Archive for Social Media

Dear Google+ enthusiasts. . .

Please stop blaming journalists or measurement firms for the fact that the time spent per visitor numbers on Google+ are so low. You are doing Google a disservice by blowing smoke and telling them that this place is vibrant. I hope they are not listening to you. The folks in Mountain View have done a terrible job marketing Google+ to the world and you need to let them know it. Friends don’t let friends fail to articulate the benefits.

As I understand it, Google aims to own all the world’s data; it wants to use Google+ data to better target ads to consumers. It cannot do that if the only people who are playing here are tech enthusiasts and social media gurus. It needs people of all demographics and psychographics to come, and to stay for a while when they come. Sure, comScore’s panel-based measurement does not represent you. But it does represent people that Google wants and needs to attract. Those people are not sticking. That is a problem for Google (and Google alone) to solve. But you need to remind them.

Some, like Robert Scoble, have said that they would prefer to have Google+ reserved for geeks. On his blog, he wrote,

Google+ is for the passionate users of tech. . . it’s clear Google has turned a corner. They have now proven to everyone that they can do social and get on the playing field.

But they haven’t yet proven that they can convince your mom to use it and that’s just fine with me.

That’s great, Robert. But it’s not fine with Google. It can’t be. When has Google ever been satisfied with a product that only appeals to a niche? Teen bloggers have Google Analytics, and grandparents everywhere have used AdWords. This is the greatest digital advertising platform ever created, and you really think they should be happy with a few thousand actively participating nerds like you and me?

So the latest Wall Street Journal piece, which claims that “Visitors using personal computers spent an average of about three minutes a month on Google+ between September and January, versus six to seven hours on Facebook each month over the same period, according to comScore,” should be welcomed, not discarded.

No, perhaps you are not well represented in the comScore panel data. Your type would certainly bring up the average somewhat. But there is a group of people who are represented in that sample, and they are not giving Google+ a chance. You can discard that data, or you can do even just a little bit of critical thinking and realize that it tells us something really meaningful—that the average user does not understand why he or she should stay on Google+ and revisit it often. They don’t understand the benefit. They are not like you, but they are important to Google if it wants to win at social media.

To you it appears that Google+ is a vibrant community, a “discovery engine” that has introduced you to dozens or hundreds of new friends who have enriched your lives. But you are making a false assumption that, because you like Google+, everyone will (or should) like it. As they say in Pragmatic Marketing and elsewhere, “your opinion, although interesting, is irrelevant.” Unfortunately for you, Google has other aims, and they involve getting all of those people who use Facebook for hours every month to spend some of that time (or some additional time) on Google+.

I know you don’t think that Google and Facebook are competing, and maybe they aren’t. But there are only 24 hours in a day, and Google needs some of those hours. It needs the masses, the sheeple whom you so despise. Otherwise Google+ will not be what Google has intended it to be. It may remain a cute little place for nerdy discussion, but it will lose strategic influence in Mountain View and will become marginalized. I’m sure that is not what you want.

So what do you need to do? Stop worrying about it, because I think Google will figure this out. But, in the mean time, you want journalists to stop saying that Google+ is dead? You want comScore to stop recording data that shows low engagement?

Well, first, stop telling everyone that everything in the world of Google+ is fine. You can be elitist and not see the problem—and just accept that there will be negative reviews—or you can acknowledge the problem and help to change it.

Second, articulate the benefits of Google+ to your friends. Not your nerdy friends, but the guy across the hall or the lady who serves you coffee. Don’t just list a bunch of nifty features. “It has hangouts!” is not a benefit. How does Google+ improve your life? Share that with the people around you.

Slowly, they will begin to adopt it. They will learn tips from you that will help them see why Google+ offers unique benefits. They will download the app to their phones. They will start to tell their friends. I’m sure you can see where I am going with this. The comScore data will literally change, and there won’t be a story for the Wall Street Journal to write.

And maybe Google will do itself a favor and begin to market this thing correctly.

UPDATE: AT&T Hits a Home Run

Earlier today I wrote up my perspective of what had become an unfortunate situation: AT&T was telling me that a.) I had to pony up $200 for a Microcell so I could get service in my house and b.) enjoy the two-year contract into which I had never entered.

I have to be honest: I was skeptical that blogging and complaining on Twitter would help. Sure, I did Twitter customer service myself for a couple of years. But I know how hard it is, even in a B2B environment, to care about every emotional complaint and to really do something for everyone who needs help. With the volume of social media mentions that AT&T must see, I didn’t expect much.

What I got was, in a word, impressive.

Within a few minutes of my initial tweet at @ATTCustomerCare, a user behind the @ATTTeamTatiana handle, Evelyn G., had responded to offer help. So far, so good. She asked me to send her an e-mail with the full details of my situation. That is the e-mail that became my lengthy post earlier today.

About an hour after I sent that e-mail, I got—yes, it’s true—a phone call from Evelyn. She was patient, understanding, and knowledgeable about the AT&T system. This was a welcome change from the agent with whom I had spoken on the phone earlier in the day, who had told me:

a.) “There is nothing we can do about the Microcell.”
b.) “There is nothing we can do about you being under contract.”

Within about 10 minutes, Evelyn had actually done both of these things. She couldn’t reimburse me per se for the Microcell (I had known this all along; “reimburse” was always the wrong word), but she could do exactly what I had hoped: she could credit my monthly bill $200. And that she did. Perfectly good enough. $200 is $200.

She also confirmed that I am not, and likely never have been over the past several weeks, under contract. Where the other agent was getting this from, we have no idea. But Evelyn authoritatively confirmed that my suspicions were correct, and that I am not entirely crazy.

Well done, AT&T. I’m always pleased when companies listen, especially when they are the size of AT&T. As a former colleague pointed out today on Twitter, barriers to entry allow telcos like AT&T to treat customers horribly, if they want to. After all, where are people going to go—to the next telco that will treat them just as poorly? So for Evelyn to be as empowered as she is to get the information she needed and to make things right showed me that there is hope for AT&T, and while I hope not to need Evelyn’s help again in the future (because I hope not to have frustrations like these again), it’s still comforting and reassuring to know that people like her are out there.

Google+ and Community: Not Quite Yet

I went on a rant against Google+ (via Twitter and Facebook, of course) last week, and I won’t do that here. For the record, I don’t actually have anything against Google+ itself. My only issue with Google+ personally is that people are abandoning other social media in favor of the new kid on the block for reasons that don’t make much sense to me. (To learn about those reasons, you’ll need to see my Twitter rant.)

Tonight, Jeremiah Owyang, internationally recognized social media guru with Altimeter Group, tweeted that it might be time for a change:

All: The Google+ is richer, easier embedding of media, longer comments, less fragmented and easier to find. Google+ is threat to Twitter

I’m sure he’s right. Google+ is a threat to Twitter. He’s not the only one who has said that, and he’s not the only one who is voting with his digital feet, so to speak. But Owyang’s comment brought to mind one very real complaint about Google+ as a social media platform from my perspective as a former Community Manager at Omniture/Adobe. Here it is:

I don’t understand how Google+ at present allows the creation and growth of community.

Round one. . . fight!Jeremiah is right that Google+ is less fragmented. But at the same time, it has no concept of free-flowing conversation organized around a topic. You can say something about, say, web analytics. Anyone who has added you to his/her circles can see your thoughts and comment on them. But unless your post is “reshared” by others, it ends there.

One of the great benefits of Twitter is that any of the service’s millions of users can see the world’s stream of consciousness on a topic. I don’t necessarily need to be following @usujason or @vabeachkevin there to see and respond to something interesting that they say. At least a handful of real-world friendships have developed out of the #omniture and #measure communities on Twitter among people who may never have found one another via a “less fragmented” service such as Facebook or Google+.

When I wake up in the morning, I check out #measure to see which new blog posts are causing a stir, and to read the conversation among a huge variety of practitioners, vendors, agencies, etc. I can’t do that on Google+. I can see what Eric Peterson is saying, and I can see what Keith Burtis is saying, but their reach only extends to those who have explicitly added them.

That’s a key element to community building, in my experience; you need a platform that crosses all lines and allows people to interact around a topic of shared interest—not simply because they happen to already be in one another’s circles.

Similarly, as a community manager I needed a way to follow the conversation about my brand. My angle was one of technical support. How could I have reached out and engaged with frustrated users unless I could see their complaints? For example, Rudi Shumpert (@rudishumpert) is a web analytics superstar. Three years ago, he was brand new and was struggling to understand some Omniture documentation. He complained. I was there. I didn’t see him because I knew who @RRS_ATL (his former handle) was. I saw him because he mentioned my brand and I had a Twitter search running all day long. Brand detractor became brand advocate within a matter of minutes.

Also, why I hate Hootsuite

This is actually a tangent. I hate Hootsuite. I tried it a few times, but the idea of keeping a browser window open all day so I could monitor the conversation has always been abhorrent. It’s too easy to close a browser window to work on some other task and then realize four hours later that you’ve been sitting out of the conversation. In my particular role, I could never do this.

But that really isn’t my point. Google+ apparently has a rudimentary API, but nothing that developers have used to build their own apps for organizing Google+ content in a way that is conducive to community-building. This is, of course, related to the previous points. (In fact, maybe I only have one point, but, by Jove, I’m going to stretch this thing out.) With a solid API and some additional ways to organize conversations, developers can churn out enterprise-ready social media management tools and integrate Google+ into existing social media management tools. Until that happens, Twitter’s API still rules. It remains, by far, the easiest source of raw social media to work with.

Longer comments = more windbags

Look, this is a blog. It’s the ultimate celebration of windbaggery. But at least you know what you’re getting with blogs. Jeremiah seems to think that the ability to pontificate at length in the comments on Google+ is a good thing. I think it has its place. (Blogs? Facebook? Google+? Probably all of the above.) But I really feel that—at least in the communities where I participate on Twitter—the 140-character limit is a good thing.

It’s not that I don’t want to hear more from my friends in the community, but the exercise of whittling down a thought into 140 (or 280, or 420, etc.) characters forces you to be succinct and straightforward. This often makes it easier for community members to process conversations with minimal distraction. I can read a tweet in about three seconds. I can read a four-paragraph response to an Avinash posting in, what, two minutes? Too often, the three second investment provides equal or greater returns than the two minute investment because the author has been forced to say in 40 words what he could have drawn out into 500.

(Of course there are crappy tweets, too, but at least they’re short.)

He’s 100% right about the ease of sharing on Google+

Yep. No argument from me there.

Conclusion: In defense of Google+

Later (still on Twitter, somewhat amusingly), Jeremiah pointed out (correctly, I’m sure—after all, this is what he does) that Google+ will undoubtedly add the missing community elements in the near future:

I’m sure those features, APIs and hash tags will come.

I’m not opposed to this at all. I will embrace Google+ for community when it is ready, but it certainly isn’t there yet. So what am I saying?

I’m saying that, right now, in my opinion, Twitter still has tons of value for business.

I’m saying that, right now, in my opinion, the best place to connect with brands and get help or provide feedback is still Twitter.

I’m saying that, right now, in my opinion, the best place to build communities around topics that matter to you is likely still Twitter.

As for what the future holds, I’ll defer to Jeremiah and other thought leaders. And I’m certainly playing around with Google+ so I’m ready if/when the shift happens.

So am I “doing it wrong?” Am I missing some feature that makes Google+ a boon to communities? What else do you think Google+ needs to do before communities are possible there?