Friday, December 31, 2010

Facebook Tops AddThis Sharing In 2010

Facebook Tops AddThis Sharing In 2010: "

Sharing of Facebook content via AddThis grew by about a third over the past year, and the social network remains the leading choice among the more than 300 services supported by the application.

Facebook accounted for 44 percent of AddThis sharing volume in 2010, up from 33 percent the previous year.

AddThis has more than one billion users a month, and Facebook currently has 550 members.

However, the volume of sharing via the application doesn’t necessarily correspond to the number of user, so we know that it’s comparing apples to oranges to attempt to even suggest that 80 percent of Facebook members are using AddThis.

Most likely, a core group of frequent users share larger quantities of content via AddThis on Facebook. We’d love to know the size of this group.

While we’re at it, we’d love to see a break-out of which content gets shared most on Facebook in particular. Presumably AddThis could cull that from its already publicized rankings of most shared-from domains out of the more than seven million that have the application installed.

The data from AddThis does say something about the rivalry between Facebook and Google. The latter has only a third as many as the former sharing data using the orange icons, but the search engine’s is catching up with the social network.

It’s not really a surprise to see that AddThis sharing over Friendster and MySpace has fallen, since traffic to those sites has practically fallen off the side of a cliff.

As for the more popular venues for sharing content, what marketing possibilities do you see in the AddThis assessment shares on Facebook?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Tracking Traffic from Google Places in Google Analytics

Tracking Traffic from Google Places in Google Analytics: "

Posted by RebeccaLehmann

Google has gone to great lengths lately to incorporate local data wherever it can. Google Place Search rolled out in late October and services such as Google Tags and Google Boost offer increased visibility, for a price. It’s only natural that we would want to know if investing in these add-ons is actually worthwhile.

Most of us naturally would turn to Google Analytics for the answer, but what can you do when your referral URL says only that it’s from Google? That’s a rather vague answer with a lot of different possibilities. How can we narrow it down to traffic referred only from Google Places?

To better justify the time and money spent on Google Places for our clients, I set out to find an answer.

Method #1: Redirected Landing Page

My search for a reliable tracking method began with a question: How can we track Google Places without manual tagging? I wanted to avoid tagging initially since, as an agency, my company manages hundreds of profiles. Tagging all of them would be a huge multi-departmental project. Obviously I was going to look for a simpler way first. One method suggested to me was to use a nonexistent page on the website as the URL, then 301 redirect it to the index page. It wasn’t going to solve my “huge multi-departmental project” problem, but it was an interesting thought.

Pros: It would be relatively easy to set up, easier than manual tags. The resulting URL would be clean, visually speaking.

Cons: Given the nature of the new blended algorithm, I’m reluctant to 301 the primary landing page I’m presenting to Google. It could be downgraded at best, and regarded as a doorway page at worst.

Ultimately, we didn’t test this method. The risks were simply too great.

Method #2: Manual Tagging

So I tested manual tagging instead. The Google URL Builder is a terrific tool:

In the example above, I’m using the Content field to differentiate one office location from another, but this could also be done in the Campaign field. The resulting URL is then added to the Google Places profile.

Pros: Not only is the setup relatively easy, the data presentation in Google Analytics is really clean and easy to slice up. Different business locations are easily segmented out for deeper analysis of which locations are the biggest drivers.

Isn’t it beautiful? The first thing I did once I had this was to add keywords to the mix:

Oooh… ahhh…

Cons: It appears that adding a tracking URL triggers the dreaded “Pending Review” status instead of immediately going Active. Luckily, the change was approved within a week of submission when tested. Phew! I can’t guarantee such a short wait for everyone, of course, but the Google Places team does seem to be on top of things at the moment.

A second con is that tagging can only be used to track listings which you control. We often run up against Google Places profiles which were claimed by our predecessors who are no longer contactable, or which the clients claimed once upon a time but can’t find the login info for, or which are controlled by third parties who are still working with our client on other sites… you get the idea. In a perfect world, this wouldn’t be an issue. But it is, and until those others are magically relinquished to us, we can’t track them.

A third con is that it’s impossible to tell the difference between traffic which came from the Places profile versus traffic that came from the 7-pack search results. Google sometimes pulls the URL from its index, and other times pulls it from the Places profile. To see this in action for yourself, run a search for “Houston Breast Augmentation” and hover on the first result. It goes to a “naked” URL, with no tracking on it, exactly as you would expect. Now take a look at the SERPs for “best plastic surgeons in Houston” where you find the the same business:

Aha. So this isn’t going to filter out all traffic from the SERPs. And it’s kinda ugly, too.

Method #3: Capturing The Full Referring URL + Advanced Segmentation Or On-Page Filtering

Manual tagging wasn’t going to provide me with exactly what I was after, but I remembered seeing David Harry refer to a method of capturing full referring URLs. It occurred to me that Google Places listings probably have a unique element in their URL structure which I could segment out from the rest of the noise if I (a) had the full URL and (b) knew what that unique element was.

I’m not going into how to set up the full referrer capture filter. Go to Reuben Yau’s post (linked in the paragraph above) to see how it’s done.

Once that has been set up, create an advanced segment or an on-page filter to pull out the Google Places referrals.

It turns out that there are two ways a Google Places listing can render. One version uses "maps" in the URL, while the other uses "place". At least on the surface, it looks like the difference between a normal search and a mobile search. My filter looks like this:

Pros: Since the filtering works on the basis of the URL structure, profile control is unnecessary.

Cons: It took me awhile to figure out why the manual tagging method and full referrer methods were putting up different numbers, but finally I realized that the full referrer method does NOT include the 7-pack results. If you want to include 7-pack clicks, the full referrer method won’t do it for you. The data isn’t presented in such a pretty, clean way, and there’s no simple way to segment out traffic coming through different office locations. It can be done, it’s just a bit of a headache since it involves filtering for specific “cid” numbers from the URLs and knowing which insanely long number belongs to which location. The setup is a little more intense, too.

Method #4: Using Both Manual Tagging and Full Referrer Methods Together

Using both is how I got to this:

Between the two, you have almost everything you could ever want to slice and dice. I used a simple filter grab Google Places and manually tagged URLs and exclude SERPs traffic:

The filter works because it relies on the full referring URL to provide the bits to be filtered in and out. Once it’s in place, you can slice and dice your Google Places referral data to your heart’s content.

Do you like this post? Yes No


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Facebook Requires Developers to Choose Third-Party Ad Networks from New Whitelist

Facebook Requires Developers to Choose Third-Party Ad Networks from New Whitelist: "

A couple weeks ago, Facebook quietly introduced a new page to its developer site, listing all of the ad networks that it has approved for developers to use in applications — meaning those that have signed on to the ad provider platform terms.

The page, and a company developer blog post published last Friday, state that all developers can only choose ad providers from this list. Providers who are not listed cannot be used.

A list of ad providers existed for years in the now-removed developer wiki, but Facebook didn’t require developers to only pick from the list. But it introduced a new set of terms for ad providers, including offer companies, in early 2010, after it faced intense criticism over companies on the platform that committed abuses like tricking users into taking scammy offers, or reselling user data to outside companies. It has been updating the terms throughout the year to give itself more flexibility enforcing against illegal and anti-user practices.

Since the new listings page went live, Facebook has been steadily adding more companies. Google and its Adsense network for web sites is missing, as Outblaze chief technology officer Yusuf Goolamabbas noted after first discovering the page — the reason, we suspect, could be simply that Google hasn’t signed the terms. Other long-time providers Adknowledge (owner of Cubics and Super Rewards) and Tapjoy (formerly Offerpal) were only added in the last few days.

Given that large providers are only just now coming on, it’s not clear when Facebook is planning on any major enforcement.

Here’s the current full list. We’ll be covering additional changes as we see them.

  • Ad4Game

  • Adknowledge – (Cubics and Super Rewards)

  • Lifestreet Media

  • Paymentwall

  • Peanut Labs

  • RockYou

  • Smowtion

  • SponsorPay

  • SupersonicAds

  • Tapjoy

  • tmpSocial

  • TokenAds

  • Underdog Media


  • "

    Facebook’s Year in Mobile: Seeking Ubiquity on Devices, and in Apps Too

    Facebook’s Year in Mobile: Seeking Ubiquity on Devices, and in Apps Too: "

    Central to the next era in Facebook’s growth, the company’s mobile team took a much more visible role this year with the launch of Places, deals with hundreds of carriers, and a bid to become an integral social layer for mobile experiences the way it is becoming on the web.

    It more than doubled the number of mobile users from 100 million in February to 200 million in November. And mobile users are Facebook’s best customers, since they’re twice as active as others.

    The team was just around 20 people at the end of 2009 but it’s since grown and become subdivided into different teams focused on native clients, the mobile platform (the “platmobile” team), partnerships and other stealth projects. The company also poached a capable head of mobile products from Google, Erick Tseng, who had shepherded the search giant’s first branded phone, the Nexus One, from conceptualization to launch in just under a year.

    Facebook’s strategy this year could probably be broken down in three ways: 1) universal access to Facebook on all mobile devices 2) ubiquity of the Facebook platform in third-party mobile apps and 3) new features like location that take advantage of the unique capabilities of mobile phones.

    Facebook Makes a Platform Play with Single Sign-on and More: Beyond standalone apps, the most important part of Facebook’s strategy is its effort to become embedded into every mobile experience the way it is becoming on the desktop web. A key part of that is single sign-on, which lets people log into Facebook once in an app, not every time they use it. This is the start of helping Facebook understand who uses which mobile apps, which could lead to an interesting social solution for app discovery — a problem plaguing developers.

    The company launched fresh SDKs for iOS and Android this year, which make it easy for mobile developers to make calls to the new Graph API.

    Facebook needs to successfully migrate with its biggest platform companies onto mobile devices or risk being left out of virtual goods and ad revenue. Zynga, Electronic Arts’ Playfish and Playdom, have been hungry for a way to diversify off the platform, where user acquisition costs have risen after the company crippled viral channels this year. Android and iOS present opportunities to lessen dependence on Facebook. Plus, smartphone market penetration is now large enough that there are seven and eight-digit Farmville-sized audiences to be had.

    Reaching Out to the Developing World with ’0′: Unlike smaller companies, which usually wrestle with the build-for-iPhone versus Android decision, Facebook must be accessible to all devices from the lowliest feature phone to the newest generation of Apple devices.

    The company’s growth hinges upon it. Facebook went from 250 million to 500 million users in 12 months. But since crossing the half a billion user mark in July, the service has only grown by roughly 75 million users in a significant slowdown, according to InsideFacebook data. That’s because the low-hanging fruit in North America and Western Europe is largely gone. The company needs to be successful in Asia, the Middle East and Latin America, where access to mobile broadband often outstrips fixed-line broadband access.

    To bring users from developing countries on board, Facebook launched a free, low-bandwidth version of the site called ’0′ in May with more than 50 carriers. Carriers use free access to Facebook to lure subscribers into paying for data plans, while Facebook uses the deals to grow in markets where phones are the primary access point to the web.

    Although the company hasn’t released statistics on 0′s growth, Facebook’s fastest-growing markets over the last 12 months include India, the Philippines, Turkey and Indonesia — all countries where 0 was launched. South Korea and Russia, both strategic markets Mark Zuckerberg has mentioned and that the company secured mobile deals in over the past six months, have also more than quadrupled in 2010.

    Parity across Android, iOS: The company, which had always prioritized the iPhone since the launch of its first native app two years ago, is now treating Android and iOS like equals. New features for both devices will come out at the same time, instead of iPhone first, Android second. Facebook, like the rest of the mobile developer community, has taken note that Android is surpassing the iPhone in market share with 300,000 device activations a day this month.

    Location, Location, Location: It took awhile, but Facebook finally launched location-sharing this fall. Initially, we had heard the product was more forward-thinking and differentiated from other location products. But it was scrapped before the f8 developer conference in April and redesigned around the more conservative and familiar “check-in” paradigm, where users temporarily share their location.

    Facebook has emphasized that location is another platform play and is not threatening to companies like Foursquare and Loopt, but it has almost certainly slowed their growth trajectory. The company has not released statistics on Places, but we believe the number of active users is at least 10 times the size of the next largest location-sharing product.

    Just three months after Places launched, the company launched local Deals with an easy, self-service way for businesses to offer discounts to Facebook users who check-in. Facebook poached rising star and ad executive Emily White from Google to be senior director of local and run the sales side of the service.

    Possibilities for 2011:

    That “Facebook Phone”? Facebook has adamantly denied that it is building a phone, but we wouldn’t rule out a partnership with a handset manufacturer to design a deeply social phone. The company risks alienating device makers and partners with a Facebook-branded phone. But the company’s platform strategy is more cornered on mobile devices compared to the web right now.

    Think of it this way. If Android and iOS are leading the way among smartphone platforms, Facebook will have to go through two not-entirely-friendly entities to get to the end consumer. For example, if it wanted to extend Credits to mobile apps, it would have problems since Apple’s current terms of service don’t allow for cross-game currencies. Plus, Apple already takes a 30 percent cut of payments processed through its In App Payments API. That said, the open nature of Android leaves opportunities for Facebook even without help from the search giant.

    From a product perspective, the iPhone and Android devices are far from where they could be in terms of social features. Your contacts list, for example, could be like a chat list and show whether your friends are busy or available, their last status update or where they last checked in. It would be ranked by who you most often interact with, and if you clicked on a name, it would lead to their profile page and wall with options to message or call them. A single Messages app could consolidate email, SMS and chat like it does on the web.

    Maps would automatically overlay friends’ locations. The phone’s camera and video recorder could let you upload directly to Facebook. A photos app would show off a stream of friends’ photos in addition to your own. One of the home screens would be the news feed. Maybe there would be a persistent like button wherever you go in the phone.

    A Facebook mobile app store could have personalized rankings with the apps most downloaded or used by friends. You could update your phone number once, and it would be fresh on both Facebook and in your friends’ devices. They could extend the partnership with Skype and offer interesting ways of calling or video-chatting with friends that are logged in. These are all hypothetical, but interesting, possibilities.

    Strengthening the Platform Play: Single sign-on is just a start, but Facebook will probably do more to enable the kind of virality the original platform unleashed. Short of having a branded device, Facebook could build ways for users to discover which mobile apps their friends are using — perhaps within the standalone mobile app or on Places functionality is still somewhat limited as the search and write APIs, which let you pull up nearby places and send check-ins to Facebook, only came out recently. Third-party developers also don’t yet have access to pull Facebook Deals into their location apps, or the ability to create Groups.

    An iPad App: Mark Zuckerberg said the company was working on this six months ago, but we have yet to see one almost a year after Apple launched the tablet. We’ve heard prototypes have a substantially different interface than the web and really delve into how the company thinks about the future of interaction on touchscreen devices. (See this essay for how the company thinks about touch interfaces.)

    Renewals of the Facebook ’0′ Deals: Many of the ’0′ deals will probably be renewed in some fashion this year while new carriers in other markets will come on-board. We don’t have statistics yet on how the program is faring, but look for them early in the new year.

    Advertising in Mobile Apps: This is a long shot, since Zuckerberg and Tseng said in November that the company wasn’t interested in mobile advertising in the short-term. Indeed, banner ads seem like a poor experience for mobile devices, since people use them when they’re on the go and don’t have time to segue into marketer’s website or Page. If the company was going to do brand advertising, it would be hard-pressed to do it in a non-invasive way. Facebook could more deeply integrate local advertising with Deals for Places; maybe there could be more visible options to “like” Places and subscribe to and receive push notifications on nearby deals.

    Experimentation with Payments: With near-field communications coming in the Gingerbread update of Android and possibly on the next iPhone, Facebook has an interesting opportunity to experiment with mobile payments. In their spare time, a handful of developers hacked together a product called Presence that lets people “check-in” to real places using an RFID tag. One could imagine equipping local businesses with RFID tags that Facebook users can tap to check in or pay with Credits.


    Disqus – Why 95% Of Bloggers Should Switch

    When Disqus first launched, I was a little critical because I like to maintain control of comments, give commenters the benefit of Dofollow links, and ultimately retain control of their user generated content.
    I now feel that 95% of bloggers should switch to using Disqus, though I have some reservations.
    These are some of the reasons why:-
    • Matt Cutts today confirmed that nofollow links can reduce the amount of PageRank that flow to internal pages. The easiest current solution to solve this problem is to use Javascript for comments.
      It is an external javascript file, which Google can’t really handle currently, and even if they did, the chances are it might only count as a single link to your disqus discussion.
      Blogstorm has gone into the problems facing comment links in more detail, something I highlighted when Matt first mentioned this clarification at SMX.
    • Matt Cutts in the same post highlighted again who you link to matters, and I think Google is going to place more and more emphasis on this. It is a lot of work for the average blogger to keep control of user generated content, and even the best comments sometimes come with spammy links. I have always maintained that “dofollow” isn’t for everyone because of the time commitment.
    • Disqus is universal – it can be installed on every major blogging platform – many SEO solutions won’t be universal or easy to implement
    • Can Spam & Email Deliverability – this is 50/50 – I have highlighted in the past that emails being sent from your own domain can be a significant liability
      It is your choice based on your own research and the legal advice you have received whether you think emails being sent from your domain which are not totally under your control could represent a problem.
      I honestly don’t know if Safe Harbour rules might apply to email delivery. I don’t know of any blog owner who has had problems either from a legal perspective, or with their hosting or domain registrars, but then I personally only know a few people who have been killed in car accidents – I know a lot more people who drive cars than publish business blogs.
    • Invalidated Cache – this is a major consideration for high traffic blogs, and potentially product launches. The javascript doesn’t change on each new page load, thus your cached content also doesn’t change (if you just use their javascript on your page) – this can represent a major reduction in server load, even if you are using some kind of Op Cache (eaccelerator APC Xcache), RAM based page cache (Memcached) or more advanced techniques using page chunking. Forget conventional WP Cache / Supercache for product launches, it just can’t cope on its own.
    • Social Media Viral Effect – the social media viral effect of using Discus is significant. Not many people are exposed to services such as backtype, but tons of people use Facebook – implementation of Facebook, Twitter and other logins for commenting whilst possible with WordPress isn’t trivial, and that is more plugins to deal with, more server load etc.
    • Get to visit Disqus more often – I sometimes leave comments on other blogs that are using Disqus, and sometimes the comment notifications don’t get to me (deliverability issues) – I just noticed on my Andy Beard Disqus profile that Scott Rafer responded to something important 2 months ago, and I didn’t see it.

    Negative Side of Disqus

    • The SEO of the site needs some major work – it is almost insulting that the link to Twitter on my Disqus profile is followed, yet the link to my blog isn’t. The anchor text from a conversation on Disqus back to a blog isn’t exactly ideal. This is how Google sees my Discus Profile
    • Google is very bad at indexing content on Disqus – this is partially due to the Disqus SEO problems – certainly a conversation I took part in 4 days ago isn’t indexed.
    • I have heard reports that managing spam can be an issue, though I haven’t tested it, I rarely see spam on highly popular blogs
    • It isn’t suitable for private content – you would have to use alternative commenting on private posts if you are running your blog as a membership site. That is something that can be worked around.
    • It is hard, maybe impossible to market to people after they have left a comment. With standard WordPress comments, after someone has left an email, you could present a page offering site membership, a one time offer, or an affiliate product – even suggest related content of interest.
    • If you have lots of niche blogs, you will hardly want to include all of them on a single Disqus profile if you want to stay under the radar of your competitors. How would a blog network cope? Retain ownership? I can’t see B5 Network with a profile of 300+ blogs in Disqus and managing who can moderate comments.
    The SEO problems with Disqus are fixable, and in the current Google climate could offer significant advantages – plus Disqus could conservatively gain at least 400% traffic even without new adoption.
    It is possible even if they also gave much more SEO friendly links throughout the whole site.
    I am recommending Disqus above competitors JSKit and Intense Debate because both of these services the email subscriptions don’t stack in Gmail – a nightmare if you subscribe to comments on a popular blog, plus I believe there is more chance of Disqus fixing problems for a win/win solution.
    Who knows, we might even get Twitter to remove nofollows too… eventually
    Disclosure:- I am recommending Disqus even though part of my startup plans would have involved an SEO, product launch and membership friendly system with refined marketing funnel. If I ever get it off the ground, there are ways to migrate back from Disqus

    Read more: Disqus - Why 95% Of Bloggers Should Switch
    By Andy BeardInternet Business & Marketing
    Under Creative Commons License: Attribution

    How to Maintain Your Personal Brand as a Corporate Employee

    A strong personal brand is beneficial on many levels. At the core it differentiates the designer, developer, marketer, etc, from the rest of the pack within crowded disciplines. It functions as a self-promotion agent that works for the practitioner 24/7/365 ultimately ensuring this person becomes a magnet for new and interesting work opportunities.
    The foundation of a personal brand is initially created by consistently doing good work. From there, commenting, interacting and reacting in public discussion forums, blogging, Twitter, Facebook and the publication of articles and even books further solidify an individual as a thought leader.
    However, “the idea of personal brand is often associated with independent practitioners”, as David Armano puts it. And for independents there are typically no conflicts as they are in the business of promoting themselves, their skills and knowledge. However, for practitioners working within corporations and interactive agencies, the challenge becomes balancing their personal brands with the corporate brand.

    Many opportunities for friction

    As a corporate employee you don’t represent “you” out in public — you represent the company. The opinions, theories and expertise you present publicly all get attributed to your employer. If you say something controversial, the story that will propagate is not “John Smith said…” but “John Smith, Lead Developer for Company X, said…” Add to this the risk of disclosing proprietary or sensitive financial information and it’s no surprise many corporations aren’t interested in promoting individuals (outside of C-level executives) externally.
    These same corporations are only now beginning to comprehend the power of the social web and don’t understand the need for external “corporate ambassadors”. Colleagues within the organization can also be points of friction as they begin to question whether the now-public practitioner is actually a “work horse or a show horse”, as Christian Crumlish, Director of Consumer Experience at AOL, puts it. If it’s not clear that the company is getting more benefit than the individual, resentment can build causing the individual to start defending their activities.
    Crumlish also suggests some companies are concerned that making their star employees visible exposes them to competitive employers looking to poach talent. This alone may make an organization reticent to promote individuals externally.
    Finally, if the practitioner works for a less-established brand, there is a risk the personal brand will ultimately outshine the corporate brand. While this is certainly not an issue for global corporations, start-ups who have one or two star employees could face this challenge.

    Overcoming these hurdles

    The challenges may seem risky but there are some specific ways to mitigate these risks. By following the guidelines featured below, you will be able to convince your employer to not feel insecure or threatened about you strengthening your personal brand and encourage you to participate in public events.

    Make your employer the star

    To alleviate any concerns that you are attempting to promote your brand more than your employer’s, make it obvious who that employer is and that you’re speaking on their behalf. Any public facing documents you present must have company branding. This includes white papers, conference posters and slide decks. In addition to branding your thought leadership, all online profiles (Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, et al) and blogs should clearly disclose where you work. Finally, all client associations should also be disclosed to minimize the risk of perceived conflicts of interest or favoritism.
    Luke Wroblewski, former Chief Design Architect at Yahoo! and Lead Designer at Ebay, who is a popular speaker at many design conferences, ensured all his presentations were branded with the Yahoo! and Ebay logos. Like Wroblewski, Crumlish, a mainstay on the design conference circuit, also made sure he was seen as a “Yahoo! Person” in all of his public efforts.
    Fronteers2 in How to Maintain Your Personal Brand as a Corporate Employee
    Participation in conferences is a good way to strengthen your personal brand and solidify yourself as a thought leader. Image source: Fronteers conference

    Make your colleagues smarter, bring back learnings

    Conferences, meetups and other professional extra-curricular activities provide tremendous learning opportunities. As much as you are a presenter at these events, you must also be an attendee. The opportunities for learning and growth are tremendous. It’s important to capture that knowledge and bring it back to your organization to share with your colleagues.
    This shared learning can take two forms. The first is sharing the specific things you learned while at the event. What did the other presenters discuss? How does it relate to the challenges you face as a team? How can it be applied? These are the domain-specific elements you picked up from the other presenters.
    The second is sharing with your colleagues how to become more successful and active within these external communities. You’re likely not the only person in your organization who is interested in furthering their personal brand. Bringing this education to your colleagues who did not attend the conference and sharing your techniques on how to become more active on that front helps minimize any jealousy that may develop in your colleagues and positions you as a mentor.

    Your employer is now a thought leader

    When attempting to convince your superiors to allow you to participate in public forums on behalf of the company, it’s imperative to remind the organization the benefits the corporate brand gets from this exposure. Active engagement in industry-specific forums and conferences gives the company the chance to stand in front of peers as a thought leader and, in many cases, frame the conversation on a particular topic. Brand perception of your employer improves as adjectives like cutting-edge, innovative and supportive (of new thinking) are associated with it.
    In addition, both your business development and talent acquisition departments benefit from the corporate brand enhancement you’re facilitating. Every interaction that is publicly available from the employees of a company provides an opportunity to strengthen that company’s public persona. Tweets and blog posts about the kind of work or processes taking place there humanize the company and increase the attraction of higher caliber employees as well as potential new customers.
    This may not be obvious at first to your employer. It’s imperative that you showcase these successes internally. Positive mentions for the company in tweets, blogs and post-conference meetings should be forwarded to the organization’s management. When employment candidates express interest in the company, try to make sure that they are asked how they heard of the company. Each time a candidate mentions a public appearance or some thought leadership showcased in an industry forum, make sure your superiors are aware. If possible, quantifying (in dollars) the value of these appearances should further your cause.
    High-level talent that is acquired through word of mouth is significantly less expensive than talent acquired through staffing agencies. Also, have your business development team assess the source of new leads and customers to see how many were driven by the company’s public presence. Each one of those leads and customers has a monetary value which, when tallied, can justify the expense of sending you to the next event to present.

    Be bold, yet humble

    In some companies, your superiors may not see the immediate value of your personal brand. In these situations it may prove more successful to ask for forgiveness rather than permission. Write a blog post on an industry or domain-specific topic and share it publicly. If it drives discussion and positive perception of your employer, tell someone.
    Attend the next local meetup and present a quick deck on your latest thinking. Did someone tweet about it? Share that with your boss. Was there a strong discussion on your blog that reflected well on your employer? Point your PR person to it. Showcasing the success of a low-profile activities or blog posts should engender some level of support from your boss. One word of caution though: ensure that you’ve consulted your company’s policies on such activities, as Crumlish advises. You don’t want to end up violating corporate policies that could put your job at risk.

    Choose the right employer

    If creating and maintaining a personal brand is something you value then it’s imperative to view your employer through that lens to understand if your goals align. As your personal brand has been developing and growing, has your employer been supportive? Is there a broad corporate understanding of the benefits you can bring through promoting your thought leadership externally? If the answer is ‘No’ then it may be time to evaluate new opportunities.
    Becoming an independent practitioner is the easiest option but may not be viable for everyone. In that case, how much do prospective employers “get” the concept of employee empowerment? This is a discussion that should be clear from the outset with a potential new employer. Set the right expectations in your interviews and, if possible, have public-facing activities that grow both your personal brand and the corporate brand written into your job description. There’s no more effective way to balance your personal brand as a corporate employee than to actually have it as one of your position’s responsibilities.


    Ultimately, for the personal brand to grow, the “company should get more value than the individual”, as David Armano said. If that balance is off, then you should consider becoming independent. That doesn’t mean that you cannot create, cultivate and curate a personal brand within a corporation. In fact, a personal brand can be crucial to your continued success and career progression. Be respectful of your employer and their policies but find creative ways to promote yourself while promoting your company at the same time. Personal branding enhances corporate branding. It makes the company appear more “human” and approachable. It makes people want to work there and it attracts good press. If balanced correctly, this is a win-win for all parties involved.

    20 Drupal Modules to Boost Your Website’s Functionality

    20 Drupal Modules to Boost Your Website's Functionality

    Drupal is a robust content management system that can do nearly anything you throw at it. Hundreds of Drupal modules–add-ons that extend the functionality of Drupal core–exist to help you create a powerful website.

    This is a roundup of some excellent Drupal modules covering the following areas:

    1. Managing and displaying content
    2. User engagement and game mechanics
    3. User registration

    Managing and Displaying Content

    1. Menu Block

    In many pre-built Drupal themes, the primary navigation bar (typically displayed across the top of the page) shows only top-level links. Drop-down, multi-level navigation is not automatically enabled in many themes. You can use Nice Menus to turn on fly-out and drop-down navigation, but you’ll still have to edit your theme files.

    However, with the Menu Block Drupal module, you can easily add a new block that pulls all relevant navigation links together, and then you can place that new block anywhere on the page–in the content section, for example, or perhaps in the left or right sidebar.

    Here’s a menu block set-up page that pulls links from the equivalent navigation menu and displays it as specified:

    Here is the menu block in action, displaying the children of a particular page in the sidebar:

    User Registration

    2. Node Reference URL Widget

    Node Reference URL Widget (requires the nodereference and content module in CCK) is a useful Drupal module that lets you refer to one piece of content from another.

    Let’s say, for example, that your website has a lot of nodes in a content type called "People"; Jane DoeJohn Smith and Maria Miller are nodes in this content type. You realize that you need to assign each person to a category to better organize the page, such as:

    • Staff: Jane Doe
    • Board: John Smith, Maria Miller
    • Volunteers: John Smith, Maria Miller

    Using nodereference, you can assign each person to a parent category by creating a new CCK field. For example, you could assign a new person directly from the "People" category listing. In this scenario, on the details page for "Staff," you would click on "Add a new person" and they would automatically be categorized as a staff member.

    Here’s an example of a node reference link to "Add an update about this event" at the bottom of an "Event details" page:

    Node Reference URL Widget

    And here’s what the new data entry field looks like for that particular update:

    Node Reference URL Widget

    3. Views Attach

    In the example above, creating the "Staff" category also created the "Staff" page. You can use the Views Attach Drupal module (it requires the Views module) to create a content view related to that category. Here is a video showing you the power of CCK, Views, Node Reference URL Widget (above), and Views Attach used together.

    Some ideas:

    1. You could create a view of all people who are categorized as "Staff" and a grid of staff headshot photos to display on that page.
    2. You could create a view of all documents that have been assigned to the Staff category, and then display the view of all documents (such as human resources documents, PDFs, etc.) directly on the Staff page.
    3. You could create a "Restaurant Details" page, then use the Node Reference URL widget to add a link to "Add a review to this restaurant," then use Views Attach to create a list of all member-submitted reviews directly under the restaurant’s details.

    The following example shows the Views Attach module in action:

    Views Attach

    In the example above, we have a content type called "Series." Every series page has a built-in view that pulls in all of the content types marked as belonging to that series. This view can be themed or edited as desired; it can be displayed as a grid, list, table or slideshow.

    4. Automatic Nodetitles

    Sometimes you want to generate content automatically. Automatic Nodetitles generates titles for your content based on various criteria, including the date of creation, the user name responsible for the content, or the "parent" of a particular node.

    For example, I personally have a "Product" content type. I want every new product image that falls under the "Product" content type to be automatically named with the parent product title. You can specify a token to generate the desired title of your node.

    Automatic Nodetitles

    In such a case, whenever content is created, a node title will also be automatically created.

    Automatic Nodetitles

    Here are the four new nodes and their automatically generated titles:

    Automatic Nodetitles

    5. Nodewords

    For search engine optimization (SEO) purposes, you might need to add certain keywords to certain nodes (e.g. "pages", "announcements", "posts", etc.) on your website. The Nodewords module lets you specify keywords or key phrases on a node-by-node basis (instead of a website-wide, cascading basis). You can then track results with Google Analytics or Drupal core’s statistics-tracking feature.

    6. ImageCache

    The Image Drupal module defines sizes that you can adjust for any image uploaded by a user. The ImageCache module extends this functionality and lets you set up "presets" for image processing that include cropping, desaturating color, resizing images to exact sizes, rotating, resizing by aspect ratio, scaling and sharpening.

    Automatic Nodetitles

    Note: This module has been moved into Drupal 7 core, but is still useful to Drupal 6 (and below) users.

    7. Views Slideshow

    Most websites need some way to fit multiple pieces of information into a fixed space. This can be done by creating a "View" of particular data on your website. The Views Slideshow Drupal module can help make this view more interesting.

    For example, you could create a view of the most recent articles, and then use the module to cycle through that view. You could set up a "Recent highlights" section showing the articles’ titles, images and teasers. You could set up a "Top-rated products" list that shows images, "Add to cart" links, titles and descriptions.

    In the example below, we’ve created a slideshow of articles with a fade-in effect on the large photo and thumbnails across the bottom. The user clicks on a thumbnail to get to each article.

    Automatic Nodetitles

    In this next example, we’ve created a slideshow that fades in a variety of image details of certain products.

    Automatic Nodetitles

    8. Nodequeue

    If you want to highlight certain items in a section, like an "Editor’s pick" section, and you want the website administrator to control what appears in that section, then the Nodequeue module will prove useful to you. The node queue can be set up to display according to your specifications.

    Automatic Nodetitles

    In this case, I’m allowing 15 articles in the queue at any given time:

    Automatic Nodetitles

    To add an item to the queue, a user with adequate permissions simply clicks "Add to highlighted" at the bottom of the node.

    9. String Overrides

    If you need to change the default language of parts of your website, you could hack the Drupal core code–strongly not recommended, just don’t do it–or you could use the handy String Overrides Drupal module to find a string and then override the matched text. This module lets you control a specific phrase anywhere on your website.

    For example, on one of my websites, I needed to change the default check-out message because it didn’t suit the organization. I used String Overrides to make this task simpler.

    String Overrides

    User Engagement and Game Mechanics

    10. Better Formats

    Drupal comes with basic support for input filters, which allow administrators to specify what kind of HTML can be added by users. For example, an administrator might want to strip all formatting for novice users but allow links, bold text, italicized text and tables for advanced users. When a user creates content for a Drupal website, they have to specify which "input filter" they want to run their content through prior to publication–this can be an inconvenience, and can open the CMS to content-rendering issues because of an incorrectly chosen input filter.

    However, with the Better Formats Drupal module, you can extend support for the default input filter that is assigned to a logged-in user.

    String Overrides

    For example, perhaps only the content provided by an administrator would be set to the "Full HTML" filter. This would save users from having to specify which filter to use, especially if they are eligible for many different ones.

    String Overrides

    11. Flag

    A website with user-submitted content must be monitored for spam and for submissions that are against submission guidelines. Use the Flag Drupal module to allow users to flag (or bookmark) content that they want to return to.

    You can use this module for features such as "Add to bookmarks," "Mark as inappropriate," "Flag as helpful" or "Add to wishlist."


    You could probably think of other reasons to flag content.

    12. Organic Groups

    Organic Groups (OG) is an amazing resource for building mini-communities centered on specific causes or issues. OG lets your users self-organize by maintaining public and private groups and posting messages directly to their groups.

    It’s an excellent way to encourage users to own their presence on your website. Each group can have subscribers and a landing page where the subscribers communicate between themselves.

    Organic Groups

    13. Private Messages

    The Private Messages Drupal module gives users their own inboxes on your website and the ability to communicate with one another.

    It’s used in conjunction with many other modules, such as the Advanced Profile Kit module, with which users get their own dashboards, and users with appropriate permissions can send private messages.

    Private Messages can also be used in conjunction with the Advanced Forum module, in which users with appropriate permissions can send private messages to those who post in forums.

    14. User Points

    Social news and user-generated content sites such as RedditHacker News, and Stack Overflow use a gaming mechanic often referred to as "karma" to encourage users to participate by being able to earn points for certain tasks (such as submitting good content or leaving a thoughtful comment that gets upvoted by other members).

    You can set up a similar feature in your Drupal-powered website that assigns points to user-generated content. You could award points to users who complete their profiles, upload images, post comments or add events to the calendar.

    Another novel way to integrate points into your website is to let users trade points for store merchandise and other perks. I’ve also seen users treat points as a kind of in-site currency; points are exchanged on the website, and real money is exchanged for points (for example, a user could purchase a product worth 250 points to quickly increase their total).

    15. User Badges

    Consider using User Points in tandem with User Badges–a Drupal module that allows users to unlock badges based on how many points they redeem. Alternatively, user badges could be awarded based on their participation or for doing certain tasks, which can then be measured with titles like "Sheriff," "Mayor," "Diamond user" and "Moderator," similar to social sites such as Foursquare.

    16. Invite

    Invite is a standard invite-by-email module that allows users with appropriate permissions to send invitations to their friends via email messages generated by your website, similar to invite-only community sites such as Dribbble and Forrst.

    Invitations can be tracked and constrained (i.e. limiting the number of invitations available to each user). You can grow your website organically by challenging users to send invitations to their real-life contacts.

    Invitation settings can be done by the administrator, as shown below:

    17. GMap

    Google Maps can integrate well with website content. Perhaps you’d like to add a "location" to a certain node (say an event, product or blog post). Use the GMap module to assign and display a map for certain content or users on your website. To use this module, you must sign up for a Google Maps API Key for your website.

    18. Ubercart

    Ubercart–a free open source e-commerce solution –is the most widely used e-commerce module for Drupal. Out-of-the-box users with adequate permissions, for example, can add products and allow authenticated users to purchase those products with check-out functionality. Enable a payment gateway such as Authorize, Google Checkout or PayPal to accept payments, and you’re ready to start selling your goods on the Web.

    Ubercart features include shipping-quote integration with UPS/USPS, discount coupons by percentage or fixed amount, stock inventory control and many pre-built reports to track orders and customers.

    There are plenty of configuration options and documentation in the official Ubercart site, if you would like to learn more.

    User Registration

    19. Login Toboggan

    In Drupal, a website can have both public users (anonymous) and authenticated users (registered and signed into the system). During the authentication process, you can assign statuses to users; for example, you could offer memberships for a fee, or make day passes available with which users can get bumped up to a status that has more access permissions.

    The Login Toboggan Drupal module helps you exclude pre-authenticated users–those who have registered but not yet confirmed their email addresses–from common functions and tasks that authenticated users are permitted to do.

    User Registration

    For example, I use Login Toboggan to assign a "pre-authenticated" status to a new user. At this stage, the user can review website data but cannot post reviews, give star ratings or add comments until they verify their email address. Once the user confirms their email address, Login Toboggan assigns an "authenticated" status, and the user is granted all of the abilities of authenticated users.

    20. Facebook Connect

    Facebook Connect is a nifty Drupal module that allows you to streamline the user registration process by letting users register and sign in with their Facebook accounts using Facebook’s authentication API.

    If your website’s users are already on Facebook, consider opening up access to your website by allowing them to log in with their Facebook username and password, making it more convenient for them, as well as for you, so that you don’t have to store any user account data (such as passwords and email). This module requires you to sign up your site on Facebook.

    To extend your Drupal-Facebook integration, try the DrupalforFacebook module. It integrates Facebook Connect, "Like" buttons, stream publishing and extended permissions for sharing information between a user’s Facebook and Drupal website profiles.


    As you probably know, this is but a small sampling of the available modules in Drupal. As always, before working with new modules, back up your database, and save a copy of your website prior to making changes. To evaluate a module, go to its project page (which are all linked above) and review the bug list, the documentation, live versions of the module and the number of downloads (to see how popular it is).

    About the Author

    Monica S. Flores is a web developer through 10K Webdesign, which focuses on websites for progressive organizations and membership groups. She founded a member community for success-oriented women ASuccessfulWoman and one of the first green business directories by and for women GreenBusinessWomen. Contact her through Twitter.

    Disqus for ully's online marketing

    Disqus for ully's online marketing