Archive | Politics

Nigel Farage teaches you how to do Internet Marketing

Nigel FarageLet me get this straight right at the beginning. I believe that Nigel Farage, the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party, frequently talks nonsense. His party’s policies seem to be made up on the spot and his relentless focus on immigration is a divisive force sending Britain backwards not forwards. As you may gather, I do not sympathise with his views one bit.

Yet, here in the UK, the local council elections yesterday showed that many people do believe in him and UKIP. Indeed, the party has gained 89 seats throughout England, where the coalition government parties, so far, have lost 200 seats between them. Clearly, many people prefer UKIP to the Government.

The majority of people, of course, do not support Nigel Farage. The vast bulk of the voters did not support UKIP; three-quarters of people voted for other parties.

Yet, whatever you think of him and his policies, you have to admit he is causing something of a disturbance. But why?

Discussions on radio and TV and in newspaper columns have revealed a common thread when talking to the public. You cannot misunderstand what Nigel Farage thinks. He is clear and passionate about his policies. He relentlessly bashes home his view and like it or not, you know what it is.

But interviews with voters have also revealed what they think of other politicians. They are unsure what they actually stand for and even though they support the party, they wish the leaders would spend more time saying what they really believe in and less time preparing “spin” and saying what they think the public wants to hear. Indeed, this was a point picked up by Liberal Democrat minister, Lynne Featherstone, when she told the BBC that politicians need to be “more human”.

When you think of politicians you understand – even though you may not support their views – you probably think of people like Boris Johnson, Ann Widdicombe, or Tony Benn. You could not mistake their beliefs, or their passion and towing the party-line is clearly not for them.

Yet, most of our politicians these days are career politicians, often with a degree in politics and with no experience outside politics. They live in a political bubble, unfettered by real-world knowledge.

And that too is the problem for many businesses. At a dinner with some leading fashion experts the other night, the conversation got round to the woes of M&S, which recently reported its third year of losses. The industry leaders I was with were unanimous in one thing: M&S is in a bubble, disconnected from its customers. Even though the company has reported a significant rise in online sales, a major rise of something small in comparison to other retailers is still something small.

Whenever you find a business in some kind of trouble, you can generally find that they had lost sight of what their customers wanted. Instead, they delivered what they thought their customers wanted and tried pandering to these theoretical positions. Meanwhile, you can usually find people from these troubled firms who come clean after a while and say what they actually believe, rather than “PR spin”. Indeed, research on trust and credibility of business leaders shows consistently that we prefer those who speak from the heart and not from the head. We like them to be honest, to say what they feel – and not say what they have been told to say by some wet-behind-the-ears graduate of PR.

Internet marketers fall into the same trap. They say what they think we want to hear – “here’s how you can live like me, working from the beach just one hour a week”. But the Internet Marketers, like Pat Flynn, who are completely honest about their online earnings and the way they do business, get a huge following.

So what does all this tell us? It shows that when your online marketing is focused on what you think people want to hear, not saying what you believe, you lose trust and credibility. When you operate like a “business” and not like a human being, you create distance and lack of connection.

Nigel Farage may be someone whose policies and activities I dislike intensely, but you have to hand it to him that he has demonstrated that if you say what you believe, rather than what you think people want to hear, you start connecting. Online it is just the same; understand your customers, sure, but they also need to understand you and if you hide away behind some PR veneer, they cannot “get” what it is your business stands for.

Categories: Internet Marketing, Politics

Web Links to Be Banned by EU

A person draws a series of links connecting in a network of referrals, representing a well search engine optimized website or an organization of connected peopleShocking news has reached me this morning from a friend who works at the EU. He tells me they are drawing up plans to ban all links on the web. Within a year from today it will be illegal to include links on any web pages or blogs you produce without prior permission from the owner of the links.

It follows on from the EU ban on cookies, which has led millions of web pages asking you to click on a pop-up item confirming you agree to links. It is part of the EU clamp-down on privacy. The legislators in Brussels have argued that linking to someone else’s website is a similar invasion of privacy and therefore no links should be included in web pages without the prior permission of the owner of that link.

The initiative, drawn up secretly over the past year, is known as the Actual Permissions Required In Linking (APRIL). According to my friend in the know, an announcement was due to be made yesterday, but the press release had not been signed off in time. So the announcement has been delayed until today.

However, because I had been told in advance I contacted the Federation for Online Open Linking (FOOL) to find out what they thought. They told me: “This is a disaster. It undermines the entire purpose of the Internet. We may as well close it down and go back to pen and paper.”

Looking at the EU’s plans, though, I suspect that is not going to happen. Rather like the EU Cookie Directive which effectively means that every website currently shown in the EU is illegal, the APRIL directive is unlikely to have any significant impact.

I suspect, though, it will lead to a major new industry in gaining link permissions, which could rival the entire SEO industry in terms of size and importance. Perhaps I will be able to report on that in exactly one year from today.

See other stories which I published on 1st April:

For more information on this story please click here.

Categories: Politics

UK Government misunderstands web porn

????????????????????????????????????????????Yesterday the Government took to the broadcast airwaves and David Cameron has taken to Twitter to say how fantastic it is that they have “forced” the Internet giants to block child porn online. But don’t be fooled. The Government is making you think that they have achieved something, when in reality they have probably made things worse.

This is not the first time the Government has fooled the public into believing it is doing something about online dangers. Earlier this year it suggested that service providers would make all kinds of pornography blockable, thereby filtering out potentially dangerous material for children in particular. As I wrote at the time, this is patent nonsense showing a complete lack of understanding of the way the Internet works and the way people use the web.

This time, the Government has shown yet more misunderstanding. It seems to believe that people interested in child pornography go to Google to find it. Fact: they do not. They share it using “torrent” style sites, peer-to-peer networks and in the inner recesses of what is known as the “dark” web. Indeed, there is little benefit in them trying to search on Google anyway because existing filters would have blocked much of the vile content anyway.

Google and Microsoft have tightened up their existing filters and added in some additional boosts to their software so that illegal material will be flagged. That’s a great addition for the innocent finding of child porn by people looking for something else but where their search term unearthed dubious content.

However, none of this is going to have any significant impact on the production and sharing of child pornography and it is hardly going to impact upon the harm and abuse happening to children.

The Government is making people think that their initiative is brilliant and that it will have an effect. The Government and David Cameron are making the public think something is being done, when in reality what they are doing is making the situation worse. The reason is that by making people think something is being done, the politicians will be under less public pressure to do anything about the issue. It is a smokescreen.

Apart from the fact that this latest “initiative” shows, once again, a fundamental misunderstanding of how people use the Internet, it also implies that the Government is involved in a cynical move aimed more at attracting votes than actually doing anything about the problem.

The real issue is that CEOP, now part of the National Crime Agency, has had budget cuts and has a really small number of staff in comparison to what it needs. There is serious under resourcing in dealing with online crime of all kinds, in particular in terms of child abuse.

This week’s initiative from the Government which David Cameron appears to be proud of, is actually virtually useless. Indeed, it is likely to be making the situation worse, because rather like the move in the summer to block porn at source it lulls people into a false sense of security, making people think something has at last been done, when in reality the child abusers will be rubbing their hands in glee that the Government has missed the point – AGAIN…!

Categories: Politics

Why don’t old people use the Internet?

Old man and young women using computerYoung people below the age of 24 have grown up with the Internet; they have no knowledge or memory of the world before the web. To them it has always been there. It is no wonder that they are amongst the most highly represented group of people online. Indeed, according to Pew Internet, 98% of people under the age of 29 use the Internet.

However, they are statistically much more likely to be online than their grandparents. In the over 65 age group, Internet usage plummets to 56%. Now there is a margin of error in these research figures, so it basically means that nine out of ten young people use the web, whereas only six out of ten pensioners do so.

That’s still the majority of course, but it means the Internet is much more popular in youngsters than oldies.

But look at the figures again. How much of this difference is actually due to age?

More significant are two other factors – education and income. The Internet is a rich person’s world and highly educated rich people at that. Those aged 65 and over had fewer educational opportunities when they were young. Going to university was rare, now it is the norm. Poverty is also significantly more frequent in the over 65s than it is in younger generations.

Having enough money to pay for web access and then having the educational attainment to understand the online world and be able to use it are the real limiting factors. They probably also explain why not everyone under the age of 65 uses the web.

This concept is known as the “digital divide” where the online world favours the rich and well educated. But there appears to be a growing new kind of digital divide – the social skills divide.

New research shows that people who have lots of “friends” and do lots of mobile phone activity report MORE loneliness than those who have fewer friends and use their mobiles less. The “social deficit” theory suggests that people are more lonely when they have less face-to-face contact. This research did indeed find in favour of that theory.

Unexpectedly, though, it found that people with lots of contacts also felt lonely. The chances are these people are spending less time in face-to-face and more time in electronic communication.

Maybe that old-young person digital divide has nothing to do with age, finances or education after all. Maybe it is that the over 65s have realised the value of face-to-face. They know that being offline is better for them psychologically. Perhaps we should be encouraging those rich college kids to stop using the Internet so much. We could be creating a whole new kind of digital divide.

Categories: Internet Psychology, Politics

Parents are being duped about online safety by the UK Government

David CameronDavid Cameron did the rounds of the media studios yesterday promoting the Government’s new initiative for online safety for children. If it had not been for the stupidity of the idea, it would have been brilliant.

The UK Government is proposing two changes – a filtering system run by Internet Service Providers to restrict access to online pornography and the banning of certain search phrases which could reveal real nasty stuff.

On the face of it, that sounds a great idea. To the uninitiated it sounds as though the Government is at last doing something about the horrors of the web. To the cynical it sounds merely like something designed to gain the votes of the ignoramt.

There are two main issues with the system put in place by the Prime Minister.

Firstly, filtering can be circumvented. Any teenager can easily find out how to get round filters. It doesn’t take a genius to search for software that gets round filters, to find there are plenty of free options as well as a ton of advice on how to do this easily – without parents knowing…! So when an ISP has filters switched on, Mum and Dad will be reassured that their children will be protected. But those youngsters could well be going around those filters, seeing things which may be psychologically damaging to them. But Mum and Dad won’t know – they won’t even bother to talk about online safety because that nice Mr Cameron has solved it for them. Far from making the Internet safer for children, the filter move has the potential to make it more dangeorous as parents will relax their existing controls blissfully unaware that their children are visiting porn.

The second issue about banning search terms is patent nonsense. Each MONTH around 50% of the phrases searched for on the web have NEVER been used before. Novel combinations of words and phrases are the very lifeblood of search and one reason why Google has to constantly update its index. To ban a word or phrase from revealing search results would be a never-ending and unsuccessful chase. As one phrase is banned, people would search for another one. A ban on search terms simply would not work – even before you consider the civil liberty implications or the problems it might cause when the banned phrases could impact legitimate search terms too.

Here is what the Government ought to be doing. Instead of worrying about whether or not Google pays any tax, they should set up an educational programme both for children and for parents that receives significantly more funding than any previous initiatives. That funding should be in the tens of millions of pounds region and should come directly from Google. Call it a “contribution to society”. The money would provide leaflets, booklets, evening classes, online lessons, Facebook pages and a one-to-one phone advice shop for parents and children. The whole thing will be geared to educating parents in particular as to what they can do to help their children use the Internet safely and what to do if they stumble across anything nasty.

The reason this is needed is simple. One set of parents may have their filters switched on and think their child is protected. But their youngster visits their friend’s house where the filters are switched off and they can see anything. With education those children potentially seeing anything will know how to avoid the nasty stuff, what to do if it is mistakenly viewed and that they should discuss their feelings and reactions to it with their parents. With a massive education campaign these things can happen. With the Government’s filters in place all that will happen is that the danger to children is INCREASED.

Far from helping online safety, these changes have made things worse. As a parent, David Cameron should be ashamed.

Categories: Politics