June 2007


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The answer to all unanswered questions: Just Google It. Almost as infectious as Nike’s Just Do It, saying “Just Google It” is the easy out for most queries. Don’t know how to get somewhere? Just Google it! When is next installment of Harry Potter coming out? Just Google it. How to kill your wife??!! You guessed it..Just f*%$^@ Google it.

Google’s surging popularity
Google has truly boomed in popularity over the last few years and is now considered the most popular search engine in the world. Google is a crawler based search engine. Google and other popular engines rely on “robots” to rank pages and link them to searches. This differs from human powered directories, which relies on the website owner to submit information about their site to the search engine. Google gathers information through Googlebot, indexes, and processes information found on the web. This makes the entire experience extremely user friendly and easy.

Survival of the fittest
Most people look to the 10 results of the first page of Google, and rely on those outcomes. As we’ve discussed in class, googling “art” listed the National Gallery of Art as one of the first links just a few years ago—now it’s on the second page. For websites, appearing on the first Google home page has become a competition, almost a survival of the fittest. SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is a way to ensure that search engines will find a website and list them in the search results. Linking, tagging & bookmarking, inbound links, submitting content to other sites, and mashups are all ways to prevent a static website.

The others just don’t stack up
Other search engines seem to pale in comparison, especially with Google as the forerunner with customizable home pages linked to e-mail, calendars, and pictures. Google is fast, easy to use, and thorough. Search engines seem to be popping up all over the place; however, and they all try emulate Google in one way or another.

The New Wave
Is there something out there that could trump Google? Google, which can be viewed as a traditional search, is always in Beta mode. This means it is constantly changing and improving. Search 2.0 includes the third generation of search engines like Swicki and Wink. These search engines use the power of Google and Yahoo!, but also incorporate “user preferences, collaboration, collective intelligence, a rich user experience”. I think it’s just a matter of time before Google attempts to use these same methods–chances are they are already working on it.

The Google brand
Google has become more than a search engine—it’s become a multi-billion dollar empire. Google Earth and Google’s purchase of YouTube are both examples of Google’s omnipresence on the web. With no sign of slowing down any time soon, Google continues to be the leading example of a search engine. Even with the Search 2.0 and third generation competitors creeping onto the web, Google’s perpetual Beta format will allow it to trump its competition.

With every trend sweeping the internet, Google maximizes its presence by participating in it somehow. Gmail and Gmail Chat have become instant phenomenons, and the Google Blog Search was created as a Technorati alternative. Latching on the Google name to almost anything will give it instant popularity.

So what’s next in the world of Google? Just Google It.

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As soon as I read that we were studying virtual communities this week, Jamiroquai’s 1996 “Virtual Insanity” popped into my head. In this new virtual world of interaction, oftentimes this sense of community can become linked to an idea of chaos. The name of Jamiroquai’s album, Traveling Without Moving, highlights this idea of online communities—in a time where they hadn’t even begun to really gain ground in cyberspace like they have today. And of course, there was the music video that most people think of when they hear the song. Jamiroquai walks on a conveyer with the image of moving, but actually staying in place. A metaphor for the online world? Depends on how you look at it.

Facebook: a new online community
Facebook was launched on Harvard’s campus in February of 2004. Following suit of an ideal online community, Facebook was originally marketed towards college students who wanted to get in touch with students on other campuses as well as connecting with members on their own campus. In April of 2004, Facebook made its way onto my college campus through vigorous word-of-mouth. Following the path of the Ivy League schools, UVA students quickly scurried to their computers to sign up for this new networking site. At the time, I barely knew what it was, and I had not even heard much about MySpace or Friendster. All I knew was that it was obviously popular in New England schools, and we saw ourselves as trailblazers for what we thought might be a fleeting trend. As we now know, Facebook has erupted into massive phenomenon not only for college students, but for anyone with a working e-mail address.

Facebook’s growing popularity
So what is it that makes Facebook so popular? Work and geographic networks are almost as popular as undergraduate and graduate networks. For myself, it started out as a great way to get in touch with high school friends and see what old friends were up to. Not before long, however, it turned into an opportunity to create long profiles, add photos, links, and exchange gifts. Facebook has become its own empire, complete with t-shirts and other paraphernalia. Obviously, this is no longer just a “college thing.”

Our dependence on virtual communities in cyberspace
The very definition of a virtual or online community is a group of people that interact on the internet. Online communities have become a rather fluid concept. I have a number of friends that will deactivate their facebook accounts, only to go through a kind of withdrawal and reactivate it in a week or so later. Not only do they feel out of the loop with new information—cultural, local, gossip, or otherwise—but their friends give them a hard time for getting rid of their membership. In an age where communication is key, Facebook serves as the ultimate tool.

Where is Facebook going now?
The new applications on Facebook have been met with mixed responses. There are an overwhelming amount of new applications to customize your facebook page. Being curious, I added a few—soon after, I had somebody tell me “Your profile is starting to look like a MySpace page.” Enough said, because I quickly deleted all of my new apps and kept my page at the bare minimum. Many Facebook users have chosen the site over its competitors like MySpace because of its simple interface and sleek look. The last thing a loyal Facebook user wants to hear is that it’s turning into MySpace.

The power of Facebook
Facebook became popular at a time when college students were looking to connect with one another. Websites like College Humor allowed students to send in pictures, videos, and stories to share. Facebook enabled students to personalize this information with their own profiles, while still being able to share things they thought were amusing or funny.

As a generation, we have become especially adept to this notion of sitting at our computer and learning about almost anything. The customization of the internet is what has powered Facebook gain so much momentum. Now, anybody can sit on their Facebook account and get link to YouTube videos, personal blogs, or the most recent news articles and political debates. It’s the very essence of traveling without moving. The very hustle and bustle of the online world has a chaotic factor to it. The personalization of RSS feeds, Facebook accounts, Google homepages help control this online world of virtual insanity.

Conversational marketing and the outcome of word-of-mouth both rely heavily on the idea of consumer loyalty. As evident in McConnell and Huba’s Citizen Marketers, one person has the power to spread the word about a specific product, store, or notion. By rallying behind Target products or Surge, these citizen marketers have used the internet as their tool. Gutenberg’s printing press has evolved into the blogosphere of the 21st century. Like the printing press before it, blogs are a catalyst for changing culture and moving ideas forward. The passion or distaste for a particular brand or product stems from the loyalty within a consumer to get a certain image across the public. The democratization of the internet allows any consumer to blog about whatever they want.


[Free] Conversational Marketing

Oftentimes, companies may be entirely unaware of a marketing ploy provided by their own consumers. As is the case with Diet Coke and Mentos, Diet Coke’s preliminary response was a rejection of mixing the two products to cause an explosion. Diet Coke felt that it went against the sleek and sophisticated image of their brand, as their new set of advertisements demonstrate. Mentos, on the other hand, was entirely supportive of the experiments and popularity after various YouTube videos began circulating on the internet. After they finally realized the sheer popularity of the experiment, Diet Coke changed their tune.

Drawing the line

What Diet Coke originally failed to realize was that their traditional methods of marketing and advertising don’t match up with the new practice of public relations. Professor Bell’s post further draws the line between traditional public relations and the new breed that conversational marketing and the internet have vastly popularized. In the old method of doing things, Diet Coke wanted to control their image. It took them eight months to understand the new age of public relations where conversational marketing trumps antiquated practices.

Wal-Mart’s spotlight in traditional media is remarkably different from their mentions on the blogosphere. Traditional media outlets like The New York Times have often focused on employee benefits, wages, and Wal-Mart’s initiatives to go green. Online, however, many of the blogs centered around Wal-Mart have to do with back to school, favored products, and general customer service in addition to various anti-Wal-Mart groups like Wake Up Wal-Mart and Wal-Mart Watch. The line between traditional media and social media in Wal-Mart’s case is extremely bold and easy to identify.

The key to getting customer loyalty = listening to the consumer
Listening centered marketing is at the crux of understanding the consumer. This 360 degree idea absorbs every aspect of the new age of public relations. With so many conversations going on about products, stores, ideas, etc., it is essential for customers to listen to the consumers. Pete Blackshaw’s blog says that this model of marketing is uber modern and extremely necessary. Blackshaw names this current era an “age of conversation”. This is anything but a one-sided conversation—with consumers doing so much talking, companies and pr professionals need to listen and act according to these conversations. Listening to consumers is the ultimate way to gain their loyalty for a brand.

Outdated are the traditional methods of media, such as broadcast; in its place is a constantly changing online world of improving programs and Betas. The constant news cycle and instant access to information online leaves web goers inundated with options. At their fingertips is the power of their own media consumption.

O’Reilly’s definition of Web 2.0 is highly dependent on the idea of social media. With Web 2.0 as the all encompassing platform for the new age of the internet, social media brings together the interconnectedness of the internet.

Social Media
Social media blends together the audience and the media, leaving little distinction between the two. This kind of participatory involvement online allows everybody to create blogs, join social networks, and participate in forums. Social media encourages participation, openness, conversation, community, and connectedness. Without these important factors, Web 2.0 would be ineffective. Websites such as Flickr and YouTube would quickly dwindle in numbers if there wasn’t a participatory factor to them.

Power of one
The notion of controlling what is consumed has been of special note lately, with even Time magazine labeling the esteemed 2006 Person Of The Year as “You”–the consumer, average citizen, and pinncacle of today’s internet and journalism markets. “You” was made Person Of The Year through one very important gateway: the revolution of the World Wide Web.

So who consumes this type of media?
Media consumption is no longer about who owns networks and production companies, but rather any average Joe that has access to a computer. RSS feeds, Google News Reader, and deli.cio.us are all examples of the personalized aspect of the Web 2.0. With an ever growing population, the online world can feel incredibly tight knit, with connections within communities and networks. Common interests develop platforms for discourse and sharing. Social networks like Facebook and MySpace have a huge following online. Members of these communities list details about themselves and connect with their friends online. Links to other websites, such as YouTube videos, can also be posted to a person’s profile page. The interconnectedness of this notion is the very idea behind O’Reilly’s Web 2.0.

In addition to consuming social media in this way, participants are also able to pick and choose when they will be exposed to the online world. YouTube, Flickr, and Podcasts all make it incredibly easy to access information 24 hours a day, despite the actual programming time. Networks are even putting their evening programs on their websites to encourage ciewers to watch the TV shows on their own time.

The credibility of interactivity
The interactive feature of the online world is what keeps participants coming back for the newest and latest developments. The trust instilled in programs such as Wikipedia makes almost every webgoer somewhat credible in their own rite. In addition, the simplicity of so many programs makes the average webgoer very comfortable with exploring new websites.

Despite these strengths, Wikipedia falls under an umbrella of concern for many users. Many schools have forbidden the use of Wikipedia in its schools, and a US senator is even aiming to eliminate it officially from all schools and libraries. While US Senator Ted Stevens claims that this would eliminate predator interaction with children, many others argue that Wikipedia cannot be viewed as a credible source.

The future of Web 2.0
Web 2.0 views the internet as a platform for a variety of things. Models and programs are constantly updating to include the most recent technologies. In doing so, the websites are now built to simplify yet maximize the experience of those in the online community. Social media is at the forefront of what makes Web 2.0 so successful and essential for our use.