How to Switch (Successfully) from Google Reader to Feedly

The world heard a collective "WTF" only ten days ago when Google announced it was killing off their RSS program, Google Reader. Here's what this post is not going to be:

There are plenty of people who have written articles much better than mine could be, so why try to reproduce those? Exactly.

But, in all of the noise, it became clear that the real winner coming out of this debacle was Feedly. They were the first, if not nearly, to come out and say, "Use Feedly, and the transition will be seamless come July 1st." I didn't even bother looking at the alternatives. Feedly has a Chrome, Safari, Firefox, and iOS solution (also Android). So, I definitely had all my bases covered. 

Let me tell you, the setup was pretty damn easy.

I went to Feedly.com and clicked "Login".

Automatically, I was connected to my Google account and was asked to give Feedly permission to access my Google Reader account. Once I did, I was presented with my new RSS home in Feedly! The home screen reminds me of the Evernote app in how information is presented — topics on the left sidebar, highlights up front-and-center, with some of my subscriptions on the right sidebar.

After perusing my feeds this evening, I definitely feel more comfortable using Feedly. It's nice to have a mix of the old Google Reader feel mixed with a little bit of the FlipBoard look as well.

Let's keep our fingers crossed that the transition goes as smoothly as Feedly says it will!

Let me know in the comments if you used Google Reader. What do you think about the news? How are you handling the transition?

Keep Running

Saw this simple quote on Twitter this evening, and it made me think a lot about blogging and social media. 

Much of the time we content managers feel that we don't have the time to write a new post, think of new Tweets, or status updates for our company Facebook pages.

We need to remember why we do what we do.

So, when you hit that obstacle, remember your goal, what gets you excited. 

Keep Running.

5 Ways that LinkedIn Fails

LinkedIn often comes up in social media conversations as the network who pretty much can't do wrong. It's the Marcia Brady of social media – she does everything right.

LinkedIn counts over 200 million members in its network. Not bad for one that's only supposed to be for business. Did I mention it's stock price? Up, up, and away! Since it's IPO, the stock is up 90%. 

Then I came across "LinkedIn is a Virus" from Matt Haughey recently. Aside from the eye-catching title, Haughey made a good point about how LinkedIn works – or doesn't.

Haughey continues:

"It's unfortunate that LinkedIn works the way it does and that this happened, most people that responded to me with messages thought I was making a concerted gesture and trying to reconnect, and/or about to look for a job. I think of business contacts as a pretty serious thing, I don't hand out business cards readily unless I really want to be called up by someone, and yet, LinkedIn just pushed out connections to over a thousand people on my behalf without me knowing what it was really doing."

So, I decided to take a closer look at LinkedIn and here are some of the items I found where there could be some definite improvement.

1. Endorsements

In September of 2012, LinkedIn introduced Endorsements as a way to "give kudos with just one click." I don't think that anyone can disagree that Endorsements have been front and center, especially with the "one click" ability. In many trainings I've given on LinkedIn since the introduction of Endorsements, I've likened them to a "skill-specific recommendation." 

Recommendations require some effort to complete, so most people only write Recommendations when they have something to say. Endorsements, on the other hand, only require a single click (by design). I call this "Eliminating the need to think." In this case, LinkedIn dramatically devalued Endorsements when they eliminated the need to think.

When does the chase for the most connections become the chase for the most endorsements? Or has it already started?

“What does it say about LinkedIn Endorsements if it only takes a click to get one?”

Currently, LinkedIn splashes "Does (Blank) have these skills or expertise?" when you visit a person's profile. Where does it ask me do I want to endorse that person? It doesn't. Asking if someone has skills is completely different than asking if I would personally endorse that individual. Instead, LinkedIn should ask the question "Would you endorse (Blank) on these skills or expertise?"

LinkedIn would still accomplish their goal of "one-click kudos" AND increase the value of Endorsements by simply changing the wording of that splash graphic.

2. "You Scratch My Back…" Privacy Mentality

In almost every training I've given on LinkedIn, someone has asked a variation of the following question:

“Can my competition see my activity?”

Yes. Unless you change your privacy settings.

Now, let's give LinkedIn some credit on privacy settings. Want to change them? Go to Settings and Privacy is right there. Much easier to handle than Facebook or any other social network (save for Twitter, which is Public or Private).

But what happens when you change your privacy settings?

Say you don't want people to see that you've looked at their profile? Simple enough. Check the box. Oh wait, by checking that box you don't get to see who looks at your profile anymore. LinkedIn basically says that the only way to see who is looking at your profile is to allow them to see the same thing. 

Why does Privacy have to be a two-way street? 

Instead, if you want your information to be private, it should be private. However, someone else should not be penalized for you wanting to keep your information private. 

3. Narcisistic and Spam-filled LinkedIn Groups

It's a common belief that LinkedIn Groups suck.

Did I say that? Yes, I did. They suck for a couple of different reasons, but also for two different groups of people, the participants and the managers.

First, group participants.

You've joined the latest "HR Professionals of Financial Basket-Weavers" Group thinking you're going to have conversations that lead to a new level of HR nirvana, right? Instead what you get is random job postings, links to self-promotional spammy sites, and no conversation whatsoever.

The group emails suck, too. As a participant, you want to stay up-to-date on the group. I mean, you joined to be a part of the conversation and the emails help you be notified of new conversations? Right? What you end up with is an inbox full of emails that you never read, so then you end up ignoring all the emails you get from LinkedIn. 

Solution Number 1 is to join locked or private groups. They tend to have at least some semblance of control over the group, including the ability to kick out members who don't follow group rules.

Solution Number 2 is to find a group that encourages conversation and helping the other members. Once you start down that path, you might actually start to enjoy LinkedIn Groups!

The second group of people that LinkedIn Groups suck for is the owners and moderators of those Groups. It's practically a full-time job to moderate posts, comments, and make sure participants are following group rules. While I have yet to start or moderate a group on my own, I've heard nothing but horror stories of managing a LinkedIn Group. And while there's not really any solution for the time-suck of managing a Group, it's still a valuable place to gather like-minded individuals — which is an important aspect of digital marketing.

4. LinkedIn Premium

That privacy thing I mentioned earlier? Goes out the window if you pay for the Premium features of LinkedIn.

Even signing up for the lowest priced Premium plan, you can see who has viewed your profile, and also the full profiles of everyone in your network. At the highest level, privacy goes completely non-existant and you get the ability to see full names of anyone who you would want to contact.

Again, selling privacy but only in a different way is how LinkedIn sells the other part of their Premium plans.

If you sign up for the premium plans, you get InMail Messages. Also known as "Ability to ignore other people's privacy settings."

Now, I do have to admit, there are some useful features of the LinkedIn Premium plans, and that does include InMail Messages. On the sales side of the equation, they do help warm up a cold contact more than just a cold call or regular email. And the OpenLink feature allows other people to message you for free – something they would have to pay for otherwise.

5. Black Hat Web Design

The article that got this whole thing going was about how easy LinkedIn made it to "Connect" with 1100+ individuals. The day after I read that article, my boss mentioned the exact same behavior and how he almost connected with his whole address book. Just like the Endorsements, LinkedIn makes it very easy (or I could say, encourages) to connect and engage with others on the network — to a point, of course. LinkedIn gets you on the network through much the same manner those "Classmates.com" website work as well.

What human being doesn't like knowing that someone wants to connect with them? LinkedIn thrives on that emotion and designs the website to encourage the addictive behavior. And once they get you, well, they can only offer you so much for free.

Does LinkedIn do anything right?

Actually, yes! From providing a space extremely conducive to business to being the Rolodex of the 21st Century, LinkedIn is successful for doing its main job very well. I've nitpicked on a few things above, but that doesn't not mean that LinkedIn isn't right for you. It's the place for professionals to connect, especially for the B2B community. But that's for another post.

Do you agree with these shortfalls of LinkedIn? What have you wished was better about LinkedIn?

Big Boy Best Practices in Social Media

Thanks to the awesome team over at Brand Driven Digital, I came across an article from the New York Times on how some very large companies approach social media.

While not all businesses are naturally remarkable, they can all be interesting. It’s about the story you tell about your business. Focus on your secret sauce and your business will seem remarkable. “But if every brand is creating content, it’s content overload,” Mr. Eliason said. “Other sources may be more trusted. You need the right balance, which is getting others to talk for you.”

 A key point that I took home from reading the article was the challenge a lot of businesses face in not becoming a "me, too" brand.

“Focus on promoting what’s next,” said Frank Eliason, who runs global social media for Citigroup. “Lead the way as opposed to following.”

There's a lot of great information in the article. I encourage you all to take a couple minutes today to go read it!

7 Steps to a Better Social Media Strategy

In 2012, you made the jump and created a Facebook Page for your business. Maybe you're automatically posting updates to Twitter as well. But you haven't even thought about Foursquare yet, and don't even ask what Google+ is all about!

Now that it's 2013 and we've all had time to break that first resolution (no chocolate pie lasted, oh, a day.) How about a resolution you can actually keep and easy instructions to get you to 2014? Sounds good to me!

Here's your new resolution: A Better Social Media Strategy

And to sweeten the offer, you'll find you can have better content, more engagement, and a better social media strategy in only 7 easy steps.

Step 1. Establish a Goal

Fill in the blank: My goal for social media is ________.  Your goal could be

  • Increased Sales.
  • Better Brand Awareness.
  • More Likes.
  • Increased Foot Traffic.
  • Get More Email / Blog Subscribers

Whatever your goal for social media may be, that goal should be your focus. It's how you can measure your success, and to see what you can do better. Having a goal also helps you keep your attention on what matters and not getting distracted.

Step 2. Make a list of all the channels you are on.

What social networks are you working on? Does your list just have Facebook and Twitter? Or does it include Foursquare, Instagram, Vine, LinkedIn, Google+, and more? Are you managing the content across those channels? Are you seeing the results that you'd like to see?

One of the things I've found in my day job is that our different channels like to see different content. For instance, our Twitter audience likes tweets of industry news, conferences, or self-congratulatory messages. On Facebook, however, it's a more casual audience who likes to talk about karaoke, "Keep Calm and Carry On" posters, and the sometimes industry updates.

It's all about finding what resonates with your audience in each channel. And the best way to do that is to first make a list of what channels you're playing in.

Step 3. Create a content calendar.

Now that you have a list of all the channels in which you play, it's time to find out what you're posting and when. While I won't get into the automation / no automation conflict in this post (although that's a good topic for the future!), creating a content calendar sets the stage for knowing exactly what you're posting, and when.

Whether it's an actual calendar that you fill in the blanks, a spreadsheet, or a simple text document, the main purpose of a content calendar is to help you plan what you're going to say, when you're going to say it, and where you're going to post the message.

A co-worker of mine prints out a blank calendar and writes her posts on the printed out calendar. A member of a local meetup group previously used a spreadsheet listing all the messages that were to be posted. A former co-worker of mine used a whiteboard calendar. All of these means accomplish the same goal:

Knowing what message to post, when to post the message, and where to post.

Step 4. Ask questions!

One of the best tools available to you is one of the easiest: Asking questions.

What better way to fill in a content calendar than to ask what your audience wants to see? Build the engagement with your audience. They want to feel valued and feel like they're a valued part of your business. A great way to build that relationship with your audience is to see what they would find valuable. 

I see this all the time in LinkedIn Discussion Groups. Group managers will post what the group would like to discuss. I've used this for our local social media meetup group on Facebook, posing the question of "What are you looking to get out of this group?"

Asking questions is a two-way street that brings together your social media goals with the needs of your audience.

Step 5. Measure your progress with the right tools.

Any of the goals in Step 1 should be measurable, and there are a plethora of tools available to anyone working in social media to help measure those important metrics.

Now, if your goal was more Likes or Followers, that's the easiest way to measure impact of your social media. But it's not necessarily the best way to take the temperature of how your business is doing on social media.

Say your goal is to increase engagement on your Facebook posts. One way to measure that is through the administration panel of your Facebook page. Dig into Facebook Insights and the information provided. This can be how many people commented, liked the update, shared the updated or took other action.

On Twitter, I use tools such as SocialBro, Mention, and Hootsuite to measure my influence among my Twitter peers. It's a great way to get consistent feedback on the actions I take on Twitter.

Step 6. Say Cheese!

Study after study continue to show that using photos in your Facebook posts and Tweets is the best way to get more engagement and even views of your social media posts. So whip out that smartphone and bust out some pictures! 

But not just any pictures! 

Make sure the pictures provide a value to your audience. 

If it's a picture of an industry event, provide some context.

If it's a picture of one of your events, show people interacting, or your brand's icon/logo in the event space.

You own a restaraunt? Post a picture of your specials for the night. Make sure people can read the words, though!

The sky is the limit! And be sure to check out one of the many cool photo apps, too!

Step 7. Rinse and Repeat.

Yes, just like the shampoo bottles say, it's important to remember that there's no rest for the weary on social media. Take what you've learned through each of the steps, look at how your posts are received, and adjust your strategy. It's important to realize that certain posts will work better for your audience than others, and the only way to figure that out is to post consistently and measure your results.

So what are you waiting for?! 2013 called, and they say this is your year for a better social media strategy!

Why Instagram is a sign of the future (and that’s a bad thing.)

Like a lot of people, I've been thinking about Instagram a lot lately. If you haven't read Part 1 and Part 2 of my short introspective on Instagram, it will help provide context for the awesomeness that awaits below. I'll wait here.

Ok.

Now that you're back, you might remember that I said,

There are times in our lives where we must reflect on the situations before us. Sometimes those situations are simple. Sometimes they appear to be complex, but are truly simple. Other situations are truly complex, requiring much effort to overcome.

For most people, at the level of the individual user, "to use or not to use" Instagram is an easy choice to make. People will continue to use Instagram as long as,

  • It continues to be easy to use
  • It doesn't piss off too many people, and 
  • It provides a "good enough" product to a majority audience.

And it looks like most have chosen to stay with Instagram, as news points to Instagram not seeing a large drop in users because of any fallout from their Terms of Service situation.

So, where's the complex situation, you ask?

Good question.

The complexness comes from the long history of social media and its current confluence with the idea of profitability. Only in the last decade or so has there been a focus on a monetary reward for owning, creating, and growing a social network. Taking the long view of social media to include BBS, IRC, AIM, etc, the overall goal of those means of communication was to provide an electronic hangout for people on the Internet; the goal was not to make money.

The latest generation of social networks, starting with MySpace in 2003, looked to first build large communities. Once the sites gained enough popularity and (more importantly) hype, a focus on advertising and monetizing those communities came to the fore, as seen by the purchase of MySpace by News Corporation. 

Think back to 2006: That’s when they signed the $900 million, three-year advertising deal to turn Google into Myspace’s exclusive providers of text ads and search. It was a great cash prize for Murdoch’s purchase, but actually ended up being a weight around its neck. The deal’s targets required Myspace to crank up page views and increase already-heavy advertising space at precisely the same moment that Facebook was pushing forward with a clean and easily-understood design.

This cycle of community building followed by a push for monetization continued with Facebook much along the same path as MySpace. Facebook, like MySpace before, initially kept advertising off the site, only starting to include ads in 2007 some three years after the inception of Facebook. 

As Facebook grew larger from 100 million users in 2008 to over 900 million at the time of its IPO in May 2012, the push for monetization went through several spurts and fits. The more mobile-friendly audience of 2012 necessitated a push towards new mobile advertising and monetization, hence the purchase of Instagram, a pure mobile company with a large and growing audience.

MySpace = Facebook = Instagram?

I believe that Instagram will follow the path of the larger social networks, such as MySpace, Facebook, and even Twitter, to focus more on catering to the needs of shareholder profit and increasing revenue, all at the expense of user experience. (Now, what I certainly don't mean here is that the function and everyday use of those above social networks will be the same. What I mean is that their focus on advertising, monetization, and shareholder appeasement is and will be very similar.)

I hate (insert social network here) now, what can I do?

It's important to realize that as we've seen this cycle before, we will see it again. While certain alternatives to Instagram, such as Flickr, certainly have had their ups and downs as well, I believe it's important to keep the larger picture in mind when dealing with your individual and professional intellectual property. Do social networks like Instagram truly care for the individual? Only time will tell if Instagram cares more about increasing its value for Facebook's shareholders.

The Why and How of Replacing Instagram in my life

TIME Magazine Cover shot by Ben Lowy with Instagram.

There are times in our lives where we must reflect on the situations before us. Sometimes those situations are simple. Sometimes they appear to be complex, but are truly simple. Other situations are truly complex, requiring much effort to overcome.

I previously posted some of my thoughts on the Instagram situation of a few weeks past. The Instagram situation is simple and complex simultaneously.

Here is my take on the simple, more personal aspect of the situation.

As a photographer and user of social media, I love the idea and former implmentation of Instagram. Like Flickr before, Instagram is (or was, depending on your perspective) a wonderful home for great photography. It has also become the home of a few more meme-worthy styles of photography.

The reason why I am moving away from Instagram (not fully, yet) is that I feel Instagram is rushing into the arms of the advertisers it sees as the reason for their billion-dollar acquisition, much the same way Facebook moved before and after their IPO.

There was enough of a backlash against Instagram this time. But what about the next? As Facebook has shown the public and its users time and time again, Facebook cares for Facebook first, advertisers second, and users third. The same shareholder pressure placed upon Facebook will now be placed upon its acquisition darling, Instagram.

I will be testing out some other Instagram alternatives in the coming weeks, and will report back here with my findings. In the meantime, I'd love to hear your thoughts about why you are or why you are not leaving Instagram. Let us here in the comments below!

Don’t Rage Quit Instagram (or why you shouldn’t believe the hype)

A lot of noise was made about Instagram and the changes they made (and then unmade) to their Terms of Service. If you haven't paid attention to the whole situation, here's a brief rundown:

December 17: Instagram announces changes to Terms of Services.
December 18: Instagram co-founder, Kevin Systrom, posts a blog entry saying Instagram is “listening." 
December 20: New, updated Terms of Service announced by Instagram. Advertising section reverts back to October 2010 version.

While I'll admit that I was one of those who was looking for ways to not use Instagram in the future, I wasn't about to "rage quit" Instagram. Online services such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, have the right to change their TOS and other agreements as they see fit. It's up to Instagram to balance the needs of the business (i.e. make money) with keeping users happy. As much noise was made by many users across the Internet, this likely doesn't hurt Instagram in the long-term. 

Top Social Media Fails of 2012

Today's Infographic Wednesday comes to us from Search Engine Journal. I previously linked to a similar story from the Facebook page ("Like" it here!).

What these two stories confirm for all of us in social media, and just marketing in general, is that we need to really think through our campaign ideas. Think of each specific tool we're using (Twitter, Facebook, etc) and how our campaign fits into that ecosystem. We also have to remember, as some of these examples show us, that no matter how hard we think through, crap does hit the fan every now and then. Be prepared. Have a contingency plan.

Without further ado, here's your weekly infographic.