Archive for the ‘Facebook’ Category
An Ipsos poll last released this week shows that people are spending less time on Facebook. And another poll, conducted just before the recent Facebook IPO, found that 46% regard it as a “fad” that will fade in time.
Of the 1,032 Americans surveyed in a poll for Thomson Reuters May 31-June 4, 2012, 34% said they’re using Facebook less than they were six months ago. Only 20% said they were spending more time on Facebook.
Still, 41% said they use Facebook every day, and another 18% use it at least once a week. Only 20% said they’ve ever bought products or services because of advertising or comments they saw on Facebook.
Those who are using Facebook less seemed evenly split about the reasons, with 25% saying there wasn’t enough time, 24% concerned about privacy, and 27% saying it’s boring, not relevant or not useful. Only 2% said they were using Facebook less because they preferred a different social network.
The recent fiasco in which Facebook overpriced it’s initial public offering (IPO) didn’t help. By a 4-1 margin, people said what they knew of the IPO made them view Facebook less favorably.
You can see the full survey here.
While there is probably some “piling on” occurring in media, it is pretty clear that people are cooling off toward Facebook. Another poll, conducted by Associated Press and CNBC just before the IPO, found that more than half of Facebook users never click on ads or other sponsored content, and another 26 said they “hardly ever” do.
While 43% said Facebook “will be successful over the long term,” 46% said it “will fade away as new things come along.” Facebook also clearly has trust issues, with 59% saying they have “little or no” trust in Facebook’s ability to keep their personal information private. Only 13% said they “completely trust” Facebook on privacy.
The AP/CNBC poll also shows problems for Facebook’s plans for selling products and services. A solid majority — 54% — said they feel “not safe at all” purchasing goods and services through Facebook. Only 8% of adults and 12% of all users said they’d feel safe making purchases of goods and services like clothing or travel on the site. Complete AP/CNBC poll results.
I’ve been saying for years that the rules of Social Media are pretty much the same as those in the rest of life: If you talk nonstop about yourself, or about stuff that doesn’t interest people, they quit listening.
We’ve been seeing this with brand pages on Facebook (aka “fan pages”) for a while now. AdAgeDigital reported recently that engagement on Facebook walls of brands is down 22%. AdAge said many companies brought the decline on themselves by “dissing audiences with bad content, coupons, polls, contests and boring filler.”
It’s bad enough if people just begin to zip past your posts in their Facebook timeline. But Facebook and some third-party applications have added tools that make it easier to hide you completely. And you can be totally unaware that it’s even happening.
Here are a few ways to get people to hide your posts so they don’t see them any more:
Bang the drum constantly on one topic. If you talk only about one topic and that topic doesn’t interest people, they’re more likely to hide you completely. Remember that people like to talk about a variety of things. Even if somebody loves God, or the Democratic Party, or lost puppies as much as you do, a constant stream of posts and photos on one topic will turn them off.
Try to get more attention by posting pictures that are nothing but words. Sometime about a year ago, folks decided more people would notice a picture more than they would a simple status update. For example, instead of simply posting the text, one of my (now hidden) Facebook friends uploaded the “deja poo” image at right. Since this guy does this all the time, I finally just hid him completely.
Let your apps take over. Nobody really wants to know if you’re the new Mayor of Pete’s Pub. (Congrats. So you have more time to sit around drinking than those of us with more productive lives.) Or if you need a gizmo for your farm, or if you scored a 50-point word in Words with Friends. If you keep letting apps spam Facebook like that, users will either block the app (I’ve blocked most of them in my feed) or just unsubscribe from your posts completely.
Want to clean up your own feed?
Assuming you’ve cut out some of your own bad habits, you may want to get rid of some of the clutter in your own feed. Here are a couple of things you can do. On anything you see on your screen, look for a little arrow just to the upper right. If you see one, click it. Depending on what kind of post it is, you may be able to simply hide everything like it.
If you’re getting tired of all those attention-seeking “word pictures,” you can get rid of those too. Note that you can unsubscribe from a person’s pictures without hiding his or her other posts. (This doesn’t work for “shared” photos.)
Here’s one more way to clean up your feed: Block those apps that are driving you crazy. Just look in the upper right part of your Facebook page for the “Home” button, click the “down” arrow next to it, and click the “Manage Blocking” button near the end of the page. You’ll be able to figure it out from there.
In the early 1970s, when I was a student at the University of Alabama, one of the original Gemini astronauts came to speak. Someone asked, “Does it trouble you that space flights are getting so common we hardly notice them any more?”
His answer startled us: “Not in the least.”
He went on to explain that we really don’t get the best use out of new technologies and innovations until they become a routine part of our lives. In short, they disappear.
And that’s when we really get the greatest benefit. We’ve seen it over and over. We were all excited when the first personal computers came out. Now, they’re just how we do things and we never think in terms of “computing.” These days, everybody’s talking about tablets, but pretty soon they’ll disappear too — at least in terms of how much we think and talk about them.
I can’t prove it, but I get the sense that we’re approaching the disappearance point with social media. When Twitter and Facebook first appeared about six years ago, we spent a huge amount of our time talking about … Facebook and Twitter.
We even blogged about blogging. Now? Not so much. I’ve been realizing lately that I don’t think of social media as its own thing. I use it, and show clients how to use it effectively, but for me, it’s just part my day-to-day ecosystem.
And increasingly, it’s integrated with my real life. Sure, I have Twitter followers and Facebook friends I haven’t met in real life, and I’ve been weeding some of those out. But the ones that matter are the ones I know as flesh-and-blood people.
It works better that way. I’m know a lot of people who first jumped in three or four years ago, gave themselves cutesie names like “SocialAnimal45,” and started either posting an endless stream of self-promoting tidbits or giving us trivia about their eating habits or annoyance with traffic jams. They threw up their hands and said “It’s just not working for me.”
Now, they’re drifting back in, because they’re surrounded by it. And folks are starting to see that talking to somebody on Twitter isn’t so different from having a chat with the guy on the next Stairmaster at the health club.
Social media is disappearing, and we’re ready to just get on with life.
I don’t know if anybody’s noticed, but Twitter’s about to turn six. Facebook’s eight, if you count the time it was open only to students. But as a place everybody could go, it’s also about six.
And in those six years, it’s quite possible that more uninformed nonsense has been written — with greatest of authority and confidence — than in the previous 60. There are lots of reasons for it, but one of the biggest is that there was no defined body of knowledge to start with. We’ve been making this up as we go along. So any idiot could declare himself a social media expert, and plenty of imbeciles did.
A major problem the experts share (I don’t pretend to be one, by the way) is a lack of balance. They suffer from what I call the Hammer Syndrome (when you have a new hammer, everything looks like a nail). Eyes get wide and the experts go all utopian on us, presenting Facebook and Twitter as the answer to every marketing question.
That’s why I’ve been enjoying the rare perspective of Scott Stratten in his book, Unmarketing. Let me point out that except for less than 280 characters of Twitter exchange, Scott and I don’t know each other. I bought the book the old fashioned way, from Amazon. All I’m getting out of this little plug is the pleasure of maybe helping you do a better job of connecting with your customers, prospects or first grade chums.
With that out of the way, I’m free to say that Stratten’s a pretty smart guy who understands that life is bigger than Twitter. Bigger even than Facebook. Best I can tell, he actually lives in the real world.
I’ve been saying for 30 years that that nothing good happens until somebody talks to somebody. It may happen on the phone, over lunch or at the gym. At their core, Facebook and Twitter are another way to talk to each other. That’s easy for me to understand, because I lived blissfully in a Twitter-free world for 52 years. That’s not to say we didn’t have our own social media. Way back in the 1980s — well before the World Wide Web appeared in 1994 — we had 300-baud dial-up modems and DOS-based systems like PCBoard and RBBS, which let us create bulletin boards that worked about as well as anything we have today. I hung out on several of them and even ran a couple. (A side story: One of the local boards in Birmingham, run by a deputy sheriff, was called America Online. He sold the rights to the name for a few thousand lousy bucks. You can probably fill in the blanks.)
Whether online or in person, we had conversations.
Scott’s word for it is engagement, and it’s as good as any. I like it because it reminds us that Facebook and Twitter aren’t just places to dump a stream of our blather out into the world in hopes that somebody will see it and come rushing to buy from us or our clients. Social media is just one way we engage. Others include the ones we’ve known and ignored all along — great service, listening, and finding ways to help other people get what they need.
This is good, balanced, common-sense stuff. Communications basics, combined with the very best advice I’ve seen on how to use social media effectively.
Buy it. Read it. Find the balance.
Note: Since I originally posted this a few months ago, the stupid things people do to get social media attention have evolved. So I’ve added a couple of new “sins” and demoted some of those that are showing up less frequently these days. I feel sure they’ll be back. — Carl
Admittedly, the social media rules have always been fuzzy and fluid. Great new ideas turned into annoying misdeeds in short order, and there were a lot of people that didn’t get the memo.
But we’ve all grown, and the picture has become more settled. We’re out of excuses on some of the earlier sins because, well, they’ve been sins for quite a while now. So if you’re still committing them, it’s time to mend your ways and turn to the straight and narrow path of responsible social communication.
- Irrelevant invites. Thanks all the same, but I’m probably NOT going to fly across country to attend your event. Come to think of it, I don’t even know you. Did you think the least bit before sending that out to everybody on your friend list?
- Shameless attention ploys. This is my hottest annoyance button at the moment. Somebody on my Facebook page — in the last 24 hours — posted a picture that said something to the effect of “If you loved your father and he’s living, or if he’s died, share this picture.” Another one — literally — begged me to hit the “like” or “share” button if I’d ever had a puppy I loved, or if I wanted to. (I can’t make this stuff up, folks.) Just stop. Please. You’re embarrassing yourself.
- Out-of-control tagging. On Twitter, spammers now have systems that create new Twitter accounts and send out thousands of messages with links, each tagged to three or four different people. (These often get spam reported and deleted by Twitter in a matter of hours or even minutes.) If you want to be identified with this scum, then by all means tag everybody you know, whether they’re in the conversation (or photo) or not.
- Gratuitous gamesmanship. What on earth ever gave you the idea that we want to know every time your angry bird kills a green pig? And what were you thinking when you told that game it could post to your Twitter and Facebook accounts. And while we’re speaking of games, how about thinking before you let the latest Zynga creation challenge everybody on your Facebook page to a friendly game? I keep a Word with Friends game going with a couple of friends, and even that’s a stretch. If I started up a game with every challenge, I’d be doing it 24/7. Don’t you have any real friends to play with?
- Desperate friend/follower collection. Please tell me you wouldn’t walk up to strangers at the mall and say, “Look, we both shop at Macy’s. Can we be friends?” The social networks are just a subset of life. They’re places we go. They don’t have their own set of rules. Following somebody on Twitter is the equivalent of people-watching on the street. If they’re out in public, it’s ok to look. But sending friend invitations to people you don’t know is just needy and intrusive. Stop embarrassing yourself.
- Check-in fever. Seriously, we don’t care what time you got to work, or if you’ve had nothing to do but hang out at Lizzie’s Speakeasy enough times to be named mayor. (Now, if you happen to be at Lizzie’s and a naked terrorist shows up with an Uzi to take everybody hostage, by all means, tweet it. Just tell us why, please, so we’ll know to call the cops.)
- All me, all the time. Pretty much everything Dale Carnegie told us in How to Win Friends and Influence People applies on the realm of social media. (It’s real life, remember?) Show an interest in other people. Hang around and socialize a bit. If you never do anything but talk about yourself, you’re like the guy who barges into a cocktail party, passes about a bunch of brochures or business cards, and leaves without a word.
- Automated posting. If you’re sending out stuff you haven’t even read, consider this: If you didn’t care enough to read it, why should we? For the love of all that is holy, delete your Twitterfeed account. Dress in sackcloth and ashes for a week and live on bread and water until you get the message. If you can find a Twelve-Step Group for recovering RSS abusers, join it and work every step except the one about making amends. You don’t have to come ask for forgiveness. Just quit and it’ll all be OK.
- One-trick ponyism. This is one of the most common and annoying heresies, especially on Facebook. One-Trick Ponyists are those folks who always post exactly the same kind of stuff. Some do nothing but dig up old quotes, humorous or otherwise. Some post nothing but Bible verses. Can you imagine how boring this is to the rest of us? By all means, it’s fine to establish your “brand” in terms of a particular area of emphasis or expertise. But most of us like to hang out with folks who are well rounded and who can talk about a wide range of subjects.
- Public displays of annoyance. If you’re having issues with your spouse, your co-workers or your boss, that’s none of our business. Take it outside, or inside. Anywhere but here. Don’t pull us into your squabbles.
In a world where new ways to communicate appear almost daily, it’s easy to get confused about where to spend your time and marketing dollars. Of all the bullets out there, which one is silver? So what if I told you I can answer that very question?
It isn’t Facebook or Twitter. Nor is it Google advertising. Or affinity marketing, or email blasts, or Groupon coupons or any of the other shiny options out there. Even a great website won’t assure you success. Companies die every day even though they’re doing a lot of these things quite well.
What works? Work.
Shoe leather. Getting on the phone, making those calls. Getting out and seeing people. (See, I told you you wouldn’t like it.)
If you’re like most of us, you’d rather automate everything. Crank out self-serving tweets and Facebook messages by the dozen. Keep the Constant Contact emails humming. Buy some ads. Put out a press release. Hire and delegate. Then sit back and wait for the magic to happen.
I’ve been watching — and using — media of all types for some 35 years, and I’ve seen a lot of success using everything from newspaper classifieds (though not lately) to radio to television to direct mail to Facebook. But I’ve never found any media strategy that would work by itself. Not even the ones I come up with.
To be sure, media are necessary. They’re tools, and they can be very effective if we use them right. But they can’t do the work without the one constant.
I’ve always known this, but I’ve come to a fresh appreciation of it as I’ve reflected my experiences in serving my biggest market niche: real estate auctioneers. I keep a close eye on the methods used by various companies, and I talk to a lot of auctioneers. I listen to stories. And of course, I’ve learned a great deal over the years from my own clients.
In short, the people — and the companies — that sell the most are the ones that work the hardest. They pour time and money into research about properties before they agree to sell them. They identify prospective buyers long before they start advertising, so the ads are better targeted. They follow up promptly on leads.
When they use Facebook and Twitter, they take the time to do it right. They “waste time” on conversations that don’t lead directly to sales, because they know that it pays off in the long run. (In short, they understand that Social Media are, in fact, social.) They get a feel for the networks by actually spending some time there, so they don’t step on their own feet. Above all, they avoid the temptation to automate their posting, sending out stuff they haven’t even read.
If there were any magic, I’m pretty sure I’d have found it by now.
And I have. Talking to people — whether face to face, on the phone, on email, or through Social Media. It’s the best way I know to work some magic of your own.
Just two or three ago, we were all pretty excited about the use of Facebook, Twitter and other social media for reaching existing and new customers for our companies. After all, it was free, and that’s where everybody seemed to be going.
We quickly figured out that we could link to our own web sites or (even better) set up a Facebook page for our own company. Facebook began selling advertising, and Twitter offered sponsored tweets. But the bulk of companies’ social media marketing efforts have come in the form of posts with links to company web sites, press releases or other promotion tools.
But is it working? That’s hard to say for paid advertising, because there’s not a lot of data yet and because most advertisers keep numbers to themselves. But what we know isn’t encouraging. About 10 months ago, Webtrends reported that the click-through rate for Facebook ads was only 0.051%, which was down 0.063% from 2009. Over on Google+, Mashable reports that most of the top brands have staked out their Google+ brand pages, but they didn’t seem to have many followers. It’s still too early to judge those results, though.
Facebook also recently announced plans to begin integrating its Sponsored Stories into users’ news feeds. (Currently, Sponsored Stories appear on the right side of the news feed, though they’re now going in the ticker as well.)
The tricky part of all this is that we really don’t use Social Media to find products, services or even local restaurants. Increasingly, it’s become clear that we go to Facebook and Twitter to socialize, not to shop. It’s important to note that this doesn’t mean social media ads can’t be effective. We don’t watch TV to find products and services either, but it works.
In its spring tracking survey, the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project found that our top three major reasons for using social networks are:
- To stay in touch with current friends (67%)
- To stay in touch with family members (64%)
- To connect with old friends we’ve lost touch with (50%)
After the top three, the numbers drop off dramatically. In fourth place is connecting with others with shared hobbies or interests, but only 14% gave that as a major reason. (Another 35% listed it as a minor reason, however.) That could be an important point, because targeting people by specific interests is of critical importance. If we’re not really seeking to connect with others who share our interests, we create fewer opportunities for ads that target us.
For most folks, of course, social media promotion amounts to posting promotional items on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Over the last couple of years, many have realized that people on social networks tend to skip over messages that are obviously promotional in favor of those from real people. A recent study found this to be true for news media as well: Twitter users are more likely to follow individual journalists than organizations. Because I live in Birmingham, Ala., I follow the tweets from major local media. But I pay more attention to, say, @erinshawstreet (who’s a real person who writes for Southern Living) than to the faceless @southern_living.
There are all kinds of social movements, including bull markets, political movements, entertainment obsessions, and many others. And they all come and go — sometimes leaving people and things changed permanently, sometimes not. But one trait they all share is that they all tend to blow themselves out just at the point when it appears that they have become the new reality.
Just a week before Black Friday ushered in the Great Depression, respected economist Irving Fisher said, “Stock prices have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.”
By 1971 (which is when the Sixties actually arrived for most of us), it appeared the Age of Aquarius really had dawned. Pot was everywhere, everybody had long hair, and people were signing up for meditation classes. Sure, we Nixon for a president, but the groundswell seemed irreversible — at least for Baby Boomers. Then, about 1974, it simply vaporized. Most of it, anyway. The demise of Nixon and the end of the Viet Nam war took all the wind out of the sails. Like all movements, it left us changed, but by 1975 or so, college students had quit going to TM classes and returned to traditional beer busts. Today, the Baby Boomers who made up the peace movement can be found at Tea Party rallies.
In the early 2000s, speculation was running rampant in real estate — especially condos and homes in Florida, Nevada and California. A developer would announce a new condo tower and people would come running. The flippers (speculators who would buy a condo and sell to a “greater fool” for a quick profit) would move in, and a unit would have three or four owners before the foundation was even finished. Everybody was convinced that the party would last forever. Then, in the fall of 2005, it all ended. The lucky flippers took their profits and went home, and the unlucky ones were left without a chair when the music stopped.
I know I’m oversimplifying this, but these and other movements all seem to have several characteristics at their end of their lives. One is that (almost by definition) they’re bigger than ever. In fact, so many people have jumped on the bandwagon that there are few people left to feed the movement. Then several things begin to happen. Velocity slows. Think of it the way you would a ball thrown into the air. At its highest levels, it looks like it may go forever, but gravity is taking hold, and the object finally begins to fall. The analogy breaks down there. Social movements don’t always crash to the ground. Some just reach a maintenance level where they become part of the landscape, but not the whole thing. My guess is that this will be Facebook’s fate, but it’s nothing more than a guess. I can’t prove it with numbers, but my sense of things is that some people are getting bored. Some have reconnected with friends and established non-Facebook ways of communicating with them, and they find their enthusiasm for the experience dwindling.
As Facebook runs out of people to add, the company’s only path to growth in the US (there’s still plenty of room to grow internationally) is to get people to stay online more. That’s because its primary way of making money is by showing you ads. The more you’re online, the more ads you see, and the more money Facebook makes. So Facebook keeps adding features and overhauling the site — to give us more to do and keep us online. But there are other factors that may be distorting the “time online” numbers, including third-party applications that keep people plugged in for Facebook chat purposes but don’t necessarily mean they’re on the site. That’s bad for business, because when we’re not on the site, we’re not seeing the ads and Facebook isn’t making money.
We have to assume Facebook’s engineers can tell which users are actually on the site and which are using apps like Digsby, Pidgin and eBuddy, but they keep that data close to the vest. They carefully spoon out the numbers that suit their purposes — total users, growth, etc. But when a social craze begins to blow out, the early signs aren’t always visible. How many are still members, still online regularly, but posting less? How many are reading less of their feed? Are people actively seeking new friends, as they do when it’s new and fresh, or are they content to stay with what they have? How much time are they spending on their profiles and photo albums? If the answers to these are available publicly, I don’t know where to find them. And if I were Facebook, I wouldn’t release them.
One thing we can see is the dramatic success of third-party sites and resources (Tumblr, Posterous, Blogger, WordPress and scores of others) where people can post longer thoughts and simply put links on Facebook, Twitter and other microblogging services. When I finish this post and save it, a WordPress plugin will automatically post it. The Disqus comment utility will route Facebook and Twitter comments back to mediaguycarl.com, and I may not even look at the Facebook page. Millions are doing the same.
Looking more broadly at the Social Media phenomenon, see the accompanying chart in which the Pew organization tracks use by age groups since 2005. It is interesting that Social Media use generally fell among the youngest group measured, and growth seems to be flattening for the groups over 50. On a year-to-year rate-of-change basis, some of these changes are dramatic. Among the all-important Baby Boomers (ages 50-64), use of social networks grew by a whopping 88% in 2009-2010, but in the past year it grew by less than 8%. The oldest group (and the last to jump on the social bandwagon) — those over 65 — doubled a year ago, but the growth rate fell to 26%. These numbers, of course, are not specific to Facebook, but given Facebook’s huge piece of the pie, they still provide some useful hints, because Facebook tends to be the “entry level” social media site. I see lots of people in their 80s and 90s on Facebook, but not on Twitter.
One question that’s obsessed those of us who pay attention to such things is, what will replace it? Google+? Twitter? Something else entirely? We forget that the answer may well be nothing at all.
Since I’ve been a critic of Facebook’s privacy policies and its new features, such as OpenGraph and the new timeline, let me add that I’m doing my best to keep my own dissatisfaction out of this. I’m not predicting the end of Facebook. It isn’t dying. It’s not even sick, on the whole. It’s just hitting that point in its life cycle where the cracks begin to appear.
The other question is whether this is just about Facebook or about social media generally. It’s just a guess, but I think we’ll see the entire phenomenon lost steam in the next year or two.
It’s easy to spot somebody who’s just jumped on the Social Media bandwagon. On Facebook, especially, newbie behavior is as predictable as the sunrise. So those who are willing to learn just a few basics can come across as old pros from the day they they show up on Facebook and Twitter.
- Take the “social” in “Social Media” seriously. Take the time to respond to messages from your friends and people you follow. Send a private or direct message now and then to people you know well enough. Post positive replies on posts by others — but not too many! Just enough to show you care about what others have to say.
- It’s ok to post messages promoting your business, but balance them with personal or non-promotional messages. As in the real world, people tune out those who talk only about themselves. I tell clients to keep promotional posts to less than 30 percent of their total.
- Don’t try to automate your posts by having sites like Twitterfeed post messages based on RSS feeds. (If you’re a true newbie, you probably don’t even know what I’m talking about, but after a while you’ll learn how to do this and be tempted.) Some experienced Twitter users will unfollow you if you start letting these sites and apps post stuff you’ve never even read.
- Avoid Facebook apps and games like a case of e-coli. Each time you add a Facebook app, you will see a screen that asks you to give it permission to post messages to your news feed. Just say no. Sure, you’ll miss out on a few apps that are actually useful, but the grief and embarrassment you save yourself will more than compensate for it.
- If you simply can’t live without trying your hand at Farmville, Cityville and Mafia Wars, at least deny the games permission to post messages to your account. Few things are more annoying than endless messages announcing that you have achieved superhuman level on Whateverville, or that you need somebody to give you a pair of golden shoes to ascend to the next level.
- Don’t click anything that looks too interesting. Facebook is full of scams and viruses that will do embarrassing things like send phony messages to your friends. You’ll get a feel for how to spot these messages, but things like “OMG!” or “You MUST see this!” or “Hilarious!!!” are reliable red flags. Anything with more than one exclamation point is probably linked to a malicious app. (Corollary: Keep words like that out of your posts.)
- Don’t flood the feed. I don’t know that there’s a magic number at which you’re overposting. For some it may be 10 a day. For others, it may be 2. It depends on your content, your style and your friends or followers. Just err on the side of taking it slow and you’ll be OK.
Finally, go back and re-read Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. Every word applies to Social Media just as it does to face-to-face interactions.
When we move into new, unfamiliar social settings, we all feel uneasy. What’s the right thing to say? How should I act? We muddle through the best we can, knowing we’ll make mistakes along the way.
So it’s no surprise that in the realm of social media, where the rules are still being formed (and where they seem to change daily), we mess up. Read the rest of this entry »