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Change can be scary, but sometimes you just have to try new things. Giving a third party service, in beta, control over the home page of my blog was one of those scary things. I’m still not sure it was the right decision, but I’m sticking with it. For now.
Rebel Mouse describes itself as your social front page, building a dynamic site around what you share. According to the Rebel Mouse page, people are becoming embarrassed by web sites that are not as current or active as their social media accounts. I believe the problem is real. It can be difficult to find the right way to integrate social media on a blog. I also find that a quick tweet or mobile photo upload is more fun than a full blog post, and a lot faster. It can be tempting to skip the blog posts altogether, but you still need to have your own home on the web with fresh content.
Here are some of the reasons why I ultimately decided to try Rebel Mouse on my home page:
- I wanted to make it easier to discover content on my blog. There is a new emphasis on discovery rather than search in web design. Rebel Mouse provides that dynamic panel or masonry style layout made famous by Pinterest. Mashable’s new web site design is also a great example. The layout does that neat infinite scroll trick where you can just keep scrolling down to discover more content. My favorite examples of the infinite scroll are Pinterest and the Chrome Web Store.
- My social media posts can automatically help keep my blog fresh. If blogging isn’t your full time job, it can be really hard to do more than a couple posts a month. Posting to Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and other social media sites will now add freshness to my homepage without any additional steps on my part.
- It helps me create more visual content. I read somewhere that blog content has evolved from lengthy text posts, to micro-blogging short text posts in social media, to skipping the text altogether in favor of pictures and videos. The web is becoming more visual, and that is exactly the way I like it. Rebel Mouse automatically tries to add an image or video to each post. If there isn’t one already, it will try to find one that is relevant. My new rule is to never make a post without an image or video.
- It provides an incredibly simple way to curate content. Many content marketing experts suggest that it is important to supplement your original content by sharing relevant content from other sources. Generally in social media copying other people’s content is naughty, but sharing or linking to that content is nice. Now whenever I share a link in social media, the link is republished on my homepage. In effect, I can get even more fresh content on the front page of my web site. It’s as easy as hitting a retweet/like/+1/pin it button.
- Rebel Mouse allows custom CSS rules. If the layout was locked in with the default colors and options, I never would have put it on my site. It would not have looked integrated, so the result would be unprofessional. It took some work, but I figured out enough of the CSS to decently blend the design with my site.
Some things to keep in mind:
- Rebel Mouse will dig up your history in social media. Suddenly all of those little posts will be on your homepage. Be prepared to find some skeletons in your closet. You can easily remove those items from your Rebel Mouse page, but plan to spend some time pruning the content at first.
- Your content flow from blog post to social media will be reversed. I have always created blog posts first, then shared them in social media. Now you have to think about sharing content in social media as a means to publishing it on your blog. Consider how the end result will look on your homepage. Eventually you will be able to use this to your advantage.
- Beware of duplicate posts on your homepage. If you like to share the same piece of content on multiple social sites, you will likely end up with copies of the same content in multiple Rebel Mouse panels because it will pull from each separate source. Consider the old formula of writing a blog post, then sharing the post in social media. You might put a link to your blog post on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. If you have all of those accounts linked to your Rebel Mouse, you will have three copies of that blog post on your homepage. Probably not what you’re looking for. If you have to share the same piece of content on multiple accounts, just remember to remove the duplicates. Maybe one day the Mouse will do this automatically.
- Your social media presence will need to be relevant to your web site. This is why I didn’t link my Facebook page to Rebel Mouse. I don’t filter myself as much on Facebook. The last thing I want is to have pictures from the party last weekend mixing with my thoughts about content marketing on my career-focused blog. If your Twitter account is a fire hose of tweets about anything and everything, maybe don’t open that valve up on your homepage.
- Rebel Mouse is still in beta! Things could change. Keep an eye on it so you don’t find any surprises when you load your own web site.
Like a lot of other people, I have struggled to make Facebook work for me as a career building tool. Facebook is a huge social network, and it would be nice to take advantage of the size for professional networking. There just doesn’t seem to be any good way to do it. Many people have created fan pages as a way to lead a double life on Facebook, saving their public interactions for their page rather than their profile. I too tried that. The problem is that nobody ever sees my page. Even if you clicked the link on my blog, you had to log in to Facebook before you could see the page. Then you can click “Like” or maybe comment on a post, and that’s pretty much the end of it.
Google+ is still pretty new, and still kind of empty compared to Facebook or Twitter, but it has a lot of potential. G+ lets people interact with me personally, rather than a page about me. The interactions can be public, shared with a limited group, or private. All I wanted to do on Facebook was share stuff like links and photos quickly, and let other people share with me too. With a little more development, I think Google+ could replace my Facebook page, Twitter stream, and You Tube channel. All it needs is users.
Since my Facebook fan page really never had users, I don’t see the point in keeping it. It’s gone. As long as my friends are using Facebook, I will keep using my profile, but the fan page was useless. For public or professional networking, I will start over with Google+. In fact, I kind of hope this is the beginning of the end for fan pages, and the senseless over use of the “Like” button in advertising.
Google has announced a social media project called Google+ that looks very promising. The service will attempt to be more comprehensive than other social media services, combining many features into the same application. While Google+ is still at an invitation only proving stage, there are some details available to spark your interest. Take a tour at http://www.google.com/intl/en/+/demo/. Here are what I believe to be the highlights:
Comparisons to Facebook will be inevitable with this project, and I want to make one right away. Google+ has a feature called Circles which is made to handle sharing different content with different people easy. Facebook users are still struggling to separate their close friends from their families and from business contacts. When I started using Facebook, I was a freshman in college, and only college students were able to create an account. We didn’t worry about privacy too much back then. Now that Facebook is open to everyone, and we see the potential for business, privacy is trickier. Google’s Circles seems like a much nicer solution than the limited profiles and public fan pages from Facebook.
Google+ gives you the option of having all the photos and videos from your smartphone instantly upload to a private album in the cloud. This probably scares the buh-jeezes out of some people, but I’m actually really excited about it. Uploading and organizing the media that I want to share online has become a real chore. Since I’m already trusting Google with private info like email and documents, it doesn’t take much of a leap to start trusting them with my photos and videos as well. This feature is particularly timely for me because I recently shot some video on a MiniDV camcorder, only to realize that my laptop doesn’t have the necessary firewire port to capture the video. For quick videos where quality is not a huge concern, you can’t beat the convenience of uploading directly from a smartphone.
Mobile social media apps tend to be junk. I’m not very impressed with any Twitter app, and Facebook’s app is pretty much garbage. Google+ was created with mobile in mind from the start. As an Android user, I’m hoping for some really awesome smartphone integration.
Not too long ago, if you wanted to read about a topic on the Web, you had to search for a Web site on that topic, then visit the site. For a while, I replaced this method of collecting information with RSS feeds that would pull the info in to one location for me. Then Twitter sort of replaced my RSS reader. Now I mostly use the Pulse news reader app on my phone to read about my interests on the Web. Sparks is sort of a hybrid solution where my searches are aided by the recommendations of my friends to find content I’m interested in. I can’t wait to try it.
There are many other cool ideas baked into Google+, and Google is promising that this is just the start. I won’t know how well it all works until I get to try it, but if it lives up to the potential I see in these ideas, I will use it for sure. Now Google just has to overcome one massive hurtle: adoption. People have to try it for it to be social. I think there are two big reasons people may not use Google+. One reason is that many people are already on Facebook, and sometimes feel overwhelmed by that. They may not want to add another social network. The other reason is email. Facebook creates an account using whatever email address you already have, and there is no user name separate from your own real name. Google will probably require a Google account, and use a Gmail address for email. People who are not already using Gmail may not want another email address to remember. If Google can work around these issues and get people to try Google+, I think it could be an awesome new service.