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Business Promise Trumps Privacy Concerns for Facebook Places

While some “mature” consumers may question the appeal of Facebook’s Places application – the program that allows a user to “check in” and let friends or others know where they are at any given time – savvy marketers see the application as a great way to reach a highly desirable demographic.

Places largely appeals to a younger crowd. Since it can only be used by those with a Facebook app on their smart phones, it eliminates many traditional consumers.

However, for companies attempting to reach the elusive younger crowd, those who spend little time listening to the radio, reading mailers or newspapers, or clipping coupons, these location based applications may become a gold mine.

If the customer is willing to allow a business to view their location, nearby businesses can instantly offer coupons or deal, grabbing the consumer at the point of making a purchase decision.

Businesses could also make offers to friends of those who check in, encouraging them to join their friends at a particular location and make a purchase.

Facebook has already announced its intention to allow restaurants and other retail locations to “claim” their locations. This would allow them to direct targeted advertising to frequent customers.

Need some ideas for some virtual offers you can make on location Facebook Places? John Jantsch at has some ideas for using rewards programs, group buying, coupons via Goodle places, mobile coupon networks, or social location games to bring customers into your door.

With only a fraction of Facebook’s users even tuned into Places, you certainly don’t want to make it your primary source for advertising. But with a growing number of younger consumers “checking in,” you don’t want to ignore it, either.

Android takes Over Smart Phone Market

I’ve been touting the benefits of Android for a while now, and now smart phone users around the world have caught that Android fever.

In August, Android shipments beat out iPhone shipments for the first time, which is important for business owners and developers. DigiTimes reports that Android shipments around the world will surpass 55 million.

If that’s true, it means a 561 percent growth over last year’s shipments.

You want to keep posted on smart phone sales so you can not only choose the platform to use for your personal and business phone, but also so you can develop apps for the most popular phone platforms.

You want to focus attention on the phones that are growing the fastest and look to have the longest staying power – complicated apps can take up to 6 months to develop, and as with all technology products, you’ll want to stay ahead of the curve, not behind. Now, iPhone apps are still a huge portion of the market, so you don’t want to ignore the platform, but Anroid is a force that looks to have staying power, at least for the foreseeable future. As Android grows, developers and hardware manufacturers are undoubtedly going to focus more attention and more resources on the platform, making it a solid choice for future projects.

One development you will want to watch for is more countries open to purchasing Android apps. Currently, customers in only 13 out of 46 countries that sell Android phones can actually purchase applications for the phone.

In order to grow the Android market, Google will need to find a way to fix that little problem.

How To Utilize Social Media in Health Insurance

So you work at a health insurance company or in a related business, and you have decided to take the plunge into social media, despite the significant obstacles. So how do you create a program that is engaging, yet complies with regulations?

Jason Falls of Social Media Explorer gives some relevant tips that are useful for any health insurance company beginning involvement in social media.

1. Develop a plan, then get commitment from the top levels of you company. You need a CEO and board behind the idea and your proposed implementation of the idea before you dabble. If not, you may have the rug pulled out before you even get started. The top level involvement will also help assure compliance with regulation requirements.

2. Be proactive about compliance. Don’t try to skirt regulation requirements simply because you’re using social media. Work closely with your compliance officers to explain social media interaction, then work out solutions that integrate best practices for compliance as well as interacting in social media. This may mean you have a pool of approved Tweets from which you can pull, or that there is a delay of hours or days in responding to some questions, but that’s part of the equation.

3. Know your Media. It’s important to know your media tools and how they are used, and then educate your team, including top executives, on how those tools work. Let
them know that corporate blogs don’t need to be on the front page of the website, for example. Also, that there can be a review and approval process for any customer-
generated content, as long as that review process is clearly stated on the blog.

Some executives won’t understand a moderated environment or how moderation works – make sure you’re prepared to explain it.

4. Have a team approach. Making a single person in charge of all social media, moderating input and making comments can be exhausting for that individual, and may cause problems for you down the road, if they go in a direction that you didn’t like. The team approach is by far the best.

5. Shorten timelines for review. Social media does, by nature, demand a kind of immediacy. This will likely involve a streamlined process for communication review. Aim for 24 to 48 hours on most comments, but allow for a quicker interface if there is a situation that demands it.

If you take the appropriate precautions and plan ahead, there is every indication that the health insurance industry could benefit from utilizing social media opportunities with their customers.

Using Social Media in the Health Insurance Industry

The health insurance industry has not been the first to jump onto the social media bandwagon. For a number of reasons, social media presents some problems for insurance companies, both in the marketing arena and the information arena.

For example, there are a plethora of privacy regulations governing what can and can’t be exposed about a specific patient. When you’re on social media, you’re about as public as you can be.

In a related challenge, there is also a government regulated, complex approval system for any communication from the insurance industry to the public. Each piece of communication, including social media messages, has to complete the approval process, which can take weeks. Not the typical turnaround time for a status update!

Also, if you are attempting to answer specific questions with a medical professional, you’re taking a qualified nurse or doctor away from their traditional duties, and with many medical facilities understaffed, it may just not seem important enough.

However, there are some good arguments to be made for including social media in a health insurance marketing and information plan.

  • Access — many people who are daunted by forms, lines and technical language are completely comfortable logging into Twitter or Facebook. South Carolina is looking at using social media to reach Medicaid and Medicare customers.
  • Also, many people will know exactly how to find a company on Facebook, but have trouble remembering your web address. They can get questions answered more quickly through social media.
  • Some Companies are Already There – with the popularity of social media, even an industry with obstacles like the health insurance industry’s will find some early adopters. They are out there, with blogs, Q & A columns, and customer service.
  • The Customers are using Social Media – Customers comparison shop, seek information, and communicate with others via social media. Health insurance companies seeking to be relevant may need to join in.
  • A “Friendlier” Feel. Health insurance companies have the image of being distant and inaccessible, not to mention unresponsive, in many cases. A presence in social media could soften that image.

Is sales a “numbers game” to you?

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What’s Up With Location Based Social Networking?

Location based social networking is facilitated by applications like Buzzd, Loopt, BrightKite and Foursquare, which allow mobile smart phone users to “check in” at either map coordinates or location – such as a business, restaurant, or event center.

Recently, Facebook and Twitter added location options. Twitter announced in April that they will allow users to attach metadata to tweets. This data could include location information.

Facebook is teaming up with McDonald’s in what some see as the future of location based social networking. When users check in at any nearby McDonalds, they’ll receive reward coupons for the restaurant.
With 100 million Facebook users who check or update their status from mobile phones every day, Facebook and McDonalds are both hoping the project takes off .

The first, smaller location based companies may be concerned about Facebook’s entrance into the market, given the size of the behemoth. Facebook is also planning to allow members to add their location to any status updates.

The early companies offer games, finding friends, and recommendations of places to visit. With the entrance of Facebook, there may be a quicker move toward targeted advertising and coupons from the businesses a person checks in, such as McDonalds.

For users, the value becomes not only the fun of a game, but an opportunity to get personalized deals. For advertisers, the opportunity to reach a specific niche helps them target their advertising dollars.

Should you jump on board location based networking? Many people predict that this feature will grow, particularly as more and more people begin using smart phones. Privacy and safety will be a primary concern for Facebook, as it has been for the smaller players in the business. However, more people being involved means the more concern about privacy and the more attention companies will pay to the issue.

So as a business, its worth watching location based social networking and its worth considering having a presence in the trend.

Hating on Apple? Take a number.

While there are a variety of reasons folks hate Apple, many of the most often repeated reasons boil down to two general problems: 1) Hypocrisy and 2) Draconian, closed methods.

Let’s take a little gander at these two general categories and see why Apple is so well described by these titles.

Apple’s hypocrisy takes a variety of forms, but one of the easiest to see is the advertising. Apple’s ad campaigns, ever since the first, “throw the computer at big brother,” ground breaking ad have been about the “little guy” versus the “big guy” and about the smart, cool apple user versus the dull, witless and completely uncool user of any other products.

There was the “Think Different” campaign and the “I’m a Mac/I’m a PC” campaign, along with the “Switch” campaign, all of which imply that Mac users are somehow inherently wiser, more innovative and just generally have better judgment than those who use PCs. This is ridiculous, smug and arrogant. Clearly, the type of computer you use has nothing to do with how intelligent or innovative you are.

Apple advertises trouble free, crash free computers even though they also have crashes, and they also have notoriously high fail rates on certain pieces of equipment. Somehow, those problems keep getting byes from technology gurus and the public.

Apple consistently exaggerates speeds and device performance ability, with seemingly no consequences, while at the same time they aggressively call out any one else who does the same kind of exaggerating.

And another of the Apple hypocrisies leads directly into my next point. Apple professes to be innovative, individual and unique while at the same time aggressively crushing innovation and individuality while operating on notoriously closed architecture.

That closed architecture is the root of the claims of draconian techniques. Apple keeps it’s developers at arm’s length, keeps a tight leash on developers both by denying applications to it’s app store and by giving developers only limited access, and carefully managing its image in the outside world.

They act as a bully – see stories about them suing college kids for leaking info to the press and having the apartment of Gizmodo’s Jason Chenn searched by police and having his equipment seized after he bought an iphone prototype which was inadvertently left in a bar.

All these techniques leave a bitter taste in the mouth of many, especially those who would like to see the promise of Apple’s professed aura be reflected in the reality.