As a Brazilian living abroad and leaving hundreds on friends and family behind, I’ve never seen a bigger social media commotion from my mother nation on social media than…
the day WhatsApp stopped working in Brazil.
This Thursday (December 17), a Brazilian judge struck down a lower court ruling that ordered telecoms to block the popular messaging service for 48 hours, cutting communications for millions of users in the country. The lower court decision was ordered because WhatsApp would not hand over user information connected to a criminal case involving drug gangs in Sao Paulo. Mark Zuckerberg, who heads WhatsApp’s parent company Facebook (FB), indicated in a Facebook post that the case was related to the company’s attempt to guard customers’ data.
After 12 hours from the blockage, another judge cited the lower court’s decision “unconstitutional” and ordered the telcom’s to resume WhatsApp services: “It’s unreasonable to punish millions of users because of the lapse of one company”. By then, around 1.5 million people had joined Telegram, a similar service offered by a Russian company.
WhatsApp is the single most used app in Brazil, with about 93 million users, or 93% of the country’s internet population. It’s a particularly useful service for Brazil’s youth and poor, many who cannot afford to pay the most expensive plans on the planet.
Brazilian telcom’s have been lobbying for months to convince the government that WhatsApp’s voice service is unregulated and illegal (not entirely unlike the taxi industry’s posture on Uber), and have publicly blamed the “WhatsApp effect” for driving millions of Brazilians to abandon their cell phone lines.
It was incredible to me to see how people became dependent of a messaging app in Brazil. It was also funny to see people’s reactions on Twitter and other social media platforms.
After a year of hard work at my job, plus school, races, kickball leagues, social life, bla bla… It is finally time for my VACATION! I’m going to Thailand for 2 weeks and I could not be happier. It will be my first time in Asia and I’ve been dreaming about this day since I came back from my last backpacking trip to Europe in 2012.
Planning trips is a lot of work, but it is one of my favorite things to do. Most of my vacation time is used up going to Brazil to see my family, and for that, no planning is required. All the other times I have the opportunity to go travel, Skyscanner, The Flight Deal and the good ol’ Google are my favorite sites for research.
The one thing that changed majorly from 2011/2012, when I planned my 2 month Europe excursion, to 2015, is that physical travel guides are no longer my go-to. RIP Rick Steves’ guides! It was funny when I realized only a few days ago, that I am about 3 months into planning, and I haven’t touched a book.
In 2011 when I started planning Europe, I went to my local library and got about 4 travel guides. After spending an afternoon going through them all, I took some notes and chose my favorite book (and of course, my destinations in Europe). I ended up buying that book on my Kindle, and taking it with me to the old continent.
In 2015, here are my favorite sources for good ideas, hotels, destinations, and all things travel planning:
1 – Travel blogs
Just about everyone and their mom have a travel blog these days. Kids are leaving their corporate 9-5 job to live abroad, write a blog and collect revenue through ads and authority outreach. I can’t say I’m not jealous, they are living the dream and getting paid for it. In the end, I’m grateful because they make my traveler life a lot easier. Marek convinced me to go to Thailand. Kate chose Ko Lanta as my island destination. Steph even helped me pack. Guess who chose my itinerary? Yup, you are right. Many, many blogs read in the course of the last 3 months. Thanks, guys.
2 – Trip Advisor reviews
Oh, the word of mouth. The amount of time I spent reading reviews about hotels, activities, tours, restaurants and even transportation was no joke. It’s almost like every travel related question that I could think of it was already answered on Trip Advisor. I could not book any hotel or tour before reading reviews on Trip Advisor. These reviews are a great example of a modern day word of mouth. According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising. An opinion from a random person is still better than no opinion.
Technology has increased social connectivity making it easier than ever for consumers to do your marketing for you. A post that takes just a few minutes for a fan to write will be seen by hundreds of friends who trust them, and it can rapidly travel out to thousands more. The “modern day word of mouth marketing” directly influences brands and their reputation, and it is valuable to develop brilliant strategies as marketers.
3 – Facebook groups for travelers
Facebook secret groups are the biggest reason why I use Facebook. I am currently active on a group for girls from San Diego, where I live, Girls in general discussing girl problems, people who love to cook, people who likes to run marathons, and… girls who travel. It was so easy to find answers to any questions I have about my destination. According to this article, there are actually three of the possible types of groups on Facebook: public, closed and secret.
Marketers are starting to realize how important these groups are for creating a buzz for their product. In fact, many of the girls that answered my questions about my trip on the Travel Facebook group are there to promote their travel blogs. As a marketer, you can use the Secret Group to strike the balance of getting and receiving ideas, data, industry insights, or whatever information that can be useful for you and the secret members—to listen and at the same time share your marketing mojos for growth and success. As a traveler, I have to say that knowing from other travelers with similar interests made my trip planning a lot easier!
This week, the world saw a terrible attack against citizens of Paris. A city accustomed with so much joy and beauty went through hours and hours of panic, over one hundred were dead and many were wounded. My heart aches for the ones affected. Hoping for a speedy recovery for this beautiful city and for more tolerance and compassion from human beings.
Social media played an important part on this sad incident. Almost everyone with an active profile on any platform had something to say, from condolences to opinion. On Friday night, Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Joann Sfar published a series of cartoons that convey his sadness and anger on Instagram, as reports emerged that people had been killed in a string of attacks across the city. Here is one:
Facebook made the Safety Check page available, where people living in Paris or currently traveling in the area could mark themselves safe. The feature was first activated in April, when Nepal was affected by a deadly earthquake. Once again, people could use the feature to tell friends and family that they are ok.
The feature works like this: Facebook uses geolocation to identify users who live or may be traveling in an area affected by a disaster. The social-media network then sends these users a notification asking about their safety, and encouraging them to “check in” to let friends know that they are safe.
Mark Zuckerberg posted on his Facebook page: “When disasters happen, people need to know their loved ones are safe. It’s moments like this that being able to connect really matters”. I was relieved to see that all my Parisian friends were safe.
On Twitter, Paris-based Twitter users created the hashtag #PorteOuverte, which translates to ‘open door — urging other users to open up their doors to those affected by the attacks, and inviting anyone affected to take shelter in their homes.
It is interesting to see how social media interacts with tragedies like this one. I applaud the initiative by Facebook, and all the French citizens opening their doors to the ones in need.
In our class this week, I had the opportunity to analyze an article from A List Apart on Content Strategy for Personalized Websites. It immediately made me think of how online beauty subscription e-commerce site Birchbox is not only using website analytics to personalize their online offerings, but their physical store promotions are well. 59% of online shoppers say it is easier to find interesting products on personalized e-commerce stores, and 45% are more likely to shop on a store that offers personalized recommendations. Let’s see how Birchbox is handling this opportunity.
Data collection and offerings
In-store analytics for consumer insight
Here is where Birchbox is the most innovative, in my opinion. Aside from web and mobile traffic, Google Analytics uses tracking codes to acquire behavioral data from physical points of sale as well. The Measurement Protocol add information coming from other digital devices, like information kiosks or tablets located in-store. Birchbox opened its first store in New York City last year, and according to its co-founders, it won’t be so much a venue for additional retail sales as a treasure trove of consumer insight. Both the iPads throughout the store, which recommend products, and the Product Matchmaker, which offers customized suggestions based on a person’s features such as hair texture and skin type, will track what in-store shoppers, in aggregate, click on, and try to determine how that influences purchase behavior.
Birchbox is using cameras and heat sensors to track customers as they make their way around the store, seeing which products they’re attracted to and how they use the iPads. The idea is also to add WiFi analytics and integrate the Birchbox app to the store. When connected to WiFi, the app would be enabled to send push advertisements and collect customer data, like how many times the user has visited Birchbox and what products they have purchased.
Do you think this shopping experience is innovating and useful, or rather creepy? Would you rather have customized suggestions of what to buy or be left alone at the store? Tell me what you think about Birchbox’s personalization strategy in the comments!
An ethnic subculture is a self-perpetuating group of consumers who share common cultural or generic ties, where both its members and others recognize it as a distinct category. Inspired by the discussion we had in class this week, I would like to talk about McDonald’s ad “First Customer”, which is clearly targeted at the Hispanic minority in the US.
“First Customer” is a charming, beautifully-acted spot following a teenager’s first day at his first-ever job, behind the counter at McDonald’s. His excited Hispanic parents are his first customers, chatting in Spanish and snapping photographs. At the end, his slightly-older, non-Hispanic manager tells him not to worry about his parent’s antics because “mine took video“. See the ad clicking below:
The McDonald’s ad successfully target Hispanics in the United States because it doesn’t solely translates to Spanish the same commercial they targeted to other cultures. It shows a situation that seems to be common to families of other ethnicities (as the non-Hispanic manager makes it clear) but localizing it and making it special to Hispanics. The use of Hispanic slang/words, the mix of English and Spanish words in the ad (which is exactly like Hispanic families in the United States speak), and parents representing really well the “Hispanic family way of acting towards their children” make this ad very relevant to this subculture. It makes good business sense to cater to these segments by (literally) speaking their language when promoting ads and services and this ad was successful on that.
McDonald’s as a company is known to heavily advertise to ethnic and racial minorities. According to McDonald’s US Chief Marketing Officer, “the ethnic consumer tends to set trends, so they help set the tone for the marketplace”. All criticisms aside, with this ad, McDonald’s wants to be seen as a good work environment for teenagers looking for their first job, and a good food option to Hispanic families.
In addition, this commercial is successful targeting the Hispanic minority as McDonald’s tries to tie their food with the family ties and the ”familism” concept, which is very strong in Latino culture. According to the National Council of La Raza, the act of having a family meal is more important than the food the family is eating. As a member of the Latino minority (although not the Hispanic group), I can vouch for that! 🙂
“’Don’t be evil.’” Googlers generally apply those words to how we serve our users. But “Don’t be evil” is much more than that. Yes, it’s about providing our users unbiased access to information, focusing on their needs and giving them the best products and services that we can. But it’s also about doing the right thing more generally – following the law, acting honorably and treating each other with respect”.
This is the first paragraph of Google’s code of conduct. While many people who use Google on a day to day basis don’t bother to read the whole code, the motto is widely spread in the company. Google owns most of the applications we use on the Internet daily (such as the top-ranked search portal and widely popular email service and traffic monitoring, just to name a few), and offers mostly free services in exchange for our private data. This acquired data is what powers the most successful ad network, and what keeps Google in business. Because Google knows its audience so well, they can offer carefully tailored ads to customers that are actually interested in them. For investors, Google “generates revenue primarily by delivering relevant, cost-effective online advertising”. The AdWords and AdSense programs are Google’s main revenue source: around 90% of Google’s revenue comes from advertising. Google is not only a search engine with 75% of market share; it is also a very successful advertising company.
Now, giving Google so much information about ourselves is what enables them to offer exactly what we are looking to buy or use. That is the price we pay for using Google products. Google promises to “not be evil”, and use this information specifically for what they list on product’s privacy and security policies. However, we can’t help but wonder if they are really not “being evil” with our information.
Maybe even more than Google, Facebook is another company that have access to a high amount of personal information. Once a while we see status updates from our friends not granting to Facebook the right to use our personal information, but they certainly forgot that they already agreed to share their data with the social media giant once they signed up to create their profiles. One in seven people in the world is connected to Facebook. Every day, thousands of Facebook users are subjects of social research, without even realizing it. Researchers from various areas such as social sciences, psychology and neuroscience use Facebook data to understand aspects of human behavior. While the usual sample size for some of these researchers in the offline world is of about 20 people, the sample size that Facebook made possible for these scientists to analyze is from thousands, sometimes millions, from different backgrounds and locations.
These companies have made our lives a lot easier, and today, it is almost impossible to live without using what they provide. I am not only not concerned about sharing data with them, I’m also thankful for all the services they can offer free of charge, and with state of the art platforms that are reliable and trustworthy. I appreciate when my information is used for purposes of offering relevant information (Google) or connecting people (Facebook). To me, the biggest problem starts when my information is not used for the purposes stated in privacy policies, for instance when our personal data ends up on the hands of hackers.
Hackers and data breaches
Think about how many interactions you have every day that involve information exchange: credit and debit cards, passwords all over the web, smartphone apps that require you to register with your social media profile and requires permission to access your feed or friends information, maps on your phone and so on. Not to mention “offline” ways to acquire information, such as loyalty cards at the grocery store, or even medical information once you own a health insurance plan. These days, every single company available owns some piece of information about ourselves, and even the most careful about their data security can find roadblocks when trying to preserve their privacy.
While these companies have a compromise with their customers to keep their data private, not always they succeed. Companies such as Target, Home Depot and eBay suffered with recent data breaches, which leaked personal information from hundreds of thousands (sometimes even millions) of customers to the hands of hackers.
The trade off
Do you agree with sharing your personal information in exchange for free services that you use every day, just like Google or Facebook? Would you rather pay for those services and not have them keep your personal information? How do you keep your personal data safe from hackers? Share your opinion in the comments!