Google Plus is a PR Fail

Recently Google made headlines when it began requiring people to post comments on Youtube from their Google+ accounts (and if you didn’t have one, why of course you should make one). This week they made news again by showing the first signs of merging their second most popular service, Gmail, with one of their least popular services, Google+.

The internet has no shortage of reactors and detractors, or people grandstanding about using cookie tricks or changing to alternate services entirely.

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Personally I find Google’s moves to be predictable, inevitable, and welcome. Here’s why:

Let’s talk about inevitable. Since before 2007 Microsoft realized that it had numerous various products which would serve their customers better if they were horizontally integrated. Hotmail started working like Outlook, Outlook like Hotmail, then for a less specific master account they created Live. Now you can sync your Microsoft Live account between your Windows 8 log in, your browser, your Bing search, your e-mail, your cloud.

What you’re seeing with Google now is simply the same. They have all these disconnected services: Gmail, Maps, Youtube, Search, Drive, Chrome, Chrome OS, and Android. It makes perfect sense to do what Microsoft did and unify these under one master-type account. Enter Google+.

But *how* Google+ entered the market is not one of Google’s bright spots. The original social media offering was limited, buggy, and awkward. I think this may have been the result of Google’s development model, which is to shape their services based on intense user feedback, versus Microsoft which tends to stack it’s teams with mega-experts like the New York Yankees (with some of the resulting conflicts of the Yankees too).

Those models generally mean that Microsoft puts a strong product out front, but is limited in it’s response to customer input. Google on the other hand, tends to put a weak product out front then innovate aggressively based on feedback. The Google method can lead to a great product, but with a tarnished reputation.

And in my opinion that is what we have with Google+. After a few years of aggressive improvements, it’s now a stellar social platform. I prefer it over Facebook hands-down, and I was not an early adopter.

I prefer it over Facebook hands-down, and I was not an early adopter.

Now that they are connecting their services, I’m afraid Google is again taking a PR hit. I don’t feel like they’re really selling it to the public like Microsoft did.

But people need to realize, it is unreasonable for a company to keep it’s services disconnected from each other. And it’s especially ironic that some of the people complaining about Google’s moves are the same people taking advantage of Microsoft Live. And don’t even get me started on Apple ID.

I think Google is currently in an awkward pinfeathers stage as it gradually molts into a unified product. While that happens, people will continue to react.


Facebook Offers: You Can’t Refuse

Coupons have a certain attraction that is hard to resist. So when I started using Facebook Offers, I shouldn’t have been surprised how effective it is. The potential it has to help you is really an offer you can’t refuse.

In the first part of my series on Facebook Promotion I introduced promoting a post. I did that first because it is the easiest and cheapest way to start. However I believe for many markets the most effective tool that Facebook offers is, well, Facebook Offers.

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In it’s simplest form FB Offers is a coupon that contains a promotion code. Users see your offer, and can click a button to claim it. The offer is then e-mailed to their e-mail address where they can print it out, or copy-paste the code into an online shopping cart.

But why use a coupon? Why not use a promoted post or an ad making the same offer?

There are a few advantage to coupons. First is psychology. A coupon implies some exclusivity. People like to feel like they are getting a truly special deal, and even if it takes a few extra steps to claim it, those obstacles actually make people motivated to actually use it.

Next is tracking. While we did look at ways to track promoted posts, and you can certainly track ads, it is very easy to know a response to a coupon code because your customer self-identifies by the act of using the coupon!

The bottom line is, if you do it well, FB Offers will help more people actually follow through on your offer. It is not at all expensive to run one, and like promoting posts, can have an excellent return-on-investment. Technically it is free, but IMO it’s not worth doing without paying for some promotion, hence why I don’t play up that fact.

We’ll go into the mechanics of running an offer in my next post.


Stop Believing SEO Can Help You

People love simple solutions. It is human nature. A turnkey process that works is gold in business. There was a time when there were turnkey SEO solutions that worked.

That time is gone. The faster you realize this, the less damage you will do to yourself.

Imagine you have a speedy delivery van service. Every day your van would go 75mph down the highway to make its deliveries. Then one day the speed limit was changed to 55mph. But, knowing how well 75mph worked for you, you keep doing it.

But then you get pulled over, and a $280 fine. But you really liked how driving 75mph worked for your business, so you keep driving that speed. Every day you get a $280 fine until your license is completely suspended. Then you’re really SOL.

That is the world of SEO right now. People doing what they used to do are not just ineffective, but penalized or potentially blacklisted. This is serious stuff.

The tragedy is this news is not what a spunky CEO wants to hear. Its the internet, after all; there is no such thing as consequences on the internet. Everyone knows that, right?

Try to tell them that a link farm is a bad mistake, and they’ll cite all these “successful” companies that provide the service. Well yes, people will happily take your money. We’ve established that people love turnkey solutions. There will always be someone willing to take your money who don’t care about your reputation.

There is such a thing as Search Engine Optimization, but it doesn’t look like what it used to look like. It has evolved to be more gimmick-proof, which is good for internet users as well as companies putting out genuinely good content (and forking out money to Google). More on that later.

The bottom line is: don’t sink your own boat using methods that used to work but will now get you penalized. If you are talking to a boss or client, stress the urgency of not being penalized. In most cases being penalized by Google is not a bell that can be un-rung.

You can also talk about the need to stay current with the times, focusing on the best practice of now. Often that is even part of your job description even as they tell you to do something obsolete. Its a battle of perception vs. reality.


Assumptions Wanted: Dead or Un-Alive

In my blog post Online Content: Dogs Are Not Horses, I began by mentioning the danger of assumptions. I’m here to tell you they are more dangerous than they think.

Assumptions are not just the poison pill of outdated marketers and executives, they affect everyone, even, yes even, the social media expert! Yes, I catch myself making assumptions regarding social media content or strategy that seems intuitive to me, but I later learn is counter-productive.

Snap! Is there any hope for anyone?

The answer is in the long fancy term: mitigation. We make so many decisions and judgement calls there is no way to eliminate them. Who in any industry can achieve that? But we can educate and challenge ourselves so that we have the fewest assumptions of anyone in the room. That’s a good start.

How?

Read. Read and read and read. Read this super-fantastic yet redundant blog. Read books with a better than 4-star Amazon rating.

Analyze. Let your reporting tools confront you. If you went down the wrong track, it’s more professional to admit (to only yourself if you’re lucky) you were wrong. Label your assumption as an “experiment” and call it conclusive: that you eliminated a possibility and are pursuing another, because you are.
It’s not always easy. There have been times I’ve looked at the statistics and started to experience the 5 stages of grief: Denial, anger, bargaining, remorse, and acceptance. Your ability to confront your own assumptions will determine whether you are a professional in the truest sense, or a mistitled lackey. The key isn’t to always be right the first time, but to have the right response to feedback. That can require courage, but will have positive career implications for you in the long run.


Online Content: Dogs are not Horses

I see it again and again; an executive, or a manager, or a sole proprietor, making an assumption about their social media or web site content. Often they follow a pattern of logic, steeped in sometimes decades of experience and best practice. The problem is, it’s best practice in their area of expertise, not content.

Let me tell you a true story. For a couple thousand years civilization has been very focused on horses. They were for a very long time the means of getting around. When you went a-courtin, you would borrow your dad’s Mustang to impress the girls. Generally anyone who was interested in transportation knew at least a few things about horses, and probably a lot.

Now we’re in the age of the automobile, and horses, while still abundant, are the thing of niche enthusiasts. Many of these same enthusiasts also breed the higher lines of champion dogs, which led to something that negatively affects dog’s in general to this day: their quality was and sometimes is based on physical features of horses.

This illustrates a classic rift in experts. The equestrian dog breeder can point to extensive knowledge acquired over dozens of generations. The relatively new experts who explore dogs as dogs see progress in a different light. They have the advantage of specialization without equal benefits of general or multi-generational experience.

This brings us back to our crusty old marketing managers, some of them multi-millionaires, having built companies with billions in revenue, staring down an upstart web content editor with starkly different ideas. If the old school wins, you get something that is neither a dog nor a horse and everyone loses. Often this is exactly what happens, and the company deems the web and social projects as ineffective, not realizing they guaranteed that result before the project started.

The key is a mutual respect. The seasoned executives must grant the freedom and have the patience to let the professional content producer to their job according to their specializations’ best practice and strategy for maximum long-term results. Content creators should look to veteran executives and managers for business experience and understanding of their industry.