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Posts Tagged ‘Facebook’

If you’ve read earlier posts on this blog, you know that I’m not a huge fan of Google Buzz. I really, really like Google, and their search engine is fantastic, but I never “got” Google Buzz. I think it’s because I’m not a big GMail user. Since Buzz is based off the GMail platform, your Buzz contacts are in your GMail address book.

I have six email accounts. GMail is the least used – and I have a whopping 17 contacts in my GMail address book. So, I’m not a great targeted user for Buzz.

Regardless of my personal thoughts about Buzz, I’ve noticed that the crescendo of applause that accompanied the launch of Google Buzz, lead by the guys at Mashable, seems to have become a whisper. This is exacerbated by the negative press that Buzz seems to attract, er, like a bee to honey.

Wendy Davis, writing in the Daily Online Examiner, reported today that regulators from 10 countries have complained that Google “betrayed a disappointing disregard for fundamental privacy norms” with the launch of Buzz. This was stated in a letter sent to Google by authorities from Canada, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain and the United Kingdom.

As quoted in the Daily Online Examiner, the letter states: “The privacy problems associated with your initial global rollout of Google Buzz on February 9, 2010 were serious and ought to have been readily apparent to you. In essence, you took Google Mail (Gmail), a private, one-to-one web-based email service, and converted it into a social networking service, raising concern among users that their personal information was being disclosed.”

You may recall that at launch, Buzz’s default settings disclosed the names of any Buzz user’s email contacts. Google soon changed the default settings to correct this and issued an apology.

As long as they have Google’s attention, the privacy police from the 10 countries also expressed their displeasure with Google’s Street View, claiming that it also violates the privacy threshold. Freedom of speech issues in the US negate most of this argument regarding Street View.

Oh, and Facebook. looks like you’re next up on the regulators’ agenda.

Beside the legal whoop-de-doo, Google should be more concerned that Buzz seems to have lost its own buzz. Am I wrong, or has it just not gained traction as a major social media app?

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I promised myself that I’d wait a week after the launch of Google Buzz before I chimed in with my 2¢ worth of comments. I find it interesting that, in those few days, comments in the Twitterverse and on Facebook and the top social networking blogs have gone from “it’s the second coming of sliced bread” to “how do I turn it off?”

Let me interject that I’m a huge fan of Google. I was an early adapter to the now ubiquitous Google search engine. In late 2008, when Randall Stross’ Planet Google came out, I eagerly devoured it and marveled at Google’s corporate philosophy and their unique business mantra. From that book, I discovered areas that Google was participating in that I didn’t know about. Part of my business model is providing search engine optimization, and if you play that game, you play by Google’s rules.

Yet, I looked askance when Google launched Buzz. For those of us who use and teach social media as a marketing tool, we realized that this was inevitable. Basically, as Facebook and Twitter begin to act more and more like search engines, Google will counter by once again venturing into the social space (anyone remember Orkut?- a great app if you happen to live in India or Brazil). Facebook and Twitter become de facto search engines based on the premise of “who are you gonna trust? A mathematical algorithm or the advice of a trusted real-world friend?”  If you are looking for a dentist, do you call the one that tops Google’s SERP (search engine results page), or the one that your best friend recommends. If you said the latter, you buy into Facebook and Twitter’s search philosophy.

So, if Facebook and Twitter are going to compete with Google in the search arena, Google will invade their “social territory” by re-launching a social effort – Voila!  – Buzz! Google was smart to base Buzz on their latest social effort on their almost ubiquitous Gmail platform – or were they? That’s where I take issue with Google Buzz.

Google assumed that I wanted to include everyone on my Gmail list in my Buzz social network. This is like including everyone that you’ve every emailed in your Facebook “Friend” list or personal Twitterverse. Wrongo Bongo! When I looked at all the names that Google assumed that I’d want to follow via Buzz, my first reaction was “Who the hell are all of these people?” Do I really want to include the customer service rep who helped me with a problem with my HP printer in my Buzz universe? I don’t think so. Just because I emailed him three years ago, we are not exactly buds. Sure, I can manually go through my Gmail list and unclick those who I don’t want to Buzz with, but shouldn’t it be the other way around? Shouldn’t I choose who I want to Buzz with rather than Google doing it for me?

Secondly, Google touts (or at least someone does) about 150 million Gmail accounts. I’m one of them. But, my Gmail account is one of eight email accounts that I have. And, Gmail is not my primary email account. How does this impact Buzz? Google has selected that HP customer service rep who I emailed once three years ago to be in my Buzz group, but doesn’t know about one of my best friends that I email only from a non Gmail account. So, Google’s arbitrary building of my Buzz list is disingenuous. If I truly want to engage via Buzz, I need to delete a bunch of folks and then add a bunch of folks. Do I really have time for this? Facebook and Twitter based their platforms on my taking the initiative to select who I wanted to Friend or Follow, and I can do it on my own schedule. Oh, and did I mention that there is no interface with Facebook or Twitter? Google is intent on building their own version of the Berlin Wall around their Buzz community. Facebook and Twitter understood “synergy” early on and it works fro both of them.

As I write this, I’m also reading a blog post on Lifehacker that states that Google’s project manager for Buzz admits that the social app needed wider testing before it launched. As Lifehacker says: “In one week, Google’s Buzz social network has moved through a splashy launch, a quick fix, a major clean-up, and now, an apology.” This is almost a classic case on how not to launch a project. Inside of one week, Buzz has dealt with launch euphoria, a “whoops” on privacy issues, and now a statement that they should have worked on it more before they launched it.

Google says that they tested Buzz internally with 20,000 Google employees., Danger! Will Robinson! Any market researcher will tell you that’s a prime example of the folks at the Kool Aid factory drinking the Kool Aid (I’m more than mixing metaphors here). I’m sure that all Google employees use Gmail as their primary, if not only, email service, and many of their Buzz friends are fellow Google employees who are equally hyped on Buzz. I’m sure the (er, pardon the pun) “buzz” about Buzz was rampant around the Google campus. In other words, Google heard what they wanted to hear from their Beta testers.

Pete Cashmore and Barb Dybwad at Mashable are early evangalists for Google Buzz. They tout something like 9 million “buzzes” in the first few days.  Maybe that’s so in terms of raw numbers, but I would ask how many of those are relevant in terms of going to, and being read by, folks who actually care. Maybe it’s more like a giant plane flying over and dropping a ton of leaflets on a population, but no one cares to read them.

What do you think? Is Google Buzz the vaunted Facebook / Twitter killer? Or, is it another Orkut?

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We’ve all been greatly touched and saddened by the news and images coming from Haiti this week concerning the magnitude 7.0 earthquake that devastated the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. Americans and the rest of the world have rushed to send aid to the Haitian people through a variety of relief and service organizations.

One of the biggest efforts has been that of the American Red Cross. It wasn’t too long ago (think Hurricane Katrina) that the Red Cross was embroiled in some very bad press regarding the response to the needs of the Katrina victims (I watched this unfold on a personal basis as I had two Katrina refugees who came to live with me for a while). But this Red Cross seems much nimbler and much more savvy, at least when it comes to their fund raising efforts regarding Haitian relief.

Late Wednesday night, I became aware of the Red Cross’s text campaign to raise money for their relief efforts in Haiti. You know, the one that allows you to text “HAITI” to 90999 and a $10 donation is made to the Red Cross and the $10 appears as a charge on your next phone bill. I Tweeted this info, along with tens of thousands of others, and posted it on my Facebook page, as I’m sure  that many of you did. How many times did you see a Tweet of a Facebook status report in the past couple of days mentioning the 90999 text program?

In case you are not aware, the “Text 90999” methodology has been available for well over a year, and has been used in other charitable efforts. For example, last spring a campaign was launched by “Keep A Child Alive” using the 90999 text number. Texting “ALIVE” would generate a $5 donation that was charged to your phone bill. My point is, the Red Cross did not have to create the methodology or the infrastructure. It was already there. What the Red Cross did was get the program in place and got the word out quickly!

This afternoon (Friday, January 15, 2010), as I write this, the “Text 90999” campaign and generated over $9 million in Haitian aid money for the Red Cross!


Speaking this afternoon on CNN, the Red Cross’s social media manager said that the Red Cross is “stunned” by the magnitude of the outpouring of digital fundraising. The amount of money raised by the “Text 90999” campaign is more than douple all the money raised by all charities using the “90999”methodology in 2009.

What the “Text 90999” campaign has done is important to understand. First of all, it has made it easy to donate, using something (texting) that many of us do several times a day. This has really impacted the Gen Y-ers, who, a recent study shows, text an average of 740 times a month. For many of us, texting has replaced email, voice-to-voice conversations and just about any other form of person-to-person communication. Secondly, it’s quick and easy to do. When I made my donation, it took less than 15 seconds.

For those of us who use social media as a marketing tool, we have seen the “Text HAITI to 90999” campagin go viral. $9 million in donations at $10 per donation means that 900,000 people have responded in about 36 hours! This is immediate, simple to do, and the results create additional inertia to the campaign. Each news story that features the “Text 90999” campaign and its results illicits even more participation.

While other fund raising efforts are underway – it is rumored that George Clooney is putting together a telethon to air across several broadcast and cable networks in a week or so, the “Text 90999” campaign offers an immediate way for those of us who have been touched by this tragedy to feel as if we have contributed something NOW!

I would be remiss if I did not include the efforts of musician and Haiti native Wyclef Jean in this post. His similar campaign: “Text YELE to 501501” to donate $5 has raised over $1 million in three days. That’s over 200,000 respondents. It has been somewhat overwhelmed by the publicity generated by the Red Cross’s campaign.

Have you contributed using the “Text 90999” campaign? I would be interested in your thoughts.

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Much has been written in the past several days about the changes in Facebook’s privacy policy that have been made over the last few weeks. Most of us who follow these things feel that Facebook is again reacting to the continuing explosive growth of Twitter. A recent agreement with Google to allow Facebook posts to appear in Google’s new real-time search also contributes to Facebook’s attempt to make your Facebook information available to the world.

Currently, much of the personal information of Facebookers that was previously only available to their “friends” is now in the public domain. Facebook urges its users to make more of their information available. This benefits Facebook’s software developers as well as anyone else trolling for information. For example, Facebook’s default setting now makes any photos that you post on your page available to the world. Prior to the changes, these could only be seen by your Facebook “Friends.” The same is true for your Facebook “Friends” list. Now that Facebook is cooperating with Google, your photos and “friends” list could show up in Google searches.

Note: Facebook has modified this feature but you must take direct action by going into your Facebook Account Settings and checking whether you want this information available to only your “friends,” “friends of friends,” or the whole world.

Perhaps Facebook’s senior managers felt that, once again, they could make drastic changes to their policy, and, after the obligatory dust-up, things would return to normal. Not this time.

Ten groups have filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) stating that the recent changes in Facebook’s Privacy Policy “violate user expectations, diminish user privacy and contradict Facebook’s own representations.” The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) as well as the American Library Association, Center for Digital Democracy, Consumer Federation for Privacy Rights, Privacy Activism, Privacy Rights Now Coalition, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse and the U.S. Bill of Rights Foundation. The complaint is posted on EPIC’s site.

Concern has also been raised about how this information could be used in totalitarian countries. Nick O’Neill discusses this on the All Facebook Blog.

Facebook has responded by saying “We’ve had productive discussions with dozens of organizations around the world about the recent changes, and we’re disappointed that EPIC has chosen to share their concerns with the FTC while refusing to talk to us about them.” Facebook spokesperson Barry Schnitt said that Facebook has had ongoing discussion with the FTC regarding the privacy changes.

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Facebook just keeps on growin’!

Recently released comScore tracking data shows that 5.5% of all time spent surfing the internet by US residents in November ’09 is spent on Facebook. That’s HUGE! It also doubles the amount of time users spent on Facebook just a year ago. This surpasses time spent on YouTube, Google or other popular sites.

The same data also reports that Facebook has surpassed 100 million US users in November. That ranks it as the #4 site in terms of users.

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During this past summer’s beach vacation, I read an article in Wired that postulated that Facebook could possibly overtake Google as “King of Search” based on the simple premise that you trust the advice of your friends more than you do an impersonal mathematical formula (aka Google’s algorithm). Let’s say that you’re looking for a dentist. Would you give more credibility to the suggestion of a friend that you knew and trusted or a first-page search result on Google?

I’ve thought about that a lot in the intervening months – but, obviously not as much as Google has!  Google’s announcement last week that they have universally initiated “personal search” says two things to me. First, they are not about to surrender any possible search function to Facebook, or, that “upstart,” Twitter. Secondly, they buy into the concept that your past actions are a great predictor of what you are searching for.

The ultimate battle for search supremacy may come down to your past actions (Google) vs. your friend’s recommendations (Facebook).

Google states that “personalized search” is their differentiator. Before “personalized search,” each person searching on identical key words would get the same results. If you and I both searched on “Penelope Cruz,” we’d get identical search results. No more! Now, everyone gets personalized search results each and every time. (The fact that probably 95% of Google’s “searchers” are unaware of this is a whole different issue! Their “notification” consisted of a blog post.)

Penelope Cruz

Using the example above, if Google recognized that I often read People Magazine online (which I don’t!), then it would list the Penelope Cruz articles that have appeared in People first on my custom search result page.

However, if you have also searched on the films of Pedro Almodovar, but don’t read People, your “Penelope Cruz” search would most likely return those articles on Ms. Cruz that associate her with Almodovar first on your search results.

How does Google do this? It “remembers” everything that you have searched on over the past 180 days through a hidden cookie in your Google browser. Google thinks that they are doing me a favor, by cutting through the clutter and giving me results that my past actions indicate might be more valuable to me.

Maybe that’s good. But in the back of my mind, I am reminded of that every time I go to Amazon.com, they remember that I bought a Wiggles DVD for a friend’s toddler’s birthday a couple of years ago. Each time I go to Amazon.com, they keep informing me of new Wiggle’s CDs, games and videos and relentlessly ask me if I would like another, please?

Google’s cookie will remember each and every search for the past six months, with no chance of the searcher being able to say, “don’t count that one!”  What does this do to those of us who search for something one time because we are writing an article, doing research, or, those students searching for all kinds of stuff for a particular class, and those searches are not germane to their normal lifestyle? Those innocuous searches will skew the search results of that searcher for the next six months.

Here’s an example: What if you have a friend who loves Korean BBQ coming for a visit? You hate Korean BBQ, but as a gesture of friendship, decide to search on “korean bbq restaurants” so that you can suggest one to your friend. The next time you search for “restaurants,” you may wonder why Google lists Korean BBQ places at the top of your search list. Your past search activity has influenced your current search results. This whole concept has the propensity to drive SEO practitioners nuts!

Another example of how this could impact your looking for a new job is covered in this excellent blog post.

Maybe Google thinks that they are doing me a favor, but knowing some of the weird things that I have been known to search for, I could be in for an interesting ride!

What about you? What funky searches have you done recently that you think will skew your Google personalized search results?

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For the past few months, I’ve been knee-deep in a local political campaign. We  were hired to do social media for a dark-horse candidate running for mayor of my hometown, Atlanta, GA. “My” candidate was barely a blip on the radar when we jumped in to create a social media presence in mid August. Yes, we were late-to-the-dance, very late, but we always love a challenge!  There were six viable candidates running for the non-partisan (non-party affiliation) office. Our client ranked #4 and had virtually zero social media presence. Of the three leading candidates, one had a very sophisticated SM presence, one was so-so and the third was mostly non-existent until the last few weeks before the November 3 election.

I will spare the suspense and tell you that my guy finished fourth out of six. The eventual winner (following a runoff held on December 1) was the candidate that had the best SM program. Did that win the race for him? Probably not – it was plain old “get out the vote” activity that caused more people to vote in the run-off election than in the regular election, BUT, the difference came from communities in Atlanta’s “intown” neighborhoods that common sense would say are among the most “wired” in the city. Social media was most likely a factor in these key neighborhoods.

What I learned from this campaign is interesting, and as far as we can determine, broke some new ground in the use of social media in local political efforts.

When we started this project in August, the eventual winner of the election already had the maximum 5,000 Facebook Friends on his personal FB page and had several thousand more on a “fan” page (ironically, this candidate polled in the single digits until just a few weeks before the election and was running a distant #3). The candidate that was polling in the #2 position had about 2,000 FB Friends and the candidate that was leading in the early polling had a SM presence next to nothing – about where our candidate was when we started.

We knew that we had to be aggressive – that we would have to be proactive in building a Facebook and Twitter presence. We would have to actively recruit “friends’ and “followers” rather than waiting for them to come to us. While our original plan called for a blog, the campaign communications people were not up to the task of keeping it up-to-date, so we eventually focused on Facebook as a message platform and Twitter to drive potential voters to the Facebook page.

Facebook worked well as a platform as we could attach videos, links to newspaper and magazine articles, links to political blogs, photos from events, etc. and we could do instant updates via an iPhone.

We met with a political consultant to get the lay-of-the-land in terms of who the key demographic / psychographic profiles elicited those most likely to vote. Atlanta is a city that is about 55% African-American and 45% White / Latino. Historic voting patterns in Atlanta city-wide elections showed this ranking of those most likely to vote:

1. African American women; 2. white women;  3. white men;  4. African American men; 5. Latinos.

We decided to concentrate our efforts on African American and White women, the top two “most likely to vote” groups. This was based on the concept that we had little time and few resources and needed to get the biggest “bang” for our effort. Furthermore, we knew that those aged 35 – 60 were more likely to vote than those younger or older.

We identified those women who fell into our target age group among the current 100 or so Facebook Friends that our candidate had in his small network when we started. Then, using the concept that most of their “friends” would be people like themselves, we went to these women’s “Friends” requesting that they become a friend of our candidate. We included a personal message stating that our candidate was running for mayor and attached a link to the candidate’s website. Since this was a City of Atlanta election, and only residents could vote, we did not pursue “friending” anyone who’s profile showed that they did not live in “Atlanta.”

We really worked this, and a small staff of three spent hours and hours “harvesting” friends in our target population from new “Friends” as they came on board. This was a laborious process – click on the profile of the potential “Friend,” copy and paste the personal message and click “send.” Even though we were using broadband and other fast connections, there was a lag as Facebook’s software processed the request.

Next, we knew that just because you post a message on Facebook, not all of your friends will see it. We determined that key policy statements should be posted multiple times in an attempt to have it impact the maximum number of people. We combined this with user info as to when Facebookers are most likely online. We focused on three dayparts: 1) early morning / early at work to reach those who log in to their Facebook accounts at home in the morning or as soon as they get to work; 2) late afternoon to reach those who may log in to their FB page while waiting fro the workday to end; 3) evening to reach those who access FB  from home between 8pm and bedtime. We would send a specific message “early morning” on Day 1, “late afternoon” on Day 2 and “evening” on Day 3. Time sensitive messages would be sent three times on the same day at the specified dayparts. Of the hundreds and hundreds of FB messages that we sent to thousands of people, we only received on complaint regarding multiple messages.

We also used Facebook applications to personalize our message. One of these was the “birthday” feature.  A list of “Friends” upcoming birthdays (today, tomorrow, the day after tomorrow) appears on the right side of your FB Profile page. Each day, we would send personal birthday wishes to each Friend whose birthday was tomorrow. Although we used one of 5-6 standard messages that we created, we always used the recipient’s first name so that the message was more personal.

One of the most effective uses of Facebook was to pose questions or solutions to issues being raised during the campaign. This was most effective when our candidate’s Friends passed the 2,000 mark, as we had enough Friends in the network to elicit comments. We would create on-going discussions and have our candidate participate by making comments to keep the conversation going. Actually, our candidate was not doing this personally, it was done by us with specific input from the candidate’s senior staff.

We would also monitor the live News Feed and, when appropriate, our candidate would post comments to on going discussions. At times, we would use the “chat” feature to contact Friends one-on-one.

As our network grew, we received the ubiquitous requests to join all kinds of groups, support all kinds of causes, attend all kinds of events and become a fan of all kinds of people. Our policy was to NOT accept any of these invitations as they could become an “issue” in a political campaign, since we did not know anything about these organizations.  I cann0t stress how important it is to monitor this activity!  We learned a lesson when we accidently  “Twitter Followed”  a person in the “adult” business – who we immediately unfollowed!

By the end of the campaign, our candidate had the second largest Facebook and Twitter networks of all the candidates. We believe that had we had the opportunity to get involved with this candidate much earlier, we would have made a bigger difference. The winner of the election was the candidate that had the best Social Media presence, and defeated, in a run off, the candidate with the least impressive SMM effort. Draw your own conclusions.

Political candidates must realize that they can often reach as many people in a social media group with multiple messages much more efficiently and cost effectively than with traditional media.

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