Facebook just made your Social Media handbook obsolete

One of the best things about Facebook is that it never stops evolving into a better version of itself. I remember reading Mark Zuckerberg is extremely paranoid of being ‘out-innovated’ by a smaller shop and this is probably what keeps him on always improving and growing the product at such a frantic pace. The users may not necessarily like the changes at first, but after the initial backlash, everyone comes around to it. The end result is a changed and improved Facebook, for everyone.

Last night Facebook revealed a bunch of changes which fixes 4 of the 7 things I wanted Facebook to fix for businesses (1 was already fixed, leaving 2 more to be done). Apart from a redesign of pages – making them similar to user profiles – Facebook now allows admins to browse Facebook as a page. This means the admin may like, share or comment on other profiles and pages, as a page. It may go on and ‘Like’ other pages and have a news feed of it’s own. A page admin will also receive notifications of likes and comments when he logs in and may even choose to receive email notifications. The page may also have ‘Featured Owners’ which allows the page to showcase their admins and for users to reach them directly.

The last but in no way the least change comes in allowing iFrame tabs on pages and future plans for deprecating FBML and FBJS. This now means brands can feature their applications on the page itself and users will not have to leave the page thus making a lot of brand owners very happy. There’s also another bunch of changes coming on Photos, allowing higher resolutions, improved tagging and a new lightbox style viewer.

With all these announcements, Facebook has definitely set the scene for a dramatic shift in user experience. The first step for pages/brands will be to try and set this up and use it right. Social Media agencies will definitely cross-post, both across their own and others’ communities to build audiences. This may result in an increase in spam and bacn. There still will be legitimate uses for this, the first example comes to mind of a brand with multiple fan pages (based on on geography) or a brand with multiple sub brands. (Microsoft –> Xbox, Windows, Office etc); these are the pages that will definitely benefit from this improved integration.

By improving the experience for brands and pages, Facebook is increasing its attractiveness to business by reaffirming its commitment to them. Although there may a fair amount of changes required, both technical and strategic, these are only going to be better for the brand in the long run.

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5 more things I’m sick of in Social Media

Augie Ray from Forrester Research has put up a brilliant blog post in which he talks about 8 things he is sick of in Social Media. Do read the post because it touches upon the different nuisances in Social Media, many of which are the outputs of the Social Media “Experts” that can now be found  dime a dozen. I’m of course not one to shy away from such a discussion so I present to you my own list of things that I’m terribly sick of in Social Media, and with the end of 2010 almost upon us, am hoping that we see the end of these things too.

1. Sheer abuse of Hashtags

This is actually a personal pet peeve of mine but I strongly believe #You #are #an #idiot #if #you #tweet #like #this. In fact you don’t even need to #tweet like this. Hashtags were used for adding context to a tweet which it may otherwise lack. If I tweet “the traffic today is horrible”, adding a Dubai or UAE hashtag adds geographical context to my tweet, without which it might not have made sense. But if I tweet “#Foursquare and #Facebook go head to head in geo location”, I just wasted 1.43% of the character limit.  A perfect example of using Hashtags is for tweets from an event. Use them sparingly to increase their value instead of #cheapening them. Ha!

2. Calling it the next big thing

Sigh. Alright, listen up, if Social Media was the next big thing in 2008/09, it can’t be the next big thing in 2010. So stop talking about Social Media as our saviour. For businesses it may a dramatic shift in the way how they can now  communicate directly to their audience, but these very users have been using ‘social media’ as tools to communicate amongst themselves for a long time now. Remember forums? That was ‘social’ media too. In some aspects it may be a revolution (and I use this word very loosely) but for the most part it is an evolution. And more importantly these tools are now here, use them instead of merely talking about them.

3. Assuming it’s cheap or free

Social Media is not cheap and it’s definitely not free. While some of the tools and platforms might be, the medium is not. The medium requires considerable investment of your time, staff (who you pay a salary too) and of course cash for a lot of tools. But Social Media surely is a ‘cheaper’ medium where the costs are lower than other media, more importantly it is a more cost effective and trackable medium. Free, however, it is not.

4. The cross posting noise

Ow my poor social ears. Every foursquare checkin on Facebook, every Facebook update on Twitter, every tweet on LinkedIn and every LinkedIn update on ? Relevance people, think relevance. Every platform was designed for a different set of social connections and a different kind of conversation, use it accordingly. If I want to know where you are, I’ll send you a Foursquare request, if I want to see all your links, I’ll follow you on Twitter, if I care about your babies, dogs, cats, anythingelseyoureallycareabout, I will add you on Facebook; chances are we’re connected on more of these networks than ones we’re not. So for the love of god, please add signal to the stream, not more noise.

5. The Automation

OK, lets recap on what social media is supposed to be; open, transparent, personal, engaging and insertBuzzWord. If you setup a bot to tweet all your RSS feeds, you’re not personal. If you spam users with pre scheduled tweets, you’re not personal. If you’re repeating tweets, over and over again, you’re not personal. I don’t care if Guy Kawasaki says you must use HootSuite, SocialOomph, ObjectiveMarketer or whatever other tool, if you keep spewing links in my timeline every 30 minutes, I know you’re not there, so stop trying to pretend like you are.

There, I’m done venting. I must admit I am guilty of having done some of the above at some point but never taken it to the extremes. I would like to know your thoughts though. Do you agree with me? Or am I overreacting Or maybe I’m just speaking into empty space. Hello?

Image Credit: Rob Cottingham

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Working with unquantifiable Social Media marketing initiatives

The obsession to know, in quantified detail, the return achieved on the investment made (both in terms of time and money) in marketing efforts is not new. Social MediaEspecially with regards to a brand, any initiative or project is generally met with the same question ‘What is the ROI?’ . The real question we should, and Raj Anand of Kwiqq did ask is if trackable marketing is the be-all and end-all for brands?

The problem of the lack of directly quantifiable results exists from the days of traditional marketing. The effectiveness of TV & Radio campaigns, Billboards, or Pamphlet distribution could not be definitively determined because a variety of external factors came into play which could enhance or negate those efforts. However when online marketing was first introduced, a conscious effort was made know how effective the campaign was. Analytic tools provided detailed numbers and information on users and potential customers. Location, time spent on site, pages viewed, time spent on each page; all that information was now available in the hands of the online marketer. The most important thing however was that despite the open nature of the Internet, marketers still retained control of the image of their brand, for the most part.

The arrival and adoption of Social media changed that though. Numbers on engagement and conversations were not available; atleast not in terms of how they affected the brand. Most importantly the managers had started to lose control over their brand image as the consumers of the brand were becoming co-creators of it as were the former controllers (managers). The way Seth Godin sees it, marketing is both an art and a science and the marketer has to choose what hat to wear; that of the scientist or that of the artist.

Working on the new marketing initiatives requires an increasing use of the Artist hat. The results of its employment, once again, aren’t necessarily quantifiable, but they’re still in line with the original aims of the brand; to acquire new customers and retain existing ones. The second aim is especially catered to as individual two way communication initiated by the brand (or its representative) with the consumer facing a problem (with the product/service) will bring the consumer from the negative point to a point further down the positive line than if a customer were to have not had a problem to begin with. And it is this function, of adding value, to the brand (and its perception of it) that serves to be the unquantifiable, yet still essential benefit of Social Media.

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Facebuk: Im In Ur Famlee Monitizing Ur Releshunship!

So you already know that  from Sunday – on occasion of Mother’s Day – Facebook will let you list your parents, siblings and children as relationships on Facebook. Aww, warms my heart. Great news for everyone.

Who is going to like this especially? Why it’s the ad sales team at Facebook. Not only do they have information about you as an individual, now they know you as part of a (real life) network. What does that mean? More specifically targeted ads. Got young kids? Here’s an ad for pampers. Old parents?  Buy them a pair of Reading glasses, or a massage, whatever. Sibling in a different part of the world? Here have a cheap ticket, special offer, discount on hotel.

Do I sound like a cynic? I don’t mean to. It’s a great move on part of Facebook. Relevant ads are increasingly important for firms to maximise their ROI. It’s these very ads that improve the signal to noise ratio towards the potential consumer. Moral of the story, everybody wins. Right?

(Image via Steve Tracy)

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