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WTF Hockley, or Facebook and Instagram Redux

tl;dr I (re)joined Facebook and Instagram.

I used to be in both places. Then, almost a year ago, I wrote a bit about deciding to leave both social networks. Without rehashing that entire post, I’ll say that it came down to being opposed to the behaviors of the company.

In the past year we’ve seen that Facebook and Instagram have continued being less-than-perfect. Alternatives have sprung up such as Pressgram1. Google has started using personal data for explicit advertising, a la Facebook.

We’ve learned that the NSA is watching everything, regardless of company.

By the numbers, most folks are still on Facebook and Instagram when compared with alternative networks. Popularity isn’t everything, but it is something.

In the past several months I’ve had a few personal and a couple professional opportunities missed due to my non-Facebook and non-Instagram stance.

I’ve changed my mind. I’ve decided that while I still disagree with many things about how Facebook / Instagram does business, I suspect that the benefits of having a presence will outweigh potential downsides.

Was I wrong a year ago? Maybe. Am I right now? Maybe. Am I confident in those answers? Maybe.

We’ll see. Let’s be all social networky.

Follow my mobile photography on Instagramn (@hockleyphoto), or add me as a friend on Facebook.


  1. Which I will continue to use. 

Build up a Twitter Account’s Credibility with Strategic Event Tweeting

I’ve had my primary Twitter account, @ahockley, since February 2007 and have arguably tweeted too much since then (65,000 tweets and counting, baby)! I’ve used that account for general conversations as well as photography-related discussions.

Earlier this year I created a separate account as I began to strengthen my online presence in a different area of my life: software quality testing. I launched the Kwality Rules blog and the @KwalityRules Twitter account. I followed some folks in the industry and used the account sporadically.

A few weeks ago I attended STARWest, a major quality conference, and decided I’d use this as the catalyst to boost the profile of @KwalityRules. Here’s what I did.

Before the Event

  • Find the conference hashtag ahead of time. About two weeks prior to the conference, do a Twitter search for the hashtag and see if folks are starting to use it. Send out a tweet with the hashtag indicating that you’re attending and are looking forward to connecting with other attendees.
  • If your Twitter client supports it, set up a saved search view for the conference hashtag and start monitoring it as the event gets closer. If your Twitter client doesn’t support it, perhaps you need a better Twitter client. I like Tweetbot (Mac, iPhone, or iPad).
  • Those people that are using the hashtag and seem to be saying interesting things? Follow them. Perhaps send them an @mention indicating that you’re looking forward to meeting them at the event.
  • If you’ve reviewed the conference schedule and identified particularly noteworthy or interesting-sounding speakers, see if they use Twitter. If they do, follow them. An introduction isn’t a bad idea; let them know you’re looking forward to their talk.

At the Event

Remember: you’re at an in-person event so you should do things in person. Don’t just sit in your room or the corner all the time on your phone, tweeting away. That said, don’t forget to tweet! Here’s how I made my presence known at STARWest.

  • Don’t forget to use the hashtag when tweeting about the event or anything that might be relevant to attendees.
  • Set up a keyboard shortcut for the conference hashtag if it’s more than a couple characters. At STARWest, the hashtag was #starwest. Because I’m a lazy guy, I setup a shortcut on iOS such that when I typed stt it expanded into the hashtag. Didn’t have to go to the second keyboard for the # symbol, etc.
  • That Twitter search that I suggested you set up in advance? Use it. See what others are saying and reply as appropriate. Chime in with your two cents.
  • Retweet others who share interesting things. Retweets are love.
  • Tweet out notable quotes, facts, or things you found interesting from presentations you attended.
  • Tweet if a vendor has an especially interesting giveaway or demo at their booth. What’s interesting? I tweeted about the Sauce Labs robot that was playing Angry birds:

  • Attend informal gatherings. If there aren’t any, start one. Tweet out that you’re going to be at a certain bar or coffee shop at a particular time for a meetup with attendees. Don’t forget the hashtag. Someone will show up. Perhaps many someones. Host a lean coffee in the morning before the activities begin.

The Results

What happened as a result of all my Tweeting? A few things.

I was called out right after the opening keynote (along with @g33klady) as having been a very prolific tweeter, and we were given prizes for our tweeting[1]. As she noted, it’s a major award!

More importantly, I connected with other professionals in the field, including several industry leaders who saw my tweets, engaged in conversation, and followed me. This is the real value, and where building your Twitter presence at an event will lead to long-term relationships that can benefit your personal and professional development.

Twitter + events = a powerful combination.


  1. Let me know if there’s an appropriate use for the phrase “Award-winning tweeter” somewhere.  ↩

Facebook as the Walmart of the Internet

I’ve been thinking about Facebook lately. The recent Instagram terms of service kerfluffle reinvigorated my thinking, and this week’s events have made it clear that Instagram is definitely operating as Facebook at this point.

I’m thinking that in many ways, Facebook has become the Walmart of the internet[1].

Similarities

Walmart attempts to be the store with everything. Whether you need groceries, clothing, toys, or ammunition, your local Walmart has it. They won’t have as broad of a selection as a specialty store for any of these things, and the staff won’t be as knowledgeable, but they’ve got enough to get by.

Facebook attempts to be a self-contained version of the internet. They’ll let you send messages, chat in real-time, share photos, play games, buy things, and write lengthy notes/posts. None of these features offers the same breadth of options or flexibility as dedicated websites or apps that perform similar functions, and I wish you luck on getting any help if things go wrong, but they do have a basic set of tools to interact online.

Walmart has a reputation for moving into towns, building a big store, and offering good-enough goods at a lower price than local retailers, causing some of those local retailers to go out of business. Facebook has expanded into some new areas, offerering good-enough software that has made it difficult for some niche software players to compete.

Walmart restricts some material from being sold in its stores, with a history of only stocking “sanitized” media where offensive language or themes have been removed. Facebook has a history of restricting topics of discussion, at times drawing the ire of groups such as breastfeeding mothers when some photos have crossed Facebook’s line of acceptable content.

Walmart’s position in the retail world allows it to do as it pleases, with employees, consumers, and suppliers stuck with the results. When there’s a public relations flare-up about a particular move, Walmart will back down a bit, but not entirely, leaving customers in a worse position while still appearing to save face[2].

Facebook’s position in the social networking space allows it to do as it pleases, with users and advertisers trailing along as Facebook chooses the path. If there’s a big outcry about something, Facebook will back off slightly, leaving users with something worse than before but not quite as bad as originally feared. This week’s Instagram changes are a good example, where the most offensive language has been removed from the terms of service but users are still left in a position with more of their content and personal data being subject to uncontrollable third party use[3].

Small businesses close, suppliers lose control, and consumers lose choices as Walmart moves forward.

Users lose privacy of their information, Facebook becomes more intrusive across the web as developers depend on its API, and Facebook is able to force unpopular changes upon its users as it strives for increased revenue.

It’s Not All Negative

Walmart and Facebook aren’t entirely bad.

It seems that that Walmart has a “low prices regardless of what we have to do to get there” mantra, and low prices mean that lower-income families can often stretch a dollar farther by shopping at a Walmart store.

Facebook’s attempt to bring a wide range of internet services onto their virtual property means that less-tech-savvy users are able to participate in a broad set of online experiences without having to discover, set up, and learn a variety of distinct independent web services.

I know good people who work for Walmart and make interesting things such as Walmart’s new mobile in-store shopping app. I’ve met and talked with smart Facebook employees who do good things like contribute Facebook code back to open source projects.

There Are Alternatives

For most people, there are alternatives to shopping at Walmart. One can choose to patronize a local business or a different chain store that might engage in less aggressive practices. Low prices are often the only factor that might seemingly lock someone into Walmart.

Plenty of web services offer alternatives to Facebook. Whereas price locks a small number of folks to Walmart, the overwhelming percentage of internet users that are on Facebook is the lock-in factor for the big social network.

If you’re not among the demographic where Walmart’s prices or locations are the only option by which you can survive, there are choices. Many consumers actively refuse to patronize Walmart based on the business’ practices, even though those consumers might pay a few dollars more for their merchandise.

If your internet friends and associates know how to use computers beyond Facebook, there are choices. These choices often provide more privacy and control of your data. Independent blogging platforms, photo hosting services, game systems, and other such applications and utilities are available for your use, even though your ability to connect with others might require a bit more time or effort than if you’d chosen to use Facebook.

Much like retail customers can take a stand against Walmart’s business practices by shopping elsewhere, internet users can take a stand against Facebook’s business practices by choosing not to share their personal information, text, photos, and time on the website.

My Position

I’m fortunate in that I don’t feel dependent on Facebook’s services. I’ve maintained a personal profile there, and have a couple business pages setup for two arms of my photography ventures.

From a personal standpoint, I’m mostly connected with folks on Facebook that I already engage with in other places online: blog comments, Twitter, Google+, instant messages, or topical communities. There are a handful of folks who I follow on Facebook that to my knowledge don’t have any other meaningful internet presence. It’s these few connections that trouble me the most about my Facebook social graph… do I maintain these relationships with others purely at the whim of Mark Zuckerberg?

From a business angle, to my knowledge I’ve never booked a new client nor sold a print based on Facebook activity. I’ll admit that I haven’t expended a large amount of effort on Facebook marketing, but for the time invested I’ve seen far more benefit from other marketing activities. I do realize that ongoing Facebook presence holds some networking and marketing value even if I can’t directly trace a specific client or deal to Facebook.

I don’t agree with how Facebook conducts business, so I’m going to choose not to use their services. Tonight I’ll share this article over there and encourage folks to connect with me in other places. Over the next few days, I’ll delete my now-unused Instagram account (I’m continuing to share photography on Flickr and Google+). I’ll be reviewing my Facebook friends list to ensure that I’m following folks elsewhere. Once I’ve reviewed my connections, I’ll shut down my Facebook account.

There might be a vital reason why someone chooses to shop at Walmart or actively use Facebook and Instagram. Given that I don’t have any of those reasons, I’ll be patronizing outfits whom I can feel better about.


  1. I’m not the first to use this phrase. John Sanchez did so in August 2010 and Tiffany Prince used it in August 2012. I think my take is a little different.  ↩

  2. a recent example would be adding a layaway fee, then reducing said fee after an outcry  ↩

  3. here’s a quick summary, one of many articles in the news  ↩

Speaking at NMX 2013

I’m excited to share that I’ve been selected to present at NMX in January in Las Vegas.

NMX (formerly known as BlogWorld & New Media Expo) is the leading conference for those with a professional or personal interest in blogging, podcasting, social media, and other “new” media topics.

I’ll be presenting a session titled “You’re a Better Photographer Than You Realize: Photography Tips for New Media”. Whether it’s with a DSLR, smartphone, or point-and-shoot camera, pretty much everyone doing social media is creating photographs of some sort. In my hourlong session we’ll dive into practical tips on exposure, composition, lighting, and other techniques to make interesting images.

I’ve really enjoyed my past experiences attending and speaking at BlogWorld; I’m looking forward to NMX and I hope to see you there! With the location being at the Rio in Vegas, the NMX folks offer a great program for a low fee when compared with other similar events.

Register Now for NMX 2013 in Las Vegas, Jan 6-8!

Email Marketing for Photographers: an Interview with DJ Waldow

DJ Waldow is an email marketing expert who just wrote a book (co-authored by Jason Falls) called The Rebel’s Guide to Email Marketing. The book was just released; I’m partway through reading it and I’m finding lots of practical information. Email marketing doesn’t get quite as much buzz as some of the newer, social, “sexier” online marketing venues but the reality is that everyone has email and it can be a very effective method for communication with clients and peers. There are a lot of “best practices” out there, but one of the unique angles of DJ and Jason’s book is that they specifically talk about how breaking some of those rules can lead to good things.

A few weeks back I had a chance to interview DJ about email marketing; in addition to some general advice I asked some questions specific to photographers. Here’s the interview (about 19 minutes):

Expedia Travel Photo Contest #ExpediaFindYours – Massive Rights Grab

Earlier today I saw a friend tweet a nice photo along with the #ExpediaFindYours hashtag. I replied to ask what that was about and he pointed me to a travel photography contest being run by Expedia.

Before you get all excited about entering, note section 7 of the contest rules:

#ExpediaFindYours - Rights Grab

By participating, you: (a) irrevocably grant Sponsor, its agents, licensees, and assigns the unconditional and perpetual (non-exclusive) right and permission to copyright, reproduce, encode, store, copy, transmit, publish, post, broadcast, display, publicly perform, adapt, modify, create derivative works of, exhibit, and otherwise use your photo as-is or as-edited (with or without using your name) in any media throughout the world for any purpose, without limitation, and without additional review, compensation, or approval from you or any other party; (b) forever waive any rights of copyrights, trademark rights, privacy rights, and any other legal or moral rights that may preclude Sponsor’s use of your photo, or require any further permission for Sponsor to use the photo; and (c) agree not to instigate, support, maintain, or authorize any action, claim, or lawsuit against Sponsor on the grounds that any use of the photo, or any derivative works, infringes any of your rights as creator of the photo, including, without limitation, copyrights, trademark rights, and moral rights.

Simply by entering the contest, regardless of whether or not you win any prizes, you’re giving Expedia and the other sponsors a full license to use your photos for any purpose, anywhere, forever, and you’ll receive zero compensation.

No thanks.