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Why I Think Some Will Protest Blog & Forum Transparency

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stop-comment-hijacking1.gifI can imagine a million + 1 reasons some will be stubborn about making comment ip addresses public. But a few sinister ones come to mind. I’m not saying this about anyone or any company in particular so lets just make that clear now, this is more about the future credibility of the forum and blog communities that have the capacity to set public opinion in a direction in which they choose, or take advantage of those venues who are not paying attention to the direction at all.

One must look no further than the story of John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods and how he admittedly used sneaky means using blogs to sway opinion about the value of a competitor. The truth about what is said of John Mackey can be said of many who are guilty of it in other ways all around the blog-o-whatever. Reality tells us that unscrupulous people will do unscrupulous things to further their gains, but the question you have to ask is why more isn’t done to at the very least curb the problem. That’s easy. Many of those who will protest such a move may be guilty of silly things like prodding conversations using the same hidden methods- a different email address that isn’t public, a new name you’ve never seen in a blog before and voila you two can sway a conversation- or better yet, goat another blogger into a frenzy to get blog ratings. Everyone loves a great verbal fist fight even though we publicly protest such childish actions.

The act of using blogs as a means of furthering ones own public relations efforts is not uncommon. Over at sandiegohomeblog.com a certain commenter became famous when he was banned for nasty comments only to reappear as someone else using the same slant (he later confessed to his multiple personality disorder when caught). This commenter would inject himself into conversation and blast whatever the Bergs were saying that day. Did this hurt the overall point of the message? Not if you were a Realtor or fan of the Bergs, but if you were a consumer the thread would read as if Kris or Steve’s comments were ill advised, they were ill informed, and thus a challenge to their overall credibility. Add in the possibility of the mystery commenter injecting his opinion in the same post under several names, his attack now appears to a consumer as an consensus, but it was never that- simply, it was a lone gunman and his valued opinion. The Bergs were able to isolate ant out this individual, but in a larger venue such as a forum, how do we know this is not more wide spread? If a consumer had all of the information, then they could gauge for themselves, and remove the idea of consensus, and then a consumer is left free to consume the information in an honest and sincere way.

How big is this problem? One must only look back to the 2001, 02, 04, 06, and now the soon to be 08 elections to see how political blog spin today is now being used in business blogs. In the age of the instant opinion, one must google no further than “real estate blog” to see this same political tactic in action. Does it happen in other professions? Of course, it is a more subtle method but you see spam in blogs daily posing as sincere comments. But under the surface, what you have is a comment with a motive.

Many want to stop it, but I have a feeling there are many motives as to why not to stop it, but there is no damn good reason that we should at least make every effort to at the very least educate the consumer that the may be being spun in much the same way digital media is used to spin the facts.

Does ip exposure stop the madness? No. It has simply become our focus to encourage major forum and blog moderators to take responsibility and begin the conversation of ideas to create ways of insulating from this type of commentary, as well as exposing the abuse of the past. Every moderator sees every ip address, and every consumer hopes the moderator monitors for this activity. But the larger the forum or blog grows the harder it becomes to isolate. That is why it is imperative that the information be given to the consumer so that they can make their own judgement calls as to what is the truth.

It seems many realize the problem but want to just ignore it, we hope you will help us expose this very anti-web2.0 style of marketing and consumer manipulation.

Benn Rosales is the Founder and CEO of The American Genius (AG), national news network for tech and entrepreneurs, proudly celebrating 10 years in publishing, recently ranked as the #5 startup in Austin. Before founding AG, he founded one of the first digital media strategy firms in the nation and also acquired several other firms. His resume prior includes roles at Apple and Kroger Foods, specializing in marketing, communications, and technology integration. He is a recipient of the Statesman Texas Social Media Award and is an Inman Innovator Award winner. He has consulted for numerous startups (both early- and late-stage), has built partnerships and bridges between tech recruiters and the best tech talent in the industry, and is well known for organizing the digital community through popular monthly networking events. Benn does not venture into the spotlight often, rather believes his biggest accomplishments are the talent he recruits, develops, and gives all credit to those he's empowered.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Bob Wuest

    March 29, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    Anonymity is used by many on the web as a means of creating spin – either positive or negative. This article provides an idea for discussion around how to reduce the occurrence of anonymous spin.

    But this is no end-all solution. If I grab a cup of coffee at Starbucks I get a dynamic IP address assigned while I’m there. Then across the street to Panera – another IP address. So abusers (and everyone else!) are not tied to their IP addresses.

    I’d love to find a way to punish those who use the guise of anonymity to promote mis-information on the web. Unfortunately, I think publishing IP addresses is not a good way of accomplishing this.

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Business Marketing

Snapchat’s study reveals our growing reliance on video

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Snapchat released a report that shows some useful insights for future video content creation.

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Snapchat is taking a break from restoring people’s streaks to publish a report on mobile video access; according to Social Media Today, the report holds potentially vital information about how customers use their mobile devices to view content.

And–surprise, surprise–it turns out we’re using our phones to consume a lot more media than we did six years ago.

The obvious takeaways from this study are listed all over the place, and not even necessarily courtesy of Snapchat. People are using their phones substantially more often than they have in the past five years, and with everyone staying home, it’s reasonable to expect more engagement and more overall screen time.

However, there are a couple of insights that stand out from Snapchat’s study.

Firstly, the “Stories” feature that you see just about everywhere now is considered one of the most popular–and, thus, most lucrative–forms of video content. 82 percent of Snapchat users in the study said that they watched at least one Snapchat Story every day, with the majority of stories being under ten minutes.

This is a stark contrast to the 52 percent of those polled who said they watched a TV show each day and the 49 percent who said they consumed some “premium” style of short-form video (e.g., YouTube). You’ll notice that this flies in the face of some schools of thought regarding content creation on larger platforms like YouTube or Instagram.

Equally as important is Snapchat’s “personal” factor, which is the intimate, one-on-one-ish atmosphere cultivated by Snapchat features. Per Snapchat’s report, this is the prime component in helping an engaging video achieve the other two pillars of success: making it relatable and worthy of sharing.

Those three pillars–being personal, relatable, and share-worthy–are the components of any successful “short-form” video, Snapchat says.

Snapchat also reported that of the users polled, the majority claimed Snapchat made them feel more connected to their fellow users than comparable social media sites (e.g., Instagram or Facebook). Perhaps unsurprisingly, the next-closest social media platform vis-a-vis interpersonal connection was TikTok–something for which you can probably see the nexus to Snapchat.

We know phone use is increasing, and we know that distanced forms of social expression were popular even before a pandemic floored the world; however, this report demonstrates a paradigm shift in content creation that you’d have to be nuts not to check out for yourself.

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Business Marketing

Technology is helping small businesses adapt and stay afloat

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Small businesses need to utilize digital platforms to adapt their businesses during COVID-19, or else they may be left behind.

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While many may not have imagined our present day back in March, and to what extreme we would be doing things “remotely” and via “hands-free contact”, we have to give some credit to small business owners who remain flexible and have pivoted to stay afloat. They deserve major credit on adaptations they have made (and possibly investments) in new technology (ordering online, online payments) especially at a time when their in-person revenues have taken a hit.

There are various marketing buzz words being used lately to say “let’s keep our distance”, including: curbside, to-go, hands-free, no contact, delivery only, order via app, social distancing and #wearamask.

The thing is, if you really think about it, small businesses are always in evolution mode – they have to pay attention to consumer consumption and behaviors that can shift quickly in order to stay relevant and utilize their marketing and advertising budgets wisely. They heavily rely on positive customer reviews and word of mouth recommendations because they may not have the budget for large scale efforts.

For example, we use Lyft or Uber vs calling an individual cab owner; we order on Amazon vs shopping at a local mom-and-pop shop; we download and make playlists of music vs going to a record or music store. Small business owners are constantly fighting to keep up with the big guys and have to take into account how their product/service has relevance, and if it’s easy for people to attain. In current times, they’ve had to place major efforts into contactless experiences that often require utilizing a digital platform.

If stores or restaurants didn’t already have an online ordering platform, they had to implement one. Many may have already had a way to order online but once they were forced to close their dining areas, they had to figure out how to collect payments safely upon pickup; this may have required them to implement a new system. Many restaurants also had to restructure pick up and to-go orders, whether it was adding additional signage or reconfiguring their pick up space to make sure people were able to easily practice social distancing.

According to this article from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, “Studies have shown that 73% of small businesses are not aware of digital resources, such as online payment processing tools, online productivity tools, e-commerce websites, online marketing and other tools, that can help them reach customers around the world. If small businesses had better access to global markets, it could increase the GDP of the United States by $81 billion and add 900,000 new jobs. During the pandemic, this could also mean the difference between thriving and closing for good.”

There are some larger corporate technology companies offering ways to support small businesses whether it’s through small business grants from Google, resources and grants from Facebook or Verizon giving them a break on their telecom bill. The challenge with this may be whether or not small business owners are able to find time from their intense focus on surviving to applying for these grants and managing all that admin time. Many business owners may be focusing on what technology they have and can upgrade, or what they need to implement – most likely while seeing a loss in revenue. So, it can be a tough decision to make new technology investments.

It does seem like many have made incredible strides, and quickly (which is impressive), to still offer their products and services to customers – whether it’s a contactless pay method, free delivery, or even reservations to ensure limited capacity and socially distanced visits. There are still some that just haven’t able to do that yet, and may be looking at other ways to take their business to a wider audience online.

We would encourage, if you can, to support small businesses in your community as often as you can. Understandably there are times that it’s easier to order on Amazon, but if there is a way you can pick up something from a local brewery or family-owned business, this may be the lifeline they need to survive and/or to invest in new technology to help them adapt.

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Business Marketing

There’s a shortage of skilled workers, so get learning

(BUSINESS MARKETING) COVID-19 may end up justifying training funds for lower-class workers to learn new skills. Skilled workers are desperately needed right now.

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The COVID-19 pandemic (yes, that one) has ushered in a lot of unexpected changes, one of the which is most surprising: An increased call for skilled workers — a call that, unfortunately, requires a massive retraining of the existing workforce.

According to the New York Times, nearly 50 percent of Americans were working from home by May; this was, reportedly, a 15 percent increase in remote work. The problems with this model are expansive, but one of the greatest issues stems from the lack of training: As employees of lower-class employment transitioned to working online, it became increasingly evident that there was a shortage of skilled workers in this country.

The Times traces this phenomenon back to the Great Recession; Harvard University’s Lawrence Katz points to some parallels and insinuates that this is an opportunity to elevate the lower class rather than regressing, and it seems fair to put the onus of such elevation on lawmakers and senators.

Indeed, Congress has even addressed the issue of skill equality via “bipartisan support” of a $4000 credit for non-skilled workers to use toward skill training. For Congress to come together on something like this is relatively noteworthy, and it’s hard to disagree with the premise that, given the invariable automation wave, many of our “non-skilled” workers will face unemployment without substantial aid.

COVID-19 has accelerated many trends and processes that should have taken years to propagate, and this is clearly one of them.

Supporting laborers in developing skills that help them work within the technology bubble isn’t just a good idea–it’s imperative, both morally and economically speaking. Even middle-class “skilled” workers have had trouble keeping up with the sheer amount of automation and technology-based skillsets required to stay competent; when one considers how lower-class employees will be impacted by this wave, the outcome is too dark to entertain.

It should be noted that non-skilled workers don’t necessarily have to scale up their training in their current fields; the Times references a truck driver who pivoted hard into software development, and while it may be easier for some to focus on their existing areas of expertise, the option to make a career change does exist.

If we take nothing else away from the time we’ve spent in quarantine, we should remember that skilled labor is integral to our success as a society, and we have a moral obligation to help those who missed the opportunity to develop such skills fulfill that need.

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