10 Signs You Might Be Addicted to Social Networking

December 4, 2007

- You learn about your brother’s divorce via his status update

- When you look at your friends list you have no idea who half of those people are

- You feel like you want to start poking and bitch-slapping people in real-life

- Complete strangers know more about you than your partner does

- The easiest way for your boss to contact you is by leaving a message on your super-wall

- People you hated at school are now on your best-best-friends list (anything to get that friends number up!)

- You start virtually stalking old girlfriends you haven’t seen in 10 years
.. and then get jealous when you realise they’re married ..

- Your mobile data plan blows out to $300 a month

- Your believe your friends really do include world leaders and A-list celebrities (‘It is Sylvester Stallone. Honest!’)

Anyone got any more?


Sticky, sticky. 10 Website Categories and the Glue That Binds..

November 24, 2007

I’ve been thinking about stickiness quite a lot recently. I’m not referring to that strange discolored patch on my carpet – rather, the challenge for any website: once you’ve grabbed a visitor, how do you hang on to them and keep them coming back?

Let’s have a look at some different categories of site (heads-up – I have a feeling this is going to turn into a long post as I am basically brain-dumping!). Oh, before we begin – I’m not talking about getting the traffic in the first place, just helping to keep hold of it once
you get critical momentum. The first part (just as hard) is a whole different discussion :-)

1. Originators: In this group I’d put news sites such as the BBC, CNN, ABC and so on, along with a few of what are normally first or second sources of new stories. That would include sites like Techcrunch, Engadget and Wired. Fairly obvious why people return to these sites: there is always fresh content, normally localised or available to a specific interest group. On most of these, you can add comments or your own stories too.

2. Aggregators: Not an original source of information, but a consolidated view from the web, normally ranked or voted on in terms of popularity. For example, Digg, Slashdot, Reddit and the late Netscape. Given the massive amounts of new data available on a daily basis on the web, these sites offer an easier way to stay current with minimal effort. I’d suggest that at times a larger amount of effort goes into the comments and discussions than it does reading the linked stories!

3. Constant Virals: Sites that are able to continually drive viral and word-of-mouth ‘check this out’ buzz. Youtube is probably the pre-eminent example along with a few of the ‘me-too’ video sharing sites. B3ta used to be there, as are a couple of the flash gaming sites. A constant source of new material, who can resist watching some idiot stick his face in a fire-ants nest! The discussion boards and comments also play a big part here

4. Friend Collectors: No longer the ‘new new thing’, but still growing like mad, online social networks such as Facebook, MySpace, Friendster, Orkut, Thursday Club and the million other variations satisfy our need for self-promotion and gossip. Spend time investing in growing friends, filling out your profile, stalking ex-girlfriends, installing applications and updating your status and you’re hooked. Who doesn’t want to know that ‘Paul is feeling farty’?

Message boards, super-poking, wall-post and super-walls all add to the stickiness and most of these sites are very good at teasing you with update emails to prompt your return.

5. Contact Collectors: Largely similar to number 4, but I put in here some of the more ‘serious’ social networks aimed at business professionals. LinkedIn, Ecademy, Ryze, Plaxo .. again there are a multitude to choose from, although LinkedIn is probably the most popular, with its ‘Answers’ Q&A discussion forums proving particularly popular.

6. Reviews & Recommendations: Tripadvisor, CNET, Yelp, epinions and reams of other sites dedicated to helping you research product or service purchases, word-of-mouth reviews and related discussions.

Often tied directly to ..
7. Service providers: Booking a flight? Need a hotel? Hiring a car? Theatre tickets? Online food shopping? Books, CDs, Cameras .. anything eCommerce? Once you’ve done your research online (see 6) or perhaps even at the same time on the same site (e.g. Amazon) come here to make your purchase. Keen pricing, quick delivery, customer service, positive reviews, large stock, longtail serviceability, word-of-mouth marketing, affiliate programs and white-labelling all help these sites along. Let’s put the eBays, Craig’s Lists and so on in here too.

8. One-hit wonders, weirdos and one-offs: Remember ‘badgers .. badgers’? The filipino elvis looking for love? Star-wars Kid the original? The drink-o-meter? All those crappy but addictive Flash games that took up way too much of your time? With traffic that comes in waves as the next news site story and email chain runs, you may not get a lot of stickiness, but the knock-on effect or chance to grab that traffic for other purposes can be vital (esp for a startup)

9. Blogs: We all know that a tiny fraction of blogs actually generate much traffic, or have a particularly loyal readership. Take one of the most popular though – Scott Adams (Mr Dilbert). With such a large fanbase, he is guaranteed a large readership every day and can kick-off a huge discussion with nothing but a simple question. Powerful stuff!

10. Yackfests: Last, but by no means lowest in priority or stickiness comes forums, chat rooms, discussion boards and the like. My wife is currently addicted to some Indonesian fashion forum, and I would bet that the combined eyeball time for discussion boards net wide would be .. well, it would be quite large :-) If you have an interest, any form of interest, you will find a group of like-minded people somewhere to discuss it with. From Google groups, usenet (sshh!), Yahoo to dedicated, home-run hobbyist sites if you get some momentum you have some serious stickiness!

So, what’s the conclusion? Well if you had to pick the common element with each, it has to be discussions and comments. That won’t be a surprise to anyone, and forms one of the key tenets of what has been called ‘web 2.0′. Truth is, the discussion based aspect of the ‘net has been a constant since almost day dot and is one thing that has consistently worked in grabbing people to take part.

One downside though of traditional discussion forums has always been that if you have one, and it’s successful, it tends to suck the traffic from every other part of your site (check out http://www.pprune.org for a good example – a site for professional pilots that gave up on trying to get anyone to do anything except use the forum – which is hugely popular).

There are a number of new players such as Tangler, trying to address this by trying to create not only an embedded discussion platform but one that enables you to bring together other aspects of your site too (profile, product info, interesting links, video and so on).

Imagine there’s a thread going on and you pull up an embedded interactive product, pricing information, select some experts and related media. Think Digg labs meets Amazon, meets Second Life, meets threaded discussion, meets Twitter subscribers, meets YouTube. How cool would that be?

Hmm, well, I did say I was just brain dumping :-)


‘Fun’ With Statistics | Getting TechCrunched

November 23, 2007

Blimey .. it’s been something of a crazy 24 hours. I had a few spare moments yesterday and so decided to pull together some numbers from the Facebook advertising platform (which I’ve subsequently had to correct – that’s what happens when you spend about 5 minutes on an exercise!).

Knowing that they love all things Facebook I emailed Michael Arrington of TechCrunch with the data, and after a blur of emails the story made it to the TechCrunch homepage!

Here’s what that did to my blog stats (click the picture to see it full-size):

Blog Stats

As you can see, just a small jump from my normal traffic!

I don’t include those stats here to brag, but rather to illustrate the amazing effect of word-of-internet when a story gets to one of the popular sites like TechCrunch, Digg, Reddit and so on. As it turned out, my data was somewhat erroneous (although there are still more females than males on Facebook according to the updated figures .. just perhaps not in such a large ratio), but that hasn’t stopped the story spreading through all the various sites that syndicate, borrow or steal TechCrunch content. There’s an amazing ‘halo’ effect of other sites – particularly blogs of course – mirroring popular stories in a hope that traffic will gravitate via topical searching and linkbacks.

This isn’t new, and the network effect of word-of-mouth or guerilla marketing has been around forever, but it is interesting to see it play out around your own site. You can see why so much effort is put into gaming stories onto Digg for example.

Anyway, I’m sure this will calm down as quickly as it came up. Shame I can’t carry Google adsense on WordPress – I could have made at least 50c out of this ;-)

[update: speaking of viral marketing, there’s an interesting article on – surprise – Techcrunch today about marketing on YouTube]


Facebook Member Stats – An Update

November 23, 2007

A number of people have pointed out to me that it is actually possible to not select your gender on Facebook (something I was unaware of I must admit). So, I re-ran the numbers and checked specifically for ‘male’ and ‘female’ (not just the difference between male and the total, which I’d wrongly assumed were female!).

The stats are in the picture below. Click to enlarge it. Still a great percentage of females, but a lot of unspecified genders. I wonder if these represent inactive or unused profiles? I mean, if you were a regular user, with Facebook friends, there’s a pretty good chance you’d specify your gender. Anyway, here’s the upate:

Updated Stats


Exercise for the Reader: Facebook Member Stats

November 22, 2007

[Update: before you get too far into these numbers, you might like to check out this updated post, which gives a more accurate breakdown of genders – the country totals remain the same]

Out of interest I went through the Facebook ad platform to pull together some stats on relative numbers of members from each country. Not surprisingly, the US represents over 40% of the total membership at just over 18 million. Some surprises though (at least to me), with Turkey in 5th place.

There’s quite a heavy bias to the ladies too, with female members making up just over 63% of the total population.

I’m not able to see what criteria FB uses to present these numbers, so these may be members with just a basic profile, or those who have also filled in some additional personal details too.

Full picture is below. Click on the image to open up so that you can see all the data.

[update - see my comment in the comments too :-) ]

Facebook Member Stats


Facebook Advertising Platform

November 22, 2007

A short while ago Facebook announced the release of their advertising platform. Given that I had written about that previously, and was in need of some fresh ideas for advertising the Thursday Club (side-project), I decided to give it a go.

Setting up a campaign is a pretty straightforward process. You select the criteria for your audience segmentation, starting with the geography (I’d love to have the option to select ‘World’, but you have to start at a particular country – although you can run multiple campaigns simultaneously in different countries). You can also select gender, age ranges and target keywords to further define your audience. I do like the fact that as you select each keyword you are shown a tally of the number of people that match your criteria. I’m sure someone could reverse engineer some interesting statistics out of that.

It doesn’t appear that the keywords currently include group membership, or much other than a persons direct interests.

You can then create some simple text copy (think basic Google adword style) and optionally upload a picture. If you have a company page, you can also choose to include related information from that. Finally, select how much you’d like to pay per click or per view (I chose ‘per-click’) and that’s pretty much it. You can set timeframes for your campaign and maximum spends per day.

I would recommend experimenting with the CPC rate you bid as you can go from zero impressions to many thousands through some very small adjustments. You can see the effects almost straight away. Current click-through rates are pretty low, but that may be a function of my test ad-copy too :-)

Overall though I like it. The operation is pretty much identical to how I perceived it might work, bar some limitations on granularity. It would also be nice to get some clarity on exactly where these ads show up.

I’ll let you know what affect this has on traffic to my site, but as of now (24 hours after starting) there have been 5000+ ad impressions which I don’t think is too shabby.

I’ll also be experimenting with some much more targeted ads with a small number of potential viewers.

Stay tuned!


When You’re Done With Playing Nicely On Facebook

October 16, 2007

If you fancy a change from being friendly with your mates on Facebook, why not head over to Hatebook and vent some steam? Hatebook is the equivalent of an anti-Facebook. A Yang to its Ying, where you can set up enemies lists, publish nasty stories and generally be horrible to people!

drevil.jpg

There are a number of these ‘anti’ sites popping up (including the dubiously titled ‘Jihad On You‘) and even Facebook itself offers plug-ins such as Enemybook.

So, for some good fashioned hating, you know where go. Just watch out for the flood of lawsuits that seem almost bound to follow … !


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