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Archive for the ‘Internet Research’ Category

4G: Two Truths and A Lie

Friday, September 9th, 2011

I’m sure you’ve seen the commercials: “T-Mobile, the number one 4G network” or “Verizon with the fastest 4G phone”. We hear 4G everywhere, but few of us understand it means anything other than FASTER. While 4G sounds better and faster, those companies aren’t being quite honest with you. So let me reveal to you a few truths, and also the lie.

Truth: 4G is better

Its true, 4G is better. 4G stands for Fourth Generation, meaning its the fourth generation of technology used by wireless phones. The first generation started in Japan in 1979, and has since expanded to today with the adoption of 3G in 2002. While 3G gave us the ability to send multimedia and lightning text messages, 4G comes with the promise of even more multimedia capability.

4G would run on a packet switching network, which would mean that information is transferred in chunks, regardless of type, in other words your text and images can be simultaneously sent. 4G will have higher, scalable bandwidth requirements and overall better support for multimedia input.

Truth: 4G is faster

4G will be significantly faster when it comes to data rates (how quickly data is transferred to and from your phone). 3G systems must offer a peak rate of at least 200? kilobits per second, kbit/s (NOTE: most 3G systems actually go much faster than this). 4G systems will have a peak rate of 100 Megabits per second, Mbit/s. A megabit is 1000 times faster than a kilobit.

Lets use this example: The average 4 minute MP3 song is 4MB. It takes about 3 minutes to download this song at 200 kbit/s, the required 3G speed. It takes only 30 seconds to download this song at 1 Mbit/s. But 4G, at its peak speed, should be 100 Mbit/s. So essentially, no time at all. You can see where 4G isn’t just fourth generation, its over 4 times as fast, too. (You can find out more about download speeds with this calculator.)

Lie: You (can) have 4G

Now, while all this speed and multimedia capacity sounds fantastic, there is the one lie in the mix. No one has 4G. That’s right, all those commercials claiming the best 4G network, don’t actually have 4G. What they have is more like 3.9G. In 2008, the International Telecommunication Union’s Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R) put forth the IMT (International Mobile Telecommunications)-Advanced requirements, which are the international standards for 4G.

While “Pre-4G” systems, such as LTE (a term you may have seen attached to certain phone models which stands for long term evolution) have been on the market as early as 2006, they do not fully comply with IMT-Advanced. Two 4G systems do exist in developmental stages, “LTE-Advanced” and “WirelessMAN-Advanced” but neither are available currently.

So how do companies get away with using the term 4G? On December 6th, 2010, ITU-R announced that evolved versions of 3G could be considered 4G provided:

a substantial level of improvement in performance and capabilities with respect to the initial third generation systems now deployed.

No doubt, 3G has drastically improved in the past few years, however it is not yet the 4G promised to us. While you wait for the golden 4G moment of availability, stay educated about the branding terms that mobile companies use. As you market yourself and your company, these changes can make your online efforts more effective as it becomes easier to browse online, download apps and even read emails with multimedia components.

Yes, its contagious!

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

Last week I was asked to do a talk for the DFW Social Media Marketing Meetup. They already had some great speakers cover Facebook and Twitter so I suggested talking about social media in the context of Viral Marketing. I’ve decided to post my notes here. A lot of this information is common sense, but that is, in fact, the beauty of viral marketing. The only difficult part is doing the research to make the right decisions.

Viral Marketing

1. Introduction: The “Holy Grail”

I refer to Viral Marketing as “the Holy Grail of the internet”. Most people aren’t sure where it is, how to get it, what it does, or what will happen to them when they find it. Much like crusaders of old, the journey to successful viral marketing is no easy task.

2. What is Viral?

Viral does come from the medical concept of a virus. If you have the flu, anyone you come into contact with may catch it, and then anyone they touch will get it and so on. Viral works the same way. You can connect with a few people and spread an idea which will in turn spread to possibly thousands of people you never came in contact with. It is Word of Mouth marketing, but online.

Some Aspects are:

  • Word of Net: Like Word of mouth but faster and able to reach more people in a short amount of time
  • The Power of NOT marketing: The goal of viral is in a sense, not to have to market. In other words you create the snowball and give it a push, but it will keep rolling down the hill and gaining mass whether you’re still running behind it or not
  • Insider Phenomenon: Viral marketing should establish some kind of community. I like to use the example of Star Wars because its one lots of people can relate to. If I’m sitting with a bunch of people at a networking group who I may or may not know and I make an obscure Star Wars reference, chances are someone at the table will get it and laugh. When I hear that person laugh I know we have a connection even if I’ve never spoken to them before in my life. At that moment we are both “insiders” and part of the same community. A video or concept that goes viral will draw people together and create “insiders” who will network BECAUSE of your marketing.
  • The Fluke Function: Unfortunately, there is no formula to viral marketing. There is no magic key, no map. There is only research and experimenting. In fact the majority of great viral campaigns went viral on accident. They were flukes. Sometimes, things just happen, and there’s only so much prediction you can do. A good example is TV series. Every show on television went through tons of market research, pitching to CEOs and TV network heads, focus groups and pilots, and even then, some shows don’t make it. They run one season or less and disappear forever. Others, run for ten years. We can only speculate so much on “why”.

Great Examples of Viral Campaigns:

  • Got Milk. Even before the internet, the print marketing of milk has made an impact that we still imitate today.

  • Wazzzzzzzzzzzup. Next step on the evolutionary ladder was video viral. Still a YouTube favorite.
  • RickRoll. This is a great example of the Fluke Function. Rick Astley has made a ton of money off of people using his video as a joke. He was even asked recently to tour again (I think he also came out with a new record but I haven’t confirmed that). Either way, his song because part of an insider phenomenon.
  • WOW Characters. The World of Warcraft videos using famous people as characters has a huge “gamer” following and is another example of the insider phenomenon.
  • Anything to do with Apple. I’m not a huge fan of the Mac, but it has created images and symbols that have gone beyond branding and become a lifestyle.
  • President Obama. Politics was not really considered a viral form of marketing until our current President broke the mold. Now social media and viral marketing are considered essential in a political campaign. His is a perfect example in the sense that he started rolling the snowball but other people continued to make him viral (aka ObamaGirl, JibJab, the ObamaRoll).

3. Is Viral Marketing a solution for you?

So who uses viral marketing? Obviously, big businesses do. But small companies and can be very effective with viral. Small companies who have a niche audience can really lean on the Insider Phenomenon. Who is your target market? 30 years old women in Dallas with a Deep South background who happen to like cooking apple dumplings as part of Sunday Supper? Imagine if you pulled all those people together with your marketing and created a community where those women would want to share with each other about your product/service. This is the time where I tip my hat to the Long Tail effect. Go read it if you haven’t. So if you think you have something that you can create a community around, than viral is a good bet for you. Great branding and good ideas may get passed along but a community gives people a value they can touch, that’s what really makes something persevere. The example I use, is again, a personal one. I know a lot of gamers and when things they think are funny or interesting hit social media then they all share it with one another. If they saw it last week and I haven’t yet then I’m told, “What? Where have you been?!” and I’m forced to sit down and watch some crazy YouTube video. Seriously, that’s how viral marketing really works.

4. Where to start?

Again, there is no real science behind why things go viral. But there are some things you can do:

  1. Target market. Who are you trying to reach? Get the perfect client in your head (and in person if you can). Get this as clearly defined as possible.
  2. Research. Research. Research. Find out everything you can about that target market. What medium do they like best? What kind of marketing has worked in the past? Is there a particular site or blog that seems to promote material similar to yours? What else are they interested in that you can connect to?
  3. Branding. Make your message clear and tight. A video can be long, rambling or just plain spasmic but the message and the final burning impression should be flawless. If you make a great video and 100,000 people see it but you have not created any brand awareness, your efforts were useless.
  4. Trial and error. After that its trial and error. I hate to say throw mud against a wall and see what sticks but in the end, that’s often how it goes. When you test ideas, make sure to track and get feedback on everything. When it doesn’t work go back to step 2 and start over.
  5. Side note: hire a professional. I’m giving you tips and ideas but in the end, it does make a difference to have a specialist on your team.

I’m going to tell you that research counts way more than production on the whole. Think about all the random pictures of people’s cats seem to end up all over the internet. Sometimes a random video caught on someone’s phone makes it to the news. Your branding and message should have quality but remember the Fluke Phenomenon, sometimes things just “go” viral, for no reason. In other words, feel free to start small.

Final Thoughts

  • The Players: Again, let me say RESEARCH. The players can be whatever medium your target market responds to but I have seen fantastic viral done with: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, email marketing, Blogs, Forums, Print, Video, podcasting, soundbytes…. and so on. Someone at the talk suggested Linked-In to me. Don’t get me wrong I’m a huge fan but I don’t have any good examples of a viral campaign on Linked-In, though I’d be happy to learn. Also, let me just note that video is the most powerful tool in a viral campaign. Most people are visual. Plus, video can be shared through any of the other mediums.
  • Create a Champion: Look, one of the goals of viral marketing is to be lazy. Get someone else to market for you. Create people who will champion your brand because in the end, someone else saying how great you are matters far more than how great you think you are.
  • Community: Don’t forget: the goal is to create a community. A community will perpetuate anything you market. It will breed champions. It will provide feedback and research opportunities and even expansion. Don’t underestimate its power.

Personal Aside: I’ve fleshed out my notes a bit because I think my speaking was not up to par that night, I was was mildly drugged from a CT scan… so, needless to say, I was very entertaining!

Feel free to share your favorite viral campaign!

Image by eddiedangerous
P. S. If you have an interest in doing some viral marketing please let us make a bid on your project! Contact us here. .

Are your secrets safe online?

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

p>Ever since Facebook’s little privacy policy backlash, more and more people have approached me with concerns about privacy. Who can see what you put online? How safe is your personal information? Anytime you put information on the internet, you take a risk. However, you can take steps to protect yourself and your secrets.

CNET wrote an article about a company called Rapleaf in 2007. I went and investigated this company.

Rapleaf makes its money by conducting research for companies interested in social media demographics. But what’s more important, is that they offer a free service: showing you what information about you exists on the internet. We’re going to walk through how RapLeaf works by showing you how to set up an account.

  • Go to the Rapleaf personal page and register.

  • Make sure to verify your email.
  • Discover all the information about you that is open to the public.

  • Choose what information you want to share with RapLeaf.

  • Make sure to read the privacy policy, just because you’ve hidden your information from Rapleaf, doesn’t mean that information can’t be found.

  • If you want to delete something, you’ll have to go back to the original site to change it.

If you sign up for RapLeaf, let me know what you think of them!

Image by AMagill

What Twitter could Learn from Facebook

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

Twitter should give me a paycheck. Seriously. I might as well be a rep, for how much I talk about them. I’ve brought them at least a dozen new users in the past month. But even though I feel that the potential of Twitter is limited, they could still stand a lesson or two from Facebook.

Can you Hear me Now?

My last few blog entries have revolved around Facebook and some of its new updates. Facebook has spent a long time listening to its users and then implementing their suggestions. I think its fantastic.

We all know how great it feels when someone takes your suggestion and puts it into action. I remember once suggesting a new approach on a friend’s website. I wasn’t getting paid, it was just friendly advice. I remember my friend came back ecstatic that she got so many compliments and it just felt good to know I helped.

The opposite is also true. When you try to offer thoughts or suggestions and someone isn’t listening, it hurts. Especially if they blatantly ignore you.

Twitter has some growing pains but its important, even during these times, to listen to your customers. Twitter has a single major avenue of communication: email. And right now if you email them a question it takes up to two weeks for a response. Even then, your response may be: “Please check with our other open tickets.”

Hopefully Twitter will realize the importance of listening soon. I already know people who had a question or couldn’t retrieve their password and stopped using the service because they never received an answer.

Have you contacted Twitter before? Was the experience positive or negative? Did it impact the way you use Twitter?

Image by DuChamp

Linked-In: A Respectable Second Place is Still Second Place

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

Disclaimer: If you haven’t, read this post first so you know what I’m talking about.

This week comparing the amount of business potential a number of social media services have. While Linked-In has made a fair amount of updates recently, its little overhaul still doesn’t compare to Facebook. You can go see their changes here and when you log-in you can read all about the improved search functions. Group recently went through a make-over as well. I willing give kudos to Linked-In, but it’s still just not as impressive as the massive amount of work that I can see at Facebook.

To me Linked-In is a bread and butter type of website. You need to be on there. Linked-In is my Rolodex and I tell people as soon as you have an email address you need to go create a profile, even if your website isn’t up yet.

Personally, I think the ways to do business on Linked-In is limited. Sure, the questions and groups are great but the versatility just isn’t there. At least, not like Facebook. To me, Linked-In is much more like an introduction than an actual relationship. Linked-In says “Harry, have you met Sally?” and then you do the work. Facebook says, “Romeo, this is Juliet, oh and here’s her family history before you do something dumb. Oh and, wait a few days before you drink the poison.”

I feel like Linked-In is taking stock of their users and listening, but carefully choosing its path based on predetermined goals. On the other hand, Facebook says, “Hey, how do you want to connect with others? How can we make that happen?” And is more than happy to evolve into what its users want, even to an animal they didn’t originally intend on being.

Linked-In provides a necessarily and important service. But I think their desire to step beyond that is limited. So, here’s your silver star, Linked-In, don’t let it go to your head.

What about you? Do you think Linked-In deserves second place? Are they listening and moving with business better than Facebook?

P. S. Veribatim now has a Facebook Page.

Facebook: Making the Rest of Us Look Bad

Monday, March 16th, 2009

Love it or hate it, MySpace did one thing right: it paved the way for facebook.

A few weeks ago I spoke to a group about social media, concentrating on Facebook, Twitter and Linked-In. At that time, I gave Facebook a very basic review and moved on. But after hearing about the changes being made to the site I started to do some more research. It blew my mind what Facebook was doing. So much so that I’m going to devote this week of blogging to comparing Facebook to what I believe are the other top two social media sites: Twitter & Linked-In.

Disclaimer: I am not saying these three websites are the same. In fact I think most businesses should establish a presence on all three. This is more about me organizing them by greatest  business potential.

Today I want to talk a little bit about some of the exciting stuff happening behind your Facebook profile and the key to what gives Facebook such awesome potential. Last week I covered the exciting new Facebook pages and if you regularly check your profile, you’ve probably already noticed the changes to your news feed. So, let’s talk about lesser-known gems that you might not have heard about unless you religiously read Facebook’s company blog.

Somethings you might not know:

  • Facebook is available in Hebrew and Arabic. (70% of users are not from the U. S.)
  • Facebook Causes have raised $4.5 million from 90,000 unique donors. (How’s that for making an impact?)
  • Facebook has a wiki just for developers.
  • Facebook book is listening. There are multiple ways to give them feedback.
  • Facebook puts all their statics on their site.
  • Facebook does a ton of research (with your permission). You can participate even if you don’t have an account!
  • Facebook has made a ton of its coding open source.
  • Facebook Connect allows you to integrate information on Facebook with other websites.
  • It took me 5 minutes to find all this information.

Most of us log on Facebook, respond to mail, update our status, play around a bit and we’re done. But there is so much more to Facebook. By looking a little deeper I realized that Facebook was listening, truly listening to what its users needed. The number one question I get from business owners is “But how do I use Facebook for my business?” And the answer has always been somewhat convoluted. Facebook heard that question and said, “Hmm… how can we make this better for businesses while still making the same social impact?”

They’ve done a ton of research on their new ideas. I know, I know, a new homepage makes most of us balk, (what? I have to think before I click?) but I have faith that the Facebook team picked what they felt would be the most intuitive and simple solution. In a month we won’t even notice.

Facebook’s philosophy, however is what really makes them stand out from other media. Share and Connect. That’s powerful. And they are actively pursuing it in visible ways. I couldn’t tell you what any other social media site’s mission even was.

So what do you think? Do you hate the new layout? Did you learn something new from my little list? Are you ready to be in up in arms defending other social sites this week?

Image by jdl_deleon.

Tools for your Belt: Demographics and Surveys

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

Recently, at a networking event, the subject of Twitter and its usefulness came up. Being a huge proponent of social media as a whole, I immediately listened. I overheard one person say, “Why should I bother using Twitter? 16 year old girls aren’t interested in my business.”

Of course my initial reaction was laughter. Twitter has its fair share of teenage girls but this assumption was completely incorrect. I noticed it first on an impromptu survey done by TheBusyBrain (Mike Johnson) on his blog. It was a simple survey, just asking his Twitter followers to answer their age based on ten year segments. Mike’s survey shows people in their 30’s as the largest age group on Twitter, followed by 20s, 40s, 50s and teens taking fifth place.

Of course this survey only had 1500 or so people vote. So after this discussion I did some hunting for more statistically accurate numbers. Check out this post from Hitwise. It says 63% of Tweople are male and 25% of users are between 35 and 44.

I have to admit the accuracy of the smaller survey surprised me, though I’m pleased that Twitter isn’t overrun with pubescent girls. The point here is that the people I network with in real life were basing their ideas of social media off of assumptions. Research is your friend. Know your demographic and aim for it. Do your own surveys with your clients, ask them what they use the web for, why they would read your blog, etc.

My Challenge: Survey 30 clients or possible clients of yours, ask them what social media they use. Let me know what kind of results you get!

Image by Smith

The Current Direction

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

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I’m continuing to write about what I learned from Content Critical. Last post I discussed analyzing your audience, the current one, and the one you wanted. Today I want to discuss evaluating your current content.

Take a look at the content already up on your site. Are you updating your web content on a schedule? Do you blog regularly? Make sure you look at the cost/benefit of your content and schedule. The great thing about web content is that you don’t have all the costs that we associate with printing content. However there are different costs that need to be considered, such as, the cost of your time. How much time do you spend on your content, and is that a price that is worth paying? Do you have to go through an editing process with other people? Do you pay someone else to write the content for your site or write something yourself that might be less professional? Compare your current content against your prioritized reader list. What needs to change so you are writing for the right audience?

I challenge you today to read through some of your current content and try to get a feel for the direction its taking. Now, measure that against the direction you want to take. Are they the same?

Image by mshades

Guess Who!

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

In a continuation from my last post, I’d like to continue discussing things I learn from Content Critical.

Identifying your Readers:

Have you really taken the time to identity your readers. First, take time to analyze. There’s lots of great services out there (Google Analytics, Crazy Egg, Woopra) who can help you get this information:

  • Who is visiting your site now?
  • Who is your competitor targeting?
  • Who is the leader in the industry and what kind of people read that site?
  • Who do you want to read your site?

Once you’ve got a clear idea of your data, don’t just sit there, talk to them. Survey your readers by emaiing them, polling in your blogs, or just contacting past customers. Here are the questions you want to ask:

  • What’s the most critical thing you need?
  • How do you want the information presented?
  • Ho are you getting the content you need right now?
  • Do they think you are a legitimate source for this content?

After you’ve gotten these answers from your own and other people’s readers prioritize the readers you want:

  • List potential customers (those you want, and those you discovered)
  • Then Prioritize them: first by who is reading you most right now, and then by who you want to market to
  • Using the desired list, narrow your scope to the top 2-3 readers

How do you analyze traffic and try to reach your target audience?

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Social Media: Personal Touch in a Virtual World

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

I write a lot about social media and what it can do for business. Today I want to get down to the heart of what it means for a company to be involved. First, as times continue to change, as the baby-boomers retire and the kids of yesterday are becoming adults, the demands customers make change as well. Right now 51% of adult social media users think companies should maintain a social media presence (from emarketer).

More and more customers are expecting to have a relationship with a company, not just one or two buying experiences. They want to be able to ask questions, get immediate answers, and know what’s coming up. Unfortunately, the increase in demand for interaction is not being met. Most companies are far behind, failing to keep pace.

Why have a social media presence? Because as our world becomes more and more digital, we are losing that sense of personal communication. We call customer service and get a recorded voice. Recorded voices call our answering machines. We receive automated email. Most customers don’t have the time to browse a store and ask a sales rep a million questions that they may or may not have an answer to. But if a customer can find time online to interact with a social presence and feel like someone knowledge is spending personal time with them, it makes all the difference.