Cautiously Optimistic

Social media for better communication and a better life

Posts Tagged ‘facebook

Facebook’s BranchOut App Turns Up the Heat on LinkedIn

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BranchOutMuch like McDonald’s old McDLT sandwich packaging tried to “keep the hot side hot and the cool side cool” by separating the fresh-off-the grill hamburger patty from the fresh-from-the fridge tomato and lettuce, social media users frequently try to keep their public identity and activities public and their private identity and activities private by using multiple social media platforms.

This desire to curate or control how our different publics see us is one of the reasons that career-oriented social media sites such as LinkedIn have flourished even as Facebook pursues its ambition to be the world’s one-stop social media destination.

Facebook’s response to upstart competitors usually takes one of two forms: it buys the company or it creates very similar functionality and then kills the competitor because of its huge existing user base that other sites or services cannot overcome.

We saw Facebook in buyout mode recently when it announced it was purchasing the photo retouching and sharing company Instagram. Now we may be seeing Facebook in “kill the competitor” mode with its launch of BranchOut, the professional networking app that draws data from existing Facebook profiles to connect people in similar industries.

This presents a danger for LinkedIn. Even though it had the “first-mover advantage” in growing the professional social media niche, the Facebook juggernaut has the ability to dwarf LinkedIn’s network, given time. This Mashable article by Sarah Kessler states that while BranchOut currently has only 25 million registered users, as compared to LinkedIn’s 150 million users, BranchOut has access to the full 845 million Facebook accounts around the world.

I would imagine that LinkedIn’s leadership team is working to avoid the fate of the McDLT, which was eventually discontinued along with its innovative packaging. Only time will tell if Facebook’s “all things to all people” recipe for success will win in the end.

Follow me on Twitter at @charlesprimm.

Written by Charles Primm

April 20, 2012 at 9:26 pm

The Google+ Redesign Looks Oddly Familiar

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Google+Of all my social media platforms, I think I use Google+ the least. Well, technically, I use my old Myspace page the least, because it has been years since I even logged in.

That makes Google+ the second least used of my social media platforms. So it was with a bit of skepticism that I read the news that Google+ has done a big redesign of its site.

My first thought was “if a social media platform fell in the forest, and no one was there, did it make a sound?”

But after watching the video, and then logging in to the site, I realized there was something about the new look that was very familiar.

The way the wide-format images appear at the top of the page, the way status updates are displayed, it all looks suspiciously Facebook-like.

There are definitely some innovations, such as a customizable “ribbon” of moveable icons in the left-hand navigational column instead of static images or text. This is the kind of fresh design concept that Google will have to depend on if it wants to continue competing with Facebook.

But if the next Google+ redesign starts looking suspiciously like my old Myspace page, that’s when I may have to call it a day.

Follow me on Twitter at @charlesprimm.

Written by Charles Primm

April 12, 2012 at 7:22 pm

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Trying to Stay Focused? Don’t Check Facebook

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Although I have occasionally criticized Facebook in this space, for purposes of full disclosure, I hereby state that I do enjoy logging in to Facebook and looking at pictures and status updates from my friends.

The “stickiness” of the site is like a siren song, calling me to scroll down further, further, just a little further, down into the bottomless well of information. As you might have guessed, this is by design: the longer we stay, the more revenue we generate for Facebook as we look at ads on the site.

But just because it is good for Facebook does not mean it is good for us. As it turns out, new research shows that checking Facebook just once is enough to distract us from being productive while we are trying to work.

This recent story in Psychology Today discusses a study of how people were able to maintain their focus in the midst of electronic distractions such as the Internet and smartphones.

It turns out that checking Facebook was a major momentum-killer for those trying to focus on a task and be productive. It did not matter if they checked Facebook once or a dozen times: the damage was done and concentration was lost.

I think I already knew this, but the best science often tells us what we already know. Now comes the hard part: actually refraining from checking Facebook when I am under tight deadline pressure.

I’ll let you all know how that turns out.

Follow me on Twitter at @charlesprimm.

Written by Charles Primm

April 11, 2012 at 7:29 pm

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Facebook Buys Instagram But Not Its Coolness

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When Facebook announced this week that it had purchased the photo retouching and sharing app Instagram, much of the news coverage was accompanied with sidebar articles such as “Deleting Your Instagram Account? Here’s How to Save Your Pics.”

The snap-judgment implication was that, by purchasing this small, cool company, Facebook was about to ruin it forever, prompting those “in the know” to head for the door. But the larger implication was that Facebook was so obviously uncool that one could be tainted just by association with it.

What a fascinating change. Just a few years ago, Facebook was the cool thing, the new thing, the David to Myspace’s Goliath: the one you rooted for. Students at universities in the US could not wait until their campuses were allowed to participate.

Where did it all go wrong? Was it all the times Facebook got in trouble for changing its users’ privacy settings? Or was it FarmVille?

We may never know, but to me, it’s clear: the thrill is gone. Oh, the site will be with us for a long time yet to come. But if cynicism about Facebook’s motives runs this deep, the company has more of a public perception problem than it may realize.

And even the best Instagram filter can’t change that.

Follow me on Twitter at @charlesprimm.

Written by Charles Primm

April 10, 2012 at 8:20 pm

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Find Your Next Job Through Social Media

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Changing jobs or finding new work after a period of unemployment is never easy, even in the best economic times.

And as we all know, the last few years have not been the best. I have seen many bright, hardworking, talented people in my industry struggle to find work following layoffs or shutdowns.

I know it’s a hackneyed cliché, but just as no good gig lasts forever, neither does a bad one. And unemployment is among the worst gigs there is.

Social Job SearchThe good news is that social media, the great change agent of our day, is now having an impact on getting a job. There’s a great infographic on Mashable about how social media sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook are booming as a way to connect candidates with job openings.

LinkedInI can see the difference myself, in the kinds of ads and job suggestions displayed on my LinkedIn profile. The site seems to be doing a good, careful job of mining my resume and connecting it to open jobs I might be interested in, some based on my work background and some apparently based on compatible careers that match my education.

I like how the job suggestions are acting as a kind of surrogate career coach, encouraging me to consider possibilities I may have never considered.

For all those looking for work, or for different work, it’s clear that social media networking is an investment of time and energy well worth making.

Follow me on Twitter at @charlesprimm.

Written by Charles Primm

April 7, 2012 at 5:42 pm

Social Media – Naughty or Nice?

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It’s a given that social media’s usage and influence have grown wildly beyond what anyone expected just a few years ago.

According to a report by Navneet Kaushal of PageTrafficBuzz, as of January 2012, Facebook by itself was the destination for nine percent of all online visits in the US, and twenty percent of all online page views.

That’s not counting Twitter, Google+, and the many other social media destinations available online.

What’s interesting to me, though, is not that social media is huge, but that’s it’s huge enough to have sparked a discussion of what it means to be social.

Blogger Steve Sonn writes that a growing number of individuals are using social media in an antisocial way, by brazenly self-promoting their business and their personal brand in a one-way direction, rather than being “open, transparent, helpful and engaging.”

I like this concept, because it says something about the aspirational nature of why we communicate in the first place, and why we all seek out communities in which we can grow and thrive.

On the other hand, just as the music world has room for punk rock, there are those who want to bring the same “smash ’em up” sensibility to social media.

This Chronicle of Higher Education story by Jeffrey R. Young highlights just such a rule-breaker: Dean Terry, the director of the emerging-media program at the University of Texas at Dallas, who is committing what he calls “social-media blasphemy” with his new Facebook plug-in, “EnemyGraph.”

The service lets Facebook users identify their “enemies,” which then appear in their profiles. The report states that Terry originally wanted to use the word “dislike,” but that word was specifically banned by Facebook, in order to maintain a positive atmosphere for its users.

This “blasphemy” may be a tongue-in-cheek rejection of the idea that being nice, kind, and positive is the best way to approach social media. But I think it has the potential to create a lot of damage. Practical jokes may seem funny in theory, but in reality, they’re just mean.

So while I’m generally in favor of a little rule-breaking now and then, when it comes to social media, I prefer playing nice.

Follow me on Twitter at @charlesprimm.

Written by Charles Primm

March 29, 2012 at 8:00 am

The Cost of Free Apps: A New Smartphone?

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Apple Store | Image via Creative CommonsI recently upgraded my iPhone, trading in a two-year-old 3GS for a new 4S. I didn’t do it to chase the coolness factor: call me old-fashioned, but I’m really not motivated to have the “latest and greatest.” What does motivate me, however, is that my tech devices actually work to my satisfaction.

And that’s why I traded in my phone: its battery life had gotten so bad that I couldn’t use it for more than an hour if it was not plugged in to the wall or to a computer.

Most days, that is not such a handicap. Usually I’m at my desk, in the car or at home, where I could easily charge my phone.

But the other day I was in the field, working with reporters covering a power outage on campus. I was on the scene, exchanging phone calls, e-mails and text messages while checking the university’s Facebook and Twitter feeds, when I suffered my own personal power outage: my phone died, right when I needed it the most.

So now I have a new phone with a brand-new battery, and I have dutifully imported all my important information, especially my apps. Problem solved, right?

Not so fast: maybe it was the apps all along. Especially the “free” ones that are filled with ads. This Lifehacker article by Adam Pash made me think about all the extra energy my battery has to burn to keep loading the next banner ad in the app I am using.

As the article says, maybe I really am “getting what I paid for”: free apps but at the cost of rapidly declining battery capacity. At that rate, paying $.99 for an ad-free app seems like a bargain.

Follow me on Twitter at @charlesprimm.

Written by Charles Primm

March 27, 2012 at 9:00 am

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Demanding Employee Social Media Logins May Create Big PR Problems

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Companies who force their current and potential employees to divulge their private social media logins and passwords may be setting themselves up for big public relations problems.

Several news stories in recent days and weeks have explored the increasing numbers of employees and job seekers reporting that their bosses are demanding access to their Facebook user names and passwords, so they can check up on what they are doing online.

Now HiringA story by MSNBC’s Bob Sullivan describes how applicants for jobs as corrections officers in Maryland were forced to log in to their Facebook accounts during the job interview, so that the employer could search the applicant’s photos for signs of gang affiliation.

The same story also described how the North Carolina state government asked applicants for clerical jobs to provide their Facebook usernames and passwords.

Now there seems to be some pushback against these kinds of demands. Mashable’s Sarah Kessler reports that Facebook may go so far as to initiate legal action against employers who demand their employees give up their login information to the social media site.

Meanwhile, politicians are getting involved as well. Politico’s Tony Romm reports that Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut is writing legislation to prohibit the practice of demanding access to the social media sites of their current or potential employees.

I think employers certainly have a right to expect professional behavior from their workers. It’s also a prudent move for companies to check out a job seeker’s public Facebook page or Twitter feed. But the kind of heavy-handed intrusiveness discussed here, however, betrays a fundamental mistrust of their employees. And it brings them a whole lot of negative publicity that could have been avoided.

Companies who feel compelled to spy on the people they hire may find their best workers heading for the door. Once they’re gone, of course, the former employees are then free to use social media to cause all manner of public relations problems for their old companies.

If I were advising companies on their social media and hiring policies, I would strongly recommend they stay away from forcing people to open up their private lives. It’s much easier to leave the door shut than to open it and then regret the negative publicity that may result.

Follow me on Twitter at @charlesprimm.

Written by Charles Primm

March 25, 2012 at 4:17 pm

Facebook Timeline Can Help PR Tell the Never-Ending Story

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Facebook logoOne of the theories of communication that has had a big impact on me in graduate school is “narrative theory.” The theory, described in the SAGE Reference service, states that humans are natural story tellers. Using narratives to make sense of the world is so basic to human experience that people can really be described as Homo narrans, or “story-telling human.”

I write this because I think the new Facebook Timeline is a surprisingly powerful way for Facebook to insert itself into the ongoing narratives of its users’ lives.

Who doesn’t enjoy the occasional trip down memory lane? I certainly do, and I must say that combing through my personal information and Wall posts in preparation for the switch to the Timeline resulted in a series of “blasts from the past,” looking at old photos and remembering friendships that have strengthened over tine and those that faded away over the years.

This powerful impact is not limited to individual users. Facebook recently opened up the Timeline format to brands, which makes perfect sense. Narrative flow has always been a powerful tool for advertisers looking to change or strengthen brand loyalty.

The Timeline format also holds promise for public relations practitioners, according to Tonya Garcia of PRNewser. Her article, “Four Reasons PR Pros Will Love Facebook Timeline for Brands,” highlights how public relations can work alongside marketing to help tell and shape the story of their organization. As a company reaches milestones in its growth and development, for example, its Timeline can help strengthen its relationships with stakeholders in a compelling way, establishing contexts and promoting the organization through its unique story.

If we humans are really Homo narrans, then the Facebook Timeline is just the sensible next step in our ongoing evolution, telling a story that never has to end.

Follow me on Twitter at @charlesprimm.

Written by Charles Primm

March 15, 2012 at 7:00 pm

Social Shaming in the Era of Social Media

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Morality is defined as the distinction between right and wrong, between good and bad behavior, and how these distinctions affect behavior.

Humans are moral beings, with highly-honed senses of right and wrong and an inclination to enforce good behavior while punishing bad behavior. A Slate article on a new book by Jonathan Haidt of the University of Virginia, “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion,” explores how a sense of morality is one of the ways to understand political behavior and how people choose their political party affiliation.

Haidt’s book proposes that both Republicans and Democrats are interested in equality. Republicans are more motivated by equality of opportunity, while Democrats are more motivated by equality of outcomes. And since all of us think of ourselves as moral, those in the other political party, by default, are “immoral,” thus much easier for us to demonize.

I was thinking about this sense of morality when I read a Lifehacker article by Adam Dachis on “How to Deal With People Who Cut In Line.” I suspect that, for most of us, witnessing someone cut in line is the kind of moral transgression we’re more likely to see over the course of a day.

Social Shaming, Social Media | Image via Slate.comAnd as more of us use our smartphones to “check in” on Foursquare while waiting in line for our morning latte, I have to wonder: are we more likely or less likely to notice line-cutters?

Even though our phones are a source of distraction as much as information, I suspect that the “fairness” switch in our heads stays on, and we would still be likely to catch on if someone cuts in front of us in line.

Which asks the question: if we witness someone cutting line, what are we going to do about it?

More of us, it seems, are taking the opportunity to enforce social norms with a bit of “social shaming.” Blogger Chirag Mehta shares the story of Joshua Kaufman, whose MacBook was stolen one day. The laptop already had tracking software installed, just in case it was stolen, so Kaufman was able to track the laptop’s location and use the software to take webcam pictures of the thief. He shared the story, along with the pictures, via his Twitter feed and Facebook page, and the thief was caught.

So the next time I’m standing line, smartphone at the hip, and someone cuts in line, should I quickdraw, Tweeting pics and text about the immoral line-cutter? Adam Dachis would say “not so fast.”

His advice for when this happens:

1) Analyze the line.

Maybe the line-cutter just got confused and thought it was a rugby scrum instead of a polite queue, or maybe the instructions are confusing. Maybe there is no line at all.

2) Resist the urge to get angry.

If you show off your bad manners and scream at them, it makes you look like a loser.

3) Ask someone else if they saw what you saw, and if they agree, that’s the moment to politely confront the cutter and motion them to the back of the line.

Social shaming can be a very big hammer, so try not to use it if you’re confronted with a very small nail. Once you tweet and post a rant, it cannot easily be taken back. Besides, like all good moral beings, your friends may be motivated to punish your bad behavior with a little social shaming of their own.

Follow me on Twitter at @charlesprimm.

Written by Charles Primm

March 11, 2012 at 3:21 pm