Countless articles and studies have focused on the negative psychological consequences of Facebook. They include everything from depression (seeing friends’ awesome vacation photos while you’re sitting at a computer can spark FOMO, or “Fear of Missing Out”) to relationship problems (a British survey found that nearly one-third of divorce filings in 2011 mentioned Facebook).
Researchers in Norway have even published a new psychological scale to measure Facebook addiction. Yet, while these all focus on personal afflictions, I wonder whether there’s a similar phenomenon with businesses today.
Can a business spend too much time on Facebook? And what are some of the negative consequences?
1. It lowers employee productivity.
When social networking first arrived on the scene, employers’ biggest fear was the time suck — productivity levels would drop as employees spent too much time on their personal Facebook pages.
But Facebook can also be an enormous resource drain, even when employees are using it for business purposes. That’s because Facebook isn’t free. Cultivating a community, moderating discussions, responding to feedback and other Facebook page activities require an ongoing commitment.
Considering that resources are always finite, any resources allocated for Facebook must be pulled away from other activities. Without explicit goals, Facebook can easily become a massive waste of time, draining important resources from other marketing, sales and customer service priorities.
2. It encourages unfair comparisons.
A recent study from the University of Michigan found that Facebook use leads to declines in moment-to-moment happiness and overall life satisfaction in college-aged adults. According to research co-author John Jonides, “When you’re on a site like Facebook, you get lots of posts about what people are doing. That sets up social comparison — you maybe feel your life is not as full and rich as those people you see on Facebook.”
Likewise, small businesses, especially those just launching their campaigns, can easily become discouraged when comparing themselves to Pepsi, Pampers, Starbucks, Virgin Atlantic and other brands on Facebook. Running campaigns at that level takes a tremendous amount of strategy, resources (both internal and external) and expertise.
This pressure to “keep up with the Joneses” can have two negative consequences. One, businesses may end up spending more time on Facebook due to competitive reasons, as opposed to basing their priorities on actual business objectives or realities. Secondly, businesses may end up focusing on the “wrong” aspects of Facebook, such as racking up fans.
3. It’s difficult to measure.
Wanting to succeed on Facebook, many businesses hone in on some of the easiest metrics around: the number of fans and the number of likes. After all, these numbers can be a very visible measure of status, and it’s easy to treat the site like a game in which the whole goal is to amass more likes than your competitors.
However, just how much does the number of Facebook fans matter? Many businesses host contests and offer discounts in exchange for clicking the Like button. For example, I once liked a store that I’ve never shopped at (and have no plans to either), simply because it was raffling off a vacation. I never visited its page or interacted with its brand after that initial like (and shortly after, unliked it because I was tired of seeing the updates). If this brand included my like as an indication of positive consumer engagement, it was definitely wrong.
The real question is, how do you measure the value of your Facebook fans? How many fans do you need to create a new customer or sale? Unless you have a way to prove that your Facebook page is making you money, you may run the risk of wasting substantial resources here instead of focusing your efforts elsewhere.
4. There’s no direct link to sales.
Facebook can be an ideal channel for generating buzz and engagement, but this doesn’t necessarily translate into sales — at least in the short term.
A 2012 Forrester study analyzed 77,000 online transactions over a two-week period and found that less than 1% of transactions could be traced to social media (compared with 40% from organic or paid search, and 30% from repeat business sparked from email).
If you’re looking for more proof that Facebook is not an effective direct sales channel, consider the fact that the number of U.S. retailers with Facebook-enabled checkouts plummeted from 63% in Q4 2011 to just 6% in Q4 2012.
Again, Facebook can play an important role in building relationships, but as a small business owner, I need to make sure we’re investing resources in those activities that have a more direct link to the bottom line.
5. There’s no human connection in the cloud.
Engaging via email or Facebook is entirely different than actually talking to someone in person or over the phone. A one-on-one conversation creates a deeper connection, and a more detailed exchange of ideas. The biggest risk for businesses with Facebook is assuming that social media engagement is the only customer interaction you need.
The New York Times illustrated just how difficult it is to reach a social media company on the phone: “Twitter’s phone system hangs up after providing web or email addresses three times. At the end of a long phone tree, Facebook’s system explains it is, in fact, ‘an Internet-based company.’ Try email, it suggests.”
Facebook and Twitter are excellent initial touch points for customer support, but nothing beats personal conversations.
In the end, be realistic.
I’m not advocating that any business should walk away from social media. However, you need to be realistic about the potential returns. Invest your resources based on the opportunity, rather than just because everyone else is doing it.
Image: iStockphoto, courtneyk
If autocorrect has ever ruined your Facebook post, your prayers have been answered. Facebook introduced the ability to edit status updates starting Thursday.
The latest update for the Android Facebook app adds the ability to “edit your posts and comments and tap to see all your changes.” However, the editing has not been enabled on any of the Android devices we experimented with.
The editing feature will roll out to Facebook users on the web and Android devices over the next day, Facebook confirmed to Mashable. The editing feature is not included in the latest iOS app, but will likely get pushed out in the next update. Users will see the option to “Edit Post” when they click on the drop-down arrow in the top-right corner of a post.
Editing posts was potentially dicey territory for Facebook, since the it brings the danger of a bait-and-switch with followers. A user could conceivably write, “Who likes ice cream?” and get hundreds of Likes and affirming comments, then edit the post to read, “Who wants to beat up some cats?”
Facebook addresses this issue by marking the post as edited and letting users access the history of any edited post with a click. Google+, which has let users edit posts for some time, works in a similar fashion.
Facebook has been slowly granting users more editing capabilities over their content. Users can edit photo captions (that is, status updates with a photo attached) and the ability to edit comments arrived a few months ago.
It’s likely Facebook examined all the potential abuses and concluded the risk in letting users alter posts was minimal. It makes sense: Any user who would mislead followers or friends with a post they intend to maliciously edit would likely soon find themselves with few followers or friends of any value.
For journalists on Facebook, the value of editing posts is even greater. As Mashable’s Emily Banks has argued, being able to edit a post in a transparent fashion makes Facebook posts more like articles on a website, and now reporters will be able to make corrections without deleting entire updates and losing conversation threads.
What’s your take on editing posts: Yea or nay? Have your say in the comments.
Image: Juan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images
Pinterest is expanding its set of “rich pins” to include more details about pinned articles, the company announced Tuesday. Now, when users pin a story or article to a board, the pin will also contain other relevant information such as the author’s name, the article title, a brief description and a larger link.
Previously, articles pinned on Pinterest only contained photos from the article with a link at the bottom. (Users who wanted to include the article title or description had to add it manually.)
“We’re always looking for ways to make pins more useful so that when you discover and pin something great, it’s easy to act on it, whether that’s cooking a dish, watching a movie, buying a new gadget or reading an article,” Jon Parise, a software engineer at Pinterest, wrote on the company’s blog.
Pinterest is hoping that the change will encourage more users to pin and share articles they find interesting. The new updates could also encourage more media outlets to utilize Pinterest as a tool to promote content with
readers like they do with Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.
Pinterest says that users are pinning five million articles to the site per day and many use reading boards to save articles to consume at a later time. As of Tuesday, the new feature will only work with articles from a small number of publications, including Mashable, Rolling Stone and The New Yorker. Pinterest plans to expand the feature to all article pins “shortly after that,” according to a company spokesperson.
The new update will also roll out on mobile “soon,” per Pinterest’s blog post.
What do you use Pinterest for most? Tell us in the comments below.
Images: mkhmarketing; Pinterest
About two months after Facebook introduced embedded posts that include photos, Twitter has upgraded its embeds to better showcase its photos.
Twitter, which announced the move on its blog on Thursday, illustrated the upgrade with this Aug. 11 tweet from astronaut Chris Hadfield:
Good morning! Perspective – Sunday is a fine day to go for a walk with a friend. pic.twitter.com/P3uDfjYsEU
— Chris Hadfield (@Cmdr_Hadfield) August 11, 2013
“As you can see from @CMDR_Hatfield’s Tweet embedded above, we’ve put the photo front and center, with a bigger and bold visual focus on the media,” Brian Ellin, Twitter’s project manager, platform, wrote in the blog post. “Both landscape and portrait photos now have more room to show their pixels when the Tweets are embedded online.”
Reemerging into society after backpacking ~35 miles through Yosemite’s Grand Canyon of Tuolumne River. My legs hurt. pic.twitter.com/TkjNgKn6b8
— Bill Couch (@couch) July 7, 2013
Improving the photo experience make them more viable for inclusion in articles now that there’s competition from Facebook. Facebook’s embeds came as the company was revving up its real-time marketing opportunities (shortly before, the company introduced hashtags). Instagram, a unit of Facebook, launched embedded posts in July, shortly before Facebook did the same. Instagram’s embeds include video as well as photos. Twitter’s Vine videos are also embeddable.
For a short period, Facebook had not only caught up with Twitter, but also surpassed it by letting news organizations run richer embeds in their stories. Now, the two appear to be on equal footing.
Image: Mary Turner/Getty Images
Twitter on Wednesday announced Twitter Alerts, a new system that enables public institutions and NGOs to send out emergency alerts via text message and push notifications in times of crisis. Users can sign up to receive emergency notifications from specific accounts, and will receive a text or push notification when that account sends a tweet it labels as an alert.
In addition to the texts and notifications, ‘alert’ tweets will appear alongside an orange bell icon in the Twitter stream.
“Twitter Alerts [is] a new feature that brings us one step closer to helping users get important and accurate information from credible organizations during emergencies, natural disasters or moments when other communications services aren’t accessible,” explained Gaby Peña, a product manager at Twitter, on the company’s blog.
Twitter already has more than 70 participants for the new system, including The American Red Cross, FEMA, and global non-profits like the World Health Organization. In addition to state and regional accounts (like the New Jersey State Police), Twitter Alerts also partners with a number of international accounts, mostly in Japan.
Users can specify which accounts they’d like to receive alerts from at their setup page: twitter.com/[username]/alerts.
Twitter has already solidified itself as a valuable communication tool during times of crisis. Following events like the Boston Marathon Bombings and Superstorm Sandy last October, Twitter was used by media organizations and authorities to share news quickly and to those without cable or landline access.
This new feature comes on the heels of another alert feature Twitter announced yesterday. Twitter’s mobile users can now receive follow recommendations via push notifications, too. Users will be alerted when a number of people in their network follow a new user, or retweet or favorite the same tweet.
Will you sign up to receive Twitter Alerts? Tell us in the comments below.
Image: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images; Twitter
Over the last few days, Twitter spammers have been urging users to find out Louis Tomlinson’s phone number, hear a leaked version of One Direction’s new album and get a free iPhone.
What’s notable is that these spammers weren’t sending tweets or direct messages. Instead, they made use of Twitter’s list function, adding people to various lists and indirectly pointing thousands of users toward spam sites.
Lists are typically used to organize Twitter users into more distinct groups. You might have separate lists for celebrities, colleagues and friends, which allows you to monitor several different streams at the same time through tools like TweetDeck. A few months back, Twitter increased the number of lists each user can have from 20 to 1,000 and the maximum number of accounts in each list from 500 to 5,000.
While not entirely new, as noted by BuzzFeed’s Charlie Warzel, it’s a capability that is now being abused by spammers, who are adding users to lists populated with links en masse. Each time you’re added to a list, you get a notification on Twitter and perhaps via email. Naturally, you’ll be keen to find out why you were added to the list and, spammers hope, click their links.
One of the biggest offenders in the current wave was an account called Celeb Phone Numbers. Before Twitter suspended it, the account automatically added tens of thousands of users to lists. It promised to reveal the phone numbers of stars like One Direction singer Tomlinson and Lady Gaga through an associated website.
Warzel reported the person behind the Celeb Phone Numbers account used a Twitter keyword marketing tool to find people who had tweeted about those stars and added them to its lists. That person shared their finding on marketing forums, spurring other spammers to try the tactic. The spammers make money if you complete surveys or view ads on their sites.
The Celeb Phone Numbers account was immediately reported as spam by many users Sunday night:
you cant spam add me to your list now can u pic.twitter.com/sStoEvemkE
— katie (@seasidenouis) September 15, 2013
Twitter is fighting a war against spammers. A study published last month showed how vendors created thousands of phony accounts and sold them to spammers wholesale. Twitter is adding the researchers’ methods for finding such accounts into its abuse-detection systems. Tracking down and killing spam accounts is a high priority as the company prepares to hold an initial public stock offering.
Image: Andy Melton
Norway is home to digital advertisers that spend the most money per Internet user — $209 each, according to data from market-research company eMarketer.
However, the U.S. doesn’t fall far behind, with advertisers spending an estimated $201 per Internet user.
Online-statistics portal Statista created the chart, below, which shows the estimated digital-advertising costs per Internet user in the 10 countries with the highest spending.
What do you think of the results? Tell us in the comments, below.
Image: iStockphoto, Pashalgnatov
The perfect soundtrack can really make a video come together and perfect soundtrack is also a key to get real YouTube views, so YouTube is making it much easier to pick an audio backdrop for your footage.
YouTube launched an audio library on Wednesday, featuring more than 150 royalty-free instrumental tracks to choose from. The video manager feature allows you to peruse options based on mood, genre (from rock to classical), instrument and duration. Users can download the tracks as 320 kbps MP3 files and add them to videos.
“We searched far and wide for musicians to create tracks for us and ended up finding co-conspirators in multiple places: an acquaintance down in L.A., music houses across the country and a well-known music producer in Brooklyn,” YouTube wrote on its official blog. “And it turns out the latter produced albums for Phish and Sean Lennon.”
For a full look at the audio library, click here.
What tools do you use when making YouTube videos? Let us know in the comments.
Image: Flickr, jm3
Clicking “Like” on a Facebook post or page is now a form of speech protected by the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, according to an opinion issued on Wednesday by a federal appeals court, which overturned a previous ruling to the contrary.
The decision (.PDF) to consider a Facebook “Like” as protected speech may set a precedent of how courts apply freedom of speech rules to users’ online activities.
For the U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va,, Liking a candidate on Facebook should have the same protections as real-life actions that show political support.
“Liking a political candidate’s campaign page communicates the user’s approval of the candidate and supports the campaign by associating the user with it,” wrote Judge William Traxler, who authored the opinion. “It is the Internet equivalent of displaying a political sign in one’s front yard, which the Supreme Court has held is substantive speech.”
The case hinged over whether B.J. Roberts, the sheriff of Hampton, Va., illegally fired six of his employees who supported Jim Adams, his opponent in the sheriff’s elections. One of the employees, Former Deputy Sheriff Daniel Ray Carter, had Liked the Facebook page of his boss’ political opponent.
Facebook, the fired employees and the American Civil Liberties Union argued that a Facebook Like must be considered free speech. This would mean that an employer cannot legally fire his or her employees for expressing opinions on the social network. an employer cannot legally fire his or her employees for expressing opinions on the social network.
The federal district judge who first ruled on the issue decided that a Facebook Like was “insufficient speech to merit constitutional protection.” For the judge, a Facebook Like didn’t involve an “actual statement,” unlike Facebook posts, which have been granted constitutional protection in other legal cases.
Today, Judge Traxler disagreed.
“On the most basic level, clicking on the ‘like’ button literally causes to be published the statement that the User ‘likes’ something, which is itself a substantive statement,” he wrote.
“We are pleased the court recognized that a Facebook ‘Like’ is protected by the First Amendment,” read an emailed statement by Pankaj Venugopal, Facebook’s associate general counsel.
The ACLU applauded the decision as well. “This ruling rightly recognizes that the First Amendment protects free speech regardless of the venue, whether a sentiment is expressed in the physical world or online. The Constitution doesn’t distinguish between ‘liking’ a candidate on Facebook and supporting him in a town meeting or public rally,” said Ben Wizner, director of the ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project in an emailed statement.
The ruling reinstated the claims of Carter and two other fired employees. If they win the case, they may get their jobs back.
Do you agree with this decision? Should the First Amendment protect Facebook Likes?
Image: Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images
As if reporting an IPO wasn’t enough news for one day, Twitter followed up their major announcement with a new feature Thursday to help its verified users better manage their Twitter conversations.
The update will allow verified users (those with the blue check marks) to filter their Twitter mentions within the “Connect” tab above their feed.
Verified users can now view their mentions in three separate categories: all, filtered, and verified. The idea is to help those users identify the conversations that may be most important to them by sifting out the spam.
Viewing connections in the “Verified” category will only show mentions by other verified users. Users who view mentions under the “Filtered” category will see posts “based on an algorithm we use to filter out spam,” wrote Product Manager Ed Gutman in the company’s blog post.
The new perk is another way to encourage Twitter’s most popular users to stay active on the platform. Last month, Facebook confirmed that it was also working on a VIP-only app to encourage celebs to engage more regularly with fans.
On Twitter any user can, in theory, get a message in front of any other user on the platform. Making it easier to sift through those messages may encourage the verified users to interact more readily with others through tweets — or it may mean that VIPs will be more likely to stick to themselves.
For now, the new feature will only be available on the site’s web version, although Twitter plans to bring it to mobile at some point in the future, wrote Gutman.
Do you believe this will increase engagement on Twitter? Tell us in the comments below.
Images: Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images, Twitter