You may have noticed that the online marketing strategist in your life has been sweating a little more than usual these days. It’s not because the heat inside your building is set to unnaturally high temperatures to combat the cold. Thanks to recent changes in search engine security, online marketing has just gotten a bit more challenging.
Major search engines – including Google, Yahoo, and little brother Bing – are looking to find that sweet spot between customer privacy and satisfaction. As Christopher Soghoian, technology researcher and Principal Technologist with the American Civil Liberties Union, stated during his speech with Edward Snowden at SXSW, “Google, Yahoo and other internet companies want to sit between the conversations you have with your friends and add value…That business model is incompatible with your security, with your having a secure, end-to-end connection to your friends.”
Players in the virtual world were up in arms after revelations about government internet monitoring were brought to life (synopsis here). In response, Google, Yahoo, Twitter, and six other integral names in the information exchange mix formed Global Government Surveillance Reform. This committee strives to limit government oversight of user data and increase transparency of back-end snooping.
So why are marketing strategists feeling the stress? You may notice (or, if you didn’t, you will notice it now) that after you type a search into Google, the resulting page URL begins with HTTPS. This extraneous S automatically encrypts data, or veils them to potential eavesdroppers. This means that keywords, or search terms that eventually lead a potential customer to your site, will no longer be included in analytics.
Yes, keyword searches are an important piece of the marketing puzzle. They provide valuable insight into how you can move your website up the Google food chain. However, this recent layer of protection is not an impenetrable barrier. Here are some ways that you can respond to this strategy change:
- Enlist outside help. Programs offering ways to interpret available data have begun to surface. For example, gShift Labs recently unveiled Not Provided, a program that analyzes daily metrics to offer popular keywords. Their website advises this product is best for medium-sized-and-up companies, so if you’re a small business, this may not be the route for you.
- Pay to play. Those who advertise on Google using AdWords still receive keyword data. Yahoo and Bing do not. This handy chart breaks down the differences between each major search engine’s handling of secure search.
- Keep doing what you’re doing, and then some. You are the expert on your intended audience. When maintaining your online presence, it’s important to research key terms and common subjects; however, trying to stick to a few choice statements puts barriers on creativity and increases the chance of redundancy. Having limited contact with keywords limits your chances of self-imposed restraint. Given that changes in security protocol will not affect current rankings on search engines, embrace your new found freedom and get creative with content!
Look at it this way, marketing gurus: secure searching is a challenge, but not a barrier. It’s time to let your flag fly: highlight your great design of infographics and not your ability to work “changemaker” and “sustainability” onto every page. If you build it, and build it well, your well-protected clientele will come.
I’m sure you’ve heard attacks by now that social media is destroying the fabric of our communities, isolating us from our neighbors and friend. However new research telling us something different. A Pew study on neighbors and online useage found people who go online daily are more likely to know their neighbors. A recent New York Times article looked at various studies projects that found that in fact technology was not driving us apart at all. One researcher featured, Keith Hampton, studied a “neighborhood of the future” created with high speed internet, tools for video conferencing between houses, etc. What did he find?
“It turns out the wired folk — they recognized like three times as many of their neighbors when asked,”
Social media allows us to connect with people we might not have run into in public spaces and find events we might have missed otherwise. When someone is hired at MeetUp they get a copy of Robert Putnam’s landmark book Bowling Alone, published in 2000 before Facebook and social media really took hold. Putnam’s book combined research to show how increasingly disconnected American’s were becoming. Scott Heiferman bought the book shortly after 9/11 and he began to realize the increasing need for communities to reconnect:
Basically, the less you interact with strangers the less you trust strangers and the less yo trust strangers, the less you interact and by that trusting of strangers—really is a proxy for being happy or feeling that the world isn’t totally screwed up. Because if you walk around thinking like that everyone’s an asshole and you can’t trust anybody, one would think ‘oh, well as long as you could just go into your cocoon of friends and family…’ but the reality is if you don’t trust the world around you, you’re going to—it’s a vicious cycle that becomes coarser and nastier and less friendly world.
Heiferman created MeetUps to make it easier for people to connect with each other around interests. He was a huge fan of the band Luna and noticed that while there were people there who he saw at other concerts, he didn’t talk to them. MeetUp provides an introduction and a way to talk to strangers you see around town.
As someone who has moved around a lot over the years I rely on social media to connect with people in new cities. One new tool I’m loving in Nextdoor, a private social network for neighbors. It’s been a huge help in becoming a more active member of my community, learning when neighborhood organization meetings are happening, and rally around key issues in our area. I’m not the typical demographic for my neighborhood so I don’t really hang out in the same places as most of the people on my block. However technology has brought us together in a way traditional structures of community building has not. Other neighborhoods in my area use i-Neighbors to create list-servs and websites that help get the word out about city hearings, community events, and important safety concerns. In both cases technology has made it easier for the generation of Robert Putnam’s disconnected Americans to reconnect with the people around them.
Neighborhoodland, not only connects neighbors but brings them together to transform their community. The site allows people to create campaigns to do improvement projects like creating a dog park, getting a new bus route, or getting more public recycling bins. To suggest a campaign you simply have to fill in the blanks “I want _______ in _________.” Other neighbors can sign on by clicking “me too.” The network helps people find other supporters of their idea for neighborhood improvement and let government and nonprofit agencies see local priorities.
Far from shutting us off from one another, the internet is offering new opportunities for us to connect locally. This is why social media makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. We’re not talking about computers interacting with other computers, we’re talking about people having more opportunity to connect to other people. Social media can make it easier for people to meet one another and in the end that creates less strangers and more friends.
This summer, I took a friend on a drive through beautiful Cape Elizabeth, Maine. After devouring a lobster roll, we hopped on some large rocks and sat down, staring into the beautiful, crackling waves. I have always harbored a healthy love and fear of the deep ocean. I want to learn its secrets.
I shared this thought with my friend. “I wish I had a science-brain,” I sighed. “But I don’t.”
My friend, who is both a mathematician and science enthusiast, laughed. “I think everyone already has science-brain. We all want to discover things. Scientists are just the people who actually try it.”
English: Depiction of the 50 machines composing the “Global Village Construction Set” by the “Open Source Ecology” project (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Palmer Luckey, the founder of Oculus Rift, echoed this sentiment in a recent We the Geeks event. “The people who make technology are not some elite breed of people who think on a higher level,” said Luckey. “We’re pretty much exactly the same…we are just interested in technology and passionate about it, and if people become passionate about it, they can make amazing things too.”
As do-it-yourself (or DIY to culture vultures) movements pick up steam in the ecological and agricultural spheres, it has become apparent that tinkering is transcending far above “Grandpa in the basement with a transistor” levels. Technology is proliferating, and so are ways of using it to make life more efficient, fun, and insightful. Why wait for someone else to invent, buy, and build?
Patrons of the Chattanooga Public Library no longer need to wait. Their celebrated makerspace, known as the 4th Floor, provides community members with a place to play. Library patrons (particularly children and teens) can utilize the “gigabit library” to code, play with 3D printers, and create digital art, proving thousands of naysayers wrong about future generations: if we give them the tools, they will tinker, and they will build.
Another great example of community development and open source exploration is housed within blueprints for bulldozers and backhoes. Open Source Ecology provides blueprints for the Global Village Construction Set, from which users can build sustainable shelter, farming equipment, and other tools necessary for a newborn community. With these blueprints, small-time developers can get started with less capital and more adaptability to the needs of individual communities.
Creation is shifting out of the hands of patent lawyers and into the fingers of children, of third-world developers, of the grandpas in all of us. Next time I visit the ocean, I plan to explore with my own underwater robot, brought to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean by OpenROV. We are all tinkerers by nature. So stretch out that science-brain and try it for yourself.
Editor’s Note: We’re continuing our 7 Deadly Sins of Twitter Admins series helping you avoid cringe worthy Twitter faux pas. Read our first part on lust and the terrible things our desire for more followers drives us to do. This week’s post comes from guest writer, Sean Lunsford.
Twitter can be a daunting endeavor to start, and it’s equally challenging to continue. The constant stream of tweets generated by a world full of Twitter users makes for a frenetic pace, and social media workers may well find it hard to keep up. Thankfully, we’re usually not the only ones with a message. Others who share our views or touch on the topics we hold dear provide continuous input into the ongoing dialogue that is social media. Contrary to what our teachers told us, copying is actually good in this realm. The judicious use of quotes and retweets gets our message out to a wider audience and shows those who already follow us that we’re invested and listening to what others are saying. Be careful what you’re quoting or retweeting, though. There are a few pitfalls that stem from being lazy about how you curate your Twitter presence, and they can land your organization (or even you) in a thorny place that’s difficult to get out of.
Always read any link embedded in a tweet, to ensure you know what it’s saying and the tone of the site in general before passing it along. One person may indeed share your organization’s views, and post something on their website or Facebook page you’d love your followers to see. However, they might also hold views on another topic that are quite counter to your organization’s. Any viewer who clicks through from something you retweeted or quoted could continue to browse around that site, and find something you may later wish they hadn’t.
Be sure to vet the sources and veracity of any information linked to in a tweet. Your Executive Director or CEO wouldn’t be amused that you helped spread a rumor online that originated from a blogger with no connection to the people, places or things discussed. Passing along bogus information tarnishes the credibility of your organization, and most organizations survive on the basis of their reputation. Unfortunately, most people forget the “media” part of social media. We need to hold ourselves to a high standard because we’re not just representing ourselves, we’re representing people and institutions that have worked hard to get where they are.
Finally, be wary of getting in the middle of a heated debate. A personal example: I’d heard second hand reports about an agency’s negative dealings with the LGBT community, but when I read a statement from the organization denouncing such interactions as being the work of isolated individuals who weren’t representing the organization at large, I chose to share it in the hopes of fostering greater goodwill for this organization. (As someone involved with groups that serve the underserved, I’m always looking to promote good works in the hopes of benefitting the greater community of social service agencies.) What I didn’t realize was this particular organization has been struggling with this very issue for years, with increasing animosity on both sides. In this instance, I was speaking as myself and not as an agent of some organization, so I can take personal responsibility for the message and any possible consequences it might bring. However, when representing your group it’s probably best to steer clear of such hot topics.
Keeping your tweets “clean” is vital to creating an image your organization can be proud of. It takes work, but the effort that goes into verifying the facts and keeping the conversation on topic will go a long way toward maintaining and building the integrity your followers demand.