Monthly Archives: August 2012

Your Baby Can’t Read- It’s Just false & Deceptive Advertising

At 9 months old, most babies are just starting to babble, crawl and pull themselves up. Have you ever met one who can read?

If you ever saw an ad for “Your Baby Can Read” and still had doubts afterward about children as young as 9 months old actually being able to read, you are not crazy.  These ads promoting the program were nothing but fiction, says the Federal Trade Commission, who just filed false and deceptive charges against them.

The charges come as another huge blow to Your Baby Can, LLC, which was forced to close its doors last month.  The settlement with the company and its president and CEO prohibits the defendants from further use of the term “Your Baby Can Read” and imposes a $185 million judgment, which equals the company’s gross sales since January 2008.  How the company will pay back this money is questionable, considering they are already broke or pretty close to it.  When Your Baby Can went out of business last month, the company cited the high cost of fighting complaints alleging that its ads were false.

The lesson learned by Your Baby Can and all the other companies that are facing similar lawsuits is that false and deceptive advertising may seem like a great way to make fast and easy cash, but it will get you nowhere in the long run.  If a company is running ads that are not factually correct and deceive or mislead consumers, it is only a matter of time before the consumers will figure this out.  It probably didn’t take very long for parents to realize that their baby was not actually learning to read, and I’m sure it didn’t make them feel very good.

In this age of the internet and social media, these consumers who feel angry, disappointed or misled by a company have a place to publicly complain.  In many cases social proof causes these negative posts to spark comments and feedback from even more unhappy customers.  These negative posts are available for potential new clients to see and can be extremely destructive to a company.  In the case of Your Baby Can, it ruined their reputation.  When you search “Your Baby Can Read” on Google, almost all of the results on the first page are negative.  A majority of the related search suggestions refer to the words “reviews, scam, and does it work,” which will also lead to negative posts.

Companies should use this as a great lesson and example of where false and deceptive advertising will get you.  With all the information that consumers have access to today due to the internet and social media, it’s no longer as easy to get away with deceiving and misleading them.  Consumers should also learn a lesson from this case- if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

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What Has Marissa Mayer Been Up To At Yahoo?

Marissa Mayer was well-known during her time at Google for being obsessively dedicated to products like search and Gmail.  Now in her fourth week as the CEO of Yahoo, it’s not surprising that she has been quick to push the company to focus more on its products and users.

While Mayer has not unveiled a detailed strategic plan for Yahoo’s future, her actions at the company so far show that her approach differs from the more business-focused CEO’s like Scott Thompson and Ross Levinsohn.  Mayer is more interested in building great products than focusing on revenue.  She made this clear to her employees when she removed Yahoo’s stock ticker from its internal company website in an attempt to keep them from getting distracted by share fluctuations.

“I want you thinking about users,” Mayer has repeatedly been saying to Yahoo workers, according to people who have interacted with her.

This is not the first time we’ve heard that Mayer is looking to improve Yahoo’s core products. Last month, one source told All Things Digital’s Kara Swisher that under Mayer, Yahoo is “becoming a technology company again,” adding that her focus is on “platforms and products.”

The top Yahoo products that Mayer seems to be targeting are search and e-mail, according to the Wall Street Journal.  She has reportedly been meeting with Yahoo’s product leaders to determine why the company is losing market share in search and to figure out how to revamp it.  The company’s search sites hold a market share of 13.4%, as compared to Microsoft search sites that have 15.4% and Google Search sites, which hold 66.7%.

These products are so important because without them, users have no real reason to visit Yahoo.  Mayer has also told employees that she wants to develop or acquire Web services to take advantage of new technology platforms like social media, mobile devices and location services.

Last week Yahoo announced plans to sell its stake in Chinese Internet company Alibaba for $7 billion.  Mayer warned shareholders that she might not return to them the $7 billion, and my guess is that the money will be used strategically to grow the business.  If Mayer does keep the money, I bet she will spend a good amount of it on purchasing some startups with smart people and monetizable products built for social media and mobile.  I am personally rooting for Mayer’s success because I am eager to see epic new products that will give Yahoo the reinvention that it needs and make the Internet a better place for all of us.

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Google Launches “Emanuel” Update

There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to search the Internet for information and finding the same content on various different sites.  Hollywood talent agent Ari Emanuel feels the same way and has loudly pointed out his dislike for Google being able to filter out bad things like child pornography but not stolen content.  He pointed out that Google could be doing more to thwart digital piracy by helping to ensure that pirated content doesn’t find its way into the world’s largest search engine.

Mr. Emanuel should be pleased with the announcement that Google SVP Amit Singhal made on the company’s Inside Search blog on Friday, announcing that the company has launched a new update, dubbed the “Emanuel Update,” that will crack down on sites repeatedly accused of copyright infringement.

The blog post said:

“Starting next week, we will begin taking into account a new signal in our rankings: the number of valid copyright removal notices we receive for any given site. Sites with high numbers of removal notices may appear lower in our results.

This ranking change should help users find legitimate, quality sources of content more easily—whether it’s a song previewed on NPR’s music website, a TV show on Hulu or new music streamed from Spotify.”

Google decided to change its algorithm when they began to notice a large increase in the number of copywriter infringement complaints.  They are currently receiving and processing over 4.3 million complaints a month and they plan on using this data as a signal in their search rankings.

It’s not always easy for Google to look at content and determine who owns the copyright.  But by making use of Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) “takedown” requests, they can guess whether there’s copyright infringement taking place.  If there are a large number of DMCA requests filed against your site, you might want to watch out.  If not, sites with a lot of requests against individual pages may find all of its pages ranking lower in search results.

The ultimate goal of Google’s newest update is to continue to help users find good legitimate quality content efficiently.  The search engine has really come down hard on black hat SEO in the past year or so.  First the Panda update was released in February 2011 to crack down on sites with low quality content, specifically thin, stolen or duplicate content as well as sites with a high ad-to-content ratio.  Then on April 24, 2012 Google launched the Penguin update with the intention of reducing web spam and promoting high quality content in search results, penalizing sites that created or supported spam to increase their rankings.  Now Google is cracking down on copyright infringements for movies and music in their fight against unethical SEO practices.

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The Most Annoying People On Facebook

Excessive check-ins at boring places.  If you are somewhere truly awesome, fine.  But nobody cares that you are at Pet Smart buying cat food, at CVS picking up q-tips or pumping gas at the local Shell station.

Food photographers.  Once again, if you are truly somewhere awesome, fine.  But your omelette or turkey sandwich is not impressive.

Cheesy motivational speakers.  If one particular quote really speaks to you, fine.  But those who post these all day long really need a hobby.  I’ve also noticed that it’s usually the biggest disasters in life who are posting all of this motivational garbage.  Practice what you preach!

Too many quotes- most annoying people on Facebook

Pregnancy TMI.  Post a few belly pics and brief updates and leave it at that.  While in labor, please spare us on the nasty up-to-the-moment updates on what is happening.  Nobody cares how many centimeters your crotch is open or what is dripping out of it.  Just let us know when the baby is here.

TMI- Most annoying people on Facebook

Parent TMI.  We love cute kids, but we don’t care about every single poop they take.  19 posts a day about their every move is not necessary.

Parent messages.  “Mommy loves you soooo much.”  Instead of posting on Facebook to a bunch of people who are not your kid, why not set up an e-mail account for them and send these messages there for them to read someday?

Ghost whisperers.  I know it’s really sad when a loved one dies, but there is no reason to communicate with them, or wish them a happy birthday, through your Facebook status.

Vaguebookers.  Defined by Urban Dictionary as “An intentionally vague Facebook status update that prompts friends to ask what’s going on, or is possibly a cry for help.”  Either tell us exactly what happened or keep it to yourself.

Over-sharers.  Your ex-boyfriend got arrested last night and you bailed him out of jail.  While you’re ranting about what a loser he is, you look like just as much of a loser and I’m embarrassed for you.

Whiny constant complainers.  Nobody cares that you’re tired, your stomach hurts or you’re stuck in traffic.

Political ranters.  Facebook Gods, if you’re listening, please add a “hide political rants” button.

Chronic Inviters.  I know you mean well, but I don’t want to support your cause, sign your petition, play Mafia Wars with you or take your quiz.

Hashtags.  Facebook and Twitter are two different animals.

Timeline crybabies.  The next time you’re angry at Facebook and want to write a nasty status update, stop to remember that it’s free and you willingly signed up for it- and you can cancel it at any time.

“Liking” for a cause.  Money provides research for cancer and food and water for starving children in Africa- Not 50,000 likes.

Fighting couples.  Your 800 friends don’t need to know that you guys aren’t getting along. Work it out amongst yourselves!

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Face Recognition Marketing- Awesome or Too Much?

Facebook check-ins are a powerful way for businesses to reach out and offer deals to loyal customers, but very few (businesses and customers) have come to realize this.  It’s about to get a lot easier, thanks to a new technology that allows people to check-in just by showing their face- literally.

Red Pepper, an advertising agency that specializes in marketing technologies, has announced that it is in its final testing stage for Facedeals, a facial recognition- marketing app.

Facebook can already recognize faces and suggest the correct people to tag in pictures. Facedeals will use a similar technology, installing cameras at local participating stores.  If you opt into this service, the cameras will recognize your face when you pass by, based on pictures from your Facebook account.  The service will then simultaneously check you into that location on Facebook.  You will be sent customized offers and discounts based on your “Like” history.

The app uses facial recognition in an effort to connect in a more personalized way with consumers.  For businesses, there is no easier way to deliver customized deals.   ”At Red Pepper, we explore technologies that can create relevant ways for marketing to intersect with consumers and their lives, as provide some added values,” said Red Pepper’s business director, Samara Andreson.

As incredible as this technology sounds, it has generated criticism and panic from some who think it is a total invasion of privacy.  Andreson points out that the app requires voluntary acceptance and is not forced on anyone.

“The idea is not to invade privacy, which is a big issue right now,” Anderson said. “Your face wouldn’t be in any sort of database unless you opt into it.”

At this point does it even matter?  I thought a person’s privacy pretty much goes out the window the minute they create a Facebook account anyways.  Facebook already knows everything about most of us because we have voluntarily provided them with the information.  It knows where we go, when we go, who we go with and what we like, which helps them to understand why we do the things we do.

While I don’t feel particularly threatened by Facedeals, I do have a few questions for them before I would personally opt into this app.  Is there a setting that would let me approve the check-in before it goes to Facebook?  Or is there at least a setting that would let me approve the check-in before it’s posted for my 1,214 friends to see?  For example, if a raunchy strip club is one of the participating locations and I happen to walk past it, will a camera snap my face and automatically check me in there, even if I never went inside?  Am I going to receive a coupon for a free lap dance that I don’t want?  If I’m going to have to worry about stuff like that, it’s a deal breaker for me.

Would you opt in to Facedeals, or do you think it crosses the line?  Please share in a comment.

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I May Never Read A Book Again

It’s not because they all get adapted to movies these days (the books are still always much better).  It’s not because I’m lazy.  I just may never read a physical copy of a book again because I have begun reading my first e-book on my iPad and I am HOOKED.

I’m late to join the e-book trend because I’ve never been one to buy books.  I’ve never experienced a need to spend money on them.  How many times do you actually go back and read a novel?  As far as I’m concerned, there are plenty of good books out there that are on my to-read list, so why go backwards?  Of the 10 or 11 books that I have purchased in my adult life, a majority are coffee table books or children’s books that I kept in my bathroom.  They’re fun to pick up and glance at often, so I figure that I got my money’s worth.

One downside to e-books is that you can’t even loan the book to a friend when you’re finished with it.  There was this trilogy that I was dying to read.  All of my friends were raving about it, but none of them could loan it to me because they all read it on their Kindles and iPads.  I was a little annoyed, but I caved in and figured I’d try something new on my iPad.

Now I’m in love.  It’s so nice being able to have my computer, music player and reading materials all in one place.  I don’t have to turn pages or worry about bookmarks anymore.  What really sealed the deal was being able to read in bed at night.  I can read on my iPad in the dark, and once my eyes get heavy and I can barely stay awake I can fall asleep without having to get up and turn off the light.  That right there is enough to make me never want to read any other way again.

I can see this becoming an expensive habit.  When book #1 is finished and I’m dying to start #2, it’s going to be really tempting to just download it instantly.

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Don’t Worry, Be Appy!

In this age of smartphones and apps, we use our phones to do so much more than talk. Our mobile devices have virtually eliminated the need for everything from practical items such as day planners, digital cameras and wallets to novelty items that we probably never considered.  I mean, who wants to play Scrabble when you can just play Words With Friends?  (I’m being sarcastic- I played Scrabble about a month ago, as shown in the picture below.  But I know people who couldn’t be bothered with all those chips today.)

According to the Apple, there is over 500,000 apps available on their app store.  In March, the store hit 25 billion (with a “b”) downloads.  While we may not have yet created an app to cure cancer or end world hunger (although I’m sure there are some that are trying), people are now able to do some pretty awesome things from their computers, tablets and mobile devices.  Check it out:

Register to vote.  Candidates already use social media to get out the vote, so why not use social media to register to vote as well?  That question was answered last month, when Washington became the first state to allow voter registration through social media.  Microsoft developed the app at no cost for Facebook.  Registering through the social network makes the process a little easier because personal information such as your name and birthday are already stored.

Play Lazer Tag!  The game has been reinvented and upgraded for the smartphone era. With the new version, sold by Hasbro under the Nerf brand, you insert your phone into a Lazer Tag gun, launch the app and blast away.  The app is free but the blasters are $40 each and are designed only to hole the iPhone 4/4S or iPod Touch so far (sorry, Androids).

Get a cab.  The app GetTaxi allows users to order a cab via their computers or smartphones.  Once their order is made, the cab driver receives a notification with the person’s location.  Smartphone users are even able to track their cab through their GPS tracking.  GetTaxi has already hit it big in Russia, Israel and the U.K. and is set to hit New York City in the next few months.

Gamble.  As if Facebook isn’t addicting enough, its can now use it to gamble.  Available only in the U.K. so far, the app allows adults to play Bingo & Slots Friendzy with their credit card and PayPal accounts.

Check your heart rate on the go- by holding your iPhone up to your face.  Follow me closely on this one.  There is a new mobile app called Cardiio that’s about to be released that uses the iPhone camera sensor to detect your heart rate based off the amount of light reflecting off your face.  The company explains how the technology works on its site:

“Every time your heart beats, more blood is pumped into your face. This slight increase in blood volume causes more light to be absorbed, and hence less light is reflected from your face. Using sophisticated software, your iPhone’s front camera can track these tiny changes in reflected light that are not visible to the human eye and calculate your heart beat!”

Avoid traffic jamsWaze is a free GPS navigation tool for Android and iOS devices that is aware of traffic conditions including weather, accidents and hazards before it calculates a route for the user.  Waze also provides navigation to destinations such as grocery stores, pharmacies, restaurants and gas stations, showing the lowest gas prices in the area.

Upgrade your seats.  Pogoseat is a new service that lets fans upgrade their tickets and move to prime vacant seats during the middle of a sports game.  It’s a win-win for fans and the venue: fans get s a better view and the stadium can make a little extra money.  Using Pogoseat, fans can pull up a map of the stadium, and the appt recommends the vacant seats with the best views. After choosing their desired seat, users input their payment details and are able to move to their new spot immediately.

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Well-Placed Banners!

I wonder whether it was a man or woman who thought to do this.  Either way, I’m not complaining.

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How Social Media Helps and Hurts Romantic Relationships

Social media plays a huge role in romantic relationships today. It affects everything from the beginning, middle to the end and can make or break a couple.  Here are some of the ways that social media can be good for romantic relationships, as well as some advice on how to avoid the things that can hurt it.

How it can help relationships…

It’s another way to show support and cheer each other on.

Many people use social media to share what they are currently up to or working on.  People often share when they are training for a marathon, trying to eat healthier or putting in extra hours at the office hoping that it pays off.  These posts are an extra chance to show each other some support and say something nice.  While it shouldn’t replace words spoken aloud and actions, it’s an extra way to say “I love you,” “I care about you,” or “I’m thinking about you” sometimes.

It keeps you connected while apart. 

When done right, social media can be a nice point of contact while you are away from each other.  When people are busy and don’t have lots of time for their partner, social media can be used as a way to keep in touch.  A quick line on Facebook or monitoring each other’s tweets can help a couple feel that much more connected.

How it can hurt relationships…

It takes away some of the excitement.

One of the best parts of a new relationship is discovering a little bit more about each other each day.  But now being able to Google someone and read their Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace and Twitter profiles in full takes away a good amount of that initial mystery and intrigue out of getting to know someone.

It’s hard to hide the embarrassing parts of your past.

Remember that one night back in college that you got really sloppy, fell in the bushes, made out with three strangers, puked on yourself, passed out on the floor and then your roommate drew on your forehead with a sharpie?  I’m sure that night isn’t really something you brag about today, but what if someone had a camera that night?  The scary part is that you never know when one of these photos may resurface and be a huge embarrassment.  Not only will your significant other not appreciate it, but it can make you look bad to employers, clients and your peers.

In this age of social media, instant uploads and tagging, it’s more important than ever to be careful what you are photographed doing.  It’s also another good reason to make sure that you’re in a relationship with someone who loves and accepts you for who you are and won’t judge you for the silly things you did in the past.

It can cause unnecessary insecurity and jealousy. 

“Who’s Gloria?” I once asked my boyfriend about the woman who liked the sexy picture of him hanging out by the pool.  She turned out to be one of his mother’s friends.  Why she liked that picture, I have no idea.  Perhaps she has a secret crush on my boyfriend who is 30 years younger than her, or maybe she just liked the flowers in the background.  Either way, she’s not a threat at all but it still had me a little jealous.

In turn, my boyfriend has asked me a few times about questionable comments that guys have left on my page that were totally harmless.  Some of them were inside jokes, and I can see how they could be easily misinterpreted by an outsider.

How many of you can admit that Facebook has made you feel jealous or insecure at least once?

Some people think it’s the place to fight.

Repeat after me: “I will not fight with the person I love on social media.”  Why do some couples feel the need to air their dirty laundry to their 746 Twitter followers?  Aside from the two or three friends who might actually care, 743 people are rolling their eyes and laughing at how pathetic you are.  I’m embarrassed for any couple who fights it out online when they live together, own phones, or have any other method of fighting it out in private.

Oh, and maybe this makes me old-fashioned, but social media sites are not the place to break up with someone.  A study by Mashable reported that 21% of respondents said they would simply change their Facebook relationship status to break up with someone.  Yuck.

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Casey Kurlander, Search marketing Specialist, BMI Elite