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Shamu on Twitter stays silent 'at this difficult time'

The Shamu Twitter account is a voice Niala and I love to go to for a good laugh throughout the day. But considering the sad news with the death of a trainer, the SeaWorld social media team as decided it best for the quirky personality to stay silent for awhile. It's continuing to send out messages on its main account, @SeaWorld_Parks. Here's the statement the park released:

About a year ago SeaWorld launched a Twitter account giving voice to Shamu. In part because of his worldwide celebrity and in part because of his ability to find humor in the world around him, @Shamu has gained a significant following on Twitter.  Many of his most loyal followers have noted his absence from Twitter since the tragic events of Wednesday, February 24 at SeaWorld Orlando.

At this difficult time, @Shamu will not be active on Twitter, as users who follow @Shamu have come to expect posts that are light-hearted and perhaps a bit quirky. SeaWorld’s other accounts, including @SeaWorld_Parks, will remain active and regular updates will be communicated through Twitter and other social networking platforms.

We will continue to provide information in this space on our review of this incident and the changes to our procedures that may progress from it.  We thank you for the thousands of messages of support during this extraordinarily difficult time.

Posted by Bridget Carey at 05:19 PM on February 25, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

LinkedIn and Facebook on Outlook -- Time saver or time waster?

If you use LinkedIn and Facebook as a main tool for managing your business contacts, you're going to love the news Microsoft came out with last week. But if social networks distract you at work and hurt your productivity, then let's hope your tech staff doesn't install updates to Outlook on your computer.

Microsoft is beta testing a new feature it calls the Outlook Social Connector. It'll eventually sync information from LinkedIn, Facebook and MySpace into Outlook. Right now, it only works with LinkedIn.

It also keeps you up to speed on what your contacts are doing on those networks. For example, let's say you have to e-mail Judy. When you type Judy's e-mail address in the To field, a window below the e-mail shows everything Judy has been up to on the networks. If Judy changes her contact information on LinkedIn, your contact info for her in Outlook will automatically update -- helping to make sure you always have the most recent information. And imagine how much time is saved by adding LinkedIn contacts to your Outlook, letting you expand your network while never leaving your e-mail program.

But imagine how much time will be wasted.

Social networking is addictive -- especially Facebook. What starts out as a simple e-mail could mushroom into spending 10 minutes watching a Star Wars spoof video someone posted. E-mail is an efficient workplace productivity tool; adding goofy status messages could muck it up.

It'll be interesting to see how many workplaces add this upgrade. It's already hard enough to keep away from social networking during work hours. Yet so many of us use social networks to manage our professional contacts. Outlook's changes are just exacerbating our society's struggle with keeping our professional and personal lives separate online.

The upgrade also means we'll be need to be more careful than ever over what information we make public on these networks. Because now, people you e-mail -- like your company CEO -- could see your relationship status changed, or the results to the quiz you took during work hours.

There's no word yet on when it will release the version that lets you sync Facebook and MySpace. To give it a whirl, go to office.com to download the beta of Outlook 2010. Then download the Outlook Social Connector (which also works on Outlook version 2007 or 2003). Finally, download LinkedIn for Outlook at linkedin.com/outlook.

Posted by Bridget Carey at 05:02 PM on February 25, 2010 in Facebook , LinkedIn , MySpace | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Just for fun, for all you social media addicts

Passed on by an alert Poked reader, this is a commercial, I think, but it's funny. My favorite line: "Stop writing on the wall!"

Posted by Niala Boodhoo at 02:55 PM on February 18, 2010 in Facebook , Twitter , Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Google's privacy Buzz

Everyone knows by now all the buzz about Google's Buzz - the privacy concerns. But now, Google is getting out the word that they're listening to all the critics and working to revamp the site.

In today's paper, Bridget and I wrote about how everyone had responded to the new social network by freaking out about all the privacy concerns. Over the weekend, Google announced its second change to the service since it was launched the Tuesday before. In a blog post on Saturday entitled "A few start-up experience based on your feedback", Product Manager Todd Jackson said Google heard feedback "loud and clear'' from the "tens of millions of people'' using Buzz.

Google-Buzz Instead of pre-populating your follower list automatically, it has become a suggestion. Google also has changed its options that autoconnect to sites like public Picasa Web albums, and Google Reader, its handy Blog aggregator.

Spokeswoman Victoria Katsarou told me in an email that the Google team has been working at all hours, including all weekend, to address the concerns.

Jackson's also making making more media rounds to address the issues: in today's Wall Street Journal, he said the company's testing of Buzz with employees before the launch hadn't been sufficient. He told the Journal: "Getting feedback from 20,000 Googlers isn't quite the same as letting Gmail users play with Buzz in the wild. We needed to launch to the public and get feedback from users."

Even with the concession, we think it's a good reminder as networks further integrate to pay attention to how your information is being used. In the case of Google, many people probably had public profiles they forgot about, because it didn't matter -- until now.

The lesson here is that if you ever signed up for any service online, pay attention to what's public or not. It's in your best interests to stay informed about updates they're doing, because changes might draw further attention to your information.

In the meantime, Bridget and I are on the fence about the product itself. We like some of it - especially the video and picture features. While we think there is potential, we're feeling a bit, well, underwhelmed. What do you think?

Posted by Niala Boodhoo at 12:31 PM on February 16, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

All the buzz...

Buzz So, everyone's already done all the pre-buzz and the "day-of" buzz about Google Buzz, their new social networking stuff. Personally, I like my little Gmail world of chatting with close friends and family - it's sort of been a bubble for me, and I'm not so thrilled about it imploding. But, we'll see. Bridget and I just installed it, so we'll play with it for a few days, and see what we think. So far, we like the photo option, which seems cool.

We want to know what you think - post in the comment section, or email us at Poked@MiamiHerald.com

In the meantime, here's Google's blog post about it, as well as their (mercifully short) intro video:

Posted by Niala Boodhoo at 11:28 AM on February 10, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Consider Ning to broaden your social networking strategy

Your business Facebooks. It Tweets. But does it Ning? There are about 300,000 active groups on Ning -- many of them brands and interest groups -- and about 40 million users actively participating in them. If your business has a social media strategy (and there had better be a strategy) you might want to consider setting up a Ning network.

It's a place where you can take any topic and make a social network community for it in less than 10 minutes. I spoke with Ning's chief operating officer, Jason Rosenthal, who says every month there is a 14 percent increase of active Ning networks. There about 2.1 million networks in total, but not all are active. That's about 40,000 new and active networks created a month.

Why take the time to create a whole new network on Ning when you can just make a Facebook Fan page? Tracey Udas, a social media strategist at Excelerated Performance, said Ning gives her business clients more value because you can track more data about members.

When a member wants to join a community, the community administrator can set it up so they answer questions about themselves. If it's about a car company, they ask what car they drive, what they want to get out of the community -- even get their e-mail to send newsletters. And her team uses the free Google Analytics tool to measure site traffic.

Her clients are also on Facebook, and she said they realize Ning isn't going to be a Facebook replacement -- nor will it ever be as huge. But if you're a woman-owned business selling auto parts, like AutoTex Pink, the network becomes a place for women to talk cars -- and of course talk about its products.

"They're not going in expecting 20,000 members to sign up," she said. `"They're expecting to drive traffic to their corporate site. It shows them as an expert in the industry, so to speak."

Another perk: Being able to personalize the page design and make it look like a stand-alone site. A Facebook Fan page is displayed within Facebook. But a Ning page can have it's own URL, like the Ning networks MyWorkButterfly.com or MyAutoTexPink.com, and you don't need to be a member to see it.

Ning just launched a way to integrate with Twitter. If there's an update on Ning, it can automatically alert Twitter followers.

But with Ning's updates came a new navigation system -- which took away the ability to search for topics. It simply suggests networks. Julia Gorzka, a social media consultant who created the Ning network BrandTampa.com, isn't too pleased with the change and hopes it won't stifle the growth of her 1,400-members site, which promotes happenings in the Tampa area.

She's about to create a BrandTampa Facebook Fan page to hit more people, but predicts Ning will continue to have more value.

"If you're on Facebook and Twitter, they're really noisy these days," Gorzka said. "There's a lot of what I call absentee activism. But on this thing, you have people who are truly interested."

Since this column went online this morning, we already got feedback from Ning fans. One such is Miami Beach artist Jared Knight, who has been using Ning for the past year to teach about art and posts videos to his community page. He has about 300 members now.

Are you a Ning user? Have you ever tried signing up with a Ning community? Tell us about your experiences with the not-so-well-known social network.

Posted by Bridget Carey at 06:42 PM on February 8, 2010 in Ning | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Looking for a social media hire?

So full disclosure: I started thinking about today's column because two of my colleagues from the newsroom: Lori Todd and Mallory Colliflower - have found jobs with other companies in social media. While they're certainly not the first to transition from journalism into social media full-time - they're just the most recent - it made me realize how many companies are hiring in this area - so I thought I would call up some local companies who were hiring to talk to them about how they did it. 

Final Cartoon Mostly, I was curious because it seems like many companies who are hiring in this area might be doing so because they don't have any background in it all - so how do they know how to hire, especially given the fact that so many people are touting themselves as social media experts? I decided to speak with AutoNation and the Knight Foundation,where Mallory and Lori have ended up. Despite the organizational differences of a large, public company versus a nonprofit, three main themes emerged: Personalities matter. So do results. But having a evangelist spirit about social media is just as important.

AutoNation's social media strategy is simple, said spokesman Marc Cannon: "We want people to be informed customers.''

The Fort Lauderdale company has just hired a social media coordinator, one of five such positions that have been created over the past year. Cannon said the company looked mostly at personality.

"There's a sense of energy you need with these folks,'' said Cannon. "They have to be good conversationalists, and hone things down into short message points.''

But results matter, too.

"Everybody blogs and everybody tweets,'' said the Knight Foundation's Marc Fest, who is looking to fill an online community coordinator position. "Let's say you have a blog and you routinely get people to comment, and you have 5,000 followers on Twitter. That shows you know how to engage people.''

Both want to infuse a sense of social media not just in that hire but throughout the organization, so having an evangelist nature about spreading social media to other employees is just as important.

Companies shouldn't be intimidated by hiring for social media, said Jackie Stone, a New York-based vice president with Digitas, an interactive marketing agency, who suggested businesses remember their long histories of hiring in communications.

Whether it's a big brand, a nonprofit or a small business, the most important thing is to have a sound strategy, a constant voice and to be authentic, she said.

"It's really important to have somebody who can listen and respond properly -- not just respond,'' she said.

Jessica Randazza was just hired by Digitas in January, to work in part on social media strategy. She echoed one thought that both AutoNation and the Knight Foundation also told me: you should hire someone who is passionate about your brand or product, because if they're not, that will show, too.

Those are some starting points for what you might look for in a social media hire, but I'm curious if folks want to weigh in on other qualities they have, or have found important in the hiring process.

Posted by Niala Boodhoo at 12:10 PM on February 2, 2010 in Facebook , Poking , Twitter | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

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