The superb American Experience documentary series on PBS finally cast its focus on Silicon Valley yesterday evening in an 82 minute program largely focused on the founders of Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel.
The heroes of the story are eight scientists, in mechanical, electrical, metallurgical, and optical engineering, and a chemist.
It's a story that takes place more than half-a-century ago, when the "traitorous eight" left their employer Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory en masse because their boss, William Shockley, had become grossly egotistical and a horror to work with. He sounded like an early version of Steve Jobs, the Apple co-founder.
It was shocking to leave an employer, which is why they were called traitors. In those days loyalty was expected, as were the lifelong careers that companies provided. And it's this "traitorous" culture that continues to grow Silicon Valley, as people continually leave to create new startups.
American Experience also showed the close connection to the US Department of Defense and how military spending was the prime source of money for new ventures for a very long time.
Facebook seems to have succeeded somewhat, in holding back widespread concerns about the effectiveness of its advertising platform with a recent paid-for study by comScore, in the wake of GM's announcement that its Facebook ad campaigns don't pay.
Matthew Buckland, editor of Memeburn, argues that the focus on Facebook's [$FB] share price collapse, is a distraction from the many positive factors that will shape its future. He owns shares in Facebook.
In confusing times like these, when there is a cacophony of conflicting reports and opinions around investing in Facebook, I like to go back to the fundamentals. Fundamentals cut through hyperbole and understatement because they are just that: fundamentals.
Instead of the current share price consider these key points:
Facebook has added 25 banks to its IPO offering — a massive expansion from the original six banks named. It allows the banks offer Facebook stock to their clients in special deals and spreads a lot of favors among the Wall Street investment community.
As more and more services focus on the arbitrage of consumer-to-consumer transactions and rentals, the problem of trusting a stranger becomes a significant drag on success.
Surely Microsoft's Skype should be counted as a social network. It fulfills many of the same functions that Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.
You can set a status 'mood' message, you can text message, use it as a group chat system, you can share files, photos, your computer screen. Plus, you can talk with people plus video calls, and set up videoconferences with several people.
My recent article about the true size of social media platforms has prompted a lot of people to examine how many real people are followers or friends, and there has been some interesting additional data made available.
The numbers of users reported by Facebook, Twitter, Google, and many other sites, are closely watched. They reveal trends in adoption and they are one of the few public metrics available to analysts trying to assign value to companies preparing an initial public offering.
But how accurate are these numbers?
This study of time spent on Facebook by 425 College students is depressing:
Mark Zuckerberg is everywhere: Interviews on prime time US and foreign TV; features in leading newspapers and magazines -- it's one almighty PR push: Facebook is prepping for an IPO.
The reason for the publicity blitz is that once Facebook files for an IPO it enters a quiet period during which it can't make any public statements that could be construed as marketing the company's stock.
Social media was once lauded as an antidote to the gatekeepers of mass media, an army of citizen journalists would take on the dominant powers that shape ideas and influence consumers.
That didn't happen. And while citizen journalists in the form of bloggers are around, they tend not to break any original stories. In fact, social media has become a distributor, and an amplifier of mass media, an effect I dubbed SoDOMM, (Social Distribution Of Mass Media).
Mvelase Peppetta, points to Facebook's release of its top 40 shared news stories in 2011:
Here's an interesting infographic about "Trust and the Corporation" from Edelman's Trust Barometer survey published earlier this year.
Somewhat lost in Monday's news because of Google's acquisition of Motorola, Buddy Media, a New York startup raised $54 million at a $500 million valuation.
Buddy Media helps corporations set up and run their presence on a wide range of social networks.
(My favorite photo of Kristie and Chris at a fancy dress party.)
Thursday evening I was at a dinner celebrating five years of Social Media Club. I was at the inception, the back porch of Chris Heuer and Kristie Well's San Francisco apartment when they were pulling together the idea.
Five years on there are active clubs in more than 250 cities, a stunning testament to the stubborn and persistent efforts of Chris and Kristie.
I spoke with them about what they would like to see happen over the next five years:
Google's insistence that people use their real names on Google Plus goes against its official policy of refusing to comply with South Korea's Real-Name verification law.
The Korean law forces web sites with more than 100,000 visitors per day to force users to use their real names. Google got around it by stopping Korean users of YouTube from posting comments and told them to upload video to a neighboring country's YouTube site.
There's a gold rush going on as legions of self-proclaimed experts are working with corporations to help them monetize the potential riches in exploiting social media.
I look at the links and articles that social media "experts" are sharing all day long on Twitter, Facebook, etc, and it all boils down to this type of message: "Here are ways to turn social media into a lucrative corporate marketing/sales channel."
Today's news of the demise of The News of the World newspaper was both shocking and exhilarating: that a 168 year old Sunday newspaper with more than 200 staff, selling almost 3 million copies a week, can be closed so suddenly is without precedence.
A reader writes:
(Photo shows a meeting of the seminal Homebrew Computing Club - credit: Computer History Museum.)
Earlier this week I pointed out how "social media" has changed from its original promise of challenging the established order of mass media.
Where are the brigades of citizen journalists? What's become of the hope of the grass roots revolt against the gate keepers in our national and local media?
Te latest research from the Society for New Communications Research (SNCR) shows that business professionals are increasingly drawn to thought leadership in online communities.
Here are some of the key findings:
(Cathy Brooks Tweets while listening to Brian Solis (standing) Susan Etlinger, Tim O'Reilly and Jodee Rich.)
I popped into PeopleBrowsr's SF event which featured a panel moderated by Brian Solis and featuring Tim O'Reilly, Susan Etlinger from Altimeter Group and Jodee Rich, Founder and CEO of PeopleBrowsr.
The topic was: "The Evolution of Listening: From Monitoring to the Collective Intelligence."
Here are some of my notes from the event:
Last night Seesmic introduced the new version of its desktop version and also celebrated more than 40 plugins. This makes Seesmic into a powerful media platform for aggregation and distribution across many media channels.
Manage Your Major Social Networks
Follow your updates on multiple Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin accounts at the same time. Run searches, monitor userlists and share what you're doing to dozens of networks through Ping.fm. Use the smart account selection to manage your responses.
Here is a video:
The Twitter client market has become very competitive because of Twitter's own applications but Seesmic, under the leadership of Loic LeMeur, has managed to keep ahead of the pack by making Seesmic into a multi-purpose client.
This annual study, is designed to explore how social media is impacting business by better understanding how business leaders use social media and social networks to support and inform their decisions.
When we understand how social media changes professional decision-making, organizations can be more efficient, timely and supportive in how they interact with customers- ultimately leading to better engagement and decision-making in business.
Participants in this year's study will receive a free copy of the results. A link to the survey and last year's findings can be found on the research website.
About the Research
The New Symbiosis of Professional Networks is an annual research study designed to benchmark the impact of social media on enterprise decision-making.
The social nature of decision-making has increased significantly, connecting generations of professionals to each other--changing the dynamics of customer relationship management, marketing, and communications - forever.
In the first study, we focused on professionals' use of social media--and it all comes back to the strength of the relationship. Human relationships and peer-to-peer decision-making are inherently interrelated.
Professional networks facilitate vast interactions, connections, and networks of people by enabling collaboration anywhere and at any time.
Communities of practice, professional networks, social media, email, and SMS are among the tools that enable multi-channel access for individuals (employees, customers, partners, and suppliers).
In this second study (in the series) we will further examine the role of social media on decision-making among enterprise users and explore the dynamics of trust as well as the value of engagement and collaboration to support decision making and innovation across company operations for internal and external purposes.
The study explores the following questions:
The methodology for this study will be a two-pronged approach. A survey will be issued to gather quantitative data about professionals perceptions and experiences with social media in support of their decision-making. Following the survey, select interviews will be conducted using a semi-structured interview guide among a set of survey respondents who are willing to participate in the second phase of the study. The final study report will blend the survey research findings and the interview results to offer a well-rounded examination of the social media for decision-making process and opportunities.
I'm a big fan of Bernardo Huberman, director of HP Labs' Social Computing Lab, and the work of his team. HP has been applying rigorous scientific practices to the study of social media and it has a gold mine of research open to the public.
It is worth emphasizing that HP's studies are designed to the highest scientific standards; they are not isolated case studies or the musings of a "social media expert." They typically involve the study of very large numbers of people and thus they reveal some fundamental aspects of our increasingly online culture, and our common humanity.
The latest study from Dr Huberman and team is on what makes a Tweet or a Twitter user influential. More than 22 million tweets were analyzed and it has led to the creation of the IP Algorithm, which measures the influence and passivity of Twitter users.
The study found:
- Most Twitter users are passive, they do not re-Tweet.
- There is a difference between popularity and influence. High numbers of followers does not equal influence because those followers do not re-Tweet.
- To become influential, Twitter users must somehow persuade their followers to re-Tweet.
To measure influence, the study looked at how much traffic a Tweeted URL received, using the Bit.ly shortening service, which also tracks clicks.
From the paper Influence and Passivity in Social Media - HP Labs Research:
This reveals interesting implications about the relationship between a person's popularity and the inﬂuence she has on other people. In particular, it shows that having many followers on Twitter does not imply power to inﬂuence them to even click on a URL.
Given the mushrooming popularity of Social Media, vast eﬀorts are devoted by individuals, governments and enterprises to getting attention to their ideas, policies, products,and commentary through social networks.
But the very large scale of the networks underlying Social Media makes it hard for any of these topics to get enough attention in order to rise to the most trending ones.
Given this constraint, there has been a natural shift on the part of the content generators towards targeting those individuals that are perceived as inﬂuential because of their large number of followers.
This study shows that the correlation between popularity and inﬂuence is weaker than it might be expected.
This is a reﬂection of the fact that for information to prop-agate in a network, individuals need to forward it to the other members, thus having to actively engage rather than passively read it and cease to act on it.
Moreover, since our measure of inﬂuence is not speciﬁc to Twitter it is applicable to many other social networks.
This opens the possibility of discovering inﬂuential individuals within a network which can on average have a further reach than others in the same medium regardless of their popularity.
The fact that this study's findings can be applied beyond Twitter is fascinating, especially applied to the work of PR and advertising firms.
For example: If a PR firm succeeds in placing a story abut a client on a popular news site, it means little in terms of that story being influential and reaching potential customers, investors, or others.
Popularity and influence are two separate issues. Targeting the right media outlets based on influence is more important than the popularity of any one publication.
The same can be applied to online advertising. Advertising agencies buy "numbers" when placing ad buys. But they should be concentrating on targeting in regards to influence.
The HP study shows that there is a significant arbitrage opportunity for those PR and advertising firms that understand the distinction between popularity and influence -- and know how to act on it.
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Please see SVW:
Wildfire, a British PR firm, examined the social media activities of 50 of the fastest growing UK tech brands and found very little that was "social."
...60% of companies with a Facebook page used it purely as a distribution channel, 57% of companies with a Twitter account used it solely for one-way marketing activity and only 25% of blogs received comments on a regular basis.
66% of Facebook pages in our study received comments from users, with each comment presenting an opportunity to engage and to build brand advocates. However, 75% of technology companies with a Facebook account failed to recognise this opportunity and left comments unanswered.
... only 3% of the tweets in the study were retweets and just 12% were replies.
Shockingly, 43% of brands with a Twitter account had never replied to a tweet.
Nearly all (90%) of the tech companies in our study had a presence on two or more social networks. Twitter was the most popular, being adopted by 74% of brands in our study, followed closely by Linkedin (72%), with Facebook lagging far behind, with just 20% of tech companies having a Facebook page. Just under half of the companies in our study (48%) had a blog.
...technology brands are dipping a toe in the water, but are missing opportunities to realise the full potential of social networks to engage, build community and amplify brand awareness.
You'd think tech companies in particular would be clued up enough to realise this, but the fact is, they're not. Plenty of companies are signing up official company profiles across the board because they've heard somewhere, maybe on a blog, maybe down the pub, maybe after a meeting, that they have to.
...we suspect because the social medium is free to sign up to brands and companies think it's worth a shot. But what may cost in the end is the negative reputation a brand may acquire by appearing stuck-up or disinterested to potential interested parties.
If tech companies are struggling with social media you can bet that most other UK brands are faring worse. It shows that we are still at the very early stages of how businesses use social media to boost their sales.
(Via Sue Ellen Schaming and Richard Greenfield)
What a great quote from Jeff Bezos talking to Charlie Rose:
""Before if you were making a product, the right business strategy was to put 70% of your attention, energy, and dollars into shouting about a product, and 30% into making a great product. So you could win with a mediocre product, if you were a good enough marketer. That is getting harder to do. The balance of power is shifting toward consumers and away from companies...the individual is empowered... The right way to respond to this if you are a company is to put the vast majority of your energy, attention and dollars into building a great product or service and put a smaller amount into shouting about it, marketing it. If I build a great product or service, my customers will tell each other."
Here is the interview and transcript: http://www.charlierose.com/view/content/11138
Social media marketing then, is about enabling your customers to communicate what a great product they have.
Social media marketing is not about being a clever marketer but about how best to represent a company with a great product.
And here's my contribution: evangelists come free with every great product or service.
But is Jeff Bezos saying something new? Great products have always had their fans; Apple is a great example of how a company with a less than 5% market share managed to prosper.
Also, Amazon is the pioneer of the affiliate marketing model where you get others to do your marketing for you.
Amazon sells other people's products; it doesn't distinguish between good or bad products. The only product Amazon makes is Kindle, whose sales volume is tiny and doesn't even register on its quarterly earnings.
What Amazon does "sell" is great customer service and I can vouch for that.
Still, what Mr Bezos says is true. And it is important to remind marketers that "you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear." An expression that dates back to the mid-1500s."
UPDATE: Mitch Joel at Twist Image writes about the Jeff Bezos interview plus he hosts a great discussion:
A mediocre product with great Marketing is only going to create a lot of attention and conversation around the fact that the product is mediocre. Now, Marketing comes full circle to support the story of the brand and the products, and not just to oversell something mediocre.
Bezos makes it sound like this is the end of Marketing? ... or is it just the beginning?
Congratulations to Chris Heuer and Kristie Wells for their tireless efforts in building Social Media Club (SMC) into a vibrant organization that now has more than 100,000 members. Their goal is to transition SMC from a grass roots organization of 230 local chapters and into a professional association.
Chris Heuer explains:
While we will still hold onto the open roots upon which we have grown, we will also emphasize the importance of membership dues to provide the funds needed to operate a non-profit on a global scale. These funds will enable us to provide an honest view on the social media industry, support the establishment of professional standards of conduct and expand our educational initiatives to further media literacy. The crucial step in making this vision a reality involves bringing our loosely affiliated 'chapters' closer together, but first we had to find them.
With the help of Yong C Lee and Jessica Murray, we have just finished the SMC Global Census, resulting in a blog post for each local chapter on SocialMediaClub.org. Each post directs you to their existing social channels across the web and now also aggregates their blog posts (if they have one) onto the global Web site. So if for instance, you want to find out how many people are involved in Social Media Club in Moscow, all you need to do is visit their chapter page. Same thing with Seattle, Brisbane, Miami, Kansas City, Washington DC and Kuala Lumpur.
Now that we know where everyone is, we also have a better idea of who you all are. At present we have 230 local chapters around the world with a total potential reach of 158,558. Accounting for overlapping channel participation between their various Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other sites, this gives us an approximate reach of 100,000+ unique social media enthusiasts and professionals.
On a global basis, Social Media Club HQ has a total potential reach of 87,146, with 68,000+ Twitter followers, 7,800 Facebook Fans, a mailing list of 4,300, a LinkedIn Group with 3,400+ members and an RSS subscriber base of 8,500+. As we launch our membership drive to start promoting the organization with more marketing then just stickers in the weeks ahead, we expect these numbers to grow dramatically. Especially in light of all the new content we will be providing through our consolidated calendar of social media events and the launch of Social Media Journal and Social Media Observer.
Coming up: Social Media University, November 10-13 in Orlando, FL.
More details here: From The Clubhouse | Social Media Club
There are so many people branding themselves as social media experts these days that we could lose sight of the people who really are social media experts because they are doing it.
I'm really interested in the doers rather than the sayers. And I want to create a list of those people.
Jeremiah Owyang, from Altimeter Group, has put together an excellent list of people who are working within corporations as social media strategists - I'd be interested in more such lists if you have them.
I'm republishing just a very small part of Jeremiah's list, dealing with the tech sector, there is plenty more over at Jeremiah's blog: Web Strategy by Jeremiah Owyang | Social Media, Web Marketing.
I've also created a Pearltree around this topic, that lets you browse the LinkedIn profile of each person on the list.
By the way, if you are unfamiliar with Pearltrees it's a great media technology, it allows you to create your own curation of the web. Also, you can easily add this Pearltree to your own and it will be automatically updated with new names as they are added (in real time).
Here is just a small part of Jeremiah's list, this one is on the tech sector:
Electronics, Devices, Mobile
Technology, Hardware, Networking, Component, Computer
Technology, Software, Internet
Jeremiah is looking for new names for his list.
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Please see: Every Company is a Media Company - EC=MC - the transformative equation for business.
- 29% of all parents don't allow texting during family meals. 36% of parents of teenagers don't allow texting during family meals.
- 30% of parents think 13 - 15 years old is the right age to get a social media page
- 36% of parents think 16 - 18 is the right age to get a social media page
- 26% of parents say over 18 is the right age to get a social media page
- 8% of parents are okay with kids under 12 having a social media page.
- Only 12% of parents ban social media as a form of punishment. 18% ban all internet usage. 47% talk with their kids as a form of discipline.
- 48% of parents on Facebook are "friends" with their kids. 52% are not.
Andrew Eisner, director of content at Retrevo adds, "It looks like more parents with teenage children are more likely to be friends with their kids, although many admit it can be awkward at times but they say they do learn a lot about their teenagers, which is probably why children are so hesitant to friend their parents to begin with."
The study questioned 1,000 people across gender, age, income and location.
Hewlett-Packard recently published a research paper: Predicting the Future With Social Media by Sitaram Asur and Bernardo Huberman.
The study analyzed 2.89 million tweets from 1.2 million users referencing 24 movies released over a three month period. The researchers discovered that the rate of Tweets could predict the success of movies prior to their release, and also spot sleeper movies that grew successful over time.
The quality of the predictions was significantly better than any other measure such as the Hollywood Stock Exchange.
HP believes the same methods could be used to predict product success and election results. [Please see: HP Study Shows Twitter Predicts Success Of Movies]
I spoke with Bernardo Huberman, head of HP's Social Computing Lab, about the Twitter research project. Here are some notes from our conversation:
- We're very interested in social attention and how attention is allocated, especially in a very fragmented media world that we now have.
- Also, the study is about the wisdom of crowds and collective intelligence. I'm not sure about the 'wisdom' part, but on average, there does seem to be a collective intelligence.
- We are interested in how agendas can be set when the influence of traditional media is waning. In the past, for example, the editors at the Wall Street Journal or Financial Times, or CNN, would decide which stories they would publish and that's what we would see but now the world is fragmented.
- The Twitter movie study helps to show how agendas can be established and how it could be applied elsewhere.
- The Twitter movie research was very difficult, we looked at a lot Tweets. We made use of Mechanical Turk for sentiment analysis, hiring thousands of workers.
- The Twitter movie study was interesting, we have some departments within HP that want to use the same methods for predicting the success of products. We have applied for a patent on the process.
- I don't think the movie tweets could be gamed because we looked at a very large number from a large number of people.
- We have thought about looking at financial information such as stock market tweets and also at where other online conversations are happening.
- I'm very interested in the problem facing media companies, how to monetize content. In a world where everything is free, information rapidly becomes commoditized and when everyone has the same information, it has little value. Our studies have shown that if people pay for information they value it more highly, they have something others don't have. It's a very hard problem. I'm not yet sure how to tackle it.
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Computer scientists at Hewlett-Packard recently published a research study that showed that Twitter can predict the success of a movie better than any other measure, including the Hollywood Stock Exchange, considered the gold standard in the movie industry.
The paper "Predicting the Future With Social Media" by Sitaram Asur and Bernardo Huberman, analyzed 2.89 million tweets from 1.2 million users referencing 24 movies released over a three month period.
The study looked at the pre-launch buzz such as the release of trailers, it found:
- Very few retweets because "people tend to describe their own expectations and experiences, which are not necessarily propaganda."
- Urls in the pre-release tweets didn't seem to have much effect on popularity of the movie, a surprising discovery since pre-launch publicity should contribute to success in the box office.
The study then looked at the first week of release and found a high correlation between the rate of pre-launch tweeting and the success of the opening weekend.
The study authors compared their findings with the Hollywood Stock Exchange (HSX)-this is considered the 'gold standard' in predicting the success of movies by offering a trading platform that allows people to buy and sell virtual shares in movies.
The study was "consistently better at predicting the actual values than the historical HSX prices."
The researchers also applied a sentiment analysis on the tweets, classifying them as positive, negative, or neutral. They hired thousands of people through Amazon's Mechanical Turk, to perform the sentiment analysis.
As would be expected, a majority of positive sentiments in Tweets predicted movie success. However, a movie could have a poor opening weekend but then win a growing audience in the following weeks, a trend predicted by positive tweets.
The study authors say that this method could be used for predictions for many other topics, including the outcome of elections:
While in this study we focused on the problem of predicting box office revenues of movies for the sake of having a clear metric of comparison with other methods, this method can be extended to a large panoply of topics, ranging from the future rating of products to agenda setting and election outcomes. At a deeper level, this work shows how social media expresses a collective wisdom which, when properly tapped, can yield an extremely powerful and accurate indicator of future outcomes.
Coming up, I interview Bernardo Huberman, head of HP's Social Computing Lab, about this study.
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I've long said that creating Twitter clients is a lot of work for a very short market window because Twitter itself will eventually get into that business. And other Twitter related businesses too.
That's what seems to be happening. MG Siegler spotted this Tweet from a Twitter software engineer:
"If you had some of the nifty site features that we Twitter employees have, you might not want to use a desktop client. (You will soon.)"
Sure, Twitter client developers might be able to keep a step or two ahead of Twitter, they might be a little more nimble but eventually Twitter will catchup.
Some users of Twitter clients might not want the switching costs -- it might be difficult to transfer some of their favorite lists, or other things such as the look and feel of their favorite Twitter client. But that would be a fairly small group of users out of the total number of users in the future Twitterverse -- probably not enough to build a sustainable business.
Henry Blodgett sums it up well:
...it's the difference between Google Sites revenue (Google.com), in which Google keeps 100% of the money and Google Network revenue, in which Google has to hand over 50%-80% of the money to a distribution partner.
Foremski's Take: If I were Twitter I wouldn't rush into swallowing everything up too soon -- it's good to have third-party developers testing out markets and also evangelizing those markets -- then you can step in and suck those business ideas into your black hole. Unless, that is, that third-party developers get wise and decide not to do your dirty work for you.
A better tactic would be to buy some of those third-party developers instead of pushing them out of the way.
That will encourage other developers to be creative and to do the hard work for you, in the hopes that you might buy them.
I'm no fan of Ticketmaster.
I Tweeted earlier today about a New York Times article:
"I hate Ticketmaster - "Ticketmaster Settles With F.T.C. Over Springsteen Tickets" http://nyti.ms/aUZMHo"
I got a response from a service called Amplicate, which pulls together positive and negative comments about brands. It made a page called Ticketmaster Rocks, where it collected supposedly positive Tweets about Ticketmaster, and one called Ticketmaster Sucks, where it collected negative Tweets.
But if you look at the Ticketmaster Rocks page, most are negative. The service cannot distinguish sarcasm. Take a look:
I bet this is pretty common at other brand monitoring services.
I'm going to Tweet "I love #Amplicate - it is so good at understanding sarcasm!" Let's see which page it ends up on, Rocks or Sucks :)
Irving Wladawsky-Berger has put together a good review of several studies and reports concerning business use of social networks:
Mr Wladawsky-Berger has a lot of experience with the business use of social networks from his long career as a senior executive at IBM. The company was one of the first to embrace blogging and social networks.
He discusses fears that businesses have regarding their employees broadcasting inappropriate comments. He points out:
"Employees already have access to social networks through their personal PCs and mobile devices, so they need not wait for corporate sanctioned channels should they wish to post inappropriate comments. Better to deal with the issue directly, by providing guidance to employees on the proper use of social networks."
Several years ago IBM put together an excellent guide for employees: IBM Social Computing Guidelines.
Another concern companies have with social networks in business, is losing control over their employees, "who now have tools that enable them to easily collaborate with colleagues and friends inside and outside the company."
But, "such individual and community empowerment is precisely the key value of social networks."
Om Malik over on GigaOm seems to confuse office politics at MySpace with the demise of the social network.
Rupert Murdoch's $580 million MySpace purchase has outlived not only its utility, but has also finally hit its expiration date. That last step came with the announcement this afternoon that Owen Van Natta was stepping down as chief executive of the company. This was nine months after he joined the Los Angeles-based venture. It's circling the drains, if you ask me.
Changes in leadership do not mean MySpace is dead. It's still a very large business with many users. It's not going away anytime soon.
As one of the commenters on Mr Malik's post pointed out:
If you check the most recent comscore, MySpace has grown 2 months in a row, and is back up to 120MM users worldwide. That may not sound huge compared with Facebook's 350MM, but it is still 2X twitter's audience, and blows almost any other site out of the water. We in Silicon Valley tend to think that when something is not hockey-sticking anymore than it is dead. That is not true. If MySpace lost 1MM users a month it would take 10 years to disappear. That still gives them some time to figure out what to do.
Brian Zisk, co-founder of Collecta, a real-time search engine, recently pointed out that the MySpace message stream is five times the volume of Twitter.
The demographics of MySpace are different from Facebook and Twitter. It mostly attracts a young teenage audience and it has become a very large music site, and music fan site.
MySpace remains a large and viable business. It is far from being dead.
A new research study from the Society for New Communications Research (SNCR) has found that senior executives are affected by social media and that the influence on online communities on business decisions has grown over the past three years.
Some of the key findings:
- Professional decision-making is becoming more social - enter the era of Social Media Peer Groups (SMPG)
- Professional networks are emerging as decision-support tools
- Professionals trust online information almost as much as information gotten from in-person
- Reliance on web-based professional networks and online communities has increased significantly over the past 3 years
- Social Media use patterns are not pre-determined by age or organizational affiliation
These are interesting findings particularly the level of trust that decision makers have towards their online communities, it is much higher than for other types of online information.
Also, the finding that age is NOT a factor in social media use is very interesting. There is a myth that younger people are heavier users or have mastered social media to a greater extent. This shows that age is not a factor and it should lead to broader adoption of social media for decision support.
There is more information here on Don Bulmer's blog: Everyday Influence: SNCR Research Reveals Social Media's Impact on Business and Decision Making
[I'm a Founding Fellow of SNCR - a Palo Alto based think tank focused on research into emerging media technologies.]
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The methodology for this study involved a mixed methods approach supported by quantitative data gathered via online survey of 356 professionals to understand their perceptions and experiences with social media in support of their decision-making. Select interviews of 12 professionals were also conducted using a semi-structured interview guide as part of the second phase of the study.
Key demographics of the research include:
I recently met with Ijad Madisch, the founder and CEO of ResearchGate - an online community of more than 180,000 scientists sharing research results, helping each other with research problems, and networking within and beyond their fields of study.
Mr Madisch is a doctor specializing in virology. He grew up in Germany from Syrian parents. He lives in Boston.
Here are some notes from our meeting.
- ResearchGate was inspired by FaceBook. Mr Madisch noticed that one of his friends listed his research in his profile and that eventually led to another scientist being able to offer helpful information for his research project.
- The goal is to help scientists help each other with research and to prevent duplication of research projects. This can speed up the overall process.
- The site is growing at more than 1,000 new members every day.
- Members are rated on the quality of their comments and contributions.
- ResearchGate wants to encourage scientists to write up their research even if it failed. There is a lot of valuable information in creating a large database of scientific research even if it didn't fulfill expectations. 90% of research is not published. A searchable journal of failed research would be very valuable for designing future research projects.
- ResearchGate offers access to seven databases of scientific research. It also publishes the research papers of scientists. Research periodicals are very expensive but scientists are allowed to publish their research results on their personal sites -- ResearchGate profiles act as the personal sites for scientists. Otherwise you have to pay $35 per research paper.
- Some universities are using ResearchGate for private networks. This is a potential revenue source.
- Other revenue sources are an "Amazon" for lab equipment with user ratings and reviews. And job postings. It will never sell user data.
- ResearchGate plans to offer collaboration tools for scientists.
- The largest research sector is biomedical. Next is computer science.
- Future plans include online scientific conferences; a peer reviewed online journal; and more that cannot be discussed just yet.
- The company is angel funded. It has a development team in Boston and in Berlin.
- Mr Madisch's visit to Silicon Valley was to meet with potential partners such as a video streaming company, and others.
Fascinating talk by Bernardo Huberman, Director of the Social Computing Lab at Hewlett-Packard. He presents the results of several scientific studies of how large numbers of users behave on the web.
The results are very interesting and raise questions about the effectiveness of viral marketing; they reveal patterns in e-mail messaging; the half-life of popular stories on Digg (about 70 minutes); the influence of ratings on popularity; changing sentiment in reviews, how public opinion can be manipulated, and much more.
Don't be put off by the date of this talk: January 2008. It remains relevant because the studies are focused on behaviors of large numbers of users at sites such as Amazon, Facebook, and Digg - and haven't changed. They reveal what appear to be fundamental behaviors that could very well be hard-wired into our humanity - or at least our online humanity.
Here is my recent interview with Mr Huberman.
My recent interview with Bernardo Huberman, Director of HP's Social Computing Lab was fascinating because the research seems to uncover basic human traits that could be universal.
Mr Huberman and his team have been publishing the results of their studies. Here is a selection and it all looks fascinating. This is much better material than the hype and spam driven social-media-expert-type drivel out there that pretends to know without running tests and experiments.
I picked out the following from a longer list that you can find here:
Social media is by far the quickest way an organization can recruit nearly all of its staff into customer support and evangelism roles.
But I'm not sure employees will be too pleased by such moves. It is easy to track who is active and who is not. That's certainly going to be a factor in promotions and pay raises.
Also, because of the blurring of personal and business lives, this means employees will be spamming their friends and family as they prove their worthiness to their bosses.
User generated layoffs...
Companies are also using social media to replace employees because of volunteers among their customers. Intuit is a good example of what could be termed "user generated layoffs."
Here is a video I took from last year's Brainstorm conference of Brad Smith, CEO of Intuit talking about the potential job savings.
Here is a recent BusinessWeek article:
For the company, this volunteer army means less need for paid technicians.
...Customers were not only asking technical questions, they were often outshining Intuit's own tech support staff by answering 40% of the queries themselves.
...In early June the company said it is laying off 4% of its 8,000 employees. Executives say the job cuts didn't stem directly from Live Community's success, but Wilder points out that since Intuit's community outreach began, "the number of calls to our customer service lines has been reduced. We don't give out numbers, but there have been cost savings."
This is great for Intuit but for how long? If its customers realize that their enthusiastic participation in answering questions results in job losses will they continue to be as enthusiastic?
Also, volunteers do it because they feel like it and then they generally move on to something else. Relying on a fly-by-night army of volunteers could become a problem.
This is the same difference as between bloggers and journalists. Bloggers (citizen journalists) have a day job and they don't have to do it every day. Journalists do it every day (that would make a great bumper sticker :)
What happens to Intuit, and to other companies emulating its example, when their volunteer army doesn't show up for work?
Five weeks ago I wrote: Apple Rant: AppleCare = Shoddy Service - Apple Arrogance?. At the time it quickly attracted a bunch of comments, many of them sharing bad experiences with Apple's AppleCare.
What was interesting was that there was no response from Apple. And five weeks later, that post continues to be discovered and continues to attract comments -- sometimes in large batches as it gets picked up by services such as StumbleUpon.
Yet there is still nothing from Apple, which is surprising because by not leaving a comment, Apple comes across as arrogant, and that it doesn't care that there is a conversation going on about its warranty service.
My social media world is all a twhirl about corporate social media marketing. It's probably because I have a lot of contacts in marketing and communications.
And there are a gazillion social marketing "experts" out there hawking social media marketing strategies to corporations.
This is a mistake. Corporations are not people. They are made by people, and people work there, but they aren't people.
A while ago Seagate, the hard drive company, asked me to be its friend on Facebook. Then it asked me to be a "fan." I use Seagate so I clicked yes both times to see what was up. But do I really want a social relationship with my hard drive? No.
I come across lots of people joining Facebook for the first time, or joining Twitter. Some, should have joined a while ago because their profession needs to know about such things. And you can only know by doing, not by reading. But at least they eventually join.
I know many people, young and old, that are passionately determined never to join any social network. They are often adamant. I admire their stance but I don't understand it.
This is a chance to take part in a social experiment that is totally unique. Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Friendfeed, etc, are part of a unique global experiment that involves tens of millions of people in ways that we have never experienced each other. Tell me that's not interesting, or fascinating. Tell me that's not a reason to get out of bed. It's all fresh footprints in the snow.
BrightTALK has put together an interesting online Social Media Marketing Summit Oct 7 at 7am (recorded version available.)
42 Rules of Social Networking for Businesses
Frank Cutitta, General Manager at IDG Connect
LaSandra Brill, Manager, Web & Social Media at Cisco
Dave Evans, VP of Social Media at Digital Voodoo
Jerry Hart, Partner/VP of Sales & Marketing at Power to be Found
Chris Kenton, CEO of SocialRep
Bill Hartzer, Social Media Marketing Expert at Vizion Interactive
Edith Yeung, VP of Marketing at Clue Market Inc and Founder of SFEntrepreneur.com
Sean Mulholland, Director of Emerging Media at Atomic Public Relations
Mary Lou Roberts, Harvard University Extension School; author at DIY-Marketing and eBrandMarketing
Jennifer Jacobson, Author of 42 Rules of Social Networking for Businesses
Brian Offenberger, (a.k.a. RSS Ray), CEO of BizGrowth Search Engine Solutions
Charles Wells, Managing Director, Kinship Network
I've often wondered if I have an online doppleganger somewhere out there, someone that shares most of my interests and personality traits. I'm fairly unique in my attributes but I don't think I'm that unique.
If I had an online doppleganger that would be cool. I certainly wouldn't want to marry them or even spend much time with them (or let them join any of my clubs) but I might kick back a bit and rely on them to sort out a few recommendations for me, maybe even write a story for me occasionally :-)
I might be able to find my online doppleganger if Plista, a startup based in Berlin, Germany is successful. I recently got a demonstration of its technology from its charismatic CEO Dominik Matyka.
Berlin's Plista.com . . .
It's not often that I come across startups that make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I meet with a lot of companies and most have one or two nuggets of interest but Plista is different. It looks to be one of those exceptional companies that has figured out how to capitalize on the social network trend in a way that will likely lead to a plethora of fascinating web services across all types of desktop or mobile digital devices.
The simple description: Plista has a technology that provides users with recommendations around what they are doing online and across all types of web sites. In some ways it is similar to Amazon or NetFlix recommendation systems but goes much further. If you liked that TechCrunch article you'll probably like this one too. If you liked this type of product you'll probably like this one too. That kind of thing but across any web site.
What is interesting about Plista is how it publishes its recommendations to users and how it models user behavior and preferences.
Overlaying any web page . . .
Users simply download a plugin to their Firefox browser and the recommendations are presented seamlessly within the web page they are looking at. It overlays onto the actual web page and copies that page's colors and typefaces to blend in as if it were meant to be there all along. It doesn't require the web site owner to integrate its technology.
The Firefox Plista plugin will push out of the way any content to show a couple of lines of recommendations, or a larger number of recommendations within a side column. If there's an advert in that side column, it will be pushed down the page.
Publishers will probably not like the fact that Plista users are overlaying their web sites but they can participate and make money if they integrate the technology into their sites through a simple widget (see further).
The recommendation engine is really good despite the service currently still in testing and having only about 50 users. Its quality of service will improve tremendously once more people are using it.
Moody mornings . . .
Behind the scenes Plista's technology creates models of user behavior -- it even has a mood filter. "We can tell if you are in a grumpy mood in the mornings and we can factor that into your ratings," says Mr Matyka.
Plista also has a social network component so that you can share your recommendations and find and follow people with similar tastes.
Its initial revenue model is to have web site publishers pay Plista to integrate the technology into their sites. Those publishers can then take part in revenue sharing from cross-site recommendations.
Using Plista, web site publishers would also gain a deep understanding of their readers because they could see their recommendations and other social behavioral data.
I can see plenty more business opportunities for Plista. Creating an ad network is one of them, and much, much more.
That's not all . . .
Plista also showed me a lot other stuff that is in the works, and wisely, the company is not going to roll out everything at once because it could be confusing.Foremski's Take:
If you can integrate your social graph into that kind of system--which Plista does enable--you have the makings for some very interesting businesses. There's a chance to create a platform that would become a unique social commerce engine.
Facebook is trying to build its social commerce engine but it is spluttering, and MySpace has similar challenges.
Plista doesn't need to spend $18bn to buy Facebook, nor the bargain priced MySpace that cost Rupert Murdoch's News Corp $580m. Plista can overlay a recommendation based social commerce engine over any web site whithout having to own the content. Plista's recommendation technology could be combined with services, such as ad serving, lead generation, and traffic flow, and boost revenues for online publishers. Plista's approach could raise the value of some web sites.
I didn't make it to the recent TechCrunch50 conference due to a sudden massive attack of boredom with anything related to TechCrunch or DEMO in that week. However, if I had gone, I'm sure that Plista would have been my pick of the show (rather than Yammer ).
I'm very impressed with the company, its team, its ideas, and its technology. It's also a young team and one that I predict will be going places.
The service goes into private beta on 10-10-2008. You can sign up here: http://plista.com/?pageID=1&
For a long time I've disliked the use of the word "social" when it comes to press releases or applied to any other business-related software or business activities. Yet I do recognize that there is a grey area when it comes to online communities such as Facebook, where my business contacts get co-mingled with my friends.
However, in other areas, especially when it comes to press releases and business software, "social" seems to be an inappropriate use of the word.
I've been one of the key evangelists for what I've called the "new media release" it is a news release that includes links, tags, photos, graphics and video. Lately, people have been calling it a "social media press release." I'm not a fan of that term and I'm not the only one.
The title says it all, imho. But here is an extract:
Let's be realistic and clear-- Social Media Press Releases are micro-sites for a product or announcement. This isn't "game changing", it's just borrowing from what interactive advertising was doing 7 years ago and adding RSS and API feeds and using it as a landing page to direct bloggers and journalists to. That's hardly something that deserves the amount of air-time it's been getting if we are being honest (and doing more than patting each other on the back within the echo chamber).
Let's just call them commercial product pitches . . . a media release with links...(!)
This is from Fortune's Brainstorm conference.
In an earlier post I asked:
Brad Smith CEO of Intuit was on stage and made some interesting comments. He said that he has asked his managers to see what salaries Intuit is paying for that could be voluntarily done by users.
He said that Intuit users have been better at answering questions than Intuit employees. This is why Intuit is looking to save on salaries, which are traditionally the largest cost at any company.
What happens, as it will, when other companies adopt this same approach?! User generated unemployment. Is this a good thing? Is this one of the best business practices associated with social media? Will users hold back on advice if they know that people might lose their jobs?
Here's the video:
This is very good:http://current.com/items/88913552_social_networking_wars
Hat Tip: Ken Kaplan via Facebook (!)
This week marked the US launch of eBuddy, which sometimes describes itself as the "European Meebo but much larger." This Amsterdam headquartered company provides web and mobile device based instant messaging platform that integrates MSN, Yahoo, Google Talk, MySpace and AIM all into one interface. I met Jan-Joost Rueb, CEO and Mindy Hull, head of marketing and communications at eBuddy.
Mindy and I used to work together at the Financial Times so it was good to catch up and also hear about eBuddy. In February, the company raised 6.5 million Euros in a series B round. Those Euros are going to be used to expand its already large footprint:
• 12 million monthly global visitors
• 1.5 million new network users added every month
• 1.2 million unique mobile users per month
• 1.3 billion+ advertising impressions per month
• Google Zeitgeist 2007 Report: #7 fastest rising keyword search (global)
Meebo has done well but it had better watch out...there's a new kid on the block and with Euros in the bank!
Tuesday evening I had dinner with MySpace CEO Chris DeWolfe and some of his top executives about the future of MySpace.
It was organized by the International Press Club and I will have more to say on this subject in the next few days. I think I can cast some insider perspectives about MySPace and its strategy plus also some great video... Watch this space.
Please also see: Culture Clash: MySpace at SF MOMA - Southern California Comes to Silicon Valley ySpace at SF MOMA - Southern California Comes to Silicon Valley
...Swift or slow initially it won't matter
Tuesday evening in San Francisco, MySpace unveiled a unique plan to win developers of social network apps. It said it would seek to eliminate some competitive advantages between large and small developers by holding back all application launches to the same day--one month from today.
"We want a level playing field and we think this will encourage quality over quantity," said Kyle Brinkman, GM of the MySpace Developer Platform. He wants small developers to have equal opportunities for success as the larger developers, which have the resources to quickly produce and distribute apps. Or maybe it is the small, nimble developers that will lose out to the larger, slower moving competitors?
Over on ZDNet, I asked if this "socialist-like" strategy would succeed. Does this Southern California based firm understand the developer culture here. Because the MySpace policy clearly clashes against the hard core, deeply embedded code of Silicon Valley's startup culture: speed to market brings massive rewards and creates formidable barriers to competition.
Silicon Valley developers have a deep understanding of the importance of first mover advantage. Startups know that being swift leads to long term success and shorter lives for competitors.
The MySpace plan is to curtail the rewards that first-to-market developers would capture. In the first month, Swift or slow it won't matter, all apps become available at the same time.
Mr Brinkman believes that this will create a democracy and a meritocracy in the MySpace developer community, where apps will succeed based on quality and usefulness.
Quick and dirty apps...
MySpace also said it will scrutinize each app before release to make sure it meets stringent privacy and decency standards. I asked Mr Brinkman about revisions to apps since developers are constantly tweaking their software. Every change will require re-examination.
I understand MySpace's concern about privacy and decency but this process of re-examining tens of thousands of apps creates a potential bottleneck. And paradoxically, it threatens the quality of MySpace apps.
Quick and dirty apps with few revisions will be seen as the most effective strategy. Constant improvement of apps is punished by delays due to re-examination of the code. Again, this is counter-culture to Silicon Valley's best practices in developing best applications.
There is also another interesting move: MySpace has weakened the viral distribution capabilities of social apps on its platform. On Facebook, some app developers have seen huge viral uptakes, hitting a million users within a week and tens of millions within a month.
These huge numbers, however, often have more to do with questionable distribution methods that exploit the Facebook communications infrastructure, The growth in users is certainly viral but not necessarily virtuous. MySpace is seeking to reward quality apps. But again, it runs against the grain of Silicon Valley's developer culture, which seeks to maximize and amplify any and all viral distribution opportunities.
It'll be interesting to see how this approach will work out. It is worth remembering that counter culture and counter-intuitive business strategies have succeeded many times in Silicon Valley.
Some excerpts from ZDNet and my conversations at the MySpace developer party:
MySpace will not seek to discourage copycat application developers. Popular Facebook apps such as Zombies, and others, can be cloned with impunity. I asked MySpace CTO Aber Whitcomb about this issue. “We don’t want to get involved in any copycat disputes, we will leave that up to the developers to figure out.”
...Michael Cerda, CEO of Jangl, an SMS and telephony application developer, said, “We have negotiated deals with the major carriers, it won’t be easy for others to do the same. We also have negotiated deals with major advertisers, we already have revenues. And we have core patents.”
. . .
Jared Kopf from Slide and Adroll said he wasn’t worried about copycat competitors. “We will have the best Super Poke app on MySpace,” he predicted. Slide is one of the top Facebook app developers and raised a stunning $50m in January 2008, giving it a valuation of more than half-a-billion dollars ($550m.) [Slide Slides Into Some Cash - Brad Stone, New York Times]
. . .
Bill Cromie, co-founder and CTO of New York based Nabbr, a distributor of media widgets loaded with premium content, had an interesting perspective on the differences between the SoCal culture of MySpace, New York, and Silicon Valley/San Francisco. “New York and San Francisco startup cultures are more similar to each other than they are to Southern California. The difference is that people talk in big pictures in Silicon Valley while New York is more focused on show me the money.”
January is National Mentoring Month, a perfect time to launch iMantri.com, an online site using Web 2.0 features to build a social networking site designed to mentor employees, executives and entrepreneurs.
Some more details from iMantri:
iMantri applies the best of both mentoring and social networking to create a non-hierarchical mentoring relationship based on individual competencies. This means a member can be both a mentor and a mentee and can share their gifts as well as tap into the wisdom of their peers.
- Fifty-five percent of respondents to a HR.com survey reported using professional networking sites, such as LinkedIn, to share best practices with colleagues.
-Forty-nine percent use professional networking sites to get answers to issues they are face on their jobs.
- Most mentoring programs are informal. They lack structure and continuity, resources and tools, a supporter network and a large enough pool of possible matches that inspires and guides mentees and their mentors.
iMantri’s core features include:
-- Competency Assessment
-- Goals/Issues based Mentoring
-- Mentor-Mentee Matching Engine
-- Mentoring Framework and Tools: Mentors will be able to define needs in detail, create a mentoring process and implement it using tools for planning, interactions, feedback, and rating.
iMantri is founded by veterans in the field of management and technology supported by domain experts from the fields of coaching, mentoring, training and leadership development worlds. The company is headquartered in Silicon Valley and is currently self-funded. The website is at www.imantri.com.
What does iMantri mean?
“Mantri” (pronounced as “Man” “Three”) is a Sanskrit word and means a minister, wise man, a counselor, a trusted advisor and a mentor. (Think of Alexander the Great and his “Mantri” Aristotle.) In addition to Sanskrit, the word has similar meaning and connotation in other languages such as Malay, Indo-China, and Arabic cultures.
Who is behind iMantri?
iMantri is founded by veterans who’ve had experience in startups as well as in executive roles at corporations. The founders of iMantri have been thru the roller coaster of business and learnt along the way the value and importance of mentoring relationships – both formal and informal.
Technorati Tags: imantri
Tuesday evening I'm in Roy's fusion Hawaiian restaurant in San Francisco with an excellent group of journalists and industry people. The Conversation Group hosted the event featuring their clients and others, in a panel-type presentation.
The panel consisted of:
Om Malik, Editor & Founder of GigaOM
Jeremiah Owyang, Senior Analyst and Web Strategist at Forrester Research
Salim Ismail, Head of Yahoo's Brickhouse
Chris Heuer, Partner at The Conversation Group (moderator)Jeremiah Owyang
I'm seated in a good spot, between Jeff Nolan and David Spark. Spitting distance opposite me is Dave McClure, another favorite of mine. Unfortunately our end of the table is not very well behaved, in fact, most of the table fights for some of the conversation versus our esteemed panel, some of whom are paying for our dinner [which made for a fun evening].
We talked about social networks, and one question that emerged from The Conversation Group, [the PR agency representing some of the people there] was "how can marketeers involve themselves in our social recommendations?"
My answer is that there is no place for them at all, or if there is, they had better tread very carefully.
I will recommend things to my social network only on an occasional basis. Why should I spam my friends or allow Facebook to spam my friends about my consumer choices?
I would probably avoid any online service that seeks to make money from my recommendations, or that offers me a share of that monetization.
[How much money could I make anyway? It would devalue my recommendations to friends if I was seen to be making money.]
For now, Facebook works for me because it hasn't yet started to monetize my network, it provides a lot of positive value, and very little negative value. Once it does ratchet up the negative value by trying to monetize my "social graph," and if it does it in an offensive manner, then I will stop using it. Once I stop visiting my "social graph" on Facebook then that's it for Facebook's ability to monetize my network.
I think this could be the Achilles' heel of social networks--if you push the monetization too far--you will lose your networks.
If I don't visit my social network because the owners are trying to monetize the heck out of it, then they have lost.
I love businesses such as CraigsList and Dogster because they leave a ton of money on the table. They know that you have to provide ten times the value and more, as you pull out of the business in terms of advertising. And their users are loyal and passionate because of that.
Yet Facebook doesn't understand this yet--and it is on a slippery slope.
With MSFT's recent investment is it is now a $15 billion company but it doesn't have the revenues (yet) to support that valuation.
MSFT's investment could be setting Facebook up for failure. Because it forces Facebook to prove its valuation and the only way it can do that is by increasing the monetization of its service through advertising.
The negative aspects of being on Facebook are set to increase without any additional services that provide a positive value for Facebook members.
That means our experience of Facebook is likely to diminish in quality as it tries to justify its valuation.
Is MSFT setting it up Facebook for failure? It's an interesting strategy.
Unlike Facebook, which has thousands of developers but doesn't have a monetization infrastructure, Meebo is offering a 50/50 split with developers. And unlike Facebook, which welcomes any developers, Meebo says it will be very selective.
Calling all developers!
meebo is opening up its doors to developers and we'd love for you to help us create awesome multi-user applications that meebo users can use to connect to their friends.
Foremski's Take: It's a good move because it ups the stakes in the battle to win developers that every social network platform faces. Without great applications, social networks believe that they will lose users. Meebo is limiting the number of developers into its market which means they have a better chance of making money than at Facebook where thousands of developers are competing (and annoying users).
Meebo's move will encourage other social networks to make competitive offers. Microsoft, for example, offers its Popfly development platform for free to developers, which includes commercial rights.
Developers are in demand, but these days they face the expense of developing for many different platforms, and supporting those applications. It is not enough just to launch an application in the online world, it must be monitored, and tweaked, and developed further if it is to be successful.
Also, developers that sign up for revenue sharing with social network sites, might be disappointed by the returns. The large advertising networks such as Google AdSense, Yahoo Publisher Network, and Microsoft, pay very little unless you have very high traffic.
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Technorati Tags: developer war
A few weeks back I spent a Saturday afternoon in Palo Alto crammed into a small room with a couple of hundred people listening to the stories of some of the early Facebook app developers. Believe me, it wasn't the way I wanted to spend my Saturday.
But the enthusiasm was fun to witness and it did feel as if we were all (and we still all are) at the beginning of something big. It was fun to see kids straight out of school suddenly rock stars in the nascent Facebook community, learning how to be entrepreneurs.
Whatever your personal and emotional reaction is to Facebook, (and many have told me it is a fad and worse) you have to take notice that you just might be missing out on one of the big stories of the next couple of years.
And you wouldn't want that, or would you? :-)
Take a look:
Video: Tom Foremski Video Editor: Lee Cummings Feel free to use on your site or blog!
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Thursday afternoon I met with Matthew Trush and JP Checa, co-founders of Convos, a New York city based startup offering a "Yahoo Groups on steroids" web based application.
Convos is an interesting application, with a clean user interface and the ability to add features through modules. It is built on Flash using Flex. It recently opened up its beta to the public prior to a commercial launch with a tiered pricing structure.
I asked them if they had a Facebook app yet, because I could see this kind of functionality would be great to help manage Facebook groups. They laughed when I mentioned Facebook, and said they don't have plans for one.
Mind the Culture Gap
Are we too Facebook obsessed over here, I asked? Probably was the answer. We talked about the different startup cultures of SF/Silicon Valley and New York. Everyone is laid back here, they said. Yes that's true, but don't be fooled, we're always on, it never stops.
The New York startup community is an exciting place to be these days, they said. Lots of tech meet ups, lots of networking, and lots of discussion about Silicon Alley versus Silicon Valley and which is better. Do we have the same discussion I was asked? No, we don't talk about Silicon Alley at all.
I do like Silicon Alley Insider, an excellent NYC news site. And I would love to spend more time in New York.
I'm always interested in how others view the SF/Silicon Valley culture and its ideas.
I sometimes find that ideas take time to travel. Publishing an idea happens at the speed of electrons but understanding ideas happens at a different speed.
When I worked at the Financial Times in the SF bureau we primarily worked with editors in NYC and London. I noticed that it generally took about six months per 3000 miles for ideas to travel and be understood. I termed it the Foremski Universal Constant of Kulture - for which there is no polite acronym.
- - -
Meet the Convos team:
Date: Friday, October 26th, 2007
Time: 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM
Location C325, Cheit Hall, Haas School of Business
City: Berkeley, CA
Friday October 26th - 2007 at UC Berkeley.
- - -
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I wasn't sure if I'd be able to make the Outcast PR After Hours party Thursday night because I had four back to back meetings and events. But I managed to catch part of it.
I've worked with Outcast for many years so it was good to see familiar faces. And it was also interesting to hear some feedback on my latest posts about the changing economic models for PR, such as my Wiley E Coyote post.
It was quite clear that I had hit a nerve with many of my PR contacts and hopefully they will have the courage to take our discussion online so we can share it with others. Some took my post very personally, as if I were attacking them by name, which I wasn't. I was pointing out clear economic trends, that's all. That's my training as a financial journalist, to follow the flow of money within industry sectors.
The world has changed for both the media and PR industries, except the media sector is a further along in experiencing the painful disruption of those changes. The PR sector will eventually go through similar painful changes. This is not a welcome message when the PR industry is booming, and hiring like crazy.
PR industry parade
The PR industry is happy because revenues continue to climb 9, 10 per cent and more annually. New media technologies offer PR firms new business opportunities, they aren't viewed as a threat. PR firms charge clients for additional services. New media/social media is a very good add-on business in the PR world.
But when clients realize they can meet their PR goals using new media approaches for far lower costs, then why pay for both? They won't. There many that already don't.
This is a trend that will be played out in different ways by different companies but its overall effect will be the same.
Technorati Tags: disruptive technologies
I recently met with the Experience Project, a startup that is creating social media support groups around various illnesses. This for-profit company recently launched its first online community called the Cancer Support Project.
Carol Lin, a well known CNN reporter, is one of the key evangelists for the Cancer Project. And the Experience Project plans to build many other social media sites around specific illnesses. The goal is to pay for the web site design and the infrastructure costs, etc, through an advertising model.
Pharma is spending huge amounts of money on general advertising on TV, radio and magazines. Online sites such as the Cancer Project provide far better targeting for pharma companies, potentially lowering their marketing costs.
Is it OK for a for-profit organization to make money off of often tragic illnesses such as cancer? Yes, I think it is as long as the monetization of that community is not taken too far.
A community sites such as CraigsList.org works well because the owners of this private for-profit site only monetize the jobs section, and parts of the commercial rental market. The rest of the site is ad-free even though most of the content is free-ads.
CraigsList's owners could commercialize far more of their traffic but they choose not to because they don't need the money. This has built tremendous user loyalty, and it is a strategy that keeps competitors at bay because CraigsList's mostly-free model doesn't leave much to compete over. It's a canny competitive practice and one that Experience Project should consider.
The backers of the Experience Project include an interesting group of angel investors, former tech guys now entering their 60s. They make small investments in medical related startups, which jump-starts those ventures, and allows them to qualify for various government grants and attract additional venture investments. (See the video interview for more info...) Those seed investments are able to leverage tens of millions of dollars in medical research and development. Smart investing.
Here is a collection of quick interviews I conducted at the recent launch of the Cancer Project in San Francisco which attracted a spirited and colorful crowd.
Intro to Platform, Apps, & Metrics - Dave Morin, senior platform manager, Facebook. [Note: This is the ONLY Facebook representative at the conference!!!]
We are a technology company.
We now have 43m users, 225k per day are new, or 3 percent.
We are doubling every 6 months.
Over 50% users come every day.
We are 6th largest web site.
Facebook is largest photo sharing site. Not because of more features but because it leverages the power of the social graph.
Facebook is largest event site, larger than evite. Not because of more features but because it leverages the power of the social graph.
Best practices, using "photos" as an example:
-Profile box is not that big, not very necessary.
-Enable engagement, leave comments is very important.
-Mini-feed: We've noticed people aren't using it as much as we'd like them to.
We want to help developers get past the growth stage, allow engagement and then get to make money. These are things that are super important.
We launched the fbFund, rants to get developers started. We don't take equity it is about community.
We have 5,000 apps. We have 90,000 developers in the community.
80% of users have adopted 1 application or more. We could not have dreamed this growth.
These aren't just our users they are your users.
We haven't yet seen a whole new class of work applications. There are lots of opportunities there.
We are still a small company, just 300 staff, we still have a lot of work ahead of us.
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Building Facebook Applications with ASP.net, Silverlight, and Popfly - Dan Fernandez - Microsoft
Users are the stars, take good care of them.
The same way YouTube enabled sharing of videos, we want to do the same for consumers building and sharing applications.
Your software should build self-expression.
Popfly is free, client side file hosting, we don't do server side processing, works with open source AJAX Frameworks.
We built 40 Popfly blocks but there are now over 400.
Your application can live anywhere iframes is supported.
A demo of Popfly and how to deploy on Facebook, all done without coding.
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Facebook App Design: Elements of Style - Jia Shen, RockYou.
The viral spread of Facebook apps is 7 times greater than other platforms because of the API.
Think mathematically, who you are targeting and how people will see it.
Don't go through long development process, be quick. Release early.
Follow how many people click on it and other user behavior.
Use Google Analytics and other site stats.
Launch in phases, make sure it works, then go full out.
Aim for about 1k users to test initially.
Promote on ad networks.
Myspace is like a single-player game, Facebook is multi-player.
Danny Sullivan - Search Engine Land
From Search to Social.
3rd generational search is hitting right now. Focus is on specific topics.
Personalized search is part of what is happening now. When you search the results move up or down based on your previous habits, but it is done is a subtle manner.
Social search - Eurekster is a good example. Yahoo My Web is another example.
Facebook is not in the search business but they could be in the discovery business.
Right now there is a lot of goodwill, you can learn and make mistakes, it's all learning. So it is good to do it now.
The Facebook platform is part of a much larger phenomena. Learn to optimize on Facebook to apply those lessons to future platforms.
Developing Facebook apps can take 4 weeks it doesn't have the richness of functionality, still issues with the platform.
Widgets have to be trackable, the widget itself is the advertisement.
Make widgets clear, simple.
We will have many platforms. There are many destination points.
Terms of service: Keeping to terms of service could putt some companies out of business. Users dictate what terms they will accept.
Brands are interested in getting involved with social platforms because of the viral nature of the platform.
We've seen Yahoo gain a lot of traffic from their Facebook apps.
Adbrite is getting a lot of advertising from Facebook developers, we have a separate ad channel for them. They have big budgets.
Brand advertisers like video ads on Facebook.
5k Facebook applications, and they are immediately handed a lot of personal data.
You can get millions of users for your applications cost free, and that has not been possible before.
Respect your users. It is a very sophisticated user base.
Facebook needs to prove itself as an ad network.
Slide.com: We acquired all our users for free so we don't feel a need to make money right now but we believe we will be able to make money in 2008.
About 10 percent of Facebook activity is on applications. Maybe $1/2m to $3M a month goes to Facebook ads on apps.
Premium upgrades are probably the way to make money in Facebook.
Facebook needs a universal checkout account, a uniform wallet would be beneficial to a lot of people.
There will be new business models, there is a lot of room for experimentation.
Some people might have as much influence on sneakers within their groups as Michael Jordan has across markets.
Google placed top yielding ads at the top was done to avoid Overture patents said Scott Rafer.
Simple, social applications that are universal is the best strategy to ultimately monetize Facebook.
Charlene Li - Forrester Group
Example of bad Facebook ads: Jeep Wrangler ads not good.
Behavioural data is more valuable than demographic data. MySpace offers behavioral data Facebook does not.
I haven't seen a great Facebook app yet.
Lance Tokuda - RockYou (a Facebook app developer.)
SuperWall took one day to design, implemented the next day, promoted with 100k users, after 3 weeks there were 2m users.
Some on Facebook are good at content others are good at distribution. Good to have a partnership.
Virality is going down slightly.
Can't do this on web, it is the virality that is important.
Best distribution platform 7 times better than Facebook but only 1 per cent succeed.
Amazon S3 services is good to use for Facebook apps. You only need to worry about database scaling, Facebook serves a lot of your pages.
Seth Goldstein - Social Media
Advertising = Appvertising.
Facebook could provide the promise of personalized advertising because advert is tied to social data.
Facebook will provide new models of advertising that weren't possible until now.
You can ask questions across applications that can reach hundreds of thousands of people.
Need to build advertising specifically for social networks.
I was shocked how Facebook users provided information about themselves.
In our Food Fight application people earn virtual money by answering questions and then they can pay for food to throw. We found many would pay 20 times more for throwing "poop."
Can you make a business from throwing "poop?" People want to do things they can't do in real life. I don't do it and I don't think it is sustainable. But the engagement levels are out of control.
Please see: The New California Gold Rush...
If you don't yet have a Facebook app representing your business, you should get one before the white noise of millions of Facebook apps drowns yours out.
This week in San Jose at the Holiday Inn Monday and Tuesday is the Graphing Social Patterns - The Business and Technology of Facebook conference. The focus is on developing apps for the Facebook platform.
What is not yet clear is how some types of businesses will make money through Facebook. What is clear is that being among the first Facebook apps is important and that the "build it and they (revenues) will come" approach is the best one because the cost of building Facebook apps is not that great. Rising above the noise is very important.
Being among the first Facebook apps means that you can take advantage of the viral opportunities that Facebook provides because of the distribution channel through people's relationships with other users.
"Social" platforms in this context are better represented by the term "relationship" platform because of the mixture of personal and business networks that get mixed into people's Facebook contacts. For example, I accept any "friend request" because of the very public nature of my work. But others are very strict about such requests and limit their Facebook contacts.
However, increasingly Facebook is becoming a very mixed "social" platform as many people mix family, friends and business contacts. But it should become fairly easy for users to segment their relationships as new apps come along.
The Unified Super-Social Graph?
Currently, Facebook seems to be emerging as the top dog social network, also called a "social graph." Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn, said at the Graphing Social Patterns conference,"It is likely that there will be many social graphs, family, religeon, business. I'm not a big believer in just one social graph. It is very unlikely."
However, Mr Hoffman's scenario doesn't preclude one host of many social graphs, which Facebook is currently well positioned to provide.
Mr Hoffman said the challenges of social apps is to find something that is sustainable and can stay ahead of "me too" type applications.
He added that the economics of the Facebook platform are not yet clear but could become clearer as the platform evolves. He points out that there will be massive competition:
-Someone will try to give away anything you charge for.
-At least 3 people will copy anything that works.
-Competition will come from companies and individuals.
-Newness is extremely important and a challenge for developers.
If Mr Hoffman is right, that doesn't bode well for the economics of the Facebook platform.
Check back for more reports from the conference plus video is also coming via TechOne.
Technorati Tags: facebook developer
Social media and IT . . .
If you missed my panel on social media at Intel Developer Forum, you can watch it here. You can find out how Intel has been using blogs and wikis. It is always interesting to see how a very large and established company such as Intel (Intel is a sponsor of SVW) is able to change and embrace social media - it is not an easy process. We also had an Intel lawyer on the podium.
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iPhone religion . . .
I meet a lot of people and many of them like to talk about their cell phones and then go on to tell me why they don't have an iPhone, and/or don't need one. This is interesting because these are unsolicited and unprovoked comments. It is as if just the presence of my iPhone stirs some pangs of guilt or justification.
Let me say this: I like my iPhone, but I'm not religious about it, but many people are religious about their non-iPhones. Which is interesting.
My response is this: think of the opportunity cost to you in your business and professional life. Waiting for another price reduction or until your contract comes up for renewal makes sense if you are the average consumer. It makes no sense if you live and work in Silicon Valley, if you are in media, in PR, or are a developer, or an investor. Saving a hundred or few hundred later, will cost you bigtime now because you will be behind in experiencing and being experienced with this platform.
The iPhone is a media delivery platform of a unique kind. My colleague at TechOne Steve Gillmor, says this:
The iPhone has effectively replaced my laptop for much of my working day. The extent to which I can create the necessary metadata to do my various jobs determines what applications I use.
The iPhone does have problem spots but they are mostly software fixes--it will get better very quickly. What is the cost to you in not having experience with this platform? It is far more than saving a few bucks.
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Blue moon . . .
Lunarr invitations. Let me know on Facebook (send me a friend request) if you'd like to check out this unique collaborative platform created by two Japanese entrepreneurs based in Portland, Oregon.
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Gaia hackers . . .
My 13 year old daughter Sarah is very sad this week, someone hacked into her Gaia Online account and stole all the things she had collected from over a year's worth of work, and erased all her friend info and other malicious damage. I did some searching and there are several sites that teach others how to hack Gaia user accounts.
I sent Sarah this to cheer her up . . .
Brand management is a tricky thing. How do you know who is blogging or writing about your brands, and if the sentiment is positive or negative? There are millions of online "conversations" happening every day.
BuzzLogic, based in San Francisco has developed tools that allow corporations to track conversations across thousands of online sites, blogs, mainstream media and anywhere else online, in almost real-time.
And those tools can also determine how influential a site, a blogger, a writer is. And who they influence. After all, there is no sense in galvanizing a response team to an unfavorable post on a blog if its influence is zero.
The company recently completed its Series A funding, raising an impressive $9.6m after bootstrapping the venture for more than two years. "Its good to have a salary," smiles Rob Crumpler CEO. It is also good to have the validation that a VC investment brings.
BuzzLogic recently moved out of beta and in mid-April launched its BuzzLogic Enterprise service. More than 160 customers, many Fortune 500 companies, collaborated with BuzzLogic in the beta phase to refine the service.
"Companies are interested in knowing about themselves, how they are perceived and how their products are perceived," says Mr Crumpler. "And companies want to be able to spot potential problems before they grow into much larger issues."
There are many examples where a complaint online can mushroom into a major public relations disaster. Jeff Jarvis, a prominent New York blogger and his complaints about Dell is one such example.
The company's two key features are its algorithms and its visual display of the results which gives users an excellent view into the influence of a particular site on a specific topic.
Todd Parsons, the chief product officer explains: "Just because someone is influential within one sector doesn't mean that they are influential in other areas. Our algorithms can analyze influence and allow companies to focus on those sites that really matter. We can also track the rise and fall in influence of a particular site."
The algorithms cannot measure sentiment, but users can quickly tag online content according to positive or negative sentiments, which can be shared with colleagues.
Email alerts will warn of possible trouble in real-time. But each customer applies their own response. This can include contacting people and also getting involved in the online conversations.
BuzzLogic's technology also learns from its users, which should mean that the service continues to improve over time.
Foremski's Take: BuzzLogic's visual presentation of its data is excellent. The visual data is presented within a user interface that provides a view into who is participating in each conversation, over a specific period in time, alongside summaries of the content.
It is a service that could be used in many ways, not just for brand management. It could uncover new types of buzz bubbling up that could provide business opportunities for some companies. And it can also be used to test the effectiveness of a public relations campaign.
The role of search engines is one that is not yet part of BuzzLogic's measurement. Search engines can dredge up negative comments time and again, and can help sites gain influence despite other factors.
Services such as BuzzLogic's can give organizations an insight into how they are perceived without requiring focus groups. But most organizations don't yet know what to do with such data and what the appropriate response should be. But they will figure that out over time.
[Wells Fargo should take notice...]
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It is a sunny, crisp mid-afternoon, and Gurbaksh Chahal, the CEO of BlueLithium advertising network, is wearing a stunning blue striped suit by a French designer as we walk along a dowdy part of Divisadero Street, in San Francisco. I am meeting with him and top brand management executives from Anheuser Busch, who are dressed more conservatively, to discuss plans to use online social networks to sell beer.
The research group of BlueLithium, the second largest US online advertising network, last year came up with an idea for MingleNow. It is an online social network organized around the offline world.
Since friends gather around the same bars, restuarants and clubs, there is a potential opportunity to create social networks built around these common points of community. (SVW: MingleNow - social networking that mingles online and offline.)
Following a private beta last year, BlueLithium is making a big push with MingleNow this year. Its goal is to have 2m active users by the end of 2007. And Mr Chahal has landed Anheuser Busch as a key launch partner for the venture.
Tom Shipley, director of Global Industry Development at Anheuser Busch explains the reasons for the alliance. He shows me charts of beer consumption over the last 35 years.
He points to the problem: beer's high point was in 1995 when it reached a 61 per cent share, compared with hard liquor and wine. By the end of 2005 it had declined to 57 per cent.
"For the last 18 months we have been running a campaign called "Here's to beer" which we have funded and which promotes the entire beer industry not just our brands. It highlights the positive, social aspects of beer drinking, and we hope it will reverse the trend," he says.
With the rise of social networks such as MySpace, Friendster, etc, there is an opportunity to see if there might be a mutually beneficial relationship between the two "social" products/services.
For the next stage of the "Here's to beer" campaign, Mr Shipley says Anheuser Busch wanted to team up with known experts in online social networks, people that know what they are doing, people that know how to build communities.
I pointed out that BlueLithium is not yet an expert in this area, and it doesn't have a proven track record in building social networks.
"We were attracted to MingleNow's goal to have 2m users and its vision. It is also focused on the 21 to 25 year old demographic that is also our target. And we know that that demographic doesn't like direct marketing so we are trying a different approach with MingleNow."
There is a promotion called "Clink" that encourages people to upload photos of themselves clinking beer glasses with others. Those with the most photos win prizes and trips.
Mr Chahal says that the Clink promotion plays well with MingleNow's viral expansion strategy.
"We are not spending much money to market MingleNow, we believe it should grow virally so that it becomes a key part of people's communities. We have been to venues and have taken pictures of people and uploaded their photos to MingleNow. That's a great way to get people to come to the site, to register, and to start using it."
The contrast between Mr Chahal's designer blue suit, and his more conventionally dressed clients, perfectly illustrates the sharp contrast between the older worlds of marketing and promotion, and the new emerging forms of online promotion. And that is precisely why BlueLithium is building MingleNow, to discover those new forms advertising.
"MingleNow is not about traditional online advertising, using banner ads, etc. It is about mining the data to feed back into our advertising network," says Mr Chahal. "We believe that when we get to at least 2m active users, that will create a data stream that will be very useful in improving our business."
It's an ambitious goal for this very young (2004) privately held company, that has already reached $100m in revenues.
What is the metric for success I ask Mr Shipley? He points to his charts and the year 2005, "When this number goes up," he says.
It could potentially be a perfect partnership. After all, beer has helped build social relationships for centuries--maybe online social networks can now help build sales of beer.
. . .
I just got an early briefing on an interesting idea for social networking coming out of BlueLithium, the online advertising agency headquartered in San Jose, CA. It's an idea developed in Blue Lithium Labs, the R&D component of the...
Posted by Tom Foremski on June 12, 2006 3:30 PM