Posts Tagged ‘Facebook’

The opportunity in B2B social media

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Coming off the recession, B2B marketing is poised to grow significantly in 2010. To get specific, according to a recent report from AMR International “B2B Online Marketing in the United States: assessment and forecast to 2013,” annual growth in U.S. B2B online marketing spend is forecast at 8% in 2010 and is set to reach 14% by 2012.

It’s good to see growth projected again, but more interesting is to take a look at exactly where that growth is going to be happening. The following are the three areas that are poised to grow the fastest, and their annualized growth rates:

- Social media: 21%

- Lead generation: 17%

- Online marketing services: 15%

B2B social media growth

Here’s why I think this is interesting. B2B marketers are planning on growing their social media spend dramatically, but the channels that they are going to have to use are seriously underdeveloped. Social media of all kinds is where to buy discounted viagra, lavitra & cialis definitely maturing, as are the ways that marketers can use it to reach consumer audiences. But in the business-to-business markets, there are not a ton of social media channels to reach viable audiences.

B2B audiences don’t currently have a home when it comes to social media. LinkedIn is a nice professional network, certainly a viable tool for people who are looking to network in B2B markets, but it’s not a place where B2B audiences live, not a spot for marketers to increase their spending 17%. The B2B publishers, who have served the B2B audiences well over the years, haven’t yet launched viable social networks or communities to support those audiences.

So other than experimenting with Facebook and Twitter and YouTube – which I suspect will prove to be a moderate success for some small percentage of marketers – where are marketers going to spend their B2B social media dollars? This is a huge opportunity.

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.

My favorite posts of 2008

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

I’m finally back and getting into the groove of 2009 after heading to my hometown to spend time with family for Christmas, and then taking off time over New Year’s, as well. It’s good to be back. But before I start looking forward to all the very good things that are coming in 2009, I wanted to take a minute to reflect on 2008. Here are my favorite posts (for a variety of reasons) from the past year.

2008 blog posts

 

10 less-than-great personality traits of entrepreneurs (2/25/08)
“Here’s a look at 10 qualities that some entrepreneurs share that may help them be great at starting a company, but not so great at existing in normal society.”

The board meeting & the business plan (1/25/08)
“No matter how solid the plans are in your mind, you’ll find holes when you write things down. This is true in about 99.9% of the cases. I’m sure that there are exceptions; other people like Jack Kerouac who famously wrote On the Road on one long scroll, but in general, things get clearer when they are written down. ”

What Skymall can teach you about user testing (1/23/08)
“Basho the Sumo Wrestler table will go well with any decor, unless you’re sitting behind it.”

What’s going to happen to the music industry? (1/8/08)
“So this puts the music industry in this strange position. The indie artists, who are making some money on their small but loyal audiences and the Long Tail, but often not enough money to live off of, would be psyched to get a record contract because the record companies have the marketing and distribution capabilities that they don’t have access to. The big (and already famous) bands, are trying to get out of their contracts in favor of the freedom that the indie artists enjoy. And the record companies are panicking. This is creating a weird, wild situation where everything is about to totally implode if change doesn’t happen quickly.”

7 ways to raise money for your start-up (2/19/08)
“The good news for anyone who has limited resources when starting a company is that entrepreneurs seem to agree that this can be a good thing. The need to conserve resources often leads to creativity, hard-work, and a drive to succeed that can be missing when money is available and things are easier and more comfortable. So the first piece of advice when you’re thinking about raising money is to make sure that you really need it before going after cash.”

Four hurdles to jump after starting a business (2/13/08)
“When you start a business, you may be trying to hold onto faith that it will be a success, but you don’t really know that it will be. Along with that, you don’t always know where you’re next client will come from. Or employee. Or dollar. So you have to come to a point of accepting the not knowing, embracing the uncertainty. For me, it’s kind of a thrill to be working this all out as I go because I have come to believe that no matter what I face, I’ll figure it out. It might not be today or tomorrow, but eventually, I’ll either determine a way to get around the issue, find someone to help me with it, or overcome it in some way.”

4 reasons media companies are so far behind in social media (3/25/08)
“One issue that the tech publishing companies have is that they are stuck with legacy systems that were created before the term “social media” even existed. While blogs that are newcomers on the scene were built from the ground-up to support social media, the big publishers are struggling to make the smallest changes to their massive publishing systems that will allow them to play in the social media space. These companies have millions of pages of content – all stuck in ancient content management systems that they adopted in the 1990s. This digging out of legacy technology and making the transition to Web 2.0 technologies is not going to happen quickly, easily or at a low cost for these companies.”

5 ways to make sure that skimmers will read your email message (3/13/08)
“The life of a skimmer is treacherous. They go to meetings and get asked a question “about that email that was sent yesterday” and have absolutely no idea how to answer. They never know what time the party is going to start, or who was invited, or what day it is going to be held. Skimming causes problems. But for whatever reason, skimmers can’t stop. They might just think it’s ridiculous that people send long email messages. They might be “all about efficiency” or “impatient” or “don’t care.” The list of reasons is long.”

The rare women tech start-up founder (4/30/08)
“Although it may have been said many times in many ways, I think it’s a mistake to gloss over the issue of having kids…For every start-up founder, I think, balancing a career with the rest of life is something to think about. But as a woman, the issue rarely leaves my mind. It adds urgency, pressure and stress. And I’m sure for some women, this trifecta of bad emotion is enough to keep them from starting that start-up.”

10 reasons entrepreneurs should take more vacations (4/17/08)
“You are getting boring to be around. This is happening to me. I meet with friends for a drink or dinner, and they ask me what’s going on, and pretty much the only thing that I have to tell them about is my business. And to me, it’s really exciting and fun and interesting to talk about my work. But I can tell that their eyes are starting to glaze over at times.”

I like Twitter, but it has a big problem (4/11/08)
Everyone was writing about Twitter. I knew that I had to figure out how to use it, but I was struggling. I personally knew only one person who used Twitter. My friends (mostly non-techies) and business colleagues (behind in Web 2.0) weren’t using it. So I started “following” people, just in an attempt to see how Twitter worked.”

Stop scheduling meetings on Tuesdays and get to work (5/8/08)
“I might be the last person to know this, but Tuesday is the most productive day of the week. I was alerted to this fact by this blog post, which pointed to some research by Robert Half International. But then when I went to dig in deeper, Tuesday-is-the-most-productive-day-ever was all over the Internet.”

.anydomainnameyouwant soon to be available for purchase (6/27/08)
“I have heard a lot of people making the case that the only domain name that really matters is .com. Although I agree that the .com domain name will stay the strongest for the foreseeable future, this thinking is really short-sighted. Although technology is advancing quickly, the Internet is still in its infancy. It’s hard to predict what will happen in two years, let alone in 20 years. I think that there is a very good chance that other gTLDs will become important. I’ve seen evidence of this in other countries, and honestly, it’s even possible that the gTLD system could eventually go away entirely.”

10 tips for building a killer Facebook app (6/5/08)
“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.”

Patience is a virtue that I just don’t have (but I’m working on it) (8/21/08)
“I have fought a life-long battle with patience. I know that this story is not unique – very few people like to wait. But I’m writing about this now because I have enduring a trial that is requiring patience that I never thought I could muster – the patience needed to start a company.”

Five things your business can learn from Disney (8/13/08)
“Fake it ’til you make it. When Disney introduces a new potential star to its audience, it makes sure that the nobody looks like a somebody from the first moment they are introduced. The singer is usually introduced in a short-clip music video or concert during a commercial break on the Disney Channel. That video shows a huge crowd of adoring, hip, teenage fans screaming and swooning for the “star.” This crowd is made up of paid and wannabe actors, and the music video is usually shot in a studio. But it looks like the singer is a star, and more importantly people believe the singer is a star, even before it is true.”

Five reasons to start delegating more today (9/10/08)
“Believing that you are the only one that can do a task isn’t helpful for you and isn’t helpful for your business. And it’s probably not true. This is the most common protest made by over-achievers and perfectionists who think that they can do the work the best or the fastest or without any help. And this notion is dangerous because trying to run a business completely alone will not work.”

10 ways to stay positive when times are tough (11/4/08)
“I am an optimist, but I’ve been feeling this slump like everyone else. As an entrepreneur, I feel a little bit like I have a split personality, reminding myself of all the reasons that starting a company during a recession is a good idea, internalizing all the reasons that owning a business in a recession is a very difficult prospect. It’s emotionally draining.”

Babel Fish, Google Translate and human go head-to-head (12/5/08)
“To me, it looks like the human with moderate Spanish skills won, hands down. But if you aren’t lucky enough to sit 3 feet away from someone who is willing to indulge your translation needs, I would go with Google Translate. At least in Spanish-to-English translation, with these examples, it had a slight advantage.”

I'm done saying it nicely. Sign up for a Twitter account now!

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

I can’t emphasize this enough – if you are a professional, if you need to market anything, if you know anyone who is on Twitter, if you have a business or work for a company, if you use the Internet, GO AND SIGN UP FOR TWITTER TODAY. Here’s the link: https://twitter.com/signup

Just do it. Stop hesitating. Sign up now.

Twitter takes awhile to understand. So you need to get started today. If you use Facebook, it won’t take you too long to catch on – it’s just like the “Status updates” that you’re used to writing and reading from your friends every day. (By the way, if you’re not on Facebook, SIGN UP NOW!)

More and more companies are using Twitter. Dell just announced that it made $1 million dollars using Twitter. Politicians are using the site. So are celebrities and musicians and sports stars. They are talking about it on Fox Business and my brother and husband both have accounts. Santa can be tracked using Twitter. Twitter is moving from the early-adopter crowd to mass adoption and the earlier you start to use the service and understand it, the better off you’ll be.

When I started using Twitter in October 2007, I wasn’t sure that it would catch on. But adoption is skyrocketing (see the graph below from Compete.com). Even if you don’t like Twitter or use it all the time, it will help you in your work if you understand what the service is and how to use it. The only way to truly understand Twitter is to get an account.

Twitter growth

Just compare Twitter’s growth (above) to Facebook’s (below). Facebook has more total unique visitors, but the growth its growth slope is slower. And considering that many people who use Twitter never visit Twitter.com (instead using clients such as TweetDeck to follow the conversation), it’s likely that the chart UNDER-emphasizes Twitter’s growth.

Facebook trend

You must be part of the conversation, and to do that, you have to be on Twitter. So join today.

Follow me on Twitter here: http://twitter.com/mchang16

UPDATE: I just saw Robert Scoble’s “thought for the morning” and realize that he’s totally right. Twitter is big, but Facebook is getting massive.

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.

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!

Social networks and international audiences

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

My latest article is up on The Industry Standard, Facebook vs. MySpace: The battle for global social network dominance. It takes a look at MySpace and Facebook, and makes a prediction about which will win in the competition for international audience.

When researching the article, I came across a lot of data about social networks in various countries, and it as interesting to see the various social networks that are winning in countries around the world. According to Comscore, “the number of worldwide visitors to social networking sites has grown 34% in the past year to 530 million, representing approximately 2 out of every 3 Internet users.”

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the social networks that are less familiar to those of us in the U.S., and the countries in which they are popular. The data comes from sources here and here.

Orkut – Brazil
Orkut logo

9158.com – China
9158 logo

hi5.com – Peru, Columbia, Central America, Mongolia, Romania, Tunisia
hi5 logo

bebo.com – Ireland, New Zealand
bebo logo

cyworld – South Korea
Cyworld logo

Live Journal – Russia
Live Journal logo

This is also interesting – a visual look at MySpace (blue) vs. Facebook (red) according to Compete.com.

Compete.com myspace vs. facebook

I like Twitter, but it has a big problem

Friday, April 11th, 2008

Really, I’m sure that Twitter has more than a single problem – most companies/concepts/new technologies do. But I think that the main issue with Twitter is that it will never gain mainstream adoption until there is an easier way to get new people understanding and using the technology – a quick and easy way.

Twitter logoHere are the issues that I think make Twitter so difficult to start using:

1) It’s hard to explain. I have been in a number of business meetings in the past month where the topic of Twitter came up. In one meeting (about social media) the person doing the presentation hadn’t heard of Twitter and everyone in the room looked at me like I had two heads when I brought it up. In another meeting, the president of a content creation company told me that his company “Looked into Twitter, didn’t get it, and figured that it would never have mainstream adoption.” I tried to tell these people why they should care about Twitter, why people telling each other “what they’re doing” in 140 characters or less was important, but they just didn’t get it. And I’m sure that was my fault because I did a terrible job explaining. There MUST be a better way to explain. I think this video was awesome and helpful, but what about when I don’t have a video handy?

2) There is no “key selling proposition.” Lovers of Twitter will tell me that I am crazy, that Twitter is so great because it does so many things for so many people. But I would tell you that to get mainstream adoption, it needs a key selling proposition. How do I get people to use Facebook? I tell them that it’s a low-key way to connect with friends I’ve lost touch with (and I give examples). How do I get people to use Tumblr? I explain how I can link to things and pictures and stories and all the stuff that I find interesting on the Web and that I can set it up in about 1 minute.

I don’t have ONE good way to get people to start using Twitter. Some people say that they get immediate and great input on restaurants when they are traveling. Twitter birdOthers say that they use it when they’re lost or to get answers to questions. But I haven’t effectively used Twitter in any of those ways (although I’ve tried). I am not sure if that is because you have to have a certain number of people following you, a certain level of celebrity within the group that is following you, or if you actually need to know the people in your Twitter network, but those uses clearly don’t work for everyone. I am left without a great way to convince everyone that I know that they should use Twitter (and people I know using Twitter would be the one way that the service would actually begin to be extremely useful to me).

3) People sign up and then leave. This almost happened to me. I started using Twitter, had a bad experience, left, came back and managed to stick with it (although I’m hardly a Twitter power-user.) Here’s my embarrassing story:

I started using Twitter on October 18, 2007, with this Tweet: “Joining twitter, trying to figure out how it works” 

My fourth Tweet was this: “There’s never been a better time to do a startup http://www.scribemedia.org/…” Followed quickly by my fifth Tweet: “I should get a tatoo”

Of course, I meant for my fifth post to be connected to the fourth post, but I got tripped up by the 140 character limit. So I quickly went in to try to delete the fifth post and couldn’t – there’s no delete. So then I was horrified because I was trying to establish my professional Internet presence and not only did my Tweet say “I should get a tatoo” but I didn’t even spell tattoo correctly. I quickly made a couple of other posts in hopes of covering up the embarrassing post, and then bailed.

I came back again on January 4, 2008, with this message: “Trying Twitter again. I wish I could get into it.”

My next Tweet: “about to throw twitter out the window. just tried to send a direct message, dont think it worked. grrrr ”

Thank God for @tylerwillis who quickly replied “it worked if it was the one to me.” He might have saved my Twitter life. I kept going.

Everyone was writing about Twitter. I knew that I had to figure out how to use it, but I was struggling. I personally knew only one person who used Twitter. My friends (mostly non-techies) and business colleagues (behind in Web 2.0) weren’t using it. So I started “following” people, just in an attempt to see how Twitter worked. I currently follow 585 people, most of whom I started following on January 4th or 5th.

Then I started getting input from people about how I shouldn’t follow so many people and how I was incorrectly using Twitter. This is a gem that I received that day (via email):

“Saw you follow me on twitter, and you seem really interesting but.. can I respectfully refer you to this document http://www.caroline-middlebrook.com/blog/twitter-guide/ . ( i.e #3). Sorry just telling it like it is :-(

I had no idea what this guy (who I didn’t know) was talking about. I went to the link and this is what the link said:

Twitter Guide Part #3: Using Twitter Properly

So I figured that I made a mistake, that I broke some “Twitetiquette” but I had no idea what. So I wrote my new email buddy back to ask what my issue was. This is what he told me in reply:

“I know from your blogs that you are a top person. intelligent and info source. When I looked at your twitter follow I checked it out and simply you were not someone I would want to follow. … Bottom line, would you want to read and follow your own twitter posts? Maybe you would? …

With twitter you get flooded with feeds and if feeds are pointless crap, then people don’t have the time to follow them, unless they already know and are interested in the pointless crap of that person….

I can only tell you that when I looked at your twitters, you offered me “nothing” of interest.”

OUCH. I was a brand-new Twitter user being shown the door for writing “pointless crap” on Twitter.

I clearly am someone of outstanding stubbornness (or stupidity) because I stuck with Twitter. And I still use it, although not as much as some people. But I have a feeling that this experience that I had, this barrier to entry that was almost impossible to overcome, is probably holding people back from adoption.

When I went through the phase (lasting 2 days) of trying to add a lot of people at once, I had some strategies. One of those was to add all the people named “Melissa.” I typed the name into the search box and found that most people named Melissa have quit on Twitter after joining. Here’s the “Recently” timeframes of the first 19 Melissa’s that show up:

2 days ago
about 1 year ago
7 months ago
11 months ago
about 1 year ago
about 1 year ago
protected
3 months ago
15 hours ago
11 months ago
protected
9 months ago
10 months ago
protected
21 days ago
9 months ago
9 months ago
4 months ago
13 hours ago

If I consider “current” Twitter users as anyone who has sent a message in the past month, and I eliminate the Melissa’s who have protected updates, only 3 out of 16 (19%) are still current users of Twitter. I thought this might be an issue between female/male users of Twitter, so I did the same thing with my husband’s name (Christopher). I found this:

about 1 year ago
5 months ago
3 days ago
8 months ago
10 months ago
19 days ago
protected
2 days ago
20 days ago
about 1 year ago
7 months ago
2 hours ago
about 1 year ago
protected
about 1 year ago
11 months ago
10 months ago
10 months ago
protected

The results were a little better – 5 out of 16 (31%) were recent Twitter users. But in my unscientific study, there is clearly a huge drop off from the number of people who sign up to Twitter compared to the number of people who continue to use the service.

4) The people who don’t use Twitter don’t understand the language of it. Anyone who reads this post who doesn’t use Twitter will not know the following terms and what they mean to Twitter or how to use them:

@mchang16 (the @ symbol is the biggest because it’s all over Twitter, and not intuitive)
Follow
Tweet
Twitetiquette
Recently

Something needs to be done to make it easier to get people to use Twitter, and to get them to stick around to learn how to use (and keep using) it after signing up. If that doesn’t happen, there will be no widespread future for the service.

Follow me on Twitter (if you dare!) @mchang16.

(As a footnote to this story, my email buddy and I became Facebook friends, although he still doesn’t follow me on Twitter.)