Tag Archives: facebook

Isn’t it about time social networking got a bit more human?

I’ve started to write a weekly column, Online Anthropologist, for Smart Company. Here’s the latest…

Will introducing interactions that are more real-world help social networks increase engagement?

I’ve always, quietly, been a fan of social network Path. When it launched back in 2010 I wrote a post highlighting its features, whilst sitting squarely on the fence and making no predictions one way or another about its chances of success.

Since then, Path has gradually introduced more and more features, I’ve managed to persuade a few fellow nerds to join, and as a result I’ve found myself using it more and more.

Path became part of my personal experience of the fragmentation of social media. It’s the network I turn to when I don’t want to broadcast my life to anyone who wants to stalk me (twitter) or a bunch of people I didn’t like all that much back in primary school (Facebook).

Then in February of this year there was that well documented privacy issue, for which Path took the fall before it emerged that everyone else was at it too. Too late, the damage was done and Path copped the majority of the flack. Whether they have any chance of success after that debacle remains to be seen: they are, after all, still claiming ‘over 2 million users’ – the same figure they claimed back in February when the privacy story broke – and that’s hardly the hockey-stick growth figures that, say, Pinterest has been able to claim, or Instagram can boast.

But Path remains an innovator. The user interface was always one step ahead of the competition: a mobile-only environment, it takes the best of Facebook and photo-sharing platforms like Instagram and rolls them together. It’s super-intuitive to use, and super-slick to look at. Now, with Path 2.5, Path is starting to redefine the way we interact on the social web.

How so? Well, there are a couple of new features that are changing the game. There’s something that Path calls the ‘nudge’. Sound familiar? Sound a bit like Facebook’s slightly dodgy-sounding ‘Poke’? Well, it IS a bit like a Poke. But it’s better than a Poke, because where the Poke button is a kind of disembodied, vaguely sexual verb that both looks seedy on the page, and feels seedy to use, the nudge is altogether more sophisticated and grown-up. See, unlike the Poke’s school-boy dig in the ribs, it actually asks some pre-populated questions, prompting the recipient to take action. So you can ‘nudge’ your mate to ‘take a photo!’, or ask ‘where are you?’ or ‘what are you up to?’:

What’s so cool about that? Well, aside from giving users a way to get in touch with their friends without a) having to think of something to say or b) having to deliver a creepy ‘poke’, it makes the social experience that bit more social – that bit more real. After all, you wouldn’t, in real life, try to get someone’s attention by jabbing at them with a pointy finger.

Of course the other cool thing, from Path’s viewpoint, is that the Nudge is a way for them to get their user base to do the work of re-engaging with lapsed users on their behalf. Good move for a network that feels like its starting to stagnate.

The second game-changer is the invite function. Path have played with theirs so that unlike on Twitter or Facebook, you can now write a personalized note asking someone to join the network so you can hook up. You can even use Siri (I’m doing this on an iPhone) to record a message.

Hardly a game-changer, you might say: but think about it. When combined with the nudge, the invite makes the virtual interactions in Path that little bit more nuanced than those on other networks, that little bit more shaded rather than black and white. And this makes it a social network that is a little bit more human, a little bit more usable and, hopefully, a little bit more engaging. Whilst I’m not 100% sure the introduction of these cool new features will be enough to reverse Path’s fortunes, I AM sure that we will start to see more of these kinds of features on the bigger networks. It’s great user experience design, and something that businesses should both keep an eye open for when it starts to become more commonplace in social networking, and take note of when designing their own web properties.

This post originally appeared in Smart Company‘s Online Anthropologist column, written by Edge’s Head of Digital Richard Parker.


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Are consumers turning into bullies?

No bullies

I remember, back in 2008, preparing a presentation on social media and how it was starting to have a huge effect on customer services. Twitter was starting to gain traction beyond the early adopter/techie types, and brands were desperate to leap onto the band wagon. Facebook was already massive, and a relatively small number of brands were starting to use it well with others using it badly, and still more sitting on the sidelines, enviously looking in at the party, but too scared to get involved.

My advice to the client at the time was ‘you can’t afford NOT to get involved’. There had already been a number of famous cases of brands being seriously damaged by complainers who had taken their grievances to social media, and had been ignored by the brand in question. The internet had done its thing, and before the brand knew it the grouch had been turned into a cause célèbre, the public complaint and lack of brand action had gone viral, and the brand’s reputation was in tatters.

So far, so meh. Old news, right? Well yes, but recently I’ve been noticing, and getting increasingly annoyed by a new(ish) phenomena. Brand bullying. This is where some opportunist saboteur turns to Twitter complaining of poor service or poor quality or some other perceived snub from a brand, purely to see whether they can screw some free stuff out of said brand. They invariably use a holier than thou tone and seem to think that the world will side with them purely because they’re shouting, loudly and in public. And they’re not far wrong – ‘the internet’ is the ultimate champion of the little guy.

Brands often respond to this public airing of dirty washing by doing exactly what the opportunist wants – throwing a freebie at it. No matter whether the whinger was an incredibly brand-loyal person with a real grievance, and therefore worth responding to and nurturing, or someone who has heretofore demonstrated zero brand loyalty, if they complain long and loud enough, they’ll be looked after.

This pushes a button for me. It’s inherently unfair. And it actually goes against the internet ethos: the internet has given power to the individual, but (to quote Uncle Ben Parker) with great power comes great responsibility – and if the individual abuses that responsibility the power should be taken away from them. So I suddenly find myself in a slightly unlikely position, and questioning whether brands really do need to oil every squeaky wheel. Maybe there’s a better way. Maybe there’s a way to take the sting out of the complaint without giving in to the bullies. Maybe brands should stand up to them, sometimes.

This is obviously a much more delicate an operation than I make it sound, so really I’m throwing it out there as a question. Any social media managers out there care to weigh in?

This post originally appeared on my company blog, here.

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Facebook’s Frictionless Sharing

It’s been a few weeks since f8, and I’ve been having a play with the new timeline functionality that Facebook is planning to  roll out, as well as getting used to the ‘frictionless sharing’ that Facebook has already rolled out with selected partners. There’s not much point in us writing about timeline – yes I’m running it, yes it’s aesthetically a great interface, yes it’s easy to use, yes there will be an inevitable ‘the sky is falling on our heads’ reaction when it finally launches – for about a week until everyone gets used to it, and yes, lots of people have already written about how great it is.

Instead, I’m interested in the ‘frictionless sharing’ that Facebook have been trumpeting and that is a result of the changes they’ve made to Open Graph.

Lots of commentators have already talked about the possibilities that Open Graph apps open up, and the effect they’re going to have on brands – how pages will become less important, how a brand’s updates will show up in feeds much less often and how therefore in order to connect with their audiences, brands need to start developing their own Open Graph apps. You can read about this elsewhere. The important thing to note about frictionless sharing is that if it heralds a new way of sharing content across the web, it means that the sharing of what we are reading, listening to or watching will increasingly become automatic – it will no longer require a manual action such as liking, tagging, or tweeting.

This is what I’m more interested in right now: the act – or rather non-act – of frictionless sharing.  Neil Perkin wrote an interesting column on frictionless sharing on NMA recently. He makes this point, which I shall quote in full:

“The fact that a piece of content is deliberately selected, judged, commented on and passed on by one of my friends or someone I follow attributes a certain significance and context to it. It’s a significance that I cherish. Social curation has come to sit alongside algorithmic and professional curation as a valuable way to distinguish signal from noise.”

I’m in full agreement with this – aside from the obvious ‘filter bubble’ issues around both social and algorithmic curation, I do get most of my daily intelligence (if you’ll forgive the pretension of the term) via social curation and this will immediately be devalued by frictionless sharing.

Why? Well, if I’m now not only being passed a ‘piece of content deliberately selected, judged, commented on’ by one of my friends, but also the stuff that one of my friends has read, listened to or watched, but thought was a bit rubbish and not worth passing on,then social curation is useless. After all, you wouldn’t necessarily buy a book just because you saw a mate reading it on the bus. You’d want to know whether it was any good first.

Facebook Graffiti

Photo (cc) Katie Sayer.

This post originally appeared on my company blog, here.

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Obligatory Google+ post

Google+ screen

We thought we’d let the dust settle a little bit around Google+ before posting out thoughts up here. But since its launch on June 18th, the dust has shown no sign of settling – in fact there seems to be more and more dust being kicked up every second.

I’m going to stop with the dust metaphor now because I’m annoying myself.  Google+ has added 18 million users and notched up a billion shares a day. It’s being touted as the Facebook killer, the Twitter killer. Business is clamouring to get involved. Every where we turn in the blogosphere, the twittersphere, even in (the) Facebook(sphere) there’s a new article on Google+, and almost every website we look at now has the ‘+1’ button integrated next to their ‘like’ and ‘tweets’ counters (just scroll down toward the bottom of this piece). It feels, already, like part of the landscape.

But let’s break this down a little:

Those figures

I like to think of myself as an early adopter, and indeed, was amongst the first 18 million Google+ users. Not bad, eh? I digress. Anyway as an ‘early adopter’ messing about in Google+ feels a bit lonely. Even with all those folks on there I have about 20 people in my circles. Of which I would say 3 are posting things regularly. The rest have set up a profile and as yet have posted NOTHING – no activity. A large user base is good, lots of shares is good, but if it’s limited to a small elite then it’s not. Of course, it’s early days. There are some interesting stats on usage on Mashable if you want further reading.

UPDATE: In addition it appears that Facebook users spend 4 times as long on the site as Google+ users – again indicative of the fledgling nature of the site, but nevertheless not all that impressive as yet.

Google+ as the Twitter killer

Some commentators have said Google+ is akin to Twitter in that you can follow people without their permission (rather than them having to accept your request, as in Facebook), and therefore this makes Google+ the Twitter killer. Obviously this doesn’t take into account the stripped-down appeal of Twitter – the single-function nature of it that allows people to rapidly scan a whole load of information. And Twitter’s die-hard fanbase. And the niche it’s carved its-self as a real-time news feed. NEXT!

Google+ as the Facebook killer

Facebook killer. Well, again, no. Facebook is entrenched in Western society to the point that it is showing signs of reaching a natural saturation point, but in countries that were a little slower on the uptake, Facebook is still registering phenomenal growth. And good luck if you think you’re going take Facebook’s audience – comfortable and familiar with the user interface as they are – and prize them away. Look at the uproar that happens when Facebook change their own page layout. Oh no, people DO NOT like change. Yes Google allows you to combine multiple networks and integrate your contacts and email – but I know a lot of people who don’t have an email address and communicate online exclusively via Facebook’s messaging feature. Google has taken most of Facebook’s features (lists is basically a less sexy interfaced version of circles; video chat is coming to FB via the Skype link-up, etc etc) and made them a bit slicker in some cases, but I don’t think enough to get people to move. Having said that, I don’t think it has to be an either or.

Google+ for business

Google+ have actively asked businesses to wait for a few months until they have their specific business version ready. And that makes a lot of sense. Brand who are desperate to get onto Google+ now – why? We don’t yet have enough data on how, when and why people use it to know what your strategy should be for the medium. It took a long time before Facebook opened up properly to brands and with good reason – they now have a fantastic brand offering, which acts as a second CRM for brands that use it. Google+ are wise to follow suit.

UPDATE: here’s a little more info on Google+ brand pages, and how brands can prepare for their launch.


So in summary – I think Facebook, Twitter and Google+ can certainly co-exist in the medium term. I’m not sure exactly how my Google+ use will differ from my Facebook and Twitter posts as yet, or whether I’ll just end up replicating – it depends what my network on there ends up looking like. But I don’t see myself shutting down any of them. At the worst, Facebook gets marginally less facetime from me. At the best, I spend exactly the same amount of time on Facebook but work a longer day.

And – lame though I know this sounds – I think it’s way too early to say how useful it will be to me, you or business. But I had to contribute to that dust cloud!

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The shift to Social Entertainment

Last week we downloaded a free copy of GlobalWebIndex‘s annual report looking in detail at the way people use the internet.

The report re-stated some things that are obvious just from looking around, and formalised some things that for us were gut-instinct. The major thrust of the report is that a movement away from content creation to content distribution, fragmentation of the devices and platforms from which we access and consume the internet, and changing perceptions of the internet as an entertainment platform, are all bringing about a return to the traditional hierarchies of professional content generators, paid-for content, media giants, big brands and the political elite.

Good to read it all in one place and backed up by robust data though – and we like their name for it: The Social Entertainment Age. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Here’s a bit more detail on what the report says.

GlobalWebIndex identified three key themes in their report.

Social Entertainment Age

The rise of real time social

This is one of those so-far-so-obvious observations that we all knew anyway but is good to have verified by data. There has been, and is an ongoing, shift from the old text-based social media of blogs and forums, to real-time sharing of information and content enabled by micro-blogging services – such as status updates and tweets. This means that the emphasis of social media is no longer on creating content and publishing it, but on sharing other people’s content and real-time opinions about real world events. So the social web is now about distribution rather than creation, and consequently there is a shift of focus back to traditional media and professional content. This is major: for years the web has been seen as a threat to the traditional world of media giants, big brands and the political elite – now these changing trends in the way people participate in the social web are pushing us back towards those same hierarchies.

Packaged internet platforms

The way we access the internet is changing. The way we all know – the open, browser-based web – is losing out to ‘packaged’ internet platforms: tablets, mobile apps, internet connected TVs, e-readers, gaming and video platforms, PC apps. Increasingly, everything is wired in to the web. And Mobile is leading the way: over 17% of people surveyed watched TV in the last month on their mobile, and 26% watched an on-demand video on mobile. In keeping with the theme of ‘real-time social’, this is giving traditional media owners a second bite of the cherry – these packaged platforms allow them the means to create sustainable business models, to actually charge for their content – something that the browser-based web totally failed to accommodate.

The entertainment platform of choice

The online experience is now very strongly centred around ‘traditional style’ content. For hundreds of millions of consumers the internet , across multiple platforms, is about entertainment. This is caused by the growth in (legal and illegal) video sites, the rise of real-time and the sharing of traditional content that that implies, and the growth of packaged platforms.

Time will tell whether GlobalWebIndex are right in their assumptions and predictions, but one thing is for sure – the changes in behaviour that they are reporting are real, the data is good, and the drive back to the status quo seems inexorable. The question is whether this is a good or a bad thing, and for whom. What do you think?

This post originally appeared on my company blog, here.

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Two things I’ve liked

I haven’t posted for a while. I had a busy Christmas and January. But I’ve not been walking around with my eyes closed, and a couple of things have made me go ‘ooh, that’s pretty cool’. So here, for your pleasure, they are.

First is this cool video from CPG Grey. He tells us lots of stuff we already know about the UK, but he does it in a concise way that seems to poke fun at the ridiculous complexity of the whole thing whilst not explicitly doing anything that pokes fun at the ridiculous complexity of the whole thing. And it has a Venn diagram in it, which in my mind means it rocks.

Second is this nice little idea from Grey Stockholm and Ogilvy Stockholm:

INGO website screengrab

They’re merging, dontcha know. They wanted to reveal their new name, INGO in a cool way. So they asked users to follow their page on Facebook, and then used the profile pics of the followers to gradually reveal their name. It took 2,922 faces and 4 hours to reveal the name, apparently. Pretty cool. Shame the name itself is a bit weird: INGO means ‘International Non-Governmental Organisation’ in English. They sort of know this – they refer to the NGO part on the website. But WHY dammit, if you know that the aconym is already taken? WHY? It’s like calling your agency WTF. WTF?

Anyway. Nice idea from INGO. And we’ll post more stuff we like soon.

This post originally appeared on my company blog, here.

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Filed under Infographics, Stuff I like

Chart of the day

A friend of mine recently hooked me up to the Sillicon Alley Insider and more specifically their Chart of the Day. If you’re a bit of an infographics freak, as I am, then you’ll probably enjoy it. But it’s also a really useful resource for anyone who needs to understand what’s going on in the digital world.

I found the chart from Tuesday 21st (I know, I know, I’m way off the pace!) particularly interesting:

Sillicon Alley Insider Chart Of The Day

As we all know, the power behind the social web is the ability to share content, and it’s therefore crucial for any social network’s long-term viability that users are sharing. This chart shows that more people currently use Facebook to share links than anyone else. Not surprising given that Facebook is the size of a large country (I think it works out at around the 5th most populous). What is interesting is that Twitter, despite having only around one tenth the users of Facebook, is used by half as many people to share content. So (unless my thinking is flawed here), Twitter lends itself more readily to sharing.

There are a couple of points to consider, mostly centred around the fact that the AddToAny tool used to measure the data is biased toward certain web properties. Technorati’s top 5 most influential blogs don’t use the AddToAny widget and so aren’t included in the report, and the figures for email are not recorded accurately. There is also the fact that Yahoo owns a number of the spaces on the chart, and if combines would be second largest.

But even given these objections, I find the chart interesting. I’d actually like to see a chart that shows sharing as a proportion of the number of users – then we could really see the champion space for sharing. Any chance of that, Chart Of The Day?

Chart Of The Day picked up the story from Mashable.


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