Google+ ends name restrictions. Why? Why now?

I’m as mystified as I was the day of the announcement. Google is removing restrictions on Google+ user names. They announced it with, what else, a Google+ post.Screenshot 2014-07-28 10.42.54

“When we launched Google+ over three years ago, we had a lot of restrictions on what name you could use on your profile. This helped create a community made up of real people, but it also excluded a number of people who wanted to be part of it without using their real names. 

“Over the years, as Google+ grew and its community became established, we steadily opened up this policy, from allowing +Page owners to use any name of their choosing to letting YouTube users bring their usernames into Google+. Today, we are taking the last step: there are no more restrictions on what name you can use.”

When I first saw it, this move left me asking, “Why? And why now?.”

I think that those potential users who objected to having to use real names on Google+ long ago stopped caring about Google+. And the folks who are using it now are probably quite happy with the rules as they are. And they use it and like it.

I worry that the most immediate impact of lifting restrictions on names will be to welcome the trolls onto Google+. In fact, Gini Dietrich tells Martin Waxman and me that shortly after the announcement, she received a marriage proposal from one of the newly-minted anonymous users. A fun move? Or just plain creepy? Whichever, hopefully this is not a sign of things to come.

If Google+ is hoping to attract hordes of new users to mainstream itself as one of the larger social networking platforms,  they’d better have some new magic up their sleeves. There is no reason for people who’ve decided that Facebook or Twitter meets their needs to abandon those services for Google+.

FIR Podcast community on Google+In fact, I think that Google+ has built a happy and enthusiastic group of users around features like Hangouts and Google+ Communities. I’m thinking about the FIR Podcast Community that generates a constant flow of conversation. Yes, it’s only 500 people strong. But it is a community that has a specialized interest and actively uses Google+ to converge around that interest.

So, Google+ is a success for those who use it. Why would the people who cared about anonymity in the first place ever come back to Google+?

Why Google? Why now?

Content Marketing Cures the Anti-Spam Blues

Does your business have the Anti-Spam Law Blues? A Content Marketing program will lift your business prospects and your spirits.

Content marketingCanada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL) has been in effect since July 1. And in its first several weeks of implementation, it’s created quite a stir among Canadian businesses and marketers.

Typical of the business reaction these comments from a Toronto-based business owner being interviewed for an episode of CBC’s The Current:

“When we first heard about the legislation, it looked like it was just for flyers and I thought: Well, we really don’t do that. Our communication is one-on-one …  We don’t spam our clients. And then I realized that we actually do send out a monthly newsletter. It’s not even very newsy. It’s an image of a carpet that we might have done within the past six months that might be of interest to a company. And then I got a little further into it and I got much more concerned about what this might mean for a small company like mine. … we have customers that are 25 years old and we may not have worked with them in the past five years. But I still consider them a customer. My understanding is that after July 1, I can only email them once and without their absolute consent I can’t email them again. … I think it will dramatically affect how we can work because this is how we all work through email. We communicate that way. … We have customers in Vancouver and Calgary specifically and how we stay in touch is through email… I might think they do hospitality. They do a lot of hotel work. Maybe I’ll send them this image that we did just because they might be interested in what we’ve been doing lately.”

Look closely at what she said. “We don’t spam our clients.” “We have customers that are 25 years old and we may not have worked with for the past five years. But I still consider them a customer.” “Maybe I’ll send them this image that we did just because they might be interested in what we’ve been doing lately.” This business owner is deciding whether her “customer” would be interested in receiving an email with an image of a recent project – even if that customer has not done business with the company in several years. The decision to send the email is in the hands of the sender. The recipient has no voice in the matter. If that’s not Spam then I don’t know what is!

Now, I’m sure that this business owner is not alone in taking this approach. In fact, any discussion around a Chamber of Commerce or Board of Trade event will easily turn up many business owners who see this as a legitimate and indeed necessary marketing tactic. Have list will mail.

That era is over.

In the past it was easy for business owners to assemble lists of “prospects”. They could pick up business cards at trade shows. They could offer discounts to people who would register to receive them – and then send them email even if that person did not realize they’d signed up for an email newsletter. There were all sorts of ways to assemble a list of prospects to make a business grow. Most of those avenues are now closed. If you want to email something to a business prospect in Canada, you must either have an existing business relationship with them or obtain their explicit consent.

In the new world of the anti-spam law, consumers must know that they are signing up for a mailing list when they do so and know how you intend to use that list. The anti-spam law puts control of what consumers receive back in their hands and takes it out of the hands of the business owner who may “think” that a “prospect” might be interested in what they have to send. Consumers know what they are interested in and they can control what they receive.

Content marketing to the rescue

So what’s a business owner to do? Quite simply, business owners must give people a reason to receive their email letters. And in order to do that they must draw people to the sign-up form.

Content marketing satisfies both of these requirements.

By creating interesting, informative, entertaining content you can satisfy the curiosity of people who are genuinely interested in what you have to offer. If you do this well, they will find you when they search for a topic. Or others within their community of interest will recommend things you have published in their social feeds. One way or the other, qualified leads will come to you. And then, if you create an ongoing stream of that interesting, informative and entertaining content, they will sign up to receive it and want to keep receiving it.

Content marketing is worth the effort for a business. Even more so now that CASL has made assembling a list of prospects has become much more difficult.

Inside PR 377: Companies squeeze suppliers and Facebook’s hold on us

On the most recent episode of the Inside PR podcast, Gini DietrichMartin Waxman and I talk about two very different topics: the squeeze large clients are putting on their marketing partners and Facebook’s hold on young users.

The Big Squeeze

Gini kicks off the discussion about the growing number of large companies that are taking longer to pay their marketing partners. In the case of some companies, such as P&G and Mars, advertising agencies, marketing and PR partners will find themselves waiting up to 120 days – four months – for payment. And that can be crippling to a creative business. Gini has some thoughts about how PR agencies can avoid being caught in the slow payment trap. In the short term, it may come down to this: If you don’t want to play the big client game, extending your credit to people whose credit rating is is probably much better than yours, you may just have to say no. And if they won’t attempt to find a workable middle ground, you may just end up saying no to working for them.

Martin believes that this would be bad for creative agencies and for marketing itself. It used to be that creatives would be constantly breaking off of the larger agencies they worked for in order to form new ventures. And with a fresh creative perspective, many of them would land a large account that would enable them to build an agency in their own vision. Heck, that’s how Terry Fallis and I started Thornley Fallis. A couple of guys with a fresh perspective on the business working on folding banquet tables in borrowed space. But we landed B.C.E. (Bell Canada Enterprises), then GlaxoSmithKline, and then Molson. And from there, the business took off.

Is that still possible in this current environment? Martin asks, “How can you compete to win clients like this if the financial terms would put you out of business before you have a chance to grow?” Yes it is possible, but ever more difficult. In order to succeed, small agencies need to keep a focus on what has always been the most important factor. Creativity. If we can do something that’s truly remarkable and memorable, we still can thrive.

Facebook’s Hold on Youth

Recently, some have suggested that Facebook is past its prime with teens. A  study from Forrester Research indicates that Facebook still remains young people’s favorite social network. Martin agrees that Facebook may still be used by teens. But he suggests that we look at an intangible factor that may point to the future. Do teens still consider it cool? Or are they there because they have to be because their friends are there? If that’s the case, Gini suggests that teens will not remain reliant on Facebook. Older people who have left school, moved away from their hometown, and are in mid-career, rely on Facebook to keep them connected with the people that they knew at an earlier time. Teens, however, are surrounded by their social network. They don’t need Facebook to stay in touch with friends. They know who their friends are and they can easily use different media, including texting, to stay in touch with their friends.

I think there’s a different between these two questions, “Do people use it?” and “Do people feel cool when they use it?” The first question finds its answer in past behaviour. The second question points the way to future behaviour. And if that’s the case, don’t count on Facebook keeping its stranglehold on youth. For now, young users are still on Facebook. But where will they be next year?

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I wrote this post to appear first on the Inside PR Podcast blog. I’m posting it here in case you missed it there and might be interested in it.

Songza login with Google credentials: On the Web, but not iOS

I clicked over to Songza today and saw that I could log into the their Website using my Google account.

Songza Website Login That’s what I would have expected given Google’s acquisition of Songza.

Then I pulled out my iPhone to log into the Songza iOS App to listen to some music while I worked. Whoops. No can do.

iOS Songza App Facebook Login onlyIf you want to sign into Songza using the iPhone app, you don’t have the option to do so using your Google credentials. Only Facebook.

This must bug Google, the new owners of Songza. I wonder how long it will take for them to change this situation and push an update to the iOS app update through the Apple approvals process to enable users to log in with their Google credentials. Hmmm. I guess this also raises the question of whether Apple will expedite approval of the update.

Not a big thing. But interesting to me.

Attention-demanding creative doesn’t need to be expensive

Attention-demanding creative doesn’t need to be expensive. If you have a slightly off-centre, quirky eye for the unusual, you can create something remarkable, entertaining and memorable – like this video shot with nothing more than an iPhone.

All by myself from Richard Dunn on Vimeo.

I have no idea who Richard Dunn is (although I’m going to try to track him down for the Inside PR podcast.) But he kept me watching his video to the very end. Even the Celine Dion music couldn’t stop me. I just had to see how he resolved his “cry from the heart.”

Thanks for the entertainment, Richard. You’ve reminded us that we don’t need to spend a lot of money to create something interesting. We just have to have a good, off-centre perspective - and timing.

Others noticed this too:

Reddit discussion

Gawker got it

CBC Radio interviews Richard Dunn

Inside PR Podcast 374: The Right to be Forgotten and Scott Monty does it right

I missed the recording of the Inside PR podcast this week. So Martin Waxman and Gini Dietrich  recorded it as a two-hander.

In this episode, they talk about the implications of the European Court’s right to be forgotten regime and Scott Monty’s classy announcement that he has left his role as social media head for Ford.

In the past two weeks, requests by European citizens have flooded Google with requests to delete information about them from the search engine’s results. Gini points out that the European Court’s decision requiring that Google takedown information upon request does not sit well with Americans, who see this as undermining the right to free expression. Nevertheless, she advises clients with operations in Europe and elsewhere to take note of this move. It points to the need for companies operating globally to be sensitive to different values in different places. Martin is uncomfortable with the potential that this ruling holds to rewrite and obfuscate history. Where do we draw the line between someone wanting to remove a hurtful or hateful opinion and someone who wants to remove or obscure facts? The true impact of this ruling will only be known over time.

And kudos to Scott Monty for the classy way that Scott announced on his blog that he had left his role as social media head at Ford. Scott praised his team, praised the company and praised the work that they did together. Others who are announcing a move would be well recommended to look at Scott’s departure announcement as a template for the right way to handle yourself when announcing a career change. 

Finally, Interesting factoid or fiction? Martin says that Canada is the only country in the world that still celebrates Queen Victoria’s birthday as a national holiday. With fireworks no less. Is that true? Are we truly unique in the world?

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This is a slightly modified version of a post that I wrote on the Inside PR podcast blog. I’ve adapted it for ProPR so that it’s in my archive of posts.

Let’s make Terry Fallis’ new novel, No Relation, a Best Seller

If you, like me, are a fan of Terry Fallis‘ novels, you can help make his newest, No Relation, a number one bestseller by ordering your copy this week.

No+RelationNo Relation will be Terry’s fourth novel. Each of his previous books, The Best Laid Plans, The High Road, and Up and Down, brought a smile to my face and left me laughing out loud. I can’t wait for No Relation to be released next week.

As I was looking at my calendar this morning, it occurred to me that there’s something that I can do for Terry in return for all of the entertainment he provides to me. I can preorder his novel today so that it will ship to me on the date of its release. And by doing this, my preorder will be counted in his first day and first week sales.

Just like the movie business, where it’s all about the opening weekend, first week sales for a novel count more than any other. If a novel opens high on the bestseller list in its first week, others will see it and a snowball effect will follow.

So I ordered my copy of No Relation this morning.

And if you’re a fan of Terry’s writing, you can help him to chart as high as possible in its first week on the Best Sellers list. Preorder No Relation this week on the bookstore of your choice: Kobo, Amazon, or Google Play. And of course you can go to your favourite local independent bookseller.

Let’s help make Terry Fallis’s No Relation a number one bestseller on the week of its release. Order it today and be counted in week one sales.

Facebook privacy improvements are good news for marketers

Facebook, with its billion-plus active users, is a can’t-ignore platform for marketers. But there has been a longstanding problem with Facebook. Many users view with suspicion its approach to privacy and sharing data it collects about us.

Especially for people who started on Facebook early when it was truly a place where we could connect with family and friends, the terms of our implicit deal with Facebook seemed to change in an unpredictable and one-sided way. Yes, we all understand that Facebook must be a profitable company and that means monetizing the data and action of the people who use it. However, how it was doing this was to often opaque to the user and seemingly arbitrary.

Yesterday at f8, Mark Zuckerberg announced three new measures that will give users greater control of the personal information that we share with others. Even better, these measures are being implemented in a very user-friendly and accessible way, something which has not always been the case with past Facebook privacy measures.

So, what did he announce?

login3First, Facebook now will allow people to try new apps in an anonymous mode without having to give away all of our personal information simply to test the app. In my mind, this is a huge and important move on Facebook’s part.

The reality is that, in the past most people would simply agree to any of the privacy and data sharing provisions presented to them in order to get at the shiny new object that they wanted to try out. In no way could their consent be considered informed. And if we decided that we didn’t like the app, we needed to wade through a difficult-to-use app menu in order to find and delete the app.

With the change announced yesterday by Zuckerberg, users will be able test the app before giving it access to our personal data. If we like it, we can register at a later date to share our information and achieve the customization offered as a result. Giving users the ability to test a nap before they give away personal data is a huge and long overdue move.

login1Second, when a users do decide to register for an app, we now will be given greater control over which information we share with apps.

Public information will be shared as a default. However information such as our friends list, email address, birthdate and other personal information will be subject to a conscious decision to share on the users part. Each type of information to be shared will be clearly indicated on a login screen so that users can stop and consider what we are doing. Another important move that will make a difference.

Finally, Facebook is redesigning its app control panel to make it easier to see what we have shared through each app and make adjustments after we have installed them. A simple move that makes controlling our privacy attainable for even the casual user.

You won’t see these changes immediately. Facebook will introduce them gradually over the coming weeks and months. The new app control panel will appear first, within weeks according to Facebook. The anonymous login currently is being tested by a few developers, with rollout to more developers planned in the coming months. The new login should be introduced in a few months.

Anything that builds trust in the platform is good news for marketers

So, that’s what Facebook announced yesterday. Three simple and straightforward changes that go a long way to giving us greater control over our privacy on Facebook. And as such, they help to restore a degree of confidence and trust in Facebook.

Marketers should be applauding these changes. By building our trust in the platform, Facebook makes itself a more welcoming and trustworthy platform for marketers’ messages.

Yesterday was a good day for privacy. Yesterday was a good day for Facebook. Yesterday was a good day for marketers.

On Inside PR this week: Spin Sucks!

IMG_0041Spin sucks! You know it and I know it. And Gini Dietrich knows it. But even more, Gini has written a new book, Spin Sucks, in which she shows us how to replace spin with authentic communications that your community will find informative, entertaining and useful.

Spin Sucks the Book has just launched. And in this week’s episode of Inside PRMartin Waxman and I talk with Gini about the book, what it tells us, and her innovative approach to marketing the book. (If you know Gini, you wouldn’t expect anything less from her than to turn the launch of her book into a marketing experiment. She’s always thinking of how to do things better.) This included a Brand Ambassador program to spread the word about the book so that Gini could maintain a much more limited travel schedule to promote Spin Sucks than she had to maintain when promoting her previous book, Marketing in the Round. Over 800 people applied to be a Brand Ambassador, agreeing to buy the book and write a review to coincide with the launch date. Ultimately, she selected over 200 of the applicants to be Ambassadors.

If you wonder what type of results Gini got from this approach, check out the quality of the reviews on Amazon.com. High quality, Well written, persuasive reviews from people who’ve read and loved the book. (At the time I write this, there are 76 reviews of Gini’s book. Sixty five are 5 star and eleven are four star.)

It doesn’t get much better than that.

This is an excerpt from an article originally posted on the Inside PR podcast blog

How I use 76insights for content marketing

76insights logo76insights gives publishers and marketers insight into how their content is resonating with their audience. It does this through an intuitive user interface that enables them to see patterns in which pieces of content are resonating, on which channels and social networks, and with whom. They can identify specific pieces of content that they want to further share with their audience and click out to the native application or their preferred application such as HootSuite to republish and share.

76insights is very different from any other social media tool that I have seen. And after I’ve described it to people, I often see that they are still puzzled about it.So this weekend, I decided to record a video showing how I use 76insights to do my work as a member of the Thornley Fallis content marketing team.

In this video I demonstrate how I use the analytics dashboard to identify patterns in which of our content was most resonant with our community, to identify who was interacting with that  content, and then to share items that I think will be of interest to one or more of my communities on different social networks.

76 insights is being rolled out by invitation to select content marketers and publishers. If you’re interested in knowing more or even in becoming one of the early adopters, click over to the 76insights site to find out more and, if you’d like, to request an invitation to be an early user.

Disclosure: 76insights has been developed by my colleagues at 76design and I’m proud as punch of what they are creating.