Facebook Pages timeline changes suck

I’m not a change resistor. I don’t usually have issues when websites monkey around with their layouts or functionality. I may not like it right away, but normally I can just get used to it and move on with my life.

I’ve tried to do that with Facebook’s new look on their business pages. But it ain’t happening.

I HATE THEM. The timeline is now cluttered with things that *I* don’t need to see as the admin of the page. Things popup on a mouse hover that requires a click to make disappear but in the meantime it covers over the post area. I can’t just see comments under a post now, I have to click to open them up to see them… I just have had it with it today. I manage a LOT of Facebook pages for my paper and several local businesses. These changes aren’t helpful AT ALL.

Here is the first thing that bothers me:

1

I don’t need to see this directly under the posting area. Put it in the sidebar. These numbers are nice, but not really vital info that needs to be in my face right away.

This next thing is my most hated issue. The ridiculous ‘Promote’ button that is right in the way of my mouse pointer as I scroll and makes this REALLY STUPID popup that I NEVER USE.  And it doesn’t go away if you move the mouse away. Nope. You have to click outside the popup to remove it. It’s such a distraction when all I need to do is make a post.

3

Here’s a new thing I’ve noticed just in the pas few days (at least, on my pages. Might have just been rolled out to me or something) is this grouping of recent posts. No no no no no! And the first one is event the most recent post! In order for me to see all of my recent posts, I have to click that barely noticeable ‘See All’ text, wait for the page to reload, and then go on about my business. Who the eff designed this crap??? This is unhelpful to the admin, especially on pages where there are multiple admins trying to avoid duplicate postings.

2

And finally, why the hell are photo and video boxes in the middle of the timeline? These need to go back on the sidebar. For Pete’s sake, this is utterly stupid. I have to scroll past this bollocks to look at and moderate older posts. Ridiculous!

4

But tell us how you really feel, Steph! 🙂

Look, I have been trying to get used to these changes for days now and it’s just not working. I don’t want to be this ^^^ whiny person. But none of these changes make sense to me. They make my job a little more annoying.  If Facebook won’t improve these areas, at least give us the ability to layout the page template that admins see the way that works best for us. I know that’s asking for the moon from Facebook, but come on FB designers. Don’t just think about the end user. Think about us middlemen pushing out the content for them too.

Twitter has a long way to go

Working with journalists on social media initiatives and devouring tech blogs that post a lot of social media analysis caused me to lose touch with reality a little. It’s easy to be in my bubble surrounded by people who easily switch between Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus while happily trying out whatever new social media wagon comes along next.

This morning on Facebook, my favorite chef, Michael Symon posted the following:

Chef Symon sends his tweets to his Facebook fanpage automatically, but still monitors comments and wall posts when he has time. Recently, he had shut down fans’ ability to post on his wall because of the ever-present troll factor that got to be too much to manage. I can see why he would prefer Twitter over Facebook for communication.

But the comments on his post above are interesting and eye-opening because his fans are not journalists, or tech mavens. They are teachers or stay-at-home parents, or students, or clerks – in other words they are a cross-section of the majority of everyday people. And boy, quite a few of them hate Twitter. Or they refuse to learn it.

Check out some of the comments:

All of these popped my little bubble, so to speak, and made me realize that as much as I love and adore Twitter, I really am not sure it will ever be what Facebook is (or what Google Plus hopes to be.) While frustrating, these people make good points about communication and ease of use. To me, Twitter is easier to understand than Facebook, but then I’ve been on it for years so of course I “get it.” Coming into it cold, however, I can now see why it seems overwhelming. There’s no immediacy of feedback like there is on Facebook. If I join Facebook it’s because I already know friends and family using it. If I join Twitter, I can pretty much follow celebrities I like but finding my friends and family there is not easy and if I tweet anything it feels like I’m tweeting in a void.

Now, I have always said that Twitter is what you put into it. That is the mantra for any social network. If you barely use it, of course it will be useless to you. You have to expend some effort – especially on Twitter and I think that’s where Twitter degrades for new users.

Twitter needs to educate “newbies” when they sign up – not inundate them with famous people they can follow. It feels like Twitter expects people to “get it” from the outset when it should be investing time and screen space in ensuring that they get it once they are fully signed up. It needs to find a way to hang onto new users and find a better way to connect them to people they already know and who will @reply back to them. Perhaps a dedicated group of Twitter employees to engage with new users or I don’t know, someone code a ‘bot or something that tweets back and forth with newbies and walks them through the language of ‘tweets’ and ‘mentions’ and ‘@replies’ and ‘retweets.’

I just don’t think Twitter is helping itself very much by just signing people up and expecting them to get it.

 

Learning valuable lessons in the newsroom

Yesterday, I learned a few things about the ever-uphill road of getting reporters on board with Twitter and/or Facebook.

Here is an email I sent out to everyone that, I swear, started off with just wanting to share a helpful link with them and keep Twitter in their minds:

This is an EXCELLENT resource for the newsroom and using Twitter to research, mobile tweeting, hashtags and more.

http://media.twitter.com/newsrooms

Some of you have Twitter accounts – even if you didn’t know it – and I have your login info and am available *anytime* you want to learn more about this important and really valuable tool. Come find me. And to those of you who don’t have an Indy Twitter account yet (like our awesome new photog), I’d be happy to get one set up for you.

Please consider learning more about Twitter and social media in general – I can sit with you one-on-one if you like. Lately, we are constantly getting scooped on Facebook and Twitter by other media outlets, and while I know it’s important to get the story for print, in today’s media, a breaking story is old by the time the reporter gets back in, writes the story and someone reads it before it’s posted online. Our readers are starting to turn elsewhere when something breaking happens.

Even just a quick tweet saying, ‘Accident at 281 and Webb – details online soon’ would help. We have to shift our thinking just a little bit if we’re going to stay relevant in the future. So that’s why I might seem a little aggressive in this email. I may go into nag mode until I get all of you using Twitter, even just a little 😉

I hit ‘send’ before I could talk myself out of it and for the rest of the day, I went from frustration to elation when one of the reporters I believed was the least interested in social media approached me and told me that her concern wasn’t the technology – it was that she felt she didn’t have access to the technology. Blew. My. Mind.

It’s something I bemoan a lot here. I believe every reporter should be provided with a smartphone – or at the very least, access to a smartphone to take out in the field when needed. We managed to get a Droid that is used by our online reporter/videographer and he often tweets as @girightnow when he’s out. And that is fabulous and that is a LOT more than some small newsrooms get. But some of my journalists are using Razr phones with no texting plans. I mean seriously. Razrs. And while it’s awesome that we have our online guy, we also need our beat reporters to be more involved in tweeting.

So we gave the Droid to the reporter going to a board meeting today to see if she could manage a few tweets – so far she is rocking it and I am over the bloody moon. As I talked with my boss about this yesterday, I learned that we need to make sure the reporters will actually use the technology before we go out and splash a bunch of cash on it. We’ve been burned before (I’m looking at a dusty Zi8 video camera we bought in hopes of having the reporters grab it and go all the time) and so this time, we’re not going to get all excited and get ahead of ourselves until we’re sure they are on board.

The last thing I learned was that our paper’s Twitter/Facebook follower count has reached 1/5th of our print subscribers. That doesn’t include our “audience reach” of course, just the hard number of current subscribers, but that fraction also blew. my. mind.

I think we are finally past the “I don’t get it” stage or the “Who cares what they had for breakfast” stage. We’ve moved onto the “I need the technology first” stage. They get that Twitter and Facebook aren’t frivolous and unimportant. Now they just need to learn how to use them to their advantage.

Today I have two three reporters tweeting – one who had never done it before, and one who usually has trouble getting it to work for him. Today is a good day.

This is an EXCELLENT resource for the newsroom and using Twitter to research, mobile tweeting, hashtags and more.

http://media.twitter.com/newsrooms

Some of you have Twitter accounts – even if you didn’t know it – and I have your login info and am available *anytime* you want to learn more about this important and really valuable tool. Come find me. And to those of you who don’t have an Indy Twitter account yet (like Matt, our awesome new photog), I’d be happy to get one set up for you.

Please consider learning more about Twitter and social media in general – I can sit with you one-on-one if you like. Lately, we are constantly getting scooped on Facebook and Twitter by Steve White and 10/11 and other media outlets, and while I know it’s important to get the story for print, in today’s media, a breaking story is old by the time the reporter gets back in, writes the story and someone reads it before it’s posted online. Our readers are starting to turn to NTV when something breaking happens.

Even just a quick tweet saying, ‘Accident at 281 and Webb – details online soon’ would help. Another example is at big press conferences – Steve White is livetweeting all the info from them now and by the time we get something posted, everyone already has the info. Maybe it’s my inner competitor talking, but I want our 4.100 fans and followers getting their news from us, not Steve. We have to shift our thinking just a little bit if we’re going to stay relevant in the future. So that’s why I might seem a little aggressive in this email. I may go into nag mode until I get all of you using Twitter, even just a little 😉

Using Twitter and Facebook finally pays off in revenue

I understand the value of social media for a newspaper.  It’s not monetary value, but it’s pretty priceless in building trust, a rapport with readers, and as tools for reporting the news as quickly as possible.

But I still kept hearing the whole “but does it make money” line from above. Finally, I can answer them with a resounding, “Yes. Lots!”

A little while back I wrote about my dilemma of whether to push Facebook or Twitter as a means for advertisers to post their specials and deals. We were about to embark on a new venture to help advertisers use social media as a marketing tool. We had no idea if it would go over very well or if the advertisers would “get it” or if we were just wishful thinking.

Well, so far we’ve signed up 14 15 businesses – a healthy mix of small and large, one-man operations and corporations – to our giNetwork, and those alone will net over 15k this year. And we’re going for more because we’ve learned businesses are hungry for this and I think we’ve hit on the right method for getting them going. I wanted to share this success and outline how it works.

The first lesson we learned is that selling social media on its own around here doesn’t work. They either don’t understand it or say they don’t have time for it. So we bundled it with our local business search product called FindNEthing.  Many newspapers, large and small already have a similar product – a marketplace or yellow pages type of program that they could use as well.

To be a part of FindNEthing, businesses “claim” their page for $79 per month. Now, for $20 more, we’ll add them to our giNetwork which gives them the following:

  • A Twitter account
  • A Facebook Fanpage
  • Inclusion in the giNetwork widget on the front page of our widely read newspaper website at theindependent.com.
  • Added to the giNetwork directory page as well.

How does that work on the back end? It’s a lot of work, initially but the key point is that we take away that first hurdle of setting up the Facebook fanpage and Twitter account for them. We remove the hurdle and then we come out to their shop and take the time to show them how to use it.

So, once the business agrees to go for it, I set up their Facebook/Twitter accounts by starting a gmail address for the business and use that for the signup on Facebook and Twitter. I have the business tell me a name to use for Facebook (because it requires a real name) and go from there.

Once the accounts are ready, I use our @giNetwork twitter account and add them to a Twitter list. We have created a Twitter widget (using Twitter’s own widget code) for that list and that is what feeds onto our website and the special directory page we have created for this. We manipulated the Twitter widget code to suit our page design, but that’s not necessary really.

As for the Twitter/FB dilemma, initially, I set it up so that if the client prefers to use Facebook, I just link their fan page to their Twitter account using Facebook’s functionality. And if they prefer to use Twitter, I use a Facebook app called ‘Smart Twitter for Pages‘ to link Twitter to the fan page. Once the client has decided what they like best, I switch one of those off so there’s no double posting. I’ve also been creating custom Twitter backgrounds and avatars etc. for each business. Not really necessary but kind of a nice touch.

Once they’re hooked up and ready to tweet, I go out to visit the business, give them all their login info and walk them through everything. The time spent with them varies by how savvy the business owners are – some copped on straight away, some…. didn’t. But an extra benefit to this is that in addition to the nice revenue for us, we’re building a genuine, helpful rapport with our advertisers, big and small. And we love it.

We will also be emailing each advertiser periodic tips and tricks to help them discover the best practices for their venture online and we’ll also do our best to grow their fans and followers. We believe we are perfectly suited for this because we can provide an audience for their deals with the widget on our front page as well as promote them in print and through our own Twitter accounts.

Successes so far:

  • One business, a local flower shop, decided to try using the code word tactic in their posts. “Stop in and say “I love my dog” and get this plant for $1.00″. The day after she did that, she told us she had four new customers in using the code word that had never shopped her store before. They said they saw it on our front page.
  • Another business – a local and popular Mexican place – offered free entrees to five random Facebook fans if they got to 500 fans by May 1st. While they fell short by about 14 fans by their deadline, they still got 486 new fans in less than a week.
  • A salon plans to share before and after photos while a woman who runs a small shop for teachers (and can only open her store when she’s not substitute teaching) is using her tweets to let her customers know when she’s open and when she’s not – by sending them to our website to check. Woohoo traffic!
  • I was messaged on Facebook by someone who worked for a small computer company who had been seeing mentions of the giNetwork from other local businesses and they asked me how to get on board.

Finally, our goal is to, of course, add more businesses to the network and at the rate it’s going, it shouldn’t be a problem. We’re learning a LOT as we go and we’ve made sure to be flexible for each business, tried not to make the consultation/teaching part of this too complicated by understanding how “savvy” each business is.

I’m excited to be teaching them how simple it actually is. I just have to remember not to bombard them with all the cool things you can do once you get into some of the third-party stuff. We keep them on the web and if they want to learn more than that, we’ll show them, but it’s best to stay basic. It’s been simply amazing.

And finally, the higher-ups can stop asking us, “But how does it make money?”

Integrate Facebook’s Like Button into WordPress

Facebook’s new Like The Internet takeover is underway. I think I like it despite privacy concerns. I can fiddle with my facebook privacy settings or simply choose not to ‘like’ stuff I don’t care to share. But, I can see the benefits for driving traffic bigtime.

I’ve been playing with it tonight and was having trouble getting the Like button to share a specific post. Instead, Facebook’s default iframe code that spits out is URL-specific. But with the miracle of PHP (and until someone creates a nifty plugin), you can substitute the URL with this:

…like.php?href=<?php echo urlencode(get_permalink($post->ID)); ?>

So instead of this:

<iframe src=”http://www.facebook.com/plugins/like.php?href=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.stephanieromanski.com&amp;layout=standard&amp;show_faces=true&amp;width=450&amp;action=recommend&amp;font=arial&amp;colorscheme=light” scrolling=”no” frameborder=”0″ allowTransparency=”true” style=”border:none; overflow:hidden; width:450px; height:px”></iframe>

You get this:

<iframe src=”http://www.facebook.com/plugins/like.php?href=<?php echo urlencode(get_permalink($post->ID)); ?>&amp;layout=standard&amp;show-faces=true&amp;width=500&amp;action=like&amp;colorscheme=light” scrolling=”no” frameborder=”0″ allowTransparency=”true” style=”border:none; overflow:hidden; width:500px; height:60px”></iframe>

Post this on your single.php page and voila.

[UPDATE] Well, I’m too slow. There already is a WordPress plugin 🙂 Get it here

Six of one…

Imagine you are an advertiser and you know you should be using tools like Twitter and Facebook but whenever you go to either site to set it up, you get overwhelmed and bewildered and you talk yourself out of it. You’re busy. You don’t have time to invest in this. You’re doing just fine without it.

Along comes your ad rep from your local newspaper and he/she has something new to offer you outside of the usual banner ads and 3X5 print ads and corner peels and interstitials (inter-huh?). This time they mention something about helping you get on tools like Twitter and Facebook. And after they do that, they tell you that for a nominal monthly fee, your business will be in prime real estate, beachfront property on their very heavily-trafficked website (Yay, AP says I can type ‘website’ now! Oh wait, I’ve been doing that for years.)

Well hell, what a deal! Sign me up!

Okay, now imagine you are me. You’re @stephromanski (I’m testing the WP plugin for @anywhere there, sorry) and you’ve begun getting these businesses set up on Twitter and Facebook. Once they’re good to go, the business person will be in charge of their own destiny there and they can tweet and/or post status updates as much as they want.

But here is your minor dilemma: You know they’ll mainly be using one of those tools, either Facebook or Twitter. So if they choose to use Facebook for all their updating, you have to feed those updates to their Twitter account so that those tweets will populate your advertiser Twitter List widget that sits on the prime beachfront property. BUT if they predominantly use Twitter to update, you have to rely on a dodgy Facebook app that sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t for feeding tweets to their Facebook fanpage.

Which is the better option for the businessperson who is usually too busy and may not fully “get” how to use the tools? Which way would be easier for them?

The argument for having them use Facebook is that they are already likely to have a personal Facebook page and perhaps they sort of know their way around it whereas Twitter is completely foreign to them. I know @ev addressed Twitter’s usability at their Chirp conference and I found myself nodding furiously at that whole section of his speech.

On the other hand, if the advertiser is not on either tool, which is the best way to guide them? Fanpages are kind of a bitch to work with, IMO. It seems like it would be harder to teach them (oh yes, in addition to setting them up, you must then spend an hour or so with them and teach them how to use it) to get to and update the fanpage then it would be to teach them to open up Tweetdeck where they can handle everything.

Is it six of one, half dozen of the other? Do you tackle each advertiser individually,  gauge their needs and guide them accordingly? Do you set up a system of ‘This is how you’re going to do it’ to save time?

These are the questions flying around my head right now. Any input in the comments would be greatly appreciated 😉

Real-time success! A Live Tweeting Update

Today was one of those days that makes you remember why you love this business so much. And if ever a case was made for every reporter in every newsroom having a smartphone, today was it.

When I walked into the newsroom this morning, the publisher was talking to the city editor and our temporary mobile journalist about a call he’d gotten from a local high school. His son attends the school and they were informing parents about an apparent shooting threat. They told parents they could keep their kids at home or come pick them up if they had already been dropped off. Heavily armed police officers were guarding the school and calls were starting to come into the newsroom from panicked parents.

Since we are on Day Three of our live tweeting experiment, our intrepid journo with the Droid headed up to the school to see what he could find out. As soon as he arrived, the information started flowing right onto our front page. And it was an awesome sight to behold. He was able to get in and speak to the plethora of parents who had arrived to pick up their kids and find out more information from the police and school officials.

The next thing I know, I’m getting a flood of Facebook friend requests (our Twitter updates flow to our Facebook page) from people following the story on our website. When they held an impromptu press conference to assure parents their kids would be safe to come back to class, Jack used Qik on his Droid to send it live as it happened. When it ended, I was able to embed the video right into the full story another reporter wrote when all the excitement died down.

We were able to tweet – as the words “the suspect has been arrested” as the words were coming out of the Administrator’s mouth, flowing it to our site and thus making our leap into real time news. It was incredible to behold and the best part is the entire newsroom, from my usual ‘bah humbuggers’ to the ones who’ve embraced it, could finally see all of this in action.

I think it’s one thing to talk about the Hudson River landing and Twitter’s role there, or Twitter’s role with Haitian relief to these folks, but it’s simply not going to “sink in” until they can see it in action locally like they did this morning.

It’s been an awesome morning. I will stipulate that by also saying I am terribly glad nobody was hurt and that the threats never came to fruition. My daughter graduated from this very school only last year.

Yesterday, we held an impromptu meeting to discuss some issues with this experiment and to see what could be improved. Some lessons from that – and from this morning are below:

  • How can we flow images and video to our own site instead of sending traffic away to Twitpic or Qik? – It can be done, but it’s clunkier than simply using the tools built into apps like Twidroid or Tweetie. I think we’d have to build an app from the ground up, which is beyond our ken. And Barbie.
  • Will a non-Twitter user understand how to disseminate the information we are sending into our Juitter extension? Does it become confusing to follow when the latest tweets are on top? – I think today proved that this really isn’t an issue. I have yet to hear from anyone who was glued to our coverage today complain about the order in which tweets arrived.
  • Reign in the ‘casual observations’ such as “I’m moving on someplace else” or “Bob left the room”. – When reporting news on our front page, we should keep it to the news and leave off the ambiance a little. This is fine for regular tweeting, but maybe not so much on our front page. I haven’t decided whether I agree with this yet. Still pondering.
  • In today’s big news story, when reporting real-time, avoid phrases like “I’m hearing that ….” and reporting rumors. – I’m of two minds on this. I can see that a newspaper reporting ‘I spoke to a lady who says her kids tell her students carry guns to school’ might give credence to false information. On the other hand, one of our reporters said that when you’re reporting live on the scene, the rumors become part of the story. I can see that. I think it’s a very fine line, though, between ‘just the facts’ and reporting the mood and observations of a scene like that.

What do you think?