I’m always on the lookout for interesting articles to share. You can share articles you find interesting with me on Twitter at @Bazaarvoice.

Taco Bell puts 8 buzzy rings on it
By Bruce Horovitz for USA Today

Taco Bell has come up with an idea to get its most influential social fans “engaged.” The company recently sent out eight unique scripted rings to fans who love to tweet and post photos about the brand on Instagram – returning their love with (what else!) jewelry.

A handwritten note accompanied each of the rings, which Taco Bell says are symbols of their appreciation for the relationship they have with these top-tier promoters. The campaign has generated tons of buzz and press coverage as recipients tweet comments and post photos of the rings, which their networks then share.

This isn’t the first time Taco Bell has come up with a unique way to engage with its social media fans. The restaurant chain once sent Speedo swimsuits – one saying “Think Outside the Buns” and the other ”Live Mas” – to a high school swimming star and Taco Bell superfan they discovered via social.

Volvo uses Twitter chat for digital focus group
By Karl Greenberg for Marketing Daily

Recognizing that their most active and supportive fans can be found on Twitter, Volvo has launched #Swedespeak tweetchats in part to test new ad campaigns. Writes Greenberg:

“The umbrella campaign has a theme around ostentatious luxury versus the understated upscale motif that Volvo is meant to represent. Volvo is using the chat both to roll out new creative and as a kind of virtual focus group to get feedback from fans about the creative, per Tassos Panas, North American CMO.”

The Twitter chat is a big part of Volvo’s plan to increase its online presence, as the company will spend 40% more on the digital portion of its US media spend this year. Volvo is no stranger to Twitter or Twitter chats; they have held them before, but until now only discussed vehicle attributes. Now, by running their ad creative past their most dedicated fans, the brand can get a feel for what resonates before spending money to place the content in paid media buys.

Since the digital focus group launched, Volvo’s fan numbers and traffic have doubled, demonstrating the importance of making potential customers feel involved.

Case study: Samsung goes SoLoMo for smart TV product launch
Report for eMarketer

Samsung ran a SoLoMo (social, local, mobile) campaign to promote its new smart televisions. The brand used the popular mobile game Angry Birds to target gamers with ads encouraging them to visit a nearby retailer and test out the new TV’s motion-activated controls. According to the report:

“The ad encouraged users to visit local retail stores to experience Angry Birds on the Samsung Smart TV. The ads also incorporated check-in buttons so that consumers could share, with their friends and followers, their location and the experience of being in the store playing Angry Birds on the smart TV. By checking in, users could enter a sweepstakes to win a Samsung Smart TV.”

The brand only served ads to consumers within five miles of a retailer carrying the TV, assuming a higher likelihood of getting them to the store.

The rise of social commerce: How tweets, pins and likes can turn into sales
By Josh Luger for Business Insider

Social efforts like those above to get likes, tweets, and shares certainly gain attention, but are they leading to more sales?

There are specific converging trends – including the rise of mobile and the visual web – that give social media activity more influence over transactions. As consumers increasingly use their mobile devices while shopping, both in stores and at home, the ability of social networks to influence sales rises alongside mobile activity.

Facebook has passed the 50% mobile usage mark, and Pinterest is at 48%. Together, they now combine for over 56% of social generated ecommerce, according to Luger. A recent survey by Zmags also found that 35% of Pinterest users said they use Pinterest to make purchases.