Why Design Matters

Good design helps a website stand out; even more importantly, it increases engagement and the amount of time a user will spend on your site. How users feel about your brand, how they engage with it, can be largely dictated by how user-friendly and pleasant to look at your website is. Read more

“Facebook Zero”: The Decline of Organic Reach

You have 8000 followers on Facebook, and need to post an important announcement about your business; maybe your office hours have changed, or you need beta testers for a new version of your product. How many people would you expect that post to reach, without paying for it to be boosted? According to a study done by Social@Ogilvy, you’re likely to reach 480 – a measly six percent. Larger pages (with followers in the hundreds of thousands) have their numbers slashed even more – to around 2 percent of their total followers. They anticipate that eventually, the average reach for most business pages will drop to zero. Read more

Social Media Around The World: Why Facebook Isn’t Enough

If you run an international company, it’s worth remembering that Facebook is blocked and/or banned in some of the world’s biggest markets. While China technically lifted its ban on Facebook in 2013, it seems that access is still only available within the 17-square-mile free trade zone in Shanghai (to make foreign investors feel more at home). Access in Vietnam is hit-and-miss, and content is heavily censored thanks to an official decree passed in 2013 (so if you’re trying to get your post shared in the Vietnamese market, you might be out of luck). Pakistan will block any pages that seem to have blasphemous content; Bangladesh is the same. Even in countries where Facebook is available, it’s not always the social network of choice: VK is the most popular social network in Russia, and Japan’s social networking landscape is dominated by Mixi (which has 25 million Japanese users, where Facebook only has 16 million).

Facebook isn’t the only social network.

Facebook isn’t the only social network.

And that’s just taking into account location-based markets – Facebook isn’t always the most popular social networking site for particular employment, lifestyle or age demographics, either. Style bloggers dominate on Instagram; academics who don’t use Facebook can be found on Academia.edu.

If you have your own social network to connect with prospective clients or users in countries or demographics where Facebook isn’t going to reach them, you’re automatically ahead of the game; using Facebook is basic online marketing, using your own private social network to widen your reach beyond Facebook’s borders is smart marketing.

Social Networking, Privacy and Constructing Identity

Facebook is, for the most part, not a particularly good representation of what people’s lives are really like; their profiles represent how they *want* to be perceived. A happy marriage, a busy social life, an image constructed through careful filtering of content.

But what happens when the image we want to portray to our personal connections doesn’t match up to what we want to send out to our professional ones? That profile picture of you and your partner at a festival covered in mud might make for a great anecdote and paint your life the way you want your friends to see it, but it’s not going to look so great to your customers or a prospective employer. You may be out and proud to your friends and family with your religion, sexuality, veganism etc, but don’t want your co-workers to judge you (or even worse, fire you) based on those attributes. If you work in the justice system, you probably don’t want people you’ve sent to jail knowing your daughter’s name or what suburb you live in.

Image via cambodia4kidsorg on Flickr.

Image via cambodia4kidsorg on Flickr.

People navigate these issues in a variety of ways; some will create two profiles, one for work and one for family and friends. Switching between accounts can be time consuming, and not everyone will get the message about which profile they should add. Some will carefully filter content and adjust their privacy settings to make sure that only certain people are seeing certain content; but this can be restrictive in terms of letting old friends find you, or letting people share content (eg, photos that they’re also in). Others decide it’s just too difficult, and the risks outweigh the benefits of belonging to a large social network.

Smaller, privately owned social networks are a great way forward if you want to keep the different parts of your life separate. Want to share things with just family, and not worry about anyone else finding your profile? Set up your own little corner of the web. Need a space where you can connect with your clients, and have complete control over what they see, and how they interact with you? A private social network keeps your work and personal lives completely separate. And further, when it’s your own social network, you understand what “private” really means. You know exactly who is on the network, and how they can find you; plus, PeepSo’s own privacy policy is crystal clear.

Guilty By Association: Reddit and Monetising Hate Speech

RedditA few days ago, Reginald Braithwaite posted an excellent piece titled “So Long, Reddit,” in which he stated that he would no longer contribute to a website that makes money off hate speech. Racist discussion threads (“sub-reddits”) like Chimpire might stand as a testament to just how far Reddit is willing to take its policy of free, virtually unmoderated discussion, but as Braithwaite correctly points out, Reddit is a business, and it’s making money off adverts placed in those threads. Essentially, as he puts it, they’re monetizing hate. While the majority of Reddit users may completely disagree with the sentiments expressed in these threads, they’re supporting their existence by supporting the website and its current policies.

This then begs the question: what are we complicit with, or could we consider ourselves to be complicit with, by continuing to be part of larger social networks? By giving Facebook money to post your adverts in people’s newsfeeds, are you supporting their “real name” policy and its negative implications for the transgender and drag community? By viewing sponsored photos on Instagram and contributing to their advertising revenue, are you supporting the deletion of breastfeeding photos as “obscene”?

If you create your own private social network, on your own website, you know exactly where every dollar is going. You can create policies and terms that you’re proud to announce. You can rest assured that everything you’re participating in sits well with your personal sense of right and wrong.

You’ve Got Mail: On Social Media and Channels of Communication

You’ve got mail…and new mentions…and new direct messages…

The way we communicate keeps evolving and changing. We’ve now got such a plethora of options at our fingertips that phrases like “I’m not a phone person” or “I don’t do text” have become necessary qualifiers when trying to express how we prefer to communicate.

All of these channels have their advantages, and disadvantages. Public business pages on Facebook allow you to reach a lot of people…including spambots and trolls. The phone forces you to think on your feet, which can induce serious anxiety – as much as it’s nice to hear someone’s voice, and have a conversation in real time. Email is quick, but messages can get lost in the pile if you’re someone who gets a lot of emails every day. Snail mail isn’t always more reliable. Twitter’s character restrictions can be well, restrictive. Skype lets you converse face to face with people all over the world, but you’ve got to have a strong internet connection (and a high data cap).

What I’d suggest this tells us is: we need to think about all of the options available to us, and make sure we’re using those channels as effectively as possible. Having your very own private social network, based on your own WordPress site, is an option that many people aren’t aware of, and one that can revolutionise your web presence; one that can give you a whole new way to communicate with customers (existing and potential). It’ll allow you to reach those who don’t want to join the “big boys” of social networking for privacy reasons, and those who get your posts filtered out of their newsfeed by default (thanks to Facebook’s algorithms).

Do We “Need” Social Media?

While researching the Essena O’Neill saga, I came across this video on YouTube.

It makes some really salient points about the benefits of social media, which can be carried across to (and arguably, amplified within) private social networks.

Social networks open us up to new ideas and new points of view. Facebook, Twitter and other large social networks are like taking an undergraduate class; lots of perspectives and ideas, from lots of people, all in the same space, figuring out what they think about things and finding what they love. Private social networks are like a PhD, or a masterclass: a smaller group, really refining their ideas and beliefs.

Starting up a private social network where people can gather around a shared experience or something they all really care about creates a space for learning and growth; it removes the superficiality that pervades mass social media and networking sites from the proliferation of perspectives and ideas which can make social networking so valuable. For example: if you create a Facebook page or group for discussions of transfeminist issues, you are likely to get some homophobic, misogynist and transphobic people slipping through the cracks and dominating discussion. If you create a private social network, it’s a focused, safe space which could ultimately build similar numbers and achieve the same things.

In essence: while we could certainly live without social media, our intellectual and emotional lives can absolutely be enriched by it, in a variety of ways. Private social networks create yet another, more dedicated space where that enrichment can take place.

Your community will thrive.

What to do when your social network grows too big

Your community will thrive.

Your community will thrive.

If all goes well (and why shouldn’t it?) your community should keep growing. It will attract new members. Those members will post and comment, interact with followers and tell their friends.
The number of members in the community will increase, and the degree of engagement you see on your community will increase too.

Your community will thrive.

At some point though, you may find that even though your community is continuing to grow in size, it’s shrinking in engagement. In the last message, I explored some of the things you can do to stop members leaving but sometimes, they won’t be enough.

Sometimes, if your private social network is too big to feel personal and focused, you’ll need to break it up into sub-communities.

Those communities won’t compete with your main community. They’ll complement it. They could be regional. So a drone-flying community could set up a sub-community for California. Or they can be topical; a community for camera-drones rather than all drones.

By restricting the topic, you give the community a more precise focus and a stronger reason for members to remain and stay engaged.

That’s it! Good luck building your community, and if you have any questions, feel free to write to ask us on our community: https://www.peepso.com/community

PeepSo 1.3.0 Is Out!

In version 1.3.0, we focused on tweaking some of the features. These tweaks are important for future versions.

Groundwork Laid For One-Click Updates For All Plugins

We’ve started the process of preparing PeepSo for one-click updates. Instead of uninstalling then re-installing all the plugins, for future versions you’ll be able to just click the update link next to each plugin. Very simple.

This function will start working in the next version of PeepSo. This should be the last time you update manually. Please remember that this is still work in progress. It will look somewhat like this:

One click updates and upgrades for PeepSo and its plugins.

One click updates and upgrades for PeepSo and its plugins.

PeepSo’s Router Re-Written

Now that PeepSo has been out for a while, we have had reports of a few URLs and third party plugins not working well with PeepSo.

To improve the compatibility and stability of the plugins, we wrote the router. That should avoid issues with popular plugins like WPML which change the URL of the page by making additions like:
‘?lang=french’
This improvement is strictly under the hood. The only change you’ll see is the construction of the URLs. That’s usually just the addition of a question mark.

This is how the profile link appears in PeepSo 1.2.1:
http://sampledomain.com/profile/eric

And this is how the link appears in PeepSo 1.3.0:
http://sampledomain.com/profile/?eric

Three-State Friends Buttons

We also changed the behavior, look and feel of the action buttons on user profiles. Adding friends is now a three-state button with no modal confirmations needed. It’s all ajaxified too.

3-state friends buttons on user listings

3-state friends buttons on user listings

Those action buttons have also been added to all user listings. You can see them on members pages, user profiles, and your friend list. The design is consistent to give users a feeling of confidence and to avoid confusion.

Styling Tweaks and More Changes To Profile Pages

We made a few minor changes to the profile pages:

  • Blocking users has been moved to a ‘cog’ icon.
  • Users can be banned from the front end by clicking the cog icon.
  • To save space, we replaced the “Send Message” button with an envelope icon.
  • We improved the look and feel of the modal window for sending messages.
  • Square avatars
  • Removed gray shadow stripe and added shadow for letters
Profile view after styling tweaks.

Profile view after styling tweaks.

We’ve made sure that PeepSo styling is consistent. That’s why we went with square and sharp edges over rounded corners and round avatars. If you feel like all square is not your thing, feel free to check out our documentation on how to override PeepSo CSS.

Bug Fixes

In addition to those design and functionality tweaks, we also fixed a number of bugs. You can see the full changelog here.

What, No Chat Plugin?

The chat plugin is almost ready. It just needs a few design tweaks and some testing. It will be released next. Watch out for it!

Upgrade PeepSo Now

To update to Version 1.3.0 you’ll have to un-install and re-install all the plugins. Last time! Here’s the documentation on how to do it.

No PeepSo?

The free core version is fantastic on its own. If you want to unlock the true potential of social networking for WordPress, get the other plugins today. You can buy them by clicking the link below.

Buy Today!

If you’d like to see what’s coming up next, check out our roadmap here.

Comments? Questions?

Please leave them below.

Social Community

Starting your online community

Social CommunityTogether with my team, I see my role as helping to make sure that your community grows and thrives.

In this blog series, I’ll share with you a series of tips that will enable you to get more out of PeepSo and help you to turn your users into a real society.

That’s the goal: not just to build your membership but to build a community in which people participate and to which they return.

Let’s start by talking about your very first members.

Choose them carefully.

It’s tempting when you’re building a new community to try to bring in as many people as possible. That’s the wrong approach.

They’ll arrive, they’ll look around, they’ll see nothing happening… and they’ll leave.

Before you throw open the door to the masses, build a small community that other people will want to join. Invite the movers and shakers of your topic into the community. Ask them to contribute content and get them talking to you and to each other.

When other people can see that a party filled with interesting people has already started, they’ll want to join in. They’ll also see that joining the party means participating, not lurking.

Quora succeeded in a Q&A space that had beaten both Google and Yahoo because its early members were VIPs. Choose your first members with the same degree of selectivity and you should find your membership and your engagement build naturally.

That’s all for now. If you have any questions or comments do feel free to post them on our community page here. In the next post, I’ll be looking at the differences between the various kinds of communities publishers build and what those differences mean for you.