Showing posts with label EntreCard. Show all posts
Showing posts with label EntreCard. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 13

Twittering Choices: Social Truths

"We're hearing your feedback and reading through it all. One of the strongest signals is that folks were using this setting to discover and follow new and interesting accounts—this is something we absolutely want to support." — Twitter

That is how it happens with online services. After Twitter went out on a limb and made a fundamental change to its service, specifically the option to receive public messages from people they are not following, the entire community pushed back, many of them rightly calling it a disaster. Some are saying that this might be the change that lifts friendfeed to the forefront or even cause Twitter to fail outright. That leaves only a few who, well, disagree.

After receiving the feedback, Twitter did what it ought to have done in the first place — communicate with its community. However, as Mashable points out, addressing the feedback and returning the function that many participants enjoy are two very different things. Now, Twitter, a service that participants made the poster child for authenticity, looks like it whitewashed the real reason behind the change.

You can track the customer comments right here: #fixreplies. It's a rough critique of a service change and testament to why communication continues to remain a struggle for social networks.

Choice has always been a fundamental part of the online social equation.

What does the change really mean? If you are not familiar with Twitter, you might not understand the service change. Simply put, someone could write to you (probably because you were talking about a subject that interested them) by including the "@" in front of your account name. That message, or tweet, would appear in your thread, making it easy to see and respond to.

Without that service, you may never know someone sent that message to you, unless you followed him or her from the start. Not everybody used the service. People had a choice. For people with thousands or hundreds of thousands of followers, they could choose to see only those messages from those they followed. For anyone looking to meet new people, not so much.

Personally, I've grown to like Twitter. I like it enough that I speak about it from time to time. I especially like it because they've always given their participants choices. And, I hope those feelings don't change since they say they "learned a lot."

But there is something else to learn: Never become too attached to a tool.

Online tools change all the time. And very often, the change is not for the better. Technorati, once the premier place for bloggers to connect, seems to be struggling. MyBlogLog has become fairly flat. Entrecard spiked on the promise of cash, but now that's eroding. Hey! Nielsen is in redesign. And Utterli, after rebranding, just isn't the same. There are hundreds more. Some of them long closed.

All of them have one thing in common. At some point, usually when unduly scared or overly secure, they start making big and rapid changes without communication beyond their inner circles. Jumping on the advice of high profile "experts" instead of regular members, they might even feel smug to make them. But then, after awhile, they notice that the inner circle is all they have left.

Choice has always been a fundamental part of the online social equation. And ultimately, members may choose to go somewhere else.

Thursday, April 16

Killing Community: Graham Langdon, Entrecard

Graham Langdon, self-described as a 23-year-old college drop out intent on making money, has it all figured out. In 2007, he adopted the business model originally developed by BlogRush, which is best described as a defunct throwback to “Web 1.0″ affiliate schemes.

His solution was to develop Entrecard, which was originally a free "business card" ad swap network based on a credit system. The model has recently undergone dramatic changes after several failed attempts to secure venture capitalist funding and no takers when he attempted to dump the company for $100,000. (Several buyers told me the latter was more of a publicity stunt to establish equity than a serious intent to sell.)

The new model attempts to monetize what once was a free service by exchanging the credit system with real currency, and with Entrecard keeping 25 percent on the blogger's side of the transaction. Ever since, not all has been well in the land of Entrecard.

Trading community in for cash.

If there was any reason Entrecard survived BlogRush, it was because, just below the surface of what seemed to be a junk traffic site, there was some semblance of niche communities, especially among mommy bloggers and craft blogs and personal bloggers. No "A list" bloggers, mind you, just regular people who blog.

The new cash model trades down that community, because advertisers do not have to reciprocate with Internet real estate. It is much easier to spend $25 without any participation whatsoever than to participate under the new rules. That is, for now. At the same time Entrecard is opening the network up to advertisers, it is imposing rules on the original community that made Entrecard viable.

Dropping quality ad real estate for fairness.

Originally, the first placement rule was that the Entrecard widget had to be placed "above the fold" until the decision was reversed after push back. Not to be deterred, however, Entrecard launched a variation of the rule based on the pretense of "fairness." Unfortunately, crowd sourcing "fairness" is only as good as the most intelligent participants. In this case, none of placement restrictions consider the obvious; the program can never be "fair."

• Quality sites will always benefit advertisers with more traffic than inferior sites.
• Less ad competitive sites will always benefit advertisers more than ad heavy sites.
• Load time is much more signifiant than where an advertisement is placed.

Ask most media buyers and they'll tell you that it's better to own a page toward the bottom of a fast-loading quality site than for it to appear at the top of a slow-loading low quality site filled with ads. However, some suspect that there is another benefit to imposing the rule all together. Entrecard can now exempt many members from a cashout service, which would allow them to covert old credits into cash.

The service, which is being delayed until after the rule is imposed, presents several logistical nightmares in that Entrecard is attempting to justify exempting members from the service under the old Terms Of Service, while deleting their accounts for violating a rule created in what will be a new Terms Of Service. And, since Entrecard has since placed a cash value on credits, some consider its actions theft or, at minimum, another taxable event to go along with the credit to cash conversion.

Communication breakdown is commonplace.

In terms of communication, the entire conversation continues to be grossly mishandled. Most Entrecard participants had no idea the rules would be changed until they received a warning that they would be suspended if they did not comply within 72 hours. When members complained, the network pointed them to a post on the Entrecard blog, as if it was required reading.

What did not occur, like many network developers forget, is that most members do not read the network blogs. Communication, especially when it involves changes to Terms of Service (TOS), requires being proactive instead. And, in the case of Entrecard, its own TOS states it's required: "Entrecard reserves the right, at its sole discretion, to modify or replace any part of this Agreement. In such an event you will be notified four days prior via the email address associated with your user account."

This is not the only time Entrecard has broken its own rules. Advertisers were recently surprised to see the service arbitrarily double ad rates overnight. The only notification advertisers received was after the fact, with the justification that the network doubled the cash balance listed in everyone's account (and here we thought only the government could create money).

Add to this all the other problems associated with the program, and its anyone's guess what will happen next. One thing for certain: some advertisers are miffed to learn that the promise of targeting a specific category does not work. Currently, if you select a category on Entrecard, the category selection is confirmed, but advertisements are placed network wide.

Sustainability seems to be in question.

The net result of Entrecard's quest for cash seems to be aggravating an exodus of better bloggers. The departures began approximately six months ago.

While Langdon claims traffic has never been better, the truth is that Entrecard is becoming what people labeled it to begin with: a junk traffic site. Except, you have to pay for it. He doesn't mind. After all, bad publicity is good for business he says.

"A lot of people have this crazy misconception that bad publicity is actually bad for internet sites. Why just yesterday, we got a slew of bad publicity when we banned an Entrecard member for harassment and trolling," wrote Langdon. "Everyone was twittering about it and blogging about it, and tons of people were coming to Entrecard. Look at what happened to our blog’s traffic ... It doubled!"

Right. And more people will look at you on the road after an accident. Just ask Domino's.

What other members and former members are saying:

WTF, Entrecard Pt.II at Simply Saying

Entrecard Hoolabaloo at Vinallaseven

They’re Takin Your Booty Mates at Recycled Frockery

Entrecard Announcement at The Dirty Shirt

No More Entrecard at The Sofia Valeria Collection

Wednesday, March 12

Exploring Rank: EntreCard’s Impact On Alexa

My wife owns a fake Rolex. She bought it for $20 in Mexico. It’s good enough that it even has a screw-backed case and automatic second hand. Yep, just like the real thing.

Some people are impressed that she owns a Rolex, never knowing it isn’t real until she laughs and tells them. Last time it needed a battery, the jeweler even had to take a second look. He said most people would never know; it was the best “Folex” he had seen.

Alexa ranking is a little like that. People use it for all sorts of algorithms and bragging rights. But the thing is, Alexa rank, which they say measures popularity and traffic on the Internet, is becoming much more like a “Folex” than the real thing. For me, it took an EntreCard experiment to see what others have said for years.

EntreCard Reveals Some Alexa Weaknesses

A few weeks ago, I placed an EntreCard ad banner, which is basically a blogger ad sharing network, on our Back Lot blog. The Back Lot blog is an experimental storefront blog that mostly helps non-profit organizations.

The reason was simple enough. From time to time, I add widgets and other online tools to the Back Lot blog in order to gain a better understanding about how they work, especially to see if they might work for some some social media clients. Sometimes I add these widgets here too. Sometimes I do not.

What struck me after a few weeks was not only the impact of EntreCard on the blog, but impact of EntreCard on Alexa. With EntreCard, the Back Lot blog eclipsed Copywrite, Ink. blog in terms of Alexa ranking. Specifically, it looks like the Back Lot blog receives almost three times the amount of traffic.

However, I also know from multiple analytic programs that this is not the case. This blog averages about 300-500 visitors every day as opposed to Back Lot, which averages about 30-40 visitors every day. So what’s the difference?

• There is high percentage of Alexa tool bar users on EntreCard.
• Many Alexa tool bar users who read this blog subscribe to the feed.

The net result is that this blog looks like it is losing traffic despite gaining traffic whereas the other blog is maintaining but looks like it is increasing. So yesterday, I thought I would add EntreCard to this blog and see what happens. I'll report on it in a few weeks.

Of course, all this is not to say Alexa is bad; it has its place in the world and some people are really good about putting it to work for them. There plenty of people who have even written up twenty or so tips.

Some of those tips work. Some of them aren’t really related to Alexa at all, but they might help gin up traffic anyway — that is, if you are looking for traffic. Not everyone places traffic high on the priority list. Some folks, like me, measure other outcomes.

Sometimes Alexa Comparisons Work, Sometimes They Don’t

What really strikes me about all this is that I could make a lightly visited blog appear to have more traffic than a respectfully visited blog with 10-20 times more readers. Even more amazing to me is that some people know this, but still count Alexa as a measure of their success in between transparency posts, including comparisons to show how their blogs are gaining ground on other people.

Please don’t get me wrong. Alexa can be useful for some measures, just not in the way some people use it, including multi-rank measures. Likewise, I’m not saying anyone who boasts about their Alexa rank is questionable. Rather, I liken it to wearing a fake Rolex. But unlike my wife, they never tell anyone.


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