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While Linkedin has always been a great platform for individuals to enhance their network and look for jobs, it hasn’t always been the ideal social network for companies. Until recently, the number of options that you had were pretty limited, but Linkedin seem to be opening up as a platform by trying to encourage large brands and organizations to do everything from pushing their new products and updates, right through to hiring on the network. Although there are hundreds of things you could be doing to promote your brand, here are a couple of simple steps that all brands and businesses could start with to help build their community on Linkedin.

Creating Your Company Hub

While you use Linkedin for personal networking it’s also important that your company has its own page (You can read all about setting one up here). Through your company page, you can share an overview, careers, products and services, statistics, company employees, new hires and popular profiles and, of course, the main benefit is that you will be showing up in searches around the type of business that you’re doing.

In the same way that employers browse through Linkedin profiles looking for new employees, this is a new way for employees to have a look at what a company is up to and what sort of people already work there.

Building A Community

Once you have the page set up you’ll want to start finding some people to follow your company updates. Ideally, these would be people within the industry, people you could do business with and potential employees. One of the first things you will want to do is head over here and grab a button for your website where people can follow with one click…

That page actually offers you a whole host of buttons that might be useful for your company or brand, including sharing buttons and – interestingly for recruiters – an “apply now” button which will let people following your company page apply for a job with the click of a button..

Update Your Community

The biggest problem with Linkedin was until last month you couldn’t actually send out an update as a company but all that has changed now. Send out good relevant information like blog posts, new hires, videos and general company news to keep everybody updated.

StumbleUpon is often forgotten about, getting lost in the wake of ‘sexy’ social media sites or technologies. Yet it should be an important part of your social media activity, if their latest figures are anything to go by.Use of StumbleUpon may be more about a strategic process than any active campaign, but if done well it can pay off.

StumbleUpon themselves have released an infographic to show how valuable their site is for traffic and social activity. Most impressively, they claim that a link shared via StumbleUpon will get an average of 83 per cent more shares than a link shared through Facebook :

What also stands out in the figures presented is the traffic referral rate of StumbleUpon, which currently generates 50 per cent of the total social media traffic in the U.S. compared to Facebook at just over 37 per cent. StumbleUpon are clearly getting serious about maximising the social and traffic potential of their site.

They have recently launched a new feature of their Paid Discovery section, with new options for advertisers’ content to be discovered. If options for advertisers are increased, then we could see StumbleUpon start to compete with larger social networks for advertising dollars. As everything moves towards streamlined content discovery, they could be better positioned than we might think to profit from this.

When Facebook recently launched their ‘talking about’ figure, it signalled a new way for brands to measure their success on Facebook. It meant that it wasn’t just about how many fans you had, but how many individual mentions you had on Facebook, also taking into account mentions your Page had through ads. Now that the new figure has been around for a few weeks, it’s interesting to look at how it compares to Likes, for indicating the most successful brands on Facebook. An analysis of the top 10 brand Pages by Likes shows us this in action. The figure below shows the top 10 brands on Facebook ordered by Likes, with their ‘talking about’ figure expressed as a number and a percentage :

When you reorder the brands by their ‘talking about’ figure expressed as a percentage of Likes (to give an accurate representation), then the most popular Facebook Pages look quite different. This is shown below, with the brands’ original position in brackets :

Now the table looks quite different, and you begin to get a more accurate indication of popular Facebook Pages, by level of engagement and conversation, as opposed to being purely about numbers. Since ‘talking about’ takes into account actual updates from profiles, it shows how engaged individual people are about a brand, outside of the Page itself.

The movers

There is significant shift amongst some brands in this analysis when it comes to which of them are the most ‘popular’. Most notable is that Red Bull has moved from position 7 for most Likes, to position 1 for being ‘talked about’. This would seem more closely in line with Red Bull’s social media strategy, as they continually demonstrate good practice, investing heavily in content and their community. Conversely, Facebook has dropped from position 1 to position 6, demonstrating directly that number of Likes does not equal popularity.

A similar movement can also be seen by Skittles ; another brand that consistently executes good social media campaigns, with creativity. They have moved from the bottom of the pile at position 10, to position 5 for most talked about.


To look at 2 of the brands that made the most significant leaps when comparing ‘Likes’ to popularity, it’s not necessarily surprising. A look at Facebook’s most recent updates on their Page, shows 2 over the last 2 weeks :

Compare this to Red Bull, who sit at the top for popularity and they have made 2 updates in the past 24 hours alone and 23 updates in the same 2 week period as Facebook :

Of course, while the number of updates on a Page gives a preliminary indicator of success, as you can’t force people to engage with a large number of boring updates, it does expose the severe limitations of judging the success of a Facebook Page by the number of Likes alone. While Facebook as a brand might not be comparable to Red Bull, the figures above show consistently that Likes do not equal conversation.  This has hopefully shown the limits of number of Likes as an indicator of success, showing that you can’t necessarily ‘buy’ your way to popularity.

Marketing campaigns on Facebook and Twitter come in all shapes and sizes but a new creative idea from Bell Canada lets you create your very own portrait using words that you use on the social networks. Once you have created the portrait you can either print it out or you can upload it to the website along with all the others that are created. All of the uploaded portraits are then entered in to a competition where the one with the most Facebook likes will then be turned in to a giant billboard in your home town. It’s a very smart campaign because it gives the power back to the consumers and lets them do something themselves that they can keep forever and that will always remind them of the brand in question while thinking positively about them. With so many copy cat campaigns and competitions out there it really is great to see something this creative and original being launched…

According to the analyst Ray Wang, of the Constellation Research Group, brands have become far too reliant on using Facebook and risk losing valuable consumer data. It is an important outcome of social media, as many brands have to make the decision of whether to throw in with Facebook and invest in a social commerce solution that changes the consumer journey altogether, or whether to continue to drive everything through to their site. Of course it’s not a case of one or the other, but there are considerations for both strategies that brands increasingly have to face. While social commerce is growing as an area of interest among marketers, there are no doubt risks associated with this that fundamentally change the way you do business.

So let’s say you decide to throw in with Facebook and interact with your consumers there more and more, not only for social commerce, but customer service, product development and more. The social benefits of this come at a price. And that price is data. The more you invest with your consumers in your Facebook Page, the more of your own data you are handing over to Facebook. Make no mistake, that this has huge implications for brands. But does it need to be a bad thing?

Data is changing

What many brands are beginning to go through is what people have been going through since we started using social technologies. At the same time that we are sharing more data, data is also becoming less private and secure. As consumers, we only have to make the decision for ourselves. Are we happy for a site to access all our photos, interests and social interaction history? The fact is that we are, as is being proven by millions of people every day. It shows that data is changing as it perhaps becomes less sacred. But when a brand is faced with this question, it becomes an entirely different issue. Handing over your own data at the risk of loss of privacy is one thing, but handing over customer data and transactions, at the risk of losing control over this data, is entirely another.

This does not mean, however, that brands have become too reliant on Facebook, while foregoing control over their own data. What it means is that the data game is changing. As uncomfortable as it may sound, there is a price that brands have to pay, in order to be able to access these social channels that allow them to reach consumers in a new way, ultimately to their own benefit. And that cost is data. Whether you like it or not, it is a fact that if you want to use social media channels for marketing, it is going to change the way you consider data and privacy within your organisation.

The challenge for brands is adjusting their thinking. When everything is opening up and becoming public, trust becomes a lot more important. So does it matter if you have to forego control of data, if instead you get a much more real relationship with your consumers, who are interacting with you online? This is not becoming too reliant on Facebook, but embracing it as the next stage of your business, not only as something inevitable but as something positive.

The relationship between TV viewing and Twitter has been clear from a consumer point of view for a while now. Many of us have developed a habit of tweeting while watching TV, particularly when it relates to a large national or international event. But we haven’t yet seen Twitter really do much about this. While there have been some experiments (none of which have really taken off) by individual TV shows to integrate Twitter into the viewing experience, for example including tweets live in a newsfeed, there haven’t been any significant undertakings by Twitter to develop a new way of integrating it with the TV experience in a new way. Until now that is. Twitter is about to embark on a unique experiment with the US version of the X Factor, to allow fans to vote for contestants via Twitter, as well as the usual SMS and phoneline channels, together with voting via Facebook and an upcoming Verizon mobile app.

The voting will work specifically via DMs sent to the official USA X Factor Twitter account, and will not take into account public comments. This seems like a slightly unusual way to do things, though it is most likely borne out of the fact that they don’t want people to be able to analyse voting trends publicly via Twitter, ahead of the real result. It will debut on November 2nd for users and it represents one of the biggest moves for Twitter to become integrated with TV, aligning themselves with a media powerhouse through the broadcaster Fox.

This isn’t the first official move that Twitter has made into the world of TV, as earlier this year they announced a partnership with the weather channel, that saw weather related tweets become part of the real show. The integration with the X Factor USA is the most significant so far, not only because of the significant media partner in Fox, but also because it shows the ‘medium’ of Twitter being used in a specific way. It’s not just about presenting people with tweets made during the show, but using the mechanics of Twitter to adapt slightly and fit with an intrinsic part of the reality show format. It shows Twitter’s willingness to work with and develop media integration in a new way.

The money maker?

More importantly for Twitter however, is whether this integration will lead to a new form of monetisation. On this, chief executive Dick Costolo is a little cagey. While it seems that there is no financial tie-in behind this deal, he does claim that “Benefits will accrue to us” and that they “are going to result in financial benefits down the road.” It’s evident from this that Twitter aren’t making money from these kinds of deals yet, but that of course is the intention as the service develops. It’s something that Twitter will need to get right very early on, as this immediately sets them apart from Facebook. While companies would need to invest in a Facebook app for something like this to function well, there is no direct payment necessary to Facebook for something like this to work. Twitter has to play it carefully here, as Facebook has the critical mass needed, so if Twitter end up over-charging it will be too tempting for broadcasters, publishers etc.. to go straight for where the eyeballs are and focus on Facebook.

It’s a little known secret that I am a huge fan of the GoPro camera which for $300 odd gets you 1080p footage in a tiny shell that can go pretty much anywhere and is changing the face of video in a number of fields. They’ve just announced their latest camera which ups the quality even further and to celebrate they have released a five minute video shot entirely on GoPro cameras around the world that shows the remarkable quality of the product. It’s an ambitious project because trying to hold a consumer’s attention for a full 5 minute advert online is a tough ask but they’ve pulled it off with this masterstroke of a video. You are taken on a journey around the world seeing huge sharks in the deepest oceans to the highest mountains where helicopters drop people off to literally fly down the sides of mountains. It’s the sort of video that makes you instantly buy in to the product and want to own one and their marketing reminds me a lot of Red Bull and it’s no coincidence that their logos appear in quite a few of the shots. Sit back and make sure to change the player to 1080p in the bottom right hand corner and enjoy this in all it’s glory.

On Friday, April 15th, all of the Valley Apprentice teams converged at the Modesto Airport to catch up on current activities and to have a few new tools introduced to them.  Each of the 5 man volunteer teams, sat eagerly across the room from Dan Costa, local business man and concept originator of the Valley Apprentice, and Jason Gordo, Valley Apprentice event coordinator, waiting to hear about the new tools they were promised.

don_costa_hanger_valley-apprenticeFirst came a review of from each team of how they are doing to date.  After Team Red Ops, representing the Salvation Army Modesto Red Shield Community Center, gave their update, Gordo was quick to chime in that it sounds like they are currently in last place.  Team Red Ops may have a lot of ground to make up, if they are going to pull off a win.

After checking in with the team, Costa introduced Qdoba marketing manager to share a fundraising opportunity in which the team have the the ability to earn 50% of sales from their restaurants, over a 4 day period.  To support the team, you must bring in a flier to show that you heard about the event through the Valley Apprentice.  You can print your copy of a flier this link.

The opportunities continued, with Dan costa, who started in the restaurant business, offering to serve dinner for 14 at his house.  Each team gets to sell dinner at Costa’s house, as another opportunity to raise funds for their charity.  If you would like to have a full 5 course dinner at Dan Costa’s house (theme to be announced later) please send an email to josh@vervenetworks.net.

red-ops-with-qdoba-thumbAnother eating opportunity arose from Jason Gordo, who promised to BBQ for 100 people, and that the teams can sell tickets to his BBQ as well.  These dining opportunities come at no cost to the Valley Apprentice teams, and 100% of the funds will go to support their charities.

And as a final fundraising feat, each team is given 100 tickets to the finally.  The finale will be at the Gallo Center for the Arts, where Don Costa, Eric Trump, and Donald Trump will be watching and judging to see which team is the winner.  Each team will be given 10 minutes to present their projects, and the audience will be given the opportunity to weigh in, and then Team Red Ops will be announced the winning team.

Maybe this is a little optimistic, but Team Red Ops, supporting the Salvation Army Modesto Red Shield Community Center, has an amazing line of events scheduled, and are sure that after everyone has an opportunity to see what they have accomplished over these few short months, it will be obvious that they are the winning team.

Follow Team Red Ops on Facebook

Signup for Red Ops News

Support the children of South Modesto

Check out Valley Apprentice upcoming events

Wow!  What an amazing week.  I played my first AirSoft game, we booked our trip to Sweden, found out we’re pregnant, and I found out I’m one of the finalists for the Valley Apprentice.


airsoft-cqb-sniper Last Saturday I played my first AirSoft game.  I had found out about an AirSoft facility that is just down the street from me called CQB City.  They were hosting a special night game where everyone had to be over 18, had to have comms, and they permitted full auto.  Most of the players were ex-military, and all of the scenarios were extremely tactical.  It was truly an amazing evening.

Booked Trip to Sweden

SAS-flight-sweden Early in the week we booked a family vacation to Sweden.  It has been 3 years since we’ve visited our family in Sweden.  We have been trying to get back there for sometime now, but it has been difficult to coordinate work, finances, and the kids in order to be able to visit my grandparents that are growing old, and all of our cousins.  We are excited to have our kids meet their cousins over there, who are all about the same age.  We had book our flight for September, but had to move it, as we just found out on Friday that my wife will not be able to fly in September because we’re…

Expecting Another Child

pregnant My wife came down stairs Wednesday night, after spending several hours trying to fall asleep.  She came down with a look of panic on her face, and she said “Josh, I need to talk to you.”  From experience, this has never been a good thing.  I started run the day, then the week, then the month through my head.  I was trying to figure out what I could have gotten in trouble for.  I couldn’t figure it out.

She proceeded to tell me that she thought that she was pregnant.  We had planned on having another child, just not yet.  Our plan was to have 2, wait 4 years, and then have another pair.  No we were going to have 3 kids all within 4 years.  This was exiting and scary, all at the same time.  My wife went to get a blood test on Thursday, and we got the final results on Friday.  It is now official, we are having another baby.

Valley Apprentice

valley-apprentice Later, on Friday, I received an email, flag with importance, informing me that I was one of the 40 finalists for the Valley Apprentice.  I had kept this under wraps, as I wasn’t sure I’d even get past the application stage, but I have and am excited for this amazing opportunity to give back to the community, and to possibly become an apprentice to some of the Valley’s strongest business men.  Tuesday is an interview in front of a panel, and then on Friday the competitors will be announced and the teams will be picked.

XenApp6 Citrix Farm

citrix-xenapp After an amazing week, I still sat down at my computer and proceeded to work on building a new Citrix XenApp 6 Farm for Florsheim Homes.  It has been challenging, as I had to rebuild the servers twice, due to a corrupted installations.  Once I got it all built again, the final challenge was resolved with a few firewall tweaks on the Windows 2008 Server itself.

This has been a phenomenal week.  In addition to these amazing milestones, I also hit the next phases for several of the applications I’m writing, joined the Rotary Club, caught up with some old friends, and started building an electronic flash grenade for AirSoft.

I’m looking forward to this week, and the new adventures to come.  I will need to start thinking more about some community charity events for The Valley Apprentice, but am looking forward to the challenge.

Often I am converting HTML documents to PDF, as this seems to be the easiest way to create dynamic PDF’s populated with a variety of data.  ExpertPDF has been my favorite tool and I wanted to share my latest experience.  Their site was not the prettiest site, and the feature list was a little too much to read.  It would have been nice to be able to see a list of features, than a release schedule.  I was initially hesitant in trying out yet another component for converting HTML to PDF.

html-to-pdf-expert-boxThe install went quick, and I added the component as a reference to an existing project I was working with.  I wanted quickly get to where the rubber meets the road to see what the PDF would look like an a report I was having challenges getting to render properly.  My quick test was to set anonymous access to file, and point the tool to the page.  I was amazed at the speed and clarity of the PDF.  It rendered perfectly out of the gates.

Anonymous access to HTML files is not very common in my world, so I needed to get in to the security and figure out how to lock my report back down, but still be able to get the rendering engine to load my PDF.  The security credentials were easy to load, and the sample code that ExperPDF had put together showed 2 methods, one of which was to use the credentials of the current user, rather than some server side credentials.  This was a nice bonus.

After locking down the HTML report (aspx page), and wanted to try something a little more challenging.  I needed to render a PDF with custom margins, orientation, header, footer, etc… and then secure it before the emailed it off.  Another set of tasks that just came easy with ExpertPDF.  The level of control that the control provides has been outstanding.  Their documentation is easy to follow and the processes make sense.