What Are Your Neighbors Reading? Bitly Will Show You

Where do you get your news? According to a recent article and interactive map featured on Forbes.com, that all depends on where you live. And we don’t mean because your local paper has the market covered.

A service that shortens URLs and allows for link tracking and analysis, Bitly recently mined data from millions of clicks on abbreviated and shared links to determine just where residents of the United States are heading for news and information. The data scientists who performed the analysis looked for news sources and individual articles that were unusually popular in certain states compared to national averages.

Bitly was able to do this because, as they say, “When you share or click a link on a social network like Facebook or Twitter, you’re most likely using a Bitly link. Bitly provides the infrastructure for social sharing across networks, and in the middle, collects a huge amount of data on how real people share ideas.”

Some of the results of the analysis are fun and occasionally surprising, while others are a bit more predictable. It’s important to remember what this data is really showcasing — not the demographic reading the article, but the demographic clicking on a Bitly link to the article.

While we like to think that everyone is exposed to Bitly links through social media interactions, not everyone is so plugged in. As a result, maybe it’s only the USA Today readers in Nevada that are clicking on Bitly to read articles, but more Nevada residents are actually reading CNN on their own. Maybe Huffington Post readers in Tennessee are simply more compelled to share what they’re reading through Bitly than New York Times readers. Because of this, it’s difficult for this data to be comprehensive. However, so long as we remain aware of what the data really indicates, this colorful map is quite a handy tool from a PR perspective.

One interesting observation is that the Washington Post’s interview with Joe Paterno about the Penn State scandal was a big hit in Tennessee and Alabama, while that paper’s general influence is contained to Maryland, Virginia and Kentucky. It’s observations such as this that just might change the way you think about your media outreach.

National coverage is great, but this map urges you to think about what “national” really means. And furthermore, this map is really telling us where news is being accessed via Bitly, something that’s very relevant to PR professionals as our goal is to find ways to spread information as effectively as possible, often with the help of social media. Which outlet’s articles were relatively popular in nearly every state? USA Today. Do you want to achieve national coverage, but Oregon is the heart of your story? NPR is your place.

Forbes will be updating the map monthly to assess the previous month’s hits, and it will be interesting to see how these maps morph, if at all. Maybe we’ll start to see more of a trend emerge as to who is reading which articles from which outlets.

In the meantime, it’s a pretty entertaining feature that you just might want to take a peek at when it comes pitching time.

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Half a Century Young and Still Relevant? Just Ask “Cleopatra” How She Does It

Madonna performing during the Bridgestone Super Bowl Half Time Show (Beatcrave.com)

Reinventing one’s brand to appeal to the ever-changing whims of consumers in the 21st century marketplace is tricky.

One key to success is to preserve what initially appealed to your stakeholders, while adapting other elements to be relevant, current and marketable based on today’s trends.

Want a blueprint for success? Enter stage right, Cleopatra-style, of course: The one and only Madonna.

Reviews of the Material Girl’s performance at this year’s Bridgestone Super Bowl Halftime Show are all over the map.  Say what you will about the performance, but the pop icon who first hit it big in the early ‘80s (yes, that would be 30 years ago) was selected to provide the entertainment for the most-watched television program in U.S. TV history. For those of you counting at home, that’s 111.3 million Super Bowl viewers, per Nielsen.

Cynics argue that she may have been selected for ulterior motives, such as to help the NFL garner a larger share of women viewers. But the fact remains the powers-that-be at NBC and the NFL made the iconic pop diva the first non-male Super Bowl halftime star since Janet Jackson and her infamous wardrobe malfunction in 2004.

How does Madonna stay noteworthy almost three decades after her illustrious career began?

Her Super Bowl performance may offer some clues. How about her grand entrance a la Cleopatra, which just happens to be the most expensive film made in cinema history (adjusted for inflation)? In this “role,” Madonna evoked the glamour and style of Cleopatra star Elizabeth Taylor, harkening back to her own days as the Queen of Pop.

To appeal to those who weren’t around to see Taylor star in the 1963 Academy Award winning film, or even when Madonna was in her heyday in the ‘80s and ‘90s for that matter, she pulled in current pop stars Cee Lo Green , Nicki Minaj and LMFAO to offer some sizzle for the younger generation.

Apparently, someone liked it. The performance was the most-watched halftime show of all time, and it elicited 10,245 tweets per second – the third most in Twitter history.

Not a bad gig for someone with a new album that drops later this year, the release of her first fragrance, and an upcoming world tour.

Luckily for her – or perhaps it wasn’t luck at all – she was able to utilize the most effective 12-minute branding opportunity on the planet to expose 111 million+ consumers to her brand. It’s no wonder Madonna’s Lucky Star continues to shine bright all these years later.

Changes to Google Search Could Give Google+ an Edge

Changes to the world’s most popular search engine could have marketers re-thinking, or at least expanding, their social media strategy. Company Facebook pages are widely considered to be the secondary branded destination outside of company websites, but new Google search features could challenge that trend.

Google+ content will now surface more prominently in Google web search results as the +1 button is now a factor in Google’s search algorithm. Google+ users who are logged-in will now see Google+ content among the normal search results, and also see featured Google+ profiles and pages, much like Facebook’s sponsored stories and ads.

While Google+ recently reached 62 million users, it’s believed activity and engagement has been slow to pick up since the platform launched in June 2011. However, the new search features can create a great scenario for Google+ to help boost the number of active users and amount of engagement.

Google+ brand pages were introduced in November 2011, but now, brands have more incentive to be active on Google+ as more engagement can help boost their Google search results. But to have more engagement, brands need their consumers to be active on the platform. This gives brands reason to promote Google+ to their consumers. As more brands promote Google+, there is likely to be much more buzz about the social network, which could lead to more users and activity.

So what does this all mean? With more than 800 million active users, Facebook still seems to have the advantage, at least from a numbers perspective. But will marketers jump on the opportunity to boost search results by driving consumers to Google+? Will we see brands shift from “Like us on Facebook” to “Add us to your circles?” And if brands shift focus, will the consumers follow suit? It will be interesting to see how this situation develops, and how it, or if, it will affect our social media habits.