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Social Media Platforms by Monthly Active Users [Graphic]

April 5, 2014 1 comment

A few years ago, I put together a graphic illustrating the size of many of the top social media sites in comparison to one another. It’s about time I did a revision – so here is one for 2014 in case you happen to find it helpful.

Social Media Platforms by Monthly Active Users 2014

Social Media Platforms by Monthly Active Users 2014

Notes about the methodology:

  • This version illustrates Monthly Active Users (MAU) instead of Total Users. Total users has become a meaningless number as the use of social media has continued to rise, as many more people have occasion to create multiple accounts (particularly spammers). Moreover, social media is no longer trying desperately to convince the mainstream world that it is important; it’s got that locked down. Now it’s trying to convince the mainstream world that it is relevant and useful (primarily to drive commerce).
  • Several platforms (Flickr, Foursquare, Reddit, Tumblr, Vine, and WordPress) don’t readily publish statistics on their monthly active users. This is almost certainly because those numbers are lower than they would like them to be – so they try to cheat by using numbers like “views” or “posts published.” I thought it important to call out that they’re trying to buck the trend toward disclosure by noting them on the chart.
  • Wikipedia is in the unfortunate position of being a vital centerpiece of digital life, but having comparatively fewer monthly active users because of the passion and knowledge required to be a Wikipedian. Participating in Wikipedia requires coding knowledge, as well as objectivity – to keep entries as objective as possible, people with a connection to topics are discouraged from contributing to those entries.

Linkedin is Killing Products/Services Pages in Favor of Showcase Pages: What This Means for You

March 27, 2014 Leave a comment

Last week, employment-oriented social networking platform Linkedin announced that it was killing the “Products/Services” section of Company pages in favor for what is calling “Showcase Pages.” If you currently manage a company page you have until April 25, 2014 to make the switch.

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What You Lose:

  • YouTube Embed: Products/Services pages permitted Company Page managers to embed a YouTube video on the page
  • Rotating Banners: You’ll no longer be able to rotate feature images calling out special offers or features at the top of the main products/services page
  • Bullet Points: This feature is not available in Showcase Pages – the only option for adding information about a product is to post updates (which tile down in chronological order)
  • Recommendations: The only third party endorsement on a Showcase Page is the followers, whereas Product/Services pages allowed customers to post reviews
  • Disclaimer: Product/Service pages allowed disclaimers at the bottom of pages
  • Special Promotions: Previously users had the option to include some brief text and a link to a special promotion related to the product
  • Contacts: Each product had the option to list Linkedin profiles for employees at an organization that could be contacted for more information

What You Gain:

  • A Giant Cover Image: Showcase pages have a cover image at the top that is considerably larger than the cover image for Company Pages: 974 x 330 pixels (max size 2MB). One note: you’ll want to be careful how you use this image (and perhaps add a gradient at the bottom) as the bottom third is taken up by overlayed content (the page title, a follow button, and an avatar image). This could be an implication that Linkedin intends to change the cover image size for Company Profiles as well.
  • Diversification: Users can now follow individual Showcase Pages without following the Company Page they are associated with. For umbrella brands, this will be helpful for reaching audiences that might be interested in an individual product line, but not interested in
  • Search Visibility: Showcase Pages now appear in Linkedin’s graph search, which is the biggest positive development about Showcase Pages:

Linkedin Showcase Pages Appear in Search

 

I can’t blame Linkedin for this change; I’m sure it was driven by a lack of traffic to the product/service pages – which tend to be stagnant once they’re created by an organization. Hopefully Showcase Pages will drive more traffic and spur companies to be more active about publishing timely information about themselves on Linkedin, because it’s truly a fantastic platform with a large and valuable audience.

 

 

Google Needs to Offer a Social Media Monitoring Service

July 9, 2013 3 comments

Google's Index of the Web vs. Social Media Monitoring Tools

Radian6, Cision, Wildfire, SocialRadar, Trackur, Alterian SM2, Sysomos, Lithium, Viralheat, Brandwatch, UberVU, Trendrr, Trackur …  all good tools with rich featuresets and analytical capabilities.  They all have one problem, however.

They’re not Google.

No matter which tool you go with for social media monitoring, it inevitably cannot index as much of the web as Google, which currently has over 3.65 billion pages.  Some do an admirable job attempting to keep up by buying access to other indexes of web and social content – but that still isn’t complete and worse, it adds a delay to the process of merging the two databases.  As any social media manager will tell you – delays are something they can ill afford.

This missing data causes three major problems:

First, important mentions can be missed (or not accessed in a timely fashion).

Second, the archives are incomplete – looking at the present is a primary concern but historical data can be important as well.

Third, the analytics generated by the expensive social media monitoring platforms aren’t accurate; worse, they seem to get progressively less accurate as the size of the brand decreases.  If you’re Coca-Cola you’re okay, but this is a huge problem for most of the brands my colleagues and I work with which are primarily local in nature (which means they have a far smaller footprint online).

Despite their best efforts, none of these tools will ever be able to match Google’s prowess for indexing the increasing vastness of the web in real-time.  So Google needs to offer a social media monitoring service – and I would welcome one even if it had a pricetag as hefty as the aforementioned tools (some of which have a BASE price of $500/month).

Tapping Google’s enormous reserves of indexed content is even more difficult now that the search giant has eliminated RSS feeds for Google Alerts when it discontinued Google Reader, and now limits them only to searches of Google News.  All of the conversation about the “death of Google Reader” and subsequent scramble for alternatives has so far almost completely missed this critical detail which is, for my money, far more important.

I just went through the arduous process of reformatting a hundred or so RSS feeds I had built using Google Alerts because they’re no longer active.  Transitioning them to Google News RSS feeds is okay, but my understanding is that it won’t capture nearly as many mentions as a general Google Search.  Google even says as much here in outlining its standards for being included in the Google News index.

I completely understand the need to eliminate content that is not worthy of being considered “news” from the index, but the problem is that social media managers need to be aware of ALL mentions of their company/clients – not just the high-quality ones.

Google is well-positioned to offer this sort of service; they already have the data, they’re excellent at building easy-to-use interfaces, they’re excellent at providing analytics, and they’re well trusted.  I doubt we’ll ever see this service, but I’ll continue to dream anyway.

Advice for New Graduates Interested in Jobs in Social Media

May 25, 2013 2 comments

Social Media in the Classroom

A colleague, Jeremy Bronson, posed an excellent question on a forum for social media professionals looking for insight to share with recent graduates interested in social media jobs. For what it’s worth, here are my suggestions…

Go Beyond the Classroom

Unfortunately higher education often does not keep pace with the world around it; nowhere is that more evident than the digital world. With the possible exception of a handful of programs around the country (like the stellar program at Syracuse being run by Dr. Bill Ward), it’s likely that most students in the Communications field have very little exposure in the classroom to the tools they will use every single day on the job.

  • The Downside: That means it’s up to students to build the skills they need on their own.
  • The Upside: Those tools are readily available, free, and tutorials are available everywhere on the web to learn them.

This past semester I taught a class (Technology in Advertising & Public Relations) and it gave me a little window of insight into the lack of social media acumen that most students build in school.

The class usually focuses on teaching students the Adobe suite of products (Photoshop, Illustrator, Pagemaker and Dreamweaver), and some basic video editing skills. Those are all valuable things, but they leave a whole lot out and don’t really address the current state of technology which has moved to “Software As Service.” Should someone interested in social media really learn Dreamweaver when the vast majority of the web development they do will likely be in a content management system (CMS)? – Probably not, unless they want to be a web developer – and that’s probably a different path than working in social media.

Some of the platforms social media pros need to know likely include the following:

  • CMSs like WordPress
  • Social Media Platforms (esp. Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, YouTube, Pinterest, Google+)
  • Photo Editing
  • Video Editing
  • Slideware (esp. PowerPoint, Prezi, etc.)
  • Collaboration / Workflow Platforms (like Basecamp and Podio)
  • Customer Relationship Management (like Salesforce)
  • Email Marketing Tools (like VerticalResponse, MailChimp, Constant Contact, etc.)
  • Google Adwords
  • Facebook Ads / Linkedin Ads
  • Monitoring Tools (like Google Alerts, Cision, Radian6, SocialRadar, Vocus, etc.)
  • Social Media Management Tools (like Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, Sproutsocial, Radian6, Seesmic, etc.)

Learn How to Learn

What should you learn? That changes regularly becuase the web changes regularly. The most important skill a social media pro needs to have is the ability to learn quickly and efficiently because change is the only constant. For example, here is a list of social media platforms that didn’t exist when the current crop of graduates entered college:

  • Google+
  • Instagram
  • Pinterest
  • Snapchat
  • Vine

Fortunately there is a basic, over-arching similarity to every platform and tool that means even if a specific one becomes outdated – there is valuable insight that will carry over to others.

It is possible to learn how to learn efficiently. For the digital world, it’s rare to find textbooks – but there are vibrant communities (Facebook and Linkedin groups or Tweetchats) to connect to and ask questions of, as well as informative blogs that are only an RSS feed away. Plugging in to these two resources is how I keep up on everything (along with listening to various podcasts in the TWIT family). What I’ve found in nearly two decades of digital life is that people LEAP to help others who are earnestly seeking information.

When you do ask for help, though, make sure it’s only AFTER you’ve already tried googling your question first.

Build Your Skillset

Knowing how to write in HTML5 or edit with Avid isn’t a necessity, but it will definitely help your chances of getting a job in social media. Every digital skill you can add to your reportoire is a potential advantage over another applicant for the job you want. The same goes for experience with digital platforms. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but provides some examples of the sorts of things you’ll want to consider spending your time on:

  • Are you Google Adwords Certified? You could be – and that would look good on a resume.
  • Have you ever used a third-party tool to add content to a Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest presence? – Try some out: Woobox, Offerpop, Votigo, Wildfire, Shortstack, etc.
  • Can you do graphic design using programs like Photoshop or Illustrator? – You should be able to, as you’ll likely be doing some every day. If you don’t have the money to shell out for Adobe products, you can learn on GIMP (a freeware graphics program).
  • Are you a decent photographer/videographer? – This skill comes in handy very frequently for creating engaging content.
  • Do you understand Search Engine Optimization? – You should.
  • Have you ever placed ads on Facebook or Linkedin? – You can try experimenting with promoting yourself to prospective employers to learn how to do the same.
  • Do you know how to do research quickly to become a micro-expert on a topic? – This is really valuable, particularly in an agency context.
  • Do you understand digital analytics and what metrics are most valuable (and how to explain them to non-tech people)?

Learn the Law

An understanding of communications and intellectual property law comes in handy weekly if not daily. Content creation involves navigating a variety of legal frameworks. For starters, copyright. The unauthorized use of a copyrighted image, text, or video can (at the very least) cause your content to be pulled from the web or (at the worst) get your organization slapped with a lawsuit.

Then there are the rights of the people contained in any content you’re creating. Understanding what you can say with an image of someone is important. If you work with organizations in the healthcare world, the people you seek to depict may be covered under HIPAA – meaning you need their expressed authorization just to imply they are a client of a healthcare provider.

Even activities on the back-end interactions carry legal implications; newspapers have begun suing the providers of services that generate reports of media mentions for customers (for unauthorized reproduction of copyrighted work).

Beyond the legal system getting involved in your activities, you can run afoul of the policies of social networking platforms very easily. Facebook, for example, doesn’t permit anything resembling a contest being hosted natively on a Facebook page. If you’re asking people to “like” a post for a chance to win a prize – you could have that Facebook fan page disabled.

Learning the law is also important because you need to be able to advocate for what you’re doing and justify it to the higher-ups in your organization.  The legal departments of virtually every company and organization don’t know SQUAT about legal precedent in the digital world and they will (with good intentions) sometimes shut down your efforts because they don’t understand them.

[Sidebar: Here’s a good test to see if your legal department knows anything about digital law – if they have advised your organization to attach a legal disclaimer to company email signatures, they don’t know what they’re talking about.  Those things carry zero legal weight and are completely unenforceable.  That’s the sort of advice they’re dispensing to the C-suite, and that sort of bad advice can shut down a potentially-great social marketing campaign in the name of protecting the company.]

Understand Internet Culture

One of the most important abilities a social media pro needs to have is a deep and abiding understanding of how the Internet works. There are unwritten rules everywhere – and knowing those rules cold is one of the main reasons why someone is paying you to handle their social media for them. You are their digital sherpa.

This knowledge, unfortunately, is not easily gained through reading – but really requires experiencing or observing the web at work to best absorb.

Just like going on vacation in a foriegn country, the further away from the mainstream/touristy areas puts you at greater risk of violating the unpublished mores of the web – and amplifies the consequences. Reddit is a great microcosm of the web (and, in fact, it has originated many of the paradigms for how people interact online). The academic term for the tribes that coalesce online is “Discourse Communities.” They have their own codes, icons, and language – and communication is how they maintain their membership. There are discourse communities for EVERYTHING online, from programming languages (Flash vs. HTML5) to social news tools (like Reddit vs. The Chive).

For example, do you…

…understand the importance of attributing/crediting people online?
…know how to properly use tech terms in context? (and cringe whenever someone says “facebooked” or “twittered”)
…know how to deal with trolls?
…know how to identify influencers?
…understand why the web abhors censorship (and why it’s a doomed strategy to pursue)?
…why you shouldn’t ever ask a question that you can google the answer for?

In Summary

It’s one thing to be able to engage online as yourself. It’s entirely another to engage on behalf of an organization. This is what separates social media users from experts. Unfortunately, most young people aren’t experts despite the conventional wisdom. They grew up using technology every day and have never lived without ubiquitous Internet connectivity, but their expertise is very narrow and focused only on communicating on behalf of themselves for their own purposes. If you’re entering the working world and want to be a communicator for others – the skills and spheres above are critical to rounding out your knowledge base.

Hope this helps; know that you can always count me as a colleague. If you have questions, ask. A lot of other social media peeps and I will very likely be able to answer them within a few hours.

Avoid Using Memes Unless you can Contribute Meaningfully to the Culture: Marissa Mayer and the Yahoo-Tumblr Announcement

May 20, 2013 Leave a comment

Yahoo Borg Assimilates Tumblr

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer just announced that the search relic will be buying Tumblr, an announcement made on a Tumblr created by Mayer using an animated gif of the “Keep Calm and Carry On” meme.  This is a great example of why most organizations should avoid trying to use memes, and the framing of the announcement undermines Yahoo’s intended message. Read more…

Associated Press Win over Meltwater is the Internet’s Loss

March 26, 2013 Leave a comment

Whenever a business gets too large, it ceases innovating and begins looking for ways to put a boot in the face of anyone who wishes to climb past them up the mountain.

Unfortunately the Associated Press enlisted the help of [tech-illiterate] US District Court Judge Denise Cote and put a boot in the face of content aggregators and successfully sued Meltwater (a San Francisco-based digital clipping service that notifies clients when news references keywords relevant to them).

Here’s just an example of the ripple effect of problems this ruling creates just in Judge Cote’s world:

  • The US District Court for the Southern District of New York publishes a “News and Events” section on its website (with an RSS feed).  Some of the content in that feed violates this ruling.
  • The New York Bar Association (of which, presumably, Judge Cote is a member) also publishes news on a variety of its blogs and other presences which could be in violation of the precedent set by this ruling as they contain “relevant” excerpts of stories by publishers with links.
  • Judge Cote’s alma mater, Columbia University, routinely violates the standard set in the ruling.

…and on and on.

Hilariously, one of the sticking points in the lawsuit is that Meltwater caches news content going back to 2007 that is no longer available online and offers it to customers.  The AP literally doesn’t offer a competing product and wants to someone else for making the information available when they won’t.  It’s the equivalent of a record company suing me for giving a friend a pirated copy of an album that is no longer in print.

It’s the same thing the music industry did over a decade ago when it sued into bankruptcy the file-sharing platforms (and even attempted to sue the manufacturers of MP3 players) that allowed music enthusiasts to trade MP3s – which the industry was not willing to offer despite the overwhelming demand.

This should be instructive for the AP.  After its decade-plus crusade – the music industry won itself widespread hatred, lost its oligopoly, and was entirely unsuccessful at stopping file-sharing.  Even now they’re still in the trenches trying to hold back innovation by attacking their customers and technology companies (see: “six strikes”) and losing billions of revenue in the process.

The Associated Press already sued “Moreover,” “All Headline News,” and even Google before taking on Meltwater.  So far they’ve been satisfied with licensing fees (likely much-needed income as the quality and breadth of their output declines along with the rest of the dinosaurs of traditional media), but what will be next?

For more – I recommend reading the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s response to the ruling:

AP v. Meltwater: Disappointing Ruling for News Search
MARCH 21, 2013 | BY CORYNNE MCSHERRY AND KURT OPSAHL | Electronic Frontier Foundation

Three Ways the Mitch McConnell Campaign Shows how not to use Social Media

March 6, 2013 1 comment

Team Mitch McConnell Harlem Shake Comments Ratings Disabled

Talking Points Memo noted this morning that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s re-election campaign today released a Harlem Shake meme video featuring college students re-enacting the format of a lone dancer dancing until the beat drops in the song and all hell breaks loose. As I’m fairly certain they’ll pull the video as soon as they notice how badly it’s faring in the public space, here’s a cached version:

Ignoring the fact that the voc-over that starts the song is from a reggaeton artist named Héctor Delgado and declares “Con Los Terroristas” which is Columbian/Spanish for “With the Terrorists,” there are a number of problems with the effort.

  1. Know Your Publics: The video is ostensibly to appeal to a younger audience, and campaign spokesperson told CNN that college students actually contacted the campaign and offered up the idea.  I don’t have the data in front of me, but I’m betting McConnell’s base doesn’t have much to do with Harlem, Youtube or college given that the legislator led the effort to cut Pell Grant funding recently and stands at odds with younger voters on a wide range of issues.  Moreover, Kentucky lags behind the rest of the country in broadband Internet access penetration (coming in at 45th in the US) which doesn’t bode well for HD streaming video content as a delivery method.
  2. Social Media Means Participation: As of right now, both comments and ratings are disabled for the video on YouTube.  Not only that, but comments are disabled for four of the six videos Team McConnell has uploaded in the last year.  When you disable the participatory elements of social platforms – you run the risk of driving people to other spaces where they can participate beyond your ability to join the conversation.
  3. Timing is Everything: The video was published today, but I remember seeing pitches to corporate clients about jumping on the Harlem Shake bandwagon weeks ago, and the phenomenon peaked on February 10 when as many as 4,000 videos were being uploaded to Youtube per day.  The speed at which social media moves means most organizations are completely incapable of responding in time to actually appear in-tune and actually risk appearing clueless and out-of-sync with the times.

On that third point, I leave you with a video the Minnesota Timberwolves shot that encapsulates the sentiment toward the Harlem Shake by an increasingly larger portion of the public (which includes a font-based jab at their rivals the Miami Heat in the close):