Growing Business in a Walled Garden


Broken Wheel

Social networking sites like Facebook and the like were fun when they started.   You could be ensured of a reasonable degree of trust with them.

I don’t know if you have noticed lately, but Facebook have been slowly but surely selling off your privacy, and rights  to the information you put on their site. They are doing this by just changing their Terms and Conditions from time to time.   The changes have been slow and almost calculated.

Upload a photo to Facebook and they own rights to it, or can reuse or sell it as they want.   They also tried to take control of any posts or articles submitted to Facebook as well.

Now with more privacy concerns, it has come the time to take a serious look to social networking services, as Nathanael Boehm suggests, and our business relationship with them.

Responsibility as the Gatekeepers

I know to some sections of the community  think that Facebook is the web and nothing else,  just like with google is the browser.

For us in the technological driving seat, we know that the web is much more than this walled garden.   Just like AOL and other closed sites (requiring a password to see the content) Facebook is just a sub section of the greater content of the open web.

As the gatekeepers of this knowledge we really must use it wisely when directing clients and the general public.   When we advise people on how to use web, we have to be constantly thinking of the bigger picture.

It maybe that we see a certain social networking site as the latest and greatest crazy.   We may see it as a great place for gathering business leads, or maintaining a community.   Still remember  we are not our clients users.  Our experience is not their experience.

Lessons to Learn

We tend to live in a rarefied bubble of the advancing technology of the web industry.   This is not the real world, as I’m often reminded when conducting user testing.

We need to remember:

  • Not everyone is on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, FourSquare or the like.
  • Not everyone has access to various social networking site at their main point of access.
  • Not everyone wants to be on a social networking site.

Sure, yes we all know that.   So why do we:

  • Setup links to events on a closed systems (like Facebook).
  • Setup links of feeds or photo galleries on a closed system.
  • Post information and articles for customers on a closed systems.
  • Use a comment system or publication system that is invite only or closed system (like Dribble, FriendFeed).

Not the greatest experience in the world  – you read about this great article, but the link is to a closed site.  There is a must attend event, but it’s on a closed site for members only.   You don’t have the time to muck around signing up.  So you move on, frustrated.

Sound familiar, it should that’s how some people react.

So when you next organise an event, post an article, link to a video, upload photos, or recommend the like to a client.   How about doing it on the normal Open Web, and linking that to your social networking site of choice.

Towards the Open Web

It’s simple.  use the web that isn’t behind a closed wall.  The web that isn’t controlled by someone else’s Terms and Conditions, that are forever changing.

Use the  Open Web that is going to reach all the people, use the web as it was originally intended.   If I suggested you use AOL as the basis for a client business web site years ago, you would all have laughed at me.  So why use Facebook?

There are alternatives.   I shouldn’t have to point you to them, but they do exist, ones that  don’t make you sell your soul to use them.

More importantly when we recommend the use of social media in a business promotional strategy, make sure the client and you are fully aware of the relevant Terms and Conditions.

You also really need to have a handle on their audience, will the audience to interested in the online social network for the client or not. Winging it on your gut instinct or the clients say so just isn’t going to cut it in today’s business world.

It’s not hard, use the Open Web first over the Closed Web of the walled gardens.  What about you, Closed or Open Web?

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