Friday, December 30, 2011

Why all the free ads for Facebook?

A while back I picked up a copy of the Evening Standard and was surprised to see Facebook and Twitter logos at the top of every page, suggesting readers follow ES on these two websites. And this is just an extreme example of what I’m seeing more and more. Ads on the telly and in newspapers no longer show the URL of the company’s website, but the URL of their Facebook page instead.

But the thing that confuses me is why big companies would choose Facebook as their main point of contact with their customers? Sure, social networks are the big thing at the moment and getting users to follow you or like your product might have some benefit, but there seem to be a number of downsides.

First, who owns all the data being collected about your customers? My guess is Facebook. Can you extract that data if Facebook decide they don’t want you anymore or you decide to move? I guess it’s probably possible via the Facebook API but it seems somewhat risky. And even if you do extract it, Facebook will no doubt keep hold of it as well.

Then there’s the question of ads. The company pages I’ve seen on Facebook seem to have the same ads as any other page. I’ve found no indication that companies get any of the income from those ads, so why drive traffic to Facebook so they can make money from your brand? And what if Facebook decide to show ads for one of your competitors?

Frankly it all seems a bit odd. Big companies have big IT departments and generally have their own websites, fully under their control. It is pretty simple to add some Facebook widgets to your own site and get integration that way which seems a more sane approach if you want to get hooked into Facebook.

For a one man band kind of company, I can see the sense in putting you web presence on Facebook, it’s a lot simpler and cheaper than building your own website, but for multi-nationals my prediction for 2012 is that this is something they do much less of.

Monday, December 26, 2011

I am Sheldon…

Sheldon / Doogal

…with a somewhat larger waste line, somewhat smaller IQ and hopefully with less OCD tendencies.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Goodbye Google Friend Connect

I’ve been disenchanted with Google Friend Connect for a while. I only used it for commenting on my website but it has a number of weaknesses

  • A crappy user experience
  • No notifications of new comments, which is a pain if you only receive a handful of comments
  • Ignoring query strings in URLs, so comments don’t stick to the right page
  • Weird date formatting and no control over how they appear

For a long while I assumed Google would actually update the widgets but I’m not sure anything ever got changed after the initial release. It was released and then, nothing. Even a visit to the site shows a copyright notice from 2009, which suggests they haven’t done much with it for some time.

So I had been meaning to convert to some other system but just hadn’t got round to it. Then I noticed Google have decided to can it (which of course hasn’t been mentioned anywhere on the Friend Connect site itself), so I decided it was time to finally do something. Google’s suggested solution is to hook into Google+, but that seems like a pretty useless way to add commenting to a website. So my suggested solution is to sign up to Disqus, it takes about 10 minutes to plug it in to your website and looks pretty good straight out of the box.