Like it or not, Facebook advertisements just got even smarter.
On Tuesday, the social network announced Product Ads, a set of tools that lets businesses more effectively target Facebook’s 1.4 billion or so users with a new, automated process.
With Product Ads, businesses who upload their product catalogs to Facebook can manually create ad campaigns. The other, more compelling option? Let Facebook do the heavy-lifting, automatically creating campaigns and targeting various kinds of users with ads it thinks will perform well, based on things like a user’s interests, general location and whether they’ve already been to the advertiser’s app or website.
In a Facebook first, businesses can also now create ads that promote several products at once. Ads that used to be static now act as digital carousels of content, with up to five product images rotating through, like in the image below:
Product Ads could prove useful to businesses with deep inventories of attractive products: furniture chains, clothing franchises and so on. (For one, those multi-product ads increase the odds of users finding items to buy.) It’s also a potential win for Facebook, which gets the majority of its growing revenues via advertising on desktop and mobile. The loser? Shoppers’ wallets.
Facebook Messenger is all set up to allow friends to send each other money. All Facebook has to do is turn on the feature, according to screenshots and video taken using iOS app exploration developer tool Cycript by Stanford computer science student Andrew Aude.
Messenger’s payment option lets users send money in a message similar to how they can send a photo. Users can add a debit card in Messenger, or use one they already have on file with Facebook. An in-app pincode also exists for added security around payments.
It’s unclear whether Facebook will monetize Messenger by charging a small fee for money transfers, or offer the functionality for free to drive usage of its standalone chat app. That will be up toDavid Marcus, the new head of Messenger who was formerly the president of PayPal.
Why Facebook chose to poach Marcus is now obvious: Facebook Messenger payments could compete with Venmo, PayPal, Square Cash, and other peer-to-peer money transfer apps.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on the company’s Q2 earnings call that “over time there will be some overlap between [Messenger] and payments. […] The payments piece will be a part of what will help drive the overall success and help people share with each other and interact with businesses.” However, he urged Wall Street not to get too foamy at the mouth because it may be awhile since “there’s so much groundwork for us to do.”
He urged analysts and investors to revise their estimates of Facebook’s revenue if they expected this to come quickly. “To the extent that your models or anything reflect that we might be doing that, I strongly encourage you to adjust that, because we’re not going to. We’re going to take the time to do this in the way that is going to be right over multiple years” Zuckerberg concluded.
The presence of payments code in Messenger was first discovered by security researcherJonathan Zdziarski last month. Aude tells me he used Cycrypt to dig into the Messenger for iOS code on his jailbroken iPhone and turn on the payments feature to nab the screenshots and video. I contacted the company to inquire about Messenger payments. Facebook declined to comment.
Aude played around the with feature and its code. He tells me you simply hit a button to initiate a payment, enter the amount you want to send, and send it. Facebook keeps the transaction private and doesn’t publish anything about it to the News Feed.
In the version Aude investigated, Messenger payments only worked with debit cards, not credit cards or bank accounts. That’s likely because money transfers are cheaper to process when they come from debit cards and don’t require approvals or numbers some people don’t know off-hand like connecting a bank account. Aude speculates that “based on my understanding of the debit interchange rates, each transaction will cost Facebook roughly $0.40 to $0.50 (Durbin swipe fee + ACH fee). The app didn’t mention a fee to send, so it’s probably free, at least initially. Over time they might add a $1 fee.” This can’t be confirmed, though.
Aude didn’t see PayPal as a payment option in Messenger, though there are notes about PayPal in the code unearthed by Aude. Facebook automatically lists payment methods you’ve set up in its main app to pay for games or ads.
As for how the money is actually transferred, Aude tells me that “The mechanism it uses is to debit one account, and then use some magical means to lookup the bank account number of the recipient and ACH [Automated Clearing House] deposit it, Identical to Square Cash.”
For now, payments will be one person to one person, but Messenger will eventually support group payments according a note in the code that explains “In the short term, we will only support single payment attachment. Multiple payment attachments will be supported in the future.”
Aude tells me he thinks Facebook will enable the feature in the US in the next few months, and then eventually in other parts of the world, though this code might be just for the early stages of internal testing of the payments feature. It could be a while before the public gets access. One day, however, Facebook might be able to challenge the remittance industry that charges foreign workers exorbitant fees sometimes in the 10% to 20% range to send money home to their families.
There’s a global battle for messaging going on right now between Facebook/WhatsApp, Apple iMessage, Tencent’s WeChat, Line, KakaoTalk, Google Hangouts, Kik, Rakuten’s Viber, and others. Each is trying to differentiate itself, sometimes with stickers, games, commerce, or social networking.
If Messenger payments is a success, it could create a whole new reason to choose Facebook’s chat app over everyone else’s. Paying friends might be something you only do a few times a month or less, so having a standalone app for it might not make sense. Facebook clearly hopes bundling it into an app people use everyday could help it beat dedicated apps like Venmo.
Plus, beyond peer-to peer-payments, the feature could build Facebook’s collection of debit card numbers and other payment methods. Those could be very useful, as Facebook’s also working on a Buy button for making ecommerce purchases straight from the News Feed.
Think about it, just because you have a kitchen doesn’t mean you’re in the running for the next episode of Chopped. I mean, sure I have a kitchen too, but my list of specialties includes: cereal, macaroni and cheese, and toast (that’s often times burnt.)
Well, the same can be said for Facebook.
Just because your business has one, doesn’t mean that you’re doing it right. Even with 10 years of Facebook behind us, we’re all guilty of committing our fair share of social oversights and slip ups. It happens, we get it.
However, before we all start thinking about what Facebook’s next 10 years will bring about, let’s be sure that we’ve got a handle on what Zuck’s given us to work with so far.
Here’s the top 10 mistakes that your business needs to overcome as we join Facebook in welcoming a new decade of social innovation.
1) An Unoriginal Tone
Everyone has a few little peculiarities and mannerisms that set them apart from the next guy. A certain sarcasm, an uncertainty, or an unparalleled modesty will come across in your communications and serve as a defining aspect of your identity.
The tone that your brand employs works in the same way, and each bit of language you put forth should be conclusive to your overall message, objectives, and goals.
What does the tone of this post from Philippine Airlines say to you?
If you answered: “What tone?”, you read my mind.
There is simply nothing unique about this post. It’s vague and so overly simple that it could have been posted by almost anyone.
What brands like Philippine Airlines are failing to understand is that the way a brand sounds and interacts will ultimately work to set a customer’s expectations and help to stimulate engagement and loyalty.
Point being, don’t try to squeeze yourself into a mold that just doesn’t fit, but rather, create your own identity.
2) WAY Too Much Content
Contrary to popular belief, Facebook content isn’t content, it’s micro-content, so consider inserting that period sooner rather than later.
With the introduction of short form social platforms like Snapchat and Vine, people have developed an insatiable appetite for snack-sized content.
The brands that are dominating their industries have not only recognized this shift in consumer behavior, but they have in turn begun to adopt a more succinct approach to content creation.
Unfortunately, Mercedes Benz missed the memo.
Just because Facebook budgets a bit more space for content than platforms like Twitter, doesn’t mean that you need to fill it. This post, for example, would have been much more appealing without the short Dicken’s novel accompanying it.
In fact, according to research by Buddy Media, posts with 80 characters or less in length have 27% higher engagement rates.
Believe it or not, nuggets of information can prompt your audience’s interest more effectively than long-winded explanations.
To put it quite simply: less is more.
3) One-Way Engagement
The copy you put forth on Facebook should open up the floor for dialogue, not just a one-way broadcast.
Your Facebook page is no place for stale traditional marketing efforts focused on pushing out information that may or may not speak to the needs of your audience. But rather, Facebook is a modern marketing machine that runs best on quality content that is designed to feel more like an authentic exchange and less like static offering.
After all, Facebook is a SOCIAL network. It thrives off of native content that doesn’t just speak at customers, it speaks with them and bring a sense of valued expertise to the table.
Look at the way these two Budweiser posts performed:
The post that talks at the audience boasted far less likes and shares than the post to the right which probed the engaging question, “Is your fridge stocked for the weekend?”
Now you see why it is important to take the time to understand the lay of the land, and design your engagement around just that.
In order to land a sale, you must first build a relationship, which is why issuing content that engages your audience isn’t just recommended, it’s necessary.
4) Inconsistent Branding
Creating a strong, consistent brand image is one of the most substantial competitive advantages possible.
Take a look at what you’ve got hanging in your closet; it’s likely that at least a handful of your threads are branded. Whether it’s a Nike swoosh or a Polo pony, each and every time you wear that shirt, you’re functioning as a walking billboard for that brand.
The same can be said for the images you post to your business’ Facebook account. If they’re not branded, you’re missing out on an opportunity to increase brand awareness. According to this post, it looks like somebody forgot to tell Kleenex:
While we commend them for their cute and clever campaign, when a fan goes to share the image, there is nothing in place to attach it to their brand. Essentially this takes their cute and clever campaign and turns it into a less effective one.
Additionally, labeling your images will protect them from online theft or misuse. If another brand snags your imagery, a simple label has the ability to guide consumers away from the deception and into the arms of your website.
5) Poor Mobile Optimization
“2014 is the year of mobile” …said every marketer ever.
In all seriousness, even people living under a rock can’t avoid the imminent onset of all things mobile. While the message may have become a bit repetitive, the solution is simple: Adapt or fall behind.
Posts with poor mobile optimization are not only a waste of your time, but they’re also a waste of your audience’s time.
This particular post from the women’s clothing retailer, Zara, may first strike you as a clean, minimalist approach to Facebook marketing. However, we’re having a bit of trouble reading it.
I pride myself in having 20/20 vision, but the indecipherable text above and below the “Hey Mum” outdoes even the teeniest line on an eye chart. Looks like it’s back to the drawing board for Zara, because if their message is lost on a desktop, it won’t stand a chance on a small-scale mobile device.
With 945 million of their 1.23 billion monthly users accessing the site on mobile devices, if your content is anything less than mobile-friendly, it’s not going to make the cut.
6) Poor Timing
It’s no secret that catching and maintaining the interest of today’s Internet users is a big ask. News feeds are crowded, and noisy, making a Facebook post’s journey from production to consumption a chancy one.
While the best time to post on Facebook certainly varies depending on your industry, your specific product/service, and your audience’s demographics, there are considerations that you’ll want to make.
On Super Bowl Sunday, Heinz Ketchup released two different football-themed Facebook posts, one at the start of the game, and one at half time:
Note the discrepancy in likes. While there are certainly outside factors playing into the varying number of likes each post received, it’s definitely safe to say that one of the reasons why the halftime post performed so well was due to timing.
At the start of the game everyone is glued to the television, but by halftime viewers break to replenish their snacks, get a refill, and of course, check Facebook.
By developing an understanding of the way in which your audience behaves, you can then begin to position your posts for specific time frames that work best for them.
7) Incorrect Link Postings
This social slip-up might not seem like the end all be all, and that’s because it’s not.
When you share a link in the status update field on Facebook, the platform automatically generates both a thumbnail image, as well as a clickable page description that will direct readers to the page. This means there is no need to keep the additional URL with the written copy. It’s repetitive, and at worst it will muddy up your message.
Take a look at this rookie mistake from Tyson Foods:
By relying on Facebook to populate a link preview for their posts, their engagement rates fell flat. However, when they used a quick snippet of text, and a large visually-appealing graphic, they more than doubled their likes:
Rather than rely on a block of text to sell a tiny thumbnail image, a full-sized creative and a simpler line of text will provide your audience with a post that is more appealing to share.
8) Ignoring Complaints
13% of dissatisfied customers will tell more than 20 other people about their negative experience. (Source: ClickSoftware)
Contrary to popular belief, ignoring a complaint doesn’t make it go away, Subway.
By leaving these customer complaints like these unacknowledged and unresolved, Subway is actually making matters worse for themselves.
Take a look around. We’re living in a digital age where information is spreading faster than ever before. If a business thinks that they can simply sweep this type of dissatisfaction under the rug, they better be prepared for a storm of backlash.
Rather than view customer service’s change of face as a burden, it is important for businesses to recognize that this type of social transparency can help them pinpoint problem areas and correct matters accordingly.
9) Underutilizing the Cover Photo
Taking up nearly a quarter of your screen on most devices, your Facebook Cover Photo greets visitors as they come onto your Facebook page, a virtual welcome mat if you will.
This is visual real-estate that you simply can’t afford to overlook, yet many businesses are.
Squished up text, pixelated images, sale’s pitches so bad you’d think I was making it up. I thought I’d seen it all seen it all… until this happened:
I can only imagine the discussion that accompanied this decision, or perhaps there wasn’t one at all. I mean, the lack of creativity is almost offensive.
Don’t overcomplicate the text, don’t hide content behind your profile picture, don’t neglect the size guidelines, but please, do something!
10) Trying Too Hard
Have you heard the news?
Newsjacking provides marketers with a unique opportunity to insert their business into a real-time cultural event in order to catch the attention of a greater audience and maximize their marketing message.
The thing is, for every newsjack that works there’s a handful that miss the mark entirely.
For example, Oxiclean’s attempt to newsjack tax filing season was a sad cry for attention:
I mean, nothing says “go file those taxes” like a good old household cleaner, right?
It’s important to be picky when selecting a topic to newsjack; not any old event will do. Before you jump the gun, make sure the topic you are tying your brand to contain some relevance because when it comes down to it, nobody likes a try hard.
Start Doing it Right
There you have it. 10 frowned upon Facebook mistakes that are stifling your marketing initiatives. While you may be able to get away with mistakes like these on newcomer apps like Jelly, Snapchat, and Vine, Facebook is something your audience expects you to have down by now. So next time you go to craft a post on Facebook, revisit this list.
At the end of the day, avoiding these 10 mistakes could be just what your business needs to differentiate yourself from the crowd.
Today (21-05-2014) Facebook announced a new feature for its Facebook app that can automatically identify music and TV shows playing in the background as you’re writing a status update. When you activate it, the opt-in feature uses your smartphone’s microphone to scan your surroundings; you’ll see a sound icon moving on the screen as it does. If the Shazam-like feature finds a match, you can share songs or shows with your friends as part of your update.
Facebook says it doesn’t store any of the sound it analyzes, and emphasizes that “we can’t identify background noise or conversation.” (That’s presumably a matter of intention and not capability.) The feature, of course, will know what you’re watching or listening to, which serves Facebook in its battle with Twitter to become the best “second-screen” app that people use for discussion while watching TV.
Any identified music you share will give your friends a 30-second song preview. Facebook will also post the exact season and episode of a show you’re watching if you share it, although the social network also makes the oddball claim that such sharing will somehow allow you to “avoid any spoilers and join in conversations with your friends after you’ve caught up.” Apparently Facebook believes that your friends and commenters are all people of goodwill who will conscientiously avoid revealing stuff you’d rather not know yet.
More detailed data on the entertainment you enjoy will also be a boon for advertisers and Facebook’s media partnerships. The company already sends reports to top networks about what Facebook users are talking about on any given week—access to better entertainment data could get more people to pay Facebook for access to your eyeballs.
Apple and Google are currently locked in a mobile death match, with Google’s Android trouncing Apple in market share but Apple skimming most of the profits. In terms of attracting employees, however, Google claims top spot, according to a new LinkedIn analysis of the world’s most in demand employers. And when it comes to employee satisfaction, Google has taken a solid lead.
Does it matter?
Google And Apple In High Demand
Given how important both Google and Apple are to key markets like mobile, it’s perhaps not surprising that the two come in first and second, respectively on LinkedIn’s rating of in-demand employers. These are companies that are shaping the future, and job seekers clearly want a piece of the action.
Here are LinkedIn’s top-10 most in-demand employers:
- Procter & Gamble
- McKinsey & Co.
Outside the top-10 but inside the top-50, Twitter came in at 23, Salesforce.com at 25, VMware at 38 and Oracle at 39. Of the top sectors represented, technology came in third to Retail and Consumer Products (first) and Oil & Energy (second).
How did LinkedIn calculate the demand for a particular employer? It’s quite opaque, but LinkedIn says that it “analyzed over 25 billion data points between members and companies and compared the data with surveys of thousands of members to determine a company’s familiarity and engagement score.”
Very little additional detail is provided, though LinkedIn does suggest in a blog post that it discovered a high correlation between high net promoter scores (i.e., employees recommend their employer to others) and high in-demand scores. Its conclusion? To improve how “in-demand” an employer is, it should encourage LinkedIn connections. The more connections, the more it raises the company’s standing in LinkedIn’s analysis.
But Are They Happy?
While that may be a way to juice an employer’s LinkedIn “inDemand” score, it doesn’t necessarily have any bearing on how employees feel at work. In this area, Google leads Apple by a considerable margin, according to a Glassdoor analysis.
According to Glassdoor, which measures employee satisfaction with their employers, Facebook tops the list at #1, but Google isn’t far behind at #6. Apple? It sits at #34, behind Riverbed (#2), National Instruments (#8), LinkedIn (#14), Rackspace (#15), Workday (#19), Salesforce.com (#22), Citrix (#23), Intel (#31) and Red Hat (#33).
This likely isn’t a function of low pay, as Apple comes in at sixth in a separate Glassdoor survey of software engineer pay. (Google came in at #4 and Facebook is #9.)
Rather, it seems to be a matter of long work hours and correspondingly poor work/life balance, two of the top three cons listed by Apple employees. Google also gets dinged, but for different reasons. Critical employees complained about how big the company is, and the difficulty of connecting with other employees or management. Apparently these are viewed as lesser evils compared to Apple’s tough time demands.
Competition For The Best And Brightest
Again, given how central both Google and Apple are to the future of computing, it’s not surprising that both are employers in high demand. And it’s also not surprising that the stakes are high enough that people will endure a fair amount of pain to work for a market leader. Just look at Amazon, which didn’t crack Glassdoor’s top-50 employers, got a somewhat brutal write-up in Businessweek for its allegedly adversarial work environment, yet still comes in at #7 on LinkedIn’s inDemand employer survey.
However, now that Silicon Valley’s elite, including Google and Apple, can’t rely on agreements not to poach each other’s employees, odds are the best people will want to work for the companies that are not only in demand, but also respect employees need for balance. If current rankings hold, such a shift would favor Google.
Facebook increasingly plays copycat to Twitter and other Silicon Valley upstarts when it comes to innovation, but with over 1.1 billion active users, Facebook can afford to be a fast follower. Indeed, the right strategy may well be to simply copy or acquire others’ innovations as they become popular. After all, as much as people may wring their hands about Instagram or Snapchat beating Facebook to this or that feature, the hardest feature of all to copy is a massive, built-in audience.
A Quick History Of Facebook Imitations (Er, “Innovations”)
A quick review of Facebook’s most recent product updates suggests that the company is having trouble coming up with novel features. Hashtags are the latest feature to arrive, a clear rip-off of Twitter, and just before that Instagram Video, which looked suspiciously like Twitter’s Vine. Or how about its check-in feature, which mimicked Foursquare?
While some might pillory Facebook for lacking creativity, the fact is that being a fast (or even slow) follower is arguably the right strategy for a company with such a deep installed base. When was the last time you or your friends actually celebrated Facebook changing its interface or otherwise altering your comfortable Facebook experience?
And did anyone really want Facebook Home? This counts as real innovation and it also counts as a serious innovation misstep.
It turns out that copying others’ functionality is not only safe, it’s smart.
Just ask Apple. Apple hasn’t innovated the portable music player, smartphone or tablet. Yet it still dominates either market share or profit share in all of these markets by improving upon others’ innovations. Predicting the future is really hard and frankly doesn’t usually lead to big paydays. But making that future safe and easy for a large audience? That pays big dividends.
Facebook’s Numbers Suggest It’s Doing Things Right
While Facebook has a lot of work to do on its monetization strategy, and its advertising still leaves something to be desired, as Hunter Walk points out, the company continues to print money. Critics howled that the company didn’t “get” mobile, but each quarter the percentage of Facebook’s company’s revenue derived from mobile keeps growing, most recently jumping to 30% in its Q1 2013, up from 23% a year ago.
Two-thirds of its 1.1 billion monthly active users log into Facebook through their mobile phones. Facebook doesn’t need to dazzle these users with Home or some other contraption. Facebook simply needs to maintain its comfortable experience for existing users while adding in functionality that takes off elsewhere, like Instagram Video (copying Twitter) or check-ins (copying Foursquare).
While some numbers have suggested a teenage exodus off the platform, the truth is more complex.
Facebook’s Willingness To Bet (And Buy) Big
And when a rival service shows enough growth with teens or other desirable demographics to warrant it, Facebook can simply acquire the product. While the company already dominated photo sharing, Facebook acquired Instagram to give its mobile photo business a jumpstart. Facebook can afford to buy out rivals, given the mountainous cash hoard it raised in its IPO.
This is why I’m sanguine on Facebook’s future. The social networking giant is in the perfect position to survey the market for rising innovations and blend them into the existing Facebook experience in ways that complement the comfortable Facebook experience. Usually this can be done through home-grown development, but when an acquisition is needed, the company has shown the willingness to spend big on a category leader.
This is in stark contrast to another market leader that has generally embraced the embrace-and-extend approach to innovation: Microsoft. As The Wall Street Journal‘s Rolfe Winkler puts it, “Microsoft keeps hitching its fortunes to lame horses,” turning to Nokia, Yahoo!, Dell, Barnes and Noble and other great companies whose market presence has faded.
So long as Facebook is willing to clone or acquire the best rival innovations, it should be able to continue growing its revenue even as it improves its utility to new and existing users.
Watch out, Facebook. A new survey says you may not be the cock of the social media walk for much longer. According to the latest numbers from social login provider Gigya, Facebook’s social lead is falling—and Google and Pinterest may not be far behind.
What Gigya tracks is social login, the practice of websites that enables users to sign in through a social network instead of creating a site-specific username and password. Their study is particularly significant because of its scale—since Gigya’s clients include more than 700 leading brands including Microsoft, Pepsi and Forbes, this is closer than we usually get to an Internet-sized analysis.
However, it’s important to note that a measurement of social logins is entirely different than a measurement of site traffic coming to or from social networks. This study simply shows which social networks people prefer to use when logging in to third party sites, and it’s important because it reveals users’ preferred networks.
According to its latest numbers, Facebook continues to dominate social logins at 54%—but Google+ is following at 24%, a percentage Gigya says is growing every year. In 2011, Google’s logins were at just 12%.
Google is making a strong effort to keep shifting this balance of power. In May, Google made a big overhaul of its Google+ social platform in order to make sharing simpler and cater to its Android user base. Google+ may not be the perfect system, but nobody can argue with the ease of using your primary email as a social login.
The real winner of the survey is Pinterest, which has actually surpassed Facebook, at least when it comes to e-commerce sharing. Basically, if something is being shared from a retail site, there’s a higher chance that content will end up on Pinterest instead of Facebook, with Pinterest grabbing 41% of the ecommerce traffic to Facebook’s 37%.
There’s no reason to believe that next year’s survey will show similar growth for Google and Pinterest. The takeaway here is that users are using what’s simplest for them. Signing in with your email that is probably already your Google account beats signing in with Facebook, especially as Facebook usage declines among youths and teens. And if you’re going to share your shopping list, why not do it on a social network designed specifically for that purpose?
Check out the rest of the findings below (click the graphic for a larger version):
I met an Irishman named Peter once. It was in a village called Nkhotakota, on the shore of Lake Malawi, where he was volunteering as part of a youth development program. My brother and I had arrived late in the day and, it turned out, had the better part of a night to pass until the 64-year-old motor ship that still serves as the lone transporter of goods and souls between lake towns arrived the next morning. We were on time, but it, of course, was late.
We located the local watering hole / guest lodge / grocer and bargained a discount rate for dinner and a half night’s stay. I found Peter at the bar that evening. He was reading a book about what was effectively the German army’s warm-up for the Holocaust: the mass enslavement of and use of concentration camps on indigenous Namibians.
You can imagine the substance of that conversation but, despite it, we quickly became friendly. I am convinced that this is because Peter was wonderfully Irish — genial, garrulous, big-hearted — and had nothing whatsoever to do with my road-weary condition. At the end of the night, as we parted ways, I felt that familiar twinge of remorse that anyone who has traveled or simply shared a warm conversation with a stranger knows. I didn’t want to say goodbye.
As we stood to go, he told me he was going to tell me something another volunteer had said to him once and that he liked to pass along to fellow travelers. We shook hands, he looked me in the eye, and then he said warmly, “Enjoy the rest of your life.”
That was it. It was not a warning, or even a command; there was no malice in his voice. He simply wanted to wish me well and, with such plain words, soothe the hurt of an impossible friendship briefly known. He wanted me to know it was okay that our paths would never cross again, that that’s how it’s supposed to be. And though he would never learn its ultimate outcome, he hoped that mine was a good life.
The power of modern social media networks to shape, spread, and often simply reach the important news stories of our time is quite literally revolutionary. After the Boston Marathon bombing last April, during the firefight in Watertown, residents recorded footage on their smart phones, uploaded it to YouTube, and then used the #Watertown hash tag to broadcast it on Twitter. It began trending almost instantaneously, and suddenly it was watchable online before CNN had it.
Throughout the investigation, you could follow the latest developments on Twitter; that network often beat out even the largest (or most local) news stations in sharing breaking news. In the immediate aftermath of the attack, Google created a searchable database for folks concerned about their loved ones. The bombing demonstrated the ability of social media to meaningfully impact our lives.
And this is the fascinating thing about Facebook. Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Vimeo all possess a function. Their existence meets a need and, in select instances,contributes substantially to the greater human conversation. (See the incredibly smart —and pre-planned — use of Twitter by Texas State Senator Wendy Davis.) Facebook is the exception. For many, certainly for me, its only utility is as a forum for passive correspondence between acquaintances. I still call and visit good friends; I see family at the holidays.
Of course, not everything important must be useful; but it must be relevant. And I’m not sure Facebook holds any relevancy for me anymore. More importantly, I think it detracts from my quality of life and social interactions. We’ve all read about how much of a time suck the site is; how the avatars we present are disingenuous and frivolous; how it’s only a place to noncommittally confirm plans and receive reminders about random birthdays that weren’t important enough to write down.
There are, like any good rule, exceptions. During my Peace Corps service, Facebook allowed me to keep up with family back home in one, fell, data-lite swoop. I imagine it’s much the same for expats, the armed forces, and those whose normal interactions with loved ones are similarly stymied. I’ve also discovered that, for some, it allows a kind of casual networking that is ultimately vital to their careers. And as this study out of UCSD shows, it does have the capacity to massage public opinion.
But Facebook, I think most importantly, makes us lazy — not only in the typical sense of those who lament our increasing inability to write complex sentences and focus on longer selections of text — but rather in how we conduct ourselves in relationships. It circumscribes our own efforts, encouraging a passive, superficial knowledge of other human beings, at the same time insisting that they’re not worthwhile enough to know more about.
It is wrongheaded to believe otherwise, that somehow our lives are fuller or richer because of the meretricious connections we maintain on Facebook. We know less about people, not more, by being Facebook friends. This is not how friendships are kept. It’s how they’re lost. It’s the small erosion over time that crumbles the foundation. We maintain these casual and unedifying relationships through Facebook, absorbing but never contributing substantially. Like a lot of modern life, we consume it, but don’t shape it ourselves, not directly. And that is no way to live.
Leaving Facebook is an opportunity to vote with my behavior. We choose what clothes to buy based on a number of factors besides style and price, like if the process with which they’re made is environmentally friendly and whether the workers who make them labor under good and fair conditions. We consider whether the food we buy is healthy and where and how it’s grown. We rank cities on their overall quality of life and access to natural resources to help us decide if we want to live there. Why should we not also choose the manner and method with which we manage our relationships online?
The truth is, we don’t need Facebook. We don’t need much of social media, but most of it contributes to the conversation in some manner. Unlike its younger siblings, Facebook comes from a time when our understanding of our relationship to the Internet was only just forming, and sites that enticed our innate human inclination to schadenfreude (hello, Myspace!) flourished. Talking to an old friend recently about Facebook friends, he put it more succinctly. “At best, I don’t really know most of these people,” he said, “and, at worst, I actually dislike them.”
I’m not sure how much I agree with that sentiment, but I do know that in general I’m tired of reading about life online. I want to be in the messy midst of it, alive and engaged. I crave authenticity, the kind that comes from lived experience, rich with human interaction, and I am exhausted from this ashcan of terrible emptiness into which we all pour our lives.
It will be challenging, and I’m bound to lose many acquaintances — but no real friendships. Hopefully, if anything, I’ll save a few of those. So, at the end of the summer, after I’ve confirmed email addresses and collated my network, it’s happening: I’m saying goodbye. If we’re not already in touch on email, let’s fix that now. Seriously: drop me a two-line note to say hi. It’ll be invigorating, like going commando on a hot day. I hope you will email, call, and keep in touch, and I will strive to do the same with you.
I’m not the first to do this and something tells me I won’t be the last. MG Siegler, a partner in Google Ventures, wrote earlier this year, “One day we’ll all be laying on our death beds wishing we hadn’t wasted all that time reading a million ‘K’ email responses in our lives.” Friends of mine who have been married for a few years and also recently left Facebook told me, “Now, instead of checking our friends’ updates at night, we read to each other. One night, she reads, and the next I do. Doesn’t really matter what, though she prefers old crime novels.” I smiled, loving that he knew that.
My brother and I boarded the ferry early the next morning, as the red sun was just beginning to crest the lake’s waters. I never saw Peter again, though I’m sure I could track him down now if I wanted to. But I don’t. I don’t know what happened to Peter, and that’s bittersweet. But it’s also okay. That’s a part of how human relationships work in real life.
As another Volunteer put it, “The joy of being in another place is intoxicating. Everyone should have the chance to live outside of their comfort zones.” Facebook is the comfort zone.
See you out there.
Source: Huffington Post
I’ve seen the future of Facebook, and it is… Yahoo!
Between 1994–2000, Yahoo! dominated the consumer Internet industry and much of the world’s attention. The company’s exclamation mark (sometimes called a “bang”) cast a long, purple-hued shadow across the globe, as users flocked to its ever-expanding array of services, and online and offline companies of all sizes threw money at it (almost literally) to gain prominent visibility among its massive, segmentable audience. Yahoo!’s page views rocketed; revenue rocketed; profits rocketed; stock price rocketed; market capitalization rocketed. Yahoo!, it seemed, could do no wrong.
Then, the world changed. Radically.
What Happened To Yahoo!
Consumer behavior shifted, with individuals the world over flirting with, and then devoting themselves to, myriad other online services. The business cycle changed and companies chose/were forced to reduce or eliminate their online advertising budgets. Then, when Internet advertising budgets returned a few years later, business behavior adjusted again, with marketers broadly diversifying their spend across the Web (following those same migrating users). And, perhaps most significantly and most representative of both of the previous issues, Google emerged, presenting consumers with a slate of invaluable (and competitive) services and companies with a nearly perfect mechanism/venue through which to market their offerings.
Needless-to-say, the 2000–2013 period has not been nearly so kind to the purple giant-of-yesterday — not to its metrics, its business, its stock or its market capitalization.
Throughout its rollercoaster-of-a-life, however, Yahoo! has remained shockingly static at its core, with a (still) massive, segmentable audience consuming an enormous volume of free content and services, surrounded by advertisements of all shapes and sizes. That those content/service offerings now include Fantasy Football and photos from Flickr, rather than, say, news and NASDAQ quotes, is nice, but irrelevant, as is the fact that the company now offers rich media and video ads, as opposed to just sponsorships and banners.
Those are incremental changes to the story — variations on the theme; because, the fact of the matter is that — apart from its early days of minimal competition and “easy money” — Yahoo! has struggled mightily to engage its users in fundamentally new ways; unlock the true value of its global user base for its advertising clients; and, bring to market any lasting innovation that even hints at shaking the status quo all over again.
In not so subtle ways, this reminds me of Facebook. A lot.
What Facebook Is Doing
Like Yahoo! in its early phase, Facebook hit the ball out of the park from the outset, and, it seems, hasn’t yet stopped running the bases. From the ivy covered confines of Harvard University, Zuckerberg & Co. now attracts more than one billion users to its site globally; has enabled hundreds of billions of friend connections; sees hundreds of millions of photos uploaded daily; and, generates several billion dollars of revenue annually. Not bad for its first nine years, right?
And yet, since its astounding opening act, Facebook has bestowed upon us:
- Gifting – blah.
- News Feed algorithm changes – yawn.
- Suggested Posts – meh.
- Messaging – join the club.
- Sponsored Stories – ummm.
- Graph Search – niche.
- Poking (again) – ha.
- Timeline – zzzzz.
- News Feed design changes – argh.
What’s next, a new color scheme? A new font?
What Could Happen To Facebook
Suffice it to say, the company is not exactly setting the world on fire with these efforts; more importantly, these are not (individually or collectively) doing much (if anything) to materially enhance Facebook’s relationship with its users; substantively increase the level of dependency felt by its advertising clients; and/or fundamentally alter the trajectory of its franchise or business. Said differently, where is Facebook’s second act, like Android (acquired, transformed and massively scaled by Google) or iPad? Where is its money-printing AdWords product? Where is its PayPal (acquired, and massively scaled by eBay)? Where its its quantum leap forward? Where is its disruptive force?
None of this is to suggest that Facebook has, in any way, “failed;” nor is it meant to take anything away from the extraordinary space that Facebook has carved out for itself in our collective universe. Similarly, I do not mean to imply that Facebook is necessarily destined to follow in the path of Yahoo! (after all, it would be damned near impossible to repeat all of those mistakes).
That said, it is, hopefully, a wake-up call, because — at least to this observer — the company and its business seem far too focused on tweaking the edges of its past creation(s) instead of changing the world all over again for both its users and advertisers. And that, as history might suggest, is a very risky path to enduring success on the Web.
Beware the “!,” Facebook. Beware the “!”!