Swedish retailer Hemtex embraces the blogosphere with Twingly

In our article from a few days ago about how a lot of our Twingly partners were voted into Internetworld’s top 100 ranking of Sweden’s best websites 2010 we explained how this year’s winner Halens is using the Twingly Blogstream widget to highlight what bloggers are saying about the products sold on its website (we also explained the integration in detail a few months ago).

Now another leading retailer from Sweden is implementing such as solution to encourage web users to blog feedback and opinions in regards to furnishings and textiles offered on its web-shop: Hemtex!

What Hemtex has done is straight forward: On each item profile in their store you find the tabs “Start” with the main order information about a product, “Info” with some specific details and “Bloggat” which is Swedish and means “blogged”. By clicking on that tab users are welcomed by the Twingly widget linking to blogs that had something to say about the specific item.

So while the integration of Twingly is great for Hemtex to increase awareness and engagement within the Swedish blogosphere, it will help online shoppers to evaluate whether a specific product is worth buying or not by having access to reviews and comments from blogs.

If you want to see the Twingly integration in action you can for instance go to this page.

We say welcome Hemtex, we are happy to have you with us and to see more and more leading e-commerce services opening up to the social web!

The age of transparency

The web is making people and companies more transparent. Even though some users are concerned about losing the anonymity that they enjoyed so much during the past 20 years of online existence, the increased transparency of today’s digital world can help our society become better. And it forces people to tell the truth, since lying without getting revealed is increasingly difficult.

When I studied Business Communication from 2003 to 2006 the (marketing) world was still pretty much like in the old days. One of the basic rules we learned was that every product or service can be positioned on the market in the way you want, you just need to find the right way of communicating it. I don’t remember “transparency” being part of the curriculum, at least not as a major factor to consider when working with business communication. Apparently transparency was something Marketers and PR people didn’t need to care about too much, even though Google of course already existed – but Social Networks were still in their early days, the blogosphere just started to grow, and the rise of real time web was still a few years away.

But now, five years later, everything has changed. Every promise about a product or service can be verified or disproved online. A quick search gives consumers access to product reviews in online stores and on specific review sites, blog postings from people having used the product/service (via Twingly Blog Search for example), and of course shorter feedback like tweets or status updates (via Twingly Microblog Search). You could even use a search engine for sentiment analysis to get a quick input whether people on Twitter like the product/service or not.

Product characteristics are more transparent than every before and each company that sells poor quality products but tells everybody they are the best you can get will eventually be exposed and fail.

But transparency does not only change the way marketing and advertising work. Transparency also affects politics, on the one hand due to a new class of observers such as blogs that follow and analyse the actions taken by politicians, and on the other hand because of the wide access to information which enables everyone to make a quick fact check of things being said by politicians. Even whistle-blower sites like Wikileaks or video platforms like YouTube improve people’s access to information, both by revealing secret documents like Wikileaks did yesterday and by providing everybody with visual witness reports and other videos to past events that otherwise might have been forgotten.

Even those whose mission it is to create transparency around government’s and companies’ actions are now becoming more transparent: Journalists and Bloggers. Thanks to news aggregators and search engines like Google News, it takes a few seconds to compare what different newspapers and content sites have written about a specific topic. One can find out at a glance who published what, who quoted whom, and who didn’t correct a detail or accusation that already has been revealed as being incorrect.

Transparency forces each of us to question our own actions and behaviour. Politicians who made a big mistake, companies who praised products that turned out to be faulty and news outlets that created their own truth just to sell more papers or to get more page impressions. In the digital age they all have to fear being exposed. Everyone makes mistakes, and most people are willing to forgive – if there is a confession. But if the one responsible tries to cover up the problem, things can get ugly very quickly these days. Because there will be always someone who stumbles upon inconsistencies. And after that has happened, the documentation of it will be everywhere on the web – forever.

Sometimes the phrase “The Internet never forgets” is used to criticize the web’s capability of finding content published year’s or even decades ago. While people’s memories slowly fade away, the Internet can tell you those old memories in a detailed way is if was yesterday they happened. But even though this might become an issue for people who find photos from their wild teenage days online, in many other situations the Internet’s inability to forget is a strength.

Because the human brain also forgets things that it actually needs for making the right judgements, for evaluating people’s or companies’ actions and statements. A politician that is about to get an important role in the parliament or a company that receives a lot of positive attention for a successful CSR campaign might have a dark, flawed past. A past that both individuals and mainstream media are often good at forgetting. But Google, Wikipedia, YouTube, blogs and other sites don’t forget.

There is a flip-side to transparency, yes. But while our attitude towards questionable photos from teenage days has to change anyway, the pros of transparency might have a much bigger impact on our society than people realize. The web does not only increase the transparency of companies and public individuals with power, but it helps us to remember this kind of information that we should not but very likely would forget. And this is something that could help our society to grow and to get better.

What do you think: Is the age of transparency something rather positive or negative?

/Martin Weigert

Photo: stock.xchng

How to monitor the Social Web with Twingly

We know that many of you are working within marketing, media, are running a company or doing freelance work. And we are pretty sure that most of you are curious to see what users are publishing about you, your company, brands or services on the Social Web.

We have a tool that might help you collecting this information. With our blog and microblogging search you can easily monitor all the things people online say about you and the products you work with. That helps you to stay in touch with your loyal customers and target groups and also gives you valuable information for improving and enhancing your offerings.

So now we explain you how to get started. It’s only 3 steps! First, we’ll show you how to monitor what people are saying about you in blogs, and then how to monitor microblogging services like Twitter.

How to monitor blogs with Twingly

1. Go to www.twingly.com and sign in with your username and password. If you don’t have a Twingly account yet, you can create one for free by clicking on “sign up”

2. Click on the link “Blog search” in the navigation bar at the top of the site (the direct address to the Blog search is www.twingly.com/search). Now, enter the keyword or keywords you want to monitor into the search field, like the name of the company you are working for or of a specific product or brand. Press “search”.

3. What you are seeing now are the results of your search, that means all the blog articles from around the web that include the keyword(s) that you entered. Above the result list you find different filters to sort the results, for example by language or date they were published. For monitoring purposes we recommend you to change the “Sort by” filter from “TwinglyRank” to “Date”

To the right you see a box with the links “Subscribe to RSS” and “Create Email Alert”.

By clicking on “Create Email Alert”, you subscribe to the specific search by email. After you have done that, we’ll send you every day one email with the latest results for the search term(s) you choose. And if you are getting tired of too many emails, you can simply click the unsubscribe link in the mail whenever you want.

If you instead prefer to subscribe to the search by RSS, click on the “Subscribe to RSS” link, copy the complete link from your browser address bar and paste it into your RSS reader of choice, like Google Reader. Every time we find a new blog post mentioning the keyword(s) you chose, you’ll get it delivered right into your RSS reader.

How to monitor Twitter and other microblogging services with Twingly

1. Go to www.twingly.com and sign in with your username and password. If you don’t have a Twingly account yet, you can create one for free by clicking on “sign up”

2. Click on the link “Microblog search” in the navigation bar at the top of the site (the direct address to the Microblog search is www.twingly.com/microblogsearch). Now, enter the keyword or keywords you want to monitor into the search field, like the name of the company you are working for or of a specific product or brand. Press “Microblog search”.

3. What you are seeing now are the results of your search, that means all the mentions of the keyword(s) that you entered. To the right you see a box with a few microblogging services that you can either include or exclude in your search. We recommend you to not uncheck the Twitter results, since this is the microblogging service with the highest user activity.

After you have decided which services to include, you can choose between subscribing to the RSS feed of that search or to create an email alert instead:

By clicking on “Create Email Alert”, you subscribe to the specific search by email. After you have done that, we’ll send you every day one email with the latest results for the search term or search terms you choose. And if you are getting tired of too many emails, you can simply click the unsubscribe link in the mail whenever you want.

If you instead want to subscribe to the search by RSS, click on the “Subscribe to RSS” link, copy the complete link from your browser address bar and paste it into your RSS reader of choice, like Google Reader. Every time there are new microblogging posts mentioning the keyword(s) you chose, you’ll get them delivered right into your RSS reader.

Some final advices

  • If you don’t get many results for your search, a reason could be that you have entered too many keywords. Try to remove one or more of the keywords.
  • There are some more advanced search queries you can use to improve the results. Have a look at them here for the Blog search and here for the Microblog search.

/Martin Weigert

The state of location based services: Gowalla vs Foursquare

There has been a lot of buzz recently surrounding location based services (lbs). The more people carry a smart phone, the more are starting to try out applications that make use of the phones integrated GPS, that present you locations around you, and that let you check in to those locations to show your contacts where you are hanging out.

Although not the first location based services around, Gowalla and Foursquare are the two start-ups that caught most of the social web crowds attention in recent month. Their user numbers are still low compared to huge social networking giants like Facebook or Twitter – Foursquare is said to have 600.000+ users, Gowalla has even less – but the huge media attention they are getting and the loyalty of existing users can be a sign for a bright future for these and other location based services.

The functionality of Gowalla and Fousquare is very similar. You use their mobile apps or sites on iPhone, Android or BlackBerry phones to check in at locations near you. The more often you do that, the higher you are ranked in the leader board, and the more badges you get giving you higher status. You can also see which other users recently did check in at a specific location, and at Foursquare, the one with most check-ins becomes “mayor” of that location.

The more actual friends you add as Gowalla and Foursquare contacts, the more fun it is to use the services, since you can also get notified through push messages when your friends are checking in somewhere. Then, these location based services show their real power by making it easier to meet up spontaneously with a buddy who might sit in a bar just 100 meters from where you are.

In the US where Gowalla and Foursquare have their origin, the companies already have started to partner up with retailers, bars and media companies to offer people with a lot of check-ins discounts, freebies or other incentives.  Obviously these location based services open up for a range of new marketing possibilities for vendors, helping them to get new customers and to reward the existing customers loyalty.

In Europe, Swedish grocery chain ICA was one of the first retailers to use Gowalla for promotion purposes, when recently encouraging people to check in at their new store in central Stockholm and promising an iPad for the person with most check-ins.

Overall, the differences between Gowalla and Foursquare are minor ones and mainly regarding the user interface. Except for one major aspect: Gowalla only lets you check in at locations where you actually are, whereas Foursquare doesn’t have this limitation – and thus can be easier gamed. Foursquare says it is working on that.

The similarity of the services has led to a situation where quite many people are using both apps for now, making it necessary to check in twice at each location, one time with Gowalla, and one time with Foursquare. Fortunately, check.in, a new mobile service developed by Brightkite, another location based social network, has come up with a solution for this problem by allowing users to check in at Gowalla, Foursquare and Brightkite simultaneously.

It’s not clear yet which of the two apps eventually will win the location race, or if it will be Brightkite, LooptRummble, or one of the many other competitors in this space. However, location is undoubtedly already one of the biggest web trends this year, and it’s going to become much bigger when the majority of people will swap their basic or feature phones for multifunctional smart phones.

Next time you see people pulling out their phones after arriving at your favourite bar, they could be checking in.

Introducing Martin Weigert as Twingly’s new blogger

Hello Twingly fans!

My name is Martin Weigert, from now on I will write regularly in the Twingly blog. I will introduce you to new features of existing Twingly products, write about launches of totally fresh Twingly services and keep you posted about what’s going on in the exciting social web world where Twingly is an important part of.

Let me tell you a few words about me: I’m originally from Berlin, but moved to Stockholm after finishing my Bachelor studies in Business Communication Management. I have been working as a Project Manager within advertising/print media for three and a half years. Simultaneously I followed my passion of blogging about web topics, like the rise of social networks, the real time web or – in the past month – the young but thriving sector of location based services.

At first I had an own blog in German together with a friend, then I started to write at one of Germany’s leading tech blogs netzwertig.com, and recently I got the chance to take over the role of the editor for netzwertig.com. That is a little bit like if I realized a dream, since I always wanted to blog for living. There is nothing more exciting than covering the web world. A world that is changing rapidly and developing faster than many can imagine. From time to time, I also publish some thoughts in English on martinweigert.com.

At least once a week you will read an update from me here on the Twingly blog, and me and the Twingly team would be happy to hear your feedback in the comments.