Redefining insanity for the social web

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” -Benjamin Franklin

I’ve heard the above quote hundreds of times in my adult life. I’ve believed it. It makes sense. It has taken a residence in my mind. Forced me to give up when projects seemed pointless. An excuse to stop trying, to abandon the so-called broken.

Today I’m thinking this quote no longer rings true.

What if we’re just early to the party? What if the thing we’re doing isn’t broken, we’re just waiting for others to show up to make it work? What if doing the same thing over and over isn’t about getting results, but instead about preparing for when the crowd arrives?

The University was on twitter well before our students. In 2008 we were tweeting, but the messages weren’t yet reaching our intended audience. Instead of thinking the early efforts were insane, we added to it by setting up accounts for @admissions, @financialaid, @studentlife, @advising, @studentaffairs and many more. We played, we made mistakes, we learned from them, we prepared so that when the students finally arrived we’d be ready. Five years later, we’re doing the same thing, but getting much different results.

I think insanity on the social web is not exploring the possibilities of the new and shiny simply because it’s lacking an audience. Playing, learning and understanding before the arrival of the audience is preparing.

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” -Benjamin Franklin

Well said, Ben.


Numbers are hard, facebook ads shouldn’t be.

I love facebook ads. Super targeted, cost-effective and very easy to use and understand… until this happened.

facebook warning box

“Your Page wasn’t promoted because your profile picture, which is used as the image in your ad, violates our guidelines.”

Red boxes on social networks can be scary. A violation of a guideline, yikes, that sounds wicked serious and not something I want to do.

So, what did I do wrong?

“Ads and sponsored stories in news feed may not include images made up of more than 20% text, including logos and slogans.” (Text in Images guideline)

example of acceptable image and unacceptable image

The profile picture has more than 20% text on it? Really? Did I make a text heavy graphic. My bad. That’s not good for any of us. Let me fix that. But first, shall we count some pixels?

profile pic

Let’s don’t count just the pixels of the text that is covering the image, let’s put a box around the words and measure that. It’s not only easier, but also works in favor of facebook since it’s a larger area.

profile pic with reb boxes

Image is 418×418 (174,724 pixels), and the boxes around the text are 388×27 (10,476 pixels) and 388×47 (18,236 pixels). That works out to 16.43% (28,712 pixels) of the profile picture being text, well below the 20% that triggers a violation.

Maybe facebook considers the entire area the wordmark takes up in its calculation. Let’s draw a bigger box.

green box on profile image

While 388×89 (34,532 pixels) is much closer to 20% coming in at 19.76%, it still isn’t more than 20% and shouldn’t be a foul.

Voice of reason: So why are you so upset, it only cancels your ad for sponsored stories in the news feed, all other ad types are available? Sounds like you’re just hating on facebook because you weren’t invited to the Graph Search beta party.

Good question, and here’s an easy answer: Sponsored stories in the news feed are GOLD. When promoting a post, I almost always pause the other ad types and just run with the sponsored stories. Sponsored stories generate clicks, they prompt interactions on the page, they give brands a human representative. People trusting people FTW!

ad screen

I totally understand facebook’s reasoning behind the “less than 20″ rule, nobody likes spammy content. But if I’m running an ad promoting my page, why would the profile picture be subjected to this rule? Cover photos, YES. Photos in promoted posts, YES. Images in ads, YES. Ads using the profile picture to increase likes of the page, NO.

profile pictures for uwgb

I’ve been using the same profile picture layout for a year. A photo of campus with an overlay of the wordmark. I don’t find it spammy. I think the campus scene is less spammy than a logo with a smaller workmark.

It’s not brand spam, it’s the brand. The brand the ad is asking them to like. If facebook wants brands to be less spammy on facebook, they should build an algorithm that prevents brand pages from playing edgerank with hack posts. The “like if you’re hungry, share if you’re really hungry” posts are more offensive than an ad that has an image composed of 20% text.

Now back to that Graph Search party invite…


Online Harvest Festival

From the Drafts: 11/23/2011

On the eve of Thanksgiving, the best harvest festival EVER, let’s think about how it works. Grow things, collect things, share things, enjoy things… together.

Not very complex, but we often get it wrong online.

Instead of asking our social web communities for trivial things (likes/follows/RTs), why not ask them for real things that could help strengthen the community. Instead of giving them what we think they want — on our own; let’s help them build what they want — together.

Study spots on campus

This –> The Advising page on facebook asked students to share their favorite study spots. On twitter they asked students to complete a tweet that revealed a secret to successful studying. They harvested the results, mashed it up and made a tasty photo album. A 100% student-generated take on how and where to study.

Grow. Collect. Share. Enjoy… together.

THIS –> This post isn’t about Thanksgiving, it’s about hacking into the idea of Thanksgiving… to make the social web more relatable. Stop thinking of the social web as an online world, start thinking of it as the world. Steal the ideas that make the world so awesome… celebrating events, holding the door open, creating laughter, sharing hope, smiling at a stranger.

It’s simple. Be human. Even if the landscape is digital.