Category Archives: LinkedIn

Facebook offers vanity URLs, but for brands, what’s the point?

As a public service announcement we remind you that Facebook will allow you to grab a vanity URL starting Saturday morning at 12:01 a.m. Eastern. This is supposed to help people find you, or your brand, on Facebook more easily, since up until now Facebook-specific pages were complex URLs with long strings of numbers impossible to remember.

Of course all of this poses the question of why some brands want Facebook pages at all. Facebook allows businesses to build “fan pages” which mirror human profiles, and usually end up awkward compilations of photos, user comments, and press releases. Bank of America, for example, has 6,139 retail branches in the United States and holds $791 billion in domestic deposits — and yet has only 1,650 “fans” at its Facebook page. The top comment at the BofA Facebook fan page today says “Citibank will work with you but BofA does nothing. Their execs should be executed in public!” (Ahem. We quote.)

If consumers and business partners care so little about their money on social media, perhaps Facebook fan pages aren’t for every brand. It is possible, perhaps, that Facebook will evolve into a web inside the web, a social-media operating system so popular that not having a presence there would be a strategic mistake. The average age of Facebook users is now 27, and social media use has been creeping up (Twitter users average age 31 and LinkedIn users are 40). With 200 million users at Facebook, perhaps there is marketing gold inside those online pillow fights. So go ahead, grab your URL. Think of it as a low risk and probably very, very low reward investment.

Metcalfe gets a haircut

Brian Morrissey threw out a line in a podcast last night that everyone today is getting a haircut. We were debating union pay issues with him, but it occurred to us later that even Robert Metcalfe is getting a trim.

You see, Metcalfe was wrong. Metcalfe’s law — the idea that networks grow exponentially in value as more users join them — drew the curve too high. The reason, at least for humans, is that people don’t act the same as fax machines; not every link has the same value, we have a limit to the number of relationships we can maintain, and so our networks tend to fragment into subpopulations.

Networks don’t grow wildly in value if the links inside break and fall apart.

Which is why the recent trend of social media tools like Facebook and Twitter being sliced up is so interesting. Tweetdeck is a free software/mobile app that now accounts for nearly 10% of Twitter traffic, and it allows users to create groups of people they want to watch closely within Twitter. Web sites such as ExecTweets or’s new feed into Twitter are creating silos within the human networks, easier to access, depending on your interest or mode or point of entry.

All of which points out social media is fragmenting even as it connects us, limited the total utility of the network. Step back and count the sheer number of systems you now use to communicate. Email. Gmail. Hotmail. Facebook. Twitter. Desk phone. Home phone. Cell phone. Fax. Physical mail. Voicemail. LinkedIn. Blogs and their comment threads. Do you really plug in seamlessly to each, reaching all possible connections? (Ha. If you do, please come help us with our In box!) Each system is a network with potentially unlimited contacts and ways to tweak it, but to function we filter out insanity by limiting access in each.

Advertisers who still believe social networks equal wild potential, where a message can scale to the masses, aren’t paying attention and perhaps should wise up. Networks are largely illusions. We all aren’t connected, because if we want to listen to a few, we have to find new ways to shut some others out.

This isn’t to suggest your marketing message can’t scale. Just beware of the limits within new networks — humans tend to cluster, and each subgroup is a disconnect that can turn your message off.

Social networks: Not just for kids anymore

Pew released its latest report on social media yesterday, with the headline that more U.S. adults than teens now use chatty services such as Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace. As a percentage of each demo, teens are still more likely to socialize online; but in terms of sheer numbers adult use has skyrocketed from only 8% of those with online access using social media in February 2005 to 35% today.

The Pew survey unlocks a few surprises. Social media use is concentrated in urban areas (34% of online users) vs. rural (23%); no surprise there. But whites (31%) are less likely to use online social media than African-Americans (43%) and Hispanics (48%). And perhaps most surprising, while 17% of teens said they use social media to flirt online, 20% of adults do the same. Since adults tend to be married and teens do not, it means you grownups out there are being very, very naughty.

Twitter’s failure: We recommend binding it in a book

How precarious is it that you store so much of your thoughts, work and relationships online?

Last night Twitter crashed again, but this time the messaging service didn’t shut down — it misplaced “followers,” or about one-third of the people whom other people had connected with. Imagine one-third of your Facebook or LinkedIn or Outlook contacts mysteriously disappearing and you get the idea.

Twitter users screamed. The pain was intense because people carefully build up Twitter audiences over time. Some, like us, network for marketing inspiration and carefully build a group of specialized experts to converse with. Power users, such as social media adviser Chris Brogan or the ad industry’s “experience designer” David Armano, open arms to the world and build up thousands of followers.

Suddenly, human links were gone. It points out the fragility of entrusting content to online computing clouds — something almost all of us do. This blog contains more than 700 articles on advertising strategy, enough for a book and not backed up anywhere. Your Flickr photos or YouTube uploads or LinkedIn resume are floating on servers halfway around the country.

And it goes deeper, to the tools you use every day. Phone numbers are stored in your cell phone, not mind. You write electronic documents stored on spinning hard drives susceptible to crash. Your personal wealth is stored in a checking account and Vanguard fund, really computers filled with ones and zeros.

And it goes even deeper, to the future. Today we can’t play eight-tracks or vinyl records. Will blogs and Word/Excel documents and Tweets be visible to the technology users of the future? Or will our grandchildren think back and laugh at our text communications, like a pile of dried up faxes or IBM computer tapes decomposing in a landfill?

The power of using the “new thing” is hard to resist. Unfortunately, everything new at some point becomes history.

As social nets get closer, advertisers are pushed farther away

What happens when social networking turns out to be an interactive feature and not a single company’s web site? Andreas Kluth has a brilliant essay where he notes social nets are today where the web was back when we needed AOL to get in. Eventually, just as web access and email became commodities, social networks will be a feature of every node on the internet. Your contacts and news will talk with our contacts and news. And Facebook will go away.

We call this going ambient, meaning social nets — like the web, and like electricity before it — will just become part of our environment. You don’t walk into a room today and go, wow, man, this room is electrified! There is no single electrical company or single web company. Same will go for social networks, in which our little personal sphere of communications will plug in to everyone else, without a single company making it happen.

This trend explains the slipperiness of today’s social media race. Friendster plummeted. MySpace got buzz before it got ugly. Facebook was valued at $15 billion before it bungled Beacon. Now, everyone is launching new social nets. Even Penthouse invested $500 million this month in sex-related communities. Kind of reminds you of Earthlink and Prodigy chasing AOL back in the day.

The trouble for advertisers is if social networks are just the new email–a new mode of communication, not a specific web portal–then advertisers are going to have difficulty intercepting our messages. Consider this: No one has succeeded in placing ads next to email, even the contextual attempts by Google. For example, if this blog post was an email to you, dear reader, a computer algorithm from Google might pick up the word “sex” in the above paragraph and insert text ads to the right of this copy block for Viagra. Is that relevant? Do you even care? Or, more important, if your mode of thought at this very moment is communicating with us on a personal level, aren’t you a bit removed from the hunting-shopping mode you enter when you search for products on

We think Kluth is right–social networks are here to stay. About 83 million U.S. consumers visited social networks in October, or about half of all people who went online. As networks become unbound, and as we begin whispering with each other in new ways, advertisers may have a hard time bending our ear.

How to advertise inside Facebook’s widgets

By now you’ve heard of Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace, the little scrapbooks online that have become walled gardens for college students and business professionals riffing with each other.

You’ve also heard the buzz inside Facebook is about its mini-apps, little programs created by college kids that are wildly popular because
(a) developers can make money off any ad that runs in their widget and (b) Facebook users can now throw virtual food at each other. Some apps go viral, and when they do we’re talking millions of impressions.

So, you get it. Facebook hot. Demo hot. Widgets hot. Uga want ad for Facebook widget demo.

Here are four ways in.

1. Check out Lookery is an ad network that does nothing more that put your ad on thousands of Facebook widgets. Lookery hasn’t launched yet, but they’re taking names and the word in the press is they’re serious. Lookery claims they will be able to target specific demos.

2. Go directly to the hottest widgets with the best audiences. Likewise has 2.9 million users, Food Fight 2 million, HotList 1.6 million. They’ll take your money.

3. Narrow your target inside Facebook with Flyers Pro, which serves ads based on user profile keywords, workplace, relationship status, political views, or current education status. Flyers Pro moves from a CPM to CPC basis, which is important because click-through rates can be very low inside social networks. The targeting possibilities are almost trippy — you can reach female liberals who are college alumni and work at Google, if you were recruiting for Hillary Clinton’s online campaign staffers.

4. Continue a Google AdSense program, and pray the black box at Google deems your text ad relevant enough to push inside a widget. We love Google, but if you want shelf space inside Facebook, this format is more difficult to control.

Yeah, it’s all complicated. If your marketing boss wants an explanation, just say you want to put your banner ad inside other banner ads that are inside the web that is inside the web. Got it?