Why I’ll never use Delicious again

I want to like Delicious, I really do. I’ve been using it to trap links of interest for a while now, and as someone who’s probably used 10 different computers regularly in the last few years, it seemed a handy way to store content I want to access again later, from anywhere. I installed the Delicious extension in Chrome recently and that made it easier and more likely that I’d share and tag links.

But my days with Delicious are over.

The social networks that have stood the test of time so far (“time” in Internet world meaning more than a year or two) have constantly added functionality, features and new design. Facebook does it every few months, it seems. Delicious, for whatever reason, never seemed to graduate into a really robust, useful platform for people to share and save content. It was hard (nearly impossible) to import and find friends, the interface was ugly and clumsy, and search was frustrating. It earned the moniker “Where links go to die” and that’s not too far from the truth, in my case.

It’s too late for Delicious. Google Reader has completely lapped it.

Google Reader started as a way to keep track of blog feeds, and I didn’t use it much beyond that. But then they began rolling out more useful features. You can tag and star items and organize feeds into folders. Then Google rolled out the “Share” function, which, with one click, allows you to post to your own public feed any item from your reader you wished. Google added the ability to find and follow friends via Google Reader and see, right from within your reader, what they are sharing. You can add notes and comments on items or send an item to someone via eMail. And let’s not forget the nifty ‘Trends’ stats feature (this is Google, after all) that shows you which feeds you’re most engaged with. (The official Google Reader blog is a great resource on all these features.)

For a long time, the only thing that kept me saving items to Delicious was the concept of “discovery.” Anything I wanted to save, share or tag in Google Reader was limited to feeds I was already subscribed to. If I happened across something on the Web or clicked to a link from Twitter, I didn’t have a good way to get it into my reader. Plus, I often found a single post interesting and bookmark-worthy, but had no desire to subscribe to the entire blog.

So, it was a two-party system for me: Google Reader to share and save the most interesting posts from among the feeds I already subscribed to, and Delicious for tagging and saving sites I randomly “found” out on the Web.

But it doesn’t have to be this way!

Google Reader has a “Note in Reader” bookmarklet! It does! And it has for two years! Drag the bookmarklet onto your browser’s toolbar, and wave goodbye to Delicious. The bookmarklet lets you save and/or share anything you find on the Web into your Google Reader. You can add notes and comments, just like you would on a blog post. I don’t know how I missed this feature, but to me, it pretty much means the end of Delicious.

The “Note in Reader” feature completes the content consumption round trip for me. Using Google Reader I can:

  • Subscribe to a blog or Web site’s feed to receive all its content
  • Arrange and sort feeds into folders and bundles
  • Star, tag, like, annotate and share specific items from those feeds to my own public “shared items” feed
  • Find and follow friends via my GMail contacts or other social networks, or even search for people via keyword or location, and then see and subscribe to items they are sharing
  • View recommendations for new feeds that Google generates by comparing my interests with feeds of users similar to me
  • Share and save content into my Google Reader from anywhere on the Web I happen to find it

I haven’t tinkered with Google Buzz much, but obviously Reader and Buzz are easily integrated so you can share items across that platform, too.

(I’m not even going to get started on Google Reader Play, which is possibly the biggest time suck I’ve ever seen – it curates and presents fun and interesting information from the Web it thinks I may like into a visual slideshow type of format and lets you share, like and save right from the screen. I’m talking hours lost here discovering fun stuff.)

So I’m sorry Delicious. I can’t even say that it was fun while it lasted, because it was always a bit cumbersome. It’s too bad we have to part ways, but with “Note in Reader” and all the other amazing options Google Reader offers, can you blame me?

Check out what I’m reading, saving and sharing via Google Reader here.

Facebook dominates how people share content on the Web

Check out this chart was posted last month to Silicon Alley Insider: Facebook is the most popular platform for sharing content — even surpassing e-mail:

Chart

It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that sites like Google Reader have attempted to become more Facebook-like recently, adding the ability to follow friends and “like” links or posts. Delicious also recently made changes in hopes that the site will become a more interactive place for sharing links instead of a repository for storing them.

What also caught my eye was how fractured the social bookmarking sites are. There doesn’t seem to be a truly dominant service among Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit… all hover in the 3-5 percent range.

With Facebook continuing to grow at a surprising clip, adding users and also buying up the technology and talent of FriendFeed, it’s well on its way to becoming the online content-sharing juggernaut. But while it’s slowly moving away from this direction, most of Facebook’s content sharing still happens behind the wall. It’s tough to do a detailed analysis on what people are saying about content after it’s shared on Facebook. Accessing, aggregating and interpreting that information is the real goldmine for marketers and advertisers.

The chart data comes from Add to Any, which is the toolbar I use on the blog to allow readers to share or save content. It’s one of many similar options blogs and Web sites can use to encourage content-sharing (Share This, TweetMeme, Socialize) so I’m unsure as to how the data would hold up if the study were replicated across all these services.

What are your impressions of the chart? Have you made changes to your organization’s Web site so that users can easily share your content to Facebook? Would the fractured nature of social bookmarking sites deter you from incorporating a bookmarking strategy into your campaigns?

Social Media Smackdown: Columbus, Ohio vs. Columbia, S.C.

Something a little different for this third round of Social Media Smackdown: I’m comparing how two cities are using social media from a travel and tourism perspective. Both have their namesake from Genoa’s most famous navigator and both are home to college football teams I love to hate. Let’s see how Columbus, Ohio and Columbia, South Carolina are cultivating relationships with fans through social media. Buckeyes or Gamecocks? Let’s find out:

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Round 1: Twitter

Each city has a Twitter account; Columbus can be found @ExpCols and Columbia is @columbiasc and both claim to be the “official” guides to their respective cities. Twitter-Friends, which I’ve used in past Smackdowns to calculate metrics like Conversation Quotient and Link Quotient, was not functioning properly and kept giving me big zeroes in these categories for both accounts. So, I had to go through manually and eye up each Tweetstream to make a judgment.

Columbus, Ohio: Following 1,853; Followers 2,775; Tweets 3,217
Columbus is VERY active on Twitter, posting updates several times a day. Most of their tweets include a link to its CVB blog and there are very few @replies. They often add the #ExpCols hashtag to tweets, but it doesn’t appear that many others do. Essentially, Columbus’ Twitter account can be boiled down to an RSS of its blog (with more interesting teasers to accompany the links to the blog posts).

Columbia, S.C: Following 3,665; Followers 3,832; Tweets 1,140
This Tweetstream is much more interactive – a better mix of @replies and RTs along with links. It looks like the Columbia CVB has used Twitter to promote giveaways and take a thought leadership position in the travel/convention industry: many tweets are links about meeting planning in general. They also recommend other local South Carolina twitter accounts for people to follow and offer tips on things like local grocery deals and weather reports. They also use the #famouslyhot hashtag to identify some of their tweets.

Point: Columbia is using Twitter not only to push out its own content, but also to share interesting tweets and links from others. Columbus, however, uses Twitter more as a broadcast channel. Point to the southerners.

Round 2: Facebook

At first glance, this was a walkaway victory for Columbia, S.C. When I searched Facebook pages for Columbus, Ohio, the page I found first had 16,259 fans. However, the city didn’t appear to be taking advantage of the page very much. The only wall posts were by fans – Columbus didn’t seem to be interacting with them at all. Posts included “shout outs” like “Just visited The Short North. Pretty Cool! White Castle rock on!” Other wall posts by fans are advertisements for events or fundraisers in and around the city. On the photos page, there are a few profile pics and about 20 photos that have been uploaded by fans. There was only one discussion topic posted with no replies. It seemed like a big miss. But when I went to the “Experience Columbus” Web site and clicked the Facebook link from that site, it took me to an entirely different page. This one only had 525 fans, but was much more interactive. The page has Flickr and YouTube streams integrated into it, a feed from its blog, and several posts and links to the wall detailing all the goings-on in the city. But, when I searched “Columbus, Ohio” on Facebook, it didn’t even come up in the results. Searching on just the word “Columbus” revealed the site, but it was listed seventh or eighth in the results.

cbabridgeThe Facebook page for Columbia, S.C., has just over 8,000 fans, but is much more interactive. The site appears to be maintained by the Columbia Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, whose staff posts events and news items about what’s going on in the city and invites fans to share their events. What I particularly like is a post on the wall (with a photo) identifying and introducing the Columbia CVB staff. It humanizes the page and lets you know that there are real, live people behind this brand! The photos page includes nine albums, like “Celebrities in Columbia” and candids from various conferences held in the city. On the boxes tab, Columbia has an import of its Flickr stream for more photos and feeds to three different blogs about Columbia. It also includes a .pdf of its meeting planners guide and more than 400 links posted to the page that relate to events, residents or news items about the city. A YouTube box on the home page links to a few videos about Columbia.

Point: Both cities have a good Facebook presence. I like how Columbus is a little less marketing focused. But because it’s so hard to find on Facebook, I think I have to go with Columbia on this one.

Round 3: Web site

Each city’s Web site is run by its Convention and Visitors Bureau. While Columbia’s starts out with a landing page that makes you choose among the Convention Center, CVB and Regional Sports Council sub-sites, Columbus’ home page is more traditional and in my opinion, easier to get pulled into.

colsskylineOn the “Experience Columbus” Web site, you are immediately presented with a scrolling visual of photos from various events around town, a sidebar of social links to six different online locations like Facebook, Twitter and Flickr, a hotel booking widget, a blog feed and an events calendar. Despite all this information being on the home page, it’s not too intimidating. There are links and tabs for meeting planners, the media, and then a series of links to dining, lodging and activities in the city. There’s also the option for local Columbus residents to become “members” of the site. The link to the site’s blog takes you to a nice platform that appears to have been posting since last October. The content is written by various members of the CVB staff and discusses local events and suggestions for things to do in the city. They even appear to have featured some guest authors now and then and have done a good job of embedding pictures and videos into the blog. Few of the posts have comments, but overall the blog does appear to be a good source of information for residents and visitors alike. The “IN” portion of the Web site for Columbus residents is interesting; it is basically a call to action for city residents to help share the good news about their city by inviting family and friends and identifying opportunities to host meetings and conferences in the city. Site members get access to special discounts at local merchants.

I disliked how immediately on Columbia’s “Famously Hot” home page I was faced with a choice.  How am I supposed to know which of the three options to choose? Each link took you to an entirely different site. I ended up picking the CVB portion of the site. Each link took you to an entirely different site. It didn’t work (in either Firefox or IE). I kept getting 404 messages. I’m not sure if it was just my computer, but still after several clicks and refreshes (and even trying to access it on one of our four other computers at the house), I couldn’t get it to load. It appears that there are a few blogs on the site (their FB page had links to a few), but anything trying to resolve to the columbiaCVB.com site just wouldn’t fly. FAIL.

Point: Probably unfair since I couldn’t actually load Columbia’s site, but Columbus, Ohio, wins for its simple but effective presentation, obvious links to social outposts, ease of navigation, well-written blog and innovative focus on residents with its “IN” community.

Round 4: Other Social Sites (Flickr, YouTube, MySpace, etc.)

Both cities do a pretty good job here. Both have a Flickr presence, but while Columbia’s is heavily populated with more staged “markeing” shots and logo images, Columbus has its Flickr presence set up as a group pool where other Flickr members can add their own photos and tag them. There are 300+ photos in the pool and they give you a true sense of what the city is like.

On YouTube, Columbia has had a branded channel since 2007 and has 25 videos posted, with over 4,000 views. Columbus’ 13 videos have been viewed more than 2,000 times, but that’s in just two and a half months since they created their YouTube site. Again, the Columbia videos feel a little more produced and staged and focus heavily on meetings and conventions, whereas Columbus features clips on what it’s really like to live in that city (neighborhood profiles, e.g.)

Both cities had MySpace pages (Columbia actually had two). Both pages had about 1,000 friends, and both had integrated their other social outposts onto their MySpace pages. There was really nothing to truly distinguish them. What I found very interesting is the Columbus is using Delicious to bookmark articles and sites about its city and Northern Ohio. They’ve tagged and bookmarked articles from Bon Appetite, Style, and the Columbus Dispatch.

Point: The point goes to Columbus here. Although it was essentially a draw with MySpace and YouTube, Columbus’ more authentic presentation of its city on Flickr and its innovative use of Delicious to draw attention to news about the city gives it the edge.

ALA @ USCThe Final Verdict: It’s a 2-2 tie…but I think the overall win has to go to the capital of the Buckeye state. I really like how, despite the fact that the CVB is backing their online presence, Columbus, Ohio, is really trying to not be too heavy handed with the marketing aspect of it and trying to engage people and give a real portrayal of what the city is like. Columbia, S.C. does a good job having a presence and using some of the social media tools, but it just feels a little more forced somehow – more like the content and messages are being pushed out versus engaging with fans to create content and conversations together.

Plus, Columbia is home to Steve Spurrier, so they should automatically lose anyway. Go Dawgs.

Previous Smackdown: Mountain Hardwear vs. The North Face
Previous Smackdown: Magic Hat vs. Bell’s Beer

Image via Flickr users RatsOnParade and BridgeImages

To Europe, Courtesy of Social Media

I’m on vacation right now. While you’re reading this, I’m off exploring museums, architecture, parks and cafes. Monsiuer Mengel and I are spending two weeks in Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris. And in large part, it’s due to social media. Here’s my guide to European Vacation, social media-style.

openskies460

1. Win free airfare by entering a blog contest

Yes, be jealous. We flew business class on OpenSkies from JFK to AMS courtesy of tickets I won from travel blog Gadling.com. The site was celebrating its anniversary by giving a pair of tickets away. All you had to do was leave a comment on their blog post and one commenter was randomly selected to win the tickets. That just happened to be lil’ ol’ me!

2. Start following various travel resources on Twitter

Over the past few months, I’ve been following accounts such as @raileurope and @visitholland. Both were helpful in offering information that allowed me to plan and make decisions about our trip. If I happened to notice a tweet about something I wanted to do or read more about on our trip, I would favorite the tweet as a way of bookmarking. A week before leaving, I went back and read through those favorited tweets and made some notes. I also enlisted help from local Albany twitterers for suggestions on the best way to get down to JFK (turns out this is the fastest and cheapest option).

3. Read travel blogs and bookmark content on Delicious and Evernote

I regularly read Gadling, Budget Travel’s This Just In and the New York Times Travel section/blog. Anytime I came across an article offering tips, advice or deals on the cities we were visiting, I bookmarked them via Delicious and tagged them as Europe. Sometimes I chose the “Do Not Share” option in Delicious, just so I wasn’t constantly sending out random articles via FriendFeed. Before the trip, I logged in to Delicious and sorted by the “Europe” tag, printing and highlighting any specific information I wanted to take with me. I also had a few conversations with friends who’d been to Amsterdam and captured their suggestions in an Evernote file that I can refer back to.

4. Check out hotels using TripAdvisor and Hotels.com review boards

We’re quite lucky in that we’re staying at a friend’s empty apartment while in Paris, but I needed to book hotels for Amsterdam, The Hague and Brussels. I relied heavily on the TripAdvisor message boards to make sure I wouldn’t be checking us in to a filthy hotel in a seedy part of town. (Sometimes there’s a reason for seemingly good hotel deals.) I also cross checked the amenities listed for each hotel with reviews done by people who had actually stayed there (is breakfast really free? Do they have WiFi in the rooms or just the common areas?).

5. Use Google StreetView to get the lay of the land

The apartment we’ll be staying in when we get to Paris next week is a bit out of town, near La Defense. We located it on Google Maps and then used the StreetView function to find restaurants that our friend recommended, find a nearby grocery store, and determine what landmarks we need to look for to point us in the right direction when we pop up from the Metro.

6. Pack some good old fashioned guide books

Since I don’t have an iPhone (wah), I can’t take advantage of this totally slick Amsterdam app that would tell me what to see, where nearby restaurants are, what museums are open, and more. So I’ll have to count on Frommer’s, Lonely Planet, and some printed e-mails with recommendations from friends to help us plan out our days. But hopefully next time I head to Europe, it’ll be with an iPhone that can calculate exchange rates, pull up Metro maps, tell me current museum discounts and even translate French on the fly. Someday.

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So, that’s how I got here. I’ve scheduled a few posts for while I’m gone, so hopefully you won’t miss me too much. And I plan to check in every now and then with the laptop to see how everyone’s doing and share a photo or two. I trust y’all to hold down the fort.

Until I get back… Vaarwell – Tot ziens – Au revoir!

Image via Flickr user pedrosimoes7

Tight on resources? Deputize your brand’s fans

Sometimes you just need more people. In January, Washington, D.C. deputized out-of-town security and police forces during the Obama inauguration. The city gave them the tools and authority to manage the massive crowds that had descended for the weekend. The size of the actual D.C. police force didn’t grow permanently, but it had the resources it needed to get through the event. Brands can achieve the same effect – a simulated growth in the size of its marketing resources – by deputizing their fans.

penzeysI am a huge fan of Penzey’s Spices. The company is based in Wisconsin and has a few dozen stores throughout the US and a mail-order catalog. Their products are amazing. Their cinnamon (all four varieties) is the best I’ve ever tasted. Penzey’s rubs and spice blends for meats and vegetables can make a good cook out of just about anyone. They offer adorable spice gift packages that I’ve often given at wedding showers and as holiday gifts. A few of my favorite recipes were discovered in their spice catalogs. I don’t ever plan on buying grocery-store spices again.

I will gladly sing Penzey’s praises to anyone who will listen (see above paragraph). But here’s the problem – I have very little at my disposal to aid in my Penzey’s evangelization. It doesn’t appear that the company has even dipped its toes into the social media waters yet. No Facebook fan page, no Twitter account, no company blog. That leaves me with only their Web site to direct people to after I tell them how absolutely delicious the Florida Seasoned Pepper or Northwoods Fire blend is.

But Penzey’s Web site is relatively bland – it’s set up essentially as a no-frills eCommerce site. There’s no way for me to interact with the brand and share it with my friends. Bill Penzey, the company founder, writes a folksy customer letter in each catalog and it’s posted on the penzeys.com Web site. But I can’t share it via Facebook, Delicious or Twitter. The catalog is essentially on the site in .pdf format – making it difficult to share. The recipes from the catalog are also posted to the Web site. But again, I can’t bookmark them, post them to a profile, or even “e-mail this page to a friend.”

What Penzey’s perhaps doesn’t realize is that I, and I’m sure many of their other fans, would do a heck of a lot of free marketing for them if we only had tools and content at our disposal. People are already talking about the brand online: a Google blog search for Penzey’s returns more than 14,000 results. On Facebook, a loyal Penzey’s fan created a group that has almost 400 members and there are three others with a couple dozen members. It doesn’t appear that anyone from Penzey’s participates in these groups.

If Penzey’s fans were deputized – armed and equipped with social tools to take to our friends and networks – we could spread our love for Penzey’s at an exponential rate. Imagine if Penzey’s had a Facebook fan page that featured recipes, images, coupons, gift ideas or cooking tips. Or if they created a YouTube channel or Flickr account where their fans could post photos or videos of the meals they created using Penzey’s spices. Penzey’s doesn’t necessarily need to dive in to a full-fledged social media campaign, but creating some social outposts could go a long way toward allowing their fans to interact with the brand (and with each other) and easily share Penzey’s information with their social networks.

Many smaller businesses are afraid of moving into social media because they think it will take too much time. But if your customers like your brand enough and you give them the necessary tools, they will spend their own time to tout your brand among their friends. So give ‘em a badge.

Image via Flickr user amymengel (yeah, I took that one)