The Social Internet
What happens you think about the Internet as being a social experience
I’ve been asked a few times recently how do I add a recommendation from clients onto my Facebook page. For business owners it’s a good idea to be able to do this. After all Facebook recommendations are testimonials and testimonials are a good thing.
I’ve been looking around for a way to help people understand how to get the page running and have found a video that will help. Its a good idea to look at this as recommendations are tied to maps. Its by showing a map that you get recommendations. There is no recommendations on off button.
Last week to a collective cry of despair from all corners of the Internet Google announced that it would retire Google Reader on July 1st. The given reason for this was decline in use of Google Reader. That is reasonable. If something is not being used it should be retired, but why the mass outcry on the Internet. The simple answer to that is that Google Reader is an incredibly method of managing news from a large number of websites. It may not have maintained a big enough user base from Googles point of view but its users were a vocal bunch – journalists, pundits, researchers, and social media mavens.
The fact is that if you are tasked with running a social media campaign then the ability to scan and manage RSS feeds is incredibly useful. You can quickly and efficiently get to the pieces that will give you the inspiration for posts. Everyone shouting out was traumatised by the knowledge that a key tool of the trade would soon be gone.
The question went out – what could be used instead?
Here are some alternatives to Google Reader, and if you have never looked at RSS feeds – try out one of these tools. You might just find your life made a lot easier.
Feedly – Available as a web site an somewhat gorgeous looking app is Feedly. This is my first choice as an alternative. I’ve been testing the tablet version for about a week and also taken a look at the web version. It is easy to read and clear and simple to use. In fact I find it easier to make a post from than Google Reader. Feedly seems to be turning into a very popular option – receiving 500,000 new users in the 48 hours following the news of Google Readers demise
Flipboard – This is a mobile app that does a good job of displaying RSS feeds. It is not as a industrial strength as Feedly or Google Reader – but it is good at presenting information in an easy to browse format. I’m including it for that reason. It is a low stress of method of taking a quiet 5 minutes to flip through information and gain some inspiration and ideas to work with.
Pulse – Another stylish and feature rich service that exists on both web and mobile. Interestingly it seems to work exceptionally well with Internet Explorer – which will please a lot of company IT departments. I quite likes its highly visual panel based display. I’ve only recently started testing Pulse but it does seem exceptionally good.
My final thought here is this – Google Reader is dead, but RSS is alive and kicking. It is in fact going through a transformation. Once it was accessed through lists of headlines. Now updated technologies are turning it into easy to use magazines that can help everyone. Everyone that is except traditional newspapers.
The team behind Abergavenny Carnival are working to make the 2013 event something extra special. I was approached to help out in creating the carnivals first web site by a major sponsor. I decided that I would indeed help and that I would also donate the web hosting for the carnival and help with the web site design for no charge.
As a result I setup the hosting with a good CMS and designed a simple responsive design theme for the site. The idea was to create something to which a lot of bright and carnival appropriate images could be added. Since then I’ve added a few pieces of graphic design and added some of the content. Not to steal credit – most of the content comes direct from the sponsors. Which is I think how it should be. They are supplying the funding for the carnival and so get control what is on the web site. That is also the beauty of a CMS – we can all work together.
Why did I donate to the carnival? Well I do work for businesses in the area and I happen to like Abergavenny a lot. It simply seemed to be the natural and appropriate choice.
Is the website finished? I very much doubt that. I see the pages and design evolving as we approach July 2013. After all this site is a living breathing thing built to promote the carnival. As the plans for the carnival grow and ripen so I see the web site doing the same thing.
If you are a micro business then I may have good news for you. For a limited period Microzone Wales is offering a one year subscription to its services for 1 penny. This is not a scam and there is no catch. It is simply an exceptional introductory offer.
Microzone Wales considers a Micro Business to be be
- A single proprietor start that is less than 2 years old
- A home based on lifestyle based business
- A turnover of less than £100,000
This is what you get for your penny
- Up to 3 years of free banking with the Natwest
- A free legal advice line
- A digital version of the South Wales Chamber of Commerce Quarterly Magazine
- Access to business networking events at a discounted price
- Discounted business supported services
If this sounds at all interesting you can find out more at: http://www.microzonewales.co.uk/
Quick disclaimer – I do work for microzonewales – which is how I now this offer is currently running.
This week Facebook achieved 1 Billion users – an impressive feat in any terms. That means there a whole lot of people using it (about 1 in 7 of the global population) and with that many people it must be essential for you to make it the mainstay of your online presence.
The answer is not a definite yes. It’s more like a maybe and it should never replace your web site.
First – why it should never replace your web site. You do not control Facebook or its future. You cannot predict what Facebook will do next. Its next move could be bad for your business. Online you should never base your business on the actions of another company. Especially when that company has a share price that is falling and it coming under pressure. Since launch the share price of Facebook has dropped from $38 per share to only $21 (at time of writing) and Facebooks founder Mark Zuckerberg has had his personal fortune reduced by $8billion (approx.). This is a company with financial issues to solve. Ask yourself – should you bet your business on something that is losing value? When it comes to your web site – you should be in control of your own destiny.
So how about using Facebook for marketing?
Well the number of Facebook users makes it a valuable marketing tool. So yes you should look at Facebook for marketing. You need to be where the people are and that is where they are at the moment so indeed base a marketing strategy on Facebook. Just don’t make it your only strategy and don’t make it long term. Facebook marketing works very well for some businesses and some products, but there are other social networks that work better for other scenarios. Before focussing on one social network do some research and figure out where you will find an audience – then make sure you can reach that audience. Sheer size does not mean that the right kind of people are using Facebook in the right kind of way to suit your business. You cannot get away from the old fashioned reality of researching your marketing before starting it. Facebook may or may not be the best place for you. You may be wondering why I said don’t make it a long term strategy. That is because the web moves fast. It has multiple markets, and social networks come and go at an alarming rate. Nothing has ever been as big as Facebook before – but size is no guarantee of security. No company is too big to fail. If you are advertising online you need to be agile and check to be sure you are in the right place.
Do the above warnings make me a Facebook hater?
No – I do use Facebook and on a personal level it has been useful to me. However I am also a very experienced Internet user. I have lost count of the number of services and web sites I’ve been part of that are either no longer useful or not longer there. I have seen companies base a strategy on one horse – only for them to discover that it was the wrong horse to back. The Internet is fast, fun, cool and exciting but when you are looking to use it for business you need to be cool, analytical and always have an exit strategy up your sleeve. You need to be responsive in your approach and put your business first. Don’t be impressed by big numbers. They do not necessarily mean anything.
Yesterday we ran the new social media course for a second time. This delegate group was different. All had some social media accounts – mostly on Facebook but all needed a better way working. You could say that there was FUD and concern about what to next.
For me this was a great thing as it led to lively day with plenty of debate and analysis. The course was designed to enable discussion and we had plenty of it. The end result was a set of ideas and strategies customised to each delegate. It was good to see people walk away with plans to follow.
The course was always designed to either introduce or enhance the use of Facebook, Twitter etal and it was delightful seeing this higher level of work take place. It helped confirm that we had an approach that was working.
Running this course help cement something I’ve thought of and run into in the past. Operators of small / medium sized businesses are so invested in the operation of their business that they sometimes cannot see when they are doing something special or interesting. It all becomes part of just daily life. Extracting out the things that someone else may find cool or fascinating is important. It gives you material to post about. This is vital when you are running a social media strategy. You need to talk to your audience about something.
Some tips on getting your profile picture for social media right.
Recently the team at Petals Training all updated their trainer profile pictures. Both on the company web site and on other social media . This got me thinking about how important the photographs of yourself that you put online are. Petals Training had obviously spent some time on a photo – session. It showed as the pictures were well lit, well posed and more importantly looked as if they belonged together. In other words the team had done things right. So just what makes up getting a profile photo right?
1. Think Happy
Your profile picture is how people will first make a connection to you. You want a positive reaction and this means looking relaxed, confident and happy. It does mean a forced smile – we can all spot that all to easily. Have the picture taken from a relaxed posed, lean towards the camera, and look at the camera. Remember do not take this too seriously – you do not want this to look like a passport photo. Also remember it does not need to be head on. Having the photo taken from a slight angle will show you off in more positive light.
2. Stand Out
This photograph is all about you. Make sure the photograph is taken on a plain background or a background that does not show off a lot of detail. If a plain background is not possible make sure your camera is set to portrait and stand a least a metre in front of anything behind you – this will help blur the background and help you stand out more. Also try to wear bold colours. You will stand out more.
3. Be Alone
If you want to stand out from the background, you also want to make sure people are sure who you are. Be the only person in the photo. This is all about you.
4. Reflect Norms
People identify with what they expect. Wear the clothes that people would expect you to wear. If you are using social media to find a job – dress for that job. If you are using social media to promote your business dress the way people expect someone in your profession to dress. This way people will just accept you and carry on. This is good – you have met their expectations and they are not dismissing you because of your photo. The job of the photo is to get people reading and not reflecting on your dress sense. Save dressing that really shows off your personality when you meet people in person.
5. Make Sure the Photo is Technically Good.
The photo needs to be well lit, not over dark, not over exposed. It should be full of grain effects and it should not cheaply made. The photo should look high quality and as if you have thought about it. When you take the photo do not just snap. Take a good selection of photos, use different poses, use different camera settings and use varying amounts of light. When you pick out the photo take a good critical look at it and think – would I buy a used car from the person in this photo?
I’m just taking a moment to report that this week (On Thursday the 20th to be exact) I had a successful day at the Centre for Business in Newport. I’ve been working with the Centre for Business to create an introductory course to social media usage for the small business. Our aim is to push past the myths and difficulties to help business discover how to best make use of the ever growing and much vaunted social web. The approach we’ve taken is to build knowledge, to try out systems and to also look at individual needs. The result is a highly interactive course that helps small business member assess and understand their needs. It is not a course that prescribes a single solution. Its a course that gives the attendees the power to make good decisions.
The result of Thursday was some excellent feedback from the delegates – for that I thank you. I also noticed that the course achieved its aims as it became apparent that a number of different strategies were going to be employed by the course delegates. To me this excellent news.
As a result I am now looking forward to the courses future sessions.
If you are interested in learning about social media at the Centre for Business why not give them a call on 01633 254041 to learn more
If you use the Internet then unless you only read and never do you must be using passwords. If you use cloud services then not only do you use passwords but these passwords protect important parts of your business and life.
The odds are that your password is not good enough to avoid being broken in the event of a security breach. Here is why – in a recent Ars Technica article security editor Dan Goodin details key changes in password security and the art of breaking a password that leave many passwords wide open.
Here is the article http://arstechnica.com/security/2012/08/passwords-under-assault/ it’s a good read and worth looking a it boils down to some key points
- Improvements in cheap maths centric GPU processors designed for gaming and media use mean that powerful password cracking computers can be built for hundreds not thousands or tens of thousands of pounds,
- Improvements in an understanding of how cryptography works means that previously unbreakable password storage schemes can now be beaten
- Worst of all – we have been hacked. Analysis of how people create passwords means that it is possible to guess or work out a password more easily than ever before.
We are living in a bad time for passwords.
Fortunately as bad as this news is there are things we can all do to help keep our passwords secure.
The top 2 on this list are:
- Use long, complex and random passwords. The longer and more random the betters. To help cope with this new regime of hard to make and hard to remember passwords try password creators like Lastpass or Keepass.
- Where possible use 2 factor authentication. This means using your password plus another code to gain access to your account. The second code should be random, and different each time you use it – preferably it should be generated by a device you carry.
The thing to take away from this is that too much convenience (ie a short easy to remember and therefore easy to break password) puts you at risk – but good password practice will still keep you safe.
This story about Facebook came to via Google+ and led to me to an article on the BBC web site by their technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones.
Here is his report. If you are thinking about advertising on Facebook it raises some very important points.
I’ve been thinking about his experiment with Virtual Bagels and here are 5 things we can learn from it.
- People living in different places behave differently when using the Internet. Therefore advertising needs to be targeted to your audience both in terms of age range and location. Its a good call to be very specific when doing these. Hitting your niche will be more valuable than just broadly going for numbers.
- Social Media metrics such as ‘Likes’ although nice to have to not necessarily mean you have a large number of valuable customers. Likes can be pretty frivolous. In the short run a large number of ‘Likes’ can be meaningless. In the long run they can help people believe in your business because of the power of the herd- and therefore act as a customer attractor, but as a number they need to be put into context to before they mean anything.
- Don’t use the results of a campaign alone to prove a point. If there is a flaw in your campaign the results are flawed. Always compare your results to another baseline. If you are promoting a web site always look at the long term web site stats and compare those to the results of a campaign. Sales are another classic to compare. Don’t just look at a big social media result and assume it is good.
- Social media can reach a very large number of people very quickly. In that it does live up to its promise.
- We are living in the age of Social Media, but that does not invalidate the rules of good business practice. It does add new opportunities and possibilities, but it does not change how to manage a business.