Nothing Said Online is Ever Private. Not Ever. Especially if it’s from WordPress in 2010.

Hello2010

Have you discovered WordPress’ new product? It lets you connect with friends from Google, Facebook and Twitter. It connects you with many blogs that haven’t seen the light of day (or their author’s time), since 2010.

Thing back to three years ago. Facebook was still debatable in terms of whether it would make it to 2013. Open Graph was non-existent. What average consumer would have thought that one day, their pseudo-diary would be readable by all their friends and family just by clicking the “connect” button. When I hit “connect,” I certainly didn’t expect to find secret blogs that friends wrote during moments of depression. I certainly didn’t expect to find out that a college friend had battled/is battling (??) serious depression. I wonder if it would be better for me to warn him of this new feature (AWKWARD!) or let it go. His was the most shocking read, but there were certainly many other entries showcasing private moments that weren’t meant to be seen by me, or any other ‘Facebook Friend’ or casual Gmail contact. Of course, I only saw the name of the author when I clicked-through, not the type of content.

The difference in 3 years is astounding. In terms of internet habits and technological abilities.. In terms of how 20 blogs that would be on page 999 of Google Search would be, suddenly, so easy to find. Even if that wasn’t my intent.

A girl I’ve known since grade school but haven’t talked to since high school, I discovered, has become a wonderful artist. But, I don’t think I can tell her that WordPress stalked her for me accidentally.

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Google Reader: What Does the Internet OWE us?

Google Reader

 

All through my newsfeed today, friends and internet acquaintances were aghast at Google’s decision to dissolve Google Reader.

“I demand justification, Google,” wrote one.

“We must fight to save it,” wrote another.

Not to poo-poo their righteous indignation too much (today also marked the day when Veronica Mars the Movie got Crowdfunded in less than 24 hours. ZOMG so internet peeps certainly have a voice), but we are all leasing, never to own. Facebook. Twitter. Google Reader. None of us have any control over these platforms.  We enjoy them to stay connected to friends and loved one and our favorite online columnists, but you have to know that you’re on borrowed time. If the platform becomes unprofitable or no longer is part of a site’s strategic vision, to quote my favorite White Sox announcer, HE GONE.

Earlier this year, EveryBlock, owned by NBC closed it’s doors without any sort of notice. All the relationships that users had created through the years were gone. They didn’t even have time to send new contact details. There was similar outrage at the time. At least Google is giving users’ notice.

But, there’s an important lesson in this that I hope people see through their anger: we own our online platforms as much as we own the television shows we adore e.g. we don’t own them at all. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t enjoy them – but please — save your precious photos in the cloud  or on a disk. Don’t use Facebook or Snapfish as your storage. And, if you meet a great personality online, get their real contact info. You never know what will be here tomorrow.

 

 

Facebook Collections Unveils Plan to Battle Pinterest While Linking Facebook Use To Purchase Intent

Just when you thought Facebook shared all its October updates – there’s another one that came through yesterday that has the potential to be HUGE.

Facebook is taking a gigantic step-forward in connecting Brand Pages to purchase intent – while also making a play for the link/referral traffic that Pinterest has been lauded for previously: Facebook is currently testing a new functionality called “Collections” which adds purchase ability to the standard Photo Album. User will be able to indicate that they WANT or want to COLLECT the items pictured – and be able to follow a link within the collection to the brand website for purchase.

Collections will be visible both from the newsfeed and the brand page. The “Want” button adds a product to a Timeline section called “Wishlist” visible to friends of friends, the “Collect” button saves to to a Collection called “Products” that’s visible to friends only,  and a special version of the “Like” button will also add to “Products” which will be visible to friends of friends. There are currently three different versions being A/B tested to users.

Pages included in the test consist of: Pottery Barn, Wayfair, Victoria’s Secret, Michael Kors, Neiman Marcus, Smith Optics and Fab.com. There’s no news of now when this functionality will be available for general use – and retailers are not being charged to use the Collections feature.

A Facebook spokesperson notes:
We’ve seen that businesses often use Pages to share information about their products through photo albums. Today, we are beginning a small test in which a few select businesses will be able to share information about their products through a feature called Collections.  Collections can be discovered in News Feed, and people will be able to engage with these collections and share things they are interested in with their friends. People can click through and buy these items off of Facebook.

More info about the Collections functionality can be found at AllFacebook.com<http://allfacebook.com/facebook-collections_b101558&gt;.

Twitter and the 2012 Presidential Election

A story I’ve been following with interest the past few weeks – is how both the republican and democratic candidates are using Twitter to promote their respective campaigns.

Bothe Team Romney and Team Obama have been actively purchasing promoted tweets, the latest example being the purchase of “literarily” by the Dems after Biden left no doubt just how much, LITERALLY, he loves that word. Frankly, considering the number of half-truths and flat out falsehoods shared by both parties during their conventions, it may be a more valuable word than typically speaking – but I digress.

Obama’s camp bought “literally” so that when twitter users searched for it – they got a promoted tweet from Obama promoting Biden…promoting Obama (see below).

Image

It’s smart – and shows a certain sense of humor as well. Promoted tweets have been doing well for both parties.

It’s the hashtag they can’t control.

The Romney camp experienced this firsthand when they promoted the hashtag #areyoubetteroff. With an estimated ratio of 5:1 – Romney was sorely mocked. Meanwhile, Obama’s #Forward2012 has had more success – but still has naysayers in the ranks. Interestingly, hashtags that aren’t being promoted, such, as #MovingForward or #MovingForward2012 have a higher percentage of positive sentiment – likely because they aren’t as public. Anti-Obama users have a greater chance of seeing the official hashtag and as a result have a better chance of joining the conversation – which is really what hashtags are all about.

That, and Twitter users (especially those with anonymous handles) are prone to mockery. Multiple big name brands have experienced this before, ranging from Disney to the Maldives (swoon/sigh). The more general keyword, the more interpretations it can bring, which is definitely good to keep in mind.

Should the campaigns stop buying/promoting hashtags? Not necessarily, but they should pick smarter and more specific hashtags. And, make sure that they alert their supporters to keep the hashtag convo as positive as possible. A safer alternative would be dealing exclusively in promoted tweets – and keeping promoted hashtags as a defensive measure (sure the other party be bidding on their key messages etc).

Have you joined any of the political conversations on Twitter?

60,000 Unique Readers a Month for the Little Blog that Could

I met with my editor for MyFirstApartment.com last week  over dinner. We met at Park Avenue Summer and sat a few tables down from Kevin Bacon (!) . . . but the big news was our site traffic.

For those that don’t know, My First Apartment is an apartment living blog I started writing for over 5 years ago when I wrote an Chicago neighborhood guide I quickly got hooked writing about the trials and tribulations of apartment living.

After the neighborhood guide, I started blogging about my first apartment living experience outside of college. It was good fun, and a nice way to make a few extra bucks a month.  When I first began, we had between 5-10K readers a month, depending on the month. Even though we were small, it was exciting, knowing folks were reading on a regular basis.

Like most blogs, we view our unique monthly readers as a barometer of our relevance and influence. As you can likely imagine, the web traffic for apartment hunting/living is somewhat seasonal, with its low point around the 1st of the year and slowly picking up through May, when it explodes – gaining steadily until Labor Day. Traffic during the back-half of the year goes down gradually.

August is our Super Bowl season.

A year ago, I was challenged to raise the monthly unique visitors to 50,000 per month. It was a sizable leap from the year before, but not impossible. In addition to paying more attention to keyword searches, I also starting pitching MFA so we could gain increased traffic from cross-links as well as gain the Google Search advantage as well.

Hitting 50K felt huge at the time, but to have traffic increase by 20% a year later truly feels beyond incredible and quite satisfying. Working in social media, metrics are often treated with nervous gulps. How do we measure? What matters? Admittedly, it can be a nail biter – but it doesn’t have to be.

Personally, I find metrics invigorating. It’s mathematical storytelling and instant gratification all rolled up in one. Few endeavors allow us to immediately trace our success (and failures). But, even our failures tell us how we improve next time. The important thing to remember is that tracking over time tells the very best story because it provides the best context. Notice I’m not saying we’re tracking again other specific sites. This is because while we can gain best practices from other sites – their stats won’t help us sell more ads or convince more readers that we share good tips. Nope, this is a one-on-one game.

Through the years, often my favorite articles don’t receive the best traffic. We know that our readers come to our site for quick info. It’s often the same info time-after-time, as opposed to our more quirky articles, like one of my personal favorites, How to Avoid Roommates from Hell (which Jezebel quoted). While it makes me a touch regretful, I know the importance of balancing the two types of posts. Half feed my creativity, the other half feeds new readers and our SEO.

Shortly, I hope to dive fully into our MFA metrics to see what can continue to be improved – maybe this time next year, we’ll crack 75K uniques:)

Pinteresting Metrics

Pinterest has gained traction relying on two key pieces of data: It’s ability to drive traffic to websites and a growing usership outpace any previous social network.  

What we haven’t known is how users are engaging with specific pages and pins, aside from liking and repinning. And, even then, all our calculations have been manual. 

Enter Pinfluencer and it’s 1.4M in seed funding. 

It’s still early days, but 25 start-metrics sounds like a fantastically bright future for Pinterest, even after the hype fades. Image 

WordPress Better Update It’s Image Options

One of the benefits of taking a time out from any project, is coming back to it with fresh eyes. I recall debating the merits of Tumblr and WordPress about 2 years ago when I started writing. Thinking I preferred the long-form style, I chose WordPress. I feel now like I bet on the wrong horse. I’m currently searching for wordpress browser plug-ins, but it doesn’t seem nearly as easy as Tumblr, Pinterest or even Facebook to pull-in content from other pages. 

WordPress, didn’t you get the memo? 2012 is the year of the shared image.

Transmedia and the War For Consumer Attention

ImageAre you familiar with the term, “transmedia”? I hadn’t heard the term before, but when I saw that Andrea Philips (an award-winning transmedia pioneer, as well as gamer and writer) was in town to speak on the subject, I quickly leapt at the chance to learn more.  Turns out, transmedia gives name to a growing marketing technique many of us have likely seen and admired for its ingenuity.

According to Phillips, transmedia is one story told over multiple mediums where each medium contributes a unique contribution to the whole.  So, one feature film shown in theaters, previewed on the movie’s website and shared on the movie’s Facebook and YouTube channel would not qualify. It would be considered a smart way to merchandize across networks, reaching a higher number of viewers, but not so much transmedia.

Instead, consider a movie like The Dark Knight. Prior to the film’s release, a game was released that asked fans to steal a bus for the Joker. The fans completed the mission, happy to participate. They were rewarded early on in the feature film when the Joker used that stolen bus to wreak havoc on Gotham.

Non-gamers likely enjoyed that scene as well (it was one of the film’s more memorable sequences), but those that had helped steal the bus now felt part of something larger. They had an intimate, secret knowledge of the story. They were insiders, and very likely would become even more ardent ambassadors of the Dark Knight franchise (even if their connection was pre-arranged).

This type of marketing isn’t necessarily cutting edge (Phillip’s gave the initial example of transmedia marketing in the movie A.I released in 2001) – but it’s certainly becoming more prevalent and more necessary. Not only are more consumers using multiple devices, they’re often using them at the same time – actively asking for two different types of experiences; of the SuperBowl’s 111M viewers, 60% were estimated to have watched on two screens according to Technorati.

As Philips astutely pointed out, attention is the currency of the future. While transmedia can help brands develop richer connections to fans, it also provides multiple access points for new fans. Consider Batman again – how many of the gamers who saw Dark Knight would have seen it had they not become a participant in the story? Certainly, not as many as who ended up seeing the film – and recommending it to friends.

As Phillips was wrapping up her presentation, she made an off-hand comment that truly cemented the obviousness of this next chapter in digital marketing. On an average Monday night, in one five-minute period, we might respond to texts about meeting a friend for a drink, while watching TV, while emailing a colleague about an upcoming deadline. Our lives, our personal slivers of story are already transmedia. The brands that truly consider the importance of this new multi-connected world sooner, rather than later, are going to be at a clear advantage.

Admittedly, I too, stand to gain from transmedia – I see it as the opening a new chapter of creativity for my own work as a digital marketer. I fell in love with stories before I was tall enough to reach the light switch – wanting madly to create — but as I’ve grown older, I’ve become more “reasonable” (e.g. reliable monthly salary = safer than writing fiction).

Since graduating college, I’ve tried my hand at becoming a journalist, then a communications associate, and even a blogger. I discovered digital marketing – happy to finally have some creativity back in my life. But transmedia – that’s an explosion of creativity. And it’s coming. Soon. To a theater, mobile device, billboard and laptop near you.

Andrea Phillip’s new book, A Creator’s Guide to Transmedia Storytelling, will be published by McGraw-Hill in June 2012.