Google vs. Facebook? No. Google vs. Bing

We love the horse race in America. Whenever there are two choices that even appear to be in competition, we choose sides. Such is the case this week, now that Google has unleashed what everyone (except Google) is calling a Facebook killer, Google+.

In this case, picking a favorite to “win” isn’t really the point.

There isn’t any point (read as: money) in Google killing Facebook. Google makes their money from their search network. Facebook makes their money from… well, no one’s quite sure of that yet… maybe venture capital sources that don’t ask too many questions?

Anyway, the most likely point of Google+ is to keep people on Google, performing their searches on Google, which include their paid search ads, which makes Google money. If people continue to search with Google, they aren’t doing it somewhere else.

So Google+ isn’t about beating Facebook, but beating the Bing/Yahoo junta.

Google has been the absolute leader in search for years because they developed a better search algorithm than what already existed. This meant better search results, and a better product.

The methodology they created is now used by sites like Bing and Yahoo, and to many the variations in results between the three aren’t important. If that were to continue, Google might not be able to prove that they are better than their search rivals.

Enter Google+, something that will keep people close to their search product. They could actually trump Facebook with this. Personally,  I doubt it’s really their goal.

Can Facebook and Google+ both be popular at the same time? As long as Google+ members find their way to ads via their Adwords program, I don’t see how Google could possibly care.

Windows Live Profile is the 2nd most popular social network? Seriously?

Today the news was delivered: Twitter had beaten Myspace for third place as the most visited social network. When I heard that I thought, “Well what the hell’s in second?”

Xbox Live

The answer is confounding to me: It’s Windows Live Profiles.

That’s right, Windows Live Profiles – of course! Haven’t we all spent just hours pouring over our… uh… Profiles and did… stuff?

Seriously, Windows Live Profiles? Do you even know what that is? I do – it’s the social “enhancements” attached to Hotmail. In other words, it’s part of an e-mail client, but not a social network. If that’s the criteria commScore used, I’d imagine Google Buzz does very well, since it runs by default on Gmail. Of course, no one uses Buzz either – cross posting from Twitter doesn’t count. Or does it? I don’t know! The standards here are beyond confusing!

After I read that, I could almost hear the gasp of online marketers across the land moaning, “But I don’t do anything with Windows Live Profiles! I don’t even know what the hell it is! Guess I’d better start setting up my company’s profile!”

Well you can relax. It isn’t a social profile the way you think it is. Windows Live Profile is used to access Xbox Live. There, players can game against each other, exchange messages, and in that way it’s a social platform. There are a lot of Xboxes in the world, which would explain why there are so many users.

But if that’s how they’re calling it a social network, I think it’s cheating. You need a Google account in order to use an Android phone. If Buzz is attached to your Google account by default, (which it is,) that would make it pretty damn popular. We know it isn’t, of course, because no one uses it. But there are a lot of Android phones on the market, enough to make even Buzz seem like it’s happening too.

But at least you won’t have to set up yet another company profile no one’s going to be interested in.

Podcast Player for Facebook Realized

After a series of unhelpful posts trying to find information on how to include podcasts in a Facebook page, we finally have success! See the Isagenix Podcast Tab on our Facebook Fan Page here!

Podcast Facebook

We are now able to share four of our podcasts on our Facebook Fan Page. While we have been sharing these on iTunes for a while, and the RSS feed is available for whatever reader people like to use, the majority of people who come to it are not web savvy enough to use either easily.

But because Facebook is so easy to use, it is the perfect platform for introducing them to our audience.

The key was in accessing Facebook’s default media player. With this we were able to plug in the podcast’s feed. Our Facebook designer is freakin’ brilliant for figuring this out. I understand the what, but don’t ask me about the how (I’m just an SEO and a marketer, you know.)

I’m glad we were able to get this running, though, as Facebook – despite it’s flaws – is the most mainstream platform for content today. Podcasts, while undoubtedly popular, still have a learning curve to them that makes them difficult for the uninitiated to jump into. With this, hopefully, we can start making converts.

I will let you know how it goes. If you get your podcast up and running on Facebook, let me know where so we can all come see it! And if you want the particulars of how this was achieved, let me know that too and I’ll see if our designer has some time to lay it out.

A Better Way to do Customer Reviews Online

Online customer reviews have become the way everyone decides what to buy it seems. When we do anything from buy a camcorder to rent an apartment, we always check the reviews. If that blender has a lot of complaints, we move on. If a lot of people say they love that restaurant, we give it a try ourselves.

The problem comes in when there are only three reviews, and they all say, “Wow this thing is great! Really! Wow wow wow!” When you see a review that good, you feel pretty sure it was left by the owner.

Or the review from the person who drones on for three paragraphs about how awful his experience was. (I say, “his” because only we guys waste time trying to get vengeance by leaving bad reviews.)

So here’s my idea

A review system needs to be built that counts how many reviews individuals leave, and the general tone of those reviews. Then based on those reviews, the reviewer is given something akin to a Google Adscore – next to their name, you see a gauge of their trust level.

Since most review sections only show the last three to five people who visited the site and left reviews, that group has the most say about the product. If there was a score for reviewers, the most trusted ones could be placed on top. Perhaps you could balance the reviews against the age of the review, so they’re still always changing. If a restaurant gets a lot of bad reviews, then shapes up and starts doing a great job, they should be allowed to show off the new, positive reviews, right?

Why would anyone sign up for a review system where they might be bashed? A review system like this would eventually catch on because of it’s trust level, just as Google became the de facto search engine because of the quality of it’s search results. Over time, businesses would be hurt by not being listed.

Look at Amazon: They’re a huge marketplace that manufacturers need to have their products listed on. Still, people can leave horrendous reviews of their products if they want to. You take the good, you take the bad.

A site like Facebook could pull this off, seeing as how they’re already trying to be everywhere online all at once. Yelp would be a more logical choice, though, since they’ve built their business on intelligent reviews. Google has the trust factor to get people to install the comment widget that would be necessary. (And that would doubtlessly help the business’ website do better in search. Google products ALWAYS seem to help sites in search.)

Whoever uses this idea, I just want credit for having thought it up. That, and a pile of money.

Bing search traffic is much smaller than you’d think

If you’re still fretting over how to get some of that juicy Bing search traffic, stop.

Bing vs. Everyone

Above is a comparison of unique visitors (individuals visiting each site) for Google, Bing, Myspace and Facebook. When Bing launched, they had a massive jump in traffic – in large part because of all their television advertising.  Still, they’ve yet to get much more traffic than Myspace. Myspace, as you remember, is the social networking site everyone has decided is done and no longer worth worrying about.

Instead we are all concentrating on Facebook, and with good reason – their traffic is fast approaching Google’s. It’s pretty obvious that Facebook should be of greater concern to you than Bing. Google and Facebook have completely different kinds of traffic, granted. But if sheer numbers are important to you, Bing doesn’t have them.

Now look at the comparison between Bing and Microsoft’s other search platforms – the ones they wish you’d stop using now that “Bing” is here:

Bing vs MSN vs Live

While all three use Bing results, their numbers still don’t measure up to the collective traffic of Facebook or Google. More importantly, Bing itself is not popular. If Microsoft’s search engine were really impacting the search market, it would have overtaken these older properties of Microsoft’s. Bing had the same leap in visitors at launch, again because of all the television advertising and people’s love of something new.

I still maintain Bing will not rise anywhere near to being a Google competitor until they do something massively right, or Google does something massively wrong. When Yahoo! starts showing Bing search results at the end of the year, Microsoft’s paid search revenue will increase, but it remains to be seen if any of Yahoo!’s traffic comes over to Bing.com proper. Yahoo! will still have all of their other cool properties that people use – Yahoo Mail, Answers, Delicious, Flickr, Messenger – and Bing will still be… well, whatever it is now.

And don’t get me started on how little traffic there is for mobile!

Gary Vaynerchuk and the Power of the New Media Revolution

Saw Gary Vaynerchuk tonight, speaking at Changing Hands Bookstore and promoting his new book, “Crush it.” I was so happy to hear him say the one thing that people presenting on new media rarely do.

He did speak about how Twitter and Facebook were the new printing presses. He also spoke about how all this new media is a C-change for our culture, and how anyone with a dream and computer access can be as relevant as Time Magazine or the evening news.

But what he said that got me so jazzed was that the people who consume this stuff are people.

All too often when I go to a speaking engagement about new media – and I’ve gone to a lot in the last year – the topic always boils down to, “how can you get more conversions/click throughs/impressions/sell more widgets.” It sounds like a fantasy football maniac talking about player stats.

What is rare and so refreshing is hearing someone say that customers are people, and people want to be treated like people. Sure, if you post the same Twitter message 30 times a day, and get 10000 followers to see it, and .5% of them convert, you’ll get 5 customers. Good for you, it’s money in the bank.

But if you actually talk to 100 people, and get to know them, and where necessary slip in that you sell what they’ve been talking about needing, you’ll do a whole lot better than .5%. What’s more, you’ll actually be using social media the way it was supposed to be used – not as another channel for spam.

Listening to him, I thought of all the elements of social media marketing that piss me off so much: Ping.fm, hot chick avatars, following complete strangers in the hopes they’ll follow you back… What Gary proposes is so much more fulfilling. Be a person. Find other people and converse with them just as you would if they were standing in front of you.

Make them want to be your customer.

And, of course, as someone who’s done this all before, I can tell you it does take a lot of work. It takes a lot of time. That’s why posting through an RSS feed is so popular! “I don’t have time to Tweet each person each day – I need to get things moving now!”

Those same people would then say approaching customers like they were drones to be conned into buying something en masse is the economical way to get things sold.

But I have to trust Mr. Vaynerchuk on his approach more, because he actually applied it to a business. His own business, no less. I’ve always said I trust the advice of a self-made millionaire more than I do anyone with 10,000 Facebook friends. And here is a prime example of a person who made his business thrive not through collecting followers and then message blasting them, but through real engagement.

This is what social media’s power is – not the number of people using Facebook, and oh goody I’m going to grab up as many of those idiots as I can.

The power is in it’s ability to let you communicate with others. Getting it to work isn’t about thinking around the fact that it’s a two-way street – it’s about being willing to use it to your advantage.

Facebook Conversation Monitoring

Finding conversations on Facebook is an ordeal. Unlike Twitter, which comes complete with a search engine, Facebook profiles are closed off to anyone who isn’t a friend of that person. (Unless that person turns off that particular privacy filter, which isn’t often.)

So seeing as how Facebook is the Myspace for the moment, how do you find people who are talking about you or what you sell?

Facebook Cat

One way is using Facebook’s own Lexicon tool. This searches through Facebook wall posts looking for terms you select. However, it will only show you how that term is trending, and will only find something that already has high use. For instance, if I do a search for “beer,” you can see that this gets mentioned a lot – with an ungodly spike in use on St. Patrick’s Day. However, if I do a search for “Four Peaks Brewery,” a local micro brewery here in Tempe, there’s nothing. Even if it did turn up something, I wouldn’t be able to find out who is using this term, and how.

You can also use Facebook’s paid ad server to find out how many people use a specific word in their own profile. If you want to find people who list “pizza” somewhere in their profile, it will tell you how many do so to the person. It will also tell you their age group, gender, geographic location… it’s very neat for that.

However, it is also wildly unspecific. It doesn’t tell you what context people use the phrase in, so they could be using the phrase you are looking for in any number of ways that have nothing to do with what you’re looking for. Also, Facebook users aren’t prone to updating their profiles. Once they create an account and enter some information into those “about me” boxes, they usually stay untouched.

And after that, things dry up pretty quickly. Because Facebook walls off the information people post to their immediate friends, there is no easy way for you to penetrate this information.

My advice, frankly, is to monitor everything else. Remember, “brand monitoring” is simply a fancy way of saying, “what people are saying about you.” If the zeitgeist believes something about your business or industry, the frequency with which they say it on Twitter or blogs isn’t going to change dramatically on Facebook. If 60% of Tweets say pizza is delicious but 88% hate anchovies on it, you can bet Facebook posts aren’t going to be dramatically different.

If you are concerned with “what people are saying about you,” there is a wealth of free tools available to you, with more coming on line all the time. It isn’t something that takes a great deal of effort to look into, and can give you a good idea of what people do and don’t want.

Once you have this information, simply apply it to Facebook proactively through your Page, Group, text ads or applications.

What you are not likely to get any time soon is an easy road map to each user according to what they post. This is certainly annoying, given the number of people who use this site. However, it is only a matter of time before the next “big thing” comes along on the Internet. Perhaps the next Myspace will get you better information.

But if someone knows better, I am all ears.

Social Media Statistics – How well does it work for brands?

A study conducted by WorkPlace Media is out, showing the results of polls to find out how successful Social Media Marketing campaigns have been, and how users have responded to them.

The findings aren’t terribly pretty for Social Media Marketing, with the essentials boiled down to this:

  • Few people access social media sites at work.
  • Hardly anyone polled thinks less of a company for not having a social media presence.
  • Only 4% of respondants access their profiles all day.
  • Only 11% follow any company brand via social media.

I won’t quibble with these findings, though 753 does seem like a slightly small pool considering the vast number of people who use Facebook.

Instead I say yes, absolutely, I wholeheartedly believe these results, and I think they show the clearest reason people need to re-think how they approach social media marketing. They do not need to abandon it, mind you – because it is still where everyone is going when they are on line, and the best opportunity to find customers and brand champions. If you look at how few people care about a company’s brand or how little time they spend on social sites at work, and as a result throw up your hands in defeat, you aren’t getting it.

Social media is a new medium, and so the thinking about how to reach people on it must shift too. Think about television advertising. Here’s an add from the 1950s for Ford:

You can see where the makers of this commercial learned from their previous experience. The woman speaking about her family’s cars is the same scripting that would have been done for a radio commercial. The narator at the end speaks the same copy that would have been included in Ford’s print ad. The only difference are the moving pictures, which don’t really help the product. Think about it – when he talks about “colors galore,” we’re looking at a black and white image of a car. When he talks about the style and design of the cars, we’re still looking at the same 3/4 shot of each car, which all look the same. To say nothing of the fact that it runs a minute and a half, which would cost more for additional airtime.

The same problem confronts us today with social media marketing and advertising, because we are saddled with the training and expectations that come from banners, or press releases, or even television. The idea that if we put up the campaign we will get more customers does work for most other models, but this is a different beast and we have to actually change our way of thinking for it to work. The findings of this study do not surprise me, because the companies that engage in social media marketing still do not look at it as something new that they need to learn first.

For starters, look at the quote from the study, that word-of-mouth is still more effective a means of messaging than social media. I read that, and then read the stat that Facebook was the most popular site among respondants. Facebook users on average have some 120 friends, most all of whom are already friends and family members.

To me, that suggests that Facebook would be an invaluable tool for generating word of mouth, by contacting users directly, and sharing with them offers or news or any valuable information they could pass on to their own network.

But this is not how Facebook is levereged these days. Instead, companies build Facebook Pages, the Facebook answer to giving a company a user-like profile, and they collect visitors and fans like points in a video game: A source pride, but otherwise not very meaningful.

Getting people to talk about you because you’ve talked to them is not going to be easy – I readily admit that. But all of the success I’ve ever had with clients who used social media to promote themselves only saw real success by using it this way. If Facebook Pages are supposed to give companies the opportunity to exist on Facebook like real live users, then they should use those profiles in the exact same way. I don’t know anyone who goes on Facebook for the express purpose of gaining 10,000 followers just for the sake of doing so. (There are a ton of people who act that way on Twitter, but that’s another story.) So to act like a user, one must make friends with people who like you back. Rather than relying on their wall to show their friends what you are posting, direct message some of your followers and ask them about what they like about your product, or what they expect from you. Make it intimate and friendly, and eventually you will have those kinds of fans who WILL spread your message by word of mouth.

Social Media marketing isn’t in trouble by any stretch of the imagination – it just needs to mature.

Why Facebook Works

Twitter is main stream – I know, because someone told me it was. When something gets mentioned by the talking heads on the Today Show or Good Morning America or, to a lesser degree, NPR, by God it’s mainstream. Thing is, none of those people know what they’re talking about when they talk about Twitter. I get the distinct impression they use terms like “tweeting” or “tweets” because their producer put it up on the teleprompter, and he did it to keep people from realizing that network television and to a lesser extent public radio are wildly out of touch with what people are into.

Because while I lot of us are really into Twitter, a lot more of us aren’t.

The same isn’t exactly true for Facebook. Facebook gets people to use it who otherwise do nothing on their computers but look for answers to today’s crossword and occasionally shop. Why? Because Facebook gives them something relevant to their own lives. It connects them with friends both current and long lost, and allows them to get social with people they’re already social with. Twitter is great if you want to find new information from a gaggle of authorities who are on it, but its biggest problem is the numbers of people who only talk and don’t listen. You don’t get that with Facebook.

This came up for me when I introduced my Sister to Facebook. She recently got high speed access and wanted help setting it up. I did, and afterwards showed her all the neat things she could now do with it. (As a marketer, I find I’m really allergic to pitching clients on things because they are “neat,” but as an end user I know what’s fun and what isn’t.)

With over 200 million active users worldwide, my Sister needed me egging her on to give it a shot before she would. But once she did, she became an addict. She’s now in touch with friends from high school, junior high, even grade school – which is alarming to me, since I can’t remember anyone I went to grade school with, except for a few but only because I vowed horrible revenge upon them years ago. My Sister is naturally social – so something like Facebook that affords her the opportunity to be social without having to learn any of these nasty computer things we geeks love so much is right up her alley.

The reason Facebook works is the same reason social networking in general should work: It compliments our own need to communicate with others. That’s it. It’s the reason something like Flickr, which has socializing tools of its own, is instead used more often for the storage space and editing tools. For this stuff to work, it has to let us communicate with others, not just listen, or publish for the sake of doing it.

The number of other social platforms out there is legion. If you want to know which ones are going to work, look at how they help the people using them, not the tools or inventive approach to what’s already being done to see if they’re the next big thing. Plurk, for example, is just Twitter – but it scrolls right to left. (“Oooooh!”) It’s also largely ignored because Twitter got to micro blogging first, and so it wins. All of the others pick up scraps. Myspace won at first for the same reason – then Facebook just did it better, making it easier for people to connect.

This is all proof that what makes social networking work for business or public entities trying to reach a broad audience is not broadcasting, but interacting. If a company has a lot of people following it, it doesn’t mean anything – give me a PR and media budget, and I can get millions of fans to ignore as well. It doesn’t mean any of them are actually listening to me. And if this is your social media marketing strategy, I can all but assure you, it isn’t going to help you sell products either.

If you want to get with those aforementioned times, you’re going to have to give up on the idea of a cookie cutter solution – the masses won’t be interested, not when you have to compete with meeting up with their friends from high school or party invitations for this weekend.

If you want to make Facebook work for you, you’re going to have to get in the trenches are start turning your future customers into friends first.