Attack of the Lines

weapons in the form of words

The New Hobby Club

I remember being a member of school clubs way back when I was in grade school. Our school dedicated first Fridays of the month for club days. Everyone is required to have at most one major and one minor clubs. When I was in grade six, I was part of the English Club, because well, I was chased out of the Math Club. Grade school politics and all that (who would have thought there would be politics in grade school?). Point is, you’re supposed to pick a club that interests you. Maybe that’s why the Sports Club had a hundred members.

Online communities have a lot of similarities with these school clubs (and also school organizations, hobby clubs, associations, prayer groups, and what have you). People with similar interests, passions, and principles converge to talk and share about their experiences, and of course, to do what they love best.

I myself am a member of several LiveJournal communities. I joined groups that cater to my fanfiction reading and writing needs. I have memberships in different communities who also share my love for different fandoms.

Thing is, it’s fun to be part of communities where I’d get to talk about (read: fangirl) my favorite pairings, what should or what should not have happened on the TV show or anime, different plot ideas, and just to be among other people who also squeal in delight when the show or anime writers happened to drop hints about the desired pairing. What’s even more interesting is that these people come from all over the world. I have come to know and befriend people from the US, Slovenia, and other Filipinos from Cagayan de Oro and Davao. I guess it’s pretty amazing to know that even though I’m talking to different people from different cultures, we are all fangirls (and fanboys) for our favorite pairings.

To quote Sir Barry, what’s the implication for OrCom practice?

Companies and organizations have realized the implications of the internet for their business and organizational processes. In terms of talking to their consumers, companies should take advantage of the formation of these different communities. These groups have their own interests, profiles, and online behaviors. It actually makes it easier for the company to talk to its consumers  through these communities, since they already have certain profiles and behaviors. Companies can shape its messages to appeal to these groups. Furthermore, organizations can listen in on groups that are part of their target audience and determine what they want, what they think about, and what they say about you and even your competition. But more than just listening in, organizations can also create communities that welcome conversations and discussions about their products and services. It’s not just about advertising and market research anymore. It’s now about collaboration and co-creation.

But in the meantime, let’s go a bit off tangent and talk about advertising. I looked into Admax.com. Admax’s specialty is leasing out ad spaces on a network of Southeast Asian sites. The sites where they offer ad spaces are more than a hundred in number. Sites include blogs with high readership, sites offering free wallpapers, tutorials, etc, sites with heavy traffic, websites of different media corporations (hello, ANC and the other ABSCBN sites), forums, blogging sites, and many more.

Admax Network

Admax offers its clients classifications of the kind of sites or target audiences that they want to reach. For example, if an airline wants to advertise online, Admax will release the company’s ad on sites that have something to do with traveling, or on those that offer suggestions on different tourist spots, restaurants, or places to visit in this certain place, or on forums where people talk about traveling and places.

Again, the internet has made it easier for companies to advertise to their target groups, since people flock to communities, or if not, go to specific sites which cater to their needs and interests. Advertising online and reaching those specific groups who companies really want to talk to is more effective rather than just going by the shotgun approach.

Then again, it’s important for companies and organizations to realize that the internet is not just another medium for advertising. The World Wide Web is a place where real time conversations can happen between the company and the consumers.

Advertisements

Sharing the Rock

I’m a guilty guilty pirate. In my defense, it’s just too expensive to buy the original albums or original DVDs of movies. In today’s hyperlinked world, it’s easy to share files, documents, e-books, MP3s, movies, and even a whole archive of shows online.

For a small-time pirate like me, I only need Limewire, BitTorrent, Mediafire, and Orbit to get what I want. Sure, I have to pay for the internet connection, but I can get a hundred songs for a minimal cost rather than buying several CDs that cost P500 each, with one CD corresponding only to one artist.

And so, I skip merrily through Limewire and click the download button. It gives me so much satisfaction to see the download progress bar reach 98%, then 99%, and finally 100%. Success! Ahh, the best things in life are free. And the best things in life are free to share.

The Internet was primarily built to share information between people who are linked together by their computers. Now that it has grown to proportions that enabled people from all around the world to connect with one another, everyone could very easily share practically anything from .doc to .avi to one or even hundreds of netizens from one corner of the world to another.

Hello, P2P or peer-to-peer sharing. What this means is exactly what it is named. The World Wide Web is a place where information and data can flow without hierarchies, without bureaucracies, and without boundaries (yeah, privacy settings are in place, but seriously, you can get around that, can’t you?). The Web is made up of hundred and thousands of Fayol’s bridges.

But this phenomenon of P2P sharing poses a big problem for artists and producers. Why buy their albums when you can get them for free? These big time labels started to close and shut down sites and even YouTube posts that play their music. Thing is, people will find more and more ways on how to get free stuff.

That’s why I think that instead of blocking P2P sharing at every chance they get, artists and producers should use this phenomenon to their advantage, or at least adapt to it. They should capitalize on the fact that people love free stuff.

I think that it’s a good marketing strategy for an artist or label to give out some tracks for free. These free songs can serve as teasers for the album itself. If people get a taste of what the album contains, sooner or later, they would get to a point where they would want to get the CD for themselves. Artists can also include bonus values with their CDs like rare and exclusive tracks, t-shirts, or other merchandise that fans will die for. Also, if artists show that they are open and enthusiastic to share their songs with everyone, their fans will also be more enthusiastic to stay with them. Talk about brand loyalty.

Let me relate something to you. This is my experience, and I don’t know whether you agree with me, but I think it illustrates what I wrote above.

I am a Linkin Park fan. I have been buying their albums since Hybrid Theory (which is in cassette). I have been trying to  buy every album since then, and it really makes me happy when I have the album in my hands. Nothing compares to the real thing.

I am also an avid follower of lpassociation.com (or used to be; I still check with it from time to time). It’s a site run by fans who post the latest news, updates on upcoming albums, shows, collaborations, chat and forum schedules with the band members themselves, videos, and even bonus tracks.

I was delighted to have found this site and preferred it over the official website. I guess that the feeling of being among other fans is better than reading official press releases on the official site. Most of all, I loved the site, because it posted exclusive tracks from mixtapes, remixes, singles, and special tracks from the band and their collaborations.

I was even more delighted when I found that Linkin Park recognized the site and gave it attention. The site kinda grew to be an affiliate site of the band.

Now that I think about it, the site is actually a good strategy in promoting the band. The fact that it’s fan-based made other fans more enthusiastic in visiting and joining the community. Linkin Park itself encouraged the site administrators and the fans to connect with them by sending links to their forums where the members themselves chat with their fanbase. The band also releases free exclusive and bonus content from upcoming albums. They also let fans upload tracks that were recorded from their shows (an example is the QWERTY song which got released only on their Summer Sonic tour during their concerts).

During the period when Mike Shinoda released his own album (The Rising Tied) separate from the band under the name Fort Minor, it helped that he promoted the album on lpassociation.com. He posted updates on what his album was going to be, what kind of music the fans will expect, and explained why he was going on such a venture. In return, fans posted comments on the site on what they think about the issue. Some had reservations on whether the band is having problems, while others welcomed the thought of Mike going solo. Mike then explained that he will still be with Linkin Park and that he just wanted to an opportunity to show his own brand of music.

After The Rising Tied went out, he gave permission for the administrators to post other exclusive tracks like two collaborations with Lupe Fiasco. These songs were included in a mixtape that was meant only for a limited release. Nevertheless, the fans appreciated the release of these songs.

When the band promotes its new albums, they made sure that they gave special attention to lpassociation.com. They gave previews and sneak-peeks into the album, which made the fans really excited.

Currently, Linkin Park is going to come out with a new album entitled “A Thousand Suns” on September 14, 2010. They had just released the first single off the album – Catalyst (which is also featured on Medal of Honor). Fans can now download the full track on iTunes for free. Feedback on the site was good and a lot of fans were excited to buy the coming album which is packaged with a free shirt, exclusive wallpapers, and a special skateboard sticker.

LP Association - A Thousand Suns

What I’m saying is that artists can still find a way of making a profit even if people choose to download songs for free. Not that I’m saying online piracy should continue. It should not. It’s just practical to just download songs rather than actually an expensive album.

Still, there are always ways to counter this. I think that the key is to build a relationship with the fans and create bonds with other netizens that will make them patronize their music, make them realize that they can support the artists by actually buying their albums, and create value that weighs more than 500 pesos.

Which means that I would have to start saving for A Thousand Suns now. I swear to God that I will have the funds by September 14. I WILL have that album! Don’t mock me!

P.S.

A shoutout to everyone: Please patronize our own Filipino artists. Support them by buying original CDs or at least, by going to their shows. We have a lot of great artists out there with some really avant garde and good music. Let’s bring OPM back.

MMDA on the CyberRoad

In recent news, the new MMDA chairman, Francis Tolentino, intends to make use of social networking sites, namely, Facebook and Twitter as means of disseminating information and fostering public involvement in the agency’s day-to-day operations.

It is commendable that a goverment agency like the MMDA, whose operations and services greatly affect the Metro, is ready to venture into social networking sites. The use of this social media type can, indeed, reach a lot of people with just a simple post or tweet, and in turn, the public can reach the MMDA with their complaints and suggestions with a wall post or a comment. On the other hand, there is always a concern with people flooding and overloading the page with their posts.

As with the use of any communication channel, there will always be pros and cons.

First, the pros:

1. Information dissemination through social networking sites can quickly reach a large number of people in real time. With radio, traffic updates are announced by the hour or within a specified time interval. On the other hand, the MMDA can constantly inform the public bottlenecks in traffic as they happen anytime within the day.

2. Public service announcements and news on developments around the Metro is just a click on the “Share” or “Tweet” button away.

3. The public can directly post news (accidents), complaints (poor traffic management) and suggestions (a new traffic scheme) on the Facebook wall. People now have a hotline to the MMDA without even the use of a phone. On the other hand, the MMDA can quickly act on accidents and other traffic issues as soon as the public posts them. Furthermore, complaints and suggestions by people directly affected can help the MMDA decide on which action to take.

4. People can comment on any news and announcements on developments and policies. Real time and direct feedback from the public can aid the agency in choosing which policies to implement, what other improvements to consider, and determining which existing policies and schemes are effective and which needs more attention.

5. The discussions feature on Facebook can be an avenue where the MMDA can engage in real time conversation with the public. Other than being able to respond directly to issues, the MMDA can initiate interactivity and collaboration between common citizens, the agency, and even other stakeholders.

6. Other than disseminating information and receiving feedback to and from the public, the MMDA can also reach other stakholders like transport groups, environmental organizations, NGOs, local governments, businesses, and other players from the private sector.

7. Conversations and discussions between the public and all concerned sectors level the field between the citizens, the MMDA, and other groups and organizations. Issues between all those concerned can be resolved quickly, since everybody is in direct conversation with everyone else. After resolving these issues, all the groups can work towards other policies which can benefit them all.

And now, the cons:

1. Even though the use of social networking sites is a good way of disseminating informating and garnering feedback, the MMDA can only reach a part of the population who has access to computers and the internet. The greater part of the population, especially those below the poverty line do not have the resources to have computers and internet connections, much less navigate to Facebook and Twitter.

2. Traffic will increase on MMDA’s page itself. The agency might have difficulty in sorting through all the information that people post.

3. The MMDA might also have difficulties in responding to each concern, since they have limited physical resources.

4. On the part of the public, there is no assurance that the MMDa can attend to each and every complaint.

5. The public might get frustrated if they receive minimal feedback from the MMDA.

And so, the recommendations are:

1. The MMDA should still keep in mind that in their case, the use of social media and social networking sites is a supplement to their use of traditional media and not a replacement. They should still look at other ways on how to enhance their use of  traditional media, since the majority of their target audience has the trimedia as their source of information.

2. The MMDA should at least answer back to the posts or comments that are posted on their Facebook site or tweet back on Twitter. They must keep the flow of communication and the interaction going. If they could not accommodate some complaints, they should be honest in saying so. At least, they could let the public know that they are listening but that they have limits.

3. The agency should constantly monitor comments and mini-conversations that happen around Facebook and Twitter to gain better insight on what the public thinks and what services they need and want.

4. They should have people who will solely take care of communications on Facebook and Twitter, aside from those who take calls.

5. The MMDA should be active in online discussions. More than monitoring and analyzing comments and responsing, they should be the ones to initiate conversations so that they could elicit issues, problems, solutions, and suggestions.

6. The MMDA should encourage all concerned sectors to participate in discussions.

7. Aside from using social networking sites, they can also improve their website. They can make it more organized and interactive. Also, it would be a good idea to post live video feeds of main roads and intersections to aid motorists in finding alternative routes.

The MMDA has a long way to go in the implementation of this online campaign. The essence of having social networking sites is to connect with people. For a government agency directly involved with providing  public service, they should always bear in mind public involvement. The MMDA is already on the right track. The key is to interact, interact, and interact.

P.S.

You can visit MMDA’s Facebook account at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Makati-Philippines/MMDA/71033958712?v=wall.

You can also access MMDA’s Twitter page at http://twitter.com/mmdaontheroad

Corporately Blogging

A blog is practically a journal where a person could talk about his interests, activities, what happened during his day, and basically, anything and everything under the sun. Blogs can also go by themes – political commentaries, fashion, product reviews, photoshop tutorials, and in the case of OC 152, communication trends and new social media.

More than anything, a blog gives its readers a glimpse of the author’s personality – who he is, how he thinks, and even how he acts. Furthermore, it’s a great way of letting friends know what’s going on even if they don’t get to see each other.

Being a blogger myself, having a blog (a personal one, that is) lets me express whatever I can’t say verbally or just lets me blow off steam.

The rise of the internet also initiated a huge wave of bloggers. Today, these netizens have become a demographic in themselves. Bloggers who are especially interesting and active on the net have garnered the status of being opinion leaders. Other bloggers and netizens follow them, making them quite an authority in their respective fields.

And so, if anyone and everyone can become and is becoming a blogger, then why not companies and organizations? With such a huge demographic group of bloggers sitting online, it should be a good opportunity for companies to tap into this audience.

While they could put their ads on blog sites and communities, they could also go a little bit further and become bloggers themselves. The use of advertisements are too static for a group that loves dynamism, constant feedback, and connections. Thus, the creation of corporate blogs.

Companies can bring themselves closer to their audience through their blogs. But what’s wrong with websites? Nothing. It’s just that a blog is supposed to bring out a more personal and down-to-earth side of people and for that matter, companies.

A blog should not be viewed as just another page that is an outlet for press releases, product announcements, and marketing collaterals. You have the website for that purpose.

So what should companies put in the blog? To start off, companies should not confuse company profile with personality. Let me put it this way – everyone already knows what the company is about and what products or services it offers. It’s time to show them the values and qualities that are reflective of its culture. People want to relate with the company through the  blog, not just to see it as a static repository for news releases. Companies can do this by transforming press releases into stories. They can bring out a side or a behind-the-scenes take of an event they held or company developments that are  special and interesting. The key is being open to the audience.

Secondly, content should not only deal with the usual things. Companies can post case studies, trends, and other topics that their readers and consequently, customers and clients are interested in.

Thirdly, companies should realize that a blog is not a channel to talk TO customers, instead, it is a way to talk WITH them. Company developments, talks on emerging trends and other issues in the industry should generate a conversation between the company and its stakeholders. Product announcements should turn into a conversation where the company can practically give an online demo to its customers. Furthermore, it should become an avenue where customers can tell the company what improvements they want and ultimately, say whether the company is doing a good job or not

Fourth, keeping a corporate blog should not only be a job for the Corporate Communications department. Even employees from HR and Operations have their own stories to tell. What better way to portray a picture of the company than letting every member from every department share their experiences.

Lastly, everything boils down to interaction, interaction, and more interaction. A company is also a social being, since it is practically made of and by people. It has social needs. It has to relate with other people to be able to survive. While the company needs profit to feed itself and keep its internal components alive, it more importantly needs to establish and
sustain relationships with its customers, suppliers, and other concerned publics.

Locally, it seems that companies haven’t really gotten into the idea of corporate blogging. Maybe they fear that having a blog would make them open for criticism. Or maybe they don’t see the need for blogging. Then again, blogging may not be the right strategy for the company. Nevertheless, companies who see the merits of keeping a corporate blogging should take advantage of it and to be not afraid of being open. If people criticize them through their blog, they should take it as a challenge to use these criticisms as points for improvement.

I looked through topblogs.com.ph and saw only one corporate blog (at least one that ranked within the top 50) – jobsdbphilippines.blogspot.com. Aside from news and announcements from Jobs DB, the company also posts several topics like how to make and present good resumes. There are samples for formal ones and samples for those who plan to apply in creative jobs (like advertising, graphic design, etc). Topics like this provide interesting content to the corporate website and not just news releases or other announcements.

Jobs DB Philippines @ blogspot.com

Creative Resumes @ Jobs DB Philippines

At any rate, a corporate blog should be able to communicate WITH and ENGAGE stakeholders. It should not be just about marketing or advertising or PR alone. It’s about bridging the gap between the company and the people. It’s about being social and getting social, because in the end, we are all social beings. Even companies.

P.S.
See other blogs like those of PlayStation (http://blog.us.playstation.com/), Google (http://googleblog.blogspot.com/), and Nokia (http://conversations.nokia.com) .

Going Viral

Remember the “two chinese boys” phenomenon on YouTube? They are two best friends who had this crazy idea of lipsynching to popular songs and exaggeratedly acting out their own music video. What’s even funnier is that they have the balls to shoot the videos using webcams in different internet shops. And they bring along their own costumes.

Their videos have become so popular on the net that Pepsi gave them their big break by getting them for a commercial where they did what they do best: lipsynching and acting like they own the song.

Here in the Philippines, we have our own version of the two Chinese boys.  The first time I saw them was already on Bubble Gang. I found that they too have been internet sensations; I was just not a YouTube person (what with only a dial-up connection at home). I thought that it was just an epic editing wonder. I didn’t even stop to think that they were actually twins. When they were featured on Jessica Soho Reports (or on another GMA7 show), I realized that there were really two of  them.

They were epically funny! When I saw them on TV, they were lipsynching to Two Become One by the Spice Girls. They were just too gay!

Then there’s Lady Gagita. If anything, that’s the funniest parody of Lady Gaga I’d ever seen. Perfect make-up,perfect costumes perfect locations, perfect acting, perfect extras, perfect effects, perfect editing. I watched the video when I was in the office during my OJT. My co-intern, Bea, and I seriously ROFLMAO’d (we tried stifling our laughter but failed miserably) around our desks, garnering a curious but amused look from our boss.

The wonders of Viral Videos.

The thing about viral videos is exactly that they are ridiculously infectious. Lady Gagita’s video reached almost a hundred thousand in just a few hours. On Facebook, there were 5 links to the video in just 30 minutes. In less than a week, Lady Gagita was on 24 Oras.

So what am I getting at?

Viral videos are great tools for advertising, marketing, and even PR.

The use of viral videos is a good way to reach a lot of people other than just the use of trimedia. Companies can even fine tune their online campaign to cater to a more specific target. They can post their videos on other sites, forums, and communities that have specific interests and behaviors.

Also, putting up viral videos can be strategic in a way that netizens flock to sites that are recommended by their peers  (for example, links on Facebook posted by friends), and to those that have a lot of hits.

Furthermore, people can comment and give immediate feedback to the video. Feedback can give the company insights on what consumers want from their product, what other improvements that could be made, what their perception and image is of the product and the company, and even what they think of the advertising campaign.

With regard to PR, companies can post videos that promote a good corporate image and reputation. These videos can also serve as CSR efforts in a way that could arouse the emotions of people to contribute to the cause.

Then again, as with any communication effort, every viral video should be able to cater to its target audience. A video might be viral, but it should still find its way to those people it intends to talk to.

Now, let’s look at some campaigns.

Two years ago, Colgate launched a viral video campaign that is targeted towards Filipino YouTube-rs. They jumped on the Chinese boys hype and thought of creating a contest for people to lipsynch to the Itchyworm’s “Akin Ka Na Lang” song while of course, promoting the Colgate brand. It’s basically a lipsynching contest with huge cash prizes and other cool gadget giveaways. The videos were uploaded to colgatefreshconfidence.com, but today, the domain seems to have already expired.

I remember that a lot of young people have taken Colgate’s challenge and some of the videos I watched back then (yes, the adverts did their job of persuading me) were really funny. People have been so creative with their lipsynching (what with the costumes), it’s ridiculous. I forgot the exact video that won, but the campaign was a success with all the people that entered. What’s more is that Colgate has been able to associate its Fresh Confidence (with Cooling Crystals) brand of toothpaste with the youth and how they could have fun by using it.

Then there is Bayantel’s Lola Techie. Her name is oxymoronic in a sense that people don’t usually associate grandparents (or old people) with technology. Lola Techie showed that Lolos and Lolas are never too old enough to use the internet (and consequently, get Bayantel broadband).

Aside from the TV commercials that Bayantel launched, they also created Lola Techie’s own YouTube channel. Since Lola Techie is the coolest grandma netizen around, she should definitely have a YouTube account and profile. Her other adventures are featured on her channel, with her videos garnering more than 20,000 views each.

Bayantel targeted the Filipino family in this campaign. By using a grandparent figure, they were able to arouse that familial feeling in family members. They are encouraging families to keep in touch with each other by getting a Bayantel broadband. Besides, if Lola Techie (read: your grandma) is already on the Web, using Bayantel, shouldn’t you? (You can check out her channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/lolatechie)

Third, Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty released several videos on the Internet for the cause. One video showcased different women who are not considered beautiful by society’s standards. One woman is “too old,” another has freckles and so on. Another has visuals of different women and children (again those who do not meet society’s standards of beauty) smiling and confident with themselves and accompanied by “True Colors” as its soundtrack.

Each of the videos amassed more than a million views each. The videos are emotionally moving as they aim to raise the self-esteem of women and girls who have insecurities about their physicalities. These viral videos have somehow helped people around the world become aware of Dove’s CSR campaign and its message.

In conclusion, the power of a viral video rests on its ability to be viral. More than it being an advertising, marketing, or PR tool, it’s also a gauge of how many people the communicator has reached and a measure of how they have accepted it. While the number of hits is usually the measure of a viral video’s success, companies should also look at the video’s comments, WHO viewed it, how many actually SHARED it, and TO WHOM they shared it to. This way, they can get feedback on both their product and their campaign, and even see if they have been able to reach their target audience. At the end of the day, it is still the communication effort that is the focus.

One Size Fits All

It was last week when this year’s JMA Executive Board of Governors and Board of Governors had a meeting at Wendy’s. We were thinking about how to remind old members that we are still accepting membership renewals and at the same time, to encourage students to become new members. Ate Grace told Zid to post announcements on the JMA Facebook page. And then Mina remarked that having a Facebook page or an SNS account for that matter is really very useful for quick information dissemination.

And that’s where I got the idea for this week’s post.

The use of new social media, social networking sites, and the internet is not just limited to big companies. Just about anybody can have their own niche on the net.

Student organizations in particular have taken advantage of the fact that today’s generation of students are perpetually connected to the internet. It has become really easy to make announcements on having general assemblies or promotions for upcoming activities and events or to share information with their members over the web.

Let me give some examples.

JMAUPM posted several announcements for membership renewals and applications on Facebook. The collaterals included the procedures and requirements for the membership process. Old members were tagged in the membership renewals post and potential applicants were tagged in the membership applications post.

JMA UPM's Facebook page

OrComSoc put up collaterals announcing upcoming activities and events. A post inviting students to have their pictures taken at the Sorci Age by Wacoal photo booth is shown below.

OrComSoc's Facebook page

UP AdHere had a totally online membership renewal process last summer. AdHere members didn’t have to worry anymore about getting forms and submitting them to the execom when classes started. The organization also encouraged their creative teams to put up online portfolios to showcase all their ads for the accounts they have handled.

UP AdHere's Facebook page

UP AdHere's WordPress page

These organizations also have their Yahoo Groups where they can share files and also post messages. Classes have also taken advantage of this web service. Lectures, presentations, and readings from their professors and even from their classmates can be uploaded on the group so that the students can conveniently access them.

OC 105 Yahoo Group

I remember when our batch held the OrCom 25th Anniversary Conference. As part of the Marketing and Publicity Committee, I was one of the administrators for the OrCom Conference page on Facebook. I posted the digital copies of our marketing collaterals and tagged not only my batchmates but also 1st, 2nd, and 4th year OrCom majors. Ate Grace and I also used the Events feature on Facebook to invite everyone to the Conference. Even our friends from other courses were invited. It’s a useful feature that provides an RSVP function to the one invited. It also serves as a reminder to those who have accepted the invitation.

OrCom Silver Conference's Facebook page

Student organizations can also use e-mail blasts for information directed solely at their members. Not to mention that it’s also a convenient way to send files and other messages between individual members, teams, or sub-committees.

Aside from all these, these social networking sites and other forms of social media provides an avenue for feedback. Members and even non-members can comment and give their insights and opinions on the organization’s activities. The organization can use the feedback to improve their efforts and create more activities that address the needs of their members and the student community as a whole.

The best thing is that having pages on social networking sites free of charge. Student organizations who have limited finances will have no worry about paying for a domain. They can have full online presence just from having pages on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, WordPress, Multiply, and other sites.

So it’s not just the big companies and businesses that can have advantage of the internet. Even student organizations, however small they are, can too. More often than not, these organizations are the ones who know the full potential of the internet.

The Virtual Exchange

The virtual hunt is on.

I typed in the name of the first company on my list. This big company’s website took a bit of time to load. Figures. The page contained a lot pictures and images. I browsed through their products and thought that I could get them to sponsor the snacks for our event. I clicked their “Contact Us” tab and saw a form. I typed in my name, e-mail address, and my inquiry. I hoped to hear from them soon. A day later, I received a reply from a customer care representative. He asked me to specify the kind of product (beverages, food products, etc) or the department  that I wanted to ask the sponsorship from. For a few seconds, I stared dumbly at the screen and slowly asked myself, “may ganun? Sige, kayo na ang mayaman.”

So what did I learn from this experience?

Aside from making my and the company’s lives easier by specifying the kind of product I wanted from them, I appreciated the effort of the company to provide customer service. I sent the inquiry with the expectation that I would receive a reply days later or even receive none at all. I was just a simple student requesting a sponsorship from this big company who receives hundreds of inquiries per day. The prompt reply made me feel that the company really takes stock on its customers.

So what am I saying?

More than bridging geographical and logistical divides, the internet has been able to bring the customer and the company closer. Through company websites and even fan pages on Facebook, customers can easily reach big corporations. They can send in their inquiries and provide comments and feedback on products and services. On the other hand, companies have been able to extend their reach to more and more customers through the internet. They use the internet to provide information on products and services, to extend customer service, to gather feedback, and even to an extent, do market research.

The possibilities are endless for companies who have realized the full potential of the internet and new social media. They know that their websites, Facebook fan pages, and even Twitter accounts are extensions of their physical selves. How they look online and how they respond to netizens are as important as the way they greet their customers at the door.

These companies also realize that the internet and new social media have in a way, equalized their advertising efforts with the information and the opinions that netizens hold and share with one another. It’s not just about the company telling the audience how good their product is (but of course their product is good; it’s the best!). People are rating a product more and more from what their peers are saying about it. Thing is, companies should look at what netizens are saying about their products and services. Those product review forums are gold mines for points of improvement.

Another trend that I have been noticing these days are online CSR efforts. CSR ventures such as Modess with its Modess Angels and Dove with its Campaign for Real Beauty are very much alive through the internet. A Facebook fan page may look to be so simple a strategy, but the amount of hits and the amount of “Likes” are enough to show you how much the campaign has reached. That one Facebook fan page can bring awareness with just one click.

Buti nalang hindi ka lang basta babae!

Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty

New social media also encourages small businesses to flourish. A lot of entrepreneurs found their niche on the web. Online stores are abundant on Multiply where owners display pictures of their products. I have friends who sell stuff on the web, and I too am among their customers. Some of the best finds are hidden away among these online ukay-ukay shops. And you don’t
even have to scour through Divisoria to get them. All it takes is one click or one tap on the touchpad.

If only the neighborhood sari-sari store has a Multiply site.

Bottom line is that the internet and consequently, new social media have not only changed the way we communicate, but they have also greatly affected businesses and companies. New social media have brought companies and customers closer and even levelled the field between big corporations and individuals.

Again, it’s all just about how to use new social media, or any other kind of media for that matter, to your advantage.

.gov.ph

There is something about a building or an office that screams “GOVERNMENT OFFICE.” I think you would know what I mean by that.

If there is a physical location for government offices, then there should also be a place for them in cyberspace. Individuals and companies are not the only ones on the web. Governments too. Since the internet is such a good medium for information dissemination, governments (and their agencies) realized that they could reach a whole lot more of their constituents rather than PSAs over trimedia outlets. Their websites can include news items, a list of services offered, the agency’s profile, projects, programs, and so much more.

Agencies like the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), and the National Statistics Office (NSO) have their procedures for their services posted on their websites. Even more, the DFA and the NSO is offering online applications for documents. One doesn’t need to wait a whole day in line just for a passport application. Your birth certificate is just one click away from your doorstep.

It’s kind of refreshing to see that the government is taking steps to be more efficient in information dissemination and delivery of services. It’s good that they saw the potential of the internet and worked it to their advantage.

While I can see that there is a definite level-up in many “.gov.ph” sites, I think that there is a still lot more work to be done. Going back to my first statement, there is just something about a building that makes you identify it as that of the state. Aside from the large Ionic or Corinthian pillars, there is that smell (I tell you, my nose can smell government a mile away) of  history or old-ness, if you may. Likewise, I can easily identify if a website is a “.gov.ph.” Well, duh, there is that “.gov.ph” tag and the headers, but there is something about the colors (or the lack thereof) and the layout that is particularly distinct.

A lot of “.gov.ph” websites that I’ve visited is less than satisfactory. Some have layouts that looked as disorganized as my desk. Some have cluttered the page with news items, announcements, and links that would have been so informative had they been organized better. You would already get a sense of information overload without even clicking on one news items. And then there are those that have no content at all. While others are disgustingly obese with information, others have a skeleton for a website. Some just have no aesthetic appeal whatsoever. In the internet, appearances are everything. It’s so easy to click the X button on top of the tab. Somehow, these websites affect the credibility of the information contained in them and that of the agency itself. When I see a government website that makes my head hurt rather than enlightening it, I tend to think “what did you expect? It’s government. I’d wait in line for several hours anyway.” Then I hit “Close.”

So what, then? I think that how a website looks reflects the the personality of an individual or the values of an organization (not to mention, their aesthetics). With regard to government websites, some give me the impression of inefficiency. Yes, there are more important work to do rather than maintaning the website. Yes, we would have to deal with these agencies whether we like it or not. Then again, if these agencies have it in their mandate to serve the people, they should fulfill it to the fullest. Public
service is not just working in the frontlines and in offices. Public service is to keep people informed, to provide services in a way that will not inconvenience Filipino citizens, and to be as efficient as the bureaucracy can permit.

I am not asking for a site that runs on Flash. I am not asking for a site that has “palabok.” I am simply asking for a clean page that provides me with the information and the services I need.

Even if it’s “just” a website, government agencies should realize that it is already part of their service to maintain a site that can provide adequate information. Private companies have realized long ago that their official websites already makes or breaks them to their customers and clients. More than being a portal for information, websites can enhance an organization’s credibility. The quality of information and the look of professionalism that a website sports is more than enough evidence to say that this company means business.

So if the government means service, then its cyberspace counterpart should also mean service.

WWWebby

I remember when I first opened an internet browser. I was 8 or 9 years old then when I used to come along with my parents to their workplace. One time, my father got tired of me tailing him around the office, so he sat me in front of a computer unit and opened this window with the lighthouse icon. I read the name that appeared on the blue bar high up on the screen. It read Netscape. I looked curiously at Dad, and he typed in http://www.archiecomics.com. As soon as Archie appeared, I eagerly seized the mouse from my father and clicked happily around the screen. Somehow, I didn’t expect to see Archie, Jughead, Reggie, Betty, and Veronica anywhere else other than a comic book. And the website had games! Goodie!

A few years later, I got my own e-mail account which is still alive, kicking, and filled with Facebook feeds.

It was our generation that truly saw how the internet was born and how much it has flourished through the last two decades. We saw how the world wide web revolutionized information technology. The internet is a most amazing phenomenon.

When I was a whole lot younger, I watched cartoons and anime on the TV. I used to rush home in the afternoons just to catch the newest Ghost Fighter episode. Today, I just type in the name of any TV show in Google and watch the latest episode of the latest season free anytime and anywhere.

Years ago, I used to wait for the radio station to play my favorite song (ick, sounds like a line from a song). Now, I just download the latest songs from Limewire. Yes, I am a shameless pirate.

I also remember waiting for the paperboy to come with our daily subscription of the Philippine Daily Inquirer (read: Comics section). Today, I wait for the most recent news on http://www.inquirer.net.

I used to have 3-hour “telebabad” sessions with my bestfriend. Now, I can hold a YM conference with my whole barkada.

I could name so much more thens and nows. One thing is for certain, the internet has changed the way we obtain information and communicate with one another. The internet is the trimedia rolled into one and so much more. With the continuous advancement of technology, your imagination is the limit.

According to Microsoft’s mastermind, Bill Gates, the internet is still in its infancy stage. Well, if “WWWebby” here is still just a cute baby sucking his proverbial thumb, just think how big and how brilliant he will be when he grows to maturity.

Mr Gates mentioned that any new technology amplifies human potential. If the invention of the diesel engine, television, radio, telephone, and airplanes transformed all societies across the planet, the internet has the same impact. To quote Thomas Friedman, the world has shrunk to a size small. Every person, organization, company, corporation, business, and government are linked to everybody else. More than just being an infomation portal, the internet erased geographical, cultural, and logistical barriers to communication.

The internet has enabled individuals and businesses to communicate with clients, suppliers, and other working units immediately and in real time. Location and time are no longer issues. One just needs a computer (or a smart device for that matter), a modem, a wi-fi hotspot, a 3G or broadband connection, and poof! Deals closed, production started, merchandise shipped, products sold, profits made. The internet made business so much easier and so much less complicated.

On a personal level, the internet has made it possible for friends and relatives keep in touch with each other – whether Mom is just at the office or Dad is at an oil rig at the Middle East. It’s not unusual anymore for friendship to form between a Filipino and a Slovenian. I have one and we really get along well. It used to be just phone calls from cousins in the States to cousins in the Philippines. Today, I get to see how my cousin cracks up at a joke over the webcam. The internet basically makes sure that no one is an island. Hello, Facebook.

The internet has also become an avenue for individualism, creativity, advocacies, ideologies, and beliefs. Blogs and online portfolios helped individuals to make their mark on the world. NGOs and other concerned organizations coordinate humanitarian efforts and spread awareness through the web. Political and religious organizations use the internet to impart their beliefs and gain supporters.

More than anything, it cannot be stressed enough that the internet provides the whole world with information. Pretty much everything that one needs to know is in at least one website or webpage. If something does not exist in the internet, it doesn’t exist anywhere.

Another way of looking at the internet is that it is the epitome of globalization. In fact, globalization is possible because of the internet. No other technology can bring about globalization. While it is true that other modes of communication (telephones, cellphones) and other advances in human technology (airplanes, satellites) have more than facilitated communication all over the world, the impact of the creation of the internet has shattered every conceivable boundary. Because the internet made it easier to become connected to other individuals, companies, and countries all over the world, anything and eveything that happens affects anyone and
everybody else.

Then again, let’s not fool ourselves with the glamour of the internet. As with any other form of technology, it is not without risks.

Since it is easier to conduct business through the internet, anyone can buy something from anywhere. Governments may have problems in regulating the movement of products. While the internet can move economies, it can also move the black market. It is relatively easy to bypass security barriers and disappear without a trail. Remember those movies which feature a nuclear weapon being stolen right from under the noses of the army? That can be made entirely possible. It just takes a computer, an internet connection, and a kick-ass hacker.

On the topic of security, it is very important to address problems in this area. Personal and financial information are being transmitted through internet sites to better manage one’s finances or other personal and official affairs. You just might wake up one day and find that someone has bought a brand new car using the credit card number that you used to buy  your plane ticket. Not to mention those spyware and viruses that your computer can contract while you are surfing the web.

The same goes with businesses. They can lose millions of money if some unscrupulous hacker infiltrates their records and finances.

While the internet is such a rich ground for information, there may be issues with the credibility of the sources. You can trust the official sites and pages of academic institutions or those of other established organizations, but there are ones that carry wrong or at least misrepresented data. Furthermore, there are issues on intellectual property rights. Piracy has become rampant with the use of torrents and a personal favorite, Limewire or other sites and softwares. On the other hand, other people can steal YOUR ideas and YOUR intellectual property.

Another problem with the internet is the proliferation of all kinds of content, including sex and violence. Even though some measures are undertaken to limit kids and minors to access certain websites, let’s face it, no one listens to those PG warnings anyway. You can just age yourself to 10 years in the future and no one will be the wiser.

Also, unsavory characters prowl around the web. Just as you can’t trust certain people who walk down the street, you can’t trust everyone you meet over the internet – in chatrooms or boardrooms. You may think that you are safe behind your computer, but these people know how to get to you wherever you are.

These are some issues and risks that we all have to be careful of and as much as possible, to minimize. The internet is undoubtedly one of the best inventions of mankind. So far. And even then, every innovation would have to spring from this.

As with the invention of the diesel engine, the internet has changed and will forever change human technology.

What is hard to imagine is not what the future of internet holds, but a world without it. It’s that simple.

P.S.

This is the link for Bill Gates’ Shaping the Internet Age:

http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/exec/billg/writing/shapingtheinternet.mspx

The Frontlines

Hello everyone, welcome to attackofthelines.

It’s kind of strange writing (and for that matter, keeping) this blog. I actually have a “serious” blog – the creation of which is mandated by OrCom 152. Not that this is all because keeping the blog comprises 15% of my grade in said subject.

Therefore, this is primarily going to be a communication blog, where I post most valued learnings on the subject. Again, because of OrCom 152.

Okay, I will stop with the OrCom 152 bit. Damn, I did it again.

But seriously, I think that keeping a blog of this nature will be a chance for me to grow in terms of my writing and critical thinking. This endeavor will also be an avenue of continuously discovering and learning more and more about my chosen field of study (and work), namely, Organizational Communication.

If there is anything I have learned from my degree program, it is that most of the learning experience happens outside the classroom – along the corridors, during the work  sessions at Coffee Bean, the late night YM conferences, the hushed conversations amidst stacks of books in the library, the long hours of video production work.

Learning is a never-ending battle between the world and your own inertia. You wish for sleep and relaxation, but the looming deadlines and inevitable exams make it practically impossible for you to even close one eye.

In a deeper sense, you have to win countless wars to grow as an individual. The battle scars that have been embedded into your skin do not mean that you were too weak to dodge or fight off the enemies’ bullets. They are reminders of what you have withstood in order to live and survive.

But I am getting ahead of myself, and probably getting way off topic. This is still a communication blog after all.

So let’s talk about communication. The reason why I named this blog attackofthelines is because everyday, one is bombarded with every mode of communication possible. With the proliferation and continuous growth of communication technologies, it is quite impossible to shield yourself from these unrelenting attacks. Everyday, new trends make their way into the battlefield, forever changing the communication landscape. The challenge is not how to defend yourself, but how to use these trends and technologies to YOUR advantage. You should also be able to recognize which would do more harm and good. Then again, you should be able to go for what is best for you and your comrades.

After all, communication wins and loses battles. It can be that one spark which would start or end wars. Note that wars mean a whole variety of communication situations.

Communication can either make or break a person. It can win or lose elections. It can gain or lose trust. It can ring triumphs or bellow warnings. It can save or ruin reputations. It can be the success or the downfall of an organization. It can either sell products or bankrupt a corporation.

It is my and your responsibility to wield such a powerful weapon. Let us use it well.

——————-

On a lighter note, I’m no newbie when it comes to blogging. I keep a personal blog at a place right under people’s noses should they care to sniff it out. I look different outside my work clothes and whatever serious toxic business I carry out here is the complete opposite of what I post there. That blog contains teenage angst (I do believe I still look like a teenager although that ship has long sailed),the kilig moments that I am prone to have, the stories of dreams that I would rather be realities rather than fantasies, and so are those that have been the result of too much boredom (hello, memes).

I also keep a writing blog where I keep my short stack of short stories, but it is only for those of strong wills and tough inner organs. There is more than one reason why I like the color green.

Then again, innocence is never my strong suit. And so is coherence.

Peace out!