Monday, November 30, 2009

Social Media, Cell Phones and Online Shopping: Is Big Brother Us?

Is Big Brother watching you? Books like George Orwell's classic 1984 and films such as Minority Report and Eagle Eye present a nightmarish vision of an omniscient government watching our every move. The reality is far different story, paranoia about the Patriot Act notwithstanding. As recently as 2004, FBI agents still used laptops with Intel 286 processors.

But is it possible that the government simply doesn't need hidden cameras, high-tech listening devices and secret agents everywhere in order to know the intimate details of our lives—that we're doing it for them?

Consider a few technologies that have become part of daily life:

Cell Phones: these can not only be used to take pictures virtually anywhere—and instantaneously upload them to the Internet—with GPS tracking, they can also be used to record our every move and pinpoint our current location.

Credit Cards: the credit card companies, and services they report data to, know what you buy, when, where, and how much. If government-run healthcare ever becomes a reality here, Washington bureaucrats may be very interested in any "suspect" lifestyle purchases: tobacco, alcohol, fast food, ice cream, scuba lessons, rock climbing gear...

Social Media: This is a treasure trove of information for any Big Brother-ish entity. You're telling the world what you think, where you are, who you know, how well you know them, who they know, and more.

It isn't just overweening or Orwellian government agencies that may take advantage of the increasing amount of voluntary online exposure of personal information of course. Scammers and criminals can take advantage of such data as well. MediaPost recently reported that Facebook is cracking down on ad networks that display misleading advertising or promote scam offers through its site. Facebook can even get a person killed.

Of course, the news isn't always so grim. Facebook can also be used by a crime victim to track down an assailant, and it kept this teen out of jail. How big brotherly.

Our online lives are also of interest to private companies. Social media is now used routinely in the hiring process. That can be good or bad, depending on what recruiters find about you. It isn't just HR professionals, however, who may be monitoring your tweets or other social media use however; Facebook cost one woman her insurance benefits.

And then there's Google. Searchers and consumers love Google for its simple interface and relevant results, and marketers love Google for the traffic it drives to their websites. We'd all best hope that Google never abandons it's "Don't be evil" mantra given the amount of information it has about your online life.

And as the search giant increases its activities in mobile, it knows not just what you're doing online, but where you are and where you've been. Shelly Palmer finds this creepy, and Hillel Fuld worries that with the Chrome OS, cloud computing and other recent developments, "it seems Google is collecting a little too much information on my every move, and it is starting to make me uncomfortable."

So what's a person to do? Shunning new technology and going back to a pre-Internet lifestyle really isn't an option. There is too much convenience, too many new opportunities and capabilities presented by social media and other online tools to adopt a Luddite mindset.

The answer, rather, is just to be smart and sensible about the use of social media and new technologies:
  • By all means, share your professional background and accomplishments online so that those who may hire you, as an employee or consultant, can find it. But be careful about how much and what type of personal information you post.
  • Never disparage anyone by name online. The information will be there forever. There is no profit in burning bridges. If you feel compelled to report a bad experience with a company or product, make the criticism fair, accurate and factual. And if the company addresses your issues, give them credit, in the same venue where you complained.
  • Be careful who you connect with. There's no need to follow everyone on Twitter, friend everyone on Facebook or connect with everyone on LinkedIn who reaches out to you. This doesn't mean you should only interact with people you know personally, of course (social media is about expanding your network after all), but it's best to know something about the person.
  • Never Twitter drunk.
  • Think twice about doing anything online that you wouldn't do if your mother, your boss and a police officer were staring over your shoulder.
  • It's also a good idea to periodically Google yourself to see what information is available about you online, and correct any erroneous data if possible.
Despite the risks, social media, cell phones and other online technologies are a boon to our lives few could have imagined just a couple of decades ago. Just try to apply common sense and wisdom to your use of these new tools—Big Brother, and everyone else, is watching.

*****


Contact Mike Bannan: mike@digitalrdm.com

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Best of 2009 (So Far): Cool Web Tools, Part 2

This content has been moved to Best Cool Web Tools of 2009, Part 1 on the Webbiquity blog.

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Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

How Trade Publications Can Capitalize on Content Marketing and Social Media

This content has been moved to How Trade Magazines Can Take Advantage of Content Marketing on the Webbiquity blog.

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Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Marketing Automation Update: Manticore VII Released

This content has been moved to Manticore VII Marketing Automation and Lead Generation Released on the Webbiquity blog.

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Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Best of 2009 (So Far): SEO Guidance, Part 2

This content has been moved to Best of 2009: SEO Tips, Part 1 on the Webbiquity blog.

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Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Which is Better for Capturing B2B Blog Traffic - Twitter or LinkedIn?

I recently did a little test to determine whether Twitter or LinkedIn was more effective at driving traffic to a few specific posts on this blog. While the results aren't scientific by any means, they are enlightening.

Various posts were promoted on Twitter (with retweeting encouraged) and to three relevant and popular LinkedIn Groups focused on social media, PR and b2b lead generation.

The results? For a minimally retweeted post, Twitter drove about twice the traffic of LinkedIn. For a heavily retweeted post, Twitter provided six times the traffic of the LinkedIn groups. More specifically, on the day this article was posted, Twitter accounted for 60% of the total blog traffic, LinkedIn about 10% (the remaining 30% was mostly Google search plus a few miscellaneous referring sites).

Of course, your mileage may vary based on factors such as the specific LinkedIn groups utilized, the number of Twitter followers you have, and the influence of those retweeting the post. Still, the magnitude of the differences in this test seem to indicate that while both of these social networking tools can be helpful in driving blog traffic, Twitter produces higher volume.

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Contact Mike Bannan: mike@digitalrdm.com

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Best of 2009 (So Far): AdWords Tips and Tactics, Part 2

This content has been moved to Best AdWords Tips and Tactics of 2009, Part 1 on the Webbiquity blog.

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Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom

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Monday, November 09, 2009

Will Content Marketing Kill Trade Publications?

This content has been moved to Will Content Marketing Kill Trade Magazines? on the Webbiquity blog.

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Thursday, November 05, 2009

Best of 2009 (So Far): Social Media Marketing, Part 2

This content has been moved to Best of 2009: Social Media Marketing, Part 1 on the Webbiquity blog.

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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Mastering SEO for Product Pages That Produce Profit

It seems like so much of what is written about search engine optimization (SEO) assumes that you're writing a blog post, or a news story, or the next great "how to" article that's going to be syndicated far and wide on article marketing sites.

Sometimes that is what you're doing, but often writing for the web—and SEO—involves less glamorous pages like product or service descriptions. Of course, such pages are critical: no one will buy anything from you if they don't understand what you offer. It's just that, no matter how creatively written and carefully optimized, your "About Our Widgets" page is never going to make it to the first page of Digg. It simply can't compete with the latest Britney-Spears-abducted-by-a-three-armed-alien type story.

So how do you add life, and SEO value, to a product page? Here are four complementary techniques:

1) Use the words your prospects use. It doesn't matter if your product is technically more of a thingamabob than a whatchamacallit, if your prospects are searching for whatchamacallits, and that's the competitive set they place your product in, that had better be the term you're using. Use a keyword research tool to help identify which terms to use.

2) Tell a story. Incorporate the keywords you just identified into a compelling story that helps your prospective customers quickly understand how their life will be better once they buy your widgets. Be as specific as possible, and link to case studies to support specific claims.

3) Write detailed product descriptions, again incorporating keywords. The more detailed and vivid the description, the more appealing it will be to both human prospects and search engine bots.

4) Use pictures if at all possible, and optimize the alt tags associated with the images, again using the keywords identified above. Photos and diagrams add interest and aid in understanding for your human prospects, while the alt tags communicate the value of the images to search engines. Also use keywords in the file names of your images.

As prospects work their way through the research process, from general how-is-this-problem-being-solved-today research to specific types of products or services, make sure that your content fits their needs—and that the search engines can find it.

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Contact Mike Bannan: mike@digitalrdm.com

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Monday, November 02, 2009

Top Marketing Budget Priorities for 2017

Given the continued high unemployment rate and uncertain prospects for economic recovery, marketing budgets will be tight heading into the new year. Most B2B marketers are likely to find themselves with fewer dollars to spend but more pressure to spend them carefully.

In this environment, what are the three or four areas where marketers should focus scare resources? One area clearly is organic search engine optimization (SEO). While it isn't necessarily cheap, it's inexpensive in comparison to most other types of online marketing and advertising programs, and nothing is more effective at drawing targeted website traffic at the time prospects are looking.

According to eMarketer, SEO tops the list of effective web lead generation methods, as "Forty-eight percent of marketers (in a 2009 study by Forbes) said that SEO was the best method for generating conversions online." In addition, a 2009 SEMPO study found that SEO was second only to paid placement at producing the best ROI of any marketing tactic.

Where else should scarce dollars be allocated? Check out Marketers Top Investment Priorities For 2017.

*****



Contact Mike Bannan: mike@digitalrdm.com

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