8 Facebook #FAILS We Can Do Without

June 5, 2012

Is Facebook doomed?

Facebook #FAIL fanfoundry icon

The bloom is off.  Aside from FB’s business results, such as their abysmal financials and their ads’ anemic, low-end response rates, there are some basic usability issues I have found.  Neither I, nor my post-teen children, nor the new teeners, can figure out why these issues persist and, frankly, we can do without them. Maybe some of these things can be fixed within the platform, but many of the issues are user/behavior based.

1. Zero Privacy – Bill Joy said it over 20 years ago: you have zero privacy, get over it. What happens in Vegas stays on YouTube.  If you don’t want people to know something, don’t say it, don’t video it, don’t post it, don’t comment.

2.  Snooping Parents – at any age, there are just certain things you don’t even tell the fam.

3. Peer Pressure – How many times lately have you clicked the Like button based on guilt, pity, sarcasm, or some promise of reward?  What, then, is the value of a “like”, once we’ve polluted the Likestream with insincerity?

4.  Tasteless junk – sometimes I just don’t want to know about others’ nasty habits. And not everyone has the same sense of humor.  Xenophobia runs rampant.  Look it up.

5.  Career suicide – Hiring and prescreening include Facebook reviews. ‘Nuf said.

6.  Filter failure – This is arguably an umbrella issue in that it touches upon some of the other #fails listed here.  And, yet, it is separate: You can’t selectively filter your friends’ feeds.  Not everything in your friend feeds is relevant or even interesting, and it can’t be filtered to show only what’s interesting to you.

7.  Plummeting cool factor – All of the above factors feed a sense of disillusionment. Or is it just me?

8.  Alternatives – Tumbler, Instagram and Twitter are just as capable of perfoming the essentials.  Tomorrow: who knows?

I’ve only listed 8.  I’m sure there are a couple more.   Chime in!

Other Resources

“Are Teenagers Beginning to Prefer Twitter Over Facebook?”  (Mashable)

“Guess What’s Hot with Teens?  Tumblr, Not Facebook” (Huffington Post)


QR Codes: Best. Practice. Ever.

January 12, 2012

QR Codes work well, except when they don’t –  but they can!  Following my New Year’s Resolution to stop doing dumb things (wish me luck), and coming on the heels of multiple successes in which QR codes have helped my clients win new customers, I offer herewith my take on the value of QR codes.

What’s Cool QR code fanfoundry icon

I love QR Codes and all 2-dimensional (“2D”) codes for two reasons.   First, they help to combine the best of the physical world with the best of the digital world.  Second, they make life easier by eliminating the need to memorize, type, or otherwise manually translate a URL in order to render content digitally.  The highest use of 2D codes is to bridge an excellent real world experience to an excellent online experience.

As of this writing, however, we are in a place where their use is not widespread, so be aware of situations in which your printed content and your online content probably should not substitute and, rather, might need to be a bit redundant.   Each version must still stand on its own, since many people just haven’t added the QR code app on their phones and are thus not yet acclimated.  As businesses continue to slowly adopt QR codes, the inflection point where more widespread adoption occurs will probably come when a large consumer market play embeds it into the way they do business.  Think: retail.

Marketers love QR codes because they make interaction with the physical world clickable and, therefore, measurable.  I get to do more of what I love, too: obsess about large CRM data sets, mining and combining it to detect the faint signals of user behavior that can help our clients personalize the customer experience and delight people.  Everybody wins!

What’s Broken – Why QR Codes Disappoint

According to Forrester Research, however, those who do click on QR codes – primarily young, affluent males – generally hate them.  This is mainly due to the bumbling mis-steps of marketers.

Firstly, QR codes are ugly – – although plenty of people have found ways to fix that (read on).

Secondly, many people are confused about how to scan them.  This is exacerbated by the walled gardens created by competing companies.  Microsoft (just one example) has/had its own unique 2D code technology, which require(d) its own unique reader app.  How lovely.

Third: the various free downloadable apps required to read QR codes don’t all function the same way, although that condition is improving.

Last and worst: user disappointment.  Simply being redirected to the same byzantine website available via large screen device is uninspiring, to say the least.  People typically avoid browsing websites on a small phone screen, so why use a QR code to force them?  Effective QR codes don’t link to ordinary websites.  Instead, they link to an instantly satisfying, sharable experience – on a par with music, photos and email, or content that is uniquely useful wherever the QR code is displayed.

Try thinking of a QR code as new type of “share this” or “dig deeper” button, a way to augment enjoyment of the real world, and a delightful sharable experience.  That thinking alone should keep you out of the weeds, but to be thorough, here is a list of best practices.

How to Fix It – Turn QR Codes into a Viral Experience

Here are some basic items to consider when contemplating use of 2D and QR codes.

1. Audience awareness.  Again, most people are not acclimated.  Do the obvious: include instructions to help new users engage.  Even savvy users need to be informed on what rewards to expect.  Include a caption below the QR code explaining where it leads.  For some examples, see the last page of this QR Code usage guide I created for a print / QR code campaign promoting an iPhone app.

2. Usage patterns.  If you plan to use QR codes multiple times for multiple campaigns, treat each as its own campaign – complete with strategy, goals, success measures, etc. Then, for each instance, caption each code with the URL, app instructions, Call to Action and reward info. Set the stage for fulfillment by setting user expectations before they scan your code. See the example linked in section 1 above.

3. Size and placement.  Your 2D code must be of sufficient size, placement and proximity to be easily scanned. This excludes TV (too fleeting), subway (no wireless signal means no way to access the online content) and Billboard (too distant; depending on which reader software you use, your own pulse may cause your handheld phone/camera to shake too much to reliably scan the code).  Ideal: printed material or flat surface, within arm’s reach, up close and personal.

4. Visual Appeal.   You can beautify a QR code, either through free experimentation, or for a price using a reputable designer.  It’s not just a nice touch, it’s also a branding opportunity, so we can expect this beautification trend to increase.  Whereas the lowly barcode has faded like a footnote into the borders of package labels, the comparatively prominent physical placement of a QR code could harm the beauty of your content or its location – a slippery slope, indeed.  Who wants a future where a physical, beautiful world is obscured by electromechanical codes?  Fine for robots, not for me.  Moral: beautifying and right-sizing your QR code makes it buzzworthy and increases sharing.

5. Mobile-optimized.  Create an experience that is based on portability, location, SMS, sharing, or instant fulfillment and feedback – anything but an ordinary website.  The destination content must be consumable on a mobile device and, preferably, enrich the user experience or advance the user toward fulfillment of an expectation or promise that motivated their interest.

6. Convenience.  Think: Is a 2D code the fastest, easiest and/or only way to access the content, share it, and/or fulfill some need?  If so, great; go for it.  If not, think about other ways to deliver content more effectively.  Again, an ordinary website is not a value-add experience and not a fulfilling one.  Please stop that.

7. Engagement.   Make it memorable.  Reward users, rather than disappoint them. Make your destination content instantly useful and satisfying.  Include share buttons so your audience can tweet, email, post and rave about the cool experience you provide.  Give users an experience that makes them feel connected, excited, curious, interested and productive.  Want viral?  Do that!

My take on QR codes: end of a fad!  They are here to stay.  QR codes and 2D codes can help you create a satisfying customer experience and, done well, convert sales.



Social Media ROI, a Case Study (Tech Event)

January 12, 2010

Many of the social media success stories kicking around the interwebs these days are indeed inspirational, yet I get frequent client comments along the lines of: “Oh, sure, Dell and Cisco can do it, but what about my small to mid-size enterprise?  What is realistically achievable? Our experimental budget is limited.”

The following true story may offer some insight as to how one small organization leveraged its existing relationships creatively.  I have withheld names by request, however if you contact me for specifics, I can share more.  It is told from the point of view of my experience with a start-up software company.  In this story, everybody wins, and social media makes it possible.  No, it’s not a multi-million dollar landslide victory, but it’s an important demonstration of how incremental change yields great results.
~

Today’s Featured Post:

Social Media ROI, a Case Study

Case study: Executive Summit event

The Players:  
1. Startup Software company
2. Online community
3. Executive Summit (event management organization)
4. Industry portals

Their needs:
1. Software company – customers, inbound prospects, PR
2. Online community  – affordable professional development
3. Executive Summit – speakers, tuition, attendee satisfaction
4. Industry portals – enrichment, community, reputation

PART 1 – THE CAMPAIGN

Software company purchases speaker/sponsor role at Executive Summit, and negotiates with summit management to discount* sponsor/speaker fee for every attendee the software company recruits.

*Note: discount arrangement was only possible because the Summit management company and the Software company had previously exchanged value by partnering on other successful events that similarly enriched their communities.

PART 2 – THE COMMUNITY

Software company announces Summit registration discount:
– via email to precisely targeted clients and prospects in its enriched database
– on industry portals, professional organization sites, and communities such as LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.

Announcement goes “somewhat” viral – LinkedIn, re-Tweeted, blogged.  Event website, SW firm site and community portals are linked back from those sources – expanding the community’s resources and increasing brand value for all involved web properties.
PART 3 – THE ROI

Discount code announcement combined with viral circulation results in increased event revenue sufficient to WIPE OUT entire speaker/sponsor fee (over ten thousand dollars) for Software company while significantly increasing the value of the event for all.

Community members’ recent referral activity, combined with additional Profiles of affiliations, interests, networks, corporate roles etc., leads to refined lead scoring and fast identification of previously unknown high potential prospects

THE RESULT

Everybody wins – as stated earlier:
1. Software company – customers, prospects, PR
2. Online community – affordable professional development
3. Executive Summit – speakers, tuition, attendee satisfaction
4. Industry portals – enrichment, community, reputation

~

Commentary:

This success story has no precise ending, because we have agreed to continue the partnership.  One thing seems reasonably certain at this juncture: there is no going back.  Heightened audience expectations must be nurtured to keep bringing the mutual benefits to this enriched community.   Once you have built a community, it requires care and feeding to thrive.

How have your community building efforts fared?  Do you have a story to share?  Love to hear your comments.

‘ Til soon,

~Ed

~

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Is the Customer Really in Charge?

December 3, 2009

The 2009 Razorfish Digital Brand Experience Report summarizing an August survey of 1,000 “connected consumers” opens with the conclusion: “Experience matters”.  

When consumers engage with brands online, that online experience influences their buying decisions – a whopping 90+% of the time.  Apparently actions speak louder than advertising, whose conversion rate is comparatively paltry by any standard.

Are Facebook, MySpace and Twitter becoming the Outlet Malls of Tomorrow?  The report highlights how consumers are turning first to the Internet – not surprising for those of us who did their homework online before hitting the Black Friday sales in November. 

Equally influential, the study points out, is that this demographic called the “connected consumer” has become the New Mainstream of consumerism, with only 18% of the surveyed population qualifying as “laggards”.

Commentary

Who’s in charge here? 

While providers of inbound marketing solutions urge marketers to adopt those data-driven marketing solutions under the premise that the buyer is in control, implying that that business must engage online or bust, this Razorfish study points out that marketers have a huge opportunity – nay, obligation – to influence the consumer experience online.  Sounds like a partnership to me. 

Who’s in charge of your customer experience?  How can you tell?  What would you change?  Love to hear your thoughts on this, readers.  Comment below.

~Ed


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