Saturday, January 28, 2012

Data Privacy Day 2012: Is Your Online Data Really Private?

The Truth About How Public Your Online Information Is May Shock You

January 28th is Data Privacy Day created by the National Cyber Security Alliance. The holiday was created originally to educate teens and young adults about keeping their private data protected but has grown into a multifaceted project involving adults, consumers, and businesses as well as advocacy for individual rights. It is somewhat telling that today's Google Doodle was not used to promote awareness of the internationally recognized day but instead used to highlight a the seasonal anniversary of the World's Largest Snowflake.

For those of us who can still recall a time before the social web, back in the hey day of Netscape and IRC, the idea of putting your real and personal details online was unheard of and practically a bone-headed move. No one would even consider sharing such personal details that literally anyone with internet access could find and exploit. Having your private data shared online by a rival equated to the kiss of death. Users were much more aware of the permanence and danger involved in exposing private data online.

Nothing could further from the truth today. With social media dominating the modern web, Facebook and Twitter users constantly share personal information between themselves often unwittingly making the information public for all to see. In fact, for some, more detailed personal information about themselves is recorded online than offline. Being one of those “elders” who can recall that magical time before the internet in general, I see young adults and teens alike rampantly posting personal pictures, videos, and other more basic information online in a manner that can be viewed by all not understanding the harm it could cause to them now and in the future.

Facebook and similar sites do allow users to control what they share with others via privacy settings. These restrictions do help obscure our private data from others who would use it either against us or to their benefit. However, perhaps the biggest privacy concern comes from Facebook's data collection itself. Like Google's geo-targeting ad and those that are displayed based on our “preferences” which are determined by recording our searching habits, Facebook collects basic data from its users which it uses to display targeted advertisements in the sidebar. Both Google and Facebook resell this information to online marketers and advertisers who display ads and gamed search results to you.

No can blame Google, Facebook, or any other company for this practice. It is commonly known that they do this and the revenue helps them to build their free services that are used by so many people. The disconnect happens when private data is sold to people who resell the data itself. The fear that the data a user shares privately could be obtained by a less scrupulous advertising company could become real in this scenario. At that point, who knows where your once private data has gone and what it will be used for?

Do Google and Facebook really respect individual data privacy? It is somewhat telling that today's Google Doodle was not used to promote awareness of the internationally recognized holiday but instead used to highlight the seemingly trivial seasonal anniversary of the World's Largest Snowflake. Both companies have recently announced refinements to their privacy policies with initiative to develop more transparency (at least for Google). The revisions seek to compile all of your online data into one spot. Facebook has a similar initiative tied to their Timeline project which displays everything a Facebook user has posted ever with apps to interconnect your sharing across the web.

It's hard to tell whether these internet giants are genuinely concerned with protecting the privacy of their users or just pretending to while a massive conspiracy looms in the shadows. The truth of the matter is that people will continue to freely share their private data online especially in social contexts because this has become a way of life. The data is already out there now, we will just have to wait to see what happens next.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Is Google Violating Its Own Code Of Contact With Search Plus Your World?

Has Google Finally Succumbed To The Dark Side?
Google launched Search Plus Your World (SPYW) recently offering integration of the usual search results with relevant social media. That is as long as that social media comes Google+. Obviously, this has caused a stir in the social online world and Facebook and Twitter have both publicly blasted Google's new search service for not just preference of Google+ in search results but the absence of equally authoritative pages from competing social sites. Giving Google+ results such a prominent display above organic social results has caused much controversy for Google with other calling for anti-trust laws to be considered.

Google's slogan for it's code of conduct is “don't be evil”. A unusual corporate motto but explained by Google to be a necessary factor in their own business ideology. Google even encourages employees to report possible violations without fear of retaliation. However, surely much laughter has occurred at the next line they direct to their investors, “Yes, it's about providing our users unbiased access to information, ...” since they give monopoly placement on the most used search engine to their own social networking service.

Google falls back to capitalism values when questioned about the controversy and says that it is not about providing equal accessibility but providing the best services available to users. Perhaps it is easy for Google to consider it's own social network as superior to Facebook and Twitter but the fact is Google+ just hasn't caught on as fast as expected. With only about 6 months of being open to the public, lots of people are already calling Google+ a failure with a user base in decline. Google+ can do well if it offers something unique and widely sought after that users can't find on Facebook and other social networks.

In theory, because of Google's collection of personal information and laser targeting of demographics from search engine queries, Google+ could become a seamless way of sharing media socially. This method of sharing would be quite a bit more personal that adding a plus one to a site while surfing. Search sharing could share what you do online and certainly would be superior in many respects to the manual sharing on Facebook and Twitter. Of course, many users are hesitant to tie their search usage to their social identity even though they passively share their personal information with Google already.

Oddly enough, Google's new social search service creates the acronym, SPYW, clearly spelling out the word “spy” and “w”. Whether of not this is a complete coincidence or a blatantly obvious gesture, tying social results to your real identity involves knowing quite a bit of information about you. Conspiracy theories aside, Search Plus Your World offers to extend sharing in your Google+ circle to your usual search engine results. It is an exciting service that has an immense amount of room to grow and develop into a unique product.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Even Google Admits Social Media Advertising Is Superior To SEO

New Google+ “Search plus Your World” Eliminates Other Social Media Results

By now you’ve certainly heard of Google’s new search personalization tying in their fresh faced Google+ social media outlet to your search results to make them more relevant to you. This recent addition to integrate Google+ results with the normal paid and organic search results as “Search plus Your World”. Part of this is a push to get more people on Google+ if they aren’t already but, as they personal results are placed above the organic results. Google is basically telling us that the search results that they strive so hard to maintain and refine should just be replaced with social media results.
Proponents of other social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter have slammed Google for their new search features because they claim they unfairly exclude other social outlets besides Google+. Ordinarily, this would be an issue of jealously by competitors but with Google’s massive 65%+ market share, it could very well bring up some anti-trust or monopoly issues. Forget free web and SOPA, if Google is allowed to dominate all aspects of the internet, users will have to play by Google’s strict often ambiguous rules.
What we have known for a few years is essentially true now: search engines suck. Too many times users search but can’t find what they are looking for. In theory, they are great omnipotent powers that serve up exactly what we are looking for. In practice, search engines deliver paid ads in the most prominent visual spots and gamed “organic” results below which have played the system up to get their high rankings. Despite recent updates to Google’s ranking algorithm, such as the Panda or Farmer update which eliminated low value content farms, search engine optimizers have steadily adapted to the changes, feeling out by split testing what works and what doesn’t. Putting aside the blurry ethical lines many use to market and promote their links, this system has been broken long enough that casual internet users know a lot of the web is spam and ads.
If social media didn’t look promising before to businesses for advertising and marketing, it must look like the holy grail now. Because of the unsavory search engine results experienced on a daily basis, more and more people will rely on sharing links socially and it is only a matter of time before Facebook truly gets into search themselves. And then it is only a matter of time until Google gets out of search.

Top 3 Mistakes Businesses Make In Social Media Marketing

Costly Mistakes Your Company Must Avoid In Digital Advertising

Social media outlets have massive potential to reach droves of new clients with much less effort and expense than traditional marketing. In the US, internet users spend as much time on Facebook as they do on Google. In addition, social networking sites allow your to brand your company and maintain your online image in real time while allowing consumers (your fans and followers) to communicate and give feedback. The accessibility of social media marketing allows anyone to create content without technical hangups and has a pervasive reach into virtually any demographic. It is easy to get started but there are points of etiquette and general business rules that need to be followed for digital advertising campaigns to be successful.
The following is a list of the top 3 mistakes made by companies in their social media ventures:

1. Using your personal profile as a business profile.

The number one rule violation may seem obvious but this is the biggest mistake most companies make, especially those that are new to social media marketing. Sharing personal and business information on the same feed is not only unprofessional but can become harmful to your business by creating an unfavorable image. Simply create a separate profile or page for the company and post only business related content. Facebook allows you to create unlimited fan pages and lets you switch between your business and personal profile on the same account. These steps were taken so that there was no need for more than one account. Most other social media sites have not picked up on this method yet so you must create separate accounts for you business and personal use.

2. Churn out lots of valueless content.

Excluding social media marketing, this is the biggest mistake businesses make when trying to establish themselves online. Creating valuable content is what will initially get your brand attention from users and it will keep them coming back for more. Make sure you update your posts frequently to keep your page fresh and not forgotten. Blogs are a great way to provide relevant, unique content that will give you a group of daily viewers. Content is king and needs to be thought out carefully. The goal is to provide your customers with something useful that they can’t find anywhere else. Why else would they come to you otherwise?

3. Not actively marketing their page.

Many people create a fan page and they think the work is done. However, this is only the beginning of the journey. Now you need people to like and follow your page. Unless your brand already has an established and loyal following, you will have to market your company’s fan page before you will see many people liking the page. There are endless ways to market your social media pages and profiles but paying for placed ads is the easiest if not the more expensive route. Otherwise you can do similar marketing yourself. It is complex to set up but provides a ton of value when it is set up correctly. Many websites offer services that promise to get you 1000 fans but usually provide likes from fake profiles they created in bulk. Have your potential hire explain how they get their fans to like your page before you buy their services.
Keeping in mind these three tenets when creating your social media profiles and pages will go a long way in helping you to establish your company online. The power of social media allows you to acquire many new customers who are interested in your product or services. Your company’s fans will share your links and ask their friends to like your page providing viral word-of-mouth marketing.

The Only 3 Social Media Sites To Market With

Social Sites To Begin Marketing Your Business

The Only Social Media Sites You Ever Need To Advertise On

Social media and networking sites have a firm grip on millions of people who use the internet everyday.  Much of the time spent online these days are on social sites like Facebook where people share messages, links, pictures, and videos.  User are more likely to trust these messages because of the personal nature of the interaction.  Marketing and advertising using social media outlets are powerful avenues to stand out among your competitiors.
(I know this list is probrably obvious to most but the point of this article is to highlight the top 3 social media sites along with demonstrating their potential to businesses worldwide.)

#1. Facebook (Alexa 2, PR 9)

Facebook is prevalent in everyday life.  Over 200 million people in the US alone have active Facebook accounts.  Facebook has become an amazing social media service where people share messages, videos, and links all the time.  Smart phone users have to abliity to use Facebook mobile allowing them to stay connected anywhere they go.  Facebook collects vital statistical information from users establishing demographics that are customized for your products and services.  Users let their guard down on Facebook and are more likely to follow a link or read an advertisement if they are presented by one of their Facebook friends.  For many Facebook users, seeing your message posted by a friend on their feed is as if that person recommened it directly to them.
Business fanpages created on Facebook can serve as a mini website representing the company.  These fanpages allow business owners to post important information such as locations, hours, and contact as well as status updates to everyone who likes the page and become a fan.  Be sure not to use your personal profile as a company fanpage as this is against Facebook terms and will get you reported and banned.  It is important to keep your fans updated with useful updates and avoid blasting them with lots of ads.  As in other aspects of business, you want to create value to your customer and sell only once that value is established.

#2. YouTube (Alexa 3, PR 9)

While Facebook engages the users personal home space, YouTube takes it to another level by engaging users visual through video sharing.  While other social media sites allow video sharing, YouTube is unique in that users come to and search for video only content.  YouTube has grown rampantly from it’s early days and has been the favorite and most used video sharing site since 2007.
A YouTube channel for your business lets you communicate directly to your demographic and people consume video much more readily than text or images much in the same way that TV advertisements trump radio and print ads.  Subscribers to your channel are updated when you post new content.

#3. Twitter (Alexa 10, PR 9)

Twitter is the newcomer of the group but is as widely used as the top 2 social media services. Twitter serves as a fast and user friendly way of broadcasting messages to your followers. Again, this service shouldn’t be used to spam advertisements but short messages with links to valuable or entertaining resources like your business blog.

Why Use Social Media Sites For Marketing?

Social Media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are potent vehicles to increase your web presence and market your products or services to millions of people.  Over 800 million people and counting use Facebook.  That’s almost the number of people that use Google search.  93% of US residents under the age of 30 have Facebook.  Looking at Alexa rankings, Facebook and YouTube rank 2 and 3 behind #1 Google and Twitter comes in at 10 making them the most used social media sites.  As indicated by thier higher rankings, each of these sites carries alot of authority and are used daily to share personal media.  The personal nature of social media translates into word of mouth marketing (long considered the most effective form of marketing) and gives immense value to these websites.
Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube recieve the lion’s share of the market much like Google search does.  Each of the services are unique enough that direct competition can only imitate and niche competition has a very limited user base.  It is important that any marketing be focused to these three social media services to have an effective marketing campaign.