Boudro’s Texas Bistro: A Tex Southwest Gem Along San Antonio’s Riverwalk.

Once upon a time, celebrities were a select group of virtually unknowable individuals, their appearances and comments tightly regulated and their image preserved at all costs. Now, that idea of the unknowable star is however, if not dead, then certainly dying, having been replaced by a new breed of celebrity that uses social media to get closer to fans and give them the “unguarded” personal insights that they crave. To take just one example, it used to be common practice for an unholy scrum to break out in the battle for celebrity baby photos as tabloids and glossy magazines fought tooth and nail to be the first to publish the exclusive pics of the latest addition to a celebrity’s brood. Now though, celebrity baby pictures are frequently posted to Twitter instead, often just hours after the birth.

The importance of this shift is signified by the fact that Forbes magazine now publishes a list of their “social networking superstars”, i.e. the celebrities with the most fans on Facebook and followers on Twitter. The top 10 is in some ways surprising, being dominated by young pop stars with hordes of teen fans, rather than the megastars one might expect. This indicates that, despite the finely tuned management structure that characterises the modern music industry, there is still something of a generational divide, with younger stars realising that social media should be a way to actually interact with their fans and offer controlled looks into their private lives, rather than being used as yet another promotional channel for their latest CD or film. Rihanna, for example, who was number 1 on the 2012 list with 59.6 million fans on Facebook and 23.8 million followers on Twitter, is praised by Forbes for posting pictures of her friends and family and uploading candid photos, some of which even appear to show her taking drugs. She has also become famous for her foul-mouthed reactions to slights on Twitter, all of which heighten the impression of an unmediated glimpse into the celebrity lifestyle. Clearly, the aura of the star as perfect and unimpeachable is now a relic of a bygone era.

Image Credit: Celebrity Gossip, Academic Style

Image Credit: Celebrity Gossip, Academic Style

Companies are also quickly realising the lucrative potential of social media and are developing innovative new ways to use sites like Facebook and Twitter, particularly in the area of celebrity endorsements. KFC Australia’s ‘Good Times’ campaign is an interesting of the example of the intersections between celebrities, companies and social media. The fast food chain has enlisted Good Charlotte pair Benji Madden and Joel Madden to write song inspired by submissions to its Facebook page on the theme of what it means to have a good time in Australia. While obviously promoting KFC, this campaign is also giving Good Charlotte fans the chance to directly influence the Madden brothers’ songwriting and interact with the pair, and is just one of a multitude of innovative ways that celebrities are using social media.

HTC is another brand that also uses social media effectively, using their Facebook page to interact with fans and users across the world. Their Facebook page immediately makes it clear that the brand has the support of celebrities, with the cover picture being a picture of Rihanna with an HTC phone! Rihanna continues the brand promotion on her own Facebook page, with promotions relating to HTC prominently featured on her page (one post reads, “Thanks for an amazing tour! As a treat, the first 7,777 fans to “like” HTC will get an exclusive remix of ‘Diamonds’”) alongside casual pictures of her using an HTC smartphone.

With the continuing rise of social networking sites, companies need to rethink and rework their marketing strategies. Harnessing the allure of celebrities on Facebook and Twitter has proven to be an effective strategy so far for several brands; it will be exciting to see what developments will come along next.

 

When bands or artists that are in any sense ‘alternative’ work with large multinational companies – whether by licensing their music for an advertisement, writing a song to sell a product, or even appearing in the advert itself – one thing is almost inevitable: controversy. The commentary surrounding such partnerships always tends to reflect the idea that the artist/band has somehow “sold out”, abandoning their principles for a paycheck. And yet, when mainstream musicians do the same thing, they largely escape this critical fury which, given both are enmeshed in the same modern music industry, seems a little hypocritical to say the least.

In previous decades, the idea of selling out as a legitimate concept was easier to fathom, as bands had actual principles to sell out and there was a genuine revolutionary spirit in the music industry. For example, Jim Morrison cemented his status as a countercultural icon with his furious reaction to the news that The Doors, in his absence, had licensed “Light My Fire” for use in a Buick advertisement, an action that Morrison responded to by threatening to smash up a Buick on live TV if the commercial was aired. His countercultural reputation was, however, earned through protests against the war in Vietnam and a genuine commitment to hippie culture. Can you really imagine any well-known band doing the same now? We simply live in a different world, one where revolutionary ideas have been thoroughly incorporated into today’s fluid capitalism.74776_10151338643213126_255872661_n

The hysterical reaction that greeted Jack White when he agreed to compose a song for a Coke advertisement also seemed out of all proportion, particularly as White had previously declined to appear in a GAP advertisement and seemingly primarily accepted the Coke contract due to an affinity with the product and a desire to make a new kind of music. While accepting such comments at face value is clearly naïve (White clearly made a lot of money from the deal), the idea that he had destroyed his entire reputation in one recording session  seems faintly ridiculous. Moreover, just a year later, what would turn out to be The White Stripes’ final album was released on Warner Brothers Records, part of one of the world’s largest companies – a decision that no fan or critic seemed particularly bothered about.

The issue of film soundtracks also blurs what could seem like a stark moral dividing line between pure, honourable music and music as a tool of companies and corporations. Essentially, recording a song for a film or recording a song for an advert is no different; they are both being used to sell a product. And yet, no one even raised a disapproving eyebrow at Adele for supplying the title track for Skyfall.

Music sponsorship is unlikely to go away; in fact, it increasingly seems like an inevitable, even necessary, part of the modern music industry. There are though signs that new campaigns are using social media to involve fans in what can often be an alienating process for the most ardent followers of a band or an artist. KFC’s ‘Good Times’ promotion is a perfect example of this, with the fast food chain having enlisted the Madden brothers(of Good Charlotte fame) to produce a song based on videos, stories and photos uploaded to KFC Australia’s Facebook page – submissions that express what it means to have a good time in Australia.

Perhaps then this is the future of music sponsorship, with fans playing an active role in large corporate campaigns and having a direct influence their idols. This is a key shift, and one that may even be able to shift the enduring myth of “selling out”.

For most tech-savvy business professionals, there is nothing better than RIM’s versatile workstation packhorse, the BlackBerry phone. This devices are very resourceful, allowing you to easily communicate with colleagues and family, report newsworthy events, and even run a business while on the road. So, how do you make the most out of your smartphone? Check out these handy tips on how to optimize your BlackBerry smartphone for business or professional use.

Extend Your Device’s Battery Life

The mobile phone, the omnipresent digital device of our times, has become an important productivity tool that most people couldn’t live without. And there is nothing more frustrating than having your phone die on you in the middle of an important work-related task. Carrying a spare battery might just do the trick, but for individuals who hate swapping them out, an emergency external battery booster pack might be a better solution. Mobile phones last longer when apps are turned off or terminated when not in use. So the next time you check your email from your mobile device, make sure you exit from the app before leaving your phone dormant – and if you’re really worried about your battery life, disable 3G if you want to get a few more minutes of time with your phone.

Improve Reception while Out of Town

While major city areas will allow you to connect to the Internet without a hitch, problems may start when you venture further outside these hot zones. Many business owners and executives experience a frustrating decrease in reception while travelling cross-country. This is a nuisance, especially if you’re in the middle of an important conference call. The solution? A mobile reception booster will give you more bars on your BlackBerry smartphone.

Automatic Memory Cleaning

In case you still haven’t discovered this amazing feature, check out your BlackBerry phone’s automatic memory cleaning function. Constantly undertaking a wide range of complex tasks, it tends to recycle most of its memory during the day. Too much memory use may lag or slow down it down. Automatic memory cleaning is turned off on most BlackBerry models by default, but you can activate it from your main menu: Select Options > Security Options > Advanced Security Options. Scroll down until you see the ‘Memory Cleaning’ menu. After clicking ‘Enable’, several options show up on the screen. Leave the first two as ‘Yes’ and then adjust the Idle Timeout Option to five minutes or less (depending on how much you use your phone). Click on the final button to ‘Show icon on home screen’ and save your changes. You now have easy access to the manual method for cleaning your BlackBerry smartphone’s memory whenever it feels sluggish.

Backup your Device

Before deleting data in your BlackBerry smartphone, make sure you do a backup first. After you have installed BlackBerry Desktop Manager on your computer, all you need to do is connect your device to your computer. As soon as you have established this connection, the app will automatically sync with your phone’s data. Open the app up and then click on ‘Backup and Restore’ to complete the process.

Transform your BlackBerry into a Multi-Tasking Device

Go-to mobile apps like Evernote, WordPress, and Skype complement RIMs own essential offerings. These apps will help you simplify business tasks, save time, and keep you organized. Skype is great for holding meetings on the go. Manage your business blog via WordPress. Organize pictures, take down notes, and create a ‘to do’ list in the cloud with Evernote.

BlackBerry mobiles have earned a well-deserved reputation for being some of the most complete, versatile, and efficient productivity tools available on the market today. And this is the reason why they continue to be favorites of mobile professionals and business executives around the world. BlackBerry mobile phones essentially serve as the Swiss Army Knives of the modern workforce, offering users the ability to multitask from one device. As BlackBerry App World continues to grow, users enjoy easy access to thousands of applications that make their work easier and more efficient. Here are some top picks to increase business productivity on your smartphone.

Evernote

Evernote is among the most used cross-platform note-taking apps and has already won a few accolades. Evernote lets you create a to-do list, save Twitter updates, take down virtual notes and upload files. The app can also be used for jotting down important details while in a meeting, automatically syncing them to other devices. You can also take photos of business cards and quickly save them to your account.

File Manager Pro

This app gives you the ability to send huge files through your mobile phone by zipping them first – you can also zip and unzip documents received via email.  File Manager Pro acts helps to organize your smartphone and includes a text editor that lets you view and edit text files. Developed by Terra Mobility, File Manager Pro boasts a straightforward navigation system that makes incredibly user-friendly.

AlertMatrix

For professionals who find themselves constantly besieged by unwanted text messages or phone calls, AlertMatrix is the answer. This app gives users the ability to prioritize certain senders based on their email addresses or phone numbers. You will only be alerted when you have important messages from a family member or client. The app also lets you assign different ringtones and alerts to different people, so that you know who exactly is calling. When used optimally, AlertMatrix can manage all you BlackBerry phone’s incoming calls and messages, filtering them out based on your criteria and creating a special priority inbox, free from time-wasters.

BigTinCan FaceCall

BigTinCan is a famous Australian ‘call back’ provider that allows you to make calls on their VoIP servers via your phone network. This makes for long distance calls at affordable prices. The BigTinCan FaceCall app lets you call or text users by simply clicking on their photos. The app also syncs with your Twitter account to provide your social network with real time information about the people you are messaging and calling.

ScanR

Are you the type of person who is always on the go? Transform your BlackBerry smartphone into a full-fledged scanner by installing the ScanR app. This will let you convert books, notes, papers and business cards into PDF documents, faxes or text files. ScanR can also send scanned documents as faxes to colleagues, friends and co-workers.

Some small business owners are still playing catch up when it comes to promoting their business or products on social media forums. Once you have worked to make your product the highest caliber possible, it is time to facilitate customer interest through digital promotion. But how are you to go about doing this? What are the most important aspects of entering the world of social media? This article will help you answer some of those questions and help you increase your fan base.

Join the Conversation

The first step in using social media to promote your business is to join the conversation, getting your voice out there and becoming known. Many small shop owners may assume that their business does not require a digital presence, as this is only for bigger ventures with vocal fans or opponents. This is simply not true. Social media is not only useful to multinational corporations, but they are also beneficial to any business with a goal or a message to spread.

To start, you should do a search online to see what is already being said about your business. Don’t panic if you discover negative reviews, as the more you know, the better. This may be a painful task if you run across some negativity, but it is essential that you have a good grasp of your existing digital reputation. Keep your cool, and don’t go on the defensive.  Always respond to an adversary with strength and kindness. Take the criticism seriously, and consider changes that can improve your customer service.

Next, set up your social media pages: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+. All of these pages offer customization. For instance, on Facebook, you can post polls and ask customers which products they enjoy the most. Use Twitter to post 140-character facts about the products you sell. Via LinkedIn, meet other business owners, and connect with vendors and other associates. All networks encourage you to upload or link to pictures of day-to-day life.

Post Often and in Your Own Voice

One way of branding yourself online is being consistent with your posts, and just as importantly, you should be consistent with how you portray your brand. Do you want to be a funny commentator, a sarcastic and witty critic or a kind and informative blogger? Creating a voice for your business makes you recognizable and personable. Potential customers will be put off by spammy or meaningless posts. While self-promotion is expected, it must be done in a meaningful manner with content that adds value to business.

Get Others in on the Action

Having an event or fundraiser is a great way to collect money for a good cause and promote awareness of products. One example of this method is the BlackBerry action campaign happening right now in India. With the catchphrase “Action Starts Here,” the BlackBerry action campaign encourages people to commit to certain goals via BlackBerry’s Facebook page. These goals vary from cleaning up your local community to finding a special way to tell someone you love them. This social media campaign draws people in with a giveaway and a few lucky achievers receive a BlackBerry Bold 3 mobile phone upon completion of their challenges.

Another way to bring people in is to make a “behind-the-scenes” video. For instance, if you own a bakery, show what life is like as a baker, from the 2 am wakeup call to start making dough, to the process of mixing the ingredients, to putting them in the oven, to opening the shop at 9 am and dealing with customers and so on. Have your staff use their mobile phones throughout the day to post updates. Always link these updates to your webpage to make it convenient for people to explore more about your business.

Connect in Real Life

Such fundraisers, personal challenges and behind-the-scenes videos are a great way to connect in real life with customers who interact online. The small business owner may be used to knowing customers by name and having faithful regulars. However, this personalized connection can falter in the pursuit of expanding one’s customer base. An effort must be made to maintain this personal connection .

While one of technological companies’ greatest offerings to society is innovation, and the development of high-tech solutions for everyday life, another is giving back to the community through a variety of socially responsible programs. Three specific projects provide excellent examples of how technology, innovative ideas, and entrepreneurship can come together to form tools for social and economic change.

The first of these is Research in Motion (RIM) that recently launched Action Starts Here, a contest based and targeted solely at residents of India. The competition invites participants to put forward  ideas for change, and then take action towards them via a simple process. By setting a goal on the contest’s Facebook page, and making a pledge to achieve it, participants take a BlackBerry action, which they can then publicise through Facebook to gain as much support as possible for their ideas. The more friends invited and support gained, the more points are earned, and consequently, the greater the likelihood of becoming a winner. Participants are encouraged to use social media to forge links with various networks, while considering, and taking action towards what they want to change in their society. Winners will receive one of three high tech tools for action: a Blackberry Bold 9900 mobile phone, a BlackBerry Torch 9810 mobile phone, or a BlackBerry Curve 9320 mobile phone. RIM’s reward is to have helped boost, among other things, grassroots entrepreneurship in India.

The second example is Dell, which  aims to address a variety of societal issues in the areas of education, environment and entrepreneurship. The Dell Social Innovation Challenge is particularly interesting as a competition that tasks college students around the world to come up with innovative ideas in these areas.. The prize pot is set at US$50,000 and comes with the offer of training from Dell Mentors, who will help winners develop crucial business knowledge and skills. This project, just like RIM’s, helps actualize groundbreaking ideas by encouraging youthful entrepreneurship.

The third and final example is that of Cisco, which has also given back to the community, but by focusing mostly on educational endeavors. With a core competence in networking technology, the company’s social projects seek to enhance the quality, as well as the delivery of technology-lead educational programs. The Cisco Networking Academy helps about four million students’ worldwide gain Information and Communication Technology (ICT) skills. The aim is to prepare students for a constantly developing, technological world, and in doing so, increase their future job prospects.

Efforts like these, made by some of the world’s major technological companies, can go a long way towards transforming the lives and aspirations of underprivileged communities. They allow innovation to take place where, previously, it might have perished, and continue support individuals to develop their own tools for social change.