COM0011 Blog post #6 Facebook and me

Facebook marked its 10th anniversary on February 4. It is a significant milestone for this social giant. However, while Facebook was celebrating its success and its stock price had more than doubled from 12 months ago, it was met with some criticism and a forecast of a bleak future.

Is this age of ten years like that in human life, which means there will be many years of growth? Facebook is constantly evolving (http://www.pcmag.com/slideshow/story/320360/10-years-later-facebook-s-design-evolution/1) and offering new or enhanced features and apps to please its users. The most recent one is the Paper released on Feb. 3 (http://newsroom.fb.com/News/793/Introducing-Paper-Stories-from-Facebook). With its $150 billion assets, it can afford to buy some of its competitors, such as Instagram, to adapt to the world’s mobile trend on visual contents.

Some analysts predict that because the younger age groups are leaving Facebook or have never tried Facebook (they prefer other social network sites such as WhatsApp and Snapchat), it will disappear in the future. On the other hand statistics in 2013 indicated that since 2012, while the percentage increase of users in North America and Europe was not significant compared to the growth (double in percentage) in Asia and the rest of the world. (http://www.businessinsider.com/facebook-us-user-base-2013-12#ixzz2sUK1kFGD), it has a lot of potentials of growth. So, with its current user base of 1.23 billion worldwide and its rising popularity in the East, it will not be easily replaced in the near future. As long as it continues offering more of what the users want, particularly those that attract the young people, and mobile apps, it will enjoy a long life.

Facebook is the first social network that I use. I have established a circle of friends and relatives to connect with and there are some favourite pages I follow. I enjoy the news we share there—I knew my niece had her first baby and saw his very cute photos, I saw the beautiful aurora photos taken by another niece during her trip in the Scandinavia, my son posted photos of his half marathon in LA, I shared my son’s wedding photos with my friends…. Although I will explore other social network sites, I think I will stay with Facebook as long as my circle continues sharing their news and photos there. Well, after all, I belong to the age groups that make up most of the Facebook users!

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COM0011 Blog Post #5 Doping in Social Media

The Winter Olympic 2014 is fast approaching. One of the important tasks for the International Olympic Committee is the fight against doping to prevent any athletes from taking unfair advantage with drugs over other athletes and to protect the athletes’ health. Doping is not only a problem in sports world. It exists in social media too, in a digital way.

The recent news about companies and individuals (even politicians) buying “likes”, “followers” and votes, etc. to boost their popularity drew my attention. It opened up my skeptical eyes to see the digital world. As I read more articles about buying votes in social media, I found that this problem of “click farm” started a couple of years ago. A click farm sells clicks for fans, likes, followers, views and more in Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, SoundCloud, YouTube, Vimeo, etc. People buy clicks to boost their social media numbers, which can lead to profits and popularity. The click prices vary for different social platforms and have come down a lot because the click farms operate in low-wage countries such as Bangladash or tanker ships stationed off shore, and the cost of internet connectivity is low.

Although companies like Microsoft, Symantec, Google and Facebook have tried to deal with this problem by tracking down the fake profiles and close them down, the click farms such as Click Monkeys , Fiverr , WeSellLikes and Unique IT World are still going on with their business. They offer cheap, legitimate service to the click buyers, but everyone knows it is unethical. The artificially created popularity is supposed to help sales, boost campaign performance or raise site rankings, but it is not the real thing. Just like the athletes who win with the aid of banned drugs are not genuine winners and they are also harming their bodies, the click buyers are not really that popular in those social networks, and it is equivalent to false advertising. How will their customers or supporters react when they find out the truth?

It also leads to my skepticism on the votes for the participants in TV reality shows. Some performers don’t deserve to go on for weeks in the show, but with the support of their fans, they stay on. Now I wonder whether those are all their real fans?

Two weeks ago I finished lesson 4 “Measuring and Monitoring” of this course . Will click farms put us a step backward in evaluating the online influence of companies and individuals? They beat the purpose of online presence to listen to and interact with the target audience–those click farms can be paid to write favourable replies and comments on the click buyers social networks!

Reference reading:
http://www.ctvnews.ca/sci-tech/inside-click-farms-selling-likes-on-social-media-spells-big-business-1.1618538
http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/aug/02/click-farms-appearance-online-popularity
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/01/06/click-farms-are-the-new-sweatshops/
http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-01-06/its-click-farm-world-1-million-followers-cost-600-and-state-department-buys-2-millio

COM0011 Blog post #4 — Postage rate increase will have a positive impact on non-profit organizations

In December 2013, Canada Post announced the price increase of stamps and some mailing services in 2014. Many non-profit and charitable organizations worry that the price increase will cost them more in fundraising and bring lower donation revenue.
These organizations are heavy users of the postal service for soliciting donations and sending income tax receipts to the donors. In Statistics Canada’s study in 2010, charitable organizations brought in 14% of their donations through letter-mail effort. In some organizations the percentage is much higher.

A 2012 Ipsos Reid survey of Canadians about charities in the previous 12 months found that letter mail is the preferred approach for being asked for donations (45 per cent), while receiving an email is the preferred method for about one in six (17 per cent). (http://afp.peachnewmedia.com/store/streaming/seminar-launch.php?key=BtIg%2BsXP%2FZ3opZTkR8OYG8YRPUTZLR30ssV7Vi9ETII%3D)
Many non-profit and charitable organizations have turned to social media to supplement their fundraising effort, such as Facebook and Twitters. As the postal cost of fundraising increases, I believe many other organizations will adopt this measure. Another point to note is that the use of social media should be expanded in order to increase charitable donations and recruit volunteers.

The Isos Reid survey also indicated that more older people than younger ones have been contacted before making donations (age 55+:87%, 35-54: 68%, 18-34: 53%); and more in the older group than the younger ones have donated (age 55+: 87%, 35-54: 68%, 18-34: 53%). This brings to our attention that the non-profit and charitable organizations should tap into the large pool of young, potential donors and volunteers. Even though they are not usually the key target donors, the earlier they are drawn into the interest of those organizations and become engaged, the more likely they will be involved in the charitable cause and donate their money or time in the future. As the younger population uses more social media than the older people do, those organizations should put more effort in fundraising and recruiting via various social channels, not just the well-established, older ones like Facebook and Twitter, but also those that have become popular among the younger network users. As Brock Smith wrote in “it’s time to Tumble into the newest social media phenomenon”, (https://charityvillage.com/Content.aspx?topic=It_s_time_to_Tumble_into_the_newest_social_media_phenomenon&last=531), the organizations can leverage Tumblir and other newer social platforms to draw the users to their main web sites with a link.

Social media can also motivate an engaged community to self-organize projects for charitable organizations because it is low-cost, interactive and fast. For example, Twestival (http://www.twestival.com/our_story) can help in raising fund for the charities they support.

With more resources spent on social media, non-profit and charitable organizations can reach out to more people in an interactive, faster way with a higher return on investment. So to look at the impact of the postage increase from another angle, isn’t it a positive one?

COM0011 Introduction to Social Media Blog Post #3 The Good and the Bad of Social Media

A few days ago, Ottawa Police warned the public not to tweet the locations of their roadside check of the RIDE (Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere) program because doing so would undermine the police’s effort to get impaired drivers off the road, and the consequence could be deadly.

This made me think of the good and the bad things people do on social media.  The kind of tweet above is an example of its improper use, so are cyber bullying, online pornography and spreading damaging allegation online.

Social media is a very powerful tool and ideally should be used to benefit the society. I appreciate the companies which promote their business via various social media tools by giving valuable and relevant information to their customers, listening and responding to them, offering goodies and reward for loyalty and giving back to the community. There are also individuals who educate and offer help via social media. Some examples are Lean Cuisine and Dr. Mehmet Oz using Facebook, Twitters and blogs to help people eat and live healthy, Col. Chris Hadfield (the first Canadian astronaut who led a 5-month mission on the International Space Station), who charmed millions of people via Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr blogs and Reddit’s AMA (Ask Me Anything) by sharing his experience in space, educating and entertaining his audience.

One of my favourite web sites is Wikipedia.  Through the cooperative effort of volunteers worldwide, it provides up-to-date references to millions of topics.

These are some of the goodness brought to us by social media.

COM0011 Blog Post #2 - Hold tight to your smartphones

There was a recent news report in Ottawa about an increase of smartphone robberies—at bus stops, secluded pathways and other public places. Similar stories on smartphone thefts and robberies have been reported in many other big cities.

People nowadays are so dependent on their mobile devices for social networking or following the news that they won’t waste any minute while in transit, waiting for someone or a bus, or even while walking. In doing so, they often are not aware of their surroundings and provide an opportunity to robbers lurking  around them and targeting their valuable assets. 

There is a video of a robber on a bicycle who snatched a smartphone from its owner at a bus stop: http://www.cbc.ca/player/Embedded-Only/Must%20watch/Old/ID/2402081648/

Even though the recently launched “blacklist” of lost and stolen cell phones, tablets and other wireless devices can help reduce the mobiles’ robberies and thefts by making them less valuable to the criminals, it will still be an inconvenience and/or a financial loss to the owners.

When I see people use their smartphones (or other mobile devices) in a public place even while walking or driving, I worry for them that they may be so oblivious to their surroundings that they may cause an accident, have their expensive tools robbed or put themselves into an embarrassing situation.  I have read a story about a man who texted on his smartphone while walking on a street.  He could manage to do it without looking up by just making sure he followed the feet of the person walking in front of him.  Once he did this as usual, until that person in front of him suddenly stopped and turned toward him.  He looked up and found that he had followed a woman into a women’s washroom!

Some smartphone users feel obliged to be constantly checking for messages and news because their bosses have put such pressure on them.  However, some companies like Volkswagen, BMW, Goldman Sachs, WholsCarrus, Matter Communications and Batchbook now realize that giving their employees a break from instant communication is better for their businesses, because employees less stressed are better for their companies. I hope that those employees can really take advantage of the break to spend time on offline activities that benefit them in relationships and health. I also wonder whether any Canadian companies are taking similar measures of mandatory digital breaks.

Reference reading

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/smartphone-robberies-on-the-rise-in-ottawa-1.2459500

http://globalnews.ca/news/874351/cellphone-blacklist-takes-effect-in-canada/

http://www.ragan.com/Main/Articles/Employers_fight_back_against_employee_burnout_47667.aspx

A Quiet World with a Lot of Buzzing

Post #1, Course COM0011 Introduction to Social Media

It is a common scene—a group of friends sitting around a table, all heads bent down, their eyes fixed on the mobile devices in their hands, their fingers busy tapping and scrolling the screen.  It is a quiet world, with a lot of buzzing behind it.

As a new citizen to this world of social media, I can’t imagine myself totally immersed in the rapidly evolving technologies, either incapable of, or unwilling to. I have seen some meaningless, time-wasting back-and-forth online chit-chat on Facebook.  Sometimes I wonder why some narcissists like to expose so much of their lives to the whole world while we value so much our privacy. Some people post video on YouTube that don’t benefit any friendly networking but pose harm to the society, such as an instruction on how to make a bomb.

I don’t want to be like that social media person described in pastoryoder’s blog post “Social Media is Killing Your Social Life”. Some people’s world is the social media, almost nothing else. Even their family has to communicate with them only through social networks if they want to be heard.  I have heard that some are so addicted that they have virtual spouses instead of meeting real people for real relationship.

I am not anti-social media. It is here to stay in our personal and professional lives, even though some social problems are blamed on the misuse or overuse of social networking. I just hope that people use it wisely.

New technologies are supposed to help to ease and speed up our tasks, but they develop and evolve so fast that people are always trying to catch up. However, the constant flow of information is very valuable in making personal and professional decisions.  As described in a typical day of a busy marketer at a shoe company in the book Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff of Forrester Research, a person’s work day is “immersed in the groundswell”. (According to this book, groundswell is defined as a social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations.) Besides having to be speed readers, we also need to use appropriate online tools such as Feedburner and Technorati to help us manage information coming our way every minute .  (Ironically, we are also catching up on learning emerging new information management tools.)

Even if you are an expert on using these tools, you could still become one of the statistics of “people whose social lives are totally consumed by social media” if you don’t put aside some time for your personal life away from your computer or mobile device.  You need face-to-face connections with people you know outside your profession.  Do some exercises to improve your physical well-being (at least your eyes, your neck and shoulders need some rest) and to relieve your mental stress.

A group of friends did it by going out for a dinner and stacking their smart phones in the middle of the table; and whoever picked up his phone first before the bills were paid would have to pay for the whole table.  Well, depending on how attached they were to online networking, some must have enjoyed the disruption-free social function, while others might have agonized during the dinner for not being able to “stay connected”!