Yesterday was an interesting introduction for Wall Street, Larry Page made his first appearance as Google CEO. It wasn’t an unexpected move for him to be in this position, in fact we knew about it months ago, what was a surprise though was how just how the market reacted. The market shunned Google at present, dropping the stock by 5% of it’s value. But what was it that happened?
Page didn’t pull up stakes on the company, he didn’t outline a plan in which everyone will be living in tents in 5 years. What he did do however in his short time at the helm, is to steer the megolith at a very huge target, the social audience. When you think of anything social on the web, it’s near impossible to leave Facebook out of the equation, so is this the first (real) volley of fire in the Google versus Facebook battle?
It’s starting to look like it at least. Page increased overall spending, and hired more employees for Google, and has challenged all of the engi-nerds to “integrate relationships, sharing and identity across our products” A.k.a – lets get social.
On the whole, even though the marketers may be fretting how things look initially for the search giant, on the whole focusing the company in a new direction is a positive move. Change is good in general, and competition feeds innovation. With Larry Page pointing their guns at a specific prize it leads me to the conclusion we’re going to be in for a hell of a ride.
The internet is an amazing place, it has pretty much anything you could possibly want on it. It has examples of every facet of humanity and culture, it will be somewhat a wonder what it’s going to look like in the next 15 years considering the leaps and bounds it has changed in the first 15 of becoming widely accessible.
You can find essentially anything online. Recipes, songs, programs, services, information, the list is inhibited only by your own imagination. But does that make what you find true? A court in Italy has recently decided that just in case it is, Google needs to filter and censor their auto complete data.
A little bit of background is probably in order. Basically someone searched for themselves on Google, and the autocomplete feature offered suggestions such as con man and fraud.
Defamation and slander will always exist in some form or another in the open world. Auto complete within Google searches is a relatively new feature, so when I read of the decision that was upheld in the Court of Milan I somewhat echoed Googles disappointed response.
It’s not up to the search engine service to censor the entirety of the internet, after all the pages which the terms were a part of still exist, are indexed and can be found when you look. This is where brand and image management come into play, if someone messes with your online image, it’s dealt with quickly and efficiently.
Perhaps this is just another strong example for anyone with prospective web ideas. Always go with the option to opt-in as opposed to opt-out. The web is experiencing it’s own version of growing pains, when you’re ready to make your tracks online just be sure you have the search experts on your side.
An advertising metric which has become more and more available for business owners to use has been social search. Facebook, MySpace to a degree, and mobile access to these online communities comprises a network of millions of people; both locally and beyond. Google is by far the king of search online, but Facebook recently has put a twist on the angle of social search. In October of 2004 Facebook applied to patent what was called “curated search” but for all intent and purpose is social search. As of this past February, the patent was granted.
The language of the filing is as such: “Visual tags for search results generated from social network information.”
If that seems somewhat broad and far reaching, you’re not alone. Digging through the information contained within the patent application it’s explained more thoroughly. Here is the definition of search via Facebooks patent application:
“A key metric in evaluating the performance of search engines is relevance of the search results. Search engine developers are always striving to deliver search results that are relevant to the search query being processed. A frequently used technique is analyzing how web pages link to each other. A web page gets a ranking boost based on the number of other web pages that are linked to it. Click-through rates of search results are analyzed in some search engines. The general rule is: the higher the click-through rate, the higher the ranking.”
And their definition of social search is defined as well.
“According to an embodiment of the invention, search results, including sponsored links and algorithmic search results, are generated in response to a query, and are ranked based on the frequency of clicks on the search results by members of social network who are within a predetermined degree of separation from the member who submitted the query.”
The idea is that relevance is dependant partly on the number of clicks your friends give to links, as well as how closely tied you are to your friends. The awarding of the patent likely won’t vastly alter the social search game, it does prove however that Zuckerberg had search in mind the entire time for Facebook; the company was launched in February of 2004, the application made only a few months later in October.
Content You have 2 options:
1) Good content without promotion
2) Good content with promotion.
#2 wins every single time. As long as there is a profit motive for good content, there is a profit motive for promoting it. SEO is one tool. SMO is another.
So why does word of mouth from brand advocates work?
Consumers trust Word of Mouth. Which means conversion rates are higher.
You don’t pay advocates. There are costs of course, but you’re not paying advocates to make referrals.
Brand Advocates are not just for Christmas. Paid clicks are ‘perishable’ advocates are not.
I’d add a couple of other reasons myself:
Advocates are integrated marketers. They are online, offline and through the line. They don’t differentiate the way your agency or media campaigns do.
They give your marketing campaigns wings. Advocates are often spurred to advocate your products and services when they come across your marketing messages. They increase coverage and impact of your other marketing activity.
Advocacy means UGC. Brand Advocates write nice things online about your brand. They create keyword rich content just because they love you. And we all know what search engines love.
Longer and Deeper love. One other benefit of identifying and cultivating your brand advocates is of course that they are likely to stay more loyal for longer – so your CRM gets a boost too.
So advocates are great, but how do you find them? aren’t they as elusive as a four leaf clover?
The answer is so simple it hurts. You ask them! The simplest survey question of them all ”How likely are you to recommend us?” – and BINGO, you know who your advocates are. Now you just need to cultivate them.
“Traditional marketing has companies speak to many to reach one. Today we speak to one to reach many.”
The internet is running out of IP addresses, Bing is copying Google, Facebook can’t handle your data and locally we’re resisitant to change. The loss of IPs online has been broached in the last few days, and the as the last block allocations are doled out I’m certain that the naysayers will be heralding the end of the world (wide web). At least on some level of course.
Bing copied Google’s search results on a really obscure search term, as Bing cries foul over Google copying some of their display methods. It’s one thing to copy a snippet tool to display where on a page information was located and a change in how images are displayed. It’s an entirely new bag of snakes when you literally build your results based upon the users actions on another search engine. Bing has cried foul as well over being setup in Google’s honeypot action and well, that was the point. Google noticed a trend of Bings top 10 searches bearing much the same results as Googles. A hypothesis was formulated as to why and how this could happen, and a test was executed. It just so happens that the test came back positive, and Bing has been caught red handed sneaking results. Deal with it, learn from it, for Gods sakes admit it and carry on.
And just to switch things to a local, Winnipeg front for a moment. A downtown restaurant, long heralded as an icon in it’s uniqueness, the Paddlewheel Restaurant is to be closed and renovated. In the story I’ve most recently read about the eatery, the vast majority of the comments and content were unhappy with the coming closure, citing their memories of past visits with friends and family as evidence of enduring success. “It doesn’t need to change” and “It shouldn’t change” were the over lording tones of the piece. There was a video accompanying the story, and while it was somewhat saddening to hear about how a visit to the restaurant with their mother and grandmother for a plate of fries and a coke would be gone with the change, change needs to happen. By the way, the aforementioned visit with family, the fries and coke cost 15 cents to purchase. The video was filled entirely with elderly visitors, no doubt the frequenters of the establishment with the exception of one gentleman interviewed whose thoughts were simply “I understand it’s popular among those with a history of coming here”. The idea that change is bad needs to leave the collective thought process of this town, change is anything but bad. Scary, exciting, turbulent and it can even be smooth, safe and uneventful. But it’s never a bad thing. Change is inevitable, it’s when people, places and the environment they exist in cease to change that they wither and die. Take a clue from one of the oldest businesses still in operation today, in order to survive, they need to change.
Facebook has become the most visited site above Google and all others online. It’s not uncommon to find a story about Facebook versus Google/Bing/Yahoo or about how they’ve reached 500 million plus members. Millions upon millions of people communicate, play and flit away hours on the site, and the site is reportedly worth billions.
But at the end of the day, is it really a financially savvy move to advertise on Facebook? In 2009 it was, as the cost for a click was only 27 cents, but for a click through rate of only just over half of 0.1%. And as time goes on you’d expect things to get better, but in 2010 the cost per click actually nearly doubled in cost to 49 cents, and the click through rate dropped. With so many member accounts, it’s hard to believe that the advertising model has such a bleak factual bottom line.
With the benefits of advertising on Facebook being parlayed as being targetted via friends within the site, the numbers display the honest truth. While ads may last longer, and be presented more relevant on your Facebook pages, you’re less likely to use them than if you were to find them else where online. Even banner ads on websites performed better on the bottom line. Oh well, at least there’s Mafia Wars and Farmville right?
Time to get to work on that Facebook profile again and make sure everything is as you want it. Dig through those privacy settings, and ensure that you’re not sharing more than you intended.
In a late posted blog on Facebook, Jeff Bowen (Platform Developer Relations at Facebook) posted:
We are now making a user’s address and mobile phone number accessible as part of the User Graph object. Because this is sensitive information, we have created the new user_address and user_mobile_phone permissions. These permissions must be explicitly granted to your application by the user via our standard permissions dialogs.
Paraphrased basically saying that now when you develop your apps for Facebook, you can now get users addresses and mobile phone numbers. So now not only will you be spammed on your wall by games, random ‘questions about you answered by..’ posts and as well as scraping and sharing all of your friends information, they can have your home address to send you mail if they want. Or send you spam text messages or phone calls to your mobile phone. Perhaps ‘accidentally’ subscribing you to a premium phone service just for clicking that ‘Allow’ button when you load up their app for the first time.
Privacy is very much in your hands as a user, but with no notifaction to the userbase about this change for developers, and with a large percentage of the Facebook users already having accepted apps sharing their information; how long until these ups make a ‘critical update’ and soon you’re receiving fliers in the mail to buy Mafia wars or Farmville merchandise? Or worse yet, the information is collected, and sold to a third party advertising site who turns your information over again until it reaches a point that you’re receiving mail, text and phone calls from random companies and places you didn’t give permission to contact you. As one commentor on the blog post pondered, ‘Have you become a data collection site and are no longer a social site.’
What is the greatest guessing game you ask? It’s the game which has made Google, Microsoft and Yahoo, as well as other search engine start ups and even failures, piles of money just by mention of the word. Search, is the greatest guessing game.
What happened when Google took the game and applied it’s own rules, was dominate the online community as it propelled itself forward, clawing and fighting for all of the infomation it could find. There are various illustrations of the web which come to mind when it’s pictured. Firstly as a web of course, of interconnecting websites and pages, all of which the search bots, spiders naturally, navigate their way around and build up this interconnectability between them. I’ve seen pictures of the internet visualized as planets in galaxies and solar systems, as continents on a map and even as a DNA strand at one point. The best visualization I can come up with is that of an ocean, and all of the websites and pages of the internet are just kind of floating around. People are like little fish, darting around from point to point, sometimes finding what they want, sometimes not. But it’s a fluid environment, never the same from day to day and always on the move.
An article written about which search engine is better at delivering relevant results was the inspiration for today. It tried to demonstrate that by using identical results in different search engines, that one could clearly deliver better and more relevant results than the other. The reality is I believe, much murkier than that. Google is absolutely a brand name, and used extensively in all walks of life. Bing is working hard on branding itself as a decision engine and not a search engine, but in the end both algorithms do primarily the same thing. They guess at what you’re looking for, they guess that they’re delivering you what you want to see and they guess mostly correct only because you’ve already told them what you want to see. Whether it’s via your search history, cookies saved on your computer or even your directly typed search query. Search is still just a game, and for now Google still plays it best. The internet and online technology being what it is, we’ll revisit the topic in a year and everything may be upside down.
One of the largest issues online and one that especially plagues Facebook and other networks like it, is the privacy issue. Facebook likes to use the argument, and Google CEO Eric Schmidt caught fire for the same sentiment, that if you’re online and don’t want the world to know something of you, don’t share it.
At present the general demographic of internet users range from the 12 year olds doing book reports and discovering social networking, to 80+ grandparents keeping in touch with family with email, Facebook and so on. When you through an idea as complicated as ‘privacy’ into the mix of a demographic so large, problems are created. Looking at the definition of privacy:
Privacy is the ability of an individual or group to seclude themselves or information about themselves and thereby reveal themselves selectively. The boundaries and content of what is considered private differ among cultures and individuals, but share basic common themes.
The ‘basic common themes’ would be the language pertaining too ‘the ability of an individual or group to seclude themselves or information about themselves and thereby reveal themselves selectively’. The idea that you control what others know about you isn’t a strange ideal to uphold, and Facebook et al would escape a lot of criticism if they made one simple change to their policies; instead of having users opt out, allow them instead to opt in to new features and services. Where a lot of the concerns and issues come from is the second part of the definition which says ‘boundaries and content of what is considered private differ among cultures and individuals’.
Privacy at it’s root, is a value shared by every person innately, but just like everyone has an opinion, everyone has a different take on privacy as a whole. What the privacy commissioners of the world deem as protection of privacy today, will be different for my childrens generation. Each generation as well, is becoming more and more comfortable with controlling their information online which will also contribute to changes in outlook. So before you click ‘Allow’ on that next Facebook application that your cousin sent you, take a minute instead to actively read what information it will be collecting and sharing about you. Privacy online has always been in the users control, the majority just fail to seize it.