Tuesday, September 21, 2010

9 new stories on The Next Web today

9 new stories on The Next Web today

Link to Top stories for TNW Network

Evidence that Social Media Really Does Drive Sales

Posted: 21 Sep 2010 03:45 AM PDT

The question of whether or not social media can result in sales is pretty much as old as social media itself. What we’re seeing recently is an increase in social commerce – where both aspects are able to live happily next to each other and companies can track ROI for time and money invested in social media.

For a number of reasons people now seem to be more comfortable with their social and purchasing behaviour moving closer together, as social technologies work their way into different platforms instead of just living in social networks themselves. This isn’t necessarily commerce as we know it though. The potential for social commerce to transform the way we purchase our products and services is huge. Just as consumers are now social, the products they buy and the companies they interact with have to be as well. It’s not just about having a presence on Twitter or Facebook, but using this to change the traditional purchasing process.

Sony increase sales through Twitter

Sony have proved the power of Twitter with a fairly covert social media campaign that incentivised people to purchase their products. They offered over 1,500 Twitter users the chance to build a customised Sony Vaio laptop, as well as offering them a 10% discount. And it worked, as they reported an increase in Sony Vaio sales from Twitter in that period of $1.5 million. This is a pretty impressive figure and also puts into action this new way of buying – social commerce. Sony offered their consumers a more personliased shopping experience, where they had a real influence on the end product. What I like about this campaign is its simplicity, and the clear focus on sales. While many social media efforts focus on giveaways and competitions, this had a clear sales target at the core that offered something a little bit extra to users – in the customisation of the laptop. The users on Twitter feel privileged because they’re getting something no-one else can, with an added incentive of the discount to complete the purchase.

IBM – sales in B2B

Social media in the business to business sector is rarely written about, and even less so with any evidence of ROI. This is likely due to the higher value of a sale in the b2b sector. One sale could justify hundreds of hours spent on social networks and might not prove a very interesting headline. But IBM have claimed the business case for social media. In an interview, the senior marketing manager at IBM – Ed Linde II claims that they’ve raised millions of dollars through using social media. This is achieved, he explains, by simply ‘listening for leads’. This may sound simple enough, but as the interview shows, it’s not as simple as you think. While many companies now have a permanent social media presence, the person in charge often sits in the marketing department, or customer service team. As Ed explains, IBM have a careful process of using the conversation maker to identify the potential lead and manage the social media part of the process, before the sales team start to drive the conversion.

From what I can see, not many organisations have such a clear strategy in moving a consumer from conversation to transaction. While many are fantastic at brand-building, the co-ordination of the sales team, which is perhaps even more crucial in the b2b sector, isn’t so clear. This is the most fundamental aspect of using social media to drive sales – putting the different skills you have together, and making sure there is a clear communication channel between the two. And there is a very valid use case for social media channels in the b2b sector. Sales Intelligence service Inside View recently announced that their business customers access the social intelligence tool more frequently than email. This shows how sales teams are becoming increasingly interested in social, which in itself is indicative of the huge growth in this area recently.

Foursquare & McDonalds – don’t believe the hype

As much as there are encouraging case studies that prove the point of social media driving sales, we still have a long way to go in determining the accuracy of this. And this often comes down to simply understanding social technologies. McDonalds recently made a claim that a promotion they ran on Foursqure in April had resulted in an increase of 33% in foot traffic to stores. As reported in Read Write Web, this isn’t actually the case. Rick Won, the head of social media at MdDonalds has since clarified that the increase was in fact Foursquare checkins and not footfall. You need to make sure that you understand the metrics you’re reporting on – a 33% increase in checkins is significantly different to a 33% increase in overall footfall. There’s a difference of millions of customers between the two.

Intent to purchase through social media

Encouraging sales through social media is nothing new. Dell’s big announcement that they tracked $3 million in sales through their Twitter account came over a year ago in June 2009. What we are seeing now though, is a shift in user behaviour that shows we’re now more likely to purchase through social media. This is partly due to the fact that companies are making it easier to purchase in social networks- such as Delta Airlines introducing their booking option through their Facebook page. What’s also at play however is users becoming more and more used to social media, trusting it more, and responding to ways it can enhance the purchasing process, such as social shopping or group buying.

A recent study by Comscore found that not only had online retail spending in Q1 2010 increased by 10% from the previous year, but that social had a big part to play in this. They found that users on Facebook and Twitter spent more online, in monetary terms, than average internet consumers. Heavy users of Facebook spent an average of $67 online which outperforms the average spent by an internet user which stands at approximately $50. Now you might argue that a heavy social network user is obviously going to spend more online because of the amount of time they spend on there and how comfortable they will be with the internet in general. But this only serves to prove the point of companies interacting in this space. People on social networks clearly have an intent to spend and the best thing you can do as a company is to be in front of them, encouraging them to purchase your product, albeit in the right way.

How do you do it?

Of course there’s no magic formula to driving sales through social media, it’s a combination of having a good product in the first place, using social media effectively and being able to track and optimise your click-through traffic. It also has to not be the first thing you try and do when you use social media. The trick is to make it easy for yourself. The Sony example above shows that people will be receptive for sales if there’s a good enough offering there, and incentivising your customers is one of the easiest things you can do. If I announce on Twitter that I’m thinking of buying a DVD on Amazon and I get a tweet from them that offers me a 10% discount or similar, the chances are I’ll take it. Of course as the business, you have to think about the strategy behind this and who you want to offer the discount to.

Embracing new social technologies is also key to this. Gap proved the point of this recently when they ran an offer with Groupon that offered users the chance to purchase a $50 giftcard at $25. This earned them $11 million in revenue and while you have to balance this with the potential loss of giving away $25 per user, this has generated them valuable business that might otherwise not have gone to the store, in a low-cost marketing campaign. This proves the case of making your business available through other social channels, and not always forcing the sale through your own real-estate (be it virtual or physical).

Having watched closely the trends in social commerce recently, I really believe we’re getting to a point where this is reaching the mainstream. This isn’t commerce as we currently know it, but commerce.2 which involves the social technologies and capabilities that people now come to expect from an online experience. We’re going to see plenty more case studies coming through and it’s encouraging for companies that operate in this space, as well as the individuals who are a part of the process.

FaceTime Removed from All MENA iPhone Pages

Posted: 21 Sep 2010 12:35 AM PDT

FaceTime?If you’ve heard of Apple’s FaceTime video chat technology then you’re probably as excited as the next smartphone enthusiast is, but if you happen to be in Egypt, Qatar, Jordan, UAE or KSA it appears to be tough luck, Apple seems to have other plans. (more…)

Microsoft: 2 million downloads of IE9 in first two days

Posted: 20 Sep 2010 03:06 PM PDT

When we first looked at Internet Explorer 9, we were well impressed. And rightly so. Microsoft’s latest offering of Internet browsers is sleek, sexy and very modern. Words that we typically don’t get to use when describing Redmond products.

Apparently, we weren’t the only ones who thought so.

According to the Windows Team Blog, Microsoft saw over 2 million downloads of the IE9 beta in the first 2 days. That’s nearly double the amount who downloaded the IE8 beta. To top that off, MS reports over 26 million page views of its Beauty of the Web demo site.

While IE9 might not tear you away from Chrome or Firefox, it’s Microsoft’s most worthy entry into the browser market, by far and it’s absolutely worth a look. So, head over and download the latest beta then let us know what you think.

VLC for iPad Approved, We Take A Look [Screenshots]

Posted: 20 Sep 2010 11:13 AM PDT

Just over a week ago we reported on the submission of the popular open-source video playback application VLC, heading for approval into the Apple iPad App Store.

It appears that the app has run the Apple approval gauntlet and is now available for iPad owners, depending on where they are in the world. The Applidium team have set the release date to Sept. 21, meaning the application is already available in Australia and New Zealand (although our own Tris Hussey has managed to download it from his native Canada).

The app will give iPad owners the opportunity to play files not officially supported by Apple, the app itself is bundled with a number of different codecs. One of the great things about the VLC for iPad release is that it is entirely open-source, meaning developers can get a copy of the code and tinker with it. An iPhone version is in development too, now that the iPad version has been approved, we can’t see that being too far from release.

We grabbed a copy and put it through its paces. To view movies via VLC, you will need to open iTunes and select VLC, you will need to stream from your computer for this.

From here, you can drag the media you wish to view:

If you have no movies queued, you will be presented with the following screen in the VLC app:

If done correctly, your movies will be available for you to watch, as shown below:

And finally, a test movie. In this case Zombieland gets a viewing:

Pretty neat huh? If you wish to get it on the action, you can download VLC for iPad via the following link.

Urban Dictionary’s Definition of “Internet Explorer” is LOL.

Posted: 20 Sep 2010 10:40 AM PDT

Listen up. Napster launches iPhone and iPad apps.

Posted: 20 Sep 2010 09:27 AM PDT

Oh Napster, how you got me through my first years of college.  Downloading my favorite artist's music at will, discovering new artists time and again, and using a great deal of memory on my old Gateway laptop, yes, those were the days.

Napster, if you'll remember, was an online music peer-to-peer file sharing service created by Shawn Fanning while he was a college student.  Operating between June 1999 and July 2001, eventually being shut-down, forced into bankruptcy, and other various setbacks.

Napster’s brand and logos were acquired at bankruptcy auction by Roxio, Inc. which used them to rebrand the Pressplay music service as Napster 2.0.  Then, in September 2008, Napster was purchased by US electronics retailer Best Buy for $121 million.

Today, Napster returns with a new option an iPhone and iPad app.  With the app, one can listen to over 10 million full-length songs for just $10 a month.  The app itself is free.

With the apps, one can:

  • Save songs, playlists, and albums to your iPhone for enjoyment at your leisure.
  • Service available on any connected computer, compatible TV, Blu-rayTM player or other compatible home audio product with Napster plus mobile.
  • Kick back with playlists, recommendations, and Billboard® charts dating back to 1955.
  • Save your last 100 songs played so you can easily replay favorites
  • Automix your favorite song to create an instant playlist blending similar artists

One item of note: Songs saved to your mobile device will only remain playable during your Napster plus Mobile Access subscription membership.

Some views of the new Napster app for iPhone in particular:

If Napster sounds like your cup of tea, download it here.  Napster is offering new users the ability to try it for free, and save 20% when you choose the Napster plus mobile access annual plan.

Will Napster's new model work?  Do you plan on subscribing to the service, why/why not?

Bathroom Cruelty

Posted: 20 Sep 2010 07:27 AM PDT

Via Imgur.

Apple growing facial recognition capabilities with Polar Rose acquisition.

Posted: 20 Sep 2010 07:05 AM PDT

According to a post on 9 to 5 Mac, by way of Norwegian Mac Site Mac1, Apple has purchased all of the shares in Swedish Tech Company Polar Rose for an as of now undisclosed amount.

Polar Rose is a service offering which specializes in facial recognition and late last year developed a centralised album for all your online photos. The distinguishing feature offered by Polar Rose is the way that it tags those in photos using its facial recognition technology.

According to the story, Polar Rose is described as:

"The Malmö-based company specializes in developing technology which makes facial recognition, not unlike what Apple already has and uses iPhoto for Mac OS X. Through sophisticated algorithms, manages the software of the Arctic Rose to recognize faces in images and the company offers three different products using this solution. Two of the (Face Cloud and FaceLib) them seem to be very interesting for Apple."

What will Apple do with the capabilities of Polar Rose?  With iPhoto, Apple already has facial recognition capabilities, albeit limited in scope, uses some facial recognition technology in iPhoto.

We'd love to hear your thoughts on Apple's share acquisition and what you believe their reasoning may be behind the purchase.

TNW Mobile Review: Samsung Epic 4G

Posted: 20 Sep 2010 06:28 AM PDT

In the world of Galaxy S phones, there have been some great choices and some not-so-great as well. As far as Galaxy S devices are concerned, the Epic 4G from Sprint is on the high end of the scale. However, there are still some problems with the device, so we’ll give you a run-down.

You’ll notice that this is a not a hugely technical, lots-of-numbers style review. There are plenty of places around the Internet to find those, and they all say the same thing. This is, instead, a review from the aspect of a typical user where we’ll point out the things you’ll love and hate.


  • Android 2.1 with Samsung Touchwiz 3.0 experience
  • Cortex A8 Hummingbird, 1GHz processor
  • CDMA/EVDO Rev A wireless radio
  • 4 inch WVGA (480×800) capacitive Super AMOLED touch display
  • Integrated 1GB flash memory and microSD card (16GB included)
  • 5 megapixel camera with flash
  • VGA front facing camera
  • Dedicated, touch-sensitive Home, Menu, Back and Search areas
  • Proximity sensor, light sensor and digital compass
  • Integrated GPS
  • Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n)
  • Bluetooth 3.0
  • 1500 mAh battery
  • 3.5 mm headset jack
  • Dimensions: 4.9 x 2.54 x 0.56 inches and 5.46 ounces

The Epic 4G holds the claim of being the only Galaxy S phone with a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. Not only is it the only one, it’s also a really good keyboard. The added thickness from housing the keyboard is, honestly, not very noticeable.

As far as that screen? Here’s what I’ve found about the Super AMOLED displays – they’re great…if you have content that is high enough resolution for them to show off. However, most of your screen icons, backgrounds, etc. simply won’t look much different on the Super AMOLED than what you’ve seen on any other phone’s screen.

Battery life on the Epic 4G is good, but not great. However, I haven’t seen a smartphone in the past couple of years (outside of Blackberry devices) that could claim to have great battery life. Most of us simply deal with the need to be around a charging source, and that will be the case with the Epic 4G as well. Typical use would find me needing to plug in the battery about 3/4 of the way through my day.


The Epic 4G is a capable phone, if not the best in the Sprint lineup. My first impressions video brought up some issues that I saw, but I quickly changed my mind on most of them, after spending a few minutes with the phone. It is sleek, with a very clean front panel that I quickly became a fan of seeing. The buttons, however, are unnecessarily difficult to press and could do with a more solid feel when they are used.

Call quality is very good, but the external speaker is a bit lacking if you have to use it for any length of time. Talking over a Bluetooth headset, however, was a pleasure. Whether to the credit of the phone or simply a good connection, Bluetooth was clean, crisp and clear.

The phone’s camera is good, but not the best I’ve seen. However, for quick shots it’s easily passable. With a phone of this size, however, it would have been nice to have an 8 megapixel camera instead of the standard 5.

Sprint does load a bit of crapware onto the Epic 4G, but I honestly didn’t find it to be that intrusive. In fact, I quite enjoyed watching Sprint TV on a few occasions, and I can see where the NFL and Nascar applications could be of use to people who follow those sports.


I really don’t have much that I didn’t like about the Epic 4G. The problem, however, is that it’s a great phone that sadly only measures up as an “also ran” to the HTC Evo 4G. Oh yes, there’s also the fact that the Evo 4G is $50 less than the $250 new-contract price for the Samsung.

I highly question Sprint’s choice to bring the Epic 4G to market running Android 2.1. When you have a phone that is supposed to be your top of the line, then it needs to be running the most up-to-date operating system as well. An extra week of OS tweaking time would have done well for Sprint to keep fragmentation off of their network.

One glaring omission from the Applications tray is that of Google’s Navigation. You see, Sprint would prefer that you use Sprint Navigation. While Sprint Navigation (a re-branded Telenav app) is honestly a better product, it will also run you $9.99 per month (or $2.99 per day) of use. Never fear, though. If you will start your process by entering an address in Google Maps on the phone, you can then choose Navigate as an option of Google Maps which will take you into the Google Navigation. It’s an odd work-around, but it does work.

The only other issue that I noticed with the phone was when using 4G data service. If a 4G signal was lost, the phone was supposed to default back to 3G. I had, on a couple of occasions, issues where the phone simply would not use 3G until I rebooted it. Again, this goes back to a software issue (most likely) that could be solved with an update.

The 4G Argument

Here’s the thing about 4G – if you are bothered by the thought of paying $10/month extra for 4G service, then you likely haven’t used 4G service yet. It is, in a word, astounding. I quite often found myself with speeds greater than the supposed maximum of 6 mbit/second. I never once dropped below the 3 mbit/second floor. Loading email, sending files, watching videos…all of these things are a completely different experience on 4G.

The other great feature to mention about Sprint’s 4G is that it is truly unlimited. Where the 3G does still have a 5 gigabyte monthly cap, 4G is unlimited in the “yes, you can replace your Internet bill” unlimited.

Wrapping Up

First off, let me make this abundantly clear – the Epic 4G is a great phone. There is no denying that. However, it is not (at this point) great enough to warrant the $50 premium that you’ll pay over Sprint’s other 4G offering in the HTC Evo 4G.

What can Sprint to do to change that? A few things:

  • Update to Android 2.2
  • Reinstate Google Navigation
  • Fix the 4G/3G data lock-up

Now, that is not to say that the phone is unusable. If your Sprint store (like many) is sold out of the HTC Evo, then the Epic 4G is still a very strong player. The 2.2 update should be coming soon (let’s hope) and the phone is otherwise still an attractive choice from the Sprint lineup.

If we put the Epic 4G onto a 5 point scale, I’ll call it a 4 point phone that’s presently scoring 3. It does have a bit of  a cheaper feel to it than I’d like to see, but that keyboard and Super AMOLED screen are both amazing. Once the software issues get completely fixed, I’d have no problem recommending the Samsung Epic 4G as a great choice for a Sprint customer.

Twitter developer hints at new website features

Posted: 20 Sep 2010 05:19 AM PDT

A member of Twitter’s website development team has entered into a debate about the site’s new design in a blog post comment thread, hinting at some tweaks and new features that are apparently just around the corner and commenting on comparisons between the site and third party app Tweetdeck.

Yesterday, blogger Hillel Fuld wrote a post detailing what disappointed him about the new version of the Twitter website, currently in the process of rolling out to all users. Unusually for this type of post, a member of Twitter’s staff jumped in to defend the design decisions taken on the site.

Dustin Diaz (and it certainly seems to indeed be him) stated that:

  • A ‘Reply All’ feature for replying to multiple people in the same tweet is “Just around the corner”.
  • When planning the new design, the team considered implementing a multiple column design similar to Tweetdeck, but it “Tested poorly in early prototypes”.
  • In addition to a number of keyboard shortcuts already implemented on the new site, from today typing “gm” (presumably short for “Go to Messages“) will take you directly to your Direct Messages.
  • Support for “Old Style” retweets isn’t on the horizon. However, “A quote option would be nice… we'll see…”.
  • Auto-complete for usernames is on the way, but “Be patient”.
  • On the subject of comparing the new site to Tweetdeck, Diaz says “Tweetdeck will never be twitter.com, and visa versa” (sic), adding in another comment “implementing "everything" is exactly what Twitter is NOT going to do. Sorry. We've found alternative ways to push the envelope – but adding more clutter and more features is not the best way to design a product. Nevertheless, I'm extremely happy Tweetdeck is working out for you, and really, you should just continue using it.

Okay, there’s nothing earth shaking in there, but it’s good to know that Twitter is continuing to tweak its new site and listen to feedback from users. The message that they’re not planning on steamrollering apps like Tweetdeck is good to hear, although it remains a concern for developers as to how they can differentiate themselves from Twitter’s own site when Twitter continues to add features.

It’s refreshing to see Twitter reaching out to users to discuss their ideas for the site. Given the sheer volume of posts across the blogosphere about Twitter, we can’t imagine that this will become the norm!

If you haven’t got the new Twitter design yet, sit tight – it’s being rolled out to everyone slowly over a number of weeks.

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