TL/Dr; Yes.

I’ve written about how I’ve somehow managed to get followed by thousands of people I don’t know on Snapchat here. It’s true – my public snaps are viewed between 6 and 8 thousand times each. I’m not exactly sure why this is happening, but it gives me the opportunity to do some experiments with the platform that having a very small following wouldn’t allow.

One of the main things that’s been missing from public snaps is the ability to easily share a link or other call to action. Yes, you can type out a URL as text on a snap, but no user is going to do that. They want to click, or in Snap’s case, swipe up.

Snapchat recently added the ability to add a URL to a particular snap. This is huge for brands, who, to this point,  haven’t had a good way to drive users to any sort of landing page or other shopping/action page using Snapchat. This is a challenge Instagram continues to wrestle with.

Adding a URL for a snap is easy, though the caveat is you can’t have it open, at least that I could find, in a browser other than Snapchat’s built-in OS browser. You can’t, say, open your app or launch a new browser. The user does not have the opportunity to leave the Snapchat app.

My experience putting a URL in a snap

I wrote a post last week about being locked out of Facebook for a time. For the snap itself,  I took a photo of my Facebook page with a link to the blog post itself. It was posted it and I opened up Google Analytics’ live view and waited to see what happened.

In the spirit of honesty, the blog post didn’t exactly light the world on fire before I put it on Snapchat. It had a dozen views the first day (I should work on promoting posts better, lol.)

For the 24 hours my snap was live on my public story, I received a good deal of traffic. Here’s a graph from Google Analytics. Guess what day the snap was live.

Google Analytics Graph of page traffic generated by my Snapchat public story post

I will say that going from 12 pageviews to 310 is a pretty solid increase in engagement. When you consider the audience is mostly random strangers who do not share my interest in higher education marketing and technology, I think that’s pretty good. The bounce rate for the page tells a different story. It was 89% on Thursday, July 7, the day I posted the snap. Brands will hopefully get a bounce rate that’s much better since their fans are most likely not random strangers but people with a connection to the brand. 350 of the visitors were new to my site, and 4 had been there before. Thank you, returning users.

The traffic was constant during the first few hours of the snap going up. At times, there were 10 active users on the page. There were 19 at its maximum while I was monitoring it. Here an additional graph from WP.com stats:

Please don’t laugh at the small traffic this blog gets. 🙂

Going Forward

This is a good move by Snap to allow URLs.  Brands and users should point out to users the need to swipe up to view additional content until users become accustomed to that action.

It was a holiday weekend here in the USA, so many people were sharing photos and videos of their parties, fireworks, kids, and more on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. I was no exception, throwing up some firework slo-mo videos and a few shots from my Phantom 3.

I was posting and liking content on both my phone and laptop, on mobile and wi-fi, in two states and 3 cities. It was all fine until I went to add a new friend. Somewhere in a Facebook data center, an alert was probably set off and I was temporarily banned from Facebook. This is first time this has happened since I created my account in 2005 – you know, back when you had to have a college email address to join.

Yes, blocked from using Facebook. They said I had “suspicious activity,” and I could not log in. People who tried to visit my profile got a 404.

Facebook’s solution to get my account unlocked: i was told to upload a picture of myself to prove my identity. Here’s the prompt:

Facebook screen asking for a photo of myself

I found a selfie I took this weekend and uploaded it. And waited. There was no feedback from Facebook on why I had been locked out, possible causes, or the timeline for having the photo I uploaded reviewed and my account unlocked.

When I would try to login to my account, I received this message:

Facebook's photo saying user cannot log in

I waited. I took a walk and enjoyed the beautiful weather. I checked Instagram. I waited some more. Folks on Twitter weighed in:

A few hours later, I attempted to login again and was allowed in with no issues. I never received any feedback or email messages from Facebook telling me my account was reinstated or saying why I had been locked out.

I’m not mad at Facebook. Their systems saw something out of the ordinary, such as multiple logins from multiple devices in several locations, and followed security protocols as developed. My concern is with the lack of communication and method they offered to unlock my account.

I don’t know why I was not emailed at any point during the process. Facebook is quick to email me when a friend tags me in a comment or post, or when a friend goes live on video, so it’s strange they would be silent during a major account issue.

Google image Search results ImageSecond, I think the method of uploading a photo doesn’t seem terribly secure and easy to spoof.

There are photos of me all over the internet, and as you can see, when you google me, there’s plenty of photos. Facebook collects my email and mobile number, I’m not sure why they didn’t make me verify by code sent via email or text, like many other services do.

Did a person check the image, or was some super-secret Skynet AI responsible for seeing it was me in the photo and unlocking my account? Was the image actually deleted from Facebook’s servers once the check was complete as they said it would be?

Regardless, once I was back in I made sure to check what apps had access to my account (not many) and what privileges they had to access my data (not much). I don’t think one of them triggered the block, but it’s better to be safe with third party websites you give access to your Facebook account. If you do those quizzes and content generators that post on your behalf, you have given those random apps full access to your info, your friends, and more. That gives me a bad feeling, but that’s a post for another day.

If there’s a lesson here to be learned, it’s keep a photo of yourself handy in case you need to upload it to Facebook.

 

i was struck today by this tweet from Deborah Edwards-Onoro:

I thought I’d take a moment to share the story of how I learned to do web stuff.

I know I’m dating myself, but while attending college in the mid-90s, the web was new and exciting. We had no clue what this new Mosaic program was on the computers in the lab.We started to see these very long strings of characters that we could type into that program and it would give us information from around the world.

I was hooked. I wanted to make these new “web pages.” But it was 1995-1996, and there weren’t courses in it. I read a little online about how to make pages, but I had no server to share my creations on.

One department on campus did possess this power, this magical ability to host web pages: the Math and Computer Science Department at Duquesne University. They had a Sun Sparc server that was setup for their students to create some pages. I wasn’t a Compsci major though – so it took a few passionate emails to faculty members in the department asking, nay, begging, them for an account on their system so I could make web pages.

They relented and I got my account. I think the URL was something like:

http://www.mathcs.duq.edu/~mrichwal

Now that I know a lot more about managing servers, I know that adding a new user takes about 10 seconds, but for me, it was huge.

I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that small action changed the course of my entire life. I’m serious. I don’t know who the department managed accounts on that server in 1995/6, but thank you, either Dr. Thomas Keagy or Dr. Donald Simon.

Success. I had my account. I was ready to make web pages.

One challenge stood before me. I had no idea what I was doing.

That weekend, my girlfriend and I went one of the malls in Pittsburgh to a bookstore. Remember bookstores? Remember malls? They were all over back then. We were on a mission. I was on the lookout for the holy grail that would help me create web pages.

My career in web and marketing literally began that weekend when I bought HTML for Dummies.

Yes, HTML For Dummies. This book changed my life.

I tore through it in a few days. I was making pages. Making links. Making stuff blink (back when it was still OK to do that.) Tables. Frames. Bold. Italics. Images. Imagemaps.

That knowledge led me to get a work-study student job in Duquesne’s New Media Center, making web pages and interactive multimedia projects with faculty. That led me to be hired full-time as the University’s webmaster 3 months before I graduated.

That led me to a bunch of jobs in and out of higher ed doing web, marketing, and creative things. I’ve spoken at conferences, worked at 2 other institutions of higher education, and now work guiding a marketing team that’s spread out around the globe.

I owe all that to a simple account on a Math and Computer Science server and a copy of HTML for Dummies.

Were the pages I made at first good? Absolutely not, but you have to start somewhere. After getting a pretty good handle on HTML and how it works, I jumped into the world of interactive pages. Once I started my full-time job doing the website at Duquesne, I jumped into Cold Fusion and learned over a weekend how to write code that will query a database, and converted what was a printed, broad-sheet newspaper into an interactive website.

That site has been mostly erased from the history of the University, but even after not working there for 18 years, I still show up in site searches at that school. Proof:

You know what’s great – that Duquesne Times site is still running! It’s moved to WordPress now, but its still a thing! How cool is that – something I started back in 1998 is still going strong.

I say all that to say there’s no shame in learning how to do web sites and applications in Dreamweaver, even if I do make fun of my best mate and business partner Adam for using it.

If you learned on your own, in school, with a book, watching YouTube videos, it doesn’t matter. You learned it. You are still learning it. The tools have never been better or more accessible. There are undergraduate and graduate programs everywhere, coding bootcamps, online programs, and so much more.

Oh, one final thing. The girlfriend who took me to get that book? We got married and our oldest son just finished his first year of high school, where he took a digital marketing and multimedia class this year.

It’s all come full circle.