Debunking Myths About Facebook. Really?!

Everything that catches attention always comes under the close scrutiny of the critics. Everyone has an opinion be it the tech geeks, social media experts, politicians or the general public. And when it comes to Facebook –  we love to have conversation about it both on and off it. facebook engancha

Cynics have suggested conspiracy theories of world domination in Facebook’s policies. Well, it could seem quite believable when you find the company imitating ever walk of ones social life and wrapping it for display online. It’s not that no one has tried it before- MySpace, Orkut and loads of other have traveled the same road and got lost in tech graveyard. Sometimes the burden of rising user expectations have pulled them down while at other times extreme focus on monetization of user base have got them bleeding.

Though the jury is still out on Facebook’s future – nearly a billion users network can’t be discounted that easily. The social in facebook is still strong and those who think getting the taste of e-com to the network could be the beginning of the end are in for a big surprise. Simply because ‘Money is Social’. That’s where most networks in the pre-Facebook era have lost the plot. They tried to monetize the social by selling it i.e. the numbers to advertisers anyone and everyone. Perhaps it was the only logical model that they saw delivering the moolah following the steps of big brother Google.

But Google didn’t have stakes on social until recently with G+. What these networks didn’t understand was that Google was all about numbers and algorithms – a mechanical code that barely touched upon the psyche of social existence. In fact, only thing it managed to capture was the hype and persona of the glittery banner ads with somewhat segmented traffic base which came in hordes and disappeared even quickly. But Google has evolved and learned it’s lesson about where the real money is.

So where is the real money? Well, its there where it has always been. Any guesses? Yes, its the people. People have the money. But people have a nasty habit – they don’t give you the money when you want it unless that’s what they want and they have to want it badly. And Google or Facebook  would want them to do just that.

So, what’s the great idea – Make Money Social. And Facebook is doing exactly that. It is enticing enough for people to mirror their real life or reel life relationships on the network. And now that everyone I know and you know is on Facebook what’s the next thing we can do.

Well, it’s the same thing you do every Friday after work? PARTY.

Only difference is this party doesn’t need a Friday to start. It lasts the whole week. Your fancy clothes retailer is even offering an ‘Offer’ with exclusive discount. You got shoes available too. Well, why not invite everyone else too! And you know what’s even better let’s show off to the losers who missed out. Blahhh.

Well, that’s facebook. So when next time someone tells you Social is money! They are almost right but it has always been the other way round. Remember this – whoever said money can’t buy everything didn’t know how to Facebook.

Help him log in. Peace!

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Well, this article was actually supposed to be about Myths about Facebook. The serious stuff. Will write that sometime today.

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Is Google imitating Facebook?

Google+ today came out with a redesigned user interface for the social network. More than 170 million people have upgraded to Google+, enjoying new ways to share in Search, Gmail, YouTube and lots of other places.

Google claims this to be a ‘more functional and flexible version of Google+’. The cover photo looks very similar to that of Facebook, though its smaller in size. There is more focus on photos view and apps arrangement. Seems very much inspired from Facebook.

One of the first things you’ll notice is a new way to get around the stream. There is a dynamic ribbon of applications on the left. This approach comes with lots of perks, but some of our favorites include:

  • You can drag apps up or down to create the order you want
  • You can hover over certain apps to reveal a set of quick actions
  • You can show or hide apps by moving them in and out of “More”

Google is aiming for an experience that fuses utility with beauty—one that inspires users to connect with others, and cherish the conversations that unfold. Other updates include:

  • Full bleed photos and videos that’ll make you really proud to post
  • A stream of conversation “cards” that make it easier to scan and join discussions
  • An activity drawer that highlights the community around your content

Facebook unveils Timeline for Brands

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

Timeline for regular Facebook users have been loved by some and hated by others. Bloggers have went on to write several posts, some even got out with a global study on whether Timeline should be there or not. Not minding the much negative attention Facebook has gone ahead and unveiled Timeline for brands.

Citing brand consistency requirements, Facebook Timeline will be mandatory for all pages from March 30, 201o2. For those brands which have been actively producing content this would be a great visual treat to decorate their pages with their company history and important milestones. While for the others who have got loads of fan but no content flowing through their pages, it would be sad!

Brands will be able to add a cover photo to their page. Mind it, no commercial messages, product prices or call to action will be allowed. This is what shouldn’t go in the Cover photo:

Price or purchase information, such as “40% off” or “Download it at our website”.
– Contact information, such as web address, email, mailing address or other information intended for your Page’s About section.
– References to user interface elements, such as Like or Share, or any other Facebook site features.
– Calls to action, such as “Get it now” or “Tell your friends”

Another important feature that will come is the ability to exchange private messages with your fans. Another step towards the social economy and enabling SCRM through Facebook. If you remember Google+ allows targeted conversations through circles too.

Brands will also be able to  pin selected posts on the top of their feed for a maximum period of one week. Isn’t Twitter doing the same with its enhanced profile pages aimed at brand? Okie, so Facebook is  catching up  and some love for brands never hurt.

What is going to be most criticized about Pages Timeline would be the lack of ability to set an app as a default landing page. This means you won’t be able to direct your incoming traffic to your widgets or contests. It’s going to hurt the ones who believe a fancy app is a substitute to quality engagement time on Pages.

With this  new social wave just wait and watch for colorful and visually engaging Pages from brands. Especially the ones who have a long history and more milestones to showcase. Its time to get those images out of the closet and showcase the best branding content you got. But don’t forget to engage!

Watch this interesting video from Facebook on Timeline on the ways it can be used. Here is the product guide from Facebook that you can download to learn more about its features in detail.

Have you Pinned something lately?

Pinterest!All that buzz about Pinterest being more than just the new kid on the block is getting more eyeballs than anything else in the social media circle these days. Some reports suggest that it is has more members than Google+ and perhaps is getting more traffic everyday than Twitter.

Well, you can be the judge of that. However, pinning things on a board is not bad and guess what, brands like Adidas are already pinning their stuff on it. For retailers this is another opportunity to share their content and connect with their community.

Though I have been one of the early adopters of Pinterest, it only recently that I started using it actively. You can find my two boards Social Media in Pics, and My First Month in Delhi. I plan to start more boards and keep pinning on a variety of social media and online marketing topics in general.

You can follow my Pinterest profile here: http://pinterest.com/vishalsharrma

Missing your fans on Facebook? Want to know why?

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

So, you have been on Facebook for quite some time and even got a business page setup for your brand in one proud moment. You expected people to like your jokes, share your photos and comment on your posts, as they have been doing on your competitors Facebook page.

However, nothing seems to be working and the loneliness if starting to hurt your brand. Well, failure at community management is the most common mistake committed by brands. This hurts their chances to make any breakthrough in lead generation, client servicing, and becoming a brand that is social and connected.

Why this happens?

1. Lack of Objectives: Facebook is a great marketing platform or that’s what you heard from someone. However, don’t forget that the rules of marketing still uphold for the social network. Start by defining your social media objectives. What do you plan to do with your Facebook page and the SM identity in general? What are the end objectives? Thinking about these questions would help you define your branding and content strategy.

2. Push Strategy: Give your fans what they want and not what you are. Post what you core community is interested in and not just what you are good at. Bottom line is do not hard sell trying to make a traditional sales pitch. Be social and become part of the conversation!

3. Know your community: Make use of range of free analytic tools like Facebook InsightsSocialMention and Google Alerts to know where your community resides and what they are talking about. Start listening to their conversations on social networks, blogs, forums and jump in where ever you can without being too nosey.

4. Have a content strategy: Develop a social media calendar for your  content strategy that could deliver high engagement levels i.e. where users willingly choose to embrace you brand. You can do that by developing Facebook apps, coupons, contests, videos, cartoons etc. Your fans or their friends will always trace back the links to your online identity getting you more traffic and viral engagement. Never abandon your Facebook page and always keep it updated.

Remember social networks like Facebook helps you embrace social i.e. relying on users recommendations and likes to give thumbs up to your products and services, so that even their friends become positively disposed towards your brand. Can you choose to ignore it?

The above post was first published on oDigMa’s blog

Google+ swells to 63mn mark with 625,000 joining every day

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

Google +, the social network launched by Google earlier in the year to compete against Facebook have crossed 62 million user mark i.e. a daily growth of 625,000 user sign ups every day. This was reported by Paul Allen, as expected on his Google+ page on Wednesday. Paul leads research firm Elance that has been tracking Google+ data ever since it was launched.

This is a huge jump from the 50million user mark which was reported on Dec 1 this year. Google+ holds the record of fastest organic and viral growth when it touched 10million user base within first 2 weeks of its launch in July. There could be several reasons for this growth as Paul clarifies in his update on the network, “Google+ is adding new users at a very rapid pace. It may be the holidays, the TV commercials, the Android 4 signups, celebrity and brand appeal, or positive word of mouth, or a combination of all these factors, but there is no question that the number of new users signing up for Google+ each day has accelerated markedly in the past several weeks.”
Google has engaged in aggressive advertising strategy this December with a commercial highlighting Google+’s ‘Hangout’ feature with Jim Henson’s The Muppets. Hangout is a group video chat feature allowing multiple users to have group chat sessions at the same time.
The festive season has given a boost to the numbers as 24% of the total number of users joined the network in December. By this rate Paul predicts Google+ to touch 293 million users by 2012, “If this rate of new signups (625k daily) continues then Google+ will reach 100 million users on Feb. 25th and 200 million users on August 3. They will finish 2012 with 293 million users.”

Recently another report released by ComScore titled ‘It’s a Social World’ has pegged the total user base at 67 million members. Google+ was also the number 2 most searched keyword of 2011 as put by Google’s annual Zeitgest list reaffirming the growing interest in the network. However, with the exception of this spike in the month of December, interest in Google+ has been on the decline overall. Google hasn’t released any figures regarding the total number of active users on the network which it has managed to retain. The number of active users is often substantially low as compared to the total number of sign ups on social networks which have high attrition rate. Google+ is expected to enrich user experience by assimilating +1’s (equivalent of Facebook Likes) in search engine queries and across all Google services.

95% of online Indians spend time on social networking sites

English: India Gate

Image via Wikipedia

The trend of social networking has been growing worldwide and India is no exception with 95% of the online population spending time on social networking sites. This data was revealed today as part of Comscore’s 2011 Social report unveiled today.

For China the figures stand at 53%, US and UK lead with 98% followed by Brazil at 97%. India holds a total online audience (15+ age group) of 45.9mn with those frequenting social networking sites pegged at 43.5mn. The average time spent by Indians on these networks is 3.4 hours. Regardless of how open or closed a society may be, more than half of local online populations are engaging in online social networking, making the practice comparatively ubiquitous around the world.’ This is part of data for October 2011.

It’s no surprise that Facebook has emerged as dominant player among social networking sites behind Google sites and Microsoft sites. Facebook overtook Orkut in July 2010 as the number one player by the virtue of total unique visitors. Facebook has 81.9% reach to India audience with 37,600 total unique visitors followed by Orkut, LinkedIn, BharatStudent and Twitter. Facebook is way ahead of the competition in the Indian market with an avergae user spending 221.8 minutes, for Orkut its 21.4 minutes and others even less.

Facebook has managed to reach 55% of world’s global audience and accounted for approximately ‘3 in every 4 minutes spent on social networking sites and 1 in every 7 minutes spent online around the world.’ Facebook is showing no signs of slowing down after it overtook orkut in India and is expected to soon become the dominant social network in Brazil as well. However, it still trails behind regional social networks in Poland and South Korea. Facebook is blocked in China losing access to a large online audience.

According to the report, social networking sites now reach 82% of the world’s online population, representing 1.2 billion users around the world. This is in sycn with the global internet adoption curve and increase in connectivity with nearly 1 in 5 minutes online is spent on social networking sites.

Where age groups is concerned, social networking sites are no longer frequented by young ‘kids’ only. In India,  55+ age group is fast emerging the leading segment with a penetration of 83.3% (males) and 87.6% (females).  The highest reach is for the 15-24 age group with 99% of the population.

Compared to rest of the world the East Asian countries spend least amount of time on social networks with the exception of Phillippines, where 43% of the online time is spent on social networks.

The full ComScore report can be accessed here

This article of mine was originally published in Daily Post. You can also access it here