Archive for the ‘networks’ Category

Why Social Media Works

Wednesday, September 12th, 2007

Any website or service that is dependent upon its users for survival can be categorized as a ’social media’ player. User-generated content (UGC) has formed the basis for numerous successful for start-ups. Without users who submit content, these sites are essentially worthless. What’s Flickr without photos? What’s YouTube without videos?

Two of the best examples are Wikipedia and Craigslist - undoubtedly the web’s two most famous .org’s. Who submits the content? Who does all the work? The users. Sure, the company created the system that facilitates the processes, but this is only a tiny portion of the overall effort. Such a scenario is the reason why small operations can scale on a low budget. Once again though, if users stop contributing, the service is useless. Put in a different context, the company isn’t the content provider, but rather the distribution mechanism. This is the basis for social media.

What if everyone stopped submitting news headlines and interesting articles? We’d have no more Digg. What if everyone stopped uploading videos? We’d have no more YouTube. Worse yet, what if everyone stopped blogging? We’d be stuck with whatever content that traditional media subjects to us. What a pity that would be.

In a future post, we will explore how social media can backfire and work in a counter-productive fashion, potentially destroying the company altogether.

MyBlogLog Acquisition Aftermath

Friday, September 7th, 2007

MyBlogLog logoWhen MyBlogLog launched in late 2006, it caught fire. Many of the big tech blogs immediately jumped on board and started using the service. This fueled massive PR and popularity shot to unprecendented heights. Soon, all the big tech blogs were taking advantage of the service. Then, only a couple of months later, Yahoo buys the company for $10 million. Since then, very little has changed and not much has been said about the company.

This simple, yet ingenious idea sparked for one reason: it provided value for both the blogger and the reader. The blogger was provided with a tool that encouraged repeat visitor loyalty, while the reader gained awareness and exposure (via the displayed avatar) in return.

After the Yahoo acquisition, the success and appeal of the service seemed to die off. To some degree, it became overrun with spam. Some were adding as many contacts as possible to market their blog, while others advertised via their personalized avatar. This was predictable. As is the case with Digg, any social media property that vaults to fame and attracts a large user base becomes susceptible to cheating and gaming.

Nevertheless, I am itching to know when the company will make some sort of announcement or launch a new version. Furthermore, how Yahoo plans to integrate the service is even more of a mystery. I assume this will become more clear in the days ahead with the transition strategy now in full-tilt.

How do you think MyBlogLog should proceed? How should Yahoo integrate the service?

Is Facebook the New LinkedIn?

Wednesday, September 5th, 2007

LinkedIn logoThe advent of the Internet and the proliferation of cell phones essentially wiped out the need for a Rolodex. Business contact information could now be managed via some sort of electronic device. All of a sudden, connections and relationships seemed much more manageable without the need for a tangible organizational system. Microsoft Outlook served as a main hub for many. Plaxo was the next step. Then along came web 2.0…

LinkedIn was born and quickly became the business contact tool of choice for the tech-savvy. As opposed to many of the other social networks, LinkedIn focused on an older, more established business crowd. The ability to meet contacts through established connections was a main driver for the site. Subsequently, LinkedIn quickly became known as the place to network with business contacts online.

Nowadays, the leader is starting to see competition from an unexpected source. More and more business professionals are starting to use Facebook as their main means of networking and relationship-tracking.

This may seem odd to some, as LinkedIn is focused specifically on business professionals, thereas Facebook provides a more general offering. The reason I see many making the switch is this: Facebook simply has a much larger user base than LinkedIn. In other words, there is a higher likelihood that a given contact will be using Facebook. Keep in mind that Facebook is tailored for an older demographic as well, as opposed to say MySpace or hi5. Having said that, even though Facebook is a generic social utility, great value can still be derived from the depth of connections and the internal communication mechanisms. Personally, I also find LinkedIn a bit confusing at times. The more simplified Facebook experience may also be a factor.

The transition is still in its early stages. Many still live by LinkedIn and may be unlikely to switch due to their strong ties with the service already. Nevertheless, Facebook may provide an added networking tool, if not the networking tool, for business professionals in the future.

Do you think Facebook will thwart LinkedIn in the networking space? Or is the more tailored offering going to win out in the end?

Potential Twitter Acquisition?

Tuesday, September 4th, 2007

Twitter logoWell… not quite. But I’m surprised that we haven’t heard more such rumours. Facebook seems to be hogging the attention as of late. Nevertheless, I expect Twitter rumours to surface fairly soon.

Though the service hasn’t reached the mainstream yet, I doubt it will take long before it does. Already, many social networks have integrated similar status update services. As we all know, the micro-blogging space is on fire right now. Phenomenal growth has been witnessed. Having said that, don’t expect it to die off any time soon. Micro-blogging isn’t a fad or a trend. It is a platform - and it is here to stay. Other well-known names in the space to watch include the likes of Pownce, Jaiku, and Tumblr.

So why is Twitter the big name? After all, the technology isn’t very hard to copy. It is actually quite simple when compared to numerous other apps out there. Twitter is the known name in the space. All the innovators and influencers use the service. Any potential acquisitor would (obviously) be more interested in the user base rather than the actual technology.

Speaking of potential acquisitors, some names that come to mind include:

  • Google (potential integration with Blogger)
  • Yahoo
  • Six Apart
  • Any social network - though most have implemented their own status function, the user base is the key incentive.

Do you think Twitter will get bought any time soon? If so, by who?

Facebook Apps: Short Term Success, Long Term Failure

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

Facebook new logoAs Mark Evans points out in a recent post, there is a Facebook application “gold rush” taking place right now. Everyone and their dog is scrambling to launch an app to capitalize on this fad opportunity. Many are seeing astonishing growth - from zero to tens of thousands of users in a mere couple days. But is this truly sustainable? Even more importantly, is it really worth it? I don’t think so. But don’t tell that to Facebook or the application creators.

Anything that vaults to stratospheric popularity levels in a short period of time is bound to see a fall-out or backlash of some kind eventually. In this case, the novelty of apps will eventually wear off. Some may disagree, but I would wager that ’superpoking’ and ‘throwing food’ are only cool for so long. Frankly, I’m already tired of all these ridiculous app invites after only a couple months.

The promise of monetization or a sale is what is driving this boom. But let’s be honest here - how many will actually profit from a sale or achieve reasonable revenues? My guess is under 1%. In other words, Facebook is almost creating a false sense of hope for developers. Subsequently, facebook profits from additional PR, user growth, and developer evangelism.

To me, Facebook applications are no more than a marketing funnel to an outside web presence. If you plan on making the app the entire business, you are walking a dangerously fine line. Forever more, you will be at the mercy of Facebook. If they decide to change course, you could be screwed.

My intuition tells me that the introduction of the developer platform was simply a move by the company to create short terms success and fuel PR ahead of an IPO or potential sale. Let’s analyze this further:

  1. Facebook launches the developer platform.
  2. Developers experience exponential growth and boast about their success.
  3. The press takes notice; widespread PR ensues.
  4. More developers jump on the bandwagon.
  5. A positive feedback loop is created: success feeds PR, which fuels further applications. Repeat.
  6. Eventually, a bubble is created as the app market is saturated and over-crowded. The dilution leads to a fall-out.

In other words, I believe that the developer platform is a short term ’stunt’ to raise awareness and exposure for the company. Over the long term, I see the move as being more detrimental than beneficial. I, for one, am already starting to get disgruntled by the addition of clutter and useless knick-knacks. The Facebook crowd, for the most part, is an older group. Such silly applications should be left for the MySpace or hi5 crowd. They degrade the quality of the experience. A seeming endless amount of scrolling is now needed to browse most profile pages. Is this the Facebook that we all remember?

Note: I refuse to make any parallels to MySpace or Geocities just yet…