Digital Privacy and Influence

As online marketers – how much should we be able to access from social networking sites. However, to what extent do users of popular sites such as facebook and myspace get to retain their privacy. The larger question would be, what is considered the public domain when the Internet has blurred the lines between public and private spheres.

For example, would it be okay for a market researcher to sit in a tall building and use a shotgun microphone to listen in on conversations happening on the street below? In my opinion, this may be a little strange. However it is really no different that what online media specialists do to identify consumers and opinion leaders.

In our technologically advanced society – it is becoming increasingly commonplace for individuals to post personal information about their identity and interests online. If this information is in the public online sphere – then it should stand to reason that it is for the use of public. Especially if the information is about specific interests to foster the creation of communities. Online marketers if they can access the information – can use these new communities to build product brands and Internet presence.

From a media specialist’s perspective – if the information is accessible it should be fair game. However – from a users perspective, this could be seen as a gross invasion of privacy. Invading personal social networking sites for profit is tantamount to the shotgun mic example mentioned earlier.

However, I think there may be a middle ground. Consumers have to recognize that, now – more than ever, they control what they are being offered. The communities that are created become direct reflections of what the media will offer. Thus, I believe that users should be cognizant of those who are accessing their sites. If denizens of the social networking community wish to create truly private pages – it is important to set the proper restrictions. If your page is public – and there is a wealth of private information, then why should it be inappropriate for anyone to access that information. It is imperative to be aware that social networking sites are not popularity contests – they are powerful tools for community building. Once a user decides to let everyone in – that user is set up as a prime target for those who want to gather information. On the contrary – to be a powerful opinion leader in the online social-sphere – it is not important to have many “friends” rather to be connected to a close knit community of people who share the same interests. This is what is valuable to many online marketers – and this is what can turn into a nominal profit for those in that position.

Through blogging we have seen how everyday Internet users can become professional surfers – there will come a time in the near future when the Internet opinion leaders will demand as much respect as those traditional leaders in the non-digital sphere. Users will be able to charge for their influence and make a living off the firms and corporations that need thought leaders to survive in the new digital age.

Currently, we are in the younger years of social networking sites – soon we shall be living in a time where much more weight will be placed on the influence and information gathered from these digital communities.

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Published in: on October 26, 2008 at 11:52 am  Leave a Comment  

Guiding Laws and Twitter.

In this post I would like to take a step back a moment and discuss some of the ways to use the Internet and it’s social media capabilities to increase web-presence.

Perhaps the most important consideration when entering the online community for commercial purposes is the effort to remain completely transparent and truthful. Most of the online-community shares a similar moral code that creates difficulties for those organizations that attempt to circumvent the “law of the people,” namely: stay truthful, remain transparent about goals, do not cause unnecessary harm or use unnecessary bandwidth, and no spam. Thus, any online marketing effort must take these into consideration while developing a strategy that will ultimately yield results.

However, what about in the socialsphere? How can one really effectively use social networking tools to enhance web-presence. Well – the first thing an organization, product, or artist can do, is create pages on social networking sites and link to them from the homepage. This is a very easy step that takes little to no effort. To attract “friends” reach out to some “opinion leaders” on social networking sites (more on this in previous post). The idea is to set up an online presence which is more than just a homepage. Anyone can set up a homepage – the idea is to get people to know about it and make part of their Internet routine. A word about routine: Think about when you go online. What do you do? Maybe your homepage is a news site, maybe it’s email, maybe it’s just a search engine. Regardless, think about the first things you do when you are just surfing around the net. Maybe you check your social networking site, maybe you go to eBay to see if there is something you could bid on, maybe craigslist to find listings you may interested in, maybe to digg to see what’s going on on the net. In my opinion, the idea behind a homepage is to become a part of users everyday experience, not to be the only portal to your presence. You need to draw users in using social networking then ensare their interest with a great homepage.

Besides the usual suspects like Facebook and Myspace, Twitter can be used as powerful tools to draw users to sites and increase presence.

Twitter is a site that allows users to post what they do all day in order to create communities surrounding interests and activities. For instance, if five people are twitting that they are going from New Brunswick to Metuchen everyday at 8:15 am – they could find each other and set up a carpool. While this is just one of the ways twitter can be used – it’s a good example of it’s functionality (check it out at Twitter.com). Organizations can use twitter to post about what developments, socially conscious programming, volunteer support, etc. Artists can twitt (that’s what posts are called) about their artwork, albums, tour schedule, what they are doing from moment to moment. The idea is simple. Create a community around the organization/cause/artist(s)/anything else to increase web traffic to your site. If you get big enough – it could translate into a story in traditional mainstream media – thus creating a crossover success.

It takes a lot of effort and time to create communities online, however the payoff is great social presence and appearances in traditional media outlets.

For more info – check out this article about twitter – http://www.canada.com/montrealgazette/news/business/story.html?id=2c32110f-b048-49ec-9c30-7f14330867be

Published in: on October 19, 2008 at 3:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

Facebook Cred.

Ahh, the joys of social neworking. Many times during the day (moreso than I’d like to admit), I find myself drifting off into socialsphere to check up on my “friends” to see whats new. Instead of the old fashioned method of bringing their contact up on my cell phone (who remembers numbers anymore) and calling at a reasonable hour to see whats new, maybe even grab a cup of coffee – I stare blurry eyed into the monitor I sit at all day and peruse though pictures, video, who-said-what-to-whom updates, and “omg! can you believe ____ is listed as single”-isms. Believe it or not – this is valuable market research.

Facebook is my poison of choice, and an apt begining for starting to explore the box social. Not the first social networking site (you win Friendster) – Facebook started around the same time I was a freshman in college. As soon as I heard about it I was rip-roaring and ready to go. Got to keep in contact with all those buddies from high school – even elementary school – that had already started to fade into obscurity. I got to learn about their interests, events they were attending, and communities that were surrounding them.

Some of my friends became leaders of their communities, starting groups and organizing events “outside the box” (i.e. in the real world). But so what? Who cares about the guy/girl that really hates cars that look like cop cars (actual Facebook group that I am a part of – I hate cars that look like cop cars….) – well I do.

These internet influencers, or opinion leaders if you will – hold a very important place in the niche marketing universe. They are gatekeepers to consumers and customers, and they directly translate to publicity or cash. An example: I was working on an intiative in NYC concerning healthy foods – this intiative gave money to replace unhealth street vendor food with healthy vegetagbles in underserved communities. My task was to find who on the internet cared about any of this. In addition to the traditional media blitz – there was going to be an effort to gain favor with the internet markets.

The first thing I did was look up groups on facebook, find out who the creators or admins of the group were and contacted them with the opportunity. In the process we were creating a forum for the intiative – and if they chose to help – they would become moderators on the forum run by the City of New York (a feather in the cap of any internet dezien). By an overwhelming number – we were able to contact al of the members of te facebook group – and (through this intiative and others) gain unprecedented responses to the forum. For those interested, it ended with a blowout celebration that all everyone wan invited to, when we compared the emails collected to the emails signed up fo the forum – they comprised 20% of the people at the gathering.

Facebook – for all it’s destraction power, can be a powerul tool for the new media marketer.

Published in: on October 11, 2008 at 11:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

The New Box Social

Ok. What does the Internet have to do with boxes? Well, everything of course! You turn on your box, then click a box to make another box appear – then, you can use that box for a myriad of applications. Friends, we are living inside of boxes. We laugh at boxes, we cry with boxes, we bid on boxes! There are boxes we want, and there are boxes we want to get rid of – there are nasty pop-up boxes we’ve fought to destroy. And while a skeptic may infer that it is important to “think outside the box,” I respectfully disagree.

As humans, we are inherently social creatures. We seek to find those with interests similar to our own, and seek their companionship. We then form little communities around a shared interest or foray – and in turn fuse with other little communities until we have created a worldwide nation of interest sharing persons. Used to be, before communication efficiency (BCE, read: the internet), individuals would gather in a home or other meeting place to partake in a social event or club activity to acquaint themselves with neighbors with a knack for the same niche – now, after digitization (AD) – we use…. you guessed it…. boxes.

The Internet has become a powerful tool for social networking. There are a plethora of sites devoted to linking friends, professionals, artists, teachers…the list goes on. Furthermore – there are sites devoted to content sharing around the internet – even down to the mundane details of everyday life (I’m looking at you twitter) – allowing us to live a virtual existence sharing thoughts, experiences, and memories with virtual friends; all within the box.

All of us in the world of communication and journalism hear the words, “New Media” a lot. Organizations, now more than ever, are focusing their efforts on strategies that target the online community. More and more, social networking sites are becoming vehicles for niche marketing – and in our time, AD – we are becoming more digitally segregated than ever. Thus, as a communication professional – I am forced to think inside the box. This blog will explore the relationship between communication professionals and the new reality and challenge of implementing strategy within this new realm. The “Box Social” I refer to in this blog represents the boxes in which the online community exists. We will explore the significance and strategies behind Facebook, MySpace, Friendster, Twitter, Stumbleupon, Fark, deli.ci.ous., digg, Second Life, as well as other socially driven sites and applications.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy as we take a look deep within the box…maybe we’ll find something!

Just some words about the author: A graduate of the School of Communication and Information Studies at Rutgers University the author received his B.A. in Heath and Mediated Communication, and is currently pursuing a master’s of communication and information studies at Rutgers. In addition to working as project manager for The Center for Communication and Health Issues, the author consults media strategies for clients with a major public relations firm in New York City and independently designs media plans for clients in the music industry.

Published in: on October 3, 2008 at 7:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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