Social Networking and your child

According to a new study conducted by the University of New Hampshire Whittemore School of Business and Economics, social networks do not have bearing on school grades. This news should offer some reassurance to parents concerned about their childrens’ exposure and use of social networking sites; especially, in terms of the effects social networking sites have on children’s academic performance.  As you might already know, this has been a topic of concern in two of my previous blog posts.

The research found that heavy and light users of social networks in general has the same ratio of “good” and “bad” grades – roughly translates into two-to-one.  The research which surveyed 1,127 UNH students across disciplines indicated that their patterns of graders were noticeably similar regardless of whether students were heavy or light users of social media. What all of this boils down to is, college students – young adult Millenials, who have grown up with the social networks, primarily use it for interacting with each other. Because they are among the early adopters of social networking, they have integrated its use into their academic lives which would explain why its use has very little impact on their academic performance.

The research findings should be positive news for the National School Board Association which has be promoting the concept of online education long before google and wikipedia were household names. According to Ann Flynn, director of education technology for the National School Board Association, incorporating social networking tools into educational curriculum is the way forward. We need to use the Internet to involve students in project based assignments in the real world, taking place around the world. Children today are using social networking sites to talk about education, not only inconsequential topics. Of the students, ages 9 to 17, who participated in an online survey conducted by the National School Board Association, 60 percent reported that some of the most popular social networking topics were college planning, learning outside of school, careers, and schoolwork. They also report posting writing and art projects that may have nothing to do with schoolwork.

Borrowing Johanna Sorrentino’s words, the next time your child says her blog is educational, get curious; sit down and check out the blog with her. You might just learn something new yourself.


Mobile phones…changing the way we sightsee!



If you’re contemplating taking a trip to recover from the holidays my first travel tip is to toss out the Frommer’s – for that matter throw out the guidebooks completely. You don’t need them anymore! An innovative mobile-phone system called Wikitude is about to change the way you and I sightsee – forever.

Here is a break down of how Wikitude works, according, to the Sunday Times. You’re standing in a city, staring at a building. You suspect that it’s important and historic, but, frankly, you’ve no idea what it is. Instead of pulling out a guidebook, you reach for your phone and hold it up as if you were going to take a photo. As you’d expect, the screen shows the building in front of you – but there’s a little logo at the bottom. Tap on it and it’ll tell you what you’re looking at. In this case St. Paul’s Cathedral.

You would be surprised to learn to that another tap will take you through to the Wikipedia entry for the cathedral the entire 3,000 exhaustive entries about it.

Wikitude was created by Austrian designer Philipp Breuss who coins the system “augmented reality”. It took five years to build and is built to run on Google’s new Android operating system for mobiles as well as T-Mobile’s G1.

What are the implications of this new and revolutionary tool? Well, Wikitude has 4,000 entries for locations in London alone. Fodor’s 2008 London Travel Guide had roughly 900 entries. When your mobile has the capability to pick up every point of interest  just by pointing, do you really need a travel guide book?

Another interesting and exciting way that new/emerging media is changing our lives (and the way we sightsee!).

Tracking Santa Online

In 1958 Sears mistakenly printed NORAD’s phone number in its catalog instead of the number of its Santa hotline. Since then,  NORAD has offered Santa-related services by phone. Currently, working together with Google, NORAD continues to offer the same service online during the holidays.  To make this even more interesting, this past Christmas Eve, starting at 2 p.m. ET (GMT -5) the newly enhanced Santa Tracker went live.  If you missed this epic event, rest assured come Christmas Eve 2010 you might even be able to track Santa’s activities through your Facebook account.  

How was this all made possible?  Google used the Google Earth plugin to power  and according to Gooogle  over eight million people used the site to track Santa in 2008.

If you are one of the 63 million mobile Webusers in the U.S. Google also offered a mobile site to track Santa’s journey over the holiday season. In terms of other new/emerging media that were utilised to support Google Earth Tracking of Santa, NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) also offered a Twitter account this year where “you can keep up with news about Santa’s flight.”   This YouTube video,  from U.S. Air Force General Gene Renuart, Commander of NORAD, explains how NORAD tracked Santa on Christmas Eve.

No matter what your new/emerging media of choice were this holiday season, it became clear that for most of us Santa is real.  If you missed Santa’s travels around the globe on the NORAD Tracks Santa Web site, there was always the choice to join Santa’s over 1 million followers on Facebook. Arguably, new/emerging media has not only changed the ways in which we communicate with each other, but it has evidently created a new holiday tradition for many of us – tracking Santa online.

Conversational advertising, interacting with brands virtually

Conversational Advertising is the topic of this blog post. It is one way a brand can quickly create buzz for a new product. Conversational Advertising uses technology to embed customized creative into online language learning programs . Although it is a relatively new concept, its value as an advertising platform which merges the web and social networking is another example of how new/emerging media is changing our lives.

Recently introduced when Mercedes-Benz launched its “Smart Cities” advertising campaign in June 2009 to introduce the brand’s smart fortwo line in China, Conversational Advertising currently uses Speak2Me’s unique interactive platform – free online spoken English language lessons, to reach targeted audience. In this case young upwardly mobile Chinese with a strong desire to speak English.  How it works? Speak2Me uses speech recognition technology combined with a virtual teacher to helps users practice spoken English. It uses more than 350 targeted lessons that engage users in a unique social-networking infrastructure that allows them to form study groups and offers contests, prizes and other incentives – much like a conventional classroom.

In countries like China, students learn how to read and write in English, but there’s a shortage of people who speak English, making it hard for students to master spoken English.  In Speak2Me online learning community,

users speak to their virtual guides in free-flowing dialogue, helping them to learn about “Smart Cities” attractions, pick up some of the local culture and improve their conversational English.   Mercedes-Benz China created a microsite where consumers could tour Europe in a smart fortwo car while conversing with an avatar tour guide.

Over the course of three months, since the campaign launched, 60,000 young, Chinese professionals took Conversational Advertising lessons, with each user completing four lessons on average, totaling 1.3 million minutes of interaction with the smart fortwo brand. They also shareed lessons via social networks to garner additional brand buzz for the smart fortwo model.

Read Write Web recently printed an article outlining the 10 ways social media will change in 2010, I would include more interaction with brands virtually.

Social Networking and your privacy

 How much privacy are you willing to give up, even for more relevant advertising?  Relevant advertising meaning  “advertisements more relevant to interest”.  Burst Media survey results shows that only one in five respondents would not mind if non-personally identifiable information was collected if ads were better targeted. However, the vast majority–80.1%–of Web surfers are concerned about the privacy of their personal information such as age, gender, income and Web-surfing habits, according to the survey of some 4,000 Web users.

Even though we recognise and have come to embrace the convenience component of new/emerging media, many users are in fact still very protective of their privacy when it comes to sharing information about themselves, especially on social networking sites. Facebook recently introduced changes via a pop-up that asked users to update their privacy settings. Facebook said the changes help members manage updates they wanted to share, not trick them into revealing too much. But adocates for greater consumer privacy, such as the EPIC strongly disapproves Facebook’s new privacy changes. What is tranparent about Facebook’s new privacy policy is that it would like you to share a lot more information publicly than you are right now, with the whole wide open internet.

The EPIC has filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, urging the FTC to open an investigation into Facebook’s revised privacy setting. The EPIC complaint, signed by nine other privacy and consumer organizations, states that the  “changes violate user expectations, diminish user privacy, and contradict Facebook’s own representations.” EPIC cites widespread opposition from Facebook users, security experts, bloggers, and news organizations.

The idea that personal photos and comments can now be seen by Everyone of Facebook’s 350 million users is a little daunting, especially since privacy is a prevailing concerning for most web users.  The fact that Facebook’s new privacy policy now give the company the ability to store user-posted photos and other content, even after it was deleted by users themselves, should be of concenr. Ultimately with this new privacy setting, Facebook now claims ownership over users’ content.

Naturally, there are speculations as to the real reasons behind Facebook’s privacy changes, the two most popular being to  increase publicly visible real estate (your conversations with friends) so that it can bring in search traffic and sell ads and to position Facebook to challenge Twitter head-on.

Which brings me back to the questiones posed at the start of this blog: How much privacy and ownership of content are you willing to give up, even for more relevant advertising?

High tech future…TV on the go!

According to a research from IPG’s Universal McCann and AOL  95 percent of all mobile users said they used mobile media to fill downtime; 82 percent said they used it at work; 81 percent while shopping; 80 percent at home; and 65 percent while commuting to their jobs. It’s finally happened! Our smartphones and notebooks have become personal living tools that we evidently cannot do without.  According to a survey by more than half of us are eager for mobile TV. Remember Virgin’s Mobile TV service which was heavily promoted by Pamela Anderson? Although it attracted close to 10,000 subscribers it failed. Maybe because in the minds of consumers, as a brand extension, it seemed inconsistent to the Virgin brand. Today, consumer perception have undoubtably changed regarding mobile TV. Nearly half of U.S. consumers are ready to watch live broadcast TV via a mobile service, according to a survey of 1,000 consumers by Magid Media Labs on behalf of Open Mobile Video Coalition.

Of course, after reading the article and closely examining the numbers, the thought which immediately came to mind was – this cannot be true!  The article  is simply a PR  stunt to generate publicity for OMVC, because any savvy marketer would know that buyer intent does not always translate into buyer behavior. So, with this in mind I sat out to conduct my own “mini” research. Here is what I discovered. 

The proliferation of smartphones, specifically, the iPhone with its more sophisticated screen, has indeed caused a mobile TV resurgence. While it is true that more of us are spending less and less of time watching live TV, there is an increase in the number of programmes that are being transferred onto smartphones to be viewed while users are on the move. Tech gadgets such as, Slingbox’s technology – which delivers subcribers home television services to smartphones, is making this transfer possible. Recently, UK cable station Sky Sports News launched a mobile TV services targeting iPhone users.  Although the service is only available on wi-fi,  it has attracted nearly 250,000 subscribers and reported two million downloads of its free Sky applications.

For those of us looking for a compelling user experience delivered over 3g, look no farther than TVCatchup, that actually offers main tv channels live to a computer or iPhone.

Similar to the laptop which has become a personal must-have living tool, mobile media devices are starting to tailgate that trend, not to mention, rapidly changing the way we communicate and consume media. And with that, our appetite for live television on the go is steadily increasing, particularly among young adult Millennials (ages 18-29), who incidentally will be among the early Mobile DTV adopters.

Does Social Media Really Help or Hurt?

Jason Baer’s article created somewhat of a stir. In it he suggests that companies that show preferential treatment to their online followers via social media channels such as, Twitter, Facebook or blogging, risk creating a social media divide among customers. Baer speaks directly to what is a growing trend among marketers and advertisers to immediately utilize a social media communication strategy to address product and service inadequateness.

The bottomline is customer experience in other channels ideally should look and feel the same as the customer experience on Twitter or Facebook; otherwise preferential treatment is taking place, which could ultimately change behavior. My previous blog post referring to the technology that help us to shop eluded to this phenomenon where social networks create large loyalty groups wearing what Moira Benigson refers to in the UK Times as virtual badges. Companies are leveraging these consumer networks to pass along brand information hoping that it will improve brand credibility, as such they become generous to a fault when it comes rewarding those customers.

Take the “preview dates” of hot products for example to the online shopping experience. Or even the VP of communications at Dell Tweeting religiously to the brand’s Twitter followers providing frequent updates, information on new product releases and offering exclusive savings, only to followers. While social media may bring to an organization a different form of customer interaction opportunity, companies should keep in that an integrated approach might serve them well long term. Because while a brand is busy rewarding a disproportionate amount of customers for using the latest technology, simultaneously they might also be neglecting those customers who would like to engage with a brand by telephone and/or email.

The ideal is to treat all customers equally and to ensure that customers have a consistent experience with the brand, regardless of what they are looking for and what the brand would like to communicate.