Changes in the Social Networking Landscape

My head hurts… You’d think that after 25 years of working with open source software, I’d be accustomed to change in software environments, but this Social Networking stuff is just crazy.

In the last couple of weeks, Google announced that they were getting into the game in a more serious way, Microsoft bought a stake in Facebook, and Facebook changed its model of advertising (just when I thought I understood the old one). If you even partially accept that social networks will serve some of the role provided by operating systems in the past, watching the 100 pound gorillas fight it out will be interesting.

I’m still not sure what Google’s strategy means for us chickens. Out here on the “I just want to use the stuff” edges, it’ll take some application developers to be the intermediaries before we “get” it. On the other hand, Facebook’s changes (discontinuing the relatively simple flyers and replacing them by “social ads” and “pages”) seems to make their platform even less user-friendly for the purposes of nonprofits and such.

Differences I’ve noticed between flyers and social ads –

  • Flyers could be directed to networks. Ads are directed to cities/town. For relatively amorphous areas like the Triangle in NC, this seems awkward.
  • Ads have a really restrictive editing window: c. 135 characters, no line breaks, can’t have more than one punctuation mark in a row (e.g. no Read more …) I created a couple of flyers and don’t remember it being quite so hard to craft legal copy.
  • Ads do give you some feedback on the size of the population targeted by the ad. For instance, if you select Raleigh NC, it says there are about 151,340 subscribers. If you then say you want to target those 25 and older, it says the audience size is about 33,740.
  • Be careful not to overspecify your audience. For instance, if you check all possible political views, you’ll cut out a significant portion of the audience (about 2/3 in the case of Raleigh) — those folks who didn’t list a preference or said something other than Liberal/Moderate/Conservative.

That said, I’ve just posted an ad for the Raleigh/Wake County Branch’s Interpreters Directory. I targeted those 21 and over living Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and a few smaller cities in the area. I offered $.25/click with a $5.00 max per day. If we get a volunteer/dollar it’ll be well worth it. I’ll let y’all know how it works out. [Placing an ad put a new application on my left-hand sidebar in Facebook — but I need to download the latest Flash player to actually use it. Ah, well.]

As for “pages” — I’m not sure they make much sense. A fellow member of the AAUW Facebook Strategy group checked out Facebook pages, and decided to go back to groups. Groups offer “news”, “posted items” and “related groups” that don’t seem to have comparable features in “pages”. And it just seems odd to ask folks to “become a fan” on a page rather than “join” a group. But, as I said at the outset, things change quickly and perhaps features will be added to pages (RSS feeds anyone? general access to the applications that individuals can put on their own pages?), or perhaps not.