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To get the best out of broadband, be extraverted

Posted March 14th, 2014 in Broadband, economy, employment, entrepreneurship, social network, urban and tagged , , , , by Alton Drew

Yesterday I met with my old friend Phyllis for lunch.  We met at Florida State and would meet at 5:30 in the mornings a couple times a week to play racquetball.  I think in 21 years I’ve only won two games against her.  In addition to friendship, as business people and lawyers, it’s also good to trade information and knowledge that may benefit both of us or someone we may know who is in need of help.

Yesterday’s lunch also helped me to put this article in to some better context.  Mashable.com’s Samantha Murphy Kelly wrote an article recently about who she describes as the world’s most connected man.  The subject of the article, Chris Dancy, reportedly has from 300 to 700 systems running at any given time, systems that constantly provide him with real time data.  The data gives him feedback on how well he’s sleeping, his fitness levels, etc. According to Mr. Dancy, ”I’m much more aware of how I respond to life and take steps to adjust to my environment. I’ve also formed better habits thanks to the feedback I’m getting.”

Wireless devices, mobile-ready websites, and consumer demand for data combine to create a bundle of personal information that either we use, as Mr. Dancy does, to determine where we are at and how well we are doing in order to get there.  We are creating and connecting to our digital mirrors, mirrors, ironically, that reflect a lot about ourselves to other people which raises privacy concerns.  I wonder, however, if we are using wireless broadband to meaningfully connect with others who may be able to share knowledge and information leading to economic opportunities?

Networking maybe an overused word.  I prefer connections, but focus on the concept is more important.  For minorities entering the labor market, skills may not be enough as Nancy DiTomaso pointed out in May 2013 in a piece for The New York Times.  Inclusion versus exclusion may be the problem for blacks and other minorities seeking higher-wage opportunities.  People tend to share information about jobs with their family and friends so if you are shut out of a network based on skin color the search for work becomes harder.

Is broadband a panacea, a quick fix?  No, it is not, but it provides access to other platforms that provide alternatives to the human social networks that minorities are shut out off.  Broadband access is also fundamental to creating independent social networks through which minorities can share information on job and entrepreneurial opportunities.

It’s time to divert that feedback loop of information we have on ourselves and use broadband to share it with the right people and develop strong connections.

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Time to stop coddling social media consumers

Posted January 7th, 2014 in social media, social network and tagged , , by Alton Drew

Author Bernard Marr today posted an article on Linkedin (NYSE: LNKD)discussing a class action suit filed against social media giant Facebook (NASDAQ: FB).  The plaintiffs allegedly have taken issue with, you guessed it, Facebook’s privacy policy, specifically, Facebook’s practice of reviewing content posted or shared by users in order to create user profiles that can then be provided to advertisers.  The plaintiffs want the social media giant to provide consumers with more transparency as to how their content is being used.

We’ve heard this song and seen this dance before.  Social media consumers believe that they “own” these companies simply because they use the companies’ services.  Profiling a social media consumer based on content they post or write is an important part of a social media company’s business model. Expanding a consumer’s ability to say yes or no to how they are profiled increases operational expense and reduces the firm’s revenues.  If the consumer doesn’t like the firm’s management practice, then the consumer should step.

Breaking up with a social media platform can be hard to do for some consumers.  Deleting photos, the names of friends, addresses, etc., is time consuming.  What social media companies should do to make the consumer’s exit as pain free as possible is totally and completely erase the exiting consumer’s profile, including any data stored on the consumer and ensuring that nothing on the exiting consumer is shared with entities that want to purchase consumer data.

Forcing more transparency, increasing the amount of consumer coddling, however, is not the answer.  Such an approach tramples on entrepreneurial freedom and a firm’s business judgment.  Let the check on a firm’s behavior occur on its bottom line with an organic reduction in demand for its services.

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With minorities creating disproportionate amount of tweets on Twitter, how will ads look?

Twitter recently filed papers for an initial public offering earlier this week to become the last of the three prominent social networks to raise capital on a yet to be announced public stock exchange. Twitter is reportedly trying to raise up to $1 billion to put toward working capital, operating expenses, and capital expenditures.

According to the Pew Research, some 15% of online adults use Twitter, with 8% using it on any given day. Twenty-eight percent of online African American adults uses Twitter, with 13% using the social network on nay given day. In addition, 26% of online users age 18-29 are using Twitter.

Pew also notes there is a high correlation between Twitter usage and mobile technology usage. If you’re tweeting, it’s a good chance you are using a smartphone. Specifically, 16% of smartphone users are using Twitter on their smartphones. African American and Latinos, demographic groups known for their disproportionate use of smartphones, will more likely lead in the use of Twitter via mobile devices.

Eighty-five percent of Twitter’s 2012 revenue came from advertising, according to an analysis done by Forbes.com. That amounted to $269 million out of a total of $317 million in 2012. Granted, social media is a different beast from traditional media, but there may be concerns about discrimination in advertising if Twitter follows the poor lead of its broadcast brethren. So far that concern hasn’t been raised by advocates for fairness in advertising, and I don’t see who would be responsible for addressing the issue, should it become one. For example, the Federal Communications Commission has no jurisdiction over social networks, but the Federal Trade Commission does flex its muscle on issues of competition in markets, privacy and advertising, so Twitter may wish to nip discrimination in advertising very early and avoid one regulatory nagging point.

Alton Drew serves as a managing director of The Drew Fonza Project, a public policy research and consulting firm. He provides public policy analysis for broadband investors, municipal bond investors, private equity firms, hedge funds, investment banks, industry associations, and individual investors.
Visit http://www.drewfonza.com to purchase reports on political environments impacting your telecom investments or to request a customized report. E-mail him at alton@drewfonza.com.

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Americans for Prosperity getting older Americans interested in social media

For the past two days I’ve been enjoying the dry heat of Orlando, Florida. It’s always good to come back to my adopted home state and got the chance to visit with my law school chums as well as witness another type of heat here in Florida: The Seventh Annual Defending the American Dream Summit. Besides the occasional bashing of President Barack Obama’s health care and economic policies, their were panels on how to use social media as a platform for getting their political advocacy messages out. This is pretty standard fare until you appreciate who made up the majority of the audience: older Americans.

You couldn’t help but notice. This group definitely dominated the Summits demographics and presented another reason for broadband adoption: the demand for further democratization on the part of our graying population and another source of energy for individuals who have seen a lot and have plenty to say, not letting a little thing like age take them out of the discussion.

Listening to the questions these citizens were asking about social media while they incorporated their observations about the nation’s political climate in their comments tells me that they were interested in a little more than how to get their kittens down out of a tree.

Look out young Twitter and Facebook users. Grandma and grandpa are coming.

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Facebook the Night Club

Posted February 7th, 2013 in social network and tagged , , by Alton Drew

I’m experiencing one of those a ha moments that may not make it into the annals of history, but I claim all the same. The team on Bloomberg Surveillance chatted a bit about the big three social networks: Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. One of the hosts, Tom Keene, described LinkedIn as a winner while giving Facebook mixed reviews. His analysis was based primarily on LinkedIn’s overall stock performance since it went public two years ago. I think LinkedIn is the better play also simply based on the value of its content. Specifically, the value that is derived from the quality connections people expect to make on LinkedIn versus Facebook.

People use LinkedIn to connect with individuals that may lead them to job or other business opportunities. The site also markets itself to job recruiters looking for ideal candidates. LinkedIn plays a role in maximizing income and wealth for the subscriber. Facebook simply doesn’t do that. It is still the bulletin board that is hung up in a dorm room where Kim can tell Sally about the sorority party next week.

What Facebook needs to do, if it wants to stick with its advertising model, is to create events. Facebook is like a night club. People show up for the entertainment. Real swank clubs have corporate sponsors for an evening underwriting events while hawking their wares. Facebook has one billion potential MCs and DJs on its site and plenty of sponsors that are willing to hawk their wares around them. This is how Facebook will be able to generate more income.

As long as Zuckerberg is in charge, Facebook will never be a LinkedIn, and as the years progress, professionals will never look at Facebook as a rival to LinkedIn, but since Facebook doesn’t even want to take on more of a media company look, the club option may be its best bet.