All posts in “Personal Opinion”

Dabbling on the Darkside: An iOS’ers Android Confession

Jordan Benedet is a Manager on the Client Strategy and Innovation team at Social Media Group. Follow @jbenedet.

I’ve been an iPhone owner since 2008 when the 3G first came to Canada, although my initial experience with iOS came slightly before this when I bought, and quickly sold, a first generation iPod touch. At this time most people had a simple flip or candy bar phone with highly advanced T9 text input and battery life of over a week. A smartphone was a BlackBerry, and having one meant you were a rich and powerful businessman who needed to be able to tap out important emails on a tiny keyboard 24 hours a day. Things have changed since then, mainly due to smartphones achieving the fastest adoption rate in tech history.

I’ve also been an iPhone / Apple evangelist, enlisting friends and family to jump into the iPhone world. My wife used to say she would never like or use a phone as much I do, but now I see her continually switching between her second iPhone and an iPad all evening while relaxing. It is not surprising to hear that 84% said they could not go a single day without their phone, and 60% of people would rather lose their wallet than their phone.

A Spark for Change

After years of living in the iOS ecosystem, I found myself a little bored. Normally when getting a new gadget I get excited to learn and tweak it, but when I got my shiny new 4S last year I felt like nothing had changed. The feeling was correct, because in my opinion nothing substantial had changed; it just had a better camera, in a faster and thinner phone. When iOS 6.0 came out the feeling continued; it had brought absolutely nothing new to the table that particularly interested me. Late in 2012, I started seeing many others writing about the same thoughts I was having, the most notable titled “An iPhone Lover’s Confession: I Switched To the Nexus 4. Completely” from Ralf Rottmann on Gizmodo. I felt the urge for change, and decided that I needed to dabble on the metaphorical dark side. After validating that my key IOS apps now had Android counterparts (something that was not the case last year), I was officially ready to take the plunge.

Jump Right Into It

It only took a day before I had explored Android, and customized the phone to my liking. It wasn’t long before the phone was rooted and I was installing a variety of custom ROMs. The big screen and larger phone took a bit longer to get used to. I still find it very awkward and cumbersome to reach the frequently used top left corner of the screen while holding it with only my right hand, but viewing anything on the large screen is quite amazing. I now realize that I would not want a phone any bigger in dimensions than the S3, and I would actually prefer if the width was shaved down a few mm as well in order to fit in my hand better.

I also liked how 3rd party apps can easily be made default for specific actions. The notification centre was a dream, allowing quick access to anything from music controls to system settings. It took me a while to get used to the “back” and “menu” buttons, but it wasn’t long before they became second nature. When I first picked up my old iPhone after a week with the Galaxy, I found myself trying to clumsily press a non-existent back button.

The Bad

Both operating systems are not perfect, and they both have pros and cons. I really like the Galaxy S3 because of the flexibility / customizability of Android, using the large screen real estate, and the hardware back button. The negative side of things for me really centres on the battery life. Using the phone drains the battery much quicker than my 4S did (with LTE off too), and it also drains much quicker in standby. Micro managing background apps and resources also can be a pain because you never know if a background app is just sucking your battery dry.

What I Miss

I do miss my iPhone for some very specific reasons.

  • The first is iMessage; most of my friends and family all have iPhones so group text chats are now much more difficult now. Replacement 3rd party apps just aren’t the same since Apple introduced the blue text bubbles!
  • The second is battery life. I don’t care if it is not user-replaceable, my iPhone simply had a longer lasting battery during every day usage.
  • Lastly, I do miss the passive multi tasking and push notifications that iOS uses. This definitely helps battery life, since I find Android apps that utilize notifications require a background service to be always running sucking up CPU cycles.

I haven’t decided if I will stay on Android permanently, but I’m definitely keeping both devices as it allow me to become an expert on both platforms. I’m going to wait patiently to see what IOS7 offers up – your move Apple.

Spreading Local & Digital Holiday Cheer

Jordan Benedet is a Manager on the Client Strategy and Innovation team at Social Media Group. Follow @jbenedet.

For most, the holidays are a time to enjoy the company of family and friends while sipping on eggnog in front of a warm fire – okay, maybe that’s a pretty broad generalization, but you know what I’m getting at here. Besides the frantic last minute shopping at the crowded mall to find the perfect gift for someone special, it’s a very happy time of year. When you put the commercialization around the holidays aside, it is also important to focus and reflect on some of the heartaches and stress that this time of year can cause those that are less fortunate.

Spreading local holiday cheer has a somewhat different meaning to me this year, as I have recently begun volunteering at a local Toronto Food Bank, The North York Harvest. I was informed that demand for food this year is up 16% this year, but overall food donations have not quite kept pace with this increase. One of the main drivers for the increased demand is that food prices are up, and the projection for 2013 is another 3%-4% increase, making it even more important for communities to support their local food bank.

SMG has a long standing tradition of supporting the local Toronto organization Holiday Helpers. What started as two sisters spreading their own version of holiday cheer in 1999, has transformed into a organization that helps hundreds of Toronto families in need every season by providing a special Christmas package containing a tree, decorations, food, and personalized gifts for each and every family member. Imagining the look of excitement on a child’s face when they receive the exact item on their Christmas list is sure to make anyone smile.

Making a difference in your local community is very important, but I also feel that the Internet should be given some credit since it reduces barriers and facilitates spreading what I am referring to as digital cheer. In recent years, online giving, tracked by Austin-based Convio has grown at a double digit pace, very similar to the growth curve of online retail sales. This is truly an amazing trend to observe, because the power of the Internet, and social media has provided a mechanism for charities/non-profits to reach a larger audience than ever before, with the added bonus of systems that allow visitors to easily donate toward a cause. Generating Social Good can also be done via many crowd funding platforms as summarized by Mashable a year ago.

So what happens when local and digital cheer are combined? Well, it can be delicious, let me explain. A colleague here at SMG recently shared a link with me that I thought was absolutely amazing on so many levels. What is appropriately named The Pie Drive, is essentially one man’s mission to bake and sell 80 homemade, flaky, and delicious pies – with all the proceeds going to the local Covenant House charity. After loading up the beautiful pie page, I took my sweet time to make a flavour decision. I would soon find out that the Pie Drive link, and Facebook page was digitally shared so quickly among friends and family that the 80 pies sold out within 24 hours. My hesitation left me with nothing but a digital image to salivate over.

I want to commend Zachary Ginies on the amazing success of his Pie Drive campaign. His efforts of leveraging technology to spread local cheer will surely make many people smile this holiday season, and I look forward to supporting the cause, and eating pie next year!

PIE DRIVE

Your Kids and their Digital Footprints: Take Control and Start Early!

Ruth Bastedo is Director, Business Development at Social Media Group. Follow @rutbas

How early should you start worrying about your kids’ digital footprint?

I think now is probably good.

As long time practitioners in the Internet space, both my husband and I started talking to our kids pretty early about how to handle themselves online. I have personally never been big on posting a lot of information about my kids, so there is theoretically not a lot out there now… but the kids are getting older, and are participating in the online environment in a very active way. It’s actually pretty sobering to think of how much of their young lives are supported by online activity.

From accessing calendars and assignments at school, playing games, homework research, movie watching and hours of YouTube fun, keeping in touch with friends and family… my kids are very much living a portion of their lives online. And they haven’t really started to engage in social media yet. That’s coming. My son came home the other day and said he wanted to set up a server for himself and some of his friends so that they could play an online game together in a closed network. He just turned 12.

This has suddenly become serious stuff, and I have started to look around at best practices, and guidelines for working with your children to not only ensure personal safety, but to also make sure that they learn how to be in control (as much as this is possible) over how their activities and profiles are portrayed online.

I also want my children to be able to maintain some semblance of personal privacy, and have some inkling as to how one might go about pursuing that objective, in an online world stacked against it.

Below you’ll find some of the articles and resources I’ve started collecting. Enjoy! And let me know if you have found anything particularly useful out there on this important topic.

Good Overview Resources on Topic

9 Tips for Managing Your Child’s Social Media Presence I really like this practical overview of sensible steps to take to help your kids establish a social media presence that they can have active management of from day one. This article aligns the closest to the approach we’re trying to take in our household.

“Kids and Tech: Parenting Tips for a Digital Age” Great interview with author Scott Steinberg, providing grounded, practical advice.

3 Ways to Keep Tabs of Your Kids Online Very hands on, for parents who want to take a more active approach to monitoring your teen’s activities on a variety of different devices.

Social Media, Social Life: How Teens View Their Digital Lives (this is a study). Look at the infographic,  or Download report from Common Sense Media. It’s a  good baseline look at teens behavior in a social media context in the US.

And finally, some solid advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics on the scary issue of “sexting”, and talking to your kids about it: Talking to Your Kids and Teens About Social Media and Sexting

The Joy Of Discovery: A Good Starting Point in Planning Social Media Strategy

Ruth Bastedo is Director, Business Development at Social Media Group. Follow @rutbas

I come across a lot of business owners and marketers who are wondering how to tackle social media. I spoke last week to a group of women business owners at the Go for The Greens Business Development Conference at Walt Disney World last week, and next week I’m talking to a group of SME’s at The Financial Executives International Conference, “Leading Economic Growth” next week in Toronto. What I hear, is that while most companies instinctively know that they need to address social media in some way, it is still hard to know where to start.

In the immediate term, social media may or may not have an important impact on your business. It’s when you start looking at long term trends, and at the deep impact that social media is having on our fundamental communications infrastructure, that you start realizing that love it or hate it, you cannot ignore potential depth of social media on the way your clients and customers are going to live in the future, and interact with your business.

This is the place to start. Take the time to figure out how social media could potentially impact your clients and customers, as they connect and interact with your brand, products and services. How can you leverage this social interaction to move your business objectives forward?

We call this process “Discovery”. During our Discovery sessions with clients, we go through a number of exercises to look at this problem from a variety of perspectives- but one of the exercises I love the most, is called an “environmental scan”, where we go look at how the future could impact the client’s business, from a variety of different perspectives (demographic, technological, regulatory etc.). Discovery has become a key part of our planning process.

A 2012 comScore report, “Canada Digital Future in Focus” states “Social is quickly moving from a supporting role to a key pillar in monetizing digital.” It sounds like a platitude, until you start looking at the numbers.

According to the research in the report, Canadians on the whole spend an average 45 hours of time online a month, and lead the world in online engagement. Time spent on social networking has now surpassed the time spent on any other category of activity online. If you look at younger demographics, the 18-24 age range, you can see the strongest surge of time spent on social media quarter over quarter. Viewers under 35 also account for 57% of all videos viewed online. Smart phone penetration has reached 45 percent of the Canadian market.  If you’re not familiar with the report, I urge you to download it, and take a quick browse through.

The pace of change is wild. As a business owner or marketer, where do you start?

At the moment, according to a recent US based survey on “Social Software and Big Data Analytics in Business” by Mzinga, Teradata Aster, and The Center for Complexity in Business on how companies are using social media, 64% of companies are using it for marketing/brand experience, 47% for customer experience/service/support, 39% for employee collaboration and 27% for sales.

Those areas are likely baseline areas to get right first, and to use as a starting point to develop meaningful measures of success, that map to your business, and to your strategic business objectives.

In the same survey, 77% of companies said that they currently DO NOT measure the ROI of their social media programs, and 49% say they are not using social media to its full potential.

We are all only at the very beginning of all this. Engage in the “Joy of Discovery”, to make a sensible and manageable start to tackling long term planning, and determe what measures of success are going to be right for the future of your business. It’s a challenge for all organizations to determine what level of investment in social media is appropriate, but the question is no longer a “should I”, but is moving to a “how should I”.

A Beautiful New Building for Rotman School of Management

Ruth Bastedo is Director, Business Development at Social Media Group. Follow @rutbas

Last week, I was very pleased to attend the opening event for Rotman School of Management’s new building. Wow. I have to say, I loved it. I encourage you to take a couple of minutes and check out the “tour” of the building on the KPMB web site.

The fabulous pink staircase at Rotman's new building.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I have done quite a bit of work with Rotman’s Initiative for Women in Business over the last several years, so I do have an innate bias- but I knew relatively little about the project. Most of my discussions had been focused on how the construction and the move were impacting everyone in the Rotman community. I think it was worth it.

The space feels modern, relevant and, dare I say it, imaginative. A shocking pink stairway is the central feature of the building. Love it or hate it, it makes a statement, and although I haven’t quite figured out the direction of the statement- I like it.

Designed by Canadian firm Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects, the building is a thrilling example of exceptional Canadian design that in my mind, reflects the best version of the Toronto business culture. It is cosmopolitan, global in vantage point, connected, but for the most part, still nestled within traditional structures. The design of the building is very respectful of the existing architecture within the campus of the University of Toronto. I feel this is actually very reflective of the role digital media plays within the traditional business world.

Fittingly, the day after the tour, I attended a spirited debate at the new facility between Canada’s Don Tapscott and US based digital media commentator Andrew Keen, who was in town to talk about his new book “Digital Vertigo: How To-day’s Social Revolution is Dividing, Diminishing and Disorienting Us”.

The setting was absolutely perfect for a discussion about how social media was going to end the world. Gazing out from the Zen-like event space on to the leafy trees of St. George Street, I just had to think that surely, that can’t be so…

Take an Unplugged Vacation

Jordan Benedet is a Manager on the Client Strategy and Innovation team at Social Media Group. Follow @jbenedet.

As a lot of my previous posts have illustrated, I really like technology and gadgets. I’ve had some kind of Smartphone since I graduated school and began my career many years ago, giving me the ability to stay in touch, and up to date on both personal and professional issues. I liked how it made my life easier in so many ways. Fast forward a few years, and Smartphone adoption has happened faster than any other major technology shift in history!

These days almost everyone has a smart device and thus the ability to leave the office without the fear of missing that important email. On the other hand, always being connected means that your work can follow you even after you leave the office. Always being connected means that information overload can occur, causing a person simply burn out.

This is where unplugging comes in. Over the last five years, I have not really taken a formal vacation where I completely unplugged from work. I recently got married, and thanks to Social Media Groups’ unlimited vacation policy I was able to disconnect for over two weeks and have a fantastic honeymoon in Europe. This hiatus meant I didn’t touch any email, and rarely ever logged into any social media site – I was as far off the grid as I have ever been, and it felt surprisingly great (I still did reach for my phantom Smartphone for the first few days though).

Disconnecting is becoming common among all level of workers, even Executives! Many employers are starting to recognize the benefits of allowing employees to unwind without having to feel like they are still tethered to the office.

The Huffington Post reported last month that FullContact, is now offering to pay employees $7,500 per year to go on a vacation, that’s on top of their normal salary. There are only three rules for this offer; you have to go on vacation, you must disconnect, and you can’t work in anyway while on vacation. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal!

Overall, I think some of the most important reasons to unplug on vacation are:

1. Gives a person the chance to spend more quality time with the people they are with
2. Provides a much more relaxed experience and improves mental health
3. Allows a person to avoid burning out, and a chance to recharge the batteries

As the line between work and personal time becomes increasingly blurred, I think it is very important for everyone to achieve a proper and sustainable work balance.

 

Save Money on Dinner by Turning Off Your Phone

Karly Gaffney is a Manager on the Content and Community team at Social Media Group.

Would you power down your phone during a meal if it resulted in a discount on your bill? Eva Restaurant in Los Angeles is hoping a 5% discount will keep patrons off their phones while they eat. In an interview with KPCC, owner/chef Mark Gold explained:

“For us, it’s really not about people disrupting other guests. Eva is home, and we want to create that environment of home, and we want people to connect again,” he said. “It’s about two people sitting together and just connecting, without the distraction of a phone, and we’re trying to create an ambiance where you come in and really enjoy the experience and the food and the company.”

I am guilty of checking my phone (multiple times) when in restaurants or even at dinner parties. We once attempted to instate the phone stack over dinner (everyone stacks their phones in the middle of the table and leaves them there for the duration of the meal.), which lasted an entire ten minutes before someone had to send a text.

Source: Mashable

Kudos to Eva Restaurant’s attempt to restore dinner conversation. This is likely more directed at patrons who are talking on their phones as opposed to texting or Facebooking, but I think I would give it my best shot if a local Toronto restaurant offered a similar promotion. No more #foodporn Instagram shots, no more lunch emails, no more hilarious OH tweets – just enjoying the company and the break in the day.

Would you be able to last an entire meal without using your phone? Even when your dining partner steps away from the table to use the washroom? Would this type of incentivized dining work for you?

Bloggers Block….How do you get your mojo back?

Wangari Kamande is a Research Analyst at Social Media Group.

It’s been a long day for me. I’ve had a number of tight deliverables and research to complete, a shocking text message from my phone company telling me that my data plan has gobbled 100% usage within a period of 2 hours even though I have hardly used it all day, I have spent over 2 hours on the phone with tech-support, in a nutshell, it’s one of those days where I felt like a hamster in a maze. So, I sit here thinking, what do I blog about? And since I can barely string my ideas together, I decided to figure out how people deal with this issue I call the bloggers block.

There are a numerous reasons why people get bloggers block, here are few that I find to be quite common from past chats with friends and peers:

  1. Procrastination – you start to research an idea and all of a sudden your fingers unknowingly set you up for failure by somehow clicking into Youtube and you spend hours of time you can’t even account for, you’re thinking…what was I doing again?
  2. Fatigue – kind of how I am feeling now, bzzzzz
  3. Eating everything in your fridge – don’t under estimate the power of eating appropriate potions of nutritious food to get the good juices flowing into your brain.
  4. Writing too much & not listening enough – it’s like being on a date with someone who appears to be on the date by themselves, he or she talks too much and hardly finds out anything about their date. While the chatter box might be interesting, they end up wearing out their date and themselves too. It’s always more fun when it’s a two-way conversation, hopefully everyone stays stimulated.

So what are the solutions to this seemingly uncontrollable sense of mental blockage?

Source: Socialmediaillumination

 

Blog-surfing

Damyanti of Amlokiblogs says that as you browse the blogosphere, you get either triggered or challenged by other bloggers and this could become your next blog post. Kind of supporting my pain point #4, you start to listen and engage with others and who knows you might make a number of blog buddies by responding or quoting other blog-mates.

Take note of ideas in your everyday life

This is really a note to myself as I am constantly researching or reading about one thing or the other. When you come across something that’s interesting or provokes some reaction from you, bookmark it or write it down, this could serve as a future blog post.

Write a tutorial

This is great. You can teach your readers something that’s new and interesting. Here is a good example from Kira of Her New Leaf How to Have a Fantastic Weekend.

Set some interesting audacious goals and share them

I have seen a couple of blogs where bloggers have set to either run marathon or live on a tight budget, get over a shopping addiction and they document their experience of the journey. This brings a human touch to your blog and if you make it engaging enough it could spark conversation and probably motivate others to join the challenge.

Change your environment

I personally enjoy people watching, I try to maximise my lunches at the park during the summer because I am generally a curious person but watching others creates some interesting dialogue in my mind and sometimes gives me a burst of energy for work in the afternoon. Finding a new place to write blog post e.g. the Library, a park, a coffee shop, a friend’s house, near the lake, being surrounded by nature is likely to get ideas flowing.

As with most things in life, we are not always in the mood for even some of the things we enjoy, finding creative ways to turn those mundane days into something beautiful can be quite stimulating.

How do you get your blogging mojo back?

 

Innovative Video Platform Qwiki Arrives on Bing


Jordan Benedet is a Manager on the Client Strategy and Innovation team at
Social Media Group.

I originally became aware of the interactive video platform Qwiki in December 2010 when researching innovative new online platforms for an internal initiative at SMG we call “Innovation Camp”. The original deck I presented to my colleagues is embedded at the end of this blog post.

Qwiki really stood out to me as a rising star because it integrated various media formats, such as images, video, and maps on specific topics into one cohesive and seamless user experience. The added content recommendation algorithm at the end of each Qwiki turns the platform into a gateway for users to visually explore related information with ease. Qwiki is just over two years old, and has raised $10.5 million in funding to date. Their platform is currently accessed by approximately 1 million people per month.

Bing was apparently on the same wave length as me; as they have been in talks with Qwiki for over a year to tightly integrate Qwiki functionality into Bing search results. Now when you search for certain topics on Bing that contain a Wikipedia entry, a Qwiki link is also visible and easily playable in line with search results. Brilliant!

Qwiki on BING

Doug Imbruce, the CEO of Qwiki, recently stated that “We’re finally completing the vision … of a 360-degree publishing platform … the embedding-side of Bing proves that we can create the kind of massive scale and distribution that can help us change, and forever improve, the way the world gets information.”

Bing has been focusing on creating a seamless user experience for their visitors, and I think they have done a great job of integrating an external platform into their search eco system. One surprising tidbit of information is that no money has been exchanged during this deal yet, as the value of integrating the platforms was high enough to make both parties extremely happy to proceed.

Whats Next For Qwiki?

This integration should really help Qwiki expand awareness, raise additional funds, and continue to grow into the ultimate interactive publishing platform.

Qwiki has been quiet over the last year as they developed the second iteration of their platform. They recently released a Qwiki Creator tool that allows users to make their own interactive qwikis by uploading specific types of content. A full developer API will also be available which will allow content creators to mass produce qwikis at scale from their own content.

Column: It's Time For Facebook to Grow Up

This post was originally published by Marketing Magazine by Patrick Gladney, Director of Research and Insights at SMG. Follow him @pgladney

Last week was kind of like Facebook’s Bar Mitzvah – a time for the social network to grow up and begin taking responsibility for its own actions. Funny that Mark Zuckerberg chose to wear his trademark “hoodie” to ring the bell on Nasdaq the day of the IPO, signaling to the market that he still plans on playing by his own rules.

Zuckerberg may still choose to dress casually, but I would hazard a guess to say that he’ll soon begin to feel the pressure of the Street. Facebook needs to share a strategy that will explain how they plan to achieve revenues that will justify their valuation, especially in light of GM’s public announcement that they will be pulling ad spends from the platform because they can’t clearly define the value of Facebook ads to their business.

With GM as the backdrop, Facebook is working hard to help its advertisers achieve measurable results. Just last week at the CMA conference, Facebook and L’Oreal took the stage and admitted they were still working together to crack the ROI challenge. While most brands by now are committed to investing in Facebook as a content channel play, brands publishing content to generate awareness won’t pay a dividend to Facebook investors, and besides, for large advertisers like GM, awareness isn’t the problem. GM needs people to buy cars.

Working in Facebook’s favour is the fact that they are already an immensely profitable company, earning $1 billion in profits on $4 billion in revenue. Also working in their favour is the fact that their entire mobile platform is yet to be monetized, which is promising knowing that the 54% of users who access Facebook through mobile are two times as active. But unfortunately, activity, including time on site, does not yet translate into sales. Sure, ads on Facebook can be accurately targeted, but accuracy doesn’t amount to anything if the ads perform no better than their display ad brethren.

Early attempts at “f-commerce,” designed to create an integrated user experience where consumers can shop and buy without leaving Facebook, have failed to generate any meaningful results or more companies would be doing it. Mind you, most trailblazing Facebook e-tailers haven’t worked to create much in the way of retail excitement to entice Facebook buyers. Brands need to do more than simply iframe in their e-commerce site and emulate companies like BMW, who last year began selling exclusive limited edition brand merchandise on Facebook. In targeting BMW owners, this initiative helped test the potential of f-commerce to drive customer retention and generate advocacy through the network effect. But once again, we are back to putting the onus on brands to develop great content and customer experiences, with a relatively small amount of measurable sales potential in return.

So is Facebook a good bet? The risk is that the tremendous potential of Facebook turns out to be just that. The long term success for Facebook depends on the ability for brands to measure sales. And now that the company is public, they will be measured against other media companies, which are valued based on revenue per user. According to a recent mathematical model published by the MIT Technology Review, Facebook will have to increase their profit per user by between 160 and 600% for their current valuation to make sense in this context.

At Social Media Group, we’re obviously bullish on the potential of social media. But now that Facebook is a publicly traded company, it’s time for the platform to mature past the stage of experimentation and help deliver solid business returns.