Larry BraunerIn Facebook Fumble Draws Broad Rebuke, I stated that the possibility of further Facebook backlash didn’t concern me very much, and that you shouldn’t let Facebook’s speed bump become your speed bump.

I compared the woes of Facebook to those of Microsoft and recommended that you move forward with your Facebook plans.

My approach drew criticism from an online friend I respect, so I reached out to members of my Facebook page to hear their thoughts. The responses I received strengthened my belief that the reaction to Facebook’s misstep would dissipate.

FacebookMany articles were very critical of Facebook’s apparent lack of concern for user privacy and the social networking behemoth’s sharp departure from its previous policies.

One such article was Why Facebook Can’t Be Trusted: Let’s Recognize the Dangers Before Praising It as Web’s Default Marketing Platform posted by Craig Daitch on Ad Age’s Digital Next.

At the same time, Christopher Heine posted No Major Privacy Backlash From Facebook’s 425M Base on ClickZ, a rather moderate reaction to the Facebook episode.

However, a bold article, Ignore The Screams–Facebook’s Aggressive Approach Is Why It Will Soon Become The Most Popular Site In The World by Henry Blodget of Business Insider, confronted the negative press head on and resonated with me like nothing else I read.

Facebook’s aggressiveness on the privacy front is a big reason for the site’s success. The company will survive the latest PR flap, just as it has survived all the other PR flaps. And unless the latest blow-up scares it into changing its ways (let’s hope not), Facebook will continuing growing like a weed until it is by far the most popular web site in the world (and note what “most popular” means: It means that, despite the howling of a tiny minority, more people choose to spend more time on Facebook than any other site in the world).

From a business perspective, in other words, Facebook’s approach to innovation is smart. It’s not always popular, but it works. And if Facebook wants to maintain its competitive edge, it will do what it has to do to smooth over the latest blow-up, and then go forth with the same approach and attitude it has had all along.

Digest the articles referenced above. Then decide for yourself: Facebook backlash — fact, fiction or inconsequential?

Please subscribe and leave a comment. Don’t hesitate to disagree with me. My kids usually do. :-P

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Larry BraunerAre you using website widgets effectively?

I listed 10 Types of Widgets for Your Blog or Website. Now, I discuss strategies for employing widgets on your site.

While using website widgets is not rocket science, here are some important concepts worth keeping in mind:

  1. Widgets Are Content - Recently, a Twitter connection told me he liked my content and use of widgets. I thanked him, but the truth is that website widgets are content, as is each other aspect of your web site’s design. When you select widgets for your site, realize that they are just as much a part of your site as the copy you write. When you select a widget, customize it to the extent possible to appear as you wish, including both its size and color scheme.
  2. Widget Privacy Issues - In Website Widgets and Ads Raise Security and Privacy Issues (recommended reading), I discussed security and privacy issues and concluded that, “You are responsible as a blogger or web site owner to protect the privacy of your visitors as best you can. Use web widgets from reputable sources and banner ads, too.”
  3. Space Considerations - One way you pay for the use of a widget is by giving it valuable space on your website. There are only a modest number of widgets you can reasonably host on your website without it becoming cluttered. Choose carefully and don’t clutter your web site with widgets (or anything else).
  4. Website Widget Placement - As I stated in 10 More Easy Ways to Improve Your Website, “If visitors need to scroll down to view vital content, you’ll most likely lose them. Similarly, if you have an important widget, such as a Facebook fan page widget, place it where it will be visible without scrolling down.” Place key widgets near the top of each page and prioritize the rest.
  5. Most Useful Website Widgets - Community building, subscription, tracking, and social networking widgets (see 10 Types of Widgets for Your Blog or Website mentioned above), can add important functionality to almost any website.
  6. Monitor Your Widgets - Periodically, monitor and reevaluate your website widgets. Don’t set them and forget them or fall in love with them. Your needs and priorities can change, and widgets can also stop working or become obsolete.
  7. Your Website Layout- If you plan on using many website widgets, I suggest picking a theme with two sidebars, rather than one, to better accommodate all your widgets.

When you surf the ‘Net and find sites you like, look to see which widgets they use and how they use them. That’s a good way to come up with new ideas.

Here we are, coming to an end of our time together. Don’t go yet. Please subscribe first and leave a comment. :-)

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Larry BraunerWebsite widgets are commonplace in the world of social media. They tend to make interacting, marketing and web site tracking easier and more fun. Many types of website widgets are currently used on this blog.

However, don’t you ever question how safe website widgets really are? The use of website widgets and banner ads raises online safety and privacy issues for you and your website visitors that are worthy of consideration.

Marketing Experiment Gone Wrong

Marketing Experiment Gone WrongI was experimenting with my website tracking software. I wanted to determine whether it would work on websites not belonging to me. I installed the required tracking code in a blog post on a Ning site and on my Ryze profile.

I very quickly uncovered a major obstacle. The JavaScript, a key element in the tracking code, had been stripped off by each of the social networking sites. All that remained was a link to a very tiny and invisible image hosted by my tracking service.

I decided to continue the test in order to see the outcome. I invited friends to visit the test pages and inspected the resulting traffic data. I saw the IP address, ISP, location, operating system and web browser for each person who had visited the test pages — and all it took was embedding an invisible one pixel by one pixel image on those pages.

Privacy and Security Implications

When you install a banner ad on your blog or other website, and that banner ad is hosted on the advertiser’s server, not yours, you give that advertiser identical information about your visitors as I was able to obtain about mine; your visitors don’t even need to click on the banner ad to make that happen.

Once an advertiser obtains an IP address, they may obtain more sensitive information as well. Some offline merchants sell data about their customers. Why not assume that some online merchants and social networking sites do the same?

They have some amount of personal information matched to an IP address, and may decide to monetize that private data. They might even state that in their privacy policy.

When you install a widget or ad on your site that contains script, the effects are more far reaching. The company that provided you with the widget code can obtain information about the source and actions of each visitor. Scripts can even be malicious, as in the case of poisoned banners. :-(

Your Due Diligence Can Help

You are responsible as a blogger or web site owner to protect the privacy of your visitors as best you can. Use web widgets from reputable sources and banner ads, too. If practical, host the image on your own server, as I myself generally do.

Hopefully, data that reputable third parties obtain from you and your visitors will be used for reasonable purposes, and their widget code will perform as specified. You need to take care that all third party widget code you embed in your site is from a reputable source.

Your turn for questions or comments. ;-)

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Larry Brauner

A shorter article than the past one.

Privacy and spam concerns continue to induce Facebook and Ning to make changes that hurt marketers. Facebook, for example, will end network affiliations, while Ning has already disabled the sharing of any content across participating sites.

Good-Bye Facebook Networks

Facebook members now use school, city of company network affiliations to control access to their personal content.

Since network affiliation is less relevant than it had been at the network’s conception, and since  the display of network affiliation can jeopardize members’ privacy and security, Facebook is replacing affiliation-based permissions with a friendship-based alternative.

This solution better protects Facebook members. :-)

However, it also takes away an important targeting mechanism from honest business users wishing to find people in the regions where they operate. :-(

Thanks Ning for Duplicate Messages

If you and I are friends at several Ning sites, I probably send you duplicate messages. Since I can no longer share content across sites, I send the same information from several sites, and you receive that information multiple times. I try to minimize duplication but haven’t yet eliminated it.

Ning has made it less convenient for spammers. :-)

However, if a spammer is motivated enough, you’ll now receive their spam several times instead of once. :-(

Good-News Bad-News

The good news is that social networking sites will continue their efforts to safeguard the privacy and security of members and to create an enjoyable networking experience… great when we have on our networking hats.

The bad news is that more safeguards can mean more limited access to members, and when we have on our marketing hats… not so great!

What are your thoughts on this hot topic?

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