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The people at ViralBlog.com talk about ‘7 solid social media marketing trends’, and it’s quite interesting. For example, according to them, things like Facebook Pages will take a brand nowhere. At the same time, an upcoming trend involves hiring specialized social media content managers that can push your game further and create content and interesting ways to infiltrate the social media scene.

Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter (and others) can help brands integrate with their users, customers, etc., on a continual basis. It gives them the opportunity to combine websites and related audio/video content to their brands, connecting users to each other as well as to the brands. In return they’ll share your interests with their networks. It sounds logical and obvious, and it is.

Another idea brought up in the article is a push for more online stores on social networks (something that makes a lot of sense to me).  If people know exactly what they want and can get it online, they will. It saves them time and money.

I also believe that a brand (digital or not) must follow the social media scene in order to survive. If you’re not always engaging with your audience online through interesting and compelling stories, the risk will be that your competitor does. The social media geeks seem to get it while many brands don’t. What do you think? Read the full article, here.

Slowly but surely, Google has been updating it’s various features to be more and more social. From adding more robust functionality to Google Profiles to adding the Like button to Google Reader, Google is becoming more and more about sharing information with friends and strangers. With Facebook buying Friendfeed this week, Google seems to have decided to fire its next salvo (in addition to boosting its search engine via Caffeine) into the marketplace.

iGoogle SocialIts not active on all accounts yet, but now you can add social gadgets to your iGoogle page, enabling (for now) you to play games, share todo lists, see what your friends are doing, etc. While in many ways the functionality isn’t all that impressive, it signals yet again that Google is moving away from search being the core of its business. The site is becoming more and more about managing information through one portal and then sharing it with like-minded communities around the world.

What is exciting is how Google is breaking down information and removing the limitations placed on it by form and format. With its advances in communications (via Gmail and the forthcoming Wave), its organizational tools like Reader and Google Docs, and the combination of Maps with content and suggestions (Google City Tours) Google is both presenting us with more information but working toward preventing overload and making it all more useful.

scribdOnline document publishing site Scribd has taken the next step in its evolution by going social. The site has added features that allow you to follow what others are doing, sharing, liking, etc. As our pal Mark likes to say, it’s all about getting people to do things together. A lot of what I’ve read online compares the changes made to the site to Facebook. I’m curious to see  as more and more companies add “social networking” to their sites, whether surfers will suffer from social overload.

What’s interesting is that while this is going on, the news breaks that Facebook has purchased Friend Feed, the site designed to share your entire interwebs life with your friends. Friendfeed LogoThe interesting thing about Friend Feed is that it’s always seemed much more powerful and nicer looking than Twitter but not as widely adopted. It will be interesting to see how this acquisition unfolds and what it means to both services.

Interestingly enough, Friend Feed users are already complaining about the acquisition, just hours after it has been announced. Here’s hoping that Facebook will bring more users to FriendFeed and not just cannibalize its features into their own site.

The Original Social Networking Site?So since Oprah has joined the ranks of Twitter, social networking has become more and more of a mainstream conversation. Many claim that social networking is a generational thing. Only today’s youth will really get sites like Facebook. Turns out, that might be the wrong way to look at it.

An article from one of the New York Times’ blogs points out that people have been involved in the Face Book fad since 1902. In reality, the idea of people getting together socially and then sharing tidbits of information and memory that they could take with them isn’t all that new. Bryan Benilous, the historical newspaper specialist who found this (along with a 1942 mention of Twitter and a 1903 mention of a pocket telephone) compared the old Face Book to the new version as “having friends write on your wall in a much less tech-savvy way.”

So what does this mean? As our friend Mark has said, shaping the behavior of an individual is hard, shaping the behavior of the mass is even more difficult. Maybe social networking hasn’t actually created a new craze but actually just given more people an opportunity to engage in a behavior that they’ve been doing all along. They can just do it in real time and across the great divides more easily. 

As a former history major it makes me wonder (again), is anything really new?

There’s been a lot of talk about social media lately. It’s hit the mainstream and all of the sudden Twitter and Facebook and their cousins are showing up in all kinds of places from CNN to Vitamin Water commercials. The buzz around social media being the next big thing is getting, well, a bit obnoxious. While it’s added more information and communication to my life, it hasn’t fundamentally changed it for the better or worse.

Gareth Kay wrote a great op-ed piece for Agency Spy that got me thinking. It’s all about having a conversation instead of a lecture. What’s interesting is that social media seems to be becoming less and less about having a conversation with everyone, more anti-social in a sense. A few sites I’ve come across recently have pointed that way for me:

  • HP came out with Gabble recently. As the New York Times puts it, the NotForYouTube. Essentially, it’s a social media site that limits the social. The user controls who sees their video and the scope of the conversation. Instead of seeing how many hits you can get to become the internet star of tomorrow, it lets you have a conversation.
  • Another site I’ve learned about (thanks to my wife Shannon) is Yammer. Essentially, instead of using Twitter to have a public discourse about the mundane details of your life, Yammer is about a closed circle of co-workers having a private conversation. 

Subtle inward twists on ideas that are typically used to broadcast and all of the sudden social media is more about using technology to converse than finding a way to self-broadcast. When you look at sites like these in combination with the forthcoming Google Voice, it’s becoming clearer to me that the social media revolution is going to be more of a shift in how we have conversations than a revolution in what we’re saying.

A while back I wrote about Twitter and its seemingly meteoric rise. In the last few weeks I’ve been thinking about Twitter and social networking from more of a business perspective. While it’s easy to build your online presence as an individual, I’ve noticed that corporate entities are getting a lot of advice as to how to social network. Unfortunately as often happens with free advice, a lot of it is not that great.

Too often, the new breed of social media expert is taking tired marketing and communications methods, adding some glitter and shine, and treating new online and mobile channels as the same old stuff. I’m seeing a lot of top ten lists that talk about ROI, about how to get your message out, about avoiding the mundane. Too often companies are being told to push commercials or marketing messages to the mobile phone. Broadcast static specials or new product announcements to Facebook or Twitter.

Many of these experts/evangelists/buzz generators seem to be missing the point. The problem with all of this is that as consumers use the internet more and more in everyday life, they get savvier about being sold to. They don’t want their mobile device (be it an IPhone or netbook), Twitter account, Facebook Page, etc. to merely be a new conduit for one way information sharing. For consumers it’s about being social, about doing things together, about being awash in the matrix of information that’s out there and sipping when they want. There is one overarching piece of advice that companies should follow when establishing a presence using online user controlled channels:

Use social media as a means of having a conversation.

Don’t forget, conversations are as much about listening as they are talking. Let your consumers talk to you, express their complaints, ask questions. Use the consumer interactions as an opportunity to respond, fix customer service/product issues, and bring consumers in on the process. People are using these methods to talk to each other, when your Twitter page merely announces specials or new product launches, there is no need to follow it. If it’s a conversation you’re sharing information, receiving information, and potentially identifying issues or opportunities in the marketplace. Use social networking to show you care, to show a little of your personality. Despite what many of these experts say, allowing a little about the daily grind of your office to bleed into your online presence is a good thing. While it shouldn’t be a minute by minute recap of the user’s day, showing that real life people work for your company can really add dimension to your brand. You might just create loyal customers who tell their friends to use your products and services.