Social Media

“During the NCAA basketball tournament I heard announcer Jim Nantz telling viewers to go to CBSsports.com for “tournament related social media.” A week later I noticed a category at Maria Shriver’s site for “social media.”

Strange thing is I’ve never heard a non-tech person use the phrase “social media.” Normal people mention being friends on Facebook or reading someone’s tweets on Twitter. They don’t say, “I want to get some social media.”

It’s a good reminder of how easy it is to get caught up in industry jargon and how we talk instead of how they (i.e. customers) actually think/talk. The phrase you use internally isn’t necessarily the one you should use with the outside world.”
{Matt via 37Signals}

The problem here is obvious, but as you can tell from the comments to the post, the solution is not as obvious.

Further Reading: Social Media – 37Signals

 

Content should be appropriate

There’s really only one central principle of good content: it should be appropriate for your business, for your users, and for its context. Appropriate in its method of delivery, in its style and structure, and above all in its substance. Content strategy is the practice of determining what each of those things means for your project—and how to get there from where you are now.
{Erin Kissane – A Checklist for Content Work}

Further Reading: http://www.alistapart.com/articles/a-checklist-for-content-work/

Days of our connected lives

Last week I wrote on Twitter that forums and social media hurt my optimism in the future of mankind. I wrote this after wasting time reading a couple flame wars on forums and after seeing a bunch of ignorant comments on Twitter and Facebook.
Since then, things have not improved. Even in my small ‘twittersphere’ (both my followers and following list are under 150), there has been too much drama lately. To call us a bunch of high-schoolers would be an insult to adolescents world wide. There is a reason why cocktail parties end after a couple hours. Social media and internet don’t have that luxury. We’re all still around after getting drunk and too familiar with each other, and that’s when the gloves come off.
The accessibility and diversity of our online social circle provides great opportunities, but with that comes great responsibility. Which, apparently, is tough to uphold 24/7. I’m not writing this from an ivory tower, I’m just as guilty as the next guy.
Global and immediate connectivity has enabled great things, from revolutions to people just socializing with peers that live halfway around the globe. It also allows us to pick fights with strangers, spew ignorant BS and turn fiction into fact through the power of repetition. Maybe there should be an international day of on-line restraint? I guess that would just mean turning our devices off for a while. After all is said and done, were all individuals and it’s tough to be empathetic when others don’t share our beliefs. Especially in 140 characters.

Transparency pays off

When I first started using Google’s browser, Chrome, I noticed how the ads served up were much more targeted than I what I was used to.  I also noticed that I have a much harder time ignoring targeted ads.  I hardly ever notice the  regular ads that clutter the web pages I visit.  Subconsciously I must have trained my brain to ignore this kind of advertising.  Since these targeted ads feature content directly related to my recent web searches, they stand out more and they cause my privacy paranoia to flare up.

Despite Chrome being the fastest browser I had ever used, the ads were annoying enough for me to stop using it as my main browser.  I even avoided buying from the business that was serving most of these ads to me.  Then other browsers became better (or worse?) at serving up targeted ads so I resorted to clearing my cookies and history more often.  I started using Chrome again but still keep Firefox as my main browser.

Zappos Criteo Screenshot
Zappos Criteo Screenshot, click to view larger

Then something interesting happened.  After browsing Zappos last week, I was presented with targeted Zappos ads for shoes similar to the ones I was looking for.  This time however, there was a “Why am I seeing this ad?” link included.  Clicking this link, redirected me to a Zappos branded page on ‘Criteo.com’.  The page explains how targeted ads work, why I received the ad and even what happens in the background to make this work.  Apparently, my status with Criteo is that I have an active cookie, I have not opted out and I have a cookie from Criteo.  What’s nice is that this page gives me the option to ‘opt-out’,  not just once, in a small print footer, but several times and in clearly visible large print.  Actually, the original link on the ad, the one that led me to this information, was also big, clear and prominent.  Criteo even gave me instructions on how to turn off third party cookies altogether, which would implicitely opt-me-out of most other targeted ad services as well.

I did not opt out, neither did I go and delete all my cookies.  I figure if Zappos and Criteo are honest about the information they have on me, give me a fair chance to opt-out and even teach me how to turn off third party cookies altogether, there is little harm in returning the favor with some limited and anonymous information about my browsing behaviour.

I ended up buying shoes online, not from Zappos, but I’ll, voluntary, continue to see their hard-to-ignore-ads.

Transparency pays off.

Further Reading:
Criteo Privacy Policy

Yahoo planning to shut down Delicious

Unfortunately it looks like the rumor of the day is true:  Yahoo is planning to shut down the Delicious bookmarking service.  After Apple’s shutdown of Lala, this is another one of my favorite web services that gets closed after being acquired by a bigger company. I guess Mark Zuckerberg knew what he was doing when he turned down Yahoo’s offer to buy Facebook.  Nothing is free, especially not when it’s free of ads(1). I’m just glad I own all of the content that I publish here.  Somewhere in my old fashioned paper notebook I keep a list of web services I use. I should have a look at that list and make sure that the services I care about can be exported and backed up easily.

“Part of our organizational streamlining involves cutting our investment in under performing or off-strategy products to put better focus on our core strengths and fund new innovation in the next year and beyond,[…]”
{Statement provided by Yahoo, via CNET }

(1)Except of course true open source initiatives like WordPress.org

Le Pain Quotidien on Facebook

Because I like to know what the soup of the day is without walking over to Le Pain Quotidien, I follow them (@lepainquotidien) on Twitter.  While I originally started following them for this very mundane and practical reason, I’ve been surprised at how well they use this channel to communicate with their customers.

One of the things I like is that they don’t send out a million tweets everyday. Some companies and individuals I follow, tweet so much that I’m tempted to stop following them altogether.  And if I continue to follow them, I hardly ever read their tweets anymore. I’m looking at you @mashable and @nytimes! A twitter feed is not an RSS feed! Sometimes less is more.  On Twitter, less is almost always more!
Another admirable characteristic is that they occasionally reply to people that have mentioned them, but only if they have something worthwhile to say, not systematically and definitely not through some automated process. This way they really show their customers that there are real people behind the brand. However much we all hate the term social media, there is a reason why these media are supposed to be social.

OK, so these are two examples of why Le Pain Quotidien has a healthy Twitter strategy. Surely, they are not the only company that does things right? Why single them out? I could say it’s because they are Belgian and so am I.  But if that was the reason, I could have also used @waffletruck as an example because they are Belgian too and they have a pretty good Twitter feed too. The real reason is this link that @lepainquotidien tweeted yesterday.  “Ever wondered why we serve our organic coffee in bowls?” Honestly? No, I haven’t.  But now that you mention it, I am curious to know.  If you are too, you’ll have to follow the link to read all about it.
You’ll find a cute, tongue-in-cheek explanation of something as trivial as the absence of handles on their cups.  They briefly touch upon a number of details that makes the company a little more unique and a lot more like-able.

I don’t know who was behind this, it might have been a marketing agency, or it might have been someone in their own marketing team.  It doesn’t matter.  I think it’s a great example of using the individual strengths of both Twitter and Facebook.  I love how they used Twitter to get my attention and, with a little teaser, pulled me over to their Facebook page. Furthermore, once they had my attention they didn’t ruin it by trying to sell me something.  Instead they gave me something that I’ll be able to remember and smile about the next time I have one of their hot drinks from a bowl.