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What efforts should one put into Web 2.0 based online marketing and infiltration of online communities that dynamically inter-link in social networks, blog, debate and refer among each other? This page attempts to explore the background of some of these online and virtual new worlds, to seek out new conclusions and boldly go where many men have gone before... While trying to remember, where this quote had been picked up from, let me point your attention to our "profile pictures" on below social network-style x-mas card.
Virtual Networks: Blessing or Curse?
Old Tricks. Chatter can be regarded as one of the oldest and simplest techniques to spread information. Nowadays we may refer to the same as "chat", "tweets" or "postings" in an online community, but in principle we are doing the same thing: We communicate, share information and, most of all, gossip. What is new is that it is not necessarily face-to-face business any longer, as remote Internet based communication brings the global village closer together.
Web-Based Interaction. The nature of Web 2.0 is that a critical mass of internet users utilizes online media which allow for interaction and collaboration. The terms Web 2.0 and Social Media are often used synonymously, as one cannot do without the other. Internet traffic can be categorized into "Direct" URL entry, Search Engine-Optimization ("SEO") and -Marketing ("SEM"). Social Media-Optimization ("SMO") adds a component with highest growth rates in the private sector.
Like-Button Dynamics. Ever since we communicate, we evaluate information based on the amount of trust we have for others. Social media attempt to simulate information evaluation and distribution medthods, which we use in real life. Sticky content keeps users on a website and makes them return. Product marketing mainly touches on two aspects: How do you reach the right target group? And how do you reach your addressees at the right moment?
Social Media have established a sophisticated system of "push communication", which suggests content to the interested follower. It allows for creating a personal daily boulevard paper based on own online behaviour as well as "cross-selling" of common interests among friends and followers. Facebook postings or Tweets, as one-sided communication to an unknown audience, represent a publishing activity. The advantage of advertising in search engines via AdWords is that related content reaches users, when they actively search for information, which interests them at the time.
Going with the times
Strong Stuff. Is this for real or just a dream? Maybe you remember the same question as underlying theme from older movies, at times when surreal stories of imagination could still shock the public. Many years later, some may yearn for a time before there were data about everybody and the see-through man of glass had been fiction, not growing reality. Privacy is a good that is worth protection, even though it is often thoughtlessly given up for transparency, open-mindedness or simply naivety in connection with new technologies, which make our life easier and communication faster. One day, as a colleague mentioned "Facebook" over lunch, I would understand "Festbock (Festival Buck)," name of a strong beer usually offered before Christmas and Easter, to warm people up during the cold season and to accommodate additional nourishment needs during lent. Probably, for in the old days we had chatted over a beer instead of participating in online communities.
Peer Pressure. Virtual social networks are taking over and have become a "must" both as a hobby as well as in professional marketing activities and a new generation of word-of-mouth advertising. At the same time more and more people grow lonely, as if addicted to participating in an illusory world rather than putting their face into a real book and enjoying fresh air and bird tweets in free nature. The internet has become an indispensable tool for information research and self-display at one's own place in the web. It is an extraordinary platform to meet new people with similar interests and stay in touch with distant friends as well as rediscover old mates. While in online communities it may not matter who you are and where you come from, there is an ongoing danger of forged virtual personalities, be it in chat, blog or forum. Deceptive behavior may be motivated by the sheer craving of attention up to spying out people with explicit criminal intent, such as phishing their bank information. With every blessing there is a curse, isn't it? Given all these great opportunities, it is on us how to leverage them.
Living in transparent times
Virtual Encyclopaedia. Nowadays we can collect and process information, our forefathers would have never imagined that it even could exist. "Dr. Google makes it possible" has become a common approach for research of any kind. The internet is just a mouse click away and turns every semi-intelligent power user into a SFEA, which is short for "Spezialist fuer eh alles - Specialist for everything always." But the analogue minority started to strike back and printed t-shirts that proclaim: "I don't need Google, my wife knows everything."
Privacy Piracy. "Angriff auf die Freiheit - Attack on Liberty" is a book about downsides of modern technology. It addresses exaggerative security needs, a surveillance society and the dismantling of civil rights. Our day may start with a coffee and we are not aware of the finger prints, we leave behind early in the morning on the everyday coffee mug, which could be compared with those stored with the issuing of a biometric passport as well as by border control since our last entry to US territory. Not even to speak of our DNA found in every hair we lose, our genetic fingerprint. We may quickly check e-mail before we leave house, which has been already checked, not only by our own virus scanner. The history of our online movements can be still reconstructed months later. A quick phone call maybe, also not quite tap-proof, while our cell phone allows tracking of our physical movements during day and night.
Global Positioning System. Even our car navigation system may connect with a satellite, traffic patrol cameras built into street lights and section control passages take our picture not just when we run a red light or are speeding. Or do we use public transportation and smile into the surveillance cameras on every corner, which are meant to scare off potential vandalism? We know that things can be traced, at least after something has happened. A signals intelligence collection system, "A higher Echelon," as by the title of an "Alias"-episode, may be intercepting civilian telecommunications traffic ongoingly and perform routine scans, filtering on suspicious key phrases. With interconnectivity there comes the security risk of data breach. Anonymous hackers chose themselves the mask of Guy Fawkes, who is immortalized in the old poem: "Remember, remember, the 5th of December, gunpowder, treason and plot..."
Dressing up in a mask and threatening to destroy the internet... Just as Guy Fawkes had attempted to blow up the British Parliament. Kids games certainly reflect the course of time.
Loyalty Data. What about those discount cards, the demographic data and information on consumer behaviour collected by those customer loyalty programs, we happily participate in to collect points for a better deal? While we ignore that capitalism is not a charity system and everything that one wants to buy from you most likely possesses a multiple of its value. Our payment transactions with those comfortable debit and credit card regularly reveal our identity and are easily traceable, not only if we use online banking. Our user profiles in internet forums and social networks can be inquired through regular search engines, while we may more or less openly discuss our emotions on Facebook and Twitter out of natural talkativeness. Do we upload funny videos to youtube or even publish personal information including pictures on our very own webspace to share with family and friends abroad?
Pattern Investigation. As we present ourselves to a greater audience, we should keep in mind that the internet with all its snapshots and archives of long gone versions of websites is sometimes like an elephant that never forgets. Are we transparent nowadays, like the "Glaeserne Mensch - Human made of Glass?" It's the communication age, isn't it? And then, what if one fits some profile, has a similar name or a look-alike somewhere? Is it possible that out of an error innocent suspects could be deprived of their citizen rights, which are being hollowed out and given up step-by-step for the sake of more security and ultimately... less freedom?
Smart Home. Modern administration targets the virtualization of official formalities, possibly hosted somewhere "in the cloud", that accompany citizens online "from the cradle to the grave". IPv6 is a protocol of the network layer (3rd layer of the OSI-Model), which offers a significant higher number of Internet Protocol-addresses than its successor, the IPv4 standard. Another forced blessing will be the allocation of IP v6 network addresses to a broad range of electronic devices from car to fridge, which - in connection with a mobile SIM-card - becomes part of our "smart home". It will put us in a position to remotely monitor electric power consumption, presence and habits. Following the exhaustion of 4 billion available IPv4 addresses, the IPv6 standard guarantees more than 340 sextillion unique numbers. Which is almost as much as jillions, gazillions and fantasticatillions, with compliments from Uncle Scrooge! Will we all end up one day, having microchip implants for radio-frequency based identification? Fact is that human chips are already in use. RFID-based access control systems allow access to large companies via implants rather than the easily forgotten staff badge. the disco chip replaces unpleasant stamps or wrist bands and the dog chip registers straying pet and pet owner. Which is only the beginning...
Time for Web 2.0
Internal Collaboration. Web 2.0 enables users to interact and collaborate in a virtual community. To leverage its benefits internally, one goal should be the integration of collaboration tools into the intranet that include project planning, web conferencing, online messanging, calendar sharing, issue tracking, document sharing, internal blogs and wikis.
Outside Promotion. Externally, the right marketing mix leads to success. The web presence should contain "sticky content" that one returns to and increase "linkability" by integrating a mashup of dynamic content, in form of user forums, news feeds and multimedia elements such as online videos, e.g. podcasts or commercial videos uploaded to youtube.
Face the Book. Set-up and regular participation in internet blogs and the presence in Social Networks help to spread information widely among the online community. The Social Media strategy has to fit to the overall PR-strategy and be in sync with corporate communications. An increasing distribution of reports, blogs and links to the own webpage promotes the recognition of the own company, philosophy and product brands.
Will analogue communication soon belong into the museum?
Increasing Visibility. Making the own web presence interesting and appealing is just a first step. What does the most "wow" web-design help, if it is isolated and therefore remains invisible to the vast majority of potential consumers? Online advertisement can be booked on other websites in form of banners, which are either paid by impression (i.e. by display) or by click (approx. 1 click by 1000-2000 displays).
Social Graph as Paradigm. Some say, with Web 2.0 users got themselves the Internet back. Presence in common Social Network platforms, like Facebook, Google + and Twitter, help to promote the own business to online communities of "friends" and "followers". Enabling Near Feed Communication (NFC) next to product displays allows for mobile activation of "Like"-buttons in Social Networks on site in the store and lets a user share a product page with friends. Geolocation tools, such as Facebook Places and Foursquare, allow for the inclusion and online evaluation of company premises. Also the registration of 10 employees in Business Networks like Xing and LinkedIn will automatically register the company. Search engine features, e.g. Google Alerts, monitor and automatically notify one of new websites, blog entries, trends and comments about the own business.
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