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What’s In a Name?

I was reviewing a recent post from my colleague, Kassie, about some fading trends. It got me to thinking about this ongoing trend in odd-sounding online company names.

Let’s start with the ubiquitous “Facebook.” The original name for this plucky social media startup was “The Facebook” as coined by founder Mark Zuckerberg in 2004 as an online directory for Harvard Students. According to Speeli (an actual website with that actual name), “A Facebook is (a) collection of names and photos of people distributed in American universities.” The name was eventually shortened.

As we know, Facebook has since faded into obscurity and never had a movie made about it, meanwhile, Zuckerberg is now working as a low-paid temp in suburban Ohio performing light clerical duties. Ha! Just kidding about the world’s most popular social network (please don’t delete my account, Mr. Zuckerberg).

So there is a rhyme and reason behind the name, even if it’s a bit obscure. Facebook, we’ll give you a pass.

Moving onto “Google.” A Googol, as you may or may not recall, is a numeral representing a 1 followed by one hundred 0s. The search engine’s founders named their company after “Googol,” but misspelled it as “Google,” according to the Stanford Daily. So there you have it. The site you go to in order to figure out the correct spellings of strange words is actually itself misspelled. Still, it’s better than the initial name for the company: Backrub (seriously).

“Tinder.” First of all, kudos to the folks at Tinder for not dropping the “e” in their name. Many an online company try to be clever by sacrificing vowels in the search to be “edgy” and to “register a domain name that hasn’t been taken.” (I’m looking at you, Tumblr.) Anyway, “tinder” is defined as “material that is easily combustible and can be used for lighting a fire, e.g. dry sticks.” So with Tinder, once you have a spark, you can make fire or a flame. Makes sense for a match making site.

“Wikipedia.” I kind of hate word mashups. Snapchat, LinkedIn, Buzzfeed, YouTube. Bunch of cutting-edge innovative jerks, all of them! But I’ll make an exception for Wikipedia.

As one can imagine, Wikipedia does a pretty good job of defining itself: “The name ‘Wikipedia’ is a portmanteau of the words wiki (a technology for creating collaborative websites, from the Hawaiian word wiki, meaning ‘quick’) and encyclopedia.” So “Wikipedia” means “Quick Encylopedia,” something I learned by Googling “Wikipedia,” which led me to Wikipedia’s page on … Wikipedia.

“Reddit.” Much like The B Sharps from “The Simpsons,” Reddit is a name that seems funny and clever the first time you say it, but gets less so the more you repeat it. The company’s FAQ says says, “It’s (sort of) a play on words — i.e., ‘I read it on reddit.'”

There also a lengthy Reddit thread on a supposed Latin definition of the word that we can only assume devolves into comments regarding “OP’s mom.”

5 Tips for Engaging People on Social Media

One of the biggest challenges businesses have with social media is engagement: Generating likes, comments, shares, etc. After all, what’s the point of your social media presence if you’re just shouting into the abyss? Building an audience that will interact with your business on social media can be difficult. But before you get discouraged, take a look at these tips:

Offer a contest. Everybody loves to win something, even if it’s bragging rights (but if you have an actual prize to offer, so much the better). Contests can be a fun once- or twice-a-year thing, and they don’t have to be very complicated. You can even make it as simple as “Guess how many jellybeans are in the jar for a $25 gift certificate.”

A few years ago, Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound offered a Facebook contest where users created an “unofficial slogan” for the restaurant in order to be entered into a random drawing for a t-shirt. There were a couple hundred entries and an increase in page likes over the duration of the contest.

Brainstorm with coworkers and/or check out others in your industry for contest ideas.

Ask Questions. Ask your followers questions on your social media platforms to drive up engagement. This article recommends avoiding broad questions such as “What’s your favorite flavor?” Rather, they suggest giving users multiple choices and an accompanying graphic. Questions can be phrased as customer-service oriented, too. Example: “If we were to add a new machine to the cardio room, what would you choose?” This could also be done using a multiple choice format. Asking a question encourages people to interact with your page (and bonus points to you for responding back).

Encourage people to share. Encourage followers to share how they use your product (this is also known as “User Generated Content”). If you have a brick-and-mortar store, post a sign encouraging people to check in and/or tag your business on social media. And, the more content you can get others to post on your behalf, the better — it increases your reach, and all you did was put up a sign! Again, there’s a lot of ways to be creative.

Ask for Reviews. It may feel a little weird at first, but trust me — one of the best ways to get online reviews is to “make the ask.” It doesn’t have to be frequent — maybe once a week or every other week — in order to remind people where you are online. Cross-pollinate these requests. Example: Folks might already be reviewing you on Facebook. So post on Facebook a reminder that your business can also be reviewed on Yelp or Google+. People are willing to help you out, but they have to know where and how.

People are willing to help you out, but they have to know where and how.

Pay attention to analytics. Sounds boring? Maybe, but following your analytics may be the most helpful thing you can do to boost engagement. Look at individual social media accounts to devise the best strategy for each. For example, you may find Twitter requires more posts per day than Facebook. Automate this task using online tools such as Buffer, MeetEdgar, or Hootsuite. (Source)

As you create a social media marketing plan, think about how you can incorporate some of these ideas into your strategy and encourage people to interact with what you have to say.

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

You Don’t Get to Copycat Just Because Someone Already Invented the Wheel

Social media platforms have been ‘borrowing’ each other’s features since the beginning.

The latest instance involves Snapchat’s famous disappearing Stories feature being used by Instagram, and now Facebook.

How Facebook Is Trying To Be More Like Snapchat

A couple weeks ago, I’d noticed the Facebook Messenger App had a new feature called “My Day,” which is basically a way to chronicle your day in photos/videos that disappears after 24 hours, similar to Instagram and Snapchat stories. I noticed a few of the people I’m connected to on Messenger had tried it out.

Yesterday, if you were on the Facebook app (i.e. not on a computer), you may have noticed a few small circles at the top of the page before your Newsfeed starts. On the farthest left, there is a circle with the folded up paper airplane which has come to symbolize Direct Message in social media-world (direct message = a private convo). The next circle is for you to add your own story, and the farther out ones are for your friends stories.

Facebook’s Story feature comes with a lot of the same tools as the original on Snapchat: fun filters, the ability to draw, geofilters…but they don’t have the ability to FaceSwap (which still appears to be unique to Snapchat) or do the fun slo-mo videos. Business Pages are not allowed to use Facebook Stories at this time. (For more information on the similarities and differences between the app, check out this article from TechCrunch).

Regardless of your opinions on Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, or any of the social media platforms, the way they utilize popular tools from one another more or less successfully calls to mind an old saying: “You don’t have to reinvent the wheel.” I’m pretty sure this isn’t meant to encourage straight up copying another business, but finding inspiration here and there.

How You Can Not Reinvent The Wheel Without Taking Someone Else’s Wheel

The key to it all: Think inspiration, not duplication. For instance, if you’re trying to come up with a design for an email newsletter, one way to get ideas is to look at what other businesses are using (looking within your industry can be a good starting point). After doing some research, you’ll have a better idea what your own taste preferences are, like if you prefer a fancy header, want to include exclusive new deals every month, dislike sans serif fonts, etc. You aren’t necessarily looking for a template to straight up copy.

The same goes for website design, ideas for social media contests, etc. There’s nothing wrong with doing some research and finding inspiration, but take some time and effort to make it unique to you and your business. Just because the wheel has already been invented doesn’t mean you don’t need to offer any creative input. Make it your wheel before putting it out in the world.

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

It’s Not About The Leggings: Strong Online Stances And You (Part One)

About a year and a half ago, I recommended to my sister, at that point a stay-at-home mom, to look into Lularoe. “I think it’s going to be a thing.” I said.

Trust me when I say I’m happy to say I’ve been wrong about a lot of things, but about this I was right. It has exploded in popularity.

Since then I’ve noticed a leggings debate online: people who love them, people who hate them. And one of my Facebook friends (to paraphrase her) asked ‘What’s so polarizing about leggings?’

Guys, it’s not about the leggings. (I mean, is it ever?). It’s about the way the leggings, certain topics in current events, lifestyle choices, other products, etc, are being handled online. This polarity stems from three things: aggressive marketing tactics, extreme blog post titles, and differing views regarding online etiquette.

Aggressive Marketing Tactics

I’ve noticed a rise recently in more aggressive marketing tactics. These include three specific things I can think of offhand:

1) Automatically adding people to Facebook groups.
2) Pulling people you barely know into messaging threads involving hundreds of other people (ok maybe tens).
3) Repeated, unsolicited online messages from strangers.

Usually when these things happen, someone wants you to buy their stuff. No, not do they want to buy their old cribbage board but do you want to buy something they have a lot of inventory of: leggings, supplements, essential oils, ‘adult’ toys, cookware, etc.

The perps of this aggression are often MLM people (If you don’t know what an MLM is, here’s a previous blog post about them.) but can also be people who are very involved in a cause (political, religious, etc).

Now I will say I know PLENTY of people not doing douchey things (my sister among them). And I also know many politically active or religious people who are also not becoming aggressive on social media. But plenty are and it’s giving those who sell similar products a bad name.

What makes this aggression feel so personal online is that most people have their smartphone within 3 feet of their bodies. If you can picture walking up to someone’s door at 10 pm and asking them for money or following them around their house to show them your latest product, that’s what it can feel like, especially when these request come from multiple sources.  It can feel like you literally can’t get away from them.

(Note: I was added to a group nonconsentually a few weeks ago and couldn’t easily ‘leave’ the group from my phone. I had to wait 12 hours before I was back at the office to leave it and in those twelve hours I got over 100 notifications. And I’m good at this. So I can only imagine the less tech savvy can feel even more powerless in a situation like this.)

Now you may ask yourself, ‘How do I know if what I am doing is aggressive?’ Here are two tests:

A) If you did this to someone in real life, would it be aggressive? Like if I made you stay in a room you didn’t want to be in, does that seem aggressive? Of course! But if I invite you to come in the door and offer you candy to do so, does that seem aggressive? No. Turn your online action into a real life one and you’ll get your answer pretty easily.
B) Think of someone doing the same thing to you about something you don’t care about. Considering both the person and the action, does this seem aggressive? While you feel passionate about essential oils, your friend Mary might be passionate about rabbit rescue. If Mary did the same stuff you’re thinking of doing to you related to rabbit rescue, how would you feel? If you’d feel crummy to receive it, don’t give it!

My list:

Adding people to a Facebook group: Too much
Inviting people to join a Facebook group: Fine
Mass messaging more than ten people at a time to sell them something: Too much
Sending an email to a list of my customers: Fine
Posting a status update showing your product in case people want to buy it: Fine
Posting a status update showing your product and tagging fifty friends on Facebook you want to buy it: Too much
Automatically adding the email address from a business card to your marketing email list: Too much
Emailing someone whose business card you have linking to where they can sign up to your marketing list: Fine

Draw the lines for yourself but even if you think someone is receptive to what you are doing, it is more powerful to let them opt in.

To summarize, we live in a climate of activism and side hustles. Balancing important opinions we want to share and the comfort and feelings of others is something we’ll all struggle with. Just remember, it’s not about the leggings… but now that you know what it is about, maybe you can do something about your part in it. Because honestly, the only people we can change is ourselves.

This is post one in our series focusing on strong online stances. Stay tuned for post #2 on extreme blog post titles!

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

How Pregnancy Has Made Me a Target

…For online ads, that is.

Although I didn’t make a public announcement until recently, targeted ads still found out, and kept appearing on my Facebook and Instagram feeds. But, if I hadn’t told anyone yet, how did the internet already know I was pregnant?

Soon after finding out, I downloaded two apps, BabyCenter and What to Expect (both fairly popular). I also started a registry online. Several online articles say that this combination of app downloading and browsing history made the announcement happen a little earlier- not to actual humans, but to the internet. (Side note: I did almost accidentally make a semi-public announcement to the internet via Pinterest when I mindlessly pinned a pregnancy related article to a board I thought was private- whoops). There’s a creepy Big Brother vibe to it.

Here are some of the more interesting targeted ads I’ve seen go by:

Exhibit A: Ovia, a Pregnancy & Baby Tracker This is a screenshot from my phone, which I’d normally crop but knowing this was a mobile ad vs desktop is important. As mentioned earlier, I already have two similar apps downloaded on my phone (from the App Store, not through a link on Facebook).

Admittedly, I did decide to download it because it’s more interactive than other apps (allowing you to track weight gain, keep track of meals and moods, look up symptoms- I can’t tell you how many times I’ve Googled “Is ____ normal during pregnancy,” and size comparisons that aren’t just food based). Size comparisons include fruits & veggies, Parisian Bakery, Fun & Games, and Weird-but-cute animals (guess what I chose?) So, this was a sponsored ad success.

Unfortunately, I don’t actually know how big a Roborovski Hamster is, but I’m still having fun.

 

Exhibit B: Carousel Designs. This was a desktop ad that appeared in my Facebook newsfeed as I took a break from registry building (which, I’ve found requires some breaks). I didn’t give it more than a passing glance because I was on a baby shopping break, but for purposes of this post I did some follow up.

The link redirects to babybedding.com, which makes sense because it’s entirely crib/nursery related. I’m not in any position to design a nursery right now, due to figuring out space and not knowing if it’s a boy or girl yet.

Exhibit C) Preggo Leggings The timeline for this ad is interesting. Not only did it coincide with browsing for maternity clothing, it also appeared after being put in a Lularoe Legging group on Facebook. I’m not really sure which one triggered this particular ad (probably the maternity clothes), but here we are.

I didn’t click through this ad because I’m kind of burnt out on the online world of leggings right now. The internet may have a good eye for search history, but that doesn’t mean it has perfected it’s timing. It did seem like they were a bit more expensive than I’m willing to pay for an article of clothing I can only wear for another 5ish months, and with all the other stuff that I have to worry about, leggings aren’t very high on the list.

Exhibit D: Babiesfan Fun fact, I can’t actually find anything online about this sponsored ad, and I didn’t click on the link in Instagram. I’m kind of regretting that now, though, since this pillow is looking heavenly on a Friday afternoon. (I am thinking while some pregnancy offerings are more niche, like the leggings, this pillow may be a more universally appealing item.) This was my first Instagram targeted ad, and I’m sure more will follow.

Finally, this isn’t really an ad, but an interesting notification from one of the baby apps. It’s a light inactivity notification (“Hey, you haven’t posted anything to Instabookchat in awhile. Let your friends know what you’re up to”). Since I don’t really ‘participate’ in the app, apart from reading the daily tips and seeing the cool weekly progress updates (I’m not sure why fruits and vegetables are the go-to scale for size updates, but that could be a blog post of it’s own), Babycenter was giving me a bit of a nudge.

I’m not sure how I feel about being low key shamed by a robot for already not participating enough in mom activities, but for what it’s worth I did take a look into the group forums. Unfortunately I got sucked into reading a lot of “Here is everything that can go wrong” discussions, and decided to stick with the daily tips section instead.

So, if you’re pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or just curious, the body isn’t the only thing that changes- your internet might start to look a little different, too. But remember that you can customize the internet to see less of the ads, notifications, and other personalized online experiences so you can be as comfortable as possible, whether you have a baby at the avocado stage or just had guacamole for lunch.

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

Online Reviews: An Introduction

Last year, I packed up my family and moved us to a new apartment, a process I liken to having a root canal, only with less sitting, fewer painkillers and far more cursing. I hired movers for the job, and was pretty impressed with their humor, chill attitude, and the fact that one of the guys kept right on working despite needing to bandage a wound on his palm with paper towel and duct tape.

Yes, I tipped, but then they told me that if I was really happy to give them a review on Facebook. This was a first for me, but it made sense. This was a Maine micro business at its core, just starting out. Online reviews were pretty critical in generating good word-of-mouth.

Making your own business available to online reviews is a double-edged sword. The folks at Yelp acknowledge this on their guidelines for responding to reviews: “Negative reviews can feel like a punch in the gut. We care deeply about our business too, and it hurts when someone says bad things about our business. For you founders and sole proprietors out there, a negative review can even feel like a personal attack.”

Sometimes a business can do everything right, but there may be no pleasing a customer who has had a terrible day, perhaps because he’s just spent the entire week DRIVING AROUND A MOVING VAN THAT GETS 5 MILES TO THE GALLON AND WOULD IT HAVE KILLED YOU TO INCLUDE THE EXTRA SAUCE IN HIS TAKE OUT ORDER LIKE HE ASKED?!?! ONE STAR!!!!!!!!

Sorry about that flashback.

The point being, is it worth buying into online ads? Yes, but it takes courage.

Unlike traditional print reviews written by critics, online reviews keep coming, and coming and coming, so long as internet-savvy folks keep using your products or services. The advantage of this is that each day is another day to get it right, to improve your weaknesses and build upon your strengths. Here are a few more popular choices to get you started in this brave new world:

Yelp is enormously popular, having garnered more than 115 million reviews last year. Making money off ad revenue, Yelp is free for both the business itself and for consumers. Seemingly everything — from local restaurants to doctors, from prisons  to showgirl supply stores — gets reviewed through their website or mobile app.

The company uses an algorithm to  weed out fake reviews or reviews written by owners about their own businesses. Yelp’s relations with small businesses hasn’t always been rosy, as owners have complained that the algorithm weeds out positive review and leaves negative ones. Yelp admits its algorithm isn’t perfect, but the company has become so ubiquitous, so popular since its 2004 founding that utilizing Yelp makes still makes sense.

Facebook reviews are a pretty organic extension of your existing business’s page. And it makes all the sense in the world to utilize this free service. As we’ve noted before, 79 percent of American adults who use the Internet use Facebook.

Like Yelp, you can respond to reviews positive and negative. Search Engine Journal also notes that Facebook reviews will be giving Yelp a run for its money, in part, because Facebook is already integral to our everyday lives: “Facebook is a platform that nearly everyone uses on a daily basis. We use it to document our lives, connect with friends through Messenger and check into businesses. It’s the one-stop shop for us to get everything we need to get done, from collecting information about our friends, finding news and stories to read and to watch cat videos.”

Google, like Facebook, is seemingly everywhere. Similarly, it only makes sense to integrate product and service reviews with the search engine giant, especially considering how powerful and important Google Maps has become for finding, well, anything.

Our theme for February is “Loving Your Favorite Businesses Online.” Leaving a review, whether on Yelp, Facebook, Google, or elsewhere, is one way to give a business a boost. Stay tuned for other ways you can share the love this month!

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