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Category Archives: Internet

The Digital Divide

Technology and the Internet are not for everyone. My grandmother, who is a very young 96 years old (sorry for the reveal, Grandma!), often asks me about what my job entails. Trying to explain managing of social medias, reading applications digitally and in general, working in a paperless environment is very difficult to explain. My grandmother is a very intelligent woman – She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics from Temple University in Philadelphia in 1938. She went on to be the director of different YMHAs (Young Men’s Hebrew Association) in Philadelphia and Montreal. Grandma even wrote a letter of recommendation for Henry Kissinger enabling him to get his first job. She sees technology as a burden more than help. I believe that the reason for this is not due to the fact that she is 96, but it is the fact that she never wanted to have anything to do with it. In the early 80’s, my grandfather purchased computers for himself and his two children. She never learned how to use it then, and then figured, “what is the point?”

This “digital divide” or lack of digital literacy is an issue. As technology moves forward, we need to bring our citizens forward, as well. As I said before, my grandfather purchased computers for my family in the early 80’s. He actually made this purchase for my family on the day I was born. I therefore have literally had access to a computer in my house hold my entire life. As new technology developed, I couldn’t wait to explore it and learn how to use it. To this day, my parents call me for my “expertise” on tech when they are making a purchase, or something “breaks” (i.e. they can’t figure out how to replicate something I showed them how to do). Again, my parents are intelligent people, but have been moving forward only as much as they have wanted to with learning new technology. They are now both proud owners of laptops – which they sit at their desks and use. My father has recently discovered YouTube.com and has asked me on a few different occasions if I would come over and “watch a video with him.” I typically humor him and go to his house and watch said video with him. I don’t mind, actually, because my father has a fantastic laugh that is frankly quite addicting.

My point is, we cannot blame age for the divide in digital literacy. However, people should also not see age as a reason to steer clear of learning how to use a computer, having an email address, using social media, etc. There are certainly benefits to each no matter your age or level of computer knowledge. I understand some apprehension for using online banking or securing other personal items and documents through the web. But this demographic of non-computer users should at least have a place they can go and become educated about the dangers, the issues they should not be concerned with, and just in general, how to become more techno-savvy.

I recently stumbled across just the answer for these concerns. Eureka, someone else has had a similar observation. The Rutland Free Library and Department of Labor (DOL) have actually been doing digital literacy programming for quite some time, specifically working with computer novices to assist in their job search and application process, basic services such as unemployment and food stamp registration, as well as how to effectively use computers and the Internet.

The newest addition to this line of programming in the Rutland area comes from VTel (Vermont Telephone Company). They were recently awarded a $116 million dollar grant to build wireless broadband, fiber, and 4G infrastructures in Vermont. A portion of this grant was also dedicated to addressing gaps in digital literacy.

VTel contacted the Rutland Free Library to ask if they were interested in hosting some workshops. Quickly discovering that other key players in the area were also working to address these issues, such as DOL and the Rutland Regional Planning Commission (RRPC), a partnership was soon born. The Godnick Adult Center and the Housing Authority were also brought on board.

This coming Wednesday, June 6 from 10:30 am to noon, the Godnick Adult Center will be hosting a social networking workshop to see how sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn can help you connect with friends and family. Other classes involve using the Internet for searches, free Internet tools, and one-on-one computer coaching.

These programs are not just happening in Rutland. Chester, Hartland, Pawlet, Saxtons River, Springfield, Wallingford, and Windsor are all additional locations where such programs are taking place.

Take advantage of the free programs in your area. For a complete list of programs, please visit or contact your local library. Ironically, you can also visit http://www.vermonttel.com/tech and click on the town you are interested in on the left.

This post originally appeared in the Monday, June 4th edition of the Rutland Herald. Visit the Herald online at http://www.rutlandherald.com.

 
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Posted by on June 5, 2012 in Community, Internet, Vermont

 

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medium overload

During my lunch break on Wednesday, I was browsing through my Facebook feed, texting a friend, and emailing some final details about the Creative Economy Alderman debate that was to take place that evening. I realized that the text I was typing, the email I was sending, and the Facebook post I was responding to were all to the same person.  I then sent him another text message stating, “Kind of sad that I just emailed you, am texting you, and we’re posting to each other on Facebook.  Add a phone call and a tweet, and this would really be crazy.” I am sure many of you reading this already think that this is crazy, but I was using these mediums wearing three different hats, if you will, and conveying very different messages. This still may seem a little intense, but we need to take a step back and think about how these mediums are best used.

In this scenario, I was using Facebook to share an online article with my friend, texting to talk personally about a pressing issue, and emailing to talk “official business” and pass on some documents. I therefore was using all of these mediums for different reasons.  If I tweeted to him and called him, the tweet would have been something relevant (reposting a tweet or article I thought he would find interesting, for example, or commenting on a personal joke, perhaps) and a phone call would have been in a desperate “I need to talk to you right now!” panic. All of the modes of communication certainly have their different and intended purposes, but how do you not go into medium overload?

I don’t know that I can answer that question from a personal standpoint. From a business standpoint, I think it is pretty straightforward. You have to think about who your audience is and how they are using these different mediums, if they are, which will then instruct you on how to best use them.

I went to Google Ad Planner and looked up the demographics for the people that land on either Facebook.com or Twitter.com (see below).

Facebook.com

Demographics of Facebook.com.

Demographics from Twitter.com.

This is all well and good, but a lot of people don’t ever need to log in, either because they mainly use one site or the other on their phone and therefore don’t visit the home page of the site, or their computer remembers their log in and keeps it current.  However, Google Ad Planner is a great tool; you should certainly check it out when you plan to buy ads online.

Using a social media communications dashboard, like Hootsuite (which I use) allows you to get demographic information from your different social media sites at once. Different insights from Hootsuite or the individual site allow you to even see the best time to post information on your pages. Knowing which tools are best for you to use takes research and time. You need to know your market and where your competitors are, as well.  You also need to keep in mind that this information changes all of the time. For example, I can not find any more recent information on the average age of the Facebook user than from 2010 when it was 38.  Of course, I could do some mathematical equations based on the percentages on the graphics above, but I am not a math wiz; I am a social media wiz.

My point being is that each mode of communication that you use and is available to you has a different purpose.  The way that you use these mediums, as well, can vary from business to business or person to person.  You need to build all modes of communication into your marketing plan; including everything from more traditional mailers and phone-a-thons, to social media and email blasts. And although there are more methods of communication and interaction now, please don’t go into media overload. Study your demographics and who your target customer is.  Find out where they are and place your self in front of them not only on social media platforms, but on websites they frequent, other businesses they are patrons of, and the public transportation they use. By knowing who your customer is and how they use their free time and work time,  you will be able to reach them more effectively and efficiently.

Before I go, in my research today, I found this great graphic from Advertising Age online. It delves into the demographics even further.

From Adage.com.


 
 

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don’t underestimate the internet

The power of a single person on the Internet has become more and more apparent. Companies and governments are not safe from the people.  Something that social marketing consultants, like myself, will often remind their clients of is the difference between traditional marketing and social marketing. Traditional marketing is one-sided. You create your brand and present it to the public. You tell your consumer what you want to and can control your message. Social marketing has turned the tables into a multi-sided conversation. Although you can still create your branding and the image you want to project, ultimately your customers will respond to your message and want to interact with you. Positive interaction is then promoted, viewed, and passed on to friends. It is like trackable word of mouth. And how your company handles your negative interactions is also scrutinized and passed on.

The power that I am talking about is how much of a voice the Internet has given back to the public. Let’s jump around a bit and look at some of these phenomena.

SOPA and PIPA

As I spoke about a few weeks ago in my post, SOPA stands for the “Stop Online Piracy Act.” This was a proposal that was moving towards becoming a law at the federal level, supposedly about Internet piracy. The problem with this, was the wording was incredibly vague and appeared to severely restrict Internet usage.

On January 18, 2012, multiple sites, including the English version of Wikipedia, Reddit, Google, WordPress, and over 7,000 other websites participated in either a service blackout or made some sort of post or movement on their sites to raise awareness of the dangerous of these acts. Google also had a petition that gained over 7 million signatures. Boycotts happened of companies that supported the legislation, state representatives were contacted, and an offline rally was even held in New York City.

What happened next was amazing. Representatives and companies that had supported the bills the day before started backing off of them and slowly, the acts came off the table. This does not mean that the ideas behind legislation is completely gone, but it was an incredibly show of what people on the Internet could do together.

Komen vs. Planned Parenthood

On January 31, 2012, the Susan G. Komen organization, a breast-cancer organization in the United States, cut off its funding of Planned Parenthood. While many anti-abortion groups applauded the move, the public was not impressed. Women’s advocacy groups were fast to criticize the move, stating that the Komen organization was putting politics ahead of women’s health. The following 24 hours generated a lot of buzz around the Internet. $400,000 was given to Planned Parenthood from over 6,000 donors. New York Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, pledge a grant of $250,000 that matched a gift from the CEO of Bonanza Oil Co. They did this to replace the funding that was lost.

On February 3, 2012, just three days later, Komen’s board of directors issued a statement apologizing to the American public. They backed down from their previous statement, and instead said they would continue to fund exisiting grants, including Planned Parenthood. Four days later, on February 7, the director of Komen submitted her resignation, which went into effect immediately.

And these aren’t the only examples, and it is certainly not ONLY happening in the United States. In 2011, Tunsia decided it was time to boot out dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Social media and the Internet played an encouraging role in the success of their protests. Wikileaks released internal United States government that confirmed that the people in the US felt the same about Ben Eli as the people in Tunsia did. Hacker group Anonymous also supported the cause by not only defending Wikileaks, but hitting Tunsia websites, as well.

So how did the Internet get so much power? Why are governments, both democracies and other forms of governments alike, afraid of these Internet driven causes? Personally, I think that there are several factors that contribute to this fear. In democracies, the leaders, in order to stay in any sort of seat in power, need to listen to the citizens that voted them into power in the first place. I think that it is amazing that the “government for the people, by the people” is starting to circle around and bring some of the decision influences back down to the citizen level.  Also, I think the simple fact that “word of mouth” doesn’t take very long to spread any more. We can know what is happening in the world, including protests, news, causes, epidemics…in a matter of minutes.

To bring this to a local perspective, think back to the day Tropical Storm Irene hit the area. There were pictures of every corner on town, people were sharing what roads were destroyed and to avoid, and even seeking help out of their house.  I think back even further to 2007 when we had that terrible wind storm in April. Just 5 years ago, there were many fewer local people on Facebook and the same volume of sharing online didn’t happen.  After the wind passed, everyone was out in their cars surveying the damage. With Irene, you already had seen the damage as it was being caused right on Facebook.

Now, local businesses and organizations need to utilize the power of these mediums. Engage your followers. Post interesting and informative information. Support other businesses and organizations through your page. If you are posting interesting and informative information, fans or followers that find this information interesting will often repost or retweet the information, which will cause a ripple of effect, generating more followers and passing on your information to more people.

Continue to may attention to what’s happening online, no matter your career. Chances are, it does affect you, and your action may make all the difference. For your pages and posts, make them engaging and interesting. You never know the full power of how your content may take off.

(Research from wikipedia.org and motherjones.org.)

 

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the power of the tweet

Last week, I wrote about Twitter; what it was and how to use it effectively. The perfect example of a great social media manager appeared in front of me this morning. A real life example popped up right out of the wood work.

I was looking at my Twitter feed this morning (my personal one), and noticed a tweet from one of my friends frommy undergraduate days at Hofstra. She posted a picture that she took with her phone from a page of Newsday. They had incorrectly labeled a picture of Amber Heard as Scarlett Johansson. I had no idea who Amber Heard was (and still don’t), and tweeted back at her, commenting on the obvious mistake the paper made. She quickly responded back to me, that she also had no clue who the girl was, and perhaps made a snide comment towards the graphics person at Newsday. In all three of the tweets that I’ve mentioned so far, Newsday’s Twitter username, @Newsday, was mentioned (therefore, tagged and received notifcation that we were discussing them). They almost immediately responded to our tweets and fixed the issue that my friend Tara had pointed out minutes before. See a full list of the conversation and images below:

Content from Twitter. Screenshots assembled from the tweets of @ordinary_girl84, @mungerette, and @Newsday.

I was very impressed with this whole exchange. Tara and I were talking pretty candidely about the mistake that Newsday had made, but not degrading them. We just were commenting on the situation and were a little surprised that the photo could have been labeled incorrectly. Now, I can’t tell if they fixed this earlier than Tara had pointed it out (which is entirely possible), and just didn’t point out the mistake themselves until they realized readers were noticing. But what I am impressed with, is the extent to which their social media manager was paying attention to their mentions and responding to them.  Actually, if you go to their Twitter page, you will see that they are very good about engaging their readers. Their page is full of tweets of stories, yes, but also responding to readers and retweeting followers tweets.

All businesses/organizations should engage users like this. This is one of the main ideas that I should have covered last week: the difference between Facebook and Twitter etiquette. The main difference between these two different platforms is on Facebook, pages do not want to over post.  It is completely possible to overpost and depending upon what kind of business you have, and what is going on in your community would determine an appropriate amount of posts per week. For example, a news source, such as the Rutland Herald or WCAX should post top stories and important news throughout the day. A retail shop, for example, should post at most two or three times a day, and space them appropriately. Now, during Tropical Storm Irene, and the time immediately following, many pages posted multiple times a day, such as Restoring Rutland, I Am Vermont Strong, and Vermont Emergency Management. These organizations/groups were incredibly active and trying their hardest to get all information out that they could. This was incredibly appropriate. On a normal basis, however, Facebook posting should be very pointed and planned. Facebook users are incredibly active and are quick to “un-like” a page due to over posting.

On the other hand, Twitter etiquette is much different. Many entities on the site post multiple times a day, sometimes a minute, and are praised for it, not chastised. I think this stems from part of Twitter’s function and layout. Since they allow only 140 characters a tweet and don’t have additional apps or all the “extras” that make Facebook “busy,” this allows a user to focus on their feed and the feeds of people or other groups that they are interested in. I am not in any way demeaning the use of Facebook, because they definitely have a huge fan base, and the benefits of being active and on Facebook can easily be evaluated and reaped. Twitter just allows you to present the same information, and more information, in a different format that is more susceptible for this information to be shared and absorbed by the followers.

The downside of Twitter in our local area at this time? Users. Although many organizations are on Twitter, it seems that there currently is not a clear way to find these pages. The best way to have local users find you, is by using the local Rutland hashtag (again, a hashtag is a way of organizing and categorizing tweets) which is #rutvt. This can be used for anything that is happening in the local area, and I would go as far to say the county. When you are talking about your business, or talking about some event or commenting on something that is going on in the area, use the hashtag. Then, you should search for the hashtag and see what other pages and people are using it and talking about the area on Twitter.  I think you will actually be surprised about the number of users in the county.

Use your social media platforms well! Please make sure to understand the etiquette of each platform, as they certainly differ, or else you run the risk of putting a lot of work in to your social media management, and will not see a lot of return. Remember: “A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is – it is what consumers tell each other it is.” (Scott Cook)

 

 

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so, what’s this twitter thing?

People come up to me all of the time and ask, “What is Twitter? I just don’t get it.”  I stumble for the right words all of the time.  It’s not that Twitter is all that complicated, really.  I think that it is almost too simplistic that people are grasping for more.  Therefore, I am going to do my best to explain simplistically what Twitter’s functions are and how you can use it personally and professionally.

Twitter is essentially 140 character status updates, otherwise referred to as microblogging or “tweets”.  Really; that’s it.  So the question is, why should you use that in addition to Facebook?

Let me go back a second.  Facebook, as we have discussed, was started in 2004, starting on college campuses. When it first launched, it was focused around the college connection. You could input your class schedule, for example, and other people that were in the class at your school, or had been in the class previously, would be grouped together so you could easily find them, share information, or ask them questions. It is actually a function that I have heard college students where I work (Castleton State College) ask for and attempt to build groups for their classes. Anyway, when Twitter first launched, it was immediately open for anyone and everyone. You create a unique user name and short profile. Jack Dorsey, the creator of Twitter, wanted a SMS-based (SMS is the text-messaging component of your phone and stands for “Short Messaging Service) social media sharing sight. In his original blueprints, the examples of statuses are “in bed” and “going to park.” The reason for the 140 character limit was the constraints of SMS.

Facebook and Twitter have different functions.  On a personal level, I feel that Facebook is more of a social, personal network (including sharing about and discussion with businesses) and Twitter, although can be social and personal, can also be an extremely helpful professional network.  I have multiple Twitter accounts; one personal and one professional.  On my personal Twitter, I follow friends, news, organizations and businesses, celebrities, and social media and higher ed professionals.  On my professional Twitter account (@localsocialvt), I follow social media, marketing, web professionals, and organizations.  The benefit of having both of these accounts is on my professional account; I connect with other people that provide great tips and news. These people follow me to see what information I share and advice I have to give regarding social marketing, as well.

The difference is the categorization and sorting that you can do on Twitter.  Twitter has this cool function, called hashtags that group talking points into specific categories. Sometimes, they involve a topical conversation, such as #StateOfTheUnion, for when people are actively involved and commenting on the State of the Union. Last week, during the Internet blackout, many tweets had the hashtag #SOPA. Categories can also be just silly, on the spot made up things, as well. As I write this, #30WaysToMakeAGirlSmile is trending (trending refers to topics that several people are talking about). These hashtags are searchable and the searches can be saved.  I have searches saved for #HigherEd, #SocialMedia, #RutVT (category about Rutland) and #Castleton, as these are categories I like to keep up with. Facebook, on the other hand, auto-sorts topics people are talking about, which sometimes does not present topics you want to read about. The search within Twitter targets exactly what you want to find out about.

“So, hey…what happened to Twitter being simple?”

Ok, it is hard to put into words. But Twitter continues to be a popular place to find information and connect with people who share similar interests without ever meeting them or having them know too much information about you. That sounds a little vague, but your profile on Twitter is extremely small and contains very limited information.  Therefore, people don’t need to know lots of personal information about you. What they are interested in is the information you have to share; the advice you can give on the expertise you have in an area, for example.

Businesses have found it to be a fantastic customer service and outreach tool.  Jet Blue posts their cheap flights once a week. When actor/director Kevin Smith was asked to leave a South West flight because of his “size,” he tweeted about it and started a huge boycott. When Alec Baldwin was recently told to stop playing Words With Friends on his flight, he tweeted about it, which sent fans into a tweeting uproar. Television shows, like the currently-on-hiatus Community, has created Twitter accounts for the characters of the show.

I can not put into words as well as Twitter can why your business should be using their site:

“Twitter connects businesses to customers in real-time. Businesses use Twitter to quickly share information with people interested in their products and services, gather real-time market intelligence and feedback, and build relationships with customers, partners and influential people. From brand lift, to CRM, to direct sales, Twitter offers businesses a chance to reach an engaged audience.”

Check out Twitter 101 for Businesses for more information on how to use the site for your business. It is easy to set up and maintain and get real-time feed back.  Set up a quick, free page and tweet your new username to me: @localsocialvt.

 

 

 
 

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the great internet blackout

Since you are obviously an Internet user, you must have run into some information about the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and it’s sister legislation called the Protect IP [Intellectual Property] Act (PIPA). If you had not heard about these proposals before Wednesday, January 18th, you may have run into odd “blackouts” on sites like Google, Wikipedia, and WordPress (yes, the very site that hosts this blog), among many, many others. Looking at the names of these two bills, you may think that their names make them sound like a good thing. We all like pirates (yay, Johnny Depp!), but not the kind of pirates who steal people’s copyrighted material and make money off of them.  This, we all agree, is wrong and illegal.

The wording of these proposals is currently very vague.  To be very simplistic, the only things that SOPA and PIPA do is protect the rights of artists and they apply due process to judge infringement claims. That’s it. There are a lot of words in the acts that are unexplained and leave a lot of doors open with what they can actually apply the laws to.  Under these bills, you may not be able to get to a site you were looking for because of the imposed breakdown of DNS (Domain Name System), which is essentially the “switchboard” of the Internet.

Response from Google Chrome when Facebook.com could not be reached.

Due to the amount of censorship and lack of clarity about how the censoring works, “SOPA would reduce freedom of expression and undermine the dynamic, innovative global Internet…[and it] would impose harmful regulations on American business and slow economic growth in the U.S.” (Greg Jarobe, SEO-PR president).

Another issue is a website shutdowns or dismantlements.  If someone makes a claim about copyright infringement, they can contact advertisers and payment processors and make claims about the infringement to have the services disabled, without notice or a chance to respond from the website owner.

If you went on the Internet at all on Wednesday (January 18th), chances are you ran into least one website that was participating in the “blackout.” Sites Oatmeal.com and Wikipedia, whose content is user generated and created (hence the definition of a wiki, being collaborative information) are very concerned with the SOPA and PIPA act.

Screenshot of Oatmeal.com from January 18th, 2012

Screenshot of Wikipedia.com from January 18, 2012

Images from: Oatmeal.com and Wikipedia.com.

Sites like Google and WordPress did something a little different, but still participated in the protest.

Screenshot of Google.com from January 18, 2012

Screenshot of WordPress.com from January 18, 2012

Images from Google.com and WordPress.com

My friend Jim Sabataso and I, among other friends, changed our Facebook profile pictures and only posted, on both our Twitter accounts and Facebook pages, about SOPA and PIPA, including passing on the petition to stop the bills.  Did the protest work? Sort of is my honest answer.  Reports came in that at least fifteen Senators who originally signed their endorsement of SOPA pulled out by some time Thursday (January 19th).  But there is still some power behind both the bills and it isn’t over yet.

There is an alternative to these bills and it’s something that no one really seems to be discussing.  An act that has been drawn up that many opponents of SOPA and PIPA support.  This is called the OPEN act. This act seems like the most reasonable alternative, keeping in mind the creators of materials as well as keeping the Internet free and open. KeepTheWebOpen.com has created this great infographic to compare the three current proposals.

OPEN vs SOPA vs PIPA comparison

Infographic from KeepTheWebOpen.com.

If you use the Internet at all, which you must since you found my blog, I beg of you to keep your eyes on this. I hate to slap on a freedom of speech campaign onto my blog, but it is something that I have always felt so lucky to have. It is sad to me to think that instead of truly solving a problem, lawmakers want to essentially sweep it under the rug.

I have linked some sites that give better explanations of the bills then I ever could, including some that don’t seem to fully support the protest. So keep your eye on what’s going on with these bills.  No matter if you are a webmaster, business owner, student, parent, or casual internet browser, they DO directly affect you.

Research on SOPA, PIPA, and OPEN from, and to find out more visit:

Lifehacker

SearchEngineWatch

Wall Street Journal

Slate

Business Review USA

Tech Crunch

The New Yorker

Google: SOPA Blackout

 

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