How Instagram Made Me Think Visually

Instagram logo

A few – maybe four or five – months ago I finally gave in and joined Instagram. I had avoided doing so for a while since I didn’t quite get it. OK, so you take a picture and add some funky filter to it and then so what? But then I went ahead and took the plunge and found it was actually quite a bit of fun. As has been pointed out elsewhere, it sort of focuses you to think about the image and its presentation a bit differently and then, on the audience side, provides a different sort of insight into the person who took the picture than a straight, #nofilter shot might. 

For me personally I found that it started me thinking more visually for a change. I’ve always had an interest in photography but never really had the means to do anything about it. But now, after a period of forced “I will take an Instagram picture for X period of time” usage I’m seeing things in a different way. I’m lining up shots, I’m looking for interesting reflections and angles and so on. It’s opened up a part of my brain that had been closed for a while and, as I said, I’m having some fun with it. 

More interestingly I’m having fun interacting and engaging with those I follow on that network, usually in ways that I otherwise may not have on some other platform. I’m Liking things, I’m commenting and so on in a different way than I am elsewhere. I guess the biggest change for me is that I’m finding value in those interactions despite my previous mindset, which was that everything outside of Twitter was peripheral and there was no need to build stand-alone networks on multiple channels. 

If I were to draw a lesson out of my experience it would be this: Don’t be afraid to experiment. But if you do than make it a real experiment and not something that you’ll easily let fall by the wayside. There are challenges, benefits and lessons to get from doing so. 

Better Twitter Analytics Could Be Coming

Yardstick 500x375

Yeah, it’s just speculation at this point based on one comment, but the idea that Twitter could be evaluating adding better metrics around post readership is enough to get some mouths watering, including mine. 

Twitter has always been lacking in a native analytics feature for anyone who’s not an advertiser. A while ago there was some movement toward improvement in this area but nothing really came of it for, again, anyone who wasn’t putting in dollars. That’s why there’s such a rich field of companies and services who pull Twitter numbers and give publishers more information around network growth, engagement and more. 

The most interesting idea around the teased new metrics is that posts would be measured not just by how many people *could* have seen it – the raw number of people who were following the profile at the time the post was published – but how many times that update was loaded into the feeds of individuals. In other words, I may be counted as a potential impression of a tweet because I follow X account. But if I don’t have Tweetdeck open at the time that post was published or within a window of, say, 2 minutes after it was published (meaning it’s reasonable I could scroll through and still see it) then it’s almost guaranteed I didn’t see it. Am I a potential reader? Yes. Am I a likely reader? No, not at that time. 

The comments about better native metrics may just be wishful thinking on one person’s part and a lot of extrapolation on that wishful thinking by myself and other commentators. But it has highlighted the reality that right now Twitter doesn’t offer native metrics for the tool. Those are absolutely needed by companies who may not be advertising but who still have business goals tied to publishing updates meant to reach its followers on that network. 

LinkedIn’s Endorsements Could be a Better Influence Measurement

Linkedin logo

I have to admit I really do like the idea behind LinkedIn’s new Endorsements feature. 

With just one click, you can now endorse your connections for a skill they’ve listed on their profile or recommend one they haven’t added yet. Think your connection is great at programming AND project management? Let them know!

That sounds a bit glib but it’s not meant to be. It actually seems to me to potentially be a better way of measuring influence than the fuzzy (and easily gameable) systems of tools like Klout. LinkedIn is, at it’s core, based on the idea that these are the people you’ve connected with for professional reasons. Facebook is very much about personal connections but LinkedIn has always been about connecting with people as a way to network virtually, creating a repository of folks who hopefully know what you can do and how well you can do it. 

Let’s take the hypothetical situation of my being an executive who is searching for a new sysadmin. I’ll start by searching my LinkedIn network for someone with those skills. Then when I see that someone has received X number of endorsements compared to someone else who has received fewer, I can factor that into my thinking about who to contact next. 

And I think that’s why I like this more than I like something like Klout, which I’ve never given much weight to: Klout always seemed more about someone’s own ego and the sycophants who they’ve surrounded themselves with who will give them “kred” about this, that or the other thing. But the fact that it produces a number continues to tell me it’s still about ego and not any sort of number that means anything to the outside world. 

LinkedIn Endorsements, though, seem more about validating – or not – the skills that someone has given themselves. An endorsement by a professional contact validates and lends weight to that self-evaluation, something that seems much more credibility to my mind and therefore more valuable when it comes to evaluating the people I’ve connected with professionally. 

Why I’m Looking Forward to Downloading My Tweets

Twitter bird blue on white

According to reports that came out of ONA12, Twitter’s Dick Costello said you should be able to download your Twitter publishing history before the end of this year, assuming it fits in with the developer roadmap. 

The idea has caught a lot of flack from people who assume (perhaps rightly) that it will only be what each account has published that will be downloadable and not the conversations and other meta-data, including Retweets, that are associated with and happened as a result of those updates. That’s a legitimate concern and there’s a lot of valuable information that could be missing or, worse, lost. 

What concerns me more is that the format these are available in won’t allow them to be imported into any other platform. If, for instance, I want to take them and put them into a WordPress or Tumblr blog that can be searched and archived I probably won’t be able to. That’s an assumption I’m basing on Twitter’s recent moves to restrict access to its’ API, including their cutting off Tumblr and Instagram from searching people’s Twitter contacts. The company, it seems, thinks that this sort of restriction will make those other platforms less attractive and therefore convince people to spend their limited social publishing time on Twitter instead of elsewhere. 

Regardless of those concerns, I am excited to have an archive of my Twitter updates. I’m a completist and like having everything I’ve written tucked away under my control in some form. I wish I had archives of my contributions to MarketingVox, AdJab and the other sites I’ve written for. It’s an exciting prospect for me, not because I want to go back and revisit just how witty I’ve been in 140 characters. But because they represent in some way how things – my interests, my thinking, the industry in general – have evolved over the last several years. 

Bringing LinkedIn Into a Publishing Program

Several times in the last month or so I’ve gotten emails, IMs or other requests that are variations on the following theme:

“So we’ve been talking about adding LinkedIn to X client’s publishing program. What do you think?”

In response I usually ask a series of questions that hopefully begin to surface some interesting components of the program and how LinkedIn might – or might now – fit into it. Really, though, these are the types of questions that are and should be asked whenever a new platform is being considered:

  • What kind of audiences  hopefully being reached on that platform?
  • Are those audiences already being reached on another platform? How can experiences there inform what’s being considered?
  • What sorts of goals are being set for audience engagement and response?
  • What’s the plan for responding to questions or comments on that platform?
  • Who’s the platform owner, the one person who focuses on that one outlet, including publishing and responses?
  • How will what’s published there differ in form or substance from what’s being published elsewhere currently?

There are more of course but that’s the beginning of the conversation and it begins to surface some interesting components of the program and how LinkedIn can fit into it. Each platform is going to have its own unique set of questions, challenges and opportunities.

It’s up to the program owner, the one who’s in charge of making sure that all the tactics being used or proposed are aligning to goals, to make the ultimate decision as to whether the effort required of a new platform is worth the potential return. But it’s also up to everyone else on a team to make sure they are continually challenging the status quo and making the case for ideas they think are worthwhile.

When Brands Decide to Have Fun

This interaction between the official Twitter accounts of Oreo and AMC Theaters is filled with awesome

Not cool cookie ep

The reason I love it so much is that it shows one of the primary traits necessary to really exist in the social media world: A sense of humor. The mischievous part of me likes to believe that the guy handling the @AMCTheaters handle didn’t (or better yet didn’t need to) ask anyone’s permission before pushing this up but instead just did it and, if necessary asked for forgiveness later. If the latter I’m hoping he just held up all the positive reactions that his Tweet received and pointed to all the goodwill and positive brand perception he just bought by slightly tweaking the nose of a cookie company. 

(Also – “NOT COOL COOKIE” is going to become my new catchphrase for anything that displeases me. It’s too good.) 

People Finding Movies Through Social Recommendations

This study has some interesting stats on how people are finding out about, and getting recommendations on, new movies from their social network friends as well as how people are or aren’t following movie pages on Facebook and Twitter. But the story that passes along that story loses some credibility when they name-drop Gene Siskel like he’s still a current, living film critic. 


The two most interesting numbers from the study to me are the 63% of fans that say contests and promotions are what get them to Like a movie’s Facebook page, something that’s in-line with most studies about why people connect with a brand on social networks, and the fact that fans are four times as likely to follow a movie on Facebook than they are on Twitter. That’s a lot of one-off Twitter profiles that are out there now dead and inactive. 

Crowdtap social blockbusters

My Media Intakes: 9/24/12

~700 RSS feed items (not counting client-specific reading)



Issues ETC 

On the Media

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Trailer #2

I like this new trailer for the first installment of The Hobbit that’s coming out later this year, though I think it works just a little less well than the first. But that’s sort of inevitable since this is less about setting the tone, which the first trailer did, and actually getting into the movie’s story. All that being said, though, it’s done nothing to tamp down my enthusiasm for the movie.

Changing Web 2.0 Assumptions

While The Mercury News is talking about TechCrunch Disrupt here I think there’s a broader point:

With the exception of such upstarts as Path, the mobile social network, the lineup was dominated by companies defined by mobile, big data or cloud technologies.

Matt Haughey yesterday posted a screenshot of Feedburner’s options for “Web 2.0” services that you could integrate into your feed. The options included Delicious, Magnol.ia, digg and a handful of other companies, many of which are no longer operating. The image highlighted a number of things, ranging from how the tools that we once took for granted have changed to how long it’s been since Feedburner saw any active innovation.

The bigger point the story is illuminating, though, is how the social web has evolved since 2002 or so. Instead of being focused on technologies that bring us together – primarily through links – it’s become about status, points and exclusives. Everyone wants to get an audience into their own closed network (though more than half of them use Facebook’s authentication system) and then get them to build a network there. 

I don’t want to come off as some old curmudgeon who thinks that things aren’t as good now as they were in the old days, but I’ll admit that I kind of miss the days where much of the new thinking was around how can we get people to share on and across the web, not just within a walled garden (if you don’t see shades of AOL in every move Facebook makes I’m not sure you’re paying close enough attention) where your eyeballs can be monetized to within an inch of their lives.