Category Archives: social media

Mobile ads…please stop sucking. Five tips for making mobile ads better.

mobile ads

I play a lot of solitaire on my iPhone.

It’s my go-to game when I’m taking the train, talking to someone boring or just passing the time mindlessly.

Sure there are other games out there, like the insanely addictive Pokemon Go.

But I can’t be walking around tryin’ to catch ’em all, walking into people and draining my battery in the process.

And I really am not about the brightly colored, sensory stimulating, action/adventure games in abundance in the App Store.

I’m good with a simple game of solitaire.

I play a free version of the game created by MobilityWare.

mobilityware-squarelogo-1457378873808

Because it’s free, between each game – win or lose – they serve an ad.

I’ve played well over 10,000 games of solitaire, so I’ve seen thousands of ads.

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Some of the ads are for other games, apps, insurance, cars, television shows or movies.

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Some are static ads, video, or interactive surveys or animated game tutorials.

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Most of the time I just ignore them, but recently, I’ve been paying attention and I’ve noticed something interesting: mobile ads suck.

More accurately, the companies that serve mobile ads suck.

I know I’m generally a caustic dude, prone to being overly critical.

But in this instance, I’m being particularly objective.

Mobile. Ads. Suck.

A few months ago, a recruiter reached out to me about a position with a company which specialized in mobile ads.

Their client was looking for someone with deep native mobile experience and wanted to forward my resume.

When she sent along the job description, I checked them out and thought it made sense to do some research.

If they called me in, I could articulate what I thought about the current state of mobile ads and not sound like a total dolt.

So I started to pay attention to the ads being served between my countless games of solitaire.

What I observed was that mobile ads suffer from all types of fuckery.

But these are the top five offenses I observed (and things you should avoid if you’re serving mobile ads in your app).

1. Size matters. A mobile screen is small. So why wouldn’t your ad fill  the entire screen? If you’re trying to make an impact, you’re not going to do it by forcing users to strain their eyes to make out your shitty ad. Make sure that the ad platform or service you use delivers high quality, fully scaled content that fits the dimensions of the screens being served.

So UPS, what were you planning on doing with the other 1/3 of the screen?

So UPS, what were you planning on doing with the other 1/3 of the screen?

2. Orientation. I typically play solitaire in portrait mode. And for the most part, the ads that are served automatically mirror the orientation of my screen. But every so often, there’s one that doesn’t. Not only is the ad in the wrong orientation, but it’s also locked in that orientation, forcing me to turn my screen to watch/read it or access the exit button. If you’re delivering mobile ads, be sure that they’re not in a fixed position. And if the optimal viewing perspective is portrait (or landscape), make sure that you’re not forcing your user to only view it in that orientation.

This ad started off in landscape mode, but re-orientated, when I turned my screen.

This ad started off in landscape mode, but re-orientated, when I turned my screen.

3. Give us free! One of my absolute pet peeves is when there is no way to exit out of an ad. Most ads have an “X” prominently displayed on he screen when they show up, allowing me to immediately close it and resume playing solitaire. Others have a slight delay, with the “X” appearing about five seconds after the ad is displayed. But the offenders have no means of exiting their ads or worse still, when you do click on the “X” another ad appears forcing you to exit it again! Motherfuckers! Can I play my solitaire? Always give your users an out.

I thought that pressing the x in the upper right hand corner would do the trick, but no!

I thought that pressing the x in the upper right hand corner would do the trick, but no!

The trick was on me. I had to exit out of this ad twice!

The trick was on me. I had to exit out of this ad twice!

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How about this ad with no “x” at all!

4. Short and sweet. Have you seen those ‘countdown’ ads, which show you how much time remains in the ad? How about the ones which count down how much time before you can exit out of them? Presumably, they do this because they know folks have short attention spans and don’t want to suffer through ads. And these are the better ones! Many ads are just too long and for no good reason. Ads are intrusive and if you’re going to intrude, make sure its no longer than it has to be. Best practice says a video ad shouldn’t be more than 15 seconds, and if you’re going to be delivering ads between content, make sure users can exit out at will. Per Tip No. 4, don’t make them watch to the end if they don’t want to.

5. Call to action. The point of any ad is to get the viewer to do something after they engage the ad. This engagement is the call to action. It’s the thing you want the viewer to do, the step you want them to take or behavior you want them to engage in. So many ads had obtuse, ill placed or no call to action at all. Don’t be among this group and make sure you have a clear, unambiguous, prominently placed call to action in your ad.

"See All"? That's your call to action? Boo Hiss!

“See All”? That’s your call to action? Boo Hiss!

So there you have it, the top five tips for not having sucky mobile ads.

If you’re managing ads yourself, observe these tips. If you’re working with a mobile ad network, make sure you’ve got the ability to review the ads being served to make sure that they meet these standards.

Feel free to share your experiences with mobile ads and any tips you might have for making them better.

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Filed under advertising, mobile ads, opinion, social media

Top Tech Trends of 2015. A top 5 list.

homer

As 2015 draws to a close, we’re inundated with lists.

Best of lists.

Epic fails lists.

Prediction lists.

Everyone’s trying to get in on that end of year metrics booster as people search for reports, studies and stats on how well we did this year or how well we’re predicted to do next year.

I am no different.

But I’m not particularly interested in offering any scientific or metrics-based opinions.

I’ve read no studies to support any of what I’m about to say.

No reports inform my perspective.

In fact, I’ve been told by at least one person, that my list is bunk.

Kick rocks.

I know what the fuck I’m talkimbout’.

Anywho, I think we can all agree that 2015 was a banner year for tech.

This year, we saw curved screens, wearables, virtual reality, and streaming music explode.

Everyone had skin in the game and we (consumers) benefited from all of it.

Everywhere you looked, technology was changing the way we did things, the way we saw things and the way we interacted with the world around us.

And that trend is likely to continue unabated.

So here are my top 5 tech trends of 2015 (in no particular order).

Wearables are a thing.

wearables_tech

Without question, 2015 was the year of wearables. Anyone who was anyone wanted to create a wearable device, demonstrating that they ‘got it’ when it came to wearable technology. While brands like Tag Heuer had their head turning high end $1,800 Android watch, one wearable stood out among the rest: The Apple Watch. Heralded as the device that would ‘free people from their phones’ (considering the fact that it’s a tethered device – that’s a bit of an overstatement, but nonetheless) Apple sold more than 4.2 million watches in the second quarter of this year, making it the most successful wearable device ever. I’m not a fan (be on the look out for my expert’s review) of the Apple Watch, but I’ve got to give props where they are due and the Apple set the bar for wearable lifestyle integration.

Every cloud has a silver lining.

the-cloud

2015 was the year that Cloud came into it’s own. Principally, in the form of highly publicized hacks. Who can forget last year’s infamous Apple iCloud hack. Seeing Jennifer Lawrence’s naughty bits brought the issue squarely into – ahem – focus. Ashley Madison’s subsequent hack once again showed the vulnerability of data in the cloud. But where many see problems, cloud providers and security experts see opportunity. The demand for cloud services will invariably increase due to the advantages of high computing power, low costs, high performance, scalability, accessibility and availability, and cloud vendors are reaping the benefits with 50% annual growth rates. Data breaches will continually be the bane of virtual data storage, but cloud is definitely the future and the trend clearly got a foothold this year.

Drones, drones everywhere!

amazon drone

In 2013, when Jeff Bezos introduced the planned delivery drones of Amazon Prime Air on 60 Minutes to the befuddlement of Charlie Rose, it was a fantastic and futuristic moment. Two years later, drones are an every day part of our lives. Whether it’s the small toys for kids, the more advanced camera toting variety or Amazon’s delivery drones, drones have become a defining element of 2015. Drone were so prolific this year they prompted legislators to draft bills prohibiting them and the FAA to issue regulations regarding flight ceilings to prevent their unfettered use in airspace by the general population. Drone technology continues to advance as innovative applications are constantly being developed.

Mobile became a gateway.

mobile gateway

Mobile is the gateway to everything. The explosion in social media, wearables, IoT, streaming, cloud all owe their origin to mobile. Mobile has become one of the largest contributors to retail, providing a cushion to waning brick and mortal sales. The use of mobile in stores, to scan barcodes, search for comparable items, and pay all from the same device has increased the frequency and number of touch points that can be exploited by brands to help influence consumer behavior. The sheer amount of data generated by mobile users is a treasure trove for brands interested in harnessing the value of that data. As users become device agnostic, opting to use the device appropriate for the moment, mobile will become synonymous with ‘mobility’ and not devices.

Social Media

social media

Photograph: Dado Ruvic/Reuters

Social media has become a disruptive element to virtually every space. From finance to politics to the reporting of world events, social media has helped spread information light years faster than traditional media. Breaking news is no longer coming from news outlets, but from people on-the-ground broadcasting events in real time to online followers and members of their digital social networks. Nowadays media outlets are piggybacking on stories sourced from social media, with the more savvy media outlets devoting entire units to social media listening. Social media has also grown niche audiences, speaking to its power to engage both mainstream and previously less engaged or insular communities.

The items that didn’t make this list (because I was lazy or harangued by my more critical peeps – you know who you are) include: machine to machine, 3D printing, digital pay – I could go on.

Suffice it to say, this is just an entré for a deeper discussion for 2015’s top trends.

What other trend stood out for you in 2015? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

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Filed under Apple Watch, iPhone, mobile, social media, technology

5 Resolutions to make Your Brand more Social in 2015

2015_loading

It’s that time of year again, where folks publicly state the things that they are (or aren’t) going to do in the upcoming year.

Cats resolve to do everything from losing weight, getting organized, finding a new job, drinking less, to saving money, eating healthier or reducing stress.

By and large, we make personal or individual resolutions, but very rarely do we devote this type of attention to our brands. But if  you think about it, was 2014 a stellar year for your brand? Aren’t there things you wish you had done better last year?

I’m sure there are.

But you didn’t.

In fact, you probably couldn’t have been more social because you don’t know what you were doing wrong.

Lets think about this for a moment, shall we?

Your Facebook page could have been more engaging. Right?

Right.

You probably could have posted more on Facebook, uploaded more flicks on Instagram, responded to more people who commented on your blog, or reciprocated more follows on Twitter. Right?

Right.

To be plain, you could have been more social.

But you weren’t.

Worry not my friend!

Here ere are five resolutions to make your brand more social in 2015.

Resolution No. 1. I will go mobile this year.

Mobile. Mobile. Mobile. Did I say “mobile?”2015 will be the Year of Mobile. Brands who adopt a mobile-first approach, will far outpace those which fail to accept the fact that the mobile is the sweet spot for brands – especially in the retail and self-service industries. Mobile is the primary means through which folks are getting online, browsing and making discrete purchase/payments. With Apple Pay, PayPal, Google Wallet and other mobile payment platforms, it’s the key to unlocking tight sales and generating revenue across screens.

One brand that has taken the importance of mobile and social to heart is Williams-Sonoma. The Williams-Sonoma family of brands, which include Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn, pottery barn kids, PBTeen, West Elm and Mark and Graham, have embraced mobile with mobile web properties that are simple to navigate and resulted in expansive growth of their brands online. In their annual report, Williams-Sonoma cites e-commerce as their “fastest growing business” and a “significant part of their sales success.” Other brands should look to companies like Williams-Sonoma, to see how mobile can be effectively leveraged in 2015.

Resolution No.2. I will implement a loyalty program.

Loyalty is becoming increasingly valuable to users who are looking to stretch their dollars. Who doesn’t want to be rewarding for spending money on the brands they patronize? More importantly, in this “look at me” world we live in, folks are quick to share that free coffee they just earned on Starbucks on Facebook (or Twitter) or invite friends to take advantage of a special offer (especially if it means they can earn more loyalty points for doing so).

Loyalty is especially important in the retail space. When the price of an item is virtually the same regardless of vendor, loyalty is sometimes the difference between making the sale or not. Best Buy has a particular good loyalty program, which rewards patrons for spending with them. Best Buy customers earn points for every dollar they spend, which can be redeemed for reward certificates. Loyalty members also qualify for discounts, free shipping and hosts of other special promotions. Starbucks, Sephora and Walgreens each have loyalty programs that reward customers who enroll.

Resolution No.3. I will use text messaging to engage.

Mass push notifications (aka text messaging) are a rudimentary, but effective way of interacting with your current or potential customers. Even though it seems counterintuitive in this age of smart phones, apps and responsive mobile sites, texting is still effective for reaching millions of mobile users who relish the quick tidbits of information that can be shared in 160 characters or less. One great thing about text messages is that, in addition to their brevity, you can embed links, which will let the user access greater detail, if they want, with a simple click.

Beyond the ability to broadcast messages to large numbers of people simultaneously, text messaging is far less intrusive than email, as users opt-in to receive them. Thus, there is a far greater likelihood of your messages being read and acted upon. There are a number of brands effectively using text messaging to engage with their audiences, including retailers like Abercrombie & Fitch, Bed, Bath & Beyond and Aeropostale. Each of these brands understand the importance of text messaging, alongside their other targeted marketing efforts.

Resolution No. 4. I will use social media more.

Instagram has become the de facto platform to connect with this social demographic. But Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and Google+ (among others) still have a place with millions of users. This year, resolve to connect with your audience across multiple SM platforms. Even if you’re not creating unique content for each channel, at a minimum, make sure you’re broadcasting across all of them.

In 2014, brands like Fiat, Jockey and Burton, all made effective use of social media. By focusing on greater engagement, thoughtful campaigns and a commitment to truly using social media platforms, these brands were able to connect with and grow their respective bases in 2014.

Resolution No. 5. I will refresh my content regularly.

There is no worse sin in social media than stale content. Something new happens every day, so there’s no reason for your content to be static. Whether it’s a new sale, coupon, discount, store opening, product release, acquisition, whatever, updating your website or social media profiles with the new is always a good look for your brand. More importantly, by regularly refreshing your content, you give your users a reason to visit your site, social media space, or mobile app frequently.

I’m not talking about being social for social’s sake.

There’s nothing to be gained from spending all day on Facebook (or any other social media platform) if there’s no appreciable ROI.

I am talking about leveraging social media to enhance your brand and strengthen the ties that bind you with your current and potential audience.

As customers become increasingly more mobile and social, adopting a strategy that accepts this as a starting point becomes critical to the success of any initiative.

If you’re struggling to figure out how to adopt of develop a more social strategy or implement mobile effectively, or if you have any questions, feel free to drop me a line or leave a comment.

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Filed under branding, mobile, social media

Hello, Ello? I hate Facebook too! Where’s my invite? UPDATE!

ello

I’m sure by now you’ve heard of the anti-Facebook social media platform, Ello, that’s been all over the news.

Okay, okay.

I’m slightly exaggerating.

It hasn’t been all over the news.

It launched way back in March (that’s like five years ago in tech years), and has only recently been getting mainstream attention.

Primarily because the CEO, Paul Budnitz, has been making waves with his controversial statements about Big Brother Facebook.

The usual suspects.

The usual suspects.

Oh, wait…you haven’t heard of Ello?

I see that some background is in order.

You’ve probably seen the Ello logo – the eyehole-less black and white smiley face icon that sits atop user’s headshots – and thought, “WTF?”

And you wouldn’t be alone.

Ello is a new social media platform, released several months ago, that lets it’s users post status updates, photos and GIFs, as well as comment on their friends’ posts.

It’s being touted as the antithesis of Facebook, because it has no ads, the mainstay of the social media world.

And a real break from how most social media networks operate.

Their manifesto (called “Manifesto”) clearly speaks to the significance of being ad free.

Your social network is owned by advertisers.

Every post you share, every friend you make and every link you follow is tracked, recorded and converted into data. Advertisers buy your data so they can show you more ads. You are the product that’s bought and sold.

We believe there is a better way. We believe in audacity. We believe in beauty, simplicity and transparency. We believe that the people who make things and the people who use them should be in partnership.

We believe a social network can be a tool for empowerment. Not a tool to deceive, coerce and manipulate — but a place to connect, create and celebrate life.

You are not a product.

But it’s only quasi-free.

Sure, if you’re using the platform “naked,” it’s free.

If you want to add any features, you’ve got to upgrade – to just the features you want, of course – for a fee.

This customization, allowing users to create an Ello page unique to them, is another feature which sets Ello apart from Facebook.

As someone who hates Facebook for introducing paid (or “sponsored” rather) ads into my feed, Ello seems like a breath of fresh air.

Who wouldn’t want to read their friends’ inane drivel devoid of pesky ads clogging up their timelines?

Sign me up!

Oh, wait…Ello is invitation only.

I, for one, am at a complete loss for how I have not yet been invited to take Ello for a test drive.

Earth to Ello!

My 1,015 readers (as of this morning) are dying to know what Ello is all about.

And they shouldn’t have to troll the interwebs or chance upon an article in Mashable, Engadget, Techcrunch, Business Insider, or some other marginal publication, to get their tech news, when I’m all they need read!

Me thinks too much of myself, me thinks.

I digress.

Point is, Ello is staking its claim as an alternative to Facebook.

And the future looks rosy (for now).

Time will tell whether their gambit pays off.

I’ve requested an invitation, and received a reply (letting me know that I’d have to wait).

I was hoping for a "Welcome to Ello" message. Instead, I got this. SMH

I was hoping for a “Welcome to Ello” message. Instead, I got this. SMH

So I’ll give you the inside scoop as soon as I can.

UPDATE

As of 10:31 am EST October 1, I am officially Ello-ed!

Nick Beck is my dude!

Nick Beck is my dude!

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Filed under social media

Cough up $100 or pour water on your head. A study in successful social media campaigns.

ice-bucket

By now, I’m sure you’ve seen at least one video of one of your friends dumping a bucket of water on themselves.

Perhaps you heard about the POTUS’ refusal to subject himself to the ice-water ritual, instead opting to part with $100.

You may have even engaged in the asinine activity yourself, and called out folks you know to do the same (as I have).

What was that, you ask?

Only one of the most successful social media campaigns ever, that’s what!

Over the past few weeks the ALS organization launched a campaign to raise funds for, and awareness about the ailment, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) more commonly known as Lou Gerhig’s Disease.

The Ice Bucket Challenge was simple.

If someone called you out, you had 24 hours to accept the challenge and either (a) film yourself dumping a bucket of ice water over your head, or (b) donate $100 to ALS (you could also do both as many did).

You also had to call out three of your own friends, family or colleagues to accept the challenge.

Here’s mine.

If your reading of this post is the first time you’re being made aware of this social media initiative, you’re either not on Facebook or you have no friends (or both).

Because everyone has been caught up in the ice bucket frenzy.

Mark Zuckerberg.

Bill Gates.

Justin Timberlake.

Martha Stewart.

And the list goes on.

Which is partially why I’m designating the Ice Bucket Challenge the most successful social media campaign (by a non profit) I’ve ever seen.

When I thought about penning this post, I figured I do a little digging to see what other successful social media campaigns existed in the non-profit space.

And there were quite a few – none that I ever heard of or experienced – that seemed to have achieved the desired effects: they raised money and increased awareness about their respective causes.

One that stands out is the WATERisLIFE campaign, which hijacked the hashtag #firstworldproblems to highlight the problem of communities that lacked access to clean water.

Launched by the Water Is Life organization, the campaign sought to focus on the real issues facing people living in difficult situations throughout the world.

The success of that campaign generated over a million days worth of clean water to those in need.

Curious that the ALS campaign has us wasting water, while WATERisLIFE is trying to help folks access it.

Anywho, the point of this post is simply to reinforce the point that social media initiatives, when well thought out and properly executed, can work.

As Kickstarter aptly demonstrates, people respond favorably to properly crafted calls-to-action, to the tune of billions of dollars.

And as ALS has demonstrated, a good idea goes a long way.

 

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Filed under advocacy, social media

Wanna be first at something cool? You better Brabble.


It’s not every day that you’re the first to do something.

That’s especially true in the tech space.

The minute you think you’ve got an original idea or stumbled onto the next big thing, someone drops it or says that they’ve already heard of it.

Got a great idea for a social media network?

Oops! Some kids at Harvard thought about that a minute ago.

And by the time you were up on it, you were far from a first mover.

You were on it – eventually.

And it probably took you a minute before you even were comfortable using it.

The same was probably true of Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest and any of the myriad other social media trends that were once obscure platforms you never heard of, and are today the targets of billion dollar acquisitions – if not technology behemoths themselves.

And even though you may not have been there at the beginning, you probably fancy yourself “hip” when it comes to being able to spot and adopt social media trends.

Vine. WhatsApp. Snapchat.

You do that.

You may not have been first, but you were up on it by the time it became vogue.

And you were probably first among your friends or network for some things.

Shoot, I’d heard of Pinterest, but my wife actually put me on.

And now she can’t get off the damn thing.

But I digress.

Anywho, I’m about to put you up on the next ish.

What if you could have Facebook, Twitter, Instragram and Vine/Snapchat in one?

Where you could capture something in the moment.

Tag it up.

Decide who you wanted to share it with.

And post it in an instant.

See who’s posting.

Like.

Comment or respond to directly.

Share.

All from a mobile or web dash.

Well now you can.

It’s called Brabble.

And it’s barely a year old.

So you’re not exactly first first.

But you’re damn near close.

And it’s that next thing.

Trust me.

“What do you know Stephen? You couldn’t spot a trend if it walked up and bit you on the ass.”

Sure, my bum is a bit tough.

But I knows my nose knows.

What’s so great about Brabble?

It’s just another social media platform like Twitter.

Right?

Wrong!

It’s better, and I’ll tell you why.

For one, think of it as a dashboard.

Even though it IS a social media platform, what it DOES is give you the ability to manage multiple social media activities, within one place.

Sure, you can take a picture with your iPhone’s camera, and email, text or post it to Facebook, Twitter, Flickr or Instagram.

Yes. You can shoot a video and upload it to Facebook or YouTube, and share it.

But once you’re done, your plopped back into your camera or photo album.

If you start from inside an app, say Instagram, and shoot a picture or video you’re stuck where you are.

And the user interface and experience for most social media platforms leaves much to be desired.

Especially on your mobile device.

Buttons are too small.

Items located too close to the edge of the screen are virtually inaccessible.

At the end of the day, you’re simply scrolling through an endlessly loading stream of posts, or pictures.

But not with Brabble.

For one, you start off with a Flipboard-like grid of images.

My Feed

You can elect to view content in either a grid or basic view.

Grid or standard view.

Clicking any image immediately pulls you into the thread of that Brabble (their version of “conversation”)

Second, the UI is basic.

Your primary navigation is found at the bottom of the screen, titled (quite simply) Menu, My Feed, Explore, Notifications and a big “+” sign to add a post (Brabble) of your own.

Like, love, Brabbleback.

Third, “liking” (one heart press/click) or “loving” (two heart presses/clicks), something, responding to or commenting on a Brabble (“Brabbleback”), is as simple as clicking on an icon and typing.

Finally, Brabbling (posting) is also super basic.

Brabbling. I think I just made up a term – must be sure to trademark that.

Hitting the big “+” sign opens up an overlay, with a large dialogue window to enter text, radio buttons you can select if you want to post to Facebook and Twitter, and icons above your dialogue box which lets you select which type of media you want to share with your post (or not).

A simple drop down next to the “Post to..” button lets you select whether to share your content with the World, your Followers, your Friends or Privately.

Brabble overlay

You can even save your posts to your Feed to send later.

This is not to say that there’s no room for improvement.

If I were going to make any changes to Brabble, they’d be few (and I could live without them).

But if I were, I’d make a persistent footer.

Generally, whenever you’re on the app, the footer is present.

Mine too deep into any individual piece of content, though, the footer goes away.

And you lose your bottom navigation.

If you go back, it returns, but there should be a persistent way to get back to “start” without having to repeatedly hit the “back” button.

It looks like the deeper you go into the app, there’s a transition from native to mobile web pages (which may account for the loss of your footer).

I could go deeper, but you get the picture.

Brabble is a cool app, which seamlessly aggregates all the things you like to do with your mobile device, into one app.

It’s not perfect, but it’s enough to make me take the leap.

And recommend it to all of you (my 42 readers).

I’ve been on the platform for three days now, and it’s pretty cool.

There isn’t a heck of a lot of traffic right now – and if you sign up, consider it part of an extended Beta.

Now go and Brabble, and be the first among your friends to be up on the latest and greatest tech trend.

And remember who told you about it when it tips….

 

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Filed under apps, iPhone, mobile, social media, technology

Status update: 10 signs that you’re a social media addict.

Social media addictAs I was riding the train yesterday, I look across the aisle to see the faces of five of my fellow passengers – an entire row of people – buried in their mobile devices.

For the whole ride from Montclair to New York Penn Station, they remain transfixed to the little screens of their “i” devices.

Social media addicts, the lot of them.

Social media addicts, the lot of them.

No small talk.

No exchanged glances.

No pleasantries.

Nada.

Expressionless faces peering into the void.

Looking around the train car, I noted that virtually everyone was on something.

With the exception of one couple deep in a conversation, everyone else – literally everyone else – was on some form of electronic device.

The lady to my left was ensconced in her Facebook feed.

The dude next to her was scrolling through Instagram.

Not to be the odd man out, I whipped out my iPhone, dialed up my Facebook app and began mindlessly “liking” updates in my News Feed.

Like a zombie, I stared blankly into my iPhone’s screen waiting for that thing – that visceral feeling – that made me ‘thumbs up’ one inane item or another posted by my friends.

And in that moment, I realized that I was addicted to social media.

Somehow, I had transformed from someone who thrived on human connections, to one subsisting on virtual interactions.

I knew something was amiss.

I also knew that I wasn’t alone.

Like the passengers on the train, there are probably millions out there, similarly addicted.

Today’s post is devoted to helping you figure out if you too, are an addict.

So here are the top 10 signs that you’re addicted to social media.

1. The first thing and last thing you do every day is check out your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram feed.

2. You ask people for life advice on Facebook. “Hey FB, am I addicted to FB?”

3. You’re always taking and posting selfies.

No, wait. I've got it. Hold on...just one more. No. That's not quite right. Just one more. Umm...

No, wait. I’ve got it. Hold on…just one more. No. That’s not quite right. Just one more. Umm…

4. You talk in acronyms. OMG! I’m a SM addict! SMH LMFAO

5. You constantly use hashtags. #youreaddicted #toptenlist #stephenchukumbarocks

Am I really going to search "#24yearsold"? Get your hashtag game right Maureen!

Am I really going to search “#24yearsold”? Get your hashtag game right Maureen!

6. You threaten to “unfriend” or “unfollow” people.

7. You get offended when people don’t accept your friend request or follow you back.

8. You experience the “phantom buzz” even when you don’t have your phone on you.

9. You check your phone impulsively and at the most inappropriate times.

10. You start or end you day with a greeting to your “Facebook family.”

Are we really your family, Judith? Really?

Are we really your family, Judith? Really?

If you exhibit any of these signs, put down your phone or tablet device, and get help immediately.

You could be suffering social media addiction.

If you don’t seek treatment right away, you may find yourself incapable of holding regular conversations and social interactions may become increasingly awkward.

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Instagram Direct. Instagram wants in on Sexting

instagram-direct

Instagram recently announced a new feature of their platform: Instagram Direct.

What’s Instagram Direct?

Good question.

Instagram Direct is a feature that lets users who follow one another send direct messages, which can include photos or videos, to each other.

Where Instagram was once user images and video shared on a public broadcast feed, Instagram now offers users the ability to send images, video and text privately.

And, more importantly, it enables users to conduct private chat, making the platform very Twitter-like.

Conversations can be one-on-one or one to many (up to 15).

The minute I heard the service was being offered, my mind went immediately to Anthony Weiner.

I mean what utility is Instagram Direct, really?

Plenty, if your intentions are nefarious.

Instagram Direct is a boon for cheaters and the bane of their spouses and significant others.

What better way to flirt than to send flicks of your unmentionables in a direct message?

And without having your package exposed to the world via your public feed.

See a girl or boy you like, send them a nasty message and a little bit o’ skin, see what happens.

Before you know it Instagram Direct will be like Ashley Madison allowing users to find compatible freaks online.

And without paying a recurring membership fee.

Not that I know how Ashley Madison works…but I’ve heard.

Anywho, I’ve yet to take Instagram Direct for a true spin, so this assessment is potentially replete with inaccuracies and misstatements.

But I did walk through the process and have a few screen shots to share.

When you’re on your home screen on Instagram, there’s a new inbox icon in the top right corner.

Instagram Direct

Clicking it opens up your “Direct” box.

Click the “+” sign and you’re off.

Direct dash

Your camera opens up and you can take or select a picture from your photo gallery.

From there, you can scale & crop, add features, a caption/message and then select who you want to send the photo to from your followers and people you follow.

Instagram Direct Share To List

Instagram Direct keeps a tally of the number of people you’ve selected with a “Send to #” at the bottom of the page.

Click the green “send to” bar at the bottom and Viola! you’re done.

Direct message sent

While this seems like a good thing, Instagram Direct introduces a subtle threat to the formerly “private” nature of the platform.

What threat?

Cyber-stalkers.

More specifically, cyber-stalkers can get at you directly.

Instagram Direct gives the pervs, dweebs and weirdos, you’d otherwise remain blissfully ignorant of, the ability to get all up in your in-box/request queue.

Instagram trolls (virtual voyeurs who stalk your Instagram feed but can’t comment or message you because they’re not your friends) can now legitimately send direct messages and pester you.

By simply dropping an image or video, they can initiate unsolicited contact with anyone posting content on Instagram.

Even though you still have the ability to ignore, block and/or reject that invitation (which is what an unsolicited message to someone you’re not friends with becomes) you’re now going to be confronted with their freakish pleas for attention.

If they get too pesky, you can block them like on other services, so it’s not that big of a deal (says the unpopular boy).

I’m not a big Instagrammer so Instagram Direct is a social media trend lost on me (from a purely utilitarian perspective), but if you think it’s the next big thing, I’d love to hear about it.

Better yet, Instagram Direct me.

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A LinkedIn endorsement is crap. Recommend me. Please?

Look who has endorsed me!

Look who has endorsed me!

As of late, I’ve been receiving numerous ‘endorsements’ from folks I’m linked to on LinkedIn.

Now ordinarily, I’d be flattered to be recognized by my professional colleagues for my undeniable talent and skills.

One of the inherent values of LinkedIn has always been the ability to be objectively assessed, not by what you say you’ve done, but by your affiliation to other people.

The assumption being, of course, that your connection to other professionals is a form of vouching.

But LinkedIn also provides a more direct method of vouching: recommendations.

Do an exceptional job, and you’ll often receive a written recommendation that serves as a testimony to just how nice you are at this thing or that.

Not to brag (I lie) but I’ve chalked up a couple of recommendations in my day.

Once upon a time, a recommendation was all you could do in LinkedIn to acknowledge someone’s exceptional work or service.

Today, however, LinkedIn offers ‘endorsements.’

What’s an endorsement?

Good question.

Simple answer: an endorsement is crap.

Hot, steaming, meaningless crap.

Why, you ask?

That’s also simple: because you can receive an endorsement from someone who knows nothing about your skills and expertise or what it is you do or that they’re endorsing you for.

Case in point: I have a colleague with whom I worked with years ago in a project management capacity. I was producing a series of music workshops with international performance artists and musicians, and he was among the US artists I brought in.

Despite the fact that he knows nothing of the mobile Stephen, recently he’s been endorsing me for mobile, mobile marketing, apps, iOS, Android, etc.

And it’s not to say that I’m not the Don Dada in all of these areas, but how would he know?

We’ve never worked on a project where he had first hand experience of my mobile prowess.

Sure, he could be following my professional development, or reading my blog and gleaning that I’m a mobile Jedi master, but his knowledge is indirect at best.

And more importantly, its not based in fact.

Mind you, he’s not the only one engaging in this behavior.

I’m sure we’ve all received these email notifications from LinkedIn, advising that we’ve been endorsed for one thing or another by one of our colleagues.

At first, I’m sure you were excited, like me.

But as you looked into these endorsements, and were prompted to endorse folks back, you realized that endorsements weren’t all they appeared to be.

Look at all the pretty thumbnails!

Look at all the pretty thumbnails!

It’s a carefully introduced scam, dressed up as a legitimate form of vouching.

All it takes is a click and viola! You’ve endorsed someone.

No muss, no fuss.

And now your colleague has been endorsed in turn.

Great right?

Wrong!

Where’s the value in that?

There’s no context to an endorsement.

Nothing to put anyone who comes across your profile on notice of just how awesome you are.

Sure, a whole bunch of thumbnail images of colleagues endorsing you for one skill or another looks impressive.

But does the absence of these boxes mean you’re not skilled in an area of your professed expertise?

And what’s the value of an endorsement really?

Unlike a recommendation, which requires that the author have a basis of knowledge before penning a recommendation, an endorsement has no such prerequisite.

Something that’s as simple as checking a box next to someone’s picture can’t be anywhere nearly as valuable as a penned (or typed) recommendation.

In this age of snack food style instant gratification metrics – likes, followers, fans – it’s no wonder that LinkedIn has added (rather meaningless) endorsements.

And while there are probably many profiles on LinkedIn who are legitimately as adept at the skills and expertise that the number of related endorsements seem to suggest, I’m sure that there are many more whose endorsements grow from popularity, reciprocity and boredom.

So if you know someone and think they do great work, take the time to write a recommendation.

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