Showing posts tagged: facebook

Unpacking A Facebook Viral Hack

Spinning through my feed this morning, I saw this post from a radio station in Philadelphia.

I’ve seen this type of thing before, but this particular post caught my eye. My cellphone has a name? What kind of digital sorcery is this???

It also seems to have caught the eye of 1.2mm other people as well,

I started to scroll through the comments, and lo and behold, they all seemed to be legit names or real-sounding people (as well as some typos of numbers from people who can’t follow instructions).

A quick Google search on some of these names verified my hunch that these were all names of people who attended Harvard around the time that Facebook was launched. Meaning specifically, that they would have low Facebook user ID numbers. 

More specifically, they would have three-digit Facebook user ID numbers, and when typed into a comment box preceded by an @ symbol, the corresponding real names would be spit back.

Take the bottom name in the above screenshot, Luke Cocalis. Turns out Luke was at Harvard from 2003-2007, and if you reverse out Luke’s Facebook URL, you’ll see that his Facebook user ID is 197.

So it’s fairly safe to assume that Qhawekazi there, has a cell number ending in 197.

Same with Tiffany Egnaczyk Fisher, another Harvard alum, with a Facebook user ID of 547, which would map to Sherli’s input.

You get it.

Simple, but clever little hack to make this post go “viral”. 

Falling Back In Love With Owned Channels

I’ve been pretty unabashed lately with my criticisms of Facebook (and social media in general), contending that organic brand-engagement is a silly marketing fantasy, and that these platforms (at best) are merely paid media channels like any other.

Turns out, I’m not really wrong. Even Facebook themselves just out and said so rather bluntly.

Like many mediums, if businesses want to make sure that people see their content, the best strategy is, and always has been, paid advertising.

Yet for some reason, everyone feigned surprise and tried to muster some pathetic outrage when this came out.

But once again, we’re ignoring the gargantuan elephant in the room - that you (as a brand) have always participated in, and continue to participate in Facebook’s world, on their terms.

You’ve been renting their space.

Instead of building a house, you decided to rent an apartment.

This means they make the rules.

You own nothing.

Jason Loehr of Jack Daniel’s puts it perfectly in this Digiday clip. He calls Facebook and the like, “leased channels”.

He goes on to say that all of their owned channels, are now most important, and I couldn’t agree more.

Microsites and the like used to seem foolish, but now how do they look, compared to practice of pouring millions into building something you don’t own and can’t control?

Continuing Thoughts On Social Media

My post the other day (“Why Bother With Social Media?”) definitely struck a chord and generated some good conversation, as it was meant to do.

Based on some of those conversations and responses, I did want to add some more thoughts to the original ramblings.

First, I’m not saying never ever ever ever shall any brand spend time or money in building a social media community and fostering some sort of engagement through it.

Where there is some (relatively) clear connection between the core assets/function of a brand and the natural user consumption desires/behavior on a given platform, therein lies some potential opportunity for gain, and a decent argument for an investment creating and building a brand-driven social media presence. 

But what I am saying, is that instances in which this strong natural intersection exists, are the exception, not the rule. Most brands are awkwardly forcing this connection at best, and all things being evaluated equally, it’d make more sense for them to reduce their focus in social down to near zero.

Because my central point in all of this, is that every marketing plan should start from zero, and channels should be chosen unsentimentally, prioritized based on their ability to drive the bottom line. Which more often than not, would put social media pretty far down that prioritized list. If on the list at all.

Some of the specific points that people brought up in response to my post were:

  • What about customer service?
    Yes, sure. Social media has most certainly shaken up how brands and businesses need to address unhappy customers. Though I’m not quite sure anyone’s really cracked that nut yet. The most common tactic I’ve seen throughout the industry to date, seems to be the GFTO (get the fuck offline) approach, where social media managers play whack-a-mole, and try to herd complainers into established offline channels (phone/email/web) as quickly as possible. So, again, the resource case we’re making feels a bit disconnected from the reality of what’s actually being addressed - since most social media “customer service” amounts to a copy/paste apology and link to a form so reps can “take it offline”.

  • What about purchase influence?
    Jess made the point that social presences give the undecided users a sense of the brand. While I have a lot of love for Jess, I don’t necessarily believe that active exploration of a brand’s social channels is a deciding factor (or even an influencing factor) in the majority of user journeys. I’ll buy that people visit Yelp, or read Amazon reviews, or check out Consumer Reports, but I just don’t see Facebook pages as being an important part of that purchase path. Again, this feels like another tenuous hypothesis we inflate in order to justify what we’re doing.

  • What about awareness?
    Can a brand’s social media presence help drive awareness? Some, sure. Any interaction, or even noticing of any brand anything, can theoretically raise awareness of the brand in some small way I suppose. I’d tend to think though, that if you’re already a fan or follower of a brand, your awareness is likely quite high as it is. So maybe that content your posting, at best reinforces awareness. But I’m not sure that your owned social channels are creating any awareness where it didn’t  previously exist. And frankly, your ability as a brand to even do that much, is basically going away as we speak.

Again, these are just my opinions today, and this is an evolving point-of-view that’s based on a lot of recent observations and conversations I’ve been having of late. Nothing I’m saying is a 100% truism or universally unassailable fact for every brand out there.

I do believe however, that brand marketers should be more assertive in asking the question (“is social media really worth it?”), and that they shuld be looking objectively at the channels they spend against, versus diving blindly into checking the boxes thrown in front of them.

And I’m also asking those who sell social media tools and strategies, to dispense with the fantasy, and to re-focus on bringing your clients the plans and recommendations that they actually need – not just the ones that you can best profit from.

I look forward to continuing the discussion, so keep the comments coming.

Paper Is The New Facebook

Had a chance to mess around with Paper for a bit last night. And aside from the SWIPE EVERYTHING interface, the sexy display of otherwise boring friend-generated content, and the obvious comparisons to Flipboard, something else was immediately evident to me.

This, Paper, is the future Facebook.

As in, the existing Facebook app (and perhaps the site itself) will be phased out, and this, Paper, will soon be Facebook. In its entirety.

Here are some reasons to believe this.

  1. Facebook in its current form, is dying. Or at the very least, no longer growing. Something dramatic needs to happen to the 10 year old platform, if it hopes to live another 10 years. Or even another 2 years. What was once the bleeding edge of social connection and content, now looks and feels tired. It is tired. 

  2. But you can’t just abruptly change a system of this size, in one fell swoop. If Facebook updated its core app to look, feel, and work like Paper overnight, the company would implode. Shit, think about how people lose their marbles over small changes. This transition to the future, although it needs to ultimately be a sea-change to the product, has to happen gradually. Which is why they are introducing and building out a parallel product. So people (advertisers and consumers) can be weened off of the existing, and onto this.

  3. Mobile has long been an achilles heel for Facebook. Sure, the desktop site was tolerable, but the app always sucked. Even when it didn’t suck anymore, it still sorta sucked. But again, tinker-tailoring with the current app, making incremental changes, won’t get them anywhere. They need a full re-build from the ground up. Which is what Paper is. It’s not a redesign of the Facebook app, it’s a new app altogether, that looks and feels and acts completely differently than what exists.

  4. Where Facebook exploded as a business, was in its ability to reinvent how advertising was woven into digital content and the digital user experience. They materially changed the way brands behaved, forcing them to become content creators and engagers - making things people wanted to spend time with, versus just churning out heavy-handed advertising drivel. You could argue that in many ways, Facebook created the idea of native advertising. Or at the very least, made it mainstream. But now, this too looks tired. What once were elegant pieces of advercontent, woven into the newsfeed, now feel like the pseudo-display ads and the “click me” executions that they were once meant to kill off. While other platforms continue to advance and evolve the idea of “native”, Facebook has become a victim of its own success, driving the life out of the very product that its business has been built upon.

    So now what then? To keep current with users and advertisers (their complementary lifebloods) Facebook needs to once again occupy a place where current, dominant advertiser and consumer behaviors intersect.

    And that place, is in the richly designed, Flipboard style, full-bleed photo, beautiful aggregation, content-forward arena that has been pushed of late by folks like Zite, and Flipboard, and Medium.

So while I don’t expect Facebook in its current form to merely vaporize overnight, I do expect Paper to become the future of Facebook, sooner rather than later.

The Value Of A Facebook Fan

Was just having a conversation with Ilya about Facebook fans, and one of the thoughts that came up in the conversation was:

How would the way that brands perceive the value of a Facebook fan change, if we had no way to see how many fans other brands had?

The idea being that the current era of social media centers most heavily around the collection of fans and followers as a means to validate your brand’s standing in the [social media] world. And the ability to see what everyone else has, makes brands and marketers constantly insecure about their own audience sizes. And this visibility into everyone else’s data fuels competition that drives us all to irrationally chase bigger numbers.

Back in the day when all of our measurable stats were hidden from others (web traffic, click through rates, conversions, etc), we all focused solely on what mattered to our own businesses. We had no idea what the competition was getting, and that opacity freed us to focus on the metrics that dove our own bottom line.

The openness of the social media era has clouded our judgement and forced us to spend big not just to build our audiences, but to make sure we build our audiences bigger than the other guys.

  • Early last week, Facebook started to roll out its new Graph Search product, which amongst other things, is designed to “help you find people who share your interests”.Now that I’ve had a week or so to tinker around with it, I’ve got some early thoughts. First off, I don’t immediately see a giant opportunity for brands. Not yet. The idea (at least as it’s been pontificated about) is that Facebook has had reams of social connection data, but has lacked intent - which Google has in spades. So an improved natural search, means intent, and that is a win for Facebook. Let us all rejoice.What remains to be seen though, is how users will interact with this search box, and if this behavior will open up future opportunities. I’m sure it will, but I just don’t see it quite yet. Besides, savvy marketers have had access to lots (not all, but lots) of this data through Facebook’s API for a while now, and it’s not clear to me that search has provided anything more to us advertising types, beyond a front-end UX and wrapper for the common folk to access.
My second thought, is that while Google may not become instantly marginalized by Graph Search, another industry does. The line between online dating sites like Match.com and Facebook has always been a thin one, and Graph Search may have just erased it altogether.
I’ve used sites like Match.com. I’ve even paid to use them. The value they’ve historically provided against Facebook, was that I could search on a ton of quirky criteria, and find single women, in a particular area, of a particular age, that liked a particular set of things that I liked too. So if I wanted to hone in on single 30-somethings in Somerville that I didn’t know already, that like the Celtics, and then see some photos and send them a message, Match was my best bet. And I was happy to toss them $19.95/month for the privilege.
With Graph Search however, I can now do the same exact style of searching, right on Facebook. Including the messaging of strangers part, which is free, unless I want to pony up a dollar to ensure delivery to the said stranger’s inbox.
Oh, and by the way…EVERYONE IN THE WORLD IS ON FACEBOOK. So whereas Match (and other dating sites) will only have inventory consisting of those men or women comfortable enough to have overcome the stigma that is online dating, Facebook doesn’t have that problem. They have scale, in that more or less everyone with a face is on the platform.
So whether or not Facebook’s search product ever truly comes to compete with that of Google, who knows. But paid dating sites should start really re-thinking their model, because the game just changed in a big way.
  • Early last week, Facebook started to roll out its new Graph Search product, which amongst other things, is designed to “help you find people who share your interests”.Now that I’ve had a week or so to tinker around with it, I’ve got some early thoughts. First off, I don’t immediately see a giant opportunity for brands. Not yet. The idea (at least as it’s been pontificated about) is that Facebook has had reams of social connection data, but has lacked intent - which Google has in spades. So an improved natural search, means intent, and that is a win for Facebook. Let us all rejoice.What remains to be seen though, is how users will interact with this search box, and if this behavior will open up future opportunities. I’m sure it will, but I just don’t see it quite yet. Besides, savvy marketers have had access to lots (not all, but lots) of this data through Facebook’s API for a while now, and it’s not clear to me that search has provided anything more to us advertising types, beyond a front-end UX and wrapper for the common folk to access.
My second thought, is that while Google may not become instantly marginalized by Graph Search, another industry does. The line between online dating sites like Match.com and Facebook has always been a thin one, and Graph Search may have just erased it altogether.
I’ve used sites like Match.com. I’ve even paid to use them. The value they’ve historically provided against Facebook, was that I could search on a ton of quirky criteria, and find single women, in a particular area, of a particular age, that liked a particular set of things that I liked too. So if I wanted to hone in on single 30-somethings in Somerville that I didn’t know already, that like the Celtics, and then see some photos and send them a message, Match was my best bet. And I was happy to toss them $19.95/month for the privilege.
With Graph Search however, I can now do the same exact style of searching, right on Facebook. Including the messaging of strangers part, which is free, unless I want to pony up a dollar to ensure delivery to the said stranger’s inbox.
Oh, and by the way…EVERYONE IN THE WORLD IS ON FACEBOOK. So whereas Match (and other dating sites) will only have inventory consisting of those men or women comfortable enough to have overcome the stigma that is online dating, Facebook doesn’t have that problem. They have scale, in that more or less everyone with a face is on the platform.
So whether or not Facebook’s search product ever truly comes to compete with that of Google, who knows. But paid dating sites should start really re-thinking their model, because the game just changed in a big way.

Early last week, Facebook started to roll out its new Graph Search product, which amongst other things, is designed to “help you find people who share your interests”.

Now that I’ve had a week or so to tinker around with it, I’ve got some early thoughts. 

First off, I don’t immediately see a giant opportunity for brands. Not yet. The idea (at least as it’s been pontificated about) is that Facebook has had reams of social connection data, but has lacked intent - which Google has in spades. So an improved natural search, means intent, and that is a win for Facebook. Let us all rejoice.

What remains to be seen though, is how users will interact with this search box, and if this behavior will open up future opportunities. I’m sure it will, but I just don’t see it quite yet. Besides, savvy marketers have had access to lots (not all, but lots) of this data through Facebook’s API for a while now, and it’s not clear to me that search has provided anything more to us advertising types, beyond a front-end UX and wrapper for the common folk to access.

My second thought, is that while Google may not become instantly marginalized by Graph Search, another industry does. The line between online dating sites like Match.com and Facebook has always been a thin one, and Graph Search may have just erased it altogether.

I’ve used sites like Match.com. I’ve even paid to use them. The value they’ve historically provided against Facebook, was that I could search on a ton of quirky criteria, and find single women, in a particular area, of a particular age, that liked a particular set of things that I liked too. So if I wanted to hone in on single 30-somethings in Somerville that I didn’t know already, that like the Celtics, and then see some photos and send them a message, Match was my best bet. And I was happy to toss them $19.95/month for the privilege.

With Graph Search however, I can now do the same exact style of searching, right on Facebook. Including the messaging of strangers part, which is free, unless I want to pony up a dollar to ensure delivery to the said stranger’s inbox.

Oh, and by the way…EVERYONE IN THE WORLD IS ON FACEBOOK. So whereas Match (and other dating sites) will only have inventory consisting of those men or women comfortable enough to have overcome the stigma that is online dating, Facebook doesn’t have that problem. They have scale, in that more or less everyone with a face is on the platform.

So whether or not Facebook’s search product ever truly comes to compete with that of Google, who knows. But paid dating sites should start really re-thinking their model, because the game just changed in a big way.

  • Have you guys seen this? It’s a new trend, where people promise each other things, if photos/pages get 1mm likes. It may seem silly and insignificant (because I guess it really is), but to me, its the sort of thing that is signaling a real shift in what Facebook is becoming. Back when Facebook first began to overtake MySpace, part of its appeal was in the rigidity and purity of the platform. It was the antidote to MySpace’s cluttered, blinking, cheap-o garbage. Facebook was the sophisticate’s social platform.But now more than ever, Facebook has become a wasteland of apps, ads and fads.
2013 will finally be the year where Facebook exhaustion begins to take over in some truly noticeable ways. So to anyone out there thinking of investing in, or building a new generation of social platform, now is the time. The incumbent is weak and tired.
  • Have you guys seen this? It’s a new trend, where people promise each other things, if photos/pages get 1mm likes. It may seem silly and insignificant (because I guess it really is), but to me, its the sort of thing that is signaling a real shift in what Facebook is becoming. Back when Facebook first began to overtake MySpace, part of its appeal was in the rigidity and purity of the platform. It was the antidote to MySpace’s cluttered, blinking, cheap-o garbage. Facebook was the sophisticate’s social platform.But now more than ever, Facebook has become a wasteland of apps, ads and fads.
2013 will finally be the year where Facebook exhaustion begins to take over in some truly noticeable ways. So to anyone out there thinking of investing in, or building a new generation of social platform, now is the time. The incumbent is weak and tired.

Have you guys seen this? It’s a new trend, where people promise each other things, if photos/pages get 1mm likes. It may seem silly and insignificant (because I guess it really is), but to me, its the sort of thing that is signaling a real shift in what Facebook is becoming.

Back when Facebook first began to overtake MySpace, part of its appeal was in the rigidity and purity of the platform. It was the antidote to MySpace’s cluttered, blinking, cheap-o garbage. Facebook was the sophisticate’s social platform.

But now more than ever, Facebook has become a wasteland of apps, ads and fads.

2013 will finally be the year where Facebook exhaustion begins to take over in some truly noticeable ways. So to anyone out there thinking of investing in, or building a new generation of social platform, now is the time. The incumbent is weak and tired.

Nobody Cares About Your Brand’s History

It’s been a little more than a week now since Facebook released Timeline for brands at their FMC event. This new brand page format was a terribly kept secret leading up to the event, and was more or less a quick gloss-over on the way to a multi-hour romancing of what can be most neatly summed up as “MOAR ADS” once the event itself finally arrived.

Nevertheless, social media strategists and marketers went (and continue to go) berserk over this page restyling. Even saying things like this:

It’s as if dozens of little corporate museums just launched on Facebook. (from AdAge)

Now while that may technically be true, the problem is that these “little corporate museums” are likely to be about as popular as actual corporate museums. Which is to say, not very popular at all.

As a creative type at heart, I am not immune to being in love with the possibilities of what Timeline presents, and I have no doubt that some brands will find really neat ways to leverage this format. However, as the cynical and jaded northeast pragmatist that I am, I can’t help but feel like…well, like the general public just won’t care about this in the long run.

The two main issues that I immediately see here are:

  • Social media creation and consumption is still firmly entrenched in the present. Twitter feeds whiz by, Facebook newsfeeds update at a dizzying speed, and while every app on my phone may be recording what I’ve done (past tense), I only care about pushing the buttons and telling the world while I’m doing it (present tense). Rarely do I go back in digital time to re-live my OWN past, let alone the past of a corporation. Certainly Timeline aims to change this (as do apps like Timehop, which I admittedly love), but as shared experiences in the present tense continue to proliferate at a breakneck pace, one has to doubt if users will also have the desire to dig into corporate histories with any regularity.

  • The newsfeed still rules. When users consume content on Facebook, they are overwhelmingly doing so through their newsfeeds. And this is especially true when consuming content from “Liked” brands. Facebook Brand pages are rarely visited by fans more than once or twice on average, and being a user myself (and having watched/studied lots of other user behavior), I question whether or not those couple of visits will be spent scrolling through a deep timeline of corporate past and/or giving a shit about what that past contains.

    "Coke sponsored the 1928 Olympic Games? That’s great and all…but are there any coupons here?".

Coca-Cola is actually a nice proxy for the “who cares?” theory. They are the most popular brand page on Facebook with over 40mm fans, and a brand with a storied corporate past. Also one of the launch brands for Timeline, so they’ve got the benefit of a first-mover’s advantage here as well. Scroll down to their two oldest Timeline posts, and there is a sum total of 384 actions on them (comments + likes). That’s a 0.00096% “engagement rate” if you’re scoring at home. And again, this from the biggest brand, with one of the most famous histories of all.

I’m Big In Indonesia

For some time now, I’ve been getting Facebook friend requests from random Indonesians on a somewhat regular basis. I’d say as often as 2x per week on average.

For the most part I’d been deleting them, and chalking it up as likely being spam, and potentially being some mistake.

After some poking around, it would seem like it was in fact the latter, but for a far more interesting reason than some fumbly clicking. As it turns out, my last name “Teman” means “friend” or “friends” in the Indonesian language

So my presumption is that a few times each week, some young Indonesian is introduced to Facebook, and one of the first things that he or she does, is search for “friends”. And since the Indonesian word for “friends” is “Teman”, I am one of the first results that shows up in search.

Hence my steady flow of new Indonesian…temans.

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