8 Reasons GenZ is Kicking GenY’s Bieber at Social Mediaing

As a marketing manager overseeing over 300 Facebook pages with an audience of 17-23 year olds, there is one thing that keeps me up at night: What if Facebook disappeared?
I’m sleeping easier after Social Media Week, where a poll done of AU and GWU students by the American University Social Media Club, and Peter Corbett of iStrategy Labs, both independently confirmed to this bleary-eyed community manager that Facebook isn’t going anywhere. In fact, most believe Zuckerberg and my generation are going to live a nice happy life growing old together.

justin-bieber-ashton-kutcher-lead

So why should I still be worried? While my organization’s current student members and alumni, 17 to 30-something will stay by my side as we marry, produce little super Millennials and commit to real estate, the up-and-comers, current high school students to little iPad owners won’t be joining us. And I’m jealous of why.

Researchers in digital think it’s parents who are “scaring” kids away from Facebook. In fact, it’s just that kids today are so much better at social networking than GenY. Teenagers today don’t need a social “network”, but merely social media to interact with their personal networks and consume information.

1. Teens don’t need computers to IM
They can text, use messaging apps, Gchat, call, or tweet at their friends. They love video conversations, which is a more real way of interacting because you get facial and vocal expressions.

2. Mobile apps replace giant social networks
Apps like WhatsUpApp let kids create mini-social networks that are just their group of friends. GoogleGroups is better than Facebook Groups for organizing clubs because you get email on your phone instead of having to log-in.

3. GenZ is obsessed with music
They follow celebrities on Twitter, Youtube and gossip blogs, and even returned to MySpace for music. Youtube and Pandora are great for free music, but they will join Facebook just to be on Spotify. Best of all, Youtube lets them make and share their own music, and iTunes will let aspiring Demi Lovato’s sell their own mp3s.

4. All teens aspire to reality tv
Inundated with reality tv and able to access a web that supershoots nobodies to stardom, their role models range from the Biebs who broke out via Youtube videos to Kim Kardashian, known for doing nothing. Every iPhone’s video camera is a viral video or a musical moment waiting to happen. The paparazzi culture has made celebfans like “#lovatos” and wannabiebs, and Twitter lets them hear the real thoughts of these stars instantly, like they were friends in real life.

5. If there’s no pic, it didn’t happen
They love taking pictures of themselves and everything they see, whether with their mobile computers, on Instagram or with oldschool professional cameras. The web has become a scrapbook for all those #memories and a place to showcase their obvious talents.

6. “You have a voice” => I’m an expert
With all the web in photography and video, not only capturing their artistic sense, YOLO life moments and fashion savvy in Instagrams isn’t enough. They want to share it and show how awesome they are on Pinterest, Youtube, blogs, Tumblr and Twitter.

7. They all have phone and web cams
Finding a camera to shoot a school project used to be tough. With phone and web cams, teens can all make Youtube channels with “expert” advice, SNL digital skits and movies on everything from make-up to doing stupid stunts a la Ashton Kutcher style.

8. Info overload makes everyone ADD
There is so much to choose from, so much being created with everyone having web access and it’s so impossible to consume it all, that the sharper, the shorter, the more in-your-face wow your content is, the better. Buzzfeed and HuffPo have taken hold of this generation’s and our content consumption by being provocative, following celebrities, highlighting social posts like tweets from real people and sharing photos that shock us.

SMO: Facebook Backlinks, Do These Matter?

Recently my coworkers and I attempted something sacrilegious to most social media “gurus”: We proposed killing our organization’s Facebook page. No one representing our company had posted on the page in months, and despite many events and photo opportunities, only one neglected album held tiny images from a year past. “Embarassing”, “waste of time” and “dead already” were some of the internal comments regarding our not-oft-visited site. It looked like we were moving forward, on a train driving Facebook out of our town. Then our PR agency threw a wrench in wheels, “You’ll lose your backlinks!”, they said. Our what?

Backlinks in SEO are hyperlinks from other websites which lead to your site. Backlinks are like votes. The more links you have, the higher your Google search score is. The more highly ranked the sites leading to you, the more the backlinks are weighted into you score. Not only is Facebook the highest ranked website in the world, over even Google.com, but at the beginning of the year Google admitted to factoring social media links into its algorithms.

Social media backlinking was rarely discussed when I interned in SEO, nor was it mentioned in my social media positions and even social media optimization (SMO) discussions. SMO is the practice of using social media to drive traffic your site, the “All Roads Lead to Rome” idea. SMO traditionally focuses on actual clicks. Content is optimized to increase clickthrus using tactics such as link-baiting, content creation, images and keyword tagging. SMO came into mainstream last year as a weapon in the search engine wars, (which Google no doubt won with the help of mobile).

My organization already had top two SEO ranking and a never-ending supply of niche research publications to continually feed to our SEO rankings, so our rankings really weren’t affected by backlinks. From an SMO standpoint, however, the Facebook page was relevant for sharing content and bringing in referral traffic. (Direct traffic comes straight to your site; Referral traffic clicks a link on another site. Usually SEO analytics tools break down what referral traffic is coming from search engines and what is from “all other sites”.)

Although LinkedIn offered great referral traffic by percent clickthru per link, referral traffic from Facebook was negligible. This was consistent with our hypotheses regarding how our membership and target audiences used the web. Despite having Facebook buttons on our website, every email we sent out and printed material, as well as membership and subscribers numbers in the tens of thousands, we were at only 150 likes. (This compared to thousands of group members on LinkedIn). Clearly, Facebook was not where our audience was finding us. The argument was made and Facebook was sentenced.

The question for you is, do Facebook backlinks help my site? It is true for a relatively unknown or low-SEO-ranking site Facebook backlinks can be beneficial to increasing SEO. For maximum SEO ROI, you want to focus on a few “call-to-action” pages, such as a contact page, a company overview, your main page or a submission form, (Examples: proposal submission or membership sign-ups). For maximum SMO, you want to focus on content and “call-to-action” pages which may be generated by the type of social media content.

Articles hosted on your site shared on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn is the most common SMO backlink, but video and picture content are beginning to dominate the web as networking bandwidth allows larger file hosting. While keyword tagging pictures and video content has been a part of SEO since before SMO was a discipline, linking back to your site wasn’t as prevalent as today. Increased blogging and sites like Instagram, Twitter, via Yfrog and Pinterest have made image linking more relevant.

Some examples of SMO backlinking:

Shortened Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn links which are retweeted or shared by several people
Blogposts or highly trafficked blogs which reference your website
Lists (not as common since search), such as Angie’s List, which recommend your company or website
Yelp, Yahoo, Hotels.com or other rating sites which evaluate and link back to your company site
Proprietary content images used on other sites, such as a blog, which hyperlink to your site
Pinterest pictures which lead to a point-of-purchase on a commerce site or services, (example: Home renovation company)
Embedded video content on other sites which is hosted on your site or Youtube channels

The Impermanent Web

There seems to be one overarching opinion regarding the way companies treat employee social media postings. In 2009 we saw 8% of companies were firing employees for inappropriate social media postings. If I included the material from Google on “social media firing” or “social media termination” I’d fill a page. Fear is a powerful motivator, and fear of the unknown is the most basic instinct.

I hope as we mature as a society and began to “get to know” eachother through social media, people will begin to understand and frankly, lighten up. I hope that as companies learn about the potential in social media they will encourage it’s use with their employees and leverage their social assets. The web isn’t getting any wilder or easier to hide in, in fact it’s being suburbanized.

You can think of Web 1.0 as the Wild West. You could hitch up your wagon, move out and set up a tent and town anywhere. Shootings and saloon fights were common. It was difficult to know who you could trust, and worse, who was responsible for what you were reading. Brigham Youngs ran rampant. Parents feared for their sons and daughters when AOL screeched up.

Enter Web 2.0 and the desire for legitimacy. The first thing I did with my university email address was join Facebook. Personal branding became a way to tie your full web presence together and establish yourself in any industry. 6degrees, then LinkedIn, let you pull together all your network connections and build an online resume longer than any career counselor would approve. Personal websites became portfolios of your work.

Yet with all these establishments, new platforms to create content on were changing the 90-9-1 web principle. Everyone was a creator, which meant Google was becoming saturated. Twitter’s rocketship popularity hit on the Web 2.0 trend: Our attention spans had shortened and we have become addicted to constantly fresh content. Flipping to Google’s “news” channel or through Gawker’s stories, and you’ll see the trend.

Google’s “Dear Sophie” video struck a chord with Gen X and older Gen Ys who are just starting families because most grew up through the shift of “surfing The Internet” to “being online”. They remember scrapbooks and holiday conversations that didn’t involve Googling faces or instantly Youtubing. They remember social networks that don’t exist anymore, blogs they used to read and wonder where emails from long ago went. Unlike Polaroids or letters they can’t dig them out of shoeboxes.

Facebook has created one of the most powerful connections to its customer a company could. Timeline isn’t just a story of our lives and our friends, if it survives, it will be a reminder for GenY Facebook has been with us all the way through our adulthood. The comparison was made to my favorite Mad Men clip, the “Carousel”, a Kodak photo projector…”this device isn’t a spaceship, it’s a time machine”…”it takes us back to a place we ache to go again”.

If we are no longer able to deny or hide that we did beer keg stands in college or that “phase” we went through when we were “finding ourselves”, will we finally become a society who accepts no one is perfect? Will we become more open by being more defined? No longer do we accept hiding behind avatars and fake usernames. Every site pushes for verification through Google or Facebook and real names. Birthdates are requested, dual accounts are forbidden. Who you are on the web is as transparent as the cheap glass on an iPhone.

I Google myself on a regular basis. The results are continually amusing, and sometimes a little unnerving. I realize how much I’ve changed over the years, and cringe at freelance writing I did with typos, or passionate posts at 4 am. What I’ve realized though, is that so much of that is extremely hard to find. Where is my LiveJournal? Who has any recollection what I wrote in heartbroken Facebook statuses? I’ve written 78 blogposts in the last year, and damned if I can remember half of them…or if anyone new reading my blog will bother to browse them.

I leave you with a final thought…a memory from my childhood, one of my favorite movies, and actually my Halloween costume this year, #noshame, #nopictures. You can never step in the same river twice.

(*It just took me 10 minutes to remember the word “projector”. How will my children ever learn geometry I wonder…)

Top 10 Web Sites in the World

According to Alexa:

1. Google

2. Facebook

3. YouTube

4. Yahoo
Which I randomly linked to Meme, so you can all scratch your heads and figure out what “Meme” is.

5. Windows Live -(Wha-ut?)

6. Blogger

7. Baidu.com
Chinese Search Engine. See Kaiser Kuo.

8. Wikipedia

9. Twitter

10. QQ China
Instant messaging service, which I can’t figure out how to sign up for without a phone. We’re eating Chinese dust in mobile.

The Biggest Threat to Facebook is Innovation

This was from an answer on Quora.

We forget before there was Facebook, there was Friendster, there was MySpace, there were chatrooms, email and AIM. There will always be the threat of a smart person creating something infinitely better.

Here are the things a “New Facebook” social network would win with:

OpenID – We hate usernames and passwords. They’re really annoying, impossible to remember the more clever you are with them, and seem like a sketchy way of keeping your information safe. (Can’t someone just “hack it?”) Any identification alternative is what Facebook would say is their biggest threat. They are moving to become a “reiteration of the internet” through Facebook ID which other sites like Slideshare are using to “verify” who we are. This identification system isn’t just good for marketing, it’s good for security, it’s necessary for custom portals and personalized experiences across the web, television (Apple TV, etc.) and mobile. Create the ultimate ID and you own the web.

Search – Right now we as consumers are urging engines like Bing to become more social, to let us find content through our friends. All well and good but sometimes you just need to find something that none of your friends know any thing about. (Like tarsorrhaphy). Control the way people access the web, and you control the web. This is why competition between Google and Bing is so important, and why if Google could ever get Buzz to take off, it poses serious domination for Facebook. Google is what Facebook is afraid of.

Interest Networks – Facebook exists as a closed system functioning on exclusivity. I don’t use Facebook to meet new people outside of my network, meaning people I already know. When I’m looking to meet people sharing my interests or in my industry, I use LinkedIn or Twitter, or I’m redirected from blogs to a social profile after I find these people on outside networks. I was just talking about this in a #u30pro chat on Twitter, and today I saw David Armano, a person I have never met, but as a digital person look to for advice, posting this question. Right now I’m working on a scientific social community. Try to imagine being a researcher and using Facebook to find experts in your field. It’s near impossible to find them or verify them.

Social Content Curation – This is what I call services like Twitter and the new Mashable Follow, which have you “follow” people you know or in Twitter’s case, you’ve found through chats and hashtagged interests. You can see what they’re posting on and interested in. Facebook doesn’t give me enough relevant news content from my friends. (Just great music videos.) The reason we make fun of people on Twitter writing about their lunches is because it’s not relevant, and with the vast amount of content on the web, reading about someone’s lunch wastes our time. The result is I spend less time on Facebook as relationships and party pictures stop being “news”.

Social Ecommerce – Facebook has attempted to do ecommerce with I believe Pampers and other Facebook stores, but the attempts have been marginally successful at best. Amazon and Etsy, and other semi-social ecommerce providers continue to be extremely successful because they crowdsource from the entire web. My friends may not give enough relevant information for Amazon “suggestions” or create the product I love like Etsy.

Trust – Even Gawker got hacked and we can’t blame Facebook for accessing our information to sell ads. Why don’t we trust Mark? We give our bank account numbers to Paypal and Prosper, our birthdates to just about any site on the web, and our business cards to local prize drawings, so why are we so terrified what Facebook is doing with our baby pics? Facebook is a free service, which needs to generate revenue, which is does through ads, and we hate on them for it. Do we trust LinkedIn more because they generate money through Pro memberships and corporate pages? Ignoring the regulation which is petty and an ongoing battle as corporations find ways to skirt it, a site with a different revenue model could ensure trust.


Information Age II
– The web was not created to connect people but to give open access to information. The internet evolved out of colleges needing to access shared information on multiple computers. Today the internet continues to function as our Encyclopedia, our experts, our Dictionaries, newspapers and textbooks. Facebook does not host the vast amount of content and resources necessary for this. Sites like Quora and Wikipedia, if they are able to integrate social components and provide the credentials necessary to verify the information posted, will be a true “reiteration of the world wide web”.

Comments?? Can you do me better? I dare you!

Is Rockmelt a Social Meta Network? (III)

I learned a new term today: Meta Social Networks.

Social meta networks are “Web 4.0”, (I know just when we though point-0s were dead). They are basically what the buzz is about now, social aggregators or personalized profiles. It’s where your computer’s IP address is replaced by an OpenID style “profile” of who you are, identifiable on logging in from another source you use, be it a public computer, private laptop, tablet or mobile phone. This unique identifier is compatible on all your social network platforms, from Facebook to LinkedIn, to blogging, and the 1,000 other apps out there.

Its the Holy Grail of Web 4.0, and everyone from Google to Apple wants to be the one to develop it. At internet week I heard a KOL call Facebook “a reincarnation of the web”. If we consider the web to be a giant network of communication, with your computer being the original “ID”, and then translate that into Facebook being a giant connection and your profile your “ID”, well there you go, the new web.

What Bing’s search engine, Google’s Chrome, OpenId, Yahoo’s profile and everyone else wants to do is create their own user interface with this network, with Facebook a integral part, but not the all-encompassing web. I think Facebook dominating the internet is about as likely as Chinese democracy: Theoretically feasible, but in such a far distant future, needing so much change to get there, it’s an impractical idea to plan off. Rockmelt however seems to planning on this:

Rockmelt’s strongest point is its ability to organize and navigate Facebook effectively.
I like how the windows pop up when you click on the Facebook icons on the side. It makes going back and force with Facebook really easy. I would love it if the Twitter navigation was as sophisticated. You can then click on someone’s name to get their “livestream”, which really isn’t a “lifestream” in the sense of AOL’s original concept, because it only includes their Facebook feed, but it’s still useful.

So in order to share my Rockmelt invites via Facebook with Twitter friends, I had to make them Facebook friends. You will remember I am a high-low, black-white, professional-private kind of person: I like boxes and labels, so I keep two Facebook profiles, one for employers and Twitter friends to access, (and my mom’s circle), the other for my “IRL”, in real life friends from college and my wild crazy party life, (ah hem). This meant I also had to send regular Facebook friends to my pro network in order to forward them invites.

Three annoying things about Rockmelt:
1. I realized you need to restart your Rockmelt browser when you friend someone and re-log in before the browser “recognizes” the friendship and adds them to your sidebar and streams.

2. Facebook doesn’t seem to like it or acknowledge it (kind like the PRC and Taiwanese sovereignty). Everytime I log in Facebook sends multiple messages to my email account saying “Rockmelt is accessing your account”. There’s no way to stop these messages, it just says “ignore this if this was you”.

3. The browser quits when it feels neglected. I don’t know if this is a technical spasm which will be rectified, but the thing crashed on me without me touching it. (I was using Firefox.)

SNL: All Hail Marcus Zuckerberg

Or maybe Jesse Eisenberg. This is definitely a divergence from my normal analytical posts, but that’s why I have a “ridiculosity” cateory: We all are, sometimes.

Watch:

http://www.hulu.com/embed/YC5kRfiZfSoI4hBiAZ2sGw
(WordPress doesn’t let you embed Hulu.)

You’ll have to forgive this Midwestern girl’s non PC comment: I thought Jewish guys are supposed to be funny? I mean Billy Crystal, Seinfeld, Jon Stewart? My people have the outrageous: Jonathan Swift, Conan, Will Ferrell; Their people (are supposed to) have witty banter and revealing behavioral commentary.

I felt so letdown by SNL, I’m wondering if the script was pre-approved. Zucks embarassingly bad performance showed little spontaneity, and given the Disney like propaganda videos FB’s been turning out this year, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Republic of Facebook knew exactly what they were sending their not-so fearless leader into.

On that, the poor thing was bright pink by the end of it, despite the best joke being by Samberg on wardrobe: “My Zuckerberg? I just wear this sweatshirt.” (Seriously, 50 billion and still no blazer?) The Zuckerberg-Samberg resemblance did highlight the Jesse/Mark disparity: It’s not often someone makes a movie and the real person is actually significantly better looking and more likable than the actor. Jesse didn’t break a smile once.

Then again, if your best joke was the “28 day cycle” one, I’d hardly be cracking up either.

China’s Virtual Reality

From Fast Company:
Liu Neng, a sociologist at Peking University, says that [the new] generation has come to see social networks as “a place of escape. Online, they find a sense of security and a sense of social worthiness. It’s a place where they can derive their own youth culture. These are things they cannot get from their real lives, where they feel pressure.”

From Resonance China Social Media:


Graph shows Chinese internet usage. Notice how most usages go up and down as Chinese users try to connect on the web. Social media usage however continues to rise steadily.

From My Eyes:
I spent three consecutive summers in China, before, during and after the Olympics. The difference between internet use during these periods was striking.

In China people often use “Wang Ba”s, meaning “internet bar/cafe” where rows and rows of gamers, predominantly male, and females, predominantly watching dramas, can sit for as little as 1 kuai an hour. (In Beijing, 20 cents approx, less in rural, more in Shanghai.)

Before the Olympics in 2007, a very obvious foreigner, I could go to a WangBa and easily access the web. I used Facebook regularly to communicate my adventures, post photos and friend other study abroad students.

During the summer of the Olympics the crackdown began. Facebook was down, unless you had an international phone. Wangbas began requiring photo ID from patrons, which meant a passport from me. They took a photo and kept a computer file on all my internet activity. To avoid different site blocks, I would go to foreign cafes in the student district with free wifi.

2009, the summer after the Olympics: The expats scared out of the city by the constant police interrogations on the street and new apartment rules began to pour back in. The Wangba rules had not changed. This is what greeted me on my return:

I didn’t go back last summer; I was in New York at Ketchum. I don’t know if I’ll go back this summer, but I feel a pull back. I wonder if the rules put into play in the name of the Olympics hold. Even here I see China’s internet empires rising: Baidu, the search engine I once turned down an internship to, Sina and Pengyou, blowing up as real competition, Renren, once Facebook’s “copycat”, now a much more dynamic social network, Cherrypicks, one of the top agency winners in digital media and the mobile network superceding our own in size, use and marketing.

Not only has the giant risen, but he’s Wired In.