I’m sorry, but what the eff?

Social Media Madness
When I started writing this, it was supposed to be a very professional, neutral perspective. But this evening, I had a – not exactly a conversation, but more of a highly surreal experience – that’s left my brain vibrating in my skull like a tuning fork.
Cut a long story short, I posted a social media / online marketing query, addressed to the SMO agencies that are cropping up all over the place. It was meant to do a brief check of capabilities and costs. It instead opened a vision into insanity. Some brief excerpts follow –
Me: I have a website and a Facebook page, and I want to build traffic for both.
He: I don’t understand. Why are you confusing online and social media?
Me: Wha-

He: Don’t do facebook advertising. You pay money for a lead, he joins your page, he unjoins, your money is lost. Go with our ‘Organic Fanbase Building’.
Me: How does that work?
He: We have (large number) fans across all the other pages we’ve built for (frighteningly high-profile list of clients). We blast them all a message them asking them to join your page.
Me: But, but… I want to target a specific audience… say, only men. (At least that, if not age groups, locations, and preferences / interests! For God’s sake!)
He: Don’t restrict audiences in social media. Go for everyone. Everywhere. Get as many as you can.
Me: Er. Ah. Um –  my service is only available in India.
He: No problem. Just restrict page settings to be visible only in India.
Me: But haven’t you already blasted an untargeted message to everyone (literally everyone) about this page?
He: Yes.
(and nothing further. No explanation, justification, or acknowledgement that this was a bloody stupid thing to do.)

Me: Do you set up and run Google Adwords campaigns?
He: No, but it’s a ten-minute job. You can easily run it yourself.
(point of interest – I’m reading up SEM material, and even to get half of the basics for the Individual Certification for Adwords Fundamentals has taken over a dozen hours of reading. Or, in this twilight zone I’m in tonight, ten minutes.)

Me: What do you do with Twitter?
He: Tweets work only with celebs. Do you have a brand ambassador who can tweet about your product? Write something entertaining, some gossip?
Me: Er… no. I don’t have celebrity brand ambassadors.
He: Oh. Bad luck, then.

Me: Can you set up a branded twitter page / account, and manage it?
He: Of course! We create custom Twitter pages and manage it for you. Only Rs. (steep figure) per month. We take care of everything. The only thing we don’t do, is respond to followers.

Me: You do lead gen forms and processes?
He: Yes. Rs. X (koffff) for simple, Rs. 2X for email verified – but we want a guarantee from you that all your mails go 100% into user inboxes, and not into any promo folders, spam, or junk. Give us this guarantee.

Me: What about mobile verification of leads?
He: Yes.
He: Meaning, we will help you set up the mobile system.
He: Introduce you to the mobile people… operators… there’s a lot of technical stuff… we hand-hold you to let you set it up yourself.
Me: Custom facebook pages?
He: Yes, for Rs. (dear God) we do facebook ‘page beautification’.
(turns out he meant an FBML box on the wall. This, after I mentioned in my first mail to him, ‘an FBML box on the wall.’)

And the last comment – please note, after he has advised against facebook advertising (where you can target precisely by location, time, gender, age, and behaviour, at an optimized, pre-set CPC) – that yes, he does charge for every fan added via his ‘organic growth’ – untargeted, generic, spammed – Rs. (worth at least a few cigs and coffee) per user.
Let me just state – I’m not writing this to poke fun at ignorance, or assume that this is a valid representation of all agencies. (In fact, at the time of writing, I’ve also received a very sane and coherent response from a second one within minutes of asking)
This post is to highlight the unfortunately true maxim – ‘A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.’ Social Media is a hot buzzword in the marketing field these days, and while a willingness to embrace new media and developments, and capitalize on new opportunities is a very laudable and praiseworthy initiative – I just have 2 pieces of advice, before you jump in.
For the marketing managers who pay for this – please understand what social media is, how it works, what tools and applications exist, and why and which ones make sense for your objectives.
For the SMO agencies who execute this – please understand what social media is, how it works, what tools and applications exist, and why and which ones make sense for your client’s objectives.
There’s a huge wealth of information out there on the web – presentations, case studies, discussions, views, reviews, and overviews, how-to’s, guides, tutorials, free trials, the works. Please read before you start to bleed. It’s not a rocket science. But it isn’t some mysterious magic either, understood and practised by a rare, select few.
Like anything else in marketing and media management, it needs a little study, a little experimentation, and a lot of thought to work. And unlike a lot marketing, if you don’t do it right, it doesn’t die with a fizzle and a whimper. The ensuing backlash can cost your organization reputation, money, time, and people. Because if you screw up and make your employer – or client – look stupid, heads will roll, and the first one will be yours.
SMO is a tremendously powerful engine, and if you don’t use it, you get left behind. But if you use it badly, without knowing it, it can rip you to pieces. And this is a race that you’re already running. Can you crack it?
Can you become a case study for success – or failure?
Watch this space. There’s some more who haven’t written in yet.

Safeguarding privacy –

Facebook has agreed to let a 3rd party advertiser use your posted pictures without your permission. Click on SETTINGS up where you see the log out link. Select PRIVACY SETTINGS. Select NEWS FEEDS AND WALL. Select the tab that reads FACE BOOK ADS. There is a drop down box, select NO ONE. Save your changes. Pass it on.

Thanks to Surya.

What do your friends say about you?

Today, I’m going off tech for a bit. Slightly. 🙂

Check out Facebook Social Graphs. What this nifty little tool does is map your connections in a visual graph, using a specific formula. (Basically, a spring-electrical model. Each connection is a charged particle, repelling everyone away from himself, and is connected with a spring, pulling together. This forces the connections to form clusters, with large interconnected groups bunched up together, and independent loners pushed far outwards. The individual clusters will also repel each other, moving into clear ‘continents’. See here for more details on the model)
This creates an interesting theory – that the pattern of cluster formation can be used to predict user personality and possibly career success. (via Pluggd.in)

My Social Graph

I’ll take it a step further – it can be used to predict a bit more about people.

Some scenarios.
(This is pure thought exercise, and shouldn’t be taken in any way as definitive or a point of authority. I’m also looking forward to inputs and feedback if you agree / disagree / thought of something new)

Isolated, scattered islands
Lonely. Not many friends, and the few he has, are not giving him access to their extended groups.

1 single supercontinent
All this guy’s friends know each other. Can happen if he’s from a very close-knit group. Either just created a profile (where the closest guys are added first, all his batchmates, for example) or comes from a very niche industry where people move around, know each other, and are interconnected. Family is not on his friend list. Probably single. Geographically limited.

Large cluster with few isolated islands
He’s getting out there. Meeting friends of friends. But most of his life still revolves around a single activity – either work, or college. Could be running a club, with some new people joining all the time.

2 clear groups
Probably recently married, so his significant other’s group and family is added on. Looks like an arranged marriage. Wife doesn’t know most of his friends. Natural progression would be for the two groups to gradually start merging. Schizophrenic? Work and friends networks only?

2 clear groups, each with it’s own satellites
Living 2 lives. Home and Away. This guy can have an affair and get away with it, nobody from the two spheres knows anyone from the other. Will also tend to be stressed as each group puts wildly conflicting demands on his time and attention.

Multiple groups, all separated
Social butterfly. Likes to do lots of things, meets with people from various fields. Has active social life, with several groups of friends for different activities. Will come across as a well-rounded personality.

Archipelago: Lots of isolated, scattered islands
Still meets lots of people, and is on good terms with them, but they don’t know each other and each one is a closed door, not giving access to additional groups; Sounds like sales, or consulting. He needs to get past those individual islands and start making each into a cluster. May also be a high-level person, CEO-type, who has to restrict the number of people who have access, but needs to keep the key people in; or a celebrity profile. The next step would be –

Medium cluster, lots of islands
The core group is of the people in the industry, key resources who know each other; others are all the one-point contacts who are still important but not important enough to warrant inclusion of their individual networks.

Lots of medium clusters
Clearly differentiated spheres of life. Work, play, home, family. Maybe side jobs, freelancing.

Lots of medium clusters, so close together to look like a giant cluster
Good life, but now it’s advanced to the point that several people in each cluster know people from other clusters. This guy has good social skills, and mixes his friends. Advanced user, has been online a while.

Ending thought – this is not particularly informative or useful as an article, but once you try it out, you get a realization that even relatively unexpected bits of data – like do your friends know each other or not – can actually be mined now to create a meaningful result. I, personally, was quite surprised at some of the connections that emerged – people I didn’t think were surprisingly well-entrenched amongst my friends – and others, that I thought were part of my core group turned out to be surprisingly far out on the periphery.

At the very least, it makes planning the guest list for the next party easier. 😉

I got the name I wanted… now what?

No, it’s not a blatant self-adverisement. (See, I’m not going to mention my profile id anywhere in this post.)

Ever since Facebook launched vanity URLs, it sparked off an internal debate on the nature of privacy. We howl like Amazonian monkeys if we find our personal information’s been leaked, but how easy do we make it for this to happen?

Look at it in 2 ways –

1 – A vanity URL exists for the purpose of sharing. You don’t need to dictate a userid with 12 digits and special characters over the course of a phonecall. You minimize human error when it’s written down (on paper) and has to be copied (aside: how often does your ring-and-index fingers twitch when you copy something from paper in a subconscious responce to ctrl+c?) It exists so you can pass it around easy, giving people a straight view into your facebook profile.

2 – What do you do on facebook? Unless you’re an evolved user, you tend to experiment. Take quizzes. See which tarot card / insect / car you are, how you compare to friends. You tag photos of friends – and they of you. Did you realize that if you’re the one holding the camera, you show up in the least snaps? Conversely, when someone else hold the cam – and the rights to upload the photos – you’re a lot more likely to show up – in all your glory? Friends write on your wall, comment on your updates. Oh yes, status updates. Twitter for the non-tweeters. A direct snapshot of your mind, over the last few months. It’s an awful lot of info out there… you have no clue how much. In short – you share almost everything about yourself.

Where, exactly, are you going to put this info? On CVs? On other profiles online? Blog comments?

Yes, a vanity URL makes sense for a LinkedIn or a VisualCV. It makes sense for a sponsored property that needs to be publicized, for a celebrity’s page (same thing anyway), for a brand page.  

So – yes, it makes sense as a feature – and facebook is only too happy if you share your vanity URL around – but keep an eye on what’s happening. It’s a very easy spiral – you have an account, so you do all quizzes, updates, tags. FB announces vanity URLs, so you get one. You have a vanity URL, so you share it. You share it, so someone you’d rather not have finding your FB profile, does.

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