Archive for December, 2008

Why is Facebook so addictive?

I admit: my blog has been suffering from lack of attention lately. Why? Yes, I’ve been busy with work, but that doesn’t truly capture it. I have to admit it: I’ve become addicted to facebook.

I first started on facebook because my teenage son is on there (and has been addicted from the start)–and being a mom, I wanted to know what it was about and what he was doing up there and the easiest way for me to do that was to get up there myself.

At first it was awful. I hated it. I had just a few friends and those few I had kept superpoking me with hits and kicks and slaps. I felt like I was getting beat up every time I logged on–there was so much negative energy! My son had the easy answer to that: “Mom, if you don’t like that, just uninstall that app.” So I did and life became much more peaceful again.

It was then that I realized Facebook can be whatever you want it to be–that’s the magic of it. Whatever it is you’re interested in, you can find it on Facebook. For me, I’m into being green and saving the earth, so I found games where I can send fish and plants to my friends to save the rainforest and the ocean. I can send “green energy minutes” to get wineries in CA to power up with sustainable energy. The one I really find addictive is myFarm. I’m so into plants and food, especially plants that produce food and it’s winter here now. myFarm gives me the opportunity to see things grow and harvest them, plant them again, harvest, plant, rearrange–and send my friends gifts of trees, cows, horses, chickens and goats–and they send me gifts back. On top of all the fun, it helps fight global warming. Oh it’s great fun.

The other magic part about it is you can connect with friends you lost track of–and stay connected. I’ve connected with friends I used to work with 10 – 20 years ago. And then one of my high school buddies found me one day, and she was connected to the rest of the group. It was so awesome to hear from them and see where they’re at, see their families and know what their lives are like now. It’s like stepping back into high school, but we’ve all matured so it’s even more fun than it was back then.

It’s not the most usable site out there. There are many people I run into who tell me they just don’t know how to use it. They might be up there, but they don’t quite know how to do everything.

And it’s not very reliable, either. Many times I get errors and have to retry and retry.

It’s full of annoying ads that try to trick you into clicking them. You have to be very careful where you click on Facebook. facebook-annoyingadWhen you’re using an application and you see a green “Continue” button, you would usually want to click it, right? But the green “Continue” button is really part of the ad, so you should (almost) NEVER click a button that says “Continue” on Facebook. No wonder it’s so hard to use!

Sometimes, even without clicking on anything, you’ll get an ad or land on a web site you didn’t want. This happens to me all the time on myFarm. On any other web site, I would leave and never come back if they did that to me, and when it does, I make a little note in my head never to shop at that store or use that site. Anyone that would purposely hijack a user from their task (even if my task is to play a silly game in Facebook) is not worth doing business with. It is a level of rudeness that transcends rude–almost to the point of violating the user’s rights.

So why do I put up with it? Because my friends are there, because it helps me feel like I’m doing something good for the world, because I can stay connected with the people I want to be connected with and know how they are, what they’re up to, see pictures of them and their kids, their pets, their lives, share old memories. It’s like the bar where everyone hangs out–maybe you don’t like it all that much, but you like the people there, so you keep going. I just wish ALL my friends were there.

I bet I could easily find my other friends on Facebook if they would fix those usability problems and annoying, obnoxious ads. They could really take a lesson from Google there. Google’s ads are unobtrusive, and they support the task the user is undertaking, so the ads are very welcome and useful and even nice to have. Google ads are never rude, interrupting, deceitful, and confusing, like Facebook ads are.

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Using “Reverse Camouflage” in your Copy

Have you ever found yourself in the position of writing copy for an ad or web site and just not quite sure what to say? Have you ever started writing, then go back and read what you wrote and thought, “oh YUCK!”

I don’t know about you, but it happens to me a lot. I get enthusiastic about something I’m writing about and I end up sounding overly sales-y, like a pushy car salesman who has commission-breath. I go back and read it and think, “did I really write THAT?!?” So I edit and re-edit and I’m never quite happy with the way it sounds.

Well, perhaps the reason I was so disgusted was I wasn’t using inverted camouflage–I wasn’t defining what we’re NOT.

I ran across a real thought-provoking blog this morning from Jeff Sexton at FutureNow. He pointed out how effective campaigns that clearly define what you’re NOT (e.g., the boundaries of your capabilities) can be. Jeff calls it “reverse camouflage.”  To quote Jeff:

In the picture above, notice how the legs present a solid silhouette and are easily identified, while the man’s upper body camouflage breaks up his silhouette and blurs his edges into the background of trees and snow.  As a result, it’s much harder to make out his his torso and arms.

Like our eyes, our minds also depend on edges and silhouettes.  We define by giving parameters, mentally grasping a concept by its boundaries.  Without the “edges” of contrasting reference points, a concept or term remains ambiguous at best.

That’s why grabbing after an “infinite” market and seeking to be all things to all people ends up camouflaging one’s brand and messaging; without contrast it all just blurs into the background.

Reading this for me what like a new awakening. No wonder I’m having such a hard time writing–I’m trying to be all things to all people! When you do that, you end up sounding artificial and unbelievable.

Go read his post–he has some really good things to say.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a lot of copy I have to go rewrite …