Tag Archives: Internet

From Desktop to Pocket: Why Americans Are Making the Switch to Mobile

Reaching a Breaking Point

In the years since Apple released the first iPhone in 2007, we’ve seen a seismic shift in the way that people are accessing the Internet. The landscape has changed so swiftly, in fact, that many have been left in the dust. In 2014, an incredible milestone was reached: for the first time ever, users spent more time accessing the Internet via mobile devices than they did on their PCs. Here are just a few reasons to believe that a movement to mobile is more than just a passing trend.

A Short, Snackable Experience

Since the rise of the smartphone, we’ve seen an influx of content that’s designed for a quick visit and nothing more — what some are referring to as “snackable” content. This could be anything from a short video to an infographic to a concise, easily navigable list.

We already know that peak Internet usage happens during lunch breaks, commutes, and decompressing time at home. But in a U.S. market where more than a whopping 178 million consumers now carry smartphones, content is often consumed in even shorter increments. More and more, users are harnessing just a few seconds to tune into the Internet on their mobile devices — and content generators are taking notice, churning out shorter, more digestible tidbits.

Apps on the Rise

Much of the newest research and data on user behavior suggests that users prefer smartphone apps to traditional browsers, and why not? Apps are elegant, to-the-point, and mobile by definition. The best ones make comparable websites seem bloated or even obsolete. In 2014, mobile app usage grew by 76%, and smartphone owners now download almost 9 apps per month on average.

Mobile Can Do It All

Last but certainly not least, users are ditching their PCs for mobile devices because phones and tablets can, simply put, do everything. Look at the device in your own pocket: chances are it can get you in touch with loved ones, snap a high-quality video, help you make an important purchase, check a flight time — the list goes on and on. Once upon a time, consumers felt a need to balance mobile devices with the desktop experience in order to meet all their computing and Internet needs. But PC sales have been declining as more users find their demands met by a slim, lightweight device that’s always within reach.

Looking Toward a More Mobile Future

Make no mistake — the mobile Internet is here to stay, and its reach and popularity is growing daily. Facebook and Google are still the biggest playmakers, with dominant lineups that include YouTube and Instagram. If you’re looking to build a following online, those remain the best places to start.

But don’t discount emerging mobile platforms, including lifestyle and shopping apps, which grew more in 2014 than any other category. It’ll also be in your best interest to refresh and update your traditional website — users still need to visit them, but they’ll be looking for a streamlined, simplified, and responsive interface that more closely resembles the mobile experience.

Generation Friend

Drawing lines between social generations has become increasingly difficult. Advances in technology, beginning in the early eighties, have created overlapping layers of individuals who fall into multiple cultural generations. These generations are now more likely to be determined by personality traits combined with birth dates, rather than by age alone. I myself am an Eighties Baby (1983, to be exact) and fall on the line between the end of Generation X and the beginning of Generation Y. Additionally, I was part of a new generation of children who saw the full evolution of video games, from Atari and Nintendo (16 bit) to PS3, Xbox 360, and now the long-anticipated Wii U.

The time has come to usher in a new cultural distinction, one that has developed recently and will span many social generations: I call it Generation Friend. Before I go any further, I’d like you to ask yourself the following questions (and welcome you to post your answers in the comments section below):

  • Have you sent a Friend request in the past month?
  • Do you have more than 100 Friends on Facebook?
  • Have you searched for a Friend this month?
  • Have you used the term “Facebook Friend” within the past month?

I answered yes to three out of the four questions (and that’s only because of a Friend cleanup that I recently performed).

Getting back to my main point, I came to this new social distinction recently, after I referred to my brother as a “Friend on Facebook.” This got me thinking: Has Facebook cheapened the meaning of “Friend”? In short, my answer is no. To be fair, Facebook allows users to categorize their friends very precisely. Even though Facebook only recently offered this option in response to Google +, LinkedIn has been letting users categorize their connections from the beginning.

Facebook, just like email, music, and pictures, requires a user to invest time to keep it organized and up to date. We’ve all gone through the Friend-request binges that have led to a bloated list of Friends, but it’s time to roll up the sleeves and cut the loose Friends—err—strings. Maybe Facebook will evolve over time and become intuitive enough to categorize connections by the type of interaction, frequency of interaction, the amount of pictures you’re “tagged” in, and by shared connections. Until then, it’s up to you to de-friend the ex, an old roommate from college, or the person you met in line yesterday at Starbucks.

Author: Michael Hiney

Cutting Through the Marketing Noise

How many of you have signed up for a credit card or a discount site just to save that extra dollar on a purchase, only to regret it the next morning when the spam––sorry––marketing campaign begins? Every search, purchase, “like,” download, post, and check-in is captured and analyzed so that companies can effectively and efficiently market their brands to targeted audiences. For the consumer, this means tens (if not hundreds) of emails each day, sponsored links on Facebook timelines, ads in apps, and strategically placed advertisements in both web pages and search results.

From a consumer standpoint, every day is a battle of the spam. I have gone to great lengths to limit my exposure to the onslaught of marketing campaigns. I do not “like” or follow companies/brands on social media, I filter all my emails, I fast-forward through commercials on my DVR, I browse incognito and frequently clear my history, cookies, and cache. I’ve even gone as far as setting up a new email account to escape the plethora of junk email from various sites and promotions that I signed up for.

This week, I came across an advertisement that caught me by surprise. I’ve gone back to the advertisement about a dozen times and have shared it with my coworkers and family. The advertisement was for Avis, and the advertising was done brilliantly. I was reading one of my favorite magazines on my iPad when I came to the dreaded “advertising spread.” Here is the moment that, with one swift swipe of a finger, I would turn the page and move on to reading another article. Something strange happened: The advertisement was shaking on the screen with the big, bright words “SHAKE ME” at the bottom.

I suddenly had the urge to shake my iPad, just to see what would happen. To my dismay, the error message (below) popped up, as I was in a PATH station without a Wi-Fi connection––fail.

While on the train, all I could think of was what would happen next!! As soon as I reached my stop, I hurried out of the station, headed to the first Starbucks I could find, and started shaking my iPad furiously. What happened next was a bit disappointing: The car turned into a room, and I could keep shaking my iPad to change the setting to a different room (three options in all). There was a link that I could click on to customize my room of choice, but I suddenly didn’t have the urge to invest additional time into the advertisement.

On a positive note, this is a perfect example of a company being able to “cut through the noise.” There was no QR code, no link, no survey––just a simple statement that tickled my curiosity. This advertisement, however, did have some flaws. First, the entire interaction relies on the user being connected to the Internet. Even though I was intrigued enough to run to the nearest Starbucks, there could be as many (or more) users who were deterred and wouldn’t shake again. Secondly, the concept was better than the message that was delivered. Maybe this was intentional, but the only thing I can remember from the ad besides the “Shake Me” is the car morphing into a room, which still befuddles me today. Either way, the advertising worked as planned. Avis is now permanently branded (pun intended) into my head and I have shared this ad with anyone who would listen.

Now onto what matters … Analytics!!!

This advertisement is a prime of example of interactive advertising that was made possible by the gyroscope and accelerometer technology built into the iPad. A study performed by the Interactive Advertising Bureau found a direct correlation between the effectiveness of an ad and the type of mobile advertising utilized (static, animated or interactive). Interactive ads were most frequently considered engaging, innovative, and memorable. Not surprisingly, interactive ads were found to be both the least boring and the least ordinary (see chart below). Reading the study reaffirmed my belief in the effectiveness of the Avis advertisement.

Image from Internet Advertising Bureau UK (iab)

For now, the marketing directors have won. I will continue to be intrigued by interactive advertisements. So if you see me walking on the street or around the office shaking my iPad, do not fret. I haven’t gone mad––I’m either using my iPad as an Etch A Sketch or I am testing out the latest “Shake Me” ad! Let’s just hope I have a Wi-Fi connection to view it!

Author: Michael Hiney

Reddit: How President Obama Communicated with the Masses

We live in a day and age where the Internet has become so important that the technology is quickly becoming a platform for politicians to stand on. Both the Democratic and Republican parties have pledged to support Internet freedom, developed mobile campaign applications, and utilized as many social media channels as possible, meeting with both success and disappointment.

Yet the biggest event to grace the Internet at 4:30pm on August 29 was President Obama doing an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on online news aggregator Reddit. Gaining tremendous popularity this year, Reddit has launched itself into the public eye, backing events like the SOPA Internet blackout and Washington, D.C.’s Reason Rally. A place to voice your opinion anonymously, Reddit hosts conversations that range from crude and inane to incredibly constructive and thought-provoking.

So what? The President talked to some people on another social platform. The “what” is the sheer amount of people participating in this online event. At a time when getting people to the voting booths or a rally is a tiring and seemingly hopeless process, the opportunity to reach out to over 1,800,000 people is tremendous, and something that couldn’t even be dreamed of just a few short years ago. Where did the number 1,800,000 come from? That is the amount of people who have visited and read the content that was written as part of this single conversation. That number does not represent users or bots, but people who, at the very least, came to the thread and read the content. From those 1,800,000 people, over 22,000 comments were generated, mostly questions that users wanted answered.

Ten lucky users got their questions addressed, on topics including corruption, Internet freedom, college debt, the space program, and the most difficult decision Obama has had to make. The answers given were typical, middle-ground answers, peppered with humor and campaigning, but that doesn’t diminish the amount of people reached and interacted with. Over the course of about two hours, Obama reached more people than he could have at twenty of his best-attended rallies.

The best part? Reddit was there to listen. This is not a community of people who take things at face value, and it is certainly one composed of countless backgrounds, ideals, and political affiliations. They were there to understand and to challenge, and whether it was to their satisfaction or not, they at least received a response. This is the value of a conversation held in this medium. This is utilizing the tools that are at everyone’s disposal. There is no telling what the implications of this are and for how long this will be a new and impressive campaigning method. For now, this is just another testament to the growing power of the Internet, social media, and the vast network at every person’s fingertips.

Author: Zack Smith

The Competitive Edge May Lie in the Method of Communication

From the first caveman’s grunt to today’s mobile technology, from writing on stone tablets to text messages delivered with 4G speed, we’ve come a long way in a short period of time.

We’re still communicating in more ways than ever … what’s your message? What is the true value of the message you’re sending? The information age has definitely kicked the art of communication up a few notches. Supplying users with an array of devices and applications, the challenge lies in how best to deliver the message. The goal is connecting with your targeted audience at maximum speed and reach.

Social media is an equalizer! It levels the playing field, as each person––anyone––has the ability to be heard and seen. Whether it’s an individual or big business, we want to send and deliver a message that will be read. Again, the goal is the same, but the method can vary.

With so many vying for everyone’s attention, how does one stand out, stay relevant, rise above, shine brighter? By asking the right questions! We know businesses are cutting budgets. More than ever, it’s important to ask what brand benefits set us apart from the competition? How can we analyze an existing customer database to build brand loyalty, to expand into new markets, and perhaps reach deeper into multicultural consumer segments?

In our new global markets, businesses struggle to stand out from their competition. Competition––an old game, but the rules are continually changing. From the ever-increasing reality shows to the politicians running for office and the businessmen trying to increase their bottom lines … we’re all competing.

We can rise above the crowd today and tomorrow by reevaluating our customers, staying abreast of new ways of grabbing their attention, and reanalyzing, as there’s no one-time solution. Technologies and how we communicate are forever changing!!

Author: Velda Gardiner

Online and Social Checkup: The Full Three

Twice a year we change our clocks to abide by the controversial daylight savings time, at which time we are told to change our smoke detector batteries. Once a year in October, retailers, television networks, nonprofits, and average citizens blanket the world in pink to bring attention to Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Heck, there is even Movember, during which men grow facial hair to raise awareness of men’s health issues, which competes with the likes of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). All of these events bring annual attention to a particular topic and call people to action, whether it be changing one’s batteries, getting screened for cancer, growing a mustache, or writing a novel. While the safety of our humble abodes and family health will always be paramount, we should not neglect our online and social health.

In a time when some employers are asking for social log-ins during the hiring process and many companies use social media to vet employees or learn more about vendors or business partners, why not take time to run your online and social checkup? Go ahead, Google yourself––I’ll wait. What did you find? A public-facing LinkedIn profile, tweets, press releases, or embarrassing photos? Depending on your celebrity and the uniqueness of your first and last names, you may have some heavy competition for the top results. For instance, if you shared a full name with an English soccer star (with a pretty sweet theme song), you would have to add several search operators like the minus sign (-soccer, -football, -athlete) to eliminate any online content associated with the soccer star to finally get a result relevant to you in particular.

Here is your prescription:

  1. Google yourself. Examine the search results and add search operators to eliminate the noise to get to the good stuff. Either way, clip the results to your Evernote notebook, or if you must, print out the results and store in a file folder hidden, unsearchable, in some dreaded physical file cabinet. Regardless of your storage preference, keep note of what changes over time.
  2. Social profile review. Depending on your search results and your social media account settings, you may find profile details, posts, or other details strewn around the net for anyone to pilfer, exploit, mock, or fact-check. Make a list of the profiles that are easily found through search engine activity. Then dive down into each account settings page by platform to determine what content you want to limit access to and how to limit that content.
  3. Ask the tough question, what is your brand? Other people are, or will be at some point in the near future, using your online/social presence (or lack thereof) to vet you for something or learn about the brand called “you.” What does a Google search, LinkedIn, Twitter, Yelp, blog, or Facebook account portray about who you are? A smattering of personal info or interests may make you seem more approachable and human if that is the message you want to portray. Your “brand” can and will change as your personal and professional lives progress, but during those different stages in your life, what persona does your social presence promote? Complete a brain dump (mind map) of what makes your brand unique, then hone your social presence to fit the brand that you want others to see.

Competing with the likes of Movember and NaNoWriMo is difficult, but how about this? Regardless of what you do, about every 28 days you experience a full moon, and––except for those in extreme latitudes during summer months––this large, glowing rock in the sky should stand as a reminder to perform your social checkup. Twelve or so times per year isn’t a big investment. So every full moon, complete the three steps of the social checkup. Maybe you could even perform your checkup under the full moon––just find some moonlight with Wi-Fi and let the checkup begin. See you under the moon.

Author: John Carew

Tablets, E-Readers, and iPhones Take Over the World!

Your content MUST be mobile-optimized or appified. A Pew Internet Research survey and Apple Q1 sales announcement paint a picture of a tablet, e-reader, and iPhone future filled with innovation, pain, or frustration––depending on how you proceed TODAY.

The numbers don’t lie––they suggest a trend and market preference for consumption. The tech world did not see the same game-changing flock of users adopt netbooks, and now this subcategory of laptop computers is essentially dead. The Kindles and iPads of the world have carved out a tablet niche for themselves because their form factor and technology allow for ideal consumption of much of the content available on the Internet. Get on board! Let’s clear up one small point––sorry to be a little nitpicky here, but the difference between an e-reader and a tablet is important. The title of the latest Pew report, “Tablet and E-book reader Ownership Nearly Double Over the Holiday Gift-Giving Period,” makes clear that there is a difference. “Tablet” and “E-book reader” are two distinct devices: a tablet is an e-reader with additional features, whereas an e-reader is primarily for reading content only, with fewer of the app- and Internet access-driven functions found on tablets.

By the way, in case you missed the news, Apple sold 37,000,000 iPhones in the first quarter of fiscal 2012. That is thirty-seven with six zeros. That is approximately 4.6 iPhones per New Yorker, but the thought of that many devices on the network in NYC is terrifying. One more time, iPhone sales accounted for 53% of Apple’s revenue for that quarter. Hello, iPhone––welcome to control of Apple sales and eventually everything. Fine, a little hyperbolic, but realize this: sales of iPhones mean users experiencing iOS. That experience will drive device use and preference in the future.

If your company’s primary offering can be consumed, purchased, or used online, make sure it is consumable via mobile device (tablet and smartphone) and offers an amazing user experience. Adequate, everyday, functional use of content on a mobile device will not differentiate your product in the marketplace.

If your company’s primary offering can be consumed via an app on iOS, for example, make it happen and spread the news as much as possible. Face it, the users who are buying iPhones, tablets, and e-readers now are not the early adopters––they are closer to the end of the early majority at this point. These are the users who can swing the adoption of the technology and push innovation in all aspects of the field further than we can even imagine at this point.

Courtesy of Wikipedia.

So are you ready for a mobile, smartphone/tablet-driven world? Is your content ready?

Author: John Carew