Monday, October 12, 2009

Usability of RSS feeds, social networking

It would be worth your while to spend some time with Jakob Nielsen's latest "Alertbox" usability column.

In it he details research done to determine how people interact with corporate postings in feeds and on things like Twitter and Facebook.

Some interesting stuff:
Businesses that post too often crowd out the user's real friends and become unpopular (and thus risk being unfollowed). Users listed too-frequent postings as their top annoyance with following companies and organizations on social networks.

Users prefer a more casual style for business messages on social networks than what's appropriate for most corporate communications. At the same time, they expect RSS feeds to be more business-like and to cut the chit-chat. Also, for some services — such as the BBC — people preferred a highly professional tone, even on social networks.

RSS updates were viewed as more trustworthy and as more "official" sources than social messages. Users were also more likely to check RSS feeds at work, whereas they mainly accessed social networks from home.

No great surprise, either, is the observation that users don't go rooting around for postings in the stream they might have missed -- they are content to pretty much stay with what's on the page in front of them.

With "social media" being the hot topic in newsrooms lately, there's a lot to chew on here.

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