Sunday, March 27, 2011

Zuned Out

By now, I’m sure most people have noticed that I have an “Apple bias” on my blog. It’s not that I necessarily prefer Apple over any company, I just really enjoy my Apple products. While I was perusing the internet last week, I stumbled upon a  headline that caught my eye: "RIP ZUNE." 

In November 2006, Microsoft released their own mp3 player called the Zune. The Zune was supposed to be the competition for Apple's iPod. However, that's not how it worked out. As Mashable writes, the Zune was neither cheaper, nor better, than Apple's infamous iPod. If it's not cheaper, what's the point in buying one?

According to Best Buy, for $199 you can buy a 32gb Zune mp3 player. Okay, let's check out the iPod. For $274 dollars, you can get an iPod touch, or for $244, a 160gb iPod - THAT's SO MUCH MUSIC AND SPACE. I myself use the 160gb iPod and have never been let down. Now, in some aspects the Zune is a better deal. Compared to an iPod touch, you are saving a decent amount of money and still get a lot of great features. The Zune HD, which is the latest model, has a multi-touch screen and wireless capabilities. At the end of the day, I'd say it all depends on what operating system you prefer and how much music you have. A lot of people I know refuse to go Apple. They are comfortable with their Microsoft products and would prefer not to switch over. I have around 90 gb of music, so a Zune wouldn't cut it. And for the price, I get way more gb/dollar with an Apple iPod.

I think the major "pitfall" for the Zune is its inability to sync up with iTunes and that is can only operate throgh Windows. After reading a number of articles, it appears that you can "unlock" your Zune, but who wants to go through that mess? On the other hand, iTune is readily available for all Windows operating systems. Bonus points for Apple, again.

I've only used a Zune once. All in all, it looks like a pretty decent product. As a Mac-obsessed consumer, I'm actually pretty interested in the Zune after doing the research. However, it looks like my time to acquire a Zune is coming to an end.

Microsoft plans on continuing the Zune software for Windows phones, but the product itself won't be released anymore.

Maybe I missed my chance, or maybe it was a sign that I did the right thing in 2005 and bought an iPod. Either way, my regrets go out to anyone who is mourning the death of the Zune. Perhaps it's time for that iPod. 

Social What?

"Social Media" is a fairly familiar word to most us. We use Facebook, Twitter, and a variety of other websites to keep up with friends and exchange news. But what does "social media" really mean in today's technologically savvy society?

In chapter 3 of Engage, Brian Solis helps us define and understand social media in a different light. Solis says, “we should never strive to master something that evolves much faster than our ability to fully grasp its lessons, benefits, insights, and pitfalls” (Solis 33). At first, I was slightly confused by this statement. Surely, I am a social-media-sophisticated 21 year old, of course I can grasp everything. Soon I took a step back and thought of how frequently the social tools I use have changed. In fact, it seems like Facebook is always changing, thus causing millions to relearn the social skills they had just acquired.

For most people, social media networks are just social forums. They serve as tools to help individuals stay connected with friends and loved ones. However, for marketers, social media is the microscope into niche markets. “We’re simply becoming aware of our markets, the people who define them, and our place within each community” (Solis 33). Social media networks are helping marketers really reach out to their consumers.

Solis provides an in depth list of social media tools, each with a variety of different purposes. For the most part, I had heard of the majority of the social networks in Solis’ list. However, I was floored by how many exist and how many were probably not listed. Social media tools can vary from a simple blog, to videos, location devices, and photographs. The possibilities are endless. In addition, social media networks have broken down into specific elements. Flickr is a great forum for individuals to post photographs. Websites like Youtube and Vimeo are excellent tools for bands, film aficionados, and others.

So far, we have been able to see different social media networks, but we still have yet to come up with a concrete definition. Solis puts it best when he says, “Social media is many things to many people” (Solis 36). How someone chooses to use social media network will result in their own definition.

One definition that Solis uses is, “Social media is the online tools that facilitate a conversation” (Solis 36). To me, this is the truest definition. No matter what social network we use, we are someone engaging in some form of communication. Watching videos on Youtube can spark comments, thoughts, and opinions. On Facebook we comment, read, and converse with others. No matter what social media tool we use, we are engaging in some form of communication. Perhaps that’s why it is simply called “social media.” Socializing through media.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Live Blog: Pretty Little Liars

Tonight's the night - it's the season finale of ABC Family's 'Pretty Little Liars.' I'll be live blogging the episode, keeping everyone up to date on what's happening. Enjoys!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

iPad therefore iAm

If you haven't heard about the Apple iPad by now, we shouldn't be friends. This past week, Apple CEO, Steve Jobs, appeared at the keynote event to present the updated iPad. Clad in his usual black shirt and jeans, an ill Jobs proudly took the stage, and presented the iPad 2. This new and improved version of the iPad was built to impress. 

I've never owned an iPad. In fact, when it was first released last year, I spent more time laughing at the name than looking at the product itself. iPad? While it's fitting because it's like a memo pad, the name is just hilarious. Who knew Steve Jobs could be so funny. Anyways, the first iPad was released in April 2010. When it first came out, many people were skeptical of it's use. I remember hearing countless people say, "It's just like a big iPhone," or "Why would I need that thing when I have an actual computer?" Both statements are very valid and I do agree with them. Despite not needing an iPad, I can now appreciate its purpose and importance to many folks.

What makes this iPad different? Let's start physically. The new iPad has a very sleek new body. Apple cut the thickness from 13.3 mm to only 8.8 - that's a 33.3% cut. As you would assume, slimmer body means less weight. The new iPad weighs only 1.3 lbs (compared to 1.5 lbs.) In addition, Apple released both a black and white version of the iPad. I really think this was a great idea because after the failed release of the white iPhone 4's, Apple needed to redeem itself somehow. 

Hardware. Apple's operating systems are amazing. They are easy to navigate and usually run hassle free. Just when you thought it couldn't get any better. Apple released a new dual-core processing chip, the A5, that they would be using in the new iPad. According to Jobs, this allows graphics to be 9 times better, and for the device to run twice as fast. In addition to operating faster, the battery lasts 10 hours. What a huge leap from just a year ago! Apple products always manage to impress me. 

One of my favorite additions to the new iPads is the ability to face-time. The iPad 2 has not one, but TWO cameras. One on the front, and one on the rear of the device. Users can face-time while surfing the web. How revolutionary.

The prices for the new iPads start at $499 and go up from there depending on size. If you don't plan on buying one, I highly recommend going to the store and playing with one. iPad, therefore you should too, iM serious. 

Engaging in Conversation

Last semester, I took an Entertainment Journalism class that focused on how social media is influencing the way news is transferring. The majority of us probably acquire our news from some sort of electronic medium. The idea of print journalism sounds almost foreign (well, not to me, but many others - personally I prefer reading off paper). Today, news can be obtained through online newspapers, magazines, eBooks, and many other print forms gone technological. However, many of us rely on social media outlets to provide us with day-to-day headlines. If it wasn't for Twitter, I would be clueless on a lot of current events. Social media is completely changing the way we consume news, and how we use it. Sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Digg, and even the unpopular Delicious, help us find news from different sources we would normally not be exposed to. 

Now, that I have completely diverged from my original thought, let me get back to the Entertainment Journalism class. In the syllabus, it said, "speak once, read twice." In addition, it said that listening was an integral part of the course. At the time, this really did not matter to me, but after reading the first chapter of Brian Solis' Engaged, it suddenly dawned on me how important listening can be. 

In class, we talked about how to get more followers on Twitters and how interacting with your followers can help boost your image. Solis talks about how social media is a "conversation." I believe this is a very integral part to the marketing side of social media. An idea I am very fond of, in relation to music, is the "connect with fans" theory. How many of us would love to get a reply from Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, or any other celebrity of your choice? Making your fans, or people in general, feel wanted and part of a conversation is likely to better your image. 

Marketers and customer service representatives tend to interact with consumers in a, how to do I put this, awful manner. Consumers are people too and don't need to be spoken "at." In order to effectively sell yourself or product, you should engage in conversation with your followers or fans. Social Media allows users to get to know their fans/followers personally. You have the ability to tap into specific markets. How you choose to use that information is at your own discretion. 

Overall, I think listening is something everyone needs to remember to do. Sometimes I find myself talking way too much and have to remember just to pipe down and listen. It's amazing how people are changing communication. If you open up your ears you'll learn something you never knew. 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Consumers: The New Marketing Department

As discussed in my post last week, Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff define groundswell as,  "a social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from a traditional institution like corporations"(Bernoff, Li 9). Later in the text, the authors focus on "energizing" the groundwell. What exactly does it mean to energize the groundswell? I'll use a personal experience to break it down. 

I am a member of Lifetime Fitness in Austin. I joined the organization in Dallas when I was 14. Truly, I have never been a part of a better gym in my entire life. The staff is great, the facility is state of the art, and it's 24 hours. This past semester I was running low on money, so I froze my membership. After a horrible experience at another gym in the Austin area, (if you had a class with me last semester, you heard about my troubles) I decided to return to Lifetime. After explaining my financial status, and desire to rejoin, the manager in charge worked with me so I could become a member again. 

Since I rejoined, the manager has followed up with me to make sure I am happy with the gym multiple times. They asked for my opinion and genuinely made an effort to see how I was doing. This type of customer service was unlike anything I had ever experienced. In fact, to this day, I still rave about how much I love Lifetime's customer service.

Now, you're probably wondering what does this have to do what does this have to do with anything. The answer: everything. Without even realizing it, I became so enthused by Lifetime, that I started advertising for them! This type of reaction is what many companies aim for. 

In chapter 7 of Groundswell, the authors discuss that word of mouth is one of the most powerful marketing tools. According to the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, it is "the most honest form of marketing, building upon people's natural desire to share their experiences with friends, families and colleagues." In addition, the text highlights some other key reasons why this is such a successful marketing agent: 

1. It's believable: People - especially ones you know personally - are way more believable than the media or any advertisement 

2. It's self-reinforcing: If you hear it from one person, you are interested. Hear it from more than that, you are likely to believe it - even if you do not know the person who told it

3. It's self-spreading: Like most things go, you tell one person, they tell another, and so on. It creates a wildfire effect. 

In the opening of the chapter, we hear a story about a man named Jim who had a piece of luggage that broke. He contacted the company about their poor production and not only did they fix Jim's back, but they fixed the product as a whole. Jim, now satisifed, talks about the company all the time and what wonderful service they have. Again, without realizing it, Jim has become a marketing tool for the company.

How do companies achieve this type of success? One example from the text talks about how companies can create "forums" for feedback and advice. This is a very critical step if a company really wants to get to know, and satisfy, their consumers. Forums allow for the consumer to express how he or she feels about a product, or provide tips for future products.

Have consumers become the new "marketing department" of companies? I think it is safe to say that the answer is YES. Just as we post reviews on websites, we communicate verbally about our experiences in stores, with products, or customer service representatives. These "experiences" become marketing tools, thus we have successfully "energizing" the groundswell. 

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Internet Explorer 6, it's time to go

As an avid Mac user, the words "Internet Explorer" are not really a part of my vocabulary. In some ways, I cringe at the sight and sound of those two words put together. Let me take a stroll down memory lane.

Internet Explorer...reminds me of my Toshiba laptop that crashed three times in one week, or the time my web browser froze during an online quiz. Oh wait, that happened almost every time. Clearly, I am biased, but it appears I am not the only one who has had these types of problems with the 10 year old web browser.

Well, good news for all of us that have been affected by the failings of Internet Explorer: Microsoft has announced the SHUT DOWN of the second most popular web browser in the world (Firefox took first place), Internet Explorer 6.

Now, this is not to be confused with Explorer shutting down completely, but basically Microsoft wants to have users move to a more modern day browser: Internet Explorer 9.

In order to launch this campaign, Microsoft themselves made a website to increase movement towards the newer browser. The title of the page says, “10 years ago a browser was born. …It’s time to say goodbye.” You can check the website out by clicking here. 

In the past, Internet Explorer 6 has received harsh criticism for a number of reasons. One of the main problems with Internet Explorer 6 is it's pitiful security. In fact, the security and privacy problems are so bad that France and Germany warned citizens not to use the "old school" browser. 

In addition, Internet Explorer 6 doesn't have CSS capabilities. Even Facebook doesn't operate correctly on IE 6. (If Facebook doesn't want you using it, clearly it shouldn't be used.) Digg and Youtube also stated that they would be cutting back on support for IE 6. If even Microsoft is telling you to stop using the browser, obviously something isn't right with it. 

Overall, if you're still using Explorer, you might want to consider updating. Not only to enhance your web browsing experience, but for your own security. Currently, users can update to Internet Explorer 9 free of charge (SWEET). Nobody wants to deal with a virus eating their hard drive. My advice: get a Mac (or at least start with Firefox or Chrome).