Back in April of 2015, I wrote about Facebook not being the world’s biggest waste of time and to this day still feel essentially the same. That doesn’t mean, however, the social media platform falls short on a few specifics as far as functionality is concerned. Today’s post has to do with one of them. Commenting!
One of the smarter moves by Zuckerberg and his pack of engineers was the idea to not only encourage comments by people on various posts to Facebook but also encouraging others to respond to those comments. We all have a love/hate relationship with Facebook’s “like” tool. According to Zuckerberg, Facebook is working on a dislike button. Not sure how I feel about that since it most likely would encourage more conflict between users than anything else. Back to comments. In 2014, a Facebook user by the name of Lisa Moir asked a most relevant, cogent, and dead on question about who controls your likes and comments? See below:
Poor Facebook customer service
A woman by the name of Judie Green (who on her profile page states that she’s “Active in FB HelpCenter, answered over 10,000 questions by other users) responded that feedback should be sent to Facebook about this question and that you can easily do so by clicking on your “settings” function and reporting a “problem.” Judie never adequately responded to the question because she didn’t know how to answer it. The only logical answer, of course, is that when someone posts a comment on a post by a user, it is up to the user’s profile to decide who can read those comments. I’ve emailed Facebook using its general feedback form and I’ve never heard anything back on this nagging problem. I also added my own comments to Moir’s original post critical of Facebook’s own failings.
If I comment on a post but I don’t want my network of FB friends to see my comments there is nothing I can do about that because it is up to the user profile who determines what comments are viewable. So let’s say I comment on a political post but only want those who are following the post to read my comments, it’s not possible. As soon as I respond, my comments can be seen by my entire social network. Do I truly want to mix politics with every person in my social network on Facebook? In turn, I’ve been liking posts less and less because I don’t want more of my social network to see what it is that I’m commenting on. Just because you are participating in a social networking platform doesn’t mean you want everyone to see what it is you are commenting on. Is there an easy way to fix this gross failure by Zuckerberg and his staff?
I always thought Google + was actually the superior platform for social networking. But it came along too late. Facebook had already laid claim to the social network monster that it is, for better and for worse. I merely wish that Zuckerberg and his customer service department spent a bit more time responding to legitimate complaints and make the serious effort at modifying some of the functionality that creates such irritation on the part of its users.
Bill Robinson published back in February a damning critique of Facebook. Robinson writes, “Facebook isn’t real or productive, it’s just an advanced version of the electronic bulletin boards that have been around since the Internet dawned.”
That’s where Robin is wrong. Yes, Facebook is an electronic bulletin board. But it does bring people together on topics, issues, and interests that they care about. And a meaningful exchange in dialogue occurs. For example, I’m a member of a Jimi Hendrix fan page group called Electric Guru. There are more than 1,000 members and I’m an administrator. I love this group. It is filled with extremely passionate Jimi Hendrix fans; these are the types of fans who can discourse about Hendrix each day of the year and never get tired of it. Photos are shared; recordings are shared. Sometimes there are disagreements but overall, the vibe is most welcoming to all who share the passion of Jimi Hendrix’s music. To say that this human exchange is not “real” or “productive” completely misses what is actually going on. Is it productive? Yes. I’m choosing to spend my time discussing and reacting to photos of Jimi Hendrix. I enjoy spending my time doing so. I don’t spend all day on FB. But I check in several times a day. I choose to do so. And it rewards me by providing me with quality content. I follow influential thinkers, like Sam Harris or Lawrence Krauss. For example, I enjoy the posts of Robert Reich, former secretary of Labor under President Clinton. I share Robert’s politics. And I enjoy reading his posts about the rising tide of inequality in the United States. I agree with just about everything he writes. He has forged a strong community on Facebook. I’m glad to be part of it.
Next Robinson writes: “A real ‘social network’ wouldn’t be virtual. It would involve real people, meeting in a real, tangible, bricks-and-mortar building or outdoor place, where they might have food, drinks and conversation.” I’m surprised Robinson would make such an ignorant remark. As if people who live across countries can just get on a plane and meet with members of their social network at a cafe or restaurant and share conversation? Facebook is global. I communicate and chat with members of my Hendrix group who live all over the planet. It is a virtual network and I’m engaging in real dialogue with real people.
Robin writes: “What’s not real is an online place where there’s no exclusivity or discernment about who gets in, and all manner of riff-raff voicing their opinions, exchanging links to news reports, photos of kittens playing with string, comic books and jokes, while espousing how great it all is that they’re meeting and making so many “friends.” Wrong again, Robin. There is exclusivity and discernment about who gets in. My Hendrix group is a private group and there is a waiting list for those who want to get in. And we’re not sharing photos of kittens playing with string; were not espousing about how many”friends” we’ve made. We’re talking about the topic of the fan page. Facebook can and does connect people wanting to discuss specific topics.
Is Facebook a waste of time?
Gotta love Robinson’s provincial take on Facebook. Describing it as “a waste of time,” he writes about what people have stopped doing, including “reading a book for instance (or, reading online to educate oneself). Or doing a crossword puzzle/Sudoku. Play chess. Improve your resume. Learn a new language. Teach your child how to ride a bike. Talk to your mom and dad. Surprise your wife. Go to church. Volunteer at a local soup kitchen. You get the point–there’s SO MUCH more to do in real life, the real world than destroy your brain cells with fleeting FB chatter and fake friends.”
I don’t consider spending time on FB as destroying one’s brain cells. Quite the opposite. Facebook, when properly used, can be very worthwhile. It can serve to validate one’s opinion, especially when you have dozens or even hundreds of people liking your comment. It’s reassuring to know that others feel and/or share your views. I also know that many people have now established their social networks on Facebook, in particular, sharing daily posts about their lives with their actual friends (not people whom they have never met, BTW).
I don’t go on Facebook to necessarily “learn” new things. Learning on Facebook is serendipitous. I’ve sometimes learned something new on FB that I did not know about. I follow news stories as posted by Bill Moyers. I enjoy following Bill in this manner. I click on a particular story if I want to learn more about it and get taken to his website. You are “old school,” Robinson. I just don’t think you want to like Facebook because you hate it so much.
Just how obnoxious is Facebook?
Robinson derides Facebook for “locking in” its users. Facebook is by no means perfect. It has done a number of obnoxious things. I never liked the development of Facebook gaming apps. I never liked Facebook advertising. I agree that both served to only irritate FB users. But FB is providing a free platform and it must be paid for. Facebook is not a charity and Zuckerberg is no Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist. I know that if the bulk of my social network left Facebook than I too would leave Facebook. I don’t use Facebook to “meet new people.” I’ve used Facebook to get in contact with people I once knew (former college classmates, for example) and I’ve met new people on Facebook who share my passionate interests, like Jimi Hendrix, for example.
Is Facebook sucking you in?
Now comes the part that really ruffles Robinson’s feathers. He calls it “dangerous” and “pathetic” when he reads that FB users are getting so much of their news from FB. Then he says that FB is “sucking you into their little world” because you end up exclusively there for your news and information and FB will then control your thoughts and further indoctrinate you into their revenue streams.
I’ve got news for you, Mr. Robinson. Is what you’re describing any different from, say, what a right wing republican will read for their news and information? Who are the types of people that listen to Rush Limbaugh? The right wing republicans who listen to Limbaugh enjoy doing so because he speaks for them on pretty much all of the issues that matter to them. Rush is “their truth.” And Rush Limbaugh is on Facebook. He has more than a million FB fans. FB isn’t “controlling their thoughts.” Limbaugh is. FB is just the platform serving up all of the content as provided by those who are on it, lest you forget. Facebook is a content platform. It’s nothing without the content of its users.
Will Facebook users abandon it?
Robinson, you parrot the study by Princeton University that Facebook users will lose 80% of its users by 2017. Facebook hilariously debunked this study. Yes, youth are fickle and there has been a drop-off in young users of FB. But guess what? It’s the adults who have settled into Facebook and now make up more than 70% of users. That’s no small percentage by any means. Why are you so concerned about the youth? They are off spending, no WASTING their time on such apps as Snapchat. And what kind of content are they sending to each other? Could it be porn?
Bill Robinson: You’re old school. You’re old hat. You’re a square.
In conclusion, I find Bill’s rant about Facebook to be coming from someone who truly is of another generation. Someone who didn’t spend time online to socialize; someone who wishes it were 1990 again. Yes, Facebook has awful ads. Yes, Facebook continues to run a fowl of privacy laws. Facebook isn’t an ideal platform. And Facebook won’t be around forever. MySpace died because it had an awful UI, among other things. When FB came on the scene it was a breath of fresh air. The UI was clean and the notion of getting back in contact with your college classmates was appealing. Who knew that it would take off the way it did? No one.
You write: “If you love FB, then don’t blame me because a growing tide of people clearly do not. While my ‘dislikes’ above are only my attempt to bring everything in my mind together, there does seem to be a thriving–and growing–‘Hate Facebook’ community.”
I don’t love FB. I accept it. But I also don’t enjoy hating it the way you do. My social network, people whom I am in contact with, are on Facebook. I will continue to use FB as long as the people I now care about are on it. The ‘Hate Facebook community’ can take a long walk off a short pier, as far as I’m concerned. And the same, I may add, applies to you.
The Oculus community is up in arms about the latest news that Facebook will purchase Oculus for $2 billion. Read the latest Oculus blog post about the acquisition. It is a near uniform wall of discontent. Oculus fans can’t stand the fact that after going to the public at large with their very successful Kickstarter campaign that the company would sell-out to a major corporation, and worse, sell-out to Facebook. The comments speak for themselves:
“Pack it up, the dream is gone.” “Sellout DICKS. You should refund every dollar.” “This a big disappointment.” Yet none of these Oculus fans have read any of the fine print about this acquisition. None of them have reviewed the deal spelling out how Facebook will enable Oculus to realize its vision of creating the next generation VR headset that will fully realize the potential of VR, tantalizingly suggested oh so many years ago by the likes of such pop ephemera as ….Lawnmower Man.
Just as important, let’s examine some of the issues surrounding this deal. Why did Palmer Luckey succumb to the lure of Facebook? Was it because he realized the sudden competition brought on by major players, Sony and Microsoft, would require a great deal more capital than his company had already raised? Sony recently unveiled its own PS4 virtual reality headset called Project Morpheus. PS4 is set for release this November. Next up is Microsoft, which is also working to bring a virtual gaming experience to its Xbox lineup, according to a Wall Street Journal writer, Ian Sherr.
Sherr writes, “At least one iteration of Microsoft’s technology was based on a concept known as ‘augmented reality,’ which often superimposes animation on a display along with images of the real world, people familiar with the project have said. Devices like the Oculus Rift, by contrast, show only computer-generated images.”
Now when you’re faced with competition that has millions at its command, the only way to fight the onslaught is by fighting back with millions more. Luckey must have felt that even with the millions he’s raised from KickStarter and the SDKs already sold, he didn’t have enough capital to outpace Sony or Microsoft. Why don’t any of the Oculus fanatics see this?
Zuckerberg is no idiot. He also realizes that in order for Facebook to survive and thrive in the 21st century it’s going to take more than just reliance on his social networking platform. Usership among teens has declined for Facebook. There’s no guarantee that Facebook will not one day be replaced by another social networking platform. Zuckerberg needs to explore other verticals to create new channels of profitability. Zuckerberg has stated that FB users spend about 40% of their time playing games, and about 40% on social communication. Sony and Microsoft do not have a social media platform of their own that rivals Facebook. Zuckerberg believes his platform can infuse Oculus with the vitality needed to overcome the competition by Sony and Microsoft.
If Zuckerberg allows Luckey to create the VR headset of his dreams and not FUCK IT UP, then the current batch of Oculus haters will turn back into Oculus fans and apologize to Luckey for making the smartest decision of his young professional life.
Helping community managers and social media marketers curate, share and create content
Let’s face it. Scaling social media is hard for both B2B and B2C players. Driving greater levels of engagement (and ultimately sales) remains an uphill battle for many, in particular, those in eCommerce. A number of major brands over the past two years have opened and then shuddered their Facebook shops, including J.C. Penney, Nordstrom, Gap, and GameStop. For marketers trying to gauge what a like, a share, or a comment ultimately signifies, the first stop is collecting this data. The next stop is generating the content that will speak to their audience. A few enterprise SaaS players want to help brands better leverage their social media muscle and one of them is Rallyverse.
Rallyverse is the brainchild of a few ex-Microsoft employees, all of whom worked in the ad/tech industry but shared an itch to make improvements in the way social media can influence advertising. I got the opportunity to try out Rallyverse and according to Gabe Bevilacqua, co-founder and VP, Biz Dev, “we let the brand define where they want to play and expand the reach of what they are doing with just a few clicks.” For community managers and social media marketers, Rallyverse (a Twitter-certified partner) aims to keep track of all of your owned and paid social media by helping you curate, respond, and post more relevant, engaging content to your target audience. It seeks to provide users with a dashboard of real-time recommendations so you’re never again stuck with the question, “What do I say today?”
Rallyverse takes a page from Pinterest’s groundbreaking tile platform
When you first login to your account, you’re immediately struck by the platform’s similarity to Pinterest, with tiles stacking up on top of each other. Images are vital components for triggering your levels of engagement and Gabe acknowledges Pinterest’s lead in promoting the tile format. Rallyverse examines your sources of content (such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter) in order to assign it a certain score. Using its own proprietary algorithm, it will serve up a baseline of recommended content based on your criteria. Under SETTINGS, in the left-hand column, you provide select keywords, categories, influencers, including those topics you don’t want Rallyverse to search for.
In my case, I focused on keywords such as content marketing, social media marketing, and social media technology. Rallyverse will curate content from any of the sites and services where you post content. In this case, that would include YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, and your own personal feed from your blog. You can also enter the RSS, Atom, or XML feeds for any site and Rallyverse will add relevant content from those sites to your profile.
Users can set publishing frequencies (for example, one post every 60 minutes), and then can schedule individual messages for what Rallyverse calls “Optimized Publishing.” Within each time window, the platform will evaluate each eligible message and publish the one that is most relevant at that time.
Once you’ve entered all of your essential criteria for the content you want tracked, you click on the Rallyverse blue button and let the fun begin.
Capturing trending content
Rallyverse will populate your content within seconds. In reviewing each tile, you have an opportunity to thumb it up or down (thumbing it down will cause the tile to disappear from view), and Rallyverse provides its own “star-rating” for each tile of content. According to Gabe, its unique algorithm interprets each piece of content for you, the user, creating the star rating. The more stars highlighted, the more relevant the content is for you.
Inside a tile is a camera icon, which when you click on it, opens up, allowing you to repost it, make revisions to the content itself (including image), schedule a new delivery time for the content, or even turn it into a paid ad. You can also save it as a draft and revisit it at a later date. Rallyverse will also automatically shorten URLs for you (when tweeting, for example). It will also add hashtags automatically for you.
Rallyverse features a separate Conversations topic, which when you click on it will show you what social media you’ve posted has been retweeted or shared by one of your Twitter followers, including responses to your Tweets. It will document any Facebook interactions you’re having, including likes, comments, and shares.
One feature that I particularly liked was the ICYMI topic. ICYMI stands for “in case you missed it.” When a tile is tagged ICYMI, it means Rallyverse has determined it met a minimum click threshold (again, based on its own proprietary algorithm), and will bring it back to your attention. This certainly can help community managers and marketers understand what forms of content are more effective than others in generating engagement. Gabe told me that his company’s clients very much appreciate ICYMI as it constantly acts as reminder of just how much you need to nurture your social media content in order to help it grow and spread.
A feature I couldn’t take full advantage (being only a single user) was the parent/child relationships that Ralleyverse created to facilitate better social media scaling. The platform allows organizations to scale their social media efforts by sharing content for publishing between different users and Profiles. Child profiles can publish content that is shared by parent profiles as well as their own recommendations.
Reports – how can you track social media engagement without analytics?
What would a social media platform be without any analytics reporting? Once you’ve connected your Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts, you get the opportunity to review just what types of action were recorded once you’ve begun posting and sharing content.
Rallyverse currently goes back no more than two months when reviewing your owned content. It provides you with a graph, summarizing all of your channel’s engagement. Rallyverse details your click percentage by hour. This means the percentage of total clicks that were recorded for a post that took place in a particular hour. Establishing a percentage based on the volume of clicks seems a bit off to me and Gabe said Rallyverse’s platform is currently displaying clicks an hour early so you’re not getting an up to the minute exact summary of your actual clicks. This is something Rallyverse is looking to fix. However, you easily get to see a good overview of each one of your posts and their levels of engagement. You can select a 30-day report, which easily exports into a CRV file.
Is there room for improvement?
Rallyverse is far from perfect. There were a few minor annoyances for me, including the listing of messages underneath my profile that are published by the platform, which confused me. It continues to finely tune both its algorithm and the way it delivers metrics reporting. It also is currently missing additional social media channels for integration into its platform, like StumbleUpon or Reddit, for example. Gabe told me that there are plans to bring on additional social channels but that decision is heavily influenced by client demand. Its platform will undoubtedly continue to evolve as users require more sophisticated metrics that incorporate a greater degree of sentiment analysis. Overall, all of the features I could use worked. I truly got a kick out of watching what content got tweeted or shared and for a spell, I completely forgot about Tweetdeck.
Social media engagement: the never-ending quest for results
Rallyverse is not the only enterprise-level social media engagement platform on the market. Competitors like Percolate and HereSaySocial offer similar features though the technologies may differ. For Gabe, the elusive quest for the ROI of social media marketing makes creating Rallyverse a meaningful step forward. In his words, “I’m constantly surprised by how much our platform seems to understand the pulse of social conversations as they are happening. We’re making sense of the social media noise and doing it in a way that makes it easier for users to consume it. I get a thrill and surprise by our product each and every day.”
Overall, I very much enjoyed Rallyverse’s ease of use and look forward to keeping track of its development. Pricing begins at $500 a month. Request a demo of Rallyverse and let me know what you think.
I recently had the pleasure of hanging out at Pinterest’s new headquarters in San Francisco. I listened to a presentation by Pinterests’s own “voice strategist,” Tiffani Jones Brown.
Sculpting the Pinning message and brand
In her presentation, Tiffani reviewed a number of qualifying factors that go into determining the company’s content. Voice factors include: personality, vibe, and feeling. According to Tiffani, Pinterest’s voice must have power and resonate in everything the company does. In forging their voice, Tiffani stressed the company’s storyline and how it values Pinners first, above all else. Tiffany described “pinning etiquette” and “Pin with care” as models for crafting a unique voice. Tiffani stressed being “gender neutral” and “to be the voice” when crafting content. With so much of Pinterest’s content being graphical, someone in the audience asked what written content is the Pinterest content strategy team actually creating? Tiffany responded that content strategy included the creation of traditional company content such as FAQs, style guides, product descriptions, etc…
Tiffany provided one example of developing the Pinterest voice by comparing two email responses crafted by the company in response to a Pinner who had pinned content that was considered “sexually explicit.” The first Pinterest response used a stiff, generic voice and began with “We removed a pin from your account because it contained nudity…Please remove any other pins you’ve added that contain nudity.” Instead, the Pinterest voice team revised their “corporate speak” and the email response crafted went like this: “We recently removed one of your pins from Pinterest because it may include sexually explicit content. We hate removing pins, but sometimes we have to when they go against our policies. This helps keep Pinterest fun for families, professionals and everyone else who uses it. Please remove any other pins like this from Pinterest. Or, if you think we’ve made a mistake, please let us know!”
Now most brands do spend the time and resources to cultivate a unique voice that speaks to their customer-base. But many corporations still come across with an icy voice to their audience. But I was surprised at just how banal most of what Tiffani discussed came across to me. I’m not sure what I expected but it makes sense that Pinterest does not want to be using “corporate speak” when communicating with its users. That warm and fuzzy feeling is critical because Pinners are using their platform, in particular, to post and share about their life passions, like cooking, fashion, travel, etc…Pinners don’t want to dialogue with a “corporation” that doesn’t understand or appreciate their human qualities. Hmmm, wouldn’t everyone like a corporation to communicate in this same fashion?
Pinterest is a start-up. It received 200 million in series D funding earlier this year. The company is valued at more than 2 billion, according to VentureBeat. The company, while not profitable, is flush with cash and can spend the time needed to figure out how it is going to earn a profit.
When VC money comes knockin on your door
So Tiffani and her crew of five writers (yup, this constitutes the core of Pinterest’s current content strategy team) have this golden opportunity to continue refining and developing their voice to maximize Pinner appeal. VCs, however, will one day want their money back. Pinterest will be forced to go public. Now Pinterest continues to experiment with revenue driving models. Founder Ben Silbermann says, “we don’t want to commodify someone’s passions.” Great sentiment. I’d like to see just how far it gets him and the company when it comes time to show a profit to investors.
More importantly, once a company does go public, everything changes. The warm and “viby” voice that Tiffani and her writing crew are busy developing now will most certainly be impacted by the time Pinterest does go public. Think about Facebook. As a public company, it is beholden to its shareholders and must consistently show a profit. Facebook’s stock price is currently nestled in at around $25 a share, thirteen dollars below its IPO price back in May of 2012. In a recent story in U.S. News & World Report, Facebook founder Marc Zuckerberg expressed his own disappointment at the stock’s performance, mirroring the sentiment of the company’s shareholders
Facebook is a splendid case study for Ben Silberman and I’m sure he and co-founder Evan Sharp are not ignoring that company’s ongoing challenges in its quest to remain profitable and popular among its users.
The warm and fuzzy Pinterest voice
Pinterest has the luxury like any other venture-backed start-up to proceed at a measured pace not beholden to any stockholders. Tiffani and crew can take the time to hone the Pinterest voice, making it warm and congenial for its users. But nothing I heard in Tiffani’s presentation made me think that what the company is doing in developing its voice and branding isn’t terribly unique. Because Pinterest is heavily invested, it has more than a few years to go modifying and shaping its brand voice. Meanwhile, the VCs still breathe down Silberman’s neck wanting to know sooner, rather than later, just how Pinterest is going to become profitable.
Tiffani left Facebook to work at Pinterest. Does anybody wonder if Tiffani would leave Pinterest the day it goes public to go work for another start-up? Well, assuming she’s still working as the company’s chief content strategist she probably won’t have to worry, as she’ll become one of the next SF Bay Area millionaires.
Entrepreneurs generally love the start-up culture. The time before a company is forced to go public is generally considered one of the most exciting periods in a company’s life. Once it does go public and shareholders enter the mix, the fun is diluted. Pinterest is hiring like crazy, in particular, for more software engineers.
Pinterest will be an interesting company to track. According to Alexa, Pinterest currently ranks 17 on the top websites visited in the U.S. with Google and Facebook ranking 1 and 2, respectively. While the majority of its users are still women, men are becoming a larger demographic. Tiffany did bring up the important point of how Pinterest’s voice will continue to adapt as its tries to broaden its user-base.