Can you own a Hashtag?

Can you own a Hashtag?

An intriguing new trend has been occurring in the business facet of social media. Hashtags (#), those strange little number signs people online have been putting in front of words for the last decade or so, are now being trademarked.

Made infamous by Twitter, and still the main way of sharing popular posts and subjects, hashtags have since spread to other social media platforms as a way of marking topics for others to easily find.  According to Daliah Saper at Business.com, “The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) defines a hashtag as a form of metadata comprised of a word or phrase prefixed with the symbol ‘#’.”

With the right promotion, these can catch on immensely and spread to millions of viewers within a very short period of time.  They have proven to be a formidable marketing tool and are often used in advertisements in addition to the seller’s normal contact information, such as an official website.  To both capitalize on this and secure their sole right to use a given hashtag, companies are now beginning to try registering them as they would other intellectual properties.

But can a single word preceded by a # really be taken as intellectual property?  Copyright and patent law says no, stating that they are neither inventions or ideas, and are too short in content.  However, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) disagrees, and allows individuals and businesses to register a hashtag as a trademark.

Of course there are conditions.  According to Business.com, the USPTO looks at 4 factors before granting a trademark:

•    “Context
•    “Placement of the hash symbol in the mark
•    “How the hashtag is being used
•    “Types of goods or services identified

“In short, hashtags must follow the same trademark rules as words and symbols—they must signify a specific source of goods or services.”

One key item Saper points out, which anyone with experience marketing on the Internet will recognize, it that online trends are short lived.  Combine this with the fact that a trademark registration can take around 6 months to complete, your exclusive ownership may be nearly useless by the time you legally acquire it.

Nonetheless, it is an interesting trend and one to be sure to follow as it continues to develop.

 

This article was written by Benjamin Williams and originally published on TraDove.com.

Will the Green Tuk-tuk Industry Sweep Asia?

Will the Green Tuk-tuk Industry Sweep Asia?

Pulling into a bus station in Laos, my bus was still moving at a minute speed.  A man pried open the side door and stuck his head through à la Jack Nicholson in The Shining.  “Tuk tuk?” he asked with enthusiasm for a fare.

Anyone who has spent time in nearly any Asian country is likely familiar with the auto rickshaw.  Known locally by many names (tuk-tuk, tricycle, etc.), they are a staple in many developing urban centers and the way of life for many people.  Often providing quick and cheap fares in cities with badly congested traffic, these smaller vehicles can push through where normal cars cannot.

Recently, people are recognizing a problem with them, though.  As one article puts it, “[t]hree-wheelers have not been properly regulated. On the roads they chug out black fumes and obnoxious levels of noise. Across Asia, populations are taking note.”

Many new regulations are being put into place regarding such vehicles.  In Delhi, only cleaner, natural-gas engines are allowed.  Indonesia has had the same rule for new imports since 2006.  In Bangkok, Thailand registration of new tuk-tuks is no longer allowed.

In other places, new policies are being made to usher in a newer generation of much cleaner auto rickshaws.  For instance, in Luang Prabang, Laos, authorities are pushing for an entire system of electric auto rickshaws, complete with a unique charging infrastructure.  A similar push was being made in the Philippines where “[t]he government in Manila has teamed up with the Asian Development Bank on a $500 million project to get 100,000 electric-powered three-wheelers driving.”

What does this mean for the manufacturers?  Well, it’s a potentially massive market and many are already starting to get a foothold.

In Luang Prabang, a Japanese company named Prozza is supplying the initial batch of 14 electric three-wheelers.  Meanwhile, Chinese manufacturer Haier is considering manufacturing such vehicles in Laos in part because of its low cost, abundant electricity resources.

Japan-based Terra Motors is already making a large dent in Bangladesh and hopes to sell 30,000 units by the end of 2015.  They have lessened the cost to consumers by using older rechargeable lead batteries instead of newer technology.  Terra Motors had also expressed interest in taking on Manilla’s push for 100,000 electric rickshaws, but stopped due to lack of action by local authorities.

One article states the companies taking on these initial manufacturing endeavors are not engaging in too much financial risk because of the “low cost of entering the business, compared with cars.  Three-wheelers are relatively simple to build, requiring no seat belts, doors or windows.  Nor do they require expensive crash tests, which helps reduce development and production costs.”

However, the same problems of all electric vehicles persist, namely range and charging time.  For example, the Prozza Pecolo tuk-tuk in Luang Prabang can travel about 40km, but takes several hours to charge.

To deal with this, a charging infrastructure is being introduced alongside Luang Prabang’s tuk-tuks.  When a battery is near depletion, the driver can go to one of the charging stations, switch out the battery for a fully charged one in a matter of minutes, and leave the other battery charging.

However, it seems that these budding markets are encouraging others around the world.  For instance, Kawasaki’s ElecTrike Japan is focusing on creating such electric vehicles domestically for the moment, but with plans to move into the South East Asian Market in the future.

Likewise the initial success of these vehicles has inspired French and German manufacturers Renault and Mercedes-Benz to begin producing 1-2 passenger ultraminis as well.  Although whether or not these will be three-wheelers is yet to be seen.

This article was written by Benjamin Williams and originally published on TraDove.com.

6 Video Marketing Trends to Watch in 2016

6 Video Marketing Trends to Watch in 2016

In the mad rush to predict social marketing trends of the upcoming year, one thing that most all commentators seem to agree on is that video is on its way in.  And it’s coming in a big way.

We’ve looked at some aspects of video in a marketing and social media here before, but the ideas and ways that it can be implemented seem to be getting more and more creative and innovative every day.  Here are six trends noted by Digital Marketer Steffan Pedersen for 2016:

“1. Lower production quality is ok.”

Brands are trying to replicate the amateur Instagram-style smartphone posts, and Pedersen points to Starbucks as one of the leaders in this visual approach.  It gets the point across in a low-key and relatable way instead of bashing us over the head with blatant commercialism.

“2. Be wary of video bloggers/influencers — they can fall down as quickly as they’ve risen.”

Typically there is a reason that vloggers gain a following, and this often involves one of two things: letting their personal life into their videos or their ever-increasing idiosyncrasies.  In using these approaches to represent your brand, it becomes easy to see how too much of either could be detrimental to both your blogger’s reputation and yourself and brand by extension.

“3. Social/mobile video is here to stay. Look out for 360 Degree, Virtual Reality coming quick!”

Quoting stats ranging from Snapchat to Virtual Reality, Pedersen points to not only the increasing reliance of users on mobile video, but also the blossoming technologies that it will soon spread into.  He particularly highlights 360 degree video and leaves it to the readers’ imaginations how this might be used in our marketing.

“4. Facebook video ads > TV ads: A long time coming?”

With more and more content creators publishing their material exclusively on Facebook, the opportunities for advertising is increasing dramatically.  More importantly, unlike traditional TV ads, says Pedersen, Facebook’s platform allows for very targeted advertising to the exact demographics your brand is looking for.

“5. Instagram: Building out big brand offerings: 30 second cinematic video ads leave a big impression”

Similar to Facebook encouraging content hosting, Instagram is allowing video adverts and even short-form cinematic entertainment content.  Utilizing this new medium, several brands have seen a significant ROI.  Pedersen points to Michael Kors as one of the best examples.

“6. Cord cutting connects brands more intimately with consumers. I’m a cord-cutter, so this was especially interesting for me:”

As fewer and fewer people are subscribing to cable television due to high costs and lack of options, the trend is catching on with hardwired broadband Internet as well.  Many households are now becoming exclusively users of mobile devices.  Along with this shift comes the opportunity for higher-tech advertisements that engage the consumer, using methods such as interactive and real-time call-to-action videos.

Considering the much higher ad completion statistics Pedersen cites, these alternative media source have the potential to develop into innovative outlets for those marketers creative enough to embrace their full potential.

How do you see video playing a role in 2016’s social marketing?  Is your company in position to utilize the medium?  Join the discussion and let us know!

 

This article was written by Benjamin Williams and originally published on TraDove.com.

What You Need to Know About the New LinkedIn Groups

What You Need to Know About the New LinkedIn Groups

On 9 December, LinkedIn platform was named the most popular social network for content marketing by B2BNetworking.com, edging out competitors Twitter, Facebook, and others. And in truth, LinkedIn can prove a valuable tool for B2B content for no other reason than the professional audience that it provides. Luckily for us, it also gives other tools to work with.

Groups are one of these tools. Specific to an industry, company, or simply a common interest, these Groups give a common forum to discuss relevant topics. However, any LinkedIn users who participate in Groups likely noticed a large change in how they are accessed recently.

They invite us to check out the changes in this video, which neither displays nor explains anything new.

The Look

The original grid of all your Groups has been replaced with a blue-green banner, completely incongruous with the rest of the site’s design, featuring a drop-down menu of all your Groups in no particular order. This is accompanied by a “personalized selection of conversations from your groups” and the top 5 active groups.

Personally, I was more a fan of the grid list than having to scroll through all one-by-one. However, these are only the aesthetic changes. A number of functional changes have been made as well.

Privacy

The most prominent of these is the membership and searchability. Edging Groups more toward the private side, all groups are now automatically set to private and require new members to be admitted by a group administrator.

Building on this, administrators also have the option to make their Groups Unlisted. These Groups will not appear on internal search engines and require an invitation or direct link to access.

Due to these new privacy settings, external search engines will no longer index the contents of any Groups, closing off outside influences from the conversations and, as LinkedIn hopes, make “members feel more confident contributing in these types of groups.”

New Features

The option to add pictures to new discussion topics is a welcome change and one I have already noticed in use frequently. Two features that have been eliminated from Groups are Subgroups and posting wait times.

The second of these has the potential to make some ripples in how Groups may and may not be used by marketers. One of the largest complaints of the old Groups was the consistent amount of posts with zero engagement. Often this was due to nothing more than oversaturation and irrelevance.

This new zero wait time has the potential for Groups to be immediately flooded with spammy postings. However, author Bob Woods tells us not to worry on the subject, saying, “Don’t take the ‘lower bar’ statement as a license to spam or post lower-quality content, though. You will get busted by a Group owner/manager or a Group member.”

Woods continues, “At least now the standard for new people to join that particular Group is much, much higher. The opportunity to build your brand will be much better in this particular situation.”

The hope of LinkedIn is that the higher tiers of membership scrutiny will filter out these spammers and result in more relevant and engaging discussions. The Unlisted Groups that were previously Private, Woods explains, will now become prime mediums to build significant relationships within your Group’s field and conduct higher quality discussions and business.

iOS App

One final release came along with these changes; LinkedIn also released a companion LinkedIn Groups app. Though currently only available on iOS, it is promised to be released for Android devices soon. The LinkedIn Help Center post promises “You can follow conversations on the go with the new Groups mobile app . . . can receive push notifications for conversations in your groups so you stay updated. . .”

However, the response to this complementary app is not living up to the hopes LinkedIn had been touting with its release. In the App Store, it currently holds a meager score of 2 stars, with the highest review underwhelmingly stating “It’s just ok…..”

How these changes will improve LinkedIn’s narrow lead on Twitter for Content Marketers is something we will have to watch as we go into 2016.

This article was written by Benjamin Williams and originally published on TraDove.com.

Twitter Revamps are Good News for Marketers

Twitter Revamps are Good News for Marketers

Visual content provides the pretty packaging to the written content we use for marketing.  Some say that it’s arguably more important than the written content.  This holds true wherever you are posting your content online, whether on your own website or on social media platforms, such as Twitter

A while back, in a post introducing Instagram, we briefly touched on the photo sharing capabilities of varying social media sites.  One of my criticisms of Twitter was that, while it makes good use of a hashtag sharing method, it was not too friendly to visual content, often unnecessarily cropping photos.  It also did not offer many options for video or for editing photos, as both Facebook and Instagram do.

Since then, many of those criticisms had been addressed (not in response to me, I’m sure) through the addition of several new features to the Twitter App.

Most notable and obvious to the casual viewer is that pictures are no longer cropped.  Before, any landscape-style photo was skimmed down slightly on its top and bottom, while portrait photos were chopped into nearly unrecognizable fractions of their true form.  Beginning 7th December, this feature has stopped, showing any photo in their full dimensions.

 

An example of the old and new photo dimensions.
An example of the old and new photo dimensions.

Another change going hand-in-hand with the expanded photos feature is a new sort of gallery.  Before, when multiple photos were uploaded together, they would display in a tiled gallery of severely cropped thumbnails.  Due to space constraints, multiple-picture galleries are still cropped in the main feed; however, they are now presented in a more flattering aspect ratio.

The old vs new photo galleries.
The old vs new photo galleries.

 

In addition to the photo display features, Twitter is beginning to offer photo and video editing features.  While this catches them up to similar features that both Facebook and Instagram have offered for some time, these are only available on their mobile app.   Unlike on Instagram, which serves almost exclusively as a mobile platform, Twitter is just as functional on a desktop and many users might miss having these new features available on their computers.

So why is any of this big news for marketers?  As said earlier, visual content maybe be, at times, more important than written content.  As Twitter moves from its text-based origins into a much more visual-friendly medium, we are being given many more tools to customize our content and to get it seen in the way we intend.

Twitter is giving us the new tools.  How will we use them?

 

This article was written by Benjamin Williams and originally published on TraDove.com.

Is LiFi Set to Replace WiFi?

Is LiFi Set to Replace WiFi?

How’s your WiFi today?  Fast and reliable?  Maybe it’s being slowed down by the number of people on your router, or even the number of routers attached to the same fiber-optics.  Did you know that multiple routers broadcasting around each other can actually slow each other down?

A brand new technology being tested now could do away with all these problems.

Light Fidelity, being abbreviated as LiFi, is a wireless communication technology utilizing a wholly different wavelength of light than our standard WiFi and radio systems.  Using frequencies within the visible light spectrum, LiFi is already capable of transmitting data at 1 gigabyte per second, 100 times faster than standard WiFi.  In lab conditions, it has reached up to 240 gigabytes, the equivalent of downloading 2 dozen HD movies, per second.

The existing WiFi technology is theoretically capable of such speeds.  However, the routers which broadcast this radio signal use nearly 95% of their power to cool the hardware.

The new technology works through LED lights that transmit data by pulsing on and off thousands of times per second.  This speed is far too fast for the human eye to see, instead appearing as normal constant light source.  The inventor of this technology, German physicist Harald Haas speculated an environment where, “All we need to do is fit a small microchip to every potential illumination device and this would then combine two basic functionalities: illumination and wireless data transmission.”

One condition of Light Fidelity is being touted by some as a severe limitation and others a clear advantage.  While WiFi can pass through rooms with its radio signals, because LiFi operates in the visible light spectrum, it is unable to pass through solid objects.  It is therefore limited to the one room where the light source is emitting.  A limitation to be sure, but one that many are selling as a much more secure form of wireless data transmission.

Because of this condition, it will likely be implemented in tandem with existing data transmission technologies.

According to an article at The Stack, “Airlines, the oil industry and intelligence bodies have already shown interest in the technology due to its potential for secure wireless data transfers.”  PureLiFi, the company co-founded by Professor Harald Haas, is now valued at GBP14 million, and the technology is expected to grow to nearly USD 9 billion by 2020.

Should this new market grow as expected, as was said by Professor Haas in a 2011 TED Talk, “In the future we will not only have 14 billion light bulbs, we may have 14 billion LiFis deployed worldwide for a cleaner, greener and even brighter future.”

This article was written by Benjamin Williams and originally published on TraDove.com.