3/21/11 Groupon’s ambitious plan to change how and when we eat

Groupon is fervently preparing for its most ambitious venture yet: the launch of a new mobile application that the company hopes will change when and how society chooses to eat, shop and play.

The application, known as Groupon Now, is remarkably and elegantly simple, yet it’s a radical departure from Groupon’s current deal-a-day business model. When a user opens up the smartphone app, he or she will be presented with just two buttons: “I’m hungry” and “I’m bored.”

Clicking either button will open up a list of time-specific daily deals, based on his or her location.

The familiar $10 coupons for $20 worth of food are still there, but they’re not one-time offers. Instead, businesses can choose when they want these deals to be available.

Say a restaurant is incredibly busy on Saturdays but could use more business on Wednesdays. With Groupon Now, that business can fill its seats during slow business days using time-specific deals.

That’s the beauty of Groupon Now: local businesses have never really had a simple way to manage their perishable inventory, especially labor and food. Why waste those resources during slow periods when you can bring savings-savvy consumers through the doors with a highly targeted Groupon deal?

“For merchants, the daily deal is like teeth whitening, and Groupon Now is like brushing your teeth. It can be an everyday thing to keep your business going,” Groupon founder and CEO Andrew Mason told Bloomberg Businessweek in an extensive interview on the new product.

The daily deals company has been on a tear recently — in fact it is the fastest growing company in history — but it faces stiff competition from companies with increasing muscle.

Groupon is reportedly preparing for a $25 billion IPO just months after famously rejecting a $6 billion acquisition offer from Google, but its biggest competitor, LivingSocial, is preparing to raise half a billion dollars in funding.

Not only that, but the #2 daily deals service has an app similar to Groupon Now already on the market.

Groupon clearly believes Groupon Now is the future, so much so that its employees call the current iteration of its daily deals service “Groupon 1.0.”

While the market has made it clear that the group-buying business model is easily replicable, the coupon giant believes that its new offering will provide it with a unique technology and value proposition that will keep it ahead of the pack. With 70+ million subscribers and growing, Groupon will also have a big head start.

It won’t be long until we find out if Groupon Now is the future of local commerce; the mobile app launches in April.


By Ben Parr, Mashable

© 2010 MASHABLE.com. All rights reserved.

3/17/11 Facebook ‘Likes’ more profitable than tweets

(Mashable) — If event registration site Eventbrite’s experience is any indication, social media marketers looking for monetary returns on their efforts might get more value from Facebook than Twitter.

The company announced Wednesday that an average tweet about an event drove 80 cents in ticket sales during the past six months, whereas an average Facebook Like drove $1.34.

The study, which used in-house social analytics tools to track ticket sales on the site, was a continuation of a similar analysis the company released in October after analyzing data from a 12-week period.

That study also indicated Facebook drove more sales for Eventbrite than Twitter, although the difference between the two networks’ sales per post was greater at that point than throughout the entire six-month period (the “value” of tweets increased).

In addition to each individual Facebook Like driving more sales than an individual tweet, the study also revealed cumulative activity on Facebook was greater than activity on Twitter for Eventbrite. People shared Eventbrite events on Facebook almost four times as often as they did on Twitter. The company attributes this disparity to Facebook’s wider reach and greater emphasis on real-world ties.

It’s important to note that only a very small percentage of site visitors shared event pages on either network. Just 1% of people who landed on an event page shared it with their friends; 10% of people who had purchased a ticket did the same.

Obviously people are more likely to share events if they are attending. Their friends, according to Eventbrite’s data, are also more likely to buy tickets to an event shared on Facebook by a ticket holder than one shared by an uncommitted friend.

But whether these trends, or any of Eventbrite’s findings, are relevant to other types of purchases is still a matter of speculation. But Eventbrite is betting they are.

“We carefully track sharing behavior in an effort to help event organizers tap into a new world of distribution for their event promotion,” wrote Tamara Mendelsohn, Eventbrite’s director of marketing and former senior analyst at Forrester Research, in a blog post about the study.

“But the findings apply broadly to all e-commerce businesses, because the foundations of e-commerce are shifting as the social graph becomes a meaningful influence in driving transactions.”

© 2010 MASHABLE.com. All rights reserved.


3/9/11 UCI Extension – Internet Marketing


Essential for all marketing professionals and business people, the Internet Marketing Certificate Program is designed to provide you with a comprehensive examination of tactics and strategies across social media, mobile marketing, online analytics, and search engine marketing aimed at fully leveraging the Internet for achieving business goals such as acquiring, converting, and retaining online customers.

Learn how to integrate new tactics and strategies with traditional marketing tools and practices aimed at capturing new customers, building customer loyalty, providing superior customer service, developing new products, improving profitability and conducting marketing research. You will also understand the value of and methods for determining return on investment of Internet marketing programs as well as online visitor and buyer behavior, learn how to develop an Internet marketing strategy and plan with the goal of maximizing your marketing budget.

Who Should Attend

Anyone interested in improving website performance, online marketing campaigns, search marketing and web analytics skills

Professionals interested in advancing a career in marketing

Certificate Requirements

To earn the certificate, participants must complete six (6) required courses and electives totaling a minimum of five (5) units, each with a grade of “C” or better, for a minimum of 160 hours of instruction. Students not pursuing the certificate program are welcome to take as many individual courses as they wish.

UCI Extension

Stay Connected With IMA on a Brand-New Apple® iPad™

Here’s your chance to win a new Apple iPad2. The “IMA iPad2 I’m a Friend” contest is open now and will run through June 30.

Visit us at www.facebook.com/IMAnetwork and “Like” our page to be instantly entered in our iPad giveaway and to stay connected with IMA. Last year’s winner of the first generation iPad, Michael Siersema, will be invited back to give away the brand new iPad 2!

The winner will be announced July 15, 2011.

2/28/11 Google Busts Overstock.com For Search Spam

Google has manually demoted Overstock.com in its search results to penalize the company for trying to game Google’s search algorithm.

The Wall Street Journal reports that for queries like “vacuum cleaners,” Overstock used to be in the top few results. In the last few days, it has dropped to the fifth or sixth page.

Google gave no reason for the demotion, but Overstock thinks that its practice of encouraging college students to link to the site is the problem. Google’s algorithm assumes that links from .edu domains are from academic sites and gives them more weight than links from other kinds of sites. Overstock discontinued the program on February 10, but some sites were slow to remove their links.

Google has come under fire lately for spam in search results, and the company recently cracked down on JC Penney for gaming search results over the holiday season.


Matt Rosoff, provided by

2/21/11 Foursquare Closing In On 7 Million Users

Foursquare has just crossed 7,000,000 user IDs, which should mean that the location-based social network will be hitting 7 million registered users in the coming week. As we learned from the Foursquare, user ID numbers don’t quite match up to the network’s actual number of user accounts, but in the past have been correlated as a sign that the network is fast approaching the milestone.

If Foursquare does in fact hit 7 million users in the next week or so, it would show that the startup is continuing to see steady growth, despite recent competition from Facebook’s location product Places. At the end of January, Foursquare announced 6 million users, and it took the location based social network a month and a half to add another million users from 5 million in early December. It should take a little over a month for Foursquare to hit 7 million users.

As Foursquare announced in January, the location based network grew 3400 percent in terms of check-ins and saw a total of 381,576,305 check-ins in 2010. In December, co-founder Dennis Crowley announced that Foursquare is seeing 2 million check-ins per day and adding 25K new users a day. Crowley also said that users split up geographically between 60% US and 40% international, and the average Foursquare user checks in 3-4 times day.

Recently, Foursquare added a photo uploading feature, and hit one million photos shared after three weeks. And the Super Bowl brought a record 200,000 check-ins for single event.

– TechCrunch: Leena Rao

2/15/11 Keeping Customers Loyal with Targeted Email

Loyalty programs more effective than average

Email marketers have big incentives to improve the relevancy of their campaigns. Not only are they interested in increasing their own success metrics, but there is also the chance that mailings that don’t interest recipients could eventually push them to unsubscribe. ExactTarget and CoTweet released research in February indicating that nine in 10 email subscribers have later opted out of permission emails, mostly because they came too frequently or became repetitive or boring.

Segmentation can improve relevancy and ensure recipients are more likely to be targeted with messages that will interest them, keeping them subscribed and also getting them to open, click and convert. According to research from Experian CheetahMail, loyalty-related emails can be a powerful tool for this purpose.

Mailings targeted to loyalty program members outperformed overall bulk mailings, with open rates 40% higher, click rates 22% higher and transaction rates 29% higher. Revenues per email were also up 11% for the loyalty program group. Similar results came from targeting prospects for loyalty programs.

Specific types of loyalty-related emails performed differently; recipients showed a clear interest in those messages most relevant to them, such as ones indicating they could redeem a reward.

Experian has consistently found that targeting email subscribers based on their customer lifecycle or recent behavior can increase performance by increasing relevancy. Research on welcome messages and shopping cart abandonment showed similar results.

Still, many email marketers are not yet sending the types of emails that show success. Just 40% of retail email marketers surveyed by Silverpop, for example, deployed shopping cart recovery emails in 2010. With marketers sending more emails than ever, according to Responsys, at an average of 152 per subscriber that year, marketers will have to use all the tools at their disposal to put the most relevant messages in front of the right subscribers, to keep them opening, clicking—and subscribed.

2/8/11 – Groupon explains Super Bowl ads, highlights giving

After taking 24 hours of online flak for a set of cheeky Super Bowl ads that critics say went too far, Groupon founder Andrew Mason has explained, but not apologized, in a blog post.

In three spots that ran before, during and after Sunday’s game, commercials that appeared to promote humanitarian and environmental causes — most notably Chinese government oppression in Tibet — swerved to become tongue-in-cheek pitches for Groupon deals.

Critics, many of whom took to Facebook and Twitter to complain, said the ads, directed by actor-director Christopher Guest of “This is Spinal Tap” and “Best In Show” fame, made light of serious situations.

“We would never have run these ads if we thought they trivialized the causes — even if we didn’t take them as seriously as we do, what type of company would go out of their way to be so antagonistic?” Mason wrote on Groupon’s official blog.

In the Tibet ad, actor Timothy Hutton bemoans the human-rights situation in Tibet before quipping from a Tibetan restaurant, “But they still whip up an amazing fish curry!”

In the two others, actor Cuba Gooding Jr. bemoans the world’s dwindling number of whales before talking up a discounted whale-watching cruise and actress Elizabeth Hurley bemoans imperiled Amazon rainforests before promoting a deal on a Brazilian wax (adding that “not all deforestation is bad”).

Any backlash against the ads didn’t appear to have any immediate impact on the popularity of Groupon’s iPhone app, which was the third-most popular free application Tuesday morning in Apple’s App Store.

Mason notes that Groupon began as The Point, an activism-based site, and that the Web page for the Groupon ads offers a link to donate to each of the causes that the ads spoof. “We took this approach knowing that, if anything, they would bring more funding and support to the highlighted causes,” he wrote.

Groupon is matching the amount its customers donate to the causes, up to $100,000 each.

In a blog post, Greenpeace biologist John Hocevar (who also, coincidentally, founded Students for a Free Tibet), praised the ads.

“Greenpeace is happily participating in the campaign,” he wrote. “The truth is that the ‘Save the Money’ campaign and the commercial are really helping us save the whales.”

Mason said that, rather than making fun of charitable causes, the ads were intended to make light of Groupon itself, and advertising in general.

“Our ads highlight the often trivial nature of stuff on Groupon when juxtaposed against bigger world issues … ,” he wrote.

He also took a somewhat defensive potshot at other Super Bowl ads.

“When we think about commercials that offend us, we think of those that glorify antisocial behavior — like the scores of Super Bowl ads that are built around the crass objectification of women,” Mason said. “Unlike those ads, no one walks away from our commercials taking the causes we highlighted less seriously.

“Not a single person watched our ad and concluded that it’s cool to kill whales. In fact — and this is part of the reason we ran them — they have the opposite effect.”

Mason never apologizes directly in the post, but says “the last thing we wanted was to offend our customers.”

Based on comments posted on the blog, some Groupon customers were satisfied with the explanation — but not all.

“I do actually appreciate knowing the backstory here. I agree that the idea isn’t exactly horrible, especially as you’ve laid it out,” one reader wrote. “But the finished, as-aired Tibet commercial was horrible. It did trivialize the cause. That you didn’t mean to be offensive doesn’t mean you weren’t.”

– By Doug Gross, CNN

1/26/11 – How the State of the Union Played on Facebook

What were people thinking last night during President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address?

According to their chatter on Facebook, they were focused on spending, more than on things like jobs and health care. And talk of education trumped technology and innovation among Facebook users.

The social-networking company analyzed posts made by its hundreds of millions of users during the speech and found that people posted more about education and spending than other topics, Facebook said. During the relevant portions of the president’s speech, education peaked at about 1,100 mentions per minute, while spending peaked at 900, the company told Digits. Facebook gave an overview of some of the results in a post Wednesday afternoon.

The ability to take a look at the national mood at times like this is one of the most intriguing parts of the world of “big data” that companies like Facebook and Google have at their fingertips.

In fact, it’s becoming so important that the president mentioned both Facebook and Google by name during the speech, drawing parallels between the tech companies, Thomas Edison and the Wright brothers.

“We are the nation that put cars in driveways and computers in offices; the nation of Edison and the Wright brothers; of Google and Facebook. In America, innovation doesn’t just change our lives. It’s how we make a living,” he said early in the speech.

Facebook and Google also are both touting how their technology is changing the political process and allowing people to respond directly to government officials. President Obama received more than 28,000 responses to his address on the social-networking site, Facebook said, while Republican House Speaker John Boehner saw more than 3,500 and Rep. Michele Bachmann, a Tea Party favorite, got 6,000.

And Google is inviting people to submit questions for a post-State of the Union interview that will take place live Thursday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. Eastern. So far there have been almost 120,000 questions submitted and more than a million votes on those questions.

– The Wall Street Journal