social media

Enriching Social Media

Facebook's Secret Message to MeThere's a lot that can be said about social media as it is right now and much of it has already been said, written and regurgitated all over the internet because, paraphrasing Douglas Adams, the definition of a geek is someone who uses social media to talk about social media. 

We all know that person. In fact, for some people I am that person, but if we measure the value of social media as our ability to communicate about social media, it really has no value other than being a technology with Narcissistic Personality Disorder and enabling those with it. I don't know about you, gentle reader, but I don't enjoy sitting and listening to people shout about how awesome they are all the time. We won't discuss the selfies, where one can easily be drowned in a sea of pictures taken in bathrooms - only inches away from toilets.

The same, of course, applies to businesses that speak only of themselves, but we are usually spared the misfortune of knowing what a corporation had for breakfast - and where the boardroom toilet is still off limit for corporate selfies. At least for now. 

Once upon a time, I wrote a review of a junior engineer at Honeywell for my manager. I stared at that sheet of paper for what seemed like a lifetime before writing, "He would benefit the team more by enriching himself more." In essence, he was a weak link (who I hope has found his place in the world!) and required constant supervision. He had nothing to offer but what he was taught and he did not seem interested in going beyond that. He brought nothing to the table but dined from it. 

At another point, I was a communications manager for a company where the CEO wanted me to constantly write about what the team was doing. The trouble was that his want for adding content was greater than the things that there were to write about. He didn't want to communicate to the audience the things others were doing in the same field, and that only served to constipate what could have been a very useful bit of social media. It's not just about your company. 

It's about your audience.

That's the issue with social media, be it with personal use or business use. There are many that dine from the table but there are few who bring things to the table. It's those who bring things to the table that truly add to social media - though those that share certainly propagate those things. 

If you truly want to use social media, do your audience and yourself a favor: Bring something to the table.

Small Biz, Rainbows, Unicorns, And Social Media/Websites

Unicorn Apocalypse: We'll kill you all with rainbows! And cuteness!People parading around as ‘social media experts’ and ‘web designers’ often stop at people’s places of business, hop off their unicorns and point at the rainbow they just rode in on. “You can do this too!”  Well, of course they can. They only need a unicorn and an on-ramp to the rainbow.  So they gladly get sold a spare unicorn with no understanding of how to ride the unicorn and no understanding of the rules of the road on the rainbow. Effectively they sell an overpriced bag of Skittles and a rocking unicorn as preparation for the unicorn apocalypse.

It’s one of the more common things I see with small businesses – one person businesses, or ‘Mom & Pop’ businesses – is the issue of social media and internet presence. It’s not that they do or do not have a social media/internet presence –  it seems that someone is always ready to take their money to get them started down the path.

It’s that they often have unrealistic expectations of the services that they buy or the amount that they themselves can do. This is a big problem because social media can be particularly disheartening, and the Internet can be pretty daunting for someone who simply wants to make a good product or provide a good service.  

I had one person tell me, “I’m not smart enough to do that.” I responded, “That’s not true.” She then said, “Well, it’s not how I want to spend my time.”

That’s true.

What these small businesses need to know is what they already do know – their business. From juicing vegetables, to making kale chips, to throwing needles into people, to making great chicken wings – it all boils down to your business. If you don’t know your market, and you don’t know your product or service, no one selling Skittles and a rocking unicorn will help you. Here’s what you need to understand:

  • Your website and social media presence is marketing and branding.
  • Your internet presence can be passive – a ‘business card’ site – or interactive in various ways.
  • Your social media presence can never be passive. No one should buy a unicorn to keep it in the stable.

You get from your website and social media presence what you put into it. Sure, you can have a zillion followers on Facebook, but are they interacting? Are they engaged? Are you interacting? Are you engaged?

And – is it worth it? I’ve seen local businesses struggling to grow – it’s an awkward phase – and it doesn’t help when they’re spending their hard won time and/or hard earned money on ineffective internet and social media presences. If you’re selling all of your product or service, you probably shouldn’t oversell unless you have a plan for that success.  Your money and time is better spent growing your business first to handle that success.

And – a warning. Be wary of people selling you rocking unicorns and overpriced bags of Skittles.

Stopping Troubling Cheap Popularity Algorithms

Warmed by the SunsOne of the more silly issues of popularity algorithms is that they do  not degrade over time - and it's really simple to fix.

In the context of social media and the internet, the cheap and easy algorithms that people who consider themselves programmers copy and paste into their code, or install as a module or add-on, simply point to things based on statistics on how many views. In some cases, these are prominently displayed on front pages of websites or even in feeds from certain social media sites. It's a red herring - it tells you what has been viewed the most since the items have been posted - but it doesn't tell you what is actually more popular at the moment and what is more popular over time.

As usual, the problem gives away the solution. If a page has so many hits, it could  be because of longevity - a well written article can be timeless - but it doesn't mean that it's the most popular, either. What gets the most views per day? That would likely be popular. So rather than popularity being defined by what has been viewed the most (which is almost always inflated by bots!), popularity is defined by what is most viewed per unit time.

Thus, if you can define when things are posted, and you can define what the date is, you suddenly have an idea of how many times something has been viewed over a period of time. However, is it relevant? Relevance degrades over unit time for many items, particularly dated articles that clutter the Internet - but how fast does that relevance degrade? I've seen one Drupal module that attempts to use a sort of 'half-life' argument for relevance - and while it is better than simply counting views, it's a bit too linear for my liking.

So this is what I'm considering (Math notation, not programming notation):

Popularity = (Views/Time) x (1/Time)

Popularity = (Views/Time2)

That's really not too taxing of an algorithm for a server, is it?


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