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Twitter is the New Black: Trending Topics as Sources of Information



Trendy news 

Reflecting back on my past year, I realize, sadly, that aside from the occasional frantic text from my mother, Twitter has been my main source of information regarding every sports victory and celebrity death, divorce and coming out. If Obama’s health care reform passing wasn’t on my tab of United States trends and mentioned by every single person I follow, I would have remained in the dark for an embarrassingly extended period of time.  Twitter trending topics, while sometimes used as more of a game like #UnansweredHipHopQuestions, #MentionSomeoneBeautiful and #ImThatGirlfriend, are often indicators of the latest news, such as the birth of Kourtney Kardashian and Scott Disick’s newborn and the death of beloved filmmaker Nora Ephron. Thanks to trending topics and Tailored Trends, Twitter can give you information and the latest news according to your interests while you again attempt to get retweeted by Lady Gaga. 

Screen Shot 2012 07 10 at 5.22.00 PM 

Trend lightly

Twitter trends cover a wide range of topics and are used in different ways. Whether you are interested in how people feel about the latest Wimbledon champion, or if you are bored and just looking for something to tweet, trends provide the necessary information to do just that.  For your convenience, the trends feed is located in the lower left corner of your Twitter homepage right under suggestions of who to follow. The best part about trends is the user’s individual ability to choose which ones they are exposed to. There is the worldwide option as well as individual countries and states. You can change these freely depending on the area you would like insight into at that particular moment. If you are like me and like to get news from these constantly updated keywords, you’ll be interested to know the latest buzz under United States trends includes the unfortunate passing of Marty star Ernest Borgnine, Skip Bayless and his comments about Tony Romo, the return of “Bad Girls Club,” and Michael Fassbender’s upcoming role in an “Assassin’s Creed” movie.  

 Screen Shot 2012 07 10 at 5.27.35 PM


Tailored Trends and what it means if you have them 

Tailored Trends are adapted to each individual based on their interests, location and whom they follow. You can enable these, as you please, just like location-based trends.

Screen Shot 2012 07 10 at 5.29.47 PM

These trends, while possibly more relatable to users, give the false impression that your interests are shared by a wide range of people, when in reality you could be one of a very small group that actually cares about whatever it is that could possibly be newsworthy about Sienna Miller. Mashable discusses this drawback in their “Tailored Trends Ruining Twitter” post, while Twitter maintains that the purpose of Tailored Trends is to better show “emerging trends that matter to you.” I can’t say that Twitter’s efforts have been exactly accurate though, since “el 99%” is listed as one of my Tailored Trends. I wonder how this trend could possibly be relevant to me, an American 19-year-old college student who has minimal financial responsibility at present. I agree with the author that Tailored Trends provide a small range of information and that turning them off allows for a more accurate and open-minded depiction of the latest news. At the same time, however, others enjoy having their trends filtered and prefer not to be bothered with the general ones that do not directly relate to them.


One final thing to keep in mind about trends is that as fun and informative as they can be, they are based on what is being discussed by the majority of users on Twitter, and a lot are only trending because of popular opinion, rather than fact. This caveat, however, is not going to stop me from finding out who Justin Johnson is and why he suddenly popped up on my list of trends. Happy trend-setting!

Screen Shot 2012 07 10 at 5.33.44 PM 









Popular recent Trends

  • Ernest Borgnine 
  • Penelope Scotland Disick 
  • Tom Cruise
  • R.I.P. Whitney Houston
  • Heath Care
  • Andy Griffith 
  • Windows 8
  • Nora Ephron
  • #ThingsLongerThanKimsMarriage
  • Bracket Time
  • Steve Jobs
  • Joe Paterno
  • SOPA
  • #notguilty (Casey Anthony) 
  • Happy Canada Day
  • Up All Night Tour
  • Ray Bradbury
  • Happy Tomlinson Tuesday (Louis Tomlinson- One Direction) 
  • 25 Million Monsters
  • Justin and Selena
  • iOS 5.1
  • #stopkony
  • Black Friday 
  • Invisible Children
  • Kim Jong
  • End Piracy
  • Etta James
  • Happy Australia Day
  • Demi Moore
  • #2012
  • The Devil Inside
  • Blue Ivy
  • Nikon D4
  • Happy Birthday Bob Marley 
  • Jeremy Lin
  • Photoshop CS6 
  • Ron Burgundy (in response to "Anchorman 2" announcement)

You've Got a Friend Request — from Grandma?


A few weeks ago, I was introduced to Old People Writing on a Restaurant's Facebook Page, a blog compiling screenshots of members of the older generation leaving posts on different restaurant Facebook brand pages. Scrolling through each page gave me a great laugh, but it also made me wonder if this generation really belongs online. We’ve got Bud posting a photo of his dog to Red Robin’s wall; Ian wishing Steak n’ Shake good luck in college; Sydney posting about the life of Jesus to Quiznos’ wall; Frank asking Jack in the Box to call him; and Debra congratulating Waffle House on a new baby (see below).

My conclusion? The Internet is a powerful tool that everyone should be able to use, and social media outlets are no exception. These folks may not have the hang of it just yet, but the rise of the older generation on social media platforms is undeniable, and it’s an important trend to follow.

Baby congratsFuddrockers



Booming statistics:

According to Pew Internet, social networking activity among Internet users ages 50 and up has nearly doubled in the past year. Additionally, this same age group is growing faster than the younger generation, with Internet users aged 50-64 growing on social media sites by 88% and users aged 65 and up growing 100%. With stats like these, it’s hard to ignore such a booming and active demographic. 


What’s in it for them?

Pew gives us a few reasons as to why social media is so attractive to this age group. First, the older generation finally has the capability to reconnect with past relationships. Back then, it wasn't as easy to look up and reconnect with a high school friend you made forty years back. Second, chronic disease support is easily attainable. With blogs and discussion threads at their fingertips, folks with similar health issues can reach out for help simply and comfortably. Finally, undeniable generation gaps are being bridged online. This older age group isn’t much different from any other when it comes to social media. They want to keep up with their grandkids like I keep up with my friends and family. LeadingAge online magazine interviewed a few senior citizens about their social media presence to give us a better understanding of their online benefits. Randy Eilts, a director of public relations for a senior living marketing firm, says that he likes to be among the first to see his granddaughter’s prom pictures or photos of his children’s Hawaiian vacation. These are opportunities that weren’t as available just a few years ago.


What does this mean for businesses?

Reaching out to this age group isn’t limited to television, newspaper or radio anymore. Marketers can and should freely jump on the digital bandwagon to get to their not-so-niche market. Older folks are making their appearances on Facebook and Twitter, but there are also social media platforms that cater to them specifically. These sites include Gransnet, a network for grandparents with discussion board covering topics that range from childhood games to difficult daughter-in-laws, and Active Empty Nesters, a site with large font and an emphasis on the joys of being free from the duties of raising a family.


One more for good measure:

The Cheesecake FactorySource:


How do your parents or grandparents use social media, and exactly how do you feel about it?

-- Jaime Cheng, @Rochambeaux

#TheVoice: Setting the Trend for Social TV


Everyone has their guilty pleasures. One of my many is watching singing competitions on TV.  American Idol is in its 11th season, and there are only so many ways Ryan Seacrest can suspensefully inform a singer of his or her fate. So I was beyond giddy when I heard about The Voice for two reasons: 1) Christina Aguilera 2) social media.  Let's just get Xtina out of the way — I love her, she’s my favorite singer ever. I could gush on and on, but let’s focus on what really makes this show stand out: its social media integration.

Christina AguileraOk, moving on for real now...


According to B&T, 27% of people polled watched a TV show based on a recommendation from a friend via a social networking site. On top of that, 26% of people polled also reported being made aware of the existence of a TV show by seeing a post about it on a social media platform (I first heard about The Voice on Twitter). Furthermore, Nielsen, the holy grail of TV ratings, recently released a study that reports 45% of tablet owners, and 41% of smartphone owners, use their device while watching television. So why not just steer the viewer’s online conversation? The Voice has done just that by strategically placing #TheVoice on the screen when they think people are most likely to tweet about the show.

Adam Levine
The powers that be think we should feel compelled to tweet about Adam's sultry stare.

Producers at The Voice attribute their high ratings to use of this hashtag. As many as 70% the show’s tweets during the first live episode included the hashtag “#TheVoice,” which is about twice the industry average. Upwards of 3,000 tweets per minute are hitting the web during its airtime — and that doesn't account for the thousands of tweets during the other 21-22 hours of the day. The Voice has successfully become a 24-hour social media conversation.


What separates The Voice from other TV shows is that it doesn’t use social media only as a marketing tool — social media is the core of the show and its integration is organic. One of the first things contestants are given when they land in LA is a Samsung Galaxy Tablet, and training in blogging and social media use. The Voice has a room dedicated to social media, and contestants interact with fans on the air when they're not singing.  Several times during the show contestants answer Tweeter’s questions live. Leading the social conversation on air is The Voice’s Social Media Correspondent. Last season, Alison Haslip held down the fort, and since The Voice was considered so successful in the realm of social media, I am unsure why she was replaced by singer Christina Milian for the second season.

The V Room
The V Room is where the social media magic happens!


According to Bluefin's rankings, The Voice has one of the highest levels of social-media engagement among all shows. During its first season, it held the #1 ranking among all episodic TV shows. This is in part because the official twitter account for the show, @NBCTheVoice, keeps time with the West coast broadcast.  Now that The Voice is in its second season, the competition with American Idol is really heating up.

American Idol is copying many of the social media techniques utilized by The Voice, but not well. AI contestants' Twitter handles (quite obviously created by some higher-ups, with no respect for individuality) are now being pushed onto the audience regularly. The show has started showing screenshots of Twitter conversations between the contestants and the artists whose songs they've been covering. There have been rumors that AI judges (unlike the "coaches" on The Voice) have been asked not to use the phrase, “the voice,” when providing feedback to singers. But The Voice definitively knocked any competition between the two by the wayside when Kelly Clarkson, arguably the most popular American Idol winner, tweeted she was cheating on American Idol by watching The Voice. Then in season two, Kelly was brought on The Voice as a guest mentor.

Kelly Clarkson

I have to admit, while I love the concept behind the blind auditions and coaches in The Voice, American Idol still has better singers. My interest in the expanding world of social media, and love for Christina Aguilera, however, are what keep me tuning into The Voice each week.  I have a feeling we are going to continue to see crossover elements in both shows, and I hope the competition to stay atop the ratings benefits the viewers, and continues to pave the way towards more social television shows.

The Voice Coaches


Do you think the social media integration found in The Voice is the future of television?
- Allison Rossi 

Steve Jobs as a marketing maven


Apple announced Wednesday that its co-founder, two-time CEO and face of the company, Steve Jobs, had passed away after a seven-year struggle with pancreatic cancer.

To detail each of Jobs’ game-changing creations would prove too lengthy for a single blog post.  Suffice it to say that a number of articles, books and even a movie have already delved into the life of the college dropout who went on to become one of the most successful and recognizable tech whizzes of our time.  The first authorized Jobs biography will hit shelves later this month, giving both the fanatics and the Mac-curious more to digest.

While a great deal of attention has been paid to the awesome (and I mean “awesome” in the truest sense of the word) gadgets conceived and created by Jobs, little has been said about his adeptness on the commercial side.  Business 2.0 once called Jobs “easily the greatest marketer since P.T. Barnum.”  Indeed his charisma, stage presence and signature style (black turtleneck and jeans) secured him the status as Apple’s most popular MC.  Although his role as marketer and showman was secondary to the innovator mantle, it still supersedes other CEOs and digital gurus.

To honor Jobs, here’s a look back at some of his most memorable marketing moments: 

1. “1984” Macintosh Ad, 1984: Directed by Ridley Scott, aired once during the Super bowl and named best commercial of the decade by Advertising Age. ‘Nuff said.


2. “Knick Knack,” 1989: The first animated feature created by Pixar, which Jobs purchased from LucasFilm and took to new heights. While not a reflection of his marketing prowess, the streamlined cinematography seemed to channel the crisp iMac ads that would run nearly a decade later.


3.  “Think Different,” 1997: While Jobs might not have created the iconic slogan, family, friends and followers consider him the embodiment of the phrase.



4. Silhouette iPod ads, 2001: Watching those dark figures rock out against candy-colored backgrounds gave you the irresistible urge to buy an iPod and join their legions.



5. “Get a Mac” campaign, 2006 to 2009: Probably the funniest Apple ad series of all time. Laidback Mac (Justin Long) always outshined his hopelessly flawed counterpart, PC (John Hodgman).


6. “New Soul” MacBook Air commercial, 2008: Yael Naim’s feathery voice provided a nice backdrop to the introduction of the first laptop to fit in a manila folder. Everyone was humming the tune throughout the year.

apple mac air envelope1 

7. iPad ads, 2010: Like its iPhone predecessor, the iPad commercials highlight a user-friendly interface and diverse functionality.  A neutral voiceover and soft piano keys add a simplified touch.

ipad advert e1268053004115


Farewell, Steve Jobs. Thanks for the gizmos, the tech revoultion and the vision.

Nicole Duncan

Foursquare Flail


describe the imageIn 2009, Twitter became the talk of the town.  The next year, daily deal sites like Groupon and Living Social kept the social media community on its toes. As 2011 approached, Geosocial applications like Foursquare and Gowalla looked as though they would become the newest communications craze. Even Facebook prepared for such a possibility by adding a Places feature to its networking options.

But as the third quarter winds down, the year no longer seems ripe for a check-in revolution. A survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project reveals that while 28 percent of cell phone owners use location-based services for directions and recommendations, but only 5 percent are checking in.  When looking specifically at smartphone owners, the former figure jumps to 55 percent while the latter only increases to 12. 

If Facebook were an oracle hinting at Foursquare and Gowalla’s potential growth, perhaps it is also a harbinger of their decline.  Just two weeks ago the social networking giant dispatched Places in favor of more versatile (and less stalker-like) location functions. 

The failure of geosocial services to find traction could be attributed to a myriad of reasons, not the least of which is privacy.  While some critics might site safety concerns, others simply do not want to broadcast their location across the various networks.  Although check-in applications didn’t become this year’s social media darling, such services could always make a late-game resurgence.  After all, it took Facebook six years to turn a positive cash-flow.

 — Nicole Duncan  

Offline is back on


gmaillab unpluggedSomewhere along the way to smartphone ubiquity and tablet trendiness, offline became an unsavory word.  Not as repugnant as dial-up or spam, but certainly not magnanimous like 3G.  Social networks, web searches and general connectivity became more important than offline activities like word processing and Minesweep.  The short-lived popularity of netbooks is a testament to the notion that if you’re not connected, you might as well turn your [insert device] off.

But what if you’re in a cafe that has no wireless?  What if your Aunt Elsie’s house is out of range of your 3G network?  Unless you had the foresight to download your work beforehand, such situations serve as flashbacks to pre-2008 computing.  The only difference is that now your choice of activities is even more limited as offline has been left to the wayside by many digital innovators.  

One of the tech behemoths that started this shift was Google: It introduced free programs like Gmail and Google Docs much to the chagrin of software developers.  This May the company released its own netbook, the Chromebook, which seemed to solidify its commitment to the online occult.  

You can imagine my surprise when I learned that Google was rolling out an offline version of Gmail.  The application, which can be downloaded through the Chrome Web Store, is similar to its tablet version in appearance and functionality.  As a dumbphone user who loves frequenting wifi-free cafes with my laptop, the ability to read, respond and sort through old e-mails without a connection is a major boon.  Traditional mail servers like Outlook, Thunderbird and Apple Mail have worked offline for years, but their mobility limitations, screwy settings and bland appearance kept them from reaching Gmail rock star status.

Google announced that it plans to extend this capability to Google Calendars and Docs as well— the latter of which will prove tricky given its collaborative nature.  And if the search-engine-turned-tech-giant decrees “offline” to be an option for the 3G world, others may soon follow in its path.

Nicole Duncan

Klout Continues to Grow


describe the image

A previous post announced the integration of Foursquare into the Klout user influence score. The company has stayed pretty busy, and just announced that YouTube will also be integrated into the algorithm to determine a user’s online influence.

 The algorithm measures the comments, engagement, likes and subscriber counts on a user’s YouTube account to determine how much influence a given user has. That, combined with their Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Foursquare information, gives a fairly comprehensive influence score.

This addition to the Klout formula may not mean much to individuals, but it can greatly affect the scores of bigger brands. Many brands have YouTube channels featuring commercials and promotions that require significant resources to create and maintain. Now, the large audiences they reach via this video channel can be measured along with their other social media presences.

Klout has had a wave of recent additions and upgrades with its integration of 3 new social networks and an impressive three rounds of funding. However, due to the nature of their business, we can expect more announcements like this from them in the near future. Next up, Google+?

-Laura Burns

Where have all the photos gone?


photo sharing

Back in simpler times— let’s say 2006— when Twitter was in its infancy and Facebook was caught in an awkward adolescence, photo-sharing services were an essential part of one’s online persona.  Sites like Picasa, Flickr and Photobucket invited users to upload their pictures, share with friends and “follow” others long before such features had caught fire in other social systems.

But where are they now?

While the aforementioned services still enjoy a great deal of traffic, they seem to have been shuffled to the corner in terms of general buzz.  Soon Picasa (along with Blogger) will lose its unique brand nameas part of the Google+ integration— a decision that could relegate Picasa (neé Google+ Photos) to the ranks of Instagram and Facebook Photos.

In 2006, Webshotswas my photo-sharing service of choice. Five years later, the site still sends me regular updates on my albums’ activity (surprisingly, people are still looking). The appeal of Webshots lay in its low-pressure yet dynamic atmosphere; it was a place to share images with non-Facebook users and to show off my shots to anyone who happened to stumble upon the account. While Webshots never boasted a strong community environment, it did feature a “Picture of the Day” and invited users to get lost browsing a smorgasbord of images— some funny, some pointless and some extraordinary.  Bought by American Greetings in 2007, what was once a tidy and quiet site now seems cold, cluttered and too commercial.

Is the friendly, inspiring and not-too-social atmosphere a thing of the past for photo-sharing sites?  Perhaps not.

500px, a startup from 2003 and recent darling of Microsoft BizSpark is attempting to create a home for professional photographers and photo-lovers alike. While the site features a follow function, Twitter account and Facebook page, its tie-in to social media is more conservative. LiveJournal, not WordPress or Tumblr, hosts the site’s blog. Eschewing the share-happy mentality, their mission is “to help photographers get greater exposure, reduce some of the marketing headaches, and to let creatives concentrate on what they do best.”

Although 500px might not be the best fit for an amateur photographer like me, it’s reassuring to know that high-quality images (see editors’ picks) have a community base unfettered by tags and tweets.

Nicole Duncan

Raising the bar for bar codes

I’ve always disliked bar codes.  The peel-off variety leaves a sticky residue that will nettle me until I scrub it away with Goo Gone.  The embedded style isn’t much better: The humdrum lines and numbers are a constant reminder that a million other people have bought the exact same book, calendar, model airplane, etc.  Bar codes are like the bland side dish in an otherwise delicious meal— they lack pizazz and originality.

But even something as flavorless as a bar code can become a piece of iconography in the hands of a talented graphic artist.  For example, Duane Reade now features the Brooklyn Bridge and Statue of Liberty on its products.  This creative tweak emphasizes the company’s New York roots and provides consumers with some unconventional eye candy.  Enterprises like Vanity Barcodes sell quirky designs but also offer clients the option to create their own.
NY State by Vanity Barcods vanity barcode

In terms of marketing, a designer bar code seems like a nice step toward an attractive, streamlined product.  But do these mini art pieces actually scan properly?  Supposedly yes, although the Duane Reade products also include a traditional bar code as a backup.  Will customized versions one day replace the default?  Possibly.  Right now the price of designer codes makes for an expensive investment.  Companies will have to decide whether a cute design is worth the cost.

After all, not everyone is as obsessed with bar code aesthetics as I am.

Nicole Duncan

The Buzz About Google+




Google has finally entered a serious contender into the social sphere with its launch of Google+, the new project that turns the established search giant into one, collective social network. Known as “Google’s answer to Facebook,” the program introduces some new and improved ways to share and connect with people. Here are some of the coolest:

The Circles+ feature is a new approach to the well-known friend lists.  Unlike Facebook or Twitter lists, Circles+ allow users to make several different friend groups for sharing different content. Now, close friends, family, and professional connections can be organized as such. Plus, the company has added a little fun with animation accompanying the creation of a circle.

Sparks is a new content feature. Users can choose certain topics like fashion, health, or entertainment and the engine recommends interesting and relevant content based on the information from other Google products like Google Search. The idea is simple- make it easy for people to explore their interests and allow them to share it with their friends. Sound familiar to Twitter?

Hangouts are a new way to group chat. Instead of inviting one person to chat, a user can just start a  “hangout” and let other friends join. The best part is that the chat screen shows whoever is currently talking, so although you could be in a group with 10 people you will only see one person at a time.

Google+ has been in the works for over a year, and the final product is well designed and innovative. The company has already dominated the search field, but until now has never made an impact on the social sphere. Is Google+ serious competition for Facebook and Twitter? We’ll find out.


-Laura Burns

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