Content curation tools: a closer look into Scoop.it

This review is aimed at presenting and assessing  a content curation tool, Scoop.it.  My goal is to show how it works and the way in which small businesses can take advantage of it. In order to make a good judgement, I have been experimenting with this tool for a few days and testing the numerous options it offers. After having done so, I have reached the conclusion that Scoop.it is a powerful platform for businesses to promote their activity and increase their brand knowledge, among other benefits.

Scoop.it, whose headquarters are located in San Francisco, was founded in 2010 by Guillaume Decugis and Marc Rougier (Scoop.it, 2014). It was first conceived as a private beta, but as that early version met with considerable success, it was launched publicly in November 3, 2011 (Decugis, 2011). According to Guillaume Decugis, Scoop.it was born out of a previous experience in which they failed to develop a truly revolutionary mobile application. The knowledge they acquired through that experience turned out to be extremely inspiring, and Scoop.it became an instant success.  As of November 2013, Scoop.it was within weeks of surpassing 100 million cumulated unique visitors (Decugis, 2013).

Anyway, what’s exactly Scoop.it for? In Gabriella Sannino’s words, it is a content curation tool, not a content aggregation tool (Sannino, 2012). This distinction is quite important, as aggregation is the mere act of getting together articles on a related topic, whereas curation requires a much more elaborate process of “discovering, gathering, adding value, presenting and making accessible a set of contents” (Content aggregation, 2012). In other words, with Scoop.it you can create an online magazine in which to record pieces of information from different sources on a subject that is of your interest.

In order to grasp a better understanding of how it works, I have been using this platform for a few days and I am now more familiar with it. To start with, I registered in the website through my Twitter account, which made the whole process significantly easier. Then, I selected a topic about which I wanted to gather information. In my case, I chose entrepreneurship, so I started to look for articles and news related to that subject. I entered key words such as start-ups, innovation, entrepreneurs and so on. The results for my queries were immediate and really useful, as a great numbers of articles started to show up. These articles came from multiple websites, and a result of that, there was a wide array of variety. After having looked at the different options that were in front of me, I decided to “scoop” some of the articles I found; the ones that I found more useful and interesting, indeed. By doing so, I added those pieces to my own online magazine and enriched my own space on entrepreneurship.

In addition to those basic tests, I have also experimented with some of the other tools that Scoop.it provides us with. For instance, I have used the branding tool in order to customize the look of my topic by uploading an image that suited my needs. Apart from that, I have shared articles that I have found by entering its url. Now those articles will be available to other users as well. Another thing that I have done is to add insight on some of the pieces of information that I have scooped; in other words, I have given a brief opinion on some of the articles I have selected. In this way, I can contribute directly to Scoop.it and be an active member, not just a silent observer and collector of news and articles. There is no doubt that there are many other options available in this platform, particularly in the various premium versions, but as an amateur user I have tried its most basic features.

To sum up, Scoop.it is a content curation tool that allows you to search and gather articles and news on a given topic in order to create your own “online magazine”. As the sources have been carefully selected, the pieces of information you get are high-quality, relevant and reliable, which adds to the overall usefulness of this tool. Being a Management student, I would wholeheartedly recommend Scoop.it to small business owners and entrepreneurs, as it can help them raise their brand awareness and increase their visibility, which is key to attracting new customers. Moreover, they can benefit from the rich sources of information that can be found through this platform to enhance their own activity.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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Social networks: key not only to entrepenurial, but to political success too.

The purpose of this post is to analyze the use that US President B. Obama has made of social networks in his 2012 re-election campaign; his marketing strategy may well have been crucial in his narrow victory over the Republican candidate, Mitt Romney.

The last US Presidential election broke many records, including the amount of money spent by the candidates; according to political reporter and blogger Catalina Camia, 2012 election costs could reach an astounding $5.8 billion. A significant part of those funds was used for advertising, including TV and online ads. In fact, a political election is quite similar to an enterprise: both invest large sums of money in differentiating and making their product known, and eventually, the public will have to choose the option that best suits their needs.

The trend of using social networks in political campaigns is not new to this election, but is indeed quite recent. Political parties have realized that in order to attract voters, they have to be present in as many types of media as they can. This is especially true for younger electors, who are overwhelmingly involved in social networks. There has consequently been a huge effort from political parties to reach these online constituencies: most of them have Twitter accounts (@ppmadrid, @eajpnv_cas, @Esquerra_ERC) and so do a growing number of individual politicians (@_Rubalcaba_, @iurkullu) Tweets are mainly used to share news and send political messages; the governing party will defend the Government’s decisions, whereas the opposition parties will heavily criticize them. Facebook and Tuenti are also major platforms for political advertising, both having an enormous audience. Political discussions are more widespread in these two social networks than in Twitter, as there is no character limit and people can express themselves in a more elaborate manner.  According to authors Christine B. Williams and Jeff Gulati, back in the 2006 US Midterm Elections, Facebook had profiles for each of the congressional and congressional races and many Facebook users followed their preferred candidate.  The best financed candidates and those in the more competitive races were more likely to update their accounts, Williams and Gulati found out.

Sometimes, when social profiles are not properly managed, controversies may arise and hurt the public reputation of the particular party or politician. For instance, in 2011 pictures of a naked US Congressman, Anthony Weiner, were published in his own twitter account. It was latter revealed that those photos were part of a series of images Weiner had sent to a student in Seattle, New York. After the scandal, Weiner resigned from his office. This event is only one of many, but it demonstrates that misusing social networks can have a fatal counter-effect.

Now focusing in the 2012 Presidential race, it is clear that both the Obama and Romney campaigns have carried out a gigantic effort when it comes to online marketing. The polls had consistently shown a very tight contest, with the website “Politico” reporting a virtual tie just two days before the election. The outcome of the race being so unpredictable, both campaigns tried their best to boost their candidates’ chances.  In the end, Obama won by 4%. And marketing certainly played a key role in his victory.

Much has been said about Obama’s successful usage of social networks. Back in the 2008 Democratic primaries, technological analyst and writer James Lewin praised Obama’s campaign for having made innovative use of social media, embracing not just podcasting, but Twitter, Flickr, MySpace, Facebook, Youtube and more websites. As Lewin quotes from a CIOZone article, online technology was decisive for fundraising, bringing people to the campaign and to the voting polls. 2008 saw the rise of social media as a tool to win elections by attracting young voters and people who didn’t vote regularly.

Picture taken from blackenterprise.com

Picture taken from blackenterprise.com

During the 2012 Presidential Election, social media has been a recurring marketing element. Obama had already an official Twitter account (@BarackObama) but another one was set up for his re-election campaign (@Obama2012). This account was very active, posting +5 tweets a day, sometimes up to as many as 20. Each update had a different character from the previous one: some of the tweets included quotes and catchphrases by Obama or some of his most prominent backers; others linked to articles stories which supported Obama’s policies; others showed pictures taken at Obama rallies all over the country. Sometimes, tweets where anonymous people showed their support for the President were retweeted. @Obama2012 had nearly 300,000 followers, which is a big deal yet far from @BarackObama’s astonishing 24 million followers.

Youtube has also been a key factor in the Obama campaign. The official Obama channel, BarackObama.com, has nearly 300,000 subscribers and more than 280 million views. It broadcasts a wide range of videos; none of them is very long. Their aim is to deliver convincing and persuasive messages to the audience in order to attract as many votes as possible. Some of them criticize the Republicans-specially Romney-on political grounds. Other videos narrate the stories of people who have benefited from Obama’s policies, including the Healthcare reform. There are some videos in Spanish, which are clearly directed at Hispanics, which are said to have been crucial to Obama’s victory (he won this group 71% to 28%) Some other videos feature widely known figures which encourage people to vote.

It therefore can be concluded that the extensive use of social networking sites may well have provided Barack Obama the  competitive advantage he needed to beat his opponent, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. By being active in social media, he garnered a lot of attention and drew support among many people, especially from certain key voting blocks, such as ethnic minorities and the youth. This election demonstrates that investing in online communication and advertising is not limited to the business sector, and that technological knowledge should always be taken into account if success is to be achieved.

Joseba Varela

References

  • Catalina Camia (2012.08.02) 2012 election costs could reach record $5.8 billion. Retrieved December 8, 2012 from USA Today OnPolitics: http://content.usatoday.com/communities/onpolitics/post/2012/08/2012-election-total-spending-costliest-obama-romney-/1#.UMjJC-TaUbA
  • James Lewin (2008.06.06) Is Social Media Behind Barack Obama’s Success? Retrieved December 8, 2012 from Podcasting News: http://www.podcastingnews.com/content/2008/06/is-social-media-behind-barack-obamas-success/
  • James Hohmann (2012.11.04) Battleground Tracking poll: Mitt Romney, Barack Obama tied. Retrieved December 12, 2012 from Politico.com: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1112/83275.html

Online-based marketing strategies: the key to success for new businesses

This post is aimed at developing an advertising strategy for Zuri’s Dog Grooming, a newly established business. This strategy stresses the importance that social networks have in the attraction of new customers, creating a marketing criteria focused mainly on new technologies.

Zuri’s Dog Grooming is devoted to taking care of pets’ hygiene and appearance, offering its customers a high-quality service at an affordable price. Having been recently set up, a clear marketing strategy is needed in order to attract new clients and expand the company. The aforementioned strategy will be largely based in the utilization of social networks, which are essential to succeed in these technology-driven times.

Zuri’s dog groomer’s logo

Other companies in the pet grooming market are very active internet users, so it would be interesting to get to know their methods and business tactics. PetSmart, for instance, has an extensive website in which it exposes its wide array of products and services, ranging from pet training to dog hotels to beauty treatments. The information is tidily disclosed and easy to understand, and the latest discounts are advertised so everyone can see them. The web page is updated on a regular basis, as shows its Christmas-related decoration. Furthermore, the company is very attentive to local and national events, as demonstrate its charitable efforts towards Sandy hurricane victims. This involvement into philanthropic activities is part of the company’s corporate social responsibility, and gives a good impression to the general public and to potential customers.

PetSmart is also present in Facebook, and its profile is liked by more than 1.5 million users. The enterprise submits news and promotions, whereas other people use this space to discuss issues related to domestic animals and post pictures of their pets. In addition, widely known celebrities are sometimes pictured carrying their pets to the local PetSmart shop, which is always an incentive. There is likewise a Wikipedia article in which detailed information is given related to the corporation, as well as a Youtube channel and a Twitter account. PetSmarts uses Youtube with the aim of advertising, promoting and enhancing its products and services, whereas Twitter is used as a way to interact with the customers and send short, effective messages (including tips, promotions, etc)

Having gone over other enterprises’ strategies, now it’s the turn of our own, Zuri’s  Dog Grooming. As author Mike Michalowicz states in his article about marketing strategies for small businesses, “business owners should look beyond the brick and mortar and reach out to a bigger audience”. Therefore, it is essential to develop an online based strategy if we are to succeed, as has been mentioned in the introduction.

Setting up our own website should be the top priority, as it synthesizes the business’ nature and features.  It is also the place where potential customers will get to know our project. In an article called “10 things every small-business website needs”, it is said that customers shouldn’t have to do investigative work to find out which is the activity we carry out and how to purchase our services and products.  As such, it has to be well-designed and customer-friendly. The Web address should be simple and easy to remember, something like zurigroomers.eu or similar. It would also be very helpful to include interviews and testimonies of our customers in which they show their satisfaction with our business.

A Twitter account is a must for our business. The more followers we have, the more known we will be. As in the case of the website, the user name ought to be easily identifiable and not difficult to remember (@Zuri’sGroomers). We should take in to account what is said the following article: How to use Twitter for business by Jill Duffy. Ms Duffy claims that Twitter is not only a way to direct customers to our website, but also that it can be used to interact with them. Accordingly, we should encourage our customers to take part in our entrepreneurial initiative by making suggestions and recommendations that could improve our service. Moreover, we could also use Twitter to look for new employees in case we need a helping hand.

The proper management of both the website and the Twitter account is essential to achieve our goals, and having a clear-cut digital identity will make a big difference. The path to success is to differentiate our brand from the other shops’ one, so we must establish ourselves as distinct from the rest. We should also keep in mind the importance of having a good reputation, which comes across as a key factor in the fight to attract more customers. We have to be meticulous when using the online resources; for instance, we should update our website and Twitter account regularly. An outdated profile gives an impression of carelessness which could hurt our firm’s brand. Furthermore, in order to improve our standing, we’d better sponsor the local sports team or make donations to charities, especially to those dealing with abandoned pets. This would boost our reputation among our customers, who would realize that we are actively contributing to making our community a better place.

A further way in which we could spread our message would be advertising our business in pet beauty pageants and canine sport competitions. By doing so, we will make an impressive breakthrough into our own sector and we will be able to create a strong network. After having handled with these events for a long time, we could even organize our own contests and take advantage of the media attention.

In conclusion, if we are to succeed in this highly competitive environment, we have to pay special attention to social networks, which play a major role in innovating and differentiating a business. It is therefore crucial to be conscious of the fact that online marketing is an extraordinarily powerful tool, yet also that if it is not properly handled, it can backfire on us. Taking this into consideration, we should always recall the importance of having a good reputation if we wish to make our business the leading company in our sector.

Joseba Varela Isla

REFERENCES

  • Mike Michalowicz (2009.04.07) 115 Marketing Strategies for Small Business. In The Toilet Paper Entrepeneur retrieved 2012.12.04 from http://www.toiletpaperentrepreneur.com/skill-toolbox/marketing-strategies-for-small-business/
  • Business Insider (2010.11.8) 10 Things Every Small-Business Website Needs. In Entrepeneur retrieved 2012.12.04 from http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/217499
  • Jill Duffy (2012.11.27) How To Use Twitter for Business. In PCMag retrieved 2012.12.05 from http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2383408,00.asp

Bloggers’ code of conduct: a matter of civility or the first step to censorship?

Blogging is certainly an excellent way to speak one’s mind and engage into interesting debates and conversations with people from all over the world. However, its virtual nature often prompts controversies and heated discussions; sometimes, questionable and nearly criminal attitudes may also arise. Such is the case of Kathy Sierra, whose unfortunate experiences in 2007 led to the proposal of creating a Blogger’s Code of Conduct, a guideline of good practice for the blogging sphere.

The referred contentious events involved death threats and sexist remarks by a number of unidentified forum users; these incidents caused Tim O’Reilly to suggest that a Blogger’s Code of Conduct should be implemented in order to avoid the abuse of online freedom of speech. He therefore presented a draft which contained the basic principles for an appropriate blog utilization aimed at both website owners and users. O’Reilly then wrote a further article taking into account the concerns and objections that his previous posts had sparked.

Among the basics of this Code of Conduct, O’Reilly stresses the importance of taking responsibility for what it’s written in blogs and forums; he even favors the elimination of libelous and illegal comments. This stance met with substantial skepticism and opposition, especially from libertarian-minded and anti-censorship bloggers, such as Robert Scoble, who told the NY Times “it makes me feel like I live in Iran”. O’Reilly’s initiative of attaching a sheriff-shaped badge into blogs that had adopted the Code of Conduct drew further criticism. A number of people regarded it as “offensive” (University of Toronto Professor Larry Moran) and even named it “The new Gestapo” (Burningbird blog) O’Reilly admitted the sheriff badge being “a symbol of repression” and subsequently withdrew it from the draft, while also acknowledging that “it was a particular mistake not to make anonymity an optional element”. He did however insist on the need of turning online arguments into civilized discussions, supporting a ban on hate speech. As he told BBC News, “I do think we need some code of conduct around what is acceptable behavior, I would hope that it doesn’t come through any kind of [legal/government] regulation it would come through self-regulation”, thereby opposing either political or judicial involvement on the issue. He then appealed to bloggers and readers alike by asking them not to tolerate uncivil behaviors.

From my point of view, the notion of adopting a Code of Conduct is relatively appropriate, because freedom speech does not include saying whatever one may want to say. As entrepreneur Brad Sugars states in his webpage, “It’s important to stay consistent with business ethics and no matter what business you’re in, it’s important to conduct all facets of business (including your blog content) in an ethical manner” I personally believe that Sugars’ opinion could easily be extrapolated to situations not necessarily related to business; nevertheless, I do share some of the critics’ concerns regarding biased and unfair censorship. I therefore hope that the Code of Conduct is used in a balanced way, and not as a means of silencing dissenting perspectives.

REFERENCES:

  • Tim O’Reilly (2007.03.31) Call for a Bloggers’ Code of Conduct. In O’Reilly radar retrieved 2012.11.12 from http://radar.oreilly.com/2007/03/call-for-a-bloggers-code-of-co.html
  • Tim O’Reilly (2007.04.08) Draft Blogger’s Code of Conduct. In O’Reilly radar retrieved 2012.11.12 from http://radar.oreilly.com/2007/04/draft-bloggers-code-of-conduct.html
  • Tim O’Reilly (2007.04.11) Code of Conduct: Leassons Learned so Far. In O’Reilly radar retrieved 2012.11.12 from http://radar.oreilly.com/2007/04/code-of-conduct-lessons-learne.html
  • Brad Stone (2007.04.09) A Call for Manners in the World of Nasty Blogs. In the New York Times retrieved 2012.11.12 from http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/09/technology/09blog.html?pagewanted=all
  • Laurence “Larry” Moran (2007.04.14) Blogger’s Code of Conduct?. In Sandwalk blog retrieved 2012.11.12 from http://sandwalk.blogspot.com.es/2007/04/bloggers-code-of-conduct.html
  • Dan Silkestone (2007.04.11) Online sheriff sought-bloggers unimpressed. In The Age retrieved 2012.11.12 from http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/online-sheriff-sought–bloggers-unimpressed/2007/04/10/1175971098039.html
  • Brad Sugars (2009.08.26) Anonymity and Ethics. In Aboutbradsugars.com retrieved 2012.11.12 http://www.aboutbradsugars.com/anonymity-and-ethics/