Why Are Pinterest & Instagram So Popular?

And why should you care?

Niche social networks Pinterest and Instagram have captured and maintained the attention of the tech elite and the mainstream far past the honeymoon, probationary period. And the numbers are compelling. A recent report from Experian shows that in the past year, Pinterest’s share of the social media market rose more than 5,000 percent in North America. It is a top 20 social network in North America, the United Kingdom and Singapore. Instagram’s share of the social market increased more than 17,000 percent in North America during that same period.

Why? It would be easy to point to the fact that Pinterest is full of food, design and products, which appeal to the pleasure zone for sure, but that would discount Instagram’s broader subject matter. The common feature is the image-centric nature of the content. People  respond to gorgeous images and layout. Simple design that doesn’t get in the way of the eye-candy. This is what the online world wants to see  – something pretty.

Pictures, still or moving, are the best means of engagement in an otherwise still, online world. This explains why YouTube is so popular – we would prefer to “see” than “read.” Reading is work – it leaves much to the imagination. Seeing is a more immediately gratifying experience. The image conveys information that the written word cannot.

So, why should you the lawyer, or online professional, care? Do you want to attract attention? Do you want to hold someone’s interest? Are you trying to connect online? If you have and do, then you owe it to your content to bring it alive with design and color. Pay attention to your site layout, your blog theme and your presence on visual networks. Add images, and good ones, to your blog posts. Maybe use video to give your presence some animated personality. With some creativity, you can build a presence on sites like Pinterest and Instagram for your professional interests. Pinterest boards dedicated to law firm design or courtroom illustrations. Instagram accounts with portraits of coworkers or your “shot of the day.”

The nameplate sites like Zerply, About.me, Flavors.me, and others, also understand this. That is why their templated profiles look great – they spend time on that aspect of the design because it will encourage others to spend time on the profiles hosted on the site. Why are infographics so popular? They are far more fun to look at than an encyclopedia page full of text and tables.

I will readily admit that I tend to spend more time on a site that is easier to “see” – crowded, text-heavy pages tend to turn me off. There is a reason why people are spending time on this image-centric sites. It’s worth considering them and taking a cue from their design sense while setting up your content.

Website Builder Central.ly Looks Great, Costs Nothing

What do you want for nothing? Shiny, slick and functional? You got it with Central.ly. Central.ly reminds me a lot of personal web page builders Flavors.me, About.me and Dooid, but it is really designed to promote a business rather than a person. Central.ly offers an incredibly simple website building tool – you simply add the business name, description, logo, and widgets you want to use, a background image, and color scheme and, Presto!, instant gorgeous web page. The single page links to other web sources for added info, such as Yelp reviews, Google Maps for directions, a blog hosted elsewhere, Facebook page, Twitter stream. You can set up a Contact page and integrate your MailChimp account as well. Use a central.ly/yourbusinesnamehere.com URL, or configure your own domain to work with Central.ly.

If you are starting up your business and don’t have a lot of time or money to invest in a web page, then Central.ly seems to have you nicely covered. Check out their demo video below to see how easy building your own website can be.

Facebook Friend-zy

Facebook, Inc.
Image via Wikipedia

Hard not to have been hit over the head the past couple of days with all of the news about Facebook . Big changes that affect your privacy, how you interact across the Facebook site and how you interact across the Web are in a state of flux.

On some level, I must have subconsciously known that these changes were in the air, because I was struck with a major Spring cleaning “friend-zy” and, over the past several days, have been strengthening the connections between my profile and business page AdvantageAdvocates and between the business page and its web page.

I found tons of great Facebook apps and some new plug-ins to assist me in the process. Rather than go through them all right now (you can see many of them in the new boxes and tabs on both my Facebook Profile (link here) or on my Business Page (link here), I thought I would highlight one that I just installed on my website. This one is part of the big story that Facebook is planning to add a “like” button to the entire Web.

Remember back, over a year ago, when Facebook was threatening to conquer the Web with its universal check-in, Facebook Connect? Well, its’s deja vu all over again. The like button is another iteration of this concept – if you have a Facebook profie and see a “like” button on a site, you can quickly connect to the and with the site wherever you happen to be.

To that end, I installed a brand new plug-in on the home page of AdvantageAdvocates (link here). It looks like this:

It’s dynamic in that it shows updates from the page. The images of the fans also change with different clicks, just as they do on your Facebook Profile page. But most importantly, the button allows a web surfer far from the confines of Facebook’s walled garden to reach into Facebook and effect a “like” of my business page. More dynamic and engaging that simply “sharing” my page into another social site.

How did I do it? Well, that was not difficult. Over at the Facebook Developers Page (link here), there are eight brand, spanking new social plug-ins that feed off of this new “like” vocabulary. I personally used the Like Box (link here). There are also a Like Button (link here), Recommendations (link here), Login with Faces (link here), Comments (link here), Activity Feed (link here), Facepile (link here), and Live Stream (link here).

Click the link of the desired plugin. Get your Page Id. I know there must be an easier way to get it than I did – I used an old Promote Your Page Fan Box Widget Link that didn’t work, but I was able to lift my Page ID out of the html. Simply insert that Page ID into the marked box, hit enter and up pops the code. Copy the code, paste it onto the desired page and in the desired location in your web site editor and Voila – dinner is served!

Will it result in more fans, better connection, better engagement? I certainly hope so! Come on over to my page (link here), jump in and let’s talk about it!

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Relax, You Can Write "website" Now

The AP Stylebook, that tome that governs the lives of news writers of all walks, shapes, and sizes, has spoken. It is no longer “Web site” – it is now “website.” Less shift key, less space bar. According to Mashable (link here), the change took place on the AP website yesterday and will show up in the next printed version of the Stylebook. They still print those things? Well, I guess that they were still writing “Web Site” up until yesterday, so there you have it. It’s all good.

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iCurrent: Another Super-Cool Custom News Tool

I am all about having the relevant information brought to me, because I am a lazy reader at heart. Always looking for that virtual newspaper boy or girl, slamming that e-paper at my front door. Enter iCurrent – a customizable “front page” with content from newspapers, blogs, magazines and web sites tuned to your interests. From the site:

Think of iCurrent as a newspaper published constantly just for you. It delivers the latest news and information for your interests

Simply enter as many of your interests as you wish, and immediate get a “front page” showing those interests in newspaper format. Hover over the title and see arrows that enable you to push the subject matter up or down. In four clicks, I was able to tailor my “search” interest to completely omit any missing persons news. “Channels” offer news only about your specific interests. Create new channels by surfing on the site. Follow popular topics and view channels crafted by iChannel’s editors. You can even share your channels with friends.

How does it work? Let iCurrent explain:

iCurrent is based on sophisticated indexing technology that harvests and organizes Internet content and matches newly found articles to your interests, constantly. Our harvester aggregates articles from thousands of newspapers, magazines, blogs, and websites. To make it easy for you to have a rich and varied set of channels, our curators and users share thousands of content channels across a wide range of interests.

Sources, Channels, Front Page

It just rocks. Give it a try.

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Sobering Social Media Numbers

Facebook's homepage features a login form on t...
Image via Wikipedia

WSJ‘s tech blog Digits ran this article yesterday (link here) regarding conversational use of social media sites by adults. Author Jennifer Valentino writes that 30% percent of adults use social media sites for quick conversations, with relatively regular updates on at least a weekly basis. Seventy percent of adults are spectators – viewing these updates on a regular basis. Forrester Research surveyed more than 10,000 adults and, although the cut-off age was 18, more than 70% of those responding were over 30 years old.

The number of social media citizens is growing rapidly – nearly 60% of those online visit social media sites and maintain profiles. A mere 17% of internet users avoid these hangouts, and that number is dwindling.

Is there any doubt where your peers and potential clients are hanging out?

Hat tip to Resource Shelf

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Semantic Research For The Rest of Us

Popego
Image by magerleagues via Flickr

While stumbling through the reader tonight, I tripped upon an article by Dana Oshiro at ReadWriteWeb about a new semantic search engine called Meaningtool and a semantically-inclined feed generator called Popego.

These tools will help you cut down the noise and pull in the signal based on your interests and intended targets. After completing a profile, Popego provides you with semantic recommendations based on your on-line activity and social circles. Once you generate what Popego calls your “interest platform”, you can find more quickly relevant content and connect more readily with others based on your interests. Popego’s customized feeds can be widgetized and shared on your other sites and blogs.

Meaningtool will analyze any website, pull out the relevant terms and create categories based on these terms, generating a tag cloud. You can click on any of the categorizes and further refine and “tree” the resulting information. Meaningtool recognizes most of the popular Western languages. Meaningtool’s Category Manager allows you to “train” your semantic feed via relevant RSS feeds to get better results.

Meaningtool is currently being used by marketing firms to better target customers with advertising campaigns, publishers looking to improve their search engine ranking, and semantic Web developers.

Like my6sense, the iPhone tool that pulls the cream from your streams to the top, you need to train Popego and Meaningtool to get the most out of them. With the dizzyingly large amount of content on the Web, a little training goes a long way to bringing you want you want to see.

For laughs, I fed my own website’s URL into Meaningtool to see what would happen. After the engine finished thinking, it showed this graphic:

Scrolling down, the results expanded to a tag cloud and suggestions to improve my SEO (which desperately needs improving):

Finally, the bottom of the screen showed the most relevant terms according to the listed classifiers from services like the New York Times, LA Times, Reuters, and Digg:

For certain applications, I can see this being a very effective tool.

Check out the Meaningtool video here:

Popego’s demo video follows:

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Google Goes It Again

Google Inc.
Image via Wikipedia

More interesting news on the search front as Google goodies continue to trickle forth, this time in the form of what’s-coming-down-the-road-for-the-search-giant tips. I read about this on ReadWriteWeb today: Google is focusing attention on new ways to broaden and narrow search, all at the same time. When I say broaden, I am talking about enabling the translation of search queries into different languages so that all of the world’s websites and databases may be tapped. More on the translator gadget can be found here. When I say narrow, I mean tightening  search results to make them more personalized, individualized and social from your subjective perspective. What this really means is tapping into your friend’s content to focus results on sources you trust the most. More on the launching of Google Social Search here. Finally, Google is striving to make your search experience more intuitive: like a benevolent super-computer talking in soothing Hal-like tones, Google aims to be there when you open your browser, presenting you with information you didn’t even yet realize you were interested in. The beginnings of this trick are at play in the recently-announced Google mobile search product, but apparently are expected to extend much further. Telepathy, anyone? Whether it scares or excites, there is no question that Google is on a roll.

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