Social Logins: Who Did You Let In? [Stickied to Top Now]

social-login3Think before you click. If you shop online, you’ve probably seen it before: social login buttons that allow you to create a brand new account with a website without filling out the usual forms. If you thought voluntarily filling in those annoying little boxes with your personal information was getting a little too close for comfort, can you imagine the kind of information you’re giving up by allowing them access to your social media accounts?!

Let’s get one thing straight: unless you outright lied about every bit of information about yourself or fiddled around with the security options onfacebook-personal-profile-marketing-work-education-settings-public the social network account you’ve chosen to use at a social login gateway, you’re handing over all the information you’ve mistakenly (or unwittingly) marked as “Public”. This includes your birthday, Pages you’ve liked, friends you’ve connected to, everything on your wall, your personal websites, other social media account usernames you listed, etc. But you’re not the only victim here. Even your friends who have Public profiles will have their data collected simply because they’re connected to you. And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen: the nature of social media marketing as we see it today. Have you even read Facebook’s Data Use Policy?

This type of information collection has its drawbacks. You can’t filter out irrelevant data, and you’ll get tons of it in the dragnet. However, it will help build a scarily accurate portrait of individuals who have already signed up for your services. By logging in with your social media account, you’re doing the equivalence of clicking “Agree” in the Terms and Agreements segment of every piece of software you’ve ever installed without actually reading the Terms and Agreements. Once you put your data out there, it’s no longer yours to keep, alter, or hide. Think before you click.

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Updating Again Soon

I realized it’s been two years since I updated this blog, but with the recent events regarding data, privacy, and social media, I feel it’s important to dust this place off and start writing again. Stickied to the top of Robots Nobots is a post I wrote four years ago about the dangers of Social Logins and how your information, along with all your friends, is being bought and sold simply by clicking a small, convenient button. Seems it’s gotten worse since then with the explosion of Apps asking for “permissions” before you get to use them.

These topics are relevant. They will always be relevant. To anyone who happens upon this blog, I hope you enjoy my content.

Upvoted – Reddit’s News Site – First Impressions

Every social media buff knows about Reddit. Submit links to be judged by the faceless masses via Upvotes and Downvotes, and if you pass the gauntlet of reposts and re-reposts and re-re-reposts and follow the rules of each subreddit just right, you might just be in the orange. Play the right cards at exactly the right time, and you might even end up on the front page of Reddit. For about four hours before the limited attention span of the Internet buries your post in the second page. All of this, of course, is reinforced by “Karma,” a sort of point system for your account; every link with a positive number of Upvotes adds to your Karma score, a meaningless number next to your username. You might get some recognition if your Karma score is in the tens of thousands, but unless you’re a celebrity or a novelty account like user poem_for_your_sprog, you probably won’t be known for anything noteworthy. Verbose intro aside, let’s talk about Upvoted.com, Reddit’s recently launched news site.

It appears that the purposed of Upvoted is to find the most interesting stories and links on Reddit and expand on them with an editorial process, something that many existing news site already does on a daily basis. It could be that Reddit wants to curate this type of content with the added benefit of getting straight from the horse’s mouth. Given the site’s disastrous history of neglecting users, subreddit owners, and its own staff, using its own editorial staff to dig up and expand on trending topics and freshly popular users might be more than they can handle. Everyone’s comparing it to Buzzfeed, and at first glance, that’s about right. At second glance, it looks about the same. At the moment, the people most likely to see beyond Upvoted’s Buzzfeedesque exterior are current users who are versed in Reddit’s posting culture and business motivations.

Looking at the front page of the site also reveals a great deal about Reddit’s motivations. Front and center is the top story with the number of upvotes associated with the original link at the top left corner, and under it, the top 3 trending stories. Directly to the right and taking up about 25% of your screen…a sponsored link. Advertising. Funding Reddit’s servers isn’t cheap, and Upvoted looks like another way for the social site to rake in more advertising revenue from companies looking to monetize on Reddit’s popularity. The promise is that this sponsored content will be just as rich as normal posts, written and curated by the editorial staff, but paid for and approved by the company. In other words, “Branded Content”. Upvoted does make it very clear that it’s sponsored, so there’s no shady business going on. Good.

Let’s talk privacy. Many of Upvoted’s posts include comments from users. Does the editorial staff ask permission before a comment is used in their curated content, or does the terms and agreements of the site already opt every user in to be fair game? This is an important question because of the “throwaway account” culture on Reddit; people who don’t want their comments or questions associated with their regular usernames will often create a burner account. Make a comment, ask a question, and never touch the username again. I don’t have an answer yet, but I will update this segment when I get a clear answer.

Social Media Turning Into Storefronts

If you take a look at how social media sites have evolved in the past few years, you’re going to see a pattern: they’ve all become places for companies to place their ads and initiate marketing efforts. It’s a billion dollar industry. After all, you always have to take your business to where the people are, and people are spending a great deal of time on social media. So what’s the next step? Bringing your marketplace directly into social media, of course. You can already set up a storefront on Facebook, but the interface is clunky and limited in its appearance; it’s just not an appealing place to shop for anything other than apps. Pinterest, with its cleaner design and focus on images, seems like the perfect place to put a “buy it now” button, and that’s exactly what they’re going to do.

In a recent update, Pinterest announced that it will be making it easier for people on iOS and Android (later) devices to link their Pinterest App to their credit card information. This “Buy Button” has a similar setup to an iTunes account, which allows you to buy music and videos directly. Business who have “Rich Pins” set up will then have the option of allowing customers to purchase items through the Pinterest App. As far as social media marketing goes, making it easier for people to instantly buy items of interest is a brilliant idea. It plays on the customer’s impulses; you can expect low-cost items to sell at greater volumes. If there’s anything I can compare it to, it would be the Micro-transaction* function from the gaming industry. The only difference is you get something tangible in return for your money.

*Micro-transactions are low-cost purchases in many free-to-play games that grant you access to limited items, extra play time in cases where the number of actions you take are limited per increment of time. These range from 99 cents to hundreds of dollars depending on the popularity of the game. These games are also called “Freemium” games. Personally, I despise this sort of practice and will not endorse any company or developer who employ this unethical tactic.

Pinterest: Motion-Based Pins

I don’t know about you, but I have a general dislike of “autoplay” features on sites whenever they feature a video. They’re indiscreet, and if you don’t have headphones plugged in, there’s a good chance you’ll end up disrupting others around you or embarrass yourself due to out-of-context audio clips. Facebook counteracted this bit by muting videos until you tap or click on them. When I saw what Pinterest was up to, I felt pretty excited: motion-based promited pins for businesses.

Let’s face it, video isn’t really Pinterest’s usual flavor, even if they are a powerful marketing tool. Their motion-based pins, however, makes use of a GIF-like format – moving images linked to videos, but they only “play” while the user scrolls. Not only is this eye-catching, getting people to scroll up again for a second look will make it more likely for users to see related pins. Combined with videos linked along with the motion-based pins can prove to be an excellent way to drive traffic to your site. You continue to impress me, Pinterest. I can’t wait to see where else you’ll go!

Success in Social Media: The Path

How do you measure success in social media? I’ve been asked this many times during interviews, and I always answer the same way: any and all interactions that place your brand in a positive light. Many people might disagree with me and focus more an metrics and numbers, but if we look at the path social media marketing has taken in the past few years, you will see that the measure of success has shifted into a more subjective realm. Does that mean the metrics and numbers don’t matter? Of course they matter! That’s the point of marketing, isn’t it? But in social media, the marketing aspect has quickly shifted over to branding, presence, and overall engagement with your followers.

Let’s take a look at the original metric that social media marketers used to measure success: Followers. The more followers you had, the better, right? Having a huge number of Likes on Facebook means that people actively sought out your page, clicked the Like button, and would then receive news and updates whenever you post them. Well, at the time it was the only important metric you had.

Social media marketers then started to focus on creating viral content, and the measure of virality was the number of Likes and Shares a post received. In came the flood of clickbait titles, “Like if you agree” image macros, and “Share if you love your mother” posts. Companies wanted to know that their content was being consumed, or, with the changes to the Facebook algorithms, seen by their followers. We’re at the tail end of this practice now, and we’re quickly shifting over into forming direct, emotional connections. Frankly, I feel like this should’ve been where we started as social media marketers.

How do you create emotional connections with your followers? Just check out the tagline of this blog: Be more human. That the adage by which I formulate my social media strategies, and companies and brands should pay attention. Be more human. Just take a look at the first word in “social media”! It’s “social”! The more you advertise and broadcast to your followers, the faster they get fed up with your content, which means they’re more likely to just ignore you. When that happens, say goodbye to your organic reach, which means you pay more to advertise your content, which exacerbates your problem. Literally throwing your money away. People on social media don’t want to be bombarded by ads on a daily basis. To reach them, you have to become like one of them, which means using the social media site as it’s intended: to create connections with people on a personal level. The playing field is already set; you just have to play the game instead of trying to create your own rules!

Each social site has its own expectations of etiquette and behavior. On Tumblr, for example, you’re expected to have fun and not take yourself too seriously. On Instagram, you need to show of your staff and show everyone what you’re up to. On Facebook, you want to be the person starting conversations and share your opinions (just be careful about this part).

If you’re likeable to the point where people can relate to you, they will take the time out of their day to support you. So how do you measure success in social media? Be more human today.

How Private is Your Phone Number?

How serious are you about the privacy of your phone number? If you’ve watched shows like “The Fall” and “House of Cards” or enjoyed movies dealing with espionage and spying, you’ll already be familiar with something called a “burner phone”. These are cellphones that you use once to deliver or receive a message before you destroy it to avoid being traced. The term, of course, comes from the old method of receiving secret information by way of pen and paper and burning that paper once you memorize the message. But with the rate of growth in cellphone technology, employing burner phones to protect your privacy might be a bit out of your price range. Enter the Burner App.

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The Burner App is new app whose website is running the “Burner Challenge“. By entering your phone number, it will let you know how much information can be obtained from public sources. The app itself functions by generating disposable phone numbers for talking and SMS texting, which is a great way to keep your primary phone number safe from possibly unwanted attention. This Forbes article by Larry Magid lists examples like Craigslist transactions and online dating. By dialing through the app, the recipient’s caller ID will display the generated number instead of your own; you can even have out-of-town area codes to further throw the recipient off your trail. So how much does the Burner App cost? It’s free to download, and you get 15 minutes of talk and 15 texts before the Freemium model kicks on. Additionally minutes and texts can run between $2 and $12.

While I can get behind the lovely nature of this app, I still have some concerns. Just because you have a limitless list of potential numbers with which to use, it doesn’t mean that your activities can be considered private. Does Burner keep a list of app-generated numbers associated with your primary number? Does it ask for locational data? What about the people you’re calling? Do their numbers get recorded somehow? These questions might not matter for the average citizen if their primary concern is obfuscating their personal phone number from intended recipients, but how will this exchange of information be handled according to the law if people are caught using it for illegal activities? I’ll be keeping my eye on Burner. I’m very interested to see what other technologies develop out of their work.

Social Logins: Facebook’s New Privacy Features

facebook logins

My aversion to social logins shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who follows my blog or has spoken to me at length about social media, but I’m always happy when any social site takes a step in the right direction when it comes to preserving the privacy of its users. Last year Facebook introduced a new Login system that would give people the option to opt out of providing private information when using their mobile app, a courtesy that was to be implemented on apps that can connect directly with your Facebook account. It looks like they’re testing those options now, which means many Facebook users will notice error messages when using the mobile app. As they work the bugs out, I hope the end result will leave the social media landscape a safer and a more private one. These changes are expected to start going into effect on April 30th 2015.

So what’s different now? In the past, the app would give you a list of information it requires for you to use it. That’s it. No options to opt out, no settings with which to fool around with; your information was essential to the app’s function. Now apps will (or should) ask you what information you’d like to provide and ask whether you would like to share information that the onwers of the app would like to have. I, for one, want to know exactly what my options will be for my favorite apps. I will give an update the next time I touch upon this subject.