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The Rift in Virtual Reality

How media conglomerates are buying up the user experience.
My newest blog on my newest blog.

Alec the Media Guy

Story:

Facebook recently acquired Oculus Rift, a company spearheading the virtual reality race. Originally a Kickstarter company, Oculus Rift has received a HUGE backlash from the buy.

Facebook has also taken a large hit on their stock prices.

Many large-scale contracts that would have benefited Oculus Rift have been pulled in the wake of the acquisition.

All in all, it has been a rough few days for both companies.

Why It’s Important:

We have seen this kind of acquisition backlash for a few years now, but it seems to be coming to a defined point with the Oculus-Facebook deal.

People are coming to understand the depth of power large media companies have at their disposal. Many Americans are frightened by the access to personal information that Facebook, Google and like entities have at their fingertips.

Oculus Rift gives Facebook the power to mold the ENTIRE user experience around exactly what…

View original post 307 more words

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What Do You Mean “I Suck”?

Taking criticism is hard. Don’t try to tell me isn’t, because it is.

Trying not to take criticism as a personal affront is one of the greatest and hardest things to learn in life. I am still trying to get it down myself.

I read a Forbes article that made me start thinking about this. In this article the author, Deanna Zandt, refers to a Disapproval Matrix designed by Ann Friedman.

It is a simple illustration, but rings true when it comes to Social Media criticism. This works for both brands and individuals trying to promote themselves on Social Media.

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Lovers want to see you improve, but sometimes they will sugarcoat what they say. There will be a time that you need this kind of motivation, but in the end you still are not getting all of the information that will help you succeed.

Critics don’t know you, and therefore do not care whether they hurt your feelings or not. If you put something out that sucks, whether that be as a brand or as a person, they will rip you a new one. The key here is that they will only do that if you deserve it. Side note: critics don’t have a sense of humor a lot of times. It just depends on who is grading you.

Like the Matrix says, your biggest Frenemy can be yourself. This affects personal branding more than branding as a company. Do not get discouraged if you do not get any hits on your blog, or any more follows on Twitter when you post great content. Writing is meant to help you learn and become better in the future. Heck, I bet only 3 people will read this blog I am writing now. That is okay, because I know with the work I put in now people will follow me later.

Haters. What CAN’T I say about Haters. There are A LOT of them, and each person, brand, organization, or system has their own set of Haters. You can’t ignore them, but you certainly do not have to give in to them. Fight back politely, and when they get out of control you block them as far as you can. Everyone has opinions, even if they are dumb ones.

As far as branding for a company goes, each section of consumer must be treated in a different way. A lot of companies will try to say that “Everyone Should be Treated the Same”. This is a remnant from their EO training. Companies get ostracized for not playing fair with everyone, but Social Media is a little different. What they have to understand is that with the advent of Social Media, your brand is now a PERSON. Do you talk to every person you know in the same monotone voice? Of course not!

At least I hope not.

Consumers love the idea that brands can have an identity. In this way, you must have a single personality for your brand. You have to have a common voice if you will. This can be challenging when multiple people are posting content for a single entity, but that is something you have to train your team on before you undertake the mission of a Social Media Campaign.

Having a brand identity gives you the ability to respond in different ways, as a person would. That doesn’t mean you can be rude, but it does give you leeway.

You treat Lovers like friends, because this will make them feel good and share more of your content. Do not be hesitant to ASK for constructive feedback. They want to help you improve, but may not feel comfortable enough blasting you with bad remarks without you asking. Take this feedback, thank them for it, and implement it. They will love your brand even more if you use what they say in your next improvement session, and will become even more loyal to you.

Treat critics with respect, but not always as friends. They want to be treated as experts and teachers, and should receive a higher level of solemnity from the person or brand. Take their advice and store it, use it when you need it. Do not take it lightly, but do not try to implement every idea immediately. Pace your brand out, not every strategy they propose will work for your individual needs.

Frenemies should be treated like that weird cousin at the family reunion, friendly but distant. Just like you would treat someone you have not talked to in an extremely long time. You make small talk for a little while, but in the end you both know the conversation is useless. The key is to be polite. Frenemies turn into Haters really fast.

Like I stated above, Haters have to be treated in a cool manner. They will do nothing but try to bog you down and hurt you for no apparent reason. Every small mistake is a colossal failure in their eyes. If you aren’t careful, other consumers will start seeing it that way too. The key is to combat Haters with fact. Be transparent.

The Hater is already lost, but you can save the rest of your fanbase by showing them that this person’s accusations are false and misguided. Pacifying Haters hardly ever works. They are not simply people who have had a bad experience and are chatting it up with their friends. That is fixable. Haters just want to see you destroyed, and will probably always feel that way no matter what you do.

The truth is, you just have to have feel the motion of the people. Explore the tide, find its ebb and flow. Consumers want honesty and good taste. Give them good and meaningful content that is relevant to them, and they fill follow you.

It is a game of chance, but your odds are good.

Just don’t do anything dumb alright?

Thanks again to Ann Friedman an Deanna Zandt for making awesome content for me to write about. I hope I can be as cool as y’all someday.

March for Babies

Yesterday was the annual Amarillo March for Babies, and the last concrete day of my first internship.

Just some facts from the March.

About 3000 people came and we raised over 400,000 dollars (I’m not sure of the exact final total).

It was a beautiful day and everyone had a blast.

We had a bouncy castle, free coffee, a cow being milked, face painting, all of the better things in life.

Awesome right? Now here is the good stuff.

What I learned from March for Babies:

1. Assess every aspect in advance

Now I understand that you cannot account for EVERY little detail. Nor can you anticipate anything that may go wrong, but get what you can down to a science. Figure out where all of your banners are being hung, what area needs how many tables, things of that nature. If you have vendors coming you should clearly define where they will be stationed and relay that information to them as early as possible. Assessing the logistics of an event will save a lot of labor and headache when the time for set-up actually arrives.

Also, it is a good idea to make a map of the layout of the event beforehand. Pass it out to group leaders and effectively delegate work to each group within a defined area. This will help groups stay active and keep a definite role in the set-up of the event. In Non-Profits this can be hard because you are never sure what volunteers will be coming from where. You have to play it by ear at each event, but plan it as much as you can in advance.

2. Verify Labor

Like I talked about in the last paragraph, Non-Profits can have a hard time assessing how much labor they have at their disposal because volunteer help can be spotty at best. People flake, it happens. The key is to make sure that volunteers who say they will come will be accounted for multiple times before the event day. Make sure they know they are needed without seeming to be pushy. Contact them a week before the event and then the night before and verify they will come help. The more accountability they feel, the more likely they will be to show.

I know that sounds manipulative, but it will save you a lot of time in the set-up and tear down of an event if you aren’t having to do it all yourself. I am not saying you have to call every volunteer, but most certainly take good care to ensure large groups that you are counting on to be there will actually show up. It can cause a real pain when they don’t.

3. Contingency Plans

Even with all of that work, sometimes they still won’t show. That is okay, as long as you have a backup plan. If you have core volunteers that will be the backbone of your event, make sure you think of a backup plan in case they cannot or do not show up. These things happen.

The plan may not be great, and it will most likely be way more work than the original, but having that plan will let you avoid being taken by surprise if it were to happen. If 20 people do not show up, have a plan on how to do the same work with 10 people more efficiently. This is simple, but the one time you forget will be the one time you need it.

Also make backup plans for key pieces of equipment to fail on you. This has happened countless times and I am always astounded when people get flustered because of it. Technology will fail you, it is just how it goes. Murphy’s law, whatever bad can happen will happen. As soon as you need that machine it will die. It is just the way of the world. Be ready for it to go out, have a backup. No more sweat, no more headache.

 

These are just three big things I learned while in the action yesterday. All in all, it was a great experience and I absolutely enjoyed getting to be a part of it. We raised a lot of money for a great cause and I am proud to say I was part of this great organization. Thank you Vicki and Carla for giving me the opportunity to work with you, and thank you March of Dimes for doing what you do.

The world would be a far worse place without you guys.

Vicki, Amarillo MoD Director, and I at the end of the event.

Vicki, Amarillo MoD Director, and I at the end of the event.

The Path to LifeLogging

LifeLogging is an emerging business that allows users to store thoughts, pictures, and even locations into a digital journal.

This idea has been around for a while, but now apps and websites are being abundantly created in an effort to cash in on it.

Now more than ever, with mobile devices becoming ever smarter, it is becoming increasingly easy to store information on the go.

Consumers are no longer tied to a desktop, but instead can broadcast information from almost anywhere at anytime.

With this technology we can chronicle almost every second of our lives. You won’t have to wonder what you ate for breakfast yesterday,  just get online and look.

In my Evolutionary Marketing class we have talked a lot about this subject of LifeLogging. This is an unprecedented leap forward in cataloging history.

In the future historians won’t have to wonder how we lived or what we thought. There will be a plethora of information on almost every aspect of our lives.

With these types of cataloging platforms, users can age with the site or app, and track their growth as an individual.

This is especially cool when you think about children being born now. A parent can start a LifeLog from birth, and the child will be able to track their own growth from infancy to adulthood.

They can trace, to the day, any event that has happened within the space of their existence.

That is CRAZY COOL.

I recently downloaded the Path app, which is one of these LifeLogging platforms I have been talking about. It is fairly new in the U.S. and has gotten a lot of hype with tech news outlets.

I have to say that I enjoy it. I am not usually one to care about chronicling my life, but with Path it is simple and efficient.

You can download pictures, post what music you are listening to at the time, where you are, all kinds of information that show who you are as a person.

I may not keep up with it every day, but I will certainly track my progress as an individual through school and my career. It will be nice to look back on that and see how far I have come (or not, but I have to be positive right?).

So far I have yet to see any advertising in the app, so I assume they make their profits from the buyable in-app content they offer. They seem to be doing quite well with it, as they are growing exponentially and upgrading the platform regularly.

All in all, LifeLogging is here to stay. As mobile technology develops, it will only become easier to store information on the go. We all want to be able to look back at our lives and remember where we have come from. That’s why we cherish old pictures so much.

We want to be able to remember.

P.S. There is also a physiological side to LifeLogging, such as tracking your bodily functions every moment and understanding your body better, as well as tracking how you spend your time or money to affect how you make decisions. In this blog I am just talking about an overall LifeLogging consumer, who uses it to see how they progress as an individual over vast amounts of time.

To learn more about Path and Life Logging:

https://path.com/about

http://www.kk.org/thetechnium/archives/2007/02/lifelogging_an.php

http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/aug/12/lifelogging-dear-digital-diary

iRobot is Not Fiction

I read a Wired article earlier today that got me really thinking. It was an interview with Ray Kurzweil, an expert in the field of Artificial Intelligence.

Kurzweil believes that the creation of a robot that feels emotion is not fiction, but instead a near-future possibility.

You should really look at the interview, you will learn a lot: http://www.wired.com/business/2013/04/kurzweil-google-ai/

We have all grown up with science fiction horror stories of how Conscious AIs will one day destroy us all. Terminator is the most common series that depicts this apocalyptic scenario.

The type of intelligence that Kurzweil is envisioning for his work at Google is not so mass murdery. It is a type of program that no longer just searches key-words in your query, but instead picks up on the expression you place within your question. The program will be able to understand what you MEAN when you say something, instead of just analyzing the words for what they are.

This inference of meaning is a monumental step toward true Artificial Intelligence. It is no longer about pre-programmed responses and logical equations. This digital brain will be able to analyze what you say, create a context outside of logical thought, and piece together a response that will fit exactly what you mean to ask.

An extremely simple example would be the Guess What? child’s game. Imagine asking your computer, “Guess what?”, and instead of it trying to create a response from a million things you could mean by asking that, it will automatically understand through its own cognitive process that your are trying to make a joke and will answer with, “Chicken Butt”.

You may think, “Wow Alex, any computer can do that.” Yes they can, but only if they are programmed for that response. This computer will have never been told that joke, but through its own inferences on humor, it will understand that it IS a joke and respond accordingly.

For Google, this would mean they could get you EXACTLY what you are looking for when you search something. You could ask complex questions and receive answers that specifically answer that question without sifting through thousands of pages. It would be able to grab the few pages that address the exact issue you are trying to resolve, just by reading into the contexts of what you wrote.

For all of us bloggers this will exponentially increase our viewership. Instead of our posts being on page 3000 no matter what someone searches, the search engine will understand the viewer wants exactly what we wrote about and will bypass the clutter to bring us to the front page.

I am probably confusing you with all of my examples and stuff, but I think this is incredible. I get all hyper and giddy when I see sci-fi stuff coming to life.

If this is created, it will revolutionize the way we search for information on the internet. Heck, it will drastically speed up the rate at which we can consume information, which is insane because we absorb information faster now than we ever have in the history of human existence.

Kurzweil estimates us having this technology by 2029. Only 13 more years.

Let’s fast forward 20 instead. Imagine the ramifications this will have on robotics technology. Imagine carrying around your cell phone, but instead of having a conversation with a friend, you are having an in-depth conversation with the phone itself.

With the program we are talking about, the machine will arguably be conscious. It will be able to respond to your words as a human would, with context and emotional understanding. If you are sad, it will understand and try to find ways to comfort you. If you get promoted at work, it will find restaurants and ask which friends to invite for the celebration party. All on its own, without being programmed to.

Doesn’t make iRobot seem so far off now huh?

As far as the PR and Advertising industries are concerned, I am worried there will be a battle on our hands when this arrives. Once this amazing technology hits the world, everyone is going to try to be a part of it.

I want to talk about the effect this will have on the industry more, but I will have to do it at a later time when I have more research to support my theories.

For now, if you have any thoughts on this please comment below with them. I love having discussions on topics like this and I love getting other people’s perspectives.

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♪It’s Fun To Stay At The♪ AAYC

Recently I have been talking about NonProfits and how they should orchestrate their Social Media. I am so invested in this subject because, for one of my classes, my team and I have to create a Social Media campaign for a local NonProfit.

Our beneficiary is the Amarillo Activity Youth Center. Converted from an unused, 1940’s era YMCA, it is now used to help under-privileged children get off of the street and learn great life skills.

Since starting this project I have been able to hangout at the AAYC twice. I wish I could have been there more, but the life of the working intern is a busy one. Even then, just in the two times I have gone to visit I have come to love the mission of the AAYC.

Kids in the city need this type of organization. It is all volunteer based, and the people who take a part in it are actively trying to better these kids’ lives.

There are kids who go to the AAYC right now whose parents don’t want them. There are kids who do not know where their next meal is coming. I know this sounds like a bad Public Service Announcement but it is true. These kids are real, and they are in need.

The AAYC gives them food when they need it, and a place to stay during the day when they have nowhere to go after school. They can take fencing, basketball, or writing classes, and take part in fundraisers that help teach them skills for jobs in the work force. The councilors and board members help get kids ready for college who are determined to take part in higher education.

All in all, the AAYC does powerful work in the community. I am privileged to have the chance to hone my skills in Social Media by working with this great organization.

I do not take this assignment lightly, and I hope that none of my classmates do either. This is a chance to learn while we help people across the Amarillo area, all in real time. We get a grade, sure, but we also can see how our work plays out with the organization. We can see what works and what doesn’t, all in an effort to help improve a system that helps children.

You really can’t ask for a better learning environment.

For more info on the AAYC go to http://amarilloyouth.net/

Also if you got the YMCA song theme in my title, Kudos my friend.

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Facebook and Small Businesses

I read a Forbes article about Facebook and its advertising prospects for small businesses.

I would like to expand upon it more. The article, written by Stephanie Chandler, details the EdgeRank system and how it promotes posts from businesses to consumers.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/work-in-progress/2013/04/22/should-you-leave-facebook-edgerank-confusion-promoted-posts-and-why-small-business-owners-are-exceedingly-frustrated/

In truth it doesn’t. Take this quote from the article for instance.

For example, if you have 1,000 Facebook fans on your business page and you post an announcement about an upcoming event you’re hosting, you will be lucky if 5% to 10% of your followers see your post (many Facebook users report that their posts reach an average of just 1% to 5% of their audience).

5 percent, if you are lucky. Those are not good odds. As well the article then later talks about using the promoted posts to make your posts more visible to followers and their friends.

Here is the issue. Chandler talks about the fact that a business will spend a lot of time and effort to accrue followers and promote their business. When they finally have all of these followers, they cannot reach their market to promote themselves. The only way they can get their posts out to followers is to pay Facebook to promote them.

Most small businesses do not have the extra cash to be paying Facebook for promotions. Heck, most of them cannot advertise at all. Also, the article states that Facebook is beginning to wane as a platform. Sure it still has the most users, but that doesn’t mean squat if no one is looking at it.

Here is my take on all of this. Facebook has become a Massive Monster. It went from being a great place to see what your friends are up to, to now being cluttered with a monotonous amount of advertising and random fake-cause pictures (1000 likes to save my kitty blah blah blah).

While I will admit that you must have a Facebook presence, I do not think it should be a small business’s highest priority. Heck I don’t think it should even be in the top 5.

The way to use Facebook in its current form is to create groups and include employees and contacts to release important information quickly. Facebook is a great way to publicize memos, updates, or general announcements for everyone to see regardless of where they are. Emails can get deleted or lost, but a Facebook group stores the information so it can be looked up regardless of how old the info is, and can only be accessed by those invited into the group. Facebook can also be looked at on mobile devices, so the information can be accessed anywhere.

Content should be posted on the public business page, but you should not expect it to get on your follower’s newsfeeds. Content should be posted on the page as a reference for people who are searching for you.

Think of it as another website.

The key for small businesses is to get away from being stuck to Facebook. It takes time, but the more platforms you are on the better your chances to reach consumers. Try Twitter, Pinterest, Vine, or Instagram, these will help get people to your business. They are also all free, and if you know how to work them you can make a great impact on your market.

 

 

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