Corporations, agencies know me better than I know myself

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facebook privacy

Not necessarily trying to pick on Facebook here, but I just thought this grammar/privacy pun was too funny not to share.

Like any idea that’s good initially, data mining can turn into a slippery slope.

A business gets your information to stay in touch with you and anticipate your potential needs — and then they sell your information to make a quick buck.

The government is concerned about additional terrorist attacks in a post-9-11 world, so, nearly 13 years later, they’re looking at your cellphone data — who you’re calling and who you’re texting and where you’re doing it from. I realize the National Security Agency (NSA) is trying to protect everyone, but like the photo to the left says, there is a fine line.

A recent article in the Washington Post reports that not only can the NSA collect your communications, but also communications about you:

Still, some lawmakers are concerned that the potential for intrusions on Americans’ privacy has grown under the 2008 law because the government is intercepting not just communications of its targets but communications about its targets as well. The expansiveness of the foreign-powers certification increases that concern.

You’d like to think these scenarios are pretty far-fetched, but if you’ve been paying attention to news coverage on this issue, you know they’re not. I may sound like a paranoid fool (or right on the money) to some of you, but I’m worried this constant collection of data is going to bring us into an era where we’re on 24-7 surveillance. Almost every electronic device we have now has a front-facing camera (smartphones, Xbox Kinect and tablets/laptops), so how far out there is this idea really?

I’ve never been in charge of any large scale data collection at any of my workplaces, but here are a couple basic guidelines that I think entities should follow: Don’t sell someone’s data, don’t use someone’s data for something other than what is supposed to be used for and don’t be a creeper.

How about this: Collect the data, but keep that data disconnected from the individual to whom it belongs. I’m sure programs out there exist and they are probably already in use, but it would be great if companies and agencies could actually do this. The aforementioned article from the Washington Post echoes this idea:

In general, if Americans’ identities are not central to the import of a communication, they must be masked before being shared with another agency.

Really, we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t. So if we don’t want any data collection done at all, we’ll have to disappear into that rabbit hole that Dr. Selepak was talking about last semester.

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Searching for ‘Amanda Winkle’: Nothing risque, let’s keep it that way

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amanda winkle

My current Twitter profile picture shows up in a Google search.

Google searches have made it easier than ever to find whatever we are looking for. “Just Google it” has become the common response when someone is seeking the answer to something. However, those searches can also yield creepy results when you do a search on yourself.

When I searched for “Amanda Winkle,” the results that came up on the first page were tame enough:
-Links to Facebook profiles for those named Amanda Winkle – you won’t find me because I have my profile set up so it doesn’t show in a public search.

-Links to LinkedIn profiles for all the Amanda Winkles – you will find mine.

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My profile picture from when I worked at The Florida Times-Union.

-My Twitter account – though the girl with the Twitter handle @amandawinkle shows up one result higher than me. But I have more followers. Hope no one mistakes me for her (they shouldn’t because I have a detailed description and nice photo of myself). Meanwhile, she has profanity in her description.

-Also, my old author profile from when I worked at The Florida Times-Union shows up.
When I search for my email address, it says “no results found,” which is interesting considering my email address is with Gmail. Probably because I don’t put my personal email out there for the world.

Yet the search still looks for results for my email with spaces added. Most of the results are the same as what I found when searching “Amanda Winkle,” yet two videos I’ve uploaded to YouTube come up as the first two results (below)


Under an “Amanda Winkle” image search, past and current Twitter profile pictures of me pop up, as well as pictures of Amanda Winkles I don’t know. Interestingly enough, Pinterest photos I’ve pinned have also come up. It doesn’t really bother me and perhaps it’s just a setting that can be tweaked, but I didn’t know those photos were searchable on Google. Photos I’ve taken for the Times-Union come up, as well as photos from my current job at First Coast News.

Yet when I search for my full name, middle name included, a whole bunch of creepiness comes up:

-For free, U.S. Search can show you where I went to school, who I’m related to and places I’ve worked. For a nominal fee, they can show you more.

A whole list of “Amanda Winkles” shows up on pipl.com with links to our “background report” and “contact info.” Radaris.com has the same type of list.

Overall, I feel that my online reputation is pretty clean. I try to keep in mind that a variety of people – teens, adults and young kids – could see what I post on social media. I’ve taken down the more questionable Facebook photos from my early 20s and try and keep my swearing down to a minimum (this can be difficult to do during football season!).

It does worry me, not so much that my more personal information is out there, but that it could fall into the wrong hands. I guess this is just a risk we take living in this new digital age. The best thing we can do is to use the many tools at our disposal, such as a simple Google search, to monitor our online reputation.

Dunkin’ Donuts SEO: Battling Starbucks and staying true to ‘donuts’

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dunkin_donuts_what_are_you_drinkinAll over the world, there are a LOT of places to get coffee – grocery stores, gas stations and mom and pop cafes. Of course, there are also the big-boy multinational chains like Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks, McDonald’s and Burger King.

Let’s face it though: while Dunkin’ Donuts has to think about all its competitors, the company is really in a coffee war with Starbucks. For goodness sake, they’ve got a “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drink Starbucks” T-shirt for sale in their online store.

Since Dunkin’ is going to coffee war with Starbucks in apparel and, in recent years, blind taste tests, the company should be ready to do java battle in search engine optimization (SEO). “Coffee” is a search term I thought Dunkin’ would be all over since “America Runs on Dunkin.’” When one does a Google search for “coffee,” Starbucks’ homepage is the seventh result on the first Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Dunkin’ doesn’t come up at all on the first or second SERP.

However, when examining Dunkin’s source code, the word “coffee” is present countless times, in the meta description and elsewhere. So, aside from keyword stuffing, which is frowned upon by Google, what can Dunkin’ do to move up in the results?

Other than continuing to create organic, engaging content in its Behind the Beans blog, probably not much. “Coffee” by itself is a very broad search term, and it says something that even Starbucks (which has “Coffee” in its company’s name) came in seventh on the first page.

Dunkin’ should stay true to the user experience, something Google echoes in its SEO starter guide: “Search engine optimization is about putting your site’s best foot forward when it comes to visibility in search engines, but your ultimate consumers are your users, not search engines.”

Yet Dunkin’ does have other coffee-related terms that I did not think of covered in its meta description:

-“Iced coffee,” for which Dunkin’ comes up fourth on the first Google SERP.
-“Hot flavored coffee,” which brings up Dunkin’s website as the first result on the first Google SERP.
-“Regular/decaf coffee,” which nets no Dunkin’ results on the first or second SERPs.


Time to make the DONUTS (not doughnuts)!

As for Dunkin’s OTHER big product – ahem, “donuts!” – there’s no surprise that the Dunkin’ website comes in as the second result on the first Google SERP (just behind the Wikipedia entry on “doughnuts.”)

So, what about that other spelling – “doughnuts?” Dunkin’ does not have this particular spelling anywhere in its homepage meta data. In spite of this, Google has the Dunkin’ homepage on its first SERP for the term “doughnuts” as the seventh result.

This seems like an on purpose omission on Dunkin’s part. They spell “Donuts” a certain way and perhaps, they don’t want to dilute their brand by including a spelling of “doughnut” they will probably never use.

Dunkin’ runs on the web
Here’s how Dunkin’ fared on Google with other search terms I thought they may use as part of their SEO strategy:

“hot coffee” – not on the first or second SERP; appears once in homepage source code.
“iced latte” – first result on first SERP; appears once in homepage source code.
“Coolatta” –  not the first result, but dominates the first SERP; appears once in homepage source code.
“Munchkins” – sixth result on the first SERP (“Wizard of Oz”-type Munchkins come first); appears zero times in source code (surprising since Munchkins are signature Dunkin’ item).
“breakfast sandwiches” – third result on first SERP; appears once in source code.
“flatbread sandwiches” – fourth result on second SERP; appears zero times in source code.

dunkin_donuts_munchkins

Search Engine Optimization: Quick improvements for your site

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A list of SEO tips for 2013 from Cognito

When it comes to search engine optimization, you want your site to be on top — especially when it comes to a Google search.

According to a Chitka Insights study cited by MarketingProfs, sites that appear as the first result on the first page of a Google search under any given search term get 33 percent of the overall traffic for that search. Drop to the second position and your site’s share of the traffic drops to 19 percent. So what can you do to move up in the ranks?

Write good content chocked full of keyword phrases. If you are creating content on a regular basis, that content can always be tweaked for SEO. If not, there’s not much on your site that can be optimized. (Check out the infographic to the left for an even quicker list of great tips from Cognito.)

Headlines matter. Great headline writing is not just relegated to news stories. You’ll want to make sure your headline, of course, includes a keyword phrase. However, the placement of that keyword phrase matters too: It should be closer to the front. (This was news to me).

Images need to have keywords, too. Your images need to be optimized so they’ll come up in a Google search, because this can also lead people to your site. The following components of your images need to include keywords: file name, alt tag and title tag.

Organize your site. Ian Cleary of Social Razor gives many tips that include the use of Google Webmaster, which can help you “clean house” on your site. Google punishes sites with bad links in its rankings, so you’ll want to get rid of any that may be on your site. Also, clearing up any outstanding HTML and server errors that may pop up on your site should help.

Use Google Analytics to see what’s working and what’s not. You can see how people are reaching your site, how long they are staying on your site, how many are “bouncing” from your site without looking at any other pages and how many people actually return to your site over and over. Lucky for the little guys, Google Analytics is free for sites that get fewer than 10 million hits a month.

What SEO steps have you taken in the past to optimize your site or content? Did it work?

Do you think getting your content to go viral helps with SEO, or does it not really matter when it comes to viral content?

Plenty of analytical social media tools, but don’t forget to use the tool between your ears

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Here are some social media analytics tips from Araceli Perez. Click to make larger and see the full article.

You have built a social media presence for your business, but you’re not sure if your efforts are paying off. Luckily, there are plenty of analytical tools (some of which are free) to help you measure your success. I won’t list them ad nauseam, but you can visit this link to choose which one is right for your business. Whatever tool you decide to use, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Track your links
When sharing links, you want to be able to track how many clicks a campaign is getting on each social channel so you can adjust your campaign accordingly. You can use bit.ly to shorten links and track links, or you can embed Tweetspy code into your website to see who’s tweeting links from your site and how often.

You may already have an analytics tool
Do you use HootSuite,  SproutSocial or another social suite to schedule your social media posts? If so, you already have an analytical tool right under your nose. For these programs and others, you’ll have to upgrade to the paid versions to get more detailed analytics. The free versions are a good place to start though.

And then there’s Google
Of course, don’t forget about the almighty Google in your tracking efforts. Google Analytics can show you what social channels are referring traffic to your site, which pages on your site are getting a lot of traction on social media and what pages cause people to exit your site after they “flow” there from social.

Don’t be afraid to adjust
If a social campaign isn’t living up to the key performance indicators you’ve laid out, it’s time to make adjustments. Ask yourself the following questions: Do I post too often or not enough? What is my competition doing to gain followers that I could be doing better? Do I need to adjust my goals? Am I responding to customers/fans who reach out to my brand on social?

Really listen to consumers
Amongst all of the graphs and charts, let’s not forget what social media really is at its core: a gigantic listening tool. B. Bonin Bough, then the head of digital for PepsiCo, said Gatorade’s Mission Control helped his team tap into the health of the brand through social listening. They were able to use the opportunity to educate athletes, coaches and athletic directors about Gatorade’s benefits. Customers are talking about your brand and it’s your job to listen and respond accordingly.Social-Listening

Bonus: Gain clients by becoming a quick expert
Peter Odryna shared the story of Innovative Marketing Resources using his product SocialEars to create a campaign for a fiberglass company in a short period of time. For IMR, SocialEars eliminated the noise and enabled them to focus on what influencers in the industry were talking about on social media and the web. After they knew the latest trends and influencers, IMR was able to quickly create a campaign.

What is/are your favorite social analytical tools to use?

How do you strike a balance between analyzing and listening?

Google+ & Facebook: You need to be in these 2 places at once

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Photo courtesy Mashable.com

Google vs. Facebook: It’s not an evenly matched fight. Not because one entity is better than the other, but because they both do such different things. You wouldn’t have a baseball team face off against a football team, would you?

Just because they’re both internet giants does not mean they are the same. In a comment on my colleague Erin Tracy’s blog, I likened Facebook to a party and Google+ to a business meeting.

Here’s why: Facebook’s new-ish feature, Social Graph, where users can find which of their friends have the same interests, which ones live in a certain city and even which restaurants they like – is akin to mingling at a party.

Businesses are still invited to Facebook’s party. Facebook’s got Bing on their team and Shel Israel wrote in Forbes that while Graph Search is limited to within Facebook for now, “over time Graph Search will show itself as a competitive threat to Google, LinkedIn, Match.com, Expedia, Amazon.com … .”

While Facebook is still on the bench looking at the search engine playbook, Google has been the star quarterback in this arena for years. Google+ gets right down to business, rewarding users who post content on the channel with a higher search ranking on Google. Brian Clark basically says it’s time to get in the game with Google+, unless you find you “don’t really need search engine traffic.”

But why wouldn’t you want your content to live longer on Google and be found higher up on its searches? Steve Rayson reports that some Google+ posts stick around near the top of search result pages for more than a year! A year!

To give your content extra “points” with Google, Tom Anthony recommends using Google’s “rel author” feature. This links content authored on the web back to a Google+ profile, giving your posts more legitimacy in Google’s “eyes.”

However, businesses should still learn how to play nice on Facebook, as it still holds the No.1 social network spot. Also, 96 percent of users don’t go back to a brand page after giving it that initial “Like,” so you’ve got to get your posts to pop up in your fans’ news feeds.

This is why posting at least daily needs to happen. Facebook’s fancy-schmancy news feed algorithm gives priority to the last 50 friends or pages a user has given a like, comment or share to. So how do you get those likes, comments and shares? Like Amy Porterfield says, you need to know your audience and that takes time. A good rule of thumb to start with: Put an engaging photo in your post. Those get 80 percent more engagement than photo-less posts, according to Porterfield.

Bottom line: When you’re adjusting to changes on a social media channel (and they’re going to keep coming), people don’t want to hear your business complaining about it. Just keep swimming.

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Questions:
What have you seen that DOESN’T work in Facebook and Google+ engagement?

If Facebook becomes more open, do you have concerns about profiles, status updates and photos becoming less private?

Love ’em or hate ’em, the Kardashians are keeping up with social media

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kardashiankollection

Photo of the Kardashian Kollection at Dorothy Perkins in Thailand (Photo courtesy @Kardashianpedia)

Y’all are about to judge me so hard but I will admit my dirty little secret: I watch “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” and its spinoff shows.

Put together, Kourtney, Kim and Khloe have 36 million followers on Twitter, with about half of those followers belonging to Kim. Hate all you want, but the reason these girls are so entrenched in our society’s conversation is because the E! TV show that documents their lives is the “fire.” But being a part of their fans’ world on social media adds the “gasoline” to that fire.

For the sisters, their overall objective on social media is to drive the awareness of their brand, which includes books, makeup and clothing. The Kardashians have stayed engaged with their fans by keeping up with what the conversation prism has to offer. Of course, they’ve got basics like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Google+, covered, but they have also jumped into super-new channels like short-form vlog site Keek. (I didn’t even know what Keek was until I saw them posting Keeks!)

But they also act as big sisters to their followers. By posting “Motivational Monday” inspirational quotes on Instagram and Twitter for their fans, the K-girls are working to, as Pam Moore says “simply be their sunshine on a rainy day.”

When it comes to “Tumblr Tuesday,” the girls take a page out of Guy Kawasaki’s playbook: curate and link. Each Tuesday, they shine the spotlight on one devoted fan that devotes their Tumblr account exclusively to the K-sisters, linking back to that fan’s Tumblr account and featuring pictures from that fan’s blog.

The girls also know their audience, so they know what type of content to share with them. Take, for example, a 2011 post on Khloe’s blog showing a first look at some promotional images for the sisters’ Sears Kardashian Kollection. Posts like this draw the fans in, making them feel as if they are behind the scenes as one of the family. It also entices fans to learn more about the Kardashian Kollection and in turn, buy the collection. Engaging content, Craig Silverman wrote in a guest blog for Mari Smith, “creates tremendous value for your community and can help grow your business, too!” (re: Hollywood Reporter’s 2011 article “How the Kardashians made $65 million last year.”)

But to further their brand, the girls have put a lot of their personal business out there (harsh family fights, childbirth, divorce, infertility issues, etc.) .

So here are my questions to you:

Do you think individuals, when branding themselves, have to portray themselves as both personal and professional to keep the interesting content flowing?

Do you think everyone needs to at least be on the (what seem to be) The Big 5 social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and Instagram)? Or will other networks in The Conversation Prism do?

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