Target Audiences in a Virtual World

Smith and Wollan (2011) discuss barriers to using online social media for customer feedback. The need for instantaneous response to feedback is a grave one. Work of mouth is the most effective form of advertising. As such, it also has a large effect on negative feedback. This is called aggressive consumer activism (Smith & Wollan, 2011). By immediately addressing concerns and comments, companies can effectively minimize the damage done by this negative feedback. Of course, it isn’t possible to deal with every single piece of information/feedback/criticism given by customers. This is challenge number two. Companies must have a fluid and well constructed way to deal with customer input. http://3.bp.blogspot.com/--N6cn5nBwkE/T8rH8nUm9FI/AAAAAAAAAVc/u-sU9YbkBWk/s1600/targetaudience2.jpgThis is a challenge in and of itself. There are a variety of media at the customers’ disposal for feedback. It all has to be monitored, data input and checked against the company’s goals and measurement standards. And, even if they did have a program for dealing with customer data, no one can please everyone all the time. What one customer likes the other may not; even within the same target audience. For that matter, there may be a significant difference between what the customer who expresses himself thinks/wants/feels, and the customer who doesn’t express himself, but whose opinion matters all the same.

Smith and Wollan (2011) also offer suggestions as to the way around some of these barriers. By partnering with influential users of social media, companies can target audiences within a certain area of their market. Organizations can allow existing networks to work for them. Influential social media users have the ability to harness their credibility with followers and friends in a persuasive manner. By obtaining the support of these influential few, companies are able to zero in on their target audience, monitor feedback in a more concentrated way (e.g., monitor the youtube comments of their video blogger who is followed by zillions), and immediately respond to that feedback.

It is my opinion that we all have trusted sites, bloggers, and critics who we find closely represent our personal opinions. By accessing those key people, marketers can reach a larger group of customers. I know that I personally read very specific websites for game reviews. If they don’t like the game, I won’t buy them.

Tell me this isn’t bad ass…. Also… it clicks SO PRETTY!

When I worked for one of these review sites, marketers gave free copies of games to me, asking me to write a review. By giving me a free copy, they were getting their foot in the door, and I was more likely to enjoy the game, as I had a good taste in my mouth about the company gifting it to me. My favorite example of that was when I was given a keyboard to review. My review was so positive and reached so many people, that the company gave me the $130.00 keyboard as a gift. I STILL rave about it. A good example of reaching one to affect the masses (also, I LOVE THIS KEYBOARD!)

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Desperately Seeking Future

This is the portion of the show where we contemplate what our dream social technology would do. I’m not great at dreaming big (the hazard of being a realist). I am, however, great at explaining why I like what I like; we start there.

First and foremost, my favorite social media is Google; all of it. The reason being that there are so many ways to connect, types of uses, and useful media all under one roof. That being said, Google doesn’t work under one application (at least on my phone), so moving from one to the other can be challenging. Google, as a company, seems to be mindful of ways in which the internet COULD be used better, rather than just coming up with more options for current use (although Google+ did kinda do that).

I love Skype because it allows me to see and hear friends who are far away (same reason I enjoy Google Hangouts). I like Twitter because it allows me to connect with people I don’t otherwise know via networking and like-minded communities. Most of my new friends come from Twitter. Twitter, for the record, is also where my secret venting account is. Control over who sees you ginger rage is good. Facebook allows me to keep contact with friends from long ago, keep up on current events (because that’s where they get posted… sadly), and keep in (distant) touch with family that is, well… family. StumbleUpon and Pinterest allow me to explore sites and places on the interwebs that I would likely never find on my own, as well as connect with people who are like minded. Foursquare feeds my competitive side while I’m out doing chores I would be doing otherwise, helps me connect with people in my community who frequent similar places, and gives great access to great tips and discounts. I love texting because it allows me to have instant access to my friends and let’s me word things deliberately. Email gives me a similar outlet, but I tend to use it more formally, and typically when I don’t need an immediate response. I love Pandora because it let’s me discover new music for when I’m studying or gaming, as well as let’s me customize a playlist of music I don’t necessarily own. Dropbox allows me to share things that I don’t want everyone else to see. Gaming let’s me socialize, achieve, and escape. And I love the skills I develop from gaming as well. Finally, WordPress, of course, gives me a place to share my passion, as nerdy as they tend to be. 😉

So, now that I’ve nearly exhausted my list of social technologies I love already, what can be better? Having them all in one place. While the cell phone is nearly that (and allows for immediate and mobile access to boot), I’m talking about an all in one, open source (Apple and Microsoft give me a headache with their exclusivity and partnering), simply designed but fully customizable, social technology that allows for all of my contacts, venting, exploring, connecting,  sharing, etc.

Oh… and here’s the kicker; the reason it’s a dream: I want it to be ad free. No sponsors begging me to allow them to control all of my doohickies… none of that.  I know it’s a lot to ask. But this is MY dream, right?

OOH! And since we ARE dreaming… I want it all to be in an AR contact lens that allows me to drive and still wear my vision correcting lenses. 🙂

Gender Bender Project

It doesn’t get any sexier than the amazing Yara Sophia.

Tyanne Olson (Olson, 2012) does a great job of creating a comprehensive transmedia portfolio which seeks to challenge the social construction of ‘gender’. She uses Twitter (@gendertweet) to target in-group individuals by sharing insights, photos, and creating a community for the safe identity verification of those affected by marginalization. Facebook is used as another way of connecting with the in-group and providing socialization, support, and links to related articles, blogs, and alternate social media outlets. Tyanne also uses Pinterest as a creative element; its purpose is to resonate with in-group and general populations via visual stimuli. To round out the transmedia goodness, she uses Time Magazine to reach the general populous, branching out to begin a reformation of marginalizing social norms.

Tyanne’s project works because she has a targeted audience and uses specific media to reach them (i.e., those affected by marginalization and the general population). She is conscious of the needs of the in-group and provides support for them, allowing for a safe community which facilitates the trying-on and verification of an identity which may be easier to come to grips with in a virtual community first. She also provides a clearly defined identity for the project, which immediately allows the viewer/participant/community member to understand where they are (e.g., what sociomental space they’ve stumbled into) and what is being addressed.

For more information click the links below:

Facebook Page

Twitter Feed

Pinterest

References:

Olson, T. (2012).  The gender identity project [PowerPoint presentation]. Retrieved from:

Augmented Reality: Don’t Worry, It Won’t Bite

Though augmented reality (AR) is becoming more and more predominate in the gaming community, it isn’t likely to replace gaming as it stands now. Henry Jenkins (2008) notes that one of the most common fears of media based companies is the advent of new media. He reminds them that new media compliments- not replaces- existing media. This, I believe, is the same idea behind AR’s place in gaming. Still to this day, games built on 64 and even 8 bit graphics are very popular. Gamers tend to be motivated by the content of the game and less by the visual appeal (Yee, 2006). That being said, and in light of the fact that this is obviously a personal preference thing, immersion is absolutely a motivational factor for game play. However, the game has to be done right. Think of it in terms of The Lord of the Rings has to have a good plot, not just good computer graphics.

A good example of this is the  Spider-Man AR app. There are levels/missions that can be unlocked and achievements to be had by going through a variety of activities. Some of these activities involve computers, and some involve going to stores to interact with merchandise; a brilliant way to create consumer loyalty, resonance, and solidify brand identity. Though this game appeals to a variety of motivational types in gaming, (including immersion and achievement), it doesn’t quite fulfill all of them. We’ve seen how a variety of gaming styles, platforms, and media can be- and often are- used simultaneously or thoughtfully chosen between. The Wii didn’t bring an end to controllers and neither did the Kinect. The PS2 didn’t cause every N64 to evaporate off the face of the earth. Similarly, there are still several reasons why someone would choose the XBox 360 game over the AR app; not the least of which is the desire for escapism. Let’s be honest, combining your world with a different world doesn’t exactly let you ESCAPE your world, does it?

Don’t get me wrong, being able to put a contact lens in my eye in order to apprehend the Second Life style bad guy who happens to be running through the super market as I go shopping doesn’t sound like a terrible addition to my sometimes mundane life. But history has told us that retro never goes out of style with gaming, and sometimes you need the click of the mouse, the mashing of the a, b, x, and y buttons, or the “strumming” of the fake guitar to wash away your IRL blues.

References:

Jenkins, H. (2008). Convergence culture where old and new media collide. New York; London: New York University Press.
Yee, N. (2006). Motivations for play in online games. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 9(6), 772-775.

LoL Raging: Disinhibition Effect at its Most Toxic

I have two mains: Sona and Galio.

Though I tend to experience benign disinhibition online (e.g. flirting more than normal, or sharing personal things/venting where I typically wouldn’t), I try to avoid toxic disinhibition no matter what the circumstance (Joinson, 2007). Though I may be a member of an out-group in that way, a person would be hard pressed to find a gamer that agrees with the assertions that gaming causes aggression. But you would also be hard pressed to find a gamer who doesn’t agree there is a fairly significant amount of disinhibition inherent in games. My favorite example of this is my favorite game, League of Legends (LoL).

League of Legends is a game that is played online either with personal friends, or strangers. In game, there is a chat bar which allows communication between teammates, or with the opposing team. This chat box is supposed to allow for strategy, but typically turns into a flaming war zone (Joinson, 2007). Disinhibited gamers, when provoked by “noobs” or “trolls”, often become belligerent, authoritative, and downright vicious. Nearly all effects of disinhibition can be found (Gackenbach & von Stackleberg, 2007): dissociative anonymity, invisibility, asynchronicity, dissociative imagination, and minimization of status and authority.

You know you hear Michael Dorn’s voice in your head…

When I play LoL, I try to play by the Golden Rule; if I don’t have something nice (or productive) to say, I don’t say anything. However, there are those who become so angry with other players, that they begin flaming (e.g., calling people names, threatening to rage quit, intentionally helping the other team to win, etc.) (Joinson, 2007). It is a widely accepted concept in the LoL community that everyone has a bad game. Be that as it may, however, it is rare that a player will escape unscathed by the hateful words of effected teammates. I have been on the receiving end of this harassment. I remember one time I was so hurt and angered by the comments made, that I cried. Another time, I witnessed someone being so rude in game to someone else (not even to me), that I didn’t touch the game for three weeks. Though the people in game tend to be strangers, the effects of the online interaction are just as hurtful as they would be offline (Chayko, 2008). By the same token, however, when you have a good game, and you “carry” your team to victory, the praise and status are reinforcing and motivating; the pride you feel is real and validating.

Though these are not true of every gaming experience, every game, or every gamer, they are accepted memes in the gaming world. There are very few people immune to it. And gamers who would otherwise be very kind and would never think of being belligerent or aggressive face-to-face, allow themselves to unwind in game. I have several friends who do this, some of which admit they play so that they have a safe place to release aggression- something that Joinson (2007) suggests may account for what is typically thought to be disinhibition. What gamers, and all online users, must remember, is that no matter where the aggression takes place, it is negatively affecting someone.

References:

Chayko, M. (2008). Portable communities: The social dynamics of online and mobile connectedness. New York: SUNY Press.

Gackenbach, J., & von Stackelberg, H. (2007). Self online: Personality and demographic implications. In J. Gachenbach (Ed.), Psychology and the Internet: Intrapersonal, interpersonal, and transpersonal implications. (55-73). New York, Academic Press.

Joinson, A. N. (2007). Disinhibition and the internet. In J. Gachenbach (Ed.), Psychology and the Internet: Intrapersonal, interpersonal, and transpersonal implications. (75-92). New York: Academic Press.

If You Love It: Long Distance Relationships Revisited

There’s no doubt about it: Relationships are tough. But the age old saying, “If you love it, set it free. If it comes back, it was meant to be” has plagued hearts young and old for what seems like ages. First of all, no one WANTS to let the <person> go, because they don’t want to take the chance of losing it forever. What if it doesn’t come back? This advice is one of two traditional responses when someone decides to try a long distance relationship. The other, of course, being, “Long distance relationships don’t work.” Either way, not something people want to hear. With traditional media a connection was possible, but the immediacy- the sharing of current thoughts, feelings, events, etc.- was difficult, if not impossible. 

Chayko (2008) mentions a sociomental connection that allows us to connect on a deeper level. She brings attention to the amount of emotional and mental investment needed to create a concept of someone who we haven’t necessarily been wholly exposed to. Though we miss the things that Harlow (1958) helped us understand our deep seeded needs for, we are able to maintain a mental and emotional connection that, at times, may supersede the strength of those connections in person. This idea got me thinking, very intently, about long distant relationships and how viable they are compared to before such facilitating connectivity. Especially living in Alaska, when a friend left the state, you were likely never to see them again. Now, when my best friend leaves the state, we’re almost MORE connected than we are when we’re cuddling in front of the television. I guess my point is that there are benefits to both connections.

In general, however, the readings got me thinking about how I relate to others around me, whether in online communities, or in person. I have taken a more specific attention to the ways in which my actions change based on which group I’m currently in, and what about that group makes me a part of it, or WANT to be a part of it. Though the catalyst for this focus was Identity Theory (Burke & Stets, 2009), it has carried over into the Chayko (2008) readings as well. On the one hand, how do I connect to my communities and what do I bring to the table. On the other hand, how has that changed based on connectedness. The result, as mentioned above, is a focus on the relationships I have and do have, and how they’ve been effected by not only portability, but emotional and mental availability.

References:

Burke, P., & Stets, J. E. (2009). Identity theory. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Chayko, M. (2008). Portable communities : the social dynamics of online and mobile connectedness. Albany: SUNY.
Classics in the History of Psychology — Harlow (1958). (n.d.). Retrieved February 21, 2012, from http://psychclassics.yorku.ca/Harlow/love.htm

Happiness is a Sweet Dream

The following is a break from the norm. A game related article will be posted within the next week. So keep your eyes peeled!

As a result of my previous semester’s coursework, I have been writing stories of one sort or another. The following the is result of my random motivation. Charisma, it should be pointed out, is my character in the 3 Barons Renaissance Fair.

 Friends and Courtiers dear, I did have the most amazing dream upon the night past. The baroness was not in my dream, howe’er I was pleasantly surprised to note that she was, instead, not in existence.

In this dream, I was tending to the duties my Lord hath given me with my usual vigor and expedience. One of my duties being somewhat novel in nature, for I was to seek out Mistress Rosemary Larkspur.

Ne’er before had my Baron sent me on such a task, she being one who uses her skills to address wounds and inflictions experienced by the Iron Wolves. Howe’er, I did do as asked, and upon arriving in the mistresses… domain… did find the most awe-inspiring carnation upon her wall. The color was of the deepest purple, having teal edges protecting the beautiful flower’s integrity. As I inquired as to the purpose for my arrival at the most unusual shop, Mistress Rosemary did claim the flower from the wall and hand it to me, the stem of which was fashioned with the most fetching black ribbon I’d ever seen. Tied into which was a silver ring of the most exquisite composition. She did warn me that this was an incredibly important ring, and that the baron awaited it most impatiently. “The Baron, it would appear, is about to provide the Glades with a new baroness. And, in my opinion, it is about time. It’s almost as though he was waiting for LOVE or some such nonsense. Fair thee well!” With those words, she returned her attentions to the vile smelling concoction upon the table in front of her.

Having several other duties to perform, which my Lord had explained were of immense import, I did continue upon my way, contemplating the words which the Mistress had spoken. Surely, as my Baron’s most trusted servant, I would know if he had found a baroness. Surely, I, as his Steward, would know of the preparations, having likely overseen them myself, would be aware of coming nuptials. Mayhap the Baron had finally seen through the thinly veiled attempts at hiding my deep and consuming love for him. The more I thought on the picturesque flower in my pouch, the more I despised it. For I was not ready to bow to another “love”, just because Victor thought it of benefit to his station or wealth. Admittedly, my step did slow upon the intrusion of these disparaging thoughts, and yet somehow I found myself approaching the Baron’s Chamber Council room, dreading the inhabitants therein; their ridiculous grins and congratulations which would provide the fodder for hours of tears that were inevitably in my immediate future.
As I approached, the LeGuard brothers greeted me most kindly. Smiles upon their faces betrayed a secret which I had yet to be privy to. This disconcerted me greatly, as I am typically the purveyor of such knowledge while still in its infancy. Still, I pushed through the doors which were opened for me. Before the doors were opened completely, Lady Aibhlinn greeted me with a hug and proceeded to knowingly ask for the flower. My relief was, I am confident, visible upon my visage. The ring was for Aibhlinn. How could I be so foolish. Victor would never marry for love. I, better than anyone, should know that, and it might be added, would do well to keep it under advisement for the good of my sanity. Aibhlinn beckoned for me to join her near my usual place at the council table, and I did follow accordingly. As I approached, my Baron stood and smiled at me. Such things were not done outside his quarters, and certainly not in front of the council chamber. Mayhap he was ill.

“Charisma, approach me.”

“As thou wishest, my Lord.”

“I see that you did see to the errand I sent thee on. What kept thee? Thou wast given this task nigh unto an hour ago, and thou art only now returning. Explain thyself.” His voice was gruff, but he did not wear the hardened expression most often accompanying this tone.

“My Baron, thou didst also give me duties which thou didst say were of the utmost urgency, and, as the direness of this task was communicated by Mistress Larkspur, I supposed it more appropriate to see to the tasks that thou didst order quickly done. Please forgive my confusion, my Lord.”

“Hmm.. Yes. Well played, Charisma.” Then, looking to his beloved daughter, ordered, “Aibhlinn, come here, darling.” Aibhlinn complied and handed my Lord the flower. As she did so, a loud noise filled the council hall. Startled, I looked to the other council members, to find they were standing and beginning to lower into a bow… In my direction. I turned to my Baron for clarification, for I was understandably unable to comprehend what was happening. As I did, I noticed him loosing the tie on the flower.

“Papa, may I keep the flower? It is so lovely. I wish to dry it and preserve its beauty. Please, Papa? Please?!”

“That, shall be up to Charisma, my dear. For it belongs to her.” As he spoke, he slid the impressive silver ring off the ribbon, and took my hand in his. He slipped the ring onto my finger. “Thanks, in no small part to your constant dissertations on the importance of marrying for love, I have come to appreciate the value in it, and have decided to do so. I trust you have no objections to becoming my wife.”

From somewhere in the distance, I heard the Chamberlain shout, “Hip hip!” and the response filled the room and echoed in mine ears. It was in this instance that an overwhelming wave of emotion so intense I was scarcely able to breath, did wash completely over my body, and I did stumble, cursing my suddenly weak knees. My betrothed did take me in his arms, kiss me furiously, the call for the LeGuard brothers, ordering them to accompany me to his quarters. A flurry of orders were dispersed which were presumably in preparation for the upcoming wedding. I, howe’er was unable to comprehend them, as my brain was busy trying to calm my heart in order to preserve my precious consciousness. Seeming to fail in it’s task, I felt my head go dizzy, heard a LeGuard brother, Codell I believe, call out my name, and everything went black.

As in all of the most bittersweet dreams, it was in the instance before by complete happiness was realized that I did awaken.

I can say that there is nothing this day, that nearly satisfies my happiness in comparison to the happiness I did feel upon the eve last. And the sadness that accompanies the realization that I shall ne’er experience this happiness.

Twitter Rant Pt 3 (I had nothing to do with this)

Twitter: The Rant (aka Part II)

Don't mind if I do!

As promised, as there is a break in classes and this is long overdue, I will rant a bit about why I don’t tweet nearly as much as I used to.

First, let me say that there is a time and a place for Twitter. People who use Twitter, tend to do so in order to appraise others of their daily goings on, share information with colleagues or other like-minded individuals, or get the latest scoop on whatever their favorite subject/celeb has to offer. I’m not going to site the resources again (see my first post about Twitter for those), but the point is that there is a time and a place. It is useful.

However, one of the big draws to Twitter is that you can use the internet and social networking to connect to a community (whether it’s geogratphical or topical). The kicker, though, is that people aren’t interested in being a part of a community when they aren’t appreciated, treated fairly, or contributing rather substantially in one way or another. The key here for me, personally, is the former.

I don’t want to be a part of a community that doesn’t value it’s members enough to protect them from each other. A community where one person makes a bad choice and is completely shunned. And another person makes the same choice, but is charismatic, and is cheered as a hero. A community where someone who is honest, and kind, and supportive is dismissed because the person who hurt him is revered. I can not be a part of such a community; I WON’T.

Although Twitter is literally populated with millions of users, in reality, it’s a tiny world where those who know you are GOING to find you whether you want them to read what you’re saying or not. Thank goodness for permissions.

The bottom line for me: If I’m supposed to be able to say whatever is on my mind, and feel safe, I need to know that what I say isn’t going to be used against me in my “IRL” social life. I need to know that I’m not inadvertently giving people fuel for their evil doings. I need to know that when I show up to a “tweetup”, I won’t be subjected to liars, swindlers, and people of an otherwise ill reputed nature. The obvious answer is to stop tweeting; and I have. Or… have I?

Think Geek: Oh, Trust Me… I DO!

I'm a 'Smart Mass'!

Social validation occurs when we feel as though what we’re doing follows the social norm. When we have the ‘approval’ (implicitly or explicitly) of our peers, we are more likely to want/do/say something. Social validation can work on websites as well. User ratings, comments, and feedback in whatever other form it may take, influences our decisions whether we know it or not. (Weinschenk, 2009)

One website that uses social validation very effectively, is Thinkgeek.com.

A purveyor of all things g33ky, Thinkgeek.com uses several forms of social validation; some that are mentioned by Weinschenk (2009) and some that are not. For example, Thinkgeek.com uses Facebook “liking”, and announces how many people have “liked” each item. They also have customer comments just under the product. Thinkgeek.com also promotes the idea tthat the customers are all a family of sorts; wayward nerds in search of a place to call home, and they’ve provided that home along with our own monkey, Timmy. Following this lead, which not only Thinkgeek.com utilizes for social validation (e.g., Timmy and the staff think you’ll like a Spiderman hoodie, etc.), but the customers also use it in comments (e.g., A Think Geek girl knows when to ‘Bazinga’, etc.).

One very unique social validation technique Thinkgeek.com uses, is that hey actually encourage and promote photos of customers using the products they sell. The call this ‘Customer Action Shots’. On every item’s page, as well as the home page, there are photos that customers have sent in to model the product they’ve purchased from Thinkgeek.com. Weinschenk (2009) notes that the more we feel we know someone, and can relate to them, the more we trust their judgement. She notes that when we don’t have enough information about them, we tend to take their comments and suggestions into consideration less than we would have (2009). How better to “get to know” someone, than to see a picture of them in their natural setting? In addition, encouraging us to take pictures of ourselves using our products, promotes the feeling of family that Thinkgeek.com works so hard to provide.

Knowing that others are buying or using the same products that we are interested in, helps us feel confident in our decisions; particularly as consumers. Thinkgeek.com uses social validation to nearly its full extent. Many of Weinschenk’s suggestions to web designers, for how social validation can be used to promote sales, customer loyaly, and customer satisfaction, can be found here; a notion that Thinkgeek.com would take g33ky pride in.

References:

Thinkgeek.com. (2011). Retrieved from: http://www.thinkgeek.com/

Weinschenk, S. (2009). Neuro web design: What makes them click? Berkeley: New Riders.