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Not so very long ago, it was a momentous event to log on to your favorite retailer’s website, say JCrew.com, and order that Confetti ruffle cami you eyed in the mall without ever having to leave the comfort of your bathrobe and living room. The convenience of it was mind-boggling!

Today, the virtual shopping experience has evolved past simple convenience and into the realm of social media. This evolution has taken the form of at least five completely different shopping animals and, while their names may sound similar, they each fill an important and unique niche in the social shopping sphere.

1. Group Shopping

What is it? Group Shopping websites offer retail discounts to subscribers who buy in large groups. Many offer a daily deal, for example 50% off a meal at a popular restaurant, and if enough people are willing to purchase the deal then the offer is available for 24 hours until the next daily deal is posted. This is beneficial to both the consumer and the retailer as the deep discounts typically draw in a large number of customers.

Examples: Groupon, Living Social, Buy With Me

2. Shopping Communities

What is it? These sites provide a space for users to aggregate their collective shopping knowledge in one place. From prices to products to deals to trends, customers take the reins and share an ever-growing compendium of shopping know-how.  These sites are just one example of how today’s consumer has more power than ever before.

Examples: Kaboodle, Veedow, Zebo

3. Recommendation Engines

What is it? This branch of social shopping is literally evolving in front of our very eyes. While originally on asking for and receiving advice about products from strangers across the web, the new generation of recommendation engines are encouraging users to connect with their friends (often via other social networks like Facebook) and share recommendations with them.

Examples: Amazon, Blippy, Shop Socially

4. Social Commerce

What is it? Social commerce sites like Etsy allow independent designers to showcase and sell their work to the world without actually having a brick-and-mortar storefront. It’s free to create an account at these sites, and users are able to peruse and buy from a myriad of talented designers. The designers themselves are able to network with each other and sell their wares for a very minimal fee.

Examples: Etsy, 1000 Markets, Dawanda

5. Email newsletters

What is it? There are probably hundreds of locally based email newsletters that promote the newest stores, restaurants, products, and events in the users’ city or cities of choice. While they don’t allow direct shopping, they often give subscribers insider discounts and encourage them to venture out and check out the newest local hotspots.

Examples: Daily Candy, Thrillist

Share with us your online shopping experiences and preferences. How have you wielded your power to influence social shopping?

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The king (or should I say the mayor) of geo-location social networks, Foursquare hit a big milestone this week – 100 million check-ins and the company is only in its sophomore year. Not bad! For those of you who haven’t yet jumped on the bandwagon, you might be wondering just what the hype’s all about. Here’s a quick look at what Foursquare is, what’s good about it, what’s not so good, and what’s next!

What is it? Foursquare is a geo-location social network that connects over 2 million users to their friends and rewards them for checking in to businesses and events all over the globe with points, Badges, and other incentives. As a user you can see where your friends are on your phone, give them tips, ask questions, and download various Apps to further enhance the experience. As a business owner, you can use Foursquare to give people incentives to visit you.

What’s in it for users? Foursquare offers its users incentives on many levels. Most obviously, it’s a fun game! The more check-ins you have, the more points you get, the more elevated your status in the game becomes (you can become the Mayor of the places you frequent), and the more likely you are to win the mysterious Badges.  I have no idea how many Badges there are, but this list has almost 200 ranging from the Entourage badge (“Look at you, checking-in with 10 of your friends in tow! You’re so popular!”) to the All Right Now Badge (“Congratulations, you’ve discovered 5 of Stanford University’s most interesting places. BEAT CAL!”) to the Road Warrior Badge (“You’re making the world a mappier place one checkin at a time!”). Foursquare intentionally keeps Badges and their requirements top secret, making the acquisition of one all the more exciting.

Adding tangible prizes to the mix, sponsors are getting in on the action and offering users retail discounts and special deals. Domino’s recent UK promotion was a wild success. Barbie did a promotional scavenger hunt. The History Channel, VH-1, and Bravo all sponsor Badges.

So, who wouldn’t like Foursquare? Plenty of people, actually. Many are put off, and maybe even scared, by the idea of everyone knowing their whereabouts all the time. This is understandable as Foursquare users do sacrifice quite a bit of privacy in order to excel. Others see platforms like Foursquare and Facebook as a confluence of narcissists at their finest. You’ll hear these naysayers ask, “Who in the world cares that I went to the dentist this morning before meeting my friend at the falafel stand on the corner?” Others challenge the purpose of Foursquare. Yelp, a competing geo-location network, focuses on sharing detailed user reviews of businesses. Arguably this is more “useful.” More technical gripes include its draining effect on phone batteries and the fact that you can’t check in from your lap top.

What’s next for Foursquare? Some consider geo-location a passing trend, but I’m not convinced. I think Foursquare has bigger, better days ahead. Co-founder Dennis Crowley recently revealed that a potential partnership with a major search engine like Microsoft, Google, or Yahoo could be in the works. Explaining the significance of this, he said, “Foursquare would allow people to search for the types of places people are going to – and where is trending – not what.” Who knows if his dream of a where-based world will come true, but in the meantime I’ll try to get as many Badges as I can!

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Blogging like a PRO

July 26, 2010

Blogging is not for everyone… it’s for those who are willing to connect, share and engage! If done well, a blog should help you establish yourself as a thought leader in your field and easily gather your crowd Cherie and I had the pleasure of sharing the stage with the fabulous women behind the renowned [...]

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The Inside Scoop on Mashable’s SummerMash SF

July 15, 2010

I was excited to represent Gather Your Crowd last night as the best of the Bay’s social media mavens, masters, and –yes– mophos came out in full force at Mashable‘s SummerMash networking event at the Grand Hyatt San Francisco. A hodgepodge of PR professionals, social media junkies, tech nerds, and hopefuls looking for employment mixed and mingled while grabbing [...]

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How Ann Evanston and Patrick Schwerdtfeger Gather their Crowds

May 24, 2010

Last week Gather Your Crowd proudly sponsored Phyllis Garland’s Women Entrepreneurs of the Bay Area event, “Harnessing the Power of Social Media Workshop – Part 2”, where Carla and I met many successful entrepreneurs and had the opportunity to interview guest speakers Ann Evanston and Patrick Schwerdtfeger. This blog post is a quick survey of what [...]

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What are the Qualities of an Online Influencer?

May 13, 2010

When clients ask us about using social media to attract their target market, we offer guidance by first asking them with whom do they want to build relationships. Their answers always vary because everyone’s business goals are of course different.  But when it comes to how to build relationships, the answers are ostensibly the same. [...]

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Is Social Networking “Word of Mouth Marketing”?

April 30, 2010

Yes, on steroids! I remember when the Firefox browser was first introduced in 2003.  It was a very low key event.  I’m sure Microsoft wasn’t the least bit concerned that their Internet Explorer would lose market share.  Today Mozilla’s Firefox has a 25% share of the browser market.  That’s word of mouth on steroids. Today, [...]

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Shastic.com

April 5, 2010

Gather Your Crowd is proud to be working with Shastic.com: a young, fresh and fun web 2.0 startup that provides a platform for both performing artists to showcase their portfolio in a flashy kind of way that promises to make MySpace and ReverbNation jealous, and also for venues to promote performances and other events and specials [...]

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Meaningful Conversations in the Social Web = Happiness?

April 2, 2010

The March 17th New York Times Well Blog has an interesting article by Roni Caryn Rabin, entitled “Talk Deeply, Be Happy?”  In it Rabin discusses a study done by a University of Arizona psychologist, Dr. Matthias Mehl which reveals that people who have deep, meaningful conversations are happier than people who engage in small talk [...]

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Secrets of Influencer Marketing

March 15, 2010

What is Influencer Marketing? According to Wikipedia, Influencer Marketing is a “form of marketing that has emerged from a variety of recent practices and studies, in which focus is placed on specific key individuals (or types of individual) rather than the target market as a whole. It identifies the individuals that have influence over potential [...]

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