Category Archives: Social Media

Adwords, Facebook, and Twitter Advertising Tips for Small Businesses

Online advertising is an infinitely growing area of expertise that can seem downright daunting to the average business owner. How much money do you need to spend? What platform will help you reach your target audience? How can you do better than your competitors?Adwords, Facebook, and Twitter...

These are all important questions! While they cannot be simply answered in a sentence or two, we can provide you with a starting point for better understanding the best practices of advertising through Adwords, Facebook and Twitter. Take a look!

Adwords

Adwords is Google’s online advertising program and a smart place to start if you’re just jumping into online advertising. Luckily, Google provides a depth of information to help you understand what they offer and how to get started. First, explore their different campaigns and identify which one is right for meeting your goals. Google will then walk you through setting a budget, formatting your campaign and choosing your keywords and placement.

If you’re ready to get a bit more advanced with your Adwords campaign, here are five strategies and money-making tips worth trying. One of the hottest features, and one you’ve likely experienced personally, is Google’s product-specific remarketing. You can advertise the exact product a customer was viewing on your site, allowing you to hit a hot lead and close the sale.

Facebook

Shifting the gears toward social media advertising, it’s only fitting to begin this conversation with a highlight of Facebook advertising opportunities for small businesses. Facebook is one of the largest and best ways small businesses can reach their target audience, build “likes” and push people to their website through social media. But you can also waste a lot of money, too, if you don’t know the basics.

Much like Google Adwords, Facebook has made it simple and straightforward to learn about their advertising options and get started creating an ad. But, also like Adwords, not all campaigns are created equal. You want to create several different versions of an ad (varying photos and test) and test it out before fully committing to your final version. You can track the clicks and then choose the best performing ad to run with.

Instead of creating traditional ads, you can also pay a little bit to boost a post. For example, if you are announcing a new product or promotion via a post on your business’s Facebook page, you can pay to boost this post and several thousand more users for an investment of only a few dollars. But be sure to share a link or call to action to encourage people to visit your website or make a purchase based upon your post!

Twitter

Last but not least, let’s talk Twitter advertising. Start by logging in and exploring your own advertising dashboard. You can see recent and popular tweets with the opportunity to promote them, similar to Facebook. A new addition to Twitter is their conversational ads which aim to make it easier for users to share and promote your brand with the simple click of a call to action button. For small businesses, this may be a good option for you if you want your customers to easily share your products or links to your content. The addition of hashtags makes this an even more powerful advertising tool.

Most importantly, keep in mind that you can dump a ton of money into Twitter (or any type of online) advertising without achieving meaningful results unless you are strategic with the content in your ads. Carefully think through your promotions and include calls to action. You’re paying for people to see your campaign, now what do you want them to do with the information? Be sure you have an answer to this question before you spend any money on Adwords, Facebook or Twitter!

Do you currently use Adwords, Facebook or Twitter to advertise your business or brand? Share what you’ve learned or ask a question by commenting below!

~Stephanie

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Filed under Adwords, Facebook, Social Media, Twitter

Word Choices Matter in Campaigns

The candidate firmly grabbed the edges of the podium to present himself as a man who knows who he is and where he’s going. He stood tall, squinted at the camera, and clenched his jaw. Someone whispered, “I think he’s going to be president.”

Why?

“Because he looks like a president. He’s organized and seems to know what to do.”

It’s understandable. Like Homer Simpson, the candidate is funny. He makes headlines with raw rants and doesn’t apologize, which is something most of us can’t do without being fired.

Consider the case of Karen Fitzgibbons, an elementary school teacher who ranted on her Facebook page about the conflict between police and teenagers at a pool party. She offered an apology after her rant, but it was too late. She lost her job. It’s true. Many don’t want to be held to politically correct speak, but what is the impact of careless, personally insulting words?

Nick Kyrgios, a tennis player, made an off the cuff comment about another player’s girlfriend during a tennis match and was fined $10,000 in addition to being booed at subsequent matches.

In the case of the presidential candidate, the more journalists utter his name, the bigger his brand becomes. Case in point, we don’t have to mention his name, but you know who we’re referring to, right? If he wins the presidency, his companies win. If he loses the presidency, his companies win. It’s a smart strategy. Run for president to broaden your power and audience– earn high ratings by being outlandish. If the goal is “to eventually become bigger than Amway, now an $8.4 billion company and the giant in the field” and his product appeals to “those who own companies, which tend to do well in bad economic times, when people are broke, desperate, and angry at the system,” (NY Mag) jumping into politics pumps life into corporate holdings.

Can we excuse so many cringe-worthy slip-ups because of who the candidate is? He often limits the scope of his insults to one person or a smaller segment of certain groups. Then, he embraces and praises the remaining segment by promising to win their support. He dismisses legitimate concerns with creative spins. He ignores calls for apologies and avoids ownership for his offenses.

Advertising Age suggests that the candidate’s,

“eschewal of politically correct cant and plainspoken ways account for much of his mass appeal among a frustrated electorate, those same qualities may ultimately derail his bid for the nomination. And while it’s impossible to predict how long he can keep this up, it probably should go without saying that antagonizing the nation’s No. 1 cable news outlet isn’t a recipe for longevity.”

What else? It becomes difficult for parents to instruct their kids to stand up to bullies, when they’re justifying the actions of an adult version.

If bully speak wins, everyone loses. The door to strife or war swings wide open.

After Words Fail 
No one is perfect. How do you fix poor word choices after they occur? The public might embrace you– even with all your flaws, after an authentic apology. If you’ve made a career of embracing people, the public is probably more likely to forgive misspeak. Kelly Osbourne, who made a comment about Hispanics cleaning toilets, addressed her word choice faux pas with an immediate apology on Facebook. Then, the story disappeared.

Flood social media with new stories. Business 2 Community suggests putting “your writers in motion.”

While your legal team looks things over, gather together your writers for some old-fashioned SEO work. Use the keywords, phrases, product names and employee names in blog posts, social media posts and press releases. Make sure that you have the opportunity to really dominate Google’s results for those terms.

Everyone makes mistakes. Acknowledge yours and work on minimizing them as you move forward. And don’t think that just because you’re a candidate, you’re above it all. Your words and actions matter, too.

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Filed under Audience, Branding, Business Strategy, Persuasive Essay, SEO (Search Engine Optimization), Social Media, Speeches

Free Learning Modules to Work On Over Lunch

Embracing lifelong learning ought to be the standard and not the exception. Consider updating your skills by spending an hour before or after work or during lunch in one of hundreds of available free learning modules.

Image courtesy of M. Martin Vicente- http://www.flickr.com/photos/martius/

Image courtesy of M. Martin Vicente- http://www.flickr.com/photos/martius/

Tag Manager Certification

If you own a website, you’ve undoubtedly placed Google Analytics and other tags in your headers to measure various results.  Google Tag Manager eliminates extra lines of code, which increases your website’s speed. Add one container code to your site from Google Tag Manager and then fire everything else you need from Google through Tag Manager. You can create triggers for Google Analytics or Adwords. According to Krista Seiden of Google, over 80,000 people worked on improving their knowledge of Google Tag manager this summer. If you miss the course, there are still free modules on the site to learn at your leisure.

Adwords Certification

Get certified for Google Adwords. Did you know that CPM is phasing out and vCPM will soon be the standard for impressions? Even if you’ve been working in the space for years, there’s always something new to glean. Start learning the essentials of Adwords marketing and display advertising or refine your skills with more advanced courses. Google’s training modules are easy to manage in corners of available time and the certification exams are free to Google Partners. Microsoft offers its own training for Bing Ads, too.

SEO Training

Google provides this free guide on the basics of SEO. If you’re more of a video person, check out all of the webmaster videos Google offers on YouTube. Don’t expect to be a master of SEO after watching a few videos, but do expect to be better prepared to ask decent questions of the digital markers in your life.

Social Media Marketing Insights

Find out more about social media marketing from Twitter, Facebook, and G+ or check out this decent blog post with other do it yourself training ideas.

Writing, Business, and Other Free Classes

Even the rules of grammar, punctuation, and formatting change over the years. If you’re used to typing two spaces after every sentence, for example, it’s time to retrain yourself to type just one. How do we know? We read and always strive to keep a pulse on the latest. Peruse this list of 10 free writing courses or jump into the latest Ted talk. Colleges know that the smarter you become, the more you’ll value continued learning. Universities like MIT now offer hundreds of free online course materials. Improve your semantics, management, analytical, and programming skills or something else.

Find an hour in your day and start the journey. You’re never too young, too old, too ignorant, or too smart to learn.

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Filed under Apps & Tools, Content, SEO (Search Engine Optimization), Social Media, Writing Careers

Are You a Social Snob? Rethink Your #Twitter Practices

Middle School Social BehaviorCFC78D87-5532-4290-BC86-D396199081FE
If given a choice to return to one’s middle school years, it’s doubtful many would say, “Sure, sign me up. I’d live in middle school forever!”

Do you remember those days? Kids who sat at the cool kid table during lunch felt obligated to demonstrate certain behaviors to remain at the table. Those who were not at the table observed what it took to sit there with that group. While some kids imitated and embraced the game, others avoided these kids all together.

If you’re not embracing your social media followers, you’re still in middle school sitting at what you think is the cool table (or trying to get there)—and you’re losing thousands of followers, views, and potential advocates because of this hold over attitude from childhood.

Reasons People Use Twitter
Let’s consider why people sign up for social media accounts.

1. I want to make money.
2. I want current information and opinions.
3. I want to be entertained.
4. I want interaction with others.
5. I want to influence.

There is a common thread through each of these motivations. That’s right. “I.” People on your Facebook, G+, Instagram, Pinterest, You Tube or Twitter accounts participate for self-gratification—even if that’s on behalf of a mission or charity. In your real life (the one you physically attend), ignoring the person who wants “two minutes of your time” or not responding to the secretary who says, “Good morning,” might be expected behaviors of you because of your perceived status in your world—however large or small that fish bowl may be.

But, in the big bowl of social media, anyone can be a celebrity and anyone can be a flop. The real gems of social media achieve the above five goals for themselves and others (and have more fun) with the following best Twitter practices:

Follow Back Real People.
Look at who’s following you. Go over to the other person’s page. Preview his or her bio and last ten tweets to decide if he or she is legit. Then, follow back. Remove the person if he or she annoys you, spams you, or plays the unfollow game.

Celebrities and celebrity social medians, search your name to find out what people are saying about you. Just by following them, you’ll build bridges with both fans and critics. Following others doesn’t mean you’re endorsing them. People know that if you follow a lot fans, you don’t know them all personally.

Respond to Mentions.
For some social media users, the online sense of community begins to parallel real life. Maybe you’ve met some of your followers at conventions or know them through business. Now, you have a face with a name. If you know the person and don’t care to associate with him or her, ignoring or blocking that person’s Twitter or G+ mentions is okay. However, remember that social media is its own world. You may do more harm to your goals than good by being a social media jerk. If you rarely see the person in real life, how much of a threat does it really pose to be polite? Are you sure you aren’t the problem?

If you don’t know the follower and don’t respond to his or her mention, you taint your brand. Absorb that statement.  Giving the cold shoulder makes companies, executives, and celebrities look bad. When fans take the time to participate in live tweeting sessions for their favorite TV shows, movies, conferences, or books and receive no response, it’s a turn off. Respond appropriately after someone takes time to comment on your blog post, tweet, meme, or picture. Better yet, maintain the relationship by revisiting the person’s page a few weeks down the road and commenting on one of their tweets. You’re doing a terrible job promoting if you ignore the people you’re trying to sell. Communicating demonstrates that you’re human and worth admiring. If you have people who perform social media tasks for you, make sure they know your parameters and Twitter’s best practices. Newbie Twitter user Kevan Lee puts it this way,

“When someone retweets you, mentions you in a tweet, or favorites one of your tweets, they are seeking a connection with you. From a certain perspective, this is a truly humbling event. Someone has valued you and your profile enough that they want to connect. It’s kind of an honor.”

Start Conversations.
Challenge yourself to interact by starting a conversation. You might make a friend or long term fan and learn something new. If you’re the social median for a business, find customers by searching for your products’ or services’ keywords. Then, start conversations about how fans are using the products or services. If a blogger writes about your brand, reach out to that person and thank them (or at least connect with them via social media.)

Do not play junior high cool kid as a celebrity or executive. Be a leader. If you’re asked a legitimate question or someone offers a compliment or interesting observation about your brand, unless you have legal reasons not to do so, take a moment and respond! You’re human and your fans want to see it. If you are not human, can’t afford a really good ghost tweeter, or hate being social, stay off the medium.

Unfollow Automated Accounts.
Unfortunately, after a social media account grows to a certain size, fake accounts will follow you for a period of time in hopes that your followers will follow the fake accounts, too. This helps fake accounts to build followership so the owners of those accounts can tweet out articles with links for SEO and promotional reasons and have armies to boost numbers. This industry is big business. Don’t waste your time on the game. Generously add real followers, but ignore the profiles asking you to buy followers. You can usually spot them by their numbers. Anyone who has say, 150K followers, but is following 5K, is probably a short term follower of your account. Within a couple weeks, they’ll drop you and then repeat the cycle later if you drop them.

Use Lists.
When you add fans, your stream fills up with content. It’s now time to create lists. Create categories based on the type of content you really want to read. You don’t have to follow someone to have him or her on a list. Create lists for your hobbies, passions, charities, news, industry associates, or hard core fans. Now you have the option to read everything in your stream or to visit certain lists.

Twitter for Celebrities
You have the potential to be a better celebrity or executive in the social media world than you are in the real one. Start minding details and tweeking habits to better connect with your fan base.

If you don’t consider yourself a VIP, remember that social media is a level playing field. Anyone can become a social media VIP, just by fulfilling the needs mentioned above, while being a courteous communicator. Don’t live in middle school forever. The world is so much bigger.  ~Jean

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Filed under Branding, Google Plus, Instagram, Social Media, Twitter

Tips to Makeover Your Profile Picture

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what are you saying with your profile pictures?

Photo courtesy of Hair Dresser’s Guide to Photo Shoots

With each photo you post, you choose to represent yourself and your company. A vital part of crafting an online presence, the profile picture can get lost in the shuffle of quality information and targeted content.

Consider your profile picture as the human connection piece to your organization. Whether you are choosing your personal profile picture on a social networking site or a picture that will rest on a “Meet the Staff” page, this is where your users will make their first judgments about you and the quality of your organization.

Even away from the company’s website, you are still a face that represents your business. Use these tips to make sure you draw people in with your confident, professional appearance.

Focus on You:

Since your face is the focus of a profile picture, make sure you are the focus of yours. There should be no one else in your photo, nor animals or distracting objects. Create an uncomplicated background. This does not mean that you have to stand in front of a blank wall, but make sure there isn’t anything to distract people behind you. Have your photographer frame the photo with you in the center. Insure that your head doesn’t look lopped off by leaving the top half or fourth of your torso in the shot.

Snap a great pic:

This may seem obvious, but make sure your profile photo is actually a quality image. That means it needs to be well-lit with your face in-focus and sharp. It also means that it needs to be a high-resolution image. Posting a second-rate photo is an easy tip off to a potential client that you are unprofessional and not detail oriented.

Be consistent:

Make sure that you have the same profile picture representing you on all of your social networking sites. If a client is trying to determine whether or not to follow you on Twitter and your profile picture appears different, they may not be able to tell if it’s actually you. Think about your personal profile as your brand. A consistent profile picture will become your logo. This does not mean, however, to keep the photo of you from twenty years ago. Use a recent photo. Update if you get a drastic new hairstyle or every three to five years so your photo represent the real you.

Be professional:

Dress in your picture the way you would go to a meeting with a client. Dress in your finely-tailored business professional look or embrace the business casual look. Make sure that you appear clean and are wearing professional makeup or jewelry. Try also to select your outfit’s colors based off what will complement your website’s coloring. Neither you nor your company will be represented well if your yellow outfit clashes with the brown of the website. Always, make sure your clothes are clean and not ill-fitting nor wrinkled.

Get the perfect angle:

Once you are dressed and ready for the perfect shot, look into the camera and try to be pleasant. Make sure to smile but do not attack the camera with your confidence. Sit up straight and upright, making sure you don’t tilt your head to the side.

If you find yourself questioning your choice of a profile picture, do not be afraid to ask for the opinions of others. Remember to be professional!

~Katelyn

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Filed under Branding, Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Reputation Management

What Should You Do When Your Content is Copied?

Life in the Security Experiment Room

My twelve year-old loves smoke alarms.  Some guys are crazy about football.  He knows the stats of almost every smoke detector- whether it’s a BG-12, Simplex, Wheelock, or Gentex.

After he started writing letters to companies, conversing with CMOs, creating reviews, editing videos, and playing around with You Tube, it became clear that his interest would be a gateway to acquiring valuable skills and practical lessons.

He Copied Me!

But then it happened.  A couple kids plagiarized his ideas and material.  One YouTube youngster “borrowed” most of his intro.  Grant invests hours editing these videos, so he was pretty ticked after he discovered the infringement.

“Mom, what should I do?”

I understood how he felt.  This happens to writers all the time.  It’s frustrating- especially when you’re the one who spent time or dollars on the original idea or work.

Plagiarism vs. Fair Use

Just to be clear, if you borrow an idea, quote, picture, or video you should credit your sources. If you want to be official with formatting that credit, read how to cite sources from MLA or APA. However, don’t cry “copyright infringement” if your idea was one that anyone could pick off just by living.  All people are allowed fair use of ideas for educating, discussing, and conjecture. If the idea is already swimming in public, it can be taken and altered.

What If Someone Steals Your Content or Ideas?

#1. Inform the accused what was done.  Define plagiarism for him or her because some people- especially kids, just don’t know.  Plagiarism.com says, “

ALL OF THE FOLLOWING ARE CONSIDERED PLAGIARISM:

  • turning in someone else’s work as your own
  • copying words or ideas from someone else without giving credit
  • failing to put a quotation in quotation marks
  • giving incorrect information about the source of a quotation
  • changing words but copying the sentence structure of a source without giving credit
  • copying so many words or ideas from a source that it makes up the majority of your work, whether you give credit or not (see our section on “fair use” rules)”

#2.  Add a © (copyright symbol) with the current year and the owner’s name to the bottoms of your websites, pictures, articles, or videos.  This symbol notifies would-be borrowers that you own the material. Most will ask for permission or provide credit to your page with links.

#3. Ask for credit if you feel that your idea or content was borrowed and be prepared to back up your claim.  But then, simmer down.  If you’re the original and most people know you’re the original, this is your moment to shine.

Look at the MKC commercials from 2014.  Lincoln’s sales soared up by 25%.  Ellen’s and SNL’s spoofs helped to catapult the original. Going viral is good for business.

“Borrowing” is flattery.  Properly documented spoofs or borrows can turn into more views for your channel.  Create brand ambassadors that will grow your channel. When someone copies your content, look at the action as flattery and opportunity. Embrace the marketing boost!

#4. If a serious offender ignores your request to receive a link and hat tip to your page, hire an attorney.  Sometimes, “borrowing” is not so innocent.  If it’s costly and the stakes are high, let your attorney do the talking.

In general, most people want to get copyright right. If you keep a positive attitude and work through the situation, you’ll probably end up with decent backlinks and some new partnerships.  Sharing and take-offs can help your SEO to soar.

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Filed under Capturing Audience, Citing Sources, Editors, Favorite Websites, Research Tips, Revising & Proofreading, SEO (Search Engine Optimization), Website Linking, YouTube

Do You Trust the Internet?

We enjoy so many benefits from the advancements in search and mobile technology, but with the good, comes the corrupt.  If you haven’t checked in on the digital industry lately, fasten your seat belt.  Here’s a glimpse into a world that is collecting your data and your children’s data and making intelligent connections to predict your feelings, stances, tendencies, and more. The question is, what are you going to do about it?

Why Privacy Is a Big Deal251_5117

Based on a survey of 2012 consumers, Accenture, a digital marketing company, reports that “The vast majority (80 percent) of consumers aged 20-40 in the United States and the United Kingdom believe total privacy in the digital world is a thing of the past, and nearly half (49 percent) said they would not object to having their buying behavior tracked if it would result in relevant offers from brands and suppliers.”  You might not see it or understand it, but collection of your family’s Internet history, face profiles, store behaviors, and even school test results are regularly recorded through Internet, video, and audio monitoring.  You don’t know who sees this information, how they react when they see it, and what conclusions they draw.

It’s true that many good people use data to keep society safe, bring better search results, find medical cures, or improve shopping experiences. It’s equally true that evil can corrupt good intent.

We can look back in history and find many examples of governments, leaders, and companies that became powerful and rich and were willing to step over and hurt many people to achieve their goals. In fact, we can see these behaviors today.

On the other hand, sharing data is a way to move our society forward a little faster.  After all, any tool or device has potential for good or evil. What comes of your data depends on the persons using it.  But, do you know those people? Not so much.

How is your information collected?  Here are a few of the most common places and what you can do to minimize how much is shared.

Through Search Engines

Search engines like Google, Bing, and even Facebook and Twitter track what you visit on the Internet, how long you stay on each website, and how often you go back to certain websites.  This information helps search engines determine how to sell what you’re interested in seeing or anticipate what you’ll want next.

Many leaders in digital technology believe that access to your actions, patterns, and thoughts is necessary to better deliver accurate search results. People, communities, and even the computers themselves can learn from data to better society.

Website owners know how many people visit their websites, what links they click, the time of day they visit, the city they visit from, their default language, and what keywords people typed into search engines to get there. While the website owners don’t see exact names and addresses from Bing, Google, or Duck Duck Go, search companies do know who you are by your computer’s IP address or cookies.  An IP address, or Internet Protocol address, is your computer’s personal address and is a series of unique numbers separated by periods. Cookies are pieces of data left behind in your computer that track what you do online.

Search engines also charge your favorite stores fees to advertise to you.  Google knows a lot about what you like and dislike, the type of person you are (based on what you do or don’t search), your age, and how you might react to certain ads based on all of the data it has collected through the years from your Google searches, You Tube views, cloud storage, map and location data, use of Google Chrome, and sent or received email content.  Yes, that’s right.  Email content. If you own a Gmail account, Google scans the content of your emails and shows ads related to what you wrote or opened, so that you’ll click on those ads and buy products or services.

Data for the Government

Police and investigators used information from mobile phones, license plate recognition technology, cell phone towers, and surveillance cameras to track down the Boston bombers in 2013.  Government authorities monitor citizen Internet activity- even the activity of those who aren’t known criminals.

Frontline produced The United States of Secrets, in which it explains how the government changed its privacy policy after September 11, 2001 to get around Google’s filters, in order to learn a lot about each and every citizen. The government argues that it has a right to see everyone’s data in order to keep the United States a safer place to live.  Edward Snowden, a former intelligence analyst for the government, didn’t think it was right that the government monitored citizens without their knowledge, so he gave secret documents to a couple newspapers.  Some consider Snowden a hero, while others think he’s a traitor.

Through Retailers

When you submit personal or financial information to a company, the company will connect a lot of the data about what you do to your account. They might even give or sell that information to other companies.

When you scan a “loyalty card” or download coupons online, you might receive savings, but grocery stores are really interested in what you buy, how often you buy, and how to sell more items to you. Retailers often have security systems in stores that recognize faces to make sure you don’t steal.  These same security systems can also analyze how customers shop through the store and compile traffic patterns into heat maps. Stores and malls are now using beacons and geo-fencing. Both forms of technology know when your phone is nearby down to the inch. Retailers want to know this information in order to offer you incentives to buy products on the spot.

At a leading, 2014 Internet retailing conference, a sales person for a data collection company shared some insights about her company’s work with a top children’s book publisher.  You might even have an account set up online with this company.  The sales person said that this publisher “wanted to create a master profile across all of their different business units.  They have e-books. They have printables and they send flyers home to schools.”  The publisher uses software with a special algorithm that can tell when parents are shopping for all of their children verses when each child is shopping for himself or herself- even when multiple children are sharing one account with their parents.  The software gathers information about specific behaviors and shows books based on what it knows about who is probably using the account.

The algorithm knows who you are based on your mouse movements and quickness. For example, an adult’s eyes usually first look at the top left of a new web page, while children first tend to look at the bottom right. Where you hover your mouse and where you first enter the publisher’s website are also monitored. Kids tend to use wish lists and ask for every book in a series more than adults do.  Kids click on icons like hearts more than they click on words like, “I like this.”  The publisher has worked with this data collection company for five years to learn customers’ behaviors on its site and create special algorithms that increase sales from this data.

The sales person said, “We track everyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re an adult or a child. The thing is exposure. How do you expose our data and what, from a privacy standpoint, is okay to expose about a child and what is okay to expose about an adult?”

So what is okay?

“For this particular publisher, they will not do marketing for people under the age of 13.” So if children visit different websites after visiting the publisher, remarketing isn’t used.  Remarketing, is tracking your behavior as you visit other websites and then serving up ads about, say, about certain books you like from the publisher’s website. If you’re over 13, this top publisher will try to get you to buy books, even when you’re not thinking about buying books, by serving you ads when you’re browsing other websites.  Keep in mind that this is one publisher’s guidelines.  Another company might track and retarget with ads at much younger ages and be okay about it.  Any company that stores all of this information about you and your patterns, might use it or release it to others- anyone they choose- when you or your kids are older.

This technology exists across all the websites you visit.

Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and other Social Media Websites

What do the thumbs up signs mean?  It’s not only a way of connecting with your friends, it’s a way to see who your good friends and family members really are and the areas, hobbies, or activities you like.  This information, along with sharing your image or commenting on a friend’s photo can again be collected to create profiles about you and to create great products you like or shape the nature of search information provided to you.

Earlier this year, Facebook allowed researchers to make it hard for some users to log in by accusing them of being hackers.  The researchers wanted to test how people would react to negative events.  Many people feel that allowing researchers to frustrate Facebook customers went too far and was wrong.  Who were the researchers and why were they given access to these accounts?

Facebook has since clarified its privacy policy and is even working on a way of helping you to police yourself before you post damaging photos.

Privacy Boundaries

There are many different opinions about privacy and data protection.

In Julia Angwin’s article for the WSJ, she says that, “My children, whom I will call Woody and Harriet, are 6 and 9. They use fake names online—always. They use software to block online tracking, and instead of Googling homework assignments, they use a search engine that doesn’t store any data about their queries. They have stickers that cover their computer cameras. Harriet, my older child, uses an encryption program to scramble her calls and texts to my cellphone, using passwords that are 20 characters long. Why go to such extremes at such a young age? Because if I don’t do anything to help my children learn to protect themselves, all their data will be swept up into giant databases, and their identity will be forever shaped by that information… Even worse, if my children leave their data lying around, they will face all the risks of what I call our ‘dragnet nation,’ in which increased computing power and cheap data storage have fueled a new type of surveillance: suspicionless, computerized, impersonal and vast in scope. Criminals could use my kids’ data to impersonate them for financial fraud. Extortionists could seize control of their computers’ Web cameras and blackmail them with nude photos. And most terrifyingly, their innocent online inquiries would be forever stored in databases that could later place them under suspicion or be used to manipulate them financially.”

On the other hand, twelve-year-old Grant, started making You Tube videos about fire safety when he was eight years old.  He is serious about wanting a career in this area.  He candidly reviews fire safety products for his audience and is steadily building a following within the fire safety industry. The Internet has been instrumental in advancing his skills and interest at an early age. It has been a wonderful teacher and avenue for networking!

Different adults will look at this issue differently, so it’s important to talk about it with your own children. Review the below checklist of actions you can take to keep your data safer.

Privacy Checklist

  • Regularly clear your search history and cookies on phones, tablets, and desktop computers.
  • Pause before letting someone interview you, take your picture, or record your voice. Newspaper articles and television interviews are especially hard to remove from the Internet. Do you really want this event on your record?
  • Search your name on the Internet and ask sites to remove PDFs, articles, images, or quotes that make you feel uncomfortable. Some sites will honor your requests.
  • Use fake names and accounts when shopping. Don’t answer surveys.
  • Stop publishing selfies. Don’t share all of the details of your life in a blog or social media post.
  • Go back through all of your social media accounts and delete old posts, pictures, and videos.
  • Ask school leaders how your district is preventing data from being shared with online testing companies and their partners.
  • Search with alternative engines like Duck Duck Go or use Google’s Incognito mode, which reduces the amount of tracking of your data.
  • Avoid giving personal information about yourself to a stranger online- even if they appear to be a kid.
  • Kids, don’t download files, pictures, or songs or click on links without a parent’s approval.
  • Use anti-virus and anti-spyware software.
  • Consider encrypting all of your emails, calls, and texts. There are many apps and software programs out there.
  • Cover the cameras on your phones, iPads, and computers.
  • Watch what you say, what you do, and what you wear in public.  Most places- schools, stores, neighborhoods, and city streets videotape and monitor you.

Just remember, though, unless you’ve stayed off of the Internet over the last couple decades, much of your information is already known.  You also have to ask yourself, is extreme self-consciousness worth your peace?  With over 7.1 billion people on the planet, all of your data mixed with everyone else’s data is frankly, a lot of data for others – or even computers to dedicate time to dissecting.  Of course, if you’re Sony execs today, you’re sweating thinking about every single email that was ever sent and what was said in those emails. Trusting the Internet with your information is a very individual choice worth serious thought and reflection as you move forward into 2015.

~Jean

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