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Ning Secures $44M to Scale Personalized Social Networks

Forget Facebook, the real action in social networks is the ability to build and brand your own! Ning.com has been doing that for a couple of years and has today announced they’ve raised $44 million in “Series C” funding.

Co-founder Marc Andreessen explains where the money will be put to use:

We will be investing that money in our business — in scaling our operations to accommodate our traffic and growth; in our product design and development efforts; and in our platform evangelism and support programs. Apart from those investments, we plan on staying as lean and focused as we possibly can.

Having consulted with Ning, I’ve become a huge fan of their service and pretty much every client I speak to gets a recommendation to consider branding their own social network. Even large corporations are surprised to learn they can have their own version of Flickr or YouTube in just minutes!

Facebook All the Rage; Scaring Google?

Ever since Andy joined Facebook, things have been looking up for the social networking site. (What do you mean, there’s no correlation?) Today their numbers are up and there are rumors that Google should be very, very afraid.

Facebook is looking at major successes not only from their platform but also from the influx of new users this year. TechCrunch reports on comScore’s findings that over the last year:

Facebook saw an 89% increase in unique visitors to the site at 26,649,000 uniques, with a 143% increase in page views at 15.8 billion. The site’s stickiness has increased and then tapered off at about 190 minutes per average user.

Be Leery of Social Media & UGC: They Just Might Work!

Many a marketer contemplates using user-generated content and other forms of social media. Despite evidence of truly good UGC campaigns, marketers continue to express doubt about the usefulness of UGC and social media.

Studies show marketers and consumers doubt UGC and social media
The E-Commerce Times reports today on a JupiterResearch study released Saturday. The study stated that “The majority of online shoppers who have used social and community sites while researching and purchasing do not believe that such sites affected their purchase decisions, and few online shoppers said they spend incrementally more due to their use of social and community sites.”

JupiterResearch analyst Patty Freeman Evans told the E-Commerce Times:

Social Networks Going the Way of Reality TV?

By Roderick Ioerger

Are we inundated yet? Like reality television, social networking is getting to the point where the newness and creativity seems to be losing some of its luster. How many social networking sites can a person really effectively use and enjoy? (even Robert Scoble can’t keep up). Everyday there seems to be some sort of new social network to connect some niche vertical, today it was the baking network, tomorrow who knows? And really at this point who cares? I feel like I know what all my friends, relatives, and even casual acquaintances are doing twenty four seven and clearly they seem to have a pretty good idea what I am up to too.

Spotting Negative Social Media Marketing

There has been plenty of chatter in the last couple of days about ways that people could be negatively affecting your search engine marketing strategy. People are right to be worried, you only have to look at your search referrals to see how many people are typing in your brand name into the search engines. If there’s some mud slinging going on in your SERPs; plenty of people could end up reading it.

The Google results aren’t the only battle ground for disgruntled customers or unethical competitors. Everyman and his dog are getting involved in social media, and it’s here where the next round of fights will take place. So it’s worth thinking about where and how your rivals could be doing damage to your business.

Presidential Internet Campaigns Weak

Last week, we announced the results of the 2008 Presidential Election Candidate Reputation Study. You remember—15 of the 18 candidates studied had negative listings in the top 20 on Yahoo and Google.

This week, another study follows suit. iCrossing published the “How America Searches: Election 2008” study yesterday, examining the 42% of voters who turn to the Internet to inform their voting. According to their study, which looked at candidate- and issue-related keywords, social media sites and news media sites outranked candidates’ own sites:

The candidates’ own Web sites trail behind news and social media sites as preferred sources of information; and candidates are sorely lacking in visibility when it comes to voter searches on specific issues in both natural and paid search.

IT Execs Accepting Social Media

At least one industry is willing to be on the social media edge of Internet marketing, according to a new survey by ITtoolbox. Having talked to over 2100 IT professionals, in companies of all sizes and in various roles, ITtoolbox reports on how influential social media can be on purchasing decisions.

The survey included “blogs, podcasts, online communities, wikis, and profiles/social networking” in the social media realm. The survey found that, on average, IT professionals spent 3.5 hours a week using social media. ITtoolbox created a “Social Media Index,” to measure a group’s use of social media in comparison to that of business managers; three of four IT professions used social media far more heavily:

  • Executive Decision-Maker: 121
  • IT Decision-Maker: 96.5
  • Business Manager: 100 (index)