Posts tagged ‘trust’


No surprises as Facebook slips to third in Alexa, but tech press misses it

17.04.2016


Above: Facebook’s latest move: ensuring that notifications for messages go to its own app. If you choose not to install it, tough. (Actually, you can reach your messages if you had bookmarked your old message index, and through some digging you can still get there. However, your old habit of clicking on the number won’t work any more.)

I notice that Facebook has dropped to third in Alexa this week, but none of the tech press has covered it.
   I know the usual arguments: Alexa isn’t the best way of measuring audience stats; everyone (including us) has dropped because of the way Firefox has changed its status bar, thereby omitting a lot of users from its sample; Facebook itself will have recorded no real drop in user numbers (though we also know a lot of these so-called active users are bots and spammers, as we see heaps each day); and that Alexa doesn’t capture mobile data, where people are spending far more time these days.
   It does seem rather hypocritical, however, given that the same tech press applauded and wrote heaps of articles when Facebook overtook Google in Alexa. Some hailed it as the rise and rise of Facebook. There were tones of how unassailable it had become.
   However, its number-one position was remarkably fleeting and it quickly dropped back to second, where it has been for years, apart from that one blip.
   Facebook’s position has been usurped by Google’s YouTube. I make no predictions on whether this is fleeting or not, but it doesn’t look good for Facebook. I just don’t see any YouTube hate out there. If you dislike reading the comments from the world’s keyboard warriors sitting in their underwear at home, a few cookie settings will render them invisible. YouTube becomes a remarkably tolerable site.
   Earlier this month, a report found by my friend William Shepherd showed that personal sharing on Facebook had dipped by 21 per cent.
   I have said for years that ‘Facebook is the new Digg,’ a place where news is shared, not personal updates, though it appears it has taken a while for the company to realize this. Looking at some of the bugs on the site over the years, I’m not surprised Facebook missed it: for months it acted as though its entire user base was in California, with the website stuck at the end of each month till it got to the 1st in its home state. Now it is kicking users off over fake malware accusations when it’s more likely, and this is my guess based on how the site has behaved over the years, that its databases are dying. Liking, sharing and commenting fail from time to time.
   Given this, and its many other problems—including the breach of policies outlined by some of the groups it participates in, impacting on user privacy—no wonder it’s experiencing this drop.
   I see personal updates again that I saw a day before, because relatively few of my 2,300 friends write them any more. The trend has shifted, and a lot of users must have noticed what I did many years ago.
   At Medinge Group we have long advocated transparency in brands, and Facebook’s actions run counter to a lot of what we have proposed.
   We believe that sooner or later, people wise up—something we said about Enron at one of the first meetings I attended in 2002.
   In fact, the way Facebook behaves tends to be combative, and for a 21st-century firm, its attitudes toward its user base is very 20th-century, a “them and us” model. It’s not alone in this: I’ve levelled similar accusations against Google and I stand by them. Since my own battle with them over malware, and a more recent one over intellectual property (where I was talking to a Facebook employee who eventually gave up when things got into the “too hard” basket), I’ve found dozens of other users via Twitter who have been kicked off the service, yet are running clean, malware-free machines. The blog post I wrote on the subject has been the most-read of the pieces I have authored in 2016, and certainly the most commented, as others face the same issue.
   While both giants will claim that they could not possibly have the sort of one-to-one relationship with their user bases in the same way as a small business can, it’s clear to me that big issues aren’t being flagged and dealt with at Facebook. When I read the link Bill sent me, my first reaction was, ‘Why did it take so long for someone there to realize this?’
   Let’s not even get started on the way both companies treat paying their fair share of tax.
   It’s not about the number of people experiencing any given issue, it’s about the severity of the issue that a small number of people experience. By the time a larger vocal minority experiences it, the damage has gone a lot further.
   Facebook does listen to some of these cases: I remember when it limited bot reports to 40–50 a day, at a time when it was not uncommon to find hundreds a day on the site. I complained, and after a few months, Facebook did indeed remove this limit.
   But I regard that as an exception.
   Its forced downloads of so-called malware scans that even its supplier refuses to answer for (could they have nefarious purposes?), and now the latest last week—ensuring that all message notifications in a mobile browser link to its Messenger app, resulting in a 404 for anyone who does not have it installed—are rendering the website less and less useful. In my case, I just use it less. We’re not going to download privacy-invading apps on our phone—we’re busy enough. We want to manage our time and if that means we only get to Facebook messages when we are at our desks, then so be it. Some might abandon it altogether.
   Its other move is ceasing the forwarding from www.facebook.com to m.facebook.com on mobile devices, so if you had the former bookmarked, you’re not going to see anything any more. Some browsers (like Dolphin) came with the former bookmarked. Result: a few more legit users, who might not know the difference, gone.
   If there’s no trust, then regardless of the money you have, you’re not a top brand, nor one that people really wish to associate with.
   Facebook, of course, knows some of this, which is why it has bought so many other firms where there’s still personal sharing, such as Instagram and Whatsapp.
   It knows if there’s another site that comes along that gets public support, as it did when it first started, people will abandon Facebook en masse.
   Curiously, even this past week alone, it seems intent to hurry them along. There must be some sort of corporate goal to see if it can reach fourth, just like Flight of the Conchords.

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Google and Facebook should not head “top brands” lists when consumers do not trust them

10.02.2016

I’ve always been surprised when I see Google or Facebook appear on any “top brands” lists. It’s branding 101 that a strong brand must have loyalty, awareness, positive associations, perceived quality, as well as proprietary assets, based on the model from David Aaker, and implicit in this, I always thought, was trust. You can neither be loyal to something you don’t trust, nor can you have positive brand associations toward it, nor perceive an untrustworthy thing to possess quality. According to a survey from a consultancy, Prophet, which looked at over 400 brands across 27 industries, polling nearly 10,000 customers, we don’t trust either Google or Facebook. Neither makes it into the top 50; those that make it into the top 10 are Apple, Samsung, Microsoft, Netflix, Nike, Chick-fil-A, Amazon, Spotify, Lego, and Sephora. Google slots in at 55th, and Facebook at 98th.
   To me, the Prophet approach makes far more sense, as for years—long before Edward Snowden revealed the extent of us surveillance under PRISM—I had been blogging about privacy gaffes and other serious issues behind both companies.
   People may find Google and Facebook to have utility and enjoyment, yet we willingly volunteer plenty of private information to these sites. We do not trust what they do with this information. Adweek notes that in a separate survey, Facebook was the least trusted brand when it came to personal information, making it worse than the US federal government. There have been so many occasions where users have found certain privacy settings on Facebook altered without their own intervention; and I’ve constantly maintained that, with the bots and spammers I encounter daily on the social network, its claims of user numbers are difficult to accept. In fact, if you have Facebook’s advertising preferences set to reject tracking, the site will not stop doing so, compiling a massive and sometimes inaccurate picture of who you are. What it does with that, given that you have told the site that it should not use that information, is anyone’s guess. It makes you wonder why that data collection continues. At least Google (now) stops tracking advertising pref­erences when you ask it to.
   These surveys indicate that consumers are wising up, and it opens both Google and Face­book up to challenge.
   Google dethroned the biggest website and search engine in the world when it was released, so no one’s position is guaranteed. Duck Duck Go, a search engine far better at privacy, has chipped away at Google’s share; and I find so much Facebook fatigue out there that it could follow Myspace into irrelevance. When I hear those speak of these two companies’ positions as being unassailable, I take it with a grain of salt.
   We already have seen peak Facebook (and Twitter, for that matter), for when it came to Super Bowl stats this year, there was a massive 25 per cent drop in activity. Interestingly, despite the trending #RIPTwitter hashtag last week, I don’t agree with those who think Twitter is heading into oblivion, for the simple fact that the site is less invasive and seemingly more honest than Google and Facebook. Those same experts, after all, said that Google Plus would be the Facebook-killer, while I consistently disagreed from day one.
   The Medinge Group predicted correctly in the early 2000s when it was stated that consumers would desire greater integrity and transparency from all their brands, something reflected in our book, Beyond Branding. I don’t believe that we are so different when it comes to dealing with online brands.
   This is, then, a welcome challenge for all businesses, to ensure that they demonstrate transparency to their audiences. We have remained very constant in our treatment of private information: for the most part, unless you’ve agreed to it, we don’t store it at our company. There is some information that goes to our advertising networks through cookies. We admit we could have a clearer privacy policy. But for us, we don’t want to lose your trust, because in bad times, it’s the one thing we can hang on to. It’s not something Google or Facebook seem to be aware of as they tend to ignore users’ demands and queries.
   In the last 24 hours, author Holly Jahangiri found an illustration depicting child pornography on Facebook that had been reported by many of her friends—only for Facebook to deem it constantly acceptable, despite what it states in its own terms and conditions. It was only when she Tweeted about it that Facebook finally responded publicly; and only when she involved a US government agency did the page disappear. The pressure of accountability like that against dishonest companies tells me Twitter will be around for a while yet.

   The trend this year, I believe, is the ongoing rise of challengers to these two brands. When the tipping-point against them occurs, I do not yet know. But now, I sense that it’s closer than ever.

This blog post is an adaptation of the editorial in issue 35 of Lucire.

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Posted in branding, business, internet, marketing, technology, USA | 5 Comments »


Putting a full site feed on a Facebook fan page is not a good idea

29.11.2010

Even though more young women are spending time on Facebook at the exclusion of other sites, last night I decided to stop connecting the Lucire RSS feed in to its Facebook fan page.
   We began the fan page very late, having relied on using a Facebook group. And even then, these were promoted half-heartedly.
   Despite the small numbers on the fan page, the links on Facebook were getting several hundred views each. Non-members were popping by to have a gander as well as those following us.
   That meant we were doing our supporters out of potential hits. And guess who gains? Facebook advertisers.
   Of course, this is only sensible business practice as far as Facebook is concerned. But we decided that we would rather put up links manually and invite readers to come over to our site instead.
   This is not just about making sure our advertisers got a bit more exposure from a few hundred folks.
   For Facebook page members, it means getting the news early. Facebook sometimes took up to two days to import a news item from our feed.
   It also allows viewers to see a post as intended—Facebook’s imported items stripped out the videos.
   In fact, many years ago, we pasted everything in manually and it didn’t do any harm to the growth of Lucire‘s presence on Facebook.
   I don’t know how this will work. Will we get a few more hits as a result, or will Facebook users prefer not to exit the environment of Mr Zuckerberg’s site?
   I believe users will click through, because the Lucire brand can be trusted. They wouldn’t be our fans if they didn’t have some trust in us.
   Feedback is, of course, welcome.

Of course we can see the lack of logic behind putting up posts inside Facebook. It’s a tactic we’ve recommended to clients, because they did not have a strong web presence and Facebook provides the best way in which they can engage with their audiences. But for a publication’s website, it can be a lousy idea.
   New features can hit you one by one, and you go along with their introduction, sometimes out of enthusiasm. Really, we should have kept our brains switched on, and remember the adage I often repeat: technology is here to serve us, not the other way round. Putting our feed into Facebook was an example of serving the technology: the feature was available and we opted to use it, without any strategic purpose.

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The “next Google” has to save the web

09.11.2010

Spotted on Tumblr yesterday, via Dave Sparks: ‘Why Facebook Browsing Annihilates Web Browsing’, on the Fast Company blogs. The intro pretty much summarizes the whole piece:

Recent research suggests that Facebook is overtaking search engines in terms of “time spent” on the web. Want to see where the trendline is heading? Take a look at young female Facebook users, who spend as much as 5 hours on the site per day—and almost no time on the wider web. You’d better get your brand’s Facebook page in order.

   As Lucire is largely made up of female users, the above is borne out on some days, where we receive a handful more referrers from Facebook than from Google.
   The other component to this may be Google itself. Now, this isn’t a dig (as I am wont to do this year). But here at work, we’re noticing that in order to find something, we might employ two search engines and not rely just on Google.
   As I pointed out, there are things that Google just cannot find, even when freshly linked from, say, this blog.
   It all seemed to start from the days of the supplemental index, where Google hid some pages that it had crawled from the main index. This seems fair enough: the majority of searches must be connected with the Zeitgeist (a word Google itself uses when describing a month’s search-term trends), and would be about a current event. Older pages, which contain historical information, only serve to get in the way.
   But what of the researchers? I’ve posited once before that the web is, at its core, a research medium, and (the old) Google contributed to some degree to that notion. If you’re hunting for something, especially if you’re a student, the web is your first port of call. However, if certain pages are now hidden from view, then a search engine might not be your best bet any more. You might Tweet your request, use your social network to see if a peer or a “friend” has the answer, or, Heaven forbid, you might go offline to find a credible source.
   Mark Kirby, who wrote the Fast Company entry, notes:

What’s most important about this behavior, from a brand marketing perspective at least, is that when many of these women needed to look something up—information on a venue, or a band, or a consumer brand—they were more likely to look first for information on the site where they were already spending all their time: Facebook.

   The idea that young women are spending time on Facebook, and spending less time on any other site on the web, isn’t that big a surprise. Many of us have set up presences there: the latest, when I clicked through on Lucire ads today, was L’Oréal USA. It is a site that some trust, despite its callous attitude to privacy and the law. (Again, this was a prediction I made, not referring to Facebook, some years ago: that people would start flocking to trusted brands on the internet again. It just so happens some people trust Facebook’s brand, even if I don’t.)
   We’re also creatures who like our busy lives to be as crap-free as possible. Remember email? Once upon a time, there was no spam. Everyone who we were connected to via email, we wanted to be connected with. Often, these were people with that same, idealistic outlook we ourselves had. People with like minds. Not always friends, but certainly people with some connection to us. They might be what we term a ‘friend’ today, in Facebook or MySpace parlance.
   Cities that have experienced decay might be another parallel: remember how there was less crime? Remember when you could walk down Street X more safely, before the crims took over that neighbourhood? (I hear variants of this frequently from my British and South African friends now.)
   And now look at the web. Fake, automated blogs (such as those promoted in the image at left) are set up just to trick people into visiting so their owners can make a few bob from Google Adsense. (Don’t believe me? Head into Google Blog Search and have a poke around: the phonies are taking over the index. This was the sort of disease that plagued Vox before Six Apart shut it down.) No wonder publishers are doing Ipad apps and the like, where they can be assured of some quality control, and no wonder we are spending time on Facebook, hopefully to lead spam-free lives. And no wonder Technorati, which once was a powerhouse when it came to cataloguing blogs, is so very 2000s now.
   As with so many things, Google’s web search probably needs to return to its roots. PageRank is useful, but then, so is a good old-fashioned analysis about how honestly a site has done its meta tags and provided its content. Or perhaps the boffins at Mountain View can develop a method, beyond PageRank, to determine a site’s legitimacy. (I’m sure they’re already working on it; they’re doing their bit to get rid of splogs, even if many legit ones get caught up in that. Ironically, fewer splogs would probably exist if Google did not have its Adsense programme, which provides advertising income to low-traffic publishers.) It’s still a bit better than my current search engine favourite, Duck Duck Go, when it comes to interpreting the terms that are fed in (it groups them better, though it still makes mistakes), but the web, as we knew it, may be heading the same way as email. It’s there, but it’s just not the best hang-out in town.
   That might be the task of “the next Google”—the new venture that’s going to come in and define the 2010s just as Google defined the 2000s. The one engine that’s more capable of weeding out the splogs, able to spot the human-authored spaces. The new site that will save us from ourselves and the crap that now goes on to the internet. The need seems to be there.

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Posted in branding, business, culture, internet, media, publishing, technology, USA | 2 Comments »


What might happen to the pre-2010 posts on this blog

19.02.2010

Google will cease to support FTP publishing on Blogger on May 1, extending the previous deadline of March 26 by a few weeks. As this blog’s posts between 2006 and 2009 were done on Blogger, it means that you will not be able to comment on them after a certain date.
   It probably doesn’t matter, anyway: I have noticed that very few comments come to posts older than three months. Readers will confront dead ‘Post a comment’ links.
   The reason? With the end of FTP publishing, Google says it will migrate the 0·5 per cent who took the trouble of hosting our own material on to its servers. Given that I don’t trust Google with my private information, and with the support on its forums about as delightful as Darth Vader’s breath, I am choosing not to allow the company to migrate this blog’s 2006–9 data on to its machines. Rackspace over Google any day.
   So before the May 1 deadline—possibly even this month—I will take this blog off the Blogger Dashboard, whereupon commenting on pre-2010 posts will become impossible. That way you won’t need to put up with me moaning about how Google took this blog’s data wrongly.
   I am enquiring now (since the FAQ does not address this issue) on how best to remove the blogs from the transition, while ensuring the old data remain where they are. Ironically, I have put this question on the Google support forums (let’s hope for better service this time—they were never able to answer my Beyond Branding query about our missing home page, and the Social Media Consortium matter you all know about), and on the Blogger Buzz blog, which Rick Klau writes on.

PS.: As expected, no joy from the forums (anything that’s out of the ordinary seems to be ignored), while Rick Klau responded within a day (this man is a saint). He wrote: ‘You don’t need to delete anything, but if you do your remote files will not be affected in any way. The archival blog(s) will continue to be viewable by the world.’ Thank you, Rick.—JY

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