Christmas in July?

With all the new free to download gifts, reports, webinars, workshops and “make me all the money in this hemisphere” video eCourses available, you might be excused for believing it’s Christmas in July.

You might be forgiven for envisioning yourself as the next super success entrepreneur. Go ahead, do another ad spend and start split-testing – in only one week you could accumulate a fortune. Oh yeah?

Encouraged by every 3rd tweet or post in social newsfeeds and forum threads promising radical success in starting an online enterprise, anyone might think starting a business enterprise on the internet is a practical idea.

For a lot of businesses, this time of year around the 4th of July should trigger a midsummer marketing strategy to start developing an advertising plan to take advantage of the busiest time of the year – the Holiday season.

The Whaaaaat?

Yes, I know, consumers are hardly ready to start thinking about buying gifts for the holidays – but every practical business owner should be planning ahead for this marketing challenge.

Every business is included. It’s never too early for this.

Internet web properties certainly have the same interests as any other local brick and mortar business. At this point in the year we don’t really start to notice any obvious pickup in advertising commitments, but it would be wise for any enterprise to start planning a strategy.

Did you know that in the Southern hemisphere this is the coldest month of the year?


Wanabee a New Entrepreneur?

Are you a fresh-off-the-blocks entrepreneur and ready for the first leg of a race, even though you don’t expect to see the crowd at the finish line until you get to it?

Well I know you won’t get fooled; you know you need to learn some basic skills and plan out a basic strategy.

And of course you will need to practice on something – to prepare yourself physically and mentally. On the internet that means learning how to set up a basic web page that will display on mobile, an attractive promotion, and then finding out how to stay motivated while you use social media.

Says you, “Oh no! Social media! I don’t want to sit in front of my computer screen all day and have it eat my brain”. Well you don’t have to do that.

Here is your key incentive for succeeding at this: everything gets easier the more you practice. Using social media and working a basic marketing routine takes less than an hour a day to accomplish.

Divide and conquer each basic task and you will be able to make a living from the comfort of your home office (even if that is the front seat of your car). You will form friendships with people from places all around the web and your business can be seen by people all around the world.


How long will it take to make money?

Well since you learn at your own pace that is easy to answer: as soon as you sit down and get to work on it. You could turn it into an income stream in only a few days but only you know whether you will learn the steps and how fast you can follow through.

No one knows that but you.

Following a good eLearning training, a first easy project should demonstrate how a virtual calling card can be displayed to attract prospective new contacts. Training should include how you find those subscribers on the web who need your new service and what to do when they respond to you.

They are there and they need your service.

That’s right! They are there, they want to hire you, and they need someone to do the work for them. You approach them through any social network; they reply by subscribing and receiving more information – the email replies which you must have prepared and be ready to send.

Reply to them by giving them a link to an information page explaining how you are going to begin helping them. Being newly established will be your most effective client-acquiring strategy.

As a fresh new specialist, you are not expected to be a full service agency; in fact, there are plenty of small business owners who simply cannot afford the cost of a full service agency. You need them and they need you.

You need entrepreneur classes, tips and new entrepreneur workshops. You need social media training to manage social networks.

This article is posted on the PocketClub blog, but PocketClubPro is also a membership site with training to show exactly how to get set up as a beginner entrepreneur. If you want to have a merry Christmas and take advantage of the busiest time of the year for marketing and sales, you should start learning now – right now in July.

While you’re here, visit to learn more about it.

Facebook is broken (via TechCrunch)

The problem is this: Facebook has become a feedback loop which can and does, despite its best intentions, become a vicious spiral. At Facebook’s scale,..

by , Columnist

The problem is this: Facebook has become a feedback loop which can and does, despite its best intentions, become a vicious spiral. At Facebook’s scale, behavioral targeting doesn’t just reflect our behavior, it actually influences it. Over time, a service which was supposed to connect humanity is actually partitioning us into fractal disconnected bubbles.

The way Facebook’s News Feed works is that the more you “engage” with posts from a particular user, the more often their posts are shown to you. The more you engage with a particular kind of post, the more you will see its ilk. So far so good! It’s just showing you what you’ve demonstrated you’re interested in. What’s wrong with that?

The answer is twofold. First, this eventually constructs a small “in-group” cluster of Facebook friends and topics that dominate your feed; and as you grow accustomed to interacting with them, this causes your behavior to change, and you interact with them even more, reinforcing their in-group status … and (relatively) isolating you from the rest of your friends, the out-group.

Second, and substantially worse, because “engagement” is the metric, Facebook inevitably selects for the shocking and the outrageous.

The Problem Applies to All Social Networks

Of course this doesn’t just apply to Facebook. The first problem applies to all social networks with “smart” algorithmic feeds that optimize for engagement. Facebook is just the largest and most influential by far.

The second has been a problem with television for decades. Why have majorities or crazily large minorities of people believed, for many years, that violent crime just keeps getting worse, that their hometown mall might be bombed by terrorists at any moment, that Sharia law will come to their province/state any day now, that the rest of the world is a war-torn shambles only barely propped up by vast quantities of aid we can’t afford — despite the easily available, incredibly copious, clear evidence to the contrary? In large part because “if it bleeds, it leads.”

‘Fake news’ is far from new; it’s just become explicit rather than implicit. And I certainly don’t mean to suggest that Facebook singlehandedly caused the terrible trend of demonizing any and all people with whom one disagrees. Studies show that political polarization is more extreme in older people, who use social media less, than in the young. Whatever’s happening is far more complicated than just “Facebook is driving us apart.”

Still — we hoped the 21st century of Facebook would be better, more compassionate, more understanding, than the 20th century TV. But it’s not, and the ways in which it’s worse are far more personal. We hoped that making the world more open and connected would be good for us. Maybe it would be, if the metric that the connecting entity optimized for was something other than “engagement.” But it now seems fairly clear that engagement is negatively correlated with happiness for users, and moderately clear that this is, in fact, a causal relationship.

An Analogy to Global Warming

The analogy I like to use is global warming causing extreme weather: the more energy pumped into our atmosphere, the more it behaves in bizarre and erratic ways. Facebook is like a powerful greenhouse gas for our collective social atmosphere. TV was too, of course, but it was CO2 to Facebook’s methane.

I don’t want to get into Facebook’s privacy issues, hate–speech issues, ongoing rejection of all the principles of the open web, etc. I’m not suggesting that this is anyone’s fault, or even that anyone has done anything wrong. Nothing like Facebook has ever existed before. It is a company that is also a massive global experiment, one with some excellent outcomes.

But it would be good for us all if Facebook were to at least acknowledge the possibility that at least some of their experiment’s outcomes seem at best worrying — and maybe even alarming — and something should be done to try to mitigate them. As hard as that admission might be.

Are Things Looking Better?

I’m happy to report that this may well be happening. See Mark Zuckerberg’s recent comments to the effect that “Facebook is … working on a way to connect you with people that you should know like mentors.” I hope this is the harbinger of a new understanding that Facebook’s focus on optimizing for engagement is, in and of itself, harmful to its users … and an understanding that it’s always best to head off a backlash before it begins, rather than after it gathers steam.

Read More at the Source: TechCrunch

Why Live Streaming is Changing The Future of Social Content (via The Next Web)


Over the past year, it seems as though almost everyone is going “live.” You know, those notifications on Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram giving us real-time looks or even exclusive, behind the scenes footage. Yes, this phenomenon on our social feeds has only increased to becoming almost a daily occurrence, meaning it’s not going away anytime soon.

While the practice of live streaming has been around longer than the webcam, the usage of it on social media is still in its infancy. Of course, a this evolution stems from the natural progression from simply taking short videos on mobile phones to broadcasting them on social networks. We now look towards social as one of our primary providers of news and entertainment, with live feeds giving us an immediate look at the world.

Whether it be a music festival or protest, we’re constantly seeing events as they unfold. And when we think back to the power that social media has brought on in the past, this is only going to add more fuel to the fire. The influence that live streaming is only going to get more powerful in the future, as people will find usage for it like we’ve never seen before. Even as much as it seemed like the next logical step, live streaming is an enormous step towards changing social media forever.

Live Streaming Has Exploded

If you’re on Facebook, then at some point today you’ll most likely receive a notification that some person or company is “Live.” It’s no secret why Facebook promotes these posts as they not only are happening in real time, but that immediate access plays a significant role in looking at our audience as well as when they’re participating.

And while Facebook has been one of the most prominent players in the world of live streaming, other social platforms have started to catch on to the wave as well. The current trend has shown YouTube and Facebook being tied almost neck-and-neck, with Snapchat closely behind.

One insight gleaned from this new trend is the growing relationship of streaming platforms, like Netflix and Hulu, opening the door for us to receive live content on social platforms. As we’ve gravitated away from our TV’s and more towards our phones, tablets, and computer, these outlets have become primary sources to receiving news and entertainment. In fact, this change has been occurring so rapidly that the most recent presidential debates were some of the most popular live streams in history. However, it’s not just news and media outlets taking part as brands have been entering the live streaming realm too.

Where Brands Fit In

Brands usage of live streaming has entered the market in a variety of different ways. From product launches to social campaigns, live streams have provided brands with an opportunity to connect with their audiences in real-time in a way we haven’t seen before.

Viewers can now react as an event is happening, giving marketers immediate feedback into gauging the response of a campaign or product. More, this can help curb “social media” disasters as if the video is getting a poor response; then they can cut the cord immediately. In yet, so far the responses have been great, giving marketers and brands a leg up in terms of creating more engagement within their community.

With New Trends, The Tech Is To Follow

As live streaming has become more ubiquitous, tech companies have followed suite in creating new ways to be able to stream. Not only have we found ways for drones to live stream, that foundation has also transformed into more companies entering the market as well.

For example, companies like Freecast are setting the bar regarding innovation within the live streaming industry. Freecast offers users the ability to stream straight from their camera onto any platform. This is not only the first instance of being able to broadcast HDMI-enabled footage but additionally being able to have multiple cameras and angles all on the same feed. While they’re still an early one to market, it’s showing that live streaming is here to stay, and with it will only come more and more changes in how we digest media.

Read More at the Source: The Next Web

Seniors: No Retirement?

Later Life Entrepreneurs

Seniors are coming out of retirement with energy and excitement for the next stage of their lives.

Some are disappointed because they didn’t plan better for their retirement years – but many are dissatisfied with a system that has left them with few traditional options to improve their future.

All over the internet seniors are seeing examples of impressive internet successes and being encouraged to start an online business. It appears to be an achievable goal in terms of time and cost. But what is involved?

It can be a real challenge to find ways to lead a productive and fulfilling life after full time employment.

Here are some typical responses; these are things I’m reading when I follow the comments in social media posts:

“We were approaching retirement and were not really in a position to take it. We were going to have to stay in employment as long as possible, with little chance of the situation improving.”

“We decided we were only delaying the inevitable of living the rest of our lives, struggling. We wanted control of our own lives.”

These are people I see as later life entrepreneurs, with diverse skills and vast experience, and who all of their lives had used their challenges and problem-solving skills to help their employers achieve their goals.

“We looked around for an alternative, and realised that the internet had opened up all sorts of possibilities for ordinary people. But we needed to learn new skills. We would need a website and other online skills.”

The mission for PocketClubPro is to providing marketing education, advice and information to baby boomers and give them the skills and knowledge to continue to lead productive and fulfilling lives.

But providing the skills and the knowledge is not enough. The beginner needs a project to get started with the learning experience – one that can also begin providing an income and the confidence to continue.

Anyone can get started as a PocketClub associate, especially while there is an introductory special offer, Lifetime Access and a support group on Facebook just waiting. Try us out – we won’t disappoint.

To watch the useful free training video for how to set up an instant WordPress website so you can try out a marketing project, go to this WordPress Quick Install page now:

13 Ways to Grow Your Social Media Audience in 2017 (via Social Media Today)


Strategically comment on posts

To gain exposure and gain social media followers organically I always recommend getting out there and interacting with social media accounts from other brands, as well as your own your audience. I know, it’s time consuming, but in 2017 getting organized and strategic can help you with this task. Choose five brand accounts that are similar to yours and leave one genuine comment on their three most recent photos every week. Commenting will expose your account to people who are interacting with material that’s similar to your own.

Like post comments

Instagram recently rolled out an update which enables you like specific comments – just as you can on Facebook. This adds an extra (and easy) opportunity to get some more interaction going for your account.

Popular accounts can get hundreds of comments. Remember that list I suggested you make for the tip above? Look for a posts on those target accounts that resonate with your audience and go through and like the good comments. This will bring visibility to your account and help you gain social media followers organically.

Don’t forget to like comments left on your own photos as well.

Use Instagram Stories and Live stories

Instagram Stories and live-streaming can seem a little scary, but they should absolutely be part of your 2017 social media strategy. Not only will you be able to give more context about you, your posts or your business, but creating this kind of content can also see you featured in Instagram’s Explore section. Imagine all the exposure you can gain from that.


Use Live Video

Again, video is a big deal and Live videos get the most reach by far compared to other content formats. There are so many ways to use Facebook Live Videos – you’re only limited by your own creativity.

Facebook is also rolling out 360 degree live videos and audio-only broadcasts.

Invite Post Likers to Like Your Page

A feature which has been around for a while (but not everyone knows about) is the option to invite folks who’ve Liked your posts to also Like Page. We’ve used this method with my clients and it’s an easy way to get some quick wins in 2017.

To do this navigate to your Facebook Page, click on the post Likers listing on any post and a light box will pop up. Next to each person’s name will be a little wheel, clicking on the wheel will give you the option to invite the person to like the Page if they haven’t already. Easy peasy.

(Note: This option only works for Pages with fewer than 100,000 total Page Likes)


Use live video

Tired of reading that yet? Live videos add a layer of personality and an element of surprise and delight for your fans. You can create a live video on Twitter directly from the app and the video will stream on your Periscope account as well, which will help your following on that platform simultaneously.

Twitter’s also just launched the ability to post Live 360 degree videos to the mix for those of you more advanced content creators out there.

Take advantage of the 140 Character update

This past year Twitter released an update to their 140 character limit, meaning you can now use all of your 140 characters, even when including a link or photo.

The new update gives you more wiggle room to add hashtags, or just get a full thought out.

General Tips

Incorporate video

Since videos are getting so much reach and interaction I suggest adding more videos to your 2017 social media strategy. Don’t be nervous, you can create simple videos that still deliver great impact. Here are a few ways on how to easily create great video content.

Use high quality images

Keep your images as high quality as possible or use stock imagery where appropriate.

Keep Consistent

Remember that consistency is key and letting an account go dormant or not posting enough will not help your presence grow. My rule of thumb is to post at least three times a week.

Think about your story

When you develop your posts or campaigns think about the story you want to tell. This should help you craft ideas about content and messaging for you channels.

Have fun and test new features

Surprise and delight your audience (and show them you know how to use the network) by not being afraid to test new features that roll out. They may not always work out for your business, but if you can use them effectively they add an extra element to your social media presence.

Keep interacting

This is the most time consuming, but most effective way to get in front of new followers. Interact with brands similar to you, related brands, influencers, and folks from your target audience.

Good luck in 2017.

Read More at the Source: Social Media Today

Curiosity: Your Secret Sauce?

Curiosity is what fuels the search for new ideas and insights to fuel growth of every sort.

This is an article curated from written by Stacey Alcorn, CEO of Boston-based Laer Realty Partners. Credit link is at the end of the article.

Some call me nosey, others deem me highly curious, but I have spent the last decade reaching out to business leaders, entrepreneurs, celebrities, athletes and world changers, to inquire about how they have achieved their dreams. I have interviewed more than 350 people and since it’s easier to get interviews when there’s something in it for the other party, I share their stories in online articles. Real estate is my livelihood, but interviews are my passion. Although I get paid zero for the interviews, nothing has fueled my business more than my instinctive nature to be curious. Here are the five reasons why passionate curiosity has been a game changer.

“Curiosity — It keeps us moving forward, exploring, experimenting, opening new doors.” – Walt Disney

 1. Big thinking.

One of the greatest attributes I’ve garnered from interviewing so many successful business people is that I’ve learned to think big. When you surround yourself by the likes of Richard Branson, who is commercializing space travel, or Holly Daniels Christensen who has created an experiential jewelry line, Dune Jewelry, or salon guru, Marc Harris, who is reinventing the entire salon business model by partnering with massive real estate developers to create in-house salon services for the affluent, you tend to become the type of business person who no longer thinks in terms of what’s been done, but rather in terms of what might be possible.

2. Fresh lens.

As a business leader, it is natural to see the entire world through the very specific lens of your business. Tony Hsieh, author of “Delivering Happiness” and CEO of Zappos, has a very different take on customer service experiences than most because he has built a business around a culture of delivering extraordinary experiences to customers and employees. As business owners, we view everything from our specific business lens, but when we are passionately curious and inquisitive with other entrepreneurs, we start to see the world through their lenses too.

3. New ideas.

Sometimes the best ideas come from other industries. By going out and asking questions of other business leaders, you find new ways to engage employees, build client rapport, and scale your own business.

4. Not so lonely.

Every entrepreneur has major highs in their business, coupled with major lows, and sometimes it’s all on the same day. Going through a roller coaster of emotions in business can be draining and lonely, since there’s usually nobody nearby who understands what you are going through. If you are sick of feeling lonely in business, reach out and ask questions to other entrepreneurs and you’ll soon learn that there are others riding the same exact roller coaster as you.

5. Advocates.

What’s really cool about interviewing people is that when you ask people lots of questions about themselves, they tend to ask lots of questions about you. In under an hour, you can go from stranger to friend and massive business empires are more easily built with a little help from your friends.

Read More at the Source: Entrepreneur

Billy Childs – A Beautiful 10 Minutes

Billy Childs’ Jazz Chamber Ensemble w/the Calder Quartet: “Into the Light”

This is great listening jazz and a beautiful performance. It’s from 2011 – but will always be a favorite. Just let it play while you’re doing other things on your computer.

Guggenheim award winner and multi-Grammy winning pianist/composer/arranger, Billy Childs leads his Jazz Chamber Ensemble along with the Calder String Quartet in this concert presented by Laguna Beach Live. Laguna Beach Artists’ Theatre, Laguna Beach CA, October 1, 2011. Produced by Sam Goldstein and Jeff Cole.

Using Celebrity Buzz: Russia – The Scandal Trump Can’t Shake

Is there a better way to create user interest and website traffic than using celebrity news to build a buzz?

Probably not – unless it’s some fascinating viral social share that has momentarily become the latest raging social meme.

Celebrities, whether they are Hollywood, Bollywood, political or business personalities, can continue to attract an interest long after the heat of the latest viral message has cooled.

Pick a luminary, superstar, newsmaker, hero or pets – borrowing and sharing the most curious social web content is the fastest way to bring visitors to your website.

The following is an example of a notable celebrity who will continue to wag the tails of the main stream media long after this current newsreel spins out.

From the BBC/News website: A top Trump aide quitting over contact with Russia is just one element of a major controversy.

Trump Putin compositeImage copyright AFP/GETTY
Image caption Donald Trump has been dogged by suspicion over his ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin

Throughout the confusion of Donald Trump’s campaign and the chaotic events of his early days in the White House, one controversy has clung to the Trump train like glue: Russia.

The sudden departure of Michael Flynn from his role as national security adviser in February and the revelations of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s meetings with Russia’s ambassador Sergei Kislyak are among a string of controversies tying the administration to apparent Russian interests.

In March, then-FBI director James Comey also confirmed for the first time that the bureau was investigating potential links between Mr Trump’s campaign aides and the Russian government as part of a broader probe into Moscow’s alleged interference in the 2016 election.

Mr Comey himself was sacked by President Trump on 9 May – in a move that shocked Washington, and raised suspicions that the dismissal may have been part of a cover up

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Early warning signs

It was back in May 2016 that the first reports emerged of hackers targeting the Democratic Party. Over the next two months, the reports suggested US intelligence agencies had traced the breaches back to Russian hackers.

In July, on the eve of the Democratic National Convention, Wikileaks published 20,000 internal emails stolen by the hackers. US intelligence officials said they believed with “high confidence” that Russia was behind the operation, but the Trump campaign publicly refused to accept the findings.

Instead, at a press conference, Mr Trump caused outrage by inviting Russian hackers to target Hillary Clinton’s controversial personal email server, saying: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing”.

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In this file photo taken on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015, Russian President Vladimir Putin, centre right, with retired U.S. Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, centre left,Image copyright AP

Image caption Michael Flynn dines with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in December 2015

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The first casualty

About the same time the hacking scandal was beginning to unfold, Mr Trump’s then campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was accused of accepting millions of dollars in cash for representing Russian interests in Ukraine and US, including dealings with an oligarch with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

While Mr Manafort was running the campaign, the Republican Party changed the language in its manifesto regarding the conflict in Ukraine, removing anti-Russian sentiment, allegedly at the behest of two Trump campaign representatives.

Mr Manafort was investigated by the FBI and quit as Mr Trump’s campaign chairman. Like Mr Flynn, Mr Manafort, a political operative with more than 40 years’ experience, was supposed to marshal some of the chaos and controversy around Mr Trump, but ended up falling prey to it.

Subsequently, further allegations have been made in Ukraine about secret funds said to have been paid to Mr Manafort, and it has also been claimed that he secretly worked for a Russian billionaire to assist President Vladimir Putin’s political ends.

Mr Manafort has denied both allegations.

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At odds with the intelligence

In October, the US intelligence community released a unanimous statement formally accusing Russia of being the perpetrator behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

Mr Trump continued to argue against the finding, claiming in a presidential debate that it “could be Russia, but it could also be China, it could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds”.

The same day that the intelligence agencies released their finding, the explosive “Access Hollywood” recording emerged of Mr Trump’s obscene remarks about women in 2005. An hour later, Wikileaks began dumping thousands more leaked Clinton emails.

Mr Trump continued to refuse to acknowledge the consensus that Russia was behind the hack.

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Media caption Trump praises Putin’s leadership
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‘I always knew Putin was smart!’

In December, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security published a report of the US intelligence findings linking Russia to the hack.

In response, President Barack Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats and levied new sanctions on Russia. The world awaited Mr Putin’s response but he chose not retaliate. Mr Trump, by then the president-elect, sided with the Russian president, tweeting: “Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!”

Mr Putin’s decision not to respond in kind struck many as a canny PR move, but reportedly set off suspicions among US intelligence officials that Russia was confident the sanctions would not last.

The same month, Mr Trump picked Rex Tillerson as his nominee for secretary of state, arguably the most important job in the cabinet. The biggest hurdle for Mr Tillerson’s confirmation? Close ties to Mr Putin.

As CEO of the ExxonMobil oil company, Mr Tillerson cultivated a close personal relationship with the Russian leader, leading many to speculate on whether he was fit to serve as America’s most senior foreign diplomat.

Mr Tillerson was sworn in as secretary of state on 2 February.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, right, and Rex Tillerson, ExxonMobilImage copyright AP
Image caption Rex Tillerson has cultivated close ties with Vladimir Putin
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The ‘compromising claims’ dossier

In January, Buzzfeed published a dossier compiled by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence official and Russia expert, which alleged that Moscow had compromising material on the then-president-elect, making him liable to blackmail.

Among the various memos in the dossier was an allegation that Mr Trump had been recorded by Russian security services consorting with prostitutes at a Moscow hotel.

Mr Trump dismissed the claims as fake news.

CNN revealed that President Obama and President-elect Trump had been briefed on the existence of the dossier by intelligence officials, and Buzzfeed went one further, publishing the entire thing.

The document went off like a hand grenade tossed into the already febrile political scene and generated a backlash against Buzzfeed for publishing what were essentially unverified claims.

Retired Lt Gen Michael Flynn at Trump Tower in New YorkImage copyright AP
Image caption A former Hillary Clinton aide took a dig at Michael Flynn over his resignation, as well as the sacking of his son, Michael Flynn Jnr (L), at the end of last year
Michael Flynn arrives at the White House in Washington, February 13, 2017Image copyright REUTERS
Image caption Michael Flynn encouraged a softer policy on Russia
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The evidence against Flynn…

In February, the most concrete and damaging Russia scandal finally surfaced, months after suspicions were raised among intelligence officials.

A Washington Post report said Mr Flynn had discussed the potential lifting of Mr Obama’s Russia sanctions with the Russian ambassador, Sergei Kislyak, before Mr Trump took office.

Mr Flynn, who had appeared regularly on Russian propaganda channel RT and once attended dinner with Mr Putin, resigned as Mr Trump’s national security adviser, saying he had “inadvertently briefed the vice-president-elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian ambassador” late last year.

It is illegal for private citizens to conduct US diplomacy.

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… and Sessions

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is being accused of lying at his confirmation hearing when he said he had had “no communications with the Russians” during the election campaign.

It has now emerged that he too had met Mr Kislyak – at a private meeting in September and as part of a group of ambassadors in July last year.

The Alabama senator was one of the most prominent players in Mr Trump’s bid to take the White House.

But he says his meetings with Mr Kislyak were related to his role as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and had nothing to do with the election campaign.

The Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says he lied under oath and should resign, and Mr Sessions is also under pressure to recuse himself from an FBI investigation into the Russian hacking claims, an investigation he is overseeing.

Mr Trump has made no secret of his regard for Mr Putin and his desire to establish closer ties with Russia. But the more pressing question, and one which the president just can’t seem to shake, is just how close those ties already go.

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FBI investigation confirmed… and Comey fired

On 20 March, Mr Comey confirmed at a rare open hearing of the House Intelligence Committee that the agency was investigating alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election.

It is an “ongoing” investigation that began in July 2016, he said.

James Comey. Archive photoImage copyrigh tREUTERS
Image caption James Comey has been “terminated and removed from office” by President Trump

The probe includes examining possible links between Mr Trump’s campaign and the Russian government.

Mr Comey said the FBI would look into any collusion and assess whether any crimes were committed.

But he added the inquiry was “very complex” and he could not give a timetable on its completion, nor which individuals in the Trump campaign might be subject to it.

“We will follow the facts wherever they lead,” he said.

FBI confirms Trump-Russia investigation

President Trump’s argument in firing Mr Comey was over his handling of the inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s emails.

The move came a week after it Mr Comey had given inaccurate information on the issue to Congress.

But Democrats said he was sacked because the FBI was investigating alleged links between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Read More at the Source: BBC News

How Instagram pictures the world (via PBS NewsHour)

A startup no longer, Instagram boasts 700 million monthly active users and counting. As it grows, the free, photo-sharing mobile app is grappling with how to innovate and stay relevant, as well as how to foster a safe community. But with 95 million uploads a day, monitoring is a tall order. Judy Woodruff reports from California.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Next: the rapid rise of one of the world’s biggest social media networks, Instagram.

It’s building up steam, with 700 million people now using it each month, and it just took four months to pick up its latest 100 million new accounts.

But along the way, the company has faced concerns over how it can be used, and even some criticism for the way it essentially copied ideas from its rival, Snapchat.

Judy Woodruff recently got an inside look during her trip to Silicon Valley.

JUDY WOODRUFF: One of the first things that greets you inside Instagram is, no surprise, a place to take pictures. The free photo-sharing mobile app was born in 2010 with its first post, a foot in a flip-flop alongside a stray dog.

Turns out it was taken in Mexico by co-founder Kevin Systrom.

KEVIN SYSTROM, CEO and Co-Founder, Instagram: It’s a mixture of teams. So, we have got design teams, we have got partnership teams, we have got a community team, and then a bunch of engineers. We don’t really have an organization.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Systrom showed us around Instagram’s new offices in Menlo Park, California, designed to accommodate an ever-expanding staff.

You moved here six months ago; is that right?

KEVIN SYSTROM: Yes, six months ago, we moved from the original campus. And we designed this entire experience inside here to be cleaner, and a little bit more Instagrammy. So we have got the hip wood walls, and the polished concrete floors. It’s very start-uppy, but it’s in an Instagram way.

JUDY WOODRUFF: A start-up no longer, Instagram was acquired by Facebook in 2012 for a cool billion dollars. Then, the company had 13 employees. Now it has more than 600 to keep up with a rapidly growing user base, 700 million monthly active users and counting, 80 percent of them outside the United States.

How do you explain the phenomenal, rapid growth of this?

KEVIN SYSTROM: On Instagram, very early on, you would post an image, and anyone anywhere in the world could see that image, and understand what you were trying to say without speaking your language.

So, we like to say that Instagram was one of the first truly international networks in the world. And I think that’s what’s allowed it to scale to the hundreds of millions of people that use it every day today.

JUDY WOODRUFF: It still is a pretty extraordinary growth rate, isn’t it?


JUDY WOODRUFF: I mean, even with that rational explanation, it’s hard for people to understand how it happened.

KEVIN SYSTROM: Yes. You know, back in the day, if you started a company, you would have to rent a warehouse, you would have to hire a bunch of employees. But, you know, with very, very few people sitting here in this building today, we’re able to scale it to hundreds of millions of people around the world, because of the innovations that we are built up upon.

And that’s the cool thing about running a company today, is how many people you can touch how quickly.

JUDY WOODRUFF: For a company founded on images, the walls here are adorned with some of the best, culled from Instagram users around the world.

KEVIN SYSTROM: Well, not to invoke the common saying, but a picture is worth 1,000 words. And that’s kind of like the phrase that this company is built on. It’s just something that’s unlike traditional texts and traditional media. And I think it allows you to see a different side of people, maybe a more raw and human emotional side of people.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Celebrities have embraced the app. Singer Selena Gomez has the most followers, more than 118 million. And Beyonce has the distinction of having the most-liked image in the history of Instagram, 10.9 million and climbing, for this photo that announced she’s pregnant with twins.

For teens, the quest for more and more likes and followers, plus the pressure for perfection as portrayed by some mega-popular users, is raising concerns among parents. Not only body image, but also bullying have become issues for some younger users.

And Instagram is grappling with how to foster a safe community, free from abusive behavior.

So, when you started Instagram seven years ago in 2010, did you have any idea you were going to be spending time, a lot of time now, thinking about protecting the people who use it?

KEVIN SYSTROM: No, I would say, every day at Instagram is not only the most complicated day of my career, but also the most interesting.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you prepare yourself for this kind of responsibility? I mean, what are you, 32 years old?

KEVIN SYSTROM: Thirty-three.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Thirty-three.



That’s a lot of responsibility, isn’t it?


And there are a lot of parents here at Instagram who think deeply about a world in which their children are going to grow up online, and what kind of product they want to create, and what kind of legacy they want to leave.

I don’t yet have kids, but in a world where I do have kids, I want to make sure that the world they grow up in is one that is safe online, and that Instagram led the way to create that world.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But with 95 million uploads a day, monitoring is a tall order. New guidelines are aimed at blurring out questionable material before the user even sees it, with a screen labeled “sensitive content.”

There’s also a reporting function for content about self-harm or suicide. Systrom says the company’s work is far from over.

KEVIN SYSTROM: This is a constant process. This is about making sure that we continue to evolve the way we attack the problem. This isn’t about getting to an eventual future where it is absolutely gone.

That being said, it doesn’t mean that we can’t make real progress on it, and, more importantly, show the leadership that I think our company can and should, so that other tech companies do as well.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The pressure in Silicon Valley to lead, innovate and stay relevant is intense. And Instagram has come under criticism for its outright and successful copying of rival Snapchat’s video stories feature

Instagram Stories, you have openly said was copied, in effect, from Snapchat. Is that what happened?

KEVIN SYSTROM: The way things work in Silicon Valley is that companies will think up ideas, and, if they’re good, they will stick. And, often, they spread to other companies. And if we can learn from other companies that do it really well, we’re going to continue to do that.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Advertising on the app is also growing and reaping rewards. There are one million active advertisers, a 400 percent increase from last year.

How have you changed your advertising philosophy over time?

KEVIN SYSTROM: Yes, there were two major changes, I think, to our advertising philosophy over time. The first was just to have advertising at all.


KEVIN SYSTROM: That was a big one. But we always knew we were going to be a business, and that’s how we were going to be a business, was advertising.

The second shift was going from a world where we had a small number of advertisers doing very refined ads to now, where we have many, many millions of advertisers on Facebook able to buy Instagram ads.

JUDY WOODRUFF: We ended where we began, in front of Instagram’s wall of photo-ops, where Systrom shares credit for how far the company has come.

KEVIN SYSTROM: It was the right time, it was the right idea, and then it was the right team. You need a lot of things to go well to get to this point. So I feel very lucky.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The business practices and decisions made by Instagram and, much more broadly, by Facebook are increasingly under scrutiny. We will have a closer look at that issue later this week.

Read More at the Source: PBS NewsHour


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Social Proof 18 Ways!

Social proof is a powerful ingredient for marketing. Here are 18 creative ways to use social proof on social media to boost your brand and drive more sales.

Social proof.

The use of social proof can be found in many areas of both offline and online marketing. In this post, we’ll focus on the use of social proof on social media to boost your marketing effectiveness.

Let’s get started!

19 Ways to Use Social Media Social Proof to Boost Your Marketing Effectiveness

6 Types of Social Proof

Before we go through the strategies, let’s go through what social proof is and the science behind it.

Social proof is the psychological phenomenon where people follow the actions of others to make sure they are doing the “right” thing.

This happens often in situations where people are uncertain about what to do, and they assume that the people around them (experts, celebrities, friends, etc.) have more knowledge about what’s going on and what should be done.

On top of that, we often make judgments based on our overall impression of someone — A.K.A. the halo effect. For example:

  • We think anything that experts use is great because they are probably more knowledgeable than us in their area of specialization
  • We buy products endorsed by celebrities because we want to look like them
  • We trust user reviews because they have experienced the product or service, unlike ourselves

In general, there are six types of social proof.

  1. Expert: Expert social proof is when an expert in your industry recommends your products or services or is associated with your brand. Examples: a Twitter shoutout by an expert or having an expert on your Twitter chat.
  2. Celebrity: Celebrity social proof is when a celebrity endorses your products. Examples: an Instagram post or tweet about your product by a celebrity or influencer.
  3. User: User social proof is when your current users recommend your products and services based on their experiences with your brand. Examples: praises on social media or positive ratings on review sites.
  4. The wisdom of the crowd: This type of social proof is when a large group of people is seen to be endorsing your brand. Examples: having thousands of customers or millions of followers on your social media profiles.
  5. The wisdom of your friends: This type of social proof is when people see their friends approve your product. Examples: seeing their friends use your product or follow you on social media.
  6. Certification: This type of social proof is when you are given a stamp of approval by an authoritative figure in your industry. Examples: the blue checkmark on Twitter or Facebook.

Now let’s dive into how you can use social proof in your marketing…

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18 Easy Ways to Use Social Proof in Your Marketing

1. Invite experts to take over your social media

Having industry experts take over your social media profiles can be a great way to tap into their influence and the positive association their followers have with anything they do (i.e. halo effect).

For example, when an expert takes over your Instagram account to post an educational content, tell Instagram Stories, or go live, people who know her might like your brand more as her presence on your social media creates a positive influence on them.

The best part of such collaborations is that they are often a win-win situation as the industry experts also benefit by getting to reach your audience.


Every now and then, we invite experts or influencers to take over our Instagram account to interact with our followers and share educational content. Recently, Ryan Hoover and Niv Dror of Product Hunt took over our Instagram Stories to share how they use Buffer and give our followers a tour of their new office. Here’re some snippets of their story:

As a bonus, Product Hunt also tweeted about the takeover to tell their Twitter followers about it.

2. Collaborate with experts for a social media event

Similarly, you could invite experts as guests for your social media events, such as Twitter chats or Facebook Live video discussions. Such collaborations can allow you to tap into the experts’ positive influence and give your social media audiences an opportunity to hear and learn from experts in the industry.


Almost every week, we host someone knowledgeable about social media, marketing, or workplace culture on our Twitter chat, #bufferchat. We’d ask the guest (and the community) a series of questions to get her insights on the topic.

Recently, we had our Director of Marketing, Kevan Lee, as a guest to discuss the topic of being a T-shaped marketer.

Twitter chat on being a T-shaped marketer

3. Show appreciation for mentions

Every so often, you might receive a nice mention from the press, a big brand, or an influencer in your industry. This is a great form of expert social proof.

There are many ways to share such social proof on social media. At Buffer, we like to show our appreciate for such mentions and avoid coming across as being boastful. Here are some phrases we like to use:

  • “Grateful for the mention”
  • “Honored to be featured”


Earlier this year, Tesla received the Best Car Award in Germany for the third year in a row, and they showed their appreciation with this tweet:

Tesla showing appreciation on Twitter

I like that they also showed their gratitude to the 124,000 people who voted for them.

4. Share milestones

Another quick way to create social proof is to show gratitude for your user or follower milestones. Reaching milestones is a fun occasion to celebrate and a great time to thank the people who have helped you achieve that.

Here are some of the milestones you can celebrate with your audience:

  • Reaching X users
  • Reaching X customers
  • Reaching X downloads of your app
  • Reaching X followers on your social media profile
  • Anniversaries


When Piktochart turned five, they celebrated the occasion and thanked their users with this tweet (and a giveaway contest):

Piktochart sharing their milestone

5. Experiment with (micro) influencer marketing

Influencer marketing can be a cost-efficient way of getting celebrity social proof.

This is usually more prevalent on Instagram. Brands would sponsor micro-influencers — people with a strong social media influence in a niche area and who aren’t celebrities — to post about their products.

Because of their social media influence, these people are often deemed as celebrities within the niche area. When others see them with a particular product, they would transfer the positive attributes they see in these “celebrities” to the product.


Daniel Wellington, a Swedish watch company that is known for their elegance and minimalistic watches, often sponsors micro-influencers on Instagram to promote their watches. They would usually offer a unique discount code to each micro-influencer, too.

Instagram influencer marketing by Daniel Wellington

6. Explore having brand ambassadors

Social media ambassadors provide a mix of expert, celebrity, and user social proof, depending on the ambassadors you select. They could be industry experts (expert social proof), social media influencers (celebrity social proof), or passionate users (user social proof).

Ambassadors would usually “wear” their ambassador badge proudly on their social media bio and include any branded hashtag in the relevant social media posts.


Specialized, a global cycling brand, has an ambassador program where they sponsor top cyclists and passionate cyclists all around the world. They even provide social media and personal branding training for their ambassadors.

Their ambassadors often mention the brand and use their branded hashtag, #specializedambassador, in their Instagram posts.

Specialized Ambassador Program

7. Curate user-generated content

User-generated content is our favorite strategy on Instagram because it has helped us grow our following (and engagement) from 4,500 to 21,000 within six months. It is also a great strategy for generating user social proof.

You could either encourage your users to use a branded hashtag (like Herschel Supply Co) or re-post users’ social media posts (like Boxed Water).


Boxed Water, a sustainable drinking water company, re-posts their customers’ Instagram photos onto their Instagram account. In fact, almost all of their Instagram photos are from their customers.

User-generated content by Boxed Water's customers

8. Share customers’ love for your product

Receiving shout-outs on social media from your customers can be one of the best things about being a social media manager!

A fun way to generate user social proof is to share these shout-outs on your social media profile, showing others the love your users have for your product.


Slack receives tons of love for their product on Twitter. To share this love with others, Slack created a Twitter account, @SlackLoveTweets, which retweets shout-outs from their users. (I believe they used a separate Twitter account as retweeting shout-outs might not be part of their main social media strategy. You could just use your main account, too, if it’s appropriate.)

Slack love Twitter retweets

Inspired by Slack, we also started a Twitter account, @bufferlove, to retweet the kind words from our users.

9. Use shout-outs in your content

Another fun way to generate user social proof with these shout-outs is to use them in your content.


We’re grateful to receive amazing shout-outs from our users. Brian Peters, our digital marketing strategist, had a fun idea of reading them out as Nice Tweets — a twist of Jimmy Kimmel’s Mean Tweets videos.

This video generated 74 reactions, four comments, and 18 shares and reached more than 9,000 people organically on Facebook.

10. Display testimonials on your website

The third way of using your customers’ shout-outs is to display them as testimonials on your website.


Apart from retweeting the shout-outs on Twitter, Slack compiled the (8,647 and counting) tweets and put them on a landing page:

Slack user testimonials on a landing page

(At the bottom of the landing page, Slack also included logos of prominent customers such as Airbnb, Pinterest, and Harvard University. This is a form of expert user proof. When one knows that such great organizations are using Slack, she would likely feel more compelled to try Slack in her organization.)

11. Mention the size of your customer base in your bio

If you have a large customer base, you could mention the size of your customer base in your profile bio. It is a great example of the wisdom of the crowd social proof. When people see that many others are using your product, they would likely have a positive first impression of your product.

Apart from the size of your customer base, here’re a few other stats you could mention:

  • Number of countries your company serves or your customers are in (e.g. in 100+ countries)
  • Number of goods sold every day, week, month, or year (e.g. 100 rooms booked weekly)
  • Number of recommendations given (e.g. more than 100 5-star ratings on Yelp)


Companies like HubSpot and Help Scout include the size of their customer base and the number of countries their customers are in, in their Twitter bio.

Size of customer base in bio

12. Reach the friends of your Facebook Page fans with Facebook ads

If you have the budget for social ads, here’s an easy-to-implement tactic: target your Facebook ads at the friends of the people who like your Page. This is assuming that this target audience is similar to your current Facebook Page fans and would also like the products you sell.

When you are defining your target audience in the Facebook Ads Manager, scroll down to “Connections” and select “Add a connection type”. Then, select “Facebook Pages” > “Friends of people who like your Page” and enter your Page name in the field provided.

Reach friends of fans

Facebook will automatically add the wisdom of friends social proof for you.


Recently, I chanced upon a Facebook ad by Netflix. At the top of the ad — possibly the first thing that caught my attention as I viewed the ad from the top to the bottom — was a line telling me how many of my friends like Netflix.

Wisdom of friends on Facebook ad

13. Use social proof on your ad copy

Another way to use social proof in your ads is to include it in the copy of your ad. You could choose among the various types of social proof:

  • Expert social proof: Feature an expert recommending your product
  • Celebrity social proof: Feature a celebrity or micro-influencer endorsing your product
  • The wisdom of the crowd: Mention the number of customers you have


In their recent Facebook ad, SkillShare, an online learning platform, mentioned that there are more than two million students learning on their platform.

Wisdom of the crowd on Facebook ad

14. Encourage customers to leave a good rating on your Facebook Page

If you are a local business, you can enable ratings and reviews on your Facebook Page. Good ratings and reviews are a great form of user social proof.

A study by G/O Digital found that:

  • 80 percent said they’d be more likely to purchase if they saw positive user reviews on the company’s Facebook page.
  • 41 percent said the most important factor in engaging with a local business’ Facebook page is seeing customer reviews or ratings.

Here’s an additional bonus: Facebook has launched a local search feature where you can find local businesses with the best Facebook reviews and ratings. Having a good Facebook Page rating will help you rank higher in the search results.

Here’re a few tips on asking customers for reviews:

  • Ask in person
  • Reach out to repeat customers
  • Add a prompt to your surveys
  • Offer incentives or hold a contest
  • Spotlight customers who give reviews

(Hat tip to Marketing Land, Business 2 Community, and American Express for these tips.)


I did a quick search for “Pet Sitting in San Francisco, California” using Facebook’s local search, and Year of The Dog Walking & Sitting Service came up first on the list.

Even though it doesn’t have a full 5-star average rating, it ranked higher than all other pet sitting services in the area likely because it has the most number of 5-star ratings.

Facebook Page search results

15. Get verified

On Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, you can get verified and receive a blue checkmark on your bio.

Having a blue checkmark by your bio is a form of certification social proof. The social media platform, as an authoritative figure, deemed that you are popular, influential, or interesting enough to be awarded the checkmark — usually reserved for celebrities and top brands.

Apart from gaining credibility and respect from the community, you would also gain access to new features reserved for verified accounts or Pages only.

If you wish to get the checkmark on Twitter, here’s our guide to getting verified on Twitter.


Mari Smith is a well-known thought leader in the field of Facebook marketing, and her Facebook Page has a blue checkmark to reflect her public figure status.

The additional benefit of being verified is that you might rank higher on the platform’s search engine. You are also more prominent in the search result with the blue checkmark.

Blue checkmark on Facebook

16. Be responsive

On your Facebook Page, you can choose to state how responsive you are on Messenger. If you provide customer support on Twitter, you can state the time period when you are most responsive. It can encourage people to message you, knowing that they would quickly get a response from you.

Here’s how you can set it up for Facebook and Twitter:

  • Facebook: Go to your Page settings and select the “Messaging” tab. Scroll down to “Response Assistant” and choose the response time that best represents how fast you reply to messages. You can also set it to update automatically.
  • Twitter: Go to this direct link: and click on “Add business feature”. To show that your account provides support, you’ll need to accept direct messages from anyone. Once that’s done, you can set your most responsive hours and customize a welcome message when they direct message you.


Many businesses, especially those with a support Twitter account, use this feature. Some examples are Apple Support and Medium Support on Twitter and Mari Smith and HubSpot on Facebook.

Responsiveness of brands

17. Display social share count

Showing the number of social share count is a form of the wisdom of the crowd social proof. People are more likely going to read and think highly of an article that has been shared by thousands.

But lower social share count can have the opposite enough. People might think that the article isn’t good enough, even if it was very well-written. To counter this, you could use a tool like Social Warfare, which displays share buttons but hides the share counts until the article received a certain number of shares.


Social Media Examiner uses Sumo’s Share tool to display the share count of the articles on their blog. With thousands of shares for almost all their articles, they are able to generate the wisdom of the crowd social proof.

Social share count on Social Media Examiner

18. Host Twitter chats

To trend on Twitter is another form of the wisdom of the crowd social proof. When your hashtag trends on Twitter, it might attract people to find out more about it and even join in the conversation.

One of the best ways we have found to trend on Twitter is hosting Twitter chats. We’re grateful to the hundreds of people who participate in our #bufferchat every Wednesday and have helped us trend on Twitter several times.

Trending on Twitter has helped us reach more people, and hopefully, several of them were curious enough to check out (and maybe even) use Buffer!

Here’s more about trends on Twitter, including Twitter’s rules for trends.


A good news about Twitter trends is that they are determined by an algorithm, and, by default, customized for individuals based on who they follow, their interests, and their location. This means that you don’t have to compete with everyone around the world to trend on your target audience’s feed. As long as your conversation is popular enough and relevant to your target audience, Twitter will show it to them.

During a recent Buffer meetup, #buffermeetup was trending on a teammate’s Twitter feed.

#buffermeetup trending on Twitter

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How have you been using social proof in your marketing?

Social proof can come in many shapes and sizes. I hope these 18 ideas can help you get started with using social proof in your marketing and also help you generate more ideas.

I’d love to learn from you, too. It’d be great to hear how you have been using social proof, social media-related or not, in your marketing. How well has it been working for you?

Credits: The featured photo was taken by Paul Dufour, and the person icon in the header image was taken from Fast Icon.

Read More at the Source: Social