Looking to get the word out about your business or website? Try social media marketing!
What is Social Media Marketing?
Social media marketing is the use of social networks and networking websites to advertise websites, products and media. With the internet as big as it is, and with the current popularity of all sorts of social networking communities, the internet is a fantastic tool to promote all sorts of material. Plus, with the internet now easily accessible to almost everyone, it is easy for both large and small businesses alike to use these networks to their advantage.
The first obvious benefit to social media marketing is the wide exposure people can find on the internet. Inserting a well-placed link or using some creative keywords can near-instantly grant your information exposure to thousands and thousands of social networking users who may be interested in your blog, website or store. Because most of the information on the internet can be picked up and spread on its own (for example, how search engines find your website based on keywords and meta tags), less work is required to start giving your information mass exposure.
The internet is a very large place, and has what you might call many different sections — news communities, networking websites like Facebook and Myspace, gaming communities and more. This may seem intimidating at first, but it actually makes things easier. When dealing with advertising online, you are able to easily select what communities and groups you push your social media marketing towards. For example, if your website or company is more geared towards gaming products and services, you would be able to focus on the social gaming communities. This ensures that you don’t invest too much time and possibly money towards advertising your website in places that won’t give your marketing efforts any attention.
Plethora of Advertising Methods
Since there is such a vast number of websites and communities on the internet, finding different ways to advertise is a breeze. The direct social networking sites provide plenty of options, from different groups to clubs and fan sites, but many people have found less orthodox methods to reach viewers. Some marketers turn to YouTube to create viral videos that people begin sharing because of the cool factor, for example. The side-effect they’re looking for is the great exposure their product or service gets while it’s spread with no effort necessary on their part. With the immense user base of YouTube, joining a few groups and plugging your video can be a great way to increase your user base. Another thing you can try is joining communities with similar interests and adding your content there. For example, if you have a website or blog about news, current topics or debate points, you could enter communities such as Digg and Reddit and add your content to gain exposure.
Social media marketing is an incredibly valuable tool for website owners. It provides you with new marketing methods and makes spreading the word much easier than ever before. If used correctly, your website can gain plenty of exposure through various media, and generate interest in their own products and services. Your strategic marketing could reach thousands of internet users in the same way many large companies have been able to do, for a fraction of the price.
When Twitter was first created many people couldn’t understand the point and proclaimed, Twitter sucks!. Many still don’t see the point of it. It’s ridiculed as lazy blogging, pointless drivel, a waste of time, and the end of the world as we know it. With things like potted plants and grocery stores tweeting, the derision of Twitter grows.
Many things that break new ground are often misunderstood or greeted with skepticism. Twitter has begun to evolve into a huge part of the web, and more and more people are using it for all kinds of things. The skeptics just haven’t found their niche yet, or are too stubborn to open their eyes and see what’s evolving. They’re distracted by the noise, spam and useless information; All common problems across the Internet. There have been polls that suggest 40% of all Twitter traffic is basically useless information. Is this out of character for the Internet? Look at all your emails for a day; how many of them are spam, newsletters you never read, and forwarded chain letters? Poke into any random forum post about any topic and you’ll likely find 40% of it is just reiterating what’s already said, unrelated tangents, and one line agreements with the the original post. If you just take a quick glance at a couple of twitter pages and don’t find the information to your liking doesn’t mean that there is no value there. Tweets are fleeting, and they reflect present time much more than they provide any archival value.
Even what’s deemed useless information or a waste of time might be helpful to someone. Maybe checking out what others are having for lunch will help you make your own decision about what to eat. Maybe you’re in a basement somewhere but noticing tweets from people you know are nearby about the crazy thunderstorm that just rolled in reminds you to bring an umbrella when you go out. Other people’s meaningless tweets could serve as restaurant reviews, traffic alerts, or a note about a nice sale at the mall. Twitter is by no means the be all and end all of social media. However it’s an important first step in what will eventually be one big integrated redevelopment of how we use the web.
Twitter reflects the stream of consciousness of the Internet, and sometimes the Internet contains noise, spam, and junk. There is also value if you know where to look. If you are tuned into Twitter, news will come to you without having to search it out. Once you build a solid group of followers with a diverse subset of interests stories and news and information that is actually pertinent to you will come across your Twitter screen. Instead of having to hunt down information, often when you don’t even know that something has happened, you check Twitter and everything is there for you. Rather than have to listen to news reports or radio stations, news and events that may be relevant to you or your day can be accessed via Twitter.
Twitter is just like what you would discuss at the water cooler in the office, except you’re discussing it with everyone, at every water cooler, at every office, in every part of the world. If a major sporting story, such as a no-hitter in baseball or a player getting traded, chances are you’ll first hear about it on Twitter. If a celebrity dies, a new movie trailer comes out, or a band adds a tour date to their schedule it makes it’s way around the world via Twitter and everyone that’s interested finds out about it. For those further interested, a simple search on Twitter will reveal all sorts of chatter and discussion around the topic. You can here anything anyone has to say about it, instantly. You’ll see statistics mentioned, highlight plays, discussion on the player’s attitude, and just about anything anyone has to say. On a broader scope, you could follow big events like the NFL draft, a presidential press conference, or the World Series of Poker as they are happening. This is what’s called trending topics, which are basically the hot news of the hour. If you search for these trends you’ll see a continually updated stream of people weighing in on the topic. Some of it will be from experts or authorities on the topic, and others will just be the thoughts and word of mouth of other people that are interested in what’s happening. Instead of tuning to a news channel or going to one news website, you’ll be tuned into the stream of consciousness from interested parties around the world. If someone 3000 miles away happens to hear a tidbit of information in his own corner of the world, he can instantly tweet that data and suddenly everyone knows it. This information gets propagated and retweeted throughout Twitter until the insight of one individual is carried across the globe.
From a marketing standpoint, Twitter can provide some instant feedback on your product. You can conduct surveys and interview people and find out what people are thinking, or you can type in your product’s name into Twitter and find out what people are saying. One quick search can tell you what people think about a new movie release, a new commercial, or a new piece of software. Faster than any RSS reader Twitter can alert followers to a new post on a blog.
Twitter is a part of the future of the Web. Even people that don’t tweet are affected by Twitter because it’s become a concept more than any one site. It’s about the propagation of information, and that propagation continues beyond the website when users repost what they’ve learned into IM away messages, email, IRC chat rooms, Facebook, or by word of mouth to the person sitting next to them. This concept has been there all along, and Twitter just streamlined it. As more and more people and companies start using Twitter it’s only going to continue to redefine how we use the web.
Wouldn’t it be great to blog a few times a week for a month or two and then begin to make enough money to retire?
You’re not alone in having that kind of dream. Millions of blogs currently exist, but the number of active blogs is much lower. Few people have the commitment to actually see their blog through to the moneymaking stage.
Blogging for money is a great way to start making a part-time income on the side, but don’t expect to turn it into a full-time income for a while. In other words, don’t quit your day job!
A blog, like a plant, needs constant care and maintenance before it will begin to reward you, and you might have to wait months or even years before you see a single reward (a flower or fruit for a plant, a dollar for a blog). If that doesn’t discourage, go ahead and start blogging. Here are some tips to help you make a blog that will be successful and eventually profitable.
Pick a layout carefully
Few things will turn off a reader as quickly as a bad layout. If you have a confusing or distracting layout, they can always go find another blog to read. Make sure it’s simple for readers to figure out what your blog is about, where the latest blog posts are, where the blog archive is, and where the search box is.
If they can’t find something they’re expecting, readers are very likely to simply hit the back button and never visit your blog again.
People usually prefer reading dark text on a light background. The background and sidebars shouldn’t detract attention from the contents of your blog. You want to convey an image of professionalism, so make sure your site layout reflects it.
Proofread your posts, preferably multiple times
Before making a post, proofread it once and then again. Maybe even a third time if you have average language skills. It’s very easy to miss typos and grammatical errors that make your blog look unprofessional.
If possible, publish posts on a schedule that allows you to set aside posts for a day or two and read them over again before publishing them. You’d be amazed at the errors you can find after just a day or two without reading the piece!
Keep up the blog on a regular basis
Try to post daily or every other day, or at the very least, set up some kind of schedule for your posts. Readers like knowing when to expect new posts, and if the blog looks inactive, they’ll probably ignore it and leave your blog for good.
If you need new ideas, keep a notebook with you and list new topics whenever you come up with them. Top-ten lists and similar themes (best three, worst five, seven things you need to know) are popular with readers. Even posting a short list of tips is better than leaving the blog inactive for a week or two.
Don’t focus on money yet
If you’re just starting a blog, be aware that you have to compete with thousands of other brand-new blogs that people start. You have to build up an audience of readers and increase your traffic numbers before you can make money, so the best thing to focus on at this point is high-quality content.
If you write great content and genuinely make an effort to provide useful, timely information and connect with your readers, they will notice and begin sticking around. Once you have more blogging experience and a base of readers, you can begin trying to make money with your blog.
Follow these tips and keep your blog alive for at least a few months and your aged blog will begin to gain credibility and maybe even make you money!
Significant changes to Digg’s Application Programming Interface (API) promise to open up new possibilities to third-party developers, and might even make them some money.
Last week Digg announced some important changes to the policies that govern what sorts of things third-party Digg application developers may do. The changes lift old restrictions on certain Digg app functionalities and present new options to developers, giving them the freedom and flexibility to create programs that interact with the social networking site in ways not possible before.
There are a few differences between the old Digg API and the new. First, developers no longer need to get permission from Digg to make applications that make use of the site’s content. Also, third-party developers may now charge for access to their apps and make use of ads. Essentially, third-party Digg application developers are now free to make applications on their own without oversight from Digg, while profiting from them, which means we can expect a lot more Digg apps competing for users’ interest in the near future.
Third-party developers now also have developer’s access to the Digg search engine, allowing them to make use of all the particular Digg search functions in their apps. Along with access to Digg’s search functions comes access to users’ favourites, allowing third party apps to make novel use of info about which stories are most popular among Digg users. Essentially, third party Digg application developers may now make use of the most crucial information about Digg stories, so we can expect plenty of applications in the future that give users new insight into the trends and popular topics of Digg.
Finally, third party Digg apps can now participate in Digg just like a normal user. Users may vote up , bury, comment on, and favourite stories through third party apps. Formerly third party apps could only watch the digging action from afar and were powerless to affect the Digg world.
The bottom line is that the new Digg API will allow for the creation of Digg applications that will give users a new level of interactivity with Digg stories. With unprecedented access to essentially all the information on Digg, it is easy to imagine that many apps will make full use of that info to glean as much of an understanding of the mysterious Digg popularity algorithm as possible, giving users the ability to understand and contribute to popular Digg stories more effectively than ever before. Applications like Sub Digger will no doubt benefit a great deal from the new API.
A couple questions arise about this change though. First, will this shift the balance between those users with a great deal of influence and the average Diggers? Digg has long had something of a problem with so-called power users. The idea is that some users have so many influential friends and such a tight grip on the pulse of the Digg community that the majority of their stories make it to the front page — the hallowed halls of Digg where continued success is guaranteed.
Sometimes this popularity is even detrimental to average users of Digg, who might post a story earlier than a power user, only to see that their own story has floundered while the power story has gained a truckload of diggs, due to the power user’s influence. For some it is a frustrating trend that runs counter to the communal, semi-democratic character of the social networking site.
It’s easy to imagine that these new developments to the Digg API could make the power users’ job even easier, further cementing their status as top Digg users. With applications that give novel, and possibly even better, access to and understanding of critical Digg information comes a better grip on control over Digg stories.
But of course this might work both ways. Average users will also have access to many of these apps, giving them the same competitive Digg advantage that the power users have, evening out any benefits gained. New third party apps might even give the average users, who formerly didn’t have much at their disposal to help them with getting digged up, a new tool to compete with power users.
It’s hard to say exactly what will happen, although I’m inclined to say that any advantages given will likely benefit the power users more than the average users. They are called power users after all, and are more likely to take full advantage of whatever is available to make Digging easier, while the average user is more likely to continue using plain old Digg as a simple pass-time, not worrying themselves with the complexities of the Digg hierarchy. But perhaps these new apps will make it easier for the average user to become a power user, giving them access to all the information and tricks that were formerly exclusive to power users. Only time will tell.
But the other obvious question is: will this make Digg profitable? This seems to be a conscious move on Digg’s part to open up the site to a wider market, essentially making a small industry in which developers can focus on making money off of Digg applications. This is reminiscent of the iPhone third-party app model, in which developers can make money for themselves while simultaneously increasing the desirability of the iPhone among consumers.
The short answer to the question of profitability, unfortunately, is no. The difference between Digg and the iPhone is that the iPhone costs money. Third party app development encourages people to buy the iPhone, whereas third party development for Digg will only encourage more people to use Digg for free more often. At best, third party developers will make money off these apps, but until Digg figures out a money-making strategy, which has eluded them until now, it will remain unprofitable.
But in the long term the answer is a bit more optimistic. Digg’s choice to make these changes to its API seem to mirror the strategy of the social networking powerhouse Twitter. Twitter has long allowed development of all kinds of third party applications, letting users make use of Twitter however they feel with whatever app they feel, not just through the Twitter site. Third-party Twitter apps are so integrated into the service that the submitted through X application signifier is tagged onto every post, allowing users to see what third party app was used to make a tweet. (I can’t believe I just wrote the word “tweet.” Forgive me.)
Essentially, third party development has allowed the outside world to improve upon Twitter, making it all the more popular. Mind you, Twitter has yet to make any serious money either, but building massive popularity and a cottage industry around third party Twitter apps can’t be a bad place to start when trying to become profitable. It would seem Digg is trying to do the same, which in the long run may pay off.
In the end, this is probably a smart move on Digg’s part. By making Digg more accessible, improvable and open, it is attracting not just more users who will make use of third party apps, but a whole slew of developers who will now be dedicated to working on the networking service while making some money of their own. Essentially, Digg will hopefully be able to build another whole community besides the one that already exists, out of application designers and marketers.
And if it all works out, we can finally see the website that brings us important news — like caterpillars who need a haircut — become profitable.
A couple of decades back, Brett Borders had visionary aspirations. Instead of aimlessly wondering the halls of his high school, he took to the underground to search out threads of conversations that were beginning to surface in this new arena called the Internet. A unique but somewhat logical beginning for a fellow who would later go on to bill his blog the “Social Media Rockstar,” Brett was in search of digital networking way before its time.
In a recent interview I conducted with him, he sums it up as, “an extremely limited (environment)… the only social networking options were Prodigy/Compuserve, a handful of local Bulletin Boards and the the same 35 active users.” Along with a small group of hacker friends, he learned how to call overseas and obtain Internet access by sneaking through local university and business systems.
He would then hack into telephone systems that would allow access by dialing out without being traced. According to Brett, it “really wasn’t that devious,” as his group was the same kind of crowd that today “you would find on FriendFeed or Digg.” When the first public internet service became available in his area in 1994, he immediately quit hacking as he “finally had unlimited, bulletproof access to the ‘Net,’” where he found it “far more interesting to connect versus crack.” However he looks back on these early days fondly as it motivated him to become a resourceful out-of-the-box thinker who could forge a path into the future without the need of a guidebook.
Brett studied Sociology in college where he was able to reflect on some of the anthropological underpinnings of online social demographics. Metaphorically similar to a Margaret Mead uncovering tribes in Samoa or New Guinea, Brett observed and researched the collective consciousness of various online tribes. He proposed that “online social interaction mirrors real life (with parallels to) castes, circles, cliques and socio-economic groups.” And as a social marketer, he now feels that to communicate to each group and target them properly, one needs to analyze their social structures and online habitats.
When asked why institutions of higher learning haven’t embraced social media as an academic discipline, he feels that “universities are kind of reactionary in that they (will only) offer programs and classes after a job market emerges.” Since social media jobs are presently just beginning to take on a prominent role in corporations and organizations, it will take a while for universities to catch up.
Today Brett Borders is an independent “Web Traffic Developer.” Even though Borders’ blog is titled “Social Media Rockstar” he doesn’t view himself as rock star, nor Internet Famous. Similar to Liz Strauss titling her blog, “Successful Blog” and Hugh Hefner labeling his pop culture mag “Playboy,” his blog title is more about the content versus a moniker for himself as the originator.
According to Brett, ” I think with the exception of a small handful of established, elite social media people, pretty much everyone out there is ‘faking it till they make it.’ I wake up, explore, learn, make mistakes, improve and re-define myself on a daily basis. I try to be confident, but also completely honest about what I know about and what I don’t – and careful not to mislead or make false promises to people.”
However, Brett is also cognizant that online detractors can be more powerful than your actual followers. Non-fans (what Brett terms “your shadow”) are usually much more diligent about blocking the spread of your message than the average acquaintance is dedicated in spreading it for you. Here’s a visual interpretation of Brett’s perspective on this topic.
To become Internet Famous, according to Brett is to be an initiator, not a follower. For example, when social media first came on to the scene, those that became the most successful in blogging and developing apps were those that pushed the envelope, by using new tools and searching out new terrain to maneuver. Brett feels the ones that faltered in this regard were the less aggressive breed who settled for “aggregating or recycling” the work accomplished by the front runners.
Brett refers to some of these social media followers as “online snake oil salesmen” who are motivated by money. These are the folks that aren’t “at all shy about claiming they know stuff that they don’t or making promises they can’t deliver. There’s a boom of interest in social media and SEO – and there are only a few barriers to entry (all you need is a website and business card), so some less-than-scrupulous types of people are trying to cash in on it.”
“The truth is that you have to give something (time, energy, attention or $$$) before you can really expect to get anything in return,” notes Brett. Something he calls “Digital Karma,” where those that are serious about online marketing and invest their time strategically and ask for recommendations are the ones to reap the benefits. “Those who are looking for ‘quick fixes’ and too-good-to-be-true promises can easily get burned or disappointed.”
Narcissism is sometimes an unattractive by-product of Internet Fame “There’s something very hypnotic about watching someone with an over-blown self image get all excited about themselves (which is why sites like TweetingTooHard.com are funny),” notes Brett. “There’s also “bad boy” and “bad girl” rockstar types in social media who are outspoken, hostile and inevitably create drama wherever they go. Many people unconsciously placate them (to avoid getting on their “bad list”) and follow them to see what kind of exciting trouble they’re gonna stir up next.”
In retrospect having lived through the Web 2.0 explosion, Brett reflects that “today social media is definitely over-hyped. “Yes, it is very powerful. Yes, it changes they way business is done. Yes, it empowers people to make choices they never had before – and it changes the world in some ways. But people are still people – and we like to waste a lot of time and use social media to mindlessly distract and entertain ourselves.”
He also believes that social media marketing is not a great fit for many types of products and services. He affirms that companies could “definitely get more ROI with traditional advertising or other online marketing methods like SEO or PPC.”
Currently Brett is working for an automotive publisher that focuses on hybrid and electric car technology. He’s building buzz and connections around content that raise people’s awareness of next generation transportation options. In the past he’s worked for international e-commerce companies, product manufacturers, and local tech start-ups in Boulder, Colorado.
In closing, I think Brett Borders’ Internet fame came about as result of his invested time and energy in this field and that his advice is based on years of trial and error. While he feels that a lot of folks are just not cut out for this business (“it’s demanding, time-intensive, volatile, and requires much more creativity than people are able to give to it”), I think Brett Border is one of those experts that has sized up the social media landscape realistically and knows how to make it do his bidding.
If you’re looking for a social media coach to help you wade through those Web 2.0 waters, I would suggest you contact Brett Borders for the job. He may be just that Social Media Rockstar his blog refers to.
For other stories on the Internet Famous, check out my previous interviews with Nick Thune, Marina Orlova, Julia Allison and Alejandro Reyes… and stay tuned for more stories of the the Internet Famous in the weeks to come.
He calls himself a Social Marketing Rock Star! His web site was designed for “successfools” like himself. He runs a Ustream broadcast on a regular basis and has amassed over 13,000 (and counting) followers on Twitter. His profile proclaims that he is “ADDICTED to people, their passions, and teaching them to use Social Media Marketing to get Internet Famous! He’s a blogger, a speaker, a coach (a puppet, a poet, a pawn and a king!). He’s Internet Famous and has a story to tell.
In a recent interview I conducted with Alejandro Reyes, he confessed that Internet fame was not something he sought out, but was more about something he “knew he could leverage.” He believes in social marketing and feels that this platform gives him latitude to “entertain and inspire people,” something he is very passionate about.
Alejandro credits the birth of his daughter as one of the initial triggering events that created a buzz about about his persona and its impact on the Internet. On April 24, 2008, utilizing Ustream as a media tool to communicate, Alejandro conducted a broadcast to brag online about the birth of his daughter to his wife’s family who resided in another state. While transmitting the live stream titled “Social Media’s First Baby,” he decided to tweet it out to his Twitter followers at the same time, and in one of the first simulcasted communiques combining streaming video with tweeting, he was pleasantly surprised when he received 60+ tweets from his modest (at the time) fan base.
It was at this moment, he began to understand the power of the Internet and the connection he could make in people’s lives. Today, simulcasts of this nature are conducted regularly by celebrities like Ashton Kutcher and P.Diddy when they want to broadcast to their fan base. And consequently Ustream has since integrated Twitter into their chatrooms.
This intimate entree’ into people’s lives ‘positioned’ Alejandro as someone who was willing to share personal stories with total strangers. In the Web 2.0 environment we all reside, here was a guy who was willing not only to be upfront and personal, but also one who was transparent in a very honest and forthright manner. Dissimilar to the self-promoting “online celebs” or “snake oil” netizens that abound online, Alejandro displayed substance and delivered advice that was consequential. He found his soap box, and as an online town crier, the Internet community was willing to listen.
After this event, Alejandro indicates that things really began to ramp up. While the live Ustream involving the birth of his daughter gave him a jump start, it’s what Alejandro was able to do with the buzz thereafter that was critical. He cautiously warns others that this is where many often drop the ball: “A lot of people miss the boat. They do something that creates a buzz, and then they don’t capitalize on it. When you secure momentum, you gotta keep it or it will die quickly and get lost in all the Internet ‘noise’” that continually competes for our everyday attention.
It was at this tipping point, that Alejandro changed up the game. Differing from others that often rely on the status quo, he decided to transform the way people saw “entrepreneurship” by making it a fun thing to manage. And while he continues to offer human interest life examples (e.g dancing with his daughter) he balances these vignettes with inspirational success training. In this way, he works collaboratively with his audience. He collaborates with them in creating his personal brand… the “successfool” brand…a process he calls “collaborate or die.”
Collaboration is the key. Without involving his audience, Alejandro would not be the success he is today. For him ‘branding’ is really all about listening to your followers and building your persona around one’s passion. To further illustrate his point, Alejandro cites an analogy that underscores brand management: “your brand is like a ‘jetliner’ and your passion is the ‘jet fuel’ that jettisons that brand forward. “You and your brand can only go as far as your fuel and passion will last.” He sees a direct correlation with this and the age-old tried and true philosophy that if “you love what you are doing, you’ll never have to work another day in your life.”
Today, Alejandro conducts a Successfool.tv Ustream broadcast every Wednesday night at 6pm Pacific time. The focus of the show is to motivate, inspire, and entertain entrepreneurs through live skype interviews, success tips and tools of the week, and accompanied by some weekly rants. While monetizing Successfool.com is a goal, for Alejandro, it’s more important to “build a brand that people trust, love, and know that they’re not going to get some cheezeball marketing pitch every week with tons of advertisements.” Presently his website receives 10-15K hits per month, according to Compete.com.
As a result of the success of Successfool.com, he’s created a coaching program, hosted a conference, and launched a local marketing company that is quickly generating a ton of buzz in the Sacramento market area. Alejandro’s Social Marketing Rock Star Webinar series provides an 8-week video training course that helps users learn how to use social media marketing as a tool and how it can boost one’s website traffic.
The series teaches people how to develop a long lasting Internet business by building their brand online through Social Media. The webinar modules include, Branding, Blogging and Advanced Blogging Strategies, Social Networking with a focus on Twitter and Facebook, Video/Live Streaming, Podcasting, Web 2.0 Properties and How to use Social Media to become a local hero. Since its success in ’08, a new Social Marketing Rock Star series will launch again this July.
Alejandro’s life journey revolves around his ongoing quest to determine “what success really is?” As we all know, success means different things to different people. When asked if he feels successful and whether he has reached his goals, Alejandro admits to only just getting started…and that his life long dream is to enter the entertainment field. Whether “that’s hosting a TV or radio show, that’s yet to be determined,” states Alejandro. So if Oprah, Ellen or Conan are reading this…you might want to give this “successfool” a call. He is in a passionate over-drive mode to take his social marketing rock star fame to another level.
Alejandro Reyes is one “successfool” that doesn’t fool around with success!
P.S: If you are thinking about contacting Alejandro on Twitter, you might want to congratulate him on the upcoming birth of his 2nd baby...Social Baby #2!
For other stories on the Internet Famous, check out my previous interviews with Nick Thune, Marina Orlova and Julia Allison… and stay tuned for more stories of the the Internet Famous in the weeks to come.
Google’s iGoogle Showcase was revealed earlier this week, allowing everyone on the whole Internet to look at the homepages personally approved by the publicists of celebrities.
With iGoogle Showcase anyone can take a look at the widgets and plugins that barely likeable celebrities like Al Gore, Demi Moore, Ashton The Kutch Kutcher, Martha Stewart, Ryan Seacreast, and others use on their Google homepages.
Mind you, use should be taken very lightly here.
At first I wasn’t sure what the purpose of showcase was. Then later on I figured something out: I still had no idea know what the point of iGoogle Showcase was. To be honest as of this exact moment I cannot clearly discern any sort of useful purpose for Showcase.
The thing is, there isn’t any obvious use for Showcase. Unlike some of Google’s other neat apps, like Gmail and Google Docs and SketchUp, which are all immediately useful in some ways, Showcase doesn’t provide us with any sort of tools or devices that make things possible. It doesn’t even provide something as vague as an e-solution.
Let me explain. Each Showcase page is ostensibly the personal page of a celebrity, implying that the widgets on it were chosen by a celebrity. That these pages are personal also implies that celebrities make use of them regularly, but that seems unlikely, given how they look like they were designed by a soulless robot programmed to mechanically coordinate PR initiatives.
Are we really supposed to believe that Kevin Rose has a Digg widget on his homepage, even though he owns the freaking website, or that Ryan Seacrest looks up American Idol updates, even though he is literally the first person on the planet to know when someone is voted off? That would be like Wyclef Jean looking for updates about the new album that he himself is writing.
Oh wait, that is already on his iGoogle page.
So are these actually the personal pages of celebrities? Of course not. The fact of the matter is that Showcase doesn’t have any point because it is just marketing. Each page is a thin veil of celebrity publicity, crafted to reinforce a consistent public image while covering some pretty clumsy marketing. Andy Roddick is a tennis player, so his page has a tennis ball. Rachel Ray’s page has a word scramble, because absolutely all stay-at-home moms in the universe like little daily newspaper puzzles. Al Gore’s page has Jon Stewart quotes because the hip, young, liberal demographic is into that.
The only page that looks like it wasn’t pieced together by an army of assistants is The Kutch’s. I mock the guy, but his page is a messy jumble of stuff that real people would actually use, like sports scores and dumb youtube cartoons, instead of a Punk’d widget and a picture of a trucker hat. But other than the Kutchster’s, every page is so generically representative of the public’s view of these celebrities that you can’t help but feel an advertising firm thought it all up while Keith Urban or whoever played golf on the moon while rolling in million dollar bills in a suit made of even more million dollar bills.
So iGoogle Showcase is basically just a cross-promotional marketing tool. That’s fine, and marketing has it’s place. Maybe someone will find a widget they like from the page of their favourite celebrity, or discover some news about someone they’re interested in. But let’s not pretend that these are actually the homepages these celebrities customized and use every day. The sites are such flimsy, cookie-cutter representations of the celebrities’ public images that insisting they are personal is only contrived and artificial.
So why even talk about Showcase if it’s so shallow and pointless? I will make a feeble attempt at answering this question. It seems to me that iGoogle Showcase is representative of a larger trend in which technology is suddenly very cool. Some might even call it hip if they are so inclined.
I’m not sure when it happened, but at some point tech and tech-culture went from being simply a useful thing for some and a geeky obsession for others, to the prime way for celebrities and public figures to garner some cred with fans. Between The Kutchinator running a competition with CNN to see who could reach a million twitter followers first, and news sites and blogs all over the web obsessing over whether or not Obama is a Mac user, you can’t seem to avoid the new-found trendiness of technology.
Even late night, normally a safe haven where fads and trends are mocked mercilessly, has gotten in on the act. If you can manage to stomach an entire episode of the Jimmy Fallon show you will be exposed to an incredible amount of shameless pandering to the technology crowd, and even Conan O’Brien, who I distinctly remember mispronouncing modem during an old episode, has a skit about twitter every night.
Some of this new focus on technology is obviously very good. Obama’s change.gov site, with its technological agenda, is leap years ahead of the technologically ignorant stone-age that was the last administration.
But I imagine not everyone will see it this way. It’s probably safe to say that many people out there hold a personal attachment to the nerd culture of technology, and many of those people understandably feel as if Hollywood is merely cashing in on their beloved sub-culture. Like someone who suddenly sees their favourite band go mainstream and finds that the music that meant so much to them on a personal level is now being eaten up by everyone in the world, geeks the world over feel violated by the commodification and abuse of their geek and tech culture by celebrities who are merely using it to get a bit more publicity.
The angst of geeks who are caught up in the new Hollywood obsession with their world was summed up pretty nicely in the response to the I Am a Geek video, released last month. Wil Wheaton, star of Star Trek TNG and famous hardcore nerd, was involved with the video and said of it that it seemed like a promotional opportunity for celebrities who don’t know a damn thing about our geek culture, which sums up nicely how most geeks feel about the new found celebrity status of geekiness.
In short, the sorts of celebrities that are featured on the iGoogle Showcase are the exact ones that nerds are shaking their fists at right now, damning them for invading their castle and abusing their culture.
I tend to look at it a bit differently though: being a geek is suddenly cool. Not just cool among an ever-growing population of geeks, but cool among people with a lot of sway, geeky or not. Further, geekiness is not just cool, but influential. Geekiness has become powerful.
I guess that “The Bible” thing was right; the geek shall indeed inherit the Earth.
(I apologize profoundly for that joke. Please don’t melt my computer with your nerd powers.)
If Web 2.0 is about web applications and social networking, and Web 3.0 is said to incorporate the semantics of data interpreted by machines, what the heck is Web 4.0 going to look like? If we are in the midst of an evolution, what have the big thinkers been able to conjure up about our futures online? Let’s take a look at some of the insights and theories put forth by the futurists, as us mere mortals breathlessly await the next big shiny thing to capture our hearts, minds and soul.
“What the BLEEP Do We Know,” a movie first released in 2004 went on to become one of the most successful documentaries of all time. Now distributed in over 30 countries, it has stunned audiences with its revolutionary mind-jarring blend of quantum physics and evolutionary thought. While widely popular and panned at the same time, this film is not a journey for closed minded, limited thinkers, or faint-of-mind folks. This is a mystical journey that leaves you curiously rooted in an upside-down-world of invisible unknowns that challenge every belief you’ve ever held sacred. I post it here, because in searching for answers to web 4.0 in our future, sometimes you need to take a trip down the rabbit hole, before you settle down to some more concrete realities.
In 2006, Jeff Moriarty, a Community Manager for Intel was bold enough to suggest that Web 4.0 was an “impending state at which all information converges into a great ball of benevolent self-aware light, and solves every problem from world peace to why Lost stunk last season.” However Jeff also had a small part on the “X-Files” so you might not be so inclined to agree with his epiphany.
On the Brave New World front, Nova Spivack is a technology visionary and entrepreneur with nearly two decades of experience in pioneering ventures. In 1994, he co-founded EarthWeb , one of the first Internet companies, where he helped key cultural institutions and businesses develop their first large-scale Web presences, including the New York Stock Exchange, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, BMG Music Club, Sony, AT&T and US West.
As a futurist and publisher of Twine, Spivack has been contemplating the past, present and future of the Web for quite some time. His timeline of technology from our prehistoric desktop era to our synchronistic future is depicted here.
As you can see, according to Spivak’s predictions we are currently at the tail end of Web 2.0, just starting to lay the groundwork for Web 3.0 or semantic technology which arrives in 2010 (start your stop watches). Web 4.0 or WebOS will be like middleware, where the Web will start functioning like an operating system,or what he calls, “the Intelligent Web.” Nova says he isn’t sure about exact dates or technologies on the top end of the map, but in his view each phase runs in approximate ten-year blocks.
E-Learning Queen is a company that focuses on real-world e-learning issues and emerging technologies. Susan Smith Nash, the founder who goes by the title “Queen’s Assistant” believes that Web 4.0 will include a array of sensors that will gather information from one’s environment to create a deep profile of our behaviors and activities.
Raymond Kurzweil is an inventor and futurist. He has been a pioneer in the fields of optical character recognition (OCR), text-to-speech synthesis, speech recognition technology, and electronic keyboard instruments. predicts that by 2029, the WebOS will be parallel to the human brain. By that time, according to Kurzweil, “intelligent machines will combine the subtle and supple skills that humans now excel in (essentially our powers of pattern recognition) with ways in which machines are already superior, such as remembering trillions of facts accurately, searching quickly through vast databases, and downloading skills and knowledge.”
So are we approaching a moment in time when the Internet will actually transform into a “Learning Web,” where the Web is actually learning by itself, unprompted by humans? Seth Godin, popular speaker at Google and TED conferences and the man who popularized the topic of permission marketing believes Web 4.0 or Web4 (as he calls it) is all about “serendipity and the network taking initiative.”
Some of the future examples he conjures up sheds light on the potential innovation Web4 will be able to add to our lives…
- As a project manager, my computer knows my flow chart and dependencies for what we’re working on. And so does the computer of every person on the project, inside my team and out. As soon as something goes wrong (or right) the entire chart updates.
- I’m late for a dinner. My GPS phone knows this (because it has my calendar, my location, and the traffic status). So, it tells me, and then it alerts the people who are waiting for me.
- I visit a blog for the first time. My browser knows what sort of stories I am interested in and shows me highlights of the new blog based on that history.
- I can invest in stocks as part of a team, a team that gains strength as it grows in size.
- My PDA knows I’m going to a convention. Based on my email logs, it recommends who I ought to see while I’m there–because my friends have opted in to our network and we’re in sync.
As Godin sees it, Web4 is “coming from the edges (we see all sorts of tribal activities popping up in blogs, communities, rankings) as opposed to from the center. Web 2.0 happened in largely the same way…and it’s
entirely possible that Web4 will get here before the semantic web even though Web 3 makes it work a lot better.”
Well, there you have it, sports fans… some of the greatest thinkers of our day all looking into their crystal balls for answers to our digital futures. However, before leaving you, one additional theory did surface that I thought worthy of note. “Gnardonkeys” who describe themselves as “two funny guys from San Diego who naively think Twitter can make them famous” offer some gnarly insights into Web 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 and why we can’t afford to let Web 4.0 happen…
So which ever fork in the road you decide to take…happy travels down the Rabbit Hole or the Brave New World!
It’s been said about Julia Allison… “She can’t act. She can’t sing. She’s not rich. But thanks to a genius for self-promotion, she’s become an Internet celebrity.” Ms. Allison has learned the art of personal branding and specializes in distinguishing herself from the pack with a joie de vivre and an innate sense of knowing what to leverage when?
Marketing may be a dated term in this Web 2.0 world we live in…a hackneyed meme attributed to the billboard boys, TV execs and those Mad Men who ran fast and furious in the second half the 20th Century. With all the changes we have experienced in this last decade, Internet branding may have taken the place of Marketing while reputation management and its economy have definitely become the new black!
Like muscle building in fitness training, exercise is essential in building up one’s specs! Brand reputation is a discipline separate from traditional marketing campaigns. It recognizes that due to increased transparency and access to information, ‘traditional branding’ can no longer be fluff unsubstantiated. It can however be fluff substantiated as long as there is an audience to lap up the pablum that is being fed; e.g. the Paris Hilton syndrome. That is not… however… the case with Julia Allison.
With attention comes power and control over one’s destiny. People are now viewed in terms of their identification where personal branding now trumps actual products. In the case of Julia Allison, she learned early on that to make it in today’s field of journalism, she had to not only know her craft, she had to differentiate how to best use her craft to become her own story.
In a recent interview, when I asked Julia what prompted her to become an Internet Celeb, she quickly denied that such an unlikely path was her goal. “I think it would be a bit inane to say ‘Oh yes, I set out to become an ‘internet celebrity,’ as if I checked a box my senior year at the career center, next to ‘aimless law student’ and ‘soulless banker’,” she postured.
She also believes that “Internet celebrity is arguably the least useful media vocation one could fill, although some could make a case that “reality show star” trumps it, if only by sheer ridiculousity. And yes, I realize “ridiculousity” isn’t a real word. I couldn’t think of anything else that quite captured that genre’s inherent absurdity.”
With that said, there was a time early on in her career when it occurred to her that the conventional methods of query letters and job postings were not going to get her a job in journalism. “I had just graduated from Georgetown in May of 2004, and I moved to Newport Beach, California with my then fiance.” I thought, “I can write from anywhere. Which is true, technically. But what I didn’t realize was that editors gave assignments to writers they knew. And I couldn’t meet editors from anywhere but New York.” So she moved.
What followed was a number of humbling years of interning. where countless story pitches were overlooked by editors. “And that’s when I had that one ‘triggering event’ inasmuch as there was just one. I remember seeing a magazine cover featuring Tom Wolfe (in his signature white suit), and hearing from my friend Lloyd Grove, gossip columnist at the Daily News that Wolfe made $6 per word for his writing vs. my $50 per 700 word column.” It was at that moment she had her epiphany: “People would read Tom Wolfe simply due to their familiarity with his byline. Tom Wolfe had transformed himself into a brand.”
So a plan to brand herself was put into motion. “I thought – somewhat unconsciously at the time, later much more consciously – if people were familiar with me, and with my byline, I could: A) be able to publish my writing in a wide variety of publications, B) be able to write about what and whom I wished, and C) be able to make a decent living off of my writing.”
And she was correct! While familiarity can sometimes breed contempt, in today’s Web 2.0 environment it can also nurture micro-fame. “But, like any wish fulfillment scenario, it also comes with a multitude of unintended consequences.” Reputation is definitely a double-edged sword. While the public’s expectations are constantly changing, the very things that create celebrity status can sour and fall out of favor in an instant similar to the fluctuating fortunes of political careers.
Linked romantically with former Tennessee Congressman Harold Ford, Jr., her relationship was used in attack ads by the National Republican Senatorial Committee in Ford’s unsuccessful run for United States Senate in 2006. Allison tells the story without regret: “I went out with Harold a few times when I was a sophomore & junior in college. It wasn’t serious, but I was beyond naive about press (and hell, the world, really!) at the time, and I think quite a few people took advantage of that. But, you know … those were lessons I needed to learn, one way or another. Life hands you whatever lessons you need for the evolution of your consciousness (Eckhart Tolle) and in this case what I needed was a lesson on why you shouldn’t date politicians.”
She also put several publicity events together that spotlighted her ability to be innovative and controversial at the same time. On Halloween 2006, when Allison was dating a columnist for the newspaper AM New York, she solicited the costume designer who created the wardrobe for Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (as she puts it: “no one has better costumes than Drag Queens”). What she ended up with was a Halloween costume made entirely of gold Trojan XL condoms, complete with a condom wand and pumpkin for distributing said condoms. She called herself the “Condom Fairy,” and as a result, the story has become the urban legend she “has never been able to live down!”
The press has said that “it’s easy to dismiss Julia Allison as little more than a rank narcissist” ¢â‚¬â€ and many of her vocal online critics have agreed. However, in Wired Magazine’s August 2008 cover story entitled: “Internet Famous: Julia Allison and the Secrets of Self-Promotion.” it details how she managed to storm the Internet with other unique events that received widespread attention. Once she invited handbag designer Mary Rambin and Randi Zuckerberg, the sister of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to dance in Jazzercise outfits in Times Square to Martha and the Vandellas’ ‘”Dancing in the Street,” which was filmed and documented by cameramen.
Here in a YouTube video following the cover story in Wired, Julia describes how she invests in her own “reputation economy” with Wired’s Editor-in-Chief Chris Anderson.
However as previously mentioned, Julia isn’t the “Paris Hilton” fluff that sometimes gets applied to Internet Celebrities who reach for notoriety. In fact in early 2007, Julia expresses some of her own thoughts about the one-note overexposed wonder on Fox News…
Yes, there is rhyme to her reason and methods for her madness. Utilizing her brand awareness, she’s been hired in the “legit” world of corporate events – including keynotes and speaking engagements to top execs at Unilever, A&E, at DLD in Munich, at Next 6.0 in Denmark, at MIT’s Sloan School of Business, and at MediaBistro’s personal branding seminar.
She’s also been hired as a social media consultant for several companies, and as a brand ambassador with NonSociety for Kodak, Cisco, Axe and a handful of other entities. She’s an unofficial evangelist for Blueprint Cleanse (“I don’t receive payment, but do receive trade”), and was recently hired by Sea World in Orlando to launch their new roller-coaster, the Manta. “I believe in supporting companies and products I think are great, and I also believe that online entertainment has to pay its bills, and smart, ethical sponsorships are the answer to that,” she notes.
When asked what Internet fame has brought her, she thinks “it’s a bit early to say what it has or hasn’t brought me … but it certainly isn’t as if I’m now living in a West Village penthouse, paying for my Manolos with my black Amex while my bodyguards polish the tinted windows on my custom Escalade. I mean, I live in a studio. But you know, I’m pretty psyched that I can now afford health insurance.”
“The most important thing to me is to be able to share my life – my energy and enthusiasm and questions and confusions – through the work that I love – whether that’s a column or writing my blog or TV segments or my little chat show. And that is what the internet has allowed me to do, and so for that I am very, very grateful.”
“Listen, bottom line: there are consequences to every choice we make – each lifestyle we decide upon, whether public or private, whether as a lawyer or a journalist or a scientist or a hippie. Everything has pros and cons, and it’s up to you to do a cost/benefits analysis. No one else can do it for you. Anonymity and its accompanying privacy confers incredible freedom in one sense – you can make your life choices without a chorus of judgment. But there are some wonderful parts about being a bit more public – the ability to have a large scale conversation, to reach many people, to (hopefully) entertain, to think and wonder and learn and grow along with your audience. The opportunity to meet people you would never have met before, to embark upon experiences you couldn’t have imagined – the chance to have every day surprise you.”
In business school we learn that the ‘goal of management’ is to increase shareholder value. As it turns out, the definition of a ‘shareholder’ are those folks that have a vested interest in a company. While traditional business practices focus on the bottom line, brand reputation takes a more holistic approach on the importance of the individual. It recognizes that people can create value through excitement, buzz and celebrity leverage. Ms. Allison has learned to turn the old adage “its not personal, its business” on its head. In the world according to Julia Allison, “getting personal is her business!”
She poignantly sums it up as “I think everyone has a purpose in this world. Many times I’ve wished that mine were something more straightforward: to make people happy through song or dance or acting. Well. It’s quite clear I didn’t get any of those talents. But I can talk. I can write. I can wonder and I can share. It’s not much, but hopefully my little corner of the Internet gives people a bit of joy. I think that’s my life’s purpose. And for that I feel incredibly blessed.”
(Note: Also see my other Internet Famous stories on Nick Thune and Marina Orlova. If there is one common thread that connects Julia, Nick and Marina, it is their ‘joie de vivre,’ the joyous spirit they all bring to life, the roles they play and how they have all have found a unique way to fit into the grand scheme of the Internet landscape).
I have been a regular member of social media networks such as MySpace, Orkut and more. I always knew about Facebook and I had a lot of friends who were using it, and they recommended that I join. I did join, but never used it. It’s probably because I find it hard to switch from one platform to another.
When I left my job and started blogging full time, I actually got the time to explore and learn more about Facebook and today, I’m more than happy to be a part of it. I can definitely tell you that there is no way you can compare Facebook with any other social media website. It offers the most unique and attractive features with maximum comfort and security.
To make things a bit easier, developers are experimenting with Facebook and trying to produce new browser extensions that promise to make things much easier for you. Recently, I confronted a Firefox add-on that allows you to download an entire Facebook album with just a click of a button. I really find it hard to download pictures one by one but I guess that is not going to happen anymore. With FacePad, I can easily download any photo album I want in hardly a few minutes and, more importantly, I can do my work while it downloads all pictures on its own.
Upon Installation, you will be able to see an extra link that says “Download Album with FacePad”. Simply click on it and wait for FacePad to download the entire album for you.
The best feature of Facepad is that it doesn’t limit itself to your profile only. That means that you can download your friends’ Facebook albums, Events albums, and Group Albums with the click of a button.
Check out FacePad