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Weekend Favs December Thirty One

My weekend blog post routine includes posting links to a handful of tools or great content I ran across during the week.

I don’t go into depth about the finds, but encourage you check them out if they sound interesting. The photo in the post is a favorite for the week from Flickr.

Image Sigfrid Lundberg via Flickr CC

Good stuff I found this week:
The Crowdsourced Facebook Marketing Book – cool concept for putting together ebook from Social Fresh – dozens of blog posts organized around a marketing outline for Facebook.

SENDtoREADER – nice little tool that makes it very easy for your to clip web pages or RSS feeds and send them to your Kindle.

Marketing Charts – Awesome charts and data for marketing in Excel and Powerpoint format – great for presentations and blog post illustrations.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to All the Google Plus Hype

I suspect my friends camped firmly in the Google+ part of town won’t like hearing this, but one of the benefits of Google+ is that Facebook got better.

Facebook subscribers

Sure, you can claim, and you would be right, that many of the recent changes at Facebook are in response to Google+ features, but that’s the very nature of competition now isn’t it?

It’s not my intent in this post to promote Facebook or even analyze Google+ as much as to point out some recent observations based on my own experience.

I joined Facebook in 2007, just after the f8 conference announcement that non-edu stalkers (I mean people) could join. For some mild entertainment you might check out this post – My Daughters Are So Pissed.

In the time since joining, I’ve amassed somewhere around 3700 “friends” and with the subsequent launch of pages, over 14,000 fans. One of the big changes announced as part of a fairly significant recent Facebook overhaul is the ability to create “public” status updates and the ability for people (non friended) to subscribe to those updates.

In just over a month, I’ve already amassed around 3700 “subscribers” and, perhaps more significantly, traffic to my site from Facebook has skyrocketed. In addition, engagement on my “personal” profile, the feed that public subscribers have access to, has also increased dramatically.

Facebook doesn’t break things down on personal profiles to the level that would allow me to be certain where the new traffic and engagement burst is coming from, but a scan of the feed tells me that the public subscriber pool is a very important new source of Facebook traffic and engagement and is one that marketers should start to understand and embrace.

The use of a Facebook profile for business purposes is still technically a violation of Facebook TOS, but there’s little denying this new tool could prove significant for marketers. I imagine the impact for high people such as, say, Robert Scoble for instance, who has drawn over 73,000 subscribers to date, has been hard to ignore.

Ironically, the addition of public sharing, a feature that runs counter to Facebook’s DNA is getting a great deal of user acceptance, while Google+ Circles, the noted Facebook killer feature, isn’t proving as significant as once assumed.

It seems that while we all say we want the ability to create different groups of people for different forms of communication in social networks, most of us are actually still publishing a large percentage of our updates to the masses.

While I initially created many Circles on Google+ and put in some work creating Groups on Facebook, I rarely segment my content on either. Now, this may be simply telling of how I use these networks, but a scan of my feeds shows me that I’m not alone.

Perhaps it’s simply a matter of laziness or a measure of the increased use of networks as broadcast and awareness creating platforms, but for now, Facebook has stemmed the tide of any sign of mass abandonment

Of course all bets are off this time next week or so as Google continues to find more and more ways to make Google+ part of how we communicate with all things Google in our lives.

Social Networks Will Become Marketplaces

For the last few years I’ve been promoting the idea that social networks are like outposts, in many respects, best suited to point the way to your hub or main content site.

Product for sale on Shoply.com

While I still believe this to be a fundamentally sound way to view social media use, I see a future that contains a shift in this thinking as well.

As the level of social behavior continues to evolve and social networks grow more important in the lives of their users, they will become much more than outposts – they will move increasingly towards self-containment and wholly functioning marketplaces.

There is a growing mass that simply sees the Internet as Facebook and Facebook is really okay with that. Other marketplaces such as Amazon, Etsy, Buy.com and eBay are moving to socialize your product search and sort and become decision engines. These online destination are making moves to merge this behavior with pop up offline presence as well.

As mobile users depend upon apps like Siri (personal assistant on iPhone 4S) and Yelp and gain access to large amounts of research via QR readers, search engines will play a diminishing role in how buying decisions are made.

Buy.com just launched a feature that allows you to connect and shop collaboratively with friends making social shopping a real-time phenomenon. Paypal just released an app called Send Money that makes sending money to friends on Facebook a snap. As trust in doing business on these platforms merges with increasing levels of content and engagement, expect people to do more and more in these marketplaces.

What this behavior signals for small business marketers is the need to begin to view some outposts as destinations. In other words, it’s time to start looking at building a store on Facebook, Shoply, Amazon, Buy.com, Etsy and eBay.

I know many business sell in these places already, either as a primary distribution channel or as a supplement to their own online or offline store, but it may be wise for all businesses, regardless of what they sell, to set up shop in one or more of these destinations.

You may not see an immediate profit from your eCommerce enabled Facebook store, but it’s time to make that an option and start teaching those that interact with you there how and why they might also want to buy from you there.

The key, as it has been so clearly for the last few years, is to also up your engagement, education and participation in these markets rather than simply look at them as transaction enablers. These are growing major cities and you need to claim and grow your holdings there before it becomes overcrowded.

Facebook ecommerce solutions

Marketplaces

What the Heck Is Facebook Thinking?

That’s the question that Farmville and Mafia Wars players all over the world are asking today. Why are they changing my Facebook, don’t they care about their customers.

Well, here’s the problem, while Facebook needs users, users aren’t their customers. Advertisers are the customers and you, dear Facebook user, are simply part of the data stream that advertisers desperately seek.

So, while some of the changes don’t seem to make sense to you or cause you to learn a new way to interact, they are aimed at one thing primarily – getting you to share more, so advertisers can personalize more – end of story.

The recent moves on Facebook earlier this week and announced during their annual f8 conference are business friendly moves aimed at tapping more revenue generation from your sharing addiction.

The new changes at a glance:

The new Facebook Timeline features a graphic history of everything you choose

The Timeline – this is the most buzzed about change because it’s the most visual. Users will get a chance to totally redesign their profile page based on their total history, rather than the past few days worth of sharing. This is the first move towards pushing you to share more disguised as more control. Frankly, I don’t think this is that big of a deal because most content is actually consumed in the news feed, but this could be a more appealing way for a brand to present their story.

New Custom Verbs – Like and Recommend are no longer enough – Facebook announced that brands will be able to introduce new custom verbs such as “cook” “watch”, “read”, “hike” and “listen.” Do Facebook users really need more ways to say what they are doing, perhaps not, but brands will likely see this as a creative way to get more engagement and build campaigns around sharing using specific verbs in conjunction with the nouns of the brand.

Real-Time Direct Marketing – Facebook didn’t call it this but hidden away in several of the announcements yesterday were a couple things that marketers and developers are likely frothing over. The Open Graph Beta is the expansion of how information is shared via apps with Facebook Users. The demonstration of this new expansion was the Spotify music integration. While many people saw this merely as a cool trick that allowed users to connect and listen to music with their friends it’s far more than that.

Marketers and app makers may find very quickly that this is a fabulous way to push real time ads, with a high level of personalization into what is essentially branded entertainment.

Apps must now gain Manage Pages permission. While this seems like more security, if pages grant this new permission they are effectively giving access to their Fan Pages and all the data that comes and goes, making it a real time marketing playground for targeted offers.

Time will tell if Facebook users get tired of all this manipulation and change, but my guess is that they gave their users just enough candy to keep them happy while creating a path for the future of revenue generation inside the data.

Facebook Promises to Revolutionize Social Networking Today

Rumor has it that Facebook will announce a radical change to its platform today and according to Mashable’s Ben Parr, who has seen the changes – “developers will be elated, users will be shellshocked and the competition will look ancient”

“These changes will make Facebook a place where nearly everything in your life is enhanced by your social graph. These changes will make it so you know your friends better than you ever thought you could.”

You can see and hear the announcement live today starting at 9:30am PT in the video player below.

Facebook Should Stop Worrying So Much About Google Plus

Facebook made a couple moves last week that were immediately categorized as in reaction to Google+ features.

They include easier group management and the ability to make personal profile posts public and let people subscribe to your publicly shared posts are clearly a nod to Google+ functionality, but here’s the deal – it’s not what Facebook is about and trying to copy Google+ is probably more of a threat to Facebook than staying true to its roots.

For the most part, Facebook users don’t really want to manage groups and decide who gets to see what – they just don’t friend people outside of their circle. This actually adds a layer of thinking that cuts at the very way the core users manage their Facebook use.

Facebook built its empire by staying very true to the friend-sharing model and creating the best technology. You could argue that the user interface is a bit clunky, but no one can argue with the fact that even at 600 million plus users, sharing increasing amounts of data, Facebook’s engine works.

Sure, millions of people are jumping on Google+, but as it turns out for something different than Facebook. I personally find Google+ to be a better experience for my needs than Facebook, but I am not a typical Facebook user.

From a business use perspective I find Google+ interesting and useful, but I am still very bullish on Facebook as a platform to reach consumers and extend a small business brand.

Just this past week, I received friend requests from several family members who were just now stepping into Facebook as a method of keeping up with friends and family. That’s what makes Facebook too useful to fail any time soon. And that’s the usage Facebook should take to the bank.

Imagine the inertia required for a twenty something to move their entire social communication habit, and that of their entire social and quasi-social circles. For many in this group, Facebook has been the only means of communication with friends they’ve employed. Sure, people were on Friendster before Facebook came along, but social behavior prior to Facebook was simply something people did in pockets – now they do it as entire families and as a way to stay in touch with pretty much anyone they choose.

Sure, Google+ is a still a very cool with its core audience – heavy Internet and social media users. Facebook stopped being cool with its core audience, college students, the day it let me in, but that hasn’t slowed their use. In a way Facebook owns their ability to communicate beyond text messages and that’s what Facebook should focus on.

Like it or not, Facebook tightly controls the best audience data machine ever created and a platform for tapping that data that should ensure they are hugely profitable for years to come, unless they forget what got them here and start chasing every competitive force in a move that may render them less useful to those the built it.

My Content Amplification System

Today’s post is in answer to a direct request I’ve received a number of times.

Content AmplificationOf course writing good content is only part of the business challenge. You’ve also got to get it read. Some would say, and to a large part this is true, that simply writing something that people want to read is the first step in drawing links and shares, but you’ve also got to put your content out there in places where people do their reading these days.

The following is a sampling of my content amplification routine. I do this with each blog post in an effort to get that particular piece of content the greatest amount of exposure. Is this the perfect, all inclusive list, probably not, but it’s a routine that I can do in about five minutes and still give my content a chance to be seen by lots of potential clients, journalists and strategic partners.

After I hit publish I:

  • Tweet the headline and link with some context to draw the most interest using StumbleUpon link shortener su.pr – this syndicates the content to StumbleUpon and Twitter and starts the traffic exposure in both places.
  • Publish the post to my Facebook Page
  • Publish the post to my Google+ Stream – public, circles and extended circles
  • Publish the post to my LinkedIn profile – also share with several large groups
  • Bookmark the post in appropriate tags to Delicious
  • If a post has drawn a large number of retweets I may post to Twitter a second time during the day – I generally make this decision and schedule the Tweet for a specific time using TweetDeck’s scheduling function

A couple things worth noting:

  • I don’t use a service or tool to cross post this to all avenues as I think they all have their own personality and following and I take a minute to point out something different about the post in each network.
  • I participate in many other ways, unrelated to my own content promotion in each of these networks
  • I check back several times a day, depending on my schedule to participate in any conversations happening around the content, including comments on the original blog post
  • I have +1, LinkedIn, and Facebook buttons above every blog post
  • I have links to share the content with popular bookmarking sites on the blog posts (sociable plugin) and in the RSS feed (Feedburner feed flare option)
  • I often highlight a particularly well read blog post or two from the week in my weekly email newsletter

So, what would you add to this list?

Start Making Video Calls on Facebook Right Now

Yesterday Facebook announced the addition of Skype enabled video calls inside the walls of Facebook. (Hmm, wonder if they own those too – but that’s another issue)

Today I’m seeing some folks anxiously awaiting for this feature to come to their page, so I thought I would do a quick post about using it now. I actually did a video chat with my buddy Chris Brogan during the Facebook press conference as the service was ready then.

First off go to the Facebook Video Calling Page and click the get started button.

As with most things online, your operating system, security settings and browser will impact what happens next, but Facebook will actually try to install a calling plugin that you’ll need. I’ve seen some reports of challenges with this step. My set-up is a Mac running Firefox and it went very smoothly. (Oh, Opera Browser is not supported at all.)


Next you can go back to your page or profile and, just like chat, find friends that are online, click on one and hit the camera icon to start a call. The good news is that they don’t need to have the plugin installed because FB will prompt them through it. They will of course need to have a camera and mic on, and hopefully done their hair, but they choose whether or not to take the call.

Pretty simple really.

It’s worth noting the Google’s Hangouts, part of Google+, allows group video chat while, for now, FB is one to one. Heavy Facebook will certainly will like this feature, but the Hangouts function does take a little of the awesomeness out of this new Facebook tool.

I do think business folks will find this feature useful for doing quick meeting or catching up and saying hi to a customer or vendor.