Tuesday, February 18, 2014

What is the Role of Blogging vs. Newer Social Media

There is no doubt that business blogging is an essential part of content media strategy whether the target is B2B or B2C.  The immediacy and ability of blogging to communicate detailed information and to provide deep links to website content or other calls to action can’t be matched. However, new platforms like Pinterest and Instagram and even tools like infographics cause some to question the value of blogging, even in B2B.

As an individual I started blogging “early days.” Candidly I was afraid my brain would atrophy when I retired from full-time teaching and blogging seemed a way to keep it alive. It turned out to be even more—a way to learn about the emerging discipline of social media marketing. I kept the diy-Marketing blog going for several years, until it was so content heavy that its response was unacceptable. I started another strategy blog and found an interesting response to a series of Social Media for Good posts. However, by that time my primary professional activity was the Internet Marketing textbook, providing updates for adopters of the text and thinking about a 4th edition. Blogging proved to have less value in that context.

I have a new Google+ page each year so Internet marketing instructors can search current material for their courses. Debra has a Google+ community and a Facebook page for the book, and I contribute to both. I have 3 Pinterest boards and Debra and I share another. I have been amazed at the way people pick up on my Pinterest postings even though I have done nothing to promote them beyond the users of our text. I try to see most of the posts from all the platforms are fed through to my Twitter account.

So what? In doing all of this I’ve come to have strong opinions about where content curation fits in and the role of content creation.

Content curation specifically keyed to our textbook has the potential to fill an important role for the users. Since personal brand development is no longer a huge objective for me, curation doesn’t do a great deal for me personally.

Creation of original content, as Debra has often pointed out, contributes to visibility on the web in a way that mere curation does not. Even more important to me personally is that my blog is my voice on the Internet. It is my creative opportunity to say what I believe and to try to make a contribution to the discipline. Consequently, I have started a new blog with a limited focus. “SocialTechnology for Good, or for Mischief” allows me to continue the postings which received favorable attention in the earlier blog. There is plenty of mischief around but it is the personal privacy implications that particularly interest me. I’m working on visibility because I want people to find it. My rule is only to write a post when I can make a contribution, even if the contribution is only careful research.

That brings me to infographics. I like them and have a Pinterest board for infographics. However, they are so numerous that they litter the Internet landscape. Many have no lasting value. They represent visual curation, not the creation of original content. Consequently, I do not agree with those who regard them as a substitute for blogging. If the blogger has a point of view and a message, that requires a verbal argument, not statistics with pictures.

Even with careful attention to distributing and optimizing content, there is only so much any one individual can do. That is the point of the graphic. Some platforms lend themselves to original content—websites and blog postings because they do not have length restrictions, videos (short or long form) because they are inherently informative and engaging. Many of the platforms that have become popular recently are really “announcement platforms” They are invaluable for distributing content but for business use they usually need to link to more detailed content like a blog post or a web page.

Likewise there is only so much any given brand should do. The old rule is still just as true—the choice of communications platforms depends on objectives. As you choose just factor in an additional consideration—curation vs. original content! 

Please consider this an invitation to visit the new blog!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Social Media for Good XI

According to Mashable one government agency, the Interior Department, has Instragram figured out. This image is of the super moon in late June. "Beautiful photo of the #Moon over #TurretArch in #Arches National Park last night." Take a look at their site, see the number of views and comments, and make your own assessment. Don't the images make you want to visit some of these places? And maybe submit a photo to their summer contest? Notice that the contest is posted on the White House blog. Interior has a news page, but I don't find a blog. The White House would probably have more followers anyway!

Their Instagram page has over 50,000 followers, another testimony to the power of the channel. And their social media concentration on Instagram suggests a good understanding of the channels available.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

In-Store Customer Tracking: Innovation or Invasion?

How retailers can best compete in a digital world is a vexing subject. Recent news items on stores like Home Depot and Nordstrom using customer tracking technology in their stores caught my attention. Depending on your point of view, this is either another useful ma
nifestation of big data or a big invasion of privacy!

The technology goes by various names—hyperlocal, in-store tracking and in-store positioning are common descriptors.  Geofencing is a related retail tool that performs slightly different locational functions by indicating when a person enters a specified area. In-store tracking allows stores or malls to monitor your movements while you are on the premises, producing Google Analytics-type metrics like which departments in a store people visit and how long they stay in each. A heatmap from one of the technology providers, YFind, shows a mall application—visitors and unique visitors to specific stores and “dwell time” for each visit.

Euclid is the technology used by Home Depot and Nordstrom, although Nordstrom describes its use as “a test” that provided useful data but has now ended. The chart shows how their technology works and most 
of it is straightforward. A shopper enters the store, her smartphone automatically pings looking for wifi, the system captures the phone’s MAC address to identify the shopper, then uses it to send repeated pings to the cloud as the shopper moves around the store. MAC address is the thing I had to look up; it’s the ID permanently burned into every device that can connect to the network.

The fact that all of this is done without active participation by the shopper, in fact without the shopper’s knowledge, is whatbothers privacy advocates. The systems suppliers insist they only collect and provide anonymous data to their customers. You be the judge.

Recently Ad Age interviewed Dennis Crowley, founder of Foursquare. The video contains interesting speculation on “reinventing retail” including the prediction that users could soon be automatically checked in when they enter a store. I wonder if users will be comfortable with that, but the video is worth watching. 

If you want to up the creepiness factor, consider the possibility of providing leads to retailers as consumers enter the store. According to Media Post, a start-up called Purple Cloud monitors consumer activity with regard to a  ”specific product on a Web site, which triggers an email to the retailer and a photo of the consumer taken from their social network profile.” The retailer can then send a tweet or email to the prospective customer, presumably as he enters the store. On the face of it, that is seriously creepy. However, the customer must download the Purple Cloud app to make this all work, so that may be a mitigating factor. Watch for more on this emerging technology.

For sure, we are going to see more changes in the in-store shopping experience! Whether they will result in genuine privacy problems remains to be seen.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Social Media for Good X

May 3 was World Free Press Day, celebrated by traditional and digital media around the world. UNESCO's 2013 prize was awarded to  Ethiopian journalist Reeyot Alemu who is currently in prison for writings critical of the government. She worked for various traditional media outlets and eventually founded her own magazine. The Electronic Freedom Frontier points to the case of an Etiopian blogger, Eskinder Nega, just sentenced to 18 years in jail for similar "crimes." Freedom of the press is a digital issue as well as a traditional media one.

This map from Reporters Without Borders via the Guardian newspaper shows the status of press freedom around the world. Content creators in all media spaces are affected by press freedom or lack thereof, and supporting freedom of the press around the world ia important to all of us.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Social Media for Good IX

Here's an interesting tweet from UNICEF in the UK. Matt Rhodes from Fresh Networks tweeted it, saying it's at the edge of social media.

I agree. It's a compelling call to action, and a reminder of the limits of social media.

Or is it a reminder of the reach of social media?

Either way, it is definitely creative fund raising!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Is Social Commerce the Next Big Thing?

There have been high hopes for e-commerce on social platforms almost since the beginning. For instance, I wrote about pop-up stores on Facebook a couple of years ago. There are current uses of the pop-up store, but they all seem to be classified as retail events.

What is the state of actual social commerce? One prediction, captured in an infographic, seems to extrapolate the reach of social platforms to an estimate “50% of Web Sales to Occur Via Social Media by 2015.” Given what we can see in mid-2013 that seems to be a wildly over-optimistic prediction.

Here are some recent developments and announcements:
• In January Facebook announced that Stipple technology would be available to create interactive images on posts and in ads. Stipple technology is similar to Thinglink, which I tried out in a post a few months ago. I repeat my warning that you must own the image in order to lawfully use it for this purpose. (Note: Thinglink was added to the mix in April).
• Pinterest continues its rapid growth. I read one article that called it a “virtual shopping mall.” Since it is easy to use it is especially attractive to small business. Much evidence suggests it is very effective in driving traffic to retail sites.
• Perhaps piggy-backing on the success of Pinterest are other visual sites.  Some that are drawing considerable investor interest are:
  - Polyvore is touted as a “social discovery” site where fashion shoppers create and share sets of images. It is experiencing rapid growth and is reported to have a higher conversion rate from referrals than Pinterest.
  - The Hunt which allows members to post images of items they like and ask other members to help them locate the items at retail. Its current revenue model is not clear.
  - Wanelo “Want, Need, Love” is another visual site in which users create their own feed based on products they like. The site appears to be driving traffic to retail sites. Whether affiliate revenue is sufficient to sustain the site or whether it can develop as an actual e-commerce site is still an open question.

These sites have one thing in common. They are currently being used to drive traffic to retail sites, not as e-commerce platforms. That is probably positive for ad revenue; e-commerce is still arguable.

 A newcomer that is clearly a social e-commerce platform is Chirpify. It describes itself as the only in-stream social commerce site.  According to Chirpify, users can buy, sell, or fundraise on the site. They accept PayPal as well as a variety of credit cards, but I wonder if others will be concerned about the security of transactions.

It is clearly a hot space! Existing and new platforms are likely to continue driving a growing amount of traffic to e-commerce retail sites. However, actual e-commerce on social platforms doesn’t appear to be anywhere close to 50% of web sales, nor does it appear that it will approach that by 2015!