Category Archives: Social Media

The Three Things #30

The Three Things, is a weekly series where Gini Dietrich from Spin Sucks, Howie Goldfarb and I share the one thing that captured our attention and that we believe to be worthy of yours.

Why I stopped caring about the numbers — 512 Pixels

Michael on Success: All too often, we’re so obsessed with how we’re doing we tend to forget to focus on the work. We fall into a rhythm where all that matters is the stats. Instead of doing the work we’re meant to do, we do what we see is working. We water ourselves down hoping for one more link or one new subscriber. I’m as guilty of this as the next person, but thankfully this week Myke Hurley was here to remind me (and all of us) what matters most. It’s not how many people you can reach but how much you care about those you do. A great post and a great reminder.

Clean, Safe and it Drives Itself

Howie on the Future of Cars: I can’t wait for a car I can sleep in while it drives or makes pancakes or martinis. One that never crashes and reduces traffic. Oh wait. I live in a town where there are no traffic lights or interstates or even double-lane roads. I’m really just excited to not have to drive.

We Need to Talk About Kevin

Gini on Perspective: While I was on vacation, I finished reading The Stand (finally), read Dark Places, and read We Need to Talk About Kevin. The story is about a mother who sees all sorts of sociopathic tendencies in her son, starting as early as birth when he refuses to nurse, through high school when he pours Liquid Drano in his sister’s eye. He goes on to kill several kids, a teacher, and a janitor after school one day and the book deals with the aftermath, from his mom’s perspective. Written as letters to her husband – Kevin’s dad – it’s a compelling look into how a family of a murderer has to deal with society scorn. I finished it as the manhunt for the second suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings was coming to an end and it left me haunted. I highly, highly recommend it, if only to give you a different perspective on the human beings who are supposed to love these kinds of people.

Be sure to subscribe for free by Email or RSS to automatically receive future editions of The Three Things series and more from A Better Mess.

Stop Crying About Free Services

I wasn’t planning on writing about the Instagram-Facebook merger, but all of the posts about people quitting or asking how to get your data out of Instagram or posting the usual run of “Facebook is evil” just got to me.

Despite their reputations, I continue to use services provided by companies like Facebook and Google (and I will continue to use Instagram). I do this knowing that if there isn’t a product they are selling me, then I must be the product. Why do I do this? Two reasons: 1) I find the value of the services to be worth the risks and 2) I have a fool-proof solution for online security (more on this in a second).

People like Zuckerberg and Page aren’t (that) evil. They run companies, big ones. And big companies exist for one reason: profitability. Sure they could have charged us upfront, but let’s be honest, had Facebook charged every user $5, social networks wouldn’t be where they are today. Had Google chosen to charge an annual subscription rate, search would not be as prevalent in all of our lives. We adopted these technologies because they were free; we embraced them because they were free. And free will always come at a cost. So please stop feigning outrage every time one of these useful services finds a way to continue to exist.

When it comes to Instagram, users already had a viable and established paid option in Hipstamatic. It was mostly ignored. We were either too cheap or enjoyed the social network aspects of Instagram enough to choose the free option. And like many free digital services, when you sign up you are intrinsically agreeing to one of two things: 1) they will sell you shit or 2) they will sell your shit.

Have companies like Google and Facebook made bad decisions on behalf of the users and in favor of their profitability? Absolutely. But it’s often just as likely that they are struggling just as hard as we are to figure out where the line between our privacy and their profitability lives. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes they are downright evil, but just as often they’re likely testing the same boundaries as we are.

So about that fool-proof system for online security… There is only one true privacy setting when it comes to social networks and cloud-based services, and that is your own common sense. It’s determining what your comfortable putting online, knowing full well that it could be compromised or misused, and never crossing that line. It’s not a matter of trying to guess which startups are or aren’t going to let you down and then abandoning them when they inevitably do. It’s assuming they will disappoint and acting accordingly.

If Facebook buying Instagram pissed you off, I have a suggestion. Don’t just stop using Instagram, stop using free social networks and services period. Stop using sites like Twitter, Tumblr, Foursquare or Pinterest, because it is a given that they will all inevitably let you down in favor of the bottom line1. More often than not, when you actually quit a service, it’s not because they were evil. It’s just because they either became useless or boring. The reality is that you’re not going to stop using services that are useful to you2. You’re just going to waste time switching from one company to the next until your latest service inevitably falls short or sells out.

  1. And on a related side note, stop using another free service like Twitter to bitch about a different free service. You not only sound ridiculous, but what are you going to use to bitch when Twitter inevitably lets you down?  

  2. Unless you’re Vardy :)  

How To Enjoy Social Media Enough To Stick Around

From Yuvi Zalkow’s Unsavvy Twitter Code of Conduct:

I haven’t been on Twitter long but I find it a fabulous place to loiter. Though in order for me to enjoy it, I follow some rules. Now keep in mind that my goal is just to enjoy the thing, not to maximize followers or sell something. Sure, it would be nice if three or more of my followers bought my book, and I’m sure that I’ll occasionally mention book release details, but it sounds painful to think about making $$$ on Twitter. My goal is to enjoy the experience enough to actually stick around.

Since giving up Google+ and not noticing one bit of difference in the enjoyment of my life, I’ve found myself taking a honest look at social networks and how I use them. Like many good web junkies, I find myself balancing a desire to play with all of my digital shiny objects alongside this strange growing urge to make something a bit more substantial on the web.

When you decide to make things in addition to whatever work and family responsibilities you’re already juggling, your time for filtering photos, repinning pins, checking in places, catching up on Facebook and connecting on Twitter becomes more limited.

You have to choose what matters most. Now the obvious answer is to eliminate the social, focus in on the work, but frankly I enjoy the hell out of some of my experiences on Facebook, I’ve built some amazing friendships on Twitter and some of my favorite pictures of my kids were taken using Instagram.

Can I convert that into a tangible ROI? Probably not. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great when someone ends up visiting my site or asks me to do something because of my “online presence,” but that’s all tied to my interests more than it is my livelihood. Using Yuvi’s logic, my true benefit is that I enjoy these experiences enough to stick around.

Then there are these other services, the ones I use to ensure I’m staying on top of the latest and greatest trends. I once enjoyed these, but now feel obligated to update occasionally. Now some of this may be “social media burnout,” but the more I think about it, I wonder if I was so busy using the stuff that I never bothered to question if I was enjoying it. After reading Yuvi’s post, I’m coming to think that things like Foursquare, Path, Pinterest (sorry Gini) and even LinkedIn aren’t passing that test and may need to go.

Hopefully I can put the time I’m spending there to better use. Speaking of, if you’re looking for a simple and useful list of tips to get more out of your time on Twitter (or most social networks for that matter), give Yuvi’s post a read. It will be especially helpful for those trying to juggle the desire to enjoy with whatever awkward “need” to capitalize on efforts.

And if I were to add my own rule to Yuvi’s (or more accurately turn his idea into a rule): Whatever you’re not enjoying enough to stick around, shut it down.

What are you enjoying enough to stick around these days?

Goodbye Google+

From Danny Brown:

Over the weekend, I decided to stop using Google+. I’ve never really been enamored with the service, truth be told, and I just found it to be another place that sucked my time up.

Since before I was even able to get my account on Google+ I’ve wanted to cancel it. Like Danny and my podcast co-host Mike Vardy, it is something I’ve wanted to be rid of for some time now. Google+ has been an oasis for many who were unhappy, fed up or simply tired of Facebook or Twitter. I’ve always found these existing networks to suit my needs and my goals quite nicely. Sure, Google+ has interesting features including hangouts, a clean UI, keyboard shortcuts1, but to be honest, the platform added exactly nothing to my life that I was missing. In aggregate, there never seemed to be a compelling reason to add this service to the repertoire. Curiosity led me to give it a try.

I felt I needed to try it firsthand, if only to see that it wasn’t social media fatigue that was keeping me from trying something new. I jumped in and began using the account, doing my best to keep my reluctance from tainting my opinion. I’ve had some truly excellent conversations on the service, especially with Yuvi Zalkow and Erin Feldman (this is one of the areas where G+ truly shines), but I’ve always had good conversations with Yuvi and Erin.

When business pages were announced, our company didn’t have the resources to add yet another service. Our customers really do not seem to be there, yet fearing implications to our search engine rankings, I signed up. I quickly abandoned the account, but until now, the potential importance of G+ business pages kept me from deleting the page.

I could go on about what I like and what I dislike about the service (especially when it comes to how they are presenting their usage numbers and impacting search results), but the bottom line is this: for myself (and for our business) I no longer see Google+ as either a necessity or a desire. It’s an obligation and an unnecessary one at that. Is that a self-fulfilling proposition? Possibly. Am I just doing it wrong? Probably. But in truth, I think this service will be more important to Google than it will ever be to me or my business.

The decision to sign up for the account was my own. I’m not trying to come off as some victim of Google. I wanted a firsthand and informed opinion and now feel I have enough of one to leave the service. I was outspoken about it from the beginning and it seemed fitting that I let you know that I’ve decided to do more than abandon my account, I have deleted it. There’s always the chance that Google+ will turn things around and that this will be a highly relevant social network. If so, I will likely go back. But for now, I’d rather focus in on the areas of my digital life that offer value, especially this site, my podcast with Mike Vardy and Twitter. For our company, I want to harness our limited resources where they can best help our customers. When I gave it a long, hard look, it was clear that G+ was excessive and excess is something I’m more than happy to get rid of in order to focus in on the things that matter.

What are your impressions with G+? Think I’m insane for giving up so early in the site’s history? All thoughts are welcome.

  1. Facebook seriously needs to add these already, but I digress…  

What Facebook Is About To Turn Us All Into

I’m an oversharer. While I share the things I love, chances are with 23K tweets under my belt, there have likely been about 22K too many. They don’t offer a count, but I think it is safe to say that the same is true for Facebook. But here’s the thing: everything I’ve shared, I’ve done so by my own choosing. I’ve done so because I think my tweets have value to someone. Possibly you. Today that changes; today Facebook is about to turn us all into oversharers, and many will become one without even understanding what it is that they are doing.

With the push of one button, Spotify started sharing LITERALLY every song I listen to. While this doesn’t mean much by itself, it’s a sign of things to come, a sign of where Facebook is trying to take us. It will take time, but it seems like their goal is to capture everything we read, watch, visit, listen to or do. And they want to do it all on their newly designed version of the profile that they are calling the Timeline.

Things like the Like Button and the Tweet Button changed the way we share. They made it easy to spread great content and provided a hub for the things you love. Now, as MG Siegler put it, “It’s not about needing a share button. It’s about not needing a share button.” In other words, the web is no longer trying to curate what we think is worth curating, it’s trying to capture everything.

There is a good chance that these changes (if embraced) will lead to a more honest web. It will tell a more complete story and will bring your digital presence one step closer to your actual one… but at what cost and what benefit? Part of the joy of sharing is intent. And intent is damn important. No matter what you think of my stream, or anyone’s for that matter, it’s a collection of conscious decisions.

Consumption does not equal credibility. Just because I listen to a song, doesn’t mean I think you should. Just because I read something doesn’t mean that I think it will have value to you (hell, half the time I wish I hadn’t spent the time). And because I might be sharing everything, it will likely be harder to tell when I really want you to see something. Time will probably prove me wrong, but from afar, it seems as if rather than being a place to spotlight, Facebook plans to become a place to collect.

Some may be excited about the ease, but I don’t get it. Taking the time to push a share button, “inconvenient” as it may be, means something. And let’s be honest, I already share enough on the web… How about you? Freaked out by the latest changes or freaking excited about the future of the web?

Not sure about your privacy and sharing setting? Don’t worry, my buddy Tinu has you covered in this video series that shows you “How to Control Apps Posting Behavior And Protect Your Privacy from Apps on Facebook

Out Of Perspective

In the world of jewelry, we have a saying: no one ever died from lack of jewelry. Someone told me this during my first week of work and it has served as a guiding light ever since. In light of several recent posts, it feels as if it is something that many of us in the world of commercial Social Media could use to hear right now. While the impetus for writing this post is all of the reactions1 surrounding both Chris Brogan’s decision to hold a Google+ webinar and Gini Dietrich’s subsequent post preaching caution about selling a product around such a new service, this is more of a general observation regarding the space at large.

Now, before you jump in with examples like Egypt, Iran and some of the exceptional non-profit work we see on the web, I know that Social Media can and has saved lives. That is not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about you and me, the people who are using Social Media to make a living through traditional capitalist2 means.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying our work isn’t important. I’m not saying we shouldn’t take it seriously. Career and personal accomplishments mean a lot in this world. But for most of the people I see railing out lately3 (myself included), a healthy dose of reality is warranted. It’s ok to disagree. It’s ok to take a somewhat controversial stance. It’s ok to have a hard debate, but we have to stop letting ourselves get carried away.

We’ve lost perspective and that’s okay. It’s pretty much inevitable when you really care about something. We just need to take a step back, a deep breath to really remember who we are what it is we’re doing here. And for the most part, that’s simply making a living and not saving any lives.

When it comes to what we do, no one has ever died from Social Media. Take a minute to remember that from time to time. It won’t save your life, but it just might save you from saying a lot of stupid, blown-out-of-proportion nonsense on the Internet and encourage you to spend a little more of that energy accomplishing things that really matter.

  1. Or better yet, overreactions.  

  2. Not evil, just capitalist in the literal sense of the word.  

  3. Especially in the comments.  

Take It Tactically

From Jason Falls:

It’s easy to say you don’t care, but most people do. Social media is an opt-in activity. If you don’t want to read a blog, follow on Twitter or connect on Facebook or LinkedIn, you don’t have to. But when someone who is reading or following stops … It hurts a little. You wonder why. You question your value. You take it personally.

Even just a little. And that is part of what makes social media human. Sometimes it hurts.

Jason’s post as I don’t necessarily think he is complaining about this phenomena as much as he was simply pointing it out. It just serves an excellent jumping off point for the following rant…Note: This isn’t a response to

There seem to be a lot more questions regarding Social Media lately. These conversations examine not only the tactics, but the practitioners themselves. As these questions continue to grow and amplify, the conversation continually seems to get so derailed by feelings that it feels like we’ve lost the ability to have a decent debate about a space we all care about.

Now, there are those who say that we should avoid naming names, that we should only question the ideas and not the people behind them. This is crap, plain and simple. When you publish on the web, you are to some extent creating a brand and, like it or not, brands can and should be questioned.

No one is going to spare the feelings of their cable company; no one is going to spare the feelings of a local eatery. No one is going to spare your feelings if you take the risk of putting your thoughts out there. It it doesn’t do you any favors if we treat you differently just because you decided to put your name on the door.

You can choose to ignore criticism. You can dismiss people as “haters”, but in the end you’ll miss out on the same opportunities you are trying to share with your audience to learn from the good, the bad and the ugly of what people are really saying about your brand. Just like your customers, you need to stop taking it personally and start taking it tactically.

If people care enough to talk about you, try to care enough to listen, even when it’s hard. Sure, critics needs to learn to be more respectful, but we rarely get to choose the method in which feedback is delivered. And in my experience, both personally and professionally, the most impacting feedback is rarely positive and is never easy to hear.

If someone really crosses a line, of course you should disregard them, but for the most part, there are valuable and occasionally valid insights that you many end up ignoring. I get it. It sucks to hear the negative. It sucks even more when there may be some truth to it.

Like it or not, if you hit publish, you’re a brand. Even if you happen to be a brand that no one cares about. Start separating feelings from your online identity. Start taking the same approach to your business that you often suggest yourself. Once you take a tactical approach to the personal, it will be a hell of a lot easier not to take things so personally.