Why Facebook Ads Need Quality Control Approval

facebookIt’s no secret that Facebook, the social media giant, hands out its users’ information to third parties. So long as an advertiser is willing to pay, the site will ensure only the most relevant viewers see their ads. Whether targeting specific audiences or opting for the sidebar approach, thousands of companies have gained business with their interest-based consumer outreach.

With Facebook’s newest newsfeed update, however, came the addition of centrally located ads. Now, users see posts directly within their newsfeed, right between their friends’ pictures and musings for the day. And while some are still less than thrilled about the post interruption, the website has done its best to insert only the most interesting of ads, depending on the user. Not only does this entice viewers to click, it allows for the highest success rates for future sales.

The problem? The ads have about a 50/50 shot at working correctly. Most of these errors are seen in mobile versions, in which multiple pages are offered, but don’t load. (Users are generally enticed with an article or slideshow of facts that falls within their specific age group and demographic.) Sometimes the user is stuck on an ad, sometimes arrows are ill placed and users click on banners rather than content itself, and sometimes the pages simply don’t load. Users are met with an ad – after being promised a slideshow of some kind – and left at a dead end.

Reflection of Brand

These errors were certainly acceptable at first, but now, months in, age is no longer an excuse. But who’s at fault? Facebook or the sponsors? Since it’s been seen across the board, it’s likely that the errors are on Facebook’s end – specifically their mobile site. So why aren’t the advertisers pushing for a working version? Or if they are, are they getting a discount in the process? Either way, constant errors reflect badly on both Facebook and the advertisers themselves. Not to mention users will soon quit clicking – if the article only has a 50% chance at working, why even take the risk?

But overall, it’s the consumer that’s really suffering. Not only are they using an inferior website (which may or may not allow them to read said articles), their newsfeed is still cluttered within the process.

Hopefully, Facebook engineers are working to find solutions to these ongoing errors. In the meantime, users can continue to take their chances, while advertisers will likely see a downfall in clicks.

Need to Contact Facebook? Good Luck

contact usWith the incredible growth Facebook has seen in past years, it’s understandable that a few people may need to get a hold of the company. Whether for legal reasons, personal interest, or just needing to get some information, the site is surprisingly hard to pin down. Of course, it’s hard to blame them – even Apple doesn’t have a 24/7 support system without fees. (Users are required to purchase support timelines, after shelling out for the pricy products.) And contacting each of their users with an issue would likely cost millions. But when you’re raking in the dough, at what point is it an investment to stay available?

Rather than offering phone lines or even a message system (yep, you can’t even send in a rogue text query), Facebook has created a list of very specific scenarios — more than 150. Much like following an “if your answer is this, follow this,” map, where each instance is met with a pre-determined outcome. This goes for legal teams, individuals, concerned citizens, and almost any other form of social media user.

Don’t fit into the site’s molds? Too bad – you can either lie, or send a random email, hoping the site will get back with you. Spoiler: their response is unlikely.

Making Their Own Rules

Because Facebook is such a mogul, it’s safe to say they can do what they want. If they don’t want to be contacts by their billion users, they don’t allow it to happen. Sure it might up their public image, but when you’ve got more followers than any other social media network, why spend the extra time and funds?

Just because it’s the status quo, however, doesn’t mean it’s winning them any points.

What do users do when they have an actual problem? It’s insulting to be given a list of scenarios to sift through, but what if you don’t meet any of them? Why is a catch-all statement a cover up for poor customer service? Perhaps this mindset stands because Facebook profiles are free of charge, but even free services won’t last if customers aren’t happy.

For the most part, Facebook users seem to be plenty happy with their options, but for the few who do need to reach the site, their abilities are few and far between. As the site continues to grow and add even more users to the mix, let’s hope they donate some funds to letting others contact them. After all, customer service is a small price to pay for keeping customers happy – they’re the glue that keeps the entire operation in motion.

How much social media usage is too much?

social mediaIn a time where social media rules the Internet, it’s easy for users to become overwhelmed with the vast amount of profiles they can host. Between Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, etc., where does one draw the line as to how many profiles are enough? Especially when each platform is trying so hard to draw you in. Now companies host Facebook logins, and they’re constantly tweeting information that can only be seen by card-carrying members. They’re enticing us, and it’s working.

But there does come a point when all the social media is truly overwhelming. When too much time is being spent each day just keeping up with what others are doing online. We comment, like, share, and retweet all their best post from the day. And then we have to post things too, so other people can see them. Before long, keeping up with social media becomes a part time job.

Of course, celebrities can hire others to do it for them. When their day gets too busy, some social media professional is behind the keyboard, telling everyone about their busy day. Then thousands of responses come in. But what about the layman? Those who are logging in and putting up each post the old fashioned way?

Everyday Social Media

On Parks and Recreation, social media addict Tom Haverford is arrested for wrecking while tweeting. His tweets “Gotta pass this lady on the ejkerkj.” And “Just hit a fire hydrant, but I survived. #Unbreakable #WhatsMrGlassuptothesedays? #Whynosequel?” gave him away. As punishment, the judge took away all technology. No email, no phone, no mobile devices.

Should the rest of the world see the same punishment? When overwhelmed with technology, should we cut back? Cold turkey, no more electronics until a solid break has been had?

Of course, usage is different for everyone; we all have that friend who seems to be tweeting every second of the day. But after profile upon profile has been created, even the occasional users get bogged down with social media.

There’s truly no way to say how much to too much time online; that’s up to the individual. But to avoid a scene like Tom’s, or to just keep our heads straight between Facebook and all its minions, be sure to schedule break time each day. Otherwise we may just see what the effects of too much social media can do.

Why is Facebook so inconsistent about removing inappropriate photos?

flagAny Facebook user has had the option – at one point or another – to report a friend’s photo. Whether or not it was inappropriate, hilarious, or even sentimental, the site brought our moral stands to question, and tested us between friendship and appropriate viewing material. Of course, the majority of those times, the pictures were nothing to balk at. They may have been a nice nature scene, or a group of girls giving their best “skinny arm,” but because it’s a photo, the report option was still present.

As for actual inappropriate photos, there are those who report them every day. They click the button, Facebook goes through the necessary channels, and the pic may or may not be taken offline. But what’s the criteria? Who decides what’s offensive and what isn’t? Because, as is, there doesn’t seem to be a sweeping standard. I’ve seen pictures of naked children get flagged (all of the necessary parts were still covered), as well as those with no actual cuss words or inappropriate subjects. But because they eluded to something we shouldn’t be talking about, apparently, the photos were deleted. In some cases, the poster is even banned for a certain amount of time, depending on the seriousness of their crime.

But why are pictures of scantily clad adults – often in suggestive poses – perfectly acceptable? (Then again, if the public began reporting those photos as well, maybe their deleting terms would make a little more sense.)

We don’t get it, Facebook.

Private vs. Public Social Media Accounts

On more private ventures, such as Snapchat, Draw Something, or Words With Friends, users receive little to no guidance by app creators. This anything goes mantra may provide for some private humor, but by the time users log into Facebook, Twitter, or other public platforms, those same rules no longer exist. Because others can see it, whether or not under privacy settings, the site becomes responsible for all content.

Within its fine print, Facebook states that there’s a copy made of each and every post; just because they remove it from the site, doesn’t mean it’s gone. Which brings even more questions into light, such as what the company is doing with all of these discarded pics – hopefully they’re saved for staff training and staff training only. But whatever the rules, it seems to be on a per-case basis, and one that holds no rhyme or reason.

To stay on the safe side and avoid being banned, it’s best to stay overly cautions. You never know what Facebook may find offensive.

5 Reasons Pinterest is a Better Search Engine than Google

pinterest_badge_redDespite its premise, platform, and overall demographic (crafty women), Pinterest comes out as one of the world’s most accurate search engines. Even better than actual search engines, like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Sure, it was made as a social media website, and for leisure or entertainment time, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less accurate as a searchable device. Whatever the magic formula, Pinterest’s creators seem to have nailed down the best way to search photos without receiving a plateful of spam.

5. Pinterest is more visually appealing

Hosting large, quality photos, Pinterest gives users an accurate overview of each post. This eye-catching perk shows what each link will hold, as well as providing a short customer-written response, so there’s no need to worry about keyword or phrase stuffing. Every single search query is organic.

4. Its results are more dynamic

No matter the topic, Pinterest shows users an array of results and related topics, where traditional search engines tend to stick within a single comfort zone. For instance, if searching “tech,” Pinterest brings up news articles, products, must-have articles, fabric patterns, etc. In contrast, Google shows a mixture of electronic and college websites. Which option is more helpful?

3. It doesn’t correct our spelling or grammar

Non-traditional spelling is practically a norm now; having search terms automatically “fixed” requires a re-search, taking time and falsely adjusting our saved search features. Pinterest sidesteps this auto adjustment, allowing correct searches to take place on a first-time basis. Users save on time and results, all in one helpful swoop.

2. No ads

No pop ups, banners, or videos that play automatically. It’s searching uninterrupted.

1. There’s no spam

Without paid searches or keyword stuffing put into web pages, searches bring up actual relevant information. Users don’t have to waste time scanning for content that relates to their needs, and clicks won’t be wasted on sites scamming for traffic. With Pinterest, users know they’re gaining relevant, organic searches that actually hold useful information – not paragraphs of filler that reads in circles. No scanning, no pop-up ads, and no spammy content. For a population used to all of the above as the everyday norm, Pinterest’s search engine approach is a truly novel idea.

Need advice? Try ChoicePunch

choicepunchEver since the world was introduced to PostSecret, the idea of going to strangers with news became a thing. Dark, embarrassing, or just needing to confess the fact that Progressive’s Flo is was too perky for her own good, the site allowed online users to get things off of their chests. Without the threat of a consequence.

Now, however, the theory of online sharing is growing – but it’s not just secrets that others are sending to the world. Now there’s an entire site dedicated to giving others advice. Found on ChoicePunch.com, users can give advice, share personal stories, or just learn what others have to say. There’s even a private section to keep personal matters from being shared with loved ones (or the rest of the online population).

How it Works

Users can sign up for a free account, and as soon as they’ve confirmed, can start posting. Helping others can be found under the Speakout section, while asking others is known as a Reachout. Simply click your corresponding section, and begin communicating.

When reaching out, users ask a question, give a little background information, and then offer up relatable choices – usually two to four. They can then explain their situation so others have a better idea as to what they’re answering. When speaking out, users head to a main page where questions are displayed with images (ChoicePunch provides them), then they click on a post and give their opinion. This is done by choosing on a specific answer, or write a few sentences about why you agree or disagree.

Profiles also keep track of how many lives each person has touched, like an ongoing reminder of the good that can be done online. And while a majority of the questions are superficial, for instance diet advice, or when to tell a new significant other you’re a parent, there’s also a number of hard-hitting topics that are explored.

No matter the subject matter, though, ChoicePunch offers users an outlet that never before has existed. Instead of going to friends and family members, who may be swayed by background information, unbiased advice can be found almost instantaneously. And without footing the bill for an expensive or multiple-session shrink. By posting questions and answers online, strangers can give and get real-time advice that directly relates to their life.

To start getting real-time advice today, head to ChoicePunch.com.

Facebook adds hashtags to compete with other social networks

hashtagA few weeks ago, Facebook announced that it was working on a way to integrated hashtags into its platform. Already a successful feature on Twitter and Instagram, the change would bring Zuckerberg and crew into the world of random and unnecessary links. Sure, some are helpful and even relevant, but when scouring Twitter, the majority of hashtags consist of a string of words that may or may not be spelled correctly. This is the world that Facebook wishes to join.

Once implemented, Facebook’s hashtags would link similar conversations, just as its counterparts do – or so their announcement said. However, unlike Twitter, Facebook has always been a somewhat private website; how will privacy locked-account owners react to these hashtags? Or will theirs even work? Will open accounts’ entire conversations be linked? There are still several questions in the way of logistics. But in theory, many are wondering if this is a necessary, or even a smart move.

Pros and Cons

Since the blowup of social media, Facebook has reigned as king. They have the most users, the most recognizable features (likes and tags, etc), and they even allow other accounts to post through their newsfeeds. Have a Twitter account? Link it to Facebook for maximum exposure! And so on. But now that Facebook is adapting others’ tactics, it’s hard to say whether they’re still on top, especially when the move doesn’t exactly fit into their platform.

Now, to conform, the site is spending thousands of hours and dollars on development, while raising questions along the way. And all to adapt to a trend someone else made popular.

As for the hashtag itself, only the future can know if it’s here to stay. It could easily die out just as quickly as it came to power, or forever change the way the public used the pound key.

It’s likely that Facebook sees this change as a move in popularity. “Everyone else has it,” they say. “Now we have to have it too.” Sure there will be less confusion as to exactly what the hashtag is, does, or when it can be used – though some will inevitably still use it emails, videos, or when speaking. But for the social media population not obsessed with hashtagging every other word, we’re questioning your motives, Facebook. I don’t see the value in stealing others’ mediocre ideas.

How social media and technology have changed the election process

Disclaimer: I realize this is a technology website, and while I have my own political opinions, I am not in any way attempting to push any sort of belief, or support either candidates in this post. I tried to be fair and balanced, and in no way intended to spark a political debate. Technological debate only!

Technology has changed our lives in more ways than can possibly be written about in one article. It has probably changed more things than we can even realize, and the fact that it is all around us is starting to be taken for granted. Recently, while reading various news articles about the latest debate and how people perceived the candidates, I finally realized just how much tech and social media has impacted something as important and life changing as the presidential election.

The Spread of Information

Undoubtedly, the biggest impact that technology has had is through the way that we spread information. In the past, things had to be looked up in an encyclopedia, or you had to find someone who was knowledgeable in the subject so that you could ask them some questions. Today, virtually every piece of information known to man is available literally at our finger tips.

Think about our daily interactions:

“Who played in that movie?”

“Let me check IMDB.”

“How tall is the tallest building?”

“Let me Google it.”

“How do you build a house?”

“No problem, let me find a how-to video on YouTube!”

These things drastically change the speed of information, and this is most evident in the current presidential elections. In the past, elections could be completely decided by how strong the physical campaign was for the candidate. It was relatively simple really: if you visit more places and speak convincingly, more people will be willing to vote for you.

Now, the political landscape is completely changed by social media and the easy access we have to all sorts of information. All of a sudden, the information asymmetry that candidates were counting on simply is gone. This has had a huge impact on how we perceive the candidates, and I believe, how we vote.

The Debates

One of the biggest examples of the effects of social media during this election is in the presidential debates. In the past, debates were somewhat downplayed, and people thought that it ultimately could not sway the results of an election. Many people thought that while opinion may change slightly, it wouldn’t affect the outcome of the election unless one candidate flat-out humiliated or dominated the other one. Then, of course word would spread.

However, spreading the word in the age of the internet is infinitely easier than it was ten years ago. This means that people can tweet, post status updates, or send friends messages instantly to say what they feel about the presidential debate. Instead of being alone or with a group of friends/family watching the debates, we are now in groups of thousands and millions where tons of opinions are being thrown around. This also means that instead of forming your own opinion, you are more likely to be swept up in others ideas long before you realize what it is you want. In some cases this may be a good thing, but it can also be terribly destructive to one of the candidates depending on how the flow goes.

Fact Checking

My favorite aspect of this tech impact on the elections is the “fact checking” websites that have popped up all over. The idea that they’re out there has a very positive effect on the elections, and on politics in general. In the past, candidates could spew lie after to lie to the general public, and if they were convincing, that was all that mattered. While this is still true in some situations, the fact that you can jump on your smartphone or laptop and check to see if what you were told was actually true really shifts the power away from crafty words and convincing personalities. Of course, you are often still left with how you feel about the person and how convincing they were, but if a point you really identified with was found out to be a lie, then you are much more likely to change your opinion.

Naturally, there is still some bias in these websites and articles that check the facts, and while campaign parties realize that it is out there, they still do their best to avoid telling the absolute truth. What seems to be a “win” these days is telling something that isn’t a lie, but isn’t 100% true. By staying neutral, and usually skipping the parts that you don’t want to bring up, it is much easier for the people who read about it to simply think of it as “strategy” instead of lying.

Social Media

Something that I find extremely interesting, and that I think has a strong impact on the elections, is the social media that is used to discuss the candidates. For example, during the political conventions and the debates, live tweets were displayed in real-time on the screen so that viewers could get an idea what others were thinking about debate. While this may seem harmless, and even collaborative, it can really change the impact and the perception of the discussion. Tweets that are discussing what is currently happening in discussion effectively decide where the attention is being focused during the talk. Something as harmless as “Why does Biden keep smirking?” can lead to millions of people ignoring the words and only looking at facial expressions.

Another huge impact that these sites have, is how much people have been taking quotes or pictures from debates and campaign events and positing them online with funny twists. Places like Tumblr, Facebook, and Twitter are hotbeds for pictures and quotes that are edited and changed for a funny purpose.

One glaring example, and the one that really made me think “Oh wow, technology really is changing the elections” is the Mitt Romney and his “binders full of women” comment. Something that was seemingly an innocent statement was picked up in minutes and had a Twitter hashtag, a Facebook account, a website called bindersfullofwomen.com, and a Tumblr page full of memes about Romney and his stance on women. If you ask viewers what they took away from the debate, you may get a mix of answers, but if you ask them if they heard about “binders full of women,” most anyone will say yes.

Similar things have been done against the Obama campaign, and it isn’t hard to find similar Tumblr pages or YouTube parodies that tear apart the Obama administration and try to take statements that he has said and put them in a negative light.

Future Elections

While I believe that all of these things have drastically changed public perception of candidates, it hasn’t altered the process enough to completely change politicians themselves. They still lie, they still say half-true statements, and they still do their best to manipulate the public. The smart ones are jumping on the tech wagon and using these things to continue to perpetuate the lies and the propaganda by taking to social networks or posting viral videos. The bindersfullofwoman.com site that I mentioned above? It was created by someone who is an avid Obama supporter and is linked with the campaign funding channels. Things like this that are seemingly funny and innocent, are pointedly political and calculated attempts to tear down the image of the other candidate. We will see much more of this in future elections, and it will continue to be hard to tell whether it was an innocent joke or a focused attack.

As technology continues to be more pervasive in our lives, more people will get their information from channels on the internet. Be it Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, or even a blog that you regularly read, these places are quickly and effectively changing the minds of many citizens who regularly access them. I would like to believe that in the future, this will lead to more truths being told, and less lies being allowed, but I am not so sure.

The internet has long been a place where facts are overruled by opinions, where stories that have no real base are picked up, and entertainment trumps anything related to sense and responsibility. There are many tools that are available to greatly improve things in the election process, but it remains to be seen whether these tools are used more by people who make positive changes or ones that take advantage and use them negatively.

Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

Twitter takes control with new API rules, plans to limit access for third-party clients

We all knew this day was coming after reading Twitter’s fairly recent blog post on the company’s future plans, but now it’s been made official, and traditional Twitter clients should watch their backs. In another blog post earlier this week, Twitter’s Vice President of Product Michael Sippey outlined exactly how the company plans to control the user experience of its product.

For starters, large Twitter clients using Twitter’s API will have to obtain direct approval from Twitter in order to function. If a developer plans to create an app that requires access to a user’s timeline, direct messages, etc. (which are most traditional Twitter clients), they must seek Twitter’s permission if they plan to cultivate a user base over 100,000. The social media giant isn’t completely unreasonable, however, and won’t limit those applications already sporting over 100,000 users until their user base grows by 200 percent.

Twitter's chart of desirable and undesirable apps

As you may have guessed, “traditional Twitter clients” like Echofon and Tweetbot (both named specifically by Sippey in the article) are in the most danger. Sippey went into a lot of detail regarding the types of applications Twitter approves of and those it would rather not cater to, even creating the graphic above to illustrate his point.

Basically, the apps that fall in the upper right corner are being discouraged, while Sippey would like to see the number of applications grow in the remaining quadrants. Sippey used Klout as an example of a successful application geared towards the consumer and social analytics, an area that Twitter approves of.

Sippey said the changes would take effect “in the coming weeks” and regardless of their effect on existing Twitter applications, developers will be glad to finally hear some specifics after the somewhat foreboding letter to developers that was published a couple months ago.

The first indication of Twitter’s new cut-throat nature came with its decision to drop out of a partnership with LinkedIn. Then, of course, it followed that up with the announcement of high-profile partners like The Wall Street Journal and TIME for its new Twitter Cards.

Twitter has made it crystal clear it’s ready to take business a lot more seriously, and it’s up to developers to keep up to Twitter’s increasingly complex and challenging demands.

Spice Up Your Twitter Profile with Themeleon

You no doubt have come across Twitter pages that capture your attention immediately you see them. Users, businesses and organizations can customize the feel and look of this important social network to not only reflect the company or business brand, but use it as a vital marketing tool. So, how do you turn your Twitter page from being just average to having a great-looking visual that accentuates your brand or personality?

Introducing Themeleon.

Themeleon is a tool that allows you to create customized and sleek Twitter profile pages. It’s the official Twitter profile design extension that resides directly under Twitter’s selection of themes. Themeleon has dozens of themes that can be browsed and previewed with just a single click.

If you are not satisfied with what Themeleon has to offer on Twitter, you can browse their website and find dozens of additional layouts. Themeleon offers different ways of personalizing your backgrounds by adding patterns, images, colors and layout palettes, making it possible to come up with a sleek and entirely unique design from the patterns at hand. Plus, Themeleon has a huge creative community that continues to grow, which means more and more color palettes and seamless patterns are becoming available.

After signing up for the service, you automatically become part of the community and have access to everything. From here, you can create a palette, choose a member-created pattern palette and color it the way you want with your own spin to it. Using the Seamless Lite pattern maker, you can design your very own tiling pattern templates with a simple drag and drop. What’s even more interesting is the fact that you can make it publicly available to the community and allow members to help you create your pattern templates.

Whether you are looking to make a sleek, clean Twitter page to market your business or just looking to create a brightly-colored graphically-intensive representation of your personality, Themeleon can be your go-to solution.