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Posts Tagged ‘Mike Luckovich’

TMI – The Chicken Or The Egg?

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

When someone asks, “How did this start – everybody’s private business being so public?” a lot of fingers get pointed.  People interested in civil liberties will claim that corporate lobbyists pushed through laws, allowing more access to individuals’ information.

On the other hand, one only needs to watch an evening of the poorly named “reality” shows to see that there must be some truth to Mark Zuckerberg’s claim that “people aren’t interested in privacy anymore.”  It seems that nearly anyone will debase themselves publicly for a price and 15 minutes of fame – or less.  Often, they don’t need a price . . .  just an audience will do.

Just as the constant use of a brand as an everyday term will water down its meaning, rendering it useless, so too is privacy diluted in meaning if  we pull out all the stops and leave nothing to the imagination or have no barriers whatsoever on which information is to be considered “off limits” to the general population.

This isn’t just a social media issue, but ventures out into many areas of customer service that concerns constituents in a variety of venues regarding data collection and its relevance to the actual transactions:

•     Vance* objects to gas pumps that require him to enter his zip code first at the pump.  “They claim it’s for ‘security purposes,’ but when I go inside to pay instead, they take my credit card without requiring my zip code . . . or ID, so how secure is that?”  Vance says he makes a point not to frequent gas stations with this requirement.

•     Wynona* concurs, and says that when various cashiers ask for her zip code prior to ringing up her purchases, she always replies with, I don’t want to participate. “Sometimes, though,” Wynona says, “The cashier will be so surprised at my response that they don’t know how to proceed.  They’ll explain it to me, as though I don’t understand, or something, and when I re-explain to them that I’m not going to, they get a deer in the headlights look before figuring out how to enter a fictional zip code that allows them to proceed ringing up my purchase.  It’s sad, really.”  Wynona doesn’t usually shop at such places on a repeat basis either.

•     Albert* makes a point not to sign his credit cards.  He feels that it is offering up his signature to a potential thief to easily forge, and knows that if his card is stolen, he would only be liable for the first $50.  “Most merchants don’t bother looking, anyway, except during the holidays, and then they ask for a photo ID to verify that I’m me,” he says.  He considers these “security measures” to be a joke.

•     Bertha* recently learned of how much geotracking smartphones are doing of their customers, and wondered if there isn’t even more happening than is being disclosed.  While she was on vacation recently, she visited relatives who watched a great deal of satellite television – programs she typically doesn’t view.  Bertha spent the time in the same room (with her smart phone) either visiting with relatives, catching up on work, or playing her favorite game on her phone.  By the end of the week, she noticed a stark difference in the ads that came up during her handheld’s game.  It was promoting television shows on the network her relatives had been watching that week.  She had never seen these ads promoted during this game before.  “I don’t mean to sound paranoid or delusional,” Bertha said, “But honestly – I wouldn’t put it past Apple or Google!”

•     Cecil* recently moved to the area and was setting up an appointment with a new doctor.  As they took down his insurance information, name, address, etc., the receptionist also asked him for his social security number.  He balked at this and asked why it was necessary, only to be told, “for identification purposes.”  When he persisted in knowing the reason that the doctor’s office needed this information, the receptionist narrowed the field and said that “the last four digits” would suffice, actually.  Once again, Cecil insisted that his social security number was not related or needed to him being a new patient, and required an explanation.  The receptionist didn’t even respond to his question, and instead simply moved on to the next question on the form.

•     Diane* has met with similar superfluous questions when it comes to medical personnel, and she feels that it is often targeted toward women more than men.  “Very nearly always, I am asked about my marital status on medical questionnaires, and I always refuse to answer.  It’s archaic and irrelevant to my medical health,” she says.  They don’t ask for ethnicity or religion, so why marital status?  That’s not the same as emergency contact.  I’ve even had someone argue and try to insist that I answer this question.  Needless to say, I didn’t return there.”

Each of these individuals were all keenly aware of the fact that their data was being solicited, tracked and harvested by various vendors, and they objected – but it’s the exception, not the rule.  Most people are unaware of their default settings and to what extent their data is revealed to others.

More commonly, tracking is being embedded – almost seamlessly and invisibly – into something disguised as philanthropic, so that people give permission for their data to be harvested without even realizing it.  Vendors are now trying to slap the word charity on their marketing and having the general public peddle their wares to their friends via social media.  If it starts with a nonprofit promoting it, all the better, companies figure.

Take care what causes – and channels – you support, lest a scandal come back later to bite you.  Even if the public didn’t realize what a campaign was on its face, they will care a great deal about what was behind the mask when all is revealed.

More people DO care about their privacy being guarded than the Zuckerbergs of the world would lead us to believe, and trust lost isn’t easily won back.

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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I Don’t Care What People Eat For Breakfast!

Monday, November 15th, 2010

When I get this response about Twitter, I know it’s going to be a challenge to convey the value of microblogging, so I start with a party analogy. There are beneficial – and useless – discussions happening. You choose where to stand, right?

Twitter just takes these same social discussions online. It would be a mistake to assume that it is either all valuable or all a waste of time. There is no such thing as 100%. Similar to attending a party or other gathering, one must do some research and invest time and effort. Not only are certain sections of a party or reception more likely to pay off, but attending this gathering instead of that one might be a better idea, too.

How do you know which is which? Networking, of course – and some trial and error, probably. It’s no different online. If you can have a coach, mentor or take a class, that can help you avoid more pitfalls in the beginning and get you up to speed faster as you learn the protocols of the terrain.

What’s the Point of 140 Characters?

The next question I usually get has to do with how short a tweet is. How can anyone possibly convey anything meaningful in such short bursts? Reducing communication to mere utterances isn’t real communication, they tell me, so why bother?

Again, this isn’t necessarily true. Twitter has rules that, when followed, allow for quite a bit of information to be conveyed in a mere 140 characters. The point is to get to the point and to be brief, as nearly everyone is on information overload these days. Since most people have time to read little more than headlines, the challenge is to pack all necessary information into the “headline.” In fact, crafting a well written tweet might be more difficult than you think.

Hashtags, URLs and Retweeting

First and foremost, it’s important to realize that Twitter is about microblogging. If you’re interested in sailing, karate, calligraphy and dog grooming, it would be best to tweet about each of these from four separate Twitter accounts, since the likelihood of finding others who are interested in all four of these is very, very low. Twitter is most effective for niche marketing. This is why posting hashtags is so important – others will find you and your specific topics more easily.

Your tags, or relevant topics are noted by the pound sign (#) preceding each and every word/topic of interest. If they are words combined, the space is removed, such as #doggrooming. If you’re uncertain whether or not the tag exists, Twitter has a search feature so you can see if others are posting based on that term. (No point in using something that nobody is searching for, or if #ABC refers to something entirely different than you thought.)

It’s useful to post a tweet that elaborates beyond the headline, or “for more information, go here,” such as a hyperlink. Many hyperlinks, though, can be more than 140 characters themselves, so there are a variety of shortening services offered, such as bit.ly. These services will also track how many times your links have been clicked by others, so you know what sort of traffic you’re getting.

Consider, then, how much material is conveyed in some recent tweets of mine:

In the first example, I shared a study done on how recently elected candidates fared better if they were more engaged in social media. First was the headline, next was the bit.ly hyperlink for followers to read the article, followed by several relevant hashtags . . . although a couple of words in the headline were converted to hashtags as well.

The second example was a successful – and different – campaign video that I shared with others, which demonstrates the viral nature of social media. It becomes clear how this can be useful to organizations trying to promote their causes.

Retweeting, or others passing along your original tweet, is, of course, desired. The clearer and more direct and concise the message is, the more likely it is to be retweeted. Obviously, it needs to be considered valuable as well. There is a retweet button, but it is also done manually through the notation of RT and the @ symbol before a user’s name.  Some examples of retweets:

Although in each case, my user name – @BilouEnterprise – was credited, the post was shortened to varying degrees, removing several tags, etc. Therefore, even with the 140 allotted characters, it’s important to say the most important part first so that when others pass your message along, the gist of it will remain.

How Do I Get Followers?

The best way to find a friend is to be a friend. This is true in cyberspace, just as it is face to face. While you certainly want to tell others about what you’re doing and what you want from them, if you don’t provide value to them (talk about something else that’s relevant once in a while), and listen to what they are tweeting . . . and retweet their messages, you’re not being a very good friend.  Social media is not one way communication!

Searching hashtags in general is one way, but there are many Twitter tools that can help, such as WeFollow. When you sign up for WeFollow, you will enter five key tags that you most plan to tweet about and be registered. WeFollow will rank you based on number of followers and how influential you are overall.

For example, you may want to follow those who tweet using the term nonprofit. You’d see that the Chronicle of Philanthropy is #2 in terms of Most Influential, although they are not 2nd strictly in terms of Most Followers.

I’ll Just Give It To My Intern To Do, Then, Right?

Any facet of your campaign that is relegated to the least experienced person working part time on a five year old computer will no doubt have the lowest yield. The success stories you’ve heard about other organizations who have really taken off with this or that began with a plan and a staff, backed up with a budget.

Too often, organizations that merely throw minimal staff and resources to social media efforts do so because management is too scared or ignorant of its power or potential.

What Will My Stats Show?

There are many ways to collect analytics – number of followers, clicks on your URLS, number of retweets, etc. – but there is no agreed upon single strict ROI that satisfies every organization. Social media is much more about engaging supporters in conversation and educating them about what it is that you do, provide, enhance, prevent, support, etc. so that they will know more about it and be there to assist you when you need it, whether that is through advocacy, donations or other means.

Although tracking is a useful tool, organizations that obsess over analytics are missing the point of social media. Viewing your changes over extended periods of time (six or twelve months) is more meaningful, to determine growth. Another useful measurement is to see who the heavy users of your site are, as these are the ones most likely to become involved in activities, committees or to contribute.

Is There Spam In Social Media?

Absolutely! You’ll have to “weed your garden” if you want to keep it clean. Social media requires diligence, like any other marketing effort. No list is perfect, but the dirt will pile up in a hurry if you aren’t attentive.

Aside from the obvious pornographers come those who post nothing except “See/buy my fabulous product now [hyperlink]!” Others are a bit more covert in their language: “I just had to share this: [hyperlink]” and still others will disguise the obscurity with a dozen or so fortune cookie “thoughts for the day” postings, followed by the vague saying with a hyperlink.

The danger, of course, is that not only might you view a sales pitch, but it could also be something very inappropriate, offensive, or a virus that could harm your computer. Although URL shorteners can be helpful, they can also serve to disguise damaging links as well. Luckily, there is a site that helps show where these go without one having to go there first. It’s called untiny and will reveal the original site of most shortened URLs.

Spammers on Twitter can be merely unfollowed, but it’s best to report them. Either way, cleaning your list is advisable, so that you know the value of who and how many are really interested in following you – the same as you attempt to do with a direct mail or email list.

Following them in return is generally considered good etiquette, although the majority of users don’t reciprocate their entire list completely. This is good to remember when those you follow don’t all respond in kind.

When Will I “Get It”?

Most important of all, though, is to remember that everyone is on a learning curve. Social media takes practice and regular usage. Set a realistic schedule and stick to it. If your followers can’t depend on viewing your posts, they won’t remain. You can use a software tool to schedule your posts ahead of time, such as Hootsuite, which also allows scheduled posts to other social media applications, such as Facebook and LinkedIn.

The social media terrain is changing rapidly, and what works well for one organization might not be the best solution for another. That’s why listening to your audience is so essential. Organizations used to hope that they had the time and funds for focus groups in the past, to gain feedback from their constituents every year or two. Now, we can receive specific input and commentaries with more frequency and quantity than ever before imagined!

What will you do with your new follower data?

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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