Posts Tagged ‘Social Media and Marketing’

The Internet is Either Bad or Good, Depending on Whether You’re Prince or the Rest of the World

July 12, 2010

The artist currently known as Prince shocked and amazed the world when he said that the “Internet is over” and that computers and digital gadgets ”fill your head with numbers and that can’t be good for you.” The upshot was that he is not releasing any music digitally, only in CD format.  He has banned his music from iTunes, YouTube and even what was formerly known as his web site – there will be no downloads, anywhere, ever, from him.  I’m sure the music industry is overjoyed, and wish that Prince could start a movement, unlikely as that is to happen. He does have a point, as far as payment is concerned, because how artists will make money in the inter web world is still  in question.

Meanwhile, back at Pew’s Internet and American Life Project, the world of the Internet is a good and happy place, bringing joy and fulfillment to all who go there. Almost.  Specifically, a large majority of respondents (85%) agreed that, “In 2020, when I look at the big picture and consider my personal friendships, marriage and other relationships, I see that the Internet has mostly been a positive force on my social world. And this will only grow more true in the future.” As a point of ethics, though, I have to divulge that the respondents to this survey were tech experts and “the highly engaged Internet public.”  I think that rosily colors their point of view somewhat.  Still it’s hard to disagree with the positives that they saw (from the report):

They said humans’ use of the Internet’s capabilities for communication – for creating, cultivating, and continuing social relationships – is undeniable. …

Many of the people who said the Internet is a positive force noted that … it costs less in time spent, allowing them to cultivate many more relationships, including those with both strong and weak ties. They said “geography” is no longer an obstacle to making and maintaining connections; some noted that Internet-based communications removes previously perceived constraints of “space” and not just “place.”

Some respondents observed that as use of the Internet for social networks evolves there is a companion evolution in language and meaning as we redefine social constructs such as “privacy” and “friendship.” Other respondents suggested there will be new “categories of relationships,” a new “art of politics,” the development of some new psychological and medical syndromes that will be “variations of depression caused by the lack of meaningful quality relationships,” and a “new world society.”

The visual difference between editorial content and advertising designed to look like editorial content is miniscule.  Given that it’s difficult to define the spot where news and entertainment separate, this has become a bone of contention.  The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors sent an open letter to the Tribune Company asking them to cease and desist, following a four page wrap ad for the King Kong attraction at Universal Studios which was made to look like the front page of the Times’ breaking news section, describing damage done to the city by a giant ape.

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Is It Me, Or Is This Story Really Sick?

June 25, 2010

Utah’s Attorney General has 7000 followers on Twitter.  They were treated, last Friday, to the news that he had given the “go ahead” to execute a condemned murderer by firing squad (to Utah’s credit – hmm – the victim chose the firing squad as his death method of choice, before the state outlawed it).   Ok, it’s news, there is a reason for the AG to send out this item.  But what followed was this tweet: We will be streaming live my press conference as soon as I’m told Gardner is dead. Watch it at www.attorneygeneral.Utah.gov/live.html.  Does that smack of self-promotion to you?  And was this an appropriate place to use it?  I will say that it’s more interesting , and possibly more valuable, than finding out that somebody is out walking their dog, but I don’t know…. Is this government transparency in action?

Why Mainstream Media Is Not Dead – Except for the London Times

June 4, 2010

You know how many news blogs there are?  No, neither do I, but there are probably millions, including this one.  But don’t start thinking that the mainstream media are doomed, because 80% of all of links on blogs came from only four mainstream media sources, that’s right only four – the BBC, CNN, The New York Times and the Washington Post. This,  according to another study by the venerable Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. And, they say, 99% of links in blog posts have legacy news outlets as their original source.  Yet, the way that I looked at the study, it seems that there is plenty of room for both, we don’t really use social media in place of main stream news.  Because, here’s what the study showed:

  • Social media and the mainstream press clearly embrace different agendas. Blogs shared the same lead story with traditional media in just 13 of the 49 weeks studied. Twitter was even less likely to share the traditional media agenda – the lead story matched that of the mainstream press in just four weeks of the 29 weeks studied. On YouTube, the top stories overlapped with traditional media eight out of 49 weeks.
  • The stories that gain traction in social media do so quickly, often within hours of initial reports, and leave quickly as well. Just 5% of the top five stories on Twitter remained among the top stories the following week. …
  • Politics, so much a focus of cable and radio talk programming, has found a place in blogs and on YouTube. On blogs, 17% of the top five linked-to stories in a given week were about U.S. government or politics, often accompanied by emphatic personal analysis or evaluations… On Twitter, however, technology stories were linked to far more than anything else, accounting for 43% of the top five stories in a given week and 41% of the lead items. By contrast, technology filled 1% of the newshole in the mainstream press during the same period….
  • Twitter, by contrast, was less tied to traditional media. Here half (50%) of the links were to legacy outlets; 40% went to web-only news sources such as Mashable and CNET. The remaining 10% went to wire stories or non-news sources on the Web such as a blog known as “Green Briefs,” which summarized daily developments during the June protests in Iran.
  • The most popular news videos on YouTube, meanwhile, stood out for having a broader international mix. A quarter, 26%, of the top watched news videos were of non-U.S. events, primarily those with a strong visual appeal such as raw footage of Pope Benedict XVI getting knocked over during Mass on Christmas Eve or a clip of a veteran Brazilian news anchor getting caught insulting some janitors without realizing his microphone was still live. Celebrity and media-focused videos were also given significant prominence.

So, mainstream media is important to the news media to give them stories; just so, new media are essential to mainstream media, because the links draw people back to the source.  So it was with incredulity that I read in paidContentUK that The Times and the Sunday Times of the UK, now two separate entities in the online world, both of which are about to re-launch as paid sites, will not allow their articles to appear in search engines.  On one hand, this makes a weird kind of sense.  If the papers are asking subscribers to pay for articles, then they should have exclusive access to those articles. On the other hand, limiting readership to people who pay for print, which is essentially what the Times is doing, is disregarding the way most people find articles, it would disregard the whole link culture as defined by Pew, above, and in the end, limiting the audience that it could have. Thank you, Rupert Murdoch.

And here’s what the Times is ignoring.  Recent figures released by comScore from the Newspaper National Network show online newspaper sites in the top 25 media markets garnered 2 billion page views, “reaching 83.7 million unique visitors in April — up 10% from March, 12% from February, and 15% from January , 2010”. And newspaper sites beat out CNN, AOL News and the Huffington Post as sources.

Meanwhile, commenting on news stories has become an ingrained habit, as social media consumption grows.  minOnline reported on a survey by Gather.com which showed how different demographics consume and send out news.  Different age groups may use different media, e-mail, Facebook,. Twitter as a way of relaying interesting pieces of news, but it’s something that every age group does. Gather.com’s survey found that more than a third of their respondents  go to search engines to find “multiple perspectives on a story”.  Furthermore, the study “confirm publishers fears” that readers are more interested in the story than the source.  “80% say they click on news stories from sources they don’t recognize. The search-driven information economy has effectively leveled the brand playing field and challenged the brand equity many publishers spent decades building.”

They Really Do Take Care of Their Online Lives

June 4, 2010

A new report by the Pew Internet and American Life Project refuted some people’s (including Mark Zuckerberg) notion that young people do not care about maintaining privacy on Internet sites.  Reputation Management and Social Media found that young adults, those aged 19-29, are in fact the most active managers of their online lives. For example, more than two-thirds (71%) those young adults who use social networking sites have changed the privacy settings on their profile to limit what they share with others online. In addition, 44% of young adult internet users say that they “take steps to limit the amount of personal information available about them online”, 47% of them delete unwanted comments about themselves that are made on their profiles, and 41% have removed their tagging from photos.  These numbers are considerably higher than those for older social networkers, but then again, they probably have a lot more information to manage.

Still, the Internet is where people go to find out about you, and that includes potential employers, as well, as potential dates, so there are benefits to having an online presence.  Many of those social networkers who are employed work for a company that has very strict policies about how their employees present themselves online, thereby limiting what they can put in a profile or a blog post.  This can prove interesting as it blurs the line, which used to be very distinct, between one’s working life and one’s private life.  40% of users say that they have been contacted by someone from their past because of their online profile – of course that can be seen as a negative, depending on who from your past finds you. I’m sure that we’ve all found  that there’s a reason that those people are in our past.

The Media Has a Field Day With Facebook and Privacy (or Lack Thereof)…Does Anybody But the Media Care?

May 21, 2010

First thing last week, The Financial Times said that Facebook hired a former Bush regulator, ex-FTC chief Tim Muris, as a consultant to make the company’s case to regulators.  That’s obviously in answer to the news of the week before about the  proposed Boucher bill, which would require publishers who use third-party data gatherers (like ad networks) to provide clear opt-out instructions before placing a cookie on a user’s  computer.  This is a pretty good move on FB’s part, since the current FTC has given every indication that it cares deeply about online privacy. Consumer protection head David Vladeck has taken pro-privacy positions, as has newly appointed commissioner Julie Brill. But that was the beginning of the week, and as days went by, and as media stories got more heated, it seemed more and more unlikely that FB will be able to avoid litigation, no matter who they hire, unless they revise their instant personalization policies.

The media has latched onto how convoluted the opt-out process is, and the deluge of stories gets more and more interesting and more difficult to avoid.  You have probably seen the Times story by Nick Bilton (remember him?  He was the one whose Twitter interview with a FB employee revealed Mark Zuckerberg’s lack of concern over privacy) revealing that FB’s privacy policy is longer than the Constitution. And you probably saw the chart that the Times published (which has made its way all over the web and back again) showing the tangled web of 170 options that you would have to go through to manage your privacy.  The Huffington Post, meanwhile, posted a handy 2 minute video telling you how you can control your profile, just like you could in the olden days, meaning last year, or even a few months ago. (more…)

Open Graph Opens Up More Privacy Issues for Facebook

April 30, 2010

The week started on the weekend, with visions of Chuck Schumer talking about Facebook and privacy.  FB’s new initiative, Open Graph, which is an attempt to socialize the entire web, got good press from marketers and itself last week, but the privacy police were bound to get after what ReadWriteWeb referred to as FB’s “ambition…to kill off its competition and use 500 million users to take over the entire web.”  And lo and behold – I went to Pandora;  there was my Facebook photo, there were my friends and their stations.  Did I ask for this? – no, I did not; did I get to opt out (on Facebook’s home page)? – no I did not.  And because I did not opt out the first time I went on to Pandora after it got connected, I never got the opportunity again. Now, I admit that a lot of people are going to like (pun intended) this – the idea of being plugged into the things that your friends like is very appealing to Facebook users, or they probably wouldn’t be there in the first place, but it raises the creep alarm to me in a big way.  Here’s the insidious thing that Facebook is doing.  Ultimately, everyplace you go on the web, you will leave a little footprint (you are already doing that, but now it will stick around a lot longer than 24 hours), paving the way for lots more targeting than you’re already getting. If you want to opt out, you have to opt out on each individual site to which Facebook’s Open Graph connects, which, eventually will apparently be everything. By the way, if this is worrisome to you, Mashable has instructions on how to end instant personalization – it lies deep within the heart of your Facebook account, where you’d never otherwise know to go.    So Chuck Schumer and three other senators are calling for  the FTC to make sure that Facebook will  implement new controls that will make it easier for users to determine how much of their personal information is shared with other Web sites.

This is not the first time that Facebook has shown its oblivion to privacy issues – there was, for instance its ill-fated Beacon program of two years ago – in case you don’t remember , Beacon sent data from external web sites to users’ news feeds; its purpose was to allow targeted advertising and let users  share their activities with their friends.  Again, no opt out feature, and consumer outcry eventually shut it down.  Ken Auletta, in his book about Google, discussed the engineer mind-set, which is sort of like “Wow, this is cool – if we can just do THIS, then THIS will happen,” with very little thought about the actual implications of that coolness.  Most  people don’t think like engineers, though, and that’s where people like Mark Zuckerberg get into trouble.  In a twitter feed this week, Times writer Nick Bilton quoted a conversation with a Facebook employee who said that Mr. Zuckerberg does not believe in privacy.  I’ll buy that – it’s just not in his engineer’s lexicon. And, in an interview with TechCrunch’s founder earlier this year, Zuckerberg said that he did not think that privacy was the “social norm” any longer – “”People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people.” While this is entirely true, largely due to Facebook itself, it is also true that people like to at the very least feel like they have some control over what they’re sharing, and with whom .

Whether the senators siccing the FTC on the social networking site will amount to anything remains to be seen – it will really be up to Facebook’s users to either prove or disprove Zuckerberg’s belief that we are all open to sharing our web surfing habits with everyone we know. And ultimately to marketers that we don’t know.

We will certainly be discussing this more, in terms of the initiative’s implications for brands, for marketers, and for the publishers of sites.

Facebook Takes Over the World

April 26, 2010

Facebook is making sure that it becomes the hub through which all web interaction flows.  This week, at the f8 conference, Mark Zuckerberg unveiled his new plan, Open Graph, which will allow Facebook users to turn any web page into a Facebook page.  The idea is to tie all the individual social graphs around different Web properties into one larger whole – presumably the user’s Facebook page.  If you can “like” any page, any product, any thing on the web at all, that essentially turns the entire web into a social network.  Facebook also introduced a toolbar that publishers can put at the bottom of their page to provide what Facebook Director of Platform Product Bret Taylor called an “all-in-one social experience” packaging the “Like” button, Facebook chat and friend list information. If you are on a web page that is new to you, you can see which of your friends have already been there. So the Open Graph will function much like a Pandora of the whole web – it will be the online memory of everything you like and don’t like in music, books, movies, products, etc.  This is a very big thing.  For marketers, it’s really a boon, because it provides a more interactive experience between businesses and their customers.  Here’s an example from eMarketer :

…someone could visit ESPN.com, “Like” a football player participating in the NFL draft, and then receive a notification back from ESPN (via their Facebook news feed) alerting them to what happened to that person during the draft. In other words, the “Like” option takes a familiar Facebook activity—in this case, clicking a button to become a fan—and gives it a much more wide reaching effect, one that extends to a brand’s Website or anywhere a brand’s assets exist.

But here’s the rub, according to Time:

The company has more than 400 million users, and implementing the ‘Like’ functionality requires just a few lines of code. Don’t be surprised when you start seeing the buttons and your friends’ pictures everywhere you go on the Web.”  The possibilities for extremely targeted marketing are endless, but the privacy issue could be a sticking point for many who are already dubious about Facebook’s privacy practices, or lack thereof.  While the “Like” button acts as an opt-in, you aren’t really going to have a choice about what happens once you click it.

At much the same time that Facebook revealed that it was partnering with Microsoft for their new Docs.com project, a web-based document editor enables  users to see, edit and share their written material with their Facebook friends.

So now, the whole web is your Facebook page, your documents are connected to your Facebook page – how about your clothing?  A new hoodie, called Ping, which is  still in the concept phase,  ais designed to allow the owner to customize gestures among friends. For example, the wearer might feel a tap on the shoulder when a comment is left on their Wall or be able to change a setting when a button is buttoned or zipper zipped. Says FastCompany – “Actions as simple as lifting or dropping the hood can be used to send status updates and messages on Facebook, with the potential to target certain groups of friends.”

With all this social media all over the place, literally, does the engagement that companies have with users really amount to anything?  Yes, says Nielsen (in a study with Facebook among Facebook users). The study found that ads with social media context, defined as “lightweight endorsements from friends displayed within the ad units,” increased ad recall by 1.6 times that of ads without the endorsements; increased brand awareness by 2.0 times; and increased purchase intent by an unspecified amount.

Twitter Promotes Its Tweets – AKA Advertising

April 26, 2010

Remember Twitter? And how we were wondering, once upon a time, how it was going to make money?  Now that we’ve forgotten about that, Twitter came up with its long-anticipated plan to introduce advertising.  Although it isn’t calling it advertising, it’s calling it “promoted tweets”.  These tweets will show up when users search for key words that advertisers (or maybe they should be called “promoters”) buy to link to their ads.  But, as Peter Kafka suggests in MediaMemo :

“If Twitter only showed ads to searchers, it may have a very difficult time reaching most of its users.

That’s in part because Twitter’s search results are pretty lousy — if you don’t believe me, go ahead and try it yourself.  And it’s in part because Twitter isn’t a search engine — it’s a media company that will make money by rounding up eyeballs and showing them marketing messages.

That’s an important distinction, and one that Twitter itself has been loathe to acknowledge. But you can see it grudgingly accepting that reality now, as it moves to control more of its platform.”

Eventually, The New York Times says, these promoted posts will show up in the course of a stream of tweets, based on relevancy.

Meanwhile, Twitter has a new blog, which is a best-practices thing for media companies, so that journalists and other media types will know how to use it to its greatest advantage.

Facebooking in Bed

March 26, 2010

Once upon a time, people who found themselves awake in the middle of the night might listen to the radio. Now they are lulled back to sleep by checking Facebook or Twitter (I wish they’d stop. Or at least I wish they’d stop commenting about the fact that they can’t sleep). A consumer electronics site, Retrevo, found that 48% of social media users log in from the comforts of their beds – either in the middle of the night or first thing when they wake up. iPhone users do this more than anybody else – they seem the most reluctant to let go of their gadgets. And interrupting actual personal interaction to check in virtually is becoming more common, in case you hadn’t noticed. Retrevo’s Gadgetology Report found that “over 40% of respondents saying they didn’t mind being interrupted for a message. In fact, 32% said a meal was not off limits while 7% said they’d even check out a message during an intimate moment.” Still, while 18% of those under 25 said that they would not be willing to forego electronic interaction for more than a few hours, 40% or them (and 46% of people over 25) said that they would be able to go for a “long time” (I assume that means more than a day) without being connected.

The Buzz on Buzz – and a Reprimand from the FTC

March 19, 2010

During our hiatus, Google Buzz, Google’s foray into social media, came and went as hot news.  It got launched, people complained mightily about it, and while it’s still around, the buzz is gone. Google itself admitted that it didn’t test the thing enough, and the BBC reports that in fact the company only tested it internally before foisting it upon the public. The complaints were primarily that Buzz gave its 175 million mail users a ready-made circle of friends based on the people they most frequently e-mailed. Information was taken from their email contact lists without users’ consent or the ability to opt out.
By default, the lists of “followers” could be viewed by anyone who was looking at a user’s profile, which, of course is a privacy issue. Users also complained that the Buzz is “noisy,” with people who frequently post or who get a lot of comments dominating the “discussion.” The thing launched on February 9th, and by February 11th the privacy police were on its tail.  For any social network, the balance between connection and privacy is a precarious one, and Google came out on the wrong side of it. (more…)