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Comments Off on Facebook Replaces Profiles with Timelines; Implications for Small Businesses

Facebook Replaces Profiles with Timelines; Implications for Small Businesses

Excerpted from an article by Paul Chaney

Rationale for ‘Timelines’

Facebook says its motivation for the change is to provide users with a storyline of their life’s most significant moments — graduations, marriages, birth of children, a new job and other events worth celebrating. It represents a shift from a focus on transient, real-time events to a longer-term outlook, one that considers the growth and maturation of its original user-base: college students.

“Over time, your profile evolved to better reflect how you actually communicate with your friends. Now you can share photos of what you did last weekend, and updates about how you feel today. But since the focus is on the most recent things you posted, more important stuff slips off the page. The photos of your graduation get replaced by updates about what you had for breakfast,” wrote Facebook product manager Samuel Lessin, on The Facebook Blog.

Timelines for Fan Pages

Though Timelines are currently available only for individuals, Facebook’s development path has long been to take changes to Profiles and incorporate them into business Pages — “Fan pages” — as well. There is already speculation that Timeline will do this, too.

Mashable, the tech blog, cited an unnamed Facebook source in a September 27 post, who said, “Consistency in both functionality and appearance is really important to Facebook, so we hope to make Pages more consistent with the new Timeline in the future.”

Concerns Over Timeline

The shift to Timeline has been criticized by Facebook users — see the post in All Techie News — primarily over privacy concerns. Detractors allege that Facebook, to appeal to advertisers, is simply seeking to capture more user data.

From the standpoint of usability, thanks to its two-column layout, Timelines takes getting used to. Items appear more random than in the previous version and not just a little hodgepodge. Still, with the ability to feature items so they cross both columns, merchants could keep key content more centrally focused and reduce confusion.

The other concern is that, in an effort to take advantage of the new layout, merchants may immediately opt to use Profiles instead of Pages, which violates Facebook’s terms of use.

Companies that currently now use Profiles may find the visual attractiveness provided by Timelines too much of a temptation and refrain from switching to Pages altogether, even though Facebook provides a mechanism by which to do so.

Read the full article…

Social Media is B.S.* for Many Local Businesses

*B.S = Bad Strategy

In the past month, I’ve attended three webinars, read 14 articles, and attended an early morning in-person seminar all on the subject of Social Media as a business tool.

After all this, in all my experience, I’m afraid that the Social Media Emperor has no clothes!  That’s because I’ve seen no reason to believe that it will actually be worth the effort that it takes to do this stuff properly.

You would expect me to be an evangelist of this work. I’ve not only worked in this field since 1992, I’ve built several social networks (with my team).  But no, I’m not an evangelist, I’m a skeptic.   Having seen the bubble of Internet vapor burst in early 2001, I feel strongly this may be happening again, only this time, the losers could be struggling small businesses who invest their time and energy unwisely.

What a small business needs from its efforts, be they online or off, is ROI. If you have 12 hours in a day to run your business, you probably do not have time to setup Facebook fan pages, write blog articles, tweet on Twitter, and still sell. manufacture, ship, and keep the books as most small businesses do.  So before you tell me to go Yelp, or contribute to the public works Wiki, or check my comments and trackbacks, you’d better be prepared to tell me what it will be worth to me in additional sales and more importantly: profit!

Putting My Money Where My Blog Is

Frankly, I’d love to be shown a true ROI analysis which demonstrates in a meaningful way what benefits blogging, Facebooking, Tweeting, or Yelping have brought to you or a client that you work for.  I am seriously interested enough in this information, that I am willing to put an open offer out here for a cash and services package worth at least $500.  If you can show me a real analysis of ROI (time + expenses) for using these tools versus how it has directly impacted your revenue, I’ll give you:

  • A year of “green” web hosting (worth about $150)
  • Web site Search Engine Optimization (worth about $250)
  • $100 in cash

This offer is good through the end of 2009, open to anyone with serious intent to help me learn something about these tools. I remain the sole arbiter of whether you’ve succeeded, but it will be worth it to me to be shown the light, if there is any.

In the meantime, while the jury’s out, I’m helping my clients to cover these many Social Media bases with the least possible amount of time and effort expended. I do it with a process that allows them to simply send a text email to a specific address and then this system will:

  1. Post the message to your web site’s blog
  2. Post it to all of your social media presences (facebook, linked-in, GOTML, etc)
  3. Post the subject line as a tweet on Twitter (linking back to your site)
  4. Send a beautifully formatted graphic html email to your prospect list
  5. Offer you response data to measure interest in the message
  6. Give you a foot rub and a pat on the head (just kidding)

If you are interested in having me wrangle the media for you as noted above, or if you want to submit an ROI analysis, please email me: bg@bgamedia.com.  And I promise to publicly recant my skepticism when I’m properly educated.