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Noman Ali: Gadgets, Websites, Google, Social Media and SEO


LONDON: Experts have come up with a new application for the iPhone that has the ability to read minds.

The XWave enables users to control on-screen objects with their minds as well as train their brains to control attention spans and relaxation levels.

It works via a headset strapped around the user’s forehead, plugging into the iPhone jack.

A state-of-the-art sensor within the device can then read the user’s brainwaves through the skull, converting them into digital signals before displaying them in various colours on the iPhone screen.

And as the mind focuses on a particular task the graphics change, indicating the user’s level of concentration or relaxation.

The device is the latest in the field of emerging mind-controlled games and devices.

Innovations giant PLX Devices developed the high-tech sensor using technology that has for years been used by doctors to treat epilepsy and seizures in patients.


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  • Posted under Gadgets, iPhone

Last week I was talking to my Uncle about a company he has been invested in for quite some time. He asked me what I thought about the way they were using Facebook to market their medical device. Yep, a medical device. I said to him, “what do you need a fan page for?” He simply replied, “well, everyone seems to have them so we thought we should, too.”

And that’s when I proceeded to thrust my forehead into my hand. Just one of thousands of cases where people create a fan page because of Facebook’s buzz. It’s as if people think that if they create a page on there, people will not only find it on their own, but they would love to cloud up their newsfeed with your corporate propaganda. Who wouldn’t?

Now I’m not saying that he shouldn’t have one, I’m just saying that unless you plan on doing something more than throwing it up there and regurgitating your RSS feed – there really isn’t a point in investing time in it. At that point your fan page is doing nothing for you or your fans.

Which brings me to what should be the simplest conclusion in marketing: if you’re going to enter a market, you need a strategy. Facebook, Twitter, anything really, all need their own custom marketing strategy. Without one, you’ll be doing nothing but spinning your wheels and all of that time you spent doing so could have been used to sell more of your product/service.

How do we go about creating a marketing strategy for Facebook? The first step is easy: research. You need to get an understanding of whether or not your audience is even interested in seeing you on Facebook. Remember, they are on there to socialize with family and friends. Take a look at what your competitors are doing, or even your industry associations. Any company that is related to your industry is a case study you can study to determine what type of market exists for you on Facebook.

You should be taking note of engagement metrics like comments, likes, wall posts and their total number of fans. Which updates receive the highest engagement from fans? What time of day and day of the week are fans participating the most?

And the big question you want to answer is: what is their unique value proposition? You’re going to need to answer this one, too. You need to convince your potential fans that if they don’t “like” your page, then they’ll be missing out on unique content they can’t find anywhere else. You’re fan page is much more than an RSS feed dump, its a resource for them.

How can you go about making your fan page a resource? Unfortunately, there isn’t a general option that any company can use. It’s going to depend on what your product/service is. The first thing that comes to mind is Facebook-only coupons and discounts. Let’s say your a local restaurant who is looking to do more than the traditional coupon strategy. You could post Facebook-only recipes, announce daily specials and giveaways to only your Facebook fans, and even take polls from your fans for what the daily special/desert should be.

The point is, with as crowded as our online lives already are, if you want someone to do more than just “like” your fan page – you need to give them a unique experience. All of the case studies that are referenced have this. They are thinking outside the box and are looking to take advantage of the personal relationship Facebook can create between their company and their customers.

What are you doing to create the perfect Facebook experience for your fans?

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There’s no doubt that mobile and, by extension, local search is hot. Technology pundits have been declaring every year since 2005 “The Year of Mobile” – that magical moment when everyone suddenly starts using their mobile device for more than just playing games, texting, calling friends, checking email, downloading/using apps and occasionally browsing the web and… I don’t know… browses the web more?

If I sound a bit cynical on the topic of mobile it’s not out of a disbelief in the power of mobile devices or the acceleration of their influence on our technological connectedness. It’s because I think we’re, to a large extent, already there. The smartphone has won our hearts and minds, and this year, it will finally be more popular than the feature phone:

Nearly half of us already have iPhones, Blackberries, Androids or similar in our pockets when we’re on the proverbial “go.” But search – the process, the intent, the results –  just isn’t that different on mobile devices vs. laptops and desktops.

Yes, mobile searchers are more likely  to perform local searches than other varieties, but I actually believe this trend may be overblown. A substantive portion of searches performed from a laptop/desktop have local intent as well. As the mobile experience gets ever closer to mimicing that of the laptop/desktop, I suspect we’ll be searching on our mobiles in a remarkably similar fashion to how we search everywhere else. In fact, the top mobile searches of 2010 are similar (and surprisingly non-local) to the top general searches of the year.

Increased speed, functionality, screen size, resolution, readability, battery life, multimedia capacity, etc. don’t sound like features that make the mobile experience unique; they strike me as moving toward feature parity.


Research from Doubleclick, comparing search on mobile devices w/ full browsers vs. computers strongly suggests that we’re moving towards search parity, too. Queries are similar, clicks are similar, click-through-rate is similar, even conversion rate is getting close (though mobile is still a much more research-based experience, with a tough-to-measure influence of offline conversions).

This doesn’t mean you can or should ignore mobile/local as a powerful organic marketing channel, but it does mean that you don’t need to be building separate mobile sites or separate mobile experiences. Unless your site/content is seriously challenging for mobile users, even those with fast, impressive devices, you should worry more about other marketing avenues.

The big trends I see in mobile search are:

  • A lot more queries – mobile search is growing faster than traditional search and that bodes well for search marketers.
  • A single set of SERPs – I searched for a good 20 minutes on my laptop and Android phone without finding a query where the web results are in a different order (both are location-aware to “Seattle, WA”)
  • A chance to make your mobile-focus known – Yelp does a great job with their overlay on mobile devices encouraging searchers to download their app (though some have complained it gets annoying having to say “no” every time if you don’t want it).
  • Little need for a separate mobile site – Mobile copies of websites seem to me to be more likely to cause duplicate content issues, technical challenges, waste engineering resources and draw away attention from real mobile opportunities than to earn slightly higher rankings in mobile searches. Until/unless things change dramatically, I can’t, in good conscience, recommend this practice (unless your regular site is absolutely unusable on a mobile device).
  • Definite need for a separate mobile ad strategy – Unlike SEO, the paid search results can and do differ dramatically on mobile devices. CPC is generally lower, as are conversion rates, though the latter may be on an upward trend (especially if I’m right about device convergence)
  • Apps are still beloved – I don’t know if the long term future of mobile will continue to focus on apps, but for now, it’s a huge part of what differentiates the device. It’s certainly a great way to “contain” users in your brand and provide a more tailored experience, and for those who can make it work effectively, the effect can be great.
  • Geography matters – mobile and traditional search are both getting more and more biased by geography. My opinion is that Google currently sucks at this (I have yet to find a search I like better with location-biasing than without, maps/places not withstanding), but they certainly won’t be giving up. As a result, if you can tailor your content and your marketing to effectively serve and be seen as local, you can seriously benefit.




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Google has launched a new feature in Google Docs that enables you to watch videos you’ve uploaded to your documents directly in the browser. To watch a video, just click on it and press play. Google warns that the videos must be in a supported format, and that it takes some time to process newly uploaded videos (as well as some videos uploaded earlier last year), so they might not be immediately available for viewing. [Thanks Adam Kochanowicz for the tip]

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  • Posted under Google, Search Engine

There have been significant changes in social media in 2010, and one of the big new trends is the development of social media management systems (SMMS). But what value can a social media management system really add?

As companies get comfortable with social, they’ve quickly realized they need a solution to manage their efforts across multiple social media channels, execute a workflow process and streamline their efforts in a time-effective way. The value of a robust SMMS manifests in many forms.

Among the areas such platforms help companies enhance:

Integration among Departments

Challenges for larger organizations include breaking down silos and enlisting departments from beyond marketing and PR, such as R&D and customer service. An SMMS provides the functionality to execute your company’s process for creating content, approving it, engaging with customers, and analyzing the data you receive as a result, especially when there’s a Social CRM element. Having a tool dedicated to managing this process that supports users from multiple departments makes this integration exponentially more practical. The value this adds is nearly indefinable. If, for example, a customer has an excellent product idea or suggestion, having a platform and a process for getting this information into the appropriate hands can be worth millions. (Or in the event of something negative, it could cost you millions.)

Time Management

Few who have delved into a social media marketing program have not pondered the dilemma of time management. The tidal wave of information and options can be overwhelming. Social media management systems provide a single interface for your team, which saves valuable manpower hours and streamlines your efforts.

Compliance and Branding

Social media management systems can be both tools for the operations aspects of social media as well as the creative aspects of maintaining social media presences. On one hand, platforms with approval processes and workflow management for interacting with customers in social media create an environment in which compliance is easier, especially if yours is a highly regulated industry bound by specific rules from government regulators, industry groups, shareholders, and others. On the other hand, when a social media platform includes creative features, such as shared file libraries and customizable social content, the branding and look and feel across multiple social media outlets is that much simpler (and less time-consuming). Even messaging can have a consistent voice when teams are using one platform to collaborate and post.

The value of compliance – both in policy and “prettiness” – isn’t lost on brand managers, who know the importance of these elements when it comes to customer-facing efforts online.


One doesn’t think “sexy” when they think about social media management platforms. David Armano evenmade this prediction: “Social Media Management Systems are un-sexy, but every large company will end up using them.” As much as we agree generally agree with Dave Armano’s insights, we disagree with this one. SMMS can be sexy! An enterprise social media platform is a tool teams will use every day. From the user interface to juicy tracking features, each aspect of a social media dashboard should be appealing for companies. When the platform is easy to use and gives users options for creating exceptional creative social content, the experience becomes sexier for customers, too. This helps boost the value of a social media presence – and ultimately, the bottom line.

Staying Human

The business value of staying human. Sounds silly, right? Even obvious? But it’s tougher than it seems, as Brian Solis pointed out in his inspiring post, “Social Business Takes a Human Touch, No Really.” Large companies that can remain human and elevate the corporate social media mission will be the leaders in the space. Solis writes: “In order to activate the social web and unlock meaningful conversations, we must look beyond customers. We must officially recognize all those who influence their actions and introduce a conversational workflow that traverses the business chasms to learn and lead – in public.”

An SMMS that includes Social CRM provides a platform for teams to achieve this. It gives them the insight to know their customers and the tools to converse with them in an authentic way. The dollar value of staying human is immeasurable. But staying human is the meat of social media – and the reason why social media has blown the doors off traditional marketing models.

Your SMMS Should Help You Meet Your Goals

These are just a sample of the ways an SMMS adds value to an enterprise social media program. When selecting a social media management system, take into account the many benefits it can bring to all aspects of your social media endeavors. And like any other social media tool, the SMMS you select should help your organization meet your business goals for social media.


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  • Posted under Social Media

According to the numbers, social news website Reddit had an amazing 2010, more than tripling its pageviews at the expense of Digg, its longtime rival.

Reddit, a subsidiary of Conde Nast, reports that it garnered 250 million pageviews in January 2010. While that’s nothing to sneeze at, it paled in comparison to Digg’s accelerating growth.

Fast forward to today. Reddit revealed that it received 829 million pageviews in December 2010, an increase of 231.6% from January. Not only that, but average time on site is up as well. (from 12 minutes and 41 seconds to 15 minutes and 21 seconds). On the other hand, Digg had just 200 million pageviews in July; and every indicator e have says that number is shrinking, not growing.

Reddit’s also more than doubled its number of servers from 50 to 119, increased its disk memory from 16TB to 48TB and increased its delivery of bytes from 10.1 trillion to 44.4 trillion, all with the same number of engineers on staff (four). In contrast, Digg recently made major staff cuts, although it still has more than four times the staff and more unique visitors, according to Compete and comScore.

The takeaway: Reddit gained big, partially due to the failure of Digg Version 4 and the ensuing exodus of users.

Can Reddit keep it up in 2011? And what will Conde Nast do with its now-hot Internet company? We invite you to speculate in the comments.




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  • Posted under Social Media
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