online marketing – facebook

Though I’m not a professional in the field of online marketing I am always exploring, trying out and using new technologies out in the field. These are just some pointers and things that I have personally experienced or tried out on facebook. 

Getting started

On facebook first of all you will need to create yourself a personal account and look for people you know to add them as friends. It is not meant as a marketing tool but a social networking environment. Basically it helps you keep in touch with people that you know, new people that you meet and people with similar interests that you could find through facebook interest groups. 

Facebook groups

If you have an organisation, company, interest or volunteer group you can create a group on facebook, to which you can invite the people that would be interested in being associated with this group. This is one of the ways you could use as a marketing tool. It is something that will naturally grow – that is if you make it interesting enough for your friends, clients and other interested people to join. The people who join the group can also invite their friends etc. to join and that’s how your group can grow. In the description of the group you can post an address and an external weblink as well. 

Once you have a group in place, you can encourage the members of the group to upload photos, videos related to the group or start a discussion thread to get feedback and ideas. You can create a newsletter and send a message to all group members if you want to keep them updated on what’s happening. Another way is to create events and invite the group members to the event. Members invited can RSVP (all build-in to the tool) to state that they (1) are attending, (2) maybe attending, and (3) not attending. If they don’t RSVP they are listed at the event page as “awaiting reply”. This is a very good way if let’s say you are organising a  weekend trip to somewhere or even just a talk about a topic, and they say that their friends are attending, it might encourage them to attend too. At the same time if any of their friends is sending a RSVP to an event it will be shown on the news feed of their home page.  Members invited to an event can on their turn also invite others to attend the event.

Fan-page

Another avenue on facebook is creating a fan-page – similarly with groups you can invite people to join the fan-page of your organisation. Members can upload photos and videos and write on the “wall”. You can’t create events and such, but the good part of having a fan-page is that your fan-page will occassionally be featured on the side bar of your members’ friends. So for instance, I would sometimes see for example “Mozart – A great music composer for classical music” – one friend is a fan (see who). I can then click on the link to see whom of my friends is a fan of Mozart and/or click on the link to get to the fan page. For me it has worked a few times that I saw something in which I’m also interested, whether it’s a scuba diving organisation or a musician that I like too – it could bring me over to become a fan too.  

Causes

If you have a cause for which you want to create awareness or even collect funding, you can create a cause on Facebook. To this cause you can invite your friends to join, who if they join, most likely will invite some of their friends to join as well. 

Facebook ads

This is where you can sign up to create an advertisement that will be displayed on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/advertising/

The great thing about this is that the advertisement can be targeted to certain age groups, locations, even gender if you like. That means your ad will only be displayed at the sidebar of facebook users who fall within your target audience. You can pay per click – which would be only if people are interested in your ad and click on it to find out more. 

The personal drawback I found with the advertisements is that sometimes I see something interesting on my sidebar, but I only notice it in the corner of my eye when I’m already clicking on something else. That means the facebook page is reloading and I will get 3 new ads in the side bar. The good thing is that usually the same ad will appear again another time and I can click on it then (they rotate and some ads will come back). 

I have not tried advertising anything myself, so I’m not sure how well the statistics will turn out, but facebook does provide statistics to see the details of users who have clicked on your ad. 

Some final comments

As with anything online in social media – it is mainly self-regulated and it works negatively to push things. What does work is to have interesting updates, organise events, send news letters, and inspire the members to contribute. If it works out well, you don’t even have to spend a lot of time yourself. Word of mouth is very powerful online!

Your online footprints

Do you ever perform a google search for your own name on the internet? If you do, you may be surprised to find that you are leaving more footprints behind than you might think.

I sometimes do it just to see what other people would find should they try to learn about me. In my case my first name is not very unique, neither is my surname, but the combination of the two is pretty much returning only results related to me. 

That way I once found that I have co-authored 4 publications, which were derived from my MSc dissertation by my then supervisors. The first two I was aware of, as they had sent it to me by email at the time, back in 1997, when I was still in my first job and they were subsequently published in 1998. But the more recent versions of it in 2004, I found out through google. It seems that it is still a hot topic in the Artificial Intelligent negotiating agent research.

More recently, my portfolio of a course I took at the NIE and that I had posted on my personal website also came up in the search results, and so did my LinkedIn Profile amongst others. Other websites like Naymz and Pipl are also gathering info about persons and if you search for a first and a last name, even a city, country, it returns a list of websites, including social networking sites that you may have signed up with.

I was surprised that even my MySpace account came up, where I am using a nickname to hide my identity and I don’t actively use it, just to link to some music that I’m interested in only.

My Facebook account is also interesting, my profile is only visible to people that are in my contact list, and a limited version of it to networks I belong too. However, it did show some of my friends, as well as book and movie reviews that I had done in the search results on google. So, the identity protection is not as water-tight. Not that I am doing anything on FB that should worry me should others see it.

Some of my wordpress blog entries popped up too and my name also popped up at the digital movement site as one of the attendants to a networking gathering that I participated in.

And the website of the dive school in Thailand I did my Advanced Open Water with in Scuba diving, as they list all their “graduates” by calendar month on their website. And an art exhibit that I participated in back in 2002. 

Last but not least my company website came up too in the search results.

Nothing for me to be worried about, but yet another warning that we should be aware of the digital footprints that we are leaving behind online for future employers, or other people interested in finding out more about you!

Facebook in the classroom?

Came across this blog post: http://scottishwebfolk.wordpress.com/2007/07/29/teaching-learning-with-facebook-group/ which refers to a facebook group on “Teaching and learning with Facebook”.

Another site http://blog.larkin.net.au/2008/01/17/social-network-sites-in-the-classroom/ is discussing the use of social network sites in the classroom, citing MySpace and Facebook.

It would be interesting to see how Facebook could be used in education, but I feel that at this moment, it is difficult to shield of private life and classroom life on such social networking sites. They are not really meant to use for teaching purposes. Of course you could set up a group that doesn’t appear in people’s profiles, and have discussions within that group. Events can be created etc. But then what is the difference with setting up a normal discussion forum?

I believe that blogs and group blogs would be great to use in classrooms for reflection / group reflection, discussion forums, knowledge forums, wikispaces etc, but not really a social networking site. However, this could change in the future, as the technology evolves! I have signed up for the group anyway and hope to see if there are some interesting ideas there…

From lunch boxes to laptops – 1:1 project

On Wed 7 Nov 07 I attended a talk by Mr. Angus King, the ex-governor of Maine, at the SCGS. Thanks to Amanda who was so kind to invite me.

Mr. King made a bold move, to introduce a laptop for each 7th grader in Maine, a project that was initiated in the late nineties and got realised in 2000. Over lunch with Seymour Papert, one of the gurus in Artificial Intelligence (he set up MIT with Marvin Minsky) and education (he worked with Piaget in Switzerland for a while), Papert suggested him that he should go for a student / laptop ratio of 1:1. At that time it was around 5 students per computer, whereby the computers were used in the school ground only. Papert said that even a 2:1 ratio of students vs. computers would not make a huge difference.

The reasons for the idea to spend state money on computers for students was with the goal to improve the economy of the state:

  1. more education and technology –> necessity for the future
  2. all state governors were chasing after the same goal –> need to make a difference to have impact
  3. improvements were incremental so far and not keeping up with speed & scale of changes taking place in the world

A good write up of the reasons why, can also be found here.

Papert’s influence on the plans are written up here.

The idea for the project was not met with too much enthusiasm at first for various reasons:

  • controversial
  • fear of change
  • lack of understanding of power of IT/internet

When the project was announced and King got the first questions on it, “Who is going to own the computers?” his immediate intuitive response was: the kids. He had empowerment in mind and the laptops should be taken home, that way the parents would be introduced to them as well. This however was met with great resistance, to have kids owning such an expensive device, expecting they would be careless with it.

One school decided not to wait for the state of Maine to launch the project, and got a local company to sponsor them and they bought laptops for all their students. This became a model school to convince people that the idea actually worked.

Apple won the tender to provide laptops for all 7th graders in Maine. What was interesting is that the tender did not specify any technical details on the equipment. Instead it specified what they wanted to do with the technology, word processing, internet, email, maths, etc. In the end it was left up to the schools whether they wanted the students to take the laptops home with them. About 50% of the schools allowed this. However, the laptops remained property of the school.

Professional development was equally important and time was spent as well to introduce the technology and the new ways of teaching to the teachers first. The teacher’s role is more of coach / facilitator and the students are finding their own information. Each school appointed a lead teacher, and for every 7 schools regular meetings are/were held amongst the lead teachers. A webportal was introduced too. Surveys held amongst teachers showed that 70-80% of the teacher are very positive about the program.

A comparison was done on writing proficiency between a group of students being taught by a teacher who was amongst the high computer use group and a teacher who stuck to the traditional teaching methods. The high use computer group class scored twice as high in the test as the group who did writing in the traditional way.

Student engagement is heightened with the introduction of the laptops. They are more engaged in the learning and being engaged helps them to learn better.

Security: schools have filtered wireless access on the campus, and a remote desktop feature available for teachers plus a history log to check which websites the students have visited.

Next step is to introduce the laptops into the high schools and to facilitate this, all teachers have received a free laptop.

Home internet access is a problem for low income groups or remote areas. There is a private fund that will help the lower income groups to apply for dial up access.

What are the benefits of the project?

  • students learn how to discover and use information (in this world of information overflow)
  • teamwork
  • creativity is stimulated
  • better student engagement

What it doesn’t necessarily do is generate better test results, because the tests are still based on rote learning.

A very insightful and inspirational talk!

a split blogging personality

Tonight I read this post from Jeremiah Owyang on the other 5 stages of blogging. His take on how blogs evolve and can become successful, go from step 1: Excitement, step 2: Expectation to step 3: Focus, continuing with step 4: Passion and step 5: Achievement. It was his step 3 that set me thinking: Focus. Does my blog have a clear focus?

Funny enough for this blog, my step 1 was the focus, I started this blog with a clear goal as a place to keep track of my research on educational technology. As I was busy with work and some happenings in my private life at the time, the blog became dormant for a while. Only recently I revived it again and at the same time broadened my focus. Including some business related posts, some more on technology not directly related to education and some more on education not directly related to technology.

Some people combine all their writings into a single blog, comprising of personal and professional posts. In my case I have decided to split my writings into several blogs:

whitecat.moblog.com.sg – my personal blog

moblog

The focus of this blog is purely to write about events that are happening in my life and that I want to reflect on. I also do photo blogs, whereby my events are illustrated in the form of photographs. I write in this blog under a pseudonym, to hide my real identity, and protect family and friends that I might write about. Not that I’m writing anything bad, but it’s my personal view on things.

I feel moblog is very good for personal blogging, as it allows the sending of MMS and SMS blogs, so when I’m out and about and see something funny, interesting or worth noting, I snap a picture with my mobile and send it directly to my blog. No need to wait till I’m home, upload to PC first, etc. There are also group blogs, with the option to close the group, so that only invited members can enter and share information, photos, etc on certain topics. The interface can be customised relatively easy to your personal taste.

It would also be a great tool for educational blogging, whereby of course the focus for blogging would be a certain school project. Content Craft, the organisation behind moblog in Singapore, is also setting up blog engines for schools and universities.

whitecatsg.multiply.com – my photo blog

multiply

My multiply blog is my latest online personality. After having had webshots albums online and then my personal website, all were running out of space and I wanted to have one single point where I’m keeping my photos online for sharing with family and friends. I evaluated flickr, photobucket, but found them very similar to webshots and the free amount of photos to share was limited. Multiply it was! I immediately fell in love with the ease and speed of uploading photos, and there is no limit. The only restriction is that the high resolution version of the photo will be automatically deleted from the server when you didn’t order any prints from them within six months. There is even an option to share certain albums or other content only with certain contacts. And creating your own look is fairly easy to do if you know how to use css, and if you don’t you can look at other people’s creations and copy one of them.

Multiply also allows you to create a blog, share music and video content and keep a calendar of events. I’m using the blog option to keep my scuba dive logs, using the reviews section to post my recipe book online, and the calendar to let my friends and family know what I’m doing, if there are any important dates they should know about.

Back to this blog, I am still wondering whether the 5 stages could apply here. I believe that achievement is more pertaining to corporate blogs or people blogging for money or a greater good. In my case, this is just a place where I’m gathering my thoughts and observations. If there are others interested in this, that’s great of course, but not the goal of my blogging. Yet a blog should have a focus, and I think that I have achieved that by splitting up my blogs based on different scopes and target audiences. Should I blog about this in my moblog blog, I’m very sure most of my audience will not be interested in this. Vice versa, if I would add all my personal rantings here in wordpress, I would also draw a different kind of audience. It’s a trade-off, but for the time being, I’ll continue the way I started… a split personality…

my history of the internet and computers

Last week I answered a question on Yahoo! Answers of someone who asked about the history of the internet and when pictures first appeared online. I thought it was quite an interesting question, and triggered me to reminisce about my first experiences with the online world and computing.

I must have been about 13 or 14 years old, in the early 1980’s when we got the first computer at home. That in itself was quite unique to have in those days and my dad had bought it second hand somewhere, because he was interested in this new technology. It came with a B/W monitor of around 10 inches. Its operating system was on a disk (I don’t think it even was  a 5.5 inch floppy, but something before that) and after loading the OS to memory, you could put in another disk to run software. It came with BASIC to create your own software applications. I remember that I tried making some simple BASIC modules, with the classic “GO TO xx”. A few years later the technology already became obsolete and the first PC’s made it to the consumer market. They came with a DOS operating system and large floppy disks. Besides DOS, some applications also became popular in those days, like Word Perfect and Lotus 123. We also got the first computer games: Leisure Suit Larry, which had really amazing graphics, considering that the monitors were ASCII based and had only 16 colours! It was fun going through the adventure and picking up objects that he needed in a later scene. There was also a “Boss key”, by pressing a Function key, it would pop up a complex graph on your screen to pretend to your boss that you are doing something serious and not playing a game.

When I was around 17, I had a summer job at my dad’s office, and got to use a Unix workstation as they used it for some data communication. I learned the Unix commands and how to use the vi-editor. I can’t remember whether I also used email in that time.

Around the same time we also started having computer lessons in school, when I was in sec5 (= comparable with JC1), as an extra lesson carried out by our Maths teacher who was quite interested in this. We did some simple programming as well, calculating with dates and incorporating leap years and summertime / wintertime.

When I was 18, in 1990, I started my university studies and enrolled in a Computer Science degree programme. The first year of my studies we were using Sun workstations with monochrome ascii based screens and my earlier knowledge of Unix came in handy. This was also my first encounter with the internet. We all had an email address and could send each other and our lecturers emails. Practical assignments had to be handed in by email to our practicum teacher-assistant. There were also online newsgroups, which could be accessed by typing the “rn” (read news) command. This was not so much used in our first year in college, but in later years when the practical assignments got more complex, we found ourselves posting questions on the world-wide bulletin boards and searching through earlier posted posts to learn more about certain programming languages. In 1991, my second year in Uni, we got access to Sun X-windows workstations, which used multiple windows and graphic representations with a mouse. Though inside the windows it was still text based commands. It was a huge revolution though, to be able to have 1 window open with your source code and 1 window with your compilation errors. And we had Corel Draw to make graphics to dress up the documents and make diagrams. Initially troff was used as a typesetter to create documents and only at the end of my studies, around 1995 LaTeX (pronounce: lah-tech) was launched, which made typesetting so much easier, using curly brackets with e.g. {heading1}heading text {\heading1}. In troff this would have been several lines of code, I can only remember “.B” for bold face, .I for italic, etc. but there were commands to be added for newline, font type, font size, etc.

But I’m going off topic now, let’s get back to the internet, in the early nineties the first browser came out, which was called Gopher and used hyper text. In those days only a few of the sites were available in Gopher, but we were happy because the Uni library had a search engine for us to search for book and conference proceedings.

Soon after Gopher came Mosaic, which became a more popular browser and allowed showing pictures in between the text. Newsgroup and email were still our main ways of using the internet in those days however and they were still text based. Besides tech-newsgroups, there were also hobby groups starting out and I joined one newsgroup on food recipes in Dutch – nl-culinair. Funny enough I recently found that the guy who had started the group, that was highly popular in those days where only few could use the internet either at work or in university, had put the old threads online and organised them into a modern way. Newsgroups were the predecessor of later day online forums.

In 1996 I graduated from my MSc course and started working. Initially in a government organisation, the Bureau of Statistics in Holland. I was given a PC to work on in the office and was told proudly by my supervisor that it was installed with Windows 95. And since I had studied Computer Science, I should know how to work with it and maybe even help my colleagues to use it. Cold sweat breaking out, I had no idea how to get started, having used Unix for the 6 years before that and done some summer jobs using DOS-based machines with Lotus123 and the latest WP version. Learned fast that Windows was about using the mouse, and not about typing commands. Absolutely hated it in the beginning and Word as well, I had to use the mouse to select and select stuff like font type and size from drop down menus. I did learn fast and was soon able to help out my colleagues with their Windows problems. Was even asked to conduct a training together with a colleague to the entire staff on how to use the Windows version of SPSS, as most were having problems in using it after being familiar with the DOS-based version of this statistics programs for many years.

So, how about the internet in the late nineties? In my office at the time, internet was only available on a standalone PC, that was shared with the entire department of about 80 persons. I had to do some research, so I frequently went over there and used it, printing out the information I found useful. Other than that my PC only had access to the Intra-net. Email could be sent to the outside world, but without attachments. This was a major challenge, as I was still working at the time to publish a paper together with one of my ex-classmates and my two supervisors in Uni. Also I had to get data to work on for a statistical research from the Ministry of Economics. A lot of paper work involved, to get permissions to receive a floppy disk, bring it in, let it be processed by a special security department who put it on the server for me to retrieve.

In 1998 I changed jobs and was stationed in KL, Malaysia. The company provided me with a laptop and a Compuserve email address that served as login to the internet as well, wherever in the world. Internet service providers started booming in those days and one of my first projects was end of 1998 in Shanghai to implement a helpdesk software and business processes according ITIL for Shanghai Online, one of the first ISP’s in China (government organisation). I also had a yahoo account and the first instant messengers came about. It was a way for me to keep in touch easily with my friends back home.

Since then internet has evolved rapidly, and more communication tools became available and in this short time span we are now ready for more interaction, higher end graphics, etc.

The Fantastic 4 on Social Media

Went to iX New Media Forum 2007 on Wed 20 June, organised by TDM and SMU. Finally time to write my blog of this event, after my 2 quick MMS blogs on it at my moblog. They had four speakers in the forum, who are all gurus in new media, or social communication media. Check out detailed account at SGentrepreneurs website, they did a good live summary of the event with videos of Kevin Lim. Isn’t it great that with the web 2.0 nowadays we can actually read other people’s views and takeaways on a seminar directly online and it’s interesting how everyone has their own things they liked or disliked about the same event.

What I found interesting during the event was the live chat that was going on on the big screen behind the speakers. Sometimes interesting things were uttered and it was an interaction amongst the crowd that had gathered in the conference hall. Personally I found it a little distracting at times to focus on what the speaker was telling, and at the same time with one eye trying to follow the chat log to see if anything interesting was uttered there. Juggling with these two tasks, I didn’t bother to participate in the chat, it would have caused my brain to overload. Myself being about a decade older than most of the others in the audience (okay, some exceptions were there, I saw some respected aged men as well), I was wondering whether it’s me getting old… The technology with the chat could also have been a means of direct, non-intrusive interaction with the speakers, but I felt that didn’t really work out in that way. I guess the speakers were focusing on addressing the points they wanted to get across and it’s distracting if they would have to keep turning their back to the public to read the chat at the same time. I couldn’t help but keep wondering whether there would be a tool and moderator who could pick out interesting chat blurps and dump them in a sort of post-it at the side, so that they could be brought up as points during the forum discussion. Hmm, maybe a point for a next forum? The person(s) manning the technology did a really great job in bringing up websites that were talked about by the speakers quickly as an illustration, and everything worked smoothly.

The first speaker of the afternoon, Jeremiah Owyang, a social media evangelist as he calls himself, got the room rocking and his talk was very insightful. This is illustrated by the many blogs that mainly addressed his talk at the forum, like Walter Lim and Estee. Jeremiah believes that there should be an active dialogue between companies and their customers and that the communication between employees and customers should be more direct and not too restricted by the marketing & communications department only. Corporate websites should be collaborative and interactive. Negative feedback is no problem, it will hit you anyway and in this manner you are able to react to it directly and learn from it to improve your product / service. It’s not an easy thing though to convince large corporates to become transparent! Really admire his convincing power, and one example of that is DELL’s ideastorm.com. Something on my list of things to check out! Add on to the list: ustream.tv, valleywag.com (check out Robert Scoble who was target of a rumour), techmeme.com, public square (forgot what this was, will look for it), “Active worlds” which is similar to 2nd life (virtual world).

The next speaker up was Louis Broom, who works for Microsoft and has a job title that is amazingly long, I was impressed that he managed to pronounce it in one sentence without stammering, but I guess he must be used to it by now. Interesting part about him was that he started his career as actor and director and is now making corporate videos for Microsoft and customers. His talk didn’t leave a very lasting impression on me, but he had one interesting point, okay, two interesting points:

1. the content production is done decentralised, that means they start producing a video in the US, and when it’s night time in US, the teams in China and India take over to do the post production. Also the production is done with low cost, and fast. I guess in this fast-paced world, that’s the way to go and using the internet with collaborative tools, there should be a way to apply this concept in different industries too.

2. EPIC 2015, by Robin Sloan and Matt Thompson. Will google and watch this show one day when I feel bored and don’t feel like doing one of the other million things on my list….

After his talk there was a short tea break and I had a quick refreshment, after which I checked my email and (wow, what a perfect timing) I answered a call from one of my colleagues in one of my projects to help him out with something. No time for networking this time, also wasn’t really in the mood for it that day, too busy, too many things going on, but still wanted to attend the talks.

The next talk after the break, was by Mike Downey of Adobe, promoting the great new development of Adobe, which was initially nicked as Apollo and now launched as Adobe AIR (Adobe’s Integrated Runtime). This brought a fresh breeze 😉 into the room!

As most of his demo of the new platform (much alike Java in its philosophy, i.e. cross platform, virtual machine, runtime execute) was pretty similar to one posted on YouTube, have a look yourself here:

The cool thing about AIR is that it is a platform that uses web-technology, but it can run offline, and will synchronise data soon as you get back online.

I can see this being used in educational systems as well, wouldn’t it be great, one central distribution, students can logon from multiple operating systems (Windows, Mac or Linux), download the application to run on their desktop, and interact with the server once they are online. And of course the graphics rendering engine of Flash, really think this product is going to have a great future. Moreover, it’s open source!

Some other interesting sites, mentioned by Mike: picnik.com (online photo editing), sliderocket.com (presentations online to share and to edit collaboratively) and quietlyscheming.com (a cool, “useless” application built by one of the AIR developers).

Last but not least, the only female speaker of the afternoon: Lynda Brown, who is from Canada and also a front-runner in her own right for new media and communication. She heads New Media BC and produces VIDFEST, an annual creative digital media gathering. She is very inspiring, and didn’t so much focus on the technology, but more on the social aspects. She is a consultant and mentor of many startups and it’s quite amazing how she keeps track of all that, while also being part of a team at www.gnwc.ca to set up a MA course in Digital Media in Vancouver. She was surprised to hear that hardly anyone here was using Facebook (Jeremiah also mentioned Facebook as one of the new technologies that he liked to stay in touch with friends). Funny part is that I have always perceived Facebook as a very US-based tool, whereas for instance MySpace and Friendster have more world-wide users. But maybe my perception is wrong. Not that long ago I joined Multiply, which initially I also perceived as a US-based tool, and it turned out to be a very useful tool, that has spin-offs in multiple languages and a large Asian community too (majority in Philippines), which I thought to be quite interesting. Anyway, I guess everyone has their own preferences and is also influenced by friends in which of the tools they use to share photos and stories. I love Multiply for its easy photo sharing options, IMHO better than Flickr (the number of free photos is too limited for my taste).

One interesting takeaway from Lynda’s talk: www.starfishandspider.com, a story to read online and make a choice whether you are a starfish or a spider (if I remember correctly), will definitely check this out, sounds interesting!

At the end of the individual talks, there was a forum discussion, hosted by Ming Yeow, which I think he did very professionally!

All in all an interesting forum and an afternoon well-spent! Thanks TDM for the organisation 🙂