Random thoughts of a digital web weaver

Is Facebook Running Scared?

Wow. I never expected this.

I have been using Google+ for about a month now and find it to be a great social media application. I’m not surprised to find a lot of people trying it out and liking it.

What does surprise me is how badly Facebook’s attempt at outshining Google+ seems to be backfiring on them. With changes to the newsfeed, the addition of the timeline feature, subscriptions, and new partnerships with Netflix and Spotify (to name a few), Facebook launched a campaign to steal Google’s thunder.

Unfortunately all of the changes combined with some controversial moves (such as Spotify now requiring FB for login) have served to upset users instead of impress them. While there have been numerous times in the past where users have been upset at changes to Facebook only to suck it up and move on, this time around users have a viable alternative to look at in Google+ and they are definitely taking a look.

Time will tell if Google+ will become the Facebook competitor that many seem to think it will be but the effect that it’s launch has had on Facebook is amazing. I don’t remember a time where Facebook has made such drastic moves in reaction to another service. The net result seems to be the opposite of what they were hoping for.

My thought is that if they had continued their path of gradually introducing features and allowing users time to get used to them, people would have looked at Google+ as more of a curiosity than an alternative.

Instead, users who are now feeling overwhelmed and alienated by the “new” Facebook are turning to Google+ and are willing invest their time to explore what it has to offer. For Google, that’s just the kind of jump start they needed to get a foothold in the social media landscape that Facebook has dominated.

Google+ as a Personal Dashboard

The web is raving about Google+ (G+), social media’s new kid on the block and supposed Facebook (FB) killer.

Google icon in front of faded Facebook icon

Personally, I don’t think you’ll see a massive shift in user base from FB to G+. I think instead, you’ll see a shift in time on site as people will use G+ more than FB. The reason is that while FB is a great for connecting and socializing with people, G+ has the potential to be useful to a person on a day-to-day basis, especially if Google starts to integrate it’s other services into G+.

I have been playing around with G+ for a few days now and I think it’s great. But I also wish that other Google services such as Gmail, Calendar, and Google Docs were integrated into it (clicking on the Gmail link and having it open up a new tab is annoying). It would be great to be able to customize the toolbar to include Google apps that you use regularly, add widgets to the sidebars, and search the web right from your homepage.

With all of the different web applications and services Google has at it’s disposal, G+ has the potential of becoming much more than just another social media website. It has the potential to become a customized personal dashboard that we use on a daily basis.

Social Media Sites Want You to Stay Connected

Photo of various smartphonesI’m not sure how many people actually log out from their social media websites as opposed to just closing their browser. If you do log out of sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, you may have noticed that the log out confirmation page serves as a reminder to connect to their respective mobile app. 

It made me think about mobile websites and applications and I realized that it’s not just about creating a site to fit on a small device that people can take anywhere. It’s about keeping users close at all times.

Using a log out or exit screen as a spot to direct users to your mobile application is a great way to take a screen that represents the end of a session and use it to re-engage a user.

It’s not just a push to mobile. It’s a push to stay connected no matter what platform you’re on.

The Importance of Branding to Your Online Identity

I know there have been many articles out there that talk about branding and how important it is to a business, but I thought I’d share a little insight from personal experience. 

Like many, in addition to my own website, I use various social media sites to interact with others. One of the things I have tried to do is to keep my branding consistent between sites that I use for business/professional means (most notably Twitter and LinkedIn). For the most part, that involves using my logo as my profile picture on these sites.

I didn’t put much thought into it. I like my logo. In one form or another, it has been the representation of me as a designer since I started learning about the web. It just made sense to use it wherever I was promoting myself as a web designer.

However, I didn’t realize how much of an impact this kind of consistency actually had with people until I attended An Event Apart (AEA) earlier this year in Seattle.

As part of the event, a feed aggregator called “A Feed Apart” is set up so that attendees can interact with each other via tweets. It’s a wonderful little tool that helps to enhance the whole experience. I used it as a notebook of sorts where I could record notes (until I saw Luke Wroblewski’s in-depth notes and decided to use his instead), jot down interesting/relevant quotes, ask questions to see what other attendees thought, and also engage in some banter and fun.

So people saw my logo pop up on the feed as I happily tweeted away during the event. However, if they were like me, all they were associating the profile picture with was a twitter user name. Granted, it was kind of easy to connect my twitter user name @shaunrashid to my AEA name tag but work with me here.

Here’s the connection part.

During lunch, we had the opportunity to sit down and chat with our fellow attendees. It was nice to be able to meet those twitter user names and associate them with people. Many would recognize me by name (again those AEA name tags) but when I handed them a business card, I was surprised by how quickly they recognized my logo. Many comments along the lines of “I saw you on the feed” followed and it was quickly apparent to me how important that logo was in terms of establishing and promoting an identity.

Making connections has always been an important part of business and life in general. The explosion of social media and it’s use as a communication and networking tool, we are able to connect to many more people than ever before. It becomes important to establish your online identity and to make that identity consistent across your social media channels.

You don’t want to become just another name. You want to be known for who you are, what you’ve done, and what you can do.

I found that a little blue and white symbol helps me to do that.