Thousands of people log into Facebook and Twitter every minute of everyday, whether it’s for personal or business use, which unfortunately makes it even easier for spam, viruses and hackers to attack hundreds of accounts.
Thousands of people log into Facebook and Twitter every minute of everyday, whether it’s for personal or business use, which unfortunately makes it even easier for spam, viruses and hackers to attack hundreds of accounts.
It almost feels like five is too low a limit, but there you go; I’m sticking with it. Without further ado, five things people tend to say about Twitter, Facebook and other social media networks (no point in mentioning them by name, as they’ll all be gone in a year or two) that I wish they wouldn’t.
1. It’s a waste of time. Whether you’re an author, an SEO consultant, or a person who just likes to tweet about their day-to-day existence, social media is not a waste of time. If you’re getting something out of it, it’s not wasting your time, is it? Connecting with people, sharing ideas, learning about the world, following the news – yes, clearly this is all pointless. C’mon!
2. Team follow back! I don’t know who invented this bizarre trend of following someone to gain a single follower back, but let me smash through your preconceptions of how amazing that is, and explain something to you: a non-celebrity with 50,000 followers, and 50,000 friends, is not good at social media. A non-celebrity with 50,000 followers and a hundred friends definitely is. Why? Because lots of people follow that person because they are interesting, or funny, or both, or other cool things. They follow a few people, because to follow 50,000 people means your feed will be utter garbage.
3. Twitter analytics are informative when it comes to potential sales. No, they’re not. Tweeting to your 100,000 followers about a new laptop doesn’t mean you’ll have sold a hundred thousand laptops by the time you leave work. It means that most of the people following you will see it (some don’t check all the tweets gone past in the time since they last checked, some follow too many to keep up with). Social media works similarly to any other kind of advertising. You could have a tweet on the TV screen, half-time at the World Cup. Doesn’t mean everyone watching it thinking “right, off to the shops”.
4. It is only for self-promotion. You know what happens if fifty people shout their thoughts into a room with earplugs in? No one actually hears anyone else, and everybody leaves the room none the wiser. This is what happens when people assume that Twitter is a DIY RSS feed. Talk to people. Respond to people. Don’t plug your stuff all day long – it’s monotonous and makes you look incredibly self-centred. This goes for businesses, too.
5. Automation is fine. No, it’s not. Seeing a clearly automated tweet on my feed, whether it’s from some site charting what game someone’s playing to an announcement by FourSquare that someone’s out of their house (nice job – burglars will be pleased to hear that) drives me up the wall. It’s one thing to have it link to a blog post, and sometimes that … on the end of an automated blog announcement can be intriguing, as I recently found out. But can the rest of it. It makes you sound generic and thoughtless.
That’s just five – I’m glad I didn’t title this list “five things I wish people would stop saying on Twitter”, as five thousand would not be a long-enough list.
It’s arguable that in recent years, the “buzz” has overtaken traditional channels of promotion. But what about news, and journalism? Is it faster to glean the headlines from your feeds, or from the front pages of whatever eclectic mish-mash of physical and digital content providers you’ve gone to, regular as clockwork, for years?
If you look at the hashtags for anything from Libya to The X-Factor, it’s clear as day that people are happy to inform each other and keep everyone up to speed, because what they’d tell five people around the water-cooler is now something they can tell hundreds of millions by tweeting – and both take less than a minute. In an astonishing turn around, journalism – a discipline that champions brevity and concise description above all else – has, in some aspects, been usurped by the popularity of a big old chat. Or has it?
News has become stale. That’s not because it’s badly written, but because news, in its infancy, was about bringing people the facts as soon as possible. There’s an age-old saying in print journalism that your first paragraph should contain everything someone needs to know. Not only is this common sense, but it also means that if your article gets chopped down during the editing process, it doesn’t “break”.
In 2011, it’s possible to go one better, and present someone with an entire article’s worth of information in 140 characters, which trumps content several times the length. It’s said often during technological discussion, but we’re becoming an extremely impatient people, and seeing “Libya liberated, Gaddafi dead” flood my feed, rather than it hitting me once at six ‘o’ clock – rather than taking time out to read the news during the day – is what matters, to me.
If you’re a business, it also means that you’re able to reach into a space you couldn’t before – consumer’s personal information spheres. By doing so (tweeting at them, talking to them, and generally not being an old-fashioned “we only tweet promo content and never retweet or reply) you enable yourself to impress them directly, rather than through the love-hate filter of the press.
Twitter, Facebook – they’re far from perfect, and what’s worse is that they’re like blogs and their impact on online journalism – suddenly, everyone’s an journalist, and with Twitter, everyone’s an informant. As most people are a) prone to gossip, and b) not trained journalists, and will therefore proceed to repeatedly provide their followers with hearsay cast as fact, and hashtag relentlessly in order to flood key searches with irrelevant statements.
It can also be used alongside traditional journalism, or online – simply by delving into it and using it as a promotional tool, and if your business happens to deal in information, news, reviews and other media, there is no platform more prone to content going viral than social media. But to replace long-form content entirely would be a horrendous miss-step, especially given the long-established place in the media that journalism has, in comparison to the fly-by-night nature of social media – even Facebook’s losing members.
It’s certainly a tough topic, and I think a mix of the two is best – read your long-form stuff, but grab your water-cooler headlines from Twitter or other mediums, such as Reddit. But for those businesses who are wondering whether their product press releases are going to be required reading for anyone in the near future when we’re social to a fault online, I’d keep your cards close to your chest until we see where Twitter and the like end up in 2021. Time will tell.
With the arrival of OnLive, the game-streaming technology that’s been so hotly anticipated by those who want to play great games without the cost of a console or high-spec PC, and YouTube’s announcement that they’ll be renting HD films to users, it seems that allowing users to receive a constant flow of data over a delay and a physical copy is rapidly becoming the preferred method for enjoying new media.
But what does this mean for businesses? Digital storefronts have proven themselves to be the consumer delivery method with the brightest future, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s completely reliable yet. Businesses like game publisher Ubisoft have, by using controlling methods of delivery akin to a gun to the head of the user, suffered delays and outages that have permanently damaged their reputations. Users avoid streaming and download services due to the fact that if the servers die, their paid-for content does as well, and this is a valid concern.
The easiest way to battle these concerns is to take the Facebook approach – that any outage must be avoided at all costs, because a single one could scar their brand image permanently. It’s worked for them so far, and it’s certainly possible if you’re willing to invest in the hardware to back up the services you’re offering to your customers.
Streaming content is also something that’s an unproven concept with businesses who don’t have the budget or company size of sites like YouTube (Google now, really) or UStream. Funding it however needn’t be difficult at all – delivering streaming content is extremely expensive, whereas consumers who receive streamed content often get it for free – so there should be a opportunities for income and potential advertising to soften the blow of expenditure on more servers and better tubes.
It’s certainly a new way to run the local Blockbusters, that’s for sure. Especially given that physical rentals, while popular, are something that could potentially be overtaken by offering people the same content but without the hassle of dropping things in the post box every now and then. It’s also a save on the traditional storage space required for all the DVDs and games you’ll be renting out, and you’re also not even using your customers’ hard-drive space.
The challenge for any business looking into digital content streaming will be to out-do the left-right-knockout punch of YouTube and OnLive. Even major television networks in the UK have thrown their lot in with Google’s (arguably) wisest purchase, and OnLive seems set to become the standard in videogame streaming. But it’s possible to hit a niche – Vimeo seems to have done relatively well, despite its on-off (usually off) relationship with my mobile device.
Only time will tell us how well streaming performs, but with broadband speeds consistently rising, there’s little argument against streaming becoming better and easier as we move forward.
It’s odd – I was discussing topics for today with my editor, and we spoke about the importance of a certain individual who sadly passed away this week; one Steve Jobs. It seemed fair to mention him this week, to mark his passing, but it wasn’t clear how. That’s until it hit me that realistically, without Steve and the team at Apple, we wouldn’t have seen a great deal of the inventions we now celebrate as some of the best technology around. There wasn’t a single person with a love of technology who didn’t feel a sense of shock and sadness this week. Whether iTunes intends to pursue streaming is another matter entirely, but consider this a mention with the utmost respect for the wealth of content put out about him this week already.
Facebook has to be the biggest success-story business of the last ten years. It comes as something of an eyebrow-raiser, then, that six million US users have left the site in the last month, according to PCMag‘s Peter Pachal. However, Pachal also highlights that it’s not just the USA where users have been leaving. Canada has lost a significantly larger portion of its userbase in proportion to the USA, as 1.52 million users departed Facebook’s Canadian user-base, a loss of almost ten percent. This is in addition to other countries, as well, and even with almost 700 million global users, that’s a significant sum.
But is this just a random drop, or the sign of a public that are beginning to realise that “likes” and photo-tagging are no longer actually necessary? Twitter is a format I believe meets the need of a constantly evolving target market, as it’s inevitable that as technology progresses, those using the same hardware, software or websites will begin to perceive their current set-up as too slow, due to the ever-increasing need for digital immediacy.
Twitter provides immediacy better than Facebook does – one long feed of instant bursts of information, without the web-surfing experience. There’s no long profile page to go through, no personal information beyond a short bio section, and best of all, it has succeeded in bringing microblogging to an audience that previously never even considered a conventional blog. Even the conventional blog is being rapidly matched in appeal by Tumblr, a more social approach to the well-established method of simply commenting on someone’s work. Quotes within quotes, tweets within retweets.
Pachal suggests a number of reasons behind the Facebook exodus, and all of them are logical and well-argued. Seasonal changes, a “blip” in user statistics, Facebook’s recent disregard for user privacy, and of course, the elephant in Zuckerberg’s conference room – that Facebook’s time may indeed have come. It’s a social network, and although it’s become bigger than MySpace ever was, that doesn’t mean it can’t go the same way – struggling ever onward and reinventing itself as a platform for advertisers, musicians and the like in order to survive.
For Pachal the major downside to Facebook disappearing off the map is the removal of the 40 % increase in the web-surfing by Facebook users. This is true for most social networks – I certainly read a lot more web pages due to Twitter and an Android app by the name of ReadItLater (offline viewing of webpages as plain text-and-images, almost like a digital magazine article), and I wouldn’t do if I wasn’t tapped into the network.
This will hurt those not only marketing through Facebook, but relying on the world-of-mouth traffic it can generate. We are now able to draw more people towards a site than ever before, and that number is only going to rise. But if one of the main methods of communicating concepts, ideas, and most importantly, links to one another is removed, it damages a company’s ability to reach users, and damages, say, my ability to reach all of you. Facebook may be something of a privacy-invading social behemoth, but like everything else on the web people claim to dislike and yet can’t stop using, we’ll miss it if it goes.
Social Media Examiner states that “with 500 million people on Facebook, chances are more of your customers are active on Facebook than any other network.” Aliza Sherman of GigaOM claims that in terms of advertising, “there’s no question that Facebook wins.”
It all appears so clean-cut, and it’s interesting reading when you get into the reasoning behind their championing of Zuckerberg’s platform. The ease of viral promotion, the size of the existing community, and the way in which Facebook constantly pulls users in towards it because it’s so central to modern social communication.
However, a recent study by Three_D, the social media arm of PR company Threepipe Communications, has revealed that 65 companies on the FTSE 100 use Twitter instead of Facebook. While they may only represent sixty-five companies out of countless millions across the globe, a majority vote for the small blue bird from a hundred of the most successful companies in the UK is a significant statistic.
Twitter is no longer the novel concept it was in 2006. It now has over 300 million accounts – a growth of 60 million a year. This stands in comparison to Facebook’s 500 million accounts, accumulated since 2004, a growth of 71 million. The difference isn’t all that great, relatively speaking, and the immediate accessibility of the Twitter platform means it takes minutes to set up a company account, rather than the longer period required to adequately establish a Facebook fan page.
Sherman concedes similar points within her article, and her differentiation between the two platforms is key to understanding what some businesses prioritising their Facebook presence are missing: the reasons consumers connect to your company. “The way you accumulate page fans on Facebook and followers on Twitter is different,” states Sherman. “You might gain a fan on Facebook just because someone sees someone they know becoming your fan. You gain followers on Twitter — genuine and engaged followers — because they actually want to hear what you have to say.”
Twitter is a feed of information that the user selects themselves, rather than another group affiliation or sign of consumer appreciation to be hung on the Wall of a Facebook user. Businesses are no longer seeking those who are willing to give them no more than a nod of approval; they want people to connect with the company out of personal interest.
It’s also not surprising to learn that potential customers are leaving Facebook along with the companies now devoting themselves to the 140-character marketing effort. The New York Times suggests that there are several factors at work driving people away from the social networking site, amongst them the overlapping of personal and business relationships, and the “inevitable” Orwellian undertones of Facebook’s aspirations to usurp Google as the central hub of today’s online society.
Twitter certainly seems like the better option, at least from my own perspective. There’s a sole purpose to a Twitter account – to tweet i.e. to communicate. There’s little else to do, nothing in fact, if you discard personalising your display picture, your small bio or your website link. It’s a streamlined experience that separates itself from the Facebook morass of Mafia Wars, Wall comments, privacy paranoia, and the endless struggle for the consumer’s “like” click. Perhaps the pro-Twitter trend will extend beyond the FTSE 100 in future. If the New York Times’ exodus analysis is anything to go by, it’s almost certain.
Well, it’s been a big rush, but after a brief chat today, me and Jason have accepted that convincing the many, many people who viewed the video of his proposal to fiancée Stephanie to actually vote for the happy couple to enjoy a free, luxury honeymoon was just too difficult. The three of us made an effort to make this work, but unfortunately there are some people out there who have colossal resources when it comes to click-happy online friends who don’t mind a five-minutes-or-less registration process when voting for someone they care about.
I commented earlier today that it says a lot about people when there’s 4,104 views on the counter, and only 570 votes. Sure, there were quite a lot of people who would’ve viewed it to double check (I probably account for almost a hundred visits to that page, not so sure about views though) but that’s not the point. It’s, if anything, a commentary on how unwilling some people are to spend a few minutes registering or logging in via Facebook to help a friend towards their dream honeymoon.
Am I disappointed that our little Twitter and Facebook campaign failed? Yeah, of course I am, and I feel bad knowing Jason and Stephanie are going to have to work out what they’ll do instead. But it’s taught me that there’s a lot more to social media campaigns than I previously believed. You can’t just say “jump” and expect trampolines. You need to own a few, first. Internet users are like children – if you want something from them, you have to give them an incentive and a means to claim their reward all within a minute or less, or they lose interest.
I don’t know if I’ll ever do a Twitter campaign of this kind again, but I will say that it was definitely nice to use a few tools to help someone and make them happy. I think you can offer a lot to someone in today’s economy – vouchers for HMV could be domain-name registrations, if you’re geeky enough. But a nice wedding present would’ve been the honeymoon. For anyone who’s been following the progress on this blog, don’t lose heart, because it is possible for these things to work. You’ve just got to really take it on as a full-time job, and that’s something neither myself nor the happy couple were able to do.
Until the next time, and once again – congratulations to a happy couple who may not have won, but are still happily planning a wedding and the rest of their lives together, because the latter is really the thing that matters.
I’ll be honest, had it been April 1st, I might have dismissed this news as a joke, but it’s mid-March and it’s not only a very smart approach to communication, but a forward-thinking one, too. This year, for the first time in UK history, a solicitor has issued a court summons via Facebook.
Debtors, as you can well imagine, are probably slightly reluctant to delve into the legal morass of court visits and other inconveniences that come with owing people a significant amount of money. However, this also means you’re not likely to find them responding to any letters or phone-calls. However, upon proving to Hastings County Court in Essex that the slippery individual was a bit of a Facebook user, solicitor Hilary Thorpe was allowed to jump on the site and put the fear of Zuckerberg in them.
Away went the summons, and assumably they’ve either now responded or are considering finding another, similar social network with their mates on (yeah, good luck with that one). It was a tactic that was used once before in a similar cause Down Under, and that particular Australian couple found their legally binding documents served to them via the social networking site.
If anything, it proves that there really are no limits to the uses of Facebook and Twitter. Yesterday, author Adam Christopher found that using Twitter to befriend publisher Angry Robot resulted in them offering him his dream career, after many years of effort. Social media is no longer a distraction from your career, but a tool you can use to take it even further. Not to mention that if your legal career is being impeded by someone’s unresponsive nature, you can start tracking them down via their status updates.
It’ll be interesting to see what other landmarks social media sees in 2011, though don’t be surprised if people start conducting lectures or broadcasting them through Twitter. I recently saw the novel idea of tweeting a live surgery, demonstrated by the cast of Grey’s Anatomy. Other doctor’s joined in, offered suggestions and even a loan of their medical equipment during an operation that wasn’t going well. There are so many possibilities that it encourages those who’ve not joined in to join in, or so I’d like to think.
Even if you’re not going to use Twitter to talk, it might not be a bad idea to just use it to listen, considering it’s none too interested in your real name. Think of it as an RSS Reader that’s evolved into something else entirely. Social media is rapidly becoming the preferred method of communication, conducting business and even bringing lawbreakers to justice. The first two uses are pretty great. The third one is just downright cool. Now all Judge Dredd needs is a login and he’s good to go.
It’s week four of the campaign (no update last week due to the huge interview with Michael Chorost which resulted in four posts over the regular three), and Jason’s video is just out of qualifying for a holiday by sitting in fourth place. However, this is not the end of the world, as an interesting opportunity is arising.
With three and a bit weeks to go before the competition ends, there are two videos each with just over 500 votes taking first and second place. However, there is also a video in third that only has 400 votes. Jason has around 370. The gap has closed once again, and if we can take it now, we’re fine. The main strategy would be to get to 1,000 votes, so far in the lead that it’s tough to usurp him, let alone have him finish outside the winning trio of happy honeymoon couples.
A lot of tactics have been discussed, and unfortunately it’s come to light that due to the lack of any campaigns on behalf of some of the other videos, we may be competing against people that are either manufacturing votes, or simply using their Facebook and a rather unique community angle. The angle is simply a stronger sense of community than ours – namely, that two of the top three video posters are devout and active members of the American Christian community, and out of them and Jason and my journalist circle, we’d wager the former are more likely to go the distance for someone who has their respect. This, in itself, is really quite sweet and I wish I had this behind me, but I don’t, because I’m not introducing God to universities campuses across the American Northwest.
But how do you manufacture that kind of popularity? Jason’s Facebook and Twitter have been ablaze with requests for votes, and I’ve done a fair bit of work with Twuffer and the MoreDigital Twitter, in addition to my own and retweeting his. The hash-tagging does help, but do hash-tags sometimes make it seem a tad less inviting, and more like spam? I’m not sure. But I will have to approach the people I know who have the pull to really draw some attention to this, and ensure that he stays in the running.
It’s not about the fact that the blog’s been following this, because if we didn’t succeed, I’ll write about what we may have done wrong, what we did right, and I’ll still have a blogpost. But this is also Jason’s honeymoon, something that won’t happen again in his or his fiancée’s lives. We need to crush the opposition, and I only have to say it once:
Watching The Social Network on DVD the other night, my first experience of the award-winning portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg’s rise to fame and financial success at the head of Facebook, I knew once it had finished that I wanted to watch it again. Probably another ten times after that.
It wasn’t the glamour of success, the money, the vapid groupies, the slick, suited yes-men, that drew me into the film. It was watching him code. The first hour of that film was, in my opinion, by far the most satisfying. I wasn’t anywhere near as interested in the people surrounding Zuckerberg as the little tech-wizard himself. Misogynist, traitor, socially inept, self-centred – call him what you will, but ultimately the fact he created one of the most impressively addictive and comprehensive online experiences in his early twenties, becoming a billionaire in the process, demands respect.
His motivations for building the first version came from a dark, spiteful, sexist place. This can’t be denied – the blog he writes in the film is taken, word for word, from Zuckerberg’s own LiveJournal. But I couldn’t help but marvel at how fast he put the site together, how quickly other people cottoned on to what he was doing. Such an impressive mind, and one that locked onto an idea so firmly that it was impossible to even gain his attention until he needed cash for a server, immediately securing ownership of his site beyond the average hosting deal.
It made me think about the possibilities of sites that immediately start to generate a huge community. Of course, they’re all built on the same fundamental idea – people are nosy. We all want to know where you were, who you were with, and most importantly, what you thought about that particular event, even as we throw our own judgements around our subconscious. The ability to explore someone else’s life, someone who’s ever-so-slightly different to you, is so addictive to most internet users, most people in fact, that we had no hope of resisting Facebook.
But how do you build a website based around this idea? How do you find the one niche that will hit the sweet spot in hundreds of millions of people, like Facebook, or Twitter? There’s no more avenues for social media sites, not any more. Facebook and Twitter have the market sewn up, and the few variations on their ever-popular theme have already been designed and launched.
Sites that can engender conventions are always worth a go – Penny Arcade proved that if enough people form a community around your site, and the industry you commentate on respects your judgement, to some degree, getting them to put a ton of booths up at a huge venue and selling tickets is going to make a lot of money, regardless of whether the money goes into the bank accounts of the owners, the company, or a charity.
Have any of you ever tried to build up a website that makes money solely through the traffic generated by a loyal and ever-expanding community of users? You’ll need some real USPs to get it going, and it’s not going to be easy. In fact, at first, it’s going to be a nightmare to get someone to sign up unless they knew you prior to the site’s inception, and even that’s a chore, sometimes. But keep slogging away. You’d be surprised at how many people have seen major financial success via the web simply by never giving up. Now, either watch The Social Network to inspire yourself, or don’t, and then go be one of those people. I wish you the very best of luck.