Posts Tagged ‘Facebook’

How Many Networks?

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

This is something I’ve had on my mind for a while, but haven’t found a convenient time to bring up. Of course, somebody else was able to do it first. Jason Perlow’s ZDNet blog, Tech Broiler, has his thoughts on the diminishing returns of an ever-expanding social network. I won’t summarize the post—it’s worth your time to read it yourself—but I will say that there’s more than enough frustration with Facebook’s security, permission structure, and communications model to inspire people to give up on it altogether. This doesn’t mean I intend to do so, but I understand.

Also, as a note to Mr. Perlow, one gaijin to another: Seppuku is traditionally performed with a knife (tanto) or short sword (wakizashi), not the katana.

That’s not really what I wanted to discuss, but it’s as good a segue as any. Perlow’s post made me think again about how the social media boom has affected the way we spend our time online. There are enough different social network services now that they don’t even really compete anymore—except in the sense that they all want you to spend more time with them than any other. Each has its own specific use profile, and most individuals would never consider using one for something other than its core value.

Let’s take me as an example. In addition to this blog, I actively use Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to varying degrees, as well as some old-school forums that match my interests; there’s some passive participation in other social media (gotta have YouTube access and various wikis), but that’s about it.

  • Twitter is my other broadcast and communication channel, the one I use when writing a proper blog post isn’t the way to go.
  • LinkedIn is my professional lifeline, the go-to option for exchanging ideas with subject matter experts, making sure I stay connected to people I don’t have regular contact with, and making myself available for hire.
  • Facebook is for fun and time-killing. I use it to keep in touch with high school friends, to catch the occasional interesting article somebody posts in their feed, and to play games.

There isn’t a whole lot of overlap between these big three, integrations notwithstanding. I couldn’t imagine trying to maintain a professional presence solely on Twitter, and the entertainment options of LinkedIn pretty much end with the Answers page. This means that each social network requires separate attention, and their sheer number means networking can be a full-time job. My reaction to Google Buzz was basically “Oh crap, one more thing to add to the list.” It took more of my time, and didn’t have a clear niche of its own, so I eventually opted out.

Facebook might be next for me, assuming I can break the addictive hold of Mafia Wars and Viking Clan. This is not solely because of anything inherently wrong with Facebook (though there’s plenty)—I’ve fallen into the trap of bigger = better. I have over 600 “friends” on Facebook, and I honestly don’t know who most of them are. The games I play there require a large network to get maximum value, so I made and accepted lots of friend requests. They are not my friends (except the ones I already knew outside of Facebook). I couldn’t pick them out of a police lineup. Some of them have social and political views that I can’t stand. But I keep them around anyway because they serve a function and because it’s too much trouble to weed them out.

Still, the more FB friends you have, the more messages you get. I hate leaving messages unviewed; I regularly check my email spam so I don’t have the feeling there’s something waiting for me, and it’s this feeling that made Buzz such a burden.

Connections on Twitter or LinkedIn don’t require the same level of supervision. I follow the people I want to follow, and it’s easy enough to unfollow them—and there’s only good in having lots of followers myself. LinkedIn doesn’t get in my way unless it’s an opportunity of some sort for me. Facebook just keeps poking at me, asking me to get back in touch with Friend X whom I’ve never met, or buy Godfather Points for my mob, or install a toolbar, or expand my permissions, etc. etc.

Honestly, I don’t think I’d mind any of it if there was an easier way to manage it. What I really want is a central control panel for all my networks that lets me choose what information is available to each, with bulletproof security so I don’t have to worry about getting all my networks jacked at once. After that, all I have to do is work on my self-control so I don’t play Bejeweled all weekend.

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Brand Warfare Goes Social

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised—if anything, the surprise is in how long we waited—that organizations are using social media to put pressure on other organizations. Recently, environmental activism group Greenpeace used a YouTube video to drive customer outrage against snack food producer Nestlé for its use of palm oil sourced from dwindling orangutan habitats.

The result was a ton of news coverage (from CNN, CNET, Forbes, BusinessWeek, The Guardian, and many others—thanks, Google), a practical shutdown of Nestlé’s Facebook page due to angry traffic, and what Greenpeace wanted: severance of the Nestlé relationship with Sinar Mas, the oil supplier accused of illegal deforestation.

Now, I loves me some KitKats. I am aware of the horrible toll they inflict on my health and I eat them anyway, though not so often that you have to worry about my imminent demise. I will continue to eat them in the future. But I’m glad that Greenpeace brought the palm oil problem to my attention, so I can watch for it in other foods. And you can be sure I’ll take a hiatus from my KitKat consumption. I would rather do without a yummy snack than condemn a piece of our world to death.

Side note: Jeremiah Owyang of Altimeter Group was on the most recent Brian Lehrer Live to comment on this situation. (The social media aspect, not my fat butt and KitKat addiction.) I can’t find the video, so I’d appreciate it if somebody would link it in the comments.

Is this a good thing? Should the power that has finally come into the hands of the customer be co-opted by large and powerful groups to further their own ends? My opinion is a guarded yes. Greenpeace is the example at hand, and it is not trying to make a profit—it’s trying to increase awareness of the harm we do to the ecology in the name of profit. While the group has had its excesses (the term ecoterrorism has been applied to some of Greenpeace’s activities), it generally acts to expose a situation it finds worrisome, and lets public opinion do the rest.

As with everything else, there’s the potential for abuse. If there’s something we can learn from social media, it’s that stories spread fast and far, much more so than the truth behind the story can catch up. A brand can be destroyed by one person’s efforts—typically a customer with an axe to grind over shoddy merchandise or poor service. Imagine the damage that can be done by a large, well-funded, coordinated group with a much larger axe to grind. If the cause is just and no lies are told, then I’m okay with it. But what if it had been Hershey’s spreading the Nestlé story? Would we be as sanguine about chocolate maker A inflaming consumer outrage against chocolate maker B, gaining market share by levying accusations against its competitor in the guise of social justice? What if the allegations were untrue?

I don’t really care what happens to individual corporations. I care about customers losing their voice as they’re drowned out by louder ones. All I ask is that you evaluate a story before you spread it. That’s just part of the social contract, and it applies to social media just as much as it does to traditional talk.

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Mixed Media, Mixed Message

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

Many of you know that I come from a print media background—mostly magazines, with a few books shuffled in. While I’ve moved on in my career to a place where most of my work seems to be electronic in nature—blogging, ebooks, social networking—I still have a soft spot for words on dead trees. So whenever somebody says that books, magazines, or newspapers are dying forms of media, I have to speak up.

Of course, nobody’s actually said that to me recently, so I need to stretch a bit. Just the other week, this brilliant video posted all over the Interwebs. While it turns out that it was prepared by a unit of Penguin Publishing, the message is no less valid. Make sure you watch and listen to the whole thing before you make up your mind.

Yes, it’s on YouTube. Yes, social networking has been a big deal long enough to go from fad to trend to established communication form. But there still has to be something to talk about. One can only get so deep into philosophy, current events, science, and art with Facebook or Buzz status updates. There will always be a place for physical media. These are major sources for big ideas.

New media can be the start of great print too. Social networking is a thousand different sociology experiments writ large, all happening at once. Good information on human behavior is there for the observing. Journalists get leads from Web sources all the time. And who’s to say that a hot exchange of tweets won’t inspire the next great novel—or that a blog won’t help us find out about it?

Sure, circulation and ad revenue are down, but that’s just good news for the trees. Executives must learn that the socialverse isn’t going away, and adjust print’s business practices to reflect this fact. I don’t have the answer yet, nor do they, but we’re working on it.

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Social Media Happenings for February

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

There’s been a slight change of plans, readers: I was all set to give you a rundown of the great stuff that happened at Paul Greenberg’s recent SCRM Summit in Herndon, VA, but a funny thing happened on the way to the Capitol Region. Somebody mentioned snow, and all the DC-area airports rolled up their runways. I didn’t get to go, and neither did a lot of people. Sad.

However, while I was sulking over my misfortune, a couple of new developments in the world of social networking caught my attention. (Yeah, there were probably more than two, but these are the ones I feel like mentioning.)

First, Facebook just changed its home page, and not for the better in my opinion. Many things aren’t where I expect them to be, and my bookmarked apps (mostly games, I admit) seem to have been randomized—I never quite know what I’ll have available. Everything requires more clicks. I am not as vehement a Facebook-basher as some people I know, but a little warning about this change would have been nice. As it stands, Facebook has traveled through time to an era before UI design was considered important on the Interwebs.

Second, and equally jarring, Google surprised us (or at least me) with the launch of Google Buzz, a built-in social networking function for users of Gmail and presumably any other piece of the Google empire. Mashable has this to say about it, if you want full coverage. I say that it’s a good thing there’s a way to turn Buzz off, because I wasn’t looking for yet another social media environment to integrate with my daily explorations. It’s already far too easy to get lost in the things we do; Buzz might have legs—it’s a network for people you actually know and correspond with, as opposed to weak-tie pseudofriends—but right now it feels like a “me-too” offering.

The lesson from these two news items is that I’m an extremely grumpy person when somebody moves my cheese. But the more applicable lesson is this: Don’t be content with your current approach to social media, because it can become obsolete in a day. New apps will replace old ones, and the conversation moves whether you like it or not.

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Dare We Call It Social Security?

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

In the event y’all don’t read ZDNet, I’d like to direct you to a report by security firm Sophos about the rise of malware on social networks. Basically speaking, the state of computer security in the social world is 70 percent worse than it was a year ago. According to the report, 57 percent of users surveyed in December 2009 reported being spammed on social networking sites, while 36 percent said they had been sent malware via one or more social channels; both represent a 70 percent increase from April of that year.

I recommend reading the entire report, though it’s not a happy story. We can expect security threats to increase, and there’s no particularly good news in the entire document, but at least there are some suggestions for how to mitigate the dangers. Meanwhile, 72 percent of businesses surveyed indicate concern that employee activities on social networking sites puts company data at risk, and the majority name Facebook as their biggest single source of worry. Yet 49 percent allow unrestricted employee access to Facebook, up 13percent from last year.

My intent here is not to scare people away from social networks—career suicide for me—but to make them aware that security issues do exist. Social CRM is still fairly new, and it can be hard sometimes to tell the difference between a poorly executed marketing campaign and a phishing scam. It’s up to users, developers, and businesses to keep an eye on their activities as best they can, while security professionals work to plug holes in social coding. Let’s be careful out there.

While we’re talking about social networks, security, and ZDNet, I’d like to shine a light on a recent post by the inimitable Paul Greenberg about his recent security breach on Facebook. (Wow, this is a bad week for Marc Zuckerberg, huh?) Let it serve as a reminder that businesses shouldn’t forget the human side of their activities while dealing with computer security; making it difficult for legit users to reinstate their privileges after being hacked doesn’t make things harder for the hackers, but it does make it harder for users to want to come back.

One final note: I’ll be in Herndon, VA next week (February 8-9) attending Paul Greenberg’s seminar on social CRM. Look me up if you’re there, but make sure you pay most of your attention to Paul—he’s got some great advice.

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Summing Up the Dreamforce Keynote

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

I was planning to put this in my other post (see previous), but I was forced to clutter that space with live updates when I reached my Twitter limit. I’m not the only person who hit that particular wall-friend and respected blogger Esteban Kolsky got locked out as well, and I’m sure a number of others were as well. Look for Esteban’s post on why this is a bad thing, coming soon to a link near you once he posts it (and I update my blogroll-I’ve been a bit lax).

By now you’ve likely heard a fair amount about today’s biggest news, Salesforce Chatter. To sum it up nice and tight, Chatter is a new, more collaborative and intuitive interface for business applications. It’s the Collaboration Cloud. If Facebook and Twitter had a child, and that child grew up and got an MBA, it would be Salesforce Chatter. Feeds, status updates, groups, messaging-it’s all there, along with the dashboards and everything else we’ve come to expect from good CRM. Chatter can integrate social contacts from customers into the mix and provide context for it all. Even better, Chatter will be standard on all editions of,, and related products. Outsiders can acquire access for $50 per user, per month.

At least, that’s what Chatter will be. It’s not due until the end of 2010, which is a long way off. Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff went out of his way to point out the portion of’s safe harbor statement that says the company is not responsible for what might be vaporware. That’s out of character for Marc, who usually waves his hand in the general direction of the statement and makes a joke.

But the other thing that was out of character was the level of energy Marc brought to the event. This is not to say he’s usually laid back when presenting-far from it. Today’s level of bombast, though, was one step beyond. Either Marc Benioff is very excited about his new Collaboration Cloud (which is likely), or he wants us to believe he’s very excited about it (which is also likely, CEOs having certain responsibilities and whatnot). Chatter is a big deal, and it will change the way business gets done, once it’s released.

I asked about just how Chatter will change business processes, but Marc’s take on the situation is that business is already changing to accept this model, and Chatter is the first tool that allows companies to do so securely, in an orderly manner, and with scalability. However, as Kraig Swensrud (SVP of product marketing) said in a followup interview, Chatter is not Twitter or Facebook. Just as we use business email and personal email differently, the internal and external feeds of Chatter will have their own character. Surfing the Web was once a workplace taboo; now it’s how many of us do our jobs. hopes that Chatter will be the same.

There’s plenty more to say about this Collaboration Cloud thing, but there’s also plenty more for me to learn before I go further. My next post will probably deal with’s messaging, not its applications.

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Chattering about

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

As usual, my patented, trademarked, hermetically sealed and hypoallergenic live coverage of this morning’s event (Dreamforce 09) will be appearing in the Twitter stream to your right. Follow @Lager if you don’t already, and I will be adding my analysis afterward in this space.

If you’re wondering why I don’t just liveblog it here, the answer is simple: I like words, and the temptation to editorialize is much easier to manage at 140 characters a pop.

UPDATE 11:40 am PST: Tweetdeck just crapped out on me, with the “recipient not following you” error message. I’m over my limit.

11:44 am PST: Generally speaking, Salesforce Chatter looks a whole lot like Facebook. There’s also Twitter embedded. It’s a secure social business interface. I want a lot of demo time with this.

11:48 am PST: Marc is wrapping up now. has been modified so you can build collaboration apps. Chatter collaboration cloud is an attempt to change the way we work and make it more like … well, how we kill time at work when we should be working. Your coworkers are now your community, with the closer contact that implies. The biz apps, dashboards, and workflows are still there, but social networking is now built in instead of layered on.

11:53 am PST: For those of you who are worried about security, Chatter is as secure as in general. You can pull in info and interactions from outside the enterprise, but I assume that once it’s there it is shielded from malfeasance.

11:55 am PST: Sales Cloud 2 is built on Chatter. Service Cloud 2 has been rebuilt for Chatter (that two rebuilds of Service Cloud). It’s all mobile capable.

12:01 pm PST: True to social form, content can be followed or broadcast automatically-you don’t have to go into a group and post to it. Your content, your apps, and your people are all talking to you. And, to judge by this demo, they’re all talking about how bad Sharepoint is.

12:04 pm PST: Demo is over, now announcing pricing. Available early 2010 in all editions of and in all editions. If you want to bring outsiders into Chatter, there’s a $50/user/month product. Very nice, and a welcome departure. We’ve got Jason Goldman, from the board of directors of Twitter. @goldman if you want to know.

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All Quiet on the Social Front

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

I had some other topics lined up for today—my thoughts on what applications like Scanaroo are doing for social CRM, for one—but it looks like there’s some breaking news on broken social tools that must take precedence.

Today saw a massive denial-of-service (DOS) attack against popular social networking sites, most notably Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. I won’t link to them directly right now—they’re the Big Three so you know how to find them, and they also have enough traffic trouble at the moment—but I’ll cheap out and give you the New York Times coverage here.

Social media like these have quickly changed the way we go about our daily lives, so it’s all the more painful when we info addicts get cut off at the source. I was really looking forward to seeing what was happening in my personal Twitosphere today, not to mention driving some traffic to my site and those of my allies. Twitter has been hit hardest, and despite claims that the problems have been fixed, many users (myself included) still have no access. Facebook has been unreliable as well, so my Mafia Wars conquests are on hold for now. LinkedIn is more of a tactical asset for me—I use it when I need it, but don’t stay connected for long—so I haven’t seen the extent of the damage there, but you can be sure that some important business connections didn’t get made today.

The optimist in me says that when irresponsible scriptkiddies with a surplus of free time and a dearth of creativity launch attacks like this, it ultimately strengthens the sites they attack. But the inner optimist is very small, and not nearly as vocal as the rage-filled monster who wants to make an example of these jackholes with a blowtorch and a pair of pliers, Marcellus Wallace-style. I suppose I’ll have to settle for the criminal justice system, but that will do.

This moment of Ahab-vs.-Moby-Fail also reminds us that social networking and customer engagement aren’t new phenomena. We still have phones, and the ability to go to bricks-and-mortar establishments. Most of the Internet still works, too, so it’s not like the engines of enterprise have shut down altogether. Social CRM is a strategy, and the online component is not the only component.


In other news, I’ll be guest-blogging for my friends Paul Greenberg and Brent Leary, the CRM Playaz. My piece isn’t live yet, but when it is I’ll have the honor of being their first post. Along with that, I’ll also be chatting with them on their next podcast, recording tomorrow. I can’t get enough of these guys—they combine insight with humor, whether separately or working together. They also show exceptional taste in guests. :-)

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The King (of Pop) is dead. But Jeff Goldblum is fine.

Saturday, June 27th, 2009

OK, first a disclaimer and personal note: I don’t intend to minimize, ensnarkify, or otherwise make bones on the death of Michael Jackson. It will probably happen anyway, because I have the self control of a cracked-out hummingbird. Let me just say that, while I’d never have described myself as a fan, and Michael’s public image drifted past mockable and into pitiable a long time ago, he was a powerful force in music and entertainment. Starting with the Jackson 5, he brought some great music to the world. Thriller is still the top-selling album of all time. Oh, and could he dance—Sammy Davis Jr. and Fred Astaire (among a great many others) seriously admired Michael’s moves. Admit it, you used to try to Moonwalk because Michael did it. There’s more to Michael Jackson than I’ll ever know, and while parts of his life were unfortunate, ugly, and even self-destructive, I respect a great entertainer when I see one, and Michael qualifies.

The Internet nearly broke on June 25, 2009. It wasn’t hackers, EMP, sunspots, or an earthquake at a critical server farm. No, it was far, far worse.

A celebrity had died.

The first I heard of the situation was from good friend and former office-mate Josh Weinberger (or @kitson to you Twitter addicts), who linked me celebrity gossip site TMZ’s report that Michael Jackson had died suddenly. The journalist in me expressed doubt, and I looked for confirmation; early reports from sources I considered more trustworthy said the 50-year-old pop icon had collapsed, been revived, and taken to a hospital, but the granular truth never became clear to me. Whatever the specifics, the King of Pop was dead, and bloggers and tweeters beat the major news sources to the story.

I’m not going to get into a fight over why a famous person’s death should become world news, especially when there’s so much else going on that could have a material effect on our lives. I’ll let Datamonitor analyst Ryan Joe’s Facebook status update sing that song.

There had already been two other celeb passings that week, but they didn’t make as big an impact. EdMcMahon was 86 and clearly slowing down (is it too soon to resume calling him Old McMan?), and Farrah Fawcett had terminal cancer, so to be blunt their passings were a matter of time.

Michael was a true surprise, and he seems to have had a much bigger and more vocal fan base. The sudden traffic spike brought browsers to a screeching halt; sources at Google said the surge in queries seemed like an attack.

Not Jackos EKG, Googles.

Not Jacko's EKG, Google's.

As with any news of this sort, it gets worse. On the heels of the news of Michael’s death, rumors began to spread that Jeff Goldblum had fallen to his death while on a location shoot in New Zealand. Similar stories concerning Harrison Ford started circulating, then a number of other stars got the R.I.P. treatment.

Goldblum answered back with the only force more powerful than a twitterstorm: the Colbert Report.

Whenever a famous person of any magnitude is reported dead and there’s no reason to expect it, one will always be well-served to check the rumor to make sure it isn’t complete bullshit. The fact that the (confirmed) deaths of pitchman Billy Mays and impressionist-comic Fred Travalena barely made a ripple can be attributed as much to the sudden skepticism caused by the hoaxes as to the relative dimness of their stars. (Sorry guys, but anybody who thinks either of these fellows is on the same tier as those I’ve just mentioned has been watching way too many infomercials and ’70s reruns.)

Twitter is a powerful force because of its immediacy, but also because the 140-character limit means that details are lost or ignored—only the headline gets picked up, and lies can spread as fast as truth. On the one hand, I’m glad that somebody (an asshole, but somebody) decided to inject a little perspective into the rumor mill, and remind us that crowdsourced =/= accurate. On the other hand, such a demonstration could weaken or slow the adoption of social media, and that would be something else to mourn.

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