Repost from IBM Social Business Insights: Five new social networking applications: Cool or creepy?

Earlier this year I started blogging for the IBM Social Business Insights blog as part of a team of IBM Redbook Thought Leaders. I'll be reposting those blog posts here on my personal blog.
Five new social networking applications: Cool or creepy?
  was co-written with my talented colleague, Brandi Boatner, and originally published on April 17, 2012, and is owned by IBM.
I recommend checking out the IBM Social Business Insights blog for some compelling and though-provoking content. 

Five new social networking applications: Cool or creepy?
By Brandi Boatner, IBM Global Business Services
and Holly Nielsen, Human Ability and Accessibility

The different ways social networking can connect people is constantly expanding, with new applications announced daily. There are so many new ideas and technologies, that privacy laws can’t begin to keep up with the various ways of seamlessly sharing your online data and preferences.

For instance, most people are familiar with the most popular geo-location applications such as Foursquare and Google Places, where users can check in when they’ve arrived at a new destination, and notify their networks of their latest location. Below is a list of five new applications that beg the question: Are these cool or creepy?

  1. In late February, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines announced they were introducing a new program called “Meet and Seat,” enabling passengers, through either their Facebook or LinkedIn profile, to not only select their seat on the plane, but to select their flight seatmates. KLM is looking to improve the entire customer experience by including this mechanism for travelers going to the same conference or convention to self-connect. And taking it even further, KLM is encouraging seatmates to meet before the flight for coffee in the terminal or perhaps even sharing a taxi at their new destination.

    Cool/creepy factor: For a single person, this could feel like a speed date that continues hours past the normal five-minute limit, with little hope of escape. For someone looking to network with potential partners, employers, and so on, this could be a great opportunity.

  1. After you sign up for an application called Tripl, a new social travel service, you can interact with recommended locals and travelers connected to your existing network. You and your friends can recommend “must meet” locals on your trips. When you add your trip plans, you can find out who – local and traveler – will be at your destination. And locals are notified when other Tripl members are visiting.

    Cool/creepy factor: It really depends on your network doesn’t it? If members are vetted, you might feel comfortable meeting a visiting member for coffee, or contacting a local when you reach their city, but if not, then what?
  1. Fashism is a web and smartphone app that lets community members give and receive real-time feedback on photos of outfits with a love it or leave it voting and comment feature. Editor-selected accessories are available for purchase from within the app.

    Cool/creepy factor: Pretty cool, actually. It would be a lot of trouble for someone to join just to make snarky comments about random people’s outfits, so it seems like a decent way to put together great outfits for the fashionistas among us.

  1. According to the website, Highlight gives you a sixth sense about the world around you, showing you hidden connections and making your day more fun. If someone standing near you also has Highlight, their profile will show up on your phone.
As you go about your day, Highlight runs quietly in the background, surfacing information about the people around you (up to a football-field length away). If your friends are nearby, it will notify you. If someone interesting crosses your path, it will tell you more about them.
You can see their name, photos of them, mutual friends, and anything else they have chosen to share. When you meet someone, Highlight helps you see what you have in common with them. And when you forget their name at a party a week later, Highlight can help you remember it.
Cool/creepy factor: Highlight does have the promise of making people-watching fun by allowing you to get information about those you watch, however, who is watching you? Do you want a stranger on the street to know so much about you; or are strangers just friends we haven’t met yet?

  1. Pair is a social app for couples; it lets you communicate with one other person – ideally a spouse or romantic partner. Upon signing up, you provide an email address for the person you want to pair with, and that person gets an invitation to the service. You can unpair whenever you want, but you can’t pair with more than one person at a time.

    The main section of the app is a single stream of communication between you and your loved one, with pictures, video, and shared locations posted directly on the timeline. When both partners are online, the app becomes like a chat program, letting you know when the other person is typing, and lighting up a button at the top of the screen that lets you initiate a Facetime conversation.

    Cool/creepy factor
    : This too is actually cool especially for those who find themselves in a long-distance relationship, given the current economy and state of employment for many. Pair is unlike Facebook and Twitter; it’s inherently not a place for narcissism. Anything you were going to brag about –such as a promotion or well-crafted meal – is merely conversation when it’s between you and a close companion. There’s no social pressure with pandering for Likes or Retweets.

The proliferation of smart phones and the social networking explosion have created new and uncharted opportunities for expanding our social networks and meeting people in ways unheard of even five years ago, as our survey of new apps has shown us.

Arguably, each of these apps potentially has factors of coolness and creepiness, depending on who is using the application, and why. Seamless data sharing means that we no longer have to give applications permission to use our public data. It’s a reminder to us all that we’re responsible for regularly checking and managing our privacy settings on our social networking sites and applications.

Free images from

Twitter's New Strategy: Serving Up What They Think Is Relevant to Me

I got this new now-weekly email today from Twitter. If you have a Twitter account, you probably received one also, which looks similar to mine. Note: This is a longggg graphic — there's more blog content below it, so don't give up quite yet.)

Twitter has quickly jumped on pushing their recent purchase of Summify into Twitter production in record time. (Summify was a start up social news aggregator that collected news from users' social networks and compiled it in daily emails.) According to Twitter's blog, they're delivering "The Best of Twitter" to my inbox.
If you glanced at my long, long graphic above, you can see that there are two parts to this new email, which are as follows, according to the Twitter blog: 
  • The first half is a "...summary [that] features the most relevant Tweets and stories shared by the people you’re connected to on Twitter."
  • The second half of the ginormous email "... features the most engaging Tweets seen by the people you follow, even if you don’t follow those who wrote them. You can see who from your network retweeted or favorited these Tweets and click “View details” to retweet, favorite, reply or view the conversation around them." 
And here's where I start to get uncomfortable. I was reminded of a Ted Talk video I watched late last year, and went digging for it, to see if I remembered correctly. And I did. Twitter's new summary doesn't prevent me from following specific tweeters and hashtags, but it seems to be the first step in becoming a gatekeeper by surfacing the content that the Twitter algorithms determine is relevant to me, and is yet another example of the "online 'filter bubbles'" that Eli Pariser talks about in his nine-minute TED Talk, that I've embedded below (and highly recommend you watch). TED summarizes the video this way, "As web companies strive to tailor their services (including news and search results) to our personal tastes, there's a dangerous unintended consequence: We get trapped in a "filter bubble" and don't get exposed to information that could challenge or broaden our worldview. Eli Pariser argues powerfully that this will ultimately prove to be bad for us and bad for democracy."

(A colleague and I tried the Google search experiment where we both searched on the same word, then compared what we found — and we did not get the same search results — so the online filter bubble is in play right now.)

 So in "summarizing" the stories and tweets sent to me in this weekly email, Twitter is perpetuating and embracing the "online filter bubble" that Eli Pariser talks about; deciding for me what is relevant to me, just by serving it up in a weekly email.  I subscribe to several social media aggregation emails — one of my favorites is from SmartBrief; but aggregating is what they do and it's what I expect of them.

All of this makes me wonder where we draw the line in this age of information overload, and how we choose between:
  • News customized to what you've looked at so far and the news and articles your social network is reading

  • News that helps you stretch your mind and your opinions, and lets you step out of your clearly defined point of view to learn and decide on your own? 
So what do you think? Are they mutually exclusive? Do we have to choose one or the other? Or is there some way to make them both work?

Repost from IBM Social Business Insights: The Social Media Wars (Part 2 of 2)

Earlier this year I started blogging for the IBM Social Business Insights blog as part of a team of IBM Redbook Thought Leaders. I'll be reposting those blog posts here on my personal blog.
The Social Media Wars (Part 2 of 2)  was originally published on April 20, 2012, and is owned by IBM.
I recommend checking out the IBM Social Business Insights blog for some compelling and though-provoking content. 

The Social Media Wars (Part 2 of 2) 

By Holly Nielsen
Social Media Manager and Webmaster, Human Ability and Accessibility

In The Social Media Wars (Part 1 of 2) I defined the terms of social media, social networking and social business, reviewed why you might want to include social media channels in your marketing plan, and how to define your objective before you select a channel(s) and get started.

Here are my thoughts about the current top pros and cons of each of the Big Five (in alphabetical order) to help you decide which social media channel might best meet your needs.

Social media channel
  • Easy to create a business page.
  • Largest user base of 850,000+; over half log on daily.
  • Easy to upload photos and videos.
  • Easy to share relevant information from other pages and users with your audience.
  • Latest status update character limit is 63,206.
  • Mobile version available.
  • Can customize your URL when you have 25 followers.
  • Difficult to organically grow fan base without advertising or using additional promotional vehicles.
  • You must have a personal page to start a business page.
  • Circles are an elegant means to let you separate your different audiences and easily customize messages.
  • Easy to upload photos and videos.
  • Easy to share relevant information from other pages and users with your audience.
  • Mobile version available.
  • No customization of URLs
  • The majority of the users are male, a problem if your target audience is mostly female.
  • Users do not log into Google+ as frequently as they do to the other channels.
  • Groups are business oriented, and your audience is a professional one, since they’re all using it for professional networking.
  • Limited mobile app available.
  • Sharing links with other groups or individuals is supported.
  • Users do not log into LinkedIn as frequently as they do to the other channels.
  • No customization of URLs.
  • You must have a personal account to start a group.
  • No direct photo or video uploading.
  • Popular images (with links back to the original source) can get repinned on hundreds of other users' boards.
  • Pinning function makes it easy to share relevant information from other Pinterest users with your audience.
  • Limited mobile app available.
  • 80% of the users are female, which is a problem if your target audience is mostly male.
  • You can only pin photos and videos, so, if, for instance, your web content is text-based you’ll want to choose a representative (and compelling) image to enable participation.
  • You need to have a product set that translates easily to the Pinterest user base interests.
  • No customization of URLs.
  • Use of #hashtags makes it easy to extend your message beyond your existing followers.
  • Many third-party apps available to help you categorize your account, thus finding accounts to follow and add followers.
  •  Mobile version available.
  • Unique URL available.
  • Multiple third-party clients available. 
  • Retweet (RT) capability makes it easy to find and share relevant information from other Twitter users with your audience.

  • 140-character limit means your messages must be very brief, and depth of interaction is limited.
  • Profile information, called your bio, is also limited to 160 characters and a URL.
  • You need to repeat your tweets multiple times because there is so much content that it is easy for your followers to miss your tweets.

Some general rules apply across all of the social media channels and you must be prepared for them before you execute your social media plan:

  • All of the channels take significant resources to maintain, whether you trade off among staff or dedicate one person. One of the worst mistakes is to start an account or page, then neglect it. Your followers will drop off and not come back, a potentially paralyzing blow to a corporate brand.
  • Spend the time doing your competitive research. Which channels are your competitors using? Are they using them well? Could you do it better? 
  • There is no avoiding negative feedback. Professional naysayers, known as ”trolls,” are also a fact of life online. Consider social channels as a mechanism to address legitimate customer concerns promptly and publicly. Ultimately, resolving customer concerns in these highly visible public forums can improve overall customer loyalty and satisfaction. Acknowledge complaints immediately, even if you don’t have a resolution or you could become a case study in a blog like the one I wrote in January 2012, Preventing Customer Service Fumbles from Going Viral: A Social Media Cautionary Tale.

    When a troll tries to engage you, keep your responses professional and on topic. As a rule, if trolls can’t get the emotional reaction out of you that they’re seeking, they will eventually leave you alone and search for easier targets. If the interaction becomes profane, offensive, abusive, or continues for more than a couple of interactions, don’t hesitate to ban the troll and delete posts. Your followers don’t want to see that stuff either.

    Note: Arizona just passed a law against online trolling that is waiting for the governor’s signature. It’s not expected to hold up in a court challenge, but it does show that trolling is an annoyance, and unlikely to go away, so having a strategy to deal with them is the prudent thing to do.
  • Engage in conversation, be a resource for relevant, related content and build your community. If you do nothing but push your products and services, you’ll turn off your potential customers quickly. A good rule of thumb is to only mention your “stuff” every 10 posts, tweets, or pins.
  • My recommendation is start slowly. Pick one social media channel and work on building your following there, then add more channels as your bandwidth allows.
I manage social networking for IBM Accessibility, and for now, you’ll find us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. At some point, we may increase our presence in additional channels, but we’re meeting our objectives with our activities in these three.

A few resources to get you started (I can hardly do this justice—so many talented and knowledgeable people are out there):

Readers, if I missed your favorite social media experts, please add them in the Comments section.

Are You a Grammar Guru Too?

Could you answer my one question survey? Thanks!
(I'll share the results in a future blog post.)

Okay, this was a statistically insignificant survey, but fun nonetheless to see that there are others like me, who will delete and repost to get rid of a typo or mistake, lol.
So whether you call yourself a grammar guru, grammar goddess, or grammar ninja, it's all the same.
Thanks for playing!

Repost from IBM Social Business Insights: The Social Media Wars (Part 1 of 2)

Earlier this year I started blogging for the IBM Social Business Insights blog as part of a team of IBM Redbook Thought Leaders. I'll be reposting those blog posts here on my personal blog.
The Social Media Wars (Part 1 of 2)  was originally published on April 12, 2012, and is owned by IBM.
I recommend checking out the IBM Social Business Insights blog for some compelling and though-provoking content. 

The Social Media Wars (Part 1 of 2)  

The world of online social media and networking is fast-moving and fluid. New applications and platforms are released daily. Thousands of experts write an endless number of articles telling you what you should and shouldn’t do, how to make money, how to capture fans, how many times a day to post, and what to say in each and every one of them. It can be intimidating. Some days, it might be tempting to throw up your hands and refuse to play because you don’t know who to trust, what’s best for your business, what works for your employees and for you personally, which platform you should use, and where and how you should use it.

 Don’t worry — I’m not going to ask you for $29.99 to buy my e-book, and I don’t own stock in any of the “Big Five” of social media – Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, or Pinterest. In the interest of full disclosure, I will say that I’m an IBM employee who’s been deeply involved in social media and social networking for three years (and loving it). In that time, I have seen the hype grow around “social” in much the same way virtual worlds took the world by storm five years ago. There is some pressure to stay away from the term “social” for this communication phenomenon and new way of connecting virtually. The argument is that “social” sounds shallow and unprofessional, and by extension, something not advantageous for business. Nothing could be further from the truth. You probably see the terms social media, social networking and social business thrown around and used interchangeably.

As more of the population becomes digitally savvy, there will be less confusion and more clarity on which term to use when. But to start:Social media describes the various platforms and tools that enable social networking to take place. Any time you see a mention of Facebook or Twitter, know that people are talking about social media channels and platforms, which, if you look under the covers and ignore the hype, are really just the means of two-way communication.

 Social networking is a broader term that incorporates the communication that takes place in the social media channels among the connections you have created. Social networking is an all-encompassing term that can include communications, relationships, engagement, community building, and collaboration.

Social business is a broadest term of the three, and arguably the most difficult to define because it can incorporate how you communicate, engage and collaborate, both externally and internally. It is a term that is bandied about recklessly, but just because you use social media doesn’t mean that you’re a social business, even though it usually includes social networking and social media. IBM, for example, characterizes social business as cultivating trusted relationships and encouraging innovation and collaboration to make people more effective, and integrates the three fundamental characteristics of engagement, transparency, and nimbleness. You could safely think of social media as just one element of your marketing plan. Every social media channel has its pluses and minuses, and before you decide which channel or channels make the most sense for you to commit resources to, you need to define your objective so you can build your strategy. Do you want to create:
  • Thought leadership? 
  • Sales leads? 
  • Partnership opportunities? 
  • Conversion of leads to sales? 
  • Direct sales? Traffic to your website or blog? 
  • Business for your brick and mortar stores? 
  • Business for your online stores?
You’ll see multiple articles discussing the battle for dominance and predicting the imminent demise of one or more of the “big five” of the social media channels. I don’t see any of them closing the doors in the near future, and I’m sure a year from now there will be additional contenders.

Note: You might have noticed that I did not include YouTube in my list of the Big Five. Although many consider it a social media channel, it is by definition, video only, and although it’s a great video repository with an impressive amount of traffic, it’s not a channel I would recommend when you’re first starting out. However, it is a good place to post videos, and then link to them from your website or social media channels.

In part 2 of this blog post, I will continue my thoughts about the current pros and cons of each of the Big Five, list the general rules to be aware of before kicking off your social media program, and include resources to get you started.