Archive for April, 2009

Hospitals & Social Media Marketing

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

Depending on which source one cites, there are anywhere from 5,000 to 7,500 hospitals in the United States. Of these, only about 240 are using social networking tools such as YouTube channels, Facebook Pages, Twitter accounts, and blogs, according to Ed Bennett, director of Web strategy at the University of Maryland Medical System. Bennett was quoted this week in a story that the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune ran about the Mayo Clinic and Lee Aase, Mayo’s manager for syndication and social media. Thanks to Aase, Mayo has been establishing a strong social media presence via YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and its blogs.

Internet marketing can provide very positive benefits for hospitals and the patients they serve. As we wrote about earlier this month, the St. Louis Children’s Hospital’s search engine optimization efforts helped make it the hospital of choice for a mother whose son has cerebral palsy. The Star Tribune’s story lists several examples of videos that have drawn viewer interest and attracted patients to the Mayo Clinic. And just last week, Ad-ology Research released a study which found that social media marketing has a significant impact on how patients choose a hospital or doctor.

If you’re employed at a hospital, medical clinic, or doctor’s office and are interested in establishing a stronger Internet presence, Molding Web’s Internet marketing and social media consulting services can help you to determine the right course to take, whether it be a blog, a forum, and/or social networking.

Nielsen Online’s Twitter “Retention” Claim: Irresponsible or Simply Ignorant?

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Yesterday, Nielsen Online ran an entry on the Nielsen Wire blog titled Twitter Quitters Post Roadblock to Long-Term Growth. In it, David Martin, Nielsen Online’s Vice President of Primary Research, claimed that on a month-to-month basis Twitter fails to retain more than 60% of its users. Today, everyone from writers at Business Week, PC World, and The Christian Science Monitor to social media marketing bloggers trumpeted the story as proof that Twitter is nothing but hype. But upon closer inspection it appears that Nielsen Online’s post was either ignorant or irresponsible.

In the blog post, Martin provides no documented statistics to back up Nielsen’s claim, nor does he give any indication of Nielsen’s methodology. The term used, “audience retention,” suggests that Nielsen measured page views or site visits rather than actual use of the micro-blogging service. Martin then compounds this problem by comparing the Twitter retention rate “statistics” created by Nielsen to similar statistics for Facebook and MySpace when they were at an audience level similar to Twitter’s, and suggesting that Twitter has not succeeded at the same level as the two social networking sites.

But there’s an enormous problem both with this comparison and with Nielsen’s methodology: unlike MySpace and, until recently, Facebook (which announced an Open Stream API this week that allows users to access their feed information via third parties without going to the Facebook website), Twitter users don’t need to visit the Twitter website to engage with other users. In fact, according to the Twitter analytics service TwitStat, less than 1/3 of Twitter users access their accounts via Twitter’s web interface.

One of the unique things about Twitter—and a driving force behind its explosive popularity—has been its willingness to allow users to access their accounts via third-party applications such as Tweetdeck and TwitterFeed. According to TwitStat, Tweetdeck alone accounts for nearly 20% of all Twitter usage. In other words, judging by Nielsen’s post, a given Twitter user (such as Molding Web) that accesses his or her Twitter account via and then switches to using Tweetdeck would be included as a user that Twitter failed to retain. Such an assumption is not merely misleading; it displays a total ignorance of the fundamental appeal that Twitter has to smartphone users and other hyper-connected professionals.

Charity:Water, Operation of Hope Receive $100K from Wolverine

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009


Charity: Water, one of the non-profit organizations that Molding Web has been following since we first joined Twitter, recently became the recipient of AUS$50,000 from X-Men Origins: Wolverine star Hugh Jackman. The Australian-born Jackman had announced on April 14 that he would pledge AUS$100,000 to the charity that could best use Twitter to persuade him that it was deserving of the funds. Charity: Water became a co-winner of Jackman’s contest thanks to a photo of Ethiopian school children that its president and founder, Scott Harrison, tweeted to Jackman. The other AUS$50,000 was given to Operation of Hope, a charity that provides surgical procedures to children born with facial deformities in developing countries.

Molding Web wishes to extend our congratulations and best wishes to Charity: Water and Operation of Hope. We encourage our readers to support both of these organizations and other groups like them—and follow them on Twitter!

Green Internet Marketing Fails to Persuade Teens

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

Today is Earth Day, and much is being written about the various successes and failures of the environmental movement. Though it may seem like environmental messages are everywhere you turn, a new survey by Generate Insight has found that green organizations could be doing a better job of capitalizing on their very positive public image among teens.

The survey targeted Millennials, the generation of people aged 13 to 29, and asked how they perceive the green movement and whether their purchasing decisions mirror those perceptions. Though the top three words associated with the green movement were responsible, smart, and cool, over 70% of respondents aged 13 to 17 said they would buy a less expensive product rather than one that gave back to the environment.


Perhaps not coincidentally, this was the same demographic group that was least impacted by the Internet marketing efforts of environmentalists. Eighty-five percent of 13- to 17-year-olds said school was their main source of environmental education versus 79% of Millennials who learn primarily via the Internet.

Two primary points in the Generate Insight survey could benefit from renewed marketing efforts by environmentalists:

• Just 48% of 13- to 17-year-olds believe they can make a difference, because the magnitude of environmental problems is overwhelming.

• Most Millennials are unsure why environmentally friendly products are more expensive.

U.S. Latino Internet Audience Active, Growing

Monday, April 20th, 2009


Several studies have come out recently which reveal that the Latino Internet audience in the U.S. is both fast-growing and highly active:

• Last month, a study by Scarborough Research found that though their broadband use was slightly lower than the overall population, 54% of U.S. Latinos are now online, and they are 211% more likely than the average American to download digital content.

• This week, comScore reported that a record 20.3 million U.S. Latinos went online in February. Latinos now account for 11% of the total online population, and their online presence is growing more than 50% faster than the overall online population in the U.S.

• A PLYmedia study released at the end of March found that adding subtitles to online videos resulted in 80% more people watching an entire video to completion. Among Spanish-speaking audiences, the addition of subtitles increased video viewing time by nearly 50%.

Though multi-language search engine optimization and social media marketing has received some attention from online businesses, it remains a relatively undeveloped aspect of the Internet marketing sector. If your company has a sizeable or growing Latino customer base, now would be a great time to consider how Spanish-language SEO or SMM could fit into your long-term Internet marketing strategy.

Defense Researchers: U.S. Government Must Use Social Media

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

A soon-to-be-released research paper from the National Defense University (NDU) asserts that the U.S. Defense Department must recognize that social media is “serious stuff with national security ramifications,” according to a story at Nextgov. The research paper contains information on both the socio-political and security ramifications of social media, from its use in organizing citizen protests to the potential security threats posed by cyber criminals or terrorists.

NDU associate research fellow Mark Drapeau stressed that it was important to be aware of the power and reach of social media tools. “If you work in national security some of these things happening in other countries may affect your job or mission. What’s happening over the past couple years is people in other countries are using Facebook, Twitter and blogs to organize. In some cases even when government security knew it was happening, they were overwhelmed by the amount of people who show up,” Drapeau told Nextgov.

Distinguished Research Professor and report co-author Linton Wells said the federal government must begin to work out a strategy for social networking. “These tools are enormously powerful, and there’s a generation gap in government as to who is using them.”

Though the government’s social media strategy and usage policies have been arbitrary to date, the Defense Department is aware of the opportunities that are available for outreach and intelligence. “Not being involved [with social media] is probably a greater risk than anything you may encounter from being involved,” Jack Holt, the DoD’s senior strategist for emerging media, told Nextgov.

Facebook Now The Sixth Most Popular Website Worldwide

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

Facebook is now the sixth most popular website in the world and consumes nearly 1/3 of all time spent on social media websites in Europe. Though Facebook recently disclosed that it had passed the 200 million member mark, new data from comScore’s World Metrix service suggest that Facebook is actually used by 275 million people every month.

The comScore numbers represent a year-over-year increase of 75%, a gain which is attributable in large part to Facebook’s concerted effort to reach more countries and language groups. In Europe, for example, Facebook experienced year-over-year growth of 314%. Facebook is currently available in at least 40 languages, with another 60 or so languages still in development. Facebook’s expanding global reach and wealth of personal data is likely to make it an even more appealing venue for targeted pay-per-click marketing campaigns.

Facebook is receiving attention from more than just members and online marketers. Screenwriter, producer, and The West Wing co-creator Aaron Sorkin is currently at work on a screenplay about the site’s origins.

FTC Plans to Regulate Social Media Marketing

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

Facebook has passed the 200 million user mark and companies like Coca-Cola are setting up social media communications departments. But perhaps the greatest sign yet of the growing influence of social media marketing is that the Federal Trade Commission is planning to regulate it. According to, the FTC is updating its guidelines to address word-of-mouth Internet marketing, i.e. bloggers and other social media users who are paid to write about a company’s products.

“The commission is attempting to update guidelines that are 30 years old so that they address current marketing techniques, and in particular to address the issue of whether or not the safe harbor that’s currently allowed for ‘result not typical’-type disclaimers is still warranted,” said Rich Cleland, assistant director of the FTC’s advertising practices division.

The FTC social media guidelines would apply only to those who are paid to promote a company’s products and services, not to individuals who post independent reviews on Facebook, Amazon, and other business or personal sites. The FTC commissioners will vote on the revisions this summer, after reviewing public comments received on the issue from groups like the American Association of Advertising Agencies.

Review Site Finally Lets Business Owners Speak

Monday, April 13th, 2009

Small business owners who are attentive to local search engine optimization know that is one of the largest user review and local search websites. They also know that it can be a source of negative reviews—both fair and unfair—that have a big impact on business. But as of this week, business owners will have the opportunity to yelp back to unsatisfied or outright hostile customers (or competitors pretending to be customers).

“Business owners for years now have been asking for more and more voice on the site,” Geoff Donaker, Yelp’s chief operating officer, told The New York Times last week. “As long as it’s done in a respectable way, it’s good for the consumer and good for the business owner.”

The change in policy comes after a long series of complaints by business owners that Yelp, which was founded in 2004, is inattentive to their needs and unwilling to provide a more balanced perspective. In February, Yelp was even accused of using the placement of negative reviews to blackmail business owners into advertising on the site; companies that paid a $299-a-month fee were allowed to choose a positive review and place it at the top of their pages.

Have You Tweeted A Ford Lately?

Saturday, April 11th, 2009

Among major American corporations, Ford has built a relatively strong presence in the social media sphere. Most notably, the American car manufacturer hired Scott Monty ( as its head of social media in June of last year. However, desperate times call for desperate social media marketing measures, and Ford is about to embark on a social media project that is unusually risky: to promote the new Ford Fiesta, which is a year away from hitting the U.S. market, Ford is providing 100 young, social media-conscious people with a Fiesta and asking them to share their experiences with the car via Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, and other social media sites.

In essence, Ford is giving up control of its own branding and promotion, and will have no say in the content of the so-called Fiesta Movement. It’s a bold move, and at the very least it will earn Ford a lot of respect for its willingness to embrace authenticity.

The 100 participants were chosen from a group of more than 4,000 people who submitted video auditions. They will receive a free car for six months, along with auto insurance and gas. Winners were chosen based on how popular their videos were online and their creativity and video skills.

The project wasn’t without opposition, as The Wall Street Journal reports:

“I was like, ‘Nah, go to Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica [Calif.], go to Royal Oak [Mich.] on a hot night with the kids out for ice cream,’” said Jim Farley, Ford’s global vice president for sales and marketing. “Pull up with 10 vehicles, give away free T-shirts, have people do test drives, broadcast the whole thing on the Web.”

Mr. Farley said his reluctance softened when a group of sons and daughters recruited from Ford’s largest dealers endorsed the six-month online effort.

“The interest in the Web [campaign] had far exceeded my expectations,” he says. “My hunch was pretty traditional.”

A Twitter Revolution?

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Some industry analysts have been calling Twitter a revolution in social media marketing, but now comes word of a political uprising that is literally being called the Twitter Revolution. In Moldova, a nation in Eastern Europe that is bordered by Romania and Ukraine, anti-Communist students have been using the rapidly growing micro-blogging site to organize themselves in protest against what they claim were unfair parliamentary elections won by Moldova’s
Communist Party. Moldovan protesters connected via the Twitter tag #pman (Twitter members can use a hash tag to organize posts), which stands for Piata Marii Adunari Nationale, the Romanian name of the largest square in Chisinau, the capital city of Moldova. Twitter was also reported to be a means of communication during the demonstrations at the G20 summit last week in London.

Social Media News Roundup

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

• Coca-Cola has launched an office of digital communications and social media, according to PR Week. “Mass media is declining in importance,” said Clyde Tuggle, Coke’s Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Productivity. “Our future success depends on our continued ability to connect people to our brands and our Company all around the world, one person at a time.” In addition to its social media marketing efforts, Coke will be developing a “Social Media Communications Network” in order to improve the company’s communication.

• Twitter announced that its new Discovery Engine has been made available as a test to a small number of users. Twitter Search results—including results for saved search terms—appear directly on the user’s homepage. The unveiling of the Discovery Engine is further evidence that Twitter may develop into a real-time “search engine.”

• Elsewhere on the social media search front this past week, Digg announced the release of the DiggBar. The DiggBar allows users to interact with Digg from anywhere on the Internet. Once the DiggBar button has been placed on a member’s bookmarks bar, clicking on it will provide the chance to Digg; add a comment; share the page on Facebook, Twitter, or email; view related stories, etc. Like TinyURL, the DiggBar makes it easy to share stories on Twitter by creating a shortened URL. And like the StumbleUpon toolbar and its “Stumble” button, the DiggBar features a “Random” button that takes users to a different Digg story. In short, it’s a very cool tool. You can find it in the Tools section at Digg.

St. Louis Children’s Hospital Using SEO and SMM

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

A recent article at, the online home of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper, illustrates how awareness of social media marketing and search engine optimization is growing, even in the most unexpected industries. The story is about an Alabama mother whose son has cerebral palsy. While researching his symptoms via Google, she discovered the name of a procedure that had been found to help children with the same cerebral palsy type as her son. She Googled the name of the procedure, “selective dorsal rhizotomy,” and the first result that Google provided was for St. Louis Children’s Hospital. Impressed by the hospital’s website, she chose to have the hospital perform the surgery, and her son can now use a walker.

Search engine optimization isn’t the only form of Internet marketing that St. Louis Children’s Hospital is using to gain online exposure. It is also active on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, and is one of the sponsors of the community website

Farewell, Wikia Search

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

Google Knol has failed—so far, anyway—to become a viable alternative to Wikipedia as a source of topical user-generated information, so it seems only fitting that Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales announced today that Wikia Search, the open-source search engine that was designed to give users greater control over results, has been shut down. On his blog, Wales blamed the economy for Wikia’s unwillingness to continue funding the project, but the generally cold reception given to Google’s own SearchWiki feature may indicate that search engine users are not as ready to embrace personalized search as many industry analysts would like to believe.

Wikia Search went into public alpha mode in January 2008. In June, Wikia began allowing users to alter search results to their liking. Unlike with Google’s SearchWiki feature, however, such changes affected the results received by all Wikia Search users, not just the individual user who deleted entries, added new ones, or changed the order of search listings for a given keyword. According to CNET, Wikia Search had drawn only 10,000 unique users a month over the past six months.

Google’s SearchWiki was launched in November 2008, and though the search leader said that individual changes to search results would not be factored into its algorithm in the near future, speculation persists that this program or others like it will eventually transform the nature of search engine optimization.

Study: Newspaper Sites Lack Social Media Awareness

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

Today marks the last daily print edition of the Christian Science Monitor, which is the first major daily paper to switch from print to the Internet. In addition to its daily online edition, the CSM will be providing a weekly print edition wrapping up the week’s news. Coincidentally, a study was also released today which suggests that despite the adoption of online publishing by many print dailies back in the early-to-mid 90s, their failure to grasp the social nature of the Internet is contributing to their demise.

The study by Gartner Inc. is entitled “Newspaper Publishers Must Do More to Empower Brand Stewards.” It claims that the inability or unwillingness to integrate social media tools into their websites is preventing newspapers from enjoying the advantages of organic brand building that regular readers and social media website habitués would provide. Specifically, the report found that only 20% of newspaper and magazine website readers use the search tools available on such sites, and only 24% share those publications’ stories via email, IM, or social networking sites. In addition, few newspapers give Twitter members the ability to tweet stories directly.

The Internet marketing lesson from this story? A product that is used every week by 75% of American adults is faltering because of a lack of social media marketing.

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