The Negatives of Social Networking Media

All the world is a Buzz about Facebook & Twitter these days. It’s almost like MySpace circa 2007, Google circa 2003 or Microsoft circa 1998. I don’t doubt the success, innovation or long-term viability of these social networking sites but I have seen that there are flaws in the system that mean that things won’t be perfect with the business along the way and we’re in for a bumpy road. Basically my point is that for all these sites give us in entertainment, social connections and opportunity they also have some negatives that are almost the equal and opposite pendulum action.

1. Time Suck – all social networking sites are using your time that you used to devote to other things. Maybe in some cases this is actually a better use of your time (instead of TV) but in most cases its time spent that you used to use for researching new information for work projects,  time actually spent talking with people in person (family/friends) or time spent doing things that really need to be done at work or home. Once the brain gets trained that you can go socialize instead of work at those times of day it’s a habit extremely hard to break. For all of us procrastinators looking for instant gratification its a real problem keeping up with work and affects the overall productivity of companies and the country as a whole. Internet access is much more prevalent and has far more users during the business day than it does at night, so there’s the proof. Unless your job is trolling these sites for sales prospects by “connecting” and making “relationships” with your customers, its a waste of time to spend more than 15 min a day.

2. Privacy – Of all the details analyzed about consumer privacy online (on Facebook) in the last few weeks the most suprising thing I’ve seen is that people really don’t care about their information online. Sure, nobody is going to post a ss number or cc number on their profile (duh) but they don’t really seem to realize the power of logging all their social interactions in one database and selling access to retailers and cpg companies who have even larger databases of information to analyze and strategize with. Is it really as fun when most of your friends are companies selling you things all the time? Twitter already has morphed into the largest opt in direct marketing platform I’ve ever seen. If people keep using it at this rate it will surpass email. The other obvious issues come with the work life balance thing and when people friend work makes and think nobody will see them rant about work or post drunk pictures on a sick day, but then again I’ve heard that its just people naturally selecting themselves out of the working pool.

3. Logic – the other issues I’ve seen coming for a while have to do with how everything that is built from large databases online with lots of consumer data seems to not work properly. There is always some algorithm developed by a science tech guy based on some theoretical calculus and it doesn’t provide relevant results. Which brings me to a repeating theme of data right now: we don’t really know what to do with it yet. Nobody knows enough real info about their customers to target them. (who has a budget for that?) And the database people just like to say they improved things a statistically insignificant amount with an algorithm tweak. The marketing strategy/process should always start with offline real life information about people and products and then develop an algorithm to show you information in that way. I don’t know why it’s always done backwards but it will keep our results irrelevant and marketing dollars wasted for a long time to come.

Why FriendFeed is no big deal

I am so lost on why so many people are gaga about friendfeed. Of all the web apps that have come out this one has the least technical savy and is not at all new in function. Is it useful? Yes, but has it been around somewhere else since 2002? YES!

I started using Livejournal in 2002 and one of the things that hooked me about it was that all my friend’s LJ blog feeds were listed in reverse cronological order on a friends page. This was great. I didn’t have to go to each blog individually to read them and I could scroll and scan through a day’s worth of posts in a few minutes. Later they added the ability to add other RSS feeds into LJ for reading as a friend. I added everything I was watching at that time. I fed everything from fickr feeds to blogs like Scoble into the mix. They even allowed you to categorize your friend feeds into different groups for more organized reading commenting was also possible direct from the feed although if it was not an LJ blog the comment would not be submitted back to the original site, just on LJ.

All this was great but almost too great. I stopped using RSS all the time in about 2006 because there were too many feeds to read and too much information to process. I couldn’t keep up. It was taking hours to get through everything even just scaning and skimming. I pretty much abandoned the feed page there even though I still post occasionally.

So, basically I am not excited about FriendFeed since it is just another incarnation of something I already have and there were limits to how much information and how many feeds and posts I could reasonably process a day. I have actually gone backwards in tech terms now and I use link buttons in my browser for the blogs or sites I read daily and I know that when that row across the top of the browser is full, one has to go if I add one. It’s is kind of a limit to how many I can monitor and keeps it under control. I also use the feedbliz email subscriptions a lot too. It creates a lot of extra email, but it is easy to scan and delete if it isn’t pertinent info and if there isn’t good info for a month I unsubscribe.

Anyway, maybe some day soon people will come to their senses and find a way to balance being aware and alert of what is happening on the net but not wasting an entire day following blog posts and feeds. It is a huge hit to productivity in America because the discovery process is buzzy and addictive when you find something huge and you always think it will be there and then your day is lost.

Engagement Marketing Metrics, ROI & Open ID

I have been reading a lot about how conversion tracking isn’t enough data to make the best decisions and engagement is the new black. It is frustrating because no one defines engagement in the same way and no one can really tell you what it is.

I do agree though that engagement is the next evolutionary step in tracking onlinemedia for ROI purposes. I think the trouble people will have will be in customizing it rather than standardizing it. I think the meaningful parts of the process will be totally different depending on the company, the media, the process and the product.

What I consider the next thing for my own tracking purposes is prior ad exposures. This is an engagement metric for the ads leading up to conversion rather than site visitors for our own site. I don’t work with analytics usually or determine how to get someone to engage with a process over and over again. I do try and figure out ways to advertise affordably and get people to complete the conversion process. This prior exposures report should provide more insight into how many, where, when and how people come to the conversion site. I am thinking it should provide us information we won’t anticipate as well as show some information we knew would be there.

I am also a bit pissed off with this stupid marketing sherpa execuitive summary report. Pretty much everything written in it is complete bunk since there are a ton of caveats to each graph and I would bet more is according to how people track and assess results than how the media actually performs. If people would track media post impression they would see the value of banners rather than just for clicks. This is so frustrating until you see the data. Then it just makes sense.

People are influenced by banners (branding) and that whole banner blindness thing had to do with the crap companies that were allowed to buy ads with spammy business practices and scams.  They are still out there and as long as they are allowed because of corporate greed, people will keep ignoring some of the good ads for things they really do want and need. Targeting is part of the equation, but as far as targeting goes, we are still in the dark ages.

This brings me to another beef I have with the online ad industry right now. Everyone LOVES behavioral targeting, even if they don’t know what that means. (It has nothing to do with your behavior most of the time by the way.) It is a tracking of people who have been selected as a target by their profile info (Yahoo) or by visiting your site before and the ads follow you around on the web. The latter is the better way to do this (indicating actual interest rather than categorical inclusion) although we don’t know nearly enough about our target customers to really be able to target them online.

I am always asked why someone targeted for one category converts in an opposite one. Why? I have no F-ing clue dude! People are multi-faceted. They can belong to more than one interest or category even if marketers feel it shouldn’t be allowed. People have many aspects to their life and interests and they will always be that way. We won’t know all that data about them or how to process it for a long long long time.

That is what this stupid open ID thing will eventually lead to. A one stop shop for all your profiles and data so marketers can target you on hundreds of variables like what you do for fun, what you do for work and where you shop and live. (they have to sell out sometime) It would take literally hundreds of actual customer profiles to understand the marketability of each of these demographics, and then targeted messages to serve specifically to each profile type. It will take a few years to get there but I think it will get there sooner than I am personally ready for. I don’t know how to collect, assess or value those metrics about customers nor do I really want them targeting me like that.

Oy! Anyway, I am most interested in the overlapping cloud of ads that all influence someone to buy or sign up for something rather than I am in trying to figure out how to track a million personal profiles and target them with individual ads. Also, contrary to that stupid exec summary, pop-ups and unders still suck ass and you know it.

Online Christmas Shopping Coupons

I have gotten most of my Christmas shopping done even though it is not even December yet. I was smart and got online and got things bought the easy way. (without standing in long lines and driving all over the place) I do like shopping online more that shopping in malls this time of year and it’s much more productive. Luckily there are also great sales online and coupon codes for even better deals. Coupon Chief has been a site I have used before that I like because it has coupon codes to stores I actually shop at. One I shop at for myself more than others is Old Navy. They have great deals to begin with and then with a discount it’s almost like you’re getting stuff for free. I also shop a lot at Target for gifts because they have something for everyone. I have been able to find sports stuff for my brother, small kitchen appliances for my mom and well my dad is impossible to shop for. Check them out if you are stuck for what to get your family and friends this Christmas. They might give you some good ideas.

Holiday Shopping Guide Online

This time of year everyone is looking for the best gifts to give and the best deals. It is hard to pick out stuff from crowded department stores and guess what people will like. There is a new blog I ran across called shoppingaddicted.com that reviews products and has some good suggestions for gifts this christmas. It would also be helpful for keeping up with what is new and hot in consumer electronics and some shopping web sites. It’s just gotten started so there isn’t a ton of information yet, but it looks promising. Check out the blog for more info.

New Travel Site Contest for Key West

There is a new travel web site called Trusted Tours and Attractions that is having a contest drawing for free tour tickets from all the people who sign up for it’s new e-newsletter. I thought I would mention it in case you wanted a chance to win 4 tickets for the tour of your choice in the city of your choice. It doesn’t cost anything to enter.

For example if I won I might go to Key West because it’s warmer than Chicago this time of year and I have never been there. I am a fan of white beaches and crystal blue water and it looks like they have plenty of that there. I am sure it would be great to get away from the oppressive cold here for a while, but if I left I probably wouldn’t want to come back until around April or May. In Key West the Tropical Bike Tour looks like fun. I have been bike riding around here a bit and it’s a nice way to see things slow enough to enjoy them and cover more ground than walking. The Glass Bottom Boat also looks interesting with it’s view of the coral reef and I am sure that the Butterfly Conservatory would be great for taking pictures. All in all it’s a better place to be than Chicago right now.

Online Dating Sites

I am not really a fan of dating sites online because people really don’t represent themselves as who they really are online. I have met some people that way and they are always different than their profile says. I guess it’s an imbellishment thing. There are other ways though to meet people online. MySpace, Facebook and forums that allow you to see who people are through what they write over time can all be alternatives to the match.coms of the world. You can communicate over time and get to know someone in a way that isn’t fake. It’s easy to fake a profile it’s hard to fake a conversation or many conversations over time.