Facebook Profiles: Public or Private?

Data security, privacy, and ethical issues of collecting data online are the themes of this week’s class session. I think this is a pretty salient topic for our class whose participants all have several social media profiles. I think it’s even safe to say that we probably have more than the average person given our affinity for online communication (the focus of our master’s program) and the fact that classmates regularly share new social networking platforms (glossi.com and flavors.me ring a bell?).

While we are all eager to post the latest photo of party shenanigans or a status update on what we thought about a political debate, we don’t often think about the repercussions. That’s because, for the most part, our social media profiles are limited to the people we share information with. However, according to this week’s readings, found here and here, employers are actually asking applicants for their Facebook account passwords or requesting that they open their profiles there on the spot. I’ve never been in this type of situation but would not even know how to respond if I was asked to share my social networking profiles to strangers who might actually employ me. Not to say that my profiles’ content is alarming, but it’s certainly not something I’d like to share with an HR recruiter.

On the other hand, what about mobile applications that mine data of users surreptitiously? Some of the apps I’ve downloaded actually have asked me to “agree to” certain conditions. They can be apps that can determine my location, mine data from my social networks, and track my online behavior—all while I’m using the application’s function. Our reading on mobile privacy sensing took a closer look at this emerging technology and its implications. The authors of the study pointed out that developing a lay public understanding of mobile sensing privacy, security and risk is critical to a vision of participatory privacy regulation. But casual technology users often underestimate or misunderstand data sharing and security risks, which I believe affects many of us users.

Questions to readers:

-Have you ever had to share your social networking profiles to an employer or potential employer?

-What measures have you taken if any to protect your reputation online?

A Changing World: The Importance of Tracking Social Media

Once I had immediate family members above 60 years of age constantly sending me friend requests on Facebook I knew things were changing. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and all the other social media platforms are no longer for a small segment of the population as it once was. Today, everyone from your neighbor’s kids to the president of the United States has a few social media accounts. With the popularity of social media, coupled with the growing access to the Internet and smartphones, there are more channels for marketers to consider. Essentially, today marketers must not only track their website’s analytics but also their social media efforts.

While social media does not equal a conversion outright, it can assist conversions. Meaning, someone may have come to your website to buy something because it of something they saw posted on Facebook or Twitter. Thus, assisted conversions are important. So how does a company go about tracking their social media efforts? Google Analytics, HootSuite analytic tools, Adobe, and a range of other social media tracking mechanisms can help.

What marketers need to understand is why social media analytics is crucial to their business. Sure, they already know that their fans and foes are posting reviews, praise, and backlash about their products, services, and operations, as well as “liking” and “following” content, but they need to analyze this data further in order to get anything out of it.

There is a lot that marketing executives can gain through social media analytics, namely rich consumer opinion. Here are the top benefits:

-Discover new opinions, which are often more sincere than what you might receive in a survey questionnaire.

 -Receive instant feedback on your marketing efforts.

 -Track what people think about your company as well as your competitors

 -Gain more understanding on your assisted conversions and what is working and what needs improvement.

 I look forward to hearing your comments on any of the above but also have two questions on this topic:

 -Should companies pay big bucks to track their social media analytics or stick with the basic free programs out there?  

 -How much mining of social media is necessary and not considered too intrusive on a customer (i.e. do you really need to know their activity on Facebook, Pinterest, Amazon wish list, Twitter, etc. to understand their opinion?)?

Web Analytics: A Closer Look

ImageWeb analytics, like SEO, is something I have little knowledge of. So I was happy to see that is the topic of this week’s research methods class. I’m not completely unaware of this subject. I have heard of robots crawling pages and collecting data, but I never understood how important the measurement, collection, and analysis of Internet information is in making a website effective. This week’s reading was a primer on how Google discovers, crawls, and returns searches of web pages.

Basically, Google finds new pages by using robots that scan, or crawl, previous crawl pages which reveals newer ones that have appeared since its last crawl. The information is then indexed, using words and tags. This information then allows Google to match a user’s search terms with the most appropriate websites. For example, if I search “Naseem Ferdowsi”, my name, I will get a return of about 2,000 search results. Indeed, they are not all appropriate and often times unrelated to me. However, there are several that are accurate and directly relate to me. Some of these include my LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+ accounts. This means that Google robots have performed a crawl on these pages, indexed my information, and stored it so that anyone who types in my name will receive a return with the applicable websites, plus a few random ones for good measure.

There is certainly a lot more to web analytics than what I have described, but for now this will do. I think a salient question would have to do with privacy. What pages should be up for crawling? And who gets to choose this? For instance, my Google+ updates are published for the entire world to see. However, I do not remember this being something I signed up for. Nor is there a way for me to undo this. Another question is how can a page that has been indexed be removed from the data base? Today, it seems that anyone with access to an Internet connection can find out too much information about any given person. This has its advantages and disadvantages but for some it is more the latter.

Is it Possible to Determine a Website’s Success?

While there are millions of sites on the Internet today, not all of them are successful. How does one determine a website’s success? Some might consider a website successful if it makes a “Best Designed” list. Others might deem a website appropriate if it shows up in the top ten page results for Google searches. Lastly, some might judge a website’s success based on whether enough people know it and recognize it (i.e. Google, Yahoo, Facebook, etc.).

Sure, it’s important to be searchable via Google, be recognized by the public, and have a web design that is worthy of being mentioned by fellow designers online, but I think that a successful website is based on a few other things, such as: a) the website reaches its target audience b) the website’s users’ experience is at least satisfactory c) the website’s content is clearly organized.

Some web designers get caught up in the hype of creating something that will draw attention. I think that creativity is a great addition to a website but its main purpose is to reach and serve its target audience while providing them with an extraordinary user experience that includes information that is laid out in a logical way. I’m fully aware that my personal portfolio website may only reach a few people and may not be easily searchable via Google, but as long as the right people are able to find my website and have an enjoyable time seeing my work and reading my material, I would consider it a success!

Wondering How to Properly Use QR Code?

Have you noticed any strange square-shaped mazes affixed to advertisements, displays, or brochures? If so, you’ve most likely come across QR code, or quick response code/quick recognition code, which is increasingly being used across different industries and for diverse purposes. Basically, QR codes represent information, commonly used to store website addresses. Smart phone users with Internet connectivity can capture the code, which is then interpreted into a web address.

To be honest, my organization has been taking advantage of this technology for some time. From corporate annual reports to marketing material, QR codes have been affixed (by our Creative Department) to several documents that I’ve worked closely on. However, I didn’t truly understand the purpose of it until I came across this great slideshow that not only lists practical uses for QR code but demonstrates them with actual examples.

As the slideshow’s creator, Aliza Sherman, points out, QR code has practical uses but as companies try to take advantages of these they make mistakes in the process, such as making the mobile destination non-mobile friendly or requiring the user to log in to a Facebook page to access content. The best part of Aliza’s slideshow is her closing that lists how to do QR the right way, which includes: 1) Determine a mobile-friendly destination 2) Encourage measurable actions 3) Enhance the experience 4) Provide value and 5) Be useful. If I decide to incorporate a QR code into my personal work in the future, I’ll be sure to remember Aliza’s advice.

In the meantime, I’ll keep an eye out for how QR code is being used in everyday media around me. I’m sure that with time, companies will better understand the QR code technology and formulate best practices, which will maximize its usage.

Determining Whether to Design a Mobile-Friendly Website and App or Not…

Once I complete the web design and online communication master’s program I’m currently enrolled in, there is the possibility that I’d be charged with building a new website. How would I determine whether to make it mobile-friendly? I’d need to ask the client some important questions before I got started. First, the client would need to know the audience they are targeting. If the client intends to have young children log on to their website, then perhaps a mobile-friendly version isn’t necessary. Similarly, if the website’s users will primarily be a more mature audience, let’s say social security recipients, then again the website may not need to be designed in a mobile-friendly fashion. However, if the client determines that the audience they are targeting would likely be opening the website from a mobile device, then I, as the designer, would then need to think about whether an app would be worth developing as well.

Since I’m not yet a web design expert, I don’t quite know when it’s better to build a custom app or make the website scalable to a mobile device screen. Plenty of the websites I log into on my cell phone will alert me to their apps but I rarely bother with downloading them. Why waste time with a download when I can go directly to the website I want through the browser? I guess it’s about how the user experience is affected. The few times I will download an app for a website is if I anticipate using it a lot. For example, I did find it worthwhile to download the New York Times and Facebook apps because I thought it would save me time and be easier to use than the mobile version. So far this decision has proven helpful to my everyday life.