Local companies embrace social web technology.

For almost every company,  a website is a standard component of their public presence and a part of their marketing mix.  New web-based services like weblogs and YouTube  have experienced record growth for non-business and personal uses, but most businesses have not  adopted these technologies as quickly.   Nevertheless, some Wilmington area companies have begun to experiment with marketing through these social media services and have found them to be a successful way to communicate with potential and existing clients.

In contrast to a traditional website, information posted to weblogs or “blogs” is written in a  less formal tone, organized into categories and sorted by publication date.  A weblog can serve as an effective way for potential clients to learn more about a company or vendor and to become familiar with a business or services provided.  “Social media is an exciting new frontier for the marketing industry,” said Debbie Elliott, President of Talk PR, a local public relations and marketing firm.  “We are constantly exploring new ways to expand our clients’ exposure online, and what better way to sharpen our expertise than to experiment with our own brand?  Since launching the Talk blog, we have recommended the use of blogs to many of our clients as an effective way to communicate with their various audiences.”  Talk PR’s weblog was created in 2005 with Google’s Blogger platform and can be found at talkincblog.com.  In May, Talk PR transitioned the site to WordPress to add more customizable, interactive features such as polls, a roll of staff members’ favorite blogs and websites and social networking bookmarks.

Eddie Yates, a certified life coach and fitness trainer in Wilmington, said that a potential client from Rhode Island came across his weblog at usinmotion.com and informed him that she “all ready felt like she knew him” from reading the postings.  Yates reports that he  “posts to his weblog when something really strikes [him], but may go a week or so without something worth mentioning.”  Yates believes that the weblog is an important part of his site because it allows readers to understand his business and philosophy, and because it changes regularly, it keeps people coming back to his website.

In the Wilmington, weblogs written by Realtors account for a high percentage of the business weblogs.   A Google search for “Wilmington, NC Blog” returns a majority real estate-related weblogs.  Most of the topics discussed on Wilmington real estate blogs include the current market conditions, new developments and sales techniques.  “I have gotten a few leads from my blog and I am currently working with a customer that read my blog [post] about Short Sales” said  Exit Realty’s Michelle Roberts.  Roberts also can be contacted via SMS message from her website and uses the microblogging platform Twitter.   Twitter allows users to post 140-character messages, called “Tweets,” from a website, mobile device or via instant messaging to a central website.  These updates then can be then included in weblogs or subscribed to by other users called “followers.”  Twitter’s popularity is expanding rapidly and the site is currently used by a number of Wilmington graphic designers, realtors and local churches, in addition to a wide range of  personal users.  While Roberts has not seen any leads from Twitter yet, she admits that she is just starting to use it.

Talk PR also uses Twitter to put out updates on projects and connect with customers.  Twitter allows Talk PR to quickly update its “followers” on events or news happenings within the company, providing a window into a day in the life of Talk PR.  Interested visitors to Talk PR’s blog can click on the Twitter feed in the side bar to view the updates.

In addition to weblogs and other text-based social networking site like Twitter, video sharing  sites such as YouTube are becoming a popular way to connect with customers.  Wilmington, New Bern and Smithfield’s KOA  campground each have a YouTube channel with videos produced by the campground staff.  Local marketing firm Signal envisioned the YouTube project at KOA.  “We created YouTube channels for each of the three campgrounds and provided instructions on how to optimize the content and keywords to help with their search engine optimization efforts. The campground managers shoot a new video every month. We then update the web site and include the video in a monthly e-newsletter that we produce,” said Bryan Kristof, Signal’s Director of Marketing.  While these videos have a smaller reach than the majority of viral marketing sensations,  some of KOA’s videos have had over a thousand views as of the time of this article.

Publishing weblogs and other social media is not without its risks.  According to Nathan Snell, a recent UNCW graduate who blogs about social media at www.thesnell.com, authenticity is critical to the successful implementation of a business weblog.  “Inauthenticity is the probably one of the greatest things for a company to avoid when using social media properties (blogs, youtube, social networks, etc) or even when planning to engage with others on said properties. For example, a company who uses a blog strictly to promote products, events, and so forth is missing the purpose of social media,” said Snell.  Just like using “reply all” in an email, quick postings to Twitter or weblogs can lead to embarrassment if they are not thought out completely.  “On Twitter people accidentally send what was supposed to be a direct message as a tweet to everyone all the time,” said Snell.

In related news, Verizon Wireless recently completed a study comparing the monthly use of text messaging by their clients between 2006 and 2008.  The study found that this April, Wilmington-based Verizon customers sent or received  6,334,002 text messages compared to 112,405 in the same period in 2006.  Charlotte earned the number one spot across the state as the ‘textiest city’ with customers accounting for over 103 million text messages in April of 2008 compared to just fifteen million texts sent and received in April of 2006.   “The Big City Wireless Use study offers North Carolinians an interesting snapshot of how they have come to rely on their cell phones every day to do much more than make phone calls,” said Jerry Fountain, Verizon Wireless President for the Carolinas/Tennessee region.  “This study proves text messaging is a phenomenal way to communicate information quickly and efficiently to stay connected with family and friends, wherever they may be.”

June 2008 GWB Technology Column

Trans1 Launches New Spine Product

TranS1 Inc., a publicly-traded Wilmington-based medical device company focuses on minimally invasive surgical approaches to treating degenerative disc disease in the lower lumbar region of the spine.  The company has received 510(k) clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to market its AxiaLIF 2L, a two level lumbar fusion system, in the United States. The AxiaLIF 2L is designed to treat degenerative disc disease at both the L5-S1 and L4-L5 lumbar discs through a single, one and a half inch incision.

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Class on Search Engine Placement at the Pleasure Island Chamber of Commerce

I am teaching another free class on how to boost your web traffic through paid and organic search traffic at the Pleasure Island Chamber of Commerce located in Carolina Beach on Wednesday 9/17 from 6-8:30 pm.

The class is for anyone who wants to drive more traffic to their web site through paid (cost per click) or free (organic) searches. You will learn the basics and some advanced tips on search engine optimization and building links and how to track your website traffic.

This is the same class I have taught at CFCC. Read more about it after the jump.

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May 2008 GWB Technology Column

North Carolina Biotechnology Center

North Carolina Biotechnology Center’s President and Chief Executive Officer Norris Tolson and Southeastern Office Director Randall Johnson, spoke on how biotechnology drives North Carolina’s economic development at  the Brunswick County Entrepreneurship Conference held on April 10th and 11th in Sunset Beach, N.C.  Some of the topics discussed were expanding the production of natural products, growing algae to produce biodiesel, marine fish farming and practical applications of marine biotechnology.   According to Johnson, entrepreneurship, expanding existing business and recruitment are three equally important components to economic development.

“The key is to start the business here and it will grow. The big question is how to move the ideas from the mind to the marketplace‚” said Johnson.

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April 2008 GWB Technology Column

Verizon Wireless

Verizon Wireless’ Wilmington call center is expanding and will hire 150 new full-time customer service professionals as part of its plan to expand its operation and support increased demand for its wireless products and services.  The company plans to hire approximately twenty-five new employees per month through November 2008.  Verizon Wireless currently employees more than 1200 people in the Wilmington area in their customer service, information technology, training and financial services departments; it also has two full-time employees and two interns in the fitness center.

“Our customer service team helps us deliver on our commitment to provide an exceptional experience for our existing customers and the new ones we plan to add this year nationwide,” said Human Resources Manager Rob Clayton. “We have been very pleased with the talent pool in Wilmington.”

Clayton also commented that he started eleven years ago as a customer service representative and has since advanced to his current position in management.

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Google Adwords and SEO Class: Mar 26th

Google Search

I am teaching a class on how to boost your web traffic through paid and organic search traffic at Wilmington, NC’s Cape Fear Community College on Tuesday Mar. 25th from 6:00pm to 8:30pm.

The class is for anyone who wants to drive more traffic to their web site through paid (cost per click) or free (organic) searches. You will learn the basics and some advanced tips on search engine optimization and building links and how to track your website traffic.

Topics:

  • Basics of Google Adwords Advertising Program
  • Setting up your first campaign
  • Writing effective ads
  • Tracking your success; ROI, CPC, and more
  • Basics of Search Engine Optimization
  • The 4 elements of SEO
  • How to build traffic through inbound links
  • Tips and Tricks
  • Intro to Google Webmaster Tools

The Class is Free

This is the second time I will be teaching this specific class, and I was well attended last time, so you must register before hand.

Visit www.cfcc.edu/sbc/ for more information.

Registration Information after the jump.

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March 2008 GWB Technology Column

McKim & Creed wins design award for website.

McKim & Creed, a engineering firm, started in Wilmington, with an office in downtown Wilmington, won the 2007 Construction Writer’s Association (CWA) for best website.   CWA a non-profit organization for professional journalists, writers, editors, and publicists serving the the construction industry and presented a total of  three national awards this year for electronic communications. Web sites are judged on criteria such as quality of content, overall design and use of innovative and accessible technology.

The number one challenge for this industry is hiring and retaining good people and this site helps attract quality employees, especially recent graduates,  said Pete Kienle, Chief Marketing Officer McKim & Creed and past national president for the Society for Marketing Professional Services.  Kienle stated that the firm has put a greater emphasis on their online presence than most of their competitors and that more employees are increasingly using the web to research employment.

“Most firms in this industry would not have spent as much money and time on their website but we felt it was money well spent, the owners are thrilled to death,” said Kienle.

The firms has also hired a full time person to administer the site and create a company intranet and used video of staff throughout the site.

The website (www.mckimcreed.com), launched in July 2007 and was built by Signal, a design, marketing, and technology firm with offices in Wilmington and Raleigh. The website includes a custom-built content management system that enables McKim & Creed staff  to update key portions, add pages and content to the site, said Bryan Kristof, Director of Marketing for Signal.   “McKim & Creed was easy to work with because they already understood the design and construction process.”   Since the award, there has been “huge activity” on the site, said Kienle.

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Trend Funnel Accepted in PTEN

Since being featured in the November issue of the GWB, Trend Funnel, a web based software program that organizes home furnishings, flooring, paint and accessories by style and trend, has been accepted in Piedmont Triad Entrepreneurial (PTEN) 2007-2008 Growth Accelerator Program (GAP) competition.  Trend Funnel is one of sixteen finalists who will receive a scholarship to PTEN’s FastTrac Tech Course, a 10-session training program. The classes are followed by a business-plan competition and an announcement of the top three GAP winners will take place by May.

Cofounder Mary Elizabeth Beal, an Allied Member of the American Society of Interior Designers, will be participating in the classes since she is based in the Greensboro area.   “We are excited about the program and believe it will help solidify and refine our business plan and identify ways to grow the business on a much faster track,” said cofounder Thera Storm, who lives in Wilmington. According to Storm, since being featured in the “pitch” section,  the company has seen an increase in interest in the idea but have not secured funding.   The site is live and in the second beta phase, increasing in membership and  the company is starting to work with key groups; REALTORS, builders and sponsored marketing partners.  The next step is to work with a group of UNCW entrepreneurial students to test the software and offer new ideas.  Storm said they are analyzing the data that is coming through the software to see how target groups utilize the application. “Right now the number one goal is to raise $150,000 and then six months later an additional $500,000,” said Storm.

Confirmed: OS X 10.5 (Leopard) iSyncs with Nokia e70

I am still testing out OS X 10.5, and in the process need to ensure that once I convert my laptop I will still be able to sync my Nokia E70 with it.Out of the box, OS X 10.5 does not sync, but a simple install of the official Nokia iSync plugins adds the functionality back.  So far the calendars, contacts and todos sync without any big problems.

One todo from the phone, that was set to not have a due date, was imported with a 2015 date, but that is not a real issue.

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This should work with any of the phones listed on that page.   

Zombies

While there is no statistical evidence that zombie outbreaks increase around Halloween, you can never be too careful. The following are some links and resources to get you prepared for the season.

Emergency Zombie Defense Station

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You can never be too prepared. Learn how to build this important toolkit. Read more here.

The Zombie Handbook By Max Brooks

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“The Zombie Survival Guide is your key to survival against the hordes of undead who may be stalking you right now. Fully illustrated and exhaustively comprehensive, this book covers everything you need to know, including how to understand zombie physiology and behavior, the most effective defense tactics and weaponry, ways to outfit your home for a long siege, and how to survive and adapt in any territory or terrain.” from Amazon

Top 10 Lessons for Surviving a Zombie Attack

1. Organize before they rise!
2. They feel no fear, why should you?
3. Use your head: cut off theirs.
4. Blades don’t need reloading.
5. Ideal protection = tight clothes, short hair.
6. Get up the staircase, then destroy it.
7. Get out of the car, get onto the bike.
8. Keep moving, keep low, keep quiet, keep alert!
9. No place is safe, only safer.
10. The zombie may be gone, but the threat lives on.

Video after the break.

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