All posts by David Olsen

I’m an undercover economist in a world disrupted by networked innovation.

I also wear fedoras.

Google+ is not Facebook

This is a guest post from Nathan Statz aka @Sephyre.

There has been a lot of people throwing around ‘Google+ doesn’t seem to be happening’ or ‘I don’t see Google+ taking off’ of late. Usually this will be a Facebook junkie who thought Google+ was going to be this magical land that replicated Zuckerberg’s playground with a different logo at the top.

A no-talent hack writer over at Forbes went so far as to write a eulogy for Google’s upstart social network. There’s no need to point out what is wrong with the author wondering why nothing was happening on his Google+ stream, because he was smacked down by such a large collection of G+ users that he already wrote a retraction of sorts.

The thing is Google+ isn’t Facebook, and it’s not trying to be. Do you remember way back when you first started out with Facebook? You might have been one of the millions (myself included) that had a MySpace account, but your eyes started bleeding from all the animated gifs and bright colours. By comparison, Facebook was a grown up, clutter-free, and simple paradise to do all the things you could do on MySpace. It also didn’t have the stigma of being ‘for teenagers’. Suddenly being on a social network wasn’t just something kids do, it was starting to become mainstream.

When you started building your Facebook up, likely you added your real life friends, imported a few contacts from Hotmail or Yahoo, and used the feature to find other people that went to the same high school you did, or were in that university club you liked so much. Not only were you connecting with your mates, you were reconnecting with those you hadn’t seen for ages. It was like going to your school reunion, only without the awkward small-talk and forced smiles.

Now that almost everyone is established on Facebook, it’s always going to be tough for a new social network to lure people to it. LinkedIn did it by focusing on building professional relationships, and Twitter did it by focusing on small amounts of information and nothing else.

Even with Twitter’s popularity, it’s nothing compared to Facebook. There is still that reluctance for a lot of people to embrace Twitter, I myself took a while before I ‘got’ what all the fuss was about.

When Google+ first opened the floodgates and throngs of people poured in, there was thundering herd of Facebook fanatics that expected everything to be the same. They no doubt make up a large chunk of that ’25 million’ figure that is floated around all the time, but they also never really tried Google+.

It’s kind of like logging onto Facebook for the first time, wondering why all of your MySpace friends aren’t there telling you how great their background update is, and then never logging in again because ‘it’s not happening’.

You have to put a sliver of effort into populating your Google+ stream, but once it’s up and going, it’s so much cleaner, bloat-free, and just generally better than Facebook.

A lot of the confusion comes from the Google+ ‘circles’. I never quite understood what was so hard to get with that. I only have two circles. I have ‘Friends’ which is basically a copy of my Facebook contacts, and ‘Acquaintances’, which is for all the folks that have come across from Twitter, or I have found posting interesting things on Google+.

To be honest I just post everything to ‘All Circles’, but if I got around to putting up holiday photos, which I have to Facebook in the past, I would send that out to my ‘Friends’ circle.

In effect Google+’s circles let you use the network however you want. It gives you all the functionality of Facebook without random updates about how ‘Soandso needs 50 magical beans for ‘ or how ‘Otherguy got a high score on ‘.

When I first signed up to Google+ I wasn’t expecting much. I usually sign up to whatever social media network is getting hyped, grab my username, and then never log into it again. It took me a couple of years to start getting into Twitter, even longer for LinkedIn, but something about Google+ reached past my social media fatigue to motivate me to actually post and interact.

Maybe it’s the lack of bloat, maybe it’s the fact that it posts all the information anyone posts without an edgerank, or maybe it’s just the fact that it isn’t Facebook.

TP-Link wireless networking gear review-a-palooza

I’ve been given an assortment of TP-Link wireless networking gear to review, including the TP-LINK 150Mbps Mini Wireless USB Adaptor (TL-WN723N), the 300Mbps High Gain Wireless USB Adapter (TL-WN822N) and the 150Mbps Wireless Range Extender (TL-WA730RE). Below are my thoughts on the three devices based on my own usage scenario which is a home network in a traditional single level terrace house in Sydney built many many years ago. The problem with a house of this era is that it is built with a concrete/plaster wall that includes a chicken-wire like mesh that works as a Faraday cage for each room, prohibiting wireless signals travelling through walls with ease, as such Wireless performance at one end of the house differs greatly from the performance at the other end closest to the router (A Billion 7404VNPX).

Onto the hardware..

Boxed: From left-right top-bottom TL-WN822N, TL-WN723N and TL-WA730RE.
Boxed: From left-right top-bottom TL-WN822N, TL-WN723N and TL-WA730RE.
Unboxed: From left-right TL-WN723N, TL-WN822N and TL-WA730RE.
Unboxed: From left-right TL-WN723N, TL-WN822N and TL-WA730RE.

To test the hardware, I sat at the other end of the house and timed the transfer of a 1.2GB file from my media server to my laptop.

Results

1)  Broadcom Wireless G hardware built into my laptop – 11 Minutes 32 Seconds

2) Mini Wireless USB Adaptor (TL-WN723N) – 11 minutes 25 Seconds

3) 300Mbps High Gain Wireless USB Adapter (TL-WN822N) – 8 minutes 42 seconds

4) Wireless G with Wireless Range Extender (TL-WA730RE) – 14 minutes 53 seconds

Discussion

The Mini Wireless USB Adaptor (TL-WN723N) performed about as well as could be expected for a USB WiFi dongle comparable in size to a piece of chewing gum, it Measures just 3.7cm long and 1.7cm wide. Despite being rated as 802.11N at the distances I was using it at, it rarely made it above a 54Mb stated connection speed, though this improved when moving to closer to my router. For a RRP of only $28 ex GST, it comes as recommended for situations where you have strong WiFi signal and are connecting to a Wireless N capable router.

The 300Mbps High Gain Wireless USB Adapter (TL-WN822N) was a standout in my testing, with the adapter showing 5 full bars of signal and a stated connection speed in the range of 130-160Mb connection speeds at the other end of the house. Being a bulkier unit than the Mini Wireless adapter above, it’s ideally suited to areas of poor WiFi reception, in particular in situations where plugging a somewhat ungainly looking device via a USB extension cable isn’t going to impede your mobility, such as a desktop computer set up at the other end of the house to a network connection, the unit retails for $42 ex GST and is something I’d personally shell out cash for.

I had a much more painful time with the Wireless Range Extender (TL-WA730RE), with the included mini-CD with installation files refusing to be read by my CD player, when downloaded the ‘easy setup’ application was unable to setup the device, returning an error. Downloading the product manual and setting up the device using the web interface proved more successful though, though took some fiddling with to pick up my integrated wireless adapter instead of it finding the router as the access point to connect to.

Over a larger distance than that tested, I can see a benefit to using the Wireless Range Extender (TL-WA730RE) device, with testing showing a significant improvement in the stated signal strength of the WiFi signal to devices connected while it’s on. But as a trade off for higher ‘local’ signal strength, the repeater hurts total bandwidth when relaying connections through to the original access point. In my testing situation above however, it delivered lower throughput than if the WiFi adapter was connected to the access point directly, despite reporting lower signal strength. As such, I would definitely recommend ensuring wherever you purchase this device from has a strong returns policy before buying the unit to evaluate whether it suits your own needs. Though at $55, if it doesn’t work as hoped, I suppose it doesn’t break the bank.

QSS?

All of the above TP-Link devices came equipped with a technology called Quick Security Setup (QSS) that allows users to simply press the “QSS” button on the device to establish a  secured connection (supports WEP 64/128/152 bit encryption) in under a minute.

It’s a pity my  Billion 7404VNPX didn’t support the protocol as well, as it made connecting the TP-Link WiFi adapters to the Wireless Range Extender device a breeze, if you are looking to setup a new wireless network, this feature will make the process so much easier.

Disclaimer: I was given the above hardware to keep in return for my review, if you feel this is likely to have biased my writing, accept my recommendations with a grain of salt. While I endeavored to ensure the above post is free from any bias, your mileage may vary.

Telstra Desire – Not an iPhone killer

I have been given a HTC Desire handset by Telstra free of charge to review. The comments below expressed by me reflect my user experience and personal opinion.

After a week of playing with the Telstra Desire I’ve made some summary conclusions, the phone is awesome, but definitely isn’t the iPhone killer reported by many media outlets.

Why?

Despite trying to soften Android’s image with SenseUI and make it appeal more broadly, the Android interface is still relatively convoluted and the management of applications in the background from using battery is too complicated to appeal to the iPhone users who just want to jump in and out of their favorite app.

Essentially, the two phones are competing in the same broad (smartphone) market, but have different targets. Android is great once you spend some time customising it and setting up the widgets and learning how to get the best out of the HTC Desire’s battery life, but is slightly bewildering at first where some of the advanced settings hide to tweak certain non-obvious options.

That said, the problem with managing application settings is mostly due to the HTC Desire’s battery life, which once the device is optimised (try the video here for tips) is fine for casual to moderate use but heavy use will require more than daily charging.

After my daily tweet-heavy commute (even while listening to MP3’s at the same time) which lasts about 75 minutes in the morning I’m left with 70 percent battery life, by 5pm I’m down to 60 percent and if I keep up the tweeting on the way home am down to 30 percent. This has improved on initial performance, suggesting the battery needs to go through a few charge cycles to get up to speed.

This battery life is generally acceptable, though once long life extended batteries are available after-market I anticipate purchasing one.

Why?

The HTC Desire is an extremely powerful device, but in order to get acceptable battery life one needs to wind back all the awesome features, sure I can selectively turn them on as needed, but that level of granular control should be unnecessary. I want the phone to go all out with background data and services all the time.

Battery issues aside

The HTC Desire rocks, but takes some getting used to (about 48 hours till I was around most of it), I came from Windows Mobile (HTC Touch Pro) which also had its own version of SenseUI installed using the latest WinMo 6.5.3 Rom’s. While there are certainly some elements in navigation carried over SenseUI is more or less a completely new beast on the Desire.

Most difficult to come to grips with was the reliance on the ‘back’ navigation element, once accustomed to it it makes a lot of sense, with applications designed using a hierarchical structure with screen taps opening up into new windows to the right of the application, with the back button taking you up (or to the left) a level in the navigation (or back to the original application if another had been launched.. for example clicking links from Twitter opens the browser, back returns to the Twitter client).

This differed from Windows Mobile’s reliance on hacked task manager applications to emulate an equivalent of a desktop task-bar. It’s an improvement, but I still like the option of viewing all currently running applications (possibly via the notifications bar) and switching between them rather than fishing around for the application’s shortcut on the home screen (is there an App for this? I haven’t looked too hard..).

Applications are plentiful, of generally high quality and have all the necessary bases covered, so I’m not left wanting for anything not covered in the Android Market.

The included browser is great, flash-lite integration works well, opening videos in the integrated player. Streaming works well on NextG but isn’t perfect while on a moving train, and overall the NextG network performs better than my home ADSL connection (which is unfortunately 1.5Mbit) when using the speedtest app.

Conclusion

HTC’s Desire hardware is awesome, battery life needs work, especially if you want to take advantage of all the advanced Android features. HTC’s SenseUI more or less just gets in the way of Android, but It isn’t necessarily worse, just different.

Would I recommend the HTC Desire to you?

Depends who you are, if you just want a mobile phone that does all the latest cool stuff that all your friends are talking about without worrying, iPhone is probably for you. If you are willing to spend some time getting used to and setting up the device so it best fills your needs, you will be better served by the HTC Desire.

Having a community of #telstradesire reviewers also going through the process with me at the same time certainly helped however, as tapping into that communal resource over niggles I was having certainly eased the transition.

I anticipate exploring the opportunities for hacking the #telstradesire and replacing the stock Telstra Android ROM on the device after the review period (we are asked to keep the devices unmodified during the review) so hopefully I can better comment on the full potential of the device once exploring this possibility at a later date.

Welcome your comments!

My letter to all the #telstradesire haters

Telstra gave me a HTC Desire to review as part of their ‘Social Reviewers Program’ this week, and what is most interesting is not the phone itself (which is certainly interesting), but the reaction to it by some pockets of the social media landscape.

As a background, Telstra chose 25 people (out of more than 2,000) from an application process to be a part of the program, looking at the list of reviewers it’s reasonably clear that while certainly a cross section of people have been selected, many at the very least have significant reach via social media or are influential to others through their medium of choice.

Now seeding products with ‘influential’ people is not something new, ‘cool’ marketers have been seeding the latest products with teenage influencers for years, be it sneakers, music or the latest Xbox game. What *is* different about the Telstra Desire review is the company is not seeding products surreptitiously with influencers, but doing it out in the open as part of a larger social media campaign.

Transparency is in my opinion, the only way to maintain credibility with an initiative such as this, and Telstra has been very clear from the start with reviewers that we are to make certain those with which we are communicating with understand that yes, we got a free phone, and that the company has asked to give our honest and forthright opinions through the process.

Now many have been critical of the #telstradesire (twitter hashtag for the program) review process, with participants being labelled as “selling out” or “prostituting” themselves to Telstra for a free phone. Participants in the program have felt it necessary to defend their participation as a social reviewer, including @trib and @mpesce, who both maintain that they aren’t in this for the free phone (And I honestly believe they aren’t).

Me, I’ve a long history with HTC phones, having had 3 (Windows Mobile) based handsets in the last 5 years, I’ve had my eye on the Desire for some time, but been cautious about splashing down the cash on an Android handset. Being a part of this program solved two problems, I get to try Android to see if I like it, and I get a free phone if it turns out I like it. (or don’t like it as the case may end up).

My point being, rather than attack the people who are participating in the social review program. Listen to what they have to say, understand that yes, their opinions may be influenced (even subconsciously.. it’s impossible to be completely unbiased, we all carry existing biases) by the free phone, but take that into consideration when asking whether you can trust what the person is saying.

Then make up your own mind taking into account any perceived bias, don’t be a hater.

I have been given a HTC Desire handset by Telstra free of charge to review. The comments expressed by me reflect my user experience and personal opinion.

Twitter has a problem, they fail at their own use case.

Twitter has always struggled to communicate what its use case was. Not being an IM application, or a social network in the ilk of MySpace of Facebook. It has flirted with a few concepts as to what Twitter is and what benefits a user could expect to get when using the service.

At first, it was a tool to notify your friends via SMS and the web as to what you were doing.

Twitter’s second use case was pitched to us as a service that provided access to a direct line to allow everyday people to communicate to the celebrities they admired. The publicity around Oprah Winfrey joining was a significant draw card that brought massive growth to the Twitter platform. People though were disillusioned after signing up when the celebrities they signed up to communicate with either treated the service as a one way press release syndication tool, or (simply due to the number of people tweeting them) were not able to meet the communications demands their followers were asking of them.

This lead to a re-branding of the Twitter site, to focus on the sites potential to tap into the pulse of the globe at this very moment. Changing the question posed by Twitter to users from “What are you doing” to “What’s happening” is a very important evolution in the psyche that powers the Twitter universe. Additional to this has been location based twitter trends so users can tap into the up to the minute news and hot topics from locations of interest.

This is a great step to realising the true potential of Twitter as a service. There is a problem however, which is that if Twitter is positioning itself to be the pulse of the world. That when significant events occur, the service needs to be able to handle the additional load on it’s systems that major world events can put on it.

On Wednesday 20th of Jan, an aftershock measuring 6.1 hit Haiti, almost immediately after. Twitter was unresponsive for 90 minutes, suddenly the use case of Twitter, that of connecting us to what is happening right now fell to pieces, and showed us that depending on Twitter to deliver on the use case pitched at us is not wise, and raises questions over the services long term survival if hey cannot deliver on the core of their business.

The official word is that there was a “failure” somewhere (possibly hardware) behind the outage, however it is entirely possible that the outage was triggered by the surge in tweet volume after the 6.1 aftershock. Twitter already has trimmed the number of tweets it will cache significantly for search.twitter.com results citing performance issues, so it is reasonable to assume that a considerable spike in traffic might be enough to tip Twitter over the edge.

Regardless of whether this outage was caused by a hardware fault or capacity limitations, if a service pitches itself as being the pulse of the globe as Twitter does, it simply cannot be unavailable for a significant period of time during a crisis like this.

This tells us,  that in its current form, Twitter can not deliver the service required to meet their own use case to us. This undermines the brand, and until Twitter can iron out the bugs and capacity issues they face, they need to re-examine their use-case message and branding to users.

When a company actually *gets* social media, it creates more than a customer for life.

 

My better half bought me a shirt a few months ago from ThinkGeek with a slogan on the shirt that read: When in Doubt, Try Another Hole (Tongue in cheek geek humour). When a hole developed in the shirt after only two months, my instinct was to extract the last value from the situation by making a joke on Twitter given ThinkGeek was an online retailer based outside Australia. So I tweeted the irony..

 

Thinkgeek shirt

 

 

To my surprise, 8 hours later I received a tweet from @Thinkgeek offering me a replacement shirt. Now I wasn’t angling for a free shirt, I didn’t even know @ThinkGeek was listening,  butby contacting me (a slightly frustrated customer) in my medium of choice (I was venting on twitter) they effectively neutralised what could have been a serious venting of outrage by a customer and returned me firmly into the happy ThinkGeek supporter camp. I certainly won’t be badmouthing their products or service in the future, and if anything I have become a brand evangelist for ThinkGeek (As is indicative by this posts existence).

Moreover, given the rapid pace of social media, ThinkGeek understood the importance of acting promptly and from when I Dm’d @ThinkGeek with the orders details, to the time the replacement T-Shirt arrived, was no less than 72 Hours. Given that there was a weekend in the middle of that, and I’m in Australia, this is an amazing response to what was a relatively minor issue.

Thinkgeek gets social media and the importance of doing the little things right. Creating goodwill amongst your existing customer base is one of the best ways to create brand evangelists who will create positive sentiment ripples for your brand when using social media. Monitoring social media with tools such as Radian6 to pick up mentions of your brand in order to act fast on issues raised in social media is an essential part of creating a social media army willing to put their reputation and social capital behind your brand.

**Update** I’ve talked to @ThinkGeek and they have confirmed they use a combination of Google Alerts and Tweetdeck to monitor and track their social media presence. Social media monitoring doesn’t have to be an expensive proposition, these tools are a great first step to managing your brand online.

The language needed by #nocleanfeed to succeed in the “real world”.

The comments on my post Why the language of #nocleanfeed dooms the movement to failure. were overwhelming, and has prompted me to write a second post in the series on the language surrounding the #nocleanfeed debate. Josh Mehlman’s post over on The Drum Filter opponents: change tactics or fail mirrored many of my sentiments in my original post but raised an interesting issue.

These arguments have also failed to convince the public because the anti-filter groups have allowed their opponents to set the terms and language of the debate. Senator Conroy has consistently framed the filter in terms of protecting children from online nasties such as child pornography. The mainstream media has almost without exception taken this line uncritically when reporting on the filter.

This is an important roadblock to taking the language currently used online into the offline space. By making arguments based on censorship, you immediately are on the back foot against the Government, as by opposing the filter, you are automatically labeled as being in support of child pornography. Once you are tarred with that brush, whatever arguments you make from that point, no matter how technically correct, will be tainted by the belief that you aren’t interested in saving the children.

As we all know, this isn’t the reality, but it is the perception of the issue by Joe Public and Government alike. The language of the debate has been dictated to the #nocleanfeed campaigners by supporters of the filter. By this stage it is too late to re-frame the debate in our own language, we must use language that is compatible with the debate as it currently stands.

This needs to take the form of:

a) We want to protect the children as much as you do

b) The current plan for a filter will not achieve this

c) Here is a viable alternative

Simply opposing the filter with no viable alternative undermines our argument that we want to protect the children as much as the Government does. What form the viable alternative takes, I’m looking for suggestions, but a viable alternative needs to be established in order to overcome the public perception that we do not support the protection of children by opposing the filter.

Why the language of #nocleanfeed dooms the movement to failure. **Updated**

With the Australian government seeking to push through their ‘clean feed’ legislation and effectively censor chunks of the internet from the public, an important fight over our rights as citizens has broken out taking the form of the #nocleanfeed movement.

A movement which suffers from a PR problem.

While the majority of the ‘internet savvy’ can wrap their heads around the lingo of #nocleanfeed, to a layperson, it would appear strange to be arguing that we want a ‘dirty’ feed. For this reason, the language of #nocleanfeed is unclear and does not serve the purpose of the movement. To succeed, the greater populace needs to get behind the idea, and to do that, we need language that they understand and can relate to.

A perfect example of this phenomenon comes from US political pollster Frank Luntz who when working with the republican party, nailed the language required to change support for what was the ‘estate tax’ (which a large % of the population supported, since they didn’t think taxing an ‘estate’ was such a bad idea) but when relabeling the estate tax to a “Death Tax’ (ie: you were taxed on your death..) it changed the support for the tax considerably as people realised this tax applied to them on their death, not some abstract concept of an ‘estate’.

This is what #nocleanfeed needs, the movement needs to engage with your ‘average’ voter and speak with them in their own language about how this will impact them in their daily lives. Pushing the idea of #nocleanfeed is too abstract a concept for these people and will not result in their support for the campaign.

My currently preferred choices for branding the campaign include #openinternet and #netneutrality, but these would require a wholesale reworking of all the efforts this far. Is the disruption worth it to change direction with the campaign? Maybe not, but I can’t see the movement succeeding in its current incarnation.

**Update** Some people are confusing my post as simply a call to change the hashtag and continue as we have been campaigning online. This is not my intent, fracturing the existing movement is counterproductive and would only be useful if an overwhelming number of people supported it.

What is necessary though, is the #nocleanfeed campaigners, when transferring their action offline, is a concerted effort to frame the language  in a way that appeals to Joe Public, saying #nocleanfeed to a these people conjures up the following:

1) Something that won’t affect their browsing, because they are ‘not paedophiles’
2) Something that will protect the children

But as we all know, this isn’t the case. Framing the issue instead as something (for example) that will affect their download speeds for legitimate sites, and due to errors in the system see their favorite overseas sites ‘accidentally placed on the list (as with that Dentist in QLD) is needed to communicate the everyday impact this will have on *everyone*.

I also really like the approach in the comments by @nicwalmsley below, so I’ve cut and paste his comment here to highlight his point.

Everyone still seems focused on the internal process within the various internet-based movements that oppose the government’s censorship policy. We need to forget that, and move onto the details of how we can build this into a popular civil rights movement.

Forget the internet angle – it doesn’t matter which form of communication is censored, it is the censorship that is the issue; the average person doesn’t care if the net is a bit slower; just drop the whole “free internet thing” – it’s not the point

Some censorship is right and proper and is widely supported – you can’t just say “no censorship” because it goes against hundreds of years of political philosophy and practice; don’t get bogged down in the technicalities of whether the government can or cannot block bad porn, just say “yes it is great you are trying to block that stuff, we all agree with it, but that is not the problem with your plan”

Focus on the fundamental problem with the Government’s plan – they are going to open the door to banning political content! Every conversation should quickly drift you, “yeah, but they are gonna ban political stuff like euthanasia and abortion and who the hell knows what else – you might disagree with it, but we don’t need to ban that stuff?”

We need the Liberal party to come on board. Sorry but they are the opposition and so if they say “sure” to the Govt then we have lost before the whistle’s even blown, but if the Libs see a sensible civil movement building up against this, and they can see that there are weak points in the Government plan (ie, political censorship), then they will do what oppositions do – seek amendments and frustrate the government’s agenda.

There is something fundamentally wrong with the idea of banning discussion of criminal activity, because it presupposes that the law will never change. If it is black and white, sure, but if it is conceivable that the law could change, then we should never accept a prohibition on discussing it.

What about fiction: are they going to ban a story about abortion or euthanasia or drug taking?

So it should be “No to Political Censorship in Australia” and the main argument we should be driving is, you can try and block bad porn and terrorism, great, but don’t start banning political stuff because there’s no saying where that will lead.

I still think the language used online needs to change, but doing so in a fractured way is only going to hurt the #nocleanfeed movement. @DarkStarSword created Twibbons for #netneutrality and #openinternet that you can use if you like. However I would like to see a phased transition to something like #openinternet with both terms being used for a time to see if #openinternet gains traction. But most importantly, what I want you to take away from this post, is that preaching to the converted isn’t the answer, we need to make noise in spaces other than Facebook and Twitter, that will reach the average voter in language that is appropriate for them, to create a groundswell of support sufficient to convince the Liberal Party and Independents that the clean feed is a bad idea.

Facebook scams users to keep up with Twitter in the real time search war.

In a previous post I discussed the reasons why Facebook couldn’t win the real time search war with Twitter. Namely because of the advantage Twitter has with mobile clients. Facebook has come along in leaps and bounds since then, with the release of the Facebook 3.0 app for the iPhone a particularly strong offering. Even my platform of choice, Windows Mobile has a perfectly functional, albeit poor looking Facebook app available.

The one area I didn’t cover in my previous post, was perhaps the most critical factor to Facebook competing with Twitter in the real time search market. Facebook as a platform has since it’s inception, been an inherently closed social network. People need to be part of your network before they can gain access to your information, either by being by being a friend directly, or belonging to your extended network should you have chosen to allow “friends of friends” get access to your information.

Twitter on the other hand, is an open platform by default. Sure users can opt to restrict access to their tweets, but for the most part, this is counter to the workings of Twitter. If people can’t find you by seeing you participate in conversations with others, you don’t exist to them. Which limits your “Twitter experience” considerably.

As a result, Twitter generates considerable amounts of publicly searchable information every second. Whereas Facebook is stuck with it’s data being in silos around each individual that are inaccessible to the general public. In order to make this information available to search engines to provide meaningful results (and more importantly generate revenues from Bing/Google in the process)  it is *vital* for Facebook to change from a closed social networking platform. To a more open one, at least in regards to peoples wall posts (that which provides the best real time data).

This week Facebook offered it’s users what they called a ‘Transition tool’ to manage the transition to the new structure of the privacy settings. The tool itself is illustrated below by a screenshot taken by @beaney.

Facebook Privacy Settings Update

Now what this transition tool offered was the new default options for each setting for Facebook on the left, and a column of radio buttons on the right to allow you to select to keep your old settings if it was different from the new default. Instead of allowing users to select from all the  privacy levels for each  option, they only permitted the default (for the primary options this was the most permissive ‘everyone’ option) or the existing setting. Nothing in between.

Surely Facebook could have offered drop down boxes as with their normal privacy options menu, and simply listed the previously used setting next to each option and allowed the users freedom of choice. But no, this is a deceptive move on Facebooks behalf to scam its users into opening up their data so that Bing and Google can mine it and pay Facebook for the privilege.

Coinciding with this change in privacy settings for Facebook was an announcement not long ago that Facebook and Microsoft had ‘inked a deal’ to index all of Facebook users data. Obviously it is in Facebook’s financial interests to push users into opening up their status updates, but doing so in such a deceptive way will only result in users over-sharing and exposing themselves to risks unknowingly such as having their payoffs cut off when insurers see pictures of them on Facebook ‘smiling’. I expect Facebook’s response to such incidents as being “well the user opted in to up opening their profile” which may be true, but is unscrupulous and not the sort of behavior I would expect from the company.

You can do better Mark Zuckerberg. You evangelise the user experience with Facebook, but you have let your users down with this one.

Social media is not just another media channel, so don’t treat it like one.

I attended the SME technology summit last week where I sat through a presentation on managing brand and reputation online. The presentation dealt with such things as leveraging ‘new’ opportunities such as blogging for a branded media outlet (NineMSN for example) in order to manage your reputation online. The presentations content left me feeling that this was just old media PR in a shiny ‘new media’ jacket. Pushing out press releases to social media platforms is not an effective use of social media.

While it is important to engage your publics in their preferred environment, with social media platforms the preferred platform for many. Treating social media as just another channel for your brand fails to acknowledge how social media reverses the balance of power from your brand placing and gives it to your customers.

When I posed a question of how would you manage a crisis for your brand online, the old rules of PR crisis management came out. Simply publishing a press release on your companies blog is insufficient to manage a crisis with social media.

Why?

It comes down to trust.

Over time, those participating in social media have earned social capital with those in their networks, those people trust their opinion. Often to a greater degree than information from authoritative sources such as your brand. Working to overcome this trust differential begins long before a crisis starts, establishing a dialogue with members of the social media community is a critical step in your preparedness for managing a crisis online.

The motivations for people acting as evangelists for your brand is different than journalists acting as conduits for your information to traditional media. Journalists are only looking for the scoop in the short term, another notch in their belt, they have no strong relationship with your brand, they will push your story only when it benefits their needs as a journalist.

Social media brand evangelists have an all together different motivation, they have an intimate connection to your brand which has evolved over time, they feel like your brand is a part of their life and who they are as individuals. As such they are compelled to defend your brand in the same way they would defend their own reputation. That said, there will be varying degrees of relationship along a continuum from highly engaged to not engaged, however when crisis hits, it will always be those most engaged with your brand who will create the most noise in social media, acting in your brands best interests.

Failing to leverage the social capital of these brand evangelists will leave your brand high and dry when a crisis hits. Have you changed your PR crisis plan to account for the risks and opportunities social media carries?