facebook Archives - Harris Social Media

Marketers need to understand the bad side of using Facebook

on Aug 15 in facebook, marketing, psychology, social media posted , , by

facebook meme ecard

According to a BBC article published today, a University of Michigan study finds that Facebook use makes people feel worse about themselves. Interesting. But what does that mean?

The research seems to raise more questions than answers. If it’s true, why do people spend so much time on Facebook? But the study does not mean a death knell for Facebook. Other research shows that Facebook satisfies an innate psychological need for social connection.

That said, the findings have important implications for brands trying to connect with users on the social network. Marketers need to understand first and foremost that one-on-one social connections are the only way, in the long run, to build relationships with users. That is a hard grind, requiring time, effort, a minimum level of competency and authenticity. Sorry, no shortcuts.

Another important implication is that brands can work to ensure that users feel better rather than worse about themselves. The report cites the Fear Of Missing Out theory as one reason people feel bad after using Facebook. This concept suggests bad feelings arise as “a side effect of seeing friends and family sitting on beaches or having fun at parties while you are on a computer.”

Marketers could counter this perception of social isolation in several ways. For example, brands can reward engagement with increased interaction or incentives such as sweepstakes. These might help the user feel as though they belong to an in-group who are granted special privileges. Another possibility is to organize online (or even in-person) meet ups or clubs where users can share stories, products, special deals and so forth.

These approaches may not be easy to implement in practice. But brands must understand that Facebook usage does have negative consequences and they must be prepared to deal with that. Marketers must also understand that there are no easy fixes for creating an effective presence in social media. It’s a hard slog, and providing value and keeping commitments are not cheap, so your brand shouldn’t be either.

Are all your social media eggs in one basket? – The risk of focusing just on Facebook or Twitter

on Apr 12 in business, facebook, marketing, strategy, trends, Twitter posted by

If you are focused just on one or two social media channels, such as Facebook or Twitter, you need to rethink your approach.

Ever since the demise of platforms such as Friendster and then MySpace, the social media landscape is littered with the corpses of once-great leaders. More recently, the popular blogging platform Posterous announced it was closing its doors.

The moral of this story is that brands run a risk by focusing only on Facebook and Twitter. Most of my clients come to me with just a Facebook profile. Some might have a Twitter account. Few of them have a presence on other social channels. This singular focus is a big mistake!

While Facebook and Twitter are undoubtedly the leaders of the pack, equally undoubted is the fact that other platforms are emerging to establish their market share, and trends among audiences are shifting like desert sands. It is perfectly possible for Twitter or Facebook to go the same way as Friendster, as a recent MIT analysis concludes: “It’s far from unlikely that Facebook itself will one day be a victim of a similar set of circumstances.” (An Autopsy of a Dead Social Network)

According to a new Piper Jaffrey study, popularity among teens of the leading social platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and even YouTube (gasp!), has declined from two years ago (reported in the UK’s Daily Mail: The social networking teen turn-off: MORE evidence chat apps are set to take over from Facebook and Twitter).

Compared to a year ago, ten percent fewer teens named Facebook as their ‘most important’ site. Teens are ditching legacy sites in favor of lesser-known chat platforms such as Kik, Snapchat and Vine.

What does this mean for social marketers? The bottom line is that embracing only the 800 pound Facebook gorilla will hurt. It’s important therefore to spread your eggs among several social media baskets. 

For instance, Pinterest is the only big social platform showing growth among teens, so it makes sense to include it in your strategy, especially if teens are an important demographic. The challenge is to spread your efforts (risk) without diluting your presence in any of your platforms. Inevitably, this means higher costs as more investment is needed to maintain an effective presence in multiple platforms.

More importantly than jumping on the latest bandwagon is to monitor technology trends and to strategize around those trends. Also, your digital strategy needs to consider if trends among teens will translate to other demographics. And how does your strategy include engagement on chat platforms (if that is even tenable)?

A comprehensive strategy that incorporates multiple social platforms really is the only way to ensure the competition doesn’t crush your precious social media eggs.

Social media and e-commerce come together in social commerce

on Mar 28 in business, facebook, thought leaders, trends posted by

Hiroshi Mikitani, founder and CEO of Rakuten, the largest e-commerce site in Japan and among the world’s largest by sales, poses an interesting question on LinkedIn: Does social media pose a threat to e-commerce?

He answers his question by asserting that, for e-commerce, “social networks [are] less [of] a threat” and should be seen “more as potential collaborators”. But is it right to put social media and e-commerce into separate silos? We are fast approaching an online business ecosystem in which social media and e-commerce are seamlessly integrated. Some call this model of business “social commerce”, a term coined by Yahoo in 2005. (Wikipedia: social commerce)

Simply having a social presence does not mean a brand is engaging in social commerce, but sites such as Etsy, which allow user profiles, reviews, feedback and comments offer an intensely social experience for users. And, of course, we are seeing Facebook and other large social networks exploring ways to introduce onsite shopping. Conversely, traditional e-commerce sites, such as Amazon and eBay, are trying to socialize the shopping experience. So rather than social versus e-commerce, we see a world emerging in which buying something online is as much a social experience as it is a shopping experience.

Could social media monitoring have predicted and helped avert Egypt’s crisis?

on Jan 29 in blogging, facebook, monitoring, News, politics, social media, thought leaders, Twitter posted by

Egyptian protester (Reuters)Much of the press coverage of Egypt’s present meltdown has concerned the influence of social media. Organizers used Twitter, Facebook and other channels to get out their message and instigate a popular uprising.

Egyptian authorities belatedly recognized the power of social media on Wednesday last week. They cut off access to Internet sites such as Twitter and Facebook, according to the UK Guardian news site.

Evidently social media has been an essential tool for protesters to coordinate their efforts. Egypt had already cracked down on bloggers, and according to the Guardian piece, “in 2009 the Committee to Protect Journalists listed Egypt as one of the 10 worst countries for bloggers because of the tendency to arrest [government] critics.”

Such a heavy-handed dictatorial approach betrays a profound lack of understanding about social media’s power to communicate ideas.

Is it possible, with better understanding of social media, that this crisis could have been averted?

Sophisticated social media monitoring tools could easily have picked up “buzz” weeks or even months before protesters took to the streets. Social media monitoring would have given the Egyptian government the chance to evaluate the response to its proactive measures and to adjust its policies accordingly.

A proactive approach might have afforded the Egyptian government time to react with conciliatory measures. Monitoring could have identified thought leaders and influencers, to whom the government could have reached out with an olive branch. Would they have avoided the type of instinctive crackdown that contributed to the present crisis? Maybe not. But in any case, social media monitoring would have helped the government judge the zeitgeist and to take appropriate pre-emptive action. Instead, they are now on the defensive, and if history is any lesson, have already lost.

The Mubarak government missed the opportunity to manage change gradually. For such lack of leadership, perhaps they deserve what’s coming.

Foursquare versus Facebook Places

on Jan 27 in facebook, geolocation, technology, tools, trends posted by

Geolocation services may not make money this year according to a Forrester report.
That does not mean they’re dead in the water. Adoption rate is key. The question is will the advantages of geolocation outweigh security concerns. My guess is no. A few instances of stalkers following people to rob their empty homes for example, won’t deter millions from sharing their whereabouts with their social networks. As for Foursquare versus Facebook Places, I think Foursquare may rise to the occasion. Twitter didn’t disappear when FB introduced status update feeds. With FB places you have to navigate to it inside the FB app, whereas Foursquare is a dedicated app. And FB Places doesn’t have as good or established a reward system as Foursquare. FB is not going to rule the world just yet!

FritoLay SunChips packaging debacle: A lesson in when not to listen to your customers?

on Oct 07 in branding, business, facebook, public relations, social media posted by

SunChips’ 100% compostable bag was withdrawn over protests it was too “noisy”SunChips is well-known and to some beloved brand produced by food giant FritoLay (a subsidiary of PepsiCo).

When the company introduced a new compostable package for the chips a few months ago, it was playing its part as a responsible corporate citizen. The idea was that users could compost the package. It would decompose and therefore be more environmentally friendly than traditional plastic packaging.

But a slip up in the market research department (I infer) resulted in flurry of protests from die-hard fans of the old FritoLay package. The problem, it seems, was the the new package was “noisier” than the old one.

But being “the world’s first 100 percent biodegradable chip packet” was not enough to stop close to 50,000 Facebook members (48,638 at the time of writing) “Liking” a Community page called “SORRY BUT I CAN’T HEAR YOU OVER THIS SUN CHIPS BAG.” The page’s info states: “The new Sun Chips bags are so fucking loud.”

Several other groups were set up in protest of the noisy bags (numbers indicate each Page’s Likes at the time of writing):

On FritoLay’s own SunChips Fan page, 94 posts complained about the noise made by the new bags. 

Complaints included:

Flustered by the protests, FritoLay reversed course for most of their SunChips flavors. The SunChips Facebook Fan page stated it would retain compostable bags for the “original” SunChips brand. However, there was no mention of the widely reported decision to withdraw compostable bags for other flavors.

FritoLay has landed itself in big social media doo-doo.

After peeing off a lot of customers with a poor bag design, their confusing semi-reversal has set off a firestorm of protests.

Many SunChips fans evidently felt the new bags were at least headed in the right direction for helping the environment. The SunChips Facebook Fan page is being bombarded (as I write) with angry posts about the company’s apparent weakness in the face of vocal chip eaters. It seems that caving in to the complaints about mere noise set off the tirades.

Posts range from the furious and angry to disillusioned and sarcastic.

  • Héloïse Marinier … Not going to buy anymore Sun Chips you can count on that— maybe I won’t purchase ANY PepsiCo products any longer. Boo Ya.
  • Alain Fauteux Way to go priorities !! noise pollution over Earth pollution we must be a bunch of fat lazy complainning sissy’s
  • Julie Broyles I will not purchase ANY sun chips so long as the company is producing ANY non-compostable bags to appease to those annoyed by noisy bags.
  • Mary Roe I can’t believe that Sun Chips is changing bags because of noise and not staying with their sustainable practice thinking. It will cost you a lot of customers I predict
  • Amanda Santilli Who gives a flying fuck if the bag is noisy?!?!?! I would rather have a noisy bag and a healthier planet than a quieter bag and sick planet.

And yesterday, another Facebook Page has been set up: Bring back the loud Sunchips bag with the Information box stating the Page was “Founded: the day frito lay folded to idiot consumers who care more about the volume of thieir chips than the state of our planet”

So it seems this was a situation where FritoLay shouldn’t have listened (not a pun!) to the initial complaints about the noisy bags. Rather than ameliorating a packaging problem, in trying to respond, FritoLay has created more problems.

The company’s decision (1) divided its SunChip consumers into two opposing camps, (2) sabotaged its own efforts to be an environmentally sensitive good corporate citizen and (3) received a lot of bothersome press coverage over the issue.

In particular the mainstream press picked up on the Facebook activity:

Now that’s some noise to worry about!

Is Apple’s Ping a Facebook-killer?

on Sep 02 in blogging, business, facebook, strategy, tools, trends posted by

Apple’s Ping logoBlogger Jesse Stay just wrote a thoughtful post about Apple’s launch of Ping its music social platform for sharing music.

Just announced by the company’s CEO Steve Jobs, Ping is a social application within Apple’s popular desktop app iTunes.

Jesse called Ping “the biggest announcement we saw come out of Expo, primarily because it’s of importance not just to Apple followers, but to every consumer in this digital age.”

I agree with Jesse, that Apple is going about this the right way, sticking to their core offering and growing the network to build a user base.

But I think Jesse’s off the mark when he suggests, “This is perhaps bigger than Facebook.” Other authors expressed the thought even more directly. Nick O’Neill asserts that “Apple Has Become Facebook’s Biggest Threat With Ping.” And so on.

Is Ping a Facebook-killer? I don’t think so. Even in the longer term, if Ping become the Apple’s Social Graph, as Jesse suggests, it has a lot of catching up to do. For one thing, Facebook already has more than twice as many users. iTunes users will need to transition from using it mainly as a desktop app to using it online. And of course, Facebook offers much more than just music. In fact, music is the one thing FB doesn’t do particularly well.

MySpace is the musician’s social network. So if anything, Ping will challenge MySpace. This makes sense — MySpace is in a downward spiral anyway. Apple is too smart to take on Facebook. MySpace is lower hanging fruit. Blogger Austin Carr would probably agree. In his Fast Company article, he wrote “”Ping won’t replace Twitter or Facebook… But MySpace should be scared as hell.”

I probably won’t use Ping that much. music is a personal thing, a rather private enjoyment. It’s never been much of a social activity for me, online or off. I’m not especially interested in the musical tastes of my friends. And I’m not too fussed if they’re interested in what I enjoy. But perhaps I’m a minority, and folks like me won’t stop Ping from being successful.

Facebook privacy concerns aren’t impacting traffic

on May 27 in facebook, social networks, trends posted by

The recent kerfuffle over Facebook’s privacy blunders hasn’t impacted traffic, according to stats company Compete.com.

According to data published by the company in an email, daily reach for Facebook is up over last month and unique visitors reached an all time high of 135MM in April (see charts below).

Calls for people to quit Facebook over its privacy policies (or inadequacies thereof) have got a lot of buzz online and in the mainstream press, including an interview with Mashable’s Pete Cashmore on PBS’s Newshour last night. In the interview, Cashmore said that “There’s not a lot of evidence that users fully understand their [Facebook privacy] settings.”

But overall, the confusion among users and negative attention in the press hasn’t translated into loss of face for Facebook. People just can’t get enough of the social networking site, apparently. And they keep on coming. Compete’s email refers to a New York Times article that points out previous Facebook user protests have not affected the company, which continues “to add new users at a record clip.”

Facebook traffic, April 2008 to April 2010

 Facebook reach, April 24 to May 24, 2010

Should employers be allowed to look at your Facebook page when considering you for a job?

on Feb 17 in business, facebook, search, social networks, trends posted by

An important question is presented in an online poll by a local North Carolina website this morning.

Should employers be allowed to look at your Facebook page, or other social media sites, when considering you for a job?

Employment is a contract of trust between the employer and employee. Both parties have the obligation and right to ensure by any legal means necessary that the relationship will be of benefit to both parties. Does this include reviewing social profiles?

I believe yes, but whether you agree or not background checks are already entrenched as part of the hiring process, and searching online is an inexpensive way to extend such checks. It also allows employers to evaluate aspects of an employee that may not be evident from background checks or interviews.

Searching online and finding social network information is so cheap and easy that it’s a way for employers who cannot afford to hire such services to check on prospective employees.

One could argue that looking at people’s profiles is an invasion of privacy. But first, the information that employers can find is already publicly available. Second, most social applications allow privacy settings that prevent unwanted viewers of your profile.

You need to ask whether you are using social networks for a social experience (i.e., just to have fun) or do you consider such use part of your professional persona? In the first case, you’d be smart to set everything to private and don’t allow access to anyone you’d mind seeing you drunk, stoned, half-naked, etc. In the second, follow my golden rule: don’t put anything online that you would not be comfortable seeing splashed on the front page of your local newspaper.

Finally, how on earth do you police whether or not employers look at your social media profiles? I think the question is a valid one, but framed somewhat naively.

Facebook social game Restaurant City launches in-game ads

on Feb 12 in business, facebook, marketing, social networks, strategy, trends posted by

A few years back, gaming platforms were touted as a virgin territory to be conquered by advertisers. And they have been reasonably successful. According to Wikipedia, in 2005, spending on in-game advertising was $56 million, estimated to grow to $1.0 billion by 2014.

Typically, these messages have been embedded in console games and dedicated Internet platforms such as virtual worlds and MMORPGs. 

These delivery systems limit the audience to gamers, stereotypically a very specific demographic (young, a bit asocial, nerdy, tech-minded and glued to their computers). Recent studies have shown that the gamer demographic is more complex (see e.g., Gamer demographic complex.) But the audience is still limited. 

The explosion in the past couple of years of social games, most notably on Facebook, has opened up a wider demographic.  

One company to step into that gap is Playfish, which produces some of Facebook’s most popular games. In late 2008, the company launched their first in-game ad campaign with Procter & Gamble and Herbal Essences via the Geo Challenge Facebook game in the UK.

But the company has been slow to introduce in-game ads into its varied product range which includes two spots in the top 15 list of games.

But that might be changing. In this screenshot, a billboard ad discreetly placed on the road just outside the owner’s restaurant (from Restaurant City, which claims 15.5 million users) encourages users the chance to visit ProFlowers.com. Moreover, the ad incentivizes the click by offering the user in-game “cash” that can be used to purchase game items.

In-game advertisement for ProFlowers appears as a billboard in Restaurant City Facebook game

Playfish’s caution is well-founded. Their primary business model is based on the game experience itself. The users are hooked by the game’s novelty, high quality and social interaction. Then, as loyalty and numbers grow, the game monetizes aspects of play. So a significant ad presence would detract from the user experience.

Although usage of its products is trending downward, Playfish is surely smart enough to continue this delicate balancing act. In the above example, the company is cleverly using its tactic of seasonal game themes. During, say, the Christmas season, new in-game items are added that are available for a limited time only. In this case, the ad coincided with Playfish’s increased options for Valentine’s Day. Money can’t buy you love, but it seems love can buy you money!