Archive for February, 2010

Using Facebook to Grow Your Business

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Many thanks to everyone who joined us for our Feb 2 webinar on how to use Facebook to grow your business. I shared some of the insights from my new book, The Facebook Era: Tapping Online Social Networks to Build Better Products, Reach New Audiences, and Sell More Stuff. If you missed it, don’t worry. You can watch the recording here.

Blogger-in-Residence Steve King moderated and opened with some truly staggering statistics on just how significant Facebook has become:

· Over 100 million people in the US use Facebook

· The average person spends more time on Facebook than on any other single website

· Almost five percent of all online traffic today is on Facebook

The main message. As businesses, whatever size or industry we are in, we need to be where the customers are. And it’s becoming clear that the customers are on Facebook! Facebook is an incredible business tool because it has caused people to share more information about themselves than ever before – intimate details about their lifestyles, hobbies, and relationships. All of this information in turn is made available to businesses to target their advertising and messages.

Where to begin. It can be difficult and costly to drive traffic to a website. Instead of making your customers come to you, why not go to them on Facebook? A growing number of businesses are creating Facebook fan pages to replicate or even replace the functionality of their website. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

1. What is a Facebook fan page? A fan page is like your Facebook profile except for a business. It has a name, profile picture, and wall. Instead of friends, business pages have “fans.” For example, here is the fan page for my book. (Create your own by clicking here)The Facebook Era fan page

2. What is a fan? Fans can be anyone who chooses to associate with your company: customers, friends, employees, and most of all, potential future customers. The way you attract and retain fans is to consistently publish valuable wall updates which will appear if your fans’ News Feed. What do I mean by “valuable”? Well, instead of going for the hard sell on each wall post, try to link to and write about the things that matter to your customers. Provide helpful information and tips. Let your personality shine through. One small business owner I work with posts a funny joke every week to give his fans a break from their day.

3. How do I get more fans? After you have created a fan page, it’s a good idea to first invite friends, family and employees to become fans (click the “Suggest to friends” link below the fan page profile picture) so that by the time customers and prospects view the fan page, it already looks lively and exciting and they will be more likely to join in. By updating your page consistently- be it once a day or once a week, depending on how much you want to commit- your business can stay on people’s minds by showing up in their Facebook news feeds. Once you establish an expectation of how often you will update your page, make sure to follow through. Telling people about what’s going on in your company, and possibly offering special internet deals, will keep people interested and attract their friends to join as well.

Jonathan Smart, an Allstate insurance agent in Columbus, Georgia, wrapped up the webinar sharing his experiences on Facebook and using Hearsay 360, a Facebook small business application my company developed. Here is a summary of Jonathan’s advice:

· Facebook communications don’t have to be only business related. Facebook is different than other forms of customer outreach since it fuses personal relationships and business relationships in a way that forward-thinking companies can use wisely.

· For example, friendly happy birthday messages to clients through Facebook can make people feel a stronger personal connection to your company, and comments on people’s pages about some shared experience (nothing too personal or unprofessional, of course) can help show your company cares about their personal well-being.

I hope this webinar helped clear up some of the mystery surrounding Facebook and how to get started! Feel free to send me your questions on Twitter (I’m @clarashih) or on the book’s Facebook page!

The Social Showdown: Facebook and Google go head-to-head

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

Just when we thought it was down to Facebook versus Twitter for the social networking title, Google has jumped into the race with Buzz, a new social sharing service for Gmail users (there are around 176M worldwide, compared to 400M Facebook users). Google Buzz allows users to turn Gmail contacts into a social network and post status updates, photos, and links (like Facebook) but according to a one-way follower model (like Twitter).

While this latest move by Google is certainly attracting a lot of buzz (sorry, I couldn’t resist), they will need to address some pretty big hurdles in order for Buzz to be viable.

1. Privacy: Google faces same privacy challenges that crippled MySpace and Orkut. One of Facebook’s key innovations that allowed it to break away from earlier generation social networking sites was privacy controls that allow users to manage who sees what information. Google error: When Buzz launched last week, it automatically added top Gmail contacts to your follower list, even though these might be your coworkers, boss, or others you don’t want to share information with. Google is also confounding the “friends only” model on Facebook with the public model of Twitter, so people aren’t quite sure what to expect. The fix: Following an initial uproar, Google has taken steps to add greater security options. But people are still freaked out, and it will take time to win them back.

2. Usability. To be honest, I was expecting something sleeker from Google, which I know for a fact has some of the best usability designers in the world. I want to see what’s going on “at a glance”—that is, more AJAX, fewer clicks and less scrolling. Google error: Each “buzz” (especially if there is an image) takes up too much of the screen and it’s a pain to have to scroll down to read each one. Once again, it’s trying to be both Twitter and Facebook, but the models don’t jive. The fix: Buzz needs to either 1) adopt the Facebook model in showing you a rich update with images, video, and/or link, hide comments by default, and use an algorithm to just show a subset of everyone you are following, or 2) show every tweet like Twitter but keep it simple, text only, and limited to X number of characters. The usability falls apart when you try to combine rich updates and rich commenting with showing every update, because no one has that kind of time.

2 buzzes take up my entire screen. The same amount of space fits 5 Facebook status updates or 10 tweets.

2 buzzes take up my entire screen. The same amount of space would fit 5 Facebook status updates or 10 tweets.

3. Not a great track record with social technologies. After an early and valiant, but ultimately unsuccessful, social network play with, Google last year unveiled a number of (perhaps overly) forward-thinking collaboration features with Google Wave. No one disagrees there is plenty of potential, but then again a lot of people I have talked to and I myself feel it is too general to just suddenly start using in a serious way (so we haven’t, yet). Undoubtedly, Buzz is a step toward Wave. And then there was Google OpenSocial (later spun out as an independent nonprofit) which launched in 2007, also in a big hurry, at the time to compete with Facebook Platform. OpenSocial largely has not lived up (yet) to its promise of connecting multiple sites and networks. And then there is Google Latitude, which is cool in theory, but for all practical purposes I don’t really care about the latitude and longitude of my friends and would rather not tip off any stalkers. Foursquare, Gowalla, or Loopt offer a much better experience. All great ideas with great intentions, but poor execution.

Facebook versus OpenSocial Networks

Relative growth of Facebook versus OpenSocial Networks

I’m not hating Google (I would never do that—they gave me my first job). Nor do I question their might or determination. They are taking the right steps, and all of us as consumers will ultimately benefit from the innovation that results from competition. But especially with sensitive information and interactions on the social web, the devil is in the details, and so far Google has been rushing their products a little too much to pay attention to the details.

Google’s advantages: a lot of smart people, a lot of resources, a lot of our data, and instant distribution to 176M Gmail users

Google’s opportunity: 1) use email contacts as a more accurate and up-to-date implicit social graph, compared to the Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn social graphs which are all explicit (must initiate/accept each connection), 2) weave together a much richer social experience across a lot of applications including mobile, maps, search, email, Youtube, Picasa, Google Reader, and 3) mesh multiple communication modes including voice, chat, email, status updates, documents/spreadsheets.

Takeaway for marketers: it’s probably too early to get serious about Buzz. I’d give it at least a year. I will be staying tuned and keeping all of you posted.

Using Facebook to Grow Your Business (originally aired February 2, 2010)

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

The web recording has just been posted for the popular webinar I helped lead last week on “Using Facebook to Grow Your Business.” It features sixty minutes of Facebook trends and stats, specific examples and tips for small- and medium-sized businesses, and a case study from Jonathan Smart, an Allstate insurance agent in Columbus, Georgia who has really embraced Facebook for his business’s marketing and customer service efforts. Many thanks to MyVenturePad and SAP for sponsoring, and to everyone who joined us for the event!

Click here to watch the recording (you will be prompted to register first - sorry for the added step!)

MyVenturePad Webinar