Save the Gray Wolves!

graywolfmotherandcub-faIt’s the worst news for wolves in 100 years.*

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is stripping Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for gray wolves in the Lower 48 right now.

Wolves are one of the only species in U.S. history to be deliberately driven to the brink of extinction. Hunters waged a war on wolves at the turn of the century, killing cubs, mothers, whole packs indiscriminately out of fear.

The ESA was wolves’ salvation — and it’s still the only thing between them and the demise of the small, fragile population of gray wolves in the U.S. today. Delisting wolves now would turn back the clock on years of hard-won recovery work, and it could finish off this legendary species for good.

*Reprinted from The Sierra Club

Viral Marketing Initiatives

Viral-Marketing-pic-of-peopleViral marketing has a snowball effect. It gets bigger and bigger and moves faster and faster as it goes along. So why is it that some messages go viral, while others don’t? Are there specific reasons that some marketing efforts get shared by so many, while others languish on the social media floor? Fortunately for us, there are specific factors that popular viral marketing ventures have in common, including humor, intrigue, interaction, cleverness, and controversy. The following are some examples of these different aspects that have been used successfully.

HUMOR. A pretty universal strategy for getting people’s attention is to use humor. Of course, there are myriad types of humor so it is very important to know your target audience and what kinds of humor they find entertaining. For example, there seems to be a rash of nonsensical and slapstick kind of humor in the media lately. This type of humor seems to appeal to the ever-popular, media loving 18- to 25-year-old demographic. That’s why Jack Links Beef Jerky’s “Messin’ With Sasquatch” commercials were such a hit. I asked my 21-year-old son (a member of their target market) if he liked these commercials and he said he did so I asked him why. He said he liked that the guys pulled a prank on Bigfoot and then one of them gets attacked because of it. The advertiser knows its target market well and realized they would get this type of humor. They also created a game to play on their website called, “Swing! Throw! Smash!” The advertisers knew this type of game would appeal to their target demographic.

INTRIGUE. People are inordinately fascinated with puzzles and intrigue. They want to be “in the know” and try to quash unfounded rumors. The hype surrounding the horror movie, Cloverfield, exemplifies this. The marketing people created suspense through creating fake websites, teaser trailers, and revealed secrets about and within the film. They also featured cryptic information such as “1/18/08” with no other information given. This and the other marketing schemes created the intended effect, intrigue. All the hype built anticipation for the release of the movie, leading to a very successful worldwide box office gross of nearly $171 million and an additional $30 million in DVD sales (the-numbers.com).

INTERACTION. People love to interact and fortunately engagement is incredibly important in social media marketing. Engage and interact with your audience and they’ll keep coming back. A great example of successful interaction was the Burger King Subservient Chicken. People could type in commands and the chicken would follow them such as doing jumping jacks, doing push-ups, and even watching TV. According to AdWeek (2008), “Within a week it had 20 million hits” (Anderson, para. 2). Followers were intrigued by its creativity and technological innovation and loved trying to stump the chicken to see if it would do everything they commanded it to do.

CLEVERNESS. People find clever, fascinating marketing interesting. One especially successful example of clever marketing was OK Go’s “This too Shall Pass” music video. With incredible ingenuity, the music group OK Go made a video using a domino effect with random objects. Viewers found it fascinating to watch the different items synchronize perfectly in a chain reaction. The impressive video not only achieved 16 million hits, but it won for the music group the UK Video Award’s Best Video as well as Best Rock Video (Telegraph, 2010). This accomplishment quite possibly would not have been achieved without the success of the viral video.

CONTROVERSY. People are intrigued by controversy. They want to figure out if something is fact or fiction, real or manufactured. And The Blair Witch Project kept many guessing. They went out in droves to find out if the legend was true. This is especially impressive considering the movie cost a mere $60,000 to produce, had no major stars, and grossed $1.5 million in its opening weekend (Carvell, 1999, para. 1).

The selective screenings helped it gain notoriety. This selectivity, it seems, was part and parcel to the movie’s success. Carvell notes that “with the movie opening on so few screens, shows began selling out days in advance” (para. 5). The marketing team also created the BlairWitch.com website and co-produced a Sci-Fi Channel special. Carvell says, “These low-key approaches helped foster the belief among audience members that they’d discovered the film for themselves–a belief that, in turn, fed traffic to the site” (para. 3).

Viral marketing should be every marketers aim. We want as many people to hear about our products or services as possible. So, with a splash of ingenuity—combined with knowing your target market well—and one or more of the factors noted above, you should be able to garner enough publicity to make your marketing effort go viral. Fortunately, we can take lessons from the examples given on how to do that best.

Resources

Anderson, M. (2005, March 7). Dissecting ‘Subservient Chicken.’ In AdWeek. Retrieved from http://www.adweek.com/news/advertising/dissecting-subservient-chicken-78190

Carvell, T. (1999, August 16). How The Blair Witch Project built up so much buzz. In Fortune. Retrieved from http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/1999/08/16/264276/

Cloverfield. (2008). In TheNumbers.com. Retrieved from http://www.the-Numbers.com/movies/2008/11808.php

Grainger, J. (2009, June 28). 47 outrageous viral marketing examples over the last decade. In IgniteSocialMedia.com. Retrieved from http://www.ignitesocialmedia.com/social-media-examples/viral-marketing-examples/

OK Go win video of the year award. (2010). In The Telegraph. Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/music-news/8060133/OK-Go-win-video-of-year-award.html

Differentiation

In the Relationship Age, businesses must build relationships with their hidden assets—their customers—through social media (SM) marketing (Galbreath, 2002, p. 9). Both fast fashion retailers, Wet Seal and Forever 21, are utilizing SM to their advantage. And this is no passing fad. As Jim Tobin says on his popular social media marketing website, Mashable, “Sites like Comedy Central, Forever 21 and Etsy are seeing more traffic from social networks than they see from Google” (2010, para. 4). Both Wet Seal and Forever 21 use the standards of the day: Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, but they are also using some different venues on the social media scene to optimize their presence such as Pinterest, iPhone applications (apps), and other interactive media.

Social Media Venues Used by Wet Seal: Facebook (with interactive feature), Twitter, YouTube, interactive website, blogging, iPhone apps, Pinterest, Tumblr

By spreading their message throughout popular venues such as an interactive Facebook page, a model search on YouTube, and Twitter accounts where they can tweet about the latest trends or any specials the stores may be having, Wet Seal helps optimize their exposure leading to increased revenue. Wet Seal’s market is 15- to 35-year-olds, most of which encompass Generation Y. Knowing that this audience’s tastes are influenced by peers and then marketing to them in a venue they populate heavily (Facebook), is brilliant. Supply that audience with a steady stream of new fashion options that they can show off to each other on a venue where they tend to congregate and you’ve set yourself up for success. Because of Generation Y’s innate affinity for new technology and desire to connect, social media marketing works well for them. Wet Seal CEO, Ed Thomas, knows this from first-hand experience. In an article by Amy Roach Partridge for Apparel Marketing (2010), he said, “The true measure of these tools’ usefulness is whether sales increase. And they have.” Their success is due, at least partially, to Wet Seal’s CIO Jon Kubo. He is constantly looking for and finding innovative ways to market using SM. And it’s working. In an article on IndependentRetailer.com, they say,  “Kubo told the (National Retail Federation) conference that Wet Seal’s social media efforts are generating 20 percent of the company’s ecommerce sales” (2011, para. 2). Regarding the company’s Facebook page he said, “There is definitely a social component associated with apparel … it’s about socializing versus buying something” (Partridge, 2010, para. 14).

Social Media Venues Used by Forever 21: Interactive website, blogging, foursquare (offers promotions), Flickr (photos from store events), TwitterCounter (to measure analytics from different venues), Google Alerts (to keep updated on what’s being said about them), Pinterest, Instagram (picture sharing), smart phone application (app)

With 450 locations in the U.S. and nearly 100 international stores, fashion retailer Forever 21 is a force to be reckoned on the fast fashion scene. According to Kim Bhasin (2013), “Forever 21 is growing like crazy, and the fast fashion retailer is becoming a major threat to the rest of the industry” (para.1). So what accounts for this success? Their SM strategy is partially the reason. They’ve created the “F21POP mobile app lets consumers view exclusive videos” of runway shows and other fashion-related content (Kats, 2012, para. 2). The company uses this social media venue (F21POP) to merge the digital age with reality. Forever 21’s global marketing director, Linda Chang, says, “Our customers are digitally savvy and we strive to bring fast technology to fast fashion” (Kats, 2012, para. 13). Forever 21 also posts photo shoots of their new merchandise on Facebook regularly, allowing their followers to check out any new pieces that have become available. Their blog, The Skinny, showcases new arrivals and puts them together to complete an outfit. If the viewer likes what they see, they know they can buy the pieces online or in the store to recreate the outfit or put together their own version of it. The interactivity of the app is why it is very popular with the company’s audience.

Forever 21 is taking full advantage of SM marketing. They have their own YouTube channel called Forever 21 TV and they have even incorporated Instagram into their social media campaign and featured a giveaway through that venue.

Businesses cannot afford to jump on the social media bandwagon for the sake of jumping. They need to do research to find out which of the social media tools will best serve their company. Then they have to devote time, money, and manpower to maintain it. With smart tools and smart people using them, it is possible for a business to increase revenue exponentially. Because these retailers know that social media is essential to their marketing strategy, they are getting in on the act and seeing increased revenue because of it.

Resources

Bhasin, K. (2013, March 11). The Competition Should Be Terrified Of Forever 21. In Business Insider. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/forever-21-dominating-teen-retail-market-2013-3

Galbreath, J. (2002). Success in the Relationship Age: Building quality relationship assets for market value creation. The TQM Magazine, 14.1. 8-24.

Kats, R. (2012, November 12). Forever 21 takes shopping to the next level with augmented reality app. In MobileCommerceDaily.com. Retrieved from http://www.mobilecommercedaily.com/forever-21-takes-shopping-to-the-next-level-with-augmented-reality-app

Tobin. J. (2010, October 22). 4 winning strategies for social media optimization. In Mashable.com. Retrieved from http://mashable.com/2010/10/22/social-media-optimization/

Partridge, A. R. (2010, April 20). Building a Social/Mobile Strategy—One Outfit at a Time. In Apparel Marketing. Retrieved from http://apparel.edgl.com/news/Building-a-Social/Mobile-Strategy—One-Outfit-at-a-Time63557

Social Media Next Logical Marketing Arena For Retailers. (2011, May 1). In IndependentRetailer.com. Retrieved from http://independentretailer.com/2011/05/01/social-media-next-logical-marketing-arena-for-retailers/

Is all PR, Good PR? Not Necessarily.

The subject of my blog this week deserves a place in the “I don’t believe it” Hall of Fame (if there was such a thing). While responding to a classmate’s blog regarding her wonderful tips on how to use social media successfully, I came across a story about a guy who thought that any media attention was good attention. Like a spoiled child, he thought that if he couldn’t get positive attention, he would settle for negative attention. Here’s the story:

A guy named Vitaly Borker owned the online eyewear company, DecorMyEyes. He routinely bilked customers out of their money in several ways: sending fake designer eyeglass frames while advertising and pricing those frames as genuine; overcharging customers after their orders were placed; forcing customers to change their orders saying the brand they wanted was not available; and not refunding unsatisfied customers’ money. But wait, this isn’t all! He also started to threaten those customers that complained with bodily harm that included homicide, dismemberment, and rape! Yeah, this jerk was the epitome of horrible customer service.

In a New York Times article by David Segal, “A Bully Finds a Pulpit on the Web,” he detailed how one customer’s experience with Borker and his company, DecorMyEyes, led to a two-year nightmare of threats, overcharges and pure intimidation. Not only did this guy tell the customer, Clarabelle Rodriguez, that she had to choose a different brand of contacts she ordered, he also charged her more than what the order  came to, by $125! When the glasses she ordered came (without the contact lenses), they were obviously knock-offs of the designer brand she paid for … and he charged her for the contacts that she never received.  She called DecorMyEyes to complain and was met with a rude, hostile customer service representative (Borker himself posing as someone named Tony Russo) that not only profanely refused to refund her money, but also threatened her. He actually told her that he had her address and that he lived only “a bridge away” from her! Ms. Rodriguez then called her credit card company (and the police) and disputed the charges. This, however, did not fix the problem.

Once Mr. Borker found out that Ms. Rodriguez had disputed the charges (and the credit card company refunded her money), he started harassing her daily, even several times a day. During the 60 days it took her credit card company to investigate the disputed charges, she received a letter telling her that they were closing their investigation per her request. Since she had never told them to cancel the dispute, she called her credit card company. Apparently this Borker dude had someone pose as Ms. Rodriguez to have the company drop the dispute! So her credit card company not only added the charges back to her card, but included fees and interest!

You can read the whole sordid story online at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/28/business/28borker.html?pagewanted=all. So I’ll get to how this story relates to social media. After all this happened to Ms. Rodriguez, she complained about Borker and DecorMyEyes on the GetSatisfaction website as well as the ComplaintsBoard.com and ConsumerAffairs.com discussion boards. Here she found others like herself that had been defrauded by Borker. There were hundreds of complaints, but this was only helping the company. With each complaint online, DecorMyEyes was moving up in the search engines!

Borker was profiting by his negative publicity! And he was ecstatic about this. He actually said, “I’ve exploited this opportunity because it works” (Segal). When a representative from GetSatisfaction.com asked him to be proactive in remedying all the negative comments his company was receiving, he sent them an email with a photo of him holding up his middle finger. Borker said he almost went so far as to plant a story in the social media that his alter ego committed murder just to increase the hype! Boy, oh boy. What a guy, huh? By exploiting Google’s algorithm that was unable to discern between good publicity and scathing reviews, he was using this negative publicity to his advantage by increasing his Google ranking.

The story has a happy ending fortunately. Google got wind of this man’s story and changed their algorithms (the mathematical formula it uses to rank websites in its search engine) in order to keep this kind of thing from happening again. And, I’m happy to report, Borker was arrested for fraud and sending threatening communications. He was sentenced in September to four years in prison and ordered to pay $100,000 in restitution and fines.

I guess all PR isn’t good PR after all, as Borker erroneously thought. The power of social media can obviously break a business if not used correctly.

Works Cited

Segal, David. “A Bully Finds a Pulpit on the Web.” The New York Times. 26 Nov. 2010. Web. 07 Nov. 2012.

Segal, David. “Web Businessman Sentenced for Threats.” The New York Times. 06 Sep. 2012. Web. 07 Nov. 2012.

What is CAPTCHA?

Have you heard of the “CAPTCHA” tool? Probably not, but I’m sure you’ve seen it and even used it. It’s used by secure websites to prevent automated registrations. It can verify that you are a human who is submitting information to their website and not some sort of “bot.”  I know you’ve seen it: the box that you have to retype the distorted words in to prove you are human. Like this:

Image

CAPTCHA stands for “Completely Automated Public Turing Test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart.” It works because humans can read distorted text and current computers can’t. It was developed by four men at Carnegie Mellon University in 2000 for Yahoo. In fact, there’s a fantastic article available online for free that was written by three of the four creators called, “Telling Humans and Computers Apart: How lazy cryptographers do AI.” It is available here for free: http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~biglou/captcha_cacm.pdf. The authors have a sense of humor too, which I loved.  In their article they said—while explaining that it is a computer that is used to determine if the registrant is human or another computer, “Notice the paradox: a CAPTCHA is a program that can generate and grade tests that it itself cannot pass (much like some professors)” (Ahn, Blum & Langford).

There are several practical uses for the tool including preventing comment spam in blogs; verifying online poll respondents; preventing dictionary attacks; and thwarting spam and worms by ensuring that the person sending you an email is a real person.

If your website needs protection, you too can get the Captcha tool on your website for free from the reCAPTCHA project here: http://www.google.com/recaptcha.

There’s also a little known real-world application from the reCAPTCHA project: to help digitize text. According to reCAPTCHA, the tool is used to “Stop spam and help digitize books at the same time! The words shown come directly from old books that are being digitized.” This is done through a “sophisticated combination of multiple OCR programs.” It has allowed programmers to “achieve 99.5% transcription accuracy” from the millions of answers people have put in the challenges. At the link I just provided, you can see a comparison of how the two different texts are translated (OCR vs. reCAPTCHA). It’s pretty incredible. I’ve run across digitized text when I’ve been working on genealogy and can tell you that there is a lot to be desired regarding the translation.

There have been historical books translated online via a PDF and you can readily see the problems with the text. Some of it comes out as characters and/or symbols instead of words making reading somewhat difficult.

Who knew that by using a useful tool like CAPTCHA, we would be helping to digitize old documents.

Works Cited

“CAPTCHA: Telling Humans and Computers Apart Automatically.” CAPTCHA.net. 2012. Web. 01 Nov. 2012.

“reCAPTCHA: Digitizing Books One Word at a Time.” Google.com/recaptcha. 2012. Web. 01 Nov. 2012.

Von Ahn, Luis, Manuel Blum and John Langford. “Telling Humans and Computers Apart.” Communications of the ACH. February 2004: Vol. 47, No. 3. Web. 01 Nov. 2012.

“Old” Social Media Sites You May Have Forgotten

As I was discussing old social media sites (and old is relative here since they were created within about a decade) with my son-in-law and daughter, they reminded me of some sites that I hadn’t even considered SM until now. Such SM as AOL chat rooms, Open Diary, Live Journal, Reddit, and Stumble Upon came up. I was never involved with the chat rooms or any of the others, but my children were. They were teenagers at the time and used Open Diary and Live Journal almost daily. If you don’t know about these “old” SM tools, let me inform you. 😉

Open Diary: OpenDiary.com

Open Diary is an interactive diary (blog) for you to write about your personal thoughts, feelings, actions, etc. It’s like a real diary, only this one can be viewed and commented on by anyone online. Open Diary’s welcome message says that it’s for connecting with friends, keeping your life online, and learning about yourself. They offer free blog space with an opportunity to upgrade (for a price, of course). The site lists a “People’s Choice” of entries as well as a “Theme of the Week.”  I don’t know how popular it is now, but as can be expected, the most popular blog diaries are about depression, love, and poetry. I say “as can be expected” because I believe that’s what most people write about in their physical diaries. I imagine that teenage girls make up the largest population of Open Diary users.

Live Journal: LiveJournal.com

Live Journal is another diary-type SM tool. It has more information about its users than Open Diary. Like Open Diary, it offers free blog space to whomever would like to keep a public diary (which seems to me to defeat the purpose of a diary since I always thought diaries were very personal and not shared with anyone except, perhaps, one’s closest friends). Live Journal, however, keeps stats about its users. It claims to have 53,8 million journals and communities who submitted over 141,000 posts in the last 24 hours. It also includes a poll and updates on news items and lists popular entries and communities. Of the two, I’d say Live Journal is more advanced in its offerings than Open Diary. If you love writing about your thoughts and feelings—and want public feedback—both SM sites are a free, easy way to accommodate you.

Reddit: Reddit.com

Reddit is a lot like Digg in that it lists the most popular news stories as found by its members. You can even pick a topic that most interests you such as Funny, Politics, Gaming, Technology, etc. These topics have the latest and most popular news about each topic. You can even go to specific categories about each of these topics. They include Hot, New, Controversial, and Top. I’ve never gone to the Reddit site before, but it seems to me that if you want to stay on top of the latest news on whatever topic you choose, this is the perfect place to do just that.

Stumble Upon: StumbleUpon.com

StumbleUpon is a great SM tool for those who want to discover new sites about whatever interests them. They claim to “help you discover great sites, videos and photos from around the web.” And it’s free! I think this could be a great resource for finding the best sites for anything you might want to learn more about. Twenty-five million members tell StumbleUpon their interests then StumbleUpon directs them to sites, videos, and photos related to those interests, and members rate them. I joined. 😉

Next week I’ll have information about the “Captcha” tool. Find out how this program protects social media tools like websites, blogs, emails, polls, etc. from bots.

The Use of Social Media During the Egyptian Uprising

My blog this week is about the use of the Internet in mobilization for political change. For example, during the recent political uprising in Egypt, technology (the use of the internet, specifically social media networks) impacted the riots. The government tried to shut down the internet upon realizing the threat of revolution was imminent. It didn’t work. According to The Egyptian Experience: Sense and Nonsense of the Internet Revolution, “The communications shutdown in Egypt neither stopped the protests, nor prevented protesters from communicating with the outside world” (Aouragh & Alexander 1). The authors contend that “user-generated and social network applications became tools [sic] of revolution” (2). They suggest that the internet not only aided the revolution, but it was the instrument for the revolution to proceed. It became the impetus where people who shared the same views on what was happening in Egypt could meet. It fueled an already growing dissidence among the younger population, the ones most likely to use social media. Popular social networking sites such as Facebook propagated political discussion where “opinions were shaped … and decision(s) were taken” (5). Sites such as Facebook provided the tools to interact and gauge support for change or, as the authors contend, were instrumental in “widening (the) ripple in the water” (5). Facebook was growing at an alarming rate, with 600,000 new users in January and February of 2011 alone. It became the meeting place for dissidents. Here, they forwarded emails, tweets and posts, thus increasing awareness as well as help in mobilizing the protesters.

One of the people the authors interviewed—Hossam El-Hamalawy, an Egyptian journalist—said that when the government banned Twitter, he was still able to login “in via a proxy in order to disseminate the news about the protests” (6).  And Twitter was an effective tool for the activists with 1.5 million Egypt-related tweets within a week after the January 25 uprising.

It’s ironic that the internet shutdown actually fueled the revolt. As Egyptian blogger Haisam Abu-Samra wrote, “Cutting us out from the rest of the world … didn’t dismantle the revolt. If anything, it removed distraction and gave us a singular mission to accomplish” (7). The activists actually saw this as a sign that the regime felt threatened and it, in turn, empowered the people further. I think Amr Gharbeia, an Egyptian blogger and human rights researcher, succinctly summed up the use of social media tools during the revolution when he said that we are the social network, not the social media tools. He said, “Turning off the technology doesn’t turn off the social network, because it is about people, not about technology” (8).

Works Cited

Aouragh, Miriyam & Anne Alexander. “The Egyptian Experience: Sense and Nonsense of the Internet Revolution.” International Journal of Communication 5 (2011): 1-8. Print.