Archive for October, 2010

Google Search Coupon: 1 FREE Google Search

Image by Bramus! via Flickr

It’s not every day I see two articles representing two different views on a topic without actively seeking them out.  But today I did, and it’s got me thinking.

The first article is from Adweek entitled “Dangling Incentives on Facebook“.  Marketers use incentives like giveaways, contests and coupons to draw people to like their Facebook page (it still feels odd to refer to “like” as an action word rather than a feeling word) or to follow them on Twitter.  Many brands have seen success with attracting large amounts of people in a short period of time using one of these tactics.

On the opposite end of the spectrum sits “Rewarding New Facebook Fans: Good Business Or “Black Hat” SEO Tactic?” over on Forrester’s blog.  This article warns of the dangers of collecting likes and followers and how this can diminish the value of that Facebook fan or Twitter follower and water down the true “social search” experience that larger search engines like Bing and Google are experimenting with.

What’s a brand to do?  Those committed to being socially responsible will use a combination of the two.  New and existing consumers will be drawn into their social bases with contests and offers, but once attracted, will find other valuable reasons to stay. 

The road ahead is diverging. The quality of the brands and offers, the willingness for our friends and networks to sell their influence for special deals and giveaways and the resulting impact we allow these “recommendations” to have on our purchase decisions will all be key factors in determining where we will go next.

Income tax

Image by alancleaver_2000 via Flickr

I don’t ever write about politics.  Mostly because they don’t interest me.  I don’t often write about the way things are either.  Especially not went it comes to mundane topics, like taxes.  Those don’t interest me either.  But what does interest me are ideas, especially ones that are a bit out there.  They push the envelope, they make people think, they help us innovate.

I’ve just had an idea.  And it has to do with (of all things) taxes.  More specifically, it has to do with how it would engage me more and feel like I actually had an impact (and a choice).

My idea is not a new one. In fact, I’m borrowing it from the fundraising sector.  But it’s always been one of my favourites.

Many non profits have a system for allowing a donor to allocate their funds for a specific use.  For example, when I was fundraising as a student at the University of Alberta, alumni could request that their donation be directed to a specific fund or scholarship or even project.  Do you see where I’m going yet?

I want to be able to direct my taxes to areas that are important to me, or at least a portion of them.  If my benefits at work are flexible, my donation dollars can go where I want, why not my tax dollars?

Give me that much of a direct impact on how my dollars are used, even if it’s only 10% of my total tax contribution, and you’ll have me hooked.  You’ll also have me trying to convince every Jane, Dick and Harry to put their portion towards my cause because it’s important to them too.  It’s a whole new level of influence.  Flex taxes (not the amount, just the allocation) and social influence.  I’m in.

pink ribbon

Image via Wikipedia

Last December, I saw a Facebook status update for cancer awareness that I didn’t like.  I didn’t like it because I didn’t think it was effective.  I conducted a little experiment with my own Facebook status to see if I could improve on the idea.  You can read more about it in my blog post entitled “How I’m doing my part to find a cure” but the gist is that I encouraged people to share their cancer stories on my Facebook page.  For every story shared, I would donate $2 to the Canadian Cancer Society.  The experiment was quite successful.  I had over 40 stories shared and enough people jump in and match my donation out of their own pockets to bring the total donation up to a whopping $500.00.  All from one Facebook status and a desire to just do a little bit more.

Today, one of my Twitter mates, Michelle, took it upon herself to revive the idea on her Facebook wall.  Inspired by Breast Cancer Awareness month, Michelle has made her status update the following:

Here is my cancer awareness post: Facebook says I have 666 (yikes!) friends. Instead of telling me your bra colour or where you like to leave your purse, share a memory of someone in their lives touched by cancer by commenting on this status or leaving a note on my wall between now and November 30. For every comment I will donate $1 to the Canadian Cancer Society.

Now, if you know Michelle, please go share your story on her Facebook page.  I would love to see her make a $666 donation.

At the beginning of the month, another of the Calgary Twitterati, Jillian Walker, posted a blog post about her encounter with breast cancer.  A brave and inspiring move, she told the story in detail from discovery of an unusual lump in her breast through to surgery and recovery.

We’re not all cancer survivors, and many of us still (thankfully) haven’t been directly impacted by cancer.  But just because we may not have a personal story to tell on the matter, doesn’t mean our participation in a campaign as important as this one can’t have an impact.  Online social networks give us each a voice.  It’s easy to forget how little it takes to go a thousand steps further than we’ve ever been able to before today.

The point here is that we have a chance to be better.  Everyday, we can live our lives better, we can share and inspire others better.  It doesn’t take much, just a little creativity… and everyone’s got at least a spark of that in them.  Before you jump on the next meme, think about what’s behind it.  If it’s something silly, have at it.  Enjoy.  But if it’s something that is genuinely attempting to accomplish a goal as important as cancer awareness, please give the subject matter the respect it deserves by at least taking a second or two to think if your participation actually makes an impact, or if there’s a chance that you can make it better.  Without the effort from each of us as individuals, the whole will never get better.  Help out those you’re trying to support and just be better when it counts.

If you’d like to find ways you can help, from volunteer opportunities to making a donation in Alberta, the Canadian Cancer Society page has the resources you need.  If in another province, try visiting the homepage and navigating to your province and the “how you can help” tab from there.

Related articles:

There should be punishment, but five years of jail is extremely harsh. I’m sure these children did not intend for this child to go out and commit suicide.

The quote above came from a student at Rutgers University, published in this article in the New York Times after a fellow student committed suicide after his “college roommate had spied on him from another room with a webcam as he kissed a male friend.”

Is it harsh?  I’m not so sure.  It depends on what we’re willing to do (interpret we as “us” our “society“) to further educate youth on the implications of publishing their lives and those of their friends on the web… or to further regulate how and where they publish their lives on the web.

The thing about life is we often don’t know how much something we do, meant as a harmless prank, ends up hurting those we didn’t intentionally mean to hurt.  The thing about the internet is we never know how far something we do reaches until it’s picked up and goes viral.  The two in combination… well, my heart is wrenching at the outcomes.

Our entire society is in a very experimental phase.  We’ve created a technology that we don’t fully understand the implications of using.  Everyone’s got free reign.  Everyone’s in the driver’s seat.  There aren’t any rules, and as much as it’s been exciting to see the developments and the innovation come out of it, we’re also paying a price.

To date, I’ve been an advocate of an uncensored internet.  While I maintain that content on the web should remain uncensored, I think it’s time some controls were put in place for those allowed to publish content to the web.

We have the ability as a community to create the rules and regulations necessary to prevent much of what’s being done.  It’s ludicrous to think we don’t have any control.

Maybe the ability to publish content becomes a privilege rather than a right.  Much like you need to pass an exam to earn the right to drive, or must reach a certain age before being able to drink or purchase alcohol… perhaps too, we should require individuals to have a license of sorts before publishing content online.

There are enough of us now who understand the implications, the reach, and the potential severity of our actions online that others (read government) can rely on to make that call.

When is enough ENOUGH? Hasn’t enough harm been done?