Social Media and Online Video- 2009’s Power Couple

Nielsen
released a study last week during ad:tech in San Francisco that tracked
the interests of the average online user from 2003 to today. Quite a
difference!

Video
and social networking sites are the two fastest growing categories in
2009. The stats are a little skewed since online video was not as
prevalent in 2003 as it is today, so when you read things like "the
number of American users frequenting online video destinations has
climbed 339% since 2003," it's sort of like saying "airplane travel is
up 100% since a similar period in 1809. Uh, yeah, I guess so,
seeing as how the airplane had not yet been invented.

Nevertheless,
the findings are still valid and paint a picture of what's to come for
marketers, advertisers and PR people. Here's the line that stuck with
me: "In the age of Twitter, feedback barriers have all but disappeared,
creating a near friction-free environment for playing back brand
experience, campaign reactions or brand events. Recent public cases
involving
Motrin, Amazon and Domino's show that marketers must be quick and savvy to react to these unprecedented channels of instant feedback."

Read more and download the report here.

Bit.ly- A very cool URL shortener

Every once in awhile on this blog, I try and throw out a helpful tip or link to something that I have found during my never ending mining expeditions across the Internet.

There are several URL shorteners out there, but I think bit.ly separates itself from the pack for a couple of reasons. (By the way, bit.ly is the URL. There is no .com or anything like that. Just type in bit.ly into your browser.)

The main reason bit.ly is ahead of the curve, in my opinion, is because of their stats feature. If you include a shortened link into a tweet, into Facebook, an IM, on your blog or in a blog comment, you get real time traffic for the links you send out , stats and trends, along with location data (e.g., 10 people in the UK clicked). For marketers, this is fantastic information. If you are trying to position yourself as a thought leader in your industry, this is also invaluable. Normally, if you send out a link  you have no way of knowing how it might be resonating with its recipients. Now you do.

Twitter integration is another excellent feature of bit.ly. You can post tweets directly from the bit.ly interface so you don’t have to move in and out of whatever Twitter client you use, cut and paste, etc etc etc. Nice. And while you’re logged into bit.ly, you are presented with a list of your most recent activity, all in one place.

You can drag a bookmarklet into your tool bar so that every time you are on a site that you want to shorten, you just select it, hit bit.ly in your tool bar and you’re done.

GM Andrew Cohen sees an ad-supported destination site as the most interesting future iteration. “By aggregating data across millions of bit.ly users, the platform can be leveraged to track the most popular articles on the Internet, discover the most persistent memes, and measure the velocity of the hottest trends. Today, we’ve got a simple prototype at www.bitlynow.com.”

Give it a test drive.

Online reputation management- a growth business?

I’ve been thinking a lot about where we’re all going to be in several years after we have posted to all our blogs, tweeted our way to a fare-thee-well, left comments, posted pictures and done all of the things we think of as commonplace in today’s world. I am around more and more students and I try to think about their futures, even if sometimes they don’t! Job seekers, those coming out of school or those trying to reposition themselves in our slowly recovering world economy, are also in my thoughts.

The trouble with living your life on the internet is that sometimes you wish you could take things back, just like in real life. The mistakes you make, the pictures you take, the things you say- they can become permanent digital artifacts. It’s easy to leave tracks, but tough to cover them. Five or ten years ago, if you did something dumb at a party, it wouldn’t end up on the Internet for all to see. (I’m looking at you, Michael Phelps!)

This is why I think online reputation management will become such a growth industry in the coming years. Social media is so new, we’re all figuring it out in real time. There is no history to guide us and, let’s face it, we don’t always exercise perfect discretion in life. The reputation management business is not new, but it mostly focuses on institutions, brands and larger entities. (Here’s a good link to John Jantsch’s blog.) I see more companies, widgets, programs and other solutions popping up to help individuals as we move forward.

What do you think? Is this a service you would pay for? (You don’t have to get too specific about WHY you might use such a service…) What are your thoughts? Please post a comment.

A tool is not a strategy

I often get asked about how things work: Twitter, Facebook pages, blogs, podcasts, etc. Social media is so much in the news lately, and the results of an effective social media strategy are in evidence everywhere you look.


But it’s important to remember that a hammer doesn’t build a house. It is a necessary tool, but that’s all it is. Same idea applies to Facebook Pages, Twitter, blogs, or whatever combination of tools you might assemble to help get your message out and connect with people. People will often say to me “We want a Facebook page.” To which I normally respond, “That does what?” Very often, that is where the conversation ends.

Creativity, honesty, added value, humor- these are the things that will bring people to your brand. Technology is just an enabling device.

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Where is the real danger online? It might be offline.

I recently finished reading a great book called “Born Digital- Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives” by John Palfrey and Urs Gasser. It is a terrific, and necessary, analysis of those born after 1980 into the digital world, who they are and what the world that they are creating might look like. It is an exhaustively researched book that touches on so many topics that are becoming ever more important in our digital age. Topics such as privacy, identity, gaming, the impact of the internet on how we learn and how we create and, of course, safety.


Many of the long term effects of the issues the authors touch on are unknowable and will only be revealed with the passage of time, but the authors are to be commended for approaching these subjects head on and searching for answers. If you were born BEFORE 1980, I highly recommend you pick up a copy of the book.

Mr. Palfrey is a faculty director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard and he chairs the Internet Safety Technical Task Force, which recently released the results of their year-long study about internet safety submitted to the 50 state attorneys general. The results might surprise you and the report is available for download.

Obviously, what resonated with me most was their recommendation that “Parents and caregivers should: educate themselves about the Internet and the ways in which their children use it, as well as about technology in general…”

Responses like this one from Illinois are not helpful, in my opinion. The Internet did not CREATE predators or scam artists or bullies or identity thieves, but it sometimes takes an unwarranted amount of the blame because it’s an easy target.

This is not a blog dedicated to book reviews, but every now and then I come across one that I want to share.

More information about the Digital Natives project can be found here.

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Is “sexting” the problem?

Parents of teenaged kids have always faced multiple challenges, and things are no different today.

When I speak about social networking to school audiences, I try and hit a few key topics. Among them are the intersection of online and offline behavior, parental involvement and the application of common sense.

Sexting, or the practice of sending nude or semi-nude photos across wireless networks, is a new phenomenon enabled by ubiquitous cell phone cameras. A December 2008 survey of nearly 1300 teens and young adults found that 20% of teenagers and 33% of 20-26-year olds said they had done it. The consequences can be devastating.

I am not defending sexting as a wise thing to do. But some of the responses to it have been draconian and unproductive, in my opinion. The most high profile case comes from northeastern Pennsylvania where District Attorney George Skumanick threatened to bring sexual abuse charges against the girls who were discovered to have sent pictures of themselves in partial states of undress unless they attended a 10-hour class about pornography and sexual violence. If they declined to take the class and were convicted of the charges, they could serve prison time and might have to register as sex offenders. Oh, did I mention that the girls in question are 15?

Three of the girls and their parents, out of the 20 to whom the D.A. offered this deal, have filed a suit in Federal court asking the court to drop the charges. The three families assert that the deal was unfair, illegal and “retaliation” against the families for asserting their First and Fourth Amendment rights to oppose the deal. (The Fourth Amendment covers unreasonable searches and seizures.)

Again, I am not defending the kids’ behavior. But it does fall into the category of ill-advised, some would say stupid, behavior that every single one of us was guilty of during our teenage years. The difference is, before the internet, our stupid behavior did not become a digital  artifact left behind forever. THAT is the lesson that needs to be imparted to kids today, not bringing them up on felony charges for raging hormones and dumb behavior.

Before you engage in some questionable digital behavior, think about whether or not you would do it in the “real world.” An analogy in this case might be, would you lift up your shirt in the middle of math class? Use common sense and realize that there should be no difference between your online and offline behavior.

Parents, for their part, need to remain involved and engaged. This does not mean spying or snooping. But it DOES mean talking to your kids about the implications of our “always on” digital world. Once you send a text, e-mail or a photo, it’s out of your control forever. It’s not always easy for teenagers to think beyond 5 minutes from now. That’s where we come in, as parents, faculty, administrators and concerned adults.

In some cases, a good talking to is the sensible alternative to jail time, don’t you think?

UPDATE: A federal judge on Monday, March 30 temporarily blocked the prosecutor from filing child pornography charges against the three teens. See the updated story here.

SECOND UPDATE: On March 17, 2010 a 3 judge Federal appellate ruling came down deciding that parents could block the prosecution of their children on child pornography charges. Read more here.

TV might not be dead…yet

What is being called the most extensive survey ever conducted about our media consumption habits was recently concluded by the Council for Research Excellence. Now, granted, the CRE receives funding from Nielsen, but the results might surprise you. Researchers directly observed participants over a total of 952 observed days.


Between TVs, smart phones, computer and even GPS screens, we are exposed to some kind of screen about 8.5 hours per day. Two of the findings that jumped out at me were that those aged 45-54 consume the most video media, and that computers have overtaken radio as the number two media activity, bumping radio to number 3 and print to number 4.

Another surprise was that the number of media minutes was virtually identical for every age group, with exception of those younger boomers (45-54) who spend an extra hour in front of a screen every day. Multi-tasking does not appear to be the sole province of the young and careless-folks in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s multi-task virtually the same amount.

You can read the report here. I guess we’re not as different as we all thought we were in terms of the way we consume media among the age groups. And, despite the inroads that internet TV is making, traditional TV remains the dominant player. But for how much longer?

More on educating kids and parents about social media

I have been getting a lot of requests from parents and educators for more information about the content of the presentation I do for middle schools, high schools and universities about social networking and the intersection of online and offline behavior. Here is a short video (under 2-minutes) that should give you a good idea of what the key takeaways are.

I have had some really fascinating conversations in recent days with parents, faculty and administrators, all of whom have shown a lot of enthusiasm about the program I deliver. It has been enlightening to me to hear some of their concerns as they relate to a host of issues like admissions, reputation management, bullying, the implications of "friending" and so many other relevant topics, and my presentation covers most of them.

If you want more information about bringing me to your school or your child's school, send me an e-mail. (There's an "Email me" tab located on the right hand column of the blog.) In the coming weeks, I will be launching a dedicated website to handle requests, but I wanted to get this video out as soon as possible since a lot of you had asked me about it. Thanks to all of you for your interest.

Social networking is here to stay. The tools, such as Facebook, MySpace, etc., may not be around forever, but this new method of communication is not going anywhere. We owe it to our kids to really make an effort to understand what's going on in the space, so we can help them understand it, and raise digitally savvy young adults.

Secrets of Social Media Seminar

I will be speaking at the “Secrets of Social Media” seminar being held in Jacksonville, FL on Thursday, March 26. I will be sharing the stage with four wonderful speakers, all of whom bring a valuable perspective to social media and its myriad applications for your business.

Here’s the link for more information. Hope to see you there.

Something kind of cool happened last week that I wanted to share. The post I wrote about Tropicana’s decision to change back to its original “straw in the orange” logo generated a lot of traffic. Evidently, someone at the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism is among my readers and noticed my analysis. They  cited me and the blog on their weekly index. Who knew people would get so exorcised over an orange juice carton, huh?

Social Media Marketing Budgets Are Up

As I, and many others, have been predicting for some time now, the shift towards social media/social networking for marketers is continuing to gain strength, even as the economy continues its sluggish recovery. Jobs and resources are being cut across all industries, and frazzled marketers are constantly pressed to do more with less. Yet a recent survey from Forrester research confirmed that social media marketing budgets are actually UP: 53% of marketers surveyed are planning increases to their social media budgets, and 95% are bullish on SM marketing. It’s important to remember that budgets are still quite small. Some might even throw around the word “miniscule.”


The Forrester reports also warns marketers considering taking the leap to “not approach social media marketing as experimental, but to put the right roles, process and measurement capabilities in place to be effective. Remember, the most expensive cost isn’t the tools. The most expensive part are the soft costs: strategy, education, process, roles and measurement.” A social media strategy might not be cost intensive, but it is human resource intensive. Community managers and strategists are full-time roles, yet as we noted above, people are being cut everywhere.

I take this news as something of a double edged sword. Since I think of myself as a “glass half full” guy, any increase in adoption I see as a good thing. A lack of seriousness in approach or a “let’s give it a try for a few months” attitude will prove harmful both to the businesses that try it that way, as well as to the industry as a whole.

It’s worth noting that Forrester’s report is entitled “Social Media Playtime is Over.”

Is your company or organization adopting a social media strategy? What were some of the factors that sealed the decision?