Against SOPA and Piracy

Image representing Wikipedia as depicted in Cr...

Today, many major Internet companies, including Wikipedia and Reddit, have gone dark in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, a House bill, and its Senate sister, Protect IP Act, or PIPA. SOPA and PIPA are backed by the entertainment industry and U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

It’s virtually impossible to find an unbiased, objective description of SOPA and PIPA on the Web, although this one from CBS does a fairly decent job describing each side’s positions at a high level (the Huffington Post link is actually better but far more detailed). You can read the full text of the bill yourself, but you’ll likely need a couple of lawyers to interpret what it means.

Everyone seems to have taken a side, and I agree with Green in the CBS article, it is a battle between old and new. I’ve been in digital media since the early days, and as a former media industry employee, I can understand both sides. I firmly believe that copyright owners have the right to be paid for their work, and the law needs to put in place protections for these owners.

Throughout my career, I’ve advocated for copyright protection, while also recognizing that disruptive technologies were changing human behavior – and these changes did benefit the flow of information overall. I’ve always contended that the media and entertainment industries are complicit in the liberal content sharing economy we have today.

If the media industry truly believed that content had value, we should not have given it away for free when the Internet became commercialized in the mid-90s. Doing so changed human expectations for all kinds of media, not just print.

Still, that’s only one cause. The other is that technologists, for all the talk of innovation, haven’t really been enthusiastic about creating technologies that help protect copyright. There are notable exceptions, including iTunes and Spotify, but other than paywalls, where are we?

I don’t think blocking entire web domains is the answer. We need a combination of technologies and smart laws. One of the problems of SOPA/PIPA is that it was developed without much input from the big tech players. Perhaps we’re overdue for that kind of collaboration?

In the meantime, here are some views about what SOPA/PIPA means for everyday users of the web, PR pros, and content providers.

Simply Talk Media will not be going black today, but welcomes a dialogue about this issue on our pages. Just mind your links.

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Is it Time to Join Google+?

Google announced that search results will now include posts from its social network, Google+. Called “Search Plus Your World,” the new format will include public posts and posts shared privately with you by your friends. Search results will be commingled with Web results.

The new feature has generated a lot of comment, most of it critical. (Read the New York Times, PaidContent, Mashable, and SearchEngineLand articles to get a good overview.)

With personal results now turning up in a Google search, what does this mean for businesses and personal brands? While Google+ is still a fledgling social network, it’s potential shouldn’t be discounted. Search Plus Your World is a good reason to pay attention.

Every business should have a Google+ page, even if you have it on low maintenance. If you’re looking to promote your personal brand – whether you’re looking for a new job or new clients – a little bit of engagement in Google+ can be worth it. In the case of Search Plus Your World, it could be very worth it.

For example, let’s say your expertise is in Drupal development. Every week you write a blog post, and send about 20 tweets. If you share that content on your  Google+ profile, it will likely show up in search results when people in your network search for Drupal news and information.

And now’s a good time to promote thought leadership on Google+. Relative to other social networks, there aren’t many people there, so the content you feed into this network has a better chance of being seen. With social search, it has a better chance of being read.

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How to Keep Your New Year’s Resolution to Blog More Often

It’s New Year’s, and you’ve resolved to blog more often. Here are some tips to make it happen.

  • Resolve to keep it short (300 words or less).
  • Use bullets. They make it easy for people to read your posts anyway.
  • Develop an editorial calendar. Brainstorming ahead of time makes the writing easier.
  • Write all your posts for the week on Sunday afternoon, and then set them up in your blogging software. Then it’s a simple matter of hitting the publish button.
  • Do you always seem to get an idea for a great post whenever you don’t have the laptop nearby? Use your phone to record your thought, either by leaving yourself a voicemail or using a recording app.

How do you handle writer’s block? Here are some good fallbacks:

  • Review a book.
  • Provide how-to tips (like this one).
  • Use a video recorder and interview a customer or employee.
  • Or take that same video recorder, and offer three tips or observations on your area of expertise from fun and unique locations (three tips on social media from inside a taxi).
  • Riff off a recent news item.
  • Write a case study.
  • Create a top 10 list (like Letterman; it can be serious or funny).

Let me know if blogging is one of your New Year’s resolutions and how you plan to meet the challenge.

Diane Thieke is working on her 2012 editorial calendar. Tell her what you’d like to read about in this space. You can find her on Twitter at @thiekeds.

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Relationship Economy: Personal Branding on Twitter

How many postings like this have you seen this week:

“Unsubscribing from all my email newsletters so that I can start the year with a clean Inbox. Good-bye Groupon, LivingSocial, and Staples newsletter.”

It’s not just email that needs cleanup. Your social networking channels probably need some TLC too. I’ve been cleaning up my Twitter account, unfollowing inactive accounts and marking others as spam (Ashley from Houston with 0 tweets, following 6,453: It’s time we said good-bye).

Some followers’ profiles, though, don’t just scream: “I’m an Ashley too!” Unfortunately, they are very ambiguous, making it hard to decide whether to cut them.

The problem is that many people don’t take the extra step of completing their profile. So it’s incredibly difficult for me to decide if I should continue following them, especially when they don’t tweet often. If I’ve met them somewhere in person, it’d be really rude (and disappointing) to unfollow, just because I didn’t recognize their online persona.

This is the Relationship Economy. Your next job or client will come from the relationships you build both online and off. This won’t happen unless you open up and let people know who you are. Here are three easy steps to keep yourself from losing followers:

  • Write a sentence to tell me who you are, what you do, and what you’re tweeting about.

Ken Mueller of Inkling Media is one of my favorite marketers to follow (@kmueller62). He has a fabulous – and very informative – profile:

Social Media/Inbound Marketing Strategist, Inkling Media. Music, books, coffee, & Philly sports. If you want me to follow back, tweet at me! I work on a porch.

To paraphrase a line from The Social Network, have you ever learned so much from just a couple of sentences? He even includes a call to action. And he works on a porch! How cool is that?

  • Include a photo!

Anatomy of Twitter Profile

This matters more than you think. We live in world of visual thinkers, where we gravitate to images before words. It’s much faster for us to recognize a face than a name. So, if I met you at a one-day seminar, I’m quick to make the connection when I view your photo.

You may be reluctant to post a photo of yourself for privacy or security reasons, but I believe that the benefits outweigh the risks. (Remember that new job or client?) If it’s truly a problem, create a gravatar, use a logo, or find an image that represents who you are in some way.

I’ve seen people use cartoon characters, images of inanimate objects such as typewriters, and photos of birds or flowers. You can also be clever with photos of yourself: hide behind sunglasses or be waving from a distance.

However, I much prefer to put a face to a name. I’m much more interested in what you have to say.

  • Tweet at least twice a day.

Finally, if you want me to follow, you must tweet. I always read the last few tweets someone has sent before I decide to follow them. If you haven’t sent a tweet in three months, it tells me you’re not serious. If your last three tweets read like advertisements (“Free Credit Card Consolidation!”), I’m unfollowing.

Be assured, it’s fine to lurk – for a time. Twitter is much more useful to all of us when a conversation is happening. So, listen for a bit, then jump in and tell me what you’ve got going on.

Diane Thieke now hopes that she hasn’t encouraged anyone to unfollow her after reading this post. Probably Ashley, but that would be ok. Follow Diane on Twitter at @thiekeds.

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What is Pinterest and What Can it Do for Businesses?

Pinterest is a social network that launched in March 2010. Currently, Pinterest  is invitation only (I have invites, so comment below or email me if you’d like one). It has been growing like crazy, so it’s worth checking out.

For me, Pinterest solves a critical pain point. Keeping track of the latest technology, communications, and social media trends and stats is one of my biggest challenges.  I couldn’t settle on a simple way to keep relevant ideas together in an orderly way. I needed something that was easy to scan and search, was fast to create, and that I could share with clients.

Spreadsheets and Word docs were cumbersome, and not easily shared. Evernote captures info with a click and its search feature is amazing – it even searches the text of images. But it’s not very social.

And then I discovered Pinterest.

What is Pinterest? A Virtual Pinboard

What is Pinterest? A Virtual Pinboard

Most of the users (apparently) are women, and this virtual pinboard is used to create image collections around shopping, food, and art. Popular uses include planning a wedding, decorating your home, and swapping food ideas. Retail marketers should be paying close attention.

Here’s how it works: Start a board about a topic of interest, download the Pin It bookmarklet, surf the web, pin images of items that you find interesting. Once pinned, the image retains the original link, so you can easily surf back to the source.

Because it’s visual, it’s easy to scan board items and keep track of things you care about.

I’ve adapted my boards to business use: I’ve started boards to track trends and stats, books I recommend, and my favorite websites for monitoring innovation and future thinking.

I think Pinterest has huge marketing potential for retailers, small businesses, and B2B. Wedding planners could use it to help brides evaluate catering and flower options, for example. For B2B, it’s a great way to collect and share thought leadership.

I know it appeals to women, but honestly, can’t you see this as the perfect place to run your fantasy baseball league?

Definitely one to follow in 2012.

Diane Thieke is trying to find a way to pin her hopes to Pinterest. Email her if you’d like an invite to Pinterest.

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How to Manage Your Social Media Crisis

One of the great fears that businesses have when they contemplate jumping into social media is that negative comments will create a social media crisis.

Fortunately, most businesses will not experience a social media crisis on the scale of the Dell laptop batteries or the Domino’s debacle. However, to paraphrase Reuters, “one woman’s crisis, is another woman’s rant.” Meaning: all things are relative.

All organizations, no matter how good, face criticism from time to time. On social networks, this criticism can easily become amplified. Knowing how to handle negative comments can help prevent things from getting out of control.

The first step is understanding who the commenter is and the nature of the comment. I recently helped a client who had a negative comment about their products posted to one of their distributors’ Facebook pages. I first asked the usual PR questions: Do you know this person? How credible and influential is she in your market? Is her statement true or does it include inaccuracies?

Clarifying incorrect information is essential, but we have to remember that opinion can’t be argued. Thus, we responded with facts, but gave the poster the opportunity to voice her opinion.

In these situations, I usually refer to the Air Force Blog Assessment tool to determine how and if to respond to negative comments. Though several years old, it’s still useful and relevant today for all social media channels. David Meerman Scott originally blogged about it, as did Jeremiah Owyang, who posted it on his Flickr account.

I always provide a copy of this tool to clients as part of their social media training, and I encourage community managers to post this on the wall by their desk for easy reference.

Diane Thieke is busy dealing with a crisis of her own: There’s no cream in the frig. It’s time to visit a satellite office where coffee and all its accoutrements are readily available. Follow her on Twitter: @thiekeds.

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Digital Media Marketing and Privacy Protection in the Age of Big Data

There it was again: the expression of fear that we’re in danger of losing our online privacy. I hear gasps popping like bubbles around the room, which is filled with students learning the secrets of digital media marketing. Actually, I think to myself, we lost our online privacy a very long time ago.

Yesterday, Nick Bilton of the New York Times came to the same realization (he must not have kids or have attended the New Jersey State Police’s talk about children and internet security). His Bits Column, Disruptions: Privacy Fades in Facebook Era, demonstrates how easy – and fast – it is to uncover someone’s identity online.

I’m a bit of an early adopter, and loss of online privacy has me less freaked out than some of my peers. It doesn’t mean that I like it. It’s just that I realized long ago that the train had left the station in the middle of the night, when we were all sleeping.

I saw the future of privacy a little more than 15 years ago, when a public records vendor came to pitch its product to our business development team. The rep plugged my name into the database. Just my name, nothing else.

Up popped all of the places I’d previously lived, the names of all my current neighbors, their telephone numbers, and what they paid for their homes. But  the connections it made unnerved me: it linked me not just to all the members in my family, but also to a relative’s ex-husband and all of his family. And they’d divorced 10 years earlier.

Those details were unwittingly served up by all of us when we applied for mortgages and purchased homes. They’re a matter of public record, under law.

Today, our details become public for a variety of reasons. The new culture of sharing is one. More sophisticated technology is another. Every time you scan a bar code at the grocery store, visit a web site, read an article, or listen to a song, it’s possible for it to become part of your personal profile. The era of big data is here.

In some ways, I think this is great. Obviously it’s wonderful for marketers, who have a better chance of finding precisely the right audience for their product. But big data used responsibly can be great for consumers too. Personally, I want a filter. Show me ads that are relevant to my interests: the latest Apple toys and deals at Target, not Budweiser beer or hunting rifles.

As a digital media marketer, however, I need to walk that ever-thinning line between effective marketing and privacy breach. I want enough data to target my buyers with high-value content, but I also don’t want to violate their trust.

There are organizations, like EPIC (which is behind the FTC’s settlement with Facebook), that fight for safeguards. But marketers and technologists also must take a lead in developing policies and technologies that protect privacy. After all, we all suffer and benefit from these vast stores of “personal” intelligence.

Diane Thieke is now posting furiously on Facebook about her three kittens, in the hopes that Purina will send her some good bargains on ProPlan. Follow her at @thiekeds.

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Keeping the Technological Pace

When I was a child, I read a short story in a children’s magazine about a student’s interaction with her teacher. The story captured my imagination because the girl’s instructor was not human. It was a computer.

Given that science fiction writing often imagines the future, it’s probably not surprising that this story is now a reality, as anyone who has attended online training can confirm. What is remarkable is that it ceased to be fiction so quickly.

This speed of change is why I think the new ebook, “Race Against the Machine,” by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, should be required reading for anyone in business today, anyone looking for work, or anyone still in school.

The authors argue that humans aren’t keeping pace with the machines: “Digital technologies change rapidly, but organizations and skills aren’t keeping pace. As a result, millions of people are being left behind.” We are facing technological unemployment.

I’m only halfway through this ebook (originally downloaded to my Kindle to Mac, but now reading on my just-out-of-the-box Kindle Touch), so I can’t yet comment on the authors’ conclusions. But I’m familiar with the picture they paint.

I’ve been in digital media for more than 26 years – a very long time. (Mark Z. was an infant when I was angling for my first job at a digital news service.) I know from experience that technology development has very much followed Moore’s Law, and it continues to progress at an exponential rate.

Let’s just look at its impact thus far on the way we communicate. By the mid-90s, email had replaced the paper memo. By the mid-2000s, cellphones, particularly the BlackBerry, were untethering workers from their desks. Laptops were doing the same. SEO was on the rise as a way of lifting your marketing website above the noise. By 2010, the focus was on marketing through social media. People now base buying decisions on opinions broadcast through these channels by their friends. Today, we talk about social SEO, but that’s unlikely to last long, because now we have Siri, which will change what  information we consume on the go. (A good read about this is: “How Apple’s Siri Could Destroy Local SEO.”)

There was a point where we thought technology changed our environment every 18 months. There are days now where I think things change by the minute. It’s as hard to grasp as running water.

It’s fun to imagine where we might be in the next five years. I think it’s safe to say that we’ll be using voice commands to do everything from starting our cars to programming our appliances for cooking a turkey.

But what I’d really like to have is a pet language translator, so that I can understand what my cat has been saying for the last hour and to have her understand why I don’t want her eating my office plant.

What communications innovations do you predict or would like to see?

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Announcing: Simply Talk Media

Technology is profoundly changing the way we communicate. This has not happened overnight, of course. It has happened in a series of developments over several decades.

The first wave I noticed was back in 1984, when talk of an electronic newspaper became a reality for me. I was a Dow Jones Newspaper fund editing intern visiting The Wall Street Journal campus in Princeton, N.J. Sure, the tour of the new pagination system was fascinating. But it was the little side project that caught my eye: a searchable, electronic database of The Wall Street Journal.

Ten years later, the second wave: the Internet arrives, along with groundbreaking news sites like WSJ.com. Those were fascinating times to be the competitive intelligence manager for Dow Jones Interactive, and later, Factiva.

Ten more years, and the third wave, arguably the most important: social media grabs the world’s imagination.

This shift in the way we communicate has affected not just how we talk to each other, but also how we assemble, organize, market, work, play, entertain, and much, much more. This shift is important and is just getting underway. Don’t get me started on mobile!

I forget, sometimes, how close I am to all this change, how much digital flows through my bloodstream. I’ll admit, I can get rather geeky (we geek girls, are IN, remember). I tend to think everyone is live streaming Facebook announcements.

But, I’ve learned that not everyone has time to stay ahead of the rapidly changing world of communication. Sometimes, we just want the Cliff Notes.

That’s why I’ve started Simply Talk Media, a new communications consulting firm to help small and mid-sized businesses use modern communications channels to talk to their clients, prospects, media, and community.

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