Archive for the Ever Wondered About… Category

Ever Wondered About…Net Neutrality?

Posted in Ever Wondered About... on January 7, 2011 by wisdomlondon

Emotive subject alert! But here’s a simple (and neutral) low-down on an important issue:

The acid test

What is it?

Net neutrality is the principle that all data carried over the internet should be given equal priority, regardless of the content type, source or user.

Obviously, it’s a lot more complicated than that at its core, but essentially when we talk about net neutrality we’re talking about preserving a kind of internet democracy, and ensuring a level playing field when it comes to the flow of traffic. That’s to say: No ISP gets ‘special treatment’ or is allowed to charge more for faster delivery of data, and that data cannot be unlawfully blocked by ISPs (such as that which competes with the ISP’s content).

Various ISPs and tech players (including Microsoft, Amazon and Yahoo!) advocate the principle of net neutrality, arguing that it preserves the internet as a free and open technology, and lowers barriers for innovation – higher costs for certain types of data could make some tech start-ups, for example, unviable.  Those against say that in moving beyond net neutrality, the higher costs could equal even faster internet and much-needed investment in an already heavily-burdened infrastructure.

Perhaps not unsurprisingly, Google supports a ‘higher tier’ high-speed internet which sites could pay to use at a premium, and has proposed to deliver this with Verizon.

This rather brilliant infographic breaks down the arguments for and against pretty well.

Why should I care?

The debate has been rumbling for years, but now it’s hotting up.  The UK Government effectively supports an end to net neutrality, and regulator Ofcom is to due to clarify its position on net neutrality in UK this year. Over in US, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has recently ruled against any outright blocking and any “unreasonable discrimination” of web sites or applications by fixed-line broadband providers (ie. supporting net neutrality). Interestingly, the same does not apply in equal measure to wireless providers like AT&T.

Now in the UK, BT has controversially started to offer their Content Connect service, allowing ISPs using BT’s network to charge content firms for the delivery of bandwidth hungry high-speed video. This signals the beginning of a second tier internet, and is already causing concern among net neutrality advocates.

We should care because we’re due to hear a lot more about it, and because this is certain to have ramifications for digital marketers at some stage, sooner or later.

If net neutrality is protected, this is generally good news in cost terms for tech start-ups and marketers alike, but with more data than ever being carried, networks are in danger of becoming overloaded and one way or another infrastructure investments must be made and paid for. It also means that as users there’s another upside: We won’t be inundated with sponsored content, prioritised over the content we choose, as some fear.

If net neutrality fails to survive, we will be called upon as marketers to find ever more creative ways of developing and delivering content online, so as not to be hamstrung by higher costs for say, video content. That said, for content producers (which increasingly means brands) who are willing and able to pay, it suggests a huge opportunity to cut swiftly through the online noise and deliver best-quality content at super-speed to consumers.  For advertisers, it provides a boost, by offering the possibility of sponsored priority content.

So perhaps it really will be survival of the fittest.

More reading

The Open Rights Group campaign to preserve net neutrality

Kate Spiers is director of Wisdom London, an integrated communications agency with a passion for technology and a pragmatic approach to social media. Say hello here!

Ever wondered about….SXSW?

Posted in creativity, Ever Wondered About..., social media with tags on January 6, 2011 by wisdomlondon

What is it?

SXWS (South by South West) annually marks two weeks in March when Austin, Texas is officially the coolest place in the universe to be.  What originally started as a music festival in 1987 now encompasses film alongside music but importantly – and fairly logically – interactive media, which gets a 4 day gig as part of the festival as SXSW Interactive.

Needless to say, it’s become a natural place to be if you’re interested in tech, social, comms and start-ups.  And not surprisingly, plenty of start-ups are launched – or if already launched, come of age – at SXSW.  It’s been a springboard for Twitter, Foursquare, Gowalla and Bump in previous years.  What will 2011 hold?

Why should I care?

If you’re using Twitter, reading blogs and generally have any interest in tech (and what marketer doesn’t?) you’ll be hearing a LOT about it.

2011 looks set to be hot. Big names are speaking, so expect announcements, product launches and plenty of online chatter, alongside news of some of the most dynamic tech start-ups we might see this year.

Quite apart from the fact that big industry events often signal industry change and progress, SXSW also points clearly to what we should be understanding loud and clear by now: It’s no longer about social vs marketing vs technology vs content.

This is a further wave of digital convergence and demonstrates that social and interactive media is implicit in business, content is implicit in digital, and technology underpins the whole shooting match. Sit up and take notice.  Look out for:

Keynote speakers and panels

Expect predictions, killer stats and controversy from Valeria Maltoni (@conversationagent), Dennis Crowley (Foursquare), Beth Kanter (@kanter), Eric Qualman (Socialnomics), Thomas Knoll (Zappos) and Guy Kawasaki.

Start-ups

With Twitter and Foursquare launching (or at least gaining real traction through a world stage) at SXSW, you can expect to hear about some start-ups that are sure to become ubiquitous fairly quickly.  Again, take note.

Cool

Bands including Bombay Bicycle Club, Frankie and The Heartstrings, Erykah Badu and Klaxons.  Films are guaranteed to be on the quirky side, but whatever gets screened there will be bathed in kudos, believe me.

Kate Spiers is director at Wisdom London, an integrated communications agency with a passion for technology. If you’d like to talk about social media and content strategy as part of your integrated communications approach, get in touch!

Ever wondered about…Social Commerce?

Posted in brand, Ever Wondered About..., social media with tags , on January 6, 2011 by wisdomlondon

JC Penney Facebook StoreWhat is it?

It’s where shopping and social collide, by embedding social touchpoints in the selection, consideration, and purchasing processes.

At the crux of it is recommendation and sharing. Early examples are Amazon’s reader reviews (which are proven to be powerful) and eBay’s seller ratings. And now it’s moving beyond reviews. For example, @asos allows you to share (by tweet and various bookmarks) and ‘Like’ items direct from their e-commerce site, letting your friends and network know what you like, have bought, or recommend. It works experientially too: Diesel installed booths in their Spanish stores to allow customers to post pictures of themselves in Diesel clothing to Facebook walls.

It plays strongly to sharing and the idea of trust and recommendation economies. Greater conversion rates and increased word-of-mouth (WOM) are the clear benefits.

Why should I care?

Social interactions are becoming central to the way we make buying decisions, so social commerce is a natural development and can play well to many brands and services.

And of course the big news is that by integrating platforms like Facebook and e-commerce ‘shopfronts’, valuable data can be extracted about purchase history, buying habits, Likes and sharing.

But what needs to happen is for social commerce to work seamlessly alongside campaigns, physical shopping experiences and other channels – particularly advertising and mobile.  So expect to see increasingly sophisticated approaches.

Who’s doing it well?

You’d expect FMCG brands to have got a handle on this and sure enough there are some good examples out there:

  • Levis launched the Friends Store, a retail site which integrated Facebook, thus encouraging sharing, interaction and brand advocacy.
  • Retailer JC Penney recently launched a Facebook store where – critically – transactions can be completed without leaving Facebook.
  • But it’s not just about Facebook. French Connection launched last year “Youtique” on YouTube, which allows shoppers to click and buy directly from a video.

It’s all well and good for big brands, you might say.  But the rest of us had better get used to social ubiquity in the buying process, whether for consumer products or business services. Using Facebook login, for example, could create a nice opportunity for businesses to connect similar types of users and clients to share experiences, as well as getting closer to and more personal with the people who make buying decisions. But there needs to be a reward for the user in this scenario – connect with Facebook to access free content, for example, or to participate in an online event – or register for an offline one.

Here’s an excellent infographic from Social Commerce Today: 2010 – A Year in Social Commerce.

Kate Spiers is director at Wisdom London, an integrated communications agency with a passion for technology and a pragmatic approach to social media.  If you’d like to talk about embedding social touchpoints in your customer interactions, please get in touch!

Ever wondered about…Usability Testing?

Posted in creativity, Ever Wondered About..., social media with tags on January 5, 2011 by wisdomlondon

Lucy PayneA guest post by Lucy Payne

What is it?

It’s basically the testing of digital objects like websites, widgets or apps to help designers bring their products to life. This kind of testing focuses on the relationship between the object and the end user, to make sure that the object is:

  • Learnable, meaning it’s easy to use or learn to use.
  • Efficient, once the user has “learned” the product they are able to achieve a high level of productivity.
  • Memorable, how easy the system is to remember. If a user takes a long break from using the product, they should be able to remember how to use it easily – there should be no need to re-learn how to use it.
  • Low in errors, a user should only make a small number of errors, and if errors are made, recovering from these errors should be simple.
  • And finally satisfying – a positive experience while using the system.

Usability testing is about test, repair, re-test.

Why should I care?

Jakob Nielsen the father of web based usability testing says “designers are not users” therefore usability testing with a sample of end users is crucial in creating a successful product for your target audience. In 2009 a study in the International Journal of Electronic Commerce announced that the average conversion rate for an E-Commerce site was 3.43%. Having a site which is hard to use would only work to lower this figure.

Every digital object which your client or company owns or creates should be included in the Marketing and Communications plan. Marketers should care about usability testing because promoting a product which is hard to use is like running the wrong way up an escalator – not impossible, but bloomin’ hard work!

Anything else I should know?

Yes: Usability testing doesn’t have to be costly or time consuming. Hooray!

All you need is: an office or conference room with two chairs, a computer (which is connected to the internet if a live site is being tested), a handy cam, a long video cable and a tripod. Some usability experts fiercely believe that anyone can facilitate a test, but its best to use someone who is patient, calm, empathetic, a good listener and inherently fair. There are plenty of books about which can teach you how to do it so get reading.

Lucy is an Account Manager at Pass It On, a Social Media Marketing Agency. She is currently studying for an MSc in Multimedia at Swansea Metropolitan University. Follow Lucy on Twitter here.

Ever Wondered About….Pummelvision?

Posted in creativity, Ever Wondered About..., social media with tags , on January 4, 2011 by wisdomlondon

What is it? Really simple: Pummelvision lets you grab photos from Flickr, Facebook, Dropbox and Tumblr, put them all together and create a slideshow video.

Or as Pummelvision puts it, “make your life flash before your eyes”.

Once you’ve made your slideshow video, you can share it to YouTube and Vimeo.

Why should I care?

From a user point of view, it’s fun, shareable, and super simple.

For marketers and communicators, it could provide a tool with which to create and share a really quick and slicker-than-average asset, for free. Plenty of scope for brands in terms of WOM and virality (by asking consumers to create Pummelvision shows based on their product, for example).

I quite fancy using it as a collaborative moodboard for creative projects – put in a bunch of relevant images and share, then see what you get as a result.

What else do I need to know?

  • It’s free to use.
  • Pummelvision was created by Vimeo co-founder Jake Lodwick.  So he knows what he’s doing.
  • There’s a limit of 2500 photos per video.  That’s quite a lot.
  • According to the @pummelvision Twitter feed when I asked, it will eventually be able to pull pictures from other applications and platforms like Instagram, Twitter and WordPress, but next up is DailyBooth.

There are also a few complaints about speed of transition, and a general desire from users to be able to change music etc., but presumably this is in hand.

Here’s my effort.  It took about 10 minutes, from start to rendering to upload.  Nice!

Kate Spiers is director of Wisdom London, an integrated communications agency with a pragmatic approach to social technologies.  If you’d like to find out more about how to embrace technologies such as Pummelvision, Twitter and Facebook as part of your integrated communications approach, get in touch: kate@wisdomlondon.com

Follow Kate on Twitter here

Ever Wondered About…Quora?

Posted in Ever Wondered About..., social media with tags , , on January 4, 2011 by wisdomlondon

QuoraWhat is it?
Sort of Wikipedia-meets Twitter–meets 20 questions. Well, whatever it is, it’s taken the online world by storm since its general launch barely a year ago. Meet Quora: “a continually improving collection of questions and answers created, edited, and organized by users.” The idea is that the page becomes the best source of information for whoever requires it.

Quality-control is achieved collaboratively, as users “vote up” their favourite answers (or those they perceive to be of highest quality), meaning that quality pushes the answer to the top of the page.

Sign up via Twitter, Facebook or email, link up automatically to your friends, followers and contacts, along with relevant subject areas that will be automatically suggested. Ask questions, follow questions, endorse answers by voting for them. Share your answers and questions via Twitter and Facebook. It’s a perfect example of the connected social web.

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that a couple of ex-Facebook guys set it up.

Why should I care?
Context is king: According to TechCrunch, Quora is one of 7 Technologies That Will Rock in 2011 because it allows users to define themselves by not just friends and followers, but introduces interests and knowledge into the equation.

It’s a great example of where multiple platforms and functionalities (a wiki plus social networks plus collaboration plus moderation, for starters) converge. This is how the future web looks – highly converged, micro-organised and mega-curated by users, and real-time.

By comparison, Wikipedia, which has pretty comfortably ruled the kingdom of crowdsourced informative content til now, looks a little static, sluggish and far less accountable by comparison.

Not only that, but Quora provides a really interesting hotline to major corporations, bloggers and ordinary Joes on very specific topics, which you may not otherwise have. For example, Pete Cashmore is on, answering questions directed at him, and you’ll likely find a whole bunch of your social media contacts there too, in addition to a whole new audience of the information-hungry, curious and collaborative. So in social media reach terms, it’s a winner.

How is it useful for marketers?
Quite a few uses are immediately apparent:

1. Intelligence: Quora provides an information source for whichever topic you choose – adding more context as users share experiences, information and opinion.
2. Adding value: Set up an account, monitor for questions on topics pertinent to your business (directly or indirectly) and add value by providing answers, information and shareable resources.
3. Engagement: Build relationships with influencers by engaging on specific topics, asking for opinions and providing feedback.
4. Monitoring: Currently no specific analytics available, but organic monitoring will provide useful information on what’s hot at a given time, and within specific communities

Kate Spiers is director of Wisdom London, an integrated communications agency with a pragmatic approach to social media.  If you’d like to find out more about how to embrace social media as part of your integrated communications approach, get in touch: kate@wisdomlondon.com

Follow Kate on Twitter here

Oh and PS: Here’s my Quora profile

Ever wondered about… Paper.li

Posted in Ever Wondered About... with tags , , , , on September 16, 2010 by wisdomlondon

Posted by Anthony Lewis

What is it?

You’re bound to have seen it by now. Paper.li converts your Twitter stream into a digestible daily online newspaper. Every 24 hours, all the links and information shared by the people you follow, or by a selected list of people, is arranged onto a newspaper-like webpage for your convenience. It’s one way of finding the most popular content being shared and making sure you don’t miss out on anything big, or it can simply aggregate up to date content on a specific subject. This program is still pretty new and seems to have some developing yet to do, but with the current buzzword “curation” flying about…well, it does just that.

Why Should I Care?

There are two main ways of using Paper.li – personally and publicly. For an individual, there are significant perks to this free service. Speedy and focussed feed sifting is one. It’s particularly useful for those who find the constant torrent of information a bit overwhelming, but who trust their sources to tweet good stuff. It makes sharing the content easy, too, with built in retweet and reply options, although social interaction is not so much the point here.

The other approach – widely seen and in some cases, resented – is to collect current content on a specific subject to share with the world. The owner of the feed is the “curator”, and the people they follow become “contributors”. There are very practical applications for this. For example, you can create a list of people who you know consistently share worthwhile content, or who are authorities on your subject, and create a “newspaper” of what they share.

You can also create a page based on a #tag, so you can collate everything on a certain subject, or let people submit content to your page specifically, using your tag.  Nice for events, for example. We see that it could be used to feed curated content to groups of people, such as employees of a company, who are too busy to check the Twitter stream hourly, but who need to keep up to date with developments. The downsides? Publishing your Daily isn’t appreciated by everyone – there have been mutterings about vanity and self-indulgence.  We say:  you know those in your stream better than anyone – it’s a case of judgement.  Maybe ask your followers if they’d like to see your Daily in the stream or not? If the answer’s a resounding ‘no’, well, you can still benefit.  If the answer is ‘yes’, happy days.  Just make it good.

Anything Else I Should Know?

As a young product, Paper.li is not perfect. The design is functional but rigid, and you can’t combine newspapers to create one compound paper. For example, you can’t yet combine your Facebook and Twitter streams, or your Twitter stream and someone else’s into one daily page. Paper.li is a good alternative to the acclaimed Flipbook for us plebs who haven’t yet taken up the iPad, and as a practical tool for individual users, it can serve a great purpose. There is definitely more potential to exploit in the future.  But whether you use it as a time saver or enjoy the glory of being a curator of fine content, the possibilities of Paper.li are well worth exploring.

Ever Wondered About is a new series on the Wisdom London blog, where we aim to demystify and explore what’s shaping our social interactions.  Coming up: Paper.li, and PPC. Wondering about anything else?  Tell us and we’ll investigate!

Ever wondered about how Android could be useful for your business? Wonder no more.