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Making the Most of Communication Technology

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Making the Most of Communication Technology

Text messaging, online interaction and mobile media have already transformed the ways we communicate. The Pew Research Center reports that 56% of Americans now own smartphones. On an average day, 36.6 billion messages are sent via SMS-text message or chat apps like iMessage and WhatsApp. By 2014, that number is expected to surpass 50 billion messages. An increasing number of us spend most of our days using some form of electronic communication to manage workplace and personal relationships.

At the same time, few things can ruin a relationship faster than a miss-timed text or a message taken out of context. A report from Forbes, candidly entitled “Don’t Include Me On a Group Text Message Unless You’re Trying to Punish Me,” reminds us that the rules for proper e-communication etiquette are changing almost as quickly as the technology itself. Because communication technology holds such a prominent place in our daily lives, it’s more important than ever to consider how text messaging, email, and other mobile media are also changing how we build and maintain relationships.

The Upside

When it comes to the upside of communication technology, some of the most promising aspects involve improving collaboration and strengthening existing relationships. Initially, consumers are making good on professional and educational technologies that allow for increased collaboration. Three of the biggest providers of Cloud technology – Dropbox, iCloud, and SkyDrive – report a combined 675 million users. Google’s new(ish) Drive provides not only online storage, but also a platform for synchronous document editing across remote locations.

These types of technologies in addition to text messaging, instant messaging, and video-conferencing have created increased opportunities for convenient collaboration across time and space. In doing so, human communication experts argue that workplace relationships are strengthened in several key ways:

  • Co-workers develop close relationships that some describe are as comfortable as friendships. Text messaging, instant messaging and social networking at work allow employees convenience and efficiency in their communication, so these relationships develop rather quickly.
  • Employees also enjoy increased task interdependence, in that they can use communication technology to manage each other’s availability. When individuals are collaborating on a project, sometimes a quick text message or Google chat is appropriate to answer technical questions, without getting bogged down with the small talk that sometimes accompanies a face-to-face interaction.
  • Finally, employees often create a sense of community around their online collaborations. Communication technology simply brings more people to the table, allowing individuals to grow their social networks and online communities in ways previously limited by time and space. Such features are important in an expanding global marketplace.

These benefits of communication technologies are also evident in personal relationships. In an increasingly competitive and unpredictable economy, more families are living apart for employment purposes. This rise includes not only extended families, but also spouses and their children. As such, text messaging, videoconferencing, and mobile media are often vital technologies that families need to keep in touch. Additional benefits include:

  • A strengthening of existing relationships. Whereas text messaging is not always the most effective way to initiate and form a relationship, mobile communication devices help existing bonds stick together.
  • Combatting loneliness. One of the biggest risks that long-distance relationships face is loneliness, and videoconferencing, in particular, helps to alleviate the burdens of maintaining relationships across great distances.

The Downside

As more and more devices, programs, and platforms are developed, it is important to take a practical and somewhat cautiously optimistic approach to this topic – especially because of the downsides of our growing reliance on communication technologies. The drawbacks also focus on workplace and interpersonal relationship maintenance.

As workplaces become more connected and collaborative, there is a growing concern among organizational scholars that we’re becoming too plugged in. Employees are expected to do more with fewer resources, a phenomenon that Communication scholar Sharon Kleinman called the “culture of efficiency.” Communication technologies are a part of this culture, because they are believed to help speed up several of our workplace interactions. However, there are consequences for this emphasis on efficiency. Colleagues have grown to expect immediate responses to a text message. Employees are expected to respond to emails and text messages after work hours. These changes in communication practices also place significant burdens on workplace relationships.

  • Managers and supervisors now assume that their employees are “always on.” This can lead to work-family spillover, where individuals take time away from their personal relationships to deal with their workplace relationships – often without compensation.
  • The assumption of “always on” also increases the likelihood for employee burnout or other productivity problems – especially when individuals spend more and more of their days answering text messages and emails than doing the work that they’ve been hired to do.
  • Finally, if communication technologies have made workplace relationships more like friendships, then missing a text or failing to respond to an email immediately can prompt a much harsher reaction from our co-workers.

The workplace is not the only space where communication technologies often make our relationships more challenging. On an interpersonal level, text messaging, email, and videoconferencing do keep us more connected; however, they are not a magical fix for all relationship maintenance problems. Psychology Professor Mark Becker from Michigan State has argued that media multi-tasking, or using multiple communication technologies at once, is directly linked to increases in anxiety and depression. Communication scholar Lisa Stafford outlines some additional downsides that we might encounter when it comes to communication technology and personal relationships:

  • A loss of privacy and control. Individuals have little control over the texts or emails that they send, pictures that they post, or other communications that they put on the Internet. Those messages can be forwarded by well-meaning friends or family members in ways that the original sender never intended.
  • Paradox of constant connection. Text messaging can help romantic partners stay close even when they are apart; however, some partners get annoyed when their significant other interrupts them during work or time with their friends.

Developing Your Tech Etiquette

When it comes to managing the upsides and downsides of communication technology, there is no lack of tips for text messaging or rules for relationships. The most important lesson, however, is to develop your own tech etiquette. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Be mindful with your messages. In other words, think before you text. Think about how and when the person on the other end will receive your message, as well as any follow-up messages (e.g., be wary of tech features like group messaging, because they often lead to unnecessary disruptions in the receiver’s day).
  • Take safety seriously. No matter how good your privacy settings are, if you don’t want something public, then don’t post it to the Internet. Additionally, be careful mixing your work and home texts. The Supreme Court has ruled that your employer has the right to view any text messages sent from a work phone – no matter how private you think they are.
  • Formality is ok. LOL, SMH, and other abbreviated text-speak are not for everyone – there is nothing more awkward than a well-meaning grandmother who thinks LOL means lots of love. Chat apps like iMessage and WhatsApp have taken over the market from SMS text messaging, meaning that text messengers can now squeeze in many more characters in a single text. And it’s ok – preferred even, when it comes to business and professional settings – to ditch the text-speak and start using full sentences and proper grammar.
  • Turn it off. Give your brain, your anxiety levels, and your ego a break and turn off the technology every once in a while. The world will go on if you miss a text message. Some industry professionals even suggest declaring “email bankruptcy,” (e.g., kicking up your out-of-office notification to tell senders to re-send their message next week, because you’re not reading anything this week). It’s more important for you to pay attention to other relationship maintenance practices that get lost when we rely on too much technology. Balancing our use of technology with other forms of communication – like a good old face-to-face conversation – is an important part of managing healthy relationships.

How do you think communication technology has changed your relationships?

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This Article was written by Marianne LeGreco, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Her research focuses on organizational and health communication, and she has published research on using communication technology to assist with community-based initiatives.

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Android Phones: Your Phone May be a Zombie

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Zombie PhoneZombie talk is all over the web and in the news these days. From reported “zombie” attacks to the latest titles at Netflix and Redbox, zombies have become a common word on the lips of the world. Now we are getting news of a new type of zombie, and the terrifying thing is: it is right next to you… You don’t have too much to worry about though; these zombies can’t attack you, because they are your cell phones.

In an independent report from researchers at Microsoft and Sophos Labs, evidence has been found that a group of criminals has secretly composed an android-based botnet, linking cell phones on the android platform to work together as drones – or zombies – in order to send out spam in the form of emails.

The spam being sent out is not new, it consists of advertisements for Viagra, Cialis, and the usual spam you might find in your inbox. Who is this person that transforms your cell phone into a zombie? Well, it turns out that it is likely the owner of the phone that has allowed the botnet/malware onto the afflicted device. Let’s say you are searching for a game or app to download on your phone. There are two types of the same app, one costs $3.99, the other is $.99. The 99 cent version is likely a pirated copy of the same app that also contains programming that can hijack the functions of your phone.

While Microsoft and at England’s Sophos Labs are confident that their study proves the existence of smartphone bots, Google, Kaspersky and various other internet companies are quick to refute this claim. An unnamed spokesperson for Google stated, “The evidence does not support the Android botnet claim. Our analysis suggests that spammers are actually using infected computers and a fake mobile signature to try and bypass anti-spam mechanisms in the email platform they are using.

If the claim of zombie phones is actually true, this would be the first instance of a botnet running completely on a smartphone platform. Spammers have attempted for many years now to develop and implement a botnet on cellphones because they are highly powerful machines, they are on at all times, and there are over 1 billion of the devices that can possibly act as mindless slaves to the botnet’s creators.

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3 of the Best Games for iPad that are Changing the Media Market

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In 2009, the video game industry sold 273 million units, leading to $10.5 billion dollars in revenue (according to NPD Group). This astounding number has been growing exponentially in the past few years as video games have moved into the corners of social networks and telecommunications.

 

With the growing popularity of handheld devices such as tablets, iPhones, and Android phones, these devices have become another platform for entertainment and games. From quick and basic games to full-on hi-resolution epics, games designed specifically for handheld devices are creating a whole new side to gaming, and simultaneously opening the industry as a marketing tool for businesses in other markets.

 

Here, we will highlight a few games that are changing the classic view on marketing and gaming…

 

 

 

“The Dark Meadow” – A true game-changer, this game has some of the most intense and well thought out storylines for a game on any platform, making its strict iPad-only availability so surprising. The game’s high definition graphics, mind-boggling special effects, and frightfully realistic sounds and voices pull the player into a surreal world. Furthering the limitless interactivity of the game is the fact that the player is given incentives to try out other products. These incentives and bonuses are given to the player if they view sponsored sites, demo other games, or order products. Certain items in the game are only obtainable with “Sun Coins.” While these coins can be purchased with “real-world money,” the gamer can also earn these coins by interacting with their sponsors’ web pages or advertisements. This, of course, is not the first game to employ real monetary costs into its storyline, but Dark Meadow has brought it to an all new level.

 

“Six Guns” – Following Dark Meadow’s marketing tactics, Six Guns employs the same sponsor and advertisement techniques as its dark predecessor. The one difference is that Six Guns is an open ended game that doesn’t have much of a beginning, end, or straight storyline. The plot and how the stories unfold is based on the user controlling the character. Similar to the Everquest and World of Warcraft realms, an ever-growing collection of cities, states and regions are constantly being created and updated. This move keeps the gamer interested in the game for years to come. Coupling this long-term use with the ever-growing list of sponsors and advertisers, the platform has the potential to generate a never-ending amount of revenue.

 

“Dominos Pizza Hero” – Quite possibly the most ingenious marketing ploy every created, this app/game took the act of purchasing a product and turned it into a highly addictive game. Tens of thousands of consumers order pizza every night. Many of those ordering have given up the traditional phone call order for the web-based ordering system – as it is more dynamic and fun. With the unveiling of the Pizza Hero App, many are soon to move to a new system of ordering. With this app, you quite literally make your own pizza. From rolling out the dough to saucing the pie, to placing your choice toppings, you control exactly how your pizza will be made. After you’ve made your entire pizza, you can browse through a list of coupons for your area, enter payment information, and even receive promotional news, deals and more. Both fun and functional, you can expect to see more brands taking a cue from Dominos and implementing this same tactic in their own ordering procedures.

 

These are just a few of the newest marketing opportunities being coupled with mobile-gaming, and new apps are appearing in app stores every day. In the days, weeks and years to come, we are sure to see increasingly dynamic and original uses for marketing in video games.

 

 

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Web Traffic on Mobile Devices Changing-up The Cell Phone Industry

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It is no secret that – these days – the majority of cellular phone owners browse the internet and text more than making actual calls. With the growing number of apps and games that hit the Droid and iPhone Markets every day, it is no surprise.

This being said, it is also no surprise that phone service carriers are beginning to tweak their marketing strategies toward this new style of phone use. AT&T were the first to announce to the business and consumer worlds that they were moving to unveil their first round of data-only plans. These plans were prompted by the growing number of people using their phones only for text and data, and making phone calls through many of the web call options that are out there these days.

Realizing that they simply couldn’t compete with the web services offering calls for cheaper – or sometimes even free, depending on the site – AT&T knew that a move toward Data-Only was sure necessary.

The plans, expected to be introduced within the next two years, are designed to target the declining number of minutes used per month in current plans. Under the new plans, the term “data” would not coincide with its traditional definition – that is, it would not refer to text and internet usage only. The idea is to systematically phase out the term “minutes,” or any use of time spent on calls, and replace the metered time with the amount of data used by the calls. In-short, calls will still be able to be made, but would use a portion of your allowed data instead.

While the announcement has been made, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson told the public on Wednesday June 6th, that while it is not a definite plan yet, he expects that people will be using data-only plans within the next 24 months.

While this move is still in its initial planning stages, it is a very logical goal for phone service providers who have been struggling to adjust to the ever-changing mobile market.

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New Media Marketing and the Mobile Revolution

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With record numbers of consumers now acquiring information through social media, or through other forms of web-based information exchange, new media marketing continues to evolve. If you haven’t yet joined those drinking the Kool-Aid of the B2B mobile platform, you may want to take a second look at your lead generation strategy. Sure, mobile marketing comes with its own unique challenges (screen sizes, user behavior and device limitations are just a few considerations) but considering what it can do for your market share, as well as the fact that your competitors are most likely already using it, you may want to check out a few recent mobile stats, and learn how we can help make web 2.0 marketing work for you!
According to digital business analytics leader comScore, this past August, more than 72.2 million people utilized mobile devices to access social networking sites or blogs. That’s 37 percent more than August, 2010. That’s a distinct upward trend which shows little signs of slowing. In fact, almost 40 million U.S. mobile users access social media sites almost every day, which proves this that social media is an essential part of any B2B lead generation strategy. If you haven’t yet integrated social media into your marketing strategy, better late than never – start now!

So, 40 million people are seeking businesses and organization info on the web. Think you have a solid web marketing plan in place? Ask yourself the following questions:

1. Does my content have inherent value for my consumer/potential client?
2. Is it consistently refreshed and updated?
3. Am I utilizing customer feedback to keep my content relevant?
4. Is my content mobile device-friendly?

Still not convinced that social networks are changing the marketing rules? Well, then consider the following:
Facebook’s mobile users increased 50% to nearly 60 million, Twitter’s mobile users are now nearing 14 million and LinkedIn users number more than 5.5 million. These mobile users are not just posting updates and profile pictures; they are interacting with brands in a myriad of ways – following posted links, clicking on advertisements and using coupons.

Mobile and social go together like peanut butter and jelly, but it’s up to you to creatively leverage this relationship. We can help; let Eminent SEO create a custom social media marketing proposal just for you!

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