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Anya and I have been excessively excited for the “small” change that Facebook made the other day that allows you to use the Twitter-esque “@” symbol to add contacts, pages, groups etc to a conversation pretty much anywhere you would normal post content on Facebook.

For example, on our Facebook page, you’ll see that once I inputted “@,” a drop-down menu pops up where you can choose from your contacts, your groups, your pages, etc.  I was posting up Anya’s post on academics having open access to scholarly work and wanted to attribute it to her, and I also got to let her know that I did so.  You’ll then see the prior post, citing Adam’s thoughts on social media ROI, and his name has been tagged.

Since I’m pretty interested in what this means for viral capabilities, I was playing around with the Walls today.  Here’s what I’ve seen so far  just using Wall postings.

Personal Profile:

  • You can post a status update with a contact name and/or a public profile (businesses/organizations) and your update will show up on their or its news feed.  [Note: It does not seem to update on a group page]
  • If it’s a contact, they will be notified via email, just as they would if you had tagged them in a photo in your own album (assuming they’re set up for email notifications). [Update: if you go to our FB page now, you'll see that Adam has already commented on the link we posted.  Most likely because he was notified that we posted it.]
  • Your tagging allows people to click on the contact/group/etc directly from your newsfeed, or their own home feed.
  • You can only link to contacts that you’re friends with, groups that you’re a member of or pages that you’re a fan of.

Business Public Profile/Page:

  • Much the same as a Personal Profile.
  • You can post an update or a link with the same information as above, and tag someone you’ve mentioned. Again, groups do not seem to be affected.
  • It it’s a contact, they will be notified that they’ve been tagged.
  • Other fans of the page are able to click directly through to the tagged party, whether it’s the author of a posted link or a group that was mentioned.
  • Any fan can post something that is tagged with a contact/page/group that they are connected to.

Implications for business:

  1. You are in front of more people, in places more removed than your page. Being tagged allows you to reach people one layer out, by being able to be mentioned in a way that’s interactive on profiles and pages that are not your own. Because your fans also have these capabilities, anytime you’re mentioned by them, you’re exposed to all of their contacts in the same way.
  2. It draws people back to your page more easily. If your page is tagged “somewhere else” it is much easier for new eyes to connect to your page, click, and be there.  No one has to actually interact with your page directly for that to happen now. If a person is tagged on your page, they’re notified of that discussion, which isn’t directly on their profile.  This will ideally bring them to your page.  All-in-all, you’re drawing people back to your content from further away and in an easier manner.

Still playing around, I’ll update when/if I find new features.

Did I miss anything? Any other cool features you’ve come across that increase virality?  Do I have anything wrong?

Kate just posted over on B2B Voices on adding the use of video to your B2B online marketing program.

In the B2B space, online marketing channels are gaining a lot of traction because of their lower delivery costs and higher response rates, as well as the potential for greater ROI than can be seen in traditional mediums like print. Meanwhile, video is said to be one of the most important decision influencers in buying decisions. It’s also the fastest growing content channel “in the history of the world.”

To me, this means it should be, at the very least, considered as a marketing option.

It can be easy to implement, it’s visual – which is one of the most appealing forms of content – and can be consumed quickly and easily, it builds awareness, and allows for an inside glimpse into your company, which may not happen a lot in the B2B setting.

You can read more about things to think about when using video in your B2B organization, and a few ideas to get started.

Microsoft Google! oO
Image by Daniel F. Pigatto via Flickr

In the past ten years, Google has become our e-mail service, our newspaper, our encyclopedia, our street map, and our little black book. Google is so integrated into our lives that it is treated like a verb. There is a reason why you never hear “I’m going to Lycos that.”

Being that nearly 74% of all search engine queries were performed in Google (as of 6 June, according to Hitwise data), a valid competitor entering the market not only has to perform to a certain standard, but also must differentiate itself.

Enter Microsoft’s Bing.  Launched June 3rd as a search engine competitor, StatCounter reports that Bing was the number two search engine worldwide one day later. In the US. People have been made aware of Bing, but the question is, how does Bing compare?

I spent an afternoon using Bing lined up against identical search criteria entered in Google.

Basic searches: After many random web searches, I found Google performed better in returning general search results. Not only did it prompt more terms when I began to type, but also with certain ambiguous search criteria, Google pulled what I was looking for.

For example, if “cabinet” is entered, it is not clear whether shopping and retail results or information about the US government is more relevant. At that point, the individual search engine must make an educated decision on what results to return. Based on the sheer volume of search data Google has, it knew that when I entered “cabinet,” I was looking for retail results. Google results even show local search business results for “cabinet”, based on my IP address.

If Bing increases in popularity, I expect there will be an improvement in search results because they will have a large enough database and enough search inquiries behind them to make similar educated decisions. One very helpful feature on Bing allows you to see an excerpt from the webcopy of the site without ever clicking on the link. This is very helpful as a user when determining which sites you are actually interested in visiting.

Video and Image searches: Both the image and video results on Bing have a nice interface.

The image results are displayed on one page instead of on multiple pages you have to click through. I like this feature because after four or five pages I get tired of clicking through results. The single page loads surprisingly fast, and only displays the related text when you hover the cursor over a particular image. Result? I viewed more results than I would have in Google images.

Bing’s video results also have a unique feature; if you hover the cursor over the link image of the video, it will start to play, allowing you to decide if you even want to visit that site without ever leaving Bing. Another great feature on Bing is the option to sort through video results by video, tv show, news clip or sports clip.

Mapping tools: One large drawback for me about Bing is the lack of “walking directions” and “search nearby” options within their maps application. Within Google Maps, from an established address, you can find driving or walking directions to a particular location or search for nearby establishments by type. I find this tool invaluable and I think as Bing develops, they too will have similar features.

However, mostly because Google has been working on these projects for much longer, I think Google will always be more accurate and advanced in these features.

The bottom line: Google is unsurpassed, but might face some healthy competition if Bing continues to develop innovative features while becoming more utilitarian.

Have you used Bing much since launch?  What do you think?

After reading the recent Mashable article about Twitter fTags, I’ve got one concern: Is Twitter turning into Facebook?

These new Twitter fTags are an alternative to Twitter hashtags. Hashtags are keywords that allow users to find relevant tweets on a topic of interest, and also if desired, to have their own tweets easily found by others seeking discussions on that topic. Simply entering a hashtag into the search bar pulls search results from other tweets containing the same hashtag, similarly to organic search results from a search engine.

This is obviously a good feature, as social interaction is the very essence of being a social media outlet. When I first joined Twitter, I was surprised at its simplicity. Unlike Facebook, which provided personal information, pictures, quotes, favorite movies, groups and countless other applications, Twitter didn’t have those search options, so it was more difficult to find discussions or people of interest.

Before hashtags and trending topics on Twitter, you could search for specific terms, but if that exact phrase did not show up in any tweets then the search would not pull any results. This would be further limited by tweet context; say you were looking to tweet about photography tips, a search for “photography” would pull results for anyone who had mentioned the word “photography” in a tweet, name or description.

Hashtags bring it one step further, allowing a search term to pull results from other tweets that authors deemed relevant by putting in that hashtag to their tweet. Twitter fTags are even better than hashtags. fTags are real-time streams about any topic (already created or an original discussion), but is best for niche discussions, as the fTag discussions can be very specific.

fTags are also great because, unlike a hashtag, which is usually a keyword related to a topic, fTags are labeled so it is not obvious what the discussion is about. This way, in order to participate, a user must actually understand what the stream is about, and as a result, fTags can help cut down on spam tweets, where every word is preceded by “#.”

Despite the obvious interactive benefits of fTags, I think there is a potential vulnerability. While it is good to be able to find specific discussion topics, these advancements are very reminiscent of Facebook Groups. Are these fTags eventually going to have the option of private discussions or invite only scenarios? Will these fTags evolve into Twitter Groups, as this author has pointed out. What originally set Twitter apart was the openness and lack of privacy; not a lot of personal information was asked for, but the whole point was that everyone sees everything. Facebook too, has been blurring the lines between the different social media platforms with their addition of “status updates,” which is very similar to a tweet.

I am curious to see how fTags and subsequent applications are received. fTags are a great application because the discussions are still interactive and communication based. Twitter and Facebook have not yet lost the fundamental essence of what makes them social media outlets, but they need to be cautious about maintaining the qualities that keep the social media platforms distinct. We are able to do so much with social media today, because there are many channels to go through, but if they all eventually have the same exact capabilities, we will not have accounts for more than one platform. You will either have Twitter or Facebook, not both, which could undermine the growth of social media and limit its user potential.

What are your thoughts on fTags?

My social Network on Flickr, Facebook, Twitter...
Image by luc legay via Flickr

I was having a Twitter conversation late last week with Conner McCall about the definition of Twitter.  Is it social networking?  Is it a social network?  I had asked:

“Twitter - Social Network? Still just microblogging? Somewhere in between?”

Conner wrote a follow-up post on the topic, in which he brought up some good points about why defining Twitter just shouldn’t happen.

Under most circumstances, I too shy away from defining and corralling social media tools into categories.  Honestly, what’s the point sometimes?

However, I’m involved in some research through DigiActive concerning the use of digital tools in activism efforts around the world.  When it came time to coding qualitative data on how people use their mobile phones for their advocacy work, I had separated out Twitter from all of the other social networks such as Facebook.

While going over the survey coding with the research team, someone suggested that several of the responses get combined in some way, and one of those ways was to lump Twitter in with the social networks.  In fact, it was more like “Twitter is a social network so let’s put it in there.”

I really needed to push back on this because I see some key differences between the two, at least in terms of this project.  Firstly though, some important similarities:

  • One-to-many communication
  • Everything is public within your “network”
  • Information/data sharing

Aside from those major similarities, there are some differences that are too important to overlook for the purposes of trying to define how people use these tools to disseminate information and communicate with people.

In Conner’s thought process came one of the very reasons I needed to have a definition of Twitter.  He said:

“It’s a free eco-system that allows you to talk about what you want, but by limiting you to 140 characters it keeps conversations clean and neat.  E-mail, instant message, and social networks will all be around for a long time, but you get messages that take minutes to read where Twitter’s messages take seconds.  This enforced brevity let’s you interact with a lot more people on a daily basis.  Twitter just takes online communication and adds what events like Ignite add to presentations.”

It’s this quick, one-time communication aspect of Twitter that makes it very different than some of the longer-standing ways in which people interact on places like Facebook.  You can have months-long campaigns on Facebook, where you gather fans and advocates for your cause.  Or you can share photos or videos that can still be top-of-mind (read: in the first two pages of your friends’ Stream) the next day or several days. The interaction with information on a platform like Facebook is much more dynamic than it is on a platform like Twitter.

Twitter, on the other hand, is done-and-done.  Information is disseminated real time, and often forgotten after that.  This comes into play in any sort of activism effort because the length of time that Twitter is really useful is often much shorter than on social networks, and the reason that Twitter is used is usually much different than the reasons that Facebook is used.

Additionally, “this forced brevity [that] let’s you interact with a lot more people on a daily [or hourly] basis” is one of the reasons why people will use Twitter over social networks to mobilize efforts.  Such was (sort of) the case in the Moldovan protests last month (note: the Twitter aspect of these protests was, in my opinion, overblown by much of the media).

The one tough thing about this question is that I’m not necessarily in disagreement with calling Twitter a social network.  It is a network of people that you interact with socially, through social media (whatever that means), which is, at a high-level, what happens on Facebook and other “social networks.”  I have a problem bunching them together when you get into the specifics of how those social networks work at a functional level.

In closing, while I like to also leave thing undefined a lot of the times and agree, for the most part, with Conner when he says that Twitter has no rules, there are times when the distinctions between these tools, like any set of tools, need to be highlighted.  And usually these functional distinctions translate into at least small conceptual distinctions as well.

I would love to know your thoughts on how you might define social networks, or how you would make the distinction between Twitter and what everyone else considers social networks, or what you think about the whole definition thing in general!

Image via CrunchBase

The Twitter tool kit of the business world only holds so much relevance in the higher ed space.  But there are some tools that would really add to the efficacy of using Twitter for educators who may have different needs.

We’ve listed several great ones below to start off:

Tweetdeck: A desktop application that let’s you organize who you’re following, save and display searches and organize your Twitter account to accommodate issues such as distinguishing student Tweets from colleague Tweets.

Tweet Later: With this tool you can schedule Tweets in advance, so they get posted when you want them to….like during a classroom lecture.

Twits Like Me: This allows you to find other Twitter users who are talking about the things you like to talk about, so you can follow more people who offer you value.

Tweetworks:  Move classroom discussion online into threaded groups that can be responded to from most Twitter applications, with each discussion having its own url.

Seesmic: The new version of this desktop app is great for educators and those in higher ed. It’s Tweetdeck plus maintenance of multiple accounts at the same time.

Twitilator: This is an iPhone app that has a lot of great options for Twittering from your phone.  Twitterberry has gotten some kudos for the blackberry.

TweetGrid: You can break this real-time search browser into several searches that update in real time, not only perfect for general monitoring, but a great visual addition to a class lecture.

Hashtags: Combining this service with something like TweetGrid or Tweetdeck, you can assign a specific hashtag to your lecture for students to Twitter live comments or questions, and project them onto a screen, or pick out the juicy ones for post-lecture content.

Tweetscan: By getting a notification everytime your custom search terms are mentioned on Twitter, you’re able to keep up-to-date on pertinent items coming out in the Twitosphere.

Breaking Tweets: By compiling the latest world news and Twitter feedback on that news, you can know not only what’s going on, but what people are saying about it in the Twitosphere.

TwitTrans: Have your Tweets translated into any language!

Twitscoop: This tool allows you to track trends in what’s being talked about online.  Know what’s going on in your discipline as soon as it comes out, or add some last minute content to the classroom setting.

postica: Have a note you want to get out to your students or your department?  Put it on a post-it on Twitter.

twtpoll: Conduct your own poll, including students, colleagues, etc.

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