Google Requires People to Use the Google+

Google+ Red Icon

Google is really pushing people to use Google+, whether you like it or not. According to today’s front-page Wall Street Journal article, this emphasis is coming from Chief Exec Larry Page himself.

I, for one, am not a big Google+ fan. I think the user experience feels, like a lot of other Google products, as if it were designed by engineers instead of people with an intuitive sense for how people interact. It’s very task oriented and not so people oriented and for a social networking site, that’s not very good.

Yes, I know that Google+ is having a tremendous impact on search results and yes, I recommend it as a content distribution destination for clients. But the user base is much, much lower than Facebook or Twitter and the engagement even lower.

My recommendation for fixing Google+ is for Google to get some people with real UI experience working on it. Simplify it. Make it a little more polished and elegant.

What do you think? Are you a Google+ fan or foe?

Facebook’s Flawed Mobile Strategy

Have you noticed lately how bad the Facebook mobile user experience is? I was just complaining about this over the weekend to my  oFacebook friends and I’m apparently not the only one based on the supporting feedback I received as well as an article in today’s Wall Street Journal Marketplace print edition (digital link here, subscription required for full article). The main point of the article’s author is the social network has made a giant miscalculation in how it’s going about it’s mobile strategy. Seems like other people are noticing.

When over half of their 900 million users access the network on iPhones, iPads and Android devices why is Facebook neglecting such a huge audience. After all, when you do log on through an app, you get a very limited and extremely slow-loading version of the site. Does this lack of mobile foresight have something to do with the rather lack-luster performance of their post-IPO stock valuation? After all, their stock fell 11% Monday…a whopping $11.5 billion off their Friday initially priced market value.

While it’s obvious to even the most casual observer the extreme over-hype around Facebook’s IPO was setting everyone up for major disappointment, their lack of mobile strategy is getting people to take notice.

As the Wall Street Journal article points out,  Facebook’s problems with app developers is just one concerning aspect of their mobile situation. For example, CrowdStar, developer of games such as Fishville and Happy Pet, used daily by over 50 million users, last month said they have stopped making games for Facebook.

The reason? You cannot access their games on Facebook’s mobile version. So, in addition to developers having to fork to Facebook over 30% of their in-app sales for things like virtual goods, they also are loosing at least half of their market sales potential. Instead, developers say they are focusing future development efforts on the iPhone, iPad and Android. This puts Facebook on the defense, playing mobile catch up because they made a strategic decision that they didn’t want mobile users coming to Facebook via apps but instead to rely on their mobile browsers.

Facebook’s reasoning with two-fold: 1) they didn’t want to be put in a vulnerable position, relying on the platform lords of Apple and Google; and 2) they wanted to create one version of their site, using advanced HTML5 coding, instead of a version for iOS, Android, Windows Mobile, etc. The only problem with this approach is that it’s going to take HTML5 another two to three years to mature enough to become truly useful as a mobile/browser-based platform.

Of note recently, Facebook is trying to show it’s mobile savvy by purchasing mobile app companies like Instagram (for $1 billion) and Glancee. Yet Facebook continues to basically ignore handset makers and carriers…all while Apple iPhone sales are projected to hit 139 million devices this year and Android is projected to reach 364 million units, according to research firm Gartner.

So, is this lack of mobile vision raising it’s ugly head in Facebook’s anemic IPO stock price? Rick Summer, Morningstar analyst, listed the company’s potential failure to capitalize on it’s mobile future as a risk factor and pegged the stock price at at “fair market value” of $32 instead of the $38 price at which it launched.

Although mobile is a huge component for Facebook’s future success, it’s really just one component. But this issue also highlights the inherent danger in brands becoming overly-reliant on building their brand outside of their own owned and controlled digital platforms and destinations. You could spend months and tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars developing a Facebook commerce platform and with their limited mobile user experience right now, you’re missing half your audience. Even worse, Facebook, as they’ve done numerous times in the past could change terms of service, making all your plans obsolete and all that invested time and money goesup in a puff of smoke.

Something to think about as you plan your online content strategy and manage your entire digital presence. And, in case you think Facebook is already gone the way of MySpace and AOL, Wired has some recommendations for seven social networking apps that could be your next social network.

6 Social Media Tools Experts Use to Update Facebook Pages

 

Okay, I’ve been a bit remiss in blogging of late. Enough of that. I’m back with a vengeance. I’ve been using Instapaper (one of the tools I love) to archive a lot of material over the last six-months. So expect a flood of posts on a regular basis. First this from the always excellent KissMetrics Blog covering 6 Tools Social Media Experts Use to Update Facebook Pages.

If you’re like me, you’re overwhelmed not just keeping up with all the daily changes in social media and digital marketing but finding out about and learning to use a host of new tools to track engagement, conversations, influence…you name it. In a sense, we’ve become tool paralyzed.

That’s one of the reasons I haven’t been blogging as regularly over the last several months. I had become dependent on FireFox and all my bookmarks and add ons and when FireFox started to get real glitchy around six-months ago, my tools started failing me. I guess in a sea of constant change we look for any little bit of stability and having a set of “go to” digital tools makes one feel in control of a hopelessly out of control situation.

Enjoy!

Facebook’s Changes: How to Get Timeline Now, What Changes Mean for Brands

Mashable has had some really informative posts on all the recent Facebook announcements of late. The first one here walks you through how to enable Facebook Timeline now. It’s really just a more visually oriented way of viewing your Facebook status and profile.  The instructions are fairly easy to follow but be aware that only other people who have done this will be able to see your changes for now. Once timeline goes out of public beta, it will be viewable by everyone.

Mashable added another article a day or two ago regarding how these changes might directly effect brand pages. And this one discussing what this all means for marketers using Facebook. According to the later post:

“Marketers, who have been told for years that they’re actually publishers now, will have to put that into practice”, says Ian Schafer, CEO of Deep Focus, a digital marketing firm. “Facebook is a channel, albeit a collaborative one, that needs to be programmed,” says Schafer. “We need to get people to share and interact with more content.”

This is a perfect example of why brands needs to focus on building an engaging brand experience on their own site and not put all their eggs in a specific social media service’s basket. If you build a storefront in Facebook, what happens when Facebook changes their terms of service? It’s kind of like a New Jersey protection racket…”Gee, it would be a shame if your nice little store had a fire or somethin’, wouldn’t it? But, if you take advantage of our special policy, I can assure you nothin’ will happen.” We’ve already heard rumblings that Facebook is pushing down brand pages from fan’s news feeds, in preparation for coming back to brands with their hands out for MONEY!

Social media is great, until it isn’t. For years, all brands could do was lease somebody elses media to reach an audience. Not anymore. A smart brand, who knows how to find out the information, education and inspiration needs of their customers can now cheaply create their own media channel and build an audience that they own.

Really, we think the safe bet is for brands to take the later course, viewing themselves as media companies, producing helpful, relevant, engaging and entertaining content that people are already searching for and building an audience they own on their own brand site. This site then functions as a distribution hub for the content to be scattered over then entire web. By all means, post it on Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn and YouTube and any other specific social site that makes sense for your audience. But, don’t for a minute think these social channels will continue to offer brands their services for free forever. It’s only a matter of time before they start flexing their media might and changing for audiece acces.

Optimizing LinkedIn

By popular request, my Optimizing LinkedIn presentation ready for downloading. I’ve been giving it for various groups and the feedback has been encouraging. One person told the group I presented to this morning that he’d been to numerous LinkedIn training sessions and mine was far and away the most practical and informative. That was good to hear because I always want to deliver helpful, relevant information, value and thought leadership.

Please let me know how I could improve this. It’s intentionally designed to be light on text as it’s given as a workshop presentation. Hubspot has a number of more detailed e-books and white papers to walk you through particulars. In addition, the LinkedIn learning center is a great place to lean more. Enjoy!

 

Winning at the Zero Moment of Truth

Google report on the Zero Moment of Truth

Jim Lecinski, managing director of U.S. Sales and Service for Google and all around good guy, has kindly given us permission to distribute his phenomenal report entitled Winning at the Zero Moment of Truth. The 73-page e-book documents the startling changes in consumer researching and buying behavior occurring as the internet, social networks and channels, content like user reviews, ratings and other consumer-generated content,  search engines and “always on” smart phones and other mobile devices converge to create a new kind of world where your brand is not what you say it is but what the consumer says it is.

In reality, the “internet of things” arrived a bit earlier than anticipated. It came in form of the Internet of US! It came about because of our iPhones, iPads, Androids and other smart, mobile devices, perpetually connected to the internet, broadcasting our likes and dislikes…our sharing, creating, commenting, reviewing and recommending. The hard cold truth for most brands is not that the technology is ahead of their marketing efforts…their customers are ahead of their marketing efforts!

Marketing model for the first moment of truth
Legacy Marketing Model: First Moment of Truth

In order to understand the Zero Moment, you have to understand the First Moment of Truth concept popularized by Procter & Gamble. It referred to the first place a brand had to win…when the consumer, stimulated by some kind of marketing communication or advertising like a TV spot, a coupon or a magazine ad stands in front of the product at the retail shelf and decides to put the brand in their shopping cart. The marketing model that goes along with this concept is simple: run creative advertising to get the consumer to be aware, to have interest, to go to a retail location and buy your product. A tremendous amount of time, money and effort has gone into perfecting this system.

graphic depiction of the zero moment of truth concept

What’s changed is huge critical moment now occurs between stimulus and shelf. It impacts every product or service category, whether it’s a considered good like a $40,000 automobile, a $2,500 HDTV or a $3 bottle of body wash. It has implications for both business-to-business and business-to-consumer marketers.

Consumers still may watch your TV spots or see you magazine ad. But they now immediately  grab their laptop or smart phone and search for reviews to see what others are saying about your product. They go to Facebook or Twitter and ask their friends if anyone has used the product and if so, what they think. They may go to YouTube and look for a vedeo of someone demoing the product…or making fun of it. Before they’ve even been able to go to the store, they have all the information they need and they’ve already made up their mind.

The Zero Moment of Truth describes this dominant role these connections, community and content are now playing in how we research, learn, search and ultimately find and buy products and services.

Jim sites several examples of zeros moments of truth in his report:

  • A busy mom in a minivan is looking up decongestants on her mobile phone as she waits to pick up her son from school.
  • An office manager at her desk, comparing laser printer prices and toner cartridge costs to determine which office supply store has the best price
  • A student in a cafe, scanning user ratings and reviews while looking up a cheap hotel in Barcelona.
  • A winter sports fan in a ski store, pulling out a mobile phone to watch video reviews of the latest snowboards
  • A young woman in a condo, searching the web for juicy details about a guy with whom she’s been set up on a blind date

Kim Kadlec, worldwide vice president of Global Marketing at Johnson & Johnson puts it this way in the report:

We’re entering an era of reciprocity. We now have to engage people in a way that’s useful or helpful to their lives. The consumers is looking to satisfy their needs, and we have to be there to help them with that. To put it another say: How can we exchange value instead of just sending a message?

That’s the question every marketer should be exploring and using to examine every piece of traditional advertising and marketing. Is it delivering value? Is it helping to answer the consumers need for information. Is is designed to engage and amplify across this environment filled with zero moments of truth. Something to think about.

Search Optimization and Its Dirty Little Secrets – NYTimes.com

An excellent primer on search from the NYTimes.com. The article discusses the uncanny number amount of first position organic search rankings JCPenney achieved over the holidays, using “black hat” search tactics. This is a real “no no” and JCPenny should have known better. In fact, if searches are supposed to be votes for favorite or popular sites then what JC Penny did was basically rig the votes. Shame on you JC Penny!

I just listened to an audio report of this on NRP’s “Marketplace” and they say the whole vote rigging scheme was unraveled by another person not associated with the NYTimes. So, there you go. The internet it open. It you’re deceptive, you will be discovered.

There are not short cuts to good rankings. Just create good content and be patient. I guarantee you the sales JCPenny got through these black hat tactics won’t be worth the drop in revenue they’ll be punished with in the coming months.

User Generated Content: Amature Animation

Xtranormal Cartoon Creation

From this morning’s Wall Street Journal a fascinating look at a new user generated content trend: creating your own animated shorts. The democratization of content continues with digital creation tools like Xtranormal and GoAnimate that allow you to create your own versions of South Park or Family Guy-like cartoons, filled with your own version of social or work-related satire, then share on YouTube, Twitter and blogs. The barriers of self-expression and creativity keep dropping.

The Real Purpose of Social Media

The Real Purpose of Social Media

This is a long but excellent video by Dough Rushkoff, author of “Program or Be Programmed” (sorry, the video host won’t allow the video to be embedded). He makes a fundamental point toward the end of the video that social media is really about the value exchange between the participants in a distributed network. If brands want to have meaningful value in this exchange, they have to contribute value. You can do this with entertainment (hard) or you can do this with information (not so hard) but however you choose to do it, you have to be real. As Doug points out, “Nobody wants to talk about what the Keebler Elf is doing…unless he’s been caught having sex with the Pillsbury Doughboy” or something like this, is hilariously true.

How Video Goes Viral…Cool Infographic

This cool infographic, shared on Mashable today.

Mashable Video Goes Viral

Cool Infographic on How Video Goes Viral