It’s Time to Rethink Facebook

You’re thinking of leaving Facebook. I’m thinking of leaving Facebook. You want to leave because you feel like your data is not safe, the customer experience is not what it used to be and you’re creeped out by the contextual advertising and oh yea, the political vitriol. It may be time to evaluate the value of your relationship with Facebook.

You feel this way because in September of 2018 there was a data breach that affected 50 million users, and you might have been one of them. That’s a legit reason. Then there was the Cambridge Analytica scandal. You know, the one in which the political consulting firm connected to the Trump campaign, harvested the sensitive data of nearly 87 million Facebook users without their explicit permission, and then did something with it; but you’re not sure what “it” is. I’m not either, but that’s a pretty good reason to leave too.. And then there’s that whole contextual advertising thing taking place on the social network. You search for sunglasses and low and behold your Facebook pages are filled with Ray Ban ads. It IS creepy, especially when we start to fold AI into the mix (Are they listening to me?)

Regardless of your level of discontent, chances are you might be looking around and wondering out loud, is there something better? If you’re in the United States and you’re between the ages of 25 and 34, you’re wondering out loud the most, as this group has the most Facebook users at 50 million+.  In Europe, the feeling is no less different.  creating the global sense that Facebook users need more than what Facebook is giving. Or is it what they are taking? Depends on who you’re talking to.

The crux of the issue isn’t that you want to leave Facebook just because of the data breaches, the contextual advertising and the never-ending political finger pointing. The real raison d’être could be that you just don’t like the user experience anymore. I know I don’t. It has grown stale and repetitive. In fact, I’m willing to bet that you’ve grown weary of seeing the same people posting over and over about the same things, the same dialogue, over and over and over again. You like them as people for the most part but now they’re getting on your nerves. Just walk away you’re told, don’t log on. You try, but Facebook is everyone’s favorite dumpster fire, train wreck, car wreck, church choir, food-court, public drunk, on full display. You can’t turn away. It’s a voyeur’s delight.

Just for some perspective, do you know how many of the 2.2 billion users that Facebook has, have bailed due to the data breach? A lot. in some cases, upwards of 40% have decided to take “a break” from the social network. So my question is this. Has Facebook lost the trust of its core users or the fringe users? Forty percent is a lot.

Data breaches aside, and for some additional perspective, what do users like about the Facebook UX? For some, it’s graphic, it’s visual and it’s conversational. For others, it’s all about the connective aspect of the platform and the ability to “lurk” on what’s occurring in other peoples’ lives. Still some like the fact that the barrier of entry into the collective pulse of what is current, is low and seamless. The graphical layout is semi-easy on the eyes and the browsing experience is uber simple and it’s content rich. For many, it has replaced what AOL used to be to the masses-an internet portal into the world around us, except with more of a direct lifeline to our friends, their friends, our families, our likes and of course our dislikes. But Facebook is flawed.

As AOL eventually became overrun by “better” alternatives and we all became pretty weary of another AOL disc in the mail, this too shall pass with Facebook. Regardless of the fact that there are 2 billion active users on the social network, we will move on to something newer and shinier. It’s inevitable and the numbers are slowly starting to say the same thing.

At its peak, AOL had over 35 million active users, and though those numbers pale in comparison to Facebook, those were really big numbers back then. However, if you had told those 35 million users that eventually AOL would be deemed irrelevant in less than 10 years, they might have laughed. So what is currently out there that might replace Facebook? Here’s a list of contenders/pretenders “other” than Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Snap, in no particular order. Peruse them in depth at your leisure. I don’t endorse them, I just found them.

  1. Diaspora
  2. Minds
  3.  Raftr 
  4. Mastodon
  5. Ello
  6. Family Wall
  7. Next Door
  8. 23 Snaps
  9. Edmodo
  10. MeWe
  11. Steemit
  12. Vero
  13. Sociall.io

So what will it take for these networks, or a future network to succeed? Will it be a data thing? A privacy thing? Will it be something in which we pay to play? In my opinion, it’s going to take something that is not Facebook in the least bit. Something that will be completely different and more experiential. Perhaps it’s VR or AR based. It will be equivalent of the Model T versus the horse. When Facebook came on the scene, there was nothing like it. There were things like it already such as MySpace and or Friendster, but we had seen nothing quite like it.

Clearly social networking and social networks fill a niche and a need to communicate, to share, to emote and to vent, but at what cost? When does Facebook jump the shark?

The Attention Economy is Distracting Me

distract

Twitter has the RT button and the favorite button. Linkedin has an endorse button, Facebook has a like button and G+ has the plus.  I know you “get” what they all do, at least you should, but I have a question for you.  Aren’t all of those social buttons just surface level engagement triggers that require little or no engagement by the user and the recipient? Yes? No?

Of course they are, and I’m OK with it  and you should be too. Let me explain. I’ll keep it brief.  🙂

When you notice or have been notified that you have been liked or favorited or endorsed, what changes for you? How do you react? Do you feel that you now must reciprocate? Do you like the attention you just received? Was it your goal to get attention? Do you care? Do you feel anything or do you just move on? It all depends on who it is, right? For me, I try to take time to understand the why behind the why. Why did that person do what they just did? What were they trying to elicit from me? Why me? But maybe I’m looking too deeply into the action than the action itself really deserves? I think I am.

You see, because of the volume of content that one is subjected to each and every day, at least from my standpoint, the ability to give that content or source, all of the needed attention it made greatly deserve, is greatly diminished. The best you might get from me as I race past your stuff at 100 mph, is the virtual equivalent of a nod.

It doesn’t mean that I don’t want to read your stuff, it’s just that the best you can get from me right now is a like or a star or a favorite.

The only slight little problem with that “action,” is that by allowing people to click a like or favorite button, we unknowingly might be reducing true engagement and the possibility of an actual, ok semi-actual, conversation.

The irony though, is that we (marketers) still look at that piece of user/consumer data as being really valuable; and don’t get me wrong, it does have a use and value. It’s just that we’re so desperate for good social data, that we’re willing to create, support and proactively use a somewhat worthy and somewhat hollow metric that is The Like, The RT, The Endorse and The Favorite.

What those buttons really measure is a modicum of attention, a flicker of action and the “hope” of engagement.  So why are we suckers for clicking on them?  For the majority of users, NOT clicking the button means that they might NOT get something for their time and effort. For the rest of us, clicking is the least (or maybe the most) that can we do in this always on, multi-channel, multi-device world.

I do want to read your stuff, I really do. I just don’t have an answer for you yet on how I can add your content to the 32 tabs I have open, Besides, I’m too busy looking at someone’s profile who I don’t know, endorsing me for a skill I don’t have on Linkedin. :).

Relationships In A Socially Connected World

In the New York Times recently there was an article titled, My Dinner With Clay Shirky, and What I Learned About Friendship which I highly recommend. The piece was essentially about an authors  dinner experience with noted writer, speaker, and internet ethnographer Clay Shirky. If you don’t know who Clay Shirky is, go to Amazon and read some excerpts from his two books Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organization and Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age.

The gist of the NY Times piece was that if we’re not careful we could spend so much time interacting with people on the Web that we could become a little socially deficient. Ironically, this week we held a social media tweetchat hosted by Jamie Sandford on how one cultivates relationships in a social world. The parallels were neat and not lost on me. On the one hand we had Shirky wanting us to take it offline and on the other, we had a group of people in a tweetchat talking about how to make online connections stronger with the eventuality that we do take them offline.

Complete and utter online social immersion can make us feel like we are so busy with our connections that don’t have time for the offline world. Just as quickly however, if we don’t take the time to balance the two or at least make the attempt to deepen our online relationships we can easily feel the false euphoric high of quantity give us the semblance of relationships. Yet the reality is the payoff rests in face to face interactions.  We spend so much time cultivating our numbers on various social platforms that we begin to think we have “a lot” of “friends”.

Our manufactured  social world allows to think we’re popular until we step out from behind the machine. The point? Even in a connected world, we have to make the effort to cultivate a virtual relationship into something greater than the sum total of the networks that we are part of.

Chances Are You’ve Met Less Than 5% of the People in Your Social Network

The difference between a friend, an acquaintance and the friends and acquaintances we have met online is blurring…Social media would seem to dictate or would assume that I’m supposed to develop or have developed these deep online, networked, connections, i.e. That I have met them. Jay Baer calls it false intimacy. Does it matter that I have not met them? Absolutely not. Or maybe it does…

But maybe we should quickly look at what the definition of “connected” is. Check this out:

con·nect·ed http://img.tfd.com/m/sound.swf (k-nktd)

adj.

1. Joined or fastened together.
2. Mathematics

a. Not decomposable into two disjoint nonempty open sets.
b. Having a continuous path between any two points. Used of a curve, set, or surface.
3. Related by family.
4. Logically or intelligibly ordered or presented; coherent: a stroke that left him incapable of connected speech.
5. Associated with or related to others, especially to influential or important people: a photographer who was well connected in the fashion world.
In our social world, most of our connections fall under either #3 or #5 with what it would seem, an emphasis on #5. To me though,the above definitions are evolved, twenty-first century, online definitions, even though they may not be. Let me check Webster’s 7th New Collegiate Dictionary real quick. The best definition I derived from that, is simply, “to have a relationship”. That’s pretty general though, but accurate in today’s day and age.
What does a relationship today look like? How is it defined? There’s the online version and the offline version. Social has allowed us to connect with people all over the place. But what does that connection consist of.  It’s being familiar with an avatar, a name, a nickname,  and a location. It’s engaging in some Twitter banter, dropping a blog comment, and maybe having some extended conversations either via Twitter, IM or email. A phone conversation?  Perhaps. In the end, nothing necessitates that we meet though. It’s ambient intimacy.
Here’s my point
I’ve actually done business with people that I’ve never met face to face, but talk to everyday through my various networks.  Even better, I got a job referral from someone that I never met face to face until after I started working at his company. The whole process occurred via Twitter and phone conversations. I got a huge consulting contract from someone who read my blog posts. Throughout the life of the contract, I met them one time. It didn’t matter.
Social allows us to connect. It is the ultimate ice breaker. The new rules? It doesn’t mean that I have to meet you to do business with you. Does it mean that if I truly want to be friends with you, that we should meet? Not really. Is that OK with you? I’m on the fence.

Internal Social Networks Versus Social Networks-Where Should You Spend Your Time?

The tug-o-war for your time when you participate on multiple social networks can be difficult. Who get’s it and who doesn’t?  Who get’s the honor of your participation can also affect your impact because THAT will be where you spend the bulk of your time. Where should you spend your time? On the networks that matter to you or on the networks where you HAVE to participate?

Does it matter if you create content or if you lurk?  It might, though either exercise require an investment of your time. The fact is, the more networks you’re in, the more likely that your content is going to suck in some of them. It’s the law of averages. You’re going to devote more time and effort to the networks that matter. For those that are of less importance, the content you create, should you even bother, will be diluted. So does the internal corporate network win then?

It Depends

You see,time, your precious time, is the primary commodity here regardless of where you spend the bulk of it and what you specifically do with it. The less time you have, the more likely you are to mail in your participation in networks that matter less. Your day is already full and now companies want you to participate in and contribute to these new growing internal networks. But what about your Facebook page, Twitter account and your blog?

If you are part of the 70%  who just read and watch stuff, though your time is still sacrificed, it won’t really move the needle on the quality of your limited contact with others in any network. So who get’s it? The benefit of your quality time that is. For those that are part of  internal corporate networks, it can be an issue. There might be the sense of obligation to participate. Even though the reality might be that you’re just going through the motions of participation, because it’s… work stuff. It really depends on what type of social media consumer or influencer you want to be, how you want to move the needle and who wins in the competition for your attention and time.

It almost seems like in the end, it’s a push and no one’s get the benefit of the best of what you might have to offer.

Indiscriminate Interconnectivity

No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main

In today’s “Uber” connected social world,  what makes things work  or why they work, is that we’re all now indiscriminately interconnected to each other. We share, we comment, we download, we upload and we consume the content of strangers in the same ways that we create it. It’s random, it’s purposeful, its meaningful and meaningless  sometimes. At the end of the day, all we are, are just real people with real names with real avatars or… real people with strangely made up names with odd avatars swimming around fish bowls of ambient connectivity.

But it works just like it does in the ocean. Thousands of species living and swimming in the same ocean without any limitations of where they can go or when. We’re curious and we have an innate desire to connect with others in that vast ocean either directly or indirectly.

It doesn’t work if we’re always in”take” mode or “bash” mode or “all about me” mode. That  quote from John Donne, the poet who lived in the 1500’s, sums up what is certainly a reality in today’s society. Whether you’re a brand trying to sell a product, someone trying to sell a book, or someone trying to get a job, or get a project, or build a book of business, you need networks, brand champions, supporters, advocates, friends and even strangers along the way to help you get where you need to go. You need us.

Its funny how in certain sports, like football for example, when success happens, you’ll invariably have certain players who will say out loud that they think that the reason why their “team” was great or why they won was because of them. Meanwhile you had 21 “other”  players who contributed to the cause. If you choose to go it alone in sports, just as in the digital world, and not embrace the networks and communities and people that helped get you there, well then, I guess you’re alone in more ways than you think.

When Familiarity Breeds Familiarity

Everything seems hard the first time we do it doesn’t it? Until it no longer ceases to be difficult and then it becomes innate, routine and sometimes mundane. On the web, we as digital marketers and change agents, worry that the sites, applications and networks that we build, share and promote aren’t intuitive enough. Yet even the toughest of sites to navigate seem to succeed with massive amounts of traffic and uniques. Why is that?

Because people want to go there. People want to use that site. No matter how difficult it is. Sites that are providing some type of payoff to be there, can overcome design inefficiencies on large scales. Be it a utility like email, a social network like Facebook, or a site where we buy stuff like Amazon or sell stuff like Ebay, people who want to, neigh need to use that site, will figure out how to use that site, no matter how difficult is it.

What does this mean?

Besides the fact that those that create web content and applications have a tremendous opportunity to deliver to users who have been inundated with a plethora of bad web stuff, great content and deliverables- What it really means is that when building for a Web 3.0 world… Less is more, more is not better, better doesn’t mean simple, simple doesn’t mean good, good can be bad, bad can be worse, simple can be bad, assuming can be bad, knowing is good, asking is better, change is good, change is bad and change is constant.

So is it a good thing to change? Who’s more comfortable with bad, you or your users?

The secret sauce of social is selfishness-and that’s not a bad thing

Excuse me while I say the following: If  it wasn’t for social media, you wouldn’t be anywhere near where you are right now in your career. To put it more succinctly, social media has made a lot of you. Yes I know that’s like saying if it wasn’t for the internet Bill Gates wouldn’t be anything but another coder, but let me back up. You see, for a lot of us, and notice I said us, social media added that missing layer. That missing dimension, that lens  into our personal, private and public lives.

Social is the accelerant.

In a way, using social is very much like wining and dining to get what we need.  For some, utilizing social media to “court” others and market ourselves, is the same as drug reps taking doctors on ski trips to “earn” their business.  Or going out on a date where we both talk about ourselves. It’s an interview. It’s the handshake and the introduction. Social is the empty seat next to you on an airplane that soon will be occupied by someone you can talk to for 3 hours. Or not. The potential is there should you choose to engage. The seat is the tool or the platform for discussion..

People have been using each other for centuries. In social media, the same holds true. People are using each other because they’re seeing that our social selves  can be so easily intertwined into our ability to create, and curate; and yet it’s also dependent on consumption, its dependent on sharing, dependent on broadcasting the message, the message that is you and me. Some of you may or may not know this but we are feeding off of each other. We’re sitting across from each other on that plane and we both have the same opportunity to talk to each other and take it to another level.

Without those elements, you are nothing but a product of what we were prior to the boom of the internet- a product of the 80’s and early 90’s. You are static. Social has added flash to your being. It’s added substance to who you are or… who you want to be, should you so choose.

It starts with Linkedin

Think about this.  Linkedin is and became one of the initial gateways into people’s lives; and for a lot of people, who were never into that “social thing”, and who are still not that social, Linkedin is their gateway into social media.  In fact, if we go by the 90-9-1 model, Linkedin might be as social as some people will ever get! But at the end of the day, is Linkedin a social network? Perhaps. It has elements of social. But what Linkedin really is, is it’s our vetting tool. It’s  our way to learn more about others, and have others learn more about us. But really it may have evolved with Linkedin, but it started with blogging.

Bloggers were considered outlaws

Social has a quid pro quo nature to it. In fact, today’s social elements were born out of the early days of blogging which were veiled in a sensibility of  “us versus them”  camaraderie. Essentially it boiled down to a  “if you show me yours I’ll show you mine” mentality of reading, commenting, and sharing each others blogs. It was almost the manual defacto way that you grew your readership. But it also allowed us to show each other and others our many layers in ways in which we never were able to before.

Blogs allowed us and allow us to say whatever we wanted when we wanted, and we used each other, and then we used someone else, and they used us too-and we let them, if it grew our readers. It’s how blogging works.  Funny but in the non-blogging world, we indirectly and directly use each other every day by associating ourselves with new people and entities that we think can help us get where we want to go. It’s not sacrilege to say this but people use each other all the time; but it might be sacrilege to say this though…Using each other is the nature of social media.

We call it social media but it could easily be called useful media.

Social has added that dimension of vetting the who, search added the dimension of vetting the what. Yet we still have to work, we still have to pay our bills, and eat, drive, sleep and do that daily mundane life stuff; because the  human element still weaves its way through all of that offline stuff. The new difference is, social media is adding that dynamic layer of personal utility. It’s adding the layer of creating who we are, so that someone might see who we are. Social is selfish. It helps us. It connects us. And that’s not a bad thing, it’s more just the reality of where we are going.

Value Drivers in Social Media

Sometimes I’m not so sure I always know what that means. Value drivers.  It’s sort of a corporate speak type of thing to essentially describe the capabilities of your company isn’t it? But really the dumbed down version of value drivers is a  term to describe the competitive advantage(s) of your company.

But what if we say you are a “social company”? What are the value drivers of your social company? What should they be?

  • You are social, you are participatory and you are producing content? (That’s a given right?)
  • You engage frequently? (Assumed)
  • It permeates your organization? (Imperative)
  • Business is derived from your social activities?
  • You are measuring your activities?

Does your organization think like this? Does anyone think like that when it comes to social business? When we all start to think like this, then we get to move beyond the the “bright new shiny thing” stage of social.