Have You Started Your Holiday Shopping Yet?

If you’re like 35% of the population, you’ve already found a great sweater for Aunt Martha, a singing shark for Grandpa and you’ve got some ideas for the office gift exchange that you get roped into every year.

Ho, ho, ho, it’s time for holiday shopping and the fact that people are already stocking the gift cupboard means that this retail season will be much more profitable than the last.

How individual retailers fare, could be determined by how early they start preparing for holiday traffic. Stores that wait until November to put their best foot forward could end up stuck with shelves of merchandise they can’t unload.

The Blogosphere is Alive with the Sound of Marketers

While Twitter and Facebook are all the rage with your average internet user, blogs are still going strong in the corporate world.

According to a study by eMarketer, 34% of all US companies have a public blog and they project 45% by 2012. That’s up tremendously from 2007 which lands at only 16%.

“Studies have shown that marketers perceive blogs to have the highest value of any social media in driving site traffic, brand awareness, lead generation and sales—as well as improving customer service.”

The study suggests that there is a larger number of blogs devoted to smaller companies, where larger companies may be lagging due to legal and logistical issues. It’s a lot easier for George to upload an off-the-cuff blog post when he’s the CEO of a two man company than it is for a VP at Procter and Gamble to make his thoughts known.

Best Buy Launches ShopKick Program

Earlier today, we talked about how The Gap used a social media push to encourage people to step into their stores this past weekend. Now Best Buy is working on a similar idea with a decidedly “big brother” twist. Starting tomorrow, in 187 stores in major markets all over the US. They plan to follow this with an additional 70 stores by October 1.

The “shopkick” system is designed to detect and reward shoppers just for walking into a Best Buy store. In order to accomplish this feat, consumers must download an application to their smart phone. Right now the app is only available for iPhone but Android is coming soon. On the store’s end, there is a “shopkick Signal” which reaches out and talks to the application when they meet. The conversation includes information on who owns the phone that just walked in and that person gets rewards that they’re calling “kickbucks.” These bonus bucks can be collected and spent in the store as cash.

Money Can’t Buy Happiness, But it Can Buy Facebook Friends

Being unpopular was never any fun, but these days we have social media sites to rub it in. Are spammers the only people following you on Twitter? Is Tom is your only MySpace friend? Is your mom the only person giving you the thumbs up on Facebook. Well, fret no more because now, thanks to uSocial.net, you can buy all the friends you need for the low, low price of $197.

Sounds like a Saturday Night Live parody commercial, but it’s all true. uSocial.net is a marketing company that sells blocks of Facebook fans. They charge $197 for 1,000 fans and they guarantee that they’ll be targeted fans who will never desert you. Pretty sweet deal for those who can’t get a date on their own, don’t you think? Apparently, quite a few people think so and they aren’t just companies looking to boost numbers.

WOMM: Let Your Employees Do the Talking

When it comes to word of mouth marketing, GasPedal says there are three talkers you may have overlooked. One of them you see everyday when you head in to work. It’s your receptionist, your mail-room guy, even your secretary and it doesn’t matter if they work for the marketing department, they are the perfect brand advocates.

Employees are often the last people we think of when it comes to marketing but who else has a bigger stake in wanting to see a company do well? Take your receptionist. She probably has 500 Facebook friends and her own fan-following on her blog. Why not offer her some free samples to spread around? Make her an affiliate so she can earn a kick-back on sales or give her her own discount code to share with friends and family.

Zagat Exclusives for the Foodie on a Budget

Everyone loves a deal, even the luxury foodies that roam New York City looking for most exquisite truffled egg toast or perfectly prepared poison-free fugu. That’s why Zagat has team up with DealOn for Zagat Exclusives, the newest group-buying program to hit the web.

The new site will offer deals related only to the restaurants listed in the Zagat Guide. The program will begin this September in New York City, then the company is expected to roll out additional sites for other major cities across the US including Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago. Each offer will start with a fixed price then the price will drop with each person who buys the deal. This way there is no minimum number of people required to make the deal happen, but the more people, the merrier the price gets.

Latin America Shows Triple-Digit Growth in Twitter Usage

Tú me amas, realmente me encanta!

That was the cry from Twitter execs when they read the recent report from comScore on the growth of the service worldwide. Latin America is up 305% over last year with a large portion of the users coming from Brazil and Venezuela. They say much of the growth comes from the fact that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez joined Twitter in April.

Another country caught up in the Twitter boom is Indonesia. 20.8% of that country’s population visited Twitter in June (the month the survey was conducted). Overall, Asia showed an uptick of 243%, way above the Middle East, Africa, Europe and even North America.

Since the survey was designed to measure the growth over the past year, the US and Canada landed in last place with only a 22% change in the number of people using Twitter.