Archive | February, 2009

Two quick thoughts on social media and technology choices

I was scanning Twitter this a.m. to catch up on the world and I ran across a link to Mike Moran‘s interview with Paul Gillin about how corporations are using social media well, and how they’re using it poorly. The interview is a great, quick read that I highly recommend.

Two points stood out to me. The first is Gillin talking about how many marketers miss the “social” or personal aspect of social media:

I’m frequently surprised at how many marketers treat social media campaigns the same way they treated mass media campaigns. They dish out bland, homogenized messages meant to reach a large audience. That completely misses the point.

A few questions later, he’s definitely preaching to my choir when he talks about corporations choosing tools before strategies:

I would say starting with the tool is the most common mistake. Someone says “Let’s start a blog,” and so they figure out a way to start a blog regardless of whether a blog makes any strategic sense for them all.

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Search engine optimization isn't mysterious: Finding your keywords

I recently had a business owner ask me about the money she’d been spending on search engine optimization. She’s a small, local business owner with one part-time employee, and she was spending $50 a month with a company that promised to ensure her business would display on “the first page of Google results.”

This business owner happened to have TWO listings on the front page of Google anyway — free listings. One in the Google Local map section, and one in organic search. I thought, well, then she must have a keyword ad, and that’s what this company was managing.

Nope.

Here’s my basic thought on search engine optimization — also known as SEO: If it sounds like a scam, it is.

No one can promise to get you on the first page of Google for your desired keyword. However, there are several easy things you can do to improve your own search engine rankings, or that you can work with a reputable SEO firm to do.

So I’ll make a few posts in the coming days to tell you about things that anyone can do to improve their search engine rankings. First up: Using keywords.

Keywords sound mysterious to many people when they first begin to learn about SEO, but they aren’t. Keywords are what people type into the search box on Google, Yahoo! or any other search engine. If you’re using the same keywords on your website that people type into the search box when they’re looking for your kind of company, you’re more likely to show up in their search results.

When you’re picking keywords, you’re trying to get into your potential customer’s brain and ask, Now, if I wanted a business that does X, how would I search for it online? There are no rules about “keywords” and no magic way to identify the best ones. But there are some tricks you can try to hone your keywords.

We often make assumptions about ourselves that our customers don’t make. We use industry slang to identify ourselves or talk inside baseball. Our customers don’t.

  • So, ask your customers: How would you search for me on Google if you didn’t know the name of my company?
  • Check your website’s incoming search results to see what keywords DO bring people to you.
  • And search yourself to find your competitors online — with a description of what they do, not their company names — to see what keywords are most successful.

These three tips will get you a long way down the road to the right keywords for your organization. If you’re ready to take another step, you can also check out some free tools from Google: the Search-Based Keyword Tool, and the AdWords Keyword Tool. Primarily designed to help you run a Google AdWords campaign, these tools can also help you find keywords you can use on your site.

Next time, I’ll share some ideas about what you should be doing with those keywords.

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What you shouldn't learn from the Facebook TOS incident

Earlier this week, Facebook released a new terms of service agreement, which appeared to give Facebook perpetual, non-exclusive copyright to anything you post there.

After a bunch of back and forth in the blogosphere [I do hate that word, but this is really where it was happening], and general demonizing of Facebook itself, and the creation of several “I hate the new Facebook TOS” groups on Facebook itself, the company finally said, umm, we didn’t mean to make y’all mad. Let’s forget this ever happened, mmk?

And their intent seems to be, they’ll fix what they were trying to fix the first time around, with some overhauled terms, one day soon. But that they’re really not trying to steal our stuff.

What not to learn
And all this is very well and good. But I would hate for anyone to take away this lesson from the Great Facebook TOS incident of February 2009:

You can be sloppy and/or abuse your site’s users all you want.

Now, if Facebook didn’t have a history of actually doing that, I’d be more willing to excuse them for this incident. I think they really may just have not realized the loophole their new terms created for abuse of users’ content. But many significant developments on Facebook do seem to happen with this stutter-step approach:

  1. Facebook adds a new feature [the News Feed, Beacon] without properly sharing the benefits with the community.
  2. People have a cow.
  3. Facebook retreats or partially retreats.
  4. People simmer down and continuing sharing what they had for breakfast with everyone they know.

Here’s the bottom line: Facebook gets away with this kind of behavior because — according to Mark Zuckerberg’s recent blog post — if Facebook were a country, it would be the 6th most populous country on earth. China, India, the U.S., Indonesia, Brazil, Facebook. You can’t get the access Facebook gives you anywhere else.

The rest of us aren’t Facebook
In most other online communities — and especially small, private-label, or local communities — the group needs each user far more than the user needs the group. So when we’re managing a community, we have to remember that our efforts had better make sense the first time around. We’d better be transparent. And we’d better do our best to be useful to the community.

It’s just too easy for a community member to walk when we abuse them. No matter what Facebook demonstrates to the contrary.

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The Facebook TOS debacle: You probably don't care

Today, Consumerist made a big splash in certain geeky communities by identifying a passage that’s been removed from the Facebook terms of service agreement. Now, Facebook asserts the perpetual, non-exclusive right to any content you post on the site, even if you [or they] delete your account.

I’m actually one of those geeks who reads TOS agreements. I think I’ve read them for every major social network/content site I use. I don’t agree with all the provisions in all of them, but so far, I’ve been willing to agree to them legally, because the benefits of using the services have outweighed my disagreements with their legal positions.

The reality is outlined nicely by my Twitter friend Eyebee, however. Most people just don’t care.

…most people aren’t even going to read about it, and most that do won’t understand the implications, or even care about it anyway.

If you still care
I found a great analysis of the whole situation over at Mashable. It’s worth reading and understanding–and it makes a decent guess at Facebook’s motivation.

My thought here is that both points are relevant. Most people don’t care, but this situation clearly highlights an issue that we haven’t yet figured out the right way to resolve legally.

The real problem
Copyright law and digital rights management simply haven’t kept up with technology. I’m not one to advocate more regulation and legislation, particularly in this area–frankly, I think most in Congress understand less about the implications of our print-based copyright law on the Internet than most 22-year-olds at this point. I’m trying hard to think of something Congress has done about copyright recently that I liked. Hmm. Still thinking.

But situations like this one at Facebook–where posting content from various sources, and allowing it to be shared on various destinations–simply aren’t covered by existing law. And so we’re going to continue having these copyright and licensing issues for a long time.

Update: The Industry Standard gets the scoop from Facebook, who’s now also blogging about the TOS issue.

My final point: Facebook may CLAIM it intends to play nice here. And I suspect it does. But the new TOS agreement allows it not to.

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I'll now say something nice about Ning

I’m easy. In fact, I’m a flat-out sucker for the director of support making a comment on my blog and apologizing for my problem.

I’ve complained in the past couple of days about some problems I had with Ning, and today, Laura G. from Ning let me know that in one instance, I’d actually run into a bug that they’ve now fixed.

So I will just add this as my final though on Ning for a while: It may be frustrating, but they are paying attention. So, thanks, Laura G.

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Still not sure what to say about Ning

Yesterday, I was complaining about Ning making it too hard to change my email. But I still wanted to fix it, so I dug around and found the Ning test site I’d built so I could update my email, as my other site told me I’d have to do.

And — you already knew this, didn’t you — I had a third email account on my test site.

Stumped, I went back to Digital Nashville, where I wanted to update my contact info in the first place. I tried again to change my email in the profile area. No dice. Same error as before. I clicked the “Settings” button in the top right. Your email address is also listed there. And there, Ning let me update my email.

I honestly can’t tell the difference between the Profile and the Settings pages. They look exactly the same. So I’m still calling this whole experience a disaster, even though I did update my email in the end. I’ve said for a long time that Ning is too hard to use, though it still seems to be better than any alternative. I may have to revise my thoughts there….maybe nothing is better.

Please tell me where I’m being an idiot here. I really like the theory of Ning. I want to like the reality of Ning. I just haven’t found any reason to yet.

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