Monday, June 09, 2008
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Working with Facebook Social Ads
So, here at Kinzin, we've been experimenting with Facebook's Social Ads for the last few weeks, and I have a few results to report. Simple stuff first:
- Click-through rates are abysmal. I was running the identical ad in about 15 different regions (you need to run them as separate ads to get the stats broken out), getting just over 10M views. Our average clickthrough rate was 0.06% (that's 1 in 1513, for those counting at home). The best we did anywhere was 0.14%.
- For some reason, we got quite different results (30-50% variance) if we ran exactly the same ad in exactly the same region, configured to show to men alone, women alone, and men and women together. For some reason, both together got much better results than either gender individually. Weird.
- Again, the same ad: top four for clickthrough rates: Seattle, Portland, Alberta, and NYC. Bottom four: Toronto, the Maritimes, English Quebec, and Texas.
A little more subtle is the results from using "Social Actions". That's feature that Facebook advertises as being the differentiator for their ad platform. For those that don't know what that is, Facebook will insert a blurb to let you know a Friend of yours has a relationship to the app or group that is the subject of the ad. A friend of mine might see, above an ad in the Facebook margins: "Michael Fergusson installed this app yesterday." This is what Facebook has to say about it:
"What you're looking at is a Social Ad. Advertisers provide the text, and Facebook pairs it with a relevant social action that your friend has taken. Social Ads mean advertisements become more interesting and more tailored to you and your friends. These respect all privacy rules; advertisers never have access to personal information about you or your friends...."
In theory, it could be useful to know that friends of yours use a particular app. In practice, it's a bit creepy to see the name and photo of your friend in a banner ad. My advice in short: don't use that feature. As I said in my last post, we're still figuring out the rules of etiquette in this new space, but I don't think Facebook (the company) has it quite right yet. For sure, it's not right for us and our community.
On that note, I'd also like to apologize to any users of Kinzin applications that were creeped out by our (brief) use of that Facebook feature. We were as surprised as anyone by our own negative reaction to seeing it in practice, and we turned it off as soon as we heard that others were feeling uncomfortable about it, too. We take our role in helping define this new space very seriously, and that role is not to push the boundaries of what's acceptable, but to reflect the growing consensus of what's desired.
It would be interesting to hear about other people's experiences with the Facebook Social Ads. Anybody have anything to, um, add?
(Added 03 /23) I should add that I purchased clicks from Facebook and one other ad network. That other ad network cost 70% less and generated clicks for me at 100x the rate, but virtually no conversions, and traffic to the landing page didn't seem to match the clicks being reported. Hmmm. Facebook ads actually converted at a pretty reasonable clip - 5% or so.
I may not get a lot of clickthroughs on the Facebook ads, but at least they seem to produce some measurable results. My experience dealing with the other ad networks has not been good at all. Most of them seem like shoestring/basement operations at best, and outright scams at worst. Anybody have any good experiences to report?
Monday, March 17, 2008
Privacy and Social Networks
Real social networks have actual humans as the end points in the graph. Complicated, technology independent humans. I have dozens, perhaps even hundreds of social networks I participate in, and each one has its own complex rules of etiquette and privacy, even when the membership of the network is mostly or even completely the same. In fact, it's those rules that really define the network itself: the people I trust with my kids, the people I gossip with at work, or the group of cousins in my family that happen to be around the same age. Each of these is defined as much or more by what we do together (the "social grooming" as Robin Dunbar calls it), as by the membership, which may be mostly or even entirely the same. One reason for why these rules especially difficult to express in software is that these networks (especially the ones most established in my life) are typically multi-modal by nature. Take the network of "the people who love and care for my kids", as an example: some are in FB, some are email-only, and some (like my Gramma) offline entirely. We humans are very typically very good at picking up on and managing these social "rules", but often have difficulty migrating those rules to a new or unfamiliar modality of communication. As the number ways in which we can communicate with each other increases (more rapidly all the time, it seems), the harder it becomes to manage the complex social rules that govern human interactions.
Kinzin's approach to this problem is to build what we call "Virtual Private Social Networks". You decide on the rules and membership of the network, independent of the communications technology. This is obviously easier with smaller networks, and where the level of trust and familiarity is high, so that's where we've focused ourselves. These Are My Kids lets a network of close friends and family share information about the family's kids. The rules for privacy are set by the parents, and the invited members of the network can use (nearly) any medium they like to access the network: Facebook, email, postal mail, etc. This way, busy parents can spend their time thinking about what it is they want to say, and not worrying about how or where to say it.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Michael on TV
Monday, January 21, 2008
Friday, January 04, 2008
Teens and the Internet
The Pew Internet and American Life Project published a study of Teens and Social Media in late December, using data captured mostly in 2006 (so the stats on Facebook usage in particular are probably low). Great subtitle: "The use of social media gains a greater foothold in teen life as they embrace the conversational nature of interactive online media."
Some quick hits:
- 64% of online teens ages 12-17 have participated in content-creating activities on the internet, up from 57% of online teens in a similar survey at the end of 2004
- 39% of online teens share their own artistic creations online, such as artwork, photos, stories, or videos, up from 33% in 2004.
- Girls are more likely to Blog across all age groups. 35% of online girls blog, and even younger girls (32%) blog more than older boys (18%). Boys are more likely to use YouTube, and twice as likely as girls (19% vs 10%) to be posters of video content.
- 55% of online teens ages 12-17 have created a profile on a social networking site such as Facebook or MySpace; 47% of online teens have uploaded photos where others can see them (remember this data is from 2006).
- Most teens restrict access to their posted photos and videos (77% say most or sometimes)– at least some of the time. Adults, somewhat surprisingly, restrict access to the same content less often (58%). Maybe they don't know where to find the privacy settings.
- Posted photos or videos are the launchpad for conversation. Nearly nine in ten teens who post photos online (89%) say that people comment at least sometimes on the photos they post.
- Phones are still prominent in teen social life. What Pew calls "Multi-channel teens" layer each new communications opportunity on top of pre-existing channels. These multi-channel teens are slightly more likely to use landlines "every day" than the broader group(39%/46%), and twice as likely to use cellphones(35%/70%), IM (28%/54%), SMS (27%/60%), and send messages over social networking sites(21%/47%). The use of email is interesting: 14% vs. 22% - both very low compared to the other forms of communication.
Friday, October 26, 2007
Is the world normal?
Last week, 24Hrs Newspaper published a story about Kinzin's Facebook plugin Are You Normal? in their print and online magazine (see the great photo on the left, by Rob Kruyt, that accompanied the article). In the article, I'm quoted as saying that we've reached 90,000 people around the world. Thanks to the power of the network effect, as of this writing we've already passed 220,000 (from 184 countries!) and still going strong.
The point of this post is not to toot my own horn (at least, not only to do that :-), but to mention for your interest that the next set of survey questions we publish will be written in part by our user base. We've had questions submitted from Finland, Spain, Greece, Australia, and the UK so far. I'm very excited about this in particular. As with many things, when we're talking about what's "normal", what we choose to measure is often as interesting as the results.
I'll keep you posted as things progress...
Friday, October 19, 2007
You can't have small without the big
Robert Scoble, in response to comments made by Evan Williams, creator of Twitter, at Web 2.0 asked the question: "why would anybody want a social network with only 10 friends? Seriously, don’t we already have this? It’s called a family." Williams was talking about creative constraints. Limiting the scope of a social network (TuDiabetes), or limiting the size of a message (Twitter/SMS). I'm surprised, frankly, that Scoble would make such an obtuse comment. That I have lots of friends isn't a reason to not use Facebook, and that my family exists says nothing about the modalities of communication I use to "groom" my relationships with them (to borrow a term from Robin Dunbar).
TuDiabetes for example is a small network (recently passing 1100 enthusiastic users), constrained in scope to the issues related to living with Diabetes. That it is small and constrained makes it more valuable, not less.
On the opposite end of the scale, The Economist recently published an article called "Social Graph-iti - There's less to Facebook and other social networks than meets the eye". I think it's intended to be a cautionary article about "irrational exuberance" in the social networking space, along the lines of the recent New York Times article. There's a lot that's right in the Economist's article, but I disagree with a few things. I think the author doesn't understand the nature of social networks in this respect: we can and do belong to many at one time (as we have since before there were "humans" at all). Many of our social networks, in fact, are built on top of other, existing networks. For example, the management team I work with at Kinzin is a small network built out of my larger "business associates" network, which is part of my "everybody I know" network. It overlaps with my "close friends network" and my "co-workers" network, and so forth.
But unlike other networks, social networks lose value once they go beyond a certain size. “The value of a social network is defined not only by who's on it, but by who's excluded,” says Paul Saffo, a Silicon Valley forecaster. Despite their name, therefore, they do not benefit from the network effect.
Mr. Saffo is both sucking and blowing, though, using "Social Network" to mean two things at the same time: the sum of all the users who are members of a particular social networking application, and all of the connections that each individual member has on that network.
My personal network doesn't scale for all the reasons that I've written about previously in my commentary on Dunbar's Number , but Facebook's network doesn't have the problem in the same way. It can contain every human in the world, and it doesn't lose value for me (at least not the same rate or in the same way), because I only need it to be able to find everyone in the world who potentially could be my contact, I don't need everyone to actually be my contact. It seems to me the Economist doesn't account for the fact that we all have multiple overlapping networks, containing people that in the end all are drawn from the same pool, namely all the humans in the world. If I'm trying to maintain 10 different social networks (friends, family, business, acquaintances, etc.), it's helpful to have the underlying system contain all the people in all the networks. So Facebook having 6B members helps me to better create the 10 person network that represents my geographically dispersed family.
Everyone's trying to make it simple: "Irrational Exuberance!", or "Everything's Really Different!" The reality, as it usually is with humans, is much more subtle.
Monday, October 15, 2007
Booksimreading: The Wealth of Networks...
"At the beginning of the 21st century, we find our selves in the midst of a battle over the institutional ecology of the digital environment," says Benkler. "What characterizes the networked information economy is that decentralized individual action plays a much greater role than it did or could have (before)"... "the removal of the physical constraints on effective information production has made human creativity and the economics of information itself the core structuring facts (of our economy and our society)." Just as the proprietors of the new printing presses of europe used their economic clout to gain independence from the church and aristocracy, people today, both individually and in groups, are exploiting the economics of the internet to take on massively ambitious projects. An important difference, though is that they are often taking on these projects just because they feel like it, and not for economic reasons.
It's this idea that first caused me to pick up this book, actually. The amplification of the individual human as a social creature, as opposed to a "market actor". This is a major change in thinking for some. Capital is less important than it has been in the past. Groups of individuals, acting from motivations unrelated to economics, can often organize themselves more quickly and effectively than a corporation can. I find this idea exhilarating. More as I read along...
Friday, October 12, 2007
What's "Normal" anyway?
Our Facebook adventure sure has been interesting. In the week since we launched, we've had over 15,000 people do our surveys (Update: three days later, and we're now over 22,000...) and discover just how (ab)normal they are. One curious thing I've noticed while discussing "Are You Normal?" with people is that, at least among the people I talk to, most people assume that their normalcy rating will be very low. In fact, being "abnormal" seems to be what they're hoping for. The thing is, the system only calculates your rating based on what everybody else said, so if everybody's a bit strange, well... that's what's normal. It's what I really like about this application - the community decides what's normal, not us. We could have used some standard psychological test and given a stock answer, but everybody deserved to be judged by a jury of their peers, don't you think?
In case you're wondering: I'm 23% normal (and falling).
Which brings up the other interesting side-effect of the way we calculate the answers: that your rating can and does change over time. As more people answer, the most common set of answers changes slightly, effecting your rating against that "standard". To take advantage of this interesting side-effect of our rating system, a new feature we're planning is the ability to check your rating against specific groups - your own friends, for example. And when Facebook launches their new "contact grouping" feature, you may be able to compare yourself against particular sets of people - work, family, whatever. Let me know if you think this feature would be really interesting to you - if enough people call for it, I'll get the development team to move it up the schedule.
Some tidbits, gleaned from the results so far:
- 68% of people answering the surveys are very concerned about the environment, or are taking action to do something about climate change. 9% say they're not concerned, and a full 23% don't take either position, which is interesting.
- 9% describe themselves as conservative, 25% as liberal and the rest (65% or so) describe themselves as non-partisan or none of the above.
- 25% think that a family should have only a mommy and a daddy.
- 41% of parents lied, saying that having children hasn't effected their sex life ;-), the rest need to get away for the weekend.
- 45% wish that their kids knew more about their family history and culture
Cross-posted at the Kinzin Blog.
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
Extending and enhancing an existing network
Hey thanks for buying the power assited bike Michael.You're welcome. Thanks for letting me be a small part of it!
I think I asked a question about effective practices that each McRae alum could engage in immediately: (1) on existing social networks like Linkedin, Facebook and MySpace, and (2) what are the most effective ways we can project our power as a network, i.e., what are some good examples of other successful networks of people who have projected power?
A couple of answers that occurred to me:
RE: effective practices on existing social networks ...
Good introductory presentation on the changes that are effecting everyone.
- we need to be consistent in the name we use for our program. Because "the Program" has changed names some call it McRae, other APMCP, others Cap. Consistent name and tags would make our profiles and comments easier to find,
- be a good follower. Charles Caldwell introduce many of us McRae folks to Linked in within a year of its founding, most of us didn't take it seriously. Many still have not spend a lot of time moving their contacts in. I didn't spend anytime on Linkedin until I noticed that a guy who is at least 5 years older than me and commands millions (maybe billions) of investment funds and put $50-million into our project in China had 80 contacts there. For example, if someone opens McRae Facebook group ... join, comment ... it take seconds.
- do business with fellow alum, refer them for jobs, collaborate, coinvest, help your fellow lobsters out of the pot (Canadians usually spend thier time pulling each other back into the pot! who said pot?),
- practical recoms for the alum website - expand the profiles, add some mapping/geotagging, let each person add photos and attach business plans/documents to share to their profiles, add RSS feeds for each profile and the whole site so that when anyone contributes content the network gets the intel,
- I wonder if now is the right stage for philanthropy efforts. Sure if a fellow alum is running for a cause by all means, but if we are raising $20,000 as a group for something, should we be reinvesting directly in the network (improve website, hire someone to write a report on where the alum network goes from here, particularly if Cap is out of the picture completely).
Monday, August 27, 2007
How to organize yourselves
- Get involved in the Blogosphere. Create your own blog (typepad is good, so is wordpress. I use blogger). Find others who share your interest who blog, and comment on their blogs. Link to their blogs from your blog. Blog about their blogs. Strike up conversations. Talking, linking, and generally letting people know what you're about and that you want to connect is how it all begins.
- Get set up on LinkedIn. Make sure you fill out the "additional information" section at the bottom of your profile with relevant details of your interests and affiliations, and make sure your "contact settings" encourage people to contact you. Actively search for contacts, and invite people you know.
- Create or join a private or public discussion group. You can use Yahoo! Groups, Google groups, or Ning. Try to use them more than point-to-point communications like email and IM. These days, I like Pownce. ...and I hear Jumpnote is going to totally kick butt when it comes out of alpha.
- Most importantly, follow your passion: find out where people are already gathering and add your voice.
My first online social networking application (1982)
Dozens of us would call the request line and chat in between the rings. Can you imagine? "Oh yeah, I'm (ring) totally into Wall of (ring) Voodoo. 'Callbox' is the (ring) best song ever!"
Check out the article on page 8 of this old UBC student paper.
Warning: Some bad language in this video!
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
An equitable arrangement
Monday, July 30, 2007
How do you say Peer-to-peer in Mandarin?
Thursday, July 26, 2007
Update: More on bypassing the Banks
Now that Lending Club is available to Facebook members, person-to-person lending on Facebook is finally possible. “Chip wants to pay off his crazy 18% credit cards; can you chip in $100? You’ll get $110 next year, and even better, you’ll know you helped him out and you may also earn a seat at his debt-free celebration dinner.” Your real friends will even validate the purpose of your loan, and strengthen your desire to live up to it.And more formally:
Lending Club is an online lending community where people can borrow and lend money, bypass the banks, and get better rates. By working together, members can borrow money more easily and at a better rate than they would get from a bank, or invest in a portfolio of loans at higher rates than those served by savings accounts or CDs. A proprietary technology called LendingMatch™ helps match lenders with borrowers using connections established through social networks, associations and online communities, and build diversified portfolios based on lender preferences.Their blog has some interesting content discussing P2P lending, and financial advice more generally for the Facebook set. Some articles are quite interesting, including this one on loan pricing. LendingClub is currently open to Facebook users, and plans to expand beyond (presumably to other social networks) soon.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
On a personal note
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Kinzin beta update
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Thursday, March 29, 2007
Saturday, March 03, 2007
Monday, January 01, 2007
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Five things about me
- I'm a Jamaican citizen
- I once won a kickboxing match by knockout
- In 1978, I won three medals in the Jamaica national cultural festival (poetry, acting, and recital)
- I met my father for the first time when I was 27
- My great-grandmother was known for making a fantastic curry. One day, she brought home a young journalist named Winston (who later became very famous for other reasons) who had heard of her famous curry, and wanted to sample it.