I came across an interesting study about the value of privacy via The Atlantic. Scott Savage and Donald M. Waldman of the University of Colorado at Boulder found that consumers are willing to pay some money for a mobile application when in return their privacy is respected or they are not forced to consume advertisements. In a post Snowden world always worth a read.
Lately I found myself being utterly bored by (ed)tech. It seems that we are currently going through a period in which nothing really exciting happens. There is no innovation, just some iteration and lots of hype. And yes, this includes everything from MOOCs to Google Glass. Dull and boring.
Now, of course, there are exceptions. Nomadic.fm for example and everything that is going on around OER and clever use of technologies in developing countries is actually pretty exciting. Unfortunately, we don’t hear or read that much about it. It is definitely something I want to dig deeper into in the coming months.
Yet there is something out of Silicon Valley that got me pretty excited. Medium, the new content platform startup by Evan Williams. In case you don’t know Ev, he is the co-founder of Blogger, Odeo and Twitter. Based on these three startups (blogging, podcasting, micro-blogging) you can say that he knows one or two things about web based content.
Pardon my French, but that’s a quote from the talented actor / tech pundit / investor Ashton Kutcher. You might remember him from critically acclaimed dramas like “Dude, where is my car” and such. A couple of days ago mister (ex)Twitter was whining about how “the media fucked up Twitter“. But everyone who was on Twitter before “celebs” like Ashton, Demi, Kim K or Diddy and such jumped on the service to establish a more personal and direct relationship with their fans knows that it was them who have started the decline of Twitter.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love and use Twitter (other than mister Kutcher), however it is very apparent that the service is not the same that it used to be.
What had started as a small, one-sentence question has stayed on my mind for longer than I thought. Benjamin Stewart originally asked the question that makes the title of this post on Google+ and it actually turns out to be not that easy to answer. My first reaction was, it depends on how far Twitter has become an essential part in the day to day life of the average person whether it had established itself in the mainstream.
For example, if you don’t use a telephone today you probably have good reasons not to and therefore you probably won’t use it in the future. Sure, it makes you look a bit weird but that’s a personal choice. I don’t think that Twitter is that far as there are enough people left who have not even heard about it though this number is surely shrinking thanks to the embedding of Twitter in popular news and entertainment shows on TV.
One of the major topics among edupreneurs, online marketers, blogger and others relying on Facebook traffic is the recent change in what fans actually see popping up in their news stream. I wanted to title this post “Waahaa – Cry Babies want their Facebook traffic back!” but that would have been a bit unfair ;). Nevertheless, I think the issue has been blown way out of proportion.
Let’s start with the basics. When a platform is new the first priority is to get as many users as possible. Therefore the rules are pretty much beneficial for the users. It makes you use the product and hopefully get you to the point where you can’t live without it. A bit like selling crack-cocaine.
Facebook has given page owners a free ride for many years, driving the traffic away from Facebook to their own sites. Now ask yourself, is that something you would do with your blog or platform? Your goal is to keep your users on your site, not leading them away from it to other sites, right? So why on earth should Facebook do it without any benefit?
On top of that Facebook is now a publicly traded company, e.g. they have an earnings call with Wall Street analysts every couple of months. People invest in Facebook on the terms that the social network grows its revenue. Hence, it makes even less sense for them to give you free traffic.
Let’s say you are one of the people who have spent time and effort on building your brand outside of Facebook over the years you were most likely not shocked at all or even surprised as it (or something similar) happened before and will happen again. The thing is, you are constantly playing in someone else’s sandbox and surprise: it’s not you who makes the rules. Here are two examples.
If you spent time on trying to get your page ranking on Google for related search terms you might have been hit by the infamous Panda update back in early 2011. It was so bad that it took out two big players in the education space, my favorite platform TeachStreet and the just newly refocused Mahalo. And even today algorithm changes affect startups. Just read the latest New York Times article on the matter.
Like Google, YouTube is experimenting a lot with new ways to display and surface “relevant” content on the platform. I have been hit by the changes at least three times with my Deutsch Happen channel over the past years and even big YouTube stars like Mystery Guitar Man saw huge drops in audience and hence revenue.
But you know that all of the platforms offer you to get traffic in return. Google has Adwords, YouTube lets you promote videos and Facebook now lets you promote posts. Hence, if you really, really want (need) the traffic, there is an option for you.
As a long time reader of this blog you will know that I have always advocated that edupreneurs need to learn about the processes behind the scenes of technology they use. If you have at least a bit of an idea on how funding or even an IPO affects the destiny of a startup you cannot be surprised by such changes.
In August 2010 Andrew Lewis coined a phrase that is still true today:
If you are not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold.
Have you ever sat down and truly asked yourself if you were willing to pay for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or any other free service you are using on a regular basis? If the answer is “No, I won’t pay” then you have to ask yourself whether the startup actually built something meaningful at all. Which leads to the next question that when you don’t see any real value in the service, why should others?
A handful of edupreneurs like André Klein, Koichi and myself have always preached that you need to invest into your own website (sandbox) as it is the only place you are truly in charge of. All the rest is nice as long as it works and if it stops working you simply move on. The goal is that you need to get your audience to come to your site on their own because they want to, not because they might see a Twitter, YouTube or Facebook update pop up in their cluttered stream.
If you want to have something that catches their attention, get them to sign up for a newsletter. This way you are directly in their inbox as long as they choose to be on the list. You want direct contact, not filtered through a middleman.
Facing the Realities
On the other hand, the new Facebook algorithm might also have some positive side effects as it clears up the news stream from all the noise.
As a side note, when I take a look at both the reach and engagement graphs of my established pages Kirsten Winkler, EDUKWEST, Deutsch Happen and Deutsch Sprechen I have not noticed any significant drop in either graph on any of the four pages mentioned. The only drops I see are the ones I am familiar with, e.g. not updating the page or usually on weak days like Saturday.
All in all the number of likes your page got never reflected the actual number of engaged fans, anyway. The same is true for Twitter followers and YouTube subscribers. It’s a vanity number, nothing more. The new actual number of people “seeing” your Facebook page update also reflects how many people really visit your page or group in the first place. Taking the Edupreneurs Club as an example we have 200+ members but each posts gets seen by 7 to a maximum of 35 members. And that’s about the engagement I noticed over the months. There are about 10 active members and some lurkers. The rest joined but never came back.
This means, if people choose to visit your page anyway on a daily or weekly basis by clicking on the link on the left side, then all is well. If they just liked your page and never returned, anyway then you didn’t lose anything at all. You just get a realistic number of how many people actually care about your stuff. And yes, sometimes reality hits you hard, bro.
Picture by waterbridge via Morguefile
YouTube played around with its algorithm, again. Being an educational YouTuber myself since May 2008 I have seen a lot (of changes) over the years. Some were good and helped me to get more exposure and subscribers, others were bad for my channel especially the last change that affected content discovery.
Whereas a video I uploaded a year ago easily surpassed 1000 views in the first two weeks I now get around 500 which is kind of weird as my subscriber base has constantly grown in the meanwhile. Hence something is seriously broken in terms how people find the videos even when they are subscribed to my channel. It feels a bit like Twitter or Facebook where only a fraction of the followers or fans see your content as it will simply drown in the stream of updates (and supposedly, this won’t change as long as I don’t pay to promote my updates or tweets).
But on the upside, I still have good engagement and views on the video lessons which could help them to rise in the search results according to the announcement of the latest changes in the algorithm.
YouTube wants to focus on viewing time instead of clicks which is especially interesting for video lessons. When they are good or cover a topic people are interested in, they will of course watch the entire video and not click away to the next one.
Another part of this algorithm change is that YouTube will also take into consideration how much viewing time your videos drive across the platform. Hence, if you interlink your video lessons and people consume more of your videos it will help your lessons to come out on top.
In order to help you keep track of how your videos are performing, YouTube added a new tab to the analytics desk that shows you how long your viewers spent watching your lessons.
Picture by mconnors via Morguefile
There is a lot going on in terms of educational content on YouTube lately, and I am not talking about classic education providers like universities and colleges. There is a whole new breed of young creators, some of them already well-known from non-education related channels.
The interesting part is that those guys and gals already had a very strong educational message underlying in their more geeky videos. The new education focused channels are “just” that – more focused on explaining complicated things.
Two recent tech stories, one involving Facebook not deleting pictures for three years and the other Path sucking all the contact data of its users on their servers, show once again that posting stuff on the Internet is not as straight forward as most people think.
Just because you hit a delete button does not mean that the content is really deleted from the web, it’s not as simple as on your local hard disk. And just because an application did not ask for all your private data in the first place does not mean it cannot get it at a later stage without your approval.
Posting on the Internet is like getting a tattoo. At the moment, it might seem like a great idea, but as soon as you get sober it will be impossible or at least very hard to remove without any trace.
Yesterday morning I learned that Facebook has apparently acquired Gowalla, one of the location based social networks that compete with Foursquare. While the writing that the startup lost the battle against Foursquare has been on the wall for a while there, some hope remained that Gowalla might have been able to turn its network into a digital travel guide.
Now, you might ask what this has to do with education. Well, first of all I wrote a post on Disrupt Education titled “Don’t Check-In for Yourself – Check-In for your Grand Children” in which I explained why I think those location based services have indeed a role in an educational context. But what if the service did not last that long?
Today I would like to focus on the risk of having all your eggs in one basket or all your photos = memories on one service.
If you are following this blog on a regular basis or worked with me on a social media project for your company in the past, you know that one of the corner stones in my strategy has been to use social media quite freely so that it fit with your habits and workflow.
This worked pretty well throughout 2009 and 2010 when social networks were still a thing of the pundits and digerati. In 2011 we saw a tipping point and more “regular” users joined the services which eventually led to much more content flying around, making it more difficult for professional users to get their message through.
I already wrote about the “decline” of Twitter last week, and I will give you a short update on my new strategy and its outcome today.
But, as you can already tell from the title of this post, the message I want to get through is pretty clear: everyone, may it be a startup, established brand or individual user needs a strategy for social media. It’s getting far too serious to just use it for fun.
Over the past couple of weeks I have become increasingly frustrated with Twitter. I have the feeling that I get less value out of it than maybe 6 months ago. Clearly Twitter lost some of its appeal when Google+ launched.
Now, before I get deeper into that, let me explain the three main (and up to now only) ways I used Twitter for.
Number one has been to get first hand information, insights and personal tidbits from interesting people I followed. It rounded the profile of blogger, podcaster and CEOs I was reading / watching / interviewing. Number two was to get breaking news of the industry. And number three was to share my posts or interesting links.
Two of those reasons are completely broken, only one still works rather well.
Yesterday, I came across a new feature of Disqus, the comment system I have been using on all my blogs since early 2009. At a first glance, I barely noticed the red notification message that now shows up on each Disqus enabled comment section.
I noticed it because Big Think, the blog network which I contribute to with Disrupt Education just switched their comments to Disqus. Sunday, I wrote a blog post about Siri, the new voice enabled assistant on the iPhone 4S and its implications on learning and education.
As we increasingly discuss whether content itself is still what matters or if it wasn’t really context that does, I have been looking deeper into curation and its opportunities in an educational context over the past few months.
Out of that motivation I want to share this KWestions with William Mougayar today. He is the founder Eqentia, a company that built a semantic search platform for web content publishers around key features like data mining, real-time aggregation and advanced curation. As each Equentia site, public or private in the case of many companies, is being curated by one or several experts on a topic and highly customizable, the results go deeper and are in that sense more accurate or relevant if you will than the normal search results google can provide.
Whereas in the last social media post I talked about why I blog and why this might be a good thing for you or have benefits for your education company, I want to concentrate on some of the platforms for the upcoming posts in my social media series.
So let’s get started with Twitter today: why and how I use it.
As part two of my series portraying translation businesses on the Internet I did a KWestions with Jani Penttinen of Xiha. You might remember this name from an EDUKWEST we did several months ago but this time it was all about his latest venture PremiumFanpage where he is also CEO.
The original idea of PremiumFanpage is to give businesses the opportunity to connect with their fans or also users in general in any language.
This is the second post in my little social media series for beginners and today I would like to share some hints with you on how to build an audience for your personal or your company blog or maybe even for your institution.
From the previous post you have learned (that’s my hope at least) that a social media presence covers different platforms that each have a distinct public and that user engagement has to be meaningful and consistent.
After having your different profiles set up and filled in the next question now is how to actually build your audience and we’ll split it into the different platforms again.
Delightful to many and inherent part of our lives for long, still unpleasant and somewhat ominous to some, social media has proven itself as nothing that will go away any time soon.
I intend to write this article as a beginners guide for individual educators and companies who just get started thinking of a strategy whether the use of social media might add value to what they do and in what ways this could be achieved following which of the different strategies.
I often see a discrepancy between individual use of social media and its adoption when it comes to use it within companies. So, let’s try and avoid some of the traps.
Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Dr. Andreas Schroeter, co-founder of the bab.la language portal. Prior to starting bab.la in 2007 he worked for the media companies Bertelsmann and Axel Springer.
Let’s get straight to the point: Do you know what your customer / client / user / fan / friend / foe says about your company? The true answer is no. After all, how can you? Most users do not talk to you directly but about you with their friends, readers, listeners, watchers and so on. It’s nice to get an email directly from a user but also very unlikely. We at bab.la get a good handful per week, many of them being spam or just simple questions about one of our products. Real feedback and an understanding of what your user thinks is rarely done via email. But listening to your users is probably the best strategy to get valuable feedback you would otherwise pay for in focus groups or pay for by developing something no one wants.
There are lots of text, voice and video chat applications on Facebook and some of them like TinyChat are doing pretty well as it seems. And then there is still the rumor of a deep Skype integration on the social network.
So, is there space left for another video chat? SocialEyes is a social video service and going into public beta today.
Just finished a nice talk with Jeff Novich of VocabSushi and I am really happy to have him back on EDUKWEST this coming Monday to catch up on what he has been up to in the past months since our first interview.
One thing I would like to share with you already now is a cool little game he developed based on VocabSushi using Twitter and the hashtag #vocabbomb.