Category Archives: Google Plus

basic_glass

On April 15, Tax Day no less, you can take your spare $1500 and you too can own Google Glass.

Normally via “invite only” and slightly harder to get, the Google Glass Explorer program is being opened up to the entire United States on Tuesday. Starting at 6 am PT / 9 am ET, you can shell out $1500 to get your own. While I personally quibble with the idea of throwing down $1500 for a beta product that will be completely changed in 1-2 years based on feedback and interaction, I do see this as a step forward from Google’s perspective. After all, the more people out there (and especially outside of the Bay area) who are wearing Google Glass, the less alien it seems to everyone else. Eventually, perhaps, seeing someone wearing Glass won’t inspire either curiosity or fear and will just be accepted. But $1500 for a beta product? I’m not so sure of that.

You can sign up now to be reminded the minute the Glass program opens to the public. You must be 18, with US residency and a US shipping address. The sale is for one day only, so get them while they last. If you do decide to be a Google Glass Explorer, then follow their list of Do’s and Don’ts. You don’t want to be a Glasshole.

netneutistockfeature1-e1293050143472While trying to feverishly watch season 2 of House of Cards, I’ve noticed a few spinning rainbows via my AppleTV. What’s up? I tend to blame my Internet connection, but in reality it seems like there’s some nefarious “auto slowdown” occurring. It seems like Netflix is having a conflict with Verizon and other broadband providers over how much content should be carried without additional fees. Netflix complains that they’ve encountered a 14% slowdown in average speeds. The Wall Street Journal is reporting on the conflict between the two titans, but they’re telling us that Google, Microsoft, and Facebook, have already begun paying broadband providers for smoother access to their networks, which leaves Netflix kind of flapping in the wind complaining about tiered access.

The war around the idea of “net neutrality” is heating up as consumers move away from traditional TV and focus more on “binge watching” and a la carte watching via Netflix, Hulu, Google Play, iTunes and other streaming and/or subscription services. Just last month, a court ruled in favor of Verizon’s suit to block the Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality rules, which has spurred chaos among the providers and content creators as more people consume more high-definition video. To add fire to the furnace, Netflix is more than likely very interested in the upcoming federal review of Comcast’s acquisition of Time Warner Cable, and may push for new requirements on traffic-swapping deals. As we move forward into the unknown waters of “tiered Internet access” it’s going to be more and more about who pays what: the content creators and/or their customers.

Screen Shot 2014-02-03 at 9.44.25 AMFor years, I’ve moved between Android and iOS, usually changing operating systems when a new phone grabs my attention. It’s a constant “push and pull” problem: the combination of a phone’s unique features, the operating system, and my desire to have a “perfect mobile experience”. Rarely is that experience as perfect as I want it to be. As an iPhone loyalist, I judge everything against the experience I have with iOS, Apple’s hardware, and the overall platform’s ecosystem. As iPhone has seemingly “shrunk” in form factor, staying at an untenable 4″ screen size in light of other manufacturers’ growing screens, I’ve gravitated toward the larger-screen phones, most recently, the Nexus 5. The Nexus 5, for once, is the perfect phone for me. It’s size and form factor seem the perfect size for my palm, my pants, and my weary eyes. KitKat is the best version of Android to date and, simply put, I’ve never been so satisfied with a smartphone. I’ve kinda cast away the thoughts of going back to iPhone. Yes, there are the nagging rumors of the coming iPhone 6 with a larger screen, but KitKat has a hold on me unlike any that iOS has ever had.

However, Apple’s advantage is their App Store. And, with Facebook’s iPhone-only new app, Paper, being released today, I’ve begun to wonder: can one app make me go back? I hate the feeling of being left out: when an app is only available on “another” platform, I get frustrated. Facebook turns 10 years old today, and there’s new research that shows its users have evolved their expectations of what the Facebook experience means for them. In light of this, Facebook’s Paper app is an attempt to evolve how Facebook interacts with its users and how it expects to provide new types of interaction between you and your Facebook friends. Paper reformats the typical Facebook experience with a more visually stunning approach (similar to what Google Plus did with their app), and turns your Facebook feed into a “Flipboard-like” magazine experience. Development of the app was led by a team that Facebook acquired from Apple in 2011, and represents Facebook’s obvious prioritization of rich visual design. The obvious plus to Paper is it gives you a platform-specific experience optimized for what that platform can best provide. In this sense, it may mean more fragmentation in apps if Facebook determines to release platform-optimized Facebook experiences across the board. However, it also means that Facebook evolves from being a fast-food experience (dumbed down UIs to provide a similar experience across all devices), to a more holistic and optimal experience based on whatever platform you’re on. The Paper app could signal a new frontier in designing and developing app experiences that mold more to its user’s context, and is a step-forward to a more humanistic experience. This means our platform decisions may no longer be made based on just price, carrier subsidies, form factors, and operating systems. We may begin making decisions based on all these plus the type of app experience we prefer based on how we use our phones.

fingerprintBy now, most of us realize that the US government is tracking our online activity (it’s just to what extent, we’re still a bit unsure), but it’s probably safe to say the bureaucrats know more about us than we’d like them to know. What’s more disturbing, however, is the extent that advertising and marketing companies go to determine who you are, what you do, what you buy, and who you buy from. And it’s no longer just your online activity: data mining allows companies to combine your offline activity with your online activity to create a more accurate profile of everything you do. This aggregation should cause more concern than anything the NSA is doing, and as of now, it’s completely unregulated.

Ever heard of Acxiom? Probably not. Well, Acxiom has heard of you. In fact, they probably know more about you than many of your own family members. Acxiom currently runs 23,000 servers that process more than 50 trillion data transactions per year. Acxiom has dropped over 1.1 billion cookies onto hundreds of millions of Americans’ computers, they have constructed over 200 million mobile profiles and average about 1,500 pieces of data per consumer. Scott Howe, the Acxiom CEO has stated, “Our digital reach will soon approach nearly every Internet user in the US.”

The recent hacking of Target’s commerce system has been widely reported, but what you may not know is what Target knows about you. Target assigns each customer a unique “Guest ID” which is linked to their credit card number, email address and/or name. Every purchase or interaction the customer has with Target is linked to their unique Guest ID. You tend to buy a lot of yogurt, live in San Francisco, and shop with your American Express? Target takes this data and links them to your profile, and then uses it to market more products to you. This seems harmless at first glance, and some would argue that targeted advertising is valuable, however, this data can be aggregated, diced and sliced to predict your future behavior. Target will know if you’re pregnant based on what you purchase. They’ll use that data to predict when you will be interested in buying diapers. Of course, they won’t stop there. They’ll know the gender of your baby when he/she is born, and be able to market to them as well. Lock them in at birth! This is valuable data for other companies too. PetCo will know if you’re buying dog food for your “older pet” and sell the data to insurance companies that will then encourage you to buy health insurance. Sound creepy? Creepier than the NSA logging your phone calls?

Sure, the NSA’s tracking activities should be a major concern, but you might also want to think about what advertising, marketing and data mining companies are doing “behind the scenes” with all those breadcrumbs you’re leaving behind.

Guest post by Matt Polsky, social media director for Veterans United Home Loans.

Those new to Google Plus have a tendency to carry the misconception that it is just another Facebook. What naysayers don’t realize is that Google Plus is a groundbreaking platform that has the ability to become a huge success – even though some contributors at Mashable, Huffington Post, Forbes and Social Media Today may disagree.

A predominant factor that inspires this confidence generates from the organic search potential; however, through the unique applications of this social product, people, companies and brands can do more than bolster their search results, but provide a channel to build relationships, contacts and connect on a completely personalized level – no matter their location.

Over a year ago, I wrote a piece for Brian Solis on why a business would want to be on Google Plus, focusing on search implications and the latest feature at the time known as Direct Connect.

At this point, Google Plus was relatively new, making it difficult to see the entire picture or direction of the social network. Fourteen months later, a few unique features emerged that are in the process of mapping a steady course and strong user-base.

For starters, Google Plus’ Hangout feature provides users an easy and effective way to engage with multiple viewers through face-to-face interaction, as well as a free broadcasting tower if you decide to use it this way.

Hangouts take mere seconds to set up. After a quick plugin download you’re ready to start broadcasting live. Google also gives users access to a free production suite and a live stream that can be viewed on Google Plus, YouTube or any website or blog that copies the YouTube embed code.

Hangouts have many possibilities, especially for creative minds. Webinars, live music, company meetings, live customer service and even job interviews are all possible. But, to take it a step further, Veterans United has found multiple uses for Hangouts, including the first Virtual Career Fair – allowing active military, veterans and interested job seekers an inside look at the company.

If video isn’t quite your forte, consider one of the most recent Google Plus features – Google Plus Communities.

Communities provide a fit for every person, company or brand, brought together by their tailored interests. With Communities, businesses and consumers alike can meet Viagra Online, share information, personal tips, how-to’s and communicate on a personal level.

And if there isn’t a community for your niche, then congratulations on the ability to build barriers to entry, since anyone can start a community and invite members to join.

Communities can be configured in many ways. For starters, users can set them to be public for anyone to join, publicly seen and can join with moderator approval, or private – opening great possibilities for internal communication. If that isn’t enough, categories can be created for filtering topics outside of general discussion.

For example, a fitness community could have topics resembling “Chest Exercises”, “Leg Exercises”, “Nutrition and Health” and more, allowing for greater targeting and control.

Lastly, let’s take a quick look into the future. Google’s philosophy says that “It’s best to do one thing really, really well.” And they directly follow that statement with, “We do search.”

Google is dedicated to bringing search to unexplored areas, and Google Plus falls right in this category with authorship markup.

Currently, thousands of search terms in Google’s results are accompanied by a mugshot of the content’s author, only if their work is linked to their Google Plus profile with the rel=”author” tag – the beginning stages of a principle known as “AuthorRank”.

There is currently no proof that AuthorRank is active; however, the premise rests in providing authors with an individual ranking for the topics they write most about. Basically imagine having a personal tag cloud, combining keywords, links, titles and headings that indicate the subjects that determine where your authority rests.

In short, this could signify the demise of the anonymous content writer, building many subject matter experts in the process.

An estimated 625,000 users join Google Plus each day, opening a multitude of opportunities for people, brands and organizations that are willing to spend the time on building a successful, engaging channel or community. Add this to the possibilities of author markup and you can’t deny having a Google Plus strategy for yourself or business.

Matt Polsky specializes in producing creative, scalable and adaptive marketing strategies for Veterans United Home Loans, the nation’s leading dedicated provider of VA Home Loans. In his spare time, Matt guest lectures on search marketing, social media and conversion optimization. Connect with Matt on Twitter @mattpolsky or on Google+.