Blocked From Facebook – Not So Social

Very recently I was blocked from sending messages on Facebook. I am an active participant in the social media craze and it has been a real treat catching up with long lost friends. After all, the purpose of social media and Facebook is to be SOCIAL. You can imagine my surprise when I was suddenly blocked from sending messages on this social media outlet.

As it turns out, I am not the only one who has been banned. For starters, I’m not sure why I was banned and it flies in the face of being social online. One would assume that reaching out to friends, family, and sending several messages in a day or within a 24 hour period would be the norm. Facebook does not see it that way. Apparently, if you send out too many messages in a short period of time the Facebook powers will block your ability to send out messages.

For a split second I felt pretty terrible, as if I was some type of SPAMMING monster hiding under the bridge waiting for the opportunity to hit all my friends with the latest AMWAY product. Better yet, sending out the newest multi-level marketing ploy which only the tops in the program make money and all others pay for conventions and books created by compete idiots.

After running a few searches for “banned from Facebook” and “blocked from Facebook” I found hundreds of threads and posts about the subject. As you may imagine, the vast majority of responders regarded the situation as downright mean, unwarranted, and counter productive. If you can’t be social and are limited to HOW SOCIAL YOU CAN be….what is the point?

I certainly understand the need to protect others from SPAM, stalkers, unwanted-long-lost-connections, and repetitive messages. I also understand that there may be only so many messages Facebook can send through their servers. However, the rules are very unclear as to how many messages and message types any person can send out. These are the possible reasons for becoming banned on Facebook, but I would submit another, yet more dubious reason: Facebook may be in the process of testing the waters for some type of social media model which you will have to pay for via subscription.

According to the Facebook Blog, they have 100 million users and growing. This could be a huge cash cow. How many users would drop out if they came out with a subscription based social media service? Is this not the very nexus of a oxymoron?  Be social, but not too social. Be found but don’t reply too much or too often. Put your social life up for the world but be sure to reign it in. I wonder if Facebook punishes business or fan pages for posting messages…I think not.

Based on all of the posts I have read, I may be banned for 24 hours and on some type of watch list thereafter. Social media was created for individuals to be social and if you can’t be social in a legitimate way via online interaction, why be social online at all? It was not my intention to go on a rant, but share the experience on the Searchology blog as a message to all you social media users out there; if you are too social on the biggest social media network, Facebook, they’ve got your number.

The Danger of Aggregate Data

The question I hear most often from clients and employers is “What does this data mean?” This is most frequently asked in reference to Google analytics aggregate data.  The short answer to this is aggregate data does not mean all that much.  Aggregate data summarizes or combines other data for analytical and research purposes.  It is the analytical equivalent of cliffs notes.   Data is very powerful and can help make informed decisions about content, direction, conversion and a host of other topics.  But looked at improperly it is as accurate as if you wrote down answers on scraps of paper and randomly pulled them out of a hat.  

The data you collect tells the story of your site.  The problem is that for the most part the aggregate data only tells part of the story.  Take for example the information you can see in the Google Analytics Dashboard.  When you first log into Google Analytics you see a snapshot of your site: Total visitors, unique visitors, traffic sources, etc…  This information is a good place to start but basing decisions solely off of this view will do you a disservice.  

Say for example you go to your dashboard and see that your bounce rate is 70%.  This means that 70% of all visitors came to your site saw the home page and left immediately, deciding that your site was not even worth a second click.  You would naturally assume based on this aggregate data that there was something horribly wrong with your landing page.  You decide to spend money on a costly redesign to make your home page more inviting.   After investing thousands of dollars you re-launch your landing page and sit back confident that you will now see a dramatic decrease in you bounce rate and consequently a just as dramatic an increase in conversions.  But nothing changes so you conclude that you must not have gotten the design right. Still believing that your high bounce rate is a function of the landing page design you decide that you will rotate a few different designs and see which one works best and has the lowest bounce rate and highest conversion rate.   This time you see a positive change but it is not statistically relevant.  You are at a loss, you were sure that one of these designs would surely make the impact you were looking for but all you got for your trouble is a bunch of invoices from a designer. 

Now let’s take the same situation and instead of looking at the aggregate data we segment that data.  You find that you have 3 top traffic sources: a mystery referral URL, organic search, and paid search.  The mystery URL is sending a bulk of your traffic.  You have noticed this URL before and though you were unfamiliar with it you figured any traffic is good traffic and you are happy to have it.  You start to get curious about this traffic and you drill down to the bounce rates for your top sources.   You see that organic search has a bounce rate below 40% and so does paid search but the mystery referral URL has a bounce rate close to 90%.  Not only does it have a high bounce rate the average time on site is less than 20 seconds.  What in the world is going on? How can this be?  WTF? Are all questions that you should immediately ask yourself if you see this situation. Digging deeper you find that this mystery URL is associated with a pyramid scheme paying people to surf to several web sites a day. This is all unqualified garbage traffic and all it is doing is skewing your aggregate data.  Since you took the time to segment you data you see that, while you have some more work to do driving good targeted traffic to your site the good traffic you are seeing is sticking around and checking out what you have to offer.  Your time will be best spent cleaning up your analytics as best you can and getting the story straight before you spend money or resources on redesigns or other costly fixes for problems that may not exist.

Presidential Internet “Kill Switch”

The Huffington Post recently reported that Joe Lieberman is sending in a bill to the Senate to allow the President of the U.S. the ability to shut down portions of the Internet when needed. What would the President need to shut any part of the Internet down for? I could understand the need to kill the Internet for something like cyber crimes or CIA cyber infiltration but nothing else. Lieberman may have offered this up for consideration because of a major leak from Wikileaks (the U.S. is currently seeking the founder of Wikileaks for unknown reasons).  No matter the reason, this would be unacceptable for our Internet liberties, freedom of information, and our collective right to seek truths wherever they may be.

Currently we all enjoy the Internet on a regular basis, I for one am online up to 16 hours a day. I could not imagine attempting to log on and see the following notice:

Your Internet is shut down. You will not see Google ads today. You will not see your emails or pay your bills. You will not be able to waste any time at work. In fact, due to the manual shut down, don’t bother going into the office today, Don’t bother contacting your service provide because your U.S. Government is now in control. 

The Internet “Kill Switch”

According to the Huffington Post, there is another proposal proposed by Joseph Lieberman to which would allow the President of the United States to shut down or take control over portions of the Internet. Not only is this news, but if it passes, it would potentially change how we gather information and what we can access via the Internet forever. What reasons would the U.S. government have  for shutting down the Internet? The short list; cyber terrorism, protect government agencies, secure government files from groups like Wikileaks , after that…it gets very fuzzy on why a Internet Kill Switch would be needed.

In fact, I imagine that if government agencies are protecting their data, records, top secret files, and have the best professionals in the industry, there is no need at all for a kill switch of any type for the Internet. How does shutting down the Internet protect “the people”? Shutting off access and the Internet does nothing for anyone at anytime. If your computer is protected properly, you and your data should be just fine. If not, get better counter-hackers to combat the hackers or build better firewalls.

The power of the Internet is; the freedom to publish content and read content freely without restraint or censorship. Knowledge is power. The ability to locate documents, new languages, concepts, formulas, and information is empowering. If is one of the purest forms of freedom we have ever experienced. If the freedom to access the Internet becomes restricted consider, the restrictions and “Kill Switch” the Chinese or North Koreans have.

Don’t get me wrong…I don’t think a Kill Switch would ever pass. Nor do I think our government would revert back to hunting communists. Then again, Germany and the world was doing just fine prior to Hitler. The Internet may end up being the most important discovery in human history. To give anyone man, person, woman, or government body the ability to kill it for any reason is the very first step in controlling and regulation for other, more personal liberties.

Keeping the Internet accessible for all is critical for commerce, communication, liberty, and in some cases life itself. So, ponder the possibility of turning on your computer one day to find FaceBook has been shut down, or you simply can’t log in and all you see is this:

Due to U.S. Government Policy Bill number 666-4579 Article – A The United States Government has shut down the Internet because we can’t protect our own computers from the boogieman. Please try in a few weeks or so [when after long delays in bureaucratic B.S.] we will have the Internet turned back on. We do not apologize for this inconvenience.

BP Oil spill and the Search Results – Good PR or good for nothing?

Try a few searches on Google for “bp oil spill” or even better…try “oil spill response” and you will find some very interesting results. The first of which is British Petroleum buying keywords to “manipulate the search results” as Kieth Olbermann pointed out this evening on MSNBC.  ABC may have broken the new first with their take on BP Buys Search Engine Phrases. This would be a good first step in online reputation management and may backfire as the disaster is certainly going to cost BP, America, The Gulf Coast, and our planet more than just a few pennies per click.

While on the surface of things, it may seem like a great way to start changing hearts and minds of America it will not. And it is way to little way to late. The current situation in the BP has created could have been avoided in the first place. While I don’t care to go into all of the details of who, how, and why [as I am not an expert in this area]; the BP oil spill should serve as a major warning to those companies who are facing a nasty online reputation management situation.

If you care about your brand and company…act accordingly in the first place. None of us as individuals or companies have the ability or service level to execute and deliver without a flaw. This should be expected as nothing goes without a bump or hiccup. The point is; once you have soiled your reputation, the damage done may be more than you could have imagined. No matter how much money you spend on Google Ad Words or Yahoo! Search Marketing or search engine optimization or FaceBook…it simply will be too late for any type of damage control.

What makes matters worse for BP is the “oil spill response” number one result. It is It is a collaborate effort from major oil companies extolling their collective ability to respond to oil spills. Obviously this is complete and utter B.S. I’ve yet to hear any other oil company coming to the aid of America or British Petroleum. BP and other companies can drill in deep waters very well…but they cannot fix a catastrophe if there is one. In fact, oil response technology has not change very much in the past 30 years. Drill baby drill indeed.

BP stock is down, they may face criminal charges, potential costs of $4,500 per barrel spilled, and have caused the worst environmental disaster ever. Now don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of companies who take ownership of their brands, products, and services. However, BP has proven it only takes on mistake with one client can cause the biggest reputation management problem without a solution.

Let them spend millions on keywords and SEO experts. No matter what they do, BP will be permanently destroyed because of gross negligence and praying to the dollar almighty. The time has returned for being 100% responsible for what you do, say, and produce. It is not okay too ask too much and return too little. It is not okay to act first and ask questions later. It is not okay to risk things that are not yours to risk. It is not okay to jeopardize ANYTHING with out real deep risk assessment. It is not okay to walk away without taking responsibility and fixing what has been broken. Time to pay the piper and time for 100% accountability.

At one time Enron was one of the biggest accounting firms in the world. No they are not and their CEO is in jail along with a few Enron executives. If you think BP is too big to fail…you are wrong. If you think your online reputation can survive any storm…you are wrong. In the end, nothing will save BP and nothing will bring back our coast lines. Buy baby buy…but it won’t help you now.

The big take away here is this; things happen, life happens, mistakes happen. Consumers and customers can forgive…and forget. But some mistakes are simply too much, too big, and too costly. My grandfather always said, “Plan your work and work your plan.” I suggest doing likewise. One thing is for certain…BP was totally unprepared for something like this. Welcome to day 49 of the BP oil spill disaster.