Google+ and Facebook are Moving Your Cheese

Google + and Facebook make changes

Google + and Facebook make changesIf you’ve visited your Google+ profile in the last few days you’ll have noticed you’re being given an option to change layout with no way to revert to what you have already.

That’s fine, but when you decide to change, there’s zero information on what you need to do. You can select a new image but Google only tell you the minimum image size, not the ideal image size (it’s 2120 px by 1192 px, by the way – the 16:9 letterbox format of a widescreen movie).

Google+ has also redesigned the ‘About” tab as well.

Now Google snuck this in one day before the change to the Facebook held their event to announce the upcoming changes to the Facebook Newsfeed so maybe Google rushed delivery before getting the user communication and help instructions completed and issued.

The changes to both Google+ and Facebook are built around larger image sizes. Both companies now clearly view the visual elements to be the hook to draw the reader into action – to tell the story or click to get to the story. The image is becoming the headline.

So all this change is fine – change is the only constant after all. But if you’re not the one leading change, then change is being imposed upon you, and so are the costs of change.

For Google+, I’m now going to have to set time aside to redraw my images in the required size, review and update my profile to fit the new layout, etc. This is time I wasn’t planning to spend on these activities so it becomes an unwanted burden – a tax increase if you will for using the service.

For Facebook, I’m going to have to invest time in learning the new newsfeed and its image dimensions, then maybe I’ll have to adjust the way I size images for them to display properly. (Your image at a minimum needs to be the minimum pixel size or larger, never smaller. If smaller it will appear fuzzy.)

Now I choose to have a Facebook account and I choose to have a Google+ account (and a LinkedIn account) and I’m aware that because these companies own the properties, I’m a slave to their decisions. I either need to embrace these changes or leave, because at some point, the existing layouts will be de-supported and the change will be imposed. Google+ and Facebook are moving my cheese.

I think Facebook have made a better job at alerting their users to the change through their news event while Google+ launched in near-stealth mode. But both are burdening me with a cost I hadn’t budgeted for. And if you run business pages or make business posts on these networks, they’ve just imposed and unbudgeted cost on you too!

Interestingly, the media has still be slaying Marissa Mayer at Yahoo for the ‘return to the office’ memo – that, as I wrote last week, has been overblown – but take a look at this newsfeed from CBS (there’s an ad at the front). It shows the team, working in the war room, a messy collaborative environment necessary to bring this idea to fruition. If Yahoo wants to compete with Facebook and Google, the Yahoos will need to return to the war rooms from their couches and coffee bars. No question.

Facebook Graph Search for Business

Facebook Graph Search

Facebook Graph Search

Facebook Graph Search

As Facebook rolls out Graph Search the question is, what does this mean for business?

Well, for B2B, not much in terms of direct business but perhaps quite a lot in terms of secondary business.

The first businesses to feel the impact will be local B2C and consumer product companies.

All businesses will need to have engagement with their customers on Facebook for Facebook Graph Search to do them any favors. Business pages will need ‘friends’ and ‘likes’. The algorithm will assume greater importance to pages with more ‘likes’ and ‘friends’. So if there are two Italian restaurants in the neighborhood, the one with the most ‘likes’ will appear top in the results and the natural assumption is that the top of the list is the ‘best’.

Actually, top of the list really denotes best at engaging on Facebook, not best on other metrics that may be more important to the consumer who is searching. Just as we’ll all likely disagree with who wins some of the Oscar’s tonight the record books will record the winners as those with the most votes from the voting population, which is not the same as the ‘best’ from the consumer perspective.

All businesses will need to engage with their customers through social media in general and Facebook for their Graph Search rankings. Companies cannot simply publish their press releases to their Facebook page and present static content. Facebook looks for engagement, conversations with ‘friends’, in their rankings.

Clearly B2B connections are not created through Facebook but every company has a reputation to protect and that can come with a hefty price tag. Take one of my former employers, Transocean. The general public doesn’t know them for their technological leadership, their advanced capabilities in drilling challenging wells in the most extreme offshore environments. No. The general public knows them because of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy and the seemingly endless game of blame deflection that followed.

And this is where Facebook Graph Search will become important for those companies that work in the B2B arena. Ultimately, everything ends up with a consumer. As those consumers have more access to information they are able to look deeper into the supply chains of the companies from which they are buying and inspect their web presence also. If they form a negative opinion on the supplier, they’ll then infer that negativity onto the company they are researching. The relative rating of the company they are dealing with will only be as high as that of their lowest rated supplier.

For Facebook users, Facebook Graph Search will make it easier for them to find the supply chain and examine it. New web services will arise to compliment the likes of Hoovers for business research to corral social media research into easy to find accumulations. Consumer ignorance will no longer be a useable strategy to minimize the impact of negative stories within the supply chain. Suppliers will not only have to be managed for product and/or service quality, they’ll need to be managed for social media quality also.

Facebook Graph Search

Facebook Graph Search

Facebook Graph Search

Facebook Graph Search

On January 15, Mark Zuckerberg unveiled Facebook Graph Search. Investors groaned and the stock lost value but these are early days and, as Facebook has grown in importance, so too will Graph Search.

Facebook Graph Search is not an indexing of the web. It’s not Google or Bing. To Facebook, ‘graph’ is the ‘map of your relationships with people and the things they care about’. Ever wondered if hitting a ‘Like’ button would come back to haunt you? You know it will!

The value of Facebook Graph Search comes from the ‘trusted’ recommendations of your ‘friends’. I put those terms in quotes because most of the people I know on Facebook openly admit to having ‘friends’ they don’t actually know. And, since they don’t know them, how high can the trust level actually be?

If you’re searching for a restaurant in Buenos Airies and you don’t have any friends there the results will be no better in quality than those on Trip Advisor or other ratings websites. They are recommendations made by people you don’t know. So you’re left to assume that the results at the top of the list represent a broader base of recommendations than those lower on the list. But they’re still recommendations from people you don’t know, so how much faith can you have in the results?

Facebook originated as a way to stay connected with a group of friends. That concept has dictated it’s architecture and imposed some limitations but as the user base has grown those limitations are being broken down. People still predominantly go to Facebook to see what family and friends are up to. So if I was planning a trip back to the UK, I could search for where my friends are currently living, search for restaurants they like and organize a mini-reunion to meet the tastes of most.

Where Facebook has been poor is finding people you don’t know. Google+ has definitely been better at this. And Google+ merges the finds from your circles into the index of the web when you search for things. But Graph Search will now enable you to discover new contacts. Say I wanted to do a photowalk in Seattle. I could search for people interested in photography in Seattle and Graph Search will return results from my friends and from public posts that mention ‘photography’ and ‘Seattle’ and allow me to build a community around my photowalk. There I can meet new people, create new relationships and expand my network of friends on Facebook.

Facebook claims to be protecting the teens on its site from creepy searches but given that anything shared publicly on Facebook or privately with the searcher will pop up in the results, that may be hit or miss. After all, it’s not as though Facebook has had rock solid privacy built in from the start. Let’s face it, when Mark Zuckerberg founded the service, he was too young to care much about privacy and likely still is. He’s a smart guy and knows that the only way to keep it private is not to mention it to anyone and most certainly not to post it to Facebook or anywhere else on the web!

Creepy searches will be pretty easy to generate even with the privacy controls. And, as I mentioned before, all those ‘Likes’ will come back to haunt you. I’ve seen examples of silly searches, such as ‘Companies that employ people that like ‘Racism”, ‘Married people who like ‘Prostitutes”, etc. all driven off ‘Likes’ people have made in the past. Who hasn’t clicked on a ‘Like’ button to something shared by a friend without actually reading the full article, context, metadata, etc. and without thinking of the future consequences of that association. Just like Nike is trying to erase it’s ‘Bullet in the Chamber’ ad campaign featuring Oscar Pistorus, these associations that seem great at the time can appear pretty dumb when viewed from an unknown future looking backwards. But at that point, it’s too late to hit the ‘delete’ button.