Trendwatching March 2010: The Next Big Thing

Trendwatching just released its March 2010 video trends. The first one on the list “The Next Big Thing,” is just the proof that eventhough we’re so into Twitter, blog and slew of other social media tools out there, some people out there don’t even know what they are. So, the next big thing is still up for a grab!

Via Trendwatching.

How To Incorporate Blogs Into Your Strategy

Over the years, brands have worked hard to control their image, and critique was limited. Today, critique has free rein. Brands recognize the power of social media — both good and bad — but many still try to control it. This is most apparent in the advent of paid-for-endorsement by bloggers. Although consumers consider multiple sources when making their purchase decisions, it is peer-to-peer influence that carries the most weight, especially for Gen Y.

Brands need to be conscious of how they insert themselves into that conversation. Authenticity is crucial to Gen Y, and when brands pay bloggers to endorse their product, members of this generation quickly sniff it out and stamp it “fake.” The credibility of the brand and the blogger are both weakened. This is not to say you shouldn’t use blogs in your marketing efforts. As research shows, this is one of the most powerful tools marketers have today. Our study, “Why Y Women,” showed that 42% of Gen Y women have discovered a new brand or product from a friend mentioning it in a status update, and 31% of Gen Y women have favorite blogs that they read regularly.

I’m curious to know what demographic group still favor display ads?

MediaShift . How Mobile Apps Are Revolutionizing Elections, Transparency

The importance of social media in politics was made clear by Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential run. But there is a new frontier of Web 2.0 technologies that politicians and political groups are slowly starting to embrace: the smartphone app. These apps have the potential to reshape how politicians communicate, raise money and get out the vote.

The biggest player on the smartphone app stage is Apple’s iPhone. But the BlackBerry, Android, Palm Pre and other smartphones are likely to play a growing role as well.

The age of political apps began in October 2008 when the Obama campaign released its free Obama08 app. It organized a person’s iPhone contacts to enable supporters to call any friends located in important electoral districts. The Obama app also had a donation interface, news feeds, local campaign events, and a list of Obama’s positions on major issues.

Bloom vs. Solar: Which One is Best? 

And here are some of the key things to keep an eye on.

Versatility and Up-Front Cost: A 100-kilowatt Bloom server array costs around $700,000 to $800,000, or $7,500 a kilowatt, after incentives that cover around 50 percent of the costs. The company hopes to have home versions that generate a few kilowatts and cost about $3,000 in ten years, but they don’t exist now.

Bloom, however, doesn’t scale down yet. It sells its 25 kilowatt boxes four units at a time. Home and small businesses need not apply just yet. Solar systems span the kilowatt and megawatt range. Ergo, when it comes to financing and flexibility, solar wins for now.

Can fuel cells scale down? Yes. Panasonic started selling home fuel cells in Japan last year that generate around 1 kilowatt, not enough to power a complete household, for $30,000 before incentives, or $15,000 if you factored in U.S./California incentives. ClearEdge Power has a 5 kilowatt fuel cell that costs $56,000 and drops to the $30,000 to $25,000 range after incentives. (Side note: Bloom’s fuel cell produces mostly electricity and a little heat, while heat consists of half or more of the power from the Panasonic and ClearEdge fuel cells. Electricity is more valuable than heat, so for Bloom to be equivalent in price or less than these guys would be a victory for Bloom.) We’re guessing Bloom is aiming for around $1,000 a kilowatt, which won’t be easy. Ceres Power in England will come out with a fuel cell made in part with diesel components next year.

Energy costs: CEO and Founder K.R. Sridhar said the Bloom server will produce power for 9 to 10 cents per kilowatt hour after incentives in California. This price includes service, maintenance, gas and all of the other costs associated with running it. Commercial solar installations in California, when incentives and external costs are added, generate power for around 10 cents a kilowatt hour, according to Shayle Kann at GTM Research. Residential solar generates power for around 19 cents a kilowatt hour and utility-scale solar costs around 11 cents a kilowatt hour. Cutting-edge wind turbines can generate power for costs five cents a kilowatt hour after incentives, according to the American Wind Energy Association. Kann says that on average, wind costs a little less than solar.

Wind, thus, still wins this contest, and solar and Bloom are about tied. Bloom server buyers will have to contend with fluctuating gas prices: the box does not work if you don’t put gas into it. If methane and biogas rise in price, so will the cost of running the box. Buyers, however, can likely insulate themselves with long-term gas contracts.

Cost reductions: This is a big question mark. Solar and wind are somewhat mature technologies. Nonetheless, incremental advancements — better solar racking, cheaper thin films, more efficient turbines — continue to bring down the cost of both solar and wind. Bloom is just starting out. Three years ago, the same box that now produces 25 kilowatts of power only produced 5 kilowatts. Scott Sandell, a Bloom board member and a partner at NEA, said the costs for Bloom have gone down 25x in just a few years.

With tax credits, it’s still cheaper to go solar or wind..

Green: Radio

Socially and politically, there is much trepidation from liberals about talk radio. Commonly, it is viewed as flat-out “right wing,” “conservative,” or a (gasp) Republican PR podium.

A summary of radio then: lack of solid student base; tied to the automobile and consumerism; and right-centric. If this is true, common sense would dictate that radio would not be fertile ground for anything greener than the lettuce on a Big Mac.

A recent success story, however, offers deep insight into how pervasive green is becoming, even across a typically non-green medium.

I spoke with Andrea Ridout, long-time talk show host and currently the voice behind Mother Earth News Radio.

Q: Is mass broadcast radio a typically conservative medium?

A: I ran a talk show for many years at a major radio station, and on several occasions was taken aside when certain hot-button phrases like “global warming” were mentioned on the air. So, yes, there has been a current of that type of thinking in the past: real top-down pressure to maintain a status quo.

It’s good to know that radio shows on green has gained some serious traction in the mainstream.

Waste Could Meet 7 Percent of Spain’s Electricity Demand, Study Says

The burning of solid urban waste, sludge from water treatment plants, and livestock slurry could generate more than 7 percent of Spain’s electricity needs, according to a new report. Researchers at the University of Zaragoza say incineration of these materials has the potential to produce up to 20.95 terawatt hours annually

The Science of Building Trust With Social Media

Responsiveness Is Key for Digital Communication


In e-mail, Linkedin and Facebook messages, much of the traditional markers of trust, such as voice intonation and body language, are hidden. Olson finds that when only text is available, participants judge trustworthiness based on how quickly others respond. So, for instance, it is better to respond to a long Facebook message “acknowledging” that you received the message, rather than to wait until there’s time to send a more thorough first message. Wait too long and you are likely to be labeled “unhelpful,” along with a host of other expletive-filled attributions the mind will happily construct.

Psychologically speaking, responsiveness makes it easier for others to attribute our misdeeds to the situation, rather than our personality. If you find keeping up with multiple inboxes difficult, you might consider having sites such as Linkedin and Facebook send e-mail alerts. Then, only archive the e-mail once the message has been responded to.

The same advice holds true for a medium such as Twitter, where one’s identity is represented by little more than a small square avatar and 140 characters of text. Earlier this month, when Southwest and director Kevin Smith went head to head, Southwest’s social media team jumped into the fray immediately with this tweet:

Southwest Air Tweet Image

While reactions to Southwest’s decision to eject Smith from his flight have been mixed, its immediate response on a Saturday night allowed the company to be perceived as committed to a controversial policy, rather than a much worse alternative: ambivalent to customer concerns.

There are also other great examples of responsiveness, for those of us not in charge of a major airline’s public relations. The Veggie Grill, an up-and-coming vegetarian restaurant in Southern California, responded to a customer’s request for a particular dish via Twitter:

Veggie Grill Tweet Image

Veggie Grill’s responsiveness seems to have paid off: @quarrygirl devoted an entire blog post to reviewing her meal. She sealed the experience with a statement that must have made Veggie Grill quite happy, “Please take my advice and get out to the veggie grill el segundo location NOW. and if you can’t go now, be sure to go ASAP.”