read the full Digital Influence Report (PDF)

Photo by Joe Zlomek from Stock.Xchng

REPORT: Top 25 Digital Influencers in News & Politics

Never before have so many tools been available to analyze and clarify digital influence. The 2009 Digital Influence in News and Politics Report leverages these tools to measure the influence of those best-in-class media companies in the digital sphere.

Sparxoo evaluated over 100 news and politics media outlets (from the New York Times to the Daily Beast to NPR) in a comprehensive study of content, social and multimedia influence.

The Report crowns CNN as the #1 digital influencer, followed by The New York Times (a pleasant surprise for “The Gray Lady”). The Digital Influencer in News and Politics Report confirms and debunks many of the long-held media myths perpetuated by marketers, brand managers and other business leaders. It is through these findings that we can re-align the media compass to find tomorrow’s true north.

1. CNN
Firestarter of the 24-hour news cycle, CNN has translated their energy to the web. CNN has high marks across the board–ranking number one in content influence, social influence and overall. The only news outlet to have a pagerank of 10/10, CNN draws much strength from search and backlinks. CNN uses the digital trickle down effect–where pagerank leads to search referrals, which leads to backlinks and sharing and the cycle continues.

2. The New York Times
Thought of as an aging titan, The New York Times is a leading digital influencer in news and politics. Fusing quality and quantity, The New York Times’ content spreads like wildfire across social media and content aggregators. Though The Times’ Twitter following surpasses 1.8 million, they are still thought of as behind the curve, when in actuality, they are 141 miles ahead of it. Truth be told: don’t believe everything you hear.

3. Fox News
Where is Fox most competitive? The right-leaning news network leans towards audio–weighing in at number three. Personality, Bill O’Reilly, makes the iTune’s top 25 news and politics podcast list with his show, Talking Points. Fox adds a curve ball to the ratings by scoring number one in Apple apps. Though the right-wing outlet doesn’t have a break-away app, they do have many local affiliates that dominate the top iTunes 100 apps. To crack the top 2, Fox will have to improve on Twitter and YouTube.

4. NPR
For NPR, community-supported means both on-air and online. The nonprofit is not only supported by donations, it’s fueled by fans… Facebook fans that is. NPR outpaces even the New York Times on Facebook, with the most fans of any major media outlet. Why is the nonprofit profiting from social media buzz? It might have to do with their unique, content rich site, coupled with customized playlists and actively listening to its community. NPR is the intersection of quality and digital savvy.

5. CBS News
CBS excels in multimedia while barely making the cut in other categories. CBS takes the golden cup when it comes to YouTube. CBS is a leader on YouTube, with 143k channel subscriptions and far outpaces everyone in video views. Such an asset might prove valuable as online video advertising increases in popularity.

6. BBC
BBC is a hit or miss in the several categories of influence. The British news and entertainment company is hot on CBS’ trail in YouTube influence–with only 10k less subscribers. BBC is perched at number one in RSS subscriptions with 2.8 million subscriptions–400k more than CNN or almost three times the total number of TIME subscribers. The BBC, with global influence, is not surprisingly the go-to source for news via RSS.

7. MSNBC
Look out NPR, MSNBC is hot on your trail. MSNBC appears four times on the iTunes top 25 podcast list, with Rachel Maddow in fourth and 12th. Curiously, MSNBC outpaces the New York Times in unique visits. MSNBC is awarded a bronze with nearly 40 million unique users, nearly double the New York Times.

8. The Huffington Post
Though the New York Times might be the prince of Digg, the Huffington Post is its reigning king. Overall, The Huffington Post–a completely digital news company–places number three in social influence. The company takes a rapid-fire approach to reporting. For die-hard news junkies, The Huffington Post is the source for the juiciest news and political digs.

9. ABC News
How many different podcast channels would you expect from a television giant like ABC? Maybe 30 or 40 max? Try 57 different podcast channels. Overall, ABC does well on multimedia–striking in the high range. ABC makes it into the top 10 list for YouTube subscriptions and views and podcasts. Surprisingly, ABC does better on Digg and Twitter than Facebook. We’d imagine the entertainment company could leverage Facebook to deepen existing relationships and acquire new viewers.

10. LA Times
When you think of the LA Times, does app come to mind? Surprisingly, The LA Times places four in the Apple app store. Other than apps, The LA Times does well on content influence, just missing the top 10 RSS subscribers and backlinks. The LA Times social influence is all over the place, however–excelling on Digg (number 10) while missing the ball completely with Facebook (number 32). LA Times may owe Michael Jackson for its presence in the top 10.

11. TIME
When you think of TIME, do you think Twitter or Digg? Social influence is a large contributor to TIME Inc.’s position as the most influential magazine. TIME excels in social media, placing number three in Twitter with 1.5 million followers and comes in at number five on our Digg charts, with 378k diggs in the past year. TIME is by far a leader in the magazine category.

12. Google News
Despite not having a stable of news reporters and journalists, Google News manages to score well through its aggregation strategy. Google’s sizable cult following of users are eager for the next innovation. With the Google OS revving up, expect it to further harness YouTube within the next year.

13. USA Today
USA Today brings into question the correlation between pagerank and backlinks. It’s curious–the media heavy weight has a pagerank of five but places seventh in backlinks with 31k. USA Today performs even better in the RSS subscription category–placing sixth with 763k subscribers. It is surprising how the major media player doesn’t perform better on Twitter. USA Today is in 20th place with 27k Twitter followers.

14. The Wall Street Journal
Thinking of the WSJ, extensive, in-depth coverage of global business markets comes to mind, but usually in the written word. That image will likely change if the WSJ keeps a steady course towards video. The WSJ breaks into the top 10 YouTube views, closely followed by ABC News and Fox News. Interviews with high-profile industry leaders, such as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Martha Stewart, the WSJ will continue it’s influence in the multimedia category.

15. The Washington Post
If you added the links going to The New York Times, ABC News and CBS News, it would still not be enough to beat The Washington Post. In total, the Washington Post has 40k backlinks, making it to number four on our list. Overall, The Washington Post does slightly above average in content and social influence, but has a weak multimedia arm. Surprisingly, The Washington Post just breaks in the top ten most frequently “dugg” sources.

16. Yahoo! News
Watch out CNN, Yahoo is hot on your trail. Yahoo News places fourth, while CNN takes third place in the Digg category with almost 400k diggs. As for a loyal following, Yahoo is struggling to gain Twitter followers and Facebook fans for its Yahoo News property. It’s surprising for such a large news organization to fall so far behind the pack on Twitter.

17. Chicago Tribune
In the past year, there have been a couple blockbuster stories sourced from Chicago. First there was President Barack Obama, then disgraced governor, Rod Blagojevich, tried to sell his senate seat. Both news sensations might have contributed to the Chicago Tribune’s website traffic. The Chicago Tribune placed seventh in web traffic–surpassing NPR, ABC News, CBS News and BBC News. The question is: can their success be replicated next year?

18. PBS
One of the few successful non-profits in the mainstream media, PBS wields tremendous influence. While NPR does podcasting well, PBS emphasizes video and audio–particularly on YouTube. PBS comes in number four in YouTube subscriptions and views with 29k and 927k respectively.

19. The Economist
Just ahead of Newsweek, The Economist is surprisingly competitive in the social category. The Economist does very well on Facebook (placing sixth) and breaks into the top 10 most backlinked sites. In fact, the Economist more fans than CNN, MSNBC, the BBC and the Huffington Post combined, with 158k.

20. Newsweek
Newsweek is vying with the Economist to be the 2nd most influential magazine, with TIME taking the number one spot. Newsweek’s strong suit is social media. The magazine has a prominent position among Twitter heavy weights, such as CNN, The New York Times and NPR. Newsweek ranks number six with 761k followers.

21. The Daily Kos
Not only does the Daily Kos place 10th in RSS subscription category, they also take third in backlinks. The Daily Kos draws much of their social influence from Digg–placing seventh among all other digital media. Incredible for a blog started only seven years ago.

22. NBC News
Coming in a distant last place among TV peers, NBC does audio very well. NBC pushes past ABC News, The New York Times, CBS News and even the BBC–ranking number five. NBC Nightly News and Meet the Press are the top-rated podcast channels on iTunes top 25 news & politics list.

23. Politico
Only two years out of the gate and Politico has over twice the backlinks of the New York Times. Though Politico performs poorly in social influence, it’s to be expected–as they cater to a specific demographic. Digg is the exception, however. Politico places 15th, “out-digging” USA Today, BBC News and CBS news. Unlike many blog-start-ups, Politico was born with running shoes.

24. The New Yorker
As we’ve seen with nearly every media outlet, Twitter followers typically outnumber Facebook fans. Why? It takes little effort to collect 400 Twitter followers versus Facebook fans. Facebook fans have a core passion for the brand–as there are only a few businesses fans let into their inner circle. We were surprised when we discovered the New Yorker had nearly twice as many Facebook fans as Twitter followers. The New Yorker has 55k Facebook fans.

25. The Drudge Report

The Drudge Report is the epitome of bare bones blogging. The good: 38k links back to its site. The bad: minimal dabbling with YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Podcasts, and Apps, leaves us waiting for a runaway success. It’s time for the 13 year old Drudge Report to increase its social and multimedia bets.

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Digital Influencer Report: Letter of Introduction

By David Capece, Managing Partner

2009 has been a major struggle for old media. There have been 11 significant newspaper bankruptcy filings this year, including owners of the LA Times, Chicago Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer, Star Tribune of Minneapolis, and the Seattle Post Intelligencer. Online upstarts are building scalable business models with free, real-time content that wreaks havoc in the print world, potentially making newspapers obsolete. Further, advertisers are tasked with being more creative in pushing their ad budgets further. Not only are total budgets smaller, but they are rapidly being transitioned into online advertising, highlighted by an exploding infatuation with social media. Print advertising revenue fell 30% in the first half of the year, and there are fears that few newspapers will go to print as early as 2011.

Our team at Sparxoo embarked on this study, “Digital Influence in News & Politics,” to evaluate how drastically the landscape has shifted. We defined digital influence as having a strong content voice that users actively engage with and share across platforms. We developed a content authority index to measure strength of content voice, a social power index to measure engagement and sharing, and a multimedia success index to measure success via audio and video. Our team scoured for data that show the breadth and depth of consumer interaction with news & politics leaders, including overall traffic, YouTube presence, podcasting, Twitter followers, and Facebook fans. We considered 100 different properties ranging from household names to US News, The Drudge Report, and Christian Science Monitor (please see methodology for more details).

As we compiled the results, we wondered if the much-hyped Huffington Post had surpassed the New York Times or if new entrant Daily Beast had surged ahead of Newsweek. Given how far out of favor newspapers have fallen, we wondered if newspapers have any digital influence at all. We were surprised by the results and believe there are significant learnings to be found in these rankings.

The headline: “While new entrants such as the Huffington Post (founded in 2005) have built tremendous momentum in a short period of time, traditional media still wields the largest digital influence when it comes to news & politics.” Indeed, the top seven digital influencers are all old media companies that have successfully leveraged assets to build a strong presence across platforms, led by #1 CNN and #2 New York Times. Whether you like them or not, #3 Fox News continues as the dominant voice of the right. NPR surprised us, coming in at #4 with high quality content that users love. While we expected Huffington Post (#8) to be the top player among Internet companies, a small company in the Valley, Google, placed just a few spots behind at #12.

At Sparxoo, we believe that a seismic shift is afoot. We have said, “an earthquake has shaken our social foundation, shifting the power of the chosen few and giving opportunity to the many.” Indeed, the opportunity is there for new entrants such as The Daily Beast, but we must respect the strength of established organizations such as the New York Times, founded in 1851, that embrace today’s digital world and attempt to reinvent themselves. As we emerge into a new economy, forward thinking leaders will survive, and perhaps even prosper.

Warm regards,

David Capece
Managing Partner, Sparxoo

Click here to read the report

What Does Condé Nast’s 25% Cut Mean for Magazines?

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By Tara Lane, Staff Writer

Just a few months ago, news broke of publishing powerhouse Condé Nast’s decision to bring in an outside consulting firm to evaluate operating procedures and make business more efficient. In February, it was reported that 525 magazines were shut down in 2008 alone–the amount was even higher in 2007. It was no secret that the magazine industry was struggling, but the Conde Nast decision still worried many.

Fears were confirmed Wednesday when reports surfaced that publishers and editors have been asked to slash 25 percent off their budgets for the coming year. Just how these editors will respond is still unknown, as they have the next few weeks to crunch the numbers. Still, it is a major announcement that has shaken journalists and editors alike, and has made many people evaluate the industry’s place in the transition of print to digital.

Newspapers were the first in print media to make the digital transition . Some moved all of their content online and charged subscription and access fees, while others did half and half. The Wall Street Journal is a good example of this; daily subscribers have full access to both print and digital, but you can subscribe for online access only, too. Now, it’s the magazine industry’s turn to grow and adapt into the digital field. They’ve already got a good start, with help from Google’s digitalization efforts and the rising popularity of Amazon’s Kindle reading device. What will be the next big industry to adapt to the digital trend? With the help of Google and Kindle, it just may be books.

With digital, content is just a few clicks. The Home-Turf trend, or increase in information accessibility, can be seen in the move industries are making to be more accessible through digital platforms. The trend has also brought about ways for burgeoning entrepreneurs to become well-known names and produce popular products from the comfort of their own home. With access to things we’ve never had before, the user is now in control.

Sites such as Zinio allow subscribers to have magazines delivered to their online platform for about the same price as the regular, physical copy subscription. Magazines like The Economist, Popular Mechanics and Cosmopolitan are all available through the service. In a way, they’ve already done the digitalization for these magazines, but the magazines themselves don’t reap all of the benefits. BusinessWeek owner McGraw-Hill is currently trying to sell the magazine to another owner due its significant losses over the past year. While BusinessWeek started to offer paid content earlier this year, they are still losing money on ad sales, which fell nearly 40 percent in a single quarter.

While full content is usually available on most major magazine’s Web sites, very few have transitioned to online, paid-only content. In February, PC Magazine went completely digital, delivering a full magazine to subscribers’ inboxes rather than their mailboxes. There are examples of paid-only content sites, such as Media Bistro, that may prove to be good examples of what the future of magazines may be. Web-based Salon.com offers users different levels of membership, with free ad-supported usage or a paid, ad-free user experience. They have the same options for their daily newsletters as well. Smaller efforts towards the move to digital say yes, as large publications are now branching out through social media and other digital initiatives. Though it probably won’t be happening in the very near future, chances are most magazines will be digital before we know it.

Illustration by Gregor Buir from Stock.Xchng

Is Content Marketing a Good Investment?

By David Capece, Managing Partner

Google has dominated the last five years through the surge in popularity and use of its money-making search machine. Marketers have focused online search efforts on ROI opportunity of Google’s paid search. We all know the math: bid on terms up to the value at which sales or customer value exceed the price paid.  Through this and other opportunities (i.e. banners, videos), online advertising has grown at a health pace since the last recession.  In the face of a dificult environment, projections of 4.5% growth in online ad spending signals that online is a mainstream advertising form and continues to build momentum relative to other forms.  And while profitability seems like a distant dream for Twitter, there is hope as Facebook recently escaped the red.

As more and more marketers jump into paid search, it has become a crowded space where significant positive ROI is difficult to achieve.  Recently, there has been increased focus on organic search results in which content providers can can gain an audience and prospective customers for “free” by showing up high in organic search results. The race is on to get into the top 10. There is a study from AOL that shows the relative clicks based on placement within Google organic search. Approximately 90% of clicks are for results on the first page. It’s even more concentrated than that, as over 60% of clicks are for the first 3 results.

Indeed, sites that have the right content, in-bound links, and optimization, can perform very well on desired key words. This brings in “free” or “inexpensive” traffic. Many companies are seizing on the opportunity to excel in organic search through blogs and other content. Studies have shown that organic plus paid search reinforce each other, lifting each other’s performance.  Beyond search referrals, there are many possible benefits of this strategy, including enhancing your company’s credibility, building intellectual capital, enhancing user experience, and getting in-bound links that bring traffic and improve search rank.

If you chose to pursue a content marketing strategy, your major expenses will include article writing, article marketing, and general search engine optimization. While content marketing sounds exciting, and it was a part of our decision to launch our blog, you should do the math to decide if it’s a good investment.

The first step is to think about your current economics. How much does it currently cost for a referral, qualified lead, or conversion, and how much will it cost for the article (writing and marketing)? Some quick math can yield the number of organic search referrals that are necessary per article for breakeven. Below we have provided an illustration. For example, if your company currently pays $1 per referral and it will cost $500 to write and market the article, than you would need 500 referrals to breakeven. Of course not all referrals are created equally. You must consider whether article readers are more valuable or less valuable than the current customers that are being referred, and adjust the math accordingly.

You can take the analysis a step further to determine the ROI of your content efforts. For example, in the case where the value of a referral is $1, and the cost per article is $250, you would need to generate 250 referrals to breakeven. If you were able to generate 500 referrals, this would have a positive ROI of 100%.

We suggest looking at several metrics (value of referrals, leads, and conversions) to determine the potential ROI of a content marketing program. You might consider a test, keeping in mind that your efforts will build upon each other over time. If you only do a few articles for a few weeks, you are likely to fail to meet your ROI hurdles. Accordingly, you should have a plan that accounts for a program of at least 3 to 6 months, and ideally a year. This will give you sufficient time to refine the mix of content and adjust your marketing efforts so that you can truly evaluate the ROI of your efforts.

As you contemplate article marketing, you should also consider other factors.  For example, rich, intelligent content may create a more impressive experience for all your users and may help to increase your credibility and leadership in your category.  On the expense side, now is a great time to find a writer inexpensively, so you might be able to hold down expenses.  As we move into 2010 and beyond, we believe that creative marketing solutions such as content marketing and guerilla marketing are going to become more and more common.

How a Jail Break Can Increase Product Value

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As a thank you for taking care of our bunny rabbit, my girlfriend wanted to buy my parents a gift. My girlfriend, her mother and I found this cute local shop in a quaint town outside Philadelphia, PA.

As we were browsing, a tall gentleman in a neon orange sweater comes in, huffing and puffing. He asks to use the bathroom and the store owner tells him it’s for paying customers only.

He pauses, then asks if he can tie his shoe. (Who asks to tie their shoe?) Meanwhile, my girlfriend finds an ice cream serving dish and proceeds to check out.

The man then leans down behind a display case in the center of the store and ties his other shoe. This man should probably have been in a shoe store with all of the problems he was having with his footwear.

While he was tying his shoe for the second time, a police officer stood outside of the shop, his back turned, talking on his radio. After the officer left, the man took a peak out of the front door, and passed a mail carrier on his way out.

The carrier delivered some mail and as she left the store, she hailed the police officer and pointed in the direction of the malfunctioning-shoe man. A short man–no taller than five feet–whizzed by the store, chasing the man. Several seconds behind him, the overweight police office hurried to catch up.

Come to find out, the shoe man had escaped from a nearby courthouse when he was told he had to pay child support.

No longer is that ice cream dish a $21.99 item, it’s worth much more. With the story behind the gift, I’d value it at least $49.99, because now, whenever my parents use the serving dish, whether it’s with family or friends, they can pass along the tale of the escapee. It is no longer a piece of metal, it has a personality.

People are willing to pay more for compelling stories. Consider purveyors of luxury. When you buy that Tiffany & Co. diamond earrings, you’re paying partly for the earrings, but you’re also buying the powder blue box. The same goes for BMW, or Lexus or Hermes. You’re buying the story attached to the name. That blue and white BMW emblem is an icon of luxury that speaks volumes of your social status.

Stories tie your product or service to an emotion. And mostly, people buy with their hearts, not their minds. If you can make that emotional connection through a story, you’re product or service is more than just a metal ice cream serving dish, it’s special.

[via apointb]

Photo by Jorc Navarro from Stock.Xchng

Finding a Job Through Social Media

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By Tara Lane, Staff Writer

Finding a job in a down economy can seem overwhelming, endless and discouraging. As opposed to the last major economic downturn, job seekers can tap into peer and employment networks using social media. Not only can one expand their search throughout the country, it’s also easy, fun and effective.

Social Networks

Facebook doesn’t have to be just for uploading photos and taking quizzes—it can be a valuable asset to the job search for any age group. Facebook’s largest area of growth has been with those ages 35 and above, many of whom have valuable networking connections. Posting a link to a portfolio or resume is a good place to start, as well as sending out a message to those friends who may be able to provide help in your search.

LinkedIn is another growing network that provides and unique and powerful way to network and search for jobs. It is a professional network where users can be recommended by their colleagues and peers–a very important aspect in any job search. Many influential people are members of the network, and can play a big part in the job hunt, as long as it’s done right. The helpful “Answers” section allows professionals from all areas and industries to weigh-in questions asked by other users. This can be especially useful to someone looking for suggestions about networking or who are looking for insight into their field of work. Another helpful tool on LinkedIn are groups, which allows users to connect to an even wider audience and network with others as well.

Innovative Job Sites

Monster, Career Builder and Hot Jobs may provide a few leads, but they don’t provide many options beyond the ability to e-mailing a resume to some unknown person. In this climate, entrepreneurs have created and developed new job search and career networks that benefit frustrated job seekers at the same time. Sites such as CareeRealism, Career Rocketeer, Come Recommended, and Brazen Careerist provide a 2-in-1 option for career minded individuals: a unique social networking opportunity combined with powerful tools for the job search.

CareeRealism offers job seekers an opportunity to have their resumes and cover letters reviewed to find areas of improvement. Brazen Careerist, one of the hottest career networks on the rise, offers a unique blog network of people who were once in the same position. Come Recommended challenges applicants to seek recommendations from former colleagues and employers before gaining full access to the site as way to screen applicants, but also to motivate applicants to get a head start on the job hunt. Employers have access to these sites as well, so they can browse through a pool of potential applicants whom they know are serious about the process and their futures.

Twitter It

More and more companies are turning to Twitter as a way to get the word out about job opportunities. Not only does it save them time and money, it expands the applicant pool by thousands. Mashable recently posted a list of companies actively advertising job opportunities, as well as advice on how to make your Twitter profile job-hunt friendly. Just as on Facebook, letting people know you’re looking for a job can have a great outcome. Someone can simply “re-tweet” your message, giving you more exposure in just a few seconds. One of the best ways to network on Twitter is to follow influential people in your field and communicate with them through the service. Many of these influencers also post links to helpful articles about the career field, advice on branding yourself for the search, and even leads to the jobs themselves.

With social media, you can still be visible without being physically there, by putting yourself out there and getting the attention you need. New technologies have given job seekers young and old a great opportunity for networking and job hunting beyond the classifieds. Leveraging these technologies to your advantage is key for making them work for you. Although it can be a long road, it is almost always worth it.

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Why a $18 Shoe is Worth More Than a $45 Shoe

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Searching for a new pair of pants at Urban Outfitters, I found myself buying a new pair of shoes instead. I bought the cheapest shoes in the store. They smelled like chemicals and looked like Keds, so why buy them?

I am somewhat of a shoe aficionado. I have a $200 pair of Campers in my closet beside my $18 UO Ked look-alikes. I’ve worn my Campers about four times in the past year. I wear my $18 Urban Outfitter shoes almost every day. Though they smell like chemicals, I’m not scared to wear them. I know that if the canvas rips, I can have another pair shipped to my house in the next couple of days. My $200 pair, however, well… if even a scratch marks the leather, I’d be devastated. I get $200 out of my $18 shoes, whereas just the opposite is true for my $200 pair of shoes.

Interested in buying the same shoe in a different color (maybe blue…), I went to UrbanOutfitters.com. Navigating through the hundreds of shoes takes too much time, so I chose the “most reviewed” filter. Out of the hundreds of shoes, there were my $18 Ked look-alikes at the top of the page. I don’t know how many pairs UO sells of the $18 shoes, but people like talking about them.

I too, like to talk about them. When I see some of my friends, I might try to slip my cheap-looking shoes into the conversation.

Yes, pricing probably has something to do with the reviews, but the fact that they are different is what makes them worth talking about. They stink, they are flimsy and they kind of hurt your feet. The actual materials and labor are worth $18, but the feeling of wearing them makes you want to tell someone or write about it.

The UO shoes are worth talking about because they are different, while accessible. Asics are amazing shoes (I’ve had mine for over three years), but no one wants to talk about them. They don’t dare to be different. It’s the $18 stinky shoes that make people to talk. You don’t need to be flashy or expensive to make a buzz; you need to be different and accessible.

[via apointb]