Facebook’s fatal flaw

“I want the Internet economy to prosper, but it can’t unless the people’s right to privacy means more than a right only to hear excuses after the damage is done.” –   Joe L. Barton, ranking Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and possible leader of a new committee on Internet Privacy.

I recently wrote a post stating that Facebook is not likely to be open to strong competition any time soon because the emotional switching costs for consumers are so high. The only thing that would bring them down, I opined, was scandal or the malaise that comes from a lack of competition.

Unfortunately I witnessed this prediction come true when my Facebook account was hacked just hours after I ran this post.  All conspiracy theories are welcome.

I had the bizarre experience of watching somebody posing as me, trying to sell services to my friends through the Facebook instant chat function. I felt violated and angry because the perpetrator was using my image and reputation to scam my relatives and close friends. I also learned that two other people I know had the same experience on the same day, suggesting this was probably a widespread attack.

Luckily I caught it quickly but here’s the part that really got me.  I went to Facebook “help” to learn how to report the incident.  Here are the instructions they provided:

1) Change your password

2) Run a virus scan on your computer

3) Don’t fall for phishing scams again

Glaringly absent is any option to let Facebook know it happened.

Call me old fashioned, but if my company’s product was used to pose as my customer and rob my customer’s friends, I would want to know about it. In fact I would pursue the scammer with all available force. Facebook’s policy sends a message that they don’t give a damn about security and customer privacy, which more or less confirms what we already knew any way.

If you are a marketing professional thinking about a Facebook strategy, this cavalier delinquency would certainly make me think twice.

Note: shortly after I wrote this post I read an article in the New York Times about the impact of cyber-bullying through Facebook. In one case, Facebook would not respond to threats against children and the parents had to go through the legal system to get it stopped. Facebook is just asking to be legislated, it seems.

The five elements of a perfect blog post

“How do I create the perfect blog post?”

That question by a young student stopped me in my tracks. After all, is there such a thing?  I had to dig deep on this question and turned to the qualities of my favorite bloggers to find some common themes.  They seem to fit for me — leave a comment and let me know how they land on you!

1. Hoist a hearty headline. Your title is the first thing people see in their blog readers and it may very well determine whether somebody reads your post or not. Headlines can be painful to write — it’s like ad copy. It has to be short and impactful. Try to use an action word that grabs attention. Jay Baer is a master of this on his Convince and Convert Blog. His headlines grab you, shake you, and demand your attention.  I can almost visualize Jay thinking up an active verb to draw you in!

2. Offer an original (personal) view. There is really only one way to differentiate yourself as a blogger.  Challenge yourself to write a post that ONLY you could write. Don’t pontificate about what’s “out there.” How does the subject relate to YOU, your observations, your experiences, your life, your stories? This isn’t narcissism — it’s the soul of originality.  I love the way Danny Brown accomplishes this. He writes about how his life is going in the social media context. He finds a way to connect with us every week because he shares what is unique to him — a discovery, a victory, a disappointment.  It is uniquely Danny every time.

3. Have the courage to be real. When you are creating a work for the world to see, it is frightening to be imperfect.  And yet, how can you be original WITHOUT being imperfect?  The best bloggers are real. Human. Less cautious than the average author.  A role model for me in this respect is Gini Dietrich, especially when she uses her video blogs to connect with readers in a highly personal way. Gini lets us know when she’s stressed, disappointed, worried, mad — basically what is happening with her in the moment. For heaven’s sake, she even had a video of her Thanksgiving dinner!  I think there is awesome power in that authenticity.

4. Don’t just write, re-write. People will spend more time with you if they enjoy your writing.  And to demonstrate a best practice, I’d like to introduce you to the sweetest writer on the social web: Stanford Smith of the Pushing Social blog. This man is an artist and I can guarantee you that he sweats over every phrase and challenges himself to discover new and exciting ways to tell his story.  A blogger can’t hit it out of the park every time, but when they do, it’s probably because they found a way to make the words sing. A trick — read your post aloud to see if it has a natural, conversational tone.

5. Entertain me. “Entertainment value” is not a phrase commonly used in business classes or journalism schools. And yet with the cacophony of voices vying for your attention, isn’t entertainment paramount today?  Are you more likely to enjoy and remember a post titled “An analysis of SEO implications for blogging” or one titled, “How to be a Google Whore” — which used humor to illustrate a dead-serious issue in our field? Mix it up. Add video, photos, interviews, reviews, humor. Be surprising.  I think Joey Strawn is a great example of an entertaining and slightly off-kilter blogger. He is even drawing cartoons to go along with his blogs.

Now you might find it odd that I haven’t mentioned anything in here about the actual subject you are writing about!  Does it matter?  If you create a post with 1) a captivating headline, 2) a unique personal view 3) a personal risk, 4) an entertaining spin through 5) words that sing, won’t that be a joy to read? Of course it would because you’ve crafted a perfect blog post!

What do you enjoy about your favorite blogs and bloggers?  I would love to hear about what makes a post memorable for you …