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Introducing: Mastering Facebook in Kindle and Paperback

I'm excited to announce that I've turned the last 2+ years of Facebook blog posts into a book focused on Facebook: exciting campaigns, product development, virality, and platform developments. There are 200+ screenshots in the book and it's an easy / fun / visual read. The book, Mastering Facebook, is available:

- On Kindle, full color and links are enabled - Paperback, black and white - Paperback, color - unfortunately expensive due to 200+ screenshots - but looks good!) Enjoy!

More Thoughts on Facebook Messages / Facebook Email

I don't claim to be great at email... But I am *way* worse on Facebook messages.

It is embarrassing how many emails I have missed over the months... and I should get some blame for those mistakes - but the product should get at least as much. Things just get lost and it's more of a chat product than an email product. ... which wouldn't be an issue if I weren't getting so many messages via Facebook (kudos and a sign of growth / FB as indentity platform).

I have 3 inboxes now: Polaris, Gmail, Facebook. Each is equally important and very different. And each has issues. Doing email just isn't as easy as it should be =(

I've written about this before:

- Facebook Messages: Uncomfortably Somewhere Between Chat, Messages & Email. - It’s Time for Facebook to Rethink Email.

Some other quick ideas: - allow me to separate chat and email. - integrate messages into iPhone mailbox (either integration or forwarding). - pull chat into an actual chat application (desktop) and email into an email experience. Gmail does this well. Learn from it.

- biggest move & most obvious move? Really build out an email product. why not? Facebook has become more of an identity platform than a pure social network. That's a more valuable stance, by the way. Email (and my email address) are a key part of online identity. Google knows this well...

Twitter's Role in the NBA Lockout. Fascinating.

Sports fans today got a Black Friday present: the 149 day NBA lockout is on the verge on ending. And the result is a good thing for fans: the season will be 66 games (a better result than the normal 82!), result in greater league parity (ala the NFL), lead to a healthier league (good for everyone), and create a whirlwind December free agency period (the surprisingly great outcome of the NFL lockout). The lockout was painful, mismanaged on both sides and generally could have been avoided... or at least handled far differently and far earlier. But the 2011-2012 season is saved and hopefully goodness comes from the ugly.

One of the most interesting and overlooked aspects was the role Twitter played in a world where:

- players couldn't communicate with the league

- players themselves were not entirely knowledgeable of the latest events / outcomes

- both sides were feeling significant pressure from the public (pressure is a soft word here for disgust for most and hate for some)

- both sides were starved for communication outlets

So everyone took the Twitter: the league, the owners and the players. Some were trying to position themselves, some trying to save face and others trying to voice their opinion in a public manner (since it wasn't being heard privately). Fascinating.

So why Twitter was so important here? First, the NBA and its players could feel the public's disgust... far more publicly. In prior strikes / lockouts, the fans didn't have as much power as they do today. And in prior situations, nobody had the outlets they do today: players and owners were able to immediately express frustration, anger, etc... and to huge audiences. The result was a very public negotiation that made many of those involved come across as confused, desperate, disjointed and/or displeased.

Nevertheless, it provided a platform for all constituents to amplify their voice... and to listen. And while that was debatably an effective / ineffective exercise - it was terrifically powerful for the fans.

Here are some examples:

Miami Heat owner Micky Arison (@mickyarison) took to Twitter to express his thankfulness to his fans. This was retweeted by the NBA (@nba). Takeaway: comes across as desperate.

NBA player Luis Scola (@lscola4) took to Twitter at a time when there was debate within the players union as to whether they should pass the league's proposal. There players were beginning to fracture and many had expressed confusion over the proposal's specifics. In one of these tweets, Luis asks the NBA a question directly and publicly. Takeaway: shows player disjointedness and general player confusion with process / outcome... which shows weakness.

Here's an example of Chris Sheridan (former ESPN NBA writer) and Luis. Chris posted a critical piece about the lockout and Luis retweeted it. Takeaway: fascinating as it shows the players are reading the commentary and clearly trying to share certain opinions.

This is my favorite one. The NBA took to Twitter to do a fan Q&A session about the lockout. It was in an effort to engage fans, show appreciation and help communicate... but it was a terrible idea (and I'm shocked anyone in PR allowed this to happen). It lead to fans spewing negativity, players tweeting questions, and the league being forced to answer uncomofortable questions. Takeaway: trying to do something positive but no an intelligent move.

It's Time for Facebook to Rethink Email.

I have no sense of the numbers - but the volume of 'emails' sent through Facebook's Messages platform must be a scale comparable to the bigger email hosts (ie GMail). Sure the product, the usage and the content is different - but the point remains: Facebook Messages is really, really big. As a Chat / SMS substitute (location, pictures, one-liners, etc), Facebook Messages is terrific and particularly great as a stand alone iPhone app.

But for email usage, Facebook Messages is really unusable. Why?

- Emails get lost far too quickly

- The interface is clearly aimed at SMS & feed-like interactions

- It lacks normal email activities: folders, search, stars, etc.

- It relies on notifications to drive engagement... but notifications are too transient and work great for feeds, not for email.

- It integrates nicely with Contacts and Events (two core components of email environments) - but those are again suited for social setting and not email settings.

So if Facebook created the Messages product to serve SMS & feed activities... and they built a great solution / experience for that - what am I complaining about?

Users are clearly looking for a truer email experience inside Facebook. I know this because I get dozens of emails to my Facebook account each week. In fact, I get more Messages akin to emails than I do to Chats. And I conclude the way I do on most LinkedIn messages: "Thanks! Please email me at rspoon@...com." I have to - I know it will get lost in the pile of Messages on Facebook.

That's a poor expierence and a poor outcome. Particularly considering I already have rspoon@facebook.com and would gladly create & manage an inbox (or on my iPhone, etc).

It's time to build a true email environment. Perhaps it sits beside Chat & Messages, but Facebook needs Email. Users are making due already.

HBO Go: Delightful, Albeit Inefficient, Exploration. And That's Fine By Me.

Below is a screenshot of HBO Go's iPad App. It's gorgeous, fun and highly dynamic. It represents the shift of paid content to mobile: HBO Go, ESPN Watch, Netflix, Hulu, etc. And it represents the visual opportunity presented by the touch-based device (smaller screen, different format).

And lastly, it shows the design similarities with e-commerce iPad apps like Gilt and eBay. Why do the apps look similar? Sure there could be some flattering mimicking... but more importantly: e-commerce and digital media hubs often struggle with findability within huge universes of product / content. Big visuals and touch-based exploration are a good way to conquer.

Specifically within the HBO Go app: it is interesting that 95% of the screen is dedicated to dynamic, visual tiles. Buried at the bottom is a persistent navigation footer: category, title, etc. In a world of funnels and tools to drive efficiency, HBO has made the clear choice to value exploration and engagement.

Make Your Mobile App Ads Actionable!

More and more ad units promote mobile content and applications. And I get more and more frustrated as those units are not actionable.... it's a complicated task: 1. drive mobile activity from different web sources, including non-mobile traffic 2. promote mobile apps that are on different platforms... despite users coming from different sources / platforms

That experience often looks like this: a promotion by Gilt Groupe to download their mobile app(s):

That directs you to a landing page that is descriptive (and long-winded thanks to the numerous apps / platforms) but doesn't provide an easy way to download:

Again, I empathize with the almost necessarily clunky experience. But there must be more creative ways to solve.

For instance, here is a creative, effective solution by Groupon. Text a code and Groupon will determine your device's platform to deliver the right download experience. That isn't perfect, but the improved targeting eliminates a couple steps along the process.

I generally think this is the right approach: get users onto their mobile device so that you can provide more targeted / efficient next steps. You could take the Groupon example and make the ad more interactive such that users send mobile shortcodes from with the unit (via email address, etc).

Of course, the most direct path is to figure out promotional opportunities aimed specifically at users who are on mobile devices - within emails, on the mobile site, on other apps, etc. It's a markedly cleaner and more direct experience... and therefore conversions will be markedly better.

More examples of the clunky experience:

Different Emails for Different Users, Usage. Facebook Demonstrates

When done effectively and appropriately - email is a marketer's most powerful retention tool. Here is an example from Facebook that demonstrates both effective and appropriate email marketing. The key: deliver different emails to different users / user patterns. Conceptually, its very basic. In practice, it's actually quite hard to deliver relevant emails, at the right frequencies, and featuring the right products (why? creation and delivery can be difficult - but featuring content that is appropriate for that user is the real challenge).

Here are two emails that I have never received because I am an overly active Facebook user. The recipients here are less involved so Facebook delivers too different types of emails:

1. You Have Notifications Pending!

The goal is clearly to drive logins by demonstrating that the user's network / profile has activity. If a user logins daily, notifications are prominently featured across the header... this is an attempt to enforce that habit.

2. You Have a Birthday this Week!

Again, for users who login daily, this is prominently featured. Birthdays are important drivers of engagement - ie posts, messages, events, JibJab cards =) For early users, this is a compelling email that gives me an immediate action. For more active users, this could be overwhelming and Facebook is probably better served promoting deeper interactions like messages and/or new features.

What's this mean for you? Segmenting your communication is a powerful way to drive engagement / retention and guide users through your product. To do it effectively, you also need to determine what products and communications make most sense for each segment / class of user.

Local Merchants Face Mobile, Social Overload & Noise

Like many entrepreneurs I've met with, I have been thinking a lot about local merchants and how the web is changing their businesses (mobile, social, deals, etc). It is a fascinating trend / space - and merchants are getting barraged with technology offers and services. There are opportunities (and in some cases promises) around users acquisition, loyalty / retention, in-store activity, etc. I am reminded of my Sept 2010 post, "Geo Local Overload" and this local shop's outdoor signage: follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Google:

It's overwhelming for merchants and consumers. The winners will emerge with a simple, widely accessible solution that adds value to both the merchant (either in acquisition, loyalty or in-store experience) and the consumer.

If you're an entrepreneur addressing the local market and the merchant's needs, make sure you have a product - and a pitch! - that cuts through the noise. And if you can cut through the noise, I'd love to talk with you. Email me =)