Stalking, stakeholders, and (re)shaping the Internet

My relationship with the Web started when I was in first year high school, when during our computer class, my classmates created my first-ever e-mail address and my Friendster account. It was not love at first sight – I was not really interested back then, and all I wanted was to see how it works. I never imagined that I would be this hooked after 7 years, and it only dawned in me that the Internet did not only seduce me, it has shaped my mindset and my world.

Simplified is alluring
In his essay Shaping the Internet Age, Bill Gates made a clear and agreeable assertion – the Internet has transformed the way we work, the way we spend our leisure, the way we live. I’m sure it is not just me that was lured: around 20 million Filipinos are online in 2009. We do so because we feel empowered whenever it’s just us and the computer; in Gates’ terms, our human potential is amplified by the Internet. Indeed, the Internet made everything simpler. Now it’s definitely easier to connect with grade school classmates, do research on Kelly’s Personal Construct Theory, watch the latest Glee episodes, and shop for an ukay find. Now apart from the abovementioned, the Internet has all the more empowered its user with these two revolutionary online activities:

Stalking. The Internet has made stalking equal to researching about somebody. With Facebook, your crush will never discover that you are checking his/her account every two hours. Plus, one can just Google a name, and voila! High school records, personal blogs and accounts, home videos — these information regarding your victim are just right at your fingertips. Amazing really that search beats e-mail and social networking as the top online activity in the Philippines.

To search is a divine online act.

Information sharing. Traditional media dictate one-way flow of messages and information. With the Internet, it became multi-directional. Anyone can be a source of valuable information, or even information that might prove to be valuable someday. We have collaborative sharing efforts like Wikipedia, virtual manuals on eHow, and real-time updates on Twitter. Blogs and online fora also serve the purpose for the information seeker, with Google being our gateway to all these.

Satisfying the stakeholders’ desires
Now what does this all mean to a business person? Gates mentioned that to survive the Internet ordeal, a business must “make its products, services, and interface more attractive than competitors that are only a few mouse-clicks away.” True, the desire for information by a customer needs to be satisfied in the Web. But first, it’s not only the customer who is online. In today’s age, I bet that a company’s stakeholders are all online. More importantly, efforts should not stop with a pricelist in the company website with minimal Flash and bandwidth requirements.

Allow your company, product, or brand to be stalked. Omnipresence might help, but not all companies are fit to start their Facebook accounts (I can’t imagine construction products and brands of appliances on Facebook), so at least there should be an SEO effort to make your official website appear as the first search result in Google and Yahoo Search. And once you are already stalked, probably it’s the best time to start conversations.

Relationships matter – LinkedIn’s right. According to this video, social media is about conversations, not campaigns. It is about making people feel heard, and in the process, important. It is not just about creating a website with a Contact Us section promising to get back to the person, it is about fulfilling that promise.

Companies cannot not converse online.

Manage online reputation. Information shared online does not guarantee to be always positive, so companies should be ready to answer negative remarks online (but not to bring it to a bigger scale). It might not clean up the entire mess, but will help in doing so. By being accessible online, conversing with audiences, and managing rep in a polite manner, people will eventually talk good about the company online and in real life. It’s an advantage that is free and a few mouse-clicks ahead of the competitor.

Obscure still
Almost ten years after Gates wrote his essay and made accurate predictions regarding tablets, smart phones, and Internet appliances, his recommendations on reshaping the Internet age still apply, especially for a third-world Philippines. It’s not just the users and the businessmen; the government should be playing a very important role in regulating a seemingly-abyssmal mine called the Internet. As of now, we only have the weakly-applied E-Commerce Act as the only policy guiding the use of the Internet in the Philippines (Can you imagine such an act punishing the perpetuators of Katrina-Hayden video?). The implementation of a national broadband network, on the other hand, is stalled following the ZTE scandal.

Yes, the Internet has empowered its users (specifically the upper middle SECs), but to bridge the so-called digital divide and empower the lowest parts of the social spectrum needs government intervention. While it would still be surely a long way before we have a cyber Philippines, individuals and businesses alike need to contemplate on responsible stalking, seeking, and sharing – with the operative word ‘responsible‘ making way for reshaping the Internet, which we already shaped early in its conception and has shaped our lives and our future.

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9 thoughts on “Stalking, stakeholders, and (re)shaping the Internet

  1. I remember what our interviewee for OC 105 report told us, “Everybody is a potential client”. She told us that since the internet can make or break their public image, It became very important for them to always update their website, and keep good relations with the media through social networking sites. They also try to take advantage of using SMS as a way of disseminating information to their stakeholders since it can be easier for them to communicate. She said that they were doing this so that people can get information straight from the source, and avoid false statements about their company. I think that this effort of reaching out to potential customers and stakeholders using the media that we are all familiar with and very much exposed to can help businesses keep up with the Internet Age, create a positive impact on their company’s image, and contribute to their company’s longevity.

    • I remember, that interview was for the media relations report! šŸ˜›

      Using the Internet as a tool to achieve business goals is now a must, because everyone’s slowly going online. Your interviewee is right, everyone is a potential client, therefore, companies must take an active stance in creating and maintaining a positive image online, since anyone can just go online and consult Google about your company. šŸ™‚

  2. What caught my attention was the use of social media for conversations and not campaign. I think that’s a valuable insight especially for those who want to engage in marketing. Creating emotional selling points and emotional relationships are some of the lessons I learned in my OJT; these are important in these days when even small business can reach several parts of the globe because of the Internet. Sometimes though, the Internet could be used to exploit other people through these kinds of “conversations”. The freedom the Internet gives will always be in question especially for users. Maybe one day the Internet will finally be moderated by an organization or by unified efforts of several nations of the world.

    • Sincerity of online conversations will always be in question, because as we learned from 104, computer-mediated comm will always lack the nonverbal warmth of FTF comm, which we primarily use to determine the value of these talks. But in my opinion, online conversations appear sincere when there is effort to start and continue one, when they do not endanger the lives of people involved, and when both (or all) sides contribute to the talk, and both learn/benefit from it.

  3. You’re right about online reputation. The internet has spawned another branch of public relations, and this could be the hardest one yet. As this is relatively new, the rules are still unclear. Strategies used in actual PR have to be modified to suit this kind of enviroment.

    Damage mitigation of online reputations can also be a problem, especially if social networking sites are involved. It is hard to cry foul, when one of the most appealing aspects of SNS is being able to say what you want to say. Violating that sacred rule won’t do your reputation any good either.

    I think that for PR, the internet is both a blessing and a curse. However; I think if one holds on to the most basic tenet of PR (which is to tell the TRUTH), then this can be mamged effectively.

  4. I am totally appalled when a newfound crush doesn’t have an online presence, like what on earth is up with him?! HAHAHA! Like when I Google and he’s nowhere in the first few results! Weird.

    And of course, as a consumer, the same reaction applies when a restaurant, or a newly discovered place is not searchable online. And they are quite a lot. This is the Internet age! Why are they not doing anything to optimize search engine results?!

    • Hear, hear. As a (frustrated) food blogger, I consult online accounts before eating in a resto and before I post my critique. I noticed that Philippine restos are more into ClickTheCity.com and MunchPunch.com, rather than starting their own websites. It’s not really bad, but the value of a website with their own menu will be more credible and appreciated by customers.

      Try using quotation marks + keywords in stalking! Hahaha This is a good blog topic, I might work on this soon. Hahaha

  5. I scanned your entry, and I have several points to raise–

    1. The first part of the discussion under “simplified is alluring” could be shortened; the second part deserves a lengthier (or more concrete?) discussion.

    2. I like your attempt to nuance the discussion to companies, but you can be more specific–what does this all mean for Filipino companies? Lots of Filipinos are online, but the people are concentrated in specific classes (there’s a study on this, I’m lazy to find the link). Given this, how can companies make conversations? How can they manage their online reputation?

    The danger in giving tips is that an entry can look as if it’s just a shopping list of ideas; maybe you can add some examples of good social media practices. šŸ™‚

    3. Good tidbit on the government’s responsibility! šŸ™‚ I’d prolly have to read Bill Gate’s article on reshaping the Internet, though, to know his recommendations. šŸ˜¦

    • The part on tips was… overheard at Yehey! Hahaha. That’s why the first part of the discussion, which was all about the individual user, was more lengthy – it’s the part that I know by heart. The second part, I have to admit that I still have a lot of reading and learning to do, so I am really looking forward to our lessons this sem. šŸ˜€

      Gates’ recommendations were all about privacy, piracy, digital divide, etc., thus the role of government. If you read Bill Gates’ essay, I’m sure you’ll have a lot more to comment, so don’t read YET! šŸ˜›

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