Digital & Social

Is Your Competition Buying Its Likes?

The other day, I stumbled upon a little-known trick that can help Facebook Page admins analyze how they are doing in comparison to their competition. It’s all about how many people Like your page and your competition’s page, and analyzing that data as a performance benchmark.

But first, a quick disclaimer: I have yet to delve into Facebook’s “Pages to Watch” section as paranoia gets the better of me. Too many questions go unanswered — could Facebook one day inform Page admins of who is watching their page as encouragement to lure them into watching others? Given Facebook’s past with privacy, I’m continuing to hold off in those regards.

I digress.

What Your Competition’s Page Likes Can Tell You

Looking at the page of a competing blog, I was curious to understand why their page had so many more likes than mine. Clicking the “Likes” Tab (i.e. not “Likes” under the Page name) brought me to a page featuring a few insights about those likes. Here’s what this exposes to your competition:

1. Your Most Popular Week: The week when most people were talking about your Page. This includes any of that ever popular “reach” data and includes new Likes.

2. Most Popular City: The city where most people are talking about this Page.

3. Most Popular Age Group: Age demographic information on people talking about the Page.

4. Most Visited Week: The week during which the highest number of people checked in at that location.

And a few other items…

Analyzing The Competition

Now here’s where things get interesting. In questioning why this competitor had so many more likes that my Page, I noticed something astonishing and potentially quite revealing. Their most popular city was not just out of the country, it was from a place highly unlikely to generate that much discussion on the topic in question. My conclusion: It is highly probable the Page purchased these likes thus generating wildly skewed and somewhat deceiving results.

Another insight that led me to this deduction was the page’s engagement. Despite having a similar amount of posts, engagement too is fairly similar. This tells me that a much smaller percentage of people are engaging with their Page in comparison to mine.

Changes Over Time

A few weeks have passed and I’ve kept an eye on things. From South Africa to India, their “Most Popular City” eventually returned to the states.

This tells me a few things. First, maybe they didn’t buy their Likes; maybe they just aren’t influencing their target demographic. This is entirely possible, based on a review of their wall. Or maybe they’re posts have poor timing.

Either way, it’s not good.

More Harm Than Good

Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm tells the company how relevant content is to a viewer and dictates what shows up in fan feeds. Buying a slew of likes, then, may do more harm in a Page’s ability to show up in a feed. But that’s not all…

As Google and other search engines start placing more and more social proof into their page ranking consideration, seeing irrelevant Likes from overseas is likely to go the route of link building via guest blogging: Quality guest blogging is OK but guest blogging for SEO sake is not. Don’t be surprised if social proof re: Likes goes the same route in the very near future.

For further reading, check out this article by Jon Loomer on why you shouldn’t buy Likes.

Digital & Social

My First Experience with Facebook Graph Search

Facebook Graph Screen Shot

What people say about Facebook’s new Graph Search ranges from totally awesome to stalker-ish creepy. Articles have been published on how to use Graph Search to find a job. A Tumblr was created solely to show how revealing Actual Facebook Graph Searches can be.

Today I sat down and gave the new search engine a little test drive. My thoughts: it hits all the above quite firmly.

Now, some background. Last weekend, I took a little bike ride. Nothing too spectacular, just joined over 11,000 others on Group Health’s annual Seattle to Portland ride. Logged about 210 miles over the course of two days.

This was my third time completing the journey, and once again I stayed with family friends at the midpoint in Centralia, WA. Contrary to other two years, 2013 saw R.O. and W.O. hosting a larger group; there were about 20 of us there.

(For the sake of anonymity, I will refrain from using their real names and use first and last initials instead, despite what’s visible in the screen shot.)

I met a wonderful couple named C.M. and M.O. We three connected several times on the road the second day, and verbal plans were made to connect in the near future. The only problem: we didn’t exchange contact information.

Here’s what was known about the two:
• His and her first names only
• His place of work
• The city in which they reside
• A key interest of his

Within 5 minutes, I had located both individuals on Facebook using Graph. Here’s how I did it.

1. His First Name AND Employer
First I typed in his first name and his employer. This prompted me to click a search query for “People named ‘C.’ who work at ‘A.'” This yielded roughly 5 pages of results, none of which were C.M.

2. His First Name AND “In A Relationship” with Her First Name
No results. This means they haven’t made it official on Facebook.

3. His First Name AND Key Interest AND City of Residence
The results of this search far exceeded my interest to peruse them, so I took a different approach.

4. Her First Name AND City of Residence
Being that her first name is less common, it should have been my starting point. However, as I knew more information about him, that’s where I began. Searching with this query yielded a single page of results and she was in it.

5. Searching Her Friends for Him
Visiting her list of friends, I was able to locate him quickly.

These five steps took all of five minutes. Five minutes to locate people I know virtually nothing about outside of a few highly general facts. That’s scary accurate, a bit creepy, and — of course — totally awesome.

Were I more observant, I could have narrowed the results in #3 by the “Refine This Search” column to the right of the original results. This allows you to specify options like Gender, Relationship, Employer, Current City, Hometown, School and many more.

Yes, Facebook Graph Search is shaping up to be a bit of a game changer. With the quantity of information Facebook has logged on its users, it’s a bit surprising more people are up in arms about the NSA rather than shutting down their Facebook accounts.

Still, it’s power is that of sheer awesomeness… and will be until something embarrassing about you inevitably gets exposed. I’m sure we all have one or two things we wish we hadn’t shared, said, commented or liked on Facebook.

If you’re worried about that, two good reads include this Slate article on changing your privacy settings and this notable article from Mashable, the latter of which reminds us:

“It makes finding new things much easier, but you can only see what you could already view elsewhere on Facebook,” reads a Facebook press release.

Digital & Social

A Recap of my First Few Hours with Facebook’s Updated News Feed

I was a bit surprised to see a prompt for me to update my Facebook News Feed this morning. After all, they announced the updates last Thursday and Facebook hasn’t necessarily been the quickest at rolling out new features.

May be the company’s public status.

After spending a few hours this evening with the new layout, I must say I’m quite pleased. Aesthetically, the Feed is ultra clean and its functionality is much more modern. Check out the look below in this snapshot of a single post:

Facebook Updates News Feed 2013

Likewise, the Feed itself is vastly improved. Hover over the black bar at left in the image above and it expands to display navigation points including a link to your Profile, Pages you manage and those online you can message privately. Tagged individuals and Pages display in bold black text and link headlines are in a wonderful serif font.

Facebook Updates News Feed 2013

To the right, you’ll see the various feeds, a new feature that mimiks Google+ (not the only Google nod in this update). The multiple feeds option includes feeds for all the Most Recent posts, Music, personalized ones based on interestes (for example, I have custom feeds for Prairie High School, Washington State University, FensePost and the city of Mount Vernon), and more.

There’s also a Photos feed, a snapshot of which you can see below:

Facebook Updates News Feed 2013

More emphasis throughout the new Feeds is placed on stories; this includes images.

Personally, I love the new layout and look. Of late, Facebook has started to feel a bit stale, and I think the News Feed changes are just the thing the site needs to maintain its relevancy with those who, like myself, have been around since 2004.

These changes excite me, and while others will be adverse to the updates, this will be nothing new. Roll-outs such as these are often met with mixed feelings. For me, I praise the updates and look forward to what Facebook has in store for us with the updated Timeline (which I noted earlier has started rolling out in New Zealand).

Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Digital & Social

Facebook Updates Timeline & News Feed

Earlier today, Mashable touted that Facebook will be showing off updates to its News Feed on March 7.

The article also talks about the roll-out of Facebook’s updated Timeline, which is reported to be debuting in New Zealand. Check the link for photos.

Just now I posted a new video by Angel Olsen for her song “Sweet Dreams” and I noticed the video included a “Like Page” button – an element highlighted in the article. See the screen shot below:

Facebook Updates News Feed 2013

This has great potential for content generators and businesses alike. It does what Facebook does best. It makes the web more sharable.

If you haven’t yet, feel free to drop me a line on Facebook.