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Just in time for the presidential election, Twitter has recently launched a new service called Twitter Political Index or Twindex. Unlike information provided by traditional polling companies, Twindex harnesses the power of Twitter’s massive user date to monitor and report on users’ moods to provide real-time presidential candidate trends. Using an established baseline, Twitter’s data partner Topsy, analyzes tweets from users on our presidential candidates, monitors sentiment, compares the two candidates and assigns a point value to each.

Contrary to what you might be thinking, Twitter user data does actually reflect the public/voter trends –  proven during this past year’s primaries. Twitter saw trends in user activity supporting Mitt Romney, while Rick Santorum’s declined – and look who’s representing the GOP now.

So what does this mean? Are we headed into an age where technology will impede further into the traditional election process? Will electoral votes need to be gathered if we can process data aggregately? That’s probably unlikely, but technology really is proving to show a new era of data collection and endless uses for it. With more and more users of social media expressing opinions and providing feedback, the ability for organizations – political, commercial, nonprofit, etc. – to use this data and learn from it, such as adjusting key messages, branding and public perception, is amazing.

Nonetheless, whether you’re blue or red, donkey or elephant, this year’s election will prove to be an exciting one and you have an even greater ability to be part of the process!

Check it out! CNN.com: How do you feel about Romney and Obama? Ask the ‘Twindex’ http://www.cnn.com/2012/08/02/tech/social-media/twitter-new-political-index/index.html?hpt=te_r1

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Melissa Mauldin, Senior Marketing Specialist

While many businesses have decided to get their feet wet in the realm of social media (and yes, some are still hesitant), it’s apparent that some businesses do so without proper planning. Lack of planning causes wasted time and often includes inefficient methods. Social media, like any form of marketing for a business, must involve strategy.

As we all learned from the popularization of social media in 2009 and the enhancement of the medium in 2010, social media can be a truly efficient and effective way to communicate to stakeholders on a different level. It’s no longer a “new” medium, rather it is broadly being incorporated into business marketing plans and is a sought after resource in communicating businesses key messages, events, and product news and promotions directly with customers.

I recently came across a blog on socialmediatoday.com indicating the 12 reasons why businesses will fail at social media in 2011. Overall, many of the issues stemmed around businesses not incorporating social media as part of their strategic marketing plan. Rather, businesses attempted to use the medium because they thought they should get on board. Wrong. Below are a few tips to keep in mind to help businesses utilize this popular medium efficiently.

Understand the medium.

Social media is not a tool that’s going to fix a broken business or be the answer to down sales or a poor reputation. Social media will actually enhance these issues, if not conducted properly. Businesses need to have a true understanding of the medium and have a strategy in place before engaging.

Plan, plan, plan.

Businesses without a plan will fail. Otherwise known as Random Acts of Social Medial, or RASMs, no one can afford to waste time. Avoid the randomness and develop a strategy and appropriate messaging for utilizing this tool as part of your overall marketing plan. Think about the big picture as well as the logistics involved in the strategy. (i.e. What is our key message? Is our messaging appropriate for the audience? How much and how often? Will we develop any special events/promotions for this audience only? Who will manage our presence on social media sites? Who will have access? Do we have the manpower to devote one person to manage social media activity? If not, how can the workload be divided?)

Don’t expect too much too early.

Certainly, online resources provide data and feedback immediately upon entering this world. However, it takes time to understand the environment, engage with the audience and build a following that will respond, before determining the success or failure of this resource.

So, have you planned your social media participation strategically? This year, get on board with a strategic goal and action plan that’s in line and in support of your marketing efforts. Social media can help contribute to building your brand, as part of your overall marketing plan. Ensure you’re messaging correctly and devoting the resources needed to be successful in this ever-changing and continuously evolving medium. Don’t waste time.  There never seems to be enough anyway!

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Melissa Mauldin, Senior Marketing Specialist, A. Bright Idea

Think about a good customer experience you’ve had: how elated you were and happy to share the news with your peers! In a world where we’re surrounded by negative-toned news, we often feel overjoyed when someone does something nice for us.

I recently had a nice experience with the online discounter, Groupon. I purchased a Groupon offer as a gift for my sister-in-law but later found out the retailer was not meeting Groupon’s criteria (obviously Groupon received complaints from people attempting to use their coupon for services and were not getting what they were promised) and as a result, Groupon provided a refund to everyone who purchased the coupon and they stopped offering the deal. I was so impressed with the fact that Groupon took care of me, when I called my sister-in-law to tell her that her gift no longer worked I explained how great Groupon had been – and how awful the retailer must have been to have Groupon nix the deal for everyone. Customer service in this case elevated my perception and loyalty to Groupon, but it also made me an advocate of how providing bad customer service can bite you.

When you have bad experiences (and those seem to stick out more than the good ones) they leave a taste in our mouths that you’re only too happy to share with your friends and neighbors. Add social media to the mix and now your interactions with bad customer service are known to millions of people.

An article in the recent issue of Marketing News cited that people generate nearly 500 billion online impressions on each other in regards to products and services each year. It went on to say Nielsen Online estimates the total number of online advertising impressions comes in around just under two trillion. Put that together and you could say people are generating around one-fourth as many impressions on each other as the entire marketing industry is generating. Now, taking that into consideration, who are you most likely to believe – a user of a product or service, or the company that provides it?

While testimonials are nothing new as a method of marketing for businesses, they become increasingly effective in the online age – prone to stimulate greater impressions among viewers – when they are honest responses from an end user and customer. When your business considers its marketing and advertising plans for the coming year, it’s important to check up on your operational touchpoints to ensure your customer experience lives up to your brand promise.

Ensure you have the resources and training to provide good customer service. Laying the groundwork will support the marketing messages communicated to your intended audiences, thereby increasing the brand loyalty and continued growth via word of mouth and blog to blog.

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Sarah West
Sarah West serves as A. Bright Idea's Government Public Affairs Specialist.

“OK, at 9:00 tonight we have to stop what we’re doing and talk about the wedding,” I said to my fiancée last night, who was studying the muscles of the shoulder online, in between refreshing the Oriole’s game to check the score, while he played with the cat. Meanwhile, I was breading a pork chop according to the healthy recipe I had pulled up on my laptop, holding a highlighter in one hand, ready for the proposal I was reading, all the while taking breaks to listen to the evening news and keep up on email. As the clock approached 11 p.m., I said we’re going to have to reschedule wedding planning to tomorrow night – he grunted his acknowledgement.

According to a recent article in the Chicago Tribune “Researchers studied 1,100 workers at a British company and found that multitasking with electronic media caused a greater decrease in IQ than smoking pot or losing a night’s sleep.”

Maybe that explains why I have completely expunged the process of long division from my brain?

In today’s media world, you have to multitask. There is no getting around it. According to a recent study by Ball State University,The average American spends more time using media devices —television, radio, iPods and cell phones — than any other activity while awake.”

I have found myself very annoyed lately by people who insist on vigorously thumbing through their Blackberry or iPhone while we wade through a lengthy conversation, peppered with “What was that you said?” or “Huh?”

Sometimes, we can be our own worst enemy in our quest for constant information. Although the workload won’t change, our approach can. I felt refreshed today putting an actual pen to real paper to capture my “to do” list and stopped skimming my email to focus on a live conversation with a colleague and noticed not one “huh?” kept the conversation to a few minutes instead of several.

Although the mantra “one thing at a time” may be dead in today’s society, perhaps we can all at least try just two things at a time.

Now I’m going to go practice a few long division problems.