16th July 2011
When it rains, it pours. For over 2 weeks, Google+ has dominated the tech news spotlight and early adopters have spent countless hours experimenting with it. Some have even tried to launch organizational accounts for their businesses, only to be told by Google to wait a bit. Obviously Google has a plan for such accounts, and they’ll most likely differ from the ordinary social stream that individuals are currently able to enjoy.
There’s been much speculation over what Google+ for business will do and how businesses will be able to utilize it to interact with customers and drive sales. While details are still under wraps, there are a number of considerations that developers should be making in order to better collaborate and promote apps using Google+.
Use circles. To anyone who’s used Google+, or even read some basic guides, this should be insanely obvious. Making a circle of known developers is a great way to network, share ideas and support each other. At Sinecure Industries, we do most of our external communication via Twitter, which has worked well enough. But since Goolge+ merges Twitter’s following system with Facebook’s lengthy character limit, communication can take place in more descriptive passages, with video and imagry to boot. This is a clear improvement on using Twitter as a communication system, assuming our developer acquaintances embrace Google+ as happily as we have.
We also plan to create a circle for app review sites, like one of our Twitter lists that serves much the same purpose. This will helps us communicate more effectively with potential reviewers who can give our completed apps visibility and feedback. Of course, at present, it seems as though making circles of entities would require knowing the real names behind an app brand or a review blog. We look forward to Google+ business accounts which will allow a kind of richer reproduction of our Twitter relationships, where real names are not necessary to connect.
Customers or friends? Facebook, by its very nature and history, is a place where people who know each other go to connect. By choosing the word “friend” to describe the relationship between users, it pigeonholed itself as a certain type of social network. Adding the ability to “Like” a business or organization was merely an afterthought that probably didn’t sit extremely well with most users.
As mentioned above, Google+ uses the Twitter model of “following,” which can be a one-way or a two-way street. This is more conducive to marketing and client engagement, and will probably make the jump from Twitter to Google+. The one big change is that Google+ is a content-rich environment, compared with Twitter’s bare bones approach.
Armed with a base of Google+ followers and the ability to post rich content (images, blog teasers, video), developers can now ofter more captivating nuggets to their fans. If you’ve done your work properly, your fans will share this content with their circles and help do the marketing for you.
Plus one. That tiny “+1” button isn’t just Google’s version of the “Like” button. It’s a way that Google will merge algorithmic search with the discerning tastes of users, producing a hybrid system for delivering personalized search results. If your Google+ content is consistently good, you’ll earn more +1s, and actually affect your own search results. Craft your posts wisely.
Once Google rolls out their business profiles, the potential uses and benefits to developers will be clearer. Until then, we’ll be waiting with anticipation.
18th June 2011
When attempting to promote a new app, or promoting your brand in general, it goes without saying that social media will be part of your strategy. You might take to Twitter and Facebook and even start a blog, but keeping these accounts active and interesting is a job all itself. Small app developers should be focusing on app development, otherwise there’s nothing to promote.
But this won’t enter the small app developer’s mind at first. He or she will try to tweet news about an upcoming app release, post status updates about new iOS or Android developments, and attempt to string together coherent musings on WordPress, all in the hope that this additional content will reach someone who’d never heard of his or her lowly app company and might wish to spend $1.99 and a minute downloading the fruit of hours of coding and design labor.
As the months drag on, however, it can be difficult to consistently create fresh content, especially when a new app release is in the relatively distant future. It might start to seem as though all this extra social activity is merely shouting into a void. Even if analytics can demonstrate that social media and promotion are benefiting the struggling app developer in the form of clickthroughs and added recognition, the process is sill time consuming and still diverts attention away from development.
It is here that we should remember an old cliché: “Work Smarter, Not Harder.” And smarter, more efficient promotion means knowing how to gain the most from the least amount of work. I recently found some interesting nuggets of information from Dan Zarrella, a self-proclaimed “social media scientist” who has spent a great deal of time studying how timing can affect the impact of blog posts, emails, tweets, etc. Zarrella states, for example, that accounts that tweet no more than once per hour have higher clickthough rates. This finding alone is very useful to us at Sinecure Industries, since sometimes multiple authors will post to our @SinecureInd account during peak hours (10am – 4pm EST) and create occasional instances of 2-post hours. Armed with this information, we intend to change our strategy.
We often update our Sinecure Industries Facebook page at the same time we post an important article on Twitter, but again we were surprised to learn from Zarrella’s research that Facebook users seem to “Like” pages that post every other day more than those who post every day. This one piece of information suggests that entirely different timing and frequency strategies ought to be employed when promoting via Twitter and Facebook, and we intend to implement these strategies soon to take advantage of these revelations.
More of Dan Zarrella’s work can be found in this free webinar (which is, in itself, a great form of promotion and a strategy worth examining for developers). It’s full of fantastic insight into using social media in a more productive fashion, saving time and effort for the all-important app development process.
9th May 2011
Last week Mashable.com launched Mashable Follow, a new personalization and social layer to their website. Their announcement video stated that this development was meant to help Mashable readers save time while discovering the content that matters to them. As the amount of content on Mashable grows, users are faced with spending more time sifting through this content, and thus, providing a method to narrow down story topics and to receive recommendations from a few (or many) trusted users would seem logical.
But this announcement left me scratching my head in confusion. Mashable produces its own content and reacts to content from the web. This is a fairly standard way of running a large site. Most, if not all, news, technology, and pop culture sites write their own articles about topics that (hopefully) will interest the reader. When a large story breaks and can’t be ignored, but there isn’t enough information yet to cover anything except the 3 or 4 facts that everyone knows, these websites will re-hash content. Again, this is standard practice. I see it almost every day on my Twitter feed—a story reported by one site’s feed is bound to show up on another’s with slightly different wording.
Aside from the socially entertaining aspect of Facebook and Twitter, I use these services to discover new information. This is not a groundbreaking revelation since I’m sure most do the same. The beauty of social networking, from a perspective of content discovery, is that a user is able to discover information from many sources all over the web. Some of this information may come from other trusted users (like the friend who always finds funny videos), while other pieces of information might come directly from trusted websites (like the @RollingStone Twitter account).
What puzzles me is why Mashable decided to essentially re-create the Twitter and Facebook experience inside their own website. It makes perfect sense to allow your readers to filter through content in order to quickly access the topics they care about. In fact, Mashable was so quick to implement this strategy that they created separate twitter accounts for separate high-level topics on their website (@MashableTech, @MashableVideo, @MashableSocialMedia to name a few). This is to be applauded, since this move took the standard filtering section links often encountered at the top of a news website and turned them into feeds, thus enabling readers to receive Mashable content from a specific subject area without having to visit the Mashable website to find these stories. But Mashable Follow seems to require that users sign-in with a Twitter or Facebook account, create a profile, select other users and topics for their feed… and then…. open Mashable in order to receive this feed? Why would I want to do that? Why wouldn’t I simply follow users and providers of specific topic content on Twitter?
Mashable Follow seems to me much like a department store with high brand loyalty. Mashable wants visitors to come to it. Which is fine, and I’m sure many people leave Mashable.com open all day to get new information. But it seems to me that the majority of shoppers don’t care if they go to a department store, as long as they can get the best price on a product they want. They might turn to the web for shopping, where a huge marketplace is attempting to sell you many similar products. Simialrly, casual users don’t care where interesting content comes from, as long as they have a way to access it easily, hence the popularity of link sharing services.
Mashable Follow has essentially taken the keyword tags associated with blog entries and turned them into individual microblogging accounts inside their own website’s microblogging service, then allowed flesh-and-bone users to create accounts and share links, comment, etc. Some of this system is useful in that it allows users to connect and share links with one another, but Facebook Comments and Disqus already did this fairly well, and across multiple websites. The rest just seems to be a mashup of social media components that, I think, work better in a larger environment.
But perhaps I’m misunderstanding Mashable Follow. Perhaps Mashable has so many dedicated readers who visit the site every day that this feature is truly useful to them. But to me it seems like just another account I “need to have” that I probably won’t do anything with. If someone can explain its usefulness to me, I’d love to listen: @SinecureLuke