‘Get-rich-quick’ on the Net

During the 20-minute train commute home last week, a strategically placed sticker above a window caught my eye. The message on it (which I reveal at the end of this post) promoted a scheme that seemed like any of those alluring get-rich-quick-work-from-home offers. A second look got me thinking about how easy it is for one to earn some money, with just basic knowledge of the Internet. Some more thought went into it and as I neared the end of my journey, I thought that the Net and the plethora of its free tools and services is also a good medium to bring in fortunes (and hordes of customers) for a company. It is also a highly targeted way of advertising that goes beyond the “one-way” mode of traditional advertising.

Last week I also happened to meet Hari Krishnan, the Country Manager of LinkedIn India. Krishnan convinced me that social media is a boon for advertisers—if they knew the potential of the medium and how to use it to their advantage. Without naming the company he cited an interesting example.

Krishnan told me that a bank recently approached LinkedIn with a plan for a campaign for SMBs. So his team created a sponsored answers campaign on LinkedIn Answers. It asked a question to SMEs: What is it that you look for when pursuing a loan?  LinkedIn ran banner ads with this question, targeted at SME professionals only—and hence only SME professionals on LinkedIn saw that ad.

So in this context the SMEs knew that this was the bank (not an agency) talking to them and they started stating their views. The richness in context of answers came back directly to the advertiser (the bank).

I’m now convinced that social media offers advertisers and potential customers a platform for highly engaging and interactive advertising. And it also assures audience quality.

 Can you get this quality with click-through ads and page impressions? No.

And what was the alluring message on that sticker? Well, it offered INR 500 to INR 1,000 an hour. The message on the little sticker said, “Just open a (dummy) email account and then click on Google AdSense/AdWords links or fill marketing survey forms (read: with false credentials) and the (dummy) email address”.

Tsk-Tsk. I wonder how advertisers on Google will respond to this. Perhaps, they should now learn to use social network sites like LinkedIn and Facebook.

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The next enterprise killer app

Now that the iPad is declared “Gadget of the Year” by T3 magazine and there is a flood of tablets coming our way, it’s time to ponder about how these will be used productively in the enterprise. And it’s not hard to predict the next killer app for the corporate world.

The smartphone, already an essential tool, and the tablet, each have their inherent limitations. The smartphone is in essence a mini computer, but is just not practical for extended periods of usage. For one, its screen size is too small, and secondly, onscreen keyboards or slide-out physical keyboards are just not comfortable enough. Those who have attempted typing an entire report or story on their smartphones will agree. 

 The tablet too has its limitations. It’s a device for consuming content and is not very apt for creating content or editing documents.

But pair these two devices together and you have a killer app. That’s what RIM is trying to do with its PlayBook tablet (due early next year). The PlayBook will pair up with a BlackBerry handset via a Bluetooth connection. Then content that appears on the Blackberry phone’s screen will also appear on the tablet. That will overcome the limitation of screen size. We can also expect a virtual keypad with animation that simulates the tactile key presses of a physical keyboard.

Microsoft and Samsung will be launching tablets this year and Dell has just launched the Streak. And Cisco’s Cius enterprise tablet is expected in Q4 2010.

I see lots of useful applications for the smartphone-tablet combo. One of these is video conferencing on-the-go. Then there’s virtual computing—images of your desktop environment will be pushed to your smartphone and tablet, thus enabling employees to work from anywhere. But for that we are going to need faster 3G connectivity. The possibilities seem endless especially when you consider the hundreds of enterprise applications available from App stores. And then a company could have custom-built applications for the highly-specific needs of its mobile workforce. *