October 1, 2007
Comparing Wal-Mart and Target on Facebook
Target has over 7,000 members and mostly positive comments in a vibrant set of discussions. The Wal-Mart group on the other hand has a little over 1,200 members, no discussions are allowed, and the wall postings are mostly negative.
What is the difference do you think, except for the fact that a large portion of the population believes that one of the two companies is truly evil?
The Wal-Mart home page looks like another interactive ad.. The Target home page is more inviting and enlists the help of users to co-create the experience. Any other differences that you can think of that would result in such a difference in membership and tone of conversation?
We can take the discussion to Facebook - in fact I started a thread on the subject in the Marketing 2.0 group, where we now have more members than the Wal-Mart Facebook group.
September 20, 2007
What is the marketing potential of LinkedIn, Facebook and MySpace
Reveries.com conducted a survey on the potential of social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Myspace as media for marketing activities (pdf download of survey summary results and analysis are here). The main finding seems to be that marketers are in the very early stages of truly understanding the potential of these new networks - with only 18% of the respondents calling the potential of online social networks as a medium for marketing "huge".
Other interesting tidbits from the survey include the fact that marketers see "word of mouth" as the most promising aspect of social networking sites, and that many pointed out that marketers should participate in the conversations that take place on those sites without interrupting them.
Unfortunately, the reality is that many spammers have already invaded Facebook, Myspace and other similar sites. Go check the walls of the most popular interest groups in Facebook to see for yourself - many are littered with posts that are total sales pitches or with information that is totally irrelevant to the group's conversation.
August 24, 2007
50% of employees blocked from accessing Facebook at work
According to recent research from Sophos, 50% of employees are blocked from accessing Facebook at work...
I guess most companies do not get it :)
October 31, 2006
Customer communities do pay off!
The most recent Harvard Business Review reports on a study (requires subscription) that was done on the impact of customer communities on customer behavior at eBay in Germany (disclosure - I have an active interest in this topic as I have agreed to chair a conference on the business of communities - Community 2.0 - but more on that later).
The numbers are quite interesting. The experiment involved 140,120 eBay customers who had bought or sold on eBay but who had not participated in the eBay customer communities before. 79.242 were invited to join the online customer community, while the remaining 60,878 were used as a control group. Of the people who were asked to join the community, 3,299 became active participants and 11,242 became lurkers. Over the course of a year they compared the behavior of the active participants and lurkers to that of the control group and found that:
- Lurkers and active participants won up to 25% more auctions
- Lurkers and participants paid prices that were as much as 24% higher
- Lurkers and participants spent up to 54% more money in total
- Active participants listed up to 4 times as many items
- Active participants earned up up 6 times as much monthly sales revenue
- For first time sellers who were lurkers and participants, 10 times as many of them started selling on eBay after joining the community
All in all the activities of the lurkers and participants resulted in 56% more sales during the year of the study - bringing in millions of additional dollars into eBay's bottom line.
So can the results of this experiment be replicated in more traditional businesses?
Some people clearly think so, while others who used to be very enthusiastic about the business of communities are starting to become very skeptical.
Communities require a certain critical mass to get going - and not all companies have a large enough customer base to get to that point. They also require a lot more work and resources than most companies are willing to invest - to set up the infrastructure, to nurture the communities, to acquire content, etc.
Active communities of employees, customers and partners are clearly powerful management instruments that can dramatically improve core business processes like innovation, product development and marketing & sales. They can also backfire and have very negative impact if they are not managed properly, or set up wrongly. Before embarking on this path, companies have to truly understand the dynamics as well as the pros and cons of communities. They also need to find out if they have the resources and wherewithal to create their own communities or whether they should play in someone else's sandbox.
Unfortunately, many will start the process by throwing technology at the problem - let's just hope that those ignorants won't destroy the market for the rest of us like email spammers destroyed email marketing and (un)ethical zealots are slowly destroying word of mouth marketing.
September 22, 2006
Crowdsourcing vs. community outsourcing
Crowdsourcing has been a popular term ever since it appeared in a Wired Magazine article earlier this summer. This past week, Business Week jumped on the crowdsourcing bandwagon with an article in their second issue of Inside Innovation (may require subscription - but you can find a good description of the article by Renee Hopkins Callahan over at IdeaFlow).
What is confusing about the "crowdsourcing" terminology in both articles is that they use "crowd" to refer to the "wisdom of crowds" - a term introduced a few years back by James Surowiecki to describe the fairly simple idea that large groups of people are smarter than an elite few. Many of the crowdsourcing examples used in both articles, however, like the use of iStockphoto to source images cheaply, do not rely on wisdom of crowds at all. Getting your images from iStockphoto instead of from a professional photographer is like outsourcing your photography to the public - where everyone can be a semi-pro with high end cameras below $1,000 these days. In the end you still buy your images from individual photographers. There may be a crowd, but there is no wisdom of crowds involved here.
When a company like John Fluevog Boots & Shoes asks its fans to submit and vote on new shoe designs - that is a model based on the wisdom of crowds. The wisdom of the mass is more likely to identify a winner than a select few (see also related post on when wisdom of crowds does not work).
The Business Week article spells out four rules for successful crowdsourcing - or should it be to outsource your task/process to an outside community.
First, be focused and provide clear guidelines to what you want to have done. Not really all that different from any outsourced project. If you give vague guidelines you will likely get something back that you did not expect.
Second - get your filters right. Since by outsourcing a task to a large set of people you will get a large number of ideas, you need to filter all those ideas so that you can find the gems. But why not use the wisdom of the crowd to do the filtering? IBM solicits ideas from customers and employees during two day innovation jams - which led to 37,000 ideas the last time around. They then use their own employee "crowd" to filter those ideas. As most companies do not have 140,000 employees to draw upon, they could use their fans and customers to select the best ideas. An idea could be emailed to a randomly selected set of active people for voting, rating or ranking.
The third is to tap the right crowd. Pretty obvious when you think about it. Just like you would not outsource a complex engineering problem to a company of 14 year old summer students, you need to be picky about the community you outsource your task to.
Lastly is to build your community into social networks. While this may be key to success in getting certain communities to function in the long run, enabling networks or teams to form within your community goes against the principle of the wisdom of crowds - adding to the terminology confusion.
Renee adds two more rules in her post - find ways to feed the ideas into your company's existing processes and fund the process - as incentives fuel creativity.
In the end, successfully outsourcing product innovation and other processes to outside communities comes down to a deep understanding of two factors:
- understanding of the traditional keys to success for that particular process
- understanding of the fundamentals to successfully create (if needed), manage and interact with communities - virtual or otherwise
September 21, 2006
Commercial buddies and friends on MySpace
ClickZ Experts has an interesting article on Social Network Marketing by Sean Carton. In it he lists some of the profiles of advertisers on MySpace.
- Helga - for Volkswagen, a 25 year old female from Germany has 9144 friends
- The Original MySpace Burger King King - male, 52yo - has 3255 friends (he's probably too old for MySpace)
- Smart - the Wendy's Square - a 28 yo single male (and with an unsure orientation) - has 79,840 friends
It all looks pretty cheesy - surely there must be better ways to promote products to the youth market.
September 7, 2006
Social marketing vs. social marketing
Nedra Weinreich from Spare Change and others, who had been using "social marketing" for decades to refer to the use of marketing to address health and social issues, took issue with the new usage of the terminology - especially when Forrester launched a "Social Marketing Bootcamp" and Jupiter launched a "Social Marketing" practice. Forrester backed down and renamed their bootcamp "Social Computing Boot Camp," while Jupiter refused to rename it's practice - fueling the ongoing feud over the use of the terminology.
While it is unclear to me how good a term "social marketing" is to refer to the marketing of social issues - I disliked the new usage of the terminology from the get go.
Using "social marketing" as a catch-all category for the (not-so-new) marketing techniques which include viral marketing, word-of-mouth marketing, community marketing, consumer-generated-content-based marketing, and other social media-based marketing "techniques," not only "hypes up" the value of those methods unnecessarily - it also engenders the danger for misuse, abuse and the ultimate destruction of those marketing techniques for everyone.
Many clueless and panicky marketers, who have witnessed the decline of marketing programs like email marketing and other interrupt-based marketing methods - which incidentally they destroyed in the first place - will now jump on this latest craze and screw it all up! As usual, they will throw dollars and especially technology at the issue without understanding the underlying fundamentals and ethical considerations that allow those methods work in the first place.
You don't believe it? By now, the value of word-of-mouth marketing is being threatened by the lack of disclosure by very large and respected marketers like P&G and others. And with so much "fake" consumer-generated content going around, some people are already asking for some sort of "organic labeling" before it is too late. When it comes to "community marketing," the jury is still out as it is one of the younger hot new marketing memes - but history shows that it will only take time for some clueless marketers to latch on to that one as well and potentially spoil it for the rest of us.
I really hope that Jupiter and other industry analysts and industry associations will show leadership in this space and try to create some sort of self-governance amongst their clients and members - but somehow, and based on the descriptions of those new services, I am not so sure that is part of the agenda.
Hopefully I am wrong!
August 28, 2006
Why wisdom of crowds does not always work
The most current issue of the Harvard Business Review has an interesting article in which they marry the wisdom of crowds "theory" with the Condorcet jury theorem - which was developed by a Frenchman in 1785 (requires subscription).
To understand how the theorem works, imagine that a number of people are answering the same question and that there are two possible answers - one correct and one incorrect. Assuming that the chances that an individual will answer correctly is more than 50%, the theorem proves that the probability that a majority of the group will answer correctly increases towards 100% as the group size increases.
That explains why the wisdom of crowds works well for consumer product testing, or to predict well documented political races. It also explains why it failed in other areas, like predicting whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. With little information available, individuals had a higher likelihood of picking the wrong answer, making the chance that a majority would predict correctly close to 0% as the size of the group increased.
August 19, 2006
Prevent further "participation gap" between have's and have not's
DOPA, or the "Deleting Online Predators Act of 2006", would limit access from public places to all sorts of social networking and social media sites by minors, including libraries and schools. If you have not heard of DOPA - check out this excellent article about this horrible piece of legislation at the MIT Technology Review.
Once you've read it, you will probably want to sign this petition to stop those morons from continuing to screw with this new digital medium which many legislators do not understand and most likely fear.
August 16, 2006
Advertisers on social networking sites
I think brands will have to go beyond a conversation - though that's a good start - they have to be willing to develop and maintain a relationship/friendship with their customers over the long-term. And I think companies are looking at these sites all wrong. Advertisers, marketers, product-makers are trying to figure out how to exploit and use all the people on these sites - when they should be studying what these folks are doing and try to figure out how they can help these social sites be better for their users. Not more cluttered with their ads. If your product and brand don't really fit in - stay out. Know your customer and respect your customer - that's it.
At the risk of being repetitive - marketing is not about interrupting or intercepting people, it's about assisting them!
July 26, 2006
Marine Corps attracts 12,000 friends on MySpace
12,000 people signed up as friends and 430 already requested to be contacted by a recruiter.
Although this particular example is a little unsettling, using MySpace as a recruiting tool sounds like a logical thing to do.
July 18, 2006
Successful formulas do not always work for others - especially when you miss the key ingredients
Whenever a company finds a new and successful way to reach a goal, or to reach a hard-to-get-to audience - many others follow quickly - copycatting the original company, often times with dismal results. In some cases, as is the case with word-of-mouth marketing, new entrants screw up the whole playing field for everyone.
There are three main reasons why copycatting does not always work. First off, many companies who copy others do so without really understanding what the real ingredients for success are. The second reason, which took down email marketing and potentially could take down word of mouth marketing for all of us is related to ethics and industry self-regulation in the absence of government guidelines. And the third one is that best practices are not always portable from one company to another.
The entry of Wal-Mart with a Myspace-like offering clearly falls into the first category (via adage - may require subscription). In an attempt to appeal to teens with something else than pencils and backpacks, Wal-Mart launched a social networking site called The Hub. The site is designed to allow teens (hubsters) to "express their individuality." They can create their own page to show it to the world, and they can post hot-lists of songs and movies. They can even shoot and submit Wal-Mart related video clips and have a chance that it will be picked up as part of their TV advertising.
So far so good.
Except that they screen all content, email all parents requiring their consent for teens to put up a page, and forbid users to email with one another. Oh, and they reserve the right to modify the commercial created with the winning video...
And they call that a "GENIUS WEB DESTINATION?"
It is web alright, but where are the genius and the destination parts? If all goes well, they may win the top price for the "most uncool" social networking site!
July 12, 2006
MySpace moves up to #1 US Internet property on the web
To put this in perspective, this means that 4.5% off all US Internet traffic visits MySpace! It also means that their traffic increased 4,300% in two years and 132% over the last year. The chart below shows the traffic growth of MySpace over that of Google.
Another interesting statistic is that besides being the top search term, myspace-related search terms like myspace.com, my space, etc., take up 5 of the top 10 search terms!
Fear of social networking sites like MySpace may be overblown...
[UPDATE] Later this afternoon I got an email from Yahoo!'s PR company - trying to clear up some confusion around the numbers. Their point is that the HitWise stats are really comparing apples and oranges - and to a
certain large extend I have to agree with that. Here is the statement from Yahoo!
The report that Hitwise released today with the headline “MySpace Moves Into #1 Position for all Internet Sites” is misleading. The Yahoo! network is made up of many domains and it is not accurate to compare MySpace.com to just Yahoo!’s mail.yahoo.com domain. When taking into account all of Yahoo!’s domains together as an entire network, Yahoo! clearly remains the number one property in terms of audience share, duration share, page view share and days visited per month.
In the U.S. alone, Yahoo! attracts 129 million unique visitors per month, which represents 74 percent of the online population; in comparison, MySpace reaches only 30 percent of the online population with an audience of 52 million unique visitors. In addition, Yahoo! has the largest share of online time spent than any other property: Yahoo! accounts for 13 percent of users’ online time, while MySpace has only 3.2 percent share in users’ online time.
Yahoo! maintains its leadership position as the world’s most trafficked Internet destination online, with a community of more than 500 million unique monthly visitors from around the globe.
(These statistics are according to comScore Media Metrix, June 2006)
Also check out Jeremy Zawodny's entry on the subject
July 11, 2006
Fear of social networking sites like MySpace may be overblown...
According to a new study conducted by California University Psychology Professor Dr. Larry Rosen (download press release here), the MySpace sexual predator reports in the media are widely overblown/unfounded (via apophenia)
Rosen's study included interviews with 1,500 MySpacers and 250 parents and found that (partial list of findings - for full findings download pdf here):
- Only 7% of those teens interviewed were ever approached by anyone with a sexual intent and nearly all of them simply ignored the person and blocked him from their page.
- Two-thirds of the parents were sure that there were many sexual predators on MySpace, while only one-third of the teenagers shared this concern.
- Teenagers spend an average of 15 hours per week on MySpace.
- One in three admits their MySpace activity has negatively affected their schoolwork, family life, or both.
- Only one-third of the parents have seen their child’s MySpace page and only 16% check it on a regular basis.
- However, 70% of the adolescents said they would feel comfortable with their parents looking at their MySpace page.
Rosen makes an interesting point when he says "MySpace is the 13th largest country in the world. Teens live in this virtual world and parents need to pay attention. It is not a fad. It is not going away. And it is not a scary place. Teenagers can live and grow there with help from their parents.”
Meanwhile, the social networking space continues to heat up, with Bebo (a MySpace competitor especially popular in the UK) rejecting a $550M acquisition offer from British Telecom (apparently they are looking for offers north of $1b).
While there is no doubt that sites with that many users should be able to monetize their traffic, it is will be interesting to follow the emerging new marketing models that will make these sites truly scalable and predictable from a revenue point of view.
May 5, 2006
Social networking sites draw tremendous traffic
According to Comscore, and as of March 2006, 23% of US Internet traffic visit Myspace...(see earlier post for some more stats on MySpace)
(via software only)
May 2, 2006
Hypergrowth at MySpace - but with some trouble monetizing traffic through advertising
Shawn Gold, the VP of Content and Marketing at MySpace, gave an update on the MySpace business at Ad:Tech in San Francisco last week .
The numbers which he used to describe his business were absolutely staggering. Get this - every day they add 250K new users to the system, get between 15-20M logins, download 30M songs, and add 11M people to other peoples' friends lists! Oh, and they serve up 1B page-views every single day...
All that being said, and according to a recent New York Times article (requires subscription - via Don Dodge), MySpace, like many other social networking sites, is having trouble monetizing those 1B daily page-views. The culprits for this situation are manifold - it is hard to "target" ads on consumer-generated pages like the ones found on MySpace, advertisers are sometimes reluctant to have their brands associated with content which may sometimes be of questionable taste, and according to Google, when you add the inventory of consumer-generated sites like MySpace and YouTube to the overall online advertising inventory, you get a situation where supply outstrips demand.
One of the creative ways in which MySpace is trying to attract advertisers is by letting advertisers like Wendy or Best Buy create profiles on MySpace - much like users would - and then have MySpace members sign up as friends of the vendors. Wendy's Old Fashioned Hamburgers was able to sign up 100,000 "friends" that way - that's right 100K members!!!!
[shameless plug] If you are interested in this topic we will be having a session on the threats and opportunities of online marketing on brands at our upcoming Marketing Innovation Conference.
January 26, 2006
Email and internet strengthen social bonds
According to new research released by the Pew Internet and American Life Project "The internet and email aid users in maintaining their social networks and provide pathways to help when people face big decisions:" (pdf here - via Online Media Daily).
The report concludes that:
"Our evidence calls into question fears that social relationships — and community — are fading away in America. Instead of disappearing, people’s communities are transforming: The traditional human orientation to neighborhood- and village-based groups is moving towards communities that are oriented around geographically dispersed social networks. People communicate and maneuver in these networks rather than being bound up in one solidary community. Yet people’s networks continue to have substantial numbers of relatives and neighbors — the traditional bases of community — as well as friends and workmates."
And in another interesting conclusion they find that:
"Because individuals — rather than households — are separately connected, the internet and the cell phone have transformed communication from house-to-house to person-to-person. This creates a new basis for community that author Barry Wellman has called “networked individualism”: Rather than relying on a single community for social capital, individuals often must actively seek out a variety of appropriate people and resources for different situations."
It's also interesting to note "that people not only socialize online, but they also incorporate the internet into seeking information, exchanging advice, and making decisions."
People who use email to connect with they network on a weekly bases are also calling their contacts more often - so in effect the study found that email strengthens relationships, and is not just a "medium" shift for communication.
With 2,200 people interviewed and little bias towards different demographic profiles, this should settle the debate on what the Internet does to our relationships and social capital.
January 18, 2006
Teen's bold blogs alarm area schools
Haven't posted for a while, but this story in Tuesday's Washington Post lead to some serious Googling which uncovered a fascinating study by a grad student at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that blew my mind. First the gist of the Post article. Schools in the D.C. area are waking up to the fact that lots of high schoolers are sharing incredibly intimate details about themselves in blogs, and on sites like MySpace and Facebook. For instance, " Sidwell Friends School in the District recently prohibited students from using their school e-mail addresses to register for access to Facebook, a widely used networking site for college and high school students. Before the holidays, Sidwell, Georgetown Day School in the District and the Madeira School in McLean wrote to parents to warn them about use of the site, and the Barrie School, in Silver Spring, recently asked a student to leave over the misuse of a blog."
So I decided to take a closer look at Facebook and see if it really is as sinister as this article made it out to be. As I have mentioned in previous posts, my approach to search is, well, "free-form" would be a polite way to describe it. Somehow I came across a paper by PhD candidate Fred Stutzman, with the intriguing title, "Student Life on the Facebook." You can read it on his blog. or bear with me for the abridged "executive summary."
Over the course of a semester, Stutzman analyzed the behavior of UNC students in social network communities. He was particularly interested in Facebook because in a previous study he found that 88% of freshman had active Facebook accounts. His current study was based on a sample of all undergrads in the class of 2009.
First mind blowing factoid from his study: On the first day of school, 3,193 freshman had a Facebook account. That was over 85% of the entire class, and many had already been using Facebook for many months. As it turns out, the months of June and July represent the greatest months of account creation. He found that in the two days following freshman orientation, there was a 200-500% increase in daily account creation.
Second factoid (not so mind blowing): Over the course of the semester Facebook accounts grew to encompass 94% of the freshman class.
Third factoid (this is truly amazing): While the number of freshman did not grow substantially over the course of the semester, the number of friendship connections expanded at a remarkable rate. As freshman made friends over the course of the semester, their social network size grew from 144,319 to 373,651!!!
The average number of Facebook friends a freshman had on day one was 46 and at the end of the semester it was 111.
Stutzman has lots of other insights into the behavior and interests of these students, including their political orientation and their favorite books, movies and music, ranked according to their political orientation. If you want to learn more, he can be contacted at email@example.com.
September 8, 2005
Facebook - an amazing story
Only four months ago, Jeff Clavier wrote a post on the meteoric rise of FaceBook.
Now TechCrunch reports that 85% of College Students use FaceBook.
Check out those numbers:
- In May they had 640 universities - in September 882
- In May they had 2.6M users, now 3.85M
- In May they had about 65% that visited the site every day, now that seems to hold at 60%
August 19, 2005
More on acceptable online social conduct
Following up on a comment that Jeff Clavier posted on Yann's explanatory comment (see previous post to get the context), he actually developed his ideas further in a great new post on how to balance confidentiality with disclosure.
On a funny note - I now get my wife and friends asking me not to posts stuff...pretty soon we'll need NDA's for friends and family.
Changing social behaviors and the enabling tools
There is an interesting tempest in a teapot brewing that apparently started with a comment posted by Yann from OpenBC on my post about some LinkedIn upgrades which I thought were great.
I had interpreted the comment as spam and could not really understand how a GM for a competing service could imagine that he would enhance traffic to his social networking service with such “anonymous” practices.
Knowing that some of the marketing practices in this field are…let’s say “interesting” (see what Spoke did on Ross Mayfield’s blog a long time ago) I found it noteworthy enough to create a new post about it – which Jeff Clavier picked up in one of his LinkedIn reviews. At that point I thought that was the end of that.
Then came a post from Loic yesterday – a LinkedIn angel – in which he described how he had asked LinkedIn to remove all linkages and endorsements between him and Yann – all of which seemed to have been created based on very “weak links.”
Yann kicked into gear and posted some explanatory comments on my site, offered to do a Skype call with me (which I hope will happen sometimes soon – I am always up for a good discussion), and apparently reached Loic in person, who subsequently deleted his post (he explains the reasons why on Neville’s post on the subject).
What is fascinating in this whole exchange is that we are in the midst of an emerging new social code of conduct. While much of the online social etiquette is similar to that of the face-to-face world (i.e., criticize the ideas, not the people presenting the ideas), we are in need of many new acceptable social codes of conduct. Think of “de-friending” in the Livejournal community, the ability to reject someone’s request to network without making it personal, or de-endorsing as Loic did, just to mention a few.
As part of enabling this new emerging social code of conduct, the underlying social architecture will also have to adapt (disclosure – we are running a social architecture symposium in November – more on that later) - how people manage their identity, attention schemas, rating and ranking schemas, etc.
It will be fascinating to watch how all this plays out…
August 15, 2005
Using virtual networking tools -
Renee Blodgett has a great post on how she uses LinkedIn. She also talks about the awkwardness of turning down people who ask for introductions and suggests that people should not take 'rejections' personally.
It is interesting to see how virtual worlds sometimes call for new behaviors. There are indeed a variety of reasons why you might reject someones request - bad timing, not knowing the person well enough, feeling like you are abusing the social capital you have with the person that someone wants to get introduced to, etc. And turning down someone for many of those reasons is not a personal reflection of what you think about that person - although sometimes that may happen also.
I would also join her in asking people not to abuse the system - it is indeed a valuable tool!
August 13, 2005
When you are too far out there...
I have many friends that have no clue what I am doing nor what I am talking about. In many ways, I kind of enjoy it, as it forces me to talk about (and keep up with) other more mundane topics than tagging, social networking, blogging, wikis and marketing.
This morning was just one of those moments when I was reminded what it means to be too much out there...(and I realize that I am probably dating myself by exposing this).
Last night I finally found some time to play around with last-fm - a social networking based music site. I instantly fell in love with it, downloaded the plug-ins and started playing with it. Being impatient as I am I let my iTunes play all night - trying to reach that magic 300 tunes when they will start recommending songs to me and start streaming my personal radio station.
So late this morning, I checked the site, and it showed that I had played 270 tunes. I said to my wife, who was nearby, and with whom I had shared my excitement about this site last night (even though she did not get as excited as me about my ability to "tag" my songs and things like that) - 270 songs, 30 more to go!
She: you're not too concerned about privacy, are you?
Me: it's not like I have to be embarrassed about the songs I listen to, plus if people want to find me, I am all over the web...
She: yeah, but this is something real "personal" about you...
Me: look, this is about "social" - how can you leverage the "social" aspects of things and be invisible?
She: WHO are you trying to get "social" with?
Me: NOBODY - you don't get it - it's the aggregation of profiles that will cause "the computer" to make music recommendations to me...
She (mumbling): my husband is trying to be social with a computer...
Me: [blank]...then bursting out in laughs...
What is currently happening out there is truly fascinating, but sometimes we have to pause and remember that the market adoption curve for new inventions can take much longer than expected...
July 20, 2005
LinkedIn to make some big changes
This is great - LinkedIn will limit your personal network to three degrees (see here - thanks Konstantin)! So no more introductions between people that are trying to network 4 degrees, where you do not know the person requesting contact nor the recipient. This is a major improvement.
I also liked the InMail option - whereby you will be able to reach people who are more than 3 degrees away by emailing them directly through the system. The recipient can accept the contact and reveal his/her contact information or reject it. The best part of this option is that the recipient will be able to see how many requests from the sender have been rejected by others.
The question is - how much will it cost?
July 18, 2005
Myspace acquired by News Corp
The New York Times reports the acquisition of Intermix Media (their primary property is Myspace) by News Corp for $580M. The last time I checked, Myspace had 12M users (after being launched only two year ago) - so that makes for almost (updated based on comment - my math was lousy - thanks!) $50/user (including the "testers" - like me - who are clearly not regulars).
July 11, 2005
19 social bookmarketing services
How many different services can one use? And what is the critical mass of users required to start delivering value?
[Technorati Tags: social bookmarking]
July 8, 2005
Moodtracker for livejournal
Moodgrapher: the World according to Livejournal, tracks the changes in mood at Livejournal. It is amazing to see how the site as a whole went angry and anxious after the London disaster (and also less horny, more grateful, less guilty).
It would be really interesting to see the mood swings by country. I bet you that would reveal some interesting information about cultural differences (i.e., how people deal with disaster).
June 2, 2005
Interesting view on social software from the gaming world...
Over at Terra Nova, Ren Reynolds writes about "Lost in s-Space" - an interesting perspective on how MMOG's (Massively multiplayer online game) would benefit from social software capabilities like those found in services like LinkedIn and vice versa how some of those "flat" social software services might benefit from things that are being done in MMO's. He also talks about the potential benefits of tagging his profile to see nearby people that share the same interests (tag) as you do...
June 1, 2005
Competent Jerks and Lovable Fools
The latest issue of the Harvard Business Review has a great article titled "Competent Jerks, Lovable Fools, and the Formation of Social Networks". They categorize the different types of employees into a 2X2 matrix with competence as one of the axis and likability as the other (so they end up with four profiles - (going clockwise starting from the bottom left)the incompetent jerk, the competent jerk, the lovable star and the lovable fool). Boy, does this bring back memories...
Interestingly enough - but perhaps not so surprising - likability is the stronger factor in the development of social networks within companies. The lovable fool is mildly wanted while the competent jerk is mostly avoided (with the incompetent jerk is desperately avoided)! That means that competent jerks are a total missed opportunity for companies unless they can "correct" their behavior...
May 30, 2005
More articles on new media technologies in mainstream media
First I ran across an article about social networking in the Boston Globe today (here) which looks at Spoke, LinkedIn, Ryze, ecademy and Tribe Networks and the benefits of online networking vs. f2f networking. It seems like the most popular usage for these sites these days is for job searching. I use it primarily to find new people to bounce off new ideas. It's an ok article...
"But the e-mails that make him laugh out loud come from concerned newcomers who have just discovered they have total freedom to edit just about any Wikipedia entry at the click of a button. Oh my God, they write, you've got a major security flaw!". There are other great passages, including this one
"An Encyclopaedia Britannica editor once compared Wikipedia to a public toilet seat because you don't know who used it last."It also has some other interesting tidbits - like an MIT study that found that an obscenity gets removed in an average of 1.7min...or that it contains 500,000 English articles compared to 65,000 in the 2005 edition of Britannica.
I am still amazed about how many people have not yet heard about Wikipedia.
May 27, 2005
Tag-poetry and competitive tagalysis
After reviewing the traditional tagging suspects (technorati, del.icio.us, flickr, spurl and furl) we talked about the whys and the hows of those emerging tagging services and the differences between folksonomies and taxonomies. A good example of the folksonomies would be eBay. A good example of taxonomies could probably be found in the technical documentation department of Boeing.
Why are emerging tagging services increasingly popular (somebody quoted that del.icio.us counts 45,000 users to date)? Is it because Google does not do what we need it to do? Is it because of the “shortcomings” of DMOZ (the open directory project underlying Google)? Will tagging conventions emerge over time (one non-profit organization mentioned that they use an arcane tag for all its members to use when they tag something that might be of interest to the rest of the organization)? How can you assess the “authoritativeness” of one tag vs. another? All great questions that made for an enlightening evening conversation.
We also discussed the need for simple clustering of tags so that it becomes easier to find “related” tags. Some of that is already being implemented by the various players – del.icio.us recently started an experimental post to delicious that recommends a tag when you post something. Technorati shows you related tags – including tags coming from furl and delicious. Spurl even has a search engine based on its tagging system – zniff.
Interesting was to hear how people use tags. Some use it to share information with others (when someone tags something which they want a group of people to see – which they do by “subscribing” to that particular tag). Others use it to “store” information for later reuse (using delicious for links or furl for “perishable” content as furl saves a snapshot of the page for you instead of the link). Some use it to tell others what they are writing about (bloggers tagging their posts with technorati tags), while others use it to discover new information (by subscribing to popular tags). A real interesting scenario was that of tag-poetry. Children blog poems and are asked to tag them with tags – then they follow the links of poems that are tagged similarly.
As I have said before, I think that tagging has a tremendous potential in the enterprise – even for those companies do not have agreed upon taxonomies. Think of using tagging to share content that sparks ideas about new products with employees, customers and prospect (you ask them to tag whatever makes them think of your product or service with a special tag), or using tagging to proactively do competitive analysis. Or should we call it competitive discovery? Nah... how about competitive tagalysis?
May 25, 2005
De-friending, de-endorsing and other online social behaviors
Last week I attended one of the Thursday meetings at The Berkman Center (here) where they were talking about Livejournal (which has more than 7M users!). From what I gathered, it is similar to MySpace, which now boasts 12M users.
One interesting part of the conversation was when they talked about friends. In most of those places, as well as in most online games, you can create friends’ lists. A difference with the real world is that in virtual spaces, a person can put you on their friends’ list without you putting them on yours. What kind of a message is that? The other one is what people do when their friendship falls apart. On Livejournal (there were many real users at the meeting), people often times start a new Livejournal without inviting the person with whom their friendship ended, and they let the old Livejournal go stale – as to not hurt that person’s feelings. On X-Box, my son usually has no problem kicking someone off his friend list – but the other day I did hear him tell some of his friends to turn their profiles to “invisible” and go play somewhere else – as to not hurt the feelings of a younger kid that was getting annoying.
This also reminds me of a behavior on LinkedIn. What do you do when someone asks you to endorse them and you don't really feel like it?
To me it’s fascinating to witness some of the new social dynamics that are emerging online.
May 22, 2005
I just ran across this piece of code to let you add a "bookmark this" link at the bottom of your post. When a reader clicks that link it posts that posting to del.icio.us. You do need an account to post to de.icio.us.
With all this random tagging going on, I wonder if some kind of organizational hierarchy will emerge over time (much like Wikipedia's structure emerged). If it doesn't, then all this tagging will have little value. And if people try to impose it from the top down (through some sort of standard-setting activity), I fear we will run into the same issues that KM ran into in the corporate world - people just don't use it.
May 20, 2005
Playing around with Feedster tags
Update - after using it a few times, it turns out that the anti-spam scheme is way too hard. The last time I tried I had to re-enter the scrambled message 7 times!
May 19, 2005
Cannot get the attention of main media - try social networking
Article on Wired.com (here) talks about new bands who sign up 100,000 fans and sell 2,000 CD's using MySpace. Fascinating...
May 4, 2005
80% of WOM happens F2F!
A recent national (US) study conducted by NOP World reveals that face-to-face (f2f) remains the strongest medium for spreading word-of-mouth (WOM) - in fact 80% of people make in-person recommendations (press release here via WOMMA)
Following f2f is telephone with 68%. Personal email comes in at 37%. Amongst the "Influentials" - those 1 in 10 Americans that tell the other 9 how to vote and where to eat, the number is even higher - 90% of recommendations are done f2f.
Perhaps most interesting in the study is what triggers influentials to make recommendations. After all, and from a marketer's perspective, that is the target group which needs to be "ignited". At the top of the list are magazines with 61%. The web comes in at 45% and email at 26%.
...very interesting...Those are consumer numbers. I wonder what those numbers look like in specific verticals.
May 2, 2005
Clustering in web conversations
There is a cool picture mapping the republican blogs vs. the Democratic blogs over at the AMA blog (here). I first read about this in the book Linked (a great book on social networks) but I had never seen the visual representation.
It is interesting how there is a high degree of cross-linking within each group but not so much between the two groups. If I recall correctly, the average percentage of links linking within the same group is 80% vs. 20% of the links linking across party lines.
It is surprising to me that there are not more cross-party links. After all you would expect people from one party to pick on statements and proposals from people in the other party more so than build upon one another's content...
April 29, 2005
Interesting link - Trustrank helps reputation
According to Robin Good, Google may be working on a ranking system that gets rid of all the spam - thus bringing back a true sense of reputation and trust into the ranking system (article here). The funny thing is that one of the paper's co-authors is from Yahoo.
April 28, 2005
Gated online communities
Jennifer Saranow wrote a piece in the WSJ yesterday (The Gated Online Community – requires subscription) about the recent successes of exclusive online “social networking” communities. The most famous invitation-only community is of course Google’s own Orkut – although the company claims that the invitation part was meant to control growth and not to create exclusivity. Others mentioned in the article include asmallworld for people splitting their time between St Barts, London and New York; funhi – with “virtual” bouncers and everything; and closedsociety just to name a few. Those exclusive communities use the exclusivity as a way to lock in traffic and ensure repeat visits, which the more generic communities seem to have problems maintaining (e.g., less that half of Friendster’s 16 million users visit the site regularly).
The article also mentions open communities – like Myspace, Friendster, LinkedIn, and Ryze – noting a trend away from some of the older general purpose communities towards more business-like sites like LinkedIn.
I personally doubt that many of the smaller exclusive communities listed in the article have business models that will prove successful in the long run. It has been a long time since I seriously thought about virtual communities (I once tried to launch a startup in that space – ’96 – a bit too early), but I would have thought that the first key to success in getting a community off the ground was still to get to critical mass as quickly as possible. With exclusivity you can only do that a few times, after which it must be really hard to enlist enough people to invite others to reach that critical mass fast enough. Add to that some of the other critical success factors – such as a shared interest, shared goals, strong sense of belonging, large enough active user base vs. lurkers, etc. – and you end up with a lot of those communities that just have too small a membership and links that are too weak to succeed.
That being said, I am convinced that exclusive communities that can overcome some of those obstacles – communities with very strong bonds, those where a large percentage of the membership is driven to contribute, the ones with a strong sense of belonging, or those communities where reputation is important and peer controlled – can succeed.
Reputation engines vs. multiple persona's
There is a great article on Wired about the existence of the multiple versions of "us" out there in the datasphere. The article goes on to describe the differences between 20th century reputation engines like Experian vs. the newer, transparent reputation engines like eBay. (Via Smartmobs)
A reputation engine like eBay or Amazon works because it is a closed (albeit a transparent) system. But could an open, transparent reputation engine exist? Could it withstand spam or other "optimization" techniques?
April 12, 2005
Goofing around with wikis makes me think of KM
I am looking at some technologies to enable a local virtual community of kids (teens and tweens) who love to develop Flash animations, write and play online games.
So as part of that project I installed TikiWiki on my server earlier this week. It's only one of many wiki apps that are available in the open source community (you can find a comprehensive listing here), but I picked it because my hosting provider has that listed as one of the wiki apps that I could auto-install on my server.
I was stunned by the richness of the application. Not only does this Wiki come with a blogging module (and a WYSIWYG editor), it also comes with a forum module, a chat module and a ton of other modules too lengthy to list here (here is their home page).
These experiences just strengthen my conviction that the combination of wikis and blogs make for a very potent community platform - both inside the firewall and outside. Combine wikis and blogs with a smart rss reader (note my affiliation with BlogBridge) which enables the discovery of content and the ability to tag, blog or "wikitize" some of that content and you end up with a great virtual work environment. Not only that, I think that you may end up with a functioning knowledge management solution.
Remember that? Knowledge management (KM) has been one of those IT holy grails that many companies spent tons of money on - often times in vain. I do think (if you still have the energy) that these new technologies may actually work for your KM initiatives. KM fell flat on its face because it was dictated from the top down and because it was not fully integrated with people's real work. With rss readers, tagging capabilities, wikis and blogs, we're turning that upside down. If deployed properly they can be totally integrated with people's work - which means people will use the tools. And a wiki/blog/rss reader based KM initiative would be grass roots instead of top down (think wikipedia inside your organization)!
April 10, 2005
Sunday morning musings on identity and culture
My son learned how to smith bronze and steel, and he learned how to fish with nets (and how to cook it too). He tells me that sometimes there is speculation in the coal market which makes it more profitable for him to sell coal outright rather than to mine it for smithing. He also plays with teams – sometimes with people from other states or other countries, like Australia, New Zealand, or Sweden. This morning he was the only American on a team full of Belgians – most of whom he never met. As the game progressed they were talking to one another in Dutch while switching to English when they wanted my son to do something. All along my son kept talking to them in English about his position, his recommendations and other things. The other day, there was a 45 year old woman on his team. And one of his regular team mates is a college kid in Europe. He is a member of a guild in one world and also a member of a clan in another. His friends go by names like doodleman, intelogix, shady, and chainsonic.
If you have not figured it out by now, my son, like millions of others around the world is playing in digital worlds like RuneScape, Halo2, Tony Hawk Underground and others. He interacts with other through chat or VoIP (I read somewhere that Xbox Live has the largest VoIP user base.)
Sometimes, I wonder how these new interactions will affect their sense of “self”, their identities, or what impact it will have on cultures…
It's easy to understand the benefits of virtual worlds like the ones sponsored by the Starbright Foundation, where severely ill children can play with others in virtual worlds from hospital beds – thus forgetting their ills for awhile and appearing like everyone else in those make-believe worlds.
We adults know that on the internet “nobody knows that you are a dog” (remember that cartoon?), and that is part of the fun. But what does it do to kids that are spending part of their formative years online?
About ten years ago I read the book Life on the screen: Identity in the age of the Internet by Sherry Turkle, a Professor of the sociology of science at MIT. She says it is good for them to experiment with different personae. I can see that, but are those virtual personae competing for attention with the real life ones?
Maybe now is a good time to go and re-read that book…or maybe I’ll go re-read William Gibbson’s books…any other suggestions?
April 6, 2005
Blogworking? Yes - but what about the potential barrier to adoption...
An interesting post on AlwaysOn (via Schel Holtz)defines Blogworking as the next evolution of social networking...
Self-governing social networks combine with interactive weblog publishing to create something people just call Blogworking. People have been Blogworking well before the term was popular, but whatever you call it, the trend is gaining momentum alongside social networking sites which do not provide editorial content.
I buy that - adding community features and participation capabilities (as differentiated from collaboration capabilities) to social networks would give me an added incentive to join and participate.
And as a marketer, these tightly focused communities, if indeed highly visited, would be extremely valuable!
There is, however, a potential barrier to adoption for these blogworking sites. The way that they are being described now, they are yet another "place" that we have to go to to stay informed. Now, most of us "belong" to multiple potential communities. I contend that if you have to start "going" (as in clicking) to multiple places in order to stay informed - you will eventually stop going to all of them!
It's a phenomenon that we witnessed at eRoom Technology - where we built a virtual workplace/group collaboration product. Once people started to belong to multiple projects (which were happening in multiple eRooms...i.e., different urls, they quickly stopped using eRoom and reverted back to the old hacks of getting a project done with a virtual team - email, fax, phone, IM, etc. We had to integrate whatever was happening in the different virtual workplaces with people's email (which is a person's personal workplace) in order to overcome that adoption issue.
I suspect the same will happen here. Whatever happens in those blogworking communities will have to be fully integrated with my personal "place" - which in my case and for this kind of stuff will most likely be my personal RSS aggregator.