Tag Archives: google

How a Strong Mission Helps B2B Companies Capitalize on Employee Advocacy

Employee Advocacy

Employee advocacy isn’t exactly a new idea: when your workers are truly engaged and excited about your company, they act as powerful brand ambassadors outside the office and can create a tremendous impact.

From generating new leads, to forging powerful partnerships, to spreading brand awareness, only good things can come from employees personally buying into your business. Think of it as an organic, low-cost marketing effort that can easily get your employees’ networks buzzing about your company, your offerings, and most importantly, your mission.

But wait… what if you don’t have a mission?

How B2B Companies Can Transcend Business

For B2B companies that don’t appeal to the everyday consumer, inspiring employees to advocate on the brand’s behalf might seem like a pipe dream. Sure, it’s easy for the guys at Google to tell their friends about how great the search engine giant is—but who wants to hear about paper supply over cocktails?

That’s where a mission comes in. Human beings love, dream, hope, laugh, and care; we long to be part of something bigger than ourselves—something that matters. A strong mission can unite your team, instill loyalty, and engender endless advocacy.

Maybe your mission can come straight from your offerings, like an educational resource provider that aims to help all children learn, grow, and achieve through their products. Or perhaps it’s a separate initiative, like a paper supply company that saves the planet by using recycled materials and planting new trees together on the weekends.

No matter what path you choose, when your company adopts a meaningful mission, it’s almost impossible to keep the good word from spreading.

How Technology Is Changing the Game

While employee advocacy and missions are nothing new, thanks to new technologies, their impact has never been greater: with the explosion of social media, it’s exceedingly easy for employees to tap into their networks and amplify your brand’s message.

Most people in your organization are on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter (just to name a few) with hundreds of friends, family members, and business partners only a click away. (E.g., the average 25-43 year old on Facebook has 360 friends!)

The possibilities are literally exponential. If even one person shares a branded piece of content on LinkedIn, 100 new connections might see it; if those contacts like or share the content in turn, suddenly thousands are learning about your company, your offerings, and most importantly, your mission.

Inspiring Advocacy

Beyond spreading brand awareness and drumming up new business, putting your mission on center stage engages your employees and dramatically impacts productivity. Companies with engaged employees outperform those without by an astonishing 202%.

An inspiring mission means your company is about more than “just business.” It brings your team together and transforms everyone into a well-connected advocate trumpeting your message and inspiring others.

That’s not just good for business; it’s good for the world.

Author: Paul Wry

Privacy Invasion or Personalization: Has Digital Marketing Gone Too Far?

Privacy vs Personalization

Privacy Invasion or Personalization: Has Digital Marketing Gone Too Far?

Mark Zuckerberg’s social network just put the face in the Facebook: the company’s new facial-recognition software uses futuristic artificial intelligence to identify faces almost as accurately as humans.

While the A.I. isn’t being used yet, it is stirring up fears about potential invasions of privacy. The hyper-accurate software could one day be used by marketers to track users in public and display targeted ads in the real world, sort of like the holographic spokespeople in Minority Report. If spam annoys you now, imagine having it follow you everywhere.

This is just the latest advance in the ongoing trend of personalization. As technology progresses and we become ever more digitally dependent, marketers are gathering more and more info on consumers, scraping personal data and online history to deliver targeted ads. But is it an unwelcome invasion or valuable marketing tool? Perhaps both.

Privacy vs. Personalization

On the face of it (pardon the pun), targeted ads seem like a win-win.  Consumers see ads that they’re actually interested in (e.g., teenagers probably aren’t considering reverse mortgages, nor will retirees appreciate that Taylor Swift’s new single is now available on iTunes). At the same time, advertising dollars are used more efficiently than ever, raising ROI to unprecedented levels and lowering the barrier of entry for startups and small businesses.

And yet, at the same time, it’s hard not to feel a little creeped out. Gmail reads through all of my personal emails to serve me relevant ads. The reader may be an impersonal algorithm, but it feels like voyeurism all the same. 

The Debate Rages On

In the battle between privacy and personalization, it’s difficult to say who’s winning: Google recently stopped scanning students’ Gmail activity in an attempt to preserve privacy, yet Yahoo just decided to disregard users’ “Do Not Track” settings in the name of personalized experience.

While it seems inevitable that digital markets will continue to encroach on personal data, it’s public debates like this that rein in Google and Facebook from becoming Big Brother.

I believe there’s a middle path. Personalization is a great boon for advertising and enhancing user experience; it seems naïve to think we’ll backpedal at this point. As personal data continues to grow exponentially, digital markets must proceed ethically and strive to honor transparency, privacy, and respect.

Author: Daniel Gordon

Behavior-Changing Apps: A Vanguard Direct Survey

Behavior Changing Apps

Steve Jobs and Apple revolutionized how we understand communication and information. He completely shifted our society. It was his products that transformed, in a way, how we think and behave. And it’s this last point that is the most fascinating. Behavior. Our behavior is different simply because of a small, handheld device. This was enough to drive Utterly Orange to ask: How else has our behavior changed as a result of technology? And in particular, which applications have leveraged the mobile platform and really changed our world?

We surveyed over 100 Vanguard employees on this topic and received, as you might imagine, a plethora of opinions. I’ve done my best to collate those opinions into something more chewable. However, one can’t help but wonder what makes one app’s utility more important than another’s? Yelp has blown away Zagat as the number-one restaurant-reviewing site/app. Foodies live and die—and, likewise, restaurants—by Yelp and its five alluring stars. But is it more transformative than, say, the flashlight app? Did you ever think you’d be bringing your phone camping in order to properly navigate?

So while I’d like to say our list is exhaustive, it’s limited and inherently subjective. And oftentimes it’s like we’re comparing Apple and oranges.

Banking & Financial Apps

The day that I heard I could deposit a check without having to go to the bank, I pretty much flipped. Or transfer money to a friend simply by typing in her email address? Who knew? There was a time when one would scan through thousands of ticker symbols in order to see if his Kodak stock went up a half point or not. Today it streams in real-time on the home screen of my phone.

These financial apps may not be the sexiest, but they certainly have changed our behavior.

Honorable mention goes to mint.com and its highly intuitive, highly beautiful app. Connect with every financial account you maintain (if you have the gumption) and see your net worth. From setting budgets to tracking your spending trends, your eyes will awaken to how you spend a dollar. You can’t help but want to modify your behavior.

News-aggregate Apps

We’re living in a content-driven world, and Vanguard is a content-driven girl. The Information Age is a tired expression, but it’s still undoubtedly accurate. Our survey suggested Vanguard has an overwhelming enthusiasm for apps that curate content.

That said, our sample comes from digitally savvy New Yorkers who have the subway free-time and industry knowledge to be interested in these sorts of apps. However, you cannot deny how we think about information today. It’s completely different from ten years ago. And without getting too grandiose on you, think about what this says about our evolution as human beings. I can barely fathom the implications.

Honorable mention goes to Flipboard. It’s intuitive. It’s user-friendly. And it works. Our senior management team loves it––and if they get it, you will.

Barcode-based Apps

Genius. There’s no other way to describe the utility of these apps other than to say simply: Genius. Want to know if that protein bar isn’t actually filled with carbs and sugar? Scan it. Want to sign up for a chance to drive a Lamborghini? Scan it. Want to know if that product was made in a child sweatshop factory in China? Scan it. Boycott it.

Never in a million years did someone think a telephone would have this sort of function. And yet, here we are. Honorable mention goes to Fooducate. This handy app scans your food and assigns it a letter grade. Skippy peanut butter gets a C? The app suggests a more healthful, A-rated alternative.

Music-driven Apps

Regardless of whether you hate all its ads or not, Shazam is 100% a unique game shifter. You can call it an app, but it’s an invention that has revolutionized our relationship with the sound waves coming out of your bar’s speakers. The minute you even hear the concept behind this app, you’ll get goose bumps.

Honorable mention goes to apps like Spotify and Pandora, which have changed radio forever. They’re like the news-aggregate apps from above, but for the soul.

Google Apps

Google is a category of its own. One cannot put down in writing the impact that its array of products have had on our organization, our culture, and our world. Your phone tells you when to turn left and when to turn right. Thanks, Google Maps! Your phone tells you that the phallic object in the middle of Buenos Aires you’re viewing is the Obelisco de Buenos Aires. Thanks, Google Goggles! And on that note, what does “Obelisco” mean in English? Obelisk. Thanks, Google Translate!

Google Now, a new app designed to adapt to where you go and what you do to predict behavior, is creepily amazing. But wait, there’s more!

I won’t go on, but this stuff is incomprehensible. And there are plenty of honorable mentions for me-too products, but we all know they’ve just been modeling themselves after Google.

These five categories and their top apps were chosen because of their utility and surprise. Did we think that we’d be talking to people using video someday? Well, yeah. It was in Back to the Future Part II. That isn’t to say it isn’t impressive; it really is. Social apps and game apps have altered how we interact with peers and friends. We are social beings, and these apps have encouraged social behavior. As I said in the beginning, this list is certainly nowhere near exhaustive––if you had to suggest another, what app has surprised you most?

Author: Eric Swenson

You Get to Keep the Tools!

Founded after World War I, the Cipher Bureau, aka the “Black Chamber” (after King Henry IV of France’s sixteenth-century letter-opening/resealing cabinet noir), was America’s first peacetime cryptanalysis (code-breaking) unit. In 1929, the government withdrew funding and the Bureau closed, in retrospect possibly assisting the Japanese in carrying out their surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Then-Secretary of State Henry L. Stimson’s now-celebrated explanation for shutting down the unit was: “Gentlemen do not read each other’s mail.”

Well, Mr. Stimson was certainly permitted his own definition of “gentlemen,” complete with behavioral parameters. But today’s online services, including Facebook, Google, Amazon, Yahoo, and Twitter, are all about reading our personal messages—and a lot more. Though privacy wonks and certain European countries bristle at the very notion of such intrusive behavior and point shaky fingers at endpoints such as totalitarian police states and black helicopters circling above FEMA-operated forced-labor camps, we do, after all, live in a capitalist society, and the goal these companies share is a long way down the shock spectrum from jackbooted thought police. According to revelations both recent and not-so-recent, government agencies do indeed want to stockpile everything there is to know about everyone there is. But the arguably un-gentlemanly corporations to whom we trade personal information in exchange for services want to profile our interests and shopping habits and market this information to advertisers—period. Oh, and possibly make our lives easier by blurring the boundary between conversation and access.

Here’s an illustration of the latter. This happened yesterday, and I’d like to know whether others find it creepy and intrusive, or the leading edge of something new and wonderful. Let me set the stage: I play free-form jazz once or twice a month with a somewhat changeable cast of characters. During my lunch break, I was doing a postmortem on the most recent jam with the group’s founder and bassist via Gmail. The drummer had been vehemently unimpressed with the latest guitar player we invited to join us, and the bassist and I were comparing notes. As a (fairly lame) joke, I sent a photo of Mike Keneally, a monster musician who was Frank Zappa’s last in a long line of discovered/nurtured prodigies, along with the note: “Maybe this guy would satisfy X’s requirements.”

Note: Mike is an even better guitar player than Michael J. Fox was in Back to the Future. Here he is:

The bassist replied, “Yeah, sure—I’ll ask him to play with us next time he’s in town. By the way, I just ordered Keneally’s Wing Beat Elastic; it’s a remix album of Wing Beat Fantastic that includes some demos (Andy Partridge sings on one) and a bunch of more guitar-oriented instrumental versions of stuff from the album.”

All well and good. Walking home later, I pulled out my Android phone and punched up the confusingly named “Google Play Music All Access”—which, like the other players in the crowded field it recently joined, including Spotify, Rdio, and Pandora, costs about eight dollars a month and provides access to “millions” of tracks in all styles of music. The slight differentiating wrinkle here is that people like me have been uploading our personal CDs and, yes, downloads, to Google Play, at no charge, for something like a year now. The pay service uses that personal collection to help curate listening suggestions. Nice idea—no paradigm shift yet.

But the artwork that appeared when I opened the app was the cover of aforementioned Wing Beat Elastic! My ingrained old-hippie sensibility went immediately for “synchronicity,” or “kismet”—some sort of cosmic coincidence, by whatever name. Then I realized that this was a secondary release by a fairly obscure indie-label artist, unlikely to be widely promoted, and that my previous uploads to Google Play had included nothing by Mike Keneally, Frank Zappa, or even album collaborator Andy Partridge or his longtime band, XTC.

The only explanation was that the hive mind that is Google read my mail and cued up the album, just in case I’d want to listen to it later. In my book, this nearly passes the classic Turing test for artificial intelligence. Again: creepy or cool? Let’s extrapolate: Maybe someday Google (or Apple, or someone else) will see me approaching home, turn on the AC, and mix a margarita, just the way I like it; questions will be answered before I think to ask them; needs met before I realize anything’s lacking. So, do we welcome our new cybernetic overlords, or shed all electronics and run for the hills?

In the words of that bald, mustachioed TV spokesman urging couch potatoes to action in the old Apex Tech ads, “You have to make the call.” And, depending on your answer, I suppose you get to keep the tools as well.

Author: John Wehmeyer

RIP Google Reader, Bring On Social News

If you use the Internet to curate all of your news, then chances are you’ve used an RSS Feed backed by Google Reader. In that case, you are then well aware that Google is nixing Reader during its yearly spring-cleaning purge. Often, apps that bring in no revenue or have long since been abandoned are what get the axe, not a popular application used by millions. The public outcry was instantaneous, all with one unified question: Why are you doing this to me?

For those who are still a little confused about what Google Reader is and the importance it had for many industries, it was the service offered by Google that aggregated specified content into a single web feed. This allowed users to scan articles and find pieces of relevant content quickly and efficiently. In March, Google announced the end of the service by July, with no replacement service to offer as of yet, or so it seems.

The last couple of years, social search and crowdsourcing have become more and more common in our everyday lives. Every blog and news provider has social channels––most likely multiple channels––it posts to. With Google’s constant attempts to breach the social scene, this shouldn’t be a surprising announcement. What is a surprise, however, is how many people are opposed to the idea of using social media as their sole news driver, even though it caters to personal preferences, niche markets, and like-minded attitudes. Sites like Twitter have every potential to operate like a newsfeed, with the added bonus of real-time debates and sharing abilities. But for some reason, our customary agents of change from the tech industry are shouting that they like things the way they are.

Which is ridiculous. Especially because everyone should have seen this coming. The Pew Research Center found that over 93 million of Facebook’s 133 million active users use the social network to read the news their friends and family share, while another 31 million of these users get their news from dedicated news providers. That was in 2011. That same report showed that, of all the users of Twitter––still climbing the ranks to become one of the popular kids in the social circle––36% used their friends as news sources, but 45% used accounts from established news sources pushing their own content.

I must reiterate. That was two years ago. Since then, Google has been pushing for Google+ to be better integrated into the everyday person’s social sphere, mostly to little success. It wouldn’t be much of a surprise to see Reader pop up under a new guise in Google+, with the hopes of persuading people to use Google+ as their new RSS Feed/news aggregator. If you’re still in doubt, take a look at the last update Google Reader got in 2011. It was integration with Google+. Also two years ago.

This is not a shot in the dark, and it is almost certainly a very calculated move on the part of Google. Removing Google Reader is one move on the chessboard. Whatever Google plans on doing to remedy the current disappointment it dealt its loyal followers, you can be sure an answer will come before Google Reader cuts out for good.

Author: Zack Smith

Free Internet—Too Good to Be True

At the beginning of January, it was announced that Google was providing the entire New York City neighborhood of Chelsea with free wireless Internet. With their New York Office located in the same area, over 8,000 people now have access to free Internet.

The concept isn’t new, and especially in NYC. In the summer of 2011, the Brooklyn neighborhood of DUMBO was gifted its improvement district, with financing from a building management company, with free Internet for all who inhabit it as well as their visitors. As imagined, the technology was well received, and to date has run into minimal problems.

Rumors of NYC being completely connected have swirled around for a while, with Mayor Bloomberg advocating for NYC to be the new technology capital of the country. When news broke that the Federal Communications Commission was considering supplying free Internet across the country, though a bit far fetched, it still seemed like a possibility. After all, time and again thought leaders and organizations all the way up to the United Nations have deemed the Internet a basic human right. Making it fully accessible to everyone at any time seemed like a logical next step.

But as with many projections at that scale, it was too good to be true. Due to poor reporting by the Washington Post and poorer interpretation and research done by web journalists who pushed it to their own readers, too good to be true turned out to be just that. The Post was actually covering a part of the White Spaces proposal that has been in circuit since 2008, which speaks to the unused bands of spectrum each television channel controls. The frequencies can transmit further than WiFi, and talks have been made about doing something with these bands, but certainly not now. To say the least, it’s an embarrassing error for the Washington Post.

But what if free Internet could be provided? What would be the implications? The most obvious would be the massive hit to Internet Service Providers, who would lose a massive chunk of revenue. Or would they partner up to offer the service, and if so, who would pay them? What if a company like Google, which already has established an area of free WiFi, extends their networks? Would the user mind communications loaded down by ads, or connecting through a specific account—in this case Gmail for Google?

In any case, for the country to reach the height of technological advancement it so desperately wants, unlimited Wi-Fi reached from anywhere is something that may have to become a reality. Even with a unanimous go-ahead among concerned parties, a few years would have to be invested into network and set-up, so it surely wouldn’t be an instantaneous flip of the switch.

There’s certainly a lot of pull and tug on the issue and an endless list of things the endeavor would affect. One thing can be counted on, though: should a free countrywide network is set up, it will definitely not be a decision that seemingly came out of nowhere.

Author: Zack Smith

Why Does Google Doodle?

I recently discovered the free GDoodle app, which documents every single Google Doodle ever created. Serving the same function as google.com/doodles, it is an archive of every doodle conceived to date. Besides being something to waste a couple of hours on, it’s a living museum of Google’s growth from a small search engine breaking into the market to the technology giant of today. Looking at the first Doodle, a small stick figure behind the second “o” (which appeared in 1998 when Google co-founders went to Burning Man), and continuing on to the more interactive and engaging Doodles of today (remember playing Pac-Man on a Doodle?), I’ve come to realize how influential these Doodles are.

Google Doodles are usually appealing to all audiences, whether they understand the reference or not. Doodles are conceived by both staff members and users who submit ideas they would like to see highlighted on the search engine megastar. A lot of time and effort is put into researching and developing the ideas, which are sometimes completed in less then 24 hours.

But why does Google Doodle? Turns out, for a couple of reasons. First, it reminds users that Google is always in the know, keeping up with current events. During the Olympics, Google releases Doodles for multiple events throughout the global competition, congratulating winners and highlighting events. In what may be the most impressive story to date on Doodle production, there was the four-hour turnaround when news of water on the moon broke out, as Google doodled what hadn’t even been published in print yet.

The Doodles also showcase the Google’s technical adeptness. The very first animated Google Doodle was in 2010, celebrating Isaac Newton’s birthday. A simple apple falling was the animation, but while most of us would have used Flash to make this, Google used JavaScript and regular code. Although the majority of us were unaware of this at the time, this marked the beginning of Flash’s uphill battle to keep its place on the Internet.

Google can also use its Google Doodles to draw attention to its own new features, like the Google Instant movement-aware bubbles, which foreshadowed Google’s then-new feature of completing words before you typed them, an attempt to guess what you were searching for. Additionally, it marked Google’s first pass at coding in HTML5, picking up where it left off with its JavaScript Doodle only months earlier. More recently, if you clicked on the recent Herman Melville Doodle, you were directed to the updated Google Knowledge Graph Carousel, Google’s “related search” technology.

But ultimately, the Google Doodle is an answer to the age-old question, “How do I get the customer to keep coming back?” Although Google accounts for more than 6% of total web traffic, staring at the same logo every day becomes tiresome. So by 2000, Google started making more Doodles, mostly around holidays. It also filed a patent for “Systems and Methods for Enticing Users to a Web Site.” That patent was granted in 2011.

So why does Google doodle? Among other reasons, for self-promotion, experimentation, and to get you coming back. Because we all know that when that next Doodle comes up, you will most likely go look at it, even if you have nothing to search for at the moment. Completely successful marketing.

Author: Zack Smith