October 22, 2014

Why Google Plus Could Be The Real Last Chance to Beat Facebook

Why Google Plus Could Be The Real Last Chance to Beat Facebook

Google finally unveiled another big chunk of its social project, and judging by the initial feedback from early adopters, it’s hardly going to be another crashed Wave. It’s not surprising to see Google taking this step, as it desperately needed a social layer to add to their search powerhouse.

However, for once there are good chances early adopters aren’t gonna be wrong in believing in this project. First of all, Google has got a whole lot of mistakes to learn from, both from their own side (Buzz, Wave) and from their main competitor, Facebook. Judging by how they tackled privacy with their Circles implementation, it seems like this lesson has been very well learnt.

Several more considerations to make:

On Google’s Defense

– The design of Plus is much, much slicker than Facebook’s. What I mean is, it looks like something made efficiently from the ground-up rather than something adapted and upgraded from an earlier design;

– It’s a lot more privacy-friendly. It includes a feature like Data Liberation that’s aimed to people who really want to be on top of their private information. And Circles are a real killer feature, allowing you to perfectly segment what you share on the platform, and with whom;

– It’s built on a SEO infrastructure. That’s one of the major advantages over Facebook, everything that’s shared and “+1’d” on Google Plus will have added weight on their search engine result pages, expanding the simple “+1″ button feature that was released some months ago. They basically built a self-sustaining system in a single go.

– Its asynchronous approach reminds me of Twitter, you can just add someone to a Circle without the need for them to do the same, rather than a binary “friend/not friend” a la Facebook. Not everyone is a close friend, he can simply be someone you know from some forum community, or someone you simply want to follow. It’s a much more granular system and it just works;

On Facebook’s Defense

– Three words: massive user base. Facebook’s critical mass is long surpassed, and it’s not easy to attack something so huge, Google or not, especially because people, at this point, are just too used – or addicted? – to it. On the other side, if someone has a chance it’s Google;

– Facebook has got loads of partners, just think about the gaming sphere. Hundreds of millions of people play on Facebook daily, they won’t just swap to Google if they have to change their entertaining habits too much. They will have to address this, but talks of a gaming platform are already going. It’s just a beta still, after all;

– They have incredible amounts of money, and with incredible amounts of money you can react kinda fast. Especially the Circles feature can be implemented very fast simply because Facebook already has friends lists, they are just much more obscure and less user-friendly to use;

 

Plus could be the last way for anyone to tackle Facebook’s domain simply because if people will stop using it, they’ll flock back to Facebook more skeptical than before. They’ll hardly trust another potential competitor. I am not saying Facebook will crumple like a sand castle, it’s very very very much unlikely, but the long-term bleeding is nothing new in the history of social media (Myspace anyone?).

The future is bound to be kinda exciting.

You Don’t Need Digg Anymore

You Don't Need Digg Anymore

I never really took time to actually think about how Digg has changed in these last months, besides the obvious redesign it’s been through and the backlash it caused in its userbase.

The main thing that seems to have changed is its relevance in this new age of information. A decrease in importance that directly translates into less benefits both for normal users and content creators.

The real question is: do we still need Digg?

The User’s Perspective

Let’s be honest, do you still access Digg’s main website to look for something to read? I sure don’t, and there’s really only one main reason: I have better alternatives.

One of Digg’s biggest rivals in these terms is no less than Twitter itself, and the similarities between the two are more than evident. Both have people to “follow”, both have a suggested user list, Digg news can be “digged”, Twitter news can be Tweeted, and so on.

The main difference lies in the underlaying concept. Twitter just integrates much better into one’s workflow. You can leave it there, glance at it every now and then, read what you choose to, or just ignore it. The world goes on, and you merely take a look at it when time allows.

Digg just feels a lot clumsier, you don’t feel a tight link to it as you may feel for Twitter, and this plays a big role in deciding how to spend your time, as you can’t really spread too thin.

How about mobile users? Twitter has got a pretty freaking awesome mobile app for iPhone, iPad and other devices. It’s one of those app that’s so well done you almost feel compelled to launch it just to look at it, especially the iPad version. Digg has got the mobile website, and while I am all for mobile websites, well an app is an app.

Besides, Twitter isn’t just about news. It’s about conveying relevant (or less relevant) information in just 140 characters, either personal message, or links to articles, or whatnot.

Additionally, people use other ways to aggregate content they are interested in. Google Reader comes to mind, and with the integration it can have with a multitude of third-party apps it really is a no brainer when it comes to group all your news sources into a single repository.

Heck, I’d rather use Flipboard to read content on the go than visit Digg.com, it makes a lot more sense to me AND it looks a lot better too, which never hurts.

The Content Maker’s Perspective

If you own a blog, or a news website, and you regularly submit your posts/news to Digg and allow your readers to “Digg” them, go and check your analytics. Take a look at the referrals coming from Digg. Go on. I bet you won’t be too happy. What happened? Well, Digg saw a considerable drop in users, in favor of other similar services – Reddit in primis – right when the new version launched. SeoMoz has got an article up just about this, and the results are pretty scary.

Thing is, I feel Digg isn’t really worth the trouble anymore. And this hurts, as I am the one who recommended it for bloggers just a few months ago – twice, actually.

In the past weeks and months, while my StumbleUpon referrals constantly grew, Digg’s ones maintained stable at the very most, with occasional drops. In SeoMoz case it dropped significantly, so I guess I was kinda lucky.

To Sum Up

This doesn’t mean I am gonna remove the Digg button or anything like that. I will still submit my posts to Digg, and I’ll Digg stories I comment on. “Err so basically nothing changes” you’ll say. Well yeah, pretty much. Hey it’s not like every post I make it means I am gonna change something! Jokes apart, this just confirms the feeling I – we, I bet – had about Digg’s future being severely undermined.

I am not really sure what is its point anymore, and I am not sure what it’s going to become of it in the near future, despite its attempts to draw users back. Kevin Rose’s leaving the company didn’t really help dissipate this feeling either.

As it usually happens, we’ll see. For now, let me know what you found out checking your Digg’s referral stats, I am kinda curious about it.

Delicious Rises From Its Ashes

The Fall of Delicious and the Rise Of... Delicious

I was writing about the fall of Delicious back in December, when one thing was sure, Yahoo! was going to axe their social bookmarking service pretty soon and no one was really queueing up offering to buy it.

The thought of losing all my bookmarks saved on it was really annoying, even though I suggested the possible alternative of Diigo, another service similar to Delicious for many aspects but also offering a whole set of new things to enhance the user’s experience (like page annotations, highlights and so on).

Breaking News

What happened just wednesday is that apparently Yahoo! finally did find someone to sell Delicious to, nothing less than YouTube founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen.

After selling the gargantuan video platform to Google for an astronomical amount of money, the two ventured into founding a new internet company, AVOS, whose main activity seems to be dealing with the transition from Yahoo! technology to proprietary in-house one (something that must not be easy seen how deeply Yahoo! services were tied into Delicious).

In the press release there’s much stress about how serious the two seems to be about this acquisition, and I have no doubts about that because seeing how Diigo is moving around their own service, there’s much to be done for Delicious as well.

The possibilities around a service effectively gathering all your website choices and making them available to others are huge, and seeing how we just started to scratch the surface of “social” it’s very exciting to see that two successful entrepreneurs decided to get their hands into this.

So, What Is Going to Happen?

Your data won’t be lost as I was initially afraid of back in my previous post. As AVOS effectively acquired it, at some point you will be asked to login with your Delicious/Yahoo! account and explicitly authorize this data transfer. Any successive change will then be communicated afterwards, even though the transition will be seamless. And that’s great news.

Why Shouldn’t I Switch to Diigo?

I don’t really know. I mean, I switched in January, and I am pretty happy about it. Despite the lack of a dedicated application for it (not like I searched much, I admit), the Chrome extension and bookmarklet for Safari work great. Actually, the bookmarklet works fine on Safari for iPhone/iPad as well, allowing to save bookmarks on the go as well.

However, if you stuck to Delicious so far I advise you to keep using it. The names involved in this operation make me kinda sure your data will be safe and the change will happen without hassles.

Delicious Rises Again

Like a phoenix Delicious rises back from its own ashes. Hurley and Chen are two top notch entrepreneurs, working at Paypal before founding Youtube, they definitely know what they are doing and if they believe in Delicious enough to acquire it from Yahoo!, I am pretty positive they have a solid strategy behind it.

As I mentioned, the possibilities are limitless, and as the transition happens in July we will probably begin to see Delicious’ future unfold.

It will surely keep being a social bookmarking service, but it will obviously become something more, to counter the offensive of all the other services who cannibalized many of Delicious users (me included) just a few months ago.

Will this be enough to become once again the #1 social bookmarking service on the web? How will they be able to monetize such a service without driving off users? Do they have any surprise up their sleeves? We will see very soon, I am sure it’ll be worth waiting for.

5 Types of Users You Will Write For

5 Types of Users You Will Write For

After several months from the launch of this blog (or at least, from the start of my contribution to it), I can start asking myself who am I writing for – I know the answer to that actually, but I am asking it to make a point.

Widening the question, I ask myself: who is everyone running a blog writing for?

I am relatively new to social media, but after reading thousands of posts in the last year alone I can at least try to give a decent answer. I believe it’s very important to do it, each of us, because if we don’t keep track of who we are really writing for, I am afraid this all translates into a huge waste of time. You can shoot as much as you want but if you don’t actually aim, you’ll never hit bull’s-eye.

One of the conclusions I reached thinking about this topic was that every blog, in the end, is a business blog, unless you just run it for fun or because your analyst told you it’s good to keep a diary of your thoughts, that’s great too but I am divagating.

Wether you are an individual looking to enhance your own personal brand, or a full-fledged business looking for a way to be “more social” (it’s the latest trend anyway), a blog is an extension of your business, any kind of business.

Individuals and businesses can blog for the most various reasons.

Credibility & Authority, by interacting with other peers, showing off your knowledge, discussing with your visitors about your niche’s topics, participating, engaging and encouraging participation and engagement yourself. If you are a business this will show the “human side” of it and it’s kind of evident people prefer to interact with people rather than fancy corporate names.

Tech and R&D, using your blog as a portfolio for what you do, what you’ve done, what you WILL do, attracting interest around a certain technology or achievement and showing people your actual skills, with obvious benefits.

You might blog for direct income, be it from advertising, eBooks and various services, consulting or conference speaking.

You can even blog to get a job, like my friend Antonia Harler did. In her case it worked very well in the end, but she has powers and all, I know.

Or you might blog just for the sake of it of course, where all of the above doesn’t apply, you just write and enjoy people reading and commenting it. Bless you.

You really can blog for the most various reasons, but I believe there are only 5 main type of readers you’ll eventually blog for.

1. Clients

You blog to get new clients, simple as that. Or well, it’s simple to say, but not to achieve.

If you’re a tech company, you’ll blog about industry news or about the uses people can have for your products/platform/services. You have to be careful to do it in a meaningful way, to avoid the classic mistake of just spamming your products and promotions and making your blog become just another extension of your corporate website.

People – even potential clients – are looking for something more than another advertise, so give them just that. Don’t just mention how awesome is your product, but actually help them being awesome using it (MailChimp’s blog does an excellent job, for example).

My 2 Cents: consider that this is also a very good exercise for your company. If you can’t think of ways to gain advantages using your products or services, then you’re probably selling crap anyway.

2. Peer & Friends

Most people involved in social media write for peers and fellow bloggers, think about all those posts to improve the quality of your posts, find new ideas for them, simplifying various processes through the use of WordPress plugins and so on. Theres’ nothing bad in that unless you write only for this kind of user. In this case, you’ll have to start asking yourself where’s the money in all this. It’s the kind of question no one ever likes to ask but it’s fair to, once in a while.

The advantage of writing for peers and friends is that you’ll build up a healthy network of people to trust and who will hopefully trust you, it’ll help your credibility and authority, but only if you have something good to say, otherwise you’ll just tag along in the social media boat like many people do nowadays.

Being respected by others for what you do bears always good consequences and responsibilities as well.

My 2 Cents: in the end, social media is about being social, so there’s nothing wrong in writing for this kind of visitor. As I mentioned, it’s bad if you write ONLY for them, a mistake which is more common than not especially when you’re just starting your blog. But it’s ok, nothing bad in adjusting your aim while running.

3. Machines

One thing is optimizing your blog for SEO purposes and search engines, another thing is writing for them uniquely. This often leads to what I call “the explosive headline trap”, where the headline is forged in a way to blow people’s mind off but the content of the post itself is totally mediocre even though totally “SEOtastic”. This kind of behavior will attract visitors in an explosion of page hits, but will also drive them off your blog faster than you can say “ouch” when it appears clear you’re just talking bull.

My 2 Cents: spending 20 minutes optimizing your post, researching some keywords, running the Google Adwords tool? Sure, why not. Heavily modifying all your post to attract as much keyword searches as possible and writing shocking, controversial headlines just to get people’s eyes? Good luck with that.

4. You

Don’t we all write for our personal wellness, in the end? I mean, there’s something addictive in pressing that “Publish” button, some kind of… mmmhmm, that’s done, onto next task, sorta feeling, no? Also, blogging has the objective benefit to help you organize your business and your thoughts in a far more efficient way, to learn new things and to force you to read a lot. Judging from statistics on what and how people read nowadays, this can’t be bad can it?

My 2 Cents: what if you write just for yourself? Well I suppose if you do that you also do realize there’s no $$$ in for you. If you’re ok with that, then by all means have fun. It’s important that you write also for yourself, because if that’s not the case you will run out of enthusiasm very, very soon. As long as you still have that positive feeling when you press Publish, all’s good.

5. No One

If the question “who are you writing for?” leaves you with a blank look, then you should seriously reconsider your intents. You probably don’t have a strategy nor a plan, you’re effectively achieving nothing and wasting your time. Blunt? Perhaps, but it’s really fundamental not to fall in this category, alright?

The most important thing to do before you even start considering running a blog is planning a strategy around it, to avoid ending up in a situation where you won’t even understand who you are really writing for.

Most of the various failures in social media are, in my opinion, due to the lack of a clear vision of what you want to achieve. Without a vision you don’t know where to go, and even if you are strong-willed and resolute, your efforts will be wasted in the wrong direction.
You really want to avoid this.

Revenge of the Giant: Google Strikes Back With +1

Revenge of the Giant: Google Strikes Back With +1

Google sure took a while to get back on the topic, but finally they did it when just the other day they announced the start of their “+1″ roll out.

I have written about this already, but if you want a quick sum up, +1 was rumored to be the new social service of Google, getting back in track after the failed Buzz experiment, and the crashed Wave of just a few months ago.

Of course people – me included – started to wonder what it would be all about, and if it would be yet another failed experiment by Google.

If you remember from my December post, I really had full trust in Google to do things right for a change, and in light of what we can read today, the potential is all there indeed.

So What Is +1?

+1 integrates with the strongest asset Google has, data, huge, impossibly huge amounts of data. While Facebook’s weapon is surely its massive social presence, Google has always been about data. They crawl millions of websites every day, and they store information for billions of them, so it was only natural a social experiment of their own would start from that.

+1 basically puts a Like-esque “+1″ button next to every search result, included sponsored links and ads. Everyone logged with their Google account will be able to mark a link clicking it, something similar to said Like button, but with – for now at least – less implications (more on this later).

As more and more users will “+1″ all the various links from search result pages, other Google users will see this likes, their number slowly building up. The whole of Google users will contribute in building a new kind of search engine with a social element, recommending useful links opposed to less relevant ones – probably another big hit to content farm, whose links will most likely receive very few “likes”.

As  I said, this will have less implications than Facebook Like button for now, because it requires no involvement. It won’t be posted on your wall or page, you won’t bother anyone like when Sharing something on Facebook. It will simply mean you found that link useful, period.

How Social Will it Be?

Well not much, initially. Not in the strict mean of the term. As I initially imagined in my previous post, Gmail will have a role in all this as people in your contacts list will see when you +1 some link, and vice-versa of course. That’s pretty much all the social reach +1 is going to have for now, even if rumors of a Twitter integration are spreading, particularly because they already have an integration in standard search results.

What About Ads?

This is where the true genius comes out. Since sponsored links and ads already have a link in standard search result pages, if you +1 a standard link it will also show in the corresponding sponsored version, and similarly if you +1 a sponsored link it will show in its standard counterpart. This will contribute in a sort of social advertising platform, where your social contacts will see what kinda of product or service you recommend if you +1 it.

Since Google biggest form of revenue comes from ads, it’s not going too far to believe they really want to make this part right, in order to bring some innovation in a market that’s becoming progressively more and more stagnant. Useful products and services will emerge over spammy and useless staff that too often clutters Google, encouraging people to actually bring something new to the table.

Websites already running AdSense will need no change, as the new version will simply begin supporting +1 automatically.

When Will We See It?

What about, right now? Unlike previous launches (Buzz, Wave) Google didn’t plan any grand opening, but decided to go the silent way of implementing +1 as a Labs service. You can go here and enable it for your account, start to +1 links, play around with it.

The service will roll on to every Google account in a later date, and I am pretty sure we will see +1 buttons popping up similar to Digg ones and Facebook Like ones.

I admit I activated it but I didn’t yet +1 anything, just because today I didn’t use Google much (that’s pretty rare!).

Warning Though

Despite the idea behind it is a very good one, there’s one thing that Google has to set right, and that is allowing people to integrate +1 with their Twitter contacts. Since, as I said, Google already has an enduring partnership with it, it should be a no brainer, but Google simply stated they are “considering it”. Nothing too sure.

Right now, +1 simply doesn’t have enough social contacts to poach from to make it truly game-changing. I don’t really care if my GMail contacts +1 anything (especially as my main Google account is a sort of empty one), but I wouldn’t mind at all to see my Twitter contacts recommendations and list of +1 links.

I truly believe Twitter integration is absolutely mandatory in order not to make +1 another potentially interesting but useless experiment from the big G.

What do you think of it? Will you use +1? Do you believe Facebook will be intensifying its effort to provide a valid alternative even as a search engine?

Get Ready to Fight: Commenting Platforms Face-Off (POLL)

Get Ready to Fight: Commenting Platforms Face-Off

In my October’s post about the reasons behind my switching to CommentLuv+DoFollow a lot of people commented their impression and view on this change, and their personal experience with the blogs they run (and I thank all of them, that’s still one of the most successful posts of this blog).

I keep getting comments on that, especially from people who are using different commenting platforms (for example, IntenseDebate), so, in light also of the latest Facebook commenting system, I decided to write this post as a sort of repository for everything there is to know about all the various systems laying around.

But I won’t simply write my opinion on them or an HowTo or in-depth description of each of them. I will limit myself to naming them, giving a quick overview and asking YOU readers to give your opinion on them, because, quite frankly, no one can speak about a product better than the people using it in first place.

What commenting platform are you using in your blog?

View Results

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A Wild Jungle

There are many commenting systems out there, as you all know.

Let’s see more in detail, trying to keep it descriptive and neutral:

Disqus

A wildly popular system which interfaces with your WordPress commenting system providing a very cool front-end and adding a “social” layer to the whole experience.

Disqus uses an internal anti-spam engine and manages several posting preferences, like various login systems (Twitter and Google included), user’s profile, customization of the posting form and so on.

The centralized website allows you to register and setup your personal commenting platform within minutes.

CommentLuv

This WordPress plugin adds the ability for people commenting on a post to show a link to their latest post, which can be selected from a drop-down menu among the latest 10 posts (this behavior can be changed and functionalities added with a paid option). Additionally, one can check the commenter’s profile and their latest activity in CommentLuv enabled blogs.

It is an addition to WordPress own commenting system adding the chance to make your blog become part of an ever-growing blogging community.

Popular additions to this are the DoFollow plugin (so that your commenters will be rewarded by Mr. Google for leaving a comment in your blog with a backlink to their own) and the KeywordLuv one (which allows you to add a custom way to link back to your website with relevant keywords instead of using a ridiculous name like many do).

IntenseDebate

This system is similar to Disqus, adding commenter’s profiles, reply-by-email, reputation, comment-voting and many other options to your WordPress comments.

I honestly never used this platform from an admin’s perspective, so it’s only fair to link to their official Features list.

Facebook

As I mentioned before, Facebook recently launched its own commenting platform. Of course it makes use of every feature Facebook is popular for, for example you can Like any comment and make it appear in your personal stream.

Comments posted this way will appear with your Facebook first and last name, this helps fighting spam at the cost of privacy (which is a good deal if you ask me). However people without a Facebook account will be locked out, if this is your only source of comments.

Now It’s Up To You

I listed the 4 most popular systems, but I am sure there are many out there. Perhaps you use them, perhaps you don’t and just go with the basic WordPress comments, or maybe you use something else.

My question to you is very simple: can you name 3 reasons why anyone would want to use the commenting system you use in your own blog?

What Can You Learn From Your Blog’s Niche?

What Can You Learn From Your Blog's Niche?

My friend Tristan recently wrote about how broad or narrow should one’s blog’s niche be, and this forced me to think a bit about my own niche with this business blog, and how things have evolved since it was started back in June. As I wrote in my comment to that post, the topic would very well cover a whole post of my own blog, and here I am promptly. To cite myself:

“I had doubts about this all the time when I started writing.

I thought the arguments I was going to write about would be hard to come by  for the simple reason that I had to start full out, involving every team in my business to help out on the project.

Now, when you start a business blog and you need the cooperation of several teams just to start, things are bound to get ugly, especially if your business is just starting in social media (and this was our case).

You kinda have to start with a low profile, and build up from there.

So, I needed a niche that didn’t necessarily need too many staff members to write about it, limiting the “technical” topics (which are the real focus of my business, after all) to a later date, in smaller doses.

I can say it’s working out pretty good for me, and I can gather several insights from it (which could very well be a blog post on their own, now that I think bout it *notes down*):

  1. my technical posts have got a much wider audience than non-technical ones, more page views, more Retweets, more Stumbles, more Diggs, more FB Shares, less bounce-rate
  2. they also get the least comments

What I get out of this is that while tech dudes love to read stuff and make their friends read it as well, for the obvious linked wow-factor, they don’t like to write too much about it, they are less prone to “socializing”, so to say. I also realize we’re making pretty impressive stuff indeed, or people wouldn’t care at all.

Overall it’s kinda good to alternate topics, it gives me more chances to “dilute” my technical posts and offers more interaction over topics other kind of readers are interested in (typically blogging and social media in general).”

I learnt a lot in these months, especially because you don’t exactly start this journey reading a manual on how to start a blog.

Generally speaking, and to go more in detail, my more technical posts target a technical user-base (duh) with content that is kinda unique (I haven’t seen many posts out there about Kinect or augmented reality used with Unity3D models and environments).

Even if the niche is kinda specific, this kind of posts get more pageviews, more Diggs, more Stumbles, more Facebook shares IF the content is valid. You get more audience just if you have something to show, which makes perfectly sense.

They also get a better bounce rate, meaning people spend more time reading your content, they find it interesting because it evidently targets exactly their interest.

Lastly, they potentially touch multiple social media channels – aside from the usual Twitter, Facebook, Digg, Stumble Upon. My tech posts always provide a video which is hosted on Vimeo and Youtube, and it’s widely known that videos really hit the target when they are pertinent to your message.

The negative side of technical posts is the amount of people they require during their preparation, people necessary to shoot the video, edit it, prepare the demo to show, talk about the technical stuff (contrary to popular belief, I am not much of a technical person when it comes down to 3D. Thankfully I have a team to back me up, people who find time to produce or help produce blog posts outside the usual working schedule. I do realize not everyone has got this chance though.

Also, this kind of posts usually have less interaction, less “community value” around them, I am still trying to wrap my head around this but I guess it’s just the way it is.

The posts touching a wider niche, like social media and small-medium business talk, are generally targeted to a wider audience, but receive less page views. Why?

I thought about this for a while, but I believe the reason is that there’s a lot more content of this kind laying around, so it’s natural not to attract crazy amounts of people. The choice is just too ample, and from blogs/websites much better positioned in search engines, also (but not only) because of the relative young age of this blog.

The bounce rate is worse than my tech posts, but still physiological to the topics I talk about – for example, it’s a better bounce rate than the one most people declare about their “social media blogs”.

These posts usually involve less SM channels, unless you are into videoblogging and podcasting (which I am not, not for now at least), consequentially they also require less people to prepare. They are “soloable posts”, meaning that a single people can write them without much help needed, especially thanks to the astonishingly ease of use of WordPress and its various plugins.

Last but not least, they usually hold a lot more community value than my tech posts, for various reasons. Social media people love to write and comment on posts, and this is reason number 1, it’s just typical of this niche and one of the reasons I like this “world”, for the social value it holds and the chance to meet awesome individuals. And on top of that, building some backlinks to your own blog through a (hopefully meaningful) comment never hurts, right?

So what do I learn from all this blabbering? Or better, what did this teach me?

1. If your industry is interesting, don’t be afraid to talk about it

Even if you believe it might limit your arguments too much, it’s worth it, trust me

2. If you do so, do it in a freaking awesome way

Settle for no less than A-W-E-S-O-M-E. Make videos, edit them, add your logo to them, ask your team to help you, don’t post immediately if you feel you can do better with some more research. This kind of posts have to be of one-shot-one-kill kind, it will funnel traffic to your blog for many many days.

3. Even if you do so, don’t get monotonous

Writing always about your industry – or worse about one single aspect of it – narrows your blog down too much. Speak about something else, something possibly related, something with a wider audience, and don’t think that by doing this you’re selling away the soul of your blog, ’cause you’re doing exactly the contrary.

4. When you do so, do it seriously

Don’t just write crap for the sake of it. Be as serious with this kind of posts as you are with your main niche ones. They will build community around your blog far more than any other kind, especially if the same people are also interested in what you do in your business. My “social media” people love the 3D experiments we do around here, so it works pretty good for us.

Did you experiment as well with your blog’s topics, and have some finding to share as well? Did you notice different behaviors from your readers according to the different topics you talk about?

5 Disturbing Ways to Categorize Your Average Facebook User

5 Disturbing Ways to Categorize Your Average Facebook User

Lately I have been drawing full hands from the videogames world as inspiration for my posts, partly because sometimes the analogies are just so evident, partly because, well, it’s part of what we do for a living.

It happened again today while I was driving back to the office and I thought about the possible type of users of an online game (weird thoughts I know…) and suddenly I realized this could easily be adapted to Facebook users, simply because they always fascinated me.

Now, there’s no real reason really, it just amazes me how much time some people are willing to spend on it, and while I am usually pretty responsive to “trends” and new technologies I never really found any place for Facebook in my daily routine (at least for personal reasons, more on this later), but I had the chance to “study” the behavior of everyone else around me.

And this post is exactly about my discoveries.

The Desperate Need for Categorization

There are nowadays 600 millions of Facebook users out there, it’s kind of preposterous to try and categorize all of them into just 5 categories, but what can I say, one can try, and I think I didn’t really go too far off, you’ll be the judge of it.

1. The Casual

I can safely assume to be falling in this category, so it’s the one I can describe best. My story is kinda particular, I really have a personal Facebook profile just because I needed a way to administrate our business page, and I couldn’t really borrow someone else’s account, both because it would feel weird and stupid and because people protect their Facebook better than their bank information.

The casual user might be protective about his own privacy, locking out almost every feature, and maybe not even using a real name (I know it’s against the policy, but hey, if this kind of account is closed no one cries, really). I personally added just 4-5 people from my own office, and while I sometimes do randomly check their status, I really don’t care about it overall, perhaps because they are around me most of my day time anyway.

Overall I think that the Casual is on Facebook mainly out of curiosity or for some very practical purpose (some web application requires a Facebook login, for example), and they have little to no interest in being too much active on the network at all.

2. The Regular

This kind of user surely uses a real name and genuinely believes Facebook is a good way to keep in touch with friends, close or far.

While not actively using all Facebook functions available (like Places, Groups etc), he’s updating his status regularly, sometimes posting funny pictures and occasionally commenting on friends’ Walls.

Their life isn’t influenced by Facebook in any major way and they consider it mainly as a commodity, something that helps their personal or business life and pose no threat or harm to their privacy or online security. They don’t mind friends to request their friendship and they are more than glad to reply to their messages or statuses mentioning them.

Ironically, in my experience this is the rarest kind of user. Facebook is a sort of love-it-hate-it thing, and either you don’t give a damn or you’re totally crazy about it.

The Regular user falls in the middle, and probably it’s the most sane way of using it. I saw some of these users around here, and it’s always kinda funny to see the Hardcore getting mad at them for missing some important message or event, failing to understand the whole concept of not being on Facebook 24/7.

Particular mention, as an exclusion to the “sane bunch”, the Facebook gamers. Most of them aren’t playing enough to fall in the next category, but any regular Farmville user can’t really be considered just a regular user.

3. The Dedicated

A step forward from the Regular user, the Dedicated know very well how to use the latest Facebook trends, they regularly check-in with Places in their place of work/leisure, they monitor their friends’ updates and every mention of their name on their stream. They respond to events and they participate in Groups in a somewhat active way.

They see Facebook as an important part of their online life but they are not dependent on that, it’s something comfortable for example to fill the distance with people who moved out of their every day circle of friends, and keep in touch with them. It’s not uncommon for them to use a mobile application to manage and browse their Facebook account, taking full advantage of a real mobile social life.

You can notice that a Dedicated Facebook user is slowly climbing the ladder of insanity, alternating moments of lucidity to moments of sudden craze, for example when a friend mentions them in a not so cool way in their status.

But this, my friends, is still not the worst that can happen.

4. The Hardcore

You really can’t miss any Event or mention in any Wall or Group, you are on top of your Facebook presence. Always.

If we’re talking about an iPhone user, the Facebook app will always be on the first row of active applications, constantly ready to snap a new funny picture, capture a live moment, comment for first to any given Wall update.

The Hardcore sees other Facebook user types as something that has no mean to exist in first place. How is it possible not to be on 24/7? How can you avoid checking in literally everywhere you can, and taking pictures of anything you see which even remotely holds a potential “ooh” value?

Simply hearing someone saying “oh sorry I didn’t check Facebook today” is enough to have their mouth foam and their brain hurt from non-acceptance.

Lots of these users are around us every day, you can clearly see them outdoor as they most likely hold a smartphone with Facebook loaded all the time and laugh at their friends’ activities trying to involve people around them (who are mostly indifferent to it) in their “fun time”.

5. The Fanatic

I am not sure wether to include this category in the “users” or not. At this point, you’re not a Facebook user anymore. You ARE Facebook.

It’s not sure how someone can get to this point. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not really a lack of real everyday interactions, on the contrary, people with lots of friends tend to be willing to keep in touch with them at all time. 24/7. That’s the only way not to miss anything, even a little, insignificant event.

This kind of user’s photo stream will look more like a movie than single snaps, as every hour of their life deserves at least a dozen of images to celebrate it.

The frequency of their Wall updates would make you wonder if they can manage to participate in any other activity during their day, truth is, they can, simply because of one shocking, disturbing truth: a wireless processor implanted directly inside their brain, responsible for all their Facebook activity.

Yes, the future really is now.

The Future of Social Business Cards, Interview With Per Schmitz

The Importance of Social Business Cards, Interview With Per Schmitz

I am always on the look for innovative services and web apps, but sometimes they literally fall from the sky right in front of me, and my attention gets caught.

That’s what happened a few weeks ago with Per Schmitz, founder of an innovative social business card service called DooID.

Needless to say I took the chance of an interview with a fellow entrepreneur right away.

So Per, first of all thanks for this interview. Now straight to the point, how did you come up with the idea of DooID and social business cards in general?

I first thought about creating an application for Virtual Business Cards a while after visiting Tim van Damme’s unique Micropage back in early 2009. The simplicity and functionality of Tim’s concept just blew me away, as it has nothing to do with overloaded Linkedin profiles or complicated content aggregators. Visitors understand who you are in the blink of an eye, viewing all your important contact and networking info in one tiny package.

Following this simple philosophy we published the first beta version of our DooID platform in September 2009, allowing everybody to create a shiny, customized Virtual Business Card in no time, as you can see on my own one, as an example.

Fast forward to a year later theVirtual Business Card concept has suddenly been pushed into the spotlight and the number of services offering a “one stop profile” is increasing steadily. Many different platforms make it difficult for the user to find the one that suits his needs.

I hope this interview will  point out what’s DooID’s secret sauce and will try to help you decide whether DooID might be the tool of your choice.

As you mention, there are already many offers of such a “one stop profile” service, so let me be direct: why should people choose DooID?

What makes DooID’s approach unique is the fact that we’ve always focused on making people easily accessible by helping them to share their contact data in an easy and efficient way.

While most other services only bring together your online identities, DooID can be seen as a full-blown contact hub. Our app allows to display all important contact details like phone, mobile, fax, instant messaging, address, etc. alongside social media services and websites, offering the possibility to download a V-Card file of a user’s contact data. The V-Card file can be directly imported into address books or email applications like Outlook or Gmail.

While the biggest part of visitors will be viewing your DooID on PC or Mac, there’s an ever-growing number of people using mobile devices for accessing the web. To make sure that your Virtual Business Card does a good job on the mobile web as well, the app automatically generates a special mobile version of it. People you meet on business events or even on holidays can instantly import your contact data into their mobile phone’s address book.

But that’s not all as far as I saw, you also have some pretty innovative features as well.

That’s true, another important DooID feature is the possibility to password protect selected information that should stay private. This kind of nuanced sharing enhances a person’s accessibility without spurning the privacy – definitely a hot topic these days.

Concerning the visual aspects we were looking for an elegant and easy way to make our users achieve appealing results even if they don’t possess cutting edge design skills. The solution we came up with was a hybrid of professionally designed templates and a plug’n play customization interface. Just choose your favorite template and modify colors, fonts and backgrounds until the result suits your personal style or your company’s ci.

Want to tweak your Virtual Business Card even more? Our Add Ons provide optional functionalities that allow further personalization: Map, video bio, QR Code, contact form, email signature, blog widget, analytics and more give your DooID some extra flavor!

Sounds great Per, thanks a lot for the chance to interview you and I wish you all the best with DooID, I really think there’s an important space for services like yours in this “new” business world, and I immediately took the chance to create mine, needless to say.

Thanks to you, we’re happy to answer any questions, just send a quick email to higuys@dooid.com.

5 Big Changes Twitter Should Make

5 Big Changes Twitter Should Make
If there’s one company in the Silicon Valley that strives to innovate that has to be Twitter.
Despite the late explosive success, they didn’t really relax and laid back to enjoy their fame. The latest management revolution itself is purely aimed at developing a new product strategy, new sources of income and a totally new experience for all Twitter users out there.

The “new Twitter” was released with the purpose of driving more and more people to the Twitter website itself, rather than encouraging them to use third-party applications. Having users on your own website brings many advantages, it allows the company to keep the situation a lot more under control in terms of content shown, statistics, usability. The old Twitter website wasn’t really “cool” in looks and functionalities, that’s why the new Twitter was created to bridge this gap, and we can say the experiment was more than successful.

Additionally, Twitter has been pimping up the reading experience including in-line media to their Tweets detail, adding support for new sources as time goes on so that users could really consider using the website itself rather than another application.

However, I still feel it’s not enough, and judging from usage statistics I am not really alone in that thought.

Some Much Needed Changes

While of course I don’t demand Twitter to become a Hootsuite or Co-Tweet clone, there are some changes that would really benefit the current implementation of their website.

1. Multi-user login

I am pretty positive on the fact people would kill for this change.
Current scenario: you manage two accounts, one personal one business, you want to check out your Followers list to see if you would like to Follow some of them on your personal account, once done, you have to log out, and log back in to do the same on your business account.
First of all, this is boring as hell. Second, it encourages weak passwords. While I personally use a third party application to keep track of my passwords (so I can use my favorite 50-random-characters ones!) I am sure many people use short, easy to remember ones to be able to switch between accounts more easily, and that’s kind of a bad idea overall.

I am thinking about the Google approach. A slide menu where you can click and select one of your Twitter accounts, or log into an additional one if needed. Limiting it to three like Google does would be perfect, so, why not?

2. Tweets scheduling

Alright, alright, this one is controversial. There’s a lot of talk about how ethical is it to schedule your Tweets, but let’s face it, people do it. They use Hootsuite, they use CoTweet or TweetDeck, they do it anyway and they have to use another external service to do it, so integrating this into the main website I am sure would attract more people “back home”.

3. T.co shortener configuration

I think this one is going to come sooner or later, especially considering Twitter is working on the statistics service behind it (to make it in par with services like Bit.ly). What I would like is some sort of control over how you shorten your links. Right now it’s all automatic, you can’t personalize it, you can’t shorten arbitrary URLs, well you can’t do pretty much anything. I don’t know if this is by design or if it should just be considered a “beta” feature. Let’s hope and see.

4. A better lists management

I wasn’t sure whether to include this point or not, but since I tested this behavior on many browsers I am now pretty sure it’s not my fault.
When you Follow someone, you can click on the button next to the Follow one to select the lists in which you want to include the person. The selection method however isn’t really “snappy”, it kinda lags behind and I find myself in need of clicking it more than once in order to make the lists’… list appear. Perhaps in this case aesthetic looks were favored over ease of use.

5. A better Followers/Followed management

Managing people you follow and visualizing people following you isn’t really too fancy even on the new Twitter. For one, there’s no way to know, without external services, if a user is following you or not (at least, the newb I am, I don’t know of one). Also, when you select one of your Followers it would be nice to read more than 3 Tweets, without the need of visiting their own Twitter page. Configuring this value from the Settings would be neat, too.
I often find myself examining my Followers list to decide if to follow them or not, and I am sure the process could be made a bit easier. I value my Followers and I hope the people I follow value me as well, so I would love to have some more tools to make things easier, without the need of a third-party application for it.

That’s all I can think about for the moment, but I am very sure everyone has got different needs and ideas.
Twitter has done an awesome job with the new web interface, and I am sure we will keep seeing awesome stuff coming out.

What’s your view on it? Do you have a personal wish list of features you would love to see implemented in the Twitter website?