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11:28 AM

Are You Concerned Over Internet Privacy?

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Are You Concerned Over Internet Privacy?

There was an interesting story in the morning papers today coming out of Carbon Hill. Ala.

If regulators approve, residents in Carbon Hill have will no longer be able to sign up for landline-based telephone service. AT&T customers would have to switch to wireless or high-speed Internet phone service.

We are becoming, more and more, an Internet-based society. This may be one of the biggest societal changes since the mass migrations from farm to city a hundred years ago.

But how comfortable are we with that change?

A new survey says, not very.

The TRUSTe 2014 Consumer Confidence Privacy Report is based on an independent online survey of 2,000 American adults. Pollster Harris Interactive conducted it at the end of 2013 on behalf of TRUSTe.

Bottom line: the report concludes that, even though we use the Internet for everything from work to play, we remain nervous about who’s watching us when were online. 

And we’re getting more nervous

An astounding 92% of respondents said they worry about their online privacy. That’s up 3% from last year.

Asked why they’re worried, 58% said they worry about businesses sharing their personal information.

And nearly 50% said they were concerned about having their online behavior tracked so companies could target them with ads and customer-relationship content.

Who's watching us now?

Despite the concerns, there does not seem to be any increased concern about the government peeking at the history files on our browsers. Fewer than 40% of respondents said that the constant media drumbeat over government surveillance programs was a concern.

That’s far less than you’d expect, given the wall-to-wall coverage of the NSA, FISA courts and other programs.

What we don’t know is any long-term harm to online customer relationships as consumer trust in business privacy practices continues to drop.

The good news is there's no more bad news

The good news is that three-quarters of us are now more likely to look for privacy certification on a website, making it more likely we’ll transact business on sites that that meet objective standards for security.

And 70% of those surveyed said that they now feel more confident to manage their online privacy issues. But this is a mixed blessing.

They’re more confident in controlling their privacy because they’re taking steps that reduce their online footprint with businesses. They are now

-83% less likely to click through on online ads

-80% more likely to avoid mobile apps that they think might endanger their privacy

-74% less likely to use location-tracking on their smartphones

The price of progress

In the 1955 play “Inherit the Wind” by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, the protagonist, a defense attorney in a 1920s creationism trial, turns to the jury in his summation and notes that "progress has never been a bargain." You have to pay for it. You can have the telephone but "you lose privacy and the charm of distance." Air travel may break the bonds of gravity, but "the birds will lose their wonder and the clouds will smell of gasoline."

The Internet marketplace seems to be like that. It’s Harrods’s, the Encyclopedia Britannica, and the neighborhood multiplex all rolled into one. But for that convenience there’s a price. The price is never being quite certain whether somebody’s lurking around the Internet corner waiting to steal your data.

And it looks like American consumers are still trying to come to grips with that.

9:07 AM
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Contrarian Ideas about Content

I’m in the process of starting work with a new client, a tech company run by some of the brightest people I know. Job 1: re-work the website.

We’ve made a few recommendations to them. The problem is that in American business we just don’t know when to stop. More is always better. If you are an automaker and have a top selling electric sedan it won’t be long before you extend that brand to an electric coupe, an electric sports car and may be an electric SUV.

It’s the same with producing Internet content. Ideas that are basically sound get taken to the max. So you end up with websites that are all video,  or sites that have more animation than a Disney studio.

You end up with blogs that look like your high school intern wrote them. Oh, wait. Your high school intern did write them.

So here are a few thoughts on Internet content creation.

Video is good. It’s the thing. But it’s not the only thing. ADHD is a disorder. Fortunately, it’s not yet become part of the human genome. There are some people who actually still don’t mind reading.

A healthy mix of media and copy is good. You’re reading a blog on a page that has one video, although it’s been built to display more. Right now this seems to be the right combination of words and pictures. We know we can always change it.

Second, not every web video has to go viral. The fact is that in most cases there will be a limited number of people who are interested in what your business posts.

The American Double Eagle $20 gold piece is one of the rarest coins in the world. But outside of American historians or members of the Numismatic Society, I’m not sure who gives a rip. So a smartphone video of your four-year old pulling a Double Eagle out of a trunk in Great Aunt Tilly’s attic isn’t going to pull big numbers for you.

Rather than finding that one puppy out there that can open a box of cookies for your toddler with his paws, look for something relevant for the several hundred fans your product, company or website attracts.

Finally, it’s not necessarily about building numbers, unique visitors or page views. Unless he puts a million-dollar order on his gold card on the site, a unique visitor isn’t really much good to you.

What’s better: one unique visitor you never see again, or a million visitors that come back and buy from you each time, or at least visit your site frequently and learn about your products, services, and expertise?

What more important than unique visitors are sticky visitors. You want visitors to your site to come back often.

I help manage an annual conference. This will be our 17thyear. It’s a pretty arcane affair, aimed at the people who build and manage theelectronic payment systems that distribute various government benefits, like food stamps, now called SNAP, or unemployment insurance.

For 16 years we’ve attracted between 200 and 350 attendees. We always get pressure to jazz up the event to attract more people. But the reality is that if you were to go state-by-state and count, there are probably no more than 350-400 people involved in electronic benefits. Nationwide. And we’ve got most of them. And they come every year.

To us it’s more important that our attendees be sticky rather than unique. A unique visitor to us is worth about $600. Some of our people have been coming since the first show.  Accounting for the difference in registration fees over the years, that’s a $7,000 customer for us.

And we didn’t have to post one puppy video.

7:33 AM


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A recent post on called sellers and other people who pitch ideas (marketers, media professionals) to task for the use of the word actually. The author, Eric V.Holtzclaw, states “’actually’ is a dead giveaway of an area that at the least needs to be further investigated, and may point at a deception.”

I’m not sure I’d go that far. To say that actually may point to deception is to ascribe motivation, and by implication, intent.

But I will say that actuallyfalls into a category that I call “pacemakers.” These are words that we use to pace our speech so that we can make our “close” at the point that feels most natural.

True, the word actuallyshould be used to refer to something that is a fact. Used properly its purpose is to change a perception from one that is incorrect to one that is based in fact.

For example, “I did go shopping yesterday, but actually I didn’t shop downtown. I shopped at the mall.”

However, we use it more as filler—to give our speech a cadence that we feel is more natural and comfortable.

Teenagers do this all the time when they pepper their speech with words such as “like” or “anything,” or “you know.” As in “I did go shopping, like yesterday. But I went, you know, to the mall, not, like downtown, or anything.”

Unless we're going for the Valley Girl effect, we use pacemakers as we search for our normal speaking pattern and rhythm. The question is why we do that. The answer is because we either lack confidence in ourselves as speakers or in our message or pitch to a particular audience.

The way to overcome the need for pacemakers is to be thoroughly familiar with your material, whether it’s a sales pitch, a media pitch, or an answer to your parents’ question of where you took the car yesterday.

(For information on how to prepare a pitch scroll down to our January 20 post, “Magic Time.”)

 Perfecting your pitch or any public presentation requires thorough familiarity with you material and with your audience. But it’s that familiarity that breeds confidence. And it’s that confidence that eliminates the need for pacemakers.

Give it a try.

8:18 AM

Planning Your Company's Social Media Program

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Never Too Late: Planning Your Company's Social Media Program

You’re on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. But your company’s on a four-color, eight-page brochure that hasn’t changed in five years.

Facebook just bought social media site WhatsApp for $19 billion. With that kind of valuation, the five-year old social media site is worth more than mega-agribusiness ConAgra.

Still, your CEO, Dr. Flintstone, doesn’t think this social media thing will catch on, and won’t OK a social media program for the company.

If that’s you, here are some tips to convince him that it’s worth meeting a billion potential customers in the market where they hang out these days—the social market.

Dr. Flintstone, I presume?

The first step in de-Flintstoning your company is understanding that you’re not alone.  Nearly three-quarters of senior-level executives are worried about the risks that come with social media.

And the two things they fear most are negative comments and leaking proprietary information.

So here’s what you tell the good Doctor: First, someone will always have something negative to say about your company or its products—whether you’re on social media or not.

If people are going to bad mouth you they don’t need Twitter to do it. What social media lets you do is monitor that dialogue to a great extent. Knowing what people are saying about you makes it easier to react than having them talk behind your back.

Similarly, loose lips have been sinking ships forever. With social media if an employee lets the date of a new product launch slip, you at least have an audit trail to follow.

Have a Plan 

C-level executives are all about planning and execution. So the first rule of social media is to develop a formal social media plan. Be prepared to defend it. Make sure you set quantifiable goals, know how you’re going to develop and deliver content, and propose a frequency of messaging.

One of the biggest challenges we have helping clients develop a social media or marketing plan is fulfillment. We’ll lay out a plan for generating content and set a schedule. But clients don’t often follow it.

To be effective you have to deliver frequent content. So set that schedule and live by it.

Sharing is Caring

Developing quality content will be your main challenge. As a broadcaster the first lesson I learned was to always make your copy interesting and informative. So the next rule is to blog, tweet or post about things you have experience in. And do it in an interesting way. See our January 28 post on actionable writing.

Also, remember, it’s not about you. It’s about your followers. So here’s the next rule: Develop content that your followers want, not what you want to give them. 

Pretend it’s a covered-dish dinner. Always bring something that people will find interesting and they’ll want the recipe.

What Channels Do I Use?

The social channels you use will depend on your overall plan objectives. For example, Facebook has about a half-billion users. But it’s generally more appropriate for consumer products.

Facebook allows consumers to express their brand loyalty in words and images. So it may not be the right channel for your company’s business-to-government sales channel.

Blogs like The Lobster Shift are great because of the flexibility bloggers enjoy. But the average blog attracts about 15 avid readers. Fortunately, The Lobster reaches considerably more readers than that.

Be sure you cross-promote your messages across multiple channels using links. There are good tools like Tweetdeck for managing the multiple channels. 

Managing Content

When it comes to social, content is king. Your plan needs to address a number of content-related issues. For example:

·      Who should control the content?
·      How will you develop content?
·      Will employees be allowed/required to develop content?
·      Who will be responsible for monitoring content?

If you are a small company social media has a big advantage: It helps level the playing field between you and your larger competitors.  In social media all tweets, posts or blogs depend on the content, rather than the size of the company. To develop good content you need to first address the issues of control, development and monitoring.

How’d I Do, Boss?

But Dr. Flintstone still thinks social media is a soft, ooey-gooey waste of time. He’s big on objective, quantifiable data to see whether you’ve met your plan. So here’s the last rule: Give it to him.

Most social channels allow you to generate a raft of data that can help you evaluate how your social media campaign is going. Most platforms already have these tools built in.

Tools like Google Analytics and SiteMeter make the job relatively painless and fast.  We check our stats weekly for all of our platforms and those we’ve developed for clients.

Finally, while you’re checking your site traffic, also track you Search Engine Optimization results. Your goal should be to be picked up in as many searches as possible, at the same time converting these searchers into followers and ultimately customers as your relationship builds.

Remember, the key to a good social program is planning. Plan well, monitor and evaluate, and you may even see @DrYabbadabbado among the 200 million tweeters on the planet.

Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves…