Mashable Asks Facebook to Face 2012 Mistakes

Mashable takes Facebook to task for some of its mistakes in 2012. Granted, we all made mistakes in 2012 … remember (that embarrassing event) and/or (person I dated)? 

But regarding Facebook, the "hidden inbox" was the really frustrating one. Looked like I’d missed messages from people and they probably think I’m a jerk for not responding, when the fact is I’m a nice guy — and I’ll be the first to tell you that. Mashable relays:

3. Instagram vs. Twitter and the Rising Garden Walls
In a move that has gone largely unexplained, Instagram disabled support for Twitter cards in early December. Instagram links no longer propagate as photos in Twitter streams, and users who’ve married the two in their social media lives are frustrated.

It’s clear Facebook still views Twitter as an existential threat, and perhaps rightfully so. The two networks keep adopting each other’s features (Twitter incorporating media, Facebook becoming a real-time news feed). But killing Instagram’s Twitter integration is a classic "walled garden" move by Facebook, and a sign that if you still want to use Instagram, you’ll have to play by Facebook’s rules.

Who loses in this battle of APIs? Users, according to Mashable’s deputy editor Chris Taylor. I have to agree.

4. Facebook Messaging Gets Weird
We’ve had email since the ’70s. It’s not that hard to implement.

Yet baffling quirks in Facebook’s messaging system came to light in 2012.

The first was a "hidden inbox" that stored messages Facebook deemed unimportant. Users in late 2011 and early 2012 were surprised to find outdated communications from friends and family buried there. While this "Other" inbox was not a new feature, it became black mark on Facebook’s user experience in 2012.

Remember kids: Users, not algorithms, should determine what is and isn’t important.

Another bizarre feature that bubbled up this summer was "Message Seen" notifications — essentially, a read receipt that indicates when users see your messages, chats and group posts. You can no longer hide from unwanted Facebook communications. Your friend will know as soon as you’ve read (and ignored) that request to attend her poetry slam next Thursday.

Oh, and you can’t turn it off (not without some fancy browser extensions, anyway).

If that’s not enough, Facebook just rolled out a dandy new feature that lets strangers send you a message for $1. Get ready for spam, unsolicited pitches and long-lost stalkers.

5 Social Media Lessons for Small Businesses

The popular site, Mashable, offers five lessons for small businesses to consider while trying to navigate the tricky waters of social media.

1. Social Isn’t the Place for the Hard Sell
This might be the most difficult lesson for the small business owner. After all, we don’t have large marketing budgets to waste. Every dollar must count and we’ve been trained to close every potential sale. However, the social universe requires a subtler approach. This means no BUY ME buttons or blatant promotional copy.

In fact, if your social media strategy is just about marketing or sales, then you’re not approaching it right. Yes, you can use social media for marketing and you can increase your sales figures from it, but it can’t be your focus 100% of the time. As a general rule of thumb, only 5% to 10% of your social media activity (i.e. status updates or tweets) should be self-promotional.

Social media is all about building relationships and growing trust. This means answering questions, providing helpful information, and serving as a trusted resource. These activities should grow your bottom line, but it can be a slower, more nuanced, and potentially more fruitful journey than you’be come to expect. For this reason, it’s important to realize that social media shouldn’t replace all your other traditional marketing practices. It’s okay to ask for the sale, just not in social channels.

2. Social Isn’t About Self-Promotion
You know how painful it is to be stuck at a cocktail party, talking to that self-absorbed person who only talks about him or herself. Small businesses need to treat social media like a cocktail party among friends. To be liked, you’ve got to be gracious, genuinely interested in others, and not dominate the conversation.

What does this mean? Make it easy for people to leave comments on your blog. Engage with everyone who posts on your wall (within reason). Share great content from others in the industry. Ask questions and encourage participation. And most importantly, recognize that sometimes it’s better to talk less and listen more.

3. You Don’t Have to be Everywhere
There are two facts to keep in mind when it comes to social media and small business. First, there will always be a new network to get involved with. Secondly, a small business owner has a limited amount of time and money to devote to social media.

Fortunately, doing social media well doesn’t mean you need to be anywhere and everywhere. Instead, it’s about choosing one or two of the most relevant and effective channels for reaching your customers and focusing on them.

Remember that a neglected social media presence will reflect poorly on your business. It’s actually better to not have an account if you don’t have the time and resources to actively manage it and participate.

4. You Don’t Have to Keep up With the Big Brands
If you’re running a small business, you know there’s a big difference between your budget and that of Virgin America or Starbucks. That’s OK. Your small business doesn’t need to try to keep up with these big brands — particularly when it comes to contests and campaigns.

Creating giveaways and contests is one of the most effective ways to generate new likes and improve overall engagement. But small businesses often feel the pressure to offer flashy prizes that are well beyond their budget.

For example, for your small business, don’t give away a bunch of iPads if that’s not what you can afford. Instead, consider giving away one of your company’s services. It’s definitely not the sexiest prize and won’t generate widespread interest, but it’s more budget friendly and everyone who participates is sure to be interested in what your company does.

5. Social Media isn’t “Free”
Sure, you don’t have to spend a dime to join Facebook, create a Twitter account, or start a blog. That’s great news for the small business. However, social media is far from free once you factor in the blood, sweat, and tears it demands. Social media requires constant commitment, from keeping fresh content on your accounts to engaging your community.

Unless you consider your time (or the time of your employees) worthless, then there’s a significant cost involved with social media. For example, if it takes one employee approximately ten hours a week to manage social media accounts, you can assign a hard cost to the effort. The key takeaway is any small business owner needs to understand the numbers behind every campaign, and that means factoring in everyone’s time and effort.
 

Fun Perks in Tough Times

For many companies, it’s time to tighten budgets like never before. But that doesn’t mean you have to turn your employees into robots. Mashable posts on what six successful companies are doing to keep employees happy. For just a snapshot, look at the great things Clif Bar is doing:

  • Free coffee
  • A $350 stipend to help cover the entry costs for races, events and competitions
  • A dog-friendly office
  • Clif Base Camp, a “competitively priced” daycare center that has capacity for 64 children up to 5 years of age
  • Concierge services, including on-site car washing and detailing, haircuts, laundry and dry cleaning — to support a healthy work-life balance. While not free, these services are convenient and efficient
  • Subsidized massage and chiropractic services on site
  • Alternative Transportation Rewards: Employees who commute on foot, by bike, on public transportation or in carpools can earn up to $960 a year in rewards. Employees earn points that can be redeemed for commuter checks, extra cash, Clif gear, massages and more
  • Cool Commute Incentives, the nation’s first-ever biodiesel incentive program for employees, rewards employees for biking, walking, carpooling, taking public transit and driving a hybrid or bio-diesel vehicle. Employees can get a $6,500 tax incentive for purchasing biodiesel, and up to $500 for the purchase of a commuter bike so long as they commute by bike at least twice per month.
  • Cool Home Incentives: Employees can receive up to $1,000 per year to make eco-home improvements — like installing Energy Star appliances, insulation installation, solar installations or energy-efficient windows — that will reduce waste and the use of fossil fuels and increase the use of renewable energies.
  • Flexible schedule: Clif Bar teammates get eight paid holidays, plus a paid week off between December 25 and January 1. Employees start with 15 days of paid time off, and that increases to 20 days the second year and 25 days the fifth year. Then there’s the 9/80 Schedule, whereby employees can work 80 hours in nine days and then get every other Friday off.
  • Sabbatical: After seven years at Clif Bar, employees can enjoy a six- to eight-week sabbatical.
  • Kali’s Kitchen: Founder Gary Erickson’s grandmother Kali inspired him to bake, and so Kali’s Kitchen works with regional farmers to source organic ingredients for affordable meals (a $6.50 price point is common).
  • Weekly breakfast meeting: Every week the company assembles for a company breakfast — bagels, fresh fruit, eggs, oatmeal, juice, bacon and sausage and more are served — and the team shares news and announcements and a consumer’s “letter of the week.”
  • Employee Stock Ownership Plan, funded entirely by contributions from the company with no required employee contribution. Employees are automatically enrolled and become 100 percent vested after three years with the company or when they reach retirement age, whichever comes first.
  • Retirement: To help employees plan for retirement, the company adds financial literacy classes and a 401(K) savings plan with a dollar-for-dollar matching contribution for the first 5% of pay deferred.

Google+ to Businesses: Hold Thine Horses

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You’ve likely heard the Buzz (sorry for the unfortunate pun, Google) about the new Google+ social networking service. Some folks are already taking part in testing the new product, and if you’re interested, take a tour here. The big question now, at least for our purposes, is "How will this be used by businesses?" For the moment, Google is telling potential business users to hold off as they try to figure some things out. That is to say, if they were going to use a Guns & Roses song as a metaphor to the business community, it would be "Patience" — as opposed to "Welcome to the Jungle." (Sorry, that’s a reach, but always trying to reference Hoosiers whenever possible. So there’s your Axl Rose nod for the week.)

You can go ahead and try to register to be included in the business pilot run of the site by filling out this simple form. I’ve already registered the Indiana Chamber as a potential candidate. Fingers crossed, just anxiously hoping like a potential rose-receiver on "The Bachelor." I hope you’re happy, Google. I was once a man… I was once a man.

Mashable has more.

Read All About It! (On the Internet)

Thank goodness we didn’t have the Internet in the 1800s, as we never would have been blessed with newsies… God bless those kids. Anyhow, it seems a majority of Americans under 30 are getting their news from the Internet. Not too suprising, but the stats are worth viewing. Mashable writes:

The Internet is now the main national and international news source for people ages 18 to 29, a study from the Pew Research Center reports.

In 2010, 65% of people younger than 30 cited the Internet() as their go-to source for news, nearly doubling from 34% in 2007. The number who consider television as their main news source dropped from 68% to 52% during that time.*

Of all 1,500 American adults surveyed, 41% say they get their national and international news from the Internet, up 17% from 2007. Sixty-six percent cite television — down from 74% — indicating the trend is spreading among other age groups.

Forty-eight percent of those ages 30 to 59 cite the Internet as their main news source, up from 32% in 2007, while television went down from 71% to 63%. Though the number of those in the 51 to 64 age group who consider television their main news source (71%) is about the same, those who turn to the Internet (34%) is nearly equal to the number who cite newspapers (38%). The amount of people 65 and older who get their news from the Internet has risen from 5% to 14%, but television remains the chief source for 79% of respondents.

These numbers fall in line with the rise of the personalized news stream online. Both Facebook’s news feed and Twitter() launched in summer 2006 but didn’t catch on until 2007. Both sites have seen explosive growth since 2008. Tweet counts have increased from 5,000 daily in 2007 to 90 million daily in 2010, while Facebook() went from 30 million users in 2007 to more than 500 million users today.

In addition, the television viewership culture has shifted in the past few years. Between media streaming services on the web and, more recently, Internet-TV connection devices like Roku and Boxee(), people have more viewing options than ever before. With the ability to personalize what news and entertainment you consume, these television watching methods have become more desirable for many.

McDonald’s Foursquare Campaign Yields Positive Results (How Positive is Still Being Determined)

If you’re like me, you’re not a big fan of location-based social media. My general view is that unless you’re my child (or dog, in my case), I’m hoping to rob your home or I’m stalking you, I don’t need to know where you are or what you’re doing. However, some businesses have been using Foursquare as a way to engage loyal customers via discount offers and rewards. Case in point, McDonald’s recently gave it a shot and generated as much as 33% more foot traffic:

With so many brands trying their hand at location-based marketing campaigns, one has to wonder: is Foursquare really effective as a platform for bringing in new business? McDonald’s seems to think so; the company’s head of social media Rick Wion recently spoke of the fast food giant’s big wins from a spring pilot program using Foursquare.

At the Mobile Social Communications conference yesterday, Wion shared that McDonald’s was able to increase foot traffic to stores by 33% in one day with a little Foursquare() ingenuity. McDonald’s total cost for the successful campaign was a measly $1,000.

Econsultanty reports that McDonald’s, with Wion driving campaign direction and strategy, opted to try and take advantage of Foursquare Day (4/16) to bring in more business. The company used 100 randomly awarded $5 and $10 giftcards as checkin bait to lure in potential diners. The bait also worked to attract the media’s attention and resulted in more than 50 articles covering McDonald’s Foursquare special.

The campaign worked in both digital and real world capacities. Patrons flocked to McDonald’s restaurants for the chance to win giftcards in exchange for checkins, and 600,000 online denizens opted to follow and fan the brand on social media sites.

“I was able to go to some of our marketing people — some of whom had never heard of Foursquare — and say, ‘Guess what. With this one little effort, we were able to get a 33% increase in foot traffic to the stores’,” Wion explained to conference attendees.

A company of McDonald’s size spends millions on advertising every year, and yet a simple $1,000 Foursquare campaign netted the company measurable success. Of course, the metric here was checkins (not sales), and there were likely several other factors contributing to the campaign’s success, but it’s still a story that many an agency should pay heed to.

McDonald’s is not alone in their Foursquare success. Earlier this year, Domino’s UK attributed social media, and its Foursquare pilot program in particular, as a primary factor in helping the company increase profits by 29%.

But NOT SO FAST, says ReadWriteWeb. The site asserts McDonald’s claims are a bit, shall we say, super-sized.