About the Author: Nicole Branigan

Nicole Branigan

Nicole is a freelance writer who specializes in crafting engaging content for the web. She considers language and wordage a gift and a privilege. We're thrilled to have her voice here, as well as involved in our clients' Brand Stories. In her free time, Nicole nerds out on poetry and the saxophone.

Recent Posts from Nicole Branigan:

The Age of the Do-It-Yourselfer

How the Internet is ruining the business of specialized skills.

“Google it.” We’ve all said and done it. In fact, in May 2011, Google had over 1 billion unique visitors. Google is such a major part of our culture that it has recently been added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary as a transitive verb. (Note: I had to use the Merriam-Webster dictionary shortly after this to look up transitive verb)

Because we have the ability to Google any information at anytime on our PCs, laptops, smart phones, and tablets we can virtually obtain any knowledge we desire. Savvy Internet users have been taking advantage of this for years in order to learn anything from the ingredients in hollandaise sauce to step-by-step instructions on how to knit. This is an incredibly powerful tool that creates a sense of cohesion throughout the world as well as allows us to broaden our sense of understanding on a variety of topics, no matter how mundane. But this powerful tool is not without its concerns…

Google creates a “jack of all trades,” out of every person, and this can throw a wrench into the plans of many small business owners. Just the other day my husband Googled instructions on how to replace a tail light in our foreign car to avoid going to the auto mechanic. Across the globe, Google users are finding out how to bypass specialty service businesses in order to save money. From fixing a computer at home to avoid a repair fee to booking a vacation online to negate the need for a travel agent, specialty shops everywhere are taking a hit.

Having the power to Google allows us a virtual world that should be milked for every drop of information. Specialty shops and small businesses may have taken a hit, but the advent of the Internet causes so many facets of business to evolve. It will be interesting (and telling) to discover how specialty service shops and businesses deal with ongoing trend of the do-it-yourselfer.

Google+ Allows Safe Sharing

I’m so puzzled by Google+. I understand the value of having a social media community that’s automatically plugged into the largest search engine in the world. Users’ content will be completely searchable/findable between Google and Google+, and that’s a major asset for online marketers, web developers, and businesses. It’s also incredible that when using the mobile application for Google+ any images you take with your smart phone will automatically be uploaded to Google+ so you can share them easily.

One of the most revered assets of Google+ is the application of circles. Now, instead of posting pictures, status updates, and articles to ALL your followers, you can organize followers into categories and share information only with specific circles (friends, family, etc). If you have a work related article to promote, share it exclusively with your clients. Similarly, if you’ve uploaded a picture of your wild bachelor weekend, you can share it with the circle holding your friends’ profiles so your co-workers and family members won’t see it.

This new feature does make social sharing more private for those who are worried about sharing too much with the wrong people. On the other hand, if you’re worried about what certain people will think about what you share, do you have any business sharing it in the first place? In other words, if you’re worried about who is reading what you’re sharing, you’re not practicing safe sharing.

Google+ makes safe sharing possible, but it negates a powerful piece of social etiquette. If you’re not comfortable with everyone reading what you’re sharing, then you probably shouldn’t share it. I foresee millions of Google+ mishaps where the wrong information is shared with the wrong circles. Is this the worst thing in the world? No. But by separating social circles, Google is allowing irresponsible sharing to happen all across it’s social community.

Google+ is taking the social world by storm, and it will be interesting to see where the road leads. Despite the ability to share with certain people, I hope the networking world continues to leave its social doors open.

iPhone Tracks User Locations. So What?

Last week it was revealed that iPhone users might have had their locations tracked by Apple. People are up in arms over what is obviously a major violation in privacy.

Wake up, people. Google reads your mail. Apple tracks your locations. Facebook tracks your user habits. It’s all to sell you stuff.

While I agree it’s a bit unnerving to have a major corporation documenting your every move, let’s get realistic. Apple, Google, and Facebook are relatively uninterested in what you are ACTUALLY doing. In fact, most user information is tracked for the sole purpose of selling you products you will likely be interested in. Emailing about Spiderman posters? Google will target advertisements selling you superhero paraphernalia. Suddenly “liking” parenting websites on Facebook? You may notice Facebook ads for diapers and other baby gear.

Yes, it’s creepy and it borders on unethical. But can you blame them? It’s becoming easier and easier to ignore advertisements on television, radio, and other mainstream forms of media where we were once bombarded with products and services. I’m not condoning Apple’s transparency failure in tracking user’s locations, but I’m not surprised and you shouldn’t be either.

If You Don’t Social By Now, Will You Ever Social?

As marketers and new media lovers, we spend an abundance of time trying to sell our clients on the idea social media, why they need it, and the best ways to implement it. Because of this, and also due to recent trends and boosts in how we use social media, countless businesses are using Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and other networks tools to get their message(s) out there.

Some businesses do it well. Some businesses do it poorly. Some businesses don’t do it all.

This begs the question: Do all businesses NEED social media? And in today’s rapidly moving marketing environment, if you aren’t taking advantage of social media, is there a cut off point? At what point does it become too late to invest in a newborn social media strategy?

There isn’t a clear answer to this. The truth is that some businesses don’t need social media; businesses that won’t use social media correctly especially shouldn’t use social media. If you’re not producing your own content, and don’t intend on producing your own content then social media will be nothing more than an exercise in regurgitation for your company. While I don’t believe there is a cut-off point making it, “too late,” to utilize new forms of media, I do believe businesses run the risk of being left in the dust.

If a company has never used social media in their business plan, and is committed to creating (with guidance) original, interesting and significant content then they are the perfect candidates for new and social media. And I would like to meet them.

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Where do Twitter Accounts Go to Die?

I happened upon this thought as I came across a Twitter account for the movie, Country Strong. The movie, starring Gwenyth Paltrow and Tim McGraw needs all the promotional help it can get, battling with heavy hitters like True Grit and Black Swan. It’s no wonder movie promoters look to Twitter and real-time interaction to boost ticket sales.

But, what happens when the movie is no longer in theaters and is nothing more than a rental box tenant? Do social media marketers continue to nourish the content being poured into this account? Do they delete it? Do they let it fade into dust?

This specific Twitter account does not make me curious as much as the notion that this is likely happening EVERDAY. Bad vH1 reality programming, pop artists, and other fads of entertainment are likely looking to engage with their audience via Twitter. I’ll go out on a limb and say there are thousands of Twitter accounts vacantly lying in the Internet stratosphere abandoned and neglected forever.

I’m not under the impression that this is good or bad, mostly I find it overwhelming. To me, social media is about perseverance and determination, as well as time and patience. With this reasoning, it’s curious that Twitter accounts are created and nurtured only for a matter of weeks, then sent off to the Twitter heaven in the sky.

Where do Twitter accounts go to die?

I happened upon this thought as I came across a Twitter account for the movie,
Country Strong. The movie, starring Gwenyth Paltrow and Tim McGraw needs all
the promotional help it can get, battling with heavy hitters like True Grit and Black
Swan. It’s no wonder movie promoters look to Twitter and real-time interaction to
boost ticket sales.

But, what happens when the movie is no longer in theaters and is nothing more
than a rental box tenant? Do social media marketers continue to nourish the content
being poured into this account? Do they delete it? Do they let it fade into dust?

This specific Twitter account does not make me curious as much as the notion
that this is likely happening EVERDAY. Bad vH1 reality programming, pop artists,
and other fads of entertainment are likely looking to engage with their audience
via Twitter. I’ll go out on a limb and say there are thousands of Twitter accounts
vacantly lying in the Internet stratosphere abandoned and neglected forever.

I’m not under the impression that this is good or bad, mostly I find it overwhelming.
To me, social media is about perseverance and determination, as well as time and
patience. With this reasoning, it’s curious that Twitter accounts are created and
nurtured only for a matter of weeks, then sent off to the Twitter heaven in the sky.Where do Twitter accounts go to die?

I happened upon this thought as I came across a Twitter account for the movie, Country Strong. The movie, starring Gwenyth Paltrow and Tim McGraw needs all the promotional help it can get, battling with heavy hitters like True Grit and Black Swan. It’s no wonder movie promoters look to Twitter and real-time interaction to boost ticket sales.

But, what happens when the movie is no longer in theaters and is nothing more than a rental box tenant? Do social media marketers continue to nourish the content being poured into this account? Do they delete it? Do they let it fade into dust?

This specific Twitter account does not make me curious as much as the notion that this is likely happening EVERDAY. Bad vH1 reality programming, pop artists, and other fads of entertainment are likely looking to engage with their audience via Twitter. I’ll go out on a limb and say there are thousands of Twitter accounts vacantly lying in the Internet stratosphere abandoned and neglected forever.

I’m not under the impression that this is good or bad, mostly I find it overwhelming. To me, social media is about perseverance and determination, as well as time and patience. With this reasoning, it’s curious that Twitter accounts are created and nurtured only for a matter of weeks, then sent off to the Twitter heaven in the sky.

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Social Media Scams, When Will it End?!

There’s the “Who has deleted ya,” scam or the, “Did you see what this girl’s dad did,” scam, and even the, “OMG this video made me totally LOL,” scam. Social media addicts beware – there’s a scam for every day of the week, and there’s no sheriff in town.

Facebook does a fair job of reporting abuse that can harm user profiles. However, it is often too late. Common Facebook users (moderately tech-savvy 40-somethings) are click happy, and this often results in Facebook scams sweeping profiles before anyone realizes what has happened.

There is rarely any harm to these Facebook scams, as of late. Usually, people click on a link, it sends a link to all their friends’ profiles, and so on. However, scams are getting more intuitive and you never know when something is truly going to do damage to your hard drive. Word to the wise: if you’re not sure, don’t click it! 90% of Facebook scam “epidemics,” can be avoided if people use their street smarts. If it looks suspicious, or if you question it at all, do. not. click.

Do Facebook scams harm the social media experience? Do they make us less inclined to share with friends, family members, and acquaintances? Are we going to become so hardened by fear that Facebook and other social mediums will become as cold subway station glances? Let’s hope social media scams do not deter our innate desire to share with those we know.

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Is Google Instant Preview Bad for Websites?

Snapshot decisions may change the way we search…but not really.

Many SEO and web development circles are up in arms about Google’s installment of the Instant Preview feature. When you search for something using Google, each search result will have a magnifying glass icon next to the search result.  Click on the magnifying glass to reveal a snapshot of the web page in the search result like this:

Some experts think this is the end of organic search, and the beginning of snapshot judgments that will hurt many websites and their rankings.  When considered, Google Instant Preview aligns itself with current web trends and user habits in order to make the web searching process faster and easier.

The Internet has made all users able to make fast decisions, and move on. We are constantly searching for the next great source of information, new innovative product, and best way to share pictures and videos with friends and family. The result? Shorter attention spans and less patience for searching, clicking, and scrolling.

Google Instant Preview takes this into consideration and allows users to view website layouts and basic information before navigating away from Google. Users won’t waste time clicking on a website if the Instant Preview shows any of the following:

  • Not enough text
  • Too much text
  • No images
  • Outdated design

The user experience is becoming more streamlined as a result of this, but it won’t drastically change the way websites are designed and outlined. Instead, website owners may be encouraged to keep their web design, content, and functionality up to date to attract web users instantly, and to retain their interest.

In short, Google Instant Preview does not revolutionize or even threaten the way we search. It simply recognizes the way we search the web in order to make it easier.

Snapshot decisions may change the way we search…but not really.