Hummingbird’s Semantic Search—We’re All Trekkies Now

Last week, Google unveiled their brand new algorithm called Hummingbird. Hummingbird’s most distinct feature is the inclusion of a natural language search query.

trekkie hand hummingbird semantics

The shift towards natural language queries shouldn’t come as such a shock to us. We have been moving towards a semantic web since the idea of smart robots and the Star Trek computer (Disney’s SmartHouse, anyone?). Think about it. Siri and Google Glass aren’t that far away from sounding and working like the computer from Star Trek. Minus the pointy ears and bad polyester-spandex-blend catsuits, we’re interacting with our computers more and more like our fellow Trekkies.

To some digital marketers, Hummingbird may not appear to be anymore different than Google’s previous algorithms (Penguin and Panda). But it is. Google hasn’t launched a completely new algorithm since 2001, so you know this is something special.

So what does a “natural language” search query mean?

It means that the algorithm recognizes more human, fluid language. When we use voice-based search, we don’t spit out two or three keywords, instead we are more likely ask our phones a question or say a complete statement, a lot like how we talk to friends. For example, we are more likely to ask a technology like Siri, “What are some restaurants in Ann Arbor?” instead of “restaurants in Ann Arbor.” So, as you can see, the searches become more contextual than keyword based.

So what does this mean for digital marketing?

For one, our SEO team is going to have their work cut out for them. Keyword search could be a thing of the past. Experts in SEO will have to start looking at search engine optimization in a more linguistic approach. For example, they will have to consider linguistic question markers (who, what, where, when, why) and prepositional phrases. Distinguishing whether your audience is looking for a “restaurant near Ann Arbor” or “in Ann Arbor” will differentiate your search results.

Now, I’m not saying you need to trash your current strategy. If your strategy is still focused around your audience’s expectations and creating great content for your audience (if you need a refresher on digital marketing basics, check out the last post), then you’re in good shape. However, for digital marketers looking into future trends, learning more about Hummingbird’s semantic search is a good place to start.

The shift to voice search queries is proof that once again, the web is increasingly becoming more of a human experience than a technological experience. And as one mother brilliantly put it, “We’re all just a bunch of Trekkies, now!” Right on.

What is Augmented Reality?

Is there such a thing as “too much” technology? A piece of technology that is getting stronger in the market is augmented reality. Some people describe this technology as “futuristic” and “mind-blowing”. In the next few years we might see a trend among the new digital marketing services. I am curious to hear what you think of it. Let’s start by defining the meaning of augmented reality.

According to Mashable: “Augmented reality (AR) is a live, direct or indirect, view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data”. This emerging technology has tapped into professional sports and most recently it will be helping us complete tasks that we might be clueless.

by turkletom

by turkletom

Imagine if your sport ticket could provide you with a lot more information besides where you are sitting. In India, cricket fans can activate this technology using their tickets and they are able to receive live traffic updates around the stadium, parking information and much more.

In Italy, a tech firm Inglobe Technologies launched an app using augmented reality, giving you the perfect skills of a mechanic to fix your car. Depending on the seriousness of the issue you might be able to fix the care on your own with the help of this ingenious app. From what we have seen in the news, this emerging technology is embracing the convenience and practical aspects people might be looking for. Augment reality is becoming the new problem solving technology in the next few years.

I do believe that this technology could be the game changer in the digital business and very soon different businesses will be tapping into them to interact and engage their customers on a whole different level.

What about you? Where would you like to see augmented reality being used? Do you think people will welcome this emerging technology positively? Comment on this post below with your opinion.

 

Google I/O 2013

This past week, Google wrapped up its annual developers’ conference in San Francisco, Calif., giving us a look into the future of one of the most powerful companies. Google I/O features highly technical, in-depth sessions geared towards developers. Over 6000 developers on-site, 460 I/O Extended sites in 90 countries and millions around the world tuned in to the live-stream  indicating just how popular Google is and the excitement surrounding their big announcements. The Keynote speech offers a look into product and platform innovations Google has planned for the upcoming year.

Here’s a quick summary of what you missed at the 2013 Keynote:

Google+
Google+ is being updated with 41 new features. The most significant being the content feed. The new design was unveiled, and appears to look like a combination of the Facebook timeline and Pinterest. This new interface allows for easy content exploration and places an emphasis on images and links. Each photo flips over to reveal more information about the subject. The new Google+ is hyper-intelligent, with its automated hashtags, letting you find relevant content that much easier. A significant update to Google+ is the new automatic photo enhancement feature and the new highlight view for albums. Based on a variety of factors, Google can stop duplicate images from appearing, emphasize photos with friends or know landmarks, and even filter out blurry pictures. Google+ Hangouts also got an upgrade, streamlining your online conversations to any device or platform.

Android
Google announced 900 million Android activations and 48 billion app downloads to date. They will be releasing a stock Android Galaxy S4, rather than the Samsung interface. The phone will be available for purchase in the Google Play store on June 26, but it won’t come cheap — the price is set at a steep $649.

Google Play
An obvious update to Google Play is the store’s visual appearance, but behind the scenes there have also been improvements. You can now get suggestions based on your personalized preferences, chosen by Google. In addition, Google introduced Google Play for Education, a store specifically for educational institutions. Google Play Games has added the ability for cloud gaming, so if you stop playing on one device, you can seamlessly pick back up on another device. Lastly, Google Play Music is offering a new $9.99 monthly streaming service, similar to Spotify and Rdio. Google Play Music All Access is radio without rules. Google is offering a free monthly trial, and if you sign up before June 8th, you can use the service for only $7.99 a month.

Maps
Google Maps continues to stay one step ahead of the competition, and this big update will ensure they do just that. Maps has been redesigned to be fully interactive and tailored to you. The service gets better the more you use it as it adapts to your preferences and is able to suggest restaurants you may enjoy or even the fastest route home. With the integration between Maps and Google Earth, you will be able to explore cities in 3D and view “3D Photo Tours” for a virtual sightseeing experience. Google added several new types transportation, including a flight search, they improved public transit information significantly and are including live traffic reports. You will also have the ability to compare different modes of transportation to see which one is best for you. To be one of the first to try to new Google Maps, you have to request an invite.

Glass
Glass has the potential to be “the next big thing” in technology. Although not part of the keynote, Google Glass was a big topic for day 2 of the conference and stole the show. During the I/O, Official apps for Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Evernote were debuted. Glass sessions focused on product development and building “glassware.” There was also a Q&A period that covered privacy implications and government restrictions. Google Glass is most likely the first step on a long journey of wearable technology. It’ll be interesting to see how it’s received by the general public when it becomes available at the end of the year.

If you would like to view the Keynote in its entirety, it’s available on YouTube (warning: it’s three and half hours long). Google never ceases to impress the world with their advances in technology. We’ll be looking forward to seeing what Google comes up with next.

 —Rachel Keeton

 

Correlation Between Traveling and Happiness via Twitter

Researchers at the University of Vermont have been studying the relationship between the happiness level of people on Twitter compared to how far they have traveled from their primary locations.

With continued advancement in technology and the amount of personal and emotional information people share via online mediums today, experts can now study human behavior by looking at the sentiment that is expressed via social media. Not only are people providing information about how they are currently feeling, but their location in the world are almost always given as well. Putting all of this together allows researchers to come to a conclusion on how people feel based on where they are.

Photo Credit: epSos.de

Photo Credit: epSos.de

“Expressed happiness increases logarithmically with distance from an individual’s average location,” was the ultimate result of the study done by these experts. The research found concluded that people tweet most often from work and home and when they are further away from these locations, most often traveling, they are happier in their tweets.

While this may be a stretch and might not be the most accurate way to measure how happy people are, it is an interesting subject to consider. Are people happier when they are traveling? Do they express their true happiness on social media or do they just want to seem this way to their follows? Its hard to tell but most of us can agree, traveling to the beach compared to sitting in a cubicle would make the average person happier, even on Twitter.

Reference: Mashable: Twitter Happiness Soars as People Travel Further From Home

 

Politics of the Future: Digital and Social Media

What if President Obama held press conferences not in the White House, but on Google Hangout? What if he answered questions asked by the American people, rather than the news correspondents? Earlier this month India’s Finance Minister P Chidambaram did just that. The minister participated in a live video conference that lasted hour, but the conference sparked conversations that lasted quite longer (e.g. #askthefm).

“People have been calling this era of computers, the Internet, and telecommunications the ‘information age’ … What we’re really in now is the empowerment age…This power is shifting…to a new paradigm of power that is democratically distributed and shared by all of us.” – Joe Trippi, author of Revolution Will Not be Televised

President Obama's current Facebook banner.

President Obama’s current Facebook banner.

Today everyone and everything is going social. Barack Obama and Fançois Hollande are on Facebook, and even The White House, the WTO, and the United Nations tweet.Digital media has become a new form of infrastructure. The United Kingdom offers virtual tours of Parliament buildings. The EU website has an Audiovisual Newsroom. Online presence is a public expectation.

The virtual world has a very real influence.The last two years proved digital and social media’s power to mobilize entire nations (i.e. revolutions in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and Syria). Minister Chidambaram’s conference is further evidence of a growing desire to not only pay attention to the man (or woman) behind the curtain, but to eliminate the curtain altogether.

 

Privacy Concerns with Instagram

Instagram’s recent changes to its privacy policy and terms of service became effective on January 19, 2013 after causing quite the stir among users who feared a breach of privacy.

Many people were lead to believe that updated terms would allow the company to sell user pictures to advertisers without their knowledge, permission or compensation. However, this is not the case. Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom clarified in his blog post that “Instagram has no intention of selling your photos, and we never did. We don’t own your photos – you do.”

The recent launch of Instagram web profiles also raises some concern about privacy. The new profiles feature a collage of recently shared photographs that form a header along with a profile photo and bio, giving others a snapshot of the photos you share on Instagram. In addition, you can follow users, comment & like photos and edit your profile from the web.

With the new web profiles, anyone is able to view a public user’s Instagram profile online. To those who worry that their photos will now be on display for the whole world to see, have no fear. As long as your photos are set to private, your photos will be visible only to logged-in Instagram users you’ve allowed to follow you. Those who don’t want to share their photos on the Web can simply set their profiles to private.

Mixed Feelings on the New Facebook Graph Search

Facebook has revealed its latest attempt to stay ahead of the game with what it calls its “Graph Search” feature. After much criticism regarding its current search engine, the company has finally decided to improve its strategy. Although the initial news of the development came with much excitement, there are always skeptics who will have something to say.


The new search method comes with many benefits for big brands, small businesses, and the average Facebook user. Very specific searches like “Friends that live in New York” will produce answers. You can even submit multiple searches at once. For example “Friends that live in NY” followed by “that like Sushi” will narrow it down even further. This provides Facebook users with more tailored results based on their needs.

While media and marketing analysts commend Facebook on their innovation, they predict that the hype will not last long enough to provide the company with significant results, monetarily or otherwise. Many critique the new search method by saying that Facebook is too late in the game with this improvement. Users are already too comfortable with their current search tactics, like Google, and they will continue to go about their regular ways even after the Facebook Graph Search is implemented.

It will be interesting to see how Facebook rolls out this advancement and more so how the social media world reacts to the change. There are always those critics who say the company has lost its “mojo” and is trying anything and everything to stay relevant. What many skeptics may fail to remember is that Facebook is one of biggest pioneers in the social media movement and if they want to innovate their search methods, they most definitely have that right.

Personally, were all very excited here at our social media agency for this latest Facebook development and eager to test it out!

photo credit: AJC1 via photopin cc

Twitter vs. Instagram: A War on Pictures

By now most of you have heard of the ongoing feud between Instagram and Twitter, but incase you haven’t been keeping up I’ll break it down for you. It all started this spring:

April 
Facebook makes offer to purchase Instagram for $1 billion.

August
On the 14th the Office of Fair Trading approves the deal, while the Federal Trade Commission closes their investigation concerning the deal on the 22nd.

September
The deal between Instagram and Facebook officially closes on the 6th and Instagram surpasses Twitter in daily active mobile users.

November
Twitter, who attempted to purchase Instagram, announces they will be releasing their own range of photo filters in the coming months.

Now, just last week Instagram photos on Twitter were appearing oddly cropped and yesterday Instagram photos have completely disappeared, though, they can still be viewed through the URL of the original tweet. Obviously many social media users are starting to express their frustration, but it will be interesting to see how users respond in the coming months after Twitter releases their photo filters. Will people begin to choose one network over the other and how will the digital agency respond to the change?

Peter Gabriel Remakes “Sledgehammer”… via Facebook

Peter Gabriel’s video for his hit song “Sledgehammer” came out in 1986, but to this date, MTV says it is the most-played video on the station, and was awarded the #4 slot in their list of “100 Greatest Music Videos of All Time”, in addition to winning tons of other awards and accolades.

Now, Peter Gabriel is remaking it – this time, with the help of Facebook. A tab on Gabriel’s Facebook fan page allows users to choose a scene, upload a video, or vote on existing entries. The idea is rather fascinating, especially given how big this video was (and is, I suppose!).

The contest is called “Grab Your Sledgehammer”, and is being done to celebrate the release of the 25th anniversary edition of Gabriel’s So album.

Personally, I love when artists allow for this kind of fan engagement, much with Ellie Goulding’s G+ Hangout album signing. This not only allows for artists to interact with fans easily, but will also introduce a younger generation of fans to artists like Peter Gabriel (and Genesis, by extension). Plus, it’s fun! It allows your fans to show their creativity and encourages them to interact with an entity or brand. These are the kind of campaigns that social media marketing companies should be striving to build! They’re interactive and fun to do, and people seem to get a lot out of the ability to be creative.

 

Facebook and your job search.

Would you ever use a Facebook job search platform? For a while now its been rumored that Facebook is considering starting their own job search platform, but I doubt many people would use it. Especially when a professional networking site already exists, LinkedIn, and you can already search for jobs on there. Most people should keep their Facebook profile completely separated from their job search; unless, of course, you’re applying for a job at social media agency or digital marketing firm. If this is the case, keep it appropriate because many employers use Facebook to look up job candidates for reasons why they shouldn’t hire them.

If you think your Facebook profile is hurting your chances of being hired for a job you have two options. First option, you can censor what pictures you allow yourself to be tagged in and what friends can post on your wall through your privacy settings. On top of that, make sure you’re not posting anything inappropriate or too political; if you’re friends with your grandma on Facebook then you’re probably good. Second option, you can leave your profile the same and make it completely private. In your privacy settings profiles can be made searchable and unable to view by anyone who is not a “friend”.

LinkedIn is your best bet for professional networking, but take the precautions stated above. If a potential employer decides to search you online you don’t want them to see or read anything that could hinder your chances of being hired.