Spam, with a Side of Spam

 

After watching this video, the word spam has been stuck in my head all afternoon. The continuous, repetitive use of the word annoys viewers to hell and back us, but we remember it. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that this particular Monty Python skit has led to ‘unsolicited online communications’ becoming known as spam (Rao & Reiley, 2012).

I have often wondered how and why spam mail still exists. As far as I know, no-one reads or pays attention to it. Yet, it must somehow be profitable in order for the practice to survive. Mike Grunch, tech writer at LuxContinental, explains in this article that spamming is similar to long term TV advertising campaigns. During TV ads, the majority of us usually  turn down the volume or change the channel. We like to think that we are ignoring them, however, we still catch glimpses of the visuals and hear snippets of the audio. If the same brands continue to advertise through this medium over a long period of time while we continue to watch TV,  the message and recognition of the brand begins to burrow into our memory banks, forming a ‘conditional reflex’.

Similarly, while we think we are paying no heed to each spam message, in actual fact a conditional reflex is being formed each time we read the email subject before deciding to delete it. From doing this we develop an idea of what is being advertised.  Spammers hope that one day the receiver  may need the product/service and will open the unsolicited message to learn more.

This marketing practice is made viable due to low operating costs and the difficulty regulators have in tracing and penalising perpetrators, whom are often based across jurisdictional boundaries.

The bad news continues…. Spam no longer only comes in the email variety but is now disguised in an assortment of flavours and styles. These include internet pop-ups, instant messaging spam,  blog comment spam and internet forum spam. The concept of spam encapsulates any unsolicited and undesirable online communication (Rao and Reiley, 2012).

For those of you who blog, you may have noticed spam rearing its ugly heads in your comments section. I find this especially frustrating as comment spam not only degrades a blog’s quality, but also leads to Google penalising the blog’s web ranking. Ink-themes.com looks deeper into this concern and provides a number of suggestions as to how bloggers can fight the evil spam. To learn more read- How Spamming Can Affect your Blog Rank.

Although spamming may be a low cost form of advertising for brands, it is society which must pay, by way of lost productivity and use of resources spent on dealing with problem. Therefore this  practice should be labelled as unethical and an unadvisable form of digital marketing for any brand.

Viral Marketing- The Ultimate Bonanza

Viral marketing is the ultimate bonanza for digital advertisers. It allows for brands to promote their offerings to a huge audience at relatively little cost to gaining the same reach in traditional media. However, if it were easy, everyone would be doing it. Although it seems that almost everyone tries, very few hit the jackpot.

In their article How to Waltz the Social Media/Viral Dance Kaplan and Haenlein aim to devise a  successful formula for online viral campaigns. This article gives some direction as to how to instigate a viral epidemic, however, one point that they constantly reiterate is luck, i.e. being in the right place at the right time.

I found Kevin Allocca’s short Ted Talk- Why Videos Go Viral- to be a better explanation of the phenomenon.

 

By identifying only three key criteria, Alloca breaks it down in far more simple terms than Kaplan and Haenlein.

  1. A Tastemaker
  2. Community Participation
  3. Unexpectedness

The trick is creating the unexpectedness in order for the Tastemaker to catch on. If this is achieved, community participation and an exponential reach will follow.

So how do you create unexpectedness? It almost seems like a paradox. You can try to create it and get close to recreating it, but it will never be authentic. In trying to create it, so many get it wrong as they usually go over the top to compensate. One thing that is clear is that it is an art, not a science.

As Srinivas Rao points out, there is no formula to viral content. The one concept that links viral content is that it triggers a strong emotional response. This is best achieved via authenticity, which cannot be manufactured.

So we can add to Alloca’s list of helpful hints (which is NOT a formula).

4. Must trigger a strong emotional response
5. Authenticity helps

 

Take the above Youtube video for example. It’s hard to believe that this was part of a 2006 Sony campaign “All I Want for Xmas is a PSP”. The marketing company manufactured a fake blog (flog) supposedly written by young “Charlie”, covering his escapades while trying to convince his parents to buy him a PSP. This video was apparently recorded by Charlie’s cousin “Pete” who also wanted a PSP. Lame is an understatement (I guess it did trigger an emotional response).

How to Improve your SEO Show

The web offers businesses membership to the largest market place in the world. In order to maximise this opportunity, we need to have some ideas how the internet and its web browsers work.

There is a continually expanding web of information on the internet and in order for users to navigate this, search engines such as Google and Bing are used (Find out more info on search engine use here). The trick to attracting viewers to a page is having it highly ranked  as most viewers do not scroll past the first 10 results (Hariri, 2011). However, the internet is one hell of a competitive market these days and ranking highly makes your attempts to hang with the cool kids at school seems like a walk in the park.

Source: www.scpr.org/ It’s all about Inter-networking 😉 

Search Engine Optimisation is the internet’s version of social climbing. It’s all about making the right connections and dropping the right names. It’s a simple concept, but the devil is in the detail. Just like networking, there are a huge variety of ways you help your website climb the ranks. Here are just a few….

Create useful content

The most important thing is to have useful content on your site that people are going to want to engage with. This will attract users, increase your page views and therefore improve your search engine ranking position (SERP).

Use of Keywords

A keyword is a word or phrase that Internet users type into a search engine to find relevant information.

  • Ask yourself which keywords  your target audience is going to type into their search engines. Create a keyword list.  For help, check out this step-by-step guide to keyword list creation.
  • How to use keywords- Search engines are best at seeing written text. As the engine prowls it first picks up information from standout text such as the domain name, titles, headings, discriptions, anchor links and special formatting (text in bold, italics etc).
  • If you have the budget, you can pay Google AdWords to increase your chances at a high ranking. A good article on how this works from Econsultancy). It’s kinda like buying your way to the top.

Backlinks

 A backlink  is when another website links back to your site’s content. The higher ranked the source of the backlink, the more of a positive effect it will have on your search ranking position (SERP). In other words, make sure your friends are popular!

Get commenting on other blog posts as this will count as a backlink, plus increase your own blogs exposure.

Forums and Directories

  • When you post on forums you can include a blog link in your signature, which counts as a backlink from the forum page to your website, thus giving you ranking credit.
  • You can also join online directory sites, which will again create backlinks, from high ranking sites, back to your site. Note, the higher ranked sites such as Yelp have a joining fee.

Ensure your ‘theme’ is SEO optimised. 

  • You want your site to be fast loading.
  • Make sure that none of the links throughout your content are broken.
  • And that your ‘theme’ is cleanly coded. i.e. the HTML code is arranged neatly. This enables programs or programmers to easily decipher the internet language. The google ‘spiders’ will look for flaws and messy code, which will make your site look amateur and therefore decrease your ranking. in your code,

Fix Permalink Structure

I’ll use an example from my past blog

Bad permalink structure: annalog.annasegal.com/?p=38

  • This is what a link to one of my blog posts looked like before I changed the permalink settings

Good permalink structure: annalog.annasegal.com/how-to-avoid-the-facebook-flop/

  • Permalink structure after I changed my settings

Build your Social Media Profile

Google is now looking to social media to determine a page’s relevance. If you can build a big social media platform and promote your content through this, it will not only increase the chances of you scoring higher hit rates, but reposts and retweets of the webpage will count as backlinks and increase your site’s ranking.

If you have any more ideas or suggestions as to how to increase a website’s exposure through SEO, please comment below!

How the ‘Internet of Things’ Could Save your Baby

When I first came across the term ‘The Internet of Things’ (IoT) it took me a minute to grasp what this concept actually means.  The PewResearch Center describes it as “a catch all phrase for the array of appliances, vehicles, wearable material and sensor-laden parts of the environment that connect to each other and feed data back and forth” to the internet. Essentially, in describes the connecting of objects to the internet in order to collect and relay data.

Many of us are already using devices which fit into the idea of IoT. For example, Iphones, which can monitor our movements, locations and workouts through their range of sensors. In this case, we are the ‘thing’ that the internet is collecting data about.

Postscapes.com provides further examples of IoT technology which is already being incorporated into our daily lives. These range from systems to help keep your plants alive to monitors which will help keep your baby alive.

Image: mimobaby.com
Image: mimobaby.com

Yet, this is only the beginning. Patrick Tucker estimates that the IoT is  expected to proliferate from a current estimate of 13 million internet-connected devices to 50 million internet-connected devices by 2020.

Experts in the field are both excited and wary of this expected development. After reading through some of the literature I find myself sitting on the fence. Let’s briefly look at both the positives and negatives of a IoT revolution.

Positives

  • Mckinsey & Company point out that it will create greater efficiency and productivity  for businesses. Increased quality of real time information will create more reliable data, enabling businesses to make more informed decisions and better plan better for the future.
  • Creates convenience for consumers; enhanced health care systems, community services, safety and the enabling of better time efficiency.
  • Environmental benefits from the reduction of waste from businesses and consumers alike.

Negatives

  • Security concerns for businesses due to increased vulnerability for terrorism and hacking.
  • Erosion of privacy for consumers, including the major intrusion of an  increase in individually focused advertising.
  • Creation of a technocracy- A world ruled by technology companies.
  • Over-reliance on technological decision making. Where machines make decisions based on algorithms rather than on human concerns.
  • Wearable gadgets which enable “life-logging” (scientifically managing ourselves on a day to day basis) causing more social isolation and self-obsession (see conversation.com article here)
  • Potential to create too much complexity for humans to deal with. When systems break down, they may become too complex to fix.
  • Increase in society’s digital divide.

Many of the concerns related to IoT can be classified as general concerns towards technological progression in general. As humans we have proven that we can quickly adapt to these advancements and develop ways to mitigate the negative effects. As JP Rangaswami highlights,  “our notions of privacy and sharing will continue to evolve as a result, with new trade-offs needing to be understood and dealt with.”

The development of the IoT will change how we live. Is this change for the better or for the worse? Dr. John Barret suggests that for the IoT to be beneficial, it must be collaboratively developed by both technologists and social experts, such as sociologists and psychologists, in order to limit potential negative effects.

Image: dangerousminds.net
Image: dangerousminds.net

What do you think? Do the positive implications of IoT outweigh the potential negative effects on society?

Watching Them Watch You- Google Analytics

google-eye
Source: www.thetimes.co.uk

It’s a weird feeling knowing that you’re being followed around the internet by online marketing research agencies with your every click. However, the internet is a web of opportunity and provides even those of us with the most basic tech understanding  ways to do our own market research.

I’ve had my own website up and running for the past three years. I’m a professional skier and I decided that this page would help me create an online presence and thus increase my social and digital following. This, I hoped, would increase endorsement offers from brands.

Screen Shot 2015-08-16 at 8.55.04 pm

I lured in a friend to help construct my website and added the Google Analytics feature. Occasionally I referred to this to see how many page views I was stacking, but that’s where my analytically savviness ended.

In retrospect I now see that I could have used online analytical tools to improve my web presence. Analytical programs, such as Google Analytics, can be used to measure and report users’ interactions with your website. Then, it only takes a sprinkling of initiative to analyse the basic stats in order to gain some meaning from them. For example, I could have taken note that the number of blog posts I made had a direct correlation to page views and revisits. I can also look back and associate periods of online activity with a number of factors.

  • Throughout 2013 I constantly blogged, leading to sustained views.
  • The spike in February 2014 relates to the increase in exposure I received during the 2014 Winter Olympics.
  • The recent decline in views (to practically 0) is due to my retirement from the blogging world.

Google analytics

I now understand that Google Analytics offers a bounty of features that I can capitalise on to improve my website’s reach and therefore effectiveness. For example, at the most basic end, I can analyse data about the age and gender of my past viewers.

It seems that  the content on my website has been favourable to my target age group- 18-35 year old users. These are people that are  most likely to have an interest in action sports.

Age

The gender balance is fairly equal, however I would like to see a larger segment of female viewers as this is the market my ‘brand’ is directly selling to. Gender

Google Analytic’s video ‘The Importance of Digital Analytics’, highlights the necessity of continual improvement for websites.  Additionally, in their text International Marketing Strategy Chaffey et al. stress that content must be kept up to date in order to remain relevant and encourage return users.

So I’m going to take the professionals’ advice and give my website a much needed revamp.

This time around I’m  going to make better use of Google Analytics to direct the new site’s design. Furthermore, I’m going to give A/B testing a try to determine whether the new design is more appealing than the old (The Ultimate Guide to A/B Testing)

My old skiing website is http://annasegal.com. Don’t judge, I know it’s pretty tacky looking! If you have any additional insights as to how you think I could use Google Analytics to direct improvement, please leave a comment.

How to Avoid the Facebook Flop

giphy

Old school just doesn’t cut it anymore

As much as I’d like to dish out advice about which editing tools to use before posting selfies and how to increase feelings of self worth via Facebook, I’ll try to keep this blog  focused on the business side of things. The facebook flop refers to the large number of organisations out there that can’t seem to get a handle on this relatively new phenomenon. This could apply to many of the social media tools available, but I want to narrow it down in order to go into more depth.

If used effectively, Facebook offers an invaluable resource from which marketers can increase customer awareness, build brand value, establish a brand community and enforce or build the brand as a whole. Yet if treated as a mass broadcasting medium, the sting of flop will be felt.

Facebook is not about selling directly to customers, but rather selling indirectly. Hodis, Sriramachandramurthy and Sashittal (2015) highlight that there are two primary approaches by organisations trying to use Facebook to boost a brand;

  • Creating and maintaining a page
  • Paying for advertising.

From the authors’ studies it seems that Facebook advertising only receives a 0.2% click rate, which is far lower than the internet advertising standard for traditional banners which have a of 1% click rate. Then why do companies buy this space? Is it  because the pool of Facebook users is so large, that a 0.2% click rate still brings enough traffic to justify it. Or maybe it is because they haven’t yet progressed past old school marketing philosophies.

As Jay Baer, author of the Now Revolution notes, “most companies are looking at Facebook incorrectly, as a pure customer acquisition vehicle”. Baer describes this tendency as “preaching to the converted.” Facebook’s attributes lie not in attracting people to the brand, but rather harnessing the social power of fans and making them brand advocates through engagement with it’s page.

(Jay Baer interview: http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/why-most-businesses-get-facebook-wrong/)

Value can be created for consumers through a Facebook page via interactivity with each other and the brand itself. Consumers these days want to be involved with their favourite brands and Facebook provides a great opportunity to allow this.

Here are a couple examples of pages which do this well:

GoPro

  • Allows users to post their GoPro videos and photos onto the page via the comments section allowing user generated content
  • Currently running ‘Ride of the Day’ competition, where users post videos of their road bike rides in order to win a trip to next year’s Tour de France.
  • Provides behind the scenes videos from GoPro athletes, allowing fans to feel more involved with the action sports world.
  • Post ‘Photo of the Day’, which has been taken by one of their fans

GoPro

Intrepid Travel

  • Has created an additional app allowing fans to search trip options which the company offers
  • Also features a trip review app, by which users can rate and review their experiences of the company’s product
  • Updates page with beautiful imagery taken on trips which the company has on offer.

Intrepid-2Intrepid-1

If an organisation decides to invest marketing time and money into the Facebook phenomenon, its main goal should be creating communities which encourage interactivity.