How Instagram Succeeds In Spite of Itself

31 May
May 31, 2016

I’ve been spending a lot more time on Instagram lately than I usually do as I build my other business Moonshine BBQ. The product is very visually led and lends itself well to the platform.

What I’ve noticed through building my community there is that despite it being a social platform, Instagram’s success seems at odds with its limited function set.

While the simple double tap to like an image is how it should be on mobile first social applications (the number of times I have done this on Facebook is ridiculous), and the ability to leave a comment is as straight forward as you would want it to be, other functions that are inherent to a social experience are not.

There are three key areas where I think they need to improve.

Conversation

The ability to interact with not only a creator, but also commenters, is a core principle of online community building, with people coming together around a piece of content to make it something bigger.

With Instagram however, conversation is difficult. Leaving a simple comment is fine, but the chronological nature and non-nesting of the comments makes following a conversation difficult, and the ability to respond directly to another user’s comment is a multi-step process.

This is particularly true for highly engaged accounts with large followings, as a limited number of comments load at any given time, making it challenging to find conversational elements.

Sharing

Perhaps the greatest shortcoming of Instagram is the ability to share content from others intra-platform. While it obviously pushes the point of original content, the number of third party apps that repost, or “regram” the content of others, demonstrates that the desire to share interesting content of others, in spite of how clunky the process is (more further down about that).

While Facebook has created conventions around how content from others is displayed when you share from another person or publisher, Instagram (despite being owned by Facebook) has left it up to the multitude of developers to determine this, creating a lack of consistency, and at times a total lack of credit to the creator.

Through developing this feature, Instagram can standardise the way content is shared on the platform, generating greater engagement and reach for creators.

API

In all of the aforementioned re-gram apps, the process generally involves a mirrored feed, a selection of the image, a standardised overlay, a copy caption function and then opening the photo in Instagram, pasting the caption and posting. It’s anything but smooth, and a limitation of the API.

I’m beta testing Buffer‘s new Instagram integration, which is a much better experience in that I can schedule the post with the image and caption, and I get a reminder at the time to post and it copies across the image and caption for me to use. However, it exhibits the all to familiar trait of not being able to post directly to the platform.

While none of these things are obviously inhibiting growth, the limitation of true community building features and a rough road to using third party tools to interact with it make it seem to be that Facebook and the Instagram team are missing a huge opportunity to increase growth.

 

Facebook Style Content – Could It Choke LinkedIn?

24 Feb
February 24, 2016

Something unprofessional is happening with LinkedIn’s news feed.

While it’s always been terrible to navigate because it of the way it decides on Top Posts on a whim (try refreshing the page and watch it completely change), there is a trend that is on the rise which threatens the quality of the content and engagement.

I am talking about the increasing number of content pieces that are typically the domain of other networks, particularly Facebook style content.

Memes and pictures of lunch your friends share on their Instagram and Facebook? They’re now sitting right beside your 10 Habits of Highly Productive People.

Is Facebook style content choking LinkedInPolitical posts that talk about how awesome Obama is doing, and that the republicans are wrong? Fitspo (apparently actually a word)? Questionably attributed celebrity quotes? All present and accounted for.
I spent ten minutes browsing my news feed each day over the last week and found at least 3 examples each day. All of these have the potential to choke LinkedIn’s already confusing and busy news feed and suck the life out of it.

I spent ten minutes browsing my news feed each day over the last week and found at least 3 examples each day. All of these have the potential to choke LinkedIn’s already confusing and busy news feed and suck the life out of it.

Where Is It Stemming From?

The main offenders are not always amongst your own LinkedIn connections. Given the way LinkedIn treats engagement with posts and presents them in your feed, whenever you begin liking or commenting on the content, it brings the full post to the attention of your network.

In a self-perpetuating cycle, even as we comment to tell people “this doesn’t belong here”, it increasingly appears “here”. It may be a third or even fourth-degree connection, but eventually, it makes it there.

So what’s wrong with it exactly?

It’s About The Nature of the Connection

LinkedIn connections are generally single faceted. Unlike Facebook, where occasional acquaintances to nearest and dearest fall under the very broad definition of “friend”, LinkedIn is by its definition a network of professionals.

Professional content, or more suited to Facebook?

Your connection is around what you do for a living – I have either done business with you, I’m interested in your expertise in your field, or I want to sell you an SEO solution (you know who you are…).

When you begin to introduce Facebook style content into the equation, your begin to make the relationship personal, which some business connections may not appreciate it. You can see it in the comments.

Define Your Social Tone Of Voice

If you are adding this type of content to LinkedIn, it’s important to consider before posting. Personal brand is of the utmost importance now, and the way in which you express these opinions online may lead to current and future business partners to take pause and reconsider your relationship.

Decide what you want to be known for online. Create your social tone of voice. I have a simple framework for deciding what and where to share:

How to decide what content to share on what social platform

LinkedIn makes it hard enough to find great content without having to wade through low-quality stuff. Use it to position yourself as a leader in your field, even if you’re not yet. Keep the memes on Facebook, wit on Twitter and lunch on Instagram.

How to Switch from Recent to Top Posts on LinkedInIncidentally, if you’re looking how to re-order from Top Posts to Recent posts, it these 3 little dots wedged in between your Publish a Post button and the first update in your feed. Obvious, right?

 

5 Features That Would Make Twitter Polls Truly Useful

30 Nov
November 30, 2015

Twitter polls were a welcome addition to the platform when they became widely available a couple of months ago in a very basic form. I’ve dabbled a few times with some questions with really mixed reaction, so while early days, I see a lot of room for improvement in the product.

While they’ve added the ability to have up to four options, there are still five features they need to add for it to be a truly useful as a survey tool on the platform.

Shorter Timeframes

Currently the only time option for running Twitter polls using the native function is 24 hours (noting some people have custom card implementations that work differently), which is too long. If your target audience has a small number of infrequent tweeters they follow then you may hold people’s interest and increase votes, but consider how many other people your followers are connected with, and understand how much other content is competing for air time with your poll.

It also allows you to be more reactive to live events and maintain relevance.

Ability To Retweet

Asuming we are stuck with the 24 hour timeframe, the ability to tweet the same poll again would be useful. Given the tweet with your poll slips further and further down feeds during that day long period, the visibility decreases.

By being able to push it into your feed again (either manually or automatically) would ensure visibility and increase responses.

Targeting

The broad nature of Twitter means that your audience will be made up of many different. Good polling is generally targeted in nature, taking a pulse amongst a group of people with similar interests.

The ability to set a target audience, outside of Twitter ads for promotion of the poll, would help increase interaction and respondents.

Analytics

Currently the only numbers supporting your poll are the votes, and if you dip into analytics, the number of people who saw the poll. From this you can measure a response rate, but that’s it.

Ideally you want to be able to dig deeper in to understand the people who responded – where are they, who are they, are they your target audience, and what can you then draw from that data as far as insights go?

Image and Video Support

The stats on the performance of visuals and video on Twitter show that there is a clear increase in engagement with tweets that contain them over those that don’t. By adding images to polls, they become a quick reference for the options presented.

Video would also present an interesting angle, allowing people to consume a piece of content and then feedback on it through a poll.

All five of these things tie together quite nicely as ways of increasing and measuring end-to-end engagement, and if they were implemented polls would become a truly engaging piece of the platform.

What about you? Any other features you’d like to see from polls?

Facebook Makes It Easier to Share Liked and Saved Links

28 Nov
November 28, 2015

UPDATE: This was announced by Facebook as a feature test in the US back in May, according to this TechCrunch article, however the implementation looks to have evolved. 

While posting an update this evening, I noted a new addition to the options available in the Facebook mobile app for iOS that allows you to add liked or saved links to a status update.

The Link icon is right in between the Tag and Activity icons, which brings up a list of your recently liked (don’t judge…) and recently saved links, as well as links from your newsfeed.

Facebook Add Link Button

Links become an option alongside tagging, activity and location

The first two make sense – if you’ve liked or saved a link then there is a good chance you will want or may eventually find it interesting enough to share.

Newsfeed links probably make less sense given you haven’t read them yet, but you do have the option to view it. To me this seems more a case of finding something to post for the hell of it.

I’m not sure how widely the feature is available or if this is just in testing, and at this stage I can only see it on the iOS app. But I think it’s an interesting addition given the number of links we like each day.

It also serves to surface content that you may have saved and forgotten about, again, handy when curating content.

Automated Twitter DM, and Why It Needs To Stop

23 Nov
November 23, 2015

I make a point each day of trying to find more interesting people to follow on Twitter (more on how I curate an interesting feed here), however lately this practice has been marred by an increasing number of automated direct messages.

Although nothing new and almost universally derided amongst Twitter users, it seems recently that the dial has been turned up to 11.

My reaction is simple – instantly unfollow.

We all know the social media metaphor of the bar, and that you wouldn’t just walk up to a stranger and try to sell something. Yet this is exactly what the auto DM is.

So what is it that annoys most people?

We’ve Not Yet Established Trust or Value

A follow on Twitter is not an instant indication of trust. It’s an indication that I have found your last few things reasonably interesting and think I want to see more. Twitter is one of the lowest touch networks when it comes to connecting with people you know and trust, and in most cases the strength of a connection, especially at this embryonic stage, is tenuous.

By sending me an automated message straight away – inviting me to connect on LinkedIn / Facebook, try your product that’s in beta, visit your website or download your eBook – assumes that the value you offer has been firmly established and that all connections are created equal.

It demonstrates the value you place on the connections you make. Even by automating even something as simple as gratitude for a new follower instantly shows that you don’t care enough to take the time.

These networks have always been about establishing trust, an automation of your 1:1 interactions flies in the face of this.

Don't Be This Person

Can Automated Direct Messages Work At All?

I’ve been part of Twitter for nearly 7 years, and can count on the one hand useful direct messages I have received. The most useful I ever received was a pay-it-forward kind of message, telling me three more interesting people I should follow.

If you’re serious about leveraging a network of connections like Twitter, avoid automation of direct messaging. It presumes that everyone follows you for the same reason, and that you need to interact with every single one of them. You don’t.

Let me be clear here – direct messaging is still of value. When you take the time, personalise it, and mean it. Spend the time, understand the value you provide, and use that to deepen your connections.

This provision of value is the new currency. and done right can pay greater dividends than trying to sell them something.