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Facebook’s Like Button – What’s Not To Like?

facebook like button

In 2010, Facebook introduced their famous Like button.  Since that time, it’s found its way across the web.  Back in 2011, celebrating the one year anniversary of the Like button, HubSpot published statistics on its use to that point outlining “2.5 million websites have integrated with Facebook (including more than 80 of comScore’s U.S. Top 100 websites and over half of comScore’s Global Top 100 websites)”. Fast forward to 2012 and the time of it’s S-1 filing, Yahoo! reported that Facebook was generating 2.7 billion likes and comments a day…31,250 every second!  And that is only half the story, less than half.  Even if 10% of Like button impressions were clicked (which is a stratospheric number), that means the “Like” button is still collecting data on the other 90% of traffic.  Very rough math:  27 billions data collecting events from not only on Facebook but across the most popular sites on the web.  ClickZ has a good article of the gold mine that is Facebook’s Like button and cite:

the company creates an impression log every time a signed in member views a Like button or social plug-in on a third party site, regardless of whether or not they interact with it. That record, which is tied to members’ unique user IDs, includes information on IP address, URL, date, time, and browser, and is retained for a period of 90 days.

This is an amazing accomplishment.  Many in the industry including investors already know the power that this represents.  Facebook has an engine that is learning with every page view about users and for certain, is synthesizing it into a data warehouse that marketers can only dream about.  The possible use cases for such an engine are profound ranging from more astute targeting on Facebook with advertising and offers, to building an internet wide advertising platform (aka Beacon) that is every bit as powerful (if not more so) to Google Ad Sense.

Think about it from the perspective of a publisher on an online web site, for example, the New York Times or WSJ.  They strive to learn about their audience and their behaviors so that they have generate more online revenue.  However, they have an issue:  their users have to register and be logged in so they can tie the profile of their user to their activity.  Many publishers sit on a ton of anonymous cookie data that they cannot identify at a personalized level.  This is why online behavioral targeting and ad exchange solutions are vital to them.  In the case of the Like button, users have already registered at Facebook (you have to register to use the service) and thus an ID is in their system tied to an actual person.  Each time the Like button is sent somewhere on the internet, Facebook knows who is looking at that page.  A click on the Like button is just additional data.  So in this scenario, Facebook most likely knows more about the users behavior than the publisher themselves.

Plenty more to discuss on this topic.  If you are interested, the lastest edition of MIT Technology Review has an article entitled What Facebook Knows as its centerpiece.



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Power of the Digital Pen

Remember the days of high school English class or getting a big paper assignment in college? I do. I never minded the act of writing; I was the type that thought having a “pen pal” in some far off country was pretty cool. (Mine never wrote back). However the concept of getting an assignment that had to be ten double-space pages with a max of a one-inch margins or a paper that had to be exactly 1000 words always seemed daunting. I always waited until the last minute to do it that made the entire experience even more traumatic.

My personal favorite was from Mr. Hart’s AP English class: Describe your view through an imaginary window. I am still slightly aggravated with myself to this day, or I should say, perplexed, that I didn’t just think to look out of an actual window in my house and describe what I saw. Instead I sat at my desk with the worst writer’s block, tapping my pencil against the desk, painfully trying to force an imagined view into my head. What’s funny is I think back now to the trauma of it all and really can’t remember what I wrote; I think it had something to do with icicles.

So it is with that in mind that I often think about how much the web changed the written landscape. Think about how many writers and content producers beyond traditional media (you know, the people who loved writing and creating the stuff even back in high school).  Many of them are a direct result of the advent of the digital pen. Much of the content produced may not be Poe, Emerson, Rand or Shakespeare but it doesn’t need to be.  Clive Thompson has an essay called The New Literacy in the September issue of Wired that focuses on this phenomenon and also reflects on whether the “digital pen” is hurting the overall quality if writing.

People are creating some of the best content on the web today. Blogging enables thousands to produce incredible content across genres. Think about a well-thought blog post that you’ve read recently. Descriptive title, subject statement, number of paragraphs backing up an argument and some type of conclusion perhaps. That sure sounds a heck of a lot like the type of assignment many of us ran from.  And that doesn’t scratch the surface.  There is the micro-content world that Thompson touches on such as Twitter and Facebook.  Look at the extent of content, solid writing at that, taking place in the enterprise in the form of business plans, emails and PowerPoint presentations.

Content creation takes place us around us all the time.  Writing is getting churned out like crazy. The digital pen has enabled us to publish our thoughts in an easy way.  Even those of us who dreaded writing our view through an imaginary window could rail something out in 20 minutes without thinking twice. I find this truly amazing.

And guess what, how’s this for an essay?  519 words.  Knocked it out the iPhone on the train ride into the city this morning.  Wonder if Mr. Hart would approve?

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Are you really anonymous?

There’s an article entitled,  Social Security, in the July/August edition of MIT Tech Review. (I’m behind in my reading so just catching up, I plan on starting to read the next one on the train ride home). First off, misleading title. The article has nothing to do with the federal retirement program that will be insolvent and have no funds to pay me when I am 65, 67, 70 or 75. Now to the meat of my thoughts on the article.

The article discusses the concept of Anonymous social software and goes on regarding research that has found that using data mining techniques on your social network, one can be personally identified. Pretty interesting. But not surprising. So let’s go back to the concept: Anonymous Social Software. I am not sure I really “follow” the concept. (pun intended).

People who blog anonymously. This I can understand. You can write all on your own, not disclose it is you to anyone and take active steps to not get identified. A great example is Fake Steve Jobs who had quite a run writing a blog without being personally identified. However, without fostering a commenting dialog, I can posit that blogging is not social software, it is simply a publishing platform. Once you begin an interaction (a conversation) do you really enter the realm of social software.

So, can people really be anonymous and use social software. People who want to remain anonymous take strides to not release any more information than they have to not give themselves away. In most cases, this is precisely the opposite of what one tries to accomplish with social software. The point is to interact, to follow. And of course every connection in of itself is additional information that narrows the focus on who you could be. Back on the Fake Steve Jobs, even Daniel Lyons couldn’t not remain anonymous. His writing style alone eventually gave him away.

Another subtle point is the article discussed security and anonymity as if they are one in the same thing. However, security and anonymity are not the same thing nor should they be. Whether identified or not, people want their system and data secure. I am not anonymous writing this article but I want the article to be secure. The same goes for my newsfeed on Facebook or my stream on Twitter. If you want security, use the web privately, private rooms, storage, feeds, etc. Yes, there is the raging “security of cloud computing” conversation going on but that is fully another topic and one which I believe will resolve itself.

The big question people should be asking themselves is why are they trying to remain anonymous? This issue has existed since the days of mainstream message boards and chat rooms. You are going on the web and posting information fully out in the public. A “handle” isn’t security. CEOs of publicly traded grocery store chains even know this.

My view is if you are venturing out and going to interact on the web, you have to have a comfort of living in public. Fred Wilson had a great commentary on this. It is something that everyone posting information should consider. It is much more about your own personal attitude and approach than whether the software/meme should be maintaining your anonymity. Sure many will disagree with me. I’m just not sold that you can have one without the other.

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Personal Dialog 1 – Social Media 0

Perhaps as strong as we think social media is for interaction and getting to the quick answer, it hasn’t quite surpassed the value of personal contacts and interaction.  I have one story that at least indicates that.  And I will be honest, I thought social media would have won this one in a land slide.  Anyway, here’s the story:

Last Thursday night, my wife and I were watching the BCS Championship game and a pretty good commercial for the Big 12 came on.  The next day, my wife wanted to know the song that was played during the ad but couldn’t seem to find it.  The next thing I know she’s on the phone calling the station and then following up directly via email with a contact at the Big 12 conference.  I immediately jump in and say there is a much better way to come to that answer, we need to just drop the question on Twitter and Friendfeed, surely someone knows and can tell us immediately.  So that is what I did here at Twitter and the follow-through on Friendfeed, and Facebook status too.

To my surprise, not only did I not get the answer but not one response in either medium.  This was really shocking.  And sure enough, my wife received a very warm response from the Big 12 this afternoon.  I should also say kudos to them for such sound customer intimacy to reach out and reply to the request and in a timely manner.

This test is, of course, a small sample size and obviously not one where any conclusions can be drawn.  Perhaps it was this particular question and 9 out of 10 times, I would receive a response in a flash.  Perhaps it was the way in which I asked.  Perhaps no one knew the answer (or watched the bowl game because there is no playoff system).

Or perhaps even in a world where social tools and social media is getting so much hype, we really cannot lose focus on the value of personal dialog and one-to-one communication.  I do not believe any of us have lost sight of the value of personal interaction, not by any means.  But there are times where social media (in our echo chamber) seems like the panacea for information gathering and dissemination.

This was a good reminder for me that each have their place and can be used effectively together.

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Now I’m Bothered, And Upset

At some point (I think recently) I updated my MyBlogLog profile which included updating several other services.  Yes, this is basically the same thing you do at FriendFeed.  And this is one of the common themes about social media that bothers me:  updating your profile in a number of locations.  I’ve discussed this in that past.  The thing I find most bothersome about this though is that I forgot I did this, I did not recall that I updated some of my services such as Delicious and Twitter within MyBlogLog profile.  My fault, of course, but bothersome nonetheless.  Most bothersome is that I wouldn’t have remembered at all that my data was being collected over at MyBlogLog except for the fact that one of my Google alerts picked it up.

Now let’s get to why I am upset.  There is no way to remove the services from MyBlogLog (and if there is I can’t seem to find it).  There is only a way to update and add services to your account, and there is a way to stop data collection altogether.   I now find that there is no method to have my data collecting stop for one particular service.  That simply is not realistic in a world where there are so many social media services that one could have updated their profile with.   Okay, end of vent but I find this quite problematic not to mention not user-centric.

Anyone know how to have MyBlogLog stop data collecting a particular service?  If there is and I’m missing it, I’ll be happy to update this post with it.

UPDATE:  There is a way to remove the service.  Here are the instructions:  Public updates are also available to third parties via an RSS feed of your profile as well as the MyBlogLog API. To prevent information from any particular online service(s) from being displayed, simply remove your screen name(s).

SIDE NOTE:  Even though there is a method, see my comment below, I still find the removing the service unintuitive.  You have to remove your screen name and then click in the window again for the change to take effect.  Would rather they used standard profile management practice with a submit button.

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