Social Media

You will never get my Facebook password. Never.

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A lot has been going around lately about employers asking job candidates for their Facebook passwords. Apparently they’d really like to be able to nose around a little, see what you’re into, who you’re friends with and such like that. I’ve never met anyone who has had this happen to them, but it doesn’t surprise me to hear that it is happening.

Employers have strange ideas about where their place is in relation to their employees. We’ve seen many cases where employers have attempted to gain access to employees’ LinkedIn profiles, their personal email accounts and more — all under the guise of protecting their business. And in nearly every case that’s been brought to court, judges have sided with employees.

See, there’s a fundamental expectation of privacy one has when using their own email, Twitter, Facebook…whatever. Yes, everything I do on any social network can be made private to the whole world. But that doesn’t mean it has to be. I choose who to share with, and when to share it.

To be honest, I have nothing on Facebook I’d be embarrassed of — and that isn’t the point. I don’t trust Facebook itself, and so I choose to refrain from sharing too much of a personal nature there. I don’t allow others to post on my wall, don’t overshare, and use it primarily for keeping track of old schoolmates. Even so, would I allow an employer to peek into it, even once?

Not a chance.

We don’t bring our personal mail in for our bosses’ perusal, do we? We don’t deliver our cellphone bills to them to look over who we’re calling. And we don’t give them audio recordings of our dinner tables at night. There’s a reason for that: It’s none of their business.

Sure, an employer may be worried about what types of things their employees post on Facebook, and if your job candidate is found to have blasted their ex-job repeatedly and publicly, it could give you pause. But courts have ruled several times that Facebook postings are protected under free-speech provisions — even if they are negative statements about the workplace.

The bottom line: If anyone asks for your password, the answer is no. Always.

Sorry, but I need more important friends (or, how I learned to stop worrying about my Klout score)

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Sorry, Twitter friends, but I need to network with more important people. It’s not that I don’t like you. Really. You’ve all been so fun and informative. Unfortunately, your Klout scores are dragging me down.

Apparently, the new algorithm changes on Klout take into account not only what I do in my social networks, but what you do as well. And, frankly, you guys just aren’t keeping up. So instead, I’ve decided to follow Justin Beiber and Oprah. The plan is to tweet smarmy things to them all day, until one of them finally retweets me.

Just kidding.

Over the past month, though, I’ve been monitoring my Klout score and how it relates to certain of my behaviors. My verdict? Klout continues to be mind-bogglingly bad. And if you’re still paying attention to your score, you need a life.

Twitter was ablaze yesterday with complaints about the new algorithm. Seems folks were unhappy that their scores dropped — in some cases significantly — after the change. Mine dropped 10 points. Why? Well, from what I can tell, several of my friends “lost influence.” In addition, several people are no longer included in my “immediate influence network.” Okay…

Let’s get to what’s messed up about this:

Among those no longer in my immediate influence network? My brother, a coworker who sits five steps away from me and a client. I dare say I have at least some influence with those folks. At the very least I can influence my coworker with a spitball to the head, or my brother by passing the rolls over dinner.

Among topics I’m influential about? Media, Quinoa, Bacon, Social Media, Puppies, Los Angeles Lakers. Admittedly, I talk often about media and social media. Quinoa makes the list because I once asked a Twitter acquaintance what it was. We had some back and forth. Then I received a few +Ks as a joke. The Lakers? They were a topic of discussion one night with a friend. Frankly, I don’t find myself “influential” in any of these topics. Or any topic. Then again, influence is not my goal on Twitter.

And that brings me to the point of all this:
If you use Twitter to exert or gain influence, please leave.

I can already hear the community managers and workplace social media experts now: “But Dan, that’s what we do for a living. How are we supposed to *insert random goal* for our brand lol?”

I understand where you’re coming from. You’re just wrong.

Using social media to gain influence (or, better yet, get a number that supposedly correlates to influence) is like boiling water in a toaster. Besides the fact that you’re using the wrong tool for the job, it’s dangerous.

Social media’s intent (outside of making money for the services themselves) is to attract folks who want to connect with other folks. And of course businesses want to be where the people are, so social media experts were invented to get money from businesses and teach them how to ruin social media services in order to influence customers. Or potential customers. Or something. Jury’s out on that still.

Those social media experts have to prove their expertise somehow. And proving that to businesspeople who are used to relying on numbers can be difficult. Used to be that you could brag about the number of Twitter followers you had. But as I showed in this post, those numbers are meaningless, even for Twitter rock stars like Chris Brogan. When Klout came along, it offered the promise of a grading system to prove, definitively, who is the biggest deebag on Twitter. I mean, who is the most powerful Twitterer of them all. (In case you were wondering, it’s Justin Bieber, who has a perfect score of 100).

The problem with Klout is that it isn’t really clear what it’s measuring or why it considers those metrics important. Worse than that, it’s wrong. I know nothing about quinoa, and yet I’m the second-most influential person in the Klout-o-sphere on the topic. I’m not even kidding.

Chris Brogan has a Klout score higher than that of either Pepsi or Microsoft. Does that make sense?

After a month of paying attention, I’m ready to walk away from Klout, other than perhaps to throw down some +K for funsies every once in awhile. Because the experiment taught me something really important: I’m not on Twitter to be important and I’m not important because I’m on Twitter. I’m just there. And I don’t need a number to validate the importance of my friends, either. Despite what Klout says, their worth to me is beyond measure.

How to ruin your business by not knowing when to shut up.

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You know who Ken Evoy is, right? Of course you don’t. I didn’t either.

Basically, Ken is the online equivalent of one of those “make money from home” guys you see on TV — the infomercial guys with offers that sound too good to be true. He offers a service called Site Build It, which promises a simple solution to help folks with great ideas build and monetize websites in a snap. Sounds great, right?

Well, Ken’s been on a rampage for a couple years now, complaining about Google and the existence of “the Googlebomb” — a threat so heinous that it threatens us all. In a nutshell, a Googlebomb is the use of nefarious tactics to get a page ranked high in Google search results for a particular term. Ken claims he was a victim of a Googlebomb (in fact, he likely was). The short story is that a blogger named Lis Sowerbutts wrote a scathing review of SBI!, calling it a scam. Then a few folks helped jack her post up in Google rankings by using backlinks. To this day, Sowerbutts’ post ranks no. 1 in Google for “site build it scam.”

Evoy has made it a personal quest to eliminate Googlebombs. Or maybe just his. Or maybe just to get Google to admit they still exist. Frankly, I’m not sure. What I am sure about is that he is all over the Internet, posting long-winded comments on every blog without a word limit in the comments section.

I first heard of SBI! when a client of mine read about it and asked my opinion. Like any decent consultant, I cased the service for him. My impression? Meh. To Ken’s credit, the site doesn’t promise overnight success. In some respects, it follows the mantra I’ve repeated for years: Work hard. In order to make money on a website through SBI!, you still have to pay for hosting, still have to create content, still need to advertise. It’s not a magic bullet, by any means. My recommendation to my client was the service may be worth a try, but I didn’t see it offering anything more than he could get cheaper and better by using a WordPress install.

What troubled me, however, were Ken’s rants, which I started seeing all over the Internet. And the more I saw, the less I trusted him. The more I read, the less I believed he was doing right by his clients. In fact, Ken’s own success isn’t based on his own system — it’s based on selling his system. And sure, Ken has lots of testimonials from clients on his website and around the Internet, but many of those are affiliates — folks who make money selling his system to others.

Recently a friend of mine wrote his own blog post about the Googlebomb, citing Ken’s problems. Ken, of course, couldn’t resist commenting. Frankly, I couldn’t either. And I let my own opinion fly:

You know what would be awesome? If Mr. Evoy spent more time running his business and less time running around the web, commenting (at length) about this issue. Do Googlebombs exist? Sure. Fine. You’ve proved it. The best thing you can do now is to concentrate on getting positive reviews of your business online. Make your customers happy. If there are 100 positive reviews for every bad one, well, you’re doing just fine.

Interestingly, what Ken has managed to do is draw more and more attention to Ms. Sowerbutts’s post. The more attention he draws there, the more Google believes it’s a legit post.

To be honest, it sounds like Ken doesn’t like the content of the post, and doesn’t want people to read it. Whatever the case, he’s made himself look maniacal with the number and length of comments he’s made regarding the topic — not someone I’d want to give my money to.

Admittedly, my comment was not good-natured. What followed was a mind-boggling exchange with Mr. Evoy in which he attacked my work, ridiculed the Alexa ranking of sites I’ve built, and insinuated my clients would be better off with his service than mine.

Well, I’ve seen Ken’s top performers, and of this I’m sure: Ken’s clients don’t make near as much as mine do. And they do it without gaudy web traffic. And you know who gets richest off Ken’s service? Ken. That’s what he’s selling.

How do my clients perform so well? They aren’t Internet marketers. They’re brick-and-mortar businesses. They aren’t making money off AdWords. They’re making money selling real goods and real services to real humans — humans they’ve met. My clients include a national cable installer, one of the nation’s top gift-basket companies, a company that sells network security solutions, the nation’s premier rifle barrel manufacturer. I’m building sites for municipalities, nonprofit organizations and small, local community shops. And I’m worried about Alexa rankings? Why?

I’ll tell you why I’m not. I’m not because a small-town health club owner doesn’t need fake traffic from Russia. She needs REAL traffic from the town she’s in. And that’s what I provide. A cable installer wouldn’t benefit in the least from thousands of visits per day — he needs one visit from a $25 million client. And that visit comes from a phone call — not a Google search. When that client hits the site, he’d better be grabbed by what he sees. It must be visually appealing, easy to read, and not be obviously created to pander to search engines. It had better be written FOR that visitor.

Ken and his ilk are so tied up worried about pagerank that they’ve forgotten business fundamentals: Find your niche. Treat your customers right. Provide exemplary service. That’s what I do for my clients. I work tirelessly to give them great service, websites they can be proud to show off, advice that’s based on real-world experience. Because of that, my clients’ websites have been very successful.

I have no doubt, however, that Ken is more successful than I am. Not only does SBI! seem to be bringing in clients, but Ken has made a big show of informing me that he needn’t run his business anymore; he has a “senior management team” that does it for him.

I put a call in to SBI! and I found out some interesting information. According to the gentleman I talked to, the company has 40,000 clients. Some 20,000 of them, he told me, are affiliates. He also told me the software used to create websites has been updated four times in the last eight years (for the sake of comparison, WordPress has been updated that many times this year alone). The man I talked to, who identified himself as working in the sales department, wouldn’t tell me how many employees the company has. But let’s do some math.

If 40,000 people are using SBI! for at least $300 apiece, that’s $12 million. How much are those site owners making? The salesman wouldn’t say.

Here’s the bottom line: I don’t care about Ken Evoy or SBI! But there’s a bigger point: When you’re in business, run your business. If you want to be the public face of your business, as Ken is, act like someone people want to do business with. And you’d better damned well know what you’re talking about before you open your mouth. In Ken’s case, opening his mouth only showed his ignorance and the weakness of his own product.

Social media experts really don’t understand social media.

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There. I said it.

I follow way too many social media experts on Twitter. Too many folks who want to teach your company how to be successful in social media. They promise you heaps of good fortune with your Facebook page and they’re super excited to do your tweeting for you as well. There’s a whole industry now built around these folks, and regardless what they call themselves, they really have no idea what they’re doing. If they did, they wouldn’t be doing it.

Social media platforms weren’t really designed for business; they were designed so folks like you and me could connect with each other, share little things and basically keep in touch — in a superficial, but somehow meaningful, way. As these sites attract users, they also attract businesses — especially those who want the Internet equivalent of a storefront on Main Street.

Problem is, the goals of a business and the goals of an individual in social media are severely different. I choose to use Twitter to connect with folks, whether I know them in real life or not. Facebook is the place where I maintain a loose connection with old classmates. LinkedIn is for keeping in touch with colleagues. Businesses, on the other hand, use social media for two reasons. Those who do it closest to correct use social media to respond to customer complaints, join conversations about the brand, monitor chatter about themselves. But the majority are there to sell.

I can already hear you: “OMG, Dan. What’s wrong with that lol?”

The problem is companies and organizations overestimate their customers’ desire to engage with them. Sure, I love Pepsi and my BlackBerry. I follow both on Twitter. But I don’t engage with them. I don’t remember the last thing I read from either company. But that’s not the point…

Remember in high school how you and your friends found that perfect spot to hang out? No parents or cops or teachers…it was a place where you’d sit back, chat, maybe even sneak a couple of dad’s beers and share them in the summertime. That’s how most social media sites start. They’re little clubs where the cool kids hang out.

Imagine you’re at your little hangout and suddenly a McDonald’s opens 20 feet away. And then the AT&T store opens next to it. And an auto dealership. And 30 social media experts open storefronts, all surrounding you. Suddenly you can’t even talk to your friends without wading through all these businesses, and they all keep trying to get your attention. And of course your parents and teachers show up, because they’ve all heard your hangout is cool. After awhile, you and your friends just decide to find another place.

That’s what social media experts are bringing to social media.

Myspace was cool at first. Everyone connected with each other. You kept in touch. You shared pictures and songs and everybody was happy. Bands all wanted Myspace profiles, because it made getting a web presence easy. Then businesses all wanted to be on Myspace, because that’s where the kids were.

Where’s Myspace today? Overrun by businesses, musicians and celebrities. My own band still has a page there, and our only friend requests come from TV shows, movies and businesses. It’s over, people. Businesses are just standing around in Myspace land, begging each other to buy.

The same is happening on Twitter and Facebook, where social media experts, in order to keep themselves in jobs, continue to push the importance of a business being involved in social media. Unfortunately, that one little fact shows just how little they understand about social media, and their own role in destroying it, one site at a time.

The sad part is that I agree that companies need to have Twitter and Facebook accounts. I think we’ve come to a point where you’re silly if you don’t. But never once have I seen anyone point out just how bad businesses are for social media. Our social media experts never say “Listen, we should be on Twitter, but we have to realize our mere existence on Twitter will surely hasten Twitter’s demise.”

That, folks, would be an honest, and knowledgeable, expert. Anyone out there ever heard that? I bet not.

Twitter is not for chatting (a rant).

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Twitter is a pretty cool service. I really like how easy it is to connect to people like this guy or this lady and also these other people who tweet interesting things. I also use it to follow headlines, keep up on my beloved Yankees and catch the latest tech trends.

That, in a nutshell, is what Twitter is about: connecting with people, sharing and consuming in short, 140-character bursts. The consumable is a feed of information. In my down time I scroll through my feed on my BlackBerry, just checking on what my tweeps are up to.

A few months ago, I started noticing a few folks I follow actively participating in Twitter chats, little discussions anyone can join by simply following a hashtag and tweeting their thoughts, also using the hashtag. If you’re a chatter, you probably think this is pretty cool, and I see your point. I really do. Unfortunately, you’re wrong. It isn’t cool. It’s downright rude and shows a degree of ignorance and disrespect for your followers. That may sound mean, but hear me out.

First, if I follow you, it’s because I’m interested in what you have to say. I expect your posts will be directed to your audience — including me. When you’re in a Twitter chat, it’s as though I’m standing attentively next to you while you talk to someone else. If 30 of your followers are in your chat and you have 2,000 followers, you are not holding up your end of the trust relationship you have with 1,970 followers.

Second, if I happen to be following several people involved in a chat, it’s like a herd of buffalo just stormed through my living room. Your decision assumes that the space belongs to you for that time period, despite what anyone else thinks.

I find it interesting that a large number of these chats are attended by people who should know better: professional social media types, community managers and the like. These are people who regularly preach the virtues of listening to your audience, being attentive to the concerns of your customers, actively engaging in conversation. But when it’s time for a Twitter chat, they’ll chatter away, blissfully ignorant that they are doing the opposite.

The other night, I’d had enough. A Twitter chat had so dominated my feed that it made Twitter impossible. I let the chatters know I was unhappy. The response was a link to this blog post, which, in effect, tells me that my options are to get over it, unfollow the chatters or use a third-party client for Twitter. A big point of the post is the author sees plenty of things that annoy her, so why should she worry about who she annoys?

The problem with those suggestions is that they put the onus on the rest of us to take the buffalo out of our living rooms, when few would argue that the buffalo belong there in the first place. They should be grazing somewhere else. This post has some excellent suggestions, all of which were summarily rejected by chatters.

In a back-and-forth on Twitter with the author of the first post, I was told there are about 250 chats, with 30 to 500 participants each, which I was told should prove their popularity. But even if each of those chats had 500 unique participants, the total number of chatters on Twitter would be 125,000 — a statistically insignificant number, considering the estimated 160 to 190 million Twitter users. So, again, why should 99.9 percent of us be forced to change?

Perhaps the most galling thing I’ve read from chatters is “If you don’t like it, don’t follow me. I don’t care.” First, if you don’t care, I won’t follow you. Second, if you don’t care whether anyone follows you, or whether your treatment of your followers drives them away, you’re doing it wrong. Care what people think. Value them as followers and allies. Respect and cherish their attention.

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