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    Entries in social networking (17)

    Tuesday
    Mar292016

    Dunbar is the reason why all social networks eventually become horrible

    In this week's episode of 'As the social networks turn', many big users and brands that are active on Instagram are in collective freak out mode about the (Facebook owned), social network's announced plans to change user feeds from the classic 'reverse chronological' order to some kind of an algorithmic feed designed to show users the posts they are likely to be most interested in seeing and engaging with at the top of the feed.

    The reasoning behind these changes are laid out on the Instagram blog post announcing the shift:

    You may be surprised to learn that people miss on average 70 percent of their feeds. As Instagram has grown, it’s become harder to keep up with all the photos and videos people share. This means you often don’t see the posts you might care about the most.

    To improve your experience, your feed will soon be ordered to show the moments we believe you will care about the most.

    The order of photos and videos in your feed will be based on the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the post. As we begin, we’re focusing on optimizing the order — all the posts will still be there, just in a different order.

    If Instagram is right, and people miss 70% of the posts from the accounts that they have choosen to follow, there can only be a couple of possible reasons why this is the case.

    1. People just don't spend that much time on Instagram. They check it now and again, look through a few pictures on their feed, and get back to whatever else it was they were supposed to be doing. They don't make it a point to make sure they have seen everything. (FYI - this would be me in terms of Instagram. I follow 119 'accounts' on Instagram. This is important to mention for reasons that will be more clear later in the post). I do check Instagram every day (or close to every day), but there is no way I see every photo that the 119 accounts I follow have posted. 

    2. The recent, and pretty dramatic, increase in ads and sponsored posts on Instagram has turned people off and they are using and engaging with content less and less, thus driving a more significant 'miss' percentage of their feeds. This increase in ads has definitely been noticeable lately, and while I know that Instagram needs to pay the bills, I also know that with social networks, almost no one signed up to see the latest artsy pic from Bank of America. More ads --> a worse user experience --> less time spent on the platform --> more posts missed.

    3. (And the real one I am most interested in). Many if not most users have decided to follow far, far too many users/accounts than they can reasonably keep up with. As I mentioned at the top, I follow 119 accounts, well below Dunbar's estimate of the number of social relationships that a person can reasonably carry on and I still can't (and really could not try for very long), to stay on top of this level of accounts on Instagram. This is not even considering for the moment the time commitment of all the other networks that a person today must have some type of presence on. A quick look through about five people I follow shows crazy numbers of accounts they are following, 500, 800, in one case over 1,200 accounts. You could live on Instagram all day and not be able to keep up with the feeds of 1,200 users. Instagram sees this situation, and will attempt to show this person (at least at the top of their feed), the 20 or 40 or whatever number of posts and accounts they follow, in order to try and improve the overall experience.

    So the better question is not 'Why is it impossible to follow and engage with 1,200 friends on Instagram, (or any other platform), but rather 'What would drive someone to even click the 'follow' button 1,200 times in the first place?

    Dunbar's research and the 'Dunbar number' have been well known and repeatedly proved out over a pretty long time. We know no matter how many people we follow on Instagram or Facebook or wherever, that we will only interact meaningfully if at all with a very small percentage of those people we follow. Probably even less than Dunbar's number of 150 I would bet.

    So why do we do it? Why do we try? How can it make sense to have 1,500 friends on Facebook?

    I think there is only one reason.

    It's because every online/social network starts as a site or community to connect with real friends and family. And then once the platform begins to grow, even more people join. And when even more people join still more people join, (and your teenagers flee to the next new network, but that is a different issue). But at some point (close to when the network starts accepting ads and sponsored posts), the tenor of the entire conversation around the network begins to shift into a commercial one.

    Brands and company accounts are set up and they try and act like people. People amass even larger following and then try to act like brands. For both the brands (and many of the people), it becomes all about maintaining business prospects and business relationships and much, much less about sharing details of your lives with your (less than 150) networks of people that you actually know.

    That's the only reason I can think of while you or me or anyone keeps following more and more people, beyond the ones you actually know and socialize with. They might be business contacts, they may just work in your company or industry - doesn't matter, you can't not follow them if it means missing out on a business opportunity.

    There are two essential truths about every popular social network.

    1. Once you join, your kids will think it is less cool

    2. Eventually, it will become all about business. Just about all anyway.

    Instagram is moving to an algorithmic feed because it has finally reached the point where the use/purpose of the platform is primarily commercial, and we should have known this was coming the minute we thought following 529 people was a good idea.

    Dunbar strikes again.

    Monday
    Sep212015

    This content is not sponsored

    No doubt you have heard or read about, and possibly (more like probably), installed for yourself one of the popular Ad blocking programs or browser extensions in order to improve your web browsing experience, protect your privacy, and even perhaps to send a message to the internet publishers of the world that you are sick and tired of a terrible, ad-filled user experience.

    While Ad blockers have been around for quite some time, their usage has recently seen a dramatic uptick. A study released last month by PageFair and Adobe reported that the usage of Ad blocking tools worldwide has grown by 41% in the last year, and now about 45 million US internet users use these tools, (a 48% growth rate in the 12-month period ending in June 2015).Robert Rauschenberg, Yoicks, 1954

    Finally, ad blocking has hit the news more openly due to the recent release of Apple's update to the iOS operating system that powers iPhone and iPad that now supports Ad blocking apps and Safari browser extensions to enable ad blocking. Immediately, Ad blocking apps shot to the top of the App Store popularity charts, (although the number one app, Peace, was quickly withdrawn by its creator for reasons of 'conscience').

    And the short-tern and pretty obvious repercussions to online publishers from this rise in user Ad blocking? 

    A loss of revenue, for sure, for those sites that rely heavily on banner and display ads for revenue. If these ads are not seen, they can't be clicked on, and therefore can't produce revenue. From the user/reader perspective this is great, you never clicked on any of these ads anyway, and they drover slower page load times, potentially ate of monthly data allotments on mobile, and were just plain creepy and annoying. 

    But for the publishers, you or me or anyone blocking these ads presents to their point of view almost a breach of understanding of sorts. The deal, such as it it, is that for non-subscription and non-paywalled sites, the publisher would provide 'free' content, and you, the reader, would 'agree' to put up with seeing and occasionally clicking on ads to fund the content creation operation. It is impossible to tell for sure the number of sites that if Ad blocking continues to grow at the current pace will end up either having to shut down, or adopt an alternate business models, (subscriptions, donations, or more 'sponsored conent'). Sponsored content, for now, looks enough like 'regular' content that the ad blockers can't easily identify it as such.

    The deep backstory behind some of what is going on here, and not really worth diving into on an HR blog, is the macro battle being waged for user time and attention, and the corresponding advertising dollars that follow, between Apple, Google, Facebook and if you wanted to be generous, probably Twitter and LinkedIn too. The iOS 9 updated placed a non-deletable 'Apple News' app on your iPhone, Facebook wants every important publisher to publish direct to Facebook, and LinkedIn and its Pulse app want to be the sole source for your news as well.

    Some of these companies, (Facebook and Apple for sure), want to control and segregate user's interactions with the internet into their own platforms, devices, and/or apps - formats where they can define the rules of engagement and protect their advertisers ads from being blocked. Others like Google, want to continue to drive traffic to sites (again, especially on mobile), that don't attempt to drive users to download individual publisher apps as opposed to using the mobile web.

    It is still really hard to know how these trends are going to play out, how we find and consumer information might change, and how the revenue models will adapt. But ads are like water - they will continue to push and flow into whatever openings they can find to get in front of our eyeballs on on our mobile phone screens. 

    But to tie this back, if I can, to the HR/Talent/workplace space, I think the potential for the reduction of independent voices in our space is the real threat and the thing to worry about longer term. If indeed the rise of Ad blocking, combined with the ubiquity, wealth, reach, and influence of the world's largest tech companies drive us to an environment where fewer, siloed, and single-entity controlled sources of information dominate the conversation, then that can't be good for the generation, discussion, and spread of new ideas.

    This, to me, is worth paying attention to in the next couple of years. Sure, web pages free of ads do look better, load faster, and are less frustrating.

    But if the tradeoff is a world where all of the news (or at least most of it), gets filtered, approved, and distributed via Apple, Google, and Facebook can't promise to be a less frustrating one either.

    Have a great week!                         

    Monday
    Sep142015

    Learn a new word: The Friendship Paradox

    Do you sometimes get the feeling that somewhere there are amazingly cool things being done by seemingly very cool people that you are somewhat connected to and have awareness of due to your Facebook/Instagram addiction? 

    I mean every time on the weekend when you scroll though your timeline, (in between loads of laundry and cleaning up dog poop), you are treated with images of people laughing at a party, strolling on a white sandy beach, or enjoying another #perfect #sunset with #wine?

    Quick aside, and this is for everyone - ENOUGH with the sunset/sunrise pictures. The sun rises and sets EVERY day and everyone has seen this phenomenon thousands of times. We get it already.

    Ok, back to the point.

    Why is it that it seems like lots and lots of other folks are having an AMAZING time while you, well, not so much?

    It could be due to something called The Friendship Paradox. The Friendship Paradox is the phenomenon that your friends have more friends than you do. How does that make sense?

    Actually pretty simple, from a recent article on the topic called The Inspection Paradox is Everywhere, by Allen Downey:

    In 1991, Scott Feld presented the “friendship paradox”: the observation that most people have fewer friends than their friends have.  He studied real-life friends, but the same effect appears in online networks: if you choose a random Facebook user, and then choose one of their friends at random, the chance is about 80% that the friend has more friends.

    The friendship paradox is a form of the inspection paradox.  When you choose a random user, every user is equally likely.  But when you choose one of their friends, you are more likely to choose someone with a lot of friends.  Specifically, someone with x friends is overrepresented by a factor of x.

    Ok, so let's accept that the Friendship Paradox is valid, and that for the most part your friends have more friends than you do. But why do they all seem to be happier and to be having more fun than you as well?

    Well, it turns out that the Friendship Paradox extends to things like success, wealth, and happiness too. 

    From a long-ish piece on the MIT Technology Review site titled How The Friendship Paradox Makes Your Friends Better Than You Are:

    To study other types of network, Youg-Ho Eom and Hang-Hyun Jo looked at two academic networks in which scientists are linked if they have co-authored a scientific paper together. Each scientist is a node in the network and the links arise between scientists who have been co-authors.

    Sure enough, the paradox raises its head in this network too. If you are a scientist, your co-authors will have more co-authors than you, as reflected in the network topology. But curiously, they will also have more publications and more citations than you too.

    Eom and Jo call this the “generalized friendship paradox” and go on to derive the mathematical conditions in which it occurs. They say that when a paradox arises as a result of the way nodes are connected together, any other properties of these nodes demonstrate the same paradoxical nature, as long as they are correlated in certain way.

    As it turns out, number of publications and citations meet this criteria. And so too do wealth and happiness. So the answer is yes: your friends probably are richer and happier than you are.

    That has significant implications for the way people perceive themselves given that their friends will always seem happier, wealthier and more popular than they are. And the problem is likely to be worse in networks where this is easier to see. “This might be the reason why active online social networking service users are not happy,” say Eom and Jo, referring to other research that has found higher levels of unhappiness among social network users.

    So if you’re an active Facebook user feeling inadequate and unhappy because your friends seem to be doing better than you are, remember that almost everybody else on the network is in a similar position.

    So there you go, you have learned a new word/term and a little bit on the backstory and research behind a phenomenon that you have undoubtedly experienced, maybe even this past weekend.

    You were home raking leaves or fixing the leaky bathroom sink or maybe just glued to your sofa watching football and eating chips while everyone else out there was busy being better looking, having more fun, and just living way larger than you.

    Except for me. I assure you I was not one of those people. 

    Have a great week!

    Thursday
    May142015

    CHART OF THE DAY: Messaging Apps vs. Social Networks

    While you were busy growing your empire on Facebook these last few years, something interesting has been happening in the non-US parts of the world and in particular, among those crazy kids that won't get off of your lawn. 

    Global usage of the top 'messaging' apps, (like WhatsApp and WeChat) have caught up with global usage of the top social networking apps, (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram). Here's the chart, courtesy of Business Insider, then of course, some FREE comments from me after the data. 


    Some quick thoughts on what, if anything this trend might mean for for HR/Talent pros:

    1. Messaging, like regular old SMS texting, is always going to be the most effective way to get people's attention. If you can get into a candidate or prospect or employee's 'white list' of messaging buddies, then you can capture some valuable attention and even more valuable mindshare. Of course this is easier said than done, so for now most of us will just keep emailing....

    2. Communication preferences and habits, as evidenced in how some of these messaging apps dominate in certain countries and among certain age cohorts, vary quite a bit around the world. While the US has been slower to adopt messaging compared to say Asia, other parts of the world see messaging as their de facto communication medium. Some of this is probably due to the greater tendency in many non-US parts of the world for internet usage to be almost completely a mobile-device scenario. And for many of these users, Mobile = Internet = Messaging. Whatever the reason, any HR pro that has to operate globally has to be aware of how local audiences want to and expect to interact and communicate.

    3. Some of the elements that have fueled the growth of messaging apps are bleeding into workplace or enterprise apps as well. The best recent example would be Slack, a corporate communication platform that works on both smartphones and computers, and seems to be succeeding where other attempts to create corporate social networks, i.e. the "Facebook for the Enterprise", have struggled, by replacing e-mail as the main communications channel inside firms.  Organized around short, direct and group messages, organized into topics or projects, Slack seems to be catering to the same kinds of people who have adopted messaging apps overall. 

    Anyway, one last thought, take a look at what kinds of apps your kids are using these days too. Chances are they are using much more messaging and less 'social networking' than you think.

    Have a great day!

    Tuesday
    Mar172015

    On not being active on a social network

    I was having a real business (I swear) conversation with a colleague recently, when the subject turned to another person (Person X) with which both myself and my colleague are very well acquainted. I mentioned that I had not heard from Person X in quite some time, and I wondered why this person had not taken time to contact me (the context, of which the specifics don't really matter), was that in my view this person really should have reached out to me on some things and he/she had not for a long time. 

    My colleague said something along the lines of 'Person X is really active on Facebook. Just post something on their wall if you want to get in touch with him/her.'

    And I kind of cringed for two reasons I suppose. One, I don't really want to do 'business' on Facebook, and two, in truth I don't really want to do anything on Facebook. I have an account there sure, I am not a Luddite, but I don't check it all that often, I never post anything other than my blogs and the HR Happy Hour Shows that auto-post there, and for the most part I just ignore the site. I still am reasonably active on Twitter (mostly for professional reasons) and for personal/social kinds of things, I use Instagram.

    But that's just me. Most folks have their preferred ways of online social interaction, for both their business and for their personal reasons, and I don't suggest that anyone's approach is wrong or right or even that anyone should agree with me.  But to this situation with me and Person X, who is (it seems) conducting a lot of business via Facebook, it looks like unless one of us moves to change our preferred methods of interaction, we will keep missing each other for the most part. I guess that is just how it is.

    That's a long pre-amble to a shorter, more obvious point. We, or most of us surely, if we are actually busy with real work, family, friends, etc., simply can't be that active, present, and aware of all the things that are going on in our industries across the myriad of social platforms (and in-person events), all of the time. After some time of trying to keep aware and active of industry people and news and events and even opportunities on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Google+, Pinterest, (and often using multiple personas or accounts), I think at least for me, that eventually you have to settle on the one or two that you either enjoy the most, or, get the most value from. For me, it is Twitter and Instagram. For others, like Person X, it seems to be Facebook.

    And that small difference, that seemingly insignificant divergence in preferences, (and yes, I know that I could just CALL this Person X, but who does that any more?), actually does become pretty significant over time.

    Back in the day, when you as a 12 year old kid moved away from your home town you basically lost all contact with your circle of friends and had to start all over from scratch in your new town and school. Even though you could have still stayed in touch with your old friends, you almost never did. It just was too burdensome to call or send letters or postcards when you could just walk outside and interact with your new friends instead.

    That is kind of how I look at my old friends/associates over on Facebook now in a way. Sure, I could go over there and see what is going on, but it's just easier to not do that, and stay where I have become more comfortable. So I am missing out, I guess. So be it. That is what not being present on a platform can do to you in 2015. 

    Person X, give me a call sometime.