Why Facebook will NOT be “Yahooed”

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This is my second contribution to the innovation generation blogs, an initiative sponsored by Alcatel. Here is my second piece entitled: Facebook, The Good, Bad and Ugly.

No one knows exactly where the social network is going, but it’s certainly going somewhere. Last September, I organised the San Francisco blogger bus tour on behalf of Orange, a unique experience, in which 14 bloggers from all over the world roamed the Valley in search of evidence that innovation wasn’t stifled by Facebook and other social media giants, as some wanted us to believe.

Yet, all along our visits, we heard claims that “Facebook was passé” and even that “Facebook would be ‘Yahooed’.” Four months later, the news that we are getting about social media is so contradictory that it is very hard to tell what’s going to happen. Yet, marketers from all over the world have invested massively in Facebook.

[photo : antimuseum.com]

The question is, will it prove useless, or will Facebook on the contrary, be the result of a self-fulfilling prophecy? And why does it matter for service providers?

The good

Facebook’s footprint is humongous and there are nos signs of “Facebook fatigue”. So many have moaned that after the one billionth user, things would start to deteriorate. Well, it didn’t happen. Socialbakers’ numbers aren’t showing evidence of that. Even though the recurring purges of fake users trigger falls in numbers, penetration rates can still go up (with less than 50 percent of the UK population, and less than 40 percent in France, there is room for improvement).

When Timeline was implemented in 2012, it was heavily criticized and doomsayers predicted users would leave the platform. They didn’t, they just got used to it, that’s all.

The bad

Facebook and Instagram have a track record for playing tricks with data privacy on the back of users. Yet, despite the recent rumors about users leaving Instagram for this reason, the news has been denied by Facebook itself. Instagram, according to Mark Zuckerberg’s firm, is even gaining users.

Zuckerberg himself admitted that privacy doesn’t matter anymore. A belief which isn’t shared by all and especially in German-speaking countries, where culturally speaking, data ownership is crucial. Max Schrems even founded a group entitled Europeans versus Facebook, which is filing legal action against Facebook.

Regardless of the outcome of this lawsuit, there is something wrong with the way the world’s largest social network is considering its users. So much so that might one rightfully wonder, like Dalton Caldwell, whether this is what social media was supposed to be, whereas it was meant to “change the world” to use one of Mr Zuckerberg’s famous quotes.

And the ugly

Very recently, LinkedIn’s Mario Sundar pointed out the lack of style in the company’s PR. This isn’t conducive to believing that marketing has changed forever like Tara Hunt had predicted.

Besides, a few months ago, Facebook decided to tweak its secret Edge Rank algorithm so that fewer users in your communities are exposed to your messages. This is no big deal for users, but for brands, it means that they are now offered to pay for “promoted posts” to reach more users. Wait a minute; what if your average TV network was offering your business advertising space and was asking for more money so that viewers are actually presented with your message? You would naturally be angry.

Yet, with Facebook, nothing has happened. Do advertisers have any other credible alternative to Facebook? As I heard one of my counterparts say at a recent advertisers’ meeting: “I know all this stuff about Google+, but Facebook is where all the users are!”

The future

What does the future hold? I’m not certain social media sells soap; what is true though is that there are a lot of similarities with the period that we are going through and the early 2000’s. Back then, everyone argued there wasn’t a business model for the Web. Yet, more than 10 years later, European e-commerce is delivering nearly as much revenue than Telecommunications companies.

Similarly, those who said there wasn’t a business model for online advertising are those who praise Google Adwords now. Multinationals spend up to several dozens of millions of euros on search engine marketing (SEM), including service providers. This is no small business.

Social media and Facebook, in particular, are no different from those early web trailblazers. The world, and service providers in particular, should stop sneering at those shaky business models. Internet business is a self-fulfilling prophecy; it has always been the case. This is high tech innovation for you, no one knows for sure where it’s going, but it certainly is going somewhere.

As a consequence, there are chances that we might have to put up with Facebook’s freaky way of handling privacy for a lot longer; that is to say as long as brands are ready to pay for advertising on Facebook and experiment on the popular social network.

matters of no consequence

“Ha tutte le carte in regola per essere un artista”
and I have a valid passport to the land of artists
Piero Campi

As we are getting ready for a massive event in Paris with Likeminds and Media Aces, with an impressive line up of speakers including Brian Solis, Jeremiah Owyang, Loic Le Meur, Molly Flatt, Olivier Blanchard and yours truly, our friends from Likeminds in Exeter have asked me to write a little piece about me and the Web and it didn’t have to do with business matters, so there it is, with a few literary references of no consequence.

Businessmen, as the Little Prince found out, are only dealing with matters of consequence and they have no time for balderdash. Yet, I don’t think that my Web work is restricted to matters of consequence. Besides, I’m not just a blogger blogging about bloggers either. I am also an artist; at least I wish I were regarded as one.

The Web has been my oyster for the past 15 years. The place – is it a place? – where I could not only write things but express thoughts, mostly about marketing;  e-commerce too was on my agenda. A serious business tool in other words. But this is not how it all began. As a matter of fact, business was not my primary objective at all in the beginning. I believe that mere curiosity was the main motive.

I first heard about the World Wide Web, back in 1994, and so I went and grabbed a cheap Internet access package from the computer shop next door. People would come to my house and “see” the Internet. They had no idea what it was and I felt proud for being able to show them the way; not by sheer hubris but just because I love to share and exchange with friends, old and new.

My grandfather was like that. He could hardly get anywhere without bumping into at least one old pal. I believe one can’t escape one’s heritage. Some of us are social animals and I feel like I’m one of them. As I said above, the focus of my interest in the Web at that time wasn’t business, let alone computer science. Instead, I felt attracted to Art like a magnet, and I still do, now that I have practised watercolours for the best of the past thirty years.

Way back then, a person who went – and probably still goes – by the name of Nicolas Pioch had decided to reproduce the Louvre online and I had spotted that gem (this “webmuseum” is still available at http://www.ibiblio.org/wm). That’s what people came to see at my house at the time: online replicas of the Mona Lisa and other masterpieces, miles from today’s technical perfection, but then most beautiful of all … because this had never been done or seen before.

A few years later, I created my own picture gallery in which I could show my own work, and which eventually evolved into a blog, however poorly maintained nowadays.

Soon, I hope, I will be able to use this space to the full, mixing video, painting, etchings and music as well as creative writing and possibly organise happenings and exhibitions online and off-line. This is too early stages right now, as I have more work than ever on my plate, but I am looking forward to that day on which I will be able to devote all my time to my passion for Art, pictures, poetry  and all things of absolutely no consequence.

(At long last) WordPress.com enables social media sharing on posts and pages

Earlier this month, WordPress.com, on which this and all my other blogs are hosted, decided to implement social media sharing buttons as a permanent feature of their online platform. I dote on wordpress.com personally, it’s simple and stupid, forces you to focus on content, not waste your time with useless plug-in gimmicks and is fast and furiously efficient (you get indexed in search engines in a matter of minutes).

Yet, there had been growing concerns among my readers that someone preaching social media was in fact not put his money where his mouth was. http://getsociallive.com/ had provided a reasonably user-friendly workaround but that was no match for other wordpress blogs – hosted and managed by their owners – which offered many possibilities in terms of sharing on all social media platforms, facebook, Twitter and Digg being the main ones. So, somewhat reluctantly, I was considering moving my wordpress blogs to my own server, which was possible, but which I regarded as an unnecessary burden and task.

And then I caught a glance of that WordPress announcement (a little link at the top of the dashboard) almost unexpectedly: WordPress was – at long last – making sharing avaible on its wordpress.com platform!

So now you can see retweets on posts and pages easily (make sure you do select the ‘posts and pages’ options otherwise your tweets and buttons won’t be accessible from the main home page of your blog for instance) and share stuff on other platforms too including digg and reddit.

So here is a graphic representation of the “share it” function as implemented by WordPress, right beneath each piece which you have published. As this feature is somewhat hidden here is the process explained to our fellow wordpress.com owners : go to the dashboard of your wordpress.com blog, select the ‘settings’ main menu on the left, then click the ‘sharing’ option. icons have to be dragged – in your order of preference – within the bow in order to appear on your posts. If you still can’t find it, use the following link and replace XXX by your wordpress username : http://XXX.wordpress.com/wp-admin/options-general.php?page=sharing.

My readers will not only stop taking the mickey off me now, they will also dash to open their own WordPress.com blog, to which premium features such as domain name registration and redirection are now attached.