Facebook Is Not the Bad Guy

December 11th 2014 in Blog, The Web

So what’s the deal with Facebook and small business? There’s been a lot of hullabaloo about it recently. Ever since Pages was introduced in late 2007, Facebook has provided a seemingly oxymoronic concept: free advertising. Paid advertising has remained popular amongst larger businesses (especially since it allows post content to go beyond the users who have liked your pages), but for many smaller businesses this isn’t always an option.

The gears that make Facebook tick – and social media in general – are posts and content spreading organically depending on how many likes and shares they receive. The golden ticket for this kind of social interaction is “going viral,” a term that has become just as much a part of the modern lexicon as “blog” or “selfie.”

This has made it easier for small and burgeoning businesses to get themselves out there without sinking too much of their usually limited resources into advertising. People will share the things they like with the people they like, and that includes advertising. The smartest advertising is the kind that gets people talking. When enough people are talking, your brand is in the atmosphere long after your initial content was released. It’s a marketing utopia.

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Like this, but happier.

So what’s the deal with Facebook and small business? Facebook announced that it would begin culling business pages’ organic posts from users’ newsfeeds in favor of paid ones. For big companies that already pay for every post they make, that won’t be an issue. But for small and growing businesses, this means some good long rethinks of marketing strategy. Facebook’s reasoning for this change is this: as more businesses (especially startups) join the networking site, users’ newsfeeds are becoming more and more crowded. And even though people may like a page, they may not want to see hundreds of updates from businesses every time they log in to look at whatever cat memes George Takei is posting.

Does it suck? Yeah, sure, it kinda sucks. Free advertising is awesome and it was great while it lasted. But from Facebook’s perspective, and anyone who would be in their position, it isn’t. Facebook is, no duh, massive. It was never sustainable for them to give away services that are reasonable to charge for and, no, they don’t owe it to you. The personal profiles will always be free and that will never change. And it’s completely sensible for them to assume that businesses will generally have a marketing budget for an online presence. And as Facebook continues to grow they will, like any business, make changes to keep the doors open. You’re not obligated to stay. That’s like going to your friend’s house and complaining when they rearrange the furniture because you can’t put your feet on the coffee table anymore.

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“Yeah, look man, I’m just gonna go and hang out at Chad’s. He lets me put my feet on stuff.”

Here’s what’s going to happen. A lot of businesses that have been coasting exclusively on free Facebook advertising will see a drop in traffic. Instead of doing some hard work and taking their online presence – or at least dispersing it – elsewhere, they’re going to use this the reason for why they’re now floundering back into obscurity. It’s a nice excuse, and Facebook is an easy target. Big…successful…corporate…evil. Look at those bastards charging for advertising!

Don’t do this. If you haven’t already, you should use this an opportunity to expand your vision and seek out other online venues that will be useful in growing your business via word of mouth. In the history of business, even modern business, Facebook is flash-in-the-pan. It’s barely a decade old. And it’s not going to be around in its current form forever. We had AOL and Yahoo. Now we have Facebook and Twitter. Ten years from now we’ll have something else. But Facebook doesn’t want to be AOL. It wants to be that something else. So it’s doing what you should always be doing. Adapting. The landscape will always change, and hinging your marketing strategy on someone else’s rapidly changing business model is just plain stupid.

Transactive Memory and Mobile Web

October 8th 2014 in Blog, The Web

Remember when you were a kid in school and every time you went to look something up your teacher would chide you? Maybe they told you that’s not how the world works; you won’t be able to just look something up whenever you want! Well, your teacher was wrong. And now more than ever.

We’re pretty good at retaining information on our own. But as soon as our ancestors developed ways to record information they embraced it and consequently expanded our ability to think. Recording information doesn’t only give you a way to store it, but also gives others the ability to access it. And we’ve gone from campfire stories to cave paintings to scrolls to books to tapes to digital storage.

This is the natural progression of a concept called transactive memory, a term that was coined in 1985 by social psychologist Daniel Wegner. Transactive memory posits that when you are part of a social group – as small as a household or as large as a culture – you take part in a think tank of sorts. As you talk to your family, friends, and colleagues you not only exchange ideas and information but also take note of who knows what.

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Left: An example of transactive memory. Right: An example of transactive memory.

Transactive memory is powerful because it encourages connection to others while maintaining independent memories and ideas. Even when you don’t remember the specifics of some information, you can recall who to talk to in order to retrieve it. Whether it’s in books or blogs, every record made by a person is an extension of their own mind and thus any interaction with it would count as transactive memory.

As our methods for storing information advance, transactive memory becomes greater in scope. Smartphones and other mobile devices represent a new step in transactive memory. They function the same way as a library (a common and established form of transactive memory), but aren’t limited by physical space beyond their pocket-sized profile.

You can experience the thoughts and ideas of others in the forms of podcasts and blogs from anywhere you have a network connection. And with the work of groups such as the non-profit Media Development Investment Fund working on making free global wifi a reality through projects like Outernet, you’ll soon never be in a place where you can’t access a network. For some that may sound like overkill. But to us, being able to summon a library out of thin air in the middle of an ocean or on the top of a mountain sounds incredible. The applications are even life-saving; people in countries with oppressive regimes would be able to visit the unrestricted web in safety.

The rapid expansion of the transactive memory network will continue as mobile web continues to be people’s primary form of internet use. At Wovax, we’re excited to be a part of countless transactions for ideas, memories, and information.

Wovax WordPress mobile apps transactive memory

All of this. All the time. Everywhere. Srsly.

Your Website Sucks: A Case for Mobile Apps

September 4th 2014 in Blog, The Web

Let’s say that you own a restaurant. And one day this review pops up on Yelp.

First of all the dining room was a total mess, like someone had set off a land mine in a plate of spaghetti. Half the tables were on their side and the ones that were upright had crookedly placed dishes all over them like they had just been chucked across the room. After hunting around I found a chair that wasn’t completely disgusting and sat down. I’d been here so many times but after getting my smartphone, things just haven’t been the same. 

There was crud on the table and a small piece of paper that looked like it was a shred of menu. And then I realized it was the menu. It was so tiny, like a menu for ants! I couldn’t read anything. I pulled out a magnifying glass (I used to be a boy scout, so I’m always prepared!) and that made it a little better. The waiters were really disorganized so I had to go back to the kitchen to order. I mean, they seemed really polite and nice but I wouldn’t know because they never talked to me. They just don’t seem to have their act together anymore. But here’s the weirdest part; the food was fantastic, just like always! It hasn’t changed. Heck, it might even be a little better. But this place is just…so off now. How could they let this happen? Furthermore…what happened? I’ll give them another chance, but if this is what my experience is going to be like from now on I will regrettably have to take my business elsewhere.

You would probably be a bit peeved. The key to keeping a business open is goodwill and customer loyalty. This poor guy seems to be running out of both. And while the scenario seems ridiculous, it’s not far from showing what a website is like that doesn’t cater to mobile users. In 2014, a time where a new phone is a masive media event that gets people lined up around the block weeks in advance, not having a mobile app for a website is quite frankly just as ridiculous as those lines.

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“I do say chappie, the pub down the way procured a mobile app nearly six months ago! What the devil is holding you lot up?”

Why do we use the web? We use it to find information. And every single one of the zillions of informative websites out there provides a service. That’s the key word here. Service. You serve your readers, and in doing so it is your responsibility to give them the best experience possible.

It’s easy for any kind of business, be it an online enterprise or a brick-and-mortar deal, to fall into the trap of believing that as long as their content or product is prime they don’t need to put effort into the structure of how that product is delivered. “We have the best DIY website out there; why should I give a hoot about how my site looks on mobile? People like the articles so they’ll keep reading it anyway!” Yeah, guess what? They won’t. There are 5 million other websites out there about the exact same thing. Give them a good reason to stay loyal to you.

If you run a website then you are in the service industry. And while your content is the star of the show, if the rest of the production isn’t up to snuff, people will pick up on that and drift away. People know when they’re not wanted and your website’s design clues them in.

Imagine going to this same restaurant again. But now everything is set in order. Furniture is upright, surfaces are clean, menus are large and legible. The waitstaff even goes out of their way to make your experience last after you’ve left. “Hey we’re setting up a system to let you know when we’re having specials on burgers! Would you like to sign up?” A mobile app provides not only the same level of service, but can make it even more personal than a sedentary desktop site is able to.

Wovax WordPress Mobile app

This is your website on Wovax.
Photo by Alan Light

You thrive because of your customers’ loyalty. And the second you take them for granted is the second they will find someone who does appreciate them. Do you have a website? Cool. You’re in the service business. And if you haven’t adapted to mobile web yet then your customers are receiving severe disservice. If you have WordPress, get a WordPress mobile app. Whatever you do, be sure that when your customers are guests in your business, you respect their patronage by letting them see you at your very best.

Toto…I Don’t Think We’re On Dial-up Anymore

August 25th 2014 in Blog, The Web

We’ve been talking quite a bit about the changing nature of the web. Barely two decades old, it has already seen a massive upheaval in its very nature because of the way it is consumed.

This is nothing new. One of the most recent communications technology to see such a transition in its youth was film. Within a few quick decades, the technology rapidly progressed from silent films to talkies to full blown Not-In-Kansas-Anymore Technicolor. And all along the way, industry giants who staked their careers on the old iterations kicked and screamed as they refused to change despite their relevance fading before them. Charlie Chaplin hated talking pictures. And you probably haven’t seen him in one, have you?

And while Chaplin was able to crank out a few more silent masterpieces well into the 30’s, he was an exception, not the norm. And with countless alternatives to your blog at users’ fingertips, the web is far more unforgiving.

The votes are in and the statistics have spoken in favor of mobile web.

By using tablets and smartphones, more than half of the internet’s digital democracy have made their choice. And while mobile usage has been on the rise for some time now, the final word that’s pushed us into this new direction is the high volume of app usage. We’d like to show you some numbers that we have found supremely helpful in making clear the new state of the web.

Flurry Analytics released a study in 2011 that shows the mobile-dominated progression of US web traffic. By the end of that year, the average user was spending far more of their time in apps as opposed to browser web. And it doesn’t stop there.

Currently, app usage is at an all-time high. As more and more websites get with the times and have apps made that keep their brand alive in the mobile shuffle, their users have responded eagerly. Just this January, 55% of web traffic was from mobile users, and 47% of that was from apps. For the first time mobile web had overtaken desktop usage, and it wasn’t a fluke or random fluctuation.

Just last week, Comscore released a detailed report of where things stand as of June 2014. We highly recommend giving it a read, but the main takeaway is this: mobile web usage is now at 60%. And 52% of that? It’s apps.

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A smartphone user checks the Wovax app for the Supreme Court of the United States Blog.

These numbers make it crystal clear that there is not a push for mobile web. It’s just happening. And it isn’t just smartphones. People are buying mobile devices such as tablets because they’re generally more cost effective and portable than even a laptop. Although their method of accessing the web is changing, they want to be able to interact with it in the same way they have been. And smart website owners are keeping pace. So make sure that you don’t get left behind with the silent films and dial-up.

The Changing Mobile Web

August 15th 2014 in Blog, The Web


That’s a scary word, isn’t it?

“Let’s make some changes.”

“It’s time for a change.”

“Our way of life is changing.”

None of these are necessarily comforting statements to hear.

What about familiarity?

Now that’s a word. After all, familiarity is comfort, isn’t it? It’s safe. It’s relatable. Often, it’s home. Change is not any of those things. Change upends and reshapes what has come before.

But looking back on the history of technology, we witness much change in very short windows of time. In a century’s time, we went from massive steam-powered industrial machines to small convenient automobiles, not to mention flying. The telephone was introduced towards the end of that century and in a hundred years, mobile phones where taking the form of portable satellite powered devices. By the end of the 20th century, we had the internet which, in less than half a decade, had become as ubiquitous to staying informed and connected as the five o’clock news. If there is one thread that we can trace through the remarkable progress in technology through our lifetimes it’s change.

And there’s that word again.

As a means of public telecommunication, the internet is barely two decades old. But we have certainly seen it change many times over. The internet is a tool that relies on speed and ease of use. And the content has always reflected how we access it.

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Early internet users on their way to buy a faster modem. Photographed c. 1995

The internet of today is not the internet of 1996 for example. Those were the days. The days of the wild west internet where 56k modems roamed free, severely inhibiting web designers. Design and presentation were often sacrificed at the altar of efficiency and speed.

Now designers are only limited by their imaginations; our internet speeds are instant and immediate. And it’s in our pocket.

We have pocket computers now.

Let that sink in for a moment. Really think about what it means.

Pocket computers. Content is no longer limited to heavy desktops or a coffee shop table to settle down with your laptop. It’s in the palm of your hand whenever you need it to be. And once again, the design of the web has changed.

On a computer, the amount of screen real estate to work with is nearly unlimited. Mobile devices require a different kind of browsing. It needs to be easily accessible, clean, and easy to read with absolutely no clutter in sight.

And with over half of the web’s traffic now on mobile devices,  you have two choices.

The first choice is to stay in the familiar. The same ol’ desktop site with its gorgeous real estate and five acres of prime ad space. You can let your users access the desktop site from their mobile devices. After all, those things have mobile browsers don’t they? They do indeed. And everyone hates them. Mobile browsers are an afterthought for the on-the-go reader. It’s the thing you grudgingly resort to when it turns out that your favorite cooking blog or fashion review didn’t get on the ball and put out a mobile-friendly app.

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Our favorite shopping site on a mobile browser.

The other choice is change. But this kind of change isn’t scary. It’s the same amount of old and whole lot of new. The website that you and your readers know and love gets to stay. But those readers now have a new option for their mobile devices; an app that makes it easier than ever to stay connected and keep doing all the things they have been. Interaction via commenting, seeing mobile-friendly ads that don’t frustratingly explode across their small phone screens. It’s all there in a new package that doesn’t replace any of the current infrastructure, but rather is a compliment. And the advertising that keeps your lights on? It gets to come along too.

Even so, the attitude of website owners has been akin to that of the family dog when a newborn is brought home from the hospital. It’s a big change. It’s loud and smelly and leads to a whole lot of trepidation on how to approach the situation.

But it’s fine to relax. No one is getting replaced. There’s a new addition to the family but no one else is going anywhere. Desktop web is here and for now, it is staying. And now there’s the mobile web to deal with. It’s not just around the corner. It’s not the next big thing. It’s already here and it is thriving, growing even bigger and stronger in traffic than it’s previous incarnation.

It’s change. And at Wovax, we truly believe that we can assist in making it a familiar one.