social networking

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It’s started.  With the (re?) introduction of Groups, Facebook has started down the path of being less social.  Those who gerrymander themselves from others on the Web are not being social, they’re being anti-social.  Okay, they are also being human.  But for me, the best of social networking is in finding likeminds around the block, country and world.  Sure, I like knowing what far off college pals are doing. And I’m okay knowing what high school classmates whose pictures I don’t recognize care about. And yes, I know it can become unmanageable if you have too many friends and followers and can’t keep up with the stream.   Manage.

Research is probably driving Facebook’s more towards Groups with members are saying I need a way to organize my friends. Yet the feature is going to narrow users’ worldviews.  They will spend more time in the Groups with less people – more insular people. It will be like going to the same bar all the time. Or eating at the same restaurant.  Or reading the same author. Again, very human traits — but traits blown up by social networking.

Facebook Groups will remove some of the serendipity built in to the application.  Like antibiotics, Groups will be a good near term salve but if overused will begin to erode the beauty of the network. My advice, don’t turn it on. Peace!

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When the Flip video camera, now owned by Cisco, first came out I posted it will change the world.  If you thought the video taping of the Rodney King beating changed the world, image how putting video cameras in every pair of pants and pocketbook might alter history.  Hello Iran? 

Social networking, still in its infancy, is going to change the world in even more powerful ways. Flatten away I say.  Social networking and social media started out as friend finding, simple messaging, and posting of photos and captions — uses which are still going strong. More recently, smart businesses have seen the upside of using it commercially to improve bottom line and topline revenue through a handful of applications: Customer care, promotions and research. We’ve along scratched the surface with Social Media in business…stay tuned. 

What’s Next?

The next wave will be the more thoughtful use of social media. More cause related. Ask Nestle about its palm oil/rain forest problems — the result of social media pressure. Ask Nike about its policy of outsourcing production to Honduran companies who demonstrate unfair labor practices…really torking off college students. If you think a Mel Gibson diatribe can go viral quickly, wait until you see what citizen journalists can do with watchful eyes and some motivation. This new wave of social media activism is going to have mad impact.  Cover-ups won’t cover as easily and corporations and governments will need to watch their steps. It’s next. And it’s welcome. Peace it up!

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Google, the most successful, exciting brand in technology and consumerdom is at a crossroads. Its culture of technological obesity (sitting on a lot of tech calories) has it on the verge of creating a social networking property intended to wrest control of that category from Facebook.  Eric Schmidt is a very smart man.  He made many investors lots of money as CTO at Sun Microsystems, leading he team that developed Java software among other things. He saw what happened to Sun after his departure when innovation lagged and he doesn’t want that to happen to Google, the company for which he is now CEO.

Search

Fall forward fast is sound business advice but its best done when following a focused mission. Google’s mission (We deliver the world’s information in one click) is not what social networking is all about. As the Web gets bigger and more tangled — like kudzu in Georgia – it will be harder, not easier, to find the stuff we want. Owning search is still huge and will become more so.  Worldwide pricing. Finding people. Finding the right content. Finding geolocated mobile phones. Finding video. Audio bits. This (and then some) is what Google and its next gen technologists need to be developing. Why are they focusing on Facebook?  Search me. Peace!

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There was a fascinating quote in The New York Times today in an article on Facebook’s privacy decisions. (Facebook’s privacy actions will either create mad blowback or turn it into the world’s first trillion dollar company.)

“If I’m looking for day care for my 6-year-old, I’m going to put that in my status (Facebook) message, not do a Google Search.”  (Sean Sullivan, F-Secure.)

Search, Curation, Advice.

In the world, and on the internet, there are important common behaviors: search, curation and advice.  Search is a great way to find things and it’s clearly a huge business; results are organized and prioritized… by the algorithm.  Curation, on the other hand, growing in importance online, is search but with a human hand.  Social networks help curate in a sense because one “friends,” organized by degrees of separation, share content they care about.  But advice?  Many a web property was built around advice.  Most have failed or languished.  

Mr. Sullivan’s quote points to the need for trusted advisors, not algorithm results of independent ranking experts (e.g., Better Business Bureau, Consumer Reports, your newspaper).  Mr. Sullivan’s important day care decision will be assisted by the advice of friends and respected Web friends.

As Facebook creates tools that blur the lines between search, curation and friendly advice, it will likely lose its way. People are their own best filters and Facebook needs to make sure it doesn’t cross the line. Peace!

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Have you ever been to a high school football game and watched kids walk the bottom row of the stands? It can be more fun than the game itself. Some kids parade as if it’s a Narciso runway show while others skulk, head down, hiding from the world. The paraders are filled with “hi’ and “heys,” the skulkers, not so much. It’s a matter of confidence. But now the skulkers have a tool — texting. They have a reason to avert their eyes while looking tre cool and busy.

Subways and buses in urban centers are other places people like to hide from stares, ergo you’ll see a preponderance of iPods and texting.

Today, technology is often a diversion, especially for kids, giving them an excuse not to socialize. Early MySpace cadets and current Facebookers called what they were doing “being social” and to an extent it is. Certainly, there are nice apps on Facebook allowing people to expand their circle and do new stuff. But let’s face it, sitting on your ass and typing to friends and neofriends smells of the letter-writing, attic-recluse types of yore.

I’m betting the next group of cool apps will be closer to FourSquare than Facebook — helping people actually get out of their chairs and meet others with whom they are comfortable. “Likeminds” as Noah Brier and Piers Fawkes might say. There’s social and there’s social. I for one, prefer the version conducted in person. (He said typing from his chair.) Peace!

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What’s the idea with @15

 

You’ve got to give Best Buy credit for trying to do something in social networking. And Cause Marketing. And Market Research. And Customer Relationship Management (CRM.) And Youth Marketing. But this effort is going to be a million dollar dud. As my drunken mentor Dick Kerr once said though, “The idea to have an idea is often more important than the idea itself.” (I told you he was a tippler.)

 

Best Buy may indeed extract its million back thanks to some unforeseen consumer insight, but targeting 15 year olds with a “what’s important to you” social net, is not the way. It doesn’t support a viable branding idea.

 

I know Walmart and the big box stores like Costco are dinging Best Buy and (RIP) Circuit City, but slapping a social net together isn’t going to win the youth market. And yes, kids aren’t exactly price shoppers and they do care about brand, but there are other ways for Best Buy to earn brand points than positioning itself a generic one-stop entertainment and technology shop. They need to dig deeper and not go all tactical. Peace!

 

 

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Here’s an online media metric for those of you tracking social networking and social media.  Total buying power.  It’s a single, simple, comparative number.  LinkedIn’s average user age is 41 years old with an average household income of $109,000. Its 23 million registered users in May generated 7.7 million monthly visits to the site.  When I multiplied visits by income it made my calculator quake. (It was close to a trillion.)  When I multiplied registered users by the income, the calculator spit the battery. 

In May, MySpace had 60M visitors and Facebook 26M, but how much money do college and high school kids make each year.  Granted Facebook’s average age is getting older, but the income levels really aren’t there yet.  Between the higher income target and the smart marketing strategy, you can see why LinkedIn is the only one of the three turning a profit. 

So, media types, what do you think about this metric?  Is Total Buying Power (TBP) a discussion starter?

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Thomas Friedman reported today in his New York Times Op-Ed piece that freedom is diminishing around the globe. For the first time since the cold war “almost 4 times as many states — 38 – declined in their freedom scores as improved – 10. The freedom score is a construct of Freedom House.

 

If you have been following this blog or Zude.com in the press and blogosphere, you’ll note that one of the major tenets and brand planks of Zude is “freedom.” Zude competes in the social media, social networking sphere, a broad user-generated content category, born of open source and “sharing” doctrine. But as the category matures, I’m seeing big evidence that freedom is waning.

 

Zude is not perfect, and our so-called “Webertarian” ethos cannot in every case be preserved, but our hearts are in the right place. The Electronic Freedom Foundation and others should applaud our efforts in data portability. And our desire to give everyone the ability to have a free, customizable web presence, especially the underserved portion of the population (non-coders, poor, boomers,) is more than noble.

 

Competitors in this space, I feel, are drifting backwards in user freedom. More rules, more constraints, a tightening of the communities in favor of the “haves” are all seeping into this world. The category, like the globe, is moving backward and it’s a shame.

 

Zude’s tagline is “feel free” and please know we will keep fighting the fight.

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As fast as Facebook is growing and as many smart decisions as it has made technologically, I am amazed by some of its miscues. The latest is to passively allow a research study of an unnamed East Coast college over Facebook. Conducted by Harvard and UCLA, this study will report on users’ social networking values, behaviors and attitudes. 
 
I work for a social computing property called Zude. Our reason for being is to promote user freedom, so internally we often find ourselves in discussions about what we should allow users to do on the site. We most always decide in favor of freedom. So, were this research project to take place on Zude, you would think I’d be okay with it. Wrong.
 
In my view the project should be allowed, but the users should be alerted they are being studied. Let them decide whether or not to participate. As far as I can tell from the press the Facebook study has received, the unsuspecting college students don’t know they are being monitored and that is an invasion of their privacy. 
 
Shopping malls let research people in to conduct research but you see them coming a mile away. Would they allow researchers in with surveillance cameras? I think not.
 
Facebook, college kids are your franchise. You have just found another way to piss them off.
 

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Here’s the difference between social networking and social computing: The underlying premise of social networking is “help people make, keep and grow their circle of friends.” It enables the like-minded to find one another.   The whole Facebook Beacon thing, where users are alerted to the purchases of friends, is the latest example of an application built to keep friends networked.  Social computing, on the other hand, is less invasive.  Its reason for being is to assist users in the creation and posting of content, commerce, and art to the web.  It’s not about the “share” or the size of one’s friends list. 

 

I work for Zude, a social computing platform, so I’m biased.  But we provide tools – both advanced and rudimentary — that give people unprecedented freedom to be Web authors.  We don’t tell them what to post or with whom to share.  That’s up to them.  (You can certainly add contacts and doing messaging on Zude, but that’s not what keeps us up at night.)  

 

Developers of social networks spend their time trying to figure out ways to insinuate their products into users’ lives so they spend more time on the property.  Developers of social computing applications spend their time thinking up ways to make users more powerful Web authors.

 

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