Conversations with Today’s Movers and Shakers (part 3)

Alan Toman

Alan Toman

by Alan Toman, author of The WOOF Factor

It should be no surprise that Social—Social Networks, Social Marketing and Social Media—is on everyone’s mind. But is Social a fad or a revolution?

According to two well-connected web 2.0 pros:

“Social media confuses the crap out of me. There’s so much noise.”

“Social networks have limited value if they are not doing something that has real social relevance.”

If you really want to know where Social is today and don’t read any further, just spend  4-1/2 minutes to check out:

http://www.youtube.com/user/Socialnomics09,

A video based on the book Socialnomics by Erik Qualman. Posted May 5, 2010

This video notwithstanding, Social is a great, vast landscape of ideas, applications and services. Since there are 1 billion postings daily on these networks, there is obviously something really big here.

Many new companies are seeking proof of concept, some have solutions looking for a problem, but most are searching for a viable business case to monetize their service. And since the current Silicon Valley mantra is “build it and sell it to Google,” almost anything goes.

Summarizing Social Media is like nailing Jello to a tree, but here goes:

The first rule that all brands and marketers need to know (and that most seem to ignore) is that Social is all about relationships; it is more than being clever or funny or intrusive. It’s SIMPLE: do only one thing—connect with the customer. You cannot sell out of the gate; you must first earn the customer’s trust and respect.

The biggest challenge for companies running social networks is to maintain relevance. To a growing number of people, “Facebook is dead. Its growth is coming from older demos. The last place kids want to hang out is with their parents or grandparentsthat’s the kiss of death. When Facebook becomes your grandmother’s social network, it’s time to move on.”

Consider MySpace. Bought by NewsCorp for $580 million in 2005, it reached 100 million users in 2006 and even until early 2008 was the top social network. Today, to many of us it’s at best ancient history and at worst a joke. But not so fast … according to Alexa.com, MySpace has a higher proportion of young, educated women under 35, with higher incomes than those on Facebook. It has been expanding its musical and entertainment focus; there’s no smart, new band out there without a MySpace presence. While most of us deem MySpace a footnote in Internet history, consider that it ranks 29th in global web traffic, just behind LinkedIn 28th and ahead of Craigslist 30th. With 125 million, it’s far from dead. On the other hand there’s Bebo, the #3 social network purchased by AOL for $850 million in 2008 with 40 million users. AOL recently sold it for less than $10 million with 4.9 million users. How do you spell r-e-l-e-v-a-n-t?

It appears that we may be at the dawn of web 3.0. If web 2.0 grew the social concept of branded communities and affiliates of companies, web 3.0 will become “open-source,” drilling down to the individual who wants open networks. History shows that consumers want open networks, choice, convenience, control, and plug & play. Web 3.0 will see companies aligning with individuals—and individual networks—rather than the other way around, as in web 2.0.

Some other comments on Social:

  • “Will consumers continue to play by Facebook’s rules, and live in Facebook’s branded world? But if Facebook got out of its own way and offered tools in an open environment to build one’s own social network … that’s a different story.”
  • “There is so much data out there and so few ways to consume or use it effectively—it’s amazing the info you can get, and that large companies are trying to control the platform.”
  • How about a social network for your 6-year-old? Don’t laugh (or cry); Pre-teen social networks are becoming common. Of course, “set-up and access is controlled by parents for security & privacy.” Yah, right: http://togetherville.com/ or http://www.scuttlepad.com/
  • Facebook earned a poor 64 in the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) E-Business Report score in 2010, according to analysis by ForeSee Results. The aggregate social media ASCI score in 2010 was 70, placing Facebook well below other leading social media websites. http://tinyurl.com/2cxbxb6

That being said, everyone still wants a Facebook icon and they are #2 in web traffic, but with all the changes that Facebook has been making, their API break a lot; maybe that’s another nail in their coffin.

This situation has given rise to 3rd party apps that give sites multiple options as to which social networks to share.

Some optimization and service tools for socializing websites:

Since social widget links can add 8-15 clicks to a site from a single visitor’s sharing, it is a smart idea to have multiple links. Most publishers have 2 or 3; some have as many as 14. (See any article from http://www.gpsbusinessnews.com.)  One business service site increased traffic by 30% just from a Twitter link.

A brilliant concept for Social is crowd-sourcing: using the public “crowd” as a talent pool for tasks, ideas and insight. Some interesting recent crowd-sourcing examples are:

  • Tools to help communities help themselves: http://www.seeclickfix.com/citizens
  • See what your neighbors are up to: http://www.patch.com/
  • Track what’s new in your neighborhood: http://www.everyblock.com/
  • From date nights to urban adventures: http://www.rundown.com/landing.php?loc=1
  • Independent fundraising for film: http://www.kickstarter.com/
  • But the biggest example by far is “Life In A Day”, a global contest to create a user-generated documentary—shot in a single day (July 24)—by YOU. http://www.youtube.com/lifeinaday. The prize? The most “compelling and distinctive” footage will be edited into an experimental documentary film to be debuted at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. You may even be selected as one of 20 contributors to attend the film’s premiere at the festival. Aiming for the widest possible coverage, producer Ridley Scott and director Kevin Macdonald, who will edit & produce the film, sent 700 cameras to rural areas in 40 countries. 70% of video submissions came from outside the United States.

Other social applications and services you might want to know about are below. Whether or not they can develop sustainable revenues is another question, but they are interesting:

  • Real life Monopoly comes to location-based services and mobile social gaming. Foursquare’s version of the classic board game is played with 10 friends and 20 venues you regularly visit. You get a bankroll of virtual currency and if none of your friends has checked in, you can ‘buy’ it. When other friends check in they have to pay you ‘rent.’ You get the rest. http://foursquare.com: There were 1.1 million users as of May 2010. (As yet there are no real ‘get out of jail free’ cards.)
  • Log on if you dare: Chat Roulette http://www.chatroulette.com/ pairs random strangers from around the world for webcam-based conversations.
  • A sporting/lifestyle television network reportedly acquired a fishing social community site that has every lake captured, tells you what lures are working, what fish are biting and where—all from guys fishing now. Bottom line: human behavior amplified by technology. It used to be that you asked at the local bait shop what’s biting where; now you can get it from the source: a fisherman on the lake now, in real time.
  • Flipboard, a new iPad application http://www.flipboard.com/ reportedly had 3.6 million downloads on launch day. The app links your social network contacts, takes what they are sharing and displays it all in a magazine-type format, including fashion, etc. that changes in real-time. It’s the 1st social magazine. Harry Potter would be proud.
  • Bump http://bu.mp/ is a quick and easy way to connect two phones by simply bumping them together. Exchange your phone number, photos, compare friends or even send money through PayPal with just a bump.
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