The meaning of 100 million Facebook likes

ShakiraColombian singer Shakira has set a new social media record after becoming the first person ever to reach 100 million likes on Facebook. The milestone has formally been recognized by Guinness World Records.

In its report, TheJournal.ie says that the only other page which has more likes than hers is Facebook’s own Facebook page. And 100 million likes has a sharp perspective when you consider it from a metrics point of view as The Wall Street Journal does:

[...] That’s 8% of Facebook’s universe of 1.28 billion monthly active users around the world.

The Journal also notes in its credible report that along with her Facebook fame comes spam, fakes and other headaches, undoubtedly needing an army of overseers to run the Shakira brand on Facebook (and elsewhere on the social web).

And Shakira herself – what does she think of this pinnacle of fan love? Guinness World Records reports her saying in a video message:

“I am honoured and humbled about reaching this milestone, because it’s one that’s purely about connecting with my fans from all parts of the globe. Social media and specifically Facebook has helped myself and other artists bridge the gap between the stage and the audience.  We’ve been able to create a conversation, where both artists and fans can share with one another their thoughts, achievements, the most important moments of their lives in photographs and videos, and have a real, ongoing dialogue.”

And Facebook?

Justin Osofsky, Facebook’s VP of Global Operations and Media Partnerships, said: “The combination of Shakira’s global appeal, her authentic engagement with fans and her use of Facebook as a multi-media platform has positioned her to achieve the incredible milestone of 100M fans.”

Creating a conversation, authentic engagement and a platform where those things happen. A powerful combination.

Take a look at Shakira’s Facebook page (that now shows well beyond 100 million likes).

Would you be happier without Facebook?

99 Days of Freedom

If you were not happy – outraged, even – with how Facebook behaved over the mood experiment they conducted last month, an experiment from a Dutch creative agency might be right up your street.

What Facebook did was manipulate information posted on nearly 700,000 users’ home pages that showed that the social network could make people feel more positive or negative through a process of emotional contagion.

Now Dutch creative agency Just has come up with 99 Days of Freedom, a call to action for Facebook users to demonstrate their disapproval of Facebook by switching off from the social network for 99 days.

[...It] asks users to refrain from Facebook use for a period of 99 consecutive days and report back on how the hiatus affects personal notions of happiness. The initiative’s website, 99daysoffreedom.com, provides a set of simple user instructions, which include posting a “time-off” image as a profile picture and starting a personalized, 99-day countdown clock. From there, participants are asked to complete anonymous “happiness surveys” at the 33, 66 and 99-day marks, with results posted to the initiative’s website as they’re compiled. The initiative will also host a message board through which participants can post anonymous accounts of how an extended break from Facebook is impacting their lives.

It’s a kind of mood experiment in reverse.

It’s also a cool initiative that gets Just a lot of attention for its imagination and creativity, as well as for the initiative itself. If it gets traction, it could focus considerable public attention on broad issues of online behaviours, manipulation of those behaviours by social networks, what companies do with our personal information, how we spend time online, etc – all hot topics today and great ones for ongoing public debate and discussion.

In its press release announcing 99 Days of Freedom, Just also talks about the amount of time people spend on Facebook:

[...] According to Facebook, its 1.2 billion users spend an average of 17 minutes per day on the site, reading updates, following links or browsing photos. Over a three-month period, that adds up to more than 28 hours which, the initiative’s creators contend, could be devoted to more emotionally fulfilling activities – learning a new skill, performing volunteer work or spending time (offline) with friends and family.

The subjective conclusion will appeal to many users, to be sure. My view is that many other users will be quite comfortable from an emotionally-fulfilling perspective – or any other one – with spending 28 hours on Facebook during any three-month period.

You could apply the same argument to Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn… Horses for courses.

Still, 99 Days of Freedom is an interesting experiment and it will be equally interesting to see how it goes, how many people sign up to do it – 16,748 when I looked at the website just now – and what conclusions arise at the end of each person’s 99 days. I’d love to see a brand try it!

Give it a go?

Enjoy life!

 

Valuable insights in 2014 #InternetTrends report by Mary Meeker

netflix-chromecast.jpg

Last week, US venture capitalist and former Wall Street securities analyst Mary Meeker published her 2014 Internet Trends report that offers a deep-dive look into the trends, possibilities, probabilities, scope and scale of what the global connected world will look like in the coming few years.

It highlights trends to pay attention to, offering keen insights into what’s shaping this connected world:

  1. Key internet trends showing slowing internet user growth but strong smartphone, tablet and mobile data traffic growth as well as rapid growth in mobile advertising.
  2. Emerging positive efficiency trends in education and healthcare.
  3. High-level trends in messaging, communications, apps and services.
  4. Data behind the rapid growth in sensors, uploadable / findable / shareable data, data mining tools and pattern recognition.
  5. Context on the evolution of online video.
  6. Observations about online innovation in China.

At 164 pages, the slide deck is huge in its scope, and a challenge to decipher detailed meaning from just a deck without the benefit of hearing its creator talk you through it (she did that at the event last week for which she had prepared the deck).

Many others are filling the vacuum to do that. I have some thoughts, too, on a few areas from the 164 slides. I expand on that below, but if you want to just feast on all of Meeker’s data right now, here’s the deck:

Last year’s 2013 Internet Trends report was 117 pages, a slim volume by comparison. Indeed, I found it it a relatively simple matter to quickly glean and absorb insights from her deck to come up with what I saw in May 2013 as fifteen big trends for the evolving digital age.

A year later, how does the landscape look?

Here are three elements from the 2014 report that caught my attention (and imagination).

1. The rise of the mobile internet and the mobile devices that people want to use on the web are irresistible

The first aspect is the steady increase in shipments of smartphones (Wikipedia definition) worldwide since 2009 …

mm2014slide06

…  and, in tandem, the rocketing growth in tablet (Wikipedia definition) shipments which overtook shipments of desktop and notebook PCs at the end of 2012/beginning of 2013.

And notice the massive uptick in tablet shipments that started at the end of the first quarter in 2013 …

mm2014slide07

… which makes it easy to understand in the context of the increasing numbers of people accessing content on the web via mobile devices like smartphones and tablets in May 2014 compared to the same time in 2013. While there isn’t a slide to show how connectivity – whether wired, wireless or cellular – is growing everywhere, these figures surely provide convincing evidence that that is what’s happening.

And global mobile usage average has almost doubled year on year, broadly reflecting the detail in each of the regions measured.

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What these metrics say to me is this: if your presence on the web isn’t attuned to mobile – meaning, your site delivers the content people want and a great experience they expect when they come to you on their mobile devices – you’re in serious trouble.

2. The evolution of mobile apps

If using the web on a mobile device is increasing at a rapid pace as smartphones and tablets eclipse desktops and laptops, the requirement for mobile tools – apps – to let you do what you want on your mobile connected device is equally increasing at a rapid pace …

mm2014slide40

… where those apps are evolving into tools of genuine utility for the user, that let you do certain things very well.

So instead of being all things to all men, so to speak, many apps are shifting into specific use formats …

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… that offer you context-aware interactions that, as TechCrunch notes, are purpose-built and informed by contextual signals like hardware sensors to interact with you in far more compelling ways than at present to maximize their usefulness to you.

3. Game changers for mobile TV and video consumption

Meeker’s slide deck has a great deal of content about the rise of personalized television where you the user define what the content is that you will watch and where you get it from (think of custom user preferencing in Netflix and Chromecast, as examples of this), and how you control it.

Consumers increasingly expect to watch TV content on their own terms.

I have a good example: watching a film that’s delivered from Netflix where I control its output with my smartphone or tablet to play on my digital smart television via wifi connection to the Chromecast dongle plugged in to the HDMI port on the TV. No traditional TV broadcaster in this transmission/consumption equation at all.

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For me, this text slide summarizes very well the key aspects of all this, the “televisual game changers.”

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And so, a small subset of the compelling content in Mary Meeker’s 164 pages of metrics and insights that make up her Internet Trends 2014 report. My focus has very much been on mobile. That’s by accident and by design – I didn’t plan this post to be like that, yet all the things that grabbed my attention that I’ve written about here are all to do with mobile.

Well, maybe not everything. Big data trends, for instance.

mm2014slide60

Do review the full deck and see what strikes you as compelling. And some of the other reporting on it is pretty good, adding to the ways in understanding what the report is about:

Download the PDF report here: 2014 Internet Trends By Mary Meeker or view the deck on Slideshare.

How up-to-speed are you about mobile?

If you use social web services like Instagram, Vine or Snapchat, you’re probably aware that these particular services are very much designed for use on mobile devices. By 98 percent, 99 percent and 100 percent of users, respectively, to be precise.

How clear are you on other popular services? Twitter, for instance? Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr or LinkedIn? What’s the primary way in which people use those?

A handy chart by Statista offers some clarity.

Mobile first

86 percent of Twitter users are mobile-first in their use of the platform. I’d say one reason the percentage isn’t higher still is because many people (like me, for instance) use the service on multiple platforms depending on where they are, what they’re doing and what device they happen to be using. The “Twitter experience” is pretty good across all devices.

In contrast, LinkedIn is still largely a fixed-location-first type of usage, with only 26 percent on mobile. Maybe that reflects its user demographic (business people) as well as its less-than-stellar experience via mobile devices.

This snapshot view from December 2013 illustrating how most social networks are now mobile-first in their usage is yet another pointer to the bigger picture on what’s happening across the online world. It’s a picture of the US but it is a credible indicator of much of the global online world.

That’s borne out in a detailed sharing of metrics from Forrester Research in 2014 Mobile Trends, a 43-slide deck posted on Slideshare in February that offers credible perspectives in three key areas:

  1. How will mobile transform business?
  2. What will happen in 2014?
  3. What won’t happen in 2014?

The “What will happen…” section includes a really interesting prediction:

  • New mobile-centric ad formats will emerge
  • More mobile ad network will shift to the exchanges
  • Short videos (5 to 10 seconds) will make a greater impact on consumers, taking advantage of higher engagement levels with video on mobile

Look at that Statista chart, above, again.

In the “What won’t happen…” section, Forrester says wearable technology won’t move past a niche market: it’s still experiment time. (I’m looking forward to seeing what the 2014 hype cycle on emerging technologies from Gartner, due within the next month or so, shows about wearable tech.)

2014 Mobile Trends from Forrester Research

Insights worth understanding.

(Statista chart via Paul Fabretti)

Don’t let your #heartbleed over web security

HeartbleedOne word that’s been all over the web this past week is ‘Heartbleed.”

Together with a highly-visible image, it has been the focus of much commentary and opinion, some of it contradictory, some of it confusing.

Heartbleed is a major security vulnerability on the internet, one that I’ve seen described as “11 on a a scale of 1 to 10” where 10 equals ‘catastrophe.’

All of the focus has led to widespread public awareness on an international level of what Heartbleed is,  and why people need to give it their attention. What is hasn’t yet done is lead to widespread public understanding on what is a sensible course of action that individuals and organizations can take to address it.

Some people say you should change all your online passwords to ensure that your access to websites you use that require passwords isn’t compromised. Others disagree.

Heartbleed in RSS feed

With so much FUD out there – you should see the quantity of varied content about Heartbleed in my RSS reader – it’s hard to know in lay terms what you should actually do that will give you confidence that you’ve done the right thing.

Well, there are some simple and rapid first steps you can take.

Regarding places online that you use and that are essential services from your point of view – that might include social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn; and services like online banking, email and shopping – your first step should be to check with the services concerned to see what they say about Heartbleed.

For instance, LinkedIn – when I visited the website in recent days, I saw a prominent message in a top-of-screen banner that says, in essence, that LinkedIn hasn’t been affected at all by Heartbleed.

LinkedIn Heartbleed banner

I didn’t see any such message in accessing LinkedIn via its Android app, though.

I was reassured to see a clear message about Heartbleed from Lloyds Bank when I logged in to the online banking site on Saturday, saying “we would like to reassure our customers that our online banking systems are not exposed to this vulnerability.”

Lloyds Bank Heartbleed message

That’s precisely the kind of message you want to look for from any service you use online. And proactively so – just like LinkedIn and Lloyds Bank – rather than not knowing and having to ask.

If you use the Google Chrome browser on a Windows computer, you can install the Chromebleed Checker extension that runs in the background checking every website you visit. It displays a warning if a site you’re visiting might be affected by the Heartbleed bug.

Chromebleed Checker alert

Quite disconcerting when an alert does pop up! But it offers no information on what to do or where to get more details or help. Note the “could be vulnerable…” text. And see the mixed reviews.

Still, it may serve a good purpose in bringing the broad issue of security to the closer attention of website users and owners.

As for changing passwords, I think you need to be a bit circumspect. It seems to me that there’s little point in doing a wholesale change-every-password activity unless:

  • you know or feel concerned that you can no longer trust a particular online place,
  • you know for sure that it’s compromised and therefore not safe, or
  • a particular site has told you to change your password.

And consider this – there is no point in changing your password for a site you think might be affected by Heartbleed but you don’t really know for sure as your new password will be just as much at risk as the old one if the site actually is vulnerable but hasn’t fixed the vulnerability yet.

A good start would be listing every service you use online that’s important to you, asking those services about Heartbleed (and searching online for what’s being said about that service in this context), and then making a decision about passwords.

Mashable published a useful list of many social networks and other companies’ sites with information that helped Mashable recommend whether to change your password or not.

mashablelistheartbleed

Mashable’s recommendation for most of the social networks in the list is “change your password!”

Those sites are Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr. Keep an eye on the sites of the services you use to look for news about patches or fixes, as well as their Twitter handles and other social places they also use. And email.

But there’s more.

CNN reports that Heartbleed doesn’t just affect websites, it also has shown up in the devices we use to connect to the internet.

[...] Tech giants Cisco and Juniper have identified about two dozen networking devices affected by Heartbleed, including servers, routers, switches, phones and video cameras used by small and large businesses everywhere. The companies are also reviewing dozens more devices to determine whether they’re impacted by the bug as well.

ZDNet reports that iOS and OS X  – Apple’s operating systems for its mobile devices and computers respectively – don’t have the Heartbleed bug but Blackberry’s BBM for iOS and Android do.

[...] BlackBerry has now confirmed that several of its products, including BBM for iOS and Android were affected by the Heartbleed. BBM has about 80 million users. Other BlackBerry products affected include its rival to Samsung’s Knox, Secure Work Space for iOS and Android, and BlackBerry Link for Windows and Mac OS.

BlackBerry doesn’t have a patch for any of the products yet, but worse yet there are “no mitigations” for the vulnerability in BBM or Secure Work Spaces.

According to ZDNet, Google said that Android 4.1.1, Jelly Bean, was affected by the bug and it was developing a patch and distributing it to Android partners. 

A complex and alarming landscape we find ourselves navigating today with a huge amount of information swirling out there but not enough clarity yet.

Don’t be caught out through not taking some common-sense steps to protect your information (and identity). Make sure you install any software updates or patches for your mobile devices as they become available.

Above all, make sure you have strong and unique passwords for all the important-to-you places you use. Yes, it’s a pain to have to make separate and unique hard-to-remember passwords for every place you use rather than one or a few passwords, named after your cat or your first date, for everything.

Just say to yourself: “Prudence is a virtue.”

And while you’re at it, I strongly suggest you use two-factor authentication wherever it’s available (here’s why).

Additional reading about Heartbleed:

  • The Heartbleed Bug: “The Heartbleed Bug is a serious vulnerability in the popular OpenSSL cryptographic software library. This weakness allows stealing the information protected, under normal conditions, by the SSL/TLS encryption used to secure the Internet. SSL/TLS provides communication security and privacy over the Internet for applications such as web, email, instant messaging (IM) and some virtual private networks (VPNs)…”
  • Here’s everything you need to know about the Heartbleed web security flaw by Mathew Ingram in GigaOm: “Researchers have discovered a serious flaw known as Heartbleed that affects the security software that runs on about two-thirds of the servers on the internet and could expose user data, including passwords…”
  • The Heartbleed Hit List: The Passwords You Need to Change Right Now by the Mashable Team: “An encryption flaw called the Heartbleed bug is already being called one of the biggest security threats the Internet has ever seen. The bug has affected many popular websites and services – ones you might use every day, like Gmail and Facebook – and could have quietly exposed your sensitive account information (such as passwords and credit card numbers) over the past two years…”
  • PR pros: Comms response to Heartbleed must be proactive and quick by PR Week US edition: “The Heartbleed computer bug that has left many websites vulnerable and open to data theft this week could affect more than Internet Web servers, according to security experts. Since the encryption flaw surfaced on [April 7], it has affected companies including Amazon.com, Google, and Yahoo…
  • Here’s why it took 2 years for anyone to notice the Heartbleed bug by Timothy B. Lee in Vox: “What caused the Heartbleed Bug that endangered the privacy of millions of web users this week? On one level, it looks like a simple case of human error. A software developer from Germany contributed code to the popular OpenSSL software that made a basic, but easy-to-overlook mistake. The OpenSSL developer who approved the change didn’t notice the issue either, and (if the NSA is telling the truth) neither did anyone else for more than 2 years…”

Twitter eight years on

Public. Real-Time. Conversational. Distributed.

Today marks the eighth anniversary of Twitter, the communication platform that is globally ubiquitous today, the eleventh most-visited website in the world.

From co-founder Jack Dorsey‘s first tweet on this day, March 21, in 2006, the number of active users of the service now exceed 240 million per month worldwide who tweet in more than 35 languages, with over three-quarters of people now using Twitter on a mobile device. Users range from the average Joe to celebrities, big brands, the mainstream media, presidents and PRs.

Who would have imagined Twitter would become such an integral part of the way in which a lot of people connect with others and with things that interest them?

Twitter monthly active users

The platform (for that is what Twitter is) has changed in these eight years from the cosy curiosity of public and private text messaging between geeky early adopters in a little social network out of San Francisco to a sophisticated service from a publicly-listed company that reported annual revenues of over $660 million in 2013, and that now lets you record and share short videos and lets governments and other organizations alert you to emergencies.

I first heard about Twitter in early summer of 2006 and joined in December 2006, mainly because I wanted to see for myself what others I knew were increasingly talking about. The service really began to take off after SXSW Interactive in March 2007.

From the communicator’s perspective, there’s no doubting the value of this tool today as a method of listening to what people are talking about – a foundational step in communication planning, something you do before you start talking. It also offers you terrific opportunities to engage with others once you do start talking.

In my view, there’s no right or wrong way to use Twitter from the business communication perspective, only effective or ineffective ways. And like all online communication tools and channels, Twitter is a mirror on the behaviours of people, reflecting what they say and do.

Just like the real world.

To mark this milestone, Twitter posted #FirstTweet, a nifty tool that lets you find your first tweet.

#FirstTweet

Mark your milestone.