Monthly Archives: December 2010

I’m a Born Again Social Media User!

Violet On Sunshine Updated 1 Images
So this whole blog has been for my emerging media and the market class, which is part of my master’s in integrated marketing communications at West Virginia University. I turned in my final project on December 26, and now I suddenly feel liberated.

Yeah, I feel liberated from the course, but I also feel completely energized by social media. In the last few days I’ve Facebooked more frequently than ever before, and I even started posting to the Twitter account I got several weeks ago. I’m also on HootSuite now, which I learned about during my research for a course assignment early on, which means I can now schedule posts to my social networks and even post simultaneously, which is so awesome. I’m totally excited!

Of course it helps that I got a new job today. I mean, there’s nothing like a life-changing decision to motivate you to tell people all about how things are going, right? My job is as a technical writer for Bard Access Systems in Salt Lake City, which is a great job with people I really liked interviewing with. How great is that?!

So I just have to decide what to blog about now that I don’t have to concentrate on new media. I’ll probably stick with it for a while, because there’s still so much I’ve learned that I haven’t really had time to sit down and write about. I might even keep blogging when I start my new job in January. Granted, I’ll be working and going to school so the posts will likely be short, but even if it’s just one thing …

So my testimony about social media is that it ROCKS! It’s so great to be able to talk to so many people so many places without having to write one letter or e-mail at a time (though I did that too for people I don’t yet have on Facebook). I still appreciate letters, which are great to receive, but new media is so much more immediate. Big sigh of happiness!

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The Price of Search Engine Optimization

I have been aware of the existence of different types of search engine optimization for a while, including pay-per-click, which is often used synonymously with the term “paid placement.” In marketing meetings it was something that was left for our Web development staff to worry about, so it’s only now that I’m really learning about the options available for companies that want to increase or ensure placement in search engine results.

image credit: David Liu, Resource Nation

Paid placement is pretty straightforward: you pay a specific fee for guaranteed placement of your site on a search engine’s results. These sites are sometimes found at the top of a query page, but most often you see them at the right, and they are usually labeled as either “sponsored” or “paid,” something like that. Often, paid placement is on a pay-per-click basis, meaning advertisers only pay when someone clicks on a site. The fee is usually based on a bid, which determines a site’s ranking. As long as a search engine clearly labels paid placement sites, I don’t have a problem with them, since their placement is similar to banner ads.

Paid inclusion is a technique that has waned in popularity and has always been somewhat controversial because it mixes paid sites with unpaid ones in an organic search, and the paid sites may not be labeled as such. TheSearchAgency.com defines paid inclusion as “a program in which a search engine accepts payment for indexing a web site, although specific placement on a results page is not guaranteed.”

The original attraction of paid inclusion was for sites that changed regularly and wanted to ensure their updates were regularly indexed by search engines; however, the fact that indexing a site didn’t ensure ranking had to have made the technique less attractive to advertisers. I think a lot of the technique’s unpopularity—among consumers, at least—is because a site that pays for inclusion may or may not be labeled as an advertiser, depending on the search engine’s policies.

Ask.com discontinued its paid inclusion program in 2004 with CEO Jim Lanzone calling it “hypocritical to do something we need to do anyway.” Yahoo followed Ask.com’s example in 2009. However, it appears that Google has continued the program, insisting that “ads are always labeled to indicate that the information is sponsored.” But the fact that paid listings are included with editorial results at all indicates that Google is engaging in paid inclusion, despite its protests to the contrary. Even if you insist that sites aren’t guaranteed placement, if a site is paying to ensure indexing and inclusion in any kind of search, it’s paid inclusion.

In my mind, paid content should be kept separate from unpaid content, and even if you label paid content as such, as long as it appears mingled with unpaid, it’s more likely that consumers will miss the distinguishing labels.


Net Neutrality and You

This PBS Newshour interview with Washington Post writer Cecilia Kang reviews the most recent FCC net neutrality rules. I couldn’t get it to embed, so here’s the link:

VIDEO: FCC Approves Net Neutrality Rules

For those of you who, like myself, are new to “net neutrality,” it appears to be the idea that Internet service providers (ISPs) should allow users to access all legal forms of data equally. What’s interesting is that I always kind of assumed that access to bandwidth-heavy sites would improve as Internet speeds and bandwidth capabilities increased. I had no idea that ISPs like Comcast would try to block such sites. In my mind, if they’re going to restrict access to sites like Netflix or Hulu or BitTorrent, they should tell you so you can shop around for another ISP. Or pay for a different bandwidth tier, although as time passes access to information should cost less, not more. I think this is still possible under what the FCC approved on December 21, 2010. But at the same time, as Ms. Kang mentions at the end of the PBS Newshour interview, access to wireless Internet is problematic because minorities access the Internet on their phones “more than anyone else.” How does favoring cable providers over mobile providers help ensure equal data access for everyone? Does it make you suspicious when companies like cable companies like Comcast and Time Warner call the FCC rules “balanced” while mobile providers like Verizon remain critical?


‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire’ Teaches Me How to Google

It’s true, I enjoy the weekday game show “Millionaire” with host Meredith Vieira. It’s pretty much a guilty pleasure for me and I blame my mom for getting me addicted. But watching the show has helped me hone my Google skills. It’s a challenge to find answers to questions before the contestant has time to answer, especially those that don’t seem to have any simple search characteristics. And my goal is to get the answer in the text included with each search result, preferably in the top three.

This is how I found out that the Blorenge is a “mountain” in Wales (I live in the Rockies so “mountain” seems like an exaggeration; see the photo below). I also found out that despite the game’s claim that “Blorenge” is the only word in the world that rhymes with “orange,” there is another word that also rhymes: “sporange.” Take that, “Millionaire.”

One that totally stumped me was a hairstyle with an artist’s first name. I’m trying to remember which artist it was and can only remember that it wasn’t Salvador Dali. Maybe it started with an “M”? When I did get the search result I wanted it was because I used my mom’s guess in the search, which turned out to be correct. A search with the other three names got me nowhere.

But all this leads me to what often happens when I do a search: I end up on Wikipedia clicking from one piece of trivia to another. Just as an example, one day I started with Calvin Coolidge, went to his predecessor Warren G. Harding, then found out that many political historians attribute Harding’s success in first newspapers and then politics to his wife Florence Kling DeWolfe. The couple is buried in the lovely Harding Memorial in Marion, Ohio, but not with Harding’s dog Laddie Boy. Despite rumors, the favored pet is buried elsewhere.

All this demonstrates some of Wikipedia’s finest qualities: narrative and interactivity, which add up to “discoverability.” In her article “You Can Get There From Here,” Amber Simmons talks about the importance of narrative to learning, particularly with Web sites. As she says, “All human communication revolves around storytelling,” and I think my Wikipedia searches demonstrate that. I begin with one piece of information and then end up clicking link to link, looking for a story. The way Wikipedia embeds links allows me to choose my own adventure, so to speak, to create my own narrative.

You don’t have to be on Wikipedia to enjoy discoverability; you can also get it with random links you may find on blogs (like mine, hint hint) or on friends’ Facebook and Twitter accounts. Or with many online news stories.

What are some of the ways you enjoy learning online? And does anyone know what hairstyle I’m trying to remember? Guesses? Maybe I should call Mom and ask her. Before the Internet she was my own personal Google — that is when she wasn’t sending me to the dictionary or encyclopedia. : )


Viral Marketing: Have You Caught the Bug?

I watched Yogi Bear cartoons when I was a kid. And I laughed. Really, I did. But then I saw it was being made into a live-action-mixed-with-animation movie. In 3-D. And I sighed. Ah, that my childhood should come to this.

Today I saw animator Edmund Earle’s parody. And I realized, I’m grown now. I can appreciate Yogi and Boo Boo in a clip styled after the movie The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. It made me smile. But I wouldn’t let the kids see this. They’re probably not ready.

Now, this isn’t the kind of viral marketing you necessarily want for your company. According to an article in the New York Times, Warner Brothers, which is producing the 3-D movie but doesn’t have anything to do with the parody, is “monitoring the situation.” That said, it is a way to get the word out, even to adults who are sad to see real people acting like cartoons and cartoons trying to look like real bears.

“Going viral” was something that used to happen via e-mail, but now you find out about these things on Facebook and Twitter and probably still via e-mail if you don’t have a Facebook account. Before it was something marketers didn’t expect, now they hope … and call it “buzz” when it happens. Find out the brands with the year’s top ads, which all owe their places because people spread the word electronically. But what makes one video more likely to go viral than another? They’re often funny, usually “edgy” by someone’s standards, often there’s innuendo.

But here’s my personal favorite. It’s been around for a while, but I laugh whenever I see it. And it proves that two negatives (Walmart and clowns) do make a positive. What’s your favorite?


Find Out What Kind of Tech User You Are

You’ll notice my blog post title isn’t in the form of a question this time. It’s a little awkward, but the questions were getting tiring. Anyway . . .

I read an aritcle in Schumann and Thorson’s book Internet Advertising: Theory and Research by Rodgers, Cannon, and Moore (2007). They put Internet users into three categories: phobics, passionates, and pragmatics.

  • Phobics are the least experienced with computers, and use the Web less than anyone. They mainly use the Internet for e-mail.
  • Passionates are most experienced and are the most likely to use the Internet for researching, surfing, e-mailing, shopping, etc.
  • Pragmatics mainly use the Internet as a research tool and for school-type tasks They do the same things online as Passionates, but in more moderation.

My question is for how much longer will these categories apply? I mean, who’s really a phobic anymore? And what about my grandparents who are in their 90s and have never even been online? They’re just oblivious.

Then there’s the work of John Horrigan, associate director of research at the Pew Internet and American Life Project. He developed a way of classifying Internet users, dividing them by mobility, so you have those who only operate via desktop computer verses those who are supersavvy about mobile technology. Apparently 39 percent of Internet users are “motivated by mobility” while 61 percent remain in the “stationary media majority.” Take this survey and find out where you fall.

I’m an “ambivalent networker” but even after reading what that means I’m not sure I agree with the term “ambivalent.” That feels negative and I don’t feel negative about mobile tech. Maybe it’s because I can’t afford the data plans that accompany smartphones so I’m not as attached to my cell phone. There’s certainly a subtle difference between some of the categories. According to the information, mobile users are mostly male. I wonder if that’s because there are more men in the workplace where mobile technology is increasingly a job requirement with BlackBerrys and the like provided by employers. What do you think?


Is “Do Not Track” a Good Idea?

The FTC is recommending a “Do Not Track” option for Internet users, but will it work for the public good or against it?

Current solutions include an “opt-out” option of receiving behavioral ads using “opt-out cookies,” but these cookies get deleted when users clear out their Internet caches, so they have to opt out all over again.

Other options include browser add-ons that require administrative access to a browser, meaning the add-on has access to otherwise inaccessible user data. And what happens if hackers turn those add-ons into targets?

Some who object to “Do Not Track” as the FTC is proposing it fear that turning it on would effectively prevent them from doing anything on public Internet, like at an Internet café. Others fear it would throw a wrench in the convenience of having cookies to remember login and auto-fill information. So who’s right? I read one comment that said if you prevent advertisers from targeting Web surfers, you make it highly likely that those currently free services, like e-mail, will have to start charging to compensate for the loss of information. And how important is it that marketers effectively target consumers based on history tracking?

Are online ads really that bad? Do you really mind an ad knowing you’re in a certain zip code or that you frequently visit Gap.com? I’m not sure I do, as long as ads continue to be ignorable. I’ll start objecting when I’m forced to view ads, whether they interest me or not.

Microsoft, Mozilla, and Google say they’re working with the FTC; Apple (maker of Safari) declined to comment. Interesting.