Archives For Social media

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For centuries, we human beings are used to having separate worlds in our lives.  Our parents, our friends, our managers, our peers, our teachers, our children – the list goes on.  We often maintain different personalities with the different worlds and rarely are we comfortable with details about who we are in one world leaking into one of the other worlds.  As a diehard Seinfeld fan, this brings to mind George’s fear of colliding of worlds (Independent George, Relationship George) as Jerry happily hooks up Elaine and Susan!

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When I read articles such as the NYTimes one on “They Loved Your G.P.A. Then They Saw Your Tweets“, I always come away with mixed feelings about what role the social networking landscape should play on one’s life – in this case, education, perhaps something else in another case.  This is certainly not the first article written about the reality of colliding worlds and it won’t be the last.  As we become more trackable via sensors, the problem of collisions is going to be huge.  As a society, are we really prepared for it?

Before we answer that question, let’s recall the role that man’s inventions have played on evolving our societal norms over the years.  From the evolution of commerce to banking to recent techniques of sending money via email, one of communication from pigeon carriers to snail mail to all kinds of electronic modes available now, etc., our society has evolved and adapted to inventions (technological and other) that have woven into people’s lives as an integral part.

Along the same lines, there is a massive force on social behavior at the moment, brought upon by all the myriad of information that is available about us online.  I wrote on Quora about the different ways in which one can lose privacy today – for all those reasons and more, evidence of our behavior is smeared in bits of information all over the place.  It is futile to fight it or try to revert or delete it all.  And yet, I believe this is the among the most difficult changes inflicted on society by human inventions.

Despite all the changes that have come about, the notion of a relationship role is one that has undergone little to no change from times immemorial.  And I mean relationship in the broadest of senses – what a student is to a teacher, what a child is to a parent, what friends are to each other, etc.  And despite the huge changes that have happened in the ways we communicate, how we handle these different personas have more or less remained the same.

And today, this is all in jeopardy.  Not only that, but it is rapidly changing – before we are ready for it.  Previously, to impress a potential employer, we could put our best foot forward and know that that is going to be what counts for the most part.  The equivalent of information leaks in that world would have been things like knowing a common intersection of people from one of your different worlds that may divulge undesirable information about you.  This was not a common occurrence in the big scheme of things.

Today, it is a reality everywhere. There is no place to hide.  And this makes all the difference.  Unfortunately, just as in any other case, technology will end up influencing human social behavior more so than accepted societal norms defining the future of technology in this space. We have to be more cognizant about this in our actions.  Be it an educational institution that figures out just how much your tweets count towards your admissions or a student that figures out how to develop a social profile that augments their admissions – we will eventually reach equilibrium. Until then, it’s a rocky road ahead and we have to ride along!

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It used to be that the primary medium of advertising were billboards, televisions and newspapers.  As more and more audience shifted to the Internet as the medium of receiving content that used to be served by print and TV, advertising gained momentum on the Internet.  First popularized using the “clicks” model, it continues to evolve and is the dominant source of revenue for most of the Internet stakeholders.  The social media frenzy now cannot be overstated – there are numerous sources of buying “likes” and “followers” that we have heard of.  Alex Rampell wrote about the danger of the intermediate metric on TechCrunch and highlighted that while marketing folks are busy setting milestones based on the number of likes and followers they can accumulate for their brands on social media, this may not in fact be translating into actual sales.  

This is obviously true.  What is a “like” worth?  Especially in light of fake or paid likes?  It is not a directly measurable metric and it can be quite fuzzy as to whether it translates to any direct sales at all.  There are conflicting theories on this, even though brands continue to pour money into social media, accumulating followers, likes, repins and what not.  

But I contend that the situation with social media metrics is no different than with any other metric the advertising world has ever known.  Without going to the beginning of time here, let’s start with newspapers and televisions.  What decided the net worth of an ad on such media?  The number of potential viewers more or less decided why Superbowl ads were worth a lot more than ads on any other day.  Or why a popular newspaper’s front page was worth more than something else.  Was there a direct conversion between sales and a viewed imprint? No!  

Of course, direct conversions are slightly more measurable when a promotion from an ad makes its way into a sale (say, using a coupon in a store or a code in an online purchase).  Then again, this situation is no different from any online intermediate metric we have today.  

Let’s take another widely used marketing channel – email.  What is an email address worth to marketers?  It is as debatable as anything else – but it is common to see offers for simply signing up to receive email.  Each brand has an indirect conversion mechanism that tells them approximately how much an email is worth.  Here is one example – but it is only a small representative of what can be done.  

About the only aspect that makes social media metrics a bit more challenging than any other metric the advertising world has dealt with before is the thriving underground economy that allows social media interactions to be traded.  But, that is to be absorbed as a cost for now, while algorithms get the better of it.  Trolls on the Internet aren’t new.  From fake reviews on Yelp (did you know 20% of Yelp reviews are potentially paid reviews?) to cheap social media interactions (see what a search on “buy social media likes” yields), this is an obvious problem. But, just like email fueled technologies in spam detection (and Yelp’s algorithms filter out what are possibly fake reviews), technology will catch up to extracting the signal from social media interactions.  

The bottomline is that the advertising world is no doubt being morphed by the introduction of new metrics and the shift to online media and sales. But, the philosophy behind computing the net worth of an advertisement is not quite changing – it has always been about “potential impressions” or “potential views” and it still is! 

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Just how many networks do we have to check on a daily basis?  Facebook.  LinkedIn.  Google+.  Instagram.  Twitter.  Quora.  Pinterest.  Wordpress.  And probably several other groups that we are a part of.  In my case, the list is so much longer as I’m trying out several new apps at any given time.  For instance, at the moment – Fab, Etsy, Voto, Photopoll, Fashiolista, StumbleUpon, Seesaw, Polar, etc.  This is, of course, only a sample.

At the end of the day, I’m exhausted just thinking about all the networks I haven’t yet caught up with.  By the time I wake up in the morning, there will be fresh news to catch up on and I won’t know what I missed.  I’m afraid of missing that critical piece of information – a baby that everyone except me knew my friend was having or Yahoo!’s next acquisition that slipped by in the few hours that I was away from technology news! 

The exhaustion is not only about the content ready to be consumed.  But, it is also about the content you produce.  How do you socialize your own content?  Do you put it on all the networks?  Only a subset of them?  If so, how do you decide which one should be publicize where?  There are so many sites providing advice on “N number of ways to publicize your blog” or “getting noticed”… Great, now that I spent all that time writing the content and coming up to speed on my social media content for the day, it is time to comment on blogs, browse and follow random blogs, add it to bookmarking sites, send out links on various networks, etc.!  

I have not even talked about some types of content that we may like to consume that steal some of our attention as well.  It is simply exhausting to be subject to this explosion of social media and there is no sign of a slowdown. 

I uninstalled Facebook the other day from my phone and went without it for over a week – turns out I didn’t miss it all that much!  I caught up with it when I actually had the time on a laptop.  The main reason I brought it back on my phone was because of the hundreds of other apps that I’ve authorized to use my Facebook credentials – without it, I had to manually log into each one of those apps and that was extremely painful.  

Are you equally exhausted by socia media? I’d like to understand how people deal with this and filter out various types of information on a daily basis.  To me, this is pretty daunting.  A challenge that is only going to compound in the coming years.  

Social media has transformed us into fidgety people that often have a separation anxiety without access to a connected device.  I find myself turning my phone on to look at notifications far more often than I should and I suspect I’m not the only one.  As you can tell from the picture here, I don’t actually read any of my emails from the various social networks.   Just looking at the big picture is exhausting enough!  

Obviously, this is not a sustainable trend.  The answer is in relevance filtering and summarization.  But, I’m not really sure that we can build these technologies as quickly as the information is growing.  For a while, I believe we will struggle to deal with excessive social media impact before we figure out a sustainable path!