ARCHIVE: February, 2008

Social Design Strategy at SXSW

I’m honored to be speaking on the Social Design Strategies panel this year at SXSW Interactive in Austin, Texas on Sunday, March 9. My co-panelists are awesome designers: Emily Chang and Max Keisler of Ideacodes, and Daniel Burka, creative director at Digg. Thank you Emily for organizing the panel! This is the official description of […]

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The Problem with Social Media Marketing

I was reading a blog today and found this recommendation:

“leverage social tools to create buzz and demand for your product”.

I don’t know exactly what was meant by this, but it sounds like causation: that if you use social tools to talk to your customers then you’ll increase buzz and demand.

I’ve seen other recommendations like this by people calling themselves “social media marketers”. These folks are hired to use social tools to improve relationships with customers. I know some really good social media marketers, but still this claim seems to be creeping into the conventional wisdom of the field.

But people who are considering hiring social media marketers need to know that there is more to it than this.

Giving people a platform for expression doesn’t necessarily create buzz and demand. It only amplifies what the opinion was in the first place…

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Comic: Consumption


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Why Social Ads Don’t Work

There’s been lots of talk recently about the ineffectiveness of advertisements in social media properties like MySpace and Facebook. During their recent quarterly earnings results, Google explained that they are not making as much money from ads on social network sites as they had predicted. Even though this was a blip on an otherwise stellar quarter, Google’s stock took a serious beating.

Why is this so? Why is it that Google monetizes so well on Search while having a hard time on social properties? Given an equal amount of views on Google vs. MySpace, shouldn’t they be able to get about the same number of click-throughs and thus ad revenue?

The difference, of course, is that when people go to Google, they’re actively looking for something. That something isn’t on Google. They are performing a search activity. Thus their task will be to click on a link that seems to promise what it is they’re looking for. It may be the organic results, or it may be an ad that seems close to what they want.

When people are on MySpace, the activity they’re doing isn’t search. It’s something akin to “hanging out” or “networking”. Their task is almost the opposite of search. They are already on the site they want to be on. They don’t need to click on links to take them where they want to go.

In other words, the context is entirely different. When you’re in search mode, you are playing by different rules.

Social ads don’t work as well because people are being social, not searching for something.

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Taking Responsibility

Yvon Chouinard, founder of the outdoor clothing company Patagonia, on planning for the long-term:

‘I mean, there’s no way I could do a plan for this company and say, “What’s this place going to be like by 2020?” I have no idea. I just know that since we’re running out of petroleum, we better stop being dependent on making polyester underwear out of virgin petroleum.

And so that’s why we’ve teamed up with some Japanese companies to, basically by 2010, make all our clothing out of recycled and recyclable fibers. And we’re going to accept ownership of our products from birth to birth. So if you buy a jacket from us, or a shirt ,or a pair of pants, when you’re done with it, you can give it back to us and we’ll make more shirts and pants out of it.

Which is a different idea about consuming. Right now the world runs on consuming and discarding, and we’re saying that we’re taking responsibility for our products from birth to birth. Can you imagine if a computer company said, “When you’re done with your computer, we’ll buy it back from you and make more computers out of it.” Instead, they sell you computer and you can’t even get service from them!

It’s a different way of accepting responsibility.’

I’m a fan of Patagonia for this simple reason: they take responsibility for their actions on this planet. And, if you haven’t read or heard of Yvon’s book Let my people go surfing, it is a wonderful book unlike any business book you’ve ever read. (It’s full of stuff like the quote above).

While I’m just a single person working alone at the moment, and like Yvon I don’t know what my future holds, I’m going to both keep a watch out for people who take this kind of responsibility as well as try to hold that mindset myself.

Life is too short, and the world is too beautiful, to accept anything less.

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Comic: MySpace Ads

Ads Ignored

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The Importance of “People like Me” features

People like me features are one of the most promising ways to help people find content that is interesting to them.

Jason Kottke points to a study in which researchers found evidence that the brain reacts differently to people who seem like us.

This isn’t surprising, of course. We do tend to react differently when we feel like we’re around a like-minded person.

But how can this help inform design?

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The danger of social markers made public (more on the Social Graph API)

Thomas Vander Wal makes a good point in response to my post: Why I’m excited about Google’s Social Graph API. He’s concerned that by exposing social relationship information (social graphs), we’re inviting hackers to mine that information and use it in bad ways:

“I do have great trepidation as this is exactly the tool social engineering hackers have been hoping for and working toward.

Most hacks of organizations (most are populated with 98% of people not like us that are more open to social engineering hacks) that have been hacked (been through more than a few of these meetings after the fact) are done through some clever individual using social engineering to convince somebody to trust the hacker. The identification of connections (usually best approached with weak ties) is a great starting point (this is the major reason why most organizations no longer have their employee list or full-contact list posted on their websites).

The Google SocialGraph API is exposing everybody who has not thought through their privacy or exposing of their connections.

This is an excellent point that needs to be considered.

An example of what Thomas describes might be…

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Why I’m excited about the Google Social Graph API

The Google Social Graph API is a new programming API that allows developers to expose social relationships embedded in web sites. What does this mean for regular folks like you and me? Read on.

Do you ever feel like your personal information is spread across the web in a whole bunch of separate places? An account here, a profile there? A friends list here and a friends list there? All your information, but in all different places all incomplete at the same time?

Google Social Graph API

The Social Graph API helps solve this “silos of information” problem by allowing people to write software that understands who your friends are. It does this by reading your web site or blog and making connections between the social profiles you have across the web.

For example, imagine you have a blog, which is your home on the web. You also have an Amazon profile, a Twitter profile, and a Facebook profile. So you have four profiles spread across the web, seemingly unconnected. Amazon has no idea who your friends on Facebook or Twitter are, and vice-versa, and this is a good thing from a privacy standpoint. These sites shouldn’t be able to find out everything about you with you giving them permission.

But what if you wanted these sites to know a bit about each other? What if you want to combine your Amazon book history with your friends lists at Facebook so that you can see what your friends are reading and let Amazon give you recommendations based on your similarity with them? Or, perhaps you just joined Twitter and want to know which of your Facebook friends are already there so you don’t have to go hunting for them? (see video) Here we see real-world examples of how cross-pollinating your personal information between these sites can not only be efficient, but desirable…

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Does social software make us less social?

Bill Cammack over at the Fast Company blog makes an interesting assertion:

“While I agree that (social media) CAN…(make us more social) How often *DOES* social media lead to actual social interaction, for YOU? …I became less social instead of more social because of the fact that my friends are always at my fingertips. For the sake of this post, I’m defining “social” as actually going somewhere to hang out with friends of mine, IRL. (In Real Life)”

Bill says that because people are always a click away, he actually has become less social (face-to-face).

I’m interested to know if others feel this same way: has social interaction through software had the same effect on you?

And, if so, has the increased social interaction through software been for the better, or for the worse?

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