“Location-based” defeats the purpose of the internet

When the internet started to spread around the world in earnest, it was hailed as the Great Equalizer. It no longer mattered where you were physically located, you could reach the whole world from your computer.

In recent times, there’s been a clear—alarming, in my opinion—shift toward locality. Look at this:

  • Web searches give higher prominence to results that are geographically close to your location.
  • Websites attempt to figure out your location based on the language of your operating system and where your IP address is physically located and give you a translated version of themselves.
  • Online services tailor (read: limit) their offering based on your computer’s language and location.
  • People calling themselves internet marketing experts are busy extolling the benefits of high rankings in location-based searches for businesses.
  • Google ads seem to favor those businesses that are relatively close to you.

There’s a serious flip side to this trend.

First, local businesses might not benefit from location-based services (LBS) at all. As a Mashable article says, “most local businesses can’t consider access to a small, occasionally interested local audience via LBS to truly move the needle on revenue and profit”.

Second, the idea of promoting local over national or international will harm businesses that are far away from their markets. Take myself as an example: I have no serious prospects within a 150-mile radius—in fact, they’re all in other countries. The more local searches are getting, the more it will hurt companies and individual professionals who need to be found by clients located far away from them.

Third, if I’m looking for a solution to my problem, I will want to look further than my immediate vicinity. Even more so if I’m a B2B company. For example, a Brazilian forestry company might find a Finnish solution the best, but how will that solution ever come up in searches that don’t go beyond, say, the Americas?

Fourth, the move towards local disregards the needs of the internet user. It’s something that’s being done to attract more advertisers. Online search and service companies are making money out of selling advertising space (while we enlightened marketers are busy talking about inbound marketing…). Not that there’s anything wrong with targeted advertising, it’s just that when someone else is making my decisions for me, the decisions are usually wrong.

Of course, if you operate in a densely-populated environment where even within a fairly short distance you have a sufficient potential customer base, there’s no problem. On the other hand, if you reside in a sparsely-populated location, the more the local aspect is emphasized, the less useful web searches, advertisements and online services will be.

The big players in location-based services and online search are all US companies. Should the rest of the world then just succumb to their idea that they are providing their services only for US businesses—and for the benefit of US advertisers?

I’m fully aware those companies couldn’t care less because they are getting most of their revenue from their home market. I do think, however, that there should be a way for us in other parts of the world to switch off the “local” aspect. Both in looking for content and in publishing content.

But how? Any suggestions? Please tell me in the comments.

UPDATE:

Alastaire Allday, London, UK, based copywriter, has an excellent blog post about this very phenomenon. Nothing has changed in years.

When social media stifle discussion

What a paradox. Social media were supposed to promote and foster discussion, not stifle it, right?

In recent days I’ve more than once participated in a discussion on Twitter that attracts more and more people as it progresses. Excellent! Looks like a universally interesting topic. Lots of great contributions and mind-expanding opinion.

Then we come to a point where there are so many participants that most of Twitter’s 140-character space is taken up by the participants’ @usernames. There’s less and less space for the discussion itself. In the end, the whole conversation stalls when the remaining 30 characters are too little for any sensible comment.

It wasn’t supposed to go like this.

How could we solve this problem? Here are some attempts:

One group ricocheted off to Facebook and created a group there. The group proved popular, with more than 50 members in a couple of days. A problem soon emerged, though—some of the original discussion participants are not on Facebook and didn’t want to join just for the group.

A second group talked about setting up a Google Plus community for continuing their discussion. I’m sensing the same problem as with the Facebook group: some of the original commentators don’t have a Google account, which is required to participate in a Google Plus community. So we’re hitting the same wall again. Do we want to join yet another social media forum? Not forgetting that for those not previously familiar with it have a learning curve ahead.

A third suggestion was to create a hashtag on Twitter. It’s a workable solution, yes, but not without problems. Who’s to create the hashtag? What hashtag? Who has the energy to follow the hashtag when the discussion has been treading water with comments about a dozen characters long for some time already? How to maintain some kind of logic in which reply belongs to which comment?

A fourth solution was suggested: to create a Storify story with wide access. That would be good, because the original tweets would be in chronological order. This otherwise good idea will collapse because it requires that someone goes through the trouble of digging up all the relevant tweets from the firehose and create the story. Who wants to waste that time? And with Storify accounts being personal ones, do the participants want to contribute to someone else’s search ranking?

A fifth alternative might be that somebody starts an open blog, for example on a free blogging platform like WordPress.com or Blogger. You guessed it, problems ahead. How should the blog be set up to enable everyone to participate who is interested in the topic? Who will be the admins of the blog? How to begin a blog post in a way that gives enough background for comments?

Maybe we just have to accept that, especially on Twitter, “discussion” is not much more than a flash in the pan. A short burst that is soon forgotten.

That would be really a pity.

That’s why I’m throwing the ball to you who are more social media savvy than I am. When a Twitter discussion blows up from the original two or three participants, what is a good forum for continuing? Taking into account that:

  • The tweet chain that already exists may be pretty long and should be included somehow
  • Nobody should hit a prohibitively steep learning curve
  • Many people are averse to joining a new social platform
  • There may be some jealousy about who’s going to be the administrator of the continuation solution

I haven’t found the answer yet. Help me! Write your comments and suggestions down there. I’ll summarise them on Twitter to help everyone else with the same problem.

Selling me softly with his song

One of the most enchanting moments in traveling the web is when you find a blog you’ve never seen before. Many times it happens when you’re reading comments on someone else’s blog, find a commenter who says something interesting and head over to her blog to find out what else there might be.

I know research confirms that you should do this, but I still don’t get it: Continue Reading…

LinkedIn coward, why are you afraid of showing your face?

Out of curiosity, I like to check from time to time who’s viewed my LinkedIn profile. It helps me determine whether I’m really talking to the people I can genuinely help, and from a purely personal viewpoint, it’s just interesting.

Then I see something like the picture here. And it makes me think. Continue Reading…

In defence of low B2B social media adoption

B2B companies are often criticised for their low social media adoption rate. A case in point is a blog post entitled B2B Marketers Need To Wake Up and Get Social. It points to an Accenture report and tells us, for example, that

  • Only 8% of B2B companies are heavily leveraging social media today despite the fact that almost 2 in 3 consider social media an important channel for customer engagement.
  • Only 5% reported a strong link between social media and strategy.
  • Just 11% reported having the systems and tools required to be effective.
  • Almost 20% of executives did not trust their companies’ ability to make the right social media investments.

In this light, it is certainly justified to talk about B2B social media adoption being hopelessly low. But the question you very seldom hear asked is “WHY should they use social media?Continue Reading…

Social media reciprocity is much overrated

Okay, so you’re following someone but that someone is not following you back?

Horrors. I’m not worthy? I’m not popular? I’m rejected?

Out of curiosity, I just checked whom I’m following who are not following me back. A total of 100 people, it seems.

Not-following-s

Hmm. Robert Scoble. Walt Mossberg. Chris Brogan. Jill Konrath. John Jantsch. Joe Pulizzi. Pete Cashmore. The list continues.

Now I should be bursting into tears, right?

Ahh, you’ve got better things to do with your life than fret over things like this. If you find someone worth your attention, it doesn’t automatically have to mean they should be enthused about you.

Let’s face it, we’re all nobodies to some people. Yet, they might have something to give us. And you did follow them because you wanted to learn from them, to get to know them and their views better, right? Not like those who wish to “engage” with someone famous to get backlinks or comments to have their ego stroked the right way?

In my case, the people I’m following but who don’t follow me back make up about one-sixth of those I follow. Come on, that’s 15 percent. I can easily live with that. Especially when these folks (mostly) know what they’re talking about and act as my unknowing mentors.

Then there are those people who appear in your followers list one day, only to disappear from there after a couple of days or weeks.

Don’t worry about them, either. They’ve most probably signed up with an automated “get 1,000 Twitter followers a week” scheme and, disappointed when it doesn’t work in your case, drop you. That’s only good.

While it is good manners to follow people back, there’s a caveat. Just following you doesn’t automatically make them worthy of your attention. If they’re outside your sphere of interest, you don’t need to have any qualms ignoring them.

How do you feel about non-followers?

Hey you, why are you leaving your poop in my blog?

More and more messages like this have begun to appear in my blog comments:

“Hello Web Admin, I noticed that your On-Page SEO is not that great – -“

“If you’re serious about making money with your website, watch this free video about – -“

Funny that I should be receiving this crap because a) I’m optimising my on-page SEO like hell, and b) I’m not using my blog for monetisation, it’s more informative/educational.

As it’s obvious these comments are not genuine but pure, unadulterated spam, I would like to ask their senders: What are you trying to achieve with these spam comments? You must know that most bloggers trap comments in a moderation thread for review before they’re published, and most bloggers have all kinds of suspicious-link-snoopers in place.

What if someone stupid enough clicks on those spammy links of yours? Will you immediately send them a virus, or are you just peddling some pathetic, no-use application of yours? (I wouldn’t know because your messages travel the shortest way into the rubbish bin. Without exceptions.)

One spammer took his (?) spamming really seriously. The comment included 67, yes, sixty-seven, links. This person seemed to have copied a Chinese “antique” shop’s entire product catalogue plus added a couple of software and health insurance links for good measure. I laughed aloud at this dedication, but, alas, trashed the piece anyway.

Go get a life. I’m sure you have better things to do with your existence than throwing poop my way that you must know will be instantly cleaned away.

So WHY? Is someone paying you for sending this stuff, or are you expecting some personal gain?

Hey, I’m really interested. Now, for once, write a real comment and enlighten me!