Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Facebook is no fad

Social networking is a basic human need

By Adam L. Penenberg

With Facebook registering its 300 millionth user and investors valuing Twitter at $1 billion, it's time to put to bed the notion that social networking is a fad. It's not. It's our destiny.

This is something I've thought a lot about since I began researching my new book, "Viral Loop: From Facebook to Twitter, How Today's Smartest Businesses Grow Themselves." It details how many of the iconic companies of our time -- including eBay Inc. (NASDAQ:EBAY) , Facebook, MySpace (NASDAQ:NWS) , PayPal, Flickr (NASDAQ:YHOO) and Twitter -- grew from bootstrap startups to billion-dollar empires within a few short years. Their shared formula: a "viral expansion loop," which is accomplished by incorporating viral qualities into the functionality of their products.

These companies and many others grew because each new user begat more users. Just by using a product, they spread it. After all, what's the sense of being on Facebook if none of your friends is on Facebook, or using Flickr if you can't share your photos?

These viral businesses take advantage of our increased interconnectedness, made possible by more ubiquitous bandwidth and advances in both hardware and software. As the Internet increasingly goes mobile and is gradually released from the desktop, it will offer a far greater, more diffuse surface area for ideas to spread virally.

Andy Warhol famously remarked, "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes." Really, though, in the future everyone will have his own TV show. For what is a profile on Facebook, MySpace, Bebo (NYSE:TWX) or a Twitter account but a kind of reality show starring ... you. Instead of 15 minutes of fame, though, you get 15 seconds over and again (until the next update).

As video and other multimedia transform our Web experience, these shows take on more complex modes of self-expression. Within the skein of networks unfurling through digital time and space, the sum parts of these disparate ego blasts -- a blog post here, a Facebook wall comment there, a video or photo, a "tweet" -- become a documentary of your soul. Your reputation precedes you.

Increasingly there is your public self (the person you present to the physical world), your personal self (who you are when you are alone) and your digital self (which reaches far beyond the other two). If you spend time online, many more people know you -- or think they know you -- through your digital self, which can be as (or more) real to them than your real self.

Indeed, people's perceptions of you can be quite vivid. Two Washington University researchers scanned the brains of fiction readers and concluded that they create intense, graphic mental simulations of sights, sounds, movements and tastes they encounter in the narrative by activating the same brain regions used in processing similar real-life experiences.
You are the message

These Web lurkers -- people who know you exclusively through your digital deeds -- base their judgments on the ideas and observations you share to the world, the photos and videos you post, the widgets you employ on your personal Web spaces and the words others use to describe you. The memes you create spread virally, far beyond your network of friends, relatives, acquaintances and colleagues. Once they leave your brain and hit the viral plain that is the Internet, they are out of your control and take on a life of their own.

Then you become more than just a guy trying to hold onto a job and pay down your mortgage. You are a brand that must be managed. With apologies to Marshall McLuhan, the medium is not the message. You are.

Why do we do it? What explains our BlackBerry-bearing, Twitter-tweeting, Facebook friend with the need for constant connectivity? As facile as it sounds, we do it because we are hardwired to socialize. It's in our best interests. We gravitate toward communities because they multiply the impact of each individual to bring greater prosperity, security and fulfillment to all. (I didn't come up with that. Aristotle did.)

So why do so many people spend so many hours on Facebook and Twitter? The answer is surprisingly simple. Social networking makes us happy.

Online or off, all of this congregating is really just a product of biological necessity. Research indicates that engaging with friends helps us live longer and better lives, with those with strong friendship bonds having lower incidents of heart disease. They even get fewer colds and flu.

A decade-long Australian study found that for the duration of the study, subjects with a sizable network of friends were 22% less likely to pass away than those with a small circle of friends, and the distance separating two friends and the amount of contact made no difference. It didn't matter if the friends stayed in contact via phone, by letter or email. Just the fact they had a social network of friends acted as a protective barrier.

A research project by Paul Zak, a professor of economics and the founding director of the Center for Neuroeconomic Studies at Claremont Graduate University, found that when a test subject learns that another person trusts him or her, the level of oxytocin, a hormone that circulates in his brain, rises.

"The stronger the signal of trust, the more oxytocin increases," wrote Zak, whose primary interest is neuroeconomics -- a discipline that attempts to gauge how the brain's neurologic functions process decisions involving money. Trust, Zak learned, fosters more trust. The more oxytocin swimming around your brain, the more other people trust you.
The 'cuddle hormone'

Notably, the test subjects had no direct contact with one another. All of their interactions took place by computer and with people whose identity they didn't know. "Trust works as an 'economic lubricant' that affects everything from personal relationships to global economic development," said Zak. Although he didn't explicitly state it, trust is also an integral part of social networking.

Another trust study discovered that when an investor in an experimental game was given a dose of oxytocin, he was more likely to allow someone else to control his money, no questions asked. The substance -- sometimes referred to as the "cuddle hormone," found to increase generosity and decrease fear -- has been associated with maintaining healthy interpersonal relationships and is a key to bonding. When virgin female rats are injected with oxytocin they are transformed into protective mothers, taking over other females' offspring and nuzzling them as if they were their own.

Taken together, this research indicates that we are biologically driven to commingle. As big as the world is, we are never far from one another. We are not, as the saying goes, six degrees of separation away from anyone. (It's actually closer to 6.6; at least that's what a Microsoft researcher estimated after combing through 30 billion electronic conversations over the company's instant-messaging network in June 2006.)

Realize that Facebook, on track to amass half a billion users by early next year, and Twitter, which is approaching 60 million, are not poised to become the next or Hula-hoop. They meet a very basic human need, and whether your friendships are manifested by people in the room with you, or through the filter of a telephone receiver or computer screen, the benefits you accrue are the same.

Penenberg's latest book, "Viral Loop : From Facebook to Twitter, How Today's Smartest Businesses Grow Themselves," is being published Oct. 13. SmartMoney magazine named it one of the "7 Best Fall Reads" of 2009.

Monday, October 19, 2009

How to Get Your Facebook Page to Show-up in Searches

Have a Facebook page or creating a new one? Do yourself a favor and be proactive in setting your page up, so users can find you when they are looking. Too often, companies and brands don’t take the proper steps to be found and have to make adjustments in order to show in Facebook search. Whether you are setting up your first page, or tweaking an old one, the following tips can help you rise to the top of the search results.
Use your brand for your Facebook page name
When naming your Facebook page, you only have one shot at giving it a “name.” This is what shows up as the title of the page and is created when first setting a page up. This is currently the largest indicator for Facebook search and is make or break for your page being found.
While it might seem simple that you would choose your brand name, it is not always cut and dry. For example, let’s say we are making a fan page for Search Engine Land. Many times people could create the page with the name titled “” which would severely handicap your chances of being shown in Facebook search. Similarly, you should keep it simple and not get fancy with the name. Say that the NFL wanted to create a fan page. Well, instead of registering the “National Football League” keyword research should be done to see if “NFL” garners more interest. Don’t try to get cutesy with the naming of pages (like “Comcast Cares”) and make sure you use spaces and full words. While something like SouthwestAir would work for Twitter, you would rather have “Southwest Airlines” for being found in Facebook search in order for maximum visibility.
Build your following
If the Facebook page name is top criteria for being found in Facebook search, the fan count is second place. At SMX East in the Facebook Marketing Panel, Marty Weintraub really stressed this fact and couldn’t emphasize enough how important fan numbers (or group or application numbers) were for being found in the Facebook search results pages. If you have the same name as other pages (which is a common occurrence), the page with more followers should show up first.
Leverage Facebook Ads to help build a following as advertising your pages can help boost fans of your page. You can also leverage employee profiles or groups that you are a part of to really help boost your group numbers.
Create a branded Facebook username
While this may not play a major role in being found within the internal Facebook search, the URL structure can play an important role in getting ranked in the major search engine results pages. Being found within these pages can clearly help to boost your fan following from those who may be searching outside of Facebook. While we have not seen a direct correlation between usernames and internal Facebook rankings, having a keyword rich username could an indicator in the future and would be considered best practice.
Create fresh content regularly
Wall posts, events and “posts by everyone” can now be displayed in Facebook Search. By creating regularly updated content, you will significantly increase your chances for being shown. Simple wall posts with branded keywords or branded events will give you extra visibility in the new real time Facebook Search.
Leverage domain equity to boost Facebook pages in SERPs
Again, this is a bit of a secondary tactic, but providing a link from your homepage to your Facebook page should help to get your Facebook page ranking for branded terms. Think of it as proactive reputation management for your brand. Getting people to your page via Google, Yahoo! or Bing can really boost up those fans to your page thereby trickling down to those Facebook Search ranking factors.
Advertise on branded “interests”
While this won’t boost you into the natural Facebook search results, this will allow you to show up on selected terms. While Facebook ads still run off of “interests” rather than keywords, bidding solely on extremely targeted interests, you can boost your possibility of being found. In addition, Facebook does run select Microsoft-network ads, so advertising in adCenter could help you sneak in and steal some of that Facebook search traffic (if you know what you are doing).
Fill in all information about your brand/company
Whether it be the information boxes, mission statements, website or descriptions these could be indicators down the road. While the information isn’t currently helping your pages show in Facebook results pages, it can also help those pages in external Search Engines as most page content is indexed. The more relevant the content, the better. While these sections might not play a role in internal Facebook ranking, there is evidence that it can help the ranking of groups. This could be applied to pages in the future (and should IMO).
Spend a little time optimizing your site for bing
If you need one reason to pay attention to Bing, it could be for the sole fact that it displays the web results in Facebook Pages. You will always find those web results at the bottom of the Facebook Search, so spend a little time working your site for Bing and you could see a big payoff from the Facebook search platform.
These tips should help your visibility in Facebook search and help to take your fan page to new heights!
By Greg Finn, Director of Internet Marketing for 10e20. He has been in the Internet marketing industry for more than five years and specializes in Social Media Marketing. He writes in-depth about social media and internet marketing on the 10e20 blog

Friday, October 16, 2009

Company Websites Now 'Old Fashioned'

It was only recently that the last holdouts started realizing that every company needed a website to remain or become successful in the 21st century. It did not matter if you were the CEO of a Fortune 500 company or owned and operated a small shop, you needed to have your brand, your message online.

But the world did not wait for everyone to catch up before moving on. Yes, every company still needs to be on the Internet. But what defines an effective online presence has changed drastically over the past several years -- even over the past several months.

Gone are the days when a brochure-like website is enough to gain customers' attention. Even a site regularly updated by the company looks static through the eyes of today's consumers. They want to interact with the company and with each other. Social communications has given "the people" the control. They want their voices heard and often refuse to do business with those not offering that interaction. Now, commerce is driven by the shoppers rather than the merchants.

In order to avoid being left behind and missing out on the opportunities and advantages that can be gained through effective communications, one needs to understand social communications.

First, company websites are old fashioned, particularly if they are being used on their own. You should no longer expect clients to come to you. Rather, you need to go to them. Where are they? They are connecting on Facebook, conversing on Twitter, watching videos on YouTube, networking on LinkedIn.

They don't only want you to come to them, they expect it. And if you won't, there are plenty of other companies that will.

If you come to them and they like what you have to offer, they will tell their friends. And there is no disputing that the most powerful form of marketing is word-of-mouth, even when it is digital. That's what you get with social networking and its viral nature. If you craft it correctly, your message will carry on and on with no additional effort.

Social media gives people who have little money for advertising the chance to engage with others and promote their business. A recent article in the New York Times concluded, “For many mom-and-pop shops with no ad budget, Twitter has become their sole means of marketing."

Alas, simply being on the social networks is not nearly enough. You need to have a solid presence, customized to your brand and directed at your current and potential customers. Your pages and profiles need to stand out while also fitting in. Much like when you designed that old fashioned website, a company needs to have pages, boxes and tabs that deliver your messages.

We are not far from the day when every forward-looking company has its own Facebook page complete with a custom URL and pages. When every company is "tweeting." That is already on its way. Of course, there will be those who hold out, putting off building their own presence until they are once again building something that their competitors have already been leveraging to better do business.

By Joseph R. Chenelly, President of Social Communications