Buzz and Brilliance: Week ending December 3

As we get closer to the New Year (where did 2011 go!?) I'm already seeing the beginning of the year-end wrap-ups. I'm not going to include them much in the B&B from week to week, but maybe I'll do one big year-end wrap-up post over the holidays, because those posts are always interesting - from the lists of top search terms, to gadgets, to news stories, to whatever else they come up with! That said, the buzz this week is rather ho-hum - in my humble opinion. The brilliance? Totally B&B worthy. So, this time, I'm going to separate the two completely.

There's a fantastic good news story at the very end - I'm saving the best for last - so skim through the rest if you like, but don't miss that end note!

The Buzz

I try not to talk about apps on here, because I'm an iPhone devotee and I don't want to get into that debate. NOR do I want to become a repository for iPhone info, because that takes a lot of time to do and a lot of other people do it far better than I ever could. NOR do I want to leave people on other mobile OSs hanging, because how boring is it to read about Blackberry and Android when you're an iPhone gal? Okay, I actually don't find it all that boring, but some would, so I'm sure the same is true for the BB and Droid crowd. BUT, some apps are little secondary networks of their own and they fit into my niche so I'm going to stop ignoring them. And the last couple of weeks have had some interesting stories. So, bear with me here. I will do my best to spread the love to other mobile OSs, but so far, most of these networks are iOS:

There was minor news this week about Facebook's announcement that FB status updates can now have 60,000 characters (But who wants to read long posts?) and now you can edit @ tags to have custom text - it's so clunky I can't see bothering with it. (See? Ho hum.) But the really big news is that Facebook reached a final settlement with the FTC on privacy charges. More details emerged after we found out last week they'd be submitting to 20 years of privacy audits. There's lots of commentary on this and what it means for Facebook and its users. Here's a list of stories if you want to read up:

Mashable asks whether Facebook is doing enough to protect your privacy. (I'd say yes and no - they've done some boneheaded things in the past - Beacon, for one example - but seemed to be learning with more recent updates. Opt-in is better and now that's got to be their default.) Proof that they learned (sort of) - Zuckerberg admits to making mistakes with privacy. Mind you, many think this settlement is a slap on the wrist. Others wonder if Facebook is ruined (hardly, I say). There's no doubt that it's given Facebook an easy pass, even if they're finally being forced to do what they should've been doing all along. This just proves once again that with a free network, your privacy is the currency. That cannot be emphasized enough.

Do you "like" the FTC's ruling? Because no matter where you are in the world, it will have an effect.

Earlier this week, I wrote about Facebook's seamless or frictionless sharing. Then I saw this and smiled. Time for a new plugin!

I'm not sure how the functionality is different, because I haven't yet tried it, but you can now do conference calls on Google+ hangouts. I wonder how this is going to take a bite out of Skype's business.

Google has bumped its video sharing service up a notch by adding analytics. I'm taking this as a sign that they'd like to be THE go-to video service and that video is just going to get bigger. But we already knew that. As if that wasn't enough, they've launched a re-design as well. It looks really nice and I'm so thankful for it. The old design was quite bad. But will this be a further threat to Facebook? (Oh, that had to be thrown in there, didn't it?) But there are wider implications as well.

Want to follow a brand or save something you see on the Web to Foursquare? Now you can! And it's a great move for the service and businesses alike.

The Brilliance

Jay Baer wrote a piece this week that underlines the importance of doing social media right, making the case that businesses have lost the advantage. We're on an even playing field now. Individuals and businesses are using the same tools, so businesses that do social media well are going to shine like stars. The ones who don't could see the effect on their bottom line - or in their twitter feed with an urgent need for reputation management.

Along similar lines, Ilana Rabinowitz is sharing why a business cannot be social over at Social Media Explorer. She gives compelling reasons why it's the job of the employees (oh, yes, all of them - not just the social media guy) to put a human face on the organization. She's right and not nearly enough businesses get this.

I like reading Mitch Joel's take on Twitter every time he writes about it. He just isn't bothered by the numbers and he doesn't try to set rules for anyone - including himself.

I love blogging. I can't imagine quitting, but it happens. You see blogs lie fallow after a while because life just gets in the way. Or was there a true commitment to it in the first place? The best thing you can do before launching is to start blogging unpublished, as this guest-post on Problogger tells us. He's taking my own suggestion a step further and it's wise advice.

By far, the most brilliant news of the week. An update about Amit Gupta's need for a bone marrow transplant and how a social campaign may just save his life. Sure, this stuff happened before social media was around, but it isn't the same. And doesn't this just validate how much good we can do through these tools?


Are you interested in the The Media Mesh's BBC (that's Business Book Club for those who missed the original post)? Our first reading assignment is Enchantment by Guy Kawasaki and linking up on January 3rd in just one month. It's a quick read with lots of valuable information - join us! If you comment on this post that you want in I'll add you to my email list (no need to do so if you already asked to be added). First update is coming this week!

She said / She said: Are you interested in Pinterest?

This is my November She Said / She Said post that I'm doing with Lara Wellman. Lara and I will pick a topic each month and present our different perspectives. This month's topic is the tool Pinterest!


If you aren't already on Pinterest, then you may not know if you're interested or not. But if you've heard of it, you're likely either a woman or know a woman who's using it since that's the vast majority of the user base...for the moment. (Mark my words: That gender gap will shift.) So, imagine this - a virtual pinboard, if you will. (Okay, that's actually what they call it.) A place to:
"...organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. People use pinboards to plan their weddings, decorate their homes, and organize their favorite recipes.

Best of all, you can browse pinboards created by other people. Browsing pinboards is a fun way to discover new things and get inspiration from people who share your interests."

And what's the purpose or mission of said virtual pinboard service?
"Our goal is to connect everyone in the world through the 'things' they find interesting. We think that a favorite book, toy, or recipe can reveal a common link between two people. With millions of new pins added every week, Pinterest is connecting people all over the world based on shared tastes and interests."

Pinterest and other niche networks like Twitter first and later Tumblr, Instagram and others have revolutionized the way we use the Web to consume content. The emphasis on search has eroded to make way for us to discover things that interest us and then save or share them within our networks.

When Lara and I started talking about our She Said / She Said post for this month and she suggested Pinterest, I let out the biggest mental groan. I remember seeing a friend rave about it back in the spring, so I requested an invite. None was forthcoming, but more and more friends were getting in, so I got one of them to send me an invite. I jumped in and saw all the pretty pictures and fun little sayings and had great fun for about 10 minutes. Once I had my fill I closed the app and it didn't enter my mind for about another month. I think what prompted me to look at it again was seeing someone post about a pin. So, I fired it up and enjoyed 10 minutes of browsing and then shut 'er down and forgot about Pinterest again for another few months until Lara decided to torture me by suggesting we write about it.

This isn't a network that grabbed me at all. I kept hearing for months about how people just loved it and how fun it is and wondered what the allure was. Then Lara decided to make me write about it and I knew I was going to have to immerse myself in it to give it a fair shot. So, of course I forgot all about it until the last week.

I was reminded of my need to get moving on immersion when Robert Scoble - of all people - posted on Google+ his prediction(?) that Pinterest was on his list of possible "next big things" (paraphrase). And get this: he wasn't even using it yet! My comment is in there amongst the 90 other people who had some view of Pinterest's scalability and chances of long-term success where I say: "I have no interest in the tool. I've tried to get into it, but so far it's not my thing at all. I can see it going big, though."

After reading Scoble's prediction, I started doing my research, studying away about this tool that I really don't "get". And I was convinced of how my post was going to go. I was going to tell all of you how it's great for people who are visually stimulated by really cool stuff, but that it doesn't seem to be the right social network for me. (I truly believe that not every social network is going to work for everyone and no person needs to be on every network.) Pinterest is niche, boutique-y, an accessory network - more technically known around The Media Mesh as a secondary network. The kind that is useful in a few minutes every now and then. Unless you're me.

But something happened that I didn't expect. I was up ridiculously late one night with insomnia and decided to get immersed. I figured five or ten minutes would get me nice and sleepy. Forty-five minutes later, I forced myself to turn it off and I'm officially hooked.

I'll say it again - Lara's evil masterful plan worked: I get Pinterest and I think you should too.

So, what changed my mind about Pinterest?

It was more of a mindset change. I originally went in looking at pretty things, admiring pretty things and that feels so artificial and boring after a while. It's just not me at all. But this time I had my friends' uses ringing in my head, namely something to the effect of: I use it as a bookmarking tool to remember recipes and crafts I want to do. It's a visual way to save these things. To have visual cues of what you were thinking about when you saved it. And that is perfect for me because I am a visual person, despite the fears and doubts I started to have when Pinterest didn't catch my interest. Why did I want to save that recipe for slow cooker sweet potatoes? Because at 1:15am, they looked really delicious.

Oddly enough, the timing of our Pinterest exploration seems to be coinciding with the tool taking off. With the exception of Facebook, no other tool - not even Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+ - has been mentioned as much in the social media news scene this week. Here's a sampling of the stories I've seen, so you don't have to listen to me tell you Pinterest is going to be huge - I've assembled evidence for you:

  1. Pinterest Is Now Pulling In More Pageviews Than Etsy; Grew 2,000% Since June | TechCrunch

  2. Niche Social Networks Deliver Big Results for Brands | Mashable

  3. Pinterest May Become a Social Networking Takeover Target | Wall Street Cheat Sheet

  4. Pinterest Appeals to Online Collectors | The New York Times

  5. Why Image-Sharing Network Pinterest Is Hot | Bloomberg Businessweek

  6. How to Make Your Startup Go Viral The Pinterest Way | TechCrunch

I'm not one to be seduced by popularity - I can assure you I found all of these stories after my abrupt turnaround. I can also say that I have long felt that Pinterest was going to grow to be a pretty important secondary network that would be very popular before I finally understood why. Now that I get why Pinterest is going to be big and know a few practical ways to use it, I just have to make sure I go back to those pinboards and do those crafts and make those foods I found that were interesting enough to pin.

Are you on Pinterest? How do you use it? Any creative ways I haven't mentioned here?

Be sure to go check out Lara's post to see what she has to say!

Buzz and Brilliance: Week ending November 19

While most people are still talking about the battle between Facebook and Google+ (that I still maintain is ridiculous) I am beginning to think there is a battle - of who gets the most news stories of the week. And, quite frankly, with the numerous different products Google has, Facebook is likely always going to be the winner. They're always the big news of the week, so I'm going to start with someone else for once.

One of my favorite tools to help me organize content and ideas is Evernote. It's become invaluable to me, from the ability to easily clip pages on the web from my browser to accessing my notes anywhere - web, desktop, iPad, iPhone (and they're on the other major mobile platforms as well). My Evernote notes even get searched when I search google, which is great for me to be able to access content I already have on topics I'm searching. This week, Evernote launched a new browser plugin, Clearly. It's a great way to clean up busy web pages to consume the more important content. The downside is that it cleans up web pages to consume the content. No ads, no links within the post. This is even more stripped down than RSS feeds. It is easy to toggle back and forth from Clearly to the live version of the site, so visitors won't entirely miss what you're delivering if they use Clearly, but it will give (in many ways) a much nicer Web experience.

I've been doing some experimenting in a Facebook group on posts that get engagement. What I'm finding is that the easier the question, the better engagement I get across the board. It's given me some insight into why updates from brands are ignoredMari Smith has put together a great list of tips to help generate better sharing. There is no better indication of an engaged audience than when they want to share your content with their friends and followers. Better engagement from brands will reduce un-likes/follows regardless of the platform.

Speaking of engagement, do you know the difference between engagement and social media optimization? Mashable defines both and explains how adopting appropriate strategies in both areas will benefit you with increased, targeted readership. As other research suggests, engagement begets engagement - though it's not all equal. Maybe there are other ways engagement would improve for brands on Facebook, but friending a brand is going to be a tough sell.

If you have thoughts on ways to improve Facebook pages, you'll be happy to know that Facebook wants your feedback! I'd encourage you - if you're interested - to read on AllFacebook.com about the latest changes to the Facebook Events, Photos and Jobvite.

The introduction of Google+ brand pages means that there is a whole new round of comparison stories. The overwhelming majority (that I've seen) are ho-hum about the Google+ introduction. Many have said businesses don't need to have a G+ page yet...I tend to agree. But there are plenty of compelling reasons why you'd want to start a G+ brand page as well. This isn't any huge surprise since Facebook has about 5 years on Google+ in the page stakes. Not to mention a hefty lead in the user department with 750million (and counting) more users to attract.

By the way, if you're still an individual unsure about Google+, don't worry. It's not for everyone.

QR Codes are by no means mainstream or even "popular" by today's standards. But they're gaining traction and it doesn't look like they're going to fade away any time soon given the diverse and creative ways that businesses are finding to use them.

For over a year, Digg has been taking a dive (I've pretty much ignored my Digg account for two years) and - more and more - Reddit is flying high. I thought about joining Reddit a year or so ago, but decided against it. I'm changing my mind - look for a post about it in the coming weeks. Of course, just as with StumbleUpon, Reddit is what I would term as a secondary network. Not meant to take a great deal of time or replace Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Google+. Having recently read some other interesting stories from Kenna McHugh lately, my interest is officially piqued.

Foursquare has incorporated new badges that highlight users' expertise in various areas. I hardly need to point out that this will be incredibly useful for people to build proof of authority - particularly for anyone in food and retail, but other topics that are well-supported with location-based information as well. With their recent re-design as well, I have a renewed interest in what will come in the next little while from Foursquare. I think they could be answering users' requests in such a way that is creating a robust, (unbeatable?) tool.

As soon as I saw the title of this 12 Most post, I knew my RSS reader was likely about to get another boost. Thankfully, it's a small boost. I was already following most of them. For the record, anytime I get recommendations like this with a great reason, I'm likely to subscribe. My one complaint about this piece is that there were no links to the blogs, because that would have been really useful.

To me, it's a dangerous practice to definitively say someone is doing social media "wrong". I think that requires proof, such as lack of growth, effectiveness in the network they're building. So, when I saw Mathew Ingram's post earlier this week, I was curious about what he had to say about the use of Twitter by media companies and Adam Singer did a good job of pointing out that social media use just isn't that black and white. On the other hand, sometimes we see people suggest practices that don't have solid logic behind them, so questioning the practice is valuable.

One use of Twitter than we CAN definitively say is just wrong is spam. And it's been getting worse lately. TweetSmarter has some info about it and steps Twitter is taking to alleviate the pain for all of us.

Wendy's recently ran a twitter campaign that netted a secondary account 33,000 followers in just one month. While it's impressive, I'd love to know specifics about their tactics before I would say it's a great idea. If they aren't using methods that are measurable, it's impossible to say how effective such a campaign will be on their bottom line. However, it is a very creative way to gamify social media use and create greater brand awareness as well. General best practice would say that splitting accounts isn't a good idea, but maybe Wendy's has come up with a clever way to benefit from having secondary twitter feeds.

On a final merry note, I cannot believe how tempted I am by this Twitter-sourced ornament! Have a great week!

Stumbleupon: My initial thoughts on an essential network

A couple of years ago I saw a friend whose Facebook status update expressed confusion at the value of Twitter and declared that StumbleUpon was the winner in his opinion. At the time, I gave a mental “hmph” and moved on. Twitter was already becoming very valuable to me at that point and its value has only continued to grow. I didn’t see how StumbleUpon could compete.

Until now.

I joined StumbleUpon late last year (2010) and then decided to school myself on it sometime in the Spring of 2011. What I have discovered is a tool that I don’t want to live without in my online activity. Here is StumbleUpon’s description of the tool:
“StumbleUpon integrates peer-to-peer and social networking principles with one-click blogging to create an emergent content referral system. Our patent-pending toolbar system automates the collection, distribution and review of web content within an intuitive social framework, providing users with a browsing experience which resembles “channel-surfing” the web. This architecture has easily scaled to millions of users.”

Simply put, that means that users recommend (like/thumbs up) content and then other SU users get to discover (Stumble) that content once it's in the StumbleUpon repository. The sites you Stumble are based on interests you enter when you set up your StumbleUpon account and as you like/thumbs up sites or dislike/thumbs down sites, StumbleUpon perfects what it delivers to you. User feedback is the foundation on which StumbleUpon is built.

A user who discovers a site first gets to enter the keyword details that will determine who that content is delivered to, so the more accurate the keywords the better to avoid "thumbs down". The more keywords you enter that also apply to the content, the better. (As long as they're truly accurate - remember that!)

One event really sparked my interest in StumbleUpon last spring. A post I wrote on my personal blog, which is small with a modest number of followers got five times the traffic I typically get after I shared it on StumbleUpon. Let me repeat that: It got five times the traffic. As first-day traffic for a piece goes, that one still holds the record.

I started using StumbleUpon more diligently after this incident. I've had similar results and the longer I'm using it (and sharing other's content too) the more regularly I get bursts of traffic to my blog.

Is StumbleUpon a magic formula for growth? 

Not really. You might convert occasional SU users into regular readers over time, but it's not a recipe for quick growth. It's a tool to get content out there to a wider audience that might not otherwise see it.

It's fine to share your own content - you absolutely should. But don't only share your own content. This is essentially considered spam and is frowned upon. I tend to space out when I thumbs up my own pieces unless I'm being active in promoting others' content. It's important to appropriately distribute content sharing - i.e., share others' more than you share your own. I'm intentionally taking time to thumbs up any great content I read in my RSS reader and spending a few minutes a day Stumbling to discover what's out there outside of my usual circles. I'm happy to drop out of using Twitter for those few minutes a day to incorporate StumbleUpon into my overall social media repertoire.

How do I make time for another social network?

StumbleUpon isn't a full network. I like to think of it as a secondary network. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ - those are the heavyweights (and that is debatable when it comes to Google+ for now). The secondary networks are those like StumbleUpon, Instagram, Pinterest and others that don't have robust interfaces for engagement.

I set a limit on my StumbleUpon time. It doesn't truly take very long to Stumble a few posts. I can get through about 20 in ten minutes a day. And if I'm on a site that's shareworthy on twitter, I'll often give it a thumbs up too.

The bottom line is that the benefit I derive - from increased traffic to content discovery - is greater than the investment I have to put into it and I'm a big believer in putting quality content out there in every possible place to maximize exposure.

With 20 million already using it, just think how much great content you can find!

Can you Stumble on the go?

Yes, StumbleUpon has mobile applications for Android, iPhone and iPad. I am an iThing owner, so I have those versions and they work well. I haven't found an easy way to thumbs up sites from my RSS reader, though. I'm quite disappointed that neither of the readers I use (MobileRSS/Reeder/Feedly) have SU as a sharing option. So, I've been starring anything I want to thumbs up to return to later - not an ideal option at all. Let me know if any of you have a better system!

How can you get started?

I am not an expert on StumbleUpon. I'm still learning, but I do highly recommend it as a tool - an essential tool. As I learn more, I'll share more with you. For now, I'll leave you with a few more practical links that will help you if you want to dive in right away:

Social Media Examiner - How to Use StumbleUpon: Your Comprehensive Guide

1st Web Designer - StumbleUpon FAQ, Guides, Tools, Addons And Scripts

E-Junkie.Info - StumbleUpon: A Stumbler's Comprehensive Guide Part 1

Duct Tape Marketing - 5 Step Approach to Learning the StumbleUpon Targeted Traffic Tango

MomComm - StumbleUpon: A Guide to What Not to Stumble

There may be conflicts in best practices presented in these guides and I haven't fully vetted all of the information in them to ensure it is currently accurate so some of the content may be outdated, but they all have some general information that has value to new and existing users to maximize their benefit.

Do you use StumbleUpon? What keeps you going back? 

If you don't use StumbleUpon yet, does learning more pique your interest?

Customizing your social experience: The great reciprocal follow debate

Social networks as we know them today have led to various people generating a host of rules and guidelines, hoping others take heed and follow. One of the biggest areas of differing views is reciprocal following. It's a conversation I've had many times and I always encourage people not to pay attention to people who don't follow back or who unfollow them. We each use social tools in the way that works for our individual needs, so what I want out of it doesn't necessarily fit what you want out of it. But that doesn't mean I won't find value in your content even if you don't find value in mine. We have different and varied interests. Some are open to hearing about things they aren't interested in, others aren't. But there are some facets to Twitter and Facebook following that regularly result in hurt feelings or bring personal insecurities to the surface.

Expected Reciprocity - Twitter

I watch who follows/unfollows me on Twitter using Birdbrain (iPhone app), which tells me who has followed (this I pay attention to) and unfollowed (this I glance at in passing) since I last logged in. I also get to see who I follow that doesn't follow me back and vice versa (rarely use these features). What's truly valuable to me is other useful stats like number of mentions, retweets and status updates. I make mental notes of my personal stats and sometimes adjust what and how I'm tweeting to be more engaging. I'm not bothered in the least by seeing people unfollow me. In fact, I have been followed by 403 and unfollowed by 256 in the last 30 days for a net follower gain of just 147. Well over 50% of my followers (a fair number are spammy accounts) do not stick around. Why is that?

Because I didn't follow them back. Perhaps that's not true for all of them, but I strongly believe it's true for the majority. They followed me expecting that I would reciprocate and I don't do that unless I'm interested in their content or they fit into my personal parameters of people I want to follow back. I can't tell you how many times I've been followed, unfollowed and re-followed to get my attention. I don't get annoyed by it; it's a silly game that doesn't work. There's even a #TeamFollowBack movement. The people involved often have astronomical numbers of followers and I refuse to follow them. (They don't fit my parameters anyway.)

Forced Reciprocity - Facebook

Recently, someone I "know" from twitter (not really well) though we have met in person twice now, popped into my Friend Suggestions on Facebook. I decided to send a Friend Request, which I rarely do. I prefer to let others make the request rather than put someone on the spot. This person and I have dozens of mutual friends. In reply to my request, I received a note that said - very politely - that their Facebook profile was for family and friends and they'd love for me to join them on their page. Let me tell you, the note I got was a lot nicer than someone saying "I'm just not that into you." But that's how people sometimes take it.

I've since had a conversation with this person about it because I had a question that was related and it came up that not everyone is understanding of their stance. I can't say I was surprised to learn that. Not friending or following people (or unfollowing) can result in some embarrassing situations when the reaction is negative. This person I was discussing this with puts clear boundaries on their social involvement that only become awkward because we don't like to say no to people for fear of their reaction. But what they did was not inappropriate or meant to hurt. And I won't say who it was (not even if you private message me :)) because I don't want this person to be looked at differently for their choices - choices that I respect. Haven't we all been in that position before?

Here's the reality:

I could choose to mutually follow everyone who follows me, but it wouldn't be true following. In many ways I don't truly follow all the people on my social networks anyway - more than a couple hundred makes it hard. Certain names or avatars jump out at me as I scroll through my timeline and I slam on the brakes to go back and see what these people say. I do make a point to look for tweets from people I don't know well and respond to them so I don't get insulated and miss out on getting to know as many amazing people as possible - even if our interactions take place only once or twice.

I remember being amazed when I saw Chris Brogan and Darren Rowse follow me way back whenever they did. And I have to say I got a twinge of sadness when they both recently unfollowed me. But I can't fault them for it and, honestly, followed or unfollowed I was lumped in with everyone else. They, like you, me and everyone else, are choosing to use the tools at their disposal in the best way they know how at any given time. They add value to my stream so I don't want to unfollow them, but if their stream is full of hundreds of thousands, where's the value for them?

As soon as you start following someone thinking they'll follow you back, your focus is on the wrong part of the social experience. As soon as your instinct is to "call someone out" for unfollowing, you're perspective needs adjustment. Social media following choices are a seemingly selfish act. You essentially ask the question, "What's in this user's stream for me?" The decision not to follow isn't a reflection of the person behind the tweets, it's a choice made entirely to customize the experience.