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Third time’s the charm: Google is trying to be a phone company, again

Today, Google officially announced something that the tech world has known for months: it’s launching a pair of high-end Pixel-branded smartphones, killing the Nexus program, and competing more explicitly with Apple and every other company that’s making and selling Android phones.

Google is definitely pushing itself as a hardware company like it never has before. But this is hardly the company’s first effort to get into the smartphone hardware business. The first was the Nexus One, which drew iPhone comparisons when it was launched. But low sales almost killed the brand—Eric Schmidt said in 2010 that the Nexus One “was so successful [in helping Android along], we didn’t have to do a second one”—before it was resurrected and pointed at the developer-and-enthusiast niche.

The second and more serious effort began in 2011, when Google bought Motorola for $12.5 billion. After clearing out the old Motorola’s product pipeline, in 2013 and 2014 the company introduced a series of high-end and midrange Moto phones that were critical darlings for their price tags, their focus on fundamentals, and their fast Android updates. These were three non-broken things that Lenovo promptly “fixed” after it bought Motorola from Google for just $2.9 billion three years later.

Google made no mention of its Motorola experiment onstage today, even though the same guy who ran Motorola is now running Google’s hardware efforts. But the sense that all of this has happened before is just one of the contradictions of Google’s new mobile strategy. More importantly, the company’s actions and stated goals contradict one another, to the extent that I wonder just how committed Google is to its hardware plans and, on a related note, just how good its chances of success are.

Google’s sales pitch for its new phones is distinctly Apple-esque: Pixels are the first phones designed from the ground up by Google, which gives Google the opportunity to tailor the hardware to better suit its software and vice versa. This is a departure from Google’s Nexus strategy, in which Google slapped Nexus branding on existing or near-complete products that one of its partners was already working on.

Except, well, the Pixel phones are pretty Nexus-y. FCC filings show that they were clearly built by HTC, and as our own Ron Amadeo pointed out they appear to share components with HTC designs like the One A9.

“Designed by Google” and “built by HTC” don’t need to be mutually exclusive. I don’t doubt that Google blessed each component and design choice individually or that it became involved in the design process much earlier than it normally would for a Nexus phone. And even if the Pixels are HTC phones with Google logos on them, that’s becoming an increasingly common move. HTC can make phones, but the mass market doesn’t care about its brand. Google has a mass-market brand but maybe didn’t want to start from zero to design a new phone. Fine.

The trouble is, Google has actually designed some quality hardware all by itself. The Pixel Chromebooks were both lovely, though they were priced out of reach of anyone but ChromeOS die-hards. And even though the Pixel C tablet’s software has been rough, its hardware has the benefit of at least looking and feeling good. Chromecast is a Google effort, too, as are Daydream View and Google Home.

Google can design its own hardware, and it says that it does. But the Pixel phones aren’t as Google-y as some of Google’s other devices, and they definitely don’t have the signature design touches of the other Pixel products (including the lightbar and the boxy-yet-still-appealing curves). This may be a springboard, the first step in a transition from the Nexus era to a new Pixel era. Google hardware chief Rick Osterloh says that he’s already seen photos from next year’s Pixel camera, so at a bare minimum Google has a roadmap that it’s in control of. But the way Google is hitting the “#MadeByGoogle” drum so hard is odd, given the Pixel’s obvious lineage.
Exclusive features don’t mesh with Google’s business model

Google’s hardware contradictions are puzzling but easily explained. The software contradictions are more troubling.

One of the reasons Apple can get away with keeping iPhone prices the same every year even as Android phones get cheaper is that the company really is in full control of its hardware, software, and ecosystem. The iPhone is the only place to get iOS, it’s the only phone that offers tight integration with the Mac and other Apple products, and it’s the only place where you can get iOS apps.

Few players in the Android market, Samsung aside, can do the same thing, since the primary differentiator is often price rather than any particular gimmick or spec. Google’s Hiroshi Lockheimer believes there’s room for another player in the high-end, high-margin phone market. That may be true, but when asked what Google intends to provide that other Android phone makers won’t or can’t (beyond intangibles like brand value), his answers were vague.

Clearly, the Pixel is going to get a lot of things first: Android 7.1 will come to the Pixel before it’s even available as a developer preview for older Nexus and Pixel devices, to say nothing of OEMs who haven’t even started shipping Android 7.0 updates. The Google Assistant and Google’s new Pixel Launcher are both Pixel exclusives, at least for now.

But Android’s success is built in part on how widespread it is, and Google’s business is built on casting wide nets that can collect lots of data. It might make sense to keep the Pixel Launcher exclusive to the Pixel phones to give Google’s phones their own unique look and feel and tighter integration with all of Google’s services. But the Assistant will almost certainly be available for other Android devices eventually, just as Google Now and Google Now On Tap (two services that have plenty of overlap with the Assistant anyway) already are. The Daydream VR platform is already open to other phone makers as long as they’re using Android 7.1.

Google’s stuck in a place where it needs to give its own Android phones unique features to differentiate them from the crowd, which is doubly true since they’re being sold at iPhone and Galaxy prices instead of Nexus prices. But it makes most of its money by building out large userbases and making its products and services as available to as many people as is realistically possible. In that tug of war, Google will ultimately be pushed to do whatever is best for its bottom line, something that may damage its nascent phone business.

Which kind of Google experiment will the Pixel phones be?

Are we missing a part of Google’s strategy? The so-called “Andromeda” project, that long-rumored collision of Android and ChromeOS, could be part of it. But this whole hardware shift could just as easily be one more experiment from a company that loves to try new things without always committing to them.

Gmail, Android, Chrome, Chromebooks, the Chromecast, and of course the search engine that forms the core of the company are all solid successes that Google is obviously committed to. Motorola, the Nexus Q, the Android Update Alliance, the Google Play Edition program, Google Hangouts, the OnHub, Google Buzz, Google Wave, Google+, Project Ara, Google Glass, Google TV, Google Reader, and any number of other initiatives swept under the rug during a “spring cleaning” phase were all eventually canceled or dramatically scaled back as the company’s strategy and personnel have changed.

Source: ars Technica , article by Andrew Cunningham (http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2016/10/googles-phone-strategy-is-a-study-in-contradictions/)

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Five tips for protecting your brand on social media

This summer, online payment service giant Paypal learned that bad guys had set up a fake Paypal Support page on Twitter, and then monitored the real Paypal Support page for remarks from customers. The bad guys responded to those inquiries and pointed users to the fake site where they would ask for, and sometimes receive, personal and account information – an attack called angler phishing.

Paypal’s Information Security Director Trent Adams likens the ongoing battle to protect its brand to a game of whack-a–mole, and with new social media threats popping up daily, it’s becoming more like “whack-an-ant-hill” because while one account may be shut down, others are probably still at work.

“We would like to get into a position of prevention – but prevention is really hard,” Adams says. “Early detection is where we are right now.”

As social media platforms become the predominate form of customer communication, so too do the threats to companies and brands. Nearly 600 new fraudulent brand accounts were created each month between April and June 2016 on social media sites Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram, according to a study by Proofpoint. Of nearly 5,000 social media accounts connected with 10 top global brand names, nearly one in five was fraudulent.

Even though the incidents of phishing on those fake accounts is relatively small (about 4 percent), they’re still a huge target for bad actors and a danger to customers and brand reputation. “They can reach almost 33 million people across those top 10 brands,” says Devin Redmond, vice president and general manager of digital security and compliance at Proofpoint, which offers brand fraud detection and mitigation services.

It’s not just the largest brands that have been targeted. Food service and retail companies have seen bad actors create what looks like a promotional site for coupons, access to special content or previews for online games, Redmond says. Unknowing users will surrender credit card information and other personal information on the sites.

The rise in brand fraud has even prompted companies that don’t even have a social media presence to monitor popular platforms. “Companies are starting to understand that even if they’re not active on social media, they need to be monitoring it because other people could be active on their behalf,” says Shanna Gordon, client services director at BrandProtect.
Protecting your brand

Some 79 percent of information security leaders surveyed by Ponemon institute believe that their security processes for Internet and social media monitoring are nonexistent, partially deployed or inconsistently deployed. Brand fraud experts offer five tips for protecting your company’s name and reputation.

1. Create your own social media presence before someone else does

Companies should have an official presence on major social media sites, even if they don’t use them often, says John LaCour, CEO of PhishLabs. “If customers go looking for [your page] and can’t find one, they may find the bad guys instead,” he says. Many social media sites offer icons or flags that identify legitimate sites, he adds. Companies should also communicate with customers that their official sites will only be used for announcing new products and services, for example, so customers will look more suspiciously at alleged brand sites that offer free perks or customer service action.

2. Establish governance

Companies need to have a governance program in place and staff responsible for social media accounts and communication as part of the company’s main infrastructure, Redmond says.

Business units often create their own legitimate domains, but the security team might not know about them. “They don’t do it through the right channels,” Gordon says. “That needs to be monitored with processes in place.”

3. Conduct a social media brand inventory

A simple search of a company’s name on popular social media sites can begin to uncover any nefarious social media accounts or at least reveal how the company is being represented, fraud experts say. During a recent audit of its social media presence, a major consulting firm was shocked to discover that hundreds of accounts were impersonating its brand or were using its name in some unwanted way on sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Instagram, Gordon says.

Some accounts might be legitimate while others may reference a company’s name simply to draw traffic to their site. But a few could be truly criminal and are attempting to use fake accounts for phishing scams or to sell knock-off merchandise, she adds.

4. Identify fraudulent accounts and act quickly

At Paypal, security teams focus on identifying fraudulent sites and then reacting quickly, usually with the help of its worldwide customer base.

“The fastest way we identify [fraud] is being notified by our customer base,” including merchants and consumers, Adams says. “We are often notified much more quickly by customers than we are by the industry organizations that identify potential fraud and kick out threat alerts.”

Paypal’s investigative team reviews the fraud tips as they are received and identifies whether they are malicious or benign. Next they reach out to social media platform operators and their security departments to alert them.

5. Know where and how to report brand fraud

When customers suspect a fake company account on social media, they need to know who to report the fraud to, Redmond says. Develop a response plan that includes the documentation that should be collected and who should be contacted at the company and the social media site.

“Companies need to report brand fraud in a way that responders can consume it quickly because minutes count in these situations,” Adams says. To that end, Paypal is testing a specialized fraud reporting queue it has set up with a half dozen social media sites.

Fraud tipsters provide documentation about the suspected fraud in a standard format, and it is submitted by Paypal to the social media platforms. “We’ve been able to see a significant decrease in the amount of time it takes from the time we identify the problem to the time we report it, to the time action is taken,” Adams says. In one recent month, the expedited channel was 75 percent faster than reporting through the standard channel, he adds.

Adams says the reporting queue project is in the in the early prototype phase, and once it is proven successful Paypal plans to share the process or technical specifications with the world as open source.

Preventing social media brand fraud will remain a challenge because of the generative nature of social media platforms and the proliferation of new and more creative scams, Adams says. While these measures won’t stop this kind of abuse completely, he says, “it will raise the barrier.”

Source: CSO, article by Stacy Collett (http://www.csoonline.com/article/3126077/social-networking/five-tips-for-protecting-your-brand-on-social-media.html)

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How to Develop a Social Media-Crisis Strategy

It may be difficult to imagine that a comment on social media, or ad campaign, graphic, misquote or argument could cost your organization immeasurably in terms of sales and brand favor.

But these events do occur, increasingly. With communications now moving nationally and internationally at the speed of IOT, compromises can occur, and it is essential to have a solid social media-crisis strategy in place, and ready to implement.

What contributes to a social media crisis?

Digital marketing teams and community managers deal with small problems and minor incidents on a daily basis. One of the most important aspects of social media management is handling negative or inappropriate comments and images and ensuring channel security and customer-service responses that enhance consumer’s experience and with its brand and your image.

Of course, a social media crisis is something far larger than a negative comment or two. It is an incident where something that your business has said or done has caught negative national or even global attention. Sometimes the brand is not at fault in any way, but is still in a position where it has to defend against a substantial social media public backlash, one that can cost millions in lost sales and customer retention, if your representatives do not handle things in an appropriate way.

Looking for some examples of social media brand crises in 2016? Who could forget the staff member at Kitchenaid who tweeted insensitively about President Obama’s deceased grandmother? The tweet was sent, mistakenly, on the Kitchenaid official account by an internal staffer who thought that he or she was using a personal account.

Kitchenaid respectfully deleted the tweet, apologized to the Obama family and indicated how the error had happened. The company also confirmed that the individual who had made the comment would no longer be managing its social media activities.

That quick and appropriate response probably saved the brand.

In some instances, however, it is not an internal staff member who is responsible for tweeting something offensive, but rather a deliberate hack of the social media account. That happened to Burger King in February 2013, when hackers replaced the burger chain’s official branding with a McDonald’s logo, and began to tweet offensively.

Fans quickly caught on, however, that the account had been hacked, and in subsequent weeks (after Burger King changed its password), the chain’s Twitter account gained more than 30,000 new followers.

Creating your social media crisis plan in four steps

Like any other emergency strategy, a social media crisis plan is designed to offer a quick and appropriate response and funnel correct information to anyone looking to access it, including customers, employees and the media. Here are four steps.

1. Assign a team.

While the best-practices guidelines for your social media crisis plan should commence with your marketing department, the implementation of these procedures will touch a variety of departments, including customer service staff, sales, human resources and senior leadership officials within youre organization. Create a team with at least one representative from each impact department who will be trained to respond, and one back-up person from every essential communication group.

2. Delegate and designate.

Define the core message that your brand needs expressed in the event of a negative online backlash or public relations fallout. The most successful businesses in the world, in a state of emergency publicity, fall back to their core values to assure the public, customers, shareholders and employees of their commitment and integrity.

Delegate core spokespeople for your brand. Controlling who comments on behalf of your business is essential to resolving the problem. Letting multiple employees comment, perhaps inappropriately, can fan a small flame into a forest fire, from a public relations perspective.

3. Document it.

Your crisis strategy for managing communication through social media should be thoroughly documented, and there should be printed copies available in key areas, as well as digital ones. Keep in mind that some social media crises can stem from a corporate hacking incident (like the event with Sony in 2014), in which case intranet and other resources may not be immediately available. Have a back-up location specifically separate from your main network.

4. Practice the plan.

Having a social media crisis strategy buried somewhere in the marketing archives does little to ensure that your response will be prompt when it’s needed. So, practice it twice per year, and ensure that as staff members change in key roles, new staff are trained with the appropriate protocols

The ability that a brand has to pivot in the face of a public relations problem determines its ability to find a fast resolution, and minimize collateral damage to the brand and its reputation. With luck, your business may never need it.

Source: Enterpreneur, article by Pratik Dholakiya(https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/282934)

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How to Use Instagram Stories to Market Your Brand

Instagram blew up recently with their new “stories” function. Besides openly ripping off Snapchat, the stories are pretty functional to grow your brand or your business.

Actually, I’ve enjoyed using them a little bit! They’re great because they offer additional exposure to your audience, and another way to connect. When you post a story, people can message you based on each post just like on Snapchat. This allows more interaction and engagement with your followers on Instagram!

Plus, I’ve noticed that I have more exposure on my stories than I may have otherwise on each post I create for Instagram! Instagram looks like they’re giving a little more runway and exposure to your audience via stories, so make sure you check it out!

I’ve been monitoring how people have been using stories, and it’s actually pretty similar to the way that they use Instagram. Even though the platform is similar to Snapchat, people use it differently. Rather than streaming your face (the way Snapchatters do), Instagram stories are about posting sweet pics through your day of beautiful things and environments. it’s kind of like a behind-the-scenes slide show. Not to mention, everything that’s posted is beautiful.

So the question rises, how do you use this to grow your business or brand?

Let me jump right in and give you some tips to use stories to create hype around you.

Give Your Followers Behind-the-Scenes Access

Much like a VIP at a club or a show, give your audience behind-the-scenes access. Show them what you do in your business or with your brand. If you have a product, show how it’s made or the production process. If you’re a photographer, show yourself choosing new pics to edit, or live on a shoot with a client. If you’re running an online business, show what you do through the day that only insiders would see! Show some secrets, create some mystery and give another dimension to your brand.

This can be done a variety of ways.
I would start with something on the first image that says “VIP ACCESS” or “INSIDER ACCESS” or something like this to intrigue. Then snap away! Try just posting pics with some text on top, a series of videos or explainers, or mix still and video. Remember to ask your followers to send you a message and connect with you too so you can start engaging even more with them and building relationships.

Show Your Day-to-Day… (if your life is cool!)

Allow me to preface this by saying that no one will be interested in seeing the day-to-day of a normal person’s life. The reason why they’re on social and watching your stories to begin with is because they’re using social as a tool to dream, and escape from the normal realities they face on a daily basis. Give them something to love and aspire to!

For example, I have a friend that is mostly normal all around, but she recently got invited to NY Fashion Week care of JCrew. JCrew invited her to NYC to take part in a stylized-fashion shoot specific for fashion week, and she was one of the new models (without any modeling experience or crazy amounts of Instagram followers!). She got to see all the behind the scenes for a JCrew art directed photo shoot, live with all the craziness that happens at these events. And she did it for 2 days.

This is an example of something that you’d want to show through Instagram stories as a day-to-day. Had she decided to broadcast the moments throughout the day (even more “boring” ones) her followers would have LOVED it! They’d see her modeling for a major fashion brand, eating lunch with the creative director and having someone do her hair and makeup.

Mostly they’d be able to place themselves in her shoes even for a few moments and say to themselves “maybe I can have that cool of a life too!”

I know… it sounds kind of vain, but I promise you that if your followers don’t WANT YOUR LIFE, that you won’t have a following. It’s just how it goes. It’s part of psychology. If your followers admire you, what you stand for, and the life you live, they’ll follow you and engage with you.

Alas, with all that… if you have cool stuff that you do on a day-to-day basis—show it! It’ll gain you street cred with your audience and build your brand.

Show a Curation of Your Day

I keep seeing these types of stories on Instagram, and they totally resonate with me so I’m sure they do with others too. Some of my favorite Instagrammers are posting a curation of their day on their stories through static photos.

For example, I’ll see something like 4-6 pics of coffeeshops and cool scenes in NYC throughout the day, or coffee-shop hopping in Los Angeles. They’re just a string of beautifully taken static shots to give you another type of Instagram gallery (within stories). Just with the story feature, they disappear in 24 hours creating more urgency to watch them!

Get Up Close and Personal: Do an AMA (Ask Me Anything)

Get to know your followers, and allow them to connect with you on a more personal basis. This is an opportunity for people to get up-close and personal with your brand. Of course this builds more brand awareness for you, and consequently will earn you more Instagram story views.

An “ask me anything” is where you announce to your followers that they can submit any questions, and that you’ll answer them on your story for the day. This is a terrific way to humanize your brand.

Create Giveaways in Your Stories

I love to do giveaways on my Instagram feed. I’ve found that announcing the giveaways every day on my story and telling people what’s in the giveaway and how to enter has been really great for engagement. They’ll go straight from my story to my gallery and comment on the giveaway post!

Source: Business to Community, article by Emelina Spinelli (http://www.business2community.com/instagram/use-instagram-stories-market-brand-01660434#ripsaZPzewLlj1bi.99)

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