Say Goodbye to Promotional Posts!

It seems Facebook is cracking down on organic reach once again with its latest plan: reducing the number of promotional posts that appear in the news feeds of users, even if they Liked the Page from which these posts come. While it may seem like something I’d disagree with as a social media marketer, I’m going to have to side with Facebook this time around. But let’s get one thing straightened out: this does NOT have anything to do with Promoted Posts (which are paid for), but rather unpaid posts that Facebook as deemed “too promotional”. This is an example of what’s “too promotional”:

too promotional

According to the official Facebook newsfeed, the social network giant is targeting three types of posts:

1. Posts that only push people to buy something or install an app.
2. Posts that push people to enter a promotion, contest, or sweepstakes.
3. Posts that reuse content from ads.

At first glance this update might have marketers and social media experts quaking in their boots, but personally, I’m not worried at all. I’ve always been a proponent of quality content that is creative, unique, social, and in general, doesn’t look like it was generated by a computer and posted via an automated platform. This blog is called “Robots NOBOTS” after all! As social media marketers, we need to reach people from a social standpoint, which means we need to treat people like people, not potential wallets waiting to be emptied. Our social media accounts and Pages need to behave like human beings, not a hub for promotions, sales, and products. Treat your potential customers and fans well, and they will come flocking to your Page! Treat them exceptionally well, and they will come back with friends!

I won’t forget that Facebook killed organic reach for Pages, but this is an update I can get behind. It will reduce spam, and most importantly it will force the social media marketing industry to produce rich, engageable content. Coupled with Facebook’s promise to crack down on clickbait articles, we might actually start seeing some improvement in our News Feeds!

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Good Old Reliable Hashtags: #ThrowbackThursday

Hashtag popularity comes and goes, but there are a few that are consistently good because they’ve been accepted by the social media community as a “thing”. One of the most popular hashtags is #ThrowbackThursday, which occurs every Thursday. The rules are simple: post something retro or old that we don’t see much of anymore, if at all, an comment on how it’s relevant to your personal life. Sincere this blog is mainly about Internet activities, have a listen at the sound I used to hear as a young lad when connecting to the Internet:

Many of the younger netizens might be asking “What do you mean ‘connect to the Internet?'” Nowadays, nearly every household in America has a constant connection to the web, either by way of WiFi or through their cellphone service. Back during the dial-up days, you had to connect to the Internet every time you wanted to use it. And as an added bonus of inconvenience, it took up a phone line to do it, which means if you’re connected to the Internet, anyone trying to call your home phone will get a busy signal. Many of the younger netizens might wonder: “What the heck is a phone line?”. Short answer: our phones were connected to the wall by wire like your modem.

So what makes a hashtag like #ThrowbackThursday so popular? It’s one that everyone old enough to say “back in my day” can use and understand. Technologies, culture, and trends change so rapidly nowadays, but we all have memories that stand out from the rest, especially during our teenage years. For people my age: mid 20’s to late 30’s, a single line from a song is enough to bring back a flood of memories, and since it was so pervasive back then, it’s easy for an entire generation of millions to connect on common ground.

See what I mean?

Are Businesses the Bane of Social Networks?

The support of big corporations means big money for any site, especially social networks like Facebook and Twitter, but does business involvement ruin the social experience for everyone? I think so. If you introduce money and profit into social networking, then the entire package becomes a business. The social network needs revenue to pay for ever-expanding server and maintenance costs, and businesses want to advertise to as many people as possible; what better way to do so that with social media? It’s where people focus their attention, not only during downtime, but also during work, on lunch breaks, and any time a free moment presents itself. We are a connected generation, and for that reason alone we are being sold to the highest bidder, often from right under our noses. Most people don’t even realize it?

So what about you is being sold? Information, of course. Every time you visit a site, click a link, click into and out of a social network, or read an article, data about you is being collected using tracking cookies. Your behavior, your likes and dislikes, the activities and interactions between you and your family – all of this is being monitored, quantified, and studied in order for corporations to advertise to you more effectively. Why are clickbait articles so rampant? Because people on social networks are clicking on them. Each site featuring these clickbait articles and lists knows exactly where you came from, who shared the referral link, how long you spent on their site, and how often you click on similar articles. They then pay Facebook advertising money to shove more of the same articles into your newsfeed. Don’t you ever wonder why ads seem to only feature things you’ve looked at or are interested in? It’s because you’re being watched.

When a social network cares more about the money it makes and less about the communities it fosters and the connections its users make with each other, it starts to show over time. Facebook’s Pages now longer have the organic (unpaid) reach it used to, because, according the Facebook admins, they want reduce SPAM. The people most affected by this: small companies, start-ups, and people who want to get a leg up in a vast community that used to be a treasure trove of potential followers. You can access the people you want to follow your Page…you just have to pay to make it happen. So no, Facebook, it’s not about reducing SPAM. You’re a multi-billion dollar company. You can find a way to fix this problem without hamstringing everyone who can’t afford to pay.

Ello’s Invite-Only Platform, Paid Features

I am currently a member of Ello, the latest social network that is primed to take on Facebook and win the hearts and minds of users with its seemingly altruistic philosophy. No advertising, options to opt out of standard data collection on users, and more importantly, a free-to-use network that will never set a mandatory price. It appears the only way to become a member of Ello is to submit your email and wait for an invite from the Ello admins, or to have a friend who is already a member send you an invite. Every new account can invite up to 5 people. While I get that it could help weed out potential fake accounts, I also see it as a weakness, and a cumulative one at that. One spam account can invite up to 5 spam accounts, each with the ability to invite up to 5 spam accounts. Hopefully Ello will spend a little time explaining how they would combat an exploit like that. Let’s move on to my experience so far!

First Impressions

Ello’s in its beta phase, so I will refrain from being too harsh. My first impression is one of slight confusion. There’s minimal wordage from the moment you log in. There are two main sections: “Friends” and “Noise”. In the friends section you will find your friends listed in nice, cute bubbles with the news feed to the right of them, which only shows posts from people you’re following. Everything else goes into Noise. Nice.

My second impression of Ello is that everything is very simple. A little too simple. The site features a lot of white space and no visible borders, leaving the user in a sort of nebulous floating space. On top of being none too crazy about the font choice, the reply features are faded out until you roll your mouse over them, so text seems to get lost in the vast emptiness of Ello. There is no like system that made Facebook famous, but you do get the number of views and the ability to comment. No longer will people be able to quantify exactly how much people like a post. I actually admire the omission of the “Like” function. It makes Ello a place for people, not businesses, and it’s the presence of businesses that turn social networks into advertising platforms.

Verdict: In its current state, I would describe Ello as a more social version of Tumblr with a sprinkle of Twitter.

Paid Features

The paid features aspect of Ello has given me pause. I’m curious to know exactly what features they plan to include, especially if they’re touting the whole “free-to-use” philosophy. Right off the bat I will guess that for several dollars (perhaps $4.99), you will be allowed to have additional invites so you can migrate more of your friends over from Facebook. I’ll even go as far as guessing that current beta users will be given extra invites as a thank you from the Ello admins. The upcoming features section has “Private Accounts” listed. I hope this will be a free feature and not something you have to pay for. I’m actually quite excited to see where Ello will go and how it will evolve as it gains more users. Make more videos! Keep us in the loop!

Facebook’s Real Name Policy

What name did you choose for your Facebook account? Apparently if it’s not your real name, as it is listed on your credit card, driver’s license, or student ID, you’re at risk of having your account deleted due to Facebook’s Real Name Policy. That’s right, if you have a nickname or any name the admins deem “fake” or “not real”, your account can be deleted without warning! The controversy began several days ago when some self-described drag queens and stage performers had their accounts deleted because they used their stage names and chosen names instead of their legal name. Seems unfair, doesn’t it? Not only does this alienate people who do not wish to be found on this ever-popular social network, it alienates the LGBT community. Furthermore, it seriously affects activists in other countries who go by pseudonyms to protect their livelihood, and even their lives! Your legal name may not be the one to which you identify yourself, and to force users to use their real/given names seems entirely arbitrary as a rule. Facebook has since responded to these complaints, stating that the policy will not be changed because it discourages “bad behavior” from potential troll users.

One possible solution given to stage performers who had their accounts deleted is to create a fan page. However, that completely kills the reach and connections they have with friends and family; if you’ve been reading my blog and following Facebook’s organic reach policy, you will see that a Page’s reach has dwindled to numbers as low as 2%. This “solution” farther alienates the people forced to make a Page because they’re refused a user account, because with the current reach algorithms, they’d be a member of Facebook but almost completely disconnected from their friends. Unless they pay money. That’s how Page reach works nowadays.

I don’t know what Facebook’s thinking, but they seem to be pushing their users to move on to other, newer social networks like Ello (I’m a member now!). What is your take on the Real Name Policy?

An Ad-Free Social Network? What’s Your Deal, Ello?

ello2Have you heard of Ello? I recently found out about this brand new social network that’s currently in a beta phase. If you’ve been following my blog for any amount of time, you will know that I am a staunch advocate for online privacy, especially against advertisers and sites that will sell your personal information to the highest bidder for the purpose of flashing banner ads in your face. Some of the largest offenders of this philosophy: social networks. Ello, however, seems to be a proponent of the user’s right to privacy, claiming in their manifesto that they do not and will not ever have advertising on their site. For this reason, they and the people who back this social network have dubbed it the “Anti-Facebook”. At first I was suspicious. If they become as popular as Facebook, how will they pay for all their server costs? Every company needs to generate some sort of revenue in order to keep their operations running, right? Their About page explains it all.

It appears Ello will be running on a Freemium platform, which many people have seen in the gaming industry. For those unfamiliar with the term, freemium platforms offer a base service free of charge, but with special features in the form of microtransactions. In other words, you have the initial account for free, but if you want small special features, you need to pay a small sum of money to have it. I am a gamer myself, so the freemium motto is no news to me, nor is it a practice that I support; most freemium games include tons of advertising to generate their revenue. In Ello’s case, it appears it may be a necessary practice for the purpose of generating revenue, since they won’t include any advertising.

My verdict: I will request an invitation. Hopefully I will be able to join and see what features they offer and compare them to Facebook’s functions. I will also be keeping an eye on what the base service offers and what paid special services will be available in the future. Hopefully they will be very separate functions that don’t look like they should be a part of the base service. You know, stuff like paying $3 to streamline your menus so that anyone who paid for this special service will have a much more convenient time navigating the site, whereas the base service members have a nearly unusable platform. Keep this in mind, Ello: don’t make the paid services a necessary feature for your users to have a satisfactory experience. The network itself should stand on its own!