- Both Bing & Google do use retweets and Facebook posts as a ranking factor
- They both calculate the authority of the tweeter/poster, and give more/less weight depending
- Publicly available links on Facebook are tracked by both search engines
“Modern writing at its worst does not consist in picking out words for the sake of their meaning and inventing images in order to make the meaning clearer. It consists in gumming together long strips of words which have already been set in order by someone else, and making the results presentable by sheer humbug.”
George Orwell – Politics and the English Language
(Opening a blog post with an Orwell quote? Pretentious, moi?! Well, I suppose, perhaps, but stick with me, there’s some swearing coming up.)
I’m not a great writer. I understand that. The vast majority of people writing blogs are not great writers, and that’s perfectly fine. But what really irks me are those blog writers who, rather than attempt to write clearly, deliberately write in that buzzword-heavy, cliche-ridden, business speak that is so prevalent on corporate blogs.
And especially on social media blogs.
In the essay quoted above, Orwell rewrites a well know verse from Ecclesiastes in modern English, so that:
I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.
Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.
The point being that bad writing is not only uglier, but also more vague.
If Steve Rubel writes in AdAge that people “engage with a unit of media” he hasn’t done anything to help clarify what he is trying to say. It has a ring of scientific evaluation, but in fact it divorces the meaning from the words in order to suggest that there is a Great Big Idea hidden behind them. But he actually just means “read a book or watch a movie”.
Language like this doesn’t express new ideas. It can’t. The use of stock-phrases keeps us locked into patterns of thinking like a train unable to move from its tracks. I had someone DM me on Twitter that they were following me “because they found my content compelling”. That wasn’t a phrase they conjured up themselves, it was a phrase they had learned. A bad habit. A cliche designed to suggest a more rigourous thought than simply saying “I like what you say”. The irony* is, it has the opposite effect.
Nothing makes your content less compelling than using words like ‘compelling content’.
(*that is irony, right? Since I learned that Alanis Morissette was all wrong about what irony is I get so confused)
Now I understand that this isn’t a new thought either, but it has been on my mind lately. And then I came across this site yesterday - What the F#&* is My Social Media “Strategy”? (See? I told you there was going to be swearing).
Inspired by ‘What the F#&* Should I Make for Dinner?‘, WTFIMSMS parodies the social media world’s art of saying nothing in as complicated a way as possible, by giving you a random nonsense sentence to sum up your goals. For instance, I just clicked and got:
Activate audience by giving them compelling social experiences, encouraging advocacy
Great stuff! So I thought we could play a wee game here. Which of the following are from WTFIMSMS, and which are from actual Social Media/Marketing professionals. Ready?
“Humanise the brand by driving the audience conversations”
“(Help) to humanize the interaction with our community while maintaining brand identity and growing a centralized community.”
“Convert every one of your store associates into well-informed product experts by providing an interactive, course-based social platform/community that educates, engages, and rewards them, while showing them how they stack up against their co-workers.”
“(create) user-centric approach to social media design, implementation, and strategy that accounts for how different kinds of users engage with social media, and how sites and application design and execution lead to emergent social practices.”
OK, you get the idea. Obviously (?) the first is from WTFIMSMS, while the others are real. You get the point.
I’m sure there is plenty of hypocricy in me writing this. I’m sure there have been times when I’ve been as guilty as the worst offender. I honestly don’t mean to attack anyone in particular here. I just think it’s about time that we all slowed down a little and thought about what we are really trying to say, and how we can best do that.
And if that means quoting Orwell and getting all pretentious up in here, well, then that’s just what I’ll have to do.
“It is our intention to make this a model for how open a social site should be”
Google is previewing their new Buzz feature as I write this:
And they couldn’t be any more clear that this is a direct challenge to Facebook. With the ability to share photos, geo-tag posts, see who’s near you and more.
It’s no secret that Google would love some of the attention that Facebook is getting on the web. Christmas Day 09 actually saw Facebook pass Google as the most visited site in the world. And while Google’s own Orkut social site has been a terrible flop (outside of Brazil at least), they have been stealthily building all the blocks of a Facebook competitor piece by piece.
In fact, it’s only the tying together of these various strands which is holding them back. Consider these Google products working in conjunction:
Picasa for photos
Youtube for videos
Reader for articles
and you have the basics of a Facebook-like service already.
And it goes without saying that there are other features which can be tied into these, sharing custom maps, reviewing product pages, the FourSquare-like features of the new Google Buzz, NearMeNow on the iPhone/Droid, etc, etc.
So will it work?
I think it will. Buzz will start rolling out to Gmail users within the hour, and judging by the buzz (sorry) on Twitter, there’s a huge amount of interest already:
APIs will be available, and public info will be provided as XML feeds. Anything public will indexed immediately by Google’s real time search. There is a lot of stuff here, even speculation about using Google Voice conversations as part of the Buzz. They have put a lot of thought into spam fighting (and I must say, Gmail spam fighting is great for me). Buzz seems to offer a huge amount of potential, especially if you consider the built in user-base Gmail has.
However, with @replies to tag people, the ability to ‘like’ or comment on posts, photos and updates, many may see this as too close to Facebook to be worthwhile.
So, what do you think? Can Google finally make a success of their social strategy, or is it too similar, too late?
Google has never shied away from taking on other companies. Since inception, when Google supplied the search results for Yahoo, and then turned around and beat Yahoo at its own game, through the ‘email wars‘ with Yahoo and Microsoft, to taking on Apple with its own phone(s).
And I think we can now add Yelp to the list.
It was widely reported that last month Yelp wallked away from a Google buy out, an almost done deal worth $550+million. Google seems to have responsed to this snub by stepping up the quality of its own local Place Pages.
I’ve mentioned Google Local pages on here before, but as with all things Google, they never stay still for very long. Besides the existing features, such as photos, maps, coupons and hours, Google has introduced their own ranking system, with rankings based on aggregating comments on sites such as TripAdvisor, Kudzu and Igougo.
For instance, here’s the page for one of our clients in Charleston, Circa 1886 restaurant. Under the heading ‘What people are saying about’ you can read the comments, divided up into categories, service, meal, staff, atmosphere and wine list, alongside a colored bar similar to the PageRank bar:
(click to enlarge)
and selecting one of the topics will show you more details and comments about that aspect.
More worryingly for Yelp, NextStop and others, Google has also released an iPhone/Android app (with good reviews), Near Me Now, which allows users to see what is nearby, and pulls inthe Place Pages data too.
Of course, Google has had its own notable failures too – Paypal is still a lot more popular than Google Checkout, Orkut has quiet some way to go to dethrone Facebook as King of the Internet, and Craigslist/Ebay are still casting a snooty eye over the upstart that is Google Base.
So what do you think? Has Google made a useful product? Is this it for Yelp? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
Finally, some big news about Twitter which doesn’t involve the company being bought by Google Microsoft Yahoo Apple whoever this week. Instead, at a Cnet panel last week Santosh Jayaram, Vice President, Business Operations, mentioned that Twitter will begin crawling the links in tweets, and then indexing those pages.
As Techcrunch rightly points out, this isn’t a matter of Twitter trying to beat Google at their main strength, traditional search, it is instead a brand new paradigm, with the promise of human-influenced, real-time search results.
Little is known about the details but there were comments made about weighting links based on influence (a la Google’s Page Rank system), but no word on how that would be done yet.
One thing is certain though, this finally offers Twitter the chance to prove its real worth. All those big companies sniffing around for the past few weeks weren’t doing so as a result of the buzz around Twitter (despite Oprah‘s growing disinterest after an initial flurry of tweets, the number of new users continues to climb), but for the oodles of data Twitter has unprecedented access to. As with Google’s purchase of Urchin a few years ago, seeing how real people behave online is inherently valuable.
How Will It Work?
Short answer: we’ll have to wait and see. Longer answer: I’m not sure, but I’d like to see something like this. A real-time search engine,which would compliment Google rather than replace it, where real people invisibly influence the search results.
For example, a current Twitter search for ‘obama‘ has thousands upon thousands of results with dozens more each few seconds. Great if you want to know what people are saying, not so useful if you want to discover what exactly they are reacting to, as you have to wade through page after page to see all the links.
Or ‘manny ramirez‘ – you’ll see lots of comments about his drug violation, and many of them also have links. The trouble is that with URL shortening, you can see what looks like 10 different links all going to the same article.
Wouldn’t it be great to have this page split into two columns, one with comments and another with the most popular linked-to articles/websites?
Of course, it will also become subject to the scourge of the internet – spammers – but that is where the relative influence of the writer comes in.
It’s easy to forget now, but before Google search engines were filled with spam. Yes, it still appears throughout the search results now,even on Google, but nothing like it was back in 1997/8, and that is largely because of Google’s PageRank system. For a detailed mathematical explanation see here, but basically Google used links to a webpage as a way of measuring its popularity,but with the very important caveat that not all links are equal.
If I run a golf course for example, a link from PGA.com would be far more valuable than a link from your old Geocities page – PGA.com is a popular site, and in a related field. A similar thing could be done for Twitter search, a link from ESPN columnist and professional RedSox fan Bill Simmons to a Manny Ramirez article would be worth more than one from Oprah, even though she has more followers.
And of course, Twitter search wouldn’t have to be limited to websites either. As with Google’s move towards universal search, it could easily incorporate videos, mp3s, photos, and anything else that people are discussing or linking to.
Something like this could be hugely useful, if implemented correctly. Despite Google’s success, the missing piece in their search has always been a human element. In fact they incorporate the Open Directory Project listings into their search algorithm as a way of helping to inject some personal judgment.
A search engine that shows exactly what is happening around the world right now, as discussed by real people? I can’t wait!
So what do you think? Am I missing the point? Is this another potential ‘Google-killer’ that will die on the vine? Please share your thoughts or comments.
A new study from Hubspot, who canvessed 167 small to medium sized business owners and executives, is both encouraging and confusing.
The percentage of leads from each source was broken down as:
Other (including public relations and print and online display advertising) 25%
Email Marketing 14%
Pay Per Click 13%
Blogs+Social Media 8%
Trade Shows 8%
Direct Mail 7%
I find this very encouraging – particularly as we offer services for PR, SEO, email, PPC and Social Media, that’s 76% of the leads right there! – it’s certainly good to know that more and more businesses are trying a variety of methods to generate leads, rather than sticking to whatever they have done in the past. That has certainly been my feeling from talking to clients in all kinds of businesses lately.
However, I’m also slightly skeptical of the accuracy, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, if you’re in are a small or medium sized business yourself, you know the difficulty in pinning down exactly how a lead found you.
If they remember you from a trade show, but Google* you to find your contact info, does that count as SEO or a trade show?
If you send offers via both email and direct mail, as many of our clients do, which one gets the credit for the sale?
And Mike Volpe, Hubspot’s VP of marketing, even goes on to say that there are additional benefits to blogging,
“Not only are you creating a community around blog articles, but all those articles get indexed by search engines, so blogging has elements of search engine optimization (SEO) as well”
So how can we accurately claim that SEO is 16% vs Blogging’s 8%? I don’t feel that we can. But I also don’t see that as a problem.
One thing we try to stress here at Step Ahead is that your marketing efforts, particularly onlne, will help each other. Being active on Twitter can drive traffic to your blog, which can help with your SEO, which can get people to sign up for your email marketing, which can inform people about your trade show appearances, which, well, you get the idea.
One final thing which jumped out at me from this was this statistic:
Companies with less than 50 employees earmarked more than three times as much of spending on blogging and social media than larger ones, and 36% more on SEO.
On the Internet, there is no reason the small companies can’t compete with the Big Boys. In fact, the lack of barriers to getting things accomplished, which plague many a large corporation, can be to your advantage. If you aren’t already blogging, tweeting, facebook-ing, etc, you can start right now. You don’t need to organize all the different departments, have a bunch of strategy meetings, get the lawyers to overlook things, and waste months of everybody’s time. Just sign up for an account and jump in.
So, what are you waiting for?
*I really don’t like using Google as a verb, but everyone else does it!
What do Barack Obama, Britney Spears, and Bill O’Reillyall have in common? All were among the 33 celebrities who had their Twitter accounts hacked yesterday.
This followed hot on the heels of the weekend’s Twitter phishing attempts, and a number of reports of people being DM’d affiliate links and marketing tools.
What can you do?
- Treat your Twitter account like your email, don’t give out your password to third party sites.
- Change your password regularly.
- If you receive a spammy DM from a friend, check if they really sent it. It could be that their account is compromised without their knowledge.
- Beware of phishing. Check the URL of the site. Be sensible!
Catching up on some RSS feeds (it’s been a busy week!), I came across this Tech Crunch attack on the ‘Team Cyprus Video’ – and I’m so annoyed.
If you haven’t seen it yet, the video (below) was created in Cyprus by some techies on vacation. Those involved work for some of the biggest names in the industry – Google, Facebook, Blip.tv, etc – and that’s the problem that Techcrunch has with it,
“The video was released just as Silicon Valley really began falling apart and the UnParty began in earnest – eBay’s 10% layoffs, Google’s stock nosedive, Yahoo’s self destruction, VC’s bunkering down, etc. And more than a few people thought the ostentatious partying was a little, ahem, tasteless in light of the meltdown back home.”
Ok, so here’s the video:
I’m not quite sure why Michael Arrington thinks it’s so ‘tasteless’ (he may have said, “more than a few people thought it was tasteless”, but let’s be honest, he’s projecting his own feeling here) – All I’m seeing is a bunch of young people having a good time on vacation. In fact I wish I had been there myself. They’re not bathing in champagne or lighting cigars with $100 bills. Just singing, drinking beer and having fun.
Sure the markets are in meltdown, but are we all supposed to be donning the hairshirts and sitting around watching the talking heads on CNBC tell us how the world is going to end any minute? I’ve already posted this week about optimism, but I think this article goes even beyond that. This isn’t simply being pessimistic, it’s an attack on fun, and includes this ridiculous hyperbole:
“fair or not the video video will always be associated with the end of Web 2.0″
What does that even mean?! If Web 2.0 means the social web, how does a funny Youtube video which has spread virally through blogs prove the end of that?
I’m not sticking my head in the sand over the current financial crisis – I got my daughter’s Future Scholar statement this morning, I know how things are – but can’t we allow a little room for having a good time?
I think if you have to say something about this video, it should be to praise the production values – I mean, really, it’s a single cam tracking shot right up there with the club scene in Goodfellas, the pool party in Boogie Nights or this from Soy Cuba:
Who’d have thought that, from a bunch of tech geeks?