Archive for the ‘Social media’ Category

Twitter tool: Unfollow your non-followers

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

If you’re looking for a tool that allows you to bulk unfollow the people on Twitter who you are following but who aren’t following you back, Mutuality from Huitter.com will help. 

HuitterThe tool allows you a few options – Unfollow all who do not follow you back, Unfollow all, and Follow all who follow you. You can also add in up to 50 users who won’t be affected by the action, so if you have a particular celebrity that you like to track or thought-leader who doesn’t subaction showcomments propecia optional blog follow you but you want to keep tracking, you can exclude them from the action.

This service is free for accounts with up to 1800 followers or friends. For larger accounts, this can be used up to three times for free.

This isn’t a recommendation to use this tool – I don’t think that either bulk following or bulk unfollowing is a great Twitter strategy. But I have heard from many people who are looking for a tool to accomplish this exact functionality, and have seen Huitter’s tool work effectively.

What a tragedy in my hometown taught me about how media has changed forever

Monday, April 27th, 2009

(Note: Sorry for the blogging hiatus…I really wanted to publish this post before writing anything else, but have struggled with finishing it. Thanks for understanding and hopefully I’ll be back to my regular posting schedule now!)

I’m from Binghamton, N.Y.

In the past, when I told people that fact, I had to explain where Binghamton is located. (Upstate. Do you know where Syracuse is? No? Ithaca? No? How about Albany? You know, the state capital? About two hours from there.) But now, everyone has heard of Binghamton. I wish that it was because our basketball team made it to the NCAA championship. But sadly, it’s for a far grimmer reason.

Binghamton

I have had a number of posts half-written about what happened in Binghamton since I heard the news. None of them seems quite right to publish in the wake of the multitude of experiences and sadness and loss. But I will say that Binghamton is so much more than a sick shooter and tragedy and death. Just as the city isn’t all bad, it isn’t all good with “tidy houses lining the neat streets,” as I heard someone on CNN report (I guess they must have been reading Wikipedia). But Binghamton is my hometown, as Rod Serling wrote. I love it, and I love the people who live there. And I’m incredibly saddened by the recent events.

But that’s not really what this post is about. This post is about how the news spread, and just how much media has changed.

Just a few years back, news was spread by the mainstream media. Some event would happen, and other than the few people who might have been at the scene, the majority of people found out the news through TV, radio, or even the Internet. But typically, the people reporting on the news were the major news media outlets that were using various media to report the news.

But all that is changing. Now, there are a variety of publishing and communication tools that allow everyone – not just the mainstream media – to distribute news. My experience finding out about what had happened in the Binghamton shooting event was completely different than during any other news even in the past. Not only was the information transferred through a variety of media, but the people who were passing on the news were the people on the scene, the people who really knew what was happening; the people who I care about.

Here’s a timeline of what I found out, when and how:

April 3
12:45pm – Instant Message from a co-worker who saw the news on Twitter.

1:20pm – Phone call from my husband Chris, who was driving ativan online pharmacy to a meeting and heard the news on the radio.

1:24pm – Text from a friend: “Turn on CNN now if you can. Shootings in bingo.”

1:28pm – Text from another friend: “Binghamton is in the new Big Time. Shootings”

1:38pm – Twitter Direct Message: “Did you see what’s going on in Binghamton?”

2:44pm – Facebook post from friend: “I just heard that my brother [a Binghamton police officer] is safe from the incident in Binghamton. Thank god.”

4:24pm – Facebook post from my cousin, who’s a firefighter in Binghamton: “Just got back from working the worst shooting in Binghamton history. Never thought that being a firefighter I would be wearing a bullet proof jacket. It was not good at all. prayers for the injured.”

9:23pm – Text from a friend: “Sadly I heard from that [a friend’s] mom was teaching English there 2day and may have been killed. It’s not official yet, but likely.”

For me, during this event, the news that I cared the most about I got from my friends and family through a variety of means – text messages, IM, Facebook. I watched some of the news coverage on CNN and MSNBC, but when Geraldo started spouting off about how Binghamton “is a very tight knit community” I had to turn him off. I didn’t want to see pictures of the American Civic Association via Microsoft Virtual Earth. I didn’t want to watch the news teams scramble to find someone that they could talk to who knew the town and the people there. I wanted to connect with friends and family, via the phone, Twitter, texting, Facebook. I wanted the news from people I loved and trusted, just like I always have. But the big shift is that now there are ways to do this; to gather and disseminate information and to keep connected to all the people I want to talk to who are hundreds of miles away.

Now, instead of listening to what the mainstream media has to say about Binghamton, I can find out what my friends and family think. And I can be encouraged and inspired by things like this awesome note posted to Facebook by one of my cousins:

“Over the past few days, I have listened to people all over the country try and define Binghamton. I will take a stab at it. Binghamton consists of a majority of people that are “down to earth”, love their family, cherish good times with friends, are not afraid to work hard and care about their neighbors. That is why no matter where you go, it is always good to see Binghamtonians! You know who you are!”

How Facebook is changing the world

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

I realize that the title of this post might sound a little dramatic. But I entirely, whole-heartedly believe that it’s true. Facebook is changing the world.

First of all, the number of people who are joining is skyrocketing. According to CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook now has 150 million active users. This means that if Facebook was a country, it would be the 8th most populated in the world. And this isn’t just a group of passive users; almost half of Facebook’s members use the service every day. On Christmas day, Facebook accounted for 1 in every 22 online visits. This participation is staggering. Tons of new people are signing up to use the site daily – and Facebook is a service that gets more fun to use as more people join, so it’s doubtful that this participation will slow.

Facebook logo

But large numbers alone won’t change the world – it’s what Facebook is doing with those numbers that’s so exciting. Here are just a few things that I’ve observed:

Facebook is helping non-technical Web users begin to understand other Web services. I first noticed this because of Facebook’s “Status updates.” I have been promoting Twitter for about a year, but it wasn’t until Facebook’s Status Updates started getting popular that I was able to find a good way to describe Twitter to non-users. Now I just say “Twitter is like Facebook’s status updates, but that’s all it is, so you can update more frequently.” In another example, my cousin is organizing his 15th high school reunion using Facebook, and he wanted his event to be picked up by Google. This allowed me to give him a quick rundown on SEO and how search engines work. There are also reports that Facebook is gearing up to launch a “like” feature that will replicate a popular FriendFeed functionality. This not only will be incredibly popular with Facebook’s members, but will allow them a better understanding of FriendFeed. Facebook’s popularity and excellent user interface is helping to make Web use more mainstream and less frightening to Internet novices. This alone is a major game-changer.

Facebook is changing professional networks. I am currently looking to hire a part-time, contract Web developer to help out with my business. I am actively looking through my Facebook contacts to see if anyone in my network is a developer and might be interested in the job. I can recruit through Craigslist and Boston.com (and will likely pursue those routes, too); but if I can find someone I know – even if it’s someone who I haven’t worked with, seen or talked to in years – I am pre-disposed to hiring that person. Of course the decision will ultimately come down to experience and qualifications, but a network is very important in finding a job, and Facebook is suddenly adding people to my network who I haven’t spoken to in a decade.

Facebook is bringing friends closer. In the spectrum of being able to keep up with friends and staying in touch with people, I am pretty good. I would say slightly above average. Even so, I only have about 3 people who I talk to every day (my husband, my bf/co-worker, my business partner). Then there are about 6 other people who I talk to multiple times a week (my brother & sister-in-law, my neighbors who live downstairs and a few local friends). As my circle gets wider, the frequency of communication drops. Facebook is changing this, by facilitating daily communication with a much wider circle of friends. These are friends who I love dearly, but who just don’t live close to me and neither of us have the time to call and check in every day. But we can read each other’s status updates, look at the photos that we’ve posted and have at least an idea of what is going on in each other’s lives on a daily basis.

Facebook is connecting & creating communities. It would be pretty interesting to see the connections between friends in Facebook charted out, but it seems that most of the connections would be concentrated locally or with specific groups – work friends, high school and college friends, church buddies, soccer teammates, etc. But the really powerful thing is that each person’s connections make up a community of people who share at least one thing (or person) in common. If you expanded out even just one level of separation and looked at all of the connections of my connections, there would be a substantial community of people who likely share at least some commonalities. And when communities of people hook up and unite, it’s amazing what they accomplish.

- Facebook is starting to take a chunk out of my email inbox – in a way. I am getting a ton of messages from friends via Facebook now – both through Facebook’s inbox and the Wall-to-wall features. It seems that as people are spending time using Facebook, they just use the service to drop me a quick note to say hi, ask me a question, or just to connect. (This is only taking a chunk out of my email inbox in a way because a notification is sent to my email anytime someone comments on something that I’ve done or writes me a note.)

It’s becoming a verb. Chris’ new favorite expression is “I’m Facebooking.” The last major service that went from noun to verb was Google. Perhaps that is enough said.

Facebook's music plans: Five random thoughts & one prediction

Monday, October 20th, 2008

Facebook is in the news again about its plans for getting into digital music. Namely, the news is that Facebook doesn’t have plans as of yet to enter the digital music business. I posted a story about this today on The Industry Standard called The Facebook Music mess. If you’re interested, give it a read.

Facebook MusicAs I was working on the article, there were five extra things that I wanted to include but didn’t. Here they are:

1) MySpace is going to kick Facebook’s butt in music no matter what Facebook does. MySpace Music, which officially launched in September, has a huge lead on Facebook in the music business. Even before the company’s new music site launched, MySpace already had millions of bands and musicians signed up and using the site as a promotional tool. MySpace’s roots are in music, and this lead is going to be unbeatable for Facebook.

2) It doesn’t matter that Facebook will be #2 in social music. Even though Facebook will not beat MySpace, it will still be in the music business. And Facebook won’t mind being number two because the multi-billion dollar music business is large enough for there to be more than one winner.

3) The suggestion that Mark Zuckerberg is considering getting into music out of jealousy is preposterous. Facebook has millions of registered members and those millions of members want to listen to music. Zuckerberg and crew are going to have to figure out a business model that works for Facebook and its users, end of story. This has nothing to do with jealousy; it’s purely good business sense.

4) Facebook does actually have a chance to beat MySpace – even in music – internationally. I have written about this in the pastFacebook is going to dominate MySpace in the global arena. It’s possible that Facebook may even beat MySpace in music internationally, especially since MySpace hasn’t launched internationally yet.

5) The music labels are going to have to step it up because they are ridiculously behind the times. OK, this might seem unrelated, but really, the record labels are getting more archaic by the second. According to reports, Facebook is having trouble working out licensing deals with the giants. Apparently, the big four labels won’t give up their music libraries without getting an ownership percentage in Facebook first. That’s just ridiculous on so many levels. There will come a day (I think) when the labels realize that having access to Facebook’s enormous, loyal, repeat audience will be worth the trade of their content.

And here’s the prediction: Facebook will get into the music business in 2009 and whatever the company decides to do will involve a partnership with Apple and iTunes.

Americans expect companies to have a presence in social media: Too bad, Americans

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008

I just saw this press release from Cone LLC touting some results of a survey they did about companies and their presence on social media sites. According to the survey:

– 60% of Americans interact with companies on a social media Web site.
– 25% interact more than once per week.
– 56% of American consumers feel a stronger connection with and better served by companies when they can interact with them in a social media environment.

Confusing statsThese results are actually shocking to me, primarily because I have a hard time believing that 56% of Americans have interacted with a company using social media. I’m not sure how Cone is defining “social media” – perhaps their definition is broader than the one that I would give the term. But I really can’t believe that many companies are up and active and using social media effectively enough to have interacted with their customers using that medium.

I have heard the examples (as you have) about Comcast and Zappos using Twitter. I know that many consumer facing sites are using Facebook and MySpace. But are this many businesses really using social media enough to be communicating with their customers that way?

Apparently I’m not the only one who is perplexed by these figures. This blog post by Steven Hodson at WinExtra says it better than I would, so please link over and read his post if you’re skeptical about the numbers, too.

But taking the study at its word, this is really bad news for businesses that aren’t using social media. Those slackers better catch on immediately. According to the study, 93% of Americans believe that a company should have a presence in social media.

Photo by aeu04117

The multiple personalities of Twitter

Thursday, June 12th, 2008

A couple of months back, I wrote a post about my love/hate relationship with Twitter. In that article, I talked about what I see as being the big downfall of Twitter, which is that it is hard to quickly and easily get people using and understanding it. Twitter is hard to explain, there is no key selling proposition, people sign up and then leave, and the language of Twitter is hard to understand.

People moving quicklyBut now I am starting to grasp what I think is the real reason that it’s so hard to catch onto Twitter – everyone uses it for something different. And because there is no standard way of using Twitter, it’s hard to watch the Twitter stream (the flow of posts to Twitter) and figure out what’s going on and how you should participate. When users sign up, they have to just jump right in and start posting and participating.

The flexibility of Twitter is both its genius and its downfall.

It’s unlikely that anyone sticks with just one way of using Twitter all the time. Most people bounce back and forth between the various ways of using the service. But for me, my Twitter epiphany happened when I picked one primary way of using the service – the way that “fit” me and felt right – and stuck primarily with that. Now, about 6 months and 284 updates into my own use of Twitter, I’m finally starting to hit my Twitter groove.

Here are just a few of the many ways that people use Twitter. If you are someone who has used Twitter and quit, of if you are trying to get started, but just can’t figure out how, try picking one of these that feels best to you and go with it for a week – and see what happens.

Talking to people. If you see a post with an @ sign in it, that post is directed to the Twitter user whose name follows the @ sign. So if you write a post and include @mchang16 in that post, you’re talking to me. Not only do people use this for talking to people they know, but also to respond to other people’s Twitter thoughts and comments – it’s a way to have a conversation. Amanda Chapel (@AmandaChapel) does this quite a bit.

Promotional tool. People post links to their own stuff. The most prominent of these is probably Michael Arrington of TechCrunch (@TechCrunch), who posts a link to a new article every time one goes up on his site. My friend Denise (@ddubie), who is a writer at Network World, also does this very effectively.

Information gathering. If you see someone post a question looking for input or feedback on a specific topic, they are likely using Twitter for information gathering. Chris Brogan (@ChrisBrogan) uses Twitter to post questions fairly frequently, sometimes for blog posts he’s working on and often just to stir up conversation.

To cover events. Because Twitter is easy to use on a mobile phone, people can easily use the service to report on live events. This happens quite a bit at technology conferences (where many Twitter users converge), as well as during natural disasters (San Diego fires) or sporting events (Celtics vs. Lakers – GO CELTICS!!) Sometimes people use a # sign to indicate that they are writing a post about a specific topic/event. (Those are called Hashtags – and you can read more about them here if you’re interested in following or covering an event.)

Create a group of like-minded people. It’s possible to set up an account at Twitter that multiple people can participate in – creating a group. The one I’m most familiar with is Lyric of the Day, which was set up by Fred Wilson (@FredWilson). Members of the group submit a lyric every day, starting the message with @lotd. Check it out here.

Linking to cool stuff on the Web. Many people post cool, interesting or helpful links that they find elsewhere on the Web in Twitter for others to see. This type of post is a way to share the knowledge. Steve Rubel (@SteveRubel) is a Twitter user who often posts interesting links to articles, stories, etc. (A quick aside – my one pet peeve with this type of post is that Twitter changes URLs into TinyURLs to save on space, but I like to be able to see the URL to identify what site I’ll be going to if I click a link.)

Answer the question “What are you doing?” This seems to be the original reason that Twitter came into existence – to let people comment on what they are doing so that people they know can follow them and what they’re up to. Two of my favorite bloggers use Twitter this way Dooce (@dooce) and Penelope Trunk (@PenelopeTrunk).

It’s with this last type of Twitter posts that I’ve mostly settled. You’ll see the occasional promotional Twitter, or conversational Twitter, or link to something cool and interesting Twitter coming from me. But the majority of my posts now answer the question “What are you doing?”

Follow me at @mchang.

Photo by sonictk

10 tips for building a killer Facebook app

Thursday, June 5th, 2008

I just finished writing an article about Facebook applications that gave me the opportunity to test a large number of the less-used apps on the platform. This broad view left me with some new insights into what makes a good Facebook application (as opposed to a mediocre or crappy one, and believe me, there are a lot of those).

10If you’re thinking about building a Facebook app, here are 10 things you can do to make sure that yours stands out from the crowd:

1) Make it fun. Whether you’re building a game or a tool, always keep in mind that the people who are using Facebook are usually doing so on their free time. Most of them are under 35. Most of them are using Facebook for entertainment. So keep things fun. FedEx did a great job of this when they built Launch a Package, which lets users send each other packages – using a springy slingshot. Sending a package via a slingshot that bounces around is a whole lot more fun than sending something with the click of a button.

2) Give it some substance. The programming behind an application may be rock-solid, but without substantive content surrounding the application, it will fall flat. Every application should have at least:

  • A landing page that provides clear branding
  • Easy-to-understand instructions about how to use the application or play the game
  • Multiple options for use, such as various “rounds” or “levels”
  • Enough content to engage a user for at least 10 minutes at a given time
  • A summary/analysis area that lets the user see their history with the application

3) Make it look nice. There are currently more than 27,000 applications on Facebook. Yours will have some competition. If a user is going to choose between two applications that do similar things, they will likely pick the one that is more visually appealing. Take a look at Where I’ve Been vs. Travel Buddies. Which are you more likely to use? 

4) Include music or sound effects. Facebook is a multimedia platform – take advantage of it. All of the best applications have somehow incorporated sound effects or music. This doesn’t have to be fancy – Traveler IQ Challenge uses the sound of a ticking clock very effectively.

5) Provide a takeaway. When the user has finished using the application, they want something to show for it – either a ranking, a rating or an embeddable object. If you build a game, provide a ranking system that lets users compare themselves to each other. If you build a test, give them a score. Or if you have a graphical application, give them a downloadable picture that they can use on Facebook, but elsewhere, too. This is what Sketch Me does – it turns a profile picture into a pencil drawing that can be saved and used anywhere the user chooses.

6) Make the user want to share the app (as opposed to have to share it). Because of the social nature of Facebook, applications that are developed for the platform should all be sharable. But don’t force your users to share the app to continue using it. The best applications provide an easy way to share, but don’t force users to “send this to 8 friends NOW!” If you build a good app, people will want to share it.

7) Do something different. With thousands of applications already in existence, there is a lot of duplication. But with a little creative thinking, something that already exists can be made new again. Although there are many IQ test apps on Facebook, Who Has The Biggest Brain? stands out because of its use of “size of brain” as a ranking system, and the way that it measures the four areas of intelligence in a game show format. The idea for the application doesn’t have to be completely original, as long as there is something unique that sets it apart.

8) Use solid programming. Your application has to work, and has to work seamlessly. Take the time to understand the Facebook developer platform. If you’re not a developer, work with one who is a Facebook specialist. Make sure that the programming behind the application is solid. The time that you take to really get to know the platform will pay off – this link has some fantastic resources

9) Put ulterior motives out of your mind. Many Facebook apps are obviously trying to get the user to do something other than use the application – click an ad, download a companion application, buy something, etc. When building an application, first make something that people will want to use. Developing a great classified application will be easier than developing a great classified application that will ALSO get someone to download your shopping app. By focusing on the first objective, you’ll create something of value that will generate a large audience – to which you can later market your shopping application.

10) Do the “addiction test.” Can someone use your application once and then never again? Not good. Do they use it once and then feel compelled to immediately use it again? That’s good. Do they want to go back and use it the next day? And the next? That’s even better. Creating an application that can be used time and again is the ultimate goal for killer Facebook app development. One way you can test for this is to ask people you know to use the app. See if they mention the word “addiction.”

Photo by Suzie T

10 great Facebook apps

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

My latest article is up now on The Industry Standard10 cool Facebook apps that you’ve probably never heard of – but should. The article is a profile of some Facebook applications that aren’t in the list of the top 50 most popular applications – some aren’t even in the top 20,000! But they are cool apps, and ones that are worth a look. (Thanks to @fuzzy76 for the tip about Web Presence.)

This article was really fun to write. I can see why someone would want to write for a gaming magazine! Testing games all day was a delight – especially when I can call it “work” instead of “procrastination.” While all of the applications that I reviewed in the article were really good, there were two that stood out as my favorites: Traveler IQ Challenge and Who Has The Biggest Brain? 

Let me be clear – neither of these were favorites because I was any good at them. They were just both really fun to play.

As part of the testing experience, I also came away with two show-and-tell items.

The first is a pencil-sketch drawing of my Facebook profile picture, courtesy of an application called Sketch Me. Here is the before and after:

Melissa Chang Profile Picture Facebook sketch

Second is a cartoon I created with a really cool application called Pixton Comics. I don’t think that this app can really be called a Facebook application, but it is pretty fun nonetheless. (The comic is based on a real-life conversation documented here.) Be kind, this was my first-ever comic!

Irish 1
Irish 2
Irish 3

Tomorrow I’ll be posting an article on the top 10 tips for developing a killer Facebook app. Subscribe here or here to make sure you don’t miss it!

Why I am becoming a FriendFeed believer

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

FriendFeed logoMy first experience with FriendFeed was similar to my first experience with Twitter – the site was a little difficult to get into it, kind of hard to see the value. But like with Twitter, once I started “friending” people, extending my network, and working the site into my daily routine, FriendFeed started becoming more useful.

And then yesterday happened.

Turns out that Steve Rubel, author of the popular Micro Persuasion blog, shared one of my stories in Google Reader – specifically, Why I’m Kissing Tumblr a Sad, Sad Good-bye. That story ended up on FriendFeed (along with all the other articles that Rubel shares).

Rubel is a popular guy on the Web, has a lot of followers. So the post got a much wider distribution than it would otherwise have gotten. And the comments on FriendFeed were outstanding and lively. You can read the stream here. That sparked many other articles about the topic herehere, here and here.

And that discussion, in turn, caused the folks at Tumblr to make some changes.

That is powerful. And fun! The conversations that are happening in FriendFeed are often interesting, many of the current thought-leaders about things related to the Internet and Web 2.0 hang out there, and if companies are listening and taking action because of the dialog – well, that’s incredibly exciting.

Friend me at FriendFeed here: http://friendfeed.com/16thletter.

And I would love to know your impressions of using the service – or if you have similar stories of a company “hearing you” and taking some action.

Social networking in the enterprise will be tough to pull off

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

I am a couple of days behind on this story; I am just reading about Forrester Research’s report on the growth of enterprise spending on Web 2.0 technologies. According to the report:

“Enterprise spending on Web 2.0 technologies will grow strongly over the next five years, reaching $4.6 billion globally by 2013, with social networking, mashups, and RSS capturing the greatest share.”

2.0It’s interesting that social networking is going to be the area of biggest spending for enterprises in the next five years. But this raises a red flag for me. Having worked at big media companies that have the largest technology companies as their clients, I have watched a lot of enterprises (at least in the technology space) try to implement the latest and greatest technologies somewhat unsuccessfully. And I am incredibly skeptical that enterprises are going to be able to successfully implement social networking into their sites.

One of the main factors for social networking to be successful is a big community and affinity – and I’m not sure that the majority of enterprises have the audience to foster a strong social network.

But with that skepticism said, I think that it’s really great that enterprises are going to be trying to implement this stuff. Some of them will undoubtedly be wildly successful, pushing Web 2.0 technologies to get better and bigger and more scalable.

Photo by fffriendly