Millions of people are about one week into working on their goals/resolutions for the 2012 year. For tech savvy types, these plans may involve learning to code via Codeacademy’s Code Year initiative, or obtaining a new technical certification. For others (aka the “Normals“), plans might center around losing weight, becoming more active, or saving more money (at least that’s what this fantastic infographic from Radian6 shows).
And for me? I’m committed to reading more books, trying new foods, and learning to meditate. But each of those resolutions will be a piece of cake compared with my most ambitious goal for 2012:
I’m going to spend less time on Twitter.
To be clear, I’m not planning to spend less time on social networks. It’s just that I’ll be allocating my time differently. Twitter is great, obviously — it’s become a daily essential for me alongside air, food and water — but it has become relatively less interesting as other apps and/or social networks increasingly pull away my attention.
Like other established heavyweight networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn, Twitter has come to resemble a presidential candidate who has survived a grueling nomination process and must now focus on appealing to a more moderate general electorate. In other words, these social networks are racing to to the middle, adding “me too” features that newer users expect and appreciate.
A couple of examples:
- Facebook’s recent “subscribe” feature that enables individuals — especially public figures — to share public posts with non-friends, providing for asymmetric follower relationships similar to Twitter.
- Twitter’s enhanced profile pages that allow businesses to manage initial consumer impressions, similar to landing tabs on Facebook (yes, I know they’re not actually tabs anymore).
And there are more. This is a good problem for these networks to have, of course. But the need to cater to the expectations of newbies due to mainstream acceptance doesn’t always lead to terribly interesting innovation.
As a consequence, I’m starting to spend less time on the heavyweight social networks. My average time spent on Facebook per day has dropped by about half, and LinkedIn has been relegated to a few visits per week (Yes, I know this is a bad thing. I know.). And Twitter? I’ve refined my Twitter lists to segment professional connections, news sources and personal relationships. These lists are so finely-tuned now that I keep up-to-date with news related to digital strategy and social media during the day, and scan through tweets from friends when I have free time.
So where will I be spending more of my time online? In place of Twitter, I’m going to commit time to a handful of other apps that are simply more interesting to me right now, such as:
- Pinterest: A self-described “Virtual Pinboard” that facilitates easy sharing of images from across the web via virtual boards. It boasts a phenomenal growth rate – over 5x from September 2010 to December 2011. Here’s my profile.
- Instagram: It’s the fastest-growing mobile social network ever, and it provides an easy means for sharing photos with amazing filter effects.
- Path: Taking a unique approach to social networking, Path caps the number of friends for each member at 150. The focus is on closer, more personal sharing between friends (without the acquaintances and professional colleagues who have started to bleed over into your Facebook friendships).
- Google+: I’ve had the unique experience of recovering from Google+ page suspension; despite that, I’m bullish on its potential. G+ is fresh off of its largest-ever surge in traffic during December 2011, and the Google+ continues to add features to improve the service. Here’s my profile.
In addition to spend more time on these four apps, I have also started up a photo blog on Tumblr, a platform that I adopted early-on and then abandoned a long time ago. I’ve found a reason to give it another shot this year.
Thus, 2012 will be a year of trying out new things and spending less time on the networks — especially Twitter — that have garnered most of my attention over the past couple of years. It’s not just a case of chasing new and shiny objects, either. I view Pinterest, Instagram, Google+ and Path as apps/networks with real staying power, and the first three are especially interesting for brands.
Sometimes, it’s important to look beyond what is mature and proven. It’s certainly more interesting — wouldn’t you agree?
Google+, the social networking product from Google, has been available for use by individuals for months. But Google+ had been off limits to companies and other organizations (except for a handful of test partners) until last week, when the search giant opened the door for brands with the release of Google+ Pages.
Many brands have jumped into Google+ right away to begin communicating and engaging with various Circles of stakeholders. Others, however, have stayed away from Google+, as questions and misconceptions about the product have spread by worth of mouth and through social channels. Most of the concerns about Google+, however, are entirely without merit.
You’ve probably heard them. Hopefully, however, you haven’t let these common fears stop you from getting started with Google+:
1. You can’t transfer ownership of a Google+ brand Page!
While it’s true that Page ownership transfers are not currently allowed, Dennis Troper (a member of the Google+ project team) has already posted an assurance that this feature is in work and coming soon. According to Troper, Google+ will soon provide “multi-admin support, ownership transfer and page analytics.”
2. The inability to cross-post to Google+ and other networks (such as Facebook, Twitter etc.), is a serious liability that will doom Google+.
Question: What would Google+ would look like if it provided an API to support incoming posts (from other networks and tools)?
Answer: A lot like Google Buzz, which accepted posts from other channels and quickly became irrelevant.
Google needs to build a critical mass of daily Google+ users before opening an API to permit incoming posts from other networks, and from tools such as Hootsuite and Tweetdeck. Otherwise, there will be very little incentive for brands to develop a unique G+ presences.
Update: Google has announced that a handful of third-party apps, such as Hootsuite, Buddy Media and Vitrue have been chosen as partners for a pilot program to enable posts to Google+ via social media management systems. It’s worth nothing that these solutions cater to enterprise customers.
3. You need to hurry and reserve your Google+ Page name! Or it will be gone forever!
Fake brand pages — such as this parody of Bank of America – have already sprung up on Google+. However, verification badges will be made available soon distinguish “official” brand accounts from impersonators. This approach follows Twitter’s verification model, and balances freedom of expression against the need to recognize authentic Pages. Launch partners like Angry Birds and Pepsi already have badges to promote the authenticity of their Pages, for example.
4. Google+ is a ghost town.
Google claims over 40 million Google+ accounts and boasts an early-stage growth rate that exceeds the rates witnessed by Facebook, Twitter and Myspace. Undoubtedly, however, Google+ doesn’t enjoy an engagement rate anywhere close to Facebook’s 50% daily sign-in rate. And Google has been coy about the number of active daily G+ users.
But a ghost town? Hardly. G+ may currently be dominated by early adopters and geeks (I include myself in both of those groups), but anyone who actually spends a significant amount of time on Google+ knows that the “ghost town” assertion is false.
5. Facebook’s promotion guidelines are too restrictive, but Google+ is a new opportunity!
In fact, Google+ is even more confining. While Facebook’s Guidelines permit administration of promotions via third-party apps, Google does not allow any promotions on Google+. The Google+ Pages Contest and Promotion Policies clearly outlaw them, and instead permit only links to separate websites that host contests and promotions.
6. Google+ is just another social network.
Google+ is much more than just a social networking platform. Instead, in Eric Schmidt’s words, Google+ will be “a social component [to Google's core products] to make them even better.” Most notably, Google+ Pages offer a distinct Search Engine Optimization (SEO) advantage over content from Facebook and Twitter. While Google+ already has limited integration with Google search (You can see +1s from your friends in search results! Yay!), Google+ posts will soon populate search results in near real-time. Compared with content from Facebook and Twitter, which Google is unable to crawl as effectively, Google+ content will offer an SEO advantage over content from competing channels.
Furthermore, as Google continues to weave Google+ into its other products and services (as it already has with YouTube and Google Reader), the service will fetch an ever-increasing set of valuable data for use in ad targeting.
7. Too many features are missing; Google+ just isn’t useful for brands.
Do you remember what Twitter was like in its infancy? No lists. No automatic URL shortening. No auto-completing of @usernames within Tweets. No promoted Tweets for brands. Lots of Fail Whales. In short, it sucked compared with the service that we all know and love today. And let’s not even get started with Facebook. In both cases, users demanded features, and the services matured. Google+ will follow the same path, evolve into an increasingly-valuable platform, and offer first-mover advantages to brands that adopt the service early.
8. Circles make it easy to manage Google+ Pages!
The bad news about Circles is that they don’t scale well. After a person has Circled a Page to express an interest in a brand, a G+ Page owner has to then assess the person and then decide how to categorize them into an appropriate Circle. This quickly becomes a time-consuming task.
This cumbersome process may have driven Google to acquire Katango, a startup that has developed powerful algorithms to sort people into groups automatically. For now, however, human-decision making is still required to sort people into groups for targeted content delivery.
Overcome Your Fears and Get Started with Google+
In summary, don’t let FUD dissuade you from building a presence on Google+, but be sure to know what you’re getting into ahead of starting a brand Page. There are many misconceptions about Google+ that can cause a misalignment between expectations and reality.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on Google+ in the comments section below.
Rarely does a day go by now when we’re not prompted to follow a brand on Twitter, Like them on Facebook, or snap their QR code. Organizations large and small, from large multi-national corporations to non-profit causes, are embracing social media and seeking to engage with customers and supporters. It has become easy to connect with the brands whose products and services we enjoy.
This is the good news.
But the bad news is that most brands are not providing compelling reasons for consumers to make connections. Sure, they’re describing “how” consumers can connect with them. But they’re not answering the critical question: “Why bother?”
Is your brand guilty of this approach?
If so, you may be missing out on opportunities to connect with customers and/or supporters. Fortunately, however, the steps required to effectively prompt engagement are simple:
1. Ask your target audience to make a connection.
Whether you’re asking consumers to follow your brand, Like it or even join your email list, make a specific call to action and let your audiences know where they can connect with you. Most companies seem to have this part down.
2. Tell your target audiences what they’ll gain from making the connection.
Will they get member-only discounts? Will they be the first to know about new products? Will they have access to exclusive content? Or will they just find news about your brand (which is a perfectly good reason, by the way)? Tell them, using concise, plain language that informs them of potential benefits.
3. Follow through on your promise.
You will lose the trust of your new audience if you dangle exclusive benefits as bait, for example, but deliver only a steady diet of links to press releases. Don’t waste your organization’s time and money by making this mistake. Deliver on what you’ve promised.
Pretty Simple, Huh?
These steps seem obvious at first glance. But the reality is that far too many organizations do not maximize the attention-grabbing connection requests that they’re investing time and money to create. By following the three simple steps above — especially step number two — you can avoid a similar fate for your brand.
Do you think I’m missing any steps? If so, let me know below.