Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Web Secret 499: the best of iWebU - Know Your Meme

On August 15, 2018, I will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of iWebU - that's over 500 weekly posts.

Leading up to that momentous date, I am re releasing the "best of iWebU", starting in 2008 and moving forward in time.

These are the posts that stand the test of time and remain as valuable today as they did then.

And so, I revisit Web Secret #79: Know Your Meme. Why? The Internet meme continues to be one of the most powerful agents of change in the world.

Note to my readers: Most of the links in this post - the important ones - continue to work.

Web Secret #79: Know Your Meme - December 9, 2009

Create a successful meme to promote your product or your services and you have captured lightning in a bottle.

There is no more powerful form of viral marketing.

What's a meme?

It's a catchphrase or concept that spreads quickly from person to person via the Internet, much like an esoteric inside joke. The content often consists of a joke, an altered or original image, a complete website, a video clip or animation, among many other possibilities.
  • An Internet meme may stay the same or may evolve over time.
  • Internet memes have a tendency to evolve and spread extremely quickly, sometimes going in and out of popularity in just days.
  • They are spread organically, voluntarily, and peer to peer.
I have previously written about the brilliant "Whopper Sacrifice", but there are others, many others...

What does it take to come up with a compelling meme? Enter, a fabulous website that catalogues memes making them easy to study. As an example, typing in "hamster" in the site's search window brings up the 1998 Hampster Dance, one of the earliest examples of an Internet meme. Of course the Hampster Dance was meant to entertain, not sell products. But there is much to learn from even non-commercial memes.

But what about something more recent?

Check out the Starbucks Love Project launched December 7th. It asks that you submit a 30 second video of you and your friends singing the Beatles "All You Need Is Love" or your "love drawing", and Starbucks will contribute 5 cents towards the global fight against AIDS.

Today, December 8, hundreds of thousands of people from 120 countries have already participated.

Now how much good will do you think Starbucks has generated for itself?

But what if you have zero dollars to invest in viral marketing?

Once upon a time, there was a real estate project in San Franciso called Pacific Cannery Lofts. The challenge they faced was getting San Francisco dwellers to buy one of their loft apartments in West Oakland - which most locals considered to be an Outer Mongolia location.

The Pacific Cannery marketing team had no money to promote the project.

But they were smart. They borrowed a car, a very cheap video cam and they created a handful of minute long videos titled “Time Trials”, shot documentary style, showing how quickly a person could drive from the Lofts to various desirable locations in San Francisco. They uploaded the videos to YouTube.

"Time Trials" became a cult hit. Hundreds of people e-mailed them to one another. Some even filmed their own "Time Trials" and submitted them to YouTube as well.

Completely cool.
So clever.
I am jealous.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Web Secret 498: the best of iWebU - Whopper Sacrifice

On August 15, 2018, I will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of iWebU - that's over 500 weekly posts.

Leading up to that momentous date, I am re releasing the "best of iWebU", starting in 2008 and moving forward in time.

These are the posts that stand the test of time and remain as valuable today as they did then.

And so, I revisit Web Secret #39: Whopper Sacrifice.

Why? Because this Burger King viral marketing campaign remains one of the most creative I have ever encountered.

Note to my readers: The links in this post have long been taken down.

Web Secret #39: Whopper Sacrifice - February 11, 2009

If you read my Web Secret #9 you know that viral marketing refers to techniques that uses pre-existing social networks (eg Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) to produce an increase in brand awareness or achieve other marketing objectives.

Recently I read about a viral marketing ploy used by - of all companies - Burger King, that is so clever, elegant and thought provoking, I just had to share it with you.

Basically, Burger King created an application for Facebook, called Whopper Sacrifice that rewarded you with a coupon for BK's signature burger for every 10 'friends' you managed to delete from your massively cluttered list of Facebook friends. The application then sent a notification to the banished party via Facebook's news feed explaining that your desire for a Whopper was stronger than your love for the unlucky former 'friend.'

The app also added a box on a user's profile page charting their progress toward the free burger with the line, "Who will be the next to go?". Sacrificed friends had the option of sending an AngryGram to the axing perpetrator.

The marketing ploy was so successful that visitors to are now told that "Facebook had to disable Whopper Sacrifice after your love for the Whopper sandwich proved stronger than 233,906 friendships."

I figure that for the cost of about 23,000 burgers, Burger King probably reached 500,000 potential customers. And they got a ton of free publicity for their innovative viral marketing tactic.

Now it's your turn. How will you virally market your products and services? The majority of viral marketing techniques don't cost a penny. Just brain power.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Web Secret 497: the best of iWebU - Web Sites that Suck

On August 15, 2018, I will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of iWebU - that's over 500 weekly posts.

Leading up to that momentous date, I am rereleasing the "best of iWebU", starting in 2008 and moving forward in time.

These are the posts that stand the test of time and remain as valuable today as they did then.

I begin with Web Secret #24: Very Bad Websites. Why? Unfortunately, there are still terrible websites out there - I am talking to you Nespresso.

Note to my readers: Websites that Stuck stopped updating after 2014 - but the site is still up and in my opinion - it's the best of its kind - and hilarious to boot. Also - and maybe this is comforting - the individual websites that I listed have gone out of business. They were too terrible to survive. The "Checklist 1 - 149 Mortal Sins That Will Send Your Site to Web Design Hell" alone is worth reading:

Web Secret #24: Very Bad Websites - October 29, 2008

Just as you can learn from visiting the very best websites, you can learn a lot from visiting the very worst.

Conveniently for all interested parties, there is a web site that collects and ranks the absolute turkeys of web design, web navigation and web content. I am talking, of course, about the fabulously edifying and entertaining "Web Pages That Suck".

The great thing about this website, is that not only do they rank the worst of the worst on a yearly basis, but they accompany their selections with witty commentary.

You too can explore such atrocities as:
Tally-Ho Uniforms & Accessories - one of the top 10 worst websites of 2007
Yvette's - a rising contender for the worst of 2008
Burlington Ufo and Paranormal Research and Education Center ("This is so godawful that it ruptures the very fabric of space and time")

Remember my August 22, 2008 post, Web Secret: Ten Commandments of Website Design? This is what happens when you simultaneously violate all ten commandments.

Bonus Secret: Wondering if your web site sucks? Then read their "Checklist 1 - 149 Mortal Sins That Will Send Your Site to Web Design Hell", and wonder no more.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Web Secret 496: Computer security

Last month, CNET published an informative article "How to give your parents the security talk this Thanksgiving" which I have decided to summarize (with occasional comments) for you, my readers.

I am doing this because my experience has been that most people - whether they are Boomers or Millenials - don't know Jack about computer security.

So even though the topic is borrrring, you should at least understand the following:

Phishing: This is when someone pretends to be somebody else in an attempt to steal your information, whether it's a credit card number, login password or any data that can be used in an attack. Phishing attacks often come in the form of email that contains a link taking you to a website designed to trick you. The easiest way to avoid getting phished is simply to not click on any links in emails. If an email coming from Netflix says your account is getting canceled, just go directly to Netflix's website to check it out -- don't do it from the link in the email.

3 tips to spot a phishing email:

Grammar: Bad grammar is a tell-tale sign of an online scam.

Check the source: The address the email came from is often a thinly veiled disguise (coming from instead of, for example).

Weird links: You can hover your mouse over links and pictures to see where they'll lead you. If an email claiming to be from Netflix is actually going to a suspicious website, that's a good sign it's a scam.

My comment: Phishers are becoming increasingly expert at sending emails that look authentic. Many of these emails report that something is being canceled. Automatically be wary of any such email.

Password managers: It's a pain to have to remember different passwords - but it's also a must. Fortunately, there are services out there that will keep all your passwords in one place.

With password managers, you just have to remember one password for the manager. You log into that service and the managers sync across your browsers and devices, bringing both security and convenience. Find out more here.

HTTPS and SSL: Every time you go on a website, you should check to see if there's a green lock icon next to the URL. That symbol shows you're on a page protected by HTTPS, which stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure.

The green lock tells you the website has Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) enabled, meaning there's a certificate to prove that the website is secure and that your sensitive information can't be stolen or spied on. Think of it as a virtual seal of approval that your secrets are safe.

Sometimes going on a nonsecure site can't be avoided (CNN's website, for example, is not HTTPS). You should be careful about entering sensitive information on public Wi-Fi if you have to go on non-HTTPS pages.

Ransomware: This is a type of virus that locks up your important files and sometimes your entire computer, unless you pay the ransom.

You should back up your files regularly in case you ever get hit with ransomware - my fav utility for this is Carbonite. CNET has an entire guide on whether you should pay the ransom. The short answer is don't.

Patching: Companies like Microsoft and Apple aren't sending frequent updates just to annoy you. Most of the time these updates come with patches to fix security flaws that were recently discovered. Suck it up and update your devices.

Two-factor authentication: It's an extra layer of security on top of your password.

It's around you everywhere you go already: swiping your debit card and then entering your PIN code, or writing a check and showing a driver's license with it. The factors are often a combination of something you know (a password, a PIN, answers to a question) with something you have (a thumbprint, a card, a phone).

The most common version of two-factor authentication is a code texted to your phone after you enter your password. Warning - this can be more complicated and annoying than it sounds.

Be safe.