Friday, February 25, 2011

Social Network for Kids

A Safe Social Network for Kids

Since it seems that nearly everyone is on Facebook, it is natural that kids would want to get on the site that their older siblings, parents and even grandparents consider fun. The content on Facebook, however, is not geared toward children. In fact, Facebook actually has a policy that prevents children under the age of 13 from joining the site. It also strongly recommends parental participation with minors.Since kids always find ways to do what they want, many children are joining the site by lying about their age, which is a growing concern for parents. First Lady Michelle Obama is one of those concerned parents and even said on The Today Show that she didn’t want either of her girls on Facebook.

Social networking site Everloop hopes to provide a solution for both parents and children. It is said to be just like Facebook but with content that is geared toward children between the ages of 8-13. In addition, it contains controls for parents that allow them to monitor what their children are doing on the site.“One of the things that Everloop is solving is really giving children under the age of 13 their own social utility, or what we call, their own social graph,” said Tim Donovan, Everloop’s CSO.
Everloop is in compliance with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which means that a parent must authenticate a child before it is permitted on the site. This compliance also ensures that Everloop cannot gather personal information from kids for marketing purposes. Getting parental consent additionally helps prevent sexual predators from obtaining access to the site.
For children, the experience is very similar to that of a user on Facebook. Children have access to a video network and game arcade, and they can create and join groups based on entertainment, learning, and more. They can also customize their own profiles and can take part in IM chatting, SMS, and VoIP.
“Right now, a child under 13, their community experience is disparate. So, they go to YouTube to watch videos, they’ll go to Nickelodeon to or Disney XD to play casual games, they’ll go to Facebook and they’ll sneak onto Facebook to be part of a larger social experience, so we’re collapsing all of that into one experience on Everloop,” said Donovan.
Parents can also customize what their child does on Everloop and give him or her the power to email, IM, chat, etc. They can also enable reporting settings that notify them when their child takes certain actions on the site.
“How do I keep my child’s privacy and information protected? How do I have more insight into the activities that my child is engaged in when they’re online? How do I have more controls over their behavior and their engagement in the social community? So, Everloop solves all those problems for parents,” Donovan points out.
Not only does Everloop want to give parents control and make the process convenient for them, but it also wants to let children feel like they have control as well. If children didn’t have some level of power, they would not be interested in the site at all. Donovan also said that Everloop has to be as cool as Facebook in order to attract kids.
“The bottom line is this, if it’s not cool, kids won’t use it. So, coolness comes from being relevant, coolness comes from having the bleeding edge of technology, coolness comes from… thousands and thousands of opportunities and experiences,” he said.
Everloop also recently announced that it is partnering with i-Safe, the leading publisher of media literacy and educator of digital citizenship, in an effort to bring social media to the classroom. The two organizations will begin to roll out their platform in April.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Google Vs. Bing: Competition Is Heating Up

Google Vs. Bing: Competition Is Heating Up

You’ve probably heard by now that Google  recently accused Microsoft’s Bing of stealing its search results. Bing (sort of) denied the claim but came back and accused Google of click fraud, the practice often associated with spammers. A back-and-forth stream of strong words and accusations has resulted thus beginning, what appears to be, a long drawn-out saga.

It all began when Danny Sullivan published an article exposing a Google experiment in which it tested Bing. According to Michael Gray of Atlas Web Service, the test, essentially, showed that Bing used the data from Google’s toolbar to duplicate its search results, a move that Google considers “copying.”
Gray went on to explain to WebProNews that the accusation of click fraud is “a little far-reaching.” Although the technology was the same, it didn’t cost Bing any money since there weren’t any PPC campaigns involved. He said that if Google did suspect that Bing was copying them, this method was the only way it would have found out the truth. So, who’s right, and who’s wrong? Gray believes that both companies are in the wrong to an extent. Based on his analysis, Microsoft was wrong to take the data from the toolbar and use it in their ranking algorithm without testing it further.

Google’s wrongdoing, on the other hand, stems from past events. As he explains, Ask introduced universal search long before Google did, and Yahoo introduced Yahoo Instant long before Google released its version of it. In addition, Gray points out that Google seems to make product announcements at other people’s press events and play it off as a coincidence. Although Google, typically, says that it has been working on these products for long periods of time, some people interpret their actions in each of these scenarios differently.The timing of this latest turn of events seemed to be somewhat of a coincidence as well since Sullivan’s article was published just before both companies were set to take the stage at the Farsight Summit.
“Google’s playing hardball and they’re a serious, competitive company; they like to hold onto their market share, and they’re not taking things laying down,” he said.As for the lesson for marketers in all this, Gray said that marketers need to expand their efforts beyond SEO to include other areas, such as social media.He also pointed out that this situation is “good news for Bing” because it means that Google considers them as a viable competitor.
How do you think this saga will play out, and how will it impact the search industry?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Advancing Strategy Social Marketing

Advancing Strategy for Social Marketing

"When it comes to digital marketing I believe marketers need to be more strategists & research minded than idea evaluators and implementers."
After discussing social media this year with senior marketers from several large brands, the implementer reference in the above tweet by Shiv Singh really resonates with me.
More brands are taking (social) community management activities back in house while seeking outside expertise to continue guiding decisions around social strategies and applications.
When it comes to the day-to-day of social marketing, corporate competence is rising -- and the "yeah, I get that, but what's next?" mentality is placing a higher demand on strategy with expectations of research (or at least experience) to back it up.
As I've been preparing to speak about Facebook marketing with custom applications at next week's Online Marketing Summit, I've found a common thread in the key takeaways pertains more to strategy than turn-key tactics. The following is a preview of a couple key topics I'll discuss as part of that presentation.
Game Mechanics for Custom Facebook Applications
For those of you sick of hearing about it, I'll start by saying game mechanics are not a magic silver bullet -- and I took great delight in hearing Gowalla CEO Josh Williams proclaim "we don't need no stinkin' badges" at last month's
However, like Williams, those who have an established understanding of game mechanics are better positioned to get ahead. Why? Because it's a matter of better knowing how human behavior works.
If you're aware of certain ingredients that foster a higher propensity for sharing a social experience on Facebook, then you may realize higher fan growth and engagement as a result of implementation.
I touched on the Sanrio/Hello Kitty gifts application as an example of this when discussing social intelligence for Facebook marketing.
Another recent and impressive implementation of game mechanics (and overall digital strategy) is Vail Resort's EpixMix, which is also promoted on the Facebook page.
Although the application doesn't reside on Facebook, the Connect functionality takes full advantage of Facebook sharing via passive, automated check-ins at six separate ski resorts, all enabled by an RFID chip embedded in your ski pass.
"Passive" means you don't need to pull out a mobile device for checking in. Updates to your Facebook feed are automatically posted based on your location with the pass, and one-time Facebook authorization.
A leading game mechanic in play for EpicMix is the use of more than 200 ski pins (digital "stinkin' badges") you can earn based on locations you ski at each resort, total feet of elevation skied and more. Although Vail Resort's CEO, Rob Katz, wasn't specific about adoption rate when asked last month, he was very clear about the fact that users signing on to share in Facebook exceeded expectations.
Game on.
Strategic Modeling for Social Strategies
While game mechanics address specific strategies from a human behavior perspective, the bigger and equally important picture pertains to how all elements of social marketing work together for the good of a business.
A valuable, but often overlooked practice is to adopt a model that facilitates a framework for strategy. There are a range of options with strategic models, but the one I follow is a layered ("Four Cs") approach: 

Content: This is the foundational element, focusing not only on the type of content (video, infographic, written, etc.) but also how to apply supporting research to guide its development and/or justification.

• Context: Think of this second layer as platforms enabling the display and distribution of your content. Facebook, for example, would be an element of context in this model.

•    Campaigns: This layer puts the context in action, addressing key variables around planning, implementation, supporting applications, visibility efforts, communication, and measurement.

•    Community: As the top layer, the strategic focus centers on loyalty achieved through specific campaigns, advocacy, or customer experiences. Community should be viewed as long-term, with the expectation of learning that can be applied to future iterations of strategy and research.

Practically speaking, we as marketers should be both implementers and "idea evaluators." But as strategists, we're called to a higher accountability -- one that distinguishes originality from repurposing, and activity from productivity.