This is the TRUE STORY…

…of 9 classmates and a program director, chosen to work together.

Some of you may not get the blog updates like I do, but in the case you do, this is my love note on our first semester. I just want to thank you… it truly is spectacular work with each of you.

Each of brings something unique and wonderful to the table and when mixed together, it is amazing.  

But I do have to ask… Did the Dave and Dr. S bromance start before class? 🙂

Enjoy the next two weeks (ish). I’ll miss interacting daily. But we’ll chat soon. 

Zombiecookies, Heart Gadgets and My Password? Breach of Security!

Security breaches on TV and in movies always seem action packed—the hero takes it down to the wire and saves the day. But what happens when it involves you and your information? It’s not fun, and though it may be action packed, the hassle is going to be awful and you will not be happy when it’s over.

What we’re dealing with now are “supercookies”, and they’re not nearly as appetizing as they sound.  The latest tracking device also goes by “Flash cookies” or “zombie cookies” (that one makes me feel safe) and are essentially regular cookies for your computer, but on steroids. They’re tougher to track and remove, plus they have the power of regeneration—so why exactly are sites using them to capture data? Mainly because the data the companies that use them are getting from us is beyond what the normal cookies provide… and beyond common industry practice. Security breach question #1: Are you okay with the thought of supercookies?

Keeping with the action packed/security breach theme, I’m not sure if any of you watch the TV series Homeland, but a character in the show actually had a pacemaker that was continually submitting information back to his doctor (which of course the government was able to monitor because he was the Vice President), which I associated with the data gathered by Medtronic Inc. plant/Heart Gadgets article. In the event you don’t watch Homeland (you should, I highly recommend it) I won’t spoil what happens, but this article and the espionage that went into the episode was not that far off. It made me wonder if the writers saw the article and had Brody follow protocol loosely based on a story such as this. Security question #2: Would you allow your medical information to be sold if you thought it could prevent future disease/illness for you or your family?

I don’t mind sharing a lot of things and/or information, most of this is with my friends and family, but there are some limits. There is however a major security breach, in my personal opinion, when my potential (key word: potential) employer wants the password to my Facebook account. You have my email address and the ability to search my profile, we’ve learned what search graph has given you the ability to do, what are you really looking for? You can run a background check on me, which leads me to ask… Security question #3: What information do you think employers are looking for with access to your Facebook profile via your password?

Facebook bought out Instagram and now we’re dealing with some of the same security issues that Facebook has had come up in the past, including the rights to your images. Wiggling around the security of the subject with the language they wrote it in, they’ve essentially told their followers that if they’re unhappy with potentially having their images used in promotional ads, they should delete their accounts. Depending on how much you care or how invested in your Instagram account you are, here goes security question #4: Will you/would you/have you deleted your Instagram account over these policy updates?

When you consider how data storage and information relay is taking over our lives, it’s quite scary. The expectation is that everyone is going to know about what we’re doing and want to sell us something based on what we’re telling them already or have already signed up for. I’m going to go wait it out in the bunker and hope my WiFi connection holds strong from there…

BIG Data, BIG Deal.

We know that data is a big deal and continually growing, but just how BIG is it? Depending on the industry or setting you plan on using it, data can help increase your margin and your business. So, what is big data? (I had to ask myself too…) Big data refers to datasets whose size is beyond the ability of typical database software tools to capture, store, manage and analyze. Whew!

Here are some interesting statistics to consider:

  • 5 billion mobile phones in use in 2010
  • 30 billion pieces of content shared on Facebook every month
  • 40% projected growth in global data generated per year vs. 5% growth in global IT spending
  • 15 out of 17 sectors in the United States have more data stored per company than the US Library of Congress
  • 60% potential increase in retailers’ operating margins possible with big data
  • 1.5 million more data-savvy managers needed to take full advantage of big data in the United States

These figures tell us that big data and finding a way to make it work for our business is the way of the future. But, is the proliferation of data simply evidence of an increasingly intrusive world? Or can big data play a useful economic role? (I lifted these right from the reading, but I think they’re viable questions for us to consider.)

I was especially interested in seeing how to use big data to make better decisions in a retail setting. Though marginal on a small scale, it seems as though it has potential to really help on a large scale as business continues to grow and a better understanding of big business and the retail industry happens.

As our digital universe continues to grow, we have to ask ourselves where we’re going to fall in to place as a part of this. Consider how we help the social media aspect alone in picking/voting for winners (think American Idol, the Voice, etc.), post pictures to Facebook, twitter and Instagram—looking at the graph with the surveillance numbers alone made me cringe. This begs the question, are we locking down the information stored within our own big data correctly? We might think we are, but is our privacy still being compromised even when we think it’s not?

We can hope that big data will really be safer in 2020, but as we sit in 2013 and see that not all the advancements we’ve hoped for have happened, I’m still skeptical. Information security is huge—the angry posts people make about their Facebook security seems hilarious in comparison to data and internet security that is overlooked because of the lack of information readily available. (At least that’s what I think I understand from this week’s reading.) When they code information as “confidential” and “lockdown” I can’t help but think of people’s identities being stolen and government computers being hacked and secrets being sold. I guess we have 7 years to get better at it

My head is still spinning from this week’s reading, is yours? This is a lot to take in, especially when you consider our role in the process. 

Fast Tracking…

Let’s face it; Facebook has become a major part of our culture. So if you’re a company (or part of one) and you’re looking to drive business, advertising on Facebook has probably come up in a meeting. What your plan is as a business varies depending upon your role within your company. I know as a marketer, we utilize Facebook advertising for our stores and events often. Mix this with the fascination and science of eye tracking and I’m like a kid in a candy store—most people nowadays are connected to Facebook and media via laptops, tablets, Smartphones or some type of technology most hours of the day.

Eye tracking gives us the ability to know where our fans are looking… so, on Facebook pages, what are they looking at? Count heat maps (which are as cool as they sound, pun intended) show us the amount of views that our fans are the most interested in. What we learn here is that our fans are paying more attention to listings than images and are following in the order that they are posting in the news feed. Does this surprise you? Consider when you log into Facebook, do you scroll down and read all the status updates of your friends right away? Or do you head and do something else? A relative heat map shows the amount of time your fans spend looking at an area of interest on a specific page; much like you’d expect with a Google search, fans focus most of their interests on the top of the page. They also tend to stay focused on the text of the listing versus the image.

The right rail of the Facebook page is also fairly popular, perhaps more than you care to admit. How often do you pay attention to the ads on the right hand side of your Facebook page? Have you ever clicked through on an ad? If so, what was it for?

Now if you’re like me, Facebook gives you the update on the hot button topic you should be paying attention to in the news. From there, I go and do my own investigating, but depending on how you choose to read the news, you may or may not be reading it on your iPad or tablet, as we’ve become intimate readers of the news.  I’m not in any way surprised that we’re interactive readers; I use my iPhone like a tablet in a way—I turn it and expect it to move the way I need to immediately. I change the size, scroll and move the screen as often as I need to. So why would we want our news to be any different? It should be hands on, that’s how we’re getting our daily fill and updates. I did wonder: what would you call the in-between age group? If you are between 29 – 44, what would you call that yourself? You’re not a “digital native” or a “printnet,” so what are you?

Do you Crowdsource?

You’ve been a part of crowdsourcing without even realizing it. More and more projects are being crowdsourced everyday in business; no, I’m not confusing the word with outsourced, though they are somewhat similar in practice. If you’ve ever downloaded a picture from iStock before, you’ve dabbled in crowdsourcing–  photographers upload their photos and create a database for you to choose from. Small residuals are being paid for the picture by you and me to the company. In turn, the company is paying the photographer a small fee. Who’s really being hurt by this? The major photographer or graphic designer that you/me would have normally asked to take the picture or design something if we had not reached out for the resource. Their wallet is significantly smaller than it used to be.

As the power of the crowd shifts to technology, how are other companies using it and thinking outside the box? IBM hosted a “Jam” which I needed to have explained to me—it’s an internet based platform for conducting conversations through brainstorming. I love the thought that they came together (via the internet) and crowdsourced to brainstorm ideas for innovation. What a great way to bring a group of people together to find and potentially solve your larger issues for less money. New ideas that did not require you to spend as much time and resources on as you had in the past. Perhaps they are not ideal business practices for everyone, but in the ever expanding business world, there is tons of potential and room for growth.  

Are you skeptical about the idea of crowdsourcing and its value to business? Where do think the best the ideas come from? I understand that those are very broad questions, but I’d like to weigh in your opinion. Here’s why—I know that there are a variety of people out there. We all have different work experiences and skill sets and I’m interested to see how we think and feel crowdsourcing effects us in what we do. I’d like to think that I can’t be replaced in my daily Marketing activities, but truth be told, you could have someone else write my newsletters and reviews for me. They may not know the brand as well, but they’ll do it for less as a side job.

Has your company (that you know of) ever crowdsourced? I know that we outsource work, but I’m not sure if we altogether have crowdsourced. I know that as times and resources change, there are very good chances that we will. Ideas are our future, who exactly are we planning on getting them from?  

Social echo-echo-echo…

As a freshman in high school for an assignment in English class, my teacher had the class write a letter to a company, restaurant, etc. We had to either lodge a complaint or compliment them; the real reason for the assignment was to learn about formal letter writing and see if the company would respond. Learning about reputation management makes me wonder if my teacher still has his students do the assignment, but has them post on the company’s Facebook page or Twitter account or send an email to the company instead. If I remember correctly, M&M Mars sent me a coupon for a new bag of M&M’s, but it took almost 3 weeks to receive it in the mail. We live in a time of instant feedback, or desired instant feedback. You can be sitting in the restaurant giving it 1 star on Yelp while you’re waiting for the bill, that’s what we have the power to do. The question is who’s managing all of the feedback for these companies?

There is a ton of pressure to listen to what is being said about your company on the internet. It’s not all good, but there are things you can learn that will make you better at what you do. Does your company have a designated person to handle the feedback that comes your way via your social sites? I’m the lucky person for our stores, so I spend a lot of time taking care of issues and interacting. Our new catalog dropped a few weeks ago and some of the items that people ordered are not in yet. People are using the Facebook page to ask when their items will be in and shipped to them. Failing to respond to these posts would not only look bad for our current fans, but it would also send the customer(s) the wrong message that we were not only out of stock, but also unresponsive to get back to them. Not exactly the positive brand management that we’d like to have associated with our stores.

Understanding your customers is essentially the most important part of business. Without knowing who they are and what they want, you can’t really provide them with the perfect service, products or experience. I’m fairly confident my new favorite term this week is social echo– the mental image it invokes is powerful. People are going to go use the internet to say things about your company, how you choose to harness that information is up to you. I think you need to learn from what you can and interact with your customers/fans as often as possible. Keep your interaction genuine. There are few things worse than a company who is interacting with people just because they felt they needed to, not because they wanted to. A company who is truly invested in the “why” aspect of their customer base keeps the interaction real.

Did anyone Google their company or themselves after the readings? I did, mainly to get some feedback, and found the comments on a Tripadvisor site and from check-ins on Foursquare. After combing through 32 pages of comments on the Tripadvisor site, I wasn’t too surprised by what I found, but at least I know what is being said.

Do you have WiFi?

On a recent 14 hour drive from Panama City to South Bend my cell phone had no WiFi and was reliant on my data plan.  The upside is, I’m a Sprint subscriber, so I have unlimited data.  The downside is, there are a lot of mountains in Tennessee and my phone had issues accessing that data plan.  As the text messages were taking too long to come in and I had no way to play Ruzzle (at least in real time) it became evident that mobile traffic patterns have significantly changed over the course of the last 10 years and will continue to moving forward.    

As electronics multiply and diversify, how many different types of technology do you own, and how often do you use them? I know that I use my iPhone and my laptop for everything—I have an iPad, but I’m much more dependent on my iPhone.  That’s my poison of choice.  We’re a divided household when it comes to operating systems, I swear by my iOS system and my husband hates it.  He’s also the guy who loves his Zune (and has owned 3 of them) just to spite Apple, so he’s an Android operating system all the way.  Have you had both?  Do you have a preference?

At this point, it seems as though it’s become the responsibility of businesses to provide free WiFi for customers.  We (meaning my Operation) umbrellas it under customer service, but as we grow into an even more technology dependent society (and the numbers continue to support our dependency) it seems that all businesses are now providing it for customers.  Are you more surprised to find that a business does or does not offer free WiFi for patrons?  I know that many apartment complexes and hotels are now offering free WiFi as incentives to get people to stay there too.  With so many options, there needs to be an appealing factor.   

Apps are one of the most important (coolest?) aspects of owning a SmartPhone, and they’re definitely what take up a fair majority of data traffic.  I have a QR reader downloaded as one of my apps.  In the past, I used it fairly often, trying to see how other companies were using them to leverage their brand.  I have a friend who places ads for the local paper, and he told me that they’re pushing most advertisers to include QR codes in their print and online ads.  This statement sort of shocked me and lead to a debate (most conversations with this friend lead to a debate) that they would push QR codes.  I know they’re free to create, the app is free to download and that you can track them, but realistically, how many people are using them?  When was the last time you scanned a QR code?  Did you know what you were scanning and did you do it on purpose?