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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Are you social media SMART?

Infographic on how Social Media are being used...

Infographic on how Social Media are being used, and how everything is changed by them. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Are you? Well lets find out.

Social: Is community the focus of your social media campigns? Or are you just obsessed with getting the likes and show a bunchful of members (Read Zombieland of Facebook Likes) adorn your business page. If latter is the case then you are not ready for social media campaign. You are not old fashioned but you haven’t changed with time. Well, here is the time to start. Where to start? Try by visitng your competitors social media outposts – now check out others from your industry but in different geographies. Probably trendsetters are already leading the way. If you are a small business owner then read, learn and start experimenting. But you got to start NOW. Make an status update, let the love flow and let your community and customers know that you not only exist, you care too. Be social!

Measurable: Now that you have taken the plunge and there are two possibilities- either you are on your way to become a demi social media rockstar (slowly), or you are just lost in the SM jungle. Either way be cautious but not at the expense of sacrificing your social aspect. Try to gain some insights about your referral traffic. Find what is driving uers to your SM pages and then away. Are there any influencers you can establish relationship with? Does data point towards your core community? i.e. have you got their attention or are these just random users. Mind it, either way there is an opportunity to cash on – woe these users and develop a relationship, do not let them go.

Actionable: So you have got it started and you are begining to feel the love with all the likes, shares, comments and retweets. Good job! What now? Well, whats your USP? Think hard about it, and then go have a look at your community. Find ways through which you can customise your content so that it reverberates with your community. Keep them at the core, develop content that balances your busines goals with their interests. Remember, when being social all work and no play can have adverse affect on your social community. So, don’t hard sell. Try to co-create, crowdsource your content, learn and then redeliver. There are loads of engagement opportunities to avail. Don’t miss it!

Realistic: Be realistic, unless ofcourse you are Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga. Getting liions of fans and thousands of retweets isn’t practically possible. Size of your business plays a big role here. Your first objective should be to nuture your community, develop some brand awareness and get the conversations going. Aim to make stories around your brand which your community enjoys. If you are doing that much, you will be exhausted at the end of the day – but it will be rewarding.

Trackable: Track what you put out and not just bin it. Your links, posts, images and videos all add to your brand’s social capital. So, track that link going out, find out who retweets you and what. At the end of the day establish a benchmark for you- weekly and monthly. Compare it your efforts and find out how you are performing. Eventully its the ROI that matters based on your business goals. So, don’t forget to track your content and its effectivess. Possibly you have got your call to action wrong – how many downloaded that white paper you sent out or was that branded video which got most traffic to your website. Develop a set of metrics for yourself, without making it too complicated and geeky.

At the end of it all. Enjoy what you doing. Remember, its social media and unless you try to be social you cannot deliver.

Coming up in next post a Checklist to find out your SMART quotient.

The Zombieland of Facebook Likes!

Español: Icono del botón de "Me gusta&quo...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Likes are affirmation of a users’ confidence in your brand. This comes from the content you put out, the brand value that is evident, and the special offers. All of this and more comes together to form a lively community inhabiting your Facebook business page.

However, marketplace is full of people and companies who sell ‘Likes’ for as low as $50 per 10,000 likes. Is it worth it? Of course not and we will tell you why.

These likes are from fake profiles i.e. people who do not exist. Facebook can easily know about the activity from these people of unknown identities who exist just to like your page. If you still choose this option then you risk your page getting banned for good!

These likes are of no use to your brand i.e. they won’t comment, share and like your post. It makes your brand looks bad, as if you are living in a zombieland. If you truly want to gain profit from your Facebook page and are obsessed with ROI, then its real people who matter for you. Invest time, more than money and it will pay rich dividends.

So, what’s the way out? In short, start by taking a deep look into your analytics and find what is that your customer want? Align your campaign idea with your customers’ interest and make it SMART – Social, Measurable, Action driven, Realistic, and Trackable .

If you get this right, you can steer clear of dud likes!

This post by me was first published on ODigMa

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

2011 as year of Social Media revolution

2011 was truly the year when Social Media and technology took big leaps making its presence felt in the mainstream discourse of the country. Impressed by the revolution brought about by Arab spring, Indians immersed themselves watching desi viral videos, tweeting about their love for fighting corruption and also being threatened of censorship.

The year of Social Media revolution

Anna’s fight against corruption proved how to use Social Media socially in true terms. From uploading Anna’s speeches to YouTube right from Tihar jail, to letting supporters know the nuances of Lokpal through collaborative Google docs and presentations. Facebook and Twitter was used to their best advantage garnering more than half a million followers on Facebook, and thousands of tweets every hour.
Internationally, the Tunisian Mohamed Bouazizi in Dec 2010 e posted his last message on his Facebook wall before setting himself on fire after repeated police harassment. What started in Tunisia was tweeted and blogged throughout the Middle East leading to Arab spring. Countries like Egypt, Libya and Syria erupted despite government imposed internet blackouts. Armed with their cell phones and access to proxy servers the Arabs let the world know about their revolution through YouTube, twitter and Google Maps among others. Common people like Google employee Wael Ghonim played their part in mobilising people, reporting the massacres and atrocities by using technology to stay one step ahead of the government.

India Wakes to Flash Mob viral video after 26/11 anniversary

A group of 200 dancers dressed in casuals danced to the tunes of ‘Rang de basanti’ at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus generating more than a million hits on YouTube within first 4 days. Organised by Mumbaikar Shonan Kothari this flash mob synced into the national psyche riding on a patriotic wave.
Inspired by the CST Flash mob, cities like New Delhi and Chennai organised their own riding the viral wave. Talking about viral Videos, Kolaveri Di a love song sung by Dhanush went viral within 24 hours of its launched. Loved and tweeted by celebrities like Amitabh Bachchan led to the viral onlslaught on YoutTube. In little over a month, the video now has 30 million hits and has been even featured on YouTube’s blog. Several remakes of the original version has only led to its popularity establishing the importance of video as a critical content marketing tool.

Social networking top pass time among Indians

Nothing suggested otherwise but the final reaffirmation came in the month of December through a a report titled ‘It’s a social world’ by ComScore which proved beyond doubt that online Indians are truly social as much as their international counterparts. From a total online population of 45.9 million users, 43.4 million spend time on social networks like Facebook, Orkut, BharatStudent, LinkedIn and Twitter. 94.8% of online Indians use social networking, that is an average time spent of 3.4 hours. Facebook became the dominant network in India last year and continued to stay ahead of the competition.

India gets tough on Social Media

Kapil Sibal, the Indian took the Social Media companies by the horns asking them to remove offensive material from sites like Facebook, Twitter and Google. As netizens cried censorship there was confusion all around regarding what measures he intended to take to clean the web for Indians. Pharses like #idiotKapilSibal were most tweeted the day this announcement was made. Sites like Facebook and YouTube have extensive set of guidelines to remove defamatory content from their streams. However, Kapil’s pre-screening of content was considered just undoable and simply an impossible task which would required millions of pages to be screened.

India delivers Akash, the world’s cheapest tablet

What was supposed to be worth $35, the Indian tablet was launched for $60. The wifi enabled tablet based on Android operating system is set to revolutionise the education sector. Akash was widely reviewed internationally for features that prove its worth for the money with rugged features suited for Indian conditions. However, it was also criticised for its poor battery life with limited options for apps,, software, and not so impressive construction.

Lets sign off 2011 with this interesting video from Google

Last week: SOPA, Facebook, Google+ and its a Social world

New Scribd.com logo

Image via Wikipedia

Covering major highlights of last week: SOPA, Facebook, Google+ and its a Social world

SOPA: The beginning of the end?

Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), a bill with US congress had the online community entrenched with guns blazing against the government and those companies supporting it. The part of the  community consider the bill as an misguided attempt to stop web piracy. Among other things the bill proposes to introduce website blocking at the DNS level, and against any associated sites that is “facilitating” infringement, or “enabling” it on the web holding copyright infringement to websites that host user generated content. This would amount to blatant censorship and wipe millions of pages of content from several startups and companies like YouTube and Facebook. More than 40 of top Silicon Valley companies are now publicly against SOPA including Foursquare, Facebook, Twitter, Google, AOL and Mozilla among others.

The online community is protesting against those supporting SOPA. This week GoDaddy, which initially supported the bill came under fire from users on social media, some companies even threatening to withdraw 1000’s of their domains registered with it. GoDaddy finally got the message and on Friday withdrew its support to SOPA.

On Wednesday Scribd, the social reading and publishing website made every document on the site disappear word by word to reflect the implication the bill has against free speech. Paul Graham, the founder of Ycombinator, the most successful business incubator threatened to block companies supporting the bill from its demo day denying them access to millions of dollars in seed funding.

Advertisers get access to Facebook Timeline

Keeping advertisers at bay from the personal space of users has been the hallmark of social networks that have thrived in the last decade. Facebook this week announced the introduction of ‘Sponsored stories’ allowing advertisers to cannibalise your News Feed, though it would be limited to one story a day and marked as ‘sponsored’. The phenomenon of social advertisements which will utilise the content from users social graph as advertisements promise a higher conversion rate.   Facebook even created a special webpage to explain users what this new feature is and that the company spends more than $1billion each year to support its business and needs ads to pay the bills.

It’s a Facebook’s Social World

A report by the same name by Comscore for 2011 proves that it actually is a social world with 82% of world population engaging in social networking sites representing 1.2 billion users.  Facebook is way ahead of other networks and despite the launch of Google+ and LinkedIn gaining momentum none of these platforms seem likely to cause any disruption in this segment.  “In October, Facebook reached more than half of the world’s global audience (55 percent) and accounted for approximately three in every four minutes spent on social networking sites and one in every seven minutes spent online around the world.”  In Indian context 95% online audience use social networking and older age groups are catching up fast. Though, the total online users in India remain unimpressive at 45.9mn.

Google+ losing steam

Within first 2 weeks of its launch in July Google+ the much awaited and hyped social network from Google was quick to gain 10million users. According to Google’s annual Zeitgest list, ‘Google+’ was the number 2 fastest growing search term of the year.  However, the spike hasn’t lasted since the launch and the network has slowed down considerably with the exception of times when new features for the network were announced. When compared to search queries for Facebook, Google+ seems like a dwarf. Search queries are indication people’s intent and the lack of it reflect the loss of interest in the network.

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