Facebook fan page updates

Facebook updated the design and features of its Facebook Pages last week. For business owners, the upgrade will make it easier to market your business pages. Among other things, you can now “be the page,” which allows you to use Facebook with your business identity, instead of your personal one.

In the top-right navigation, under Account, you will now find a “Use Facebook as Page” option, which lets you switch identities.

For other insights: The Social Path gives a nifty to-do list to take advantage of the new setup. Simply Zesty highlights the best new features. And Econsultancy offers a marketers take on the upgrade.

How big is you amygdala?

Is there nothing that research endowments won’t fund?

A team of researchers has found a link between the size of our amygdala, the epicenter of our emotions, and the size and complexity of our social networks. The bigger the amygdala, the bigger and more complex the network.

… Although the study doesn’t determine causation, like whether a bigger amygdala leads to a bigger social network and vice versa, the research does suggest an evolutionary aspect to the size of our amygdalas as socializing becomes more complex.

“To get along while getting ahead, it is necessary to learn who is who, who is friend and who is foe. It might be productive to form an alliance with certain group members in one context, but to outmaneuver them in another,” the researchers wrote.

Glad we got that cleared up.

Facebook, Twitter and you

Digital Surgeons has a tidy little chart comparing the two heavy hitters on the social media circuit. While it’s not immediately clear how useful — or accurate — the information is, the info-graphic provides a fast overview of the two sites’ user bases.

Some highlights:

  • Facebook has 500 million users (70% outside the U.S.)
  • Twitter  has 106 million (60% outside the U.S.)
  • Both sites attract more women than men
  • 40% of Facebook users follow a brand
  • Of that 40%, 67% plan to purchase that specific brand

Such global trends are reflected here in Cambodia, too. The number of local Facebook users has skyrocketed over the past 6 months. Cambodia now claims nearly 200,000 Facebook users, up more than 300% since June.

Many of those new users are local businesses who are now making meaningful connections with new customers and strengthening relationships with old ones.

It’s dead simple to create a Facebook fan page.

Being memorable is a bit more challenging, but not impossible. (For starters: Mashable offers a quick intro to custom landing pages; Tech Crunch showcases 12 plugins that help; Hyper Arts provides an excellent tutorial for the keen do-it-yourselfer; and Custom Facebook Pages serves up a huge gallery for inspiration.)

Fan page promotion is not nearly as difficult as many people imagine, either. In fact, if there is a prevailing wisdom on how to best promote your Facebook page, the idea epitomizes the Renaissance Slacker ethos: Don’t try too hard.

Email is ‘so lame’

Email, apparently, is now “old school.”

The number of total unique visitors in the United States to major e-mail sites like Yahoo and Hotmail is now in steady decline, according to the research company comScore. Such visits peaked in November 2009 and have since slid 6 percent; visits among 12- to 17-year-olds fell around 18 percent. (The only big gainer in the category has been Gmail, up 10 percent from a year ago.)

The slide in e-mail does not reflect a drop in digital communication; people have just gravitated to instant messaging, texting and Facebook (four billion messages daily).

That Facebook is the new new should come as no surprise.

Lena Jenny, 17, a high school senior in Cupertino, Calif., said texting was so quick that “I sometimes have an answer before I even shut my phone.” E-mail, she added, is “so lame.”

Facebook is trying to appeal to the Lenas of the world. It is rolling out a revamped messaging service that is intended to feel less like e-mail and more like texting.

The company decided to eliminate the subject line on messages after its research showed that it was most commonly left blank or used for an uninformative “hi” or “yo.”

Facebook also killed the “cc” and “bcc” lines. And hitting the enter key can immediately fire off the message, à la instant messaging, instead of creating a new paragraph. The changes, company executives say, leave behind time-consuming formalities that separate users from what they crave: instant conversation.

Facebook, of course, has a horrifying record regarding security and privacy. The site is literally an Openbook. So what will happen once it owns half a billion people’s private messages? If nothing else, it’s going to be funny.

Google settles for $8.5 million in Buzz privacy lawsuit

I hadn’t even heard about this. But in April, a group of Gmail users sued Google over privacy violations regarding Google Buzz, the search giant’s underwhelming attempt at social networking. Google settled yesterday for $8.5 million. Gmail users, however, will not see a cent.

The Plaintiffs allege that Google automatically enrolled Gmail users in Buzz, and that Buzz publicly exposed data, including users’ most frequent Gmail contacts, without enough user consent. Google denies the accuracy of Plaintiffs’ allegations and denies that it violated any law or caused any harm by the launch of Google Buzz.

Under the Settlement, Google will establish an $8.5 million Common Fund to fund organizations focused on Internet privacy policy or privacy education, as well as to cover lawyers’ fees and costs and other expenses. Google will also do more to educate users about the privacy aspects of Google Buzz.

By and large, it appears that most people just don’t care about online privacy, as the never-ending Facebook fiascos can attest. (Despite the habitual misuse of private data, people still flock to Facebook by the millions.) The tiny minority who protest this kind of abuse need support from us all. Because without them, the corporate titans of the world wouldn’t have even the slightest reason for pause.

Eric Butler’s new ‘hack Facebook’ plugin for Firefox

Oh the mischief this new Firefox plugin is going to cause.

Firesheep adds a sidebar to Mozilla’s Firefox browser that shows when anyone on an open network — such as a coffee shop’s Wi-Fi network — visits an insecure site. “Double-click on someone [in the sidebar] and you’re instantly logged on as them,” said [plugin author Eric] Butler in his short description of his add-on.

Computer World says the Firesheep add-on has been downloaded more than 50,000 times since it was released Sunday. You can download Firesheep from Butler’s Web site. It’s extremely easy to install: just download the .xpi file; drag it to a Firefox window; and restart.

And it’s not just Facebook that Butler’s plugin makes double-click hackable, either. Others include:

  • Amazon.com
  • Basecamp
  • bit.ly
  • CNET
  • Dropbox
  • Facebook
  • Flickr
  • Foursquare
  • Google
  • Gowalla
  • Windows Live
  • Tumblr
  • Twitter
  • WordPress
  • Yahoo
  • Yelp
  • and others

The plugin is relatively easy to customize, too, meaning that someone with not much more than basic programming skills could easily add other domains to Firesheep’s default list. TechCrunch offers a pretty thorough explanation of how Firesheep works and the plugin’s impact, as well as a possible defense. The truth is, though, using the Internet on a public Wi-Fi network is inherently insecure. But that isn’t news, is it?

A map of online communities

At first glance, the Map of Online Communities (2010 update) looks like so much more social network geekery.

Even upon closer inspection, it’s mostly just more social network geekery. Still, it’s a fascinating graphic — not only because the mountain of hours it must have taken to complete, but because the map quickly illustrates the complete contours on the entire social networking world, from Facebook as the massive, dominating China-esque center, to Twitter to Skype to YouTube, and a whole raft of lesser states. The map shows where people are most active in the online world. And where they are not. Strategize accordingly.

(HINT: You cannot afford to overlook Facebook.)

More privacy troubles for Facebook

Facebook — for reasons of apathy, negligence or worse — still cannot secure the private details of its users.

Many of the most popular applications, or “apps,” on the social-networking site Facebook Inc. have been transmitting identifying information—in effect, providing access to people’s names and, in some cases, their friends’ names—to dozens of advertising and Internet tracking companies, a Wall Street Journal investigation has found.

The issue affects tens of millions of Facebook app users, including people who set their profiles to Facebook’s strictest privacy settings. The practice breaks Facebook’s rules, and renews questions about its ability to keep identifiable information about its users’ activities secure.

This unlikely will be the last time that the personal details of Facebook users get exploited for company benefit. Since its earliest beginnings, Facebook has gobsmacked many with its profoundly cynical privacy policies. At first, people were outraged. Then they were just angry. Now, the site is so large and so popular, and it has been pimping its users’ data for so long, that news of more blatant privacy violations elicits hardly more than a sigh.

I guess Zuckerberg was right after all.

Blogging and SEO

Every person I talk to wants to be top 10 in Google.

Ranking well, however, is just the means to an end. And the best SEO gurus will tell you that SERP rankings are a poor measure of success.

What Web site owners really want, or course, is more traffic, more leads, more customers and, let’s be honest, more payola.

But how do you get there?

Social media provides one of the easiest ways to kick start your online marketing. While there are literally thousands, if not millions, of sites and tools out there that fit the “social media” definition, there are only three that matter: blogging, Facebook and Twitter. (Tumblr, so sayeth The Times, may soon make it four.)

A blog is the closest thing to an online marketing panacea that the interwebs have to offer. A good blog guarantees your Web site has fresh content. (That alone is worth two gallons of Google juice.) Blog posts filter out through social media channels like Facebook and Twitter, and posts can be effortlessly pushed out to blog trackers such as Technorati, Google Blog Search and IceRocket.

A blog guarantees your site gets an RSS feed. And a good blog improves your site’s chances of reaching people interested in knowing more about your offerings and your industry. A really good blog can establish you as an expert in your field, or define you and your organization as thought leaders. And a blog gives people who reach your Web site something worthwhile to view, instead of lamo stock images or worse, completely irrelevant content used simply to take up space.

With a little focus, keyword rich blog posts can also improve your visibility in the rankings.

All of that and more from a single, regularly updated blog. And there’s a whole cottage industry of site-makers out there developing tools to make it all one-click simple. Twitterfeed automatically publishes your blog posts to Facebook and Twitter. Ping-o-matic updates more than 20 search engines. That means blog once and hit Facebook, Twitter and dozens of other smaller players with a single click.

A recent blog post (what else?) from Marketing Sherpa titled “Blogs are Becoming the New Front Door for Prospects: Is Yours Open?” highlights the skyrocketing importance of the blog. Although the story is aimed at business-to-business marketers, the same concepts hold just as true, if not more so, for B2C sites.

In Marketing Sherpa’s research, many businesses reported that their blog page had overtaken their home page as their site’s No. 1 entry point. One company reported a 4x increase in traffic, a 3x-4x increase in the amount of time viewers spent on the site, a huge jump on Google rankings and a 70% increase in inbound leads.