Thursday, December 26, 2013

Social Media 2013: Looking Back and Looking Forward

The year 2013 on social media will be remembered for being the year visuals dominated social media … and as the year the major social networks began to mimic each other.
From left: Vine, Snapchat and hashtags were big in 2013
From the scorching growth of Instagram and Pinterest for still images to the growing popularity of Vine and Instagram for video 2013 was all about images. Let’s look back on the past year and then predict what 2014 might have in store.

2013 – a look back at three key trends

Photo-sharing: Snapchat, the micro service that allows users to share an image for a few seconds and has become a darling of teens, created lots of buzz when it first turned down a $3 billion buyout offer from Facebook and then reportedly a $4 billion offer from Google. But it could also be said that the service prompted changes on other social networks.

Instagram (a Facebook property that introduced video in June and web embeds of video in July) seemed to be trying to compete with Snapchat by launching Instagram Direct, a way for users to send photos and videos privately to up to 15 contacts.

Twitter upped its game by allowing photos to appear in a user’s feed (an idea that mimics Facebook’s news feed). The late October change applied to Vine (owned by Twitter) videos and pictures uploaded to Twitter, not to Facebook-owned competitor Instagram’s links. And, in what is likely a nod to Snapchat’s popularity, it added the ability to send photos via Direct Message, Twitter’s private message service between followers.

All of which reinforced the idea that the biggest social networks are scrambling to be the "one app that does it all."

Hashtags: Facebook launched clickable hashtags this year. Like on Twitter, hashtags help group content on similar topics. Users can click on a hashtag on Facebook and see all the content that's available on the social network for that hashtag. As part of the updates to Google+ in the past year was the addition of the "related hashtags" feature, which automatically adds hashtags related to a post. This means users can find related content via hashtags on Google+.

Other platforms that are now hashtag-friendly: Instagram, Vine, Flickr, Tumblr and Pinterest. And, again, the number of platforms using hashtags is a clear signal that the biggest social networks want more of your time.

For more on hashtags see Mashable’s The Beginner's Guide to the Hashtag or click on the graphic below to see the full infographic.
 History of Hashtags infographic

Brevity Between Vine and its 6-second looping videos and Snapchat and its shared photos that disappear in under 10 seconds, 2013 was about the briefest of social interactions.

Snapchat was likely the new app of the year and the king (or queen) of ephemeral social sharing with users now sending and receiving 400 million photo messages per day. In late December it was updated to add several improvements like "smart" filters and the ability to replay photos and videos. FYI: The update is hidden within Settings - Additional Services - Manage.

Vine, as mentioned earlier, was highly influential and grew rapidly in 2013. Users quickly rose to the challenge of creating fun, interesting and sometimes poignant 6-second videos. Late in the year Vine introduced vanity URLs for users – a first step toward being a mature social platform. For more on Vine see Mashable’s The Beginner's Guide to Vine.

2014 – predictions of what’s to come

Facebook’s decline will become obvious: The service is now too big and too crowded for many users, according to Jay Yarrow in his Entrepreneur magazine article Facebook Is a Fundamentally Broken Product That Is Collapsing Under Its Own Weight. Teens are deserting in droves and moving to other platforms such as Snapchat, WhatsApp, WeChat, Line, Twitter and Instagram (which Facebook owns). All of which are proving popular with said teens seemingly because they don’t "do everything."

"Second screen" battles: The second screen phenomenon has been developing for several years – it’s where people watching a TV show, such as The Voice or the Super Bowl, use a social network to talk about it with other fans. Twitter, the current leader in the battle, and Facebook have been looking to sign deals with TV networks and advertisers. Expect this competition to heat up.

Twitter finally goes mainstream: It’s likely Twitter will become the next billion-user platform, the questions is whether that happens in 2014 or 2015. With more than 700 million users currently and its growth increasing month over month it’s probably a matter of time before Twitter reaches the 1 billion mark. The biggest challenge: Getting more of the those 700+ million users to be on the platform more regularly. Current estimates have as few as 250 million users being active on the platform regularly. The No. 1 reason people are slow to engage? Twitter operates differently from most other social networks.

More pay-to-play for advertisers: It’s getting harder and harder for marketers and others to stand out on the biggest networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Linkedin. This means these networks will increase the ways they can help a marketer for a price. For users this will mean a steady increase in promoted posts.

So what do you think? What will be the big changes in social media in 2014?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Facebook is coming to town; Ho-Ho….No!

They know when you've been sleeping,
They know when you're awake.
They know when you've been good or bad,
So be good for goodness sake!

Is Facebook being revealed as a grinch during the holiday season?
Facebook is, in the height of holiday season, being revealed as at least as big a snoop as the Jolly Old Elf or even the NSA (National Security Agency).

In a story on Slate a few days ago it was revealed that Facebook is … analyzing thoughts that we have intentionally chosen not to share.

That’s right: When you start to write something on Facebook, but change your mind and delete it that material does not just disappear. No, Facebook has been scooping it up and analyzing it to study what two FB researchers call "self-censorship."

But what’s to stop Facebook from using all this data for other reasons? For example, to serve us even more highly targeted advertising? That would be a fairly benign result.

As the Slate story points out some people might compare this to the FBI’s ability to turn on a computer webcam without the user’s knowledge to monitor for criminal activity. The difference is that the FBI has to get a warrant for that kind of surveillance. In Facebook’s case no warrant is needed.

The Facebook researchers say that decreasing self-censorship is a goal of the social network because such censorship decreases the quantity of content (and thereby the quantity of researchable data) publicly on the platform.

But the bigger question this brings up is: Can Facebook be trusted? History would tend to suggest it cannot.

Under Facebook’s Data Use Policy, there is a section called "Information we receive and how it is used." This makes clear that the company collects information you choose to share or when you view or otherwise interact with things. But nothing suggests that it collects content you explicitly don’t share.

So what do we, as users, do about this? The likely answer is: Nothing except maybe think twice before typing in anything on Facebook.

Several studies have indicated that any concern about trust may be limited to older users of Facebook.

Data collected by MDG Advertising from the American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research, Anonymizer, Harris Interactive, MSNBC and The Ponemon Institute shows that overall "2 out of 3 active online users do not trust" the social media sites they are using. These numbers are based on users of all ages.

Click on the graphic to see the full report and infographic.
Do we trust online sites we use?

On the other hand a 2012 survey conducted by YouGov in Britain (and finding similar data to older surveys in the United States and elsewhere) found that the younger users of online services such as a social media site are more likely to trust that online service.

Click on the graphic to see the full report and infographic.
Online trust changes with age

All of which underscores that these latest revelations will make older users of Facebook are more likely to be concerned about privacy and it make very little difference for younger users.

What do you think? Should a social media platform be completely transparent about what information it is looking at and how that information is being used?

Related posts:
Facebook’s next big privacy change is still coming
Social Media Scams: 11 Tips to Fight Them
At the IPO: 5 Warning Signs of Facebook’s future

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Social Media Scams: 11 Tips to Fight Them

Scams are on the rise in social media
This guy's looking to scam you
Social media has come a long way and the more it grows the more it is fertile territory for scams and con artists.

Go to the urban legend site Snopes - and I highly recommend this site as THE best place on the web to check for any kind of scam or mischief – and enter the name of your favorite social network in the search box there. 

Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram chances are there are several if not dozens of scams related to that platform listed on Snopes.

How easy is it for scammer and other malicious types to target us on social networks?

According to the 2012 Norton Cybercrime Report - from the company behind Norton computer and Internet security software - says people on social networks are increasingly falling victim to online scams. The report says of social network users:

- Four in 10 have fallen victim to cybercrime on social networking platforms 

- One in six report that someone has hacked into their profile and pretended to be them

- One in 10 have fallen victim to a scam or fake link on social network platforms

- 36 percent have accepted friend or follow requests from people they don’t know

- Only half use privacy settings to control what information they share and with whom.

This is just confirms what anyone on social networks already knows: As social media attract more and more people and they spend more and more time there scammers see opportunity.

The scams can be the annoying, but harmless "you need to change your Facebook settings"-type messages or they can be malicious links that are innocently shared because no one bothered to check them.

For example, recently two very smart people I’m connected to both fell for the Facebook Graph Search scam that starts with this … 

"Hello to all of you who are on my list of contacts of Facebook. I would like to ask a favor of you…. You may not know that Facebook has changed its privacy configuration once again. Thanks to the new "Graphic app", any person in Facebook anywhere in the world can see our photos, our "likes" and our "comments". During the next two weeks, I am going to keep this message posted and I ask you to do the following…"

While does Graph Search make it easier for you to find content on Facebook it does not change your privacy settings.

So what can you do to protect yourself and your family on social media? Here are my …

11 Basic Social Media Safety Tips:

Keep your personal information private: Be careful what information you share and post online and with whom you share it– expect that people other than your friends can see it.

Don’t post information that would make you or your family vulnerable: This might include details such as your date of birth, address, information about your daily routine, holiday plans or the school your children attend.

Set your online social networking profiles to private: Never share your account details with others and regularly update your computer’s security software. Note: If you choose not to set some accounts to private remember to be extra cautious about what you share and who you connect with.

Grant access cautiously: Apps often allow you to sign in via Twitter or Facebook, but in so doing are you granting unknown people access to your account? One small safeguard is to Google any app by name before clicking through. If there is trouble with an app chances are someone has posted about it.

Practice good password security: Use strong passwords (minimum of eight characters with a mix of uppercase and lowercase characters and at least one wild card character such as a dollar sign or an ampersand, for example). Change your passwords regularly and have a different password for each social networking site so that if one password is stolen, not all of your accounts will be at risk.

Try not to access social networking sites on public computers: Use your own computer or smartphone instead of the computers at libraries and other public places. Your login information can be intercepted.

Only "friend" real friends: Don’t accept a friend or follow request from a stranger - people are not always who they say they are and the best way to keep scammers out of your life is to never let them in. Likewise don’t answer social media messages or even cellphone texts from people or numbers you don’t recognize.

Use Google: Google yourself at least once a month search for your name and your own variations of it (i.e. “Jonathan Smith” and “Jon Smith”) and also use Google alerts on your name and family members’ names so that you get an email notification when your name crops up on the web. This can be an invaluable early warning that someone else is pretending to be you.

Be ultra cautious about any request for money even if it appears to be from a family member or a good friend. If you receive such a request, contact your friend via another means to check the request is genuine before responding. Do not use any of the contact details in the message.

Click with care: Never click on suspicious links on social networking sites – even if they are from your friends. If the link is from a trusted friend or has an identifiable URL you should be OK.

Educate your children on the dangers of social networking scams. Younger social media users may be more computer savvy than you, but they can be blissfully unaware of the dangers of identity theft and digital scams.

So, what do you think? Will you start being more careful with your information on social media? Will you encourage others to do likewise?

Possibly related posts:
Facebook’s next big privacy change is still coming
10 Tips for Social Media Beginners

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Facebook’s next big privacy change is still coming

Have you seen the warning signs?
We’re all on Facebook and seemingly can’t give it up, but should we?

In 2013 there have been some big changes in the way the social network handles its users' privacy.

The latest round of Facebook changes had a huge impact on teens and their online privacy. 

You might recall that earlier in October Facebook caused a stir by changing settings so that teens could make themselves discoverable on the platform.

In an Oct. 16 Los Angeles Times piece Facebook loosens privacy policy on teens' posts Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, called on federal regulators to step in and protect teen privacy.

"To parents and teens, Facebook is claiming they are giving them more options to protect their privacy. But in reality, they are making a teen's information more accessible, now that they have the option to post publicly," Chester said, adding: "Today's announcement actually removes a safeguard that teens currently have."

Yes, Facebook says one thing but in reality seems to do another.

In an excellent piece on by Evan Selinger (a colleague at RIT) and Woodrow Hartzog Why Is Facebook Putting Teens at Risk? they argue that "… the most important reason Facebook shouldn’t have introduced this change is that teens need opportunities to fail safely. They must be allowed to experiment -- to make mistakes and to learn from them."

"As parents, our job is to encourage them to explore ideas, experiences and even personas," Selinger and Herzog say. "Responsible companies will do their part by offering teens technologies that enhance personal development and strive for minimal risk."

And the recent teen privacy changes come on top of Facebook’s earlier introduction of Graph Search (March, 2013).

Megan Marrs, in a well-written post Facebook Graph Search & Privacy Concerns: Should You Be Worried?” says Graph Search is “Now with more stalking power!” She describes how once anything that might have embarrassed you on Facebook was, over time, buried which was sometimes referred to as "privacy by obscurity." But now Graph Search means almost anyone can find anything at any time. Should you be worried? Her answer is a resounding “Yes!”

But wait, there’s more.

Facebook has a proposal in front of the Federal Trade Commission that would make your privacy even more of a thing of the past.

Vindu Goel, writing in the The New York Times’ Technology page in a piece called Facebook Eases Privacy Rules for Teenagers, notes that the Federal Trade Commission is conducting an inquiry into other proposed changes to FB’s privacy policies.

Goel notes: "Those policies would give Facebook automatic permission to take a user’s post, including a post made by a teenager, and turn it into an advertisement broadcast to anyone who could have seen the original post."

Facebook, it seems, is bent on erasing personal privacy in every corner of its network.

What can you do?

To argue for protecting children online you can contribute to the comments section of two proposals made to the Federal Trade Commission under the Children's Online Privacy Protection Rule at FTC Extends Public Comment Deadlines on Two COPPA Proposals -- there is a Nov. 4 deadline.

So what do you think? Is there any expectation of privacy on social networks such as Facebook? Or should people continue to use FB and other social media knowing that sooner rather than later they will not be able hide anything?

Possibly related posts:
9 Ways to Maintain (Some) Privacy on Social Media, the Web
(From 2012) At the IPO: 5 Warning Signs of Facebook’s future

Sunday, October 13, 2013

9 Ways to Maintain (Some) Privacy on Social Media, the Web

Online privacy can be hard to maintain
Privacy and social media might seem to make odd bedfellows and recent moves by some of the biggest online companies might make you think any privacy on social networks and the Internet is impossible.

This month alone: Facebook has removed another privacy setting and Google is alerting users to a change in its terms and conditions that allows your image and name to appear in Google ads. This, in October, the month Homeland Security has declared National Cyber Security Awareness Month. Not to mention the ongoing concerns about mass surveillance of online activities carried out by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and its international partners. All the while, corporations are eagerly tracking data regarding your browsing habits and purchasing preferences.

So what, dear Web Wanderer, can you do to protect some shreds of your privacy on social media and elsewhere on the Internet?

9 Ways to maintain (Some) Privacy

1. Sign in and out of your online accounts: Yes, it’s convenient to have a computer remember passwords and other login details, but you’re playing with fire. At the most basic level it means anyone can sit at your computer and "be you" on your networks. At a more sophisticated level anyone who does hack into your computer now has access to your accounts. So, logout when you’re done and log back in each time …

2. Be a "Friends Only" kind of Facebook user: Understanding your FB settings may take 30 minutes one day, but it will be the best half hour you spend on yourself on the social network. Remember that anything other than the "Friends Only" setting means people you don’t know can see and share a lot about you. You also should be aware by now, but some apparently are not, that Facebook’s default is to set all of your privacy settings to "public."

3. Use a password on your devices: If you’re not using a password to get into your smartphone or laptop etc. that’s the equivalent of leaving your apartment or car unlocked. Think about the treasure trove of personal information now stored on those devices. Maybe, just maybe, someone finding your device won’t take advantage, but maybe not.

4. Turn on 2-step Authentication in Gmail: This means that in order for your Gmail account to be accessed from a new device, a person needs a code that's texted to your cellphone. So, even if someone gets your password somehow, they won't be able to use it to sign into your account from a strange computer.

5. Encrypt everything: Whole-disk encryption of computers isn't a bad idea. If your laptop is lost or stolen, it's nearly impossible for anyone else to get into your data without your password. The latest versions of Apple's iOS automatically encrypt the entire smartphone or tablet if a passcode is enabled. On Android devices, encryption is an easy option in the Settings menu.

6. Clear your browser history and cookies regularly: Consider changing your browser settings so that the cache is automatically cleared every session. Go to the Privacy setting in your Browser’s Options and tell it to "never remember your history." This will reduce the amount you’re tracked online, although a recent New York Times story – Selling Secrets of Phone Users to Advertisers – shows that the growing field of anonymous data tracking may eventually make this a moot point.

7. Review the apps that have access to your social media accounts: Regularly review which applications have access to your social media accounts. Revoke access for applications you no longer use. In future: make sure applications you download use social media carefully. If they ask for your contacts and to post to your account don’t agree to this lightly.

8. Get an app that you can use to remotely wipe your device if it is stolen or lost: Some of these apps can show where the thief took your phone and can erase all the data. All of them allow you to do this from a separate device.

9. Put a Google Alert on your name: Go to Google Alerts enter your name, and variations of your name, with quotation marks around each. Select how frequently you want alerts (daily is probably fine for most of us) and where you want them sent. It’s the easiest way to stay on top of what's being said about you online. Just be aware: it may only catch 85 to 90 percent of mentions and some alerts may take more than a day or two to get you. But it is free.

Other ideas:

Five ways to stop the NSA from spying on you (from the Washington Post) offers ways to thwart the agency's snooping.

Strategies People Use to be Less Visible Online is a story from the social media news aggregator Mashable. It finds that "64 Percent of American adults protect their online identities by clearing cookies and browser history" and has a useful chart listing all of the other tactics its survey respondents said they practiced.

In the future:

Imagine a small box sitting next to your computer that encrypts everything you do online. That’s the principle behind a device call the Don’t Snoop Me Bro Tunnel that I first read about recently on the Bit Rebels site. The DSMB will be (when it is available early next year) an out of the box plug-and-play technology that connects to your computer and claims to completely camouflage your online presence. The Bit Rebels story linked to here has a full description and demo video.

So, there you have a few ideas that might help you hang onto or gain back some shreds of privacy. Of course, the ultimate road to privacy is to stay off the web altogether and to erase all past history on the web … yeah, right! Like that is going to happen.

What do you think? Can you maintain some privacy and still engage on social media and the Internet?

UPDATE: Since writing this post another big change has hit if you are concerned about online and social privacy. The app Snapchat prided itself on having its messages disappear after a few seconds. But as of Oct. 14 a new app called SnapHack allows people to keep and retransmit messages from Snapchat. Read more at Business Insider 

Possibly related posts:
10 Tips for Social Media Beginners
A New Online You

Friday, August 23, 2013

Have a social media wish list? This could help ...

The Social Media Wish Factory
What if there was a way to make a wish for a new feature in your favorite social network?

What if your wish is for a whole new social network to fill a gap in your life?

What if there was a way to take the best features of several social networks to make your own custom network?

You’d likely need a social media fairy godmother to make this happen and while that may seem like a fantasy there is a way to spread the word on your social media wishes … The Social Media Wish Factory.

The Wish Factory is a panel that I and two others are proposing for the SXSW Interactive event in Austin next year.

The idea behind The Social Media Wish Factory is that it would be a place where the panelists would kick off a discussion about new ideas for social media, but very quickly they’d get the audience involved too. If anyone is looking for new ideas for apps or new ways to leverage existing social networks this would be a panel to attend.

The panel might try to answer such questions as ….

Why can’t I sort my Linkedin connections into two, three or four levels of trust based on how well I know them? For example, there is a big difference between someone I once met at a conference and someone I worked with for 20 years.

Why isn’t there a simple way to bring all my social networks together to pay tribute to someone? For example, what can I do if a person I admire passes away and I want to send a message of condolence on all my networks or someone I know does something outstanding and I want to acknowledge that across all my social networks?

What one improvement of a major social platform would make it 100, or 1,000, percent better? For example, why can’t I set alerts on some updates and not others on my favorite social networks?

This is a just a small sampling of what will, I hope, be hundreds of questions and suggestions that spring from this session  at SXSW.

The two people I invited to be panelists are smart, renaissance thinkers about social media and have great ideas about what is still needed in social. They are:

Aaron Strout is  a 20+-year marketing veteran who specializes in the convergence of mobile, social and digital marketing. Aaron is Managing Director at W2O Group where he helps customers with social and mobile strategies. In addition, Aaron is on the advisory board of the Social Media Club and is co-author (with Mike Schneider) of Location-Based Marketing for Dummies.

Deirdre Breakenridge is the CEO at Pure Performance Communications and a veteran in PR and marketing. She has counseled senior level executives at companies such as Hershey’s, JVC, Kraft and Marketwired and is the author of five books (her most recent being Social Media and Public Relations: Eight New Practices for the PR Professional). Deirdre blogs about PR 2.0 strategies and is the co-founder of #PRStudChat, a dynamic Twitter discussion scheduled monthly for PR students, educators and PR pros.

So, there you have it: A panel discussing everything that still needs to be done with and by social media. Would you help such a panel by voting for it? I hope so.

To help make your social media dreams come true please take two minutes to vote here for the The Social Media Wish Factory.

You can also use the comments area here to leave suggestions for the discussion…. Thank you!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

5 Trends in Social Media Impacting Business

The universe of social media influencing business
The universe of social media affecting business
In response to a question about the "5 material trends you see shaping the future face of social media" I got to thinking: In 2013 what are those trends and fairly quickly I settled on…..

5 social media trends impacting business
  • The rise of the visual social media
  • Information comes from multiple channels, simultaneously
  • ‘Humanized’ brands are a consumer expectation
  • Big data and other privacy concerns
  • Social status measuring is evolving
1. I see you …

Brands are quickly realizing that “words tell, but images sell.” The rapid rise of visual social media such as Pinterest, Instagram, and the teen photo sensation Snapchat in 2012 – dubbed by some as ‘The Year of the Social Image’ continues.

Already in 2013 Twitter has launched its micro-video service Vine and YouTube’s usage continues to rise rapidly and YouTube’s Battle with TV is already over.

2. We need more hands …

Americans are spending more and more time on mobile and other computing devices. According to the social media research company NM Incite Americans’ time on these devices went up 21 percent from 2011 to 2012 (the most-current data at the time of this writing). That number is expected to continue to grow by 20 percent or more each year.

Multi-channel information consumption is becoming the norm. From watching TV while also being on a tablet, smartphone or laptop – brands are realizing opportunities exist in being on multiple channels at the same time. As consumers move to multiscreen modes of media consumption, the advertising dollars will follow with well-managed multiscreen campaigns according to Spotlight on Multiscreen Video Advertising Convergence.

This has also led, for example, to social media being measured as part of a television show’s reach. For example in December, 2012, Nielsen, the TV ratings company, and Twitter announced a multi-year agreement to create the Nielsen Twitter TV Rating for the U.S. market. It will measure a metric "around the reach of the TV conversation on Twitter" and is expected to become available, for the fall 2013 TV season.

3. Can brands and consumers co-exist in social?

Consumers are connecting with businesses and brands more and more. According to the Edison-Arbitron 2012 research report called The Social Habit the percentage of social networkers who follow brands online doubled from 2010 to 2012 from 16 percent to 33 percent. But at the same time a slight majority say they don’t want to be snooped on in social media.

Research from The Altimeter Group this year shows that 51 Percent of Consumers Don’t Want Brands Listening to Them on Social Media.

This adds to already complicated relationships between marketers and consumers on social media – summed up very well in the Consumers vs. Marketers – What Do We Really Want From Brands On Social Media?.

4. ‘Big Brother,’ big data and privacy worries

With so much time online consumers are increasingly concerned about the digital footprints they are leaving behind. For example, according to the Edison-Arbitron  The Social Habit report 56 percent of the 143 million Americans on Facebook are "very concerned" or "somewhat concerned" about the privacy of their personal information on FB. 

The issue is well-summarized by the Stanford Law Review in Privacy in the Age of Big Data which essentially concludes that "the growing ubiquity of data collection and the increasingly robust uses of data enabled by powerful processors and unlimited storage" are concerning and calls for "a model where the benefits of data for businesses and researchers are balanced against individual privacy rights."

5. How do you measure up socially?

Americans officially have the social media habit according to the Edison-Arbitron report The Social Habit which notes that approximately 58 million Americans (or 22 percent of the adult population) "visit social networks several times per day."

Brands are increasingly monitoring for social media mentions of themselves  and their industry and communities using tools such as Radian6 and others

Meanwhile the social media audit for brands is becoming an essential regular checkup (as described in 9 Ways to Measure Your Brand's Social Media Health).

In addition, tools for determining individual consumer’s social influence continue to get better, although most concede they have some way to go. These include: Klout, Kred and Peerindex.

So, what does all of this mean for businesses and brands? There are many, many questions still to be answered and the time may be coming where both consumers and brands need to reach a middle ground on what is good for both in social media.

What do you think?

Related posts
10 Experts Weigh In On Social Marketing
10 More Social Marketing Experts Offer Key Advice
5 Ways Brands are Tone-Deaf on Twitter

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The mystery behind 15,000 new Pinterest followers

The Interesting graphics board
Let me be clear upfront: If you’re looking for a step-by-step guide to gaining 15,000 new followers on Pinterest in a very short time this is not the blog post for you.

My purpose, from a social media strategy perspective, is to solve a mystery.

If you have wondered why people connect on Pinterest or what attracts people to certain others or their particular boards on Pinterest then I hope my questions here will at the least get you thinking and/or provide some insight.

Some background

On April 11 I was a quiet Pinterest user. I had under a 1,000 people following my various Pinterest boards.

The boards are organized around the things I care about. The board New Zealand!, for example, is images of my home country and the board RIT is about the place I teach (and love) in Rochester, N.Y.

One board Interesting graphics was always my most popular and, as of April 11, in had 286 followers.

But on that day something happened. Starting a little after 9 a.m. EDT I started getting notifications from Pinterest that said, for example, "Sarah Jones and 49 others have started following your board Interesting graphics." 

These notifications began arriving regularly. Every 15 to 20 minutes. Within four days I was approaching 5,000 followers. Within a week it was just over 10,000. As of today (April 25) that board has 15,298 followers.

That’s an amazing 15,013 new followers in just 14 days.

Why is this happening?
For more than a week I have tried everything I know to discover why this might be happening.
  • Is it because I posted an amazing infographic that people shared a lot? A search through that board for the past month of activity reveals no unusual volume of sharing.
  • I Googled my name and the name of the board … nothing in the search results indicates anyone recommended the board. (That’s too bad because I would thank them.)
  • I talked to experts in web marketing and analytics to see if there is any way to find the course of all this attention … and apparently there is not.
  • I emailed the Pinterest Help Desk … and got this response: "Unfortunately, we’re a small team and we won't be able to respond to your email." 

So, what now?

I guess I’m hoping someone reading this can help solve the mystery.

Perhaps there are others who have had similar experiences.

Can you help? Please let me know in the Comments area – I would really appreciate it.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

How to learn and 'win' on a #Twitterchat

Where can you learn a lot about social media quickly? On a Twitter chat of course. It is surprising how many have yet to discover this collaborative learning technique which, of course, can be about any topic.

Twitter chats use hashtags
A Twitter chat is a great way to learn
A Twitter chat is a way for people on Twitter to discuss a topic at a set time and day and to keep track of everyone’s comments and responses by using a hashtag. The great appeal for many is that each comment must be 140 characters or less.

But if you’ve never been on a Twitter chat before it can be intimidating. Here are some basic tips:


Complete your Twitter profile: This means that you have a picture of you as your avatar and your bio is filled out including your geographic location. Why does this matter? A Twitter chat is a great opportunity to pick up new followers, but an incomplete profile is equivalent to saying "stay away."

Alert your followers when you’re about to join a Twitter chat and apologize (yes, apologize) because the tweet volume is going to be a lot higher than usual for the next hour.

Use the chat’s specific hashtag:  This is so everyone will see your tweets even if they are not a follower of yours. For example a Twitter chat about Twitter chats might have the hashtag #twtcht.

Understand the format of the chat: Usually there will be a moderator who posts questions that are numbered so that people responding can number their answers. For example: "Q1: What makes a Twitter chat effective? #twtcht" "A1: It brings together expertise from a wide range of people who would otherwise not meet #twtcht".

Only participate in chats about things you care about.  This seems obvious, but you’ll be wasting your time otherwise. See "Resources" below for places to find Twitter chats.

Be a contributor to the discussion by asking thoughtful questions or adding your own insights to others’ comments.

Remember that a Twitter chat is public. Everything you say on the chat can be seen by anyone following the hashtag and this content lives on the Web forever. Think twice before hitting the "tweet" button.

Use tools that simplify participation:

My favorite is Tweet Grid because it is web-based (no downloads needed) and can track up to nine searches that update automatically on the same screen.  There are a variety of layout options and I usually select the "1x2" option so I can track the Twitter chat hashtag and any mentions of me (so I can respond quickly). You use Tweet Grid by entering the hashtag in the box labeled "hashtag" and then every tweet you send (once logged into your Twitter account on Tweet Grid) automatically includes the hashtag. 

Tweetchat is a web-based service that manages the Twitterchat in a single column.  Users sign in with a Twitter account, enter the hashtag they want to tweet to in the box and Tweetchat automatically adds the hashtag to all outgoing tweets (so remember to disable this when the chat is over). Tweetchat also allows you to highlight the moderators – a good way to not miss any of the questions and key comments.

A little less convenient is Tweetdeck, an application now owned by Twitter that must be downloaded to your computer ahead of time. (You will also have to download Adobe Air if you’re not already running it since this is what powers Tweetdeck.) Tweetdeck can be a good Twitter content management system outside of a Twitter chat, but can be useful during a chat as well. Just be sure to update your API settings so that the hashtag updates for your chat are in real time or you’ll miss out on a lot of the conversation.


Retweet every post you like, because it clutters up the chat and usually does not add real value to the discussion.

Call out another participant. Twitter chats are places for positive back-and-forth discussions. If you violently disagree with someone this is a public forum and not the place to “get into it.”

Be spammy: Which means don’t push your own agenda with links to your blog or your company’s content. This will be viewed by some as irrelevant content and hurt your social media reputation.

  • List of Tweetchats By Day of Week - a long, wiki-like list of chats by topic and day of the week
  • Twubs - a hashtag discovery tool that can show you if a hashtag you plan to use is available
So, are you ready to jump into a Twitter chat? Did I leave out anything you’d like to know? Let me know.

Related content:

Friday, April 5, 2013

10 Tips for Social Media Beginners

Social media is big in 2013. How big? If you haven’t seen one of Erik Qualman’s excellent Social Media Revolution videos you should click on the image below and watch one now.

And social media is only going to get bigger. For many who have yet to dip their toe into the social media wading pool this is a scary thing.

But, really, you don’t have to do everything at once and you can certainly try one platform and slowly learn to use it in a way that makes sense to you. So how do you get started?

5 First Steps in Social Media:

1. Decide on a goal: Do you want to talk with distant family members more frequently? Or use it for professional or social networking? To learn a new skill? Before jumping in you need to understand "why" you're doing this. If you aren't sure, ask friends and family why they're on social media

2. Pick one platform: Look at Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, LinkedIn and Foursquare. Or ask a friend to show you their pages in these networks and have them explain how they use them. Take your time, but pick just one to get started on.

3. Sign up for that network: Again, ask a friend for help or do some Google research on how to get started on that particular platform. Complete your profile. If you have a smartphone, download the app(s) onto your mobile device. Spend time creating an online image that looks and sounds appealing.

4. Watch, listen and learn: Social media is all about conversations and to converse you must first listen. Pay attention to how others use the network and how they interact with others. Connect with just a few well-known friends at first. Very slowly expand your network to other people you find interesting.

5. Seek expertise: Use Google search to find other blog posts, white papers and how-to videos. Sign up for a class (see below) or join a club or group that shares best practices.

OK, so you’re off and running, but, can you mess up in social media? Well sure, but almost nothing you do on social media will have serious consequences. However, there are a few things you might do that will slow your progress. So avoid these mistakes:

5 Rookie Mistakes in Social Media:

1. Being self-absorbed: Remember, social media is like a social gathering – no one wants to spend time with the bore who only talks about themselves or things that matter to them. Find ways to help others, answer their questions, comment on or share their posts.

2. Talk too much: Again, no one likes a conversation hog. Sharing 25 internet memes goes very quickly from funny to irritating. Be selective. Think about what you would like to see show up in your social feed. Share accordingly.

3. Wildly erratic presence: Not being on your network for days and then sharing 15 updates in an hour is no way to connect with people. Space out your contributions and if you need to look into using tools such as Tweetdeck, Hootsuite and Buffer that can help with content scheduling.

4. Not reciprocating: You should always follow back anyone who is relevant to your goals in social media, thank people who share your content and, most importantly, reply to anyone who talks to or mentions you.

5. Being impatient: Don’t get anxious about the size of your network. A quality network takes time to grow and eventually it will grow exponentially. The person who is desperate for friends or followers is somewhat unattractive on social media.

So, are you ready to dip your toes into social media? Do you know someone who needs a nudge to get started? Perhaps this post helps.

Class: If you’re in the Rochester, N.Y. area I will be teaching a class called "Social Media For Beginners" 6:30-8:30 pm on Tuesday, April 16 at the Rochester Brainery. It is designed as a hands-on, getting-started type of class. If you have questions about the class please don’t hesitate to contact me at

Related content:
5 Really Useful Sites for Social Media Newbies
6 Reasons to Finally Join Twitter

Monday, March 25, 2013

Twitter best practices for brands (#infographic)

Twitter and brands should go together like bread and butter or hands and gloves. Twitter could be the best way ever for a brand listen to and react to its customers. But sadly some brands and their social media strategy approach are missing opportunities.

See full infographic below
A report from 2012 is worth revisiting if brands (and those who operate Twitter accounts for them) have not seen it.

Between December 11, 2011 and February 23, 2012, Buddy Media analyzed user engagement from more than 320 Twitter handles of the world's biggest brands.

The company measured success by quantifying:

  • Reply Rate: number of replies as a percentage of followers.
  • Retweet Rate: number of retweets as a percentage of followers (includes manual retweets).
  • Engagement Rate: a combination of the replies and retweets in the number of followers.

The result of the data analysis was the mid-2012 report "Strategies for Effective Tweeting: A Statistical Review" (the link also takes you to key findings and a "Tweet Cheat Sheet" for brands).

Some of the key findings:

  • Tweet during the day: Tweets during "busy hours" (8 a.m.-7 p.m.) receive 30 percent higher engagement than Tweets posted at other times.
  • Don’t overdo the hashtags: Tweets with hashtags receive two times more engagement, but those using more than two hashtags actually had 17 percent less engagement.
  • Keep it short: Tweets containing less than 100 characters receive 17 percent more engagement than longer tweets.
To see the data boiled down into an infographic see "Maximize Your Tweets" from Fusework Studios:

twitter infographic best practices maximizing your tweets infographic

Related posts:
5 Ways Brands are Tone-Deaf on Twitter
9 Steps Toward a Twitter Strategy
Twetiquette: 10 basics for Twitter politeness
Twidiots and Twools and Other Twitter Types

Sunday, March 24, 2013

5 Ways Brands are Tone-Deaf on Twitter

Brands on Twitter should be social
As Twitter increasingly becomes an important tool for brands and their social media strategy it is also increasingly clear that many brands don’t "get" how to optimize their Twitter time.

Seven years after Twitter launched and more than two years since it started to become widely used by businesses and organizations it is still not uncommon to see these Twitter accounts making mistakes. These errors cost them followers, poor reputations and, ultimately, business.

So what are brands doing wrong? Let me count the ways ….

5 Ways Brands are Tone-Deaf on Twitter (and ways they could do things better)

1. Talk too much about themselves: Seems obvious, right? But some brands seem to think that talking about themselves and their products and services is somehow helpful. Even brands who limit this kind of talk to 25 percent of the time are taking a risk and likely getting fewer followers than they could. Better idea: Do a daily or weekly check to see if brand messages are 10 percent or less of the conversation. If not, make it so.

2. Inviting people to connect: The word connection implies a two-way activity and yet most brands that invite people to connect really mean "follow us" because they won’t follow back. Better idea: Say "Follow us" and give people an idea what might be in it for them.

3. Using auto-respond DMs: A direct message (DM) back from a brand implies a form of engagement. And yet more often than not responding to that DM is impossible because the brand has not yet (or may never) follow back. Better idea: Never use auto DMs and go out of your way to follow back many of your followers and get to know them.

4. Not responding to @ messages: If your brand is on Twitter and people talk to you with an @ message you need to respond. Would your brand ignore a phone call or an email from a customer? Better idea: Have whoever manages social set aside time each day to do nothing but respond on various social networks including Twitter (even a simple "thank you" is better than nothing).

5. Allowing anyone to follow the brand account: In their hunger to have more followers some brands allow just about anyone to follow them. If you want to assess a brand’s attitude to Twitter look at who follows the brand. Find too many spammy, porn, "take-this-deal" or incomplete accounts and you know they care more about numbers than people. Better idea: Have your account manager block inappropriate followers.

So, what do you think? Are there other things you've seen brands do on Twitter that make you wonder why they're really there?

Related posts:
9 Steps Toward a Twitter Strategy
11 Reasons I Won’t Follow You on Twitter 
Twetiquette: 10 basics for Twitter politeness 
Twidiots and Twools and Other Twitter Types

Thursday, February 28, 2013

9 Steps Toward a Twitter Strategy

So you’ve jumped into Twitter finally (or maybe you’ve been there for a while) and now you’re wondering: What should my Twitter strategy be?
Consider a Twitter strategy; social media
Consider a Twitter strategy

First, ask yourself what are your goals: To learn? To share? To meet people? To sell?

All, but that last one, are easily done on Twitter. Perhaps the best strategy is to work towards a combination of learning, sharing and meeting. But how do you do that? I'm glad you asked.

9 Steps Toward a Twitter Strategy

1. Pick who you follow carefully: The quality of what you read and what you can learn from Twitter is directly related to the quality of the Twitter accounts you follow. Resist the temptation to follow just anyone back. Sit on your hands when a totally irrelevant, but seemingly influential, account starts following you. You control your incoming stream – make that stream useful.

2. Organize who you follow: Start lists around topics you care about. Use tools such as Tweetdeck and Hootsuite to keep track of multiple areas of interest.

3. Block irrelevant and spammy accounts: The temptation is to leave well-enough-alone and ignore the irrelevant accounts that follow you, but you will be judged by the accounts that follow you. Allowing even a few irrelevant accounts means others considering following you may change their minds.

4. Retweet (RT) people you hope to build relationships with: Pay special attention to just a few people who share good stuff and retweet them a few times. Add your “5 cents worth” too if you have the character count to do this.  

5. Find a few new people to follow: Look into the Twitter streams of people you respect and see who they are retweeting and talking to. It is more likely you’ll find relevant people this way. If you have the time use Twitter’s Advanced Search function and find people near where you live who might be tweeting about things you care about.

6. Share just a few things you’ve found on the web: If you share good content others will pass it along and you will get noticed. How do you increase your chances of this? Use relevant hashtags.

7. 'Favorite' content from others: Each time you favorite someone else’s tweet they get a notification. What better way to get your name in front of someone?

8. Learn the Twitter lingo: The network has its own useful Twitter Glossary, but more importantly pay attention to how others are using Twitter.

9. Be patient: This is the hardest part for most people. However, the advantage of growing an account packed with genuine people who share real content and exist as an online community is invaluable. This kind of community will be there for you when you need them.

If this last point upsets or annoys you perhaps Twitter is not the platform for you. And … this is just a beginning or "Steps Toward a Twitter Strategy."

So what do you think? What else can someone getting serious about Twitter do to build a following and get more from the network?

Related posts:
11 Reasons I Won’t Follow You on Twitter
6 Reasons to Finally Join Twitter
Twetiquette: 10 basics for Twitter politeness
Twidiots and Twools and Other Twitter Types