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?


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.