Dec 202014

Could Facebook have reached its peak? A report in Bloomberg Businessweek suggests the service may have passed it maximum popularity.

In a survey by consulting firm Frank N. Magid Associates, the proportion of 13- to 17-year-old social-media users in the U.S. on Facebook slipped to 88 percent this year from 94 percent in 2013 and 95 percent in 2012.

What would really concern Facebook are concerns that the service is not safe, “One reason for the decline in teen Facebook usage is due to concerns that the service may not be trustworthy. Just 9 percent of those surveyed described the website as “safe” or “trustworthy,” while almost 30 percent of people said they would use those words to describe Pinterest.”

For Facebook that loss of trust among younger users is it’s biggest threat. Once you lose the trust of a generation, you’ve lost your business. This trend is one that Facebook will need to address quickly.

Dec 132014
how can crowds help with outsourcing business processes

Recode’s Walt Mossberg looks at the mobile phone industry with the observation that while Google’s Android system is dominating the market, all is not what it seems.

While Android’s market share is impressive, Apple still has the profitable high end of the market and Google’s is increasingly finding that low end smartphone manufacturers are prepared to run with the slimmed down Android Open system rather than submit to Google’s licensing requirements.

Just as Apple can be fairly relaxed about Google’s position in the smartphone market, Twitter’s Ev Williams dismissed concerns around his service after the news Instagram had passed the 300 million user mark.

Fortune’s Erin Griffith reported Williams’ feisty response: “If you think about the impact Twitter has on the world versus Instagram, it’s pretty significant. It’s at least apples to oranges. Twitter is what we wanted it to be. It’s this realtime information network where everything in the world that happens on Twitter—important stuff breaks on Twitter and world leaders have conversations on Twitter. If that’s happening, I frankly don’t give a shit if Instagram has more people looking at pretty pictures.”

As Griffith observes Wall Street doesn’t share Williams’ view and that’s an increasing problem for the company, but both Apple’s and Twitter’s view to their market position illustrates how sheer numbers don’t necessarily matter.

Nov 142014

The relaunch of local discovery service Facebook Places was low key and remained un-noted until picked up by a German blogger this week.

Facebook’s local service is, on first look, quite impressive with it pulling together various features and data sources to give a quick guide to what’s on and what’s attractive in a city based on a user’s history.

In that respect it’s a clear threat to Yelp!, Tripadvisor and Google; particularly given the convenience of using a single app and getting recommendations based on the service most people spend the bulk of their online time upon.

At this stage it doesn’t appear the service is doing too much with the local business feature but it’s only a matter of time before those details start being fed into the algorithm as well.

Once again it shows why listings are important for local businesses. It may also be that Facebook is cracking the largely untapped local business market.

Nov 132014

Finally Twitter have announced the changes they will be making in an effort to attract more users.

The changes are risky, and controversial, as messing with people’s feed risks alienating loyal users. If the changes prove unpopular it may make Twitter’s problems worse.

Whether the changes are enough to justify Twitter’s sky high stock market valuation and can attract the numbers of users the company needs to keep the faith of investors remains to be seen.

Zuckerberg’s Curse is biting Twitter hard and the company needs to figure out whether frantically trying to entice uninterested users and meet high, and possibly impossible, benchmarks is the best course for the service’s future.

Nov 122014
the retail industry is cahnging with our shopping habits

In China, the human flesh search engines track down people who have offended the herd sensibility.

As Australia becomes more conservative and reactionary, the same phenomena is developing Down Under. Aussie businesses now have to be prepared for when they come to the attention of an online lynch mob.

Last weekend a South Australian dairy company, the Fleurieu Milk and Yoghurt Company, announced it would not be seeking Halal certification for its yoghurts following concerted harassment from bigots, a decision that will cost it a $50,000 contract with Emirates Airlines.

Fleurieu was not the first company to be targeted by groups of online bigots, a few weeks earlier Maleny Dairies from the Queensland Sunshine Coast announced it would not seek Halal certification for after being deluged with queries from similar groups.

For a company of any size, a wave of abuse from online hate groups is difficult to handle but for smaller businesses like rural dairy companies it’s particularly hard as there’s little training for dealing with obnoxious and ill informed virtual lynch mobs and the resulting drop in morale can affect the entire workforce.

Many managers would draw the conclusion that social media is a dangerous place that only exposes staff and the business to these vile individuals, however withdrawing totally from online channels might actually magnify the effects of being targeted as companies don’t see the internet campaigns developing.

Reacting to a hate campaign is difficult however and much of how a company deals with being the target of one comes down to the owners’ and managers’ appetite for dealing with such a crisis.

Submit to the mob

The quickest way of defusing the situation is to agree to the mob’s demands, as Maleny and Fleurieu did, which has the advantage of relieving the stress on staff and management distractions.

Submission though is not without its risks; the mob may not be happy or agreeing to their demands may upset other customers who actually spend money with the business.

This latter point is something Australia’s agricultural industry and governments should be paying attention to as Middle East nations takes over ten percent of the nation’s food exports.

Agreeing to one group’s demands may also irritate other equally other vocal groups which could actually make the problem worse. Ultimately though it comes down to what a company’s management is most comfortable doing.

Should you decide to go along with the mob, don’t equivocate. Be absolutely clear about what you are doing and why you are doing it. This is something both Fleurieu and Maleny diaries have done.

Don’t engage

If the choice is not to submit, either on principle or for commercial reasons, then it’s necessary to be prepared for continued criticism with staff and management coming under further stress. It’s important everyone is supported by the team in the face of often vile and crude behaviour.

One of the key tenants of online marketing and community management is to engage with your critics, however there is a point where trying to engage with irrational people is pointless and possibly even counterproductive.

When that point has been reached, then there is no need to reply to them and any inflammatory or provocative posts should be deleted. The saying of “don’t feed the trolls” applies.

Should commenters become too strident or silly then they should be blocked and, if they are misbehaving on a social media site, their actions reported to the service’s management. Any threats of violence should be immediately documented and a complaint made to the police.

Don’t provoke

Provoking these groups is also a mistake, descending to their level of behaviour will only encourage them and their friends along with risking alienating your own supporters. Keep things professional and straight forward.

Not being a dill yourself is something that could have heeded by one of the other businesses that found itself on the receiving end of an online lynch mob this week. Mark Clews, the proprietor of Tuk Tuk Hunter Valley, was on the receiving end of an online campaign after a snarky post about a vegetarian who visited his hamburger bar in the wine country north of Sydney.

Reading the Tuk Tuk Facebook page quickly gives one the impression Clews enjoys an online fight and he certainly got one which led to his business receiving dozens of poor reviews and at least one critic set up a Facebook page, later taken down after legal threats, highlighting the business’ poor reviews.

In a heated environment — be it vegetarianism, Halal certification or any sort of politics — it’s worthwhile business owners keeping their own personal views separate from their company’s online presence.

The moral of all three of these stories is the internet is a tough place and in today’s increasingly intolerant society one not without its risks. While every business needs to have an online presence, it’s necessary to be prepared for when the online mob appears with virtual torches at your door.

Oct 272014
the retail industry is cahnging with our shopping habits

For three months in 2007 Joe Fernandez had his jaw wired shut following surgery and found himself relying on social media for news and companionship.

Over that three months of sitting on the net Fernandez found he had become a social media influencer and the idea for Klout was born.

In many respects Klout is the classic startup in that Fernandez started with a series of spreadsheets with the algorithm being an Excel formula, something he now calls a ‘Minimal Minimum Viable Product’.

“It was super minimal,” Fernandez remembers. “When people would register for Klout, it would send me an email and I would manually download their social media data into Excel and run the algorithm and then I’d manually update their page.”

Today Klout processes fifteen billion accounts every day with data pulled from four hundred data points including 15 social media services.

Like all tools, Klout does have some limitations and Fernandez admits he gets frustrated with businesses giving priority to users with high scores, another area that concerns him is marketers who don’t examine the relevance of individuals to the business before making judgments on that person’s influence.

One of the key things that Fernandez is proud of is how Klout is spawning its own alumni in a similar way to the PayPal mafia that developed out of the payment service at the beginning of the Century.

“It’s really awesome to see people go on and take on big challenges and do different things.”

As social media develops, tools like Klout are going to become more important for businesses trying to understand how

Oct 202014
Santa Claus is largely an invention of the coca-cola corporation

At today’s Telstra Digital Summit in Sydney, digital strategist Brian Solis spoke about the disruptions happening across all industries.

One of the sources he cited was Scott Galloway of the New York University’s business school and Galloway’s Winners and Losers presentation from last May.

The presentation is thought provoking with Galloway predicting many of the social media platforms are doomed to either low returns or failure.

Galloway is particularly scathing of Pinterest: “They were the leader in the visual web, but they’ve been blown away by Instagram”. Instagram’s success, Galloway believes is driven by the shift to visual communications on the net.

The biggest takeaway though is Galloway’s prediction that the middle class is in decline. That has great ramifications for all businesses built upon the Twentieth Century consumer model.