Bulk Social Media Analyzer + Author Finder – Featured Tool of the Week

This week I am happy to feature a coolest tool in our tools column: Analyze Social Signals and Google Authorship for the List of URLs – Free Tool

It’s simple to use but has some awesome functionality: provide the list of URLs, wait a bit and enjoy:

Page-specific social media numbers:

  • Number of Facebook shares, comments and comments (as well as total) for each one
  • Number of Tweets
  • Number of Google plus ones

The tool will also find a verified author of each page and even find that author on Twitter, Facebook and Google plus. It won’t stop there and fetch social media following for each author.

Author-specific information:

  • Links to social media accounts of each author
  • Number of Twitter followers of each author
  • Number of Facebook friends of each author
  • Number Google Plus circles each author is in.

How cool is that!

Social author tool

You can also export the whole chart in a handy clickable HTML file!

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Wrong Ways To Use Hashtags

Hashtags are amazing. Not just because they offer such a clever way of grouping content, searching and adding context. Not even because they were used on IRC long before Twitter even thought of. It is because they have invaded the public consciousness in an irrevocable way that will continue to affect our world for generations to come.

Bethoven Using HashtagThink about it, when was the last time you made a hashtag reference and someone didn’t know what you were talking about? What do you think of every time you see a # sign?

How many websites are now using this format, including sites that were straight up against the idea like Facebook?

But for all the attention it has gotten, we have been remarkably careless with our hashtags. Many people don’t seem to understand how they work, and they misuse the tool. Which is a fast way for them to suffer a backlash, sometimes without even knowing they have.

Here are a few common ways people abuse the hashtag system, and what should be done instead.

Make hashtags natural part of the tweet:

Hasgtag Bracelet

  • The Bad: Using a bunch of hashtags in every single tweet in order to attract the attention of anyone who might possibly be able to benefit from it.
  • The Good: It might seem like a good idea to stuff a tweet full of every possible relevant hashtag. But this takes up your precious character limit and looks tacky. Instead, use one or two hashtags in a tweet, and if possible try and hashtag a word in the tweet itself. For example, you could write “I found the best #vegetarian pizza recipe ever!” Now you don’t have to add #vegetarian to the end of the tweet. 

Hashtags should make sense:

  • The Bad: Using random hashtags that may or may not be important in the tweet itself, just because it is slightly related.
  • The Good: Getting over zealous with your hashtagging is easy to do. I have seen people hashtag every single word in a tweet, just so they came up on a search for every one. This is ridiculous…a hashtag should only be the subject, genre or emotion behind a post. So saying “I #found the #best #vegetarian #pizza #recipe ever!” is not at all what you should be going for. However, you could say “I found the best #vegetarian pizza recipe ever! #yum” and it would be fine. 
  • The Bad: Hashtag hijackers will take random hashtags that have gained popularity or are trending and use them to piggy back for views. Their tweet has nothing to do with the hashtag itself, and it causes problems for the original person who penned a specific keyword.
  • The Good: Feel free to use a hashtag that has gained popularity. Even if the actual meaning of your tweet is slightly different in context. Just be aware of the purpose to the tag, and don’t swipe it in a desperate attempt to become visible. It makes you look like a spammer, and it is bad twitequette.

Hashtags should have a purpose:

  • The Bad: Being at a special event can be exciting, and tweeting about it is a great way to share the experience with others who are both there and couldn’t make it themselves. Using the hashtag too often and without purpose, however, is never appreciated.
  • The Good: Avoid flooding your Twitter feed with updates using the hashtag, even if you are continuously tweeting about it. Instead, save the hashtag for special tweets or more important updates, and refrain from using it on others. The only exception is if you are holding a live chat during an event or a Twitter chat, in which case you need your own hashtag anyway.

Tweet FaceConclusion

We should all be using hashtags regularly, both on and off Twitter where relevant. But we should be using them in the right way, otherwise the whole process is counterproductive and potentially harmful to your social media efforts. No one likes an impolite or aggressive hashtagger.

Luckily, it isn’t that difficult to avoid the worst offenses, and most others can be forgiven. Follow the advice above and you should be just fine.

Have some tips on using hashtags correctly? Let us know in the comments.

Image Credits: tweet face, bethoven hashtag, hashtag bracelet.

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How Facebook Hashtags Work

When I first heard that Facebook was enabling live hashtags on their site, I was surprised. Not that the move had been taken (Twitter hashtags have been around since 2007!), but that it had taken so long to do it. After all, services like Flickr and Instagram have had them for ages, and Twitter remains Facebook’s main competitor. People like hashtags, and they should have been utilized for the largest social networking site a long time ago.

But despite being based on the same principle as those other sites, they are not exactly the same. Facebook itself has a much different format than other social networks, and operates as its own platform. It does not have the image centric nature of Pinterest, for example, or the live algorithm and openness of Twitter.

So, how does the hashtag work on Facebook, and what is it good for if not grouping content across a disconnected network?

How Hashtags On Facebook Work

Facebook hashtags

The tags will still group content. However, it is meant to group more for public pages, and for people on your list. It also might search profiles without their privacy settings enabled. Remember that unlike Twitter, Facebook has many more users who prefer to only share things within their tight network of friends. So their use of hashtags wouldn’t violate that policy, making it a more insular community and harder to group (which makes hashtags less usable for setting up and participating in Twitter chats for example).

When you do put in a hashtag, it will form a clickable link on your status or reply. Clicking on that hashtag will take you to all public results on pages and profiles using the same tag. Even if the original came from a place offsite, such as from being synced with Twitter or Flickr, it will still be clickable and show up in results.

Facebook hashtags are also supported by Graph Search, which has both public updates from friends in your network.

The “related” hashtags feature is also sweet but I wish it were better adopted (I had to run a dozen of popular searches before I managed to see related threads):

Facebook related hashtags

What Is It Good For?

While there is some benefit to the average user, the truth is this step is aimed much more towards businesses and brands. It allows you to track trending topics and conversations in real time, in a way once reserved for Twitter. Analytics have become more integrated, which will be good news for professional users and marketers.

But groups and pages can also use it to find like minded individuals for causes, affiliation or just fun. Already cause groups, especially activists from all niches, have been putting hashtags to good use.

Other people have pointed to engagement and some other pros to the hashtag on Facebook. But it all comes down to the same thing: marketing. This is a great move for people who want to take advantage of trending content and topics, and utilize tracking for their brand.


Though this is a cool step, I doubt it will be nearly as successful as Twitter. The site isn’t open enough, and so a lot of the potential for tracking is limited. Unlike its counterpart, most Facebook profiles are private, that is the nature of that site. But we will have to see over time if I am wrong and the idea really takes off.


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Ann Smarty

Community Manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas

Ann Smarty is the pro blogger and guest blogger, social media enthusiast.

The post How Facebook Hashtags Work appeared first on SEO Chat.

Zurker: a Marketing Study

By Terri Wells

Social networks face an uphill struggle when competing against Facebook. Few networks know this quite as well as Zurker. Now eighteen months old, the site welcomes a growing number of members, but has faced a serious struggle simply to get the word out.

You can read my original piece on Zurker, written in February of last year. Then, the social network was less than two months old, and offered its members a unique proposition: own the network to which you belong. Every member earned a vShare – short for virtual share – for every member they referred. These shares would convert to real shares once the corps of Zurker to which the member belonged gave out one million vShares, and the site could be incorporated.

More details about vShares can be found at the link, but the point is, members would actually own the network, and therefore have a say in what it did and didn’t do. Nick Oba, who came up with the idea for Zurker and styles himself as the custodian, emphasizes that there will never be censorship on Zurker. He strongly protects his members’ privacy, allowing them to fine-tune who sees any content they add. He’s also proven fairly responsive to member ideas and requests – at time allows. He is currently Zurker’s only programmer.

Still, with many of the complaints made about certain other networks pertaining to privacy and censorship, you would think Zurker would be better known. And it has grown. In February 2012, it boasted about 10,000 members. Now, its nine separate corps hold nearly 440,000 members; 28,714 members own a total of 347,200 vShares. That’s not bad for a social network that’s been in closed beta since the beginning, and only entered open beta in March of this year.

It has, however, been very challenging. Not the least of the challenges was the interface. It was and still is a work in progress, different enough from Facebook to confuse users. “We started off with a fairly raw product,” Oba admits, but “it has been adapted to how people actually use the social network.” With the addition of Zones about a year ago, Oba made it easy for users to submit ideas and changes. He often comments on these ideas right away, and adds them not long afterwards.

When members see this kind of responsiveness, they get proactive about marketing what they think of as “their” network. So while Oba spent most of 2012 working on the interface and other features, and the press lost interest in covering Zurker, the Zurker Marketing Team (ZMT) spontaneously formed. Made up of active Zurker members, “they worked fairly hard to tell bloggers about Zurker, and were successful in getting at least one prominent blog post,” Oba recalled.

Member marketing is potentially a two-edged sword. On the one hand, what could be better than word-of-mouth marketing? On the other hand, you can’t really control the ways that your members promote you – and it might start looking like spam to some people. That’s not the only problem, alas; a Wired UK post by Lea Simpson in May 2012 skewered both Zurker and Oba, and the company is still trying to live it down.

So what about hiring a professional marketer? Public relations firms are pretty expensive for a company that is trying to be financed only by its members. You see, members can also buy vShares, but nobody can buy more than 500; they cost $1 per share. Oba has managed to code and keep the network mostly up and running for around $120,000 since he started. “We were supposed to hire a publicist…and when I informed the ZMT about that, it effectively took the wind out of that initiative (unfortunately the hire didn’t work out),” Oba explained.

Still, Zurker does have a reasonable media pack, courtesy of the ZMT. The lesson here would be to try to work with any members promoting your business, and not at cross purposes.

Some businesses run contests to encourage member activity and get new members. Zurker tried this as well, but Oba proclaimed it “a total disaster.” The contest involved getting some members to sponsor iPads and holding a drawing; members would be entered to win an iPad if they got five “Zurks,” the social site’s more friendly alternative to Facebook’s “Likes.” But according to Oba, “everyone associates ‘win an iPad’ with spam. There was no noticeable uptick in signups or activity as a result of this promo.” One can almost hear a sign of exasperation in Oba’s words as he states that “That’s the last time I ever try to bribe people to show up with shwag.”

So what about other, more conventional means of promotion? Oba notes that they tried advertising, first on a newsletter, and then on blogs on SocialSpark. While the newsletter brought a lot of clicks, Oba was not happy with the conversion rate. “People weren’t taking us seriously because they came via an ad,” Oba elaborated. SocialSpark was better, but it wasn’t worth the expense, as it is “better suited for manufacturers advertising actual consumer products the bloggers can give away to their readers.”

What is the lesson here? According to Oba, “what we learned is that advertising is not cost-effective for spreading the word about a social network. It’s very surprising that Facebook still advertise heavily on AdWords/AdSense.”

As a result of these lessons, Zurker has actually shifted away from marketing and advertising. Oba says that they’re now focused on building a better product, building a better community, and reaching out to the media. That last has been particularly tricky, as the site is old enough to not be “new” anymore in the media’s eyes, so possibly not quite so buzzworthy.

Still, Zurker has come back; a look at the numbers tells the story. While Oba admits that the majority of people sign up and disappear, when I returned to the community after a long absence, it was clearly more vibrant than before.

My impetus to return was the result of what may have been Oba’s best “marketing” yet: gently nudging old members with several emails, and then threatening to take back their vShares if they didn’t respond. He also installed a Zurker owner rating system to show activity levels. It displays publicly, to the left of the owner’s name, as a colored circle. If it’s green, it means you’ve “zurked” something at least once a day for the past seven days, and you’re in good standing. There are several other levels: yellow (subpar), amber (poor), red (critical), and grey (new owners who are pending). At the red level, owners risk having their vShares frozen, docked, or forfeited altogether.

This approach met with some ill will among some members and owners, understandably. But in coming back, some rediscovered why they’d signed up in the first place. The thing is, even with what many have called a “clunky” interface, Zurker seems to encourage interaction, and the sharing and discovery of things you won’t necessarily on a social network on which you know everyone.

Because you can click on your own list of interests to find others who’ve listed that interest as well, it’s really easy on Zurker to find people with whom you might want to connect. And thanks to Zones, which work a little like Twitter hashtags, it’s also easy to find interesting posts and photos with which to interact. Because people can reply to comments (they can be nested up to 12 layers deep), it’s easy to interact, even if you don’t know the commenter or poster in person. And because so many on Zurker don’t know other members personally, many of the members actively enjoy reaching out to others and making new online friends.

Make no mistake, though; it’s the member buy-in, on several levels, that’s really helping. When people feel like they own the network and have a say in it, they will go out of their way to help newbies find their footing. That happens a fair bit now on Zurker, and there are groups spontaneously organizing on the site to encourage it even more (by trying to maintain a presence on the Help channel, for instance).

Oba acknowledges this; he even credits it with why Zurker seems to be making a comeback even after the initial buzz wore off. “Getting initial buzz is not that hard if you have a good concept and half-decent implementation, and most start-ups do manage to get to that stage,” he notes. “Surviving the initial spike and going for a hockey stick is much harder. In our case, we came back even though the initial buzz petered out…because the members have a vested interest in the project.” Oba is certain that “that wouldn’t have happened” if they were just users. And he may be on to something here. Time will tell. One thing is certain: Zurker is still around after a year and a half, with a more vibrant community than you’d expect for a social network with one developer and $120,000 of crowd funding from its members. That’s a respectable achievement.

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Terri Wells

Terri Wells

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Social Media and Society: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Social media sites have taken over our lives. It’s hard to even imagine that 10 years ago there was no Facebook or Twitter! 15 years ago people were actually waiting to hear from each other because even email wasn’t that common.

Facebook Secret MessageHow did social media actually influenced our life and the society in general? In my opinion (and I am an early adopter) it has had a positive impact. I am all for the widening of the world we live in, and easy communication around the world.

Social media has definitely made us closer to other parts of the world – as someone who used to do the worldwide business from Ukraine, I am the one who can totally appreciate it!

It doesn’t mean I don’t see the back side of the coin. I do know the cons along with the pros…

The Good

Customers Social

First, we have the obvious: communication. We are living in a time where the world is open to us. We can contact anyone around the world, at any time, with just a few keystrokes. It is free, unlike calling across the ocean, and live. We can also share elements of our life, from what we enjoy to photos of ourselves and those in our lives. It is like being a part of that person’s world, even though distance keeps you apart.

We also have the communication between people and businesses. Since they have paved a new way for interaction between the two, customers can now tell brands exactly what they want. Businesses can then use that information to tailor their products of more appeal. They used to have to spend a ton of cash for this kind of marketing data. Customers used to have to spend hours on phones getting more and more frustrated when they had a problem or complaint.

There are also causes and information. Social media has made it possible for like minded individuals to discuss important topics, widen their personal knowledge and discover things they never knew before. For example, young people around the world are now more involved than ever in their country’s politics. The last presidential elections in the US are proof of that. Social media has contributed to that increase in a big way.

Non-profits are seeing the benefits of using social media for their awareness campaigns. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and others are a cost effective means of spreading the word and getting support. Not to mention socially shared petitions from sites like Causes.org, reaching hundreds of thousands of people.

There is no doubt that there are many reasons to love social media.

The Bad

On the phone

But not all consequences of this technology are good ones. Like the way it has allowed us to hide behind screens and limited our social interaction face to face. You get the feeling of being social without having to go out and socialize. In the same vein, it gives you the feeling of being a friend (or having friends) without having to put in any actual work to build the relationship. Just think of how many people you have on your Facebook friends list. How many of them do you see on a semi-regular basis? At all?

Then we have the issue of how it has taken over our lives. I hate being out in public and seeing people on their phones. Seeing them talking never bothered me as long as they weren’t being obnoxious. Nor does sending off a quick text bug me; maybe they are meeting someone and telling them where they are, or something. It is the obvious Facebooking or tweeting or whatever else that keeps people’s eyes glued to their phones.

I never check social media sites when I am out doing something. Whether it is grocery shopping, getting dinner with friends or waiting in line, it is just so impolite. It also shows a serious problem with distraction in today’s society. We can’t enjoy the world around us for an hour without retreating back into that safe little digital box.

Productivity is pretty much shot thanks to social media, as well. Admit it, you check your profiles during work, or find yourself wandering over to YouTube or your favorite blog during work hours. Here is a fun little game: every time you get distracted by a social media site, make a little strike on a piece of paper. At the end of the day, count all the strikes and feel your heart drop into your stomach as you try to estimate how much time wasted it represents.

The Ugly


Some of what social media has done isn’t just ‘bad’, it is flat out ‘ugly’. Like the number of relationships that have been broken up over social networks. Now, don’t misunderstand me, I am not saying that Facebook is to blame for this. It is just a tool that has seemed to make it easier to cheat, or to do things that cross a boundary in your relationship. Like flirty PM’s with that high school sweetheart you haven’t seen since graduation. Or much more blatant infidelities that are sure to be caught the first time you forget to log out of the computer you share with your spouse.

Then there are the sheer number of stupid, vein people on Facebook. Yeah, it seems a little mean to point out. But I bet you are thinking of at least one person who would fit into one (or both) of these categories.

Each status message is a flat-out attention whoring sob fest, usually vague. Or way TMI about their struggling relationship with someone they should have dumped six months ago. Let’s not forget the badly spelled, grammatical nightmares that you would need a magic decoder ring that translated moron into English to read. If you want proof that this kind of thing is spreading, as is the self-centered douchebaggery that most of us try to keep out of our lives, check out Lamebook sometime.


I think that the effects of social media have been somewhat balanced, to be honest. There are many good things about it, and many bad things. In the end, if you can keep your own life centered in reality and use social networking as a small part of it, you should be just fine.

For those who can’t, it might be time to turn off the computer for a bit and go for a walk.

Image Credits: 1, 2, 3.

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Ann Smarty

Community Manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas

Ann Smarty is the pro blogger and guest blogger, social media enthusiast.

The post Social Media and Society: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly appeared first on SEO Chat.

Where Google+ Failed and Where It Succeeded

For years Google was trying to break into the social media scene. They spent time, energy and funds into launching their own versions, which always managed to crash and burn almost as soon as they were released.

Most of us have witnessed these failures first hand, and if you want a refresher course just check out this helpful infographic that illustrated the many attempts. Google has not had the best track record, with their successes usually through purchasing already established sites like YouTube.

I Love Google+When they launched Google+ amongst a huge amount of hype and fanfare, I am sure I was not the only one poised for disappointment. After all, we had been there before and it didn’t tend to be worth the invite to check out the new site. But they managed to get it right this time, and G+ was an immediate hit.

Even with hiccups along the way, such as with privacy issues (this is Google, after all). Now that it is available without an invite, and their services have all been linked through a single login, it has continued to grow in popularity.

So, why do so many people still claim Google+ a failure?

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Statistics?

Canned Social Networks

The biggest complaint most analysts seem to have with Google+ is the numbers. Last year, the Wall Street Journal wrote a piece claiming that the social media site had become a ‘ghost town’, despite their incredibly high user numbers. In fact, the average time spent monthly on G+ was lower than Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, and even Myspace. Ouch!

For those of us who have been paying attention, these accusations are nothing new. In the past analysts have been quick to point out that most of the profiles that are on G+ seem to be inactive, or barely active. In fact, the high user rating might be blamed on the auto-creation through Google Accounts. A point backed up by this report in 2012 that showed how few shares are gathered by G+ compared to other social media sites.

The Way They Failed

Google Plus Ghosts

I think this gives a strong indication of where Google+ has missed the mark. They never became a social network, and perhaps they didn’t mean to be. It is more a slightly socialized element to a wide array of services. But like so many of their other products, it isn’t actually aimed for the average user. In fact, it is rather inaccessible to the average social user, thanks to a unique but complicated platform design that most just don’t seem to gel with.

That gap is useability is so wide that the Huffington Post last year found that one in three of Google’s employees were inactive on the site. When even the people who work for you aren’t using our product, it is a bad sign.

The Way They Succeeded

Google+ Latte

After saying all of that, I am not suggesting that Google has actually failed. On the contrary, I think they have made some incredible progress in creating a unique kind of social network. One that is aimed more at the computer and technology enthusiasts and industry leaders than the average Joe. There is also a distinct edge for business use, and with Google Authorship they have made it a must have for the average blogger, as well.

For the first time, Google seems to be playing to their strengths rather than trying to take a bite out of Facebook. They are becoming more established within this niche, and they are surging in popularity as a result. We now include G+ automatically when we name off the major social media sites on the web, which we never would have done before with some of their other attempts.


Has Google+ failed? I suppose it depends on what they were trying to achieve in the first place. If they wanted an open, accessible social platform for all users on the web, then yes, they probably failed.

But if they were trying to make a business, blog and tech geek friendly version of other sites with a unique format, then they succeeded beyond anyone’s hopes. The numbers they provide are still pretty shady, and I don’t think anyone believes them when they talk about their active user base. But I am personally willing to forgive them for their fibs. As long as they never try to bring back Buzz.

Image Credits: 1, 2, 3, 4.

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Ann Smarty

Community Manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas

Ann Smarty is the pro blogger and guest blogger, social media enthusiast.

The post Where Google+ Failed and Where It Succeeded appeared first on SEO Chat.

Facebook Graph Search Not a Google Killer

Recently, Facebook unveiled Graph Search, its new search engine. The early beta application does not work in the same way that Google works – but Foursquare and Yelp might have cause for concern.

Full disclaimer first: I was not one of the lucky ones who actually got to try Graph Search. When I finally got the Graph Search page to work, after multiple attempts, the button I got at the bottom of the page was for joining the waiting list. Instead, I sifted through a lot of commentary and reviews that demonstrated how the search worked and speculated on its future. I concluded that, in principle at least, Graph Search is neither better nor worse overall than Google; it’s simply different.

So how does it work? Facebook Graph Search taps into the various “likes” and other data that users have entered into the social network, and then returns answers based on what it knows about you and your friends, and what information has been made public. So if you typed in “friends who live in San Francisco,” for instance, you’d get a list of all of your Facebook friends who live in that city. That’s great if you’re planning a visit to the area.

Where the search shines, however, is with all of the modifiers you can attach to it. This reminds me ever so slightly of the search engine Blekko, which uses hash tags to modify its searches. Facebook Graph Search seems to use natural language, however, and seems to be trying to reach a different market.

So how would Graph Search work in a real life situation? I live in the Orlando area, but later this month I’m going to see the musical “Wicked,” which is playing in Tampa. I don’t get out to Tampa very often, but I do have a number of friends on Facebook who live there. I could use Graph Search to look for the restaurants in Tampa that my Tampa friends liked, so I can get a nice dinner before the show. Similarly, in a video posted on TechCrunch, Josh Constine demonstrated that one could use Graph Search to find dentists liked by your friends. That’s genuinely valuable information – much better than you can get from Google.

You can also use Graph Search to look for photos, posted by your friends or publicly available. You don’t have to limit yourself to recent photos, either. Remember that awesome Grand Canyon trip one of your beer buddies took five years ago that he keeps talking about? Search for photos taken at the Grand Canyon before 2008 and you just might find his pictures. Or perhaps you’d like to see pictures that are even older? Believe it or not, you can find those, too. The article I linked to recommends somewhat whimsical searches such as “photos of me taken before 1990” or “photos of my parents between 1970 and 1979” (if you’re wondering what they looked like when they were “cool”).

You can also search based on interests. So if you want to form a local bicycle club, say, you can search for people in your area who like bicycling. Or if you’re a big Star Wars fan, you can search for friends who share that interest. You can even combine interests, to search for friends who enjoy both Star Wars and costuming (to invade your next science fiction convention in group costumes, perhaps?).

And of course, you can search for places. This is why I said that Foursquare should be worried. You can search for places your friends have been. You can search for photos of places, as I’ve noted above. You can even just search for places by city.

But what if your filtered Facebook Graph Search doesn’t yield any results? The social network has negotiated a deal with Bing . Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that he would love to work with Google, but the search giant wasn’t quite flexible enough to protect Facebook’s members’ privacy. To do that, according to Zuckerberg, you need the infrastructure in place to quickly take down photos and such when users change their privacy settings. Apparently Bing offered that, and Google didn’t. (If any of this sounds more than a little fishy or laughable to you, well, you’re not alone).

Just how well will Graph Search work? Steve Cheney points out one of the social network’s stumbling blocks: dirty “Likes.” How many times have you wanted to compete in a contest or get a free sample from a company, but you could only do it if you “liked” the firm’s Facebook page? I’m pretty conservative about that myself, and I know I’ve done it a number of times. But those aren’t real “likes,” if you know what I mean. What kind of answers will Graph Search return when it’s full of dirty data like this? Not very good ones, I’m sure…which is one reason I said that it’s not a Google killer.

On the other hand, advertisers will no doubt appreciate Graph Search, once Facebook figures out how to monetize it. Right now, though, I’d look at it as one search method among many for finding the kind of information you need. Cheney said it best: “Offline we consult different places, people, and resources, and you will do the same with social networks and web services online.”

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Instagram Policy Changes: Backtracks, Lesson Learned

Popular photo-sharing service Instagram recently announced changes to its privacy policy – changes that could have allowed it to sell users’ photos to third parties without the users’ consent. The company backtracked amid the resulting uproar. What can be learned from this fracas?

The sentence that freaked out most people, as reported by PC World, fell under “Rights” and went like this: “To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.” If you’ve seen advertising on Facebook that shows one of your friends liking a certain product, well, this is more or less the same thing. And it’s not too surprising, considering that Facebook purchased Instagram.

This change, and certain others, to Instagram’s privacy policy, sparked outrage among its users, and many people chose to quit the service rather than submit to the policies. Before the new rules could go into effect on January 16, however, Instagram backtracked, at least a little. In a new blog post this week, Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom said that “we’re going to modify specific parts of the terms to make it more clear what will happen with your photos.” He insisted that “it is not our intention to sell your photos,” though they will be probably be used in “innovative advertising that feels appropriate on Instagram.” Furthermore, he emphasized that “Instagram users own their content and Instagram does not claim any ownership rights over your photos.”

But just how well is Instagram really listening to what people are saying about how they handled this? Ian Paul , writing for PC World, pointed out a number of things the photo-sharing social site could learn from the debacle.

First, Instagram should try to remember that, though it has been purchased by Facebook, it is not Facebook, and it would behoove them not to act like their new parent company. This privacy policy move, according to Paul, smacks of Facebook all over: “revise your policies or services, wait for the backlash, and then backtrack a little,” he explained. “The result is that while many people use Facebook because of its popularity, very few people seem to trust the company’s motives.” Instagram has built up a ton of goodwill with its service, and it would be a shame if it squandered it in this way.

There’s another way in which Instagram is not Facebook: it has a lot of competition which is just as good, depending on what you want to accomplish. Remember Flickr? How about Photo Shack? Picasa? And then of course there’s Pinterest. For heaven’s sake, Wikipedia lists nearly 40 “major” photo sharing sites, and admits that its list is non-exhaustive. “Unlike Facebook, which dominates the social networking world, Instagram is a popular choice among many for adding filters and sharing photos online.”

Since Instagram is NOT Facebook, it needs to remember that it shouldn’t ACT like Facebook. In other words, don’t get uppity or condescend to your customers. Paul called on the company to “drop the hubris,” and fixated on one sentence from Systrom’s blog post: “Legal documents are easy to misinterpret.” According to Paul, “The subtext of that statement is: ‘you’ve totally got it all wrong, but we’re changing the parts you didn’t like anyway.’” Again, Instagram seems to be imitating Facebook “by apologizing for how things were perceived instead of for the issues themselves,” according to Paul.

That action, taken by Instagram, is patronizing, almost to the point of willful ignorance. Come on, guys; Facebook, at least, has been down this road before, and you can’t claim you haven’t seen it happen before. You MUST have known what would happen!

This very fact – that Instagram should have known what kind of reaction their new privacy policy would get – means that they should be able to do better next time. Heck, Instagram should have done better THIS time. Instead of coming out with a short blog post saying its terms of service had changed, followed a much longer, more explicit blog post when the tide of reaction on the Internet got too loud to ignore, Instagram should have done it right the first time. “Next time, Instagram should skip the outrage phase by clearly explaining its plans the first time.” That’s exactly what you do if you want to build a business that’s more respected than Facebook – you respect your customers enough to not act like you’re trying to sneak something past them. Here’s hoping that having Facebook for a parent won’t prevent Instagram from learning that valuable lesson.

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