The proliferation of technology enables Americans to spend their days in a virtual world - spending more time in communities like Second Life, the Sims, Xbox, and Facebook than on the pavements of their physical neighborhoods. But at the same time, technology has the capability to change the way people think about and interact with their community.
How can the government use technology to improve interactions with our physical communities?
I recently attended a PSFK conference in which a co-founder of Foursqaure, Naveen Selvadurai, illustrated how software can change human behavior. He related the story of Foursquare's origins by noting that the co-founders wanted to create a culture of exploring. A culture of getting out of the house & office and into new neighborhoods or businesses. In that pursuit, they created an application that rewarded individuals based on discovery. And their success in changing behavior is evident by the 100,000 daily new virtual users that they push into physical communities for exploration.
For the 2010 US Census, the Census Bureau should have made two calls - one to IBM and another to an interactive agency. It's time for the US government to realize the role of technology in everyday life by investing in platforms that support their offices. At the same PSFK conference referenced above, the CIO of the NY State Senate, formerly of NASA, showed how technology can help citizens participate in the law-making process. Under his direction, the NY State Senate incorporated advanced search & social tools that enable citizens to find issues they care about, join the conversation by leaving comments, contact their local representative, and then watch the live debate of the bill they ostensibly helped draft. So I wonder how the US Census Bureau could have used technology to not only change our perception of our physical community, but also encourage us to get out and explore.
Here are some thought-starters...
Where the Sidewalk Takes Me: The technology and marketing communities are abuzz with the idea of location-based services (LBS). At the same time, consumers are abuzz about reviews and ratings. The US Census could have contributed to the +100,000 apps currently in-market by combing our thirst for LBS and reviews. Through a census application, American's could have entered locations in their community (e.g. businesses, schools, grocery stores), provided comments/ratings, and then used the application to inform where they shopped, dined and sent their kids to school. Ultimately, giving Americans virtual access to their community may have inspired them to view and interact with their physical community differently. << Developers could have taken nods from Google Earth 3D, Foursquare, Twitter Places, and Yelp.>>
Keeping me on the Sidewalk: Ever wonder how much you should be paying in utilities? Wonder if you'd save more money if you moved to another part of town? Well, had the census lived in a cloud, then Americans could have immediately begun seeing the benefits of crowd-sourced data. And the US Census Bureau wouldn't have to do anything except collect data and make it accessible through an API. Once that happens, technology companies would have been inspired to develop platforms to make information accessible and useful to Americans - helping them make smarter decisions and feel connected to their neighbors. << Developers could take a nod from Trulia, Bundle, and Yahoo! Answers.>>
Building a Larger Sidewalk: The reason the census occurs every 10 years is due to the significant cost of the manual planning and execution process. If more of the census' $15 billion budget was invested in technology then we could probably have a continual flow of data through a cheaper, more innovative process. Imagine if you could take the census through text message as you waited for an airplane, a kiosk at the grocery store, from the Xbox as your game loaded, or an application on your Samsung TV, Verizon Fios cable box, Sony Dash, or car.
The reality is, because our society is so wired that we have the potential to continuously gather data from Americans making the census more relevant and useful. It's time for the government to invest in technology; it's time for the government to have a digital AOR.
- Kai D. Wright
Last week, Kevin Colleran, one of the first employees of Facebook and current Director of National Sales, stopped by Organic's NY office to answer a few questions. As we notice more and more companies jumping into the social media pool, we asked him to stop by to give a state of the union on Facebook.
Here are some highlights from our chat with Kevin about Facebook:
1. Brand pages...everyone from Starbucks to Obama have a page now. What's a little known fact about them?
Since they're free to setup, then companies sometimes build robust experiences - namely in the tabs. But, robust features don't outweigh quality content. At the end of the day, the vast majority of your fans do not continuously visit the fan page but will see the newly posted content in their News Feeds. And, with increased adoption of Become a Fan buttons, many never have to go to a brand page to express their affinity.
2. Over the past two years, Facebook has made significant changes to the user experience. What's been the result?
Many people visit Facebook every other day online. And with the mobile phone applications and mobile site, they're visiting in more places. You'd be surprised to know that 90% of the time people spend on Facebook is concentrated on the homepage newsfeed.
3. In terms of moderating conversation, what should we know?
First, know that all communications must occur in public. We don't allow brands to private message fans like individuals can private message each other. We block private messaging to avoid spamming. Second, by default, comments on the fan page Wall are turned on. So, when a brand posts something, then members have the right to comment. The only way for comments not to appear is if they're taken down by the page administrator(s). If you don't have a dedicated staff to monitor the page, then find a vendor that can auto-moderate by rejecting inappropriate comments and holding other comments until they've been manually approved. Expect these services to start at $2-3K monthly.
4. Should we remove pages created by people that bear the name and/or logo of our brand?
At first, it may seem that these user-generated pages are good - after all, who doesn't want users to generate positive content for your brand. But, things can go two ways. What if they start saying inappropriate things? What if they start misrepresenting themselves as employees? At the end of the day, these user-generated pages are liabilities. And as much as it may pain you to shut-down one of these pages, is the liability worth it?
We recommend brands migrate the fans of user-generated brand pages to the brand's official brand page. For current members of these pages, it's a seamless experience. How do you think Coca-Cola got to be the #2 brand on Facebook with over 3MM fans... it's mostly because they combined all the user-generated pages.
5. I'm noticing more and more brands integrating Facebook
into advertising. For instance, T.G.I. Friday's is running television
spots in which they've promised to give free hamburgers when their page
reaches 500K fans. What are other ways to bring attention to your fan
Here's three things - ranging from free to paid. The cheapest way is to use a "Become a Fan" button on your homepage. If someone is already logged into Facebook, then clicking on the button adds them as a fan without having to leave your site. Second, you can put a link to your Facebook page in your communications - emails, newsletters, etc. Lastly, consider buying a roadblock on Facebook. We've noticed great success in growing the number of fans on pages with this type of media buy.