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According to the Associated Press, Google has tweaked their social hub, Buzz in response to privacy concerns.  Gmail users worried that Buzz made their email contacts visible to others.  It did so by turning these email contacts into followers (or in Facebook terms, “friends

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Iran’s telecommunications agency announced a permanent suspension of Google’s email services. According to the agency, they will be rolling out a national email service for Iranian citizens.  All this in the midst of an expected anti-government protest; which stems from last May’s presidential elections.  If you remember, Twitter played a huge role for communication during the protests; this caused a lot of Iranian citizens to be reliant on western technology.  Prior to May’s election, the Iranian government  blocked access to Facebook.  Not only have the social networking sites and Gmail been blocked, the Wall Street Journal reports that the police have confiscated satellite dishes from residential rooftops.

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Google announced on their blog today that they will be building and testing ultra high-speed networks throughout multiple trial locations in the United States. Their plan is to deliver internet at a speed of more than 100 times faster than what most people have. Over 50,000 homes will receive 1 gigabit per second, fiber-optic broadband at a competitive price. According to Google:

Our goal is to experiment with new ways to help make Internet access better and faster for everyone. Here are some specific things that we have in mind:

• Next generation apps: We want to see what developers and users can do with ultra high-speeds, whether it’s creating new bandwidth-intensive “killer apps” and services, or other uses we can’t yet imagine.
• New deployment techniques: We’ll test new ways to build fiber networks, and to help inform and support deployments elsewhere, we’ll share key lessons learned with the world.
• Openness and choice: We’ll operate an “open access” network, giving users the choice of multiple service providers. And consistent with our past advocacy, we’ll manage our network in an open, non-discriminatory and transparent way .

Within the past year, Google has managed to throw their hat in the ring in social networking and mobile phones. Their play in the mobile phone arena has even caused a potential partnership between Microsoft and Apple. With their announcement today, one could only wonder if Verizon and Comcast are working on a collaboration of their own.

The last two major announcements Google made came with a lot of hype and high hopes. Google Wave did not live up to the hype and the jury’s still out on the Nexus One. If their high-speed internet lives up to the hype, Google can corner the market in ways we never thought of before.



Last week we wrote about how large corporations were using Twitter to improve their brand image and connect with customers in new and interesting ways. This week we want to show you some simple strategies small businesses can use to monitor their brand on Twitter and other social media sites.

If your business is brand new to social media, start by creating profiles on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and other social media websites. By taking this simple step, you will begin taking ownership of your company name on search results. This is an easy reputation management tactic.

The idea is that when someone searches your company name, you want to control the results they see; particularly on the first page. Instead of seeing things that are out of your control like a bad customer review or lousy press, the searcher will see your home page followed by the social media profiles you set up and perhaps some other IYP and directory listings. There are only ten spots on a search engine results page. By creating these profiles and utilizing some basic SEO tactics, you can control all ten results without much effort. (Tip: creating a Wikipedia page is also a helpful way to control the results).

After you have set up the profiles, what next? A good place to start is at This search tool from Twitter allows you to search their entire stream for keywords, like your brand name or your products and services. Enter your company name and perform a search. If someone Tweeted about your company, it may be a good idea to try to connect with them. Politely @reply to their message and if they are unhappy, see if you can address their concern. If they are saying how great your company is, thank them for the support.

For many small businesses, their company name isn’t being discussed everyday and repeating this exercise can be a waste of time. Instead tools like Tweetbeep will do the work for you and send you emails when someone Tweets about your company. There are a lot of articles about Twitter tools, but there are a few good ones: here, here and here.

Finally, develop a long term plan. Remember that social media is about community building. If you can give advice and become active among industry experts, your community will grow. The new local trends feature shows what people are talking about in your area. Become active in community discussions. If you use Twitter simply as a way to consume information rather than provide information, you will have a hard time building a community. But if you can create a community of people interested in your Tweets, you will improve your brand name and your company’s ability to retain clients.

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Realizing the brand-building potential, savvy business owners are leveraging Twitter to interact with customers. Twitter enables brand-to-customer conversations through comfortable, open forums. In fact, 20% of tweets are about brands, and they come from both consumers and businesses.

Comcast uses Twitter to scan for complaints and engage with customers. The idea was born when someone in the company realized scores of public complaints against Comcast were being vented via Twitter. In response, the cable company built a team of 11 people whose function is simply to scour the site and respond to Comcast-related tweets. Much to many users’ surprise, the Comcast team responds to tweets, identifying themselves as a company representative and asking if they can help. Comcast execs are highly satisfied with the unique dialogue Twitter has enabled, noting that the conversations are dissimilar to the typical phone complaints the company receives. “[Twitter is] a little more personal. More back-and-forth discussions, and it’s less formal. And it gives immediacy to interactions,” says Frank Eliason, Comcast’s director of digital care.

For instance, an angry Comcast customer wrote, “I would suggest you tell the people in charge of the money to do their jobs.” A moment later, she was compelled to tweet again: “P.S. If my credit score is negative, it is your fault for not paying enough attention or not calling off your dogs.” In response, Eliason suggested (to a BusinessWeek writer who was observing his work) to reply and simply thank her for her suggestion, with a period at the end. “I wouldn’t do a smiley face when we’re doing a collections issue,” he says. Although not a quick fix for some deeply rooted business issues, Eliason and his team’s work has made Comcast accessible and trustworthy to customers. When Twitter users think Comcast, they think Eliason. “Right now I have 5,700 followers. They know about my family Web site. It gives a face to Comcast,” he told BusinessWeek.

A number of corporations have followed Comcast’s lead, using Twitter as a means to reach out to consumers and resolve complaints. Travel companies like Virgin America use Twitter regularly to communicate everything from vacation specials to possible flight delays. But Virgin takes its Twitter presence a step further than the competition, communicating much more than just deals and flight status, and asking for open communication from its customers in return. And its more than 20,000 followers deliver, filling Virgin’s Twitterstream with photos of themselves aboard Virgin flights or on vacations made possible by the airline. Virgin also retweets its passengers’ posts. During one flight, a recent medical school tweeted her excitement about her accomplishment and about being aboard Virgin America. Rather than congratulating her, Virgin retweeted and asked someone to buy her a drink on the flight. There was an immediate response and the surprised grad was quickly presented with a drink, compliments of Row 11.

Businesses and organizations have also made use of Tweetups to further their brand. For instance, in April 2009 the National Hockey League (NHL) worked with fans to organize a series of Tweetups that occurred simultaneously around the world. The Tweetup effort brought together 1,200 fans in 23 cities, and reached an estimated 240,000 through Twitter and millions more through press coverage, which included a mention in USA Today. Increased Twitter action on the day of the Tweetups also spurred countless brand impressions. On the opening night of the playoffs, the term “NHL” was mentioned on Twitter more than twice as often as on a normal day. And #NHLtweetup became a trending topic for the day. Now the league has a dedicated social media department and has planned more Tweetups for the 2009-2010 season.
Twitter has emerged as the hottest brand building and customer service tool on the market and, ironically, it was not created for that purpose. But corporate tweeting has spread like wildfire and has been met with praise from consumers, who appreciate the fact that there is a human being at the other end of that Twitterstream – a welcome change in today’s impersonal business world of stiff corporate policies and procedures. Using Twitter is not just for the large corporations. Twitter also gives smaller, local businesses a voice and a solution to some of the complaints of the consumer. Look out next week for some strategies and helpful tools to help you monitor your brand on Twitter and other social media.

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