Archive for July, 2011

This. Right here. Is my. Cousin.

Monday, July 25th, 2011

It’s no secret that everyone in my family just oozes awesome. I don’t know if it’s because I exude wonderfulness to the people around me, or if it’s because I surround myself with amazing people (can’t it be a little of both?), but either way, my family is talented. This includes my cousin, Randy Crawford.

When we were little kids, Randy was always my go-to guy for listening to the band 3rd Bass and cruising around for chicks. He was, and still is, a talented rapper and musical talent, a fact proven when, later on in his life, he wrote songs for hit rap artist Toby Mac. He’s been underneath the radar and has been working his ass off, but, being the good guy that he is, he put his musical dreams on hold to help out his dad in the tiling business and raise a family for the last 20 years. But good karma, I believe, always comes back to those who deserve it, and now, he’s finally getting a chance to peruse his dreams.

Randy recently created a music video called “Friend Zone.” Performed by his band Webster County, the video and song tells of the trials and tribulations of a young man stuck in the dreaded “friend zone” by a pretty blonde (who happens to be his wife in real life). Basically, it tells the story of every nice boy who has heard the sentence “I love you like a brother” more times than he can count. Filled with romance, peril, sweet effects, cool costumes and a catchy beat, this music video, to say the least, rocks.

Check out his video on YouTube. It’s very bubblegum-fun with a retro-twist, a la DJ Jazzy Jazz and Fresh Prince and their single “Parent’s Just Don’t Understand.” If I do say so myself, it, like my cousin Randy, is pretty awesome.

Getting blasted into the friends zone has never been so cool.

I’m Steve, and I use Google+

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

The social media tool on everyone’s lips these days is Google+ (Google Plus). Basically, it’s an expanded, more relevant Twitter, or, as I also heard it described, “Facebook’s older brother.” Whatever you want to call it, you can’t deny that it’s definitely gotten a lot of people’s attention: Google+ already has 10 million users, according to the Chicago Tribune article “Google Plus adding value to life or guilt?” And this doesn’t even include the number of people who want to join, but have to wait for invites from their already-invited friends.

One of the great things about Google+ is that it gives you the ability to allow you to put your friends in different “circles,” categorizing the people you know in neat, easy compartments. Google+ initially give you generic categories, such as “friends” and “families,” but also let you create and build up circles personally catered to your needs.  What’s nice is that you can decide whether you want to see everyone’s updates, or just updates from a specific circle, and vice versa when it comes to posting your own updates. This concept of the “circle” is brilliant, and is more in-your-face as Facebook’s “groups” and friend categorization. It’s the first thing you see when you add a new person, making Google+ more persona-based, and putting the focus on people and actual social interaction, as opposed to just the user themselves.

One other cool thing about Google+ (that I have yet to try) is the concept of a “hangout.” Users can get together with members in their friend groups and video conference with as many people as they want. This is a feature that Skype users have been lusting after, and, if used correctly, may add to Google+’s growing reputation. Google+ also gives you the option to instantly upload photos from your phone to a private album (and you can customize who you want to share them with later). Huddle, another unique feature, is a way to group-chat via text from your phone.

I feel like the only thing Google+ needs now is to take action and open up its doors to everyone, and allow businesses to create their own pages. They’re in the trial period right now, so the seeming exclusivity is understandable, but as soon as Google can, they should start to grab as many people and companies right away. Since Google+ is the talk of the town, it would be wise for them to move and engage everyone in profiling and huddling and +1ing (a feature similar to the “like” button on Facebook that allows you to show what you like all over Google), now, while they’re still intrigued and (for some) fed up with Facebook. The good news is that Google seems to recognize that. According to Patch article “Tech Trends: Google Plus Forges Ahead, ” Google+ is making businesses one of their top priorities, and “site developers are tweaking the platform for the business community.”

With all the popularity it’s gaining, it’s easy to forget that Google+ is actually a Google beta app, which means it’s still in the developing stages and that there will most likely be some glitches from time to time. However, that’s no reason to diminish its value. Here at JB Chicago, we are excited to see where this new social platform will fit into businesses’ marketing strategies and personal users’ lives. The geniuses at the Google Lab should be proud.

Clearly, we're all really. Really excited.Find

Find me on Google+: gplus.to/stevegaither. Also, check out TechRepublic’s article on the “Four ways Google+ will end up in your workplace.”

Less “restricting,” more opportunities

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

On May 11, we noticed that Facebook put out a statement citing changes they made in their Promotions Guidelines—the rules for governing the way business pages run their contests for users. Like anything that has more than four bullet points and contains the word “guidelines” in the title, it’s easy to pretend like it doesn’t exist.  However, in the past few weeks, pages have been shut down due to their resistance to follow the changes, so it’s a good idea to take a closer look at the terms of service.

First of all, think of the Guidelines not so much as “completely revamped,” but “more defined.” A lot of the terms of service spelled out in the recent Promotions Guidelines were also in the “old” version as well. For example, the fact that you can’t “use Facebook features or functionality as a promotion’s registration or entry mechanism” (“liking” a page, for instance) is something that was established already. This clause is there because, well, a: there’s a chance that they don’t want to “win a lifetime supply of coffee” (or something equally wonderful), and b: Facebook wants to cut down on the amount of “‘spam tactics’” businesses could use to “promote their pages,” according to Advit Sahdev in his article “Understanding Facebook’s Promotions Guidelines.” The contest is about the business itself, not the fact that the business has a page, and Facebook wants to cut down on the spam so users don’t get annoyed. Another part of the guidelines state that businesses can’t notify winners of a contest through any Facebook means, like posts or messaging, which, again, was already an establish rule. It’s only done to protect winners from essentially getting harassed. As an extreme example that properly illustrates this point: writing on Katherine’s wall “Congratulations on winning a brand new airplane,” may look harmless, but what happens when people start to bombard Katherine with requests to be flown around everywhere? Maybe this is news Katherine would like to keep private.

The way it worked before is that a user would like your page, then to enter in the contest, would be taken to  your contest page where they would be prompted by Facebook connect. This would get their permission to give away email information, and would take them to the contest site. It worked, though it was a bit of a hassle. Now, thanks to the creation of iFrames, you can run your whole website into FB, i.e., you can stick your whole contest page into a box.

Click to enlarge this handy-dandy, simplifying chart.

Because this makes things easier, Facebook wanted to make sure that businesses follow all the guidelines, especially the ones about how a like does not equal an entry, or how businesses can’t inform users that they won via Facebook. So nothing has “changed,” per say; they’re just cracking down and making businesses take a harder look at the fine print, which is a fair deal, considering they’ve given us iFrames and made putting sites on Facebook pages, making contest sign-ups and sharing a heck of a lot easier than it used to be.

See the Facebook Promotions Guidelines.