Why Facebook Keeps Carving Itself Up

Facebook Camera Has Branding Issues
Facebook Camera has branding issues

The successful release of the Facebook Camera app two weeks ago marked the second major application launch by the social network focused on a singular feature. Joining Messenger, Camera allows users to enjoy functionality without the baggage of Facebook’s leviathan social networks as experienced through the iPhone, iPad, Android and mobile web versions.

For the past few years, Facebook dominated the social network marketplace by absorbing every feature from all of its competitor. In doing so, it became the McDonalds of social networks. However, with mobile revolution, tactile input changes the way we interact online, and Facebook’s girth makes it unwieldy for tablets and smartphones in spite of experience-controlled applications.

At every corner now, there seems to be a niche mobile competitor.
Continue reading

The Inevitable Pinterest Post

427107 2957442528373 1030795218 32788251 706963363 n
Image by Social Graphics

Sigh. If you are a social media pundit, you had better be posting about Pinterest these days or as Ike says, you’ll have your expert card pulled (the horror). So here it is, my inevitable Pinterest post.

What Pinterest has done right is significantly change the way we interface with social media. By making posts picture-centric, we see ideas and concepts rather than have to read about them. In a mobile, portable media world dominated by tactile input methods (touch screens), this is an undeniable future.

This movement towards visualizing information is also typified by Instagram and Tumblr. You can point to the popularity of Facebook pics, Facebook’s new timeline interface, and Twitpics as further evidence. Finally the infographic movement towards visualizing data as opposed to blogging or writing about a topic is yet another bellwether towards pics instead of words.

Continue reading

Social Photography: Thoughts and 4 Tips

Ride the Sunset!
Taken mid-air last night with an iPhone 4s.

You may not love Flickr, Instagram or Pinterest, but you can’t deny the continuing rise of social photography. Photos dominate social media. Even on Facebook, the king of networks, people spend 17 percent of their time perusing photos according to a recent ComScore/BuddyMedia study.

Facebook time spent seg

Whether they are retail pics “pinned” on Pinterest, food shots discussed on any social site (25 percent of foodie photo creators do so as part of a daily food diary), or a happenstance shared on Instagram or via TwitPic, photos are a universal staple of the online social world. As such, social photography should be a part of your communications strategy.

The results have been fantastic for me. While this blog has a decent following, in the four years I have written here regularly (some of the old 2007-8 posts were imported from my now defunct Now Is Gone blog), my photo blog on Flickr has generated roughly 50% more page views.

Continue reading

Geoff’s Market Research Bulletin – 1st Edition

Welcome to Microsoft Research building 99
Image by Robert Scoble

In an effort to better serve readers with value added content, every month “Geoff’s Market Research Bulletin” will be sent to interested readers. The Bulletin encapsulates all of the new interesting market research studies over the past month that seem worth sharing in one place. Sign up today if you are interested in this free email newsletter.

The below is an abbreviate version of the first newsletter sent to subscribers yesterday.

Geoff’s Market Research Bulletin, September, 2011

Curated by Geoff Livingston, written by Henry T. Dunbar

Social Networking Growth Slows

A new study from the Pew Research Service’s Internet and American Life Project reports 65% of all American adults online are using some social networking site (which is up from 61% a year ago). This is the first time we have seen social media growth drop to single digit rate, indicating the late majority and final phase of adoption has begun.

A more interesting milestone might be that for the first time, a majority of ALL Americans are using online social networks (there being a small percentage that don’t use the internet at all). Furthermore, the growth is coming largely from older demographics. The under-30 age groups were stable while the 50-64 age group grew from 20% to 32%. Finally, the study also reported that most users gave a positive response when asked to describe their experience in social networking, indicating that once they’ve tested the waters, many are opting to stay.

Like It or Not: You May Be Defined by a Single Search Term

For an interesting peak behind the curtain of marketing research, read comScore blogger Eli Goodman’s August 29 post. In it he reviews three sets of comparative search terms and demonstrates how market researchers can parse the demographic data available to help deliver relevant results (read ads) to the searchers. This is a practice he says is being used increasingly and with more sophistication.

By breaking down the data on who searches for Google+ vs. Facebook, iPhone vs. Android, and Red Sox vs. Yankees, Goodman shows how market researchers quickly deduce from that lone word that a Google+ searchers are younger and wealthier, cellphone searchers are generally about the same, and that Yankee fans are much more geographically diverse. While is generally known that this is going on (we all see the interesting ads that pop up on our screens) it’s another thing to see how they do it. It is also enough to give us pause we turn to our browser to find the latest new gizmo.

Location Apps Are Popular

In looking at groups of location-based applications on mobile devices, the Pew Research Service’s Internet and American Life Project recently reported that 28% of American adults have used at least one of them. The services included using phones to get directions or recommendations based on their current location, using phones to check into geosocial services such as Foursquare or Gowalla, and setting social media service to automatically report their location.

Most cellphone location service users fall into the first category, with latter two of these activities only representing single-digit percentages of cell and internet users (5% and 9% respectively). Digging a little deeper into the report, there are some obvious finds (younger people use location services more) and some interesting divides (whites are more likely to seek location data while minorities — particularly Hispanics — are more likely to disclose their location).

3rd-Party Apps Usage on Facebook Reduces Engagement by 80%

There’s an old adage that if you want results, you have to do the work. There are no shortcuts. And it applies to social media, too. A new report from the makers of EdgeRank drove this point home last week, noting that its analysis of more than 1 million Facebook updates on 50,000 pages show that when users post updates using a 3rd-party applications like Hootsuite or TweetDeck, engagement drops, on average, by about 80%.

Theories abound as to why there is such a huge drop (that Facebook penalizes the apps or collapses their content, or even that communities regard these posts as spam), but the fact remains this is a big blow to effectiveness. What good is saving time on posting if the messages are only 20% effective? (On the other hand, using 3rd-party apps will save a lot of time on the back end because there will be no comments to respond to.) Bottom line: social media is like anything else, you get out what you put in. Take the time to manage your posts, tweets and updates from within the platform.

Why the Facebook Feature Frenzy Will Fail

Last week Mark Zuckerberg revealed video chat (see above video), the first of many new features in what will be called, “Launching Season 2011.” Yet, this announcement (conveniently timed one week after Google+ launched) only seems to add to the problems that Facebook has.

First and foremost, Facebook’s nightmare user interface offers a plethora of features, many of which don’t fit on one screen view much less a mobile application. More clutter won’t make the mess better. While an interesting business strategy — much like McDonalds’ approach to adding competitive products to its menu — sooner or later so many features are just too much. On the contrary, additions are bound to make Facebook’s menu of social offerings even harder to navigate.

Facebook needs to address its user interface, wonky personal list issues, and privacy concerns as Google+ did with its next generation offering. Google+ is not perfect by a long mile, but it did up the ante.

Google plus android
Image by Geeky Gadgets

Consider the whole mobile experience. Everyone knows the mobile revolution is upon us. Just today Pew released a study showing 25% of Americans prefer accessing the Internet on their smartphones.

If the Facebook web interface is bad, the mobile interface is from hell. Google+ was clearly designed with mobile use in mind. The Android app is fantastic, and exposes a lot of weaknesses in the half functional Facebook app. The inability to provide a great experience in a touch environment is a major competitive issue for Facebook. Not only does it have Google+ to contend with, but Twitter will soon be integrated into all iPhones. Mobile will be a two front war for Facebook.

Like other networks Google+ has privacy issues with content licensing, too. But at least it is built on an opt-in premises with circles of friends rather a big jambalaya of friends, colleagues, and family. It respects the way we work as people and our sense of privacy. This is the exact opposite of Facebook’s approach, which is empire building at the expense of its users.

You can easily make the argument that Google+ is in the beginning, and doesn’t warrant a response, even if it has five million users already. Facebook has 750 million users. But Inside Facebook recently reported that Facebook’s growth has stabilized in early adopter countries, and is even retracting in some months.

Time has shown over and over again that big web companies lose their stature. The “Death” of Facebook is not so unfathomable this month. To stave off that loss of stature, Facebook needs to address its UI and privacy issues rather than create more of the same problem.

What do you think of Facebook’s response (or does it need to respond)?

Hopenhagen Tries to Seal the Deal


Cross-published on the Live Earth blog.

More than 190 countries will gather at the UN Climate Change Conference this December 7-18 in Copenhagen to determine the environmental fate of our planet (see the Guardian’s ongoing coverage for baseline facts). With less than 40 days remaining before the Copenhagen conference, a new effort –Hopenhagen — seeks to unite citizens across the world in political action.

The Hopenhagen site features a petition, which will be delivered to the conference. The goal: Get participating countries to seal the deal and sign an effective climate pact. More than 340,000 people have already signed the petition.

There is a mandatory Hopenhagen Facebook fan page. In one of the more interesting Facebook applications I have seen in a while, the Hopenhagen app seeks to create word of mouth engagement by giving people a Passport to Hopenhagen. To get passport points one must agree to tell friends or participate in sustainable activities (all of which are conveniently posted to your wall).

I like this app because it shows people some of the activities they can engage in to make their own contribution to the environment. Gaming and education will become an increasingly important part of the sustainability and general environmental movement. Most citizens don’t understand how their own carbon footprint affects energy demand. So more and more applications like this one and sites like Chevron’s willyoujoinus.com will endeavor to educate the general public and change citizen behavior.

Self described as a movement, Hopenhagen was created with the support of numerous corporate partners. The site lists other environmental campaigns such as 350 that interested parties can engage in.

Hopenhagen is also on Twitter. Get on board today and spread the hope!